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On Stage

Bartleby the Scrivener

March 16, 2007

The $30,000 Bequest Program

The $30,000 Bequest

March 17, 2007

The Dressing Room

March 18, 2007

Man with Bags

March 17, 2007

More Shows...

History

Untitled Document

Compiled by dramaturg Dorian Hadley. Special thanks to: Producing Artistic Director Emeritus Ina Marlowe, Richard Christiansen the author of “A Theater of Our Own: A History and Memoir of 1,001 Nights in Chicago,” Glenn Humphreys and Teresa Yoder of the Chicago Public Library’s Special Collections and Preservation Division. This production history list does not include all shows. The complete archives for Organic Theater Company and Touchstone Theatre are at the Harold Washington Library in Chicago.  Productions are grouped by year, not necessarily placed by season or in exact chronological order of performance.

1970

Founding Artistic Director: Stuart Gordon

Stuart Gordon’s Organic Theater Company arrived in Chicago at the start of the 1970s, and for the next few years, in a time of explod­ing creativity, it was the quintessential Chicago theater group. Venture­some, innovative, energetic, improvisational, and always on the edge of disaster or triumph, it was a small but powerful and influential force in fostering the talent and shaping the personality of the city’s theater scene. It produced more than a few duds, but it also presented a handful of Chicago-born masterworks that were both supremely of the moment and way ahead of their time.”
- Richard Christiansen, A Theater of Our Own: A History and Memoir of 1,001 Nights in Chicago

  • Animal Farm by Ray Bradbury
  • The Odyssey adaptation
  • The Tarot Cards, an original production consisting of twenty-two scenes based on the audiences’ shuffling and cutting of the Tarot cards
  • Candide, commedia del arte style show that the Organics also took to New York’s Public Theater

1971

  • Warp by Stuart Gordon and Bury St. Edmund, an original science-fiction epic adventure in three parts that was performed during several seasons and toured to New York’s Ambassador Theater
  • Warp“Warp.” Courtesy of the Chicago Public Library Special Collections and Preservation Division. Reproduced with the permission of Cookie Gluck, “Warp” costume designer.

“The breakthrough hit came in 1971-72 with their three­-part “Warp!” which they gleefully trumpeted as “the world's first science ­fiction epic-adventure play in serial form.” The extreme costumes, featuring space suits made of macramé threads and sci-fi helmets fashioned from metal mixing bowls and rabbit-ears TV antennas, were by Cookie Gluck, a former art major at the University of Wisconsin who was married to Organic actor Cecil O'Neal. She had never worked in the theater before, and, she says, “If the designs seemed imaginative, it was because I didn't know any bet­ter. The only reason the men's space costumes exposed their rear ends, which was considered very daring at the time, was that I had no idea how to construct a pair of trousers.”

Richard Christiansen

1972

  • Incorporation of Organic Theater Company

1973

  • Warp had a short run at the Ambassador Theater in New York
  • Bloody Bess by William Norris and John Ostrander

““Bloody Bess,” by William Norris and John Ostrander, the story of a woman pirate’s revenge on the evil aristocrat who had raped her and murdered her lover, was at once a full-out, stunt-filled evocation of old swashbucklers and an early, bristling feminist statement.”
- Richard Christiansen

1974

  • Sexual Perversity in Chicago by David Mamet, World Premiere Production


“Sexual Perversity in Chicago.” Courtesy of the Chicago Public Library Special Collections and Preservation Division.

““Sexual Perversity in Chicago,” staged by the Organic in June 1974, was David Mamet's first full-length work to be presented in his home­town of Chicago. When Mamet brought “Sexual Perversity” to Stuart Gordon, it was a series of Second City-style sketches. Gordon saw the spark there, and he worked with Mamet to shape the sketches into a single play that told of the rise and fall of a love affair amid the careless scene of Chicago singles bars. For the Organic actors, used to improvising, Mamet's complex, precise structure of dialogue caused some problems. At one point, Carolyn Gordon, portraying the show’s heroine, questioned a patch of speech she was having trouble getting down right. “David, what is this?” she asked. Mamet took the cigar out of his mouth and replied, “It's good writing.” The play began with a bang, an obscenity­-filled torrent of loud boasts by the hero’s best friend (played by Warren Casey) about out­rageous sexual escapades, and it closed on a wordless scene of almost unbearable grief that Gordon staged with infinite tenderness and sadness.”

