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Culture Sun Jul 05 2015

Heart of Americanness

By Tore Rasmussen Steien

I was headed for Nebraska. Now, there's a
sentence you don't want to have to say too often
if you can possibly help it.
—Bill Bryson

"Good to hear. I assume it will take us about 10 hours to get from Chicago to your bed and breakfast, so we'll see you around eight o'clock Saturday evening."

"That's great. Can you repeat your name?"

"Yes, Tore, T-O-R-E." (It's hard to pronounce the Norwegian "o" for English speakers since there is no similar sound in English. It's something like the "ooh" in "ooh la la.")

"OK, I'll probably just call you Honey."

And thus began our journey into the heart of America.

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A/C / Comments (0)

Theater Thu Jul 02 2015

Goodman Theatre Stages Chekhovian Love Letter in Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike

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Brooks, Fisher and Lehman. Photo by Liz Lauren.

Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike is not a Chekhov parody, but Christopher Durang's play set in an old farmhouse in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, could have been set in a dacha in the Russian countryside. It retains much of the melancholy of Chekhov's dissatisfied characters.

Steve Scott's new Goodman Theatre production is funny and charming and much of its wit rests on the many theatrical references and stage in-jokes (fond references to Chekhov and Greek tragedies, and to theater masters such as Stanislavski and Meisner). In addition, monologues by three of its characters are compelling and humorous set pieces.

The plot centers on three 50-something siblings, all named for Chekhovian characters.

"It's been our cross to bear, that our parents gave us names from Chekhov plays. The other children made such fun of us," says Vanya (Ross Lehman). "Such was the burden of having professor parents.... Father was so angry when you didn't know something. But what 7-year-old knows who wrote The Imaginary Invalid? Father was enraged when I said Neil Simon."

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Nancy Bishop / Comments (0)

History Wed Jul 01 2015

July 4th Celebration at Chicago History Museum Features Chicago Film Premiere and New Facilities

By Jen Kraakevik

GB-ChiHistJuly4.jpgFace painting, speeches, musical performances, crafts and other all-American activities are on the agenda for the Fourth of July celebration at the Chicago History Museum from 10am to noon Saturday.

Afternoon events at the History Museum will include a premiere of the film The Great Chicago Adventure in the renovated Robert R. McCormick Theater. Visitors can explore a wall-to-wall map of Chicago and other interactive art pieces in the grand opening of the Guild Gallery. President Gary T. Johnson said in a press release. "We couldn't pick a better day to showcase these fantastic new experiences that celebrate Chicago's place in American history."

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Column Wed Jul 01 2015

Terminator Genisys, Magic Mike XXL, The Little Death & Closer to God

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Terminator Genisys


Well that was exhausting. Our old pals are back, still attempting save the world from nuclear annihilation, still going over and over the same set of events and place in recorded history that began more than 30 years ago in James Cameron's The Terminator and continued seven years later (by our calendar) in Terminator 2: Judgment Day. By the way, for those counting and those I can't discourage from seeing the latest installment, Terminator Genisys (the fourth sequel), it certain helps keep things in the new film straight if you've given yourself a refresher viewing of the first two films. In fact, the makers of Genisys seem to have taken the scripts from the first two films and written over parts of them in crayon, then cut and pasted whole sequences into each other to come up with the newest version of folks from the future protecting and/or attempting to kill Sarah Connor (Emilia Clarke from "Game of Thrones" stepping in for Linda Hamilton).

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Steve Prokopy / Comments (0)

Performance Wed Jul 01 2015

Physical Festival Chicago Is Coming July 7-12: Interview with the Creators

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Photo by Alex Brenner.

Physical Festival Chicago will hold its second annual event at Links Hall July 7-12. The festival has hit the mark with Chicago's theater-hungry audiences, serving as a refreshing throw-back to the roots of drama and comedy. In addition to shows from various countries including Spain, Portugal, the United Kingdom and the US (Chicago's own Walkabout Theater Company), there are daily master classes being taught at Columbia College during the festival for the curious and would-be students of this rekindling art form.

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Kim Campbell / Comments (0)

Theater Mon Jun 29 2015

The Who and the What: Victory Gardens Play Explores Culture Clash in Pakistani-American Family

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Jamshidi and Gandhi. Photo by Michael Courier.

