A Chicago theatre lens on arts in the NY Times, with omissions galore

August 8, 2011

This Sunday's New York Times Arts section has a note that the new show from the creators of Urinetown, called Yeast Nation (the triumph of life), will open at the New York Fringe Festival. Omitted information: The world premiere of the show took place nearly two years ago at the American Theatre Company in Chicago--a reasonable choice of venue, given that authors Greg Kotis and Mark Hollman were both educated here (at the U of C) and that Kotis was a member of the NeoFuturists, where Urinetown was originally slated to debut. It might have been worthwhile for the Times to note that the musical's reception here in its hometown was decidedly mixed.

The same issue, same section, had a big article about Bruce Norris's Pultizer prizewinning Clybourne Park and its roots in Lorraine Hansberry's Raisin in the Sun. Omitted information: Raisin in the Sun is specifically about segregation in Chicago, based as it was on the Hansberry family's struggle (and lawsuit) to achieve legal protection for open housing here. More omitted information: Not one, not two, but five of Norris's earlier plays had their world premieres at Steppenwolf, where he's also performed as an actor, and that he, too, was educated here (at Northwestern). So it's probably safe to say that the new play's production at Steppenwolf this fall isn't really a stepchild to its three-week out-of-town opening at Woolly Mammoth in Washington (on which the article is focused). More like a godfather.

I really try not to let East Coast parochialism get me down; but the more Chicago theater fills New York stages, the more infuriating it is to have those Chicago roots ignored. On the other hand, it's not just theater: The same issue of the Times had an article about the weather in Chicago whose kicker headline was, "Out Here."

Yes, it's really a shame to be stuck all the way Out Here in the provinces--you know, where the plays come from, instead of where they just end up.