Honoring Richard Christiansen

Larry Devine and his wife, Lois, made a surprise visit to Chicago’s Victory Gardens Theater March 1 to attend the gala ceremony naming the new VG second stage in honor of Larry’s old friend and ATCA colleague Richard Christiansen. Since the new “R. C. Theater,” as it already is being short-handed, seats only 99, the attendees were a select group of “A” list Chicago theater types. Indeed, you couldn’t spill a drink without splashing a Tony Award winner such as Robert Falls (Goodman Theatre), Barbara Gaines (Chicago Shakepeare Theater), John Mahoney, Deanna Dunagan or Gregory Mosher (former Goodman artistic director) who flew in for the occasion. Also on hand: William L. Petersen, Bernard Sahlins (co-founder of The Second City), Harold Ramis and ATCA member Chris Jones, who is Richard Christiansen’s successor as Chief Critic for the Chicago Tribune. Jones and Petersen were among a half-dozen speakers who warmly praised Richard for the support and encouragement which his work—even when critical—always meant to them. Petersen and Emmy winning writer Rick Cleveland said that Richard identified them as theatre artists before they fully realized it themselves. Said “R. C.” himself of the growth and development of Chicago theatre, “I thank my lucky stars that it happened on my watch… . The greatest joy I could have would be to read a review in the future that begins, ‘Last night a wonderful new play by a talented Chicago playwright opened at the Richard Christiansen Theater.’”

Jonathan Abarbanel