Gapers Block has ceased publication.

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.
 Thank you for your readership and contributions. 


Saturday, May 18

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Literary Fri Dec 11 2015

Beowulf & Grendel! On Stage at Chief O'Neill's

Beowulf & GrendelBeowulf & Grendel, a reading of a new adaptation of the classic story, will be presented by the Phantom Collective Sunday evening, Dec. 20, at Chief O'Neill's Pub & Restaurant.

Chicago author June Sawyers has combined Beowulf, the Old English epic poem, with Grendel, one of Beowulf's antagonists (dramatized in John Gardner's 1971 novel, Grendel, in which that character tells his side of the story).

Si Osborne directs actors Stephen O'Connell and Andrew Rathgeber, with music by Sean Cleland and sound design by John Szymanski.

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Nancy Bishop

Photography Thu Dec 03 2015

Century of Progress Book Documents Images from 1933-34 Chicago World's Fair

Century of Progress bookNo, it's not the most famous world's fair ever hosted in Chicago. The fame of the 1933-34 Century of Progress exhibition is eclipsed by the renown, the infamy and the iconic images of the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition held in Jackson Park and the south shore of Lake Michigan to commemorate the 400th anniversary of Christopher Columbus' arrival in the new world. The 1893 fair became even more familiar with the popularity of Eric Larson's 2003 book, Devil in the White City.

The 1933-34 Century of Progress celebrated Chicago's first century of industrial and scientific achievements. More than 48 million people visited the fair, which stretched for 3.5 miles along the lakefront at the present site of McCormick Place and Northerly Island. (The entire US population at the time was about 125 million.) The fair was considered so important that it became the fourth star on Chicago's municipal flag. And in the Gapers Block nameplate.

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Nancy Bishop

Architecture Tue Nov 03 2015

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

Building Art: The Life and Work of Frank GehryPaul Goldberger, former architecture critic of the New York Times, will receive the Architectural Journalism Award from the Society of Architectural Historians here Friday night. The award ties in to the release of Goldberger's new book, Building Art: The Life and Work of Frank Gehry.

This is Goldberger's eighth book, but his first on an individual architect. I had a chance to review his book and interview him recently. Goldberger spent 4.5 years and many hours in conversation with Gehry and his clients and colleagues in writing the book, published last month by Alfred A. Knopf.

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Nancy Bishop / Comments (1)

Theater Mon Sep 21 2015

The Artistic Home Presents The Time of Your Life: A Production to Remember 1939

The Time of Your Life at The Artistic Home
Joe (Scott Westerman, right) is egged on by Kit Carson (Frank Nall) as he engages in a gum-chewing contest with Tom (Jae K. Renfrow, left). Photo by Tim Knight.

Walking into The Artistic Home theater, you literally enter Nick's saloon in San Francisco. Large lettering identifies the bar owner, playing cards are set out, light illuminates the back window. It was clear that each prop and scenic detail had been strategically set up to bring the audience back to 1939. In the 45-seat theater, I felt like I was a part of the production.

The actors brought to life exactly what I had read in the script just hours before. The emotion portrayed in Kitty Duvall and the transformation of Joe throughout the performance were truly how I pictured it. I believe that the playwright, William Saroyan, would approve this rendition of his work. The details, even down to the newspapers displaying "The San Francisco Chronicles" masthead in 1939-style font, were exemplary.

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Jen Kraakevik

Theater Mon Aug 17 2015

First Floor Theater's Kafkapalooza Succeeds With Eight Short Plays Inspired by the Czech Master

A Perfect Ganesh
Briana Finegan and Nora Bingham in "The Applicant." Photo by Ariela Subar.

I've attended a few short-play productions, where works of 10-15 minutes each purport to capture or represent another work of art or event. Most of them are unsuccessful in staging works of substance, plot or character.

That's not the case in First Floor Theater's Third Annual Litfest, Kafkapalooza. Eight different playwrights dramatize or "are inspired by" one of the stories of Franz Kafka, the late great Czech storyteller, who tried to keep his unpublished works from being published after his death. Fortunately, Max Brod, Kafka's literary executor, ignored his wishes. And so we have a play such as "The Applicant" by Amanda Fink, inspired by the story, "Poseidon," as well as "Justice for All" by Karen Kessler, inspired by "The Penal Colony," and "Red Right Hand" by Ike Holter, inspired by Kafka's best-known story, "The Metamorphosis." (The latter two stories were published during Kafka's lifetime. My knowledge of Kafka's publishing history is enhanced by my serendipitous purchase of a used copy of Franz Kafka: The Complete Stories at the Printer's Row Lit Fest in June.)

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Nancy Bishop

Performance Tue May 19 2015

A Month Of... Storytelling at Stage773

Photo by Ian Spudes

A Month Of... is not alone. On any given night in Chicago, a fan of live literature can find a venue to indulge their hobby. Live lit has a huge scene in Chicago, with beloved storytellers trotting from event to recurring event weekly, and new storytellers arising from the mists frequently.

There is Write Club, the Uptown Poetry Slam and Louder Than a Mom to name a few of the more imaginative literary events. Each has its own set of rules, themes and rituals. At Write Club for instance, speakers compete against each other on a theme opposite theirs. The winner, declared by audience loudness, gets to choose what charity the proceeds of that evening's bounty will benefit.

A Month Of... has its own angle on live lit, one that seems to be evolving to fill a void, but that always involves a potluck meal and has a clear ethos. Dan Boyd, the founder of Story Luck -- the non-profit umbrella organization over several literary ventures -- explained what drives A Month Of... "The theme of friendship, and the idea that these sorts of events are a public good remain at the core of the decisions we make," he said. "Our mission statement is,'We Listen, Tell, and Create New Stories.'"

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Kim Campbell

Literary Wed Nov 05 2014

See a Staged Reading of "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner" Sunday

Engraving by Gustave Doré for 1876 edition of "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner."

Water, water, everywhere / And all the boards did shrink /
Water, water, everywhere / Nor any drop to drink.

These famous lines from Samuel Taylor Coleridge's classic poem, "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner," come near the beginning of this tale of a sailor returned from an eventful sea voyage.* The Phantom Collective will present a staged reading of the Coleridge poem at 7:30pm Sunday, Nov. 9 at the Haymarket Pub. The reading will be preceded by an original theater piece, "Ripple," about being lost at sea.

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Nancy Bishop

Literary Sun Oct 05 2014

That's All She Wrote turns TWO!!

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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

Literary Thu Jan 30 2014

Auditions for the 25th Annual Biggest Liar Contest Feb 10 & 12 @ Mrs. Murphy & Sons

If you're a fan of the kind of storytelling that used to get you in trouble when you were a kid (especially if you got away with it) you should audition for the 25th Annual Biggest Liar Contest. The brainchild of storyteller and live lit producer Scott Whitehair, the man behind This Much Is True, Do Not Submit, and Story Lab, the Biggest Liar Contest awards one lucky storyteller with the coveted Hogwash Cup and a check for $149.99. Auditions take place Monday, February 10 and Wednesday, February 12 at Mrs. Murphy & Sons Irish Bistro (3905 N. Lincoln.) The contest takes place May 3 at the Ravenswood United Church of Christ (2050 W. Pensacola.) For more information visit This Much Is True. No experience necessary.

J.H. Palmer

Benefit Mon Nov 25 2013

Soup & Bread & That's All She Wrote Team Up for Benefit

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Karen Gerod, the owner of Swim Cafe, has long been a supporter of local literary and charitable events. Since the inception of the Soup & Bread series at the Hideout she's been there, and since September 2012 she's made her cafe home to the live lit series That's All She Wrote.

Earlier this year Karen was diagnosed with cancer, and has since been battling both the disease and mounting medical bills. Martha Bayne of Soup & Bread has teamed up with Angela Benander and JH Palmer of That's All She Wrote for a fundraiser on Wednesday, Dec. 11 at the Hideout (1354 W. Wabansia) benefitting Karen.

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J.H. Palmer

Literary Mon Nov 04 2013

Two Generations of Storytelling in One Event

The monthly live lit series This Much Is True and Story Lab are producing a one-night only event featuring veteran storyteller Jim May, who's been telling stories for 26 years, and Natasha Tsoutsouris, an emerging storyteller, in an event called Old School, New School. In it, May and Tsoutsouris will blend their styles together to create a "solo" show with two voices. The show takes place on Saturday, November 16 at Mrs. Murphy's & Sons Irish Bistro (3905 N. Lincoln). Tickets are $12 and can be purchased online at Brown Paper Tickets. Start time is 8pm, more information available here.oldnew.jpg

J.H. Palmer

Free Sat Oct 05 2013

Live lit series That's All She Wrote turns 1!

If you don't know this about me, I co-produce a monthly live lit series called That's All She Wrote with my co-conspirator Angela Benander. Every second Sunday of the month we meet at Swim Cafe (1357 W. Chicago Ave.) and read stories aloud, with featured readers like Samantha Irby, Keith Ecker, Dana Norris, Roger Bonair-Agard, and many others. We'll be celebrating our one year anniversary on Sunday, October 13th with readings from Sarah Hollenbeck, Lindsay Muscato, Byron Roussin, and Martha Bayne. It's going to be fabulous, and we'd love to see you there. Doors open at 7:30pm, stories start at 8pm. Free and BYOB.


