The weather, warming up slightly this week, urged a substantial amount of Chicago makers, gallery goers and visual arts lovers, to the Flat Iron Arts Building last night. I, finally wearing something that wasn't reminiscent of a Christmas Story trekked out to Wicker Park for the open studios, refreshments and socializing. This was my first time experiencing first friday at Wicker Park--I usually frequent Pilsen for second Fridays instead. However, I am a fan of the area and decided to wander down for a peak of how they run things down at the Flat Iron Building.
First of all, the building is enormous. So much so that I was lost a few times and went in circles on the second floor before I gathered my bearings. Some studios are open, some are not. The spaces are large, very homey and inviting. I stopped by Raw Toast Design's studio space where there were a plethora of illustrations, posters and cards out for display (and for sale). As I wandered further, I stumbled upon Brainstorm Comics. I never really got into comic books but I can only imagine the excitement that some people have when discovering this upstairs. The room was vast with tons of amazing colors. The books themselves were like art. Moving on in the building I visited some photography studios. I was highly impressed with Marc Sullivans work, a film photographer who captured desolate areas across the United States. His work was eerie yet beautiful, as he focuses on dilapidated buildings and night shots.
Overall, I felt like I wanted more after visiting Wicker Park. There weren't as many people as I had hoped there would be (for the socializing),yet, the artists seemed eager and excited to discuss their work. I guess thats what it's all about anyways, isn't it? I am hoping that once the weather starts to warm up, so will the visitors at the first friday events. It's definitely worth it for the visual artists and the chance to get a little inspired when you're feeling the Chicago winter blues.
First Friday occurs every month so stop by and support your local artists!
Australia's literary salon, Women of Letters, arrives in Chicago for one performance on Friday, March 21, at the Mayne Stage in Rogers Park. Seven female writers and performers will read letters they have written in advance on the topic: "A letter to the moment the lights came on."
Australian shows have been such a literary phenomenon that three collections have been published by Penguin--the most recent released in November 2013. This year's Women of Letters US tour features additional events in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Austin and New York.
Scheduled to read at the Chicago salon are:
Tavi Gevinson, writer, actress and founder of Rookie Magazine
Claire Zulkey, author and blogger
Kate Harding, author of Asking for It: The Alarming Rise of Rape Culture
Wendy McClure, author, columnist and children's book editor
Kristen Toomey, comedian and actress
Kyra Morris, actor, physical theatre artist and director
Arlene Malinowski, solo artist, writer and instructor
Women of Letters was created to revive the lost art of letter-writing. Co-curators are writers Marieke Hardy and Michaela McGuire. Hardy is a writer, broadcaster, columnist and television producer. Her first collection of essays, You'll Be Sorry When I'm Dead, was published in 2011. McGuire is a journalist and the author of Apply Within: Stories of Career Sabotage. Her second full-length nonfiction book, an examination of gambling culture in Australia, will be published by MUP in 2014.
The performances raise funds for an animal rescue shelter, Edgar's Mission.
Women of Letters will be presented at 8pm Friday, March 21, at the Mayne Stage, 1328 Morse Ave. Doors are at 6:30pm. Tickets are $20 general admission and may be purchased online or by calling the box office at 866-468-3401. For more information, call 773-381-4554. Mayne Stage has $5 valet parking on show nights.
The Chicago Opera Theater, in conjunction with the Chicago Jazz Orchestra, presents the city's premiere of Queenie Pie, the only opera composed by jazz legend Duke Ellington. Directed by COT General Director Andreas Mitisek, Queenie Pie is inspired by the life of hair care and beauty entrepreneur Madam C.J. Walker, America's first black female self-made millionaire. Here, Karen Marie Richardson, who stars in the title role, speaks on the importance of the story and its confrontation with the issue of colorism.
Growing up I never had a love much less an appreciation for poetry. In high school and college there was nothing that drew me to admire, care for, or even really even respect the words from the typical canon of poets. It wasn't until a few years into my teaching career when I went to a Louder Than A Bomb poetry event and heard students from all across our city and the Chicago land region putting their words out there for everyone to hear, that I realized the true power that spoken word possessed.
For the many of us fortunate enough to already know about Louder Than A Bomb or more commonly LTAB, we know that it is one of the best things that Chicago has going for it.
If penises could talk, what would they say? How would they say it?
In Messiah Equiano'sThe Penis Monologues, they have plenty to say; with topics that address a variety of subjects from promiscuity to STDS to commitment-phobia to interracial dating, the show, a "direct response" to The Vagina Monologues, is designed to highlight the male experience featuring universal issues that affect men from all backgrounds.
Here, the director and playwright talks about the show, challenges he faced, and what he has learned along the way.
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.
How we meet death defines our culture, and it is this final rendezvous that the Chicago Sinfonietta explores tonight through music, theater and wine at the Orchestra Hall of Symphony Center at 7:30 p.m with its annual Dia de los Muertos concert.
The performance opens in darkness with portions of Grammy® Award-winning Argentine composer Osvaldo Golijov's Ainadamar ("Fountain of Tears"). Joined by soprano Elizabeth Norman and the female voices of the DePaul University Singers, the piece tells the story of playwright Federico Garcia Lorca's courageous opposition to and eventual execution by Spanish political party "the Falange". Then, all the voices of the DePaul University Singers will launch into Mozart's Requiem Mass in D Minor, each singer wearing a dramatic mask from Redmoon, a Chicago-based theatre company. Dim lighting in the Orchestra Hall highlights this Old World treatment of death in all of its grief and gravity.
The Phantom Collective will present a staged reading of A Damp Drizzly November in My Soul: A Tribute to Melville's Moby Dick Monday night, November 11, at The Grafton Pub in Lincoln Square. The script was written by June Skinner Sawyers, based on Moby Dick by Herman Melville and Ahab's Wife or the Star-Gazer by Sena Jeter Naslund.
Si Osborne will direct the six Chicago actors who will perform the 90-minute production: Brad Armacost, Tony Dobrowolski, Gary Houston, Elizabeth Laidlaw, Bob Swan and Osborne.
Tom Kastle, a "singer, songwriter, tall ship captain, and teller of tales," will accompany the reading with maritime music from Melville's era, played on acoustic guitar.
A Damp Drizzly November in My Soul will be presented at 8pm Monday, November 11, at The Grafton Pub, 4530 N. Lincoln Ave. Tickets are $15 and can be purchased at the door (cash or check only). For more information, call 773-271-9000.
Next weekend, the Harris Theater for Music and Dance will host two outstanding Chicago-based dance companies, Deeply Rooted Dance Theater on Nov. 1 and Natya Dance Theater on Nov. 2. Each company will present a new work inspired by real-life stories with spiritual themes.
Deeply Rooted Dance Theater creates world-class dance inspired by the African Diaspora in a community dedicated to nurturing artists, supporting human relationships and sharing common values through engaging in dance. Their new piece, Hadiya, created by choreographer Nicole Clarke-Springer will premiere on Friday.
Hadiya began as an exploration of spiritual connection. The name came from the real-life tragedy that occurred this past winter. "On January 29, 2013, 15-year-old Hadiya Pendleton was shot in the back and killed while standing with friends inside Harsh Park in Chicago," said Clarke-Springer. "The event really hurt me as a mother... I did not understand how something like this could happen. Where was the disconnect? It made me think of how I pray every morning over my daughters, just as I'm sure her mom did; and I know my mother prayed over me. I would have a spiritual guide, these guardian angels, like bodyguards."
The weather is getting crisp, the leaves are turning colors and costumes of all kinds are festooning store windows. Must be getting close to Halloween! If you're like me, you want to start celebrating early. Check out some of these performances to whet your Halloween whistle.
If you like a side of showtunes with your horror? Check out Zombie Prom at Mayne Stage (Oct. 19, Oct. 25 and Oct. 31, $20) with a special zombie prom-themed afterparty on Halloween and The Musical of the Living Dead at Stage 773 now through 11/9 ($25).
Explore Chicago's rowdy history of commodities trading and the futures market in a one-hour theatrical event this weekend at the Chicago Board of Trade building. The Pit, presented by Pocket Guide to Hell tours, will be a staged reading of a scene from Frank Norris' 1903 novel of the same title, featuring actors, costumes, props, music and play-by-play announcing. The event is part of the Chicago Architecture Foundation's Open House Chicago event, which offers behind-the-scenes access to 150 buildings across Chicago this weekend, October 19-20.
The trading pit of the Chicago Board of Trade, around 1900. Photo courtesy of Pocket Guide to Hell tours.
While the 1890s traders jostle for position and prices in the pit, the play by play about an attempt to corner the wheat market will be described by Alex Keefe of WBEZ, with color commentary by cultural historian Tim Samuelson and Mike Gorham, IIT Stuart School of Business finance professor. Treating theater as a form of sports event is an idea suggested by Bertolt Brecht, according to Pocket Guide to Hell founder Paul Durica.
Tucked beyond the parades of gleefully drunk Cubs fans, just on the outskirts of Wrigleyville, sitting in humble solidarity is The Public House Theatre. I've walked past it on many occasions with questioning curiosity of what may be going on inside...
This cozy theatre is where a group of veteran sketch artists and improv actors known as (long pause) perform their zany Chicago version of "Saturday Night Live." One-half pre-recorded film segments and one-half sketch comedy in front of a live audience, the group of actors, writers, and improvisers have garnered some national attention with their ongoing sketch comedy series. The sixth installment of the show is being performed every Thursday at the Public House Theatre.
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.
On Monday nights, you can usually find throngs of hip, artsy folks smoking and chatting outside of Beauty Bar. Inside, you can find even more of them dancing and performing. Salonathon, which takes place every Monday night at the bar where you can get a martini as easily as you can get a manicure, is one of Chicago's favorite parties. Combining performance of all varieties--from storytelling to improv to live music--with a killer post-show dance party and great cocktails, Salonathon is sure to please. The founder and curator of this weekly extravaganza, Jane Beachy, not only runs Salonathon, but also produces events at some of the hippest venues in the city, including the Metro, the Logan Square Auditorium, and Steppenwolf Garage. Currently, Beachy is planning for a Pride event at Berlin and for the Two Year Anniversary of Salonathon on July 15 at Beauty Bar. I got to chat with this Chicago gal who seems like nothing short of a party expert.
Chicago Dance Crash, whose Gotham City was hailed by the Chicago Tribune as one of the city's best in 2012, returns with The Cotton Mouth Club, its summer performance, choreographed by artistic director Jessica Deahr and Robert McKee, in a show that combines the "prohibition-era" with the 80s, taking the audience on a journey through swing, jazz, ballet, breakdance and more. Here, McKee talks about the show, how the movie Idlewild served as inspiration, and the important message audiences will take away from the performance.
Daniel Gibson and Mary Tarpley; The Cotton Mouth Club.
When did you first know you wanted a career in dance? Was it one person or several people whom you were inspired by?
I started dancing as a kid, watching lots and lots of Michael Jackson videos, and learning the choreography and performing it for my family at family gatherings, reunions and things like that. It's kind of something that's always been in my blood. I went on to college to study more technical forms of dance--ballet, modern, jazz, and things like that.
Spectrum, the seventh full-length concert presented by Matter Dance Company, opens May 30th at Stage 773. Spectrum is appropriately titled, as it features a variety of dance styles, from tap to hip-hop to contemporary to modern. The concert includes the work of Carisa Barreca, Katie Eberhardy, Gail Adduci Gogliotti, Stephanie Gruender, Chelsea Harkelroad, Jessica McVay, Gloria Mwez, Kristin Nelson, Jacquelyn Pavilon, Greg Poljacik, Niki Wilk Mahon, and Mandy Work. Matter Dance Company, now in it's seventh year and voted "Best Dance Company in Chicago" by the Reader five years in a row, believes "dance should be created for the audience as well as the dancers."
Spectrum runs May 30-June 1, 2013 (Thursday and Friday at 8pm, Saturday at 3pm and 8pm) at Stage 773 (1225 W Belmont).Tickets: $20 for general admission, $15 for Children, Students (with valid id), and Seniors. Tickets available through the Stage 773 Box Office at 773.327.5252.
I've said before that Shakespeare was a man for all ages who wrote plays for all time. Sometimes, they were his own creation; other times, they were stories written by others that the bard simply made relevant to the time in which he lived. Othello is one of those stories. The original tale was written by Cinthio in 1565. I once made the popular but foolish mistake of thinking that this story was Shakespeare's own genius at work. I was promptly corrected by Lar Lubovitch, the choreographer for the upcoming performance of the play by the Joffrey Ballet. Now, Othello has been remade a third time. Chicago Shakespeare Theater's production of the Q Brothers'Othello: The Remix, now extended through June 15, translates the sometimes tricky prose of Shakespeare's play into a language that the modern world understands: rap.
When Steppenwolf's house lights dimmed for the first act of Tarell Alvin McCraney's Head of Passes, I was immediately transported to the South, to the mouth of the Mississippi River, on an afternoon when the air was heavy in the way it can be only before a thunderstorm. This heaviness not only gave the play its setting, but also its tone, suspending the audience in a disbelief broken only once in two hours by the single 15-minute intermission.
Head of Passes begins on the eve of Shelah's (Cheryl Lynn Bruce) birthday, a date this spiritual woman and mother of three has been too busy to remember. Her middle son, Aubrey (Glenn Davis) is in high spirits as he seeks to make his mother's birthday one she'll never forget -- despite the leaks in the living room, representative of the cracks developing within their family -- complete with cake, scotch, laughter and family. However, these are not the reasons that Shelah will remember this night, and the tragic turn of events haunts her long into the future.
Totally Positive Productions is searching for positive youth Spoken Word Artists for their upcoming "Education" Spoken Word Talent Competition 2013. The competition will be held at Gorilla Tango Theatre in Bucktown on Saturday, April 27, and the winner will be taking home $300. For a chance to compete, you need to audition either on Saturday, April 13 from 1pm to 3m or Sunday, April 14 from noon to 3pm to make sure that your performance has a positive messages and does not use profanity.
According to Totally Positive Productions organizer and founder Tai Jones:
"The winner will not only be judged on style and delivery, but their content must be clean and family friendly. We don't allow our participants to use any derogatory or negative language in their music and spoken word piece in our competitions. We are about promoting our youth who uplift and respect themselves. This is to give them an outlet and to showcase those youth doing right."
It is a rare thing when a play comes around that captures true events so poignantly that it leaves its audience speechless. The American Theater Company's production of Stephen Karam and PJ Paparelli's Columbinus is this rarity. The play retells the events of the Columbine High School shooting of April 20, 1999 using a simple set, incredible acting, and the journals and video tapes of the real-life shooters, Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris. I saw and reviewed the play two months ago, and its power has stayed with me.
It is a shame that this production will not show for longer, as I believe every person in Chicago and the world has a duty to see it and understand its message. I am thrilled that ATC has decided to extend the show through this Sunday, April 7.
No single performance of this production should be discounted in any way, but this weekend's final performances offer an even greater experience. Tom Mauser, the father of Columbine victim Daniel Mauser will attend the 2:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m. performances on Saturday, April 6, as well as participate in a post-show talk back with the cast of Columbinus. Before Saturday evening's performance, ATC will co-host a reception for Mauser with the Illinois Council Against Handgun Violence, a great opportunity to confront and discuss the relevant issues of gun control facing not only Columbine, Colorado, but also the United States of America in both legislation and our personal lives.
Outside of Geneva, Switzerland, is a giant, revolutionary machine called the Large Hadron Collider. This machine is a particle accelerator that mocks the conditions directly following the Big Bang that supposedly created the universe. To operate the machine, physicists fire two beams of sub-atomic particles called hadrons (either protons or lead ions) directly at each other. The beams gain energy as they travel around the massive, circular tunnel and when they collide, newly created particles explode in every direction in a miniature representation of the beginnings of the galaxy. This whole concept is crazy but incredibly powerful. In the same way, Next Theater Company's production of Jonathan Safran Foer'sEverything is Illuminated is a play that forces extreme opposites to collide with spectacular results. The first act left the audience bent in half laughing, and yet in the second, there wasn't a dry eye in the theater.
This play, based on a novel, is a Holocaust tale, but unlike many movies and documentaries that have painted the picture of widespread horror, this story focuses on the tragedy within each individual who lost someone dear to them. It raises questions concerning the boundaries of courage and cowardice in the worst of times, when a man is forced to choose between his family and his neighbor. Although this genocide lies in the past, the wounds of those who remember never really heal.
Where can you find a duke cleverly disguised as a priest, a cunning nun out to save her condemned brother by whatever means necessary, a handful of satirical plays-on-words, and enough whorehouses to be disreputable even by the lenient standards of the 1970s? Only in Robert Falls' production of William Shakespeare's Measure for Measure at the Albert Theater at the Goodman.
After the final curtain and a standing ovation, the man sitting behind me, whose commentary I had been tuned into throughout the entire production, said that he felt as if he'd been assaulted by the theater. The smile on his face told me he meant this in the best way possible. In my own way, I felt the same. The on-stage events were a loud, blaring, spray-painted, bell-bottom-wearing, nothing-barred strike to the audience's sense of morality and righteousness, but we couldn't stop laughing.
If I had stars to give, I'd throw five to this production. From the set to the acting, the lighting design to the interpretation of the script, the play was nothing short of what I would expect from the Goodman.
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."
I went into Lookingglass Theater Company's production of Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo with high hopes. After all, I've heard great things about the company and Bengal Tiger was a 2011 Tony Award Recipient. I figured they don't just give those awards away to anyone. Robin Williams was also in the play at one point, and he's a pretty darn good actor. However, I came out of the production thoroughly offended and with a sour taste in my mouth.
It wasn't the acting, the lighting, or the set that did it for me -- all of these were incredible. It was the script itself. Maybe I missed something somewhere along the way.
I understand that theater has many purposes, some of which are expressing things that aren't so popular or attempting to reach a kind of conclusion about uncomfortable topics. Still, there is a certain amount of care that should come along with pushing the boundaries, and this play did not show it.
The issues brought up by the play do need to be discussed, but there's a thin line between raising questions and drawing conclusions. The latter is presumptuous, especially in a situation as delicate as the one in the show.
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.
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.
Charles Duttonknows acting; the three-time Emmy Award winner, who is also a successful director, is one of the most accomplished and versatile actors today. Best known for his critically-acclaimed 90s sitcom, "Roc," and for Tony Award-nominated roles in The Piano Lesson and Ma Rainey's Black Bottom, Dutton has enjoyed a successful career as a star of stage, screen and television.
With two performances to benefit the Chicago Youth Leadership Academy, a joint program of the Chicago Police Department and the University of Chicago for at-risk youth, Dutton returns to town tonight with From Jail to Yale: Serving Time on Stage, his honest, autobiographical, one-man stage play that details his journey from Maryland's prisons to playhouses at Yale School of Drama and beyond. Here, he talks about how he became an actor, why he brought the show to Chicago, and the pandemic of youth violence in America.
When you were incarcerated, you became interested in theater after reading a book on black playwrights--was there a particular play or playwright that grabbed your attention?
It was Douglas Turner Ward's play, Day of Absence. It is a political satire that I thought was hilarious. Once, I was in "the hole" for six days and was allowed to take one book with me. I reached for a revolutionary book but I accidentally picked up this anthology of black playwrights. I read it and I said that when I got out of isolation, I was going to get the craziest guys I knew in the prison and start a drama group.
Signal Ensemble Theater's tenth season kicks off the new year with the production of Jon Steignhagen's Successors -- the quintessential Chicago play complete with Chicago humor, Chicago politics, and the intermittent rumbling of the Brown Line going by in the background.
The dialogue-laden play tells the story of the family behind the DeKoven political dynasty. When Kenton DeKoven, the third generation patriarch of the political machine, decides to step down, three of his obsessively office-hungry children fight tooth and nail for the position, threatening to tear the family apart for good, and exposing deeper emotional issues between its members. Successors offers a good amount of laughs with far-fetched ideas of how to continue the DeKoven political line.
The play's writer, Jon Steinhagen, also stars in the show as Lou Tedesco, the hilariously offensive cousin of the DeKovens. His snappy, quick, and over-the-line bickering with his mother, Mae DeKoven Tedesco (Barbara Roeder Harris) is one of the highlights of the play.
Successors plays through March 2 at Signal Ensemble Theater, 1802 W. Berenice Ave. Tickets are available for $20 ($15 for industry members, students, seniors and large groups).
At first, it's odd to hear tangled Shakespearean language coming from the mouths of senators in suits and traffic police, but with the seasoned cast's appropriate inflections and gestures, the Bard's script comes to life. The audience finds themselves in an ambiguous Rome, stranded somewhere in limbo between the past and the present, hearing the hushed beginnings of a revolution spoken by Marcus Brutus (John Light) and Caius Cassius (Jason Kolotouros). Election time nears, and an aged leader, Julius Caesar (David Darlow), is the popular incumbent. Caesar meets his senate on the marble steps of the curiam, the broad columns rising up on either side of him casting a tone of fascism and dictatorship into the air, and the bold red and gold banners giving a strength to the leader that his own bones no longer possess.
Dialogue permeates the entire first act, laying the ground work for the dramatic death of Caesar and the action-packed aftermath. The ghostly soothsayer utters her famous premonition to "beware the Ides of March," which triggers dreams and unrest on the part of Caesar's wife, Calpurnia. Cassius' cunning is revealed to the audience as he manages to convince the entire senate, with the exception of Brutus, of their duty to free their people from the despot that Caesar may become -- to "strike the serpent in the egg" before it has a chance to bite.
This Valentine's Day, Chicagoans going about their daily lives will be pleasantly surprised to find that Feb. 14 is much more than a cheesy holiday this year. It is a historic, global protest of violence against women. At noon, Chicagoans wearing red scarves and dancing in synchrony will overflow onto Daley Plaza for the once in a lifetime event, One Billion Rising.
A worldwide strike happening this Valentine's Day only, One Billion Rising is orchestrated by V-Day, a non-profit founded by Eve Ensler 15 years ago. V-Day is producing over 7,000 events this year that demand an end to violence against women, including hundreds of productions of The Vagina Monologues, screenings of documentaries, and workshops for men called V-Men. The name "One Billion Rising" comes from the UN estimate that one in three women will be beaten, raped or violated in her lifetime. This adds up, roughly, to one billion women. Today, those one billion victims will be represented by one billion dancers, joining hands in cities all over the world.
According to V-Day College and Community Campaigns Manager Laura Waleryszak, this event, which may look like a typical flash mob at first, will soon reveal itself to be "the largest synchronized global action in history for violence against women."
Starting at noon at Daley Plaza, Chicago will "rise," kicking off the day with "booty shaking, body loving fun" from Chicago artists Cheerobix, BeMoved, Psalm One, DJ All the Way Kay, the Fabulous Ladies of Fitness (FLOF), KOKUMO, and Book of Mormon cast member and Broadway star Patrice Compton. The work of these artists, in its own way, is already about rising. Take FLOF, for example, whose monthly dance parties are "focused on wellness and women's power," Waleryszak says. After the noon kick off, those who are rising will march, or take a free trolley, from Daley Plaza to The River East Arts Center, 435 E. Illinois St., for a free dance party from 1 to 6pm.
"Friends, Romans, Countrymen" -- words familiar to each of us, although we may not know why. Marc Antony's famous speech begins this way in William Shakespeare's classic tragedy Julius Caesar. After years of studying English and literature, some have learned to decode Shakespeare's eloquent but sometimes seemingly archaic style of writing. The Chicago Shakespeare Theater is offering a contemporary retelling of the play, directed by Jonathan Munby, to satisfy both the classical scholar and that part in all of us that seeks something relatable in a drama.
The play tells the story of Julius Caesar, consul of ancient Rome, who denies the warnings of a soothsayer to "beware the Ides of March." Caesar's fellow senators are the ones who do him in, and his death sparks the beginning of a new Rome.
The show plays through March 24 at CST's Jentes Family Auditorium, 800 E. Grand Ave., on Navy Pier. Tickets ($48-$78 with discounts for groups, students, and young professionals) can be purchased by calling the theater's box office at 312-595-5600 or by visiting the theater's website.
On April 20, 1999, when I was 9 years old, I arrived at my elementary school in Lakewood, CO early like I always did. I liked to play outside on the blacktop with my friends before class began. It was such a normal morning. By the end of the day, all of the doors to the school would be locked and none of us would be allowed to leave the building until our parents came in to get us.
On April 20, 1999, Colorado changed forever. At 11:19am, 10.3 miles south of my elementary school, Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris began the massacre that claimed the lives of 12 students and one teacher, and injured countless others at Columbine High School. Before Columbine, a school shooting had never been heard of in Colorado. Since 1999, there have been many.
The shooting happened 13 years ago, but I woke up this morning feeling as though it was yesterday. Last night, I was a guest at the American Theater Company's performance of Stephen Karam and PJ Paparelli's Columbinus, a three-act "theatrical discussion" of the tragedy based on old and new interviews with survivors and their parents, and one of the best productions I have ever seen.
If a night of risqué comedy and provocative burlesque performances sounds fun, or even just plain interesting to you, then look no further than Kiss Kiss Cabaret's Second Anniversary Show on February 1.
