Arts & Culture

Islamic poet takes audience on journey through death, afterlife

By Meghan Tribe

Boonaa Mohammed took the stage on Wednesday night at Loyola University Chicago alongside a wooden coffin covered in a clean white sheet. He rhymed and rapped, ushering the crowded auditorium from “the bugs and maggots” of their graves to 50,000 years of celestial trial for their deeds and, ultimately, through the gates of Jannah, the eternal paradise for Muslims. Continue reading

Review: Spike Lee’s ‘Da Sweet Blood of Jesus’

By Antoinette Isama

Spike Lee takes a stab at horror film with his first Kickstarter funded film, “Da Sweet Blood of Jesus,” which opened this week. A remake of Bill Gunn’s 1973 independent film “Ganja and Hess,” Lee offers an uncanny analysis of religion, art and sexuality through a story of vampirism and uncontrollable addiction — literally and figuratively.

Dr. Hess Green (Stephen Tyrone Williams), an anthropologist studying the ancient Ashanti Empire, encounters an ancient dagger that alters his life, which is centered on his quaint, inherited 40-acre estate in Martha’s Vineyard. The film’s pace picks up when his mentally unstable research assistant, Dr. Lafayette Hightower (Elvis Nolasco), attempts suicide, then struggles to murder Hess with the dagger. After stabbing Green, Hightower, shocked by his own actions, kills himself. Green then comes back to life with an addiction to blood.

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Controversy over Lucas Museum continues

by Constantina Kokenes

Plans to build the large Lucas Museum of Narrative Art on Chicago’s lakefront near McCormick Place have been controversial since filmmaker George Lucas decided to place his museum in Chicago last June. Though lawsuits have been filed, the museum was not a major issue in this month’s aldermanic campaigns. Candidates for alderman in the 4th Ward, where the museum would be built, vary in their response to the museums.

The candidates touched on the issue during their campaigns before Tuesday’s elections.

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First Laughs, Second Time Around

By Jessica Gable

When Greg Luick submitted his one-act play, Work in Progress, to Piccolo Theatre’s First Laugh One-Act Festival last February, he wasn’t expecting to win. In fact, he hadn’t even expected to finish the play.

“It was originally a revue sketch that didn’t really seem to have an ending,” Luick said. “I wrote most of it 15-20 years ago and it was just sort of filed away. Then when I read the criteria for the First Laugh Festival, I was just sort of thinking about it and the ending just sort of popped into my brain. So, I just added that ending onto it and made it a one-act play. And that was what won the festival.”

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Second City’s Evil Stepchildren

By Jessica T. Gable

Michael Pieper approaches the craft of acting from very serious, ancient traditions. For him, the craft is rooted in Native American shamanism and his method of accessing a character is anchored by a very strong sense of spirituality. But he applies those traditions as a teacher at the premiere comedy institution in the Windy City- Chicago’s own Second City.

“I was drawn to shamanism when I was searching for my spirituality in my late 20’s,” Pieper, now 51, said. “I was raised Catholic and it just wasn’t clicking with me so I started to study other religions and I loved how shamanism connects you to the elements and the world around you.” Continue reading

VIDEO: Dancing helps students balance school and social life

By Megan Kramer

From AP classes to college applications and part-time jobs to volunteering, four student captains of Auroris Dance Company at Niles North High School are juggling busy schedules as they near graduation.

While dance is yet another activity to fit into their schedules, the captains are finding that this shared passion is actually helping them prioritize their time, foster social lives and escape from stress. Continue reading

Pop punk travels the world

by Constantina Kokenes

Superheroes, pop art and plagiarism comprise the traveling 2014-2015 exhibition “Erró: American Comics” on display at Mana Contemporary Chicago on 2233 South Throop Street in Pilsen. The exhibition hails from Mana Contemporary’s New Jersey gallery in Jersey City, and the pieces were given to Mana Contemporary from Galerie Ernst Hilger, an art museum in Austria that features many of Erró’s works. Erró, an Icelandic artist, uses American comics, pop culture and pop art in his 11 works created between 1979 to 2009 to explore cultural and social contradictions. Continue reading

Feminists Ride the Next Wave

By Jessica Gable

A buzz of high-energy conversation enveloped participants in the Goodman Theatre’s Context event at Wicker Park’s Geek Bar Beta on Tuesday, Feb. 17. Specialty drinks of all colors and sizes were poured and French fries and the bar’s Awesome Sauce consumed with gusto. Faces of women, who mostly made up the crowd of several dozen, and men grew flushed with feeling as they geared up for an evening discussing the topic of the Goodman Theatre’s current show Rapture, Blister, Burn: feminism and its myriad incarnations.