  • Richard Christiansen

“I actually knew David from my Chicago days when we were kicking around the Chicago theater scene. However, David became known for his writing and pursued that instead of acting. I remember the first reading that was done of his “American Buffalo” in our little theater company. The language was jarring. It got your attention fast. It was far out riveting stuff and it became the hallmark of all of David’s work.”

  • Dennis Franz

[Interview by John Aiello, published by The Electric Review: http://www.electricrev.net/archive/2003/october/
cdwatch1.html, [c] 2003 and 2005. Used with permission. All rights reserved. Duplication expressly prohibited.]

“[David Mamet] was this young writer who every week would come in with a new script for me to read. He'd hand me a script and say, "Stuart, this is going to win the Pulitzer Prize," and I'd go, "Yeah, right." We took two of his plays and put them together and that ended up being Sexual Perversity in Chicago, which was his first professional production, in 1973.”

  • Stuart Gordon

[Interview by Marc Savlov, published by The Austin Chronicle: http://www.austinchronicle.com/issues/dispatch/2002-06-28/screens_feature.html. Used with permission from Marc Savlov.]

1975

  • Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Parts I & II, won two Joseph Jefferson Awards: Stuart Gordon for Best Director, Bruce Taylor for Best Actor in a Principal Role

“The two-part “Huckleberry Finn” (1975), faithfully adapted by the company from Mark Twain's novel and presented in a simple staging, conjured up both the immense good humor and the inspiring good spirit of Twain's writing. The scene on the raft in which Huck (Brian Hickey) humbly realizes how his spiteful tricks have humiliated his fellow human being, the escaped slave Jim (Taylor), was devastating in its impact, beautifully played by the actors in a superbly balanced duet.”
- Richard Christiansen

  • Beckoning Fair One by Bury St. Edmund
  • The Wonderful Ice Cream Suit by Ray Bradbury, toured to UCLA Berkeley in 1977

“Stuart Gordon gathered together a new company of unknowns that included Dennis Franz, Bruce (later Meshach) Taylor, and Joe Mantegna. And thanks to a tip from his brother David, he found a lovely comedy, “The Wonderful Ice Cream Suit,” by Ray Bradbury. The play concerned five urban Latino misfits, alike only in their physical measurements, whose lives are marvelously changed by a magical white suit they take turns wearing. Gordon brought it to the stage with a joyous sense of brotherly unity amid uproarious diversity. It was performed with great zest and great soul, sending out an infec­tious feeling of goodwill into its audience.”

- Richard Christiansen

1976

  • Volpone by Ben Jonson
  • Switch Bitch by Roald Dahl, adapted by Stuart Gordon
  • Cops by Terry Curtis Fox


Joe Mantegna and Dennis Franz in “Cops.” Courtesy of the Chicago Public Library Special Collections and Preservation Division.

““Cops” (1976), from a script by Terry Curtis Fox, with Mantegna and Franz as two rough-and-ready plainclothes policemen caught in a shootout in a diner, preceded the gritty TV dramas of NYPD Blue, The Shield, The Wire, and others with its naturalistic look at police manners, mores, and procedures. (When Gordon showed the play to a group of policemen to get their reactions as “technical consultants,” they praised his knowledge of police mentality, but, they told him, “After you shoot the guy, you should kick him.” “But he's dead,” Gordon said. “Doesn't matter,” they answered. “You kick the son of a bitch anyway.”)”
- Richard Christiansen

1977

  • The Sirens of Titan by Kurt Vonnegut, adapted by Stuart Gordon, toured to UCLA Berkeley
  • Bleacher Bums, concept by Joe Mantegna, performed during numerous seasons in various incarnations, including a run in 1978 at the Performing Garage in NY and a WTTW TV production that aired in 1979

Bleacher Bums
“Bleacher Bums.” Courtesy of the Chicago Public Library Special Collections and Preservation Division.

