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July 2013 Archives

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By the time Glen and Melissa Andrianov met, they were both exhausted from the stress of online dating. “The entire process, says Melissa, “was inefficient and frustrating. It's very time-consuming and a lot of hard work.” While their own dating experience was “smooth sailing,” Melissa says “getting to that point was the real challenge.” Thinking back on their mutual frustration, the couple, now married, set out to revolutionize online dating. Their site, Onlyadate.com is meant to streamline the process as well as address privacy concerns. Our Town spoke with Melissa and Glen about their hopes for Onlyadate.com.

Our Town What issues did you encounter with online dating?
Glen and Melissa Andrianov The worst part was coming home from work only to spend hours and hours browsing hundreds of profiles, looking at pictures, sending messages, waiting for replies, wondering if you’ll ever hear back, finally getting a response, texting to arrange a date, struggling to find a mutually agreeable time and place to meet… and the list goes on. I think I can honestly say, everyone online is looking for an easier way to find a date.

OT Your frustration with dating sites drove you to create your own. Ironic?
G&MA Absolutely! As a husband and wife team, our goal was to create a better way to find love online. We wanted to re-create the mold for our friends as well as generations to come. It's tough not only to meet someone to go out with, but even more difficult to find someone that you are compatible with and whose company you truly enjoy. 

OT How is OnlyADate.com different from other sites?
G&MA We have revolutionized online dating by eliminating online communication between members, maintaining profile confidentiality (so your information isn’t perpetually posted for the world to see) and streamlining the date scheduling process. Literally, you can only do two things on the site - show interest in an existing date or create a new date at a Chicago location. There are no profiles to browse because they are all private unless that member has chosen to make their profile public along with their proposed date. And there are no messages to fret over, because the only "contact" between members is offline on a real date. Basically, OnlyADate.com reduces the time online spent online to meet someone offline from 10 hours to merely 10 minutes, ideal for busy singles.

OT The site eliminates online communication between members, but isn’t communication the point?
G&MA The point is to meet in person. It’s hard to measure compatibility from just sending “winks” or messages back and forth online. Having to wade through countless profiles and unsolicited messages online as well as bully your self-esteem wondering endlessly why the people you messaged didn't write back can be really disheartening and discouraging. For that reason, and many more, our goal is to get you offline as efficiently as possible.

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It's the weekend. Mine will be spent putting my life into boxes as the werewolf and I prepare for the next stage of our existence. The werewolf is quite looking forward to being single, he says. I remind him I'm the one just out of a relationship, but he says he feels the depths of my sorrow and surfs the peaks of my exaltation as if each were his own, such is our bond. He's drunk, I think. Anyway, here's a list of things you should do this weekend.

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Catch Scott Barsotti’s Jeff recommended Facing Angela. The show delves into how we recognize ourselves and those we go to bed with, and the collateral damage of transformative change. The show closes July 28.

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Head to Whole Foods for an old fashioned ice cream social. From 2-5 pm on July 27th, all Whole Foods Market stores will sample ice cream and frozen treats, as well as scrumptious toppings.

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Try to find a showing of The Canyons which isn't out yet, but don’t let that bother you because you can't get over Lindsay Lohan and you're secretly obsessed with James Deen. Wait, that's me. Wait, it's not a secret.

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Check out Othello The Remix at Chicago Shakespeare. A hip-hop adaptation of William Shakespeare’s Othello, this show runs through august 4th.

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Decide to come over and pack up my apartment for me so I don’t have to do it alone. Also, pay for my movers and buy me a pony sandwich.

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Oh my God, it’s the annual Printers Ball! Go to it. It’s free and open to the public. Highlights include:
Literary happenings with Tony Fitzpatrick, the Danny’s Reading Series, & Woodland Pattern
Printshop and risograph demos with Brad Vetter, Alex Valentine, & SPARE
Jazz with the Elastic Arts Foundation
Workshops on surrealist poetry, bookmaking, & bookbinding
The event runs 12-6 Saturday

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Be a part of the last ever Sunday Night Sex Show. Celebrate the end of this four year long literary series with guests Samantha Irby, Angela Vela, Maggie Ednie, Amanda Glasbrenner Rachel Collins and host Robyn Pennacchia. Sunday at 7:30 p.m.

