Physical Festival Chicago is about to launch its 5th year at Stage 773 June 1-9, and is fast becoming a highlight of Chicago’s festival arts happenings. Still new and independent enough to be innovative, and just the right amount of informal to feel intimate and exclusive, its mix of local talent and solid, international programming is enriching the theater scene in Chicago. The festival is unique in offering audiences a look at the classic art of physical theater and illustrates its development into a popular worldwide contemporary art form in the same breath. In “How to Grow a Festival—Five Tips for Five Years” festival co-founder and co-artistic director Marc Frost discusses the reason behind his and co-founder Alice De Cunha’s decision to create this event. “We met in London and were inspired by the variety of work presented there from around the world—especially each year at the London International Mime Festival. Seeking to provide Chicago audiences with a similar breadth of contemporary and international theater, we applied to a curator residency program at a local arts incubator. Fortunately, the proposal was accepted and the first edition of Physical Festival Chicago came to life over nine days in the summer of 2014.” Frost goes on to explain how the festival is still nine days long, but that consistency and slow growth is a model that works in its favor. This is certainly true, as the audiences seem to grow year by year as word gets out about this unique festival, which focuses on connecting the theatrical world with the physical world in a number of fascinating ways. This year’s lineup is a perfect example:
Scratch Night (Chicago-based artists)
Physical Festival Chicago gets hyper local…described as a showcase of what is brewing in Chicago’s physical theater scene, this is a riveting collection of shorts by eight Chicago-based artists and companies and hosted by Marvin Quijada, actor, clown and mime. If you want to know what the physical theater talent is like from your home town, this is a night not to be missed! Featuring Cetology by Nelia Miller, Love Hurts by C:DC Comedy Dance Collective, Keep Your Guard Up, Smitty Harbinger by Tim Campos, The Archons by Cult(ure) of Clowns, Bluets by Ellenor Riley-Condit, It Takes Two: by Chesa Greene, The Dolphin Show by David Gordezky, Memorabilia by Jean Carlos Claudio, and MARI/MANGO: a jekyll and hyde story with CURVES by Mari DeOleo.
Monday, June 4, at 7pm
Red Bastard (New York)
Popular at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival for a few years going, Red Bastard is making the rounds, exposing the lies and hypocrisy of lovers in the name of love— “to charm, disarm, shock and seduce in this brilliant new show.” For 18+ audiences. Written and performed by Eric Davis. Directed and written by Aitor Basauri.
Friday, June 1, at 9pm
Saturday, June 2, at 9pm
Sunday, June 3, at 7pm
Nobody’s Home (UK, USA)
The Odyssey re-imagined, through the eyes of combat veterans who developed this show through a series of devised workshops. “Odysseus has come home from the war. His bath’s broken, and he can’t fix it. As he stares at his reflection, he begins to find that his journey back to the people he loves might not be as easy at it seems. Set in a bathroom, Nobody’s Home follows a soldier’s journey through his own mind, as he struggles with the monsters of his past to finally come home. In their signature physical style, Theatre Temoin and Grafted Cede present a unique and striking exploration of PTSD in a modern retelling of Homer’s Odyssey.”
Friday, June 1, at 7pm
Saturday, June 2, at 7pm
Sunday, June 3, at 5pm
Drunken Half Angel (Chicago)
Touching base with the origins of physical theater through masks, Drunken Half Angel will give audiences a taste of the heart of acting. “Drunken Half Angel is a selection of short solo puppet and mask theater performances ranging from the grotesque, to the comical, and then poignant. Inventive, innovative, unusual, and occasionally profound. Accompanied by the magical and sublime original music of Jude Mathews, musical director of Theatre Zarko.”
Tuesday, June 5, at 7pm
Wednesday June 6, at 7pm
The Other (Brazil/France)
A story that speaks to the 30 million children facing and fleeing violence and extreme poverty, The Other delves in to the life of a refugee child in an imaginative way. “Like many others, one night, young Mana from the Red-yellow planet, is forced to catch a shooting star to seek refuge elsewhere. During her journey across the universe, imagination is her best defense in the struggle for survival. Will Mana ever arrive to her dreamland, the beautiful blue planet? Embark in a disturbing coming-of-age, twisted fairy tale, darkly comic adventure-thriller overflowing with poetry, strange creatures and stunning imagery.”
Thursday, June 7, at 7pm
Friday, June 8, at 7pm
Saturday, June 9, at 7pm
The Ingenous Gentlemen Don Quixote of La Mancha (Spain/UK)
A version of Don Quixote that pushes the envelope just a little bit further, “A hilariously dirty adaptation. Two feisty senoritas and a downtrodden Englishman embark on a journey through Spain, taking on one of the most accomplished works of fiction ever written; Don Quixote. Accompanied only by an otherworldly guitarist whose presence makes no sense whatsoever, they will lead you to joy, pain and ultimate wisdom. A madcap rendition concluding with a common sentiment: “These guys did not read the book”.
Thursday, June 7, at 9pm
Friday, June 8, at 9pm
Saturday, June 9, at 9pm
Another feature of the festival is the practical workshops offered by visiting artists to local artists wishing to increase their skill base. A bonus feature this year is a “Meet the Curator” session where De Cunha and Frost themselves will reflect upon their experiences over the past five years about programming and directing; they will be joined by Julia Mayer, the former senior program officer at the Richard H. Driehaus Foundation. “There will also be an opportunity at the end for audience members to ask questions and join the discussion on what exactly is ‘physical theater.'”
Physical Festival Chicago runs at Stage 773 June 1-9 and tickets are available for $18 each, or get a Festival Pass for $60 and see all of the shows.