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Review: Unapologetic and In Your Face, Congo Square Theatre’s What to Send Up When It Goes Down Starts the Healing
I wish that I could say that What to Send Up When It Goes Down was a flashback to earlier days of Black theater companies like eta Creative Arts Foundation and Kuumba in Chicago. This new play, written by Aleshea Harris, is a brilliant rage against violence against Black people in contemporary society. It is not a flashback. The violence, degradation, and economic strangulation of Black people is the same now as it was post-Civil War even after protests, outrage, and a Black American president. What to Send Up When It Goes Down is a visceral cry for everyone to listen and pay attention to why these atrocities continue and why it is important for Black people to drive the narrative of rage and how we can heal. The play is co-directed by Ericka Ratcliff and Daniel Bryant.
As you may have heard, Third Coast Review is a proud member of the Chicago Independent Media Alliance (CIMA), a group of nearly 40 independent Chicago-area media outlets who are determined to keep local media alive. Over the next two weeks, October 3–17, we are joining forces with all our fellow members for our third annual fundraising campaign. Through our diverse and eclectic voices, we hope to raise some money to help continue our mission to amplify Chicago Voices. The first two days of the fundraiser are especially important as donations to individual outlets will be double matched, essentially tripling your generous gift to your chosen CIMA member.
The cool temps are finally here and fall has begun. Break out your hoodies and coats because there is just so much going on during autumn in Chicago it would be a shame if you missed these great events. There are tons of events going on so you won’t have to look far and wide for something amazingly fun to do this weekend!
Third Coast Review is happy to announce we’re one of nearly 40 independent Chicago-area media outlets, members of the Chicago Independent Media Alliance (CIMA), joining forces for our third annual fundraising campaign. It kicks off next week! Under the slogan #WeAmplifyChicagoVoices, our diverse and eclectic media group will conduct a two-week campaign October 3–17.
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I’m pretty sure I was the only person in the Nederlander Theatre who had never seen Wicked before. Most audience members were wearing green buttons that said “I’ve seen Wicked ___ Times” and more than a few were in double digits. It was sort of like going to a midnight screening of The Rocky Horror Picture Show where everyone shouts the lines along with the actors on screen—but here no one was shouting or throwing objects at the stage. The Wicked audience seemed to anticipate what was coming next and welcomed their favorite moments and performers with applause.
National Hispanic American Heritage Month (September 15-October 15) started off strong with the Chicago Humanities Fest’s Pilsen Mural Tour, following last spring’s other insightful, invigorating neighborhood tours. Local muralist Sam Kirk walked a lively group of enthusiasts for a stroll around Pilsen during one of the city’s last warm weekends, sharing her own work plus history about Chicago’s lush street art movement. (Just like prepared parents, the CHF organizers also pulled a wagon of cold water and snacks behind the sweaty hikers.)
EDM legend Deadmau5 (also known behind the persona as Joel Zimmerman) packed an eventful night of dancing, insane lighting and some talented supporting DJs all under Aragon Ballroom’s iconic galactic ceiling. The amount of pure excitement I felt walking into the venue Friday night was beyond words. I grew up listening to both Deadmau5 and supporting act NERO; and to finally be able to witness them in the flesh was nothing short of a pure nostalgia trip for me.
Every day, Chicago’s local media amplify our communities’ voices: Black and Brown voices, immigrant voices, LGBTQ+ voices, workers’ voices, and more. Most are run by small, dedicated teams, sometimes made up of just one or two staff members supported by dedicated volunteers. But no matter our size, we produce complex investigative reports. We uplift local reporters and filmmakers. We bring people community-centered news every single day. And we dedicate ourselves to reshaping narratives, filling information gaps, and producing news that connects communities throughout our city.
Feature: Michelle Obama’s South Shore Neighborhood Explored in CHF’s Cooler by the Lake Trolley Tour
Last spring, the Chicago Humanities Festival offered a bus tour of Chicago’s Bronzeville neighborhood, and this September, offered a tour of the nearby South Shore neighborhood. South Shore is a mostly African American community these days, replete with colorful community culture murals, a far cry from the original “No Negros, Jews or Dogs” signs that used to be posted in the area. Originally an annex to 1893’s World’s Columbian Exposition, the area now has horse stables for the Chicago Police Department but is still considered a food desert for humans.
I always get to shows early. I consider that to be a virtue and also very helpful in getting the vibe of a place. My early arrival habit paid off really well at the premiere of The Ugly One at Trap Door Theatre. I wandered through the adjoining restaurant–which is a rookie move–but the theater’s sidewalk sign was not put out yet. I walked through a door that looked like a closet and into a tiny lobby. I sat down on a velvet-covered church pew surrounded by candles and posters from previous productions. The lovely sounds of vocal warmups and a chorus of “happy opening night!” was the soundtrack to the vibe. This was going to be a trip and it was.
