WBEZ | Chicago theater http://www.wbez.org/tags/chicago-theater Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Chicago wins big at Tony Awards http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/chicago-wins-big-tony-awards-107613 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/AP319987164507.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>It was a big night for Chicago theater at the Tony Awards.</p><p>The musical &quot;Kinky Boots&quot; won the top award for Best Musical last night in New York. The Cindy Lauper show got its start with a pre-Broadway run last year in Chicago. It also won for Best Original Score and star Billy Porter won for Best Actor in a musical.</p><p>Chicago&#39;s Steppenwolf Theatre Company production of &quot;Who&#39;s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?&quot; brought in honors too. The production won for Best Revival of a Play and Steppenwolf ensemble member Tracy Letts won for Best Actor in a play.</p><p>Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel congratulated Steppenwolf, saying the theater &quot;represents the best of Chicago&#39;s vibrant arts scene.&quot;</p></p> Mon, 10 Jun 2013 11:26:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/chicago-wins-big-tony-awards-107613 Afternoon Shift: Isabel Wilkerson, libraries and Chicago theater http://www.wbez.org/programs/afternoon-shift/2013-05-13/afternoon-shift-isabel-wilkerson-libraries-and-chicago-theater <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/flickr margaretv.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Today Niala talks with Pulitzer-prize winning journalist Isabel Wilkerson about the Great Migration. We explore the role of the library in light of the Waukegan Public Library&#39;s National Medal for Museum and Library Service award. Then a look at Chicago&#39;s theater and waterfront scenes. <script src="//storify.com/WBEZ/afternoon-shift-isabel-wilkerson-libraries-and-chi.js?header=false"></script><noscript>[<a href="//storify.com/WBEZ/afternoon-shift-isabel-wilkerson-libraries-and-chi" target="_blank">View the story "Afternoon Shift: Isabel Wilkerson, libraries and Chicago theater " on Storify</a>]<h1>Afternoon Shift: Isabel Wilkerson, libraries and Chicago theater </h1><h2>Today Niala talks with Pulitzer-prize winning journalist Isabel Wilkerson about the Great Migration. We explore the role of the library in light of the Waukegan Public Library's National Medal for Museum and Library Service award. Then we talk Chicago's theater and waterfront scenes. </h2><p>Storified by <a href="http://storify.com/WBEZ"></a>&middot; Mon, May 13 2013 10:19:33</p><div><b>Isabel Wilkerson:&nbsp;</b>Pulitzer-prize winning journalist<b> Isabel Wilkerson</b> joins us to talk about The Warmth of Other Suns; the One Book, One Chicago selection about the Great Migration. We pose the question: if your family came here during the Great Migration, do you consider yourself immigrants?<br></div><div>Isabel WilkersonFrom World War I to the 1970s, some six million black Americans fled the American South for an uncertain existence in the urban North and...</div><div>Great MigrationDid You Know? Context and Causes of the Great Migration After the post-Civil War Reconstruction period ended in 1876, white supremacy was...</div><div>Latest One Book, One Chicago: 'The Warmth Of Other Suns'The latest iteration of the Chicago Public Library's One Book, One Chicago, which features discussions, performances, lectures, and other...</div><div><b>Libraries:&nbsp;</b>The Waukegan Public Library won this year’s National Medal for Museum and Library Service award for a program that uses volunteers both to promote the library to Hispanic residents and ask what services people need. Founded in January 2012, the library has started conversational English classes and pre-GED programs--far beyond the traditional library task of lending books and offering a quiet space to read. Waukegan Library Executive Director&nbsp;<b>Richard Lee&nbsp;</b>joins our conversation with<b>&nbsp;Patricia Saldana Natke</b>, founding partner of UrbanWorks, a Chicago architecture firm that has been leading design discussions on how the library of the near future will function. What do you want your library to be?&nbsp;</div><div>Waukegan Public Library gets national award at White House ceremonyAt a White House ceremony Wednesday, first lady Michelle Obama honored the Waukegan Public Library for setting goals more ambitious than ...</div><div>Even in the Digital Age, Many Library Patrons Say Traditional Uses Are ImportantAbout seven-in-ten of those who used a library over a 12 month period did so to borrow print books or to browse the shelves. The internet...</div><div>What's a Library?GET UPDATES FROM Michael Rosenblum Library under construction -- along with a 50 story hotel and condo.... I live across the street from ...</div><div>Social Media: Libraries Are Posting, but Is Anyone Listening?This is the fourth in a series of articles in which Nancy Dowd will examine the results of an exclusive survey of library professionals f...