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Take a drive to Booze'n'Blues in Long Grove. Join Koval Distillary at The Village Tavern in Long Grove for day of great booze, great food, and great blues. $20 entry includes 12 tastings. Featured cocktails available Saturday, 12 p.m.-7 p.m.

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Rent The Impossible but only if you’re in the aftermath of a break-up and want to feel better about your life. Or because Ewan McGregor is covered in blood, which is also the name of my British pop influenced thrash metal band.

Wonder why there are no actual links in this column. Yeah, I wonder that too. Hey Sun Times, wanna help me out?

A writer with an MFA in Creative Writing from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Sarah Terez Rosenblum freelances for sites like Pop Matters and
afterellen.com Her debut novel, “Herself When She’s Missing," was called “poetic and heartrending” by ALA Booklist. Sarah is also a figure model, Spinning instructor and teacher at Chicago’s StoryStudio. 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 following facebook.com/OurTownBlog.ChicagoSunTimes and Sarah on Twitter: @SarahTerez
and Facebook.

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Photo by Aaron Mayes

“Fiction shouldn't be an entirely safe space,” says writer Alissa Nutting. There’s nothing safe about Tampa, Nutting’s debut novel. Aggressively sexual, yes, ambitiously conjured, certainly, but safe? Not at all. A satire dealing with America’s relationship to female sexual predators, Tampa is by turns titillating and appalling, and that’s just what Nutting intends. “In our society<“ Nutting notes, “we have a difficult enough time with female characters being unlikable, let alone entirely unredeemable. So I felt like I had to do it; I had to go to that place and write a female character who truly thinks of nothing but her sexual obsession with fourteen-year-old boys and her obsession with youth and beauty. There is no better side to her--that's the point.” Nutting spoke with Our Town about female sexuality, connecting with an unsympathetic character, and inevitably, Lolita.

Our Town What’s your writing process like?
Alyssa Nutting It's caffeinated, manic, obsessive. I like to get an entire draft finished before I begin revising. One of my favorite shows is MasterChef, which is fascinating to me because I am such an awful cook that some weeks I will literally eat nothing but cereal for all three meals. But I feel like my first drafts are like the "ingredient box" that the contestants on that show get. After the first draft is done, I can look it over and decide how best to arrange and combine its factors to strive towards the finished product I eventually want.

OT What was the original inspiration for Tampa?
AN I didn't know it at the time, but I guess the seed of my interest in this topic was planted when a woman I went to high school who'd gone on to become a teacher was arrested for sleeping with one of her male students. That's what made me begin paying attention to cases like these. Once I did, I really couldn't believe how these cases were handled and responded to.

OT You say the book is a satire about the perception and treatment of female sexual predators in our society. Why did that feel important for you to take on?
AN Because of the way that real-life female teacher/male student sex scandals, which are appearing in the news on a seemingly (and increasingly) regular basis, seem to be treated as a "fake crime"--I think it goes back to our society not taking female sexuality that seriously in general; we seem to have an inability to grasp that it can ever be harmful, ever have a victim (particularly a male victim). My previous book of short stories was comprised entirely of female characters who society wasn't treating fairly based on how they looked--specifically, because they didn't look attractive or weren't young or their body wasn't like the female image we see on magazine covers--they weren't accepted. In this book, that's inverted. The main character looks very attractive and young, so she's accepted despite her behavior being monstrous.

OT Did you worry that making Celeste so extreme would alienate readers?
AN She's beastly but she's also a hilarious, horny mess, so she's actually pretty fun to read about. Part of the grand discomfort of this book is how great of a time readers can have despite their best intentions.

OT In writing Celeste, did you feel sympathetic to her? Was it necessary to find a point of connection?
AN I think her ability to see the worst in others and relentlessly make fun of them in the privacy of her own mind is one point of connection--we all have a person in our lives that we have to deal with for one reason or another that we'd prefer not to, a person who makes us cringe inside even though we smile "hello" and wave to them for social reasons. Also, as a woman, I certainly empathize with Celeste's fear of aging--we're really taught that it isn't acceptable for women's bodies to show physical signs of growing older.

