‘Mr. Burns, a post-electric play’ at Theater Wit Finds Power in Escapism

An audience that has been stuck inside our homes for the past year is no stranger to the rewatch. There’s something comforting about revisiting a favorite show, especially when you’ve exhausted anything new that Netflix has to offer. After Disney+ fixed their terrible aspect ratio problem, that show for me was The Simpsons. There are some episodes that I know by heart, and others that I was thrilled to rediscover. There is something about a global collapse that just makes you want to curl up on the couch with your favorite four-fingered family. Theatre Wit takes this desire out of your living room and onto the stage with a colorful revival of Mr. Burns, a post-electric play by Anne Washburn.

Something seismic has happened and the power is gone. Without electricity, modern society crumbles. Survivors who have lost everything work together to salvage the only pieces of their world that remain, the episodes of The Simpsons that they kinda remember. Playwright Anne Washburn, with music by Michael Friedman, explores how stories and pop culture may evolve when society starts over. Washburn roots the script in what is arguably one of the greatest Simpsons episodes of all time: “Cape Fear.” What begins as a few strangers around a fire exchanging punchlines becomes a traveling theatre troupe, which in turn becomes an epic operetta.

Continue reading “‘Mr. Burns, a post-electric play’ at Theater Wit Finds Power in Escapism”

Theatre Y’s ‘YOU ARE HERE: The Emerald Camino Project’ is a Radical Reimagination of What Live Theatre Can Be

For Chicago’s theatre community, the past year and a half has been marked by reckoning. As companies postponed shows and shuttered their doors, artists and theatre-goers alike were forced to mourn some of the most fundamental elements of live theatre: shared space, spontaneity, gathering. Now that live arts are beginning to return to Chicago, the question looms: how will theatre companies grow to incorporate the perspective gained over the past year?

Theatre Y’s YOU ARE HERE: The Emerald Camino Project has an ingenious answer: by making the lost experience of gathering the performance itself.

YOU ARE HERE: The Emerald Camino Project is a month-long series of ambulatory performances held across twelve neighborhoods connected by Chicago’s Emerald Necklace in the South and West Sides. The performance itself feels like a delightful cross between a walking tour, a chaperoned blind date, and an immersive art piece. Before setting out, each participant is paired with a stranger and a Theatre Y actor. The actor guides the two through the walk and facilitates conversation between the two. Led by actor Haman Cross III, the groups walk through the neighborhood, visiting landmarks, listening to presentations by community leaders, and enjoying performances by local artists (in North Lawndale, the performers were high-school-aged rapper Marcus Quinn Jackson and Willie Round, a.k.a. Prince Roc, a rapper and poet gifted with a resonant bass voice). Continue reading “Theatre Y’s ‘YOU ARE HERE: The Emerald Camino Project’ is a Radical Reimagination of What Live Theatre Can Be”

‘School Girls’ Naturally Shines as In-Person Theatre Returns at The Goodman

After opening on March 7, 2020 and enjoying five exciting previews, School Girls; Or, The African Mean Girls Play closed due to national and global strictures regarding the Covid-19 pandemic. The production was set to be a warm return to the Goodman stage for Ghanaian-American playwright Jocelyn Bioh and seasoned Chicago director Lili-Anne Brown, whose most recent triumph of I Hate It Here has us all wondering where Brown keeps her magic wand.

Throughout the pandemic, so many communities experienced a multitude of loss, and the Chicago theatre community is no exception. We saw not only show cancellations and postponements but many theater closures – with many companies still presently struggling to come back. We also experienced a swarm of social unrest in Chicago and throughout the country that called for the unequivocal support of all black and trans lives. The Goodman reopens their doors with a production not only written and directed by black women, but with an entire cast and team made up of mostly black women. I can’t help but wonder if this production’s 506-day sabbatical was a fated occurrence meant to center our return to the theatre around the gifts and powers of black women.

