Summer in Chicago

Tue. July 27, 2004 12:00 AM
by David Viggiano

Summer in Chicago is a time for outdoor festivals, bike riding, and hanging at the lakefront. It’s never been the best time to see live performances. Many Theatre Companies go dark for the summer.

Not this year. Theatre and dance are thriving right now in the city. Here are a few of my picks of the best Chicago has to offer this summer.

If you haven’t seen About Face Theatre’s Winesburg, Ohio , hurry and check it out. This world premiere musical based on the classic novel by Sherwood Anderson is arguably the best show About Face has ever produced. Ideally cast, brilliantly conceived, and touchingly told, it’s one of those rare, truly flawless performances. The show has been extended, but must close on August 1. It’s playing at the Steppenwolf Upstairs Theatre, 1650 N. Halsted. Call 312-335-1650.

The About Face Youth Theatre is celebrating its sixth anniversary. 14 – 20 year old youth participants collaborate with professional adult artists each year to develop a world premiere play that explores the experiences of being young and gay. This year the group spent six months conducting interviews with over 100 Chicagoans of various ages, genders, neighborhoods, and sexual orientations. The result is a multi-media show called About Face Youth Theatre: ON THE RECORD . It runs August 5 – 14 at the Goodman Theatre’s Owen Theatre, 170 N. Dearborn. For more information call 773-784-8565.

One of our community’s foremost journalists, Tracy Baim is bringing her novel, Half Life to the stage. The story explores the experience of lesbians and gays serving in the 1991 Gulf War and is taken from numerous articles she has written in her 20 years reporting on gay issues, including the military’s anti-gay policies.
Performances begin August 27 at the American Theatre Company, 1909 W. Byron.
It is produced by Half Life Productions and Awaken! Performances Theatre Company. A portion of every ticket sold will benefit the Servicemember’s Legal Defense Network. For tickets call 773-857-7741 or go to
Baim’s novel has also been developed into a screenplay and is a finalist in the Sundance Film Festival’s screenwriting lab later this year.
Photo: Lucas Peterson in Half Life at the American Theatre Company.

Congratulations are due for Victory Gardens Theatre. After 30 years as Chicago’s leading producer of world premiere theater and winning a 2001 Tony Award for Regional Theatre, company will have its new home in the historic Biograph Movie Theater, 2433 N. Lincoln Ave. Originally built in 1914, the Theater is best known as the site where gangster John Dillinger was killed by FBI agents 70 years ago.

2 major fundraising events are happening involving some of Chicago’s best dance companies.

The River North Chicago Dance Company is presenting Summer Fling , a special benefit performance and party for the gay and lesbian community on Thursday, August 12.
The evening begins with cocktails and hors d’oeuvres at the Athenaeum Theatre, 2936 N. Southport. It is followed by an exclusive performance by the dance company. Following the performance, guests will be transported by bus to Ann Sather parking lot on W. Belmont for a summertime tent party. Tickets are $85 and will not be sold at the door. Reservations must be made by Thursday, August 5. Call 312-944-2888 or go to

Dance For Life brings together six of Chicago’s premiere dance companies to raise awareness and funds for HIV/AIDS. Now in its 13th year, the event has raised more than $2 million to date. This year’s participating dance companies include Gus Giordano Jazz Dance Chicago, Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, The Joffrey Ballet, Melissa Thodos & Dancers, Muntu Dance Theatre of Chicago, and River North Chicago Dance Company.
The event takes place Saturday, August 28 at Navy Pier, Skyline Stage, 600 E. Grand Ave. Tickets range from $75 to $500. Call 312-922-5812.

A number of big stars will be coming to Chicago to for the world premiere of 2 new plays.

The Goodman Theater is presenting Arthur Miller’s Finishing the Picture. The all-star cast includes Stacy Keach, Stephen Lang, Linda Lavin, and Matthew Modine. The show runs September 21 through October 31, in the Goodman’s Albert Theatre. Call (312) 443-3800 or go to

David Hyde Pierce, Tim Curry, and Hank Azaria will star in Spamalot , the musical based on the film, Monty Python and the Holy Grail . The book is adapted by Monty Python veteran, Eric Idle and is directed by Mike Nichols. It will run December 21-January 16 at the Shubert Theatre, 22 W. Monroe before it makes its Broadway debut in February. Tickets are on sale now for groups of 20 or more by calling 312-977-1710. Individual tickets are not on sale until September 14.

Get ready all you American Idol hopefuls it’s that time of year again. Seems we just finished with all the Idol hoopla only to start all over again. Auditions kick off in Cleveland, Ohio on August 4. One again, the show’s producers are missing one of the greatest talent pools by not stopping in Chicago. The closest city to us is St. Louis, on August 8. So get ready for a road trip. And good news for some who weren’t able to qualify in the past because of their age: the new age limit is 16 – 28. Before, you couldn’t be over 24. So, good luck to any of you that are going for it!