MCL Chicago and Executive Director Aaron Shapiro are proud to announce the name and programming change of Studio BE, NFP, 3110 N. Sheffield Ave., to MCL Chicago effective August 5. The new name signifies the organization’s focus on: music, comedy and live performance (MCL). The performing arts organization will have a strong focus on its roots of music improvisation and music comedy, while having its doors open to various other performing art forms. MCL Chicago provides workshops (MCLabs) on music improvisation and music comedy, community outreach, and a venue for performances or rehearsals for Chicago’s and the nation’s established and emerging performing talents. In addition to Shapiro, the staff includes Michael Jordan, Alex Garday and Stephanie McCullough Vlcek, who are themselves performers, writers, producers and teachers rooted deeply in the music improv and comedy scene of Chicago.

“Chicago is the world’s capital for comedy, providing more opportunities for the training and showcasing of comedic writers, performers and, especially, improvisers than any other city in the world. MCL Chicago’s goal is to be a home for that brand of talent, especially for the collective of those performers who specialize in music comedy,” said Executive Director Aaron Shapiro.

Shapiro went on to explain “M.I.NT. (Music Improv Night) is a great example of the performing arts organization’s flagship genre.  When M.I.NT. began in the spring of 2013 there were sixty-five auditioners for forty cast slots. A year later there was more than 150 people signing up to audition for the same 40 slots and a chance to perform in this weekly show. The audience size for the Wednesday night show has tripled as well. MCL Chicago is responding to this phenomenon by creating a new theater experience that delivers exceptional music comedy to theater-going audiences and increasing the visibility of this art form throughout Chicagoland and the arts communities.”

MCL Chicago has also undertaken a $25,000 “Build the Magic” fundraising campaign. This campaign is for the venue’s Lakeview location; increasing venue options, creating a more welcoming lobby and strengthening the infrastructure of the organization.

During the transition from Studio BE, NFP to MCL Chicago, throughout the month of July, MCL Chicago will present an overture of all the types of shows featured at the theater. For complete performance schedule go to

August will begin the new programming featuring musical improvisation, music comedy and more.  MCL Chicago’s newly renovated space will have performances from the likes of the Improvised Sondheim Project, M.I.NT., Mansical and more Tuesday – Saturday in its Lakeview location. For more information about MCL Chicago go to


Aaron Shapiro is a co-founder of Studio BE, NFP and has served as executive director for the last five years. Prior to launching Studio BE, NFP in 2009, Shapiro was the founding artistic director for Oracle Productions where he opened their 45-seat black box theatre in Lakeview. Oracle recently received the Broadway in Chicago Emerging Theatre Award. Over the last 10 years, Shapiro has freelanced for more than 50 different theatre companies, arts organizations and educational institutions throughout Chicago as a producer, director, production manager, designer, lighting and sound technician, stage manager and production consultant. Shapiro is also a proud artistic associate for Porchlight Music Theatre where he is the resident production manager.


Stephanie McCullough Vlcek. Psy.D. is a former clinical psychologist and a 17-year veteran of music improv in Chicago, beginning with Baby Wants Candy in the late 90’s and having performed with every major theater of improv in the city. She has co-written 15 original music comedies, produces an average of five different shows a year (not all musical) and is the creator of M.I.NT. After two years of touring with The Second City in the early 2000s, Vlcek settled into a full-time faculty position with The Second City Training Center where she writes 1000’s of comedy-songs every year and fosters the development of 100’s of students each term in the art of musical improvisation. She is also co-creator of the Therapy Players, an improvisational and educational group made of entirely of psychotherapists. Vleck brings her passion for this component through fostering a Music and Wellness outreach program at MCL Chicago for the mental health community that she continues to be part of.


Michael Jordan is an original cast member of M.I.NT. as well as a coach of past M.I.NT. teams. He is the creator and manager of My Chicago Comedy, aresource for all of Chicago’s independent sketch and improv comedy and a former student services representative at The Second City Training Center. For the past five years, Jordan has trained and performed around Chicago at all of its comedy institutions. Regular credits include his award-winning independent sketch troupe Cake-n-Hatred and the weekly podcast Podcastaways.


Alex Garday is a Chicago based actor and improviser. He has been privileged to train and perform comedy at all of the major Chicago institutions including The Second City Training Center, ComedySportz Theatre Chicago, iO Theater and the Annoyance Theatre. He is an original cast member of M.I.NT. and has been a coach of past M.I.NT. teams. Garday has directed and coached for various groups of musical and non-musical improviser comedians. He has also performed corporate performances with Dave and Co.


Formerly known as Studio BE, NFP, MCL Chicago creates and fosters exceptional live music comedy. MCL Chicago expands the power of comedy, of theatre, and of the Chicago community at large through music, performance, workshops and community outreach. Operating since 2009, MCL Chicago, situated in the heart of Lakeview’s Belmont Theatre District, is a venue for comedians, performers and improvisers of all trades, offering a variety of self-produced work and that of visiting companies, and is the birthplace of the organization’s self-defining show: M.I.NT. (Music Improv Night).