Longtime Dad’s improviser moves from interim artistic director to permanent role

Tim Stoltenberg has been named artistic director of Dad’s Garage Theatre. (Photo courtesy Dad’s Garage/Matt Terrell)

In December 2020, when artistic director Jon Carr left Dad’s Garage Theatre to become the executive producer for Second City in Chicago, longtime improviser Tim Stoltenberg stepped into the role on an interim basis. Now Stoltenberg has been named permanent artistic director of Dad’s Garage. He joined “City Lights” host Lois Reitzes via Zoom to talk about the future of Dad’s and its expansive new collaboration with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

During the early months of the pandemic, Stoltenberg had escaped to pastoral life. He moved back to his family home in Wisconsin, working on their small farm, taking some shifts at a sweet corn factory. He said, “It was totally out of the blue [when] Dad’s started talking to me about what was going on.”

Carr had just taken the position of artistic director when a job at Second City, too good to refuse, came his way. But luckily, Stoltenberg turned out to be a natural, if sudden, successor. “It worked out. Like, I had the time, and I was very interested in coming back to Dad’s in some fashion,” he said.

Having found his footing at the helm of Dad’s Garage and with some impressive post-lockdown projects behind him, Stoltenberg leads the company into a new venture working with the CDC to promote vaccination awareness. The CDC Foundation, in collaboration with the National Endowment for the Arts, is directing grants to arts organizations like Dad’s Garage to build confidence in COVID and seasonal flu vaccines, hoping to cut through cultural barriers, hesitancy, and misinformation.

“We’re going to use comedy and improv to create an environment where people can come in, have some blasts, because it’s been a very stressful two years, and get some information about the vaccinations. And hopefully, from that, they’ll become supporters of the vaccination and can set up an appointment to get their shots,” said Stoltenberg. “We’re really excited to be able to offer people some laughter, some comedy in some really tough times, and also provide some public health safety for them.”

Dad’s Garage resumes live shows beginning Feb. 4. As the company develops its new shows based around vaccine education, comedy fans can stay updated by visiting dadsgarage.com.