Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Join the fun at IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE, A LIVE RADIO PLAY at ISU CPA Dec 2 to 9

If you've already chosen what you're doing December 1, you may want to consider December 2. That's the day Illinois State University's School of Theatre and Dance offers a rarity -- not just a show with a holiday theme, but a show with performances in December. Since ISU's academic calendar doesn't usually go very far into December, they don't usually schedule performances then, either. But this year...

This year, ISU professor Connie de Veer is directing It's a Wonderful Life, a Live Radio Play, a stage adaptation by Joe Landry from the famous Frank Capra movie that shows all the action as if it were happening in a radio studio in the 1940s. Most of us weren't around to see how radio put on its plays back then, but if you attended A Prairie Home Companion or watched Remember WENN or the radio play episode of Frasier, you've seen actors dropping pages of their scripts in front of standing microphones, switching from one character to the next while the sound effects operator rattles sheets of tin and pops balloons to sound like gunshots.

To see the chaos of a what purports to be a live broadcast adds a fun dimension to the sweet, heartwarming story of George Bailey, the regular guy in Bedford Falls who thinks his life isn't worth anything until an angel intercedes and shows him otherwise on Christmas Eve.

For the ISU production, the cast includes William Olsen as George Bailey; Sarah Seidler as his wife, Mary; Jack VanBoven as angel Clarence as well as Uncle Billy; Breeann Dawson as Violet and little Zuzu; Mark de Veer as mean Old Man Potter along with Gower and Joseph; Marixa Ford as Mrs. Hatch, the stage manager, the Foley artist and the pianist; Everson Pierce as Pete, Burt, Ernie and Sam W.; Jacob Artner as the announcer, Mr. Welch, Martini, Tommy and Harry; Gina Sanfilippo as Ruth and Matilda, and Becky Murphy as Janie, Sadie Vance and Rose Bailey.

According to Connie de Veer in an interview with ISU News, these ten actors will "play all the roles, do all the sound effects, and even present a preshow with holiday songs and an audience sing-along!"

It's a Wonderful Life, a Live Radio Play opens Friday at the ISU Center for the Performing Arts with a performance at 7:30 pm, followed by 7:30 performances on December 3, 6, 7, 8 and 9, and 2 pm matinees on Saturday the 3rd and Sunday the 4th. The December 9th evening performance includes special alumni events including a preshow reception, Christmas Carols, a performance by the ISU madrigals and even an appearance by Reggie Redbird. If you're an alum and you want to participate, you are asked to purchase your tickets before Friday, either by calling Alumni Relations at 309-438-2586 or checking out this link.

For all other performances, tickets are available in person at the Center for the Performing Arts box office between the hours of 11 am and 5 pm Monday through Friday, by calling the box hours during those hours at 309-438-2535, or online through

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

C-U Ballet and C-U Symphony Present THE NUTCRACKER at Krannert Center

The Champaign-Urbana Ballet and the Champaign-Urbana Symphony Orchestra will combine their talents to present six performances of The Nutcracker in the Tryon Festival Theatre in Krannert Center for the Performing Arts in Urbana.

Krannert Center describes the event this way:
An unexpected gift transforms a snowy Christmas Eve scene into a shimmering, enchanted land of militant mice, confectionary fairies, and a princely hero. Get swept away on a glittering adventure as the talented young cast floats through Tchaikovsky's dreamy score with colorful pageantry, lively vignettes, and fresh surprises worthy of this holiday tradition.
Performances are set for Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 7:30 pm and Sunday at 6 pm, with matinees at 2 pm on Saturday and Sunday. Note that both matinees are currently taking names for waiting lists, meaning you are better off choosing an evening performances if you want to be sure to get in.

In connection with its winter events, Krannert Center is asking for donations of of new or gently used coats, mittens, gloves, hats, scarves, and ear muffs to be donated to the Champaign Unit 4 School District and Urbana School District 116. Look for those boxes outside the Intermezzo Cafe.

For more information or to purchase tickets, call 217-333-6290 or click here for the Krannert Center website.

