Tuesday, May 7, 2019

FEST ALERT: Physical Theater Festival Chicago returns May 31-June 9, 2019 at Stage 773

ChiIL Live Shows on our radar


Physical Theater Festival Chicago returns May 31-June 9, 2019 at Stage 773, opening with (from left) Next Door by Out of Balanz (Denmark), closing with Freeman by Strictly Arts (U.K.), the festival’s largest presentation ever, and with new additions announced including the family-friendly Tic Tac Tock by Mrs. Flower (Belgium/U.K.).

I'll be out for opening night, catching Next Door & Helga for ChiILMama.com (family friendly) & ChiILLiveShows.com (adult). Then we'll be back to check out every act in this year's Physical Theater Festival Chicago. Check back soon for my full reviews. 

Physical Theater Festival Chicago, back for its sixth season, will present physical theater acts and artists from Belgium, Brazil, Denmark, Finland, Puerto Rico, India, the U.K. and Chicago that promise to wow audiences for 10 consecutive days of “theater that moves you.”

Physical Theater Festival Chicago runs May 31-June 9, 2019. All events (except Eventide) take place at Stage 773, 1225 W. Belmont Ave., in Chicago’s Lakeview neighborhood. Festival passes ($50 and $65) and single tickets ($15-$20) are on sale at physicalfestival.com.

For updates, follow the festival on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

The 2019 Physical Theater Festival Chicago – the full line-up:

Following, in chronological order, is the full 2019 Physical Theater Festival Chicago schedule – launching with the opening weekend return of the Danish company Out of Balance, the smash hit success of the inaugural fest in 2014, closing with Physical Festival Chicago’s largest presentation in its history, Freeman from Strictly Arts U.K., an Edinburgh Fringe Fest sensation with incredibly powerful stories of mental illness and systemic racism.

Next Door
By Out of Balanz
From Copenhagen, Denmark
Friday, May 31 at 7 p.m., Saturday, June 1 at 9 p.m., Sunday,
June 2 at 2 p.m.
60 minutes
For ages 12 and up

*Parents: Sunday, June 2, 2 p.m. is Sitter Sunday. Come for the show, teaching staff from Willow Tree Child Care will watch your kids, ages potty trained and up! See website for more information. 

Multi-award winning Danish company Out of Balanz returns to Chicago with their critically acclaimed Next Door. The stand-out smash hit of Chicago’s first Physical Theater Festival in 2014 is back by popular demand to re-celebrate physical comedy, active imaginations and the importance of relationships.

When Ivan Hansen’s neighbor passes away suddenly, Ivan realizes he doesn’t know anything about him. In Next Door, intimate storytelling and high-octane physical theater explore what it is that really connects us.

Next Door captured First Prize and Audience Prize at the Birmingham European Theatre Festival 2013 and Best Male Performers at Kosovo’s Skena Up International Festival. The Copenhagen Post called it “imaginative and groundbreaking…an unforgettable journey into the human psyche.” The Scotsman found it “irresistible.”

Founded in 2006, Out of Balanz is an award-winning international theater ensemble based in Copenhagen, Denmark. Recognized for their highly collaborative creative process and for producing original work rich in spectacle and adventurous in form, Out of Balanz has created over a dozen original works and toured to 16 different countries in Europe, North America and Asia (including such venues as The John Houseman Theatre off-Broadway, The Barbican in London and at the first-ever Physical Theater Festival Chicago.) The company was named one of the 13 most innovative physical theater companies in the world, alongside such prestigious companies as The SITI Company and DV8, by backstage.com. For more, visit outofbalanz.org.

Helga – life of a diva extraordinaire
By Henni Kervinen, directed by Jenni Kallo
From Finland
Friday, May 31 at 9 p.m.; Saturday, June 1 at 7 p.m.; and Sunday, June 2 at 5 p.m.
60 minutes
For ages 10 and up

Henni Kervinen in Helga – the life of a diva extraordinare (Finland)

A new cabaret diva extraordinaire is here! Poignant, melancholy mime, clowning circus skills and physical comedy make up the wordless story of Helga. Tragedy and comedy meet as Helga invites us into her world, from the mundane details of her day to the fabulous memories of her life.

Helga is skillfully performed by Finnish circus artist Henni Kervinen and directed by Jenni Kallo, Artistic Director of the renowned Kallo Collective (Only Bones, Edinburgh Fringe 2016). LapinKansa.fi called Helga 'absurd comedy and sparkling wit…', with an Edinburgh Fringe Fest fan hitting the nail on the head with "only the Finns can make humor out of melancholy as fabulously as this.” For more, visit kallocollective.com.

Note: Helga is silent, no interpreter needed, making it appropriate for audiences that are deaf or hard of hearing.