This special anniversary show features Kiss Kiss Cabaret's full lineup of comedians, burlesque performers, musicians, jugglers, magicians and hosts. Guests are even invited to partake in post-show birthday cake. Maybe this is what they meant by having your cake and eating it too.
This second anniversary party also marks Kiss Kiss Cabaret's 100th performance since the company was founded. The Cabaret's burlesque troupe, "The Kiss Kiss Coquettes," includes performers who have traveled the world practicing their craft. Bella Ciao, Naughty Natanya, and the rest of the company are sure to entertain.
The 18-and-over show is happening February 1 at 11pm at the Greenhouse Theater Center, 2257 N. Lincoln. Tickets are $15 in advance or $20 at the door. The show is expected to sell out, so it's a good idea to purchase in advance.
If you can't make it for the celebration, Kiss Kiss Cabaret puts on a weekly show every Friday at the Greenhouse Theater Center.
No conversation about jazz could ever be deemed complete without mentioning Billie Holiday, aka "Lady Day"; as one of America's most celebrated vocalists, renowned for such iconic songs like "God Bless the Child" and "Strange Fruit," she is widely regarded as one of the most unique, iconic and influential jazz legends in history.
To pay tribute to Holiday, the Porchlight Music Theatre presents Lady Day at Emerson's Bar and Grill; part of the company's Black History Month celebration and starring Chicago's Alexis J. Rogers, the performance will feature late 1950s Philadelphia, in the months preceding the singer's death. Here, Rogers talks about the legendary Billie Holiday, her unique vocal style and her contribution to and significance in black history.
Flight runs throughout the 20th century, both figuratively and literally. For the latter, the 20th century was an immense moment of technological advancements leading to flight for first the few and subsequently, the many. But also, the 20th century was a time of immense social and cultural change. For the United States, it was a moment of progression for the many and the change that especially runs through the latter half of the century still affects the policies and interactions between people today.
A five minute walk took us down an awkwardly long and winding hallway to Studio One, a 67-seat black box theater and Henry Moore's temporary home. We sat down in the last row of chairs, which were reminiscent of those in an old airliner, and settled in to see a play about which I only knew three things: 1. It was about Irish gypsies; 2. It involved art; and 3. It was based on a true story.
The true story took place in 2005, when one of Moore's bronze statues, Reclining Figure, was stolen from the Henry Moore Institute in Leeds by a group of Irish Travelers. It is believed that the sculpture was melted down for scrap and sold for only a fraction of its estimated value. Seidelman's play brings these events and characters to life in a fast-paced, whiskey-filled, understatedly witty and passionate tale of a young man who loves art more than anything else in the world.
When I heard Joel Hodgson was going to be performing his one man show, "Riffing Myself" in Chicago, I jumped at the opportunity to interview the man. For those of you who are either not old enough to know Joel or just missed out on all fun because you were doing something else, he is the man behind MST3K.
What, you may ask, is MST3K? Well, it is a cult comic series that begin in 1988 and featured mad scientists who shot Joel, and later, Mike into space forcing them to watch the worst movies ever made. The reason for this was so that the scientists could unleash the movie onto unwitting audiences and ultimately rule the world. Joel was accompanied by two robots which, as the shows intro explains, he made and together they make comedic comments about and during the movies, otherwise known as riffing. Oh yeah, MST3K stands for "Mystery Science Theater 3000," and fans of the show are called Mysties.
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.
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.
This past spring, the experimental, multimedia shadow puppetry collective was adopted by the University of Chicago's Department of Theater and Performance Studies as their ensemble-in-residence. After performing a revamped version of their 2010 show, Lula del Rey, at U of C's Logan Arts Center in June, they have completely rebuilt the show from the bottom up to create their longest and most ambitious work to date.
Michelle Vezilj and Drew Moerlein in SPANK! The Fifty Shades Parody
Whether you have read it or not, it is no secret that E.L. James' Fifty Shades of Grey has taken the literary world by storm; the erotica and fantasy novel, still in the top five on the New York Times Best Seller's list, is a favorite among women everywhere. Next week, SPANK! The Fifty Shades Parody hits town; here, writer and director Jim Millan talks about the popular book and why, for him, a parody makes perfect sense.
When and how did you get the idea to write SPANK!?
I got a phone call around the middle of August. I talked to some writer friends of mine to get them on board; we all read the book and got started after Labor Day. It came together like it was meant to be.
Jen Bosworth's one-woman show, Why Not Me: Love, Cancer and Jack White, runs at Stage 773 through December 8.
Actress and storyteller Jen Bosworth (the woman who was responsible for the live lit series Stories at the Store, among other things), has taken storytelling one step further with her one-woman show, Why Not Me: Love, Cancer and Jack White. Bosworth has a personality big enough to fill a theater, and does so handily at Stage 773, where she takes the audience through the last six years of her life beginning with her exodus from L.A., through her parents' illnesses and deaths, and who she is now for having lived through the experience.
Sharing the stage with Bosworth is musician Brair Rabbit, who underscores key moments with his skilled guitar playing and singing, and provides a satisfying musical texture to the piece.
Bosworth is disarming in her forthrightness, and lets the audience know from the very beginning what they're in for. "My story is the story of how I ended up standing right here in front of you," she begins, "and it involves a lot of death, but we're going to be alright."
For both emerging and established performing artists, Chicago boasts unlimited opportunities for those looking to hone their skills; and at "The Shit Show," performers of all kinds can try out their, well, shit, in front of a live audience.
Produced and hosted by Ever Mainard and Rasa Geirstikas and held every last Friday of the month, "The Shit Show" is a comedy mix of improv, stand-up and other performance art, and includes (and encourages) audience participation, drinking games, prizes and more. The performers heading up this week's show include Chicago comedian and radio host Brian Babylon, Kristin Clifford, Kate Duffy, Ted Tremper and others.
Catch "The Shit Show" at 8:30pm (doors open at 8pm) this Friday, Sept. 28 at Shambles, 2050 W. Division St.; for more information, call 773-486-0200. Free.
For dancer and filmmaker LaNita Joseph, when it comes to African-American women and hair, there is no room for "relaxers"; "I think all black women should go natural," she said. Here, Joseph, founder and artistic director of the Anita Davis Dance Theater, talks about The Monologues of My Nappy Hair, a "dance drama" that addresses and challenges the standards of beauty and image in today's society.
This work was created as a result of your personal experiences -- was there one particular incident or a series of incidents that led to the idea for this show?
I would say a series of incidents over the years -- ever since I've been black... [Laughs]
There has always been a rich cultural history surrounding African-American hair and hairstyles -- as these discussions have evolved over the years, what kinds of things have you noticed? Do you think things are better?
I think they're a little bit better. I think our history with our hair has been a roller coaster -- but I don't think it's been the best it's ever been since before slavery or during the Civil Rights Movement, which is probably when natural hair was the best. But natural hair and loving blackness is slowly but surely coming back.
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.
The Beast Women, who's closing show is tonight at the Greenhouse Theater, are a cabaret-style show unlike any I have ever seen. I attended the show last week, and while all-women performance groups are a dime a dozen in Chicago, I really appreciated the variety and diversity in the lineup.
Last Monday evening in an old gymnasium in the Edgewater neighborhood, a group of 30 or so Chicagoans opened multicolored umbrellas in-sync, waved cellphones above their heads like lighters at an outdoor concert, and mimed a quaint, picturesque baseball game. The activities - familiar, universal - were just quick glimpses of Bolero Chicago, the local edition of the acclaimed community-centric dance work. Created by New York-based Larry Keigwin of KEIGWIN + COMPANY (K+C), Bolero Chicago features anywhere from 30-80 local non-dancers incorporating a variety of different movements to represent Chicago's broad culture and style. The work will be featured along with performances from the Joffrey Ballet, Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, Giordano Dance Chicago, and national dance companies as part of the 6th annual Chicago Dancing Festival. This year's festival runs from August 20 - 25.
The streets of Wicker Park are filled with upscale boutiques and gourmet taco shops, but the neighborhood was once reborn as an artist's enclave. Like many parts of Chicago, Wicker Park has undergone transformation, both good and unfortunate. The last legs of gentrification usually ensure that the artistic colonizers that first remade the neighborhood are pushed out. And yet, many artistic practices (even those still gaining footing in Chicago's fickle art community) remain. Defibrillator, a performance art gallery, has quickly established itself as an epicenter for emerging and established local, national, and international performance art in the city. For the 2012 Wicker Park Fest, the gallery curated (with a grant from the Wicker Park/Bucktown Chamber of Commerce) Air Pocket Project, a series of five inflatable performance installations located at the intersection of Milwaukee Avenue and Wood Street. The Wicker Park Fest runs from noon to 8pm today and Sunday, July 29.
Chicago's Speak'Easy Ensemble perform in translation with Germany's Word Alert at the 25th Anniversary of Slam at the Metro last summer.
Chicago Slam Works is busy preparing for their next performance, "In Any Tongue" at the Vittum Theater, 1012 N. Noble. This is no small undertaking -- poets have been flown in from Germany to participate in this bilingual event, and have been staying at the home of CSW Director J.W. Basilo. "There's three of them sleeping in my basement right now. Not only am I directing the show, I'm performing in the show and I'm housing the poets, so I can't get away from it if I wanted to, its my life for the next two weeks... it's a lot of work for one show," he says. "A lot of shows we did this season were really big undertakings, we're going to continue putting up four shows a year, and we're looking to change the way we're attacking them. We really wanted to make a big splash the first year."
In May, CSW presented "Dead or Alive," where dead poets (represented by living poets) competed against living poets in a performance that invoked the spirits of Adrienne Rich, Walt Whitman, Frank O'Hara, T.S. Elliott, Lucille Clifton, and Audre Lorde. If you're picturing a bunch of quiet, stiff readings from a podium, wipe that image from your mind. Roger Bonair-Agard's reading of Lucille Clifton was electric; Joe Janes' interpretation of Walt Whitman was funny, hilarious even; and Mary Fons made magic by taking on T.S. Elliot's "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock." "Prufrock" was the first poem I ever memorized through sheer repetition of reading. I've been stumped and amazed by that piece since I first read it in high school, and it thrilled me to no end to see a woman portraying the man who represents the pinnacle of English language poetry.
Typically known for its burlesque and variety shows, Ties and Tassels is showing audiences what community is all about. In May, one of the performers known as Spiffy Kins (aka Mae the bellydancer) and her partner were victims of a fire that destroyed their home and many of their belongings. In response to the sudden and drastic loss, Ties and Tassels organized a fundraiser event featuring more than 20 performers.
The other performers are donating their time and talents to provide more than four hours of entertainment. The show will include performances by Ammunition, Queerella Fistalot, Rosemary Maybe, Cruel Valentine, Lizzy Von Schtupp, Bella Bathory, Bizarre Sally, Miss Vine, Lady Shana, Lolita Chiquitita, Viva La Muerte, Josephine Shaker, Lee Na-Moo, Dahlia Fatale, Scarlett Deville, Dollface, Sauda Namir, Titty Perkin, Feral, Flambé Bandersnatch, Millie Mae, Dahalia Fatale and Laila.
The Riverfront Theater, one of Chicago's newest entertainment venues, is going strong with its Broadway-style music and dance revues; this week, the theater will feature the second production in its summer series, the ABBA-themed Dancing Queen, starring "American Idol" alum, singer David Hernandez. Here, Hernandez talks about life after "Idol," the famous singer that was his idol, and his thoughts on dancing--in Dancing Queen.
You've been singing for a while now--when did you know performing arts was in your blood?
I was about 6 years old when my grandpa took me to my first audition at Valley Youth Theatre, which was, at the time, a very small theater company Phoenix, Arizona. I got the part and after that, I just kept doing musicals, but because my parents were divorced early on, I never really had the ability to stay in the same place at one time because I went back and forth between them so much. So, I took a break from the arts for about ten years and when I was 17, I started recording and singing hooks for this rapper and I thought, "Oh--I have a really good recording voice--I should really try to do this." I just kept going and then took voice lessons because I realized I wasn't as trained as I needed to be. When I was about 21, I signed to Universal Records, but we decided to part ways. I auditioned for "[American] Idol" a few months later and the rest is history.
Chicago is a city historically-rich in the practice of performance art. But like many artistic practices that were once prominent in the city, it is only now that this history is being recognized on a grander scale. Featuring a mix of 29 local, national, and international performing artists, the first Rapid Pulse International Performance Art Festival aims to address both the city's emerging practitioners of performance art as well as the eclectic array of seasoned performers across the globe. The festival runs through June 10 at various venues across the city.
From the boardroom to the breakroom, to relationships and reality television, some African-American women are inevitably stamped with the "angry black woman" label; earlier this year, as a result of the coverage surrounding Jodi Kantor's The Obamas, First Lady Michelle Obama found herself addressing this stereotype that has long plagued black women in society.
But what is the source of the stereotype? Is it solely the media spotlight on the issue? Is the anger real, perceived, or simply misunderstood? What role(s) does the black community play as a whole? These questions and more will be addressed in poet and playwright Larryann Aaron'sAngry Sistah, a "dramedy" about the sociology of the "angry black woman," its impact on "relationships, families and communities" and other misconceptions and generalizations that center on the culture of black women.
See Angry Sistah at the Lacuna Artist Loft Studios, 2150 S. Canalport; shows run Friday and Saturday, June 15 and 16 at 7:30pm, Saturday, June 23 at 7:30pm and Sunday, June 24 at 3:30pm. Tickets are $20; for more information, call 708-969-6832.
As part of the first annual Chicago Women's Funny Festival, Monique Madrid will debut her new show Monica Barcelona: Bitch, I'll Cut You. A mixture of comedy and hairstyling, Madrid's show will combine her talents as a performer and a licensed cosmetologist in a hilarious improvised show in which a lucky audience volunteer will get a makeover (including a haircut!). Madrid has been performing and working as a stylist for over 12 years, so it was a natural choice to combine those passions.
Monica Barcelona: Bitch, I'll Cut You will play on June 10 at 7pm at Stage 773, 1225 W. Belmont. Tickets can be purchased online at stage773.com or by calling 773-327-5252.
This 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."
Mother's Day has come and gone; however, for many, when it comes to moms, as the saying goes, "Every day is Mother's Day."
Through spoken word, dance, and videos by poets and performance artists including Boogie McClarin, Patience Rowe, Maya Odim, Sandra 'La Pixie' Santiago, and Nikki Yeboah, Sage Morgan-Hubbard's "interactive, multi-media choreopoem" Mixed Mamas, highlights the peaks and valleys of the various aspects of motherhood, infusing "humor, beauty, movement and oral histories" along the way.
Morgan-Hubbard, a respected poet in her own right, will also perform an excerpt of her one-woman show, an autobiographical work that explores a range of societal differences and experiences via the ethnicities of the four women who comprise her own mixed heritage.
See Mixed Mamas May 25-27 at Links Hall, 3435 N. Sheffield; Friday and Saturday shows are 8pm and 7pm on Sunday. Tickets are $5-$10; for more information, call 773-281-0824.
Through television, feature films such as First Sunday and Friday After Next and his nationally-syndicated radio show (heard weekday mornings on Chicago's "Power 92"), Rickey Smiley regularly brings on the laughs; this week, the multi-talented comedian is bringing his talents--and the laughs--to Chicago via an entirely different "experience."
For Tressa Thomas, founder and artistic director of the ThYck Troupe Organization, when it comes to the treatment of full-figured women in arts and entertainment, the industry still has a way to go. "Hollywood is still not ready to embrace the potential of the full-figured market," said Thomas. "I'm starting to see the winds of change come, though." Here, the model, singer and actress talks about the organization, its mission to eradicate negative images of plus-sized women, and her connection to a certain Chicago-born filmmaker and director.
ThYck Troupe; Photo Credit: David Shepherd Photography.
How you did you get your start in the entertainment industry?
I've been in the entertainment industry ever since I was about 5-years-old. I started out singing and had my first live band by the time I was seven and was in my first feature film by the time I was eleven.
You had a live band when you were only seven?
Yes, I did. It was a trio, actually. I did live performances at probably every festival and outdoor concert in Chicago for about three or four summers straight. My mom really got me out there and helped me build my chops as a singer because I was singing all over the place. That was kind of how my career started and of course, I started to garner attention because of that, and the rest is history.
It is not that Marc Bamuthi Joseph sees the world differently, but that he sees the world - and some of the world's problems and challenges - more clearly than others. Much of his past work and his current performance project investigates and dissect issues of the environment for the underserved and communities of color. The rise of the green movement - despite the movement's power and importance - has also created a limited, often one-sided interpretation of and reaction to environmental issues.
"It became clear," Bamuthi began, "that there was a homogeneous population with a certain kind of literacy and a certain kind of vocabulary that bordered on jargon in terms of environmental consciousness and environmental actions."
Bamuthi's latest project at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago (MCA), red, black and GREEN: a blues, a multimedia performance work combining text, dance, and visuals and in collaboration with Chicago-artist Theaster Gates, addresses the discrepancies of the goals and actions of the environmental and green movements with the various communities often ignored.
The Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago (MCA) today announced a gift of $10 million from Stefan Edlis and Gael Neeson. Long-time supporters of both the arts and the MCA, Edlis also serves as an officer of the MCA Board and an MCA Trustee. Edlis led the museum's Collection Committee from 2004 to 2008. Neeson serves on the Exhibition Committee.
In 2000, Edlis and Neeson gave a major gift to establish the Edlis/Neeson Art Acquisition Fund that has enabled the MCA to acquire significant works for the collection, including Maurizio Cattelan's Felix (2001), Thomas Schutte's Ganz Grosse Geister (Big SpiritsXL) (2004), Jenny Holzer's For Chicago (2007), and Olafur Eliasson's Your eye activity field (2009).
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.
What's the best way to tell a story? Performing a set of carefully-selected words and painting a picture with your poetry? Or conveying that imagery with light, shadows, translucent photographs, music, movement and written text? I may never know the answer, but The Poetry Foundation's hosting of FJORDS deftly explores that question from both sides of the coin.
If you're looking for a fun, family-friendly event in celebration of the last weekend of Black History Month, then you'll definitely want to attend Afro-Beats! at the Harris Theater for Music and Dance, 205 E. Randolph, part of the theater's 2011-2012 Family Series.
Join the Fulcrum Point New Music Project, dancer Idy Ciss and musicians Jim Gailloreto and Morikeba Kouyate as they engage the audience in a multi-media performance with rhythms, dance, sounds and images from West Africa. As an extra treat, kids of all ages are invited to participate in drumming circles and traditional African dancing that features works by famed musician and composer Fela Kuti, jazz greats John Coltrane and Thelonious Monk and others. Tickets are $10 and are available at the box office or online. For more information, call 312-334-7777.
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.
For Just FM 365, artistic expression is vital to society; and through the CGX (Creative Group Experience), its visual and performing arts ensemble, this four-year-old artist collective featuring music, poetry, improv, live painting and dance, is more than just your average entertainment troupe. "We came together and determined that we wanted to join forces to affect the world through arts and entertainment all year round," said hip hop artist Precise. "What we do is more of a production as opposed to just a 'show'; to explain it is one thing, but to experience it is a whole other thing."
Collaboraction opens Dark Play or Stories for Boys tonight for its first preview performance. In its Chicago premier director Anthony Moseley and playwright Carlos Murillo worked closely to give Chicago a unique experience. This play that has been performed in a variety of locations but never in Chicago, until tonight.
Written by Carlos MurilloDark Play or Stories for Boys follows a teenage boy's foray into the virtual world. His fictional internet identity begins as a harmless game, but the game takes on a frightening reality when real emotion overtakes his online relationship. When Nick's virtual world collides with the real world, his fantasies of love, intimacy, obsession and betrayal spiral into consequences that lead him to the brink of death.
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.
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.
Through George Frederic Handel's classic oratorio, Messiah, the Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University hosts the return of Too Hot to Handel: The Jazz-Gospel Messiah, a tribute to the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Featuring more than 200 musicians, including Chicago-based soloists Rodrick Dixon, Karen Marie Richardson and Alfreda Burke, this jazzy version of Messiah is sure to capture the spirit and message of the late civil rights leader. Here, pianist and composer Alvin Waddles talks about this special Chicago performance.
You're a Detroit native--did growing up in a city with such a rich musical culture have any influence on you becoming interested in music?
I was fortunate enough to have parents who recognized my musical ability from the age of 8 and I had a wonderful teacher who exposed me to a lot of different musical genres. From the time I started, I heard all kinds of music--classical, along with a lot of jazz and gospel, so that helped to shape and motivate me. Because I was exposed to so many different types of music, I think it helped to form my style.
For 30 years, Walt Whitman has led the Soul Children of Chicago, a gospel choir that is renowned for not only its soul-stirring performances but also its mission to use music to motivate and inspire youth. Here, he discusses the impact of the Soul Children in the community, as well as performing in an upcoming holiday concert with Grammy and Tony award-winning singer and actress, Jennifer Holliday.
Soul Children of Chicago
The Soul Children of Chicago has been around for decades, motivating children through music and the art of performing--talk about how you've sustained longevity, especially in a society where kids are easily distracted with so many other things.
We're driven by purpose. We tap into the spiritual side of kids and we create such a family atmosphere for kids to tap into their creativity and who they really are. Soul Children kind of brings the best out of a child and helps kids to become leaders--it's really a leadership development program--that's the best way to describe it--with music used as the medium for which we develop the leadership and potential out of every child that comes through the program.
The women of Teatro Luna* have brought Latina theatre to Chicago's stages for 10 seasons, and as they kick off their eleventh they're even venturing into new territory with the launch of Marimachas! A New Latin Comedy Series. For years Teatro Luna has offered an outlet for local Latina theatre artists, and with this new venture the company hopes to expand their support to the comedy arena.
Teatro Luna Artistic Associate Christina Igaraividez, who is also one of the performers this Friday, describes Marimachas as, "a safe place for the performers. Everyone performing just wants to have a good time with the audience. It isn't a transaction type of environment where the performer tells joke then audience provides laugh. We are sharing, commiserating, hoping, loving, laughing all the way through with you." Marimachas is this Friday at 7:30pm at Calles y Sueños (1900 S. Carpenter). Tickets can be purchased online or at the venue for $20, and the price of admission includes an "Ay, Virgen!" Teatro Luna's signature cocktail.
*Whom the author has worked with before and thinks are the cat's pajamas
The MCA Chicago continues its year of in-depth, audience-focused changes with its latest MCA Stage production, The Matter of Origins. Choreographed by original Dance Exchange artistic director Liz Lerman, this multimedia-heavy and theatrical performance continues to push the boundaries of contemporary dance. The work is co-presented with the Chicago Humanities Festival, whose 2011 theme of Technology runs through the core of the dance work.
In a press release, Lerman said that The Matter of Origins examines, "how the human mind flips and stretches to comprehend things that are incredibly small, large, fast, or far beyond the categories of known experience." For the traditional dance fan, the performance offers a one-of-a-kind experience that draws on both history and the reactions of audience members.
There is no denying the impact of hip hop in today's society; what was once deemed by many as a passing fad has evolved into a global cultural phenomenon that is embraced by fans all over the world. And with rappers like Chicago natives Common, Lupe Fiasco and Twista, the Windy City has certainly made a mark in the industry, as well.
Despite its phenomenal status, however, hip hop often gets a bad rap; for South Side native and hip hop lover Wendell Tucker, a few bad notes are not enough to stop loving it.
Last night I went to the Lyric Opera's performance of Lucia di Lammermoor, a classic tragedy in every sense of the word. "Family A" conquers "Family B"... female of Family A falls for remaining Family B member... they have to separate for a noble cause... female goes nutty because her family selfishly conspires against her... everyone is hurt because there is no honest communication... she dies, he hears of this and kills himself.
"The hot cow's back!" my friend whispered to me about 30 minutes into Octavarius: Trial of the O'Leary Cow.
It's odd for a man dressed in a cow suit to be called "hot," but the costume worked for improv performer Nick Mikula. A member of comedy troupe Octavarius, Mikula played the title role in the show, staged on October 9--the 140th anniversary of the Great Chicago Fire.
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!
The world renowned Sphinx Virtuosi (formerly Sphinx Chamber Orchestra), an organization that promotes cultural diversity for young classical musicians and is comprised of top Latino and African-American string players, returns to Chicago for a one-time performance at the Harris Theater for Music and Dance.
This special program, presented in collaboration with the Music Institute of Chicago and featuring the Catalyst Quartet, will feature solo performances by two teen musicians--both products of the Music Institute of Chicago--violinist Alexandra Switala and cellist Gabriel Cabezas.
Join Sphinx Virtuosi as they celebrate 15 years of promoting diversity for youth in classical music on Sunday, Oct. 2, at 3pm at the Harris Theater for Music and Dance, 205 E. Randolph; tickets are only $10 and are available at the box office or online. For more information, call 312-334-7777.