What distinguishes contemporary faith from the traditional? It's often the ability to ask questions, to explore how meanings have changed, while still maintaining respect for its beliefs. That's the question explored in Victory Gardens Theater's new play.

The Who and the What is a smart, funny play about a conservative Pakistani-American family and their attempts to come to grips with modern realities while maintaining respect for tradition. Playwright Ayad Akhtar has written believable characters who fight articulately about what they believe in. Director Ron O J Parsons has crafted a thought-provoking and moving play with Akhtar's four characters.

Two sisters--Zarina (Susaan Jamshidi) and Mahwish (Minita Gandhi)--discuss their love lives or lack thereof as Zarina prepares dinner. Zarina is a writer, currently fighting writer's block as she tries to finish her novel about "gender politics." She won't talk about the book, but admits that it's about women and Islam. Her younger sister is engaged but knows she shouldn't marry before her older sister.

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Nancy Bishop / Comments (0)

Column Fri Jun 26 2015

Ted 2, Max, The Overnight, Manglehorn, A Little Chaos & Infinitely Polar Bear

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Ted 2

I think I have a fairly foolproof way to determine if you'll like sequel to the unexpected 2012 hit Ted, the film that paired Mark Wahlberg and a foul-mouth, pothead teddy bear voiced by "Family Guy" creator Seth MacFarlane (who also directed and co-wrote). Whatever your reaction to Ted was, that will likely be your reaction to Ted 2, which expands the mythology of the character a bit and even finds a way (some might say, appropriately) to equate Ted's struggle to be given the same rights as a person (to marry, adopt, hold a job, and presumably donate organs) to current headlines about marriage equality struggles and other civil rights concerns. Ted and his human pal John (Wahlberg) still manage to have lewd and crude adventures in their quest to get the bear his rights, and they offend pretty much everyone they come into contract with in the process.

The film opens with Ted and girlfriend Tami-Lynn (Jessica Barth) getting married and asking John to donate sperm for their baby (after a failed attempt to "steal" a sample from Tom Brady is thwarted by Tom Brady). Shortly after John has gallons of semen dumped on him (all in the name of a single stupid punchline) at the fertility clinic, the feds decide that since he's not human, Ted's marriage isn't real and he can't legally be the father of the baby. He is, in fact, property; something that his old nemesis Donny (Giovanni Ribisi) is planning to take advantage of with the help of the toy company that made Ted (led by John Carroll Lynch). Donny wants to reclaim Ted for Hasbro, so they can see what makes him tick in the hopes of manufacturing more talking, thinking, feeling toys just like him.

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Steve Prokopy / Comments (0)

Art Thu Jun 25 2015

Celebrate Pride at the Froot Salad Party at Annoyance Theatre

Chicago's 46th annual Pride Fest came fast around the corner this year with a two-day festival celebrating love, capped by Sunday's parade. In addition to the glitz and glamour of the day, a party entitled Froot Salad will occur Sunday at the Annoyance Theatre and Bar.

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Courtesy of VAM

The space will include three rooms, two blackout rave areas, a full bar, food, and open windows to witness the parade in full action. Froot Salad will be filled with performances, visual arts, live DJs, and support from the local creative community. Curation is provided by Do312, The Lesbifriends Cartel, Cramer PR & Events, Stardust, VAM, Deep Eddy Vodka, Pabst Blue Ribbon and Riot Fest.

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S. Nicole Lane / Comments (2)

Dance Thu Jun 25 2015

One Night Only! World Premiere Production of Circo Tap at Athenaeum Theatre Saturday

By Jen Kraakevik

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Photo by Josh Hawkins.

"Tap dancing with the finest live music you will find mixed in with the danger, excitement, and sexiness of the circus."

When I asked Mark Yonally, the artistic director of Chicago Tap Theatre, what Circo Tap would be about, in a few words, that was as concise as he could be. Chicago Tap Theatre (CTT) stages this exclusive, one-night only performance at the Athenaeum Theatre at 8pm Saturday. Their combination of tap dancing, circus arts, live music and narration brings an inspiring spotlight to the theater community. It presents tap dancers, acrobats, whip artists, clowns, tightrope walkers, stilt walkers, musicians and, Yonally says, "everything you wouldn't expect to see."

