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November 2010 Archives

A Chicago Reading Series Worth Checking Out

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Reading Series aren’t new to Chicago, but lately some innovative additions, events like live magazine Paper Machete and adrenaline-fueled Nerves of Steel have joined drunken standby Reading Under the Influence, making Chicago as vital as it’s coastal brothers.

Intended to spur performers to produce sometimes text-based, always challenging work, Nerves of Steel usually presents a mixed lineup including writers, comedians, puppeteers, musicians and actors. Though NOS was The2ndhand editor CT Ballentine’s brainchild, (which is really the grossest word in English if you think about it), writer, editor, and photographer Jacob S. Knabb has taken custody of the event, using it not only to promote innovative performers, but to explore his peculiar alter ego, Harold Ray. An “Appalachian transplant who works as a janitor and is somewhat baffled [to] host this variety show,” Ray, says Knabb, is only one of NOS’s high points. Past performances have boasted everything from musical short stories to tall tales about lovelorn dentists.

Knabb describes Chicago’s writing/performance scene as “dynamic and also fairly exhausting.” Says Knabb, “I'm just finishing [editing] a two-volume issue of “Another Chicago Magazine” dedicated to Chicago writers and was overwhelmed with the strength of the work we received. The reading and performance scene is equally robust and peopled with some talented folks who can do just as well behind a mic or in front of a crowd as they can holding a pencil or clacking away at the keyboard.”

As for NOS in particular, the next installment of this free monthly series will be presented December 7th at The Hungry Brain. Those participating include “Matt Bell and Michael Czyzniejewski as well as Brandon Will. Knabb says Will plans to present a puppet show and “the trifecta of Mary Hamilton, Lindsay Hunter, and Natalie Edwards has promised to create something that will melt your face. Plus, you never know what Harold Ray will do, though rumor has it he might [sing] a Waylon Jennings song he claims to have written.”

A freelance writer with an MFA in Creative Writing from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Sarah Terez Rosenblum, when not writing, supports herself as a figure model, Spinning instructor and teacher at Chicago's Story Studio. Inevitably one day she will find herself lecturing naked on a spinning bike. She’s kind of looking forward to it actually.

Five Reasons to be Thankful in Chicago this Holiday Weekend

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1. Jennifer Beals, native Chicagoan and former star of the equally asinine and groundbreaking “The L-Word” serves as grand marshal for the 77th annual McDonald’s Thanksgiving Parade.

2. Tired of drama queens and infighting? You can take a break from family festivities and head to Century 12 Evanston/CineArts 6 and XD to catch “Burlesque”….for more drama and infighting but with pasties!

3. This weekend Global Rhythms, the yearly, international tap and percussive arts showcase offers the opportunity to watch talented people dance, which is almost like dancing yourself which will totally take off the holiday pounds. Right? Performances are Friday 8 p.m., Saturday 3 p.m. and 8 p.m. and Sunday 3 p.m.

4. We have Hollaback Chicago, a website devoted to taking the shame out of street harassment. With affiliates across the U.S., Hollaback offers women like this the opportunity to crow or vent. What better way to celebrate Thanksgiving than to peruse the site over pumpkin pie?

5. Over the course of the day, drizzle turns to snow as temperatures drop to seventeen degrees. Be thankful spring is only five months away. Wait, this is Chicago. Make it six.

A freelance writer with an MFA in Creative Writing from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Sarah Terez Rosenblum, when not writing, supports herself as a figure model, Spinning instructor and teacher at Chicago's Story Studio. Inevitably one day she will find herself lecturing naked on a spinning bike. She’s kind of looking forward to it actually.

Popular Kids Become Meth Addicts. Pass it on.

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In junior high school, the most uncool thing a kid can do is care. Only a dork cares. She cares about her grades, about her family, about her future. When something goes wrong, like she sprains her ankle the day the solo singing role is cast in her school’s Mid-Winter Nondenominational Holiday-Season Pageant, and by the time she’s back at school two week’s later all of her friends are sitting at different lunch tables and then the clay Bette Midler head she spent a month sculpting explodes in the kiln, probably a dork cries. And then, she’s even dorkier. But here’s the other thing about a dork, if she cares enough at twelve to create art and strive for lead roles, likely she’ll carry on caring all the way into adulthood while people like Nicole Whitik don’t care enough to use a condom and end up married to Elden Tanhouse who didn’t care enough to finish high school. Hypothetically speaking, of course.

Now, I don’t know this for certain, but odds are Stacey Smith cared. What’s that Nicole? Who’s Stacey Smith? Well, she’s not one of the real housewives of New Jersey, so likely you haven’t heard of her.

