WBEZ | Chicago Tap Theatre http://www.wbez.org/tags/chicago-tap-theatre Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en The Don't-Miss List: An unseasonal 'Spring Awakening' http://www.wbez.org/blog/onstagebackstage/2011-12-07/dont-miss-list-unseasonal-spring-awakening-94706 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/photo/2011-December/2011-12-08/376243_304596249561932_147061585315400_1008750_1576414475_n.jpg" alt="" /><p><p><u><strong>Kelly Kleiman</strong></u></p><p>All's quiet on the theater front (except for various holiday-themed openings, of which enough, already) until Saturday, when two exciting openings are scheduled at exactly the same time. Pick your poison:</p><p style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2011-December/2011-12-08/OpusGroup.jpg" style="width: 500px; height: 322px;" title="'Opus' (Photos by Christopher Burpee)"></p><p><a href="http://www.redtwist.org/">Redtwist Theater</a> on Bryn Mawr Avenue in Edgewater is doing the Chicago premiere of <strong><em>Opus</em></strong>, a play about the internal politics of a string quartet whose members regard it as a substitute family. (If it's like most artistic organizations, that would be the family in <em>Long Day's Journey Into Night.</em>) The company's work is generally excellent and occasionally stunning. Redtwist's production of <em>The Man From Nebraska</em> was superior in every way to the world premiere production the play received at Steppenwolf.</p><p>Which doesn't mean you shouldn't go to <a href="http://www.steppenwolf.org/boxoffice/productions/index.aspx?id=528">Steppenwolf instead, where Amy Morton is directing Enda Walsh's <strong><em>Penelope</em></strong></a>, just the second Homeric tale on Chicago stages this month. (<em>An Iliad</em> at Court Theater closes the very next day, suggesting some sort of matter-antimatter relationship between <em>The Odyssey</em> and <em>The Iliad</em>.) Chicago's only previous exposure to Walsh, who seems to be breathing down <a href="http://topics.nytimes.com/topics/reference/timestopics/people/m/conor_mcpherson/index.html">Conor McPherson</a>'s neck for the title of latest-greatest Irish playwright, was a brief visit to Chicago Shakespeare in 2009 with a touring production of his <em>The Walworth Farce</em>, so at this moment the cast is better-known than the play.&nbsp; It includes Steppenwolf ensemble members Ian Barford, Yasen Peyankov and Tracy Letts, the last of whom has stepped in for John Mahoney, who had to leave the show to attend to family matters. You know you're really something when your <u>understudy</u> has won the Pulitzer Prize.</p><p><em>Opus</em> is at Redtwist Thursdays-Sundays through January 15; tickets $25-$30.</p><p><em>Penelope </em>plays Tuesdays through Sundays at Steppenwolf through February 5; tickets are $20-$78.&nbsp;</p><p><u><strong>Laura Molzahn</strong></u></p><p>If you like dance, love the holidays, but hate <em>The Nutcracker</em>, you can scratch that itch this weekend with several shows having little or nothing to do with the Sugar Plum Fairy. Tap/body percussion troupe Be the Groove opens its third annual seasonal showcase—this year titled <a href="http://www.bethegroove.com/content/">“<strong>Winter Break Down (Louder Than Your Christmas Sweater)</strong>”</a>—at the Hoover Leppen Theatre of the Center on Halsted. M.A.D.D. Rhythms are the special guests this Friday and Saturday, and Chicago Dance Crash performs with BTG next Friday and Saturday. The Sunday matinees are family-friendly.</p><p><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2011-December/2011-12-08/DSC_0025.jpg" style="width: 600px; height: 402px;" title="Be the Groove"></p><p><a href="http://www.wbez.org/blog/onstagebackstage/2011-12-07/mark-yonally-wants-give-tap-dancing-its-due-94674">Chicago Tap Theatre</a> opens (and closes) its inclusive <a href="http://chicagotaptheatre.com/">“<strong>Tidings of Tap</strong>,”</a> this year with all-live music, at the UIC Center for the Performing Arts Friday through Sunday. And if you’d like some nibbles with your holiday festivity, check out Monday evening’s <a href="http://www.stridinglion.org/Home.html">“<strong>Night Roars!</strong>” modern-day variety show</a>, presented by Striding Lion Performance Group at the Logan Square Arts Center.