Monday, September 26, 2011

Conjured Worlds/ Embodied Terrain; Embodied Composition: movement theatre laboratory

Above an example of a score for a work in progress by the Lisa Fay and Jeff Glassman Duo, who bring a wealth of experience and years of practice in a number of crafts together to lend a seldom seen virtuosity of composition and execution of movement based performances.  A delight leading audiences to euphoric participation in their taking apart "natural looking" behavior and what follows in a moment - subjecting these to contortions, subversions and convolutions, letting 'what's natural' show its socially constructed fa(r)ce.

"...dazzling sophistication, virtuoso level of characterization..." wrote Kyle Gann in The Village Voice

Lisa Fay and Jeff Glassman Duo
A composing and performing movement based theatre duo since 1991, who apply composed structures to ordinary human behavior. Contradictions play out with an air of stubborn continuity.

LINKS HALL has joined with the Prop Thtr to offer two extraordinary workshops led by this Duo, a valuable opportunity to experience the well founded craft they have refined:

1. Conjured Worlds/ Embodied Terrain, a one day workshop on Saturday October 1st which introduces both their compositional and their performance work. They will demonstrate and then allow participants to experiment with, the relationship between score, performer and audience.  Compositional propositions (conjured worlds) and performance techniques (embodied terrain) will coax forth new ground for live performance and present challenges to the performing body.  This workshop is open to all.  Materials provided.  

2. Embodied Composition: movement theatre laboratory, Oct 4th-8th is an intensive which immerses participants in an experimental movement theatre laboratory.  The work is meticulous while open to surprises, counter-intuitively small, analogue, acoustic and on a fine scale - leading to performance pieces by the participants best seen in intimate settings -like that of Links Hall - where what seems impossible, is undeniably live.  Composition and timing of each frame is needed for the whole to work, like with animation.  Then those will be developed into movement theatre pieces: embodied composition.  Participants should be ready for a rigorous hands-on compositional laboratory with an emphasis on the performance of laboratory generated work.  This workshop will culminate in an open performance at Links Hall on October 8th.

See The Lisa Fay and Jeff Glassman Duo perform from their repertoire at the Prop Thtr, 8pm Thursday, September 29th, Friday, September 30th and Saturday, October 1st.  $15 or pay what you can! 

"Surreal Vaudeville, Lisa Fay 
and Jeff Glassman belong in 
some kind of genius category.
One is reminded of silent film
comedians and European circus
clowns, who hone their material
to its essence"

                               David Cuthbert 
                              New Orleans Times-Picayune
# * @ * + * # * @ * + * # * @ * + * # * @ * + * # * @ * + * # * @ * + * # * @ * + *

October 8th at 10:30pm Prop Thtr presents the second of four nights honoring and looking at the video, film, painting, graphic, photographic work of Tom Pallazzolo, our Lolapalooza. Our lobby is at its historic finest as a gallery of his work and we will show his media work that Saturday night as well as the second Saturdays of November and December.  A gifted Chicago Artist!

# * @ * + * # * @ * + * # * @ * + * # * @ * + * # * @ * + * # * @ * + * # * @ * +

Our October guest Company: the Consortium Project with Den Of Thieves:

What: Den of Thieves 

Why: Maggie is a newly single, junk-food-binging shoplifter looking to change her life and herself-hating ways. Paul is her passionately convicted, formerly four-hundred-poundcompulsive-overeating sponsor in a twelve-step program for recovering thieves. Maggie's jealousex-boyfriend is a charismatic wannabe Puerto Rican small-time thief of uncertain ancestry namedFlaco who spins a grammatically challenged but persuasive yarn about seven hundred and fiftythousand dollars in unprotected drug money sitting in a safe in a downtown disco guarded by aneasily distracted crackhead. This dubious and ragtag would-be criminal crew is rounded out byFlaco's new girlfriend, the fabulous Boochiea malaprop-slinging topless dancer who refuses to lether troubled childhood or her third-grade reading level stand in the way of her inevitable path tofame, fortune and fur. When things don't quite go according to plan, this bickering quartet ofhapless thieves finds themselves at the mercy of Louie "The Little Tuna" Pescatore, a reluctant,
donut-ingesting heir to the criminal empire run by his father"The Big Tuna"who has left him incharge for the weekend. The penalty for stealing from the Tuna is death"Ba Da Bing, Ba Da Boom." ButLouie offers them a break: "I need one body and three thumbs, you can choose the who, whys andwherefores among yourselves." Tied to chairs and able to move only their mouths, they must now fightfor their lives by out-arguing each other as to who deserves to live. Verbal gymnastics and thestruggle for self-awareness, self-acceptance and self-love produce a high-octane battle for survivalthat's not resolved until the last donut falls. - Dramatist Play Service, Inc. 

