Weeks 30 & 31: Life Imitates Art, Art Imitates Life
Updated: Oct 4, 2019
Yes, the classic conundrum of theatre rings true these two weeks. We looked at shows that were either based on real events/lives or reflective of larger themes of truth and concepts of reality. In planning these weeks back to back, it was interesting to examine how stories can be shaped by their makers, varying in weight with celebrity and notoriety. Does the story need to be told or is it merely an extension of a high profile star's rise to fame? Read on to find out.
#TheatreCrushThursday was given to Haven Theatre and Kokandy Productions. #FollowFriday was granted to the Chicago Theatre Preservation Alliance, Coalesce Chicago, Parent Artist Advocacy League and Chicago Latino Caucus Foundation.
What's that? Behind on recaps? Check out our last one here.
Talk about a hot show of the summer. Haven Theatre's Kiss solidified not only their #TheatreCrushThursday status, but their place as a company that's doing pressing, revelatory work. It dealt with Syrian politics, soap operas, and also the meta-theatrics that come with producing work ethically. Rarely do shows put the actors playing these roles under scrutiny as much as their audiences. And let's face it, any play that openly deals with dramaturgy and how it effects a play's success is A+ in our book.
Be very afraid. Dave Malloy's work always feel haunted and eerie, but really gets to shine in Ghost Quartet. In light of the Natasha fervor (we still miss that show everyday), I'm hopeful his work continues to get produced in the future. It has qualities of being grounded in familiar historical sources like fairy tales or War and Peace, but also incorporates a timelessness in themes like unrequited love, the importance of kinship, and navigating a foggy, but infinite future. He's a composer that I believe previews what musical theatre has the capability of being in cultivating new audiences.
A break can feel like a treat, but sometimes you need more. Over this summer, I've consciously kept in mind how work doesn't have to feel like so much work depending on the circumstances. Location, location, location can definitely play a factor as well as having the support of others (see more later) to keep you going. Why not curate the whole process to be enjoyable instead of a mere fifteen minutes?
Ramy is a show that while based on comedian Ramy Hassan's life is told through a different way. It has comedic beats that also feed into moments of revelation or remembrance. It really digs into the ideas of ritual and religion in growing up Muslim and all the stereotypes and insults that come with it. It addresses while also clarifying ideas like arranged marriages, alcohol, and drugs in the culture juxtaposed in the common experiences of being young. A moment that I'm still thinking about is when Ramy is in the process of hooking up with a Muslim woman and wants to slow things down yet the woman points out if she were not in his culture he wouldn't hesitate in viewing her as a sexual being instead of like his mother or sister. It's moments like this in the show in how misogyny has shaped and continues to shape this culture that keep me tuned in. In order to achieve gender equity, men must recognize and alter their behaviors in how they have abetted sexism for so long.
I always knew Difficult People was a show that was meant for me, and boy does it feel good. It's truly like slipping into a lush, velvet blanket and watching Vanderpump Rules, but with Broadway references and Andrea Martin. I've never been attracted to anti-heroes in drama, but in comedy Billy and Julie are my idols. They're sometimes insufferable, selfish, and did I mention self-indulgent yet are hilarious and have similar complaints that I do yet would never voice aloud. The show is a must-see for theatre fans, New Yorkers, and if you love a well placed celebrity cameo. Tina Fey's appearance and how she tries to justify her celebrity as Tina Fey to Martin's Marilyn will leave you in stitches. It will become your new BFF and perfect to watch with them to boot.
Tell us about it. Big Little Lies returned for more breathtaking oceanic views, maddening moms, and dare we say murder? While Meryl's addition to the cast is an immediate grab, there's a lot of dead air that navigates returning to these murky waters when it might have been best to bow out on a high. Also, an element behind the scenes which I wasn't privy to when watching was how a shift in creative control occurred which explains this awkwardness. Director Andrea Arnold was originally given license on shaping this entire season until the plug was pulled out from under her giving control back to season one producer/executive producer Jean-Marc Vallée, after everything had already been shot. This included reshooting and cutting material with new eyes (including being deprived of the scene where Reese Witherspoon throws an ice cream cone at Meryl Streep, monstrous!) It definitely explains how this season feels a bit Frankensteined and trying to reconnect to its former self. Also for a show that championed and successfully was praised for women empowerment, it's disappointing how HBO treated Arnold in all this.
