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Kris Vire
Chicago, IL
Theater editor for Time Out Chicago magazine.
Recent Activity
Having been pre-spoiled a few days ago by a friend who saw it in previews, I definitely felt for David and Brantley when I read their reviews last night. Knowing the twist, it seems a reasonable enough request on the producers' part that it not be advertised in the reviews that appear opening night. But it does seem nearly impossible to discuss the play in any significant way without revealing the hinge on which it swings.
Toggle Commented Oct 14, 2011 on "No Spoilers" Comes to Broadway at Parabasis
Based on the discussion of this at Parabasis, I should clarify: I don't really give a shit about Chicago or any other city being crowned the "capital"—and nor am I sure that I really care for Chicago to become commercial enough to support theater tourism on a grand scale. But since folks like Billington and Teachout keep saying it, I'm using it to make the point that maybe we can stop looking to New York to validate our work.
I'm with Travis—I'd like every scene to find a model that works for it and sparks vital work. I don't really care about Chicago or any other city being crowned the "capital," but since folks with big megaphones do keep saying it, I'm using it to make the point that we shouldn't have to keep looking to New York to validate our work.
Toggle Commented Jun 24, 2010 on Second City First? at Parabasis
Attempting to address in one fell swoop the great comments from Justin, Eric, Marja, Albert and others: You all make extremely valid points. I don't begrudge the theater artists, actors in particular, who go to New York and stay because they have potential additional income streams from TV, commercials, etc. For just the last decade, theater actors in NY alone have been subsidized by work on soap operas, Law & Order, Sex and the City, and now shows like The Good Wife and Nurse Jackie. Aside from a single season of Prison Break, Chicago doesn't seem to have had anything like that to offer actors in terms of day-player and guest work since the heyday of Early Edition in the ’90s. As I told Jennifer Grace on Facebook earlier, I'm really pulling for this new Fox show, Ride-Along, to be the new Law & Order for Chicago actors. That said, there are plenty of New York non-profit theaters working under the same limitations as Chicago theaters: the Public is closing its sold-out run of Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson this weekend, Second Stage closed Chad Deity last weekend, Signature's already sold out its season passes for its upcoming Tony Kushner slate, and MTC and Roundabout regularly do limited runs as well. These theaters all have the same problem Chicago theaters do in terms of word-of-mouth and giving tourists a chance to plan visits around hit shows. The difference, as far as I can tell, is that we don't have the infrastructure of commercial producers in place to bankroll transfers of real hit shows by theaters that are beholden to subscription schedules—which would, I hope, help provide sustainable wages to actors/directors/designers/crew and royalties to playwrights. I know Don Hall will say he's happy doing the day job he loves at WBEZ and doing theater in his spare time, and there are plenty of others who feel the same way. But not everyone does, which is why as Albert notes we lose some great artists every year. Do we need to start cultivating a class of commercial producers to make Chicago a viable theater hub? And really, what separates commercial investors from non-profit donors?
What if, instead of exporting our biggest hits to New York, we made Chicago a real theater destination? Continue reading
Posted Jun 22, 2010 at Storefront Rebellion
This is a quickie, since I'm supposed to be writing a review, but I just read Michael Miner's Reader piece on the feminist Venus magazine's new direction. This quote, from Venus founder Amy Schroeder, really struck me, with an assist... Continue reading
Posted Mar 25, 2010 at Storefront Rebellion
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Mar 15, 2010
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Mar 4, 2010
Not to ignore the point, but: Louis Broome! A hundred million years ago I worked with him on a very early workshop of Texarkana Waltz. Loved that script. Thanks for the link to his blog. For on-topic: My only experience with boards is observing them—observing a lot of them—from the outside, but Pete's narrative seems apt to me. I'm reminded also of the breakup at Chicago's American Theater Company last spring; Kerry Reid had the best in-depth coverage of that story here:
Toggle Commented Mar 5, 2010 on A very informal survey... at Parabasis
Indeed, Mark. I didn't intend to imply chicanery, but rather to point out how much rarer such things are in the US. Only reason I mentioned the Campbell-Cooke connection is in anticipation of someone else bringing it up if I didn't.
Toggle Commented Mar 2, 2010 on First play. at Storefront Rebellion
Many thanks for the background, Alexi. The details do tell a different story.
Toggle Commented Mar 2, 2010 on First play. at Storefront Rebellion
I'm loving this discussion, but just to throw a wrench into the works in re: Art's first comment: All My Sons was produced at the beginning of this season in Chicago (and quite well, by TimeLine Theatre), but a handful of companies had been clamoring for the rights for some years, dating back well past the recent Broadway revival. Another more gorilla-sized company had been sitting on the local production rights before finally giving them up.
Toggle Commented Jan 14, 2010 on A Clearer Picture 2 at Parabasis
Yep, I'll be there.
