This weekend I watched “Fast & Furious 6,” alternately gaping, cheering and shaking my head in disbelief at scene after scene of various insane stunts that Dom and his team of impossibly awesome drivers effortlessly pull off. “Oh come on,” I would whisper, grinning stupidly despite myself, “that doesn’t make any sense!” Tonight at “Cirque Shanghai: Dragon’s Thunder,” as a fifth motorcyclist entered into a golden contraption referred to as the “Globe of Death,” my friend turned to me and said those exact words. And she was totally right. Read the rest of this entry »
Young Jean Lee/Photo: Blaine Davis
By Zach Freeman
As a twenty-six-year old graduate student studying Shakespeare at Berkeley and working on her dissertation, a frustrated Young Jean Lee, fed up with academia, went to a therapist for help. The therapist started by posing a question to Lee that she was told to answer off the top of her head: “What do you want to do with your life?” Lee was so shocked by her own response (“I want to be a playwright.”) that she asked the therapist for a do-over. Recounting the moment later, Lee jokes that, “If you’re studying Shakespeare and you say that you want to be a playwright and you have no experience playwriting, it’s like being a veterinarian and saying that you want to be a dog.”
Still, over the last decade, the Korean-American Lee has managed to make more than a name for herself in the world of experimental theater, she’s won Obies and created an oeuvre of provocative, high-profile pieces that defy easy categorization. Among others, there’s “The Shipment,” a “Black identity politics show” (her words), “Church,” a surprisingly earnest exploration of Christianity and “We’re Gonna Die,” a show about that one thing that every single living human has in common (hint: see title). Read the rest of this entry »
“What the hell is Mike Tyson gonna do up here on stage tonight?”
This is the thought that Tyson attributes to every member of the audience early on in “Mike Tyson: Undisputed Truth.” And from the rowdy reaction of the large collection of fans and other interested parties gathered in the Cadillac Palace Theatre Friday night for the first of a two-night stint in Chicago for this traveling one-man show that has already run on Broadway and in Las Vegas, it seems he knows how to read a crowd.
So, does this show, in fact, consist only of the “undisputed truth?” Well, anything you say is undisputed when you’re speaking into a microphone and there’s no one else on stage to argue with you. And whether everything Tyson says during the course of the evening is undisputable or not is not the point. Undoubtedly former boxer Mitch Green and Tyson’s ex-wife Robin Givens would relish a chance to tell their sides of some particularly juicy stories.
But “Undisputed Truth,” written by Tyson’s wife Kiki Tyson and directed by Spike Lee, is more of a confessional autobiography, a subjective recounting of personal stories in an undisputedly intriguing life, than it is an argument for absolute truth. In fact, the title that Tyson jokingly declares he originally wanted to give the show—“Boxing, Bitches and Lawsuits”—may actually be more appropriate. Read the rest of this entry »
Photo: Lucy Cash
“The biggest surprise is how much it’s running on its own,” muses Mark Jeffery, performance/installation artist, SAIC professor and curator of a sprawling and ambitious multi-venue performance series taking place across Chicago this winter. This week marks the halfway mark of the third iteration of the biannual performance festival IN>TIME. The first two incarnations in 2008 and 2010, co-curated with Sara Schnadt, were produced by the Cultural Center. When that producer lost her job, along with spades of others at the Department of Cultural Affairs, Jeffery was inspired to cast a wider net for the next IN>TIME and work with multiple venues. Quickly it became clear that many Chicago institutions already devoted to producing performance were enthused to “fold IN>TIME’s work into their programs,” making Jeffery realize how much sustainability for this kind of programming was already built into these sites, from the MCA to threewalls gallery, the Hyde Park Art Center, Links Hall, 6018 North, the Red Rover Series and almost a dozen others involved this year. “What we’re discovering,” Jeffery says, who argues strongly for the position of Chicago as a destination for performance, “is that performance has arrived.” Read the rest of this entry »
How far will an outside producer go in dropping crucial elements in transposing an outside production to Chicago? How much will be lost in making the transition, particularly when it comes from New York?
