Weeks 5 & 6: Rhinofest and Cher
We are back and what a wild couple of weeks it's been. These weeks were full of some surprises including a polar vortex, cancelled shows, and an appearance worth cherishing. While we initially wanted to cover Rhinofest for our first week in February, some freezing cold weather put a wrench in our plans. But this loss is actually a gain as we now will be covering Rhinofest this whole month!
Two weeks to catch up on means two theatre crush Thursdays. Our first #TheatreCrushThursday was Red Tape Theatre and our second was Definition Theatre Company. For #FollowFriday, we had quite the line-up. This included Chicago Artist Circle, All Chicago, A Long Walk Home, and The Field Foundation of IL. Now let's get into what we were up to this week (while we weren't shivering).
Unbreakable! Say it proud, damn it. Sadly, for the last time. After four ferociously fervent, female, and fabulous seasons, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt comes to an end, and it goes out with a bang! Without giving too much away, Kimmy Schmidt (played by the lovable Ellie Kemper) wraps up her adventures in New York after she reclaimed it from living 15 yrs. prior in a cult (it's kind of a long story and involves Jon Hamm). Her hilariously relatable Broadway star (to us at least)/roommate Titus (Tituss Burgess), their spitfire landlord, Lillian (the Carol Kane) and boss turned friend, the melodramatic Jacqueline (Jane Krakowski) all help Kimmy find her way. While it may not be perfect at times, it has some of the funniest moments and one liners I've seen on television these past couple years.
In continuing to be trapped inside during these wintry times, there's nothing better to warm up with than a hot review. I saw Between Riverside and Crazy at Redtwist Theatre. The acting was stellar while I felt divided on the script. This Pulitzer prize winning play may have jived in 2015. It seems like it could use some editing now, or at least some scrutiny of how we viewed police brutality, the depiction of female characters, and juggling multiple plots. Sometimes I feel it's best to keep it simple, and stick to your central conflict if it's juicy enough. But, I haven't won any Pulitzers (yet), so what do I know?
It wouldn't be possible to get through a week (or two) without a handy dandy recap! Check it out now :)
We finally got to Rhinofest against all odds! Some wind, snow, and slush (the original pitched name for Earth, Wind, and Fire) couldn't keep us away. I didn't quite know what to expect, but the curiosity of Cafe: A Meditation was a perfect first choice. It was comedic, mysterious, and spontaneous, everything you could want in theatre. There's a lot to love at Rhinofest and I was glad to get out of the house and into some new, experimental theatre.
Next up at Rhinofest is Curious Theatre Branch's The Skriker. I noticed with my second show at Rhinofest on lock that there's a subtle theme traced in all their works: weird, fucking good work. But seriously, Caryl Churchill isn't done everyday or done well for that matter. Such a treat, and I was thrilled to have something to watch that was so conniving and chilling. I should have known Churchill was made to write fairytales for adults and brave children.
Our countdown to Cher kicked off this week with Come Back to the Five and Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean. Cher is known for her various movie roles (Witches of Eastwick, Moonstruck, Burlesque etc.), but I wanted to watch one of her first, and lesser known roles. She originally did the Broadway production that led to this film with much of the original cast along with her. Cher is definitely lauded for her music, but I feel her acting is underrated. She truly blossoms on screen, playing effervescence and charm like it's in her nature (which it is). Her grabbing for companionship and fame in this role sneaks up on you unexpectedly and soon she has crumbled. To turn back time to see Cher on stage, oh if only.
We turned back time yet again with not only Cher, but Meryl to boot. This film I've always heard in passing as a classic and a must see for both stars. Boy was the general public correct. It's so lovely to see them so young, and just taking those steps into true stardom. It may sound cliche, but there is something special about going back to where it began. While it may not be either of their first roles, this film was an important step for each of them in the legends we know them as today. Continue to grace our screens for years to come, ladies.
Back at Rhinofest because I just can't get enough. On this fine evening, I saw a truly dark, metaphorical, lyrical play about the end of the world after a polar vortex. Can you say relevant or what? It was such a sweet release (and reminder) of what could happen if this all froze over, before hell does in this case. When trapped with your unreliable, bully of a mother, a cheating husband, and his lover who's also your cousin, you could easily feel the rage in Brielle's shoes. With truly no exit unless to dare risk not making it back home, this play shook me to my core. When you are the glue of your family, how is it possible to mend when you've fallen apart? Should it?
Now that I was able to finally make it to Rhinofest, I couldn't wait to write about it. If you can't be there, you might as well read about it. Check it out now!
It happened. It actually happened. A day that I never thought would for a sentence I never thought I would say. I saw Cher. If you doubt in the slightest, the capacity for Cher to sing, dance, enrapture you with her presence, fashion, and comedic skill set to this day, then shame on you. Cher could get down with Sonny in her 20s, slay a comeback tour in her 40s, and then reemerge ageless and fearless as ever in 2019. Words don't justify just how surreal the experience was. I know I'm really going out on a limb here, but it truly was this great. From video montages of her most fabulous looks, movie, and musical moments, and each costume change was more extravagant than the next (a lion to bell bottom queen to burlesque madame to sun goddess etc.). She knew exactly what we were here for, and gave us so much more than we deserve. In her image, I saw all the footsteps that seem laid out for the likes of Ms. Gaga and more. Cher truly paved the way, building a legacy that dare we say thrice, will turn back time. An unforgettable evening. Also, I swear while writing this that this episode of Golden Girls came on. You can't make this stuff up. Did you know Sonny Bono also made an appearance? Get on your Cher game, and Golden Girls while you're at it.
Earlier this week, I attended a preview of the Chicago Musical Theatre Festival. I had mixed feelings overall, and processed them the best I could. While I was impressed by some shows and underwhelmed by others, I couldn't shake my disappointment to see such a lack of diversity. I feel we discuss this word so much in theatre that its importance begins to lose its momentum. It feels like it's become such a trend or buzzword. It's a shame because it's more necessary than ever. When can we have predominantly people of color's stories make up the majority of our stages instead of the minority, or not existing at all?
We interrupt this regularly scheduled Cher programming to return to Rhinofest. Where else would we be? I felt fearful and lonely when watching Fragments of Heartbreak Reassembled Here. In catching onto Wendy Parman's touching lyrics and lovable self, I found some healing. She shared fears and worries in her 40s that I was dreading now in my 20s. She had lived experiences that have not materialized for myself, but she is still here and from them stronger, if only a tad lonely. Parman finds refuge as well as frustration in art as we all do, and she perfectly encapsulated this struggle in how we learn and grow from our art and with it.
See you next week!