Chicago Arts Journal

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Chicago Arts Journal ! Winter 2015

Dear Readers,
Have you ever had the sort of postal correspondence with a
faraway loved one in which long stretches of time pass —
during which notes are taken on various subjects, with the
intent to convey the texture of one’s life and time — but the
card itself languishes in a drawer unsent? That’s something of
how we feel lately. In the past few months, we’ve seen a bunch
of shows, we’ve had a bunch of ideas, we’ve laughed and
thought of you — and now we’re at a backlog. It’s been too
long, readers. But what better time, then, than this horrendous
cold snap to send you our fondly-scribbled notes in the form of
a new issue? Do you have a fireplace to sit by? If not, put some
beans on the stove and pull up a chair. We need to catch up.
In looking over the various reviews, stories, arguments and
conversations in this issue, we have gotten to thinking about
tradition and continuity. In the theater reports department, we
find several local stagings of Samuel Beckett’s works, providing
fruitful thoughts on the man and his current interpreters,
stretching or ignoring the canon; we recall Carl Sandburg’s
“Rootabaga” style of folk tales and their mythologized
Midwestern landscapes, a form riffed upon in these pages by
Mark Leach; we ponder the long-running festival atmosphere
encountered for one weekend each summer at Mary-Arrchie’s
Abbie Hoffman Died for Our Sins; and we steep in the
communal, semi-fictional theatrical neighborhoods of Beau
O’Reilly, co-author of Curious Theatre Branch’s March!, here

observed by Ira Murfin. Contributor Margaret Murray
furnishes us with a quietly thoughtful personal essay on a long
and sporadic friendship with a friend now gone to live in New
Orleans, a city that can feel both ever-changing and eternal. To
conclude the issue, we conducted interviews with local artmakers Sherry Antonini and Robert Metrick, who told us
about their past projects and also their future works, hopes,
and ideas — which include, for each, a show in the Rhinoceros
Theater Festival, an event now nipping at our heels. On that
subject, keep your eyes peeled for our Rhino Fest Flash Issue,
in which we recap and reflect on various events from the
venerable fringe fest put up by Curious each winter. We’re glad
to be back in touch, and we hope this letter finds you well. If
there’s anything you’d like to say to us, please don’t hesitate to

—Johann Blumer
for the Editors
[email protected]

Table of Contents


Page 3

By Right Brain Theatre Project
Reviewed by Arlene Engel


Happy Days
By Theatre Y
Reviewed by Arlene Engel


Abbie Hoffman Died for Our Sins XXVII
By Mary-Arrchie Theatre Co. et al.
Reviewed by Carine Loewi


In the Absence of a Road, You Could Float Up
Essay by Margaret Murray


By Curious Theatre Branch
Reviewed by Ira S. Murfin


How Tweezle Seed Prompted the Three-D Sisters
and the Beefalo Brothers to Do as the Rootabaga Lizards Do
Story by Mark Leach


Hellish Half-Light: Shorter Plays of Samuel Beckett
By Mary-Arrchie Theatre Co.
Reviewed by Edmund St. Bury and Carine Loewi


Questions for Sherry Antonini


Questions for Robert Metrick


Notes on Contributors

Front cover and images on pages 13 and 29 by Dietrich
Back Cover: “Commie Dog and His Pals” by Sue Cargill

Chicago Arts Journal

Winter 2015

Chicago Arts Journal ! Winter 2015


the character Hamm, seated on an armchair atop a dolly at center
stage. (Had there been seats all the way around, I think nobody
would have wanted to get much closer.)

By Right Brain Theatre Project
Reviewed by Arlene Engel

The antechamber of the Right Brain performance space is a close
and dimly lit hallway, offering no escape for the lone theatergoer
into a cushy chair or a hidden corner. I was glad to take a break from
leaning on the wall and re-reading my program to observe a man
shuffling oddly between the theater and the hallway, gesturing
invitingly with a wine bottle to those of us waiting for the show.
Initially, the meaning of this apparition was lost on me — I
wondered if he were an eccentric concessions man — but it turned
out to be Clov, played by Bries Vannon, loosening the boundaries of
the Beckett world by asking us in for a drink before the show.

Confession: I am not a Beckett-head. I hold nothing against the
man, on a personal or an artistic level, but I haven’t seen much of his
work, even while it seems to darken doorways all over town lately.
When my benevolent editor friend Johann asked a few months ago if
I’d watch Right Brain Project’s treatment of Endgame — by most
estimations, one of the Beckett Big Three — and write down my
thoughts, I had never seen the play before, nor did I have any idea of
the plot. “The endgame is the last part of a chess match, right? How
it all plays out in the last moves?,” I asked him. He looked at me
with a bald-faced glee and said, “Perfect. Don’t change a thing.”

Eventually, Clov got us all to come into the space, whether we
wanted wine or not, so that we could better observe his puttering
about and eventual entrance into the room proper, revealed behind
hanging slabs of thick, fogged plastic sheeting. Here was the start of
the play, unbeknownst to me: Clov setting the scene, looking out
high windows, following his set paths with a pained meticulousness.
I liked all this, and found myself rapt by the progress from space to
space and the character’s manner, but as stagecraft it had a notable
flaw: with all the audience crowding around, looking through the
break in the plastic to observe where Clov was going, what he was
doing some twenty feet away inside the room, it was not possible for
most of us to really see anything. Those few who elbowed to the
front might have been edified, but I had to make some guesses and
ask others later for a recapitulation of what Beckett clearly wanted
his audience to view unhindered.

The building at 4001 North Ravenswood is where Right Brain
works, and also Zoo Studios, and in that neighborhood are several
other theater spaces in other refurbished industrial lofts. Mostly this
results in performances staged in long, windowless rooms that make
you feel like you’re watching a play inside a shipping container.
(Remember how in Top of the Lake, the women on the commune
spent their days hanging out and meditating on an expansive plain,
each in her own private shipping container? This is the opposite of
that shipping container experience.) I’ve been to a handful of shows
in these spaces lately, and have marveled at both the depth of field
made possible by the dimensions of the rooms, and at the
claustrophobia that comes with these dimensions. This Endgame was
the first production I saw that used the space in the round (or ¾
round, more like), with audience seats creeping from one short end
of the room down the long walls, making it about halfway toward



Chicago Arts Journal ! Winter 2015


Not knowing the play, I took Vannon’s Clov to be a compulsive
savant. His gait, tipped forward in constant, poking steps, looked
like a controlled fall. No use of his joints whatsoever. This was
interesting and unsettling, as was his attire: loose pants and a shortsleeved shirt buttoned full up, all in wheat-colored linens, and worn
over a long, gaunt body, the same blonde color of his clothes (except
for in moments of intensity, when his face became very red). Because
of Clov’s silent entrance into the play’s world as he offered us wine
in the hall, I was genuinely surprised when he finally started to
speak, and proved to be quite articulate.

Most of the people I talked to about the show told me things
about other productions, different choices that could have been
taken. I got to thinking: do I have to have seen the show already to
see the show the right way? I hope not. I want the thing I encounter
in the shipping container to be a self-contained thing, a version that
does not need references to other versions in order to exist.
But my conversations with these friends did point out a few odd or
interesting (depending on your mood) moves Right Brain made in
this staging. Let me tell you about a rather large one: puppets.
Puppets! Nell and Nagg, Hamm’s elderly parents in their ash bins off
to the side, were not two elderly or even middle-aged actors but two
flour-sack puppets in emptied tomato cans. Clov would make soft
footsteps to fool Hamm that he was leaving the room, and then play
out the parental dialogues on his own, in different voices; Hamm
was none the wiser, or at least he pretended so. I am guessing that
this strays pretty far from Beckett’s intentions, but it did favorably
add to the sense of complete isolation in the play, the postcivilization nothingness that stretches on forever. The two men, in
this rendering, are so desperately alone that one of them spends long
stretches of the day doing voices, recounting the anecdotes of people
who are now long dead, if they ever were alive. (I look back at my
program to discover that the Right Brain production sneakily hid
this device by listing red-herring actor names for the parts of Nell
and Nagg: Lena Bloom and Ralph Knowlson, who on further
inspection seem to be noms de théâtre referring coyly to James Joyce
and a Beckett biographer, respectively. Ha ha, Right Brain.)

I think Right Brain’s conceit in this staging was that this day was
the day Hamm would finally die, and that Clov knew it, and had
invited us all in to watch. The set was done up in apocalyptic
hoarder fashion: dingy newspapers covering the walls, sacks of
something mysterious populating the corners, and crude chalk
drawings here and there depicting bombs falling, the devastated
landscape alluded to sketchily in Beckett’s text. I thought, “Why
didn’t anybody tell me this was an apocalypse play?” And the answer
is probably that it’s not, not explicitly, but that’s a valid reading of it,
and one I’m still considering. Do I need the world to have ended
outside to feel the desolation of living endlessly with the one person I
can’t escape? Not necessarily, but it’s an approach.
I had a lot of questions when the play was over. Such as, Who
were those puppets? Is the actor supposed to be looking right at me
like that? Why wouldn’t a name spelled “Clov” be pronounced
“Clahv”? I asked around. It turns out that my friends, even the
engineers, read a surprising amount of Beckett, and a number of
them filled in some mysteries for me.


