Theater, Dance, Comedy and Performance in Chicago

Preview: The Tea Project: Unveiling our Global War’s Hidden Wages

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Taking place over three weekends at Links Hall,”The Tea Project” tackles questions of racism in American foreign and domestic policies that have not only opened the floodgates of demonization of Muslims, black and brown peoples and others of the most vulnerable among us, but has at times also led to their wholesale slaughter. Performed collaboratively by Iraq war veteran Aaron Hughes and Amber Ginsburg, a lecturer at the University of Chicago’s Department of Visual Art, the duo originally met through the OpenSource Art program while they were both living in Champaign-Urbana. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: In/habit: A Roving Monthly Performance Series

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Photo: Michael Workman

Photo: Michael Workman

It’s a Saturday night at Tritriangle gallery in Wicker Park. The main room, filled lengthwise with rows of folding chairs mostly filled with attendees, face a video projection on the side wall. Numerous video installations are both projected and displayed on screens throughout the space, along with a few small sculptural works. On the whole, “In/habit,” “an expanded performance series” organized by Mitsu Salmon and Rebecca Lavoie, has the distinct look and feel of a DIY production. The inaugural installment, with the theme of “Press Repeat,” for instance, had the atmosphere of a revelry, videos that lost sound mid-screening and performances that ran double their listed run time. Read the rest of this entry »

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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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


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


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


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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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


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 »