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Makeshift Chicago Stages: A Century of Theater and Performance
edited by Megan E. Geigner, Stuart J. Hecht and Jasmine Jamillah Mahmoud
contributions by Laley Lippard, Laura A. Lodewyck, Meida McNeal, Travis Stern, Irina Zadov, Rosemarie K. Bank, Aymar Jean Christian, Shannon Epplett, Cat Gleason, Aaron Krall and LaRonika Marie Thomas
Northwestern University Press, 2021
Cloth: 978-0-8101-4382-1 | Paper: 978-0-8101-4381-4 | eISBN: 978-0-8101-4383-8
Library of Congress Classification PN2277.C4M35 2021
Dewey Decimal Classification 792.0977311

Since Chicago’s founding, theater has blossomed in the city’s makeshift spaces, from taverns to parks, living rooms to storefronts. Makeshift Chicago Stages brings together leading historians to share the history of theater and performance in the Second City. The essays collected here theorize a regional theater history and aesthetic that are inherently improvisational, rough-and-tumble, and marginal, reflecting the realities of a hypersegregated city and its neighborhoods. Space and place have contributed to Chicago’s reputation for gritty, ensemble-led work, part of a makeshift ethos that exposes the policies of the city and the transgressive possibilities of performance.
This book examines the rise and proliferation of Chicago’s performance spaces, which have rooted the city’s dynamic, thriving theater community. Chapters cover well-known, groundbreaking, and understudied theatrical sites, ensembles, and artists, including the 1893 Columbian Exposition Midway Plaisance, the 57th Street Artist Colony, the Fine Arts Building, the Goodman Theatre, the Federal Theatre Project, the Kingston Mines and Body Politic Theaters, ImprovOlympics (later iO), Teatro Vista, Theaster Gates, and the Chicago Home Theater Festival. By putting space at the center of the city’s theater history, the authors in Makeshift Chicago Stages spotlight the roles of neighborhoods, racial dynamics, atypical venues, and borders as integral to understanding the work and aesthetics of Chicago’s artists, ensembles, and repertoires, which have influenced theater practices worldwide. Featuring rich archival work and oral histories, this anthology will prove a valuable resource for theater historians, as well as anyone interested in Chicago’s cultural heritage.
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