My Rant…

So this is how the week went. I started off after the national school walk out with one of my silly little observations about things talk show hosts say, like “you can’t make this stuff up.” I’m a writer. Yeah, I can. It’s called imagination. HP Lovecraft, Giovanni Boccaccio, Homer, HG Wells all wrote some pretty crazy sh… …or this one: “went missing” No one goes missing, like no one goes disappeared. A person is missing. A person has disappeared.

And then I would spin that off into something about the limits of language and how the wording of the 2nd amendment is reinterpreted and mythologized by all sides, and how everyone assumes they know from written words alone what someone meant 230 years ago—the same people by the way who will fly off the handle on Facebook because they don’t understand the writer’s context without an emoticom or LOL afterwards .

Every week before the show Kerri walks into the station and asks if I want an extra copy of the show schedule she printed out, and I always tell her that I’m usually still working on it right up to show time.

This morning cooking breakfast I recalled a caller sometime back named Peggy, a conservative listener. We were talking with singer songwiter val leventhal, and I asked what we have we lost. Peggy called and was angry because I had kicked over these monolithic assumptions in her mind and I just kept kicking them over. Why could my dad on a steelworkers union and part-time volunteer firefighter’s salary afford a house, a car and a family, or my first job in 1978 bagging groceries in a small town, how could the produce department manager at Jewel, now a $15 dollar an hour job, afford the same thing on a union salary? What happened in that 40 some-odd years that it now takes both parents working sometimes several jobs to barely accomplish. That should be the fundamental question for everything.

As far as Art is concerned…

There was a time in this country when the media sought out writers and artists. And people placed more value in their views that it did in lawyers. They found value in people who observed and dissected humanity over those who profited from and cannibalized it.

I was laying in bed this morning when I recalled walking along an empty stretch of road in Serbian-held Bosnia, close enough to the front that the earth trembled under my feet and the artillery reports thudded in my chest. the Serbs were suspicious of journalists and lawyers, especially Americans. In old Yugoslavia journalists and lawyers were functionaries of the state, while Artists were dissidents, quietly exalted by the people as standing and striving for something more human than the state.

Emblazed upon my pack were the words Umjetnick, Kunsler, Artist, and once people realized I was an artists and not a journalist I was embraced, invited into homes, protected…and even got two marriage proposals.

What have the lawyers and their media patrons given us that is different from any administration in the last 50 years? They sell us the flags for opposing teams, but the rules of the game never really change. If you believe there is no fundamental difference between the Bush, Clinton, Obama and Trump administrations, you are too much in that game.

But Art is something altogether different. It is a way of seeing, of truly critiquing not just the body politic but in uplifting humanity and illuminating the perils of hubris and the possibility of dreams.

Recently, Kerri and I have been posting quite a lot about the origins of Art. We have posted stories of pigeons capable of disseminating good art from bad, evidence that aesthetics is endemic not to humans alone but may be secured within our evolutionary DNA. Evidence for that in mankind reaches back, for what still remains of the archaeological past at least 350,000 years, far beyond the emergence of Modern man and Neanderthals. Certainly farther back than organized economics, and certainly capitalism…and perhaps even lawyers.

New research reveals that the same parts of the brain responsible for creativity also engage language and community. These are the fundamentals…and reminding us all of these fundamentals and what we’ve lost and what there is to regain… that is the purpose of this show…   


Not about Guns, but about Democracy vs the NRA…

Recent polls suggest that a clear majority of Americans favor some sort of reasonable gun control, and yet their constitutionally “guaranteed” voices are being ignored by their elected officials who are more beholden to the financial check writing power of the unelected NRA than to Americans.

Following the deaths of 58 in the 2017 Las Vegas shooting 64 percent of voters in a Politico/Morning Consult survey   said they wanted stricter gun controls-not gun elimination, but control. A February 2018 Quinnipiac poll, taken days after the Florida school shooting showed that 67-29 percent of Americans support a ban on the sale of assault weapons and 83-14 support a mandatory waiting period for gun purchases. The results were higher than those taken in the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in December 2012 that killed 20 students and six adults.

The only explanation for the intransigence of elected leaders, who claim outlawing women’s choice, building a wall on the border, eliminating affordable healthcare and tax cuts favoring the wealthy are “the will of the people,” would seem to betray a lie, and that they are more beholden to the NRA leadership than to their working and voting constituents…

Yesterday a friend asked for details about my comment on cops and the NRA-bought media. This was my answer……….

