Welcome to Chicago Stage Review

By Venus Zarris

Chicago Theater is the last bastion of a collaborative artistic community in this country. It consistently strives to create work for the sake of artistic, social, political and emotional expression, rather than manufacturing formulaic product. There are well over 200 companies engaged in some stage of production at any given time.

The work that is produced in Chicago is as diverse as the individuals involved in its creation. It can be entertaining, enlightening, profound, sophomoric, ridiculous, remarkable, problematic, captivating, challenging, absurd and/or incredible. Any number of superlatives and occasionally a few negatives can apply to the plays produced here but the efforts behind the productions are always Herculean and the contributions they make to the body politic of this city and the collective consciousness of this country are incalculable. 

“I believe that in a great city, or even a small city or village, a great theater is the outward and visible sign of an inward and probable culture.”                   Sir Laurence Olivier

If this is true then Chicago is indeed one of the greatest cities as it is the home for several great theaters.

It is not coincidental that while the ancient Greeks were escalating the disciplines of philosophy, science, mathematics, politics, poetry, architecture, art, geography, astronomy and laying the foundation for what we recognize in the West as civilization, theater was also experiencing unprecedented development, relevance and respectability. Theater directly aided and abetted this profound cultural development. We need its influence now more than ever.

Theater is the reactionary playground of our collective consciousness. It is fundamental, critical and imperative for our continued development. It shines a pinpoint spotlight on vital aspects of the human condition while simultaneously expanding our emotional and cerebral experience. It stirs the pot, creates endless dialogues, facilitates compassion and empathy and allows for catharsis.

Whether we laugh, cry, love it or hate it, a play will always bring about an altered state thereby leaving us altered. Theater is the enemy of stagnation and the champion of expanding perspectives.

Theater emancipates thought from the confines of convention. Theater boldly shatters locked doors, allowing the forbidden and exploring the unknown. Theater not only amuses, it transforms.

Chicagoans live in a city with virtually endless possibilities for entertainment. What so many do not realize is the magical treasures they are only minutes away from on any given night on the main stages, mid sized venues and in the black boxes of Chicago’s live theater.

For six years I have covered theater for Gay Chicago Magazine’s After Dark section. Given the transitions taking place in print media along with the difficult economy, now more so than ever, legitimate theater coverage needs to be preserved and increased. For this reason I am implementing this website as a location for comprehensive analysis, supportive criticism and special feature coverage of what may very well be this great city’s most remarkable asset.

p.s. Plays are a lot of fun.