School is in session at Collaboraction Theatre Company

forgotten_futureIf you don’t live under a rock, then you have heard all about Chicago public schools.  From school closings to the teachers’ union strikes, it has been well covered in the news. Collaberaction Theatre Company takes a hard look at the issues in an intense 90-minute show.

Written by Sarah Moeller and Adam Joseph Seidel, Forgotten Future: the education project takes the audience through three classrooms, with teachers all at different stages of their career from brand new to 20+ years. The play focuses on three students and the pressures they face at school and at home, giving perspective to different facets of the problems facing our school system. It’s painfully clear that the children are the losers in the struggle between the teachers, the school, and the politicians holding the purse strings and the power.

Based on fact rather than drama, this powerful play drives home the current problem that is all too real and, quite frankly, frightening. Three students of Chicago public schools make their acting debut in this piece adding such undeniable realism you can’t help but squirm in your chair at the injustice of what they face every day.

Collaboraction Theatre is based in the Flat Iron Arts Building on Milwaukee and Damen, and is in its 18th year. According to their website, their mission is to “create original theatrical experiences that push artistic boundaries in order to explore critical social issues with a diverse community of Chicagoans.”  The stage is set up in classroom format with the audience seated as part of the classroom, putting them up close and personal with the action. Clever use of projection and sound bites lays out some disturbing facts about the U.S. education system as a whole.

This show runs now through October 26: Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 7:30pm, Sunday at 3:00pm at the Flat Iron Arts Building, 1579 N. Milwaukee Ave, Room 300.  The performance is approximately 90 minutes, followed each night by a Town Hall Meeting. Tickets are $15-$30. Purchase tickets online at www.collaboraction.org or call 312-226-9633.

Watch a preview here

Chicago Sinfionetta Battles Mucca Pazza

mei-ann_bow_with_orchestraA strange thing happened at Symphony Hall on Monday. A well-established classical music organization took on a well-established punk marching theatrical band, and the result was amazing!

Chicago Sinfonietta began its 27th season on Monday with much pomp and circumstance. Maestro Mei-Ann Chen, residing on the conductor’s podium since 2011, elegantly and passionately led this small but fierce orchestra through some beautiful classical standards. The concert opened with Vaughan Williams‘  English Folk Song Suite.  Next came Dance in the Canebrakes by African American composer Florence Price.  The first half concluded withBenjamin Britten’s Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra. Maestro Chen promised a rousing second half and did not disappoint.

Mucca Pazza, 30+ members of drummers, brass, and various other peculiar instrumentation, literally rose up through the stage and played Holiday on Ice, composed by founder Mark Messing, in combination with Chicago Sinfonietta.  The concert ended with Tchaikovsky’s  Overture 1812 in a battle between the two groups.  Mucca Pazza played the part of the French (in Napolian’s attempt to take over Russia) and took over the stage, audience and choral balcony, ending in confetti shot from canons much to the audience’s delight.

Part of Chicago Sinfonietta’s quest has been to bring little known and rarely plaid classical pieces to light.  They combine that with atypical instrumentation, such as bagpipes, sitar, steel drums, and many other odd mixtures, making the Chicago Sinfonietta concerts unique to say the least. What might seem campy or a disturbing combination actual makes for fantastic entertainment and broadens classical music’s audience.  The superb musicality of this diverse group is to be taken seriously.

Mucca Pazza has been delighting audiences across the country with their quirky costumes, charmingly unconventional cheerleaders, and fantastic musicality. They were the perfect complement to Chicago Sinfonietta’s long-standing tradition of non-classical partnerships.

For information on the remainder of Chicago Sinfonietta’s season, visithttp://www.chicagosinfonietta.org/1415season/. You have the opportunity to hear them play in two places they call home, the Wentz Concert Hall in Naperville, and Symphony Center on south Michigan Avenue.

For more information on upcoming shows for Mucca Pazza visit http://muccapazza.com/category/shows/.

BalletX Marks the Spot

BalletXBalletX is the premier contemporary ballet company in Philadelphia. Their Chicago debut was Thursday night as the season opener at The Dance Center of Columbia College. This nearly decade old company pushes classical ballet to a different level with “formal experimentation” while still maintaining technique.