Uptown Dance's LITTLEST NUTCRACKER at the Normal Theater December 1-4

There are always multiple Nutcrackers to choose from as we get into December, but the one happening at the Normal Theater December 1 to 4 may be the cutest one ever.

Students from Normal's Uptown Dance will take part in The Littlest Nutcracker, an adaptation of Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker, with performances at the Normal Theater at 6 pm on Thursday and Friday and 2 pm on Saturday and Sunday.

The Normal Theater site tells us that "Over 200 local dancers from Uptown Dance will participate in this multimedia performance. Take a trip to the Land of the Sweets with Clara and her Nutcracker Prince, onscreen and onstage in one exciting new production. You can also enjoy a Sugar Plum Sweet Box, which includes a gingerbread or chocolate cake ball, a mini chocolate caramel brownie, a snowflake sugar cookie, chocolate caramel dipped brownie and a peppermint! Boxes are available for preorder when your purchase your advance tickets beginning November 20th."

Admission is $10 and Sugar Plum Sweet Boxes are $5. You may order your tickets right now through Eventbrite. I noticed that the Sunday performance was sold out when I wrote this piece, so you are advised to act fast for the other dates. 

SHE LOVES ME in Savoy and Springfield Cinemas December 1 at 7

She Loves Me, the Bock/Harnick/Masteroff musical that has landed at the top of musical lovers' Best Ever lists since it first opened in 1963, was revived for what was pretty much an all-star production directed by Scott Ellis under the auspices of Broadway's Roundabout Theatre Company last year. The show was nominated for eight Tony Awards and took home one, for scenic designer David Rockwell, who created a beautiful little confection of a set that moved seamlessly from a twinkly Hungarian street to the inside of Maraczek's perfume shop, a small jewel box of a store. That lighter-than-air romantic atmosphere is essential for the show if it's to reflect the continental charm of Parfumerie, the 1937 Miklós László play it's based on, and the better-known movie The Shop Around the Corner that followed Parfumerie.

All three of those versions of the story follow the bumpy romance between Georg, a stand-up guy and employee at Maraczek & Co., and Amalia, who talks her way into a job there, too. Georg and Amalia clash almost from the moment she enters the store, both unaware that they've been corresponding with each other -- and falling in love -- as secret pen pals who call each other "Dear Friend" in their letters. Their coworkers make things even more complicated, as family man Sipos offers advice and sympathy, Ilona longs for love but has a tendency to pick the wrong men, Kodaly can't stop seducing women, wrong or otherwise, delivery boy Arpad is trying to move up in the world, and their boss Mr. Maraczek is getting crankier by the minute because he thinks his wife is cheating on him. He thinks it's with Georg. Silly Mr. Maraczek. Of course it's Kodaly. Look at his villainous mustache!

Like most Roundabout show, She Loves Me had a limited run. It closed July 10 after 132 performances. But that doesn't mean you can't see it. No, not in person. Laura Benanti (Amalia), Zachary Levi (Georg), Gavin Creel (Kodaly), Jane Krakowski (Ilona), Michael McGrath (Sipos), Byron Jennings (Maraczek) and Nicholas Barasch (Arpad) aren't getting together to perform it again anytime soon. One of their performances at Studio 54 was captured on film for Fathom Events, however, and December 1, that film will be screened in cinemas nationwide.

Although there is no Bloomington-Normal movie theater on the list, you do have options. The Savoy 16, just south of Champaign-Urbana, and the Springfield 12 will both be showing She Loves Me Thursday night at 7 pm.

With a song called "Twelve Days to Christmas," as well as frantic shopping, gift-giving and a little snowy romance, this She Loves Me is a perfect way to kick off your December.

