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January 11, 2008


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Rob Kozlowski

I think you forget they have millions of readers in the suburbs, who are afraid even to go into the city because of The Gays and The Blacks. For those kinds of people, plays written by women are scary and unknown.


Sadly, I have to agree. If it wasn't at the Goodman - and I mean that: just the Goodman - the vast majority of the theatre-going audience in Chicago didn't see it. I once had a tightly held belief that my knowledge of Chicago theatre only topped out that of hardcore (read: have several subscriptions and don't watch TV) Chicago theatregoers by sheer force of will. This is not so. I was in a porfessinally conducted focus group of rigorously selected folks of just this ilk, and I tell you, fully half of them considered Steppenwolf outre. One or two had heard of such scrappy upstarts as Remy Bumppo and Timeline. Yet - and this is the best part - all of them said they wanted to see "avant garde" and "challenging work." I almost jumped through the one-way glass.

There was one lady who was relatively hardcore: she spoke pretty passionately about seeing "some of the best stuff at the small theatres." But then (and I am not making this up) she kept referring to that fantastic play by Tracy Leets.


Porfessionally? Classy, Dan, classy.

Zac Thompson

Don't they just mean the *company* is relatively unknown, not necessarily the play? I'm guessing that for the average Trib reader, schlepping to the Viaduct to see a play about sexual abuse would indeed be a step outside the comfort zone.

Kris Vire

Eh, you could be right, Zac. I read "Try a play that freaks you out a bit" with emphasis on *a play*, but perhaps that's not the way it was intended.

My next argument would be that BackStage should hardly be unknown to anyone who pays attention to theater around here, but Dan's preemptively proven me wrong on that one.

I could still argue that if the Trib were to write more often about non-Equity companies and non-glitzy venues, and write about them as simply part of the Chicago theater scene without framing them as somewhere scary that you have to challenge yourself to go to, then we might not have either of those situations. To quote the current play at outré Steppenwolf, "Agree or disagree?"

Jake Moreland

Of the last 10 productions reviewed on Mr. Jones' blog, only 1 or 2 have originated in Chicago. Think about that.

Mr. Jones' coverage of Chicago's theatre scene is such a disgrace to the wonderful freelance critics employed by the Trib. And what a horrible pity that the city's largest newspaper thinks "news from America's hottest theatre city" means describing what New York looks like from 1,000 miles away.

Kris Vire

Jake, I should point out that Chris Jones was not listed as one of the writers of this particular piece. But I heartily agree with your praise of the Trib's freelance theater critics. Kerry and Nina do good stuff.


Hi Kris. I personally feel it is irresponsible of the Tribune to continue to assume that it's readers are ignorant, TIVO-surfing, non-theatre going schlubs and hausfraus who needed that heinous Theatre 101 primer that you linked to. I happen to know many people, and some of them live beyond the 606xx zip code, who were raving about and recommending "The Strangerer" to me last year (and yes, they were Tribune subscribers). More than the writers, I fault the Tribune editorial staff for the theater section's patronizing view of its readers.

Jake Moreland

Kris -

Yes, I know that Mr. Jones was not listed as a writer of that particular piece. I was switching gears a bit.

It amazes me how little Mr. Jones actually cares about the pulse of the Chicago theatre community, which is events that happen north of Kinzie and west of Manhattan.

For people who want to rave about the success of Off-Loop theatre, just imagine if the city's most read critic knew of its existence?

Kerry Reid

Kris, I think the fact that you and I review a lot of shows and look at a lot of press releases colors our awareness of what companies are out there to some extent. I would submit that there are probably theater artists in the Chicago area who have never heard of BackStage, either -- and certainly many who have never seen their work. I've run into people who run theater companies who haven't heard of some of their storefront peers, even though the other companies have been around for a few years. I cite this not as evidence of a failing on their part, but to merely underscore the obvious: there are a hell of a lot of companies and shows in this region, and keeping up with all of them is well-nigh impossible.


Kerry -
to piggy back your statement, if I had a nickel for every time I said "I'm with Speaking RIng Theatre CO." and got the "who the hell is that" blank stare, then I could fund our entire season.
It's not a jibe to the people out there, its just a fact. So many companies, so many shows, how can you know about or even report on them all?
We're in our 7th season - and we've performed at several well known spots, done some critically acclaimed work, done what we can to keep our name in people's minds, and we still get the blank stare.
It's not a failure on either our part or the audience's part - it just is what it is.
(and Kris - while I agree that BackStage CHOOSING to do "How I learned to Drive" may not be avant garde, but a theatre goer- CHOOSING to go see them over something much more well known might be.)

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

    Any opinion expressed here is solely that of the author or commenter. No opinion expressed here can be assumed to represent the opinion of Time Out Chicago magazine.

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