WBEZ | Langston Hughes http://www.wbez.org/tags/langston-hughes Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Congo Square celebrates Season of the Woman with a new 'Nativity' http://www.wbez.org/blog/onstagebackstage/2011-10-31/congo-square-celebrates-season-woman-new-nativity-93578 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//blog/photo/2011-October/2011-10-31/wordpress.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>When <a href="http://congosquaretheatre.org/wordpress/">Congo Square Theater Company</a> opens <em>The Nativity</em> at the <a href="http://www.goodmantheatre.org/season/Production.aspx?prod=135">Goodman's Owen Theatre on December 2</a>, audiences will see a production quite changed from any the company has offered before. Congo Square's <em>Nativity</em> has been a moving target throughout its seven-year history, beginning with the <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_Nativity">Langston Hughes <em>Black Nativity</em></a> and then commissioning <a href="http://www.performink.com/archives/writers/ChicagoPlaywrightsGoldenAge.html">Chicago playwright McKinley Johnson</a> to develop a one-act adaptation especially for the company. And now comes a new slant on that version of the show.</p><p><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2011-October/2011-10-31/AlexisRogers_190x150.jpg" style="margin-right: 10px; margin-top: 10px; margin-bottom: 10px; float: left; width: 190px; height: 150px;" title="Alexis Rogers">In addition to being the first Congo Square <em>Nativity</em> directed by a woman (<a href="http://www.ragdale.org/node/222">Ilesa Duncan</a>, producing artistic director of the dormant <a href="http://pegasusplayers.org">Pegasus Players</a>), this year's production will feature a woman, <a href="http://www.theatermania.com/chicago/news/03-2011/todd-m-kryger-alexis-rogers-to-star-in-court-theat_34785.html">Alexis Rogers</a> as the Angel Gabriel. (Rogers played Bess in last season's lauded <a href="http://www.courttheatre.org/m/porgy_and_bess/">Porgy &amp; Bess at Court Theatre</a>, and thus is no stranger to theatrical reinvention.) What accounts for this unconventional choice?</p><p>"Our season is honoring the black woman," explains Artistic Director Daniel Bryant. "So everything we’re doing this year is female-focused. We know that typically male energy dominates in the Bible, but with a female director we're really seeing the play from a female perspective."&nbsp;</p><p>He admits the possibility that some people might be offended by the non-traditional casting of a Biblical figure. But, he says, "As Artistic Director I thought the concept was exciting–and angels are ethereal beings, anyway.&nbsp; Who’s to assign gender to something that’s not human? Putting a woman in that role doesn’t alter the story in religious terms. And as people begin to get curious about the change we have a woman minister who's agreed to host a talkback about women in the Bible. It should be if nothing else a conversation-starter."<br> <br> Bryant stresses that Congo Square isn't interested in controversy for controversy's sake. "The purpose of <em>The Nativity</em> is to honor the spirit of the holiday, around a Biblical story that a lot of people hold in high esteem. In the spirit of our [season] theme we just want to go all out–-honoring the holiday and the female, as a woman and an artist. We’re not trying to kick up dust."&nbsp;</p><p>While Congo Square has had some venue-related upheaval this year--a change of ownership robbed the company of its home at the <a href="http://www.theaterland.com/CCPAw/">Chicago Center for the Performing Arts</a> with no notice--<em>Nativity</em> was always scheduled to take place at the Goodman, where it complements <a href="http://www.goodmantheatre.org/season/Production.aspx?prod=132">A Christmas Carol in the Albert</a>. For the remaining two shows of its season, Congo Square will perform at <a href="http://www.stage773.com/">Stage 773</a>.&nbsp; But for now the company is tightly focused on its evolving <em>Nativity</em>.</p><p>"This is the ultimate in re-tooling," says Bryant. "We'll have new music, a mostly brand-new cast. Whoever saw it last year is guaranteed a new show."&nbsp;</p></p> Mon, 31 Oct 2011 14:31:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blog/onstagebackstage/2011-10-31/congo-square-celebrates-season-woman-new-nativity-93578 Exploring jazz and poetry's frequent intersection http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-09-01/exploring-jazz-and-poetrys-frequent-intersection-91407 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//segment/photo/2011-September/2011-09-01/Amiri Baraka.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>This year, some unusual performers will appear in the lineup for the <a href="http://explorechicago.org/city/en/things_see_do/event_landing/special_events/mose/chicago_jazz_festival.html" target="_blank">Chicago Jazz Festival</a>: contestants from the <em><a href="http://www.wbez.org/ltab" target="_blank">Louder than a Bomb </a></em>youth poetry competition will perform between musical sets over the weekend. Jazz and poetry have mixed it up before - from beats in the '50s to slams in the '90s. But <em>Eight Forty-Eight</em> wondered whether it was a happy marriage. To find out, <a href="http://home.uchicago.edu/%7Etravieso/" target="_blank">Travis A. Jackson</a>, associate professor of music at the <a href="http://www.uchicago.edu/" target="_blank">University of Chicago,</a> shared his take on the relationship.</p><p>The<a href="http://explorechicago.org/city/en/things_see_do/event_landing/special_events/mose/chicago_jazz_festival.html" target="_blank"> 33rd Annual Chicago Jazz Festival</a> runs through Sunday in Grant Park and other nearby locations.</p></p> Thu, 01 Sep 2011 15:12:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-09-01/exploring-jazz-and-poetrys-frequent-intersection-91407