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Gapers Block published from April 22, 2003 to Jan. 1, 2016. The site will remain up in archive form. Please visit Third Coast Review, a new site by several GB alumni.
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Tuesday, April 16

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Circus Mon Nov 02 2015

Talking with Koji Kraft, BMX Troupe Leader at Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus XTREME


Ringling Bros.and Barnum & Bailey's show Circus XTREME will be coming to Chicago from November 5th until the 29th playing both at Rosemont and United Center. This circus promises to be a mash up of old and new, mixing classic routines like the human cannon ball and high wire with extreme sports like parkour, slack line, trampoline wall and even BMX biking. Perhaps this careful blend of old and new is meant to attract three generations of circus fans with a hankering for the exotic, the sporty and the adventurous. I had a chance to talk to Koji Kraft, BMX rider and Troupe Leader, and one of the new breed of circus artists, about what it is like to be in the circus and how he got there.

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Kim Campbell

Circus Tue Oct 20 2015

Acrobatica Infiniti Has Nerd Fun at Uptown Underground

Dharmesh, Acrobatica Infiniti
Photo by Nancy Behall.

Everyone knows when Halloween comes around, it is safe for the nerds to come out in full cosplay. But the nerd circus members of Acrobatica Infiniti dress up all year, and now, once a month, nerds, geeks and fanfolk can get an extra dose of sexy nerd by seeing their show at Uptown Underground, a self-described retro-themed night club that hosts regular burlesque, cabaret and magic shows.

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Kim Campbell

Circus Mon Oct 12 2015

UniverSoul Circus Puts Heart and Soul in to Circus at Washington Park

UniverSoul CircusThe Big Top is red and yellow, two colors that pop up often in the pan-African flag spectrum. Nearly everything about the UniverSoul show celebrates urban and global culture, from the frequent strains of hip-hop tunes between numbers, to the colorful African-themed costumes and acts. For the past 21 years, UniverSoul Circus has been entertaining audiences in the US (and once in South Africa by Nelson Mandela's request) with lively performances from around the world. But UniverSoul is an American-based circus, founded in 1994 by Cedric Walker in Atlanta.

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Kim Campbell

Theater Fri Jul 31 2015

Step Right Up and See Pippin @ Cadillac Palace Theatre

Pippin opened up this week at the Cadillac Palace Theatre to a full house of enthusiastic fans ready to celebrate the 32nd longest running Broadway play and enjoy the iconic figures portrayed in it. There was quite a lot of kerfuffle over the charming Josh Rubinstein appearing as Charles, since he was the original Pippin in 1972. But Adrienne Barbeau brought down the house with her grandmotherly spunk, especially when she whipped off her Queenly garments to reveal the trapeze artist costume beneath and took to the trapeze with ease with partner Kevin Langlois Boucher just before orchestrating a giant sing-along with the audience. Not bad for a woman in her 70s.

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Kim Campbell / Comments (1)

Circus Thu Jul 30 2015

Cirque du Soleil's KURIOS-Cabinet of Curiosities: Interview with Director Michel Laprise


Cirque du Soleil is coming to Chicago this August with their production KURIOS-Cabinet of Curiosities, a show which promises to touch on Cirque du Soleil's roots, to convey a message of optimism to all ages and to give us a good dose of steam punk mechanics. They'll be setting up the Big Top right in the United Center parking lot and keeping it there for six weeks. I had a chance to talk with Michel Laprise, director and writer of KURIOS, to ask him about his work with Cirque du Soleil, and his vision while creating the show.

The show has a steam punk fa├žade, but underneath the rich imagery of brass geegaws and quaint contraptions is a message of optimism about the power of human creativity in our age, says Laprise. "I use the old principle of Shakespeare that if you want to talk about an era, don't do it right now. Your reference point should be with some distance and in another country. So we invented our own steam punk in a Victorian era; it's Paris 1900--the Universal Exhibition--when everyone got excited about the new discoveries! But we are in fact talking about our own era."

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Kim Campbell

Dance Thu Jun 25 2015

One Night Only! World Premiere Production of Circo Tap at Athenaeum Theatre Saturday

By Jen Kraakevik


Photo by Josh Hawkins.

"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.

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Circus Fri Jun 05 2015

2nd Chicago Contemporary Circus Festival at Athenaeum Theatre; Prepare to Flip Out


Chicago has a reputation as a strong arts town, and it has been quietly establishing itself as a major destination for circus in recent years. Perhaps the healthiest sign of that is that it is hosting an international event called the Chicago Contemporary Circus Festival for the second year. It will take place June 17-21 at the Athenaeum Theatre, 2936 N. Southport, and various locations throughout the city. Seventy-six artists will take part in 30 performances in one week, showcasing quaint one-man shows such as Peter Davison's Tossed and Found as well as bold major scale productions like Cirque Mechanics Pedal Punk.

The variety of circus disciplines on display will be impressive, with international players hand-picked to display an array of skills such as juggling, clowning (aka physical theater) and acrobatics, but all within the context of the contemporary circus artistry.

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Kim Campbell

Circus Fri May 22 2015

Acrobatica Infiniti to Debut Nerd Circus: An Interview with Director Tana Karo


Acrobatica Infiniti Circus (aka AI Circus) will debut the first circus performance "for nerds, by nerds" in their own hometown, Chicago, next Friday, May 29. Acrobatica Infiniti is the brain child of Tana Karo, a professional circus performer who has traveled the world but makes her home in Chicago, one of the best circus cities to train in due to a thriving art scene and multiple circus schools. She has gathered more than 10 circus artists with nerd in their hearts to debut this full-length production. The show is expected to sell out quickly as it appeals to a broad audience, which is something that can't always be said about circus in general.

AI Circus is full of super heroes, fictional sci-fi characters and anyone else you might find dressed up at a cosplay event, but the difference is, these characters don't just arrive once a year to sign autographs at a convention. They are here to tell a story, perform amazing feats, and entertain their fans with a variety of amusing and thrilling acts that involve aerial stunts, contortion, juggling acrobatics and more.

I asked director Karo (everyone calls her Tank) to tell us where she got the idea for AI Circus and what she hoped to accomplish with it.

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Kim Campbell

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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.
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Steve at the Movies Fri Jan 01 2016

Best Feature Films & Documentaries of 2015

By Steve Prokopy

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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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