This week, the 2nd annual Chicago Fringe Festival kicks off in the Windy City. The festival, which runs September 1-11 in the city's Pilsen neighborhood, is a premiere showcase for the arts, and will feature a variety of unique performances from the world of dance, theater, comedy and much more.
Robin Gelfenbien in My Salvation Has a First Name: A Wienermobile Journey
Tickets to the Chicago Fringe Festival are $10 for general admission/individual performances, with package rates available. Show times and locations vary; visit the website for a full performance schedule and locations or call 773-428-9977 for more information.
Sunlight filtered in through the windows of the Ruth Page Center for the Arts. Like past dance companies, the River North Chicago Dance Company used the cozy rehearsal space to finalize 9-Person Precision Ball Passing, a company premiere by Charlie Moulton. Nine dancers stood on a set of black stairs performing a largely upper-body based routine featuring repetitive hand gestures and minor juggling feats with colored balls. The entire routine looked not unlike the clapping games little children practice on school playgrounds.
On the surface, the movements appear simple, but a closer examination demonstrates how the movements grow increasingly more complicated rhythmically as the routine progresses. Stay calm and carry on was the motto of the routine as additional pressure to stay on the varying beat of the accompanying music demonstrated the various manifestations of contemporary dance.
Pranks and comic relief have always been a part of the arts... well, maybe not always but at least for a while. Let's just say no one alive today can say there was a time, in their lives, when it wasn't. This brings me to Meg Duguid's performance last night in Wicker Park as Part of the Out of Site performance series done in conjunction with Walkabout Theater Company and Defibrillator. It is hard to really know what to say about any public performance, and this is no exception, so I will begin by just telling you what I experienced.
Although the more underground, independent, and emerging Chicago art scenes and artists might be overshadowed by larger fairs and urban coasts, alternative events still foster and support local practitioners. BUILT Festival, a two-day event founded by Chicago artists Tristan J.M. Hummel and co-produced by David Dvorak, allows contemporary artists and curators the space to transform unusual, transportable, and seemingly temporary environments - shipping containers - into alternative and guerrilla venues in an empty lot on Milwaukee avenue.
The theme for this initial festival is "urban culture" and audiences will get the chance to witness more than 100 projects, exhibitions, and performances inside and surrounding these containers from local spaces and institutions such as the Chicago Urban Art Society, Spudnik Press, and the Chicago Artists Coalition. In addition to the array of visual and performative art projects, visitors can listen to music by musicians and DJ's such as White Mystery, Raj Mahal, and Tim Zawada.
Tickets for BUILT Festival can be purchased online or at the door for $10. All-weekend BUILT VIP passes are also available online today and include $6 worth of drink tickets. BUILT Festival takes place in the empty lot at 1767 N. Milwaukee this Friday from 5:00pm-10:30pm and Saturday from 12:00pm-10:30pm.
Ryan Lanning as Ripley, with puppet-sized Newt. Photo credit: Timmy Samuel.
Friday night I was introduced to something that I can't believe I never knew about before: Alien Queen. When I got the press release, I was intrigued. I love Queen like almost nobody else does: I have a Facebook profile picture of me genuflecting at the feet of the Freddie Mercury statue in Montreaux, my secret personal anthem is "Don't Stop Me Now" and I've performed "We Will Rock You/We Are The Champions" at live band karaoke, to rave reviews. I enjoy the Alien films as much as the next person (at least the first two in the series, before the franchise started heading into Alien vs. Mothra territory), but I wasn't sure how these two seemingly disparate things would fare mashed together in a midnight show.
As it turns out, they go together hilariously well. Over the course of an hour or so, the first two films in the Alien series are condensed, parodied onstage by an energetic cast starring Ryan Lanning as Ripley, and accompanied by a bonafide four-piece rock band that keeps the show moving forward. The Queen catalog comes into play at key moments: when the baby alien (represented by a sock puppet) springs from the stomach of Kane, it begins singing "Mama, just killed a man..." from "Bohemian Rhapsody"; when the cast of the first film fights the Alien, it's set to the song "Keep Yourself Alive"; and when Ripley goes into hypersleep at the end of the first film, it's to the strains of "All Dead All Dead/Nevermore."
I'm not sure when it happened, but eventually I couldn't even fathom touching them. I'm talking about bugs, of various shapes and sizes and kinds. When I first transferred to public school, I spent my recess time alone, crouched behind the tall trees and bushes of my elementary school. I collected samples -- of leaves, of dirty, of bugs -- as a means of examination and exploration. The minuscule became monumental.
In their latest production, OVO (written and directed by Deborah Colker), Cirque du Soleil employs this same idea. Bugs are the focus and after viewing the fantastical and lovely performance, one can't help but wonder why this sort of focus -- on multiple spindly legs and corporeal manipulation -- is just now being used as thematic source.
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.
(left to right) Adam Poss and Amy J. Carle in Animals Out of Paper by Rajiv Joseph, directed by Jaclynn Jutting, part of Steppenwolf's NEXT UP 2011 Repertory. Photo by Michael Brosilow.
Steppenwolf's Next Up program -- featuring three productions showcasing Chicago's next generation of artists -- is going strong right now, with just a handful of shows left before it wraps up on June 19. I strongly encourage you to hurry up and get your tickets to see at least one of the shows this week.
Sadly, I haven't been able to see Venus, but the other two plays: Animals out of Paper and Where We're Born had me on the edge of my seat all day yesterday.
Pat O'Brien ("Saturday Night Live" writer and local performer, not the smutty "Access Hollywood" host.) has been scheduled to perform The POB Show as part of the Just For Laughs Festival for quite some time, but O'Brien just announced on Facebook that "Saturday Night Live" head writer, Seth Meyers, would be joining him for his show on June 16th. The POB Show is a mix of sketch comedy, music, and miscellany, with musician Emme B joining O'Brien and Meyers for the ride.
The POB Show is playing on June 16th at midnight at iO (3541 N Clark St.). It's advised to purchase tickets in advance via TicketWeb or by calling iO's box office (773-880-0199).
The TBS Just for Laughs festival is still over a week away, but to avoid being turned away from a sold-out show it would be wise to purchase tickets A.S.A.P. Here are some shows that you'll want to make sure to jump on tickets for right away:
4-Square: (June 15, 16) John Lutz (30 Rock, Saturday Night Live), Dan Bakkedahl (The Daily Show, Observe and Report), Peter Grosz (The Colbert Report), and Rob Janas (Second City e.t.c.) perform in one of the smartest, hippest, most grounded long-form improv shows that you'll ever see. These guys have been playing together long before they went big time, and their years of working together are evident in their cohesive group mind and sense of play.
The Chris Gethard Show: (June 17, 18) Chicago is not going to know what hit it. Upright Citizens Brigade regular, Chris Gethard, is bringing his late night talk show to the stage of iO. Filled with bits, stories, games, and assorted insanity, this show is sure to leave you talking for weeks.
Alone: Chicago's Best Solo Acts :(June 17, 18) Individually, you can see the folks in "Alone" performing in various comedy nights and solo shows around town, but now they're conveniently being assembled for one killer night of solo sketch comedy.
When I walked into Gorilla Tango Theater to see You're Being Ridiculous, My First Time, I was admittedly skeptical; a show with that premise could go very wrong, very fast. Much to my delight, what unfolded was an endearing, funny, well written and well produced show, worth the $15 ticket price.
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.
The Chicago Tribune and Second City have been in cahoots presenting the weekly stage and radio show "Chicago Live!" and this week the pair is really outdoing itself. The line-up includes Old Town School of Folk Music's Chris Walz, MOTH GrandSlam champion Shannon Cason, a collection of journalists and comedians, and the newly elected Mayor Rahm Emanuel. The show is at 6:30pm this Thursday at the Chicago Theatre's Downstairs Stage (175 N State Street). Tickets are $20 and can be purchased through Ticketmaster.com, over the phone at 800-745-3000 or in-person at the box office.
The Neo-Futurists are bringing back their celebrated series It Came From the Neo-Futurarium for its tenth incarnation. If you're not familiar with the troupe's series, It Came From the Neo-Futurarium X: Battle for the Neo-Futurarium will be a guaranteed treat. Each year the Neo-Futurists pick ten of the worst film of all time and perform them throughout the summer. This year's run, spanning June 16 through August 18, has the group performing some great choices including Purple Rain, KISS Meets the Phantom of the Park, and Red Dawn (even though I think that movie is excellent). See the rest of the Neo-Futurists choices after the jump.
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.
If you're looking for some good, independently produced theater, Gorilla Tango Theater is a great place to start. Known as the "producers theater", GTT has a constantly-rotating list of shows to choose from every month.
The process of storytelling constantly evolves and adapts to the demands, technology, and forms of communication that dominate contemporary society. In the rehearsals for Mordine & Company Dance Theater's debut spring performance, LifeSpeak, Founder, Artistic Director, and choreographer Shirley Mordine undertook a similar approach to the development of her work. On a cold, gray, and blistery Monday afternoon, five women and one man took light direction from Mordine and manipulated the choreography already set in place in order to better tell the story behind the performance.
"The dance is itself. It could be quite different from where you started," Mordine said. "Similar to listening to music, you don't expect the music to be illustrative of what was just written on the paper. It's just a point of departure."
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.
Colm O'Reilly, as Bernard, in There Is a Happiness That Morning Is at the DCA Theater.
Theater Oobleck's latest production, There Is a Happiness That Morning Is, is unexpectedly captivating in its intimacy, and powerful in its language. Playwright Mickle Maher tackles the entire script in rhymed verse, which left to a lesser writer would be a disaster, but through Maher's skillful hand is clever and deft. The 90 minute play unfolds in a single room, where Bernard (Colm O'Reilly) and Ellen (Diana Slickman) lecture to the audience as English professors speaking to a college classroom. Bernard and Ellen are longtime lovers, and have risked their careers by having sex on the main lawn of the college campus, only to be discovered by the dean of the school, who has demanded that they publicly apologize or lose their jobs.
Maher uses as his inspiration two poems by William Blake: Infant Joy, from Songs of Innocence, and The Sick Rose from Songs of Experience. The poems are so central to the piece that they are included on the front and back pages of the playbill, and are transcribed onto the blackboard by the actors. Bernard's take on the previous evening's events are expressed through analysis of Infant Joy, and Ellen's through The Sick Rose.
Kelsie Huff may be the hardest working woman in Chicago comedy. Whether she is producing the kates, a rotating cast of all-female comedians, developing comedy-focused outreach programs and workshops for children, or preparing for the opening of her new one-woman show, Bruiser, Huff manages to keep it all together with a smile on her face and the energy of a hummingbird.
The program boasts an array of panelists and performers in the city including performance artists Avery Young and Siete Lunas Nuevas, dancers Nicole Noland and Boogie McClarin, visual/performance artist Crystle Dino, In the Spirit, a performing arts and storytelling duo, spoken word artist Nikki Patin and Fathom DJ, one of Chicago's most popular DJs.
See "Quit Bullshittin'" at 8pm Friday and Saturday, April 15 and 16 at Links Hall, 3435 N. Sheffield Ave. Tickets are $10-$15; for more information, call 773-281-0824.
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.
Last night, former Cabrini-Green residents gathered at the last remaining high-rise building, 1230 N. Burling, to celebrate the community's life while wishing it farewell. A few short speeches were made to the press, but the highlights were mixing with friends, performances by ThaBrigade Stamps Marching Band and the installation in the building itself.
The band performed several numbers for the crowd as the sun set.
If you haven't made plans for Friday yet, consider buying a ticket for Urban Gateways' 50th Anniversary Gala &/or Gala Undone After Party. Gala starts at 6pm, and tickets are a steep $350, but the after party (Gala Undone) is affordable for normal folks, with tickets going for $40 in advance or $50 at the door. The event will feature veteran Urban Gateways artist James "Casper" Jankowiak, who will create an interactive mural during the event, a performance by Urban Gateways touring artists and resident performing ensemble of the Chicago Human Rhythm Project, BAM! and a late-night dance party to the music of DJ Mister Wolf (of Only Children). Also on hand will be plenty of munchies, an open bar and a silent auction.
Gala Undone will take place this Friday, April 1 from 9:30 to midnight at Venue One (1044 W. Randolph). More details here.
Here is a comprehensive list of artsy options for the weekend. These are mostly all opening receptions, with a few performances, benefits and artist lectures thrown in. Most of the events today start around 5 or 6pm, but some of the Saturday and Sunday events start earlier. Click on the links for details. See you around!
Hubbard Street dancers Penny Saunders and Jonathan Fredrickson in Ohad Naharin's THREE TO MAX.
THREE TO MAX, a new work incorporating elements of past works Three and Max by artistic director Ohad Naharin, was an innovative representation of anti-dance but ultimately fell short of its promise, due in no small part to the varying skill of the performers. The repetitions of the moves highlighted the imbalance of certain performers. Naharin's choreography is built on strength and one fall or wobbling limb was apparent and a distraction during the show.
Despite this situation, the choreography was, at many times, humorous and a frank play on elements of different dance genres. Each vignette not only deconstructed the dancer's body but also how the audience views and engages with dance performances. A dancer would conform to the dancers around him or her, and then break apart from the crowd. Despite the action surrounding him or her, the audience would ultimately feel compelled to focus on the individual. As a statement to the ethos (if there is any) to anti-dance, it was a compelling one.
This Saturday night Collaboraction will throw its most revolutionary fundraising party to date with their 9th annual CARNAVAL: Let Them Eat Cake! party at the Double Door. The venue will be transformed into a party battle zone with live musical performances, radical costumes, burlesque, immersive theatrical interludes, two floors of dancing and bottomless drinks.
"With revolution in the air, Collaboraction gathers its diverse and vibrant colony of artists to create an immersive artistic experience that vibrates with bacchanalian insurrection. Part party and part living art installation, our 9th annual CARNAVAL will be a debaucherous deconstruction of the history of revolution in France and throughout the globe," said Anthony Moseley, Artistic and Executive Director of Collaboraction, in the press release.
In his debut one-man show, Tim Paul's Retarded, Annoyance Theatre veteran Tim Paul reveals what happens behind the closed doors of a group home. Supplemented by pop-cult video segments to add context, he recounts true (and horrifying) stories from his years working at a group home for adults with developmental disabilities and behavioral disorders, exploring society's all-too-comfortable relationship with the r-word. The result is a challenging piece of theater with its fair share of tongue-in-cheek laughs.
Tim Paul's Retarded opened last Sunday and will run every Sunday at 9:30pm through April 3 at The Annoyance Theatre (4830 N. Broadway). Tickets are $10 and can be purchased at theannoyance.com or by calling the box office at 773-561-4665.
Criticallyacclaimed comedy troupe Octavarius is premiering a new show series titled "Octavarius: Battle for the Belt," tomorrow night (March 13) at 7pm at Stage 773. Additional performances will take place on March 20 & 27. Colt Cabana, former WWE and current Ring of Honor superstar, is a special guest of the series, making an in-person appearance on night two (the 20th) and video appearances on night one and three. "The Ego" Robert Anthony, CZW Heavyweight Champion, will make a surprise appearance on the final night of the series (the 27th). The stage will be transformed into a wrestling ring, complete with ropes, turnbuckles and a Jumbotron. Tickets are $15 per show, or $25 for a ringside pass to all three nights. Audience members are encouraged to make a sign cheering or jeering their favorite Octavarius superstars, and receive tickets at a discounted rate of $12. For more information, visit Octavarius.com.
If you're looking for a little lively art talk today, look no further than UIC's Gallery 400. Today at 5pm they're hosting an artist's talk with Kalup Linzy-- a multidisciplinary artist whose practice includes videos, performances, and music. I am not familiar with his work but it sounds like a lot of fun, and (potentially) part of the Post Black movement-- one of the most exiting contemporary art movements, albeit underrepresented. (Pulled from the press release:)
His satirical narratives--inspired by soap operas, telenovelas and Hollywood melodramas--deal with race, sexuality, gender, class, and the art world itself. Serving as writer, director, cinematographer, editor, and actor, he performs, often in drag, a series of memorable, defiant characters. Simultaneously salacious and poignant, Linzy's works fuse dramatic intensity with melodramatic irony and gut-busting comedy.
Gallery 400 is located at 400 S. Peoria St. in the West Loop. For more information about Linzy, visit his website.
I caught one of the last runs of Hercules at the Lyric on Monday and I am so glad I did, although when I left the theater I wasn't so sure about that. Peter Sellars offers us a vision Hercules as an American soldier in modern fatigues, and I do appreciate the focus on current events, but I feel like the correlations were already there without having to be spelled out so blatantly. There is also the question of Hercules fighting for the US -- he is a god after all. So some of the director's choices raised questions, but the performances were stellar across the board.
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.
Flannery is both a warm and hilarious storyteller; the show spins what seem like tall tales but in fact are real-life experiences of the baffling number of ways Flannery has nearly killed himself (or friends, or siblings), as well as other just plain dumb things one does when drunk and lives to tell about (don't we all have a Taco Bell parking lot story?). The show also features the only acceptable use of a Power Point presentation.
I sat down to my laptop last week to ask Sean a few questions about the show and comedy in general.
If you missed the first half of the Congo Square Theatre's "Festival on the Square" series, there is another chance to catch the event.
This weekend, the theater company will feature performances from open mic shows to staged readings, including 911's Children: After the Fires, written and directed by company member Anthony Irons and the hip-hop themed Smash Hit, directed by Congo Square member Aaron Todd Douglas. The weekend is also highlighted by 1st Impressions, a variety of artistic performances by Deeply Rooted Dance Theater Artistic Director, Kevin Iega Jeff, actress and playwright, Nambi E. Kelly, and renowned actress Regina Taylor.
The "Festival on the Square" runs Friday and Saturday, February 25-26 at the Chicago Center for the Performing Arts, 777 N. Green St. All performances are free to the public ($10 donation recommended).Visit Congo Square Theatre's website for full schedule and show times; RSVP separately for each event at email@example.com.
The Chicago Tribune has joined forces with Second City to produce Chicago Live!, a weekly stage and radio show. This week's show will be Thursday evening at 6:30pm at the Chicago Theatre's Downstairs Stage. Among this week's guests are columnists John Kass and Rick Kogan discussing the mayoral race, Michael Patrick Thornton (Private Practice, The Gift Theatre), Tammy McCann (author of American Rose, A Nation Laid Bare: The Life and Times of Gypsy Rose Lee) and more.
Tickets are $20 and can be purchased through Ticketmaster, over the phone at 1-800-745-3000 or in person at the Chicago Theatre box office (175 N. State Street).
Laika, Rob Neill, Eevin Hartsough. Photos by Evan Hanover.
Laika Dog in Space is a lot of things. It is more than a play; it is an event. A class, even. A field trip. It is a variety show of sorts, with an art gallery/museum for a lobby and a live band.
Upon arrival to the Neo Futurarium, where Laika Dog in Space is playing, audience members are invited to explore the "state park" (a.k.a. the lobby), where there are a few dioramas on shelves against one wall and framed photos of all the famous dogs from pop culture on another wall, complete with clever descriptions underneath. Snoop Dog is even included.
Chicago Dramatists take on the oldest profession head on with their current performance, Bordello, written by Aline Lathrop.
The entirety of Bordello takes place in the kitchen of Pussy Willow Ranch, located 60 miles outside of Las Vegas in the great state of Nevada.
It isn't easy dissecting this play. First of all, I am a man, and any thoughts I have about what I experienced have to be put into perspective. Having said that, Bordello is not a sexy romp through the lives of some of Nevada's premier sex workers-- not that I thought it would be. It is more like a glimpse into the lives of some people who happen to work in a place that happens to be a bordello.
This morning, local favorites Hubbard Street Dance Chicago were awarded a 2011 Joyce Foundation award in Dance, the only 2011 Chicago-based awardee. The award includes a prize of $50,000 in support of a multi-year collaboration with choreographer Alonzo King and San Francisco-based LINES Ballet. Both dance companies plan on performing a new work by King in Chicago, the first in the city in more than a decade.
In anticipation of the collaboration, Hubbard Street Dance Chicago pushes forward later this year with a performance of Following the Subtle Current Upstream, a work choreographed by King. Part of the 2011 Summer Series at Harris Theater for Music and Dance, the performances begin May 19.
Mascot, a one-act, one-man play running at the Prop Theater for the next four Saturdays, is the creation of writer Chris Bower of Ray's Tap Reading Series in collaboration with Found Objects Theater Group. In it, actor Matt Test draws us into the interior life of a man whose greatest passion is football, and who has become estranged from his wife and son. The action takes place in the man's living room, represented by a sparsely decorated set consisting of an armchair, a TV, and a metal clothes rack dominated by the presence of a soiled bear mascot costume.
In the man's darkly comic monologue we learn about his wife, his son, and the circumstances that led to the restraining order that keeps him from watching his son's high school football games. At times the set goes dark, sending the audience even deeper into the man's mind as he becomes a disembodied voice not only estranged from his family, but from the audience's sight.
The Music Institute of Chicago (MIC), one of the most well-known community music schools in the nation, welcomes Brotherhood Chorale for its 7th annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Celebration. Led by conductor Brian C. Rice, this 180-member, all male choir from Chicago will perform in a jazz and gospel concert in honor of the legendary Civil Rights leader.
Accompanying Brotherhood Chorale this year are accomplished youth violinists and cousins, Ade Williams and Mira Williams, who are also recipients of this year's William Warfield Memorial Scholarship Fund, a program that provides financial assistance to minority students who belong to MIC.
The Martin Luther King, Jr. Celebration will be held Sunday, Jan. 16, at Nichols Concert Hall, 1490 Chicago Ave., Evanston. Admission is free, with all contributions benefiting the William Warfield Memorial Scholarship Fund. For more information visit musicinst.org or call 847.905.1500 ext. 108.
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.
The Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA) presents the Chicago debut of Betontanc & Umka.lv: Show Your Face!, a collaborative performance comprised of dance, theater and puppetry, with live music performed by Silence and Ugis Vitins.
The show, part of MCA's "Global Stage" series and written and directed by Matjaž Pograjc, is a multimedia performance featuring Latvian puppet theater company Umka.lv and Betontanc ("Concrete Dance"), a dance theater company from Slovenia. The story centers on the concept of courage, and stars a nameless, faceless person--a toddler "onesie" made into a puppet--who encounters people like himself, who are either boldly unafraid to change the world or who are, on the other hand, too afraid to change it.
Betontanc and Umka, Show Your Face!: Photo courtesy of Bunker.
The performance also showcases both group members as integral creators of and active participants in the play, who used movement and puppets made from a variety of household items to make the story come alive.
Betontanc & Umka.lv: Show Your Face! runs January 14-16 at the Museum of Contemporary Art, 220 E. Chicago, at 7:30pm Friday and Saturday, January 14 and 15, and 3pm, Sunday, January 16. Tickets are $22-$28 and can be purchased online or at the box office. For more information, contact 312-397-4010.
If laughter is on your agenda for the New Year, then you should definitely check out the Chicago SketchFest. Now in its 10th year, this funny festival, also the nation's largest of its kind, features the best in the world of sketch comedy with over 150 performances by over 100 comedy groups from all over the world.
For Brian Posen, Artistic Director of Stage773, this year's festival brings with it a lot of exciting changes--even though it has always been held at 1225 W. Belmont since its inception nine years ago, this time out marks the first year of the building's management under Stage773. "We are not going to have some of the restrictions that we had in earlier years," said Posen. "It's incredible to be doing the festival in our home, and we think both the performers and audience will experience some fun changes." In addition to a record-breaking number of performers this year, other changes include extra timeslots to accommodate the increase in the number of festival participants.
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."
Pictured from left to right: John Mohrlein (Clarence/Mr. Potter), Gwendolyn Whiteside (Mary Bailey), and Kevin R. Kelly (George Bailey) in ABT's It's a Wonderful Life. Photo by The Stage Channel.
From now through December 31, American Blues Theater's It's a Wonderful Life, transports viewers to another era, for a 1940s-style live radio show, featuring the classic holiday tale of George Bailey. The iconic charm of The Victory Gardens Biograph Theater, 2433 N. Lincoln Ave., provides an ideal location for the production, and the performance, directed by Marty Higginbotham, warms hearts again this season.
The cast greets theater-goers with lively, casual conversation and Christmas carols from the piano as they enter the house. Actors weave through the aisles handing out "Audiograms" on which audience members write messages to friends or loved ones, which are read intermittently during commercial breaks. On the stage stand three vintage microphones with broad rectangular heads. The piano sits off to the left, near the authentic-looking "On Air" and "Applause" light-up signs. A Christmas tree, a couch, and the sound effects corner complete the stage area. As audience continues to trickle in, the cast engages visitors in Christmas carol sing-along. After a few directions from the announcer (Ed Kross), the show begins and you're plunged into the famous tale.
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.
If you're looking for some end-of-the-year entertainment you should let Creepy Hug engulf you in a warm comedic embrace. With their latest show "The 2010 Commandments: The Year in Revue," sketch comedy group Creepy Hug will put their own spin on the biggest events of 2010. Relive the BP oil spill, the rise of the Tea Party, and all of their other happenings that made 2010 great.