</div><div><b>Chicago River:&nbsp;</b>The Chicago River is now the focus of major attention. Mayor Emanuel has made physical improvements along the river’s Main Branch a priority in his first term. And the river has been the subject of several studies, including one in 2011 that has called for undoing the engineering that famously reversed the river more than a century ago. A<a href="https://mail.wbez.org/owa/redir.aspx?C=0QFU2FNLaUSkIhE7-vRncrPJfWSSI9AIUElEsrCflYHtm6GCKWviMTLwV1uMiOng2PXE9iUPw5U.&amp;URL=http%3a%2f%2fwww.chicagoriver.org%2fupload%2fFor%2520Immediate%2520Release%2520--%2520Clean%2520Chicago%2520River%2520Can%2520Be%2520Multi-Billion%2520Dollar%2520Economic%2520Engine.pdf" class=""><u>&nbsp;new study</u></a>&nbsp;from the organization Friends of the Chicago River and the conservancy group Openlands indicates a cleaner and improved river would be a multi-billion economic engine for the region.&nbsp;What’s the Chicago River’s future? What should it be and what stands in the way of needed progress?</div><div>Report: Drop money in the river, watch it float backThe glitzy towers of downtown Chicago are filled with offices that boast impressive financial returns, but their biggest cash flow may be...</div><div>Environmental Groups Tout Financial Benefits Of Cleaning Up, Improving Chicago River&quot;Water quality makes a tremendous difference in how we can interact with the river, but also provides us jobs; it provides us business re...</div><div>The Chicago River Is Now Running in the Opposite DirectionHeavy rain in Chicago has maxed out storm water storage facilities and caused officials to &quot; re-reverse&quot; the Chicago River into Lake Mich...</div><div><b>Robert Sickinger:&nbsp;</b>What can off-loop theater learn from its past? With the death of Robert Sickinger, the unofficial founder of off-loop theater, we look at what was built and how it has sustained over the years.&nbsp;</div><div>Robert Sickinger dies, brought grassroots theater to ChicagoRobert Sickinger came to Chicago in 1963 as director of Hull House theater on Chicago&rsquo;s north side. But in six short years, he gave...</div><div>Sorry to hear about Robert Sickinger passing, but grateful for all he contributed to Chicago theater: http://trib.in/11WcszTGoodman Theatre</div><div>Remembering Robert Sickinger, a pioneer of off-Loop theaterAnita Evans/courtesy Columbia College Chicago I've been trying to figure out what to say about former Chicago theater director Robert Sic...</div><div>Watch &amp; Listen</div><div>Robert SickingerBob Sickinger was one of the greatest directors I've ever known. He worked in the Hull House settlement house, at Broadway and Belmont in...</div></noscript></p></p> Mon, 13 May 2013 11:43:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/programs/afternoon-shift/2013-05-13/afternoon-shift-isabel-wilkerson-libraries-and-chicago-theater Robert Sickinger dies, brought grassroots theater to Chicago http://www.wbez.org/blogs/alison-cuddy/2013-05/robert-sickinger-dies-brought-grassroots-theater-chicago-107108 <p><p>&nbsp;</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/sickinger.jpg" style="height: 374px; width: 620px;" title="(Photo via bobsickinger.com)" /></div><p>When Robert Sickinger came to Chicago in the early 1960s, Chicago had great theater. But most of it - think The Goodman Theater - was largely confined to the Loop.</p><p>Sickinger, who died Thursday at the age of 86, was hired to be the director of the Hull House Theater, on Chicago&rsquo;s North side. When he arrived in 1963, the theater was still at the corner of Broadway Street and Belmont Avenue - the building&rsquo;s an athletic club now.</p><p>Donna Marie Schwan was Sickinger&rsquo;s assistant, and, eventually, his friend.</p><p>She said Sickinger, along with Paul Jans, the new executive director of Hull House, were looking to the past to do something new in theater.</p><p>&ldquo;They were basically trying to do something like what Jane Addams originally had in the community. So he went out in the community and had open auditions. I mean, sort of the original &lsquo;Chicago&rsquo;s Got Talent&rsquo;.&rdquo;</p><p>Those open auditions not only drew people who wouldn&rsquo;t otherwise have the opportunity or venue in which to perform or sing, they were a pipeline to Chicago&rsquo;s talented actors. Through them, Sickinger uncovered talents like actor Mike Nussbaum and Jim Jacobs, who eventually wrote Grease.</p><p>Those are some of the same people who went on to build Chicago&rsquo;s network of neighborhood theaters, to create spaces like Steppenwolf. And that, said Schwan, is how Sickinger transformed the city&rsquo;s theater scene.</p><p>Schwan said &ldquo;He basically brought grassroots theater to Chicago.&rdquo;</p><p>At Hull House, Sickinger developed a reputation for his fresh adaptations of classic plays.</p><p>But he was also known for the number of contemporary works he staged. Playwrights like Edward Albee, Eugene Ionesco, Harold Pinter and LeRoi Jones had Chicago premieres thanks to Sickinger.