The festival’s new Fresh Series featuring two mid-length works in progress, includes:

The Raveling
by Walkabout Theatre
From Chicago
Sunday, June 2 at 8:30 p.m. and Monday, June 3 at 9 p.m.
60 minutes
For ages 14 and up

As the borders of home are redefined across generations, The Raveling teases apart the threads of heritage, history and hearsay in its cast of co-creators hailing from Chicago, Toronto, and New Delhi. The Raveling is part family fever dream, part fairy tale, and part detective story as the knot of belonging is stretched and pulled across countries and decades of legends, heroes, and misadventures.

Walkabout Theater is a multidisciplinary ensemble committed to a unique practice of theater-making in Chicago. Walkabout produces three streams of programming: free outdoor phenomena focused on community engagement and unique artistic collaborations; world-premiere, touring performances created by the ensemble; and training workshops investigating techniques of co-creation. Radically process-oriented, Walkabout is distinguished by a deep investment in the creation of each ensemble project, in the personal and artistic development of each ensemble artist, and in the cultural and artistic advancement of ensemble practice. For more, visit walkabouttheater.org.

A Life with No Limits
By Aura CuriAtlas Physical Theatre
From Chicago
Monday and Tuesday, June 3 and 4 at 7 p.m.
60 minutes
For all ages

A Life With No Limits is inspired by the life and work of astrophysicist Stephen Hawking. It is created in the company’s signature blend of dance, theater, and acrobatics with original music composed by Sophia Serghi. The story is told wordlessly and reflects on the determination, passion, and sense of humor of someone who has severe physical limitations, yet has an imagination that is able to roam free. The narrative follows the protagonist from younger days with full mobility and a lust for life, through diagnosis and onset of physical disease, to moments of hopelessness when the choice must be made to succumb to the black hole that life has presented or find a way to escape its unbeatable gravitational pull. Throughout, Hawking escapes into his mind where he can move more freely and where the other bodies on stage become objects in the universe or elements in an equation that he can manipulate with ease.

Chicago’s ChiIL Mama called A Life with No Limits “a moving must see…mind-boggling…I was left in awe of the superhuman physical strength and willpower required to live with a severe disability.”

Aura CuriAtlas was founded in 2013 by Dan Plehal, a Chicago-based theater director, actor, acrobat and teacher, and Joan Gavaler, who choreographs, performs, and teaches dance and physical theater at the College of William & Mary in Virginia. The company also includes founding member Mickey Lonsdale, an actor and teacher of dance and acrobatics outside of NYC. 

Blending dance, theater, and acrobatics to tell stories, Aura CuriAtlas keeps the qualities of lightness (Aura), strength (Atlas), and play (Curiosity) at the center. The company has created three shows, Dream Logic, A Life With No Limits, and The Fool and The World and have been touring them around the country. The company’s lightheartedness, athleticism and reliance on physical storytelling make its stories accessible to audiences of many different ages and backgrounds. For more, visit acphysicaltheatre.com.

Scratch Night
Tuesday, June 4 at 9 p.m.
80 minutes
Heels Over Head (Chicago)

The wildly entertaining revue of new and more experimental short works by emerging and veteran Chicago physical theater artists, presented in association with Heels over Head, will feature (at press time) La Vuelta Ensemble led by Raquel Torre and Jean Claudio; Claire Saxe from Rough House Theater; and Brittany Price Anderson from Heels Over Head. Look for more artists TBA.

International Touring Talk
Wednesday, June 5 at 7 p.m.

Learn the ins and outs of touring Chicago-made work internationally and nationally at this free industry panel with artists from Walkabout Theater and India's Guild of the Goat and presenters from Chicago Shakespeare Theater and Chicago Park District. The hour-long panel will be followed by breakout sessions focused on how to pitch presenters, create touring budgets and develop technical riders.

By 3AM Theatre
From New York/Puerto Rico 
Wednesday and Thursday, June 5 and 6 at 9 p.m.
60 minutes
Ages 7 and up
at Chopin Theatre, 1543 W. Division St. in Wicker Park

Physical Festival Chicago’s first-ever off-site production is a beautiful, wordless circus theater show featuring a former Cirque du Soleil performer and a former Martha Graham company soloist. The production employs expressive movement, object manipulation, and contemporary, surreal scene-setting to expose the challenges we face in romantic relationships and relationships with ourselves.

Eventide begins in the ether and slowly narrows in on an apartment where a troubled couple lies awake despite the late hour. Soon we witness their disconnection unfold with the interplay between present interactions, interior monologues and past memories. With the future of their relationship at stake, they choose to explore a hovering, seductive void, one that’s accessible via inexplicable phenomena of the twilight hours. There in the void they move freely, without the weight of mental clutter, giving them a clarity that ultimately leads them toward redefining their individuality and partnership. Eventide is told wordlessly, making it ideal for audience members that are deaf or are hard of hearing.

