After several months of frantic flyarounds for my day job, things have slowed down a bit and I’ve gotten to stay home in Chicago the past several weeks. What a luxury! And part of the upside of getting a breather from work-related stress is catching up on my reading. I assume that if you’re reading my blog, you are as preoccupied with art, culture, travel, and food as I am (otherwise, you’d be over at TMZ.com). So I encourage you to join me in savoring and languorously perusing two of the best sources of writing I’ve stumbled across in the past few weeks: the impressively thoughtful new print publication, The Chicagoan, which is a must-read for anyone concerned with the vibrant history and artistic life of our great city Chicago; and the newly-launched website Roads & Kingdoms, which is essential for those of you who think about food within its cultural and socio-political context, engagingly put together for the transmedia-savvy 21st century reader.
No, my dear readers, I didn’t run off to Canada to get married to Ryan Reynolds (yes, People’s Sexiest Man Alive is indeed Canadian, but he’s already taken by that wench, ScarJo…grrr!). I was super busy with my day job flying all over the country beginning in late October, and then I went off and racked up more airline points in Asia to do the same meetings over there during the past couple of weeks. I haven’t been in the Asia-Pacific region, where I grew up, for more than a decade, so there was a lot of exhilaration but also quite a palpable sense of dislocation on my part. More on that in a later blog post. But now I’m back (and un-glamorously jet-lagged) in the frozen tundra that is Chicago in December, and I promise to catch up on all the blogging I’ve missed the past couple of months. On the theater front, I’ll be catching two major openings in the coming week: Steppenwolf Theatre’s hotly anticipated mounting of Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? with acclaimed ensemble members Amy Morton and Tracy Letts in the roles Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton infamously made their own, and the Hypocrites’ tantalizing production of Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Pirates of Penzance, directed by Artistic Director and Chicago treasure Sean Graney. I’m also planning to catch several plays that opened while I was away: Backstage Theater Company’s Memory, XIII Pocket’s Cash, and the Artistic Home’s Sweet Bird of Youth (allegedly being brought to Broadway next year by Chicago director David Cromer, with Nicole Kidman, her forehead, and the new object of my and the country’s lustful obsession, James Franco). Oscar season is also in full swing, so it’s also the time of year when I catch up on my Oscar hopefuls. I’ll be traipsing along to The Black Swan, Daren Aronofsky’s All About Eve-in-tutus opus and 127 Hours, or the amount of time I want to spend in a hot tub with James Franco, oh, oops, wrong subtitle. I need to still write about David Fincher’s The Social Network, my current bet to lead the Oscar nominations, and about two wonderful books that recently came out about the Philippines, it’s culture, it’s people, and it’s psychology – Miguel Syjuco’s emotionally conflicted Illustrado and Rafe Bartholomew’s exciting, intriguing look at the Filipinos’ national obsession with basketball, Pacific Rims. Did you guys miss me?
I never thought a photo of Imelda Marcos would ever grace (sully?) the pages of this blog. I grew up in Manila during the height of the Marcos authoritarian rule in the late 1970s and 1980s, so, like many Filipinos who were subjected to their unique brand of dictatorial, mercurial, and outrageously self-indulgent rule, I’m not a fan, to say the least. But I have always had, again like many Filipinos of my generation, a slight tinge of ambivalence towards Imelda Marcos. With the infamous pairs of shoes, the co-ruler and co-indictee status, the foolishness and delusion, she was infuriating. But one also had to admire her chutzpah and her fervor in flirtatiously but decisively arm-wrestling the world to take the Philippines, a small archipelago in Southeast Asia, seriously, on a level footing, on it’s own terms, and for the most part, to be successful in doing so during her heyday. She was, and continues to be, while now living in Manila, seemingly forgiven by a country that threw her out into exile, larger-than-describable-life, and that’s alluring and fascinating. And for some reason, maybe because of this larger-than-lifeness, not to mention the campiness and the unrepentant divaness, she has definitive gay icon status. So when I heard that David Byrne (he of Talking Heads fame) and Fatboy Slim were releasing a “concept album” of a possible theatrical piece called “Here Lies Love: A song cycle about Imelda Marcos & Estrella Cumpas” containing twenty-two songs devoted to the life of Madame and her erstwhile housekeeper/governess, Estrella, I was so curious I had to run out to my favorite Boystown music store stat! (of course, I knew those gays would have a stash of this CD!). I’m still listening to the music, but I’m already blown away by the caliber of the mostly female artists Byrne has asked to be on the album, such as Tori Amos, Natalie Merchant, Cyndi Lauper, Martha Wainwright (Rufus’s sister). I’ll be writing a more detailed blog post, containing not only my impressions of the album, but also my point of view on Imeldific as a theater subject, in the next week or so. In the meantime, why don’t you guys take a look at this extremely well-written piece on the creation and evolution (five years in the making!) of “Here Lies Love” from the Times of London, which also contains some interesting points about Imelda’s current “weirdly iconic” status in the arts world. Oh, and I guess New York’s Public Theater is supposedly playing a part in developing this theatrical piece. Can someone help me get some jaw reconstruction surgery, please?