Yonally's vision for this performance began through his exposure three years ago to Circurious, where he was invited to perform as a tap-dancer. Circurious is an American circus that highlights jugglers, singers, dancers and contortionists through their tour around the United States. Their website describes it as "a heart-stopping, mind-boggling display of artistry and athleticism." With such inspiration as a performer, Yonally proceeded to produce a combination of what he knows with what he became inspired by: tap dancing with circus.

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A/C / Comments (0)

Film Wed Jun 24 2015

Northwestern Professor and Kartemquin Films Join Forces to Help Save a 5,000-year-old Buddhist Site

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Any day now, Mes Aynak, one of the world's most significant archeological sites, might be destroyed. Its historical and cultural riches, thought to be on par with the discoveries of Pompeii, will be forever lost. Its story--and the story of the men working tirelessly to save it--is the subject of Director Brent Huffman's Saving Mes Aynak.

Huffman, a faculty member in Northwestern's Medill School of Journalism and a documentary filmmaker, is working with Chicago's Kartemquin Films to produce Saving Mes Aynak.

The site sits within the Taliban-controlled Logar Province of Afghanistan, atop an enormous, untapped copper reserve with an estimated worth of $10 billion dollars. It's that copper reserve, and not the Taliban, that poses the chief threat to its continued existence. In 2007, MCC, a state-owned Chinese mining company, struck a deal with the cash-strapped Afghan government to harvest the site's reserves for $3 billion, with little oversight and no environmental regulation. Since 2011, a small team of Afghan archeologists have been excavating the area, unearthing finds of immense cultural significance, but a complete excavation could take 30 to 40 years, and mining is slated to begin in less than a year.

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Elspeth Carroll / Comments (0)

Film Wed Jun 24 2015

Music Box Theatre Celebrates Decline of Western Civilization

To commemorate the upcoming box set release of The Decline of Western Civilization and The Decline of Western Civilization II: The Metal Years, the Music Box Theatre is showing both films back to back on Saturday, June 27. Director Penelope Spheeris will be on hand to introduce both films and do a Q&A with the audience.

Spheeris broke out into the scene with her debut The Decline of Western Civilization in 1981. She has also directed Black Sheep, The Little Rascals and Wayne's World. Her two films being shown on the 27th hold a special place in not only American film history, but music history as well. Each captures a cultural snapshot of the music scene that was occurring in Southern California at the time.

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Chris Zois / Comments (0)

Theater Tue Jun 23 2015

Lookingglass' Moby Dick: Visual Magic, Superb Performances Create a Victory at Sea

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Abelson and Fleming as Ishmael and Queequeg. Photo by Liz Lauren.

Lookingglass Theatre's new production of Moby Dick gives a modern infusion of energy and fluidity to Herman Melville's 19th century whaling tale. The sprawling 700-page novel is smartly encapsulated into a two-and-three-quarter hour play without losing any of its sense of awe and terror at the power of the great sea creature sought by the monomaniacal Captain Ahab. David Catlin's adaptation and direction are both superlative and his dialogue retains much of Melville's poetic language.

Lookingglass's black box theater in the old Water Works on Michigan Avenue becomes the interior of a great whale with steel hoops extending from stage rear to the top of the theater. You really feel you're in the belly of the beast. Ropes, rafts and pulleys are manipulated by the excellent cast of seven seamen plus three actors who become characters as well as forces of nature, as the script requires.

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Nancy Bishop / Comments (0)

Preview Mon Jun 22 2015

Printers Ball 2015: Push & Pull this Saturday

printers ball 2015An all-day celebration perfect for any lit lover, the Printers Ball 2015: Push & Pull will bring together printers, writers, publishers, artists, readers, and collectors for its daylong festival of literary culture and printmaking. The event will have 18 programs throughout the day, and "guests can anticipate a field day of hands-on experiences with printmaking, writing, and live lit." There will also be roundtable discussions with artists and peers as a part of the program lineup, and a book marketplace for all to delight in.

One of the programmed events will be the Steamroller Spectacular, in which guests will be able to observe live steamroller printing with blocks carved by artists. Another will be the Book Butcher. Participants can order different "cuts" of free magazines and books from the head "butcher," Brad Rohloff, in his deli-themed Book Butcher Shop. See the full schedule of what they have planned here.

