WBEZ | MPAACT http://www.wbez.org/tags/mpaact 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 Don't-Miss List: 1 anti-war ballet, 2 comedies, 4 nights of ElectionFest and a partridge in a Strange Tree http://www.wbez.org/blogs/onstagebackstage/2012-10/dont-miss-list-1-anti-war-ballet-2-comedies-4-nights-electionfest-and <p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/RS6502_Joffrey Green Table-scr.JPG" style="height: 537px; width: 620px; " title="The Green Table (Courtesy of the Joffrey Ballet/Sean Williams)" /></div><p><u><em>ElectionFest 2012 </em>at&nbsp;Pine Box Theater at <a href="http://www/theaterwit.org">Theater Wit</a>, 1229 W. Belmont; 1-773-975-8150;&nbsp;$13; Oct. 22, 23 and 29, 30 ONLY</u><br /><br />You can&#39;t see it until Monday night Oct. 22 but you&#39;d better plan now &#39;cause there only are four performances. Pine Box Theater, an itinerant troupe that &mdash; uh &mdash; came back from the dead last year after several years&#39; absence, has cornered the market on notable local authors and directors. Under the collective title <strong><em>ElectionFest 2012</em></strong>, Pine Box is offering a dozen ten-minute plays in two bills of six plays each. The list of authors is a who&#39;s who of top local dramatists, among them Laura Eason (Lookingglass), Sarah Gubbins (just won a Jeff Award), Nambi E. Kelley, Paul Oakley Stovall and Andrew Hinderaker (new play currently at the Gift Theatre). And the directors are every bit as good, among them Julieanne Ehre, Lisa Portes, Vincent Teninty and Joanie Schultz. The plays all speak to the issues dividing us this political season, with individual titles such as <em>Guess Who&#39;s Not Coming to Dinner?,&nbsp;</em><em>A Letter to Mama-in-Chief Obama,&nbsp;The One Percent</em> and <em>A Moderate Threat.</em>&nbsp;&ndash;JA</p><p><u><em>Funeral Wedding: The Alvin Play</em>,<a href="http://www.strangetree.org"> Strange Tree Group</a> at Signal Ensemble Theatre, 1802 W.<br />Berenice; 1-773-598-8240; $25-$45 (VIP tix); runs through Nov. 11</u><br /><br /><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/home-title-alvin-photo.png" style="height: 156px; width: 300px; float: left; " title="'Funeral Wedding or The Alvin Play' (Courtesy Strange Tree Group/Tyler Core)" />I&#39;ve always been partial to The Strange Tree Group, which seems to channel Edward Gorey,&nbsp;Charles Addams, Edgar Allan Poe and classic fairy tales and parallels the meta-theatric staging&nbsp;techniques of Redmoon and Building Stage. <strong><em>Funeral Wedding: The Alvin Play</em></strong> is written by the troupe&#39;s founding artistic director, Emily Schwartz, and first was done in 2006 when Strange Tree Group was new. Now this perfect-for-Halloween ghost story has been revamped and re-imagined as it tells the tale of a haunted young man trapped between past and present while unraveling family secrets. Hint: think murder. &ndash;JA</p><p><u><em>We&rsquo;re All In This Room Together</em>, <a href="http://www.secondcity.com">Second City e.t.c.</a>, 1616 North Wells Street, 312-337-3992, $23-$28, open run</u><br /><br />It&rsquo;s not often you get to see a Jeff Award-winning show: By the time the Jeff Committee hands out the Equity awards in October, most of its honorees have long since closed. An exception is this revue by the nearly-as-established-as-the-mainstage second company at Second City. (Query: Does that make e.t.c. the Fourth Company in some Platonic semi-improvisational universe?) Earlier this week the show won Best Production&ndash;Revue as well Best Director&ndash;Revue for Ryan Bernier, so this weekend&rsquo;s performances should be particularly sharp and vibrant. Tuesday through Sunday at 8 p.m., plus 11 p.m. shows on Friday and Saturday. &ndash;KK<br /><br /><u><em>Blackademics</em>, <a href="http://www.mpaact.org">MPAACT </a>at the Greenhouse, 2257 North Lincoln Avenue, 773-404-7336, $15-$23, now in previews; opens Monday the 22nd</u><br /><br />For a different brand of humor, check out Idris Goodwin&rsquo;s new play about a pair of African-American college professors whose friendly dinner turns into a catfight of epic proportions, with a little help from their smilingly hostile waitress. What sounds like a cross between Jane Smiley&rsquo;s <em>Moo</em> and Clare Boothe Luce&rsquo;s <em>The Women</em> opens Sunday, under the joint direction of Marie Cisco and MPAACT Executive Director Shepsu Aakhu. Thursdays through Saturdays at 8, Sundays at 3 through November 25.