“Drink sir, is a great provoker”: Drunk Shakespeare delivers unpredictable laughs

by Doug Rapp

Behind an unmarked door on Wabash Street on a narrow stage, actor Courtney Rikki Green downs four shots of whiskey.

She isn’t fighting stage fright—this is part of the show.

Welcome to Drunk Shakespeare, a self-proclaimed drinking club with a Shakespeare problem. The small troupe performs one of his plays with a twist: one actor is drinking. A lot. 

The chosen actor takes four shots before the show, then two more during the performance in a space modeled to look like a hidden library speakeasy. 

“It’s taking a fresh look at Shakespeare and playing with it and letting people know that it’s approachable,” resident director Kathleen Coombs said.

At two recent performances of Macbeth, Courtney Rikki Green imbibed 12 shots of whiskey throughout the night while playing Macduff, Macbeth’s nemesis.

Drunk Shakespeare mainly sticks to the plot but allows plenty of room for improvisation. The actors, including Elizabeth Rentfro and Chelsea David, faithfully recite monologues while breaking into contemporary songs (Radiohead’s “Creep”), pulling audience members on stage or bringing out a birthday cake for actor Jordan Golding, who played Macbeth.  

Thomas Toles is the host, or “designated plot driver” as he calls it.

“I’m there to keep the story somewhat on track and also enable [the actors] at any moment to be their worst selves,” he said.

Green, for her part, held up remarkably well. She did drink hot sauce on stage, made a puppet do inappropriate things and poke Golding in sensitive areas with props, but returned to form to deliver her lines when needed.

“The alcohol helps so much,” Green said. “I’m into it.”

Before joining Drunk Shakespeare, she said the idea of drinking before a performance was unthinkable.

“Now, I’m like ‘Yes!’ That is how I unlock and unfurl and uncover the best parts of my acting ability,” Green said.

Coombs said alcohol helps the actors’ improv, allowing surprises and discoveries for a unique show each time. It all dovetails with Chicago’s reputation as the mecca of improv.

“I think it’s a really great fit for Chicago,” Coombs said. “We’re a theater town, an improv town and a town that loves drinking and having fun.”

Toles said drinking makes Shakespeare more relatable. High school English teachers have told him they wish they could bring classes to see what makes Shakespeare “so special and interesting and fun.” The show is 21 and over.

The diverse audiences at the frequently sold-out shows are approaching Shakespeare from various angles, Toles said.

“That’s a nice feeling when you get the nerdy Shakespeare fan and the jock from the frat house and they both are invested,” he said. “That’s so cool.”

“It’s a unique beast of a show that is truly unlike anything in Chicago,” Green added.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, binge drinking (having 4 or more drinks within 2 hours) has serious health risks such as strokes, liver disease, various cancers plus memory and learning problems (like forgetting lines from MacBeth).

Drunk Shakespeare performs Wednesday through Sunday at 182 N. Wabash Ave. Visit drunkshakespeare.com for showtimes and tickets.

The News Gets Around

Take a little piece of home with you when you travel this holiday season. Show love for your community by snapping a photo holding up New Eastside News in a new and exciting location. We would love to hear the story behind the photo as well. The best photo and story we receive each month will get a spot in the paper and a gift card.

Managing Editor Stephanie Racine just took a trip to Newport Beach, California. Before having lunch with a view of the Pacific, Stephanie took a picture with the September edition of New Eastside News in front of Pacific Coast Highway and the ocean. 

Jane Eyre ballet adaptation brings literature to life

by Stephanie Racine

The Joffrey Ballet’s performance of Jane Eyre brings the Victorian Bildungsroman to life. 

The ballet opened its 2019/2020 season Oct. 16 with the Chicago premiere of Cathy Marston’s adaptation of the novel. There will be just 10 performances at the Auditorium Theatre, 50 E. Ida B. Wells Dr., running through Oct. 27.  

Jane Eyre’s difficult journey is highlighted by the presence of the “D Men,” which stands for “death” or “demon.” Constantly looming, Jane struggles with her own demons and insecurities throughout the production. She repeats arguments with the D Men, fights them off and loves them, mirroring her actions throughout the story.

Jane’s tortured upbringing is fractured by violence. Her aunt, cousins and headmaster all cruelly shun her with forceful motions. These movements are later juxtaposed with the languid, loving and passionate pas de deux Jane has with Rochester. 

Jane moves to Rochester’s home, Thornfield, as the governess for his ward Adele—who may be his daughter. Adele is flighty in her pink dress, constantly moving and prodding at those around her. 

