Upcoming Dance

The Neo-Futurists are proud to present a world premiere created and performed by Leah Urzendowski* and Anthony Courser The? Unicorn? Hour?, directed by Adrian Danzig, April 6  - May 13, at The Neo-Futurarium, 5153 N. Ashland. Previews are Thursday, April 6 - Saturday, April 8 at 7:30 p.m. with opening night Monday, April 10 at 7:30 p.m. Performances run Thursdays – Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. Ticket prices for previews and Thursdays are pay what you can; for the regular run, tickets are $10-25. Tickets and information are available at neofuturists.org or 773.275.5255.

The? Unicorn? Hour? invites the audience to discover and grow in an atmosphere where joy can float freely. Inspired by childhood favorites like “Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood” and “Peewee’s Playhouse,” this show claims joy as the core fantastical world of adventure within us.  Joy is an active choice, requiring a shift of perception of the world around you.   

“We became really obsessed and excited with the politics of joy; joy being an activism; that feeling joy, being joy, creating joy is a way to fight against the world and your oppressor.  Joy is a part of the resistance,” said Leah Urzendowski. “The? Unicorn? Hour? refers to the unicorn that lives within all of us - the mythical magical organ in your soul that can be tapped into at any moment you choose. You can “unicorn” at anytime! Seeking joy is refusing woe and accepting the beauty of an unbridled lifting of the spirit.”

“We want to give people the gift of saying yes and delighting in absurd choices; help people tap back into a time before the word ‘no’ was forced on them. We want to be a looking glass of what a world could look like when we choose to eliminate self-doubt and say yes to a sincere playfulness,” added Anthony Courser.   

ABOUT LEAH URZENDOWSKI* creator/performer

Leah Urzendowski* is a founding member of The Ruffians, and an ensemble member with The Neo-Futurists since 2011. Some of Urzendowski’s Chicago credits include Jeff recommended Mr. Burns (Theatre Wit); Too Much Light Makes The Baby Go Blind, Miss Neo Pageant, (both with The Neo- Futurists); Burning Bluebeard (The Ruffians); 500 Clown Trapped, 500 Clown Frankenstein, 500 Clown Macbeth (all with 500 Clown); Moby Dick, Dustbowl Gothic ( both with The Building Stage) and Hunchback (Redmoon). Choreography and movement direction credits include The Magic Play (Goodman), Lord of The Flies (Steppenwolf), Ivywild (Hypocrites), Miss Neo Pageant (The Neo-Futurists) and Burning Bluebeard (The Ruffians, The Neo-Futurists).  TV and film credits include “Chicago PD,” “Chicago Fire,” “ER” and “Operator.” Urzendowski is a teaching artist with The Ruffians, The Neo-Futurists and Team Awesome, specializing in physical theatre, ensemble and partnership building, clown, movement and movement consulting. She received her BFA from Chicago College of Performing Arts at Roosevelt University, and is represented by Stewart Talent.

ABOUT ANTHONY COURSER, creator/performer

Anthony Courser is a founding member of the Ruffians (2013), an artistic associate with The Neo-Futurists (2012) and a teaching artist with Barrel of Monkeys (2001).  Some of Courser’s favorite Chicago credits include Burning Bluebeard (The Ruffians, The Neo-Futurists); Jeff Recommended Ivywild (The Hypocrites); Daredevils Hamlet, Picked Up, The Fool Returns to His Chair, Daredevils (The Neo-Futurists), That’s Weird, Grandma (Barrel of Monkeys); set designer for Analog (The Neo-Futurists).  He was in the performance ensemble of New Belgium Brewing’s Tour de Fat and the Le Tigre Tent. He is a graduate of Dell Arte International School for Physical Theatre and a student of Panchinko Clowning with Sue Morrison at the Canadian Clown Institute.  Courser is a teacher of clown, Physical Theatre, and Ensemble and Partner Building.  He is also a carpenter, but he doesn’t have time to build you a table.

ABOUT ADRIAN DANZIG** director

Adrian Danzig was an early Neo-Futurist (1990) and a founding member of Redmoon Theater, Hubinspoke Theater and is the founding producing artistic director of 500 Clown. His direction/creation credits include Circle of Madness, Action, Not Dead Yet, 500 Clown Get Happy and the earliest versions of 500 Clown Macbeth. Danzig graduated from New York City’s High School of Performing Arts, received his BA from Oberlin College in Government and his MFA from the School of The Art Institute of Chicago in Performance. He has studied clown with Ctibor Turba, Philippe Gaulier, Ronlin Foreman, Dominique Jando, Els Comediants, David Shiner, Avner the Eccentric and was a clown with Big Apple Circus Clown Care for seven years. 

