The Beginning: 1/15 – 1/20 (Chart and preview)

Another percentage chart!  Grab two ten-siders to play along this week.
Another percentage chart! Grab two ten-siders to play along this week.

As I write this, I am sitting in a remarkably uncomfortable chair at O’Hare Airport.  I will be spending the next few days seeing my daughter’s dance show in Minnesota.  I will be reviewing two shows this weekend, though, once I get back in town.  The shows that I’m seeing do not appear on this week’s chart because I’ll be writing them for Newcity.  Strange thing: I don’t know if it is “Newcity”, or “NewCity”, or what.  For all I know it may be New City.  One word or two, doesn’t matter.  I’m writing for them.  And then, naturally, you’ll find links to those reviews here.

In the meantime, you’ll be in good hands with Jackie and Rory.  Jackie will be taking in “Top Girls” and “Mr. Burns”.  Rory is seeing “A Map of Virtue”.  I’m seeing “Accidentally Like a Martyr” at A Red Orchid, and “Plastic Revolution” at the Den.  Now, you may have noticed that those two shows don’t appear on the chart at all.  That is how we’ve done things traditionally.  When I’m reviewing a show for another outlet, we don’t put it on the chart.  However… that’s about to change.  Starting next week we’ll leave them on there.  That way Jackie or Maggie could end up writing about a show that I’ve seen for someone else.  Who knows?  We may end up with conflicting ideas.  That’ll give us something to talk about!

We had a meeting on Tuesday where the three of us all sat down together in one place.  I think that’s great.  We talked about theatre.  It was fun.  I’ve never done that with either Centerstage or NewCity (Still don’t know how to handle the capitalization on that).  In fact, I’ve never met my editors in person.  So it was really cool to chat out what we’re doing as we’re doing it in a face-to-face manner.  Expect cool things from us in the not too distant future.  Well, expect additional cool things.  Obviously, we’re already providing you with cool things.  Right?

Okay… on to the randomness:

  • 8, 3, 7, 4
  • She was a great teacher.
  • I have a play to write by midnight tonight.  And then another by Feb 2.  I’d intended to take the month of January off from theatre (except for reviewing).  So much for that!
  • There’s a man in a fuschia shirt in front of me.  Fuschia shirt, grey sports jacket.  It looks both surprisingly suave, and very late-80s.  I sort of expect the cell phone in his hand to be much larger than it actually us.
  • Not entirely random, as it relates directly to the bullet point above: I get that cell phones fit in our pockets and all that, which is one advantage of them constantly getting thinner, if not smaller.  But, I really do miss the comfort of holding a phone receiver between my ear and my shoulder.  Whenever I try that with my current phone I get a really sore neck and often “push” buttons on my smartphone screen with my cheek.  Ugh.  … Also, you whippersnappers get off my lawn!
  • You want random?  NO TRIVIA TODAY!  There.

The Beginning: 1/8 – 1/12 (Chart and musings)

Chart!  Dice!  Shows!
Chart! Dice! Shows!

So… this week’s entry should really be titled “The Middle”, as I’m posting the chart we used this week a bit late, and deeply into the weekend itself.  We are seeing a bunch of shows this weekend.  So many, in fact, that next week’s chart will be limited in scope.  That’s great for this week’s reviewing.  Next week will be a bit more sparse.  But then, that’s not right now.  So, we’re on to thoughts about theatre this week…

As I mentioned last week, Rory Leahy has joined the stable of writers here on a temporary basis.  He’ll be seeing one show this weekend.  Maggie and Jackie are also seeing a show each.  I am reviewing two this week, but not for this site.  My NewCity assignments are plentiful in January, which is great.  But, it means that I didn’t actually have enough free time this week to roll the dice for myself.

What things on the chart am I going to focus on this week?  Well, I figured we could talk a bit about improvisation.  Normally we don’t cover improv shows in this column because it is very much a fleeting and changeable art by its very nature.  When it comes down to it, I could see a stellar set when I review the show, and then the same group could have a terribly off night when you see the same show I recommended to you.  Consistency is important when trying to write an accurate review.  So, why are there improv shows on this week’s chart?  Well, “Improvised Star Trek” and “Improvised Sondheim Project” are different from other shows in their genre.  The IST folks put together an ongoing cast of characters that always remain the same, and are performed in a consistent way.  It’s absolutely terrific every time I see them.  Even their down nights are really, really good.  I’ll be going to see them this Sunday night.  I’m not reviewing them.  I just want to see it for the enjoyment of it.