Zachary Levi and Laura Benanti embrace Christmas in SHE LOVES ME
Photo credit: Joan Marcus, 2016

Monday, November 28, 2016

Plan Ahead: Plays and Ticket Info for 2017 Humana Festival of New American Plays

The 41st annual Humana Festival of New American Plays at Actors Theatre of Louisville has announced its lineup for spring 2017. The Humana Festival is probably the best-known New Play Festival in the country, launching works like D. L. Coburn's The Gin Game and Beth Henley's Crimes of the Heart in its early years and Gina Gionfriddo's Becky Shaw, Branden Jacobs-Jenkins' Appropriate and Lucas Hnath's The Christians more recently. Directors, producers, literary managers, scholars and a whole lot of theater critics attend every year to see what's new before the hottest Humana plays show up in major theaters from New York to LA and Chicago in between.

If you're interested in attending one of the four weekends between March 17 and April 9, ticket packages are now on sale. Options range from world premieres of three full-length plays in the First Look Weekend March 17 to 19 to four plays, a keynote address and a panel discussion during Discover Weekend March 24 to 26; a five or six play package plus "a presentation by a leader in American theatre and more" for Ovation Week March 31 to April 2; and a five, six or seven play package, including brand new ten-minute plays and a showcase written for Actors Theatre's "professional training company," during Encore Week April 5 to 7. There are special options for college and university theater faculty and students, audience members under 35, and industry professionals. Check out all the details here.

And if you purchase one of those ticket packages, what will you be seeing? The 2017 schedule of full-length plays includes I Now Pronounce by Tasha Gordon-Solomon, directed by Stephen Brackett and opening March 1; We're Gonna Be Okay by Basil Kreimendahl, directed by Lisa Peterson and opening March 7; Cry It Out by Molly Smith Metzler, directed by Davis McCallum and opening March 10; Recent Alien Abductions by by Jorge Ignacio Cortiñas, directed by Actors Theatre Artistic Director Les Waters and opening March 17; Airness by Chelsea Marcantel, directed by Associate Artistic Director Meredith McDonough and opening March 24; and The Many Deaths of Nathan Stubblefield, with pieces written by Jeff Augustin, Sarah DeLappe, Claire Kiechel and Ramiz Monself to be performed by the actors of the professional training company, directed by Eric Hoff and also opening March 24.

That last offering involves stories of inspiration and invention from Kentucky's "unsung dreamers," while the others cover an air guitar competition, babies and new moms, bomb shelters and the Cuban Missile Crisis, a lost episode of The X Files, and a wedding with a great deal of drama. If you're trying to figure out which is which, the titles of the plays should be a hint, but I encourage you to click on the links under those titles to get all the details.

This year's ten-minute plays will be revealed later. Last year, we got that news in February. Stay tuned to find out who's who and what's what if ten-minute plays are your thing.

But in the meantime... Ticket packages are now available, with "early bird" discounts in place if you book before February 10, 2017. Just a tip: If you want the full array of plays, including the ten-minute plays, on the last weekend, things tend to fill up fast, so you might want to act now.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Diversity and Innovation: Nominees for 2017 Film Independent Spirit Awards

The Film Independent Spirit Awards nominees were announced last week, with Matt Warren's official announcement at the Film Independent site echoing a lot of what a lot of us are feeling as awards season begins. Warren notes that he understands that the usual anticipation of awards and the hoopla that accompanies them may "seem like an indulgence of attention that most Americans can no longer afford." He continues, "But beyond the glamor of the celebrity carpet, bright lights and pewter awards statuettes, the Film Independent Spirit Awards stand for something much deeper: championing creative independence in visual storytelling and supporting a community of artists who embody diversity, innovation and uniqueness of vision – a mission that is more relevant now than ever before."

Although the Spirit Awards have in recent years tended to look a lot like the Oscars' list, this year their choices demonstrate that touted creative independence and uniqueness of vision, going for smaller, more interesting movies that may or may not find favor with the big Academy boys. By spotlighting and supporting films like American Honey and Moonlight, which each earned six nominations, the Spirit Awards have shown exactly why they exist and why they're important.

American Honey was written and directed by Andrea Arnold, a British filmmaker with an eye for female protagonists. This time, her story involves a reckless and restless teenage girl, played by Sasha Lane, who takes off with a group of rootless kids who travel in a van around the dire vistas of Nebraska and Oklahoma selling magazine subscriptions door to door. A. O. Scott of the New York Times called American Honey "an episodic travelogue, a coming-of-age chronicle and an indictment of grim social conditions, with roughly equal measures of Jack Kerouac, J. D. Salinger and Charles Dickens in its DNA."

