Arts & Culture » Performing Arts Sidebar

Hyde Park & Kenwood Issue: Performing Arts

Where to go in the birthplace of off-Loop theater



The University of Chicago is the hub of the Hyde Park theater, comedy, and dance scenes. Indeed, the school paved the way for the first flowering of Chicago's off-Loop theater movement in the 1950s, when U. of C. student—and, later, Second City cofounder—Paul Sills directed plays on campus using ensemble techniques he learned from his mother, theater teacher extraordinaire Viola Spolin. Today Hyde Park is a magnet for professional, student, and amateur artists whose work in turn draws audiences from all over the city, suburbs, and region. —Albert Williams


Court Theatre The U. of C.'s classics-oriented company-in-residence started out in 1955 as an amateur outdoor summer theater. (The name comes from its original location in the university's Hutchison Courtyard.) It turned pro in 1975 under the leadership of Nicholas Rudall. Over the years it's offered works by playwrights ranging from Sophocles to Beckett, Shakespeare to Caryl Churchill, Racine to Charles Ludlam, and Heiner Müller to Kaufman & Hart. In 1983 it moved into its current 251-seat home, and in 1994 Rudall was succeeded by Charles Newell, who initiated collaborations with some of America's most exciting companies, including New York's SITI, New Haven's Long Wharf, and Philadelphia's Freedom Theatre. Newell has also broadened Court's focus to include stripped-down reimaginings of landmark Broadway musicals like Carousel. Upcoming: The Illusion (3/11-4/11), Tony Kushner's loose adaptation of the 1635 comedy by Pierre Corneille, about a lawyer who seeks to find his estranged son with the help of a conjurer. Newell, who'll direct, will also interview Kushner (Tue 4/6, 7:30 PM, Mandel Hall, 1131 E. 57th, 773-702-8080,, $20). Then: Sizwe Banzi Is Dead (5/13-6/13), directed by Court resident artist Ron OJ Parson. Written by Athol Fugard, John Kani, and Winston Ntshona, the 1972 play is based on Fugard's experiences as a law clerk in South Africa during the apartheid era, when all black citizens were required to carry identity books that restricted travel within the county.  5535 S. Ellis, 773-753-4472, —AW

Hyde Park Community Players The HPCP proudly defines itself as a "an amateur group made up of residents of Hyde Park, almost all of whom have never worked as theater professionals." The company's debut production last summer was an evening of classic one-acts—Synge's Riders to the Sea and Chekhov's The Bear—and last month it continued its emphasis on classic short works with a double bill of Moliere's The Flying Doctor and Yeats's On Baile's Strand, performed at Experimental Station. Next up, sometime in May: Murder, You Must Be Kidding!, a comic mystery by Pat Cook. Auditions are scheduled for 3/14.  773-319-9249. —AW

University Theater This venerable student-run company operates independently of the U. of C., though it collaborates with the school's theater and performance studies department on certain productions. Its final show of the winter quarter is Big Love (3/4-3/13), Charles L. Mee's postmodernist reworking of Aeschylus's The Suppliant Women, about 50 brides who flee their husbands-to-be. The play is directed by off-loop phenom Sean Graney, whose staging of Charles Ludlam's The Mystery of Irma Vep was a hit at Court Theatre earlier this season. UT's spring 2010 season includes New Work Week (4/13-4/17), a showcase of plays by students; a weekend of workshops (4/29-5/1) featuring productions by student directors; The Dining Room (5/6-5/8), A.R. Gurney's satire of WASP family life; The Flu Season by Will Eno (5/20-22), winner of the 2004 Oppenheimer Award for best New York debut by an American playwright; and the first U.S. staging of Nowhere Town, a musical by Scottish sci-fi and fantasy writer Hal Duncan (6/3-6/5). UT also sponsors Pushing 23, a Web comedy series (  Reynolds Club, 5706 S. University, 773-702-9315, —AW


Off-Off Campus In 1986—soon after selling Second City, which he cofounded in 1959 with fellow U. of C. alums Howard Alk and Paul Sills—Bernard Sahlins established Off-Off Campus in order, says the company Web site, to "rival his north side creation." Nearly a quarter century later, Second City's position remains secure. But this student improv/sketch comedy group also continues to create and perform original satirical revues. The title of the spring 2010 revue hasn't been announced yet, but it will play Fridays 4/23-5/21, 9 PM. In the works for June: a stage adaptation of the Bruce Willis action movie Die Hard, in collaboration with University Theater and Fire Escape Productions (6/3-6/5), and a 6/4 tribute to the Compass Players and Second City as part of an Off-Off reunion.  University Church, 5655 S. University, 773-702-9315, —AW


Tyego Dance Project Founded in 1997 by sisters August and Aimee Tye, the Tyego Dance Project is the professional performing arm of the Hyde Park School of Dance, which August opened in 1993 as the Hyde Park School of Ballet. Its repertoire features ballet, modern, and jazz dance as well as performance art. The company maintains a youth troupe, Tyego Next Generation, for kids 10-18. The kids will perform at the school's gala, "Let's Dance" (Sat 3/13, 6 PM, Cloister Club, Ida Noyes Hall, 1212 E. 59th, $90), and a spring recital is coming up in May (Sat 5/15, 11 AM and 2 PM, King College Preparatory High School, 4445 S. Drexel, price TBA), at which a snippet of a new ballet by August Tye will be performed.  5650 S. Woodlawn, 773-493-8498, —AW

Comments (2)

Showing 1-2 of 2

Add a comment

Add a comment