Wednesday, August 5, 2009


I've now noticed ATC refer to itself as Chicago's Public Theater two times. This is really interesting to me for a couple of reasons. I wonder what specifically they think that means both for themselves and for their audience. Artistic Director PJ Paparelli worked there early in his career, so perhaps it is simply a matter of institutional admiration, but I still find it intriguing that they would make this alignment so specific without driving home its significance.

I think a lot of Chicagoans might balk at the evident New Yorkishness of this. The east coast looms strangely for us. Some turn their backs entirely and focus on deliberately making Chicago work. Some, when working in Chicago, constantly have their eyes on New York as "making it." I think there are definitely things to be learned from theater in New York, and it is easy to forget how simple a claim that is in the complicated relationship we have with that city. Nevertheless, I can't help but view this institutional kinship (between ATC and the Public) skeptically if it goes unspecified. Does the Public know its name is being used for marketing? And is ATC striving for the success of the Public, its profile, or some tangible aspect of its aesthetic?



Kris Vire said...

Interesting indeed. While I think I know what the company means by that, I'd like to see them define it.

(And I won't be satisfied with this until they start programming for "Chicago's Joe's Pub.")

Zev Valancy said...

Maybe we'll get star-studded lavish free outdoor shows?

My uninformed guess as to what that actually means is that ATC is presenting itself as committed to new works and unconventionally done classics with a racially/gender/etc diverse group of great artists, like the Public. Kris, what's your conjecture? I just wonder, when the Public is so a part of public life in New York, whether *any* theatre can be the Public of Chicago--any more than any theatre can be the Steppenwolf of New York. Nothing against ATC, I just find the idea interesting

Benedict Nelson said...

I agree, and it's not really what we think that matters. I really want to know what they think we think it means. And what they think it means.

Though I do think Zev is probably right. The first time the phrase was used was with regard to a desire for more culturally diverse programming. And yet.