WBEZ | Lookingglass http://www.wbez.org/tags/lookingglass Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en A touch of theatrical déjà vu http://www.wbez.org/blog/onstagebackstage/2012-01-17/touch-theatrical-d%C3%A9j%C3%A0-vu-95578 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/photo/2012-January/2012-01-17/clutter.jpg" alt="" /><p><p><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2012-January/2012-01-17/the_ghost_is_here.jpg" style="margin-left: 10px; margin-top: 10px; margin-bottom: 10px; float: right; width: 225px; height: 340px;" title="'The Ghost is Here' from Vitalist Theatre">Someone much wise and more perceptive than me (I know it’s difficult to imagine such a thing) observed that in all of literature, including drama, there only are nine or a dozen basic storylines. I forget the precise number, but it’s remarkably low. I was reminded of this in compiling my master list of theater productions opening in the next several months, during which task <em>déjà vu</em> jumped up and socked me in the jaw a couple of times.</p><p>For example, this past weekend saw the Vitalist Theatre offer <a href="http://www.vitalisttheatre.org/company.html"><strong><em>The Ghost is Here</em></strong></a>, a 1957 play by acclaimed Japanese author Kobo Abe, running through Feb. 19 at the DCA Storefront Theater. Set in post-World War II Japan, it’s the tale of a preposterous con-artist promoting a grim scam of selling the dead or, rather, buying photos of the war dead cheap and selling them back dear to grieving relatives, claiming that an agent for the ghosts of the dead demands a cut.</p><p>Instantly, I thought of Nikolai Gogol’s 1842 novel, <em>Dead Souls</em>, in which a schemer buys up the souls of deceased serfs (this was before the 1861 Emancipation of Russian serfs) whose names remain listed as taxable property of landowners. I don’t know if Abe ever had access to Gogol’s writings, either in Russian or Japanese, but both authors are famously noted for the absurdist, almost surreal worlds they create. <em>Dead Soul</em> was adapted for the stage at least twice, famously by Mikhail Bulgakov in 1932 for the Moscow Art Theatre, directed by Stanislavsky, and in 1980 by Russian-fluent American playwright Tom Cole for the Milwaukee Repertory Theatre.</p><p><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2012-January/2012-01-17/clutter.jpg" style="margin-right: 10px; margin-top: 10px; margin-bottom: 10px; float: left; width: 300px; height: 199px;" title="'Clutter' at Greenhouse Theatre (Photo by Peter Coombs)">Then, this Thursday (Jan. 19), MadKap (sic) Productions offer a world premiere by Mark Salztman, <a href="http://www.madkapproductions.com/-clutter.html"><strong><em>Clutter</em></strong></a>, running at the Greenhouse through March 11. It’s based on the lives of the Collyer Brothers, New York City eccentrics and hoarders found dead in their garbage-packed Upper Fifth Avenue townhouse in 1947. Their fascinatingly grotesque story has been turned into plays at least twice previously, Richard Greenberg’s 2002 <em>The Dazzle</em> (seen locally at Steppenwolf) and last July’s <em>Stuff</em>, by Michael McKeever, produced at the Caldwell Theatre in Florida. The brothers also were the subject of a 2009 E. L. Doctorow work of historical fiction (as is his wont), <em>Homer and Langley</em>.</p><p>Obviously, plays based on historical fact aren’t necessarily works which can be sorted into a particular plot slot, although each of them must have some sort of plot structure. Greenberg’s <em>The Dazzle</em>, for example, featured the Collyer Brothers as competitors in a romantic triangle much like, oh, say, <em>The Phantom of the Opera</em> in which Christine is lured by The Phantom and Raoul. There are few other similarities except the basic plot structure; see Paragraph One above.