WBEZ | Shakespeare http://www.wbez.org/tags/shakespeare Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Wherefore art thou Romeoville? http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/wherefore-art-thou-romeoville-111302 <p><p>It&rsquo;s a feat of imagination to look beyond modern developments in your town, suburb or neighborhood and picture how the place looked as it was getting its start. Even if your neck of the woods has no historic district or a single century-old home, it&rsquo;s still got a history. And, often, its starting point is somehow tied up with its name.</p><p>Paul Kaiser is particularly interested in the starting point of his adopted home of Joliet, the largest city in Will County. His question for Curious City goes back decades, when he first encountered an odd, name-related fact about Joliet and its apparent relationship to a village just north, Romeoville:</p><p dir="ltr" style="text-align: center;"><em>I believe that Joliet was once named Juliet, while nearby Romeoville was once named Romeo. What&#39;s the story?</em></p><p>To find an answer for Paul, we found historians (both past and present), a linguistics professor and a Shakespeare expert to consider the relationship between the original town names. As we looked at the towns&rsquo; broader history, we found we were able to fill in at least some blanks left by a lack of documents. But more importantly, we learned why origin stories can still be useful to our own identity, even if you can&rsquo;t nail these stories down so tightly.</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">What we know</span></p><p>Paul&rsquo;s onto something, at least when it comes to the two core details. Back in the 1830s, Joliet was founded as Juliet, and Romeoville was founded as Romeo. (Some sources also call the town Romeo Depot.) You can even see the names on old maps of the area &hellip; which is cute and all, considering they bear an obvious resemblance to <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Romeo_and_Juliet" target="_blank">William Shakespeare&rsquo;s star-crossed lovebirds, Romeo and Juliet</a>. There is, however, no solid documentation &mdash; no municipal meeting minutes nor history accounted for by town founders &mdash; that unequivocally lays out why these towns were named as they were.</p><p>But there are some worthy speculations. Your best bet is to head back 150 years or so before the towns were named by white settlers. In the 1670s, French explorers Jacques Marquette and Louis Jolliet were traversing parts of the Great Lakes region, in part to find out if the Mississippi River flowed to the Gulf of Mexico or the Pacific Ocean.</p><p>In May of 1673, just southwest of present-day Chicago, they stumbled upon a huge mound near the Des Plaines River. On their maps, Marquette and Jolliet christened the landmark Mont Jolliet, and the name stuck. The name later morphed to Mound Joliet.</p><p>About 150 years later, the area was drawn into an ambitious plan by the U.S. government, the newly-formed state of Illinois, and investors to build the Illinois and Michigan Canal, a waterway that would connect the Great Lakes to the Illinois and Mississippi rivers. When completed, materials could be transported quickly, compared to the era&rsquo;s cumbersome overland routes. The federal government ceded land surrounding proposed routes, and lots were sold to fund canal construction.</p><p>James Campbell, treasurer of canal commissioners, bought a bunch of land in the Mound Joliet area. Except, for one reason or another, the area at this time became known as Juliet &mdash; with a U. This is where history gets wonky.</p><p>Even historians from the late 1800s (including those writing just a generation or so after Campbell) can&rsquo;t offer much insight into Juliet&rsquo;s origins. In his 1878 book <em>History of Will County, Illinois</em>, George Woodruff throws his hands in the air:</p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/various%20theories%20take%20your%20choice.png" title="An excerpt from the book History of Will County, Illinois, published in 1878, lays out our three theories. " /></div><blockquote><p><em>Campbell&rsquo;s town was recorded as &lsquo;Juliet,&rsquo; whether after Shakespeare&rsquo;s heroine, or his own daughter, or by mistake for Joliet, the writer cannot determine. There are various theories; take your choice.</em></p></blockquote><p>We encountered three theories that account for the original name of Juliet, as well as some kind of relationship with Romeo.</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">The typo theory</span></p><p>Our question-asker, Paul, is familiar with the explorers Marquette and Jolliet, and he speculates that the town was named Juliet on maps, due to &ldquo;possibly human error on some of the map making. Where things just morphed to what somebody wanted it to be.