Chicago’s Lucky Plush Productions Premieres The Queue at Links Hall, May 2014

March 17th, 2014 by Sam Zelitch No comments »
May 2, 2014 7:00 pmtoMay 18, 2014 7:00 pm

The Queue 2_Benjamin WardellFrom May 2 – 18, 2014, Chicago’s Lucky Plush Productions will perform the world premiere of The Queue at the new Links Hall, 3111 N. Western Ave, Chicago. Lucky Plush Productions (LPP) is a Chicago-based dance theater company committed to provoking and supporting an immediacy of presence – a palpable liveness – shared by performers in real-time with its audiences. Tickets are $15-$30 (purchase early for discounts). For more information and tickets, please visit or call 773.281.0824.

Schedule of Run:

  • Preview performances of The Queue: Fri–Sun, May 2–4, 7pm (tickets $15-20)
  • Performances of The Queue: Thurs–Sun, May 8–18; Mon, May 12, 7pm (tickets $15-30)
  • Run time approx. 75 min.

The Queue, equal parts dance and theater, is co-created by choreographer/director Julia Rhoads (founding Artistic Director of Lucky Plush and recipient of a 2013 Alpert Award in the Arts) and theater director Leslie Buxbaum Danzig (co-founder of 500 Clown). The Claudettes, a neo-vaudevillian piano-drums duo (Michael Caskey and Johnny Iguana), compose original music and perform live.

Set in a fictional international airport, The Queue’s influences are early 20th century forms of slapstick, vaudeville acts, Busby Berkeley style choreography, and creaky 1-act plays. The central narrative is adapted from a 1746 farcical play A Will and No Will, in which the imminent death of an old man propels an assortment of seemingly unrelated characters into a chaotic negotiation of their stakes in his life (and death) and their potential inheritances. These sources and performance vocabularies collide with contemporary dance and the distinctly nontheatrical context of waiting to create a comedic and moving dance-theater production.

The Queue playfully addresses how private dramas in public spaces can slip into a kind of performed spectacle, particularly in the pressure-cooker environment of an airport, a place that captures people en route to big life events (weddings, funerals, honeymoons, big business). Full of heightened emotional states and expectation, airports often provoke larger-than-life questions: How much should someone pay to change a flight when a family member dies? Is using Skype at an airport an appropriate means by which to show up at a deathbed? Who is entitled to an inheritance and at what cost? Lucky Plush brings its signature blend of immediacy and humor to explore these questions, without shying away from the awkwardness and discomfort around fractured privacy, deceit, and dying.

The Queue marks Rhoads’ and Danzig’s second collaboration following The Better Half. Both productions are recipients of a prestigious National Dance Project Award, which provides touring subsidies for national presenters. The Queue features The Claudettes along with performers Francisco Avina, Michel Rodriguez Cintra, Marc Macaranas, Melinda Jean Myers, Cassandra Porter, Benjamin Wardell and Meghann Wilkinson, and lighting design by Cat Wilson.

Lucky Plush Productions (LPP) is dedicated to creating dance-theater work that is richly and uncompromisingly complex while also being accessible to broad audiences. Critics and audiences alike recognize LPP for its evocative choreography, moving content, surprising humor, and incisive commentary on contemporary culture.

Since its founding in 1999, Lucky Plush has premiered over 30 original works including site-specific works, dance films, and 10 evening-length productions. Recent presentations include Spoleto Festival/USA (SC), Institute of Contemporary Art/Boston (MA), Flynn Center for the Performing Arts (VT), Skirball Center (NYC), Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center (MD), Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago (IL), North Carolina State University (NC), Purdue Convocations (IN), Kohler Performing Arts Center (WI), Dance Cleveland (OH), College of St. Benedict/St. John (MN), Hancher Auditorium (IA), Dance Center of Columbia College Chicago, Steppenwolf Garage (IL), Joyce SoHo (NY), and Spring to Dance (MO), among others, as well as an international exchange with the Dance & Physical Theatre Trust of New Zealand and New Zealand Dance Company.

