Ozzily Yours

Monday, July 24, 2006

Ira Glass and Peter Sagal Rock the House

I suspect I will never tire of Chicago's theater scene. As much as I loved living in Boston, it always frustrated me that the choices there were generally college or just-barely-out-of-college troupes, or "Broadway in Boston," with very little in between. Chicago is filled with tiny theater companies performing all different kinds of shows in hole-in-the-wall, out-of-the-way spaces. Sometimes the results are amazing, sometimes less so (no link, to protect the not-so-innocent), but there is always something new and different going on in Chicago theater.

In grad school, I was lucky enough to meet a wonderful woman who happened to have a bunch of college friends who had started up Barrel of Monkeys, a local troupe that provides writing workshops for kids whose schools are lacking arts funding, and then puts together hysterical performances based on the kids' stories. One thing led to another, my friend started chairing their board of directors, and we found ourselves at their annual fundraiser last spring where, on a whim at the silent auction, we purchased season tickets for another local company about whom I knew I'd heard good things... wasn't sure what, but, hey, the money was to help the kids get their writing workshops, so who cares? It's for a good cause, right?

That was, quite possibly, the best whim I've acted on all year. The House Theatre of Chicago, which recently celebrated its 5th birthday, has unquestionably provided us with some of our best theater-going experiences this year. The fact that the first show we saw was an extraordinary new adaptation of The Wizard of Oz clearly worked in their favor, but the next two shows, also original productions, were incredible as well.

And that is how we found ourselves, Saturday night, attending the company's first annual fundraiser, consuming tasty wine and delicious food, buying yet more theater tickets at yet another silent auction (are you sensing a pattern?), telling the young actors in person just how good we really think they are, and chatting with other fans of the House Theatre's work.

And one of those other fans was none other than NPR personality Peter Sagal, host of Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me. He's a member of the House board, and I stopped him to tell him how thrilled I was that two of my favorite entertainment options had a connection in him, and asked how he got involved with the House. Turns out his wife got him tickets to one of their shows a few years ago, they both loved it, he ended up chatting with the staff of the theater, and now he's very proud to be a member of their board. I told him about Barrel of Monkeys, because I got the feeling he'd like it, we talked for a minute or two more (and, yes, I gushed about Wait, Wait a little more, too), and he headed on his way.

Later, during his official remarks before the keynote by the artistic director, Mr. Sagal observed that what he loves about the House Theatre is that it causes him to think of Shakespeare's line, "You must reawaken your faith." And I was so proud to be able to support an organization whose productions make so many of us feel that way - re-energized, renewed, sometimes just happy to be alive.

And I was also happy that Peter Sagal had, at some point, introduced his NPR coworker, Ira Glass, to the House Theatre, back when This American Life was still based in Chicago. Because it turns out that Ira Glass became a huge fan as well - so much so that he not only flew back from New York for this event, he also agreed to participate. And not only participate, but sing "Thunder Road" with Peter Sagal. And I must say: Ira Glass and Peter Sagal are not very good singers. However, watching them turn the song's bridge into an impromptu dance which ended when the 5'7" Sagal tried to dip the 6' tall Glass was truly amazing, and I'm very, very happy I could be there to witness it.


  • Sounds like a great time! Sometimes impulse buys turn out to be the best ones. :)

    By Anonymous Moth, at 7/25/2006 6:55 AM  

  • I'm so jealous! All we've got here in Philly is Terry Gross, and I still haven't met her.

    By Blogger Maren, at 7/28/2006 7:22 AM  

  • Ah, but when you *do* meet Terry Gross, then I'll be totally jealous!

    By Blogger mcm, at 7/28/2006 9:02 AM  

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