Mark Larson: Ensemble
Chicago is a bona fide theater town, bursting with an explosive, innovative vitality that’s fed every sector of the entertainment industry—from Hollywood to Broadway to Studio 8H—for as long as it’s delighted adoring local fans. Ensemble is an in-depth, first-of-its-kind history of Chicago’s internationally celebrated theater scene, spanning 65 years and told through first-person accounts from the people who made it happen.
Among many other topics, this book explores the early days of the fabled Compass Players and the legendary Second City in the ’50s and ’60s; the rise of internationally acclaimed ensembles like Steppenwolf in the ’70s; the explosion of storefront and neighborhood companies that began in earnest in the ’80s; and the enduring global influence of the city as the center of improv training and performance.
Drawing from more than 300 interviews, author Mark Larson has woven a narrative that expresses the spirit of Chicago’s ensemble ethos: the voices of celebrities such as Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Ed Asner, George Wendt, Michael Shannon, and Tracy Letts comingle with stories from designers, composers, and others who have played a crucial role in making Chicago theater so powerful, influential, and unique.
Mark Larson is a teacher and academic turned oral historian. He curates the website American Stories Continuum.