Christiansen, Richard 1931-
Christiansen, Richard 1931-
(Richard Dean Christiansen)
PERSONAL: Born August 1, 1931, in Berwyn, IL; son of William Edward (an electrical engineer) and Louise Christine (Dethlefs) Christiansen. Education: Carleton College, B.A., 1953; graduate study at Harvard University, 1954. Politics: Republican. Religion: Lutheran.
ADDRESSES: Home—680 Lake Shore Dr., Apt. 1109, Chicago, IL 60611.
CAREER: Journalist and author. Chicago Daily News, Chicago, IL, reporter and feature writer, 1957–65, writer and amusements editor, 1965–73, critic-at-large, 1974–78; Chicagoan (magazine), Chicago, IL, editor, 1973–74; Chicago Tribune, Chicago, IL, critic-at-large, 1978–83, entertainment editor, 1983–91, senior writer and chief critic, 1991–2002. Military service: U.S. Army, 1954–56.
AWARDS, HONORS: Chicago Newspaper Guild Award, 1969, for editing the Panorama magazine of the Chicago Daily News, and 1974, for service to journalism; first annual Beatrice Spachner Award, Auditorium Theatre Council; Joseph Jefferson Award for contributions to Chicago theatre; inductee, Chicago Journalism Hall of Fame, 1998; Peter Lisagur Award for criticism, Chicago Headline Club, 2003; Lifetime Achievement Award, Chicago Headline Club, 2005.
(With others) Steppenwolf: Steppenwolf Theatre Company: Twenty-five Years of an Actor's Theatre, photographs by Victor Skrebneski, Sourcebooks (Naperville, IL), 2000.
A Theater of Our Own: A History and a Memoir of 1,001 Nights in Chicago, foreword by Brian Dennehy, Northwestern University (Evanston, IL), 2004.
SIDELIGHTS: A theater and arts critic in Chicago for over forty years, Richard Christiansen documents the rise of live theater in Chicago in his 2004 title, A Theater of Our Own: A History and a Memoir of 1,001 Nights in Chicago. Christiansen was as much an observer as fellow creator of the theater scene in Chicago in the second half of the twentieth century, according to Scott Fosdick in the Newspaper Research Journal. Fosdick noted Christiansen's contributions to the creation of Chicago theater in his writings on performances, companies, and actors, helping to make that city one of the national leaders in the number of theaters in operation. Fosdick commented of the longtime critic: "Were he not a self-effacing man with an unspectacular style of writing and no apparent ambition to make a name for himself in national publications, Christiansen would most likely be recognized as one of the most influential critics of the 20th century."
Christiansen's A Theater of Our Own, chronicles the development of the stage in Chicago from the nineteenth century to the end of the twentieth "in a sometimes dry but fact-packed style," according to Jack Helbig, writing in Booklist. Sarah Hart, reviewing the same title in American Theatre, called it an "epic of scrappy theatre that perseveres," while Carolyn M. Mulac found the same work a "carefully plotted survey," in her Library Journal review. Christiansen's chronicle primarily focuses on theater in Chicago since the 1960s, with interviews with founders of companies like the Steppenwolf Theatre Company, and famous theater people from Chicago, such as the actor Gary Sinese and the writer and director David Mamet. Writing in Talkin' Broadway, John Olson praised A Theater of Our Own as a "concise, entertaining history and summary of the theater community … written by a man who had aisle seats to observe most of it first hand."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Christiansen, Richard, A Theater of Our Own: A History and a Memoir of 1,001 Nights in Chicago, foreword Brian Dennehy, Northwestern University (Evanston, IL), 2004.
American Theatre, December, 2001, review of Steppenwolf: Steppenwolf Theatre Company: Twenty-five Years of an Actor's Theatre; December, 2004, Sarah Hart, "Tales of Two Cities," review of A Theater of Our Own, p. 58.
Booklist, November 15, 2004, Jack Helbig, review of A Theater of Our Own, p. 541.
Library Journal, January 1, 2005, Carolyn M. Mulac, review of A Theater of Our Own, p. 114.
Newspaper Research Journal, spring-summer, 2002, Scott Fosdick, "Newspaper Critic Shapes Chicago Style of Theater," p. 114.
Talkin' Broadway, http://www.talkinbroadway.com/ (February 6, 2006), John Olson, review of A Theater of Our Own.
Theatre of Western Springs Web site, http://www.theatrewesternsprings.com/ (February 6, 2006), "Gertrude Mattka Lecture Series, 2001–2002."