"The 2010 Commandments" will run in Donny's Skybox Theatre at The Second City in Piper's Alley on Fridays at 9 p.m. until December 17, 2010. Tickets are $13 for general admission, $10 for students with ID and $6 for Second City students. For ticket information call Donny's Skybox Theatre at 312-337-3992 or log onto www.SecondCity.com.
Performance artist (and Glen Ellyn native) Laurie Anderson returns to Chicago to perform her latest work, Delusion, at the Harris Theater Jan. 11, 2011.
Delusion was commissioned for the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, and was most recently performed in New York as part of the Next Wave Festival at BAM Harvey Theater. It's made up of several plays, songs and improvised bits, evoking a dialogue about dreams, longing, identity and memory.
Tickets range from $35 to $80 and are available online, at the Harris Theater box office at 205 E. Randolph Dr., or by calling 312-334-7777.
Cast of A Bronzeville Nutcracker. Photo by: Claude-Aline Nazaire.
A Bronzeville Nutcracker, presented by The Willingham Project, is returning for another holiday season. Choreographed by dancer and artistic director Lisa Johnson-Willingham, this modern spin on the classic holiday tale follows Peggy, a child growing up in Chicago's Bronzeville community, who, through a magical journey, learns the true meaning of the holidays and family traditions via a cast of characters including "Kutie Patootie," the Candy Cane Kids, and the Jingle Bell Rockers.
Catch A Bronzeville Nutcracker at the Harold Washington Cultural Center, 4701 S. King Dr., Saturdays, December 4 and 11 at 7:30pm, and Sundays, December 5 and 12 at 3pm. Tickets are $20-$25 and can be reserved online. For more information, contact 773-269-9147.
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.
HS2 dancers Yarinet Restrepo, Nicholas Korkos, and Katie Scherman in "Harold and the Purple Crayon: A Dance Adventure."
Let's be honest--the options in children's dance programs aren't exactly plentiful, rarely extending beyond annual performances of the Nutcracker. While Nutcracker has become a favorite family tradition for many Chicagoans each holiday season, any additional dance productions for children offered throughout the year are a welcome surprise. Perhaps this is why there's been such excitement brewing for Hubbard Street 2's upcoming production of "Harold and the Purple Crayon: A Dance Adventure." The December 4 performance, based on the beloved children's book, presents dance to children in an accessible, interactive way.
The 60-minute program, choreographed by Terence Marling and Robyn Mineko Williams, and set to music by indie rocker Andrew Bird, garnered positive attention in the Washington Post following its Nov. 13 premiere at the Kennedy Center's Eisenhower Theater. The Post described "the melodies and movements" as "wide-eyed" and the "liquid dance a la Harold..., confident and lovely."
HS2 will present "Harold and the Purple Crayon: A Dance Adventure" at 3 pm on December 4 at the Harris Theater for Music and Dance. Tickets to the program, which is sponsored by Target, are only $5 each, and may be purchased online at harristheaterchicago.org or by phone at 312-334-7777.
The Chicago Human Rhythms Project (CHRP) will conclude its 20th season during Thanksgiving weekend performances at Harris Theater, 205 E. Randolph St. Audiences can view four different programs in the "Global Rhythms" series, November 26-28. Additionally, when you purchase a ticket to any of these performances, you'll be giving back to Chicago area non-profits through the Thanks 4 Giving program. You will receive a ten percent discount just by mentioning an area non-profit when purchasing your ticket. Plus, CHRP will donate 50 percent of the revenue from your ticket purchase to the organization you mention.
"Global Rhythms" features an ecclectic mix of performers, such as CHRP's BAM!, Step Afrika!, Diabolus in Musica, Jump Rhythm Jazz Project, and more. For a full listing of performers at each show, visit CHRP. Performances take place Nov. 26 at 8pm, Nov. 27 at 3 pm and 8 pm, and Nov. 28 at 3 pm. Tickets are $15-55 and are available by calling 312-334-7777 or visiting harristheaterchicago.org.
Starting tonight at 8pm, Calisthenics for Shrapnel, by Robbie Q. Telfer and Marty McConnell, creates an opportunity for artists and audiences to "work out" their dis-functions with society by assessing the divisions of colors (race), collars (class) and pants (gender/sexuality).
The show will run on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays through January at Links Hall, 3435 N. Sheffield, Suite 207, on a biweekly basis. Tickets for general admission are $15 and for students are $10. For information please click here or call 773-281-0824.
It's a dream come true for 12-year-olds: take Super Mario Brothers and combine it with nudity. Throw in a locked door and it's a pre-teen wonderland that most greasy-haired guys can only dream of. Boobs and Goombas is (thankfully) not just for sticky-fingered boys, it's a fantastic new show that has been playing to cheering crowds at the Gorilla Tango Theater. Set to run only through October, the show has been such a hit that (lucky for you!) November and December dates have been added.
I wasn't expecting to love Boobs and Goombas as much as I did. I was ready for a standard cabaret style burlesque show made up of rotating performances that have little to do with each other (besides the Nintendo theme) with a host acting as ringleader introducing the lovely ladies- a fun show but also nothing really new either. It was a pleasant surprise to find out that Boobs and Goombas is actually an original play with a plot propelling forward amongst the pasties.
RNCDC's Brandon DiCriscio (left) and Jeff Wolfe in "Forbidden Boundariies."
Photo by Erika Dufour.
On November 13, River North Chicago Dance Company will celebrate its 21st birthday in a one-night engagement at Harris Theater, 205 E. Randolph Dr. The program will feature the world premier of Sidra Bell's "Risoluta," with an original score composed by her father, jazz pianist and composer Dennis Bell. RNCDC's November engagement will feature additional works from the company's repertoire including Robert Battle's "Three," RNCDC Artistic Director Frank Chaves' "Forbidden Boundaries" and a revival of Chaves' 1994 sensual duet "Fixe."
Tickets to the Harris Theater fall engagement are $30-$65 and are currently on sale at harristheaterchicago.org or by phone at 312-334-7777. For an additional $10,
guests can enjoy cake and champagne in celebration of RNCDC's 21st birthday during intermission in the Harris Theater's private lounge on the 2nd floor.
Did you rally to restore sanity? Are you looking for something to distract you as the poll numbers come in on election night? If you answered "yes" to either of those questions, then this show might be for you. Lizz Winstead, co-creator of "The Daily Show," is performing at Mayne Stage (1328 W. Morse) for an election night show on Tuesday, November 2. In addition to her work on "The Daily Show," she has spent the past decade working on various political satire projects. Her show "Dumb-ocracy at Work!" begins at 7:30pm. Tickets are $25 at www.maynestage.com.
It is often said that music is the universal language; for Mark "Stew" Stewart, this most certainly rings true. Here, the Tony Award-winning artist and front man for the band Stew and the Negro Problem, discusses the "problem" when people, African-Americans particularly, are deemed a monolith when it comes to music.
Stew and the Negro Problem with Heidi Rodewald. Photograph:Jeff Fasano
You won a Tony Award in 2008 for Passing Strange, a story that deals with the freedom of musical and artistic expression. Was the concept a result of your experience growing up in Los Angeles? Is Los Angeles not as culturally diverse as it might seem?
Exactly. Maybe it was just my experience, especially as a black artist, but I kind of felt during my young life that people were always surprised when a big brother played lead guitar and wrote songs. It was like, "Oh you're in a band--you must be the bass player." And I'd always think, "No, and now there's one less stereotype for you to carry around!"
On October 28 and 29, Lizt Alfonso Dance Cuba will light up Roosevelt University's Auditorium Theatre with flamenco, ballet and contemporary dance set to Spanish and Afro-Cuban rhythms. The company, made up of eighteen female dancers, celebrates the uniqueness of Cuban culture in this lively two-night engagement.
Performances take place October 28 at 7:30 pm and October 29 at 8 pm, at Auditorium Theatre, 50 E. Congress Pkwy. Tickets run $30-69 and may be purchased by phone at 800.982.ARTS (2787), online at Ticketmaster.com, or at the Auditorium Theatre Box Office, 50 E. Congress Parkway.
Looking for a little spooky theatre this Halloween weekend? Cock & Bull Theatre presents the final weekend of splatter fest Axe Lizzie & The Possession of Alice Von Truskin, written and directed by Chris Garcia Peak. In these horror plays, audiiences will view the tale of Lizzie Borden who is stuck caring for a part-human sister, serpentine parents, and a morbid man with a bloody hatchet. Plus, the story of fifteen-year-old Alice Von Truskin who was said to have been possessed by the devil in 1890--but was it possession or just puberty?
Axe Lizzie & The Possession of Alice Von Truskin is for ages over 18 only, and runs Oct. 28-31 at 8 pm, with an additional 10 pm performance on Oct. 30. Performances take place at Prop Theatre, 3502 N Elston. Tickets are $20 -$25 (student discount available), and may be purchased at cockandbulltheatre.org, theatremania.com, or 866-811-4111.
Photo: Jake Carr & Sarah Jackson in Axe Lizzie. Puppet design by Sarah Bendix. Photo by Heinrick Haley.
A scene from Yasuko Yokoshi's "Tyler Tyler." Photo by Shimpei Takeda
The Dance Center of Columbia College Chicago presents the Chicago debut of Hiroshima-born choreographer Yasuko Yokoshi, October 28-30. Yokoshi's work "Tyler Tyler," offers a contemporary perspective on Kabuki Su-odori dance, a stripped-down form of Kabuki that has been reverred for its purity and simplicity. Yokoshi's inspiration for the piece was The Tale of the Heike, a classic 12th-century Japanese epic of warring clans that documents desire for dominatin and the inevitable fall from power.
The cast consists of two U.S. dancers, a U.S. musician, and three Japanese dancers/actors who trained with Masumi Seyama, revered master teacher of Kabuki Su-odori dance. Yokoshi has deconstructed and rearranged Fujima's classic repertory with postmodern techniques and has created original choreography that examins the nature of a cultural identity.
Chicagoans can take advantage of the rare opportunity to view Kabuki Su-odori through a contemporary lens during one of three performances October 28-30 at 8 pm each evening. Performances take place at The Dance Center, 1306 S. Michigan Ave. Tickets are $26-30, and may be purchased via The Dance Center website. There will be a post-performance discussion with the artists following the October 28 performance.
South Shore Opera Company of Chicago in Porgy and Bess
George Gershwin's opera Porgy and Bess, a story set in rural South Carolina in the early 1900s, has been described by many as perhaps the composer's greatest work. Despite being mired in controversy (many felt it depicted African-Americans in an unfavorable light), the opera still claims legendary status in the American cultural landscape. Here, Cornelius Johnson, Music Director for the South Shore Opera Company of Chicago and Music Instructor at Olive Harvey College, talks about the musical impact of the opera and its importance in American arts and culture.
Gershwin's Porgy and Bess is deemed by many as the "Great American Opera"--why do you think this work has made such an impact on our culture?
For one, it is one of the only pieces of its time that allowed African-American artists the opportunity to perform. There have been debates about whether it showed positive images; however, it was so much more positive than other things were during that time. Musically speaking though, the music in it is really beautiful and has memorable melodies that people have held on to.
Join the Joffrey Ballet October 13-24 for All Stars, its opening production of the 2010-2011 Season. Featuring works from some of ballet's most-beloved choreographers, the program is sure to continue the momentum of the Joffrey's highly successful 2009-2010 season, which brought Chicagoans the unforgettable production "Othello." All Stars features three Joffrey Premieres created by George Balanchine, Jerome Robbins, and Christopher Wheeldon.
Balanchine's dramatic "Stravinsky Violin Concerto" remembers the choreographer's friend igor with an energetic tribute. Robbins' "The Concert (or, the Perils of Everybody)," provides a comedic exploration of an audience's fantasies at a Chopin piano recital, infused with social commentary. Wheeldon's stark, spiritual, and sensual "After the Rain," showcases a series of three emotional duets. Additionally, the Joffrey will reprise Balanchine's explosive "Tarantella" showcases a pas de deux of quick and complex movement.
In many cases, arts programs in schools, especially in the inner-city and underserved communities, are basically non-existent; for many students, this hinders their opportunity when it comes to exposure to more diverse culture, including classical music. For the Sphinx Organization, a non-profit musical organization, all youth deserve a chance to broaden their cultural base, from a musical standpoint, and unleash potential talent within.
Luna Negra Dance Theater opens its 2010-2011 Chicago Season on October 16. Fans won't want to miss this performance, the company's first production under the direction of new Artistic Director Gustavo Ramirez Sansano. Luna Negra will perform the world premiere of Sansano's "Toda una Vida," the North American Premiere of "Bate" by Frenando Melo, and a revival of "Deshár Alhát," by Luna Negra's founder Eduardo Vilaro. Follwoing the perfromance the company presents the Noche Luna Gala including festive cocktails, savory Latin cuisine, and dancing to the sounds of Latin band Son de la Habana.
The fall performance takes place Saturday, October 16, at 6:30 pm, at Harris Theater in Millennium Park, 205 E. Randolph St. Tickets are $25-$55, and may be purchased by calling 312-334-7777 or visiting www.harristheater.org. Reservations for the Nocha Luna Gala may be made by calling 312-337-6882.
Need to score some major "cool" points with that special kid in your life? You can this weekend--Yo Gabba Gabba! Live!: There's A Party In My City! is coming to town!
Yo Gabba Gabba!, the popular Nick Jr. children's series, is coming to the stage in an action-packed extravaganza featuring DJ Lance Rock (Lance Robertson) and the rest of the Gabba Gang, Muno, Brobee, Toodee, Foofa, and Plex. The fun-filled show will be interactive for all audience members and will feature singing, dancing, and a variety of entertainment to keep the crowd on its feet. For both the young and old hip hop fans alike, the show will contain a special treat; legendary rapper Biz Markie, a Yo Gabba Gabba! regular, will be on hand to teach the art of beatboxing. Other show segments will include the "Super Music Friends Show" and "Dancey Dance."
Cast of Yo Gabba Gabba!
The show will also benefit Chicago's Habitat for Humanity: For every ticket sold, $1 will go to the organization to assist with the city's homebuilding efforts.
Yo Gabba Gabba! Live!: There's A Party In My City! will play Saturday, Oct. 9 at 2pm and 5pm and Sunday, Oct. 10 at 11am and 2pm at the Chicago Theatre, 175 N. State St. Tickets are $22-$55 and are available at the theatre box office, online, or charge by phone, 800-745-3000. For more information, visit www.yogabbagabbalive.com. Note: Children under age one will be admitted free to sit on a parent's lap.
Artemis (Stephanie Anderson) and Orion (Brian Humpherys)
Fans of Greek mythology, theatre, and/or dance might just want to check out a new production by Innervation Dance Cooperative entitled "Gods, Monsters, and Heroes." The company has reinvented the colorful tales of Zeus and Hera, Demeter and Persephone, Odysseus, Medusa, Athena, the Amazons, and more through a variety of dance styles, set to contemporary rock music. The evening-long production illustrates these popular stories with a mix of tap, modern, and ballet influences. In this production, IDC adheres to the company's foundation as a blend of theatre and dance, through their expressive movement, all put together collaboratively between ten choreographers and 28 dancers.
Watching IDC rehearse Act I and portions of Act II, it is clear that the dancers are having a blast, and their energy translates to the viewer. The company does a great job of communicating comedy in the show, particularly in Apollo and Marsyas, and The Sirens. The "Tap Warriors" in Birth of Zeus nail some fancy footwork, and the interaction between Demeter (Rachel Doucet) and Persephone (Stephanie Unger) showcases some particularly lovely choreography. The music selection complements the storylines, including selections from artists such as Pink, Feist, Coldplay, and Beck.
Francesco Milioto certainly knows opera--and he knows hip hop, too. Here, the co-founder and conductor of the New Millennium Orchestra talks about Hip Hopera, the fusion of two musical genres, the importance of musical education, and his dream to work with a certain Grammy-award winning hip hop artist.
When did you realize rap and opera could be fused--was it a particular song you heard or a hip hop artist you were already a fan of?
I'm a big fan of hip hop and I paid close attention when Beyonce did Carmen: A Hip Hopera. The rhythm in some of the music we play in a standard operatic repertoire, especially the things that we were sort of infusing the "hip hopera" in, really work very well. We've been doing this a little while with the New Millennium Orchestra. It's been a few years now that the idea has been jumping around in our heads. It's not brand new. It works.
HSDC dancers Penny Saunders and Jesse Bechard in Arcangelo. Photo by Todd Rosenberg.
September 30, 2010--Hubbard Street Dance Chicago always surprises with their repertoire. Each of their performances is so different from the one prior, unified by the unwavering talent of the HSDC dancers. The company stretches the bounds of contemporary dance--which are expansive to begin with--consistently transforming movement in ways that can reach even the most reluctant performance-goer. Their performances present such a variety that there's sure to be something that impacts each segment of their audience.
HDSC's Fall Series, performed September 30-October 3 at Harris Theater, includes four pieces that not only exhibit this variety, but showcase the unfailing athleticism and grace of the dancers. The first piece, Alejandro Cerrudo's Blanco, leaves the viewer with a calm sense of satisfaction. An abstract work featuring four women--Laura Halm, Jesssica Tong, Meredith Dincolo, and Robyn Mineko Williams in the opening performance--the piece emphasizes extensions and liquid movement. Despite the demanding choreography, the movements seem gentle and organic, with limbs gliding like silk.
Winifred Haun & Dancers' Flash Mob at the Milwaukee Ave Arts Festival
You've imagined the stumped looks on the faces of unassuming bystanders. You've be dying to find out what it would be like to bust out your dance moves on a seemingly random day, in a seemingly random public place. Guess what? Here's your chance to join a flash mob!
Winifred Haun & Dancers are hosting a flash mob in Oak Park on Saturday, October 9 as part of Oak Park's annual Artrageous!. One performance will take place on the steps of the Hemingway Museum (aka Arts Center), 339 N. Oak Park Ave., at 11 am, and the other on the plaza of the Oak Park Public Library, 834 Lake St. at 12 pm. You'll be dancing to the tunes of Stevie Wonder and George Crumb. There will be professional dancers dancing with you, so you'll have somewhere to turn if you forget your moves.
Improv comedy is a pass/fail course; either you're good enough or you're not, and there's nothing worse than squirming through an improv performance that has bad timing, or a troupe that lacks the confidence to be onstage. Octavarius immediately put all my improv hang-ups at ease when they took the stage at last Sunday's performance at ComedySportz. I found myself asking questions like: how do they all know the lyrics to the same random songs? And: how does that guy keep bringing back the same thread of needing credentials in order to claim certain professions, and why is that so funny?
Octavarius' bio states that the troupe has been working together in one form or another since 2003, and it shows; the eight man + one woman group is completely at ease with each other, and I was never once worried about them, which is really the worst thing an improv troupe can do to their audience -- become cause for concern.
Octavarius will be performing at ComedySportz (929 W. Belmont) every Sunday at 7pm through October 24. Tickets are $10. For more info, call 773-549-8080 or visit ComedySportz.
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.
In celebration of ten years at their 1306 S. Michigan Ave. location, the Dance Center of Columbia College will present 13 hours of free dance performances, workshops, and classes on Saturday, Sept. 25. The event, 1306 - Ten Years Later, will fill the studios, theater, hallways, and even the stairwells of 1306 S. Michigan Ave. with activity from 10 am until 11 pm. Whether looking to learn how to dance, or to sit down and enjoy innovative contemporary pieces, audiences of all ages will find something to enjoy at 1306 - Ten Years Later.
Famed choreographer, Lar Lubovitch, will bring his internationally acclaimed dance company to Harris Theater for Music and Dance on September 22 and 23 at 7:30 pm.
Chicagoans were treated to Lubovitch's "Othello" during the Joffrey Ballet's 2009-2010 season. This week's performances will offer Chicago audiences a further sampling of the world-renowned choreographer's extensive body of works.
The Lar Lubovitch Dance Company headlines Harris Theatre's See the Dance series with two different performances, mixing Lubovitch classics, as well as newer works. On September 22, audiences will be treated to "North Star" (1978), "Duet from Meadow" (199), "Coltrane's Favorite Things" (2010), and "Marimba" (1976). The September 23 performance will feature "North Star," "Dogs of War" (2010), "Nature Boy: Kurt Elling" (2005), and "Calvalcade" (1980).
Both performances take place at the Harris Theater, 205 E. Randolph, 7:30 pm, Sept. 22 and 23. Tickets for Lar Lubovitch Dance Company are available at the Harris Theater box office, 205 E. Randolph Dr.,by calling 312-334-7777, or via the Harris Theater website.
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.
Of all the sources to inspire a titillate-and-tease burlesque show, "The Big Lebowski" has got to be one of the most bizarre. In truth, that's probably half of the reason why "Rollin' Outta Here Naked: A Big Lebowski Burlesque" works so well. The concept is so unexpected that it's hard to wrap your head around what kind of theater you are about to witness. Bowling? Striptease? A roving band of nihilists with a pet ferret? Leave it to the Vaudezilla burlesque troupe to not only to make sense of it all, but to make it one hell of a Saturday night.
Chicago native and Columbia College alumna Erica Watson returns to town with Fat Bitch!, her hilarious, yet provocative one-woman show about stereotypes about race, weight, and images in society. Watson, a stand-up comedienne and actress, has appeared in numerous specials on Black Entertainment Television (BET), NBC's "Last Comic Standing" and was in the Oscar-nominated film, Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire.
She has received critical acclaim for Fat Bitch!, including an award nomination for "Best Solo Performance" this year from the Chicago's Black Theater Alliance Awards, Inc. and the show being featured next month for Target's "First Saturdays" at the Brooklyn Museum.
Catch Fat Bitch! during Columbia College's "A Night of Comedy," Saturday, Sept. 25 at The Getz Theater, 62 E. 11th St. Doors open at 7:30pm; show is from 8:00pm-9:30pm. Tickets are $15 and can be reserved online. Contact 312-369-8640 for more information.
Last night at Links Hall, 3435 N. Sheffield, Under Construction Dance Project presented the first night of their show, "Socio-Analytic Perspectives on Gender Culture through Dance." In order to present their examination of gender through dance, co-creators, Philip Elson and Samantha Spriggs, students of the Dance Center of Columbia College Chicago, took advantage of Links Hall's Linkages program, which provides studio space and tech support for self-producing artists. Their three-night production features other Columbia University dance and performing arts students, as well as independent artists from the Chicago area.
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.
In the words of Usher and will.i.am, O.M.G. The Paper Machete, Chicago's "weekly live magazine," presents a show of local writers, actors, musicians, and performers each Saturday afternoon, but this Saturday they're even outdoing themselves with the line-up that they've got going on.
Take a look at who's on the docket...
*Kristin Studard and Nancy Friedrich
*Musical Guests: Maria McCullough and Sad Brad Smith with Bethany Thomas.
Not only is there an amazing array of homegrown talent, but Los Angelino Sarah Haskin, of Target Women fame is going to be there too. This all takes place on Saturday, August 14 at 3pm at Ricochet's Tavern (4644 N. Lincoln Ave.), and even better, it's free.
If you're in the mood for spoken word, graffiti art, live painting, and good music, all in one action-packed evening, then you won't want to miss Lethal Poetry's "A Night of Sight and Sound."
In this "mini festival of arts," a myriad of artists, singers, painters, dancers and musicians all come together to perform for an expressive artistic experience and also to support Alternatives, Inc., a non-profit organization that provides after-school activities for Chicago youth.
Some of the artists in the line-up include performance poetry and folk alternative band The Mojdeh Project, trip hop artist and dancer Scarlet Monk, hip-hop artist Precise, poet Roger Bonair-Agard, and many more.
A "Night of Sight and Sound" will be held on Saturday, July 31 at Beat Kitchen, 2100 W. Belmont. Tickets are $10 online/$15 at the door. Contact 630-201-2773 for more information.
Now in its third decade, hip-hop, throughout its evolution, has experienced its fare share of ups and downs; yet, it has remained as perhaps the most dominant force in the entertainment industry. In I Still Love H.E.R. (atributetohiphop), writer/director Wendell Tucker, who hails from Chicago's South Side, celebrates hip hop by addressing those peaks and valleys and explains why it's still very easy to love "h.e.r."
The play is similarly titled to fellow Chicago native Common's 1994 tribute to hip-hop, "I Used to Love H.E.R"; for him, the acronym meant "Hip Hop in its Essence is Real"--what does it mean for you and your cast?
"Hip Hop's Every Rhythm." We love everything about it--the good, bad, and everything in between. To love something, you've got to take the good, the bad and the ugly.
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.
Found Footage Festival was started in 2004 by Joe Pickett and Nick Prueher, who in 1991 stumbled upon a McDonald's training video entitled Inside and Outside Custodial Duties at a McDonald's in their home state of Wisconsin, and never stopped collecting. Since that fateful day, they have compiled an impressive collection of absurd footage, which is uploaded onto their website. With a background in comedy (their resumes include stints at The Late Show with David Letterman, The Onion, and Entertainment Weekly), they've taken their show on the road numerous times over the past six years, and are currently on tour screening the 1985 film Computer Beach Party, described in their press release as "one of the most wonderfully awful movies ever found on VHS". FFF comes to The Empty Bottle on Sunday, July 18 with their hidden gem of a film.
