Greetings! We began auditions yesterday for Hairspray in downtown Chicago at The Equity Office. Keeping pretty much everyone to one short song, we saw almost 200 actors… familiar faces and new, singing their hearts out while “Good Morning, Baltimore” takes on a significance, a weight. And by that, I mean the whole show has. Starting the day acknowledging with Director/Choreographer Amber Mak that we have quite a job on our hands addressing the racial tensions of the 60’s and its relevance to current events in this musical comedy. For many in our country, over the last few days, there have been hard hitting realizations: on the cover of TIME, a local photographer documents with a black & white photo, the Baltimore protests with a caption that reads: “AMERICA, 1968. That year is crossed out in red ink and replaced with 2015.” The caption continues: “WHAT HAS CHANGED. WHAT HASN’T.” By the end of the day listening to a remarkable young girl sing from the show, the word “Baltimore” will never sound the same. The city of Baltimore will never be the same. I’d like to think our nation will never be the same. The future is hope. The future is change. Amber remarks, “Baltimore needs Tracy Turnblad. We all need to be like Tracy.”

This morning, we are at the men’s dance call (a good 80 of them)! Amber seems to put dance steps on practically every count, power packed and quick! The 60’s dances are so much fun, and I love watching this generation pick up this dance vocabulary (or try to)! The joy of dance is universal, and it’s hard to sit still watching, my head bopping, toe tapping.

Self image is the big theme in this show. How we look at ourselves. How we look at others. Especially others different than us. And then there’s how we’re different. How we’re the same. Despite other people’s issues with her weight, Tracy loves herself and her dreams and aspirations. And so she has that capacity to love that in everyone she meets. The dancing in the show speaks to this joy we all share as a human race. And that, segregation is something “that is carefully taught” (Thank you, Rodgers and Hammerstein). It’s heartening to consider the promise of the metaphor of kids dancing; why can’t the black kids and white kids dance together on a TV show? Yeah, why can’t we all dance together?

Such sadness this morning to read of the passing of Russ Tutterow and Erin Myers. Our Chicago Theatre Family takes another one-two punch. Of our brightest and best, special, warm, and beloved; Erin, highly regarded as an actress, and Russ, Artistic Director of Chicago Dramatists for a good 25 years, they both will be missed by countless friends and admirers. These are sad times.

Love & thanks