J.H. Palmer

Literary Fri Jul 26 2013

Four more chances to see Live Lit on the Lake

Founder and Overlord of WRITE CLUB Ian Belknap (named Best Literary Event by the Reader and Best Live Reading Series by Chicago Magazine) isn't taking the summer off - he's been busy producing Live Lit on the Lake, which takes place on Thursday and Friday nights through August 9.

The format for Live Lit on the Lake is intended to mirror the "sampler" spirit of Theatre on Lake, which seeks each summer to showcase the best of the past year's storefront theater. LLotL invites some of the city's Live Lit all stars to read certain of their favorite pieces, and have a brief chat with host/curator Ian Belknap about the craft and practice of live lit.

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J.H. Palmer

Theater Wed Jun 26 2013

See a Real Live Playwright at Work: Storefront Playwright Project Returns


Nearly 40 emerging and established playwrights will demonstrate how their craft works Tuesdays through Saturdays in July. Each playwright will work for a half day in the storefront window at 72 E. Randolph. Viewers will be able to read the work in progress on a large screen.

Playwrights selected for the project will receive a $50 per day stipend for a four-hour time slot (10am-2pm or 2pm-6pm); they will also be promoted through on-site signage and social media, as well as on the project's website. Participants include the Goodman Theatre Artistic Associate Regina Taylor, Nambi Kelly, Danny Bernardo, and more. The League of Chicago Theatres says its goal is "to support the playwriting community" and "encourage audiences to engage more deeply with Chicago theatre and the creative process of playwriting." The first Chicago Storefront Playwright Project took place in December 2012.

The project runs through July 27; for a full schedule and more information, visit the League of Chicago Theatres or call 312-554-9800.


Reginald Edmund, the final #playwrightinawindow in 2012; photo courtesy Storefront Playwright Project.

Nancy Bishop

Literary Wed Apr 03 2013

This Much Is True moves to Mrs. Murphy's Irish Bistro 4/9

I've heard tell of the early days, when the audience of This Much is True consisted only of the featured readers and John the bartender, but those days are long gone. After months on end (possibly even years) of standing room only crowds on the second floor of the Hopleaf, This Much is True is moving to Mrs. Murphy's & Sons Irish Bistro (3905 N. Lincoln.) While the venue may be different, the inclusive storytelling vibe and friendly producers Scott Whitehair and Deanna Moffit will transform the new space into a room as welcoming and fun as ever. Don't miss out on what's sure to be a lively kickoff to a new chapter in this storied (heh heh) series. Bonus - extra seating and legroom! Doors open at 6:45, stories begin at 7:30.

J.H. Palmer

Literary Thu Mar 07 2013

Celebrate Women's History Month with "All the Write Women" @ The Driehaus Museum


March is Women's History Month, a time to look back at women who left their mark on history. Events in celebration of Women's History Month are popping up all over Chicago. Join the Driehaus Museum this Sunday Saturday to celebrate women and songwriting through the ages.

The Driehaus Museum is celebrating some of the great American women songwriters from the past 100 years with a performance this Saturday, March 9, 2013. "All the Write Women" is Driehaus Museum's own caberet show to salute Women's History Month.

Performing the greats will be three of Chicago's favorite singers- Hilary Ann Feldman, Beckie Menzie, and Marianna Murphy Orland. These three singers will pay homage to the great Dorothy Fields and other great female talent since. Fields' career spanned over fifty years from the 1920's to the 1970's. She wrote more than 400 songs for the Broadway stage and screen- many of which have been come American classics. Her contribution paved the way for future songwriters and singers like the 60's Carole King, Joni Mitchell, and Carly Simon, as well as modern talent.

Purchase tickets prior to the show. Doors will open for the performance at 5:30pm and guests are welcome to peruse the museum collections before the show. Drinks and light fare will be provided. Guests must be 21 and up.

Lauren Haberman

Literary Thu Mar 07 2013

Obsession-Worthy: Lionhearted Live Lit at Guts & Glory


Keith Ecker and Samantha Irby are names that are revered in the Chicago storytelling scene. If you see these names on the bill of a show, you can rest assured that you're in for a good night. At least at the show. You still might get a parking ticket or have other, unrelated problems. They're good, but they're not magic!

Or are they? Ecker and Irby do seem to have a touch of the supernatural about them. In their storytelling, they spew truth wrapped in smart, sassy phrasing and delivered with pizazz. Yes, pizazz. They've got it. Ecker and Irby are forces of nature, producing so much material and participating in so many shows that you'd have a hard time stalking them if you tried. (I've tried). They also both look exceedingly hip every time you see them. How do they do this? If only someone could successfully stalk them to find out. But today I'm interviewing them less about their outfits and more about their newest creation, a night of live lit that is a unique addition to the booming Chicago storytelling scene: Guts & Glory.

If you haven't been to Guts & Glory, cancel your spa day and do this instead; it is acupuncture for the soul. On the third Wednesday of every month, an audience bigger than your extended family's Christmas gathering (and far less awkward) snuggles into the back of Powell's Bookstore to hear fearless tales of guts, and possibly glory. But, as Ecker points out, the glory mainly comes from just getting up there and talking. How did these two hip, smart storytellers create a hugely successful show and make it look effortless? And am I or am I not obsessed with them? Do I just get obsessed with everyone who can tell a good story in a cute outfit? Sorry, excuse me, I promise this is about Guts & Glory. Let the questions begin.

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Caitlin Bergh

Burlesque Mon Feb 25 2013

Brass Chuckles: A New Kind of Comedy Show


Brass Chuckles is a playful, monthly comedy show at The Playground Theater that values genuine comedic expression over perfection. This makes sense given it was created by one Chicago's most exploratory artists, Tamale Sepp. Hanging out with Tamale at a tea lounge is just like watching her produce a show. She oozes positivity and acceptance, and she notices everything. Are you standing in the doorway and making everyone cold? She will politely ask you to move. Did you leave your mug at your table when you left? Tamale's got it. It is exactly these superpowers of perception and caring that make Tamale a fantastic producer.

Tamale, who has a background in fire dancing, burlesque, drag, sketch, improv and stand-up, created Brass Chuckles to foster comedy in Chicago that is as interdisciplinary as she is. Brass Chuckles performances range from drag to videos to performance art, with comedic expression as the through-line, and Tamale hosts the whole thing with an upbeat charm. The show aims to bring different artistic communities together to play and to learn from each other. A stand-up who watches fire dancing, for example, can learn a new meaning of silence from a crowd. "When I'm fire dancing, my audience does not talk," says Tamale. "People are hypnotized, so they don't have a lot of response. This does not equate to them not being invested or completely involved in that experience. It's the opposite. And that can be true during tension-filled moments of stand-up."

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Caitlin Bergh

Literary Thu Feb 21 2013

Pungent Parlour: A New Fireside Reading Series


Jeremy Solomon and Jeff Phillips kicked off their new reading series, Pungent Parlour, at the Black Rock Pub (3614 N Damen Ave) this week. The series, happening every third Tuesday of the month at 8:30pm, features six or seven writers presenting pieces of fiction or essay for audiences gathered on fireside couches in the Black Rock's back room. Solomon and Phillips host a show that they hope will feel more like a salon and will add to the live lit scene by bringing fiction and essay together in one place.

Judging from their debut, Solomon and Phillips are certainly accomplishing their goals. The Pungent Parlour producers host the show with an unassuming, supportive tone, and the audience is there as much for the readings as they are for the fireside chatting over beer at intermission. Pungent Parlour evades the ostentatious, insincere aspects inherent to many shows, presenting instead a gathering of people invested in supporting Chicago writers. The lack of admission fee or competition of any kind, and even the lack of a microphone, brings a relaxing vibe to the space that would inspire just about any writer or listener. The Pungent Parlour urges us to slow down and just enjoy good readings and conversation, making it a refreshing addition to the hustle and bustle of the live lit scene. Pull on your best cardigan and mosey down to the next Pungent Parlour on March 19th.

Follow me on twitter: @caitlinebergh

Caitlin Bergh

Culture Wed Jan 02 2013

Conqo Square Theatre Presents: Mosley on the Square


Walter Mosley; photo: David Burnett.

Walter Mosley is one of America's most celebrated novelists; with critically-acclaimed books and other works that have been adapted for the film, theater and television, the award-winning, bestselling author and playwright remains one of the most popular writers today.

Mosley, who has written over 30 books, achieved commercial fame for his crime fiction novel series starring the character "Detective Easy Rawlins"; from that series, Devil In A Blue Dress, which starred two-time Academy Award winner Denzel Washington, was made for the big screen.

To pay homage to Mosley, the Congo Square Theatre welcomes the author to Chicago with "Mosley on the Square," Thursday, Jan. 17 through Saturday, Jan. 19. This 3-day tribute, with events held at the Harold Washington Library and the Chicago Cultural Center, will feature film screenings, staged readings, book signings and more.

