There may be hope for the Voltaire Theatre yet. The cabaret space, a testing ground for many Chicago theatres and artists, was forced to move from its home in the Lakeview neighborhood when its landlord sold the building. Now, several notable Windy City troupes, including Second City, have banded together in an effort to secure the theatre a new location.
On June 15, exactly a month after Voltaire's demise, Second City, the Free Associates, Factory Theatre, Annoyance Theatre, and other companies will stage "The ReVoltaire Benefit" at Second City's space. The evening is fashioned as a satire of the Chicago theatre community told through songs and sketches. Several members of Chicago's theatre press corp, including Jack Helbig of the Chicago Reader and Chris Jones of the Chicago Tribune, have agreed to appear in an original Second City sketch satirizing critics. Other highlights include "The Scriptogram," a parody of David Mamet by the Free Associates; and original songs from shows that never made it to the stage, such as a musicalization of Of Mice and Men. Film actor and Chicago son William Peterson has agreed to appear and members of the Steppenwolf Theatre Company have been invited.
Over the last decade the underground performance space at Voltaire, a restaurant and coffeehouse, has been one of the Chicago theatre community's most prolific playgrounds. Charging a pittance, Voltaire has allowed countless small theaters to test their wings. Voltaire launched such successes as Lepers, by Neil LaBute (screenwriter of In the Company of Men), the now-national hit Schoolhouse Rock Live! and Barto Productions' legendary 1991 revival of Dylan Thomas' Under Milkwood. Voltaire has reportedly found a new space but is still in negotiations with the building's owner.
Cabaret Voltaire is named after the infamous club in 1916 Zurich, where the founders of the Dada movement -- Tristan Tzara, Hugo Ball, Jean Arp, Richard Huelsenbeck -- created performances intent on infuriating their audiences to the point of violence.
"The ReVoltaire Benefit" begins at 7 PM with a reception of food, music and cocktails. Raffle prizes will be available throughout the evening. Tickets at $20. For information, call (312) 337-3992. -- By Robert Simonson