Golden Years | The Reader's Guide Feature | Chicago Reader

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The Theatre of Western Springs is nearly as old as Norman Thayer, the curmudgeon at the center of On Golden Pond, and just as unique, so perhaps it's appropriate that for the start of its 75th season the theater's staging Ernest Thompson's tale of love that triumphs over generations of bad parenting and the onset of Alzheimer's. Started by Mary Cattell in 1929, TWS grew out of a play-reading group to become one of the country's strongest and oldest community theaters and one of the few to have its own permanent venue (acquired in 1961). TWS is also remarkable for its auditionless casting (plays and casts are selected by committee); intensive, free actors' training; and open company membership, available to anyone who completes two free training courses and maintains a season subscription to the shows. It now has 333 active members and more than 2,500 subscribers (board member Ginny Richardson says they're reversing a trend of subscription declines after hitting a low in 2001); it puts on 100 performances a year and runs a children's theater and training school that has served 10,000 students. The 75th anniversary is being celebrated with commemorative license plates, the opening of a theater gift concession, publication of a book on TWS's history, and a dinner-dance chaired by film and TV actor Bonnie Hunt in February. On Golden Pond, directed by artistic head Tony Vezner, opens Thursday, September 4, and continues through September 14 at the theater, 4384 Hampton in Western Springs. Performances are at 8 Thursday, Friday, and Saturday and 2:30 Sunday, with additional performances at 7:30 September 7 and 2:30 September 13. Tickets are $19 Friday and Saturday nights, $16 all other times. Call 708-246-3380 for more information.

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