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Goodman Theatre Dedicates New Home

Goodman Theatre Dedicates New Home

After more than a decade of talk, planning and fundraising, the new $46 million Goodman Theatre is a reality! It was dedicated Thursday morning, Nov. 9, with an address by August Wilson (whose King Hedley II will be the inaugural production). Wilson shared the 850-seat mainstage (there also is a 400-seat black box) with Artistic Director Robert Falls, Executive Director Roche Schulfer, Mayor Richard M. Daley, naming gift patron Albert Ivar Goodman, and various board members and officials. When Wilson was finished, a giant ribbon was cut and hundreds of balloons dropped from the fly space (which the old Goodman does not have).

In a two-week celebration, the Goodman also staged a $1,000-a-plate gala ball (Nov. 11) with entertainment by Bernadette Peters prior to dinner and dancing, an open house (Nov. 13) for 400 leaders of the theatre industry, and a free, 26-hour public open house with non-stop entertainment (Nov. 17-18). Previews of King Hedley II begin Nov. 30, with the press opening scheduled for Dec. 11. Goodman's annual production of A Christmas Carol opened Sun., Nov. 19 for its final run at the original Goodman Theatre, attached to the Art Institute of Chicago.

The new venue's black box facility, the Owen Bruner Goodman Theatre, will be launched in February as Falls stages Alan Ayckbourn's "House and Garden" simultaneously on both stages of the new complex.

With a total of 1,250 seats, the new Goodman and two smaller venues will be the linchpins of the North Loop Theatre District, despite the presence around the corner of the 2,250-seat Ford Center Oriental, the 2,350-seat Cadillac Palace, and the 3,400-seat Chicago theatres. The first two, along with the 1,900-seat Shubert several blocks away, now are jointly managed and promoted by SFX and the Nederlanders under the title "Broadway in Chicago." Problem is, the Ford Center, Cadillac Palace, and Chicago are dark for weeks on end, or even months at a time. The Goodman, however, will bring an audience to the Loop six nights a week, for 46-48 weeks each year. Also helping will be the new Gene Siskel Film Center of the Art Institute, and the Noble Fool, an Off-Loop troupe that has moved downtown to run three small cabarets. Both facilities are right next door to the Ford Center. Like the new Goodman just around the corner, they will bring audiences to the Loop week-in and week-out, even when the larger houses are dark. The Goodman expects to have an all-time record of 27,000 subscribers this season, up from 23,000-plus last year.

The Chicago Dance Coalition distributed its annual Ruth Page Awards at an Oct. 15 gala at the new Dance Center of Columbia College (see story below). The two awards for Lifetime Contribution went to Shirley Mordine, artistic director of Mordine and Company and creator of the Dance Center, and Anna Paskevska, chair of the Dance Department at the Chicago Academy of the Arts (our performing arts high school). The awards for Dance Achievement went to dancers Sarita Smith Childs for "Three Ecstatic Dances," Calvin Kitten (Joffrey Ballet) for "The Prodigal Son," and Selene Carter for improvisational dance; to choreographers Daniel Duell (Ballet Chicago), and Frank Chaves and Sherry Zunker (both of River North Dance Company); and to lighting designer Greg Essex. Two final awards for Outstanding Contribution went to Chicago Human Rhythm Project founder Lane Alexander, and to Susan Lee, founder of the Northwestern University dance program.

The nation's great guru of subscription sales, Danny Newman, is retiring. Sort of, maybe. Now 81, the wise and beloved author of the promotional bible "Subscribe Now!" (now in its 10th printing) is stepping down from the post he's held for 46 years, that of public relations director for Lyric Opera of Chicago. At the end of the current season (next March), Newman will relinquish his day-to-day activities at Lyric, which will free him to begin two new projects. Newman will produce an oral history of Lyric Opera with longtime WFMT program director Norman Pelligrini, and a book of personal memoirs that will draw not only on his Lyric Opera stories, but his history in Chicago showbiz, going back to the 1930s. An expert on everything from Yiddish theatre in Chicago to the circus, Newman is a famous raconteur with plenty of stories to tell. He was there, for example, the night Maria Callas was served with a subpoena backstage at Lyric. Over the years, Newman worked with talent as diverse as Roy Rogers, Charlton Heston, and Mike Wallace (whom Newman served as co-producer for five years).

By the way, if you think Danny Newman's promotional techniques don't work, you're wrong: Lyric Opera has finished in the black for the last 13 years in a row, regularly selling about 102% of capacity (through resell of returned tickets). And it's been many, many seasons since Lyric had to offer six operas for the price of five. Every subscription is sold at the full face value of the tickets.

The Chicago Shakespeare Theatre (CST) has opened the final piece of its stunning new facility at Navy Pier, the La and Philip Engel Teacher Resource Center, which began welcoming educators Wed., Nov. 15. The Center's collection includes books, periodicals, audio and videotapes, and lesson plans on teaching Shakespeare and Shakespeare in performance to middle school and high school students. CST moved into its handsome $24 million home last season. The facility includes a 525-seat mainstage, a black box, rehearsal rooms and shops, and the Charles and Susan Patten Education Suite, of which the Engel Center is a part. By the way, CST subscribers jumped from 7,000 to 17,000 last year, and should be up to 24,000 this year. CST's next show, Brian Bedford in The School for Scandal, opens Nov. 26, and will be the troupe's first non-Shakespeare work mainstage production.

The new Dance Center of Columbia College now is up and running, following the Nov. 15-19 dedicatory performances by the White Oak Dance Project (and in a venue of only 272 seats!). On Nov. 15, Columbia presented White Oak founder Mikhail Baryshnikov with an honorary Doctor of Arts. While not his first honorary degree, it's the first he's received from an arts school. The Dance Center, at 1306 South Michigan Ave. near the College's main campus, will stage a free public open house Dec. 9, with more than 40 Chicago-area artists and dance companies offering workshops and performances, 10 am to 11 pm.

In production news, The Vagina Monologues will reopen at the Apollo Theatre Nov. 29 for an eight-week run (extension possible). Author Eve Ensler performed the work for five weeks in late September and October. This time, the show will follow the Off-Broadway model of using three women. The cast will change every two weeks, and will feature both local talent and national names. The producers have pledged to donate $10 of each full price ticket sold to the V-Day Fund. And well they should, for at $49.50 and $55.00, the ticket prices are the highest in the history of Chicago Off-Loop theatre. Given the tiny production values of the 90-minute show, that $10 donation appears to be built in to the ticket price.

Excaliber Shakespeare Com-pany extended its production of Sleuth through Nov. 19 at the Harrison Street Galleries Theatre, pushing back the opening of An Inspector Calls to Nov. 24, both part of its Fall Mystery Theatre Series. A non-Equity company, Excaliber is one of the few racially diverse troupes in town that provides opportunities for African-American actors to assay leading roles in mainstream American and British repertory.

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