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Ahern: Beverly Arts Center bringing theater productions to Southland

The Beverly Arts Center has joined forces with other Chicago-aretheater groups bring professional products Southland. One scheduled performances will be

The Beverly Arts Center has joined forces with other Chicago-area theater groups to bring professional products to the Southland. One of the scheduled performances will be “It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play,” which will be staged as it is shown in this photo from last year’s production. Actors will play more than one role and will provide sound effects. | Supplied Photo

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Updated: December 19, 2012 10:42AM



The Beverly Arts Center, 2407 W. 111th St., Chicago, has joined forces with other Chicago-area theater groups in an effort to bring five professional productions to the city’s South Side, and to Southland suburbanites, too.

The effort, which was funded in part through a $60,000 grant from the Chicago Community Trust, will begin with the staging of “It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play.”

The BAC’s production will be performed in a radio studio style, where actors will take on several roles, and one will provide sound effects. It will run Nov. 30 to Dec. 2 and Dec. 7 to 9.

The other plays that will be presented will be Profile Theatre’s Jeff-nominated “After;” Porchlight Music Theatre’s Billie Holiday-inspired musical “Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill;” the Guild Literary Complex’s “Our Guides;” and the Beverly Arts Center’s production of Neil Simon’s “They’re Playing Our Song.”

Shellee Frazee, artistic director of theater and dance for the BAC, wrote an email expressing her excitement for the grant and for the new plays.

“It was our hope to expand the professional theater series and to develop partnerships with other professional companies in the Chicago area,” Frazee wrote. “By nurturing these partnerships we hope to develop a new and more diverse audience that will enhance our venue, allowing it to continue to expand its presence as a strong cultural icon of the South Side.

“This grant allows us the opportunity to expand our professional theatre series, which in turn opens doors to many new adventures. It is incredibly exciting to bring high quality theater to this space.”

Michael Weber, the managing artistic director at Porchlight Music Theatre, said Porchlight was the only equity theater that exclusively does musical theater in the city. He said his group’s production of the Billie Holiday play was an intense “tour de force” drama.

“This one-woman show is what happened to Billie Holiday,” Weber said. “This is what’s exciting about the show — “Billie” turns to the audience, and there is all her music and her band, but it really tells of her journey.”

The grant for the professional theater series was awarded through the Chicago Community Trust, a community foundation that last year gave more than $130 million to nonprofit organizations. The trust’s grant to the BAC was part of its program to enhance cultural vibrancy, access and diversity.

Suzanne Connor, the senior program officer for arts and culture at Chicago Community Trust, said the trust was awarded, in part, to strengthen the goal of art participation in the city.

“The recognition for the BAC was twofold,” Connor said. “They need to bring diverse offerings to the community, and they have a lot to offer. The BAC has a fabulous space that is often unknown. Their willingness to collaborate was exemplary.

“The BAC should be very proud of their facility. There is a lack of venues with high production values (in the Southland area). The BAC is a great facility with good production.”

Frazee agreed with Connor and was enthusiastic about the partnership with the other theater groups and its opportunity to showcase the BAC beyond Beverly’s borders.

“The BAC is definitely moving forward in very positive directions,” Frazee wrote. “The grant allowed us to reach out to other theater companies and to expand the use of our beautiful 400-seat theater.”

Subscriptions to the 2012-13 BAC Professional Theater Series shows will be available in two options: five shows for $90 ($80 for Beverly Arts Center members) or three shows for 10 percent off each show ticket. Tickets also can be purchased for individual shows.

Information: www.beverlyartcenter.org or (773) 445-3838.



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