When: Oct 06, 2011 8:00 PM - Oct 23, 2011 2:00 PM 

Where: Prop Theatre, 3502 N Elston Ave, Chicago, IL 

Followed by: Point Of Contention's   "All The Girls Love Bobby Kennedy"  look out for that opening Friday October 28th!

# * @ * + * # * @ * + * # * @ * + * # * @ * + * # * @ * + * # * @ * + * # * @ * + * 

Coming in 2012:  The longest running fringe festival in Chicago, January 13th - February 12th, 2012.

Coming January 13th - RHINOFEST- February 12th, 2012

Friday, September 2, 2011

Still In Play - in many more than one way!

This September 15th, Chicago's Museum of Contemporary Art sees the opening of three days of a scripted and devised play, "Still In Play, a performance of getting ready", which the Curious Theater Branch has developed over a year long residency, text and lyrics written by Jenny Magnus, music by The Crooked Mouth (who will give a special RELEASE concert after the Friday September 16th performance of "Still In Play") and directed by Prop Thtr Artistic Director and Curious Theater Branch founding associate artist Stefan Brün with Jen Moniz and Briana Finegan and with Choreography by Jayita Bhattacharya and Judith Harding.  Featured are many of the performers who make up the Curious Theater Branch: Jayita Bhattacharya, Jeff Bivens, Sidonie Greenberg, Judith Harding, Cat Jarboe, Troy Martin, Nia O'Reilly-Amandes, Beau and Colm O'Reilly, Matthew Rieger, John Starrs, Matt Test, Vicki Walden and, of course, Jenny Magnus.  Acoustics are designed by Joseph Fosco, lights are designed by MCA and Trap Door resident designer Richard Norwood, Videography and documentation by Jeffrey Bivensand Costumes are designed by Prop Thtr Managing Director Diane Hamm. 
"Still In Play, a performance of getting ready"

BACK at the PROP THTR, our very valued guests from the Silent Theatre Company, who have offered Chicago a distinctive vision and style for over six years now and have become regular presenters at the Prop Thtr, with their Wild Party Variety Hour every final Saturday night of the month, now join forces with us to present two amazing productions in the inimitable Silent Theatre Style:  "NOIR" and "ACME"

ACME: (live) Action Cartoon with Music and Entertainment
pays homage to the cartoon genre. From classical tomfoolery to neo‐animation, this
production is sure to strike a chord with the child inside you. Comedy, satire,
whimsy and parody all band together for a nostalgic evening of stylized vignettes. ACME: (live) Action Cartoon with Music and Entertainment features
Chelsea Brand, Jenna Dalgety, Gillian Hastings, Matthew Massaro, Nathan
Thompson and Samuel Zilitch. Created and Directed by the ensemble.
Production Stage Manager: Shannon Evans
How do you find hope in a city that doesn't want to be saved? It's Chicago in 1930. The city revels in its celebrity, refuses to play by the rules and scoffs at
the rest of the country's distaste. When his ex partner shows up with a plan which would thrust him into the thick of the mob, private investigator Frank
McClellan must decide to walk the line between trust and hope. At stake is five thousand dollars, the life of an old friend and a final chance to help take down public enemy number one.
NOIR: city of big shoulders was written out of love for the detective story and fascination with Chicago's most recognizable era. Of the cinematic styles that have crossed over to the stage, film noir remains one of the most compelling. This is Silent Theatre's second venture into this genre and pays homage to the city of the gangster while it delights in asking the most spine tingling question in literature: "Who done it?"
NOIR: city of big shoulders features Brendan Balfe, Chelsea Brand, Scott Coyne, Joanne Dubach, Brian Parenti, Nathan Paul, Evan Sierminski and Joe Vonderhaar. Written and directed by Brendan Balfe. Videographer: Krzysztof Piotrowski. Costumes by Stephanie Schultz. Production SM: Shannon Evans.

