Mallory Sohmer is a freelance documentary filmmaker from Chicago and a Columbia College alumna. She co-directed the new film, Drum Beat Journey, the story of four inner-city youth who travel to Petit Mbao, Senegal, to participate in a drumming workshop. The program used music as a vehicle to capture and connect with the young men in an engaging and original way. But this is not just a film about drumming; it's about stepping into another culture to learn about oneself.
Sohmer's first film, The Living Documents (2009), a call for social justice, told the story of Nicaraguan indigenous rights attorney Maria Luisa Acosta and the circumstances around the murder of her husband Frank Garcia. It aired on the Documentary Channel (now Pivot) and resulted in a hearing with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights in 2013.
Ana Sekler: Drum Beat Journey, what phase are you in with this project?
Mallory Sohmer: We're currently in post-production and have been working on the film for a long time, since 2011. I'm co-directing it with my friend Kate Benzschawel.
For a one evening only engagement, Fulcrum Point New Music Project, led by the renowned Stephen Burns, will be presenting a special presentation, "Mirror of Enlightenment," at the Harris Theater. Focused on the themes of contemporary Indian music and how they have merged with the traditional, on Saturday, Nov. 1, outstanding performers such as percussionist Kalyan Pathak, sarod player Soumik Datta, and Chicago-based Indian dance ensemble Kalapriya Dance will join forces to deliver an evening full of Indian music rich with history and tradition, all while entwined with a contemporary flair.
A much-anticipated number by composer Param Vir will be premiered at the event, titled "Raga Fields," which is a concerto piece for the sarod and an ensemble. Blending traditional Indian music with Western contemporary sound, the piece is sure to be a cornerstone performance of the evening. The world premiere of "Mara" will also be performed by Kalapriya, a piece that depicts the life of Buddha through interpretive dance movements.
Formed in 1998, Fulcrum Point's mission is to spotlight contemporary composers and up-and-coming classical musicians who are influenced by elements of popular culture, and in turn, educate the public and invite them into a world enamored with music's rich history. The show will engage the audience as it is delivered a tour-de-force performance surrounding the music of India and how it has changed over time.
Mirror of Enlightenment takes place at the Harris Theater, 205 E. Randolph St., on Saturday, Nov. 1. The event begins at 7:30pm and tickets are $20 for general admission, $10 for students, available for purchase at 312-334-7777 or online.
Pitchfork Music Festival is known for its eccentric, acclaimed and even avant-garde performances of high musical caliber, and for the attendees that create a show of their own with diverse fashion statements and individualistic notions. Another component to this weekend's three-day phantasmagoria was that of exquisite art, in the form of an installation known as the Geometric Village, curated by Johalla Projects and dreamed up by visionary artists Chad Kouri and Heather Gabel.
Photo by Zachary James Johnston
As I stepped up to the Geometric Village on Saturday afternoon, I noticed sunlight streaming through the trees ahead of me, and falling upon the two upright pyramids in a simply lovely way. Each one allowed ample space for you to walk under it and absorb the messages seeded inside its carefully formed tunnel, one with skillfully designed words, and one with a collage of photographs, one of a skull, the other of a statue, and more. Both portions of the installation were vastly different, but in many ways, linked in commonalities. I noticed concertgoers interacting with the art pieces: some shuffling by quickly, others looking up at the peak and smiling, and a group sitting underneath, resting in a peaceful place. I oriented myself with the artwork, and then was lucky enough to have a chance to speak with curator Anna Cerniglia, and artists Chad and Heather, about the wistful yet introspective work they have been able to create at Pitchfork Music Festival this past weekend.
Let's start with a basic premise...The fun part about going to Ravinia in the summertime is definitely bringing a gourmet picnic and sitting out on the lawn under the stars. It's about hauling your blanket and some camping chairs on the Metra and sharing food and drink with all of your friends.
So, how do you upgrade the experience of Ravinia and make it more like glamping than camping? Enter the new Lawncierge service by Celebrity X Cruises.
Starting with the basic premise of Ravinia--the picnic--and upgrading it by adding a high-end bar, "molecular" cocktails, gourmet fare, a tent and wicker couches, Lawncierge aims to improve upon the fun of Ravinia by adding an element of luxury to the experience. With a multi-coursed tasting menu and glamorous surroundings, Lawncierge aimed to amp up the outdoor festival. Press invitation in hand, we trekked up the Edens in our Zipcar with high hopes.
Sadly, our experience fell a bit short. Our waiters--think North Shore teens home from college with a summer job that they hated--were scattered about the pacing of the meal--something that you might expect them to get right at an expensive $250 a person. They seemed downright surly when we placed drink orders with them. The food was just OK--nothing to write home about except for that it was ample. And the sound quality for the concert part of the evening seemed almost forgotten. You couldn't really hear the music, which is the main reason for attending Ravinia. My guest and I had a better sonic experience when we wandered out of the VIP tent and stood on the sidewalk that loops through the park.
I think with some improvements: e.g. strategically placing the tent closer to the stage; better training for the staff; perhaps some live video and audio feed; and better food, Lawncierge could be a fancy and fun experience for the bottle-service set. The concept is solid, but the devil's in the details. Like some newly-opened restaurants, Lawncerige isn't quite there yet.
If you're looking for me at Ravinia in the meantime, I'll be saving a spot on the lawn and serving up some of my famous black bean salad and white wine sangria.
The Chicago Symphony Orchestra's MusicNOW series is not your typical performance experience. Upon entering the venue, guests are greeted with a DJ set. The performance itself is interactive, visionary, and one-of-a-kind, mixing media together to form a sensory whirlwind of an exquisite foray into the world of live performance. After the performance, guests are once again greeted with a DJ set, at a reception where they can mingle with the artists themselves.
Re-envisioning the concept of a live performance to make it more of a deliberately-crafted experience overall, one that is more intimate and personal, is what the MusicNOW series has made it a point to achieve. CSO Mead composers-in-residence Anna Clyne and Mason Bates have curated each performance with fervor and brilliance, featuring musicians from the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and guest musicians, as well. Monday, May 5 marks the final installment of the MusicNOW series for the 2013/2014 season, featuring a glorious lineup of three works paired nicely amongst the other, each contrasting yet fitting into a cohesive whole.
MusicNOW: Companions is set to showcase The Companion Guide to Rome, a musical tour through nine Roman churches, Fits + Starts, a more modern piece created by renowned composer Anna Clyne and acclaimed choreographer Kitty McNamee, and a chamber concerto, Livre des Sauvages. I was overjoyed to get the chance to speak with both Clyne and McNamee about their piece Fits + Starts exclusively, who allowed me to gain great insight into their creative processes and their hopes for viewers throughout the performance experience.
February marks Black History Month, which has historically been designated as a time for celebration and observance of the achievements and contributions made by blacks in America. Culturally speaking, Chicago always boasts a diverse mix of special events, shows, and performances; here, I've listed a few highlights worth checking out.
The ballet, created in 1997, begins its last stint in regular repertory this evening -- one day after Shakespeare's 449th birthday (and his death day), and the day deemed "Talk Like Shakespeare Day." Set to Lubovitch's choreography and music composed by Academy Award winner Elliot Goldenthal, the ballet tells the tale of the Venetian Moor, Othello, his love, Desdemona, and the web of lies spun by Iago that brings the entire cast of characters to a tragic end, wrought with betrayal and envy.
The "Windy City" meets the "Motor City" at The Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University this April. Roosevelt University welcomes Detroit's Eisenhower Dance Ensemble for the Chicago premiere of "Motown in Motion." This upbeat dance performance guarantees to get you into the Motown mood at the Auditorium's Landmark Stage Sunday, April 14th at 3pm.
This Motor City premier dance company celebrates the songs that made Motown famous in an evening chock full of soulful dance and music. Playful, humorous, and wonderfully theatrical, Eisenhower's performers give a visual salute to the tunes that made Berry Gordy's Motown Records famous.
