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PAC/edge Performance Festival 

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This multidisciplinary event, presented by Performing Arts Chicago and the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, runs weekends through Sunday, April 10. The avant-garde showcase, now in its third year, features established and emerging artists (including a number of SAIC students and alumni) working in theater, performance, circus arts, puppetry, storytelling, dance, music, video, and sound and installation art. The shows range from family-oriented to adults-only. Participants include Goat Island, the Curious Theatre Branch, Free Street, Theater Oobleck, the Hypocrites, the Neo-Futurists, Plasticene, Teatro Luna, Mathew Wilson, Mad Shak Dance Company, and many more.

All activities take place at the Athenaeum Theatre, 2936 N. Southport; the sprawling arts complex hosts often simultaneous performances and installations on its main and studio stages and in offices, lounges, hallways, stairwells, and other spaces--even the alley behind the building. The fest also offers workshops and panels with participating artists as shown below.

Prices for most events range from $5 to $20, 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 www.ticketmaster.com. Following is the schedule for Friday, April 1, through Sunday, April 3; a complete schedule is available online at www.chicagoreader.com.

FRIDAY 1

Muzak and Vocal Topographies

In Muzak, Richard Curtis performs "a cappella muzak" in the elevators. Vocal Topographies finds him exploring "the ambient sounds of the crowd throughout the Athenaeum." a Various times through the afternoon and evening, throughout the building and elevators. Free.

Aroma Piece

Sam Amada offers custom-made scents to audience members. a 6:30 PM, south stairwell. Free.

For the Fashion Impaired

Maggie Morgan presents an experimental, performative fashion piece. a 6:30-7:30 PM, second-floor corridor. Free.

Scheduled Activity

Deva Eveland's performance installation features "a series of social occasions and events attended by the artist only. Viewers may safely watch from the outside," a press release advises. a 6:30-10:30 PM, second-floor corridor. Free.

Pluto: The Opera Playwright

Idris Goodwin and composer Justin J. Mayer created this music-theater piece about life in "Pluto"--aka Chicago. It's premiered by Free Street and Hermit Arts; Tony Sancho directs. Too often this hip-hop history comes across like a pageant at a progressive middle school. The politics are Pilsen-mural subtle, but Goodwin plays them out in interesting ways. His libretto resists the music, turning Pluto: The Opera into an epic rap recitation. The piece may fail, but it marks Goodwin as an inventive talent in progress. (TA) a 7 PM, Studio 1. $15.

Performance of Sleep in One Long Act Without Intermission

Live Action Cartoonists' world premiere is inspired by true stories about sleep and death. This tedious piece about mercy killing and the death penalty is cartoonish for the first hour--when it's dominated by an annoying kiddie-show format apparently meant to justify the fact we're being told lots of things we already know--and deadly serious for the last 30 minutes. (LM) a 7 PM, Studio 2. $15.

Duet

Beatriz Albuquerque and Anthony Cobb kiss, painting each other with lipstick. a 7 PM, main lobby. Free.

Interactive Debauchery

Dominatrix Mistress Eve Minax, performing as "Ravenous Gorge," spanks willing audience members. a 7 PM, north stairwell. Free.

When Will the September Roses Bloom? Last Night Was Only a Comedy: A Double Performance

Version 1. Goat Island's performance piece consists of two versions; the work is designed to take place over two nights, though each performance is self-contained. This U.S. premiere "questions our place in a damaged world and our aptitude at repairing it," according to a press release. a 7:30 PM, main stage. $20.

R The Hunchback Variations

Chicago's experimental, directorless Theater Oobleck presents Mickle Maher's comedy, which takes the form of a panel discussion between Quasimodo, the deaf bell ringer of Notre Dame cathedral, and the hearing-impaired composer Beethoven. Maher is a master at creating complex, paradoxical works that encompass their own contradictions. Here he mocks academic examinations of the creative process even as he engages in a complicated deconstruction of creativity. (JHe) a 7:30 PM, Studio 3. $15.

Dis*Card*

Inspired by objects found in Chicago streets and alleys, Erica Mott's site-specific piece "attempts to capture and heighten the magic, mystery, and tragedy in everyday activities and interactions." a 8 PM, alley behind the Athenaeum. $5 and a piece of trash.

