The Jeff Awards, the most prestigious theatrical honor in Chicago, were given out to Equity productions last night. As expected, Steppenwolf’s jaw-dropping, rip-roaring, gutsy, monumental world premiere of “August: Osage County” led the pack with six awards, including those for Best Play, Best Director, Best New Work, and Best Lead Actress for Deanna Dunagan, who gave one of those towering, mythical dramatic performances that people will continue to talk and write about for years to come! This is great news, especially as the Chicago production (with most of the cast and all of the creative staff intact) begins its Broadway transfer with previews today. Chris Jones is already handicapping next year’s Tony Awards, in his continuing bid for theatrical world dominance. Also, check out “August’s” Broadway website to hear Charles Isherwood, the Lady Macbeth-like theatre critic of the New York Times, continue to salivate over the play (his over-the-top rave review, where he compares Dunagan’s character to O’Neil’s Mary Tyrone and Edward Albee’s Martha, helped spur the fast-track transfer of the Chicago production to New York, according to insiders). I will be travelling to New York in late November to catch the Broadway production and will of course blog about it. Watching “August” last summer was one of those hypnotic, once-in-a-lifetime experiences that theatre geeks like me recall with paroxyms of ecstacy. Plus it’s a Chicago production for crying out loud!
When blogging mentor Tom and I were deciding on the focus and content of From the Ledge, I was pretty adamant that I would shy away from writing about food. Although I pride myself on being a card-carrying foodie, something not hard to be in Chicago, where food is on everyone’s minds and where the quality of cooking is of such high quality and innovation, it was recently proclaimed as the hot city for gastronomy by culinary god Ferran Adria, I just felt that so many people were already writing about food in interesting, colorful ways (check out LTHForum and Gapersblock’s Drive-Through among others). Tom knew though that I wouldn’t be able to resist pontificating about my culinary adventures, so he snuck in the Food category for times like this, when I just have to write about my experience with the phenomenal underground restaurant, the Sunday Dinner Club, one of the highlights of my dining year (right up there with the many visits to NYC’s Momofuku, the 12-course spring tasting at Alinea, and the opening weekend dinner at Sepia).
It was another eventful weekend for your roving arts and culture blogger (as they say, no rest for the wicked…and dear readers, as many of you know, I have re-defined “wicked” in many different ways over the years, but that’s for another time). On Friday night, BFF Camela and I went to the benefit reception of one of the storefront theatres we support, GreasyJoan and Co. The concept sounded very interesting – staged readings of classic ghost stories in an art gallery loft in the Fulton Market warehouse district. We were excited that the glam factor would be high on this one, which was surprising, since storefront theatres were notorious for having benefit events in bars with stale chips, cold crudites, and really bad wine. As we motored down Randolph Street, we strained to look for the art gallery and could not find it…looked and looked..then finally we saw, gulp, a tiny door…the bars on the windows…the stacked moving boxes by the entrance…and….gasp…bright, fluorescent lighting! (Why the hell did I leave that concealer at home????). This was an art gallery???? We hoped the booze wouldn’t run out, since this could be a really long night! But, initial impressions were deceiving, since once we got up the wooden steps and on to the second floor lofted space, we were transported into a place filled with beautiful art and theatrical magic.
After the last two blog posts, which were intense, critical, personal reflections on important things, I am exhausted! So I thought, I’ll start the weekend off with a smile (or a guffaw), by sharing some of the feedback I’ve received during this official launch week of From the Ledge. I am so excited and gratified that people (well, mostly my friends) are actually reading the site!
Full disclosure redux: I have been a passionate supporter of A Red Orchid Theatre, the highly-regarded Old Town storefront, since I saw their outrageous, maniacal, insanely funny production of Philip Ridley’s “The Fastest Clock in the Universe” in 2004, one of my top five most memorable and rewarding theatrical experiences ever. I have been so enamored of this theatre’s talent and bravado that I have volunteered for probono strategic planning consulting with them through the Arts and Business Council of Chicago. Over the past three years, they have continued to amaze (as in David Lindsey-Abaire’s wicked “Kimberly Akimbo” about a girl with progeria who finds true love) and baffle (Ionesco’s “Hunger and Thirst”, a three and a half hour extreme theatre marathon which involved men in cages and a turned up heater to simulate the feeling of being in hell for the audience- although for some, men in cages will be more heaven than hell, but I digress). Their season opened Monday, October 22, with the world premiere of “Weapon of Mass Impact”, a highly-provocative, potentially polarizing new work from the highly-regarded Chicago playwright Brett Neveu. Boy, if you are looking for the antidote to “Jersey Boys” fluff, head on over to North and Wells.
Immigrants will always be marked different – that strange custom of removing shoes upon entering someone’s house, that unique headscarf, that slightly off-kilter turn of phrase, will always set them apart regardless of how flawlessly they speak the native language, how successful they are, how educated their children become. Gay people will always be marked different - again, that fastidious dressing, that obsession with Merman and Sondheim, that uniquely intellectual witty crack, will always set them apart in a heterosexual society that has ambiguous feelings about them. Immigration and sexuality themes are always heady stuff, so the Israeli documentary, “Paper Dolls”, by award-winning filmmaker Tomer Heymann, about immigrant Filipino transexuals caregivers who perform in a drag revue, set against the backdrop of a politically volatile Tel Aviv, seemed to be one hell of a Ph.D class. On a Sunday night, where your tv viewing choice is Eva Longoria jiggle or Vincent D’Onofrio clenched jaw, a Ph.D class seemed more of a worthwhile activity.