Unconventional: RNC Kicks Off With No Money, Celebrities Or Establishment Support

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“Liquid assets are one challenge. Hardware is another for the Trump show. Apple and its CEO Tim Cook, declined to support the 2016 Republican National Convention in any fashion. No cash. No technology. Imagine a multi-day meeting of any kind – political, corporate or non-profit – without MacBooks and iPads. Believe it. Although Apple declined to publicly comment on its non-support of this week’s festivities, it’s pretty clear RNC leadership is a little butt hurt over the slight. A spokesman for the convention team said, “We are working with a variety of major tech partners who are focused on being part of the American political process.”

Read the full post at Contemptor.

WOZ: A Rock Cabaret

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Kimberly Lawson, Kevin Webb, James Nedrud and Edward Fraim

Listen. The limited run of “WOZ: A Rock Cabaret” at the Victory Gardens Theater boasts Tony Award nominee Andre De Shields as a cast member. This fact alone guarantees quality entertainment.

De Shields, a three time Jeff Award winner, recently appeared in the delightful late 2015 senior-focused musical “Gotta Dance.” I was also privileged to watch him work in Mary Zimmerman’s lavish 2013 production of “The Jungle Book.” His talent and charisma are literally the stuff of legend, a diverse career spanning 47 years and counting.

But I am very pleased to report that “WOZ” offers so much more than the fantastic musical stylings of one Andre De Shields. Created by Will Rogers and Kimberly Lawson, who performs double duty as the show’s unorthodox Dorothy, the work is a joyous 75-minute reimagining of book and film classic “The Wizard of Oz.” The plot is moved through the device of a contemporary pop music soundtrack sung by powerhouse performers. It begins with Kelly Clarkson and ends with Roxette. And it works so well.

However it’s not just the music that brings fresh perspective to a worn and loved American classic. The show is unabashedly naughty, adult fun. Neil Patrick Harris lookalike Kevin Webb brings physical comedy chops and a soaring voice to Dorothy’s BFF, the Scarecrow. In Webb’s take, the straw man is in need of more than a brain. In fact he’s got a little extra stuffing in his pants for James Nedrud’s Tin Man.

The two actors exhibit fluid chemistry, no surprise having witnessed them perform together in Pride Films and Plays 2015 winner, “Angry Fags.” Their dramatic skills were on full display in that work, but I had no idea Webb and Nedrud could sing and dance like a couple of impish angels. Add Edward Fraim to the mix as the Cowardly Lion and this Dorothy with the ruby Converse All-Stars is more than ready to bop her way down the Yellow Brick Road.

Along the way of course, Dorothy and her unlikely gang meet with Clara D’Onfrio’s Glinda the Good Witch as well as Heather Currie’s Wicked version. These two familiar foils are invested with fun quirks that add nuance to otherwise one-dimensional characters. Who knew that Glinda was such a spotlight-hogging diva? Or that the Wicked Witch might just be a mean, misunderstood drunk? Both women are marvelous with huge, projecting voices but I was especially impressed by D’Onofrio’s range. Mariah Carey is a tough challenge but she moves through “Hero” with alternating restraint and release and never misses a note. Pitch perfect.

Once Dorothy and her companions reach Oz, they find Andre De Shields, perfectly cast as the enigmatic, legendary Wizard. My first thought on his performance is that Guns N’ Roses should probably retire “Welcome to the Jungle” from the band’s live set. That number has been officially OWNED by a slightly built senior citizen with plenty of sex appeal left to spare. De Shields’ Wizard is scary, enticing and powerful, pivoting believably to vulnerability through his exposure as an omniscient fraud.

Helmed by Scott Gryder with musical direction from Nick Sula, “WOZ: A Rock Cabaret” is wonderfully captivating. It makes something new and exciting out of beloved tradition – without being blasphemous. In fact love and respect for the source material is never in doubt. It’s unfortunate that the run is so brief. It’s the only real transgression of this sinfully fun summer theater offering.

“WOZ: A Rock Cabaret” runs through July 17 at the Victory Garden Theater, 2433 N Lincoln Avenue, Chicago, IL. For information or tickets, call 773-871-3000 or visit the Victory Garden Theater website.

2016 Republican Party Platform A Stunning Call For Electoral Annihilation

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“As The New York Times reported this week, the platform also “demands that lawmakers use religion as a guide when legislating, stipulating ‘that man-made law must be consistent with God-given, natural rights.’” Anyone who thinks well-meaning public servants are attempting to blur the lines between Church and State out of zealotry for Christ, I’ve got a bridge in Atlantis to sell you. Over and again within in the Republican Party’s official legislative positions, religion is used to bludgeon and subjugate the “other.” The irony of course is that this backward-looking bullshit is the work of a scared and shrinking minority. These fools are the other now and they know it. GOP leadership is doubling down on the Man’s panic in an evolving world and culture where he’s losing the position to dominate.”

Read the full post at Contemptor.

