Body Politic in Bad Shape

The future looms gloomy at the Body Politic, one of the oldest of the off-Loop theater companies. Strapped for cash, the company last week found itself rushing to mount a season-ending production to replace the world premiere of Clever Dick, which was canceled when producer Malcolm Rosenfeld failed to raise the necessary money to open the show as planned in April. Now, the theater will substitute two plays running in repertory: Athol Fugard’s Hello and Goodbye and John Godber’s September in the Rain. The Body Politic also has accepted the resignation of artistic director Pauline Brailsford, under whose leadership for the past four years the theater failed to offer a strong artistic product. The Body Politic board of directors hopes to find Brailsford’s replacement by the end of the company’s fiscal year, July 31. For the moment anyway, the Body Politic rests in the hands of Nan Charbonneau, named producing director last fall. By cutting the deal with Rosenfeld to present Clever Dick, Charbonneau in effect was buying time to secure badly needed operating funds for the theater’s next season. Now she may have to scramble.

The Body Politic can ill afford to make the wrong choice on any of the various issues confronting the organization. If the company is to survive, it must display more savvy in both administrative and artistic decisions. With funding and audiences growing harder to come by throughout the industry, there no longer is room for the marginal theater company that seems to make nothing but mistakes while squandering tens of thousands of dollars in the process.

Chicago Show: The Mess Gets Messier

The “Chicago Show” drama isn’t over yet. The 20 artists invited by Cultural Affairs commissioner Lois Weisberg to appear in the May art exhibit were up in arms late last week, angry about plans to place an i or a j next to each artist’s work in the show catalog. The i refers to invited participants, while the j indicates winners of the juried competition. Initially Cultural Affairs had planned to use the letters in the exhibit itself, but later the department backed off and decided to put them only in the catalog. The invited minority artists want the labels done away with altogether, and as of early this week at least a third of them had backed out of the show in protest. “It’s a matter of respect for the invited artists,” says Carlos Tortolero, executive director of the Mexican Fine Arts Museurn. “We think the show should be canceled.” Stay tuned.

Sowerby’s Third to Be Heard

The late composer Leo Sowerby, who wrote his Third Symphony in 1941 to celebrate the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s 50th anniversary, will be in the spotlight again during the orchestra’s 100th anniversary celebration next season. At the request of pianist Gail Quillman, CSO music director designate Daniel Barenboim reviewed the Third Symphony and put it on the schedule for January 1991. According to Sowerby historians, the CSO has played the composer’s work only a handful of times. Responding to Sowerby’s Third Symphony when it was first performed in 1941, one critic said “it grows phenomenally on the listener.”

A Think Tank for the Arts

Tom Tresser, managing director of Pegasus Players, is moving on to form Arts Partners, a new project that he calls the culmination of ten years’ work in the local arts community. Tresser firmly believes the arts are underrepresented in local public policy projects. “Arts Partners,” he says, “is going to serve as a coalition builder and a think tank for the arts.” He also wants to look at new ways to fund the arts and develop audiences. One of the first projects he hopes to undertake is developing the framework for a summer performing-arts festival at a suburban college. Tresser is helping in the task of finding his successor at Pegasus.

Grapes in NY: The Reviews Are In…

Steppenwolf’s Broadway production of The Grapes of Wrath may win the Tony Award for best production of the year. That’s the word going round New York theater circles since the Tony Awards nominating committee ruled that the show is eligible for consideration in the new play category. Meanwhile the show’s New York producers are preparing a print and TV ad campaign to make the most of the show’s favorable notices, which included an excessively poetic paean from the New York Times’s Frank Rich. But there were dissenters, led by a pan from the Daily News’s Howard Kissel. The Post’s Clive Barnes had good things to say about the show but wound up suggesting it might be better to spend the ticket price on the homeless.

Man and His Masks

Artist Peter Grahame is mad about masks. His show of masks, “The Trouble With Men, Phase One, Personal Gods,” opens May 4 at the Prairie Avenue Gallery. Fifteen masks, displayed as icons on “altars,” pay homage to the men who have greatly influenced Grahame, including Saint Francis of Assisi, John F. Kennedy, Richard Burton, Ludwig van Beethoven, Tennessee Williams, John Keats, and–yes–Ricky Nelson. “When I was 12 years old,” says Grahame, “Ricky was nonthreatening. I was afraid then of anyone who was too forceful.” The show’s title comes from Grahame’s belief that every male has an intrinsic flaw. But, adds Grahame, “If he faces and uses his flaw in a positive way, it can give him a profound charismatic force.”

Joe Brooks’s Metropolis

Composer Joe “You Light Up My Life” Brooks was an enthusiastic guest last week at the opening night of Morton College’s American premiere of his musical Metropolis, based on the film of the same name. The musical opened in London last spring to mostly negative reviews from the local press and closed after only a few months. But Brooks wants to take Metropolis to Broadway, and he thinks downtown Chicago might be a good spot to work on the show next fall. The modest Morton College production in suburban Cicero gave Brooks a chance to hear the show unencumbered by its hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of scenery, which created plenty of atmosphere in London but tended to overwhelm the musical material.

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