Forging a link between museums and theater

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In a sense, every museum is a theater, while in the best of all possible worlds no theater is a museum, even if it produces the classics. The truth is, there is something about live performance and storytelling that animates everything around it. And that realization surely has prompted the conference taking place today (Sept. 30) at Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry.

The conference (a regional get-together of the International Museum Theatre Alliance, www.imtal.org) is looking at the role theater can play in museums. This is a growing field, and Chicago institutions, from the Museum of Contemporary Art to the DuSable Museum of African-American History, are among many nationwide that understand the invaluable connection.

Four Chicago theater professionals are participating as keynoters in the conference, discussing ways to use theatrical techniques as an educational tool: Greg Allen, founding director of The Neo-Futurists; Michael Gellman, founding member and senior faculty member of The Second City Training Center; PJ Powers, co-founder and artistic director of TimeLine Theatre, and Pemon Rami, director of educational services and public programs at the DuSable Museum.

Meanwhile, the Museum of Science and Industry enjoys boasting about its own popular interactive theater-museum show with a scientific theme, “Poop Happens,” a play about the digestive system.

The conference, which will run through Oct. 2, will feature workshop sessions on improvisation, audience participation, storytelling and more. Participants represent museums, zoos, aquariums and theaters from across the country. Conference details are at www.imtal.org.

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