Hailing from Long Island, New York, Smith “grew up a total ham,” the stage “the only place in the world [where she felt] fearless.” Now in Chicago pursuing comedy, she’s shaped “Confessions of a Chubby Tomboy,” a one-woman show dealing in part with her awkward journey to womanhood. Smith says revisiting that time is “therapy. To look at things in retrospect and be able to laugh [is] the best closure.” But while therapy is a satisfying byproduct, her goal remains to reach outward. “Chicago [comedy] is very group work oriented. Everyone has been really eager to be alongside me in this journey because it's such a truthful, personal piece,” says Smith. “The one reoccurring note I keep receiving is "more!" and "longer!" I thought it would be impossible to memorize a 40-minute show, and now I can recite it in my sleep!”

Get Inked

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Who doesn’t want to go into business for herself? No more nitpicking boss, no more boring spreadsheets, no more coworkers microwaving fish so the whole office smells like the penguin pond at the zoo.

Former architects and current spouses Amanda Eich and Tony Vassallo began living everyone’s fantasy a few years back when they ditched unfulfilling jobs to form Spilled Ink Press. What started as a one-time gig making wedding invitations for a friend became a burgeoning green business boasting not only invitations and stationary, but several lines of cards coming soon to a Target Store near you.

Our Town How did you arrive at your company’s name?
Amanda Eich Seven years ago, [when I did an] invitation job for friends, I thought it would be fun to design a logo to put on the back. I was thinking something “ink”, and asked myself, what would I do with a bottle of ink? The answer was obvious; I’d spill it.

OT What real life experiences have inspired designs?
AE After we got rolling with wedding invitations, we started designing greeting cards based on the life of someone working in corporate America. The original “Daily Grind” line of cards came from ridiculous situations we laughed about on our lunch breaks. An original office humor cards says, “The key to a happy work day is apathy.” Tony used to tell me that when I would get upset about how I was treated at the office.

Cell Camp, No Small Potatoes

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You go to Idaho for potatoes, LA to gain money and lose IQ points and Chicago to succeed in comedy (before going to LA to gain money and lose IQ points).

So how does an up and coming comedy troupe set themselves apart from other comedy hopefuls? If you’re Cell Camp, you get a hot bi chick to be your spokesperson. Oh, and you hone your work, train at second city and cultivate great chemistry, but back to the hot bi chick.

Below, Marla Depew, writer, performer, and two-year runner up for the Windy City Gay Idol crown discusses Cell Camp.

Our Town How did Cell Camp…um Mitosis. I mean, form?
Marla Depew Matt Kelley, Richie Cross, and I went through Second City Training Center's writing program in 2005/06. The culmination of the program is to write and produce your own sketch show with the help of riotous actors, which is when we found Kate Lambert, Tim Heurlin, and Neil Arsenty through an audition. We're all quite twisted and clicked immediately. At the end of that show's run, we saw no other option than to form an official troupe. We've been together for awhile now and play off each others' strengths and let each individual shine, which in turn lights up the whole group.

Chicago Writer Trish Bendix Talks Pop Culture

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As a kid I loved The Keatons. A fictional family, but unabashedly liberal and loving, they reminded me of my own family, just funnier. Like my dad, Steven Keaton even sported a beard. While Alex was my crush and unlikely fashion muse (baseball shirts, dark Levis and red windbreakers? Check check check.), Elise intrigued me. My best friend’s mother, Barb, was a lesbian, an open secret I wouldn’t discover for a few years. For reasons I couldn’t articulate, Elise reminded me of Barb.

When Meredith Baxter outed herself on the Today show in 2009, I felt as if I’d always known. Whether or not Baxter, married three times, spent her life dodging the obvious or truly came to her lesbianism later in life, her sexual fluidity seems part of a recent trend: celebrities like Cynthia Nixon and Kelly McGillis going gay.

Queer culture vulture and lesbian writer Trish Bendix is one of many women writing on the subject in a new anthology, “Dear John, I Love Jane.” A forthright investigation of female sexuality and personal choice, the book is comprised of essays, some witty, some wrenching, about women leaving men for women.

Bendix, who spoke with Our Town about sexual mutability and Elise’s exodus, will read from the collection at 7:30 p.m., Friday November 12th at Women and Children First.

Our Town Tell us about the anthology.

Trish Bendix Seal Press publishes some of the best feminist and queer books, especially when it comes to collections. Around the time the editors were putting out a call for submissions, there was this craze with Kelly McGillis and Meredith Baxter coming out, so a lot of publications were writing pieces on "the late in life lesbian." I came out at age 20 - not exactly middle age. When I heard about “Dear John, I Love Jane,” I wondered if I'd be the right fit or not, but my essay fits right in amongst the writings from women of all ages and places who assumed they were straight until attraction proved otherwise.

