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March 2011 Archives

Chicago Crush of the Month: Kate Lane

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My crushes are unpredictable: one day the glistening ebony man on the adjacent elliptical, the next that dreadlocked checkout hobbit at Whole Foods. So when comedian Sarah King wrote to nominate a crush, I was intrigued but trepidatious. Also vaguely nauseated, but only because I was eating some yogurt I thought might have expired. Having a crush selected for me felt like being set up on a blind date, so like anyone in my position, I googled.

Turns out King isn’t just some yenta trying to tell me how to live my life, she’s Fate’s noble messenger. Her nominee, it seems, is no stranger. Unbeknownst to me, I’d seen her perform, even felt those familiar stirrings. At the time, however, my Rolodex of crushes fairly burst and I didn’t feel I could offer a new crush the attention and disquieting stares for which I’m known. But now, with King’s prodding, I’m ready to unveil actor/writer/producer Kate Lane, April’s Chicago Crush.

Name: Kate Lane
Hometown: Lexington, MA. Suburban, liberal, [home of the] "accidental" gunshot that started the whole American independence thing.
Profession: Actor. And on Friday and Saturday nights you can find me popping bottles at Excalibur.
Hobbies: I like to guess peoples astrological signs. If you're reading this, you're probably a Cancer or an Aries. Or a Gemini because those people are cray-cray.

Our Town Why acting?
Kate Lane My grandmother got me and my two sisters involved in acting when we were very young, not in the “Toddlers and Tiaras” kinda way, but in the performing Albee's “Three Tall Woman” in a barn in your grandmother's period dresses way. I can't not do it.

OT Other than that, what's your training?
KL Interlochen Arts Camp, Vassar's summer program for actors, and when I was seventeen, I walked into Richard Foreman's notorious Ontological Hysteric Theatre, [in New York City], asked if I could sweep floors for the summer, and ended up getting this amazing internship. Then I went to the conservatory at DePaul, which is basically like getting a degree in mind f***s. It was a wonderful experience.

OT You're an out actor. Any concerns?
KL It's not exactly in my best interest to be out as an ingénue, but a couple months ago, I [experienced] a life-changing event, involving a girl flying in from L.A. to sabotage my life and make me fall in love with her. She's a comedian, and together we sorta came out professionally, mainly because it was too big a love to [lie] about. [Since then], I’ve missed out on roles I would have been auditioning for. As one industry person put it, "we don't want you to be that lesbian girl,” but that doesn't much make sense to me. What if a guy only loved his wife, would he not be able to play Romeo with another actress? If you don't think I can play Juliet because I'm dating a girl, you don't understand a thing about what actors do.

Androids and Sword Swallowers and Drag Kings, Oh My!

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Some know AJ Durand as a yoga teacher (perhaps the only one to claim Johnny Weir-asana as a pose. In the realm of yoga humor, this is actually really funny.) Others may recognize him as Our Town’s first ever Crush of the Month (Because love means never having to say “Fine, I’ll stop following your every move and also I will return your underwear.”)

Lately, however, Durand has been living the dream as a gender fluid android, host of Sh*t’s and Giggles, a monthly themed variety show. S&G, which next takes place April third at The Parlour, is Chicago’s one stop shop for all things gender-bending, think “Cabaret” if Joel Grey were an alien android (and I’m not saying he isn’t.) This month, the line-up includes Sherri Stein, Marlene Biscotti (Kristen Studard), Steve Hnilicka and more. Space is limited, so arrive before the 9:30 curtain.

Our Town How did you come up with the Trandroid character?
AJ Durand In the summer of 2005 I was playing with some makeup and costume pieces and my neighbor had a camera and we created this being who appeared on the roof, curious to explore the sexual nature of humans. As a performer, I wanted to blur gender. Trandroid is ambi-gendered, all genders.

OT Trandroid has killer style. Where does zie shop?
AJ Oh, you know, all the finest boutiques, like the village discount thrift in Roscoe Village, Ragstock, my closet, my friend's closets, you know Plato, right? I try not to spend too much money on Mamsir Trandroid because I tend to hack apart and sew together most of it. Although, the sweater dress just made an appearance unaltered. Some garments are just built for bots!