&nbsp;&ndash;KK</p><p><u><em>Human Landscapes</em>,<a href="http://joffrey.com"> The Joffrey Ballet</a> at the Auditorium Theatre, 50 East Congress Parkway, 800-982-2787, $31-$152, Friday the 19th through Sunday the 28th</u><br /><br />The Joffrey&rsquo;s autumn home stand features the celebrated antiwar ballet <em>The Green Table</em>. German choreographer Kurt Jooss created the Expressionist piece after the First World War but it has only gained resonance in the century since. The program also includes a Jiri Kylian work returning to the Joffrey repertory after nearly 30 years on hiatus, as well as James Kudelka&rsquo;s frankly named <em>Pretty BALLET</em>. Friday through Sunday this weekend, Thursday through Sunday next weekend, 7:30 evening performances and 2 p.m. matinees.&nbsp; &ndash;KK</p></p> Thu, 18 Oct 2012 09:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/onstagebackstage/2012-10/dont-miss-list-1-anti-war-ballet-2-comedies-4-nights-electionfest-and The Don't-Miss List: Putting on 'The Ritz', 'Winter Fire' and 'Man Boobs' http://www.wbez.org/blog/onstagebackstage/2012-02-15/dont-miss-list-putting-ritz-winter-fire-and-man-boobs-96425 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/photo/2012-February/2012-02-16/manboobs.jpg" alt="" /><p><p><u><strong>Kelly Kleiman</strong></u></p><p><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2012-February/2012-02-16/the ritz.jpg" style="margin-left: 10px; margin-top: 10px; margin-bottom: 10px; float: right; width: 254px; height: 300px; " title="'The Ritz' at Circle Theatre">Solo performers have a hard time finding outlets for their work; African-American solo performers have a doubly hard time. This is the theory behind <a href="http://MPAACT.org/">MPAACT's <strong>Solo Jam</strong> series</a>, a late-night showcase of performance pieces at the Greenhouse in Lincoln Park. Every Friday and Saturday through March 10, a different artist will present a piece of his/her own devising. A preview of the work showed a wide range of styles and themes: I was particularly taken with next weekend's pairing, Osiris Khepera's <em>The Fag-tionary</em> and Jonathan Kitt's <em>Superman, Black Man, Me! A Stage Essay</em>, but there doesn't seem to be a bad one in the bunch. The shows begin at 11 p.m. (after MPAACT's mainstage production <em>Sweet Home</em>; a ticket to that will get you a discount to the Solo Jam); tickets $12 for a single show or $20 for the weekend.</p><p>And if you think the world of solo performance is daunting for actors of color, consider the nearly monochromatic world of sketch comedy.&nbsp; Taco Flavored Eggrolls storms those alabaster barricades with the irresistably-named <strong><em>It Takes Juan To Know Wong (a colored commentary)</em></strong>, which begins an 8-week run at the <a href="http://www.propthtr.org/">PROP THTR</a>&nbsp;Friday. 10:30 every Friday through April 6 at 3502 N. Elston Avenue; tickets are $12, $10 for students and seniors (though really, what senior stays up that late?)</p><p>Or, if you're in the mood for an actual comic play, check out <a href="http://www.circle-theatre.org/">Circle Theater's newly-opened production of <strong><em>The Ritz</em></strong></a>, a very early farce by Terrence McNally. (Early enough that the words "gay bathhouse" had no over- or undertones.) Fridays and Saturdays at 8, Sundays at 3; tickets $24-$28 with various discounts; performances at 1010 West Madison Street in Oak Park.