“It was so deep and there were so many layers,” said Shannon Downey, self-proclaimed geek and one of the evening’s discussion leaders. “I walked out of there and I didn’t know what to do. I was like ‘I sort of want to cry. I sort of want to punch someone. I sort of want to skip down the street. I don’t know!’”

Downey and other panelists led discussions about specific topics assigned to individual tables. The topic at Downey’s table of five was Women in Technology, Gaming and Geekdom. Other topics were #feminism, The Male Gaze Through the LGBTQ Lens, and Women in Comedy. Each person sat at two different tables of their choice throughout the evening.

Rapture, Blister, Burn by Gina Gionfriddo introduces the audience to four women with very different views on feminism, views that shift as the play progresses. First, the audience meets Gwen and Catherine- best friends who lost touch after graduate school and reunite 20 years later. Gwen dropped out of school to make a family with the boyfriend Catherine left behind when she moved to London and became a feminist scholar. Then there’s Avery, Catherine’s twenty-something student who identifies with the more inclusive focus of Post-Third Wave feminism, and Alice, Catherine’s mother who grew up in an era when women were expected to be homemakers and dependent on men. As the women navigate the range of modern feminist ideology from Schlafly to Friedan, the audience can’t help but do the same.

“It is such a conversation provoker, such a thought provoker,” said 23-year-old Goodman Theatre intern Nikki Veit. “We interns at the Goodman sat down for an entire lunch period discussing, debating, articulating, analyzing this play. I haven’t seen a play recently that has had this much impact on my life.”

Veit, who identifies as gay, tried the Women in Comedy table and then transferred to the Male Gaze Through the LGBTQ Lens group. She argued vehemently that the play lacked relevance to modern feminists.

“Betty Friedan and Phyllis Schlafly…they’re so dated,” she said. “Right now, we’re talking about inclusivity. Like, different races, different sexualities, different gender spectrum. I think that’s the next step for feminism.”

Rebecca Kling, a transgender performance artist and educator, led the discussion at the Male Gaze table. She steered the conversation to topics not necessarily covered explicitly in the play. They included the power associated with men who ogle women and whether or not the gaze of gay men and women is or should be subject to the same scrutiny.

“With each subsequent wave of feminism there’s sort of been a fracturing,” Kling said, “but at the same time an expansion of who’s included.”

Feminism’s primary advocates are no longer predominantly middle class, educated young white women, said Kling. She encouraged the women at the table to welcome Post-Third Wave.

“We can’t be looking at just–in big air quotes–the idea of ‘womanhood’,” Kling said. “We have to be thinking about race and age and ethnicity and religion and economic status and all of those other things.”

The cast of Rapture, Blister, Burn discuss the modern views of feminism in a scene from the play. (Liz Lauren/Goodman Theatre)

Parental panic and gender politics collide in “A Kid Like Jake”

By Elizabeth Elving

Midway through Daniel Pearle’s “A Kid Like Jake,” a pregnant woman is asked if she’s hoping for a boy or a girl. It doesn’t matter, she says, as long as it’s healthy. But we already know this to be misleading. The play’s expectant couple live in a world where toddlers are touted as prodigies and phrases like “the Harvard of preschools” abound. In this world, it’s not enough for children to be healthy. They must be exceptional.

The play follows Alex, a well-bred blonde Manhattan mom (Katherine Keberlein), and her therapist husband Greg (Michael Aaron Lindner) as they scramble to get their 4-year-old son, Jake, into an elite private school. The rigorous application process and the notion of paying $20,000 for kindergarten will be cringingly familiar to some audience members, anthropologically foreign to others.

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Female Athlete Triad can lead to serious consequences

By Katherine Dempsey

Tina has only gotten her period once during college.

The 21-year-old runner at a Big Ten university remembers seldom menstruating in high school or in college. Diagnosed with anorexia during her freshman year of high school, Tina – whose real name has been changed to protect privacy – spent several weeks out of school for treatment and to escape from the academic pressure that she says sparked her eating disorder.

Tina didn’t participate in track her freshman year of high school, and she says she remembers weighing less than 90 pounds at her lowest weight. With running, the anorexia also related to a her focus on eating right to run well and that turned into limiting the kinds of foods she ate. Continue reading