Saturday, May 27, 2017

June Lineup For Neo-Futurists Includes Steppenwolf LookOut, Gay Pride Shows, and Neo-Lab


Chi, IL LIVE Shows On Our Radar:

THIS JUNE, THE NEO-FUTURISTS ANNOUNCE ACCESSIBLE PERFORMANCES AT STEPPENWOLF, GAY PRIDE PERFORMANCES OF THE INFINITE WRENCH AND THE LATEST INSTALLMENT OF NEO-LAB


Ready to Chill in Chi, IL this summer (literally) with a new A/C system 
and some of the coolest shows in town? 
Come on out to The Neo-Futurarium at Foster and Ashland!

I've been a big fan of the NeoFuturists since I first moved to Chicago's Uptown neighborhood in 1990, where I was walking distance to The Live Bait Theatre, and was a regular at their weekly shows. I'm also elated to see that they've chosen to support Chicago's excellent LGBTQ Youth Empowerment Performance Project with a Special Benefit Performance for pride month! We caught Youth Empowerment Project's latest show in March and were blown away by the stunning talent and raw honesty of this original production by homeless youth.



Photo from this year’s recipient of The Neo-Futurists’ Pride Benefit Performance YEPP (Youth Empowerment Performance Project) - (L to R) Henri Slater, Zizi Phillips, Ka'Riel Gaiter, Lola Monroe, and Ahniyha Johnson  (Photo by Sarah-Ji Rhee)

June offerings from the Neos includes: 

Kirsten Riiber's Neo-Lab production Tangles and Plaques, Thursday, June 15 at 7:30 p.m. 

The Infinite Wrench at Steppenwolf’s Summer LookOut Series, Friday, June 2 and Saturday, June 3 at 7 p.m.

The Infinite Wrench presents 30 Queer Plays in 60 Straight Minutes and announces YEPP (Youth Empowerment Performance Project) as beneficiary for their benefit performance



Special Benefit Performance for Youth Empowerment Performance Project: Thursday, June 22 at 7:30 p.m.

Additional Pride-Themed Performances: Friday, June 23 and Saturday, June 24 at 11:30 p.m. and Sunday, June 25 at 7 p.m.

The Neo-Futurists are proud to announce, in addition to a new HVAC system at The Neo-Futurarium, a special pre-season showing of Ensemble Member Kirsten Riiber's Neo-Lab production Tangles and Plaques, Thursday, June 15 at 7:30 p.m. In addition, June offers presentations of the ongoing The Infinite Wrench at Steppenwolf’s Summer LookOut Series, Friday, June 2 and Saturday, June 3 at 7 p.m. andduring Pride Week, June 22 - 25. All performances are at The Neo-Futurarium, 5153 N. Ashland Ave. (at Foster) in Andersonville, unless otherwise noted.



NeoFuturistsTangles2  - (L to R) Kirsten Riiber and Jan de Goede​ in Tangles and Plaques 
(Photo by Will Sonheim)

NEO-LAB Presents: Tangles & Plaques – The Final Workshop Presentation
Created by Kirsten Riiber
Directed by Jen Ellison
The Final Workshop Presentation
Thursday, June 15 at 7:30 p.m.
The Neo-Futurarium, 5153 N. Ashland Ave.
Tickets: $8

Tangles & Plaques attempts to demystify the experience of dementia in the language of theatre— offering a vivid, poignant, participatory experience that is unique to each audience and different every performance. Ensemble Member Kirsten Riiber and Memory Care Therapist Alex Schwaninger discuss and demonstrate the process of memory loss through interviews and personal narrative about the life and death of memories; how they persist, when they depart and the ways they distort over time. Neo-Lab is an original works residency that annually commissions one new play anchored by innovative approaches to creation and shares public readings and presentations of the work in progress. Tangles & Plagues is directed by Jen Ellison and features Kaitlyn Andrews, Ida Cuttler, Justin Deming, Mike Hamilton, Nick Hart and Kirsten Riiber and a reception, with libations from Metropolitan Brewery, before and after the performance.



THE INFINITE WRENCH, NOW IN AN OPEN RUN, ANNOUNCES STEPPENWOLF ACCESSIBLE PERFORMANCES and PRIDE WEEKEND’S 30 QUEER PLAYS IN 60 STRAIGHT MINUTES

The Infinite Wrench
Open Run – Fridays and Saturdays at 11:30 p.m. and Sundays at 7 p.m.
The Neo-Futurarium, 5153 N. Ashland Ave.
At-the-door cash tickets are $9 plus the roll of a six-sided die; online pre-sales are available for $20 with a cash rollback at neofuturists.org or 773.275.5255. 

The Infinite Wrench, The Neo-Futurists’ open run production, is a mechanism that unleashes a barrage of two-minute plays for a live audience. Each play offers something different—some are funny, others profound. Some are elegant, disgusting, topical, irrelevant, terrifying, or put to song. All of the plays are truthful and tackle the here-and-now, inspired by the lived experiences of the performers. The Infinite Wrench is The Neo-Futurists’ ongoing and ever-changing show, performed late-night every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday 50 weeks of the year, with special performances: 



NeoFuturistsNeoAccess3 - Al Raci, with Neo-Futurists Ensemble in Background at The Infinite Wrench Access Performance (photo by Will Sonheim)


Steppenwolf’s LookOut Series presents The Infinite Wrench
Accessible Performances Friday, June 2 and Saturday, June 3 at 7 p.m.
Steppenwolf’s 1700 Theatre, 1700 N Halsted St.
Accessible Performances Friday, June 2 and Saturday, June 3 at 7:00 p.m.
Tickets: $15 - available at steppenwolf.org and 312-335-1650.



