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Wednesday, October 22

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Dance Mon Oct 20 2014

The Second City & Hubbard Street Dance's Collaboration is a Stunning Success

The first collaboration between Hubbard Street Dance and The Second City started with one small phone call, but it grew into a giant success with The Art of Falling.

The roughly two-hour show is full of laugh-out-loud moments, strategic and exceptionally creative dance movements and sharp writing and delivery by Second City actors. The show is directed by Billy Bungeroth of Second City and was worked on by the largest creative team in the history of Hubbard Street Dance.

As the title suggests, the show revolves around stories of falling: falling in and out of love, falling from the sky and falling down in general. It additionally, as perhaps expected, pokes fun at dance and comedy in turn, but showcasing differences between the two groups is not the main point. Rather, the focus is on what the different artists accomplish together.

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Miriam Finder / Comments (0)

Column Fri Oct 17 2014

Fury, Whiplash, The Good Lie, The Best of Me, The Book of Life, St. Vincent, Keep On Keepin' On & 20,000 Days on Earth

Steve-at-the-Movies-300.jpgHey everyone. I haven't done this in quite a while, but between unexpected travel in the last week and the still-going Chicago International Film Festival eating up my days, I haven't had time to compose full-length reviews of the many, many movies open up this weekend — many of them quite great. So I'm going to try and blaze through the many offerings with just a two or three paragraphs each. We'll see how that goes. Enjoy!


Writer-director David Ayer (End of Watch, Street Kings, writer of Training Day) has always been a stickler for authenticity (if you ignore his last film, Sabotage), and his latest work — the World War II tank barrage Fury — is no exception. With Brad Pitt leading a five-man crew during the final push into war-torn Germany in 1945, the film concentrates on bloodshed, explosions and ear-splitting volume that might make you want to consider earplugs. The film captures the claustrophobic quarters inside the tank and the pure destructive power it represents as these men barrel into one situation after another, outnumbered, outgunned and poorly armored.

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Steve Prokopy / Comments (0)

Theater Fri Oct 17 2014

Goodman's Smokefall: Following One Family Across Time


When the Goodman Theatre staged the world premiere of Noah Haidle's play Smokefall last year in its smaller theater, the play received great reviews and audiences responded enthusiastically. The theater has remounted the production with the same cast this year in its larger Albert Theatre. Director Anne Kauffman has managed the move to the larger stage with grace.

Smokefall's main attraction is the charming, funny performance by veteran actor Mike Nussbaum, who will blow out 91 candles in December and romps around like a 70-year-old. Or a 60-year-old, if needed.

Smokefall is a sweet, funny story of love and life, hope and despair in four generations of a midwestern family. The family home in Grand Rapids, Michigan, is the setting and on Kevin Depinet's large modern-dress set, everything is slightly askew. The angled trajectory of the set's second level (which -- spoiler alert -- collapses in the middle of the play) suggests the rickety and fragile nature of family relationships.

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Nancy Bishop / Comments (0)

Review Thu Oct 16 2014

Joffrey Ballet's "Swan Lake" Is Stunning on Opening Night Debut

Joffrey Ballet in Christopher Wheeldon's Swan Lake - Victoria Jaiani (3) - Photo by Cheryl Mann.jpg
Photo by Cheryl Mann

I wish I were a dancer, I thought to myself as I sat in the gilded Auditorium Theatre as the curtain fell following an exquisite performance by the Joffrey Ballet of the world-renowned ballet Swan Lake, completely in awe. Sitting elated, The show barely had time to officially wind to a close before audience members cried out exalted "bravos!" that rang throughout the theatre rich with history and artistry.

World-renowned, London-based choreographer Christopher Wheeldon dreamt up a masterful adaptation that proved to be equally stunning as it was technically gorgeous. In the Joffrey Ballet's 60-year reign, Swan Lake had yet to be performed, and this ballet lived up to its longstanding expectations. For 10 ethereal evenings, the reworking of the classic and pivotal ballet will help the Chicago arts institution of the Joffrey Ballet to celebrate its 20th anniversary of being centered in this great city that we are lucky to call home.