OT What do you look for in a performer?
AJ Light and cheeky, over-the-top sexy, gaudy, but never mean. I don't think mean is entertaining. [We’ve had] comedians, burlesquer/boylesque, drag kings and queens, animal impersonators, jugglers, sword swallowers, belly dancers, and once we had a stripper robot. I encourage people to add a touch of queer to the mix and many do. I send out a once monthly "call to perform" email to performers. If anyone would like to be added, email me at TrandroidChronicles@gmail.com or "like" Trandroid on Facebook.

OT What aspect of the show are you particularly excited about this month?
AJ I don't just host the show, I host the event, so it's nice to see some familiar faces and meet new people and talk about gender and queerness and fun. Every month I'm excited to hang out with the audience. We have some returning artists this month and some new, so I'm excited to see what everyone comes up with. [Also], Maxx Hollywood, a former Chicago King is performing and never fails to win our hearts!

Harmony. Hope. Humanity

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Christine Bunuan

If Gilbert Godfrey taught me anything (other than that there’s a comedian more annoying than Carrot Top) it’s not to joke about Japan. But as a group of Chicago performers are proving, singing for Japan is not only acceptable, it’s laudable. When Catalyst Ranch HR Manager and Porchlight Music Theatre Artistic Associate, Danny Bernardo heard about the tragic earthquake and resulting tsunami in Japan, he knew he had to find a way to help.

Says Bernardo, “I was saddened and terrified, distressed [by] the fact that support for disaster relief efforts in Japan are significantly lower than that of recent tragedies like the earthquake in Haiti and Hurricane Katrina. So after days of gloomy discussion, I was inspired last Monday morning to put this fundraiser together.”

With the instant support of Catalyst Ranch owner, Eva Niewiadomski, “the whole team hit the ground running.” Bernardo wanted to recruit “top-notch talent,” but expected a challenge given his timeframe. However, says Bernardo, “every actor I called pretty much said yes on the spot, busy schedules and all. Within twenty-four hours, we had a cast, a catering sponsor, Big Delicious Planet, and the first acquisitions for a silent auction.” Since then, the event has gained support from sponsors such as Crown Imports, ChicagoPride.com, and Jackie Rada, of the band Modern Conversation.

Dubbed “Harmony. Hope. Humanity,” the cabaret-style event will benefit The American Red Cross of Greater Chicago’s efforts to support Japan. Co-emcee and musical performer Keith Uchima says that as part of a “very talented community of Asian American artists who search and hope for meaningful work,” he was happy to take part in the benefit. Erik Kaiko, recently seen in Bailiwick’s "Departure Lounge," adds, “the entire theatre community in Chicago, Asian and otherwise, has an incredible amount of initiative and passion. It really feels like a small town, where everybody looks out for one another and supports each other’s work and ambitions.” Kaiko will sing "Anytime (I Am There)" by William Finn while Uchima plans to perform his original song "Tomorrow Must Be Kind.” The song he says, though personal, will be dedicated to “the heroic efforts of those men working to cool nuclear power plants.”

Also participating in the fundraiser are Joseph Anthony Foronda (part of the second national tour of "Miss Saigon") and Christine Bunuan who toured with the first national production of "The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee." Bunuan says she was drawn to the event because her “skills are mostly in performing. I really wanted to do work that will not only inspire our community but also reach out to the world.” Bunuan will perform several selections including "Human Heart," from “Once On This Island.” Says Bunuan, “this song is perfect for this event. We come in all different colors, shapes and sizes and have lived all types of experiences but at the end of the day, "we are part of the human heart."

“Harmony. Hope. Humanity.” Will be held at Catalyst Ranch on March 27. The event begins at 5:30 p.m. with a reception, followed by performances at 6 p.m. There is a $25 suggested donation. Go here for more information or to donate.

