Not That Will Rogers

Alejandro’s got a new dance!
April 4, 2009, 5:07 pm
Filed under: Companies, Dance, People
Alejandro Cerrudo

Alejandro Cerrudo

This weekend is Hubbard Street Dance Chicago’s Spring Series.  Woot! I can’t wait.  Alejandro Cerruda has a world preiere called Off Screen.  I’ve been pretty smitten with his work Extremely Close, so my dance pants are tingling.  His movement is so organic and weird and wonderful.  His movement for partners is light and so so complicated.  Check out clips of both of those works here. I wonder if he has any interest in an Artisitc Director or Associate Artistic Director at title.  What is to happen as Artistic Director Jim Vincent departs in June?


I”m going to miss Alvin Ailey tonight…you shouldn’t

Men of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater

I’m so bummed.  Tonight is the opening of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater at the Auditorium Theatre and I”m in Philly.  So in my absence you should go check them out.  They are premiering a couple of new pieces in Chicago and tonight only they are performing with Sweet Honey in the Rock live….that is too much awesomeness for one stage i think.  Here is the feature i did for Newcity with some fun links.
“There was such a great energy in the theater; the performance was so magical,” Antonio Douthit says about dancing for President Barack Obama and his family earlier this year.   The young dancer from St. Louis has been with Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater (AAADT) for five seasons now and from the time he signed his contract he has been living dream moments like this one.

AAADT is celebrating its fiftieth anniversary through 2009.  Since its inception, the company has become one of the most recognizable names in American dance. A U.S. Congressional resolution recently recognized the institution as a vital “American Cultural Ambassador to the World.” Barbie even got into the action this year with the first doll inspired by a dance company. Generations of young people, specifically young African Americans like Douthit, have grown up with the solitary dream of one day joining the company of modern dancers known for their strength , athleticism and grace.

“I knew this is where I wanted to be when I started dancing,” Douthit says.  He was 16 and performing at a school dominated by young white girls when he remembers discovering AAADT. “I was taken to a whole other place I never thought dance could go.  I had never been around a group of men that performed like men and looked like men and that was something I wanted to do.”  And so go the dreams of young artists all over the country.

Now Douthit finds himself on a fifty-city U.S. tour celebrating a golden anniversary.  This week is stop fifteen, five days at the Auditorium Theatre.  With an ambitious series of programs, AAADT will be dancing pieces that range from the company’s iconic centerpiece, Ailey’s “Revelations,” to contemporary work like that of Robert Battle’s “Unfold.” In addition, Chicago will get a first chance to see company member Hope Boykin’s “Go in Grace,”  a collaboration with Grammy Award-winning female a capella ensemble Sweet Honey in the Rock.  The ensemble will accompany the dancers live on stage opening night.  Though the dancers are not even to the halfway mark of their marathon tour, it is bold programming like this that keeps them invigorated.

“We get tired.  It is the organization that keeps you going,”  says Douthit.  “I feel like we always give dance back to the community. Dance is so accessible on television and the Internet, people are learning more about the company than they ever have before.  He [Alvin Ailey] would be so thrilled that his dance is for everyone.” (William Scott)

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater performs at Auditorium Theatre, 50 E. Congress Parkway, through April 5.

Review: The Dastardly Ficus and Other Comedic Tales of Woe and Misery/The Strange Tree Group
Geneva (Carol Enoch) and Jennifer (Nancy Freidrich) give a funeral to a dead cat found by the road

Geneva (Carol Enoch) and Jennifer (Nancy Freidrich) give a funeral to a dead cat found by the road

RECOMMENDED – see my original post on

The Strange Tree Group’s current production of Emily Schwartz’s The Dastardly Ficus and other Comedic Tales of Woe and Misery has been getting a lot of buzz within theater circles and there is a clear reason.  This artfully constructed gem, directed by Amanda Berg Wilson, is the kind that you want to take home in your pocket so you can get a closer look whenever its macabre imagery pops in your head, which will be often.  Everything I love about Edward Gorey, Roald Dahl, and any fairy tales with wicked stepsisters or spinster aunts is currently living warmly in the basement of the Chopin Theater, nestled in the lovely scenic work of Kate Nawrocki and the playwright.  The story is that of the Derbyshire sisters, Geneva (Carol Enoch), the buttoned-up matriarch and Jennifer (Nancy Freidrich), the disheveled free spirit who would rather be bogging for dead things than suffering under her sister’s conservatism.  The series of scenes in the first act sets up a codependent, dysfunctional family relationship that comes to a whirling cacophony when Jennifer invites home a gentlemen suitor for Geneva in the second act. What makes The Dastardly Ficus so fun is the talent of these two women.  Enoch can stare daggers through a coffee table and elicit fear from a potted plant while Freidrich is devilishly childlike in a way that leaves the most delicious taste in your mouth.  This production is a special engagement of the show that started the company five years ago and I’m left with one big question.  Where is the sequel?  These characters have way more life in them.

At The Chopin Theater, 1543 W. Division, (773)598-8240, Through April 4.

February 21, 2009, 9:16 am
Filed under: Companies, Offers, Shows | Tags: ,

I can’t help it.  The longer I sit with the memory of About Face’s Stupid Kids, the more I love it.  You can read my full review a few posts down, but I thought I would share this offer.  This offer came across About Face’s eblast and I’m certain I know a few people who coudl use it.  So take advantage, and take a friend to see the show this weekend.  Here it is….

