What distinguishes contemporary faith from the traditional? It's often the ability to ask questions, to explore how meanings have changed, while still maintaining respect for its beliefs. That's the question explored in Victory Gardens Theater's new play.
The Who and the What is a smart, funny play about a conservative Pakistani-American family and their attempts to come to grips with modern realities while maintaining respect for tradition. Playwright Ayad Akhtar has written believable characters who fight articulately about what they believe in. Director Ron O J Parsons has crafted a thought-provoking and moving play with Akhtar's four characters.
Two sisters--Zarina (Susaan Jamshidi) and Mahwish (Minita Gandhi)--discuss their love lives or lack thereof as Zarina prepares dinner. Zarina is a writer, currently fighting writer's block as she tries to finish her novel about "gender politics." She won't talk about the book, but admits that it's about women and Islam. Her younger sister is engaged but knows she shouldn't marry before her older sister.
I think I have a fairly foolproof way to determine if you'll like sequel to the unexpected 2012 hit Ted, the film that paired Mark Wahlberg and a foul-mouth, pothead teddy bear voiced by "Family Guy" creator Seth MacFarlane (who also directed and co-wrote). Whatever your reaction to Ted was, that will likely be your reaction to Ted 2, which expands the mythology of the character a bit and even finds a way (some might say, appropriately) to equate Ted's struggle to be given the same rights as a person (to marry, adopt, hold a job, and presumably donate organs) to current headlines about marriage equality struggles and other civil rights concerns. Ted and his human pal John (Wahlberg) still manage to have lewd and crude adventures in their quest to get the bear his rights, and they offend pretty much everyone they come into contract with in the process.
The film opens with Ted and girlfriend Tami-Lynn (Jessica Barth) getting married and asking John to donate sperm for their baby (after a failed attempt to "steal" a sample from Tom Brady is thwarted by Tom Brady). Shortly after John has gallons of semen dumped on him (all in the name of a single stupid punchline) at the fertility clinic, the feds decide that since he's not human, Ted's marriage isn't real and he can't legally be the father of the baby. He is, in fact, property; something that his old nemesis Donny (Giovanni Ribisi) is planning to take advantage of with the help of the toy company that made Ted (led by John Carroll Lynch). Donny wants to reclaim Ted for Hasbro, so they can see what makes him tick in the hopes of manufacturing more talking, thinking, feeling toys just like him.
Chicago's 46th annual Pride Fest came fast around the corner this year with a two-day festival celebrating love, capped by Sunday's parade. In addition to the glitz and glamour of the day, a party entitled Froot Salad will occur Sunday at the Annoyance Theatre and Bar.
"Tap dancing with the finest live music you will find mixed in with the danger, excitement, and sexiness of the circus."
When I asked Mark Yonally, the artistic director of Chicago Tap Theatre, what Circo Tap would be about, in a few words, that was as concise as he could be. Chicago Tap Theatre (CTT) stages this exclusive, one-night only performance at the Athenaeum Theatre at 8pm Saturday. Their combination of tap dancing, circus arts, live music and narration brings an inspiring spotlight to the theater community. It presents tap dancers, acrobats, whip artists, clowns, tightrope walkers, stilt walkers, musicians and, Yonally says, "everything you wouldn't expect to see."
Yonally's vision for this performance began through his exposure three years ago to Circurious, where he was invited to perform as a tap-dancer. Circurious is an American circus that highlights jugglers, singers, dancers and contortionists through their tour around the United States. Their website describes it as "a heart-stopping, mind-boggling display of artistry and athleticism." With such inspiration as a performer, Yonally proceeded to produce a combination of what he knows with what he became inspired by: tap dancing with circus.
Any day now, Mes Aynak, one of the world's most significant archeological sites, might be destroyed. Its historical and cultural riches, thought to be on par with the discoveries of Pompeii, will be forever lost. Its story--and the story of the men working tirelessly to save it--is the subject of Director Brent Huffman's Saving Mes Aynak.
Huffman, a faculty member in Northwestern's Medill School of Journalism and a documentary filmmaker, is working with Chicago's Kartemquin Films to produce Saving Mes Aynak.
The site sits within the Taliban-controlled Logar Province of Afghanistan, atop an enormous, untapped copper reserve with an estimated worth of $10 billion dollars. It's that copper reserve, and not the Taliban, that poses the chief threat to its continued existence. In 2007, MCC, a state-owned Chinese mining company, struck a deal with the cash-strapped Afghan government to harvest the site's reserves for $3 billion, with little oversight and no environmental regulation. Since 2011, a small team of Afghan archeologists have been excavating the area, unearthing finds of immense cultural significance, but a complete excavation could take 30 to 40 years, and mining is slated to begin in less than a year.
