This week Timothy Hiatt’s Photography retrospective…

This week Timothy Hiatt’s Photography retrospective…

closed at the Bucktown Gallery in Chicago. For those who don’t know, Tim is a world class photographer. NBC is sending him next week to cover the Kentucky Derby. Kerri and I are working on a book called Mother Tongue that explores the idea of Art as the only true universal language of humanity. The exploration of that concept has lead us from Ice Age cave paintings 40,000 years ago to cutting edge robotic science. The fact of the matter is, there is no agreed upon definition of creativity. You’d think that should be fundamental and foundational, but our ability to define and understand the human creative process is a virtually insurmountable issue in robotics and cyber technology. robots may create paintings and symphonies, through formatted and programmed artistic structures and rigidly defined concepts, but it is more akin to mimicry than true creativity. That has to do not only with the structure of the human brain, but also the uniquely near all-encompassing way the brain responds and inter-relates to Art and the creative process. A Stephen King novel may grow from a childhood memory to become a terrifying horror and suspense novel, with the author’s conscious and unconscious mind, short and long term memory teaming to construct a work of fiction. Jackson Pollack isn’t splattering paint, but accessing movement and motion and direction as a dancer might fully exploit a stage. But of all the art forms, believe it or not, the most human is that of the news, war and situational photographer. The very best are anticipating whether, consciously or unconsciously, a uniquely human moment will resonate intimately and inspirationally with human viewers, whether that moment communicates rage, grief, loss, compassion or triumph. And that is something robots will never be able to mimic.

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We now take you back…The Front Page by Saint Sebastian Players April 27th -May20, 2018

We now take you back…The Front Page by Saint Sebastian Players April 27th -May20, 2018

So Kerri and me, we ankles it over to that Saint Bonaventure, over there at 1641 West Diversy. Kerri, she’s my co-host on the radio show, see? A real bearcat, no cancelled stamp, that one, but I digress. We gots this show over at 1590 WCGO called Playtime with Bill Turck and Kerri Kendall. Give it a listen.

Anyhow, they got this theatre company, call themselves The Saint Sebastian Players. Not a dewdropper among ’em. They don’t take no wooden nickels, if ya get my meaning. Don’t believe me, then you take a gander over at this new play, see? It’s called The Front Page, by these mooks, name of, Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur, directed by Jim “Smoky” Masini, and produced by this jake, name of George Manisco. In-ci-dentally, George is doing double duty, plays this wise guy named of Diamond Louis. And he’s good. I mean real good.

See, the story is about this gumshoe, Hildy Johnson, played with finesse by Michael Graham, whose about to turn in his typewriter at the Chicago Examiner for a desk job in New York. Add to that, Hildy’s about to get manacled. But Hildy knows the game and wants something readers can chew on, but like his editor says, Walter Burns, played to perfection by Lawrence Garner, and get this, “nobody reads past the second paragraph,” says he. Seems like I heard that before.

Any-who, while-st Hildy is getting ready to skedaddle, this anarchist, a little fella, but no pushover, see, Earl Williams, played by Ryan Finn, is about to get his neck stretched for the killing of a flatfoot. But see, Williams is a patsy. He ain’t done nothing, but haunt this floozy, Mollie, played like a violin, a very loud violin by BethAnn Smukowski. Adding mayhem to Hildy’s misery, Burns only cares about getting the scoop when Williams lands in Hildy’s lap. The ambitious Sheriff and the Mayor, embarrassed by William’s escape are willing to sacrifice an innocent man for their upcoming election. Seems the more things change , huh?…

The set is the bee’s knees. Saint Sebastian is masterful at returning the audience to the late 1920s Chicago, while costume guru Robert Eric West ties the ribbon on that period bow. It’s worth knowing your onions that the show runs two and a half hours, with an intermission and a break between Acts two and three to stretch, jorum a skee, step out for a gasper or iron your shoelaces, if you get my meaning. All in all The Front Page by the Saint Sebastian Players is the bees knees, as relevant today as when Hecht and MacArthur penned it 90 years ago.