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Hedwig and The Angry Inch has been compared to The Rocky Horror Picture show, likely because of the cultish devotion it inspires. However, John Cameron Mitchell’s outrageous and moving musical owes more to Plato’s Symposium and David Bowie than it does to floating lips and Transylvanians. Now Haven Theatre, a new Chicago company has taken Hedwig on as its inaugural production. Executive Director Carol Cohen explains that the company chose Hedwig in part to honor Haven’s gay members. “We have many young gay men as part of our company, Cohen says. “They thought offering Hedwig would be a good way to introduce our company to the Chicago theater community. While Haven Theatre is no way only a "gay" company, we realize the importance of that community and their unwavering appreciation of the arts, and particularly, musical theater.” Our Town spoke with Hedwig herself, Ryan Lanning about the shows ongoing significance and how to run in heels.

OT Hedwig is one of those beloved cult shows and holds a lot of significance to some. How does that affect you as an actor?
Ryan Lanning I try to keep a level head about it, but it terrifies and thrills me.  Many people have a very specific idea of who Hedwig is, and that is John Cameron Mitchell, who co-wrote the show with Stephen Trask and was the original Hedwig.  As with any well-known role, it's a challenge to maintain the integrity of the essence of the character while staying true to who I am as a performer and not give in to imitation.

OT Why do you think it resonates for audiences? 
RL Hedwig struggles with her identity and I think many people relate to the journey she takes to find acceptance.  So many of us find it difficult to look in the mirror and really accept the face looking back at us.

OT What are the show’s unique challenges?
RL Stamina.  It's 90 minutes of essentially one big monologue and noone leaves the stage.  It's the band, Yitzhak (played by the lovely and talented Lauren Paris), and me up there from beginning to end and I swear that wig weighs 10 pounds!

OT As a singer, how do you prepare?
RL Hydration, rest, vitamins, warming up thoroughly, proper vocal production, and lots of praying to not get sick!

OT Generally, the show includes audience interaction. What impact does that have on your acting choices?
RL With many shows, you learn your lines and staging and you do the same thing (more or less) in every performance.  This is more of a cabaret show in that I'm speaking directly to the people in the room. There is no "fourth wall" as Hedwig points out in the show.  Given this, there is a lot more give and take that takes place.  There might be vast differences between each performance.

OT What are you looking forward most to about performing the show?
RL Having that direct interaction with the audience for one.  Also, I think the show's message about learning to accept your own inner rock star is especially important, and I hope people get something positive out of the experience.

OT Most important question: how’s the whole walking in heels thing going for you?
RL Wonderfully! Fortunately I have a lot of experience wearing heels on stage.  In JERRY SPRINGER THE OPERA, for example, I was running around in 5-inch platform thigh-high boots.  Hedwig’s choice of footwear features a very conservative 1-inch heel, so I really consider them flats.

Hedwig and the Angry Inch runs July 5 through August 11 at Haven Theatre. Purchase tickets at http://www.haventheatrechicago.org.

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In Belleville, Amy Herzog’s psychological thriller, Americans Zack and Abby seem like your average newlyweds. Though tensions underlie their life in Paris, Abby’s yoga practice and french lessons keep her occupied and Zach work as a doctor seems to fulfill him. Yet in Belleville’s first moments, a trivial shock sets the show’s foreboding tone. Over the next ninety minutes, the show juggles humor born of idiosyncratic characters, subterranean tension, and complex interpersonal relationships. Our Town spoke with Cliff Chamberlain (Zach) about Bellville’s challenges, his experiences in acting school and whether he prefers theatre to film.

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For an actor, how important is a formal education?
Cliff Chamberlain I can only speak for myself on this, because I know and respect just about any path one takes towards being an actor, but going to college was one of the pivotal experiences of my life.  And the importance of it was two-fold. On the one hand, the challenge of being in a rigid BFA acting program was a fantastic learning experience, and some of my favorite theatrical moments to this day were in the safety of the classroom, watching my classmates perform, creating movement pieces, or failing miserably at a Shakespeare monologue and having to figure out why.On the other hand, I was going to college in Santa Barbara (UCSB), which is a great university in one of the most beautiful places on Earth, and so being there for four years was also amazing outside of the theatre. The beach was directly to the west, there were mountains a few miles to the east, there were interesting people everywhere you went. I played a lot of golf and Ultimate Frisbee, rode my beach cruiser everywhere, learned how to ride a longboard skateboard (which I take advantage of even now, from my house to the train), worked at a beach club, and lived with friends (and my brother) who had nothing to do with the theatre.It was the combination of those two existences that I truly value from those four years, because it’s what I strive for to this day: to be a working actor who can play Ultimate Frisbee on Saturday mornings.