</p><p>Also on Monday, <a href="http://www.harristheaterchicago.org/events/2011-2012-season/musicnow-12-12-11">Hubbard Street performs on the<strong> CSO’s MusicNOW program</strong>,</a> devoted to contemporary tunes, at the Harris. HSDC artistic associate Terence Marling presents the brand-new <em>Twice (Once)</em>, set to composer Anna Clyne’s “haunting, elegiac” <em>Within Her Arms</em>. And on Friday only, <a href="http://deeplyrootedproductions.org/">Deeply Rooted Dance Theater</a> performs its deeply felt season closer, “Chicago Women of Song,” also at the Harris.</p><p><u><strong>Jonathan Abarbanel</strong></u></p><p><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2011-December/2011-12-08/still in play.jpg" style="margin-right: 10px; margin-top: 10px; margin-bottom: 10px; float: left; width: 300px; height: 200px;" title="'Still in Play' (Photo by Kristin Basta)">Curious Theatre Branch offers a one-weekend return engagement of its one-weekend hit from earlier this season at the Museum of Contemporary Art, <a href="http://mcachicago.org/performances/past/all/2011/734"><strong><em>Still in Play: A Performance of Getting Ready</em></strong></a>. This time the venue is Wrigleyville’s Links Hall (3435 N. Sheffield) and the performances are this Friday-Sunday only, Dec. 9-11. Written by Jenny Magnus, <em>Still in Play: A Performance of Getting Ready</em> is play built out of the rituals of an acting troupe preparing for a show. It may sound like so much cotton candy, a mere gossamer of a show; but, hey, this is Curious Theatre Branch, a troupe which often finds profound somethings in nothings. It’s directed by Stefan Brun&nbsp; with music by The Crooked Mouth.</p><p><strong><em><a href="http://griffintheatre.com/spring-awakening/">Spring Awakening</a>&nbsp;</em></strong>is the modern, hip rock musical version of a seminal modernist play written by Frank Wedekind in Germany in 1891 and still widely produced. Although already seen in Chicago in the touring version of the Broadway production, this new staging by Griffin Theatre Company is the first locally-mounted and intimate production of the musical. In 1891, sex was a taboo subject even among adults, so you can imagine the scandal <em>Spring Awakening</em> caused when Wedekind used both realism and meta-theatrical devices to broach teenage sexuality including masturbation, rape, homosexuality and pregnancy, and the total adult hypocrisy surrounding said subjects. The musical gives it a modern dress skew, yet one wonders if teens today can possibly be as benighted as those of 1891. Nonetheless, <em>Spring Awakening</em> in any form is a powerful cautionary tale; presented by Griffin at Theater Wit (1229 W. Belmont) through Jan. 8.</p></p> Thu, 08 Dec 2011 02:05:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blog/onstagebackstage/2011-12-07/dont-miss-list-unseasonal-spring-awakening-94706 Mark Yonally wants to give tap dancing its due http://www.wbez.org/blog/onstagebackstage/2011-12-07/mark-yonally-wants-give-tap-dancing-its-due-94674 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/photo/2011-December/2011-12-07/mark yonally tidings of tap.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Who teaches deaf children to tap-dance? A true believer, that’s who. Choreographer Mark Yonally, who heads up <a href="http://chicagotaptheatre.com/">Chicago Tap Theatre</a>, wants to bring tap to the masses.</p><p>A self-professed “child of the ‘death of tap’ period,” Yonally says that tap-dance pretty much disappeared from Broadway and the movies between the mid-50s and early 80s. Tap historians, he adds, generally point the finger at Agnes de Mille’s modern-dance dream ballet in <em>Oklahoma!</em>, which made tap-dancing seem “old-fashioned and out of touch.”</p><p style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2011-December/2011-12-07/eric yonally.jpg" style="width: 500px; height: 419px;" title=""></p><p>Springing to the defense of a form he’s used in lots of pop culture-based narrative dances, Yonally says firmly: “Tap can reveal psychological insights, tap can further a narrative, tap can explore more complex emotions.” Among the wordless story shows CTT has produced in its nine years: an epic contest between comic book superheroes and a science-fiction tale with a David Bowie score.