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.



FWD Theatre Project presents launch concert

FWD Theatre Project
FWD Theatre Project

It’s obvious theater is big in Chicago, really big. But few people know Chicago is proving ground for many plays and musicals before they head off to Broadway or on tour. Well hold on to your seats, as Chicago is home to a new venture to bring original musical theater works to life. Eight experienced theater folk have formed FWD Theatre Project (Festival of Works in Development), and this esteemed group is producing a one-time concert at City Winery Chicago (1200 W Randolph Street) on Monday, September 22nd (sorry folks, it’s already sold out, that should speak to the excitement surrounding this project).

This concert, LaunchingFWD!, will be FWD Theatre Project’s inaugural event and will present selections from five new musicals in the works.  These musicals were selected from over 220 submissions in response to a nationwide search.

There are several things about FWD Theatre Project that are really exciting.  Not only are they seeking to discover and develop brand new musicals but they’ll be produced by some of the already existing, fabulous theaters here in Chicago.  More than that, the audience will have a chance to be part of the creative process through discussion, analytical exploration, and education.

To learn more about this exciting new project, its mission, and the creative team behind it all, visit FWD Theatre Project at www.fwdtheatre.org

Shadow Puppets on the Silver Screen

Mementos Mori

I have a confession to make. By the time I’m done writing this I’ll probably have more than that, but I digress. Here goes:  I have never seen a puppet theater show.  I know, I know, it’s an art that’s alive and well, and … wait, you haven’t either?  Well, get ready to be submersed in puppet theater art as Chicago is hosting its first festival in January for ten whole days.  Since we’ll be enduring subzero temperatures at that time (hard to imagine right now, I know) what better thing to do than to traverse the city taking in theater like you’ve never before imagined.

This past Tuesday I attended a work-in-progress showing of Mementos Mori by Chicago’s own Manual Cinema at the Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA).  (Second and third confessions: I had not previously been to the MCA in the 10+ years I’ve lived in Chicago and I didn’t know they had a theater where they hold all sorts of fabulous performances in theater, dance, film and music.  Now we both know.)   Manual Cinema was founded about four years ago by five Chicago artists all with backgrounds in theater, music, sound and visual arts.  The show they are currently developing in residence at MCA will be presented at that venue during the puppet theater festival.

I had no notion of what I was in for and by the time I left I felt like a child who’d been to the theater for the very first time.  My mind was expanded by the visual spectacle that unfolded before me.  Imagine, if you will, seven overhead projectors (the kind used for snooze-inducing presentations in middle school), three screens on stage, live musicians, actors, and on-stage editing.  The show will encompass three tangential story lines that are presented in analog and digital, 2-d and 3-d, all without a single word of dialog. It employs early cinema techniques juxtaposed with modern technology.  Quite a bit went into the writing of the story line itself and how it should be presented, so that the end result is a tug at your heartstrings and identification with the characters, using shadow puppets and live actors.

I know January seems like eons away but mark your calendars for this city wide event. Manual Cinema’s production of Mementos Mori is the first of its kind especially on such a grand scale and you won’t want to miss it.

Here are links for the specifics:
Manual Cinema: http://manualcinema.com/
Chicago International Puppet Theater Festival:  http://www.chicagopuppetfest.org/  January 16-25, 2015

Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA)  http://mcachicago.org/

Oh to Change the World

Oh To Change The WorldChicago Dramatists does it again.  The final offering of their 2011/2012 season is an amazing work by resident playwright Andrew Hinderaker.  The plot can be summed up as such: John Chapman has big, big dreams, all of which seem to culminate on his 35th birthday by which time he wants to be a billionaire.  He graduated from U of C as valedictorian and is scheduled to have an interview with Goldman Sachs.  But the day of his interview he oversleeps and it all goes to hell from there.  That in and of itself is enough to make one curious, no?  I can’t tell much more of the story without giving it away.  Suffice it to say, you really should see this play before it ends July 1st.

The story line weaves back and forth between Gary Indiana (where Chapman lives) and downtown Chicago.  Desperation creeps in from nearly the beginning of the story and the struggles of the main character are painful, literally.  The rest of the cast wonderfully fills out the storyline, trying to help Chapman find his way out of a dark hole.  His best friend, played by Ed Flynn, will make you laugh and tear up in nearly the same moment.

Chicago Dramatists’ black box stage is brilliantly transformed into separate spaces.  Images alternately from Gary and the Loop are projected completing that transition.  The direction team uses video and internet technology for a couple of very powerful scenes that give you insight into what Chapman is doing, without a word of dialog.  Two poignant scenes are exactly the opposite – you are thrust into the dark and only the dialog exists, bringing you straight to the heart of the matter.

Chicago Dramatists is located at 1105 W. Chicago Avenue.  Performances are Thursday through Saturday nights, and a Sunday matinee.  For more information and to purchase tickets visit www.chicagodramatists.org

Patio Theater

Patio TheaterChicago, ah Chicago. Birthplace of Cracker Jacks, Aunt Jemima Pancake mix, the zipper, the Ferris wheel, automatic dishwashers, and Pabst Blue Ribbon Beer, just to name a few. One other trend that began in Chicago is the opulent movie palaces like the Chicago Theater and many, many others that are no longer around.  The first opened in October of 1917, sat 1,780 people, and was air conditioned – quite a novelty for the time.

While most of those gorgeous theaters are now closed, they are a few sprinkled throughout the city that retain at least some of their original glory.  One in particular, the Patio Theater, still shows movies, rather than musicals.  Located on the northwest side, the Patio is the only movie palace still in operation in the community.  Among its other attributes are; the largest single screen in Chicagoland, a state of the art sound system, and a grand neo-Pompeian lobby restored to its original elegance.

One of the best parts – you can see movies for $5.00!  You may have to wait a couple of weeks to see the latest movies and you have to have a car to get there, but it’s worth the drive to sit under the flickering stars and moving clouds.  You can buy your favorite movie-watching treats in the lobby and enjoy the magnificent restoration completed by this now-family-owned theater.  It’s a real treat.  For movie and other information go to: http://patiotheater.net/

The Foreigner at Provision Theater

The ForeignerHave you ever overheard a conversation not meant for your ears and pretended you weren’t listening?  Imagine being mistaken for a foreigner who speaks no English, yet you do speak English and you understand everything being said.  And what’s being said is juicy gossip at the very least, or could prove life-threatening at the very worst.

The Foreigner is about just that.  A chap from England is rendered speechless in having to converse with strangers.  To make matters worse he is stuck in a cabin in rural Georgia for three days with the hostess and her three friends.  The guise of an even more obscure foreigner is thrust upon the Englishman and due to circumstances he is forced to play the part.  His hapless companions talk freely in the presence of this ineloquent gent providing information that could make the lives of those involved implode.  Hilarity ensues as he becomes further and further involved in the lie he’s created.

The Foreigner was written by Larry Shue and is directed by Timothy Gregory, who is the Founding Artistic Director of Provision Theater.  The show runs through March 18th, Friday and Saturday evenings, and Sunday afternoons.  For more information and to purchase tickets visit http://www.provisiontheater.org/