Tuesday, March 30, 2010

That's Weird, Grandma

I've always admired comedians who have the ability to make errybody laugh. Like, errybody. That's like, everyone from your Pep-pep and your Mee-maw to your six-year-old cousin to your teenage brother who's going through his asshole phase. These performers and their shows can be difficult to find, but this Sunday, I found one. Yip!

That's Weird, Grandma is one of those fabulous, family-appropriate shows that can easily get all up inside yo' body and tickle all up on yo' funny bone. Every Sunday afternoon at 2 and every Monday night at 8, a gaggle of talented actors presents a show consisting of a handful of plays adapted from works written by students in the Chicago Public School system.

You should go.

Also, if you're interested in kids' writing, check out the wonderful blog for 826 Chicago, A Wig if You Want It!

Monday, March 29, 2010

A True History of the Johnstown Flood

I'd never been to The Goodman Theatre, so when my pal Jeni offered me a free ticket to A True History of the Johnstown Flood (written by Rebecca Gilman, directed by Robert Falls), I snizzatched it up real quick and spent a whole week looking forward to a rare night on the town with a groovy friend and some high qual-i-tay theatre, bereft of the looming presence of the I'm-a-college-student-I-shouldn't-buy-anything-besides-school-supplies-and-food guilt.

I knew very little about the show or Ms. Gilman's work beforehand, so even though I had no basis upon which to cultivate a judgement, I was amazed at the bizarreness of the first act. The story of three siblings carrying on the name of their family's once great theater troupe, traveling the country with their out-of-date repertoire of plays written by their father was spliced with their performances of the antiquated vignettes and even though the actors were all great, the most apparent characteristic of the overall show for me was the inconsistency in tone. The plays within the play were really dull and filled with racial slurs and stereotypes that I felt sort of uncomfortable laughing about. Even though I could acknowledge that they were to have been written about the 1860s, they were offensive, but not in a way that was original enough to be funny or entertaining. The slapstick, over-the-top approach to the plays was jarring and obnoxious in comparison to the dark, serious tone of the rest of the piece. I think the concept of the show within a show is an interesting one, but Gilman's poor execution was disappointing and awkward. That being said, I did enjoy seeing the characters evolve as the show progressed. Seeing each person change and grow as they were forced to adapt to the sudden onslaught of devastation caused by the bursting of the South Fort Dam was really interesting.

Although I found something to appreciate in each set and costume, the most moving technical demonstration of the show occurred towards the end of the first act when the dam burst. The lights went black as the sound of an entire town being destroyed by millions of gallons of water filled the theater. People called out to their families, train cars were ripped from their tracks, iron infrastructures were bent and trees were unearthed. The absolutely terrifying mix of sounds continued on for what felt like ages. The experience of sitting in the dark with the cacophony of death and destruction overwhelming every possible bit of space in the theater was one of the few moments in my life where I felt completely moved by an audio effect. The award-winning Richard Woodbury designed the sound for the show. 'Twas brilliant, RW.

Comics Symposium of Chicago

Even though SAIC doesn't have a comics department, there is a huge comics community here. As I think the School is the epicenter of the Chicago art community, it makes sense that that nucleus would cover the Chicago comics world to a certain degree as well. This was made especially apparent at the first ever Comics Symposium of Chicago. Two fabulous SAIC students, Sara Drake and Ingrid Olson organized the event which featured comics artists with varying degrees of experience under their belts, talking about making comics in ze Vindy Shitty. Professors and alumni in addition to a few folks who don't fit under said categories made up panels whose discussions were guided by moderators, who were also comics peeps. There were four events, each covering a specific topic. I was lucky to have been in attendance of the first discussion, Getting Out: Distribution and Self Publication, which featured the following funkinators:



Unfortunately, I wasn't able to make the other discussions, but one of my faves, Miss Beth Hetland did a great job of summarizing her involvement with the CCS with her rad diary comics. Check them out at her fabulous website!