Dilbert’s Scott Adams got to this idea first, of course… but did he go for implementation? I don’t think so.
My to-do list for 2012: Create invention. Change the world. Get rich.
The invention: A robot that goes to meetings for you.
Changing the world:In addition to freeing up a crapload of time, this invention will prevent a ginormous number of needless conflicts. (If you hadn’t been at the meeting , you wouldn’t have responded to your colleague’s idiotic comment, and we’d all be better off, right?)
Getting rich: This part seems obvious, since everybody needs one.
So, job one: Major R&D. How convincing can this robot be?
The other shows I saw in 2010-11 were a mixed bag. Some I hated, but I enjoyed writing about all of them, so I’m posting them all here.
So, a caveat: If you found your way here because a Google Alert on your own name picked up this link– well, read at your own risk. Out of anybody whose name appears on this page, the only person’s mother who should read any further is mine.
In addition to my top five shows from Chicago’s 2010-11 theater season, the following shows all had a lot to recommend them. I’ll be keeping an eye out for the writers, performers, directors and designers who created these programs. In no particular order:
Melissa Hawkins in "Exiles." Photo by Marianne Bach
Exiles, Theater Y
James Joyce’s only play predates the wild experimentation of Ulysses, but gets a hyper-stylized treatment in Theatre Y’s inventive, intense production. The story concerns a brooding writer who jerks around his devoted common-law wife. By halfway encouraging her to return the romantic advances of his own childhood buddy, he sets up a manipulative, tragically un-passable test of her loyalty. Director Kevin Smith spotlights the play’s oppressive sexual politics: The female characters are done up like drag queens, their suppressed emotions bursting out in spasms, shouting fits, and–at the end of each act–explosive lip-sync numbers. Joyce’s script has some plodding passages, but the ensemble’s commitment, vision, and precision fire up many startling, haunting moments.
Anthony Kayer in "Arnie The Doughnut." Photo by Suzanne Plunkett
I’ve been reviewing theater for the Chicago Reader since last summer, and this seems like as good a time as any to look back on some favorites. Keep in mind, I’ve only seen a small fraction of what’s out there– the Reader’s got a small army of us– so there’s a lot of good stuff that I’ve missed.
In no particular order, here are the five that I’m most psyched to have seen– the ones I walked out of, thinking, “Damn! That was unusually awesome. I’m sure glad I’m alive.”
Arnie the Doughnut, Lifeline Theater
On the morning he’s born, chocolate-covered Arnie gamely resolves to find his life’s purpose. Discovering the shocking truth when his owner attempts to take a bite, Arnie makes his objections heard. Frances Limoncelli’s adaptation retains the absurdist zing of the 2003 children’s book by Laurie Keller while freely adding complementary ingredients, including zippy songs by George Howe and a Kafkaesque subplot involving a totalitarian condo-board president. Brandon Paul Eells brings not only sweetness but wit to the title role–this doughnut is a naive goofball, but nobody’s fool–and makes Arnie’s terror and disillusionment truly affecting. The entire cast provide spirit, charm, and jazzy harmonies under Elise Kauzlaric’s capable direction. The show is a delight–delicious and substantial, even without a kid tagging along. Continue reading →
The Metropolitan Correctional Center, or MCC, is a federal jail in the middle of downtown Chicago. When the brilliant Roman Mars invited me to collaborate on a Chicago-architecture episode of his world-rocking show about design, 99 Percent Invisible, this was the building I wanted to feature. (I’ll explain why below, but first, have a look.)
First, did I mention that it’s a jail in the middle of downtown Chicago?
Avant-gardists have always been drawn to Woyzeck, and it’s easy to see why. For one thing, it was unfinished when its German author, Georg Büchner, died young of typhus in 1837. Some scenes look like fragments, some may’ve been rejects, and there’s no clear indication of their order, so an experimenter has plenty of room to mess around.
It’s also as dark as can be. Based on a sensational crime of the period,Woyzeck follows the unraveling of a soldier who, driven crazy by poverty and powerlessness, kills the mother of his infant child. The piece is full of biting social satire—with blackly comic, over-the-top scenes of powerful assholes abusing the hapless antihero—and constitutes a blueprint for pretty much all of Bertolt Brecht, parts of Waiting for Godot, and Monty Python at its nastiest.
This spring, six Chicago theaters and an opera company have banded together to present the Woyzeck Project, a festival anchored by two shows running now at the Chopin Theatre: About Face Theatre’s premiere production of Pony by Sylvan Oswald, which tosses a few Büchnerian elements into a contemporary story about transgender identity, andWoyzeck itself, as adapted and directed by Sean Graney for the Hypocrites. In addition to sharing a venue and a starting point, the two productions employ the same set, sound, lighting, and prop designers. Continue reading →
It’s an extension of an old project from the Vocalo days, started with my friend and then-colleague Usama. (I think this may be the first example), under the name "God Talk." I’m wondering about the name for the next version: "God Talk: The Second Coming"? Or maybe, in tribute to Roman Mars, "100 Percent Invisible"?
I was out Sunday and took a few notes on what seem like promising leads. Using my camera. Here’s one:
Starting to migrate content from the old danweissmann.com over here. Starting with two old favorites: The Pink Nun and the Rat Patrol.
Coincidentally, very sad news tonight. Cliff Doerksen, who edited the Pink Nun story– my first for The Chicago Reader– died recently. He was just 47. News got around today. Cliff had moved on from The Reader by the time I published there again, so that was my only encounter with him, but he did a lot to make that story shine.