In addition to FFF, it must be pointed out that Pickett and Prueher also directed the feature-length documentary Dirty Country, which centers on the life of Larry Pierce, a factory worker and family man from Indiana who happens to write the raunchiest country songs you've ever heard. Based on the trailer alone, I'm willing to go out on a limb and say that this may well be the best documentary ever made, and I can't believe I didn't know about it sooner. (Warning, this clip is NSFW.)
I had the opportunity to speak with Prueher by phone, and asked him all the burning questions that were running through my mind.
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!
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."
Improv group Almost ATLANTA (Tj Jagodowski, Noah Gregoropoulos, Annie Calhoun, Annie Donley, Linda Orr, and Ted Tremper) kicks off the first Chicago Live! Festival tonight with a "Dream Team Thursdays" show at A Red Orchid Theater. With the Chicago Live! Festival, "Almost ATLANTA seeks to engage, delight and astound audiences by incorporating art from every medium with long form improvisation." The festival will test the bounds of improv by combining it with theatre, music, dance, and other art forms not typically associated with improv.
"Dream Team Thursdays" aims to showcase teams that are a mixture of veteran and novice improvisers, and artists from other disciplines. Amongst tonight's teams that are performing, there will be musical improv, improv that features spoken word poetry, and psychic improv, amongst other types of performance. These types of performance are a creative departure from what's typically seen on a Chicago improv stage, and the results will certainly be an entertaining and intriguing treat to watch.
"Dream Team Thursdays" starts tonight at 7 p.m. at A Red Orchid Theater (1531 North Wells Street). You can reserve tickets online or purchase them at the door. The Festival runs June 3-6 and June 10-13, and more details can be found here.
The beauty of spoken word lies in its diversity; whether it comes via social issues, everyday life, political statements, or even erotica, spoken word artistry is a poetic form of expression that has something for everyone.
At the "Kings of Poetry," held recently at Kenwood Academy, the audience was treated to five spoken word artists with very different styles and messages. Hosted and produced by Chicago spoken word artist Blaq Ice, a South Side native who began his poetry career in the early 90s, the "Kings of Poetry" took the audience on a poetic adventure with their a variety of subjects that included youth violence, spirituality, relationships, gentrification, and even the headaches of highway construction.
From the minds (and hips) that brought burlesque to Pink Floyd's 'The Wall' comes Hot & Heavy Burlesque's Tribute to 'This is Spinal Tap'. Playing at the Viaduct Theater (3111 N. Western Avenue) from Friday June 4th through Sunday June 6th, the classic mockumentary is re-imagined with a little glitter, a little latex, and a lot of shimmy.
A full cast of Chicago actors will perform the classic, quotable scenes with burlesque dancers giving their interpretations mixed in. The bevy of burlesque vixens promise to go to 11 with all your Spinal Tap favorites including Sex Farm, Stonehenge, Big Bottom, Heavy Duty, Bitch School, and more.
Unemployed, coming out or battling the Bad Decision Bears? A trip down Avenue Q will set you straight. Presented in a very short run by Broadway in Chicago, the poignant, puppeteered romp through the hazy life maze of New Yorkers hurtling through their 30s spits smart and startling truths like, "The Internet is for porn" and "Everyone's a little bit racist," and reminds the audience that it's quite common for an English degree, a big heart or a dream to become your own albatross. The wry, sometimes filthy musical is alternative therapy for anyone questioning their purpose in life while engaged in a hunt for love (or at least a one-night stand). The Work Light Productions show, acted brilliantly in both human and furry form, also includes full-puppet nudity and swearing. How are you not in already? It runs through Sunday at the Bank of America Theater. For tickets and information, click here.
In the Depression-stricken cotton fields of rural Georgia, the Lester family lives in poverty, struggling to pay for their land, clothed in tattered garments. Jeeter Lester, the patriarch, refuses to leave his land, claiming a job in the city would be impossible to bear. And so his family remains in their beat-up shack, scraping the bottom of the barrel in order to survive.
This is the premise for Tobacco Road, a horrific and honest portrayal of a struggling family during the worst years of the Great Depression. Based on the novel by Erskine Caldwell and adapted by Jack Kirkland, Tobacco Road is a darkly humorous play, featuring characters with unpleasant facial deformities and parents more concerned with what will happen to their bodies when they die than actually living their lives. Subtle humor aside, the play touches on serious issues, focusing on the shocking decisions the Lesters makes that ultimately leads to the decay of this once proud and profitable family.
Now this long-running play--the second-longest running drama in Broadway history--is coming to the Victory Gardens Theater in Chicago. Directed by Cecilie Keenan, Tobacco Road will be revived by American Blues Theater to celebrate the ensemble's 25th anniversary. Previews run May 21 - May 23; tickets cost $20. Opening night is set for Thursday, May 27 at 7pm; tickets are $50. Thursday, Saturday and Sunday matinees are $32; Friday and Saturday evenings, $40. Tobacco Road will run until June 20. For ticket information call 773-871-3000 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
What happens when extraterrestrials and alien abductions are combined with jazz and spoken word? The result is Intergalactic Beings, flutist and composer Nicole Mitchell's musical performance based on the work of author Octavia Butler.
Here, Mitchell explains how and why she was inspired by the late author and how she musically transformed her books into a different form of art.
Your work is inspired by Octavia Butler, one of the few African-American science-fiction authors in the world. Why do you think this is such an elite group?
It is kind of up to African-American artists to think about the idea of artwork as reflection and it being visionary. For me, the majority of work by black artists is what I call "reflections of the past," meaning we have a great history. But what really inspires me about Octavia Butler is that her work is visionary, and it would be great if more black artists looked towards creating work that inspires us into a different reality rather than reflecting the reality that we already have, which is what I feel a lot of black artists do. What really inspires me about Octavia Butler is that she uses the idea of the future to give us new ways to look at social reality and social issues. She very much connects our history and our present with what we are doing now, and gives us a new way to look at ourselves.
Also, a lot of people have defined her, as well as jazz musician Sun Ra, as "Afrofuturists"--people who took this idea of "intergalactic" music--music that reached back into ancient times and then reached forward and beyond what had ever been done before. That's a concept I've also embraced as a musician. The Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM) also embraced this "ancient to future" concept. It's almost like being a scientist--by using music as a way to experiment with new sounds and understanding the impact it can have and understanding its power to be transformative and inspirational to people. That's what I'm trying to do with Intergalactic Beings out of my inspirations of Octavia Butler.
If you thought brooms were only used for sweeping, think again. Donisha Brown, Co-Rehearsal Director and performer in STOMP, tells how this common household item is used as an instrument in an electrifying performance that will sweep audience members off their feet.
Typically, when one hears the word "stomp," hard or heavy footwork immediately comes to mind; but of course, STOMP is a lot more than that.
Yes it is. The premise of the show is that we take everyday objects and turn them into musical instruments. "Stomp" obviously derives from footwork, but for us, it means anything you can take and change the dynamic of. We play brooms, trash cans, and matchboxes--basically, any item you have in your house, we turn it into a musical instrument.
Speaking of "items," I see that water will also be used as part of the performance--how is it used as an instrument?
Water can change the tone of an instrument; for instance, if you play a cup that's full of water, it changes the tone of it once it's released from that cup. You really can get a lot of different sounds out of water.
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.
Artists, writers, bands, and businesses are coming together to kick cancer where it counts. The event is in support of Dave Thomas ("The Nicest Man in Chicago") who is recovering from cancer but faces enormous medical bills. The benefit features an auction of items and services from local retailers, artists, and organizations, including Lula Café, Nightwood, Uprise Skateshop, The Violet Hour, Anders Nilsen, Kyle Beachy, Fleur, Featherproof Books, Wolfbait and B-Girls, Green Lantern Press, Big Star, Lollapalooza, Reckless Records, and many others. Starting at 9:30pm, there will be live performances by The Record Low, Follows, and Amalea Tshilds. To kick cancer in the balls, you only have to kick in $12.
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.
The Pigeons, written by Joe Zarrow and directed by Cassy Sanders, asks, "Can artists, yuppies, pigeons or anybody escape gentrification?" The real estate farce set in Chicago's diverse, rapidly-gentrifying West Town neighborhood follows Martin after his girlfriend kicks him out of their apartment and he has to navigate his way through a torrent of unemployed artists, unscrupulous real estate agents, embittered baristas, rageaholic frat boys and terrifying, pierogi-selling old ladies to land his dream condo. Opening night starts at 8pm April 30 and performances continue Saturdays, Sundays and Mondays through June 7. Tickets are a suggested donation of $10 to $15 and the show goes up at Swim Cafe, 1357 W. Chicago Ave.
Crisis, the Neo-Futurists' new interactive live musical game show, is modeled after classic game shows of the '70s, '80s and '90s, challenging players in areas of corporate ethics, percentages, creative potential, economics, and pop culture for a chance to win part of the night's ticket sales. Want to play? Get there by 7:30pm to take a Scantron test, and the top eight scorers are the players for the night, scrapping it out to be king of the corporate hill. Opening night starts at 8pm Saturday, May 1, and regular performances continue Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays through June 5. Each Thursday, audience members can stay for a catered dance party, part of the $15 admission. Find out more or get tickets here. All performances are at the Neo-Futurarium, 5153 N. Ashland.
Yesterday was a perfect day for going for a jog or sitting on a patio enjoying a beer, but it doesn't look like we'll have the same luck with Chicago's weather today. Instead of sitting inside and pouting that you wished you lived in a city with normal seasons, why don't you go see a funny show as a pick-me-up?
Tonight at iO, we have the latest installment of improv from the gentlemen of "1,2,3, Fag!" While one of their members is away, they will be bringing in Chicago's top female improvisers to perform their trademark improv style of intertwining scenes with bold, outrageous characters, hence the creation of "1,2 Fag + Hag!" With some of the funniest improvisers in Chicago joining them, "1,2, Fag + Hag!" promises to be hilarious. The show is tonight at 8 at iO (3541 N. Clark St.), and tickets can be purchased online, over the phone (773-880-0199), or at the box office.
If you're in the mood for scripted fare tonight, then perhaps you should swing by Chemically Imbalanced Comedy for their latest offering, "Ring Around the Guillotine." It's like Back to the Future meets the Reign of Terror, as a young woman from the 1980s travels in time and gets unwittingly gets involved in the plot of an evil, flamboyant prince to overthrow a kingdom. The script drags at moments, but there's a strong cast of comedic performers that make it a worthwhile show to catch. "Ring Around the Guillotine" is tonight at 8 at Chemically Imbalanced Comedy (1420 W. Irving Park Rd.), and tickets can be purchased online or at the box office.
Historically, African-Americans have always held close ties to church and religion; however, for African-Americans who are gay, especially in the Bible Belt, maintaining those ties is often met with many challenges.
For E. Patrick Johnson, professor at Northwestern University's Department of Performance Studies and author of Sweet Tea: Black Gay Men of the South, gay black men are a unique, vibrant community with stories that prove that despite our differences, we are all more alike than we think.
In Sweet Tea, coming to Chicago later this month, Johnson is the lone star in this book adaptation directed by Daniel Alexander Jones and produced by Columbia College's Jane Saks, Executive Director of the Ellen Stone Belic Institute for the Study of Women and Gender in the Arts and Media and About Face Theatre.
Here, the three of them discuss Sweet Tea and its impact on gender, society and culture.
Belly up to the bar with a notebook and a pint: Writer/performers Steve Mosqueda and Sean Benjamin lead a new 5-week workshop that connects creativity and alcohol. Both Mosqueda and Benjamin are longtime artists with Chicago theater ensemble The Neo-Futurists, and they've regularly performed live shows and radio shows under the banner of the Drinking & Writing Brewery. Now they're inviting you to join them for a drink or eight and get some writing done while you're at it. Or, as Mosqueda and Benjamin say in their course description: "We can't teach you to write, and we certainly can't teach you to drink, but we can make you do both."
The workshop is subtitled "Belief & Technique", which they cribbed in homage to Jack Kerouac's 1959 treatise "Belief & Technique for Modern Prose". In addition to Kerouac, your fearless guides will draw inspiration from Raymond Carver, Dorothy Parker, and Charles Bukowski. Workshop sessions feature brewery tours, guest speakers and a pub crawl in addition to regular writing assignments. The experience culminates in a reading of student work -- and perhaps a hangover.
The Drinking & Writing Experience: "Belief & Technique"
April 14 to May 12, 2010
Wednesdays at 7pm
Cost: $200-$265 depending on chosen package
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.
Now in its 13th year, the Chicago Improv Festival will be kicking off on Monday, April 19 and running for a full week, showcasing the talents of 40 Chicago area improv groups, 24 from cities around the country and eight from outside of the United States.
Special events held in conjunction with the festival include the 2010 Lifetime Achievement Awards on Wednesday, April 21 at The Second City ETC. Recipients will include Harold Ramis, Dick Schall and Severn Darden (accepted by his widow, Heather Darden) and others.
Tickets to individual events range from $10-$20, and can be purchased online starting April 1.
Don't schedule any meetings for this Friday at 10am, because you're going to need to be at your computer to purchase tickets for the Chicago debut of "Celebrity Autobiography," which is playing at the Royal George Theatre April 30 and May 1 at 8pm.
"Celebrity Autobiography" gives comedians and actors a chance to interpret the actual autobiographies of celebrities, many of which lend themselves nicely to unintentional hilarity. Past autobiographies read have included the works of Tiger Woods, The Jonas Brothers, Vanna White, Neil Sedaka, and more.
Cameron Esposito, Image Courtesy of Rich Hein, Chicago Sun-Times
Cameron Esposito is the one to watch. Nominated for Best Female Comic at the 2008 Chicago Comedy Awards, it seems everywhere I look, someone is writing something great about her stand-up comedy and gig as MC for El Circo Cheapo. Back in November, Michelle Peterson from Gapers Block wrote a piece about Esposito and I interviewed El Circo Cheapo founder, Shayna Swanson. In today's Sun-Times, Mark Konkol wrote a short feature about Esposito. Check out all the write-ups and more importantly, go check out Cameron Esposito!
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."
Starting at sunrise (6:45am) on Saturday, performance artist Stan Shellabarger will start walking down Chicago Avenue from the street's terminal point in Melrose Park. He will walk east on Chicago, toward the lake, through Oak Park, through the 'hood, through Ukranian Village, hoping to end up at the lake at the sun's transit at 12:58pm, when the sun will be directly overhead.
Then he'll turn around and walk all the way back.
This performance will be the latest in his series of Equinox and Solstice Walking Performances, in which he uses the tread of his boots to draw directly on the earth's surface, bringing the meaning of art making into the future by nodding to its distant past in pagan ritual.
To view Shellabarger during this performance, call Western Exhibitions at 312-480-8390. Viewers will be given Shellabarger's cell phone number so they can contact him for his coordinates. Or, just show up where Chicago Avenue hits the lake at 12:58pm.
See prior Solstice and Equinox Walking performances here and here. Click here for more information about Shellabarger and his work.
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.
At a theater space in Andersonville, thin curtains separate two fantastic, epic tales. On one side, a faceless being's mighty hands create a bright sun, compose a starry sky and plant a fruitful garden. On the other, a cosmic explosion of energy unleashes a daunting galaxy, orbs circle a ball of flaming gas and comets collide. One orchestra plays simultaneously for both, as each side of the curtain tells the same story.
In the beginning, ticket holders at the Quest Theatre Ensemble's "Evolution/Creation" performance are separated into two separate stages. There's no dialogue, just a nine-member orchestra playing an impressive score in between two lowered curtains. As a hymn chorus in Latin is chanted melodically from both sides of the total 18-member cast, both audiences are met with complete darkness.
Creator and director Andrew Park's production is both endearingly awkward and rationally self-aware. It boasts a grade-school-production style of surrealist papier-maché puppetry, mismatched quilted fabrics and exposed curtain ropes and pulleys, giving it a genuine grassroots theater aesthetic.
The crowd was made up of hep kats and kittens donning their best throw-back rockabilly threads and eagerly awaiting the red-lipped, quick-hipped Ripettes burlesque troupe to take the stage and start their Rebels without a Blouse revue. The show was pure fun: part Benny Hill slapstick, part sexy strip tease with all the energy of a teenager's first sock hop.
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.
Among the animals featured in Saturday's performance of Cupid Cats were: several tightrope-walking rats; a chicken who can bowl better than me; a ferret; something that looked like a lemur; a groundhog; and about a dozen cats. Samantha Martin is a foster animal caretaker who takes in animals from shelters, and her mission is both to train animals for her circus and to educate the public on how to train their own animals.
Bernie 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."
Barrel of Monkeys is an organization who's mission is summed up in the tag line: "Kids Write it. We Do It. World Saved." Every one of the 16 acts in That's Weird, Grandma was written by a Chicago Public School student. The company uses different techniques for each act: in The Mystery Glasses, written by Alicjak V. of Loyola Park, actors hold up colored papers printed with key words that move the story along; in Untitled (Graffiti Argument) by Anita M. of Little Village, scraps of fabric are deftly used to represent graffiti; and My Happy Remember, by Naudia W. of Reavis, is a miniature musical unto itself.
Over the course of an hour or so, BOM entertains the audience and finds the inner meaning in children's writing without becoming cloying or condescending. This is primarily a kids show, but I never felt out of place, and I doubt that anyone really could. There is something happily familiar about watching an ensemble of actors take on stories with titles like: Superheroes; My Dad at Panda Express; and Man in Jam in dress-up closet costuming and a playful confidence. It reminded me of the television of my youth -- shows like The Electric Company, 3-2-1 Contact, and Sesame Street, only more entertaining and much funnier.
Director Greg Allen's latest work explores our relationship to images, and how we see ourselves in photographs. The show opens with a darkened stage and a series of slides projected onto a screen. They are instantly recognizable as having come from the not so very distant past -- long enough ago that the average family owned just one camera, but recent enough that the images captured are in color. Whether they are slides from the personal collections of the cast and crew, or treasures found deep in the recesses of a thrift store, we don't know, and is beside the point. I couldn't help thinking about my own relationship to images like those being projected in front of me; when I was growing up a set of photo albums lined an entire shelf of the living room, and I pored over them intensely. Any moments captured in those images that I was too young to remember on my own were seared into my memory nonetheless by endless hours spent turning the pages of those unwieldy albums.
Throughout the piece, photography is used as a way to confront ideas about ourselves, and as a way to communicate. In one scene, actors Jeremy Sher and Caitlin Stainken sit at a table covered in photographs, and are relegated to either asking or answering questions of each other by selecting an image from the table and holding it up. In another scene, reminiscent of a party where guests look at digital photos that were taken of them moments earlier, the actors pose with audience members and take snapshots which are then projected onto a screen. It was at once unsettling and validating to see an image of myself projected onscreen during the performance, an experience I realized later was much like seeing myself tagged in other people's Facebook photos -- somehow showing up in a friend's snapshots of a fabulous evening gives me a greater sense of credibility than showing up in my own.
If you are a performing artist, a set designer, a theater, a stage, a stagehand, a spotlight, or are in any other way involved in the Chicago performing arts community, you want to be part of the Fringe Festival in September. The deadline to apply is February 15. Get on it.
The Nancy Kerrigan vs. Tonya Harding saga of the 1990s is still in the news. And now it is on stage at Gorilla Tango Theatre for an irreverent, if not therapeutic, musical about the two darling figure skaters who whined and assaulted through the 1994 Lillehammer Olympics.
Whack! The Tonya Harding & Nancy Kerrigan Story, a Karaoke Musical come from the same folks who brought you C.U. Next Tuesday: The Amy Fisher Story, a Karaoke Musical and The Mary Kay Letourneau Story, a Karaoke Musical.
The performance is complete with Kerrigan's visually-impaired mother, Harding's morally questionable boyfriend, Jeff Gillooly and about a dozen songs of Disney tunes that have been reworked for this epic tale that defined the 1990s just about as much as tight-rolled jeans.
Whack! The Tonya Harding & Nancy Kerrigan Story, a Karaoke Musical plays Thursdays at 9:30pm until Feb. 25 at Gorilla Tango Theatre, 1919 N. Milwaukee Ave. Tickets are $15; to purchase tickets call 773-598-4549 or visit www.gorillatango.com.
Hot & Heavy Burlesque's Tribute to The Wall is very clearly a love letter. Conceived and performed by fans to fan of Pink Floyd, it is that emotional investment that keeps the show interesting and engaging. This show has a heartbeat.
The youth theatre company For Children, By Children (FCBC) is used to performing in shows that address a variety of subject matter, but this month, things are turned up a notch. In Silent Screams, the troupe will take on the teen homelessness, an issue that is affecting youth all over the nation.
Rod Lewis, FCBC artistic director and producer is aware of the heavy subject matter, but recognizes the importance of the issue and feels the story must be told. "I have a colleague who is affiliated with Stand Up For Kids, a non-profit organization for homeless and runaway teens. She asked me to write a play about homeless teens in Chicago to help raise awareness for their cause."
There's not much that can get me off the couch and into the snow drifts during a Chicago winter storm warning, but Vaudezilla's weekly Thursday night burlesque shows are well worth the risk of frostbite.
The Blue Bayou hosts the free weekly burlesque show and their classic Cajun motto, "Laissez Les Bon Temps Roulez" (Let The Good Times Roll), dovetails nicely with the Vaudezilla's razzle dazzle burlesque philosophy. Out with the Clothes in with the Nudes!, hosted by the quick quipping Dick Dijon, is pure, distilled burlesque. There's no fancy lighting, fog machines, or other gimmicks here- nor any need for them. The girls step daintily down the bar top, in between drinks, to a little wedge of a stage and give it their all.
Theatre Zarko: Puppet Symbolist Theatre is exactly that. Combining puppets, surrealism and unique storytelling, Theatre Zarko aims to provide Chicago with a broader vision of the art form of the puppet by creating a venue for experimental puppet theatre and eventually opening a school of puppetry arts. Their latest show, The Sublime Beauty of Hands and Klown Kantos, ran this past fall to sold-out houses, but is getting a two-week run this month at Evanston's excellent Next Theatre Company.
The Sublime Beauty of Hands "explores the vicious cycle of destruction and repair caused by our modern technologies" using original puppetry and surrealistic images. The second half of the evening, Klown Kantos, offers a collection of physical comedy pieces, lighter in tone but no less challenging. Both shows were written and directed by Theatre Zarko Artistic Director Michael Montenegro, who is also a Jeff Award winner for his work on Writer's Theatre's production of The Puppet Master of Lodz.
Theatre Zarko is the first company showcased in Next's new Dark Night Series, which offers non-traditional artists Next's 130-seat theatre on nights when their regular productions are not running. This gives Next the freedom to keep admission prices low while offering diverse performance artists a venue to expand their audience.
Theatre Zarko's The Sublime Beauty of Hands and Klown Kantos runs through January 17 at Next Theatre Company in the Noyes Cultural Center (927 Noyes Street) in Evanston. Performances start at 7:30 on Fridays and Saturdays and 3pm on Sundays. Tickets start at $20 but discounts are offered to groups, attendees 25 years and younger, and full-time students. Purchase them online by calling the box office at (847) 475-1875 x2.
Puppet Symbolist Theatre. Seriously. When else are you going to see that?
The ninth annual SketchFest -- the world's largest sketch comedy festival, covering two long weekends with 100 sketch groups and 125 shows -- descends on Chicago starting Thursday. Tickets are $12.50 for each timeslot and a limited number of festival passes are available. Buy tickets and see the entire schedule here. SketchFest runs Jan. 7 through Jan. 17, 2010 at the Theater Building, 1225 West Belmont.
We'll also post don't-miss shows in Slowdown, so keep an eye on oll'a that. (Tickets to buy now: Hey You Millionaires, Long Pork, Buffet Shark, BriTANick, Heavyweight, The Cool Table, 365 Sketches, Pangea 3000, Bri-Ko, Robot v. Dinosaur, The Reckoning, Jablonski!, Kerpatty, and Aemilia & Ed's One Man Show.)
When people think iO, they usually think improv, and since iO is consistently giving us the best improv in the city (TJ and Dave, Cook County Social Club, Improvised Shakespeare) this is most definitely warranted. But to simply see iO as an "improv theater" would undercut its reputation for exploring other avenues of the comedic landscape.
Last night I caught the premiere performance of The El Show with Alex Moffat, a talk show that boasts itself as "a mixture of standup, improv, sketch, music, video clips, interviews with local celebrities, magic, poetry, [and] magical poetry." Moffat's host, a sort of cosmopolitan everyman, is accompanied by a rambling, somewhat drunk sidekick (Joey Romaine), a boisterous announcer (Rob Grabowski), and an adorable accompanist (Stephanie McCullough) through a jumbled array of comedic sketches and interviews. Last night's show featured Brian Posen, founder of the Chicago Sketch Comedy Festival, and while it's got plenty of kinks to work out, it gives neglected Chicago artists a loose and supportive venue to promote themselves and have some fun. Next week's show will feature Craig Uhlir, one-half of Middle-Age Comeback, one of my favorite shows at iO.