This fresh-faced company, with several performers having joined the company within just the last year, have grown together in a way that feels like they have performed together for years. The dancing is fun, innovative, exciting, and athletic, and extremely energetic.

The four pieces chosen for this tour present a wide variety in emotions and dance technique set to eclectic music choices from klezmer to jazz, Max Richter to the indie rock band Beirut.  Each piece is unique and surprising. The performers convey sentiment from their body movements to the expressions on their faces. The clean and simple costuming, staging, and lighting set in the intimate theater space at Columbia make this evening of performances feel quite personal, drawing you in and leaving you wanting more.

I look forward to the day BalletX returns to Chicago. They are a unique group that obviously enjoys discovering where how far they can stretch dance technique outside of the normal perceptions, and it’s a fun journey to take.  But hurry, today is your last chance to see this group for now.

Ticket Information
The Dance Center presents BalletX September 18–20, Thursday–Saturday at 8 p.m. at The Dance Center, 1306 S. Michigan Ave. Single tickets are $30. For information, call 312-369-8330 or visit colum.edu/dancecenterpresents

Stories in Motion by the Joffrey Ballet

calvin_kitten_as_prodigal_son_photo_by_herbert_migdollThe Joffrey Ballet is celebrating big this year. To commemorate their 20th year in Chicago, they have added a special presentation for one weekend only, and it opened last night.

The program for Stories in Motion consists of three short works referred to as “story ballets”. Ashely Wheater, Joffrey’s Artistic Director, wanted to “focus on telling a complete story in a very short space of time”.  Each story is rich and complex and emotionally communicated as only dance can do.

The first piece, The Prodigal Son, tells the biblical story of the favored son who leaves his family in quest of adventure but instead descends into sin. He returns to the family begging for forgiveness. The part of the father is played by Wheater himself, making a rare appearance on stage. This classic tale was one of choreographer George Balanchine’s first ballets, quickly gaining him an international reputation. It first premiered in 1929 and is set to the music of Sergie Prokofiev.

Next is Lilac Garden set to the music of Ernest Chausson’s Poeme, for violin and orchestra. This piece originally premiered in 1936 and was last presented by the Joffrey Ballet in 2008. The story is of Victorian era love and romance, and an arranged marriage. The staging and costumes are glorious, matching the beautifully executed choreography of Antony Tudor.

Last, and most certainly not least, is RAkU. This Chicago premier by San Francisco Ballet’s resident choreographer Yuri Possokhov is visually stunning and emotionally fraught. The story of love between a Japanese emperor and his princess, war, and love-sick madness of another suitor is told against the backdrop of moving screens, projections, and beautiful modern costuming. This will without a doubt having you leaping out of your seat to bestow numerous rounds of applause on the dancers, choreographers and musicians who bring this tale to life.

Do not miss this special performance.  It commemorates not only the two decades the Joffrey Ballet has made Chicago its home, but the wonderful artistry of the dancers and the amazing contribution the company makes to the dance world in Chicago and beyond.

Dates & Tickets:The Joffrey Ballet performs “Stories in Motion” Friday, September 19 at 7:30 pm; Saturday, September 20 at 2 pm and 7:30 pm; and Sunday, September 21 at 2 pm.

Single tickets, priced from $32 to $155, are available now at The Joffrey Ballet’s official Box Office located in the lobby of Joffrey Tower, 10 E. Randolph Street, as well as the Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University Box Office, all Ticketmaster Ticket Centers, by telephone at (800) 982-2787, or online at www.ticketmaster.com.

Joffrey Ballet presents a newly imagined Swan Lake

Joffrey Ballet - Swan LakeBallet lovers, mark your calendars!  In celebration of the Joffrey Ballet’s 20th anniversary here in Chicago they are presenting Christopher Wheeldon’s Swan Lake. Not only is this the Chicago premier of this ballet, it is the first time the Joffrey will be performing any performance of Swan Lake in its 60-year history.

Wheeldon was commissioned by the Pennsylvania Ballet to choreograph this piece in 2004. This version is set in 19th century Paris, when Tchaikovsky was writing the piece in Moscow. Painter Edgar Degas was gaining notoriety in Paris during this time as well, and Wheeldon has integrated Degas paintings into the beginning choreography.