The other thing that made my learned friends go “Huh? What?”
was when I described the very end of the play, which I puzzled over.
Let me remember it for you, if I can. It looks like Clov is leaving, has


Chicago Arts Journal ! Winter 2015


decided to leave. Hamm asks him to say something, some parting
words, and he does, describing a prison-like past that seemed like
eternal captivity, from which he one day discovers he can simply
walk away. Listening to them talk of endings, of the absolute
nothing to be found out of doors, I wondered if Clov was going to
smother Hamm or what. Then Clov went behind Hamm and
opened a door in the wall, which seemed to be a closet — but wait!
Inside the door in the wall were garlands of flowers, leis, tiki
decorations, warm-colored lights. I think it said something, in those
party-decoration letters that hang in a string over doorways, but I
can’t remember now what the words were. “Happy Birthday”? Never
mind. A glow came from that strange corner, and from a hook Clov
took a flowered shirt, which he put on over the one he was wearing,
and then a straw hat, which he placed on his head. All this happened
while the scene continued, Hamm thinking Clov was gone from the
room (a theme established by those puppets). Clov picked up his
bag, a few more words went back and forth, and he walked from the
room. Hamm finished his patchy soliloquy, replaced the
handkerchief over his sightless eyes, and fell silent. End of play.

interpretation of “Panama hat”), but more significantly I notice that
Clov is never intended to actually leave. It’s the final moment, the
break-up of whatever this is, and in Beckett’s play, even when the
moment of ending seems to arrive, it doesn’t end. What a striking
choice, then, to have an exit actually occur. I leave the Right Brain
scene with questions and peccadilloes — but more fruitfully, I think,
with a blooming interest in Beckett’s texts and his intentions, which
I hope are still of importance to makers of theater today.
In revisiting the show in my mind, I am reminded too of the
subtle power of Vincent Lonergan as Hamm, the blind man on the
wheeled chair. I have said much about the design and direction
around Clov, but Lonergan’s Hamm felt like the play’s root, not
only because he was physically stuck in the room but because his
character felt so fully conceived, even in the more elusive dialogues
of the play. Hamm is obviously a grandiose shut-in and a bossy
father figure to Clov, but here he is also revealed as a man of vivid
lyrical recall and strange humor. To hear Beckett’s words cast so ably
into the room by these actors, even amidst some strange turns in the
play’s staging, put me in a mood to investigate more of the writer’s
work, a mood gladly received.

Enough people made screwed-up faces when I asked them about
this Hawaiian shirt scene that I realized something might be very
different from the stage picture as usually interpreted. I consulted the










Of Clov’s preparation before the play’s close, Beckett’s stage
instruction says: “Enter Clov, dressed for the road. Panama hat,
tweed coat, raincoat over his arm, umbrella, bag. He halts by the
door and stands there, impassive and motionless, his eyes fixed on
Hamm, till the end.” I find here evidence of the Hawaiian shirt as a
stylistic choice not original to the work (and perhaps a broad


Endgame by Samuel Beckett ran at the Right Brain Project (4001 N. Ravenswood)
from September 4 — October 4, 2014. It was directed by Aaron Snook, and
performed by Bries Vannon and Vincent Lonergan.


Chicago Arts Journal ! Winter 2015


guessing the “technology junk heap” styling is a thing people do to
this play with some regularity now? Highly relevant, yes. Although
— now I think of it — the dirt seems a less obvious and maybe more
interesting choice in this day and age. Technological refuse is a literal
thing we’re all aware of, as our phones break and become obsolete
and we send them on a barge to China to corrode people’s lungs as
their contents degrade; but what would it really signify to be buried
in earth halfway, and still alive? I digress.)

Happy Days
By Theatre Y
Reviewed by Arlene Engel
It was only a few weeks after I saw Endgame that Johann rang up
again and asked if I wouldn’t mind accompanying him to a
production of Beckett’s Happy Days, put on by Theatre Y in the loft
of St. Luke’s Church in Logan Square. “Sure,” I said. “What’s this
one about?” He laughed but wouldn’t say, so I asked the Internet,
who told me it’s about a lady buried up to the waist in the ground,
going about her daily business. Well, of course it is.

Winnie is not quite a society lady, but she has airs: routines and
mannerisms that feel very middle-class British, and also very of-atime. Hearing her phrases, I remembered how I’d laugh whenever
Clov in Endgame said “It won’t act,” speaking of Hamm’s
medication. It was a funny little way to put it — I knew what he
meant, but probably nobody’s said it that way for eighty years. Much
of the Beckett I’ve heard so far feels purposefully antiquated, as if
nobody really used these phrases even when Beckett was writing
them, but he was choosing the older language for effect. Is that true?
I’m speculating wildly.

I asked my friend Paul (not an engineer, but a Beckett fan) to tell
me something about Happy Days ahead of my seeing it, and he told
me, “Only women with beautiful teeth ever play Winnie.” This was
a strange enough utterance, just on the dividing line between sexism
and straight-talk, that I didn’t speak to Paul again for several weeks.
When I saw the play, I understood what he meant. Beckett’s Winnie
smiles as punctuation, color, thesis, and declarative statement; an
effortless, capacious mouth of white teeth seems imperative to the
project. Nobody I know has that kind of equipment to her credit,
but Theatre Y’s Melissa Lorraine sure does, and her Winnie was
stunningly capable.

Johann wanted me to tell you that he was very taken with the
space in which the play was performed (and so was I). My mother
used to do contra dancing in the basement of St. Luke’s, but the play
took place in a part of the building I’d somehow never noticed
before. Rather than industrial concrete hallways and small gathering
rooms, the alley door of Theatre Y opened onto a foyer of old wood,
painted in various peeling shades of blue, with high ceilings and a
winding staircase leading up to the performance space. Beautiful,
crusty, and somehow completely eerie. At the top of the stairs, a
bank of audience risers faced the junk pile in a massive room under a
gently-pitched gable roof, all black inside except for a striking red

I think — and I’m sometimes wrong about these things — on the
face of it, here’s a play about a woman going about her mundane life
in what is clearly a less than ideal circumstance. The stuff she’s
buried in is dirt and grass in Beckett’s instruction, I later learned; in
Theatre Y’s set, designed by Peter Szabo, it’s a vast mound of
television and computer parts, screens blinkering static as the
audience enters and then dead by the time the play begins. (I’m



Chicago Arts Journal ! Winter 2015


stripe off-center on the upstage wall. Here Winnie rested, head on
outstretched milk-white arms, as the crowd shuffled in.

worrying over the minutiae of their shared space, Winnie spends an
awful lot of time trying to read the inscription on her toothbrush.
But the simultaneous resoluteness and terror evident in Winnie’s
disposition, especially in the second act, gripped me with an
impossible worry over the character.

Lorraine’s performance as Winnie was truly impressive: careful,
well-paced, virtuosic. Clearly, this was not her first time at the rodeo.
I hear this is one of the more stage direction-heavy Beckett pieces (or
are they all like that?), with highly specific motions at exact times in
relation to the lines, and where that precision might feel mechanical,
Lorraine found a natural rhythm in it. The graceful swoops and
flicks of her arms were as important to my grasp of the character as
were her immaculately sculpted eyebrows. I understood Winnie as a
woman very invested in keeping up appearances and in keeping tabs
on her environment, though certain salient facts and objects she
chose not to investigate further. (I think of the handgun that
appeared from her shopping bag, and rested heavy in my
imagination for the remainder of the play.)

Similarly harrowing was Evan Hill’s performance as Willie, only
half-visible for most of the play, his back to us as he investigated a
tall, stiff newspaper. From time to time he’d gingerly remove his
straw hat, and then a bloody handkerchief laid under it, to reveal
some kind of nasty head wound among his voluminous white hair.
(Bloody handkerchiefs are a theme in Beckett, eh? I guess they were
a much more common sight in the time when people still walked
around in tubercular states, and perhaps they’re still a common sight
in some parts of the world today. I wonder if people perform Beckett
in those places.) Willie’s is a rather small part in the play’s action,
but it must be big work for an actor — the stiffness, the gravity, the
timing, not to mention good vocal projection while facing upstage!

An arresting choice, and one I found very effective, was Winnie’s
entry into the play’s second act. The horrible buzzer which
demarcated the character’s sleeping and waking hours went off, and
as the lights went up Lorraine was revealed to be now neck-deep in
the pile. From this position, unable to move anything but eyes and
mouth, she delivered a large portion of Act Two in a rapid
monotone, with only cursory pauses to indicate shifts of grammar
and intent. This flat speech was punctuated by increasingly desperate
cries of “Willie!” when Winnie beseeched her husband to appear and
comfort her. I can’t say if this delivery was true to Beckett’s initial
intention, but to me as audience it was alarming in a way that
tightened my throat. Because, I’m thinking, Winnie might become a
joke about middle-class mores, right? A ridiculous, shallow woman
focusing on ridiculous things? Like Endgame’s Hamm and Clov


As with the production of Endgame I saw, my consultation of the
source text turned little questions into large ones. Toward the end of
the first act, the umbrella Winnie holds aloft (and seems unable to
put down) is intended, in Beckett’s rendering, to catch fire; in
Theatre Y’s staging, the interior of the umbrella is filled with LED
lights on strips, which produced a cold, mysterious glow, almost like
a bioluminescent sea creature floating in the massive room. As I
looked into the play’s instructions, what had been a wondrous,
buoyant image when I saw it onstage now felt like a diversion of
meaning. Were beauty and wonder the intended resonances of the
umbrella as a prop, or something more like the hidden (and magical)
malice of the mundane? I’m not sure. (How anybody ever gets


Chicago Arts Journal ! Winter 2015


anything to catch on fire onstage with accuracy is beyond me, but
that’s another question.)

given Theatre Y’s liberties, I find myself still haunted by their version
of the play. Maybe this is a case in which repeat viewings, seeing
multiple takes and versions of these works — new to me, but
canonical in our time — will enrich my understanding of them.
Okay, engineers, you were right.