And that is not all....

From the very first days of the Prop Thtr, way back in 1981, an artist we have admired and whose work we have shown is Tom Palazzolo
Throughout the rest of 2011, the lobby of Prop Thtr has been turned into a gallery of paintings, print work, photography by Tom Palazzolo.  The second Saturdays of September, October, November and December will feature showings of the many films and videos he has created, in a wide array of styles, over the years.  We call this whole series Lolapaloozza and we are kicking it all off with a reception, Gallery Vernissage, special showing of his newest movie and other special surprises on Sept 10th starting at 7pm and going late!

 Also do not miss our longtime resident, FACTORY THEATRE'S "Black and Blue" which is having the final performances of this hit summer play right NOW!

Saturday, June 18, 2011

PropThtr: Untangling at the Junction; Whatever gets you thro...

PropThtr: Untangling at the Junction; Whatever gets you thro...: "We participated in the NNPN 13th annual conference and delighted that another brave small midwestern company - from Iowa City! - will be inv..."

Untangling at the Junction; Whatever gets you through the night

We participated in the NNPN 13th annual conference and delighted that another brave small midwestern company - from Iowa City! - will be invited to join the fold while we are devastated that a leader of new play development, Florida Stages, has had to declare bankruptcy and cease operations.  We kind  of always thought we were the ones, in that body of theaters, who were most threatened.  This is another moment when the paradigm of sustainability is taking new shape and, perhaps, our flexible  smallness is an advantage.  Not that the economic downturn has not shaken us, it has.  In many ways.  The State of Illinois is not able to pay even the grants it has already approved for us. Many more of the young companies, with whom we work to mount their first productions, have had to shelve their plans (if not their dreams) for the moment while they find more solid funding.  We at Prop are prepared to adjust, to support and to shapeshift so as to remain a reliable presence for those who are interested, not only in new work, but in long-term relationships among artist producing new work: in 'continued life' as our valued NNPN has formulated it.  We have invented new co-production models, lowered some of our prices and dumped some of our costlier ventures.  Hunkering down and raising high the priority of high quality work.   Kara Hartzler, author of "Arizona: No Roosters In The Desert", was enchanted with our production of her play and, although it was the third of the rolling world premiers, she said it will influence the final version of her script.  That is how we roll!

At the End of June, Daaimah Mubashshir is bringing her "Untangling at the Junction" in which a women who promises her father to return to Islam is also committed to her life being queer and explores this antinomie - if it is one.   Daaimah - who we hope will find the response and courage to bring more performances to Prop - will feature guest artists:  On June 30th: Mary Bowers and Barrie Cole (I would like to note that an expecial delight is all the ways we lure Barrie Cole to perform at the Prop Thtr, she is a part of both this show and the July "Whatever Gets You Through the Night") on July 7th: Olivia Dawson. 

Tekki Lomnicki and her Tellin' Tales Theater are one of the building  blocks of Prop Thtr.  She is a regular with us, both for her own perfomances with guests and for her fabled and marveous 7 Stories Up, wherein she works partnering youth and artists and awakening amazing collaborative shows.   This show is a veritable feast of those who we love to have at Prop:  Tekki herself, as I already mentioned, Barrie Cole and also Edward-Thomas Herrera and Dave Awl.  A 'star studded cast' at Prop !

Look out, in September, for work by Paul Peditto, an author with whom Prop - and particularly Scott Vehill - have shared nearly a quarter century of producing shows, also look out, in October, for Bertolt Brecht, who Stefan Brün seeks to unearth at his earliest, the show "Drums In the Night", which was the first production to draw wider notice and in which Brecht's work as playwright and busker and poet are all mixed still in the shock of Post World War 1 Germany.  In the Fall we will be bringing a running Tom Pallazollo film, graphic and painting retrospective - the only time all his different disciplines of work have been gathered together.  We are putting together Swing and electro-swing dancing events, and of course more "church of the new play" Sunday play-readings. 

