A small group of award-winning artists who show internationally, are in galleries and exhibit at some of the United States’ major art fairs, have cobbled together a virtual art fair that airs Oct.23-25.
The fun weekend begins with joining them for a drink on Friday similarly to the opening of a gallery show. Then, they continue with visits to their studios on Saturday and Sunday.
As an example, meet California wildlife artist Anne London and see the works of Chicago artist Darren Jones. They are just two of the artists you get to know at Youtube/watch/artfair.
Is it an audiobook? Is it a podcast? Is it a radio show? Maybe yes but then again maybe no. Actually it is Theatre in the Dark’s virtual audio drama. Perhaps it is partially inspired by Orson Welles’ memorable 1938 radio broadcast of “A War of the Worlds” based on H.G. Wells’ iconic novel about a Martian invasion of the Earth.
Congratulations to this innovative production company whose mission is to create theater performance based on sound and utilization of Internet technology to reach out and engage audiences during these trying times.
This updated 21st century version of “A War of the Worlds” adapted by director Corey Bradberry and Mack Gordon, is set primarily in and around the Chicago area. (Ironically Bradberry and Gordon met at an improv class at Second City which is now up for sale).
The original book was centered in London at the end of the 19th century. Then, the 1938 Mercury Theatre on the Air production was based in mid-twentieth century New Jersey. So with so much global turmoil in 2020, why not project a Midwest interstellar invasion into the mix.
The story itself is not complicated. Basically, it deals with peoples’ mostly nonchalant, then chaotic reaction to the presence of an extraterrestrial artifact. First thought to be an asteroid, it turns out to be the beginning of an invasion fleet from Mars.
Theatre in the Dark’s production is not about the story, but rather more about the dramatic performance in the telling of the tale which this company does very well.
It’s a study in contrast that depicts the laid back lives of many city dwellers who are going about their daily business while the first reports of odd occurrences in the seemingly remote village of Bourbonnais, 55 miles south of Chicago, begin to reach the downtown area.
Tension mounts as complacency leads to panic and then to mayhem.
It is probably safe to say that the majority of today’s theater goers have had little or no experience with traditional radio drama. The genre reached its commercial peak sometime in the early 1940’s then limped along into the beginning of the 1950’s.
Indeed, most of us are children of the television age for whom this style of entertainment is an oddity or curiosity. That makes this presentation much more interesting as it encourages performers and audiences alike to explore a nearly forgotten, or at least, underrepresented art form.
Because the audience, listening at home via Zoom, is using sound only with no visual cues such as facial expressions, gestures, or body language, the actors must be extra creative in the verbal projection of their characters.
This is a chance for them to exercise their emotional muscles audibly in a slightly over-the-top way, even flirting with full-on melodrama. Conversely, the audience is challenged to listen closely for the information needed to paint mental images of the situations and the shifting environment.
The construction of one’s mental picture is aided greatly by the sound design offered by Ross Burlingame and Corey Bradberry. They provide continuous, thoughtful, sound effects meshed with an effective, original music score by Ben Zucker.
A major question is why do this live over multiple performances? Tickets are needed for each performance. Why not simply record it?
I imagine part of the answer has to do with the fact that this is a live theater company and that is what they do.
However, one of the unique aspects of this particular production that makes it different from a traditional radio drama is that the actors themselves are not in the same room. They are not necessarily even on the same continent.
Each performer logged in remotely from various locations around the world using their own often makeshift home studios. In this way they are literally pushing the boundaries of what we think of as theater.
What is missing, of course, is the interplay between the audience and the actors. The feedback loop that brings energy to live performance is an element that is difficult to duplicate at a distance.
The freshness of multiple performances will rely on the extent to which the actors innovate and improvise as they discover new opportunities of expression.
But not having been in a theater for over six months, it was exciting to prepare for the eight o’clock “curtain.” This was accomplished by setting the lighting and adjusting my laptop and speakers in the living room, ready to provide an optimal listening experience.