Admission for all events is free; for a complete schedule, visit Congo Square Theatre or call 773-296-1108.

LaShawn Williams / Comments (1)

Performance Thu Dec 06 2012

Review: Dead or Alive @ Raven Theatre

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Jared Grant portrays the late poet Etheridge Knight in
Chicago Slam Works' "Dead or Alive." Photo credit: Andy Karol

In his ridiculously funny take on Jonathan Swift, Robbie Q. Telfer blasts through any highbrow preconceptions of the 18th century satirist, and does so in a gigantic wig and a thrift store approximation of what Mr. Swift's wardrobe might have looked like if Village Discount Outlet stores had been around in 1700s Ireland. Chicago Slam Works is back with another edition of "Dead or Alive," the slam-inspired challenge where living poets face off against famous dead poets and writers (played by live ones) and a panel of judges decides who's best. CSW brings poetry to venues not generally associated with the form with the hopes of broadening the audience and shaking off some of the dust and cobwebs commonly associated with it.

CSW is behind a number of projects that test the limits of literary preconception: "Two Sides" is their series that brings storytelling and poetry onto the same stage, and "In Any Tongue" brings German slam poets onto the same stage with American poets. Highlights from last night's show include Jared Grant's performance as Etheridge Knight, Sage Morgan Hubbard (as herself), Emily Rose (as herself), and Robbie Q. Telfer's embodiment of Jonathan Swift. DOA runs on Wednesdays through December 19 at the Raven Theatre, 6157 N. Clark St. Shows start at 8pm; tickets are $14 and can be purchased online or by calling 847-556-8679. The December 12 show will be preceded by "Slammin' in the Footlights," a benefit to celebrate CSW's new home at the Raven Theatre and to raise awareness of CSW programs. Tickets to this performance are $50.

J.H. Palmer

Benefit Wed Nov 14 2012

WRITE CLUB Benefit @ Hamburger Mary's

WC Founder Ian Belknap copy.jpg
WRITE CLUB Founder and Overlord, Ian Belknap. Photo credit: Evan Hanover.

WRITE CLUB, the world's most badass competitive literary series, is making a special appearance on Friday, Nov. 16, at Hamburger Mary's, 5400 N. Clark St. The series regularly benefits charitable organizations, and this Friday, in a special appearance away from its home at the Hideout, benefits Stone Scholastic Academy.

If you're not familiar with WRITE CLUB, it consists of three bouts of two opposing writers representing two opposing ideas (Fire vs. Ice, say, or Fate vs. Free Will) assigned in advance. Performers get 7 minutes apiece to make their case, and the audience picks a winner. It's fast, hilarious, and has been hailed by New City as a Top Five Literary Event of 2011, and the Chicago Reader called it "The punchiest thing to hit literature since Hemingway."

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J.H. Palmer

Literary Sun Aug 26 2012

Learn How To Write For Performance With Ian Belknap

With the myriad of live lit/storytelling series around these days, chances are that if you've attended one there's been some small part of you that's thought: "I could do this." If you've had that thought but are too nervous to go it alone, consider registering for Live Lit: Writing For Performance , taught by Ian Belknap of Write Club, who knows a thing or two about the subject.

This class is the first of its kind being offered by Story Studio (4043 N. Ravenswood), meets on Thursdays beginning September 20, and culminates in a performance. For those wanting to test the waters with the support of a classroom environment and the instruction of a seasoned performer, this is a great opportunity. For more information visit Story Studio.

J.H. Palmer

Literary Thu Aug 09 2012

Flying House -- annual artist-writer collaboration, group show

first fly.pngAround January or February of this year a picture of a house with wings started following me on Twitter - yes, this post starts with a Twitter follow. I checked out the house-with-wing's Twitter and found out that it was an organization called Flying House - an annual collaboration project with artist-writer pairs. Naturally, I followed back.

In March, I submitted my application to Flying House - it sounded like fun being paired up with a random artist and having a guaranteed show out of it. A few weeks later, I got the adrenaline-producing call that I was chosen as one of six artist-writer pairs to work on collaborations.

Now, nearly six months after those first submissions, the six pairs are preparing for the upcoming show on August 25th at Maes Studio.

"Collaboration is so much about artists being OK with putting your work in front of somebody else and hearing the feedback and using each other's ideas," said Megan Paonessa, Flying House co-founder. "It's definitely that piling up of ideas and making something out of it."

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Tyler Gillespie / Comments (1)

Literary Tue May 22 2012

Preview: Chicago Slam Works Presents "Dead or Alive" @ The Vittum Theater 5/25

JW BeardFight_color copy.jpgThis Friday Chicago Slam Works presents "Dead or Alive," an event where dead poets (played by living poets) go head-to-head with live poets in a bizarre twist on the traditional poetry slam. CSW Director J.W. Basilo answered a few questions to help clarify Friday's activities.

So, people will be impersonating dead poets?

To an extent, we're doing what we can to embody those dead poets, but not forcing anybody to copy the mannerisms -- the person being Frank O'Hara is going to have a Frank O'Hara-esque energy, but not necessarily impersonating.

Why dead poets vs. living poets?

We've all been indoctrinated with dead poets, and sometimes the stuff you're taught in school doesn't really convey what's going on -- are those dead poets really that much better (than current poets)? Can modern poetry stand up to the canon? What would it look like if you got bonafide performers to read poems written 100 or 200 yrs ago, what would it look like? Marc Smith [founder of the Uptown Poetry Slam] frequently performs Sandburg and Yeats, and all of a sudden it becomes a whole new ball game, he gets it (the poem) in his body, brings it to life.

How will the show be set up?

We're staging a mock team slam, with living poets vs. dead poets battling it out, there will be judges who vote for either Dead or Alive, and the competitive thing is just kind of a wink to slam roots.

The whole idea behind CSW is to try to take poetry and performance poetry and put it in venues it doesn't often get represented. A lot of people think performance poetry can't work in a theater setting or appeal to people who aren't poets, and by putting it in theaters and giving it production value we're not tricking people but saying: "see, if we give it as much energy and respect as a Becket play, we're able to be just as engaging and emotionally important."

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J.H. Palmer / Comments (2)

Event Wed May 16 2012

Gapers Block Event: 8x8 at The Coop

8x8_350.jpgIn the spirit of artistic collaboration, The Coop and Gapers Block have teamed up to produce 8x8, an experiment in writing and design.

Eight Chicagoland designers (Jesse Hora, Andy Luce, Chad Kouri, Ina Weise, Letterform, Ryan Sievert, Paul Octavious and Kyle Fletcher) were paired with eight local writers (Patrick Somerville, Claire Zulkey, Kevin Guilfoile, William Shunn, Wendy McClure, Scott Smith, Gapers Block political editor Ramsin Canon and Book Club co-founder Veronica Bond) to create collaborative works, with text informing and influencing art and vice versa. The results of this experiment are presented in limited edition poster form, with writing and design back to back.

The posters make their debut at a reception Friday night, May 18, from 6pm to 10pm at The Coop coworking space, 230 W. Superior St., 2nd floor. Refreshments will be served, and sets of the posters will be available for purchase, with proceeds benefiting Open Books.

Andrew Huff

Literary Tue Apr 03 2012

Paperback Adventures in Dark Dream Play

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Those who enjoy directing their own artistic experiences should check out I Take Back the Sponge Cake, a "lyrical choose-your-own-adventure" book, illustrated by SAIC alumna, Loren Erdrich. Erdrich's simple yet gritty drawing style compliments Sierra Nelson's poetry nicely, giving us disorienting sensory experiences to dip our toes into and leaving us to sink or swim from there.

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Kelly Reaves

Benefit Fri Mar 30 2012

In Full Bloom

The Burlington continues its current line-up of great events with Bloom-n-Boom, hosted by the Subject to Change collaborative which, "aims to create a space of "no shame," when it comes to the music we enjoy and the people we love and care about -- our family (both blood and chosen) and our community." The event celebrates the early arrival of spring and the ongoing blooming of the trans community with the Chicago Women's Health Center's Trans Greater Access Project (TGAP). The project promotes services such as trans-affirming healthcare by providing hormone therapy, trans-sensitive gynecological exams, and counseling.

The night kicks off at 9pm with DJ sets by Josie Blush, Miss Summer Clearance, and Panakin Skywalker. Although no guests will be turned away, patrons are encouraged to give a $5 suggested donation.

In addition to the music, Subject to Change will also be selling a companion zine featuring works from people who have used the TGAP program as well as others who have trans health and affirming-related work to share. Submissions for this zine continue through Sunday, April 1 and acceptable works include prose, essays, photography, drawings, comics, and poetry. Submissions can be sent to

Bloom-n-Boom takes place at The Burlington, 3425 West Fullerton at 9pm.