“In 1977 came the masterpiece of “Bleacher Bums.” The “comedy in nine innings” was a true company work, taking off from Cubs fanatic Mantegna’s belief that there was a play to be formed from the characters who daily fill the right-field bleachers at Wrigley Field. As Mantegna remembers, “Stuart called the company together and told us we had run out of all our grant funding, that we only had a few bucks left, and that there was no money to produce a show. Then he asked, ‘Does anybody have any ideas?’ So I raised my hand.” After three field trips to the ballpark with Mantegna, the actors came up with their story of a group of die-hard fans who, against all odds, stick to their love of those perpetual losers, the Cubs. (When John Belushi, then performing at The Second City, heard about the show, he told Gordon, “If the Cubs lose, I’ll kill you.”)”

- Richard Christiansen

1978

  • Night Feast by Stuart Gordon, based on Beowolf

1979

  • Campaign by Richard Harris
  • The Little Sister by Raymond Chandler
  • Jonathan Wild by Henry Fielding, adapted by Lawrence Bommer

1980

  • The Special Prosecutor, an adaptation of Nikolai Gogol’s The Inspector General
  • A Decent Life by Pat Rahmann
  • Fornocopia music and lyrics by William J. Norris, book by William J. Norris and Stuart Gordon

Courtesy of the Chicago Public Library Special Collections and Preservation Division.

 

PoeCourtesy of the Chicago Public Library Special Collections and Preservation Division.

 Poe by Lawrence Bommer and Stephen Most

1981

  • The King Must Die by Mary Renault, adapted by Stuart Gordon and William J. Norris

 The Organics move into the Buckingham Building at 3319 N. Clark Street, formerly an old movie theater.

Courtesy of the Chicago Public Library Special Collections and Preservation Division.


1982

  • Dr. Rat by William Kotzwinkle, adapted by Richard Fire
  •  Gulliver’s Last Travels by Lawrence Bommer
  • E/R Emergency Room, conceived and written by the Organics under the supervision of Dr. Ronald Berman

“In 1982, Stuart Gordon and com­pany, working from their improvisations on a scenario of emergency room stories by Dr. Ronald Berman, shaped a new show called E/R: Emergency Room. Again, it was something new and risky, a detailed look at hospital personnel and practices that, in its realism, preceded the latter-day hospital series on television. The company had little ready cash for production values, but scenic designer Rick Paul, with a little leftover drywall from the building ren­ovation, managed a realistic setting for the play, and the actors, who had spent time observing life in hospital emergency rooms, gave the story an urgent sense of authenticity. Word-of-mouth from doctors, nurses, and hospital employees who had been invited to see the show in previews kept it going until it clicked with a larger audience. The show became a hit, the longest-running show in the Organic's history. It ran for three and a half years, first at the Buckingham and then in a transfer to the Forum Theatre in suburban Summit.

. . . For [founding artistic director Stuart] Gordon, the long-running hit “E/R Emergency Room” was “the catastrophe of success.” It interrupted the flow of work at the Organic, and, according to Gordon, it led to his board of directors wanting “the next show to be another E/R. They would say things like, ‘We think the next show should be a hit.’ And I would answer, ‘We hope all of our shows will be hits, but sometimes it doesn’t work that way.’” When Gordon proposed an expansion into filmmaking, starting with his adaptation of the horror story “Re-Animator,” by H. P. Lovecraft, the board rejected the idea. That, in effect, was the end of Gordon at the Organic. His original, founding free spirit could not fit into the new, controlling demands of institutionalization. Gordon left for the West Coast and made his “Re-Animator,” released in 1985 and a cult hit ever since.

. . . The Organic survived, but dwindled, through several succeeding managements, first under East Coast director Thomas Riccio and then under Richard Fire, a member of the company who took it over briefly and in 1989 brought back Bleacher Bums, directed by Mantegna, for a short bit of reflected glory. Later, the company merged with the small Touchstone Theatre of producer-director Ina Marlowe, who sold the Buckingham Building and moved the reduced Organic through a journey to several smaller houses.”

