Month: July 2020

Flying Trapeze: Yes, Ma’am Circus

Circus has been making a comeback across the country for the past few decades. Chicago has seen the rise of circus schools, companies, and shows all across the city. Performers train and present their work to audiences while amateurs can learn new circus skills for health and self-expression. Any given month, you can see at least two homegrown shows, not including shows by smaller companies and the occasional visiting circus. The Flying Trapeze is a column that will bring you the best and brightest of Chicago’s vibrant circus scene. Ever think to combine John Milton’s epic poem Paradise Lost with acrobatics and aerial arts? Or the dulcet phrases of William Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night with trapeze and juggling? Yes, Ma’am Circus has successfully brought these works to the circus world in the past few years. Executive Director Amancay Kugler didn’t expect to be running a small theater company but through her dual dance and psychology degree, she was exposed to the circus craft. She had taken a required class on dance composition which resulted in her developing an …

Featured Image: The marquee of The Art Theater in Champaign, Illinois reads “For Sale or Rent.” The Art Theater’s sign is red and retro. The brick building is located on a downtown street, with residential apartments above the theater. Photo by Jessica Hammie.

Support for the Arts Supports Us All

Before I moved to Central Illinois, I hadn’t spent much time thinking about the ways arts and culture programs affect a community. Living in a mid-sized town/small city/micro-urban area for a little over a decade has changed the way I think about community and what it means to have access to those types of programs. Dynamic arts and culture programming signals that residents are engaged and active, that this is a place people should want to live. It signals that a municipality values its citizens, and is interested in helping create a community where a rich quality of life is revered. An engaged arts community celebrates and challenges its members and residents; it’s more than a collection of people making stuff or putting on performances. These programs indicate there is an infrastructure that supports community connection and potential for conversations about difficult subjects that can advocate for change. Active and critically engaged arts support systems within communities are vital to the growth and progress of small towns like Champaign-Urbana. In a diverse community like C-U, …

Beyond the Page: Tanuja Devi Jagernauth

“Beyond the Page” digs into the process and practice of writers and artists who work at the intersection of literary arts and other fields. For this installment, I interviewed Tanuja Devi Jagernauth — Indo-Caribbean playwright, dramaturg, organizer — about how her practices in theater, prison abolition, healing justice, and transformative justice interconnect; creating spaces for BIPOC theater-makers; doing mutual aid during and beyond the pandemic; and how she challenges systems of oppression and struggles for collective liberation through her work. Tanuja and I spoke in May. We recognize that in the weeks since then there has been a broadened nation-wide uprising against policing and other white supremacist systems — an uprising sparked by the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, Ahmaud Arbery, and innumerable others, as well as by other forms of anti-Black violence. We recognize that these racist acts are part of a long, systematized lineage. And we recognize that there have always been organizers and artists visioning and building against, beyond, and outside of that. We have decided to publish this …

Text-only: “To Know A Neighbor” by Tanuja Devi Jagernauth

Below is a text-only version of “To Know a Neighbor” by Tanuja Devi Jagernauth, March 2020. In its original form (re-published within this interview with the author), Jagernauth hand-wrote the micro play in black ink on textured white paper, which she watercolored with rosy reds and rusty yellows of varying intensity. Title page: “To Know a Neighbor” by Tanuja Devi Jagernauth Page 1: Aggie slowly and carefully writes by hand a letter to her neighbors — none of whom she’s ever met. In the letter she invites them to email her if they ever need anything like a cup of sugar, toilet paper, or you know — help — during this time of social distancing. When the letter is complete she stares at it. Aggie: (to Sharpie, her cat): What if…weirdos? Sharpie exits. Aggie: (sighs) Fine. Aggie grabs her Scotch tape and exits. Page 2: Hank, a stocky, stubborn retired teacher, slowly, painfully heaves open the front door to his apartment building. A hand-written note stops him. He puts down the bags of groceries in …

Out of Site: Public Performance goes Virtual

Since its inception, Out of Site (OoS) has sought to create wonder through “unexpected encounters in public space.” Performances took place in unusual places, such as alleyways, parking lots, underneath the El tracks, as well as during the middle of Wicker Park Fest. However like many performance art groups and initiatives during the coronavirus shutdown, Out of Site pivoted to present innovative performance art through live streaming tools. Started by Carron Little and Whitney Tassie in 2011, this public performance art series has brought artists from all around the world and on to the streets of Wicker Park, Noble Square, and other parts of the city. Performances varied in tone whether it was two women, Elena & Erin, pushing a cabinet down Milwaukee avenue or Austin-based artists performing an underwater puppet show with a truck-sized whale in Ballenarca.  Taking performance art into the digital realm seemed like a natural step. Out of Site teamed up with Experimental Sound Studio’s (ESS) The Quarantine Concert series on May 26th to present Out of Site Virtual Performance. Donations …

Image: An illustration by Teshika Silver of Breonna Taylor.

July (Virtual) Art Picks

If you’ve followed us for a while, you know that our Art Picks offer a wide scope of events that are relevant to our audiences because we and the artists, cultural workers, curators, spaces, and projects we support live full lives that know no boundaries. We maintain expansive practices and work toward justice for BIPOC, LGBTQIA+, and disability communities in Chicago and the Midwest. If this is your first time coming across this list, welcome. We’re glad you’re here and we hope this list sparks discovery, curiosity, and a demand for justice if you weren’t openly demanding that already. Created in collaboration with The Visualist and adapted for social-distancing due to COVID-19, this list offers online exhibitions, streaming events, a list of online collections from Black and LGBTQIA+ archives, and other ways to spend time in the virtual space. Also, in support of our friends, our communities, ourselves, and abolition/liberation efforts, we’re prioritizing events that uplift and fight for Black Lives and celebrate Black Queer Lives because the fight for Black Lives is the fight for …