Britt Julious

Literary Fri Mar 23 2012

Preview: Chicago's Biggest Liar Contest @ Herdegen-Brieske Funeral Home


Scott Whitehair, the brains and brawn behind live literature series like This Much Is True and Story Lab has taken on a project with a different angle -- he's put together a one-night-only event called the Liars Contest. I spent an evening at the Hopleaf helping direct people in and out of auditions, and I couldn't tell just by looking if the people coming to try out were full of it, so I spoke to Whitehair for some clarification.

Scott Whitehair: I don't want to reveal too much; there's two parts to the show, it's a 10-person storytelling competition seeing who can tell the most outrageous lies. So many great people auditioned, it's going to be a great show.

Tell me about some of the contestants.

Paulette McDaniels -- she looks like somebody's grandma and she comes in telling a story about an alien boy with three arms and you think: "this woman wouldn't lie to me, I totally believe her." And Monte LaMonte -- he's so believable.

I know people have been wondering if this show is really going to be in a funeral home.

People keep asking me that, like I'm going to go, "No, it's in a black box (theater)." It's going to be inside the funeral home as a theme park of lies, I don't want anybody to be sure about anything at any point, we have a lot of surprises, and a lot of misdirection. At least one person is going to get really uncomfortable and think: "I have to go." The Funeral Director, Joe Herdegen, is the worst one of us all, he's so charming, has great sense of humor, and a prankster's spirit.

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J.H. Palmer

Literary Sun Mar 04 2012

WRITE CLUB with Ian Belknap


WRITE CLUB Overlord Ian Belknap. Photo credit: Nathan Keay

It's a damp night at the Hideout; the sold out audience sits on metal chairs, and latecomers stand wherever there's room. The walls are covered in wood paneling and the occasional trophy fish, and a faint smell of wet dog permeates the room. Onstage, Ian Belknap introduces the audience to WRITE CLUB: Chapter 22: Race War. "Ladies and gentlemen, let's get ready to WRITE CLUB!"

Tonight's categories are: Black vs. White; Cat vs. Dog; and Gay vs. Straight. In addition to a miniature trophy (The Loving Cup of Deathless Fucking Glory,) the winner of each bout gets a percentage of the admissions donated to the charity of their choice.

The first two competitors are called to the stage: Daniel Shapiro (Cat) vs. Natalie Edwards (Dog). Shapiro hunches over the mic and reads from a prepared text on behalf of cats, using persuasive language like: "A cat's anus has a sweeter and mellower flavor than a dog's, but we all knew that." "A cat would rather play with a bag or a box than with you." And "Cats in resting homes can tell when the next person is going to die, and that's kind of awesome." After his seven minutes are up, Edwards tries to outdo him with her piece on dogs, astounding the audience with little known facts that include: the first patents were held by Lhasa Apsos; and Chihuahuas invented Spanish. Her piece runs long, and she hears the dreaded chime of a bell being struck by a hammer, signaling the end of seven minutes, the maximum amount of time allotted to each competitor. The audience is called upon to choose a winner based on applause, and the winner -- determined by a panel of three judges, is Shapiro, whose winnings go to The Wounded Warrior Project.

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J.H. Palmer

Event Wed Feb 15 2012

U of Chicago Professors Take to the Stage

Law and literary enthusiasts unite!

The University of Chicago's Law School is hosting a two--day conference, Manhood in American Law and Literature, which will serve as a platform for discussion surrounding the issues of sexuality and law within the context of literary works.

A highlight of the conference is sure to be the two dramatic scenes presented by the school's faculty members. Judge Richard Posner, Professor Jonathan Masur, and Professor Daniel Abebe will perform scenes from The Caine Mutiny Court-Martial, by Herman Wouk, followed by performances from Professor Martha Nussbaum and Professor Douglas Baird in The Little Foxes, by Lillian Hellman.

The conference will also feature speakers from a variety of fields and universities. Discussions will be anchored in literature, including classics like To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee and F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby. There will even be a live reading by renowned author, Joyce Carol Oates.

The conference will take place on UofC's campus on Friday, February 17 through Saturday, February 18. A full schedule of events can be found here.

The conference is free and open to the public. No RSVP is required, but seating may be limited.

Janna Dons

Event Thu Jan 19 2012

Lightness & Darkness Wants to be Your Friend


Brand-spankin' new multimedia book project Lightness & Darkness will throw its release party and first performance on January 28 at Happy Dog Gallery (1542 N. Milwaukee), a Wicker Park apartment gallery and alternative art space.

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Kelly Reaves

Performance Tue Jan 10 2012

Matt Damon to Headline The People Speak, Live!

Nearing its Chicago premiere at the Metro, 3730 N. Clark St., on Jan. 31st, The People Speak, Live! performance has officially added Academy Award Winner Matt Damon to host the event and compliment a cast of local talent. The supporting cast includes Robert Breuler and Alana Arenas of the Steppenwolf Theater, various local poets and Rick Kogan of the Tribune.

Based off of the 2009 documentary, The People Speak, The People Speak, Live! is a benefit performance that features dramatic readings of written works from people of the past. This month's performance will include readings of a fifteenth century priest documenting Columbus' arrival in the New World, a fugitive slave's scathing letter to a former master, the words of pathbreaking Chicago labor organizers, testimony of civil rights activists and more.

Tickets are available at $11 to $24. Doors open at 6pm. Performance at 7pm.

Ricardo Villarreal

News Tue Dec 13 2011

Lee Groban, RIP

Poet and artist Lee Groban, a well-known fixture on the Chicago arts scene, passed away Dec. 9 after a long battle with congestive heart failure and emphysema. He was 64. There will be a memorial service at Packer Schopf Gallery, 942 W. Lake St., from 1pm to 4pm on Sunday, Dec. 18.

Groban's best known work is The Cure for Insomnia, an 87-hour-long film based on his epic poem by the similar name A Cure for Insomnia, which he co-produced with John Henry Timmis IV. It holds the Guinness world record for the longest film, and was first played in its entirety at The School of the Art Institute from Jan. 31 to Feb. 3, 1987. The poem was a continual work in progress; Groban claimed it was well over 5,000 pages at the time of his death.

Here is Groban reading a portion of A Cure for Insomnia and sharing some philosophy with a group of people on the street in New York this summer.

View more video of Groban on YouTube user SENATURD210's channel.

Andrew Huff / Comments (4)

Literary Thu Dec 08 2011

Get Mortified with GB Staffers!

dejong-mortified-sf.jpgCome to Schubas (3159 N. Southport Ave.) on Saturday to watch GB staffer J.H. Palmer (me!) mortify herself publicly, along with a crowd-pleasing lineup of victims (or performers, as they prefer to be called), and special guests the Blue Ribbon Glee Club. Mortified is a unique reading series that plumbs the comic depths of journals, diary entries, and other ephemera that were written when participants were under the age of 21.

A new TV series titled "The Mortified Sessions" made its debut earlier this week on the Sundance Channel, featuring the youthful and embarrassing written thoughts of celebrities like Ed Helms, Eric Stonestreet, Cheryl Hines, and Mo'Nique. Don't settle for watching it on TV, come see the real thing! Buy your tickets before they're gone. Show starts at 7:30pm, but get there early -- this show is standing room only. Tickets are $12 and can be purchased online or call 773-525-2508.

J.H. Palmer

Art Thu Sep 01 2011

What's Happening with Jettison Quarterly

Local online and print art publication Jettison Quarterly made a splash at NEXT as part of the larger Art Chicago weekend with their newly formatted print edition of the magazine. Their latest issue -- featuring artist Scott Reeder and former MCA curator Tricia Van Eck -- promises to deliver on locally focused news, art and culture. To celebrate their latest release, the publication will be joining Old Style and Longman & Eagle for a free block party on Kedzie and Schubert. The event will feature a pig roast and dance party with tunes spun by DJs from the ever-popular Windy City Soul Club. The What's Happening!! block party takes place this Sunday, September 4 from 4pm to 10pm.

Additional copies of Jettison Quarterly will be available Sept. 9 at the Kavi Gupta gallery as part of the opening night for the fall art season, the Renegade Craft Fair on Sept. 10-11, and at various cafes and venues in the city.

Britt Julious

Culture Wed Aug 24 2011

Five Questions With Joel Craig of The Danny's Tavern Reading Series


The demurely high-polish gem of Chicago poetry and literary culture destinations, The Danny's Tavern Reading Series has hit its ten-year mark of stand-out readings. Front man and tireless lynchpin organizer since its inception, DJ and poet Joel Craig sat down recently to answer a few quick questions about his favorite readings, what happens next with the series, and some of his picks for the best in Chicago's poetry and literary art.

Ten years. What has been your favorite reading of all time and why?

We've had so many exceptional readings, some expected, others surprising in their effect, so naming a favorite is hard. If pressed, I'd have to go with James Tate and Dara Wier. James is one of my heroes. Had I not run into his poetry at an early age, I may not have come to love the art form as I do. He opened a huge window for me. He's such an established name, a Pulitzer and National Book Award winner--he didn't have to come to Chicago on his own dime to read at a tavern, but he and Dara really wanted to. James is not a young man, and he had such a hard time seeing in our darkened space, but he pushed through with much levity. They were both on fire.

