NYC in May: Part 3

That evening in NYC, we saw the new musical An American in Paris. It was magnificent. As most readers of this blog know, I see a lot of theater during the year. This performance was up there.

First and foremost, the dancing was brilliant. It’s not just a musical; it’s also an exquisite ballet at points. The leads both had extensive backgrounds in dance, specifically ballet. And it’s part of the plot too. It was simply joyous to watch them dance. I’ve seen so much circus of late that I have forgotten that dance can be wondrous as well.

Second, the music is simply fantastic. I love Gershwin. Rhapsody in Blue still gives me goosebumps every time I see it. And I think Fantasia 2000’s cartoon version is one of the best music videos/cartoons I’ve ever seen. So it’s so delightful to have an entire musical of Gershwin songs!

Third, the staging was really neat. They did a lot of projections onto moving panels. I know this is likely to be a trend moving forward; I can only imagine the cost of building a set compared to building one where you only have to project light onto it. While I’m not always a fan of the digital world, I do think they used projections really well. The set transported me to Paris, which is pretty amazing.

I’ll admit that I’m not a fan of the plot itself. Spoilers? It has all the awkward aspects of Breakfast of Tiffany’s. You kinda hate the male lead. But that shouldn’t keep you from seeing the musical. This is Broadway at its best.

Before the show, we ended up at Lindys, a famous after theater place. It’s known for cheesecake. It’s a diner place with expensive food items. I had a roast beef open sandwich that was not very good. But it was fun to check out this place in NY history. There’s a wall of celebrities who’ve eaten there. Sadly, we didn’t have time for cheesecake. I’ll have to go back to try that.

After the show, we found ourselves in Times Square at 11pm at night. I was astonished to see that the billboards are so bright, it kinda looked like day. Boy, I’m not a fan of Time Square. I’m not sure why. I have a soft spot for Las Vegas with all of its brash, bold spectacles. Maybe the difference is that it’s somehow magical in Vegas but Time Square is just bluster and advertising.

Tomorrow, I’ll talk about the new Whitney and Greenwich Village.

That’s all for now!

NYC in May: Part 2

My adventures in NYC continued after my explorations in Central Park. I ended up walking the entire length of the park from 110th street to 59th street. Part of that was spent in the park itself, wandering up and down hills (What are these bumpy things?). I even stumbled across a dodgeball game played by both adults and children. Then I walked parallel to the park on 5th avenue, wandering past the fancy apartment buildings and museums. We eventually wandered through the zoo area, finding a magnificent musical clock. Every half hour, small bronze animals begin spinning around it, dancing to the chimes. There’s a kangaroo playing drums! We didn’t get to see much of the zoo but I did get to say hi to the sea lions.

Zoo Clock

Zoo Clock

We spent some time in the Metropolitan Museum, which is always a delight. This time, we hung out mostly in the ancient Greek and Roman world. While there is definitely some question about the acquisition of pieces in the galleries, it’s really lovely. We ended up in the Etruscan section, which is hidden in the mezzanine level and frequently not open. There was a beautiful Etruscan chariot with scenes of life of Achilles depicted on the chariot itself. My dad pointed out that this was the third chariot of the ancient world he’d seen; I hadn’t thought about it. This was my second. If the area is open, it’s definitely worth checking out. I also found this funny little piece of pottery with a man’s face and a single leg sticking out. I love it!

Etruscan ChariotEtruscan pot

We also wandered into the Ancient Cypriot section, which was pretty neat as well. There was this magnificent sculpture of Heracles and some small statues of people wearing masks that remind me of “Hear No Evil. See No Evil. Speak No Evil.” There was a plaque talking about the man who collected the objects…always a bit awkward. But then we wandered into a gallery of Assyrian art with the incredible carved walls depicting Assyrian bird headed g-ds and men. It’s exquisite. My dad pointed out that this were the kind of things that ISIS is destroying in Iraq and Syria. What a tremendous blow for the people of those countries and the world. It’s going to make debates about looting and antiquity harder for countries trying to recover objects.