Then, it was settling down with a glass of wine in eager anticipation of this unique event.
As a way to celebrate this Halloween season I encourage you to gather your “pod mates” and a few socially distanced friends (wherever they may be) to enjoy this performance online then consider a Zoom call together to discuss the play or perhaps devise a disaster plan of your own.
Details: Theatre in the Dark players Mack Gordon, Elizabeth McCoy, Alex Morales, Ming Hudson, Robinson J. Cyprian, and Lauren Ezzo will be performing “A War of the Worlds” through November 21, 2020 via Zoom. Running time is 90 minutes with a 10 minute intermission. For tickets and information visit Theatreinthedark/tickets.
Chicago’s theater community has come up with some interesting ways to present their shows for this COVID-directed 2020 holiday season.
The Joffrey Ballet is holding a one-time virtual look “behind the curtain” on the creation of the company’s famed “The Nutcracker” ballet. The event, held 3 p.m. Nov. 3, includes performance clips and interviews. Tickets are $25. for tickets and more information visit Joffrey/event.
“A Christmas Carol”
The perennial Goodman Theatre favorite will be an audio play streaming free, Dec. 1-31, 2020.
Directed by Jessica Thebus, the classic Charles Dickens holiday tale about compassion and redemption features Larry Yando in his 13th year as Ebenezer Scrooge.
“The notion of a holiday season without our production of “A Christmas Carol”—a favorite annual Chicago tradition for more than four decades—did not seem like an option in spite of the many challenges we face in producing live theater at this moment,” said Goodman Executive Director Roche Schulfer who initiated the production at the Goodman in 1978.
“At a time when this story is needed perhaps more than ever, we are pleased to offer this audio production free of charge as a gift to our city,” Schulfer said.
Manual Cinema’s holiday show created for 2020 features live shows performed in the Chicago studio on specific dates that viewers will see via a streaming digital format on Marquee TV, Dec. 2-20, 2020.
This version follows Aunt Trudy, a holiday skeptic who is supposed to channel her late husband Joe’s Christmas cheer from the isolation of her studio apartment. She reconstructs Joe’s annual “Christmas Carol” puppet show over Zoom while the family celebrates Christmas Eve under lockdown.
As Trudy becomes more absorbed in her own version of the story, the puppets take on a life of their own. The show turns into a cinematic retelling of the classic tale. For information and tickets (15) visit manualcineman. The event hosting and ticketing platform is mixily.com).
Yes, shows, conferences, etc. that go virtual have become a way of life that sometimes reaches maximum level of “go-away,” “don’t- bother-me” reactions. However, Neo Futurists, a small theater on Ashland Avenue that doesn’t go in for the usual stuff, is doing a show that theater goers will find a break from the political craziness clogging the airways.
The show, “45 Plays, 50 First Ladies,” a 100-minute take on who was in the White House besides the husbands, opens, Oct. 13, 2020 online.
Directed by Denise Yvette Serna and written by Chloe Johnston, Sharon Greene, Genevra Gallo-Bayiates, Bilal Dardai, and Andy Bayiates, it continues through Nov. 2, 2020.
Thousands of lights from Lincoln Park Zoo’s’ “Zoolights” and Macy’s Walnut Room “Great Tree” to Morton Arboretum’s “Illumination” and Chicago Botanic Garden’s “Lightscape” will once again be brightening the holiday season.
They just will be operating a little differently during the Covid pandemic. Protocols will be in place such as social distance requirements so timed tickets and reservations will be needed. Tickets are already available even though the events don’t start until November. However, events and times do sell out so best is to plan ahead.
Illumination: Tree Lights at the Morton Arboretum
Instead of walking through the Morton Arboretum, visitors will drive along a two-mile musical light and movement show that redefines the woodland experience. Some favorites will be back such as Symphony Woods and Woodland Wonder plus new, magical sights have been added.
The event goes from Nov. 20, 2020 through Jan. 3, 2021 with additional hours and days. For tickets and more information visit Mortonarb/illumination.
