Stage 773 Director of Theatre Management Jill Valentine and co-producer Liz McArthur are thrilled to announce the highly anticipated lineup for the 6th Annual Chicago Women’s Funny Festival, taking place June 15 through June 18 at the comedy hub of Chicago, Stage 773, 1225 W. Belmont. The Chicago Women’s Funny Festival, the largest of its kind in the nation, features a melting pot of comedic genres, including everything from ‘highbrow musical improv’ to ‘relatable stand-up’ to ‘character driven sketch’. Blending long term veterans with fresh newcomers, the fest packs over 80 shows into four funny-filled days. Stage 773 has made it easier than ever to discover new groups to love, allowing patrons to filter through art forms, a rating and keywords to find their own taste in comedy. The full schedule and searchable calendar for the 6th Annual Chicago Women’s Funny Festival can be viewed at www.stage773.com/WomensFestCalendar.
“We are extremely excited to be celebrating the sixth year of the festival and to host some of the best women in comedy in the nation,” said Valentine. “Having women from all different comedic art forms come together and celebrate under one roof in Chicago is something that is very special to us and the community.”
Featuring both fresh and familiar faces, highlights for 2017 include the return of comedy powerhouse Kristen Toomey, who has packed the lineup with some of Chicago’s best talent for a series of stand-up showcases, Her Story Theater, which made its mark on the scene by creating original plays based on Chicago lives that reflect national concerns, Matt Damon Improv, comprised of all women of color “slaying improv comedy,” and Strip Joker, featuring a hilarious roster of stand-up comics who are willing to bare it all in the spirit of totally vulnerable, inclusive, and uncensored comedy. Stand-up favorites include the debut of Montreal-based D.J. Mausner, who at 22 years old she is already an award winning stand-up, sketch, and improv master, LA-based Jen Murray and winner of the IO West Comedy Festival's "Best Comedian" Award in 2015, and transgender standup comedian Dina Nina Martinez, who the Late Late Show’s James Corden hails as “…very funny.”
Additional highlights include the return of Katie Rich with former SC Mainstage/Consultant for Onion News Network, Holly Laurent, in their improv duo Joan and Ro; Chicago Sketchfest veteran groups Off Off Broadzway, The Cupid Players and Rehner and Nixon; Improv veterans Susan Messing and Rachel Mason in The Boys; Comedic dance troupe Matter Dance and much more.
Chicago Women’s Funny Festival was founded in 2012 when producers Jill Valentine and Liz McArthur wanted to build a comedy festival where women could come together and celebrate all art forms of comedy under one roof. The first festival boasted 66 shows and 400 performers in five days. Women’s Fest also hosted events throughout the week where women from across the country could network with each other and more importantly, celebrate one another’s work. The response from comediennes and audience members was overwhelmingly positive – which is why the festival is coming back for a sixth year.
Jill Valentine is a Chicago Southside native who has been the Executive Director of the Chicago Sketch Comedy Festival (also the largest of its kind in the nation) since the festival’s inception in 2000. She is also a founder of Stage 773, as well as the Director of Theatre Management. Jill performs in several popular and critically acclaimed groups in Chicago, including The Cupid Players, Off Off Broadzway and Feminine Gentleman who have performed all over the country.
Liz McArthur hails from St. Louis and has worked with The Chicago Sketch Comedy Festival since 2005. McArthur can be seen with groups such as Off Off Broadzway, OneTwoThree Comedy, and Feminine Gentlemen. McArthur is also part of the hit zombie comedy Musical of the Living Dead.
All performances will take place at Chicago’s home for the city’s most innovative, creative and passionate off-Loop performing artists, Stage 773, located at 1225 W. Belmont. Stage 773 is a non-profit Chicago company that produces The Cupid Players, Bri-Ko, The Chicago Sketch Comedy Festival, education and program opportunities, as well as offering subsidized theater rental space to the hundreds of Chicago’s itinerant off-Loop companies and performers.
