Spotlight: 'Chicago Acts Together' benefits out-of-work theater artists
More than 80 Chicago-area theaters are uniting to raise funds for the Chicago Theatre Workers Relief Fund, which benefits artists who have lost work as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Established by the League of Chicago Theatres with help from volunteer ushers The Saints, the fund assists theater artists working part-time, on contract and stipend.
Steppenwolf Theatre secured the support of 88 city and suburban companies -- including Citadel Theatre in Lake Forest, First Folio in Oak Brook, Marriott in Lincolnshire, Northlight in Skokie, the Raue Center for the Arts in Crystal Lake and Writers Theatre in Glencoe -- to produce the "Chicago Acts Together" T-shirt.
Designed by Steppenwolf's graphic designer Christopher Huizar, the shirts feature the Chicago skyline and include the names of the participating companies. They are $30 each (additional donations accepted), with 100% of the proceeds benefiting the fund. To purchase a shirt, see creativeswhocare.org/collections/chicagoactstogether.
Director Wardell Julius Clark discusses his production of "Exit Strategy" at Victory Gardens Theater online on Friday, May 15.
'Your World Off Stage'
Victory Gardens Theater introduces "Your World Off Stage," a free, online conversation series with playwrights and other artists scheduled to appear during the theater's upcoming season. Actor/director Wardell Julius Clark discusses his production of Ike Holter's "Exit Strategy" from 1 to 2 p.m. Friday, May 15. Executive artistic director Erica Daniels and playwright John Logan converse from 1 to 2 p.m. Wednesday, May 20. Playwright Will Arbery and director Jonathan Berry discuss their Chicago premiere of "Heroes of the Fourth Turning" from 1 to 2 p.m. May 29. That's followed by a conversation between emeritus VGT artistic director Chay Yew and playwrights Luis Alfaro, Philip Dawkins, Samuel D. Hunter and Naomi Iizuka on June 5. The series concludes June 12 with a conversation between playwright Ali Viterbi and director Devon de Mayo about the world premiere of Viterbi's "In Every Generation." The conversations take place over Zoom and require advance registration. See victorygardens.org/event/your-world-off-stage-conversation-series.
Porchlight Music Theatre's ongoing "Sondheim @ 90" round-table series continues at 7 p.m. Saturday, May 16, with a discussion of "Gypsy," for which Stephen Sondheim supplied lyrics for Jule Styne's score. Two of the Chicago area's noteworthy Mama Roses -- E. Faye Butler and Klea Blackhurst -- join director Marc Robin for a discussion of the beloved musical about the mother of all stage mothers and her famous daughter. The conversation takes place on Facebook at facebook.com/porchlightmusictheatre.
More online offerings
• Looking for poetic inspiration and comfort right now? Check out Remy Bumppo Theatre producing artistic director Nick Sandys' mellifluous, expertly enunciated, neatly explained recitations of William Shakespeare's sonnets on Facebook at facebook.com/nick.sandys.9.
• For something completely different, check out magician David Parr's close up magic on his Facebook page at facebook.com/thatdavidparr. The Rock Paper Scissors game is my favorite.
• Playmakers Laboratory streams its signature revue "That's Weird, Grandma: House Par-Tay" online. The revue consists of stage adaptations of stories submitted by grade school students from around the country about their experiences dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic. Tickets are $3. See playmakerslab.org.
• Mercury Theater Chicago released a music video featuring theater artists Cory Goodrich, Donica Lynn, MJ Rawls, Sawyer Smith, executive director L. Walter Stearns and business manager Eugene Dizon among others. Set to the Robert Johnson blues classic "Sweet Home Chicago," the parody -- with lyrics by Goodrich -- encourages viewers to "Stay Home Chicago." To view it, search Mercury Theater Chicago on YouTube.com.
More online learning
Hinsdale's BAMtheatre, founded in 2001 to provide professional training for young theater artists, offers BAM @ a Distance online workshops and classes. Boston Conservatory head of admissions Laura Duncan guides viewers through a college audition from 7 to 8 p.m. Monday, May 18. That's followed from 7 to 8 p.m. May 25 by dance captain Mallory Maedke teaching choreography from the musical "Six," which was to have opened on Broadway the night theaters shut down productions in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. BAMtheatre also hosts virtual book clubs during which students discuss musical theater scripts from 5 to 7 p.m. Tuesdays (for grades 3 to 8) and from 7 to 9:30 p.m. Wednesdays (for high school and college students). Tickets range from $10 to $75. See bamtheatre.com.
• Goodman Theatre has extended its pay-per-view, streaming production of "School Girls; Or, the African Mean Girls Play," Jocelyn Bioh's comedy about the queen bee at a girls boarding school in Ghana whose position is threatened by a newcomer. A recording of director Lili-Anne Brown's Chicago premiere streams through May 31. Tickets are $20. See goodmantheatre.org/streamschoolgirls.
• Northwestern University has extended through June 7 its Imagine U Storytime series on the Wirtz Center YouTube channel. The series features family-friendly tales performed by NU faculty, alumni and students. The 15-minute videos air at 6 p.m. Sundays. The schedule is as follows, Sunday, May 17: "At Home Adventure"; May 24: "Isn't This a Lovely Day?" performed by NU professor Billy Siegenfeld; May 31: "The Princess and the Mask" performed by associate professor Jessica Thebus; and June 7: "A Frozen Dance Lesson." Search The Wirtz Center on youtube.com.
In other theater news
• In March, regional powerhouses Baltimore Center Stage, The Public Theater, Repertory Theatre of St. Louis and Woolly Mammoth Theatre united to establish the Play at Home project consisting of 10-minute play commissions "for this moment of unprecedented isolation to inspire joy and connection" available free to read and/or perform. They're available at playathome.org. In related news, writer/actor Juan Munoz, a 16th Street Theater associate artist, received a commission for his play "Moles" about a man who accidentally creates a sinkhole.
• Victory Gardens Theater announced Erica Daniels, Steppenwolf Theatre's former casting director and associate artistic director, has been appointed VGT's new executive artistic director. Daniels has been serving as the company's executive director since 2017. Before that, she served as president of Second City Theatricals.