Annie Beserra and Striding Lion Performance Group present an hour-long dance theater piece inspired by the work of German expressionist performer Valeska Gert. Gert was a provocateur, a renegade and considered by many to be the first punk. I spoke with Beserra about the upcoming performance of “Dada Gert.”
Why did you choose Valeska Gert as the subject for your piece?
I first fell in love with her in grad school. I had a professor who had spent most of his career in Germany and had rare clips of Gert’s solo works. This woman absolutely exploded with expressivity; she was shocking and she was rhythmic, even though it was a silent film. She was such an incredible performative force it was almost like she was under possession. I’m a very theatrical performer and she more than anyone I’ve seen is living in both dance and theater fully. I was so moved by her I started working on a dissertation about her at Northwestern. About a quarter of the way into the process I realized that I couldn’t do the embodied research I wanted and that really this is a show, not a dissertation. I did a lot of studio and solo work; then I developed a trio. This performance is the product of years of work. Read the rest of this entry »
By Johnny Oleksinski
Playwright and Chicago native son David Ives is receiving a rolling homecoming by happenstance this season and next. Last winter, Chicago Shakespeare Theater presented his adaptation of Molière’s “The Misanthrope,” called “The School for Lies.” Next March, the Goodman Theatre will stage the Chicago premiere of his thunderous Best Play Tony Award-nominated “Venus in Fur” (Nina Arianda won Best Actress). And coming up later this month is “The Liar,” Ives’ modernly classic take on Pierre Corneille’s little-known “Le Menteur” at Writers’ Theatre in Glencoe.
Read the rest of this entry »
Travis Turner, Michael Pogue, Grace Gealey, Allen Gilmore/Photo: Michael Brosilow
Though its setting is seventeenth-century French aristocracy (it premiered in 1666, near the beginning of Louis XIV’s reign), Molière’s “Misanthrope” is a wholly contemporary play. The misanthrope, Alceste, is channeled in many people we all know, either professional critics or self-styled ones who see themselves as outside of and superior to prevailing society. And the coquettish Célimène, with her entourage of suitors and hints of promiscuity, is the very model of the contemporary female pop star.
Add to this the bracing wit in the text, delivered in rhyming couplets, and you have a work that derives its effectiveness in production from casting and pacing. In this regard, Court Theatre’s new rendition, directed by artistic director Charles Newell, succeeds rather well. Erik Hellman soars as Alceste, with a crisp sense of character undercut by a pervasive self-doubt often conveyed physically as well as in line delivery, and the court of suitors for both Alceste and Célimène are a grab bag of drama queens of various ilk, delivering laughs in gesture as well as word. Read the rest of this entry »
Photo: Michael Brosilow
Late in Neil LaBute’s ”In The Company of Men,” the most deplorable character I’ve ever seen in a domestic drama relaxedly watches “Seinfeld” after confessing to horrid acts of objectification and betrayal against a woman in the name of the masculine drive to dominate. “Seinfeld” is the head honcho of cruelty on television, going so far as to end its nine seasons with a courtroom condemnation of its characters’ collectively awful behavior. Punished or not, we loved every cruel nickname, prank and misadventure, regardless of the emotional casualties along the way. Read the rest of this entry »
Photo: Tim Morozzo
Few works of theater have the adrenaline-fueled urgency of “Roadkill.” But it’s not the familiar rush of exhilaration; it’s the primal clamor for survival that pulsates so fervently in this hopeless crypt. During this brusque, profoundly upsetting performance, the heartbeat quickens to prepare for a gutsy sprint away from your captors. Directed and conceived by Cora Bissett with a text by Stef Smith, “Roadkill” is truly that invasive. Sex trafficking, the subject of this British import, is typically resigned to the police blotter, in one ear and out the other. Knowing of the world’s emotional detachment to a rampant international crime with victims so forlornly voiceless, this team has dragged us screaming into an immersive space to tell their story, that of a young life destroyed by child prostitution. Late in this sickening tale, I found myself saying, “Oh, my God. Oh, my God.” in a hushed tone on repeat.
Read the rest of this entry »
Photo courtesy Nikolay Krusser
Boris Eifman is the writer’s choreographer; his muse is the figure of the artist, the genius, the madman. His theatrical ballets have emerged from the real and imagined psyches of Don Quixote, Hamlet, Anna Karenina, the Karamazovs, Tchaikovsky and, most recently, Auguste Rodin and his tumultuous relationship with his colleague, muse and lover Camille Claudel. Eifman’s “Rodin” opens with Claudel in the asylum (where she spent out the last thirty years of her life), then travels back in time through Rodin’s memory—meeting his young student turned lover, co-author of his works, subject and object of creative jealousy. Read the rest of this entry »
Photo: Michael Brosilow
Full disclosure: I, Lisa Buscani, am the 1982 Ohio State Duet Acting Champion, a card-carrying, pin-wearing member of the National Forensic League. Hold your applause. I took it seriously, almost as seriously as the three high-school students featured in the American Theater Company’s reboot, outcasts desperate for a voice, a forum “where the adults are forced to listen.” The piece brings back great memories and makes salient points about the rough road of adolescence. Read the rest of this entry »
Photo: Austin D. Oie
If the actors in a play ever exit the stage and invite you to leave, maybe you should. Red Tape Theatre’s “Lear” is a pseudo-sequel to Shakespeare’s “King Lear,” though audiences may struggle to find the connection. Written by renowned playwright Young Jean Lee, “Lear” often tells universal truths or at least exposes our shallow internal monologues about vanity and aging. Read the rest of this entry »
By Eric Shoemaker
Photo: Jeff Busby
The Back to Back Theatre ensemble is no ordinary group of performers. The company has existed since 1987 to bring disabled actors to the stage in order to build, together, a performance that speaks to not only their experiences as a minority but a holistic view of what it really means to be human. Back to Back is playing at the Museum of Contemporary Art in their production, “Ganesh versus the Third Reich,” opening May 16, in which Ganesh attempts to reclaim the swastika from the Nazi party.
I spoke with Bruce Gladwin, the artistic director of Back to Back Theatre since 1991, to get a sense of the work that he does with this extraordinary group. Read the rest of this entry »
Photo courtesy Matthew Gregory Hollis
NEXT is an annual showcase of new works by recipients of the Mordine & Co choreographic mentorship—a long-standing tradition of the forty-four-year-old company. This year’s program features pieces by current Mordine mentees Penelope Hearne and Liana C. Percoco as well as a multimedia solo by company member Monica Thomas and a guest appearance by the breathtaking Ayako Kato, who received mentorship under Mordine in 2010. Kato will perform a portion of her “Untitled” series (the title is apt for an artist so skilled at bringing unnameable to life)—a reflection on the balance between composition and improvisation. Read the rest of this entry »