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Michael Workman

Literary Thu Aug 18 2011

9/11 Stories at Webster's Wine Bar & Uncommon Ground

Everybody has a 9/11 story. That morning as I rode the Red Line to work, I wrote in my journal about the countdown to my impending wedding scheduled for that Saturday. "Just four more days," I wrote in anticipation, "and I'll be married." When I got to work my colleagues were clustered around the television in the reception area, eyes glued to the now iconic image of the World Trade Center up in smoke. I knew that very instant that my wedding would, at best, have to be postponed. I called my mother in tears before the first tower fell, sobbing openly within the flimsy confines of my cubicle and not giving a damn who heard me. Work closed early, and I got a ride home in the backseat of a colleague's car. Traffic was heavy; everyone was leaving work. I cried the whole way home. I sat on my couch and didn't move for hours, eyes glued to the television, absorbing the horrors of what was happening.

Having grown up in Brooklyn, I felt an overwhelming urge to take every last penny that my fiancé and I had saved for our honeymoon and send it to the Red Cross, keeping just enough to get on the next Greyhound bus bound for New York to volunteer to do whatever I could. My fiancé convinced me not to send all of our money, and the talking heads on TV convinced me that unless I had a specific service that I could offer -- emergency psychiatry, for instance -- that I'd just be a burden arriving in New York at that particular moment. In the end I gave $300 to the Red Cross, and stayed in Chicago, and cried. I cried at home, I cried openly in the streets, I cried in the shower. On September 15, 2001, which should have been my wedding day, I woke to a gorgeous blue sky, and a perfect, sunny day. My fiancé went to work; and I hung out at the shop with him. Someone asked when we were getting married, "it was supposed to be today," I said.

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J.H. Palmer

Review Thu Jun 30 2011

Review: The Chicago Story Collective @ Stage 773


Before we go any further, I have to mention that I had no idea that in addition to being a fantastic storyteller, Essay Fiesta's Keith Ecker was so ripped! In case you missed it, last week's Chicago Story Collective show: Summer Lovin', starring the lovely Alyson Lyon, the demure Dana Norris, the sultry Jen Bosworth, and the previously mentioned (but it's worth repeating) abs-tastic Keith Ecker got people to sit up and pay attention as they told real-life stories about blowjobs gone terribly wrong, spontaneous three-ways, virginity, and IML. (Guess which one Keith told?)

But the fun didn't stop there, in addition to storytelling, the audience was treated to performances by the burlesque troupe Vaudezilla, which included a breathtaking interpretation of Prince's "Sexy Motherfucker", and a dance routine set to The Stranglers "Peaches" that got so stuck in my head that when I got home I had to listen to it over and over, like some kind of overgrown toddler hankering for repetition.

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J.H. Palmer

Art Tue Jun 07 2011

Last Minute Plans: Directed Reading Series


Thomas Roach, 86 plastic chairs uncomfortable to stack but ill, 2011.

Tonight begins a two-part reading series at Alderman Exhibitions featuring selections from William T. Vollman's short story collection, The Atlas. A companion to the gallery's current exhibition, Thomas Roach: New Drawings, tonight's reading will also include a discussion and reception. Vollman's stories, often quick and glinting descriptions of brief moments in passing, are a compliment to Roach's drawings which often evoke an ethereal and visceral quality. Although the event is free, guests are encouraged to RSVP at PDF's of the selected stories are available for each session and copies can be sent to you upon request in the RSVP.

The Program:
William T. Vollmann, The Atlas, PART 1
Selected stories for Part 1:

The Back of My Head
It's Too Difficult to Explain
Bad Air
Brandi's Jacket

William T. Vollmann, The Atlas, PART 2
Selected stories for Part 2:

The Atlas
The Rifles
Where Are You Today
Last Day at the Bakery

Alderman Exhibitions is located at 350 North Ogden, 4th floor.

Britt Julious

Performance Mon May 09 2011

Strong Works Starts Tonight

In an effort to bring more performance-oriented stuff to the already artistic neighborhood of Logan Square, a few of its residents have started a performance collective called Strong Works, and they'll be bringing a series of staged readings, improv shows, panel discussions, traditional "performance pieces" and live music to the neighborhood over the course of this summer.

"The Cannon," a monthly event starting tonight, will feature six Chicago actors
performing short stories chosen by Will Litton, fiction editor of the literary magazine
Wag's Revue, and Sam Nyhart, company member of Strong Works. Readings will be "performative, polished and punchy," according to Amanda Rozmiarek, production manager of Strong Works.

Tonight's event will be held at Bonny's (2417 N. Milwaukee Ave.) from 9
to 10. Afterward, the Strong Works jazz band will play, followed by DJs, dancing and drinks. A $5 donation will be gently suggested at the door to keep their otherwise entirely unfunded season going.

Kelly Reaves

Literary Wed Mar 16 2011

The Mortified Experience

A few months ago, I had the experience of watching people get on stage and sing songs, read journal entries, poems, and one person read a selection from 125 handwritten pages of a story based on the film Jurassic Park. What these pieces shared in common was that they were all written when the readers were under 21 years old. This prompted me to think -- I've got boxes of old spiral-bound notebooks, composition books, and cloth-bound journals from my youth, all moldering in my basement; what would happen if I cracked them open?

Mortified is a reading series that plumbs the depths of our youth at our angstiest, our most unintentionally hilarious, and our most impressionable, before we learned the nuances of the adult world and how to navigate it. Based in L.A., Shay DeGrandis directs the Chicago chapter of Mortified, which started in 2006. When she's not directing Mortified, DeGrandis works at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where she schedules classes, among other things. "LA and NY seem to have a more consistent stream of applicants than we do here," she says, "I imagine it's because of their high per capita actor ratio -- they have a lot of willing people who desire an audience. People in Chicago have amazing stories to tell but it's harder to get them to participate, to be vulnerable, to get on stage and bear their most private moments. But when they do, they touch the audience's heart as well as their funny bone... and sometimes other places, too."

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J.H. Palmer / Comments (1)

Culture Tue Mar 01 2011

Poetry Center of Chicago Grand Re-Opening

Founded in 1976, the Poetry Center of Chicago is an independent not-for-profit literary arts organization that continues to build access to poetry through readings, workshops, residencies, and arts education for Chicago's diverse population. The Poetry Center fortifies its history of provocative and enriching guest performers (Allen Ginsburg and William Burroughs gave the center's first reading in the basement of the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago) with a keynote performance from Iranian poet/playwright Ezzat Goushegir on Saturday, March 5 at 3 pm. She will be reading from her one-woman play, The Bride of Acacias, about the life of poet Forough Farrokzad.

The performance is one of many events taking place over the next couple of days, and weeks, as the Poetry Center officially moves into the Chicago Cultural Center. Now located in the pedway of the Cultural Center, the new offices include a public art gallery, Welcome Center, workshop space, and the center's administrative headquarters. Other re-opening celebrations include a public reception and commemorative readings beginning Friday, March 4 through Saturday, March 5, noon - 5 pm.

The Poetry Center of Chicago is located within the Chicago Cultural Center pedway, 78 East Washington.

Britt Julious

Art Sun Feb 27 2011

Last Minute Plans: Twice Removed Publication Launch

TwiceRemovedCover540.jpgIndependent curator and arts administrator Karly Wildenhaus' latest solo exhibition, Twice Removed: a Survey of Take Away Work, has already garnered extensive press coverage for its crafty exploration of an object's meaning and place in contemporary art long after its initial exhibition run. Featuring prints, buttons, posters, and other ephemera, Twice Removed is a unique and expertly constructed exhibition based solely on others' work.

Local artist book shop Golden Age will launch the publication component of the exhibition today, from 3 to 5 pm. Wildenhaus, who also wrote the publication, will be on hand to discuss both the exhibition and the publication.

Golden Age is located at 119 North Peoria #2D.

Britt Julious

Literary Wed Nov 24 2010

Review: The Paper Machete @ Ricochets


Christopher Piatt hosts The Paper Machete at Ricochets.

The atmosphere at The Paper Machete, a free weekly live magazine at Ricochets, is like sitting in the rec room of your best friend's house, if your best friend was an emcee with a microphone and a weekly lineup of writer/performer guests who talk about everything from local politics to the latest movie releases. Roughly a third of last week's audience was comprised of either performers or friends of performers, which added to the laid-back vibe. I shared a table with a stranger, and ordered my first beer just before the show started at 3pm, which seemed early for beer-- but it's getting dark early, so I can justify it.

