This “convergence of Chicago artists,” presented by Performing Arts Chicago and the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, runs weekends through April 18. The avant-garde showcase features presentations by some of the city’s most adventurous artists working in the disciplines of theater, performance, circus arts, storytelling, dance, music, video, and sound and installation art. Participants include Plasticene, Local Infinities, Sheldon B. Smith, 500 Clown, Mathew Wilson, Lucky Pierre, Goat Island, David Kodeski, Connor Kalista, the Walkabout Theater Company, and the Curious Theatre Branch.

All activities take place at the Athenaeum Theatre, 2936 N. Southport; the sprawling arts complex hosts often simultaneous performances and installations on its main and studio stages and in offices, lounges, hallways, stairwells, and other spaces. The principal performance venues are the first-floor main stage and Studio 1; Studio 2 and Studio 3 on the second and third floors respectively; and the main-stage balcony lobby on the second floor in the rear of the building. (The second- and third-floor spaces must be reached by stairs.) The fest also offers workshops and panels with participating artists as shown below.

Prices for most events range from $5 to $20, though workshops generally cost more and some events and installations are free; see listings for details. For tickets and more information, and to register for workshops, call Performing Arts Chicago at 773-722-5463. Tickets can also be purchased through Ticketmaster by calling 312-902-1500 or logging on to

Following is the schedule through April 4; a complete schedule is available online at


The Occupation

This interactive installation is an office space in which the group Telophase explores “the unsettling territory of corporate reality.” Lobby studio, 7-10 PM. Free.

The Surrender Office

Conceptual artist Mathew Wilson will, according to a press release, “be available for a confidential, one-on-one consultation regarding the client’s need to surrender to any person, object or idea. . . . At a mutually ageed upon time and place, Mr. Wilson will surrender on your behalf, wielding a large white flag and noble demeanor.” Wilson’s stated goal is to remain “earnest in the face of the ridiculous.” Yet his task can be tinged with profundity. Wilson admits that in this piece he’s a cross between a two-bit private eye and a third-rate psychoanalyst, yet his symbolic act has the potential to yield genuine results. (JHa) Coat check room, 7-10 PM. Free. Wilson and collaborator Adam Brooks also team up for a weekly stunt on the streets–dates and times to be posted online at Free.

The Usual Haunts

Connor Kalista’s interactive, ambulatory presentation uses a series of 5- to 20-minute guided tours to explore “the intertwined ideas of identity and environment.” Taking a page from self-guided tours of art exhibits, Kalista hands out CD players to audience members. The narration we hear, however, has almost nothing to do with the space, though a few facts do filter in. Instead Kalista had his cast of 11 record three wistful, reflective stories that may be intertwined. Each one is set in a different location and is reinterpreted in light of the storytellers’ own memories. (JHe) Main lobby, 7-10 PM. Free.

Corporate Kissing Lotto Love, Inc., offers an interactive installation that promises “a solution to the growing demand for intimacy.” Second floor, 7-10 PM. Free.

Moody Hollow

See Critic’s Choice. Main stage, 7:30 PM. $20.

My Name Is Mudd

Playwright-director Shawn Prakash Reddy has fine-tuned his gloriously profane send-up of historical reenactments, premiered last fall at the Rhinoceros Theater Festival. Fortunately he’s kept the excellent ensemble and general approach, putting forth speculative half-truths and fabricating outrageous lies about John Wilkes Booth’s assassination of Abraham Lincoln. Reddy proves there’s an awful lot of wiggle room when it comes to history, which can easily be distorted to serve any agenda. Anchored by Guy Massey’s acid portrayal of Booth as a preening ham, the cast of this Curious Theatre Branch production gleefully delivers Reddy’s raucous slide show/lecture/sucker punch to the entire American educational system. (NG) Studio 1, 7:30 PM. $15.

500 Clown Frankenstein

The troupe that skewered Shakespeare in 500 Clown Macbeth takes on Mary Shelley’s creation in this revised version of its 2003 production. The company members are delightfully grotesque, dolled up in rapidly deteriorating costumes decorated with strategically placed bloodstains. Their generally edgy performances are enhanced by harrowing physical comedy that repeatedly brings the actors to the brink of injury. But while the group’s utter inability to retell Frankenstein is charming for a while, their haplessness wears thin about halfway through, when it becomes clear the novel is merely an excuse for clowning. (JHa) Studio 3, 7:30 PM. $15.

