Wednesday, April 29, 2009 | 2 a.m.
IF YOU GO
What: Improv Vegas
When: 7 p.m. Sundays
Where: Bonkerz Comedy Club inside Palace Station
Tickets: $9.95; palacestation.com/entertainment/bonkerz/
When: 8 p.m. Mondays
Where: Onyx Theatre, 953 E. Sahara Ave.
Tickets: $7; 732-7725
What: Improv Vegas classes
Price: $200 to $275
Beyond the Sun
Fans of improvisational theater were left with a void when Second City closed up shop last summer after more than eight years at the Flamingo.
But remnants of the troupe are still around. Under a different banner, they are keeping alive one of the most difficult art forms.
Improv Vegas recently debuted with Sunday night shows at the Bonkerz Comedy Club inside Palace Station. The rotating cast includes former members of Second City who decided to remain in Vegas.
Improv Vegas also produces a show at the Onyx Theatre on Mondays. “SET” features improv plus standup comedy, juggling and other disciplines and is a showcase for students at the company’s training center, also at the Onyx.
The school, which teaches improv, comedy writing and short-film making, used to be operated by Second City.
“When Second City made the decision to end its run, there was such an outcry from our little improv community,” says Amy Pittle, president of Improv Vegas. “I was the one they turned to to keep it going.”
So when the Chicago-based company closed its show and school, Pittle started a school of her own and now also has the improv show at Bonkerz.
Pittle is a businesswoman, not a performer.
“I’m an administrator,” she says. “I set everything up and take care of the business end of it.”
The native of Scranton, Pa., moved to Vegas 24 years ago and for 18 years worked in casino marketing. Then she started her own consulting company.
“In wanting to improve my own public-speaking skills I discovered the Second City classes,” she says.
Eventually she joined the staff, becoming the producer’s assistant for the 18 months before the end of Second City’s run.
The only connection between Second City and Improv Vegas is historical.
Pittle’s instructors/performers include former Second City cast members Paul Mattingly, Michael Hartnett, Darren Pitrua, Matt Donnelly and Eric Jeffers. Sue Kane, also formerly with Second City, is a performer and manages “SET.” Phil Faiss, a native of Las Vegas, is the company’s creative director and a featured performer. He was a Second City student.
Improv Vegas classes are limited to 10 people. The classes last six weeks, and there are six or seven classes going at any given time.
“We try to accommodate the schedule of the students,” Pittle says.
Students attend for a variety of reasons. Some want to be professional performers, others just want to improve their social skills.
“We get everything from doctors and lawyers to teachers and housewives,” Pittle says.
Palace Station, located just off Interstate 15 on West Sahara, offers comfort, luxury and affordability.
Originally called the Bingo Palace, the casino changed its name to Palace Station in 1984. Palace Station has more than 100,000 square feet of gaming space, including one of the biggest varieties of Baccarat and Pai Gow tile games off the Strip. The casino also offers more than 1,600 slot/video poker machines, 45 table games including blackjack, Pai Gow poker, Pai Gow tiles, Ultimate Texas Hold'Em, craps, roulette and baccarat.
Asian Table Games Area includes Pai-Gow Tiles and Mini and Midi Baccarat with no-commission EZ baccarat, along with Dragon 7 and Panda 8 side bets, plus Dragon Bonus for Midi Baccarat games.
The casino also features a 24-hour, nine-table, non-smoking poker room, a 307-seat bingo hall open 7 days a week with sessions running every other hour from 9 a.m. to 11 p.m., a 230-seat race & sports book featuring 44 screens, and a 20-seat keno lounge.
Dining options include Cabo, which specializes in Mexican food, steaks and seafood at The Broiler and Italian from Pasta Cucina.
Entertainment includes Louie Anderson and other stand-up comedians.
(If you're interested in history, the Palace Station was also the site of some international news in 2007 and 2008 — it was where NFL Hall of Famer O.J. Simpson led a raid on a hotel room to try recover some of his sports memorabilia and was later convicted of armed robbery and kidnapping after a highly publicized trial.)