</p><p>Raised in a Kansas City suburb, Yonally was a child stage and screen actor who decided at 18 that he was better at dancing than acting.</p><p>But theater—and crossing boundaries generally—is still fundamental to his work. CTT’s “Tidings of Tap” was Chicago’s first holiday production to include both Christmas and Hanukkah, always with a light touch. <em>Beatcracker in a Nutshell</em>, for example, is a beat-boxed and tapped rendition of five Tchaikovsky tunes.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2011-December/2011-12-07/tidings of tap.jpg" style="margin-right: 10px; margin-top: 10px; margin-bottom: 10px; float: left; width: 300px; height: 308px;" title="2010's 'Tidings of Tap' production"><a href="https://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/208964">This weekend “Tidings of Tap” crosses another boundary</a>: it will be set entirely to live music. New company members Andrew Edwards, CTT’s longtime composer and arranger, and violinist Samantha O’Connell will perform, plus husband-and-wife klezmer whizzes Kurt and Annette Bjorling and bassist Ken Fuller. New pieces include Yonally’s <em>Kiever Dreydiekh</em> (“Dreidels of Kiev”) and <em>You’re a Swingin’ One, Mr. G.</em> (aka “the Grinch”) as well as company member Rich Ashworth’s <em>Candlelight</em>.</p><p>Asked whether “Tidings of Tap” is a CTT cash cow, Yonally says no. “Most of our shows come very close to breaking even—or actually break a profit. We try to do shows that we think the audience will want to see.”</p><p>In March, that’ll be a new danced narrative based on <em>Les Yeux Sans Visage</em> (<em>Eyes Without a Face</em>), a 1960 French horror flick with a gruesome premise: a surgeon is kidnapping beautiful women, cutting off their faces, and attempting to graft them onto the mangled face of his daughter.</p><p>“We try to keep our shows family-friendly,” Yonally says. “But this one may skew older, like PG-13. I’m not interested in going the Grand Guignol route—there are so many artists exploring angst and darkness, no one needs me to do that. There will be some dark humor.”</p><p>Always up for a challenge, Yonally knew that teaching deaf and hard-of-hearing kids to tap-dance wouldn’t be easy. He didn’t realize it was totally uncharted territory. By the night before he was slated to teach fourth- through eighth-graders at Bell School in Roscoe Village, he’d discovered nothing at all online about how to do it. And when he went to the website of Gallaudet University, which specializes in education for the aurally challenged, he discovered an article debunking his only theory: that deaf children would learn to dance by feeling vibrations in the floor.</p><p><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2011-December/2011-12-07/mark yonally tidings of tap.jpg" style="margin-left: 10px; margin-top: 10px; margin-bottom: 10px; float: right; width: 301px; height: 400px;" title="Yonally in last year's 'Tidings of Tap'">“I told the kids when I started,” he says, “we are pioneers.”</p><p>What Yonally eventually found was that his students learned visually. And unfortunately the auditorium stage where he holds classes, unlike most dance studios, has no mirrors. When his students try to dance without him leading them, they can’t get visual cues from one another to stay in unison. So now a CTT board member is buying portable mirrors.</p><p>“When I started, I couldn’t sign,” Yonally says. “And now I’ve got maybe a 20- or 30-word vocabulary. Today I learned ‘from the beginning.’ I tell them I’m teaching them to tap, and they’re teaching me to sign.”</p><p>“The hard part for me, occasionally, is just keeping my stuff together. When they do it all together, I just want to cry. (Please don't let me sound too squishy and self-serving!) The teachers all dance with the kids, learning along with them. And the kids who need a little extra help, the teachers will hold their hands the whole time. A lot of people are working to make this happen.”