Air Tact Light

Logic conspires to make director Brian Torrey Scott’s new performance piece, created by the ensemble on the basis of a framework he devised, as deadeningly formalistic as a John Cage work. Air Tact Light gains life only when the performers briefly and seemingly accidentally escape from Scott’s elegantly conceived but cold Pirandellian prison. Wordless scenes that require the six performers to shuffle chairs around the stage make up the first part of the show; later scenes with dialogue involve guns and police officers, giving the piece a violent edge. Scott drags a chair from the audience down to the edge of the stage midway through and inserts himself into the proceedings, whispering stage directions to the ensemble and effectively alienating the audience completely. Scott seems to have a strong visual sense: this hour-long piece might have worked better as an installation. Balled up in Scott’s iron fist, this airless, precious piece feels like a cheat. (NG) Studio 2, 8 PM. $15.


Every play begins with a metaphorical blank slate. But most directors spoon-feed their audiences, providing instantly recognizable characters and situations and plenty of anxiety-relieving exposition. Not Dexter Bullard, founder of the physical-theater ensemble Plasticene. In this new piece they tease us for an hour or more with inconclusive contextualizing–props that may be literal or figurative, costumes that may or may not be significant, theatrical beats that may or may not be building blocks in an elusive plot. The performers tell incomplete stories about sexual rivalry, male bonding, and various other power relations. They also perform physical variations on the theme of actors and blackboards, writing on them, swinging from them, or scraping their nails across these blank slates. Executing their lifts, flips, and staged combat with virtuoso zeal, this athletic company neglects just one thing: making it clear what the show means. And thank God for that. (JHe) Studio 3, 9:30 PM. $15.

Windows Server 2003/Active Directory Infrastructure

This new piece by the experimental theater company DOG attempts to translate into theatrical form an actual Microsoft program, Active Directory, that allows a network of computers to communicate with one another. The performers are subtle and sophisticated, but they exhibit a maniacal need to entertain–even when nothing entertaining is at hand. They spend most of their time trying to charm the audience into not noticing that they have little to do. The humor that results, built around a center left intentionally empty, is most satisfying when the show seems least concerned with its purported subject. What matters is that five unsettled and unsettling people in a tiny space are interacting with the explosive, unforced joy of a virtuoso clown routine. But the show falters when it takes a literal approach; Windows Server 2003 doesn’t give the mind much room to wander, pinning down meaning rather than opening it up. Though this skilled ensemble is enjoyable in itself, the evening promises more than it delivers. (JHa) Studio 1, 10 PM. $15.

Lot’s Wife

This new hour-long work by Local Infinities has precious few evocative moments. The performance utilizes salt–spilling out of pockets, dumped from a suitcase, even raining from the ceiling in a delicate white sheet. But the journey the performers take through this salty landscape seems aimless. Their gestures feel random and empty because they don’t create meaningful characters or genuine relationships. The salt piles up but significance doesn’t. (JHa) Studio 2, 10 PM. $15.


Relationships in Clown Theatre

Learn how to play well with other clowns in this workshop. The members of 500 Clown will teach participants to be “spontaneous and in complicity with partners.” Studio 3, 1-5 PM. $50.

The Angel in Moloch

Free Street uses spoken word, hip-hop, and video in its exploration of Allen Ginsberg’s Howl. Studio 1, 2 PM. $15.

MadJoy Approach: The Basic Animal of Acting and Writing

This workshop centers on “active writing that connects the whole body without indulging the ego.” Studio 1, 4-6 PM. $25.

Down in the New Chair

Beau O’Reilly directs fellow Curious Theatre Branch members in short plays penned by students in the School of the Art Institute of Chicago’s writing program. Studio 2, 4:30 PM. $5.

The Surrender Office

See listing for Friday, April 2. Coat check room, 7-10 PM. Free.

The Usual Haunts

See listing for Friday, April 2. Main lobby, 7-10 PM. Free.


This multimedia performance piece by GirlCharlie is centered on Charlie Levin’s wax paintings. Lobby studio, 7:30 and 10 PM. $15.

Windows Server 2003/Active Directory Infrastructure

See listing for Friday, April 2. Studio 1, 7:30 PM. $15.


Stephen Fiehn and Tyler B. Myers–aka Cupola Bobber–explore “modern anxiety” in this performance piece. Studio 2, 8 PM. $15.


