Peter Taub stepping down as head of MCA Performance Programs

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Peter Taub, director of Performance Programming at Chicago’s Museum of Contemporary Art, is stepping down after 20 years on the job. (Photo courtesy of the MCA)

Peter Taub, who has served as the innovative Director of Performance Programs at Chicago’s Museum of Contemporary Art for the past two decades, will be stepping down from his post, effective June 3.

In a prepared statement, Taub, who championed the new and experimental in music, dance, theater, puppetry and multi-media works of art, and helped make the MCA’s theater a hub of activity since 1996, when the museum opened its current building that includes the 300-seat Edlis Neeson Theater, noted: “I’m gratified to have helped make the MCA into an essential platform for performing artists to develop their works, and for audiences to encounter their vital expressions. After two decades at the MCA, I am looking forward to pursuing new challenges ahead as I shift my focus to future projects.”

Taub becomes the third major artistic director or programming expert to leave a significant Chicago institution. The 3,800-seat Auditorium Theatre is still searching for an executive director following the departure of Brett Batterson last fall. And Michael Tiknis, who has overseen the 1,500-seat Harris Theater for Music and Dance for the past 12 years, recently announced he will be stepping down from that job at the end of this year.

Meanwhile, the MCA is about to embark on a reconfiguring of its interior space later this year, with the theater lobby and (the now unseen) classroom space that fronts that lobby to be turned into a spacious restaurant/cafe, while the main level that is now a cafe will house an “engagement space” and classrooms.

As the inaugural director of the MCA’s performance programs, Taub designed the MCA Stage to be multidisciplinary, and whenever possible sought out projects that interrelated with MCA exhibitions. He and his curatorial team presented leading performers from around the globe—including Chicago’s most groundbreaking artists—and established an ensemble-in-residence program, the Composers Stage series (devoted to supporting the new music scene), and the Global Stage series, which features international theater and dance companies.

Among the highlights of his 20-year tenure were William Kentridge directing the Handspring Puppet Company in “Zeno at 4 a.m.”;  Elevator Repair Service’s “Gatz” (an eight-hour theatrical experience of the entirety of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby”); Laurie Anderson’s “Homnland”; Redmoon Theater’s spectacle, “Astronaut’s Birthday,” on the windows of the MCA’s facade; Andrew Bird and Ian Schneller’s “Sonic Arboretum”; Big Dance Theater’s collaboration with Mikhail Baryshnikov, “Man in a Case”; and “Time is Not Even, Space is Not Empty,” a retrospective exhibition with performances by the Japanese-American dance artists Eiko & Koma.

Taub sharpened the profile of contemporary dance in Chicago, with the MCA Stage presenting celebrated dance companies led by Trisha Brown, Marie Chouinard, Merce Cunningham, Martha Graham, Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane, Akram Khan, Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker, and Mark Morris. He also helped the MCA co-found the Chicago Dancemakers Forum and helped launch the popular Chicago Dancing Festival.

In addition to his work with national and international companies, Taub developed partnerships with Chicago’s major cultural organizations — from the Chicago Humanities Festival and Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, to the Grammy Award-winning contemporary music ensemble eighth blackbird (currently MCA’s current artists-in-residence), and the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians. And he and his team produced many artist-centered activities with an emphasis on cross-disciplinary performance, dance, and music. Artists-in-residence projects and commissions of new works were produced with such artists as The Seldoms, Manual Cinema, The Builders Association, Reggie Wilson/Fist & Heel Performance Group, Marc Bamuthi Joseph, Roger Guenveur Smith, and Ernest Khabeer Dawkins.

According to a statement from Michael Darling, the James W. Alsdorf chief curator of the MCA: “We are very grateful for Peter’s accomplishments over these past twenty years. He has been a dedicated champion of the performing arts at the museum [and] his work guiding the MCA Stage and leading the performance team has expanded the museum’s reputation in the area of music, dance, and theater. His tenure here was notable for his creativity, perceptive eye, and early commitment to bringing some of the best and most distinctive performances to the museum and Chicago.”

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