WBEZ | Strawdog Theatre http://www.wbez.org/tags/strawdog-theatre Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Daily Rehearsal: 'You certainly get achier' with time, says comedian Robert Klein http://www.wbez.org/blogs/onstagebackstage/2012-11/daily-rehearsal-you-certainly-get-achier-time-says-comedian-robert <p><p><a href="https://twitter.com/brianbabylon/status/266924952006062080"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/6zNbN8hG.jpg" style="float: left; height: 300px; width: 300px;" title="'Morning AMp' hosts Molly and Brian with Robert Klein. (Twitter @brianbabylon)" /></a><span style="font-size:14px;"><span style="font-family: georgia, serif;"><strong>-&nbsp;<a href="http://www.strawdog.org">Strawdog </a>is having a benefit </strong></span></span>on November 19 called <em>The Phone Book</em>, which will feature performances by people you know like SNL&#39;s Nora Dunn, Jonathon Berry, Sean Graney, and members of iO&#39;s Improvised Shakespeare, among others. The show is directed by Strawdog&#39;s Brandon Bruce and hosted by Anderson Lawfer. Tickets are $100, which includes hors d&#39;oeuvres and drinks at a &quot;full bar.&quot;</p><p>- <span style="font-size:14px;"><span style="font-family: georgia, serif;"><strong>MPAACT theater&#39;s latest Solo Jams series</strong></span></span> looks promising; check out <a href="http://www.chicagoreader.com/chicago/mpaacts-solo-jams-greenhouse-theater-center/Content?oid=7750926">the <em>Reader</em>&#39;s rundown</a> of who is performing when and what.</p><p><span style="font-family:georgia,serif;"><span style="font-size: 14px;"><strong>- Chicagoist <a href="http://chicagoist.com/2012/11/09/three_to_see_this_weeks_theater_rec_1.php">recommends</a></strong></span></span> <em>Sister Act</em>, <em>Hellcab </em>and <em>Deep Into the Darkness Peering... </em>if you&#39;re looking for stuff to see this weekend. The last one is &quot;A one-night-only event hosted by the&nbsp;<a href="http://www.chicagooperatheater.org/" target="_blank" title="Opens in a new window">Chicago Opera Theater</a>&nbsp;and the&nbsp;<a href="http://www.lifelinetheatre.com/" target="_blank" title="Opens in a new window">LifeLine Theater</a>&quot; featuring &quot;selections from the upcoming&nbsp;<em>The Fall of the House of Usher&nbsp;</em>and various readings from Edgar Allan Poe classics.&quot;</p><p><span style="font-size:14px;"><span style="font-family: georgia, serif;"><strong>- Comedian Robert Klein</strong></span></span> <a href="https://twitter.com/UpComedyClub/status/266920190929948672">joined<em> The Morning AMp</em> today</a>; he&#39;s<a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/onstagebackstage/2012-09/daily-rehearsal-maria-bamford-scheduled-october-second-city"> in town</a> to perform at UP this weekend, and here is a nice <a href="http://www.suntimes.com/entertainment/weekend/16068503-421/robert-klein-taking-life-comedy-in-stride.html">profile of him in the <em>Sun-Times</em></a>. On the show,<a href="http://morningamp.tumblr.com/post/35344825267/theres-a-lot-of-old-fools-too-you-dont"> he said</a> that with time,&nbsp;&ldquo;You don&rsquo;t necessarily get wiser. You certainly get achier&hellip;.&rdquo;</p><p>Questions? Tips? Email <a href="mailto:kdries@wbez.org">kdries@wbez.org</a>.</p></p> Fri, 09 Nov 2012 09:40:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/onstagebackstage/2012-11/daily-rehearsal-you-certainly-get-achier-time-says-comedian-robert Daily Rehearsal: Joffrey welcomes NATO guests http://www.wbez.org/blogs/onstagebackstage/2012-05/daily-rehearsal-joffrey-welcomes-nato-guests-99379 <p><p><strong>- </strong><span style="font-size:14px;"><span style="font-family: georgia, serif; "><strong>Of&nbsp;<em>Arcadia</em>,</strong></span></span> Ada Grey <a href="http://adagrey.blogspot.com/2012/05/review-of-arcadia-at-new-leaf-theatre.html">writes</a>,&nbsp;&quot;People should go see this show because it is fun, makes you want to learn more things, and is bittersweet.&quot; In more ways than one; fairwell New Leaf.</p><p><span style="font-size:14px;"><span style="font-family: georgia, serif; "><strong>- Strawdog returns to Prairie Avenue</strong></span></span> with their <a href="https://web.ovationtix.com/trs/pe/9683022">yearly fundraiser</a>. Everyone who buys a $50 ticket has the chance to win an iPad except company members, for obvious reasons. If you miss your iPad opportunity, ply yourself with cocktails and appetizers, and of course, comfort yourself with this &quot;rare opportunity to step inside one of Chicago&rsquo;s most beautiful private homes, the historic William H. Reid House.&quot;</p><p><span style="font-size:14px;"><span style="font-family: georgia, serif; "><strong>- Tonight and tomorrow at 7:30 pm</strong></span></span>, the <a href="http://www.chicagoreader.com/chicago/good-enough/Event?oid=6247889"><em>Reader</em>-recommended</a> <a href="http://www.erasingthedistance.org/what/artistic-season/"><em>Good Enough</em></a>, produced by Erasing the Distance, goes up at the Center on Halstead. &quot;This world premiere production features the stories of five remarkable women living with depression or bipolar disorder. Through waves of humor, anger, hope and pain, each woman navigates her own unique path toward discovering just what it means to be &#39;good enough.