LPP has received two National Dance Project Production Grants, an NDP Production Residency for Dance, two NPN Creation Fund grants, an Art Works grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, and an Illinois Arts Council Artstour Award. Co-commissioning presenters include Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center (MD), Flynn Center for the Performing Arts (VT) and Links Hall Chicago (IL). The company has been recognized by The Boston Globe’s “10 Best Dance Performances of 2013,” Chicago Public Radio’s “Best of 2011”; The Chicago Reader’s “Best of Chicago 2010”; Time Out Chicago’s “The Decade’s 10 Best Original Dance Works”; The Chicago Tribune’s “Best of Dance 2008”; Chicago Sun Times’ “Lasting memories in Dance” for 2005 and 2007, and a Time Out Chicago cover story “5 reasons to love dance in Chicago.”

Additionally, LPP recently spearheaded Creative Partners, a new model in nonprofit fundraising with Grammy-award winning eighth blackbird (music) and Blair Thomas & Company (theater). Creative Partners provides high level development support to three nationally recognized organizations, so that the artists can focus on what they do best: making world-class dance, theatre and music. Lucky Plush is represented by Elsie Management, Laura Colby Director, in Brooklyn, New York.

Julia Rhoads is the founding Artistic Director of Lucky Plush Productions, and she has created over 25 original works with the company since 1999. Her independent choreography has been commissioned by River North Chicago Dance Company, Lookingglass Theatre, Redmoon, Alaska Dance Theater, Mordine and Company Dance Theater, Walkabout Theater, Hyperdelic, and M5, among others, and she is a former company member of the San Francisco Ballet and collaborating ensemble member of XSIGHT! Performance Group. Rhoads is the recipient of the 2013 Alpert Award in Dance, a fellowship from the Maggie Allesee National Center for Choreography, a Chicago Dancemakers Forum Lab Artist Award, a Cliff Dwellers Foundation Award for Choreography, two Illinois Arts Council Fellowships for Choreography, a Jacob K. Javits Fellowship, and she was named one of Dance Magazine’s “25 to Watch” in 2010. She was most recently honored with a 2014 Fractured Atlas Arts Entrepreneurship Award for her work with Creative Partners. Rhoads earned a BA in History from Northwestern University and an MFA from the School of the Art Institute Chicago, and is currently part-time faculty and dance advisor at University of Chicago’s Theater and Performance Studies.

Leslie Buxbaum Danzig is co-founder of the Chicago-based physical theater company 500 Clown, where she co-created and directed 500 Clown Macbeth, Frankenstein, Elephant Deal, and Christmas. 500 Clown has played in Chicago at venues including Steppenwolf and Lookingglass and tours regularly throughout the US. Other credits include directing Redmoon’s Hunchback at The New Victory Theater (NYC), The Elephant and the Whale (Redmoon/Chicago Childrens’ Theater) and Float with About Face Theatre; co-directing The Better Half with Lucky Plush Productions; touring nationally and internationally as an actor with NYC’s Elevator Repair Service; and appearing as Masha in The Seagull in Lake Lucille, NY (director Brian Mertes). Danzig received her Bachelor of Arts from Brown University and PhD in Performance Studies at Northwestern University, and she trained in physical theatre and clown with Jacques Lecoq and Philippe Gaulier. For the past five years, she has taught at The University of Chicago and is currently at the University as program curator for the Richard and Mary L. Gray Center for Arts and Inquiry. With just piano and drums, The Claudettes (Johnny Iguana and Michael Caskey) create their own fanatical fusion of blues, jazz and soul — like Ray Charles on a punk kick. Imagine an amped-up hybrid of Otis Spann, Ray Charles and Mose Allison, joined by a jolly madman drummer and conducted in gonzo fashion by Raymond Scott. File under: post-burlesque? Neo-vaudeville? Cosmic cartoon music? You’ve never seen an instrumental duo like this.    