And this brings me to the only part of the play that really baffled
me. (This is to the production’s credit, since in different hands it
might be a baffling work throughout.) All this time in the second act
Winnie has been going on, periodically calling for Willie, and now
he appears. He’s got on some version of finery, but it’s old and
dusty, too small. He stands up full behind Winnie, and now we see
his face, which is a good face but punctures the feeling of eeriness its
long absence gave before; and now he takes a waltz pose and sort of
gently spirals from his side of the stage to the other side. Winnie
speaks to him throughout this movement, seeming comforted and
pleased that he has finally got up and wants to be near her. Only: is
he? Is this a dream sequence?, I wondered. In the performance’s final
tableau, Winnie finishes speaking and the lights go down; the actress
silently dismounts her pile and comes to upstage left to stand with
the actor against the wall; they join hands and she takes up the long
hem of her skirt in her free hand; the two pause in this position,
smiling, as if they are posing for a wedding portrait; then, lights
down. The end.
I didn’t know what to make of this as a final gesture, and as I
examine Beckett’s script I find that it’s not there, that it signifies
something to this production but not to the play originally. Is it
perhaps a visual representation of the music-box song Winnie plays,
“I love you so”? The two in their frozen position under the spotlight
looked like a picture in a locket. Several of my Beckett-loving friends
opined that they wished people (usually of an academic disposition)
wouldn’t mess with the works so much, that they would just “do”
them, whatever that means. I think that’s a fair plea, and yet even


Happy Days by Samuel Beckett ran at Theatre Y (2649 N. Francisco) from
October 17 — November 23, 2014. It was directed by András Visky, and
performed by Melissa Lorraine and Evan Hill.


Chicago Arts Journal ! Winter 2015


listened, and for the first few minutes wondered, Is something else
going to happen? Are people going to come out in scary masks? But no.
Even so, it was well-written, in that particular Found Objects way:
knowing how to find the crevice in an idea and slip inside it, to keep
descending until the vessel is miles below the surface and no one
remembers how to get out, but everybody has a good vocabulary for
telling you about the desolation. But also I think, This is an odd way
to begin an all-night theater fest, with a thing that literally instructs us
to sleep, and then sits us in the dark, looking either at our inner eyelids
or the bare room… It’s something of an energy drop, but the virtue
and the vice of these things, the Abbie Fest things, is that nothing
among them is very long, so be it a soporific or a splendor, it’ll go by
in a relative blink. And so it is: twenty minutes of sleep or not-sleep,
and here’s the next.
And then, in perhaps more canny programming sense, came
“Wild Dogs,” a Mary-Arrchie production. It was a two-hander by
Matt Borczon about a strait-laced guy who hits the rocks with his
lady and goes to stay with his buddy who’s a real tough-and-tumbler,
a wildman kind of dude. And it was mostly an exercise in oddcoupledom: the guy in the tie and the guy in the undershirt.
Probably the best thing about the whole piece was the opening,
when the wild guy (played by Cotovsky, natch) ran circles around
the onstage furniture, scratching and baying — Like a wild dog, you
might say, and you’d be right — and then shook a Twinkie from the
wrapper with his teeth and knelt down on all fours to eat it off the
floor. That one bit was so simultaneously gross and deeply erotic
that I hardly needed the rest of the play.
After these and a few further acts I went out to feed the meter and
take a solitude break in the lobby, and so I missed or partly missed a
few things, and I feel fine about that. One of them, heard from a

Abbie Hoffman Died for Our Sins XXVII
Reviewed by Carine Loewi
Ten bucks, I am thinking, is pretty cheap for a night of theater in
this day and age, and that is what I paid to get into a single evening
of the Abbie Hoffman Fest, or however we’re abbreviating it. Not to
mention, night of theater is a pretty nebulous concept in this case:
you’d pay twice that much for regular admission to a ninety-minute
show among the local fringes, and here for your ten you can stay and
watch various acts drift past until 4 a.m., if you so choose. Even with
a big evening coffee in hand from the next-door Starbucks
(convenient!), I was not prepared to linger until dawn with the
carousingest of the Abbie Festers, but I put in a solid effort until
around midnight, and saw some things of interest in the process.
I climbed the tall, tall steps to the Mary-Arrchie space and sat
down among a crown of forty or fifty people — not a bad draw for a
fringe festival something — scattered to various corners of the room
for the in-the-round setup. After a momentous darkness, during
which we all listened to Hendrix playing the Star-Spangleds at full
blast for several beats too long, if you ask me (did you?), there
appeared Mary-Arrchie lifer Richard Cotovsky on a crate at center
stage, doing his Abbie Hoffman bit. Which, institution though it
may be, is not all that exciting, really: free-associative politico-rant
and a little strung out and that’s the thing of it. Then the first piece
that really happened as part of the formal theater of the night was
“Let’s Sleep,” an audio work written and recited by Brian Nemtusak
and produced (whatever that means; what does that mean?) by
Found Objects, whose stuff I have enjoyed at times. It was a loooong
monologue, played overhead while the audience sat in the dark and



Chicago Arts Journal ! Winter 2015


short distance away, seemed to be short scenes of arch-cringey absurd
comedy, mostly depending on punchlines with the word pussy for
uproarious laughs, and boy was it getting them. That kind of thing
really brings out the shut the fuck up in me, but luckily I was in the
lobby with the wine bottles, looking out the nice second-floor
window down at the lively intersection, and the pussy jokes were in
the next room, getting just the reception they had hoped for.
A funny thing that happened in this festival dynamic was the
massive crowd shifts. You’d think — as happens at, say, Rhino Fest,
or Chicago Fringe Fest; take your pick — that an audience might
show up from across town to see their friends perform a twentyminute piece, and then hang around, drink a beer, see what else is
going on. Theater? Oh, great — as long as I’m here, why not more
theater! Oddly, in this case, a few acts had a giant influx of bodies
bottlenecking through the single, steep entrance point, and then saw
those very same bodies shuffle back out as soon as their pals did. I
found this in slightly poor taste, audience people, but okay. It’s not
my planet.
This phenomenon happened around 11 p.m. with the Factory
Theater show, “Thirty Days in the Rabbit Hole,” which was among
the most entertaining things I saw in my night of Abbie Festering.
The sudden, big crowd and its accompanying big laughs did help the
piece to wheel along, as is usually the case with Factory work — but
what a piece it was! It portrayed a spate of girl fairy-tale characters —
Cinderella, Little Red, et al. — wrenched from their cuddlesome
Disney worlds and tossed into a psychedelic-Tarantino-rave-prison
kind of universe. The end devolved into a jokey fight sequence, as
also happens in Factory work more often than not, but the cast of
mostly women — lead by the fantastic Robyn Coffin as an
incarcerated Alice in Wonderland and supported, among others, by


Sara Sevigny as a mute, pyromanic Cinderella — made such an odd
and hilarious lot I would’ve watched them do just about anything.
Where are these women of the Factory hiding? In plain sight, really.
You get to see one or two at a time in any given regular-season
production, as the sassy secretary or the sassy pregnant friend, but
when they get together en masse onstage and play out scenes among
themselves — ahem, Bechdel-testing out of the park — it is a thing
of wonder. More of this, please.
I saw two other really interesting things during that fateful night
at the Abbie Hoffman Variety Special. One of them was “The Good
Glitter” by Jessica Wright Buha. It was a dystopic science fiction
kind of thing, two young women panning for gold in a sewer,
referring conversationally to a strictly segregated above-ground
society and bickering. The piece was dark and smartly written, never
giving too much away, never looking for too much flash in the pan,
and featured two actors I’d happily watch again. (If, that is, I could
figure out who they were from any sort of program.)
The other interesting late-night thing was a long one-guy-on-stage
piece, a monologue by somebody credited as King Berry. (Who are
you, King Berry?) The piece was a long meditation on relationships
and isolation, delivered in multiple voices but by one essential
character: a handsome, broad-shouldered and white-tee-shirted
young man, just slightly too tired to come off as slick. It was called
“Cure My Melancholy,” and indeed, it left a deep shiver of sadness,
even though I suppose it might have been a comic piece. That was
around 11:30, just before I tapped out for the night, and it was a
quiet wonder to end on, exemplary of what the festival format can
do: lure you in for your friend’s early-evening tap dance, and let you
stick around, milling the lobby as needed, until you see something
surprising, something you might never have stepped in on otherwise.

Chicago Arts Journal ! Winter 2015


That next time I saw Jake was at a party on a hot summer night in
Chicago, after his second sixteenth year. Time spread both forward
and backward as I talked to him, I knew him before I met him and
would know him well after I’d forgotten him, I am sure. What I am
trying to say is that there wasn’t a structure to knowing him, we
worked in dream time. If I took a step toward him, I’d break the
skin barrier like it was mist and my arm or leg would blend part way
through his like overlapping shadows, looking like one but doubled
in opacity where it was both of us. I could breathe the breath out of
his lungs, we were partially melted against each other. He could have
been my brother, he could have been the voice in my head. If I’d
been older, confusion might have overruled my awe at the
strangeness and I might have turned away. My full adult mind might
have let this first note fade slowly to silence.

In the Absence of a Road, You Could Float Up
By Margaret Murray
If you come correct.
If, when you enter the conversation, you’ve read all that came
beforehand and you keep your piece on exactly what you’re sure of,
then you will. Honor the rules. I didn’t know that then but there
was something in the sound of it.
We in the mud now.
I want to talk about New Orleans. I was there before Katrina a few
times, and have been post-Katrina a few times. I almost moved there
because I thought I’d learn a thing or two in the humidity. It’s a city
where everything that lives or moves is caught in a partial state of
decay. There isn’t a clear line between being hard, solid, in the
present, and faded, a step behind. Life in New Orleans could be, or
might have happened, and did not happen all at the same time.

I feel some type of way.
I can, to this day, remember looking at him when I left that party. I
was in a friend’s car and wanted him to leave with me. He stood
outside the car while I hung over the opened car door window. The
party rustled like rain in the background, the air was wet with spilled

When I was last there, I saw Jake again. I try to see him every five
years or so since the first time I met him. That could have been
twenty-five years ago. He was fifteen? Or sixteen? Or a hundred. I
wasn’t much older. His own parents didn’t know his age, they forgot
it and he had to be sixteen for two years in a row. I remembered him
when I met him at fifteen, or no, I committed him to memory. I
dropped a marker at that moment to rest on, to come back to. I
didn’t see him again for years.

