Theater, Dance, Comedy and Performance in Chicago

Preview: Ring Sour/Khecari and Blind Tiger Society

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Khecari. Photo: William Frederking

Khecari/Photo: William Frederking

As part of Links Hall’s Midwest Nexus Touring Initiative, the upcoming “Ring Sour” performance brings San Francisco touring company Blind Tiger Society to Chicago to perform in a double bill with Julia Rae Antonick and Jonathan Meyer of Chicago dance collective Khecari. Their “Orders from the Horse” represents a continuance of Meyer and Antonick’s duet-intensive collaboration, “both equally choreographing, directing, and performing, with live improvised music by long time collaborator Joe St. Charles and lighting by Rachel Levy.” Continuing their experimentation with somnolent states, Khecari, which offers the audience the choice of a thirty- or 200-minute performance, plays with the notion of movement in states resembling, for instance, the negotiation of dark hallways of a home in the middle of the night. Blind Tiger Society’s “Dressage” performs what artistic director Bianca Cabrera refers to as a “re-wilding” of the body, using contact and improvisational techniques as tools in the effort. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Tsukasa Taiko and Reduction/MCA Stage

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FY16Taiko-066

RECOMMENDED

Showcasing the talents of musicians and dancers from Tokyo, San Francisco and Chicago, this annual festival takes a long view of improvisational dance, as paired with traditional Taiko drumming, and directed by Tatsu Aoki of the Art Institute’s Film, Video, and New Media Department. Co-presented by the MCA and Asian Improv aRts Midwest, the program runs Saturday and Sunday, with a special presentation titled “Reduction” one-night only on Saturday. With its background in Kabuki theater, the main program presents a range of kimono-performances by, among them, grandmaster Shunojo Fujima and Yoshinojo Fujima, along with a number of Tokyo-based musicians who individually specialize in this presented Kabuki context, including taiko artist SHINTA, shamisen artist Chizuru Kineya, Kizan Kawamura on bamboo flute and Takane Umeya on hand drum. Read the rest of this entry »

Interview: Sofia Moreno on “Tropical Winter” and “Pearly Foam”

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Sofia Moreno. Photo: Armando Lozano

Sofia Moreno/Photo: Armando Lozano

By Michael Workman

Movement, visual and performance artist Sofia Moreno, long under-recognized in Chicago, sat down with us recently to discuss her exhibit “Tropical Winter” at David Weinberg Photography. The event, part of the “Transfluent” program, in development between Weinberg, the Chicago Media Project and The Center on Halsted, highlights and provides a platform for members of the trans community to share their experiences.

Tell me how you got involved with bringing your “Tropic Winter” program to show as part of the “Pearly Foam” exhibit at Weinberg?
I was curated into it by Meg Taylor Noe at Weinberg Photography and the Center on Halsted as part of their “Transfluent,” a three month-long exhibit aimed at highlighting and supporting work that represents the trans experience. According to Meg, “Pearly Foam” came about because of that connection between all of their work. The title is taken from a section in Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Little Mermaid,” where the prince is gazing out at the pearly foam and discovers the little mermaid crying on the rocks. It’s really trying to speak to those elements within these works that bring it all together, instead of thinking merely about the conceptual, political composition of their work. I also want to believe my part in “Pearly Foam” goes beyond more than my gender identity, and institutions seem as though they’re coming to terms with the fact that I’ve been around a while, and hopefully starting to see my work as more than a one-trick-pony. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: SpinOff

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Molly Shanahan and Jeff Hancock

Molly Shanahan and Jeff Hancock

RECOMMENDED

The Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events hosts a series of free downtown dance performances through the month of November. It begins this weekend at the Cultural Center with a collaboration between Molly Shanahan of Mad Shak and choreographer/dancer/costume designer Jeff Hancock, several years in the making. Entitled “And We Shall Be Rid of Them,” the duet uses the tale of Hansel and Gretel as a diving board for themes of loss and vulnerability. Shanahan said the piece wasn’t originally intended to explore loss—more the notion of being lost—but both artists experienced a great deal of loss during the making of the piece. “We both came to a deep realization that loss is a part of life,” Shanahan said. “Maybe the benefits of some of the losses I suffered was an opening up of my sense of humor.” Read the rest of this entry »

Review: The Magic Cabaret/The Greenhouse Theater Center

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Joe Diamond and David Parr

Joe Diamond and David Parr

RECOMMENDED

Among the many wonders presented by magicians David Parr and Joe Diamond, the most impressive trick the night I attended was pretty much filling up the house on Wednesday evening, exactly as the Cubs were playing their do-or-die wild card game against the Pirates. While the rest of Lincoln Avenue was glued to sports-bar flat screens, the Magic Cabaret crowd was enjoying an enchanted evening of abracadabra, combining flawless technique with wry humor and relaxed audience interaction. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Delicious Night: Baudelaire in a Box, Episode 8/Theater Oobleck

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Dave Buchen/photo: courtesy of Theatre Oobleck

