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Performing Arts

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Will the Green Line Arts Center help turn the south side into ‘Florence during the Renaissance’?

Posted By on 11.13.18 at 06:00 AM

Members of Ayodele Drum & Dance perform at the opening of the Green Line Performing Arts Center on Saturday - ARTS + PUBLIC LIFE, PHOTOGRAPHER: DARIS JASPER
  • Arts + Public Life, Photographer: Daris Jasper
  • Members of Ayodele Drum & Dance perform at the opening of the Green Line Performing Arts Center on Saturday

When veteran film and theater producer Pemon Rami was coming of age in Hyde Park in the 1960s, he didn’t have to travel to indulge his budding obsession with theater. Alongside other fledgling artists including Robert Townsend and Paul Butler, Rami honed his craft on stages that dotted the south side.

"When I left for L.A. in 1982, there were nine theaters on the south side," Rami says. "When I came back 25 years later, most of them were gone."

Saturday marked an important point in the pendulum swing back toward the theatrical bustle of Rami's youth. The opening of Washington Park's Green Line Performing Arts Center at 329 E. Garfield adds roughly 6,600 square feet of art space to the neighborhood, and builds on a foundation companies such as Free Street Theater, Congo Square, eta creative arts, Grown Folks Stories, and Court Theatre have labored to maintain for years.

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Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Five opera films that hit the high notes

Posted By on 08.29.18 at 08:00 AM

Jean-Marie Straub and Daniele Huillet's Moses and Aaron
  • Jean-Marie Straub and Daniele Huillet's Moses and Aaron
Inspired by the Gene Siskel Film Center's screenings this upcoming week of Ingmar Bergman's The Magic Fluteall part of the theater's extensive "Bergman 100" serieswe've selected five other opera films of note. If this list seems a bit highbrow, know that we would have listed Chuck Jones's great Bugs Bunny/Elmer Fudd cartoon What's Opera Doc? in all five spots if we could have. But these are good too.

Carmen Jones
There's something contradictory in the notion of an Otto Preminger musical: his admirable rational/realist sensibility doesn't settle too well with the whims of the genre. But there are some fine Preminger moments in the midst of this 1954 film, an all-black pop version of Carmen—fine, that is, if you take the trouble to separate them from the clumsy segregationist context. Impeccably liberal in its time, the film has not aged gracefully, although Dorothy Dandridge's performance in the lead remains a testimony to a black cinema that might have been. In CinemaScope. 105 min. —Dave Kehr

Bluebeard's Castle
After the hostile reception to his 1960 masterpiece Peeping Tom, Michael Powell was virtually banished from English cinema, and most of his remaining oeuvre is a scattered assortment of TV commissions and Australian features. Made in 1963 for West German TV, this rarely seen one-hour adaptation of Béla Bartók's only opera, based on a libretto by Béla Balázs (later known as a film theorist and as screenwriter of Leni Riefenstahl's first feature), is a particular standout, especially for its vivid colors and semiabstract, neoprimitive decor (by Hein Heckroth, who also designed the sets for The Red Shoes and The Tales of Hoffman). The two performers are producer Norman Foster (not to be confused with the Hollywood actor and director) in the title role and Anna Raquel Satre as Bluebeard's doomed wife, Judith. In accordance with Powell's wishes, the English subtitles briefly describe and clarify the action but don't translate the text. 60 min. —Jonathan Rosenbaum

Moses and Aaron
Jean-Marie Straub and Danièle Huillet have used Arnold Schoenberg's 12-tone opera as the basis for a rigorous and fascinating exercise in elemental cinema (1975). A film about film—the meaning of long takes and short shots, of camera movement and static composition, of angles and perspectives. Schoenberg is Greek to me, but Straub and Huillet's investigation of the medium is an important experience for anyone interested in the way film represents reality—or fails to. In German with subtitles. 105 min. —Dave Kehr

Don Giovanni
Joseph Losey's film of Mozart's opera (1979) has redundant trappings of Freud and Marx, as if Losey felt the need to make the material more personal. He shouldn't have bothered, because it already plays straight to his concerns: Giovanni, with his self-destructive idealism, stands in the line of Losey heroes from The Boy With Green Hair to Mr. Klein. The visual context is ravishing, with a lighting scheme that builds from the understated and naturalistic to shocking contrasts of black and white. Meanwhile, the camera moves with a preternatural grace, drawing clean, curving lines through the romantic confusions. If the film has a fault, it is a common one in Losey: the absence of an emotional support for his piercing intellectual observations. 179 min. —Dave Kehr

Parsifal
Hans-Jürgen Syberberg has given us Wagnerian treatments of King Ludwig, Karl May, and Adolf Hitler; now, he gives us a Wagnerian treatment of Wagner, which seems somewhat redundant. Syberberg uses all the tricks of modern stagecraft—abstract settings, projected images, puppets, and doubled characters—to “expand” Wagner's Grail opera into man's eternal search for social perfection. But the meanings Syberberg tacks onto the piece are inherent in Wagner's work; his additions seem fussy, didactic, and often reductive. But Edith Clever, miming to the voice of Yvonne Minton as the witch Kundry, gives a performance of great passion and authority—a brilliantly effective revival of silent-film acting techniques. Reiner Goldberg supplies the voice of Parsifal; the other singers include Robert Loyd, Wolfgang Schöne, and Aage Haugland. 247 min. —Dave Kehr

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Thursday, August 23, 2018

Pedro the Lion at Thalia Hall, and more things to do this weekend

Posted By on 08.23.18 at 06:00 AM

David Bazan of Pedro the Lion - RYAN REYNOLDS
  • Ryan Reynolds
  • David Bazan of Pedro the Lion

There's a lot going on in Chicago this weekend—here's some of what we recommend that you check out.

