Casey Edwards and Guadalupe Bollas. Photo courtesy ATC.
A political massacre that took place 36 years ago in another state is being dramatized with power and feeling by a cast of 11 Chicago high school students at the American Theater Company. The young actors deliver the story of the 1979 Greensboro, NC, massacre with chilling signifiers of its 21st century relevance.
Greensboro: A Requiem is the current production of the ATC Youth Ensemble, directed by Kelly O'Sullivan, from the documentary script by Emily Mann. Ensemble members visited Greensboro, the third largest city in North Carolina, to do research and interview some of the people involved. They also researched the history of the Ku Klux Klan, investigated police complicity in events, and watched videos of the actual Greensboro massacre, recorded by local news crews at the time.
I've only been in the Hancock Tower once and I never thought it would be to visit an art gallery, but hey, there's a first for everything. Amused, I found myself inside the swarm of tourists and photographers who posed and smiled near a colossal sculpture that hung low from the ceiling in the lobby. In order to enter the space, I had to stop at the security desk where my driver's license was scanned and I was handed a slip with a barcode that granted me access through a futuristic gate. Once the door swung open I entered the elevator, free at last to look at art. I felt underdressed and out of place as I tiptoed quite dramatically to the glass doors of the Richard Gray Gallery.
Founded in the 1960s, the gallery has been a prominent and important creative hub for artists at both locations in Chicago and New York. The gallery is "collector orientated" and focuses on the importance of fine art, authenticity, and quality. Magdalena Abakanowicz, Jan Tichy, and Jaume Plensa, are some examples of artists who are represented by the Richard Gray Gallery.
Installation Image, courtesy of Richard Gray Gallery
The newest exhibition, Body Building, which opened July 6, is located down the hall from the main gallery room, which features works by Susan Rothenberg and David Hockney. Body Building, curated by Gan Uyeda and Raven Munsell, presents works from the 1900s until present day and focus on the relationship between the physical human form and the way that it is viewed through an architectural lens. The works in the exhibition date from 1917 to 2012, and display a variety of mediums and materials, such as wax, ink, wool, crayon, and collage.
On Friday, tap masters both local and international come together for choreography set to the music of the late Billy Strayhorn, newly arranged by Vijay Tellis-Nayak. Dancers include Martin "Tre" Dumas, Derick K. Grant, Cartier Williams, and Yukiko Misumi of Japan. Choreographers Star Dixon and Zada Cheeks present new works, along with Prisms from director and founder Lane Alexander.
Saturday features Chicago and U.S.-based performers. The closing show highlights the Chicago Human Rhythm Project ensemble BAM! performing Push Past Break, a Princess Grace Award-commissioned piece by Michelle Dorrance, and Reflections from Alexander. Other performers include Sarah Savelli, Jumaane Taylor, Nico Rubio, Jay Fagan, Daniel Borak of Switzerland and Marina Coura of Brazil. The night also features a new work by BAM's Martin Bronson.
While the plot, setting, and characters are pure Chicago, this isn't the Chicago of sitcoms and rom-coms; it's the Chicago of immigrants and their children, their communities, and their ...superpowers. In The Real Life Adventures, a 13-year-old Mexican-American boy living in Pilsen and Little Village spends his days playing baseball, helping his abuela with her elote cart, and hiding the fact that he has telekinetic powers. When his mother, an undocumented factory worker, mysteriously disappears, Jimmy is determined to find her. With the help of two "pirates," he finds himself facing a pack of mutant Chihuahuas and a ruthless sweatshop owner in a high-stakes battle to reclaim the streets of his neighborhood.
Paul Natkin sat on a stool Saturday and told us about his life for an hour. His life as a rock and roll photographer, shooting concerts and backstage portraits and touring with some of the iconic rockers of the 20th century. Then he said, "Yesterday I shot eight basketball games and I have two to shoot tonight after I leave here."
That's the arc of Natkin's life and 40-year career, as he told his story surrounded by his "Superstars" photography, now on exhibit at the Ed Paschke Art Center in Jefferson Park.
Hello, everyone. Due to some time-consuming, film festival-related travel this week, I was unable to get to press screenings of/review the new Adam Sandler video-game action comedy Pixels or the latest film adaptation from author John (The Fault in Our Stars) Green, Paper Towns. I'm sure you're all busted up about not hearing me wax poetic about either, but there are still plenty of juicy titles to select from this weekend. Enjoy.
I won't lie: I cringed when I saw the the new Antoine Fuqua-directed boxing drama Southpaw had its lead character — a white boxer played by Jake Gyllenhaal — with the name of Billy Hope. Seriously? I'm assuming this was a selection made my the film's writer, "Sons of Anarchy" creator Kurt Sutter. The decision is so subtle, I'm shocked that Billy didn't have "Great White Me" tattooed on his back. As it turns out, this little boxing movie cliché is one of so many I lost count about halfway through, which doesn't mean the film is terrible; it's just familiar to a fault.
Usually, the Mainstage Theater is where you go for a quintessential Second City experience with the ensemble's "varsity team" of seasoned veterans. Currently, it's home to Panic on Cloud 9, a perfectly serviceable two hours of comedy. However, the best sketch show of 2015 is actually in the E.T.C. Theater, where the ostensible "JV team" is knocking it out of the park in their 39th revue, Soul Brother, Where Art Thou?.
The Museum of Contemporary Art is continuing its bold approach of exploring the confluence of the visual arts with other creative forms. The newly opened exhibit, The Freedom Principle: Experiments in Art and Music, 1965 to Now, celebrates the 50th anniversary of Chicago's experimental jazz collective, the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM), which continues to expand the boundaries of jazz.
The exhibit, which opened July 11 and fills the museum's fourth floor galleries, is made up of several major installations and walls of vivid paintings that reflect the color and life of music. Many archival materials, such as photos, posters, record jackets, banners and brochures, establish a rich historical context.
