What started as a performance component of the Bucktown Arts Fest has taken on a life of its own: this is the fifth annual incarnation of the Rhino Fest, whose name is inspired by surrealist painter Salvador Dali’s use of the term “rhinocerontic” (it means real big). Organized this year by Beau O’Reilly, Michael Martin, and Colm O’Reilly, who have endeavored to combine a broad scope and a cutting-edge sensibility, the three-week event showcases some 25 individuals and ensembles (plus several live bands), including well-known folks like Jenny Magnus, Theater Oobleck, Paula Killen, Marc Smith, the Curious Theatre Branch, John Starrs, David Hernandez, Splinter Group, Frank Melcori, Redmoon Theater, and New Crime Productions.

The Rhinoceros Theater Festival runs August 19 through September 4 at the Curious Theatre Branch, 1836 W. North; Splinter Group Studio, 1937 W. Division; and Chicago Filmmakers, 1543 W. Division. Except where noted in the listings below, the phone number for all Rhino Fest information is 384-2241. Tickets (except in special cases noted in the listings) are $7 per program or $10 for any two programs. (Of related interest is the Bucktown Arts Fest, which offers free theatrical performances Saturday-Sunday, August 27 and 28, at the Holstein Park field house, 2200 N. Oakley; call 489-4662 for details on the free shows. And a closing night Rhino Fest party with live music takes place at the Bop Shop, 1807 W. Division, on Sunday, September 4.)

The Reader carries festival listings on a week-by-week basis; the schedule for August 19 through 25 follows.


Theater Oobleck

David Isaacson, best known for the witty, well-educated explorations of popular and high culture he’s written for Theater Oobleck (The Making of Freud), offers Foot Notes Toe Jams Boot Licks, an evening of self-written solo performance, under Oobleck’s auspices. The program includes: “Havel/Bickle”, which posits an encounter between an eastern European artist-politician and a dangerous New York taxi driver; “Bull/Krupp!” which traces the philosophical lineage of Nazi Germany’s arms-manufacturing dynasty to the American inventor of Iraq’s never-completed supergun; and “Minutes,” in which Isaacson ruminates on his day job as a “paid social activist.” Curious Theatre Branch, 8 PM. $7, or “pay what you can.”

Ah Me, Oh My

Jenny Magnus’s solo show is described as “not much more than a bunch of songs performed alone, without visible accompaniment.” Splinter Group Studio, 8 PM.

Friends With Fire Arms: A Farewell to Feminism

Writer-performer Paula Killen, violin virtuoso Miriam Sturm, and filmmaker Katy Maguire collaborate on Disgraceful Productions’s “celebration of the dawning of a new age of femininity,” which interweaves three narratives to depict the relationship among three women. “Friends With Fire Arms: A Farewell to Feminism is an entertaining evening [with] great potential, provided the story is tightened up and Killen finds some silent places within her monologue. Particularly brilliant is Killen’s understanding of the insidious power of popular culture’s concept of feminist, emancipated women of the 70s,” says Reader critic Carmela Rago. Chicago Filmmakers, 8 PM. $10; call 384-5533 for reservations.

Invisible Sympathies

Jellyeye’s Bryn Magnus teams up with Mark Comiskey, Colm O’Reilly, and Mark Hanks in this program of short pieces whose subjects include a baffled newlywed confronting the rhythms of marriage, a long-married retiree, a would-be movie-star gangster, and a person whose brain is being slowly replaced by film images. Curious Theatre Branch, 10 PM.

Theater for the Age of Gold

Jeff Dorchen and a “mystery guest” perform a series of short two-character plays Dorchen wrote, including “Prologue to Earth Be Damned,” “The Atrocity,” “Ventriloquist One,” “One Day in Germany,” and “Allegory of French Involvement in the Indochinese Opium Trade.” Splinter Group Studio, 10 PM.


See Critic’s Choice. The performance is followed by live music by Number One Cup and Miam Miam featuring Chris Holmes and Joy Gregory. Chicago Filmmakers, 10 PM.


Ulrike Meinhof

“Just call it Chicago’s first dance/theater piece about a German radical,” says writer-director Warren Leming, a longtime presence on Chicago’s experimental and improvisational theater and avant-garde rock scenes, about this Chicago Cabaret Ensemble presentation. Curious Theatre Branch, 8 PM.

Friends With Fire Arms: A Farewell to Feminism

See listing for Friday, August 19. Chicago Filmmakers, 7 and 10 PM. $10; call 384-5533.

Invisible Sympathies

See listing for Friday, August 19. Splinter Group Studio, 8 PM.


In this coproduction of Theatre Wyrzuc and Steel Productions, seen earlier this year at Cafe Voltaire, ‘a young woman talks about recovering from the trauma of rape . . . by joining up with a traveling show that features women dressed in gorilla suits wrestling in giant fruit pies.

. . . [The] delicate imagery of Brian Gary Kirst’s script and Tina Steele’s robustly kinetic delivery–assisted by several Emil Nolde-inspired masks and a few Mummenschanz-like props–make it all seem as plausible as it is entertaining,’ says Reader critic Mary Shen Barnidge. Splinter Group Studio, 10 PM.

Theater Oobleck

See listing for Friday, August 19. Curious Theatre Branch, 10 PM. $7, or “pay what you can.”


Julie Laffin, Amy Ludwig,

and Rennie Sparks

Three performance artists pool their talents for an evening of new solo work. Laffin’s “Untitled performance from Various States of D(u)ress” is a visual transformation piece that delivers “a convergence of feminist theory, textile science, and chemical engineering with an intensely personal focus.” Ludwig’s “Home Mov(i)es” uses film and live narrative to tour “family legend, personal mythology, and imagined identities to examine how we construct the stories of who we are.” And Sparks’s “Wooden Fire Escapes” features “two tales of the grotesque and pitiful revolving around the same lousy fire escape. In each story a woman discovers that she’s the cause of her own undoing.” Splinter Group Studio, 8 PM.

Ulrike Meinhof

See listing for Saturday, August 20. Curious Theatre Branch, 8 PM.

Friends With Fire Arms: A Farewell to Feminism

See listing for Friday, August 19. Chicago Filmmakers, 7 PM. $10; call 384-5533.


Marc Smith and John Starrs & David Hernandez

Poetry-slam pioneer Smith offers My Father’s Coat, a program of poems, stories, and monologues, while veteran street poets Starrs and Hernandez team up for The John & David Show. Splinter Group Studio, 8 PM.


Voces Ansiosas/Anxious Voices

Teenagers from the Association House youth group perform original stories about issues they face growing up in a predominantly Latino urban area. The show was created under the direction of Ralph Flores. Splinter Group Studio, 8 PM.