Friday, April 29, 2011

Peoria Civic Center Theater - 2011-2012 Season

The Peoria Civic Center has announced its 2011-2012 Broadway Theater Series Season.

Regular Season:
"Wicked"  -  Oct 12-30
"Young Frankenstein"  -  Nov 12
"Rock of Ages"  -  Jan 17-18
"South Pacific"  -  Feb 28-29
"Shrek the Musical"  -  Apr 24-25

 Optional show:

"The Rat Pack is Back!"  -  May 2


Bradley University Theatre - 2011-2012 Season

Bradley University Theatre has announced its 2011-2012 season:

"Ragtime: The Musical" - book by Terrence McNally, lyrics by Lynn Ahern, music by Stephen Flaherty - Sept 22 - Oct 2

"Almost, Maine" - a romantic comedy by John Cariani - Nov 10 - Nov 20

"The Compleat Wrks of Wllm Shkspr (Abridged)" - a hilarious farce by Jess Borgeson, Adam Long, and Daniel Singer - Feb 29 - Mar 4

"The Glass Menagerie" - an American classic by Tennessee Williams - Apr 19 - Apr 29

Season tickets are $45 for adults, $38 for seniors, $23 for students
and can be purchased through the Cultural Events Box Office at 309-677-2651

Additionally, Bradley Theatre will participate in a special event:

"Three University Shakespeare Festival"

.          "The Tempest" by Bradley University - Feb 24 at 8pm
.          "Measure for Measure" by Loyola University - Feb 25 at 8pm
.          "Henry VI" by Western Illinois University - Feb 26 at 2:30pm

Subscribers can attend the Shakespeare Festival for an additional cost:
$25 for adults, $20 for seniors, $15 for students


- Theater Review - America Live!

Bradley University Theatre closes their 2011 season with "America Live!"

The production is a unique and interesting multi-media event. 
Rooted in America's current obsession with reality television, the show is audience-interactive and live-streamed on the internet during the entire production.

The premise is that we are on the set of a live TV show.  Theater patrons may choose any level of involvement in the interactive aspect of the show. 
They can opt to simply watch the show as passive viewers. 
They can register their cell phones for voting. 
Or they can choose to participate directly as members of the cast, members of security, part of the technical crew, or even the janitorial staff.

Indeed, it soon becomes unclear just who is an actor and who is not; what is scripted and what is ad lib.
And obviously that is the point here.  Written and directed by Slane Scholar in Residence Jeff Wirth, this play intentionally blurs the lines between theater and reality, between stage and audience.

The result is an interesting theater experience that is definitely out of the norm.  While I was expecting a more profound statement on voting and politics in America, I was not disappointed to receive instead a funny and high-energy comment on the "reality" of America and American television.

Some of the funniest bits are the pre-recorded television commercials.
One of the commercials includes a music video that is professional quality and simply delightful.

If you are looking for a show that is funny, smart, and truly innovative, then this is one you should not miss.

The show is produced in collaboration with Bradley University's Department of Interactive Media and runs through May 1st at the Hartmann Center for the Performing Arts.


Tuesday, April 19, 2011

April Poetry Corner

From Gitanjali
                    by Rabindranath Tagore


I was not aware of the moment
when I first crossed the threshold of this life.
What was the power that made me open out into this vast mystery
like a bud in the forest at midnight!
When in the morning I looked upon the light
I felt in a moment that I was no stranger in this world,
that the inscrutable without name and form
had taken me in its arms in the form of my own mother.

Even so, in death the same unknown will appear as ever known to me.
And because I love this life,
I know I shall love death as well.
The child cries out
when from the right breast the mother takes it away,
in the very next moment to find in the left one its consolation.

Parting Words

When I go from hence
let this be my parting word,
that what I have seen is unsurpassable.
I have tasted of the hidden honey of this lotus
that expands on the ocean of light,
and thus am I blessed
---let this be my parting word.
In this playhouse of infinite forms
I have had my play
and here have I caught sight of him that is formless.
My whole body and my limbs
have thrilled with his touch who is beyond touch;
and if the end comes here, let it come
---let this be my parting word.


Sunday, April 17, 2011

Something Wicked This Way Comes

The Peoria Civic Center Theater has announced that the 2011 touring company for "Wicked" will be making its only stop in Illinois at the PCC theater.

The show will run from October 12th through October 30th for an amazing total of 24 performances.

Ticket information will be announced at a later date.


Friday, April 15, 2011

The Sky Is Falling At Bradley U !!

Is anyone else getting weary of all the gnashing of teeth and pulling of hair over WCBU's format change?

It seems every other day brings a new whining letter to the editor or online posting over the public radio station's decision to change from a classical music/news format to all news/talk.

One well-known Patroness of the Arts was so upset, that in her rush to telephone in her outrage, she fell and broke her hip!

To those of you who simply cannot continue living without your daily dose of the 1750 hit parade, let me offer a suggestion. 