The 6th Annual Chicago Women’s Funny Festival runs June 15 – June 18, 2016. Performances are Thursday, June 15th at 8 - 10 p.m., Friday, June 16th at 8 - 11 p.m., Saturday, June 17th at 4:30 - 11 p.m., and Sunday, June 18th at 2 - 7 p.m. Tickets go on sale Monday, May 15th. Individual ticket prices are $15, and festival passes are available for $37.50 (Thursday), $47.50 (Friday), $57.50 (Sunday) or $100 for an all festival pass (Thursday – Sunday). Sunday three show flex passes are available for $33. All tickets and festival passes may be purchased at www.Stage773.com, by phone at 773.327.5252, and in person at the Stage 773 box office.
ABOUT STAGE 773
Stage 773 is a vibrant anchor of the Belmont Theatre District and home to Chicago’s finest off-Loop talent. As a performance and tenant venue, our four stages provide entertainment for everyone: comedy, theatre, dance, musicals and more. We are a not-for- profit, connecting and catalyzing the theater community, while showcasing established artists and incubating up-and- coming talent.
For those looking for about as much funny as can be compacted into sixty minutes, one would be hard pressed to find as many laughs as The Best of Bri-Ko, a sidesplitting theatre experience where the absurd is creatively implemented into a series of sketch acts, each one stranger than the next.
Stage 773 Creative Director Brian Posen teams up with Chicago comedic forces Tim Soszko and Brian Peterlin to form this hilarious hour-long ride where just a single word is spoken throughout the entire performance. The three theatre veterans are able to inject their unique humorous spin into such simple everyday tasks from changing a light bulb to a having a dinner date that have the audience in stitches from the moment they take the stage to the show’s very climactic ending. A series of props are used in practically every sketch performed including water balloons, heads of lettuce, cream pies and other very messy items, making it as though a tornado had swept through the venue by the show’s end. Caution – you might become a victim of friendly fire.
Varying from one extreme to the other, a heavy-duty Nerf gun war breaks out throughout the crowd to Slayer’s “Angel of Death” while moments later we become subject to a hysterical dance routine to Wilson Phillip’s “Hold On” that you must see to fully appreciate. Adding to the intimate, and very unusual, theatre experience is the fact that the production is performed in Stage 773’s Cab Theatre, a smaller-sized room so as to easily involve the entire audience.
"With so much buzz today about what's appropriate in comedy, Bri-Ko is a breath of fresh air," says Stage 773 Creative Director Brian Posen. "This is a hilariously entertaining show without the politics or controversies you typically see with this genre."
Poesen couldn’t be more correct. If you were to throw bits and pieces into a blender from Blue Man Group, The Marx Brothers and various vaudevillian acts, inject it with steroids, then douse it with Posen, Soszko and Peterlin’s own exclusive brand of humor, you’d have Bri-Ko – a true one-of-a-kind comedy event that goes from 0-60mph in seconds flat.
Posen, Soszko and Peterlin work incredibly well together, exhibiting not only a well-oiled team chemistry but each having plenty of their own moments mainly done with key facial expressions and challenging physical comedy. No question about it, Bri-Ko is a power-packed hour of pure fun that can be enjoyed over and over again.
There is no shortage of stage experience in this very exceptional cast. Jeff and After Dark Award Winner Brian Posen has been active in the Chicago theater scene for over 20 years as an actor, producer, director, and teacher. Posen and Peterlin have worked together for years, in 2001, alongside Brian Posen, founding The Chicago Sketch Comedy Festival, now the largest in the nation. Tim Soszko teaches at Second City, Barrel of Monkeys and Columbia College while performing with many companies including Bri-Ko, The Cupid Players and The Tim and Micah Project.
The Best of Bri-Ko is being performed at Stage 773 in the Cab Theatre each Thursday through March 23rd before reworking material and returning this Fall.
Very, very recommended.
For tickets and/or more show information click here.