Thu 8/23-Mon 8/27: A much-anticipated pop-up Glossier store opens at 114 N. Aberdeen in the West Loop this Thursday, where visitors can purchase the brand's makeup products as well as interact with installations that teach visitors more about the brand, created in partnership with local artists. Mon-Fri noon-8 PM, Sat-Sun 11 AM-7 PM

Fri 8/24-Mon 8/26: The Radicalization Process is a performance-art theatrical adaptation of Antigone, looking at revolutionary acts through the lens of 1960's and 70's America. "Originally inspired in 2014 by the activist movements sparked in the wake of high-profile killings of unarmed African-Americans, The Radicalization Process has taken on additional significance since the 2016 presidential election," writes Reader critic Dan Jakes. 7:30 PM, Co-Prosperity Sphere, 3219-21 S. Morgan, $10

Fri 8/24: David Bazan's on-again, off-again band Pedro the Lion is back and playing at Thalia Hall alongside H.C. McEntire. In the words of Reader critic Leor Galil, Bazan and his band "excel at the kind of touching emo that both reaches the genre's heights and circumvents its lows." 9 PM, Thalia Hall, 1807 S. Allport, $22-35, 17+

Sat 8/25: Local experimental pop duo Ohmme perform at Thalia Hall with the Hecks and V.V. Lightbody. "They sculpt a sound that's rich yet agile, and summon a virtual orchestra using only their voices and guitars," writes Reader's Peter Margasak of the group. 8 PM, Thalia Hall, 1807 S. Allport, $12, all-ages

Sat 8/25: As part of the weeklong Dog Day performance series, saxophonist James Brandon Lewis brings his versatile jazz to Constellation, backed by locals Ben Lamar Gay, Kent Kessler, and Avreeyal Ra. 4 PM, Constellation, 3111 N. Western, free, 18+

Sun 8/26: Flamingo Rodeo, the side project of Ne-Hi singer and guitarist Mikey Wells, is releasing its first full-length record, Said Unsaid, this Monday and celebrating with a show at Empty Bottle. 8:30 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western, free

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Thursday, August 9, 2018

Breaking and tagging at the Writer's Bench 2018 Battle for the Eagle in Logan Square

Posted By on 08.09.18 at 05:47 PM

Saib putting the final touches on his entry into the live graffiti competition
  • Saib putting the final touches on his entry into the live graffiti competition

On Sunday, the Writer's Bench 2018 Battle for the Eagle was held at the Illinois Centennial Memorial Column in Logan Square. The events included a live graffiti battle, a freestyle dance battle, a DJ scratch battle, a B-boy cypher, and a breaking battle.

The event went on for the entire night. The dancers performed tirelessly, and the crowd never lost its energy. The DJ kept playing even after the crowning of the last champions with a set of salsa music that kept folks going into the night.

"All there is to it is that I love this," said Saib. "I love to paint, it's honestly that simple."

"It's beautiful to have an event like this and to be able to do the art I've been doing since the 70s," added DefRock. "Back then we were sneaking into train tunnels to tag, now we're in the middle of Logan Square with it."

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Monday, July 9, 2018

Y No Había Luz brings the voices of post-Maria Puerto Rico to Chicago

Posted By on 07.09.18 at 01:00 PM

Y No Había Luz - GABRIEL VARGAS
  • Gabriel Vargas
  • Y No Había Luz

Ten days or so after Hurricane Maria tore across Puerto Rico last September, Casa Pueblo—a solar-powered, self-sufficient environmental center in the mountainous municipality of Ajuntas—got in touch with the San Juan theater company Y No Había Luz. With the electrical grid destroyed, the entire island was in survival mode, focused on clearing debris and securing food and clean water. Casa Pueblo, one of the few sites anywhere with electricity, had become a hub of activity. Everything is crazy here, they told the group. We need cultural activities for the kids, for everyone. Can you come?