The El Show with Alex Moffat runs through February 19, playing every Friday at midnight in iO's Del Close Theatre (3541 N. Clark). Tickets are $5 (free for iO students) and can be purchased online or by calling the box office at 773.880.0199.
Be sure to bring your cell phone and crank it up loud. Whoever gets the most calls or text messages during the show wins a prize!
National, 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.
For those looking for an escape during the coldest month of all...
Looking for a good old-fashioned chuckle? Look no further than Noel Coward's Private Lives, opening at Chicago Shakespeare Theatre (800 East Grand Avenue on Navy Pier) on January 6. After Writer's Theatre's wildly successful musical revue, Oh Coward!, expect this one to be a hit. The show runs through March 7 and tickets can be purchased onine or by calling the box office at 312.595.5600. Full price tickets are $75 but if you're under 35, take advantage of CST's $20 ticket program, perfect for students and young professionals (broke artists) such as myself.
Perhaps you'd like something a bit darker. If so, head on down to Profiles Theatre
(4147 N. Broadway) for some old-school Tracy Letts. Before starring in Steppenwolf's American Buffalo and winning a Pulitzer for August: Osage County, Tracy Letts found local success with his first play, the darkly comic Killer Joe. The show runs from January 14 to February 28. Tickets are $15 and can be purchased online or by calling their box office at 773-549-1815.
How about the next big thing? Young playwright Tarrel Alvin McCraney has been the talk of the theatre crowd for a few years now, and his unique voice is finally finding its way to Chicago. Opening January 21 and running through May 23, Steppenwolf Theatre will be presenting The Brother/Sister Plays , three interconnected pieces by McCraney presented over two nights (two are one-acts). Billed by Steppenwolf as "grand in scope, yet intimate and heartfelt," the plays promise a unique theatrical experience unlike any other you'll find in Chicago this winter. At this point, tickets are in the $40 range and can be purchased online or by calling the box office at 312-335-1650.
For many singers in today's culture, the title "diva" is tossed around ad nauseam; however, for world-renowned soprano Kathleen Battle, the title is beyond appropriate.
Miss Battle has a career that most opera singers can only dream of:
She has performed for presidents and world dignitaries, is a multi-Grammy winner, has sung with some of the world's leading orchestras and has performed with many of music's finest jazz and opera singers.
To celebrate the Christmas season, she will be performing in a holiday concert, accompanied by the Chicago Children's Choir. This ethnically and culturally diverse choir was founded during the Civil Rights Movement, with a charge to "combine high artistic standards with a social purpose." Since Miss Battle is widely recognized as the world's premiere African-American opera singer, this collaboration is most certainly symbolic and will undoubtedly have a special significance for the members of the choir.
Don't miss Kathleen Battle and the Chicago Children's Choir on Friday, Dec. 18 at the Harris Theater for Music and Dance, 205 E. Randolph. The concert is at 7:30pm; tickets are available at the box office. Contact the theatre at 312.334.7777 for more information.
There's a good chance that if you haven't already ceremoniously burnt them, you cringe in embarrassment anytime you think about what's within the pages of your adolescent journals. Thinking about your own 13-year-old angst may make your stomach turn, but hearing the pre-teen musings of others has the potential to be a fantastically entertaining event.
Tonight at the Beat Kitchen (2100 W. Belmont), the folks at "Mortified" present an evening of what they call "an excavation of adolescent writing, art and media". Performers will be delving into traumatic teenage territory all for the delight and amusement of the audience. Blue Ribbon Glee Club opens for the 8:30 show, with tickets available for pre-sale or at the door for $15.
It began the way a lot of Christmas plays do: several holiday-themed pajama clad performers running around the stage excitedly getting ready for Santa's visit. In The Ripettes' A Nightmare Before XXX-mas however, the ladies are wearing sequined pasties under their jammies and trying to kidnap Santa Claus to force him to listen to their wish lists.
Chicago's rich dance culture is already serious business, but "steppin," a ballroom-esque dance style that is uniquely "Chicago," is very serious business. It is so serious in fact, that those immersed in the culture see it more than just dancing--they see it as "a way of life."
Steppin (no "g" at the end) originated in Chicago and has grown nationwide. While it never really went away, it experienced a major resurgence with R&B singer R. Kelly's 2004 song, "Step In the Name of Love." It comes as no surprise then, that a stage play would be dedicated to the art form and its roots in Chicago culture.
Funeral is the third and final installation at the temporary alternative art space, Garage Spaces. Perhaps you remember the last one, Stolen, which received a lot of press. Funeral opens tomorrow, Friday, December 11 at 5pm and closes the same night at 10pm.
For Funeral, artists and curators Mike Bancroft and Evan Plummer will complete the series with a performance that poses a dialogue on the culture and commerce of death in contemporary America. Garage Spaces will be recreated as a funeral home/parlor to mourn the death of Garage Spaces. Viewers can participate in the performance, if they want, by communally mourning their losses in life.
Garage Spaces is located at 1337 North Maplewood Ave. Admission is free. Call 773-216-5580 for more information.
The Factory Theater is so thrilled to be mentioned in these illustrious pages (well OK, in these illustrious electronic zeroes and ones) that for one night only they're offering half price tickets for Gapers Block readers!
Use the code "gapers" on the checkout page for this Friday's performance of 1985 to see the show for the low, low price of $10! Act quickly though, this code will only work for the first 20 responders.
This annual celebration of the seasons is surrealistic and unconventional, in the Redmoon tradition, and promises to entertain folks of all ages.
The show is running through December 27 at Redmoon Central: 1463 W. Hubbard. Tickets are $15 for adults and $10 for seniors and kids under 10. Call 312-850-8440 for more information or visit Redmoon's website.
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.
Chemically Imbalanced Comedy brings a bit of dysfunctional seasonal cheer to their stage with "It Came Upon a Midnight Queen," written by CIC founder Angie McMahon and directed by CIC artistic associate Brian Kash. The tale of a young girl who wants to save her small Nebraska town from economic turmoil, and is determined to do so by staging a Christmas pageant that depicts the birth, life and death of Jesus Christ, as inspired by the music of Queen.
The show runs Fridays and Saturdays at 8 pm until December 19th at the Chemically Imbalanced Theater (1420 W. Irving Park Rd). Tickets are $15 and available at www.cicomedy.com or by calling the box office at 800-838-3006.
Cameron Esposito, whose flair for joke telling is bested only by her charm, is recording her first live comedy album, Grab Them Aghast, a title that she says illustrates her comedy style: a slow-burn punctuated by firecrackers.
A cornerstone of Chicago's comedy scene, Esposito was nominated for Best Female Comic at the 2008 Chicago Comedy Awards and was picked to appear at the 2009 Aspen Rooftop Comedy Festival. She's also a sort of a Yoda for bourgeoning female comics as the brains behind The Feminine Comique, a five-week course to help ladies discover and develop their standup skills.
Her live album recording will be hosted by Adam Burke, an agreeable jester in his own right and Esposito's regular co-host each Wednesday at Cole's Open Mic. Also coming to the table is Dizzy Lizzy Delicious, a delightful young woman who jumps around on a pile of razor-sharp broken glass.
Check out the live recording of Grab Them Aghast, produced by Rooftop Comedy Records, at 9pm Thursday and Friday at the Lincoln Lodge, 4008 N. Lincoln. Tickets are $10 for each night. Call 773-251-1539 or click here for more.
Last night's opening of South Pacific at the Rosemont Theatre was a tribute to American nostalgia; the costuming and set design were as striking as Carmen Cusak and David Pittsinger's portrayals of Ensign Nellie Forbush and Emile de Becque. If you like vintage clothes and choreographed musicals, this one's for you.
The last time I saw South Pacific onstage was at my sister's 1985 high school production, where I sat at rapt attention as the story of an army nurse from Little Rock and a mysterious Frenchman who met on an exotic island during Word War II unfolded before me, and has stayed with me ever since. The 1949 musical deals with race relations in a remarkably frank manner, as detailed in the song "You've Got To Be Carefully Taught," with lyrics like:
You've got to be taught to be afraid
Of people whose eyes are oddly made,
And people whose skin is a diff'rent shade,
You've got to be carefully taught.
Overweight people face many challenges; however, for overweight women, especially African-American women, the challenges tend to not only be greater, but also come with historical baggage.
Chicago native Erica Watson knows this all too well; a self-proclaimed "big, bold and beautiful" woman, this funny and fearless comedian and actress boldly tackles this issue in her hilarious one-woman show, Fat Bitch!
Acknowledging that "life is hard for fat girls with pretty faces," Watson doesn't deny her awareness about what people think or how they react when they see women who are overweight. She even shares various "insults disguised as compliments" that have been thrown her way; e.g., "You have such a pretty face" or "Can you cook?", which typically implies that people somehow feel obligated to say something nice to fat women. Watson is simply too confident to let this affect her and doesn't allow any limits to be placed on her because of her size.
Saturday night, director and performer Mae Phillips gathers her friends in the burlesque community for a night billed as "bizarre, theatrical, empowering burlesque". The event is queer-friendly, involves a wide variety of bodies and definitions of "sexy", and lots of crystal-covered tease. Plus it offers a few departures from the genre. Phillips has been around the burlesque block long enough to know what she wants in a good show, so there's no emcee, and instead between acts the stage will pop with snippets of vaudevillian performance or informative sex talk from the likes of Early 2 Bed.
It's such a cool idea: examine and evaluate "gift," from the action of giving, the circumstances in which we give, the feelings and motivations behind gift-giving and the impact a gift makes on the gift receiver.
G.I.F.T. brings audiences through a four-part interactive performance where you are the ensemble's client and the actors - "giftistas" - compile and evaluate your dreams, memories and hopes. The presentation of that analysis unravels into the many scenarios and outcomes (wanted and unwanted) of gift-giving.
See? It sounds cool. But I couldn't get behind it.
The audience involvement was at times awkward with these other-worldy giftistas. The actors certainly played each mini-scene well, portraying the emotions and the baggage that goes along with gifts. But the underlying dynamic of one young giftista being "ready" was lost on me. Whether it was because the beings were so other-wordly or because we never got a chance to empathize with them, I didn't find myself caring one way or another what happened to these giftistas or what I was supposed to get from them. The performance didn't bring me in and that is disappointing because, like I said, it is such a good idea.
Dress warmly. Much of the performance is outside, and the space inside is chilly.
G.I.F.T. runs through Nov. 29 on Fridays and Saturdays at Collaboraction's performance space at 1850 W. Hubbard. Tikets are $15-$25. Visit www.collaboraction.org or call 312-226-9633
Fin Kennedy came up with the idea for How to Disappear Completely and Never Be Found after stumbling across the UK missing persons website, which features a gallery of faces with brief descriptions of what they were last seen doing. Curious, he contacted the people behind the site, and they told him that most of these cases are not the products of abductions or murders. Instead, most of these people wanted to disappear. They wanted to start over. When he asked what sorts of people do this, they told him that a lot of them are young professionals--usually men in their late twenties, early thirties, with good jobs. Sure, maybe a little depressed, but they seemed to live relatively charmed lives. Kennedy based the protagonist of his play on this model. Charlie, (played by Carlo Lorenzo Garcia,) is an average man with short brown hair who wears a suit to work at an ad agency.
The directors of Home Gallery, in Hyde Park, have an exciting and interesting pilot event coming up called the Op Shop. The name refers to Opportunity Shop, and the idea here is to open a temporary space where artists can bring their work, as well as services and ideas, in order to barter, sell and openly exchange. I don't want to give the impression that this is a just retail space, although that is one aspect of what will happen within this space. Artists are being encouraged to be a part of this event organically, utilizing the space to create a dynamic and evolving installation. All mediums are welcome, so artists may host a workshop, lessons, or performances as well as sell paintings or sculptures.
Another aspect of this pilot project, which, if all goes well there will be more of, is to work in conjunction with property owners, bringing attention to their vacant spaces while helping to keep the Op Shop's costs down. This will also attract new consumers to an area and will aid in revitalizing neighborhood shops that may have seen a drop in sales over the past few months. This Op Shop will be located in a vacant space currently owned by Mac Properties in Hyde Park at 1613 E. 55th St.
If you are interested in participating in The Op Shop, you should contact the Laura Shaeffer immediately. They are also looking for people to donate time to help run the space during its open hours.
I'll be honest with you. I don't exactly know what the hell is going on. I just found out about this. It sounds pretty darn awesome, though. Apparently what is happening, right now, is a 24-hour decentralized art show all over our wonderful city, ending at midnight tonight.
The show is called "Something New." It was organized and curated by Nikola Tosic (an internet artist and poet based in Serbia) and Sarah Weis (multi-media artist, performer and creative director of i^3 hypermedia.) Check out this webpage to find out exactly what artwork is being shown today and where. The idea is basically to turn the whole city of Chicago into an art viewing space for one day, a sort of choose-your-own-adventure concept, relying heavily on the participation of the audience.
El Circo Cheapo is almost a year old and last Saturday, they performed two sold out shows in their Humbodlt Park performance space that doubles as their teaching space, the Aloft Loft. El Circo Cheapo is marketed as the poor man's Cirque de Soleil but that description does it no justice. It is a brazen and hilarious variety show with real heart for ten bucks a ticket. The founder, Shayna Swanson, explains why her life rules.
Where did the name come from?
The name was originally going to be The Narcissistic Circus Artist's Video Cabaret. El Circo Cheapo has a better ring. It's sort of tongue in cheek because there's this really pretentious trend towards using a foreign word for "circus". It's stupid and I wanted a really stupid name, but it ended up being awesome. What can you do?
Are there bigger things you hope to convey or accomplish with ECC?
Yeah, for sure. I want to have a super fancy circus dinner cabaret. I'm just waiting for millions of dollars to land in my lap--or a rich investor. But aside from that, I want to help people see circus as something real, rather than a freakish illusion.
What do Adam and Eve, out-of-control goth dolls, Etta James, multiple personalities, and Metallica have in common? Innervation Dance Cooperative has brought them all together in their upcoming dance concert, Our Own Devices. IDC's roots are in theater and contemporary dance, and the many choreographers and dancers come from wildly different backgrounds. These qualities always lead to an eclectic show, and the company's mainstays of narrative dancing and a high-energy, multi-layered aesthetic bring it all together. In this concert, each of the eight choreographers presents the audience with a different struggle and shows us what happens when groups and individuals are left to their "own devices." The subjects range from a comedic and sultry reinterpretation of Eve's relationship with the Snake, to the frustration, bliss, and heartbreak involved in pursuing a man, to a portrayal of a woman whose mind created multiple personalities to deal with childhood abuse, to goth-esque dolls running amok in the dollhouse. There are eye-opening moments of intensity and belly-shaking moments of comedy, thought-provocation and good times guaranteed.
Family members can be the hardest to love, but the easiest to hate, and performance pieces in The Happy Family Series explore those "harmonic antagonisms." Presented by The Magpies, the pieces all take their cues from P.T. Barnum's controversial American Museum exhibit, The Happy Family, originally sold as "a miscellaneous collection of predators and prey, living together harmoniously in one large cage, each of them being mortal enemy of every other, but contentedly playing and frolicking together, without injury or discord."
Curated by Shawn Reddy and emceed by H.B. Ward (aka "The Tamer"), the lineup showcases more than 30 artists in three weeks. Performances range from multi-media monologues to cabaret and country music to good old-fashioned acting. For a detailed list, click here.
Shows are Fridays and Saturdays at 7pm and Sundays at 3pm, Nov. 13 through Dec. 6 (except Thanksgiving weekend). Tickets -- $12 each or three shows for $30 -- are available from The Viaduct or at 773-296-6024.
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.
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.
Hip hop and James Brown aren't necessarily commonplace in the world of dance theatre, but thanks to choreographer Rennie Harris, "hip hop theatre" is here to stay.
Harris, the "ambassador of hip hop" and founder of the Rennie Harris Puremovement (RHPM) dance company, recently brought his unique style of dance theater from Philadelphia to Chicago.
Admittedly, I didn't quite know what to expect from Harris' "I Want You," part of the Giordano Jazz Dance Chicago's "Giordano: MOVE!" series that ran this past weekend at the Harris Theater for Music and Dance. When I learned the show would combine elements of "funk and street movement influenced by African dance and old school hip-hop," I was immediately intrigued.
It's allegorically similar to Dr. Victor Frankenstein's monster itself. Creative director Sean Graney and the Hypocrites analyzed a gothic tale of assorted interpretations, dissected it, and spread it across the Museum of Contemporary Art stage to be pieced together -and there's not one nose-bleed seat in the house.
The Hypocrites' Frankenstein revision, based on Mary Shelley's 1818 novel and the 1931 film starring Boris Karloff, has a haunted house-like promenade setup resulting in the actors weaving through the audience, up and around asymmetrically placed furniture and benches. So, everyone is sitting front-row. The performance does come with aforementioned caveats however: "You will be pointed to if you are in the way," actress Jessie Fisher says beforehand, "And we're going to try so hard not to get blood on you."
Robot vs. Dinosaur, a writer-centric improv ensemble that originated in New York and was brought to Chicago in 2007, is enjoying a run of their show: Mrs. Gruber's Ding Dong School, at Gorilla Tango Theatre. A series of sketches loosely based around a preschool classroom, the show opens strong but loses focus. The premise of a school as a reference point seemed unnecessary, and even the best sketches ran too long, losing steam before they ended.
Some genuinely funny moments were had, but if this show were a national holiday it would be Canada Day, not the 4th of July - no fireworks but plenty of sparklers, and a few standout roman candles in the forms of Erin Morrill, Andrew Kraft, and Anthony Ellison, who came across like younger versions of Amy Poehler, Will Ferrell and Bill Murray.
If you're looking for cheap drinks and entertainment this weekend, check out the Chicago League of Lady Arm Wrestlers competition on Saturday evening at The Spot (4437 N. Broadway). For $20 you can get access to the match and a two-hour open bar, or if you'd rather not take advantage of the open bar, there is a $5 suggested donation at the door.
Bet on your favorite wrestler and earn a chance to win some amazing raffle prizes, including theatre tickets, t-shirts, food, gift certificates, and more. The proceeds from the evenings will benefit Sideshow Theatre Company and the animal help organization New Leash on Life.
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.
The exhibit focuses on three American abstract artists from the 1940s through the 1980s.
Members of The Seldoms will accompany the pieces with three new dances that respond to the vibrant, abstract works.
The Oct. 9 reception starts at 6 p.m. and includes a post-show discussion and "Paint with a Dancer" that includes cocktails provided by the Violet Hour.
Tickets are $30 for the reception, which starts at 6 p.m. at the Loyola University Museum of Art at 820 N. Michigan Ave.
Mark your calendar for two other performances: Oct. 24 at 3 p.m. and Tuesday Nov. 3 at 6 p.m. Tickets for those are $6 and include museum admission and a post-show discussion. Visit www.theseldoms.org for more information.
If you enjoyed harassing cats as a child, you're going to love this. Samantha Martin, a Chicago based animal trainer, has created a feline circus in which cats begrudgingly perform tasks for treats. She has trained cats to jump through hoops, ride skateboards, and even play in a band, the RockCats. Martin and her Amazing Acro-Cats will perform Saturday, October 10 (2pm & 4pm) and Sunday, October 11 (1pm & 3pm), at Gorilla Tango Theatre, 1919 N. Milwaukee. Tickets are $12; to purrrchase tickets in advance, call (773) 598 4549 or visit the theater's website.
You couldn't find a better venue for Theater Oobleck's An Apology For the Course and Outcome of Certain Events Delivered by Doctor John Faustus on This His Final Evening than the lower level of the Chopin Theatre. From the comfort of an anteroom filled with overstuffed chairs and eclectic art, the audience waits and watches for the door of the theatre - a huge thing on rollers, to rumble open revealing a spare set of two chairs placed at a distance of about fifteen feet, facing each other, and two hanging lamps lighting the actors - Colm O'Reilly in the role of John Faustus, and David Shapiro as his servant of twenty-four years, Mephistopheles. There are only four rows of seating, two on either side of the set, limiting the choice of where to spend the next ninety minutes of your life to either: close to the stage, or even closer.
For a performance that combines dance, music and film, check out lions will roar, swans will fly, angels will wrestle heaven, rains will break: gukurahundi, playing at the Museum of Contemporary Art.
Featuring Nora Chipaumire (the dancer) and Thomas Mapfumo (the musician) and his band The Blacks Unlimited, lions will roar tells the story of two artists who collaborate to "use their impassioned voices to speak about living as Africans in an increasingly borderless world."
The production is at 7:30pm on Thursday, Oct. 1 and Saturday, Oct. 3; the Sunday, Oct. 4 show is at 3pm. Tickets are $25 for MCA members ($10 for students) and can be purchased online or by calling the MCA box office, 312.397.4010.
Have you ever wondered what Walter from The Big Lebowski (the angry Vietnam vet played by John Goodman) would look like wearing pasties? Well, how about if Walter were played by a burlesque professional by the name of Wham Bam Pam? Titillating, perhaps?
Norwegian music star Laarna Cortaan will make her American debut in September at an outdoor performance at Belmont Harbor.
Cortaan has partnered with Redmoon to produce Spectacle '09: Last of My Species, which starts Sept. 5.
The show will feature Cortaan, who is known for her "wild dance music," performing against a backdrop of Redmoon-engineered large-scale sets complete with a weather machine and an "impossibly tall ladder."
We told you about this last year, and now here's this year's opportunity to experience some of the best dance in the country. The Chicago Dancing Festival again brings together some of the biggest names in American dance, and all for us lucky Chicagoans to enjoy for free! The indoor performances this past Thursday and Friday "sold out" (you had to reserve your free ticket) incredibly far in advance, but there's no reservation required for this Saturday's show, which will showcase such heavy hitters as Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Lar Lubovitch Dance Company, and American Ballet Theater. Bring your picnic baskets and blankets and start camping out early because this is sure to draw an enormous crowd. Saturday, August 22, 7:30 p.m., Jay Pritzker Pavilion, Millennium Park.
In addition to the pinnacle event tomorrow night, if you're hanging out in Millennium Park during the day, you might get involved in the dancing yourself! Members of DanceWorks Chicago will be presenting Twyla Tharp's "interactive performance,"The One Hundreds. They will be teaching random park visitors a collection of 11-count movement phrases that use actions such as walking and throwing a ball. If you want to find them, here's their schedule: Saturday, August 22, 12:30pm Wrigley Square; 3pm Cloud Gate; 5pm on the lawn by Pritzker Pavilion.
The Chicago Sketch Comedy Festival will soon begin accepting applications for their 9th Annual festival which will take place this January. Applications are being accepted from August 15-October 15, and details and application forms are available at ChicagoSketchFest.com.
The Festival is in its ninth year, and as usual, will be showcasing both local and national acts, in addition to workshops, networking opportunities, children's programming and other special events.
A street corner stirs plenty of connotations, memories and meanings for any urban dweller.
LiveWire'sVisionFest 2009 takes this universal setting and presents six scenes, each with its own tone, energy and playwright.
We sit in on an awkward first date; we get to know a man who wants his wife killed because he can't face telling her he cheated; and (for a more local flavor) we cheer on two Oprah fanatics dance-battling to the front of the line at Harpo Studios.
If you're sick of fake-speaking in tongues to impress your fundamentalist friends at small group pot-lucks or anti-gay protests, look no further. The Best Church of God has come to save your soul from eternal damnation--and it's Boystown adjacent in case that doesn't take.
The church*, whose letterhead reads, "We read the bible, so you don't have to," returns to Chicago with a rapture-ready, apocalypse-retardant word of God starting Sunday, September 20th and will run through October at Lakeshore Theater, 3175 N. Broadway.
For ticket information on the critically acclaimed *religious satire Sunday services, visit BestChurchofGod.org. The "suggested tithing" is $10 and shows are "open to all of God's children--even the unborn."
You could describe it as "Dancing with the Stars" and the "The Price is Right" meets the American Kennel Club.
Local non-profit canine rescue shelter, The Dog Saving Network (DSN), has quite a show for Chicago this month, entitled, "Life's Ruff," packed with basketball-playing Beagles, trivia question-answering Australian Shepherds and a prize wheel-spinning Shar-Pei mix, to name a few. The "game show" style dog show had DSN training not only amateur dogs, but their owners as well--the goal being to show regular dog owners of Chicago the benefits of positive-reinforcement training.
The performances, set at the intimate Gorilla Tango Theatre, 1919 N. Milwaukee Ave., took DSN three months to train for as they rehearsed in parking garages and city parks all over the city. With a new reality-based dog show in the works to generate awareness, DSN hopes to develop a state-of-the-art "Rescue and Rehabilitation Center" to expand on their outreach programs and services.
"Life's Ruff," rated G for ages 5 and up, will be on Saturdays at 4 pm and 6 pm, August 15 - 29. Tickets can be purchased online or by phone: (773)598-4549.
