Local actor devoted to bringing theater to Austin

October 16, 2016
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An Oak Park man wants to bring the performing arts to urban communities throughout Chicago including Austin.

Daryl Satcher, a professional actor, director, writer and teacher, is staging his play – “Mr. Mars Meets Ms. Venus”at the ESO Theater 5401-03 W. Madison.

The play, which takes the audience on a journey from the battle of the sexes to the battle within, ends this coming weekend.

Besides Satcher, the play, which was co-written with Tresalyn Bray, stars Camille Cadenhead, Dana Chaifeuy, Robert Hardaway, Randle Michael and Deja Anderson Ross.

It’s being staged at the only theater in Austin, though Chicago has over 200 small theater companies, according to the League of Chicago Theaters.

Satcher’s passion for theater has inspired him to bring the arts to Chicago neighborhoods that lack the resources for performing arts programs found in other parts of the city.

“I knew when I did my next play I wanted to do a play on the West Side of Chicago,” Satcher said. “From the exact moment I walked in I knew this was the right space for me. It wasn’t perfect, but at the same time it was perfect for me; it was like God spoke to my heart.”

Satcher said it’s not right that Chicago, considered to be one of the “greatest theater cities in the country,” lacks performing arts venues in its urban neighborhoods such as Austin.

“We know about the South and West sides due to the violence,” he said. “But what people don’t know is there are no plays being performed on the West side of Chicago until now.”

Satcher is using his play as a platform to build a network of productions that will take place at the Austin theater.

“These babies are in pain, and the arts are part of the solution,” he said. “I am committed to bringing three to four plays to the West Side a year, which is going to help expand the imagination of the youth, making their reality a lot easier to deal with.”

That will be a boost to Austin, one of a number of South and West side neighborhoods whose schools saw cuts in their art programs in the last year, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.

“What we are doing is very important for urban communities because a lot of kids are turning to gang banging as an outlet instead of something positive,” said Robert Hardaway, a professional actor and writer who stars in the play.

With so many schools closings and cutbacks, art programs are being forced to downsize, he said.

“I think there is a lack of any kind of positive activities for the youth in urban communities,” said Rodney Chaifeuy, a Lombard resident who grew up on the West Side. “What Daryl is doing here is welcomed because it’s out of the ordinary and can be looked at as something fresh.”

Chaifeuy, who attended the opening night of “Mr. Mars Meets Ms. Venus,” said kids need positive role model to look up to. He said the lack of venues in urban communities like Austin is quite startling, especially when you look at the number of theaters on the North Side.

“Theaters are so common in other areas across Chicago; you don’t have to look twice for a theater,” he said.

It’s not lost on some West Siders that Austin, despite being the most populated of Chicago’s 77 community areas, has just one theater, while the city’s second most-populated neighborhood – Lakeview – has more than 30.

“It all depends on location,” said professional actor and longtime Chicago resident Greg Hollimon. “Location is very important to theater; people want to go see a play in an area that feels safe. It’s as simple as that.”

Hollimon, who grew up in the  Cabrini-Green housing project, helped Arraon Hixson in 2011 with a Austin-based theater workshop titled “House of Hixson.”

He said theaters thrive in areas that have resources, community involvement and constant police patrol. Austin and other West and South side neighborhoods, on the other hand, are viewed by many as being drug infested and hubs for local gangs.

“You could see a theater being in Oak Park, but where would it be in a place like Austin?” Hollimon said. “It’s like the difference between the Brown line and Red line in Chicago. In a perfect world every neighborhood would feel like the Brown line.”

Tickets are still available for “Mr. Mars Meets Ms. Venus,” with final performances slated for 7:3o p.m. Oct. 21st and 22nd. The box office for ESO Theater, 5401 W. Madison, is open 5 to 8 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday


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