Peoria's Council Chamber Sets the Stage for Steppenwolf Theatre Production

Dec 11, 2017

Set designer David Zinn and playwright Tacy Letts chose Peoria's City Hall chambers as the backdrop for "The Minutes," a comedy about a fictional small town.
Credit Steppenwolf Theatre

Theatergoers in Chicago are getting a lifelike glimpse of Peoria’s city hall. A play at the Steppenwolf Theater is using a replica of council chambers. The “The Minutes” follows a fictional city council, but the dark comedy invokes real-world critique of American politics.

The set is nearly identical to Peoria’s City Hall chambers, from the detailed mural down to the burgundy carpet. There are a few slight differences, for one, the scale. Scenic designer David Zinn says he wanted to elicit a sort of claustrophobic feeling…

“Physical and sort of psychic weight, and that feels like the right tone to set the proceedings in,” Zinn said.

The one-act play, by Pulitzer-Prize and Tony-winning playwright Tracy Letts, follows a single city council agenda. Council members grumble over meeting minutiae, like parking.

But they also delve into weightier topics, like identity.

Zinn says he and Letts settled on Peoria’s City Hall because of its 19th-century architecture, that seems to convey American idealism: The mural. The vaulted ceiling. Those reminders of American values and Democracy are gazing downward, as if the fictional town is on trial ...

Credit Steppenwolf Theatre

“To make tough, and complicated choices about who is a part of our community. And who tells a story all of those things are an absolutely mirror of the moment we’re living in right now,” Zinn said. 

“The Minutes” is scheduled to play at The Steppenwolf Theater in Chicago through January 7th.

Zinn has returned home to Brooklyn where he’s doing costume design for the Broadway production of “Spongebob Squarepants.” He says he hopes to see Peoria’s city hall, in real life, the next time he’s in the Chicago area.