Free films at Chicago Cultural Center.
Where: 78 E. Washington, Claudia Cassidy Theater
When: Saturday, August 18, 2018 2-4pm RSVP
When the steel mills began closing in Southeast Chicago, residents could feel the American Dream slipping away. Decades later, the loss of the steel industry has left permanent scars. Exit Zero: An Industrial Family Story tracks multiple generations of the family of one of the filmmakers.
It explores how generations of immigrants built lives in this industrial community, dealt with the fallout of the mills’ collapse, and faced the environmental devastation that remains.
Shot over ten years, the film interweaves home movies, found footage, and first-person narration to offer an intimate look at one working class family’s experience with growing economic inequality in the United States.
Who is Claudia Cassidy?
If you attend events at the Chicago Cultural Center you’ve no doubt visited the Claudia Cassidy Theater. Who is she/was she? Of course the spectacular Newberry Library, which holds her papers, has a nice biography online. To summarize: she was a sometimes caustic Chicago Tribune theater critic while maligned by some was still respected enough by her peers to get a theater named after her.
Claudia Cassidy was born in 1900 in Shawneetown, IL, where she first encountered the performing arts on show boats that cruised the Ohio River. When she was 14, Cassidy’s parents George and Olive moved the family to Champaign, IL.
After graduating from the University of Illinois in 1921, Cassidy worked as a secretary at the Chicago Journal of Commerce, where she moved into theater criticism. Her sharp, opinionated writing style made her column an important feature of the Journal.
In 1941 she moved to the Chicago Sun and then the Chicago Tribune at the behest of publisher Robert R. McCormick. While at the Tribune, Cassidy wrote her “On the Aisle” commentary as well as other reviews and articles steadily 1965.
After 1965, Cassidy wrote on a free-lance basis for the Tribune, Chicago Magazine, and other publications, and from 1968 to 1983 she hosted a weekly radio program of arts criticism on Chicago’s WFMT-FM.
Cassidy, sometimes referred to as “Acidy Cassidy,” was an influential presence on the Chicago theater scene. Her writing alienated and angered some in the arts community, but her praise also promoted the careers of others, including Tennessee Williams, Lotte Lehmann, and Maria Callas.
Cassidy fiercely supported Williams’ “The Glass Menagerie,” which premiered at Chicago’s Civic Theatre in 1944. She also strongly influenced the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, where her public admiration or disdain of music directors had a direct effect on the CSO’s history.
Cassidy was married to William J. Crawford for 57 years. After his death in 1986, she retreated from public life and lived alone at the Drake Hotel. Her last published writing was for the 1990-1991 Lyric Opera program book. She died after a brief illness on July 21, 1996.
Her obit in the NYTimes Claudia Cassidy, 96, Arts Critic; Did Not Mince Words in Chicago give more details.
She got a theater named after her in 1997. Here’s the Trib article on the dedication. now we know!