Illinois Senator Mark Kirk’s Re-Election Campaign Doomed By Trump Backpedaling

“Last week The Wall Street Journal reported that Senator Kirk raised just a million dollars in the second quarter of 2016 to Duckworth’s $2.7 million. The Congresswoman’s cash on hand is nearly double her opponent’s. In a conventional election, these numbers spell big trouble with voters going to the polls in less than three months. But this is no regular ballot year as we well know. And besides the regular problems facing an incumbent – a popular challenger, low coffers and statewide voters who lean left, Mark Kirk has one other “yuge” problem – Donald Trump.”

Read the full post at Contemptor.

The Face of White Privilege: Mine

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My childhood was troubled. I grew up in a dysfunctional and dangerous home. When I was 13 years old, I started acting out. As eighth graders at a small, inner city Lutheran school, my best friend and I were queens of the neighborhood hill, even if I felt invisible to the rest of society. We embarked on a series of thug-lite adventures that included stealing hood ornaments, drinking Jack Daniels while playing Truth or Dare with local gang members (not high up in the hierarchy, but still) and shoplifting. Though I certainly asked for it often enough, I escaped any real trouble.

I settled down a bit in high school and did fairly well. But I still skipped class to drink rum pilfered from my dad’s pantry with a new best friend. And after sampling marijuana for the first time junior year, I sat in the backseat with stoned passivity as another pal attempted to drive onto the highway via an off-ramp. No one, including myself, was injured.

During undergrad at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, I was hanging out with a townie buddy at her place when the DEA suddenly burst in to conduct a drug raid. After I was searched and found clean of any weapons, contraband or large amounts of cash, I was allowed to walk to my then-boyfriend’s car and roll away – though I was driving with nothing more than a learner’s permit. Before graduation, I was arrested for two 21st birthday misdemeanors. I was in and out of jail in a couple hours with no incident. After a small fine and some community service, my record was expunged.

In my early 20s, I wrapped a car around a pole at 2:00 am in a rough Chicago neighborhood. Of course, I was under the influence. When the police showed up, my best sober face was used to inform them a tow truck was imminent. The cops never asked me to get out the vehicle. They bid good evening, God speed and drove away. The words emanating from my slurry white lady mouth were satisfactory enough.

All of these episodes are many years in the past. I no longer have any communication with my parents, the first step on a long road to finding the healthy, successful adult waiting patiently in the wings. I’ve had years of individual and group therapy. I have a thriving career, a loving partner and an amazing support network of friends and family. At nearly 38 years of age, I’m proud of the life I’ve built and the opportunities I’ve been given to reach my potential and grow into a leader.

Change the gender and race of my story’s protagonist however, and it plays out in an entirely different way. I’ve been awake to my relative privilege for some time, early biographical roadblocks notwithstanding. I am part of a system that, beyond my parentage, is constructed to benefit, part of a society that mostly roots for my success. I’m a liberal feminist with an advanced humanities degree. I read vociferously. I purposely surround myself with people of different backgrounds and experiences. I want to make the world a healthier, safer and more understanding place for my nieces and nephew. Whatever actions I take must begin and end with listening and learning.

But for a long time, a sort of purposeful forgetfulness took root. I stopped thinking much of my spotty youthful past, except for considering how the events might one day be framed in a memoir. There was no need to dwell. Present circumstances afford the luxury of physical and psychological movement.

Because I am not a person of color. I am particularly not a male person of color. This week especially there’s no hiding from the truth that any one encounter detailed above could have ended in injury, long-term incarceration or death – were I other than a woman with WASP heritage. I’ve been granted leniency in judgment simply by fortune of birth and the benefit of the doubt that comes with it.

And I’ll never let myself forget it again.

#BlackLivesMatter

Keep Calm Cub Fans: This is Not 1969

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“This self-defensive crouch is understandable. I share many of Bill’s concerns. I was at the July 4 home game against the Reds, a rare recent victory for the Cubs. I bore firsthand witness to Kris Bryant’s bizarre turn in left field. The two-time All-Star and 2015 Rookie of the Year repeatedly struggled to communicate with center field. Half-jokingly I said to my partner Bob at the time, “No dance party room for him.” For all the current reasons Bill mentions, and the PTSD that is the legacy of any survivor of the Tribune era, it’s logical to wonder if this rough streak is the beginning of the end.

But it isn’t. This is not 1969. Let’s everybody just calm down, take a restorative breath and review the latest statistics from the Baseball Prospectus Playoff Odds Report. Factoring in the Cubs recent slide, the likelihood of a division win remains 95.6%. A playoff appearance of any kind carries a 98.5% confidence rate. With the All-Star break imminent, I like those odds. We all should.”

Read the full post at Wrigleyville Nation.

GOP’s 2016 SCOTUS Artifice A Short And Long-Term Strategic Failure

“The bottom line: when the Republican Party took its unified February gamble to stonewall replacing Scalia, the reasoning was already tough to follow. Moreover, the offered logic wed them permanently to the position. After all if you claim you’re exercising stubbornness in the name of democracy, it’s hard to shift gears if say, your candidate is a maniac, has no chance of winning the election and/or SCOTUS decides not to play along with the reliable ideological divide.”

Read the full post at Contemptor.