Studs Terkel Festival: “Let’s Get Working" Celebrates a Chicago Legend

Studs Terkel Festival: “Let’s Get Working" Celebrates a Chicago Legend
Terkel bus photo. Courtesy of WFMT

Let’s Get Working, a new Chicago festival, will honor Chicago legend, Louis “Studs” Terkel through concerts, discussions, listening stations, performances, screenings, and soapbox debates reflecting the broad range of his work.

The FREE festival kicks off today, May 9th, and continues through Sunday, May 11th at UChicago’s new Logan Center for the Arts (915 E. 60th Street).

Terkel, a beloved Chicago legend, who lived, worked and died in Chicago (1912–2008) often served as the voice of Chicago and the “little guy”–who doesn’t always have a voice.

As an oral historian, he listened to many voices for his work that includes the books Division Street: America (1967), Working (1974), Race (1992), and the Pulitzer Prize-winning The Good War (1984).

From humble beginnings, Studs, who moved from New York to Chicago at the age of 8, lived with his parents in a rooming house at Ashland and Flournoy on Chicago’s near West side. He credits growing up in this environment–that served as a meeting place for people from all walks of life–to his understanding of humanity and social interaction.

You couldn’t pass “Studs” on the street or inside one of his many favorite Chicago haunts without getting a warm smile and hello whether he knew you or not.

Outwardly, Terkel appeared to be just another guy on the street–modest, unassuming and never standing out.  Yet, the University of Chicago law school graduate, was a man of many talents.

His life work included his many years as broadcaster at WFMT and on television. He also worked as a historian, an actor, and an activist and was a Pulitzer Prize-winning author.

The Let’s Get Working festival offers a rare opportunity to bring together a diverse group of thinkers and doers —scholars, activists, journalists, artists, and everyday people to learn from his life–and explore his legacy.

In addition to new works and original programming, the festival will include videos of Terkel and listening stations that will allow guests to explore his radio archive plus screenings of Studs’ early work in TV, industrial, educational, and documentary films.

Highlights include:

  • This American Life host Ira Glass on Terkel and the future of radio

  • Haskell Wexler and Andy Davis in conversation with Rick Perlstein (Nixonland) and Jim Chandler about Terkel’s involvement in their 1968 film Medium Cool

  • Dave Isay (StoryCorps) and Alex Kotlowitz (The Interrupters) on Terkel’s influence as a storyteller

  • “Show & Tell,” a cinematic shadow puppetry performance of audio stories from the StoryCorps archive from Manual Cinema

  • “Making Radio with Studs & the Studs Terkel Radio Archive,” a panel discussion with six of Terkel’s WFMT colleagues and a conversation about the creation of the Studs Terkel Radio Archive

A complete schedule of events for the Let’s Get Working festival is available here.  All events are free and open to the public.

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