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Sarah Brooks / Comments (0)

Preview Thu Oct 16 2014

Chicago Mammals to Stage All Girl Edgar Allan Poe

The Chicago Mammals is staging its third All Girl Project, opening Friday, Oct. 17 with All Girl Edgar Allan Poe, a festival of one-acts inspired by Poe's works interpreted in movement, music, poetry, dance and monologue.

The first two projects were All Girl Moby Dick in 2012 and All Girl Frankenstein last year. Artistic director Bob Fisher is planning All Girl Dracula for 2015.

All Girl Edgar Allan Poe will feature the following pieces:
The Raven, adapted and directed by Anne Wilson
The Tell-Tale Heart, adapted by M.E.H. Lewis and directed by Leigh Barrett
The Black Cat, adapted by Erin Orr, Amy Harmon and Liz Chase and directed by Chris Conley
The Pit and the Pendulum, adapted and directed by Charlotte Drover
The Imp of the Perverse, adapted and directed by Sasha Warren
The Masque of the Red Death, adapted and directed by Whitney LaMora and choreographed by Sasha Warren

The company notes that the project provides artistic opportunities for Chicago actresses to play, produce, devise and perform in roles that are rarely (if ever) performed by women "with an emphasis on turning traditional tales into raw, emotive, phantasmagoric concepts that can only be described as 'Mammalian'."

All Girl Edgar Allan Poe will be presented at 8pm Fridays and Saturdays through Nov. 8 at the Chicago Mammals' Zoo Studios: 4001 N Ravenswood, suite 205. Tickets are $20 and can be purchased online or at the door.

Nancy Bishop / Comments (0)

Column Fri Oct 10 2014

The Judge, Dracula Untold, Kill the Messenger, You're Not You, Pride, 50th Chicago International Film Festival Preview & Music Box of Horrors 2014 Preview


The Judge

If you ever wanted to see the legendary Robert Duvall shit himself like only he can (literally and figuratively), then I've got a movie for you. And I'm not talking about catching a brief glimpse of mild discoloration in his boxers. Oh, no. I'm talking wet, dark, splattering crap exploding out of his ass and onto the white bathroom tile, as well as the feet of his estranged son (Robert Downey Jr.). Come gather 'round, children, and let me tell you about The Judge.

Part family drama, part courtroom procedural, part character study, The Judge is the story of hot-shot Chicago lawyer Hank Palmer (Downey), who returns to his smalltown hometown on the occasion of his mother's funeral. Turns out, many years ago, Hank left home mostly to get away from his hard-driving judge father Joseph (Duvall) to prove to him (and the world) that he could be successful. Hank seems to specialize in clients who are undoubtedly guilty, but he still manages to cast his spells over judges and juries to get them off. In one early scene, Hank pees on the shoes of opposing counsel in the men's room, setting up a family history of bodily excretions on other people's shoes.

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Steve Prokopy / Comments (0)

Art Wed Oct 08 2014

Adam Szymczyk Speaking @ Northwestern University 10/11


The Department of Art Theory and Practice at Northwestern University is hosting a conversation and dialogue with Adam Szymczyk and Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev on Oct. 11 at 2pm.

Adam Szymczyk is curating documenta 14, which is one of the known as the world's most significant art exhibitions. Northwestern will be hosting Adam for his first US discussion about his vision and curation of documenta 14.

Documenta 14 is a contemporary art exhibition which takes place every five years in Kassel, Germany. During this talk, the Polish-born curator and the visiting professor, Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev, will be discussing the "best frequented contemporary art exhibition." 2012 documenta artistic director Edith Kreeger Wolf will also be joining the talk for her input and background with the show. documenta has shown works from major movements such as Fauvism, Expressionism, Cubism, the Blaue Reiter and Futurism.

The event is free and open to the public. The conversation will be held in the McCormick Auditorium at the Norris University Center., 1999 Campus Dr. in Evanston.

