WBEZ | MCA http://www.wbez.org/tags/mca Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en CTA wants local artist Theaster Gates to create work at a Red Line station http://www.wbez.org/sections/art/cta-wants-local-artist-theaster-gates-create-work-red-line-station-108046 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Screen Shot 2013-07-14 at 11.33.22 AM.png" alt="" /><p><p>The Chicago Transit Authority wants a well-known local artist to create two pieces for a Red Line station.</p><p>Theaster Gates is an award-winning artist who has a show at the city&rsquo;s Museum of Contemporary Art now. He&rsquo;s known for exploring the intersection of art and urban planning, such as his <a href="http://www.google.com/url?q=http%3A%2F%2Ftheastergates.com%2Fsection%2F117693_Dorchester_Projects.html&amp;sa=D&amp;sntz=1&amp;usg=AFQjCNHJBPUMGolava_MSEMpGT1tjlVzEw">Dorchester Projects</a>.</p><p>Gates doesn&rsquo;t know what the CTA art would look like yet: He says he&rsquo;d base his design on input from residents.</p><p>Local colleges and community groups would help him with the installations, and so would high school students in an apprenticeship program.</p><p>&ldquo;I want them to see that process and understand that architect and builders and developers and planners help shape that work along with artists,&rdquo; Gates said.</p><p>The proposed artwork is part of a larger renovation to the aging CTA Red Line terminal at 95th Street. The CTA board is expected to vote on the project Monday.</p><p>Lee Jian Chung is a WBEZ arts and culture intern. Follow him @jclee89</p></p> Sun, 14 Jul 2013 11:29:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/sections/art/cta-wants-local-artist-theaster-gates-create-work-red-line-station-108046 A daring plan to wrap a Chicago museum raises city ire – and makes art history http://www.wbez.org/series/artwork/daring-plan-wrap-chicago-museum-raises-city-ire-%E2%80%93-and-makes-art-history-99731 <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/Christo%20tying%20knots%20with%20rope%20on%20a%20ladder%20-%20Harry%20Shunk.jpg" title="The artist Christo ties rope around the exterior of the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago during the installation of his 1969 show ‘Wrap In Wrap Out.’ (Harry Shunk)" /></div><p>By the time he was 33, Christo had wrapped many everyday objects. He took tables and chairs, and shopping carts and oil barrels, covered them in heavy cloth and bound them with rope.</p><p>The Bulgarian artist and his late French wife, Jeanne-Claude, are best known for <em>The Gates</em>, the billowing, bright orange arches they installed by the thousands in New York&rsquo;s Central Park in 2005. But in 1969 they were still struggling to make their mark.</p><p>Christo&rsquo;s curious wrapped parcels didn&rsquo;t live up to the artist&rsquo;s ambitions. He wanted to wrap something big, something monumental: a building, preferably in his adopted home of New York City. Christo and Jeanne-Claude self-finance all of their projects through the sale of Christo&rsquo;s preparatory drawings and scale models, so convincing someone to pay for such a project wasn&rsquo;t the issue.</p><p>During a recent conversation, he ticked off the list of buildings he approached in downtown Manhattan starting in 1961. &ldquo;Number 2 Broadway, number 20 Exchange Place,&rdquo; he recalled. &ldquo;We tried to wrap a building at Times Square.&rdquo;</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/Christo%27s%20preparatory%20drawing%20for%20wrapped%20museum%20-%20Christo.jpg" style="height: 235px; width: 300px; float: left;" title="A preparatory collage illustrates Christo’s vision to wrap the MCA. (Courtesy of Christo)" /></div><p>They all said no. Christo said he quickly realized that his best hope to wrap a building &ndash; his first in North America &ndash; would be to wrap a museum, which might be more amenable to his strange proposition.</p><p>Christo and Jeanne-Claude approached New York&rsquo;s Museum of Modern Art in 1967. The museum was interested, but Christo said they failed to secure permission for the show from the New York Fire Department or from the museum&rsquo;s insurance company.&nbsp;</p><p>So New York said no, but Chicago said yes. It was a fateful decision.