&rdquo;</p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/juliet%20joliet%20timeline.png" title="Historical maps of the Will County area show the changing name of modern-day Joliet over time. (Source: Chicago History Museum)" /></div><p>We can find no record of cartographers of yore owning up to such a careless error. But Edward Callary, a linguistics professor at Northern Illinois University who wrote a <a href="http://www.press.uillinois.edu/books/catalog/33nxw6km9780252033568.html" target="_blank">book on Illinois place names</a>, entertains the idea from an oratory standpoint. He says it&rsquo;s possible that 19th-century map makers may have simply not known how to translate the French-sounding name Jolliet into English. So, when marking the spot of Mound Jolliet, it&rsquo;s possible they made spelling errors. And if that&rsquo;s the case, Callary says, it&rsquo;s also possible those spelling &ldquo;errors&rdquo; were more like willful oversights.</p><p>&ldquo;We sometimes make up things that are a little bit closer to words that we already know rather than ones we don&rsquo;t know,&rdquo; Callary says.</p><p>For example, ever hear of Illinois&rsquo; Embarrass River? Callary points out the name comes from Americans reappropriating the river&rsquo;s French-given name, Embarrasser, which meant &ldquo;obstruction&rdquo; at the time.</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">The daughter theory</span></p><p>However, Sandy Vasko, the Executive President of the Will County Historical Society, is a proponent of what we call the daughter theory.</p><p>Remember land-buyer and canal treasurer James Campbell? Several sources suggest that he may have had a daughter named Juliet, and that when forming a town, he named it after her.</p><p>Ironically, the earliest suggestion of this comes from the same 1878 Will County history book we got our three theories from. In any case, the author writes:</p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/daughter%20theory%202.png" title="" /></div><blockquote><p><em>On the 13th day of May, the Surveyor&rsquo;s certificate was filed, and on the 10th of June, 1834, the plat was recorded and the town christened to &ldquo;Juliet,&rdquo; for Campbell&rsquo;s daughter, it is said &hellip;</em></p></blockquote><p>All of this is debatable, though, since we&rsquo;ve also encountered history books that claim Campbell had a <em>wife</em> named Juliet, not a daughter. But Callary says that&rsquo;s not possible.</p><p>&ldquo;Campbell&rsquo;s wife&rsquo;s name was Sarah Anne,&rdquo; Callary says. &ldquo;He had no females in the family that were named Juliet that I can find. Maybe he named it for a friend&rsquo;s wife or daughter, but he didn&rsquo;t name it for his wife.&rdquo;</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">The Shakespeare theory</span></p><p>At face value, the Shakespeare theory is simple: The towns Romeo and Juliet were platted around the same time and named, perhaps puckishly (<a href="http://curiouscity.wbez.org/questions/861" target="_blank">as suggested by one our most prolific web commenters</a>), as a pair in honor of Shakespeare&rsquo;s star-crossed lovebirds. Some sources mention that either Romeo or Juliet were platted as a healthy competitor to the other.</p><p>There&rsquo;s a complex side to the Shakespeare theory, though. To understand why Shakespeare characters would even be appealing names for new towns, it&rsquo;s important to know that &mdash; at times &mdash; there&rsquo;s a lot at stake in a name.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/shakespeare marlboro.jpg" style="height: 386px; width: 280px; float: left;" title="A 1928 ad for Marlboro cigarettes. (Photo courtesy canadianshakespeares.ca)" />Recall that the I&amp;M Canal was meant to make Midwestern transportation cheap, but it was an expensive capital project. Vasko reminds us that &ldquo;people didn&rsquo;t want to buy land until there was a canal. And they couldn&rsquo;t build a canal until they sold the land. And so it was a vicious circle.&rdquo;</p><p>So any boost in land sales was forward momentum as far as the canal commission was concerned. This is where our recognizable Shakespeare characters, the towns named Romeo and Juliet, come in.</p><p>&ldquo;I truly believe that it was almost an advertising gimmick,&rdquo; Sandy Vasko says. She suspects &ldquo;somebody who was big into advertising said: &lsquo;Ya know, let&rsquo;s do this. Let&rsquo;s call this new land Romeo, it&rsquo;ll be a catch thing and maybe we can sell a few extra lots because of the Romeo and Juliet connection.&rsquo;&rdquo;</p><p>Sound like a far-fetched connection? Well, consider that, when we kicked the British out of the colonies, we let Shakespeare stay. And in 1800s America, the works of Shakespeare reached a new form of American kingdom.</p><p>&ldquo;Shakespeare is in the theaters, it&rsquo;s in peoples rhetoric books. They&rsquo;re being taught passages of Shakespeare and how to speak it in order to be eloquent,&rdquo; says Heather Nathans, chair of the Department of Drama and Dance at Tufts University. &ldquo;It had a kind of familiarity that I think maybe we don&rsquo;t have now.&rdquo;</p><p>With that level of popularity, it&rsquo;s hardly a surprise that Shakespeare was deployed, like today&rsquo;s <a href="http://www.target.com/bp/cake+boss" target="_blank">Cake Boss</a>, to entice people to buy stuff. Shakespeare became the Shakespeare brand.</p><p>&ldquo;Slap Shakespeare on [a product] and it instantly seems more elegant or elevated, or it&rsquo;s some clever tie-in that draws your attention to whatever it might be: little mints or cigarettes or playing cards.&rdquo; Nathans says.