Always something more at the Prop Thtr.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Joseph Riley

foray into what a blog could be?

celebrating significant years of Joseph Riley, designer at the Prop Thtr!

above right, the model months before, what the above left link leads to -

Developing one of two 'duets' in our theater, this "No Roosters In The Desert",
from which these images are,
along with designing "Easy Six" for the Factory Theatre on our other stage.  

Joseph has over the last years done this before, he has thrice thrust a second story upon the back theater, and thrust many more story's onto the stage together, beginning I think,  together with Shannon Evans,  on "Lovesauce" by RJ Tsarov, an amazing whirling claustrophobic space, I thought, then I remember the large painted strong choices on cardboard with frills and magic he would build for the kids of the summer camp, easily movable and flowing. He built a 2 story amazing house with roof and windows and porch and life busting out of every pore, for "1512 W. Studebaker" with Liz Ladach Bark, a house in foreclosure I will never forget.  Then, just recently, built a forest with stump holes and secrets and mossy trees and hillside and a cottage to boot, a fairy tale world.

With me, Joseph has helped on everything I have worked on in one way or another over the last couple of years, decisively and hugely in "The Darkest Pit" by Kristiana Colón for which a tight classroom spanned out over the audience with its fear.

In every iteration of our long series of projects with Jenny Magnus, from stages to museums, festivals and onhe has stood by.  For Scott Vehill's "The Informer" and for The Buzz that is Beau O'Reilly, at Trap Door and over at The Artistic Home and then, recently and hugely, for me, "Debris of The Prophet" by Paul Carr, where he helped us realize our generations fond nightmare, to have the world turn into a cartoon, building two versions of the same set

- no Joseph does not shrink from long hours, from complication, from theatrical impatience; Joseph churns that back as productive conceptual meetings full of bursts and chuckles, patient stubborn questions about what are the intentions, a wildly optimistic but very exact eye for what is proportionately possible, then the immense decency to actually carry that through to the ambitious compromise which every opening night is.  I have watched Joseph with friends, I have watched Joseph love, I have, above all, watched Joseph work.  He has very often been, over the last years, the nicest thing happening at Prop Thtr and I shall greatly miss his intense presence while I shall also be beckoning with him, future new links and cooperations - perhaps in other ways.  Prop Thtr particularly salutes  Joseph Riley.
(added April 23rd:  the set painted:

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Arizona: No Roosters In the Desert

The highlight of our 30th season, by Kara Hartzler (based upon interviews compiled by Anna Ochoa O'Leary):

In this riveting new American play, four women trek the desert toward the American dream. On their way they push the limits of their physical and emotional endurance, and they establish profound yet fragile connections with each other through the magical storytelling of the youngest of them, an indigenous woman from Chiapas.

we were part of pushing through this controversial first time, the National New Play Network lent its support to a play that, itself, has crossed borders!  A rolling world premier from El Circulo Teatro in Mexico City through Borderlands Theater in Tuscon, Arizona to Chicago - here produced locally with a stellar cast directed by Tanya Saracho (whose wonderful new play, "El Nogalar" is featured at the Goodman's Owen Theater in a Teatro Vista production)- where it will open April 28th (with special previews April 23rd - April 25th at 8pm!) and run through Cinco de Mayo till May 29th!

 A small excerpt from dramaturg Jessica Kadish's work:


Cross-referencing a bunch of sources, it's clear that the desert journey takes about 3-4 days through the path that we're looking at. This path seems to be a pretty historically specific one - developed by the Southwest Border Strategy implemented in the early-mid '90s. According to O'Leary's research (which inspired Hartzler's writing), it started in 1993 with Operation Hold The Line (Texas), and continued with Operation Gatekeeper (California in 1994) and Operation Safeguard (Arizona in 1995). This plan has caused major crackdowns on all major border-crossing centers, which is what forces people into the more remote desert areas to make the crossing.