With all the earmarks of a romantic comedy, First Floor Theater’s “Deer and the Lovers,” now playing at The Den Theatre, offers up of a barrel of laughs along with serious reflections threaded throughout.
Written by Emily Zemba and directed by Jesse Roth, the 100-minute play dives deep into the relationships of the four main characters that come face-to-face with death and betrayal while on a weekend retreat at a cottage house in the woods of New Hampshire.
Deer and the Lovers opens with Peter (Alex Stage) and Qiana (Shadee Vossoughi) arriving for a romantic get-away at her parents’ home. However, those plans were spoiled not only by the discovery of a dead deer that crashed through the front window but also the unexpected arrival of Peter’s sister Marnie (Kay Kron) and brother-in-law Felix (Tony Santiago).
With plenty of jokes and puns on the dearly departed animal, it becomes clear that Zemba intends for the deer to serve as a metaphor for Qiana and her path in life. For instance, while Peter is able to madly declare his love, Qiana seems less sure of her affections in comparison. And the later arrival of Marnie and Felix at the cottage shines a bright light on just why that is the case as we watch both couples deal with issues of love, commitment, secrecy and betrayal.
Qiana, in particular, seems obsessed with how to dispose of the deer and how it met its current fate: How did it get in the house and why? Where was it going and what was it running from? These are all questions that she can pose about her own path as well and the answers are equally elusive.
Later conversations with the mysterious local animal control agent Lenny (Matt Nikkila) in the second half of the play further illustrate Qiana’s connections with the deer.
After a dramatic reveal, we see her frantically taking matters in her own hands as she drags the deer into the woods in an attempt to bury it herself. It is almost as if she feels that finding a final resting place for the animal will bring it peace and free her from the soulless, emptiness she feels inside. And it is at that point that the symbolism of the setting in New Hampshire with its motto – Live Free or Die – becomes even more relevant.
Fascinating and quirky, Deer and the Lovers is time well spent. The talented cast meshes well and is effective in hitting all of the comedic points in rhythm while also delivering the soul-searching undercurrents.
Deer and the Lovers is currently playing at The Den Theatre until December 3. Tickets are available at www.firstfloortheater.com.
Las Vegas - Dazzling light displays, glitzy hotels with themes ranging from some of the planet’s most desired locations such as Paris, Venice and Egypt, exciting casinos filled with the sounds of cheering and the cha-chings of slot machines, energetic clubs with sexy dancers and, maybe best of all, some of the most colorful and original shows one could hope to see. When going to Vegas, it’s easy to check the show sites only to be barraged with so many options the task can become a bit frustrating. Well, the good news is the Buzz News Chicago staff makes a point to visit Las Vegas on an annual basis to keep our readers informed on some of the best shows the Strip has to offer. If we don’t like it, we won’t write about. Rather than tell you what not to see, we’d prefer to make recommendations on shows that deserve your attention.
This year, there were a few shows stood out as “must sees”, one of my personal favorites being Jabbawockeez, currently being performed at MGM Grand Hotel and Casino inside the Jabbawockeez Theater. The latest of the Jabbawockeez adventures “JREAMZ” is an amazing blend of hip-hop, break dance and dreamlike theatrics that is thrilling, interactive and best of all, completely original from any other production show. The show, voted three years running for “Best Family Show” and “Best All Ages Show” Jabbawockeez is not just a modern workshop of hypnotic dance moves and brilliant choreography, it is a throwback to mime to which a large amount of humor is injected into its dream sequenced series of events. Despite the lack of any dialogue, the Jabbawockeez dancers, faces hidden in white masks of varying degrees, have no problem communicating their point with their fellow performers and audience members. Considering the vast amount of people who travel to Vegas from around the world, this show gets extra points as a production everyone can follow.
Walking Dead fans will enjoy the show’s beginning that takes its audience through a full on zombie apocalypse, before gradually shifting to rotating successions of dreams that could either fall on the nightmare side, be a joyous, blissful experience or can be an adventure in itself. No matter the scenario of the moment, we always receive a heavy dose of stunning dance moves where you can only shake your head in disbelief or think, “What the…?”