</p><p>The attraction of history and real people is, perhaps, the fact that they are in the public domain and, therefore, can be utilized as subjects with minimal legal encumberments. Often, too, such subjects or characters already are widely known, making them somehow more attractive to potential audiences. Thus, for example, we currently have Christopher Durang’s <strong><em>Titanic</em></strong> on stage at the <a href="http://www.athenaeumtheatre.com/">Athenaeum Theatre</a>, presented by Cock and Bull Theatre (through Jan. 29). It’s a very long way from the first or only stage and film treatment of the subject, although surely it’s the most outrageous with its drag sensibilities.</p><p>Also, Lookingglass Theatre now is presenting<a href="http://lookingglasstheatre.org/content/box_office/mr_rickey_calls_a_meeting"> <strong><em>Mr. Rickey Calls a Meeting,</em></strong></a> through Feb. 9, which recounts Brooklyn Dodgers owner Branch Rickey’s decision to integrate major league baseball with the 1947 call-up of Jackie Robinson. This seminal moment in American sporting history has been documented onstage and in film and even in a 1981 Broadway musical, <em>The First</em>, produced locally some years ago by the Marriott Theatre in Lincolnshire.</p><p>I could go on, but you get the idea. Literature IS <em>déjà vu</em>, at least to a degree. I guess that some story ideas, some plotlines and some character types never stale in their infinite variety. Or, to use even more French, <em>plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose</em>.</p><p>P.S. If you think you’re reading my blog post from last week, you are <em>wrong</em>. This one is COMPLETELY DIFFERENT AND ORIGINAL!</p></p> Tue, 17 Jan 2012 10:57:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blog/onstagebackstage/2012-01-17/touch-theatrical-d%C3%A9j%C3%A0-vu-95578 Critics theater picks for the weekend; 'Don Quixote', 'Mary Poppins' and 'Dancing Henry 5' http://www.wbez.org/blog/onstagebackstage/2011-10-13/critics-theater-picks-weekend-don-quixote-mary-poppins-and-dancing- <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/photo/2011-October/2011-10-12/HenryVdownload.jpg" alt="" /><p><p><u><strong>Kelly Kleiman</strong></u></p><p>The most moving moments in <a href="http://www.lookingglasstheatre.org/content/box_office/the_great_fire">Lookingglass Theatre's <strong><em>The Great Fire</em></strong></a> belong to Mr. and Mrs. O'Leary, the Irish immigrants falsely accused of causing the blaze. Watching them cringe in front of some sort of government investigative panel you get a sense of how marginalized and terrified even these English-speaking immigrants were. If the rest of the show had that level of emotional engagement or social commentary, it would be a knock-out; instead, it's a pleasant tour through familiar territory, an in-joke for Chicagoans. Its acrobatics never reach to any impressive height, nor does its story-telling. But Cheryl Lynn Bruce's turn as Alderman Hildreth, who thought to stop the fire by using gunpowder to blow up some of the buildings still standing, is equal parts hilarious and true and should be required viewing for anyone who thinks the Chicago City Council is fit to govern. Through November 20 at the Waterworks; tickets $42-$60.&nbsp;</p><p>Meanwhile, <a href="http://theartistichome.org/">The Artistic Home</a>'s <strong><em>A Touch of the Poet</em></strong> shows an Irish family from half a century earlier, struggling against being marginalized by accepting the claims of its paterfamilias to being a great gentleman and a brave soldier, though to all outward appearances he's just a tavern-keeper with a slavey wife and a pretty daughter. I saw this show some years ago with Brian Dennehy directed by Robert Falls and hated it with a passion surpassing all things because the central character, Con Melody, was so over-the-top in his delusions and hatefulness. Kathy Scambiaterra's production demonstrates that it's not the character at all: under her direction Frank Nall makes one hairpin turn after another in portraying Con's quest to escape himself. His splendid performance is complemented by that of Sally Eames, if anything stronger and subtler as the wife who knows Con for what he is and loves him nonetheless. Their performances carry the entire play, and remind us that Eugene O'Neill did, on occasion, provide a happy ending. Through November 6 at Stage 773 on Belmont; tickets $28-$32 with student and senior discounts available.