As the crowd trickled into the movie theater, Britney Spears played on the big screen. The footage, desaturated and shaky, cut between shots of Spears beaming and performing on stage and shots of her anxiously calling someone on her phone. But as the theater filled, the footage cut to an uncomfortably close still of Spears standing worried backstage while concertgoers’ cheers played in the background. What at first appeared to be a glitch quickly revealed itself to be an intentional choice made by the filmmaker—one that evoked an unsettling sadness for Spears’s situation.
In May of 1937, eight-year-old Lorraine Hansberry moved with her family to a home in the all-white neighborhood of what is now West Woodlawn, in an act that helped fight a racially segregated housing system in Chicago. Two weeks ago, a crowd of over one hundred convened just a twenty-minute walk away from that same childhood home to watch Sighted Eyes / Feeling Heart, a new documentary honoring Hansberry’s life as both a playwright and activist.
This week on SSW Radio we dug up the past, listening to art and music performances from the 2017 archives, welcomed back a host, and announced an upcoming special interview.
My name is Patti Kim Gill. I’m originally from New Orleans. I moved to Chicago when I was twelve, to Englewood. I have four children. I’ve been married for almost twenty years. I’m a writer, I’m an artist, and I’m a creator.
Before An Evening at the Chez Nous had even begun, Bronzeville native Marlow La Fantastique—whose career the event was celebrating—was already in her element. She worked her way about the room, doling out hellos and bisous with the grace of someone very familiar with the spotlight. That, of course, is an understatement. For decades, her relationship to spotlights was like a fish’s to the sea: she basically lived in them, performing not only in the States, but all over the world. Hers was truly a star-studded career, one with too many high points to easily identify any single apogee. But if forced to, one might point to La Fantastique’s time performing at the Cabaret Chez Nous, the famous West Berlin nightclub known for featuring drag queens and trans women performers as well as its celebrity patronage.
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.