</p><p>The Museum of Contemporary Art was just a year old in the fall of 1968. Its first director, a hip young Dutchman named Jan van der Marck, showed the most avant-garde work he could find. Early on the MCA showed work by groundbreaking artists like the minimalist Dan Flavin, who had his first solo museum show there; he hung alternating pink and gold fluorescent lights in the gallery and called it art. For another show, <em>Art by Telephone</em>, van der Marck invited nearly 45 artists to create work by giving the museum instructions over the phone. The museum then built and installed the pieces based on the instructions they&rsquo;d received, and sometimes changed the work on a daily basis.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/fabric sample 2_0.jpg" style="float: right; height: 335px; width: 250px;" title="Christo sent the MCA two fabric samples in the leadup to the show, one fire resistant and one ‘water resistant only.’ He instructed the museum to ‘light a piece of each and see the difference.’ (WBEZ/Robin Amer)" /></div><p>Van der Marck passed away in 2010, but David Katzive, the MCA&rsquo;s first curator, said his mentor&rsquo;s daring was controversial &ndash; even with some of his own bosses. &ldquo;They wanted contemporary art in the city,&rdquo; Katzive said of the museum&rsquo;s more conservative board of directors. &ldquo;They were getting that but they were also getting art that was even beyond what they had expected.&rdquo;</p><p>This was certainly true of Christo and Jeanne-Claude&rsquo;s plan to wrap the MCA in chocolate brown fabric. Inside the museum, they would wrap the gallery floors and stairwells, too, in soft white drop cloths. The show would be called <em>Wrap In Wrap Out</em>.</p><p>Jeanne-Claude died in 2009 from complications related to a brain aneurysm, but she and her husband collaborated on art projects until her death. In the lead-up to the MCA Chicago show, Christo sent the museum two fabric samples &ndash; &ldquo;for the color.&rdquo; One was fire resistant and one was labeled &ldquo;water resistant only.&rdquo; Christo&rsquo;s handwritten note instructed the museum to: &ldquo;light a piece of each and see the difference.&rdquo;</p><p>Clearly, fire safety was on the artist&rsquo;s mind. But ask whether Chicago&rsquo;s Fire Department gave the show its blessing, and you get mixed answers.</p><p>&ldquo;Yes, but of course!&rdquo; Christo insisted. &ldquo;We cannot do anything in the building before the fire department gives us approval.&rdquo;</p><p>Curator David Katzive remembered things differently. &ldquo;We didn&#39;t think we were doing anything that required permission,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;So [the show] went ahead without any prior requests or clearances.&rdquo;</p><p>True to what Katzive said, we didn&rsquo;t find a permit in MCA or city records.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Christo and aid draping the fabric - Harry Shunk.jpg" style="height: 390px; width: 350px; float: left;" title="Christo and an assistant adjust the draping of one of the heavy sheets of tarpaulin suspended from the roof of the MCA. (Harry Shunk)" /></div><p>These days, Christo&rsquo;s close friend and Chicago-based lawyer, Scott Hodes, helps the artist navigate a labyrinth of bureaucracy and public opinion. He&rsquo;s gone so far as to create corporate entities with Christo and Jeanne-Claude as its employees, in order to protect the artists from personal liability. Hodes said compared to later projects such as <em>The Gates</em>, the MCA wasn&rsquo;t that complicated or dangerous.&nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;He had over a thousand people in New York at <em>The Gates</em>. He had monitors to make sure that people didn&#39;t get injured,&rdquo; Hodes said. &ldquo;There were some projects that were so dangerous that he didn&#39;t hire volunteers. The project in Paris to wrap the Pont Neuf was done by professional rock climbers.&rdquo;</p><p>The Chicago installation couldn&rsquo;t have been more different. Picture Christo, eight art students and David Katzive gathered in front of the museum on a snowy January day. The MCA was located at 237 E. Ontario then, in a one-story building that once housed the offices for Playboy. &ldquo;It was a shoebox structure &ndash; really quite dull and nothing special,&rdquo; Christo recalled.