- Richard Christiansen

1983–84

Starting in 1983, a Lab Series was created for the smaller theater to provide a forum for collaborative and developing work. The Organic Greenhouse, a collective (led by Steve Pickering) of small non-Equity theaters such as City Lit, Minasama-No, Fanfire, and the Atlantic Theater Company, provided needy companies with temporary space as well as sponsoring Chicago New Plays and The Seed Shows. The Organic used the space to workshop new plays and stage readings. Many successful shows made the transition from Greenhouse to Mainstage.

  • The Forever Wars by Joe Haldman
  • Angry Housewives, a musical by A.M Collins
  • Patchwork City: The Story is Us by Robin Bady for the Organic Youth Theater
  • Three Card Monte by Wayne Juhlin
  • Staring Back by Susan Nussbaum and Lawrence Perkins

1985

  • Heat by Richard Fire and Gregory Doyle
  • Rubber City by Thomas Riccio
  • Akron by Thomas Riccio

Lab Series:  “Dope” by Louise Dilenge and Shawn Wong, based on the novel by Sax Rohmer; “Kiss It Goodbye” by Scott Jacobs and Michael Miner;

“Threads” by Jonathan Bolt

1986

  • The Stranger in Stanley’s Room by George Freek
  • Betawulf by Thomas Riccio
Lab Series:  “Diggory’s Rag and Other Tales” by Annabel Thomas

1987

  • Reconstructing the Temple from Memory by Michael Meyers
  • Verbatim by Michael Meyers

1988

Artistic Director: Richard Fire

  • Titus Andronicus by William Shakespeare
  • The Danube and The Conduct of Life by Maria Irene Fornes
  • Not for Real by Leonard Pitt
  • Little Caesar by W.R. Burnett, adapted by Thomas Riccio and Michael Miner
  • Rocky Horror Picture Show by Richard O’Brian

Lab Series:  “Portrait of a Shiksa” by Sharon Evans;
“The Outstanding Clothes of Ms. Madeline Rose” by Mary Ellen McGarry; “Diana” by Renee Landry;

“Politicos” by Paolo Mazzucato; “Prosthesis” by Iris Moore and Beth Tanner

1989

  • Prayers for the Undoing of Spells by Bryn Magnus
  • Swamp Foxes by Laurence Gonzales

You Hold My Heart Between Your Teeth by Blair Thomas

1990

  • Sister Carrie by Theodore Dreiser, adapted by Tom Creamer with original music by Jim Ragland, World Premiere Production
  • Tiny Alice by Edward Albee, Ina Marlowe worked closely with playwright Edward Albee for this production
  • Ina Marlowe and Edward Albee
  • Ina Marlowe and Edward Albee. Courtesy of the Chicago Public Library Special Collections and Preservation Division. Photo by Art Shay.
  • “Tiny Alice.” Courtesy of the Chicago Public Library Special Collections and Preservation Division.

1991

Organic Theater Company wins the Kennedy Center Award for New Plays for Jeffrey Sweet’s American Enterprise.

  • American Enterprise by Jeffrey Sweet, 1989 Kennedy Center Award for New Plays
  • M: The Murderer by Jack Clark and Bob Meyer, based on the Fritz Lang film “M”
  • Just One World by John Lisbon Wood, music by Ira Antelis, lyrics by Eric Mercury

Greenhouse:  “Victims” by Antony van Zyl; “Nixon Live! The Future is Now” by Frank Melcori 

Touchstone Theatre performs at the Halsted Theater Center.

  • Hospice by Pearl Cleage, directed by Phillip Van Lear, artistic director Ina Marlowe worked closely with playwright Pearl Cleage regarding this production
  • Moon for the Misbegotten by Eugene O’Neill, Jeff Awards: Ina Marlowe for Direction, Melinda Moonahan for Actress in a Principal Role

1992

  • The Pornographic Man by Jim Marcus
  • Gilligan’s Island: The Musical by Sherwood and Lloyd J. Schwartz
  • Black Beauty by Anna Sewell, adapted by Jim Kozicki, broadcast on WFMT Radio: Chicago Theatres on the Air

Greenhouse: “A Few Simple Truths” by Richard Fire

1993

  • In the Flesh by Clive Barker

In the Flesh

“In the Flesh.” Courtesy of the Chicago Public Library Special Collections and Preservation Division. Reproduced with the permission of photographer Arnold Stellema.

