Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Journey to the Center of the Uterus

Kathleen Puls Andrade may not be able to give birth to a baby, but she has given birth to a poignant, personal piece of theater that had everyone in the audience cracking up.     Journey to the Center of the Uterus was at once enlightening, educational and entertaining.    As infertility rates are growing exponentially, everyone will know someone sooner or later, who is going through this particular ordeal.   And the themes of  frustration, addiction to hope, and harm done by well meaning friends and strangers are universal.

Like any baby, this play had an excellent birthing team in place.  Marshall Stern wrote the musical numbers, including the hilarious "Hoo Haw Highway".   He's a talented musician and actor in his own right, with 38 years in the industry and an impressive resume including  Second City directing expertise and Nashville recording credits.

Andrew Eninger directed the play and created all the animated shorts.

They included chuckle inducing instructional videos and live interviews of other infertile couples.   The cartoon clips were brilliantly funny and added another dimension to the show.

He also shot the goofy, great poster picture.   Andy's a talented actor, teacher and director who has worked for years with Second City and Gayco.   Finally,    he's the mastermind behind the critically-acclaimed, improvised solo performance piece, Sybil.

Kathleen Puls Andrade is also no stranger to the stage.   She's been an actor, improviser, voiceover, writer and teacher in Chicago for several years. Currently she can be seen in Put the Nuns in Charge!, the hilarious long running sequel to Late Nite Catechism at the Royal George Theatre in Chicago.

Kathleen has a great sense of humor and a talent for observing the little details and nuances of human behavior and idiocy, that make for great theater.   She's brutally honest, even when it's a bit self deprecating.   And she finds the funny side of painful, embarrassing and heart breaking situations.

Cathartic was a word bandied about a lot in the post play discussion.   Kathleen worked on "birthing" her play for nearly a year.   The humor, laughter and absurdity that evolved while she workshopped and rehearsed, were invaluable tools for growing past the pain and disappointment.

At some of the most intimate points, the stage lights caught tears still glinting in her eyes, and she admitted that sometimes performing the play brings back the anguish as she relives it.   At the most heart wrenching parts, much of the audience teared up as well.

But Journey to the Center of the Uterus is no longer just Kathleen's personal journey, since she has chosen to share her experience as a public performance.  Now her work can be cathartic for those who have been through a similar ordeal, who don't have Kathleen's talent for words and performance.   It can be enlightening for well meaning family, friends and co-workers who have inadvertantly made a tough time worse for some couples.   In this respect, Kathleen has truly shared a gift.

This is one funny and important play, not to be missed.   Journey to the Center of the Uterus is playing at The Greenhouse Theater Center on Wednesdays at 8pm and Sundays at 7pm through October 28th.   And four additional shows have just been added on Saturday, October 3rd and 10th at 8pm and a Sunday Matinee, October 4th and 11th at 3pm.

All ChiIL No Mama

I love being a Mom.   Sure, it's exhausting and sometimes annoying to have to be referee, doctor, psychologist, event planner, chauffeur, tutor, cook, housekeeper, pet wrangler, and finder of lost objects.   And everyone needs a day off every once in a while, even from a job they love.   This is even more necessary when the job lasts 24/7 for around 18 years per child, and to some extent, for the rest of your life!
“Making the decision to have a child is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body.”  Elizabeth Stone

I remember getting a card with that quote on it, shortly after the birth of our son.   It kind of freaked me out.   Parenting is not a job you can quit or even easily take a break from.    But, fortunately it can be shared  with friends and relatives, sometimes!    My parents came through town after an ambitious Amtrak journey to Glacier National Park, Portland and back to Chicago.   They picked up their car and my 2 kids and drove back to Ohio, leaving me with 5 kid-free days before I have to go retrieve them. 

The weekend was great!   My husband and I had a cozy night at home watching kid inappropriate movies after he'd been out of town four days.   The second night, we went out to eat with friends and saw one of our favorite bands, Clutch, at Metro.   We stayed out past 1AM without worrying about a sitter or having small people jump on our heads at 7AM.   Then he had to go back out of town, leaving me with the stark realization that all my friends have kids and/or early day jobs and can no longer go out on weeknights.


