“Nontraditional cabaret theater” is how radical Renaissance man Warren Leming describes Out of Context, a two-day benefit for the quarterly publication Context: A Journal of Arts, Politics, and Community. Or in his other words, “The creme de la creme of the un-hyperfunded Chicago fringe.”

No stranger to Chicago’s fringe theater scene, Leming has lined up dancers, actors, poets, performance and visual artists, and avant-jazz musicians to perform at the event.

Founded as the Near Northwest Arts Council Newsletter in 1985, the journal took the name Context in January of last year, expanding to include broader community arts coverage, local theater and art criticism, book reviews, and left-edged cultural commentary.

“We’re not sucking up grant money,” says Leming, who’s also the journal’s editor. “Symphonies, operas, and whatnot are sucking up all the dough, and there’s nothing left for the community. With this benefit, we’re trying to be self-sustaining and to keep the actual fringe alive and running. There’s a solid tradition in Chicago of performers who choose to act outside the established venues. But the smaller independents are being killed off because they don’t have the money to sustain audiences.”

At the benefit Donna Blue Lachman of the Blue Rider Theatre will perform a monologue-in-progress about anti-Semitism. Doorika will present an excerpt from Dear, a play inspired by the family history of Jimmy Corrigan, Chris Ware’s cartoon character. Latino Chicago Theater Company members will present a piece from their currently running Lolita de Lares, playwright Migdalia Cruz’s story of Lolita Lebron, the Puerto Rican nationalist. Leming’s Cold Chicago Dance Theater will perform excerpts from a work-in-progress, The Seven Industrial Sins.

Additional performers include poet Batya Goldman, David Hernandez of Street Sounds, Beau O’Reilly of Maestro Subgum and the Whole, improv and story-theater troupe Pepper Stebbins and Company, theatrical composer (and Tom Waits sideman) Willy Schwartz, percussionist and composer Michael Zerang of the Vandermark Quartet, and experimental reed players Gene Coleman, Santez, and Dave Maddox. The set design and visual installations are by artist Elke Claus.

Most people will perform the first night, though some will perform both nights.

Out of Context will take place Friday and Saturday at 8:30 PM in the NNWAC Flat Iron Gallery on the third floor of 1579 N. Milwaukee. Tickets are $10 each night. Call 278-7677 for details.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Jon Randolph.