</p><p>Sickinger&rsquo;s tenure in Chicago was brief. He left for New York in 1969, after things went awry at Hull House. At the time of his death, he and his family were living between New York and Florida.</p><p>But Schwan said Sickinger&rsquo;s influence can still be seen in places like The Goodman Theater.</p><p>&ldquo;Chicago was very formal culturally. And what he did is he said &lsquo;let&rsquo;s bring in these wonderful works, these new works that are being done by our contemporaries, and see what they look like when they do them.&rsquo; And that was a phenomenon.&rdquo;</p><p>Still Schwan thinks his greatest gift was his ability to inspire everyone - theater owners, actors, and regular people like herself.</p><p>&ldquo;What happens when you create that kind of inspiration, where people have that kind of opportunity, it&rsquo;s an energy that is irreplaceable, you can&rsquo;t get that kind of energy going. That&rsquo;s why these tv shows about auditioning and talent are so popular, because people are discovering themselves and what they can do in a way they otherwise would never have had.&rdquo;</p></p> Thu, 09 May 2013 15:58:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/alison-cuddy/2013-05/robert-sickinger-dies-brought-grassroots-theater-chicago-107108 Morning Shift: Flying High http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift-tony-sarabia/2013-02-19/morning-shift-flying-high-105599 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/MorningShift_CMS_tile_1200x900_4.png" alt="" /><p><script src="//storify.com/WBEZ/morning-shift-110.js?header=false&border=false"></script><noscript>[<a href="//storify.com/WBEZ/morning-shift-110" target="_blank">View the story "'Morning Shift' #110: Flying High" on Storify</a>]<h1>'Morning Shift' #110: Flying High</h1><h2>On Tuesday's Morning Shift, we talk to Representative Nekritz on gun hearings, Our Gun Series feature, WBEZ's Business Reporte on all things in the sky, WBEZ blogger on Fat Shaming and the melodic sound of Quartet Parapluie.</h2><p>Storified by <a href="http://storify.com/WBEZ"></a>&middot; Tue, Feb 19 2013 07:23:01</p><div>Airport Express signJason McHuff</div><div><b>Illinois Gun Hearings with Representative&nbsp;Nekritz</b></div><div>The first of two state hearings on proposed Illinois gun legislation take place Tuesday allowing anyone with an opinion to let their voice be heard by a house committee. The hearings were House Speaker Michael Madigan’s idea, saying it’s “necessary to give a full vetting to proposed state legislation on this matter”. Morning Shift talke with State representative Elaine Nekritz about what we can expect at the hearings.</div><div>Gun safety hearing starts todayThe first of two Illinois House judiciary committee public hearings on gun safety start today in Springfield with another scheduled Frida...</div><div><b>Our Gun&nbsp;Series: hunters</b></div><div>WBEZ’s Alex Keefe puts on the hip waders and steps out of the blind to talk to hunters about their relationship with guns. They say it’s about &nbsp;family tradition, politics, and just plain fun.</div><div>Our GunsThe Morning Shift Radio M Sound Opinions The Afternoon Shift This American Life Wait Wait... Worldview Vocalo on WBEZ</div><div><b>Happenings in the sky: Boeing, mergers and O'Hare expansion</b></div><div>WBEZ’s Niala Boodhoo talks Bogus Boeing Batteries, airline mergers and O’Hare expansion, and the hacking of the BK twitter account (I guess you need to choose a tougher password than ‘Whopper’), which oddly enough, has gained them followers.</div><div><b>Fat Shaming</b></div><div>Movie critic Rex Reed wrote a scathing review of Melissa McCarthy’s new film, and much of it was a personal attack on McCarthy’s plus size. WBEZ blogger Nico Lang has written an extensive and insightful post that not only reveals Reed to be an out-of-touch oaf, but discusses the larger culture of “fat shaming” in the media and in our society.</div><div><b>Quartet Parapluie</b></div><div>The Quartet Parapluie has performed in homes, at weddings and even the hipster bar Danny’s in Chicago’s Bucktown neighborhood. &nbsp;Tonight, the classical string quartet performs music by Philip Glass, Arvo Part and Shostakovich at the Hideout in Chicago. &nbsp;They’ll open for musician Daniel Knox, who is doing a Tuesday night residency at the venue.</div></noscript></p> Tue, 19 Feb 2013 09:21:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift-tony-sarabia/2013-02-19/morning-shift-flying-high-105599 Morning Shift: All the President's men http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift-tony-sarabia/2013-02-18/morning-shift-all-presidents-men-105580 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/MorningShift_CMS_tile_1200x900_4.png" alt="" /><p><script src="//storify.com/WBEZ/morning-shift-109.js?header=false&border=false"></script><noscript>[<a href="//storify.com/WBEZ/morning-shift-109" target="_blank">View the story "'Morning Shift' #109: All the President's men" on Storify</a>]<h1>'Morning Shift' #109: All the President's men</h1><h2>On Monday's Morning Shift, we talk to a former prosecutor on the Jacksons' charges, WBEZ education reporter school closings feature, Cook County Sheriff on prostitution, Picasso curator, President's Day Quiz and Dark Time Sunshine plays some live tunes.