Continue reading “‘School Girls’ Naturally Shines as In-Person Theatre Returns at The Goodman”

Sideshow Theatre Company Offers Artistic Residency to Playwright Preston Choi

CHICAGO (July 22, 2021) – Sideshow Theatre Company has announced they will be offering a nine-month artistic residency to Chicago-based playwright Preston Choi. Through the residency, Sideshow will provide Choi with artistic and dramaturgical support as he develops his full-length play Drive-In to the End of the World. The residency will culminate in March 2022 with a reading of Choi’s final script. This residency strengthens the existing artistic partnership between Sideshow Theatre and Choi, who had previously been selected to participate in Sideshow’s new-play development program, “The Freshness Initiative.”

Artistic Director Regina Victor expressed their excitement for Sideshow’s continued partnership with Choi: “Preston originally joined us in collaboration for The Freshness, but as many of us have experienced, quarantine and working remotely have drastically altered the process. We have instead decided to innovate and devise a residency that would once again center this talented playwright, whom we are fortunate to host. This was a thrilling opportunity to take a step back from the capitalist mindset and center ourselves in practices of process over product and the limitless potential world-building of Black Radical Imagination.”

Continue reading “Sideshow Theatre Company Offers Artistic Residency to Playwright Preston Choi”

“I Hate It Here” Heralds a Fresh New Wave of Theater Innovation

“How do we capture something that is fundamentally, profoundly, a live experience?” – Lili-Anne Brown asks the audience in her pre-show interview at one minute to curtain. I Hate it Here by Ike Holter is Brown’s savvy answer to theatre’s existential dilemma.

A title slide appears: ‘Going live in a few moments,’ which marks the beginning of the incredible adventure you’re about to see. Shot in the style of a 90s sitcom, a reality TV show, or the live medium of Saturday Night Live. Release your need for linear storytelling and let Ike Holter and the cast and crew of I Hate It Here take you on a grief, rage, and pandemic fueled fever dream that will have you laughing and crying for 80 minutes straight.

Did I mention it’s all live? Continue reading ““I Hate It Here” Heralds a Fresh New Wave of Theater Innovation”

‘American Side Efectos’ is a Triumphant Solo Show Full of Anger, Humor, and Heart

American Side Efectos is a solo performance piece written and performed by Debbie Baños, which tells the story of Debbie’s mother, an immigrant to the United States from El Salvador, and her painful, years-long fight within the immigration system to become a US citizen. While the subject matter could easily set a dark tone, Debbie infuses the proceedings with enough humor, heart, and warmth that American Side Efectos serves as both a loving portrait of the Baños family and a scathing indictment of institutionalized racism.

The show’s set is deliberately straightforward, with only a few simple set pieces placed across the stage, all of which Debbie interacts with at some point. I have complained before about solo performance that is overproduced or extravagant, and this show understands the fundamental appeal of the form; that is, that solo performance is all about knocking down the fourth wall, stripping away the normal artifice of theatre, and speaking directly to the audience.

Continue reading “‘American Side Efectos’ is a Triumphant Solo Show Full of Anger, Humor, and Heart”

Actors Theatre of Louisville to Produce All-Trans and GNC Reading of ‘The Wolves’ by Sarah DeLappe

As a coordinated attack on transgender youth escalates across the country, Actors Theatre of Louisville and casting director/producer Charlie Hano are partnering on an all-trans/gender non-conforming reading of Sarah DeLappe’s The Wolves, about an indoor soccer team navigating adolescence as they go through their daily warmups. Amid passing drills and stretching routines, a portrait emerges of nine teenage athletes actively figuring out their roles in the changing world around them.

All proceeds exceeding costs will go directly to the ACLU of Kentucky for their advocacy and support of trans rights.

Tuesday, June 29, 2021
7:30 p.m. EDT

The Wolves
written by Sarah DeLappe
directed by Regina Victor
produced by Actors Theatre of Louisville and Charlie Hano

Age Recommendation: 13+

Run Time: approximately 90 minutes

Tickets start at $10 at ActorsTheatre.org

The ensemble includes Sandra Caldwell, August Forman, Theo Germaine, Z Infante, Esco Jouley, J Riley JrSushma SahaOmer Abbas Salem, Quei Tann, Sawyer Smith, and Evie Shuckman.

The production was written by Sarah DeLappe and directed by Regina Victor. The production team includes casting director and producer Charlie Hano, stage manager and production designer Estrellita Beatriz, artistic producer Emily Tarquin, dramaturg and gender consultant Catherine Miller, and assistant director and dramaturg Emma Durbin.

