BY ELIZABETH DUNLOP RICHTER
Where were you in March 1983? Mia Saini was about meet the world in Los Angeles, California, at the Women’s Hospital at USC (University of Southern California). What better place to celebrate her 35th birthday in March of this year than TimeLine Theatre’s annual “Step into Time” Gala with its 1983 theme?
Mia, her husband, Sasha, and 260 other guests revived the fun, fashion, and music of Michael Jackson and Culture Club at one of Chicago’s liveliest benefits. The March 16th event at the Ritz Carlton continues TimeLine’s tradition of focusing on one specific year, encouraging guests to dress the part—Mia threatened to wear diapers, but found a more comfortable outfit channeling Madonna!
Company member and Associate Artistic Director, Nick Bowling, carefully assembled the talent and produced the evening’s entertainment, designed to take guests back to the designated year.
Guests often reflect TimeLine’s selected year in their dress choices or, in any case, feel free to be creatively festive.
TimeLine Theatre Company is celebrating its 21st year of pursuing its unique mission: to produce plays with historic significance that resonate with today’s social and political issues. The current season includes plays reflecting the extraordinary reign of Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II, a woman’s right to sexual pleasure, the pain of erroneous gender identification, and the pursuit of justice, all chosen to stimulate discussion and insight.
TimeLine was established in 1997 by a group of six DePaul Theatre School graduates, who each contributed $50 to launch the new company. Numerous Jeff Awards; kudos from critics, including the Wall Street Journal’s Terry Teachout and the Tribune’s Chris Jones; and the prestigious MacArthur Award for Creative and Effective Institutions attest to TimeLine’s success.
Celebrating a specific year takes some research. Company member and Artistic Director, PJ Powers, loves to bring a specific year to life for the party:
“’Step Into Time’ is a way for us to extend our mission to celebrate an era beyond those explored in our productions. And since it’s a party and a fundraiser, we are drawn to themes with high potential for entertainment and fun. We’ve focused primarily on early- or mid-20th century throughout TimeLine’s first 20 years, taking guests further back into history, but this year we wanted to explore a year that is more ‘modern’ than any we’ve done before—a year that included changing technology, questionable fashion, and undeniably iconic music: 1983.”
In addition to producing Jeff Award-winning plays, TimeLine runs a unique Living History program with Chicago Public Schools that has reached nearly 6,000 students. Supported by proceeds of the Gala as well as such philanthropies as Polk Brothers Foundation, The Crown Family, the Japanese Chamber of Commerce, and the Lloyd A. Fry Foundation, students experience theater in a new context.
Through Living History residencies, TimeLine teaching artists work with classroom teachers to explore the themes of TimeLine productions and enable students to read scenes and discuss the messages, enjoy behind the scenes tours, and attend matinees. Many of the students have never seen live theater before their TimeLine experience.
Squeezed in its tight space at 615 West Wellington, TimeLine is exploring options for a new theater complex that would ideally include two flexible theater spaces, a bar and café, offices, and rehearsal space.
To learn more about TimeLine’s Living History program, its current production and the just announced new season, visit timelinetheatre.com.
Elizabeth Richter is a communications strategist and TimeLine Theatre board member.