</p><p>The artist and his team were equipped with thousands of feet of rope and thousands of square feet of heavy, dark brown tarpaulin. &ldquo;It took quite a bit of work to haul [the tarps] up to the roof,&rdquo; Katzive said. &ldquo;It was laid out in long piles and pulled up, much as you would raise a curtain.&rdquo;</p><p>Watching the installation that day, an observer from the MCA described the scene this way: &ldquo;Christo and two men straighten the tarps as they hang. The Curator bites his nails.&rdquo;</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Wrapped stairwell and gallery - Harry Shunk.jpg" style="height: 342px; width: 350px; float: right;" title="Christo and Jeanne-Claude also wrapped the MCA’s interior in white drop cloth. (Harry Shunk)" />After they secured the fabric to a wooden frame they&rsquo;d built on the roof, Christo tied the rope in knots around the building &ndash; an important part of the project&rsquo;s aesthetic, according to Katzive.</div><p>&ldquo;Christo would be tying the ropes, pretty much improvising on the spot,&rdquo; Katzive recalled. &ldquo;He&#39;d run a line, tie a knot through the middle of it, run rope throughout that &ndash; some were real knots, some were just tangles of rope &ndash; to create a pattern of the hemp on the canvas, to make it beautiful.&rdquo;</p><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><p>As the team worked, falling snow accumulated in the dark fabric&rsquo;s many folds. Christo called that &ldquo;the most rewarding part of the project ... suddenly the entire museum became like a sculpture.</p><p>The installation attracted the attention of city dwellers and the national media, who swarmed the site. You can see the commotion in a short film Katzive shot that day.&nbsp;</p><p style="text-align: center;"><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="338" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/yg2Dqj6WTHg" width="601"></iframe></p><p>&ldquo;There was a kind of party-like atmosphere,&rdquo; Katzive remembered. &ldquo;Passersby on the street would stop and look and watch. . . they kind of picked up on the joyousness of it. We would hear people say things like, &lsquo;They&#39;re wrapping the whole building! They&#39;re wrapping the whole thing!&rsquo;&rdquo;</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Jan and Ingeborg van der Marck and friend at Christo opening 1969 med res (small).jpg" style="height: 272px; width: 400px; float: left;" title="From right: Ingeborg and Jan van der Marck and a friend explore the wrapped gallery barefoot during the opening reception for the show. (Courtesy of the MCA)" /></div><p>MCA staff told Christo the show did &ldquo;beautiful things to people.&rdquo; Inside the museum, students drew, children turned somersaults, and more than one couple was caught making out under the stairs.</p><p>But not every observer was so enthralled. Many art critics and museum directors hated the show. Newspaper accounts described confused onlookers and laughing construction workers. A Mrs. Frank O&rsquo;Brien of Superior, Wis. wrote the MCA, asking, &ldquo;Will you kindly advise me who is paying for this insane idea. . . .?&rdquo;</p><p>Then, towards the end of the first day of work, a reporter saw a fire official inspecting a building across the street. The inspector spotted the museum; he was shocked. He stormed over, demanding to know: Where was their permit?</p><p>&ldquo;I&rsquo;m sitting downstairs in my office and I hear a little hollering,&rdquo; David Katzive recalled. &ldquo;The fire department had showed up, telling us that we were in violation of some city code. Jan [van der Marck] asked them, &lsquo;What were we in violation of?&rsquo; And they told him &lsquo;You&#39;ve covered your windows.&rsquo; Of course they didn&#39;t know, because the building was entirely covered, that there were no windows.&rdquo;</p><p>Museum staff told inspectors they&rsquo;d left the front door and roof uncovered, as well as a rear delivery entrance. But the fire department wasn&rsquo;t satisfied with that explanation. &ldquo;Here we would have potentially had a building in downtown Chicago with a combustible exterior. That&rsquo;s not something that&rsquo;s going to make the Fire Prevention Bureau very happy,&rdquo; said Ed Prendergast, who was an engineer with the bureau at the time.</p><p>The inspector who spotted the building that day worked with Prendergast, who thought he and his colleagues were right to be cautious.