Maybe more directors should consider basing their companies in the fields of Boise, or the edge of the desert, or the brink of anything other than a city. Trey McIntyre makes a good case for it. One thing about the choreographer’s Boise-based ensemble is certain: They are fully dedicated to its Americana brand, remarkably wholesome in delivery and laden with the type of nostalgia that makes the audience yearn for yesteryear. Is the company’s wholesome vibe a consequence of the small-town embrace of Boise, where McIntyre chose to base his company over a big city? It very well could be.
In the wake of the recent flap surrounding Gilda's Club Madison renaming its chapter the Cancer Support Community Southeast Wisconsin, the Second City announced on Friday it will host a panel discussion, "Celebrating Gilda," in honor of the late comedian on Thursday, December 6 at 5pm in the UP Comedy Club.
Last week the Madison chapter of the nationwide org announced it was changing its name based on the lack of recognition young people have for Gilda Radner, the late comedian who got her start at the Second City Toronto and was best known for a wide range of characters she portrayed on SNL. The Chicago chapter plans on keeping its name. "We believe that Gilda Radner is iconic and will be remembered for generations," said Gilda's Club Chicago CEO LauraJane Hyde. "Each affiliate is run independently. For our part we believe the spirit of Gilda Radner is essential to our mission." Second City executive vice president Kelly Leonard weighed in via facebook. "Please know that Gilda's Club Chicago will REMAIN Gilda's Club Chicago," he said. "Please support this amazing institution that will ALWAYS be named after the wonderful Gilda Radner."
The Thursday panel will be moderated by Anne Libera, Director of Comedy Studies at The Second City and Columbia College Chicago as well as a Governing Board Member for Gilda’s Club Chicago. Confirmed panelists include current Mainstage ensemble members Katie Rich and Mary Sohn and alumni Claudia Michelle Wallace and instructor Rachel Mason.
On casual Friday, two women in sequined dresses walk into the TOC offices. Gabrielle Del Re and Kristina Larson-Hauk are the quintessential glamour girls of the Radio City Rockettes. Dressed in show attire from head to toe, they make their press rounds promoting their upcoming holiday performance at the Akoo Theatre at Rosemont. “It was funny,” Larson-Hauk says. “Someone on the train came up to us and said, ‘I love your dresses. I dress like that all the time.’”
Jenny Sutter is a retired Marine who returns to the U.S. without the lower half of her right leg, and lacking direction for her future, in Next Theatre Company’s Welcome Home, Jenny Sutter. Starring as the tough but weathered Jenny, Lily Mojekwu gives a captivating performance, pulling the audience into Julie Marie Myatt’s play and never letting go. Raised in the suburb of Lake Forest, Mojekwu didn’t become involved with performing until she attended Lake Forest College, where she didn’t study theater but ended up around theater people, acclimating herself to the environment with behind-the-scenes work like creating props. Since dedicating herself to the stage, Mojekwu has worked consistently at small storefronts and larger Equity houses, earning a Jeff Award nomination in 2009 for her work in Steep Theatre’s Greensboro: A Requiem and receiving a Jeff Award for her work in the ensemble of Steep’s In Arabia We'd All Be Kings. Mojekwu speaks to us about the research she did for the role, how she managed Jenny’s handicap, and how she made Jenny’s experience real and personal.
Considering the onslaught of Nutcrackers and Christmas Carols that dominate the December calendar, why not opt for something a bit more, say, naughty than nice? Our friends at the Kiss Kiss Cabaret are gearing up for their annual holiday show (opening Friday 30) complete with magic acts, music and, of course, the stars of the Kiss Kiss Coquettes burlesque troupe. They’ve provided a few sultry photos and candid behind-the-scenes shots to whet your holiday appetite.
The Kiss Kiss Cabaret Holiday Spectacular! happens every Friday at 11pm through December 21 at the Greenhouse Theater Center. Go to greenhousetheater.org for tickets and more info.
One prominent executive director recently told me that Chicago doesn’t nearly get the credit it deserves as a dance destination; most consider it a so-called “fly-by city.” A big push in the last few years, namely the debuts of companies like Paris Opéra Ballet, plus contributions from our high-profile “dancing Mayor,” has added mightily to Chicago prominence. In keeping with that theme, Chicago Human Rhythm Project is taking our city’s great flare to the East Coast. CHRP artistic director Lane Alexander curates a tap program for Washington, D.C.’s Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts—the first full-length tap concert since the Kennedy Center opened in 1971, featuring a number of Chicago-based tap artists.
