As part of tomorrow's celebration of the annual World Theatre Day, I'll be hosting a lunchtime League of Chicago Theatres "Storefront and Center" panel on international work being produced in Chicago at the storefront level.
Panelists will include the artistic directors of four local companies that focus on collaboration and connection with European theater artists: Jacqueline Stone of TUTA Theatre Chicago, Beata Pilch of Trap Door Theatre, Bergen Anderson of Akvavit Theatre and Patrizia Acerra of Premiere Theatre & Performance. The 12:30pm discussion will take place in the Goodman Theatre's Owen space (170 N Dearborn St); it's free and open to the public.
Othello is one of the meatiest roles in Shakespeare’s canon, and he gets a hard-hitting hip-hop makeover in the Q Brothers’ Othello: The Remix at Chicago Shakespeare Theater. Played with ferocity by Postell Pringle, this Othello is a hip-hop mogul whose life falls apart when he makes Iago the opener’s opener on a new tour. A native of Decatur, Georgia, Pringle performed in high-school theater to meet girls, but didn’t have designs on a professional career when he enrolled at Bates College. After a short-lived college basketball career, he chose to pursue theater after being in a directing class scene. He met Q Brother GQ when they were visiting Bates College as high school seniors, and they stayed friends after GQ moved to New York to attend the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University. Pringle performed on the East Coast before moving to Chicago with the Q Brothers to understudy Royal George’s production of The Bomb-itty of Errors in 2001. He is now a Q Brothers company member, regularly performing with the other three Othello: The Remix cast members as the Retar Crew. Pringle talks to us about the adaptation process, his hip-hop influences and how his music career has informed his acting.
By opening with Alonzo King’s regal Rasa, then following with the magic realism of Alejandro Cerrudo’s Little mortal jump—two regulars in each company’s respective reps—LINES Ballet and Hubbard Street show just how different they are. Where the San Fran–based LINES is more neoclassical and turned out, Hubbard Street is more contemporary and turned in. Distinguishing the two companies, though, is sometimes an arbitrary task during the final piece of Hubbard Street’s Spring Series, which sees members from LINES and HSDC sharing the Harris stage.
When Robert Battle assumed directorship of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in 2011, he never intended to stray from the company’s identity. But what we’re seeing now, more than a year into Battle’s tenure, is someone who understands the limits of a company’s past, even if that past is still popular beyond belief. He’s not changing identities, per se, but he’s also not resting on proven laurels.
William Shakespeare’s Corialanus is one of his lesser-known tragedies, centered on a Roman warrior turned politician who has more skill on the battlefield than in the senate. Starring in the title role, Steve O’Connell gives a riveting, physically demanding performance in the Hypocrites’ dynamic production. Born on Long Island and raised in Erie, Pennsylvania, O’Connell began performing in the church choir before discovering theater as a teenager. A student at an all-boys high school, his first role was in a musical over at the girls’ school. He received a degree in theater at Fairfield University that was not acting intensive, and after spending some time in New York City, applied to the master’s program at University of Wisconsin in Madison. He moved to Chicago for a role and has remained a regular fixture on the storefront stage, most recently appearing in productions with About Face, Stage Left, and Signal Theatre Ensemble. O’Connell talks to us about the intense fight choreography, homoerotic undertones, and what young actors should do when starting a professional career.
Writers' Theatre will open its new season in Glencoe this fall with an import: PigPen Theatre Co.'s acclaimed new folk tale The Old Man and the Old Moon, fresh from its recent Off Broadway run, which our pals at Time Out New York described as "a winning combination of storytelling, shadow puppetry, Irish-tinged tunes and youthful vigor." Writers' associate artistic director Stuart Carden co-directs with the ensemble (September 3–November 10).
The season will end next year with the world premiere of Days Like Today, a romantic new musical by Alan Schmuckler and Laura Eason, based on the works of Charles Mee. Writers' artistic director Michael Halberstam will helm the production, with musical direction by Doug Peck and choreography by Tommy Rapley (May 6–July 13).
In between, Kimberly Senior will direct Kate Fry in the title role of Ibsen's Hedda Gabler (January 7–March 16), while the two slots down the street at Books on Vernon both go to Conor McPherson: William Brown directs the Midwest premiere of Port Authority (October 29–February 16), and Henry Wishcamper stages the U.S. premiere of McPherson's adaptation of Strindberg's The Dance of Death (April 1–July 20).