The Silent Generation Speaks

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Seems everyone from Kathy Griffin to Barack Obama has joined advice columnist and all-around messiah Dan Savage’s “It Gets Better Project,” reaching out to gay youth. But director Stu Maddox is focusing his efforts on an often forgotten, perhaps even more vulnerable group, LGBT elders. His film, “Generation Silent” takes an intimate look at the lives of older LGBT people, their struggles with health care workers, homophobic legislation, and yes, even bullying.

Maddox says he became interested in the subject while doing an earlier film “about two guys who have been together for more than half a century. Doing the film, it became clear [seniors] have a whole lot of fears and anxieties around some pretty scary issues like social security, survivor benefits and being able to take care of each other in nursing facilities. The inequality that’s out there between gay and straight couples really magnifies when you get to the other end of your life.”

"Generation Silent," which screens on November Sixth at the Reeling Film Festival, represents Maddox’s effort to direct attention to these issues. Along with Executive Producer, Barrie Atkin, Maddox has been working to raise funds and awareness, opening minds and gaining supporters along the way. According to Maddox, “Making the film was the easy part. As an independent filmmaker, [now] is the most stressful. We’re doing a lot of fund-raising, film festivals, hopefully starting a grassroots effort to raise money and continue growing the viewings of this film. We’re just trying to change people one group at a time.”

8 p.m. at Stage Left Theatre; $22
A locked-and-loaded speculative drama, playwright Andrew Hinderaker's "Kingsville" puts a piece of conservative rhetoric to the test of imagination: What if the solution to guns in schools was more guns in schools? Tensely performed and smoothly executed, director Vance Smith's production brings it down to a contest of masculinity.

Bonobo, Thunderball
9 p.m. at Metro; $16-$22
With the release of his fourth studio album, Simon Green (aka Bonobo) has taken a much-needed step away from his roots in the downtempo scene. Songstress Andreya Triana steps in where Bajka left off, and the result is an undeniable display of musical synergy. For Bonobo's show at the Metro, you can expect both Triana as well as a live band, which ought to give fans the full breadth of what Green is capable of.

Bumps, Bruises and Bedtime Stories
7 p.m. at Zanies; $20
Talk hockey with former NHL goons Stu Grimson, Jim McKenzie and Reid Simpson. Harry Teinowitz of ESPN Radio hosts.

7:30 p.m. at Vic Theater; $34
The swelling maestro to Iceland's Sigur Ros – that band that will make your girlfriend cry with joy – Jonsi Birgisson sidesteps his native tongue, singing most songs in English on his first solo foray, Go. Epically sprawled and ethereal like that of his band, new freedoms show up in space, mostly warm and teased with flute and organic electronic builds by co-arranger Nico Muhly that, paired with Birgisson's angelic hum, will likely make your plants grow. Three harrowing nature-loving folkettes performing under the guise of Mountain Man open, threading harmonies and acoustic guitar with a bit of reverb as its only company. (Gavin Paul)

Cupcake Job Fair
2 p.m. at Prudential Plaza (118 E. Lake St.)
The folks at More Cupcakes are passing out free treats today. And as an added bonus, if you send a job lead to, you’ll get a list of all other jobs, including a seed list with companies like PepsiCo, Critical Mass and Edelman Digital.

First Look Repertory of New Work
8 p.m. at Steppenwolf Theater; $20
Big Mama 'wolf continues to nourish the next generation of theater with the sixth First Look Rep, a festival of plays in development. Tonight’s show, “The Old Masters,” is about a man who searches for meaning in the loss of his missing artist friend.

Chicago Crush of the Month: David Cerda

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As you know, crushes are my purpose, my sustenance, my raison d’etre (that’s French for grape). Succor for my vacant soul, they distract me from daily hardships.

Standing room only on the Clark bus? Jewel’s out of sandwich meat? Facebook won’t let me sign in? With my crushes to bolster me, these trials, though agonizing, can be endured. November’s crush is particularly potent, necessary as the days grow short and Seasonal Deficit Disorder sets in. Playwright, performer and co-founder of Hell in a Handbag Productions, David Cerda, first drew my unblinking attention as Lt. Betty Blitzen in "Silent Night of the Lambs,” Hell in a Handbag’s 2009 Christmas show.

Since then I’ve been delighted to spot him (purely accidentally of course) at a range of benefits, street fests and theatrical productions. Captivating in drag or out, Cerda is a sort of two for one obsession: dapper man and classy dame.

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About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries from November 2010 listed from newest to oldest.

October 2010 is the previous archive.

December 2010 is the next archive.

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