&nbsp;</p><p><u><strong>Laura Molzahn</strong></u></p><p><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2012-February/2012-02-16/trey mcintyre.jpg" style="width: 600px; height: 400px; " title="(Photo courtesy of Preservation Hall Jazz Band)"></p><p>Fat Tuesday is right around the corner—and so is New Orleans on Friday night, when the <a href="http://www.cso.org/"><strong>Trey McIntyre Project</strong> dances to the swinging Preservation Hall Jazz Band</a> at Symphony Center. Don’t expect cheek-to-cheek, though. In McIntyre’s macabre <em>Ma Maison</em>, the dancers cavort in skull masks. And as Lewis Segal of the LA Times describes <em>The Sweeter End</em>, it’s a “high-speed amalgam of ballet steps, gymnastic feats, ballroom fragments and eruptions of snake-hips undulation.”</p><p>The <a href="http://www.auditoriumtheatre.org/wb/pages/home/performances-events/performances.php?event_id=353">Joffrey Ballet heats up with “<strong>Winter Fire</strong>,”</a> a program of three works by contemporary names-you-can-drop: William Forsythe, Christopher Wheeldon, and Wayne McGregor—who’s moved seamlessly from modern dance into the classical world as resident choreographer of London’s Royal Ballet. On video, McGregor’s spiky <em>Infra</em>—a U.S. premiere for the Joffrey—looks spectacular: technically challenging, tech-savvy, and moving to boot. This weekend and next, plus next Thursday, at the Auditorium.</p><p>Chicago Dance Crash reinstates its KTF (“Keeper of the Floor”) dance battles with a <a href="http://www.maynestage.com/Dance-Crash-Feb.aspx">post-Valentine’s show, “<strong>Love Is a (Dance) Battlefield</strong>,”</a> reportedly dedicated to “the hopelessly single, recent dumpees, and generally jaded demographic.” Friday at 8 PM at the Mayne Stage in Rogers Park.</p><p><u><strong>Jonathan Abarbanel</strong></u></p><p><img alt="" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2012-February/2012-02-16/manboobs.jpg" style="width: 600px; height: 386px; " title=""></p><p>Since the demise of the original Bailiwick Repertory Theater in 2009, director David Zak has re-emerged as head of Pride Films and Plays, a Chicago-based organization&nbsp;that reaches nation-wide to find and develop writing for screen and stage on LGBT subjects. Some of the works are serious and some are not. I’m not certain about the current project, J. Julian Christopher’s self-described “dark comedy” entitled <a href="http://www.pridefilmsandplays.com/manboobs.html"><strong><em>Man Boobs</em></strong></a>. Well, now, I’ll bet THAT got your attention! I’m fairly certain <em>Man Boobs</em> isn’t a medical drama about gynecomastia, but may be about love, body image and acceptance both by oneself and others. Previously produced in New York, Los Angeles, Montreal and Australia, <em>Man Boobs</em> launches Pride Films and Plays’ 2012 season, running through March 10 at Mary’s Attic in Andersonville.</p><p>Porchlight Music Theatre has not built its reputation by spinning gold from dross, but currently is attempting just that with the regional premiere of <a href="http://porchlightmusictheatre.org/a-catered-affair/"><strong><em>A Catered Affair</em></strong></a>, a failed 2008 Broadway musical based on the 1956 film (script by Gore Vidal) and the 1955 live TV drama (by Paddy Chayefsky) before that. Set in the 1950’s Bronx, it concerns a lower-middle-class family planning a lavish wedding for their only daughter. <em>A Catered Affair</em> is composer John Bucchino’s first Broadway show, but features a book by multiple Tony Award winner Harvey Fierstein, who created a role for himself, that of the bride’s gay uncle. The Broadway reviews called it restrained and almost like a chamber musical, which may work well in Porchlight’s intimate production at Stage 773 in Wrigleyville. The artistic team of Nick Bowling (director) and Douglas Peck (musical director) is impeccable. <em>A Catered Affair</em> runs through April 1.</p></p> Thu, 16 Feb 2012 15:38:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blog/onstagebackstage/2012-02-15/dont-miss-list-putting-ritz-winter-fire-and-man-boobs-96425 How to enter a room: Kevin Douglas in Lookingglass's 'Mr. Rickey' http://www.wbez.org/blog/onstagebackstage/2012-01-25/how-enter-room-kevin-douglas-lookingglasss-mr-rickey-95811 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/photo/2012-January/2012-01-25/kevin douglas.jpg" alt="" /><p><p><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2012-January/2012-01-25/kevin douglas.jpg" style="margin-right: 10px; margin-top: 10px; margin-bottom: 10px; float: left; width: 333px; height: 500px; " title="Douglas in rehearsal ">What’s his secret? Kevin Douglas, 37, plays a bellhop 20 years his junior—very believably—in <a href="http://lookingglasstheatre.org/content//box_office/mr_rickey_calls_a_meeting">Lookingglass Theatre’s <em>Mr. Rickey Calls a Meeting</em></a>. “Must be the water, laughter, and prayers,” he says.