The theme of this year's Chicago Humanities Festival will be "Birth And Death" and is scheduled to transform the city "into a virtual open university." The Festival, Nov. 8-10, will offer fifty programs at twelve different sites and feature over 150 participants -- yet programs will only cost $3.00 apiece).
Keynote speaker for the seventh annual festival will be three-time Pulitzer winning playwright, Edward Albee, whose A Delicate Balance is currently winding down its Tony-winning Broadway revival. On Sunday, Nov. 10 at 10am, Albee will discuss "The Rise Of The Inhumanities," at Orchestra Hall.
Also taking part in the event will be Tony-winning lyricist, Richard Maltby, Jr.; and Chicago theatre luminaries Bernard Sahlins, Nicholas Rudall, David Bevington, Cecilie O'Reilly and Rives Collins. African American composer Anthony Davis will direct a performance of his choral anthem, "Voyage Through Death To Life Upon These Shores." Also participating in the event are novelists William Styron and Scott Turow, essayist Calvin Trillin, and Shena Mackay, best-selling author of "How We Die."
Richard J. Franke, founder and chairman of the Chicago Humanities Festival, was quoted as saying, "This Festival is a unique urban event. There is no other major city where the cultural institutions large and small collaborate to produce an event of such magnitude... The Festival weekend will take its theme, "Birth And Death," and develop a kaleidoscope of events that both please and provoke audiences... As we explore the mystery of life, we discover that the distinction between the sciences and the humanities, and between art and religion, disappear. This theme is elemental. It is our joy at the birth of our children, the miracle of our grandchildren, the care-giving to a love one who is dying. It is facing our own mortality!"
Theatre-based highlights of the Festival include: "Forever Young - The American Musical, 1937-1947," wherein music theatre historian Robert Kimball and friends review the songs of George Gershwin, Jerome Kern, Lorenz Hart, George M. Cohan, Fats Waller, Glenn Miller & Vincent Youmans. (Mr. Kimballs "friends" include Betty Comden and Adolph Green, Betty Garrett, Judy Blazer, George S. Irving and Maria Karnilova!) Baby, a concert version of the Richard Maltby Jr. (lyrics), David Shire (music) and Sybille Pearson (book) musical, which opened on Broadway Dec. 1983. The show was nominated for seven Tony Awards. Maltby also wrote the lyrics for Big and co-wrote the lyrics for Miss Saigon.
"Death By Opera" - a concert featuring members of the Lyric Opera Center for American Artists singing arias "which all climax in untimely deaths." The Sandbox, Edward Albee's 1959 play will receive a student/faculty performance at Roosevelt University's O'Malley Theatre.
The two stars of Baby are Steven Scott Springer (as Danny) and Lynn Wintersteller (as Pam).
"The Birth Of Character - Playwright And Actor Co-Create" - a lecture given by David Downs, professor in Northwestern University's Department Of Theatre. Utilizing King Richard III and Albee's Martha (from Who's Afraid Of Virginia Woolf), Downs will explore the creative "birthing" of a character.
"The Waste Land" - a staged production of T.S. Eliot's poem (Nov. 9, Northwestern University School Of Law's Thorne Auditorium, 1pm). Bernard Sahlins, co-founder of Second City, will direct; and D. Nicholas Rudall (pronounced to rhyme with "huddle"), founding director of the Court Theatre, will star. The two co-stars are Chicago actors, Suzanne Petri and Rengin Altay.
For tickets and information on the Chicago Humanities Festival, call (312)294-3000.
-- By David Lefkowitz