 

1994

  • The Real Thing by Tom Stoppard
  • The Fantasticks music by Harvey Schmidt, book and lyrics by Tom Jones, directed by Sarah Gable
  • The Seagull by Anton Chekhov, a contemporary American adaptation by Kendall Marlowe, concept and directed by Ina Marlowe
  • Slow Dance on the Killing Ground by William Hanley, directed by artistic associate Jonathan Wilson
  • Desire Under the Elms by Eugene O’Neill, directed by artistic associate Jonathan Wilson

 

1995

  • Into the Woods music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and book by James Lapine, directed by Karen Kessler
  • Wonderful Tennessee by Brian Friel, directed by James Sullivan
  • Give the Lady What She Wants by Kendall Marlowe, directed by Ina Marlowe, World Premiere Production
  • Ain’t Misbehavin’ music by Thomas “Fats” Waller, directed by Karen Kessler

1996

  • Bedroom Farce by Alan Ayckbourn, directed by Karen Kessler, artistic director Ina Marlowe communicated with playwright Alan Ayckbourn regarding this production
  • Rumors by Neil Simon, directed by Karen Kessler
  • Long Days Journey Into Night by Eugene O’Neill, directed by artistic associate Jonathan Wilson
  • More Fun Than Bowling by Steven Dietz, directed by Rachel Silverman

Touchstone Theatre and Organic Theater Company merge, dissolving Touchstone Theatre. The company “does business as” Organic Touchstone Theater for two years due to the Touchstone audience base. Producing artistic director Ina Marlowe is named one of the Chicago Tribune’s “Chicagoans of the Year in the Arts.”

1997

The 1996 merger of Organic Theater Company and Touchstone Theatre led to a series of location changes for the organization “doing business as” Organic Touchstone.  The Organic Theater Company building at 3319 N. Clark Street had been a rental facility for years. The producing aspect of the Organic had died and it became essentially a theater landlord.  When the merger with Touchstone Theatre occurred, Organic Touchstone had both a piece of theater real estate and the ability to produce artistically.  Ina Marlowe’s Touchstone Theatre had rented space at 2851 N. Halsted Street.  When Marlowe became producing artistic director for the Organic, the Organic 3319 N. Clark Street building was committed for an indefinite period of time as a rental space for a long-running show produced by another theater company.  Rehearsals and administrative work were done at 3319 N. Clark Street, while Organic Touchstone performances still had to occur at the 2851 N. Halsted Street rental space.  The Organic Touchstone production “Love! Valour! Compassion!” transferred from 2851 N. Halsted Street to 3319 N. Clark Street, making it the first performance in the old Organic space since the merger.  It was the only production of the newly merged company to appear at the 3319 N. Clark Street building.  After that, the theater was rented out.  Producing artistic director Ina Marlowe had the challenge of two spaces to manage and a merged Organic Touchstone identity to forge.  

  • Love! Valour! Compassion! by Terrence McNally, directed Steve Scott, Midwest Premiere Production, this production transferred from 2851 N. Halsted Street to 3319 N. Clark Street
  • Racing Demon by David Hare, Midwest Premiere Production, Best Production Chicago Sun Times, Jeff Award: Mike Nussbaum for Best Actor, this was the first show of the merged Organic Touchstone
  • Aristocrats by Brian Friel
  • Sylvia by A.R. Gurney, directed by artistic associate Jonathan Wilson, Midwest Premiere Production
  • Indiscretions by Jeremy Sams, directed by Susan Booth, After Dark Awards: Susan Booth for Direction, Linda Kimbrough for Acting
  • The Steward of Christendom by Sebastian Barry, director Ina Marlowe worked closely with playwright Sebastian Barry on this Midwest Premiere Production, Best Production Chicago Tribune


    “The Steward of Christendom.” Courtesy of the Chicago Public Library Special Collections and Preservation Division.