</p><p>Clancy Hope, the bellhop, is the only non-celebrity in playwright Ed Schmidt’s imagined 1947 hotel-room confab, right before Jackie Robinson breaks the color barrier. The rest are big hitters: the ballplayer himself, Joe Louis, Bill “Bojangles” Robinson, Paul Robeson, and Brooklyn Dodgers manager Branch Rickey.</p><p>But there’s something especially poignant about Douglas’s character, who’s a barometer of the room’s shifting moods, the representative of generations yet to come, and the comic relief. In this riveting production of a play that’s not really about sports, Douglas does a fantastic job at all of the above.</p><p>“We talked, the playwright and Nicky [director J. Nicole Brooks] and assistant director Marti Lyons,” Douglas says. “We discussed this—not going too sitcom-y. We needed to make it important that this character is there, to make sure he’s the everyman.”</p><p>Part of the interest of the play lies in seeing what’s behind the facades the characters erect, consciously or unconsciously, for the white man’s benefit.</p><p>“A lot of the time we use the 2012 sensibility and don’t think about how it had to be back then,” says Douglas. “Like with Bill Bojangles, for example. You’ve got to smile, work for your tip.” When Mr. Rickey leaves the room, he says, Brooks told the four actors remaining onstage, “The white people have left—be yourself. You boys are just hangin’ out.” The outburst that follows gets one of the show’s biggest laughs.</p><p>Douglas says he and Brooks have wanted to work together again ever since he performed in Lookingglass’s 2007 staging of her <em>Black Diamond</em>. “She lets me play and explore and do my thing.” An example? When Clancy first enters the room in <em>Mr. Rickey</em>, “The trays that I carry in… we didn’t have a real door in rehearsal, so I needed to mime. She told me, ‘You need to knock four different times, four different ways.’”</p><p><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2012-January/2012-01-25/Johnson - H.jpg" style="width: 600px; height: 400px; " title="'Mr. Rickey Calls a Meeting' is at Lookingglass Theatre"></p><p>“I’m like this little kid coming in—she helped me find the energy of a 17-year-old seeing all these celebrities. She asked me to think of the kind of people I would connect with now, people I admire. Eddie Murphy, Bob Marley, and Don Cheadle were on my mind pretty consistently.”</p><p>Douglas—whose wife, Tamberla Perry, is currently performing in the Goodman’s <em>Race</em> (“She’s fantastic!” he says)—is also a writer. A member of <a href="http://www.mpaact.org/">MPAACT (MAAT Production Association of Afrikan Centered Theatre)</a>, he cowrote two of its <em>Blaxploitation</em> sketch-comedy shows.</p><p>Also a Lookingglass artistic associate, Douglas is developing a script for that company. “It had its first-draft reading yesterday,” he says.</p><p>Describing it as a comic play with music, Douglas adds, “It’s about vaudeville, the racial makeup of vaudeville. Two brothers travel to New York, where the main vaudeville circuit is.” He’s focusing on the period “from 1900 to 1910, when film was starting to come in.”</p><p>“There were so many different types of acts back then. There were typists, who’d get up onstage and do a certain number of words per minute. This guy would drink a gallon of kerosene, then regurgitate it and light it on fire. They would juggle napkins!”</p><p>“It was like, ‘OK, I’m breathing—put me onstage.’”