A little more than a year ago, in its 2005 year-end summary, TimeOut Chicago identified 10 theater productions as the best shows of the year, only two of which—or 20 percent—were written by women. Taking this as a combination insult, challenge and mandate, a group of artists launched the 20% Theatre Company to produce plays written, designed and directed by women that concern issues affecting the American female experience. In the short space of one year, the company has produced six plays.
20% Theatre Company is not the first troupe to take up the theatrical rolling pin for women, either in Chicago or elsewhere. In fact, women more than hold their own here. A quick survey of the leading local not-for-profit companies—Chicago Shakespeare, Court, Goodman, Lookingglass, Northlight, Steppenwolf and Victory Gardens theaters—confirms that women hold either the top artistic or management job at five out of the seven. Chicago has a Women's Theatre Alliance, too.
We don't doubt the claim of the 20% Theatre Company that not enough produced plays are written by women; but keep in mind that for the first 2,500 years of theatrical history, there simply weren't many female playwrights. And, surely, some playwrights, such as Tennessee Williams and Charles Busch, should be considered honorary women.
Be that as it may, the next work offered by the 20% Theatre Company is Jane: Abortion and the Underground, by Chicago journalist and playwright Paula Kamen. It is 'the daring story of the fight for reproductive rights by a feminist collective of middle-class housewives in Hyde Park,' according to the 20% press release. Now, Stage Door Jonny knows the combination of feminist collective, housewives and Hyde Park sounds like the premise for a raucous comedy, but we believe this very much is an earnest endeavor concerning an important—and, once again, threatened—right. Jane: Abortion and the Underground runs Feb. 17-March 24 at the Side Studio in Rogers Park; 773-528-9488.
In Sidney Kingsley's 1930's play Dead End—where the Dead End Kids came from—there is a character with bones damaged by rickets who is called 'Gimpty,' which is definitely not very PC. These days, it's considered bad form to call a gimp a gimp—unless, of course, you happen to be a gimp yourself. And so it is that the theatrical event formerly called Disability Culture Sundays has now been renamed—by its innovators and participants—Crip Slam Sundays. The very title makes one cringe, but perhaps that's part of the point.
Crip Slam Sundays is part of the Victory Gardens Theater Access Project, and it offers readings, presentations and life performances by and about persons with disabilities. The renamed series gets off to a good start Jan. 28, 7:30 p.m., at the Victory Gardens Greenhouse, with a program by one of our favorite artists: writer, producer and performer Tekki Lomnicki. Her solo performance, Clothing Optional, is Lomnicki's comic narrative of her experiences at a clothing-optional California hot-springs commune. All Crip Slam Sundays events are captioned, features sign language interpretation and are wheelchair-accessible. Your $10 ticket includes a post-show reception.
Choreographer Wilfredo Rivera, of the Cerqua Rivera Dance Theatre, is going cowboy on us. No, he's not creating a dance version of Brokeback Mountain—hey, there's an idea!—but he's staging the musical numbers for the American Theatre Company's intimate production of Oklahoma! The still-popular 1943 Rodgers and Hammerstein musical is being presented with a cast of just 12 and a four-piece country-and-western band on Feb. 1-March 4. Stage Door Jonny can only guess what Wilfredo will do with lean guys in boots, Levis and tight chaps. One can only guess ... and hope! For tickets to Oklahoma!, call 773-929-5009.
By the way, the Cerqua Rivera Dance Theatre will present its winter concert Feb. 20-23 at the Columbia College Chicago Music Department, 1014 S. Michigan. Entitled Stones of Hope, the program will honor Black History Month through a civil-rights theme utilizing the words of Maya Angelou and Martin Luther King, Jr., as well as the music of Sam Cooke.
You just can't keep a good thing down at Bailiwick Repertory, which has announced two new extensions of the Barenaked Lads franchise. First, Barenaked Lads on Broadway—featuring a cast of new Lads—will open at a date TBA in late spring and is expected to run many months. Even better, Bailiwick is taking the Lads on the road: Barenaked Lads Greatest Hits is set for a three-month run at the Post Office Cabaret in Provincetown ( ! ) , Mass., this summer, opening June 15. The Provincetown company of four Lads, one Lady and an indeterminate piano player will be under the helm of Lads veteran John Cardone. Of course, there are so many barenaked lads in Provincetown in the summer, it may be difficult to separate the cast from the audience. Oops! Jonny means it may be difficult to distinguish between the cast and the audience.