Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Say Hello to 2013!

It's January 2. I took a whole day off! That's a reflection of my new 2013 unhurried, unscheduled blogging technique.

But, of course, there are things to do and see, even in January, which is traditionally a slow month for theaters and hotels, if not for restaurants or shopping malls.

So what's to do in January, now that your holiday sugar rush is wearing off, It's a Wonderful Life is put away and everybody's Nutcrackers have danced over the fiscal cliff?

Champaign's Art Theater is showing a film called The Other Dream Team, about the intersection of basketball, politics and pop culture (including the Grateful Dead) in 1992, when the Lithuanian national basketball team made their first-ever appearance in Olympic competition. Yes, that's the same year the real Dream Team, with Larry Bird, Magic Johnson and Michael Jordan on board, was formed. They cruised to a gold medal. But the Lithuania team was there, recording triumph of its own and making a stand for freedom from Soviet oppression. The Other Dream Team tells that story, and the Art is showing it tonight and tomorrow.

Hyde Park on Hudson, a portrait of FDR and one of his lady loves during a weekend in the country when the King of England came to visit, follows The Other Dream Team at The Art. The other president (Lincoln) in this year's film crop is expected to steal all the Oscar glory, but you never know. Bill Murray's Franklin Roosevelt may just sneak in there for a nomination of his own.

Illinois State University doesn't open its first production of the winter till February, but in the meantime, they're taking last semester's Mother Courage and her Children to the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival regional event in Saginaw, Michigan, from January 8 to 12. Break a leg, MoCo & Co!

The American-history-as-outrageous-rock musical Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson hits the black box running at Urbana's Station Theatre on January 17. Mikel L. Matthews, Jr. directs this provocative cowboys-and-Indians show that features music and lyrics by Michael Friedman and a book by Alex Timbers. It's all about America's 7th president, imagined as a sulky, sexy rock star (usually portrayed in leather pants) who works to put himself in power and annihilate Native Americans as a form of populism by way of greed and ignorance. Matthews' take on Andrew Jackson plays from January 17 to February 2, with all shows at 8 pm.

Booker T. Jones, the same Booker T. of Booker T. and the MGs, is coming to the Bloomington Center for the Performing Arts on January 19. Booker T. was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and given a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. He's made the charts as a solo artist as well as a producer, and he still plays with the MGs and his own Booker T. Jones Band, winning a Grammy for his 2011 album "The Road to Memphis."

The Russian National Ballet Theatre brings Don Quixote, Chopiniana, Romeo and Juliet and Swan Lake to the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts in Urbana on January 22 (Quixote), 23 (Chopin and R & J), and 24 (Swan Lake). Elena Radchenko and her company will perform in Krannert's Tryon Festival Theatre at 7 pm each night. You are invited to "Get swept away by Cervantes’ imperfect hero, Siegfried’s misplaced affections, the neighborly struggles of the Montagues and Capulets, or the simple poetry of Chopin-inspired dance with the Russian ballet tradition."

The Pavilion, by Craig Wright, plays at Eureka College from January 24 to 26, in a production directed by Eureka student Erin Cochran. The Pavilion involves Peter and Kari, once sweethearts, as they see each other again at a 20th high school reunion. She's married to someone else now, she has resentments about how they parted in the past, and nothing is the same as it was. "Wright's perceptive, gently witty writing...makes this familiar situation fresh and thoroughly involving," said the Philadelphia Inquirer. You can call the box office at 309-467-6363 or email for more information.

Community Players opens Lend Me a Tenor, the Ken Ludwig farce about too many tenors on the loose at the Cleveland Opera, on January 25, with performances continuing through February 3. Players' Tenor stars Tom Smith and Brian Artman as the two tenors in the piece, with Joe Strupek, Hannah Kerns, Opal Virtue, Thom Rakestraw, Wendi Fleming and Reena Artman adding to the general hilarity. For ticket information, click here.

And don't forget that Heartland Theatre will accept entries in their Package, Parcel & Present 10-Minute play contest through February 1. Get your entry in now if you want to have a chance at seeing your words on stage next summer. But remember: It needs to be ten minutes long, and it needs to have a package or parcel of some sort involved in the play. We're talking an actual, physical box, bundle, carton, container, crate... Not a metaphorical one. But a real, live package, parcel or present. The kind of thing that was arriving at your door for Christmas a few weeks ago. If you've got a play about one of those in your back pocket, take it out and send it in. Details here.

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