</p><p style="text-align: center; "><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2011-October/2011-10-13/HenryVdownload.jpg.jpg" style="width: 500px; height: 334px; " title="'Dancing Henry Five' (Photo by Paula Court)"></p><p>And for something completely different, head to the <a href="http://www.colum.edu/Dance_Center/">Dance Center of Columbia College</a> tonight, tomorrow or Saturday for <em><strong>Dancing Henry Five</strong></em>, a dance version of Shakespeare's play choreographed by David Gordon.</p><p><u><strong>Laura Molzahn</strong></u></p><p style="text-align: center; "><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2011-October/2011-10-13/don quixote.jpg" style="width: 500px; height: 333px; " title="(Courtesy of the Joffrey Ballet)"></p><p>A couple of big-ticket shows this weekend, both featuring world-premiere commissions, may be worth shelling out for. <a href="http://www.joffrey.com/donquixote">The Joffrey performs its first evening-length commission in 60 years</a>, a remix of <em><strong>Don Quixote</strong>&nbsp;</em>by former Bolshoi dancer Yuri Possokhov, who both riffs on the Petipa version and brings his own contemporary sensibility to the dancing. True to Cervantes’ 400-year-old story, Possokhov focuses on Don Q himself—and comic relief Sancho Panza. Animated projections help bring this 19<sup>th</sup>-century ballet into the 21<sup>st</sup> century.</p><p>Twyla Tharp hasn’t created <a href="http://www.hubbardstreetdance.com/calendar">a new piece for Hubbard Street</a> in 15 years—but she makes up for lost time in the formally and musically intricate <strong><em>Scarlatti</em></strong>, a piece for 12. Those familiar with her work in the 1978 film <em>Hair </em>or the 2010 Sinatra jukebox musical <em>Come Fly Away</em>won’t be surprised by her gift for communicating character too.</p><p><strong>It’s Alive…!</strong> at <a href="http://www.dfbrl8r.com/DEFIBRILLATOR/NEXT_NOW.html">Defibrillator Gallery’s three-week series, the ALive Installation Project</a>. A wall has been built down the middle of the space, and a dancer on one side and performance artist on the other perform simultaneously for three hours. (No worries: you can drop in.) The opening show features Michelle Kranicke of Zephyr Dance and Korean artist Gim Gwang Cheol, performing a project similar to one in Montreal that included “creating crossfire with red string” and reading a dictionary.</p><p><u><strong>Jonathan Abarbanel</strong></u></p><p>I'm mainly beholden to the Brits for my choices this week, which could not represent greater artistic and intellectual extremes.</p><p><img alt="" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2011-October/2011-10-13/cloud9.jpg" style="margin-left: 10px; margin-right: 10px; margin-top: 10px; margin-bottom: 10px; float: left; width: 285px; height: 400px; " title=""><em><strong>Mary Poppins</strong></em> is back in town, and if that's not reason for rejoicing I don't know what is. Beloved by some and sentimental hogwash to others, this dazzling Broadway version of the popular Disney film adaptation of the old P. L. Travers children's book is perfect for children of all ages, as advertisements like to proclaim. The familiar songs all are there and the spectacular dance numbers are even more spectacular when performed live, onstage with a few eye-popping surprises. This is a great first Broadway show for kids. <em>Mary Poppins</em> is at the Cadillac Palace Theatre through Nov. 6.</p><p>On the other hand, you'd best keep the kiddies away from <strong><em>Cloud 9</em></strong> at the Gift Theatre in Jefferson Park, unless they are extremely advanced. This 1979 play by Brit author Caryl Churchill uses cross-dressing and other meta-theatrical devices to target racism, sexism and gender identity in 19th Century British Colonial Africa and London today. Nothing sacred in this highly theatrical work of magic realism, which is quite a different sort of play for the Gift Theatre. FYI: the extremely intimated Gift storefront playhouse will put the action, some of it sexual, very much in your face. <em>Cloud 9</em> runs through Dec. 4.