OT What’s the first thing you do when you’re cast in a new role?
CC The first thing I do is tell my wife.  And then I find my black DayMinder planner and add the show to my calendar. There's a comfort in knowing that at least 3 of the 12 months is filled in and accounted for.

OT Is it important that you find something relatable in a character?
CC I think so, absolutely.  And sometimes it's incredibly hard to find, that something, but I think always attainable.  It just means you have to distill things down and down and down.  On the surface a character can be the exact opposite of me, especially if I simply pay attention to his actions.  But if I work hard at figuring out why a character does what he does, I can usually find common ground.  Because the whys are usually pretty universal.  Unrequited love, jealousy, fear, a longing to be understood, the bonds of family, the pressures of relationships, the fear of death.  It's just that the volume of the why may be turned way up (or way down) for a certain character, and so I think of just adjusting my dials a little bit.

OT Leaving money aside, are you more drawn to theater or film? Why?
CC I'll say theatre, because it's what I do and it's what I've done pretty exclusively for the past 10 years.  I feel more at home in a theatre and in a rehearsal room than anywhere else on Earth, aside from my own home.
Excepting a few high school friends, my best friends are theatre artists in Chicago.  My favorite actors are Chicago theatre actors.  So in doing theatre here, I basically get to hang out at home, work with my friends, and, when I'm lucky, act with people who I look up to and can constantly learn from.  And then really smart and interesting people come watch.  It's a good gig.That said, I can't deny the draw of film and television, mostly because I’ve have had a few great experiences doing it but feel it’s still something I want to get better at.


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Photo by Braden Nesin

Before Kelly Williams became manager and pr coordinator for Gorilla Tango theatre, she’d wandered from Honolulu to Santa Fe. Living briefly with her parents, she spotted an audition notice for an Albuquerque company looking for improvisors. Not only did she get cast, but when Gorilla Tango owner Dan Abbate brought the company to Chicago in 2006, she joined him. Since then Gorilla Tango has opened a Skokie location in addition to their Bucktown location, oh, and Williams and Abbate are now married with a son. Our Town spoke with Williams about the pleasures of producing, what’s unique about Gorilla Tango and the US Department of Defense. No, really.


Our Town What makes Gorilla Tango unique?
Kelly Williams Gorilla Tango is unique in that it really stresses sustainability and marketability. We want folks to produce their shows in a way that gives them the maximum potential to make money, or at the very least, break-even so they can continue to produce shows in a sustainable manner. We welcome any sort of show - we always say if it can fit on one of our stages and work within our structure, we want it produced by us. It is important to us that people are able to produce whatever they feel is worthwhile, without an entity censoring or judging their choices. That said, we also encourage folks to think about what an audience would like to see. That's a huge part of the theatrical equation that very often gets overlooked. If you are producing what YOU want, but it doesn't coincide with what an audience wants to see, then don't be surprised if no one shows up.

OT You produce, act and direct. Is one of these a favorite? What are the pros and cons of each?
KW I like them all for different reasons (how diplomatic of me!). With acting, you focus pretty much on yourself. Of course you interact with others, but the bulk of the focus when you act is on YOU. You are responsible for your little piece of the puzzle and that's it. That's incredibly freeing. One of the most stressful aspects about directing is that you have to think big picture- there's a certain element of 'herding cats' which gets frustrating. That said, the great thing about directing is that I get to decide the overall feel of things. Producing is great because you get to come up with an initial idea and then commission someone else (or several someone elses) to do it. So it's a lot of 'this is cool, this is cool, you do it' but conversely it's a lot of risk (financially) and not near as much fun as acting or directing because you aren't involved in the day to day rehearsal process.

OT Gorilla Tango does a LOT of burlesque parodies. What’s interesting about that form? 
KW What we do is very unique to burlesque - we infuse burlesque numbers into a full scripted (geek-themed) parody much like how musical numbers pepper a musical. The burlesque is directly incorporated into the storyline and forwards the story, rather than various stand alone numbers as one encounters in a typical cabaret burlesque show. Also, instead of the women performing sexy burlesque numbers in between male magicians/stand up comedians providing the humor, it was important to us that the women get to be both the funny and the sexy. So with this in mind, our shows are all female and very plot driven. What we discovered about the form is that the sexy (classic burlesque striptease) brings people in the door, and the high quality funny keeps them talking about it which in turn helps bring MORE people in the door. 