ISP is closer to being like some of the groups that we won’t normally touch.  But, doing a fully improvised Sondheim musical with each performance accomplishes two things.  One, the concept is interesting enough, and specific enough to make sure it’s not just yet-another Harold team.  And, two, the topic of modern musical theatre makes it relevant to the rest of the topic of this column.  Therefore it’s on the list.

Random thoughts abound!

  • I had the most wonderful dinner two nights ago at a place called Tutto Fresco, just underneath Strawdog Theatre.  I highly recommend it.  Highly.  The food was tremendous, and they got us out just in time to make our show just upstairs.  Also, the location just brings me joy.  The fact of the matter is that the restaurant is on the ground floor and makes a horseshoe around the staircase that takes you up to the theatre.  It’s sort of adorable, while also being mega-convenient.
  • I’m tired.
  • When I was young, my mother had a filing system of notecards that assisted her in weekly meal planning.  It was color-coded, and made a lot of sense.  I’ve decided that I’m going to try to replicate if for my own purposes.  I used it back when I was in high school, and it was great.  I’m not sure why I’ve not done it before.  A recipe box/meal planner is something that would have made the last few years so much better organized.
  • I find that I forget all the things that I planned to write in this spot by the time I actually sit down to write it.  Frustrating.  I also find that when I started out doing this format back in 2004, random thoughts put forth on the internet were limited in quantity.  Now, everyone does it all day long thanks to facebook and twitter.  This part of the column tends to be less of a novelty now.  Perhaps if I limit what I put on facebook and save it for here, I would have more to write about?  Perhaps.
  • Syntax.
  • Sin tax.
  • Today’s trivia comes from Trivia Cafe: “The world’s strongest beer (16.9% alc.) is called ‘Roger & Out’ and can be found at the Frog and Parrot Pub in Sheffield, England.”  — I’m not much of a beer drinker.  I used to work for a theatre producer who is also a Cicerone (a beer expert).  He charged himself with finding the beer I would love.  I’m not sure that was ever accomplished, but I did learn that I prefer ales to lagers.  In fact, I sort of hate lagers.  I will enjoy an ale from time to time.  I also have enjoyed the style of beer called barleywine, which I learned is what “Roger & Out” is.  They also don’t make it anymore… Incidentally, the source of the trivia fact is the Guinness Book of World Records, which got me to wondering if it bothers the folks at Guinness to award world records to other beer brands.
  • The porcupine.

The Beginning: 1/1 – 1/5 (Chart and Preview)

First chart of the year!  Grab some ten-sided dice and roll!
First chart of the year! Grab some ten-sided dice and roll!

It is the first day of a new year.  What better day to make the first column of the 2015 edition of Theatre By Numbers?!  We’re looking forward to a number of exciting things coming up this year, so we’ll talk about that in a moment.  There is less happening this week, however, due to the fact that when it comes down to it, only the holiday war horses have enough sway in the theatrical market to still be running after two weeks of holiday breaks.  There’s only one new production on the chart this week.  Everything else is well into its run already.  There aren’t even 20 shows currently open in town that meet our requirements (accessible via CTA, a run of 3 or more weeks remaining).  So, this week’s chart requires percentage dice (d%), which is to say 2d10.  You grab two ten-siders and roll ’em.  Decide which one holds the 10’s place, and which is the one’s.  If you get 00, it represents 100.  Otherwise the number is exactly what comes up.  Cool?

So… I rolled “HMS Pinafore” by the Hypocrites, and I’ll be seeing that on Sunday.  Prior to that, I’ll be taking a quick road trip up to the Twin Cities to get my daughter back to her home town in time for school’s re-start.  I rolled the dice for Maggie, too, but the theatre that came up has yet to confirm her tickets, so I don’t know if she’ll be doing a review this weekend, yet, or not.