</p></p> Wed, 25 Jan 2012 16:07:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blog/onstagebackstage/2012-01-25/how-enter-room-kevin-douglas-lookingglasss-mr-rickey-95811 MPAACT and Steppenwolf both take on Chicago's history of segregation http://www.wbez.org/blog/onstagebackstage/2011-10-03/mpaact-and-steppenwolf-both-take-chicagos-history-segregation-92707 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/photo/2011-October/2011-10-03/ClybournePark.jpg" alt="" /><p><p><img alt="" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2011-October/2011-10-03/ClybournePark.jpg" style="margin-left: 10px; margin-right: 10px; margin-top: 10px; margin-bottom: 10px; float: right; width: 265px; height: 375px; " title="">Do you know about the new show in town addressing the causes and consequences of Chicago's persistent racial segregation? No, not <a href="http://www.steppenwolf.org/subscription/explore/"><em>Clybourne Park</em></a>, though Bruce Norris's Pulitzer prizewinner does so brilliantly. But while the Steppenwolf production bathes in well-deserved praise, attention must be paid to <a href="http://www.mpaact.org/shows/plays-for-production/speaking-in-tongues-the-chronicles-of-babel/">MPAACT's <em>Speaking in Tongues: The Chronicles of Babel</em></a><span style="FONT-STYLE: italic">,</span> the new play by Shepsu Aakhu. This oral history of a family living in the now-demolished Washington Park housing project, directed by Andrea Dymond, isn’t just another take on the impact of housing policy on people’s lives. It’s another take on the impact of housing policy **in Woodlawn** on people’s lives.&nbsp; (While Clybourne Park is ambiguous about its location, referring indiscriminately to streets on the North and West Sides, <em>A Raisin in the Sun</em> to which it pays homage is clearly about Woodlawn, the neighborhood playwright Lorraine Hansberry’s father helped to integrate.) And yet <span style="FONT-STYLE: italic">Speaking in Tongues</span> isn’t at all redundant.<br> <br> In <span style="FONT-STYLE: italic">Clybourne Park</span>, the issue is the changing color of homeownership--from middle-class white to working-class black and back 60 years later. But <span style="FONT-STYLE: italic">Speaking in Tongues </span>examines a different system for keeping black people away from whites, in this case, the CHA's decision to build high-rise public housing in communities that were already all-black .&nbsp;<br> <br> <img alt="" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2011-September/2011-09-30/Speaking In Tongues-thumb-166xauto-192.jpg" style="margin-left: 10px; margin-right: 10px; margin-top: 10px; margin-bottom: 10px; float: left; width: 200px; height: 200px; " title="">The most interesting observation in <span style="FONT-STYLE: italic">Speaking in Tongues</span> comes from Trisha, the daughter who left Washington Park as one might flee a toxic waste dump, toward a college education and a completely different existence. Trisha (sharply portrayed by Shariba Rivers) points out that "project" is another word for "experiment," as in "the Manhattan Project." No one knew what would happen when the first A-bomb was detonated, and likewise no one knew what would happen when they packed 2200 poor people into a single square block.&nbsp; They just did it, and then stood back to watch what happened. Whether or not the comparison she makes to the infamous Tuskegee Experiments is justified, her point is well-taken, and it's taken up again in the final&nbsp;moments of the play. The excellent Andre Teamer as Michael, whose upbringing at Washington Park led him ultimately to prison, notes that in 2009 construction began on low-rise mixed-income housing on the same site. People chosen to move into these new units are excited at the opportunity, just as the first residents of Washington Park were; but once again, no one knows what will happen.&nbsp;<br> <br> The structure of <span style="FONT-STYLE: italic">Clybourne Park</span> seems designed to suggest the truth of Karl Marx’s observation that history repeats itself, first as tragedy and then as farce. By contrast <span style="FONT-STYLE: italic">Speaking in Tongues</span> suggests that history repeats itself only in being completely unpredictable.