</p><p>If Shakespeare had become an important branding technique in 1800s America, was it used by I&amp;M Canal commissioners? Again, there are no surviving documents that lay this out, but the Bard as &ldquo;brand&rdquo; would have solved a problem the canal faced: Illinois sometimes seemed an uninviting place to prospective landbuyers.</p><p>&ldquo;People really didn&rsquo;t want to move here because they were worried: Are these Indians going to kill us?&rdquo; Vasko says. &ldquo;One of the things [the commissioners] had to do was be sure that people wanted to come here, and that the Indians were gone.&rdquo;</p><p>Mainly, the commissioners encouraged Illinois to act on the federal Indian Removal Act signed into law by President Andrew Jackson on May 28, 1830.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/shakespeare coca cola.jpg" style="float: right; height: 393px; width: 280px;" title="A 1928 Coca-Cola advertisement featuring William Shakespeare, published in Life Magazine. (Photo courtesy Coca-Cola) " />Tensions between Native Americans and white settlers came to a head during the timeframe of when Juliet and Romeo were founded. In the spring of 1832, <a href="http://www.encyclopedia.chicagohistory.org/pages/141.html" target="_blank">the Black Hawk War</a> broke out. Afterword, Native Americans, mostly Potawatomi in that area, were forced to leave Illinois for good. They gathered in Kankakee, then walked to reservations in Kansas and Nebraska, according to Vasko. &ldquo;A lot of old people died on the way, of course. A lot of young people were never born, died stillbirth, things like that,&rdquo; she says. &ldquo;It was a very sad, sad time for Illinois, and it&rsquo;s why we have no Native American reservations at all here in Illinois.&rdquo;</p><p>After the exodus, land sales to white settlers increased. &ldquo;Now they felt safe,&rdquo; Vasko says.</p><p>Heather Nathans adds: &ldquo;I can&rsquo;t think of a better way to declare that that is the past and this is the future, by putting on some nice, recognizable Shakespeare names.&rdquo;</p><p>It&rsquo;s hard to prove, but perhaps the new Shakespearean town names signalled safety to prospective settlers and investors back East. Regardless, the town names of Romeo and Juliet only stuck around for about 15 years, until 1845.</p><p>The change came about after former President Martin Van Buren passed through Juliet while touring western states. Van Buren noticed the town name of Juliet was similar to the name of Mound Joliet. He encouraged the citizens to reconsider having a town named Juliet after a<em> girl</em>, (again, supposedly Campbell&rsquo;s daughter) and instead call it Joliet, in honor of the renowned explorer.</p><p>&ldquo;And they took [that] under consideration,&rdquo; Vasko says. &ldquo;In 1845 they indeed changed the name from Juliet to Joliet. But, they did refuse to add any extra t&rsquo;s or e&rsquo;s. So the word was Joliet, very plain and simple J-o-l-i-e-t.&rdquo;</p><p>We don&rsquo;t know whether they gave Romeo a heads up, or even if they bothered to send a postcard. And we don&rsquo;t know how Romeo felt about it. But we know what they did: That same year, Romeo added -ville to its name, becoming Romeoville.</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">The myth lives on</span></p><p>Even without official records or documentation that answers why each place was originally named as it was, hints of Romeo and Juliet persist within their modern incarnations.</p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/romeo%20cafe%20juliet%20tavern.png" title="Romeo Cafe in Romeoville and Juliet's Tavern in Joliet are hints into the area's past lives. (WBEZ/Logan Jaffe and Katie Klocksin)" /></div><p>As you drive through Romeoville you&rsquo;ll pass Juliet Ave. and Romeo Road, Romeo Cafe and Romeo Plaza. In Joliet, you&rsquo;ll find Juliet&rsquo;s Tavern &mdash; a nod to the city&rsquo;s former name.</p><p>But where the Shakespeare theory resonates most is perhaps at the Romeoville Area Historical Society. We take Paul, our question-asker, and his wife, Kathy there to meet Nancy Hackett, president of the society and a Romeoville resident.</p><p>Hackett shows us around the place, and we eyeball some items that hint at the area&rsquo;s slight hangup on its past self.</p><p><iframe allowfullscreen="true" frameborder="0" height="416" mozallowfullscreen="true" src="https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/1PjwID6dIP5O75xdRfnY6TmoCR5BnjaugI4LIscbUvck/embed?start=false&amp;loop=false&amp;delayms=3000" webkitallowfullscreen="true" width="620"></iframe></p><p>Hackett says, even outside of the historical society, she lets the Shakespeare connection play out in her everyday life. Among other demonstrations, she shows off a bumper sticker that reads &ldquo;Wherefore art thou, Romeoville?&rdquo;</p><p>&ldquo;For so long Romeoville was that tiny little place,&rdquo; she says. &ldquo;When people ask me where it is I say &lsquo;It&rsquo;s north of Juliet&rsquo; &hellip; and then I correct it.&rdquo;</p><p>Hackett may correct herself on the town names, but there&rsquo;s one thing she won&rsquo;t budge on: Shakespeare is the reason for them. She says she knows this because it&rsquo;s in a book written by a woman named Mabel Hrpsha in 1967. Hrpsha was a member of the historical society and part of a long line of Romeoville residents who lived in the unincorporated part of town.