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International Theatre Festival of Chicago 

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In Chicago, even-numbered years bring the odd productions from around the world to town. At least they have since 1986, when Jane Nicholl Sahlins, Bernard Sahlins, and Pam Marsden first launched this sometimes controversial, visionary biennial event. When the festival was founded, Chicago was routinely omitted from major national theater tours, whose producers gauged that the attentions of Windy City audiences were preempted by local shows. Although that has changed in the past year, the festival is still Chicago's only affirmation that there's more to French, British, and Canadian theater, say, than Les Miserables, Phantom of the Opera, and Aspects of Love. Luckily, the festival doesn't settle for exclusivity. It also pays attention to quality, both in the shows it imparts and in the way it presents them; it mixes big-ticket events with less commercially reliable fare; and it augments the theatergoing experience with a round of lectures, seminars, postperformance discussions, and professional artists' workshops. For information an the auxiliary events, call the festival directly. For information an the shows, read on.

The 1992 International Theatre Festival of Chicago, which runs from May 26 through June 21, offers 14 productions from 10 countries--including the United States, though no Chicago shows are included on the agenda this year. America's entry is Letters From a New England Negro (June 10 through 14), presented by Rites & Reason, a theater company that emanates from Brown University's Afro-American Studies Program. Foreign nations represented this year are Australia (Circus Oz), Canada (Theatre Repere), France (Compagnie Philippe Genty), Great Britain (the English Shakespeare Company), Ireland (the Gate Theatre), Japan (Daisan Erotica), Poland (Akademia Ruchu), Russia (the Yakut Drama Theatre of Siberia), and Venezuela (Fundacion Rajatabla); the bill of fare ranges from classical to contemporary to a mixture of both. Performances take place at the following venues: DePaul University's Blackstone Theatre, 60 E. Balbo; Steppenwolf Theatre, 1650 N. Halsted; and the University of Illinois at Chicago's UIC Theater, 1040 W. Harrison. For ticket reservations, call 644-3378; for group, student, and senior discounts and general festival information, call 664-3370. Following is the schedule for June 4 through 11:

THURSDAY, JUNE 4

MACBETH Shakespeare's tragic study of ambition is performed by the English Shakespeare Company, whose vivid and powerful "Wars of the Roses" cycle was part of the 1988 festival. Michael Pennington and Jenny Quayle play the murderous Macbeths in Michael Bogdanov's staging, which runs in repertory with Twelfth Night (see separate listing). The two productions run through June 7. The festival is hosting the ESC's only American engagement this year. Blackstone Theatre, 7:30 PM. $15-$35.

NO ONE WRITES TO THE COLONEL No, it's not about Oliver North's, current relationship with the Reagans. This production by the Caracas-based Fundacion Rajatabla, written by the company's director Carlos Gimenez, is adapted from Gabriel Garcia Marquez's 1957 story about a retired military officer waiting vainly for his overdue pension. The show, which runs through June 7, is performed in Spanish; simultaneous English-language translation is available. Steppenwolf Theatre, 7:30 PM. $29.

FRIDAY, JUNE 5

THE DRAGONS' TRILOGY Reader critic Tom Valeo writes: "The Dragons' TriIogy is a sprawling six-hour epic that covers 76 years in the lives of two sisters in Canada along with glimpses of French- and Chinese-Canadian cultures. Yet this marvelous work, created by director Robert LePage and several actors from Quebec's Theatre Repere, is perfectly lucid, infused with enough drama and style to make each moment engrossing, [With] infinite invention, the actors provide a show that is exotic, beguiling, and beautiful." The production runs through June 7. UIC Theater, 5 PM. $60 (includes dinner).

MACBETH See listing under Thursday, June 4. Blackstone Theatre, 7:30 PM. $20-$40.

NO ONE WRITES TO THE COLONEL See listing under Thursday, June 4. Steppenwolf Theatre, 7:30 PM. $32.

SATURDAY, JUNE 6

MACBETH See listing under Thursday, June 4. Blackstone Theatre, 2 PM. $20

$40.

NO ONE WRITES TO THE COLONEL See listing under Thursday, June 4. Steppenwolf Theatre, 2 and 7:30 PM. $32.

THE DRAGONS' TRILOGY See listing under Friday, June 5. UIC Theater, 5 PM. $60 (includes dinner).

TWELFTH NIGHT A twin brother and sister and the aristocrats who think they love them are at the center of Shakespeare's comedy of sexual deception and cross-gender impersonation. Michael Pennington directs the English Shakespeare Company in this production, which runs in repertory with Macbeth (see separate listing) through June 7. Blackstone Theatre, 7:30 PM. $20-$40.

SUNDAY, JUNE 7

TWELFTH NIGHT See listing under Saturday, June 6. Blackstone Theatre, 2 PM. $20-$40.

NO ONE WRITES TO THE COLONEL See listing under Thursday, June 4. Steppenwolf Theatre, 2 and 7:30 PM. $32.

THE DRAGONS' TRILOGY See listing under Friday, June 5. UIC Theater, 3 PM. $60 (includes dinner).

MACBETH See listing under Thursday, June 4. Blackstone Theatre, 7:30 PM. $20-$40.

WEDNESDAY, JUNE 10

CIRCUS OZ See Critic's Choice. Blackstone Theatre, 7:30 PM. $10-$25; $5-$12.50 for children.

MY BELOVED BLUE COAST You think you're under pressure? Consider Kirisk, a boy who is sent out on the open sea in a small boat as an initiation into the mysteries of the Woman-Fish goddess. The only survivor of a terrible storm, Kirisk seeks the safety of his village under the guidance of the spirits of his fellow hunters and his guardian star. This production, which marks the Yakut Drama Theatre of Siberia's U.S. debut, is adapted by Andrei Borisov from a novel by Chingiz Aitmatov; it's performed in Yakut, with simultaneous English-language translation available, and it runs through June 14. Steppenwolf Theatre, 7:30 PM. $29.

LETTERS FROM A NEW ENGLAND NEGRO Rosalind Cash stars in Sherley Anne Williams's one-woman play about a northern black woman who travels south after the Civil War to preach education and literacy to ex-slaves. The show, which runs through June 14, is presented by Rites & Reason, a developmental theater affiliated with Brown University's Afro-American Studies Program. UIC Theater, 7:30 PM. $20.

THURSDAY, JUNE 11

MY BELOVED BLUE COAST See listing under Wednesday, June 10. Steppenwolf Theatre, 7:30 PM. $29.

LETTERS FROM A NEW ENGLAND NEGRO See listing under Wednesday, June 10. UIC Theater, 7:30 PM. $20.

CIRCUS OZ See listing under Wednesday, June 10. Blackstone Theatre, 8:15 PM. $10-$25; $5-$12.50 for children.

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