Sunday afternoon, I went to the Chicago Gourmet Food show in Millennium Park, alone.   Thanks for the wristband, Anna!   I couldn't go till 4pm,  the final hour, and everyone had been drinking since noon.   The people watching was hilarious.   Rumor is, people were passing out last year, so they put food in every tent this time.  

When I first arrived, I stood next to a beautiful African American woman with a bunch of little braids piled on her head.   She was swaying a bit and laughing a lot.   "All behavior is excused," she laughed, "You know.   On account of all the free wine and all."   But other than a lot of laughter and some bad dancing, I didn't see any fighting or wildly inappropriate behavior.    Despite sighting a  few drunken long haired boys, I behaved myself, too, honey, and didn't even flirt.

The lines were down by 4, so I got to sample a good variety of food and drinks.   Some of the booths got creative, like this 1950's school theme.

And the mystery of the elegant velvet balls was revealed.   What appeared to be expensive mod chairs, were really cleverly covered giant exercise balls.

Excellent food and drinks were plentiful, though I went easy on all the shots and great wines, since I had a play to review in 2 hours and had driven downtown.    I did have two great shots at the Patron booth, and brought home the recipes.   I'd definitely go again next year, given the chance.

My friend, Alicia, came out to see Journey to the Center of the Uterus with me, and have drinks at Delilah's Sunday night.   I'll post a full review of the hilarious play tomorrow.   We had a great time, but it turned into another 1AM night, and she had to get up in a few hours to take her kids to school and sitters and go build prosthetic limbs.   Yay, Super Mama Alicia.

Monday, I tried to drag out everyone I know, without luck.   So, I ended up staying home and relaxing--eating ice cream and watching non animated, grown up movies I never have time for.   But it's such a rare event for me to be able to get out these days, I don't want to waste the opportunity.   On the other hand, it's just not that much fun going out solo.....

Today I have a bunch of mundane errands to run, then plan to treat myself to a couple R rated movies in an actual movie theatre.   Tonight I "may" do a pumpkin beer tasting and see a Led Zeppelin cover band.   If anyone's up for joining me..........let me know!

I miss the kidlets, but it's great to have a hand full of days where I can actually sleep in and don't need to take care of anyone else, or listen to arguments.   I'll be recharged and ready for the Mama marathon in another day.   I haven't laughed nearly as much as usual these past 5 days, and a house can be too quiet........

Monday, September 28, 2009

I ♥ Faces BLUE

Ah, Blue.   My eyes......my favorite color cobalt........a mood.........blues music..........blueberries.....blue moon. 

Even sunshine reads as blue in lighting.   According to this math site,  A clear cloudless day-time sky is blue because molecules in the air scatter blue light from the sun more than they scatter red light. When we look towards the sun at sunset, we see red and orange colours because the blue light has been scattered out and away from the line of sight.

This week at I ♥ Faces, Blue is the contest theme.  So here's Du, my blueberry boy, havin' a good time playing with his food.


Friday, September 25, 2009

Hurry--Only 5 Days Left of Roald Dahl Month!!

September is Roald Dahl month, in honor of his birthday on Sept. 13th, and there's still time to read a book a day.   He has some fabulous short reads like "The Magic Finger" and "The Twits".   And even his famous "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory"  series and "James and the Giant Peach", are fun and easy to read.   He's one of our favorite authors.

If you have pre-readers or beginners, these are fun bedtime stories for family read aloud time.     My kids love to read a book then see the movie or play based on the book, and play the what's different/ what's the same game.   They try to point out as many changes between the story line and movie plot, and then do the same for similarities.   I'm always amazed at what they notice and recall when we make it a game.

Roald Dahl has a dark, twisted sense of  humor and bizarre characters that appeal to kids and adults alike.   He also has an uncanny grasp of psychology and human nature.    Check out Roald Dahl Month, on line teachers resource sites for more fun games and print outs.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Look For ChiIL Mama This Weekend: Chinatown Autumn Moon Festival, Midnight Circus, Journey to the Center of the Uterus, Yeast Nation

Come check out Midnight Circus at Chase Park, this Saturday and Sunday, for 2 shows each day.   The production will be outdoors unless it rains.   Then they'll be in the gym.   Tickets are $15 and proceeds benefit Chase park's play lot renovation.