Tickets are now on sale for The Neo-Futurists two performances of The Infinite Wrench featuring accessible services for people with disabilities. For people who are deaf or hard of hearing, the performance Friday, June 2 at 7 p.m. features Open Captioning and ASL interpretation; for people who are blind or have low vision, the performance Saturday, June 3 at 7 p.m. features Audio Description and a pre-performance Touch Tour at 5:30 p.m. The cast features Neo-Futurist ensemble members Dan Kerr-Hobert, Lily Mooney, Kurt Chiang, and Jeewon Kim as well as Neo-Futurist alums John Pierson and Lisa Buscani.

The 1700 Theatre is wheelchair accessible and is equipped with an induction hearing loop for people who use personal hearing devices that have a T-coil. Front Bar, directly in front of the 1700 Theatre, has a push-button entrance, wheelchair accessible seating and multi-stall all-gender restrooms.



NeoFuturistsPride4 - Crowd Shot Taken at The Neo-Futurists' Pride Performances
(Photo by Evan Hanover)

The Infinite Wrench presents 30 Queer Plays in 60 Straight Minutes Announces YEPP as Beneficiary

Special Benefit Performance for Youth Empowerment Performance Project: Thursday, June 22 at 7:30 p.m.
Tickets: $25 with no cash rollback

Additional Pride-Themed Performances: Friday, June 23 and Saturday, June 24 at 11:30 p.m.
and Sunday, June 25 at 7 p.m.
At-the-door cash tickets are $9 plus the roll of a six-sided die; online pre-sales are available for $20 with a cash rollback at neofuturists.org or 773.275.5255
The Neo-Futurarium, 5153 N. Ashland Ave.

The Neo-Futurists present their annual Pride Weekend benefit: 30 Queer Plays in 60 Straight Minutes, a special edition of The Infinite Wrench that corrals the queerest plays into one show, slaying gender roles and celebrating deviance. The cast features Neo-Futurist ensemble members Trevor Dawkins, Jeewon Kim, Ida Cuttler, Tif Harrison, Lily Mooney, Kirsten Riiber, Malic White and Neo-Alum John Pierson.

All proceeds of the Thursday, June 22 performance will be donated to YEPP (the Youth Empowerment Performance Project), whose mission is to create a safe environment for LGBTQ youth experiencing homelessness to address their struggles and celebrate their strengths through the process of developing a theatrical performance piece.  Executive and Artistic Director Bonsai Bermudez states, “YEPP is honored by The Neo-Futurists and their support of the mission of YEPP and our providing services for LGBTQ youth experiencing homelessness during this year’s Pride season.”

ABOUT THE NEO-FUTURISTS
The Neo-Futurists are a collective of writer-director-performers creating theater that is fusion of sport, poetry and living-newspaper. Originating nearly 10,000 plays within the newly launched The Infinite Wrench, 28 years of Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind, and over 65 full-length productions within their immediate, non-illusory aesthetic, The Neo-Futurists have grown to become one of the most highly regarded experimental theater companies in the United States. From humble beginnings as the first late-night theater production in Chicago, they launched what became Chicago’s longest running show and today sustain multifaceted programs such as Neo-Access, The Kitchen (a micro-festival on art and performance), Prime Time, Neo-Lab and The Infinite Wrench, the ongoing late night show running 50 weekends every year. For more information visit www.neofuturists.org.


The Neo-Futurists are partially supported by grants from Alphawood Foundation Chicago, Bloomberg Philanthropies, The Network for Ensemble Theaters, The Illinois Arts Council Agency, The Chicago Community Foundation, a CityArts Grant from the City of Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs & Special Events, The Field Foundation of Illinois, The Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation, The MacArthur Fund for Arts and Culture at The Richard H. Driehaus Foundation, and The National Endowment for the Arts.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

LAST CALL: Magical Mercury Mary Poppins Ending This Weekend

ChiIL Mama's Chi, IL Picks List: Family Friendly Theatre Fun


**Ages 6+. Run time 2 hours w/ 15min intermission**

Review: Magical Mercury Poppins Pops With Charismatic Charm

Here at ChiIL Mama and ChiIL Live Shows we've long been fans of Mercury Theater's large scale musicals in an intimate 290 seat setting. Poppins is no exception. We caught the Broadway touring extravaganza a few years back, and I have to say, Mercury Theatre's production is more personable. Jeff Award winner, Matthew Crowle (Bert), absolutely stole the show. And this production has now been Jeff nominated as well!


Nicole Armold (Mary Poppins) did a fabulous job of making the iconic role her own. We were also quite impressed with the children as well! This high energy cast puts on a crowd pleasing production. Don't miss this.



We also had a blast at the opening night cast party, the first event ever held in the newly renovated space next door. The newly christened "Venus" (next to Mercury, ya know) is out of this world! 


(photo by Sarah Dennis)

Last chance to see Mary Poppins is Sunday, May 28th at 1pm and 6pm. Don't miss this!


Memorial Day Weekend
Looking for a fun activity the whole family will love? 
Bring everyone down to Mercury Theater Chicago for Memorial Day weekend and spend a “Jolly Holiday” with Mary and an irresistible cast of characters. 
Join us in the lobby on Sunday, May 28th at 3:30pm for a Meet & Greet with our very own Mary Poppins! 

Meet Mary Poppins:
Sunday, May 28th @ 3:30pm


Disney’s MARY POPPINS is a Supercalifragilistic musical combining the best of the original stories by P. L. Travers and the beloved Walt Disney film. The Tony Award-winning MARY POPPINS is everything you'd hope for in a Broadway musical—and like nothing you'd ever expect. Get swept up in tunes like ‘Spoonful of Sugar,’ ‘Feed the Birds’ and of course ‘Chim Chim Cher-ee’ as young Jane and Michael learn life lessons from their unconventional nanny and the lovable jack-of-all-trades Bert. So, bring the whole family and spend a ‘Jolly Holiday’ with Mary and an irresistible cast of characters.