New York City’s Experiments in Opera Premieres Brother Brother on May 2-3

March 17th, 2014 by Sam Zelitch No comments »
May 2, 2014
8:00 pm
May 3, 2014
8:00 pm

brotherbrotherNew York, NY — Experiments in Opera announces the premiere of Brother Brother, the final production of their 2013-14 Season at Abrons Arts Center, with music and libretto by Aaron Siegel. This 90-minute opera, which has been in development with Experiments in Opera for the last two seasons, explores the relationship between Orville and Wilbur Wright following their first flights in 1903. Scored for 2 vibraphones, glockenspiel, strings, flute, vocal soloists, actors and chorus, Brother Brother will be premiered on Friday May 2 and Saturday May 3, 8pm in the Playhouse at Abrons Art Center, 466 Grand Street, New York. For tickets ($20 general, $15 student), patrons should call Theatermania at 212-352-3101 or visit

This production of Brother Brother will be directed by Mallory Catlett, with scenic design by Obie Award-winning designer Mimi Lien, and musical direction by David Bloom. The involved musicians have been collaborators in the development of Brother Brother over the last four years and include Mantra Percussion, Cadillac Moon Ensemble, soprano Michelle Kennedy, countertenor Patrick Fennig, tenor Marc Day, and actor Julian A Rozzell, Jr.

Prior to each Brother Brother performance, Experiments in Opera will share two “Opera Trailers,” 90-second videos that offer a sneak peek at new opera ideas and characters. Featured artists include Jason Cady, Dave Ruder, Matthew Welch and the partnership of Daniel Kushner, Noelle Evans and Jascha Narveson. Additionally, in partnership with, composers and collaborators featured on Brother Brother will take part in a free public discussion — Opera in Dialogue #3 on Saturday May 3, 2014, 5:00 PM, at the Playhouse, Abrons Arts Center — exploring the ideas and motivations behind this premiere production.

The Wright Brothers’ fascinating story of family drama, business struggles and legal fights is layered over a secondary story about the fictional characters, Red and Blue, which details the challenges of contemporary brotherhood and the complexities of growing up with an unusual idea of brotherly intimacy. Aaron Siegel drew on his own experiences as a twin while writing the libretto that provides both sets of brothers a range of coded language to express their wonder in the world and in each other. The music for Brother Brother draws on Siegel’s wide range of experiences with percussive minimalism, early music, American shape-note singing, ambient electronic music and improvised jazz. Brother Brother is a timely look at the personal side of innovation and entrepreneurial optimism in America.


From the Composer:

Aaron_Siegel1_SMALL_(photo_by_Kevin_McGrath)“I’ve always been more drawn to consonance than to dissonance. This musical impulse has dramatic implications as well, and you could say that Brother Brother is really an argument for hopefulness — the kind I have always felt when I am around my brother. I know this sounds sentimental, and that it bucks against the notion that great drama is by its nature more of a downer. The historical period that the Wright Brothers emerged from was defined by a sense of promise and possibility and I think it is a message we need to hear more about nowadays, despite our reservations.

“Rather than try to speak in an authoritative voice about history or ideas, it was very important to me that Brother Brother be a personal story in my own words. For better or for worse, I am eager to share a holistic vision of the sounds I hear and the words I use to create meaning in my life. This ‘auteur’ approach is more common these days in film and indie culture, where a do-it-yourself aesthetic is the norm, but it once was also an important part of opera culture. Why shouldn’t it still be?”