</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/cheif%20murphy%20photo%20%28small%29.jpg" style="height: 268px; width: 200px; float: right;" title="First Deputy Chief Fire Marshal Francis J. Murphy was the head of the Chicago Fire Prevention Bureau in 1969. (Courtesy of Ken Little)" /></div><p>&ldquo;The city has had some fairly catastrophic occurrences,&rdquo; he said, like the 1967 five-alarm fire that destroyed McCormick Place. After that incident and the deadly 1958 Our Lady of the Angels Church fire, which killed 92 students and three nuns, Prendergast said that former Mayor Richard J. Daley was &ldquo;obviously not interested in having any more major fires.&rdquo;</p><p>So in stepped the head of the Fire Prevention Bureau. First Deputy Chief Fire Marshal Francis J. Murphy was a &ldquo;dems and dose&rdquo; kind of guy, a hands-on boss beloved by his crew. He didn&rsquo;t just enforce Chicago&rsquo;s fire code, he helped write parts of it. Now he wanted proof that the heavy brown fabric wrapped around the MCA was firesafe.</p><p>Murphy died in 1996, but he left behind a lengthy &ndash; and heated &ndash; letter exchange with Jan van der Marck and his staff, now housed in the MCA&rsquo;s archive.</p><p>Van der Marck wrote to Chief Murphy and assured him the tarpaulin around the museum posed no threat, so did the Chicago-based canvas supplier, who claimed the fabric had been prepared with &ldquo;the same treatment used on most high rise buildings&rdquo; in the city, including the Hancock Building.&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;But those reassurances weren&rsquo;t enough to sway Chief Murphy.</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/Jan%20JvdM%20and%20Ingeborg%20at%20Christo%20opening%201969%20med%20res%20%28small%29.jpg" style="float: right; height: 274px; width: 350px;" title="Jan and Ingeborg van der Marck at the opening for ‘Wrap In Wrap Out.’ (Courtesy of the MCA)" /></div><p>The next day, Chicago&rsquo;s art glitterati assembled for a black-tie reception with museum founders, the city&rsquo;s biggest collectors and Christo. The artist and his wife were dressed to the nines. &ldquo;I remember [Jeanne-Claude&rsquo;s] very fancy French boots, from Paris &ndash; up to the top of the legs,&rdquo; Christo said.</p><p>Into all that pageantry strode Chief Murphy. He walked straight up to Jan van der Marck and handed him a letter. Reassurances from the canvas company, he wrote, were &ldquo;self-serving&rdquo; and &ldquo;not informative.&rdquo; He wanted a lab test that proved the fabric was fire-resistant and he wanted it in 48 hours.</p><p>The &ldquo;or else&rdquo; was implied.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/MCA in the snow - Harry Shunk.jpg" style="float: left; height: 446px; width: 300px;" title="Snow accumulates in the folds of the heavy cloth. (Harry Shunk)" /></div><p>Van der Marck resisted taking down the show. He provided more experts who argued that the test Murphy wanted was outrageous &ndash; they&rsquo;d have to go to New Jersey to find a lab to do it &ndash; and that the fabric had the same treatment as canvas used by the U.S. Army.</p><p>But weeks passed without a response from the fire chief. Finally, according to curator David Katzive, the museum got an order to take down the show. But by this point it was already closing &ndash; and nearly 14,000 people had seen it.&nbsp;</p><p>Visual art tastemakers saw it too, according to lawyer Scott Hodes. &ldquo;It gave Chicago a different impression in the art world,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;The Chicago art scene was dominated by the Art Institute of Chicago, which would not have done this kind of a show. The MCA coming aboard showed Chicago could be on the leading edge, too.&rdquo; Christo said Chicago was crucial in his own artistic evolution, giving him the credibility to wrap bigger buildings, like the German parliament in 1995.</p><p>Ironically, as Christo&rsquo;s reputation grew and he was ushered into the canon of contemporary art, the city went from fighting him to courting him. The Morton Salt Company, for example, invited Christo and Jeanne-Claude to wrap a mammoth pile of salt at its South Side facility shortly after the MCA show. Former Mayor Harold Washington was a fan, too, according to Hodes.&nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;The mayor and Christo talked about doing a project in Chicago and Mayor Washington basically said to Christo, &lsquo;You decide what you&#39;d like to do and I&#39;ll see to it that Chicago welcomes you,&rsquo;&rdquo; Hodes said.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/blow%20torch.JPG" style="float: right; height: 415px; width: 310px;" title="A volunteer uses a blow torch to heat up the sidewalk before laying down vinyl for ‘Color Jam.’ (WBEZ/Robin Amer)" /></div>Christo hasn&rsquo;t come back, but other artists have benefitted from the trail he blazed.</div><p>As night fell on the corner of State and Adams last week, volunteers used a blowtorch to heat the sidewalk, then laid down huge sheets of red, green and blue vinyl. They were wrapping the intersection &ndash; the whole intersection: buildings, streets, lampposts, everything.</p><p>The project is called <em>Color Jam</em>, and its creator, Chicago artist Jessica Stockholder, claims it&rsquo;s the biggest ever vinyl art project in North America. Program manager and curator Tristan Hummel, who works with the project sponsor, the Chicago Loop Alliance, said the paperwork to make this happen was extreme. He can&rsquo;t imagine doing it the way Christo might have done.</p><p>&ldquo;To accomplish anything on this scale, to do so without permission would be suicidal,&rdquo; Hummel said. &ldquo;You&#39;re talking about a huge loss of investment.&rdquo;</p><p>Luckily, he said, the city and other stakeholders have embraced the project, which opens Tuesday June 5th.&nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;I wouldn&#39;t be surprised if in the &lsquo;70s if they were just like, &lsquo;Weirdo,&rsquo; like dismissive of a project like that,&rdquo; he said of Christo&rsquo;s 1969 MCA project. &ldquo;Now I think it&#39;s been proven a little better that art has an impact.&rdquo;</p><p>As Hummel and his crew worked, two Chicago police officers rolled up in their SUV. One leaned out the window and asked what was going on. They&rsquo;re installing art, I told them. The cop nodded his head and they drove away.</p></p> Fri, 01 Jun 2012 10:13:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/artwork/daring-plan-wrap-chicago-museum-raises-city-ire-%E2%80%93-and-makes-art-history-99731 Andrew Bird and Ian Schneller transform the Museum of Contemporary Art into a ‘Sonic Arboretum’ http://www.wbez.org/content/andrew-bird-and-ian-schneller-transform-museum-contemporary-art-%E2%80%98sonic-arboretum%E2%80%99 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/segment/photo/2011-December/2011-12-12/resize__575__575__5__exhib_images__full_1319232331thatcherarboretum-6036.jpg" alt="" /><p><p style="text-align: center;"><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="338" mozallowfullscreen="" src="http://player.vimeo.com/video/33539648?title=0&amp;byline=0&amp;portrait=0&amp;color=ff0000" webkitallowfullscreen="" width="601"></iframe></p><p>Walk into the <a href="http://mcachicago.org/" target="_blank">Museum of Contemporary Art</a> Chicago’s atrium, and visitors are immediately saturated by the physical and aural art. <a href="http://mcachicago.org/exhibitions/now/2011/288" target="_blank"><em>Sonic Arboretum</em></a>, a collaboration between sculptor and instrument maker <a href="http://www.specimenproducts.com/" target="_blank">Ian Schneller</a> and musician <a href="http://www.andrewbird.net/" target="_blank">Andrew Bird</a>, features Birds’ hauntingly melodic and eloquent tunes channeled through Schneller’s equally compelling horned speakers.</p><p><em>Eight Forty-Eight</em> caught up with Schneller as he was installing the exhibit. It runs through the end of the month with a couple of special live performances by Bird. Schneller began by talking about where the idea for his creations came from. <em>Sonic Arboretum</em> will run through Dec. 31, with special performances by Andrew Bird on Dec. 21 and 22.</p></p> Mon, 12 Dec 2011 15:47:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/content/andrew-bird-and-ian-schneller-transform-museum-contemporary-art-%E2%80%98sonic-arboretum%E2%80%99 'Motor Cocktail' engages visitors with sound and movement http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-07-06/motor-cocktail-engages-visitors-sound-and-movement-88779 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/segment/photo/2011-July/2011-07-06/Grundy.