First, though, this was the original post:

So now you see friends in law enforcement. While the Left was merely asking for accountability the Right was pandering to you. But when it came time to choose between guns or cops the Right did not even blink before throwing you under the bus

A friend then asked for clarification and details, and just by coincidence, I had some:

The assault on the cops in Florida is a dodge and diversion to benefit and defend , not the NRA, but the corporate gun industry championed by NRA leadership. The same exact people who are throwing the cops in Florida for not rushing in, although I think that was deplorable personally(I’ve been under fire many times), are the same ones who defended cops for not rushing into the Florida nightclub shooting, Columbine and others. Then that same rightie media was saying the cops were outgunned and we following procedure. What’s the difference now? The massive outrage and divestment against the corrupt and morally bankrupt NRA leadership who this year increased their outreach to politicians and rightwing media NOT to $100,million, by BY and additional $100 million, for an estimated total of just under a half billion Dollars. The lesson? maybe our law enforcement should invest less in the “see a cop, thank a cop” two-faced users (Joe Walsh?) with greater loyalty to the corporate gun industry and understand that all those demanding accountability from law enforcement not only protect the public but our cops too. I’ll pose this question to 5th congressional district candidate Sameena Mustafa and CeaseFire Illinois founder Tio Hardiman when we talk on this Sunday’s show.  Tune in. Playtime with Bill Turck and Kerri Kendall, Sunday 1-3pm on am560 WCGO.

Evil and the Artist

A critical component to any expression of true Art, is in speaking to something pure and universal to the human experience, and through that expression find a greater definition of community. The Artist is not simply a craftsperson, but also a philosopher, a historian, a teacher and an oracle. While one person may find the painting of a sunset calming, another may find trepidation for the day to come.

Perhaps no other subject has enlivened more artistic and philosophical expression than the concept of evil. This was a tragic month for the nation. In Chicago, the death of Police commander Paul Bauer shocked the city. The nation was stunned and left wanting for answers after yet another terrible school shooting, as Ohio grieved for two fallen law enforcement officers. Internationally, war and strife still ravages Syria, Iraq and Yemen. There is genocide in Myanmar, violence remains a specter in Ukraine and we are told of slave auctions in Libya. Guns and crime claim too many on the streets of the nation, an epidemic fueled by greed, hopelessness and disenfranchisement. the word mental illness is abused in the media, as if any of us are immune, whether through depression and grief at the loss of a loved one, or levels of sociopathy that inform indifference to others whether due to race, economic status, religion or simply distance and unfamiliarity.

As artists, it is our duty to acknowledge the pain as well as the catalyst of the pain. Michangelo and da Vinci, all of the masters and greatest thinkers of the Reformation, the Renaissance and the Enlightenment grappled with concepts of evil, while science, reason and our own inexhaustible humanity continually pressed back the definitions of evil. Earthquakes, before the discovery of plate tectonics, were once considered evil. Schizophrenics, children with Down’s syndrome and epileptics were once considered to be possessed by evil. We have besieged from every side through reason and understanding definitions of evil leaving but an ever narrowing island.

Last week propagandist and broadcaster Dan Proft in a throwback to our most primitive selves offered after the Florida shooting that we perhaps should spend less energy on the concept of mental illness and understand that real evil exists in the world. It is a monumentally ignorant thing to say, unless agenda and manipulation is the endgame. But if in the course of a few thousand years we can so completely erode the idea that evil is some ethereal presence rather than our complex struggle with greed and ignorance, sometimes tragically, even criminally fueled by mental illness then evil instead becomes an ever eroding definition of our collective ignorance, and therein lies hope for resolutions, however distant they may be. The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. Yugoslav writer Mesha Selimovich doesn’t simply describe love and hate, he delves beneath the skin, sleuthing the mitochondrial DNA, the primordial stew from whence they arose; The deepest uncharted corners of our humanity. That is the domain in which the Artists must exist, shining an existential light upon that ignorance…

Rascal Smokes the Elbo Room in Chicago

Rascal Smokes the Elbo Room in Chicago

Here’s the conundrum; If you have not seen Rascal Martinez live yet, wait, it’s likely he’ll visit your town soon. Just don’t wait too long or you’ll miss the opportunity to say, I saw that guy live in this great club. Rascal Martinez, with a mix of rockabilly, folk and classic country, with a subtext of Latin melodies, his unique American-style roots music awakens memories of Buddy Holly and early Van Morrison with accessible and heartfelt originals, as well as an impressive catalogue of covers and standards.

Last night, accompanied by brother Marcello on drums, the duet rocked Chicago’s Elbo Room in a tight two hour set. It’s amazing how full Rascal sound with such a plug-in and play foot print. The change in the room from the first chord was palpable. The room came a live as the audience danced and joined Rascal for familiar chorus’s to re-awakened and freshly rendered classics like Twist and Shout, Bad Leroy Brown as well as a blistering rendition of newer classics. You haven’t heard The Lumineers – Ho Hey, Ophelia until you’ve seen Rascal perform it live. A voluminous body of Rascal’s originals helped to seamlessly round out the set.

