Friday, December 11, 2015

Ho Ho Ho! Sticky Comes Back to the Bar Next Week

It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Sticky...
Sticky in the Sticks is promising "a lot of Christmas Spirit" in this month's installment of pop-up theatre at the Firehouse Pub and Pizza in Uptown Normal, scheduled for Friday the 18th.

Cue the Irish coffee, the gingerbread martini, the candy cane cocktail, the rum-loaded eggnog. It's time for "Bottoms up, Lights Down," as we celebrate Sticky, the December Edition.

The Sticky troupe works with material set at a bar, transforming a real-life, actual pub into a theatre for the night. This month's collection of plays -- set to start about 8:30 pm next Friday in Normal, after musical guests War Painted Horses finishes -- is "bound to take you through laughs, maybe some tears, stomach aches, and memories, because," as Sticky always points out, "anything that can happen can happen in a bar." Especially over the holidays, when people have a tendency to partake of liquid spirits even more than usual.

This month's group of actors includes founders Connie Blick and J. Michael Grey as well as Bruce E. Clark, Susanna Doehler, Andrea Henderson, Kari Knolton, Anthony Loster, Will Lovell, Megan McCann, Devin McCloskey, Terry Noel, Spencer Powell, Jared Saunders, Brandon Smith and Anne Tobin. That's Connie you see in the photo at the top of this post. She's the one with her arms open wide to welcome December fun.

Please note that you don't have to be 21 to attend, but mature audiences are recommended due to language and themes. Doors open at 7:30 and you are well advised to be there early to get a good seat.

For more information, click here for the Sticky Facebook page.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Awards Season Begins with SAG and Golden Globes Nominations

The Golden Globe Awards have always been a bit of a lightweight when compared to other movie awards like the Oscars, given that the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, the organization that gives them, is quite small (about 90 members) and rather obscure. Their track record isn't great -- Pia Zadora was their "New Star of the Year" in 1982 for a terrible movie called Butterfly, amidst allegations that her fabulously wealthy husband bought the award for her, and as recently as 2011, a movie called The Tourist nabbed a nomination as the Best Motion Picture (Musical Comedy), with, again, rumors that HFPA members had been bought off with a lavish weekend of entertainment. If you don't remember The Tourist, don't worry -- it was panned by critics and pretty much bombed at the box office in the United States.


The Globes had one big saving grace, however. They brought together nominees from film and television, which didn't happen anywhere else. That advantage was lost when the Screen Actors Guild (SAG-AFTRA has a combined membership over 165,000) entered the awards game, also spotlighting performances in both movies and TV. Since these honors were coming from their peers in SAG, actors tended to pay more attention to who was getting what.

Even if nobody takes the Globes very seriously, they are still a good time, with free-flowing liquor, famous people sitting at tables instead of stuck in an auditorium, and a lot of actors showing up to present and get their awards. The emphasis on funny, irreverent hosts like Tina Fey and Amy Poehler in 2014 and Ricky Gervais last year, doesn't hurt. Gervais will be back in 2016, where he will almost certainly bring out his best pokes, jabs and lampoons. The man is merciless as well as funny.

As for the Screen Actors Guild and their awards... No funny host, no major network, but they'll be there January 30, 2016 on TBS and TNT, and their winners are much more likely to give you a hint of who'll win the Oscars.

SAG announced their nominations first, so let's take a look at who and what is singled out. (I couldn't find the list on SAG's own site, so these are taken from reports in Variety and the Los Angeles Times.) You'll see a lot of similarities between this list and the Golden Globes' nominations, for however much that means. Some quick thoughts: Homeland, Downton Abbey and House of Cards have all seen better days, Fargo and The Leftovers deserve a lot more attention than they're getting, Key and Peele are both great, but they're hardly an ensemble, and it seems SAG is looking for old favorites, nominating some actors in both film and television based on previous performances instead of what happened on our screens this year.

