Sunday, November 6, 2011

Curtain's Nearly Up For New B.E.T.

We went past the new Black Ensemble Theater Cultural Center at 4450 N Clark this weekend and wow! It's looking very nearly done.  Opening Night for the new space is November 18th, and we didn't think they were going to make it on such a tight schedule, but by gum, it looks like they will, and have.

Chris Jones, the theater critic of the Tribune, has a great article on B.E.T. and its founder, Jackie Taylor, reviewing the history of B.E.T. and its ten biggest milestones.  How we hope this is just the beginning for the 4400 block of Clark.  Ms. Taylor, you are a force to be reckoned with!
On Nov. 18, when Black Ensemble Theater officially opens its new $19 million home at 4450 N. Clark St. — currently a blank and depressing block of the North Side artery, soon to be filled with music and pizazz — the remarkable achievement of Jackie Taylor, the ebullient founder, artistic director and lifeblood, will be illuminated by the brightest spotlight it has yet seen.

The governor of Illinois is expected.  So are Dionne Warwick, numerous politicians, business leaders, community organizers.  There will surely be much praising of the woman dancing in the light, the woman who figured out that original, locally produced biographical shows about black music and musicians were the ideal tools to persuade Chicagoans from different neighborhoods, and with different lives, to come together in Jackie's House, for a good time.
Read the entire article, On the Eve of the Grand Opening on Clark Street, 10 Moments in Black Ensemble's 35-Year History, here.


  1. How exciting! This building is really worthy of the group about to be given "the final construction walk-through" and handed the keys.

    I was thinking today how challenging it must be to market a theater scene, especially in a major metropolitan area like Chicago.

    New York has effectively coined the name, "Broadway" and "Off Broadway." Other than that, however, the sexyness of a "theater scene" ends for the masses. You really have to have a marketing "hook" for each performance to raise the excitement level.

    Chicago has EXCELLENT theater. B.E.T. has always been a great example of what is unique to the Chicago theater scene. This building only elevates their credibility.

    My point, is that (to this ousider, anyway) that Chicago's "theater scene" is exactly what B.E.T. provides. Chicago seems to excel in "niche" theater - high quality accessible theater with a certain unique cultural take on the performance. Other examples are "The Bailiwick," "The Young Playwright's Festival," "Steppenwolf," "The Annoyance," "Lookinglass," "Pegasus Players," "Second City," "Green Mill's Poetry Slam," etc.

    My hope is that some day a clever Theater Critic will coin a phrase to capture the unique theater scene that B.E.T. and other Chicago theater companies represent.

    Look out, "Great White Way," we just stepped it up a notch!

  2. I'm so happy for Ms Taylor and her company! While other "off-Loop" theatre companies have come and gone over the last few decades, hers has survived and thrived.

    However, it's interesting that the story in today's Trib did not mention her humble origins at the Discovery Center adult-education school on Lincoln Ave. That's where I remember seeing one of her early hits.

  3. I think the building looks fantastic too. I walk by it every morning, and I love the fresh jolt of contemporary architecture amongst the 'wholesale only' purse storefronts! :)

  4. Hey Mr. or Ms. Mad: Don't knock the shops if you haven't tried them. For us ladies of Ravenswood and surrounding areas they are a treasure trove of affordable fashion, accessories and cosmetics. Can't wait for the holiday shopping season to get underway!