“JUBA! Masters of Tap and Percussive Dance” takes place December 7. The bill includes BAM! (CHRP’s resident ensemble), MADD Rhythms with the Greg Spero Trio and Jump Rhythm Jazz Project. Rounding things out are D.C.’s Step Afrika!, an excerpt from Rasta Thomas’s new show “Tap Stars” (with CHRP member Jason Janas), members of six American youth tap ensembles, and alumni from the 80th Anniversary Jacob's Pillow Tap Program.
Onward and upward, Chicago.
Visit kennedy-center.org for more info and tickets, should you be in the D.C. area. If not, stay tuned to Chicago Human Rhythm Project’s 2013 concert lineup. We’ll post details as they come, or you can go browse chicagotap.org.
Following a 12-performance Broadway run in August, the retired boxer Mike Tyson—variously known as a former heavyweight champion, video-game icon, Evander Holyfield ear biter and connoisseur of face tattoos—was set to announce tonight on Jimmy Kimmel Live that he's taking his Spike Lee–helmed one-man show, Mike Tyson: Undisputed Truth, on the road. One of the stops on his ten-week tour will be Chicago's , for three performances, February 15–17.
In the solo stage memoir, which attributes writing credit to his wife, Kiki Tyson, and which he debuted in Las Vegas last April (before Lee's attachment as director), Tyson is said to address a number of controversies in his past, including the three-year prison sentence he served for a rape conviction—a charge he's reported to vehemently deny in the show. Diatribes against the likes of his ex-wife, actress Robin Givens, and boxing promoter Don King are said to share stage time with memories of his Brooklyn childhood and early rise in the ring.
The Second City's Letters to Santa, an annual event in which improvisers, comedians and musicians take turns performing for 24 hours in a row to benefit Chicago's Onward Neighborhood House, has released a detailed schedule of appearances. Included in this year's benefit, kicking off December 18 at 6pm in the e.t.c. Theatre, are B-52s frontman Fred Schneider, Kim Deal of the Breeders, Jeff Tweedy of Wilco, fivethirtyeight.com statistician Nate Silver, JC Brooks and the Uptown Sound, SNL's Fred Armisen and many more. Featured improvisers include SNL's Jason Sudeikis, Tim Robinson and Michael Patrick O'Brien (writer), Shelly Gossman and more. Tickets are $20 and will be available at the door beginning at 5pm on December 18 and throughout the show as long as seats are available.
Here is the schedule:
J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter novels have captivated millions of readers, and for their family-friendly show, comic duo Daniel Clarkson and Jeff Turner recap all seven novels in under 70 minutes. It’s a madcap interactive experience, with Clarkson giving a hilarious performance as a newcomer to the world of Harry Potter who ends up playing all the supporting parts. Raised just outside of London, Clarkson was exposed to the world of performance by his stand-up comedian father, and he would watch his father’s rehearsals the way other children would watch football matches. He studied theater at Bretton Hall, and since graduating has made numerous film, television, and stage appearances, often working with children. Clarkson talks to us about his first experience with the Rowling’s books, what went into the adaptation process, and why he thinks Harry Potter is such a hit with both kids and adults.
In a major shift, Circle Theatre announced tonight it's giving up its current venue in Oak Park in favor of itinerancy in the Chicago city limits. The company's 28th season, beginning with the calendar year in January, will be produced at various venues in Chicago, beginning with the previously announced remount of last spring's much acclaimed Chicago-area premiere of Andrew Bovell's at the Greenhouse Theater Center.
Circle Theatre has produced in a handful of resident venues in Forest Park and Oak Park for most of its life; it's long been the only theater company outside of the city limits eligible for the Non-Equity Wing of the Jeff Awards, thanks to a grandfather clause in the Jeffs' rules. When the company moved to its current digs in Oak Park a couple of years ago, the word was it would be a temporary stop on the way to a new permanent home, but resources remained tight. The move into the city and away from a permanent address coincides with another sea change for the company, with Kevin Bellie stepping down last week after nine years as artistic director. Company member Jon Landvick has picked up the reins.
In addition to When the Rain Stops Falling (January 16–February 24), Circle's season will include the Chicago premiere of the Maury Yeston-Peter Stone-Thomas Meehan musical Death Takes a Holiday, directed by Bellie at Stage 773 for an April opening; Abi Morgan's Lovesong, directed by When the Rain helmer John Gawlik at a venue to be determined in July and August; and a fall 2013 production of Evil Dead: The Musical, staged by Matthew Gunnels at another unnamed venue.
Bellie's last show as artistic director, a "Bollywood spectacular" edition of the musical Pippin, opened last week amid some controversy over its largely Caucasian casting and charges of cultural appropriation.