In this time of theaters going dark due to the pandemic, it’s nice to hear such familiar venue names as Steppenwolf, Victory Gardens, Court, Chicago Shakespeare, TimeLine and Writers.
Those are the production companies with a play listed in the 2020 Equity Jeff Award Large Play Nomination category.
For Steppenwolf, it is “Bug,” Victory Gardens is “The First Deep Breath” and Court is “King Hedley.” For Chicago Shakespeare it is “The King’s Speech,” TimeLine is “Oslo” and Writers is “Stick Fly.”
Other production categories are Midsize Play, Musical or Revue Large, Musical Midsize, Ensemble Play, Ensemble Musical or Revue and New Work.
Nominations are also listed now for Director Large Play, Midsize Play, Large Musical or Revue and Midsize.
Performers are listed for principal and supporting roles in plays and musicals.
Jeff Award nominations are also out for Scenic Design, Lighting, Sound, Choreography, Costume, Original Music and Production Design.
Several companies received multiple nominations in a variety of categories. Drury Lane Productions topped the list at 22 followed by Paramount Theatre with 13 and Court Theatre, Porchlight Music Theatre and Steppenwolf Theatre Company with 11 nominations.
The Jeff Awards which have been recognizing outstanding theater artists and productions since established in 1968, will announce the 2020 Equity nominations Sept.15, 2020.
The date for the online Equity Awards, a program similar to the Non-Equity Awards presented in June, will also be announced on Sept. 15.
Eligibility is for productions staged from Aug. 1, 2019 through March 13, 2020.
“This season brought a wonderful range of stories and performances to Chicago stages. There is a lot to celebrate despite the pandemic and civil unrest that interrupted some openings and productions runs this spring and summer,” said Jeff Awards Chair John Glover.
“We are so fortunate to have so much creative recognition worthy work on Chicago states, so we knew that a show needed to go on this fall,” Glover said.
He added, “During these times, it is even more important to remember and promote the value that the arts bring to our lives and the vital role theater plays in opening ourselves up to a variety of perspectives.”
Normally we would be talking about what productions are coming this fall and winter to the Lyric Opera, Goodman, Chicago Shakespeare, Steppenwolf, Broadway in Chicago, Lookingglass, Northlight, Court, Music Works, Citadel and several other Chicago area theater stages.
And normally, what’s coming would be divided up by regions because in 2019 there were about 250 theater companies in the area.
Maybe when the coronavirus is under control and artists and patrons feel safe attending live rather than virtual shows, we will know which Chicago theater groups survived the pandemic.
But here is a sample of what we are hearing now about our next theater season.
Calling the season “Our Next Act,” Artistic Director Robert Falls and Executive Director Roche Schulfer announced that the Goodman Theatre would have eight plays in its 2021 subscription (membership) series when safe for everyone. That number doesn’t include “A Christmas Carol” which isn’t a subscription show but details on the popular holiday show are expected to be out soon.
“We’re proud to announce four exciting world premieres, including a Goodman commission – Cheryl L. West’s “Fannie.” Directed by Henry Godinez, it is a passionate rallying cry inspired by the life of famed civil rights activist Fannie Lou Hamer that features E. Faye Butler in the title role,” said Falls.
Another world premiere is “the ripple, the wave that carried me home” by Christina Anderson, a co-production with Berkeley Repertory Theatre. “It is a stunning meditation on protest, legacy and reconciliation; and we’re delighted to welcome back Christina, whose bold, imaginative How to Catch Creation was a memorable favorite last year,” said Falls.
The third world premiere is “Good Night, Oscar” by Doug Wright, directed by Leigh Silverman and starring Sean Hayes (Will & Grace) as Oscar Levant.