“I can’t go, my Dad’s getting married tomorrow and I have to be
there.” He told me this and as those words settled, I looked away
from him and toward a massive muscled man who appeared at his
side. The man’s arms were folded and he was completely silent,
powerful and precise.
“Dad hired Andre and Junk to make sure I get there.” And Jake
walked away with the silent, astonishing man. I took the last swallow
of his face and sent it straight to sky, threw it up and out to store it
beyond reason. Watching his smooth back get smaller carried on the

Ay happy birthday. You are a year closer to death, beloved.



Chicago Arts Journal ! Winter 2015


slow roll of his walk, I could feel his presence stretch and break piece
by piece. First the flutes and clarinets, high and crisp, dropped away,
leaving me lower, blurred notes of warm brass. I closed my mouth
around one lone strand of oboe.

excrement, layered with green, green leaves and grass. People yelled
across the street at each other. Car doors banged. Sound carries
better in the humid air, with something to hang on to. Images carry
better too, and the whole feel of it is closer to blood level.
Absorption. In that walk, in every rich inhaled breath, heavy with
life ripened to the point of corruption, I knew Jake couldn’t survive
New Orleans.

Now Jake lives in New Orleans and years have passed. He’s older.
When I see him, I have to look at him for ten minutes in silence to
see everything that’s gone by since I’ve known him. I watch his blue
eyes go to green, then gray and then crescent moons when he smiles.
New Orleans is a city version of him, I’m half sunk every time I set
foot in that place.

He told me this, what I already knew, after we’d walked some time
to get with the rhythm of the streets.
“I can’t stay here.”
“Why not?”
“Can’t you see them, sitting on the porches? All the ghosts? I can’t
be somewhere like this with the temptation.”

I had reason to go there recently and we arranged to see each other.
I walked around the block when I first arrived, to reacquaint myself
with the city’s stooped grace. A doorman at a nearby hotel watched
me try to tie up my hair in a hairband, gathering courage.

All the houses as you pass have friendly front stoops and porches
with chairs that must have been owned and sat on forever. You can
smell them like ice broken out of trays, dropped into tea offered to a
guest, layered with the after breath of a refrigerator door closed.
Ghost smells.

“Just let it go, baby. You’re in New Orleans.”
New Orleans compresses the time to intimacy like this, in a halfconscious way. It’s not thoughtless, it’s an invitation for
subconscious thought to rise up. New Orleans time runs on its own
solipsistic path and now I’m going to spend some length of it with
someone who I don’t consciously know from day to day interaction.
I’ve never washed dishes with him, I don’t exactly know how he pays
his bills. I don’t have an understanding of him that doesn’t feel like a

I understood perfectly. The humidity makes New Orleans slide
between past and present because it holds the echoes of people who
may have passed by five minutes ago or fifty years ago. Crescendos
followed by decrescendos make it liquid, and as liquid it submerges
and rises to a slow beat… And takes its people with it.
If you naturally go to dreams in your blood and you’re in rhythm
with a sympathetic city, it can be impossible to stay. The yearning
for a cool iced drink offered can be too hard to fight.

I’ve been stupid since day one, get familiar.
Jake and I walked around his neighborhood. The air was rich with
smells of human existence; barbecued meat, garbage, beer,


A drug hold can be broken, not forgotten. Jake knows this.

Chicago Arts Journal ! Winter 2015


It’s one price to pay.
For dispensing with the standard structure of time and letting the
score of unrelated conversations be absorbed into lapping waves.
But on second thought, I’m low-key interested.
The humidity conjures a hand’s caress. Austere air slops over into
droplets of touch to awaken skin. The slow rise and fall of a city’s
chest lulls me into stepping off and spreading into nothing, into sky.
Why would you want to leave here for a life of linear twitching, one
step following the next? I would rather follow these unrelated sounds
spun up into a music more vast than the original, individually
contained intent. So every time I hear a sound or see a movement
with no context, the porch ghosts will appear and I can live in
nothing for a moment, because there are voices with no known
language and the understanding of them passes through each
physical sense like electrical current carried on mist. It tastes round
and acidic, smells like hot metal or sidewalks in the first minutes of
I want to, I always search for this, New Orleans, Jake, the form
doesn’t matter. Maybe I’ll walk sideways some and stay awhile. I
don’t know if I’ll see Jake again but at the same time I can see him



Chicago Arts Journal ! Winter 2015


most distinctive element, but which proves elusive in work that does
not at least threaten to overflow its spatial, temporal, and narrative
containers. The cast lives together, in some sense, there onstage, and
for a little while the audience lives with them, too. The audiences,
then, who know the work and often know the people in the work,
must fit these communal configurations and the dynamic worlds
they fragmentarily imply, of which the plays themselves are but a
sliver, into the multi-chambered spaces of a sprawling, unlikely, but
nonetheless coherent whole, made up, by turns, of fictional, metafictional, and apparently real imaginaries.

By Curious Theatre Branch
Reviewed by Ira S. Murfin
A taxonomy of Beau O’Reilly plays, such as might be found in
some invitingly idiosyncratic museum of experimental oeuvres,
would surely include, alongside the rooms devoted to various subcategories of dramatic and autobiographical monologue and postBeckettian vaudevilles, a whole wing dedicated to the community
play. Not community theatre, that is, but community as theatre and
vice versa. In these works, the fictional reality of the dramatic world
is laid palimpsestically atop histories, relationships, and geographies
shared amongst collaborators. In recent years these notional,
emergent communities have included the sprawling theatrical family
of The Madelyn Trilogy and the eclectic, eccentric residents of a
fictionalized Rogers Park in Evanston, Which Is Over There. That
some critical mass of the audience no doubt knows that O’Reilly
himself comes from a sprawling theatrical family and has long made
his home in the environs of Rogers Park is less a signal that some
slippage might reveal real life facts onstage than it is about the ways
in which theatrical reality is perpetually adjunct to a deeply felt and
shared lived experience.

To the idiosyncratic and fantastic architectures brought into being
by these plays we can now add the labyrinthine edifice at the center
of March! — an impossibly extensive small-town museum devoted to
cataloguing the ordinary and the extraordinary alike. For those who
know O’Reilly, the play’s co-author, the fact that his day job has him
teaching writing in a school adjacent to a real museum once again
weaves in and out of our consciousness as we acquaint ourselves with
a new and as yet unfamiliar place with real world corollaries.
However, connections aside, this is not a Beau O’Reilly play, but a
play co-authored by O’Reilly and Curious regular Julia Williams.
From the very start, then, March! springs from a shared process,
from the collective rather than the individual mind, and from the
sorts of tensions, disjunctures, and patchworks that come of making
something large and complicated from an eclectic and disparate
range of sources.

The cast of what I am calling a community play is frequently large
enough for the contours of its collective concerns and negotiations,
in and beyond the space of the theatre, to be felt if not actually
articulated; and the duration of the play is usually long enough for a
brief shared history to be forged right there in the small room where
the act of collective theatre is taking place. These plays, in other
words, make real the co-presence so frequently touted as theatre’s


Just as the museum’s many fictional spaces and displays exceed the
practical or topographical arrangement such an institution would
require or be able to sustain, the play’s script exceeds the narrative
functions of a single dramatic work or a single authorial

Chicago Arts Journal ! Winter 2015


consciousness, heading in many directions at once and finding ways
to fit things together, whether or not they match or make sense. I am
not familiar enough with Williams’ dramatic output to fit March!
into a cross-career retrospective alongside O’Reilly, but the very fact
of their co-authorship is yet more evidence of the interlocking
significance of community as generative process and thematic topic.
It is at once a communal exercise and a collective statement about

of this amounts only to Warren’s own claims — one suspects he may
simply be a garden-variety misanthrope. And there is Marya
(Williams), who has recently transferred to the café, where she seems
to be an object of desire for many of the museum’s denizens,
including both Warren and Katrin, as well as the maintenance man,
Peet (Ryan Wright), who quietly permeates every nook of the
building. Marya’s rebuke of Peet toward the end of the play for
projecting his unwelcome romantic ideas onto her effectively scolds
the oft-idealized quotidian male gaze, along with a raft of
longstanding romantic tropes in which mis-delivered letters drive
apart and then bring together young lovers. Strangely, though,
Marya follows up her principled stand with the offhand suggestion
that Peet turn his attention to Alma in the gift shop (also played by
Williams), leaving it unclear whether Williams is nailing mopey
romantic male ideals about unrequited love or poking at the
artificiality inherent in understanding one actor as two characters,
with distinct agencies, on the same stage. Or maybe, probably, both.

Indeed, the dual authorship may even be visible in the two
enigmatic characters at the center of the play, the museum’s
proprietors, both named Charlie, and played by Lynn Marie and
Brook Celeste. Bound together by a single purple scarf, the two
Charlies run the museum in tandem, asserting some quasiauthoritative sway over the profuse and illogical goings on there.
They are either inseparable business and life partners or they are two
aspects of a single Charlie, playing out internal divisions externally.
Either way, their story provides one of the more traceable — and
emotionally effecting — through-lines of the play. Charlie #1 is
dying of cancer, or so she says, Charlie #2 is having a hard time
believing her, and it remains unclear if #2 is in denial or if #1 is
simply employing a self-mythologizing excuse for her coming
departure. In any event, she expects to be leaving — the difference
between mortality and some place outside of the museum becomes
somewhat arbitrary in this context, anyhow — and she is filling a
sack with things she wants to bring with her.

