WBEZ | Mike Nussbaum http://www.wbez.org/tags/mike-nussbaum Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Robert Sickinger dies, brought grassroots theater to Chicago http://www.wbez.org/blogs/alison-cuddy/2013-05/robert-sickinger-dies-brought-grassroots-theater-chicago-107108 <p><p>&nbsp;</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/sickinger.jpg" style="height: 374px; width: 620px;" title="(Photo via bobsickinger.com)" /></div><p>When Robert Sickinger came to Chicago in the early 1960s, Chicago had great theater. But most of it - think The Goodman Theater - was largely confined to the Loop.</p><p>Sickinger, who died Thursday at the age of 86, was hired to be the director of the Hull House Theater, on Chicago&rsquo;s North side. When he arrived in 1963, the theater was still at the corner of Broadway Street and Belmont Avenue - the building&rsquo;s an athletic club now.</p><p>Donna Marie Schwan was Sickinger&rsquo;s assistant, and, eventually, his friend.</p><p>She said Sickinger, along with Paul Jans, the new executive director of Hull House, were looking to the past to do something new in theater.</p><p>&ldquo;They were basically trying to do something like what Jane Addams originally had in the community. So he went out in the community and had open auditions. I mean, sort of the original &lsquo;Chicago&rsquo;s Got Talent&rsquo;.&rdquo;</p><p>Those open auditions not only drew people who wouldn&rsquo;t otherwise have the opportunity or venue in which to perform or sing, they were a pipeline to Chicago&rsquo;s talented actors. Through them, Sickinger uncovered talents like actor Mike Nussbaum and Jim Jacobs, who eventually wrote Grease.</p><p>Those are some of the same people who went on to build Chicago&rsquo;s network of neighborhood theaters, to create spaces like Steppenwolf. And that, said Schwan, is how Sickinger transformed the city&rsquo;s theater scene.</p><p>Schwan said &ldquo;He basically brought grassroots theater to Chicago.&rdquo;</p><p>At Hull House, Sickinger developed a reputation for his fresh adaptations of classic plays.</p><p>But he was also known for the number of contemporary works he staged. Playwrights like Edward Albee, Eugene Ionesco, Harold Pinter and LeRoi Jones had Chicago premieres thanks to Sickinger.</p><p>Sickinger&rsquo;s tenure in Chicago was brief. He left for New York in 1969, after things went awry at Hull House. At the time of his death, he and his family were living between New York and Florida.</p><p>But Schwan said Sickinger&rsquo;s influence can still be seen in places like The Goodman Theater.</p><p>&ldquo;Chicago was very formal culturally. And what he did is he said &lsquo;let&rsquo;s bring in these wonderful works, these new works that are being done by our contemporaries, and see what they look like when they do them.&rsquo; And that was a phenomenon.&rdquo;</p><p>Still Schwan thinks his greatest gift was his ability to inspire everyone - theater owners, actors, and regular people like herself.</p><p>&ldquo;What happens when you create that kind of inspiration, where people have that kind of opportunity, it&rsquo;s an energy that is irreplaceable, you can&rsquo;t get that kind of energy going. That&rsquo;s why these tv shows about auditioning and talent are so popular, because people are discovering themselves and what they can do in a way they otherwise would never have had.&rdquo;</p></p> Thu, 09 May 2013 15:58:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/alison-cuddy/2013-05/robert-sickinger-dies-brought-grassroots-theater-chicago-107108 Nussbaum and Mueller land juicy out-of-town roles http://www.wbez.org/blog/onstagebackstage/2011-08-30/nussbaum-and-mueller-land-juicy-out-town-roles-91241 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/photo/2011-August/2011-08-30/AP041220014645.jpg" alt="" /><p><p style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" ap="" at="" class="caption" glen="" glengarry="" goodman="" ross="" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2011-August/2011-08-30/AP041220014645.jpg" style="margin-right: 15px; width: 500px; height: 341px;" the="" theatre.