Children's Theater

Some of the most crucial work in Chicago’s theater community is being done off the map, where few theatre reviewers or members of the Jeff Committee ever venture. 

I’m not talking about a company of young geniuses producing avant garde multi-media theatre in someone’s garage off Division Street.  I’m talking about shows like The Stinky Cheeseman and Other Fairly Stupid Tales at Lifeline, or Vittum Theatre’s The Shakespeare Stealer, or Tireswing Theatre’s Jataka Tales at the Cultural Center -- affordable, artistically ambitious theatre for children and young people.

The League of American Theatres and Producers recently published its annual study of Broadway audiences, “The Demographics of the Broadway Audience 2005-2006.”  It found -- as have numerous studies before it -- that the strongest factor in creating future audiences is exposure to theatre as a child.  So companies like Lifeline, Vittum and Tireswing are creating the audiences that will, in a decade or two, turn up at Steppenwolf, Victory Gardens and that avant garde multi-media production somewhere off Division Street.

Tyrone Guthrie reportedly said once that the only great theatre you see is when you are very young.  If he’s right, these companies are not only doing the crucial work of creating tomorrow’s audiences, they are also making the greatest theatre in town.

Talk Theatre in Chicago interviews Frances Limoncelli of Lifeline Theatre, Tom Arvetis of Vittum Theatre and Andrew Lines of Tireswing Theatre about making children’s theatre in Chicago on this week’s interview podcast.  

Anne Nicholson Weber

Theatre in Chicago contributor Anne Nicholson Weber saw Jack and the Beanstalk at the Goodman Children’s Theatre and has loved theatre every since. She is the author of Upstaged: Making Theatre in the Media Age, which includes interviews with Tony Kushner, Julie Taymor, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Martha Lavey and Sir Peter Hall, among many others, and her work has been published in American Theatre Magazine and other national publications