Thursday, June 2, 2016

The Summer Season Starts... Now!

I feel as if we hardly had a spring (I think I say that every year) but here we are, with a toe dipped in June, and it seems summer is here, whether we're ready or not. With summer come some different theater options we don't see the rest of the year. More things involving the younger set, lighter fare, and fun stuff all around.

Starting tonight, Heartland Theatre is back with its 15th annual ten-minute play festival, this year on the theme "The Art Gallery," with performances June 2-4, 9-11, 16-18 and 23-25. For all the details on what kind of art playwrights chose for their "Art Gallery plays," check out this preview piece, including info on the eight winning plays, playwrights, directors and casts. For show times, you'll want to visit this page.

Also at Heartland, June brings auditions for the "New Plays from the Heartland" project, which offers staged readings of three new one-act plays written by Midwestern playwrights, this year directed by Illinois State University professor Cyndee Brown. The winning plays in need of actors are Key Ring by Steven Peterson from Chicago, Good Morning, Miriam by Jacqueline Floyd-Priskorn of Troy City, Michigan, and Pazediv (Positive) by Alyssa Ratkovich. You may remember Ratkovich, an ISU alum, from her appearances in several Heartland ten-minute play festivals of yesteryear. Brown will hold auditions on Monday, June 6, and Tuesday, June 7, from 7 to 10 pm at Heartland Theatre. You can read more about what she's looking for here.

Illinois Theatre, the production arm of the University of Illinois's theatre department, has announced the return of the Sullivan Project, which pairs Daniel Sullivan, Tony Award winning director as well Swanlund Chair in theatre at U of I, with a new play by a major playwright. This time the play is Long Lost, written by Donald Margulies, the playwright behind Dinner with Friends (a Pulitzer Prize winner, also directed by Sullivan), Sight Unseen, Time Stands Still and Collected Stories. Long Lost concerns two middle-aged brothers attempting to reunite after years of conflict. Seven performances are scheduled between June 8 and 12 in the Studio Theatre inside Urbana's Krannert Center for the Performing Arts. For ticket information, look for the green button on this page.

Normal Parks and Recreation's 2016 High School Summer Theatre brings You're A Good Man, Charlie Brown to the Connie Link Ampitheatre on Linden Street in Normal at 7:30 pm on June 9, 10, 11 and 12 and 16, 17, 19 and 19. As they describe it, "Happiness is...Charlie Brown and the Gang!" They're using the script from the 2012 revival of the musical (with music and lyrics by Clark Gesner) based on Charlie Shultz's comic strips and cartoons. Like the cartoons, You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown features Charlie Brown, Lucy, Linus, Sally, Schroeder and of course Snoopy, the dog who has fantasies of flying his doghouse against the Red Baron. The cast includes Jamie Keller (Sally), Nicholas Koch (Schroeder), Will Koski (Charlie Brown), Brendan Riley (Linus) Paige Woods (Lucy) and Simmy Woods (Snoopy), as well as about 35 more high school and junior high age actors, dancers and singers. The Normal Parks and Recreation Summer Musical Facebook page has a list of the entire cast.

If you have a hankering to return to the big hair and hot dance moves of the 1980s, you're in luck. The Normal Theater goes all the way back to 1986 for Pretty in Pink, where pretty Molly Ringwald yearns for popular Blane, played by Andrew McCarthy, while driven crazy by weird-but-interesting Duckie, played by Jon Cryer, on June 10, and then to 1984 for Footloose, the one where Kevin Bacon just wants to kick up his heels in a town where dancing isn't allowed, on June 16. If the Psychedelic Furs ("Pretty in Pink") or Kenny Loggins ("Footloose") and Deniece Williams ("Let's Hear It for the Boy") are the soundtrack to your life, the Normal Theater is waiting for you.

The Station Theatre opens its summer season July 16 with the vacation comedy Leaving Iowa by Tim Clue and Spike Manton. The authors' website for the play tells us that "Leaving Iowa first premiered at Jeff Daniels’ Purple Rose Theatre, where it broke box office records and received a nomination for Best New Play from the Detroit Free Press. After a year-long, sold-out run at Chicago’s Royal George Theatre, Leaving Iowa made its west coast debut at the Laguna Playhouse, where it earned another honor as one of SoCal Theater’s 10 Most Memorable Moments." Performance of Leaving Iowa, directed by David Barkley, will continue at the Station Theatre through July 2.

With a presidential race happening right now, especially one with a demagogue front and center, there could be no better time for Charlie Chaplin's 1940 masterpiece The Great Dictator. Cinema Judaica presents the film on Sunday, June 19, at 7:30 pm at the Art Theater Co-op in Champaign. Chaplin plays two roles, one an evil tyrant named Adenoid Hinkle (the country he's got in his grip is called Tomainia), a caricature of Adolph Hitler, and the other an innocent Jewish barber who bears a certain resemblance to Little Tramp, his own classic comic persona from silent films. The Great Dictator was Chaplin's first real talking picture, making the most of his grace and physical humor, with supporting performances from comedian Jack Oakie as Napaloni, the dictator of Bacteria, and Paulette Goddardas a beautiful young woman named Hannah. You need to see The Great Dictator. Even if you've seen it before, you need to see it again. I'm not kidding.

Schoolhouse Rock Live comes to Community Players Theatre on June 24, 25 and 26, showcasing a cast of performers ranging from 5th to 8th graders. This is the inaugural production under Players' new Summer Camp banner. And what's Schoolhouse Rock? It's a pop-culture phenomenon based on the Emmy Award-winning Saturday morning cartoon series from the 1970s. With songs like "Conjunction Junction" and "Just a Bill," Schoolhouse Rock taught grammar, history and math to unsuspecting kids.You can see Schoolhouse Rock Live with your children on Saturday, June 25, at 1 pm and 4 pm, or on Sunday the 26th at 2 pm. Director Kelly Rosendahl's cast includes Olivia Graham, Jacob Matchett, Monica Martinez, Savannah Sleevar and Matthew Williamson and an ensemble of about 40. To purchase tickets, click here.

As a teaser for its summer season, which starts in July, the Illinois Shakespeare Festival visits the Normal Public Library at 10:30 am on June 24 with something they're calling Scenes and Songs from Peter and the Starcatcher. Tickets for all three Festival productions -- Hamlet, Twelfth Night and Peter and the Starcatcher -- are now available, if you're considering a subscription or individual tickets. The Illinois Shakespeare Festival opens in previews July 5, with performances continuing through August 13.

There's plenty more happening in June and I'll try to catch up with that as we move along. But for now... It's time to start making reservations.

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