The celebration of community that defines this play is always cast
into contrast with that other most familiar brand of interpersonal copresence, couplehood. Communal belonging trumps coupling every
time in this universe. The show’s view of romantic entanglements
ranges from philosophically resigned to quite dim (though the happy
first blush of love does crop up around the edges). For the most part
romantic interest is either unwanted or over-wanted, and established
partnerships are bound to end, the only question seems to be
whether or not they are bound to end elegantly. What is left is the
structure of the museum, the locus of imagination and belonging, a
place where it is possible, perhaps even necessary, to be single
without ever being alone. Unlike the world outside the museum,
where the communal is eyed with suspicion and the couple

Other storylines include frequent museum visitor Warren
Casablanca and his friend Katrin (Matt Rieger and Briavael
O’Reilly), who tries to help Warren get over the sense of obligation
he claims to feel toward the women in his life, though the evidence



Chicago Arts Journal ! Winter 2015


venerated, here the couple finds itself out of synch with the
environment, exposed and interrupted. The museum itself
discomfits coupledom. Meanwhile Jenny Magnus and Vicki
Walden, having the most fun of anyone in the show as a pair of
candy eating, fluidly gendered, vaudevillian clowns, remain as
harmonious and uncomplicated a pair as any imaginable in their
mischievous creative partnership.

travel. Little seems to be known about the limits of the museum
except that there is an edge out there, somewhere. The museum goes
on forever, yet it is finite, and enclosed. Structured on the
networked, contingent logic of the internet, or of dreams, everything
locks together into a tautologically absurd chain of places and spaces
with no end, and no outside, but one paradoxically characterized by
its enclosure. The museum posits no division between public and
private life and no narrative or interpersonal hierarchies —
everything is equally meaningful and equally connected to
everything else.

Most of the rest of March! is taken up with the museum’s living,
and lifelike, exhibits. These constitute a series of robots embodying
different professions concerned with collecting and interpreting data
— a census taker, a Jungian therapist, a naturalist — and live
performers giving public interpretations of historical figures who, it
became clear in discussion with the playwrights after the show, each
have some significant intersection with the date March the first,
otherwise obscurely foregrounded by the title. The performers put
on their shows within the show at the impetus of a coin deposited
into a slot outside a small theatrical closet labeled “Archive of
Feelings.” The figures on display include Charlie Chaplin, Joseph
Stalin, Johnny Cash, and Tallulah Bankhead (mostly Brian Collins,
with Lynn Marie’s Charlie stepping in for Bankhead). Each opens
up about their inner feelings in context of outer dramas in ways that
mirror, and eventually bleed into, the emotional lives of the
museums’ patrons and workers, much in the way that we imagine
theatre to both reflect and transform our emotional states.

I am not sure that I can make sense of March! or its museum, but I
am not so sure there is sense there to be made beyond what one can
glean by just being there. A convivial co-presence, like a night spent
voluntarily locked in a vast museum or castle or shopping mall with
a dozen or so of your best friends, pervades the atmosphere, as does
the sense of exuberance that comes of the license that attends such
situations — to sing, to be silly, to be honest, to hook up, to confess,
and so on. Where we might expect a tightly structured dramatic arc,
we find instead a community engaged in play with a sense of
freedom and mutual agreement. Whether that community consists
of the fictional denizens of the museum or the real theatre artists of
Curious Theatre Branch actually seems somewhat beside the point.
From this perspective it is not individual narratives that matter,
but the ecologies of interdependence and contingency within which
all meaning is suspended. So long as we, the audience, or we, the
museum’s visitors, are engaged with the interplay between the
possibly infinite chambers of this imaginary structure, everything
that happens there will be deeply meaningful and richly layered; but
once outside of the fictional museum’s physical spaces (or the

These characters, human and otherwise, all seem to not so much
work at the museum as inhabit it, receiving mail and bedding down
in its various warrens, of which there are always more, unseen and
unknown. The far reaches of the museum are spoken of as vaguely
and as wistfully as continents to which one will probably never



Chicago Arts Journal ! Winter 2015


fictional space of the museum), that swelling sense of co-presence, of
love, dissipates to incomprehensibility. Try to index it, or evaluate it,
from a historical or critical position and you will find that the
museum, and the materialized life of the community which
constitutes it, evaporates and disappears.

worthwhile to wonder if it matters whether it is a real or a fictional
community we have made contact with, and if it could possibly be
both. But at the same time there is some mournful sense that
community is something felt singly, something that requires exit and
separation to best be appreciated. An experience of community is to
notice that you are a part of one while in the midst of others, to go
away from the place you are in to look back at it. It is felt in its most
all-encompassing state in some private dream world where divisions
between individuals, between work and leisure, between the lived
experience of the present and the remembered traces of the past are
all erased, and everything is equally intertwined and imminent,
uncomplicated by the need for separation or privacy. This is a
subjective and individual experience of community, one felt alone. It
is only from the vantage of O’Reilly and Williams’ play, and its ilk,
that the imagined and the lived community can encounter, crowd
one another and, fleetingly, converge.

Like other enclosed infinities — dream worlds, theatrical
representations, the internet, all of which the play explicitly or
implicitly evokes — March! is at every moment highly meaningful
and yet still ultimately ambiguous, even ambivalent, about meaning.
Not, I would suggest, just about particular meanings, but about the
very purpose of meaning itself, apart from experience, that is. The
processes of sensation, mutuality, and collectivity are immersive and
ongoing; meaning implies something has ended, that you have
stepped outside and are now looking back at what you have
separated yourself from. Which is why I feel like I can hardly
interpret March! here, beyond recalling having been there to see it
for myself.
In Los Angeles there is a place called the Museum of Jurassic
Technology, which is in many respects a museum about what it
means to be a museum. Its chief purpose and pleasure lie in
provoking curiosity and wonder while at the same time causing the
visitor to doubt their own experience and ask if the knowledge they
have acquired is real, and if it matters. Something similar is
happening with March! and its museum, but rather than encounters
with truth, it is the slippery nature of the communal that is both
evoked and scrutinized. It is difficult not to imagine something of
Curious’s enviable and long-standing community ethos — more
directly represented a few years back by Jenny Magnus’s Still in Play
— in the museum’s ongoing shenanigans. And indeed, it is


March! ran at the side project (1439 W. Jarvis) from November 7 — December 7,
2014. It was written and directed by Beau O’Reilly and Julia Williams, and
performed by Brook Celeste, Brian Collins, Jenny Magnus, Lynn Marie, Beau
O’Reilly, Briavael O’Reilly, Matt Rieger, Vicki Walden, Julia Williams, and Ryan


Chicago Arts Journal ! Winter 2015


started laughing too, honest as a dewy morning haw-haw-haws. All
were laughing so hard that Delt and Pants-Too-Tight lost their grips
on the sacks of tweezle seed.

How Tweezle Seed Prompted the Three-D Sisters
and the Beefalo Brothers to Do as the Rootabaga
Lizards Do

The sacks hit the concrete sidewalk and split their sides. Two
clouds arose, dusting everyone with tweezle seeds. They each looked
around at all the others, and laughed harder. Each time they laughed
they ungrew a little shorter, until they were no larger than Pee-Baby

A story in the Rootabaga style by Mark Leach
Trip, Triang, and Delt walked and sang, delighted that their
mother had sent her three daughters to the co-op store to buy a sack
of tweezle seed.

On previous occasions, it had been difficult enough to stop
laughing, even with their parents telling them to “Stop that this
instant!” Stopping now was much more difficult. Triang deplored,
“Stop laughing right now!’ And they all laughed harder. Flimsy said
in a grownup voice, “Dis ain’t dat funny.” Which started them
laughing harder. All the time they were getting smaller. Thinking
quickly, Burgerbreath shouted, “Hold your breath and count to ten!”

Burgerbreath, Flimsy, and Pants-Too-Tight walked and shouted,
all mixed up inside because they knew they should be angry that
their mother was dispatching her three sons to the co-op store to buy
a sack of tweezle seed, but it was too fine a spring morning to be
As they walked, Trip, Triang, and Delt sang about Pee-Baby birds
and laughed, holding hands.

That did it. They stopped laughing and stopped ungrowing, which
was fortunate, because they were now the size of Pee-Baby eggs.

As they walked, Burgerbreath, Flimsy, and Pants-Too-Tight
shouted at worms, shouted at frogs, and shouted at nothing-at-all.

“What are we going to do?” they all asked at once. Flimsy said,
“My Uncle Hansom Ransom always said, ‘If you’re the size of a PeeBaby egg, you’ve got to do as the rootabaga lizards do.’” The nearest
rootabaga field was just behind the store, so that’s where they went.

Trip, Triang, and Delt and Burgerbreath, Flimsy, and Pants-TooTight arrived at the same moment at the store’s shelf of tweezle seed.
The girls stopped singing. The boys stopped shouting, all mixed up
inside because they wanted to shout at the girls so really bad that
they had no air in them to shout with.

Each young rootabaga plant proudly held a few tender leaves,
forming long rows curving down the slope and curving up the next
slope. Trip, Triang, and Delt walked hand-in-hand, singing the PeeBaby Song. Burgerbreath, Flimsy, and Pants-Too-Tight were
walking down the next row over, shouting at spiders, shouting at
baby grasshoppers, shouting at nothing-at-all. They hadn’t gone far
when a lizard appeared, saying, “Goodness gracious. I was worried
you’d be late. We must hurry.” The lizard added more politely as he

Each group took a sack of tweezle seed, paid the cashier, and went
outside. Burgerbreath, Flimsy, and Pants-Too-Tight started shouting
at nothing-at-all. Trip, Triang, and Delt looked at the boys and
began laughing a pure, happy, case-of-the-giggles laugh.
Burgerbreath, Flimsy, and Pants-Too-Tight looked at the girls and



Chicago Arts Journal ! Winter 2015


turned and scrambled ahead, “And of course all of us in Rootabaga
Country are over-the-moon with gratitude that you are here to

before we could flip them. Not bad at all. The racing fever should
break by sunset. We can start putting them feet-side down after

The children, still the size of Pee-Baby eggs, struggled to keep pace
with the lizard. Fortunately, they hadn’t far to go. “The race of the
pillbox beetles has already started,” said the lizard. “But there’s still
plenty of time to stop them.” They all watched as thousands of
pillbox beetles sped around and around a great sinuous course that
wound among the rootabagas. The racing beetles thundered past,
filling the air with stinky farts, which Pants-Too-Tight later
described as, “Like when you go in the ‘fridge and open a yogurt
container and find last month’s tacos which nobody ate because they
were made with smelly socks, fish guts, and nail polish salsa.”

