In  contrast to all the great “Best Shows of 2016” and critics’ picks lists flooding Chicago media in the last month, the following reminds us of some of the happenings in Chicago theatre in 2016.  Many wonderful things happened for Chicago theatre this year. The categories of “good,” “sad,” and “ugly” more accurately translate to “wonderful,” “disappointing,” and “scandalous.” And lucky for the city, there was more good than bad. Here are some of the most noted events in Chicago theatre in 2016.

The Good

  • The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation gave $6 million to Chicago’s arts community, including to A Red Orchid Theatre ($200,000), Albany Park Theater Project ($400,000), Chicago Opera Theater ($800,000), Links Hall ($200,000), Lookingglass Theatre ($1 million), Lucky Plush Productions ($200,000), The Hypocrites ($200,000), and Timeline Theatre Company ($625,000).

The new complex at Writer’s Theatre in Glencoe, Illinois. Photo from the Studio Gang Architects website. http://studiogang.com/project/writers-theatre_2

  • Writer’s Theatre opened their beautiful 28 million, two-theater complex, designed by Studio Gang architects.
  • Private Bank Theatre became the first home outside New York for Hamilton.  (And after the Cubs won the World Series [Next year is now!!!], the cast sang “Go Cubs, Go” at the curtain call.

  • House Theatre debuted a new, immersive, interactive show, escape-room theatre experience called The Last Defender that extended several times.

The cast of House Theatre’s The Last Defender. Photo from the House Theatre website. http://thehousetheatre.com/groupslastdefender

  • Chicago Shakespeare Theatre announced an ambitious project to transform its space on Navy Pier by adding a $35-million “theater of the future” to what was once the Skyline Stage.
  • Goodman Theatre made strides toward inclusive casting with its production of The Matchmaker, and A Christmas Carol (Kareem Bandealy became the first actor of South Asian descent to play Scrooge).
  • The Chicago Inclusion Project, whose mission is to encourage inclusive theater experiences that illuminate our shared human story by bringing together Chicago artists and audiences normally separated by physical ability, gender identity and ethnic background, providing inspiration and resources for the Chicago community to embrace inclusive programming in the arts began.

The Sad

  • Hypocrites Theatre, after twenty years of successful shows, announced they would be cancelling the rest of their season due to financial concerns.
  • A block of theatres at Sheridan Road and North Broadway were closed to make way for condos. These included the thirty-year mainstay of Chicago storefront Mary Arrchie, who went out with a trademark production of American Buffalo; eleven-year old Oracle Theatre, who made free theatre; and Strawdog Theatre, who will remain active in a different space.

Richard Cotovsky and Rudy Galvan in Mary-Arrchie Theatre Co.’s production of AMERICAN BUFFALO by David Mamet, directed by Carlo Lorenzo Garcia. Photo by Michael Brosilow. – See more at: http://maryarrchie.com/wordpress/history/1101-2/#sthash.KSjogTbI.dpuf

  • After some exciting architectural plans, TimeLine Theatre ended its pursuit of a new home at Trumbull School in Andersonville.

The Ugly

  • The Chicago Reader published an expose on Profiles Theatre, describing how Darryl Cox spent the better part of the last decade manipulating young women who worked at the theatre. Cox never took responsibility and the theatre closed. The silver lining is that Pride Films and Plays took over the space on North Broadway.
  • Bigoted audience members at Chicago’s Second City chased some of the talented cast members away from their show A Red Line Runs through It, and the administration installed a sign informing audiences that this would not be tolerated.
  • A dispute between Neo-Futurist Founding Director Greg Allen and the ensemble halted the twenty-eight-year run of Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind at the Chicago Neo Futurarium on Foster and Ashland. The silver-lining to this story is that the New York and San Francisco branches of the theatre unified with the home theatre in Chicago, vowing to make new late-night Neo-Futurists experience.

Trevor Dawkins pulls down a number in the NeoFuturists’ late-night show, Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind. Photo from the NeoFuturist wesbite. http://neofuturists.org/toomuchlight/

This list is by no means exhaustive. But it shows us what we did this year, and gives us direction moving forward. Let’s enjoy a more inclusive and more cohesive 2017 of making new and inspiring theatre art!

This post was written by the author in their personal capacity.The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not reflect the view of The Theatre Times, their staff or collaborators.