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Local museums often stack their summer schedules offering something special for tourists and locals alike. <em>Eight Forty-Eight’s </em>Alison Cuddy recently checked out one of these current exhibitions, <a href="http://www.mcachicago.org/exhibitions/exh_detail.php?id=271" target="_blank"><em>Motor Cocktail </em></a>at the Museum of Contempoary Art. The show is the first curatorial effort of Timothy Grundy, the Marjorie Susman Curatorial Fellow at the MCA. He went to an unlikely place for material for the show-the basement of the museum. He repaired and revitalized works that hadn't been shown in decades. Cuddy started her tour of the exhibition at Jean Tinguely's <em>Motor Cocktail</em>, the namesake work of the exhibition.<br> &nbsp;</p><p><iframe src="http://player.vimeo.com/video/26061327?title=0&amp;byline=0&amp;portrait=0&amp;color=ff0000" width="600" frameborder="0" height="398"></iframe></p></p> Wed, 06 Jul 2011 14:07:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-07-06/motor-cocktail-engages-visitors-sound-and-movement-88779 Critics theater picks for 6/30-7/3 http://www.wbez.org/blog/onstagebackstage/2011-06-30/critics-theater-picks-for-630-73 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/photo/2011-June/2011-06-30/Lucky Plush.jpg" alt="" /><p><p><em>Updated at: 2:45pm on 6/30/11 - Now with Jonathan Abarbanel!</em></p><p><u><strong>Kelly Kleiman</strong></u></p><p><img alt="" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2011-June/2011-06-30/womenarecrazy.jpg" style="width: 232px; height: 300px; margin: 10px; float: right;" title="">Start the weekend right by listening to the Dueling Critics as Jonathan and I debate David Henry Hwang's <em>Chinglish</em>, the latest missile being guided from the Goodman to Broadway. Is the show more or less true to the Asian-American experience than the production of Hwang's <em>Yellow Face</em> now running at the culturally specific Silk Road Theatre Project? Can a pair of highly diverse Jewish theater critics (he's Sephardic and I'm Ashkenazi) accurately assess that kind of authenticity? Is "authenticity" even relevant anymore? Listen and decide whether <em>Chinglish </em>measures up to Chicago standards or whether it's only good enough for New York.<br> <br> We're on <a href="http://www.wbez.org/eight-forty-eight">848 </a>between 9 and 10 a.m. tomorrow (Friday), or you'll find the recorded segment posted shortly thereafter on the 848 page of this site. Catch us now or dig us later.<br> <br> This weekend only, another out-of-town tryout: live from L.A., the superbly-named <strong><a href="http://www.mercurytheaterchicago.com/"><em>Women Are Crazy Because Men Are A**holes</em></a></strong>. I haven't seen it because it only opened its five-performance run last night; but if you're up for gender-role comedy check it out at 6 o'clock on Saturday, when tickets are only $19. At the Mercury on Southport in Lakeview.&nbsp;<br> <br> And finally, on Sunday afternoon at 5:30 p.m. join a cast of 100 or so of the city's top actors, directors, playwrights and designers--and, for some reason, me--as we <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blog/onstagebackstage/2011-06-29/daily-rehearsal-start-planning-your-4th-july-88498">read the <strong>Declaration of Independence</strong></a> from the stage of the Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park. That's right: no fireworks on the Third of July, just the reading with Grant Park Concert to follow. Think of it this way: no fireworks means no nightmare crowds means plenty of room for you to see and hear and remember what the whole thing's supposed to be about. Free.<br> <br> And a Glorious Fourth to all.</p><p><u><strong>Laura Molzahn</strong></u></p><p><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2011-June/2011-06-30/Lucky Plush.jpg" style="width: 400px; height: 267px; margin: 10px; float: left;" title="Lucky Plush/500 Clown in 'The Better Half'">Catch two of Chicago’s funniest groups in a free preview tonight, Thursday. <a href="http://www.luckyplush.com/">Lucky Plush Productions</a> and members of <a href="http://www.500clown.com/">500 Clown</a> are putting their heads together to create <strong><em>The Better Half</em></strong>, a take-off on Patrick Hamilton’s 1938 play <em>Gaslight</em>, produced on Broadway in 1941 (under the title <em>Angel Street</em>) and made into a film in 1944. Set in 1880, this melodrama involves a husband who schemes to convince his wife she’s mad—but Lucky Plush and 500 Clown are playing it anything but straight. A preview I saw in April had people on the floor. The finished product is scheduled to open at the MCA in October, but you can get a glimpse of the creative process at a one-night-only work-in-progress showing, <a href="http://www.mcachicago.org/performances/perf_detail.php?id=732">6 PM in the MCA theater</a>.