January. It’s the calendar equivalent of “Another Op’nin’, Another Show,” the line made famous by Cole Porter in “Kiss Me Kate.” Newcity’s opening in 2023 is, as always, our Players 50 list of the moment’s top performers in theater, dance, opera and comedy.
I got a note the other day from Bette Cerf Hill, the founder of Printers Row Lit Fest and herself a regular on our Lit 50 list, with a vignette she’d written. Bette, along with her husband Bruce Sagan, who has played a major role in the development of Steppenwolf Theatre and the Joffrey Ballet, is an old friend we regularly see at dance and theater openings. Bette had written an appreciation of another Players 50 Hall of Famer, Barbara Gaines, the retiring founder of Chicago Shakespeare Theater, and with Bette’s permission, I share it here. It gets at the essence of what we do with these lists; that is, honor the artists who light up our stages.
She is alone walking her dog. The setting sun turns the Chicago sky and clouds vivid pink and dark gray. Pink and silver are reflected in the windows of the skyscrapers and the lake itself becomes a giant reflecting pool.
She is in a secluded area walking in irregular circles. Behind me, as I watch her, is the babble of merrymakers, and in front of me, alone with her dog on a slack string is the builder of theaters, the master producer of magic.
At Shakespeare Theater on Navy Pier in Chicago, the opening of a play is always preceded by drinks and dinner. Food and celebration, new works, new interpretations of Shakespeare, cultivating supporters and critics and fellow artists, acting, envisioning theater space with endless wings and movable seats, and exploiting the very limits of imagination is what Barbara Gaines has done for years and years and years.
But now in the midst of yet another one of those celebrations, the first play of her last season as the artistic director, she speaks a few words of welcome to the guests. Her appreciations and invitation to enjoy are followed by endless congratulations and adulations of each other, by others involved in tonight’s production. The party goes on. She disappears.
Below us, on the Pier, she is making loops around the planters of flowers and trees. At peace or in turmoil, I cannot tell. Either would be appropriate. With her profound sense of history, she knows what she has created will live after her and yet how hard it is to keep the past from fading into the fog of just things past.
I wonder what she thinks as she walks with her dog in the fading sun and becomes part of the pink and gray and silver that is changing the ordinary into the spectacular with the trick of lighting and staging, the magic she crafts and gives to us.
—Bette Cerf Hill
And so, curtains up on 2023 and the January issue. I hope your reviews are good.
* Jeff says, “That was the engagement where he was arrested for obscenity, and began a string of arrests which killed his career. One observer said ‘Lenny Bruce died from an overdose of police.’”
Look for Newcity’s January 2023 print edition at over 300 Chicago-area locations this week or subscribe to the print edition at Newcityshop.com.
IN THIS ISSUE
With Flying Colors
Design flair from the Chicago Fashion Incubator
A Cheerleader for Artists
Monique Meloche’s secret weapon is optimism
Fleetwood Mac had a big Chicago day in 1969, and Jeff Lowenthal was there.
Who really performs for Chicago right now
A new poem from Sylvia Ewing
And so much more…