Are you getting tired of people-watching at the corner sandwich shop? Have you exhausted the office-wide lunchtime debate over which bachelor(ette) is the skankiest? Throw a little culture into the mix and attend the Harris Theater's new performance series, Eat to the Beat. All they ask of you is $5, and you get to sit in the gorgeous theater and watch the crowd-pleasing DanceWorks Chicago's 45-minute performance. Performances will be September 15, November 17, and February 23, each starting at noon and running 45 minutes. My Witness, the September 15 performance, will be accompanied live by the Chicago-based folk group Sons of the Never Wrong, and followed by a Q&A session with the dancers and a mini-set by the Sons. The November and February shows promise to be equally collaborative and exciting. Certainly more exciting than taking bets on exactly how many days it will be before Ted in cube 4-135 throws his stapler against the wall again.
You can reserve a box lunch in advance and it will be waiting for you in the lobby, or you can bring your own lunch into the theater. And you don't even have to be sneaky about it!
$5 per performance or $10 for a subscription to the three-performance season. Click here or call 312-334-7777 for tickets. Sept. 15, Nov. 17, Feb. 23 at noon. Harris Theater for Music and Dance in Millennium Park, 205 E. Randolph Dr.
Tonight, About Face Theatre presents The Homo Show at Subterranean, an eclectic queer variety show with headliner Leslie and the LYs whose musical stylings bring dance music and DIY crafting together into one glue gun-wielding, stitch-happy dance party.
Show starts at 8pm, doors at 7:30, $15, 2011 North Ave.
In today's cash-strapped climate, trying to get some good cultural bang for your buck can be a daunting task. You can only second act "Jersey Boys" so many times, and after frequenting the Art Institute on one of its free days, sometimes it can feel as if you've exhausted your possibilities for artistic enlightenment. Enter emptywallet.org.
Empty Wallet bills itself as a catch-all for Chicago area free and pay-what-you-can art and performance events. The site hopes to, "encourage and enable a wider range of individuals to take part in and experience art in all forms," and though its still in its infancy, it boasts a rather comprehensive listing that includes listings that range from family events to acting master classes. The site separates listings by category, and also has a handy searchable calendar that lets you see events by date.
Are you a Doubting Thomas with a sharp tongue and a penchant for reilgious satire? If so, the Best Church of God may be looking for you!
The local sketch comedy group has been a favorite of audiences and critics alike, and they recently were part of Chicago's inaugural Just for Laughs festival. They're hoping to expand their congregation of writer/performers as they prepare to begin a run at the Lakeshore Theater. Audition information is below:
Auditions for Best Church of God
Monday, July 20th from 6-10pm
Location: The Theater Building at 1225 W Belmont Ave., Chicago, IL 60657
Call Backs: July 21st from 6-8pm at the Theater Building
Email resume to: auditions@BestChurchofGod.org
Best Church of God, the critically acclaimed, hard-hitting religious satire is adding ensemble members. You must have at least 1 year of improv and/or professional theater experience. Comedic writing skills a plus. Prepare two (2) contrasting 1-minute comedic pieces; at least one must be original. You may also prepare 30 seconds of a song (optional). Accompanist provided. Email resume (include any writing credits) and availability to secure a spot. BCOG will run Sundays at 1pm beginning September 6th at the Lakeshore Theater. No pay.
One of the bittersweet realities of the Chicago comedy scene is that there are constantly performers leaving Chicago looking for their big break. The usual path of migration typically involves a move out to LA or New York to find work, but for Devin Keast it meant moving to Michigan to become a hockey announcer. Though Keast may have spent most of his time at the mic talking about slapshots and penalties, his comedic background did not go to waste. This past season he wrote Sunshineface, his second attempt at a solo show. He will tour the show around the country, with stops at the Philadelphia and Kansas City Fringe Festivals, but his first stop is at The Playground this Friday, June 26, at 10 pm.
The Playrground is located at 3209 N. Halsted and tickets are $10. Reservations can be made online or by calling 773-871-3793.
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.
Tonight in Donny's Skybox at Second City, catch Cell Camp's fifth sketch review, "Social Graceless."
Cell Camp describes this review as, "a rip-roaring journey of mannerless anarchy. High stakes scenes take a turn for the worst when our routines and beliefs are thrown under the bus like a gay redheaded stepchild. It's a freakish romp through the perverse, awkward and unwell."
The Joffrey Ballet has begun their Spring Program, and the evening is all about human interaction. This is a fantastic program for the dance lover, and a healthy challenge for the novice. Of the four pieces presented on opening night, only one truly "took me away," but, as ever, the talent and freshness of the Joffrey coursed throughout the evening.
Joffrey's Winter Season included Nijinsky's Le Sacre du Printemps (see my comments on that masterpiece), and in their tribute to the Ballets Russes, it follows that they would put on his sister Irina Nijinska's historic work, Les Noces, set to music by Stravinsky. This ballet depicts an arranged marriage between a Russian peasant man and woman, and Nijinska wanted to "convey the injustices that Russian women had long endured in their primitive surroundings." The movement quality, as in Sacre, reinforces this un-cheerful sentiment. The dancers' feet are always parallel rather than turned out, and their bodies remain rigid. It's fascinating to watch Nijinska's philosophy at work: the body and choreography convey the emotions, while the face remains blank, and no "acting" is allowed. This is an important ballet to keep intact, an important ballet for modern audiences to be able to see, and when all of the elements worked together, they worked very well.
Next was Valses Poeticos, a piece for a couple choreographed by Helgi Tomasson, with Enrique Granados's piano accompaniment played masterfully by a soloist onstage.
Serendipity Theatre's 2nd Story Festival is on now, and as always, it involves great stories told over great wine on the second floor of Webster Wine Bar, 1480 W. Webster. The second week of the festival starts Thursday, April 30, with four pieces on the theme of "The Story I'll Never Tell." Performances run the 30th through May 2nd and May 7 through May 10. Here's a little taste of what you might expect:
Chicago Dance Crash is in the middle of their run of "Movement/Gentlemen," a dance concert series with nothing but ... men! While the vast majority of small to mid-sized dance companies in the city are weighted toward the lady dancers, CDC has managed to get together a bunch of powerful danseurs. And with their personal, in-the-round staging, their athletic combination of contemporary dance, hip-hop, ballet, and acrobatics, and a handful of "progressive choreographers," this show promises to be physical and in-your-face enough for even the most studly of dudes to appreciate.
Running every Friday (7:30pm), Saturday (7:30pm), and Sunday (3:00pm) from now through May 3. DCA Storefront Theater, 78 E. Washington St. Tickets are $22 at the door, $19 in advance, $17 for students and seniors. Click here to order tickets and to see some rockin' photos of the men.
You probably have plans after-work today to sit on a patio in the sun sipping mojitos, but what are you going to do when the sun goes down?
Perhaps you should hit up the Schadenfruede Rent Party. Tonight at Gallery Cabaret (2020 N. Oakley, Bucktown), for only $10, the local comedy group will host an evening of (free) food, (cheap) booze, and (plentiful) laughter. Doors open at 8pm, and the show starts at 9pm, featuring Lola Balatro, Ken Barnard, Eric Zorn, and Seth Weitberg (host of the Chicago Sessions, which we love).
In an arena that seems dominated by pudgy white men, the sketch and improv scene will soon have two Latino comedy ensembles performing in Chicago.
The Chicago Improv Festival (which runs April 13-19th) will host a Latino showcase at the National Museum of Mexican Art on April 17th and 18th.. This showcase will feature Los Aztecas del Norte, an improv group whose Mexican-American members will improvise a complete show in Spanish. So if you like to laugh and you also happen to speak Spanish (Yo solamente hablo un poquito...) I'd recommend checking them out!
If you like to laugh and don't speak Spanish (or even if you do), then perhaps you could check out Salsation's latest production, "Bank of A-mattress-ca: GhettoDog Millionaire". This production opens April 18th and runs at the Gorilla Tango Theatre. This show is described as offering, "a comedic look into the everyday lives of people who delve into issues such as crime, sexuality, and the challenges found in the workplace while hoping to stay afloat in today's economy." You can purchase tickets through the Gorilla Tango website.
You get a call from your Uncle Larry. He's in town for a conference out at O'Hare. He calls and asks what he can do for kicks without straying too far from his hotel. You doubt he wants to see Britney Spears at AllState Arena, and Jesus Christ Superstar at the Rosemont Theatre isn't really his bag either. Uncle Larry is a pretty funny guy, so you think he might like to check out a comedy show, but there aren't any good ones out by O'Hare...or are there?
In a partnership with the Hotel InterContinental Chicago O'Hare, local improv comedy theatres The Annoyance and Comedy Sportz are providing weekly shows out for audiences by O'Hare.
The Annoyance performs "Un-Tied" Fridays at 8:00 pm while ComedySportz performs their main stage show Saturdays at 8:00 pm.
The Hotel InterContinental Chicago is located at 5300 N. River Road in Rosemont.
Broadway vet. World traveler. Winner of the GOLDIE award, National Poetry Slam champion, and featured artist on Russell Simmons' Def Poetry for two seasons in a row. Oh yeah - he's also a former teacher of high-school English. It would seem that dancer/poet/playwright/choreographer Marc Bamuthi Joseph has done it all. This weekend, he'll be doing it all at the MCA, where he is performing his latest project, the break/s, an international hip-hop diary which combines spoken word, live music, and outstanding dance. Joseph was recently kind enough to take some time off from a sound check and answer just a few questions for GB.
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.
Every March the nation's coolest kids head to Austin, TX for South by Southwest, a series of film, interactive, and music festivals and conferences where the newest emerging artsists and technologies are showcased. This year, two of Chicago's own will be heading down for the SXSW Film Festival, where their short film will be presented. Teenager of the Year, also known as Joe Avella and Tim Racine, made Scatterbrained!, which will be shown as part of the "Midnight Shorts" series.
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.
Want a circus without all the animal cruelty and screaming children? Then check out the El Circo Cheapo Cabaret this Saturday at the Aloft Loft. Marvel at the high wire antics and flexibility of the cabaret's jugglers, acrobats, and trapeze artists, including the Circo Cheapo's first ever tightwire act and a trapeze act by a 5-year-old "future Russian circus star."
And if you find yourself wishing you could fly through the air with the greatest of ease, the Aloft Loft offers beginner trapeze and aerial conditioning classes for just $35 a session (cheaper if you commit to a regular schedule).
There are two performances this Saturday, at 7 and 10pm. Both are $10 and tickets are available online. More information in Slowdown.
I don't want to tell you what to do, but you would be wise to check out Michael Pizza, playing tonight at The Playground (3209 N. Halsted) at Midnight. Michael Pizza is Ben Kass, Eric Christensen, Josh Logan and Brett Elam. They're a fairly new group, but they play like they've been together for years and years. They bring the funny, and they bring a lot of it. There are three shows left in their run at The Playground, so if you can't catch them tonight, you have two more chances. Tickets are $5 and The Playground is BYOB.
The Joffrey Ballet's Winter Season opened last night, and the audience managed to get through the whole show without attacking each other in the aisles. ... More on that in a moment.
The program begins with "Kettentanz" (choreographed by Gerald Arpino, music by Strauss and Mayer), a ballet inspired by the social dances of Vienna. While the light, tripping steps might look like your stereotypical, charming ballet, it's impossible to forget that these dancers are athletes. If you watch carefully, you'll notice that the piece is a 30-minute-long race with hardly a break for these smiling, poised dancers who throw in a hearty feeling of camaraderie while making the intensely hard work look effortless.
Next up is "Mobile" (choreographed by Tomm Ruud, music by Khachaturian), which absolutely succeeds at recreating Calder mobiles with nothing more than a man, two women, and three white unitards. This isn't quite Cirque du Soleil, but even when the man isn't supporting the two women who are holding themselves at right angles to his body (wow!), the lighting, costumes, and shapes are full of the tension and energy that occurs when three individuals act as a unit.
The third piece is "Hand of Fate," the pas de deux from the Balanchine ballet Cotillon (music by Chabrier). I can't believe I'm saying this about the great Balanchine, but the dance, although executed beautifully, was more or less forgettable. Especially considering what came next.
Of course, the reason most of the audience was there was for Le Sacre du Printemps ("The Rite of Spring"), Vaslav Nijinksy's 1913 ballet that revolutionized the dance world.
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.
If you haven't seen The Wooster Group, they're in Chicago this week only, waiting for your sweet little eyes to pop open wide at their interpretation of Eugene O'Neill's The Emperor Jones. Based in New York, this ensemble has influenced theater companies around the nation (including our hometown Neo-Futurists) with their carefully calibrated anarchy and their smart mixture of low-tech/high-concept/anything goes/yes even that too. The production is part of the Goodman's O'Neill festival, which continues into the spring.
Red Tape Theatre is sponsoring a gathering of fringe artists in January. Artists of all media are encouraged to submit a proposal. The goal: conversation and networking amongst artists -- it's lonely out there on the fringe.
According to Red Tape:
The theatre will be transformed into a series of intimate spaces that have interactive activities, art and are great for lounging. Guaranteed to be a fun, sexy, and kind of grungy event, performances will flow in and out of each other throughout the night.
You have absolutely no excuse for not seeing some fabulous local dance companies perform this month. For the 14th year, the overwhelmingly enormous Dance Chicago festival provides Chicagoans the opportunity to see 130 companies perform 300 works over a four-week span. And this weekend is your first chance.
You can go for the full monty and get a season package, or you can pick and choose from the conveniently categorized programs. For instance, if you want to see the cutting edge of Chicago's dance scene, try the New Moves concert or the Fringe Carnival. If you're looking for a great date night, try the evening of partner acts, Dance Romance. Can't get enough urban dancing? It's all in one place in the Chicago Streets program. There are programs for kids, programs full of jazz, and even a Dance Slam. Seriously, if you can't find something that tickles your fancy, don't blame the festival!
Dance Chicago runs from 11/7 to 11/30. All shows are at the Athenaeum Theatre, 2936 N. Southport. Tickets range from $99 for a full season package to $15-$25 per performance, with lots of other package options in between. Go to the website for tickets, or call 773-935-6860.
The Chicago Humanities Festival co-presents Train Time: A Sound Installation at the Jay Pritzker Pavilion. The installation evokes the lakefront's former life as a train yard and incorporates the sounds of past, present and future railroading. The clank of wheels over rail ties, the hiss of boilers and diesel engines, and the call of train whistles are just a few elements of this sound portrait by Experimental Sound Studio. Composed by Olivia Block, Shawn Decker, Ryan Ingebritsen and Lou Mallozzi, Train Time: A Sound Installation ran last weekend and will be on schedule for November 8th and 9th from 10am to 10pm. It's free to the public.
One night in the winter of 2006, musician Matthew Golombisky had just finished playing a show with The Other Planets at Sylvie's Lounge. Golombisky is a composer and a jazz bassist, with dual clef tattoos spanning the length of both of his forearms. As he and his band mates, all natives of New Orleans transplanted to Chicago when Hurricane Katrina tore through their city, packed their equipment into their van, one of his musician friends was casually drinking a can of beer on the street outside of the lounge.
In New Orleans, the city of Bourbon Street and Mardi Gras beads, laws concerning open alcohol containers aren't quite as strict, but Chicago police don't take kindly to such activity. Accordingly, a police officer slapped Golombisky's unsuspecting band mate with a $250 ticket that landed all of the musicians in a financial pickle. Thanks to quick thinking and an offer from Sylvie's to play a fundraiser show on December 10th to recoup the fine, Golombisky's annual ears&eyes Festival was inadvertently born.
With two and a half weeks to plan and an ambitious mixed-media goal in mind, Golombisky slapped the festival of friends, musicians, and artists together. In the process, he cemented an artists' community that had rotated around the eyes&ears record collective. Musicians from all over the nation play in a lineup that increases each year; meanwhile, visual art is projected on the walls throughout the venue. In bringing together musicians who know one another and play together in varying arrangements, while also meshing aural art with visual art, the eyes&ears Festival's themes of convergence and connectivity set the tone for the festival -- not to mention the eyes&ears recording collective.
If there's such a thing as a "Dance Season" in Chicago, we're in the thick of it. So pull out your calendars and start planning the rest of your October around some of these incredible dance viewing opportunities. And this isn't even to mention (yet) the dozens of shows coming up in November!
Chicago's premiere ballet company, the Joffrey Ballet begins its Fall Repertory tonight. (10/15-10/26)
And speaking of the Athenaeum, please excuse the brief foray into November, but tickets are now available for the 14th annual massive dance festival Dance Chicago (11/7-11/30). I'm sure I'll have more to say on this topic, but check out their website. Your old favorites are here, as well as new programs galore!
Hubbard Street Dance Chicago (HSDC) kicked off its 2008-2009 season with its Fall Series this past weekend. HSDC is providing Chicago four opportunities to see them at their home at the Harris Theater, so even if you missed the Fall Series, you have plenty more chances, and you really must see how these dancers move their bodies.
I imagine working with HSDC dancers must be a choreographer's dream. Refreshingly, there is no unifying body type in this company, no unifying personality; clearly, these dancers are permitted to be themselves. But there is an aesthetic of strength -- the kind of strength that allows for the appearance of physical abandon while maintaining complete control -- that runs through every dancer and every bit of choreography I've seen from Hubbard.
The Chicago Actors' Studio, one of the Midwest's most prestigious actor training institutions, understands that starving artists don't always have the money in their budget to improve their craft. That's why the organization gave away dozens of classes last year and hopes to offer even more freebies for performing arts students this year.
On Sunday, November 16th, the CAS will hold a fundraiser to support those scholarship efforts. In addition to fundraiser staples of raffles and silent auctions, you'll have the opportunity to do some performing of your own on the karaoke stage. There will also be free beer for all attendees, starving or not.
Admission is $15 at the door, $12 in advance, and $10 for performers with headshots and resumes. All of the proceeds from the evening will benefit the scholarship program.
Chicago is home to so many modern dance companies that it can sometimes get overwhelming. Thank goodness for Chicago Moving Company's OTHER Dance Festival. CMC has both the artist and the audience in mind in providing a venue for local modern dancers, and a one-stop-shop for dance lovers to see 16 companies on one stage over three weekends. Forgive the late notice, but tonight and tomorrow are your last chance this year, so be sure to get on out there and take a look at some local artists. Who knows, maybe you'll find your favorite little Chicago company!
Thursday (10/2) and Friday (10/3), 7:30 p.m., $15 ($12 students/seniors), Hamlin Park Fieldhouse Theater, 3035 N. Hoyne. Click here for tickets or call BrownPaperTickets at 800.838.3006.
In Lifeline Theatre's production of The Picture of Dorian Gray -- a world premiere of the adaptation by Robert Kauzlaric from Oscar Wilde's novel -- the eponymous character (played by Nick Vidal, pictured here, left, with the elder Lord Henry [Sean Sinitski]) manages to stay forever young by sloughing off the painful consequences of his many and increasingly detestable sins onto a painting of himself. Everyone around him ages, and everyone he touches is drawn into "the depths of depravity," but he remains unchanged. It seems that in such a story, the audience must be fascinated with Dorian, but I found myself focusing on everyone but. I left the theater feeling that the play was an extraordinary success, but I never felt Dorian's charisma, which is really the linchpin of the story. In theory, nothing makes sense without understanding the world's unshakable adoration of Dorian Gray; but Lifeline certainly pulled through.
In the auditorium of the MCA, I'm literally on the edge of my seat. I want desperately to leave -- and it's because the presentation is so good. Environmental advocate and attorney Robert F Kennedy Jr. is giving the most dynamic talk I've ever seen. He has actually lost his voice and is croaking out every syllable, but the whole place is hanging on his every word about the pillaging of America's forests and rivers. And he's so convincing that I can't believe we're all sitting in this auditorium instead of leaping to our feet and throwing our bodies in front of the nearest strip-mining operation or mercury-spewing factory.
This feeling of inspiration and, well, wanting to sprint out of the auditorium and make some change happen, permeated the entirety of the Cusp conference, held over two days last week at the Museum of Contemporary Art. Ostensibly about "the design of everything," it was really a super collider for innovative, creative thought, bringing genius-y over-achievers from all sectors to deliver their wisdom to the assembled masses.
Bryan Anderson, an Iraq war veteran who lost three limbs (yes, three limbs) spoke about his new state-of-the-art microprocessor-controlled appendages and about how, thanks to a relentless determination to pursue his dreams, he's now a movie stunt man. Paul Jenkins spoke about growing up poor in England, landing in Times Square in his early 20s, and falling in with the guys who started the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles - and that's just the prelude to his career as the writer of the Spiderman comic books. Journalist Quinn Norton presented how she hacked her own body, getting an implant of a tiny magnet in her middle finger that allowed her to sense electromagnetic fields. Paul Polak advocated designing for the "other 90%" of the world's population, creating cheap but innovative devices for the third world, like water pumps that can significantly increase the output of crops for a small farmer. Plus a whole lineup of other rockstar mover/shakers. And then there was the Robert F. Kennedy Jr. speech that brought the whole place to its feet.
The conference was sponsored by design firm SamataMason, and in talking to some of the designers from the firm, I got the sense that it became a passion project for all involved. No wonder. The whole place thrummed with an enthusiasm that even the most jaded design hipster couldn't deny. Tickets are pricey. This year's conference was about $1,700 a ticket. But if you can get your employer to foot the bill, or if you've got extra rainy-day cash that you want to spend on pure inspiration, sign up for next year's event.
(*This post's author co-produces Chicago Underground Comedy.)
Every Tuesday at 9:30pm, the Beat Kitchen (2100 W. Belmont) takes a break from the rock and punk bands that grace the stage every other night of the week to host Chicago Underground Comedy, an independent artist-produced stand-up showcase featuring Chicago's best and brightest alternative stand-up comedy talent. It's a lot of smart funny for only $5.
The show began several years ago with 16 core cast members, but few of those original comedians remain. The group is constantly refreshed with up-and-coming new talent, as every few months, another comedian leaves the training ground of Chicago for New York or L.A.
Among the show's current cast members, favorite guests, and returning ex-pats are an impressive tally of credits: new writers for Saturday Night Live, new cast members on MADtv, and performances on Comedy Death Ray, Comedy Central's Premium Blend and Live at Gotham, the Craig Ferguson Show, Last Call With Carson Daly, and more.
Highlight video from May and more photos from last Tuesday's Chicago Underground Comedy show after the jump!
We could get into a long conversation on the subject of why I'm not usually drawn to dance that promises to "de-mystify" and "de-titillate" the "objectification of women." But when Breakbone DanceCo promises to mock themselves, mock a lot of the heavy-handed social commentary out there, and encourage the audience to laugh during this de-titillation, my interest is piqued. The "De-evolution of MUDWOMAN (an evening of dance exile, fashion, and humor)" begins with a "superficial poptart diva"--representing today's female role models--who de-evolves into the primordial female, complete with head-to-toe mud. The show is filled with entertainment, including a couture fashion show and videography, and is punctuated by commentary from three "expositors" who critique the goings-on throughout the evening.
Breakbone uses a unique, athletic style, and the MUDWOMAN choreography explores a movement-as-language standpoint with diverse sources, from sign language to "primal body posturing" to more standard dance techniques. The concert features work by award-winning choreographers Colleen Halloran and Atalee Judy, and former Hubbard Street Chicago dancer Cheryl Mann.
So if you want to participate in a high-energy and humorous journey toward the appreciation of the female form in its "most beautiful, raw, and primal state," go check out Breakbone at the Viaduct Theater, 3111 N. Western Ave., Chicago. It's running for two more weeks: August 28, 29, 30, and September 4, 5, 6, all shows at 9:00. $18 ($15 students and seniors). Click here for tickets or visit Breakbone's website for more information.
Walking by St. Paul's Cultural Center on North Avenue, it's hard not to notice the steady stream of bike messengers decked out in brilliantly pink attire flowing in and out of the cathedral basement. Ducking in, a voice booms out from the back:
"WELCOME TO PINK! ARE YOU FAMILIAR WITH OUR SERVICES?"
Created by Austin artist Jaclyn Pryor, Pink: A (Love) Courier Service is a community-based, interactive art installation that encourages Chicagoans to share their love with one another through hand typed, hand delivered love letters delivered around Chicago by an army of pedaling volunteers.
"I wanted to create something that engaged people in an unexpected way," says Pryor, who first began the service as a public art project in 2006. "People go to museums and decide they want to see this or that, and it's very one-sided. I wanted to get people involved without their knowing it, as well as to encourage communication and expression."
The expressions are loud and clear: participants sending off their love letters hook their messages up to a revolving clothesline and, with the aid of a jumpsuited "Lovefactory" worker, scream out "LOVE ON THE LINE!" as their typed letter is sent down to be bottled, bowed and biked out to its lucky recipient.
The 85 volunteers who keep Pink running work in full view of the visitors, hand sewing tags and mapping out routes as the Lovefactory churns along. "I wanted people to see the process behind the product," says Pryor, who is known as Heffi McHefferson while on duty. Core members work about five days a week, though residing at the Cultural Center can make it difficult for factory workers to remove themselves from the environment. "We checked out sixty poetry books from the Chicago Public Library," says Pryor, "but now there are only fifty-seven...we really needed to get ourselves some movies."
