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Building an act: Local comedy troupe makes strides locally, regionally - Kane County Chronicle

With a motto of, "Laugh first, be offended later," Troupe Strozzi has changed the face of comedy, according to founder, writer and actor John Dryden.

The Batavia-based comedy group will celebrate its fourth year of performing in October. It debuted in 2011 as "a theater company that didn't have a theater," Dryden said.

The group has "contracted and expanded" during its existence, said Dryden. It is currently composed of about 10 members, ranging in age from late-20s to mid-50s. The group follows the principles of "commedia dell'arte" and characterizes itself as "street" and "rebellious" theater, Troupe Strozzi member Scott Purdy said.

Troupe Strozzi set out to break the norms of theater by performing in pubs, but soon realized pub performances didn't attract an audience, Dryden said.

"People show up to pubs to be loud and drink, not to watch theater," Dryden said. "I realized that the old adage about theater being [a] controlled space was absolutely true. ... Years down the road, we've got very well-respected, local theaters inviting us to come in and perform at [their] space, which is exactly where I would want to be."

Troupe Strozzi bases its performance schedule off of local theaters' vacant spaces during lulls in the season. The partnership with local theaters has aided the groups' "exponential" expansion over the years, both locally and regionally, Dryden said.

The troupe is traveling to perform at the Minnesota Fringe Festival event in early August. After submitting an application, Troupe Strozzi was picked in a lottery to perform in front of 50,000 people. The troupe is making a "major jump" from participating in previous fringe festivals in both Elgin and Chicago, Dryden said.

"We all know people in this business that do it professionally and make a living out of it," Dryden said. "And in conversations with some of them over the last six, eight months has been that they were saying, well, 'Have you done Minnesota [Fringe] yet?,' like that was the thing. So, we're doing that thing, and then we'll see where it takes us."

Local residents can see Troupe Strozzi perform in September at the Elgin Fringe Festival, a celebration of performing arts, visual arts, film and music. Among the entertainment taking over downtown Elgin as part of the event, Troupe Strozzi believes it will stand out among the other performers.

"It's not just what's written," said Dryden. "But what's on stage."

If you go

What: Troupe Strozzi performances at the Elgin Fringe Festival

When: 8:30 p.m. Sept. 17; 4 p.m. Sept. 18; 5 p.m. Sept. 19; and 3:30 p.m. Sept. 20

Where: Elgin Art Showcase, 164 Division St., Elgin (on the eighth floor)

Information: Tickets go on sale Monday at; other entertainment will be part of the festival, as well.

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