Our vibrant live theaters are finally getting the recognition they so richly deserve.
The Theo Ubique Theater Company, which performs at the No Exit Cafe, and the Lifeline Theater, a longtime neighborhood anchor at 6912 N. Glenwood, walked away as big winners at last week’s Joseph Jefferson Awards, which honor the best work of the year in Chicago’s non-Equity theater.
Fred Anzevino’s revival of “Evita” for the Theo UbiqueTheater Company won the Best Musical Production of the Year award and took six other awards in the musical categories. Lifeline Theater won four play-category honors.
A few weeks earlier, The Side Project Theater, which resides in the Jarvis Square district, was recognized by its peers as this year’s “emerging theater,” which means it will receive a package of benefits sponsored byBroadway in Chicago.
Chicago Tribune art critic, Chris Jones, last week heralded the “thriving arts districts” in Rogers Park. He noted that unlike other Chicago neighborhoods where theaters have to share space, “the little contingent of companies around Morse and Jarvis Avenue have their own dedicated theaters where they can build their creative brands and gain an audience’s trust.”
Jones noted that I am “one of Chicago’s most arts-supportive aldermen.” As such, I’m proud to have helped these companies fine a home in the 49th Ward. They add immensely to the culture and vitality of our wonderful neighborhood.
For your information, I’ve included below a link to Chris Jones’ column and reprinted it in its entirety. In the meantime, I encourage you to support our local theaters and attend their amazing productions.
Four of our local theaters–Bohemian Theater Ensemble (BoHo), Lifeline Theater, The Side Project and Theo Ubique–are offering a Rogers Park Flex Pass for the 2009-10 season, in which pass holders can see one show at each of the four theaters for $50. It also comes with dining discounts. For information, CLICK HERE.
You’ll be glad you did.
Rogers Park gets Chicago’s theater neighborhood award
By Chris Jones
Chicago Tribune, June 12, 2009
In fall 2004, the Curious Theatre Branch announced its intent to abandon its theater, the former home of the No Exit Cafe on the corner of Glenwood and Lunt Avenues in Rogers Park. At the time, Curious co-founder Beau O’Reilly cited issues with the neighborhood’s high crime rate. “There is a difficulty going on in the ‘hood,” O’Reilly told the Chicago Reader, “that seems to have increased.”
The quick departure of Curious was seen as a blow for the nascent arts district that had grown up with the blessing of Ald. Joe Moore (49th). But that was five years ago. At Monday night’s Joseph Jefferson Awards-the annual fete that honors the best work of the year in Chicago’s non-Equity theater-the thriving arts district around Morse Avenue on Chicago’s Far North Side did very well.
Fred Anzevino’s Theo Ubique Theatre Co. production of “Evita” (through June 27; 773-347-1109 and theoubique.org) took most of the honors in the musical categories. And Lifeline Theatre, a longtime neighborhood anchor at 6912 N. Glenwood Ave., walked away with many of the play-category kudos.
A couple of weeks earlier, another theater from this neighborhood, the Side Project, was selected by its peers as this year’s emerging theater. It will receive a package of benefits, sponsored by Broadway in Chicago (including marketing and advertising support from this newspaper).
Side Project is an experimental company. But it’s worth noting that Theo Ubique and Lifeline don’t do the kind of edgy, uber-fringe programming typically associated with hip, urban arts districts. You don’t get much more mainstream than Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Evita.” And Lifeline is producing “Busman’s Honeymoon,” (extended through July 26; 773-761-4477 and lifelinetheatre.com), a droll and thoroughly genteel show rooted in the genre of the English detective fiction of the 1930s. Both are on our recommended list.
These are shows that attract audiences from all over the city and suburbs. People are driving a long way to see that shoe-box “Evita.” I’ve heard from several of them. Why the sudden turnaround? While the neighborhood surely still has its problems-the Morse Theatre, for example, has struggled-there are more people out on the street, going to shows, eating and drinking in the local restaurants.
But there’s another issue. Whereas many of the theaters in Lakeview and Lincoln Park have to share space, the little contingent of companies around Morse and Jarvis Avenues have their own dedicated theaters where they can build their creative brands and gain an audience’s trust.
Lifeline recently hoisted a spiffy new marquee that you can’t miss when traveling southbound on the CTA’s Red or Purple Lines.
Theo Ubique, meanwhile, has made its unusual, cafe-style space its calling card. Cast members of “Evita” serve Argentinian food, and Che gets to pass droll Brechtian commentary while seated at a real bar.
Up at the Side Project-a company beloved by those who closely follow new, gutsy work-founder Adam Webster has created his own brand of microtheater in a space that proudly seats less than 50.
In speech after speech Monday night, Jeff winners referenced their artistic home at one of these theaters. Artists always do their best work when they feel like they have a home.
Moore, one of Chicago’s most arts-supportive aldermen, should be proud of helping to provide several of them.
Moore said that neighborhood residents and business owners deserved a lot of the credit for the turnaround. “Everybody banded together,” he said. “We’ve become quite the entertainment destination.”