Although Moonlight is also a coming-of-age drama, its look and focus are quite different from American Honey, reflecting the fact that their settings – the Walmart-littered landscape of the Great Plains versus the "bold, blue, beautiful darkness" of Miami – look worlds apart. Based on a play called In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue by Tarell Alvin McCraney, Moonlight is centered around the pain, struggle and hope that surrounds a young African-American boy named Chiron at three different times in his life, as he tries to figure out who he is and how he fits in. In the Washington Post, Ann Hornaday says that Moonlight is "a perfect film, one that exemplifies not only the formal and aesthetic capabilities of a medium at its most visually rich, but a capacity for empathy and compassion that reminds audiences of one of the chief reasons why we go to movies: to be moved, opened up and maybe permanently changed." This year's Robert Altman Award, given to one film and its director (Barry Jenkins), casting director and ensemble cast, will be awarded to Moonlight.

Here are some of the nominees in major categories:

American Honey
Manchester by the Sea 

Andrea Arnold, American Honey
Barry Jenkins, Moonlight
Pablo Larraín, Jackie
Jeff Nichols, Loving
Kelly Reichardt, Certain Women

Annette Bening, 20th Century Women
Isabelle Huppert, Elle
Sasha Lane, American Honey
Ruth Negga, Loving
Natalie Portman, Jackie

Casey Affleck, Manchester by the Sea
David Harewood, Free In Deed
Viggo Mortensen, Captain Fantastic
Jesse Plemons, Other People
Tim Roth, Chronic

Edwina Findley, Free In Deed
Paulina Garcia, Little Men
Lily Gladstone, Certain Women
Riley Keough, American Honey
Molly Shannon, Other People

Ralph Fiennes, A Bigger Splash
Ben Foster, Hell or High Water
Lucas Hedges, Manchester by the Sea
Shia LaBeouf, American Honey
Craig Robinson, Morris From America

Ava Berkofsky, Free In Deed
Lol Crawley, The Childhood of a Leader
Zach Kuperstein, The Eyes of My Mother
James Laxton, Moonlight
Robbie Ryan, American Honey

Barry Jenkins (screenplay), Tarell Alvin McCraney (story), Moonlight
Kenneth Lonergan, Manchester by the Sea
Mike Mills, 20th Century Women
Ira Sachs, Mauricio Zacharias, Little Men
Taylor Sheridan, Hell or High Water

You'll find the entire list of Spirit Award nominees here. The Awards will be presented February 25, 2017 in a tent on the beach next to the Santa Monica pier. They will also be broadcast on the Independent Film Channel.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Fire up Netflix -- GILMORE GIRLS: A YEAR IN THE LIFE Is Here Friday!

There have been hints, teasers, sneak peeks and all kinds of interviews to hype Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life, the four-part look at where Lorelai and Rory Gilmore are now, eight years after we last saw the mother and daughter living their quirky, rapid-fire, off-beat lives in Stars Hollow, Connecticut.

All the anticipation pays off Friday, November 25, when all four 90-minute episodes drop on Netflix. When and how you watch the four pieces of this Gilmore puzzle are up to you, whether you're the type to binge all at once, watch one a day, or savor and watch five minutes at a time, rewinding to watch again and again, but they'll be there, on Netflix, waiting patiently, when Black Friday hits.

Amy Sherman-Palladino, who provided the original vision behind Gilmore Girls, the series, and her creative partner (and husband) Daniel Palladino are at the helm of Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life, which means we can expect the characters to be the people we knew and loved between 2000 and 2007. Or at least 2006. Sherman-Palladino and Palladino weren't there for the 2006-7 season, so... That one is iffy. Anyway, Lauren Graham and Alexis Bledel are back as Lorelai and Rory, along with Kelly Bishop as Lorelai's acerbic mother, Emily. Edward Herrmann, the wonderful actor who played Lorelai's patrician father, passed away in 2014, but we are assured Richard Gilmore (and Herrmann) will be well represented as the Gilmores left behind grieve his absence.