Once this week-long lag in show openings passes, we’ll have a full compliment of folks reviewing again.  More than a full compliment, really.  Rory Leahy will be joining our roster for a couple of weeks!  Rory used to do reviews for Centerstage Chicago, not unlike yours truly.  He’s got a great eye for quality theatre, and shows it as a producer for a company called American Demigods.  Just after we gain from his presence, he’ll be headed back to grad school for the spring, but we’re excited that whenever he’s in town, he’ll be writing for us.  Yay!  Jackie, Maggie, and I will still be rounding out the majority of the stable most of the time.

So… If you look the chart over, you’ll notice that the Hypocrites and Annoyance both have multiple shows this week.  If they didn’t, there wouldn’t be much of anything on the chart at all.  “Lookingglass Alice” is still going strong (open through Feb 15).  And others on the chart also continue throughout the whole month of January and beyond.  One that catches my eye (and which I’ll be reviewing for Newcity next week) is “Penny the F*ckable Dolphin”.  That title gets some attention, that’s for sure.  The other show that catches my attention is “Improvised Sondheim Project“.  As a musical theatre singer, I have healthy respect for, and a bit of fear induced by, the songs of Stephen Sondheim.  I can’t imagine improvising something that approaches his genius.  I want to see how big the balls are of those who tackle this show.

So… It’s a new day.  A new week.  A new year.  I saw 62 shows in 2014.  I expect that number to go up again by half in 2015 (at least).  I would like to ask you to consider raising your number of shows by half this year, too.  Did you see 20 last year?  Then try to take in 30 this year.  There are cheap and free shows all over the place here in Chicago.  It’s one of the great things about this city.  And, I would challenge you to use the dice chart yourself at least once, perhaps twice, this year.  Live dangerously, and let the roll of the dice set you on a new path.  It’s quite exciting, I assure you.

Okay… randomness abounds:

  • For about 2 decades vampires were the thing in TV and movies.  Now it seems that superheroes is where it is at.  My question is, what comes next?  I know that Marvel and DC have their claws in us for a while still, but I think that predicting the next run of entertainment popularity is fun.  Any guesses?
  • The Mammals have shut the door on their Zoo Studios space at 4001 Ravenswood.  Some creepy/magical theatre has happened in that space.  I’m wondering what’s next for the group (they aren’t done, just the space is).  I’m also wondering what happens to that space.  It only held about 30 people audience-wise, so not huge by any means.  But, it was a space that was constantly hosting new art.  Any time a venue goes away, I’m saddened.
  • Something I learned to do this year?  Resin casting.  I used it to make puppet heads, but I’m guessing I’ll find a lot of props-making applications for it.  Yup.  Or, maybe I’ll design a new line of Chicago Theatre People action figures.  that would be cool!
  • Trivia from The Random Trivia Generator: “A cockroach can live for up to 9 days without a head.” – There has to be an advantage to this, although I can’t imagine what it is.  I saw a play last year in Madison, Wisc. that was about a prisoner who is beheaded.  It makes me wonder how one can know that the head will still see things after being disconnected.  And makes me wonder if the cockroach has the same experience.  Does it still see with its severed head?  Is its body aware, somehow, about what is going on around it?
  • Trees.
  • Apples.
  • I have to call a piano tuner, pronto.  My piano is really out of tune.

The Beginning: 12/11 – 12/16 (Chart and musings)

Final chart of 2014.  Roll them bones!
Final chart of 2014. Roll them bones!

Well, this will be the final chart of 2014.  On Monday we’ll start publishing out top five shows of the year.  Each of us will have our own list.  While we never overlap when writing for this column, we do occasionally see the same shows.  So, I’m intrigued to find out if Maggie, Jackie, and I have any shows in common.

So, this week’s chart has started to see the return of non-Holiday shows to the mix.  A large part of that is thanks to The Hypocrites who are bringing Gilbert & Sullivan’s big three (“Pirates of Penzance”, “HMS Pinafore”, and “The Mikado”) to the stage all at the same time.  Their new home at The Den Theater will be buzzing with the sounds of the many-time revived bouncy songs that get stuck in your head.

For those still in a Christmas spirit, there are plenty of holiday shows available, as well.  We have already recommended three in our reviews on this site, but if you’re looking for something completely different, I might suggest taking in the Second City product that is being performed at the Goodman.  It seems an odd combination of Low brow and High brow when these two theatres are listed in the same space, but I think it will be brilliant.

