Sunday, November 21, 2004

Culture Vulture

Bob and I saw a bizarre little play at a bizarre little theatre. Bertolt Brecht's Puntila and his Man Matti is—and I'm just guessing here—an absurdist look at class divisions and the plight of laborers in 1930s Finland. Or it's an absurdist look at the fluidity of social stratifications in the presence of alcohol in 1930s Finland. Or it's an absurdist story about a wealthy alcoholic landowner, his wily but long-suffering chauffeur and the impending marriage of his never-satisfied daughter in 1930s Finland. Or it's just absurd. In any case, after getting over my initial discomfort at the prospect of watching a loud actor play a loud drunk for two hours, I enjoyed the play—at least to the extent I was able to understand it. My favorite part was the ending—and not just because it was the ending, but because the entire cast came out with half-filled beer bottles, began blowing over the openings and created a gorgeous calliope accompaniment to the closing song.

Bob and I continued our weekend of culture at the Art Institute with a viewing of Unbuilt Chicago, an exhibit of architectural models and drawings of Chicago buildings that never made it from the page to the real world. Some of the proposed buildings were spectacular—many of them disappointingly so in comparison to photos of the buildings that currently stand in their place today. The exhibit isn't very big, though, so while we were there we also visited some of our favorite pieces from the museum's permanent collection:
A Sunday on la Grande Jatte, a favorite of mine if not for the brilliant Sondheim musical it inspired then for its simple defiance against artistic conventions that sent modern art even further down the path of exploration.
Paris Street; Rainy Day, a sumptuous visual feast of energy, mathematics, perspective, atmosphere and social observation.
American Gothic, Grant Wood's wryly humorous, oft-parodied homage to enduring Midwestern virtues. I'm especially drawn to Grant Wood's paintings because he lived and worked most of his life in and around my home town. He even taught art at the high school that eventually became my junior high school. I also have a print of his brilliantly satirical Daughters of Revolution hanging in my dining room.

I sang with about 20 chorus members live on WGN radio to promote our holiday show. WGN broadcasts from a sidewalk-level booth (scroll down to see it) in the magnificent Tribune Tower on Michigan Avenue. Passers-by often stand at the windows and gawk in at the broadcasts—and since we were clearly and repeatedly identified as the Chicago Gay Men's Chorus, we were essentially specimens of homosexuality in a glass display box. So we spent most of our time in the studio demonstrating various group-sex configurations.

I'm choreographing the abovementioned show, and I'm pleased to report that as of today's rehearsal, all the choreography is taught. It's far from audience-ready, but at least it's all taught. WHEW.


Lauren Taylor Harrison said...

Jake, what is the address for the WGN booth photo(s)? The one you linked is

Jake said...

Oops. The link is fixed now.

Stupid templates.

serenaluchang said...

My God. You got more culture in one weekend than I get in a whole fiscal quarter.