</p><p>Hackett finds the specific page of Hrpsha&rsquo;s book, and reads:</p><blockquote><p><em>Romeo was one town proposed by the canal commissioners along the proposed canal. It was named after the Shakespearean hero and planned as a romantic twin sister and rival for Juliet, later Joliet.</em></p></blockquote><p>And even when she learns about the other two theories laid out in history books that predate Hrpsha&rsquo;s, Hackett says: &ldquo;I&rsquo;ll stick with Romeo and Juliet.&rdquo;</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">What&rsquo;s in a name?</span></p><p>Without the evidence to confirm any single theory, it&rsquo;s hard to disabuse people like Hackett who have chosen to take one theory or another as gospel. But maybe the tendency to perpetuate origin stories &mdash; and the many ways they manifest &mdash; can sometimes be more interesting than a verifiably true story.</p><p>At least that&rsquo;s Callary&rsquo;s take on our answer to Paul Kaiser&rsquo;s question.</p><p>We learn that, through names, people make statements about their heritage. And if a tiny, tiny town like Romeo &mdash; almost written out of history books &mdash; has anything at stake, it is identity.</p><p>&ldquo;Very few [people] have heard of Romeoville&rdquo; Callary says. &ldquo;Joliet is large enough to have an identity on its own but Romeo &mdash; or, Romeoville &mdash; might need a little bit of help.&rdquo;</p><p>So people fill in the gaps because, well, that&rsquo;s just what people do.</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s satisfying to have an answer,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;And when we don&rsquo;t &hellip; by golly, we make one up.&rdquo;</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/paul%20and%20kathy.jpg" style="height: 420px; width: 280px; float: left;" title="Paul Kaiser and his wife, Kathy, after visiting the Romeoville Area Historical Society. (WBEZ/Logan Jaffe)" /><span style="font-size:22px;">Who asked the question?</span></p><p>Paul Kaiser, a retired math and computer science professor, moved to Joliet from Cleveland, Ohio, in 1973. As a curious new resident to the area, Paul got interested in the history of the I&amp;M Canal. It was while he was learning about the canal that he first came across old maps bearing the town names Romeo and Juliet.</p><p>&ldquo;For me this has been a trip around in a big, long historical circle,&rdquo; Paul says. &ldquo;It seems like we&rsquo;re always coming back to the canal, its importance back in the 1800s for opening up commerce and developing communities.&rdquo;&nbsp;</p><p>Luckily, Paul is comfortable with a bit of ambiguity in this Curious City investigation.</p><p>&ldquo;I do like the theory of Juliet being the original name because of Campbell&rsquo;s daughter,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;But as the author says, we don&rsquo;t have any records to really say with 100 percent accuracy. So it&rsquo;s a good guess. I like the story. I&rsquo;m comfortable with the story. But it still leaves some freedom to play with it if you want. I mean, it leaves mystery in your life.&rdquo;</p><p><em>Katie Klocksin is an independent radio producer. Follow her on Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/KatieKlocksin" target="_blank">@katieklocksin</a>. Logan Jaffe is Curious City&#39;s multimedia producer. Follow her <a href="https://twitter.com/loganjaffe" target="_blank">@loganjaffe</a>.</em></p></p> Mon, 29 Dec 2014 15:40:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/wherefore-art-thou-romeoville-111302 The tragedy of Hambone http://www.wbez.org/blogs/claire-zulkey/2012-10/tragedy-hambone-103472 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Hamlet statues flickr.jpg" alt="" /><p><p><script src="http://storify.com/WBEZ/the-tragedy-of-hambone.js?header=false&border=false"></script><noscript>[<a href="http://storify.com/WBEZ/the-tragedy-of-hambone" target="_blank">View the story "The Tragedy of Hambone" on Storify</a>]</noscript></p></p> Mon, 29 Oct 2012 09:03:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/claire-zulkey/2012-10/tragedy-hambone-103472 Don't Miss List July 26-August 1: Shakespeare, Shakespeare and more Shakespeare, plus some drek http://www.wbez.org/blogs/onstagebackstage/2012-07/dont-miss-list-july-26-august-1-shakespeare-shakespeare-and-more <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_0.jpg" title="'A Merchant of Venice' at First Folio Theater (Courtesy of First Folio)" /></div><p><u>Dueling Critics on <em>Eight Forty-Eight</em>, Friday July 27 between 9 and 10 a.m., 91.5 FM and WBEZ.org, FREE!</u><br /><br />It&rsquo;s an all-Shakespeare, all-outdoor, all-Western suburbs day! We&rsquo;ll be talking about <em>The Merchant of Venice</em> at <a href="http://firstfolio.org/">First Folio Theatre</a> in Oakbrook and <em>Richard III</em> at <a href="http://oakparkfestival.com">Oak Park Festival Theatre</a> in guess-where. If you miss the <em>sturm und drang </em>on the air, you can always hear the segment on the <em>Eight Forty-Eight</em> portion of the site, or here.&nbsp;&ndash;KK<br /><br /><u>Chicago Shakespeare in the Parks, begins Sunday July 29 at 4 p.m. at the South Shore Culture Center, 7059 S. South Shore Drive, FREE!