The following is from the Nov. 17, 2007, edition of National Public Radio. NPR's report focuses on the highly successful House Theatre of Chicago, founded by SMU alumnus Nathan Allen, who received this year's Emerging Leader Award (ELA) from the University.
By Noah Adams
• Read & hear the NPR Story
• Video of his ELA acceptance speech
• Ipod of his ELA acceptance speech
• The House Theatre of Chicago
• Nathan's bio and credits
"Chicago theater." The words fit together neatly, as they have ever since the first performance — tickets 75 cents — by the Isherwood and McKinzie Theatrical Company in 1837.
These days, Chicago is known for the prestigious Goodman Theatre, downtown in the Loop, and the legendary Steppenwolf Theatre, which started in a church basement 30 years ago and brought forth actors like Gary Sinise, John Malkovich and Joan Allen.
Newer on the block: The House Theatre of Chicago, started by a group of Southern Methodist University grads who came to Chicago six years ago. They had been offered funding in Denver, but they chose to come empty-pocketed to Chicago, simply because of the intensely competitive and supportive theater community.
The troupe's first show was at Halloween 2001: In a borrowed storefront space across from a cemetery, they premiered Death and Harry Houdini — an underground hit, a sold-out run. The Terrible Tragedy of Peter Pan came next, and the House was off and running, always with big shows in small places, with music and dance and battle scenes and actors flying overhead.
A detractor wrote that the House does theater for "20-somethings looking for an unsubtle night out." Artistic Director Nathan Allen doesn't agree.
"We're going for something emotional," Allen says. "And what we want is a shared Aristotelian catharsis, where you can laugh and cry at something in public with people you love — and with perfect strangers."
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