CHICAGO If rumors are true, the weekend of December 11 was a lucrative one for Chicago ticket scalpers, who allegedly got as much as $1,800 a pop for passes to Second City's 50th anniversary celebration. Comprising panel discussions, performances, and parties, the three-day affair took over Old Town's Second City Theater. There, classrooms became party rooms and green rooms, Puma hosted a temporary lounge, and famous Second City alumni such as Catherine O'Hara, Amy Sedaris, and Stephen Colbert appeared onstage.
To put it simply, “there was quite a lot going on,” said the theater's chief administrative and marketing officer, Diana Martinez, who oversaw logistics for parties associated with the celebration. “I had two back-to-back 19-hour days” that weekend.
On Friday, Southwest Airlines sponsored a charter flight to bring 100 Second City alumni to Chicago from Los Angeles. Upon arrival at Midway Airport, the actors were greeted with camera crews, a red carpet, and a champagne toast—though it seems that partying began on board the aircraft. When describing the event on her Twitter account, actress Nia Vardalos wrote, “Woohoo, arrived in Chicago on drunken, loud charter, thank you Southwest!”
That night, actors such as Martin Short and Eugene Levy performed in SCTV reunion performances, reprising the roles they played on the television show. For an ensuing V.I.P. party, Lettuce Entertain You restaurants such as Joe's Seafood and Cafe Ba-ba-reeba provided appetizers. “It was like an episode of Top Chef,“ said Martinez. “Each restaurant really wanted to put their best foot forward” to feed the largely famous crowd.
According to Martinez, Saturday proved to be the weekend's most challenging day. Starting at 10 a.m. with hourly panel discussions and going on to include rehearsals, red carpet interviews, an alumni open house and buffet, and the nearly four-hour Second City alumni reunion show, the celebration was still going strong at 11 p.m., when alumni began a private show for their fellow actors. When that was done, the group stuck around the theater for some late-night snacks from Lou Malnati's pizza and Eli's Cheesecake. The day's back-to-back lineup “made things hectic,” Martinez said. “We had such tight time frames to get people on and off the red carpet and into rehearsals, and to get them fed before the shows.”
Apart from its daunting agenda, Saturday “was difficult because we just had so many people to handle,” Martinez said. “We had not only alumni, but V.I.P.s and the alumni's guests.” The classrooms that became reception spaces for the weekend only hold 100 apiece, so “there were several different parties happening in different rooms and on different floors,” Martinez said. Meanwhile, there were also rehearsals going on downstairs. To make it all manageable, Second City staffers divvied up tasks. “I handled the parties and the upstairs areas; [Second City theatricals executive producer] Kelly Leonard and the producers handled all the shows and rehearsals,” Martinez said.
The event ended on Sunday, after a brunch at Hub 51 and several more screenings and panel discussions. “Afterwards, we got so many lovely notes from alumni telling us how much fun they had,” said Martinez. She added that audience feedback was similarly positive. “People were saying that they'll probably never have another chance to see so many comedy legends in one room. We had everyone from Second City's co- founder Bernard Sahlins to Steve Carell here over the weekend—that's pretty wild.”