</p><p>Also: a fine organization, <a href="http://www.chicagocabaret.org/">Chicago Cabaret Professionals</a>, holds its annual fundraiser concert at Park West this Sunday (Oct. 16) at 7PM. <strong><em>You and the Night and the Music</em></strong> will feature a dazzling line-up of Chicago's top cabaret musical talents, with special honors bestowed upon Ann Hampton Calloway, Jimmy Damon and former Chicago Cultural Commish Lois Weisberg. Tickets begin at $27.</p></p> Thu, 13 Oct 2011 20:23:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blog/onstagebackstage/2011-10-13/critics-theater-picks-weekend-don-quixote-mary-poppins-and-dancing- Daily Rehearsal: Chicago theater 6/22 http://www.wbez.org/blog/onstagebackstage/2011-06-22/daily-rehearsal-chicago-theater-622-88196 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/photo/2011-June/2011-06-22/educatingrita.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>1. Steppenwolf's oh-so-frequent blog has <a href="http://blog.steppenwolf.org/2011/06/21/public-and-private-through-the-architects-eyes/">a new post</a>! It's by Steppenwolf patron and architect&nbsp;Joseph Altshuler. He's written about public and private spaces, his de[FENCING] project for his firm, and <em>Detriot</em>, which closed in November. Let me know if you understand the rest of it, because it's a little esoteric and it's going over my head.</p><p>2.&nbsp;<em>WE LIVE HERE</em> starts rehearsals this weekend; Margot Bordelon and Cassy Sanders of <a href="http://theatreseven.org/index.php">Theatre Seven</a>&nbsp;culled together stories from writers in Chicago to shape their play. It was workshopped at&nbsp;<a href="http://lookingglasstheatre.org/content/box_office/11-12-season" style="color: rgb(2, 122, 198); text-decoration: none; ">Lookingglass</a>&nbsp;last year, and they're bringing it back starting in August, at least <a href="http://scottbarsotti.wordpress.com/2011/06/21/3-plays-coming-up-year-of-the-short-continues/">according to Scott Barsotti</a>, whose piece is part of the eight author series.</p><p style="text-align: center; "><img alt="" height="261" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2011-June/2011-06-22/educatingrita.jpg" title="" width="455"></p><p>3.&nbsp;<em>Educating Rita</em> opened in previews yesterday at Chicago Dramatists, and opens for real this weekend. Presented by <a href="http://www.shatteredglobe.org/index.html">Shattered Globe Theatre</a>, which works to bring global theater to the US, Willy Russell's play looks at a British student who finds an interest for her professor and in school at the same time.&nbsp;</p><p style="text-align: center; "><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="349" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/PQrKXzZwiQo" width="560"></iframe></p><p>4. If you missed <em>Avenue Q</em>, see <a href="http://chicago.ioimprov.com/io/shows/10"><em>Felt </em></a>at iO tonight -- more puppets, and it's also not suitable for children.</p><p>5. Tomorrow at Annoyance is&nbsp;<i>Messing With A Friend</i>, and it's literally Susan Messing with a different friend every time. You'll see "a fearless long-form show inspired by a single audience suggestion," <a href="http://www.avclub.com/chicago/events/messing-with-a-friend,233897/">says The A.V. Club</a>.</p><p>Questions? Tips? Email kdries@wbez.org.</p></p> Wed, 22 Jun 2011 15:14:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blog/onstagebackstage/2011-06-22/daily-rehearsal-chicago-theater-622-88196 Entire Lookingglass Ensemble--minus one--in New York for Tony Awards http://www.wbez.org/blog/onstagebackstage/2011-06-11/entire-lookingglass-ensemble-minus-one-new-york-tony-awards-87735 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/photo/2011-June/2011-06-13/Lookingglass Theater_Getty_Jason Kempin.jpg" alt="" /><p><p style="text-align: center; "><img alt="Members of Chicago's Lookingglass Theater at the Tony Awards Sunday. " class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2011-June/2011-06-13/Lookingglass Theater_Getty_Jason Kempin.jpg" style="width: 500px; height: 365px; border-width: 5px; border-style: solid; margin-left: 5px; margin-right: 5px;" title="(Getty/Jason Kempin)"></p><p>David Kersnar was the only guy minding the store at <strong>Lookingglass Theatre Company</strong> Saturday night, just 24 hours before the company was to receive the <strong>2011 Tony Award</strong> as Outstanding Regional Theatre.