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Sunday, April 26

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Column Fri Apr 24 2015

Chicago Critics Film Festival, The Age of Adaline, Adult Beginners, The Water Diviner, The Wrecking Crew, Welcome to New York & Dior and I


3rd Annual Chicago Critics Film Festival

I've been very fortunate in the 17 years I've been a part of Ain't It Cool News (and 10 years of that with GapersBlock as well) to be a part of some pretty great events. But never in my time as a critic or resident of Chicago have I had more pride in playing a small role in pulling together something as I have working on the annual Chicago Critics Film Festival, a weeklong event taking place at Chicago's Music Box Theatre, this year from May 1-7.

Pulled together by my hard-working fellow members of the Chicago Film Critics Association, the CCFF collects 22 features and three short film programs, comprised primarily of recent film festival favorites and as-yet undistributed works, all receiving their Chicago premieres at the event. There are two important things to understand: one, as far as we can tell, this is the first time a film critics group has ever hosted and produced an event like this; second, each of these films was hand selected by a member of the CFCA because they saw it at a festival in the last year (such as Toronto, Cannes, Sundance, SXSW, etc.) and went after it. There was no submitting films for this event, and therefore no politics were involved in the selection process. Either someone loved the film, or it wasn't considered.

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Steve Prokopy / Comments (0)

Art Fri Apr 24 2015

amfm: "Can I see Your ID?" Debuts at Cultura May 8

amfm, a Chicago-based arts, music and fashion web portal, will present their first art exhibition, Can I See Your ID?, at Cultura gallery, 1900 S. Carpenter St., during the Pilsen Second Friday art walk May 8.

When someone asks to "see your ID," you're being asked to expose the basics -- a photograph that fashions last year's hair color, a height that doesn't matter, and a hazel eye color that changes with the seasons. Is this how you want to be perceived? Is your ID a reflection of who you are as an individual? By approaching someone entering a bar and saying, "Can I see your ID?" the bouncer is asking, "Who are you?" -- a question that is summed up by glancing at our choice of ID. amfm has asked several artists to feature a facet of themselves in the exhibition that they would like to explore, erase or simply present.

Screen Shot 2015-04-23 at 9.11.12 AM.png

Local artists will be presenting and featuring their true and authentic identities in the amfm exhibition. Societal labels, struggles, talents, and all things encompassing the "self" will be featured by the selected four creatives, Sam Kirk, Barrett Keithley, Mahduri Shukla and Chantala Kommanivanh.

amfm was initially created as a college thesis in 2009 by founder Ciera McKissick but has since moved to an online publication. The collective serves as a hub for artists, makers, thinkers and doers who want to expand and share their stories.

The exhibition will be open May 8 from 6 to 10pm during the Chicago Arts District 2nd Friday Gallery Night in Pilsen.

S. Nicole Lane / Comments (0)

Art Wed Apr 22 2015

Archibald Motley's Brilliant, Vivid Paintings Light Up the Cultural Center


Archibald Motley, Blues, 1929.

Archibald Motley Jr. was not your average African-American male in 1914. The man who became a world-renowned artist and contributor to the Harlem Renaissance was the son of a Pullman porter and the daughter of a former slave. But in 1914, he became a painting student at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and studied there for four years. The rest, as they say, is history.
Motley, known for the paintings that chronicled African-American urban life in the 1920s and '30s, was born in New Orleans and raised in the Englewood community, which was then a predominantly Irish-German-Swedish neighborhood. He socialized in Bronzeville and its vibrant cultural life inspired many of his paintings. He also spent time in Paris in 1929-30 on a Guggenheim Fellowship and in Mexico in the 1950s with his nephew, Willard Motley. (Author of novels including Knock on Any Door and Let No Man Write My Epitaph, Willard Motley was inducted into the Chicago Literary Hall of Fame in 2014.)

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Nancy Bishop / Comments (0)

Review Tue Apr 21 2015

Magical Time Travel to 1920s Speakeasy & 1960s Magic Club with Chicago Magic Lounge


I invited my dear friend Mrs. Beeb to accompany me to the Chicago Magic Lounge so she'd have my back. Who knew what could go down at an underground magic show on a Thursday night in Uptown? I had no real cause for concern, but I did have a slight fear of being sawed in half- based solely on my limited magical experience with 1970s televised magic acts.

