Monday, July 1, 2013

Keeping It Cool in July

July gets going early on the theatrical front, with the Illinois Shakespeare Festival offering a special one-woman show featuring Lori Adams as 19th Century Shakespearean actress Fanny Kemble tonight only.

Shame the Devil! An Audience with Fanny Kemble by Anne Ludlam takes the stage at Ewing Manor tonight at 7:30 pm, bringing you up close and personal with Fanny Kemble, an extraordinary woman who combined passions for acting and abolition with a tempestuous personal life.

The Normal Theater brings us a very interesting choice, a 2012 documentary called The Rep, from July 4 to 7. The film goes behind the scenes at movie theaters much like the Normal, where committed film lovers work to keep their art house cinemas alive, with the idea of bringing to life the world of repertory cinema "as a vibrant and culturally significant medium that needs to be preserved." I don't know about you, but I love that poster all by itself.

Illinois Shakespeare Festival mainstage shows The Comedy of Errors and Macbeth open in previews July 5 and 6, with the third show on this summer's schedule, Failure: A Love Story by Chicago playwright Philip Dawkins, previewing July 11. All three shows will officially open the following week, with Comedy bowing on the 12th, Macbeth wending its wicked way to the stage on the 13th and Failure showing up on the 14th. Options for special preshows, improv, Theatre for Young Audiences and backstage tours abound, so you're forewarned to check the complete calendar and the Festival homepage to make sure you get to see everything you're interested in. Tickets are available through the Illinois State University box office at 309-438-2535 and at Ticketmaster.

Heartland Theatre brings it New Plays from the Heartland project to the stage between July 11 and 14, with staged readings of Hear Me Now by Minnesota's Tim J. Brennan, Tangled Mess by Missouri's Stephen Peirick and Paper Cut to the Heart by Bloomington-Normal's own Terri Ryburn on Friday and Saturday, July 12 and 13, at 7:30 pm, and Sunday, July 14, at 2 pm. Mary Ruth Clarke, resident playwright at Chicago Dramatists Guild, will conduct a workshop with the winning playwrights earlier in the day and offer remarks to the public in an open forum at Heartland Theatre on July 11 at 7:30 pm. There is no charge for the latter event. For all the New Plays from the Heartland details, click here.

Elton John and Tim Rice's pop-rock musical Aida, as opposed to the opera by Verdi, opens at Community Players on July 12, with performances continuing through the 28th. The story is much the same, with Nubian princess Aida captured and held as a slave in Egypt, where she falls in love with military man Radames, although their love is threatened by Egyptian princess Amneris, who also fancies the captain. The Linda Woolverton/Robert Falls/David Henry Hwang book adds a fantasy endless-love framing device, but the basic story of doomed love is still there at the center. Alan Wilson directs Aida for Community Players, with a cast that includes Jennifer Rusk as Aida, Austin Travis as Radames, and Jennifer Stevens as Amneris. To see the complete cast as well as ticket information, click here.

July 12 is a popular date, with New Route Theatre choosing that night, as well, to present readings of original works by area writers. New Route's Tapestries III: Word Weavers, directed by Irene Taylor, will take place at Blair House in Normal, and include an open mic for audience members who'd like to share their own poetry or prose.

On July 15, Oprah Winfrey's OWN Network will begin airing the first 40 half-hour episodes of All My Children and One Life to Live produced for The Online Network. Many daytime favorites, like Erika Slezak, Robin Strasser, Kassie DePaiva, Tuc Watkins and Robert S. Woods of One Life and Debbi Morgan, Darnell Williams, Vincent Irizarry, Thorsten Kaye and Julia Barr on All My Kids, are appearing on these soap reboots, although several key players, like Susan Lucci, Erica Kane herself, and Michael E. Knight, who played Tad the Cad, are MIA. Still, I've been enjoying seeing old faves like Todd and Blair, and some of the newbies are quite good, including Eric Nelsen and Denyse Tontz as troubled teens AJ Chandler and Miranda Montgomery on AMC and Robert Gorrie and Corbin Bleu as a SORAS'd* Matthew Buchanan and his new pal Jeffrey on OLTL. Kelly Missal, who played Dani Manning on the old show as well as the new one, seems much improved these days, as well.

One of the best movies of the 60s -- one of the best movies ever -- Stanley Kubrick's Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb comes to Champaign's Art Theatre Co-op July 5, 6 and 11 at 10 pm, and July 7 at 11:30 am. Kubrick directed and co-wrote this dark, snarky comedy about a renegade general named Jack D. Ripper, beautifully played by Sterling Hayden, who goes bonkers (he's paranoid about losing "precious bodily fluids") and engineers a nuclear attack on the Soviets. In the wake of Ripper's solo declaration of war, President Merkin Muffley (Peter Sellars, in one of three roles, including Dr. Strangelove himself) scrambles to stop all-out nuclear war as General Buck Turgidson (George C. Scott) argues that nuking the Sovs may not be such a bad idea. Former Nazi scientist Dr. Strangelove, who has a mechanical arm and a wheelchair, is brought in to offer options, while Major "King" Kong (Slim Pickens) and Lieutenant Lothar Zogg (James Earl Jones) man the B-52 bomber speeding towards Soviet targets. Remember -- there's no fighting in the War Room!

The second Secret Garden of the summer begins July 26 at Miller Park, when the Missoula Childrens' Theatre brings the 1991 Broadway musical to Miller Park for the first of four performances. Lucy Simon wrote the music and playwright Marsha Norman did the book and lyrics for this stage adaptation of the classic childrens' novel about an orphan girl sent from India to the English countryside to live with her uncle. Click here for all the details on Miller Park Summer Theatre.

*SORAS refers to Soap Opera Rapid Aging Symdrome, a common technique used on daytime dramas to turn toddlers into hunky teens and 20-somethings overnight to make them more useful in ongoing plotlines.

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