NLoong: A Three Dimensional Shadow Puppetry Performance

The mesmerizing puppets dramatizing a new myth by Peter Fugiel and Patrick McCarthy seem to sweep toward the audience thanks to 3-D glasses handed out with the program. The myth involves a heroic alchemist trying to save his village from drought, a sinuous dragon that moves like a snake, and a sun (hypnotically represented by a swirling cutout) that looms malevolently over the village, parching the crops. Together the privacy provided by the glasses and the Rubber Monkey Puppet Company's surreal shadow puppets (which resemble the Indonesian variety) bring audience members into a dreamlike world, enhanced by three live musicians. Unfortunately, at the end of every scene the clunky narration--with its strained rhymes and painful inattention to meter--jerks the audience right out of this experience. --Jennifer Vanasco a 9:30 PM, Studio 2. $15.

Refuge

Plasticene offers a physical-theater piece about "four people who are thrown off the edges of life and are struggling to find balance as they fall." a 9:30 PM, Studio 3. $15.

Economies of Touch

Sheelah Murthy "will give bodywork to people connected with the sex industry and ask viewers to meditate on their own complicity in a complex global economy." a 9:30-11:30 PM, main stage landing. Free.

Spoken Word: Politics

Nikki Patin hosts a program of poetry "born from political action and underground frustration." a 10 PM, Studio 1. $10.

RN Come and Go, Not I, and Footfalls

Samuel Beckett's theatrical genius reveals itself best in his short plays, many of them less than ten minutes long, as director Sean Graney illustrates in the Hypocrites' trio of finely done one-acts. Stripping his work to its essence, Beckett never loses sight of the fact that these are not philosophical tracts but seriocomic pieces written for specific actors playing specific parts. The introverted woman in Not I, who spends her time endlessly ruminating about the past, is not the same at all as the hysterical middle-aged woman who chatters obsessively about the past to her mother in Footfalls, and neither resembles the three backbiting gossips in Come and Go. That Graney and his ensemble are able to sharply delineate all five characters, often given only a handful of lines, speaks volumes about their own theatrical gifts. --Jack Helbig a 10 PM, main stage. $15.

SATURDAY 2

Muzak and Vocal Topographies

See listing for Fri 4/1. a Various times through the afternoon and evening, throughout the building and elevators. Free.

Down in the New Chair Some More

Twelve scenes and short plays by School of the Art Institute student playwrights are directed by Beau O'Reilly and Stefan Brun. a 1 PM, Studio 2. $5.

Plasticene

The physical-theater group offers a workshop about how to "make improvisations that free the body to express beyond expected bounds." Limited to 14 participants, who are advised to "dress comfortably." a 1-4 PM, Studio 3. $30.

Children's Story Readings

This kids' event features various PAC/edge participants reading from their favorite children's stories. a Every half hour from 1-4 PM, Curtain Call Club. $5 (includes juice and cookies).

R Too Much Light Kids!

The Neo-Futurists perform 30 original plays in 60 minutes in this family-oriented version of their long-running Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind. Quick and dirty, the format requires viewers to yell out numbers to determine the order of the plays; other audience-participation opportunities are equally nonthreatening but thrilling. The show is recommended for children aged six and older. (LM) a 2 PM, Studio 1. $5 (includes juice and cookies).

Escapiece

Mark Baldridge plays an original composition using the Athenaeum's fire escape as an instrument. a 2 PM, fire escape. Free.

Performing Sound

The graduate sound department at SAIC utilizes voice, electronics, and traditional and nontraditional instruments. a 4:30 PM, Studio 2. $5.

Mountains Clouds Turbulence Coastlines

Wholesale Chicago's multimedia performance piece, directed by Dolores Wilber, looks at the origins of war in boyhood friendships and ideals. It's blessedly oblique and nonaccusatory. At times the work seems an exercise in aversion therapy, as if comically gruesome sights (simulated or on video) would turn us from our warring ways. But the group packs too much into 35 minutes--the work is a three-ring circus of allusions and images all squashed into one ring. (LM) a 5 PM, Studio 1. $15.