</h2><p>Storified by <a href="http://storify.com/WBEZ"></a>&middot; Mon, Feb 18 2013 08:07:36</p><div>Presidential SealDave Newman (newmanchu)</div><div><b>Jesse Jackson Jr., wife face charges</b></div><div><div>Former Illinois Congressman Jesse Jackson, Jr. has been charged with illegally spending campaign funds for personal use. Charges include conspiracy and mail and wire fraud. We talk with former prosecutor Patrick Deady about what could be next for Jackson and his wife, Sandi, who was charged with filing a false tax return.&nbsp;&nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div></div><div><b>Philly School&nbsp;District sheds light on prososed CPS closings</b></div><div>WBEZ’s Becky Vevea traveled to Philadelphia to see what that city’s experience with closing school buildings can show Chicago.</div><div><b>End Demand re-examines how to&nbsp;deal with prostitution</b></div><div>We piggyback on Natalie Moore's feature about a campaign to alter how law enforcement and communities deal with prostitution. &nbsp;The campaign is called "End Demand" and the idea is to target johns as much (or more) as the prostitutes themselves. Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart is a fan of the plan, and joins us for more.</div><div><b>Picasso's connection with Chicago</b></div><div>As the Art Institute of&nbsp;Chicago prepares to open its first large-scale Picasso exhibition in 30 years, curator Stephanie D’Alessanndro breaks down the special relationship between Chicago and the man whose name is synonymous with modern art.</div><div><b>Presidents Day Quiz</b></div><div>“Who dumped a whole truckload of fizzies into the swim meet?&nbsp; Who delivered the medical school cadavers to the alumni dinner?” Not one of our presidents.&nbsp; But History Blogger John R. Schmidt will give us actual trivia questions related to actual US presidents. And the first person to identify quote above will receive the Jason E. Marck Classic Comedy Award.</div><div><b>Dark Time Sunshine Live</b></div><div>The Pacific Northwest-meets-the straightup Midwest in hip hop duo Dark Time Sunshine.&nbsp;Their 2010 debut album Vessel received critical praise, and their latest effort ANX (rhymes with “thanks”) evolves the duo’s sprawling, innovative hip hop sounds.</div></noscript></p> Mon, 18 Feb 2013 10:47:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift-tony-sarabia/2013-02-18/morning-shift-all-presidents-men-105580 Morning Shift: As the legislation turns, Jordan turns 50 http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift-tony-sarabia/2013-02-15/morning-shift-legislation-turns-jordan-turns-50 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/MorningShift_CMS_tile_1200x900_4.png" alt="" /><p><script src="//storify.com/WBEZ/morning-shift-108-as-the-legislation-turns-jordan.js?header=false&border=false"></script><noscript>[<a href="//storify.com/WBEZ/morning-shift-108-as-the-legislation-turns-jordan" target="_blank">View the story "'Morning Shift' #108: As the legislation turns, Jordan turns 50" on Storify</a>]<h1>'Morning Shift' #108: As the legislation turns, Jordan turns 50</h1><h2>On Friday's Morning Shift, we talk to WBEZ Southside reporter on POTUS visit, the only GOPer supporting voting yes on same sex marriage, assistant majority leader on truancy in Illinois, Chicago sports, Week in Review and live music from Ty Maxon. </h2><p>Storified by <a href="http://storify.com/WBEZ"></a>&middot; Fri, Feb 15 2013 07:39:42</p><div>Barack Obama at his Chicago Homejurvetson</div><div><b>POTUS in Chicago today to address violence and jobs?</b></div><div>President Obama speaks at a Chicago South Side high school Friday about gun violence. WBEZ’s South Side bureau reporter Natalie Moore will cover the speech, and give us a preview of what neighborhood people want to hear from the President and why the visit is deemed important.<br></div><div><b>One and only Republican senator in support of gay marriage</b></div><div>State Sen. Jason Barickman (53rd) is the only GOP senator to vote yes. He tells us why he voted how he did.</div><div><b>Senator Lightford pushes for truancy in Illinois</b></div><div>When Colorado lowered the compulsory school age from 7 to&nbsp;5&nbsp;it helped raise attendance&nbsp;<i>and</i>&nbsp;third-grade test scores. Illinois is now looking to do something similar. Illinois State Senator Kimberly Lightford is sponsoring the bill and explains why she thinks the legislation is needed.</div><div>Mandatory school age could fall from 7 to 5 in IllinoisIn a move aimed at countering Chicago's crisis in K-8 truancy and absenteeism, state Sen. Kimberly Lightford has introduced legislation t...