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July's Honest Parent: Ben Tanzer

My great parenting strength is: my incredible calm.

My greatest parenting weakness is: lying about my strengths.

What have you learned about yourself specifically because you became a parent?

That my capacity for both love and rage is far more pronounced and accessible than I was aware of.

What do you wish someone had told you before you became a parent?
That you never stop feeling worried. And that there is a lot of rage. Did I already mention that?

Describe your worst moment as a parent.
Can there be a tie? Or do you have extra space? Plus, is this the worst I felt or the worst I acted? Uh. Let's avoid how terribly I've acted. But the worst I've felt is probably when our doctor feared that my younger son who was only three months old at the time might need surgery on his spine and the resident designated to discuss his test results with us went on and on about all of the things that might be wrong before saying there was nothing actually wrong at all. I actually wanted to punch him in the face. And there's that rage thing again. Damn it.

Is there one thing you give yourself a pass on?

Letting the boys watch television. It just doesn't seem all that evil to me.

How many hours out of each day do you feel like you’re being a good parent?
Hours? Are you crazy. Does sleep count or when I'm work? I will be very happy if I hit that mark for 1-hour a day total. That said, any discussion around what is good and bad when it comes to parenting is counter-productive. It's just too easy to shame or hype parents. It's a terrible job with moments of surreal love and joy, and everyone is hanging on to some extent. 

How has having kid/s affected your sex life?

Next. Okay. It's nice when they get older and start to sleep. It's even nicer when they start to go on sleepovers.

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July's Hot Writer: Susan Yount
 
My genre: Poetry & small press publishing. 

My literary influences:
Edgar Allan Poe’s poem “Annabel Lee” was one of the last poems he ever wrote and the first poem to ever move me. It was quite literally the first time I had ever realized there was real love and lamenting in the world. Of course, I was a tween at the time but still, Poe remains a strong influence today. Also, Kathy Acker, Anne Carson, Kristine Ong Muslim & Susan Slaviero.

My favorite literary quote:
“I think a poem, when it works, is an action of the mind captured on a page, and the reader, when he engages it, has to enter into that action. And so his mind repeats that action and travels again through the action, but it is a movement of yourself through a thought, through an activity of thinking, so by the time you get to the end you’re different than you were at the beginning and you feel that difference.” ~ Anne Carson
 
My favorite book of all time:
Autobiography of Red by Anne Carson. Also, The Beauty of the Husband which is also by Anne Carson. I love anything by Anne Carson. Did I mention Anne Carson?
 
I’m currently reading: Deathless by Catherynne M. Valente. It’s gorgeous.
 
My guilty pleasure book[s]:
I have read Katharine Kerr’s complete series of Celtic-influenced fantasy novels – I know everything there is to know about Deverry & Dallandra.
 
I can’t write [well] without: Booze & a dictionary/thesaurus.
 
Worst line I ever wrote:
“My name is not Peaches you Bs / not Candy not Honey nor anything sweet / you'd take to your mouth.” Angry much? Though, actually now, the line is sort of growing on me.

 
Brief Bio: Susan Yount is editor and publisher of the Arsenic Lobster Poetry Journal, madam of the Chicago Poetry Bordello and founder of Misty Publications. She also works fulltime at the Associated Press and teaches online poetry classes at The Rooster Moans Poetry Cooperative. As if all that wasn’t enough, she recently completed her MFA in poetry at Columbia College Chicago, co-writes the Rebellious Women in Poetry column with Jessica Dyer and is mother to the most darling 5 year old. Her chapbook, Catastrophe Theory, is just out from Hyacinth Girl Press and if you’d like to keep up-to-date with her poetry tarot card project, visit her at: http://susanyount.tumblr.com.

A writer with an MFA in Creative Writing from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Sarah Terez Rosenblum freelances for sites like Pop Matters and
afterellen.com Her debut novel, “Herself When She’s Missing," was called “poetic and heartrending” by ALA Booklist. Sarah is also a figure model, Spinning instructor and teacher at Chicago’s StoryStudio. 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 following facebook.com/OurTownBlog.ChicagoSunTimes and Sarah on Twitter: @SarahTerez
and Facebook.

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