Winner of 44 theatre awards around the globe, MARY POPPINS has captivated audiences for generations with its enchanting story, unforgettable songs and dazzling dance numbers. Based on the books by P.L. Travers and the classic Walt Disney film, Disney and Cameron Mackintosh's MARY POPPINS has delighted Broadway audiences for over 2,500 performances and received nominations for nine Olivier and seven Tony Awards including Best Musical.

It takes a lot of imagination and creativity to bring the magical world of Mary Poppins to life.  After bringing mystery to The Addams Family, Neil Tobin is returning to Mercury Theater Chicago as Magic Designer. He is the creator of the solo show, “Supernatural Chicago”, which ran for 10 years of weekly performances at Castle nightclub. Russ Walko is also returning to Mercury Theater Chicago after building the beautiful Jeff nominated puppets of Avenue Q in 2014. Walko has built and performed puppets on the television shows “Community” and “The Simpsons.” His puppets were featured in the Broadway production of The Pee-Wee Herman Show Live, and is no stranger to Chicago theater, having created puppets for multiple StarKids Productions.

MARY POPPINS was written by Julian Fellows (creator of Downton Abbey), with music and lyrics by Disney Legends Richard M. Sherman and Robert B. Sherman, with new songs and additional music and lyrics by Anthony Drewe and George Stiles.

After an exhaustive search and casting process, Mercury Theater Chicago is pleased to introduce a bright new talent to Chicago; Nicole Armold as Mary Poppins. Joining her is Jeff Award winner and Broadway talent Matthew Crowle as Bert. Rounding out the cast for this magical adventure will be Kayla Boye, Pearle Bramlett, Timothy Eidman, Dan Gold, Cory Goodrich, Sage Harper, Graham Hawley, Casey Lyons, Ashley Lanyon, Conor McGarry, Kevin McKillip, Leah Morrow, Peyton Owen, Erin Parker, Cameron Turner and Holly Stauder. The scenic design is by Adam Veness with costume design by Rachel Boylan, lighting design by Nick Belley and sound design by Mike Ross. The production stage manager is Kristi J. Martens with assistance by Jeri Fredrickson.

The beautifully renovated Mercury Theater Chicago is an intimate jewel box of a theater in the heart of the Southport Corridor, a sophisticated neighborhood of restaurants and boutiques just steps from Wrigley Field. A delightful theater destination, Mercury Theater Chicago takes care of its guests from the moment they arrive with valet service and dining at its adjoining restaurant, Grassroots.



The performance schedule for MARY POPPINS is Wednesdays at 7:30pm, Thursdays at 7:30pm, Fridays at 7:30pm, Saturdays at 3pm and 7:30pm and Sundays at 1pm and 6pm. Thursday matinees at 3pm are available from April 20 - May 28.

Individual tickets range from $30-$65, and are available online at www.MercuryTheaterChicago.com, over the phone at 773.325.1700, or in person at 3745 N. Southport Avenue, Chicago.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

SEASON ANNOUNCED: 2017-18 Chicago Children's Theatre Season to Include 3 World Premieres and 2 Past Favorites



CHICAGO CHILDREN'S THEATRE TO PRESENT ITS ENTIRE 
2017-18 SEASON, INCLUDING THREE WORLD PREMIERES, 
IN ITS NEW WEST LOOP HOME

"EVERYTHING'S AT THE STATION!"


A Year with Frog and Toad and Beatrix Potter are back with new takes, 
plus three world premieres: 

Gloria Bond Clunie's My Beautiful Birthday Suit!, 
An Epic Tale of Scale by Henry Wishcamper and Jo Cattell, 
and the musical Last Stop on Market Street, in a co-commission with Children's Theatre Company of Minneapolis, based on the book by Matt de la Peña, adapted by Cheryl L. West, directed by Henry Godinez, 
with music by Lamont and Paris Ray Dozier 


Chicago Children's Theatre, the largest professional theater company devoted exclusively to families in Chicago, has announced its 2017-18 season. 

The company's five-show line-up boasts three world premieres, a focus on wildly unique theatrical experiences to share with the whole family and perhaps most exciting, one convenient location with onsite parking!

Now settled in its new home, Chicago Children's Theatre, The Station, 100 S. Racine St. in Chicago's West Loop, the company is happily shedding its former itinerant status and looks forward to presenting all of its family-friendly performances, classes and camps in the same location starting next fall.



CCT's twelfth season opens in The Station's new, 149-seat Pritzker Family Studio Theatre with a celebration of the joyful energy that launched the company, a new take on the smash hit A Year with Frog and Toad. Children's author and illustrator Arnold Lobel's beloved characters hop from the page to the stage in this Tony-nominated musical based on his popular children's book that follows two best friends - the cheerful, popular Frog and the rather grumpy Toad - through four fun-filled seasons, telling the story of friendship that endures, weathering all seasons. A Year with Frog and Toad will be directed and choreographed by Stuart Carden. Andra Velis Simon is music director. Book and lyrics are by Willie Reale. Music by Robert Reale. Performances are September 19-November 5. A Year with Frog and Toad is an all ages show.



Next, children of all ages are cordially invited to enjoy a spot of tea or hot cocoa with CCT's friends from the English Lake District at the Beatrix Potter Holiday Tea Party. Spend the day with Peter Rabbit, Mr. Jeremy Fisher and Simpkin the cat as they delight audiences in this interactive trunk and puppet show. Enjoy an elegant tea party, create your own puppets and mini-puppet show and pose for photographs with the cast. This installment of CCT's Potter series is directed by Will Bishop and designed by Grace Needlman. Performances are December 2-17. Recommended for ages 2 to 6.