Adding to the comedy of the show, members of the audience are sometimes plucked by the dancers and guided to the stage for some good old fashioned embarrassment that create big laughs. Performed in a somewhat intimate venue for Vegas standards where every seat is a good seat, the audience gets slammed with an up close, in-the-face experience that is sure to be remembered. Jabbawockeez is a unique production that can be enjoyed over and over and suits just about any audience.
The dance troupe is not just recognized in Las Vegas, they have made a splash nationally appearing on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show”, “Dancing with the Stars”. “So You Think You Can Dance” and “I Can Do That”. One of the most original dance productions recognized across the country, Jabbawockeez is a Vegas experience like no other - an experience that will inspire, make you laugh and leave you amazed.
Like most every show in Vegas you can purchase souvenirs of the performance, the main difference being that Jabbawockeez offers products from its own clothes line – and they’re cool!
Tickets for this fantastically entertaining production are very reasonable and in line with many of the other shows on The Strip. Performed at 7p.m. each night except Tuesday and Wednesday, prices range from $49.99-$82.99. For an additional $55 a VIP Package can be purchased which includes a photo op with the Jabbawockeez dancers, an after show meet and greet and a bag of goodies.
Some things were just meant to go together, even if they do sound a little odd at first. Like peanut butter and bananas, apple pie and cheddar cheese, Lady Gaga and Tony Bennet; The Art of Falling is amazing collaboration between Hubbard Street Dance Chicago and The Second City. The unexpected pairing of the extremely original and unique contemporary dance company, and a Chicago improve comedy standard, both staples of Chicago entertainment in their own right, was a match made in theater heaven!
Hubbard Street Dance has done many interesting collaborations in the past, pushing the envelope of what a dance performance is and exposing new audiences to dance in creative ways. In 2014, Hubbard Street and Second City first got together and put together the energetic, unexpected and endlessly engaging performance entitled The Art of Falling. Now back at the Harris Theater by popular demand, the show is once again bringing laughter, joy and maybe even some tears to Chicago audiences.
This distinctive show incorporates so much more than simply dance and comedy. They leverage video - both pre-recorded and live footage, audience interaction, endless props and fantastic music – again both live and recorded. The sheer creativity of this production is mind-blowing. There are 20 pieces that make up this show, each different from the one before but just like a great comedy show, it circles around a primary story line and a few smaller secondary ones, making the whole show flow together seamlessly and move along effortlessly.
The primary story line is a love story of course, but it challenges the traditional silver screen romance as it is rooted in real life where relationships are bumpy and have awkward edges that need smoothing and love - or rather admitting you are in love - is scary. It challenges the audience to take that leap of faith and conquer the fear of falling. After all, what is the worst that can happen?
All of the performers, under the direction of Billy Bungeroth, were pure perfection and there certainly were a lot of them! This collaboration was made up of five choreographers, three writers, six actors and two dozen dancers. At times, it was difficult to tell the comedians from the dancers as each tried on the others role with dancers delivering well timed punch lines and comedians flexing their dancing muscles. The writing was witty and fun, and the choreography was exceptional, highlighting the extreme talents of the dance company as well as their humorous side. In a piece completely improved by both the comedians and the dancers, it draws some unexpected similarities between the art of improv comedy and improv dance.
Part of the appeal of this performance is that it continually surprises the audience with more and more creative, imaginative and inventive pieces. After the first act when you think they cannot top themselves, they prove you wrong with a second act that just keeps on impressing. All of that said, I leave this review here so as to not ruin the magic for you. You have to see this show for yourself. As it wows the audience with its cleverness, it also touches the heart and inspires the audience to take just let go, and not be afraid of falling.
Be sure to get your tickets now and catch The Art of Falling at the Harris Theater through June 19th!