&#39;&quot; &quot;Each story ends with a triumphant victory over affliction (it&#39;s do-gooder art, after all), but the performers&#39; understated candor makes every moment ring true,&quot; writes Justin Hayford.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Joffrey%20Board%20Chair%20Jason%20Tyler%2C%20wife%20Yolanda%2C%20Rahm%20Emanuel%2C%20and%20Exec%20Director%20Christopher%20Clinton%20Conway%20%28Robert%20Carl%29.jpg" style="float: right; width: 300px; height: 200px; " title="Joffrey Ballet Board Chair Jason Tyler, wife Yolanda, Mayor Rahm Emanuel, and Joffrey Exec Director Christopher Clinton Conway. (Photo by Robert Carl)" /><span style="font-size:14px;"><span style="font-family: georgia, serif; "><strong>- The Mammals have extended their <a href="http://themammals.blogspot.com/2012/05/mammals-are-happy-to-announce-that-we.html"><em>All-Girl Moby Dick</em></a></strong></span></span> through June 9; the production is basically what you think it is from the title.</p><p><span style="font-size:14px;"><span style="font-family: georgia, serif; "><strong>- Chicago Mayer Rahm Emanuel</strong></span></span> and his wife&nbsp;joined NATO spouses at the Joffrey on Sunday, where they watched a &quot;short performance&quot;, which means that not even the arts could avoid this weekend&#39;s excitement. Guests received&nbsp;&quot;a limited edition, Picasso-inspired silk scarf based on designs developed for the ballet <em>Parade</em>.&quot; &nbsp;Relatedly (to dance), <a href="http://www.windycitymediagroup.com/lgbt/Dancin-up-a-joy-storm/37637.html">here&#39;s a very thorough look</a> at Hubbard Street Dance&#39;s 34th season wrap-up by Vicki Crain.</p><p>Questions? Tips? Email <a href="mailto:kdries@wbez.org">kdries@wbez.org</a>.</p></p> Mon, 21 May 2012 10:19:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/onstagebackstage/2012-05/daily-rehearsal-joffrey-welcomes-nato-guests-99379 The Don't-Miss List: Gilbert & Sullivan, fairy tales and Depression theater http://www.wbez.org/blog/onstagebackstage/2012-03-08/dont-miss-list-gilbert-sullivan-fairy-tales-and-depression-theater- <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/photo/2012-March/2012-03-07/strawdog.jpg" alt="" /><p><p style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2012-March/2012-03-07/strawdog.jpg" style="width: 630px; height: 420px;" title="Paul Fagen and Caroline Neff star in Strawdog's 'The Petrified Forest.' (Leigh Loftus)"></p><p><a href="http://www.strawdog.org/index.php?section=history&amp;production=petrified">Strawdog's<em> <strong>The Petrified Forest</strong></em></a><strong> </strong>is an old-fashioned show in the best sense of the term, developing its conflicts and characters leisurely so that by the time things come to a head, the audience is deeply invested. But it's also the kind of show most likely to be overlooked in the crush of Chicago theater: vintage (rather than bran-spanking-world-premiere-new), with a name that sounds familiar mostly to people who've seen the movie adaptation and may therefore feel they've been there and done that.</p><p>But they haven't, because in Shade Murray's textured production this semi-naturalistic tale of dreams crushed by the Great Depression feels utterly, almost dauntingly, fresh. We may not be trapped in a desert-side greasy spoon in the middle of nowhere, but all of us know what it's like to hope for something better and fear we'll never find it. Though the movie made a star of Humphrey Bogart as Duke Mantee, the gangster whose takeover of the place brings its frustrations to a boil, here the focus is on Bette Davis and Leslie Howard, which is to say Caroline Neff and Paul Fagen--two impractical dreamers who fall in star-crossed love over the course of two acts. It's a rich, dense, filling evening in the theater--a meat pie instead of the 90-minute-no-intermission petit-fours we've been getting lately.&nbsp; Settle into your seat and enjoy. The show runs through March 31 at Strawdog in Lakeview; tickets are $28, but only $15 for students and seniors.</p><p>On Wednesday the 14th, the protean Neff will appear at <a href="http://www.steeptheatre.com/">Steep Theatre</a> in a staged reading of <strong><em>Blindsided</em></strong>, a new work by Simon Stephens. Stephens, the author of Steep's award-winning <em>Harper Regan</em> as well as of <a href="http://griffintheatre.com/punk-rock/">Griffin's hit <em>Punk Rock</em></a>, is in town for a couple of days. He'll be in the audience on Wednesday, but on Monday (the 12th) he'll be on the Steep stage reading his own monologue <strong><em>Sea Wall</em></strong>, and then engaging in a post-show conversation with the <em>Tribune</em>'s Chris Jones. Get tickets for both shows for $30 on the company's Website.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p>Stephens will also attend Sunday afternoon's final performance of <em>Punk Rock</em> at Griffin and then hang around to chat with the audience.&nbsp; <a href="https://www.theaterwit.org/tickets/productions/box_office">Tickets are $40 and available at the Theatre Wit Website.&nbsp;</a></p><p><strong>Jonathan Abarbanel:</strong></p><p><strong><em><a href="http://lucian.uchicago.edu/blogs/performanceprogram/special-annual-events/gilbert-sullivan/the-gondoliers/">The Gondoliers</a>&nbsp;</em></strong>was the last successful collaboration between William S. Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan, and, while it’s part of the standard G&amp;S repertory, it’s less frequently produced than such ever-popular works as <em>HMS Pinafore</em> or <em>The Mikado</em>, which is too bad because its plot is just as silly and its score equally luscious. See for yourself this weekend only as the Gilbert &amp; Sullivan Opera Company, in&nbsp;association with the University of Chicago Chamber Orchestra, presents <em>The Gondoliers</em> at Mandel Hall. The production opens the 52<sup>nd</sup> season of the Gilbert &amp; Sullivan Opera Company.</p><p>Two shows opening this weekend have something in common: They are fairytales. In the West Loop, the Building Stage (which conveniently has free parking) offers a take on <a href="http://www.buildingstage.com/bxo_show_hansel.php"><strong><em>Hansel und Gretel</em></strong></a> as adapted by artistic director Blake Montgomery, who draws on both the Brothers Grimm and the Humperdinck opera. <em>Hansel und Gretel</em> runs through April 22. Up north in Andersonville, the Neo-Futurists founder Greg Allen combines genres with <a href="http://neofuturists.org/index.php?option=com_content&amp;view=article&amp;id=106&amp;Itemid=100013"><strong><em>The Strange and Terrible Tale of Pinocchio (the wooden boy) as told by Frankenstein’s Monster, the Wretched Creature</em></strong></a>, an adult (emphasized) retelling that includes much of the violence which is removed for “family-friendly” versions. <em>Pinocchio/Frankenstein</em> continues through April 14 at the Neo-Futurarium. Both Montgomery and Allen enjoy their meta-theatrics, so expect puppets, masks, miniatures, exaggerations, music and similar grotesqueries.</p></p> Thu, 08 Mar 2012 19:48:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blog/onstagebackstage/2012-03-08/dont-miss-list-gilbert-sullivan-fairy-tales-and-depression-theater- The Don't-Miss List: The return of 'Patsy Cline,' 'Amerville' and Kiss Kiss Cabaret http://www.wbez.org/blog/onstagebackstage/2012-02-23/dont-miss-list-return-patsy-cline-amerville-and-kiss-kiss-cabaret-9 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/photo/2012-February/2012-02-23/ammunition.jpg" alt="" /><p><p><u><strong>Kelly Kleiman</strong></u></p><p><span class="diffchange"><span>To close out Black History Month, <a href="http://writerstheatre.org/">Writers' Theatre</a> brings its one-woman show,<strong> <em>The MLK Project: The Fight for Civil Rights</em></strong>, to First Church of the Brethren on the West Side. Dr. King preached from the church's pulpit during his stay in Chicago in the late 1960s, when he fought for open housing against violent opposition. </span></span>This Saturday's matinee is only the second public performance of the show, which includes poetry, hip-hop and excerpts from interviews with Chicago leaders of the civil rights movement. And, it's FREE. Feb. 25, 2 p.m., at the church, 425 S. Central Park Avenue.</p><p><span class="diffchange"><img alt="" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2012-February/2012-02-23/ameriville.png" style="margin-left: 10px; margin-top: 10px; margin-bottom: 10px; float: right; width: 185px; height: 200px; " title=""><span>Also: This is the final weekend of the amazing <strong><em><span>Ameriville</span></em> </strong>at <a href="http://victorygardens.org/">Victory Gardens</a>. Likewise a compendium of interviews, poetry and music, this hip-hop opera grabs the audience even before its performers arrive on the stage, as they come stomping and singing through the aisles. They are Universes, a performance cooperative of three men and one woman, the latter of whom (<a href="http://www.universesonstage.com/page18/page36/page36.html">Mildred Ruiz-Sapp</a>) has one of the richest blues altos you'll ever hear. The group developed the piece with Victory Gardens' new Artistic Director, Chay Yew, who also directed with clarity and the perfect rapid-fire pace.&nbsp;<em><span>Ameriville </span></em>uses the impossibly slow recovery from Hurricane Katrina as a jumping-off point to consider everything from poverty and race to global warming and water purity. (Hear more in my <a href="episode-segments/2012-02-10/dueling-critics-%3Cspan%3Eameriville%3C/span%3E-victory-gardens-theater-96252">on-air review</a>.) Agit-prop of the very first (you should pardon the expression) water. Through Sunday the 26th on the mainstage at the Biograph, tickets $25-$40.</span></span></p><p><strong><u>Laura Molzahn</u></strong></p><p><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2012-February/2012-02-23/ammunition.jpg" style="margin-right: 10px; margin-top: 10px; margin-bottom: 10px; float: left; width: 200px; height: 300px; " title="Ammunition of Kiss Kiss Cabaret">It’s a slow weekend for dance in Chicago. Especially classical dance, if you had your heart set on old-school ballet: Russia’s Grigorovich troupe got canceled. But the Joffrey’s excellent contemporary program, <a href="http://www.joffrey.com/">“<strong>Winter Fire</strong>,” continues through Sunday</a>.