Whatever you think you know about Emily Dickinson will either be confirmed or completely recalculated after seeing the Court Theatre production of The Belle of Amherst, playing now through December 3. Playwright William Luce captures Dickinson’s mood and thought processes, nearly one hundred years after her death, with his purposefully meandering 1976 script. Rather than follow a linear timeline, the story takes the audience on a series of adventures—or, sometimes, misadventures—from different points in Dickinson’s life. Over the course of a day, while Dickinson bakes her favorite black cake, she recollects memory after memory, each lending itself to the next. Kate Fry, who plays Emily Dickinson, brilliantly gives the poet life, pulling in the audience immediately with a subtle peek through the fourth wall. She acknowledges we are in fact present, giving an informal invitation of sorts into her home. Once inside, we become readers of her poetry by sharing in her day-to-day intricate family dynamics, the gossip of neighbors, the pain of unrequited love, her work’s rejection by an esteemed critic, and even a few favorite baking recipes. Sometimes we are given the information by ordinary dialogue, but often the stories are woven together from the words from Dickinson’s actual poems.
On Thursday, November 9, the Third Coast International Audio Festival (TCIAF) presented Re:sound LIVE! curated by The Fest, was live at Thalia Hall.
The 1963 Boycott of Chicago Public Schools was a pivotal moment in the history of education and racial justice, not only in Chicago, but in the whole country…I’ll repeat that again.” Then even more slowly and emphatically, Jay Travis, former Executive Director of Kenwood Oakland Community Organization, repeated the statement.
I was a dissenter. I retaliated against a lot of things, but more so I retaliated against the way people tried to color the world for me. I questioned, and I didn’t realize until I got older that I was always questioning why things have to be the way they are. I was deeply invested in my imagination, and cinema was that environment that sort of told me: you can create, these ideas can come out of you and unfold, and you can create the reality that you want through this particular medium.
Everything about the day was expertly choreographed. Dozens of large yellow school buses maneuvered their way through morning rush hour to the Private Bank Theater. Once there, Chicago Public School security staff clad in official blue jackets along with parents and teachers wearing identifiable orange vests assembled hundreds of high school students to their seats. Excitement buzzed in the air. The chatter and energy were palpable. Weeks of work and dedication culminated here at Chicago’s final Hamilton Education Program of the 2016–2017 school year.
The policy, the numbers game
One Earth Film Festival, Chicago’s premier environmental movie festival, put on its sixth run earlier this month, from March 3 to March 12. Aiming to raise awareness and facilitate dialogue about environmental issues and protections, One Earth screens films and hosts post-screening discussions for free. This year, they put on forty-seven showings of thirty films in thirty-nine locations throughout the Chicagoland area. The Weekly sent writers to three of these: Can You Dig This?, NaturePlay, and Chicago’s True Nature.
Solomon Dumas is nervous about dancing in Chicago.
Director, playwright, and teaching artist Carla Stillwell knows more than a few things about Chicago theater after twenty-one seasons with Ma’at Production Association of Afrikan Centered Theatre (MPAACT). Stillwell, a South Shore native who began acting professionally at the age of ten, is bringing her craft back to the South Side this year; she will organize MPAACT group classes starting in April and will also launch her own private theater classes out of her Woodlawn home. Stillwell is directing MPAACT’s final show of the season, local playwright Shepsu Aakhu’s Never the Milk and Honey, opening April 14. The Weekly spoke with her about her new classes, her three decades of work, and the importance of theater by and for people of color.
Last Wednesday, a tall, wide-smiling usher opened the door, bringing me into the Chicago Art Department’s musky, glowing warmth. Nothing—the art, the lights, or the makeshift bar bustling with customers—was quite as compelling as the noise. It was loud. Not in an interruptive way, but I could hear laughter from across the room, and see and feel it bouncing from one group of people to the next. The tall ceiling, strung back and forth with yellow lights, only helped matters along, allowing notes of R&B music to fill the air. Couples’ heads were bent down, ears inches from mouths, while friends howled excited greetings at every new face that walked through the door. Hugs were given without discretion, and kisses planted in abundance.