Richard Christiansen (1931- 2022)
Richard Christiansen was born in August 1931 and grew up an only child in Oak Park; his father was an electrical engineer with the Western Electric Company. Christiansen attended Oak Park and River Forest high school and graduated from Carleton College in 1953.
Christiansen worked at the Chicago Tribune from 1978 to 2002 when he retired. He was a mainstay of the Chicago theater scene and beloved in the community.
Chris Jones, of the Chicago Tribune said, “If any journalist could be said to have lit the spark for an artistic movement, that scribe was Richard Christiansen, longtime chief critic at the Chicago Tribune and perhaps the single individual who did the most to put homegrown Chicago theater permanently on the global map.” Sid Smith, a long-time friend added, “We should all count ourselves lucky to have known this man. Richard was, first and foremost, a top critic of theater and the arts in general. But he was also an affectionate colleague, a beloved friend and a great mentor and teacher, helped by his near photographic memory and spot-on accuracy. He also boasted a rich and effusive sense of humor. If you worked near him, you laughed a great deal of the day.”
“There was no group so small, no venue so foreboding, that he would not find himself climbing flights of stairs or descending into damp cellars to see what delights or disasters the latest groups of young thespians would deliver,” wrote the late actor Brian Dennehy in a forward to Christiansen’s book.
His work expanded beyond theater to music, film and many other art mediums.
In 2010, Victory Gardens Theater named its second floor black-box theater the Richard Christiansen Theater which keeps his name and legacy alive in Chicago theater.
“In Chicago, at least,” he wrote, “you never know where the lightning is going to strike, where the talent is going to show itself.