Jon Carr, who was hired as executive producer of Second City during a tumultuous time for the Chicago-based comedy company, has stepped down after just over a year on the job.
In an email to staff on Wednesday, Julia Dumais Osborne, managing artistic director of the Second City Training Centre, said Carr left “due to changes in his personal life.”
Carr confirmed his departure but declined further comment.
Carly Heffernan of Second City Toronto, who took over Carr’s duties while he was on a leave of absence, will retain those duties, Osborne said.
“We are so grateful for Jon’s contribution to our organization,” Osborne said. “We wish him and his loved ones the very best and are delighted to have his ongoing support.”
Carr, a veteran improv artist and award-winning playwright, came to Chicago as a newcomer to the local scene, having earlier worked as artistic director of the Dad’s Garage Theater in Atlanta.
In the Second City job, he oversaw educational programs, business services, online classes and streaming performances for all three Second City locations, including Toronto and Hollywood. He presided over the return of in-person performances last spring after pandemic restrictions closed Second City’s Chicago theaters for more than a year.
His exit comes a year after the New York-based company ZMC bought Second City from a team led by Andrew Alexander, who left amid charges of institutional racism at the venerable theater company.
In a Sun-Times interview in May, Carr said he came to the company with the goal of incorporating more voices.
“I’d love to sit here and say, ‘I’m an artistic genius who can do anything and all things,’ ” he said. “But there’s a reason this place has been running for 60 years, and it’s because of the work that they do here and the amazing people that are here.
“So for me, it’s not about getting rid of all that stuff. What it’s about is, OK, let’s take this great thing that Second City does and then how can we incorporate new shows and new voices and new ideas that still have a nucleus and a core of Second City, but now we can put some new spins on those things. And really when you walk into the building feel like as an audience member there’s a diversity of not just people, but of product.”
Part of his mission, he said, was taking a fresh look at old habits. “Why are we doing these things the way that we’re doing them?,” Carr said. “And if the answer is, ‘Well, that’s how we’ve always done it,’ is there a better way of doing this? Is there a more equitable way of doing this?”