</p><p>Lots of theater romanticizes old age. Not Bruce Graham’s <em>The Outgoing Tide</em>. Directed by BJ Jones and starring John Mahoney and Rondi Reed—funny and horrifying as a long-married couple—it has, not the ring of truth, but the clamorous cacophony of truth. <a href="http://www.northlight.org/pages/the_outgoing_tide/145.php">Extended through July 3 at Northlight Theatre</a>, it’s also a true pleasure. I’ll never forget (unless I fall into dementia) the guy shuffling out behind us when it ended, decked out in his WWII veteran’s cap, who called after us, “Hey, kids! Have a wonderful day!”&nbsp;</p><p><u><strong>Jonathan Abarbanel</strong></u></p><p><img alt="" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2011-June/2011-06-30/cirque.jpg" style="width: 300px; height: 231px; margin: 10px; float: right;" title="">"Jungle Red!" The very words raise the hair on the necks of those who love bitch wit and revenge served cold (as it should be) and Upper Crust 1930's women's fashion. They are (1) the color of a lipstick and (2) a catch phrase from Clare Booth's quintessential 1936 comedy-of-manners, <a href="http://www.circle-theatre.org/shows/the-women.shtml"><b><i>The Women</i></b></a>, and it's onstage now at Circle Theatre in Oak Park. Given Circle's sense of production values, one may expect gorgeous gowns. The question is how they will treat the play itself, with its large, all-female cast. Will they serve it up as high camp, as has sometimes been the case? Or as an earnest period piece? Ironically, author Clare Booth was a powerful, independent career woman quite unlike the women of her play, who rely on the unseen men in their lives for validation. <i>The Women </i>runs at Circle Theatre through Aug. 14.</p><p>The cirques are back in town, both of them. <a href="http://www.cirquedusoleil.com/en/shows/ovo/default.aspx"><b>Cirque du Soleil </b></a>has pitched its iconic blue-and-yellow air-conditioned tent next to the United Center with its latest lavishly costumed and scored opus, <i>Ovo</i>, a fanciful interpretation of insect life, playing through Aug. 21. Meanwhile, <a href="http://www.navypier.com/cirqueshanghai/"><strong>Cirque Shanghai</strong></a> is back for another summer-long run at Navy Pier's Skyline Stage, featuring the best highly physical acts from China's seemingly-endless supply of tumblers, jugglers, acrobats, aerialists and cyclists through Sept. 5. If Cirque Shanghai is less of a high-concept and unique environment, it counteracts that with truly family-friendly ticket prices. Best four-person family package at Cirque du Soleil is $150, while a four-person family can see Cirque Shanghai for as little as $65.</p></p> Thu, 30 Jun 2011 14:27:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blog/onstagebackstage/2011-06-30/critics-theater-picks-for-630-73 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 Teatro de Ciertos Habitantes rides again with Opera gone wild! http://www.wbez.org/blog/onstagebackstage/2011-04-20/teatro-de-ciertos-habitantes-rides-again-opera-gone-wild-85444 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/photo/2011-April/2011-04-20/42c56El_Gallo_2.jpg" alt="" /><p><p style="text-align: center; "><img alt="" class="caption" el="" lorenda="" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2011-April/2011-04-20/42c56El_Gallo_2.jpg" style="width: 500px; height: 321px; " title="Teatro de Ciertas Habitantes presents "></p><p style="margin-top: 0.6em; margin-right: 0px; margin-bottom: 1.2em; margin-left: 0px; padding-top: 0px; padding-right: 0px; padding-bottom: 0px; padding-left: 0px; ">Opera lovers and haters alike should love <em>El Gallo: Opera for Actors</em>. This&nbsp;<a href="http://www.ciertoshabitantes.com/index2.php?idioma=ingles&amp;ira=obra_desc&amp;menu_datos_obra=1&amp;id=8" style="color: rgb(2, 122, 198); text-decoration: none; ">behind-the-scenes play by Teatro de Ciertos Habitantes</a>, based in Mexico City and appearing for the second time in&nbsp;<a href="http://www.mcachicago.org/performances/perf_detail.php?id=614" style="color: rgb(2, 122, 198); text-decoration: none; ">a brief run at the MCA</a>, is so far from stuffy it’s ridiculous. Just imagine a stage crammed with two string quartets, the audience (yes, the audience sits onstage, at least at first), and six actor/singers delivering an invented language. Communication is largely physical: slapstick, mugging, stage combat.