</p><p>He was the only one of the troupe's 38 ensemble members and affiliate artists who was on hand in Chicago to oversee the opening night of <em>The Last Act of Lilka Kadison</em>, the world premiere play closing the Lookingglass season.</p><p>Kersnar kinda-sorta-hadda be there as co-author and director of the show. What's unusual, and lucky, is that no members of the ensemble are in the four-person cast (a very small one by Lookingglass standards).</p><p>"So, you're the one who got stuck in Chicago!" I greeted him.</p><p>"Yeah, and everyone's tweeting me from New York right now," Kersnar replied. "They're having a party with our Board of Directors. But I'm on a 7AM flight to New York tomorrow. The entire ensemble will be there except Tom Cox, who's in the show at Northlight with John Mahoney and Rondi Reed. He has a performance tomorrow."</p><p>I said that if the Tony Awards followed the usual pattern, only two or three company representatives would actually be onstage to receive the award.</p><p>"That's right," he said. "The rest of us will be up in the cheering section. I think there will be four of us accepting the award: Andy (Andrew White, artistic director), Phil (Philip R. Smith, producing artistic director), Heidi (Heidi Stillman, artistic director of new work) and Rachel (Rachel E. Kraft, executive director)."</p><p>Like Kersnar, who served as Lookingglass artistic director for several years, White, Smith and Stillman are company co-founders. The numerous variations on the artistic director title create an unusual flow chart for a theater company, but it seems to work for Lookingglass.</p><p>For those of you watching the Tony Awards on TV Sunday night (7PM Chicago time), don't hold your breath waiting for The Big Moment. The Regional Theatre Tony will be presented to the live New York audience during a commercial break in the broadcast, and then a short clip of it--perhaps 30 seconds at most--will be aired later on. Don't blink or you might miss it.</p><p>FYI: many loyal Lookingglass friends and supporters will be gathering Sunday night at Rockit Bar &amp; Grill (22 W. Hubbard Street) for a Tony Awards party.</p></p> Sun, 12 Jun 2011 04:06:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blog/onstagebackstage/2011-06-11/entire-lookingglass-ensemble-minus-one-new-york-tony-awards-87735 Lookingglass Theatre Company snags 2011 Tony Award http://www.wbez.org/blog/onstagebackstage/2011-05-03/lookingglass-theatre-company-snags-2011-tony-award-85992 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/photo/2011-May/2011-05-03/looking glass.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Chicago's Lookingglass Theatre Company has won the 2011 Tony Award for Excellence in Regional Theatre, making it the fifth Chicago Off-Loop troupe to win the coveted award.</p><p>The announcement was made Tuesday morning (May 3) in New York City by the American Theatre Wing and the League of American Theaters and Producers, the joint bestowers of American theater's highest honor.</p><p>The award acknowledges the dedication of Lookingglass to a common theatrical vision of strong storytelling, physical theatre, literary pedigree and collaborative process.</p><p>The majority of Tony Awards celebrate the successes of individual Broadway-generated commercial theater productions, but the Regional Theatre Tony Award is reserved for a deserving non-profit company outside New York.