In Chicago, even-numbered years bring the odd productions from around the world to town. At least they have since 1986, when Jane Nicholl Sahlins, Bernard Sahlins, and Pam Marsden first launched this sometimes controversial, visionary biennial event. When the festival was founded, Chicago was routinely omitted from major national theater tours, whose producers gauged that the attentions of Windy City audiences were preempted by local shows. Although that has changed in the past year, the festival is still Chicago’s only affirmation that there’s more to French, British, and Canadian theater, say, than Les Miserables, Phantom of the Opera, and Aspects of Love. Luckily, the festival doesn’t settle for exclusivity. It also pays attention to quality, both in the shows it imparts and in the way it presents them; it mixes big-ticket events with less commercially reliable fare; and it augments the theatergoing experience with a round of lectures, seminars, postperformance discussions, and professional artists’ workshops. For information an the auxiliary events, call the festival directly. For information an the shows, read on.

The 1992 International Theatre Festival of Chicago, which runs from May 26 through June 21, offers 14 productions from 10 countries–including the United States, though no Chicago shows are included on the agenda this year. America’s entry is Letters From a New England Negro (June 10 through 14), presented by Rites & Reason, a theater company that emanates from Brown University’s Afro-American Studies Program. Foreign nations represented this year are Australia (Circus Oz), Canada (Theatre Repere), France (Compagnie Philippe Genty), Great Britain (the English Shakespeare Company), Ireland (the Gate Theatre), Japan (Daisan Erotica), Poland (Akademia Ruchu), Russia (the Yakut Drama Theatre of Siberia), and Venezuela (Fundacion Rajatabla); the bill of fare ranges from classical to contemporary to a mixture of both. Performances take place at the following venues: DePaul University’s Blackstone Theatre, 60 E. Balbo; Steppenwolf Theatre, 1650 N. Halsted; and the University of Illinois at Chicago’s UIC Theater, 1040 W. Harrison. For ticket reservations, call 644-3378; for group, student, and senior discounts and general festival information, call 664-3370. Following is the schedule for May 26 through 29:


DERIVES (DRIFTINGS) France’s Compagnie Philippe Genty, making its midwest debut, blends live performers with dolls and puppets of all sizes in a dance-theater piece that creates “a fantasy joumey through seas of silk and oceans of light.” The production runs through May 31. Steppenwolf Theatre, 7:30 PM. $29.


DERIVES (DRIFTINGS) See listing under Tuesday, May 26. Steppenwolf Theatre, 7:30 PM. $29.


MACBETH Shakespeare’s tragic study of ambition is performed by the English Shakespeare Company, whose vivid and powerful “Wars of the Roses” cycle was part of the 1988 festival. Michael Pennington and Jenny Quayle play the murderous Macbeths in Michael Bogdanov’s staging, which runs in repertory with Twelfth Night, opening Friday (see listing below). The two productions run through June 7. The festival is hosting the ESCs only American engagement this year. Blackstone Theatre, 2 and 7:30 PM. The 7:30 PM show is a benefit for the International Theatre Festival of Chicago. $15-$35.

DERIVES (DRIFTINGS) See listing under Tuesday, May 26. Steppenwolf Theatre, 7:30 PM. $29.


THE DRAGONS’ TRILOGY See Critic’s Choice. UIC Theater, 5 PM. $60 (includes dinner).

TWELFTH NIGHT A twin brother and sister are at the center of Shakespeares comedy of sexual deception and crossgender impersonation. Michael Pennington directs the English Shakespeare Company in this production, which runs in repertory with Macbeth (see listing above) through June 7. Blackstone Theatre, 7:30 PM. $20-$40.

DERIVES (DRIFTINGS) See listing under Tuesday, May 26. Steppenwolf Theatre, 7:30 PM. $32.

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