To find out more about Rascal Martinez, including upcoming tour dates, albums and new music from this prolific American singer, songwriter and performer visit his website at or on Facebook at RascalMartinezMusic.

Simon Stephens’ Birdland at Steep Theatre April 5 – May 12, 2018

Simon StephensBirdland explores a life lived without boundaries

By Simon Stephens
Directed by Jonathan Berry
April 5 – May 12, 2018

When you can have whatever you want, whenever you want it, what do you ask for next? When you’ve pushed every boundary until there’s nothing left to hold you in, how do you find your way back home? Birdland is a sexy, searing exploration of empathy and the impact of unchecked privilege by Olivier and Tony Award winner Simon Stephens.

Jonathan Berry returns this spring to Steep to direct the U.S. premiere of Simon Stephens’ Birdland. Stephens, who won the Tony and Olivier Awards for his The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, is Steep’s Associate Playwright, and Birdland will be the fifth of his plays to be produced by the Edgewater ensemble. Steep Ensemble Member and Jeff Award-winning director Jonathan Berry recently directed Steppenwolf Theatre’s You Got Older and The Crucible. Over the years, he has consistently produced some of Steep’s most notable shows, including last year’s sweeping epic Earthquakes in London and Laura Wade’s Posh, which won the Non-Equity Jeff Award for Best Ensemble, and was nominated for Best Director and Best Production.

Birdland will feature Dushane Casteallo, Aila Peck, Amber Sallis, and Steep Company Members Lucy Carapetyan, Cindy Marker, Peter Moore, Jim Poole, and Joel Reitsma. Amber Sallis is an understudy on Hinter and was last seen on Steep’s stage in Earthquakes in London. Birdland will mark the Steep Theatre debuts for Dushane Casteallo and Aila Peck.

About the Playwright
Simon Stephens is an English playwright whose plays have been widely produced in the UK, Europe, Australia, and the US. Stephens is an Artistic Associate at the Lyric Hammersmith and has been an Associate Playwright of Steep Theatre since 2013. In addition to his Olivier and Tony Award for The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, Stephens has received the 2001 Pearson Award for Best Play for Port; the 2005 Olivier Award for Best New Play for On the Shore of the Wide World;  Theater Heute’s Award for Motortown in 2007, Pornography in 2008 and Wastwater in 2011; and the 2009 Manchester Evening News Award for Best Production for Punk Rock. His play Heisenberg premiered in New York in 2015, opened on Broadway in 2016, and is currently enjoying productions all over the globe. Stephens visited Steep in 2012 and 2016, during which he performed public readings of his works Sea Wall and Song from Faraway, and Steep presented the first ever public reading of his play Blindsided, a new work commissioned by the Royal Exchange Theatre in Manchester, England.

Stephens’ other works include Bluebird, Herons, One Minute, Country Music, Harper Regan, I am the Wind, Three Kingdoms, Morning, a new version of Ibsen’s A Doll’s House, Carmen Disruption, The Funfair, a new version of Ödön von Horváth’s Kasimir and Karoline, his version of Brecht and Weill’s The Threepenny Opera, Nuclear War, Fatherland, his English language version of Obsession, and his new adaptation of Chekhov’s The Seagull.

About the Director
Steep Ensemble Member Jonathan Berry is a director and teacher in Chicago and is an Artistic Producer at Steppenwolf Theatre. His Steep productions include Mike Bartlett’s Earthquakes in London, Laura Wade’s Posh, Ross Dungan’s The Life and Sort of Death of Eric Argyle, Nick Payne’s If There Is I Haven’t Found it Yet, John Donnelly’s The Knowledge, David Eldridge’s Festen, Deirdre Kinahan’s Moment, Howard Korder’s The Hollow Lands and Brecht’s The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui. For Steppenwolf, he directed Clare Barron’s You Got Older, Nick Payne’s Constellations, the SYA productions of The Crucible and A Separate Peace, the world premiere of Melinda Lopez’s Gary, and the staged reading of Suicide, Incorporated, which he later directed at The Gift Theatre. He was also the Assistant Director for Anna D Shapiro’s Broadway productions of Of Mice and Men and This is Our Youth. Jonathan is also an Artistic Associate with Griffin Theatre, where his productions include Samuel D. Hunter’s Pocatello, Odets’ Golden Boy, Miller/Tysen’s The Burnt Part Boys, Sheik/Sater’s Spring Awakening, the North American premieres of Simon Stephens’ Punk Rock (Jeff Award Director, Lead Actor, and Ensemble) Port, and On the Shore of the Wide World, Stephen Sondheim’s Company, William Inge’s Picnic, JB Priestely’s Time and the Conways, Sidney Kingsley’s Dead End, Brendan Behan’s The Hostage and R.C. Sheriff’s Journey’s End. At the Gift Theatre, he has directed the world premieres of both Dirty and Suicide, Incorporated by Andrew Hinderaker, as well as Will Nedved’s 6. His Goodman Theatre productions include The Solid Sand Below and The World of Extreme Happiness for their New Stages Festival. His other work includes Redtwist’s Look Back in Anger and Reverb; Chicago Dramatists’ I am Going to Change the World; Jackalope Theatre’s The Casuals; Strawdog’s Conversations on a Homecoming, Remy Bumppo’s The Marriage of Figaro; Theatre Mir’s Bond’s The Sea and Brecht’s Caucasian Chalk Circle, and Lifeline Theater’s The Piano Tuner (Afterdark award – Best Production).

