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Bang Bang Spontaneous Theatre

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Bang Bang Spontaneous Theatre
Flyer for Bang Bang Spontaneous Theatre at No Exit Cafe
TypeTheatre group
PurposeImprovisational Comedy
  • Rogers Park, Chicago, Illinois.
Notable members
Paul Dillon
Reggie Hayes
Tracy Letts
Michael Shannon

Amazon.com Logo.png Search Bang Bang Spontaneous Theatre on Amazon.

Bang Bang Spontaneous Theatre, or Bang Bang, was an improvisational theater company which attempted to meld the two leading schools of Chicago theater: the "Rock and Roll" style of the Steppenwolf Theatre Company and The Second City's improvisational style.

At one time or another, Bang Bang included:

  • Tim Beamish[1][2]
  • Tara Chocol[3]
  • Paul Dillon[4]
  • Julie Felise Dubiner
  • Bob Fisher
  • Kirsten Fitzgerald
  • Noam Paco Gaster
  • Reggie Hayes[5]
  • Burt Heyman
  • Greg Kotis
  • Jane (Windler) Kuhlke
  • Tracy Letts[6]
  • Soren McCarthy
  • Michael McNeilly
  • Steve Mitchel
  • Mechelle Moe (Boxed Set)[7]
  • Marc Nelson
  • Tony Papenfuss
  • Amy Pietz
  • Matt Robison
  • Andrew Rothenberg[8]
  • Kevin Scott
  • Michael Shannon[9]
  • Ed Smaron[10]
  • Justin Spafford
  • Guy Van Swearingen
  • Wesley Walker[11]
  • Kate Walsh
  • Holly Wantuch[12]
  • Eric Winzenreid[13]
  • William Sanders

Bang Bang held a regular weekly show (Wednesdays) at the No Exit Cafe in Chicago's Rogers Park neighborhood that began at 10:30PM until midnight and ran for about 10 years (approximately 1990 - 2000). A $3 donation was usually collected. After the performance, members would often meet at the Heartland Cafe to celebrate with a beer or shots and hang out with fans from the audience. Other runs were held at The Famous Door Theater, The Remains Theater, A Red Orchid Theater, and Victory Gardens Theater. Bang Bang appeared once on Chicago's CAN-TV.

Founding member Kevin Scott[14] went on to New York and helped create Burn Manhattan and later, Centralia, two highly influential improvisational ensembles which expanded on the developments of Bang Bang. Kevin Scott's departure from the group in the mid 1990s was witnessed as a truly hilarious send off held at Martyr's on Lincoln avenue where, during short intermissions, auctions were held with an array of absurd and odd objects. During one auction, actor Letts (as auctioneer) in comedic form, goaded with "It's a squirrel...ON A GIANT NUT!" that had the audience in hysterics. The money raised from the auction was to help Kevin Scott on his journey to New York.

Towards the end of Bang Bang's run at No Exit Cafe, some of the core members (Dillon, Letts, Shannon, Rothenberg) were finding a good measure of success in television and movie roles and occasionally dropped in for a performance. Sensing that Bang Bang was losing steam, member Tim Beamish subsequently organized a last hurrah of sorts at the Victory Gardens theater entitled "Boxed Set". Boxed Set culminated some of the more memorable skits performed at No Exit as a sort of "Best of Bang Bang". Critical praise came from The Chicago Tribune, American Theater magazine, The Reader, The Denver Post and others.

The No Exit Cafe's last owners, Sue and Brian Kozin, retired in 1999[15] and eventually sold No Exit Cafe to the Heartland Cafe owners. After this, many long-time fans of Bang Bang and other regulars stopped coming as they weren't fond of the Heartland folks. Although there had been a slow decline in people coming to watch Bang Bang towards the end of the 1990s, the sale of the No Exit Cafe was more or less a last nail in the coffin of Bang Bang. As business declined further, the No Exit Cafe briefly shuttered and remained closed for a period of time until being updated and reopened some time in late 2000 or early 2001[clarification needed] leaving Bang Bang with no place to call home.

Member tidbits[edit]

  • Many of Bang Bang's members can be seen in the obscure indie movie titled Chicago Cab[16] (aka Hellcab) which stars Paul Dillon. Chicago Cab was based on the play Hellcab written by Will Kern[17] which ran at the Famous Door / Ivanhoe Theater on Wellington Street. Tim Beamish and Ed Smaron also played the role of the driver during Hellcab's run.
  • Ed Smaron,[18] who did voice work for the video game Resident Evil, would often improvise songs on the No Exit cafe's house piano that was adjacent to the stage. In 1998, after singer Rick James was hospitalized for a stroke attributed to "Rock 'n' Roll Neck",[19] Smaron improvised a 3:30 song about the incident and it can be heard here.[20] He previously worked as a morning anchor for The Lakeshore 89.1FM.[21]
  • Wesley Walker missed getting the role of Wolverine in the X-Men movie franchise because he was not familiar with the comic book character.
  • Burt Heyman, whose whereabouts are unknown, may still be performing at the Hemingway House with the Hemingway Players.


  1. [1] Archived April 16, 2015, at the Wayback Machine
  2. Isaacs, Deanna (2004-12-02). "Without a Net; See This Doctor for Free; Miscellany". Chicago Reader. Retrieved 17 January 2015.
  3. "Tara Chocol". IMDb. Retrieved 17 January 2015.
  4. "Paul Dillon". IMDb. Retrieved 17 January 2015.
  5. "Reginald C. Hayes". IMDb. Retrieved 17 January 2015.
  6. "Tracy Letts". IMDb. Retrieved 17 January 2015.
  7. "Artist Biography :: Mechelle Moe". TimeLine Theatre. Retrieved 2013-10-08.
  8. "Andrew Rothenberg". IMDb. Retrieved 17 January 2015.
  9. "Michael Shannon". IMDb. Retrieved 17 January 2015.
  10. "Ed Smaron". IMDb. Retrieved 17 January 2015.
  11. "Wesley Walker". IMDb. Retrieved 17 January 2015.
  12. Will Kern. "Holly Wantuch". Willkern.com. Retrieved 2013-10-08.
  13. "Eric Winzenried". IMDb. Retrieved 17 January 2015.
  14. [2] Archived November 25, 2010, at the Wayback Machine
  15. "No Exit Café Is Shown the Door After 40 Years". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 8 April 2016.
  16. tomimt (2 October 1998). "Chicago Cab (1997)". IMDb. Retrieved 17 January 2015.
  17. Will Kern. "Will Kern". Willkern.com. Retrieved 2013-10-08.
  18. "Ed Smaron". Esmaron.com. Retrieved 2013-10-08.
  19. "Singer Rick James Has A Stroke". CBS Interactive. 2009-02-11.
  20. [3] Archived April 16, 2015, at the Wayback Machine
  21. "Untitled Document". Thelakeshorefm.com. Retrieved 17 January 2015.

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