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. IMPORTANT: the official Our Town site doesn't support comments. Join in the conversation by followingOur Town on Facebook and Sarah on Twitter: @SarahTerez

Eastern Philosophy Meets Western Litigation

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Illinois judge and writer Michele Lowrance didn’t choose to become an expert in divorce. However, years spent on the frontlines first as a divorce lawyer and then as a family court judge gave her unique insight into the personal ramifications of the divorce process. Determined to offer guidance to hapless couples, Lowrance harnessed her background in Easter philosophy to write “The Good Karma Divorce,” a sort of psychological how-to on navigating divorce’s uncharted emotional territory.

Our Town To what do you attribute divorce's increasing prevalence?
Michele Lowrance Poor communication, lack of problem resolution skills, increased geographic mobility and the ability to have emotional needs met outside marriage. Studies also show divorce is contagious; you’re more likely to view divorce as a [solution] when you are surrounded by others going through the divorce process.

OT What compelled your book?
ML I was a divorce lawyer for twenty years and have handled over 15,000 divorces during my sixteen years as a judge. I have seen firsthand the devastation divorce leaves in its wake and I have become increasingly alarmed by its long-term effects. I developed the principles on which the “The Good Karma Divorce” is based to try to reduce the cycle of anger and resentment that are so damaging to all parties to a divorce.

OT You write about your history with divorce. Why get personal?
ML I am a child of divorce and have been divorced myself. I had to reveal these things because I didn't want readers to think I was speaking from an ivory tower. I felt they could only trust me if they knew I understood what they were going through.

OT What made you connect the concept of karma to divorce?
ML It began to dawn on me that divorcing people were often missing two things: a game plan and a Sherpa guide to direct them from beginning to end, while keeping them from falling into the crevasse on the treacherous journey. My professional and personal experience with divorce, combined with my studies in Eastern philosophy, led me to consider the law of karma and how to effectively apply it to the breakup and divorce process.

OT How does karma relate to surviving divorce unscathed?
ML I believe it is not our job to enforce emotional justice to those who have wronged us. It is the job of karma, life or a higher power. When we think it is ours, we imagine the courts will help us [receive] emotional satisfaction or vindication, or we stay attached to the wrongdoer waiting for them to get what’s coming. In Buddhism, good karma, or good action, comes back to you in countless ways. If you act graciously with compassion, you may receive compassion [and] your act of compassion changes you for the better [independent of] someone else’s reciprocal behavior.

Erin Gordon: A Chicago Gem

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When it comes to jewelry, designer Erin Gordon knows what she likes, and happily, Chicago likes it too. A New York transplant, Gordon began her line of jewelry as a hobby, but by 2009, she was selling her signature semi-precious gemstone charm bracelets direct to customers and at Sarca, a Gold Coast boutique. Demand escalated, however, and in response, Gordon is launching an e-commerce site, allowing her growing customer base to shop at their convenience. Gordon spoke with Our Town about her favorite designs, her new men’s line and the style-setter she hopes will be Bah-nanas over her work.

Our Town What’s the first piece of jewelry you remember owning?
Erin Gordon When I was very young, my grandparents had a ring made with my birthstone and diamonds for me to wear when it was time for my Bat Mitzvah.

OT What inspires you?
EG So many things, from friends, family and favorite quotes, to fashion, colors, prints, fabrics, art and photography.

OT Which of your designs are you most excited about right now?
EG I recently launched a brand new Luxe Line which will be available on my website in April. With the Luxe Line, I am using luxury gemstones like Malachite, Leopard Skin Agate and Cloudy Quartz with rose gold and rondelle crystal ball accents. The Luxe Line can either be worn alone or mixed in with bracelets from my core collection to add a little extra sparkle.

OT What would you say to others interested in making their hobby a business?
EG I am so lucky I was able to turn my passion for jewelry design into a business. It’s definitely been a learning experience over the past year but if you truly love what you do, it’s worth all of the hard work and dedication it requires to be successful.

OT You’re known for your charm bracelets, a retro concept. However, your take seems current. How do you achieve a look both modern and vintage?
EG When I initially launched my jewelry line, I focused on creating one-of-a-kind pieces using vintage brooches and charms mixed with new gemstones. With the popularity of my vintage pieces, I expanded my collection with signature bracelets that reflect a modern take on a charm bracelet using vibrant gemstones and edgy charms like skulls, Buddha’s, peace signs and feathers.