Last year, the first year of the Chicago Botanic Garden’s Lightscape, the event sold out and its Night of 1000 Jack o’ Lanterns has also sold out so visitors should get their tickets now. The event runs from Nov. 13, 2020 through Jan. 3, 2021.
Lightscape is a one-way, mile-long walking loop past unusual and fun lighting movements accompanied by changing musical themes. The Cathedral of Light will be back but there are also new light designs.
Lincoln Park Zoo’s animal exhibits, landscaping, and buildings dress up for the holidays with thousands of colored lights thanks to ComEd and InvescoQQQ.. Tickets for the event, Nov. 21, 2020 through Jan. 3, are needed for all ages this year but are just $5. For information visit LPzoo/zoolights.
Walnut Room Great Tree
Right now, the holiday themed windows on the State Street side of Macy’s in Chicago are still a closely guarded secret. But visitors can make reservations starting Oct. 9 to dine in the store’s famed Walnut Room where they can see the Great Tree – beginning Nov. 7. Reservations are at OpenTable
Expect to see about 6,600 lights and more than 2,000 ornaments on the tree. P:lus past Great Tree photos can be seen on the store’s 7th floor.
As to the Walnut Room food, it is a three-course, fixed-price meal for $49.95 (adults, per person) with a variety of choices, “including Mrs. Hering’s chicken pot pie, cider glazed turkey and Frango ice cream pie . Youngsters’ meals are $19.95, include a 2020 Walnut Room holiday mug.
First off, if you didn’t make a reservation for the Chicago Botanic Garden’s Night of 1,000 Jack o Lanterns, try for next year. The 2020 event is sold out.
However, there are fun pumpkin patches where families can have fun, pick up the perfect pumpkin and some tools and ideas for carving their own Jack o’ Lantern. No tickets needed to pick a pumpkin or purchase store items. Rides and some events need tickets to observe social distancing.
Humans aren’t the only ones who can dress up for Halloween according to Pasquesi Home and Garden in Lake Bluff. The long-time family-owned business is doing a Howl-o-Ween so dogs get to participate. The event includes photos the shop will take and put online and a goodie bag for pooches. For information visit Pasquesi/howloween. Pasquesi is at 975 North Shore Dr., Lake Bluff, (847) 615-2700.
For teens and adults
See the movie “16 Candles” Oct. 9 at ChiTown Movies or go there later at night for one of Music Box’s horror films. The drive-in movie lot is at 2343 S Throop St, Chicago, IL 60608. If no car, check Row A during ticket purchase and bring chairs for your group. For the schedule, tickets and more information visit Musicboxtheatre/boxofhorrors.
Or get your thrills driving through the zombie and demon-filled alley at the arcade bar in Lincoln Park, 2833 N Sheffield Ave. For tickets and more information visit alleyofdarkness.
A Pritzker Prize laureate, the renowned architect and urban planner has pioneered modern architecture in his home country of India. The exhibit is a retrospective showcasing how his projects reflect local culture, while adapted to nature and resources. Balkrishna Doshi: Architecture for the People is sold out this week but tWrightwood tickets are available Oct. 8-10 and for future dates.
The gallery is at 659 W. Wrightwood Chicago, IL For questions call (773) 437-6601 or visit Info/wrightwood.
With the pandemic still haunting the indoor entertainment scene, some show venues have taken their artistry to parks and parking lots.
Among them are Goodman Theatre which has been working with the Chicago Park District and Music Theater Works which has been using the parking lot of its new home, the North Shore Center for the Performing Arts in Skokie.
The longtime Evanston based production company formerly known as Light Opera Works, presents “Richard Rodgers’ Greatest Hits” Sept. 29, 2020 at 7 p.m. CT.
Divided into two parts of 15 numbers each, songs range from “I wish I were in love again” from Babes in Arms to “You’ll never walk alone” from Carousel.
The program is presented live in the Center’s rear parking lot, 9501 Skokie Blvd., Skokie and then online from October 2-11. For tickets and more information visit MusicTheaterWorks/summerconcertencore.