The large lizard with the whistle still around her neck said to the
children, “It is our tradition to provide gifts to our helpers.” She
produced two tiny sacks of tweezle seeds, handing one to Triang and
one to Pants-Too-Tight. The children quickly grew to their normal
height, perhaps a wee bit taller. The sacks of tweezle seeds enlarged
On their way home, Trip, Triang, and Delt sang about Pee-Baby
birds and laughed about creatures that would race themselves to
death. On their way home, Burgerbreath, Flimsy, and Pants-TooTight shouted at trees, shouted at cars, and shouted at nothing-at-all,
but mostly they thought silently about creatures so mixed up inside
that they race themselves to death.

Flimsy explained, “Uncle Hansom Ransom told me about this.
Every spring an urge overcomes the pillbox beetles to race around
and around, roaring and farting. Once they get the urge, they won’t
stop. Every one of them would die of tired-outness. Not one would
be left to eat the rootabaga mites, and the mites would eat all the
rootabaga, and the rootabaga lizards would have to move.”
Just then, a particularly large lizard blew a whistle. Soon the lizards
and the children were grabbing pillbox beetles as they raced past.
When they seized one, they wrestled it over on its back, its six legs
still racing in the air.
The sun was directly overhead when Delt rolled over the last
racing pillbox beetle. “Excellent job!” and “Superlative!” shouted the
lizards, obviously much pleased, and catching their breaths. A lizard
with a clipboard said, “Not bad. A few beetles broke their necks
running off the track. There was a huge pileup on curve three, but
not as many fatalities as two years ago. Only a few raced to death



Chicago Arts Journal ! Winter 2015


“Play” and “Come and Go” are both so much about communication
between three people: “Come and Go” as gossip; “Play” as rueful,
post-coital bitterness told and retold through eternity. I needed a
proscenium setup to follow the back and forth. I moved to sit on one
of the trunks on the left side of the room, and that solved “Come
and Go” for me, but there was no solving “Play.” In the first part, I
could see the faces of the man and one of the women; in part two,
they rotated and I saw the two women. One wants to see all the faces
at once, and that is what Beckett wanted as well. These frustrations
reminded me of the power of the proscenium. “Play” is a massive
short piece, half an hour at its full length, and dense with text.
Really, it should be done alone in a program. The breakneck pace of
this performance, coming at the end of the evening, felt like
gibberish, and wrong. It’s a good acting exercise — emotionally raw,
but also English and cold, less about aging than about failing at
sexual gambits. “Come and Go” I found to be the most satisfying
piece of the evening. But more on that later. I also note that I saw
the show late in the run, by which time the actor Steve Walker had
been replaced by Bob Fisher, so you and I may have witnessed
different evenings altogether. More later. —Edmund

Hellish Half-Light: Shorter Plays of Samuel Beckett
By Mary-Arrchie Theatre Co.
Reviewed by Edmund St. Bury and Carine Loewi
For this issue’s conversation feature between our two intrepid
theatergoers, we had hoped to send Edmund and Carine to see
Mary-Arrchie’s production of six short works by Samuel
Beckett and record their attending talk over late-night diner
fare, as usual. But, as it happens, the two couldn’t see the show
together, and so they took their rehash to the annals of email,
in fits and starts over the weeks that followed. Here are their
One thing, to begin: I enjoyed the in-the-round setup they used,
with three main banks of seats around the room and a few singleseater perches scattered between. The stage manager told me that a
crate against the back wall was the best place to be, so I sat there for
a while — and boy, was it weird! In “Rough for Theatre II,” which
was probably my favorite piece in the show, I kept looking up at the
poor young man (Rudy Galvan) who had to stand there in that
tremulous posture — canted slightly forward at the waist, head
down — and contemplate jumping from a bricked-up window for
20 minutes! But this vantage exemplifies something I like about
Mary-Arrchie's ethos: the acting and the stage business are polished
and sorted out, but there's still a little shagginess to the audience
experience. It felt strange, improper to be over there, but there I was.

I agree about the problem inherent in this staging of “Play.” Being
in the round didn’t help it (I never got to see one performer’s face at
all), and neither did the speed with which the actors were instructed
to deliver the text, which made it seem to be a grueling vocal warmup rather than a theater work with something to communicate to an
audience. I did find the set piece of the three adjoining urns
attractive; it was obviously not a grand and expensive thing, but it
had a good, Victorian curve on it, and was painted in ordinary matte
grey, just distressed enough to look drab and vaguely funerary. (All

Playing these works in the round felt bold to me, but at some
serious points it was really a problem concerning Beckett’s intention.



Chicago Arts Journal ! Winter 2015


of which sent me into a daydream in which Edward Gorey forgot
about Eliot and illustrated Beckett’s work instead, to everyone’s
delight and artistic betterment.)
The staging choice for “Come and Go” also felt difficult to me. I
could see fine from my vantage, but it would be a different piece
entirely if one were sitting right next to it, in that bank of seats near
to the entrance. You’re right about the proscenium. On a different
note: the hand-holding choreography at the end of that piece made
such a lovely shape. I admit I’ve never seen nor read “Come and Go”
before, but I imagine Beckett wrote instructions for that movement?
As with the urns in “Play,” the dark and vaguely historical dress of
the three women in “Come and Go” (Molly Fisher, Lauren
Guglielmello, and Kathrynne Wolf) did some of the work of creating
a setting, giving the characters a milieu and a gravity before they
even did anything. I often get a “sometime in recent history” feeling
from Beckett’s works, a feeling of catenary suspension between 1880
and 1945. By contrast, was “What Where” in some kind of science
fiction universe, with the jumpsuits? A space station? Waste
processing plant? An apocalypse? I didn’t track that one well, but I
did enjoy all the door-slamming.
And then… I perhaps shouldn’t say this in our final version, but
I’m revisiting some of these texts now, after having seen them staged
— and I find so many directorial changes! Why do people futz with
Beckett’s highly specific stage directions so much? Gestures,
placements, costumes... There is a difference between not being able
to do something (the author calls for a prohibitively expensive
costume piece, say) and just not wanting to do it (“No, I prefer him
to stand”). I can understand it when companies make dress updates
to Shakespeare — they put Lear in a business suit, give Tybalt a gun
instead of a sword — because that guy did not insist on exactitudes


of dress and movement in his texts; they were written and performed
in the style of their time, and so the styles of other times don’t tend
to rankle too much (unless they do; and there’s another kettle!).
Beckett, on the other hand, is more or less referring to our own time,
and he’s precise. About everything! In “Catastrophe,” the director
asks for a light and the assistant lights his cigar — she does not bring
him a pen light so he can look at his notes! The fact that he is
holding notes at all — the fact that he is standing, even — changes
the action and the character. (The Mamet film version does this as
well, annoyingly, though Pinter is still a marvel as the Director.)
Why do they do it? My kingdom for some Germans! (Who do what
they’re told, as Beckett once joked, instead of giving a text their own
“spin.” The man spun plenty there to begin with.) But forgive me;
I’m on a tear. —Carine
I often think age has something to do with Beckett being done
well. Burgess Meredith, Burt Lahr, Pinter, Buster Keaton — these
are people who got Beckett’s ancient-old-man humor and sensibility.
The aches of the body, the angst of the mind. —Edmund
I think you’re right — experience, in life and onstage, helps — but
let’s not confuse a grumpy-old-man stereotype with a careful,
thoughtful actor. I think Beckett gets reductively read as dour too
much. (My college roommate was once reading a collected works
and one morning burst out of the bathroom, towel only, and
exclaimed, “What is this? Everybody acts like Beckett is so dark, but
there’s a fucking banana peel joke here!” She must have just then
gotten to Krapp’s Last Tape.) Sure, he’s not always cheerful, but what
I think is important in doing his work is not a deep sense of ennui or
of suffering but an ordinary patience. And maybe young actors, and

Chicago Arts Journal ! Winter 2015


some over-eager older ones, don’t always have that. Beckett’s
characters pause, a lot, in thought or because they are mistrustful or
flummoxed by something. And maybe some actors get eager to show
they can say all the words and say them right, the result being that
they roadrunner through pieces that need a lot of pause. But I feel
like I’ve drifted off course. What else? —Carine

audience member. If it’s going to be rough, make sure you know
what you’re talking about. The Mary-Arrchies got about half of it
right. And with Beckett, that’s not a very good percentage.
Ouch, Edmund! I agree about schtick getting in the way of
intention. Too much bigness, too much look-at-me gets in the way
of subtlety. On the other hand, Stephen Walker was big in a certain
theatrical way, but he was excellent in this work. I think his
grandiosity — big voice, big body, big walk — was a careful one,
very controlled and with intent. And, where small moves and voices
are called for in other places, I think a space like Mary-Arrchie is
great for this work. It’s a small room. I don’t want to see “Come and
Go,” a work about telling secrets or lies or theories while sitting
quietly together, in a giant auditorium where I can’t see faces and
hand gestures and the details of someone’s fringed sleeve. I’m
interested in your theory about Beckett as a blue-collar act, and I
might want to see more in this vein, but what I am really enjoying in
town lately is Beckett on the fringe circuit in general. The relative
lack of cash most of these groups have to produce plays works into
Beckett’s scenic austerity. I think the point we’re arriving at, if we
are arriving at one at all, is: do less. Follow the script, see what
happens, and, as they say on the job-interview coaching circuit, stop
talking once you’ve answered the question.