    Organic Theater Company's one-act breast-cancer awareness play, "The Gift," has its first performance.  Over the next couple of years, it will be seen at over 50 venues throughout the Chicago area.  Breast cancer survivor Lt. Gov. Corinne Wood even made an appearance after one of the productions to promote early detection and breast cancer treatment programs. The play “The Gift” is by Kendall Marlowe, was commissioned by the Hope Cancer Care Network and is published by the Dramatic Publishing Company.  As a result of viewing a production of “The Gift,” a Naperville high school commissions Kendall Marlowe to write a one-act testicular cancer awareness play, “Unstoppable.”

1998

  • Moonlight by Harold Pinter, Midwest Premiere Production
  • Mere Mortals by David Ives, directed by Bill Pullinski
  • An American Daughter by Wendy Wasserstein, director Ina Marlowe worked closely with playwright Wendy Wasserstein (including significant rewrites) on this Midwest Premiere Production

1999

Confident that the audience base of the now dissolved Touchstone Theatre has transferred to the Organic, the theater is once again called Organic Theater Company.


  • Ina Marlowe and Billy Roche.  Courtesy of the Chicago Public Library Special Collections and Preservation Division.  Belfry by Billy Roche, director Ina Marlowe worked closely with playwright Billy Roche (including a trip to Ireland) on this American Premiere of the play and the playwright’s work


 

 

 

 

  • Collected Stories by Donald Margulies, director Ina Marlowe worked closely with playwright Donald Margulies for this Chicago Premiere Production

In the midst of financial difficulty, it is decided that Organic Theater Company will move to the suburbs to be closer to its audience base. The Company downsizes considerably and uses the Evanston YMCA as a venue.

  • The Old Settler by John Henry Redwood, director Jonathan Wilson worked closely with playwright John Henry Redwood on this production

2000

  • Amy’s View by David Hare, directed by Ina Marlowe, Midwest Premiere Production
  • Goodnight Children Everywhere by Richard Nelson, director Ina Marlowe communicated with playwright Richard Nelson regarding this Midwest Premiere Production
  • The Food Chain by Nicky Silver, directed by Bill Pullinski

The Food Chain

Courtesy of the Chicago Public Library Special Collections and Preservation Division. Photo by Art Shay.

2001

  • Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck, directed by Jonathan Wilson

2002

  • The Substance of Fire by Jon Robin Baitz, this is the last show performed in Evanston

Organic Theater Company wins the Kennedy Center Award for New Plays for Jennifer Maisel’s The Last Seder.  This makes Organic Theater Company one of the few theaters in the country to have received the award twice (the first was for Jeffrey Sweet’s American Enterprise). The theater company moves from Evanston into the Loyola University Kathleen Mullady Theatre in Chicago.

  • The Last Seder by Jennifer Maisel, World Premiere Production, 2001 Kennedy Center Award for New Plays
  • Five Rooms of Furniture by Dhana-Marie Branton, World Premiere Production, directed by artistic associate Jonathan Wilson

 

2003

  • A Kind Asylum by Julie Brudlos, directed by Ina Marlowe, World Premiere Production
  • The Lady from Dubuque by Edward Albee, director Ina Marlowe worked closely with playwright Edward Albee on this Chicago Premiere Production
  • Sleuth by Anthony Shaffer, directed by Ina Marlowe

“Sleuth.” Courtesy of the Chicago Public Library Special Collections and Preservation Division.

2004

  • Miss Julie by August Strindberg, adapted by Christopher Grobe, World Premiere Production
  • The Member of the Wedding by Carson McCullers, directed by Jonathan Wilson

2005

No longer associated with Loyola University, Organic Theater Company presents three staged readings in the fall at The Feltre School in Chicago:  “Oedipus Rex,” “Ghosts,” and “Desire Under the Elms.”  At the end of 2005, Ina Marlowe entrusts Organic Theater Company to producing artistic director Alexander Gelman.

2006

Producing Artistic Director: Alexander Gelman