"Motown in Motion" uses the music of top Motown recording artists including The Temptations, Marvin Gaye, Gladys Knight, Smokey Robinson, Michael Jackson, The Supremes, and Stevie Wonder, among others. The music is set to dance vignettes choreographed by nationally and internationally renowned choreographers including Joel Hall, Ginger Thatcher, Stephanie Pizzo, Lindsey Thomas, Gregory Patterson, and acclaimed Eisenhower Dance Ensemble Artistic Director Laurie Eisenhower.
Tickets ($25 - $35) are on sale online and by calling 800-982-ARTS (2787) or stop into the Auditorium Theatre box office,50 E. Congress Pkwy., to purchase.
Every heart in the audience felt that frenzy after the first baritone notes rang out through the piercing silence of the theater. We met William (Lee Gregory), a modern man bathed in a square of nearly blinding white light, characteristic of the lighting design of the opera as a whole -- reminiscent of Caravaggio's chiaroscuro, the dramatic, high-contrast style made famous in paintings of old.
This modern man receives a message from his childhood friend, Roderick Usher (Ryan MacPherson), the namesake of the 1839 Edgar Allan Poe story on which the opera is based. Roderick has become ill with a madness imparted by the very house he lives in and the death of his twin sister Madeline (Suzan Hanson), and he begs William to save him from his insanity.
Coming this September, come on out for EXPO Chicago's EXPO Art Week 2013 (Sept. 16-22) in conjunction with Choose Chicago and Chicago's Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events. This four-day event will be held in Navy Pier's Festival Hall and will host over 120 leading international galleries providing visitors with a mix of contemporary/modern art and design. Meanwhile, art and cultural festivities will take place all over the city.
During the Expo, keep and eye out and partake in citywide exhibits, gallery openings, installations, public art projects, music, theater and dance performances, and special dining experiences for residents and visiting international cultural tourists.
I woke up this morning and opened my computer for my regular routine, which involves checking Facebook, my email, and my always growing list of news sources and social media sites for anything strange or out of the ordinary.
Today, nearly every one of my Facebook friends has posted about the end of the world. Some are kidding, some are serious, and some, like me, joke around about it in that uneasy way that people do when they need to laugh at things that would be terrifying if they were real.
While tomorrow's Mayan-predicted end of the world is real or not is up for speculation, everyone in this world has more immediately pressing fears that are truly and paralyzingly absolute. Earlier this week, 40 individuals bared these fears to an audience of over 700 people in a production called Fear Experiment 3.
So on Dec. 3 I had the pleasure of going to the Harris Theater to see the second of four concerts in the MusicNOW series for the 2012/13 calendar, and ti should be said that this series has been in existence since 1998. This series focuses on... well, I am not exactly sure what this series focuses on because that information was not clearly spelled out on on the CSO's website. I did go to the event, so I was privy to the fact that it focuses on new and local composers in some fashion. Don't ask me how exactly, that was kind of lost on me when one of the pieces was over 15 years old and only one of the four composers was local, kind of; I feel that a more apt title to the series would have been MusicKindOfRECENTLY. Putting all that aside, because who wants to go the symphony and bitch about semantics anyway, onto the music, but not yet exactly.
When we talk about the Pitchfork Music Festival, we usually talk about the abundance of performers from across the country and globe. Perhaps we mention the heat or the the ongoing mini-events (CHIRP Record Fair, Flatstock) that provide a welcome respite during the long, intensive days spent walking from one end of the park to the next. This year, art installations by Chicago-based Matthew Hoffman and Andrea Jablonski in conjunction with Johalla Projects, aim to frame and entice the experience of festival goers. The Pitchfork Music Festival begins today, July 13, and runs through Sunday, July 15.
Local actor Jim Irizarry is returning to Chicago for tonight's Broadway In Chicago premier of the Beatles tribute RAIN! The show opens tonight and runs through July 1st; Jim recently took a few moments out of his schedule to talk to me about the Beatles and how it feels to be home in Chicago.
Jim Irizarry as John Lennon in RAN! A Tribute To The Beatles
You are a long-time Beatles fan. How does it feel to be a part of "RAIN!"?
It's fantastic to be part of the cast of RAIN! Having been a Beatles fan from an early age and growing up listening to their music, it's the biggest thrill to be part of what I feel is the ultimate Beatles Tribute show.
Favorite Beatles album of all time?
Like most fans I really enjoy all the eras of the Beatles music and the same goes for all the eras we cover in our show. Portraying John in such a large-scale and exciting show as this has been such a fulfilling job, and with the experience of Broadway in New York City, nothing short of the thrill of a lifetime for me! Favorite Beatle albums? Well if you're talking about vinyl.. I'd have to say Yesterday and Today and Rubber Soul. If you mean the original British releases, A Hard Day's Night and With the Beatles!
What do you think John Lennon would think of the show?
If John had ever been given the opportunity to see our show, and had he taken it, I would think he would have been pleasantly surprised.
How does it feel to be back in Chicago, performing?
It's great to be back in Chicago and I'm so looking forward to finally performing here in my hometown with "Rain". Favorite haunts around town? The usual-- downtown, the lakefront, north Michigan Ave, Little Italy, Chinatown, Taylor St, and let's not forget that pizza! Which one you say? Too many good ones to name!
Tickets for RAIN! A Tribute To The Beatles are on sale now and can be purchased here.
In one of my favorite Black Star tracks, "Thieves In The Night", rapper Mos Def challenges listeners to "separate the real from the lie." Maneuvering comfortably in the classic techniques and processes of analog photography, New York-based artist Mike Schreiber works to achieve exactly that by creating images which resonate globally with music lovers and photography aficionados alike. Whether it is of musicians who regularly occupy the headphones and speakers of millions of music fans, or the people on the streets of Cuba and Jamaica, Mike's portraits place emphasis on the humanity of his subjects. His photographs remind us that these people are just that-people. He does not attempt to make them into caricatures of themselves or play into a larger-than-life persona. Mike pushes in the antithetical direction with the goal of making a photograph that brings out, as he puts it, a version of themselves that "their mother would recognize."
Fittingly titled True Hip Hop, Mike's recent book reflects the results, experiences and anecdotes of a career that has brought him and his camera in front of everyone from B.B. King to Voletta Wallace, the mother of the late Notorious B.I.G. In light of his upcoming debut exhibition in Chicago and book signing at The Silver Room, I spoke with Mike about his signature style, starstruck moments and what it means to be a photographer's photographer.
They say the opposite of Love is Hate. But this Valentines Day at the Logan Square Auditorium, the opposite of Love is Hilarity, Charity and possibly Intoxication.
Thanks to the love-filled partnership of the Chicago Reader, 2nd Story, WBEZ and Empty Bottle, Chicago will be graced with the Third Annual Anti-Valentines Day Party on Tuesday 14 February. Chicago comedians Seth and Kellen will be hosting this shindig and will also be the night's official demolisher of ex memorabilia; everything from T-shirts to love letters to saved nail clippings will destroyed. In between the destroying (and healing) 2nd Story will be regaling the audience with the best bad date stories.
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.
For the best mix of hip hop and the arts, you won't want to miss WBEZ's annual Winter Block Party for Chicago's Hip Hop Arts. Now in its fourth year, this free, all-ages event, the ultimate showcase of the city's hip-hop arts scene, features visual and performance art, poetry, dance, film and music.
The symbiotic relationship between fashion and music is undeniable -- and at Power 92's Surround Sound of Fashion, the two were definitely displayed in a big way.
This annual showcase for fashion designers and aspiring models, with a portion of the proceeds benefiting Windows of Opportunity, an organization that provides scholarships for economically disadvantaged youth, was held last weekend at the Harris Theater for Music and Dance, 205 E. Randolph. Twenty male and female models competed in a runway show for a chance at a number of prizes, including an exclusive photo shoot.
