Don't ever accuse The Hypocrites of thinking small.
Not only is the high-profile storefront theater company moving into a new space at The Den Theatre, but The Hypocrites is inaugurating it with a world premiere called All Our Tragic by former artistic director Sean Graney that adapts and combines all 32 surviving Greek tragedies by Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides into one epic narrative that can be seen in one 12-hour weekend marathon ( with meal breaks ) or in four nightly parts over four weeks.
"It's an amazing change for us," said Halena Kays, artistic director of The Hypocrites. "We had largely been in the basement of the Chopin Theatre for a number of years, and while that was a terrific partnership, our designers and directors were getting tired of that basement space despite its cool vibe."
Kays said the enormous pillar supports in the Chopin basement were problematic. And with the growing national profile of The Hypocrites with many of its productions like Our Town, The Pirates of Penzance and Seven Sicknesses being produced regionally and off-Broadway, the company was looking to find a larger space that could expand its audience base.
"It's actually really difficult to find a transformable space that suits The Hypocrites," Kays said. "For every one of our shows, our relationship changes with the audience and that makes each show different architecturally and we need a pretty wide open space to do that each time."
Luckily, The Hypocrites was able to partner with Den Theatre owner and artistic director Ryan Martin on expanding the multi-level theater complex on Milwaukee Avenue to include a large street-level space. The Hypocrites will have first dibs on producing shows in the newly leased space, which is only a few blocks away from the Chopin Theatre.
As for All Our Tragic as the inaugural show, The Hypocrites decided to expand on the company's previous Jeff Award-winning and box-office success with Seven Sicknesses, which was out artist Sean Graney's adaptation of the seven surviving tragedies of Sophocles combined into one epic narrative.
"Seven Sicknesses was a surprising success for us and in New York, and audiences encouraged me to look at other conjoined adaptations," said Graney, who is also directing All Our Tragic. "Once I started doing that, I realized that I should just do all 32 Greek tragedies that we have left. But to say that this is just an extension of Seven Sicknesses is not quite right because some of those plays have been heavily altered to fit into the narrative of All Our Tragic."
Graney received a fellowship in 2013 at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University to specifically work on All Our Tragic, and he loved being surrounded by other brilliant fellows talking about topics ranging from astrophysics to Yiddish. He also actors from the American Repertory Theater at his disposal to work on the show.
Although building a new theater space combined with staging a massive epic is an enormous undertaking for The Hypocrites, Kays and Graney both feel that the risk is worth it.
"With the economic downturn a few years ago, a lot of theaters scaled back and made the choice to be more conservative with their programming," Graney said. "I think audiences over the past five years have been hungry, starving even, for a new type of theatrical experience, so going the opposite way is what we are doing. Rather than delivering the sure, safe bet thing to you that we know people will enjoy and walk away from and forget, we're going to try to deliver this hugely memorable eventand what may make it memorable that it could be an epic failure, but that's what's exciting for me is the risk of it."
The Hypocrites' All Our Tragic plays from Saturday, Aug. 2, through Sunday, Oct. 5, at The Den Theatre, 1329 N. Milwaukee Ave. Preview performances run through Aug. 9. Curtain times are 8 p.m. Fridays ( Parts 1-4 ), 11 a.m. Saturdays and Sundays ( full show ) and 8 p.m. Mondays ( Parts 1-4 between Sept. 8-19 only ).
Tickets are $30 for Fridays and Mondays, and $75 for Saturdays and Sundays. ( Weekend shows include multiple intermissions, meal breaks with food and a nearby cash bar. ) For a full schedule and more information, visit www.the-hypocrites.com .
Second City training empire
The Second City, Inc. recently signed a lease with Old Town Development Associates, L.L.C., to expand into additional space at Pipers Alley, 230 W. North Ave. The Second City is taking over the four-screen AMC movie theater on the second floor, which had been vacant since 2011.
The renovations will add 25,000 square feet of space to The Second City's current footprint of 20,300 square feet, and be largely dedicated to expanding the offerings of The Second City Training Center. On tap are new classrooms, two student theaters, a screening room, a student resource center, a student lounge and bar, two large special event spaces and additional space for business offices.
The multimillion-dollar build-out is expected to be completed and serving students by next spring. For more information, visit www.secondcity.com .
What's in a name?
Studio BE, 3110 N. Sheffield Ave., will be renamed MCL Chicago starting Tuesday, Aug. 5. The new acronym signifies the organization's focus on music, comedy and live performance.
New programming at MCL Chicago include the Improvised Sondheim Project, M.I.N.T. ( Music Improv Night ), Mansical and more. Visit www.mclchicago.com .