How TimeLine Theatre snagged the Chicago premiere of Tony-winning 'Oslo'
When "Oslo" won the 2017 Tony Award for Best Play, TimeLine Theatre's artistic staff members figured they had little to no chance of presenting the Chicago premiere.
Surely, they thought, a much larger theater would snap up the rights to J.T. Rogers' acclaimed political thriller about two Norwegian diplomats who coordinated top-secret talks that led to the 1993 Israeli-Palestinian peace accords.
But TimeLine successfully pursued "Oslo" with a heavyweight production partner: Broadway in Chicago. The drama will play a six-week run at the 550-seat Broadway Playhouse at Water Tower Place starting Tuesday, Sept. 10.
Associate artistic director Nick Bowling is staging "Oslo," and he cites a number of reasons why TimeLine won out. First and foremost was the preexisting friendship that Bowling and artistic director P.J. Powers had cultivated with Rogers when they produced his 2011 political drama "Blood and Gifts" at TimeLine in 2013.
"We got to know J.T. pretty well around that production," Bowling said.
Bowling added that Rogers tipped him and Powers off about the development of "Oslo," especially since it fit perfectly with TimeLine's artistic mission to present "stories inspired by history that connect with today's social and political issues."
It helped that Broadway in Chicago's vice president, Eileen LaCario, is also president of TimeLine's board of directors. In a statement, she stressed that Broadway in Chicago often makes its venues available to other local theater and dance companies.
"Broadway In Chicago's commitment is to bring our audience the best and newest of Broadway," said LaCario, citing both "Oslo" and the 2020 return of the Broadway-bound Chicago Shakespeare Theater musical "SIX." "These are shows that were important to support for our Chicago audiences. We have always appreciated being able to collaborate within our own community."
The inclusion of "Oslo" in Broadway in Chicago's subscriber season also means that audiences who typically opt for imported touring shows will get a chance to see the cream of the crop in terms of actors with strong Chicago ties. For instance, Bowling cited Elmhurst native Tom Hickey as "one of the leading actors in Chicago's storefront theater scene." He plays Israeli lawyer Joel Singer in "Oslo."
"Nick (Bowling) is incredibly excited in bringing these historical stories to life," Hickey said. "(Bowling) loves digging in and getting everyone to imagine these really important historical moments. He's an exciting person to work with on something like this."
Bowling himself is excited to share "Oslo" with Chicago audiences, especially since it is so reflective of what drives Rogers as a playwright.
"It's a very funny, accessible political thriller," Bowling said. "J.T. loves thinking about world politics and he is a political junkie -- he described himself that way -- and the thing I love is that he writes from an American perspective and a highly researched perspective with an ability to balance humor and high-stakes complications."
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When: 7:30 p.m. Tuesday through Friday (2 p.m. Wednesday matinees begin Oct. 2), 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday, 2 and 7:30 p.m. Sunday (Sunday evening performances end Sept. 29); Sept. 10 through Oct. 20