Northeastern Illinois University's student-run newspaper

The Independent

Summer Scene Recital Ends on High Notes

Jacklyn Nowotnik, Managing Editor

September 6, 2012

Filed under Theatre Reviews

  For the first time ever, the Northeastern Illinois University (NEIU) music department featured a summer opera scene recital. Scenes included full-sung Italian pieces by Mozart, Bellini, Donizetti and Verdi. NEIU faculty member and director, Sasha Gerritson felt that it is “important for students to have a safe, constructive learning environment that challenges them where they are today and encourages them to grow towards the singer/actor they aspire to be.” As a way of doing so, the NEIU music department has established a production schedule that alternates between a modern opera sung in English, a modern musical theatre piece, a standard opera piece sung in its original language, and a standard musical theatre piece. In between bigger productions, the music department works with Gerritson and the students enrolled in her performance class to put on scene recitals, which the department feels adds to their students’ musical experience. Since scene recitals are not one of the four bigger productions, the recitals are performed with minimal stage furniture and props. The recitals also lack the participation of an orchestra, as well as the supertitles that most operas have on top of the stage to translate the sung language. The scene recitals at NEIU do include full costume, piano accompaniment by NEIU music faculty and a student narrator. Unlike past scene recitals, this opera scene recital had a select few undergraduates and graduates in the music department set as cast members. These students also worked with Lucia Marchi, an Italian diction coach. Before the show, Gerritson mentioned that this scene recital would be a great way for students to gain experience in performance and singing in Italian. A couple of familiar names in the program included Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro (The Marriage of Figaro) and Verdi’s La Traviata (The Fallen Woman). If the big names were not enough, a scene even had a performance by former NEIU Music Professor Ronald Combs. NEIU’s music department has not yet announced what their spring musical theatre production will be, but they do welcome fellow faculty and students to attend their annual fall scene recital in November....

The Day in the Life of a Misanthrope – NEIU Stage Center

Jacklyn Nowotnik, Arts and Life Editor

April 27, 2012

Filed under Theatre Reviews

  A wise Sir Walter Raleigh once said “I wish I loved the human race, I wish I loved its silly face, and when I’m introduced to one, I wish I thought ‘what jolly fun!’” It’s funny how well Raleigh’s quote seems to capture the essence of Moliere’s character, Alceste, in The Misanthrope. NEIU’s Stage...

RACE at the Goodman

Shantez Tolbut, Senior Staff Writer

February 26, 2012

Filed under Theatre Reviews

  While waiting for the play to be- gin at the famous Goodman Theatre, it's hard to know what to expect from a play called RACE with a picture of a red sequined dress on the front of the playbill. I made a note not to look at the synopsis beforehand because I wanted to be thoroughly surprised. Was I surprised? I was half a mile past shocked! The playwright David Mamet is a new force in the theatre world because of his intelligent dialogue, witty lines, opposing characters, and the realistic but touchy content of his plays. The plot lies in an upscale law office with two high profile lawyers: one white, one black, who take the case of a rich white man, Patrick Clear as Charles Strickland, accused of raping a black woman. "You want to tell me about black folks?" says Henry, played by Geoffrey Owens starting off a lengthy conversation with his know it all partner Jack played by Mark Grapey. The play puts forth stereotypes and underlying prejudices that no one likes to talk about. These realizations are disturbing, complex, and frank. By the end of the play, you never do find out if the client is guilty, but instead you find that the junior lawyer, a black woman named Susan, played by Tamberla Perry, gets the upper hand on them all. The complexity was as compelling as it is thought provoking. RACE was directed by theatre veteran Chuck Smith in an up close and personal examination of how we treat the subject of race in our lives. It reveals the corruption of law, the morality and naivety of the general public and how individual perceptions of others influence injustices and discrimination. RACE runs 90 minutes with one 15 min intermission from January 14th to Feb 19th at the Goodman Theatre at 7:30pm.   Published: Saturday, February 25, 2012 Updated: Sunday, February 26, 2012 00:02...