A Night of Toy Theater and Intimate Puppetry

The Incurable Theater presents short pieces of traditional toy, puppet, and mask theater, including a marionette version of Faust. Not suitable for young children. a 5:30 PM, Studio 3. $15.

Inside/Outside

Jozef Amado and Isil Egrikavuk perform as "living sculptures." a 6:30 PM, building entrance. Free.

Aroma Piece

See listing for Fri 4/1. a 6:30 PM, south stairwell. Free.

Scheduled Activity

See listing for Fri 4/1. a 6:30-10:30 PM, second-floor corridor. Free.

Brianne Waychoff

Waychoff explores "feminist ideals and hysterics as she tap dances herself to exhaustion." a 7 PM, main lobby. Free.

The Turtle at Play

Beau O'Reilly's new play, presented by the Curious Theatre Branch, concerns "two disenfranchised young Americans . . . obsessed with studying the habits of a hundred-year-old turtle." The first act ends with a homicide that paves the way for the introduction of Inspector Emily, portrayed by Teresa Weed--whose mere presence enhances the performance of every player around her. But the story surrounding her is downright soporific in its unoriginality. (MSB) a 7 PM, Studio 1. $15.

Duet

See listing for Fri 4/1. a 7 PM, main lobby. Free.

Interactive Debauchery

See listing for Fri 4/1. a 7 PM, north stairwell. Free.

R L'Air Lair

Intrigued by performances in tiny spaces, dancer-choreographer Asimina Chremos and director Kairol Rosenthal stage a work for an audience of five people at a time in the Athenaeum's cramped vending-machine room. Chremos is joined by singer Dan Mohr, whose beautiful voice fills the room with a traditional Corsican song while Chremos dabbles her bare feet in imaginary water; the fact that the song is a lament by a man leaving his loved ones to go off to war gives the piece a political edge. At 20 minutes L'Air Lair is the perfect length, though the price is a bit steep. (LM) a 7, 8, 9, and 10 PM, vending-machine room. $10.

When Will the September Roses Bloom? Last Night Was Only a Comedy: A Double Performance

Version 2. See listing for Fri 4/1. a 7:30 PM, main stage. $20.

R Una Probadita de S-E-X-Oh!

Teatro Luna's world premiere, based on autobiographical writing and interviews, examines virgin/whore stereotypes about Latina sexuality. This probadita (taste) of the ensemble's views on sex, presented in monologues and short scenes, is original and occasionally shattering. Occasionally this work in progress feels a little long and somewhat choppy. But it's written with sharp honesty and performed with an easy, relaxed humor. (JV) a 7:30 PM, Studio 2. $15.

For the Fashion Impaired

See listing for Fri 4/1. a 7:30-8:30 PM, second-floor corridor. Free.

Discarded Landscape

Weather Talking's obscure, pretentious world premiere, directed by Brian Torrey Scott, is far too long and doesn't make a whole lot of sense. The program lists the characters as a father, son, and daughter while the antics onstage suggest they belong to a highly dysfunctional family. By the end it appears the mother (an offstage narrator played by Scott) has died and none of them is dealing with it very well, which somehow results in incestuous grappling between the father and daughter, then between the daughter and son. Jeff Harms, engaging and often funny as the father, is the only good thing about this nerve-jangling piece. (LM) a 8 PM, Studio 3. $15.

Dis*Card*

See listing for Fri 4/1. a 8 PM, alley behind the Athenaeum. $5 and a piece of trash.

Economies of Touch

See listing for Fri 4/1. a 9:30-11:30 PM, main stage landing. Free.

Anti Gravity Surprise

The public art group, who created Tell Us a Secret and Mundane Tasks (see listing under "Ongoing") for this year's festival, participates in a Q & A with other PAC/edge installation artists. a 9:30 PM, Curtain Call Club. Free.

CC White Suit Science (Refitted!)

a 10 PM, Studio 1. $15.

Performance of Sleep in One Long Act Without Intermission

See listing for Fri 4/1. a 10 PM, Studio 2. $15.

R Come and Go, Not I, and Footfalls

See listing for Fri 4/1. a 10 PM, main stage. $15.