Over in Transmission, Jason Olexa has the details on a pretty wacky-sounding film screening with live DJ accompaniment:
"Hi-NRG-Disco-Booty-Jungle-Rave producer Chrissy Murderbot will be DJing a live soundtrack to a quartet of films running the gamut of a dog's quest through the afterlife in search of an orange, unintentional slapstick employee training videos, scientists, dancers, and rockets. Expect an evening where dream logic reigns supreme."
Get a head start on Chicago Artist Month this weekend with the kickoff event -- the Ravenswood Art Walk, which will feature the work of over 200 local artists, including over 40 open studios. This opening night event this Friday will also include live performances and some damn good food by some of Ravenswood's best restaurants.
The Friday night event will kickoff at 7pm in and around the Ravenswood Event Center (4011 N. Ravenswood), with ample spillage out into the street (Ravenswood Ave. itself will be shut down between Montrose and Sunnyside for a street fair)(Stop by the GB booth!). The fun won't stop Friday, though, so make sure to stop by on Saturday and/or Sunday for more festivities. Bring the kids. Details here. MORE details, including a schedule of performances, can be found here. Click here for a map. Best of all, admission is FREE!
Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia, affected the artistry of both Adrienne Pierluissi and Ken Vandermark. Vandermark, a photographer, captured life in that city, which in turn Pierluissi would paint. Through their work they created a dialogue between the two mediums and their practice.
Terrie Hessels of The Ex will be present during the opening reception the proceeds of art work sold will go toward helping support Terrie's ongoing music programs in Ethiopia-- for the last few years he's been bringing musicians to schools for workshops and a repairman from Amsterdam to help fix damaged saxophones and clarinets. He will also be performing with Ken Vandermark.
It is easy to forget what led to the power and passion that unfolded onstage in HOPERA: Unleashed. Composer and vocalist Adrian Dunn's fusion of hip-hop and opera was the perfect blend, so much so that the merging of two genres that come from separate worlds becomes lost and forgotten.
The performance marks the return of the company's 2009 performance, Hopera: A Fallen Hero and features a series of numbers from the first studio album of hip-hop opera company, HOPERAWorld, released earlier this month.
Tonight at 7pm, Art In These Times, the community gallery at In These Times' office (2040 N. Milwaukee Ave.), presents a new exhibition of posters and photographs from ongoing labor demonstrations in Wisconsin that began on February 14, 2011. The exhibition is a collaboration with Nicolas Lampert and will feature prints and placards he has collected as an active participant in the labor and community rallies in Madison. The Hard Times Trio, a jazz group which performs classic labor songs, will perform. The artwork will be on display through the summer and fall.
The exhibition features screenprints and off-set posters from rallies in Madison and Milwaukee and features prints by Nicolas Lampert, Colin Matthes, Eric Drooker, Jesus Barraza, Josh MacPhee, Jesse Graves and others. The photography of Lauren Cumbia (who co-organizes the gallery space with Daniel Tucker), Brandon Pittser and the Public Collectors archive will also be exhibited.
Check out this recent report from Wisconsin by curator Nicolas Lampert and Dan S. Wang for more information about the movement to defend collective bargaining rights.
Four youth winners of Graffiti Zone's Next Top Artist Contest will be honored tomorrow night at GZ's Spring Fundraiser. The event will take place at Chicago Urban Arts Society: 2229 S. Halsted from 6 to 9pm. Hosted by Chicago hip hop performer Philip Morris, described as "one of the ultimate word smiths of hip-hop (Skope Magazine)," the evening will feature catering by Green Cuisine, open bar, silent auction and performances by Opera-Matic with sound by Mark Messing. Ample free parking is available behind the building off of Cermak. Tickets are $35 at the door, or online at graffitizone.org. All proceeds to benefit Graffiti Zone, a five-year old non-profit arts organization serving kids from Humboldt Park. More info about the fundraiser can be found here.
A trailer for Sketchbook 9, to give you an idea of what Sketchbook is.
Collaboraction theater company's wildly popular annual Sketchbook festival begins tonight at the Chopin Theater. Sketchbook is a lively multi-media event, combining several art forms including theater, music, visual art, new technologies and bombastic partying, anchored by a show that features several short plays. Selected from hundreds of submissions, Sketchbook brings together the collective talents of more than two hundred pioneering directors, designers, actors, musicians and artists from Chicago and around the country for a jaw-dropping evening of creativity, experimentation, and celebration.
There are many ways to a teenager's heart; you just have to know where to start. Co-op Image Group started with a few video cameras and has kept the kids interests by adding stencils, samplers, molten glass and hot sauce.
It all began in 2002 when Mike Bancroft (who was working for Street Level Youth Media at the time) and his sister, Bridget, were working on a project with the SLYM kids called "Post Our Bills." The idea was to use boarded up buildings as exhibition opportunities -- rather than looking at plywood-covered windows, wouldn't you rather look at paintings? Although they didn't get a lot of cooperation from the city, they attracted a lot of volunteers and positive attention from the neighborhood, and before they knew it they received a donated building and a community garden -- now the Campbell Co-op Garden (1357 N. Campbell St.).
Whether you're an opera aficionado or an opera virgin, consider exposing yourself to an avant-garde take on it this week with Mexico City's Teatro de Ciertos Habitantes' El Gallo: Opera for Actors-- part of the MCA's Global Stage Series. This piece of experimental theater, opening this Wednesday with a short run (through May 1), features a music director and five singers pushing themselves to their limits, "teetering between insanity and euphoria as they work through their deepest
inhibitions." Sung entirely in a made-up language, El Gallo features a score and libretto by British composer, Paul Barker, who conducts the music-- performed live by Chicago's MAVerick Ensemble.
Jazz musician Miles Davis' work-- eclectic, enigmatic, and full-bodied-- is the inspiration and soundtrack to River North Chicago Dance Company's latest performance. Titled Simply Miles, Simply Us, the original work was choreographed by artistic director Frank Chaves with assistance from company members Christian Denice and Ricky Ruiz. Featuring some of Davis' most influential and groundbreaking pieces such as "Blue in Green," from the 1959 album Kind of Blue, and an excerpt from the 1970 double album, Bitches Brew, Simply Miles, Simply Us, promises a diverse array of Davis' work.
The world premiere performance marks not only a first for the dance company for the venue. This is the first time the Auditorium Theatre, in conjunction with the Wharton Center for the Performing Arts at Michigan State University, has commissioned a new work. The performance is also presented as part of the the theatre's ongoing Miles Davis Festival, a city-wide celebration marking the 85th anniversary of Illinois native Davis' birth. In addition to the one-night-only debut performance, the company will also present additional work from Chaves as well as choreographers Sherry Zunker, Ashley Roland, and Robert Battle.
Tickets (starting at $30) for the April 16 engagement are on sale and available at the Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University box office at 50 East Congress Parkway, online, or by calling Ticketmaster at 800-982-2787. The performance begins at 8pm.
A heavy bill is set for Mortville tonight; a few of the bands have traveled long distances to grace Chicago with some serious music. Check them out and have some fun while gazing into the installations reminiscent of the Garbage Pale Kids.
If you want to go, you've got to figure out the address for yourself. You can thank the city'sPPAdrama for that. Hint: It's in Little Village.
Baltimore-based theater group, The Missoula Oblongata, is bringing their newest play, Clamlump, to Ball Hall on Monday, Feb. 14. The description of the play is pretty mindboggling except for the bit about it being set "deep in the hollows of a boarded up stadium," but if you check out TMO's website I think you will be convinced to go whether or not you understand what you're going for. The play will feature a live score performed by Travis Sehorn and an opening act by ventriloquist, April Camlin. BYOP(illow) to sit on. Click here to visit the Facebook event page, or here to visit The Missoula Oblongata's website. Ball Hall's address is secret because the city will try to get their hands into the venue's (empty) pockets if they are given the opportunity. If you wanna go, you've gotta find out where it is for yourself. You can thank the city for that. Admission will most likely require a small donation, but has not yet been specified.
