Skip to main content Skip to footer site map

University of Chicago's LET'S GET WORKING: CHICAGO CELEBRATES STUDS TERKEL Festival Kicks Off Today

Today, May 9 through May 11, 2014, the University of Chicago and the Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts will host Let's Get Working, a three-day festival honoring the life and work of Studs Terkel, Chicago legend and UChicago alumnus. The festival will introduce Terkel's legacy to new and younger audiences while highlighting individuals and groups, both local and national, who have been impacted, influenced, and inspired by his work as a broadcaster, historian, actor, and Pulitzer Prize-winning author.

Let's Get Working is a rare opportunity to bring together a diversity of thinkers and doers-scholars, activists, journalists, artists, and many others following in Terkel's footsteps-reflecting the remarkable diversity of subjects and range of communities Terkel engaged in his work.

In addition to new works and original programming, the festival will include videos of Terkel and listening stations for people to more deeply engage his radio archive. There will also be screenings of Studs' early work in TV, industrial, educational, and documentary films from the Media Burn Independent Video Archive. From talks to lively debate to inspired performances, Let's Get Working focuses on issues such as such as labor, race, faith, and community-all prominent themes throughout Terkel's broadcasting and literary careers.

"Studs understood that real people's lived experiences were compelling and important stories," says Judy Hoffman, Professor of Practice in Cinema & Media Studies at UChicago, who worked with Terkel on several films since the 1970s. "There were few people in the media who spoke in an expansive way to issues of social justice."

As a writer, broadcaster, and activist, Louis "Studs" Terkel (1912-2008) often served as the voice of Chicago-but as an oral historian, he recognized the value in listening to all of the city's voices. His work-including the books Division Street: America (1967), Race (1992), and Pulitzer Prize-winning The Good War (1984)-preserves the past while encouraging audiences to fully inhabit the present and imagine a better future.

"The work Studs did has been taken up by others who are addressing the same sorts of issues he cared about," says Paul Durica, Festival Program Coordinator. "Those issues, and the lessons we take from Studs, are still relevant today."

In advance of the festival, organizers are hosting Studs 101 events designed for participants to re-engage or familiarize themselves with Studs' work. Already this winter, The Hideout hosted a new episode of Studs' Place and the Nightingale hosted a screening of experimental films and readings from Terkel's book Working. Remaining winter sessions are listed online. Spring dates will be announced soon.

"We want bring together new and old audiences to tap into the incredible energy of Stud's work and the work of people carrying on his legacy," says Leigh Fagin, Assistant Director of Collaborative Programming at the Logan Center. "Let's Get Working is going to show the impact-through its broad range of participants-that Studs has had on multiple generations."

Let's Get Working is organized by Leigh Fagin, Assistant Director of Collaborative Programming at the Logan Center and Paul Durica, Festival Program Coordinator, and was initiated by Judy Hoffman along with the Studs Terkel Centenary Committee. The festival is sponsored by WBEZ and WFMT.


Friday, May 9

  • Haskell Wexler and Andy Davis in conversation with Rick Perlstein (Nixonland) and Jim Chandler (Franke Institute) about Terkel's involvement in their film Medium Cool (1968)
  • Dave Isay (StoryCorps) and Alex Kotlowitz (The Interrupters) discuss Terkel as a storyteller.
  • Screening of It's a Living (1975), a documentary based on Terkel's book Working.

Saturday, May 10

  • Old Town School of Folk Music's Jason McIness restages "I Come For to Sing," the classic music program first performed by Studs Terkel, "Big Bill" Broonzy, Win Stracke, and Larry Lane.
  • WFMT discusses Terkel's 45-year career at the station, and the new archive being created in partnership with the Chicago History Museum.
  • The University of Chicago's Institute of Politics moderates soapbox debates.
  • Manual Cinema performs a new animation based on StoryCorps oral histories.
  • Illustrated Press hosts a live art event.
  • Ira Glass discusses Terkel and the future of radio.
  • Jane Addams Hull-House Museum joins forces with The Hideout to put on a concert of songs inspired by the eight-hour work movement.

Sunday, May 11

  • Mother's Day Gospel Brunch at Rockefeller Chapel
  • Studs' Place episode at The Hideout

The University of Chicago is a destination for artists, scholars, and audiences to converge and create. With a strong tradition of cross-disciplinary, intellectual curiosity, and creative energy, UChicago fosters a bustling arts community on Chicago's South Side. UChicago Arts is comprised of renowned museums, theaters and music organizations; initiatives connecting arts, scholarship, and the city; academic and research programs; and more than 60 student arts organizations, forging an integrative model for practice, presentation and scholarship.

For the most up-to-date festival details, visit

Pictured: Studs Terkel illustration by Illustrated Press for Let's Get Working.

Buy at the Theatre Shop

T-Shirts, Mugs, Phone Cases & More
Branded Broadway Merch

Related Articles View More Chicago Stories

More Hot Stories For You