Theater, Dance, Comedy and Performance in Chicago

Players 2016: The Fifty People Who Really Perform for Chicago

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“Out with the old, in with the new,” is one of the many well-intentioned platitudes you hear frequently this time of year. Personally, I find that type of sharp-turn resolution a bit difficult to manage. As I see it, change is fluid; the past informs the present and portends the future. Newness grows organically out of the well-tilled soil of history. This also happens to be the way I think about Chicago’s arts community. The open terrain currently being transformed by our promising young upstarts would not exist had the heavy lifters of previous years not worked to cultivate it. And so it is in this space that we honor both parties by highlighting the artists who have served as great beacons and those whose stars are just beginning to rise. What follows is the current crop of our city’s fifty most moving, most shaking, most dream-making Players in theater, dance, comedy and opera.  Make a resolution you actually want to keep: check them out! (Kevin Greene)

Players was written by Zach Freeman, Kevin Greene, Sharon Hoyer, Aaron Hunt and Loy Webb
Photos by Joe Mazza/Brave Lux Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Charm/Northlight Theatre at Steppenwolf Garage Theatre

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Ariela, Lady, Beta, Victoria, Jonelle

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I remember being furious as a child when my mother threatened to find an etiquette class for me to attend. She seemed charmed by the idea of having a well-mannered little girl and I couldn’t think of anything more unjust than having to go to such a class on account of my sex while my brother didn’t have to on account of his. How unfathomably unfair, I felt, that girls must be polite while boys are forgiven their rudeness on a daily basis, simply because they are boys. Of course, I have learned since that, like all things, etiquette is more complicated than that and fairness has little to do with anything anyway. Read the rest of this entry »

Fall Theater & Opera Preview 2015

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HoneybunsYou know what they say: Every time a mime speaks a Dickensian orphan gets sucked into a jet turbine and blasted out the other side as just a scream. However, it is that cozy time of year when the hopes and dreams of summer die and we artists start making people go into weird rooms and watch us do and say things. Not every show can be the immersive interactive ever-changing theatrical wonderland tour de force that my show is. Newcity theater editor Zach Freeman has provided a fine fall stage preview. However, I feel I can offer a few tips—or rather “things”—to do to spice things up on a chilly fall evening at the theater (elaborate hand gesture).

If you don’t want to do my “things” I can understand. All you have to do is something that is even better. So long as you do something. Because, something must be done. Otherwise you would do nothing. Except maybe drink a box of wine, poke that old bag of mulch laying in bed next to you, and call it a night. (Honeybuns) Read the rest of this entry »

Review: The Herd/Steppenwolf

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(left to right) Audrey Francis (Claire), Cliff Chamberlain (Mark), Francis Guinan (Ian), Lois Smith (Patricia) and John Mahoney (Brian)/Photo: Michael Brosilow

Audrey Francis, Cliff Chamberlain, Francis Guinan, Lois Smith and John Mahoney/Photo: Michael Brosilow

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The family-sitting-room genre is built on secrecy. Sometimes it’s a literal secret, one that lurks from the opening curtain until just the right moment—usually right before an intermission—for it to be revealed. Other times, and this is the case with Rory Kinnear’s “The Herd,” it’s not an actual secret so much as it is a repression of truth. People feel a certain way, but they keep it to themselves. Only once the gears of plot have started to grind against their psyche do they finally unleash these private, pent-up thoughts. It makes for a handy catharsis, to have a son/daughter/husband/wife finally tell their mother/father/husband/wife what they really think.

Kinnear’s play, his first, is an efficient catharsis delivery device. It doesn’t surprise, but it doesn’t disappoint either. Kinnear is a major stage actor in the UK—his bio in the program is equal parts modest and mic drop—and he has written a play for actors. Despite the English setting, it’s a play perfectly suited to the Steppenwolf style. Director Frank Galati and the cast revel in the play’s climactic inter-family throw downs. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Marie Antoinette/Steppenwolf

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(left to right) Ericka Ratcliff (Yolande De Polignac), Tamberla Perry (Therese De Lamballe) and ensemble member Alana Arenas/Photo: Michael Brosilow

Ericka Ratcliff, Tamberla Perry and Alana Arenas/Photo: Michael Brosilow

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Underneath its bass-dropping, high-fashion-flouting, sick-opening-credits-having exterior, David Adjmi’s “Marie Antoinette” is actually pretty old-fashioned. It might as well be an update of Shakespeare’s “Richard II.” It tracks the fall from grace of a ruling figure who, while they might have been a really terrible ruler, is nonetheless deserving of their due as a complex, often sympathetic, human. Substitute Shakespeare’s flowered verse for Adjmi’s Paris-Hilton-gone-clubbing inflections and the two are pretty identical.

What’s fresh about Adjmi’s take on France’s most famously tragic (or is it tragically famous?) queen is that it is tailor-made for a modern understanding of celebrity. Adjmi’s Marie has been born into a life of riches and fame. She knows nothing else, and is as much a product of her environment as she is its progenitor.

