DCASE streamlines theater and dance programs
After the latest of multiple reorganizations, the city's Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events is soon to announce that it's bringing its various theater and dance programs together under a common umbrella.
The city's developmental residencies and performance opportunities for Chicago theater artists and dancemakers—including the Storefront Theater, the DCA Incubator series, In the Works at Pritzker Pavilion and DanceBridge—previously had separate channels of application processes and other requirements. In an exclusive interview at the Cultural Center last month, DCASE's deputy commissioner for arts programming, Angel Ysaguirre, and director of performing arts, Shoshona Currier, said a bright side of the latest bureaucratic reshuffling was the opportunity to bring those channels together into a single stream, allowing for greater artistic flexibility.
“The City of Chicago is fortunate to have a rich theater and dance community,” DCASE commissioner Michelle T. Boone said in a statement announcing the new process. “What we hope to provide is a nurturing element for those budding productions as well as bringing original and exciting artistic pieces to new audiences.”
Ysaguirre and Currier, both new to DCASE this year, outlined what they described as a more agile and accessible programming process for both developmental residencies, which will be referred to as In the Works, and opportunities for full performance runs, which will now be known as Chicago Cultural Center Presents.
Currier said the single application process will allow the department's staff to help artists determine their work's own needs in terms of lengths of residencies or runs or appropriate venues (including the Storefront, the enclosed Pritzker stage in the winter months and the Cultural Center's newly renovated dance studio, among others), rather than artists having to choose among a set of rigid structures to apply for. It's an expansion of options, she says. "At the end of the day," Currier notes, "all artists need is space, time and money."
There had been serious concern among the theater and dance communities about the future of the performing arts programs when Sideshow Theatre Company's and WildClaw Theatre's , went up without city support in areas like marketing and PR that Storefront shows had previously received. As the fall wore on, I was further alarmed by the radio silence regarding theater programming for the first half of 2013.. My own concern had grown when theater pieces that were already programmed in the Storefront after the June 30 transition, including
Ysaguirre and Currier, who met with me after I made inquiries to DCASE public relations manager Cindy Gatziolis, say the quiet on the cultural front was due to the hurdles inherent in the transition and its attendant staffing and structural changes. Ysaguirre also says the new DCASE cultural staff was legally limited in the support it could provide to events like Sideshow's and WildClaw's, because they had been programmed while the theater was under the auspices of the Chicago Office of Tourism and Culture. (The city's tourism operations shifted to the private nonprofit Choose Chicago as of July 1.)
Much of that support will return for programming going forward in 2013 under the Cultural Center Presents and In the Works banners, Currier and Ysaguirre say. Storefront Theater programming for the first half of the year includes Akvavit Theatre's Gengangare, a triptych of three pieces by Norwegian playwright Jon Fosse; LiveWire Chicago Theatre's production of A Permanent Image by Samuel D. Hunter; Stage Left Theatre's tenth annual LeapFest new play festival; and Jackalope Theatre Company's premiere of The Casuals by Andrew Burden Swanson. Ysaguirre also said DCASE hopes to host more international programming, including Chicago Humanities Festival events. A complete schedule for Cultural Center Presents events through August is to be announced shortly.
Applications are currently open for In the Works residencies from March to December 2013, and for Cultural Center Presents slots from September 2013 to August 2014; the application deadline for both is January 15.