Chicago Children's Theatre announces new season, new home
The Chicago Children’s Theatre waited a bit longer than many other theater companies to reveal its 2012–13 lineup: That’s because there was another announcement brewing as well.
In addition to a new season, the company has a new home for its productions. In October, CCT will be take up residence at the Ruth Page Center for the Arts, located in the Gold Coast. “It’s the same theater where we had Jackie and Me [in early 2011]—the perfect space for us to put down some roots,” says artistic director Jacqueline Russell, adding that she plans for CCT to spend three years at Ruth Page.
The center is known mostly as a nexus for dance, although now-prominent theater companies such as Chicago Shakespeare and Lookingglass spent time there in years past before opening their own dedicated spaces. In fact, Russell knows the Ruth Page stage well, because she was executive director of Lookingglass prior to founding CCT in 2006. It wasn't a stretch, then, for her to reach out to the Center when looking for a home for the company’s three new productions—one original show and two adaptations of beloved kidlit.
First up in the fall is a live version of the classic Harold and the Purple Crayon (running October 11–November 18), about a pre-K kid with a vibrant imagination; that’s followed by Bud, Not Buddy (January 12–March 3), a Newbery Medal winner about a Midwestern orphan who sets out to find his father, whom he suspects is a famed jazz musician. Finally, in spring 2013, CCT teams with Redmoon to produce an original fable, The Elephant and the Whale.
For Harold, Russell has tapped imaginative director Sean Graney, best known for his work with The Hypocrites. She’s got some cool ideas for Bud, Not Buddy too, especially involving music. “One of the things we’re thinking about, which would be so fun, is to get some high-school jazz combos in the area to come and play on Friday nights,” she explains.
Russell calls the Redmoon collaboration “a perfect, high-profile piece for this first big season at Ruth Page. I remember when my daughter was little, and I would take her to Redmoon events. There was so much beautiful spectacle going on, it really stuck in her mind. She wanted to be Redmoon for Halloween!”
Undergirding the excitement about the new season is the comfort of knowing the company has a semi-permanent home. “So much energy goes into looking for a venue," Russell admits. “Because of school schedules and holidays, we really have to program within very specific times. With that sort of availability, we’ve had difficulty with getting a prime space. Now we’ll be able to put up our shows at the optimal times of year, and we can plan a lot farther out. Now we can start getting commitments from playwrights and artists years in advance."
“And most importantly, our audience knows where we are,” she says. “Now we can build our brand. A lot of people saw our [debut] show A Year of Frog and Toad at the Goodman, and they just remember that they were at the Goodman. That often happens to a company when they’re itinerant.” (CCT’s most recent show, The Houdini Box, played at the Mercury in Wrigleyville and then at the North Shore Center for Performing Arts in Skokie.)
“One day, eventually, we’d love to build a big, fabulous children’s theater facility,” Russell acknowledges. “Until then, this is a great place to keep building community support and do what we do.”
The Chicago Children's Theatre offers a flexible Family Membership Pass subscription to its upcoming season, on sale through July 1 at a 30% discount.