Amy Creyer's Street Savvy Style

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Photo by Andrew Nawrocki

Fashionable people astound me. Whereas others roll out of bed and into the perfect skinny jeans/plaid shirt/mussed cardigan/Converse combo, when assembling an outfit, I apply the sort of concentration normally associated with defusing a bomb, and still wind up realizing hours into my day that what seemed fresh and daring in my early morning mirror actually makes me look like I was styled by an Olson twin and K.D. Lang, each drunk and angry. Plus I almost always forget to brush my hair.

Amy Creyer faces none of these problems. Currently a DePaul graduate student studying the role of public policy in the fashion and apparel industries, Creyer eats sleeps and breathes fashion. As the owner of chicagostreetstyle.com, a website dedicated to providing high quality street style photographs, Creyer captures Chicago’s most fashionable perambulators. A self-taught photographer, Creyer’s influence is two-fold. Not only does she showcase cresting styles, but by virtue of what she chooses to photograph, she also shapes trends.

Our Town First off, what are you wearing right now?
Amy Creyer My Proenza Schouler for J. Brand paint-splattered jeans, Erin Gordon for Sarca bracelets, a Graham & Spencer top, my black leather Chucks, and a Giorgio Brato leather jacket.

OT You grew up in Greenwich. Style-wise, how is NYC different than Chicago?
AC In New York, people are very concerned with wearing the right brands or the hottest designers. You see a lot of clothing straight off the runway. I love to photograph and wear designer clothing, but I find the authenticity in Chicago far more interesting. There is an organic and authentic development of personal style in Chicago that I think is directly related to the absence of a strongly entrenched fashion establishment.

OT Describe your website’s genesis.
AC I was the little girl who always wore dresses to run around the playground. My website is the culmination of my lifelong love of fashion and decade long obsession with street style. Every aspect of being a street style photographer, from stopping random people on the street to using social media to connect with my followers, came naturally to me.

OT How do you choose and reel in potential subjects?
AC I constantly scan my surroundings for anything unusual; perhaps a woman's unique hairstyle or the way a man tied his scarf. Sometimes there's skepticism, but I always cut through with my charm. As the art form becomes more popular, individuals are excited about getting stopped for a photo, and I am definitely seeing stronger style on the streets as a result.

OT Do you shoot daily?
AC [Initially] I had too many experiences where, grocery shopping or running errands, I saw someone I would have loved to photograph. Now, I'm always armed with my Olympus PEN and prepared to capture a subject to share with my readers.

OT You study the role of social media in fashion marketing. What role do bloggers play?
AC Bloggers are essentially innovators and trendsetters, early adopters in marketing terminology. These people hold considerable influence over their networks, and social media has dramatically increased that sphere of influence. Before the rise of blogging a trendsetter like Tavi Gevinson would have been limited to influencing people in her local community, but with the Internet she can set trends across the world. Her sway in the fashion industry stems from her authenticity as a consumer, which is extremely valuable to a brand. I'm really interested in how brands build relationships with bloggers and the role of authenticity in those partnerships.

Lesbians are Funny. What?

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Writer/comic Kelly Beeman and the women of Gayco know their way around gay-themed comedy. A not-for-profit theatre, Gayco has been bringing the LGBTQ fun since 1996. This year, Gayco presents Breast in Show, an original lesbian sketch piece.

Overcoming her fear of public spelling, Beeman spoke via e-mail with Our Town about the show adding, “You can make fun of my spelling if you want. I'm from Virginia.”
Don’t worry, she’s been edited.

Our Town Why a lesbian comedy show?
Kelly Beeman [At] Gayco our audience and most of our ensemble is gay [but] we find in some gay and lesbian shows, the lesbian material gets overshadowed by the big crazy gay material.

OT What’s the line between laughing at and with a minority group?
KB I always think its fine to laugh at yourself. And it’s always fine to laugh at someone when they are being ignorant (looking at you Fox News). For me, its like how I can make fun of my family, but you better not.

