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CHICAGO, NEW YORK CITY – The iO Theater in Chicago and New York’s Brooklyn Comedy Collective proudly announce a new artistic and educational partnership as sister-theaters. The new working relationship is designed to offer students, teachers, performers, and administrators new communicative and collaborative channels by which to perform together, teach each other, and share skills and resources. 

The new partnership comes just as both theaters announce and begin planning their own individual summer intensive training programs as well as summer improv festivals for 2024. 

iO General Manager Steven Plock and Brooklyn Comedy Collective’s Artistic Director Philip Markle began having conversations about festival planning in late 2023, and slowly the conversation evolved towards the two institutions wanting to work more closely together as a bridge between their geographical locations. 

“The comedy pipeline between Chicago and New York or Chicago and LA has always been a very real thing, but it’s exciting to finally be in an open-relationship with another theater that values community and artistic expression as much as we do at iO,” said Plock, who also performs and teaches at iO. 

“Having trained at iO and come up in the Chicago comedy scene myself, I’m thrilled we’re bridging the legendary theater that pioneered long-form improv and our collective of subversive comedians in Brooklyn,” says BCC Artistic Director Philip Markle. “Moving to a new city after learning your craft and establishing yourself can be so frustrating… like, ‘Now I have to start all over again?’ This partnership gives performers a place to land and a pipeline to collaborate and create in both cities.”

The two theaters hope that this new ‘sister-theater’ status will help performers and instructors travel between cities and connect with each other’s audiences and communities, and offer a direct line for consideration in either theater’s programming, training centers, and festivals. The end goal for both theaters is to cultivate a generation of people who care about comedy as a language of creative expression and community as being as important as commercial success.

As a first step, iO Teachers James Dugan and Gretchen Eng will be traveling to Brooklyn this April teaching workshops on Exploring Theme and Chicago-Style Improv and performing with other BCC Chicago-to-New York improvisers. Likewise, BCC Artistic Director Philip Markle will be traveling to iO Theater to teach his “F*ck It / Love It” improv workshop and perform his queer musical cabaret Sparkle Hour the first weekend of May. 

“The people who play and work within the walls of iO and BCC are so similar, and both groups are so devoted to their craft and the artform in general. We want to make it easier for those people to find each other and work together,” said Plock. 

iO and BCC each have their own Summer Intensive Improv programs, BCC’s running one week from June 25th – June 30th, and iO’s intensive running for five weeks, from July 8th – August 9th.

BCC’s Fun and Dumb Improv Festival will run July 11th – 14th, and iO Fest takes place July 25th – July 28th.

For press inquiries, reach out to iO General Manager Steven Plock at and BCC Artistic Director Philip Markle at