See listing for Friday, April 2. Studio 3, 8 PM. $15.


Monologuist David Kodeski presents the tale of a 90-year-old minister’s widow. Studio 1, 10 PM. $15.

Air Tact Light

See listing for Friday, April 2. Studio 2, 10 PM. $15.

500 Clown Frankenstein

See listing for Friday, April 2. Studio 3, 10 PM. $15.


Material, Metaphor, and Myth

This workshop by Local Infinities (the second of two) explores the transformation of ordinary objects into metaphor. Participants should “come prepared to move and get a little dirty.” Studio 3, 11 AM-2 PM. $40 for both sessions.

Morganville Workshop

The performance duo emphasizes spontaneity and improvisation in this workshop. Lobby studio, noon-2 PM. $20.

Down in the New Chair

See listing for Saturday, April 3. Studio 2, 1 PM. $5.

The Bumblinni Brothers Show

Actor-clowns Paul Kalina and Chuck Stubbings appear as Tony and Tony Bumblinni. Designed for children and their parents, the program is a mix of pratfalls, bad puns and jokes, audience participation by adults, and acrobatic circus acts that should please just about anyone out for an entertaining evening. The acrobatics are fun, but under Kevin Theis’s direction what really keeps the show moving is the duo’s playful improvisational approach. Their easy relationship with the audience is what enables them to persuade volunteers to embarrass themselves onstage–perhaps the most difficult of all their feats. (JV) Studio 1, 1:30 PM. $5.

The Surrender Office

See listing for Friday, April 2. Coat check room, 3-6 PM. Free.

The Usual Haunts

See listing for Friday, April 2. Main lobby, 3-6 PM. Free.

Windows Server 2003/Active Directory Infrastructure

See listing for Friday, April 2. Studio 1, 3:30 PM. $15.


See listing for Saturday, April 3. Studio 2, 3:30 PM. $15.

500 Clown Frankenstein

See listing for Friday, April 2. Studio 3, 3:30 PM. $15.


See listing for Saturday, April 3. Lobby studio, 4 PM. $15.

Writers at SAIC: Hybrid

Students, faculty, and alumni of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago–including Elise Paschen, Beau O’Reilly, and Idris Goodwin–take part in this spoken-word event. Studio 1, 6 PM. $10.

Lot’s Wife

See listing for Friday, April 2. Studio 2, 6 PM. $15.


See listing for Friday, April 2. Studio 3, 6 PM. $15.

Moody Hollow

See Critic’s Choice. Main stage, 7:30 PM. $20.

Six Etudes for Ensemble and New Works

The Jeff Kowalkowski Ensemble premieres new music. Studio 1, 9 PM. $10.


Good and Bad Things Come From Explosions

Heather Hubbs and Lorelei Stewart curated this showing of 15 Chicago-area visual artists. Throughout the Athenaeum, ongoing during festival hours. Free.

Handle With Care: Direct Mail and the American Dream

This installation by GirlCharlie uses direct mail from sweepstakes and political groups to “immerse spectators in the language of hate, fear, and greed.” Second floor, ongoing during festival hours. Free.

Mossans Saga (The Moss’ Tale)

Participants can put on a moss hat with speakers to interact with “an oversized fairytale book” in this installation by Swedish artist Malin Lindelow. Curtain Call Club, first floor, ongoing during festival hours. Free.


Malin Lindelow invokes the skogsra–a dangerous figure from Swedish folklore with the body of a woman and the tail of a beast–in this video installation. Curtain Call Club, first floor, ongoing during festival hours. Free.

Sodium Chloride

Local Infinities’ visual installation serves as a companion piece to their Lot’s Wife (see listing for Friday, April 2). Second floor, ongoing during festival hours. Free.

Unmaking the World: Measuring Our Chances Again

Artists Dolores Wilber, Wholesale Chicago, and Donald Lambert use globes, weather balloons, circus imagery, and a grand piano in this visual installation that examines “the political and ecological events threatening to unravel our civilization.” Stairwell and second-floor balcony, ongoing during festival hours. Free. ¥ On Friday, April 2, at 7 and 9:30 PM, storyteller Beau O’Reilly offers a performative response to this installation. Second-floor balcony foyer. Free.


Sandra Binion’s video installation forms a diptych, using images of water and fragments of conversations between men and women to explore the tension between intimacy and public space. Men’s and women’s

restrooms, ongoing during festival hours. Free.