OUTSTANDING PERFORMANCE BY A CAST IN A MOTION PICTURE
Beasts of No Nation
The Big Short
Spotlight
Straight Outta Compton
Trumbo

OUTSTANDING PERFORMANCE BY A MALE ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE
Bryan Cranston, Trumbo
Johnny Depp, Black Mass
Leonardo DiCaprio, The Revenant
Michael Fassbender, Steve Jobs
Eddie Redmayne, The Danish Girl

OUTSTANDING PERFORMANCE BY A FEMALE ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE
Cate Blanchett, Carol
Brie Larson, Room
Helen Mirren, Woman in Gold
Saoirse Ronan, Brooklyn 
Sarah Silverman, I Smile Back

OUTSTANDING PERFORMANCE BY A MALE ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE
Christian Bale, The Big Short
Idris Elba, Beasts of No Nation
Mark Rylance, Bridge of Spies
Michael Shannon, 99 Homes
Jacob Tremblay, Room 

OUTSTANDING PERFORMANCE BY A FEMALE ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE
Rooney Mara, Carol
Rachel McAdams, Spotlight
Helen Mirren, Trumbo
Alicia Vikander, The Danish Girl
Kate Winslet, Steve Jobs

OUTSTANDING PERFORMANCE BY AN ENSEMBLE IN A DRAMA SERIES
Downton Abbey
Game of Thrones
Homeland
House of Cards
Mad Men

OUTSTANDING PERFORMANCE BY AN ENSEMBLE IN A COMEDY SERIES
The Big Bang Theory
Key & Peele
Modern Family
Orange Is the New Black
Transparent
Veep

OUTSTANDING PERFORMANCE BY A MALE ACTOR IN A DRAMA SERIES
Peter Dinklage, Game of Thrones
Jon Hamm, Mad Men
Rami Malek, Mr. Robot
Bob Odenkirk, Better Call Saul
Kevin Spacey, House of Cards

OUTSTANDING PERFORMANCE BY A FEMALE ACTOR IN A DRAMA SERIES
Claire Danes, Homeland
Viola Davis, How to Get Away with Murder
Julianna Margulies, The Good Wife
Maggie Smith, Downton Abbey
Robin Wright, House of Cards

OUTSTANDING PERFORMANCE BY A MALE ACTOR IN A COMEDY SERIES
Ty Burrell, Modern Family
Louis C. K., Louie
William H. Macy, Shamless
Jim Parsons, The Big Bang Theory
Jeffrey Tambor, Transparent

OUTSTANDING PERFORMANCE BY A FEMALE ACTOR IN A COMEDY SERIES
Uzo Aduba, Orange Is the New Black
Edie Falco, Nurse Jackie
Ellie Kemper, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
Julia Louis-Dreyfys, Veep
Amy Poehler, Parks and Recreation

OUTSTANDING PERFORMANCE BY A MALE ACTOR IN A TELEVISION MOVIE OR MINISERIES
Idris Elba, Luther
Ben Kingsley, Tut
Ray Liotta, Texas Rising
Bill Murray, A Very Murray Christmas
Mark Rylance, Wolf Hall

OUTSTANDING PERFORMANCE BY A FEMALE ACTOR IN A TELEVISION MOVIE OR MINISERIES
Nicole Kidman, Grace of Monaco
Queen Latifah, Bessie
Christina Ricci, The Lizzie Borden Chronicles
Susan Sarandon, The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe
Kristen Wiig, The Spoils Before Dying

OUTSTANDING PERFORMANCE BY A STUNT ENSEMBLE IN A MOTION PICTURE
Everest
Furious 7
Jurassic World
Mad Max: Fury Road
Mission: Impossible -- Rogue Nation

OUTSTANDING PERFORMANCE BY A STUNT ENSEMBLE IN A COMEDY OR DRAMA SERIES
The Blacklist
Game of Thrones
Homeland
Marvel's Daredevil
The Walking Dead

SAG LIFE ACHIEVEMENT AWARD
Carol Burnett

And now for the Golden Globe nominations. Let's take a moment to say thank you to the Hollywood Foreign Press for honoring Rachel Bloom from Crazy Ex-Girlfriend with a nomination in the world of TV.  Note that several people have double nominations for Golden Globes -- Idris Elba, Mark Rylance, Lily Tomlin and Alicia Vikander -- while Elba and Rylance join Helen Mirren with two nominations from SAG.