Everybody has a different favorite among the friends, acquaintances and annoyances who surrounded the Gilmores. There is a whole lot of quirk in this ensemble. And most of them will be on hand in some capacity. That includes Scott Patterson as Lorelai's faithful love interest Luke, Keiko Agena as Rory's BFF Lane and Melissa McCarthy as Lorelai's pal Sookie, as well as Rose Abdoo (Gypsy), Aris Alvarado (Caesar), Jackson Douglas (Jackson), Chris Eigeman (Jason), Sean Gunn (Kirk), Emily Kuroda (Mrs. Kim), Todd Lowe (Zack), Vanessa Marano (April), Danny Strong (Doyle), Sally Struthers (Babette), David Sutcliffe (Christopher), Liz Torres (Miss Patty), Yanic Truesdale (Michel), Liza Weil (Paris) and Michael Winters (Taylor). Carole King and Sebastian Bach will be making appearances as well. And new faces will also be around, with Broadway stars Christian Borle and Sutton Foster showing up as part of a musical Stars Hollows Thanksgiving pageant.

All three of Rory's major boyfriends -- Dean (Jared Padalecki), Jess (Milo Ventimiglia) and Logan (Matt Czuchry) -- will be back in her life, although nobody knows yet which of them, if any, she ends up with. My guess is that she revisits old loves and sees she's better off alone, but I will have to wait till Friday to find out.

The other big mystery is what exactly the Magic Four Words will be. Amy Sherman-Palladino has said many times that she knew from the get-go how the show would end, and that would be with one four-word line that finishes the story of the Gilmore Girls. Nobody knows what those four words will be, however. A lot of guessers think Rory will tell Lorelai that she is pregnant ("I'm having a baby"?) but that just doesn't sound right to me. Whatever the Magic Four Words are, we'll find out on Friday, along with whether Luke and Lorelai last, how Emily moves on, and what Rory decides about her future.

You'll find Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life on Netflix this Friday.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Time for [TRANS]FORMATION, Presented by Chicago's NWaC and The Living Canvas

Pete Guither, former assistant dean (as well as a photographer, writer, editor, tour guide, teacher, director, musician, mentor, website designer, publications designer, commencement facilitator and general jack-of-all-trades) for the College of Fine Arts at Illinois State University, is keeping busy in his newly retired state. As the artistic director of The Living Canvas, Pete has been working for some time to use elements including projections, lights, movement and unclothed performers to express "the beauty and expressive power of the human form."

This time out, Guither is one of the producers of a newly devised piece called [Trans]formation, presented as a collaboration between The Living Canvas and Chicago's Nothing Without a Company. The other producer is Anna Rose Ii-Epstein, co-artistic director of Nothing Without a Company

[Trans]formation is intended as an exploration of "the naked truth of gender identity." The current production, running through December 17 at the Vault at Collaboraction Studios in the Flat Iron Arts Building in Chicago's Wicker Park neighborhood, serves as its world premiere. It has been "devised entirely from the works of and performed by transgender, genderqueer, intersex, and non-binary artists. Designed and directed in the style of The Living Canvas, nude performers embody the expressive power and diversity of the human form under evocative projections to reveal, instead of conceal, every body’s beautiful possibility."

Director Gaby Labotka, an ISU alum, was also on the team that devised the piece, along with Ronen Kohn, Darling Squire, Avi Roque and Kevin Sparrow. The cast is composed of Kohn and Sparrow as well as Gabriel Faith Howard, Lily Ryan-Lozon, Chase Nuerge and Ben Polson. If you're looking for another ISU connection, you'll find one in sound designer Sarah Putts.

Because of the nature of [Trans]formation and what it's trying to communicate, each performance will include added content both before and after the show. That means there will be a short artistic "portrait" by a local (local to Chicago, presumably) transgender/non-binary artist before the show begins and a discussion afterwards that includes an opportunity for audience members to jump into the "transformation" process on stage if they are so inclined. Those who want to will have the chance to put their own bodies under the projections onstage.

