Theater, Dance, Comedy and Performance in Chicago

Creating Windows When Doors Are Shut: An Interview with Melissa DuPrey, Free Street Theater’s New General Manager

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By Loy Webb

Actor and comic Melissa DuPrey has a passion for arts, activism and community building that is as large and deep as the Pacific Ocean. Her story is one of terror and triumph. From surviving a horrific violent home invasion to rising through the theatrical ranks to become the new general manager of Free Street Theater, Melissa is living proof that women of color will make windows where doors have historically been shut in their faces. Read the rest of this entry »

Rutherford Sails Again: Pegasus Theatre Adapts Dr. Charles Johnson’s “Middle Passage”

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Dr. Charles Johnson

Dr. Charles Johnson with his grandson Emery/Photo: Zorn B. Taylor

By Loy Webb

Dr. Charles Johnson is more than an author. He is a literary icon. His historical novel “Middle Passage,” about the final voyage of an illegal American slave ship, has been ingrained into this country’s literary DNA. “Middle Passage” has gone on to become a “cultural artifact,” according to Johnson who in 1990 became the second African-American man to receive the National Book Award for Fiction.

When I call Dr. Johnson for our interview, I hear a small boy’s voice in the background. “Excuse me that’s my grandson. He’s playing around with my PC.” He proceeds to gently but sternly tell the four-year-old to take a breather. The young boy obliges for about ten seconds (as young boys do), then he’s on to whatever else in his grandfather’s study captures his attention.

Turns out even MacArthur Fellows have grandpa duty. Read the rest of this entry »

Islamophobia in the Suburbs: Behind “Mosque Alert,” Silk Road Rising’s Collaborative Take

Profiles, Theater 1 Comment »
Jamil Khoury, Malik Gillani and Edward Torres, Mosque Alert. Photo: Silk Road Rising.

Jamil Khoury, Malik Gillani and Edward Torres/Photo: Silk Road Rising

By Sarah Conway

“There’s an interesting conversation taking place between the second floor and the basement,” Jamil Khoury says, as Silk Road Rising’s founding artistic director discusses the suburb-set “Mosque Alert” premiering March 24 at the historic Chicago Temple theater. Wedged between his play’s rehearsal and the polycultural lower-level theater was Dr. Larycia Hawkins, of Wheaton College controversy notoriety, who recently found herself at odds with her employer after her “embodied solidarity” with Muslims in late 2015. More alike than unalike, Dr. Hawkins’ hijab and the Al-Andalus Library and Community Center, a fictional centerpiece of Khoury’s newest play, are both embodiments of the clashes that result when physical representations of faith are met with suspicion, opposition and betrayal in suburban America. Read the rest of this entry »

A Chance To Be Good: “Richard III” Reimagined with Michael Patrick Thornton and The Gift Theatre

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By Noel Schecter

The darkest days for Michael Patrick Thornton began in the immediate aftermath of the spinal strokes that left him paralyzed and comatose for three days in 2003. Thornton then underwent extensive therapy at both the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago (RIC) as well as at his home in Jefferson Park. This almost daily therapy lasted sometimes for as long as six hours and would sometimes entail Thornton reading aloud Shakespeare’s soliloquies and sonnets in an effort to help regain breath control and relearn how to project his voice without passing out at the end of a sentence. Thornton found this somewhat comforting as some of his earliest theatrical accomplishments, prior to his injuries, involved Shakespeare. Read the rest of this entry »

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.

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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

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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

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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

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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 »