Jessica Redish
Jessica Redish

With the release of Chicago magazine’s annual Power List, we in the culture department put together our own rosters of cultural influencers on the rise. This week, watch for our Chicago culture power lists for music, art, theatre, and more. Will these movers and shakers blow up or flame out? We’re watching to find out.

As with every "power" list, deciding who has (or will have) influence in any scene is always tricky, and no less so in the varied world of Chicago theatre. We scoured the city's talented stable of actors, writers, and directors for the people that every Chicago theatre lover should know. 

Jessica Redish If you’re concerned about the lack of musical theatre options in Chicago, you’re not alone. With so many musical lovers and so few roles available in town, Redish, a Northwestern grad and former New York director and choreographer, founded Highland Park's The Music Theatre Company in 2008. She quickly racked up a string of Jeff Award nominations for Merrily We Roll Along (2011) and Pippin (2012) while also contributing to productions across the city (like serving as choreographer for the recently revived RENT at the American Theatre Company and Sweet Charity at Writers’ Theater). The company’s next major work, The Pajama Game, premieres April 18, and theatre lovers across the city should be paying attention.

Keith Huff The hottest thing on TV right now isn’t technically even on TV—it’s Netflix’s House of Cards, and it has every critic buzzing. One of the names behind the online-only series about a power-hungry House majority whip is Keith Huff. A resident playwright at Chicago Dramatists, Huff’s big break came after writing the Jeff Award–winning A Steady Rain in 2007 (it eventually made its way to Broadway, where Hugh Jackman and Daniel Craig starred). Now he’s set to debut his new play, Big Lake, Big City, at Lookingglass Theatre this June with David Schwimmer directing. With more TV work lined up after that, Huff seems poised to conquer both the stage and the screen.

Heidi Coleman Ever since Coleman joined the University of Chicago theater department in 2001, things have gotten increasingly better for drama geeks. Under the dramaturg’s tutelage, UChicago green lighted a theater and performance major (TAPS), started producing over 35 theater shows a year, and developed partnerships with director Sean Graney, the Neofuturists, and the playwright Tony Kushner. And now with the new Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts, which boasts a 470-seat theater, two black box spaces, and 20 rehearsal spaces, Coleman can really start to get her hands dirty.

Chris Jones His opinions in the Chicago Tribune have been make or break for any Chicago theatre up-and-comers for 15 years now (he sees about 250 shows a year, most of them in Chicago). Last year he expanded his influence—and his readership—with the launch of a weekly column on the arts, while also running the popular Theatre Loop blog and posting random thoughts on culture (one recent post discussed why sex never works onstage).

Evan Linder and Andrew Hobgood The playwrights and co-artistic directors of The New Colony—the storefront theater troupe they helped found in 2008—hit it big in 2012 with their play 5 Lesbians Eating a Quiche. The absurdist work, originally staged at the Dank Haus in 2011, traveled to New York eventually landing in an Off-Broadway theater in SoHo. After the NY Times wrote that the play was “raw magnetic” and “destined to attract a cult following,” the crowds started pouring in. Back in Chicago, Linder’s new play The Bear Suit of Happiness opens this Thursday, and Hobgood’s ReWILDing Genius hits the stage in April.


Photograph: Brian McConkey Photography