</u><br /><br />And speaking of Shakespeare, <a href="http://www.chicagoshakes.com/">Chicago Shakespeare Theater</a>&nbsp;has furnished a truck with an unfolding stage and will begin on Sunday to tour the city&rsquo;s parks with its free-for-all traveling production of <em>The Taming of the Shrew</em>. In addition to the grand Sunday opening at the South Shore Cultural Center, the troupe will make late-afternoon visits this week to Tuley Park, Dvorak Park and Austin Town Hall Park. The peripatetic program continues through August 19 with performances every day but Thursday. To see whether the players are scheduled to descend on your neighborhood, go to chicagoshakes.com/parks.&nbsp;&ndash;KK<br /><br /><em><u>DrekFest 2012</u></em><u>, Tuesday July 31 at 7:30 p.m., Stage Left Theatre at the ComedySportz Theatre, 929 West Belmont, tickets $15</u><br /><br />My one true regret of the coming week is that my schedule will keep me away from <em>DrekFest</em>, Stage Left Theatre&rsquo;s &ldquo;annual, national search for America&rsquo;s worst ten-minute play.&rdquo; Four shows will compete at the finals on Tuesday, including <em>Abortion Carnival of the Juggalos</em> by 2010 Grand Loser Jake Lindquist. The audience chooses the loser and there are subordinate prizes for, e.g., Worst Stage Direction. Ask the people at the Bulwer Lytton competition: writing horrible&nbsp;prose is harder than it seems&ndash;though there are days when I find it quite effortless.&nbsp;&ndash;KK</p><p><u><em>Yo Solo Festival</em>, Teatro Vista and Collaboraction; Flat Iron Building, 1579 N. Milwaukee (3rd Floor); 1-312-226-9633; $15; through Sept. 2</u></p><p>Chicago&#39;s leading Latino theater troupe offers six actor-writers in solo performances, in association with Collaboration, the innovative physical theater company now re-developing itself as a facilitator and presenter of inter-disciplinary work. <strong><em>Yo Solo Festival</em></strong> offers two artists in each of three rotating programs: Ray Andujar, Sandra Delgado, KJ Sanchez, Lisandra Tena, Juan Villa and Febronio Zatarain. Teatro Vista borrows a page from Teatro Luna, the Latina collective which first achieved success by offering solo programs written and performed by its members. <em>Yo Solo</em> also incorporates music and visual art in stories as varied as historic land battles in New Mexico to Colombia in the 1940s.&nbsp;&ndash;JA</p><p><u><em>Ah, Wilderness!</em> <a href="http://www.eclipsetheatre.com">Eclipse Theatre</a> at The Athenaeum, 2936 N. Southport; 1-773-935-6875; $28; through Sept. 2</u></p><p>&quot;A jug of wine, a loaf of bread and thou beside me, singing in the wilderness. Ah, Wilderness were Paradise enow!&quot; This famous quote from Persian author Omar Khayyam gave Eugene O&#39;Neill the title of his only comedy, which is a reverse-image version of his autobiographical play, <em>Long Day&#39;s Journey Into Night</em>. Set in similar surroundings in New London, CT (where O&#39;Neill and his family lived), <strong><em>Ah, Wilderness</em></strong> is what O&#39;Neill family life might have been if his father hadn&#39;t been an actor, his brother hadn&#39;t been an alcoholic whoremonger and his mother hadn&#39;t been a drug addict. But they were. Successfully produced on Broadway in 1933, <em>Ah, Wilderness!</em> starred George M. Cohan in a rare non-musical role (and equally rare, in a show he didn&#39;t write) as the father of the household. <em>Ah, Wilderness</em> has a large cast for a comedy, which may be one reason it&#39;s not often produced. The play has a warm heart and a good deal of wit, so give yourself a chance to see the flip side of America&#39;s great Gloomy Gus playwright.&nbsp;&ndash;JA</p></p> Thu, 26 Jul 2012 06:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/onstagebackstage/2012-07/dont-miss-list-july-26-august-1-shakespeare-shakespeare-and-more 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 Worldview 4.26.12 http://www.wbez.org/worldview/2012-04-26/worldview-42612-98571 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/IRAQACTORS10457.sJPG_900_540_0_95_1_50_50.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Turkey is working to block official attempts by Israel to attend the NATO summit. Chicago-area businessman and Turkey scholar <a href="http://harrisschool.uchicago.edu/boards/dic/members/celebi.asp" onclick="window.open(this.href, '', 'resizable=no,status=no,location=no,toolbar=no,menubar=no,fullscreen=no,scrollbars=no,dependent=no'); return false;">Mehmet Celebi</a> tells <em>Worldview</em> what’s behind the diplomatic tensions. Also, in Iraqi Kurdistan, a student Shakespeare troupe is becoming internationally recognized for performing the Bard’s plays in their original tongue. <em>Worldview</em> speaks with troupe director Peter Friedrich and actor Ahmad Muhammad Taha about Shakespeare’s role in Iraq. And Rob Cahill teamed up with Chicago bird conservationists to protect the winter home of birds that migrate through Chicago by reforesting a section of a Guatemalan cloud forest. Rob tells <em>Worldview</em> about his group, <a href="http://www.cloudforestconservation.org/" onclick="window.open(this.href, '', 'resizable=no,status=no,location=no,toolbar=no,menubar=no,fullscreen=no,scrollbars=no,dependent=no'); return false;">Community Cloud Forest Conservation</a>.