Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Chicago Theater

A friend of mine, Jill, goes to a lot of theater in Chicago and sent me this post so I am happy to give a "shout out" for those that might be interested. I like the comparison of the price of a movie ticket to the price of seeing "live" theater with actual human actors.

An endearing advantage to living in Chicago is its thriving, abundant and accessible theater community. Ticket prices are affordable, with the most diligent seekers sometime gaining access for the low rate of seat tax alone. The budget conscious among us can subscribe to email notification services that offer discounted ticketing to area events, making it easy to see live theater for less than $20 per ticket. Many theaters offer deals to followers on Facebook and Twitter, with a few offering discounted tickets on the day of the show at their box office. Half price tickets for numerous performances are available daily at Hot Tix in the Loop and online. I hate missing opportunities to experience theater and this winter is rife with exceptional performances and great chances to see local talent on stage.

In November I saw A Red Orchid Theater’s production of The Iliad, a play highly recommended in the Chicago theater press. Performed by members of AROT’s youth ensemble, the cast comprised young girls, ranging in age from nine to fifteen. The Iliad, an eighth century poem by Homer set at the end of the Trojan War, is not a children’s story, but this wonderful play, adapted by Craig Wright and directed by Steve Wilson, was creatively executed by kids for a sophisticated audience. Within A Red Orchid Theater’s intimate space in Old Town, there were violent sword fights, high emotions and epic battles – these girls were fierce and talented! The theater was sold out and shows were extended into early January. I’m looking forward to their next production by Irish playwright Enda Walsh, The New Electric Ballroom directed by Robin Witt.

In a three month time frame I attended Romeo & Juliet at Chicago Shakespeare Theater, Chekov’s The Seagull at Goodman, Detroit with Laurie Metcalf at Steppenwolf, and Lookingglass Theater’s aerial filled performance of Peter Pan (a Play). Although a little frightening for children under 7, Peter Pan was perfect for families with pre-teen and teenage kids. Keira Fromm’s production of Kenneth Lonergan’s Lobby Hero at Red-Twist Theater incorporated foot traffic, neighborhood sirens and by-standers on Bryn Mawr Avenue naturally into the flow of the performance, including a an errant car valet who opened the storefront door and was promptly incorporated into the action. My ticket costs for each of these shows came in under $30 – some were under $20.

In Chicago’s south loop, a cinema group is offering movie goers the chance to see films starting at $17. Seventeen dollars! For as little as $15, including seat tax, Chicagoans can see world class actors on stage, participating in an experience that, once it occurs in that space at that time never happens again in the same way. Film, gratefully, is permanent and can be enjoyed over and over again, generating different responses with each viewing; theater, even at the most basic level of performance, engenders an intimate and visceral reaction, as personal as one’s secrets. It is a compelling art form that is immediate and provocative, creating with each performance a once in a lifetime experience. Low prices may encourage an initial outing but the physically emotional response to live theater will certainly garner repeated attendance.

As we slog along through winter it’s exciting to imagine the shows on the horizon – The Moonstone at Lifeline, Eclipsed at Northlight, The Master & Margarita in the spring at Strawdog and Neil LaBute’s reasons to be pretty, a Chicago premiere directed by Steppenwolf’s Rick Snyder. I always look forward to my next theater adventure – my annual new year’s resolution is TO SEE MORE THEATER – and fortunately living in Chicago makes this resolution easy to keep, especially this season.


Terry from Crown Point said...

Live theater, like live music, is GREAT. Partake and enjoy. Good one Carl.

Dan from Madison said...

Excellent post, maybe we need "Jill from Chicago" as a contributor.

As far as theater goes, lil' ol' Madison has a lot of theater and my wife and I used to go to performances all the time of all sorts of different plays from tiny local productions to the massive touring shows. We had kids and that was pretty much that. I miss it. I think for our next date we will go see a play, this post inspires me.

One of the most memorable shows I saw was actually with Carl and Mrs. Carl - Cannibal Cheerleaders on Crack. I am not sure I will ever see anything like that ever again. And iirc the place let you bring in your own booze, which is FABULOUS in my book.