PAC/edge Performance Festival | Festival | Chicago Reader

PAC/edge Performance Festival 

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This self-styled "convergence of Chicago artists," running through April 26, is presented by Performing Arts Chicago and the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Boasting Chicago first lady Maggie Daley as honorary chair, the avant-garde festival features more than 100 multidisciplinary presentations. All shows take place at the Athenaeum Theatre, 2936 N. Southport; the sprawling arts complex is a hive of activity, with simultaneous performances and installations in its four studio theaters as well as lounges, hallways, stairwells, and other spaces. The fest also includes workshops and panels with participating artists at other venues as shown below. Prices for individual events range from $5 to $15, though workshops generally cost more and some events and installations are free; see listings for details. For tickets and more information, and to register for workshops, call Performing Arts Chicago at 773-722-5463. Tickets can also be purchased through Ticketmaster by calling 312-902-1500 or logging on to

Following is the schedule through April 20; a complete schedule is available on-line at


Bianco Veneziano

Sandra Binion's video installation re-creates the sights and sounds of Venice. Athenaeum stairwell. 7-11 PM; free.

The Thought on the Stair (or What I Should Have Said)

Local Infinities' site-specific piece explores "the phenomenon on the stairs." Athenaeum stairwell. 7-10 PM; free.

Chumpstrap: A Madras Parable and Refracting Rainbows

The Curious Theatre Branch presents a double bill of world premieres. "The fourth in a series of 'parables' created since 1987 by Curious cofounders Jenny Magnus and Beau O'Reilly, [Chumpstrap] juxtaposes his relatively unadorned storytelling with her sly musical accompaniment. . . . O'Reilly tells of his struggles to fit into two male enclaves: first as a kid alongside his older, more athletic, more 'boylike' brothers, . . . and second as an adult with a pair of fearless, hard-drinking professional movers. . . . An imposing figure known for his larger-than-life performances, O'Reilly here adopts a quiet, gentle persona that lends his uncharacteristically bare-bones stories a refreshing naivete. . . . Chumpstrap is paired with a brief ensemble piece, Refracting Rainbows, created and performed by Marianne Fieber and KellyAnn Corcoran. While they talk and sing about the losses they've suffered . . . a choruslike trio of women play various incidental roles. [The] text is pared to the barest essentials. As a result some sections feel sketchy, but others have a poetic resonance," says Reader critic Justin Hayford. Athenaeum Studio 2. 7:30 PM; $15.

500 Clown Frankenstein

The troupe that skewered Shakespeare in 500 Clown Macbeth takes on Mary Shelley's creation in this world premiere. "[The] three cast members...perform with such synchronized nuance you'd swear they'd been working together for decades. . . . Adrian Danzig, Molly Brennan, and Paul Kalina are delightfully grotesque, dolled up in rapidly deteriorating costumes soaked with strategically placed bloodstains. Their generally edgy performances are enhanced by harrowing physical comedy that repeatedly brings the actors to the brink of injury. But while the group's utter inability to retell Frankenstein is charming for a while, their haplessness wears thin about halfway through, when it becomes clear the novel is merely an excuse for clowning," says Reader critic Justin Hayford. Athenaeum Studio 1. 7:30 PM; $15.

The Palmer Raids: A Theatrical Construction

Plasticene Physical Theater's historical drama recounts the response to a rash of terrorist bombings in New York and Washington in 1919. "Hacking a decided narrative path through a jungle of historical documents, [Plasticene] came up with the most rigorous, entertaining, and cogent work [they've] yet produced. The ensemble's tightly choreographed physical routines help amplify the political and moral chaos caused by the bombings, while their thoughtful readings of newspaper clippings, court testimony, and personal letters add layers of psychological complexity. The work's current relevance is unmistakable; after Attorney General A. Mitchell Palmer was nearly killed by a bomb blast, he sanctioned the incarceration of some 5,000 foreign nationals, declared a war on anarchists, and otherwise attacked civil liberties on a scale that would make John Ashcroft proud," says Reader critic Justin Hayford. Athenaeum Studio 4. 7:30 PM; $15.

Spirits to Enforce

Theater Oobleck presents Mickle Maher's new reworking of Shakespeare's The Tempest. "Various schools have viewed The Tempest as an allegory of the end of the Renaissance, the dawn of colonialism, and Shakespeare's own artistic twilight. Oobleck's treatment is largely tangential to the play, yet . . . Maher has homed in on a central theme often overlooked: the destruction of identity by time. In a twist on Maher's signature narrated method, the history of Prospero's isle following his return to Milan is recounted by 12 of his spirits, recast as superheroes defending Fathomtown, the nightmarish marine city built by Ariel and Caliban in the old man's wake. When the spirits finally defeat Caliban . . . they attempt a celebratory production of The Tempest. . . . Somehow the spirits' production is a success--though Ariel is nearly laughed off the stage. Apparently unable to play himself, his crisis of confidence lies at the heart of Maher's wry drama; if The Tempest is a magician's farewell to his hall of mirrors, Spirits to Enforce depicts . . . the slow decay of echo and reflection into nothingness. Guy Massey is marvelous as the wistful Ariel, and the other performers--undirected as always, here a supreme irony--aren't far behind," says Reader critic Brian Nemtusak. Athenaeum Lookingglass Theatre Company space. 8 PM; $15.

