“An Evening with the Roosevelts” at Auditorium Theatre Review – Steeped in History

 

Eleanor Roosevelt sure knew how to pick her causes…

 

It was only weeks after her husband FDR had died when the fledgling university in Chicago decided to take his name.  It was a natural fit moniker given the history of how this college had begun.  Just weeks before the then President of YMCA College of Chicago, Edward J. Sparling, quit his position refusing to implement the racial quota orders that came his way.  Over 90% of the faculty and students joined him in his protest.  What became Roosevelt University was born, dedicated to nonsectarian, coeducational higher learning for all.  Is it any wonder that Eleanor Roosevelt, know for championing the causes of the underdog during the Depression and World War II, answered the call to make Roosevelt University’s mission her own.

 

That historic moment permeated Auditorium Theatre’s halls as we gathered in a tribute to the university and performance of two one-person plays—“FDR” by Dore Schare

 

 

and “Eleanor Roosevelt – Her Secret Journey” by Rhoda Lerman. 

 

Auditorium Theatre was filled with an audience that was older and more racially mixed than usually attends their typical performance.  It was easy to imagine that many attending were alumnae of this great Chicago university celebrating its 70th year.   We also conjured memories of one the school’s most famous alumns, Harold Washington, who was reported as saying his first real brush with white people was at this school.

 

We were reminded of this history by emcee Rick Kogan, who also introduced us to the Roosevelt’s granddaughter and one of the line of Roosevelts to continue serving the school in one or another way.  The feeling of living history was so real that it bordered on being a tough act to follow, especially for those of us who were reminded of all things Roosevelt in the recent Ken Burns series on the Roosevelt family political dynasty.

 

 

The standing ovations that Ed Asner, who played Roosevelt, and Loretta Swit, who played Eleanor Roosevelt, received were almost a forgone conclusion.  How much of the enthusiasm was also fed by nostalgia for Lou Grant and Hot Lips Houlihan is hard to say.   There we were with an actor known widely for his progressive stances and activism performing in a tribute to the man who arguably did more to create a progressive agenda than any other president in the 20th Century. 

 

 

There too was Swit, who managed to both evoke Eleanor’s trademark voice and yet infuse it with her own natural inflections.

 

It’s good to be reminded of progress, not small, made during some the most trying times in our nation’s history.  “An Evening with the Roosevelts” did just that.

 

The Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University, 50 East Congress Parkway, hosts world-class music, dance, theater and other events which you can learn more about by visiting the Auditorium Theatre website.

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