</div><div><b>Michael Jordan turns the big 50 and 'da Bulls'</b></div><div>For Derrick Rose, returning from injury could be very tricky. Is it better to just sit out the entire season? &nbsp;And who makes that decision-the player, his handlers, the team, the doctors? &nbsp;In other news LA Lakers forward Antawn Jamison claimed this week that Michael Jordan, who turns 50 this Sunday, could suit up and play 15 minutes per game in the NBA and contribute double figures. &nbsp;Cheryl Raye Stout knows Rose and Jordan well, and gives her take on both stories.</div><div><b>Week in Review</b></div><div>Gary Younge, columnist for&nbsp;<i>The Guardian</i>&nbsp;and&nbsp;<i>The Nation</i>, and Maudlyn Ihejerika, urban affairs reporter and editor for the&nbsp;<i>Chicago&nbsp;</i><i>Sun</i><i>-</i><i>Times</i>, join us to talk about some of the biggest stories on their radar this week.</div><div>Pope&amp;#39;s resignation was not forced by health issues, spokesman says ...22 hours ago ... Pope Benedict XVI is not suffering from any specific disease that forced him to resign, his spokesman said Tuesday.</div><div><b>Ty Maxon live in studio</b></div><div>Don’t call him a folkie. Call him a storyteller. Songwriter Ty Maxon has been in Chicago since 2006, and he joins the Morning Shift to pour some of those stories out of his preverbal musical pitcher.</div></noscript></p> Fri, 15 Feb 2013 09:41:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift-tony-sarabia/2013-02-15/morning-shift-legislation-turns-jordan-turns-50 Morning Shift: Politics behind it all http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift-tony-sarabia/2013-02-13/morning-shift-politics-behind-it-all-105496 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/MorningShift_CMS_tile_1200x900_4.png" alt="" /><p><script src="//storify.com/WBEZ/morning-shift-106.js?header=false&border=false"></script><noscript>[<a href="//storify.com/WBEZ/morning-shift-106" target="_blank">View the story "'Morning Shift' #106: Politics behind it all" on Storify</a>]<h1>'Morning Shift' #106: Politics behind it all</h1><h2>On Wednesday's Morning Shift, we talk with Democrat and Republican lawmakers on their State of the Union thoughts, public defenders with Angela Caputo from the Chicago Reporter, Theater Week and WBEZ Sound Opinions host on R.Kelly at Pitchfork Music Festival.</h2><p>Storified by <a href="http://storify.com/WBEZ"></a>&middot; Tue, Feb 12 2013 14:19:37</p><div><b><u>(insert Dem here)</u>&nbsp;gives us their State of the Union thoughts</b></div><div>We get a reaction to President Obama’s State of the State address from a Democratic (or as some say, Democrat) lawmaker.</div><div><b>Congressman Aaron Schock tells us what he got out of the address</b></div><div>Republican Congressman Aaron Schock of the 18th District gives us his reaction to the State of the Union Address.</div><div><b>50th Anniversary of public&nbsp;defenders case</b></div><div>This year marks the 50th anniversary of a Supreme Court decision that made public defense a right for anyone facing criminal charges.&nbsp;<i>Chicago Reporter’s</i>&nbsp;Angela Caputo checks in on how the system is working in Cook County where public defenders carry the highest caseloads in the nation.</div><div><b>It's officially Chicago Theater Week</b></div><div>We’ve got a “week” for everything here-from fashion to food, improv to ideas. So how the heck can the center of the Known Theater Universe&nbsp;<i>not</i>&nbsp;have its own special week of programming?! Well, it does now. Theater week has just begun, and our intrepid theater mavens will join to crow all about it-and talk about how you can get in on it.</div><div>Chicago Theatre Week</div><div>Chicago Theatre Week, where have you been?Clothes have Fashion Week. Cheeseburgers have Restaurant Week. How is it that this town hasn't had a theater week? Consider the oversight...</div><div><b>Pitchfork doesn't hold R.Kelly's past against him&nbsp;</b></div><div>WBEZ’s Jim DeRogatis has been reporting on R. Kelly for years, documenting Kelly’s abuse of his “position of wealth and fame to pursue illegal sexual relationships with underage girls”. Despite Kelly’s acquittal of charges of making child pornography, neither Kelly nor anyone else has ever challenged Jim’s reportage or findings. So Jim finds it more than a bit odd that one of the premier music festivals in the country-Pitchfork-would choose Kelly to be a headliner at this summer’s fest.</div><div>Pitchfork Music Festival books R. KellyOn June 13, 2008, Robert Sylvester Kelly, the most successful pop star Chicago ever has produced and the dominant voice in R&amp;B for th...</div><div>R. Kelly, Björk, and Belle and Sebastian to Headline Pitchfork Music Festival 2013This year's Pitchfork Music Festival will take place July 19-21 in Chicago's Union Park. Today, we're excited to confirm that this year's...</div></noscript></p> Wed, 13 Feb 2013 08:39:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift-tony-sarabia/2013-02-13/morning-shift-politics-behind-it-all-105496 Don't-Miss List: New musical approaches and an African-American classic http://www.wbez.org/blogs/onstagebackstage/2012-11/dont-miss-list-new-musical-approaches-and-african-american-classic <p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/suitcases%20flickr%20masochism%20tango.jpg" style="height: 414px; width: 620px; " title="(Flickr/Tom Godber)" /></div><p><u><em>The Suitcase Opera Project</em>, <a href="http://www.chicagovanguard.org">Chicago Opera Vanguard</a> at Pritzker Pavilion, 201 E. Randolph; free (donation suggested); Nov. 8-10 only, 7:30 p.m.