</p></p> Wed, 07 Dec 2011 15:40:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blog/onstagebackstage/2011-12-07/mark-yonally-wants-give-tap-dancing-its-due-94674 Critics theater picks for 6/24-6/26 http://www.wbez.org/blog/onstagebackstage/2011-06-24/critics-theater-picks-624-626-88266 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/photo/2011-June/2011-06-23/64c4aNaked 3.jpg" alt="" /><p><p><u><strong>Laura Molzahn</strong></u></p><p>Tour the world on Chicago stages this weekend. <strong>Destinations </strong>follow:</p><p style="text-align: center; "><img alt="" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2011-June/2011-06-23/64c4aNaked 3.jpg" style="width: 500px; height: 333px; " title=""></p><p><strong>Japan</strong><strong>!&nbsp;</strong>Eiko &amp; Koma open an MCA retrospective of their work, “Time Is Not Even, Space Is Not Empty,” with the performance installation <strong><em>Naked</em></strong>. Influenced by butoh and Zen Buddhism, the duo hang out—and they will be laid-back—in a “human-scale nest” of canvas, twigs, and feathers. <a href="http://www.mcachicago.org/exhibitions/exh_detail.php?id=282">Noon to five in the galleries, June 24-26, and noon to 8 on June 28.</a></p><p><strong>Old World Spain!&nbsp;</strong>“Flamenco Passion” closes Ensemble Espanol’s 35th annual celebration of Spanish dance, newly renamed the <strong>American Spanish Dance and Music<em>&nbsp;</em>Festival</strong> to reflect the importance of singers and musicians to this ancient form. <a href="http://www.ensembleespanol.org/">June 24-26 at the North Shore Center for the Performing Arts in Skokie.</a></p><p><strong>New World Spain!&nbsp;</strong>Barrel of Monkeys presents four Fridays of its new <strong><em>That’s Weird, Abuelita!</em></strong>, performed in Spanish and English beginning June 24. The BOM wizards showcase work by students at Little Village Academy and Columbia Explores Academy at the Little Village High School Auditorium; <em><a href="http://www.barrelofmonkeys.org/performances/abuelita/">botanitas at 6:45 PM, performance at 7:30</a></em>.</p><p><strong>Plain Old U.S.A.!&nbsp;</strong>In “TAP!(ish),” <strong>Chicago Tap Theatre</strong> ranges far and wide as usual. Expect a collaboration with flamenco dancer Rosetta Magdalen as well as a new community number that CTT opened up to anyone “regardless of experience, disability, or perceived lack of rhythm.” Don’t worry, the one I saw last year was fun. <a href="http://chicagotaptheatre.com/">Saturday only at the Athenaeum Theatre.</a></p><p><u><strong>Jonathan Abarbanel</strong></u></p><p>For 10 years, the signature show of Barrel of Monkeys has been <em>That's Weird, Grandma</em>, an ever-changing series of plays based on stories created by children during in-school creative writing workshops which also are part of the Monkeys' business. The stories are created by kids, but the troupe's Monday night performances at the Neo-Futurarium in Andersonville draw largely an adult audience. Now, Barrel of Monkeys is taking their concept to the Latino community with <strong><em>That's Weird, Abuelita</em></strong>, opening Friday (June 24) at the Little Village High School Auditorium. The show features stories by students from Little Village Elementary School and other Chicago Public School performed in English and Spanish. <em>That's Weird, Abuelita</em> runs through July 15. Pre-show botanitas will be served each night. <a href="http://www.barrelofmonkeys.org.">Info and tickets</a>: 312-409-1954.</p><p style="text-align: center; "><img alt="" height="358" src="http://www.wbez.org/sites/default/files/blog/insert-image/2011-June/2011-06-23/That%27s%20Weird%2C%20Abuelita.JPG" title="" width="500"></p><p>Superstar Broadway composer Charles Strouse (<em>Bye-Bye Birdie</em>, <em>Applause</em>, <em>Annie</em>) makes a rare Chicago appearance Saturday (June 25) at Northwestern University's Pick-Staiger Hall. He'll be feted in a one-night only gala concert, <strong><em>Applause! Applause! A Celebration of Charles Strouse</em></strong> featuring not only Strouse himself (still going strong at 83) but also Christine Ebersole, Craig Carnelia, Marcy Heisler and Lari White. The concert is the final event in NU's annual Johnny Mercer Songwriters Project presented by The Johnny Mercer Foundation and the American Music Theatre Project at Northwestern University. FYI: Strouse is one of the most generous and decent guys in the biz. <a href="http://www.communication.northwestern.edu/tic/">Info and tickets</a>: (847) 491-7282.