As I hoped, the Magic Lounge debunked my stereotypes and provided a relaxing, humorous and pleasantly mystifying foray in to the art of magic. We were escorted via a secret entrance to the elevator through an art deco lobby into Uptown Underground, a subterranean club located at 4707 N. Broadway. The interior of the club has a speakeasy vibe--with a lush and tiny stage and a heavy, antique bar staffed by gals and guys who fit in with the cabaret atmosphere. The crowd was a diverse bunch from the neighborhood and nearby suburbs out for a date night, or a good time with friends. Behind the bar was Jeremy Pitt-Payne ,the magician from Britain. We knew this because he sported a mad hatter/Union Jack get-up.

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Kim Campbell / Comments (0)

Theater Mon Apr 20 2015

Secrets and Dreams Revealed in Teatro Vista's Between You, Me and the Lampshade

Photo by Joel Maisonet.

Family secrets and dreams are explored in Raul Castillo's Between You, Me and the Lampshade in a world premiere being staged by Teatro Vista. Set in a barren area of Rio Grande County in south Texas, the play addresses immigration issues as well as family tensions.

Jesse (beautifully played by Sandra Marquez) is an attractive Mexican-American woman with a teenaged son, Woody (Tommy Rivera-Vega), and a career as a social worker. ("Likes to fix other people's problems. Not so good at taking care of her own," Woody tells a friend.) They live in a trailer outside town. Late one night, a Mexican border crosser named Amparo (Aysssette Munoz in a fine performance) breaks into the trailer. Jesse confronts her with a gun. The young woman doesn't speak English and has suffered a serious snakebite. How Jesse tends to Amparo's wounds and her dilemma plays out for the next 100 minutes.

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Nancy Bishop / Comments (0)

Column Fri Apr 17 2015

Unfriended, Monkey Kingdom, Ex Machina, Clouds of Sils Maria, True Story, Revenge of the Mekons & May in the Summer



If the idea of spending 80 minutes looking at nothing but the screen of a teenage girl's computer doesn't terrify you or make you feel creepy, you might actually enjoy bits and pieces of Unfriended (formerly titled Cybernatural), the latest from Blumhouse Productions and, oddly enough, producer Timur Bekmambetov. Not unlike last year's more ambitious and interesting Open Windows, Unfriended carries out the beats of a horror movie shown only from the vantage point of one girl's laptop, with little cheats built in. Keep in mind that a person can Skype with several people at once, or play YouTube videos to give us visual film clips that act as flashbacks, or receive messages via any number of social media outlets that can serve as unspoken dialogue.

Our lead character also investigates the possibility that the ghost of a recently dead friend is terrorizing her and her pals by going onto websites and message boards about such phenomena, all the while getting vaguely threatening messages from someone who may or not be dead. I'll admit, director Levan Gabriadze (Lucky Trouble) and screenwriter Nelson Greaves actually make this exercise rather amusing and clever, although not especially scary. The kids on the Skype call are picked off one by one, supposedly by the ghost of their friend who killed herself after she was cyber-bullied when a humiliating video of her is posted by persons unknown.

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Steve Prokopy / Comments (0)

Art Fri Apr 17 2015

ACTIVATE Returns to the Loop

Last year, the Chicago Loop Alliance invited the public to interact and experience the alleyways of downtown Chicago. Bringing interactive artists such as Luftwerk, and hosting a party-like atmosphere, the Loop was transformed into a pop-up urban experience. Beginning May 15, the CLA will be hosting six nights of ACTIVATE one night each month until October.


Nearly $400,000 was produced for local Loop businesses in the first seven ACTIVATE events from 2013-2014 and more than 14,000 attended the event during the series. The series will be continued this year from May until October with new artists, music, and culture, which were carefully curated for the public.

Continue reading this entry »

S. Nicole Lane / Comments (0)

Feature Thu Apr 16 2015

From Chicago to Senegal by Way of the Drum: Interview with Local Filmmaker Mallory Sohmer

By Ana Sekler


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.

Sohmer's first film, The Living Documents (2009), a call for social justice, told the story of Nicaraguan indigenous rights attorney Maria Luisa Acosta and the circumstances around the murder of her husband Frank Garcia. It aired on the Documentary Channel (now Pivot) and resulted in a hearing with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights in 2013.

Ana Sekler: Drum Beat Journey, what phase are you in with this project?

Mallory Sohmer: We're currently in post-production and have been working on the film for a long time, since 2011. I'm co-directing it with my friend Kate Benzschawel.