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;<br> <br> <span style="FONT-STYLE: italic">Speaking in Tongues’</span> title refers to the residents of the Tower of Babel, whose hubris in trying to build a structure so tall it could touch God was punished by their being deprived of a common tongue, forever condemned to misunderstand each other. There’s hubris in the story of Chicago housing, all right, but the people who deserve to be punished are not those who lived there but those who built it.<br> <br> It's interesting to consider whether this two-show trend of talking about Chicago's history of segregation was made possible by the retirement of Mayor Daley, who did nothing about housing segregation while he was mayor and had a family interest in defending what was done about it while his father was mayor. Doubtless both playwrights were well on their way to finishing before the Daley-Emanuel transition, but it's worth noting that issues long suppressed are once again being discussed.<br> <br> These two shows remind us that segregation is a problem, and that it's our problem. Next step is for someone in authority (can you hear me, Mayor Emanuel?) to think seriously about how to address it. Theatre may propose, but only politicians can dispose.</p></p> Mon, 03 Oct 2011 11:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blog/onstagebackstage/2011-10-03/mpaact-and-steppenwolf-both-take-chicagos-history-segregation-92707 Theater on the move to Governors State University http://www.wbez.org/blog/onstagebackstage/2011-06-13/theater-move-governors-state-university-87769 <p><p style="text-align: center; "><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2011-June/2011-06-13/The Center for Performing Arts at Governors State University.jpg" style="width: 500px; height: 135px; " title=""></p><p>So here’s good news, and a second thought.&nbsp;<a href="http://cct.org">Chicago Community Trust</a> has just awarded&nbsp;$50,000 to the <a href="http://www.centertickets.net/">Center for Performing Arts at Governors State University</a> to bring in <a href="http://etacreativearts.org">eta Creative&nbsp;Arts</a>, <a href="http://mpaact.org">MPAACT</a> and <a href="http://srtp.org">Silk Road Theatre Project</a>. The program is called “One More Night” and<br> will offer just that: a single encore performance at the Center from each of the featured&nbsp;companies. Eta will go first, with a production in November, followed by MPAACT in January&nbsp;and Silk Road (TBA).<br> <br> The notion, of course, is to improve access to Chicago’s diverse theatrical culture to audiences in&nbsp;the southern suburbs, which are nearly as far removed from eta (on the Southeast Side) as from&nbsp;Silk Road (in the Loop) and MPAACT (in Lincoln Park).<br> <br> But as fellow <a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/dueling-critics">Dueling Critic</a> Jonathan Abarbanel and I will be discussing this coming Friday&nbsp;on <a href="http://www.wbez.org/eight-forty-eight"><em>Eight-Forty-Eight</em></a>, the least-well-served part of our listening area is not the South Side, or even the southern&nbsp;suburbs, but the West Side. All kudos to Governors State for creating this program and getting it&nbsp;funded; but wouldn’t it be great if the Trust could find a partner with whom to extend the&nbsp;program on the West Side?&nbsp;<a href="http://www.newwestinghouse.org/">Westinghouse High School</a>, for instance–already a transfer house for&nbsp;eta–has a state-of-the-art theater that could probably accommodate other companies as well.<br> <br> If the mountain won’t come to Mohammed . . .</p></p> Mon, 13 Jun 2011 15:07:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blog/onstagebackstage/2011-06-13/theater-move-governors-state-university-87769 Sweet or Sour? The Dueling Critics taste 'Last Saint on Sugar Hill' http://www.wbez.org/blog/onstagebackstage/2011-05-13/sweet-or-sour-dueling-critics-taste-last-saint-sugar-hill-86455 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/photo/2011-May/2011-05-13/www.mpaact.jpg" alt="" /><p><p style="text-align: center; "><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2011-May/2011-05-13/www.mpaact.jpg" style="width: 500px; height: 344px; " title=""></p><p><strong>KELLY:</strong> What's so terrific about MPAACT's <a href="http://www.greenhousetheater.org/index.php/lastsaintsugarhill"><i>Last Saint on Sugar Hill</i></a> is its unapologetic approach to its subject.