</p><p>At the other end of the spectrum, <strong><a href="http://www.kisskisscabaret.com/">Kiss Kiss Cabaret</a></strong> celebrates its second year of weekly burlesque this Friday with the KKC debut of Serenna Starr (who enters, swallowed by a fish, in her “Gone Fishin’” routine) and the return of comedian Tamale Sepp (whose clever tattooed corset saves time and money!). And then there’s Ammunition, whose specialty is attacking herself with a grinder in a strategic spot—thankfully, protected by a big brass plate—and sending geysers of sparks in all directions. Fridays at 11 p.m. at the Greenhouse Theater Center.</p><p>Can there be a third end of a spectrum? Anyway, slow week or not, a new piece by <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blog/city-room-blog/choreographer-molly-shanahan-gets-budding-nu-actors-moving">Molly Shanahan</a>/Mad Shak is always a unique pleasure. In <strong><em><a href="http://www.colum.edu/dance_center/">The Delicate Hour</a></em></strong>, Shanahan riffs on what she calls the “haunting hour of sunset” as she aims to capture “the magic of change and the promise of loss in a second-by-second dead heat.” I saw it. Beauty wins. Thursday through Saturday at the Dance Center of Columbia College.&nbsp;</p><p><u><strong>Jonathan Abarbanel</strong></u></p><p><img alt="" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2012-February/2012-02-23/patsy_cline_sm.jpg" style="margin-left: 10px; margin-top: 10px; margin-bottom: 10px; float: right; width: 200px; height: 300px; " title="">The 1936 Broadway production of <a href="http://www.strawdog.org/index.php?section=history&amp;production=petrified"><strong><em>The Petrified Forest</em></strong> </a>featured Leslie Howard (already a star) as suicidal hero Alan Squier, and Humphrey Bogart (then unknown) as bad guy Duke Mantee. Both also starred in the film that followed, with the addition of Bette Davis as the ingénue. Now’s your chance to see the original 1936 Robert E. Sherwood drama, staged at Strawdog Theatre Company by a very good director, Shade Murray. Sherwood’s odd combination of gangster melodrama and poetic realism has just about everything but sex (doomed romance, yes; sex, no). <em>The Petrified Forest</em> plays at Strawdog through March 31.</p><p>A chance post-concert meeting between Patsy Cline and an ordinary, everyday fan turned into an enduring friendship that spanned several years until Cline’s untimely death in 1963. That real-life friendship is chronicled in <a href="http://www.theatreatthecenter.com/2012_patsy.asp"><strong><em>Always . . . Patsy Cline</em></strong></a>, which also is a showcase for 27 of Cline’s most popular songs. The show was staged locally in 1995 by director Brian Russell at Northlight Theatre with a long run following at the Apollo Theatre, and Russell is in charge again for this new production by Theatre at the Center in Munster, IN (about 40 minutes from The Loop if traffic is moving). Heather Beck stars as Cline. <em>Always . . . Patsy Cline</em> runs through April 1. Remember, gas is a lot cheaper in Indiana, so fill up while you’re there.</p><p><em>Correction: An earlier version of this story stated that </em>Always...Patsy Cline<em> runs through March 1. It runs through April 1.</em></p></p> Thu, 23 Feb 2012 16:42:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blog/onstagebackstage/2012-02-23/dont-miss-list-return-patsy-cline-amerville-and-kiss-kiss-cabaret-9 Daily Rehearsal: Dance at American Girl Place http://www.wbez.org/blog/onstagebackstage/2012-02-21/daily-rehearsal-dance-american-girl-place-96587 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/photo/2012-February/2012-02-21/900707345_98af1542eb.jpg" alt="" /><p><p><span style="font-size:14px;"><span style="font-family:georgia,serif;"><strong>1. Gilbert &amp; Sullivan's <a href="http://www.footlights.com/chicago/events/event/view-event/gilbert-sullivans-the-gondoliers.html"><em>The Gondoliers </em></a></strong></span></span>is up at Mandel Hall at the University of Chicago the weekend of March 9. It&nbsp;"takes place in 19th-century Venice, where two handsome and charming would-be Kings – both gondoliers – vie for the disputed throne of Barataria." Riveting! Will there be water? Another fun fact: When it opened, "the comic opera was Gilbert &amp; Sullivan’s last great success, opening in 1889 and continuing for 554 performances—at that time the fifth longest running piece of musical theatre in history." And a final fun fact:&nbsp;2012 is the 28th consecutive year that the proceeds from the production will benefit the University's Department of Music.</p><p><span style="font-size:14px;"><span style="font-family:georgia,serif;"><strong>2. We've got more detailed thoughts</strong></span></span> about the power of regional theater from Jason Loewith at Howlround.&nbsp;The gist? Stop whining! "Managing institutional expansion while staying true to a theater’s intimate roots is a huge challenge when companies try to break financial barriers, <a href="http://www.howlround.com/in-case-you-missed-the-revolution-by-jason-loewith/">he writes</a>.</p><blockquote><p>"A success story I love was written by Writers’ Theatre in Glencoe, Illinois. The company, which began in 1992 with fifty seats in the back of a bookstore, traded on its intimacy between artist and patron, and within ten years had grown to a budget of $1.2 million and 5,400 subscribers. When the company designed a new space in 2003, it held on to its hallmark intimacy by increasing to only 108 seats; the company retained (and even grew) its near-capacity subscription base, and now boasts a budget of $3.5 million.