Cauleen Smith, a San-Diego-based artist who has been picked up by Threewallsresidency program, is in the process of trying to fund her experimental film and LP project, The Solar Flare Arkestral Marching Band. Basically, this is a marching band flash mob made up of musicians of all ages that appears in different locations around Chicago, gingerly plays a Sun Ra song and then scatters. What's better than that? According to Smith's mission statement, "The Solar Flare Arkestral Marching Band brings many Chicago communities together to interrupt ordinary life in the city with fleeting ecstatic moments of visual and aural incongruence."
Inspired by artists and designers who use available analog and digital tools to communicate complex data from the everyday to the very obscure, the Public Media Institute presents Select Media Festival 9: Infoporn II this weekend as an homage to their love for data visualization. A selection of works from around the world takes form in installations, a publication library, interactive projects, and infographics. The exhibition itself will be viewable at Co-Prosperity Sphere for two days only: Friday, Dec. 10 from 7pm to 1am and Saturday Dec. 11 from 2 to 9pm.
Tonight they open SMF9: Infoporn II with the release of their own contribution to the information overload, Proximity Magazine: Issue 008. Themed "Education as Art," their newest issue is a 230-page opus and represents their latest and greatest effort in publishing. Stop by the release party at Maria's Packaged Goods & Community Bar to get a copy at a discount ($10), enjoy some beverages and meet the creators/contributors to the issue.
Kate Bush is not a recluse as much as she is an artist who understands the importance of patience (and perhaps perfectionism) when creating music. Her work ethic is counter to contemporary music trends where a new record must be released each year to sustain an increasingly finicky international audience. This great span of time between albums has subsequently helped sustain an entrenched cult fan base whose devotion is now heard through musicians such as British chanteuse Bat For Lashes, Icelandic gem Bjork, Tori Amos, as well as newer singers like Lia Ices or Glasser.
It is in the interest of Bush's local fanbase that writer Joe Erbentraut (along with promoter Joshua Wulbert) created "A Tribute to Kate Bush," an evening dedicated to Ms. Bush, as well as the numerous singers whose aesthetics are closely related to or influenced by her work.
The idea for the evening originated organically. One bout of procrastination a few months ago led Erbentraut to his vinyl collection which includes many albums by the singer. He then mentioned the idea to Wulbert, a DJ and promoter for the monthly "gothy, dark, and swirly" party Procession, held at Late Bar.
"In recent memory, I've heard of tribute nights to Bjork, Robyn, Annie Lennox and Fleetwood Mac, and thought Kate more than deserved the same here in Chicago," Erbentraut said. The event is not only unique to Chicago; it is also unique across many cities nationally, as Bush's fan base has, only recently, begun to celebrate her truly unique sound.
Everyone knows the story of gentrification. Artists and other progressive people move to low-income neighborhoods looking for a good deal on a big space in the city. This attracts investors and developers, and the next thing you know, the original occupants of the neighborhood — including small businesses, families and even the artists themselves — are priced out of their homes to make room for culturally bankrupt replacements. The charm of the neighborhood is beaten out of it.
Because of the housing market crash, along with foreclosures, the gentrification process has pretty much come to a halt in many parts of the city. A classic case of this in Chicago, for better of worse, is Garfield Park. Real estate in the neighborhood was highly sought after during the real estate boom because of its proximity to downtown and to the CTA and Metra trains, as well as the beloved Garfield Park Conservatory and the sprawling park itself, but has since been given up on by many developers. Now it is home to clusters of vacant lots and buildings, but what a lot of people don't realize is that a surprising number of the buildings that are occupied are occupied by artists. Not just any artists, either. Artists who aren't afraid to take risks, who dance to the beat of their own drums, who make some of the most engaging work and eclectic work around.
Alaska-born, Native American choreographer Emily Johnson and her company, Catalyst, will peform "The Thank-you Bar" October 7-10 at The Dance Center of Columbia College Chicago. The Chicago premiere features dance, live music, storytelling, and visual images for an intimate, onstage audience. The work, featuring Johson's choreography, as well as music by James Everest and Joel Pickard (Blackfish), weaves themes of displacement, longing, and language with history, architecture, and igloo-myth.
A popular performance that has been designed for small audiences, the October 7 and 8 performances have sold out. Tickets are still available for the 9 pm performance on October 9, which will feature a special performance by Blackfish, as well as two performances that have been added to the original schedule at 3 and 5 pm on October 10. Admission is $26-30 for each performance of "The Thank-you Bar," and $15 for the Blackfish concert. Tickets are general admission and space is limited. To purchase tickets or for more information visit The Dance Center of Columbia College website, or call 312-369-8330. All performances take place at The Dance Center of Columbia College, 1306 S. Michigan Ave.
This week, Orion Ensemble marks the opening of its 18th season, with a salutation to Robert Schumann at his 200th birthday. The ensemble will also showcase works by Astor Piazzolla, and Ludwig Van Beethoven. The performance includes Schumann's Fantasy Pieces for Clarinet and Piano, Op. 73, Piazzolla's tango-influenced Four Seasons of Buenos Aires for Violin, Cello and Piano (1965), and Beethoven's Trio in C Minor for Violin, Viola and Cello, Op. 9, No. 3.
Orion Ensemble will perform at Roosevelt University's Ganz Hall, 430 Michigan Ave., this Wednesday, Sept. 22 at 7:30 pm. They will also present the performance on Sunday, Oct. 3 at 7:30 pm in Evanston, at the Music Institute of Chicago's Nichols Hall, 1490 Chicago Ave. Tickets are $26. Senior tickets are $23, student tickets are $10, and children ages 12 and under are free. To purchase tickets or learn more, visit orionensemble.org, or call 630-628-9591.
Redmoon is, of course, well known for its large-scale theatrical events -- even they prefer to refer to them as spectacles, because "play" just doesn't capture what they do. Their latest is the Joyous Outdoor Event, aka J.O.E. It's being staged in South Belmont Harbor Park, at Belmont and Lake Shore Drive, in collaboration with the Metro/smartbar and Chicago Park District. Among the many goings-on are concerts by JC Brooks & The Uptown Sound, Scotland Yard Gospel Choir, My Gold Mask and others (curated by Metro); performances by Redmoon and other theatre troupes; a clown fashion show; games, races and tugs-of-war; soapbox speeches on Labor Day; and The Luminarium, the large explorable structure pictured above. Each evening culminates in a performance of Redmoon's Last of My Species II: The Perilous Songs of Bibi Merhdad, billed as a sequel to last year's spectacle.
J.O.E. runs Thursday, Sept. 2 from 6 to 10pm; Friday, Sept. 3 from 6 to 10pm; Saturday, Sept. 4 from 1 to 10pm; Sunday, Sept. 5 from 1 to 10pm; and Monday, Sept.6 from 1 to 6pm. Tickets are $25 for adults, $10 for kids.
Seven piece Lost in the Trees returned to Chicago last night after having played a few smaller clubs previously. They're releasing their album All Alone in an Empty House on ANTI- Records and were filled with a blissful sort of energy as they took the stage, playing for a rich 75 minutes on one of the last warm nights of the summer.
I've been a concert photographer based in Chicago now for about four years and I've seen a startling trend...increasingly more bands think it's "cool" to play in the darkness. It's the opposite of reality, this idea that dark and red lights look great to the audience, and I'm here to set the record straight.
"The Van" by Andrea Jablonski of local band Rabid Rabbit
So there's this book called "Art of Touring" that came out recently filled with art, photos, writing and other goodies made by members of touring bands while on the road. It's been getting a lot of positive attention lately, so local artist/musician Andrea Jablonski and Johalla Project's Anna Cerniglia have curated a show opening at JP on Friday, showcasing some of the art from the book plus a plethora of fresh art and ephemera made by local musicians. Artists include members of The Ponys, Mucca Pazza, Califone, Wilco and Flosstradamus among many others.