</u></p><p>&quot;People tell me in 10 years I will be in the gutter. I&#39;m almost looking forward to the prospect,&quot; Jimmy writes to his friend Howard in 1948. Jimmy is eighteen, gay, dishonorably discharged from the Marines, and living in New York.&nbsp; In 49 letters he documents his pre-Stonewall life of cruising the bars and streets and partying with Gore Vidal, Anais Nin, and Truman Capote, while rhapsodizing on art, love, and sexuality. Sixty years later, famed monologist David Kodeski buys the letters at random in an online auction and discovers Jimmy&#39;s lost world. For two years Kodeski has been turning the material into a non-fiction chamber opera, <strong><em>The Suitcase Opera Project</em></strong>, with composer Eric Reda, artistic director of Chicago Opera Vanguard. These weekend performances at Pritzker Pavilion are the culminating workshops in the development of the piece. FYI: in the cold-weather off-season, the Pritzker Pavilion is sealed off from the rest of Millennium Park and you and the performers all will sit in cozy comfort on the Pavilion stage.</p><p><u><em>Ceremonies in Dark Old Men</em>, <a href="http://www.etacreativearts.org">eta Creative Arts Foundation</a>, 7558 S. South Chicago Avenue;&nbsp;1-773-792-3955; $30; through Dec. 23</u></p><p>Lonnie Elder III (1927-1996) was the first African-American writer nominated for an Academy Award (for the 1973 film <em>Sounder</em>), but before that this actor-turned-author had scored on Broadway in 1969 with <strong><em>Ceremonies in Dark Old Men</em></strong>, which ranks close to <em>A Raisin in the Sun</em> as &nbsp;a seminal drama of urban African-American life. Set in and around a Harlem barbershop, the play chronicles the disintegration of a Black family in the midst of the 1960&#39;s social revolution, with a particular focus on the disenfranchisement &mdash; real or imagined &mdash; of African-American men within their own community. Vaun Monroe is the director of this American classic. FYI: Be sure to check out the gallery exhibit at eta Creative Arts.</p><p><u><em>Pippin: A Bollywood Spectacular</em>, <a href="http://www.circle-theatre.org">Circle Theatre</a>, 1010 W. Madison, Oak Park; 1-708-660-9540; $27.90-$29.97 (with service fee); runs through Dec. 23</u></p><p>A young man goes in search of the world or at least some good sex and, like Candide, ultimately finds more satisfaction in simple things, perhaps. With a pop score by Stephen Schwartz and a polyglot, meta-theatrical book by Roger O. Hirson, <em>Pippin</em>, was a huge Broadway hit of the 1970s (ran for five years), bringing a contemporary anti-authoritarian vibe to its fictionalized story of the son of Charlemagne in the 9th Century. Many feel the show hasn&#39;t aged well, especially without the hip-grinding original staging of the legendary Bob Fosse. Circle Theatre proposed to restore the show&#39;s oomph by making it a Bollywood spectacular. Circle artistic director Kevin Bellie has successfully re-burnished many other shows after their luster has dulled, and he is both director and choreographers of <strong><em>Pippin: A Bollywood Spectacular</em></strong>.</p></p> Thu, 08 Nov 2012 05:00:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/onstagebackstage/2012-11/dont-miss-list-new-musical-approaches-and-african-american-classic Young actors: Step up to the plate http://www.wbez.org/blogs/onstagebackstage/2012-07/young-actors-step-plate-101033 <p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/merchant%20of%20venice%20first%20folio%20theater.jpg" title="Young actors just out of school play six of the 19 roles in First Folio’s ‘Merchant of Venice.’ (Courtesy of First Folio)" /></div><p>Wednesday night I trucked out to see <em>The Merchant of Venice</em>, at the annual outdoor Shakespeare festival presented by First Folio Theatre at Mayslake Forest Preserve in Oak Brook, Ill. I enjoyed this handsomely-designed and engagingly-acted production very much, until the show was cancelled at intermission due to approaching violent storms. Lucky for me, I know how the play ends.</p><p>Most Shakespeare plays require a large cast, and the program for <em>Merchant</em> listed 19 actors. Combing through the credits, I found that six of the 19 either graduated from university acting programs within the last two years or still are in school. None of the six yet has a union card from Actors Equity Association (which will celebrate its 100th anniversary next year).</p><p>This is one of the finest characteristics of Chicago theater. Our Off-Loop and Off-off-Loop companies abound with embryonic talent; kids just out of school or soon-to-be. Our larger institutional theaters, too, often engage early-career actors. Once upon a time, I was one of those kids myself acting for peanuts in the seminal Off-Loop troupes of Lincoln Avenue, among them Kingston Mines Theatre Company, the Body Politic, Pary Productions and Del Close&#39;s Chicago Extension improvisational company.