S. Nicole Lane / Comments (0)

Film Wed Oct 08 2014

Chicago International Film Festival's Mimi Plauché Talks About CIFF's 50th Anniversary & This Year's Films

Chicago International Film Festival 50th anniversaryNorth America's longest-running competitive film festival, the Chicago International Film Festival, begins Thursday, Oct. 9 with the Chicago premiere of Miss Julie, the latest film from actor-turned-director Liv Ullman (and based on the play by August Strindberg), who has had all of her last three features as a director screen at CIFF and will be in attendance at the opening night at the Chicago Theater (all other festival screenings will be held at AMC River East theaters). Her appearance in the Chicago is only fitting since CIFF will be celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, and has a great number of special events, screenings and appearances to mark the occasion, which means even more work and coordinating for Programming Director Mimi Plauché, founder and artistic director Michael Kutza, and their team.

More than 20 films have been selected as part of a retrospective of highlights from CIFF's 50-year existence, including 1971 Silver Hugo winner Family Life, to be presented by the director, acclaimed Polish filmmaker Krzysztof Zanussi; Lars von Trier's Academy Award-nominated Breaking the Waves; Roger and Me (with director Michael Moore in attendance); and three films which received their world premiere at past festivals: One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975), The Idolmaker (1980) and White Nights (1985) — the latter two directed by Taylor Hackford, who will appear at both screenings. Several longtime festival friends will present special editions of their favorite films, including director, writer and producer Oliver Stone, showing the Director's Cut of Natural Born Killers and the recently released to Blu-ray Ultimate Cut of Alexander. Other retrospect films will include 101 Reykjavik, Fanny and Alexander, Here's Your Life, a restored print of Alfred Hitchcock's Jamaica Inn, George Cukor's version of A Star Is Born, and a restored version of the silent film classic Why Be Good?, featuring the final on-screen performance of CIFF cofounder Colleen Moore.

I'll have a full-fledged CIFF preview piece this Friday in my Steve at the Movies column, but a couple of interesting programming notes I wanted to highlight include a spotlight on Scandinavian films, that includes 20 feature works and a program of eight shorts from Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden. The festival is also honoring the great French actress Isabelle Huppert by screening four of her recent great films at the Music Box Theatre, three of which will be shown as 35mm prints.

I had a chance recently to sit down with Plauché, who has been working for CIFF since 2006, to talk about the highlights and special events of this year's event. As always, Plauché is a great guide though the nearly 200 films from more than 50 countries. Take notes, and don't be afraid to see something to haven't heard of — that's the point of a film festival, isn't it? Enjoy.

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Steve Prokopy / Comments (0)

Theater Wed Oct 08 2014

Watch on the Rhine: Tense Preview of World War II at The Artistic Home

Watch on the Rhine
Photo by Tim Wright.

It's an idyllic late spring day in 1940 at the country home of the wealthy Farrelly family near Washington DC. The Farrellys are awaiting the arrival from Europe of their daughter, husband and children; they have not seen her in 20 years. It's a family reunion, but it turns into a preview of World War II.

Lillian Hellman's Watch on the Rhine, first produced in April 1941, was a warning to Americans about the growth of fascism in Europe and its potential in our own country. The compelling pre-war conflict is dramatized in The Artistic Home's new production, directed by Cody Estle.

Waiting nervously to welcome them is Fanny Farrelly, the opinionated matriarch, played with withering wit and charm by Kathy Scambiaterra. The longtime housekeeper Anise (Lorraine Freund) tries to keep her calm, as does her son David (John Stokvis). The family has two long-time guests, the Count Teck de Brancovis (Joshua J. Volkers) and Countess Marthe de Brancovis (Tiffany Bedwell), who clearly have overstayed their welcome.

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Nancy Bishop / Comments (1)

Theater Mon Oct 06 2014

Reliving Scandals of the '80s in Timeline's Danny Casolaro Died for You

Kyle Hatley, Demetrios Troy and Jamie Vann. Photo by Lara Goetsch.

The names and events are vaguely familiar, if you were consuming political news in the 1980s and '90s. Iran-contra. BCCI ("the world's sleaziest bank," according to a Time magazine cover). Bert Lance. The Church committee. Wackenhut Security. The CIA and Central American drug cartels. The Sandinistas. The Iran hostage crisis.

