WBEZ | hull house theater http://www.wbez.org/tags/hull-house-theater Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Decision on future of Hull House Theater could come at end of June http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/decision-future-hull-house-theater-could-come-end-june-107661 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Hull House_130612_kk.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>A decision on the future of The Hull House Theater in Uptown could come at the end of the month.</p><p>Owner Dave Gassman, who bought the building last month, requested a zoning change that would allow the historic theater to be converted to a two-story apartment complex.</p><p>The change was scheduled for a vote in a city council committee meeting Tuesday.</p><p>Members of the committee led by Ald. Danny Solis (25th) pushed the vote to the end of the month after hearing testimony from the Consortium to Save Hull House Theater.</p><p>Ald. James Cappleman (46th), whose ward includes Uptown, says there is a proper community process to approving zoning changes. He scolded members of the group for their lack of involvement in that process.</p><p>He told them their efforts were &ldquo;a day late and dollar short.&rdquo;</p><p>Nick Rabkin is part of the consortium made up of representatives from Preservation Chicago, local businesses, theater groups and artists with Chicago ties. He says he commends Cappleman for his process but wasn&rsquo;t aware of it.</p><p>&ldquo;I didn&rsquo;t hear about his process and in fact, Ilesa Duncan, who is the executive artistic director of the theater in the building, didn&rsquo;t know about his process either,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>The theater, opened in 1966, is considered by some to be a Chicago landmark.</p><p>But it shouldn&rsquo;t be saved for its historic significance alone, said Deb Clapp, executive director of the League of Chicago Theaters and Uptown resident.</p><p>&ldquo;The theater is one of the things that makes living in the 46th ward really pleasant and vibrant and important,&rdquo; she said.</p><p>Members of the consortium have started an online petition and are counting on an application for landmark status to go through.</p><p>But Cappleman says they need to present a financial plan for the space and show an effort to work something out with the new owner by the next Committee on Zoning, Landmark, and Building Standards meeting on June 25.</p><p><em>Katie Kather is an arts &amp; culture reporting intern at WBEZ. Follow her <a href="http://twitter.com/ktkather" target="_blank">@ktkather</a>.</em></p><p>Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that the Hull House Theater could close at the end of the month. Theater officials have confirmed that they have a lease through November.&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Wed, 12 Jun 2013 14:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/decision-future-hull-house-theater-could-come-end-june-107661 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