“Sense of Urgency Theatre strives to bring to the stage the finest acting,” says Edwin Wilson, the founder and director of Sense of Urgency Theatre, which began its career in a vegetarian restaurant named Cafe Voltaire (now closed, unfortunately) on North Clark Street in Chicago.
“In addition to serving organic, vegan-type food,” Wilson said, “the restaurant had a stage in the basement called ‘Emerging Artists Performance,’ where you could book seven nights of space for a hundred dollars. Then you divided the receipts, with 60 percent going to the cafe.”
In that small space in 1995, Ed Wilson produced his first play: Bruce J. Friedman’s one-act The Car Lover.
From that humble beginning, typical of so many storefront theaters in Chicago, Sense of Urgency has gone on to perform in venues such as the Chicago Cultural Center, Athenaeum, Bailiwick, Profiles, the Viaduct and the Elmhurst College Theatre. For the past nine years, members of Sense of Urgency Theatre have been professional artists-in-residence at Elmhurst.
Oak Park venues include the 19th Century Club, the Oak Park Public Library, Village Players and OPRF High School. With regard to the high school, Sense of Urgency has conducted outreach programs composed of acting workshops, auditions and demonstrations. From 1999 to the present, the theater received funding from the Illinois Arts Council and from 2000 to the present, funding from the Oak Park Area Arts Council (OPAAC). In 2003, the theater was awarded “Best in Class” by OPAAC for its community outreach programs.
Plays and excerpts of plays that it has performed include Harold Pinter, David Mamet, Lanford Wilson, Craig Lucas and Arthur Miller, The performances of Arthur Miller’s play All My Sons, and Craig Lucas’ Reckless were Jeff-recommended.
“Through our choice of playwrights we intend to challenge our audience with the work we produce,” says Wilson. An example is a recent staged reading at Village Players of a play based on the Holocaust, titled A Ball for Genia (written by yours truly). Wilson was interested because he is an instructor in theater and video production at Elmhurst College – an institution notable in its dedication to remembering the Holocaust. He’s hoping to stage it as a one-act play at some point in the future, possibly at OPRF High School.
The theatre has been supported through the years by many dedicated artists and a loyal audience. Based on this support, they have been able to produce works for a wider audience, and develop work for its all-important community outreach programs.