Game of Thrones, breasts, and booty: if you're an admirer of any of these three -- scratch that, four -- things, then you are well-suited to play the Game of Thongs. A burlesque revue of the wildly popular HBO show and book series by George R. R. Martin, Game of Thongs is an hour-long adventure through the land of Breasteros and across an overwhelming Narrow Sea of pasties.
Things are awry in the kingdom of Breasteros when Ned of House Stark-Naked is appointed the new Hand Job of the King and must travel to the capitol, King's Landing Strip, to assist his old friend King Robert of House Bare-ass-eon. As the tale unwinds, we meet the other members of House Stark-Naked, the closer-than-appropriate Lannister sibling duo, a pack of dancing direwolves, the sensitive Jon Snow ("the only bastard hot enough to melt the Wall"), the hilariously petulant to-be-king Joffrey, and as many other GoT characters that could be crammed into sixty minutes as imaginably possible.
("Wait, who died?" "Jon Arryn." "Who's that, again?" "The old Hand Job of the King! His death started all these shenanigans!" "Oh, right, right." Even the characters can't keep the characters straight.)
We also meet Daenerys Tits-bare-yen and her brute of a fiancé Drogo. Their marital bliss is interrupted by the insufferable Viserys who, when receiving his final punishment, a vat of golden glitter dumped on his head, realizes he "will never be royal!" (You guessed it; queue the Lorde track.)
A tribute as well as a parody, Game of Thongs affectionately makes fun of the well-loved drama everyone can't seem to get enough of. As a burlesque, it's less erotic than it is cheeky -- after all, you will find more nudity in the TV show than you will in the burlesque -- but if you're a fan of Game of Thrones, exuberant camp, or can appreciate a well-placed set of glittering pasties, you will certainly survive the Game. For in the Game of Thongs, you strip or you die.
Game of Thongs is playing at the Gorilla Tango Theatre every Friday at 10:30PM until June 26th. Call (773) 598-4549 or visit gorillatango.com to purchase tickets. #TittiesAreComing
What's more fun than a Barrel of Monkeys? Milton Bradley has asked this question for decades and now a Chicago-based arts education theater ensemble, aptly named “Barrel of Monkeys,” begs the same question of their audiences. After seeing their newest performance of “That’s Weird Grandma: Behind the [Monkey] Music,” I think you will be inclined to admit that there is indeed nothing more fun than a Barrel of Monkeys.
Barrel of Monkeys is first and foremost an arts-education group that conducts creative writing workshops for 3rd-5th grade students in underserved Chicago Public Schools. The group then becomes a theater ensemble, turning the children’s stories into performances performed at the school for the children and for general audiences at various venues around the city. The performances have a “Whose Line is it Anyway?” quality, only the shots are called by kids which is an amazing feat for this ensemble of actor-educators. If you aren’t impressed yet, Barrel of Monkeys’ performance of “That’s Weird Grandma” takes children’s stories and turns them into musical numbers, creating the first all musical performance by Barrel of Monkeys.
With such adorably written pieces as “Flower Argument,” an argumentative piece debating whether or not a flower should be picked from the point of view of the flower, to “Not So Much Pressure,” about Batman needing a break from saving the world, “Barrel of Monkeys” ensemble cast takes these pieces and turns them into musically hilarious gold. The audience, made up of adults, teenagers, and adults who act like children, was in stiches. The clean humor, awww worthy moments, incredible musical talent of the cast, and the honest and touching children’s’ stories was a perfect storm of perfection. What’s even more extraordinary is the show is never the same. Audience members vote on their favorite pieces from the hour-long show (roughly 12-14 pieces) and the most popular make the cut and are included in the next week, the rest of the showed being filled with new pieces.
This is a fantastic organization to support. Arts, music, and theater programs are typically the first to get cut in school budgets and the CPS system is no exception. The benefits of having a creative outlet for kids can be infinite. “That’s Weird Grandma: Behind the [Monkey] Music” runs through March 31st at the Neo-Futurist Theater (5100 block of N Ashland Ave.). I double-dog-dare you to not enjoy this Barrel of Monkeys.