Although [Trans]formation opened in previews last week, there are plenty of performances left to catch. In fact, there is a special Monday night performance tonight to make up for the company taking Thanksgiving Thursday off. After Thanksgiving, they'll resume their regular schedule of performances on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 8 pm and Sundays at 7 pm. You can get tickets at Brown Paper Tickets and more information at both The Living Canvas and Nothing Without a Company sites.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Joe and Sylvia Penrod Set up ONE FOR THE ROAD This Weekend for Prairie Fire

If you are a fan of musical theater in Bloomington-Normal, you already know you should never, no matter what, pass up an opportunity to hear Joe Penrod sing. His voice is gorgeous plus he's a terrific entertainer and actor who knows how to inhabit lyrics. Sylvia Penrod's talents are different from Joe's, since hers are at the piano, but they're no less impressive. And this weekend, as a holiday gift to all of us, Joe and Sylvia Penrod will be performing together in a revue from Prairie Fire Theatre called One for the Road, scheduled for two shows Saturday and Sunday at Illinois Wesleyan University's Memorial Lounge.

Bloomington Pantagraph reviewer Nancy Steele Brokaw got an advance look at One for the Road and she's listed some of the songs Joe and Sylvia have on their playlist. Her notes include classic pieces like "Come Fly with Me," a 1957 song written by Jimmy Van Heusen and Sammy Cahn for Frank Sinatra and "Try to Remember," written by Harvey Schmidt and Tom Jones* to open The Fantasticks.

There's also material from Stephen Sondheim and Hugh Wheeler's Sweeney Todd and Lerner and Loewe's My Fair Lady, both of which Joe Penrod performed recently, and a nod to Leonard Cohen, who passed away on November 7.

Brokaw doesn't mention the song "One for My Baby (and One More for the Road)," although given the event's title, I am guessing it may be on the list. I hope so. It's a beautiful song, with music by Harold Arlen and lyrics by Johnny Mercer, introduced by my favorite, Fred Astaire, in a 1943 movie called The Sky's the Limit, even if it became more associated with Frank Sinatra after Fred had danced and sung his way through it. The song's world-weary "metropolitan melancholy" is unforgettable. "It's quarter to three, there's no one in the place except you and me..." Yeah, we've all been there.

The Penrods will perform One for the Road at 7:30 pm Saturday November 19 and 3 pm Sunday November 20 at the IWU Memorial Lounge. For more information you can visit the Prairie Fire Theatre site or call 309-824-3047 for reservations.

*No, the Tom Jones who wrote the lyrics for The Fantasticks is not that Tom Jones. This one was born in Texas, not Wales, and he also worked with Harvey Schmidt on 110 in the Shade and I Do! I Do!

Friday, November 11, 2016

The Aftermath of the Election

Out in the real world, people continue to eat and sleep and do their jobs as well as they did them before. In my house... We are silent. We can't seem to find words.

William Butler Yeats had words that seem to fit pretty well, however. He wrote this poem in 1919, in the aftermath of World War I.


Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: a waste of desert sand;
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Wind shadows of the indignant desert birds.

The darkness drops again but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

                                                     -- William Butler Yeats

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

New in November!

A sweet Swedish movie called A Man Called Ove, with the quintessential "Get Off My Lawn" cranky neighbor as the main character, comes to the Art Theater Co-op in Champaign tomorrow and Thursday. A  Man Called Ove puts the curmudgeon, a retiree and a widower whose main pursuit in life is enforcing neighborhood regulations, in conflict with a noisy, disorderly family that moves in next boor. Rolf Lassgård stars as Ove; he earned two Best Actor awards, one at the Seattle International Film Festival, for the role. A Man Called Ove will be screened at the Art Theater tomorrow at 6 and 8:30 pm and Thursday, November 3 at 7:30 pm.