   

* denotes an active member of The Neo-Futurist Ensemble

 

ABOUT THE NEO-FUTURISTS

The Neo-Futurists are a collective of wildly productive writer-director-performers that create theater that is fusion of sport, poetry and living-newspaper. Having created more than 9,775 plays within 28 years of Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind and over 65 original, full-length productions within their immediate, non-illusory aesthetic. The Neo-Futurists have grown to become one of the most highly regarded experimental theater companies in the United States. From humble beginnings as the first late-night theater production in Chicago, they launched what became Chicago’s longest running show and today sustain multifaceted programs such as Neo-Access, The Kitchen (a micro-festival on art and performance), Prime Time, Neo-Lab and their ongoing late night show 50 weekends every year. For more information visit www.neofuturists.org

The Neo-Futurists are proud to present a world premiere created and performed by Leah Urzendowski* and Anthony Courser The? Unicorn? Hour?, directed by Adrian Danzig, April 6 - May 13, at The Neo-Futurarium, 5153 N. Ashland. Previews are Thursday, April 6 - Saturday, April 8 at 7:30 p.m. with opening night Monday, April 10 at 7:30 p.m. Performances run Thursdays – Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. Ticket prices for previews and Thursdays are pay what you can; for the regular run, tickets are $10-25. Tickets and information are available at neofuturists.org or 773.275.5255.

 

Published in Upcoming Theatre
Monday, 12 September 2016 13:59

House’s Mr. Punch Shows the Way to Do It

It’s the beginning of a puppet-laden season in theatre this fall. Victory Gardens will be performing Hand to God, the story of a boy whose hand puppet is possessed by the devil, and later in the season, Writers Theatre will produce The Hunter and the Bear, their latest collaboration with Pigpen Theatre Company, which is expected to include the use of shadow puppets as storytelling devices. But first, The House Theatre of Chicago is now presenting their newest original work, A Comedical Tragedy for Mister Punch, a show which explores a fictionalized origin for England’s popular family annihilating marionette, and the minds of the people who came up with him. Featuring the best products of The House’s beloved design team, Mister Punch is a technical marvel, though the script by Kara Davidson is slow to start.

The earliest record of Punch and Judy shows comes from the seventeenth century, and the show is set slightly after that. Punch’s illegal immigrant Italian creator, Pietro Bologna (Adrian Danzig), ekes out an existence while dodging the authorities, as does the thief and street urchin, Charlotte (Sarah Cartwright). Fate brings them together, and Pietro decides he could use her as a bottler, the assistant who introduces shows and collects money. Disguised as a boy named Charlie, Charlotte is initially awful, but the puppets capture her imagination. They have inner life, Pietro tells her, though he guards his creations jealously, and insists that mass murder is the only acceptable ending for Mr. Punch’s stories. When Charlotte learns that Pietro visits a prostitute, Polly (Echaka Agba), whom he regards more as a mistress, she hopes that a softer side of her master might manifest through the puppets if she could only capture some of that affection in the play. But circumstances, and Pietro’s true disposition, are not so kind.

Lee Keenan’s scenic design is similar to the circus theme used in The House’s recently remounted Death and Harry Houdini, only this time, commedia dell’arte masks and puppet pieces dangle from the rafters. John Fournier’s original music contains several unnerving melodies, though naturally, few can compare with the props designed by Eleanor Kahn or with the puppets themselves, created by Jesse Mooney-Bullock. The leering grins of Punch, the crocodile, and the other denizens of his world look even more grotesque in the masks worn by the live actors (costumes by Izumi Inaba). Punch, played by Johnny Arena, appears in the flesh during scenes in which his puppeteers are acting him out, as do Judy (Carolyn Hoerdemann), his much-abused acquaintance, Joey (Joey Steakley), and his other victims. Though The House prides itself on innovative storytelling, few scenes in the show could be more highly theatricalized than these.

Or, at least, that will probably be the case after a few more runs. Though puppetry is often clumsy, more than was optimal seemed to be going wrong at opening, which distorted the pace of the comedy and caused some hesitancy among the actors during fight scenes. This has happened at other House shows, which were able to recover gracefully, but his time, the script was unfocused in the first act to the point where the performers didn’t have much to return to. In the second act, Davidson found her thread, and director Shade Murray was able to put together a story that was as alarming as it was open-ended. But in the first act, precious time was lost to self-indulgent interludes such as the main antagonist doing an impression of House artistic director Nathan Allen.

As annoying as some of the missed opportunities were, what happens in the second act more than redeems the show. We see Danzig’s Pietro as he truly is—not nearly as monstrous as his creation, but enough like him to confuse and disquiet the girl who can’t help seeing him as a friend. Cartwright’s performance takes over near the end, as with increasing desperation she attempts to turn the world of “cathartic violence” Pietro has devised into something kinder and more hopeful. Ironically, the scene which the opening night audience reacted the most viscerally to was one of the few instances of Pietro doing something truly altruistic, due to its graphic nature. The House strongly advises that this show is for teens, at the youngest. But for people able to enjoy and critique the Punch and Judy aesthetic, this show comes recommended.

A Comedical Tragedy for Mister Punch is being performed at the Chopin Theatre through October 23. Tickets are $30-35; for more information, visit TheHouseTheatre.com. Running time is two hours and fifteen minutes with one intermission.

 

Published in Theatre Reviews

 

 

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