R The Hunchback Variations

See listing for Fri 4/1. a 10:30 PM, Studio 3. $15.

SUNDAY 3

Muzak and Vocal Topographies

See listing for Fri 4/1. a Various times through the afternoon and evening, throughout the building and elevators. Free.

Down in the New Chair Some More

See listing for Sat 4/2. Noon, Studio 2. $5.

Toy Theater and the Basics of 2-D Puppets

This Incurable Theater workshop is appropriate for adults and children 12 years and older when accompanied by an adult. a Noon-3 PM, Studio 3. $50.

Economies of Touch

Panel discussion exploring Sheelah Murthy's performance piece of the same name (see listing for Fri 4/1). a 2 PM, Studio 1. Free.

500 Clown: The Making of a Monster

This documentary film depicts the making of 500 Clown Frankenstein. a 3 PM, Studio 2. $10.

Dis*Card*

See listing for Fri 4/1. a 3 PM, alley behind the Athenaeum. $5 and a piece of trash.

Aroma Piece

See listing for Fri 4/1. a 3 PM, south stairwell. Free.

Discarded Landscape

See listing for Sat 4/2. a 3:30 PM, Studio 3. $15.

When Will the September Roses Bloom? Last Night Was Only a Comedy: A Double Performance

Version 1. See listing for Fri 4/1. a 4 PM, main stage. $20.

Pluto: The Opera

See listing for Fri 4/1. a 4 PM, Studio 1. $15.

R L'Air Lair

See listing for Sat 4/2. a 5, 6, 7, and 8 PM, vending-machine room. $10.

Loong: A Three Dimensional Shadow Puppetry Performance

See listing for Fri 4/1. a 5:30 PM, Studio 2. $15.

Action Item: DOG Does Not Perform

In video format, the DOG theater group "offers honest motives, clear dialogue, and compelling reasons for its utter and complete absence onstage." a 6 PM, Studio 1. $10.

Refuge

See listing for Fri 4/1. a 6:30 PM, Studio 3. $15.

For the Fashion Impaired

See listing for Fri 4/1. a 6:30-7:30 PM, second-floor corridor. Free.

R Come and Go, Not I, and Footfalls

See listing for Fri 4/1. a 7 PM, main stage. $15.

R Una Probadita de S-E-X-Oh!

See listing for Sat 4/2. a 7:30 PM, Studio 2. $15.

The Turtle at Play

See listing for Sat 4/2. a 8 PM, Studio 1. $15.

A Night of Toy Theater and Intimate Puppetry

See listing for Sat 4/2. a 8:30 PM, Studio 3. $15.

ONGOING

Industry of the Ordinary

Mathew Wilson and Adam Brooks will, over the course of the festival, create works "that challenge you to look at the ordinary in a new light." See documentation at www.industryoftheordinary.com. Ongoing during festival hours, throughout the Athenaeum. Free.

Chops

Art installation by Lori Hall-Araujo, inspired by Plasticene's production of Refuge (see listing for Fri 4/1), creates "accidental encounters" and "slices of life" throughout the Athenaeum. Free.

Mirage

Sandra Binion's recent trip to Cuba inspired her exploration of political and cultural myths surrounding the island nation's identity as a "forbidden" place. Second-floor foyer. Free.

Clean

Ryan Mitchell Flesher's eight-minute piece depicts a swimmer crossing a void. Projected on front windows of the Athenaeum.

Wail

Malin Lindelow's installation seeks to reclaim the ancient tradition of expressing grief. Festivalgoers will have the opportunity to add their wails to the soundscape throughout the festival. Sun 5-7 PM.

Laugh

This installation by Mrs. Rao's Growl (Sheelah Murthy and Anuj Vaidya) attempts to move into the space of "psychic seepage" through laughter. First-floor corridor. Free.

Intermission Machines: Self-Running Random Shadow Generators

The Rubber Monkey Puppet Company has set up several "intermission machines" throughout the Athenaeum to create shadow puppet collages. Free.

Tell Us a Secret and Mundane Tasks

Anti Gravity Surprise asks viewers to perform "cultural research" in these installations throughout the Athenaeum that explore the concept of work as identity.

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