Aaron Siegel’s inquisitive and playful work represents a personal vision of how we live with and respond to the sounds in our world. Brother Brother, his second opera, has been showcased in events produced by Experiments in Opera and at The Industry’s First Take Production in Los Angeles in June 2013. His CD Science is Only a Sometimes Friend for eight glockenspiels and organ was released in May 2011 on LockStep Records and hailed as “one continuous ecstatic sonic event,” and as one of the best records of 2011 by Time Out New York. In the past year, Science is Only a Sometimes Friend has been performed around the country by Mantra Percussion, Tigue, and the UNC-Pembroke and Eastern Kentucky University percussion ensembles. Siegel is currently working on a commission for the Young People’s Chorus of New York City’s Radio Radiance Series. A recording of his solo storytelling project Call Us Your People will be available in Spring 2014 on LockStep Records.

In addition to his work as a composer and organizer, Siegel has performed with Memorize the Sky, Anthony Braxton and Robert Ashley. His work can be found on numerous recordings including Cabinet for solo percussion and Every Morning, a History for chamber ensemble and solo piano. Siegel is manager of secondary school programs at the Weill Music Institute at Carnegie Hall. For more information visit:

Mantra Percussion has been featured at festivals, venues, and universities throughout North America including the Brooklyn Academy of Music, the Carlsbad New Music Festival, the Bowling Green New Music Festival, MIT with Bang on a Can All-Stars, Percussive Arts Society International Convention, X Avant Festival, New Music New College, Moving Sounds Festival, Ear Heart Music, Hi Fi Music Festival, and Make Music New York. Mantra co-commissioned Michael Gordon’s recent evening-length percussion sextet Timber, and gave the work’s United States premiere in October 2011 at Bowling Green State University in Ohio and its New York premiere of at the Brooklyn Academy of Music’s Next Wave Festival in December 2012.

The “commission-crazed” Cadillac Moon Ensemble is one of New York’s most visible new music groups, performing not just in traditional venues such as Roulette and the DiMenna Center, but in non-traditional spaces such as the High Line as well as in collaborations with dance, theater, and cabaret artists. The group strives to present a cross-section of contemporary music styles, tying together both uptown and downtown aesthetics with the creative use of thematic programming. Recent commissions have included works by Timothy Andres, Caleb Burhans, Shawn Allison, Nicholas Deyoe, Rick Burkhardt, Osnat Netzer, and Alex Weiser.




Co-founded by composers Matthew Welch, Jason Cady, and Aaron Siegel, Experiments in Opera is a composer-driven initiative, featuring recent and new works with innovative answers to the traditional questions about how to connect words, story and music. Our activities respond to the pronounced need to nurture composers who are exploring musical work beyond a strictly concert setting, but furthermore into the hybrid genre of opera. Additionally Experiments in Opera builds supportive and informed audiences that are capable of contributing to its work.

In its first two programming seasons, Experiments in Opera has presented the work of more than 12 composers in three large-scale presentations aimed at expanding the collective understanding of experimental opera. Venues have included Le Poisson Rouge, Roulette, and Issue Project Room, and have featured works by composers Jason Cady, Aaron Siegel, Matthew Welch, Georges Aperghis, John Zorn, Robert Ashley, Joe Diebes, Ruby Fulton, Gabrielle Herbst, Mary Kouyoumdjian, Justin Tierney, Leaha Maria Villarreal and the Cough Button collective. Also featured were performances by pianist Emily Manzo, singer Erin Flannery, drummer Brian Chase, Hotel Elefant, and the performance collective Why Lie?

Experiments in Opera’s 2013-14 season residency at Abrons Arts Center began with Chorus of All Souls in November 2013 featuring choral works by Jessica Pavone, Matthew Welch, Jason Cady and John Zorn. The residency continued with Radio Operas on February 28 and March 1, 2014 featuring works by Jason Cady, Paul Pinto, Aaron Siegel, John King, Jonathan Mitchell and Matthew Welch.

All of the work developed with Experiments in Opera is documented extensively in videos, images and writings that are available in an online catalogue at These insightful looks into the origins of artists’ ideas and their working habits help to support EIO’s mission of building a more robust conversation about how and why opera works the way it does.