“There is something so fresh and so well-integrated about his idea. He is a master story-teller with an innate sense of musicality” says artistic director Ashley Wheater, who endeavors to bring re-conceived ballets to audiences in Chicago.

The Joffrey Ballet performs Christopher Wheeldon’s Swan Lake Wednesday, October 15 through Sunday, October 26, Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University, 50 E. Congress Parkway for only 10 performances. For a full performance schedule and to purchase tickets visit: http://joffrey.org/swanlake.

A Different View of Macbeth

Macbeth

When you hear the name Macbeth you probably don’t think technology. It was limited in Shakespeare’s era to things like the pocket watch. But Chicago Opera Theater (COT) presents a short run of an opera using technology to make the performance much more intimate.

The final offering in COT’s  2014 season is the Chicago premier of Ernest Bloch’s Macbeth. Sung in Shakespearean English (with projected subtitles), this interpretation blends the use of hand-held and other cameras to bring additional viewpoints to the audience.

Composer Ernest Bloch was just 26 when he began writing this opera in 1904. Since its premier in 1910, it has had less than a dozen performances worldwide, including this COT production. The story, closely following Shakespeare’s original work, is filled with drama and murder told in just 3 acts.  The 110-minute performance (with no intermission) presents music beautifully played by Chicago Sinfonietta and the Apollo Chorus.

The home of the COT is Harris Theater at 2015 E. Randolph. The theater is tucked underground beneath Pritzker Pavilion. You enter at street level and then descend to your seats in the ultra-modern theater, perfect for more intimate settings for the music and dance performances presented throughout the year.

There are just three performances left of this amazing show. Wednesday, September 17 and Friday, September 19 at 7:30pm and Sunday, September 21 at 3pm. Tickets range from $35 to $125 and are available atchicagooperatheater.org.

Afternoon with C.S. Lewis

 

You’ve heard the question before: if you could go back in time who would you choose to spend an afternoon with? If your answer is author C.S. Lewis, you’re in luck!  Well, sort of.  Provisions Theater Company has opened its 2014-2015 season with its revival of C.S. Lewis on Stage written by the author himself and adapted by Tom Key.  C.S. Lewis (played by Brad Armacost), has invited you to tea and regales you with stories from his life and musings from his own writings.

Characters emerge effortlessly from Armacost in this one-man show revealing details of Lewis’ life which are certain to have been unknown to you before. Shifting in lighting and well-placed musical sound bites ease you between segments keeping you engaged with the alternating conversation with the audience, and pieces of his literature. You truly feel like a guest in his home and are left wishing for more conversation with the presentation of this intellectual and iconic figure.

Think you’re not familiar with Lewis’ work?  Think again! He penned The Chronicles of Narnia, The Screwtape Letters, and nearly 30 other books making him “one of the intellectual giants of the twentieth century…” (https://www.cslewis.com/us/about-cs-lewis). If you’re not acquainted with Lewis’ work, this performance will certainly pique your interest in learning more and adding to your library.

You don’t want to miss this gem of a performance.  The show runs Fridays and Saturdays at 8:00 pm and Sundays at 3:00 pm through October 19 at Provision Theater, located at 1001 W. Roosevelt Road. Tickets are priced between $10 and $32, including free parking.  For tickets, call the box office at 312-455-0066 or go to www.provisiontheater.org.

Dance Center of Columbia College season opener

BalletX photo by Alexander Iziliaev
BalletX photo by Alexander Iziliaev

Pick an art form and you can find it in Chicago, in spades. A gem that presents performing and visual arts is Columbia College. Specifically, the Dance Center of Columbia College offers contemporary dance performances featuring local, national, and international artists of great significance. Their 2014-2015 season opens with the Chicago debut of a weekend of performances by BalletX, Philadelphia’s leading contemporary ballet company.

