Posted inPerforming Arts Feature

The Rhino in spring

In January 2020, I checked in with Jenny Magnus about Rhinoceros Theater Festival (better known as Rhino Fest), the city’s longest running fringe theater festival. “The world is really hard right now,” Magnus said at the time. “All we have is each other and the intention to do something good. Aid and comfort. We just […]

Posted inArts & Culture

Collective healing

Queer bars are more than just bars that happen to be queer. They can be a refuge, a meeting place, and, quite literally, a safe space. They’re also places where our history has been written: from the Stonewall riots to the Pulse Nightclub shooting. Sam Mueller’s latest production unpacks what happens when the safety and […]

Posted inArts & Culture

A time that was wonderful

I didn’t meet the revered Chicago Tribune theater critic, Richard Christiansen, until 2016 when I started interviewing him for my book Ensemble: An Oral History of Chicago Theater. He was 84 years old and living at The Selfhelp Home, an assisted living facility for older Jewish adults where a caregiver he particularly liked would sit […]

Posted inPerforming Arts Feature

Welcome to Venus

Back in December, there was a shining sliver of time when it looked like we—as individuals, as artists, as arts institutions—were forging a clear, or at least clear-ish, path forward.  Hundreds of people were back at work on live, in-person shows. A Christmas Carol burned bright at the Goodman. The Snow Queen got a shiny […]

Posted inDance

Kia Smith is a south-side diplomat of dance

At Chicago Dancers United’s Dance for Life festival last August, the Jay Pritzker Pavilion stage reverberated with layers of rhythm. Each row of dancers formed a different section of intertwining phrases—movements playful and powerful that recalled the musicality of jazz. The piece, South Chicago Dance Theatre’s Architect of a Dream, was the work of Kia […]

Posted inPerforming Arts Feature

‘What happened in the community was almost like a brush fire’

What hit harder, the racism or the pandemic? When the world shut down, theater performances came to a halt. No one was laughing about anything. Improvisers couldn’t perform, and theaters across the city lost big money. Alongside COVID-19, the improv community had a great awakening regarding mistreatment of BIPOC talent. Major theaters retroactively diversified leadership […]

Posted inArts & Culture

An actor who stayed

Editor’s note: William J. Norris, a veteran Chicago actor whose career included playing Scrooge for the Goodman production of A Christmas Carol for a dozen years and performing with the late Organic Theater in their legendary sci-fi serial, Warp!, died at his home in Iowa on November 30 at age 75. Mark Larson, author of […]