Monday, March 15, 2021

‘The theater is a place for healing’


     For a solid year, the ghost light on the stage of the Goodman Theatre has shone in lonely silence on a classroom at the Aburi Girls’ Secondary School, the set for Jocelyn Bioh’s “School Girls; Or, the African Mean Girls Play,” nipped in the bud last spring.
     “Just a wonderful play,” said Robert Falls, the artistic director of the Goodman. “We were in previews, and the audience was loving it. We were three days from opening.”
     I called Falls because I was wondering, with vaccine being pumped into arms and hope of a returned world flickering, how the Chicago theater community might incorporate the past year. He’s the guy who put on Henrik Ibsen’s “Enemy of the People” right after Donald Trump’s election, so if anyone would be folding the COVID nightmare into his theatrical batter, it would be Bob Falls. But how?
     “A lot of theaters our size, they’re in a complete tizzy about how to open their seasons from scratch, having to choose a play,” he said. At the Goodman, they’ll dust off the set, get the actors back and pick up where they left off ... We can have this production up by summer.”
     That’s one approach.
     “You’ve got theaters across the country in mid-production, theaters that literally have a ghost light sitting on the stage,” said Michael Weber, at Porchlight Music Theatre. “They’re going to start up right where they were. Others, like us, have decided to shelve the season that we planned, and we’re rethinking an entirely new season, assuming we can get back. We’re hoping for the fall.”
     A “ghost light,” by the way, is the single bulb kept burning on a stage in a darkened theater, to keep people from blundering into the orchestra pit. In plague-darkened 2020, it’s become somewhat symbolic, the spark of life in the heart of a comatose patient.

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2 comments:

  1. We attended "Bug" at the Steppenwolf on March 11. The last "normal" thing we did, albeit the exact day that the global pandemic was officially proclaimed, so it wasn't really normal. As well as their last performance, I believe. We certainly wondered about it at the time, but had we known what was coming there's no way we'd have gathered with the sold-out crowd of 500 that day.

    Though we've missed theater and movies, I really don't know when we might think about returning. I won't be in any hurry. But when the time comes, the show needn't address the Covid catastrophe directly, as I imagine I'll be quite content to see *anything* at that point. King Lear wasn't primarily about the plague, after all.

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  2. The Aeschylus quote brought to mind others with similar import.

    "It was a high speech of Seneca that the good things which belong to prosperity are to be wished, but the good things which belong to adversity are to be admired." Francis Bacon

    "Mad Ireland hurt you into poetry." Auden, about Yeats

    Tom

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