Chicago to celebrate Studs Terkel during ‘Let’s Get Working’ festival

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 Louis “Studs” Terkel, a Chicago legend and UChicago alumnus.

The May 9-11 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 scholars, activists, journalists, artists and many others following in Terkel’s footsteps—reflecting the remarkable diversity of subjects and range of communities Terkel, PhB’32, JD’34, 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 also will be screenings of Terkel’s early work in television and industrial, educational and documentary films from the Media Burn Independent Video Archive. From talks to lively debate to inspired performances, “Let’s Get Working” will focus on issues 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,” said 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, 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) the 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,” said 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 Terkel’s 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.

“We want to 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,” said Leigh Fagin, a festival co-organizer and the 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.”

The festival is sponsored by WBEZ and WFMT. UChicago partners include the College as well as the Center for the Study of Race, Politics and Culture; Chicago Studies; the Committee on Creative Writing; the Department of Cinema and Media Studies; the Department of Visual Arts; the Franke Institute for the Humanities; the Human Rights Center; the Institute of Politics; the Smart Museum of Art; and Theater and Performance Studies.

For festival details and schedule updates, visit


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 Its a Living (1975), a documentary based on Terkel’s book Working.
  • UChicago’s Theater & Performance Studies presents a new work, Buried in Bughouse Square: A Studs Terkel Circus (running all weekend)

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.
  • Radio host 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