The new decade arrived somewhat inauspiciously last week, but who would have thought on January 8, 2000 that on January 8, 2010 I would be heading into the third year of writing an energetic Chicago arts and culture blog? Certainly not me. It’s been a busy couple of weeks between holiday madness, recuperation from a nasty fall on Christmas Eve (don’t worry, dear readers, no broken bones!), and a business trip during the first week of the new year. But I’ve been catching up on my potential Oscar-contending films (look out for an upcoming blog post with capsule comments on those I saw over the holidays) and planning my cultural expeditions for the next month (which may include a trip to Minneapolis to “experience” the cutting-edge theatrical piece, Call Cutta in a Box: An Intercontinental Phone Play by the German performance group Rimini Protokoll, part of the Walker Art Center’s “Out There” theater series). The most exciting news I heard this week was the confirmed off-Broadway transfer of Kristoffer Diaz’s The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity, whose Chicago world premiere last fall was my pick for the Best Theater of 2009. There’s no announced casting yet, but with Chicago director Eddie Torres, Artistic Director of Teatro Vista, taking the helm of the Second Stage production once again, and with the Chicago designers from the Victory Gardens production already confirmed to participate, I think the possibility of New Yorkers’ socks (and underwear, belts, scarves, lucky amulet necklaces, and all) being blown away by Desmin Borges’ stunning lead performance is a pretty real one. So who’s still contradicting my vehement assertion that Chicago is the theater capital of the US?
In my day job as a business and organizational transformation consultant for a major consulting firm, I’m proud of the fact that I always seems to be at the right place at the right time. Everytime I’m wrapping up a client project, a Chicago-based project seemingly miraculously appears. Although I tell the candidates I interview for the company that our management consulting jobs are 100% travel, I really haven’t been on the typical Monday-Thursday consulting travel grind since late 2003. The cliche “good things never last” is a cliche, yes, but it’s true! Last week, I started a client project that will have been travelling to the great Buckeye state for the next six weeks. I’ll only be in Chicago from Friday to Sunday, which will mean less opportunities to go to arts and culture events, which will translate to a slowdown on blog posting. It’ll be an adjustment (especially since summer in Chicago is quite lively with the Grant Park Music Festival, the season wrap-ups of the theater companies, etc.), but it’s the right move for me in terms of where my “real” career is right now and where I want it to be. I’ll still try my hardest to post at least once a week, and if it’s not on an arts and culture event, it could be on my perspectives regarding things I’m reading, hearing, thinking about. I’ll also be attempting shorter blog posts as compared to the novella-like lengths that I sometimes go to. I’d like to continue the dialogue and engagement with you my dear blog readers, so please feel free to continue leaving comments. It could be a slow summer….but it’s not going to be a lifeless one.
Yep, blog posting has been sparse since the beginning of June, unfortunately, since I seem to have jumped on a careening, brake-less Metra train between dealing with lots of organizational transitions going on at my day job, helping the rest of the Board and the company of TUTA Theatre Chicago put on our annual fundraiser benefit (which we successfully pulled off last Sunday, June 7, yay, despite lots of anxiety and hairpulling, de rigueur for non-profit fundraisers of all kinds, I’ve come to find out), and co-chairing this year’s Steppenwolf Theatre Red or White Ball (which benefits the theater’s educational outreach, the Steppenwolf for Young Adults Program). The Red or White Ball is tonight, and boy, if I was exhausted last year after the event, I’m not sure what state of physical and mental being I’ll be in tomorrow. Putting up a fundraising event of this scope and scale is pretty intense, with lots of hard work and time commitment required, but I think it’s going to be a spectacular event for a cause I’m passionate about – as my blog readers know, I feel very strongly that the arts can only survive if we are able to successfully enthrall, convert and immerse new audiences. I’m psyched! Despite all kinds of crazy busy schedules though, I still have a lot of things on my mind, so I’d like to give a shout out to these below (and there’ll be more blog posts starting next week!) Read the rest of this entry »