After our walk of Central Park, I ended up back at Momofuku Milk in Midtown. I had talked about this place on our recent trip to NYC. They make pie, truffle balls, and more. I am obsessed with their truffle balls. This time, I was curious about their “Crack Pie”, which was supposed to be very popular. (I got one of each flavor of truffle balls to take home). I didn’t love the Crack Pie. It’s creamy and buttery without chocolate but it didn’t even begin to approach the wonder of their truffle balls. I’ll try other things there on other trips but I think I’m good with their Crack Pie.

Tomorrow I’ll talk about An American in Paris that we saw that evening!

That’s all for now!

NYC in May: Part 1

This past weekend, I had the opportunity to visit NYC again. I had a marvelous time going to shows, exploring museums and parks, and eating delectable treats. Over the next few blog posts, I’ll talk about my trip. On the first day of the trip, we went up to the Saturday Farmer’s Market in Union Square. I know I’ve talked about this market before but it’s a tradition in our family. Even though we were staying in Midtown on this trip, we still had to check it out. It was wonderfully vibrant as always. I met a bunny named Cinnamon who was dressed in a little pink dress. She has her own Facebook page, which is pretty cool. There was a street musician playing a violin like a guitar, which was pretty splendid. There was a fortune teller, a man with his own table and chess set waiting for a game, and much more!

Cinnamon the Bunny

Later, I decided to check out Drifting in Daylight: Art in Central Park by Creative Time NYC. On the way in from the airport, I had seen an advertisement for an art celebration taking place in Central Park. Naturally, I had to check it out. On Friday and Saturdays from 12 to 6 from May 15 to June 20th, there are eight site specific art happenings across the park. The performance that caught my eye was the S.S. Hangover by Ragnar Kjartansson. The piece is a brass sextet from the Metropolitan Ensemble playing a piece he wrote while riding a boat around a small island in the Harlem Meer near 110th street. I had never been that far north in Central Park. I had been told that the area had historically been very dangerous. I think the piece was trying to get people to explore the park more. And I definitely got to new parts of the park. The area was beautiful. People of all ages were fishing in the water, having celebrations on the grass. And then the brass band came out in their Pegasus ship and glided around a tiny island playing their music. Simply magnificent. Sometimes you have to take the time to listen to the brass sextet floating in a boat.

S.S. Hangover - Brass Sextet!

I moved on to the next piece Here and Now/Glacier, Shard, Rock by Karyn Oliver. Next to the water, there is a billboard that shifts depending on your perspective. It moves from an image of dirt and grass to shards of pottery to rock. It’s a reference to the long history of NYC. It was kinda neat to see this installation in the middle of greenery. Then it was time for ice cream. Spencer Finch’s Sunset was a solar powered ice cream truck that uses the solar energy to make ice cream. The entire truck is colored like the sunset, ranging from blues to yellow. Every night, he analyzes the sunset and then makes the ice cream in that shade the following day. So huzzah for sunset ice cream!

Sunset

The final piece that I came across one of eight scenes of Private Moments by David Levine. All over the park, there were moments snatched from iconic movies. I found two actors performing a scene from Woody Allen’s Bullets over Broadway in the conservatory garden. There were other scenes from Marathon Man, Cruel Intentions, Six Degree of Separation, and more. Sadly, I didn’t see any others.

Private Moment

If you are in NYC from May 15th to June 20th, I highly recommend checking this out. There were other performances and art installations set up throughout the park that I didn’t get to see. I am sure they were magnificent. I’m so glad that I listened to some advertisements!

That’s all for now!

Review: Alls Well That Ends Well

This past weekend, we saw Shakespeare’s Alls Well That Ends Well at the Theater Wit. Yes, another play checked off my list of Shakespearean plays. After seeing so many Shakespeare comedies, I’m finding that Twelfth Night is really more the anomaly than the norm.

Theater Wit’s production was set in 1950s America. They had decided on a gangster/greaser vibe with action in Chicago, New York, and Miami. I thought the staging was quite excellent. With a minimal set, they changed locales by changing the tablecloths, which really worked for me. It was also amazing how they had the characters mill around on stage before the play and during intermission in character. I adored the improvisation going on stage; it made the characters seem even more lifelike. The actors who played Parolles and the clown were fantastic. You loved to hate Parolles with his bravado while the clown was astute and funny. Both were real treasures to watch.