="" title="Mike Nussbaum, left, in 1984 in a scene from the play &quot;Glengarry Glen Ross&quot; at the Goodman Theatre. (AP/File)"></p><p>Iconic Chicago actor Mike Nussbaum has put on his traveling shoes for a rare trip out-of-town. He's playing Solomon Galkin in <em>Imagining Madoff</em>, a controversial play by Deborah Margolin presented at Theater J in Washington, DC, where former-Chicagoan Ari Roth is artistic director. As the title suggests, convicted financier Bernard Madoff is the antagonist of the play, which is a fictional account of Madoff being confronted by a man he's nearly ruined, Solomon Galkin. In the play, Galkin is a Holocaust survivor, important literary figure and noted philanthropist whose foundation is decimated by Madoff's collapse.</p><p>If Galkin sounds suspiciously like Elie Wiesel, that's because he originally WAS Wiesel as Margolin wrote the play. One of several high-profile Madoff victims, Wiesel made extremely nasty public comments when he heard about the play (before its 2010 world premiere) and threatened legal action if he wasn't removed from it. Margolin probably would have won any lawsuit--Wiesel is a public figure, after all, and he was not defamed in the play--but lawsuits are long and expensive so she chose instead to substitute the thinly fictionalized character of Galkin. The controversy was such that Theater J postponed production of <em>Imagining Madoff</em> for a year, thereby losing the chance to stage the world premiere (which was done at Stageworks/Hudson Stage in upstate New York). <em>Imaging Madoff</em> runs Aug. 31-Sept. 25 and is directed by Alexandra Aron.</p><p>Popular Chicago actor and singer Jessie Mueller has landed a plum co-starring role for her Broadway debut, playing the romantic lead opposite Harry Connick, Jr. in a big revival of the 1965 musical, <em>On a Clear Day You Can See Forever</em>. Mueller spent July in New York as part of a workshop for a new version of the show, after which she was signed for the real deal, to be directed by Tony Award winner Michael Mayer with a heavily reworked book by playwright Peter Parnell. The show's original authors, Burton Lane (music) and Alan Jay Lerner (book and lyrics), long since went to the Great White Way in the Sky.</p><p>In the original show (also made into a 1970 movie starring Barbra Streisand and Yves Montand), the heroine is drab Daisy Gamble who seeks hypnotherapy to stop smoking at the request of her boyfriend. Under hypnosis, she reveals to her psycho-therapist details of colorful past life as Melinda Wells in Regency-era London, and her doc falls for Melinda. In the 2011 version, the hero is David Gamble, a gay man who wants to stop smoking for his boyfriend. During hypnotherapy, David reveals details of his past life as 1940's jazz singer Melinda Wells, and the doc falls for Melinda. Connick is the doc and Jessie Mueller has the juicy role of Melinda.</p><p>A Jefferson Award winning performer, Mueller is the daughter of highly-regarded acting couple Roger Mueller and Jill Shellabarger, all four of whose kids have followed Ma and Pa into show biz. Mueller has worked at most of the big Chicago theaters such as Chicago Shakespeare, Goodman and Marriott. <em>On a Clear Day You Can See Forever</em> is scheduled to begin previews Nov. 12 at Broadway's St. James Theatre, with a Dec. 11 opening night.</p><p>A Broadway casting notice for David Henry Hwang's <em>Chinglish</em> appeared in a recent edition of Back Stage, the national trade paper for actors, and it made clear that many roles from the June hit Goodman Theatre world premiere of the play may be up for grabs. Indeed, every role in the play was listed in the audition notice except that of Peter, the Australian character of European extraction who speaks fluent Mandarin, and who was played in Chicago by Stephen Pucci. As for the other roles--six actors playing eight characters, five of them Chinese and all of them needing to be fluent in Mandarin as well as English--all of them were described in detail. There was, however, one important caveat in the Aug. 11 posting: "Most positions in the Broadway production have been offered, but have not yet been accepted; they are therefore considered available." Of course, it can't hurt to audition if you have the acting chops and the language chops: the Broadway production also seeks understudies, and there could be a touring company in the future. By the way, Broadway minimum is $1,653 a week (trust me, these actors will earn more), rehearsals begin Sept. 12 under director Leigh Silverman (who directed Chinglish here), with previews beginning in October.</p></p> Tue, 30 Aug 2011 15:14:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blog/onstagebackstage/2011-08-30/nussbaum-and-mueller-land-juicy-out-town-roles-91241