</p></blockquote><p><span style="font-size:14px;"><span style="font-family:georgia,serif;"><strong>3. Red Orchid's <em>Megacosm </em></strong></span></span>has been extended through March 11. Read more about the production <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blog/onstagebackstage/2012-02-01/dado-comes-back-chicago-red-orchids-megacosm-96019">here</a>.</p><p><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2012-February/2012-02-21/900707345_98af1542eb.jpg" style="margin-right: 10px; margin-top: 10px; margin-bottom: 10px; float: left; width: 300px; height: 225px; " title="Just imagine they're ballerinas (Flickr/C.J. Peters)"><span style="font-size:14px;"><span style="font-family:georgia,serif;"><strong>4. An activity I would have gotten behind as a youth </strong></span></span>(and, let's face it, am totally into now):&nbsp;The Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University and American Ballet Theatre (ABT) have joined up to host a dance class for girls 8 and up at the American Girl Place in Water Tower. "Visiting ABT teaching artist and former ABT dancer Anna Spelman will lead four 20-minute sessions featuring an introduction to the basics of ballet and movement from ABT’s upcoming performance of <em>Giselle </em>at ATRU (March 22 – 25)." It's a free event, but space will be limited. March 10 from 11 am to 1 pm.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p style="margin:0in;margin-bottom:.0001pt"><o:p></o:p></p><p><span style="font-size:14px;"><span style="font-family:georgia,serif;"><strong>5. Theaters just love conversations these days</strong></span></span>. Strawdog is the latest; they're doing a series called "Play Rites!" that starts March 5 will Bill Savage. He'll be moderator for&nbsp;“American Criminals,” a spin-off of The Petrified Forest. Topics of discussion include gangsters and outlaws of all kinds.&nbsp;</p><p>Questions? Tips? Email <a href="mailto:kdries@wbez.org">kdries@wbez.org</a>.</p></p> Tue, 21 Feb 2012 20:00:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blog/onstagebackstage/2012-02-21/daily-rehearsal-dance-american-girl-place-96587 The You-Missed List: Top Shows of 2011 http://www.wbez.org/blog/onstagebackstage/2011-12-19/you-missed-list-top-shows-2011-94979 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/photo/2011-December/2011-12-19/follies.jpg" alt="" /><p><p><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2011-December/2011-12-19/follies.jpg" style="margin-right: 10px; margin-top: 10px; margin-bottom: 10px; float: left; width: 354px; height: 240px;" title="'Follies' at Chicago Shakes (Photo by Liz Lauren)"><strong>Best show of the year in any category:</strong> Gary Griffin’s <em>Follies</em> at <a href="http://www.chicagoshakes.com/">Chicago Shakespeare</a>. This flawless version of an underappreciated early Sondheim should be remounted somewhere and run forever; there’s not a false note or step anywhere in it. In short: absolutely brilliant.</p><p><strong>Best one-man show of this or any other year:</strong> <a href="http://www.courttheatre.org/season/show/an_iliad/"><em>An Iliad</em> at Court Theatre</a>, by Lisa Peterson and Denis O’Hare, as performed by the extraordinary Timothy Edward Kane. Again, won’t director Charles Newell seek out another site for an open-ended run? The city is full of people who wanted to see it and couldn’t. &nbsp;<br> <br> And now on to our regularly-scheduled list, already in progress.<br> <br> <strong>Best musical we’ve seen in years:</strong> Life is unfair. Only a perfect <em>Follies</em> could eclipse two other superb productions in this category, <em>Sweeney Todd</em> at <a href="http://www.drurylaneoakbrook.com/">Drury Lane</a> and <a href="http://themusictheatrecompany.org/index.php?option=com_content&amp;view=article&amp;id=25&amp;Itemid=12"><em>Merrily We Roll Along</em> at The Music Theatre Company</a> (starring <a href="http://www.broadway.com/shows/clear-day-you-can-see-forever/buzz/159007/on-a-clear-days-breakout-star-jessie-mueller-on-flirting-with-harry-connick-jr-and-belting-on-broadway/">Jessie Mueller, now knocking them dead in <em>On A Clear Day</em> on Broadway</a>). Sondheim was everywhere this year, but in the race for attention these three are a deserved win, place and show.&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;<br> <br> <strong>Best plays about monarchs (including any Shakespeare play you care to name):</strong> So who’da thunk Chicago Shakespeare would win this category, too, and with two non-Bard productions? No one who saw Harry Groener in <a href="http://www.chicagoshakes.com/main.taf?p=2,19,3,36,1,15"><em>The Madness of George III </em></a>will ever forget his hilarious, pathetic, tragic and deeply human character, and the same can be said for Diane D’Aquila’s powerful, hearthbroken&nbsp; and heartbreaking <em><a href="https://www.chicagoshakes.com/main.taf?p=2,62,5,1,11">Elizabeth Rex</a>.