</p><p style="margin-top: 0.6em; margin-right: 0px; margin-bottom: 1.2em; margin-left: 0px; padding-top: 0px; padding-right: 0px; padding-bottom: 0px; padding-left: 0px; ">The title says it all. While “gallo” is most familiar as “rooster,” it can also mean “false note” or “squeak.” Company director Claudio Valdes Kuri says, in English that’s 2,000 times better than my Spanish, “We started with nothing. <em>El Gallo</em> is a mirror of things that happened in the process. The actors are exaggerating a bit all these things that happened—but not so big.”</p><p style="margin-top: 0.6em; margin-right: 0px; margin-bottom: 1.2em; margin-left: 0px; padding-top: 0px; padding-right: 0px; padding-bottom: 0px; padding-left: 0px; ">What happened is that Kuri invited British composer Paul Barker to come in and work with his theater company. “There were six artists,” says Kuri. “Two of them had musical training—one was a pianist, one was a tenor. The other four were more actors than musicians. Their musical skills… It was difficult for the composer to make them sing his compositions.”</p><p style="margin-top: 0.6em; margin-right: 0px; margin-bottom: 1.2em; margin-left: 0px; padding-top: 0px; padding-right: 0px; padding-bottom: 0px; padding-left: 0px; ">The resulting 80-minute piece, which features a music director and five singers, recapitulates that process of artists collaborating, producing a lot of frustration on all sides. “The director is just looking at his new composition,” says Kuri. “His singers have other problems, but he sees just the one side of these people. In life, we are like that. We’re missing the person in all its manifestations. What’s in the play is true of all groups, not just artists’ groups: the competition, the envy.”</p><p style="margin-top: 0.6em; margin-right: 0px; margin-bottom: 1.2em; margin-left: 0px; padding-top: 0px; padding-right: 0px; padding-bottom: 0px; padding-left: 0px; ">“The play is a simple structure: an audition, the third rehearsal, a rehearsal in the middle, the last rehearsal, and then the presentation,” says Kuri. “It’s easy to follow what things are happening. But the performers are exposed to a lot of tension. They’re sharing their inner experience—it’s a cathartic process. They are sharing their problems, but they’re using an invented language.”</p><p style="margin-top: 0.6em; margin-right: 0px; margin-bottom: 1.2em; margin-left: 0px; padding-top: 0px; padding-right: 0px; padding-bottom: 0px; padding-left: 0px; ">Who made up the language? “It’s a mixture of all the languages of the company”—which includes performers from Japan, Iran, French Antilles, and Mexico. “Barker [the composer] arrived at it,” says Kuri. “It’s with meaning, not without meaning. Everything means something—it’s not gibberish. It has rules like any language.”</p><p style="margin-top: 0.6em; margin-right: 0px; margin-bottom: 1.2em; margin-left: 0px; padding-top: 0px; padding-right: 0px; padding-bottom: 0px; padding-left: 0px; ">On video, this raucous production looks very funny. But Kuri says, “I never tell the actors genre or style. It’s not comedy or tragedy. But this group, they have a lot of fun. The thing I like in this production, it’s very funny, but some parts are very serious, spiritual. There are all these different moods. You’ll be laughing, and in the next hour crying. Sometimes it’s like a cartoon, sometimes it’s realistic—and I’m not worried about that.”</p><p style="margin-top: 0.6em; margin-right: 0px; margin-bottom: 1.2em; margin-left: 0px; padding-top: 0px; padding-right: 0px; padding-bottom: 0px; padding-left: 0px; text-align: center; "><iframe frameborder="0" height="281" src="http://player.vimeo.com/video/14864230?title=0&amp;byline=0&amp;portrait=0&amp;color=c40215" width="500"></iframe></p></p> Wed, 20 Apr 2011 16:10:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blog/onstagebackstage/2011-04-20/teatro-de-ciertos-habitantes-rides-again-opera-gone-wild-85444