I think Chicago really is my kind of town. During my visit, the weather was in the 70’s, the sun shone brilliantly and the Lake was the most beautiful shade of aqua. Best of all, I was attending a theater tour led by Everyman Theatre’s very own Vinny Lancisi that took us deep into Chicago’s bustling theater scene. From the well-established Goodman Theatre, to the legendary Steppenwolf, and on to the start-up Timeline Theatre, we covered a lot of ground in a fast-paced three days!
To piggyback on a trip to NYC that Khanh and I took to do research for Center Stage, the Chicago tour included some incredible backstage conversations with theater notables such as Martha Lavey, Artistic Director of Steppenwolf Theatre, and Steve Scott and Joe Drummond from the Goodman. It turns out that Tom Pearl, the new Director of Production at Steppenwolf, is Baltimore born and bred, cut his artistic teeth at Center Stage and consulted on our very own Creative Alliance at the Patterson!
It became apparent that so many of the issues that Baltimore’s cultural venues face are common across the country including an aging donor base and the need to attract younger audiences. No wonder that Kwame Kwei-Armah has made an impassioned plea for our design team to make the rejuvenated Center Stage experience transformational with plenty of digital and video display.
Finally, we were treated to three vastly different productions - Mary Zimmerman’s The White Snake with its stunning visual effects, The Way West, Mona Mansour’s irreverent look at how a California family faces joblessness and bankruptcy, and a risk-taking musical adaptation of Sean O’Casey’s Juno and the Paycock. The post-show discussion every evening in our van was raucous, biting and laudatory all at the same time. I was reminded once again of the power of the arts to transport, entertain and ignite a really good conversation.