Go immediately to Best Buy or K-Mart or any other venue selling recorded music.
I guarantee they will have a bin of 99¢ CDs of this genre. 
They are cheap and prolific because....well, nobody wants 'em.

Use that $25 that you gave to WCBU last year (and assumed you were paying everyone's salary) and buy enough CDs to play all day.

As for me, I will continue to enjoy "Morning Edition" every day and "This American Life" when I can catch it.
And I just sent my increased check to help pay for them.

Oh, and in that little memo portion of the check, I wrote "In Honor Of Esther Cohen's Hip".

Please consider upping YOUR support to make up for the boycotters.


Saturday, April 9, 2011

- Theater Review - Xanadu

Eastlight Theatre opened their 20th season on Friday night with the regional premiere of "Xanadu".

I have made the statement here before that I feel Eastlight sets the bar for local theater.  Their productions have always been professional and well done, and I always anticipate their short season of three plays.

However, I am sad to say that all the gods on Olympus could not make this turkey sing.

There have been a lot of successful musicals made from films that were not necessarily successful.  Examples of this include "Hairspray" (coming later in Eastlight's season), "The Producers", "Spamalot", etc.

The difference is that these films, while not blockbusters, were smart and funny gems that achieved some level of cult devotion. 

"Xanadu", on the other hand, was a truly bad movie that is not much improved by its transfer to the stage.

Having said this, there were some excellent performances that might have saved this production, if not for technical issues.

First and foremost is Jeremy Kelly.
Mr. Kelly previously lit up the Eastlight stage with his wonderful performances in last season's "Altar Boyz" and "All Shook Up".
Here, as Sonny Malone, he does everything an actor can do for the role.  His singing and dancing are truly excellent.

Ayana Pankey and Erin Miller shine as Melpomene and Calliope respectively.  Ms. Miller in particular was an audience favorite as she captured all the comedic elements of her role.

Julie Boesch brings the required sweetness to her role as Kira/Clio. (and she is not too bad on roller skates!)

Carl Williams as Danny McGuire/Zeus has a fine voice, although his acting performance can only be described as wooden.

With an exception or two, the choreography was sub-standard, as is the direction.

Part of the problem, and this is particularly true of the closing title number, is that the performers require an energetic response from the audience. 
Sadly, this was the sparsest crowd I have ever seen at Eastlight.  The older crowd did not help the cast deliver the knockout finale that could have been achieved.

And now about those technical issues.

I have often criticized the poor sound quality at Peoria Players.  This has never been a problem at Eastlight.
Until last night. 

While the male lead came through loud and clear, the other players were at times unintelligible.  The women particularly were muffled and unclear during the entire first act.

What happened, Eastlight?
Did you get a new sound system?  If so, please try to get the old one back.
Did you get new mics?  If so, please try to get the old ones back.
Did you get new sound technicians?  If so, please try to get the old ones back.
Is this a classic case of fixing something that wasn't broken?

I can honestly say this is one of the very few times I have been disappointed with an Eastlight performance.
Let's hope that it can be chalked up to opening night jitters and technical snafus that will be improved for the rest of the run.

"Xanadu" continues April 9th, 10th, and the 13th through the 16th at East Peoria Community High School Auditorium.  Tickets can be reserved through the box office at 699-SHOW.


Thursday, April 7, 2011

Civil War Ghosts & Legends

Prairie Folklore Theatre is hosting a special performance of "Civil War Ghosts and Legends" to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the first shots fired on Fort Sumter.

This is an original musical program featuring Barry Cloyd and Brian "Fox" Ellis.

True stories and legends are woven with traditional songs and poetry from this most un-Civil War.

Join us as we travel back in time to the bloody battlefields, prison camps and haunted graveyards of America’s deadliest conflict.

Horror stories by Ambrose Bierce and songs by Stephen Foster bring to life this chapter in history.

The show features storyteller and historian Brian “Fox” Ellis with folksinger, and songwriter, Barry Cloyd.
In the persona of Mathias Stritt, Fox puts the grand arc of the war into perspective.
Cloyd portrays Joseph Henry Munroe, the Drummer Boy of Shiloh who, later in life, taught music at Peoria High and shares his love for the songs of the era.

Together, these two old ghosts, Stritt and Munroe, weave true stories with original music; their first hand knowledge of the war with traditional folk tunes.

The single performance will be April 12th, at 7:00pm at the GAR Hall at the corner of Madison and Hamilton in Downtown Peoria.

Tickets are only $10 for adult s and $5 for children. Please call 309-689-8000 for reservations.


Friday, April 1, 2011

City Council Endorsements

As I have stated in a previous post, Historic Preservation has been politicized as never before by current representatives on the Peoria City Council. This has forced preservationists to step up to the political plate in the current election.

The vast majority of our city's structural treasures exist in the first three council districts, which encompass the oldest areas of the city.