</em>&nbsp;And with its offstage gods and kings manipulating its onstage warriors and fools, let’s count <em>An Iliad</em> once again–just because it was so amazing. &nbsp;<br> <br> <strong>Best plays about racism:</strong> <a href="http://www.theartistichome.org/index.php?option=com_content&amp;task=view&amp;id=130&amp;Itemid=250">Artistic Home’s revival of Alice Childress's Obie-winning <em>Trouble in Mind</em></a> anatomized discrimination within the theater itself, while–-speaking of painfully close to home-–<a href="http://www.steppenwolf.org/boxoffice/productions/index.aspx?id=527">Bruce Norris’s Pulitzer-winning Clybourne Park</a> called out gentrification in Steppenwolf’s own neighborhood. It take some nerve to raise the ghost of <a href="http://www.biography.com/people/lorraine-hansberry-9327823">Lorraine Hansberry,</a> and a top-notch intellect to confront it on equal terms. Fortunately, Norris shows himself as able a combatant as we’ve seen since <a href="http://gwt.scripturetext.com/genesis/32.htm">Jacob wrestled with the angel til dawn</a>. &nbsp;<br> <br> <strong>Best avant-garde plays, even for those of us skeptical about the very concept:</strong> Trap Door took a play that is literally revolting, featuring a character with an intimate relationship with excrement –&nbsp;<a href="http://trapdoortheatre.com/performance-history/first-ladies/">Werner Schwab's <em>First Ladies</em></a>&nbsp;--&nbsp;and made it into a savage and inescapable commentary on the dregs which constitute contemporary life. Nicole Wiesner’s performance as the obsessed plumber was first among equals, and deserved a much wider audience than it got. Kudos to her and to the entire company for deciding that doing the work they believe in is more important than the commercial success they could all surely have.</p><p>Meanwhile, <a href="http://theateroobleck.com/plays/there-is-a-happiness-that-morning-is">Mickle Maher's <em>There is a Happiness That Morning Is</em></a>, which Theatre Oobleck did at the DCA Theatre, broke the fourth wall while making <a href="http://www.online-literature.com/blake/songs-of-innocence-and-experie">William Blake's <em>Songs of Innocence and Experience</em></a> into a surrogate for all conflicts between Apollo and Dionysius, between head and heart, between conformity and individuality. Performed as a pair of dueling lectures, with a few comments from the peanut gallery, the piece is Impossible to describe but was thrilling to observe.&nbsp;<br> <br> <strong>Best adaptations from other media:</strong> honors are shared here by Marilyn Campbell's <a href="http://www.16thstreettheater.org/seasonfour/thebeats.html"><em>The Beats</em> at 16th Street Theatre</a>, which makes the 1950s poets seem our contemporaries; <a href="http://buildingstage.com/bxo_show_mobydick.php"><em>Moby Dick</em> at the Building Stage</a>, in which everyone onstage takes a turn as Ahab, reminding the audience that anyone is capable of cruelty, obsession and insanity; <a href="http://thehousetheatre.com/seasons/x/shows/cyrano">The House Theatre’s version of <em>Cyrano</em></a>, which rescued the tale of love and chivalry from the musty cloth in which it’s been swaddled (not to say suffocated); and <a href="http://www.courttheatre.org/season/show/spunk/"><em>Spunk</em> at Court Theatre, a delightful musical adaptation of Zora Neale Hurston short stories</a>. And speaking of Court, did I mention its one-man adaptation of Homer?<br> <br> <strong>Best plays with an Irish lilt (always a crowded category in Chicago):</strong> a tie between <a href="http://www.seanachai.org/productions/shadow.html"><em>Shadow of a Gunman</em> at Seanachai</a> (directed by John Mossman) and <a href="http://www.theartistichome.org/index.php?option=com_content&amp;task=view&amp;id=136&amp;Itemid=261"><em>A Touch of the Poet</em> at the Artistic Home's new space at Stage 773</a> (directed by Mossman's wife, AH's Artistic Director Kathy Scambiatterra). Whether it’s O’Neill or O’Casey, you can count on a true feel of the Ould Sod from these two.<br> <br> <strong>Best plays about escaping from reality:</strong> There were a lot of these this year–--and, looking at the world as it is, can you blame us?&nbsp; <a href="http://www.redtwist.org/2010-2011Season.html#Neb">Red Twist’s <em>Man from Nebraska</em></a> heads the list, with a production of the Tracy Letts play that outdid its world premiere at Steppenwolf.&nbsp; <a href="http://www.strawdog.org/index.php?section=history&amp;production=conquest">Strawdog’s <em>Conquest of the South Pole</em> </a>(the <a href="http://www.timelinetheatre.com/pitmen_painters/">other play about unemployed miners</a>) showed us a group of East Germans whose fantasies of liberation involve death on the ice.&nbsp;<a href="http://eclipsetheatre.com/season/2011/">At Eclipse</a>, playwright Naomi Wallace limned the constraints of poverty, isolation, and gender in <em>The Trestle at Pope Lick Creek</em>, while the <a href="http://www.chicagoparkdistrict.com/index.cfm/fuseaction/news.detail/object_id/a3d49bc1-3d30-4d73-b050-c4ecafb365fb.cfm">same company’s revival of Arthur Miller’s <em>After the Fall</em></a> demonstrated that even people married to Marilyn Monroe occasionally need a break.</p><p>I realize I've spoken about companies more often than directors, so permit me a shout-out to Kimberly Senior, Jonathan Berry, Andrew Jessop, Seret Scott, Matt Hawkins, Blake Montgomery, Ann Filmer, Zeljko Djukic, Amy Morton, Vaun Monroe, Barbara Gaines, Penny Metropulos, Jessica Redish and Rachel Rockwell. And may I happily note an equal number of men and women in this group of those responsible for the great work here described?