Steppenwolf’s New Home: A Site Is Not a Stage

When will the new Steppenwolf Theatre building open? Nobody knows. Construction at the site, in the 1600 block of North Halsted, was to begin early this fall, but as of last week almost nothing had been done. Not surprisingly, the theater company has been dickering with the city’s building inspectors, who wanted to see all the plans for the $4 million structure before issuing the necessary permits. Steppenwolf board president Bruce Sagan says he expects by year’s end to have a foundation permit that will allow work on the basement to begin. How far workers will get on the project, though, depends on the winter’s severity. Unless a miracle occurs–highly unlikely in the construction industry–Steppenwolf’s opening next fall will have to be delayed or moved to the company’s old digs at 2851 N. Halsted. “It’s a little too early yet to predict what will happen,” says Sagan.

Two Trib Writers Get a Dramatic Reading

Budding playwrights Marilyn Preston (a former Tribune reporter) and Cheryl Lavin (a Tribune feature writer) may finally have found a home for their theatrical opus Celebrity Beat. Bailiwick Repertory plans to give the play a reading with hot young actress Kate Goehring on February 7. If that goes well, Bailiwick artistic director David Zak says the play probably will be worked into next season’s schedule. “I’m interested in the darker aspects of the piece,” says Zak. The script, about a newspaper celebrity writer, has been bouncing around the city for a couple of years. Preston and Lavin had hoped to mount a big-budget, star-filled production, but that fell through when investor funding dried up.

Arts People Love the Guv

Never let it be said that departing Governor James Thompson got no respect in the arts community. He will be feted at a Drake Hotel shindig on February 9 to honor his “contributions to the cultural life of Chicago.” “There are an awful lot of arts organizations in this city that didn’t even exist when Thompson first became governor,” notes Grant Park Concerts Society executive director Betty Kearns, who came up with the idea for the evening. Chicago Park District president William Bartholomay and arts philanthropist Stanley Freehling will serve as the evening’s chairmen, while Mayor Richard Daley and Helene Curtis honcho Ron Gidwitz lend their names as honorary cochairmen. The organizers hope the event will serve as an inspiration to the next governor–whoever he is–to focus on the arts. Any proceeds from the evening will fund Grant Park Symphony concerts for schoolchildren.

Opera Company Jumps on “Carousel”

Musical-theater aficionados who aren’t in the mood for Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Phantom of the Opera or the Goodman’s proposed Gospel at Colonus next summer will have yet another option downtown. On June 9, Chicago Opera Theatre takes over the seemingly deserted Shubert Theatre to present Carousel, Opera Theatre’s first foray into traditional musical theater using operatic voices. “We’re going to be doing it in the grand style,” says Opera Theatre general manager Marc Scorca. Veteran stage director Dominic Missimi will be in charge of a cast of more than 40. Musical director will be John McGlinn, noted for his recent meticulous recordings of Showboat and Anything Goes. The top ticket for Carousel is set at $36, well below Phantom’s top of $55.

On another front, Scorca says it would be foolish not to consider a proposal to transform the vacated Oriental Theater downtown into a renovated theater space that might house his organization. Opera Theatre has been looking to move into a permanent home and was well along with feasibility studies on the Athenaeum Theatre at 2936 N. Southport. Any plan to move into the Oriental would require other arts groups to join in with Opera Theatre, a complication that wouldn’t be easily resolved.

Jerome’s to Showcase Singing Staffers

The cabaret bug has bit at Jerome’s restaurant. Having established a tradition of displaying art created by its employees, Jerome’s is planning a cabaret night to show off the singing talents of some present and past staffers. Scheduled for January 22, the cabaret evening is being planned by actress and cabaret performer (and Jerome’s employee) Judy Kaplan. The tentative lineup includes Greg Davis, Leo Daignault, and Rosalie Kaplan, among others. If the night goes well, Kaplan says it just might become a regular feature at Jerome’s.

Cheever Volume Still in Court

Jordan and Anita Miller and their publishing house Academy Chicago haven’t had an easy year of it. After interminable legal skirmishes, the Millers are still trying to publish a tome of the uncollected short stories of John Cheever. Though Academy Chicago had a seemingly binding contract to publish such a work, the litigious Cheever clan has managed to obtain a court ruling that Academy Chicago can release a book with only 10 or 15 of the stories; the Cheevers have since chosen the stories they want Academy Chicago to publish. But the Millers aren’t satisfied and are appealing the ruling.

Music Box Goes 3-D

Just in time for Christmas, the Music Box is installing new two-projector 3-D equipment and a new screen. Owners Chris Carlo and Bob Chaney bought the equipment to properly screen a five-minute animated feature called Knickknack. “Nobody ever said we were sane”, notes Carlo. Maybe not, but they’re not stupid either; the Music Box now will be able to screen other 3-D epics down the pike. Be prepared for a 50-cent hike in both adult and children’s admissions at the Music Box to cover the cost of the 3-D eyeglasses. Knickknack, by Academy Award winner John Lasseter, is part of the 1990 Festival of Animation opening Christmas Day at the Music Box.

A New Chef at Eurasia

The Levy Organization apparently wants to give its restaurant Eurasia a little more Asian authenticity. In mid-February Arun Sampanthavivat, considered by many the city’s leading Thai chef, arrives at Eurasia as head chef with a revamped menu. “I’m giving more definition to the food concept,” says Sampanthavivat, who also will continue to operate his own Arun’s restaurant at 4156 N. Kedzie. Sampanthavivat has been visiting restaurants similar to Eurasia on the east and west coasts to see what kind of food they’re offering. The Levys have moved former Eurasia head chef Stuart Parsons over to Bistro 110, where his more pronounced European inclinations presumably will find a welcome home.

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