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Kris Vire
Chicago, IL
Theater editor for Time Out Chicago magazine.
Recent Activity
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.
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
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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
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
Yep, I'll be there.
Toggle Commented Jan 8, 2010 on On Outrageous Fortune at Storefront Rebellion
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 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 theatreinchicago.com 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).