Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The naked truth behind Neo-Burlesque

Annie Weinert, 31, has just spent the day powdering doctors’ noses. Life as a freelance makeup artist means that weddings and TV commercials dominate her daily schedule. Come nighttime, however, she’s not just Annie – she’s Red Hot Annie, Chicago’s fiery red-haired temptress who gracefully bumps and grinds for a cheering audience as she strips off one article of clothing at a time.
Kelly Williams of GTB

Weinert is one of the city’s nearly 120 professional burlesque performers who are part of a growing global Neo-Burlesque revival. “It’s a style of doing dance,” explained Weinert, founder and CEO (or, rather, C.E.Oh!) of burlesque troupe, Vaudezilla. “At some point in a tap routine you’re going to shuffle. At some point in a ballet act, you’re going to go on pointe. At some point in a burlesque act, you’re going to take your top off.”
Burlesque, which was first popularized in New York by Lydia Thompson and the British Blondes in the 1840s, continues to gain momentum, thanks to a group of women and men who infuse tradition with a dose of modern humor. From ‘Glee’ to ‘Lord of the Rings’ burlesque shows, no cult favorite is too precious for performers at the Gorilla Tango Burlesque (GTB) troupe who are clearly having fun while poking fun at beloved icons of pop culture. “We’re not trying to be smutty,” said Kelly Williams, GTB’s executive producer, marketing and PR director. “We’re trying to be cheeky, irreverent, entertaining, sexy and fun.”

Friday, November 4, 2011

“HotTix gives theatres access to audiences they couldn’t otherwise reach”

Ryan Butts, Deputy Director at League of Chicago Theatres

The beloved, magical and “practically perfect” nanny waved goodbye, beaming as she floated over an appreciative audience during the finale of Disney’s “Mary Poppins” at the Cadillac Palace Theatre. With the thundering applause and “supercalifragilisticexpilidocious” ringing in one’s ears, the cacophony could easily drown out any remaining misgivings at having just spent over $100 on a ticket.
At least, until the credit card bill arrives.
It’s a dilemma that theatre-goers frequently face: to buy or not to buy? At such eye-watering prices, theatre can be a painfully expensive hobby. Thankfully, sites such as HotTix offer a welcome relief. Since tickets to hugely popular shows can pop up the day before or even on the night of the show, it does require some flexibility. But at 50 per cent off, it’s not a deal to be sniffed at.

Friday, October 28, 2011

‘By taking away, they’re opening it up to interpretation’

Q&A with Adriana Nijensohn, Museum of Contemporary Art Tour Guide
Adriana Nijensohn, MCA Tour Guide
Along Chicago Avenue, a blast of wind whips trees, leaves and tourists into a frenzy of movement. In contrast, the Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA) stands still, silent and solid, a block of glass and concrete with little to announce its identity save for its discreet letters and a bent coat hanger sculpture by artist Mark Handoforth.
Inside, Adriana Nijensohn stands patiently waiting. Calm as the sparse interiors of the museum, the veteran tour guide is waiting to take visitors through a series of paintings and sculptures featured in ‘The Language of Less (Then and Now).’ Carefully and brilliantly selected by chief curator, Michael Darling, the exhibit showcases works by influential Minimalist and Contemporary artists.
She was a tour guide at the Art Institute of Chicago for the past ten years, mostly explaining Egyptian art and culture to curious fifth graders. Now a tour guide at the MCA for the past year, the soft-spoken Nijensohn discusses the significance of modern art in today’s culture and why Picasso will continue to mystify.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Miles of style

The man in the green shirt: Miles Davis on
the iconic 1958 album cover
Jazz musician, Miles Davis, slouches on a chair against a copper backdrop. He’s casual in a pale green button-down shirt and dark trousers, trumpet in hand as he stares out defiantly. The picture, which appeared in 1958 as the second cover version for his album ‘Milestones,’ remains one of the most iconic images of the legendary artist. Tracks like ‘Sid’s Ahead’ and ‘Dr. Jekyll’ may have caught the attention of fans and critics alike but his self-made cool and effortless image spoke to yet another group – the fashion pack.

Fiercely talented, passionate, irreverent and an eternal rebel (he was known to walk out on his audience with barely an apology), Davis was the whole celebrity package.

Friday, October 14, 2011

The rules of musical attraction

Lost in the moment: performer Scott Dusenbery regularly draws a curious crowd

It’s rush hour at the Clark and Lake subway stop. A frantic flurry of coats and briefcases marks the beginning of the end of the day. And then it ducks and weaves through the crowd: a violin’s sweet, sorrowful song permeates the tired old tiles of the station. Trains barrel in and out. Yet a handful of commuters remain rooted to the spot – for now, home and other destinations can wait.

His name is Scott Dusenbery. Neat and nondescript in jeans and a preppy white polo shirt, he coaxes his violin into a mellow tune of lingering notes, seemingly oblivious to the crowd. Nearby, a silver-haired woman leaning against a paint-chipped beam shakes her head in admiration. “Wow,” she whispers. “Just… wow.”

Friday, October 7, 2011

A cheap date and even cheaper laughs

Anna Faris (center) in 'What's Your Number?'
It’s that modern tale of love: girl meets boy. Girl and boy end up in bed. Girl loses track of her sexual partners.

Directed by Mark Mylod, ‘What’s Your Number?’ follows the life of Ally Darling (Anna Faris), who realizes she’s had 19 partners too many – according to Marie Claire, any more than 20 and she’d have missed the opportunity to find Mr. Right.

Whereas her bride-to-be sister Daisy (Ari Graynor) is a Ralph Lauren ad brought to life, Ally’s life is a ‘Sex and the City’ episode full of one-night stands, drinking and bad decisions. After the life-changing article, she enlists the help of her commitment-phobic neighbor Colin Shea (Chris Evans) to track her exes in search of The One That Got Away.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Music, lyrics and missed connections

The cast of 'Enter Love'

Although she spends her time behind the scenes, Lynn Lupold’s life is on the stage under the bright lights and in front of the entire audience. As the composer, lyricist and co-director of the musical ‘Enter Love,’ she watches as actors bring her songs and, ultimately, her own experiences to life at The Blue Theater.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Scare or amuse: shows open room for debate

"The Spirit Play" written by Emily Schwartz.
Photo credit: Tyler Core

Sally Morgan, British psychic to the stars, recently came under fire after claims that she might be a fake, while across the pond, experts continue to debate over the existence of a post-racial America. In the case of art imitating life, headlines become food for thought in the upcoming ensemble-driven comedy on nationalism with "The Americans", while "The Spirit Play" is a period piece that struggles with the concept of spiritualism.

Produced by The Strange Tree Group, "The Spirit Play" is an atmospheric dramedy set in the late 1870s. The story takes place in the affluent homes of Chicago’s elite at a time when séances and mediums were popular means for people to contact their lost loved ones. Grieving families become easy prey for a group of scheming con artists until lead character Jane starts to receive messages from beyond the grave.