</p><p>Happy New Year.&nbsp;</p></p> Mon, 19 Dec 2011 15:00:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blog/onstagebackstage/2011-12-19/you-missed-list-top-shows-2011-94979 Daily Rehearsal: 'Portlandia: The Tour' sells out Chicago in record time http://www.wbez.org/blog/onstagebackstage/2011-11-22/daily-rehearsal-portlandia-tour-sells-out-chicago-record-time-94280 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/photo/2011-November/2011-11-22/75-atlg.png" alt="" /><p><p><span style="font-size: 14px;"><span style="font-family: georgia,serif;"><strong>1. There's not a ton of stuff to see this weekend</strong></span></span> with the family, and it's basically half getting into the holiday spirit, and the other half a motley crew. Anyhow, <a href="http://www.footlights.com/chicago/events/for/thisweekend/page/1.html">peruse Footlights</a>, see what you like that will get you out of the house more than a walk-off of your turkey-enduced coma.</p><p><img alt="" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2011-November/2011-11-22/75-atlg.png" style="margin-right: 10px; margin-top: 10px; margin-bottom: 10px; float: left; width: 300px; height: 200px;" title=""><span style="font-size: 14px;"><span style="font-family: georgia,serif;"><strong>2. <a href="http://www.hideoutchicago.com/event/78431/"><em>Portlandia: The Tour</em></a> is already sold out</strong></span></span>, after tickets just went on sale at 10 am this morning. (Comments indicate they sold out within minutes. Whatever, just put a bird on it.) The show, which you won't be seeing, is in Chicago on January 18 at the Hideout. What will you be missing?<a href="http://www.ifc.com/portlandia/the-tour/"> Carrie Brownstein and Fred Armisen</a>&nbsp;"performing live music, presenting sneak-peek clips from the show's second season and sharing personal&nbsp;anecdotes about the creation and inspiration of Portlandia and its variety of eccentric characters."&nbsp;Want more Brownstein? Check out <a href="http://www.wbez.org/story/live-music-thursday-wild-flags-black-tiles-94156">these videos</a>&nbsp;of Wild Flag performing for <em>Sound Opinions</em> here at WBEZ.</p><p><span style="font-size: 14px;"><span style="font-family: georgia,serif;"><strong>3. <em>An Iliad</em> has received the elusive </strong></span></span><a href="http://timeoutchicago.com/arts-culture/theater/15032167/an-iliad-at-court-theatre-theater-review"><span style="font-size: 14px;"><span style="font-family: georgia,serif;"><strong>five-star review</strong></span></span> from <em>TimeOut</em></a>; reviewer Oliver Sava writes, "Kane’s stunning performance has the spontaneity of a story told around a campfire, yet his emotional reaction to the narrative shows his profound connection to the material." There's also praise for set designers and directors -- it sounds like no one is resting in this production.</p><p><span style="font-size: 14px;"><span style="font-family: georgia,serif;"><strong>4. Interesting: Yesterday Kris Vire and Ada Grey delievered</strong></span></span>&nbsp;their review of&nbsp;Strawdog's Benefit Performance of<em> <a href="http://adagrey.blogspot.com/2011/11/ada-grey-reviews-for-you-live.html">The Phone Book </a></em><a href="http://adagrey.blogspot.com/2011/11/ada-grey-reviews-for-you-live.html">LIVE</a>. As in, in front of everyone it was concerning. I'm not super familiar with Grey, but <a href="http://adagrey.blogspot.com/">her blog is quite enjoyable</a>. Rude or funny? Your call. Maybe a bit of both, the best way to be.</p><p><span style="font-size: 14px;"><span style="font-family: georgia,serif;"><strong>5. The last week in November is House Manager Appreciation Week!&nbsp;</strong></span></span>Not officially or anything, but according<a href="http://backstageat.backstagejobs.com/?p=829"> to Backstage at BackstageJobs.com</a>. They're the ones that have to deal with:</p><ul><li>Irate patrons.</li><li>Sick patrons.</li><li>Violent patrons.</li><li>Drunk patrons.</li></ul><p>And why the last week in November? Because it's the <em>holidays</em>, and that means people are shockingly not on their best behavior.&nbsp;"Not only do [house managers] have the stress of dealing with people who may have no idea what their expected behavior should be in a theatre [tourists], but also trying to ensure that they enjoy the experience enough to consider coming back for a show during the regular season." So hug a House Manager!</p><p>Questions? Tips? Email <a href="mailto:kdries@wbez.org">kdries@wbez.org</a>.</p></p> Tue, 22 Nov 2011 17:33:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blog/onstagebackstage/2011-11-22/daily-rehearsal-portlandia-tour-sells-out-chicago-record-time-94280 Working for the Weekend: Critics picks for 5/6-5/8 http://www.wbez.org/blog/onstagebackstage/2011-05-05/working-weekend-critics-picks-56-58-86119 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/photo/2011-May/2011-05-05/katecorby.JPG" alt="" /><p><p><u><strong>Kelly Kleiman</strong></u></p><p><span style="font-style: italic;">The Conquest of the South Pole</span> at <a href="http://www.strawdog.org/%20">Strawdog Theatre</a> has nothing whatsoever to do with the conquest of the South Pole. Well, maybe that's a bit strong: it's true that the unemployed miners in this contemporary Russian play find some sort of relief from their lives by fantasizing that they're Norwegians racing to the Pole against the English party led by Scott.