Play “Unveils” Post 9/11 Experience of Muslim Women in America

Amena Ahmed, Staff Writer

February 26, 2012

Filed under Theatre Reviews

  Unveiled, a dramatization of the Muslim woman's experience after 9/11 was performed to a full house at the NEIU auditorium on Friday, Feb. 10. Written and performed by Rohina Malik, Unveiled aims to bring out the spirit and strength of Muslim women and answer many of the buzzing questions surrounding Muslims and Islam: What does it mean to be Muslim? What is the life of a Muslim woman? Are they really forced to cover? As the lights dimmed, the audience was taken up close into the living rooms, offices, and restaurants of five women. An intimate monologue ensued as each character lifted spirits with an ethnic tea and told her story. A Karachi-born fashion designer brewed chocolate chai as she recounted her best friend's wedding and an unexpected verbal assault. A lawyer entertained a client with mint tea as she told of her first love, and the tumbling chain of events that ended in a hate crime that left her assaulted and her husband dead. These women told of being harassed for being Muslim after 9/11. They spoke of finding strength in standing up to abuse, responding to hate with love, and overcoming tragedy. Laylah, a Middle Eastern restaurant owner, shared the story of the tragic day when she prayed to God that the first plane in the building she saw on TV was just a "mistake." As the day continued, she realized it was not a mistake; on that day she lost her brother and her fellow citizens turned against her. The women spoke of empowerment, especially in their decisions to wear what they chose. "Deal with my mind, not my body," said young British rapper Shabana regarding her decision to don the hijab, the Muslim head covering for women. She overcomes her mother's opposition, who says it is "ugly" and "dangerous" to look like that in modern society. Each of Malik's characters was well crafted and distinct. The performance was equally skillful. The stories raised universal issues, the biggest of which was society's tendency to stereotype and scapegoat. "It addressed universal themes of human rights and freedom. It spoke to the tendency of people to have assumptions about a group of people. These are issues for everybody," said audience member and former NEIU grad school student Cynthia Chernoff. The stories traveled from character to character in fluid and powerful language, drawing a strong response from the crowd. The audience broke into applause in mid-performance as Shabana ended her last rap line. The narratives strung at sentimental notes as the women told of loss and depression. Hearty laughter was heard as Inez, an African American woman from the Deep South said, "I'm a strong woman. When I was born, my mamma told me, ‘You better hold your head up high ‘cuz you born with two strikes against you: you're black, and you're a woman!' When at nineteen, I told [her] of my conversion to Al-Islaam she just looked at me and said, ‘Strike three!'" The show was accentuated with enough non-English words, costumes, and traditional style to bring a real taste of the East. The audience was pulled into the Muslim experience as characters made references to Quranic verses and prophetic sayings, as well as tasteful selections of poems from historical Eastern poets, Rumi and Sa'di. Brought to the forefront at moments of climatic sorrow, the theme of strength from God also carried steadily throughout the show. In the dialogue and dinner after the show, audience members were given the opportunity to speak with Malik. Asked about her inspiration for this show, she said, "It was a terrifying time [after 9/11], and I noticed that all the women I knew had a story to tell." So did all the characters represent real people? Malik said that although the characters were fictional, each story was based on true events. And what about the burning question of women's hijab? Malik spoke of her own decision to cover and how her family wasn't thrilled. She says however, there are some places in the world where some women are forced into it. "With so many women I know, who chose to wear the veil, I see that their families opposed it. I find that to be more common." Malik says there is power and freedom in a woman being able to dress the way she chooses. "I consider myself a feminist in my hijab," she said. How important was it to bring it to NEIU? Yasmin Ranney, director of the Pedroso Center, says it was essential in giving students and staff a better understanding of the post 9/11 backlash. "For the majority of women, the veil is an expression of free will and free choice, and this is a concept that needs to be digested and understood." The theme of the performance echoed most clearly as the last character, Laylah, pulled the show to a close with Sa'di's poem: "Human beings are parts of the same body. We are one family. If one part of the body hurts, all the parts are in pain. If you are not concerned about the suffering of others, then you are not worthy to be called human."   Published: Saturday, February 25, 2012 Updated: Saturday, March 3, 2012 01:03...