</p></p> Fri, 24 Jun 2011 11:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blog/onstagebackstage/2011-06-24/critics-theater-picks-624-626-88266 Top 5 overlooked shows of 2010 http://www.wbez.org/blog/city-room-blog/onstagebackstage-top-5-overlooked-shows-2010 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/Thebetterdoctor.jpg" alt="" /><p><p class="MsoNormal" style="text-align: center;"><img height="364" width="485" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2010-December/2010-12-28/Thebetterdoctor.jpg" title="" alt="" /></p><p class="MsoNormal" style="text-align: left;">With the burgeoning number of theater blogs, Chicago productions are rarely overlooked completely. But a few that I saw in 2010 weren&rsquo;t given the props they deserved. When creative productions go unnoticed, that&rsquo;s bad news for both the industry and the theatergoing public.&nbsp;</p> <p>1) <a href="http://www.tellintalestheatre.org/">Tellin&rsquo; Tales Theatre</a>&rsquo;s &ldquo;A Midsummer Night&rsquo;s Dreamers&rdquo; ran just two weekends in June, but it was a find. This evening of four monologues on the subject of insomnia, curated by Tekki Lomnicki, was often hilarious and/or disconcertingly up-front and true. I don&rsquo;t know why this particular, highly personal brand of performance&mdash;a cross between stand-up and autobiographical confession&mdash;seems to have gone out of style.</p> <p>2) Despite its attention-grabbing title, &ldquo;Six Dead Queens and an Inflatable Henry!&rdquo; was neglected by both the Trib and TimeOut in April. <a href="http://www.piccolotheatre.com/index.html">Piccolo Theatre</a>&rsquo;s freewheeling take on Foursight Theatre&rsquo;s 1999 show had a manic charm from the get-go, when all six of Henry&rsquo;s dead wives roiled beneath the covers of a giant raked bed. Heavily caricatured yet poignant, the queens bickered jealously over their standing with the king&mdash;never mind that he&rsquo;d had them all murdered. Ultimately they formed an odd, likable little community of losers.</p> <p>3) In June, newcomer <a href="http://bootstrapscomedy.com/">Bootstraps Comedy Theatre</a> joined forces with the Silent Theatre Company in &ldquo;The Better Doctor,&rdquo; a wordless spoof of/homage to silent film. In a loopy way, writer-director Matt Lyle lavished attention on his very funny show, which included a live two-man band and humorous projected titles. Bootstraps&rsquo; impressive debut, which looked at health care reform through the lens of a more innocent era, made me wish for more from them, especially spot-on physical comedian Samuel Zelitch. So far the company hasn&rsquo;t resurfaced.</p> <p>4) <a href="http://www.katettheatre.org/">Ka-Tet Theatre</a>&rsquo;s &ldquo;In the Jungle of Cities&rdquo; wasn&rsquo;t exactly neglected when it opened in late October. But it didn&rsquo;t get the respect it deserved, including from me. Bertolt Brecht&rsquo;s early play raises plenty of barriers to appreciation, including but not limited to an inexplicable plot and unsympathetic, inexplicable characters. But under the direction of Max Truax, Ka-Tet not only remained true to Brecht&rsquo;s difficult vision but expanded on it. One made-up character&mdash;the Barker, played by Rory Jobst&mdash;recited the same boxing anecdote into a wall several times. And made it funny. Tracy Otwell&rsquo;s brilliant set transformed Red Tape&rsquo;s ancient, pedestrian church gym/theater into a surreal hell.&nbsp;</p> <p>5) <a href="http://chicagotaptheatre.com/">Chicago Tap Theatre</a> does tap-dance, but artistic director Mark Yonally also has a gift for theater&mdash;including tap-danced narratives. His endearing, satirical wordless comedy about online dating, &ldquo;LoveTaps,&rdquo; played two weekends in March at Stage 773, but did anyone but dance fans go? In a genius ploy, audiences got to vote on who&rsquo;d hook up with whom in Act 2. And in June, Yonally&rsquo;s shamelessly theatrical &ldquo;Queen Suite&rdquo; closed the &ldquo;Tap Out Loud&rdquo; showcase with a choir, an opera singer, a marching band, and dozens of tap professionals and students of all ages coming up onstage (and spilling off it&hellip;) to freely interpret six songs by Queen.</p><p><strong>(Photo credit: The Better&nbsp;Doctor, featuring Kim Lyle and Samuel Zelitch)</strong></p></p> Wed, 29 Dec 2010 12:00:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blog/city-room-blog/onstagebackstage-top-5-overlooked-shows-2010