Out of Commission

Art, Food, Personal, Theater Add comments

Yep, blog posting has been sparse since the beginning of June, unfortunately, since I seem to have jumped on a careening, brake-less Metra train between dealing with lots of organizational transitions going on at my day job, helping the rest of the Board and the company of TUTA Theatre Chicago put on our annual fundraiser benefit (which we successfully pulled off last Sunday, June 7, yay, despite lots of anxiety and hairpulling, de rigueur for non-profit fundraisers of all kinds, I’ve come to find out), and co-chairing this year’s Steppenwolf Theatre Red or White Ball (which benefits the theater’s educational outreach, the Steppenwolf for Young Adults Program).  The Red or White Ball is tonight, and boy, if I was exhausted last year after the event, I’m not sure what state of physical and mental being I’ll be in tomorrow.  Putting up a fundraising event of this scope and scale is pretty intense, with lots of hard work and time commitment required, but I think it’s going to be a spectacular event for a cause I’m passionate about – as my blog readers know, I feel very strongly that the arts can only survive if we are able to successfully enthrall, convert  and immerse new audiences.  I’m psyched!  Despite all kinds of crazy busy schedules though, I still have a lot of things on my mind, so I’d like to give a shout out to these below (and there’ll be more blog posts starting next week!) Read the rest of this entry »

Final Thoughts on the O’Neill Festival

Theater Add comments

Chris Jones reports that the Goodman Theater’s O’Neill Festival, which concluded last weekend with the Neo-Futurists’ controversial take on Strange Interlude (which I sadly missed), has turned in “recession-busting” numbers:  average of 90% capacity in the theater, 50,000 audience members, $1.1 million gross for Robert Falls’ Broadway-bound Desire Under the Elms.  This is terrific, terrific news, which just goes to prove that good, stimulating art is alive and well in this economic downturn.  And I think the numbers are accurate,  since, in all the performances I attended during the Festival (and I saw all the productions except for Strange Interlude), the Goodman was packed with people, many of them the “non-traditional Goodman audience” kind – people of color and people below forty.  I think the results of the O’Neill Festival once again proved what I continue to harp on from my soapbox here on this blog:  that we, the Chicago theater audience are generally a pretty sophisticated lot, so if a theater appeals to our intellectual level and artistic sensibilities, we will come; and if they don’t, we’ll find something else to do.  People flocked to see an Emperor Jones that stunningly mixed minstrelsy and Noh theater (Wooster Group), an eloquent and elegant Cardiff that was performed in Portugese without any surtitles, letting the imagery speak to the audience directly (Companhia Triptal), a memorable Desire Under the Elms without any elms but with boulders, a floating house, a vague time period, and a Bob Dylan musical score (Goodman), a flawed but mesmerizing Hairy Ape performed in three performance levels and with a re-conceptualized final scene (The Hypocrites), a world-class Mourning Becomes Electra that powerfully used video and technology (Toneelgroep Amsterdam), and a Strange Interlude performed in its original five hour length and as an almost-parody of the text (Neo Futurists).  Man, the Festival was the height of provocative, cerebrum-busting theater!  But the Festival’s productions, more importantly, respected the audience, and engaged us to be thinking, introspecting, reflecting, and passionate participants in O’Neill’s work; the plays didn’t give us a hallway pass for a relaxing, catatonic night at the theater, which so many nights seem to be; rather, they made us think, feel, explode (just check out these passionate responses to Strange Interlude in Chris’s blog).  I know some theater companies in Chicago are loudly bellyaching and constantly sounding mournful doom and gloom bells about the impact of the recession on the arts.  I agree that all of us, artists, audience members, and critics alike, who have a stake in Chicago’s vital arts community need to be aware and concerned.  But the audiences are out there, and we will give theaters our money- just don’t give us another round of The Cherry Orchard, or another tedious play by some hot-shot, MFA-stamped, self-absorbed New Yorker, or an original play about a teenage girl that brings together a Midwestern community that suspiciously sounds very similar to that original play you’ve already trotted out a couple of years ago.