Continue reading “Actors Theatre of Louisville to Produce All-Trans and GNC Reading of ‘The Wolves’ by Sarah DeLappe”

An Interview with Will Wilhelm: Shakespeare, Tarot, and Creating Queer Spaces in Art

This week, our chief editor Regina Victor had the chance to chat with Chicago-based actor Will Wilhelm (they/them) about their interview podcast, Teacakes and Tarot. Topics discussed include reclaiming Shakespeare, and how to create spaces for queer artists that aren’t just based around explaining things to the cishet crowd. This interview has been lightly edited for clarity.

Q: You have had guests ranging from Jehan Osanyin to Robert O’Hara. How do you select the guests for Teacakes and Tarot, and what has been your favorite thing (or things) you’ve learned from them? 

A: During the first season of Teacakes & Tarot: Conversations with Queer Futurists, I was really excited about highlighting and further excavating conversations that I’ve had in my personal and professional relationships. When I find myself in public conversation with other queer artists, it is often formatted as some sort of panel discussion for the benefit of a majority cis-het audience. I find that I have so much to say in these settings, but it takes so long to get everyone on the same page around basic rhetoric and cultural awareness. So, my co-creator, Erin Murray, and I decided to create a space where I could have intimate and in-depth conversations with the people who inspire me and simply allow the audience to observe. They’ll learn what they learn, and some things may go over their heads. Ultimately, though, we thought the conversations would be more substantive and focus more on how queer and trans folks would structure our industry if we were given the power. So, in season one, I invited a bunch of friends and colleagues to share space with me and shed some light on their personal experiences.

Continue reading “An Interview with Will Wilhelm: Shakespeare, Tarot, and Creating Queer Spaces in Art”

Abolish The Police

Publishing our planned pieces would have felt out of place this week, as we mourn Daunte Wright, yet another Black citizen killed by police. We also honor Adam Toledo, a 13-year-old boy killed by police here in Chicago. As the inevitable news and social media cycle starts up yet again, it becomes even more blatantly obvious that the only way to stop this is to disarm, defund, and abolish the police. We have seen again and again that police reform does not work, and is in fact often used as an excuse to funnel more money into already huge police budgets. Abolishing the police will not fix systemic racism, and must include other reforms like abolishing prisons — but it is an important first step. If you want to learn more about these ideas, or want to donate to causes that are pushing for this change, we’ve compiled a short list of resources below.

Yes, We Mean Literally Abolish the Police

The “abolish the police” movement, explained by 7 scholars and activists

To All The Black People Killed Before Me

Donate to support Daunte Wright’s family

Donate to the Brave Space Alliance

Donate to My Block, My Hood, My City

REVIEW: Theatre in the Dark Adapts a Tale of Aquatic Hubris with ‘Moby Dick in the Dark’

I went into Moby Dick in the Dark (adapted and directed by Cory Bradberry) mostly oblivious, knowing little about the plot or characters of Moby Dick other than what I’ve absorbed through cultural osmosis. I was very excited, as I’d edited two previous reviews we published about Theatre in the Dark productions — I was intrigued by the company’s approach to all-audio, live Zoom theatre, and wanted to see what the hype was about. I logged into the Zoom waiting room and, according to the company’s recommendation, made myself a hot drink and found a comfortable, dark corner to sit in.

There is something very primal and exciting about a live audio-only classical tale of risk and adventure — and without all the flair of in-person theatre, a stripped-down, barebones approach to a famously overhyped text is an enormously clever idea. The sound design and original music from Nick Montopoli do a lovely job of setting the mood, with some minimalist violins and drums, the evocative and harsh crashing of ocean waves, the textured creaking of wooden ship planks, and the shrieking of seagulls. The adaptation from Cory Bradberry aptly and succinctly condenses the story into something listenable. In its original iteration, the book (I’m told) contains many long, meandering explanations that are only tangentially related to the plot — and here, they are either cut entirely or reduced to a few essential sentences. At only 90 minutes, I can only assume this is a tight adaptation of Herman Melville’s gargantuan classic.

Continue reading “REVIEW: Theatre in the Dark Adapts a Tale of Aquatic Hubris with ‘Moby Dick in the Dark’”