You may remember my last article in what must now become a series, Dear White Critics: Stop Using the N-Word, when Justin Hayford decided racial slurs were appropriate for a theatre column. Yesterday, Ben Brantley of the New York Times decided it was appropriate to make a joke out of the unveiling of a trans character’s pronouns in the new Broadway musical Head Over Heels’. The character? Oracle and non-binary plural narrator Pythio, portrayed by drag performer Peppermint, who is a trans woman. What’s notable is that it’s the first time a trans actor has ever created a principle role in a Broadway show, and that Pythio is one of a handful of genderqueer characters ever seen on Broadway. Therefore, as a critic, one might think Brantley would use this opportunity to celebrate that fact. Alas, instead he decided to say this: Continue reading “Dear White Critics: Stop Being Transphobic!”
The Factory Theater knows that sometimes we need to escape from the heaviness of the world, and producing a play like The Adventures of Spirit Force Five seemed like the pep rally we needed. The program contains a director’s note by Spenser Davis highlighting the inspiration for this show: the spirit of the 90’s. Saturday morning cartoons, bright music, and brighter colors of millenial youth where everything looked spun from sugar and anything was possible. As a 90’s kid fatigued by the brutal Nationalist landscape where families are torn apart, children are in cages, and there seems like no way out, I was thirsty for it. These shows and movies raised us to be our own heroes and well, we just need a reminder of how to do that every once in awhile to keep up the fight. Continue reading “Flossyfluff: ‘Spirit Force Five’ at Factory Theater”
There is a moment in the television show “Community” where a white girl says, “I can excuse racism but I draw the line at animal cruelty.” It’s one of the most succinct jabs at the tendency and ability of privileged white folks to dismiss the pain and oppression of their fellow human beings in favor of appearing “progressive” in other ways. And I couldn’t stop thinking about that quote as I was watching Kristiana Rae Colón’s “Tilikum” — the world premiere currently running at Sideshow Theatre Company. Continue reading “Kristiana Rae Colón’s ‘Tilikum’ Reflects Humanity’s Misguided Priorities”
Rajiv Joseph’s GUARDS AT THE TAJ, currently in its Chicago premiere at Steppenwolf Theatre, and masterfully directed by Amy Morton, is as much a meditation on the soul’s need for beauty as it is a study of the mechanisms of tyranny. It’s 1648 in the city of Agra. Humayun and Babur are guarding the walled city-within-a-city where the Taj Mahal is being constructed. The all-powerful Mughal emperor Shah Jahan, in mourning for his wife Mumtaz Mahal, has commissioned the most beautiful building in the world. At dawn he will finally reveal it. Will these two young men turn and steal a glimpse? This begins a cascade of questions about the bodily costs of exercising free will versus the psychological costs of suppressing it. Continue reading “Guards at the Taj: A Tale of Tyranny, Trauma and Resistance”
Monty Cole’s Hamlet is a technicolor reinvigoration of Shakespeare’s tragedy and a powerful call to action. Continue reading “A Vibrant, Technicolor ‘Hamlet’ Helmed by Monty Cole”
The Displaced by Isaac Gomez is going into the final weekend of a phenomenal run at Haven Theatre this Friday. Gomez is a versatile writer who is using this script to explore the theme of home and gentrification with a razor sharp with and a lot of terror. The play opens with a young couple moving into a fixer upper apartment in Pilsen and trying to unpack. Marisa (Karen Rodriguez) is a young artist who takes her work very seriously and yet her rent is paid by her hard working parents. Lev (Rashaad Hall) is her sweet boyfriend who is working as a server but can’t quite make enough money to make ends meet. The absence of money creates a rift in their relationship that is quite relatable. Part of the myth of adulthood is having the income to establish our own space, something unachievable for many millennials and a conversation that we don’t have enough. Continue reading “Isaac Gomez’s ‘The Displaced’: A Gentrification Horror Story”
This piece was co-written by Chicago actor/director Wardell Julius Clark and Regina Victor.
Father Comes Home From The Wars opened at the Goodman Theatre in what can only be categorized as a seismic explosion of a production, excellent on all fronts. Continue reading “‘Father Comes Home From the Wars’ and an Absent Freedom”
For Youth Inquiry’s (FYI) world premiere multidisciplinary performance This Boat Called My Body was created by a team of devisors and youth who have shared their abortion stories with the Illinois Caucus for Adolescent Health (ICAH). The play invites audience members to sail with Jane, played by Elena Victoria Feliz, as she navigates the troubled waters of seeking an abortion at 16. This play loudly and publicly confronts the stigma around abortions as well as the clinical, legislative and personal challenges and hurdles that young people face along the way. Continue reading “For Youth Inquiry’s ‘This Boat Called My Body’”
Editor’s Note: Rescripted Reveal is a new essay series asking theatre professionals to give an inside look into their careers and create further transparency between audience and artist. Stage Left’s former Literary Manager Zev Valancy discusses his time with the company, new play development, advice on submitting plays, and what it takes to be a literary manager in today’s world.
It was the fall of 2012, and I was at the Broadway Armory, seeing Chicago Shakespeare’s imported production of the National Theatre of Scotland’s Black Watch for the second time. In the audience was my friend Joe Zarrow. I congratulated him on the workshop his play Principal Principle had received in Providence a few months before. Stage Left, where I was Literary Manager, had done a reading of his play The Pigeons a few years earlier, and he’d submitted Principal Principle for development in our Residency. It hadn’t been chosen, but I remembered the script, and held Joe’s writing in high regard. It was only a month after the resolution of the Chicago Teachers Union strike, so a play about the struggles of teachers in Chicago seemed like it might connect with audiences. I asked him to send me a draft. Continue reading “Rescripted Reveal: Zev Valancy on Dramaturgy and Literary Management”
The Light Fantastic combines Ike Holter’s brilliantly funny writing with formidable production design that makes the play, directed by Gus Menary, work on several levels. It’s a deliciously spooky thriller with a reverse Faustian twist. It’s an endearing romantic comedy. It a clever send-up of horror genre tropes (I likely missed five references for every one that I caught). And it offers up a refreshingly empowering narrative that hinges on female agency as opposed to the female helplessness the genre has long relied upon. The play also has a strong moral point of view as it touches on subjects as wide ranging as bullying, homophobia, taking advantage of your friends and the grave error of ignoring your mother’s phone calls. On a more philosophical level this play is about characters asserting the right to face death on their own terms as they grapple with Kantian questions of moral duty. Continue reading “Ike Holter’s ‘The Light Fantastic’ is Horror-Comedy at its Smartest”