&nbsp; As I watched this account of a man literally driven mad by greed, and the consequences of that for his two sons, I realized how often African-American-themed plays seem to feel obliged to be uplifting. But of course most of human life isn't actually very uplifting, and so the need to point a moral weakens the dramatic strength of the piece.&nbsp;<i>Last Saint on Sugar Hill</i> is anything but weak--and, curiously, is the more uplifting for it! Jonathan, your thoughts?</p><p><strong>JONATHAN:</strong> As usual, Kelly, you jump in with an opinion before you provide any context. I could say "How like a woman," but that would only get me in trouble.&nbsp;But how like YOU, Kelly! This world premiere play by Keith Josef Adkins is about a father and his two sons living in today's rapidly-gentrifying Harlem. The father, Napoleon (not a subtle name choice), is a grasping, unkind&nbsp;and controling figure who's risen from poverty to oversee a small real estate and business empire. However, he's confused parenting with training dogs: he's raised a pitbull and a pampered poodle. Inevitably, one or both is gonna' bite Pop's butt. Hint: the pitbull is not the person Pop thinks he is.<br> <br> <strong>KELLY:</strong> Oh, Jonathan, I always leave the tedious details to you, which is your forte, while I take flight intellectually, which is mine. But now you've let me down, because your description makes it sound like <i>Last Saint</i> is a classic Chicago kitchen-sink drama, albeit set in New York.&nbsp; Really it combines those naturalistic elements with a nod to magic realism, an approach I don't ordinarily like. But here the 'magic' elevates an otherwise pedestrian story to the level of a fable, or a morality play. Didn't you find yourself searching your memory for the name of the Biblical father on whom Napoleon was patterned? But he combines so many archetypal elements you can't settle on just one.&nbsp;<br> <br> And how about Trinity Parnell's amazing performance as Napoleon?&nbsp; The whole company does well under the direction of the Jeff-nominated Carla Stilwell, but Mr. Parnell is above and beyond.&nbsp; Did you recognize him as the man who played Wilson Pickett for BET?&nbsp; Or were you too busy parsing the plot?</p><p><strong>JONATHAN:</strong>&nbsp;Snippy, snippy! What you&nbsp;refer to as the "magic"&nbsp;elements only confused me (go on, Kelly, make an age-ist joke at my expense).&nbsp;The presence of a mystical&nbsp;homeless man who somehow has access to the&nbsp;hero's history is both strange and, frankly, unnecessary. It's not magic realism, and it's unnecessary 'cause&nbsp;Old Pops has plenty of baggage without&nbsp;any additional back story.&nbsp;Even so,&nbsp;playwright Keith Josef Adkins has bountiful and obvious gifts. <em>Last Saint on Sugar&nbsp;Hill</em>--Sugar Hill, by the way, is a famous Harlem 'hood--bursts with sharp dialogue, word-play and so much&nbsp;cutting humor that the comedy nearly overpowers what is meant to be a deeply serious&nbsp;tale. And, yes, Trinity Parnell&nbsp;carries the show&nbsp;as Napoleon in a steely, rapid-fire performance that engages the audience.<br clear="all"> <br> <strong>KELLY:</strong> So we agree that this is the work of a smart and interesting playwright, being performed by a strong ensemble led by an exceptional actor. Sounds like two thumbs up to me. Anything else is just quibbling.</p><p><strong>JONATHAN:</strong> As Scarlett says in <em>Gone With the Wind</em>, "Oh, quibble-dee-dee!" I don't think the supporting actors are a match for Parnell, although Adkins does&nbsp;give him the most pungent role. It's always difficult when the antagonist dominates a play rather than the hero.