Weeks 24 & 25: First Read Festival and Freedom Fighters
June came, seen, and conquered. As our prideful celebration started to enter its last couple weeks, we were thrilled at the chance to see so much queer centric, transgender, and gender non-binary programming by artists and for audiences, artistically inclined or not. Although these efforts should be kept in mind year round, this time of year is important to remember the history and acheivements of the LGBTQIA+ community.
#TheatreCrushThursday went to Sappho's Salon and Pride Films and Plays. #FollowFriday went to Monarch Art and Wellness, Brave Space Alliance, Chicago Rainbow Pride Crosswalks, and Switch: Chicago Queer Partner Dancing.
What a better way to kick off this recap than catch up on the last one? Click here for more pride centric coverage.
Booksmart is similar to a good book; you breeze through it and are sad, but satisfied by its end. This film marks Olivia Wilde's directorial debut, and stardom for co-leads Beanie Feldstein and Kaitlyn Dever. The two are a comedic match and also representative of female friendship in high school supportive, but tensions have a way of meeting their breaking point. It's also a theatre kid's dream (and not just because the showchoir kids themselves make a grand appearance or two).
First Read was a journey that steered its own gentle, smooth lovely course. While we're sad it's gone, there's a handy recap by the goddess that is Rachel Perzynski in case you missed it or just miss it. Read up now!
La Havana Madrid lives on in this latest incarnation by Teatro Vista and Collaboraction at The Den Theatre. Let our words take you back to a time worth remembering.
Lucas Garcia's Quemado opened up the boundaries of what inner nature and external nature can be when connected theatrically. It was amazing to see what playwriting can be transformed into as it unfolds before your very eyes. It felt extra special to be in a room that was so receptive and trusting. Next up in the reading series came June Thiele's Ashana (A Native Play). Taking risks when it came to plot rather than form, Ashana dealt into some darker topics through unconventional means. Through this framing, it allows us to examine if some issues in our world will ever fully achieve validity or justice.
Gavin Pak's prefer not to answer, or other definitely delivered the most tears and heartache. While centering on the fiercest, funniest high schooler around, Florence, this could be viewed as a family play packed with comedy, but still bringing the inevitable drama. Pak has created characters so captivating and a world so accessible you want to occupy time in it as long as you can. Even when it gets painful and when feelings of frustration blend into hurt or laughter turns into gushing, it forces you to feel everything the characters are.
Dig brought the most complex and in development concept to conclude the First Read festival. It brought an exploration of grief, polyamory, and stirring up of the supernatural. So many layered dynamics at play and potential will be seen through the process that is new play development. A wonderful time to have been exposed to four distinct, sharp voices whose futures are bright as their words are resonant.
Tales of the City has new blood, but feels stale in some of its old stories. I understand it's rebooting an old series with Laura Linney and Olympia Dukakis returning. The issue is at times it feels torn between continuing past storylines and the more intriguing, new ones. I almost wish the newer ensemble members could have a show of their own removed from this past association. In an industry that like many is making progress, it's a shame that because we have Pose, there can't be another new show that predominantly features a queer, gender non-binary cast of color. We can have more and should!
TimeLine Theatre concludes their season with this spiritual, moving drama that centers on the peril and promise of two young intertwined couples. Make sure to read our review if you missed out.
Queen of the Mist was a spectacle to behold. Firebrand Theatre knows hot takes with cooling tides of talent and complex plots. Read more here.
The Literary Managers and Dramaturgs of the Americas hosted their annual conference this year in Chicago. The feeling of having so many literary minded and theatre activated individuals in one room was pure joy. You wouldn't expect an event so intellectual to have the energy of buzzing, but it did. To engage and converse about issues that feel individual but are coming up multiple times across the nation was both a relief and extremely frustrating. While we couldn't move mountains, it was a great source to vent and have conversations of how to make change possible within this time and beyond. Thanks LMDA for a great time!
Tangerine is a fascinating film. It depicts the modern drag and sex work scene in L.A. Its action springs from finding a man yet he barely makes an appearance. And yes, it was shot entirely using iPhones. Even though they don't spend all their time together, the bond between Sin-dee and Alexandra is thrilling to watch. Their back and forth feels so natural and is a model of how despite personal drama, you show up for the people you care about. Even if that friend brushes it off or minimizes their pain, you can always tell when you need to provide that extra support. While this film starts out as a who-dun-it, it quickly becomes more about survival and the importance of friendship to make it through.
The Newness lived up to its name in producing continuous new work and allowing new artists to come to the stage for the first time. While it was my first time attending as an audience member, it was sadly the last performance of its run. Monthly events exist all across Chicago, but I rarely feel so gradually enraptured and welcomed into a storytelling space I didn't know before stepping through its doors. Be in the know of any artists who've come through once or a couple times as they each should be on a line-up somewhere performing around Chicago.
Life is a cabaret old chum, or it least it was. Cabaret is all too resonant right now. In dark times, theatre has always left a light on (a ghostlight to be exact). It's always been a means of amusement, distraction while reminding us we can't leave our world entirely. When Sally Bowles has the option in the film to leave this space behind, she can't. It's a choice that can take on many metaphors and I'm sure has been dissected in several musical theatre thesises. For me, it represents at its essence the fear of letting go of what you know versus the unknown, the comfortable versus uncomfortable, past versus future. Now rewatch it with that view to put things into perspective.
See y'all in July!