Under the gleefully propulsive direction of New York theater artist Robert O’Hara, Steppenwolf’s Marie Antoinette also has the benefit of being portrayed by the fiercely intelligent and elegantly crass Alana Arenas. Her performance alone makes Marie a woman worthy of our attention. Read the rest of this entry »

Sponsored: Steppenwolf Video of the Week (Marie Antoinette Photoshoot Teaser)

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We had so much fun at the photoshoot for MARIE ANTOINETTE, we decided to make a video to share! Check out the fine work of photographer Saverio Truglia with ensemble member Alana Arenas posing as Marie.Wardrobe provided by Ikram. Read the rest of this entry »

Sponsored: Steppenwolf Video of the Week (Airline Highway – Meet the REAL Francis)

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AIRLINE HIGHWAY’S playwright Lisa D’amour introduces her long-time friend and poet Danny Kerwick. Danny is the inspiration for the Character Francis, played by Gordon Joseph Weiss in Steppenwolf’s production. We thought it would be fun to sit down with all three and talk about this unique experience.

Steppenwolf’s AIRLINE HIGHWAY brings a party worth talking about to the stage. Set in New Orleans, this new world premiere production is a boisterous and moving ode to the outcasts who make life a little more interesting. Headed to Broadway in the Spring of 2015, now is your chance to see it here in Chicago first—on stage through February 14. Tickets start at just $20: learn more at http://www.steppenwolf.org/Plays-Events/productions/index.aspx?id=623
Read the rest of this entry »

Sponsored: Steppenwolf Video of the Week (Marie Antoinette Photoshoot Teaser)

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We had so much fun at the photoshoot for MARIE ANTOINETTE, we decided to make a video to share! Check out the fine work of photographer Saverio Truglia with ensemble member Alana Arenas posing as Marie.Wardrobe provided by Ikram. Read the rest of this entry »

Player of the Moment: David Schmitz, New Managing Director of Steppenwolf Theatre

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Photo: Joe Mazza/Brave-Lux

Photo: Joe Mazza/Brave-Lux

 

By Brian Hieggelke

Last October, Steppenwolf surprised the theater world by announcing a double-barreled transition in leadership: long-term artistic director Martha Lavey would give way to Anna Shapiro at the end of the current season, and David Hawkanson would retire even sooner as executive director—his protégé David Schmitz would step into the top administrative job as managing director on January 1. Schmitz might have the highest-profile new job in Chicago theater, but even for his first press interview, a week and a half into the gig, he’s calm and confident. That’s because, I imagine, he’s been at Steppenwolf for a decade already, and his big near-term challenge, the expansion of the theater’s “campus” to include a new building, new lobby and two theater spaces, is an undertaking he approaches with confidence. He was downtown last week to meet with a board member, and we grabbed a few minutes in a bustling Loop coffee shop.

What brought you to this point?
I’m a theater person from the start. I was involved as an actor as a kid and actually have an undergraduate degree in directing and sound design. I moved to Chicago in ‘98 to get an MFA in directing from Roosevelt University. And the nice thing about that program, beyond being a good program where I learned a lot, was that it didn’t pay me to go to school, so I had to get a job. I got a job as a business manager for a for-profit company called Adair Performance which was, literally, clowns. Like birthday-party clowns. And that’s why I have the advantage of being able to say I worked for clowns and really meaning it. But the great thing about that opportunity was it taught me contracts and budgeting and the fundamentals of business, which I didn’t get in any of my schooling. Then I was hired as the bookkeeper at Lookingglass about two months before they broke ground on the space on Michigan Avenue. I walked into a really great opportunity—there was a lot of need for financial work, for analysis, and there wasn’t really anybody to do it. I was hired as a bookkeeper. By the end of the summer, I was director of finance. By the end of three years, general manager, helping to run the theater while we were looking for an executive director. We eventually hired the current executive director, Rachel Kraft. At that point, I was still directing. I was an ensemble member at Stage Left Theatre from 2002 to 2008, when my first kid was born and I stopped directing. And then I was hired at Steppenwolf in 2005, and walked into, again, a great situation. David Hawkanson, the executive director, took me under his wing, along with certain members of the board, and the rest is history I guess. The funny story that my wife tells is that when she first moved here in 2001, after we’d been dating long distance, we were going by the old Steppenwolf administrative offices at North and Halsted, that beautiful brick building, and I said, “That’s where they have their offices! Wouldn’t it be amazing if I could work in a building like that?” Read the rest of this entry »

Sponsored: Steppenwolf Video of the Week (Airline Highway)

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Steppenwolf’s AIRLINE HIGHWAY brings a party worth talking about to the stage. Set in New Orleans, this new world premiere production is a boisterous and moving ode to the outcasts who make life a little more interesting. Headed to Broadway in the Spring of 2015, now is your chance to see it here in Chicago first—on stage through February 14. Tickets start at just $20: learn more at http://www.steppenwolf.org/Plays-Events/productions/index.aspx?id=623
Read the rest of this entry »