Chicago Theatre Critic Nancy Bishop
Sharing a Life in the Arts
By: Emma Terhaar - Apr 06, 2018
Why did we meet here?
I love this place. [Talking about the pavilion] It was built in 1957, so it wasn’t here when I was growing up. The guy who invented the
The city thinks the structure has been degraded by cold weather and water. There was a plan a few years ago to demolish it and build some kind of public use facility. This infuriates me.
[Pointing at Navy Pier] That’s my alma mater down there.
She pauses and looks at me, happily taking in my confusion.
UIC used to be there. It was a two-year school, and then I went to Mizzou (the
At this point in the interview we begin walking over to the second location selected by
[Pointing out a Beaux Arts apartment building at the corner of
We’re at the northern edge of the Gold Coast, the neighborhood where
How long have you lived here?
Twenty years. Before that I lived in
Where else have you lived?
I was born and raised on the far northwest side of
When I went to college in
How many jobs have you had?
When I lived in DeKalb, I worked at
I worked for KFC in
My whole career—when I worked for money—I had full-time jobs that paid pretty well. That doesn’t necessarily happen any more. It’s hard for young writers to get their careers started
Now that I’m retired, I probably work six days a week. That includes writing, editing and administrative stuff for Third Coast Review and attending and reviewing plays. One day a week I spend as a volunteer mentor for SCORE, helping startups and small businesses.
The theater critic business is really changing. There aren’t that many newspapers left in the country that have full time theater critics; but theater criticism is growing online. I belong to the American Theatre Critics Association and it’s adjusting to the changes too. I was just named to the membership committee.
What are your favorite theaters in
As a theater critic, I really can’t have “favorites.” But I do especially like some of the smaller theaters like Trap Door, Steep, Raven, Eclipse and the Irish Theatre of
Do you ever think about living in another city?
There aren’t any other places I’ve considered living. I love
My favorites are Eugene O’Neill, Sam Shepard, Arthur Miller, Tennessee Williams and Bertolt Brecht. I especially like dark and grim theater.
I really got into film when I started reading Roger Ebert’s columns. He made me aware of directors and how important they were. I’d never thought about that. First, I went through all of Robert Altman’s films because of Ebert. Then I watched all of Federico Fellini and Luis Buñuel, who inspired David Lynch’s work, who inspired Guy Maddin. I wrote about Maddin for Gapers Block when he came to the MCA. The house was packed. It was me and a bunch of film students. I was surprised. I thought “who else knows who this guy is?”
On beloved writers…
If I have heroes they’re probably all writers.
I read a lot of essays now, and poetry too. I particularly loved
I think what Kevin Coval is doing to get young poets writing and performing is great. The young people in Louder Than a Bomb are fantastic. One night I saw Coval read from his book The People’s History of Chicago at the
Richard Powers is a novelist that more people should read. His dialogue can be wooden and his characters aren’t well developed and I think that’s why his books are not more popular. But his books are fascinating stories where science, technology and the arts intersect in different ways. What Powers book would I suggest you read first? Maybe Galatea 2.2, about a professor who teaches a neural network to talk. Or The Gold Bug Variations, about the discovery of DNA and Bach’s “Goldberg Variations.” Powers is an artist in residence at the U of I. I also enjoy Mordecai Richler, Jose Saramago, and that American writer who should win the Nobel Prize but never will [Philip Roth]…
I have five friends who I went through docent training with–that was six months of architecture history, design and structure with papers and tests. Now we go on architecture excursions. We went to Wright’s Falling Water near
On a thoughtful note…
Life is raw material… I think I made that up. It’s a blogger’s motto.
On the Winter Olympics…
I like curling. I don’t know what it is about curling but it’s meditative.
On Bruce Springsteen…
I became a fan when I moved to
My nephew Brad bought his aunt a ticket in ’99 when Bruce and the E Street Band were on the reunion tour–that was my first live Springsteen concert and I’ve been going to see him ever since. We go on road trips to see him. Over the years I’ve been to 35 concerts, and he plays 3.5 to 4 hours each time.
I’ve also been to three Bruce Springsteen symposiums–academic conferences about his work. I’m going to another one this month at
I love the stories he tells during his concerts. You can listen to the Live ’78-’79 album when he tells stories in addition to singing. Sometimes he’ll take arena anthems and transform them into acoustic ballads and they become something quite different. Some of my favorite songs are “Racing in the Street,’ “Jungleland” and “Tenth Avenue Freeze Out.” I love it when Tom Morello plays with him–he”s a fabulous guitarist.
Recently I saw Springsteen in
On her grandsons and other important things …
My 10-year old grandson sometimes writes poems and stories. We have a back and forth about writing. I have three little grandsons who live in
Politics and civil liberties are an important part of my life. I’ve belonged to the ACLU since I was old enough to vote–more than 50 years. And I’ve never missed voting in any election.
I would like Third Coast Review to do more live lit events like Kill Your Darlings in 2016 and Censored! last year, when we read from banned books. I read a racy excerpt from Henry Miller’s Tropic of Cancer.
Posted courtesy of Third Coast Review.