The Abrons Arts Center, located at 466 Grand Street, New York, NY, is the performing and visual arts program of Henry Street Settlement. The Abrons supports the presentation of innovative, multi-disciplinary work; cultivates artists in all stages of their creative development through educational programs, commissions, and residencies; and serves as an intersection of cultural engagement for local, national, and international audiences and arts-workers. For more information, call (212) 598-0400 or visit


Experiments in Opera’s Radio Operas on Q2 Music

March 11th, 2014 by Sam Zelitch No comments »
March 17, 2014
8:00 pm
March 18, 2014
8:00 pm
March 19, 2014
8:00 pm
March 20, 2014
8:00 pm
March 21, 2014
8:00 pm
March 22, 2014
8:00 pm

Craig Warga for The Wall Street Journal

Just when you thought it was safe to turn your radio on, here come the spirit of Thomas Paine, a delusional stamp collector, a mallet-wielding Samuel Beckett, a quietly insane inventor, a skateboarding aesthete and a girlfriend-stealing android. Opera on the Radio, that is.

Experiments in Opera is partnering with Q2 Music,WQXR‘s online music station devoted to 20th and 21st century classical music, to present six new operatic works made especially with an ‘ears only’ audience in mind.

Each evening from March 17-22 at 8 pm, a new Experiment in Opera will make its radio premiere and thereafter made available on demand at Tune in for stories, singing, sound effects, talking and music.

Also, check out this Wall Street Journal preview of the event.



Scored for soprano, percussion, viola and electronics, ‘Ping’ by John King is an adaptation of a Samuel Beckett short story written in a stream of abstract imagery and thoughts. This performance uses musical substitutions to punctuate the flow of the spoken text and will feature soprano Joan La Barbara and electronics by John King.

‘The Mutt’ by Matthew Welch, takes as its subject freestyle skateboarder Rodney Mullen, who invented the vocabulary of modern skateboarding, endured family abuse in his youth, led a double life as a burgeoning biomedical engineer, and now is an established inventor. The music will feature James Moore and Taylor Levine, from the Dither electric guitar quartetMatthew Welch on spoken word, and will involve electro-acoustically sequenced “Foley” skateboarding sounds by Steve Brush.

‘Thomas Paine in Violence’ by Paul Pinto is a mad psychedelic depiction of the final days of the American founding father’s life. Paine—portrayed by a soprano spurting speech, operatic vignettes and a number of extended vocal techniques—transports “herself” through space and time, including on “her” deathbed in 1809, the Stock Market of 2008, and the future. Scored for singer and electronics and featuring Joan La Barbara and Miguel Frasconi.

In ‘The Collector’ by Aaron Siegel, a character delivers a wild and delusional monologue detailing his dangerous obsession with stamp collecting.  The natural rhythms of the spoken text are mimicked in increasing accuracy by the instruments in the ensemble.  The Collector is scored for piano, soprano, vibraphone and actor and will feature pianist Karl Larson, percussionist Matt Evans, soprano Jamie Jordan and Aaron Siegel as the collector.

“I Need Space” by Jason Cady and Ann Heppermann tells the story of a couple moving to a Martian colony but breaking up on the way there. It is set in an alternate present: 2014 as it had been imagined by science fiction writers in the 1950s. I Need Space is scored for two voices, guitar, piano, synthesizer and Foley artist and features tenor Vince B. Vincent, sopranoErin Flannery, guitarist Mary Halvorson, pianist Karl LarsonJason Cady on modular synthesizer and Foley artist Steve Brush.

“These Walls Can Talk (Working Title)” by Jonathan Mitchell tells the story of a guy who has figured out a way to extract sounds from objects. By inserting a needle into a wall (for example), he can measure the microscopic effects of variations of air pressure over time, and hear conversations that took place in that room. He can do the same thing with stones from Egypt, or the Great Wall of China.

