SR Digest: I’ll take Theater for $1000, Alex

December 10, 2018—Issue #2

Welcome to the free biweekly edition of Storefront Rebellion! This free digest brings Chicago theater news and reviews from me, Kris Vire, right to your inbox. I definitely want to hear your feedback: Reply to this email, or if you’re reading this on the web, hit me at or find me on Twitter @krisvire.

Reviews and other views

Last week in this space I reviewed Lauren Gunderson’s The Revolutionists, now playing at Strawdog; subscription reviews are free to all this month, so you can read the whole thing here ICYMI. More reviews to come this week, both here in the newsletter and at the Sun-Times.

I’ve had two theater-related features publish elsewhere since the last digest. For the Reader, I talked with Coya Paz Brownrigg and Chloe Johnston about their new book, Ensemble-Made Chicago. Read the piece here, and check out the free book launch event happening tonight at Theater on the Lake.

And at Chicago magazine, I dug into historical records and newspaper archives to find out more about the newly rediscovered space in the Loop where Teatro ZinZanni will pitch its tent in the spring.

Photographs: The Revolutionists, Collin Quinn Rice; Ensemble-Made Chicago, courtesy Northwestern University Press; courtesy Teatro ZinZanni

Let’s make it a true Daily Double

This week’s digest is going out a few hours later than I intended. I blame Jeopardy!

A couple of weeks ago my partner and I noticed the syndicated quiz show had popped up on Netflix. “Weird,” we said. “Who’s going to be loading up Jeopardy!, of all things, on Netflix?”

Last night, when I should have been putting together this edition of the newsletter, we instead finished the last of the 45 episodes of Jeopardy! currently available on the streaming service. It’s me. I’m the one who will binge-watch the Tournament of Champions.

I hadn’t really watched the show since… I don’t know when, probably college. Which is odd, considering my enjoyment of pub quizzes and trivia generally. I found myself trying to play against the onscreen contestants, and hollering at the TV when none of the three could answer (er, question?) a clue I found glaringly obvious.

The reason I mention all of this here (I do have a reason, I swear) is that I’ve been struck by how much of my Jeopardy!-useful knowledge comes from my years of regular theatergoing.

That’s not just because the show, 30-plus years into the Alex Trebek era, still regularly presents theater as something a well-rounded contestant needs to have in their cultural diet. Categories on musicals, playwrights, or Shakespearean characters frequently come up alongside those on science, history, literature and geography, and when those theater categories show up, I can (usually, mostly) crush them. In its way, the show champions theater (and other “high culture” like opera, classical music and visual art) as topics its audience should care about, and god bless it for that.

But it’s also been fascinating to me to realize how much of what I get right in those other categories—the history, science, etc.—comes from having seen plays, spoken with playwrights, directors and other theater artists, and doing further research in the process of writing reviews. And I’m not only talking about specifically biographical or historically-minded plays (shoutout to TimeLine, though).

What I know of the French Revolution, the Rwandan genocide, the Troubles in Northern Ireland and most of the attempted assassinations of U.S. presidents? All largely started with playwrights and plays. Same with the second law of thermodynamics, the traveling salesman problem, and classical mythology (especially classical mythology). Literary adaptations onstage have led me to read authors I might never have found on my own. Even much of my knowledge of that other high-culture stuff—opera, classical music and visual art—I got from theater.

If I ever found myself behind one of the podiums on that Jeopardy! soundstage, that’s what I imagine telling Trebek during the excruciatingly awkward banter segment: It was theater that got me there.

Selected upcoming openings

The Full Monty Theo Ubique Cabaret Theatre, Dec 10

The Old Woman Broods Trap Door Theatre, Dec 13

La Ruta Steppenwolf Theatre Company, previews Dec 13, opens Dec 20

A Midsummer Night’s Dream Chicago Shakespeare Theater, now in previews, opens Dec 14

Fiddler on the Roof Cadillac Palace Theatre, Dec 18

Kris recommends

Plainclothes Broken Nose Theatre, through Dec 15

Witch Writers Theatre, through Dec 22

HeLa Sideshow Theatre Company, through Dec 23

Gypsy Porchlight Music Theatre, through Dec 29

Q Brothers Christmas Carol Chicago Shakespeare Theater, through Dec 30

Rightlynd Victory Gardens Theater, through Dec 30

Familiar Steppenwolf Theatre Company, through Jan 13

Thanks for reading! This is the free biweekly edition of Storefront Rebellion, a newsletter about Chicago theater by Kris Vire. You can subscribe for $6 a month or $60 a year to receive exclusive show reviews in your inbox.

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