                                                                                
After the new year, at a magical birthday party, in a room overflowing with beautifully wrapped presents, three children explore their friendship in My Wonderful Birthday Suit!, a world premiere written and directed by Gloria Bond Clunie. When hurtful words about skin color slip out, best friends discover how to appreciate outer beauty while learning to seek the remarkable gifts inside each of us. Music, surprise and the wisdom of the splendiferous Thinking Tree make My Wonderful Birthday Suit! a very special celebration, complete with hands-on pre and post show experiences to explore outward appearances and inside gifts. Performances are January 16-February 18. For ages 4 to 7.



In the spring, The Station itself transforms into an all-immersive, two-story theatrical environment, totally unique to Chicagoland, titled An Epic Tale of Scale, written and directed by Henry Wishcamper and Jo Cattell, collaboratively designed by CCT Community Programs Artistic Director Frank Maugeri, with original music by Gabriel Ruiz. Think The Magic School Bus meets Sleep No More, and you're close for an encounter that surely defies description. Incorporating original music, science experiments, games, arts and craft projects and more, kids and adults alike embark on this world premiere, interactive theatrical experience spanning two levels of The Station. Kids will explore the wonders and mysteries of scale while journeying deep inside the human body and out to the farthest reaches of the galaxy. Performances are March 10-April 8. Recommended for ages 6 and up.



Talk about a finale! Chicago Children's Theatre, in a co-commission with Children's Theatre Company of Minneapolis, will debut Last Stop on Market Street, a world premiere musical based on the award-winning book by author Matt de la Peña and illustrator Christian Robinson, winner of the 2016 Newbery Medal, a 2016 Caldecott Honor Book and a 2016 Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor Book. Acclaimed playwright Cheryl L. West is creating this first-ever stage adaptation of one of the most celebrated children's books ever. Kids (and parents) love Peña's tale about a city kid named CJ and his wise, loving grandmother who teaches him to find beauty in the routine and the mundane. Speaking of mundane, the music will be anything but, as CCT is welcoming Motown music legend Lamont Dozier and his son, Paris Ray Dozier, the duo behind the music in CCT's 2015 smash hit Mr. Chickee's Funny Money, back to Chicago to create the show's original score. Henry Godinez directs. Andra Velis Simon is music director. Last Stop on Market Street will receive a developmental reading this summer at the American Music Theatre Project at Northwestern University. The production will premiere April 24-June 3 at Chicago Children's Theatre, The Station. This show is recommended for ages 6 and up.

"Our 2017-18 season promises to be our most adventurous season yet, and we couldn't be more thrilled that everything's happening at our beautiful new home, The Station," said Jacqueline Russell, Artistic Director, Chicago Children's Theatre. "Children, parents, teachers and students can look forward to an exciting season of unique and interactive theatrical experiences as we reaffirm our commitment to giving Chicago the very best in family entertainment."

A wide variety of Chicago Children's Theatre 2017-18 multi-show Subscription Packages are on sale now at chicagochildrenstheatre.org. Younger Audience Packages, recommended for ages 2 to 6, include A Year with Frog and Toad, The Beatrix Potter Holiday Tea Party and My Wonderful Birthday Suit!  Older Audience Packages, recommended for ages 6 and up, include A Year with Frog and Toad, An Epic Tale of Scale and Last Stop on Market Street.

Book early and save with Early Bird Packages, available through June 19 for only $55. That's up to 60% off single ticket prices. After June 19, package prices will increase to $75 and in August to $100. Benefits of subscription packages include flexible ticketing exchange, a 10% discount and no processing fees on additional tickets and discounts on CCT classes and camps. Single tickets to CCT productions will range from $33 to $45, and will go on sale in August. To subscribe, visit chicagochildrenstheatre.org or call (872) 222-9555.  

CCT also offers deeply discounted group rates for schools, playgroups, birthday parties and scouting groups. CPS schools may be eligible for financial assistance. Email GroupSales@chicagochildrenstheatre.org or call (872) 222-9555 to learn more.


Focus on inclusion: Chicago Children's Theatre's  Red Kite Treasure Adventure and year-round Access Services

In addition to its 2017-18 five-show line-up, Chicago Children's Theatre's Red Kite Project will present Red Kite Treasure Adventure, an interactive theatrical experience with live music and sensory moments created specifically for young people on the autism spectrum, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, February 2- March 4. Inspired by characters from Edith Nesbit's The Story of the Treasure Seekers, this intimate production creates a safe and exciting theatrical environment for young people with autism and their families. Audiences will join the chivalrous Oswald and his precocious siblings as they attempt to replace a priceless family heirloom. Their journey to track down a rare Chinese vase leads them through a hole in the Earth to Chinatown where they arrive just in time for New Year's festivities, dragon puppets, fireworks, lanterns and shadow play. After conquering their fears (and a sea serpent named Gong Gong) our heroes return home with a newfound appreciation for bravery, honesty and family tradition. 

Performances are limited to an audience of 10 children, each accompanied by a parent or caregiver, with room for a limited number of additional observers (other parents, siblings, etc.) Tickets are $10, and can be purchased at chicagochildrenstheatre.org or by calling (872) 222-9555.

In addition, Chicago Children's Theatre continues to grow its commitment to serving all Chicago children by expanding its array of services for all patrons with disabilities. Each 2017-18 production at The Station will include an Access Weekend, during which all performances are presented with access services for children on the autism spectrum, children who are blind or have low vision, or children who are deaf or hard of hearing. For Access Weekend dates and more information, visit chicagochildrenstheatre.org/access.



Education at The Station

In addition to presenting engaging shows in the intimate 149-seat Pritzker Family Studio Theatre, Frank Maugeri, Community Programs Artistic Director, also continues to grow its enormously successful roster of camps and classes. The Station also continues building community and inspiring the artistic lives of families by providing "Open Builds," where neighbors come together and make art that weaves to CCT events and productions.