3AM Theatre is the latest creative endeavor of two career performers, Kyle Driggs and Andrea Murillo. They bring their respective experiences at storied institutions like Martha Graham Dance Company and Cirque du Soleil to 3AM where they are developing performances that explore both the intersection and the boundaries of their art forms. 3amtheatre.com

The Gift
By Angela de Castro
From Brazil/UK
Thursday, Friday and Saturday, June 6, 7 and 8 at 7 p.m.
60 minutes
All ages

A clown waits for his new date to arrive. Smart, proud and optimistic he waits longingly, impatiently...waits...and waits. In what seems an eternity he walks a tightrope between passion and despair. Will it all end in tears or laughter? The Gift is about love and loss, giving and loneliness. A heart-warming tale in the great tradition of Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin in which music and silence merge as passion and imagination take over. The Gift will touch and delight audiences of all ages. In an era of so-called sophistication and cool, we need more than ever the simple, universal message of love, hope and truth captured in The Gift.

The Gift began as a 30-minute show in 1990, subsequently receiving a special grant from the Arts Council of Great Britain to develop into a full length show and premiering at the London International Mime Festival. The Gift has been seen all over the UK and is now touring worldwide. Reworked with new material, this updated production is performed and directed by Angela de Castro, accompanied by a special guest classical musician, with choreography by clown and commedia dell'arte expert Barry Grantham.

Brazilian born Angela de Castro has been a professional clown/actor for forty years, working with some of the UK’s most innovative physical theatre companies including The Right Size and Clod Ensemble. She travels the world with her workshop masterclass ‘How To Be a Stupid’ and is perhaps best known for creating the Green Clown in Slava’s Snowshow. One of the most internationally admired women clowns, she has been awarded fellowships by NESTA Dreamtime, The Arts Foundation and the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama. For more, visit contemporaryclowningprojects.com.

By Strictly Arts
From the UK
Thursday, Friday and Saturday, June 6, 7 and 8 at 9 p.m.
60 minutes
For ages 14 and up

Following its critically acclaimed sold out run at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, Freeman makes its Midwest debut as the largest international production ever presented by Physical Theater Festival Chicago.

Winner of a Spirit of the Fringe Award and shortlisted for Amnesty International’s Freedom of Expression Award, Freeman is inspired by the first man in America to plead insanity as his defense and sees writer Camilla Whitehill (Where Do Little Birds Go?) and Strictly Arts examine the unspoken link between mental health and systemic racism.

Throughout time and across waters, from William Freeman, to Sarah Reed, to Sandra Bland, six true stories are threaded together and told through physical theater, spoken word, gospel singing, shadow puppetry and more. History is bound to repeat itself when the thumb is permanently bearing down on the loop button, so has anything really changed?

The Guardian called Freeman “a revelation, a piece of stunning physical theatre,” Broadway Baby hailed its “outstanding artistic courage” and Edinburgh Guide raved "both exciting and devastating...everybody should see it."

Strictly Arts is a new physical theater company led by Artistic Director and founder, Corey Campbell and Executive Producer, Henry Bays. The company formed after achieving breakout success with Green Leaves Fall in 2015, instantly igniting a partnership between Strictly Arts and Coventry’s Belgrade Theatre. More recently, Strictly Arts received the Charlie Hartill Special Reserve Fund from the Pleasance Theatre enabling the company to take its first show, Freeman, to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, selling out its performances and receiving many 5 star reviews. Freeman started as a work in progress piece that quickly developed into national tours in 2017 and 2018. It sold out across all venues with standing ovations and amazing feedback, and was shortlisted for two Off West End Awards.

As a company, Strictly Arts devises work that is engaging, thought provoking and unique. It strives to make the work created accessible to audiences around the world, while telling stories that forgotten communities can connect with. For more, visit strictlyarts.co.uk.

The Nora Project Presents: Tic Tac Tock by Mrs. Flower
With and by Rachel Ponsonby, Directed by Louis Spagna
From Belgium/U.K.
Sunday, June 9 at 2 p.m.
50 minutes
All ages
Free with suggested donation to The Nora Project

Tic Tac Tock by Mrs. Flower

Experience sensory friendly, inclusive live theater for children of all abilities and their families.

Tic Tac Tock is a prize-winning story told by Mrs. Flower about when she was a little girl. She explains what a day is like "over there" in France in her unique and humorous style. Tic Tac Tock is a celebration of music, song, and language in both French and English. Mrs. Flower tells her tale while playing over 10 instruments as well as the sumptuous use of audience participation, circus, magic and clowning.