To commemorate the upcoming box set release of The Decline of Western Civilization and The Decline of Western Civilization II: The Metal Years, the Music Box Theatre is showing both films back to back on Saturday, June 27. Director Penelope Spheeris will be on hand to introduce both films and do a Q&A with the audience.
Spheeris broke out into the scene with her debut The Decline of Western Civilization in 1981. She has also directed Black Sheep, The Little Rascals and Wayne's World. Her two films being shown on the 27th hold a special place in not only American film history, but music history as well. Each captures a cultural snapshot of the music scene that was occurring in Southern California at the time.
Abelson and Fleming as Ishmael and Queequeg. Photo by Liz Lauren.
Lookingglass Theatre's new production of Moby Dick gives a modern infusion of energy and fluidity to Herman Melville's 19th century whaling tale. The sprawling 700-page novel is smartly encapsulated into a two-and-three-quarter hour play without losing any of its sense of awe and terror at the power of the great sea creature sought by the monomaniacal Captain Ahab. David Catlin's adaptation and direction are both superlative and his dialogue retains much of Melville's poetic language.
Lookingglass's black box theater in the old Water Works on Michigan Avenue becomes the interior of a great whale with steel hoops extending from stage rear to the top of the theater. You really feel you're in the belly of the beast. Ropes, rafts and pulleys are manipulated by the excellent cast of seven seamen plus three actors who become characters as well as forces of nature, as the script requires.
An all-day celebration perfect for any lit lover, the Printers Ball 2015: Push & Pull will bring together printers, writers, publishers, artists, readers, and collectors for its daylong festival of literary culture and printmaking. The event will have 18 programs throughout the day, and "guests can anticipate a field day of hands-on experiences with printmaking, writing, and live lit." There will also be roundtable discussions with artists and peers as a part of the program lineup, and a book marketplace for all to delight in.
One of the programmed events will be the Steamroller Spectacular, in which guests will be able to observe live steamroller printing with blocks carved by artists. Another will be the Book Butcher. Participants can order different "cuts" of free magazines and books from the head "butcher," Brad Rohloff, in his deli-themed Book Butcher Shop. See the full schedule of what they have planned here.
The ball will begin at 2pm on Saturday, June 27, and will last until 10pm at the Hubbard Street Lofts, located at 1821 W. Hubbard. Tickets range from being free at the most basic level, to $5 for guaranteed admission to see the keynote speaker, and then VIP Admission for $25, in which participants are guaranteed to see the keynote speaker, receive a commemorative poster and tote bag, five free books at the "Butcher" and a complimentary drink ticket.
The Chicago chapter of AIGA, the professional association for design, launched its new book about Chicago design and designers Thursday. But it wasn't your typical book signing party. The designers did it with style and surprises. The venue itself was a signal that things would get interesting, since it was held at Redmoon Theater, a well-known avatar of surprises and creativity.
This Is Chicago, a 224-page book, celebrates the centennial of the organization originally known by its initialism, the American Institute of Graphic Arts. This Is Chicago features "an eclectic mix of designers who have had significant impact on us--in hopes that their passion, perseverance, humility and bravery will enable you to see Chicago the way that we see it." Their intent, AIGA says in the book's foreword, is to celebrate what it is about Chicago that makes it different from any other community.
Animal, vegetable or mineral? You never know what might make it into a production of Barrel of Monkeys' That's Weird, Grandma. Anything is possible because the authors will be 3rd, 4th and 5th graders in the creative writing workshops led by actor-educators in Chicago Public Schools around the city. The stories produced at That's Weird, Grandma are written by kids for kids (and adapted to be performed by kids at heart) to allow everyone to enjoy clever sketches that truly entertain.
Starting at 6:15 tonight, That's Weird, Grandma begins its neighborhood tour through Chicago Park District's Night Out in the Parks. The Night out in the Parks series has provided more than 1,000 events and programs at over 250 community parks throughout the city each summer for the past two years. Now, Night Out in the Parks will host productions ranging from movies, traditional performances, community workshops, concerts and more. CPD partners with more than 80 arts and community organizations to succeed in this initiative supported by Mayor Rahm Emanuel. All productions are located in Chicago Parks and are free to the public.
Keith Neagle (Nat), Jodi Kingsley (Diane), and Emily Nichelson (Julia). Photo by Michael Brosilow.
Though well-known as a 1963 Alfred Hitchcock film, the story of killer birds attacking people and running amok actually comes from a novelette written by British author Daphne du Maurier in the early 1950s. Du Maurier's work is the inspiration for Conor McPherson's stage adaptation, The Birds, which makes its Chicago premiere this month at the Griffin Theatre Company.