This summer, enroll your kids in innovative, engaging camps taught by professional artists. From Musical Theatre and Spectacle to Filmmaking and the exclusive Drama Intensive for Youth, CCT has a summer camp for every child in Chicago. Some financial assistance is available. Learn more and enroll online for summer camp at chicagochildrenstheatre.org/summercamp.

Returning fall class favorites will include Hip Hop for Tots taught by Yuri "The Human Beat Box" Lane, Circus and Aerial Arts taught by Actors Gymnasium, Bubble Jams, Taking the Stage and more, all designed to let children unleash their creativity and bring their imagination to live both on and off the stage. The full roster of fall classes will be announced soon. Keep an eye on chicagochildrenstheatre.org/classes for more information and to enroll.


About Chicago Children's Theatre, The Station

Chicago Children's Theatre has transformed the former 12th District Police Station, located in the heart of Chicago's West Loop neighborhood at 100 S. Racine Avenue, at the intersection of Racine and Monroe Street, into its first permanent home.

The new Chicago Children's Theatre, The Station, is a beautiful, mixed-use performing arts and education facility designed to serve all Chicago families. In addition to presenting shows in the 149-seat Pritzker Family Studio Theatre, The Station boasts five brand new classrooms for a diverse, year-round roster of classes and camps for toddlers to teens. 

Additionally, CCT now has its own dedicated space at The Station for Red Kite programming for children with autism and other special needs. These children participate have opportunities to participate in Red Kite Adventures and CCT's annual Camp Red Kite, the only summer arts camp of its kind in Chicago for children on the autism spectrum. Visit chicagochildrenstheatre.org/campredkite to learn more and register.


About Chicago Children's Theatre

Since its launch in 2005, Chicago Children's Theatre has cemented its reputation as the city's largest professional theater company devoted exclusively to children and young families. 

The company evolved out of Chicago's need for high-quality, professional year-round children's programming to match the quality and significance of theatrical powerhouses such as Steppenwolf Theatre Company, Goodman Theatre and Lookingglass Theatre. 

Likewise, CCT has always believed children should be treated as the sophisticated audiences that they are with high-profile and award-winning talent, inventive production values and compelling stories that challenge, educate and entertain.

Audiences have embraced Chicago Children's Theatre since its inaugural production, A Year with Frog and Toad, at the Goodman Theatre in 2006. Since then, the company's productions have featured everything from black-light scenery to live music to interactive four-dimensional sets to life-size puppets, with performances showcasing the heart of Motown to Vaudeville to contemporary, current and modern styles.

CCT has also built a national reputation due to its strong focus on new work, producing 16 world premieres in the last 11 years including The Selfish Giant, The Hundred Dresses, Jackie and Me, Dot and Ziggy, The Houdini Box, The Elephant and The Whale (in association with Redmoon), Mr. Chickee's Funny Money, Leo Lionni's Frederick, Wonderland, Alice's Rock & Roll Adventure, A Snowy Day with Beatrix Potter, Jabari Dreams of Freedom, Another Snowy Day with Beatrix Potter, The Magic City and The Year I Didn't Go To School: A Homemade Circus. These enjoyed highly successful inaugural runs in Chicago, followed by new productions at family theaters across the U.S. 

CCT has always honored a strong commitment to low-income families and children with special needs. In partnership with Chicago Public Schools, the company offers free tickets to more than 5,000 Chicago-area low-income students each season. 

Led by Artistic Director Jacqueline Russell, Board Chair Todd Leland and Community Programs Artistic Director Frank Maugeri, Chicago Children's Theatre is supported by a dynamic Board of Directors comprised of dedicated individuals from the fields of entertainment, philanthropy and business. 

Chicago Children's Theatre is sponsored in part by ComEd, Goldman Sachs Gives and JP Morgan Chase.

For more information visit chicagochildrenstheatre.org, or call (773) 227-0180.

NOW PLAYING: Brown Bear, Brown Bear and Other Treasured Stories by Eric Carle Ends May 28th


Mermaid Theatre of Nova Scotia's 
charming production 
Brown Bear, Brown Bear and Other Treasured Stories 
by Eric Carle

Playing now through May 28 at 
Chicago Children's Theatre
the Ruth Page Center for the Arts
1016 N. Dearborn, Chicago


I've seen this whimsical and wonderful show three times over the years and it's as charming as ever. Mermaid Theatre of Nova Scotia is world renowned and their shows leave a lasting impression. I took my kids to see this show when they were toddlers, and the production was playing Bookamania at the Harold Washington library. We later caught them again in partnership with Chicago Children's Theatre. These vibrant puppets bring Eric Carle's treasured books to life in a delightful way that's sure to charm children and parents alike. Highly recommended! Click here to check out our past Brown Bear coverage (including our wacky story involving tattoos and toddlers who just can't wait to pee).






Chicago's very youngest theatergoers will be treated to a menagerie of whimsical animal characters from beloved children's author Eric Carle when Chicago Children's Theatre presents Brown Bear, Brown Bear & Other Treasured Stories by Eric Carle, a Mermaid Theatre of Nova Scotia production,
May 2-28, 2017.  



Celebrating the bedside book's fiftieth anniversary, Brown Bear, Brown Bear has introduced countless toddlers to the delights of identifying colors and objects. Now many of Carle's current generation of fans, children ages 1 to 5, will make their very first trip to a live theater to see their favorite Carle characters come to life before their eyes through the magic of puppetry, live on stage.

Brown Bear, Brown Bear is an hour-long production that showcases the imaginative blend of innovative puppetry and striking scenic effects that has won international acclaim for Nova Scotia's Mermaid Theatre. 

In addition to the title story, Brown Bear, Brown Bear also boasts the all-time Carle classic, The Very Hungry Caterpillar. Completing the trilogy is the heartwarming father-daughter tale Papa, Please Get the Moon For Me, a splendid introduction to the wonderment of the lunar cycle.