On the head-scratcher side, I have nothing against the soapy mess that is Empire or the soapy romance epic that is Outlander, but you've nominated them instead of Mad Men? You've got The Martian in the comedy category? Christian Bale is a supporting actor in The Big Short for SAG but a lead for you? And, like the Screen Actors Guild, you've overlooked HBO's absolutely fantastic The Leftovers and its amazing cast? But you had room for American Horror Story: Hotel and Lady Gaga, even though the two are absolutely lame together? What is wrong with you, you 90 special snowflakes in the Hollywood Foreign Press Association?

BEST MOTION PICTURE – DRAMA
Carol
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Revenant
Room
Spotlight

BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTRESS IN A MOTION PICTURE – DRAMA
Cate Blanchett, Carol
Brie Larson, Room
Rooney Mara, Carol
Saoirse Ronan, Brooklyn
Alicia Vikander, The Danish Girl

BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTOR IN A MOTION PICTURE – DRAMA
Bryan Cranston, Trumbo
Leonardo DiCaprio, The Revenant
Michael Fassbender, Steve Jobs
Eddie Redmayne, The Danish Girl
Will Smith, Concussion

BEST MOTION PICTURE – MUSICAL OR COMEDY
The Big Short
Joy
The Martian
Spy
Trainwreck

BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTRESS IN A MOTION PICTURE – MUSICAL OR COMEDY
Jennifer Lawrence, Joy
Melissa McCarthy, Spy
Amy Schumer, Trainwreck
Maggie Smith, The Lady in the Van
Lily Tomlin, Grandma

BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTOR IN A MOTION PICTURE – MUSICAL OR COMEDY
Christian Bale, The Big Short
Steve Carell, The Big Short
Matt Damon, The Martian
Al Pacino, Danny Collins
Mark Ruffalo, Infinitely Polar Bear

BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE IN A MOTION PICTURE
Jane Fonda, Youth
Jennifer Jason Leigh, The Hateful Eight
Helen Mirren, Trumbo
Alicia Vikander, Ex Machina
Kate Winslet, Steve Jobs

BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE IN A MOTION PICTURE
Paul Dano, Love & Mercy
Idris Elba, Beasts of No Nation
Mark Rylance, Bridge of Spies
Michael Shannon, 99 Homes
Sylvester Stallone, Creed

BEST DIRECTOR – MOTION PICTURE
Todd Haynes, Carol
Alejandro G. Inarritu,The Revenant
Tom McCarthy, Spotlight
George Miller, Mad Max: Fury Road
Ridley Scott, The Martian

BEST MOTION PICTURE – ANIMATED
Anomalisa
The Good Dinosaur
Inside Out
The Peanuts Movie
Shaun the Sheep Movie

BEST MOTION PICTURE – FOREIGN LANGUAGE
The Brand New Testament (Belgium/France/Luxembourg)
The Club (Chile)
The Fencer (Finland/Germany/Estonia)
Mustang (France)
Son of Saul (Hungary)

BEST TELEVISION SERIES – DRAMA
Empire
Game of Thrones
Mr. Robot
Narcos
Outlander

BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTRESS IN A TELEVISION SERIES – DRAMA
Catriona Bale, Outlander
Viola Davis, How to Get Away with Murder
Eva Green, Penny Dreadful
Taraji P. Henson, Empire
Robin Wright, House of Cards

BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTOR IN A TELEVISION SERIES – DRAMA
Jon Hamm, Mad Men
Rami Malek, Mr. Robot
Wagner Moura, Narcos
Bob Odenkirk, Better Call Saul
Liev Schreiber, Ray Donovan

BEST TELEVISION SERIES – MUSICAL OR COMEDY
Casual 
Mozart in the Jungle
Orange Is the New Black
Silicon Valley
Transparent
Veep

BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTRESS IN A TELEVISION SERIES – MUSICAL OR COMEDY
Rachel Bloom, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend
Jamie Lee Curtis, Scream Queens
Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Veep
Gina Rodriguez, Jane the Virgin
Lily Tomlin, Grace and Frankie

BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTOR IN A TELEVISION SERIES – MUSICAL OR COMEDY
Aziz Ansari, Master of None
Gael Garcia Bernal, Mozart in the Jungle
Rob Lowe, The Grinder
Patrick Stewart, Blunt Talk
Jeffrey Tambor, Transparent

BEST TELEVISION LIMITED SERIES OR MOTION PICTURE MADE FOR TELEVISION
American Crime
American Horror Story: Hotel
Fargo
Flesh & Bone
Wolf Hall

BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTRESS IN A LIMITED SERIES OR MOTION PICTURE MADE FOR TELEVISION
Kirsten Dunst, Fargo
Lady Gaga, American Horror Story: Hotel
Sarah Hay, Flesh & Bone
Felicity Huffman, American Crime
Queen Latifah, Bessie

BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTOR IN A LIMITED SERIES OR MOTION PICTURE MADE FOR TELEVISION
Idris Elba, Luther
Oscar Isaac, Show Me a Hero
David Oyelowo, Nightingale
Mark Rylance, Wolf Hall
Patrick Wilson, Fargo

BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE IN A SERIES, LIMITED SERIES OR MOTION PICTURE MADE FOR TELEVISION
Uzo Aduba, Orange Is the New Black
Joanne Froggatt, Downton Abbey
Regina King, American Crime
Judith Light, Transparent
Maura Tierney, The Affair

BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE IN A SERIES, LIMITED SERIES OR MOTION PICTURE MADE FOR TELEVISION
Alan Cumming, The Good Wife
Damian Lewis, Wolf Hall
Ben Mendelsohn, Bloodline
Tobias Menzies, Outlander
Christian Slater, Mr. Robot

Friday, December 4, 2015

Discovering an Undiscovered Classic: New, Funny, Political Ibsen at Heartland


It's not surprising that Henrik Ibsen would center a play on a critique of politics and politicians. He was a playwright very much in tune with his times, with his harsh look at immorality and religion in Ghosts and the government cover-up at the heart of An Enemy of the People. But... Funny?

Hedda Gabler, Ghosts, A Doll's House... Not exactly a barrel of laughs. There are lighter moments in Peer Gynt in some directors' hands, but even so, Ibsen's reputation as a playwright is not built upon comedy.

But A League of Youth, a play that came a year after Peer Gynt and ten years before A Doll's House, relies on cynical humor to tell its story. Ibsen's jabs at Norwegian politics made A League of Youth very popular in Norway, although it has only rarely been done outside that country. It did get a professional production in England that kept the Norwegian setting and added an Obamaesque poster (seen above) to underline the political nature of the action. That Nottingham theater also created an intriguing trailer for their League of Youth here.

Chicago playwright Nigel O'Hearn has taken a different tack with the material, calling it An Alliance of Brats, making the characters American and setting the play right now at an Iowa caucus during the presidential race. The spine of the play is still there, focused on an upstart who decides to launch a political campaign, pulling in young, disaffected voters to topple the corrupt fat cats. But that upstart is compromised by his own runaway ambition and lack of principles almost before he gets started. O'Hearn is banking on the fact that political naivete, demagogues and backroom deals never go out of style. Witness the current presidential campaigns...

Joey Banks, a third-year MFA acting candidate at Illinois State University, is working with O'Hearn and director Sandra Zielinski to give An Alliance of Brats a try-out of sorts, a staged reading at Heartland Theatre with a strong cast combining ISU actors and local favorites and some design elements to see how it works. There are discussions scheduled after each performance -- tonight's features the playwright himself along with McLean County Board representative Victoria Harris -- to look into the play's issues and this new adaptation more deeply.