The issue for me was the play itself. So much of it didn’t work for me. Spoilers ahead. Bertram is the main issue. I don’t know why Helena or any woman would fall madly in love with him. He never really shows why he’s so loved. There doesn’t seem to be anything redeeming in him. Helena, you could do better. Then again, I didn’t buy Helena’s goodness either. She seeks to cure the king for her own gain. She gets brownie points for gumption and bravery but it’s not out of the kindness of her own heart. And then there’s the forced marriage, which is all sorts of icky. While Bertram stinks as a character, he shouldn’t be forced into marriage, even if his reasons are super classist. Helena really should have done a better job at opposing the marriage when she knew Bertram’s feelings. The lady doth not protest enough. And then there’s the bed trick, which has got to be a form of rape. Ugh.

But also on the topic of virginity, it seems so odd that Shakespeare plays fast and loose with virginity in this work. There’s the incredible dialogue between Helena and Parolles in the beginning discussing the virtues and disadvantages to the “commodity.” But then there is the bed trick, where virginal Diana lures Bertram to her bed and switches out for Helena so she can get impregnated. There’s this huge scene where Diana confronts Bertram about her maidenhead. Then alls well when it turns out he actually bedded his wife. It seems such a strange thing to fool with virginity and honor especially since such questionable actions over virginity resulted in death and misery in Othello and Much Ado About Nothing. Maybe Shakespeare is just playing around with notions of women’s special virginity. I’m not sure. Or maybe Diana is too low class for it to matter. Something is rotten.

But I’m going to press on with my Shakespeare mission. But I will say that I think the Histories and Tragedies still resonate with me the best.

That’s all for now!

Chicago Home Theater Festival: Rogers Park

Right now, the Chicago Home Theater Festival is happening all over Chicago. It’s a festival that tries to bridge connections between artists and audience members throughout Chicago. Every night from May 5th to May 24th, people have opened up their homes to host a series of performances from diverse artists and groups from Rogers Park to South Shore and much more! Every night showcases the work of different artists and groups; each night is a unique experience. And there’s food too, often from local areas. Each performance is prefaced by a tour of the neighborhood.

I highly recommend it. I mentioned this festival last year on the blog; I attended an evening in Logan Square. This year, I’ve only been able to make it to the one in Rogers Park so far. It is well worth it, even if you can only make one night. The Rogers Park event was fantastic. We all crowded into one apartment for a night of poetry and plays. It began with a series of poems by a poet (whose name I can’t find!) that was simply exquisite. He read these thoughtful poems about race, gender, and Chicago. He talked about the issues with male socialization over emotion and the things he’s learned about our wonderful, terrible city. His final poem about how day to day racisms amount to profound collective wounds that left me with chills. He was brilliant. I’m really sad I don’t know his name. (Anyone who was there, please let me know. I want to see him perform again!)

Then First Bank + Trust No One performed a short play about young girls at a sleepover. It started as you’d expect: the girls gossiped, made prank phone calls, and ate junk food. But then the piece took a delightful turn when they started to play Truth and Dare with the audience, bringing them more directly into this intimate space. The piece beautifully showed the importance of these personal places where we are shaped as people. As some can attest, sleepovers can be terrifying experiences. But if we can safely reveal our true selves in these places, then maybe we can find belonging and community in the present and future.

The third piece was a short play written by Michael Harris. The piece beautifully tackled another dimension of the violence plaguing Chicago streets. It was about a young gay couple who are flummoxed by yet another shooting outside their door. The piece tackled the question of what bystanders should do when confronted with everyday violence. Is calling 911 enough? Should we act more or do we protect ourselves and our loved ones? What do you do when the place you live is inundated by violence? What an important piece!

The final piece written by Michael Stock was an incredible conversation between a Jewish woman activist and a black activist in 1968. The piece showed how incredibly awkward it can be to talk about privilege and race. I loved how it looked at the clumsiness and history of language. Even words like “immigrant” carry deeper, sometimes insidious meanings. Even a cup of tea can be politically charged.

