Whirling Dervishes of Turkey.
Jonny is delighted to announce that the Goodman Theatre has hired a remarkable member of our community, Willa J. Taylor, as the company's new director of education and community programs. As such, Taylor will oversee student subscriptions, teacher-training initiatives, a general theater studies program and audience education. Taylor's varied career has included military service, 20 years in arts education to which she now returns, and a stint as a gourmet chef.
Taylor served in the U. S. Navy for 12 years as a Russian and Arabic linguist, and also was active in management for the USO in Greece, and for Armed Forces Radio and Television in Turkey. While in New York, among other things, Taylor served as cultural director for Gay Games IV, overseeing the presentation of more than 200 cultural events. After moving to Chicago, Taylor graduated in 2001 from the Kendall College culinary program, after which she opened Taylor-Made Cuisine and Home Cafe. Jonny wonders what she'll do next, when she grows tired of the Goodman.
The Neo-Futurists have announced the summertime line-up for its sixth-annual series of staged readings of obscure, trashy, goofy, bizarre, cheesy, and all-around terrible film scripts. It Came From The Neo-Futurarium VI: Curse of The Neo-Futurarium! runs June 21-July 26, Thursdays at 8 p.m. Among this year's selections are 1980's Xanadu ( June 21; FYI, soon to be a satirical stage musical, for real ) ; 2000's DreamQuest ( June 28 ) ; 1953's Mesa of the Lost Women ( July 5 ) ; and—this HAS to be the best—1966's Madame X ( July 12 ) , a reading that will be directed by David Kodeski and Edward Thomas-Herrera. That's enough for now, mes enfants. Jonny will tell you other titles later in the season.
Long considered a secretive and fanatical sect, the whirling dervishes were banned when the modern, westernized republic of Turkey was established following World War I. Actually a type of ecstatic prayer restricted to men only, the white-skirted dervishes were members of the Mevlevi order, followers of the great Islamic humanist, mystic, poet and theologian Mawlana Jalal ud-din Muhammed Rumi, born in 1207. Some years ago, Turkey relented on the whirling, recognizing it could control the practice for purposes of public performance, and we in Chicago stand to benefit since UNESCO has declared 2007 as the Year of Rumi.
Taking advantage of the occasion, the city's Department of Cultural Affairs is presenting a free performance in Millennium Park by Turkish vocalist Ahmet Ozhan and his 40-member music and dance ensemble, followed by an appearance by the Whirling Dervishes of Turkey. Ozhan is a leading interpreter of Rumi's songs. Jonny is privileged to have visited the tomb of Rumi in Turkey, in the great mosque and madrasa ( school ) which Rumi founded.
As part of its opening week celebrations, the Center on Halsted will offer June 9-10 concerts by Windy City Performing Arts, which is one of the Center's community partners. The 2007 Pride Concert, Pride—In Technicolor will feature a rainbow tapestry of songs and styles, from Blue Skies and My Love's Like a Red Red Rose to Andrew Lloyd-Webber's Coat of Many Colors and Harold Arlen's mythical Somewhere Over the Rainbow. There will be three Pride—In Technicolor performances; 773-404-9242; $20.
Chicago's Department of Cultural Affairs and Chicago Cabaret Professionals are presenting two all-out salutes to Broadway legends this month, at the Storefront Theater, 60 E. Randolph. June 8-10 will offer I Am What I Am, a salute to Jerry Herman, composer of Hello, Dolly, Mame, The Grand Tour, La Cage aux Folles and other shows. June 15-17 offers City Lights, a salute to John Kander and Fred Ebb, authors of Cabaret, Kiss of the Spider Woman, Chicago and other shows. The talent line-up is a who's who of top Chicago cabaret talent, among them Bob Moreen, Bradford Newquist, Daryl Nitz, Suzanne Petri, Tom Michael, Kate Taylor, Bradford Thacker, Denise Tomasello, Robert Whorton and others. Each program will be performed three times; 312-742-8497; $15. Tickets are available by phone, online or at the Storefront Theater box office.
Those heading 'round the tip of the lake in June towards Saugatuck, Douglas and other gay havens can catch some great local entertainment at the Acorn Theater in Three Oaks, Mich. Among the attractions are Tom Michael and Beckie Menzie with their cabaret act, Mood Swings ... The Ins and Outs of Ups and Downs; the Skald Storytelling Competition; cabaret icon Spider Saloff; and the Weird Sisters with the Strange Brothers. See www.acorntheater.com or phone 269-756-3879.