Community Players brings out the puppets in November with Avenue Q, the irreverent Broadway musical that mixes Muppet-like characters with adult situations represented in songs like "It Sucks to Be Me" and "The Internet Is for Porn." George W. Bush was president when Avenue Q opened in 2003 and he got a mention in the song "For Now," which celebrates the temporary nature of problems and annoyances. The lyrics to that song have changed since Bush left the presidency in 2009, including a Donald Trump reference earlier this year. No word on whether the Community Players cast will sing about Trump being only "For Now," but we can hope. Brett Cottone directs a cast that includes Aaron Wiessing as Princeton, the puppet who moves to Avenue Q and meets his neighbors, human and puppet alike, and Erin Box as Kate Monster, his love interest. Avenue Q opens at Community Players with a preview performance on November 3, with performances continuing through November 20. For information, click here, or to purchase tickets, click here.

Harold Pinter's The Homecoming, a creepy play from 1964 about a malevolent family and the son (and his wife) who visit, comes to Heartland Theatre beginning November 3. The last time I reviewed The Homecoming, I called it "a surreal domestic dumping ground." That's as good a description as any, I suppose. Since then, I've learned that Pinter thought it was a feminist play, while I fall more on the side of those who think it's really, really misogynistic. If you're a Pinter fan, you'll probably want to decide for yourself if the sole female character, Ruth, represents female power, a combination of the Madonna and the whore, or she's just a "disgusting, distinctively masculine, sexual fantasy." Sandra Zielinski directs a cast that includes guest actor David Kortemeier, who has played many roles for the Illinois Shakespeare Festival and last appeared at Heartland in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof in 1991. After a Pay What You Can Preview on Thursday, November 3, The Homecoming will run till November 19. For showtimes, check this link.

Emergency Prom will give freshman actors at Bradley University a chance to strut their stuff from November 10 to 13 at the Hartmann Center for the Performing Arts. And when I say "strut their stuff," I mean swaying to "Stay" or doing a little Bump N' Grind or whatever else was in fashion with outsiders in 1994. That's the premise of the play -- a group of not-exactly-popular kids in 1994 decide that last weekend's prom was so terrible that they need to stage a do-over, a new prom, an Emergency Prom. Check out the details here.

Arts at ICC presents David Landau's Murder at the Cafe Noir beginning November 11. As you might expect from the title, there are mysterious doings afoot in this play, involving a hard-boiled PI named Rick Archer. If you know your Bogart movies, both pieces of that name will sound familiar. Murder at the Cafe Noir is part Casablanca, part Maltese Falcon, and part Choose Your Own Adventure, with audience interaction to decide what Rick should do. If you're interested in seeing Murder at the Cafe Noir at ICC, pay special attention to the times of performances. Fridays and Saturdays, the curtain is at 6:30 pm, Sundays it's at 2:30 pm, and Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, the show opens at 7:30 pm.

When you think of songwriters Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart, something like "My Funny Valentine," "Blue Moon" or "Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered" may be the first song that comes to mind. But the Rodgers and Hart score for The Boys from Syracuse is pretty swell, too. This musical version of Shakespeare's Comedy of Errors has "Falling in Love with Love," "This Can't Be Love" and "Sing for Your Supper," songs which were popular at the time and are still popular enough to show up often in revues and concerts. George Abbott directed the first Broadway production in 1938, with Eddie Albert starring as Antipholus of Syracuse. (That's the poster you see at left.) Classic material with a sparkling score is perfect for Illinois Wesleyan University's School of Theatre Arts and its talented students, and also perfect for IWU Associate Professor Scott Susong, who directs the production opening November 15 at the Jerome Mirza Theatre inside MacPherson Hall. Susong's cast includes Conor Finnerty-Esmonde and Tim Foszcz as the two Antipholi, Eli Miller and Kenny Tran as their identical twin servants, both named Dromio, Jackie Salgado as Adriana, who is married to the Antipholus from Ephesus but mistakes his twin bro for her husband, and Yuka Sekine as her sister, Luciana. The Boys from Syracuse will play at IWU for six performances between the 15th and the 20th. For more information or to reserve tickets, contact the School of Theatre Arts box office at 309-556-3232.