Best foreign theater program that will do nicely until Chicago gets another international theater festival

Chicago Shakespeare Theatre's World's Stage

chicagoshakes.com

The International Theatre Festival of Chicago was a very big deal. Over the course of its run, from 1986 to 1994, the biennial event led by Jane Nicholl Sahlins brought us at least one production from every continent except Antarctica. I still haven't forgotten the marathon splendor of the English Shakespeare Company's The Wars of the Roses—a 1988 selection consisting of seven Shakespearean history plays done in succession and ending with a gorgeous, horrific broadsword fight that summed up everything. But the ITFC amounted to more than some great evenings. It was an influence. Local theater artists have told me how much it meant to them—transformed them—to see theater done in ways they'd never imagined. We could use a festival like that now. Until we get it, though, Chicago Shakespeare's World's Stage program is doing a great job of filling in. Started in 2000, World's Stage is designed give as good as it gets, sending productions abroad as well as receiving them. The receiving part has included whimsical French spectacles, African cris de coeur, savage Irish satires, a Russian Uncle Vanya, a south Asian Midsummer Night's Dream, and, earlier this season, a Scottish war play—Black Watch—as dancerly as it was raw. World's Stage's next production was to have been a stage adaptation of One Thousand and One Nights, featuring a cast culled from Arab north Africa. But that's been postponed, according to CST, due to "delays in the issuance of U.S. visas." —Tony Adler