When it comes to the “Radio City Christmas Spectacular,” apparently quite a bit. The show had always been performed here with some half the number of Rockettes seen at Radio City and with canned music versus the live orchestra that one can experience in New York. But in bringing the show back to the area for the first time in four years, elements that nonetheless made the show, well, spectacular, are noticeably absent this year. Read the rest of this entry »
Performing in a fashionably nostalgic parlor room at the Palmer House Hilton downtown, magician Dennis Watkins—star of the House Theatre’s wildly popular “Death and Harry Houdini”—presents an intimate night of misdirection and sleight of hand. Read the rest of this entry »
By Alli Carlisle
For Susan O’Halloran, professional storyteller and Chicago native, storytelling and racial justice have always been intertwined. O’Halloran grew up on the South Side in a time when public consensus still considered segregation a good thing. Her worldview, though, was crucially shaped by an early involvement with the civil rights movement. When she was fourteen, O’Halloran joined a group called the Young Christian Students. “We were so lucky, because we had these adult mentors who were working with Dr. King,” she says, “and they’d come back and teach us kids what they learned, so we learned group discussion skills and leadership skills.” Read the rest of this entry »
Juan Francisco Villa
On a Friday night at Calles y Sueños in Pilsen, a small crowd gathers for the monthly Noche de Monólogos (Night of Monologues), a night of performances and open mic that on this night ranges from fiction reading to monologues in character to non-narrative movement-based performance. Organizers of the event speak in Spanish and English, as do the performers. People greet each other with hugs and kisses; throughout the night, audience members occasionally yell encouragement to performers and applaud with a level of enthusiasm you might get from a proud, affectionate family.
This month’s Noche de Monólogos was a preview of the upcoming festival of Latino solo shows, “Yo Solo,” a collaboration between Teatro Vista and Collaboraction. The festival will be a series of six solo performances by Latino artists arranged in three repeating programs, each of which is a pair of two of the shows. Read the rest of this entry »
Photo: Elizabeth McQuern
By Zach Freeman
Mark Cuban has a lot of money. You probably knew that. But did you know that he wants to give some of that money ($1,000 to be exact) to the Chicago performer who can out-comedy seven other challengers in an eight-week-long reality-show style tele-competition called “Impress These Apes” judged by a panel of three hyper-intelligent simians from the future? Probably not. Actually Cuban probably doesn’t even know that. But let’s go back a bit.
Last year, Steve Gadlin, executive producer and founder of “Impress These Apes,” went on the ABC reality pitch show “Shark Tank,” and with a ridiculously catchy song-and-dance, convinced the billionaire to invest in a project called “I Want to Draw a Cat For You” in which Gadlin, well, draws a cat for you. A stick-figure cat. And then he mails it to you. The song and dance seemed to seal the deal for Cuban. That’s because it’s a catchy song. In fact, after hearing it, it stays stuck in your head for several days and has so far inspired more than 7,000 people to buy a cat drawing. But, the thing is, when the deal was signed ($25,000 for thirty-three percent of the company), Cuban didn’t just put money into iwanttodrawacatforyou.com, he invested in Blewt! Productions, the parent company of the cat-drawing project, as well as several others, including “Impress These Apes.” So the owner of Landmark Theatres and the Dallas Mavericks now owns one-third of a Chicago comedy project featuring a competition whose winner earns the title Least Pitiful Human (and $1,000 of Cuban’s money). Read the rest of this entry »
Photo: Paul Natkin
Opening with a string of guys diving through hoops and closing with an insanely impressive spectacle by the Chinese motorcycle troupe “Imperial Thunder,” this show forgoes any form of forced plot development to focus on seventy-five minutes of nonstop acrobatics, juggling and generally amazing feats—all staged in front of a backdrop of twinkling stars that constantly shift from one color to another. Read the rest of this entry »