When Chicago Children's Theatre last invited Mermaid Theater to the Windy City, Time Out Chicago raved Brown Bear, Brown Bear provided "sweet-as-can-be doses of narrated fantasy, made more so by a whimsical score. Even kids unfamiliar with Carle's canon remain rapt, thanks in large part to the dramatic lighting, those glowing sets and the handiwork of (just) two puppeteers."

Best of all, when the show's over, Mermaid Theater's puppeteers reveal all of their super stagecraft secrets to satisfy the "how did they do that?" curiosity of children (and parents) in the audience.

Brown bear sightings in Chicago are rare, so don't miss Brown Bear, Brown Bear & Other Treasured Stories by Eric Carle, based on the stories by Bill Martin Jr. and Eric Carle. 



Performances are May 2-28, 2017 at the Ruth Page Center for the Arts, 
1016 N. Dearborn St., Chicago. Show times are Tuesdays through Friday at 10 a.m., Saturdays at 9:30 a.m. and 11:30 p.m. and 3 p.m., and Sundays and 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. 

Single tickets are $10-$39.  For tickets and information, visit chicagochildrenstheatre.org or call (872) 222-9555. 

Email groupsales@chicagochildrenstheatre.org or call (773) 227-0180 x 321 to learn about discounted group rates for schools, playgroups, birthday parties and scouting groups. 

The Ruth Page Center for the Arts is convenient to public transportation, surrounded by restaurants and located just steps from the Magnificent Mile.






Access Weekend for Brown Bear, Brown Bear & Other Treasured Stories

Access Weekend for Brown Bear, Brown Bear is Saturday and Sunday, May 20 and 21, when services for persons with disabilities integrated into public performances. These include:

Live open captioning for guests who are deaf or hard of hearing:
Saturday, May 20 at 9:30 a.m. and 11 a.m.; Sunday, May 21 at 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. 

Sensory friendly performance with quiet room for children on the autism spectrum or with Down Syndrome: 
Sunday, May 21 at 11 a.m.

For more about access services, go to chicagochildrenstheatre.org/access or contact Access and Inclusion Manager Alex Mauney at cmauney@chicagochildrenstheatre.org.




New home for Chicago Children's Theatre, The Station, is now open
While culminating its final mainstage season at the Ruth Page, CCT has transformed the former 12th District Police Station at 100 S. Racine Avenue in Chicago's West Loop into its first permanent home. The new Chicago Children's Theatre, The Station, is a beautiful, mixed-use performing arts and education facility designed to serve all Chicago families. 

The critically acclaimed world premiere of The Magic City, an all-ages show created by Chicago's Manual Cinema, inaugurated the building's new 149-seat Pritzker Family Studio Theatre, followed by a new staging of Pinocchio with Chicago's Neverbird Project featuring young hearing and Deaf actors, April 20-May 14. Tickets to Pinocchio are $25. For tickets, visit chicagochildrenstheatre.org or call (872) 222-9555.

With five brand new classrooms devoted to performing arts instruction, education is at the heart of Chicago Children's Theatre's new home. Registration is now open for a diverse roster of classes and camps for toddlers to teens in theater, storytelling, modern movement, film making, hip hop, craft and aerial circus arts. Learn more at chicagochildrenstheatre.com/education. Scholarship and tuition assistance is available.
                                                                                                                                 
Additionally, CCT now has its own dedicated space at The Station for Red Kite programming for children with autism and other special needs. This spring, children will participate in a new Red Kite Adventure, a multi-sensory theatrical experience tailored to the unique needs of each child who attends. The Station will also be home to Camp Red Kite, the only summer arts camp of its kind in Chicago for children on the autism spectrum. Learn more at chicagochildrenstheatre.com/red-kite-project.


About Chicago Children's Theatre
Since its launch in 2005, Chicago Children's Theatre has cemented its reputation as the city's largest professional theater company devoted exclusively to children and young families. 

The company evolved out of Chicago's need for high-quality, professional year-round children's programming to match the quality and significance of theatrical powerhouses such as Steppenwolf Theatre Company, Goodman Theatre and Lookingglass Theatre. 

Likewise, CCT has always believed children should be treated as the sophisticated audiences that they are with high-profile and award-winning talent, inventive production values and compelling stories that challenge, educate and entertain.

Audiences have embraced Chicago Children's Theatre since its inaugural production, A Year with Frog and Toad, at the Goodman Theatre in 2006. Since then, the company's productions have featured everything from black-light scenery to live music to interactive four-dimensional sets to life-size puppets, with performances showcasing the heart of Motown to Vaudeville to contemporary, current and modern styles.

CCT has also built a national reputation due to its strong focus on new work, producing 15 world premieres in the last 11 years including The Selfish Giant, The Hundred Dresses, Jackie and Me, Dot and Ziggy, The Houdini Box, The Elephant and The Whale (in association with Redmoon), Mr. Chickee's Funny Money, Leo Lionni's Frederick, Wonderland, Alice's Rock & Roll Adventure, A Snowy Day with Beatrix Potter, Jabari Dreams of Freedom, Another Snowy Day with Beatrix Potter, The Magic City and The Year I Didn't Go To School: A Homemade Circus. These enjoyed highly successful inaugural runs in Chicago, followed by new productions at family theaters across the U.S. 

CCT has always honored a strong commitment to low-income families and children with special needs. In partnership with Chicago Public Schools, the company offers free tickets to more than 5,000 Chicago-area low-income students each season. 

Led by Artistic Director Jacqueline Russell, Board Chair Todd Leland and Community Programs Artistic Director Frank Maugeri, Chicago Children's Theatre is supported by a dynamic Board of Directors comprised of dedicated individuals from the fields of entertainment, philanthropy and business. Officers include Jeff Hughes, President; Lynn Lockwood Murphy, Vice Chair and Secretary; David Saltiel, Vice Chair; and David Chung, Treasurer. 

