By Jonathan Abarbanel
One of America's most influential civil-rights leaders of the '50s and '60s was a closeted gay man—the brilliant and skillful Bayard Rustin. His public and private struggles now have been dramatized in a new musical, Rustin Fire, that will be given a reading at Chicago Dramatists, 1105 W. Chicago, on Sat., Aug. 5, at 2 p.m. ( The cost is $5. ) For those unfamiliar with Rustin's career, he was the great political organizer behind the philosophy and public speeches of Martin Luther King, Jr. Older than King, Rustin was one of the individuals who persuaded King to take up the reins of civil rights leadership and nonviolent resistance. Because of his private life, Rustin largely was kept in the background, although he shared the platform with King and other dignitaries at his greatest triumph, the 1963 March on Washington. Rustin Fire is a dramatic musical by McKinley Johnson and Marshall Titus, both well-known figures in Chicago theater. Being Beautiful and Train is Comin' are among Johnson's works previously produced locally to considerable acclaim.
Steve Hickson's Single Box Turn Productions is traveling to the New York International Fringe Festival: FringeNYC, on Aug. 11-27, to present Band Geeks: A Halftime Musical, the troupe's surprise hit of the 2005-2006 Chicago season. Should you be in the Big Apple, you can catch the show at the Lucille Lortel Theatre, conveniently located on that gayest of New York bi-ways, Christopher Street in Greenwich Village. But that's not all! Band Geeks will be re-mounted ( now there's an image; just think of the tuba player ) in Chicago, Sept. 15-Nov. 4 at Theatre Building Chicago, 1225 W. Belmont. Band Geeks was written by Becky Eldridge, Amy Petersen and Andy Eninger.
And you thought August was hot? The Patti Elvis Band will heat things up even more on Saturday nights this month in the main room at Davenport's, 1383 N. Milwaukee, at 8 p.m. ( The cover is $15. ) Friday nights also will cook with Tracy Adams and Laura Freeman; their performances are at 8 p.m. and the cover is $18. Meanwhile, the less expensive front piano bar is practically the private preserve of several of Johnny's favorite cheapies ( and, no, Jonny does not mean chippies ) . Daryl Nitz and George Howe team up nimbly and inimitably on Fridays and Saturdays as the Nitz and Howe Experience, 10 p.m.-1:30 a.m. The cover is just $2, or one buck for each performer. Jonny has never known boys who go so cheap. Mr. Howe by himself holds sway Sundays and Mondays, 8-11:30 p.m., with his Showtunes Sing-Along.
Jonny reminds his dear readers that the delightful summer-long series It Came from the Neo-Futurarium concludes this weekend at—quel surprise!—the Neo-Futurarium, 5153 N. Ashland ( above the funeral home ) . This series offers staged readings of the worst screenplays ever put on film. The final offering is a reading of the 1986 film Solarbabies, in which an evil corporation's control of the world's water supply is brought down by a rogue team of roller-skating orphans. Jonny believes this screenplay would make Al Gore smile. It's on Thurs., Aug. 3, at 8 p.m.; $10.
Those ladies and gentlemen of refinement within our extended communities may be familiar with the delicate cultural manifestation known as Milly's Orchid Show, described by some as 'Ed Sullivan meets The Grand Ol' Opry.' This occasional variety show, hosted by country warbler Milly May Smith, has appeared on and off over the years at venues ranging from small clubs to Park West as well as at such New York venues as La Mama and P.S. 122. The character of Milly and the Orchid Show itself are the creations of performer, writer, saxophone player and filmmaker Brigid Murphy. Ms. Murphy will be honored Sat., Aug. 26, by Life Bait Theater, from whom she will receive the annual Grigsby Award for Exceptional Achievement in the Art of Solo Performance. Those interested in attending the roast at which the honor will be bestowed can contact Live Bait at 773-871-1212.
The busiest actor in town, at least for the next two weeks, may be another solo writer/performer, Brian Lobel, who is performing two shows at two different theaters. His new piece, Ball, about his experiences with testicular cancer, now is running at Bailiwick Repertory ( through Sun., Aug. 27 ) as part of the 2006 Pride Series. Meanwhile, Lobel continues to perform a different solo work at Live Bait as part of its ongoing Body Language series ( which runs through Fri., Aug. 25 ) . Jonny presumes Mr. Lobel has not scheduled himself in both theaters at the same time.