Category Archives: Staged Affairs

Passing Strange: a righteous afro-rock opera comes to Chicago!

 “Passing Strange“, the Tony-winning black rock-opera is righteous, and it’s being staged in Chicago featuring  local soul revivalists JC Brooks & the Uptown Sound… and my chica: LaNisa Frederick.  Amen.

Passing Strange is the coming-of-age story of “Youth” (Daniel Breaker), a kid growing up somewhere in LA in the seventies.  He is disillusioned because he doesn’t fit the common definition of blackness.  Floating above the city, getting high in his choir director’s blue Volkswagen beetle, “Youth” decides to uproot himself from everything he’s known in order to find home.

It takes a blurry, nomadic trek across Europe to realize some ultimate truths about where he fits in the world and whom he can count among his tribe.  Features a great live band (book and music by Stew and Heidi) and meaty writing that sometimes billows poetically like blood in water. For anyone who grew up not fitting in, then realized that they fit in perfectly, after all.  Jive on.  Below,  an excerpt from the Spike Lee-documented Broadway staging.

Passing Strange

Featuring JC Brooks & The Uptown Sound

Chicago Center for the Performing Arts (CCPA)

777 N. Green St., Chicago IL (Google Map)

APRIL 21 – MAY 29, 2011

Fridays & Saturdays @ 8pm
Sundays @ 7pm

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Tour Guides: Take a Tour of the Real Chicago

For six nights only, poetry meets the stage meets Chicago in this theatrical exploration of urban life. Collaboratively written by members of the Poetry Performance Incubator, this ensemble piece offers a lyrical tour of the Chicago tourists never see.

According to the Guild’s Coya Paz:

“This is a collaboration between 10 spoken word poets, 7 of whom perform. The piece offers an insider’s look at Chicago culture(s), covering things like the difference between catcalling on the Northside and the Southside, how you can tell when a funeral procession is for a youth or an elder by the rims on the cars, what do do when your white friends want to go to a rib place waaaaaay down south, and why Time Out shouldn’t be the expert on culture in Pilsen. We tell real life stories about people pooping on trains, plotting murders on trains, and falling in love on trains. We passionately detail the reasons why Mexicans and Irish people should be in solidarity, especially when it comes to beer. We talk about toxic spills in Pilsen. We talk about why Rogers Park is for hippies. And so much more!” 

This reminds me of the “Ghetto Bus” that was in the News back in 2007.  The Bus took folks on a tour of inner city Chicago… the part of the city that tourists tend not to see.

Does anyone remember this?

From MSNBC.com July 22, 2007

CHICAGO — The yellow school bus rumbles through vacant lots and past demolished buildings, full of people who have paid $20 for a tour of what was once among the most dangerous areas of this or any other city in the United States.

But for the woman with the microphone, this “Ghetto Bus Tour” isn’t just another way to make a buck from tourists. It’s the last gasp in her crusade to tell a different story about Chicago’s notorious housing projects, something other than well-known tales about gang violence so fierce that residents slept in their bathtubs to avoid bullets.

“I want you to see what I see,” says Beauty Turner, after leading the group off the bus to a weedy lot where the Robert Taylor Homes once stood. “To hear the voices of the voiceless.”

click here for the rest of the article.


You’re Tuff Enough: junior wells’ new breed blues

  • The title cut off this 1968 album is a bluesy monster produced by Charles Stepney with more than enough groove to stay squarely in the pocket.  Also on this album is the local hit “Up in Heah”, another blues-infused party track.  Both of the records will make sceptics rethink the blues. According to the back of the album:

“Talk about somebody being “tuff” enough. One night in Pepper’s Lounge, a little night spot on Chicago’s South Side, Junior Wells was introduced as “the little Giant of the blues”. It was around midnight and the Chatter that had been incessant for about three hours ceased. In cool dignity the little black walked to the stage, and said: “I’m gonna sing them damn blues, and you’d better dig it.” This audience at Pepper’s where all the blues greats have passed through and left their mark, is as hip an audience as any performer ever faced. When you bring them slow blues it better be nasty, and when you swing it better make them move. Shoot blanks and you won’t last long. Junior Wells could stay there eternally. “

–David Llorens

 

 


Lyricist Loft: Kids Today Can Read… and Write.

Wednesday nights this Summer, an Open mic for Open minds:
hosted by dimi d. & Fatimah
DJ talent & DJ Such N Such
Bring your poems, songs, videos, chants, interpretive dancing…etc.
JUST COME and bring your Positive Energy
FEATURED POETS= Kuumba Lynx

Date:
Wednesday, July 14, 2010
Time:
6:00pm – 8:00pm
Location:
400 South State

In the Blood: susan lori parks’ remix of “scarlet letter” in chicago

 “My life’s my own fault. I know that. But the world don’t help.” — Hester La Negrita

“In the Blood”, the “bold re-imagining of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s masterpiece, The Scarlet Letter, embraces the yearning for love, family, and the price of moral absolutes” according to the UIC Performing Arts website. 

The rework centers on Hester La Negrita, an illiterate mother of five. She lives on the streets of a tough city neighborhood with her five children: Jabber, Bully, Trouble, Beauty and Baby. Her eldest son is teaching her to read and write, but she’s progressed only to the letter “A.”

Hester’s children bring her life-affirming comic moments, but she is held back by the adults who dominate her life: her ex-boyfriend, best friend, social worker, doctor and minister. Ultimately, she faces the cost of moral absolutes and the will of the community, represented by an ensemble. 
 “Blood”  is presented this month by UIC’s Department of Performing Arts.  Directed by Robert O’Hara and features local soul star Yaw.