Tekki Lomnicki is both the art director and an actor in her upcoming show Phobias, A Solo Performance Complex, which runs for the next two weekends, July 17 through July 26, at Prop Thtr, 3502 N. Elston Ave. Tekki seems comfortable switching gears from playwright to director, then hopping on stage to tell us about her phobias and hang-ups. Perhaps she is brave because she has a mission, one that is stated clearly on the Tellin' Tales website, and which she happily shares: The mission is to shatter barriers between the disabled and able-bodied worlds through the transformative power of personal story.
Can you explain your mission and how it works?
We believe that by sharing our stories, we close the gaps between people. Once an able-bodied person hears that a person with a disability goes through some of the same things he or she does-- such as loss, love and insecurity--there is more of a connection and not so much "otherness."
The Wabash Lights has gone live with their Kickstarter campaign to raise money for a public art installation below the "L" on Wabash Avenue. By transforming the elevated tracks from Lake to Van Buren into an interactive and public display of light and color, The Wabash Lights will invite visitors and locals alike. With less than two weeks to go, the Kickstarter campaign has reached over half of its goal, but still needs the full amount in order to fund a beta test installation. The test will essentially troubleshoot any technical and design challenges for 12 months. Once the beta test is complete, the capital campaign will fund the final installation.
The project, which will include over 5,000 LED light tubes, will be situated on the underside of the tracks on Wabash Avenue. Phase One plans include over 20,000 feet of lights along a two-block stretch from Madison to Adams.Typically a dimly lit area in the city, Wabash Avenue would be transformed by the re-energization by the two designers, Jack Newell and Seth Unger. Not only will visitors be able to appreciate the array of colors, but they will also be able to interact and design how colors and hues appear. By utilizing a smartphone or computer, individuals can program and design the LED lights to their personal preference.
In order to donate money and receive awards such as Facebook shout outs, a party pack, Ttshirts, an artist's dinner, plus much more, back the project up on Kickstarter.
As I said in my review of Avengers: Age of Ultron, the way my assessment of Marvel's films of late seems to have fallen is that I love the material that is new and cares nothing for where we have been or where we are going in what we're all calling the Marvel Cinematic Universe. When the characters are addressing the danger in front of them or talking amongst themselves about issues relevant to the movie at hand (as opposed to several movies down the line), things tend to work. Lucky for us, the studio's latest effort Ant-Man was originally conceived as a stand-alone work by original writers Edgar Wright and Joe Cornish. Perhaps Marvel's attempts to integrate Ant-Man (the movie and the character) into the greater Marvel world were what drove Wright off the project (he and Cornish get a story credit and share writing credit with reworkers Adam McKay and the film's star, Paul Rudd), but the outside-world intrusions are minimal — limited mostly to a few lines of dialogue mentioning the Avengers, SHIELD and Hydra, as well as one beautifully placed mid-film showdown Ant-Man has with a known entity that will forever link him to the bigger world of superheroes (and of course, make sure to stick around until after the credits).
The newest exhibit at the National Museum of Mexican Art entitled Deportable Aliens will feature work from the Chicago-based artist, Rodrigo Lara. Opening July 24, the show will include site-specific installations that survey politics, immigration and social justice. The work largely depicts the Mexican Repatriation of the 1930s and the relocation of individuals in the U.S. who were of Mexican descent.
Deportable Aliens will open Friday, July 24, with a reception from 6-8pm and will be on view through February 28, 2016, in the Kraft Gallery.
Goodrich and Goodman. Photo courtesy of Ring of Fire Chicago LLC
Ring of Fire: The Music of Johnny Cash, now extended through August at the Mercury Theatre on Southport, deserves to be called a jukebox musical. It's a rousing evening of Johnny Cash's music--some 30 songs by Cash and other songwriters--performed by a talented band of Chicago musicians. It's a musical tribute with almost no storyline to complicate the musical evening.
The Cash persona is most ably performed by Kent M. Lewis, who really sounds like Cash and almost inhabits his personality. He serves as a narrative voice too, particularly when Michael Monroe Goodman portrays the younger Cash. Sometimes the distinction between the two Johnnys isn't clear. But both are outstanding singers and musicians.
The walls inside the Tail Sticks Casting office (the official extras casting department for NBC's "Chicago P.D.") are plastered with headshots. As the NBC drama enters its third season, extras casting director Adrienne Lewis will analyze hundreds of these hopeful faces each day searching for the extra with the right look. On the rare occasion that she finds exactly what the directors are looking for, she must then ask some uncomfortable questions: "Are you comfortable being half-naked in a strip-club scene?" "Do you ride a BMX bike?" "Is your pinky broken at a 45-degree angle?" For this extras casting director, there is no such thing as a realistic expectation. (Season 3 of "Chicago P.D." premieres Wednesday, Sept. 30.)
Is it difficult to find extras for "Chicago P.D."?
It's not very difficult finding extras. The difficulty is finding the number of extras that we need sometimes. Like 40, 50, 60, 70 -- even 100 extras -- it's fairly doable. It's when we need like 500 extras and are searching for really specific things like, "we need an extra that looks like the guy from the Dos Equis commercial" and really really weird, specific things like that is when it gets really hard. We've had two shoots now where we've had to find two African-American kids that were not minors, that were 18, but looked younger, who also had BMX bikes. We didn't find those kids. We found a different version of what they wanted. Or having girls who are comfortable being half-clothed on national television for everyone to see in a room full of 100 men -- that can be a little bit difficult.
Paul Natkin sat on a stool and told us about his life for an hour. His life as a rock & roll photographer, shooting concerts and backstage portraits and touring with some of the iconic rockers of the 20th century. Read this feature »