Toggle Commented Jan 8, 2010 on On Outrageous Fortune at Storefront Rebellion
The interesting thing to me is... in many ways, what you have built actually exists completely outside of the larger national theatre system perpetuated by large theaters. I'm also only partway through Outrageous Fortune myself, so I'm holding out hope that other models will be addressed, but so far what I keep thinking while reading it is, "Well sure, if you're only interested in the institutions." I feel like any study done by the likes of TDF or TCG isn't telling the real story of what's gong on in a city like Chicago, because they're only really looking at the three or four biggest institutions and not the 200+ other producing entities. One statistic in Chapter 1 cited a count of the country's professional theaters as those with budgets above $75,000. I thought, There go half of the companies on this list. As one of the commenters at 99 mentioned, the "forming your own band" model seems to be the more common solution here in Chicago. File a 501(c)3 and give your band a name so you can apply for grants, if you so wish, but otherwise just get out there and DIY instead of asking for permission. The institutions might help by providing a venue, as Steppenwolf does with its visiting company initiative, or even more commonly by providing a day job.
For the record, I didn't conduct the Time Out Chicago interview Art references, though his characterization of it is otherwise accurate. You can read it here: As for Ruhl, I think the depth of animosity some have toward her work might have to do with her sheer ubiquity. In a three-year span she had four major productions in Chicago, at Steppenwolf, Victory Gardens and twice at the Goodman. I can't think of another contemporary playwright about whom you could say that.
Toggle Commented Dec 22, 2009 on Just a Quick Reminder at Parabasis
I'm no fan of the jukebox genre, but I wouldn't dismiss Million Dollar Quartet out of hand. If Schaeffer is better than an overblown jukebox musical, well, so is MDQ, given the right casting (which it has here in Chicago, and I suspect some if not all of the performers here will go with the transfer). I've seen it twice of my own volition—I wasn't reviewing either time—and might have gone back tonight, when press were re-invited for the show's one-year anniversary at the Apollo, if I hadn't had other plans. I don't think MDQ's success necessarily has much to do with Schaeffer's having one hand on the tiller, though, and I don't know how it will play at the much larger Nederlander. So just consider this a sidebar.
Toggle Commented Nov 6, 2009 on What's Up With Eric Schaeffer? at Parabasis
I suddenly feel like I'm in a very small Venn diagram intersection when it comes to appreciating your references.
I'm coming late to the party, but I'll chime in and note that Chicago doesn't have a "theater district." Our theater spaces are geographically sprawling, spread all across the city and suburbs.
1 reply
I might have a case for having coined The Intelligent Homosexual's Guide to Very Long Titles on Twitter some months back, but Google's not backing me up. (Dear Twitter: I wish I could search my own history on you. Thanks.) Regardless, it still cracks me up. I hope I get to see what Signature & Greif do with a small-scale rep of Angels, regardless. I caught a black-box, undergrad-cast production of Millennium Approaches directed by a pal'o'mine who's in the MFA program at Northwestern last spring; pal'o'mine bias taken into account, I found it revelatory.
Toggle Commented Sep 2, 2009 on Signature to do Angels In America at Parabasis
I started writing that last comment before Mark's most recent came in, so I'll just add that yes, people in shows put a lot of stock in those stars. I wish they wouldn't, and I'd rather not have to use them. But readers say they like the shorthand. Even Hedy Weiss has her "highly recommended," "somewhat recommended," "not recommended" labels, and the Reader has its seemingly hard-to-earn backwards "R" (I feel like I read a lot of positive reviews in the Reader that don't get the "recommended" icon). Even if we didn't assign stars/labels/grades ourselves, sites like the incredibly useful and NYC's incredibly useful Critic-O-Meter assign values to reviews, just like the incredibly useful Rotten Tomatoes does for film reviews. I don't know that there's a way around it.
To piggyback on what Bilal and Ed have said, Mark, my philosophy (I really do expend a lot of thought on this stuff) is that I'm not tailoring my review for the show's audience, I'm writing for my audience, or TOC's audience. I think the people who bother to read theater reviews probably tend to read them in more than one outlet, and eventually get a sense of which critics line up with their own taste. I've had more than one reader tell me they find my reviews line up the closest with their own tastes. The same is true, obviously, for Chris Jones, and Kerry Reid, Tony Adler, Catey Sullivan, Larry Bommer, etc. Implied in any of our reviews, I think, is both Bilal's "But you may feel differently" and its corollary, "If your taste is similar to mine, you may feel this way." (EDITED TO ADD: those readers who follow Ebert and those who follow Harry Knowles are similarly self-selecting.) There are probably 30 or 40 critics who regularly review theater in Chicago in the print publications alone. If you put all of us in the same house at the same show and asked us to try to write an "objective" review, I bet you'd still get a wide range of responses. That's why I always smile a little when I hear comments along the lines of, "I don't know what show this reviewer is talking about, but it wasn't the one I saw"—no, it wasn't, because we all come at it from our own indelible, human points of view.
Mark, I think what you consider "telling them what can be improved next time" might be the same thing that Chris's commenter Allison interprets, negatively, as "talking about what you WANTED to see, instead of what you saw." Paraphrasing you both, of course. Which is to say, critics' (and all theatergoers') opinions are subjective, as is the way they're read.
I'm proud to lay claim to introducing Julie to Rufus a decade ago or more (though she has the honor of actually meeting him in person).