</p><p>Thinking of then and thinking of now, this is the<em> perfect</em> time to be a young actor. So, yeah, sure, the global economy sucks, we&#39;re in a depression (don&#39;t buy the nonsense that it&#39;s only a recession) and if the Eurozone totally melts down we&#39;ll really be in the crapper. But what the hell? When has it <em>ever</em> been a <em>good</em> time for a career in the arts? Actors are perpetually under-employed even in the best of economies &mdash; it&#39;s one of the occupational facts of life &mdash; and a sour economy does not substantially offer <em>less</em> employment or less opportunity for employment.</p><p>So go for it.</p><p>Fact is, electronic, digital, online and video media offer more employment for actors than ever before. From voices for video games, to the explosion of cable TV shows (just think how many actors the Discovery Channel and the History Channel employ), to self-produced internet programs and serials, to direct-to-disc movies, the entertainment industry is exploding with new ways for actors to act in addition to the familiar categories of commercials and voice-overs, TV, film and theater. Yes, much of it is shallow, formulaic and sometimes amateurish; and much of it &mdash; perhaps most of it &mdash; is not covered by actors union contracts (Equity, SAG-AFTRA), so the possibilities of being underpaid, exploited, ripped-off and/or sleazed are very real, but this blog column isn&#39;t a business lesson.</p><p>Compared to many of these, live theater may be the worst way to make a living, and I use the words &quot;make a living&quot; with great reservation. In Los Angeles, a newbie actor can appear at an Equity Waiver theater and earn nothing but car fare for professional work, often with established veteran actors. Difference is, the established veterans can afford to indulge their passion for live art, but the starter-out still is eating beans. On the other hand, a newcomer also can find himself/herself on a soap or a series making several thousand dollars a week.</p><p>The difference in Chicago is no one becomes rich here from any type of acting, whether you&#39;re working at Steppenwolf or the Goodman or a neighborhood storefront theater. Chicago is not the town where you make a killing or become a star; it&#39;s the town where you hone your chops, stretch yourself and practice your craft. And, with over 220 producing theater companies, the odds are <em>much</em> better here than in New York or Los Angeles of your landing a role and actually honing, stretching and practicing; witness those six young&#39;uns in <em>The Merchant of Venice</em>.</p><p>So, young actors, give it a whirl. No matter if you act for little or no money as long as shoes still need to be sold, hash still needs to be slung, dogs still need to be walked and temp work still is available. Keep in mind that the cost of living in Chicago still is considerably less than in NYC or L.A. Even more important, audiences here are sharper, more receptive to the new and better-informed than just about anywhere else. The lesson from that is to hold yourself to a high standard of craft and intelligence, and to take risks. If not you, who? If not now, when? If not here, where?</p></p> Fri, 20 Jul 2012 06:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/onstagebackstage/2012-07/young-actors-step-plate-101033 The Eastland Disaster: The Musical! http://www.wbez.org/blogs/onstagebackstage/2012-06/eastland-disaster-musical-100231 <p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/3801621382_cf8f6dbc2f_z.jpg" style="float: right; width: 300px; height: 400px; " title="The Eastland Disaster Commemorative sign along the Chicago River. (Flickr/Sonny Cohen)" />The <em>Eastland</em> Disaster: All Chicagoans of a certain age (ahem, such as myself) grew up hearing about it from parents or grandparents; how, on July 24, 1915, a Lake Michigan cruise ship, overloaded with 2500 &mdash; plus passengers, tipped over while still docked in the Chicago River, killing 844 people in just 20 feet of water. Most of the dead were trapped in cabins below-decks, either drowned or crushed to death by tumbling furniture including a piano. Chicago hardly had recovered from the December 1903 Iroquois Theatre Fire in which 602 people were burned, smothered or crushed to death and now, the <em>Eastland</em>.</p><p>Universally, the world still was reacting to the sinking of the <em>Titanic</em> just three years earlier. Parallels were drawn both then and now between the two maritime disasters, but they have few similarities beyond the tremendous loss of life. The <em>Titanic</em> was a 900 foot luxury vessel lost in a vast ocean on its maiden voyage, while the <em>Eastland</em> was a 265-foot lake steamer with a decade of service, docked in a modest river.