About Steep Theatre
Housed in what was once a small grocery store steps from the Berwyn Red Line stop, and lead by an ensemble of 34 actors, directors, designers, writers, and other theatre artists, Steep is the quintessential storefront theatre. Described by Chris Jones of the Chicago Tribune as “a storefront theater known for the power of its acting,” Steep creates powerful productions of plays by today’s most exciting writers and features the work of Chicago’s hottest theatre artists in an intimate, accessible space. Currently in its 17th season, Steep is known as a home for hard-hitting, finely tuned ensemble work. With each production, the company has shepherded a growing community of audiences and artists into bold new territories of story and performance.

Steep Theatre is conveniently located by the Berwyn Red Line stop and is within blocks of the #92, #36, #146, #147, and #151 buses.

Steep Theatre
1115 West Berwyn Ave., Chicago, IL 60640

April 5 – May 12, 2018
Press Opening: Thursday, April 5 at 8:00pm
Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights at 8pm
Sunday matinees at 3pm on April 15, 22, and 29, and May 6
Accessible Performances:
-Audio Description: Saturday, April 21 at 8:00pm
-Open Captioning: Sunday, May 6 at 3:00pm

General Admission Tickets: $27
Reserved Seat Tickets: $38
Access Tickets: $10 (Steep’s universal discount for students, artists, whomever)
(773) 649-3186

Twitter: @SteepTheatre
Facebook: SteepTheatre

Kate Piatt-Eckert
Cast photos and bios are available at

Lucy Carapetyan*
Dushane Casteallo
Cindy Marker*
Peter Moore*
Aila Peck
Jim Poole*
Joel Reitsma*
Amber Sallis

Director – Jonathan Berry*
Stage Manager – Jon Ravenscroft
Set Designer – Joe Schermoly
Lighting Designer – Brandon Wardell**
Sound Designer & Composer – Thomas Dixon**
Costume Designer – Emily McConnell**
Dialect Coach – Kathy Logelin
Production Manager – Catherine Allen
Assistant Director – Leah Raidt

*Denotes Steep Company Member
**Denotes Steep Artistic Associate

Reactionary math and School Shootings.

A significant portion of the Right is so beholden and controlled by the National Rifle Association and the gun pornographers in the media that they dare not even utter the words gun control. Instead they are promoting the fiction of arming the schools. MORE GUNS! But the numbers reveal the actual folly of the  no-big government Right’s assertion of having armed guards in every school in America. And their target is your wallet.

138,000. That is the number of schools in America.

3 and 10. that would be the minimum range to place guards in most schools, owing for sick days, vacation days etc., a supervisor would be necessary. Open and large campuses would require still more; costs, incidentally, borne by already over burdened school districts and municipalities.

828,000. That would be the average number of guards needed to be hired at the expense of programs, teachers, unless higher taxes are mandated. School Security Tax?

$45,000. The average wage for an armed security guard.

$37.3 billion. The total cost for placing and staffing guards in all of America’s schools.

$270,000. The average cost to every school in America.

16,470. Towns of 10,000 or less represent the highest number of municipalities in America, compared to 15,555 10k-24.9k, 726 25-49.9k, 452 50k-99.9k, 220 100-249.9k, and 82 at 250k and up to big cities.

5. The number of schools in towns of 10,000 across the nation.

$675-900,000. The cost to each of those small towns simply for security.

3703. The average number of households in a community of 10,000

$182-243. The additional taxes for every household in a town of 10,000 residents.

One Half. Half of America’s 325 million live in towns of fewer than 25,000 people, or roughly 162 million.

$0 Dollars. Instead of addressing reasonable gun legislation, which would cost nothing, and restoring minor investments to help the mentally ill, those suffering depression, bi-polar disorders and more, let’s raise taxes on already under-compensated and over-taxed citizens. Great idea.