This Saturday, take a journey to another continent without leaving the city.   Chinatown is the place to be, for the annual Autumn Moon Festival

Although we've only made it down to the Chinatown Summer Festival, many fests occur in Chinatown year-round.   We've always wanted to see the dragon boat races and the Chinese New Year festivities.   This weekend we hope to make it to the Chinese Autumn Moon Festival to eat moon cakes and check out the folklore.  

The Moon Festival is held annually, to celebrate the brightest day of the moon. The date changes from year to year, since the Chinese follow a lunar calendar.  It's always on the 15th day of the 8th month of the lunar calendar.   

The most prominant tradition of this festival is the huge lanterns that symbolize the moon and light up the night.  The Chicago Chinatown Moon Festival also features food, live music and martial arts performances.  Click here for more history on the autumn moon festival.


If you have a chance to duck out for some grown up time,   Journey to the Center of the Uterus opened Wednesday to rave reviews, and will be playing again Sunday night, at The Greenhouse Theatre.

Many parents that we know, went the invitro route to have their children, and other close friends of ours tried it, to no avail.   Whether this hits close to home for you or your friends, or not, it's a good reminder that laughter heals and that even painful experiences can make painfully funny theatre.

The show is directed by the extremely talented, Andrew Eninger, and also features his animation. He's a college friend of mine and a former member of  Tower Players, Miami University's own improv. troup.

I founded Tower Players way back in 1986, and they're still around and going strong!   Check out the home page for Kathleen Puls Andrade, actress, writer and star of the show.   I'll be posting photos and a review early next week.

Finally, Yeast Nation opens at The American Theatre Company.   This musical is by former Chicagoan, Greg Kotis.  He's the author/actor who won a Tony Award for his show, "Urine Town".   Here's a Trib article with a lot more info about the show.

Greg lives in New York now and is married to Ayun Halliday, author of The East Village Inky and numerous funny books.   If you've never checked out her zine, it's hilarious and well worth subscribing to!   They both met in Chicago, when they were Neo Futurist troupe mates in the still running show, Too Much Light Makes The Baby Go Blind.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Chicagoland Car Free Day-- EL of a Lot of Fun!

ChiIL Mama successfully negotiated the auto ban for September 22nd.   And we had a blast, getting to and from school car free.   Between Razor Scooters and the Blue Line El trains, our commute was pretty easy.   And the kids thought it was all a grand adventure.

Du sat next to an artist on the el, who was sketching away on his pad.   When he noticed the kids' peering at his work, he stopped and gave a mini art lesson about the horizon line and geometry and perspective in art.  
What a great bonus!   Du acknowledged that he knew about horizon lines and used them in his own art, and he held his own in conversation.

It was so much easier to notice oddities and interesting things, when we're not zipping past in the car.   Here are some of our favorites:
A neon orange cow and star gazing-astronomer bovine with a telescope........chalk drawing characters on the Damen platform........cool spiral art of the Chi skyline and poetry in the Damen station........ yin/yang front door knobs below a tranquil wooden landscape......and multicolored fall leaves crunching beneith the Razor wheels.

I'm all for honing the kids' powers of observation and appreciation of the quirky.    Those are useful skills for artists and writers, or whatever they end up growing up to be.    More than that, it's just plain FUN.

We are veterins at taking the trains downtown, and frequently ride to fests and museums that way to avoid exorbitant downtown parking fees and traffic jams.   But this was only the second time we've attempted it for the 3 mile school day commute.   We left oodles of extra time, unsure of how long it would actually take, and we arrived 40 minutes before the school day!   This left plenty of playground time and we even ducked in to the lunchroom for a free breakfast.

Unfortunately, the trip took an hour each way, versus 10 minutes and cost us nearly $14--an excellent argument for the need for cheap, rapid transit in the biggest cities.    By the time I took the kids there, returned, went to get them, and returned with them, I'd spent over 3.5 hours enroute!   Otherwise we'd do it much more often.   But, it's good to know we can if we have to.     Now for those bike skills...........

Monday, September 21, 2009


Tomorrow is Chicago Car Free day.   Log on to their site and take the pledge to go car free.