</p><p>But the biggest differences are the great and ironic hubris attached to the <em>Titanic</em>, declared unsinkable, and the class struggle represented by the wealth and fame of its First Class passengers vs. the nameless immigrants in steerage. The <em>Eastland</em> had no such hubris, especially on that July day when the vast majority of its passengers were working-class employees of the enormous Western Electric works (manufacturers of all Bell Telephone equipment) and their families, on an annual company-paid holiday. The <em>Titanic</em> was glamorous, the <em>Eastland</em> was not.</p><p>It&#39;s easy to create a dramatic work about the <em>Titanic</em> with its inherent themes of mankind vs. nature or god, rich vs. poor and the choices made by passengers and crew &mdash; noble or not &mdash; in the three hours it took the ship to sink. For decades, too, there was the unreachable and unknowable wreck lying 12,000 feet under the sea. There have been at least four major motion pictures about the <em>Titanic</em>, scores of books, several plays and a Tony Award-winning Broadway musical.</p><p>The <em>Eastland</em> Disaster commands none of that, as it was instantaneous and absurd, providing no time for personal drama or choices, and offering no inherent themes other than, &quot;Why, God, why?&quot; for the theologically inclined. People died because they arrived early and went below to escape the chill morning air. People lived because, like football great George Halas, they arrived late and were caught in traffic on LaSalle Street. The ship wasn&#39;t even lost: within weeks it was righted, refurbished and renamed (the <em>Wilmette</em>) and saw another 30 years of service as a training vessel at the Great Lakes Naval Base. There are a couple of books about the <em>Eastland</em>, a Chicago-based <em>Eastland</em> Disaster memorial society and now &mdash; 97 years after the event &mdash; a musical, created by the Lookingglass Theatre.</p><p>So, what kind of musical do you make out of the <em>Eastland</em> Disaster? The answer, for author Andrew White and composers Andre Pluess and Ben Sussman, is a blue-collar musical; a show as unglamorous and modest and accessible as the folks who boarded and died on her.</p><p>What does that mean? For starters, don&#39;t expect a Broadway-style show with production numbers and big solo songs; they&#39;re not here. Also, don&#39;t look for a lot of precise details of the what, when, where and why variety. If you want to know that the <em>Eastland</em> was docked at Clark Street, or was one of three steamers going out that day with Western Electric employees, or was known as the Speed Queen of the Great Lakes, you&#39;ll have to Google the &quot;Eastland Disaster&quot; for such things are not the concern of <em>Eastland</em>, the world premiere musical.</p><p>Indeed, with the exception of Mara Blumenfeld&#39;s costumes in full shirtwaist/Gibson Girl mode, there&#39;s nothing about the physical production that says &quot;1915.&quot; The same holds true for the score by Andre Pluess and Ben Sussman, which is broadly folkloric and Appalachian in flavor. Most of the show is underscored by acoustic string instruments and piano, and the tunes don&#39;t stop to allow for applause. The contrapuntal and chorale writing is quite amazing in the few numbers (not specifically named in the program) where it reaches full flower, such as the chorus &quot;Only the river remains.&quot;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p>The result &mdash; and clearly the intent &mdash; is an ethereal work which frequently is moving and haunting but rarely exciting. You may leave with musical impressions but you won&#39;t hum a tune. You certainly will remember the poor boy whose body lay unclaimed for weeks, or &quot;the human frog&quot; who held his breath like Houdini to dive again and again for the quick and the dead, but you won&#39;t leave with much understanding of the event itself. Lacking the obvious themes of the<em> Titanic</em> catastrophe, there is little to understand beyond the frequently-arbitrary and unfair falling out of life.</p><p>Author White instead wants <em>Eastland</em> to reflect the connections of the blue-collar, immigrant communities of which most Western Electric employees were members. His focus is on a few real people, a few fictional ones, and the patterns of love, loss, longing and family which the disaster interrupted. In director Amanda Dehnert&#39;s effectively shadowy staging, people float before you and drift in and out of Christine A. Binder&#39;s pools of light, sometimes suspended in air (as if in water), with dripping-wet clothing hauled out of iron washtubs to represent the dead, and with the audience seated in church pews within a Chautauqua tent.</p><p><em>Eastland</em> wishes to be an elegy and not an exclamation point, an ache rather than a terrible wound, and at this it is highly successful. It continues at <a href="http://lookingglasstheatre.org/content/box_office/eastland">Lookingglass Theatre in the Water Tower Pumping Station through July 29</a>.</p></p> Tue, 19 Jun 2012 13:43:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/onstagebackstage/2012-06/eastland-disaster-musical-100231