This showcase, co-directed by Christine Cox and Matthew Neenan, will present 4 pieces.  Slump and Valentine’s Day, both by Joshua L. Peugh, deal with primal matters of courtship and mating rituals, and give and take mixed with romance and responsibility, respectively. Delicate Balance by Jodie Gates highlights the athletic and artistic abilities of the 10-member dance company, featuring music by Arvo Pärt, Henryk Gorecki, Gavin Byers, David Lang and Max Richter. Finally, a piece selected as “Dance Favorite for 2013” by the New York Times, Neenan’s The Last Glass is a ballet that builds mysteriously and slowly, and includes music by American indie-rock band Beirut.

This season opener is being performed only September 18–20, Thursday–Saturday at 8 p.m. at The Dance Center, 1306 S. Michigan Ave. Single tickets are $30. For information, call 312-369-8330 or visit colum.edu/dancecenterpresents. As a special addition, a post-performance talk back with the artists will occur Thursday, September 18, and a pre-performance talk with Matthew Neenan takes place Friday, September 19 at 7 p.m. Both events are free to ticket holders.

Special Celebration weekend by the Joffrey Ballet

Joffrey Ballet - photo by Cheryl Mann
Joffrey Ballet – photo by Cheryl Mann

It’s that time of year again; theater season! Performing arts organizations across the city will be kicking off their respective 2014-2015 seasons in September. There is a celebration not to be missed among the many choices of music, dance, and theater performances.

The Joffrey Ballet will commemorate their 20th anniversary of residence in Chicago with an extraordinary program offered for one weekend only. Supplementing their normal three-program subscription is “Stories in Motion”. Artistic Director Ashley Wheater presents three “story ballet[s]”, each told in a newly imagined way. “Stories in Motion” will consist of the return of two company repertoire favorites and the Chicago premier of a third piece.

Wheater wanted to “focus on telling a complete story in a very short space of time… and hope[s] to show that the language of dance is as expressive and nuanced as the spoken or written word.”

Familiar to the Joffrey audience will be Prodigal Son last performed by the company in 2000. This year Wheater himself will portray the Father, a rare appearance by the artistic director. Also returning is Lilac Garden choreographed by Antony Tudor. Finally, this exceptional trio of performances will round out with RAkU, choreographed by San Francisco Ballet’s Resident Choreographer Yuri Possokhov.

This show can be seen for 5 performances only on Thursday and Friday September 18 and 19 at 7:30 pm; Saturday, September 20 at 2pm and 7:30pm; and Sunday, September 21 at 2 pm.  All performances will be at Roosevelt University’s Auditorium Theatre (50 E. Congress Parkway).

Tickets are available at The Joffrey Ballet’s official Box Office located in the lobby of Joffrey Tower, 10 E. Randolph Street, as well as the Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University Box Office, all Ticketmaster Ticket Centers, by telephone at (800) 982-2787, or online at www.ticketmaster.com.

JW Marriott partners with Joffrey Ballet

Joffrey Ballet

 

The moment you walk in the doors at the JW Marriott on Adams you notice something different. You are greeted not by someone at the reception desk way at the back of the lobby but by the smiling face of a happy associate posted near the door. One who is standing tall, shoulders back, poised stance and who looks like he or she has been waiting just for you. Your experience at the hotel has just been elevated. This is no coincidence. JW Marriott has once again partnered with Chicago’s world-famous Joffrey Ballet on a program called Poise and Grace.

The two organizations have partnered several times since the Marriott property’s opening four years ago.  This latest joint venture, however, is revolutionary in thinking. Teaching associates (as all Marriott employees are referred to) to interact with customers with practiced poise and posture changes the type of experience the customer has. The program began at the JW Marriott property on Adams but will be rolled out to all the JW Marriott properties globally and all associates from management to housekeeping will participate.

Working in a hotel and being a ballet dancer are “very similar,” said Joffrey Ballet Artistic Director Ashley Wheater. “We didn’t want to teach the JW Marriott ways to be ballet dancers, but I think there are great disciplines that come out of there, and if we can apply them, it then just becomes part of your discipline in the workplace and makes it a lot more enjoyable,” Wheater said. From posture to gestures to eye contact, this will be a more “conscious form of service,” he said.

From a hotel brand that presents an “approachable luxury” (said Steve Conklin, Director of Sales and Marketing of the JW Marriott Chicago) comes a whole new way to approach customer service, one that certainly feels like it has hit the mark.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mbr902Hkqgc&feature=player_embedded