I believe that the most committed citizen preservationists live in the second district, and traditionally the second district councilperson has been the leader in representing this ideal.

There has also been some history of preservation leadership in the third district seat (particularly under Bob Manning's tenure). A commitment to Historic Preservation by the first district representative has always been lacking, although, fortunately, there exists in the near north neighborhoods, a committed group of citizen activists .

In the second district, Barbara Van Auken has been largely responsible for the politicization of the issue and she long ago abandoned representation of her constituents on this issue. Her actions in destroying the Roanoke apartments led to the eventual evisceration of the Peoria's Historic Preservation ordinance.

Tim Riggenbach, in the third district exhibits little commitment to, or understanding of the broad advantages of Historic Preservation.

First district representative Clyde Gulley also shows little interest or respect of the city's rich history.

With this 'dereliction of duty' by the representatives in the first three council districts, leadership on preservation issues from the at-large councilmen has become increasingly important. Of the current five at-large reps, the first three districts can claim only one as an actual resident (Gary Sandberg in the second district).

The recent actions taken in regards the Historic Preservation Ordinance give great importance to this at-large election.

The good news is this: The slate of ten candidates vying for the five at-large seats is one of the best slates in recent memory. It seems that a lot of good people are stepping up to serve.

As a "capital HP" Historic Preservationist, I am comfortable in endorsing four of these people.

First and foremost is Gary Sandberg. While Gary can come across as combative and confrontational, he is and always has been a dependable friend of Historic Preservation. As an architect and historian, he realizes the true value in preserving the unique identity of the city through her important structures. In speaking with others, the most frequent criticism I hear is this: "I know what Gary is against, but what is he FOR?" Well, I can emphatically answer: He is FOR Historic Preservation!
Councilman Sandberg MUST be retained.

The other three (in no particular order) are as follows:

Beth Akeson is a self-defined preservationist. As an alumna of the Heart of Peoria Commission, she has developed a true understanding of what it takes to make heritage neighborhoods viable and desirable. Her commitment to Historic Preservation is unquestioned.

CJ Summers served alongside Beth on the Heart of Peoria Commission, and the experience also left him with the same respect for true New Urbanism. As a resident of the Uplands, he understands what it takes to build and maintain a neighborhood, and the role that Historic Preservation plays in that equation.

Chuck Grayeb has given his personal pledge to restoring the Historic Preservation Ordinance and to seeing that true preservationists are appointed to the HPC. While there are some within the preservationist community who question Chuck's true dedication to the issue, I remind them of his role in the preservation and restoration of Historic Springdale Cemetery. Also, of the ten candidates, he is the ONLY one who actually lives in an Historic District. His home on High Street is beautifully maintained and reflects his respect for its history. Additionally, he owns rental buildings on the northside that also are well maintained with respect to their period architecture.

Please consider lending your support and your votes to these candidates.

To have ALL FOUR of these sent to the council would be an Historic Preservationist's dream!

What then about the other six candidates?
Briefly, here is my evaluation:

Andre Williams comes across as a good and likable man. He is intelligent and well-spoken. I am not sure that he has a good understanding of preservation issues yet, but I would not at all be disappointed with his election. Regardless of the outcome of this election, I hope he will continue and expand his public service profile.

Chuck Weaver also is a likable man. However, his comment of taking six months to evaluate the Historic Preservation Ordinance is off-putting. How many buildings can be bulldozed in the time it takes him to DECIDE if he wants to support preservation or not. Also, I have never seen the labels "preservationist" and "developer" reside comfortably in the same body.

George Azouri is a nice kid. He is, to put it nicely as possible, simply out of his league. While I admire his desire to serve, he exhibits little understanding not only of preservation, but other major issues as well. The city is at too critical a juncture to entrust important decisions to one so green.

Ryan Spain has a record that speaks for itself. He has voted against designation of worthy and obviously historic buildings like the Spurck House (Family House) and the Duroc Building (Amvets). He also supported the destruction of the Roanoke Apartments. He has been no friend of Historic Preservation.

A not-so-nice-guy, Jim Stowell has exhibited a meanness in online posts and on the 150 BOE that is not needed at the horseshoe. He has supported ownership veto power for historic designation, and has no other qualities to recommend his election.

Last and certainly least is Eric Turner. His recent decimation of the ordinance was not only devastating to Historic Preservation, but a classic example of bad legislating. Writing an ordinance on the fly as he did is simply sloppy and opens a whole can of worms that is already bearing fruit in a lawsuit from Westminster Church. His bad decision will end up costing the city a bunch in litigation fees. Mr. Turner has a history of knee-jerk responses and flip-flopping, with little vision to larger issues. Enough is simply enough.
Councilman Turner MUST be defeated.

Whether or not you agree with these personal evaluations and recommendations, please do your civic duty and get out and vote on April 5th!
The future (and history!) of your city depends on it.