The governmental scandals those terms represent were linked by a software platform called PROMIS (owned by Inslaw, a not-for-profit software company), which was designed to connect various government agency databases. (Remember, this was in the 1980s. The lack of interagency connectivity was considered one of the flaws that left us vulnerable to the attacks of September 11, 2001.)

Timeline Theatre dredges up those memories in telling the tense and tightly wound story of a freelance journalist named Danny Casolaro, who tried to put the tangled pieces together for a big story. He ended up dead on the floor of a hotel room in Martinsburg, W.Va., in August 1991. The question asked in Danny Casolaro Died for You is: Was it suicide or murder?

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Nancy Bishop / Comments (0)

Literary Sun Oct 05 2014

That's All She Wrote turns TWO!!

jh and angela.jpg

JH Palmer and Angela Benander, co-hosts of That's All She Wrote. Photo credit: Allen Green.

In addition to contributing to Gapers Block, I co-produce the live lit show That's All She Wrote. On Sunday, October 12, we're celebrating our two year anniversary! We've had to move a couple times over the course of our existence, so you may have lost track of us, but we've found a permanent home in the gallery space at Great Lakes Tattoo (1148 W. Grand Avenue). We've got an amazing lineup for our anniversary show, with readers like You're Being Ridiculous host (and GB contributor) Jeremy Owens, powerhouse performer and damn nice lady Jen Bosworth, three time Moth StorySLAM winner Erin Diamond, and live lit legend Tom Wolferman. And if that's not enough to tempt you, we also have Pleasant House Bakery driving their food truck full of savory pies up from Bridgeport. There will be giveaways and fun times, join us! BYOB and free. Pleasant House Bakery truck arrives at 7pm, stories start at 8pm. For more info visit our Facebook page.

J.H. Palmer / Comments (0)

Performance Fri Oct 03 2014

Redmoon Creates Fiery Spectacle

Redmoon's Fire Festival Houses on the move; photo by Evan Barr
Redmoon's Fire Festival houses on the move; photo by Evan Barr.

Redmoon, Chicago's oldest spectacle performance company, in partnership with the city's Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events and the Chicago Park District presents The Great Chicago Fire Festival on Saturday, October 4. Meant to be a celebration of the city's renewal following the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 and to showcase the diversity of the neighborhoods that have flourished since, the free festival will feature a River Bazaar, performances by local performers and a grand finale with a fiery spectacle that only Redmoon could create.

The festival begins at 3pm with a River Bazaar between State Street and Michigan Avenue along the city's new river walk, with designated areas representing each of the official Fire Neighborhoods (Albany Park, Austin, Avondale, Bronzeville, Englewood, Humboldt Park, Little Village, North Lawndale, Old Town, Pilsen, Roseland, South Chicago, South Shore, Uptown and Woodlawn). In each area, foods, crafts and other goods representing the neighborhoods will be for sale. From 5:30 to 8pm two stages (at 435 N. Michigan and 330 N. Wabash) will feature local poets, spoken word artists, hip hop performers and an urban dance battle.

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Jeanne Newman / Comments (1)

Theater Fri Oct 03 2014

Steppenwolf Unveils Expansion Plan, Announces New Leadership

steppenwolf theatre halsted view
Halsted Street view of New Steppenwolf Theatre.

Steppenwolf Theatre Company, Chicago's 40-year-old theater famous for its in-your-face style and pugnacious representation of contemporary American theater, is growing again. The company has announced a $50 million expansion plan that involves new theater spaces and a parklike southern area. The company also announced changes in its top administrative and creative positions, to take effect in 2015.

Some of the expansion plans were already known but the leadership changes came as a surprise announcement. Steppenwolf, famously founded in a church basement in Highland Park in 1974, is probably Chicago's best-known theater beyond our borders and a major contributor to Chicago's reputation as a hot theater town.