Banks will play Ted Staynsgore (Stensgård in the original), the opportunist who kicks the alliance of brats into gear, with Todd Wineburner as Elias Bratsberg, a local aristocrat and money man; John Bowen as Monty Patronymic, a rich landowner; Bethany Hart as Audra Lundestad, the establishment politician; Kelsey Bunner and Gabrielle Munoz as Bratsberg's and Patronymic's daughters who become romantic interests for Staynsgore;  Mitch Fscher as Erik Bratsberg, shady son of the power broker; Colin Trevino-Odell as Alekson, a newspaper man; Jaimie Taylor and Tommy Kawalek as other members of the press; Andrew Piechota and Alejandro Raya as a manager and doctor who work for Bratsberg; Tim Wyman as a once-wealthy man and general troublemaker, and Riley Zobel as one of the young voters Staynsgore is reaching out to.

An Alliance of Brats has three performances left. Tonight and tomorrow the show begins at 7:30 pm, with a matinee on Sunday at 2 pm. For all the details on who's speaking after each performance, check Heartland Theatre's showtimes page. For this event, tickets are $5, payable at the door. To make a reservation, call 309-452-8709 or email boxoffice@heartlandtheatre.org

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like December

There's a lot to stuff in your stocking this month, with some interesting not-so-holidayish items, (like a very special trio of staged readings) to go along with the classic Nutcrackers (and more Nutcrackers) and Christmas concerts.


This week, Heartland Theatre is doing something a little different -- a staged reading of a completely new (updated and contemporized) version of an "undiscovered Ibsen classic" in collaboration with Illinois State University's School of Theatre and Dance. Although Ibsen's title was originally translated as A League of Youth, this new version by playwright Nigel O'Hearn is called An Alliance of Brats. It's political and timely, with a cast led by ISU MFA actor Joey Banks, directed by Sandra Zielinski, with talkbacks on political topics scheduled after every performance. You can see An Alliance of Brats for a $5 donation from December 4 to 6, with the playwright himself in house on Friday the 4th. Click here to check out the schedule and the lineup of guest speakers after the show.

Turner Classic Movies is offering way too many holiday movies for me to enumerate them. But you can peruse the list here, with a choice of Scrooges (Albert Finney and Reginald Owen) as well as the cream of the holiday film crop with Meet Me in St. Louis, Christmas in Connecticut and The Shop Around the Corner. The holiday parade at TCM starts on Thursday at 8 pm with It Happened on 5th Avenue, a slight but sweet romantic comedy about GIs solving the post-World War II housing crisis for themselves by moving into a posh but empty 5th Avenue mansion while its millionaire owner summers in warmer climes. TCM finishes up December with a whole lot of Marx Brothers and Thin Man movies on December 31.

Hayao Miyazaki’s much-beloved Spirited Away makes the lineup at Champaign's Art Theater Co-Op this month, with screenings from December 5 to 10. This beautiful piece of animated fantasy sends a young girl named Chihiro deep into an enchanted theme park, battling demons, witches and sorcery to save herself and her parents. Spirited Away ranks No. 30 among IMDB's list of the all-time best movies. To see showtimes and a trailer for this Oscar-winning film, click here.

Music for the Holidays at ISU December 5 and 6
Illinois State University’s annual Music for the Holidays concerts will take place at 3 and 7 pm on December 5, and 3 pm December 6, in the Center for the Performing Arts Concert Hall on the ISU quad. Music for the Holidays includes traditional holiday music performed by instrumental and vocal ensembles from ISU's School of Music at ISU, with orchestral pieces such as Russian Christmas Music and Hanukkah Festival Overture, choral arrangements of the Christmas Waltz, "Pat-a-Pan" and "Still, Still, Still," and an arrangement of "The Twelve Days of Christmas." Audience members are encouraged to join and sing along. Tickets are $15 for general admission, $12 for faculty/staff and $10 for students and seniors.

Illinois Wesleyan's annual Christmas Choral Concert takes place December 6 at Holy Trinity Church. This special holiday concert will feature IWU’s Collegiate Choir, University Choir and Chamber Singers, conducted by Professor of Music J. Scott Ferguson. The Lincoln-Way East High Schol Chorale, conducted by Matthew Granger, will also perform. For more information, click here.

