Improvisational theater was born on the corner of 55th Street and University Avenue. In 1955, the Compass Players performed at this location and initially presented short, scripted “plays” at the back of a bar.
One night, the theater was performing for a capacity crowd. The bartender, Fred Wranovics, pulled director Paul Sills aside and asked him to extend the show so he could sell another round of drinks. Without any additional scripted material prepared, Sills decided to present a third act comprised entirely of improvisational games that the company had been using in rehearsal.
Needless to say, it was a huge success. Soon, the Compass Players ditched scripted material altogether in favor of improvised performances that became known for pointed social satire and political commentary
By 1958, the group splintered. Company members Mike Nichols, Elaine May and Shelly Berman went to New York where they quickly gained national acclaim. Director Paul Sills moved north and co-founded The Second City.
In the subsequent 57 years, improvisation became a cornerstone of the global entertainment industry directly influencing theatre, film and television programming around the world.
In 2015, improv theater returned to it’s birthplace on the corner of 55th Street and University Ave. in Hyde Park exactly 60 years after it first appeared.
Welcome to The Revival!
After graduating from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, John Stoops moved to Chicago to begin a career in advertising at Leo Burnett; home of the most iconic campaigns of the 20th century including Tony the Tiger, Jolly Green Giant, Marlboro Man, United’s “Friendly Skies” and Allstate’s “Good Hands.” On a lark, John took advantage of a little-known HR benefit that provided free improv classes to Leo Burnett employees at the Second City. WHAM! Something sparked.
Soon after, John became a staple of the Chicago improv scene performing at several theaters including ImprovOlympic, Second City and others. Two years after stepping foot in his first improv class, John moved to Amsterdam to join the cast of Boom!, a Dutch-based comedy ensemble. With Boom!, John performed over 200 shows across 5 countries and shared the stage with many notable performers including Seth Meyers (SNL; Late Night With Seth Meyers), Jordan Peele (Get Out; Key and Peele) and Ike Barinholtz (Neighbors; Suicide Squad; The Mindy Project).
John returned to the U.S. and to his advertising career and enrolled at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management where he earned an MBA focused on Marketing, Management and Entrepreneurship. It was at Kellogg where The Revival was first conceived as a business ultimately winning the S.C. Johnson Business Plan Award. Shortly after, John left his advertising career - where he had risen to the position of Vice President - and in 2015, The Revival opened its doors in Chicago’s Hyde Park neighborhood.
Today, John serves as Executive Director of The Revival directly overseeing the creative and education endeavors of the organization. Recent highlights include transformational education engagements with Chicago Public Schools, University of Chicago, Comer Children’s Hospital and Harris Associates as well as the lauded improv revues, “The Revolution Will Not Be Improvised” and “Hyde ya Kids! Hyde ya Park!”