When you're out and about on Friday stop by the opening of the show. It'll be at Johalla Proects (1561 N. Milwaukee Ave.) from 7 to 11pm. If you miss the opening, the show will stay up through August 7 for you to check out. Also, keep your ears peeled for an interview that WBEZ's 848 did with the curators and a few of the artists in the gallery yesterday.
The reception is free, and takes place at 33 E. Congress Parkway, basement lobby, room # LL11. A media lounge, where guests can check out CDs and published work by participants, performers and ASAE members, will be open all night.
The Orion Ensemble, Chicago's nationally recognized chamber music ensemble, has announced a jam-packed season of music beginning this September. The 2010-2011 season will include four programs, featuring works from composers such as Robert Schumann, Astor Piazzolla, and Ludwig Van Beethoven. Orion Ensemble will also feature an all-French program in November, including César Franck's Sonata in A Major for Violin and/or Cello; Jean Françaix's Trio for Clarinet, Viola and Piano (1990); and Théodore Dubois's Quintet in F Major for Piano, Clarinet, Violin, Viola and Cello (1905).
Along with their musical offerings, Orion Ensemble will partner with Ballet Chicago for their February 27, March 6, and March 9 performances. These showings will feature the debut of Orion Ensemble's "Instruments of Revelation" by Victoria Bond. Dancers will perform the choreography of Ballet Chicago Director Daniel Duell.
Comedy isn't often both hip and queer, at least according to one of Chicago's hippest, queerest comedians, but it will be this weekend when The Hot D8 Campaign kicks off a mini tour in the midst of Gay Pride weekend.
"It's the opposite of that Gay Gays of Gay-type Tour," said Cameron Esposito, who performs with ukulele-strumming funnyman Ben Lerman and awkward-come-lovely comic Mo Welch in the queer-themed standup show.
"I think it's really hard for people to get on board if you're not also being like, 'Hey, here's something less shocking,'" Esposito said. "I like just getting into people's heads and rocking their world, but not making them feel uncomfortable while they're doing it."
This Saturday, Art Adventure! Events is hosting a free Art-About in West Town. With a trusty map in hand, participants are encouraged to stroll their way through the area's art attractions. The festival is meant to highlight the increased art activity in the West Town neighborhood, drawing those interested into this new area to create and learn from each other.
Twenty-five venues are offering a variety of activities, from simply perusing a gallery space to live music to wine tastings, even a tai chi demonstration! For a full listing of Art-About participants and offerings, click here.
The Art-About starts at the Sculpture Courtyard at 935 N Damen at 4pm. Drop by to pick up a map and explore a new area!
Long-running sketch group Schadenfreude and the soul, hip-hop and funk band The Jordan Years blend music and comedy with occasional rent party shows, but their Chicago Just For Laughs show pulls out all the stops adding some of the city's top comedians and a Grammy award-winning rapper.
"I've been racking my brain to try to figure out how to explain it, because you don't see a lot of things like this," said Justin Kaufmann, who makes up Schadenfreude with Kate James, Sandy Marshall, Adam Witt and Stephen Schmidt. "It's sort of rock and roll with actual comedy."
The 90-minute comedy hybrid show examines Chicago from an insider's perspective, facing the day-to-day jerking around city-dwellers face, from parking meter privatization to skyrocketing property taxes, the cutback of city services and the ever-rising crime rate. Schadenfreude performed at last year's inaugural Chicago Just For Laughs Festival and were invited back by the producers.
Humboldt Park's glorious yet hanging-on-by-a-thread art/culture venue, Quennect 4, has put together a benefit music compilation that promises to be thoroughly awesome, and you can get a sneak peek at it today through Bandcamp, and you'll be able to download the whole thing there on May 7 with a download code. There are two ways to get a download code. Either make a donation to Q4 on Kickstarter (which is one of the best ways to spend your money that I can think of) or attend the Compilation Release on Friday, May 7 at Elastic Arts.
The May 7 event will feature live music by the Chicago Gypsy Experiment ( Eyes Manouche/Ode mashup ), Rambos, and Wake Up Siouxsie. You can also expect special guest performers, and raffles for Q4 artwork. It starts at 9pm and is an all ages event. They are asking for an $8 donation which will get you admission plus a download of the compilation. No one, however, will be turned away for lack of funds.
Andrea Concetti as Moses in the Chicago Opera Theater's production, photo by Liz Lauren.
147 years have passed since the last time Rossini's Moses in Egypt was performed in Chicago; last Friday, The Chicago Opera Theater's production came to the Harris Theater. The opera company distinguishes itself as a producer of intimate and innovative productions while making the art form more accessible through programs like Opera for All, which incorporates elements of opera into the curriculum of Chicago Public Schools, and through collaborating with After School Matters and the Chicago Arts Partnerships in Education.
For amazing voices, the cast of Moses really can't be beat; Concetti's rendering of Moses was commanding, and Taylor Stayton and Sian Davies' portrayals of the star-crossed lovers Osiride and Elcia were magnificent. The space at the Harris Theater is surprisingly intimate, and as the story unfolded in the darkened theater the distance between the viewer and performer seemed to dissolve. The English supertitles above the stage were a bit distracting at first, but it soon became second nature to glance up every now and then as if I was wearing a pair of bifocals. At times I forgot completely to read the supertitles and it didn't seem to matter, the music and the drama onstage communicated the story to me regardless of the fact that I understand about ten words of Italian, and of those, nine are food items.
Comedians and musicians seem to have a sort of symbiotic relationship. After recognizing that they may share some of the same audience base, it's becoming more commonplace to catch a band whose opener is a comedian, or vice versa. Folks who like awesome music probably like awesome comedy as well, so props to these comedians and musicians for wising up to this.
If you find yourself in that intersecting section of the Venn diagram of both comedy and music fans, then the upcoming performance that features Jeff Tweedy (Wilco), Jeff Garlin ("Curb Your Enthusiasm"), and Fred Armisen ("Saturday Night Live") will be right up your alley. On May 16th, the trio will be taking the stage in "Comedy, Q's and A's," a performance that will involve stand-up by Garlin and Armisen, and a musical set by Tweedy, followed by an opportunity to ask Armisen about his experiences on "Saturday Night Live."
"Comedy, Q's and A's" is May 16th at 8:00 p.m. at Emanuel Congregation (5959 N. Sheridan Ave.). Proceeds support youth programming at Emanuel Congregation. Tickets may be purchased at http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/108329 or by calling 800-838-3006. General seating tickets are $50 or $75 and include a pre-show pizza buffet with entertainment by Matt Ryd. Patron and benefactor tickets range from $175 to $1000 and include preferred seating, on-site parking and admission to a pre-show cocktail hour. There will be a cash bar open to all ticket-holders.
The illustrious Version festival starts this Thursday with Territories, a group exhibition at the Zhou B. Art Center. Also, starting that night at midnight Version fest presents six episodes of experimental television featuring works submitted to this year's festival. Watch every night of the festival at midnight to view a 30 minute episode on Chicago Cable Access Channel 19 (CANTV).
On Friday the opening party for Version Festival kicks off at 8pm at Co-Prosperity Sphere, promising more unabashed creativity and wild rock and roll than any one human being could hope to completely absorb in one night. The meat and potatoes of the show Friday will most likely be the live music by amazing local acts including Mahjongg, Brilliant Pebbles, and Mr666 (among others), but the show will be garnished by art and entertainment by Telefantasy Studios-- a group of artists specializing in Sci-Fi/fantasy film productions who claim that their aim is to "transport people to realms never before imagined and to tell heroic stories with dazzling special effects." For the Version fest opening party they will create a temporary soundstage for performance, and they want everyone to come in costume as a Sci-Fi/fantasy character to be filmed, photographed, interviewed, and auditioned.
On Friday, the Chicago Opera Theater opens its 2010 season with Moses in Egypt, an opera by Gioachino Rossini that hasn't been performed in Chicago since 1863. The piece was chosen by supporters of Chicago Opera Theater through a fundraising initiative called The People's Opera in which supporters voted with their dollars on which opera to choose.