There was in installation set up in the kitchen. A woman’s bare back was projected onto two wooden boards with a crack in the middle. A beautiful raw piece. I don’t recall the name of the artist.

One thing that I also loved about the evening was that the organizers were extremely thoughtful about the audience. At the beginning and the end of the night, they asked us to think about who was not here. Who was being excluded? They mentioned accessibility as an example. We were in a third floor apartment with no elevator. What an important question to raise! At the end, they asked to think of who else might not be at these events and figure how we can bring them.

What a beautiful night.

I don’t know if I’ll be able to make another evening this year. But you should definitely go. Check out the festival website here: http://www.chicagohtf.org/

That’s all for now!

Interview with The Girlie Show: Big Top Burlesque

So dear Readers, I’m now doing a series of interviews for the Chicago Contemporary Circus Festival that will take place June 17th to 21st. You should definitely check it out: http://chicagocircusfest.com/

Here is my first interview with the Girlie Show:

http://chicagocircusfest.com/2015/05/11/interview-with-the-girlie-show/

I’m going to scale back a little bit on this blog as I conduct these interviews in the next few weeks. However, I’ll update this blog along the way but probably not three times a week.

That’s all for now!

Review: Sense and Sensibility

This past weekend, we saw the musical version of Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility at the Chicago Shakespeare Theater. I have to say that I went into the show with reservations. I’ve never been a huge Jane Austen fan.

I’ll wait for all the gasping and hand wringing to stop. I started with Pride and Prejudice. I’ll admit that I rather hated the book for the first half. I thought it was rather petty and superficial; I couldn’t care about any of the characters. I’m not sure if it was the romance turned everything on its head but then I suddenly adored it. I went on to try Sense and Sensibility, which was meh, and Mansfield Park, which I found creepy.

However, I remember reading the introduction of the edition of Sense and Sensibility after the fact (like I always do) and was struck by its fine argument about how this work brought to light this hidden world of women: their letters, the parties they arranged and more. It talked about how these social occasions wove the social fabric of the age. It talked about how other novels (and art in general) ignored or derided these functions as immaterial and petty. It made me rethink my position about the book. I had a similar experience with Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway. I just didn’t like it but I appreciated the argument that Woolf was bringing to light how parties were important to the women that threw them and society as a whole. These were worthy subjects to be written about.

But it didn’t change my opinion of the books. I still didn’t like them. I still wonder at this disconnect in myself. I value these works for bringing this hidden world to life but can’t really enjoy reading them. I’m still working on that. I don’t know if it’s just that I don’t Jane Austen’s prose or romance stories don’t really move me.

The other possibility is that I’m falling into a trap. I get the importance of talking about these social functions but I haven’t internalized the argument. There are some articles floating around on the internet about how we have to be careful about not devaluing feminine traits: http://www.ravishly.com/2015/03/20/why-we-need-stop-devaluing-femininity

I know that I have often been guilty of deriding feminine traits in the past (and the present), like turning my nose up at Chick Lit as a book category. (But Bridget Jones’ Diary is really good!). There are other more definite examples but I’m not going to go into them. I wonder if my reaction to the books is because I’m deriding the expression of femininity in them. I know it is wrong to devalue things that women in the 18th and 19th century valued but maybe I haven’t expected it fully yet. Or I have been socialized to feel that way and have to work harder to stop thinking that way? I don’t know. Maybe I should read Sense again to see if I’ll appreciate it more now with these complicated thoughts in my head.

So I had some trepidation about seeing a musical version of the book. Well, I was absolutely wrong. This production is simply delightful. I think they did a nice job of cutting the text down into a 2.5 hour musical. The songs were rather wonderful. There are two that really stick in my mind, one about rain and another “The Wrong Side of Five and Twenty.” The rain song was simply magnificently staged. You really felt for both sisters, admiring one’s unbridled passion and the other’s restraint. The contrast was fantastic. You loved the men they loved and hated the others who acted less than honorably. It was quite an affecting piece about love between sisters, honor, and romantic love. It might actually get me to read the book again.

Anyway, it’s a wonderful production. It’s my favorite of the shows I’ve seen at Shakespeare this season.

Mansfield Park will still be creepy to be. Cousins….eew.

That’s all!