Continue reading this entry »

A/C / Comments (1)

Art Wed Apr 15 2015

Spring Exhibition Receptions and Guida Family Creative Wing Ceremony @ The Hyde Park Art Center

If you're itching for a packed day of art, events, exhibitions and ceremonies, then the Hyde Park Art Center will tend to your creative needs this Sunday, April 19. Being the first space to exhibit the work of the Hairy Who artists in the early 1960s and currently housing a flourishing residency, several galleries and ongoing events, the HPAC is a hotbed for Hyde Park artists and locals.


The spring exhibition receptions include several openings and closings that feature resident artist, Susan Giles, solo artist Nancy Lu Rosenheim, HPAC students Charles Heppner and Diane Jaderberg, filmmaker Melika Bass, and ArtShop. The receptions will take place from 3 to 5pm Sunday and will include three new exhibitions in addition to ongoing exhibitions that are coming to a close.

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S. Nicole Lane / Comments (0)

Theater Wed Apr 15 2015

Shattered Globe Explores How We Grow Up (and Time-Jump)


Photo by Michael Brosilow.

A meditation on time and life--and the problem of deciding when, if ever, you're a grownup. That's kind of the story of Jordan Harrison's The Grown-Up at Shattered Globe Theatre. Directed by Krissy Vanderwarker, the cast of six actors moves through 18 scenes of varying lengths. In each, Kai (Kevin Viol) has moved on in his life, aging a bit but still trying to believe in the magic of the future. The 75-minute play is impressionistic, sometimes entertaining, but the scenes don't create a coherent plotline and the story doesn't build our interest in Kai.

We first meet him as a 10-year-old listening to his grandfather (Ben Werling) tell a story about a magic doorknob. The man who built their house was an old sailor who had sailed as a cabin boy on a pirate ship. He survived a shipwreck with the only part of that great ship that survived: the crystal eye of the mermaid figurehead from the ship's prow. This magic doorknob can open the door to anywhere, his grandfather says.

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Nancy Bishop / Comments (0)

Theater Mon Apr 13 2015

Badfic Love's Satirical Romp Transcends Itself

Badfic Michael Courier.jpg

Photo by Michael Courier

Imagine a secret society that tasks itself with the mission to abolish terrible fan fiction from the internet, a group that embraces the sci-fi and fantasy fiction 'canons' with such rigidity that any variation on their beloved tales must be mocked out of existence, even while their own inside jokes and pitiful puns are riddled with the indecipherable, ludicrous mash-up of their geek culture. Then picture an unlikely Mary Sue sort of heroine who simply must write about the unspoken love between Harry Potter and Draco Malfoy because it makes her and her diehard fans happy. By this point, you can clearly see the window for comedy that has been opened. But until you see the show yourself, it is doubtful you could also imagine how the rich layers of theme and subtle ironies fold in so seamlessly with scenes that involve feuding superheroes being taught lessons about grammar. But just because you can't imagine it ahead of time, doesn't mean it didn't happen.

Strange Bedfellows Theatre's new production, Badfic Love, written by Adam Pasen and directed by Aaron Henrickson, makes it happen by pairing an award-winning story with a lively and capable cast.

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Kim Campbell / Comments (0)

Media Fri Apr 10 2015

Help Wanted: Arts & Culture Writers

A/C is looking for new contributors who are passionate about the arts and about Chicago. We'd like to have some new writers who are interested in covering all forms of the arts--theater, dance, comedy, fashion, circuses and other forms of performance plus visual arts, photography, architecture and design. We like to highlight the quirky nature of the arts in Chicago too, so feel free to suggest something new. If you're interested, we would love to hear from you.

As a contributor to Gapers Block, you would be expected to write at least one post a week for the A/C page, plus items for the Slowdown event calendar. We are looking for writers who can cover the arts in general or who are especially interested in one of the forms above. (If you'd like to write about music, that comes under the Transmission or Music page.)

NOTE: Gapers Block is a volunteer entity; while the position is unpaid, writers benefit from building clips; receiving free admission to plays, performances and other cultural events; media access to press conferences and other events; and occasionally other perks.

If you are interested in writing about arts and culture for Gapers Block, please send two to three writing samples, a little note about yourself and why you would like to write for GB to with the subject line, "Contributing to the A/C page."