The story of Moses freeing the Hebrews from Egypt is told through the eyes of a young couple, who, like all great tragic lovers, are threatened by the conflict that surrounds them. Andrea Concetti plays the role of Moses, and the star-crossed lovers Elcia and Osiride are played by Manuela Bisceglie and Taylor Stayton. Anka Lupes designed the costumes and the set, which is dominated by a large skylight that holds the Israelites captive. Andrew Eggert, who directs, describes the dramatic ending of the piece: "we have taken a symbolic approach to the parting of the Red Sea. Rather than a literal separation of the waters, the audience can expect a surprise of light and motion that represents the progression of the Israelites towards their aspirations for the future."
Saul Williams performing, photo by Gina Picardiello
Lethal Poetry's A Night of Sight and Sound was a very apt description of the evening's events. It launched with a bevy of battling B-boys and a lone B-girl, segued into hip hop blues and then capped it off with a clutch of seasoned, nationally-ranked poets. The night flowed seamlessly with a variety of performers and minimal time between sets.
Kicking off at 6pm, light still streamed in from Lawrence Avenue, a street frantic with dual shows at the Aragon and Riv: Kalleton 2010 and Stone Temple Pilots, respectively. Kinetic Playground saw a respectable crowd as the evening began with B-boys and a B-girl crossing swords on the dance floor. Battle-winner Pi88 is a regular competitor and teaches dance at Alternatives, Inc., a youth and family services agency on Sheridan.
Because school arts programs are virtually non-existent, keeping arts in the community is crucial for youth; it provides them with future opportunities and teaches them teamwork, social skills, and familiarity with other cultures--something that Mojdeh, President and Curator of Lethal Poetry, Inc., understands all too well.
Lethal Poetry is an interdisciplinary arts organization that goes "beyond entertainment and into the cause." "Our vision is to bring many Chicago artists together to activate them as social activists," says Mojdeh. "Also, we create a model that shows the benefits of for-profit organizations working with the nonprofit sector when it comes to the arts."
Quennect 4 just started out as a space, nothing more. Just a place on North Avenue in Humboldt Park for people to use for concerts and parties. And that's what it was. But over time, somewhat serendipitously, it became something more-- not only a venue for art and music but for communication, harmony, and activism.
One of the many revelatory occasions that contributed to this transformation happened recently, during a benefit at Quennect 4 for the well-known taggers Evol and Afro, who died in a car accident on the highway last April. The circumstances surrounding their death were infuriating--a (probably) drunk cop was involved--so the attendance was immense. The large space was full and they had to stop letting people in at 10:30.
"It should go down in history," said one of the guys who runs Quennect 4, who asked to remain anonymous when I interviewed the crew of volunteers there in February. "Every tagging crew in the city was here. On the streets they're at war with each other but in here they all got along. You could feel the energy in the room. It was very tense. We were all nervous, but nothing happened."
The Chicago Opera Theater's second annual YouTube contest gives fans a chance to sing for their opera tickets, provided they can drum-up a popular video reenacting this season's arias.
The theme of this year's submissions is to explain "How do YOU make opera less ordinary?" by interpreting one of the three 2010 Spring season operas: Rossini's "Moses in Egypt," Cavalli's "Jason" (Giasone) or Heggie's "Three Decembers." For synopsis and production info, click on the operas' accompanied link.
If rumors prove true, I may have to break my vow to never again put myself through the intense heat and crowd density of the summertime music fest, Lollapalooza. The official Lollapalooza site, which regularly posts a listing of performance rumors, has cited The Daily Swarm for the latest buzz that Lady Gaga may headline this year's Chicago show. Having made one of her biggest breaks in Chicago at Lollapalooza '07, it makes sense for the queen of eccentric pop to return in 2010, after her popularity exploded and she became the first artist in Billboard history to have four singles from one album hit number one this past year.
Chicago has already proven a bedazzled appreciation for Lady Gaga. She sold out all three nights at Chicago's Rosemont theatre in January, and multiple Lady Gaga inspired fashion shows have since followed.
If Lady Gaga's poppy beats and over-the-top theatricality just aren't your thing, you can at least look forward to the swarms of sequin-clad fans with Gaga inspired sculpture hair that will descend upon Grant Park if our city is once again treated to a Fame Monster takeover.
Everyone can relate to having that adolescent moment when they discover a life-changing type of music, and punkplay zeroes in on that slice of life for a couple of kids named Duck and Mickey.
"It's a play about two sort of marginal adolescent boys growing up in the suburbs who sort of latch on to punk rock and use it to find an identity outside of the mainstream," said New England playwright Gregory Moss, whose punkplay comes to Chicago as a Pavement Group production, part of Steppenwolf Theatre Company's new Visiting Company Initiative, Garage Rep.
When the two boys - played by Alexander Lane and Matt Farabee under the direction of Pavement Group's founding artistic director David Perez - have trouble adapting, bands like Black Flag and Sonic Youth give them a path to self-discovery. It's not a music-as-salvation story, though.
On February 26 and 27, threewalls gallery will host Chasing Two Rabbits as part of a two week animation festival featuring animation programs curated by local and national artists. Chasing Two Rabbits is a special event curated by Sonia Yoon and Shannon Stratton that pairs animators with live performances by sound artists and musicians.
Inspired by the experimental films of Norman McLaren, who combined abstract imagery (including scratching and painting into the film stock in earlier work, as well as paper cut-outs and live action and dance) with imaginative music and sound, Chasing Two Rabbits acts to pair artists in both genres to produce a unique event with sound and vision illuminating each other.
Currently threewalls is looking for proposals from both animators and sound artists and/or musicians who would like their work to be matched up with each other's. Pairings will be chosen from submissions, with animations provided to musicians and sound artists to review and score for live performance in February.
Animators can submit pieces for sound, no longer than 10 minutes in length, on DVD. Sound artists can send audio files (mp3, aiff, wav) on CD to Chasing Two Rabbits, c/o threewalls, 119 N Peoria #2D, Chicago, IL, 60607 or can send files or links to Shannon and Sonia c/o email@example.com. Materials must be submitted by this Friday, January 15.
Grammy award-winning sextet eighth blackbird will be performing Arnold Schoenberg's Pierrot Lunaire (Moonstruck Pierrot), a 1912 melodrama that sets music to poetry, featuring dancer Elyssa Dole, soprano Lucy Shelton and percussionist Matthew Duvall in the title role. Schoenberg's fascination with numerology influenced the work, which is his opus 21 and contains 21 poems. Bjork once performed the piece, and while you might be able to find a recording somewhere, this is really something to be experienced in person. Mark DeChiazza directs.
eighth blackbird will be performing Pierrot Lunaire for one night in Chicago: Tuesday, December 8th, at 7:30. Tickets are $30, with a buy one get one free promotion on the ticket sales website. For more information visit eighth blackbird.
World War II is going poorly for Hitler and the Nazi party. So the Fueher decides the best way to turn the tide in the war is to kidnap Santa Claus and take control of Christmas and all of Santa's magical secrets. The only thing standing in the way of their evil plot is a misunderstood elf, a misfit toy and a couple of hit men reindeer. Will that be enough to save Christmas? Find out when The Hot Karl presents, "Santa Claus Conquers the Nazis: The Musical."
"People expect us to do a dirty funny show, so that's nothing new. But thanks to musical director Steph McCullough and a cast of thousands -- actually a nine-person chorus -- it's a real holiday musical with real songs," said Hot Karl member Zach Thompson. "You should really come see it." It's only going up five times, every Saturday from Nov. 21 to Dec. 19. Shows start at 11:59pm at Comedy Sportz, 929 West Belmont. Tickets are $10, and you can get 'em here or call 312-559-1212.
Chicago's sinner concentration isn't any higher than say, San Francisco's, but God's Pottery will do their best to -- satirically -- save some souls when they hit The Lakeshore Theater on Thursday.