And get this, the place is in the basement of a church, so you can theoretically kill two birds with one proverbial stone, or not; up to you. Just go see the show, see. The Front page plays now through May 20th at Saint Bonaventure, 1641 West Diversey in Chicago, saintsebatianplayers.org.

Now beat it before you start to bother me!

Everything you Love and Hate: Birdland at Steep Theatre

Everything you Love and Hate: Birdland at Steep Theatre

Somehow, amid a discussion with a friend yesterday about what would bring people to TheatRE, over TheatERs, Gordon Ramsey’s name popped up. Ramsey is that obnoxious, over-inflated vacuous personality, and part of the manufactured rage-porn that has overtaken our media, supplanting intellectual wound-jabbing for actual substance. Okay, I woke up a bit, well, who among us hasn’t wished for a victim of his profanity-laced tirades to turn the tables, so to speak. Given that, there is a deeply satisfying undertone to Steep Theatre’s latest production, Birdland, which runs through may 12th.

Simon Stephens’ Birdland, stunningly and expertly directed by Jonathan Berry, delivers that philosophical punch to the visceral justice we all secretly desire to see levied against the Ramsey’s and plastic celebs of the world. Sorry, needed to get that off my chest. Now, back to Birdland…

Birdland tells the story of Paul, Played brilliantly by Steep ensemble member Joel Reitsma, a British Pop superstar who has either abandoned or lost the empathy for others for stardom-enabled narcissism and sociopathy.  Money is heaped upon him by a predatory record company, while fandom and pandering tabloids conspire to isolate and sharpen Paul’s narcissism, until even he cannot escape the feeling that he is some sort of cancerous individual; lost in his own personality and the over-hyped perceptions and expectations of his fans. People are toys for his amusement. Women are objects to be seduced and conquered  to a lost soul. Paul turns as abusive as a petulant child whenever he meets resistance. What remains? At what cost? Paul soon discovers the answers to those perilous questions after betraying his one true friend.

So back to the original question. This is Theatre at its finest, in which there is no pretense of attempting to compete with movie screens, but instead keeping theatre intimate, visceral and a singularly unique and private experience for each and every show. There is not a weak spot in the cast, starting with Reitsma, who is on stage for the entire 2 hour performance, moving deftly and seamlessly from scene to scene. Dushane Casteallo as Johnny, Paul’s friend and collaborator, is smart and fluid and natural as he struggles to remain at Paul’s side.

Aila Peck is strong as Paul’s love interest, and his last opportunity at redemption, but I particularly enjoyed Aila with Cindy Marker as a pair of London detectives who confront Paul over a particularly nasty indiscretion. Peter Moore, as David and several other characters,  is always fun to watch on stage, as the characters never seem to emanate from Moore, but rather flow through him. Jim Poole, however, was brilliant playing Paul’s affable and somewhat estranged, if naïve father. Poole, as a sad sack fan, becomes the target of Paul’s usery and cruelty in a powerfully telling scene. Overall, a great looking cast, with terrific energy and believable, even heartbreaking relationships.

Dialectic coach Kathy Logelin makes the story believable with accents in French, Russian and British English; a crucial and critical aspect of the story. Joe Schermoly’s set design beautifully showcases the story, while Brandon Wardell’s lightening helps build the story’s emotional tempo. Indeed, and I’ve said it before, Steep is a jewel in the Chicago Theatre community. Every show feels big and expansive and satisfying.

If you only see one play at Steep Theatre, making it this one. As an incredibly influential member of the liberal media, there was a ticket waiting for me on opening night. I am already anticipating a return to see this amazing play with the wife. It’s that good.

Birdland, runs through May 12th. Steep Theatre is just steps from the Red Line, at 1115 West Berwyn in Chicago.  Call (773) 649-3186, or visit steeptheatre.com for tickets and info.

WC Turck is cohost of @Playtime with Bill Turck and Kerri Kendall, Chicago’s only commercial radio program focused fully on the Arts. The show can be heard Sundays from 1-3pm on AM1590 WCGO in Evanston. 

 

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…   

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.

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 rascalmartinez.com or on Facebook at RascalMartinezMusic.

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.