Neighborhood Theater and Music Still Getting Their Feet Wet


Pictured above, rendering of the new Steppenwolf Theater building. Credit Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture

by Donna Gallery

If you’ve been yearning to be seated 10th row center when the curtain goes up, you’re going to have to be patient a little longer. The local live theater and music landscape is still finding its feet in the post-Covid world. There have been casualties, but there is also exciting news about good things to come. Here’s a quick rundown.

Ken-Matt Martin, new Artistic Director of Victory Gardens. Photo Courtesy of Victory Gardens.

Perhaps the most significant of changes are taking place at Victory Gardens. The theater’s own experiences mirror its mission of presenting plays that mirror contemporary societal influences. In what was essentially a palace coup following the departure of Artistic Director Chay Yew, the subsequent restructure that would have replaced him with Erica Daniels via a closed-door consolidation of existing roles, the entire Playwright’s Ensemble walked out. Heeding the theater community’s call for transparency and the momentum of the Black Lives Matter movement, Victory Gardens conducted a 6-month search before settling on Ken-Matt Martin, among other things the former associate producer of Chicago’s Goodman Theater, naming him their new Artistic Director this April. No live performances are scheduled currently, but anticipate a virtual reopening later in 2021 under the direction of an entirely new team.

Steppenwolf Theater has undergone change of a different type. While stages have been dark over the past year, work has continued on the new 50,000 square foot facility, which includes a theater in-the-round and a new, dedicated, education floor. The new season features plays written by Steppenwolf’s own ensemble members, with two new productions of the run in the Young Adults series for teens and families. Look forward to the streaming of three new one-act plays, including a world premiere, in Fall 2021. Opening to in-person audiences on existing stages is slated for November 2021 with the pre-pandemic hit “Bug,” cancelled due to Covid. The new venue debuts in February 2022 with Chekhov’s “The Seagull.”

Unfortunately, the Royal George Theater has closed permanently. And, disappointingly, enjoyment of live musical performances by the De Paul School of Music has been indefinitely postponed, with no events scheduled for the foreseeable future.