What does it take to survive twenty years as a nonprofit storefront theatre company? “Grit, optimism, and indulging a guilty pleasure: proudly low-brow comedy,” says Corn Productions’ Founding Artistic Director Robert Bouwman. “An occasional shot of Sambuca helps, too.”
Corn was born, as so many Chicago companies are, when college friends decided to put on a show. Bouwman and Corn co-founder Todd Schaner had meet at Central Michigan University in the 1980’s, moved to Chicago to begin their acting careers, and eventually decided to write for themselves. Bouwman recalls, “the shows I was in weren’t always that good – I thought, hell, we’re funnier than this.”
Since 1992, Corn has weathered – and survived – just about everything a small Chicago theatre company could expect: fickle north side audiences during (rare) winning Cubs seasons, state arts funding cuts, venues knocked down for condo development, City of Chicago licensing struggles, even a cast member breaking a leg on opening night. “That was Jesus: The Wonder Years,” remembers Bowman. “She slipped on a patch of ice behind the theatre after the opening number. Someone called her an ambulance and someone else grabbed the assistant director out of the audience and threw a costume at her.”
Of course, reviews are the perennial storms for small companies to weather. Some of Bouwman’s favorites are critiques of Tiff and Mom Tiffelmeyer, Bouwman and Shaner’s drag alter-egos:
“[It’s] a little like gorging unapologetically on an entire pound of Dolly Madison Little Gem powdered-sugar doughnuts: dreadful stuff, but so good when you’re in the mood.”
- Stephanie Shaw, Chicago Reader. The Tiff and Mom Show, 1995
“Gleefully amateurish, flagrantly derivative, and universally offensive, this piece is a charming bit of undigested cultural gristle.”
- Carol Burbank, Chicago Reader. Tales From Mom’s Crypt, 1997
“Few companies could make child molestation or a serial killer funny, but Schaner and Bouwman…are clever enough to carry it off.”
- Jennifer Vanasco, Chicago Reader. Tales From Mom’s Crypt V: Escape from Tiff’s Mouthful, 2001
Beginning July 12, Corn celebrates the conclusion of its 20th Anniversary Season with a three show repertoire.
On Thursdays it’s “The Champions of Improv Gladiators.”
The beloved Beboians return to share their cultural dance in “Floss!” on Fridays. “Floss!” enjoyed a seven year run at Cornservatory beginning in August of 2000.
And on Saturday, Tiff and Mom host the best sketches from twenty seasons in “Tiff and Mom Get Sketchy: The Return of the Tiffelmeyers.”
Tickets for all shows now on sale in our Box Office.