Dave Buchen/photo: Theatre Oobleck

RECOMMENDED

Cantastoria is not a terribly familiar theatrical form, but it is a legitimate one, and one that is appropriately suited to bringing the poetry of Charles Baudelaire to those of us who are bombarded daily with memes on Facebook. On the surface, “Delicious Night: Baudelaire in a Box, Episode 8” seems like it ought not to be called a theatrical production, but rather a rock concert. An ensemble of six musicians (four of who are the evening’s composers) play songs that set the French poet’s words to music. All the while Dave Buchen’s inspired artwork slowly slides past on hand-cranked rolls of white paper. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: The Fly Honey Show/The Inconvenience

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FH6.PRESS

RECOMMENDED

For the most part, The Inconvenience’s sixth annual “The Fly Honey Show”’s blatantly burlesque and abounding pop cultural references can make it feel specifically millennial. However, in the moments when performers stand firmly outside of the glib pastiche with personal honesty and poetic earnestness (“Join the hive… the whole damn tribe. All my honeys, let’s shake a good wing for a good thing, all of my honeys, let’s thrive.”), it is clear that “The Fly Honey Show” is not just an exercise in genre but a genuine effort to bring viewers (millennial and otherwise) into The Inconvenience’s glittering underground hive for a reprieve from conventionality’s tyrannies.

Mary Williamson, a powerful host, tirelessly herds the audience through more than twenty acts of spoken word, mash-ups, striptease and comedy. She makes you feel at home in your body as she and the other barely clad bodies dancing throughout the theater are in theirs. Of her fly side-ponytail she says, “It’s business on this side and nonna your goddamn business on this side, because I’m a layered and complicated individual.” Read the rest of this entry »

Review: #TBT/Under The Gun Theater

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Angie McMahon

Angie McMahon

RECOMMENDED

I’ve never been one to keep a consistent journal, but judging by the expressive content of the readings at Under The Gun Theater’s new monthly show “#TBT,” my infrequent entries are far too dry and logistical. A bit of background for the unfamiliar (read: old): #TBT (Throwback Thursday) is a Twitter/Instagram (and even Facebook, though their hashtag game is pretty weak) hashtag people use to post a photo or memory from their past. Every second Thursday at Under The Gun, “#TBT” provides a stage for ensemble members to read their early writing (mostly journals and letters) in all of their embarrassingly inelegant glory. And it is the perfect combination of all three: embarrassing, inelegant and glorious. It’s also sometimes moving.

The night I attended, a dozen readers braved the stage, clutching old diaries, personal letters and short stories. While the fiction readings delivered laughs through their overly ambitious prose—Allison Keller’s eighth-grade opus “The Homeless Child” described a color as “a deep planetarium purple”—the angsty and adamant pinings from young diaries make this a truly captivating show. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Kurios—Cabinet of Curiosities/Cirque du Soleil

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Mr. Microsmos and Mini Lili1-credit Martin Girard shootstudio

Mr. Microcosmos and Mili Lili/Photo: Martin Girard

RECOMMENDED

To some extent, every Cirque du Soleil show is dreamlike. Writer/director Michel Laprise’s “Kurios—Cabinet of Curiosities” is the first I have seen that makes that scenario explicit. Though ostensibly set in “an alternate yet familiar past”—embodied by a set (Stéphane Roy) and costumes (Philippe Guillotel) that steampunk fans will flip for—the show features a wide-eyed character called the Seeker who climbs into a gigantic wooden chair for a rest at the start of the show with a clock behind him stuck at 11:11 and returns to it at the end to open his eyes just as that clock trips over to 11:12. Since everything that happens in between is purely fantastical, the book ending is apt.

Throughout its two-hour running time—including a twenty-five minute intermission, which only seems long until you see the lines for the bathrooms—“Kurios” delivers. This may be a pop-up show in a parking lot of the United Center, but it’s the full Cirque experience. As soon as you enter the temporary Big Top structure you’re engulfed: with Cirque merchandise, concession stands and costumed actors, among other things. And the space itself is large enough for an actual circus; the true height of the ceiling is repeatedly explored in the high-energy acts that fill the Seeker’s imagination. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: The Moth GrandSLAM/The Moth

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The Moth GrandSLAM 1: Into the Wild

The Moth GrandSLAM 1: Into the Wild

RECOMMENDED

Starting a show by making audacious promises to the audience—you will laugh, you will be amazed, etc.—is usually a misguided path to disaster. But host/MC Don Hall came off as more soothsayer than bloviator as The Moth Chicago GrandSLAM delivered on all accounts. The Moth storytelling series is a well-known mainstay to the Chicago area, with shows every couple weeks at Martyrs and Haymarket. The format is fairly simple: story tellers put their name in a hat, and those drawn get five minutes to tell a story compatible with that evening’s theme. But the GrandSLAM serves as a special event held a few times throughout the year, with the purpose of pitting ten Moth winners against each other for the grand prize of bragging rights. Three sets of judges—including a group of former Moth GrandSLAM winners, members from local LGBTQ storytellers OUTspoken and a randomly selected crew of audience members—scored each story on unspecified criteria. The theme was “Mea Culpa.” Read the rest of this entry »