-happened last in the sequence because with the success on crackdowns in El Paso and San Diego, migration traffic shifted to Nogales/Tucson. Operation Safeguard was implemented to address that traffic shift.
-new fence built near Nogales
-more border agents assigned to the Tucson region
-government report released 1995 calls it "Biggest Increase Ever" in sending agents to the AZ border (

It's more dangerous now to cross the border than it used to be - about 200 bodies are found each year ( regardless of policy shifts. And even though the number of successful crossings is down, this 200-figure is staying the same - which means that a higher percentage of people aren't surviving the journey. Different numbers of deaths come from different sources, though. La Jornada de Michoacán writes that 2 people die every day...which would mean over 700 deaths per year...perhaps this number includes more than just bodies that are found in the desert. (


In June Prop Thtr will host two very special events which highlight our special devotion to expanding the offer of performance beyond our new play specialty:  The first weekend of June,

The Carnival Of Curiosity & Chaos 

produced by Prop Thtr favorite: Artist Tom Hill

"A Tantalizing Spectacle Featuring Acts By: Tom Hill, Jeffrey Pressley, Ammu Nition, Jen Dollface, & Danielle Forrest. They Are Prodigies of Physical Phenomena and Great Presentation of Marvelous Living Human Curiosities.

This 2 Hour Freak Show Demonstrates Acts of: Underwater Escape, Block Head, Trapeze, Burlesque, Fetish Play, Bed of Nails, Sword Play, Poi, Piercings & Brandings, Glass Walking, Belly Dancing, Aerial Chain, Suspended Straightjacket Escape, The Iron Stomach, Sword Swallowing, Hot Coal Walking, Contortionism, Handcuff & Chain Escapes, Adagio, Human Pin Cushion, Tattooed Men & Women, Snake Charmer, and Much More…

The Freaks Display Their Acts For Peoples’ Unquenchable Curiosity For The Outlandish And The Unknown.

The second weekend of June, we are privileged to welcome our mates of yesteryear's Chicago "Practical Theatre"  Victoria Zielinski and Paul Barrosse with their hit L.A. Cabaret show, "The Vic and Paul Show" :

After a 22-year absence from the Chicago stage, Paul Barrosse and Victoria Zielinski, veterans of The Practical Theatre Company, are bringing “The Vic & Paul Show”, their original two-person comedy revue, to The Prop Theatre from June 9-12.

After raising three kids “from diapers to diplomas,” Vic & Paul are back to doing what they were doing before they got married: performing sophisticated comedy sketches and musical numbers in an intimate theatrical setting.

“The Vic & Paul Show” is “An Evening of Comedy, Music, Marriage & Martinis.” It’s somewhere between Nick & Nora and Nichols & May (if those famous couples were over-50 parents with grown-up kids).

Vic & Paul will be joined at The Prop by their musical director, Chicago area Emmy-winner Steve Rashid. Chicago native Shelly Goldstein directed the show.

There will be one preview performance on Thursday, June 9th at 8:00 pm. (Tickets $10.)

Shows are Friday June 10th at 8:00 pm ($20), Saturday June 11th at 8:00 pm ($20), Sunday, June 12th at 2:00 pm ($15) and at 7:00 pm ($20).

For Reservations go to:


Join young bands doing good and playing well and artists raffling original art this Sunday APRIL !0th in a benfit for Japan:

And, LollaPallazollo! in July, the largest gathering ever of Chicago's Tom Pallazollo's films in one place.  More about that, about Brecht's "Drums In the Night", about Burrough's  "The Last Words Of Dutch Schultz" and lots, yeah lots, more.

Please Visit Prop Thtr this 30th Season and be part of the shows, always live, always really here, always a fresh breath of non-digital entertainment!

Friday, February 18, 2011

mid-February already! 30th Season too.

  Our 30th Anniversary Party and Valentines Day Benefit, just the other day, was a great event!  We started with a great reception featuring young  Tony Milano on the piano:  Among the dishes were CJ’s authentic Lebanese hummus,  Kristen Vehill’s savory spinach balls, Kat O Connor’s home-baked bread,  Jeanne Carr’s fennel pasta salad, and Diane Hamm’s shrimp cocktail  medley and artisan dark chocolate truffles.   

Although you may have been unable to participate in that, your presence as a contributor to our old Prop Thtr, would put a much needed further feather upon the affair.  Beginning, three decades ago in a time marked also by recession, Prop Thtr was slow to ask grantors or the government to support us.  We felt, first, we must be sure of our own ability to make the art we care about really worth our while.  Although, since that day, we have written and received many grants indeed, been supported in numerous fashion – one year even,  we were a separate line item in the Illinois State Budget, our project of bringing new play theaters from around the country deemed so important  - our philosophy remains the same, if more matured, as at the outset:  We do not look to others to make our work worthwhile to us and we do not feel entitled to have others bear the majority of burden for supporting us.  

