Category Archives: Theater

What to Expect from Paramount Theatre’s Million Dollar Quartet

Playbill, September 2017 — On December 4, 1956, Sam Phillips—the record producer famed as the father of rock ’n’ roll—telephoned the Memphis Press-Scimitar with a hot tip. Acting quickly, the newspaper rushed a reporter and photographer over to Phillips’ little storefront recording studio, Sun Records.

The photo caption in the next day’s paper set the scene: “The only thing predictable about Elvis is that he’s unpredictable. Yesterday, Carl “Blue Suede Shoes” Perkins was cutting some new records at Sam Phillips’ Sun Records studio. … Elvis dropped in. So did Johnny Cash. Jerry Lee Lewis was already there.” The Press-Scimitar’s reporter remarked, “It was what you might call a barrel-house of fun.” …

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Photo: Memphis Press-Scimitar

How a Government Agency Ended Up Responsible for Swing Mikado, Among Others

Playbill, July 2017 — Arts agencies consume a microscopic fraction of the $4 trillion U.S. budget. And yet government funding for the arts is controversial; calls to eliminate it never fully subside. But there was a time when the government did more than just provide grants. For a few years, the government actually had its own theatrical troupes, with Uncle Sam paying actors, directors, and playwrights to put on shows in New York, Chicago, and other cities. …

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Photo: NYPL for the Performing Arts

Good Fences Don’t Necessarily Make Good Neighbors in Native Gardens

Playbill, June 2017 — A fence divides two backyards in Native Gardens, a new play at Chicago’s Victory Gardens Theater. A white couple has lived for a long time on one side of the fence. On the other side, a Latino couple has just moved in. When you see that fence, it’s hard not to think of Donald Trump’s wall.

But playwright Karen Zacarias wrote her script a couple of years ago, when few people expected Trump to become president. By the time Native Gardens made its world premiere—in January 2016 at Cincinnati’s Playhouse in the Park—Trump was leading polls in the Republican primaries, but he still seemed like a long shot to end up in the White House.

Now that Trump actually is president, will that change the way audiences perceive Zacarias’ comedy, as it receives its second production? Zacarias, an immigrant from Mexico who lives in Washington, D.C., pondered that question as she considered how much to revise Native Gardens for its Chicago run. …

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Photo: Liz Lauren

Lookingglass Theatre’s Reimagined ‘Moby Dick’: Interview with David Catlin

Make It Better, May-June 2017 — When David Catlin was creating Lookingglass Theatre’s stage version of “Moby Dick,” a sentence in the first chapter of Herman Melville’s novel jumped out at him. The narrator (that fellow who introduces himself by saying, “Call me Ishmael”) remarks: “I cannot tell why it was exactly that those stage managers, the Fates, put me down for this shabby part of a whaling voyage…”

Those stage managers, the Fates.

These words made Catlin think about the role that fate plays in Melville’s classic story. How much is Captain Ahab, that manically obsessed whaler, in control of himself? “How much do we control? How much is fate present?” asks Catlin, a founding Lookingglass Ensemble member who teaches at Northwestern University in Evanston. …

Read my story at Make It Better.

Ike Holter and ‘The Wolf at the End of the Block’

Playbill, January 2017 — For a playwright who has received the highest praise from critics, Ike Holter is disarmingly modest. “I’m pretty dumb,” the 30-year-old Chicagoan says, struggling to explain how he writes his riveting dialogue. “I have no way of saying how it comes out.” Dumb? Really? That’s just about the last thing you’d say after watching one of Holter’s plays. To read the rest of the article about Ike Holter and his play The Wolf at the End of the Block at Teatro Vista, visit Playbill.

Newberry Library’s Shakespeare Exhibit

Playbill, December 2016 —  As the world marked the 400th anniversary of William Shakespeare’s death, Chicago had good reason to boast. Even though it’s an ocean and half a continent away from Shakespeare’s home turf in England, the city hosted the largest celebration of the Bard in 2016.

“There’s really nothing that matches Shakespeare 400 Chicago,” says Jill Gage, referring to the year-long series of events that took place at Chicago Shakespeare Theater on Navy Pier and other venues around town. As that festival wraps up in December, Gage has curated an exhibit at the Newberry Library called Creating Shakespeare. Inside two galleries flanking the research library’s entrance, glass cases offer glimpses of rare books—including the Newberry’s very own copy of the First Folio, a massive tome that collected all of Shakespeare’s plays in 1623, seven years after his death. Just seeing Shakespeare’s words printed in black ink on that yellowed, centuries-old paper is an eye-opening experience.

Read the rest of the article at Playbill.

Photo: Newberry Library