The first question, invariably, that anyone would pose, is how do they depict the birds? If you were hoping for the campy spectacle of taxidermied crows dangling from the rafters by fishing line, terrorizing the actors, you're out of luck here. Instead, director Kevin Kingston opts to portray the titular birds off-stage, with sound and light. It's a choice all but necessitated by the medium, and it fits with this version of the story, as this isn't a madcap struggle against dive-bombing seagulls, but a No Exit-esque cabin fever drama.
A friend of mine said something interesting after watching the latest understated Pixar masterpiece, Inside Out: "This film could actually help people." And I don't think he meant that the emotion-based story might brighten people's day. I didn't give his prediction much thought until many hours later — and after hearing the many children in the audience talk to their parents about who their favorite emotion character was — but when I considered it, I realized that with just one screening, I could imagine kids opening up about and understanding their feelings, giving them a visual representation of what goes on in their heads when they get mad at a situation or person. I envision a 9-year-old noticing that Lewis Black's Anger character or Bill Hader's Fear is getting the best of them, and maybe allowing it to happen or making sure that Joy (voiced by Amy Poehler) wins the day.
But the more I thought about it, I realized that the film might also inspire adults — particularly parents — to reconsider they way children's minds operate. As simple as the Pixar team (led by director and co-writer Peter Docter, who also helmed Up and Monsters Inc.) make the processes of the brain appear, there's also a great complexity and occasional darkness at play. Examine the brilliant trip that Joy and Sadness (Phyllis Smith of "The Office") take into 11-year-old Riley's mental room containing Abstract Thought. I can't think of a single moment in any Pixar movie that has approached getting that obtuse. Or take a look at Riley's closely guarded prison of the Subconscious, where are of her deepest fears are housed.
The Zhou B Art Center and the Ed Paschke Art Center are coming together to create a traveling exhibition, for both you and the artists. "Journey to Art" will be a community-coordinated event where Chicagoans are invited to attend the collaboration between both venues from June 19-21.The friendship of the Zhou Brothers and Ed Paschke is being celebrated and honored during the ongoing exhibitions at both locations.
By creating a sort of trade, or swap if you will, the Zhou Brothers will present their work at Jefferson Park's Ed Paschke Art Center, and the late Paschke's work will be in Bridgeport at the Zhou B Art Center. In addition to gallery spaces, the Zhou Brothers will be featuring their sculptural work at Jefferson Park for a family day event.
Hubbard Street Dance Chicago's Summer Series began in unique fashion June 11. The weekend-long run, and the last show of the company's 2015 season, featured three works by a single choreographer, Alejandro Cerrudo.
Cerrudo is Hubbard Street's first resident choreographer, and the show featured his 14th world premiere for the company sandwiched between two audience favorites. This marked the second time Hubbard Street has devoted an entire show to one artist.
The performance began with Extremely Close, choreographed for Hubbard Street in 2007. It begins with white feathers falling from the sky. I couldn't help but associate those feathers with the movement of the dancers, which at times seemed birdlike. Small motions were fast, sharp and angular, almost peckish in nature. These were offset by sweeping movements and extensions that brought to mind the swooping and grace of a larger bird's flight.
There's no getting around the fact that Jurassic Park changed lives — the lives of those involved with the making of the film, and more importantly, the lives of millions who watched it back in 1993 or in all the years since. And it's very clear from watching the third sequel, Jurassic World, that the original film also had a major impact on co-writer Derek Connolly and director/co-writer Colin Trevorrow (both of whom spruced up a screenplay by Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver). In many ways, Jurassic World plays like the ultimate fan film sprung from conversations in which every sentence began, "What would happen if...?"
For example, "What would happen if the dinosaur-driven theme park on Isla Nublar re-opened a dozen year after the first time all hell broke loose (Jurassic World seems to exist in a world where the first and second sequels don't exist or aren't acknowledged)." "What would happen if people got so used to seeing real-life dinosaurs back on the earth they park scientists had to invent more dangerous species to keep attendance numbers up?" "What would happen if the military suddenly took an interest in using dinosaurs as weapons of war and counter-terrorism?" People come up with wacky shit in this game, don't they?
Mallory Sohmer is a freelance documentary filmmaker from Chicago and a Columbia College alumna. She co-directed the new film, Drum Beat Journey, the story of four inner-city youth who travel to Petit Mbao, Senegal, to participate in a drumming workshop. The program used music as a vehicle to capture and connect with the young men in an engaging and original way. But this is not just a film about drumming; it's about stepping into another culture to learn about oneself. Read this feature »