So, writing this post and working to help open a show this week, and a couple of other stars aligning theatrically has me thinking about the bigger question of space, in Chicago and beyond. There's been some discussion on the Twitter of late and around the Chicago Storefront Theatre Summit about space and performance in Chicago. With over 200 producing companies in town, is it any wonder?
What this has got me thinking about is the interrogation of what creates a performance space. When the huge houses and dwarfing stages of huge regional theatres were the norm, it was revolutionary for spaces like Kingston Mines and The Body Politic to crop up in blight-buffeted neighborhoods and offer a more intimate option. Since those days, Storefront theatre has become accepted, expected - we even have special city codes for dealing with these spaces (although that was a struggle at first, and was a struggle again a couple years ago when those codes were revisited and revised).
Meanwhile, we have public spaces - many of them historically significant - that are underutilized, sitting fallow and full of potential for those able to see their peculiarities and restrictions as challenges and opportunities. Is it time for another revolution? Is it time to take our contemporary desire to recycle to this scale as a theatrical community? Rather than bemoaning the lack of funds available to build the latest and greatest "state of the art" facility from the ground up, what if we came together as a community to re-purpose our existing spaces, celebrating both what they have been and what they have the potential to be. This work requires fewer financial and greater creative resources, and (to my mind) taps into the real meat of why artists are essential to contemporary life. In a society that has become obsessed with the disposable, it takes creativity to see something as reusable. And what are we artists if not teeming with creativity?
I'd like to get this conversation started in earnest in our community. I'd like to organize a Storefront Summit "breakout session" (is there something more fun/less corporate for us to call those, please?) about the question of space. Who's with me? Who has ideas of spaces we could investigate as a community? Who knows where we can get cheap beer while we talk about these things? Who has an idea for a good day to have this talk?
I've been so impressed by the ideas coming out of our community - both local and global - and am eager to help give those ideas some legs, make them "actionable" (is there a better, less corporate word for me to use, please?). This is a challenge we can and must take into our own hands. The solutions may be simpler than we can see.