Theater, Dance, Comedy and Performance in Chicago

Teatro Vivo: Celebrating the Works of Latina/o Artists

Festivals, Profiles, Theater, World Premiere No Comments »
José Rivera in rehearsal for "Another Word for Beauty."/Photo Liz Lauren

José Rivera in rehearsal for “Another Word for Beauty”/Photo: Liz Lauren

Goodman Theatre’s Latino Festival began in 2003 as a way to highlight the often-silenced voices of Latinos in theater. This year, the now-biennial event is a “Celebration of Latina/o Artists” and highlights the work of two of the most powerful voices in the genre–José Rivera and María Irene Fornés–among others.

Read the rest of this entry »

The Return of the Ring Heads: An In-Depth Look at Lyric Opera of Chicago’s Next Season, Anchored by the Start of a New Ring Cycle

Opera, Profiles No Comments »
Model of the set for Lyric's "Das Rheingold"

Model of the set for Lyric’s “Das Rheingold”

By Aaron Hunt

Lyric has announced its electric, eclectic 2016/17 season. If you’re already an operagoer, this is a major opportunity to put seldom-heard notches in your production belt. If not, this could be an exhilarating new journey where art forms merge, creating a distinctive experience.

The season begins with a new production of “Das Rheingold,” the first of four Wagner operas to be presented by Lyric, one each season, culminating in the glorious marathon of an entire “Ring Cycle” in April 2020. You could compare that event to binge-watching the complete “Star Wars” saga. Read the rest of this entry »

The Lion & The Lamb: Richard Cotovsky and the First and Last Days of Mary-Arrchie Theatre Company

Profiles, Theater No Comments »

IMG_0525

By David Witter

Richard Cotovsky is known as “The Godfather of Storefront Theater.” It’s a well-deserved title. For the last thirty years, the artistic director of the Mary-Arrchie Theatre Company has produced, acted, directed, written, painted, nailed, cleaned, mailed, bribed and even had a lamb live in his truck, all in order to keep producing art. Yet after twenty-six years, the company has lost its lease on its space at Sheridan and Broadway. For what may be the first time in his life, the Joseph Jefferson Award winner is not putting up a fight. After mounting more than sixty productions at Mary-Arrchie and acting in dozens of others in theaters across town, Cotovsky says he needs a break. There isn’t one person in Chicago theater who says he doesn’t deserve it. Read the rest of this entry »

Have a Little “Too Much”: Neo-Futurists Ring in the New Year

Holiday, New Year's Eve, Profiles, Theater, World Premiere No Comments »
"Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind"/Photo: Joe Mazza, Brave Lux

“Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind”/Photo: Joe Mazza, Brave Lux

By Mary Kroeck

“Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind” was first performed by the Neo-Futurists in Chicago on December 2, 1988. The premise of the show was (and still is) to perform thirty plays in sixty minutes. All plays are written and performed by the ensemble with occasional audience participation. Now in its twenty-seventh year, “Too Much Light” is the longest-running show in the city.

For the past several years, singles and those looking for an alternative to traditional New Year’s Eve celebrations have gathered at the Neo-Futurarium. The cast promptly begins their show at 11pm. Actors and audiences alike end one year and begin another with live theater.

Kirsten Riiber has been an ensemble member with the Neo-Futurists since 2012 and has performed in the New Year’s Eve show for the past two years. “It’s a great alternative to a lot of the other events that happen that night,” Riiber says. “It seems to focus less on getting totally blasted and more on looking forward to a new year and remembering how the last year was.” Read the rest of this entry »

A New Dance A Day: Victoria Bradford and her Neighborhood Dances Project

Dance, Profiles No Comments »
victoria bradford

Photo: Yenyen Chou

By Michael Workman

Victoria Bradford choreographs a new dance, video records it, distributes it over social media, and produces a movement notation record and image archive of it…every day. I first became enamored with her antic, aspirational work after a studio-visit introduction, completely incidentally, on a day out with my friend and former dance journalist, Sarah Best. Diagnosed with bipolar disorder, this dancer’s “Neighborhood Dances” project reminds me of an important schism in the discussion of movement: its inevitable inertia. Her project seems to outline in dance the beginnings of inequality, occurring at the moment where someone drew a line on the ground and claimed it as their own. At times, Bradford has engaged in criminal trespass to present her dances, and in so doing protest “occupied” land for dance, performing to a music viewers never hear. Her original motivation: a need for a place to dance when all she had was her parents’ garage.

How did you first become interested in dance as an activity purely for enjoyment? Where did dance come from for you? A lot of people say, ‘Oh, I’ve been dancing since I was three.’
I guess dance as an artistic practice… yes, I did dance when I was three, then I stopped dancing when I was thirteen because I wasn’t going to be a dancer, I was going to be a Smurf or something. I was going to be an intellectual, I pursued an academic career and ended up taking a circuitous route to pursue an MFA in studio art at the School of the Art Institute where I was making videos and someone told me that the work was dance. I was like, “No it’s not,” because it didn’t look and feel like what I used to do when I was thirteen, it doesn’t follow those rules. And so they gave me some examples, things to look at and think about and I followed up with some research and I thought, “Okay, maybe I can call this dance!” But it has been a struggle to think about the work as dance until more recently. Read the rest of this entry »

A Holiday Showdown: Ron Rains and Peter K. Rosenthal on “A Christmas Carol”

Christmas, Holiday, Profiles, Theater No Comments »

Ron-Peter vertical

By Kevin Greene

First published in 1843, Charles Dickens’ novella “A Christmas Carol” has since gone on to be one of the most popular Christmas stories of all time. Furthermore, it has proved to be surprisingly adaptable to the stage and screen. To honor Dickens’ legacy and usher in the holiday season, I sat down with actor Ron Rains and his alter ego, film critic Peter K. Rosenthal, to talk about the lasting impact of the story, mercy and capitalism, and which Ghost of Christmas would win in a three way free-for-all.

