New York mag calls Chicago theater "our farm team"

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Photograph: Broadway circa 1957 from�Iryna1 / Shutterstock.com

Photograph: Broadway circa 1957 from�Iryna1 / Shutterstock.com

I awoke this morning to discover that all this time, I've been covering the minor leagues. Or at least that's what New York magazine says in its annual "Reasons to Love New York" issue, out this week. At number 41 on the list: "Because Chicago Theater is Our Farm Team."


I should be fair to New York theater critic Scott Brown (who is not the guy who just lost to Elizabeth Warren, and who I once interviewed in his capacity as cowriter of the kooky Gutenberg! The Musical!), who may not have written that incredibly condescending headline. Brown's piece itself—an interview with Steppenwolf Theatre Company ensemble member Tracy Letts, now on Broadway in the Chicago-born production of Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?—actually gives relatively humble thanks that, as Brown puts it, "Chicago, fortunately, does takeout."


And it's true that Chicago theater has lent New York the use of some of our best theater this year: In addition to Steppenwolf's Woolf on Broadway, Route 66's A Twist of Water, the New Colony's Five Lesbians Eating a Quiche, Theater Oobleck's The Hunchback Variations Opera and Theatre Y's I Killed My Mother have all had healthy runs in New York's smaller theaters this year, with the Inconvenience resident playwright Ike Holter's Hit the Wall up next in the new year. And Chicago-bred talents like David Cromer, Dexter Bullard and Jessie Mueller have made big splashes there of late. Having New York's, and the nation's, attention on Chicago's theater scene is good for us in many ways. We're happy to let you borrow our stuff.


But oy, that headline. Look, New York (and New York), we understand your city prides itself on practicing a special, superadvanced form of smug navelgazing. But the tired implication that the thousands of theater artists working to make lives in Chicago and make art for Chicago audiences are a "farm team" for New York? That we're all toiling here in hopes of getting called up to the big leagues? That's bush-league stuff.



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