Lucy's Cafe: Where Unique Voices Flourish
Performances at Lucy’s Café at the Raue Center for the Arts (26 N. Williams St.) in downtown Crystal Lake are not what you imagine. Think along the lines of enjoying an up-close-and-personal show at a bar or club, a lilting environment where the audience and artist can make a strong connection in a small setting.
With Lucy’s Café, the Raue Center has created a charming venue within a venue. With a nightclub feel, Lucy’s Café is a throwback to a simpler time when you could enjoy live music or comedy in an intimate setting in your community.
We spoke with Richard Kuranda, the Raue Center’s executive director, about how the venue has created a unique perspective for the community by pairing a club atmosphere within the community-focused arts theater. “We’ve created a space so full of character, warmth and talent,” Kuranda said. “This all came about only after the Raue Center conducted focus groups to determine community requests. Bottom line, we’re devoted to what the community wants.”
Comfortable Atmosphere, Great Vibe
After attending comedy and musical events at Lucy’s Café (named after its benefactor Lucile Raue), patrons will come to realize how engaging the atmosphere is for enjoying the entertainment, a comfortable atmosphere with a great vibe.
Every table has good sight lines and comfortable spaces to sit. Arrange for an intimate table for two or a party table for 10; then add wine, beer and appetizers to the event and you’ve got perfect surroundings.
The small performance space is transformative for the patrons of the concerts/comedy shows, easily allowing the artists’ personal voices and ideas to come through. The cozy setting gives artists free reign to try out new arrangements or raw comedic bits. They can respond to the audience’s cues and encouragement, which are sometimes structured during a large-scale show.
“The artists are so enamored with the space that many come back more than once, like Dwayne Kennedy and John DaCosse,” Kuranda said. “Many of the comedians are on Comedy Central or affiliated with WGN [such as WGN's Ana Belaval, pictured]. It’s magical to be able to hear their original work.”
Just recently, musician David Sarkis played at Lucy’s Café. The audience had an opportunity to not only experience the joy and emotion in his music, but hear what his artist journey has been like, as well. “Patrons of the arts want to know about the artists’ journeys, as well as feel their art and performance,” Kuranda said. “The performers take a lot of liberties; they take risks here and that’s cool.”
The initial patrons of Lucy’s Café were built from the Raue Center’s core audience. Subsequently, they have dramatically expanded due to the enthusiastic response to the artistic and successful events.
On the night of a show, doors open at 8 p.m. and the show begins at 8:30 p.m. Patrons are greeted by a hostess and brought to a table on the main Raue Center stage. With ample time to settle in with drinks, concertgoers enjoy socializing beforehand. “Lucy’s Café’s programming is designed to afford audiences an experience of original, unique and creative voices — either from comedy or music — in an intimate setting of around 130 people,” Kuranda said.
In many respects, Lucy’s Café is about community communications and reconnecting. It’s not only about just going to a show. “It’s about connecting with other people at the table and connecting with the artists,” Kuranda said.
A Great Deal
In this current economy, we all need to be a bit frugal. Attending shows at Lucy’s Café permits concertgoers to do just that. The ticket prices are low and because you can stay close to home there are low travel costs and smaller baby-sitting fees to pay.
The intimate performance space makes it much easier to keep everybody on the artistic journey, the emotional experience. n
>> For more, call 815-356-9212 or visit www.rauecenter.org.