TimeLine Theatre Company has announced two more productions for its 2013–2014 season: a revival of Lorraine Hansberry's Chicago-set classic A Raisin in the Sun, and what it says is the Chicago premiere of Juno, the 1959 musical by Marc Blitzstein and Joseph Stein based on Sean O'Casey's Juno and the Paycock.
Ron OJ Parson will direct Raisin (August 20–November 17), featuring company member Mildred Marie Langford as Beneatha Younger. Nick Bowling helms Juno (April 23–July 27), with musical direction by Doug Peck and Elizabeth Doran and starring Rebecca Finnegan in the title role of Irish matriarch Juno Boyle. The two shows join the previously announced revival of Larry Kramer's The Normal Heart (October 25 – December 22), directed by Bowling and starring David Cromer. The Normal Heart will be performed at Stage 773 rather than TimeLine's home venue. A fourth play for the season, set to run January 14–April 6, remains to be announced.
Jazz musician Mike Reed and Links Hall are joining forces in the creation of a new collaborative-arts venue located in the former Viaduct Theater at 3111 North Western. Together, they will open Constellation in April 2013.
The idea to partner up came about when Reed and Links Hall director Roell Schmidt met in 2011 after they were appointed to Chicago’s Cultural Advisory Council. The concept of a new space began to take shape when Reed learned the Viaduct owners were looking to sell. As a result, Constellation was formed with Links Hall being its main tenant and programming partner.
Links Hall was founded in 1978 by artists Carol Bobrow, Bob Eisen and Charlie Vernon. For more than three decades the Wrigleyville studio has showcased an array of performers specializing in dance, experimental performance and performance art. “Rent just got a little bit out of control for us. Also, we are starting to outgrow the space,” says communications director Marie Casimir about the decision to relocate. Casimir says the move is necessary to provide a larger space for the artists to rehearse and present their work and to better serve Links Hall’s LinkUP program, a six month residency that supports independent artists.
The new space sits at the edge of Roscoe Village. “We’re hoping people will follow us,” says Casimir. “I’m sure there will be a little bit of time to get everyone over to the new space, but I think it’s such an exciting opportunity. We have this great partner, and there's an opportunity to get a new audience—as well as remind people who have been with us for 35 years, or if they just met Links Hall 5 years ago or last weekend, to come on over and check out the new space.”
Rhea Perlman, best known for her role as barmaid Carla Tortelli on TV's Cheers, will play one of the title roles in the world premiere of Bruce Graham's Stella & Lou at Northlight Theatre.
Perlman will be Stella to Francis Guinan's Lou in Graham's new piece about a pair of "kindred spirits" who connect at a bar one night. A third role will be played by Gift Theatre company member Ed Flynn; BJ Jones directs.
Philadelphia playwright Graham's sentimental The Outgoing Tide was a big hit for Northlight in 2011. Perlman was nominated for the Emmy Award for supporting actress in a comedy in ten out of Cheers's 11 seasons, winning four times. Incidentally, the show seems the likely favorite to be named the best TV comedy of the last 30 years in Vulture's current Sitcom Smackdown bracket. Stella & Lou runs May 3–June 9.
Chicago Shakespeare Theater associate artistic director Gary Griffin will stage not one but two Stephen Sondheim musicals on Navy Pier next season, following a summer gala in which the company will bestow Spirit of Shakespeare Awards on both Sondheim and former mayor Richard M. Daley.
Griffin will direct Gypsy, with lyrics by Sondheim, music by Jule Styne and book by Arthur Laurents, in the Courtyard Theater (February 6–March 23), overlapping with an Upstairs Theater revival of the much more recent (and much less beloved) Road Show (March 14–May 4). The latter, with music and lyrics by Sondheim and a book by John Weidman, was seen in an earlier incarnation at the Goodman Theatre, as Bounce!; through many revisions and titles, it's yet to reach Broadway.
CST's season opens in the fall in the Courtyard, with a production of Rostand's Cyrano de Bergerac (September 24–November 10), to be directed by Penny Metropulos and featuring Harry Groener (The Madness of George III) in the title role. Also in the Courtyard will be two Shakespeare revivals: artistic director Barbara Gaines's new production of The Merry Wives of Windsor (December 3–January 19) and Christopher Luscombe's of Henry V (April 29–June 15).
Among the offerings on tap for CST's World's Stage presentations are a new commission from Australia's one step at a time like this (the force behind 2011's thrilling en route); this fall piece (dates to be determined) will be an ambulatory update of Measure for Measure. In the spring comes the Chicago debut of Cornwall, England's acclaimed troupe Kneehigh, presenting its Tristan & Yseult (March 30–April 13). Further World's Stage pieces remain to be announced.