&nbsp; But the fantasies have limited power to overcome the men's despair, and the men have even less power to change their lives.&nbsp;</p><p><span style="font-style: italic;">Conquest</span> is a distinctively European work, borrowing blackouts and scene announcements from Brecht and existential despair from Beckett. But the all-American (and always excellent) Strawdog troupe, under the sensitive direction of Kimberly Senior, inhabits these characters fully and richly. Particularly remarkable is Senior's work with and through Jenny Avery; between them they manage to make the wife character, often an afterthought, into the emotional and thematic center of the production. And it goes like the wind: 80 minutes, no intermission. Through May 28 at the Strawdog on Clark Street in Lakeview.</p><p style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2011-May/2011-05-05/Steep Theatre Presents The Midwest Premiere of Festen.jpg" title="" width="565" height="224"></p><p style="text-align: left;"><br> And, in the department of utterly reliable companies, tonight Steep Theatre in Edgewater will open <a href="http://www.steeptheatre.com/shows/shows_main.html"><span style="font-style: italic;">Festen</span></a>, a drama of family revelations in the tradition of Steep's excellent <span style="font-style: italic;">Brief History of Helen of Troy</span> and <span style="font-style: italic;">Harper Regan</span>. If you missed Steep's recent rendition of Mamet's <span style="font-style: italic;">Lakeboat</span>, you missed something really special; so (though I haven't seen it yet) my suggestion is that you don't miss this one. Through June 11; tickets $22.</p><p><u><strong>Laura Molzahn</strong></u></p><p style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2011-May/2011-05-05/katecorby.JPG" style="width: 500px; height: 363px;" title=""></p><p>Give her credit for chutzpah. And for a conscience. Moved by the pilfered belongings she saw at the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum in Poland, choreographer <a href="http://katecorby.com/home.html">Kate Corby</a> launched a two-year project on genocide. She’s halfway through.</p><p>Her solo <em>Brute</em>—exploring the isolation and grief of female survivors—surrounds dancer Emily Miller with 100 pounds of red clothes.</p><p><em>Catch</em>, which focuses on empathy, was the result of Corby’s effort “to understand the most heinous of human brutality,” she says. In part the result of reading Frans de Waal’s 2009 study of empathy in apes, it incorporates “the ritualistic call and response of animals in the wild.”</p><p>The project hasn’t been easy.</p><p>“I’m thinking my next project will have to be about sunshine or babies or something like that,” Corby says.</p><p>Right. It’s hard to imagine this smart, committed choreographer—whose half-funny, half-menacing trio <em>Go&nbsp;</em>wowed the crowd last summer at the A.W.A.R.D. Show!—doing something truly lightweight.</p><p><strong>Kate Corby &amp; Dancers</strong> performs these three works plus a new duet <a href="http://www.linkshall.org/">one weekend only at tiny Link’s Hall</a>. Expect this excellent fringe-y company to take Wrigleyville global.&nbsp;</p><p><strong><u>Jonathan Abarbanel</u></strong></p><p>First it was a novel, then it was a 1978 animated feature film with guys like John Hurt and Zero Mostel providing the voices, and now <a href="http://www.lifelinetheatre.com/performances/10-11/watership/index.shtml"><em><strong>Watership Down</strong></em></a> is live on stage as adapted by <strong>Lifeline Theatre Company</strong>.</p><p>However you slice it, this tale by Richard Adams concerns a heroic band of--uh--rabbits searching for their very own promised land. Actually, I think they've found it in Millennium Park, although they have to share it with the geese. <em><strong>Watership Down</strong></em> continues through June 19 at least.</p><p style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2011-May/2011-05-05/10_11_StageKiss_560x195.jpg" title="" width="560" height="195"></p><p style="text-align: left;">Just about the hottest young playwright around these days is Sarah Ruhl, whose tremendously varied works have been short-listed for a Pulitzer Prize and won a slew of other awards.</p><p style="text-align: left;">In Chicago where she was born and raised, Ruhl has affiliations with the small Piven Theatre in Evanston and the mighty <strong>Goodman Theatre</strong> in The Loop.</p><p style="text-align: left;">Right now, the Goodman's got her in romantic comedy mode with the world premiere of Ruhl's <a href="http://www.goodmantheatre.org/season/Production.aspx?prod=113"><strong><em>Stage Kiss</em></strong></a>, a backstage look at actors as lovers both onstage and off. <strong><em>Stage Kiss</em></strong> runs through June 5.</p></p> Thu, 05 May 2011 18:55:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blog/onstagebackstage/2011-05-05/working-weekend-critics-picks-56-58-86119