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June 24, 2010


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What, pray-tell, is Chicago style theater? Does it have a thicker crust?


I think the cheese is on the bottom.

No, really: I'm not entirely sure. Somehow it's a aesthetic that stretches from the Cromer Our Town through August: Osage County and ends at Chad Deity, with a detour through The Adding Machine.


We need a theatre "capital" in that it is useful to have a point of focus and models to be replicated.

Tony Adams

I'd love to see a cultural exchange of sorts networked across the country.


Travis- I'm not sure I agree with that. I mean, if a model works, who cares if it's in Austin or Seattle or Chicago. Scott and I have our dust-ups and disagreements, but I think we both agree that more media coverage of more areas would be useful. Theatres shouldn't have to be in one or two zip codes to be emulated.

Tony- That was one of those off-the-cuff, semi-tongue-in-cheek remarks that I threw in there at the end and then thought, "Huh. That's not a terrible idea." And it's not! Why not send the Amoralists to work in WNEP's spaces and vice versa? It could be an interesting idea.


J., it's not about the title in perpetuity. It's about This Moment in Chicago. SOMETHING is happening alchemically between the Storefronts to great incredible heat and light. What's the kindling?

That aside

Audiences like a narrative. Even on the meta level. I don't think there needs to be deeper meaning to it or some sort of metric. Give Chicago a tiara and lets make some stars. Lets make some stories that inspire people to make theatre. And then let's tell this next great story about those kids in Seattle who got together and created a Hotter Scene than Chicago.

It's not a zero sum game. Chicago being King for a Day doesn't change what theatremakers hear about Austin or Minneapolis if anything it creates a reference point for it. And does it without costing New York ANYTHING in terms of ANYTHING.

Lord above, am I making any sense at all to people outside my head?


No, I see what you're saying, and I don't think we're all that far away from each other. I'm contending that we don't need a "leader" or starred city at all. The important thing is seeing what the kindling is for the fire. Let's spread the kindling around.

David Cote

The City of Big Shoulders and the Chip Proportioned to Rest on Them.


99 and I think that you're right that WE do not.
But an audience watching us can use it.

Kris Vire

I'm with Travis—I'd like every scene to find a model that works for it and sparks vital work. I don't really care about Chicago or any other city being crowned the "capital," but since folks with big megaphones do keep saying it, I'm using it to make the point that we shouldn't have to keep looking to New York to validate our work.


And you get no quarrel from me on that, obviously, as well. But I wonder about the Round Robin effect. Everyone's always looking to someone else for validation: either another city or another continent or another community. Everybody's always looking over the shoulder of the person in front of them to see if someone more interesting is walking in the door.

malachy walsh

Honestly, I always thought of Chicago as a theatre destination. I think that the city's geographical distance from both NY and LA have helped create its own center of gravity in which people are committed to building lives there. While the Steppenwolf's current mission is hi-falutin' gobbledegook (at least the one on their History web page), once-upon-a-time it was a short sweet single-minded statement about being an artistic "home" for actors. That was not a coincidence.

The successes in NY only show what having that center of gravity can mean for developing talent.

Jason Zinoman

This discussion reminds me of a speech delivered by the dean at the University of Chicago to the incoming freshman, which included yours truly. He made a point of saying that we are better than Columbia and Harvard and the rest of those overrated Ivy League schools. Even at the time, i thought to myself: I bet the Dean at Columbia isn't talking about how much better it is than U of C.

Look, Chicago theater is amazing, has been for a long time, and they don't need to look anywhere for validation, but it's simply part of the DNA of the city to puff out its chest and say we're better than NYC. Like deep dish, the cubs and Harold's Chicken Shack, it's part of the charm of the place. As for New Yorkers, we have our own brand of charm. I love this dirty town.

Eric Ziegenhagen

As hinted at in my comment on Kris's post, one thing that would improve Chicago would be a commercial producer of serious theater. Extended runs create the life and reputation of a show, and extended runs in Chicago are rare.

Profiles Theater is one exception. They ran Ellen Fairey's Graceland for a good six months, and Adam Rapp's Blackbird for a full year. They currently are running Tracy Letts's Killer Joe in a typically Nunsense-filled venue, the Royal George -- at least someone knows that every weekend there are folks both living in and visiting Chicago who want to see a Tracy Letts play for the first time.

Same goes for Cromer. It's not just tourists but Chicago folks who heard about him for the first time from Terry Teachout, John Lahr, or the NY Times Magazine. I'm sure that there would be an audience for an extended run here, in the city, of one of his productions, just as The Bald Soprano is entering its 50th year in Paris, for those who want to see Ionesco in the town where his show originated.

Add to this that most of Chicago's midsized commercial houses are currently in foreclosure, and someone with a few million and some smarts could do just wonderfully.

book of ra online

yeah, the city of big shoulders^^

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