The show is hosted by former Time Out Chicago theater editor Christopher Piatt (pronounced pie-it), who began the series in January of this year along with his co-producer Ali Weiss, and business manager Maggie Boyaris. Last week's lineup included: theater legend Sheldon Patinkin, who told the audience about the first time the words "fuck" and "shit" were uttered on the Second City stage; Neo-Futurists Dana Slickman and Rachel Claff, who reminded us that the world is not our living room; writer/performer Patrick Gill, who I'm pretty sure convinced me that I need to go see Cher's new movie, Burlesque; 848's Kelly Kleiman, who told us why everything sucks, and that the word "nepotism" is closely related, if you will, to the word "nephew"; comedian Adam Guerino gave us his take on the recent media focus on potentially gay children that was kind of started by that woman whose son dressed as Daphne for Halloween; manicurist and celebrity star-fucker Marlena Biscotti (a.k.a. Kristin Studard) told us what it's like to make love to Prince; writer and editor Jonathan Messinger took on citizen journalism; and musical guest Lili-Anne Brown ended the show with some gorgeous vocals.

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J.H. Palmer

Literary Tue Jul 06 2010

Whores With Poems of Gold

Fulfill those fantasies of scantily clad women reading to you in iambic pentameter during The Poetry Brothel's "Voix De Ville," a Vaudeville-style cabaret that mixes private poetry readings with burlesque and comedy.

"In April of this year we held our first Brothel in LA at the House of Blues, it is organized and hosted by our former costume mistress, Molly Campbell. After doing two events at the House of Blues in LA, the management asked us to do an event at their venue in Chicago," said Nicholas Adamski, who created The Poetry Brothel with Stephanie Berger in 2007, while earning their MFAs in poetry from the New School in New York.

The stage for the whimsical event will be set in The Foundation Room of The House of Blues (take a gander here).

"It has always been our mission to create an event that is never boring or stuffy, where poetry and the poets who write it can have the opportunity to interact in a very intimate and personal way with the public, and vice versa of course," he said.

And remember, kids, even when you're surrounded by lovely ladies of the evening, it's still a classy event. Adamski said in the three years it has been done in New York, only one or two guests have gotten rowdy.

"We have security, but the seriousness of the art and the fun and whimsy of the event is pretty easy to get swept up in," he said.

The Poetry Brothel will be held from 8 pm to midnight on Saturday, July 10. It's $15 at the door, but $10 if you RSVP here. Use that extra $5 to pay for a private poetry reading.

Michelle Peterson

Literary Sun Jul 04 2010

Interview With Kate Flannery

After seeing Kate Flannery perform with her faux lounge act The Lampshades at the Mayne Stage last weekend, it was clear that the actress who plays Meredith on "The Office" has an abundance of comedic talent that has yet to be fully tapped into on the show. Not only does Flannery have spot-on comedic timing and delivery, but she also can sing and has some killer fashion sense. While she was in town with The Lampshades, Kate Flannery took some time for a phone interview with Gapers Block.

How long had you been in Chicago doing comedy and theatre?

I lived here for five years.

When you're in town, what are your favorite hot-spots and old haunts you like to go back to visit?

I drive past my old apartment that was torn down; it's not there anymore, but I used to live on Oakdale between Broadway and Pine Grove, so there's always a few little spots around that neighborhood. It's changed a lot though, but I just lived above Diversey and Broadway and I feel like it's just great to get back into the neighborhood- there are so many places that haven't changed, I should say. There are a few restaurants that I like to hit, even Stella's Diner, which used to be called The Lakefront back when I lived in that neighborhood. I like to get back there for kind of the neighborhood flavor. When I was here last I made it up to Ann Sather, which was really fun. I used to go there all the time, takes me longer to burn off those cinnamon rolls now that I'm older. I took a walk up Clark Street and hit those great little shops. It's amazing, it's changed but it hasn't changed.

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Dyan Flores

Art Tue Jun 22 2010

Youth Spoken Word Camp Opens Registration


This summer, Kevin Coval, one of Chicago's premier spoken word poets and co-founder of the youth poetry festival Louder Than a Bomb, will lead a camp dedicated to up-and-coming poets. The camp, called Check the Method, is open to writers ages 15-21 interested in honing their writing and performance skills. Check the Method will have two week-long sessions, one to be held at the Art Institute's Modern Wing from July 12-16 and the second at the Southside Community Arts Center from July 26-30.

Both sessions run from 10am to 3pm. Guest faculty will include Roger Bonair-Agard, Quraysh Ali Lansana, Krista Franklin, and Robbie Q. Telfer. The camp will conclude with a performance by its participants on July 30.

To join the camp experience, click here to fill out a registration form, submit three poems, and pay a registration fee. Scholarships are available, so don't be intimidated by the price!

Kerrianne O'Malley / Comments (1)

Feature Tue Jun 08 2010

Tell Me A Story

Diane Patterson wide angle copy.jpg

Diane Patterson tells a story at Webster's Wine Bar, photo by Julie Sadowski.

Storytelling in Chicago has a long and rich history, with notable champions including Studs Terkel, who recorded the experiences of every day people's lives in books like "The Good War": An Oral History of World War II, and Hard Times: An Oral History of the Great Depression, which won him a Pulitzer Prize; and Ira Glass, who made storytelling hip with This American Life. One of the most visible storytelling organizations around is The Moth, which began in New York 13 years ago, and has since found anchor in L.A., Detroit and Chicago. Martyr's has become the Chicago home to The Moth's StorySlam, and since last November fills to capacity on the last Tuesday of every month for live storytelling. Each StorySlam has a theme, prospective storytellers drop their names into a hat, and if their name is called they have five minutes to wow the judges and the audience. Stories must be told from memory (no notes allowed), and are recorded for possible airtime on The Moth Radio Hour. As storytelling goes, it's fairly high pressure for readers -- those lucky enough to have their names pulled from a hat stand above the audience on a raised, spotlit stage, the proceedings are recorded, and storytelling hopefuls must wait in anticipation as names are called one by one. Teams of judges dole out scores that range from 1 to 10, and at the end of the night a winner is declared.

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J.H. Palmer

Literary Tue Mar 30 2010

The Story Behind StoryStudio Chicago


Image courtesy of StoryStudio

Jill Pollack is proud to say she hasn't had a boss since 1991. When she turned 40, she left behind the "soul-sucking" Internet consulting business she started and sought out something more meaningful. Having a background in theater and writing, she decided to teach a creative writing class at Columbia College . But when that program was shut down, she used her entrepreneurial spirit to start StoryStudio Chicago, a center for writing and related arts.

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Whitney Stoepel

Literary Sat Feb 27 2010

Surviving the Angel of Death

Eva Mosez Kor and her twin sister, Miriam, survived the Holocaust and the Auschwitz concentration camp, where about 70,000 people died during World War II. The girls were 10 years old when they entered the camp and spent nine months there before it was liberated. Twins, including Eva and her sister, were subject to cruel experiments, procedures and injections under the direction of Dr. Josef Mengele, also known as the Angel of Death.

Ms. Kor lives in Terre Haute, Ind., and opened CANDLES Holocaust Museum - Children of Auschwitz Nazi Deadly Lab Experiments Survivors.

She visited Anderson's Bookshop in Downers Grove last week to share her experiences in Auschwitz and to discuss how she overcame her pain by forgiving those responsible for the Holocaust, including Dr. Mengele. She recently wrote a book for young adults, Surviving the Angel of Death, and previously was the subject of the documentary, Forgiving Dr. Mengele.

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Margo O'Hara

Theatre Fri Feb 12 2010

Bernie Sahlins directs Lysistrata @ Victory Gardens

sahlins by Jane Nicholl Sahlins copy.jpgBernie Sahlins, well known as one of the founders of the original Second City in Chicago as well as for his work on SCTV, is collaborating with The Poetry Foundation to mount a staged reading of Aristophanes' Lysistrata later this month. This is not the first time that Sahlins has collaborated with The Poetry Foundation and won't be the last; a staged reading of Seamus Heaney's The Cure at Troy is scheduled in May.

It may seem incongruous for a man known for his comic sensibility to be interested in bringing to the stage a piece of writing that uses the bloody Peloponnesian War as its background, and was first performed in Athens in 411 B.C.E. "It's a great play that has survived intact for over 3,000 years, and deserves to be done," Sahlins said of Lysistrata, "and deals with subject matter and events that could have been written yesterday. It's a feminist play; the female characters in it are worthwhile, it is not a museum piece." If you think the language used by Aristophanes will be a barrier to your twenty-first century ears, think again: "The language is interesting -- there are the same taboos on language in Lysistrata that we have today, it was written as a popular comedy and the language used is worthy of censorship on some current cable TV shows."

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J.H. Palmer

Interview Mon Feb 08 2010

Children's Stories and Grown Up Drawings: An Interview with Josh Lucas, curator of Torn Pages

This Saturday, recently relocated OhNo!Doom gallery hosts the 'Torn Pages' group show, a series of artist/writer collaborations focusing on imagined children's tales and the illustrations they've inspired. I spoke with art blogger and show curator Josh Lucas, and we touched briefly on the themes behind the show as well as Chicago neighborhoods, fairy tales, and the trials and rewards inherent in running a large group show.

"The Following are Pages Torn from our Most Favorite Imaginary Books", takes place on Saturday, February 13th, 2010, and runs through the end of the month. OhNo!Doom gallery, 1800 N. Milwaukee Ave., 6-10pm.

What's the Torn Pages Show all about?

