• Anita Evans/courtesy Columbia College Chicago
  • Robert Sickinger

I’ve been trying to figure out what to say about former Chicago theater director Robert Sickinger, who passed away yesterday at age 86, that I hadn’t already said in my 1989 interview with him in the Reader. Ultimately I defer to David Mamet, who, like me, got his start in theater as a teenager at Sickinger’s Hull House Theater in the 1960s.

“Bob Sickinger was one of the greatest directors I’ve ever known,” Mamet said, in the essay “Why I Write for Chicago Theater,” when he still wrote for Chicago theater. (The essay is posted on Sickinger’s website) “He had a boundless passion for Beauty on the Stage, and a complete conviction that said beauty was just and exactly what he said it was. The company was the community: high-school students, housewives, businessmen and women, working people. We bathed in his pride and we became proud of ourselves. . . . We were the community talking to itself, and we learned (I learned) that when the community goes home, it had better have either been reduced to thoughtfulness or had a damn good laugh. And we learned that if you could do both, God bless you. We learned that if you want it to be perfect, strive to make it so, and don’t go home until you’re done.”