Collaboration doesn't just belong in the workplace. If you need to work after hours or remotely, this tip can make work feel like play when you have someone to share it with. I've found more enjoyment when I have a friend to hold me accountable and support me in getting my shit together. While there's worry it can turn into just hanging out, if you really need to get stuff done it's worth pushing past the doubt.
I'm officially a sucker for musical podcasts. Off Book: The Improvised Musical is your late night, hit improv show without having to leave your house. I don't think I've had to stifle as many laughs or tears as I have with this one. And this includes comedy podcasts that I listen to on the regs! Hosts Jessica McKenna and Zach Reino are uber talented and even when the guests aren't the strongest musically, their comedic prowess keeps the show afloat and always gives that element of spontaneity.
If A Black Lady Sketch Show does not get a ton of seasons, the world is officially unfair. I don't think I've ever seen a stronger pilot in my life. From the first minute to its last, the amount of layered, belly laughing, self-fanning storytelling that occurs is next level. I hope this show pioneers the way for black, femme comedians to get the recognition and platforms that they deserve and that are long overdue. The writing, direction, and casting fire on all cylinders and in times when we could use a laugh at the horror of our nation this provides solace when it's needed most.
The glow up is real. The hit series GLOW has a historical backstory that's as fascinating as the show itself. This documentary is a great standalone, but also extremely relevant to those who adore the Netflix series. It does an excellent job of exploring the industry for women in the 80s' with a promised sense of empowerment that the show capitalized on while these women did truly bond and find empowerment from this experience. They don't shy away from the literal scars, bruises and broken bones that came from pulling off this show and how despite this unforgettable time there were a lot of problems with its practice. A true and important story to view while watching GLOW.
GLOW is a show that's grown in its multiple seasons. I'm sad to hear its next season will be its last as I could watch this show for awhile. It's an interesting dilemma that I feel started with shows like Orange is the New Black where there's so many characters that have in depth, different backstories it's hard to evenly distribute time to all of them. I feel this season struggled with that and while there was great momentum in stories for Debbie, Ruth, and Sheila, moments for Carmen and Rhonda (outside of her gay husband) left more to be desired. I'm curious to see how this show will go out with a bang and will be sad to no longer have more new adventures to keep up with the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling.
Lollapalooza up close. Having lived in Chicago for several years now, this festival has always landed on my birthday weekend but I never thought I would indulge. Until this year, I had the pleasure of getting to attend and I'm here to say for a festival it was pretty chill. It's like if Taste of Chicago was more efficient and you actually get your money's worth. This summer brought perfect weather to enjoy tunes of many artists including Janelle Monae, Childish Gambino, Twenty-One Pilots and Ariana Grande (to name a few). While purchasing a four day pass or VIP treatment would cost you your first born, if you can save up for one day I definitely recommend it sometime. Getting to see one of your favorite artists who's a true game changer in their field is an unforgettable experience. You won't be sorry.
Summertime always means it's time for another festival, Ignition. This free (!) festival of staged readings brings the heat outside and on the stage with powerful political commentary, painfully accurate family and friendship dynamics, and some of the best dialogue I hear all year round. Their lineup always comprises of a variety of work when it comes to style, form and authorship. It also always make me happy to see playwrights included that are young, up and coming, femme, queer and POC. These are essential voices to make the field more equitable and enjoyable. Until next year!
Miss out on some of the best shows of the summer? Have no fear! Read up on Sideshow Theatre Company and Rivendell Theatre Ensemble's Something Clean.
The summer recap continues with a bloodthirsty tale of greed and power. Check out our thoughts on Saltbox Theatre Collective's Macbeth. We continue to long for all femme, queer, and transgender productions of Shakespeare. Any other game of thrones is a hard sell.
See you next time!