Chicago Children's Theatre is sponsored in part by ComEd and Goldman Sachs Gives. 

For more information visit chicagochildrenstheatre.org, or call (773) 227-0180.



Monday, May 22, 2017

ART BEAT: Opening at Chicago's MCA, 6/6-9/24 TAKASHI MURAKAMI: THE OCTOPUS EATS ITS OWN LEG


TAKASHI MURAKAMI: 
THE OCTOPUS EATS ITS OWN LEG 

FEATURING A NEVER-BEFORE-SEEN MONUMENTAL MASTERPIECE


  
I'm super excited to be invited to the media preview for this exhibit on 6/2. Check back soon for our photo filled feature. I dig Takashi Murakami's edgy works, many of which are simultaneously cute and disturbingly dark. Save the dates. This exhibit is open to the public from June 6th through September 24th.

This summer, the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago presents the highly anticipated major retrospective Takashi Murakami: The Octopus Eats Its Own Leg, showcasing more than three decades of Murakami's paintings from his earliest mature works - many of which are being shown in North America for the first time - to his most recent, never-before-seen paintings. Across over fifty works, this seminal exhibition of extraordinary, monumental paintings reveals the consistent, universal themes that have guided his work, reflecting his exquisite level of craft and insightful engagement with history. Takashi Murakami: The Octopus Eats Its Own Leg is curated by MCA Chief Curator Michael Darling and is on view at the MCA Chicago from June 6 to September 24, 2017. The exhibition is presented in partnership with ComplexCon.

One of the most imaginative artists working today, Murakami has created a colorful cast of characters inspired by folklore, art history, and popular culture, that blurs the boundaries between high and low, ancient and modern, eastern and western. His signature style, which he calls "Superflat," pairs traditional Japanese painting techniques with a contemporary, animé-inspired aesthetic within a flattened picture plane. For this exhibition, Murakami has produced a new group of paintings that are being shown for the first time, including The Octopus Eats Its Own Leg, a 114-foot masterwork made up of over 35 panels that surround visitors in the gallery. The title of this work and the exhibition is a Japanese folk saying that hints at the process of rejuvenation. An octopus in distress can chew off a damaged leg to ensure survival, knowing that a new one will grow in its place. Similarly, Murakami often feeds off his own prior imagery, or that of Japanese history, in order for new work to emerge.

Murakami is widely known for both his fine art and commercial output - including collaborations with pop icons such as Kanye West and fashion house Louis Vuitton - and this exhibition presents the first serious survey of his work as a painter. It provides a sustained analysis of the artist's relationship to the traditions of Japanese painting while borrowing from the Pop Art tradition. Murakami picks up visual cues from the world of mass production and playfully equates himself with a corporate entity. These works can be seen as an early example of Murakami's interest in the power of branding and global commercialism.

Influenced by animated films (anime), comic books (manga), and global branding, Murakami created Mr. DOB, a recognizable character that would be his cartoon-ish alter-ego. This stylized mouse character continues to evolve to this day. Part brand ambassador, part self-portrait, Mr. DOB has paved the way for other characters throughout the artist's career. From his first, highly simplified version in 1993, Mr. DOB would become more complicated as time went on, turning into a radioactive mutating monster, but the core characteristics of round face and ears with the letters D, O, B are always consistent.

The continual adaptation of his iconic Mr. DOB figure reveals Murakami's interest in the mutant form stretching back to his earliest Nihonga paintings. Shown together, Murakami's cast of characters, including DOB as well as his palette of signature motifs, like anime eyes, jagged teeth, and bulbous letterforms, became demonstrations for the fluidity of his Superflat concept, a visual skin that could spread over and occupy any imaginable surface from paintings and sculptures to plush toys, stickers, and countless other consumer products.

For this exhibition, Murakami has produced a new group of paintings that revisit this creative partnership and will debut at the MCA. Murakami considers these extra-art-world collaborations "disruptions" to the expectations of a highly stratified system that prizes exclusivity and elitism, consistent with his superflattening of DOB characters into key chains, or jellyfish eyes onto luxury bags.

In Murakami's rarely seen early works, he synthesizes traditional Japanese methods, materials, and formats. Trained in the Nihonga style of painting, which utilized mineral pigments for powerfully pure colors and emphasized careful craftsmanship, Murakami created works in the 1980s that began with animal imagery and an almost spiritual earthiness and evolved into pure abstraction. At the same time, the artist began to introduce more explicitly contemporary content into the works, using centuries-old materials to reference the dangers of nuclear power, comment on global consumerism, and lampoon both the excess and the self-seriousness of contemporary art.

The merging of Eastern and Western artistic traditions moved into new territory in the late 1990s, especially around Murakami's development of his theory of the "Superflat." This ambitious concept was meant to explain the cultural attributes of Post-World War II Japan, especially the popular image of Japan as a producer of saccharine consumer products such as Hello Kitty. Within a Superflat world, the Otaku, or maladjusted comic book geek, became the true driver of contemporary culture. Murakami's paintings and sculptures of these years were shaped by these theories.

Mushrooms are popular in Japanese art history, but Murakami's surreal and hallucinogenic rendering in a seven-panel painting was his largest work at the time it was made. Likewise, his smiling technicolor daisies have become one of his most popular and recognizable forms. His daisies are featured in exquisitely painted canvases, as well as stickers, plush pillows, and skateboards, among other products.

Murakami's relationship to pop culture reached a high point around 2007, when he began to collaborate with rapper Kanye West on album covers and videos. The iconic character at the center of the visual identity was dubbed the "Kanye Bear," meant to stand in for an adolescent West. Murakami later made a sculpture of the bear in his signature cartoonish style, replete with a gilded "Jesus piece" necklace popularized in the hip-hop community. Murakami recently revisited his creative partnership with West for a new painting, presented here for the first time.