Care free from sitting on The Kennedy in a massive morning traffic jam...care free from the pain of paying at the pump...care free from the resurfacing projects that stretched along Addison today from Kimball to Kedzie, trying the patience of blocks of delayed drivers.

My kids aren't strong enough bike riders to make the 3 miles to school safely, but we can take the blue line train and walk/razor scooter the rest of the way there.   We're gonna give it a good try.

Check out Green Parent Chicago for details about a car free playday at Seneca Park Playlot .

Chicagoland Car Free Day is part of World Car Free Day. 

Blackhawks Training Camp Full Of Firsts

Saturday, we spent the day at The United Center, at the 2nd annual Blackhawks Training Camp Festival.   We arrived just in time for the 10:30AM practice, involving all the players in the line up for Saturday night's game.   As ardent fans and frequent ticket buyers in the nosebleed section, it was a first for us to sit in the first row, behind the goal!  

The kids got an up close and personal look at all their favorite Hawks,

and loved ducking and laughing as numerous pucks hit the glass with a resounding thunk.

Sagezilla even got a great view of her crush, Patrick Kane.  Sorry, Patrick, she won't be 18 for 12 years, but she runs in the room to watch whenever you're interviewed, and turns 3 shades of red and gets snarky when we tease her about you.

It's such a different experience being right behind Huet, close enough to see the ice crystals on the players' blades.  

 What a treat for $5.00 and free parking in the front lot!  Here's the Snapfish link, for more pixs. 

We also met a fun family, with the coolest Hawks shirts ever.   They feature a hawk (as in, the bird, not the Indian) made from the 4 feathers in the Blackhawks logo.   And they ROCKED.  The Dad was a huge fan with 2 Hawks tats on his arm--one of them was the traditional Blackhawks head, and the other was the hawk/feathers design from the tees they were all wearing.   I wish I would have gotten more details about where to get one.   All he said was "a little hole in the wall place on LaGrange Rd.".   But I have Googled everything I could think of and they're off the radar!   If anyone knows where we can order these shirts PLEASE post to the comments section!

We stayed through the first practice and half way through the second one, for all the players not tapped to play that night.   At that point, the kids were freezing (Hey--it's an ice rink, people.  That's why Mama put out your Blackhawks hoodies and outerwear, you refused to bring!)  

so we went outside, to the much warmer parking lot.

The kids won Hawks towels in the shootout game,

and thoroughly enjoyed the moon bouncer, which didn't have a line (That's such a rare occurance at city fests!).   They returned twice and stayed in as long as they wanted.

They picked up hocky sticks for two more aiming games.  

The second one clocked the speed of their shots, and they had a good time trying to beat each other's fastest score.

Fun fun.  Both kids got free characatures of themselves as Blackhawks players & balloons.   And we splurged on adorable Blackhawks skate hairbands for Sagezilla.   The Queen obsessed kids even got to hear Fat Bottom Girls, as the live band, in Hawks jerseys, was playing all 70's covers.

We had wristbands for a 1:15 player autograph, which turned into an hour wait in line to see Kyle Beach.   The kids colored papers at Tommy Hawk's kids fan zone and played games to pass the time.   But after close to an hour, Zilla was more than over it, and the kids had a huge, tearful fight resulting in a time out.  We came very close to leaving.


Fortunately, the line FINALLY moved at that point, and we stuck it out.   Of course, we were kinda hoping for one of the superstars, like Toews, who did give autographs in some of the lines.  Oh well, luck of the draw....  

  Kyle was friendly and really tried to get Sage to smile, to no avail.

Du got a kick out of the fact, Kyle's only 11 years older than him.   And who knows, maybe he'll be a superstar in the near future?

Good thing we stuck it out, because management broke out a bunch of swag as an apology for keeping us waiting so long.   We came home with really nice Training Camp Shirts, Hawks Backpacks, Pins, and
our signed jerseys.


Zilla was still in a funk, but she got over it eventually, as we checked out the Bluesmobile and Blackhawks race cars, and played more games of skill in the lot.   By the final round in the moon bouncer, she was grinning ear to ear.

All in all, we had a great time.   Thank you Blackhawks!