There have been a series of theaters housed in the building at 1328 W. Morse in Rogers Park since 1912, when it opened as a vaudeville house called (logically enough) the Morse Theater. In the 1930s it became the Co-Ed Theatre, but closed in 1954. After being the home of Congregation Beth Israel Anshe Yanova and a shoe repair shop, the building was acquired by the Colonel Jennifer Pritzker’s Tawani enterprises in 2010 and converted to the Mayne Stage after major renovations, with the Act One pub occupying the front space. The theater has provided rentals for concerts, comedy shows, and live theater productions, as well as private events.
But in 2016, it turned entirely into private events. And then the COVID-19 shutdown meant he was completely in limbo.
Enter a doctor and a magician to enact another resurrection. Oh, and it’s the same person.
Dr. Ricardo T. Rosenkranz, neonatologist, assistant professor of clinical pediatrics at Northwestern’s Feinberg School of Medicine, and creator of the illusionist show The mysteries of Rosenkranz, acquired the 23,000 square foot building and will turn it into the Rhapsody Theater, a 200-seat venue that will open in June. The emphasis will rightly be on magic, as well as chamber concerts, cabaret and dance. (The first performers announced are magician-comedian Carisa Hendrix with its complete show, Lucy Darling: gluttonyand medium based in Chicago Ross Johnson with Ross Johnson: A funny thing happened to me tomorrow.) Mark Kozy, a Goodman Theater and League of Chicago Theater vet, will join Rhapsody as general manager.
But Rosenkranz says the first live performance that caught his eye wasn’t magical; it was The magic flutethat he saw when he was ten years old.
“My great passion was classical music and opera, and it continues to be. But about 25 years ago, I kind of discovered magic. I like to say that I discovered it in the magic shop that time forgot. I’m originally from Mexico City. And I was there on a Saturday. And I walked into the store, and there was this magician selling magic. And in fact, when I was a kid, he used to come to my house when I had birthday parties. I was interested in [magic]. I didn’t really know what to do with it. And then I met this incredible man who lived five blocks from me here in Chicago. His name is Eugene Burger.
Burger, who died in 2017, had a huge influence on a generation of magicians.
“I became one of his closest friends and a student,” says Rosenkranz. “Sometimes older people go to see psychiatrists. I went to see Eugene and learned a lot. And the most important thing I learned was that his view of magic was entirely different from the kind of clichéd kitschy notions of magic. Because he felt magic was something deep and worthy of being elevated to an art form when done well. There is a lot of meaning in magic, so when we see magicians doing impossible things, it is something that can excite, stimulate and inspire us. Its best example is when a magician rips a card and suddenly restores it, more than anything a metaphor for loss and recovery, which is what we all pursue in life.
Restoring the Mayne stage as Rhapsody gives Rosenkranz the opportunity to emphasize illusion, rather than the close-up magic in which the Chicago Magic Lounge specializes. [Pritzker] did.” Rosenkranz notes that Jim Steinmeyer, “one of the world’s leading experts in the history of magic and illusions,” took a FaceTime tour of space with him. “He said, ‘Well, Ricardo, what you’re holding there is literally the theater for which all the magic of the early 20th century was created – a beautiful, intimate space where people are close, but which has the ability to to have all these beautiful, wonderful illusions.
Rosenkranz also enlisted his friend Ken Olsen, cellist of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, to check the acoustics with a sound engineer, which further reinforced his desire for Rhapsody to also focus on his other love: classical music. “I think it’s this amazing opportunity to create a house for the bedroom and other little sets and not just book them, on a one-off basis, but really try to create a model of resident companionship based on the Harris theater model.” (Rosenkranz spent several years on the board of the Harrisas good as lyrical opera.)
Some kind of catering establishment will also be present in Rhapsody, although this is still in the works. But for now, Rosenkranz also wants to ensure that the theater remains integrated into the cultural and community life of Rogers Park.
“We care deeply about Rogers Park and really want to be great citizens. So in the performer contract, we’re really asking that everyone spend time either doing a chat session or helping to structure some sort of community education component, community connections component. So that with children and adults, there is a real link with the neighborhood.
Mica Cole returns to Chicago
TimeLine Theater is also preparing to open a new house on the north side. And late last month, they announced that southern native Mica Cole would join their new executive director.
Cole succeeds Elizabeth Auman, who announced last summer that she would step down from the role of general manager to take a more active role in the project management of the new theater, which is due to open in Uptown in 2024. But she n is no stranger to Chicago theater. ; Cole spent several years as executive director of free street and also worked with Writers’ Theater as Director of Education and Engagement.
Most recently, Cole spent eight seasons as a repertoire producer with Oregon Shakespeare Festival, whose decades-long commissioned program “American Revolutions” focused on “changing moments in United States history” dovetails perfectly with TimeLine’s mission of “history-inspired stories that connect to the social and political problems of today”. (Their winter production of Tirelessly by Tyla Abercrumbie was a big hit; he moved to the Goodman for an ascent, which close this weekend.)
“First of all, I have to say that I am extremely happy to join a team that still includes Liz Auman,” says Cole. “I think she’s amazing and her work is evident in this exciting moment that TimeLine finds itself in. I really think it’s about building on that work. The team that came before me really positioned TimeLine to take its work to the next level. (TimeLine Managing Director Dan McArdle has been named interim Managing Director.)
TimeLine, which is under the artistic direction of PJ Powers, turns 25 this year and has spent most of its history in Lakeview at the Wellington Avenue United Church of Christ’s Baird Hall.
The new space offers Cole and the rest of the company a chance to reinvent how they can better bring the community into the building, as well as out.
“For me, this role is so much about looking out to the horizon and helping to imagine what’s possible in this new space, with an organization that’s going to be bigger than it is now, with a kind of more fleshy- the articulation of its mission,” says Cole. “What is it like, and what is it like to responsibly settle in a community and be in partnership with the organizations, businesses, and communities that already exist there? I spend a lot of time thinking about that, as well as from a practical perspective, what it means to move the organization in that direction.
Cole’s long history with community programming and outreach should serve those purposes well. “I think the overall plans for community engagement will absolutely involve expanding education and community work,” Cole says. “Just think about how the building remains accessible to the community – that it’s an asset not only to TimeLine and not just to our customers, but to the young people in the Uptown community and frankly all the city. It’s so fascinating to think about how much has changed in terms of community outreach over the years since I was young in Chicago and was looking to get involved in various theater programs, and there were so few south side options. Or frankly in all predominantly black and brown neighborhoods.
Free Street, Cole’s former company, has operated the Storyfront at Back of the Yards for a few years, and TimeLine, through its Living History partnership with Chicago Public Schools, has created the TimeLine South theater arts program on the side. south.
We spoke on Cole’s second day on the job, so full details of future plans are unsettled. But his vision of TimeLine is vast.
“I’ve always dreamed of what I would call a popular theater in Chicago. And I think Chicago is maybe unique because we’re a city of neighborhoods. There are several popular theaters in Chicago. And I want to see TimeLine become one of them. And what that means to me is that the theater is really leaning into its civic identity and again making sure that the programming and the space are accessible to everyone in the city. I would go a little further. I want to make sure people are like, “This theater is ours. This is our theatre. Our building.’