Jane becomes a fixture at Thornfield, feeling at home despite an ominous feeling of mystery. Jane does not notice Bertha, the woman in the ragged red dress lurking and watching her interactions with Rochester, as they grow fond of each other. Bertha, the mentally ill wife of Rochester, is kept away from the public. Once Rochester and Jane are blissfully engaged and in the process of getting married, Bertha reveals herself in a frenetic and rough display. 

Jane leaves Rochester, but cannot stay away for long. She returns to find Thornfield in flames—a stunningly realistic set display—as Rochester fights to save Bertha from the fire and her own mind. He is blinded by the flames, falling into Jane’s arms upon her return. 

Tickets for Jane Eyre, starting at $35, are available at The Joffrey Ballet’s box office in the lobby of Joffrey Tower, 10 E. Randolph St., at the Auditorium Theatre Box Office, at (312) 386-8905, or at joffrey.org.

Chicago’s downtown offers spooky history

By Elisa Shoenberger

Downtown Chicago has a rich history of ghost stories and and many popular landmarks have spooky tales associated with them.

A famous site is the Iroquois Theater, now the James M. Nederlander Theatre, 24 W. Randolph. Hundreds of moviegoers, mostly women and children, perished in a horrible fire during a Christmas musical in 1903.

Many people died in an alley behind the theater when the panicked crowd ran out the upper-level fire escape doors and fell to their death because fire escapes had not been installed. 

There have been reported sightings of ghosts in the alley as well as the theater.

One reported haunting is inside the theater. Adam Selzer, a local historian, said theater workers report a backstage toilet that flushed by itself and the sound of a little girl giggling. 

However, Selzer explains, people assume that all the ghosts behind the Nederlander theater are from the Iroquois Theater Fire.

“Plenty of other people got killed there,” he said. The street, known as “Hairtrigger Block,” was filled with gambling halls.

Selzer has led ghost tours all over Chicago. This fall he’s running haunted river cruises as well as tours of Lincoln Park Zoo. 

Selzer said he does his research “to get the history right.” While studying haunted places, he’s found the stories can change as they are passed along.“

“Like a game of telephone,” he said.

Selzer said some stories involving Congress Plaza Hotel are more legend than history. However, he said, the location’s proximity to the Auditorium Theater offers some “gruesome” history. Many opera singers who stayed in the hotel ended their lives there.

Selzer said he once heard a gunshot in the hallway behind the Congress ballroom while leading a tour. They never found the cause.

Other haunted places include the site of the S.S. Eastland Disaster on the Chicago River at Clark St. and Wacker Dr., where 844 people perished when the boat capsized in 1915, and the site of Fort Dearborn at Wacker Dr. and Michigan Ave. where soldiers died in the Battle of Fort Dearborn.

Lyric names new musical director as Davis announces retirement

(Published Sept. 12, 2019)

By Jesse Wright

On Thursday the Lyric Opera announced Enrique Mazzola as Lyric’s next music director.

Mazzola will be the third director for the theater and he will take over from Sir Andrew Davis when Davis wraps up the 2021/2022 season in the spring of 2022. 

Davis has directed at the Lyric for 20 years, and he will return for guest spots on certain operas. 

“My love for the company has not diminished one jot or tittle since I first came here in 1987,” Davis said. “The Lyric is my family my wife feels exactly the same way and I shall have a wonderful two years finishing my official stint. Anthony, I thank you for everything.”

Davis was referring to Anthony Freud, the general director of the opera who praised Davis as he welcomed Mazzola. 

“It’s been a greater honor than I can say for me to be able to work so closely with Andrew during my time here,” said Freud. 

Mazzola has conducted operas at the Lyric, first in 2016 then in 2018 and Freud praised his attention to detail and his pacing. 

“These were extremely happy experiences for the company for our audiences and I hope for him,” Freud said. 

Mazzola said he did enjoy his work at the Lyric and he looks forward to moving to Chicago.

“I want to become a Chicagoan as far as possible,” he said. “I’m Italian but I will try. … I want to be near you all. … I think that from today in a way and from Sept. 21, my place is here and I want to listen to Chicago and stay in Chicago.”

He said fell in love with the city at first sight. 

“Each time I left my heart here,” he said. 

This year’s theater season kicks off Sept. 28 with a production of “The Barber of Seville.” For more information and tickets, visit lyricopera.org.

