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When a play closes before its time, Chicago producing trio steps in

Brian Loevner (from left) AureliFisher Monty Cole. Photograph courtesy The Chicago Commercial Collective

Brian Loevner (from left), Aurelia Fisher and Monty Cole. Photograph courtesy of The Chicago Commercial Collective

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Updated: July 11, 2012 6:04AM

It seems like a no-brainer. “How about we keep really successful shows open, instead of closing them when there’s still a demand for tickets?”

So poses Monty Cole, one third of a group dedicated to — you guessed it — extending the lives of homegrown, sold-out Chicago shows.

The first two productions that Cole and his Chicago Commercial Collective LLC partners Brian Loevner and Aurelia Fisher aim to revive? Chicago Dramatists’ “A Steady Rain” (slated to open July 6) and TimeLine Theatre’s hit “To Master the Art” (opening date TBD).

And make no mistake: The Collective isn’t interested in the sort of “stunt casting” that saw “A Steady Rain’s” original cast of Peter DeFaria and Randy Steinmeyer replaced by movie stars Hugh Jackman and Daniel Craig when it transferred to Broadway.

“We want to use as much of the original Chicago talent as we possibly can. Our whole goal is to support artists here,” said Loevner.

“Like ‘A Steady Rain,’ ‘To Master the Art’ is the perfect example of what we’d like to do,” said Cole, “It was this great production, got great reviews, sold out in like two seconds and then it was impossible to get tickets to. Why not bring it back if the demand is still there?”

While nothing is official yet as far as TimeLine’s Julia Child bio-play is concerned, TimeLine is enthused about the idea of bringing back “To Master the Art,” a show that closed not because it wasn’t selling tickets but because another show was scheduled to move into its space.

“Logistics prevented us from keeping it running longer,” said TimeLine Artistic Director PJ Powers. “Since it is a project we spent nearly four years developing [from initial idea to world premiere], we would love to see it have more life.”

Crucial to giving that show — and others — more life is, of course, obtaining the funds to do so. While the Collective has enough to remount ‘A Steady Rain,’ it’s looking to raise between $50,000 and $250,000 to keep the remounts coming.

“There’s a crazy amount of people here willing to invest in New York commercial theater,” said Cole, “We want people to see the riches that are right here.”

The riches in talent are matched by the city’s riches in performances spaces, said Loevner, who is managing director at Chicago Dramatists.

“It was serendipity, not really my connections, that allowed us to bring ‘A Steady Rain’ back to its original venue at Chicago Dramatists,” he said. “We’re looking at spaces all over the city, the Royal George, Theatre Wit, Stage 773 among them. There are so many possibilities.”

Cole sums up the project succinctly: “Chicago doesn’t need another artistic voice,” he said, “We need a voice that can help the ones that are already here.”

Catey Sullivan is a local free-lance writer.

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