Falls added, “Finally, we’ll produce the highly anticipated new musical we postponed due to COVID-19—”The Outsiders” based on the novel by S.E. Hinton and Francis Ford Coppola’s film. A beloved story of ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots’ that defined a generation it is told anew.” (Book is by Adam Rapp, music and lyrics by Jamestown Revival (Jonathan Clay and Zach Chance) and Justin Levine, choreography by Lorin Latarro and directed by Liesl Tommy.)
Three Chicago premiers include “School Girls; Or, The African Mean Girls Play” by Jocelyn Bioh and directed by Lili-Anne Brown that was interrupted by the pandemic, “A Paris Love Story” featuring the Music of Claude DeBussy that is written and performed by Hershey Felder and directed by Trevor Hay and “American Mariachi” by José Cruz González, directed by Henry Godinez and is a coproduction with Dallas Theater Center.
In addition, Goodman will be doing “The Notebooks of Leonardo da Vinci” adapted and directed by Mary Zimmerman.
“We can’t wait to welcome back our audiences for our dynamic 2021 Season that exemplifies the very best of our art form,” said Falls. “As we continue to prioritize the health and safety of our artists and audiences, we remain flexible in our planning and will share production dates when the time is right.”
Subscription memberships to the upcoming season are available, including the “Whenever Membership” flexible package. A five-play Membership package starts at $100. Visit GoodmanTheatre.org/2021season. Single tickets will be available at a later date.
The Lyric will open a reimagined fall season with “For the Love of Lyric,” a virtual concert from the Lyric Opera House, that will be available for free streaming beginning at 5 p.m. CDT Sept. 13, 2020.
The event is in place of the opening night opera and ball, according to Anthony Freud, Lyric’s general director, president and CEO. “…we are proud to present “For the Love of Lyric- a very special concert presentation available to the largest possible audience via streaming,” said Freud.
Renowned soprano Renee Fleming teams up with special guests including Tony and Grammy award-winner Heather Headley (Aida, Lion King), soprano Ailyn Perez, bass Soloman Howard and mezzo soprano J’Nai Bridges.
Formerly called Light Opera Works, Music Theatre Works is moving from its Evanston home at Northwestern University’s Cahn Auditorium to the North Shore Center for the Performing Arts, 9501 Skokie Blvd., Skokie, beginning with its 2021 season.
A 40-year-old, not-for-profit company that has produced several highly recommended shows, Music Theatre Works has basically honored the classics with great direction, voices and orchestrations that range from the best “Pirates of Penzance” and “Mame” that I have seen to what other CTA writers say is the best “Anything Goes” and “Into the Woods” that they have seen.
Administration and rehearsals will continue at the Paul S. Mavros Center and Joyce Saxon Rehearsal Hall.
The performance move to North Shore Center’s large and small venues means the organization can do more productions and have longer runs, better parking and more exposure.
“For 40 years, Music Theater Works has been a cornerstone of high-quality professional music theater in the Chicago area. Our history demonstrates our dedication to bringing great music and great theater to our audiences. The community along with the many artists, board members and staff have built the company to what it is today,” said Music Theater Works Producing Artistic Director Kyle A. Dougan.
“Music Theater Works’ move to its new performance home at the North Shore Center is a testament to our community’s support for our art. In addition, this outlet strengthens Music Theater Works’ pledge to explore the full spectrum of music theater with the availability of multiple performance spaces within the North Shore Center,” Dougan said.
North Shore Center for the Performing Arts General Manager Michael Pauken said, “It is very exciting to welcome this well-respected organization and its productions to the North Shore Center as I have long admired them as an audience member.”
Pauken added, “I know Music Theater Works’ customers will find the North Shore Center’s location near numerous restaurants, convenient access to public transportation and free parking to be an enhancement to their theatergoing experience and Music Theatre Works performers will enjoy ample backstage space and the technical capabilities of our facility.”
In advance of its formal move to the Center next year, Music Theater Works presented two sold out performances of “Richard Rodgers’ Greatest Hits,” August 28 and 29, as part of the North Shore Center’s outdoor concert series, “Out Back Summer Sessions.”
