Chicago Public Library to house archival theater productions

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The cast of “Direct from Death Row The Scottsboro Boys (An Evening of Vaudeville and Sorrow).” (Photo: Dean La Prairie)

The Chicago theater community received some great news from the Chicago Public Library on Tuesday as it was announced that, through agreements with the Library and Actors’ Equity, the Chicago Film Archive of Performance (C-FAP) will now have a permanent home as part of the Library’s Special Collections and Preservation Division.

C-FAP is a nonprofit organization with the mission to document, preserve and archive live theater and dance productions as well as interviews with notable theatrical figures and theater award ceremonies that reflect Chicago’s rich history on stage. These archived films will forever provide an educational, academic and artistic resource, with the productions selected chosen for their cultural, historical, aesthetic and educational value. Premieres, unique events, community interest and contributions of particular value by performers, directors and/or designers are given special consideration in selecting productions to archive. C-FAP’s executive director makes the final selection based on suggestions from the Board of Directors and recommendations of the Joseph Jefferson Committee.

A scene from Oracle Productions’ “The Jungle.” (Photo: Jason Fassl)

A scene from Oracle Productions’ “The Jungle.” (Photo: Jason Fassl)

With support from producing theater companies, private donors and a start-up grant from the Gaylord & Dorothy Donnelley Foundation, C-FAP has already preserved 21 recent Chicago area productions, including:

+ “Animals Out of Paper” Shattered Globe Theatre.

+ “Byhalia, Mississippi,” The New Colony & Definition Theatre Company.

+ “Circle-Machine,” Oracle Productions.

+ “Direct from Death Row: The Scottsboro Boys” Raven Theatre (which, incidentally, should be seen live first, when it is remounted with the original cast (July 21-Aug. 27).

+ “The Drowning Girls,” Signal Ensemble Theatre.

+ “The Few,” Steep Theatre Company.

+ “The Hairy Ape,” Oracle Productions.

+ “The Jungle,” Oracle Productions.

+ “Le Switch,” About Face Theatre.

+Miss Buncle’s Book,” Lifeline Theatre.

+ “Murder Ballad,” Bailiwick Chicago Theatre.

+ “No Wake,” Route 66 Theatre Company.

+ “Porcelain,” Prologue Theatre Company.

+ “Posh,” Steep Theatre Company.

+ “Sender,” A Red Orchid Theatre.

+ “Really Really,” Interrobang Theatre Project.

+ “Red,” Redtwist Theatre.

+ “Rolling,” Jackalope Theatre.

+ “United Flight 232,” The House Theatre of Chicago.

+ “The Wild Party,” Bailiwick Chicago Theatre.

+ “Yasmina’s Necklace,” 16th Street Theatre.

C-FAP will preserve five more productions by the end of June, with a goal to reach 40 archival recordings by the end of 2016.

A special event, open to the public, will celebrate the the launch of the Chicago Film Archive beginning at 6:30 p.m. on May 26 in the Video Theater, Lower Level, at the Harold Washington Library Center, 400 S. State St. Members of the cast and creative team of Oracle Produtions will offer a behind-the-scenes look at bringing their hit production of “The Jungle,” Matt Foss’ vivid, award-winning stage adaptation of Upton Sinclair’s novel that exposed the abuses of Chicago’s meat-packing industry. For more information, visit

C-FAP is the third Actors’ Equity approved organization dedicated to recording and archiving live performance. The original theater archive is the Theatre on Film and Tape Archive (TOFT), part of the Billy Rose Theater Collection at the New York Public Library for performing Arts in Lincoln Center, founded in 1970 by theater enthusiast Betty Corwin. James J. Taylor founded the Washington Area performing Arts Video Archive (WAPAVA) in 1993. James’ substantial archive is stored at the DC Public Library (Washingtoniana Division). In 2005, WAPAVA added a co-location of the Michelle Smith Performing Arts Library in the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center at the University of Maryland.

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