So… Quickly: Jackie is the only one of us reviewing this week.  After our Top 5 articles, we’ll be dark until after the new year so we can do all that family traveling stuff.  It’s been a great year for Chicago theatre, and we’ve been lucky enough to have been a part of it.  Thanks to y’all for reading.  We’ll see you soon!

The Beginning: 11/20 – 11/24 (Preview and Chart)

Now you can select your viewing pleasures randomly, too!
Now you can select your viewing pleasures randomly, too!

This is the time of year when all of the theatre sites start covering holiday shows and making their “best of” lists.  And, we will not be any different, truth be told.  This week’s chart is chock full of holiday offerings.  And, while I am personally not reviewing this week due to my commitments to my own holiday show (A Klingon Christmas Carol), Maggie and Jackie will be immersed in the realm of jolly holidays.  In a couple of weeks I’ll be putting out my list of the 5 best shows of 2014.  Jackie and Maggie will do the same.  I’m finding that it’s an interesting exercise to have three of us doing this.  You may have noticed that we aren’t reviewing the same shows.  But, I know that I, personally, have seen shows this year that I didn’t review for any outlet (including this one).  And I assume the same can be said for the ladies.  I maintain a list (a spreadsheet, really) of all the shows I’ve seen every year.  And as I surf over that list, it will be easy to nail my top 3 choices, but after that there are a number of shows that could rank as number 4 and 5.  Luckily, we’re not publishing those lists until December 15th!  I’ve got some time to ponder.

Randomosity prevails!

  • I discovered that not all baseball caps can be straightened out by steaming.  This might not be news to everyone (or anyone for that matter).  What I knew before was that if one of my wool baseball caps needed to be uncrumpled, I could tackle it with the same steamer that I use on shirts, dresses, and ballet tutus (I’m a dance dad).  However, I had a lovely cap from Hawaii (the U of H “Rainbow Warriors”) that apparently has some plastic inside the cap and is made of a material that expands rather than shrinks when heated.  Whoops!
  • Puppets.  Two freaky puppets.
  • 268
  • My birthday is coming up on Monday.  I’m looking forward to it.  My birthday often falls on or after Thanksgiving.  I’m looking forward to not having Turkey for my birthday meal.
  • I have a play to write by December 1st.  Guess I should focus on that for a bit, eh?

The Beginning: 11/13 – 11/17 (Chart and apologies)

A chart that lists some plays for you to consider
A chart that lists some plays for you to consider

I’m not entirely sure that this can event be referred to as “The Beginning”.  When it comes down to it, we’re firmly entrenched in the weekend that this article is supposed to be previewing.  The last two weeks have been rough ones for the staff here.  Basically, illness takes its toll.  So, we inadvertently took a week off.  Maggie managed to make it to a show last week, but Jackie had to push her assigned  reviews back to this weekend, and I didn’t even manage to get the previews written on time.  I apologize profusely for all that.

I”m sure the chart to the right this week will only be used for reference, if that.  But, there it is.   In the meantime, watch for Jackie’s two reviews in a few days.

We’re just going to jump to randomness and assume that this next week will go better:

  • Jack of Clubs and 4 of Spades
  • I was reading a number of reviews this past week.  Reviews of shows I’d not seen, nor would be reviewing myself.  And I came across a thought.  Indulge me, if you will…  not-so-hypothetical hypothetical situation:  You are an actor.  Over the duration of a number of years, you are reviewed a handful of times.  In each review over the years, you are cited by name as the weakest link, or the worst thing about any given production.  At what point do you take those reviews as a hint that perhaps this isn’t the field for you?  Initially, I found myself only looking at that question as a quip toward the person about whom the reviews were written, but then I started to think about it more.  Truly, what is it that keeps bad actors going?  Don’t they get discouraged?  Doesn’t it get old and tiresome to be only mentioned in the press in the negative?  We’ve all had bad reviews.  And we learn to shake it off.  But then, that’s likely because we also receive really good reviews to counter the downers.  If there is no positive reinforcement, how does one keep going in this field?  What level of self-confidence or self-delusion is necessary?  Something I’ve been thinking about during my reading this last week.  I ponder as one who works in the field and gets reviewed from time to time.  And as one who obviously does some of the reviewing, too.
  • I like dice.
  • I like rice.
  • I’m less fond of mice.
  • Well… wasn’t that nice?