</p></p> Thu, 26 Apr 2012 14:16:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/worldview/2012-04-26/worldview-42612-98571 Iraqi Kurdistan's first English-speaking Shakespeare troupe http://www.wbez.org/worldview/2012-04-26/segment/iraqi-kurdistans-first-english-speaking-shakespeare-troupe-98585 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/20120402__iraqactors~1_400.JPG" alt="" /><p><p>Across the Middle East, William Shakespeare is just as much of a literary staple as he is in the United States. That is, if you switch out classical English for classical Arabic, swap Hamlet for an Arabian prince, and assign opposing Sunni and Shia&rsquo; identities to the star-crossed lovers. But in Iraqi Kurdistan, a student Shakespeare troupe at the <a href="http://www.auis.edu.iq" target="_blank">American University of Sulaimani</a> is becoming internationally recognized for performing the Bard&#39;s plays in their original tongue. <em>Worldview </em>talks with troupe director Peter Friedrich and actor Ahmad Muhammad Taha about the role of theater in Iraq and the challenges of emulating the Shakespearean language, culture, and time period.</p></p> Thu, 26 Apr 2012 14:13:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/worldview/2012-04-26/segment/iraqi-kurdistans-first-english-speaking-shakespeare-troupe-98585 Don’t-Miss List April 19-25: The Bard's birthday and more http://www.wbez.org/blogs/onstagebackstage/2012-04/don%E2%80%99t-miss-list-april-19-25-bards-birthday-and-more-98320 <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/AP11042207082_0.jpg" style="height: 903px; width: 620px;" title="Chicagoans celebrate the Bard's birthday in 2011. (AP/Nam Y. Huh) "></div><p><u><a href="http://www.salomeespeelt.be/">SALOMEE SPEELT</a>’S <em>La Musica</em>, 7:30 p.m. Thursday at <a href="http://chicagodramatists.org/">Chicago Dramatists</a>, 1105<br>W. Chicago Avenue; tickets $25</u><br><br>A Belgian theater company, a French author, French wine, even performances at <a href="http://www.af-chicago.org/app/homepage.php">Alliance<br>Francaise</a>: Who says Chicago ain’t a global city? Marguerite Duras, whose novels and plays<br>explore politics, eros and the politics of eros, wrote a 60-minute conversation between a pair of lovers who are breaking up–or perhaps not. Now Alice Austen, one of Chicago Dramatists’ resident playwrights, has written a new translation of Duras’ work, and the Belgian company Salomee Speelt is coming to town to perform it. This weekend (Thursday-Friday-Saturday) performances take place at Chicago Dramatists; the rest of the run (Fridays and Saturdays through May 12) is at Alliance Francaise, a mile or so closer to the lake at 54 W. Chicago Avenue. If you’re in the theater biz, attend a special $10 performance on Monday, May 7. -KK<br><br><u><a href="http://breakbone.com/">BONEdanse/Breakbone DanceCo</a>, <em>5-5-5</em>, 9:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday April 20 &amp; 21 at The Viaduct, 3111 N. Western Avenue; tickets $5</u><br><br>Breakbone, the brainchild of Chicago dancer-choreographer extraordinaire Atalee Judy,<br>celebrates the 15th anniversary of its take-no-prisoners style of dance with a quartet of<br>performances–two this weekend and two next. This time around five fashion designers will have five minutes to make something coherent out of whatever they can grab from an onstage clothing rack, at which point dancers will don the results and improvise for five minutes. If there could be such a thing as an avant-garde <em>Project Runway</em> meets <em>Dancing With the Stars</em>, this would be it. -KK</p><p>Or, if you prefer something slightly more conventional, show up same day/time/location next week for the full-length <em>This is a Damage Manual</em> (tickets a still-reasonable $15). Less a dance concert than a high-speed festival of ideas in motion, Judy’s work is always provocative and often thrilling.<br><br><u>Shakespeare’s Birthday, 5-9 p.m. Sunday April 22 at the Red Lion Lincoln Square, 4749 N.<br>Rockwell, FREE.</u> -KK<br><br>So the actual birthday isn’t til Monday, but that’s no reason to skip Sunday’s Open Mic celebration of the Bard of Avon. Come prepared with a quote, sonnet or speech by the birthday boy. You’ll also get a glimpse of <a href="http://www.prometheantheatre.org/">Promethean Theatre Ensemble</a>’s production of <em>Henry V</em>, which opens (appropriately enough) on 5/5. -KK</p><p><u>The Second City, <em>Who Do We Think We Are?; </em>8 p.m. Thursday – Saturday, 7 p.m. Sunday, 1616 N. Wells Street; tickets $23</u></p><p>In the first half of the 20th Century, the single greatest influence shaping American comedy was vaudeville. Since 1959, the greatest shaper of American comedy—without a hint of a shadow of a doubt—has been The Second City. The nearly-endless list of Second City alums (including its predecessor companies) penetrates to the heart of comedy on TV, in movies, nightclubs and theater. We’re not talking merely comic actors here, but writers, directors and producers as well from Mike Nichols to John Belushi to Betty Thomas to David Steinberg to Tina Fey to Del Close to Joan Rivers and on and on and on. Last week, the original and still home-base Second City here in Chicago opened its 100th satirical comedy revue, <em>Who Do We Think We Are?