To celebrate its 10th anniversary Manual Cinema, a multi-award winning studio that creates unusual stage and video shows with puppets, actors and vintage projectors, has been rebroadcasting some of its hits during July and August but will also conclude with a spectacular show.
You can still catch “No Blue Memories: the Life of Gwendolyn Brooks Aug. 10-17 that will include talk back with creators, cast and crew on Aug. 15 at 8 p.m. and “Frankenstein Aug. 17-23 with talk back Aug. 21 at 8 p.m.( CT)
Then save Aug. 22 at 8 p.m. for the company’s live, retro variety show. It’s a “Tele-Fun-Draiser, Covid-Relief benefit. It will end with a new work that has shadow puppetry, cinematic aspects,, toy theater and creative sound. It can also be viewed by going back to Manual Cinema Watch or Manual Cinema.
Founded by Drew Dir, Sarah Fornace, Ben Kauffman, Julia Miller and Kyle Vegter, Manual Cinema is unlike anything you may have seen in the theaters.
Detect the cause of a death in “Murder in a Nutshell.”
Presented online to benefit Chicago’s historic Glessner House, the program references Frances Glessner Lee’s forensic science research that had been used with medical examiners and police to determine cause at a death scene. It includes photographs, crime scene descriptions so viewers can spot clues and decide if death was by suicide, murder or an accident.
Operated via zoom from 7 to 8:30 p.m. July 30, 2020, the cost is $10 public, Glessner House members $8. Reservations should be made my noon July 30.
Designed by Henry Hobson Richardson, Glessner House is an 1887 Romanesque style national historic landmark open to tours at 1800 S. Prairie Ave. This is the neighborhood that was also once home to the Marshall Field and Pullman families.
Called “Stateville Voices,” three short plays directed by Sydney Chatman, former Goodman Theatre’s Michael Maggio Fellow, can be watched live at no charge Friday, July 3 at 5 p.m. on Facebook, YouTube and GoodmanTheatre.org/Stateville.
A virtual premier of “Parameters of Closeness” by André Patterson, “Ain’t Nothing like Quality Time” by Taurean Decatur and ” Comic Books and Candy” by Antonio McDowell, the plays are products of a Spring 2019 playwriting course taught by playwright and Goodman Artistic Associate Rebecca Gilman as part of the Northwestern Prison Education Program (NPEP).
The performances will be followed at 6 p.m. with a discussion about the plays and life at the Stateville Correctional Facility during COVID-19. Panelists include Antonio McDowell (Stateville Voices playwright who was recently granted clemency by Governor JB Pritzker) and his attorney, Josh Tepfer; Patrick Pursley (NPEP participant and former Stateville inmate); and Jennifer Lackey (Director of the Northwestern Prison Education Program and the Wayne and Elizabeth Jones Professor of Philosophy at Northwestern University).
(Note: prior to the COVID-19 shutdown, live performances of the Stateville Voices plays were planned for Goodman Theatre, Kennedy-King College and Stateville Correctional Center. The Goodman intends to facilitate the live presentation when safe to do so.)
Because theaters have been shuttered during the COVID-19 crisis for the safety of artists and audiences they have been putting some of their productions online. One such production was a Neo-Futurists “Wrench” production mentioned here in CTAA a few weeks ago.
Also, Citadel in Lake Forest just successfully held a live production that was a round-up of past musicals. It was held sitting in cars in the parking lot of the local community center.
However, sometimes it is worthwhile to go back to productions that have become extraordinarily relevant today during our (hopefully) history-changing 2020.
One such production is “The Talk” done in Durham and Chapel Hill, NC in 2019. Presented by StreetSigns and Bulldog Ensemble Theater in cooperation with the Department of Communication at UNC Chapel Hill, it has been brought back on video for a short time only by Bulldog and PlayMakers Repertory Company with permission from the artists and unions.