After finding himself at the center of luxury and celebrity cultures, he began to depart from the highly commercial, cartoon-inspired aesthetic that garnered him popular acclaim. He returned to classic Japanese paintings from centuries past and researched the imagery of Buddhist monks and figures. He drew upon this more serious source material for solace and inspiration when addressing the massive earthquake and tsunami that killed over 15,000 people in 2011 and affected him greatly.

He turned to historical paintings to find an appropriate response, attracted to a legendary band of Buddhist monks called Arhats who roamed the land in an attempt to heal and comfort people. This discovery fueled a growing body of paintings featuring wizened and highly individualized groups of Arhats, and other elements of Japanese and Buddhist cultural heritage.

Murakami founded the Hiropon factory (now called Kaikai Kiki) in Saitama in 1996, first as his studio and then as an art production and art management corporation to market his art and foster emerging artists. Since then, he has become known for several high profile commercial ventures, forays into comics and animation, and his own colorful, post-apocalyptic characters, all the while diligently incorporating the traditions of Nihonga painting.

Murakami's work is in private collections and foundations as well as major public collections including the MCA's collection. Murakami was born in Tokyo, and studied at Tokyo University of the Arts, Japan, earning a BFA in 1986, an MFA in 1988, and a PhD in 1993. MCA Chief Curator Michael Darling has known and worked with Murakami for twenty years, and curated the American presentation of the artist's Superflat exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, in 2001.

EXHIBITION TOUR
Following its presentation at the MCA, Takashi Murakami: The Octopus Eats Its Own Leg travels to the Vancouver Art Gallery in Winter 2018 and to the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth in Summer 2018.

EXHIBITION CATALOGUE
Takashi Murakami, a richly illustrated catalogue with more than 250 full-color reproductions accompanies the exhibition, with original essays by the show's curator Michael Darling, along with essays by scholars Michael Dylan Foster, Chelsea Foxwell, Reuben Keehan, and Akira Mizuta Lippit, as well as previously published texts by Murakami translated from the original Japanese. Concentrating on Murakami's synthesis of the contemporary and the traditional, as well as his exceptional level of craft, this catalogue presents three decades of the artist's paintings, from his earliest mature works-many of which are being shown in North America for the first time-to some of his most recent. The catalogue is published by Skira Rizzoli Publications, Inc. in association with the MCA and Kaikai Kiki New York, LLC.

RELATED PROGRAM
MCA Talk: Takashi Murakami
Friday, June 2, 6 pm
MCA Chief Curator Michael Darling joins artist Takashi Murakami in conversation to kick off the exhibition.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

REVIEW: The Silver Whistle at Actors Gymnasium

ChiIL Mama's Chi, IL Picks List:
The Silver Whistle


Last Call. Must end Sunday!

The Actors Gymnasium Spring Youth Circus 
PRESENTS
An Empowering and Highflying Adaptation of Jay Williams 
Beloved Children's Story

**The magic of The Silver Whistle is recommended for ages 5 & up!**

Book written by Jay Williams
Adapted & Directed by Anna Basile & Abby Pajakowski
Circus Choreography by Sylvia Hernandez-DiStasti & Tommy Tomlins


It was our great pleasure to catch the opening performance of The Silver Whistle last Saturday, and we adored it! Actors Gymnasium has long been a favorite of ours for high caliber, playful and professional productions. They raise the bar on creative book based adaptations and original works while seamlessly incorporating stellar circus arts, live music, and superb storytelling. This show is my 16 year old son, Dugan's 2nd Actors Gymnasium production, while his sister, Sage, was in the past spring and fall shows. He has loved the cast camaraderie and welcomed the opportunity to work on circus choreography with some of Chicago's top talent. 

Sure, the spring and fall youth circus productions are comprised of a cast of kids, but don't underestimate them. Auditions are required for these shows and the talent pool runs deep. We highly recommend checking out The Silver Whistle. It's a charming tale with a female lead, upbeat choreography, impressive circus arts, catchy tunes, and a great message. This is a good bet for multigenerational fun for ages 5 to 105...

We do recommend booking tickets on line in advance if possible. It's a small theatre and shows do sell out. The up side is, there's not a bad seat in the place! What are you waiting for? Go already.  



Saturday(s) May 13 & 20 at 4:30PM and 7:30PM 
Sunday(s) May 14 & 21 at 3:00PM
Tickets: $15 - $20
Group reservations and general questions call 847.328.2795
On-site box office opens 1.5 hours prior to the start of each performance

MORE ABOUT THE SHOW
"Prudence the Plain" has never left the small village where she grew up, sheltered by her mother, the Wise Woman of the West. But now her mother has fallen ill and leaves Prudence with a magical silver whistle and a word of advice: go out into the world and live. Despite grief and uncertainty, Prudence sets out on a journey to create her own life. She encounters creatures of all kinds, a clever witch seeking the throne, and a one-of-a-kind Wazar. The Silver Whistle explores what happens when an unlikely hero chooses to embrace her ever-changing world and the people inhabiting it. 

The production is an empowering and highflying adaptation of the original children's book written by Jay Williams. Anna Basile and Abby Pajakowski direct this circus theatre production at the Actors Gymnasium. While reading the story, they were struck by its illustrations - an entire world is brought to life with its beautiful, whimsical and often very funny images. These images inspired the choreography and circus routines, honoring the highly physical style of performance for which Actors Gymnasium is known. 




WORDS FROM THE DIRECTORS
"We loved Prudence immediately because her so-called plainness affords her the freedom to explore the world without expectations and become whatever person she wants be. As an ensemble we asked ourselves, who do we want our heroine to be?"





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