The Kyiv City Ballet was starting a world tour and were stranded in Paris when the Russian invasion began in February. They have not been able to return home. Their artistry and perfection of the craft of ballet carry the banner of Ukrainian culture and arts for the world to see. Their performance here was a point of connection and pride for the many Ukrainian citizens living here in the Chicago area. I was spellbound for 2.5 hours watching and feeling thrilled for the dancers defiantly carrying on traditions and bringing some new dances to Chicago and the world.
The Second City finds itself home to the country’s second-longest running LGBTQ+ film festival in the form of Reeling Film Festival, celebrating its 40th iteration September 22 through October 2 (in person; October 6 virtually). Presented by Chicago Filmmakers, the local non-profit that hosts classes, screenings and events in their Andersonville headquarters, Reeling is hosted at multiple venues throughout its run, including an Opening Night Event at Music Box Theater and screenings at both the Chicago Filmmakers space and Landmark’s Century Centre Cinema. The festival opens with a U.S. premiere screening of The Shiny Shrimps Strike Back, French directors Cédric Le Gallo and Maxime Govare’s delightful follow-up to their 2019 comedy, The Shiny Shrimps (Reeling also featured that film).
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First released in 1997, the animated feature film Anastasia quickly earned a recognition among the widely popular Disney princesses of the era. Except for one thing: it’s not a Disney film. Produced by Fox Family Films, the movie never quite launched the studio label’s animation production the way they’d hoped. But the film was a bona fide success nevertheless. With a star-studded cast (Meg Ryan, John Cusack, Kelsey Grammer, Hank Azaria, Christopher Lloyd, Bernadette Peters, Angela Lansbury) and music, both inspiring and catchy, by Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty, Anastasia earned more than $58 million at the box office and landed two Academy Awards nominations.
Last year, the Lyric Opera presented a dazzling production of The Magic Flute originally conceived for Berlin’s Komische Oper by Australian director Barrie Kosky. Now, the Lyric is at it again with the English language and North American premier of Kosky’s 2017 production of Fiddler on the Roof. The results are just as luminous.
Right out of the gate, I will say that the term ‘gothic’ certainly fits the story and the actions of the characters in Southern Gothic. Windy City Playhouse’s remount of Leslie Liautaud’s play peels back the layers of genteel Ashford, Georgia, in 1961. Jack Kennedy is in the White House and every woman wants to embody the taste and poise of Jackie Kennedy. It’s the New Frontier and optimism can surely overcome all of the pain and secrets of a group of lifelong friends in their little corner of Georgia. That is until the facade begins to crumble.
Review: In Time for Halloween, Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street Arrives with Strong Vocals, Clever Staging
As we left the Chopin Theatre Friday night, after an appropriately spooky and decidedly well-sung performance of Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street presented by Kokandy Productions, I commented to my guest how much I appreciated any show populated by a young, hungry cast. These performers so wanted to be a part of a production that they committed their evenings and weekends to its rehearsal and presentation. And sure enough, a quick check of the digital program confirmed it: among this talented ensemble are a full-time nonprofit attorney and at least one current theater student. The median age of the cast is somewhere in the late 20s (mmmmaybe early 30s), making it hard to believe these babyfaced actors are citizens of the rough and tumble cobblestone streets of mid-19th century London. But staged as it is in the round in Chopin’s downstairs theater, with a DIY rotating centerpiece and a production design that relies more on pantomime than actual props, the show becomes something to discover, an example of Chicago’s thriving storefront theater scene and the people committed to making it great.
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Ah, Riot Fest. The last huge festival of the year took place this past weekend and it was the affair you’d expect it to be: amazing bands dazzling a crowded Douglass Park. Every year the fest brings some of the best bands to Chicago to dish out an alternative to the more mainstream mega festivals in town.
Review: At Steppenwolf Theatre, Miz Martha Washington’s Crazy Dreamscape Offers Comic History Lessons and Discomfort
Leaving the theater after seeing this wise and hysterically funny play, my first thought was, I would like to see this produced in Florida, where the governor and legislature have decreed that slavery cannot be discussed in schools—for fear of making students uncomfortable. It can be healthy to be uncomfortable. Laughter that arises from discomfort can be healing, wounding and thought-provoking.
Philip Glass is considered one of the greatest living composers of the 20th and 21st centuries. His spare and layered compositions can be interpreted in many ways other than as written, and that is the beauty of his music. Third Coast Percussion brings even more layers to Glass’ Aguas de Amazonia-Waters of the Amazon suite. The quartet consists of Sean Connors, Robert Dillon, Peter Martin, and David Skidmore, all percussionists who call Chicago home. Each of these musicians brought an exquisite sense of joy to their performance of a concert of Philip Glass music.
Joseph Kesselring’s 1941 Arsenic and Old Lace is a familiar property, frequently revived and indelibly captured on film in Frank Capra’s 1944 movie starring Cary Grant. Its popularity is well deserved. A classic mid-century American farce, it has more than its share of slamming doors, clueless cops, and endearing oddballs. And to that tried-and-true mix, it famously adds a special dose of dark—murderous—humor: in an almost-bucolic Brooklyn, two little old ladies are poisoning lonely old men with their homemade elderberry wine (dosed with just the right combo of arsenic, strychnine and a touch of cyanide).