A musical clown show for all ages, Tic Tac Tock is with and by Rachel Ponsonby, and directed by Louis Spagna. zirktheatre.be

The Nora Project is a Chicago-based nonprofit with a mission is to teach empathy by sparking friendships between students and their peers with disabilities. The Nora Project is currently in more than 30 schools and 85 classrooms across Chicagoland and growing. thenoraproject.ngo

One of the great thrills about Physical Theater Festival is the opportunity to connect with artists from around the world, and play. Learn how to have fun on stage, connect with your body, and create work with other artist at one or more workshops:

Make ‘Em Laugh- Comedy and The Human Body by Out of Balanz
Sunday, June 2, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Expressive Body: The Essence of Physical Theater by Kallo Collective
Monday, June 3, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Action, Group, Body and Song By Walkabout Theater
Tuesday, June 4, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

The Art of Human Playgrounds by Aura CuriAtlas 
Wednesday, June 5, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Physical Theater Foundations by Strictly Arts
Thursday, June 6, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Mindful Manipulations by 3AM Theatre
Thursday, June 6, 2 p.m. to 5 p.m.

The Pleasure of Playing by Angela De Castro
Friday, June 7, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

The Outside Eyes by Angela de Castro (Individual one hour sessions for performers or theater companies) 
Saturday, June 9, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. 

Visit physicalfestival.com/workshops-2019 for more class descriptions, fees and information on a discounted workshop pass.

About the 2019 Physical Theater Festival Chicago

Physical Theater Festival Chicago is the city’s annual contemporary, visual and physical theater festival presenting new forms of theater from around the world. Back for its sixth year, Chicago’s Physical Theater Festival presents a diverse, international slate of radically different works of physical theater, loosely defined as storytelling through highly physical, highly visual means to create live, original and contemporary works.

Since 2014, Physical Theater Festival Chicago has presented artists and companies from Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Cuba, France, Finland, Denmark, Germany, India, Poland, Portugal, Puerto Rico, Spain and the U.K. Each year, Physical Theater Festival introduces Chicago to work that is:

Contemporary - using cutting-edge, on-the-pulse theatrical forms that are responding to the contemporary moment using contemporary notions of theater.

Visual - elevating the visual aspects of its stories, theater which is occupied with the creation of visual atmospheres and images as much as verbal text.

Physical - pursuing storytelling through primarily physical means, whose aim is to create original stories which start and end with the body as the foundational textual source.

Physical Theater Festival Chicago co-founders Alice da Cunha and Marc Frost

Chicago theater artists Alice da Cunha and Marc Frost launched Chicago’s inaugural Physical Theater Festival in 2014 through the Artistic Associate program at Links Hall. The inspiration for the Festival drew upon their combined experience as physical theater students at the London International School for the Performing Arts (LISPA). Moving from London to Chicago, they were inspired to start a new festival to promote a more progressive, fresh and physical approach to theater making in Chicago. Six years later, Physical Theater Festival Chicago is following in the tradition of such great European theater festivals as the London International Mime Festival (LIMF) and the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, to name a few.

“Physical theater embraces such a wide variety of styles, approaches and aesthetics including clown, puppetry, mime, mask, dance, theater, vaudeville and circus, stop motion film and poetry to name just a few,” explains Alice da Cunha. “Chicago is fortunate to be home to one of the best, most eclectic and adventurous audiences in the world. So ‘let’s get physical,’ Chicago. The 6th Physical Theater Festival Chicago is your chance to see an eye-opening variety of contemporary physical theater styles, artists and companies from around the globe.”

Alice da Cunha was Marketing Director for CASA (London's Latin American Theatre Festival) and she produced, curated and presented SHORTCUTZ (a weekly short film festival). She was also the Production Assistant for TODOS Festival, an interdisciplinary festival in Lisbon, Portugal. In Chicago, da Cunha is an actress who has performed in many plays and films, including United Flight 232 at The House Theatre of Chicago, winner of a 2016 Jeff Award for Best Ensemble, and more recently, La Ruta at Steppenwolf Theatre. She has also worked in hospitality for the Chicago Latino Film Festival.

Co-Artistic Director Marc Frost is an actor, deviser, educator and Chicago native who has performed and produced work in Brazil, Ireland, Spain, the USA and the U.K. He created Theater Unspeakable as a platform for original works of devised, physical theater. Based in Chicago, the award-winning company has toured nationally to thousands of young audiences at venues including Lincoln Center Education (NY) and Kennedy Center (DC). He currently teaches physical theater at DePaul University. He is also a recent graduate of the Commercial Theatre Institute's 14-Week Training Program for Commercial Producers in New York City.

Physical Theater Festival Chicago is supported by The MacArthur Funds for Arts and Culture at The Richard H. Driehaus Foundation and is also supported by Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Events (DCASE), Fractured Atlas, Stage 773 and Theater Unspeakable LLC.

For more information, visit physicalfestival.com.

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