</p><p>The Lookingglass win convincingly cements Chicago's global reputation as America's finest theater town. No other city comes close to five Tony Awards for Regional Theatre. Previous Chicago winners include Steppenwolf Theatre Company (1985), the Goodman Theatre (1992), Victory Gardens Theater (2001) and Chicago Shakespeare Theater (2008).</p><p>Lookingglass began life in 1988 as a small ensemble of Northwestern University theater graduates. Since then, the company has expanded to 22 ensemble members and 15 affiliates among whom are company co-founder David Schwimmer and Tony Award winning director/adapter Mary Zimmerman.</p><p>For its stories Lookingglass frequently has drawn on classical literature such as Greek, Persian and Hindu legends (<em>Hephaestus</em>, <em>The Odyssey</em>, <em>The Arabian Nights</em>, <em>Sita Ram</em>), Charles Dickens (<em>Hard Times</em>, <em>The Old Curiosity Shop</em>) and Russian author Feodor Dostoyevsky (<em>The Idiot</em>, <em>The Brothers Karamazov</em>).</p><p>The company also has approached modern authors such as Chicago icons Nelson Algren (<em>For Keeps and a Single Day</em>) and Studs Terkel (<em>Race</em>), and Upton Sinclair (<em>The Jungle</em>, in which the young actors hung themselves upside down on meat hooks as sides of beef). The variety of source material was as astonishing as the troupe's physical feats.</p><p>In 2003, Lookingglass moved into a permanent home in Chicago's historic Water Tower Pumping Station on Michigan Avenue, with the support of the State of Illinois and the City of Chicago.</p><p>The state-of-the-art, 240-seat flexible space has been used in arena, three-quarter, proscenium, alley and L-shaped configurations with equal success.</p><p>Fully rigged and trapped, the house can accommodate any of the frequent physical staging requirements of this daring troupe, several of whose current members/associates are professionally-trained circus performers.</p><p>To date, Lookingglass has produced 50 world premieres and received 42 Joseph Jefferson Awards or Citations. With an annual budget approaching $5 million, the company is under the leadership of executive director Rachel E. Kraft, artistic director Andrew White, producing artistic director Philip R. Smith and artistic director of new work Heidi Stillman. White, Smith and Stillman are company co-founders.</p><p>The company name derives from Lewis Carroll's <em>Through the Lookingglass</em>, which the founding members first developed as a stage work (<em>Lookingglass Alice</em>) when they were at Northwestern. Over the years they have enlarged and deepened their signature work, taking it on tour around the country.</p><p>Indeed, Lookingglass unknowingly helped secure its Tony Award through its frequent tours to other regional theaters around the country, thereby giving theater critics across America an opportunity to become familiar with the company's work.</p><p>The Tony Award for Regional Theatre is determined by a recommendation from the American Theatre Critics Association, which generates and votes upon a list of potential winners.</p><p>The Critics' recommendation is passed along to the American Theatre Wing and the League of American Theaters and Producers, which may accept or reject it (although in more than 30 years, the Tony Awards have not rejected a recommendation).</p><p>Typically, the initial recommendation of a theater company is written and organized by local critics. Currently, Illinois has 14 members of the American Theatre Critics Association, this writer among them (as well as Kelly Kleiman, my Dueling Critics colleague on Chicago Public Media).</p><p>Lookingglass will receive its Tony Award during live ceremonies Sunday, June 12, from the Beacon Theatre in New York, telecast on CBS.</p><p>The troupe recently closed a world premiere adaptation of Edith Wharton's <em>Ethan Frome</em>.</p><p>Its next production is another world premiere, <em>The Last Act of Lilka Kadison</em>, an ensemble-generated work about a World War II refugee. It begins previews June 1 and runs June 11 -July 24.</p></p> Tue, 03 May 2011 12:08:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blog/onstagebackstage/2011-05-03/lookingglass-theatre-company-snags-2011-tony-award-85992