The Normal Theater is branching into live theater with a special staged reading of Lillian Hellman's gripping family drama, The Little Foxes, directed by Patrick O'Gara, on Tuesday, December 8, at 7 pm. The role of Regina Gibbons, the scheming matriarch of a poisonous family, has been played by Tallulah Bankhead, Bette Davis, Anne Bancroft and Elizabeth Taylor, but O'Gara has put together an all-star cast of his own, including local powerhouses Lori Adams, Dean Brown, Gregory Hicks, Kyle Fitzgerald, Don Shandrow, Claron Sharrieff and Todd Wineburner, along with all three members of the de Veer acting family. Yes, this Little Foxes includes Connie, Gwen and Mark de Veer on stage at the same time. I would say it's not to be missed, but that should be apparent from the cast without any input from me. The Normal Theater will follow that up with a screening of the 1941 movie version of The Little Foxes, starring Bette Davis, with a screenplay penned by Lillian Hellman herself. (Note that the image accompanying this paragraph is from the 1997 Broadway revival with Stockard Channing.)

New Route Theatre's According to John on December 11
New Route Theatre is up and running in December with According to John, a new piece based on the Gospel of John in the New Testament, written and performed by Ron Roman, another of Illinois State University's third-year MFA actors. This solo performance, a staged reading, takes place at the First Christian Church of Bloomington on December 11 at 7 pm. Tickets are available at the door on the night of the performance. There is no set ticket price, but donations are encouraged. Email new.route.theatre@gmail.com for more information.


This month they're busy rehearsing The Crucible, their January show, at Community Players, but in the meantime, Players is also offering a "Holiday Movie Night" double feature with The Muppet Christmas Carol, where Michael Caine plays Scrooge alongside Kermit as Bob Cratchit (with songs!) and Christmas Vacation, with Chevy Chase tied up in lights as the crazy Griswolf family gathers for the holidays. Players' "Holiday Movie Night" is set for December 12; doors open at 4:30, with the Muppets starting at 5 and Chevy Chase & Co. taking over at 7. And it's free!

Singer Sal Viviano comes to the Bloomington Center for the Performing Arts on December 12 with his tribute to Frank Sinatra called Perfectly Frank: Celebrating a Century of Sinatra. December 12 happens to be Mr. Sinatra's birthday -- his 100th, as a matter of fact -- so you are promised cake if you attend this concert, which will cover Sinatra hits like "Luck Be a Lady" and "My Kind of Town." Viviano doesn't sound a great deal like Sinatra (you can hear a lot of him on the long teaser video posted on the BCPA site) so this is clearly not intended as an imitation.

Carols in the Courtroom on December 15
Illinois State University's Civic Chorale hosts Carols in the Courtroom on December 15 at 7:30 pm in the Governor Fifer room of the McLean County Museum of History. And hot cocoa and Christmas cookies will be available, as well. Once again, admission is free, but donations to help support ISU's Civic Chorale will be accepted. Professor John M. Koch is conducting, with Patricia Foltz at the piano and Julia Kay Jameson at the harp. The event has a Facebook page here.

On December 18, Illinois Central College's Guest Artist Series celebrates a different musical superstar when "tribute artist" Carla DelVillaggio and pianist Chris Rottmayer present Simply Streisand: Holiday Memories to put the spotlight on Barbra. No word on what songs DelVillaggio will be performing, but it could be anything from "Jingle Bells" to "Ave Maria" to "It Must Have Been the Mistletoe," all of which have appeared on Streisand's Christmas albums. For performance and ticket information, you can visit ICC's page for the event.


If you need a Christmas gift for somebody who likes Shakespeare (and specifically the Illinois Shakespeare Festival), the Festival is offering subscription packages now, with plenty of time to stick Viola and Orsino, Hamlet and even a little Peter Pan under the tree. Individual tickets won't go on sale till February, but this is your chance to get your choice of seats with your season tickets now. All the details are available at the Illinois Shakespeare Festival website.

Plenty of opportunities to give yourself the gift of theater this December!