&nbsp;Also, the strength of this work is NOT in the story. To go back to your opening comment that African-American plays "seem to feel obliged to be uplifting," I don't think you've immersed yourself in the black-on-black violence&nbsp;and currents of self-loathing to be found in much African-American dramatic literature. I find the generational dispute, and the unexpected aspirations of the older brother, to be more interesting in what is--I agree--an energetic production of a play by a writer with a voice. The MPAACT production of <em>Last Saint on Sugar Hill</em> continues at The Greenhouse, 2257 N. Lincoln, through June 12.</p></p> Fri, 13 May 2011 20:20:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blog/onstagebackstage/2011-05-13/sweet-or-sour-dueling-critics-taste-last-saint-sugar-hill-86455 Morning Rehearsal: Chicago theater 5/11 http://www.wbez.org/blog/onstagebackstage/2011-05-11/morning-rehearsal-chicago-theater-511-86380 <p><p style="text-align: center;"><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="390" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/MSbqwWjzXq0" width="480"></iframe></p><p>1. Hopefully the hubbub surrounding the wonder that is <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blog/onstagebackstage/2011-04-28/working-weekend-critics-picks-429-51-85811"><em>The Madness of King George III</em></a> has died down enough for <a href="http://www.chicagoshakes.com/main.taf?p=2,60"><em>Murder for Two--A Killer Musical</em></a> to get some attention as well. It's Upstairs at the Shakespeare Theater, and opens tomorrow. As musicals tend to be, it's not all drama; the musical is a self-proclaimed "mix of Agatha Christie mystery, old-fashioned musical comedy and modern panache, this whodunit comes with a killer twist: one actor investigates the crime, the other plays all 13 suspects, and they both play the piano!"</p><p>2. Tonight,&nbsp;<a href="http://www.thepubtheater.com/shows.html">The Pub Theater Company</a> presents <em>Beotches</em>, which was on hiatus last week, but is back at Fizz Bar &amp; Grill. <a href="http://www.facebook.com/pages/Beotches/119873021423599?sk=info"><em>Beotches </em></a>"celebrates the fact that people being D-bags seem to always win." I've read <em>Us Weekly</em>, so I'd have to agree.</p><p style="text-align: center;"><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="313" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/QdATHoJbCTA" width="502"></iframe></p><p>3. <a href="http://comediansyoushouldknow.com/"><em>Comedians You Should Know</em></a> is at Timothy O'Toole's tonight at 9pm. The comedians this week are Mike Lebovitz, with Danny Kallas, Mike Stanley, Danny Solomon and C.J. Sullivan. Their debut, incredibly creatively titled album "Comedians You Should Know", came out in February, so if you like what you hear, you can commemorate that memory on CD, or for the more technologically saavy of you, mp3.</p><p>4.&nbsp;MPAACT's&nbsp;<a href="http://www.mpaact.org/shows/plays-for-production/late-night-solo-jams/"><em>Solo Jams</em></a> opens this weekend at the Greenhouse Center Theater. MPAACT produces what they call Afrikan Centered Theatre (ACT), and the opening event of this series includes a panel discussion tomorrow night with some of the cast members, including John Steven Crowley and Rain Wilson. The performances, held Friday and Saturday of every week until June 11, will all feature a solo show from a different cast member.</p><p style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2011-May/2011-05-11/ChelseaHandlerPresaleMD.jpg" style="width: 417px; height: 600px;" title=""></p><p>5. Chelsea Handler and her minions are at the Chicago Theater tonight at 8pm. The tour, called <a href="http://chelseahandler.com/schedule.html"><em>Lies Chelsea Handler</em></a>&nbsp;Told Me, features Josh Wolf, Heather MacDonald and Brad Wollack, some of whom you might recognize from her new show <em>After Lately. After Lately </em>is a&nbsp;behind-the-scenes look at the making of Handler's late night show,&nbsp;<em>Chelsea Lately.</em> This isn't local comedy though, so a ticket is going to set you back 70 or 80 bucks.</p><p>Questions? Tips? Email kdries@wbez.org.</p></p> Wed, 11 May 2011 14:30:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blog/onstagebackstage/2011-05-11/morning-rehearsal-chicago-theater-511-86380