Written and performed by Sonny Kelly and directed by Joseph Megel, “The Talk” is a one-person show where a young black father talks to his son about his own experiences and what the son may experience growing up in the United States of America.
The script and acting is intelligent, poignant and heartbreakingly informative. Kelly wrote it while working on his Ph.D at UNC Chapel Hill’s Department of Communication a few years ago. He has since attained his doctorate.
The show takes a little over an hour to watch but its messages are deep and lasting. Be mindful that the video introduction says not to copy the video or use it for commercial purposes.
The production companies involved hope more people will be able to see a show that sold out in 2019 and speaks to what is still confronting Americans today.
Chicago’s theater companies have been inviting audiences to watch productions on line as a way to raise needed funds to stay in business while COVID-19 has shuttered stages and in-person experiences. Citadel Theatre has found a different, fun way (sort of like a movie drive in) to enjoy a program.
Museums and other Chicago destinations have also suffered financial losses from closed doors. Youngsters and their families have also been deprived of popular places to visit. To help with the latter issue, Mayor Lori Lightfoot is journeying out to some of the city’s museums in virtual field trips geared to the whole family. They have been fun and enlightening. So go on, take a virtual field trip with her.
Citadel Theatre, a Lake Forest-based equity production company, has found a new way to put on a theater experience in line with Sate and national guidelines. Audiences are invited to watch and hear one-hour matinee performances at the suburb’s Gorton Community Center Parking lot while sitting comfortably and safely in their cars.
Cabaret dates are June 13, 14, 20 and 21 at 1 and 3 p.m. at 400 E. Illinois Rd., Lake Forest.
Tickets are considered donations and must be bought in advance because of limited parking space. Entrance is on Illinois Road, exit is at McKinley Road. Community Center facilities (washrooms) will not be available.
The world renown museum is the next stop on the city field trip series that visited the Shedd Aquarium, the Museum of Science and Industry, the Field Museum, the National Museum of Mexican Art and the DuSable Museum of African American History.
It’s a chance to visit (or revisit) a famous painting, hear about an upcoming block-buster exhibition and see works that might become favorites.
Visit HitPlayChicago to see the video that went live on Wednesday and will be replayed on WTTW on Friday and Monday. Scroll down to visit past field trip destinations.
Even though Around Town typically looks for experiences out of the house, with stay home still in place in some areas and particularly in Chicago, the experiences shared since March have virtual. Stay home has been hard on theater companies and museums. Indeed, the latest museum news is the large number of people being laid off by the Museum of Science and Industry. So Around Town will continue to let readers know of virtual experiences in those areas and talk will talk about re-openings.
Stop in the DuSable museum of African American history to hear about its virtual reconstruction of The March, visit with late Chicago Mayor Harold Washington ans see his office, learn about blacks who fought in France during World War I and become more familiar with the battle for civil rights.
Your field trip leader is Mayor Lori Lightfoot who is taking viewers to the DuSable Museum on HitPlay Chicago, her fourth excursion to fascinating city destinations that are temporarily closed to the public because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Named for Jean Baptiste Point Dusable, a trader of Haitian, African and French descent the museum was founded in 1961 by Margaret Burroughs and moved to its City of Chicago Park District property in Washington Park in 1973.
See this small-box, innovative theater’s latest work the “Infinite Wrench Goes Viral” with 30 digital plays in one hour. At $5 (or more if you want), it’s a very inexpensive way of seeing a performance while Chicago theaters are dark.
Dating to the 1980’s, the Neo-Futurist Theater has been a collective of writer-director-performers who fuse sport, poetry and living newspaper into their original plays that are usually shown at a late-night “The Infinite Wrench” event. They have also done more than 65 full-length interactive mainstage productions
For their latest offering, the ensemble is working from home producing new plays each week that are filmed and shared. The Neo-Futurist ensemble of writer-performers continue to work from home and produce new plays weekly, which are then filmed and shared with patrons who subscribe via the patron platform.