[A stretch of time passes. They revisit the subject.]
It’s been a while now since I saw this production, and lately I’ve
realized that the best of Beckett’s short works really hang around in
my consciousness. “Play,” which I mentioned before, is huge, as are
the “Rough for Theatre” works. I contend that “Rough for Theatre
II” is the miniature version of Godot, which means it’s great, like a
cupcake that tastes as good at the original pie. “What Where” is
really difficult. Mary-Arrchie didn’t pull it off, but I’ve rarely seen it
pulled off well. “Catastrophe” is small and slight, and needs to be
played with a lightness of touch.
So what does all this mean for this production we’re talking about?
I think I can say what it means to me. Beckett’s work currently
hangs in an in-between place: of blue-collar, working-class, fringe-y
theaters; and academics having a lark. And when it works best as
theater, it’s because simplicity meets deep thought. When it falls
apart, it’s usually because of the schtick of acting — too much
posturing, loud voices, big staging moves when small ones are called
for, misunderstanding of the language of comedy — steps all over
the intention of the play. Beckett was always very cautious about
leaving directors room to interpret his work, and the more time I’ve
spent watching his work, the more I share that caution as an


Hellish Half-Light: Shorter Plays of Samuel Beckett ran at Angel Island (735 W.
Sheridan) from July 24 through August 30, 2014. It was directed by Jennifer
Markowitz and performed by Molly Fisher, Rudy Galvan, Lauren Guglielmello,
Adam Soule, Stephen Walker, Kathrynne Wolf, and Bob Fisher.

Chicago Arts Journal ! Winter 2015


Words, music and sound have been consistently at the center of my
arts practice. So even the newer work that I’m making — fiberbased sculptural pieces for installation — often incorporate text and
sound. When you add all that to the fact that I’m from Ohio, where
they still rock out heavily to early seventies anthems, it means that
those roots run deep, and there will probably always be a current of
rock running through me and the work I make.

Questions for Sherry Antonini
We have lately admired Sherry Antonini’s work in musical
performance, writing, and visual art, and also her influence as a
teaching artist in Chicago. Sherry kindly took some time from
preparations for her upcoming Rhino Fest show to answer
some of our questions about forms, definitions, intersections,
the past, and the future.

CAJ: You teach courses at Columbia College and SAIC. How does
your teaching life interact with your personal artistic practice?

Chicago Arts Journal: We understand that your performance
history includes composing and performing with several rock n’ roll
bands. Does this music influence your current performance and
installation art?

SA: I’ve been an adjunct professor at both schools for seventeen
years. I sincerely love being in the classroom and working with both
undergraduate and graduate-level students. I work hard to be
thorough, current, prepared and engaged with my students. I spend
a good amount of time prepping for each class, as well as providing
extensive written feedback on papers. The majority of classes that I
teach, as much as they vary, are writing-centered. So, in an average
semester, where I am teaching 4-5 classes, you can imagine the
amount of reading and out-of-classroom work hours that are
required. That’s where the time pinch can really be felt — but the
payoff is tremendous in so many ways, ranging from watching
inexperienced, unsure writers and artists find their artistic voices and
build confidence, to working with an MFA student as she moves
through final edits on a poetry manuscript or novel for publication.
On my side of it, working with motivated, young, hungry minds
keeps my own level of energy and art-making passion up, alive and
renewed. Former students often become art-making comrades
beyond graduation, and the potential for art-community interaction
and possible collaboration with them is rich.

Sherry Antonini: Most definitely. I have worked with rock players
and classically trained symphonic musicians in bands and other
performance projects for more than two decades. The first
opportunities I had to bring my words and voice into a public,
performance-based realm were supported by being in Fate Saved Us,
a rock band that I co-founded when my two children were just
babies. From the start I considered myself fortunate as a writer to
have support and enthusiasm from some truly excellent and
inventive players as I composed melody and sang lead in our
songwriting collaborations. To date, I’ve been a part of five bands,
overall, including a country rock band where I had a blast singing
backup. More recently, I’ve been working to write, compose music
and sound, sing and perform live, and record as part of finite
collaborative projects involving a wider range of artists, including
choreographers, dancers, video artists, musicians, and a sculptor.



Chicago Arts Journal ! Winter 2015


The trick is in establishing a balance between all the teachingrelated hours and making time for a consistent art-making
conversation — a flow of ideas and the manifestation of those ideas
within my own mind, and then from my own studio. In some
semesters that’s easier to do than others. Lately, I’ve been being
especially watchful of preserving my own time for writing and
making as I’ve got some larger, more long-range projects and plans
in the works.

SA: Creative Push Collective is the result of many years of teaching
and many conversations about that on-going experience as shared
between Jenny Magnus and me. We’ve co-taught classes each year
for most of our respective teaching careers, and have established a
fine-tuned balance of preparing and giving instruction and feedback
relating to interdisciplinary curriculum. We’re different in our
teaching approaches and yet, ultimately, share the same passion and
vision for how to facilitate artistic progress. So students, in working
with us, receive dual aspects and approaches, all in service to
generating ideas, working through them, and final revisions toward
complete projects. In our experience as teaching artists, we came to
see that there are artists who don’t choose to be part of an academic
program, but who are looking for a way to continue to work and
grow. We have some participants in CPC who are new to making
work, and so our focus is then to help them find ways to generate
and trust their new ideas, and to recognize their artistic voices. We
also work with former graduate students and artists who have wellestablished professional practices. They come to us beyond
graduation or mid-career to realize a particular project, often
bringing in very raw, new ideas and working with us through to a
point of public performance or exhibition or publication.

CAJ: We hear you (and other artists) referred to as both a
“multimedia performer” and an “interdisciplinary artist.” Do you
draw a distinction between these terms, and if so, what does that
distinction mean to you?
SA: The terms are often used interchangeably in a more vernacular
way. The distinction between them, as I think of it, is that work that
is interdisciplinary is composed of more than one course of study or
discipline and results in a synthesis of them to create one work — a
piece composed of poetry and sound and movement is a good
example. The term multimedia implies a use of several kinds of
digital media and/or mixed art mediums — the stuff of those
different disciplines — to make a piece come into being, or facilitate
expression from within the work. So I would say that I am both and
that I am both at the same time — which seems a right and true
interdisciplinary, multimedia kind of answer.

The work we do in Creative Push Collective is very much parallel
to the way we each teach in school. But, then again, the boundaries
can sometimes be pushed even further as we can offer more or
different opportunities for learning experiences inside of a space of
our own policies and practices. Further info on what we offer as
Creative Push Collective can be found on our website, We’ll have new course and workshop
offerings up and scheduled for later this Spring/Summer 2015.

CAJ: Under the aegis of Creative Push Collective, you and Jenny
Magnus offer intensive art courses outside of an institutional
academic setting. Can you tell us about the origins of this program,
and what you hope to offer in it?



Chicago Arts Journal ! Winter 2015


CAJ: We hear you have a show coming in this year’s Rhinoceros
Theater Festival. Can you tell us something about it — the forms,
themes, ideas it explores?

CAJ: What are you reading or watching or thinking about lately?
Should we be reading or watching or thinking about it too?
SA: I’m doing as much research-reading as possible, related to the
book project I’m working on — so that includes a combination of
Western European medieval history, early American settlement
history, and mid-19th century urban American history, with a focus
on the lives of what we now call pioneering feminists. I also am
going back to poetry by some of my all-time faves: Plath, Olds,
Simic, Glück — very different poets from one another, but, as a
writer, reading inside of meter, rhythm, structure, and exquisite
word choice keeps me in step with thinking that way as I work
toward lyrical sensibility, which is especially important to me within
this current project.

SA: I’m happy and excited to bring ALL EARS, a sonic gathering to
Rhinofest this year. I’ve invited a group of artists and musicians who
make fine-tuned recordings of their work with text, voice, sound,
and song composition in dramatically different ways from one
another. This will be a listening event, with the focus of energy and
audience participation on attentively hearing pieces that each
artist/musician has chosen to present. I have a plan for twisting up
the format of the theater space, taking away the row formation,
among other things, to approximate the experience of hanging at a
friend’s house, slouching on the sofa, and listening to a complete
album or a particular radio program. Enjoyable, deep listening will
be the central experience of ALL EARS, which is what carefully made
recordings deserve and require for a full sonic ride. Soundscape,
spoken word, art music, and rock songs by Mark Booth, Lucas
Guariglia, Jenny Magnus, Beau O’Reilly, Valentina Vella, and
myself in collaboration with Basil Abbott will make up the program.
The inspiration for proposing this event was, indeed, looking back to
my earlier days of rock — when you aren’t rehearsing or playing out,
you’re listening to the recording sessions with your band. It’s this
laid-back, but focused, time that I’m looking to create, and I’m
excited to see who is there and what they take from the experience.

Otherwise, I’m watching a lot of nature documentaries —
especially those having to do with harsh climates and environments
— as further research regarding modes of survival. And learning
about methods of psychic meditation from some excellent,
practicing psychics as I investigate religion and spirituality, energy
work and the occult. The list sounds like a real mash-up — and it is
— although it all is intrinsically linked to what I’m up to inside of
my writing project. In a general sense, I’m thinking about aspects of
nature and our place as humans in the bigger picture. Aspects of
ecospirituality are interesting me — and probably point the way
toward our progression as a worldwide populace. So that would be
my suggestion for something we might all be considering lately.



Chicago Arts Journal ! Winter 2015


As I respond to this question, I’ve had this very simple fragment of
a melody playing on an endless loop inside my head all day, and I
can’t get rid of it. I know I’ll have to use it for something.

Questions for Robert Metrick
For many years, we have been enchanted and piqued by the
productions of Robert Metrick, whose multi-genre, multiformal works have variously appeared as opera, text, film,
installation, and collaborative visual art projects. Here we ask
the artist, preparing for an upcoming Rhino Fest performance,
about influences, processes, and what he’s up to now.

I guess if I were to idealize my process, I would say that the essence
of my creative activity is really about being in the right place at the
right time, being present enough to allow accidents to happen—and
transcribe them into some sort of form. I would be completely happy
as a court transcriptionist.

Chicago Arts Journal: Can you describe the generative process of
your work? Does it change, from one project to another?

CAJ: You have made work in Chicago performance circles for
decades now. What changes have you observed in the dynamics and
discourses around art in this town?

Robert Metrick: My work generates differently from project to
project, although it sometimes feels that I am re-generating the same
project, using different titles.