OT What writing the show like?
KB Our director Katie Watson gave us a lot of assignments. Instead of bringing in a fully written scene, we improvised off concepts and beat sheets. It made this show a truly collaborative effort.

OT Tell us about your co-performers.
KB Well, there's Judy Fabjance, one of Gayco’s founders, an amazing, smart improviser and writer, great at taking issues from her life and writing about them. Kathy Betts is a fellow nerd. Her Ellen impression is great. Kelly Yacono is the "actress" of the bunch, drama as well as comedy. She has an amazing singing voice. Michelle Marquardt is one of the best improvisers in the bunch and a great dancer. Arianna Wheat is the newest to Gayco and has a great future ahead. Her spoken word poem scene is amazing and something you don't normally see in sketch comedy.

The Beauty, the Splendor, the Wonder of "Hair."

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Although rock musical Hair’s score has played daily in my head for the last twenty years, I’d never seen the show. I’m only slightly more unnerved by the fact that I’m old enough to make that statement than that as a thirteen-year-old I listened to songs like “Sodomy” and “Hashish.” Not to mention “Colored Spade,” which sung by an African American character, riffs on the numerous slang terms for black people. I used to break into that one in public. Sorry, mom.

While I’d grown up enjoying this exuberant ode to 1960’s counterculture, I’d never considered the play in any sense sophisticated. Impassioned, sure. Catchy, absolutely. But it wasn’t until last night when I caught the touring production at the Oriental Theatre that I understood Hair’s true artistry.

With book and lyrics by James Rado and Gerome Ragni and music by Galt MacDermot, the show has undergone innumerable tweaks and alterations since its original off-Broadway debut in 1967. Perhaps its most notable change: before opening on Broadway, central character Claud (played in the current production by Paris Remillard) was transformed from a space alien to a Polish kid from New York. Hard to take a play with such an offbeat foundation seriously.

In addition, the show’s copious musical vignettes are strung together on an outwardly fragile plot strand. To whit, a tribe of hippies takes turns soliloquizing on topics from drugs, to the Vietnam War to interracial sex to the power of love.

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Slowly however, the audience begins to discern one hippie from another. Personalities emerge: Berger (Steel Burkhardt) is a show-off, more concerned with fun than feelings, Sheila (Caren Lyn Tackett), an NYU student, is a committed protester, Woof (Matt DeAngelis) isn’t gay, exactly, but he’d sleep with Mick Jagger, and Claud can’t quite bring himself to burn his draft card, not even under pressure from the tribe.

However, over the course of the two-hour show, summer turns to autumn and autumn is slayed by winter as what begins as a series of sketches grows into something greater than the sum of its parts. This change of seasons, representative of the 60’s initial hope and final drug/war/adulthood-fueled destruction also intentionally reflects Claud’s journey from effervescent flower child to reluctant soldier. Throw in a bundle of earnest yet surprisingly affecting Hamlet comparisons, powerful melodies, and unexpectedly poetic lyrics, and Hair reveals itself as more than a period piece, rather an essential slice of American culture, as bold and indispensable as when it was written.

To purchase tickets for Hair visit Broadway in Chicago's website. Just don't quote the soundtrack in public.

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. Follow Our Town on Facebook and Sarah on Twitter: @SarahTerez


Quick Fiction

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Contributor, Kevin Fink

A website dedicated to quick reads and a reading series called Quickies, sounds like a perfect match, right?

Quickies creators Mary Hamilton and Lindsay Hunter seem to think so. This Tuesday, March eighth, they’ll use their monthly literary event to showcase “The Fiction At Work Biannual Report,” a collection of flash fiction culled from website, fictionatwork.com. Published through Caroline Picard’s Green Lantern Press, the book, says Picard, represents “a great opportunity to showcase a wide number of authors working within specific word count constraints. This work is intended to be read in those liminal spaces, a companion for those instances when you're on your way [somewhere] but haven't yet arrived.”

The book’s antecedent, Fictionatwork.com was created by writer Tobias Bengelsdorf. “Work is what inspired the website,” says Bengelsdorf. “Offices. Timesheets. Meetings. Memos. Dress Codes. I never want to read fiction more than when I'm not supposed to be reading fiction. But sometimes a full-length story is too long to read at work, so we publish very short stories. That you can read at work.”

