Every August Rich Cotovsky–actor, director, off-Loop theater owner, and licensed pharmacist–dons a curly black wig and a shirt made from the American flag and presides over one of the city’s edgiest theater festivals as the living incarnation of Abbie Hoffman, circa 1969. For the duration of the two-and-a-half-day marathon of plays and performance art, founded six years ago to commemorate Woodstock and the recently departed Hoffman, Cotovsky disappears into his character. He always kicks things off Friday afternoon at the Daley Center with a digressive, mildly absurdist, Hoffman-esque speech in honor of da mayor who authorized the clubbing of kids “to preserve disorder.” After that he leads a group, on foot, back to his theater space near the corner of Broadway and Sheridan, where at 7 PM the festival opens with yet another speech, followed by the playing of Hendrix’s take on the national anthem. Cotovsky stays up for the next 53 hours straight, introducing each entry and catching catnaps during the occasional uninspired performance. This festival always attracts many of Chicago’s best non-Equity companies–especially noteworthy in this year’s lineup are Red Orchid Theatre, American Blues Theatre, Bailiwick Repertory, the Factory Theatre, and Bang Bang. But even if it didn’t, it would be worth attending just to catch Cotovsky’s sleep-deprived descent into irrationality and incoherence, itself an homage to Hoffman. Mary-Arrchie Theatre, Angel Island, 731 W. Sheridan, 871-0442. August 19 through 21: Friday-Sunday, according to the schedule below (which is subject to lateness, cancellation, and who knows what other possible mishaps). Tickets: $5 per admission (allows you to come in once and stay as long as you like); $10 for a one-day pass (allows you to come and go at will); $25 for a pass to the full festival.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Daniel Guidara.