To read or not to read… that is the question. In Agate’s opinion, the answer is always yes to reading! While live theater opportunities have dwindled in the past few years due to the pandemic, companies and theaters are now resuming operations, albeit with new social distancing standards. If seeing live shows isn’t an option for you at the moment, don’t fret! This post highlights Agate books that you can pick up to nourish your love of theater. Those who are interested in what happens behind the scenes and offstage can take a peek behind the curtain with these titles, two of which delve into the history of theater in our very own city of Chicago.
Fans of the bard will no doubt be familiar with Much Ado About Nothing, one of Shakespeare’s most famous comedies. In this book, Michael Lenehan treats readers to a behind-the-scenes look at the American Players Theatre’s 2014 production of the play, which sold nearly 23,000 tickets during its five-month run. From casting, to costumes and sets, and through the almost entirely outdoor performances, the journey of the production from start to finish is told through a combination of first-hand observations and interviews with key members of the APT, mixed with a dash of literary analysis. Whether you are a veteran actor or have never set foot on the stage, this book will give remarkable insight into the challenges of outdoor theater, as well as how to put a fresh feel on an age-old play.
Chicago is a veritable hub of activity for theater, bursting with an explosive, innovative vitality that’s fed every sector of the entertainment industry—from Hollywood to Broadway to Studio 8H—for as long as it’s delighted adoring local fans. The city hosts a robust community of theater and screen actors and has produced famous companies, such as the Compass Players, Steppenwolf, and The Second City (see also: the next title on this list!). Mark Larson draws from over 300 interviews with actors, designers, composers, and others to chronicle the history of Chicago’s thriving theater scene from the ‘50s to the present day.
The Second City, Sheldon Patinkin, and Liz Kozak
Founded in 1959 and named after one of Chicago’s less-than-complimentary nicknames, The Second City has gone on to become one of the most well-known comedy institutions in the nation. Its alumni include some of the biggest names in comedy, such as Catherine O’Hara, Stephen Colbert, Tina Fey, Bill Murray, Steve Carell and more. Readers may be surprised to learn how some of your favorite comedic actors began their careers waiting tables or selling tickets at The Second City’s theater! Hear it straight from the horse’s mouth as The Second City tells its own history in this book filled with stories, anecdotes, and pictures from this legendary comedy theater.
Whether you are an aspiring actor, director, or simply love theater, you should keep your eyes and ears open for our upcoming release of Six Plays, an anthology of plays by Chicago playwright Mickle Maher. The title is set to release in April 2022.