Invisible Man: A Play Review

Shantrell Rogers, Staff Writer

February 26, 2012

Filed under Theatre Reviews

  Invisible Man, a play based on Ralph Ellison's 1952 classic American novel of the same name, premiered at the Court Theatre in Hyde Park on Jan. 12 and ran through Feb. 19. Adapted for the theatre by Oscar-nominated writer Oren Jacoby and directed by award-winning director Christopher McElroy, this occasion marked the play's world premiere. The performance of Invisible Man began with the title character, a young, unnamed African America male, sitting in a bare basement room illuminated with 1,369 light bulbs, while listening to Louis Armstrong's(What Did I Do to Be So) Black and Blue on a phonograph. The "invisible man" himself, portrayed by Teagle F. Bougere, took a look back on his life; beginning with the day the he won a scholarship to attend an all-black college in the Deep South during the early 20th century. After entering college, the lead character lived through a series of events leading up to him being expelled and ultimately preyed upon in Harlem by a political organization called The Brotherhood. He was being molded into a speaker for the people under the guise of working toward social justice in Black communities. However, in reality he was espousing The Brotherhood's elitist propaganda. Ellison's text is full of symbolism and social commentary. His use of blindness and invisibility throughout the story, both figuratively and literally, speaks to society's inability to see people for who they truly are. The protagonist's invisibility was highlighted during a pivotal moment in the final act of the three-act play through a vital epiphany about his life's journey. McElroy used the 251-seat theatre's small stage efficiently by replacing traditional stage scenery with digital imagery and having the play's ensemble act as stage crew throughout the performance. The execution of the play felt confusing and choppy in flow at times. There were moments where it seemed like pertinent background information was missing and the disconnection between scenes was obvious, especially to those who have read the novel. Hands down, the breakout performance belonged to Bougere. His performance as the title character was convincing and remained true to Ellison's vision. However, his long-winded speeches detracted from the movement of the play. In keeping with Black History Month, it is important to revisit the past while reflecting on the present and this play is a channel through which to do that. Although the book may be better, Invisible Man is definitely worth checking out when it returns to the stage.   Published: Saturday, February 25, 2012 Updated: Sunday, February 26, 2012 01:0...

Review: Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night

Jacklyn Nowotnik, Arts and Life Editor

January 24, 2012

Filed under Theatre Reviews

                                    Have you ever really liked someone and been crushed to find out that the person you like really likes someone else. To make matters worse, you are shipwrecked on an island and can't find your twin sibling, so you go to town in disguised as your sibling. Ok, well maybe not that last part, but you know the first part! Shakespeare's Twelfth Night is a story of two siblings, Viola and Sebastian, who become lost at sea and shipwrecked on Illyria. Both siblings assume the other is drowned because they end up on different parts of Illyria, so Viola becomes a page (named Cesario) to Duke Orsino. Duke Orsino wants to marry Olivia, so he sends Cesario to court her for him, but Olivia begins to fall in love with Cesario. Poor Cesario is stuck between a man she wants to be with and a woman that wants to be with her, but neither Orsino nor Olivia can see Viola is just disguised as a young man. On top of that you have the tricky mind of Olivia's uncle, Sir Toby Belch, who adds to the chaos by playing with the minds of Sir Andrew Aguecheek (a squire), Feste (the fool) and Malvolio (Olivia's steward). What will become of all these love triangles and chains? Even though Feste is the fool, will Sir Toby make fools out of everyone else? While this isn't my favorite Shakespeare play (it happens to be a Midsummer Night's Dream), this is definitely a really good one. With mistaken identity, witty humor, and love chains, where someone loves someone, but that someone loves some else; this is truly the work of Shakespeare. I absolutely loved the mischievous shenanigans Sir Toby Belch, Fabian and Sir Andrew Aguecheek played throughout the play, especially when they were drunk with song! They definitely got across the humor, even in Shakespearian language. With so many love chains going on, part of me wanted to just yell out the truth, but the secrecy in this play is what keeps the interest and the story moving. I also thought it was funny how cute and cuddly Orsino and Viola/Cesario got a couple of times, but realized they were men and quickly distance themselves. However, I really think this play would not have been as good as it was without Feste. Feste seems to make every little scheme a little more mischievous, while still making it seem that he is just a fool that knows nothing. I do think that any Shakespeare play is a little hard to follow just because of the Shakespearian language, but if you really pay attention and just try to enjoy the show, everything will make sense. I would give this show 5 stars out of 5 for its humor, love chains, mistaken identity, and its sneaky but comical mischief. I would also recommend this play to anyone that enjoys a good laugh, drunken singing, and a good Shakespearean play.  ...

