The Gallery Cabaret, Chicago Latino Theater Alliance, Chicago Children’s Theater, Lyric Opera — September 13, 2020

Below is a lightly edited transcript of Playtime’s Chicago Theater Report for September 13, 2020:

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RIP Kenny Strandberg

Many of us in Chicago were shocked and saddened to hear of the death of Kenny Strandberg, founder of The Gallery Cabaret. As I noted on my Facebook page, The Gallery Cabaret carved a unique niche in Chicago’s tavern culture: A dive bar with Christmas lights on year-round, cheap beer specials and video games, its cabaret license, as well as its owner’s love of the arts, made The Gallery a special place.

See, a cabaret license means that an establishment can have live entertainment but can’t charge a cover. The Gallery had such a license, which meant that for the cost of a drink anyone in Chicago could enjoy live music or, on some nights, comedy.  

But Kenny didn’t stop there: The bar was also an art gallery.  Local artists could exhibit their work, adding much to the establishment. The piece de resistance of the bar was its Sunday night dinner: A full three-course meal, starting with cheese and crackers, moving onto an entree with salad and sides, then dessert. Free of charge as long as you bought a few drinks. Elderly and feeble locals who were known to be sick and homebound might expect a plate brought to their door by one of The Gallery’s employees or regulars. 

This was a bar that took care of its own.

You might ask why I’m mentioning a bar in what is supposed to be a theater report. The reasons are both simple and many:

First of all, the arts are the arts, and many people who make their living in the arts work in bars and other similar establishments. Many an actor is also a fine artist, a singer, or a bartender. Our taverns are a lifeline for the arts community and we should never forget this fact.

Artists, including actors and those who work within the theater industry, often work their so-called day jobs at bars, restaurants, and the like. A city that loses its taverns often loses its arts community, because its artists can no longer pay the rent. Nor can they come together to network and form the connections that are necessary for a thriving and viable community.

It’s all connected, my Lovelies. I don’t expect you, as individuals, to do anything about it, so much as I want to remind us all of how our arts community is tied in with our restaurant and hospitality industries. All have been decimated by the pandemic. All are at risk of never recovering from what has happened, at least not within the next decade. 

At some point, all of us, patrons, artists, servers, managers, and owners, are going to have to figure out how to come together and keep our arts, hospitality, and restaurant industries going. Nobody is going to do it for us.

Theater News

There are several upcoming streaming and outdoor shows that you should know about:

For the Love of Lyric

While the Lyric Opera’s leadership postponed the company’s season until next year, they still wanted to provide a socially distanced gala event. So tonight, at 6 pm Central, For the Love of Lyric streams on Facebook and YouTube. This is a free, virtual concert hosted by Renee Fleming and includes performances by many Lyric and Ryan Center stars, as well as special guests. Tune in tonight to enjoy world-class artists and their music.

DESTINOS AL AIRE!

On Thursday, September 17th, The Chicago Latino Theater Alliance will present DESTINOS AL AIRE!,   “A one of a kind, live, drive-in experience celebrating local Latino theater companies, musicians, and films from the comfort and safety of your car.” The tickets to the live presentation are sold out, sadly, but it is possible to enjoy a live stream at home via the Chicago Latino Theater Alliance Facebook page. 

Beatrix Potter Puppet Show

Chicago Children’s Theater’s Beatrix Potter puppet show will screen outdoors as an interactive, drive-in movie beginning October 1st and running through the 18th. The show includes four of Potter’s classic stories, including The Tale of Peter Rabbit. Families may view the show from their cars or reserve a socially distanced pod for outdoor viewing. Visit chicagochildrenstheatre.org for more information.

Wine Recommendation: Pam’s Unoaked Chardonnay

I couldn’t help but note that the weather underwent a huge change this week, reminding me that we are definitely moving into Fall. Fall meals demand Fall wines, which is why I’m suggesting the affordable Pam’s Unoaked Chardonnay, purchased at Gene’s Sausage Shop in Lincoln Square. Costing right around $15, this wine has enough body to stand up to richer dishes while still being a very decent, dare I say refreshing sipping wine. Like last week’s wine, it is a bit sweeter than I normally go for and has some pretty distinct pear notes which are just dandy, though not my usual style. Still, I suspect this will be a crowd-pleaser or as much as a wine can be described as such in these socially distanced times. Visit genessausage.com for store hours.