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Richelle Dickerson

I heartily agree. It's been nearly 20 years now, but I think very fondly back on my days in Chicago. The open friendliness there always hits me when I go back. I love Seattle, but the cliquishness in our city is a stark contrast to Chicago where you go into a bar and meet everyone within 10 minutes (an exaggeration, I know, but it feels that way) and then go bar-hopping with your new friends.

One memory in particular was, while visiting friends a few years ago, going into a bar that had a singer/songwriter performing. Before we left a good portion of the patrons were in the middle of the floor, arms around each other, singing along to the songs. I thought 'this would never happen in Seattle.'

As for why it's such a great theatre town, I wonder if some of that is because Chicago is a through-way. They get artists from all over the country just passing through. What I found in Chicago back in my theatre days was an enthusiasm or energy that lent itself to a 'taking all comers' atmosphere. I think the Chicago theatre scene really thrives is the constant influx of new artists and ideas to the city-and the willingness of the community to embrace and welcome them.

Back when I was there, many of the smaller theatres all supported each other by doing things like having viewings on Monday (when most theatres were dark) so the other artists could see the shows. Many of them also had an 'Artists' Night' where, if you brought your headshot and resume, you got in for a reduced price (I think even the Goodman, Steppenwolf and Wisdom Bridge were doing that as well).

I did think I would continue in the theatre world when I moved to Seattle. When I started looking into the theatre companies and what one does to get work in this town, I was pretty put-off by the 'who are you and what have YOU done' attitude I got from many of the people I first met. It seemed that the cliquishness of the city definitely infected the theatre scene as well. I don't know if this is still true, but it just made me weary.

I'll be interested in hearing about the experience you have this weekend!


I saw about 30 shows the summer I lived in Chicago and interned at the Steppenwolf. I was, admittedly, fresh from college and full of youthful exuberance but the shows I saw there over a decade ago still resonate with me and inform my work.

The Steppenwolf isn't perfect: they have a bit of a cultural disconnect between the technical and artistic staff (or then did then, anyway) that I felt was directly proportional to the physical distance between them. (The tech staff is located in a building across the street from the art staff.) Having said that - their shows work really well. They are smart and interesting and not overly-designed and plus, you know, they get the famous people both backstage and in the audience. (Is that Mel Gibson and Kathy Bates sitting in the 3rd row? Why yes, it is).

And I took it for granted then (I don't now) that their Artistic Director and her staff spent their time going to see all of the major fringe shows in town. I think I saw her or her staff at about every show I went to that summer.

Paul Mullin

Richelle, thanks for that. It was a confirmation of my very brief experiences (so far) with Chicago. You can bet I'll be letting you know (at least some of) what happens this weekend.

Darian, I didn't know you spent a summer in Chicago. Thanks for sharing those experiences. Yes, the artistic leadership at Big Houses checking out what's happening at the smaller ones and then maybe help develop a pipeline: what a concept!

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