Theater League Lays Back/Further Improvements at WFMT/MCA Hires Minnesota Designer/Restaurant Trends/We Have Seen the Future, and It Is Sponsored | Culture Club | Chicago Reader

Theater League Lays Back/Further Improvements at WFMT/MCA Hires Minnesota Designer/Restaurant Trends/We Have Seen the Future, and It Is Sponsored 

John Grbac's new restaurant, Jimo's, is pitched mainly at Wicker Park artists and blue-collar workers. But fabulously rich Lincoln Parkers will not be turned away.

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Theater League Lays Back

It didn't take long for the League of Chicago Theatres to revert to its blase attitude. In the wake of the resignation of executive director Diane Olmen and early attempts to revitalize the ineffective trade association, a meeting of the League's full membership was called for September 10 to ratify a new bylaw officially expanding the board of directors to 21 from 15 members. Just this summer, at the League's annual theater-industry retreat, the board expansion had been vigorously encouraged by the association's not-for-profit contingent, presumably to ensure their interests wouldn't be overwhelmed by the increasing clout of the city's for-profit commercial producers. But the intense interest in the bylaw change seems to have diminished considerably since it first was broached in July. When the membership convened at the Royal George Theatre to pass the new bylaw, a quorum was not present despite a meeting announcement having been sent to the entire membership of more than 100 theaters. The meeting was temporarily adjourned while a number of theater representatives who did manage to show up hit the telephones in the Royal George lobby in an attempt to round up enough executives from nearby theater companies to produce the necessary quorum. Eventually the needed bodies materialized, and the bylaw change was passed with only one member voting against it. League vice-president Wes Payne sought to downplay the poor attendance. "I think there was so much unanimity within the membership about the bylaw change," he explains, "that everyone figured their vote wasn't needed. Plus it was the beginning of the season, and everyone was tied up with other things."

Meanwhile, the League search committee has begun sifting through resumes to fill the post of executive director by the end of November. Theater-industry sources say those who may be seriously considered for the post are Alan Ziter, the League's former marketing director and currently executive director of the San Diego Theatre League, and Lucy Salenger, former director of the Illinois Film Office.

Further Improvements at WFMT

Like it or not, it looks as if WFMT will continue to evolve into something more . . . accessible than the highbrow radio station it was under the benign reign of Ray Nordstrand and Norm Pellegrini. Program director Peter Dominowski has informed the station's announcing staff that Saturday afternoons and evenings will become a dumping ground for certain vocal music and spoken-word programming. Dead air will become a thing of the past, with announcers instructed to repeat the call letters at the beginning and end of each musical selection, with no more than a breath of silence at the end. Ticket promotions and contests will be increased, and Dominowski concedes there is at least a "possibility" that WFMT management will also seek a new tag line to replace the long-standing "Fine Arts Station," though he says, "It's pure speculation at this point." The move away from the fine arts tag is believed to portend an end to much of the nonmusical programming that now fits under that banner.

MCA Hires Minnesota Designer

Kevin Consey, director of the Museum of Contemporary Art, vigorously asserted his museum's use of many Chicago-based graphic designers several weeks ago when it was revealed he had chosen a New York-based firm to design the museum's new logo. But at the time Consey apparently forgot to mention he was planning to hire a Minnesotan, Joe Calvelli, as the MCA's new in-house graphics designer. Though some graphics work still will be farmed out at the MCA, Calvelli, who worked in Minneapolis at the Walker Art Center, is expected to take on many of the tasks heretofore assigned to local designers. "The museum spent so much money on outside designers," said a spokeswoman, "it had become terribly inefficient." The spokeswoman also said there will be no official unveiling of the MCA's new logo next month. Rather it gradually will begin to appear on the institution's stationery and elsewhere.

Restaurant Trends

Add John Grbac to the growing list of restaurateurs who have discovered that what people want these days is good food at reasonable prices. Grbac has brought the current "trend" to Wicker Park, where he has opened Jimo's at the bustling intersection of Damen, Milwaukee, and North avenues. The space is a former 24-hour pharmacy that Grbac has decorated eclectically with family bric-a-brac and a baby grand piano, which will be used for live music at night. Grbac, who also owns Jim and Johnny's on Chicago Avenue, is targeting the upper rung of blue-collar workers and the artists in the Wicker Park neighborhood. He isn't necessarily looking for the Lincoln Park yuppies, though some already have shown up, he says, because Jimo's is what all of Chicago really wants in a restaurant. "At heart," says Grbac, "Chicago is a town with a blue-collar mentality, where even the guy with $10 million doesn't want to spend it and would rather hang out at the comer saloon."

On Division Street, meanwhile, Fred Hoffmann will turn his former Snuggery into the Alumni Club Bar & Grill, expected to open in mid-October. The new restaurant's decor will feature memorabilia from Big 10 universities, and the menu will emphasize grilled and barbecued items. To maintain the desired alumnic ambience, only customers who are at least 23 years old--and can prove it--will be allowed in.

We Have Seen the Future, and It Is Sponsored

Before long a product name will probably be attached to every cultural event in town. The Parliament Sound Series just ended at Navy Pier. Upcoming in Chicago are the Benson & Hedges Blues festival and the Merit Comedy competition to find the best stand-up comic in America. The opening night of the 100th anniversary season of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra next Thursday also will have a product tie-in via the "Prix de Martell" (as in the cognac), which will be awarded to three recipients at a supper following the concert. The Martell awards will go to CSO music director Sir Georg Solti; Samuel A. Floyd, director of the Center for Black Music Research at Columbia College; and Dr. Alice Brandfonbrener, head of the Medical Program for Performing Artists at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Bruce Powell.

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