"It's pink everywhere, always," says messenger Tuesday, nee Emily Jantzen, part of the core Austin group working and living at the Lovefactory. "I love it, though. I've gotten some interesting reactions from people, going out in my jumpsuit trying to find local businesses willing to support us. Riding in elevators in these outfits has been particularly fun. Chicago's been pretty receptive to us, though. It's been great."
With only one day left before the Lovefactory closes up shop, Pink was still taking on volunteers, training newbie Untitled 2008 (Whitney) at 5:00pm on Thursday afternoon. "They found me at the farmer's market in Logan Square," she says, pulling on a hot pink vest and smiling for her courier headshot. "All I could think was, oh, I want to do this."
Pink: A (Love) Courier Service will be open from 11am - 10pm tomorrow, after which it will close its doors to Chicago - but not before a massive potluck dinner, to which any and all are invited. Bring a dish, open your heart and share the love as fast as you can - Pink is here to help you put your love on the line.
Pink is stationed at the St. Paul's Cultural Center, 2215 W North Ave. Hours at 11am - 10pm. Potluck dinner will take place on Friday, August 15th. Bring a dish, share the love.
There are so many opportunities to see dance in Chicago, but the Chicago Dancing Festival really stands out. As if by magic, the Chicago Dancing Company pulls together some of the country's most renowned dance companies and presents them to the Chicago public for free. No strings attached. The founders of CDC believe that "good dance cultivates more dance," and that a free performance of some of the best dancing out there will create a greater audience for the art form. Regardless of the philosophy, get out there and take advantage of the opportunity!
The first night of this three-night festival is already sold out (er, "reserved out"), although there's a way to get stand-by vouchers. It just might be worth it, since some of the greatest dance companies in U.S. history (including the Limon Dance Company and the Martha Graham Dance Company, as well as Chicago's own Joffrey Ballet) are performing on the same stage. Monday, August 18, 7:30 p.m., Harris Theater for Music and Dance, 205 E. Randolph Dr. (See link above for stand-by vouchers.)
If you're interested in learning about the origins of modern dance from some people who would really know what the heck they're talking about (imagine learning physics from Einstein's #1 student), reserve your spot for Artists Up Close, where dancers and the respective artistic directors of the Limon and the Martha Graham Dance companies will present a multimedia lecture and demonstration exploring the birth of modern dance. Tuesday, August 19, 6 p.m., Museum of Contemporary Art, 220 E. Chicago Ave. Call 312-397-4010 for reservations.
On the third and final night, "A Celebration of American Dance" in Millennium Park is an evening of performances by some fantastic companies, including the American Ballet Theater (performing the Black Swan pas de deux from Swan Lake--you can't get any better than that), Chicago's Hubbard Street Dance, and Muntu Dance Theater. It's not often you get the opportunity to see all of this dancing in one night, for free, while taking advantage of the best part of Chicago summers: sitting outside with your friends and a bottle of (ahem) grape juice with the skyline rising above you. Wednesday, August 20, 7:30 p.m., Pritzker Pavilion, Michigan Ave. and Randolph St. No reservations necessary, but get there early for a good spot!
WNEP Theater's latest venture, Metaluna and the Amazing Science of the Mind Revue will inject some good old-fashioned Dada into your buttoned-up, nailed-down, over-scheduled world. It's written by Joe Janes, a Chicago writer and teacher, and (while a plot summary is pretty much impossible) it's based around a European Dada troupe's psychological experiments on an unwitting group of small-town folk. If you're unfamiliar with the concept of Dada, here's Joe's list of how to add a little Dada to your own life.
Last night, theater boosters gathered for a meeting to discuss a potential performing arts museum here in Chicago. In case you missed out on the action, Don Hall gives a quick round-up of the meeting on his blog and says most talks centered on finding funding rather than on making sure it's a museum that Chicagoans are actually interested in. Background here.
Some people watch a dance performance and wonder what it would be like to be on stage. And some people take it a step farther. Open House Dance Collective, a division of HouseHold Arts Collective, invites community members--regardless of training or skill level--to come rehearse with professional choreographers. They perform professionally every summer, and this weekend's "OHD 5" is this year's culmination.
The Collective has been successful for five years running--increasing the number of dancers from 30 in '04 to 70 in '07. Their shows keep on sellin' out, which is fantastic since a portion of the proceeds always go to charity. This aligns with the dual mission of HouseHold Arts: to bring Chicago artists together, and to use that art as a vehicle to educate audiences and further the causes of local charities. "OHD 5" will benefit Inspiration Cafe, which provides restaurant-style meals, life skills training, case management, and other services at their Uptown location to help men and women overcome the causes of their homelessness.
Want to come see your neighbors-cum-professional dancers? You'll also get to see an appearance by Jump Rhythm Jazz Project. Shows continue tonight and tomorrow at 8:00 p.m. at the Vittum Theater, 1012 N. Noble St., Chicago. Tickets are $15, and reservations are highly recommended. Click here or call 773-342-4141.
Performance and installation artist Sara Schnadt -- whom we featured in a March 2008 Q&A -- has been invited to show her piece "Connectivity" at the Sea Arts Festival at the Busan Biennale, held Sept. 6-Nov. 15 in Busan, South Korea. Schnadt will install and perform her piece during the first two weeks of September.
In early June, a blog by Albert Williams at The Chicago Reader asked: "Why can't Chicago have a performing arts museum?" And about a bajillion commenters responded with, "Dude. YES! We should have a performing arts museum!" Well, that's paraphrasing. But the response was overwhelmingly positive, and the Chicagoland Theater and Dance Foundation was born. Their mission: "Fund the preservation of Chicago's rich and diverse performing arts history, with the specific goal of developing a performing arts museum and archive in downtown Chicago." The first meeting of like-minded supporters takes place on Monday, August 4th at 7 p.m., The Mercury Theater. Details here.
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.
Links Hall, one of Chicago's long-standing dance and performance hubs, still has openings for some of its summer intensive workshops:
SITI Company Suzuki and Viewpoints Intensive
Mondays-Fridays, July 7-18, 9:30am-1:30pm; $595
Or, check out:
One-day intro to Suzuki and The Viewpoints Method with SITI Company; Saturday, July 12, 10am-2pm; $40
The New York-based SITI Company comes to Links Hall to facilitate a one-day introduction and a two-week intensive workshop in the physical vocabularies and basic theories of two distinct methods of actor training, the Viewpoints and the Suzuki Method. The Suzuki Method is a rigorous physical and vocal discipline designed to focus the perceptive abilities and powers of the human body. The Viewpoints is a technique of improvisation that grew out of the post-modern dance world. For details or registration for either workshop, call Links Hall at 773-281-0824 or e-mail email@example.com.
Charged Bodies/Borders: A Solo Performance Intensive with Tim Miller
Monday-Thursday, July 21-24, 1pm-5pm; Saturday, July 26, 11am-3pm; Student Performance Sunday, July 27, 7pm; $150
Renowned performance artist, writer and teacher Tim Miller explores modes of movement and performance-making. The workshop will culminate in an ensemble-generated piece and will be performed in conjunction with Miller’s own solo performance. For more on Tim Miller, see hometown.aol.com/millertale. Call Links Hall at 773-281-0824 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org for details or to register.
Women & Children First in Andersonville, one of the nation's oldest and largest feminist bookstores, is looking for: "provocative lesbian-identified queer artists and scholars to present their work at our new, monthly Sappho's Salon series. We're looking for poets, writers, spoken word artists, comedians, visual artists with slides who can talk about their work, queer academics with provocative lectures, queer burlesque performers, musicians, performance artists, filmmakers and/or others we haven't thought of. Sappho's Salon will occur from 7 to 9 on the third Saturday of every month." For more info, see the salon's MySpace page.
Every once in a while, Chicago Dance Crash holds a "Battle for the Belt" in which dancers battle it out to earn the title of Keeper of the Floor (KTF), complete with an enormous gold-plated ("forty pounds of gold") Championship Belt. Of course, the whole thing is more or less tongue-in-cheek, but this is a great chance to see some fantastic dancers improvising in styles as diverse as ballet, tap, and breaking. This is a high-energy competition where the audience picks the favorite. Check out CDC's performance footage to get a taste.
If you've ever wondered about artists' creative process, if you enjoy watching great dancing and cutting-edge choreography--or if you're the type of person who relishes the opportunity to say, "Yeah, I knew about that way before it became so popular, ugh!"--then you'd best be heading over to the Dance Center of Columbia College Chicago this weekend. Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, one of our city's most popular dance companies, will be putting on its annual "Inside/Out" Choreographic Workshop Performance, an evening of works-in-progress that could eventually become part of the company's repertoire.
Every year, HSDC offers its dancers the opportunity to set choreography on their compatriots, and these dancers-turned-choreographers have created several of of today's fan favorites. (And I must say from personal experience, it does feel snarkily good to sit in the theater a couple months later to see a World Premiere that you saw in its infancy at "Inside/Out.") Of course, regardless of the works-in-progress nature of the evening, this is still Hubbard Street, so you know you're going to see a high-quality, accessible performance. They sold out last year, so be sure to reserve your seat!
June 6 @ 8:30, June 7 @ 6:00 and 8:30, Dance Center of Columbia College Chicago, 1306 S. Michigan Ave. $20 general admission ($35 reserved section). To guarantee your seats, call 312-850-9744 (ext. 166), or visit the website for an order form.
I bet you didn't know that you missed National Tap Day. No kidding. Check out the U.S. Joint Resolution. The holiday was officially on May 25, the agreed-upon birthday of Bill "Bojangles" Robinson. (If you've never seen the master at work, you've been missing out.) The supporters of the bill that brought National Tap Day into being have likened tap dancing to jazz music as far as its contribution to the national cultural and artistic heritage.
There was already one big celebration here in Chicago last weekend, put on by the Chicago Human Rhythm Project. But never fear! There's still plenty of hoofin' going on this Saturday at the Old Town School's National Tap Day Festival. Tappers from Chicago and beyond will be on stage, including grand marshals Reggio “The Hoofer” McLaughlin and nonagenarian tap man Ernest “Brownie” Brown.
May 31, 8 p.m., Gary and Laura Maurer Concert Hall, 4544 N. Lincoln Ave. Tickets are $20 ($18 for Old Town School members; $16 for students and seniors) and can be purchased via the box office (773.728.6000) or on the Web.
If you like the idea of ballet, but get a little squeamish by Act II of those classical "masterpieces," then Elements Contemporary Ballet might be just what you're looking for. Mike Gosney, the founder and artistic director of this Chicago company, has been creating dance that is truly ballet (the ladies wear pointe shoes, the movements come from a ballet vocabulary), yet truly contemporary (hey, ballerinas aren't supposed to stick out their hips like that!) since the company's inception three years ago.
This weekend, ECB presents its Spring Concert, featuring premieres of "Baroque Compositions" (set to Bach) and "Angel," as well as performances of some of the company's repertoire. A reception (free and open to the public) will follow the Saturday show, and will include an opportunity to meet the dancers, staff, and board of ECB, a wine and cheese tasting, and a raffle. Performances are May 23 and 24, 7:00 p.m. at the Ruth Page Center for the Arts, 1016 N. Dearborn. $17.50 general admission ($15 students and seniors). Click here for tickets, or call the box office at 312-337-6543.
This weekend and next, you'll get the chance to see some acrobatic dancers create a story in the air using ... giant lampshades. And picture frames and clotheslines and boots, oh my! Aloft Aerial Dance presents The Dinner of our Discontent, in which they tell the story--which "veers from heartbreaking to hilarious"--of five estranged sisters returning home after the sudden deaths of their parents. The company has spent some time in China since their last full-length show, and they picked up some tricks from Chinese acrobats who make use of every-day objects to create their art.
The show is May 16-18 and 23-25, 8:00 p.m. at the Aloft Loft, 941 N California Ave. (down the alley, in the back). Go to Brown Paper Tickets for...well...tickets at $20-$30.
As a side note--if you've ever wanted to join the circus but don't want to leave Chicago, you can learn how to be a trapezist right here! Check out the Aloft Loft for all the classes Aloft has to offer.
If our earlier coverage of the Event Promoters’ Ordinance here and here hasn’t scared you into contacting your local representative to protect live music, consider this: the law will also affect those producing and promoting live theater. Save Chicago Culture points out that if the ordinance passes our vibrant performance community may dwindle to Wicked and Jersey Boys. Please help prevent that dystopian image from ever becoming a reality by contacting your alderman and asking him or her not to support the law. It worked last time!
On the first Thursday of the next three months, dance critic Lucia Mauro will be hosting the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs series "About Dance," now in its fourth year. Each event in the series will feature a performance by a local choreographer or dance company, accompanied by a discussion with Mauro about that performer's artistic process. This month's contribution is sure to be entertaining. Matthew Hollis will perform "Let's Go Love!" in which he utilizes modern dance and his faux-self-help technique, the Power of Cheer (as in cheerleading) to pick apart and celebrate everything that is Love.
All of this entertainment is FREE at 6:00 p.m. on Thursday, May 8, at the Chicago Cultural Center's Dance Studio, 78 E. Washington St. For more information, call 312-744-6630.
In keeping with the company's goals of inspiring "new perceptions of movement," Inaside Chicago Dance has created an evening of dancing inspired by the drip period of Jackson Pollock's artwork. In the Painting will be a "multimedia dance experience," beginning with a short film by Pedro Brenner (Inaside's photographer and award-winning film director) about Pollock's life and art, and continuing with choreographed works that include a multimedia element.
May 2 @ 8:00, May 3 @ 2:00 & 8:00. Ruth Page Center for the Performing Arts, 1016 N. Dearborn. $20 general ($15 student/dancer/senior). Purchase tickets at the Ruth Page box office (312.337.6543).
If your daydreams resemble Fame, then Open House Dance Collective might help you turn your fantasies into reality. On Sunday, May 4, the nonprofit holds its "Reverse Auditions," which link professional choreographers with aspiring dancers to "train" for a three-month period -- regardless of skill level -- in anticipation of performing. Seven different choreographers show their style of movement, with participants choosing their choreographer (instead of the other way around) by movement preference and rehearsal schedules. Just by virtue of showing up, you're in!
Participants get to dance in a professional-quality concert (to be held July 31-Aug. 2 at the Vittum Theater), with a portion of ticket sales going to two local charities.
3-5 p.m. Menomonee Club,1535 N. Dayton Street. For more info, contact email@example.com.
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.
The 2nd Story Festival brings together Chicago's finest writer/performances for three weekends of great stories and great wine at Webster's Wine Bar. Personal and true, the stories run the gamut: some will knock you on your ass laughing, some will start the teardrops a-welling. Stories also integrate the aural stylings of a DJ/sound designer. And between each tale, there's enough downtime to chat with friends or your date and sip/chug a flight of wine. (Full disclosure: I'm a storyteller with the festival this year, which means I've been lucky enough to hear some of these performers in rehearsal and seriously cannot wait to hear the final versions.) Check out a preview performance this Sunday, and then the festival kicks into high gear on April 24. More information and tickets at www.storiesandwine.com.
For the next two weekends, the Chicago company (of which yours truly just happens to be a part) Innervation Dance Cooperative will present its contemporary dance interpretation of the play Everyman, set to music by Led Zeppelin. For those of you who might be familiar with your 15th-century morality plays, this rendition is stripped of religion and focuses on the "you can't take it with you" aspect of what's important in life. Everyman receives a visit from Death and begs for more time to find a companion to join her (it's an all-female cast) on that final journey. After her friends, family, Wealth, Beauty, Strength, and other less loyal compatriots turn their backs on her, she finds that her long-neglected Good Deeds and Conscience are the only support she can bring along. Of course, the ever-present Robert Plant and Jimmy Page refuse to allow the show to get preachy, and push the dancers to moments of passion and hilarity.
Performances are April 17, 19, 24, 25 at 7:30, and April 20, 27 at 2:30. Hamlin Park Fieldhouse Theater, 3035 N. Hoyne. $15 ($10 students/seniors). Purchase tickets at the door or contact Innervation at firstname.lastname@example.org or 773-230-2168.
Tonight (April 11) marks the kick-off of comedienne/writer/actress Sarah King's new one-woman show, "good crazy/bad crazy," which runs at the Apollo Studio Theater every Friday until May 2. In addition to dancing, lots of audience interaction, and a general exploration of the idea that "everyone is crazy, but some people are just better at hiding it," the show features words of wisdom from King's parents, who hail from Sugar Land, Texas (whose Town Crazy isTom DeLay) and provide their own insights on what "crazy" means. For a preview, here's a video featuring King's mom and dad, clad in matching pink sport shirts, chatting about "bad crazy drivers" and picking up cans. 8 p.m. $12, $10 for students. 2540 N. Lincoln Ave. For more info, call 773-935-6100 or visit the Website.
This weekend at the MCA, you can see what one of America's great modern dance companies has to say about our "mediatized" world, touching on morality, humanity, and violence, the judicial process, and prison. The Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company has been a major force in American modern dance for nearly 25 years. In this visit to Chicago, they will be presenting Chapel/Chapter, a performance that retells two "high-visibility" news stories and one company member's "reminiscence/confession." The music is performed live, the set plays a role, and video and spoken words are involved, all contributing to the choreographer's desire to create a "self-enclosed world." The show promises to be both intellectually and visually fascinating.
Shows are at the MCA, 220 E. Chicago Ave., on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday at 7:30. Tickets are $35-$40 ($28-$32 for MCA members). For tickets and more information, including a video preview, visit the MCA's website.
If you're the kind of person who walks by municipal garbage cans piled high with empty Starbucks cups and winces at all the waste, then Monument, a new dance theater work by local multidisciplinary arts collective The Seldoms, is for you. The 50-minute work, which combines dance, music and video, addresses our culture's apparent addiction to consumption and waste, in which the landfill has become an "accidental social sculpture." Recently Monument choreographer Carrie Hanson took a few minutes out of her busy schedule to answer some questions about the performance, which runs April 10-12 at 8pm at the Ruth Page Center for the Arts, 1016 N. Dearborn. (For more info, call 312-328-0303.)
How did the idea for Monument develop?
The Monument project has been developing for over a year. The idea began broadly: The initial choreographic, sonic and imagistic impulses emerged from a consideration of the acts of preservation, creation and destruction. We started from several points of inquiry: in balancing concerns for short-term prosperity/survival with long-term prosperity/survival, what do we preserve? What are the economic forces and cultural ethos that influence our behavior and decisions as consumers? What tensions exist between our dual identities as consumer and citizen, and between private goods and the public good? And finally, what are the personal, social, and environmental effects of our collective and individual acts of production, consumption, and disposal?
As we began our research before going into the dance studio, we easily found a lot of information relating to consumption and waste. The facts, offering mind-blowing figures about the quantity of plastic bottles and tons of refuse, were impressive and daunting, but weren’t readily imaginable. It wasn’t until Doug Stapleton, The Seldoms’ artistic associate, found an article about the immense Fresh Kills landfill on Staten Island that our understanding moved from statistics to a physical reality. The article stated that the landfill is visible from space, which helped us to grasp the scale, impact and monumentality of our collective practices of consumption and waste. The work’s title – Monument – makes reference to the landfill as accidental monument.
Jared Logan, 2007's Best Comedian at the Chicago Comedy Awards, is going to be famous, and then you can be one of those annoying people who says, "That guy? Man, I saw him back in the day, when he used to perform in the back of this bar on Belmont." You can talk about how you "like his old stuff better." Don't you want to be one of those annoying people?
Jared is performing a 45-minute set tonight at the Beat Kitchen -- for free -- at 9:30. For stand-ups, a 45-minute set is something like an artist getting their own gallery show, except it is considerably less annoying, and about two-thirds drunker. How about another clever metaphor -- a 45-minute set for a comic is like bragging to all your friends that you're going to bowl a perfect game. So when you come to the Beat Kitchen to support one of Chicago's funniest humans, hold him to the standard of bowling a perfect game. Not really.
The set is presented by my heroes at Chicago Underground Comedy. Jared is a member of the fearsome Blerds. Come, drink, laugh, and flirt with the comics at the bar.
Mars says: "...Debt collectors immediately sprang to mind because they are the only messages I consistently receive. Most of my friends just hang up or text when they get forwarded to voice mail. These days the collectors are always automated, and even though the text being spoken is identical every time, they feel more and more menacing with each call. Guilt alters perception. That's how the story started, and then it evolved from there. Since the messages from collectors are relentless and abusive, it seemed only natural to develop that into an archetypal abusive relationship, with intense rage followed closely by abject contrition. Throw in a creepy, phone-based score, and a sci-fi melodrama is born! My wife did the voice of the computer. She read each word in the script backwards with varied inflection to get the right (or rather, slightly wrong) tone. I then cut the words out individually and constructed the sentences."
Check out the final product at Steppenwolf Garage on Wednesday, April 9th, in conjunction with scenes from Dead Man's Cell Phone, a new play by MacArthur “genius” Sarah Ruhl. Details in Slowdown.
Here are some options for this weekend (starting tonight!).
Chicago Moving Company presents Dance Shelter, CMC's annual artist-in-residence concert. March 27, 28 and April 3, 4 @ 7:30. $15 ($12 students), Hamlin Park Fieldhouse Theater, 3035 N Hoyne Ave. Click here for more info and to purchase tickets.
Hubbard Street Dance Chicago Spring Series opens tonight. If you were to see only one Chicago company this year, I'd say these are the folks to see. Consistently fantastic performances, consistently accessible to a wide audience. Various dates, tonight through April 5. Their site has all the info you could need.
The final event in Links Hall's Choreographing Coalitions (see earlier GB entries about the series here and here) is Denise Uyehara's Big Head, an interdisciplinary performance piece that "revisits the treatment of Japanese Americans during World War II and considers current-day treatment of those perceived as 'the enemy now.'" March 28, 29 @ 8:00, March 30 @ 7:00. $15 ($12 students). 3435 N. Sheffield, #207
Choreographing Coalitions: Dancing the Other in the Self, Links Hall's and the Dance Center of Columbia College's month-long festival, continues this week. (See last week's GB entry, Voguing Demystified.) The festival brings together local and national "body-based artists" who base their work on themes of social justice. They assume that "the dancing body is a uniquely qualified instrument with which to explore the complexities of the social world."
In that vein, this weekend's performance by Victoria Marks is titled Not About Iraq. Rather, Marks says it's about "dancing, heroics, valor, and truth," and where the body fits into all of that. What does it mean to be a citizen and an artist? How can dancing speak about the human experience? There will be a post-show discussion after each performance where I'm sure these and many other socially relevant questions will be discussed.
The last two shows are tonight (3/15 at 8:00) and tomorrow (3/16 at 7:00) at Links Hall, 3435 N. Sheffield, #207. Tickets are $15 ($12 students and seniors). To reserve tickets, call Links Hall at 773.281.0824.
The festival aims to "blend all forms of art, dance, text, music, and visual art into performances that capture and stimulate the mind." And media isn't the only diverse aspect of the festival. Take a peek at the subject matter. McIlvain's "dance for the camera," Three Men in Two Parts, follows three young men through a night in a bar. Shabam!'s West Side Story Redux views today's racism and division through the lens of the eponymous musical. Munch's Rubber Coated Chlorine takes a stab at "political speak" while the audience hears recordings of Adlai Stevenson at the United Nations in 1962. Performances will range from political and serious to light and warm-hearted, while subjects range from a Baptist church, to mid-life discovery, to death. There are even promises of belly dancing and traditional Butoh dancing!
Tickets are $15 ($10 students). Shows are March 13 and 14 at 7:30 at the Hamlin Park Fieldhouse Theater, 3035 N. Hoyne. 773-486-8261
Host Claire Zulkey brings Funny Ha-Ha back to the Hideout this Thursday, March 6, from 6 to 8pm. Trib columnist-blogger Eric Zorn, author John Sellers and RedEye columnist Mark Bazer read, sketch group Schadenfreude performs and Steve Delahoyde shows more of his deadpan-funny short films. A well-spent $5 gets you in the door.
Chicago Dance Crash has been pushing the boundaries of the Chicago dance world since 2002. In one of their many innovative schemes, “The KTF Championship — Battle of the Belt,” they created an improv dance showdown in which CDC dancers competed for the title of KTF (“Keeper of the Floor”), complete with a forty-pound, gold-plated championship belt. The show was competitive dance meets improv comedy, right down to the audience participation. Talk about making quality dance that’s accessible to an enormous audience beyond the local dance snobbery!
They’re at it again on March 7, 8, 14, and 15 at the Viaduct Theater. One look at the rock-concert-poster-esque intro page for CDC’s website will give you a flavor of what’s on tap at “The Standing Room,” a “rock concert for dance.” And they mean rock concert, right down to the live music, the hand stamp, the coat check, and the standing-room-only. Honestly, I’m still not sure exactly what to expect, but that only attests to the originality of this idea. Will there be choreography in CDC’s ballet-capoeira-acrobatics-breakin’-hip-hop style? Will there be improv? Will the dancers be among the crowd? Can’t wait to find out!