“The Biannual Report” too, can be read at work. Compact, almost postcard-size, the collection is perfect for hiding in a desk drawer, even a back pocket. According to Bengelsdorf, contributors like Jac Jemc and Ira S. Murfin were chosen by submitting work published on the website to a panel of judges, at which point, “a group of stories very quickly rose to the top of the pile.”

One of those stories, Kevin Fink’s “Waiting,” though perhaps shorter than other pieces, is nonetheless striking. Fink describes his micro-fiction as “dramatic and almost stream-of-consciousness, a moment in the mind of someone desperate.” A contributor to both fictionatwork.com and Quickies, Fink believes both encourage the same “exciting challenge,” to create work like “Polaroid snapshots.” He credits fictionatwork specifically with focusing his writing. “I like working within constraints. It can be a challenge to fill a three hundred-word story with emotional resonance, but it's such an exciting challenge.” As for Quickies, Fink calls it “a casual, totally non-pretentious environment. Plus, some guy always sells cheese tamales at the bar where Quickies is held, and who doesn't like cheese tamales?”

Come taste the tamales, listen to select contributors read and maybe buy a copy of Green Lantern’s latest release this Tuesday, March 8th, 7:30 p.m. at the Innertown Pub. You can also purchase “The Fiction At Work Biannual Report online.

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. Follow Our Town on Facebook and Sarah on Twitter: @SarahTerez

Shawn Mullins: More than Meets the Eye

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I’ll admit it; singer/songwriter Shawn Mullins seemed to me a one trick pony, his songs the stuff of grocery stores and drive-by car radios. But last December I had the privilege of seeing Mullins at The Chicago House of Blues. An intimate songwriter’s circle-style show with recently out musician Chely Wright and folk/rock mainstays The Indigo Girls, the event afforded me my first true glimpse of Mullin’s lyrical dexterity and vocal power. Easy to pigeonhole Mullins based on mainstream hits like “Lullaby,” but also a mistake; “Lullaby” and its ilk are only the tip of the iceberg, with Mullins, greater things lie beneath.

Our Town Did you always want to be a musician?
Shawn Mullins Yeah, I didn’t know what else I would do, really. I had to do a little time in the military to help me pay for college, but that was never a career thing. I never really saw myself doing anything other than music.

OT Did your military time influence your songwriting or sensibility?
SM The experience of it comes out in songs, little bits and pieces here and there. I’ve done more than a few years of hardcore road travel, not so hardcore that I’m in a train car, but living in my van and traveling around that way, not staying in hotels, but just camping. The endurance of being in the military helped a little with that.

OT Do you enjoy touring?
SM It goes back and forth for me. I really do love the road, but now that I have my son at home, it’s harder to leave. It used to be, I did six or eight weeks, sometimes three months on the road, but now I’m doing a couple weeks at the most before I head back home.

OT Your songs are like little stories or character sketches. What draws you to that writing style?
SM Growing up, my dad really preached the classic American stuff like Hemingway and Steinbeck. I read a lot of the beat poets. I got really into the kind of American landscape with these characters living through a particular time in history. My favorite songwriters do that a lot too, people like Kristofferson and Dylan are obvious ones, but there are other people that aren’t as obvious, like Tom Waits. I’m a huge Tom Waits fan. I love the way he writes a character with really serious subject matter but really funny at the same time. I don’t know how successful I am at doing that, probably not very, but I love that kind of stuff.

OT You also count Indigo Girl, Amy Ray as a mentor. How did you two meet?
SM I met Amy when she was in her first year at Emory University and I was in ninth grade. She was a friend of one of the teachers and she came to my school to talk about songwriting and being a musician. She was doing exactly what I wanted to do, but I didn’t know exactly how to do it yet. She sang a couple songs and talked to us. That’s when we first got to know each other. She was influential with kind of following your bliss as a musician and just working really hard and doing it independently—that was years before they ever had a deal and I did it that way too for about two years. The passion, the energy she performs with, the persona she puts on, that’s pretty amazing.