The Beginning: 10/31 – 11/3 (Chart and announcements)

What season is this, anyway?  Who cares!  Go see a show!
What season is this, anyway? Who cares! Go see a show!

This column should have been out yesterday.  My apologies.  Instead, I’m writing it while snow and hail falls on Chicagoland shortly before children will be heading out to do their trick-or-treating.

This week is an odd one on the chart.  You’ll notice that not only are there Halloween shows, but also Christmas shows.  Apparently the theatre community here follows the same behavior as the retail stores.  Thanksgiving just doesn’t sell, so we go straight from pumpkins to fir trees.  Or in this case, we encounter a weekend that includes “Nosferatu” and “Dee Snider’s Rock and Roll Christmas Tale”.  The chart also includes a number of children’s shows.  Emerald City has both “Goldilocks and the Three Bears” and “The BFG (Big Friendly Giant)” making showings.  And Lifeline puts forth the one show that has me really confused timing-wise: “The Velveteen Rabbit”.  Given the contents of the book, I would normally lump this in with the Christmas shows, but it is scheduled to close long before the holiday season is truly in full swing.

Anyway… Although tomorrow is no longer Halloween season, I’m seeing two plays that extend the ambiance of this day for an extra 24 hours.  I start my day off tomorrow morning at a matinée of “The Velveteen Rabbit” and also take in an evening showing of “The Lieutenant of Inishmore”.  So, I’ve got the kids, the cute costumes for starters, and the obligatory gore to close things down.

Then, there’s Sunday.  I will be doing another review one Sunday night.  However, it is not a show that appears on the chart, and it isn’t for this site.  I have been added to the roster of critics over at NewCity Magazine, and not unlike I did with Centerstage Reviews, I’ll post a link to any review I do over there on this site here, so you’ll be able to find it easily.  Cool?  More on that when they publish the article.

In the meantime…  Just a little bit of random:

  • The weather here has got me wanting to run away.  Strangely, though, were I to take a road trip anywhere right now, it would be to head North.  I know, I should think about hitting a warm tropical beach, but instead I want to see a show that I just can’t make it to, so I’m daydreaming about it.  If you’re looking for a short excursion for dramatic adventure/musical enjoyment next weekend, might I suggest “Lucy” by Milwaukee Opera Theater.  I’m fascinated by the possibilities of this piece, and I admire the work that they do up there.  Check it out.
  • Upside-down cat!
  • Would you like a Jelly Baby?
  • The fourth track on One Direction’s album “Take Me Home” is entitled “C’mon, C’mon”.  Why do I know this?!  It hurts me!
  • The waves washing over Lake Shore Drive this afternoon scare the poop out of me.  When I was really young I used to have recurring nightmares about dinosaurs.  Specifically about a T-rex gobbling me up.  In adulthood, I have had nightmares semi-frequently about accidentally driving off narrow roads into bodies of water and submerging the car with me in it.  My subconscious does not need help from mother nature!  Why is Lake Michigan trying to engulf the not-so-narrow roads?  Why?!

The Beginning: 10/23 – 10/27 (Chart and Preview)

Dice are your friends!  Well, they're my friends.  I need better friends.  But, at least these friends take me to theatre!
Dice are your friends! Well, they’re my friends. I need better friends. But, at least these friends take me to theatre!

One of the tricks of getting the press to cover your opening performance is to shift your opening night to a time when you’re guessing that others aren’t having their own opening.  After all, a reviewer can only be in one place at a time.  Traditionally an opening night will fall on a Friday or Saturday.  These days, there are a number of plays that are opening on Sundays and Mondays.  At first glance this looks like a good strategy, but the question that arises is this: how many off-night openings are too many?  At what point is there a critical mass of openings on alternate nights?  I’m looking at this week specifically.  A bunch of things are opening on Sunday.  “Titanic” is one of them.  “The Lieutenant of Inishmore” is another.  Were you to do a double billing of those two plays in one day (which you can, incidentally), that would be a whole lot of death for one day.  Somehow that seems appropriate for the Halloween season, even if the shows aren’t technically Halloween fare.

