Martin de Maat

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Martin de Maat (January 12, 1949 - February 15, 2001) was a teacher and artistic director at The Second City in Chicago. He was an influential figure in the Chicago improv scene in the late 80s and throughout much of the 90s.

As a child, De Maat first studied improv with Viola Spolin. He later studied theater at the University of Iowa but soon moved back to Chicago to teach at The Players Workshop, a theater run by his aunt Josephine Forsberg. There he remained until 1974, when he moved to New York to pursue acting and filmmaking. He assisted his uncle, filmmaker Rolf Forsberg, on a few documentarles, including The Late Planet Earth and Under Fire. While shooting a documentary in India, he asked for and was awarded an honorary PhD in communication arts from the National University in Kanpur. He finally returned to Chicago in 1984 to teach again at the Player's Workshop. He was then invited by Sheldon Patinkin to become part of the staff of the recently created Second City Training Center, and 1985 de Maat became its artistic director and remained so for 15 years. He also taught at Columbia College in Chicago.

De Maat earned a reputation as a vey supportive and very positive teacher. He was known for his inspirational and Zen-like quotes, saying things like "I do not give you permission to fail-- I'm giving you permission to follow your dreams." and "You do not have the right to choose to feel inadequate." His students include such improv notables as Mick Napier, Rachel Dratch, Tina Fey, Brian Stack, and Miriam Tolin. His students went on to form the groups Jazz Freddy, Lois Kaz, and the Annoyance Theatre and the Factory. A young David Mamet even studied improv with de Maat before moving on to writing.

According to the official Second City press release, Martin de Maat died of complications from pneumonia, but it was known to those who were close to him that he had been living with AIDS for many years. Memorial services were held in Chicago, New York and Los Angeles, where many of his students and colleagues teach, direct and perform. A plaque in his honor hangs on the wall at the entrance to the training center, bearing one of this his most famous quotes, "You are pure potential."