Barbra Streisand Retrospective?

Michael Kutza, founder of the Chicago International Film Festival, says he’s in the final stages of putting together a major event for this year’s program, a retrospective of the films of actress/director/producer Barbra Streisand. If it all falls into place, Streisand will be the special guest of honor at the festival, which begins October 11. Kutza has been in contact with Streisand at least once a week for the past several weeks, discussing such matters as security and the list of guests from her 15 films who would appear with her at the opening-night event, a compilation of scenes from her films and television specials. All of her films would be shown in their entirety over the course of the festival. “She’s been very professional about it all,” says Kutza.

One snag, however, is Kutza’s inability to nab the Chicago Theatre for opening-night festivities. A Chicago Theatre gala would give Kutza more than 3,600 opening-night tickets to sell to Streisand fans, but the theater is booked that week for a stage musical, and at the moment it appears Kutza may have to fall back on a smaller spot such as the Fine Arts, which would mean a sharp drop in ticket revenue. With the addition of the film festival retrospective, the fall promises to be a busy time for Streisand, whose newest film, Prince of Tides, is tentatively scheduled for release by Columbia Pictures on September 13. Streisand’s latest record release, a multidisc compilation of previously unreleased material titled Just for the Record, also is scheduled for a fall release on Columbia Records.

The Tragedy of Adult Illiteracy

The next time Sun-Times reporter Ray Hanania reads a court decision, you can bet he’ll go over it very carefully. Hanania got the story totally wrong when he announced in last Friday’s paper that the Illinois Supreme Court had ruled in favor of Academy Chicago Publishers, which sought to publish author John Cheever’s uncollected short stories. The truth of the matter is that the court unanimously ruled that Academy Chicago’s contract for the Cheever collection could not be enforced. Mary Cheever, the author’s widow, went to court with high-powered New York attorney Martin Garbus to prevent Academy Chicago from publishing the stories. Sun-Times executive editor Mark Nadler said Hanania simply misread the court decision. The Tribune correctly reported the story (it had two reporters on the case), but Trib media writer James Warren, in an apparent attempt at cuteness, printed the contradictory headlines from both papers in his Sunday media column, leaving befuddled readers to determine for themselves which was correct.

Academy Chicago’s Jordan Miller says the court’s decision may have serious implications for Illinois publishers. Among other things, the judges questioned the validity of the contract because it did not state the list price of the proposed collection or the number of pages it would contain. “That’s ridiculous,” said Miller; “how could a publisher be expected to know those things before the book was put together?” Though Academy Chicago is out more than $400,000 in legal fees, the company may make something off its long court battle. Miller’s wife and partner in the enterprise, Anita, is writing a book about the Cheever ordeal, tentatively called Uncollected Cheever.

What Ails the Body Politic?

The future of the Body Politic Theatre is expected to be a topic of debate at the regular monthly meeting of the theater’s board of directors on Monday. Concern about the general condition of the organization, one of the city’s oldest not-for-profit theater companies, has intensified in recent weeks along with discussion of producing director Nan Charbonneau’s tenure and the board of directors’ involvement in the theater company’s management. “The whole state of the theater is up for discussion,” says one ensemble member with close ties to the board.

A number of issues relating to the theater’s condition were to have been discussed at a special board meeting last week; a quorum failed to show up, so nothing could be officially debated or voted on, but sources say that board members have been discussing the company’s financial management on Charbonneau’s watch, including budget overruns on last fall’s production of The Lion in Winter, directed by her husband Dick Kordos. The Body Politic has been financially strapped for years.

When Charbonneau (who could not be reached for comment) was hired by the Body Politic almost two years ago, she had not worked in a managerial position with a theater company for a number of years. Most of the staff she inherited either resigned or was let go, while she brought in new faces, such as her husband Kordos, with the apparent blessing of artistic director Albert Pertalion, who came on board late last summer.

Some sources contend that at least part of the Body Politic’s problem is the board of directors themselves, who have demonstrated more interest in helping make artistic decisions than in traditional and necessary board functions such as raising money. “A big problem,” says one Body Politic ensemble member, “is the artistic input of an artistically bereft board of directors.” Board president Bernie Miller did not return phone calls.

Warning: Contains Graphic Depictions of Feminine Independence

Despite considerable national publicity, including last week’s Time cover story, the movie Thelma & Louise is not the big box-office hit around Chicago that it has been in other urban markets, including Atlanta, Minneapolis, Dallas, and Seattle. Starting its fifth week in the Windy City, the slick picture about two women on the run from police averaged a meager $2,168 at Chicago movie theaters over the three-day weekend that started June 21. Loews Theatres Chicago booker Tom Brueggemann says he hasn’t figured out yet why Chicago didn’t do better by Thelma & Louise. But another local exhibitor said the film suffered here because it was not a picture “anybody could feel comfortable going to see.”

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Charles Eshelman.