Last year at this time, I offered up some personal resolutions for theater covering and going (not that I kept all of them). This year I am making a few resolutions for others.
Resolve: Get the new Griffin Theatre space up and running
Writers Theatre pulled down well over $20 million in 2013, ensuring that construction could begin on a top-drawer new space designed by architect Jeanne Gang. Griffin's aims are far more modest, but so, alas, is this excellent off-Loop company's apparent philanthropic reach. The city of Chicago already has done its bit for Griffin by making available the former 20th District police station at 1940 W. Foster Ave., for a nominal fee. But Griffin, as I wrote in February, is struggling to raise the relatively modest cost ($1 million to $2 million) to complete the renovation. That represents a huge bang for the philanthropic buck, thanks to the proven excellence of this theater that will, I fear, not survive in the long term if this deal does not get done. We're talking less than one-tenth of the cost of Writers for shows that are, on the whole, every bit as good. Step up, funders, step up. Sometimes artistic excellence does not co-exist with the right connections, or skill at the big ask. Theaters such as Griffin need help, and fast.
Resolve: Get something entertaining going on in Block 37
No space (or inclination) here to get into the history of this troubled State Street retail development site. But none of the planned cultural offerings have panned out. Given the location in the heart of a Loop theater district that still needs a far greater density, and the omnipresent need for jobs for creative professionals and more attractions for tourists, some populist show (a comedy, an interactive dinner experience, a musical revue, whatever) is sorely needed. I'm not picky. The Loop could use a fun show that's no more, and no less. And it's not as if Block 37 is groaning with regular retail. I must have written about five or six prospects for an attraction there, from the blues to bingo. It sure would be nice to write about one actually opening.
Resolve: Put a halt to non-Equity touring shows designed for smaller markets
Broadway in Chicago could take a stand and not book these sorts of shows. ("We Will Rock You," the Queen musical, is an example.). Such productions have their place on the touring map. Downtown Chicago just happens to not be one of those places.
Resolve: Get to Aurora, Jeff Committee
It is no longer credible to say you judge the best in Chicago musical theater unless you include the Chicago-produced shows at the Paramount Theatre in Aurora. Time to stop bickering and waive those rules. The work trumps all.
Resolve: Open up those Pilsen warehouses as the next artistic frontier
Redmoon's new home is a revelation: a colossal space that could serve the numerous spectacles that ply the waters of the international arts festivals. Redmoon, which does not produce often, should make its space available to others, and the city should help develop more performance spaces of varying sizes in this growing, exciting neighborhood.
Resolve: Make a movie with an original Chicago cast
Why was it totally out of the question that any of the original Steppenwolf Theatre cast or creatives might have a remote chance of snagging a major role in the movie version of "August: Osage County"? And why was that clear from the get-go, when we all were playing the party game of which movie star gets which role? Answer: myopic thinking that did not necessarily serve the movie. Let's set that right next time … and a next time there surely will be.
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