Elon Acting offers Study USA program to learn comedy at Chicago’s Second City

Alumni and current students of the Elon Acting program speak about their semester long experiences studying Comedy at The Second City in Chicago.

Spencer Hodges, left, performs at Second City with classmate.

The Elon University BFA Acting program is proud to offer their students opportunities to take their studies to other cities. The Columbia College and Second City Comedy Studies Program located in Chicago is offered to BFA Acting students in their junior year of study. Students can choose to attend either in their fall or spring semester.

Students enrolled in the program take a total of five classes including History of Comedy, Writing, Improv, Movement and Voice. All courses they enroll in count towards their Elon degree requirements.

“From the moment you get there, you are just making content. You’re trying stuff out. You’re failing, you’re failing a lot, but then you are also finding the things that you’re good at. You find things you have a pulse on as far as being a writer or being an actor or being an improvisor,” said John-Luke Lindstrom, who studies at The Second City in the fall 2021 semester.

Students rotate through two to three of these classes Monday through Friday, leaving them plenty of time to explore outside the classroom.

Marlyn Fisher Scott ’20, who was at Second City in the fall of 2017, used that free time outside the classroom to enhance her acting career.

“One big difference in Chicago was that I finished classes between three and four, and until later in the semester, didn’t have any rehearsals. So, that time off in the evening allowed me to audition around Chicago, and I ended up booking a show at a small walk-up theatre downtown,” Fisher Scott said. “So, during the day I got to clown around, then I’d hop the train and go rehearse a nitty gritty little piece of hyper realism! It was awesome.”

The Columbia College and Second City Comedy Studies Program provides students with the chance to see a variety of improvisational and comedy shows, explore the numerous amounts of theatres and artistic experiences, connect with other theater artists, and present their work in a showcase at the end of the semester.

Spencer Hodges ’17 shared what makes the showcase at The Second City so unique. “You spend your whole semester culminating material and your class is writing all of your own scenes. It’s personal because it’s coming from you. It’s something that you wrote, it’s something that you created. It’s a lot of fun putting it together and it represents the Second City process.”

Hodges helped establish the program as a part of Elon Study USA in 2016 while working closely with the Global Education Center staff. A junior at the time, she had spent the previous two summers taking short-term programs with The Second City and was eager to return upon learning about the semester-long program. Because of this, her financial aid package from Elon supported her enrollment at The Second City. Hodges efforts helped ensure the access and viability of the program to all future acting majors.

Fisher Scott explained just how big of an impact Hodges created on her first-year self. “She had just returned from a semester at The Second City in Chicago studying improv and sketch comedy, and she was hands down the funniest person I’d ever met. I decided that if I could be a fraction as funny as she, I’d be just fine. So, I started planning my semester from that point forward!”

Every year, Elon acting majors are deciding how to shape their four years and incorporate study abroad/Study USA into their training.

When asked what advice she would give to students deciding on the program, Hodges spoke to her own experience. “I think it was very good for me. It was incredibly formative. I think it gave me a lot of confidence in myself. I was very validated, I was taken seriously, I was encouraged, I was supported. I can’t imagine who I would be without the program.”