Photo: Magda Krance
By Johnny Oleksinski
David Adam Moore is an anomaly in the cast of Lyric Opera’s upcoming production of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “Oklahoma!” A baritone who performs regularly with companies around the world, Moore is the only traditional opera singer of the pack, which quite impressively includes Broadway notables Ashley Brown (“Mary Poppins” and Lyric’s “Show Boat”) and John Cudia (“The Phantom of The Opera”), and is directed by Chicago and New York’s shared son, Gary Griffin.
Moore has come to “Oklahoma!” direct from Lyric’s recent, electrifying production of André Previn’s “A Streetcar Named Desire” in which he played Stanley Kowalski during the student performance—a most memorable experience at a company he’s become incredibly fond of. You might expect a guy who regularly inhabits fearsome foes like Stanley and Jud to come across more intimidating than, say, a Curly or a Mitch, but Moore is as pleasant and easygoing as can be. He’s honored to be a part of this production, the first in a five-year series of Rodgers and Hammerstein shows at Lyric, and he doesn’t mind in the least being the only person onstage with an opera background. 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 »
Anna Menekseoglu as Amleth
By Zach Freeman
“We’re out on the fringe,” says Jeremy Menekseoglu, artistic director of Dream Theatre Company, sipping a beer in the brightly lit underground area of Sakura Karaoke Lounge in Chinatown. “We’re constantly experimenting and just trying to push this new style. And I sometimes think that we don’t belong further north. We don’t belong in the mix of that. We couldn’t do a show at Theater Wit or 773 or something like that because we couldn’t control the lobby. We couldn’t control everything.” Menekseoglu’s wife Anna, who serves as managing director of Dream Theatre, agrees. “I like that we’re in East Pilsen with the art stuff. It feels like a place where we’ve been accepted for what we are.”
After just over a decade in Chicago, Dream Theatre Company and the prolific Menekseoglu (who, by his own count, has penned forty-something full-length plays) have come to be known for dark, atmospheric shows, staged mostly in the company’s storefront location. Whether it’s a deeply frightening original horror play or an unexpectedly grim adaptation of “Peter Pan” or “Winnie-the-Pooh,” there’s a certain immersive experience that is intrinsically tied to any Dream Theatre show (all of which are original works and almost all penned by Menekseoglu). Read the rest of this entry »
By Dennis Polkow
If Chicago actor James Vincent Meredith looks familiar, he has been a fixture on Chicago stages for years. But even those who have not caught his distinctive performances across the area may recognize him from his recurring role on “Boss,” the Starz television series starring Kelsey Grammer where Meredith plays South Side Alderman Ross.
“Usually just exteriors are shot in Chicago when a series is set there,” says Meredith, “but the entire series is shot here, so actors and crew members get a chance to show what they are made of by being shot exclusively here.” That has been wonderful for Meredith since it has not only meant that he could continue working Chicago stages while the series shot but it also meant short commutes for the Chicago native.
“I was born in Chicago,” says Meredith, “I went to Evanston Township High School but actually started learning about acting and such at Piven Theatre Workshop, which is based in Evanston. Byrne and Joyce Piven were my main teachers at that time and taught me a lot and gave me confidence that I didn’t know I had, although in high school, everyone has confidence issues. I started acting there and went to school in Champaign and then came back up here in ’94.” Read the rest of this entry »
Hubbard Street Dance’s Alejandro Cerrudo with Marc Chagall’s America Windows at the Art Institute of Chicago. Photo by Todd Rosenberg. Marc Chagall © 2012 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris.
By Sharon Hoyer
I met Alejandro Cerrudo for dinner on a Monday evening after a particularly challenging day in the studio. He is tall, boyishly slim with a warm, likeable manner, just the right amount of casual cursing to put one completely at ease and a healthy suspicion of big egos and bullshit. I’m probably the fourth journalist he’d talked to that day; he seemed relieved that the interview included food and sitting in one spot.
Cerrudo is Hubbard Street Dance’s first and current Resident Choreographer—a title created specifically for him in 2009. Cerrudo grew up in Madrid and performed with a handful of excellent companies in Europe—classical ballet with Victor Ullate Ballet in his hometown, the Stuttgart Ballet, modern/contemporary with the Nederlands Dans Theater second company—before moving to the U.S. to join Hubbard Street Dance in 2005. When asked, he says that Chicago is very much home to him, and while he enjoys visiting his family in Spain, he loves this city.
Happily for Chicago audiences, this will be Cerrudo’s home for at least three more years; Hubbard Street just extended his contract. The company takes fierce pride in their artistic resident, increasingly sought-after by companies across the country. This year, the Cincinnati Ballet and Tucson Ballet have picked up Cerrudo’s sensuous 2007 “Extremely Close.” He has been commissioned to create new works for Ballet Arizona and Pacific Northwest Ballet. All this is on top of ongoing commissions for his celebrated home company and fast on the heels of the current, monumental project. 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: Sooz Main
“As I was taking a shit just now, I suddenly realized that this can’t be just a coincidence that I’m sitting here taking a shit and at the same time thinking about it.”—The first line of “Kokkola”
In the “bald and bold” style of the Coen Brothers’ “Fargo,” as director Chad Eric Bergman describes it, Akvavit Theatre stages the United States premiere of the Finnish work “Kokkola,” translated by Nina Sallinen, with aplomb.
The young Akvavit Theatre company, founded just last year, bills their production as similar to the darkly comic film because of its very Nordic “sisu,” which is Finnish for steely perseverance in the face of all adversity. “The film calls it as it sees it,” says Bergman, a Finnish characteristic shared by “Kokkola” a hilarious “arctic tragedy.” Read the rest of this entry »
By Marla Seidell
It’s 6:30 in the morning, and Jackie Taylor is a bundle of high energy and vibrancy. She greets me with a friendly, “Hi sweetheart!” at the newly built Black Ensemble Theater, a 59,000-square-foot state-of-the-art theater and cultural center. The executive director and founder of the Black Ensemble, Chicago treasure, actress, playwright, producer and educator is dressed simply in a black-and-white print tunic and plain black pants. The plan is to head over to the WGN-TV Studios to watch a live taping of a performance segment from Taylor’s latest project, “The Marvin Gaye Story: Don’t Talk About My Father Because God Is My Friend.” We hit the road in Taylor’s 1998 jade green Pontiac Grand Am and stop to pick up a healthy supply of Dunkin’ Donuts for the cast before hitting heavy traffic on Addison Street. Read the rest of this entry »
Miriam Reuter and Jon Matteson/Photo: Nicholas Gang
Chicago’s bustling theater scene might seem already saturated with companies, but the newly founded (re)discover theatre hopes their specific angle will help them find a bit of room in the city: Their mission is rediscovering classical theater while staying true to the ideals of the classic playwrights.
For their maiden production: Hamlet.
“Hamlet is so huge, you can’t get it right. Nobody can get it right, it doesn’t matter how long you’ve been in the business or how well you know Shakespeare,” executive director Miriam Reuter says. Read the rest of this entry »
When Timothy Douglas resigned midway through his first season as Remy Bumppo Theatre’s artistic director, Nick Sandys stepped up to fill the role. Sandys had already been an Artistic Associate, helping to choose the seasons, running extra programming and essentially working as a literary manager, so the transition made sense.
“I have a working relationship with everyone involved, so I already start from a really good position,” Sandys says.
Usually Sandys holds down multiple jobs, like voiceover, teaching, acting and doing fight choreography, to make sure that if one falls through, he can make a living. Now he has a full-time year-round job as the artistic director, hiring directors, teams of designers, leading board meetings and guiding the future of the company. Read the rest of this entry »