"It would be nice if we could say honestly that all the heathens were located in one place, but unfortunately, there are desperate souls spread out across the land," said Gideon Lamb, half of the screwball duo that spreads their God-fearing message through music and motivational spoofs.
"The truth is, there are people sprinkled all over this country who need our help and that's why we're on the road," said duo's other Christian caricature, Jeremiah Smallchild. "Really, our work is never done."
The real truth is that God's Pottery is promoting their new book, What Would God's Pottery Do? released on the heels of their attention-grabbing run on NBC's "Last Comic Standing." They've also been busy making "Christ'd" episodes, sort of like "Punk'd" but with good-natured pranks, and hitting audiences over the head with their twisted theology.
Today's front page of the Sun-Times features a story about Pedro Bell. He wrote many of the liner notes and drawings for George Clinton and the Parliament Funkadelic. Sadly, he has never received any compensation for his work. Living in the "shabby" Hyde Park Arms, he is practically blind, living with a wound on his ankle that won't heal, receiving dialysis three times a week, and battling eviction orders.
His work was featured in the Museum of Contemporary Art's traveling exhibit, "Sympathy for the Devil: Art and Rock 'n' Roll since 1967," but other than that has received little recognition and no money for this art. His younger brother, Maillo Tsuru says, "We're just looking for collectors at this point. There's no reason a world-class artist shouldn't have patrons."
I don't think I'm the only person who has a deep philosophical interest in carny culture. Otherwise, why would the Department of Cultural Affairs organize a month of carny-related arts programming? The DCA, in conjunction with Silent Theatre Company, is putting on a play of sorts, called Carnivale Nocturne, surrealistically recreating the underground world of a traveling carnival. With a live band and physical acts of carnival performance, this original dark fable by the STC ensemble, directed by Tonika Tordova, combines the styles of Tim Burton and Edward Gorey, telling the story of a curse between a group of fire breathers, fortune tellers, bestial tamers and natural freaks.
Perfect for Halloween: filmmaker EJ Park produced a documentary about Ari Lehman, who as a 13-year-old portrayed the young Jason Voorhees in the original Friday the 13th. "Now a struggling musician, he seeks to reclaim his momentary stardom -- transitioning from Jewish reggae to 'horror rock' as the lead singer of FirstJason."
I'll admit it, I know all the words to There Is Nothin' Like A Dame, and the ones that I don't know to Bali Ha'i I add lib as I go along. I grew up in a household where Rodgers & Hammerstein provided a near-constant soundtrack, becoming to me what sad violin music was to Frankenstein's monster - whenever I hear it I am compelled to find the source.
New York's Lincoln Center Theater has revived the 60 year-old musical, with its eerily current storyline of a country at war and the ever-relevant theme of race relations, and is bringing it to the Rosemont Theatre for one glorious week in November. I attended Tuesday's preview of the show at Gibson's Steakhouse, where a select audience was serenaded by bass-baritone David Pittsinger, who plays the part of Emile de Becque, and who previously appeared in Tosca at the Met playing the part of Angelotti. Oh yeah, he's got the pipes. As he sang Some Enchanted Evening we made eye contact, and it was like he was singing only to me. Later he broke into the heartbreaking This Nearly Was Mine, and I swear I saw real tears welling up in his eyes.
Bring your hankies, this one is going to be good.
South Pacific is playing at the Rosemont Theatre, 5400 N. River Road for a limited one-week engagement, November 24-29. Tickets are $39.50-$79.50 and can be purchased at the Rosemont Theatre Box Office and at Ticketmaster. For information and tickets call 877-447-7849, or visit Rosemont Theatre or South Pacific On Tour.
Last night was my final West African Dance class of the current session, and we had a recital onstage at the Old Town School of Folk Music. The school is housed in a grand building on Lincoln Avenue that was once a library and retains traces of its bookish past; above the stage is a WPA mural underscored by the words "enjoy toys, the world we live in, making airplanes, boats, books tell us of King Arthur, costume and pioneer days, building skyscrapers, electricity." My fellow classmates and I - six of us in all, got on stage to the rhythm of live djembe drumming, and brought the house down. After spending eight weeks dancing in the studio classroom, it was gratifying to perform in front of an audience, and the group assembled at the Old Town School couldn't have been less judgmental - everyone in the auditorium had to get on stage at some point, making the atmosphere less American Idol and more like talent night at summer camp. We practiced our dance moves in the hallway as a group of musicians rehearsed Will The Circle Be Unbroken, it was a quintessential Old Town School moment.
The six of us stood across from each other on the stage, three on each side, and at the appropriate drumbeat - what our teacher calls "the break," we started moving towards each other in dance formation until we'd found our mark, faced the audience, and moved to the next step. Midway through the dance we formed a circle using dance steps and then moved back to our original spots, a maneuver that wowed the audience. I was standing up front at stage right, and could see the audience - mostly guitar students, with instruments in their laps or in cases sitting next to them. Our dance lasted all of three minutes, and we received a truly raucous round of applause and shouts for our efforts. It was fantastic. Three West African Dance classes performed in a row, ceaseless drumming spurring on one class after the next. After that came the Middle Eastern Belly Dancers in all their jangly, hip-centered self-confidence, the metal disks on their hip scarves bouncing in unison like a school of small, shiny fish.
This should be fun- the folks down at The Hideout are putting on their own, probably even more twisted, version of Little Shop Of Horrors, produced, directed by, and starring Hideout staff, friends, and family. I am particuarly exited to see local poet and incredible soul/funk/Americana singer Marvin Tate play Audrey II "The Plant."
There will be six showings, one every evening Oct. 22-25th, and 3pm showings on the 24th and 25th. Tickets are $15. The Hideout: 1354 W. Wabansia. 773-227-4433. 21+
Every good play should have sex, drugs, and timeless moral lessons. Ma Rainey's Black Bottom has all three, plus good jokes and even better music.
August Wilson's 1984 play, part of his Pittsburgh cycle, describes the plight of the black musician in depression-era Chicago. The story is masterfully directed by Ron OJ Parson and equally well executed by a small team of talented actors. Wilson's story is a quintessential drama, simultaneously timeless and modern, drawing from traditions of storytelling that go back to biblical times, and building up to an explosive ending.
Each show is $12 (more if you've got it, free if you're broke) and will be held at 7:30pm in The Chopin Theater's opulent downstairs foyer. Keep tabs on the subject-to-change schedule and get tickets here.
A theme of examining identity through multidisciplinary infusions will take the Museum of Contemporary Art's stage this season as forthcoming core performances were recently announced.
The self-examining premise could also be reflected off-stage as well this year as the MCA continues efforts to advance performances, exhibitions and educational services by converging digital media.
"We hope to draw people's native interests in music, dance and theater while at the same time crossing interdisciplinary work: infusing music with dance, film with music, [etc.]," said MCA Director of Performance Programs, Peter Taub. "By and large we are living within this multidisciplinary world--so, why do we have to think of [performance] in discipline categories?"
Here's a preview of the MCA's highly anticipated multimedia performances--which will you attend?
Gay rights activists across the country -- including Chicago's Gay Liberation Network -- caused a stink about scheduled bookings of Buju Banton, a Jamaican reggae singer who's made headlines for his violent anti-gay lyrics.
Protest organizers say their actions led promoters Live Nation and AEG Live to cancel Banton's Oct. 2 appearance in Chicago, plus House of Blues shows scheduled for Las Vegas, Dallas and Houston.
"These cancellations show the power of protest to deliver the goods," said Network member Bob Schwartz, who's led several "murder music" protests, including a 2006 demonstration during Banton's House of Blues show.
This Thursday at iO (3541 N. Clark St), local improv group 1,2,3, Fag! begins their run of Qweirdo, a totally gay, totally hilarious showcase that features homosexual performers from Chicago's comedy scene. The men of 1,2,3, Fag! are Kellen Alexander, Seth Dodson, and John Hartman, who met at The Playground and began improvising together this spring. Though the members of 1, 2, 3, Fag! are all gay, they do not set out to promote any type of political agenda when they perform. "1, 2, 3, Fag! sets out to entertain the audience and make them laugh, just like any other comedy group," says Dodson. "However, being three young gay men in a scene where we are a minority, our own viewpoints, opinions and feelings are undoubtedly going to be expressed."