The Torn Pages show is about a few things. Bringing people together who don't normally work together. in the creative world people tend to congregate together in what they do. writers will have readings, artists have shows, etc. but they rarely do things together. I believe the things that connect people are more powerful than the things that make them different. The creative process, and act, is a very beautiful and personal thing. And at the core, it's that feeling, and need to do so that every artist understands.

It's also about that feeling you got reading a story as a child. And wanting to get back to that place. The full show name expresses this "the following are pages torn from our most favorite imaginary books", it's about that story you always had in your head, or maybe just an image. But it was yours and now we get to share those things with the public.

How did the idea/theme happen? How were the artists picked?

The idea for the show was just a quick thought at first. My girlfriend was telling me about a story she was working on, and as she was telling me about it I saw it in my head, illustrated by a friend of mine. So i sat on it for a month or so and then started sending out emails to see if it would work. And it just kind of evolved from there.

The artists and writers were picked from names I'd seen around, and a few people I already knew. My girlfriend suggested some great people. I also got some help from Jason over at "Orange Alert": he sent me some great suggestions. I got really lucky with the people who are now the lineup for the show.

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Rose Lannin

Art Tue Jan 26 2010

So You Think You Have an Imagination?

Chicago writer James Kennedy's 2008 young adult fantasy book, The Order of Odd-Fish has not only gotten a lot of attention lately, it's inspired a slew of fan art. The artistic mediums seem to be just as creative as Kennedy's story, from a Belgian beer named after the villian to a cake depicting a fish vomiting out a high-rise. There are also a bunch of lovely cut-paper illustrations by high-schooler Max Pitchkites-- one for every chapter of the book, in fact.

Kennedy is so impressed with all the fan art he has decided to organize an art show/costumed dance party to celebrate and exhibit it, in collaboration with Collaboraction, which he says will most likely open on April 17. People will dress up as gods and do battle-dancing in the Dome of Doom, and then the fan art as well as the elaborate installation itself with stay up for a while. If you'd like to make something to be included in the show, you're in luck-- he's accepting submissions through March 1. Visit his incredibly entertaining blog for more information about submissions as well as the multitude of interesting anecdotes and Odd-Fish-related events going on around Chicago over the next few months.


"Fish Vomiting Lodge Cake" by Elise Carlson

Kelly Reaves

Literary Thu Jan 14 2010

"Last Evenings on Earth" At Cafe Wha Who?

Hey everybody, just a quick note to let you all know that Chicago Tribune Books editor Amy Guth, Heather Momyer (303 Magazine, Exquisite Corpse, wordriver, PANK, Robot Melon), Make Magazine co-founder Mike Zapata and Fiction editor Tom Mundt--and little ol' me, Ramsin--will be reading at Cafe Wha Who?, 228 W Chicago Ave., on Friday. Doors open at 8pm.

Ramsin Canon

Literary Wed Jan 06 2010

The Rec Room Reads the Dictionary to You @ Black Rock Pub

NewCover.jpgWhen social reformer Henry Ward Beecher famously labeled words as "pegs to hang ideas on," he likely didn't know the effect it would have on writers and scholars all over the world. The desire to view language as fluid, to disrupt and dismantle words at their core, is at the heart of many artists, and they have no larger enemy than the dictionary. The Rec Room plans to take the good book on, one word at a time.

Tonight at 8pm, The Rec Room, a collection of artists determined to mess with accepted modes of expression, will be rehashing, revisiting, reusing and wrecking many of our favorite words at the Black Rock Pub (3614 N Damen). The event is free and open to the public, so there's no reason for you not to come and hear our language mangled beyond recognition. "Fun" comes to mind, but I'm finding myself at a loss for words. Huh.

Randall Colburn

Literary Mon Dec 28 2009

Open Mic Storytelling: The Moth Story Slam

storyslams.jpgNational, non-profit storytelling show, The Moth, is like karaoke for writers. Only, members of the audience, many nervously clutching their five-minute-long stories are chosen at random to take the stage, and well, there's no singing. As a matter of fact, it's forbidden to read from a prompt at all.

The idea is to tell a conflict/resolution story within the time allocated based on the night's theme with the goal to captivate. Typically successful stories are the ones that don't sound like you're reciting a memorized essay. So, less of a disposition and more of a conversational tale you'd tell at a dinner party, The Moth suggests.

And audience members don't necessarily have to participate either. Many come for the simple appreciation of spoken word. Can't make it to The Moth readings? Check out the weekly podcast. Stories range from the tumultuous to the joyful with a lengthy backlog of stories from writers like Malcom Gladwell, Erica Jong, Moby, Andy Borowitz, Jonathan Ames, and more, to keep your ears enthralled.

The next Chicago chapter of The Moth StorySLAM will be on Dec. 29 at Martyr's, 3855 N. Lincoln Ave. The theme for submission is "Cars" (previous themes have been "firsts" and "blunders"). The story slam begins at 8pm and there's a $7 cover at the door.

John Lendman

Design Wed Dec 02 2009

Styling Information, Technology: An Interview with Nick Disabato

Nick Disabato is writing a style guide for interaction design. This was not a sudden thing: Nick's interest in making things work and look better intertwined with computers early on. Growing up in a self-described "really wired household", he was exposed to technology and the internet at a young age. Born in Park Ridge, Nick earned his master's in Human-Computer Interaction at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill before returning to Chicago. He currently resides in Logan Square, and works as a user experience designer at I had the opportunity to talk with Nick about his book, Cadence & Slang, the process and ideas behind it, and how he's using Kickstarter to make it a reality.

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Rose Lannin

Literary Wed Nov 18 2009

Jonathan Safran Foer at Harold Washington Library

"Jonathan Safran Foer's book Eating Animals changed me from a twenty-year vegetarian to a vegan activist," Natalie Portman wrote for the Huffington Post. Tonight Foer spoke about his new book, Eating Animals, at Harold Washington Library in the packed Cindy Pritzker Auditorium.

Famous for his novels Everything is Illuminated and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, this is Foer's first venture into non-fiction. Wavering back and forth as a vegetarian since he was nine, Foer felt with the birth of his son a sense of urgency about decisions: his own and the one's he would make for his son.

He read a short excerpt from his book about his grandma and used the bulk of the time to facilitate audience questions and discussion. He answered every question thoughtfully and respectfully making sure the audience understood he wasn't there to persuade anyone.

His strongest and most enlightening thought was the idea of a vegetarian spectrum. Foer dismissed the notion that one is either a vegetarian or they're not. He told a story many people are familiar with in which someone says they are vegetarian for so many years. Then one day they ate meat and that was the end of it. This binary ideal is detrimental because people feel they either need to do be a vegan activist or be completely careless. He counteracted with the point that if everyone replaced just one meal a week with a vegetarian one, it would be like taking 5 million cars off the road.

Listen for the talk on Chicago Amplified on Chicago Public Radio.

Whitney Stoepel / Comments (1)

Literary Tue Nov 10 2009

Chicago's New Literary Community

Wednesday, November 11 at 4:30 in the Sullivan Galleries (7th floor, 33 S. State St.), F Newsmagazine and the Art Institutes's MFA Writing Department are hosting a roundtable discussion about Chicago's burgeoning new literary community. Featuring novelist Kyle Beachy, playwright Chris Bower, blogger Jac Jemc, Assistant Director of the Neighborhood Writing Alliance Mairead Case, Quickies! founder Lindsay Hunter and Featherproof Books founder Zach Dodson. Moderated by MFAW Department head Sara Levine.

Whitney Stoepel

Art Sun Nov 08 2009

Torn Pages Needs Whole Bills

The Torn Pages Show is a Chicago collaboration of artists and writers teaming up to write and draw "pages torn from our most favorite imaginary books": eleven children's stories of their own invention. Artist-writer pairs include Joe Meno & Cody Hudson, Amy Guth & Pea-Be, Zach Dodson & Allison Dunn Burque, and more.

The show is set to open at OhNo!Doom Collective in early 2010, but curator Josh Lucas hopes to immortalize the original tales in a small, full-color book. Like many other creative types, he's using Kickstarter. Help the Torn Pages show reach their $2,100 goal by December 5th -- they're currently a little under halfway there.

Donate here. Preview images and excerpts from the show after the jump.

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Rose Lannin

Art Thu Oct 15 2009

Golden Age Presents Medium Rare

jw_selfportrait_web.jpgGolden Age, an innovative and niche bookstore on west 18th Street, has and interesting show of works opening on Saturday Oct. 17th. The show consists only of works previously published by Medium Rare. Founded in 2008 by Milano Chow, Medium Rare works with young emerging artists to publish works in an affordable and accessible format.

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Literary Thu Oct 01 2009

Moth StorySLAM Wrap-Up

Tuesday's Chicago inaugural of The Moth's StorySLAM at Martyr's was sold out to a crowd of eager listeners. I arrived early and installed myself at the bar, where I scanned the notes I'd prepared in case my name got pulled from the hat. When I looked up, I saw other storytelling hopefuls doing the same. The slam was focused around the theme of "school". Hosted by Dan Kennedy of The Moth Radio Hour and sponsored by WBEZ, this was the first time the 13-year old storytelling institution conducted a StorySLAM in Chicago. Later this week they'll be in Detroit, and then back in New York.