</em>, created by the company as always. It’s set for an open run. It should be noted, too, that Bernard Sahlins, one of the three co-founders, still is alive and making theater in Chicago. -JA</p><p><u><a href="http://www.stridinglion.org/Home.html">Striding Lion Performance Group</a>, <em>The Jenkins Farm Projec</em>t and <em>Remember the . . . (Alamo)</em>, times and dates vary at The Viaduct, 3111 N. Western Avenue; tickets $20 for one show or $30 for both</u></p><p>Striding Lion Performance Group has been around for the better part of a decade creating singular work that draws on virtually all disciplines of live performance, and sometimes incorporates visual media as well. Although still a low-profile company, Striding Lion is notable for its artistic ambitions, clearly in evidence in two new pieces to be performed in repertory, <em>The Jenkins Farm Projec</em><em>t</em> and <em>Remember the . . . (Alamo)</em>. Performed to original music, the works feature choreography (by artistic director Annie Beserra) inspired by history and geography, so think family farm as it was Back Then and Mexican and American buckaroos. The Striding Lion rep is presented at The Viaduct through April 29. -JA</p></p> Tue, 17 Apr 2012 15:58:35 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/onstagebackstage/2012-04/don%E2%80%99t-miss-list-april-19-25-bards-birthday-and-more-98320 'Coriolanus' adds to canon of modern film and theatrical adaptations of Shakespeare http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2012-02-08/coriolanus-adds-canon-modern-film-and-theatrical-adaptations-shakespeare <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/segment/photo/2012-February/2012-02-08/Ralph-Fiennes-in-the-Coriolanus-trailer.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Shakespeare's dramas never seem to grow old. Over the years they’ve found new life, especially in film.</p><p>Othello's been re-cast as a boarding school basketball star. Romeo and Juliet have done the star-crossed lovers thing as rival gang members, lions...and garden gnomes.</p><p>Ralph Fiennes takes a slightly more measured but still very modern approach in his directorial debut <em>Coriolanus</em>. WBEZ's Alison Cuddy explored film adaptations of The Bard's body of work, and Kevin Gudahl of <a href="http://www.chicagoshakes.com/" target="_blank">Chicago Shakes</a> explained what it really means to be a "Shakespearean actor."</p></p> Wed, 08 Feb 2012 14:00:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2012-02-08/coriolanus-adds-canon-modern-film-and-theatrical-adaptations-shakespeare That which we call a fad by any other name would work as well http://www.wbez.org/blog/onstagebackstage/2011-12-02/which-we-call-fad-any-other-name-would-work-well-94539 <p><p style="text-align: left; "><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2011-December/2011-12-05/942186365_afa61aaeaa.jpg" style="text-align: -webkit-auto; margin-right: 10px; margin-top: 10px; margin-bottom: 10px; float: left; width: 270px; height: 400px; " title="Cows on Parade on Water Tower in 1999 (Flickr/Lyle58)">So London <a href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/cultural-olympiad/8871014/London-2012-Olympics-Mark-Rylance-does-pop-up-Shakespeare.html" style="text-align: -webkit-auto; ">plans to celebrate the Olympics this summer by having actors accost unsuspecting pedestrians and recite Shakespeare at them.</a>&nbsp;(e.g., <a href="http://www.opensourceshakespeare.org/views/plays/characters/charlines.php?CharID=aguecheek&amp;WorkID=12night" style="text-align: -webkit-auto; ">"Good Mistress Accost, I desire better acquaintance!"</a>) (H/T <a href="http://archive.constantcontact.com/fs073/1102382269951/archive/1108915197239.html" style="text-align: -webkit-auto; ">You've Cott Mail</a>. No kidding: if you don't subscribe to Thomas Cott, you don't know what's going on in the arts world. Or, as it is written, <a href="http://recoveringjournalist.typepad.com/recovering_journalist/2007/03/if_you_dont_get.html" style="text-align: -webkit-auto; ">if you don't get it, you don't get it.</a>)</p><p style="text-align: left; ">Meanwhile, Danish musicians orchestrate (what else would they do?) <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mrEk06XXaAw">an art attack on Copenhagen's Central Station</a>.&nbsp;</p><p>Maybe only Scandinavians have the <em>sang-froid</em> to perform Ravel's Bolero in public with a straight face (<a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dILIdREylC0"><em>10</em></a>, <a href="http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/showthread.php?t=207939">anyone?</a>), but <a href="http://www.wgntv.com/blogs/leshock-value/wgntv-pop-up-opera-chicago-opera-theater-takes-the-flash-mob-to-a-higher-key-video-photos-20111102,0,1376051.photogallery">Chicago Opera Theater celebrated the start of November by sending four of its singers to surprise commuters at the French Market in the Metra Station.</a></p><p>So pop-up performances (like <a href="http://www.chicagonewscoop.org/what-to-do-with-an-empty-storefront-a-makeshift-art-gallery/">pop-up art galleries</a>) are something of a fad, and easy to dismiss for that reason. But they're also the embodiment of the idea that we have to take our art to the people instead of expecting them always to come to us.