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    Posted November 22, 2010

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Actors’ Equity Hosts Grand Opening of the Actors’ Equity Building in Chicago

Symbol of Equity’s Growth and Future in the Central Region

557 West Randolph Is “Newest Asset” for AEA’s Entire Membership

WRD Mary Lou Westerfield, Chicago Shakespeare Theatre ED Criss Henderson, Acting ED Carol Waaser, CRVP Dev Kennedy, President Nick Wyman, Steppenwolf Theatre ED David Hawkanson, CRD Kathryn Lamkey, Assistant ED for Finance & Administration Steve DiPaola, ERD Rick Berg
Photo: Tripp Chamberlain

On Monday, November 1, 2010, AEA President Nick Wyman and Central Regional Vice President Dev Kennedy cut the ribbon and dedicated the Actors’ Equity Building, AEA’s new Central Regional headquarters at 557 West Randolph Street in Chicago. The event was attended by 150 VIPs from Equity’s National Council and Central Regional Board, Senior Staff, union leaders and members of the Chicago theatrical community.

During a cocktail hour sponsored by Three Olives Vodka and catered by the Equity-member owned Hearty Boys Caterers, guests took self-guided tours and met Chicago staff members on the 3rd and 4th floors of the eco-friendly building. Then, the handsomely dressed crowd entered the 1st Floor Member/Audition Center, which is also home to a colorful Gypsy Robe and the Ray Lonergan Library.

AEA President Nick Wyman kicked things off with a rousing welcome and proudly noted that “In the changing, evanescent and undependable world of theatre, here is something for Equity Actors and Stage Managers to hang onto. This building is literally a physical investment in our membership and in particular the thriving Chicago theatrical community. In the Theatre of Chicago, this is the Green Room.”

Event Slideshow
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Acting Executive Director Carol Waaser agreed, saying “This building marks a significant step in securing Equity’s future.” She added: “I’m proud and pleased we now have not just an office but a real home for theatre professionals in Chicago.”

In his remarks, Central Regional V.P Dev Kennedy referred to 557 West Randolph as Equity’s “newest asset” for the entire membership: “By asset, I mean that in more than financial terms. I see our building as the embodiment of Equity’s importance to the ever expanding theatre scene in Chicago and the Central Region…and Equity is at the forefront of that growth.”

He added: “The members owe a huge debt of gratitude to Assistant Executive Director/Finance and Administration Steve DiPaola and CRD Kathryn Lamkey. I also want to single out Councillors Tom Joyce, Madeleine Fallon, Dan Mooney, (former Councillor) Tom Murray, Malcolm Ewen, and David Girolmo for their support, as well as the entire Regional Board and Staff.”

PACT Co-Presidents Criss Henderson (Chicago Shakespeare Theatre) and David Hawkanson (Steppenwolf Theatre) spoke about the importance of AEA to the membership and its positive relationship with Chicago’s theatres and producers.

“As I was walking through the floors just now, I couldn’t help but flash back 25 years ago when as a young Stage Manager at Immediate Theatre Company, I went to 203 North Wabash to pick up my Equity card,” said Henderson. “There was something about stepping into that building that told me that that was where my professional life was going to begin. Now, as I admire this amazing new space, it’s thrilling to think that generations of young Actors and Stage Managers will come here to 557 West Randolph to sign on for a life in the professional theatre. Chicago truly is a city of buildings, right? It’s where ideas and ambitions manifest themselves in bricks and mortar, and glass and steel, and so many of our theatres over the last few decades have been able to realize their dreams through the building of buildings and the establishment of space. Our two theatres [Chicago Shakespeare and Steppenwolf] both received that. It’s terribly fitting that as Equity begins to plan its Centennial, that now, here alongside the amazing theatres that have been built in the last 25 years, sits a building dedicated to another 100 years of supporting the Actor with a capital A.”

Central Regional Director Kathryn Lamkey welcomed guests and said:

“The renovation of the Actors’ Equity Building can be viewed as emblematic of the Association as it moves forward into its 2nd century. We have taken an old structure that was basically sound after more than 150 years and created within it a new space that will serve the membership of Equity for decades to come. In doing so, we shored up the infrastructure where it was needed in order to bear the weight of our future plans. We kept elements from the building’s past as they remind us of the beauty of things from the past. At the same time, we melded those older elements with the need to be responsible with our resources. We recycled elements of the building and utilized sustainable, “green” products throughout. We opened the light shaft and added numerous skylights and in doing so, we broadened our vision of the world. We have created a building that brings the past into the future, a building that has kept the best of the old and bravely embraced the best of the new.

“Actors’ Equity will be 100 years old in 2013. I fervently hope that all those who are shaping the next 100 years for Equity will find this building to be a beacon for all and a symbol of the strength and foresight that it takes to keep the union vibrant and alive and serving the membership in the best way possible.”

VIP guests included: Dennis Zacek and Jan Kallish, Victory Gardens Theatre; Ilyssa Fradin, President, SAG Chicago, Ra Joy, E.D. Illinois Arts Alliance, Jorge Ramirez, President, Chicago Federation of Labor, and Susan Haimes, Past President, Joseph Jefferson Awards.

Everyone acknowledged the terrific (and exhausting) work of Membership Services Coordinator Pam Spitzner, who made it all come together. Bravo Pam!

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