RM: My work emerged when the nonprofit gallery spaces (such as
N.A.M.E. or Randolph Street Gallery) and the much beloved Club
Lower Links were the most active venues for “performance art.” It
was a really exciting, frenzied landscape because everything felt raw
and spontaneous. There was always a performance happening
somewhere, everybody was a curator, and there was a steady stream
of opportunities to perform — usually with less than a week’s notice.

Actually, I often begin with a title that comes out of nowhere at
unexpected moments, a state of delirium while riding the train with
a high fever, or while parallel parking, swimming. The titles for
many performances (“When I Regain My Foliage,” “The Secret Life
of Dust,” “O Klahoma”) probably emerged out of those kinds of
moments. I don’t know where I would be without them.

This was actually perfect for artists such as myself who had no clue
how to market their work. I would just wait for the next invitation
to come along, which always happened, without much effort. At the
same time, I was curating performance series at Club Lower Links,
working with the same artists who curated my work. The sense of
community was very strong, and, I guess, incestuous.

Once a title is born, I will collect things — fragments of my
writing in journals, texts from whatever I happen to be reading,
melodies playing in my head, pieces of conversation, the news —
jigsaw puzzle pieces that I try to connect, within the frame of the
title. I know they are somehow related, but sometimes I do not have
a sense of “meaning” until long after the performance has been


I don’t really think the opportunities or venues to present work
have diminished at all, but it’s not quite as concentrated, which can
be a real positive. These days when I present my work, it’s rare that I

Chicago Arts Journal ! Winter 2015


RM: For the past year or so, I’ve been experimenting with video
art, which has been sort of a return to my “roots,” so to speak. I was
accepted into the film program at SAIC, but it did not take me very
long to realize that I was neither patient nor meticulous enough to
transform these ideas and images into a visible form. The camera was
a big obstacle for me. But now, with an iPhone camera and doing a
lot of guesswork on iMovie, I can take my ideas exponentially
further than I could as a grad student. And video is really a perfect
medium for me to merge writing with the allure of film. The first
couple of video projects I completed this year were simple stories or
dialogs, presented as subtitles over extremely slow moving or cyclical
images (a car descending 12 levels of a parking garage, a cloud
gradually swallowing a landscape… a lot of transportation imagery
— cars, busses, trains). A friend commented that although he liked
the videos, he was missing the kinds of voices that were so present in
my performance work. This stayed with me for a while, and I grew
more and more curious to explore how my subtitled videos could be
arranged for live performers, with live voices. That is the impetus for
“Sunday Evening.” The performance is composed of monologues,
dialogues, and songs in 6 semi-related episodes.

recognize anyone in the audience, which is mystifying and exciting.
The process for getting your work out there feels more formal — as
in, fewer invitations and more proposals. You really have to think
carefully about what you will be performing in advance, rather than
seeing the work blossom (or wilt) spontaneously onstage. So when I
write a proposal, I’m very careful to make sure that it doesn’t
constrict the possibilities for best kinds of accidents to occur.
CAJ: Are there current Chicago artists you particularly enjoy or
respond to? Are there artists you would like to collaborate with but
haven’t yet?
RM: I don’t get out as much as I’d like to, but I’ve really admired
productions I’ve seen by people such as Jayita Bhattacharya and
Barrie Cole. I’ve been very fortunate to work with Lucky Pierre and
hope to work more with them on future projects. Every House Has a
Door also does exciting work. But I really need to get out more often
because there’s a lot of great work out there I know I am missing. I
think the 9-5 grind has worn me down and I’m often content to stay
at home, watch 14 episodes of “The Office” and a basketball game.
Actually, that’s not entirely true. I’ll jump on the opportunity to go
to the Chicago Opera Theater or an eighth blackbird concert
without hesitation.

At this very moment, I am still composing the piece, but I see
there are a few recurring themes… Actually not so much themes as
questions. The biggest question relates to the meaning of the word
“courage.” It’s one of those mercurial words that can mean anything.
I’ve always thought of courage in the sense of something I need more
of, that I am lacking. I’ve considered this more often in recent years,
after a near fatal bicycle accident, leading to a far too lengthy stay in
the hospital. I was completely bewildered when friends and family
would praise me for my courage at that time — because during the
entire 2 months I was in the hospital, I can’t recall a moment when I

CAJ: What can you tell us about your upcoming show, “Sunday
Evening. Shortly Before Dinner.” in the Rhinoceros Theater
Festival? What forms, themes, or ideas does it explore?



Chicago Arts Journal ! Winter 2015


was not utterly terrified. Could people possibly be mistaking a
survival instinct for courage? And I am always seeing courage in
people around me, who perhaps feel as uncourageous as myself. So
inevitably this is entering the performance.

Anderson, Robert Wilson, Robert Ashley — but that is really far
more of an aspiration than a reality. I think that in the best crossmedia work, the audience is less conscious of the media than of the
experience these artists create, which has so much depth and
dimension. That’s really something to aspire to.

Another recurring theme is time… More specifically, the absence
of time. The characters are often exasperated that they don’t have
time to do the things that are most important to them.

Musically and lyrically, I am influenced quite a bit my Dylan (even
bad, awful Dylan), Leonard Cohen, Velvet Underground, Joanna
Newsom, Schubert, Monteverdi, Meredith Monk (again), Ornette

And then there are more literal themes such as clouds, or counting,
or television watching, or apartment hunting, or commuting.

CAJ: Do you think the musical and lyrical influences you mention
affect your visual style as well? That is, does style translate across
media, in some synaesthetic way?

CAJ: What are you reading or watching or thinking about lately?
Should we be reading or watching or thinking about it too?
RM: Lately I’m in a French phase. I’m reading Balzac’s very perverse
novel The History of the Thirteen. And before that, Antoine de SaintExupery’s beautiful Wind, Sand and Stars. Also I just finished The
Patagonian Hare, a bombastic but fascinating memoir by French
filmmaker Claude Lanzmann. Deb Olin Unferth’s novel, Vacation,
is hilarious and brilliant. They were all helpful for my recovery from
the burn-out of reading too many Russian novels, or the same
Russian novel for 2 years.

RM: I think that’s true, especially with artists like Dylan and Cohen
whose lyrics are so visually layered. One of my favorite songs of all
time is Leonard Cohen’s “Waiting for the Miracle.” I can’t imagine
any lyric more visually compelling than:
The sands of time were falling
from your fingers and your thumb,
and you were waiting

CAJ: Your work includes movement, live and recorded sound, text,
and collaborations with artists across many media. Do you see
yourself in a tradition of new experimental dance, performance,
opera — or something else?

for the miracle, for the miracle to come.
But mostly my visual style is influenced by filmmakers, like
Antonioni or early Werner Herzog, Wenders, Godard… Especially
in their slowest-moving works. The slower, the better. They might
have a 15-minute shot of trees moving in the wind, or waves, that I
could watch for at least another 6 hours. I would love to see

RM: I would love to think that I am working in the tradition of
artists who work across many media, such as Meredith Monk, Laurie



Chicago Arts Journal ! Winter 2015


Warhol’s Sleep, or Empire in its entirety. I am a pushover for work
that alters perceptions of time, and for me, this happens most often
in the medium of film… In a theater, of course.

You have been reading

Actually, if somebody told me that sitting through one of my
performances is like watching paint dry, I’d consider the work to be
a major success.


And please stay tuned for our

In which we provide coverage of events and happenings
at Curious Theatre Branch’s long-running wintertime
fringe festival. We hope to see you there.

The Editors welcome your pitches, gambols, gripes, and
gratitude at the following address:

[email protected]



Notes on Contributors
Arlene Engel is a doctoral candidate in the biological sciences.
She lives in Chicago with several cats, one man, and more
houseplants than would seem necessary.
Margaret Murray was born and raised in very rural Iowa with a
father from Ireland, a mother from New Hampshire (by way of
Quebec), and not one solid piece of rational thought between
them. She is grateful for the spare practicality of Iowa, Allen
Iverson, and language, which her father told her was worth more
than any other aspect of life.
Ira S. Murfin is a doctoral candidate in the Ph.D in Theatre &
Drama at Northwestern University. His dissertation examines
talk as a performance strategy employed by key artists in the post1960s American avant-garde. His criticism has appeared in
Theatre Topics, Theatre Journal, Theatre Research International,
Review of Contemporary Fiction, and Chicago Art Criticism. He is
also Performance Editor for the journal Requited. Ira makes solo
and collaborative performance work as a theatre artist and writer
in Chicago.
Mark Leach is a longtime activist, an ecologist and occasional
teacher, and a lover of Captain Beefheart. He makes his home in
rural Wisconsin.
Carine Loewi works in the medical technology field and serves
as Assistant Editor at Chicago Arts Journal. Her contributions to

Chicago Arts Journal

the literary canon have appeared on bathroom stalls throughout
the Midwest and central Europe for more than three decades.
Edmund St. Bury is a lifelong Chicagoan and an avid
theatergoer. He hopes you are keeping warm.
Sherry Antonini is an interdisciplinary artist whose work
combines original text, voice, sound, photographs, and mixedmedia sculptural pieces to create performances and work for
exhibition. She teaches in the Writing Department and the
Liberal Arts Department of The School of the Art Institute of
Chicago, and in the Interdisciplinary Arts Department Graduate
Program of Columbia College, Chicago. She also is co-director of
Creative Push Collective, a program she runs with artist Jenny
Magnus. Antonini is currently working on a full-length book and,
so, spends more than the usual amount of time in pajamas.
Robert Metrick is Chicago-based writer, performing and video
artist whose work has been presented at galleries, theaters, video
screenings, shopping malls and abandoned churches throughout
Chicago and sometimes elsewhere. For several years he has
collaborated with graphic artist Emily Waters on a series of
( His recent writings have
appeared in his anonymous blog.
Sue Cargill is a Chicago cartoonist. She’ll be part of Rhino Fest’s
upcoming O’Reilly extravaganza “Welcome to Beautown.”

Winter 2015


Sue Cargill


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