Ron, this is now your ninth year in a row playing Bob Cratchit at the Goodman. What’s changed between the first time and now? What’s new for Bob and for yourself?
Ron: Yes, it’s my ninth year, which makes my tenure as Mr. Cratchit the longest in the Goodman’s history. There’s a comfort to the role now. Bob is an old shoe I’m lucky enough to slip on every November. And every performance is new. It’s absolutely true that every performance is different, as every audience is different. I try to be as present and open as I can be and experience Mr. Cratchit’s track new and fresh each time. Read the rest of this entry »

Looking Back, Moving Forward: Goodman Theatre’s New Stages Festival

Festivals, Profiles, Theater, World Premiere No Comments »
OMProduction_07

Charles Andrew Gardner and Jeff Parker in “Objects in the Mirror” by Charles Smith/Photo: Liz Lauren

By Kevin Greene

I’ll admit that there are still some parts of the theatrical creative process that I take for granted as a critic. Toward the top of that list is the anxiety a critic’s presence can invoke upon the artists and staff involved in a production. Perhaps I flatter myself but I’m certain there are a few names within our little community that lightly churn the stomach of even the most seasoned vet on opening night. Still, even I can detect a hint of hopeful distance whenever I mention that my tickets are probably filed under “Press.”

I mention this in order to acknowledge the privilege inherent in the role of the critic. Playwrights work on their plays for years in a steady stream of workshops, meetings, further workshops, casting and rehearsing that ultimately culminates in a live performance before an audience. It is at this last stage that we, the critics, enter the equation. Suffice it to say, even the most radiant reviews cannot fully acknowledge the sheer amount of time and effort that goes into producing even the most presentably basic play.

All of which makes the Goodman Theatre’s New Stages Festival such an eye-opening delight. A series of staged readings and developmental productions, New Stages offers a vision of the creative process that many of us make only the barest assumptions about. As a free event, it also offers unprecedented access to the artists involved. Read the rest of this entry »

No Escaping the Logistics: “Room Escape” Theater Business Faces Challenges From the Start

-News etc., Profiles No Comments »
GPPhoto-EA-promo-7010

Melissa Schlesinger and Maren Rosenberg/Photo: Grace Pisula (gracepisula.com)

By Danielle Levsky

Maren Rosenberg has a puzzle for you. But she’s also got one of her own.

Rosenberg, Master of Mayhem/Principal Producer, has been working with a team of creative professionals to open Escape Artistry, featuring “immersive” room escapes: games in which participants use elements within one room to solve puzzles, find clues and escape the room within a set time limit.

While working with the City of Chicago’s Small Business Center to obtain a Public Place of Amusement license, a business consultant requested that she bring in her employment history for the past five years, something that is not easy to do for someone in the theater business.

Rosenberg, like other actors, has accumulated hundreds of short-term contracts over five years, some for companies that are no longer in operation. Upon seeing the thick stack of papers that included a little under 200 companies, the city’s consultant exclaimed, “Oh, you weren’t kidding!” Read the rest of this entry »

For the Child in the Adult and the Adult in the Child: At Sea with Mary Zimmerman and Lookingglass’ “Treasure Island”

-News etc., Profiles, Theater, World Premiere No Comments »
Mary Zimmerman

Mary Zimmerman

By Kevin Greene

Robert Louis Stevenson’s novel “Treasure Island” is so ubiquitous in the sphere of popular culture that it’s possible to feel as though you’ve read it without ever having actually laid hands on it. The tale of pirates and buried treasure stands as one of the great foundational texts of the last 200 years. Since its publication in 1883, the novel has developed an archetypal reputation, one that has drawn attention from artists and thinkers of all disciplines. It has also proved a surprisingly malleable narrative, appearing in film, radio and theater versions.

With its exotic locations, full-blooded action and larger-than-life personalities, “Treasure Island” presents plenty of challenges for the stage. Yet it was these very challenges that first drew Mary Zimmerman to the story. After picking it up two summers ago, Zimmerman knew immediately that she wanted to adapt it. “I like to stage the impossible,” she tells me during a break in the production’s tech rehearsal. “Theater works by metaphor. You have to bring the world into this black box.”

In this case, the black box in question is Lookingglass, a theater company nationally renowned for their imaginative interpretation of both new and old works alike. Read the rest of this entry »

Finding Your Song: Pegasus Flies Again with Nambi E. Kelley’s “For Her as a Piano”

-News etc., Profiles, Theater 1 Comment »
Piano-3

Toni Lynice Fountain, Toya Turner, Camille Robinson and Nadirah Bost/Photo: Emily Schwartz

By Loy Webb

Children have some of the most imaginative and exciting minds. Give them a cardboard box, they’ll create castles fit for any king and queen. Give them a blanket, and as it’s wrapped around their necks your world will be safer before bedtime. It is in watching these small, brilliant minds that we learn the secret to great ingenuity is really quite simple.

“When you don’t have much, you have to be imaginative and bold,” Ilesa Duncan, artistic director of Pegasus Theatre Chicago, says during our phone interview. Read the rest of this entry »