Gnit, the last play I saw Sunday afternoon at the 37th Humana Festival, is classic Will Eno. By that, I mean I was thrilled by it, but another critic seated in front of me loudly declared it "shit" before walking out at intermission. The premiere is helmed by Actors Theatre of Louisville artistic director Les Waters, who directed Eno's similarly divisive Middletown at Steppenwolf in 2011. Eno's latest is a loose comic adaptation of Ibsen's unwieldy Peer Gynt, itself based on Norwegian folklore. Ibsen's Peer is the son of a man ruined by his indulgences, who rather than face his own reality and responsibilities travels the world aimlessly in search of meaning. Eno's Peter Gnit (Dan Waller) is similarly abdicative; he explains the origin of his surname as being a typo the family just came to accept.
Roger Ebert was remembered Sunday as a loving and devoted husband and an extraordinary friend who enriched, inspired and uplifted all those around him.
More than 200 close friends and family members gathered in the chapel of Graceland Cemetery for a private visitation and a chance to share their remembrances of the beloved film critic and media trailblazer who died at 70 Thursday after a long battle with cancer.
“Roger never acted superior to anyone. But the truth is, he was a king — and he was my prince,” said his wife, Chaz, who began the impromptu tributes with her reflections on their life together and on Roger’s final days.
The final weekend of the 37th Humana Festival here at Actors Theatre of Louisville coincides with Louisville's appearance in the Final Four—"the men's and the women's teams," a charming local theater supporter pressed upon me at a Thursday night cocktail party held to welcome the visiting industry professionals and press. She lamented (jokingly, I think) that I'd likely be seeing a play when the Cardinals face off against the Wichita State Shockers tonight.
Yet downtown Louisville seems nearly as proud of its theater this weekend as its college basketball teams. "Enjoy the Humana Festival," a security guard at my hotel said Friday upon noticing my red lanyard. And the energy created by the mixing of industry types and eager locals is enjoyable indeed, even if my first day's offerings were decidedly mixed.
On the night Gene Siskel died, Roger Ebert and I spent an hour on the phone together, talking about the loss of our dear friend and lamenting that we never knew how gravely ill he was.
There was no question that Roger respected Gene’s decision to keep the extent of his illness private. But it saddened Roger that he was never able to reach out to Gene in a meaningful way at the end. Just weeks earlier, Gene had told us he was taking an indefinite leave of absence, but was in a hurry to get well “because I don’t want Roger to get more screen time than I.” We both believed he’d be back.
I’ll never know for sure, but I always suspected that Roger’s experience with Gene had a lot to do with how open and forthright he chose to be about his own health problems in the years that followed. He shared everything. Even when some of those closest to him discouraged him from showing his disfigured face in public, Roger set vanity aside and moved forward with courage and grace that inspired us all.
Roger Ebert influenced more moviegoers than any film critic who ever lived and, it seems safe to say, more than any who ever will. Those of us who thought he’d somehow never stop his unrivaled, 300-review-per-year output should take solace in the fact that he kept it up until nearly the end—announcing a “leave of presence” just two days before his death, at 70, from cancer, a disease he battled with a candor few would have such courage to show in public.
I've just touched down in Louisville, Kentucky, for the final weekend of Actors Theatre of Louisville's 37th annual Humana Festival of New American Plays, which I'll be reporting back on here.
It's the first year of the festival under ATL's new artistic director, Les Waters, whose most recent work in Chicago was the 2011 premiere of Will Eno's Middletown at Steppenwolf, in a production that found a spot on my top-ten list for that year. Waters and Eno reunite at Humana for Gnit, with a cast that features Chicago actors Dan Waller and Linda Kimbrough.
Also among the six plays I'll be seeing this weekend are O Guru Guru Guru, or why I don't want to go to yoga class with you by Mallery Avidon, an artistic associate with Chicago's Pavement Group, and Appropriate by Branden Jacobs-Jenkins, a coproduction with Victory Gardens Theater that will open the fall season at the Biograph. It's directed by Chicago Shakespeare Theater associate artistic director Gary Griffin. The weekend is rounded out by new works from Jeff Augustin and Sam Marks, a collaborative piece by Rinne Groff, Lucas Hnath and Anne Washburn, a slate of ten-minute plays by Sarah Ruhl and others, and discussions and conversations with dozens of industry professionals from across the country. Check back here throughout the weekend for updates.
Jim Laski, the former Chicago alderman and city clerk who served time in federal prison for taking bribes, is resuming his on-again, off-again career in radio. But unlike his ill-fated stint on WGN-AM (720) in 2010, this time he’s paying to put his show on the air.
Starting April 27, he’ll host The Laski Files from 4 to 6pm Saturdays on Newsweb Radio progressive talk WCPT-AM (820). It also will be simulcast on the company’s three FM stations — WCPY-FM (92.5), WCPT-FM (92.7) and WCPQ-FM (99.9).
There's an enormous number of concerts worth seeing this weekend.
Chicago Symphony Orchestra with Yuja Wang
1:30pm, Symphony Center (Orchestra Hall), $24–$208
Finnish conductor Sakari Oramo directs the CSO in its debut performance of Australian composer Brett Dean's epic Amphitheatre, a dramatic scene for large orchestra. Young Chinese pianist Yuja Wang takes the stage for Prokofiev's Third Piano Concerto before the evening wraps up with Carl Nielsen's unconventional Fifth Symphony.
Nick Cave played the sold-out Chicago Theatre on Monday behind the somber new Push the Sky Away, the first Bad Seeds disc since 2008, and the first minus linchpin Mick Harvey. Check out our photos.