</p><p>So how about it? If London can celebrate the presence of the Olympics, why can't Chicago celebrate <a href="http://money.cnn.com/2009/10/02/news/economy/chicago_olympics_rejection/index.htm">their absence</a>? We have plenty of fine Shakespearean actors, if Shakespeare's the thing. Or--better yet--some woman on the bus turns to you and announces, "<a href="http://epicwords.tripod.com/m11.html">Attention must be paid!"</a> or <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CxGN29njs3Q">"I have always depended on the kindness of strangers."&nbsp;</a>(That should go over big.)</p><p>Chicago hasn't had a really kick-ass public art event since <a href="http://www.chicagotraveler.com/cows_on_parade.htm">the Cows</a>, and that was a dozen years ago, already. So, theater artists, what do you say? Don't let the visual artists have all the glory! Pop up somewhere and show us what you can do!</p></p> Fri, 02 Dec 2011 16:33:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blog/onstagebackstage/2011-12-02/which-we-call-fad-any-other-name-would-work-well-94539 Daily Rehearsal: The most influential theater critics in America http://www.wbez.org/blog/onstagebackstage/2011-11-01/daily-rehearsal-most-influential-theater-critics-america-93656 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/photo/2011-November/2011-11-01/theaterloop.jpg" alt="" /><p><p><span style="font-size: 14px;"><span style="font-family: georgia,serif;"><strong>1.&nbsp;Raven Theatre&nbsp;has gotten a grant from NEA</strong></span></span>&nbsp;to host <em>The Big Read</em>, a program "designed to restore reading to the center of American culture." This means they'll have events like&nbsp;read-a-thons, book discussions, lectures, movie screenings, and performances. This time around, the choice is<font color="#000000"><font face="Times New Roman, serif"><font size="3">&nbsp;</font></font></font><em>Sun, Stone, and Shadows: 20 Great Mexican Short Stories,</em> edited by&nbsp;Jorge F. Hernández. The Kick-off party is November 19 at the Rogers Park Chicago Public Library, and <em>The Big Read Big Show</em> will be December 6.&nbsp;</p><p><span style="font-family: georgia,serif;"><span style="font-size: 14px;"><strong>2. Jennifer Lim&nbsp;is getting fair praise </strong></span></span>ever since the production of <em>Chinglish </em>moved to Broadway. <a href="http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970203554104577001900772520474.html?KEYWORDS=Teachout"><em>The Wall Street Journal</em> said</a>, "This is Ms. Lim's Broadway debut, and she's a knockout, tough, smart and sexy. She's more than a match for <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blog/onstagebackstage/2011-10-28/daily-rehearsal-non-look-new-laugh-factory-93571">Mr. Wilmes</a>, who seems to think that Ohio businessmen talk like Garry Shandling."&nbsp;</p><p><span style="font-size: 14px;"><span style="font-family: georgia,serif;"><strong>3. There are some heated comments about Shakespeare</strong></span></span> <a href="http://www.chicagoreader.com/Bleader/archives/2011/10/28/shakespeare-exposed">over at the <em>Reader</em></a>; they follow Tony Adler's piece about <em>Anonymous</em>, the new movie that heavily aligns itself with the Oxfordian theory (that Shakespeare was actually the 17th Earl of Oxford). I love how this dude who has been dead for ages is still causing so many problems.</p><p><img alt="" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2011-November/2011-11-01/W2Mimagewithcredits.jpg" style="margin-right: 10px; margin-top: 10px; margin-bottom: 10px; float: left; width: 300px; height: 219px;" title=""><span style="font-size: 14px;"><span style="font-family: georgia,serif;"><strong>4. Remember <a href="http://www.adventurestage.org/pages/walk_two_moons/195.php"><em>Walk Two Moons</em></a></strong></span></span>? Did you grow up in the 90s? Do you have children who grew up in the 90s? You know allll about Sharon Creech then. Personally, I was more of a fan of <em>Chasing Redbird</em>, though why I have no idea. Anywho, the main character Sal "ultimately realizes that things - and people - are not always what they seem" through her journies. Because if you walk a mile in another man's shoes, you'll know them, remember? It opens this weekend at Adventure Stage.</p><p><span style="font-size: 14px;"><span style="font-family: georgia,serif;"><strong>5. Missed this last week</strong></span></span>, but <a href="http://tcg.org/publications/at/nov11/critical_juncture.cfm">here's a list of 12 of the most influential theater critics in American theater</a>, and you've guessed it, Chris Jones is right there in the midst of it all. Jones describes the Chicago-region as "blue-collar, profane and prone to violence."&nbsp;Written by David Cote, theater critic at <em>TimeOut New York</em>,&nbsp;the list actually garnered response in the comments from someone who made the list:&nbsp;Robert Faires, the Arts Editor of <em>The Austin Chronicle</em>. What I noticed: we're talking about a lot of old white men.&nbsp;</p><p>Questions? Tips? Email <a href="mailto:kdries@wbez.org">kdries@wbez.org</a>.</p></p> Tue, 01 Nov 2011 14:36:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blog/onstagebackstage/2011-11-01/daily-rehearsal-most-influential-theater-critics-america-93656