Speaking of Halloween fare…  Silent Theatre Company is presenting “Nosferatu”.  There is no more quintessential vampire story.  Adapted from the movie of the same name, this will be a black and white production without a single word spoken.  Musical accompaniment will play a major part in the production, though.  Did I mention, I love their tagline for the show: “In Silent Theatre, no one can hear you scream…”

Maggie is taking a couple weeks off, so this week it’s just Jackie and me seeing shows.

Feeling a bit random today?  Me, too!

  • This is apparently the year that I go gray.  I’ve had a gray patch in my beard for years, but it hasn’t grown or changed at all since it first appeared in 2007.  A patch of 26 gray whiskers just camps out on the tip of my chin.  Yes, I counted them.  What?!  Anyway… I’m now seeing a good deal of my barely-existent hair taking on a salt-and-pepper look.  I turned 40 this year, so I suppose it’s right on time.  That’s actually a relief, seeing as I went bald somewhere between 21 and 23 (let’s say 22 for ease of math).
  • starwarslunchboxThat right there was my first lunchbox.  I got it in 1980, when I was in Kindergarten.  Cool, eh?  I still have it.  It’s now used as a bookend on the shelf that holds my cookbooks.
  • Trivia for Today, provide by Trivia of the Day:  “The Red Delicious variety of apple was originally known as “Hawkeye” apples.” — Given that those are some of my least favorite apples, I’m sort of hoping that this bit of knowledge will get my wife to stop buying them.  You see, she went to Iowa State, and hates everything Hawkeye.  Never has a college rivalry been so important to me.
  • Puppets!
  • 2001
  • I think it’s time for a spot of tea.

The Beginning: 10/9 – 10/13 (Chart and musings)

Theatre1234Chart
Catch 22: Well, Table 22 catches 20 shows in Chicago. You can probably catch at least one of these this weekend.

It is a week like this one that prompted me to bring other reviewers into the fold on this column.  I have been in tech all week for “The Grand Duke” with the Savoyaires.  We open on Friday up in Evanston.  And in the meantime, this year’s “A Klingon Christmas Carol” has started rehearsing.  There is no time for me to review anything this week.  Luckily, Jackie and Maggie are on the scene!

A couple of things of note on tis week’s chart… “Romulus” opens at Oracle this week.  As you may know, Oracle’s mission is to provide free theatre to the masses.  It’s a beautiful thing.  And, if their last few shows are any indication, they also choose to produce theatre of the masses, as well.  This play promises to head down that same road.  No, they won’t be recycling the early 1900’s costumes that have come in so handy recently with their productions of “The Mother” and “The Jungle”.  Instead, they’ll be taking on the fall of the Roman Empire.  And yet, this production is another look at what is wrong with our country currently, through the prism that is the past.  They do good work, and the price is always right, so if you get a chance, that would be one to go to (you know… if you opted to not attend shows randomly like we do).

And, the Halloween season starts this week.  Three plays that you might want to take in, if you’re searching for a case of the heebie-jeebies (does anyone really search for a case of those?):

  1. “Musical of the Living Dead” – You may have noticed, but Zombies have been a thing over the last few years.  And I don’t think that’s going to change in the near future.  I am not really into the zombie thing myself, but my wife is.  So, were I to treat her to something this month, it would be this show.  Also, I just want to take a moment to say that I love this production company’s name: Cowardly Scarecrow!  How perfect is that for this time of year?
  2. “Sweeney Todd” is at Porchlight (at Stage 773).  Now, that may not be a truly Halloween-themed play, but it’s one helluva creepy tale and involves blood and such, so… I’m going to assume that the folks at Porchlight thought it would be a great addition to this scary season.
  3. “Nightmares on Lincoln Ave 666: The Exorcism or Rose Mary’s Omen” – How can any holiday in Chicago pass without at least one campy-sounding spoof/parody.  Thanks to Corn Productions this Halloween will not be without the Windy City staple of funny, low-budget entertainment that pokes fun at the other entertainment of this time of year.

Well, that’s what I’ve got thought-wise for the previews this week.  How about some randomness, eh?