Opening April 9, 7:30 Also April 10, 15, 16, 17 at 7:30 April 11, 14, 18 at 2:15

on UIC’s campus: 1040 W. Harrison St. MC-255.  Tickets range from $11 (UIC Students) to $16 (general admission).

Box office + (312)996-2939
e-mail theatre@uic.edu


Dakar by Way of Chicago: omar pene & yassa

This Saturday, Senegal’s Omar Pene is in Chicago performing at Martyrs (3855 N. Lincoln).  A former member of Super Diamono, a 70s Senegalese band that addressed social issues with funk, he is now solo… and in fine form.  His voice has been described as both muscular and “islamic”, and the concert promises to be a treat.

Opening act is yours truly, DJ Ayana.

Omar Pene at Martyrs (presented by portoluz)

When: Sat., March 20, 9 p.m. at Martyrs (3855 N. Lincoln Ave.)

Phone: 773-404-9494 or 800-594-8499
Price: $25

To get you in the mood, visit Yassa: savory Sengalese food here in Chicago.  African flavors with an emphasis on sauces, seafood, lamb, rice, and cues taken from Islamic and French cuisine, Senagalese food is DOPE!  Try the freshly made juice – any of them (they have tamarind, sorrel, ginger and baobab)- or the Dibi Lamb (grilled lamb chops) which comes with red rice.  The plantains are delicious, as is the Yassa Fish.

The spot is BYOB,  and personally, I’d bring Malta India or a spicy ginger beer, but if you must have an alcoholic beverage, try a stout beer.

Yassa:
716 E 79th St
(between Evans Ave & Langley Ave)
Chicago, IL 60619

(773) 488-5599


Under the Spell of Red and Brown Water

Tarell Alvin McCraney’s “In the Red and Brown Water,” now playing at Steppenwolf’s Upstairs Theater, is an exercise in duality that lends itself to complete immersion, an exercise in which you’re left like a used bag of orange pekoe (feeling purposefully spent).

Reality blends with chorus-driven fantasy, magic with carnality, and comedy with tragedy in this heartfelt display.  Oya, the lead character, is played hauntingly by Alana Arenas.  Ms. Arenas, who I caught lunch with after the show (she likes bruschetta), is a whisper-quiet left hook: a spirit to be reckoned with (in life and on the stage). 

Set in a Louisiana Housing Project, “Water” is a story of a Golden Girl, and how one decision (made at the cusp of womanhood) sends her down a pathway to a more tarnished reality.  Ms. Arenas imbibes an undeniable warmth as Ora, chasing the shadows of potential, of love, and of dashed dreams of creation.  Also stand out in the play were  Jacqueline Willams and Steppenwolf ensemble members K. Todd Freeman and Ora Jones.

Part of the Brother/Sister Trilogy of Plays (all playing in repertory at Steppenwolf), In the Red Brown Water plays until May 23rd.  for more info, visit steppenwolf.org. Jive on!


Stand With Haiti!!

 

Stand with Haiti!! An Evening of Food, Poets (including Lady Terror), Musicians, and Dancers Gathered to Support Those Devastated by the Earthquake in Haiti.  DJ Ayana on the tables.

Thursday, Jan. 21, 6:00pm – 8:45pm

Thorne Auditorium 357 E. Chicago Ave., Chicago, IL

Free admission, donations requested.

Food/Drink: 6-7pm

Program: 7:15-8:45pm

ALL Proceeds will be donated to the Clinton-Bush Haiti Fund

to support the relief effort in Haiti.


Tofu Chitlin Circuit presents: Black Thang

THE SYNOPSIS:

“Black Thang” by Ato Essandoh is the story of Sam, a black man, and Mattie, a white woman, and what happens when their relationship progresses from merely a one-night stand to something more…but not without some controversy.

Meanwhile, Keisha (Mattie’s best friend), struggles to hold onto her relationship with her long-time boyfriend Omar, and Jerome (Sam’s best friend), tries to “school” him on the ins-and-outs of interracial dating.

THE CREATIVE TEAM:

Come chat with the innovative and emerging director Sydney Chatman and The Tofu Chitlin’ Circuit as they explore location specific productions with a twist: adding technology to enhance the theatrical experience and to create interactive theater.

This is a MUST-SEE two-day event that’s sure to have you wanting more!

THE SPECIFICS:

WHEN: FRIDAY & SATURDAY, JANUARY 29 & 3O, 2010

WHERE: IVAN/CARLSON STUDIOS 2224 W. FULTON Chicago, IL
60612

TIME: RECEPTION 7:00 p.m. CURTAIN 7:30 p.m.

DONATION: until JANUARY 28TH-$15; DAY OF SHOW-$20

about the Tofu Chitlin Circuit: The Tofu Chitlin’ Circuit is a theater conservatory located in the Bronzeville district of Chicago that seeks to push the boundaries of staged productions through technology and the integration of a variety of media in their works.

UPDATE: This show has been postponed.  Stay tuned for forthcoming dates and times!


Passing Strange: a righteous afro-rock opera

 

 “Passing Strange“, the Tony-nominated black rock-opera is righteous…. Amen.

Passing Strange is the coming-of-age story of “Youth” (Daniel Breaker), a kid growing up somewhere in LA in the seventies.  He is disillusioned because he doesn’t fit the common definition of blackness.  Floating above the city, getting high in his choir director’s blue Volkswagen beetle, “Youth” decides to uproot himself from everything he’s known in order to find home.

It takes a blurry, nomadic trek across Europe to realize some ultimate truths about where he fits in the world and whom he can count among his tribe.  Features a great live band (book and music by Stew and Heidi) and meaty writing that sometimes billows poetically like blood in water. For anyone who grew up not fitting in, then realized that they fit in perfectly, after all.  Jive on.  Below, from the Spike Lee-documented Broadway staging.