This Saturday and Sunday at 4pm!
Center on Halsted – 3656 N. Halsted
Get TWO TICKETS for $20
when you use code STUPIDSWEET
($10 student rush tickets* available at the door)

Reconstructing Dance History: “The Rite of Spring”
Dancers in traditional Himalayan costumes in "The Rite of Spring"

Dancers in traditional Himalayan costumes in "The Rite of Spring"

You have until March 1 to make it to Joffrey Ballet’s Winter Program.  Totaling four works in all, the cornerstone of this season’s program is Vaslav Nijinsky’s Le Sacre du Printemps (The Rite of Spring), originally danced by the famed Bellets Russes. The work reenacts a sacrificial fertility rite in which a young woman dances herself to death.  Tribal and raw, Nijinsky’s dance is set to Stravinsky’s iconic score with scenery and authentic Himalayan costumes by Nikolai Roerich.  When the work premiered in 1913, audiences were so outraged they rioted and stormed the streets.  When was the last time you experienced that in a theater?  The Rite of Spring disappeared after its debut and was only revived by Robert Joffrey in 1987 with the meticulous research of husband and wife dance historian team Millicent Hodson and Kenneth Archer.  Presented as part of the centennial celebration of the Ballets Russes, if you are into dance you have to see this.  It changed ballet forever and paved the road for modern approaches to a classical form.  If you are just into history that’s another great reason to go.  Visit the Joffrey Ballet website to watch a short video on the history of the work.

While we are on the topic of The Rite of Spring, I would be remissed if I didn’t include a link to a piece done on the riot it caused by my friends at WNYC’s Radiolab.  What could be better than learning more on The Rite of Spring from one of the most exciting shows on the radio (or iTunes)?  Well stop asking questions so I can tell you.  Not only will you hear about the dance, but you will also hear one of my favorite Radiolab degments, “Sound as Touch”.  Click here and enjoy!

Stupid Kids far from stupid

Go see "Stupid Kids"

I must admit, I went into About Face’s production of  Stupid Kids with very high expectations and knowing it would be hard to meet my standards.  I read John C. Russell’s play in high school and it stuck to me.  As a young gay kid from Alabama coming to terms with my sexuality, the show’s stylized pining and frenzy of bad poetry was the answer to my classmate’s 90210 and Dawson’s Creek.  What co-directors Bonnie Metzgar and Megan Carney gave me was a multimedia, teen angsty, dancing ball of kinetic energy that churns up those gloriously provocative and vomit inducing memories of high school.   I loved it. The story is of a gay kid that goes by Neechee, played balls to the wall by Patrick Andrews.  Neechee has a hard on for Jim (Tony Clarno), the new guy in town with a major attitude and a motorcycle.  Neechee’s best friend is Erin Neal’s Kim, a Patti Smith obsessed revolutionary with a crush on Judy (Whitney White), an A-lister with a totally rad wardrobe.  Jim and Judy are going out and Neechee and Kim are determined to break them up through a 1980s rollercoaster of self-discovery, first kisses, and killer bongs.  It’s way complicated, way hilarious, and way to close to home.  And taking a big risk, Metzgar and Carney have added a contemporary cast of high schoolers using text messages and video diaries to offer a counterpoint to the insane proceedings.  Though it took me a bit to buy into this shadow cast, I came out feeling like its use made the show relevant to an entirely new generation.  For that I’m grateful. I hope this show hangs around.

At the Hoover-Leppen Theatre at Center on Halsted,  3656 N Halsted ,773.784.8565, through March 8.

Don’t Let “Not Enough Air” Suffocate.
February 4, 2009, 11:58 pm
Filed under: Companies, Shows | Tags: , , ,
Tom Howards famous photograph of Ruth Snyders exicution

Tom Howard's famous photograph of Ruth Snyder's exicution

I often agree with Chris Jones but this is not one of those times.  I don’t mean to say that all the negative assesments of Timeline Theatre’s current production of Masha Obolensky’s Not Enough Air were wrong.  There were some flaws in the play but I think that he missed the mark a bit.  The compelling components of the production far outweigh those that would bring it down.

The show is the story of Sophie Treadwell, pioneering journalist-turned-playwright responsible for giving us the play Machinal in 1928.  We follow Treadwell as she becomes obsessed with the trial of Ruth Snyder, the murderess that inspired the landmark play.  Finally sentenced to death, Snyder infamy is due in large part to a photograph of her being electrocuted taken by a hidden camera strapped to the ankle of Chicago Tribune’s Tom Howard.  There is much more to it, but your best bet is to visit the Timeline website and take advantage of the bounty of historical knowledge you will find there.

Nick Bowling’s direction is magical.  The opening montage had me hooked and when there were dips in the story he certainly found a way to keep it moving and intersting to watch.  Down to the sound of the large metal doors, the detail really stroked the part of me that might otherwise focus on flaws.

Also don’t miss the chance to watch Janet Ulrich Brooks work for two hours.  I’ve followed here through many of Timeline’s shows where I’ve only had the pleasure to watch her ins upporting roles.  She is a craftsman, er craftswoman.  I have to admit I love her in juicy character roles.  She can certainly put on an accent and make you laugh out loud.  But with Sophie Treadwell she commands a much difernt power.  She is strong and vulnerable and delightful

And in the grand traditioin of Timeline shows, I left smarter than I came in.  I will admit to moments of confusion, due largely to my ignorance of Machinal.  But never fear.  Starting this Sunday, Timeline will be presenting concert readings of the play every Sunday and Monday through March 2. Get tickets here


Janet Ulrich Brooks as Sophie Treadwell