City Lit's Aprill Blows Out/The World Goes 'Round Makes a Shorter Stop/A New School for People's Music | Culture Club | Chicago Reader

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City Lit's Aprill Blows Out/The World Goes 'Round Makes a Shorter Stop/A New School for People's Music

Mark Richard takes over as artistic director of the City Lit Theater Company next month. Arnold Aprill, burned out and tired of poverty, will direct a new city arts project sponsored by Marshall Field's.


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City Lit's Aprill Bows Out

Without the fanfare accorded some of his previous ventures, Arnold Aprill later this month will quietly leave the management ranks of the city's theater industry. Cofounder and artistic director of City Lit Theater Company since 1979, the 40-year-old Aprill will become director of the newly formed Chicago Arts Education Partnership.

According to Aprill the Education Partnership, which is backed by Marshall Field's and a number of large philanthropic organizations, will aim to create closer ties between the city's arts community and its beleaguered school system. In the process the backers hope to help develop a new and more effective arts curriculum in the schools. Having been actively involved in the Chicago arts community for well over a decade, Aprill not surprisingly is excited about the prospects for making the arts a more vital part of the city's educational agenda. But a more cynical reporter, one who has seen many such projects come and go, can't help but wonder if the payoff will compensate for the loss of an accomplished full-time professional from the city's theater industry.

Aprill talks about his departure from that industry with some disappointment and perhaps even bitterness. He says, "The work I am interested in doing these days seems to be more favorably recognized in other cities than it is here." By way of example Aprill pointed to a well-received production that just concluded in San Antonio called High Yello Rose, a camp send-up of Texas history that he conceived and directed. The lack of critical applause for his local production last fall of Womandingo in particular seems to have troubled Aprill, who only a few years ago was basking in the huge success of his adaptation of Lynda Barry's The Good Times Are Killing Me. "My work lately has been less naturalistic and hasn't made much sense to critics," adds Aprill, who says he likes to address social issues in his work.

The financial struggle most small theater companies are engaged in has also worn on Aprill. "There is an economic stress attached to running small arts organizations, and one needs a certain sort of energy for it that is hard to maintain as you get older," he explains. "It's time in the life of City Lit for someone else to take over." While it may be the right time for him to exit City Lit, his apparent burnout and disillusionment with the industry are indicative of the problems the business as a whole must confront if it is ever to regain the vigor it displayed in the mid-1980s. Though the city is overrun with eager and talented young actors anxious to be recognized, far fewer good people are coming up through the artistic management ranks and demonstrating a commitment to stick with it. And no stable, successful theater companies will emerge from the fray without savvy, committed directors at their helms.

City Lit's associate artistic director, Mark Richard, will move up to artistic director on February 1. In his previous work with City Lit Richard has demonstrated a genuine creative spark; his most acclaimed achievement there was a 1991 production called The Hero's Journey: The Poetry of Raymond Carver, which he both starred in and adapted.

The World Goes 'Round Makes a Shorter Stop

The previously announced three-week run of The World Goes 'Round, a musical revue of songs composed by Broadway veterans Fred Ebb and John Kander, has been quietly cut to two weeks. It is now slated to run February 9 through 21 at the Shubert Theatre. The engagement was scheduled to open a week earlier, but Shubert management says it became apparent a while ago that the elaborate set for The Goodbye Girl, which closes January 30, could not be dismantled and a new production loaded into the theater in only three days. The canceled week actually may wind up a blessing, as the production thus far has not proved a big hit on the road. While it does offer some catchy music and spiffy small-scale dance sequences by choreographer-of-the-moment Susan Stroman, The World Goes 'Round lacks both the star power and the eye-popping spectacle that usually guarantee big bucks in tours of the hinterland. In its fourth and final week earlier this month at San Francisco's Curran Theatre, the production grossed $318,301 out of a potential $510,256; the previous week the show's gross was a considerably lower $232,017. Meanwhile, a Toronto production of the revue produced by Live Entertainment Corporation of Canada has been doing poor business since it opened there last November. Michael Leavitt and Fox Theatricals initially intended to produce The World Goes 'Round for an extended run in Chicago earlier this year, but that plan fell through at the last minute when Leavitt and the show's New York producers could not come to terms about production costs.

A New School for People's Music

The prestigious Vermeer Quartet will lend a helping hand to the People's Music School in Uptown on February 7 with a benefit concert intended to raise approximately $10,000. The money will go toward a new home for the school, to be built at 931 W. Eastwood. School founder Dr. Rita Simo, who as a young musician received a scholarship to attend the famed Juilliard School in New York, has been providing free musical training on a first-come, first-served basis since 1976. The new building will cost nearly a million dollars and will eventually allow the school to increase its capacity from 190 to 350 students.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Bruce Powell.

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