City Lit richer thanks to John Logan cash gift in honor of new artistic director Terry McCabe

JOHN LOGAN, Oscar-nominated author of “The Aviator,” has made a $43,200 gift to the small City Lit Theatre Company, thereby eliminating a long-term debt that’s clung to City Lit since 1999.

Logan’s unsolicited gift was in honor of City Lit’s new artistic director, Off-Loop theatre veteran Terry McCabe, a long-time Logan friend and colleague.

John Logan

Back in the early 1980’s, when Logan was an unknown Northwestern University graduate, McCabe produced and directed the world premieres of the two plays that put Logan on the map: “Never the Sinner” and “Hauptmann.” Both plays since have received numerous productions in New York, London and elsewhere.

Logan continued to write plays for the Goodman Theatre, Pegasus Players and Victory Gardens Theater among others before turning his considerable talents to Hollywood. Now a Malibu resident, Logan is author or co-author of “Any Given Sunday,” “The Last Samurai,” “Gladiator” and other successes in addition to “The Aviator.”

A few years ago he made a similarly large gift of $40,000 to Victory Gardens where Logan remains a member of the Playwrights Ensemble.

CITY LIT, A 25-YEAR-OLD COMPANY, concentrates on stage adaptations of non-theatrical works and has a particularly strong following for its versions of the comic “Jeeves” stories by P. G. Wodehouse.

Despite its age, City Lit always has been a small troupe, working hard for its share of audiences and public attention. The arrival of Terry McCabe, who has an impressive track record, automatically increases City Lit’s profile. With a new business manager joining McCabe, City Lit hopes to expand its funding and audience base over the next two years and enlarge its season from three shows to five shows.

IT USED TO BE ALL BUT IMPOSSIBLE for small, no-name theatre troupes to acquire stage adaptation rights for successful movies. Hollywood studios, and the agents of successful writers, would ask for ridiculous amounts of money if they bothered to answer inquiries at all.

But all that’s changed recently and no one can tell you exactly why. Perhaps the holders of film rights understand better that a stage adaptation on a non-exclusive basis won’t hurt them and might, actually, benefit them.

Perhaps it has to do with golden reputation Chicago theatre has earned for itself nationally and worldwide. Whatever the reason, film-to-stage adaptations have become almost commonplace.

Over the last two years, there have been successful local stage versions of “The Conversation” and “Misery,” a musical version of “The Poseidon Adventure” that was a camp hit in Chicago and New York, and a behind-the-scenes look at the making of “Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?” featuring huge chunks of the actual screenplay.

Now an Off-Loop troupe called The Journeymen is offering a stage version of Phillipe de Broca’s 1960’s anti-war cult film, “The King of Hearts,” while Corn Productions is premiering a musical version of “The Bad Seed.”

The serious piece, “The King of Hearts,” runs April 28-June 4 at the Berger Park Cultural Center , 6205 N. Sheridan Road; 773/857-5395; $15. The tongue-in-cheek “The Bad Seed?The Musical” plays at the Cornservatory, 4210 N. Lincoln, May 4-June 10; 773/868-0243; $12.

THE LEAGUE OF CHICAGO THEATRES holds its annual gala Monday night, May 9 at the Goodman Theatre, promising a number of celebrity surprises. One of them is Jim Belushi and his son, Robert, performing a classic skit from The Second City.

“Showtime 2005,” as the gala is called, also will hand out some honors as follows: the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation receives the Tribute Award, Chicago Dramatists founder and artistic director Russ Tutterow receives the Artistic Leadership Award, and League CEO Marj Halperin will receive special recognition as she prepares to step down in June.

The 5:30 p.m. event features buffet supper, drinks, dessert, entertainment and a celebrity raffle. The public is invited to “Showtime 2005.” Call 312/554-9800; tickets $100-$325. Last year’s gala raised $219,000 for the League of Chicago Theatres Foundation.

FOR A TREAT catch cabaret artist Heather Moran’s homage to Rosemary Clooney, “Rosie! A Tribute,” Sundays in May at Davenport’s Piano Bar. Moran’s song-filled one-person show spans Clooney’s life and 40-year career from her birth in Kentucky in 1928, to her nervous breakdown in the late 1960’s, her mid-1970’s comeback, and death in 2002.

The show?which played to sold-out houses a year ago?is at 5 p.m. May 1, 8 and 15 and at 8 p.m. May 22 and 29. Call 773/278-1830; $15 cover plus two drinks. Moran, a well know singer and actress, is a member of the Factory Theatre ensemble. Davenport’s is at 1388 N. Milwaukee.