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Meet Tony Lawry of Theatre Above the Law in Rogers Park

Today we’d like to introduce you to Tony Lawry.

Tony, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
I began doing theatre in high school in Michigan due to being inspired by performances by Meg Ryan. I studied in Michigan and got my first professional jobs there. I moved to Chicago in 2002. I’ve been working in Chicago theatre professionally since 2003 acting and directing but mainly teaching. In 2015 I decided, with spouse support, that it was time to do the theatre I think the city needs.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
Unless you are doing a top-tier theatre show the pay is very little. Thus, money is always tight. Needing other odd jobs does take time away from what we really want to pay attention to.

Alright – so let’s talk business. Tell us about Theatre Above the Law – what should we know?
I finally decided to give Chicago audiences what they deserve and that’s a theatre company that puts them first. There is a lot of theatre for theatre people here and I wanted to break the rules and remember entertainment is the reason most choose to go to the theatre. Theatre as a political device is needed yes, frilly 1800’s period pieces, sure but that isn’t relatable to the non-theatre goer.

If we only do the art for ourselves then people will choose other venues. So, we choose shows or commission adaptations that are 90 minutes or less with no intermissions and stories that are relatable (audience friendly). I also feel with the age of YouTube and other online entertainment out there the youth of the industry desire the quick turnaround it can give. They are not able to have easy access to be participants in the live performance process. Thus, my worry is the future is in danger. So every production has a major point of mentorship.

Every show will either feature a role written for and played by a young performer or an entirely separate cast of young performers that get to go through the professional rehearsal process with the adult actors, perform their own matinees and act as the understudies to the adults to get a sense of the real theatre life. These two basic values are shockingly lacking in such a big theatre city. These are what both sets us far apart from others and what I’m highly proud of. As a director, I create very strong ensemble bonds which translate to strong performances and brings the dedicated actors back to us.

Any shoutouts? Who else deserves credit in this story – who has played a meaningful role?
For 14 years I had a youth improv ensemble known as the “underage Sugar Addicts” comprised of middle & high school improvisers from the area. Them, their parents & my wife have been a wonderful source of support.

Contact Info:

  • Address: 1221 W. Greenleaf Unit 1S, Chicago IL 60626 (Office address)
    1439 W. Jarvis Chicago IL 60626 (Theater address)
  • Website: www.theatreatl.org
  • Phone: 773-6557197
  • Email: tony@theatreatl.org
  • Facebook: facebook.com/theatreatl

Image Credit:
Tyler Core, Molly Maloney and Michael Bullard

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