The opening  set flooded the theater with the sounds of innovative jazz riffs by Joannie Pallato and Bradley Parker Sparrow, of Southport Studios fame.   Colorful steampunk costumes adorned the ladies from the Sewing for Stage Dancers to open the Cabaret portion of the evening.   Then a captivating story by Chicago legend,  Beau O Reilly was followed by the charming silliness of lip-syncing Andy Soma with his signature thrift give-aways; Arin Mulvaney and Mark Dodge (The Shakespeare All-stars) brought some serious fun with a delightful Shakespeare  puppet show and Prop’s most recent Rhino Fest intern, Maria Jacobson, took a chance to shine with song on stage. To close the show, circus aerial and stunt man Tom Hill walked barefoot across broken glass to climb astonishingly into our rafters to retrieve his valentine heart.  A memorable postscript was touchingly performed by emcee and co-artistic director, Scott Vehill -- a surprise serenade to wife Kristen  (and our audience)! 

Prop does not ask everyone for support and Prop does not ask often.  The occasion and our current economy do make us ask you now, please give, please give now and please give what you can, large or small.   Of the current economy and the slapdash, reckless divesting from long term commitments to our culture, enough has been said elsewhere, you surely know. 
NOW: Please come see Beau O'Reilly's new play The Buzz That Is The Buzz opening March 11th that the Curious Theater Branch is running at the Prop Thtr through April 10th, Fridays and Saturdays at 7pm and Sundays at 3pm.  Thereafter please come see Kara Hartzlers Arizona:  No Roosters in the Desert, which Tanya Saracho will direct for Prop Thtr, opening April 28th and running through May.  In June we will have some special treats:  Artist Tom Hill will present A Carnival of Curiosity and Chaos the first week of June, Victoria Zielinski and Paul Barosse (of Chicago's erstwhile Practical Theater) will present The Vic and Paul Show, the second week following which Stefan Brün will direct a Prop Thtr production of Bertolt Brecht's first performed play, Drums In The Night,  Jennifer Markowitz, who directed Prop Thtr’s Jeff  Cited Never Come Morning by Nelson Algren adapted by Paul Peditto, in the 1990’s will return this season from England with an on-site production of two Franz Xaver Kroetz one-acts and Scott Vehill will remount his successful production of The Last Words of Dutch Schultz by William Burroughs - and then next January The 23rd Rhinoceros Theater Festival  - please also visit shows by our friends and residents, Factory Theatre Company, Brain Surgeon Theater, The Silent Theater and Curious Theatre Branch!

Monday, January 17, 2011


So Rhinofest, the 22nd is upon us.  Much truly groundbreaking credible, yet incredible, work as well as wonderful invocations of Gertrude Stein, Samuel Beckett and Ernest Hemingway.  See where the future of performance is now.  Many people ask, avoiding more interesting questions, why the festival was named after the tough skinned animal of the logo.  Actually it was not.  Rhinocerific is a word for something large and, perhaps, ungainly.  The Fest is slightly less ungainly this year and last, as it has found a home at the Prop Thtr where much can go on without having to travel between campuses, without confusion and that queasy on-tour feeling for performers.  There are shows every day Thursday - Monday.  The total is dizzying but each show is truly worth a visit.  Our favourite athletic event:  The Test Fest Pass:  Follow all the shows including Matt Test, he lends his formidable talent to much this fest, more the better.

 On a musical note, come see South Sol, featuring Capoiera, on Saturday the 22nd late-night and visit our sibling, The Viaduct Theater, for "Prine:  A Tribute Concert" a wonderful evening made of the songs of John Prine.  In March look out for a new play by Beau O'Reilly and at the end of April we open "Arizona:  No Roosters In The Desert" by Kara Hartzler, a rolling world premier in cooperation with the National New Play Network  - directed here in Chicago by Tanya Saracho.  Look for new productions also from our dearest residents, The Factory Theater: "Easy Six", which leads us to say, " That ol' Factory Theater smells good.