Help for Haiti
Make sure you have some extra cash to donate in your pocket if you're heading out to see a show.
In response to the devastating series of earthquakes in Haiti, The League of Chicago Theatres has organized support among more than 200 theaters around Chicago to raise funds for the people of Haiti.
"This will be an industry-wide initiative that will provide easy access to over a million people in Chicago and surrounding areas to help those in need," said Deb Clapp, executive director of the League of Chicago Theatres in a statement. "One hundred percent of all donations are being directed to the Red Cross."
So don't be caught unawares if you encounter a growing number of curtain speeches, e-mails and other requests for Haiti aid donations from Chicago's theater community. Do your part and help out.
Whole lotta' Letts
In the next couple of weeks, fans of playwright and actor Tracy Letts are in for a feast.
Letts has already been wowing Chicago audiences by playing the role of the foul-mouthed small-time crook Teach in Steppenwolf Theatre Company's acclaimed production of David Mamet's American Buffalo. The Amy Morton-directed revival has been extended to Feb. 14.
Then over at Profiles Theatre, Letts' 1993 breakthrough and ultraviolent drama Killer Joe is receiving its first home-grown revival. This squalor and shock-filled play put Letts on the map and no doubt played a part in Steppenwolf asking him to become a member of its ensemble. Let's hope it gets plenty more extensions beyond its Feb. 28 closing date.
But the really big news is the triumphant return of Letts' Tony Award and Pulitzer Prize-winning play August: Osage County to Chicago.
This epic-length and large ensemble-piece famously debuted in the summer of 2007 at Steppenwolf and later triumphed on Broadway, in London and even Melbourne, Australia. It's now on a national tour with a cast that features Academy Award-winner Estelle Parsons in the role of the acidic and drug-addled matriarch Violet Weston.
Of course, those of us who caught August: Osage County originally in Chicago will likely be able to crow over those who missed it the first time. After all, the show played Steppenwolf's intimate 515-seat Downstairs Theatre with a cast comprised largely of Steppenwolf ensemble members ( who performed it without amplification ) .
The August: Osage County national tour is playing the much-larger Cadillac Palace space of 2,344 seats Feb. 2-14. It's likely some kind of sound amplification will be employed ( alas ) . But let's hope the cast has become as tightly knit as the original Steppenwolf ensemble.
For more information on the return of August: Osage County, visit www.broadwayinchicago.com
Athol Fugard festival
With three Chicago theaters schedule works by acclaimed South African playwright Athol Fugard in the same season, it only makes sense for them to team up together and create an incentive for playgoers to see all three productions.
That's exactly what has happened with TimeLine Theatre Company ( which is producing 'Master Harold'…and the Boys now through March 21 ) , Remy Bumppo Theatre ( which is producing The Island Jan. 27-March 7 ) and Court Theatre ( which is producing Sizwe Banzi is Dead May 13-June 13 ) .
The three companies are offering ticket packages and discounts to all three plays via the Web site www.FugardChicago2010.org . See why Fugard has become famous for confronting South Africa's ugly legacy of Apartheid in his supremely poetical works of drama.
Spying on an opera season
The Lyric Opera of Chicago officially announced its 2010-11 season on Tuesday, Jan. 26 ( after the Windy City Times deadline for this issue ) . But opera fanatics have already received plenty of clues about what's on the roster.
Two years ago, the Lyric trumpeted the fact that it had two famous Chicago directors who would make their Lyric debuts in future seasons. One was Gary Griffin ( who staged Lehar's The Merry Widow this season ) , while another was Chicago Shakespeare Theater founder and artistic director Barbara Gaines helming the 2010 opener of Verdi's Macbeth.
Opera singers also sometimes offer clues by detailing their upcoming schedules in their program bios or their own personal Web sites. For instance, the baritone Wilbur Pauley's bio for a 2009 Chicago Cultural Center performance of Handel's Acis and Galatea mentioned that he was cast in a future Lyric production of A Midsummer Night's Dream. So it's safe to guess that Benjamin Britten's 1960 operatic version of Shakespeare's romantic comedy is on the bill.
Then it's also wise to check up on what other opera companies are staging, since many co-produce productions to help save on costs. For instance, the San Francisco Opera's upcoming new staging of Massenet's Werther carries the small print that it's a co-production with the Lyric. Whether or not it will appear in the same season is a matter of conjecture.
Then company subscribers get plenty of glaring clues from the Lyric itself in its Lyric Opera News magazine. In the Follow the Stars feature from spring 2009, readers found out that American mezzo-soprano Stephanie Blythe would make her Lyric debut as the witch Ulrica in Verdi's Un ballo in maschera ( A Masked Ball ) , while South African tenor would return to the Lyric in the title role of Wagner's Lohengrin.
But by now, the guessing game is over. Visit www.LyricOpera.org to find out what eight operas the company is producing next season, and the starry stars they cast to sing them.
Please pass along theater news and other related tidbits to firstname.lastname@example.org and Andrew@windycitymediagroup.com .