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J.H. Palmer / Comments (3)

Theatre Sun Sep 27 2009

Putting the Fun Back In Fear

Fear is a fantastic hour of anxiety. The Neo-Futurists' season opener dredges up unease, tension, apprehension and concern but does it in such an interesting and well-executed way that even the most lily-livered of ticket holders will love the thrill.

Creator and curator Noelle Krimm -- and the countless people involved in the production -- do great work to "put the fun back into being completely creeped out." Tours of about 20 are led from room to haunted room of The Neo-Futurarium, from a forlorn boudoir to a raving slaughterhouse. There are three hosts who lead the tours, which start at set times throughout the night. Sophie Ostlund plays up tragic honesty as a gauze-masked, makeup-smeared bride, and Aimee McKay and Rawson Vint put their own spins on human affliction.

Fear leads the audience through the world of Edgar Allen Poe, but doesn't rest on "gotcha" gimmicks to make the audience squirm. Its horror profile, from anthropomorphized pigs to frigid rooms and unsettling illuminations, is layer upon layer of madness and sin and horror.

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Michelle Peterson / Comments (1)

Literary Tue Jul 14 2009

Bohemian-style sensory overload

John Hospodka's South Side Trilogy goes a little more than the extra mile and not just because it's a three-parter.

The literary project, which debuts July 23 at, is a multi-sensory literary experience.

The stories and poems are compelling. Hospodka introduces us to characters that share lonely monologues, sing-song lyrics and narrative story-telling. Chicago is more than just a setting in these scenes. It is a character unto itself.

Reading the trilogy is certainly enjoyable, especially for any self-identified Chicagoan who, like any Chicagoan (whether a baseball player or politician or writer) just wants to be taken seriously.

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Margo O'Hara

Literary Tue Jun 02 2009

Book a Ticket to the Kriti Festival

Read all about it: The Kriti Festival, a biennial celebration of South Asian and diasporic literature and arts, takes place June 11-14 at the University of Illinois at Chicago and Roosevelt University. Hosted by the national non-profit organization DesiLit, the Kriti (pronounced "kree-thee") Fest offers an action-packed schedule of readings, panels, live performances, writing workshops, and Q&As with literary agents and editors.

Special guests at the 2009 Kriti Fest include acclaimed authors Romesh Gunesekera, Bapsi Sidhwa, and Amitava Kumar. Among the 30 or so participants--including poets, novelists, actors, editors, and agents--are four major Sri Lankan diaspora authors (one of whom is Romesh Gunesekera). These participants will discuss, among other topics, the decades-old Sri Lankan civil war, which ended on May 18, 2009.

This year's fest also includes the Rasaka Theatre Company's performance of a monologue cycle called Yoni Ki Baat (loosely based on Eve Ensler's The Vagina Monologues) and a performance by Mithya (the Indian Dramatics Group from UIUC) of Chimeras, an adaptation of Shashi Deshpande's short stories.

To register for the four-day literary extravaganza, visit the festival website or email You may also call (312) 846-6878. And be sure to follow DesiLit's Twitter updates.

Laura Pearson

Literary Fri Apr 17 2009

Friday Flickr Feature

Dan Rybicky of Columbia College shared these photos of Marjane Satrapi, an author and filmmaker who is best known for her graphic novel memoir Persepolis. Ms. Satrapi was in town to speak to Columbia's New Millennium Studies Department and Dan reports that "like her work, [she] is bold and beautiful."

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Jamie Smith

Literary Fri Jan 02 2009

Chicago in Winter

Writer and Chicago expat Arlene Tribbia shared the following poem as something to "resonate .... now in the new year - a time when most of us are unusually contemplative."

Chicago in Winter: a bluelove rush

You must walk Michigan Avenue in the snow, the heroic South to North mile

over the Bridge of Angels and cross ancient Chikagou Creek for the street shop

bookstore where the café is warm and the cups filled strong and lovely with lemon

grass and coconut tea three stories above the crowd and watch as the after work day unwinds and sweetens into twilight, your book of poems open on the table left unread

for the real love stories of lives unfolding below on the street under flurries of stars falling onto the heads and faces of the people - how purposeful they look there at the light waiting and ready to cross over to the other side as the moment splits, the light changes and in a single flash of bravery they simply step off the curb together and rush forward into their moonlit destinies as the blue eye of a breeze off the lake sweeps past.

Andrew Huff / Comments (3)

Theatre Mon Nov 17 2008

Be a Broadway Star

Well, the star part isn't guaranteed, but you have an opportunity to play a walk-on role during a performance of Wicked. To be eligible, go to the Oriental Theatre lobby on November 19 or December 3 from 5:30pm-6:30pm and make a $20 donation to Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS. As a bonus, you'll get $20 off that evening's show. Full details at Broadway in Chicago's website.

David Schalliol

Literary Wed Jul 23 2008

Progressive Nation

Chicagoan Jerome Pohlen is a Congressional Green Party candidate for Illinois’ 3rd District and author of the recent book Progressive Nation: A Travel Guide with 400+ Inspiring Landmarks and Left Turns (Chicago Review Press, 2008). The guide breaks down all 50 states, highlighting districts, shops and other specific landmarks that reveal the influences of the Progressive Movement. His guide is enormous (422 pages) and thorough. In Illinois alone Pohlen covers Mother Jones’ burial site in Mt. Olive to Farm Aid in Champaign. In this way Pohlen dredges up information from both the more obscure locations with the most visible signs of Progressivism to the more widely-known but less-recognized roots of the movement.

Pohlen isn’t a first time travel guide writer, either. In addition to his political career and commentary contributions to WBEZ, Pohlen has written more than 10 travel books in "The Oddball Series," which feature a consciously-wacky look at state travel. Pohlen’s current guide is in the same organizational vein as this work with The Oddball Series, yet while Progressive Nation also borders on zany historical blips at times (featuring Omaha, NE - When Bright Eyes Talks to George W. Bush), the guide always connects back to the age-old Progressive influences (Chicago, IL- The Haymarket Riots). These connections show the impact that United States' Progressives made, and continue to make, in all 50 states. In fact, it is in these tiny, seemingly irrelevant mentions that Pohlen’s point of the continued connection between the Progressive movement and modern life appears most clearly. In Progressive Nation: A Travel Guide with 400+ Inspiring Landmarks and Left Turns, Pohlen’s historical roots run deep.

Laura Mayer

Literary Sat Jul 05 2008

Northwestern Goes the MFA Route

Starting this September, aspiring Dreisers and Dickinsons can earn a Masters of Fine Arts (MFA) degree at Northwestern University, studying under the likes of Alex Kotlowitz and Stuart Dybek. The part-time, evening program, which complements Northwestern's existing Master of Arts program (begun in 2003), will enable students to write a nearly book-length thesis, and position graduates for creative writing teaching positions. Interested? You have until July 25 to turn in your application for the upcoming September quarter.

Lauri Apple

Literary Thu May 29 2008

Write Poetry, Make $$$

The deadline to enter the Guild Complex’s annual Gwendolyn Brooks Open-Mic competition is coming up on June 6. Write and submit a poem that you can perform in less than four minutes and you may take home the $500 prize. Of course there are other reasons to write poetry but even Shakespeare didn’t mind a little financial compensation.

Jamie Smith

Performance Fri Apr 18 2008

Hip Hop Live + Reel

If you haven’t cleared your calendar for the MCA’s upcoming Hip Hop Live + Reel, you might want to get on that. Born of New York City’s Hip Hop Theater Festival, Live + Reel is a four-day bonanza of hip hop culture. Artists from both coasts – including New York’s Reggie Watts and Bay Area lyricists The Suicide Kings – will be joining forces with local performers like Deja Taylor, whose work from Louder Than a Bomb has been recorded for Chicago Public Radio, and Teatro Luna, Chicago’s all-Latina theater company.

“This new format – two days of film and two days of live performances – creates a mini-festival atmosphere,” says MCA House Manager Surinder Martignetti. “The strength of combining local artists with national performers offers people such a great opportunity to see what’s happening out there and to really get involved.”

With all four days boasting a packed line up of spoken word performances, outstandingly original films and, of course, music (and only $5 for tickets to the films! Five! For the whole night!), the MCA is encouraging everyone to try to make the whole series. If you can only make one, though, I recommend aiming for Saturday, when The Suicide Kings’ In Spite of Everything, a startlingly timely play revolving around a school shooting, will be performed. Louder Than a Bomb 2008 winner Kuumba Lynx will also perform, and beatboxer Yuri Lane will close the night with an excerpt from his show From Tel Aviv to Ramallah: A Beatbox Journey.

Film night tickets are $5 for all screeings; performance nights are $16 member/$20 non-member. Student pricing is available. To see the full list of performances or to buy tickets on line, visit the MCA’s website, or call the box office at 312.397.4010 for more information.

Jaime Calder

GB store

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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