  • I’m a Doctor Who fan.  One might even say a Whovian.  I’ve come to it relatively lately, by way of nostalgia.  I grew up with the 5th Doctor, but I think now I’m tending toward the War Doctor being my Doctor.  And, if anyone is keeping track, I do like Capaldi.
  • I have a smallsword sitting on my dining room side board.
  • I noticed something last night.  Over the past month, as I’ve been waiting for the Purple Line to take me home after rehearsal, I’ve hunched my shoulders and tried to make myself a bit lower than normal due to the disturbing number of spiderwebs that hover just above head height on the train platform.  Suddenly, last night, the spiders were gone.  Actually, there were about three on the entire platform.  I know.  I checked.  I’m sure that I appeared to be nuts (and perhaps I am), but I walked the entire platform and counted the visible spider webs and there were only three!  That’s compared to the last time I rode (last week) when there were too many in any given square meter for me to bother counting at all (too busy ducking and cringing).  I don’t know if it is due to the weather, or if the CTA actually did something about the little creepy-crawlies, but I’m pleased as all get-out with the new situation.
  • Scotch!
  • “There’s always someone younger and hungrier coming down the stairs after you.” – Cristal Connors (“Showgirls”)
  • NO TRIVIA!  How’s that for random?!
  • My cat is currently trying to destroy a butterscotch disk.

The Beginning: Sept 18 – 22 (Preview and Chart)

The chart of randomness for the 3rd weekend of September!
The chart of randomness for the 3rd weekend of September!

The Chicago theatre season is in full swing this weekend.  Last weekend was a great one for openings.  This one is even more stacked with new shows.  And then, the following weekend is super-loaded.  Thereafter things settle down a bit.  But, this is one of those times when it isn’t even possible for us to come close to covering everything that’s out there.  So, it’s good news that Maggie, Jackie, and I, are all around to this weekend to cover as much as we can.  I’m quite excited because we’re seeing a shows at LifeLine, Victory Gardens, 20%, and Idle Muse.  These are groups that come with a solid pedigree, and that’s a good feeling when you’ve had your fate decreed by a small plastic orb.

The DirectorsLabChicago is going on currently here in town.  If you’re not familiar with the project, it is a week-long workshop wherein a bunch of directors from here and elsewhere converge and confer.  Actors develop their muscles in acting classes and workshops.  Playwrights have their work developed through readings.  Directors often don’t get the chance to really hunker down and refresh their skills and their spirits.  But, that’s what DirectorsLabChicago is for (as are its sister programs in New York, Toronto, and Los Angeles).  I participated last year as a director, and it really rejuvenated my drive.  And now, my wife and I are hosting a couple of the out of town participants.  It’s cool to see them excited about what they are experiencing, and oddly familiar to see them exhausted and energized at the same time.  I personally find it really cool that the leadership of so many Chicago-based theatre companies participate as panelists and instructors during the week.  I truly think that Elizabeth Margolius and her people at the DLC have put together one of the truly great things about the Chicago theatre community.  It’s all the more cool, because it is something that is sort of below the radar to the normal theatre-goer.  Audience folks have no idea that it’s here.  It’s just part of the quality work that goes on behind the scenes.

Now, as I look at this week’s chart, I notice a few things of note.  City Lit is opening a production of “At Home at the Zoo”, which is Edward Albee’s modern classic “The Zoo Story” combined with its prequel “Homelife”.  This play is the source of a favorite quote of mine.  I tend to use it whenever I get lost while driving, or whenever I’m talking to someone who has gone on a long-winded tangent.  That quote: “Sometimes it’s necessary to go a long distance out of the way in order to come back a short distance correctly.”  We didn’t roll this play this week.  I’m truly hoping it is still on the chart next week.

“King Lear” is the other show that caught my eye.  It is my second-favorite Shakespeare play, after “Measure for Measure”.  I know.  I’m odd in my Shakespeare tastes.  Anyway… I’ve not seen a production of Lear in over a decade.  And from what I saw in Chicago Shakespeare‘s press release last week, this is the production to end that drought.  Montage!  Here’s a video montage.  Montage!

So… Here’s a bit of random stuff, as I am wont to put at this point in the column:

  • Jerry, Bob, Hans, Chad, Burl, Patrick, and Charlie
  • My cat sat on my lap for over 10 minutes yesterday.  He seldom does that, as he is really more affectionate with my wife than he is with me.
  • Trivia time (thanks to www.hookedonfacts.com) — “A species of earthworm in Australia grows up to 10 feet in length.”  I don’t normally mind worms, but I think that would have an effect on me the same way that snakes do on Indiana Jones.
  • Smurf!