Thirteen Nights Sandra Binion and Lou Mallozzi collaborate on a multimedia performance piece. Athenaeum Studio 3. 8 PM; $15.

Minutes of Fame

Audience members vote on the winner of this open-mike performance competition. Athenaeum Studio 2. 9:30 PM; $10.

How to Manage Fear

Lucky Pierre performs its response to the car chase from the 1968 movie Bullitt. "With trademark deadpan candor, the five performers spend the first third of the piece alternately scouring their memories for highway adventures--memories that continually morph into cinematic tropes--and chanting enthusiastic litanies of obscenities like doltish frat boys. Gradually these two strains converge; as the performers assemble into a panel to pick apart the Bullitt chase scene shot by shot . . . it's clear that their 'memories' all come from the movie itself. It also becomes apparent that this classic car chase represents the destruction of the original Christian paradise (or 'the incursion of the machine into the pastoral,' as the mock panelists put it), leading the performers to manufacture their own Eden complete with inflatable plastic flowers and a Backstreet Boys sound track. The subtle religiosity of the work is ingeniously enhanced by Jeffrey Kowalkowski's score. . . . With its intricate structure and perfectly articulated arc, How to Manage Fear is about as close as you can get to performance-art heaven," said Reader critic Justin Hayford of the show's original run last year. Athenaeum Studio 1. 9:30 PM; $15.


Director Leslie Buxbaum-Danzig and her new theater company DOG based this production on The Birds by Aristophanes. "This playful, demanding, thrillingly hip conundrum . . . offers irrefutable proof of the fringe's continued fertility. . . . DOG eschews most theatrical conventions--character, scene, plot, and, some might argue, content--in favor of lyrically quotidian actions. [The performers] speak a beguiling, original, and highly cryptic theatrical language. [The] DOGs forgo meaning in favor of provocation, mystification, and intrigue, fixing a Fluxus-like eye on the beauty of everyday human interaction. . . . And thanks to this superb ensemble's exquisite clowning skills, everything's done with abundant humor," says Reader critic Justin Hayford. Athenaeum Studio 4. 10 PM; $15.

Plasticene Improvisational Jam

Plasticene Physical Theater and guests create an improvised piece of performance art. Athenaeum Studio 3. 10 PM; $5.


Devising Theater

Leslie Buxbaum-Danzig and DOG teach a workshop in creating a performance art piece. Athenaeum Studio 4. 1-4 PM; $25.

Albany Park Theatre Project Workshop

Adult and teen artists introduce their process of making performance art from real-life stories. Athenaeum Studio 3. 2-5 PM; $25.

Goat Island Lecture

Goat Island's yearlong conceptual writing exercise addresses the question "In what way is Goat Island an island?" Athenaeum Studio 1. 5 PM; free.

Bianco Veneziano

See listing for 7-11 PM Friday, April 18. Athenaeum stairwell. 7-11 PM; free.

500 Clown Stairwell

Members of the troupe improvise a 15-minute piece on the stairs. Athenaeum stairwell. 7 PM; free.

Chumpstrap: A Madras Parable and Refracting Rainbows

See listing for 7:30 PM Friday, April 18. Athenaeum Studio 2. 7:30 PM; $15.

How to Manage Fear

See listing for 9:30 PM Friday, April 18. Athenaeum Studio 1. 7:30 PM; $15.


See listing for 10 PM Friday, April 18. Athenaeum Studio 4. 7:30 PM; $15.

A Little Thing

This dance-theater piece, presented by the Albany Park Theatre Project, features a "postmodern Greek chorus and a percussive score performed with knitting needles." Athenaeum Studio 3. 8 PM; $15.

Spirits to Enforce

See listing for 8 PM Friday, April 18. Athenaeum Lookingglass Theatre Company space. 8 PM; $15.

500 Clown Frankenstein

See listing for 7:30 PM Friday, April 18. Athenaeum Studio 1. 9:30 PM; $15.

Minutes of Fame

See listing for 9:30 PM Friday, April 18. Athenaeum Studio 3. 10 PM; $10.

The Palmer Raids: A Theatrical Construction

See listing for 7:30 PM Friday, April 18. Athenaeum Studio 4. 10 PM; $15.


Bianco Veneziano

See listing for 7-11 PM Friday, April 18. Athenaeum stairwell. 3:30-7 PM; free.

The Palmer Raids: A Theatrical Construction

See listing for 7:30 PM Friday, April 18. Athenaeum Studio 4. 4 PM; $15.


See listing for 10 PM Friday, April 18. Athenaeum Studio 4. 7 PM; $15.

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