Nancy Bishop / Comments (0)

Column Fri Apr 10 2015

The Longest Ride, Desert Dancer, The Tales of Hoffmann & Marfa Girl


The Longest Ride

I have some questions about this one. We all know author Nicholas Sparks is a fan of his characters writing letters, and that's cool. It's a dying art form, and to actually see a person take pen to paper is unexpectedly refreshing and comforting in this age of handheld devices, no punctuation and lack of capitalization. In the latest of his novels adapted for the screen (I believe this is film number 10), The Longest Ride, the character of Ira Levinson (played as an elderly gent by Alan Alda and a strapping younger man circa the 1940s by "Boardwalk Empire's" Jack Huston) writes an endless series of letters to his beloved and eventual wife Ruth (Oona Chaplin formerly of "Game of Thrones").

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Steve Prokopy / Comments (0)

Theater Thu Apr 09 2015

The Upstairs Concierge at the Goodman: It's a Farce, But the Witty Part Is Missing

Photo by Liz Lauren.

Todd Rosenthal's set design for The Hotelman Arms hotel in The Upstairs Concierge is handsome, done in Prairie Style with Frank Lloyd Wright-type stained glass window panels, faux oak staircases, moldings, cabinetry and doors. Even the typography of the "Your New Family Home" motto signage is an arts and crafts font.

The multiple doors and staircases are clues that this is not going to be a drama that would have attracted Frank Lloyd Wright, however. They're signs of a farce to come, as we learned from those witty French farces by Georges Feydeau.

Unfortunately, Goodman Theatre's new world premiere of Kristoffer Diaz's The Upstairs Concierge is not a witty French farce. Its celebrity- and baseball-driven plotline doesn't work as a contemporary comic romp. The plot is a mish-mash and the dialogue is flat and rarely funny.

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Nancy Bishop / Comments (0)

Theater Wed Apr 08 2015

End Days at Windy City Playhouse: It's Only Rain, Not the Rapture

Photo by Justin Barbin.

End Days by Deborah Zoe Laufer is the first production in the sparkling new Windy City Playhouse in the Irving Park neighborhood. It's a worthy outing for this new Equity theater company. End Days is a play about people who fear the end of the world is coming -- or vehemently reject that idea -- and they all seek solace from a wild variety of counselors.

Is the end of the world approaching? Sylvia Stein (Tina Gluschenko) believes so and since Jesus (yes, Jesus, played by Steven Strafford) follows her around and assists in her preparation, it's no wonder she continues to pass out flyers and engage in public prayer. Sylvia's Goth atheist teenaged daughter Rachel (nicely played by Sari Sanchez) thinks her mother is a madwoman and resists her demands for prayer and repentance. Her father Arthur (the excellent veteran Chicago actor Keith Kupferer) really doesn't give a damn. He has trouble getting out of his pajamas or leaving the house. It turns out he's suffering from PTSD as the only survivor on his company's floor in the World Trade Center on 9/11.

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Nancy Bishop / Comments (0)

Feature Thu Apr 16 2015

From Chicago to Senegal by Way of the Drum: Interview with Local Filmmaker Mallory Sohmer

By Ana Sekler

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 »

Steve at the Movies Fri Apr 24 2015

Chicago Critics Film Festival, The Age of Adaline, Adult Beginners, The Water Diviner, The Wrecking Crew, Welcome to New York & Dior and I

By Steve Prokopy

Read this column »


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Sun Apr 26 2015
"Diversified" at Under the Gun Theater

Sun Apr 26 2015
Dance Extravaganza @ Old Town School of Folk Music

Sun Apr 26 2015
Chicago Improv Festival

Sun Apr 26 2015
Version Festival 15

Sun Apr 26 2015

Mon Apr 27 2015
August Wilson Film @ MCA Edlis Neeson Theater

Mon Apr 27 2015
Version Festival 15

Mon Apr 27 2015
Dinner & a Flick @ New 400 Theater

Tue Apr 28 2015
The Moth StorySLAM @ Martyrs'

Tue Apr 28 2015
Version Festival 15

Wed Apr 29 2015
Version Festival 15

Thu Apr 30 2015
Version Festival 15

Thu Apr 30 2015
Daniel Clowes @ Quimby's

Thu Apr 30 2015
Hairy Who & The Chicago Imagists​ Screening & Discussion @ UIC

Fri May 1 2015
Kanikapila @ Old Town School of Folk Music

Fri May 1 2015
Chicago Critics Film Festival

Fri May 1 2015
Luftwerk Refractions Opening Reception @ Silent Funny

Sat May 2 2015
Chicago Art Girls Pop Up Shop

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A/C is the arts and culture section of Gapers Block, covering the many forms of expression on display in Chicago. More...
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