Teatro ZinZanni brings European-style Cabaret to Chicago


(Published Aug. 31, 2019)

By Elisa Shoenberger

Love, Chaos and Dinner.

That’s the tagline for Chicago’s newest cabaret show, Teatro ZinZanni. This dinner and a show aims to deliver on all three.  A variety of performances include circus acts, clowning performances and song and dance numbers through a multi-course dinner, catered by the Goddess and the Grocer.

Founded in 1998 by Norman Langill, Teatro ZinZanni is inspired by the European cabarets. Langill said he wanted to “create an intimate relationship with the artists.” Teatro ZinZanni currently has shows running in Seattle and San Francisco. 

The show takes place on the 14th floor of the Cambria Hotel, 32 W. Randolph St., in a space discovered in 2017 when the hotel was doing renovations. Langill had been looking for the right place in Chicago for ten years and when the former Masonic temple was found, “it was a natural,” for the show. Langill said. Now the space is renovated to become the “Spiegeltent ZaZou” described by ZinZanni press as a “Belgium mirror tent filled with unique, historic touches.”

The three-hour show has a show within a show feeling as the antics of its performers and wait staff start before the show officially begins. Performers wander around dressed as wait staff and cooks and interact with the customers between the official acts and during the dinner courses. 

“The food and the waitstaff have to be integrated in the experience. They are the support cast for the evening,” Langill said. “It has to be integrated and seamlessly connected to the show so there is only one experience you are having, not two.”

The “hosts” of Teatro ZinZanni are The Caesar, played by Frank Ferrante, and sultry singer Madame ZinZanni, performed by Rizo. They are accompanied by a live band with music reminiscent of Édith Piaf and jazz classics. “Lady Rizo is a force of nature.” 

Rachel Karabenick, a circus performer who attended the show, remarked. “Her voice, her poise, her humor—everything about her performance was simply stunning. I’d say she is one of the best performers I have ever seen live.”

The cabaret presents performers from around the world along with local artists from Chicago. Samuel and Sylvia are local performers known as Duo Rose who perform on doubles trapeze. 

The show will continue through the end of September and a new show “Decadent Delights” with a diner theme will begin in October.

You’re move: Residents have fun at board game night

(Published Aug. 31, 2019)

By Stephanie Racine, Staff Writer

A group of New Eastside—and nearby—residents have come together to form a board game night. The group meets monthly in the party room at The Tides, 360 E. South Water St.

New Eastside resident Ishmeet Lamda started the game night by reaching out to neighbors on the social media application NextDoor. She was excited to discover many people in the neighborhood like to play board games.

“I’m an extrovert who likes to socialize and also love to play board games,” Lamda said. 

New Eastside resident Jeffrey Molsen regularly attends. 

“The neighborhood board game night is great because it allows me to meet new people through sharing some of my favorite games and getting the opportunity to try out new ones,” he said.

A typical board game night includes a warm-up game to account for any latecomers. Short games, such as Uno or Iota, are played. 

“We then either split into groups and play, or we all come together and play cooperative games which are super engaging,” Lamda said. Those games, like Pandemic and Avalon, are more strategic and take a longer time.

Lamda’s favorites to play at game night are Stone Age, Iota, Hanabi, Uno, and Code Names.

Molsen said his favorite is Fluxx. 

“The rules start simple, and you just have to do what the cards say after that,” he said. “However, it can quickly devolve into delightful mayhem.”

The board game club welcomes all new members.

“It is a pretty flexible and happy-go-lucky group,” Lambda said. 

Plans are put together on NextDoor. Lamda posts information about meetings. The next planned meeting is 6 p.m. on Sept. 6. Lamda asks interested parties to RSVP on NextDoor.

[Board Game Night members rounding out the night with Uff-Da and free massages from (name) photo by Stephanie Racine]

Women’s Bar Association celebrates 19th Amendment and 100 years of women voting

By Jesse Wright

In June, Illinois is celebrating the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment. lllinois was one of the early states to ratify the amendment which gave women the right to vote. 

Suffragettes gained statewide support for the 19th Amendment by working with other groups, so the Women’s Bar Association of Illinois (WBAI), in that spirit, is partnering with several other bar associations to commemorate the occasion. 

The bar associations include the Standing Committee on Women and the Law of the Illinois State Bar Association, The Chicago Bar Association’s Alliance for Women and the Black Women Lawyers’ Association of Illinois. In addition, the WBAI will host a luncheon Oct. 16 at The Union League Club to honor the 19th Amendment. The featured speaker will be Rebecca Pallmeyer, first female Chief Judge of the Northern District of Illinois.