No, that's not the name of R. Kelly's latest album, but rather the latest stage show by Big Dog Eat Child. Big Dog Eat Child (of Boozeleggers Ball and Jones' Good Ass BBQ and Foot Massage fame) brings their show to the Lakeshore Theatre stage this Friday, May 29th at Midnight. More than just your run-of-the-mill comedy show, Intergalactic Sex Rodeo features live music from buzz band The Wires, burlesque dancers from the acclaimed Varietease Cabaret, comedy super-group Big Dog Eat Child, and comedians Marty DeRosa and Bill Cruz.
Will summer to arrive by getting your lawn tix for Ravinia. Tickets go on sale April 18 and several shows notoriously sell out on the first day. Plenty of poular acts return this year like Indigo Girls, Diana Krall, The Gypsy Kings, BoDeans, Bonnie Raitt and Lyle Lovett. Most intriguing new concert for this year features David Hyde Pierce singing Cole Porter tunes.
Whether you're Irish or Catholic or neither or both, you can enjoy Irish music and fare at the Fifth Province within the Irish American Heritage Center. Every Friday through April 10, the Center hosts a fish fry and Irish music from bands like The Dooley Brothers and Seamus O'Kane & Jimmy Moore. Plenty of Irish beer and cider on tap, too. Music starts at 9pm. $12 cover.
From April 4-15, 2009, Mess Hall will host "Brains, Brilliancy, Bohemia: Art & Politics in Jazz-Age Chicago," an exhibition featuring counterculture documents and art from the Chicago hobohemian era, as well as audio from a rare interview with Studs Terkel.
If the crowds of over-served, over-festive St. Patrick's Day revelers haven't forced you to hole up in your apartment until the holiday is over, I recommend you check out Cook County Social Club's "Unplugged" show this Tuesday at 8:00 pm at the iO Theater (3541 N. Clark St.). According to the group they'll be improvising while their musical pals Butterscotch "pump out the Irish jams". The CCSC is always sharp and hilarious, so let them take your mind off the green madness in the streets with some laughs and tunes. More details here.
The Chicago Opera Theater is offering a free pair of season subscriptions in its first ever YouTube contest. Contestants have to upload a video explaining why they deserve free COT tickets, and the video that gets "favorited" most wins.
COT is so Web 2.0 right now it hurts -- from their bloggy-fresh web design to their presence on Twitter. And it's kind of refreshing, especially when general director Brian Dickie is slightly self-effacing about it on his blog. He called the contest a "marketing gimmick," but then quickly added, "We shall see what happens with this little bit of fun... Someone has to be the smart one who wins free tickets for COT."
And with a limited number of entrants so far (the contest ends April 1), why shouldn't it be you?
This Saturday March 7 at 10am, tickets will go on sale for "Unwigged & Unplugged: An Evening with Christopher Guest, Michael McKean and Harry Shearer", who are playing the Chicago Theatre on May 30 at 8pm.
Through music-themed mockumentaries such as This is Spinal Tap and A Mighty Wind, the trio has straddled the line between comedy and musicianship, and with this upcoming appearance they'll be focusing on the music. The trio is billed as, "coming out from behind the hair, the facial hair, and the absence of hair, to perform as themselves songs from both films, and more, in a rare acoustic setting."
For more information you can visit the Chicago Theatre website here.
It's not every day -- or ever, really -- that a truckload of Chicago musicians trek across the country to celebrate an inauguration, and today Jay Ryan, who runs the screen print poster workshop Bird Machine, is offering up his limited edition Big Shoulders Ball poster for just $20. There are only 450, and you can buy one here.
If you're keen on owning a piece of Chicago history, dropping a Jackson on this print is probably a better way to go than buying an overpriced newspaper on eBay.
Attention anyone who's ever listened to "Pissing in a River" in a dark room by themselves: Patti Smith will be at the Jan. 30th screening of Patti Smith: Dream of Life at the The Block Museum of Art and will participate in a post-screening discussion with the film's director, Steven Sebring, and Sound Opinions co-host Jim Derogatis.
Tickets are $11 ($8 students) and go on sale Jan. 23, but you must pre-register to purchase them.
The MCA upped the hip a notch recently by adding folktronica duo The Books to its Spring 2009 performance schedule. The May 3 concert, co-sponsored by the Empty Bottle, is part of the ongoing MCA Stage program, which expands the museum's reach beyond visual art and into the realms of theater, music, dance and other media.
The Books' multimedia performance includes an Artists Up Close pre-show talk with members Nick Zamutto and Paul de Jong.
Your $20 ticket gets you one free museum admission on the performance date or any day during the following week. And heads up students: tickets are $10 with valid ID.
The newly formed Chicago Miniaturist Ensemble specializes in music consisting of 100 notes or fewer. Over the summer, the group issued a call for scores; composers from across the United States and around the world responded with miniature score submissions. For its inaugural performance, composers were challenged to address the theme of "chiaroscuro," the contrast between light and darkness.
The Chicago Miniaturist Ensemble will perform "Chiaroscuro" on Dec. 4 at 8pm at Ossia Fine Arts Space in the Fine Arts Building, 410 S. Michigan Ave., Suite 537. There is a suggested donation of $10 ($5 for students) for admission.
Chicago's small but thriving stand-up scene, long overshadowed by Chicago's legendary improv influence, is vital partly because of its "put on your own show" mindset, and this show has all the charming DIY hallmarks: a flexible start time, cheap beer specials, a nice mix of stand-up and music, and hosts in silly wigs and costumes who hug you the minute you come in the door.
Tonight Chicago Sinfonietta will be performing Gustav Holst's "The Planets" in Millennium Park while photographs from NASA are projected onto a screen behind them. The show was a big hit when it was originally performed two years ago and they've decided to bring it back for a repeat performance in a venue where you can actually see the stars. To help you do that, they're sitting up telescopes along the lawn and making docents available to assist and explain what you're viewing. The performance is free and begins at 7:30.
If you're curious about an art form that is more than the sum of its parts (its parts being dance and martial arts), then Gingarte Capoeira Chicago has your weekend all planned out for you. In capoeira, what starts off looking like a partnered dance turns into an improvised fight--both aggressive and graceful--with kicks, throws, and acrobatics. The music is also instrumental (ha) in this art form that originated (arguably) in the sixteenth century with African slaves in Brazil who wanted to disguise their self-defense training. Today's capoeira dancers are disciplined and spiritual and, as with martial artists, consider it to be a way of life.
Gingarte has been around since 1991, teaching and promoting capoeira, as well as Brazilian music and language. They have an Academy in Pilsen where you can take advantage of their classes year-round, but July 10 through 13 is their 14th Annual Batizado e Troca de Cordões, where you can participate in workshops on capoeira, music, maculelê, and samba. Click the link for the weekend event schedule, registration information (register by July 9), and fees for adults and youth.
Of course, the weekend wouldn't be complete without an opportunity to see the artists at work. Gingarte Capoeira's "Resistência" performance is at 8:00 p.m. on Saturday, July 12, at the University of Illinois Chicago, Performing Arts Theater, 1044 W. Harrison St. Tickets are $10 in advance (online ticket sales end Friday), $15 at the door, $5 ages 16 and under.
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.
Mallory Sohmer is a freelance documentary filmmaker from Chicago and a Columbia College alumna. She co-directed the new film, Drum Beat Journey, the story of four inner-city youth who travel to Petit Mbao, Senegal, to participate in a drumming workshop. The program used music as a vehicle to capture and connect with the young men in an engaging and original way. But this is not just a film about drumming; it's about stepping into another culture to learn about oneself. Read this feature »