Review: Little Triggers, Big reaction

Regina M. Torres, Staff Writer

January 24, 2012

Filed under Theatre Reviews

                                        On Jan 14, The Side Project Theatre packed a tiny area of tightly-placed folding chairs full of people, all anticipating the opening of Daniel Caffrey's play, "Little Triggers." Sitting at the top of a black-painted and elevated wooden platform, I noticed most eyes facing toward the bedroom-sized stage. The music grew quiet, the lights went dim, and my imagination ran wild wondering just how this play would incorporate both puppets and live characters in such a space. The main character, a young assistant office manager is working late on a wintry Christmas Eve in the city some- where. His name is Martin, (played by Kevin Lambert) and he is busy distracting himself with mundane office tasks such as shredding paper, paper basketball waste disposal and scary movies. Martin's boss Mr. Bahnson (played by Rob Grabowski) enters the picture briefly bringing Christmas gifts, champagne and an overbearing yet hospitable presence to the eerily empty atmosphere of the office space. We learn that the rather ominous looking (and acting!) copier machine is on the blitz and that a repair man is en route to hopefully remedy the situation. The wait leaves a hapless Martin once again to his lonesome and restless self. Perhaps more importantly and sweetly adding to the mounting tension, Martin is left to question where his life is headed; a stable yet predictable path concerning shredding paper, endless phone correspondence, and otherwise mundane office operations. "Little Triggers" carries notes of Charles Dicken's "A Christmas Carol" in the way unexpected visitations transpire in order to affect positive change in a protagonist's life. In this case, our office grunt hero is introduced to reflecting a bit more on notions of personal perception of self and who he is at heart. So as not to give too much away, I would like to focus a bit on one of the motivating visitors to Martin's bubble of office safety. Our repair guy, "Man in Coveralls" (played by Neal Starbird,) who does a convincing job of portraying a drug-crazed, in-your-face, creepy machine mechanic. Here, a nice contrast exists between the mad-eyed intensity of Starbird's character and the more conservative stylings of Martin's character. The tension escalates as the evening progresses and Martin is forced to share an office space with a madman, who seems hell bent on seemingly destroying the copier machine and making Martin see something about himself that he has ignored for quite some time. Or rather, something which came from himself and is locked away in a desk drawer, out of sight and out of mind, until its rightful owner once again chooses to acknowledge it. Eventually, Martin is lead on a path to self recovery/discovery and all I can say is that not only are madcap characters involved and unleashed in this process, but also fantastical creatures and very imaginative puppetry. Special mention must go to the set, costume, sound and lighting design artists involved in this unique production, but also to the pup- pet team as all of them did a professional and creative job at making the story come alive in a fun way. I was delighted at the unexpected surprises that appeared at random in this production, and can honestly say that the director, Allison Shoemaker, must be proud of this small, yet powerful play. The Ruckus is an inexpensive Rogers Park theatre company put on by people who really love their work. Oh, and they sell popcorn and beverages for cheap too, which is nice. "Little Triggers" at the Ruckus runs until Feb. 12, 2012. Tickets can be purchased online at www.ruckustheater.org or call (773) 769-7257. The Side Project Theatre is located near the Jarvis red line stop at 1439 W. Jarvis Avenue in Chicago.  ...

Review: Band Geeks: A Halftime Musical

Matthew Winer, Staff writer

October 10, 2006

Filed under Arts & Life, Theatre Reviews

The current production of Band Geeks: A Halftime Musical is a remounting of a comedy hit from last summer. This new production features a new ending as well as other surprises. Set in Elyria, Ohio in 1989, the show opens as the band geeks are boarding the bus for band camp. One by one, we are introduced to the freaks, jocks...

Review: King Lear

Mike Arch, Staff writer

October 10, 2006

Filed under Arts & Life, Theatre Reviews

Director Robert Falls opens the 20th-anniversary season at the Goodman Theater with William Shakespeare's King Lear. The production has been extended to run through October 22. Stacy Keach (Lear) leads a cast of 29 members that include such well-known Chicago Actors Steve Pickering (Kent), Kevin Gudahl (Albany), and Howard Witt...

The all-American family

Angelica Garcia, Staff writer

October 10, 2006

Filed under Arts & Life, Theatre Reviews

The American Theater Company brings back William Inge's original play The Dark at the Top of the Stairs. William Inge was born in Independence, Kansas on March 3, 1913. After getting his masters from the George Peabody College for Teachers, he began working as a drama and music critic for the St. Louis Times. A new world...

Clowning Around

Cashmere Patterson, Staff Writer

September 26, 2006

Filed under Arts & Life, Theatre Reviews

While the small audience in the Chicago Cultural Ceter whispered among themselves, the lights dimmed as a man balancing himself on what appeared to be a beach ball, while simultaneously juggling three balls, entered the room. Child-like music blared from two large speakers as Paul Miller (a.k.a. Pauly the Clown) made his way...

Helen of…Egypt?

Angelica Garcia, Staff Writer

September 26, 2006

Filed under Arts & Life, Theatre Reviews

The age-old Greek myth of Helen of Troy has been reinvented once again in Ellen McLaughlin's play Helen, now playing at the Next Theater Company. The general understanding of her story is that Zeus, Helen's father, impregnates Leda, the Queen of Sparta and wife to King Tyndareus. There are different versions of how Helen...