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January 08, 2008

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Dan

I know it's sort of a bad habit of mine to reference my sister in your comment section, but I thought it worth noting that she was called in for productions at the Goodman and VG well after she moved to LA. She, too, was remarking how if she had gotten cast at the Equity theatres when she was here, she might never have left.

Ronica

Hello, I'm a first time reader of your blog-I linked here from Parabasis. I have to say that I'm surprised Chicago is also suffering from "Regional theatre disease." I spoke to a New York director (originally from Chicago) and another actor formally based out of Chicago, about Steppenwolf's recent Broadway import "August Osage County." And they spoke about how upset the actors in that play were about the transfer to Broadway and the possible extension of the limited run. They said Chicago scene is strong and the actors live and work there and don't want to work anywhere else. Your post suggests that this sentiment is unique to the Steppenwolf. Is the Steppenwolf the only regional theatre in Chicago dedicated to producing works by local artist using local actors?

Patrick

Boston faces the same problem. Our actor pool isn't as large as Chicago's, but there are a lot of talented actors. The proximity of NYC makes the talent drain flow more quickly--the common lament, "if I lived in NYC I could get more easily hired here," is common here, and was the same in Denver, back in the 90s.

Playwrights often have the same complaints as actors. Somehow because you live in the same city, the local theatres often don't seem to take you or your career as seriously. Theatre is essentially a local artform, and to keep it healthy talent needs to be grown, nurtured, and retained.

Kris Vire

Ronica, Steppenwolf is kind of a special case among the biggest theaters here. It's an ensemble-based company (as are many of the mid-size companies that came after it and modeled themselves on Steppenwolf). The cast of August wasn't necessarily thrilled about going to Broadway, but Tracy Letts wrote that script for that ensemble. Deanna Dunagan gave a quote to the Chicago Reader's Deanna Isaacs during the stagehands' strike: "Dunagan says she doesn’t think anyone in the show really wanted to come to Broadway, 'but we wanted the play to be seen in New York, and we didn’t want other people to do it.'" (This is also why I think a movie of August would be a terrible idea.)

Steppenwolf is committed to developing its ensemble, and recent evidence suggests they're also committed to developing the Chicago talent pool on whole. Some of the other big guns, the Goodman and Chicago Shakespeare most egregiously, do a lot of casting out of town, as do sit-down New York productions like Wicked.

That sense you mention that actors live and work here and don't want to work elsewhere is quite often true; I've heard plenty of actors lament their exodus to NY or LA. There is a lot of Equity work here for local actors; I'd just like to see our own actors considered the first resort instead of last. That's the only way to keep them here.

Mark Jeffries

The Goodman said a few years ago that they cast 90% Chicagoans, even if they cast the leads out-of-town. I've been a subscriber long enough to believe them.

And I've seen enough CST shows to know that they do cast most of the time Chicagoans, especially the people Gaines has worked with from the beginning. I think her argument for casting out-of-town is that she wants CST to be seen as a "world-class" theater, which means bringing in the best wherever they are. She would probably call you provincial. You can have it out with her.

And uh-huh on Jess as Glinda, as much as I love her, at least from "Wicked"'s view. She's too tall, not a blonde and doesn't have the squeaky voice that Glindas seem to have. They seem to not mind a Glinda not having Kristin Chenoweth's mammary glands, but they want everything else to be Chenoweth-ish. If Jess ever gets cast in "Wicked," I suspect she would be Nessarose.

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  • Kris Vire
    I write about theater for Time Out Chicago. I write more about it here.

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