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Lake Forest’s Mueller Sisters Get Laughs at Second City

Jessye and Jillian Mueller tout improv as economical, democratic art form

This may be the age of comediennes. Look no further than the success of SNL’s break-out stars Kirsten Wiig, Tina Fey and Amy Poehler to see that America finally agrees that women can be funny – and look no further than Lake Forest for upcoming funny women.

Jessye Grace Mueller, 21, and Jillian Mueller, 23, have been doing Chicago’s favorite brand of comedy since they were only 10 and 12, taking classes at Improv Playhouse in Libertyville. Their parents, David and Elizabeth, met in high school theater. “Now they’re both lawyers,” Jessye said.

“That’s its own form of theater,” joked Jillian.

The Mueller sisters just wrapped up their final show, Second City’s Masterpiece Players Present Improvised Masterpiece, an improv comedy show that parodies PBS’ well-known Masterpiece Classics series.

The actresses teach improv to 7 and 8 year olds at Improv Playhouse. Jillian is the director of camps, and Jessye is the associate director.

“We spend seven hours a day together,” Jessye said. “The kids are really energetic so you always have to go in with high energy. If you’re having a bad day or you’re tired, improv takes all that away. You set your other stuff aside and push through it.”

Jessye Will Return to College

This fall, Jessye will return to Indiana University to complete her senior year as a theater major. At school, she performs in an improv group called Awkward Silence Comedy, which performs Thursdays. 

Jillian graduated Monday from the Second City Conservatory program, which has a run of sketch comedy shows on Second City’s ETC stage.

In 2011, Jillian graduated from University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign, also a theater major. While she teaches and performs at Improv Playhouse, she takes part in many Chicago-area improv groups such as One Group Mind and takes classes with iO theater

“You can’t major in improv in college, but I did it as much as I could,” Jillian said. “I like telling stories. Everyone in the arts has their way of telling stories that speaks to them. For me, that’s improv. I like doing odd characters and voices, like an old man or a plucky young orphan boy.”

Variety Is Everywhere in Improv

“You get to play different genders and different types of people [in improv],” Jessye added. “In other types of theater, they have to typecast you. But with improv there’s no costumes, no props.”

“In this day and age, it’s nice to know that you might not have the money or the resources, but you can grab some chairs and some people and have a really great show,” Jillian said.

Both sisters have gained confidence in their own ideas from doing improv.

“The main thing I learned from Second City conservatory is if you have a lot of ideas, don’t hesitate to put them out there and share them with the ensemble,” Jillian said. “I have a tendency to get a little writer – so as you’re thinking of this great idea the moment passes because you second-guessed yourself. You have to trust your own mind.”

“I think improv has taught me to let go and really commit to a character. It’s taught me to be a better listener, and it’s made me aware that you have to trust what you’re putting out there, and trust the source material,” Jessye said.

As for the future, the Muellers plan to improvise.

“After graduation, I’ll come back to Chicago and audition for Second City conservatory. I’ll keep training in improv, theater and acting. I love it, I have a passion for it,” Jessye said.

“I really love the style of writing they teach at Second City,” Jillian said. “I would love to keep improvising and working in that style.”

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