A two-week-long festival celebrating the opening of the Goodman Theatre’s new home in Chicago began on Nov. 4 and will conclude with a round-the-clock party Nov. 17-18.
It's been two-and-a-half years since Chicago’s Goodman Theatre broke ground on its new North Loop home. The complex, the theatre's first new facility since 1925, is located on Dearborn Street between Randolph and Lake. The spot is the historic site of the Garrick and Woods theatres and the landmark Harris and Selwyn theatres. When work began, it was expected the two-theatre venue would cost $44 million, with the City of Chicago supplying $18.8 million to the project through its tax increment financing.
On Nov. 9, the many months of work came to a conclusion as the building received it official dedication. Artistic director Robert Falls was on hand. The Albert Ivar Goodman Theatre is a tradition proscenium stage, slightly largely than the current mainstage, and equipped with a full fly tower and improved acoustics. The Owen Butler Goodman Theatre, meanwhile, has a timber-frame construction (with exposed fir beams) and can take any number of forms, including end stage, thrust, arena and runway.
Both theatres are fully soundproofed, to shield performances from the noise of the rumbling elevated trains of the Loop area.
The November festivities began with "Builder's Day" on Nov. 4, when the 170 N. Dearborn Street complex officially welcomed its first visitors: the workers and consultants who led to its creation. Other festivities included a black-tie event, with Bernadette Peters providing entertainment (Nov. 11), special Subscriber Days (Nov. 12-15), and the aforementioned 26-hour marathon, which is sponsored by Marshall Field’s department store and starts at 5 PM on Nov. 17. Activities will include an “Orchid Show” curated by performance artist Brigid Murphy , with guests to include singer Syd Straw, actress Regina Taylor, writer David Cale and the otherworldly creatures Blue Man Group. More family-oriented material is set for Saturday, including a musical theatre review and a demonstration by renowned, physically-oriented director Mary Zimmerman. A chain-letter-style, ten-minute play festival will also be offered, with Keith Reddin, Rebecca Gilman, David Barr, Carson Becker, Cale and Taylor collaborating.
When the curtain goes up on August Wilson's King Hedley II on Nov. 30, it will also go up on the Goodman’s new Albert Ivar Goodman Theatre space. The long standing Windy City theatre made the first step toward that great day Oct. 31, when the Wilson drama begins rehearsals.
Hedley began L.A. performances Sept. 2 with an opening Sept. 14. Marion McClinton directs. A Broadway run is likely to follow the Chicago performances, but the Jujamcyns, the interested producers, have announced no further plans at press time.
Continuing his decade-by-decade examination of African American life in the United States, Wilson sets King Hedley II in 1985 in the black ghetto of Pittsburgh and deals with the triumphs and trials of a community torn apart. King Hedley rages against his past and present and his pregnant wife, Tonya, fears to bring a child into their world. A two time Pulitzer Prize-winner, Wilson also wrote Fences, The Piano Lesson and Seven Guitars.
Jerome Butler replaces Harry Lennix as King Hedley for the final week of performances. Charles Brown (Elmore), Lou Myers (Stool Pigeon), Juanita Jennings (Rosa), Monte Russell (Mister) and Mone Walton (Tonya) also star.
— By Robert Simonson
and David Lefkowitz