"We said YES," remembers company cofounder Yari Helfeld. "Finally, we thought, we can help." For the next three or more months, the company crisscrossed the island, teaming up with community kitchens and other ad hoc groups to stage street theater, lead workshops, and develop new work. Sing-along plena workshops guided people struggling to process and express what they'd lost in the storm. In Orocovis, Helfeld's hometown, a huge mango tree that had been felled by the hurricane became the inspiration for a new cantastoria show, El Centinela de Mangó (The Mango Sentinel), that they took on tour to shelters, schools, and hospitals. Another piece, Diego el Ciego (Diego the Blind) urged the audience to grapple honestly with the challenges of Puerto Rican life. "People keep sewing their eyes together to stop seeing things like the Jones Act and overconsumption," says ensemble member Carlos Torres Lopez. "If we don't open our eyes we are blind, and we can't do anything to help Puerto Rico."

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Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Poet and rapper Tati wants to help you make your own love potion

Posted By on 06.12.18 at 06:00 AM

Tati performing her song "Better" at Young Chicago Authors' WordPlay open mike - MELVYN WINDMON
  • Melvyn Windmon
  • Tati performing her song "Better" at Young Chicago Authors' WordPlay open mike

On Saturday, June 16, at the Museum of Contemporary Art's 21Minus event, 20-year-old North side poet and rapper Tati debuts her first performance-art piece, Luvpotion—the result of a year's worth of emotional trauma, self-care, and spiritual growth. She's been writing raps (and rapping for her friends) since elementary school, but her first public performance as a rapper was only about a year and a half ago—part a rapid transformation during which she's brought several of her private artistic pursuits onto public stages.

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Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Haymarket Opera's L'Orontea is a time machine to the 17th century

Posted By on 06.05.18 at 06:00 AM


Scott Brunscheen and Emily Fons in Haymarket Opera's  L'Orontea - TOPHER ALEXANDER
  • Topher Alexander
  • Scott Brunscheen and Emily Fons in Haymarket Opera's L'Orontea

If the delicious cream puff of baroque is your musical dish of choice, I can heartily recommend that you get yourself to the Studebaker Theater tonight to catch the final performance of Haymarket Opera Company's  production of Antonio Cesti’s L’Orontea.

The music is sublime, as are the performances, especially by the distaff side of the cast: mezzo-soprano Emily Fons (as the title character, an Egyptian queen), and sopranos Nathalie Colas (as her primary romantic rival), along with Kimberly Jones and Addie Hamilton, both handling double gender-bending roles admirably.  Tenor Scott Brunscheen is the prince in pauper's clothing that the queen and every woman in her court desires.

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Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Empower promises to bring the real south side to the Lyric Opera stage

Posted By on 05.30.18 at 06:00 AM

The cover of the program for Empower - ELIJAH HUFF
  • Elijah Huff
  • The cover of the program for Empower

I can't say I love everything I've heard about the premise of the new musical that'll premiere at Lyric Opera this week: it sounds like a journalist is the major villain in the piece.

But I'm eager to see it.

Empower, with a cast that includes the 31 Chicago high school students who helped create it and two professional opera singers—soprano Angela Brown (who's sung the title role in Aida at the Met) and baritone Will Liverman (Dizzy Gillespie in Lyric's 2017 Yardbird)—is the result of a collaboration between Lyric Opera and the Chicago Urban League. The kids have been working on it in weekly after-school meetings since October, their ideas and stories fueling some impressive creative talent:  Empower has a libretto by playwright Ike Holter and a score by composer Damien Sneed.

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Wednesday, March 21, 2018

The new Monday night show at Beauty Bar isn't Salonathon, it's Something Else

Posted By on 03.21.18 at 03:54 PM

Sonal Aggarwal performs at Salonathon - UMNIA KHAN
  • Umnia Khan
  • Sonal Aggarwal performs at Salonathon

Salonathon held its last weekly performance at Beauty Bar on February 12. In the weeks since, several artists have mourned the loss of the unique space to experiment and be themselves.

"As a comic I feel like I'm on the fringes of the comedy scene in my politics and my personality and my queerness in relation to straight men, and Salonathon was the place where I could be that and not even feel like the weirdest person in the room," says stand-up Bill Bullock.

So Bullock and fellow Salonathon alum Sonal Aggarwal have begun hosting Something Else, a monthly comedic variety show that is part of a new slate of Beauty Bar programming initiated by bartender Justin Hongosh with the mantra "keep Mondays weird." The name is intended to be tongue in cheek and slightly subvert expectations. "It's not Salonathon," Aggarwal says, "it's something else."

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Monday, March 19, 2018

Fellow Travelers brings the 1950s ‘lavender scare’ to opera

Posted By on 03.19.18 at 11:13 AM

Jonas Hacker and Joseph Lattanzi strike it up in Fellow Travelers. - TODD ROSENBERG
  • Todd Rosenberg
  • Jonas Hacker and Joseph Lattanzi strike it up in Fellow Travelers.

For much of the last half century, the paranoia and tyranny of the McCarthy era in America has seemed more like a bizarre anomaly than an evil that could easily reappear. 

Recently, not so much.

That makes the anti-communist and anti-homosexual panics that swept Washington, D.C., in the 1950s (and the witch-hunting investigations led by Wisconsin senator Joseph McCarthy that fueled them) resonant context for Fellow Travelers, a groundbreaking 2016 opera that sets a gay love story in the environment of both the red and lavender scares.

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