The ball will begin at 2pm on Saturday, June 27, and will last until 10pm at the Hubbard Street Lofts, located at 1821 W. Hubbard. Tickets range from being free at the most basic level, to $5 for guaranteed admission to see the keynote speaker, and then VIP Admission for $25, in which participants are guaranteed to see the keynote speaker, receive a commemorative poster and tote bag, five free books at the "Butcher" and a complimentary drink ticket.

Jennifer Prohov / Comments (0)

Design Mon Jun 22 2015

AIGA Hosts Book Launch Party That's Part Circus, Part Theater

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The Chicago chapter of AIGA, the professional association for design, launched its new book about Chicago design and designers Thursday. But it wasn't your typical book signing party. The designers did it with style and surprises. The venue itself was a signal that things would get interesting, since it was held at Redmoon Theater, a well-known avatar of surprises and creativity.

This Is Chicago, a 224-page book, celebrates the centennial of the organization originally known by its initialism, the American Institute of Graphic Arts. This Is Chicago features "an eclectic mix of designers who have had significant impact on us--in hopes that their passion, perseverance, humility and bravery will enable you to see Chicago the way that we see it." Their intent, AIGA says in the book's foreword, is to celebrate what it is about Chicago that makes it different from any other community.

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Nancy Bishop / Comments (0)

Theater Fri Jun 19 2015

That's Weird, Grandma Now Featured at Night Out in the Parks, Stage 773, Chicago Fringe Fest

By Jen Kraakevik

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Animal, vegetable or mineral? You never know what might make it into a production of Barrel of Monkeys' That's Weird, Grandma. Anything is possible because the authors will be 3rd, 4th and 5th graders in the creative writing workshops led by actor-educators in Chicago Public Schools around the city. The stories produced at That's Weird, Grandma are written by kids for kids (and adapted to be performed by kids at heart) to allow everyone to enjoy clever sketches that truly entertain.

Starting at 6:15 tonight, That's Weird, Grandma begins its neighborhood tour through Chicago Park District's Night Out in the Parks. The Night out in the Parks series has provided more than 1,000 events and programs at over 250 community parks throughout the city each summer for the past two years. Now, Night Out in the Parks will host productions ranging from movies, traditional performances, community workshops, concerts and more. CPD partners with more than 80 arts and community organizations to succeed in this initiative supported by Mayor Rahm Emanuel. All productions are located in Chicago Parks and are free to the public.

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A/C / Comments (0)

Feature Thu Apr 16 2015

From Chicago to Senegal by Way of the Drum: Interview with Local Filmmaker Mallory Sohmer

By Ana Sekler

Mallory Sohmer is a freelance documentary filmmaker from Chicago and a Columbia College alumna. She co-directed the new film, Drum Beat Journey, the story of four inner-city youth who travel to Petit Mbao, Senegal, to participate in a drumming workshop. The program used music as a vehicle to capture and connect with the young men in an engaging and original way. But this is not just a film about drumming; it's about stepping into another culture to learn about oneself.
Read this feature »

Steve at the Movies Wed Jul 01 2015

Terminator Genisys, Magic Mike XXL, The Little Death & Closer to God

By Steve Prokopy

Read this column »

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Events

Tue Jul 7 2015
Tell it to the Birds @ Millennium Park

Thu Jul 9 2015
Heather McAdams @ Sulzer Regional Library

Thu Jul 9 2015
TCC Digital Buffet

Fri Jul 10 2015
Vaudeo Motion II @ High Concept Labs

Fri Jul 10 2015
A Murder in the Park @ Film Center

Fri Jul 10 2015
Square Roots Festival

Sat Jul 11 2015
havoc and tumbled @ Roman Susan Rogers Park Art Space

Sat Jul 11 2015
Mortified! @ Lincoln Hall

Sat Jul 11 2015
Square Roots Festival

Sun Jul 12 2015
Square Roots Festival


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A/C is the arts and culture section of Gapers Block, covering the many forms of expression on display in Chicago. More...
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Editor: LaShawn Williams, ldw@gapersblock.com
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