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Comedy Wed Aug 22 2012

Celebrating the Weirdos: the Annoyance Theatre turns 25 in Style

029.JPGWhere have all the weirdos gone? Well, for the past 25 years, a lot of them have called the Annoyance Theatre their home (or lair) and last Friday, the company celebrated its 25 year milestone in barely-legal style (by FCC standards, I'm sure) with a huge party at Park West.

The Annoyance prides itself on having a "no judgment" approach to comedy, allowing people to put on creative material that would be considered too messed up for other companies to produce. To give you some context the first production -- back in 1987 -- was called Splatter Theater and involved lots of fake (I think) blood. The Annoyance puts on gritty and slimy and what-the-hell- was-that shows. You know, the best kind.

"The Annoyance has always been a little ragamuffin and a misfit," said Mick Napier -- founder and artistic director of the Annoyance -- as he addressed the crowd. "There are some things that I'm very proud of and one of them is that being the artistic director of the Annoyance is pretty easy, it's this sentence: You can do whatever the fuck you want ... [That philosophy] creates its hits and creates its misses but what it does create is daring and challenge and it creates a fearlessness and it creates the invitation to completely fail."

The company's culture is all about allowing people to try things that they think is funny. That may sound simple enough, but is actually pretty radical when you think about the cost of running a company or any business for that matter.

"For every opening I always like to say, 'Don't forget that if you fuck up it just doesn't matter at all," said Napier.

The Annoyance celebrated its anniversary by doing what it does best -- playing. The evening was broken into three parts based on the shows and buildings (the theatre has had three architectural incarnations) of its 25 year history.

Broadway and Briar -- In the first section of the night, Annoyance members did a medley of numbers from the company's earliest productions. These included songs about a vagina pageant, men being like Tupperware, and Charles Manson.

043 (1).JPGMy favorite moments of the night were in this first part of the evening. Annoyance members did scenes from Co-Ed Prison Sluts -- which made history as being Chicago's longest running musical (11 years). Ellen Stoneking sang an incredible number from the show. Napier told the crowd that Stoneking had improvised the song one night as it was being recorded live.
The company used that improvised song word-for-word on opening night and they haven't ever changed a word of it in all the years it was performed. Another great scene they performed from Co-Ed Prison Sluts was a foul-mouthed sing along with Susan Messing.

3700 N. Clark St. -- The middle section of the night was playful with Annoyance members talking about different company rumors in an "I heard..." type of format.

They also did a number that mimicked the Rent song "Seasons of Love" -- you, know, the one that goes "525,600 minutes..." but the performers changed these lyrics to the company's North Clark Street address.

4830 N. Broadway -- The last third of the night featured some of Annoyance's most recent shows including songs from Steamwerkz: The Musical and Brunch Punkx's. These numbers were satirical and fast-paced, and gave us something to look forward to in future Annoyance productions.

According to the Annoyance website upcoming shows include Planet Karate: Rise of The Robotic Dynasty, ¡Solo Olé!, and Kitty Massacre.

Over the past 25 years the Annoyance has done all kinds of experimental theater, like putting a wrestling ring in the theater, skin-prov, and donkey improv -- they seriously did improv sets with live, pooping donkeys.

"Being able to create more subversive material and be effective. To let the audience in on the joke and not make them feel alienated," said Napier. "As shocking as our theater can be, I always feel bad when an audience member leaves. It's never my goal. My goal is to invite them in to a dirty little party, let them have fun and enjoy it and turn to their friend and go 'oh my God do you believe that' and share that experience with us."

The company celebrated 25 years of doing what it wanted, on its own terms. The Annoyance has been a place for the talented weirdos a.k.a. people who find traditional standards constricting. The company proves that the truly weird ones can make it and do it with style. And thank God -- or whoever you or Mick Napier worships -- for that, because we need more weirdoes.

(top image: Mick Napier)
(mid-image: Susan Messing)
photo credit(s): Carol Bontekoe of Colorful Cow Photography

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Architecture Tue Nov 03 2015

Paul Goldberger Describes the "Pragmatism and Poetry" of Frank Gehry's Architecture in His New Book

By Nancy Bishop

Architecture critic Paul Goldberger talks about Frank Gehry's life and work in a new book.
Read this feature »

Steve at the Movies Fri Jan 01 2016

Best Feature Films & Documentaries of 2015

By Steve Prokopy

Read this column »


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