Juliet and Juliet

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All female theater group, Babes with Blades has one goal, to expand opportunities for women in stage combat. With their latest show, William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, director Brian LaDuca and fight designer Libby Beyreis bring their expertise and intensity to bear on a classic.

Our Town Why set the production in late 19th century Italy?
Brian LaDuca This was a volatile time in Italy, with industry becoming a dramatically strong presence [as Italy moved] towards super power status. In addition, the clergy was on watch because their power was becoming less. Finally, since industry was showing itself to be more influential than in prior years, artillery was becoming more advanced, thus pushing the sword to more of an ornamental piece. Both the handgun and the sword were negotiating the future. This shift is something we are focusing on because it [relates] to the Babes mission of hand to hand combat.

OT What unique attributes does BWB bring to this much-produced show?
BL Obviously the all female casting provides a unique creative structure. I looked at it [as] a way to humanize the characters; each character is a human with characteristics that any living person can embody. In addition, BWB brings a stage combat education that is invaluable. As a director, knowing that at any time a physical confrontation can leap off the stage with a skilled fight is priceless.

OT Speaking of stage combat, Libby, what's the most challenging aspect for the designer?
Libby Beyreis The design of the set can restrict the space available for fighting. The costumes can restrict actors' movements. The script tells us what kinds of things the characters would and wouldn't do, and the actors themselves might be limited by their level of experience. The challenge, then, is to build an exciting fight within [that] context.

OT And the actors?
LB [Actors have] got to rehearse a fight dozens if not hundreds of times to get it into muscle memory, and always have to be mindful not only of choreography, but of surroundings and [their] partner. You’re also fighting at top speed, often with heavy, dangerous weapons. It is mentally and physically exhausting.

Chicago Crush of the Month: Landree Fleming

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My love for redheads seems inherent. In first grade, I chose a best friend based on, to quote Dolly Parton, “her flaming locks of auburn hair.” Turned out the kid was one of five siblings, each albino-pale and raised by Mormon hoarders. I practically lived at her house, but I never saw the floor. Once when I got sick, her mother offered me a diet coke. “Best thing when you’re feverish,” she said. Not my kind of people, but that girl’s hair kept me hooked.

In sixth grade, my heart’s brutal tentacles seized on another ginger, this time a male classmate: Irish, skinny, always ready with a funny quip. Well, funny to a sixth grader; I’m not sure he could go head to head with Tina Fey. Though not my first boy-crush, this one brought out the stalker in me (the original title of Joan Armatrading’s hit song). I called the kid’s house no less than five times a night until he confronted me on the playground after school.

“You calling my house?” (Crossed arms and steady eyes, guy was on a mission.)
“I don’t speak English.” (I was a quick thinker, even then.)
“You gotta stop.” (He didn’t waver.)
“What I meant was, I don’t have a phone.” (Nor did I.)
“Everyone’s got a phone.” (I have nothing to add here.)
“Not me. I don’t even have a house, my family’s too poor.” (Nor here.)
“Isn’t that your mom over there in the Volvo?” (I like parenthesis.)
“That’s where we live.”

And that, my friends, is how I got my first restraining order.

Years later, I’m still a sucker for a redhead, which brings me to Landree Fleming. An up and coming singer/actress and member of comedy/burlesque troupe, Off Off Broadzway, Landree is more than a redhead, she’s March’s Crush.

Name: Landree Fleming
Hometown: New Castle, Pennsylvania
Profession: By day, Quality Improvement Coordinator. By night, actress/comedian.
Hobbies: Learning to play my ukulele, reading, running, watching Doctor Who. Buying vegan cookbooks, making two recipes, and then forgetting I own them.

Our Town What brought you to Chicago?
Landree Fleming I wanted to work in a larger market. The work done here has always been attractive to me. It's comedic, serious, quirky, edgy, new, classic--everything an artist could want. Not to mention ample opportunity to create and perform original work.

OT
How did you get involved with The Broadz?
LF They posted an audition with a link to their rap video "Populah". We auditionees had to write a new character and perform a song. I got called back, and the rest is glorious, smutty history!

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