Panel Discussion: New Examples of Collaboration

March 2nd, 2014 by Sam Zelitch No comments »
March 15, 2014
3:00 pm

CreativeChicagoExpo_0131_square_wTypeOn March 15, 3:00 pm at the Chicago Cultural Center Yates Gallery, Creative Partners will hold a free panel discussion about their business model, featuring Julia Rhoads (Artistic Director of Lucky Plush Productions), Peter McDowell (Managing Director of eighth blackbird), and Angela Luem (Program Coordinator for Pentacle’s Help Desk and Managing Director of Back Office in Chicago). Where are arts organizations innovating in administration to match and propel artistic innovation? Since its formal inception in January of 2013, Creative Partners has changed the fundraising landscape for three small-to-mid-sized arts organizations — Lucky Plush Productions (dance), eighth blackbird (music) and Blair Thomas & Co. (theater) — through a shared development team. The first of its kind resource-sharing model organized to effect long-term sustainability, Creative Partners has generated significant short-term outcomes for its partner organizations: an increase in individual and institutional giving, cross-disciplinary audience development, and greater collective visibility.

With Pentacle’s Help Desk® and Back Office programs, in Los Angeles, Chicago, New York and San Francisco, participants work with Pentacle staff and mentors, all experts in the field of performing arts management, to help support their company’s business life. In addition to working one on one with their mentors in the Help Desk® program and Back Office Managing Directors, all participants meet, both in their home cities, and as a national network, to build a supportive peer community.This panel discussion will feature collaborative and shared business practices to support the continued vibrancy of the nonprofit arts sector, including a background on the inception and driving vision of both organizations and what we have learned from our work thus far.


Join us at the 2014 Creative Chicago Expo, March 14–15 at the Chicago Cultural Center, 10am–4pm. Connect with Chicago’s creative community, find resources and information for you to thrive. Choose from 30+ workshops and 140 exhibitors. This year’s theme, Moving Forward, will be highlighted by four keynote speakers: artist Theaster Gates, chef Carrie Nahabedian, fashion designer Maria Pinto and filmmaker Robert Teitel. FREE – No RSVP. For event details and schedule, visit

Three Performances by Gabriel Cabezas

February 2nd, 2014 by Sam Zelitch No comments »
February 2, 2014
12:00 pm
February 21, 2014
7:00 pm
February 24, 2014
6:30 pm
February 28, 2014
7:30 pm

1527038_10151868094033202_334926097_nThis has been a whirlwind couple of months for cellist Gabriel Cabezas. In December 2013, Cabezas made his LA Philharmonic debut and Chicago Symphony Orchestra subscription series debut. Recently, he played his Philadelphia Orchestra debut at a Martin Luther King Jr. day concert (see below).

Coming up in the month of February, you can catch him at the following venues:

Friday, Feb 21, 7:00 pm

Partners in Performance, Columbia, KY
Golijov, Janacek, Debussy, Britten, Shostakovich with Amy Yang, piano. Presented by Partners in Performance and Lindsey Wilson College
For more information, please visit the Lindsey Wilson College website.


Monday, February 24, 6:30pm, New York, NY
with Robin Scott, violin, Mark Holloway, viola, and Doris Konig piano
works including Debussy Cello Sonata and trios by Beethoven and Taneyev
Omega Ensemble Benefit
The Racquet and Tennis Club, New York
For more information, please visit the Omega Ensemble website.


Friday, February 28, 7:30pm, Chicago, IL
LINES Ballet at Harris Theater
with Edgar Meyer, bass, Rob Moose, violin, and Alonzo King’s LINES Ballet.
For more information, please visit the Harris Theater website.


This year Gabriel was thrilled to be invited to perform twice in Philadelphia. On January 20, he made his Philadelphia Orchestra debut as soloist for José Bragato’s Graciela y Buenos Aires. This performance was part of the orchestra’s annual Martin Luther King Jr. Tribute Concert at the Girard College Chapel, and was conducted by Cristian Macelaru. And on February 2, he performed at the World Cafe Live, in a performance featuring Cloe Felesina of BalletX. The program included works by Britten, Golijov, and Bach.