Corinne Heggie, newly-installed president of the WBAI, said the suffragette movement is inspirational. 

“It took over 100 years to get it on the books,” she said. “And [that] speaks to the power of the folks who got it on the books.”

In addition to the activists, Heggie praised Illinois lawmakers, including the governor at the time. 

“I have to believe then-Gov. Frank Lowden, who signed the legislation, was a vanguard in his mentality,” she said. “Illinois was one of the first states to sign on and I have to believe it was the leaders in Springfield, and that’s not nothing because I don’t know if it was a popular position.”

According to the National Parks Service, Illinois lawmakers had intended the state to be the first to ratify the amendment, but inadvertently passed the wrong wording on June 10, 1919. By the time they noticed and held another vote on June 17, Illinois became the seventh state to ratify the amendment. 

Heggie said in the spirit of the 19th Amendment, the WBAI will continue to serve as a resource for Illinois and Chicago. The WBAI accepts men and women as members, and by partnering with other bar associations, she hopes to spread the word about the organization. 

“We want to be part of the conversation,” Heggie said. “We’re trying to raise awareness for those who don’t know who we are, and to be a resource.”

To find out more about the group, visit wbaillinois.org.

Golden Knights, Blue Angels headline 61st annual event by the lake

(Published July 30, 2019

By Elisa Shoenberger, Staff Writer

The U.S. Navy Blue Angels, the U.S. Army Parachute Team Golden Knights and the U.S. Navy Parachute Team Leap Frogs will headline the 61st annual Chicago Air and Water Show, set for 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Aug. 17-18.

Last year’s show drew an estimated 1 million people, said Mary May, Marketing and Communications, Public Relations Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events for the City of Chicago.

The show will also feature the Royal Air Force Aerobatic Team The Red Arrows from the United Kingdom. Nineteen other groups will be performing with nine military demonstrations and ten civilian teams. 

This year’s special guests, the RAF Red Arrows have performed nearly 5,000 times in 57 countries since 1965, according to a City of Chicago news release. The Red Arrows will perform in more than 20 displays in the U.S. and Canada on its first North American tour in 11 years, according to the Red Arrows website. 

To get the Red Arrows’ Hawk T1 jets to North America, they will be flown over three days, the tour website said. They will have 12 Hawk aircrafts and 1 Atlas A400M RAF transport aircraft. The tour will include 108 people, “including pilots, engineers and support staff.”

A regular of the Air and Water Show, the U.S. Navy Blue Angels includes 16 officers. The Commanding Officer, known as the “Boss” who flies the number 1 jet, is required to “have at least 3,000 tactical jet flight-hours and have commanded a tactical jet squadron,” according to the Blue Angels website. Officers in jets 2 through 8 must “have an aircraft carrier qualification and a minimum of 1,250 tactical jet flight-hours.” 

The U.S. Army Parachute Team Golden Knights was founded in 1959 but received its name in 1962 due to all the gold medals the Knights had won, according to the Golden Knights website.

“The team has earned the U.S. Army 2,148 gold, 1,117 silver, and 693 bronze medals in national and international competition,” the site said. “Team members have also broken 348 world records.” The Golden Knights currently have nearly 95 men and women, including four parachute units and five aircrafts, according to their website. They perform annually in over 100 events.

Energetic ‘Music Man’ opens at Goodman

(Published July 10, 2019)

By Bob Oswald

The Goodman Theatre is closing out the 2018-2019 season with an energetic presentation of “The Music Man.” 

Meredith Wilson’s story about con man Harold Hill who plans to swindle the town of River City, Iowa with the promise of a band opened to an enthusiastic crowd Monday night and kept a rousing pace throughout.

Hill, played by Goodman alum Geoff Packard, gets things moving as he arrives in town and convinces citizens to support the band. Packard and Monica West, who plays the town’s librarian Marian Paroo, work beautifully together and don’t miss a note while keeping up with the dazzling and intense dance moves worked out by choreographer Denis Jones.

The production is directed by Mary Zimmerman, who has directed an impressive 16 productions during her 25 years at the Goodman Theatre.
Following the opening, the Goodman Theatre announced it has added a second and final extension week to “The Music Man.” Due to an “overwhelming demand for tickets,” the show will run through Aug. 18. in the 856-seat Albert Theatre. Tickets, from $25 to $142, are available at GoodmanTheatre.org/MusicMan, at 312-443-3800 or at the box office, 170 North Dearborn.

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