Today’s a momentous day for Chicago. Stage 5 COVID-19 restrictions officially lift, leaving everyone with more options than ever for things to do with their weekend. It feels a little strange, doesn’t it? Luckily for those of us still figuring out what life should look like and how to proceed safely as we return to things like live shows, there are thoughtful venues who are also considering the question and trying to keep things safe, but also let us go back to seeing live theater, burlesque, drag and bellydance.
This weekend, the Newport Theater kicks off its “Peek-Easy” series of mini shows with a Raks Geek Takeover, tonight, June 11. Raks Geek, if you’ve not been fortunate enough to see them, is an extremely talented group that combines “geek+bellydance+fire” to thrilling results. You may have seen shots of things like a firespinning Carmen Sandiego or bellydancing Wookiee here a few times between their appearances at festivals and conventions and their fantastic, often charitable shows. This is a group of performers that love what they do, love being nerds, and love combining those things to bring you performances you definitely couldn’t have imagined that will leave you mesmerized. There are two socially distanced, vaccinated only audience seatings at 8:00 pm and then at 9:30, and the night will feature live performances by none other than Raks Geek founder Dawn Xiana Moon but also award winning dancer Lee Na-Moo as well as virtual acts performed by equally talented troupe members Gaea Lady, Kamrah Raqs and Michi Trota, with Matt Porubcansky hosting.
The show is limited to fully vaccinated patrons and you will be required to show proof of vaccination to enter. As well, there are a number of guidelines patrons will be expected to follow to attend, including advanced ticket purchase, to-go drink sales only, mask usage the entire time you are on site, temp checks, distanced seating with separate exit and entrances, disinfections between seatings and a limited time in the venue. The idea? Not to ditch all the safety protocols, but to instead safely provide a taste of live entertainment as we all start adjusting to the changes.
The series of shows kicks off with the wonderfully nerdy and extremely talented group we know as Raks Geek, but will continue next weekend with the fantastic burlesque and comedy we’ve come to love from Aunt Nance and her “sexy, sweaty, sparkly” associates on Friday June 18 with 8:00 and 10:00 shows, as well as Shimmy’s House Party featuring some fantastic drag and burlesque by artists like P. NoNoire, and Coco Sho-Nell who will head up the in person events with Samson Night, Eartha Kitten and Twirlisha Devine providing some fantastic digital acts, all hosted by Shimmy la Roux.
The performers from all these groups have not only weathered the storm Covid-19 represents but have transcended during it–oftentimes having to learn video editing and streaming just to be able to keep doing what they do for a crowd, and the virtual shows show off just how much artistry goes into these acts, with fantastic costuming, backgrounds, cuts and production values that’ll have you wondering why more people don’t know these performers as household names in Chicago and beyond.
This is a chance to see some of that virtual creativity and get a safe night out to see the performers in person. They’ve missed the spotlight and the thrill of a live audience, and we’ve missed the nights out of the house, dressed up with somewhere to go. It’s a perfect combination, if you ask us, and Peek-Easy isn’t just designed to keep patrons safe, they’re looking out for the financial and physical well-being of their performers too. You can’t go wrong as far as a safe but salacious night of fantastic entertainment that helps support local performers, so we hope you’ll consider making a reservation for tonight or next weekend’s shows and get ready to see what the future will hold for this venue and these fantastic performers!
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