The Goodman show, “Fannie Lou Hamer, Speak on It! featuring E. Faye Butler, is being performed in some Chicago parks. Directed by Henry Godinez and adapted from Cheryl L. West’s play “Fannie,” the show brings back famed civil and voting rights activist Fannie Lou Hamer through storytelling and music.
Currently, it is scheduled for the front of Austin Town Hall, 5610 W. Lake St., for 6 p.m. Oct. 1, Homan Square in North Lawndale at 3559 W. Arthington St. at 6 p.m. Oct. 2 and in Ellis Park at 3520 Cottage Grove Ave. in Bronzeville at 3 p.m. Oct. 3. The Ellis Park performance is sold out.
Normally, and we all are wondering if life will return to the old normal, art collectors would be elbow to elbow down at Navy Pier as they perused choice works shown by upscale galleries at the International exposition of Contemporary & Modern Art.
Known as Expo Chicago, the popular art gathering is now scheduled to return in person April 8-11, 2021. But for 2020, the show and its educational programs are virtual and are called Exhibition Weekend Alternative. Plus ,the event will showcase Chicago.
Set for Sept. 25-27, it will feature Chicago-based exhibits, artist programs and curatorial projects through virtual tours and discussions. There will also be opportunities for custom viewing and sales. The platform is provided by HOOK which connects collectors and galleries.
The platform is provided by HOOK which connects collectors and galleries.
After delaying the highly anticipated Monet exhibit until good protocols could be in place, the Art Institute opened “Monet and Chicago” Sept 5. It will be up through Jan. 19, 2021.
Members have access the first hour of any museum day, everyone must wear a mask and social distancing is in place with arrows and the revised spaces set for each picture.
Museum goers know that Art Institute is internationally recognized for its French Impressionist collection. However, they may not know that Claude Monet was well received in Chicago when he first showed outside France and that influential Chicagoans started collecting his works early in the 1890s.Thus the title of the current show.
Among his patrons were Bertha and Potter Palmer (yes, the Palmer House) who amassed 90 of his works including many of the “Stacks of Wheat” paintings by 1901.
The Art Institute which became the first American museum to purchase a Monet (1903) had also been the first US museum to hold the artist’s first solo show in the Us. “20 Works by Claude Monet (March 1895).
The exhibit is by timed ticket. So plan in advance to see it. The Art Institute is closed Tuesday and Wednesday. For more information visit artic.edu.
Several exhibits opened at the MCA in July including the very appropriate “Just Connect” which closes Nov. 8 and “Alien vs. Citizen” which includes a Kerry James Marshall work and closes Feb. 21, 2021..The museum is closed Monday-Thursday. Tickets are timed so plan in advance. For more information visit MCAChicago.
In this time of theaters going dark due to the pandemic, it’s nice to hear such familiar venue names as Steppenwolf, Victory Gardens, Court, Chicago Shakespeare, TimeLine and Writers.
Those are the production companies with a play listed in the 2020 Equity Jeff Award Large Play Nomination category.
For Steppenwolf, it is “Bug,” Victory Gardens is “The First Deep Breath” and Court is “King Hedley.” For Chicago Shakespeare it is “The King’s Speech,” TimeLine is “Oslo” and Writers is “Stick Fly.”
Other production categories are Midsize Play, Musical or Revue Large, Musical Midsize, Ensemble Play, Ensemble Musical or Revue and New Work.
Nominations are also listed now for Director Large Play, Midsize Play, Large Musical or Revue and Midsize.
Performers are listed for principal and supporting roles in plays and musicals.
Jeff Award nominations are also out for Scenic Design, Lighting, Sound, Choreography, Costume, Original Music and Production Design.
Several companies received multiple nominations in a variety of categories. Drury Lane Productions topped the list at 22 followed by Paramount Theatre with 13 and Court Theatre, Porchlight Music Theatre and Steppenwolf Theatre Company with 11 nominations.