Anna Shapiro, an award-winning director of Chicago and Broadway productions, will become artistic director next year, replacing Martha Lavey, who has held that post since 1995. David Schmitz, a 10-year Steppenwolf administrative veteran, will replace David Hawkanson as executive director. Both Lavey and Hawkanson will be involved in Steppenwolf's expansion project.

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Nancy Bishop / Comments (0)

Column Fri Oct 03 2014

Gone Girl; Annabelle; Men, Women & Children; The Dog; Last Days In Vietnam & A Good Marriage


Gone Girl

Director David Fincher is often both lauded and criticized for being a filmmaker of great technical achievement, sometimes sacrificing an emotional connection to his subject in favor of a great shot. I don't happen to agree with this theory, but I do find it easy to tell sometimes when Fincher is truly passionate about those being portrayed in his film. And thankfully the director of Fight Club, The Social Network and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button not only cares about the characters and themes in his latest work, an adaptation of Gillian Flynn's Gone Girl, but they mean so much to him, he gets downright angry sometimes.

I think to say that Fincher and Flynn's take (the author also wrote the screenplay) on Gone Girl concerns the true face of marriage in the modern era is a bit of an over-simplification, but it's also partly true. What the film ultimately turns into is the realization that a person can never truly be themselves if they want to keep a relationship going — a face must be worn, the lies must be told so often and so convincingly that the teller starts to believe them, and to do anything less than all of these horrible things in the name of keeping a marriage alive is the ultimate betrayal, even if it's for perfectly acceptable reasons.

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Steve Prokopy / Comments (0)

Film Wed Oct 01 2014

The Hairy Who Returns -- to the Siskel Film Center

Hairy Who exhibition at the Corcoran Gallery, 1969.

If you missed the year's greatest art film in June, The Hairy Who and the Chicago Imagists is coming back. The 109-minute documentary about the lurid and outrageous Chicago art movement of the '60s and '70s will be shown at the Siskel Film Center from Friday through Oct. 9.

Director Leslie Buchbinder will be on hand at the 8:15pm Friday show. On Sunday, the six original Hairy Who artists will appear at the 5:30pm show.

The film was shown here a few times in June and we reviewed it for Gapers Block then.

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Nancy Bishop / Comments (0)

Film Wed Oct 08 2014

Chicago International Film Festival's Mimi Plauché Talks About CIFF's 50th Anniversary & This Year's Films

By Steve Prokopy

Steve talks with CIFF Programming Director Mimi Plauché about the festival's anniversary, special programming, and her favorites from this year's lineup.
Read this feature »

Steve at the Movies Fri Oct 17 2014

Fury, Whiplash, The Good Lie, The Best of Me, The Book of Life, St. Vincent, Keep On Keepin' On & 20,000 Days on Earth

By Steve Prokopy

Read this column »


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Tue Oct 21 2014
Pechakucha @ Martyrs'

Tue Oct 21 2014
Write Club @ Hideout

Tue Oct 21 2014
John Hodgman @ UP Comedy Club

Thu Oct 23 2014
Cao Fei: Haze & Fog @ Gene Siskel Film Center

Thu Oct 23 2014
Panel Discussion with Photography Susan Meiselas

Fri Oct 24 2014
Project Recall: HCL @ Mana Contemporary

Fri Oct 24 2014
Opening Reception: Andrew Barco and Eddie Breitweiser @ ThreeWalls

Fri Oct 24 2014
Sketchbook Swap Exhibition @ Jupiter Outpost

Sat Oct 25 2014
The Shit Show @ Collaboraction Theater

Sat Oct 25 2014
20x2 Chicago @ Schubas

Sat Oct 25 2014
Opening Reception: Thresh/hold @ Roman Susan ANNEX

Sun Oct 26 2014
For Grace Premiere @ Portage Theater

Sun Oct 26 2014
The Adventures of Danny & Mike @ Lincoln Hall

Sun Oct 26 2014
Opening Reception: Nicole Dyer & Matt Hilvers @ South of the Tracks

Sun Oct 26 2014
Opening Reception @ PEREGRINEPROGRAM

Sun Oct 26 2014
Beat Swap Meet @ Empty Bottle

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