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Phyllis Dreazen



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Hamilton Makes History Come Alive for CPS High School Students

Lin-Manuel Miranda had a Plan B for his career: If musical theater didn't work out, he would continue with his other love: teaching high school. Then came In the Heights. A MacArthur Genius Grant, And Hamilton, which changed the trajectory of musical theater and won every prize there is. The lines in the three cities (NYC, Chicago, SF) where it is currently playing are such that it has started a daily lottery. And it made Ron Chernow, Hamilton's historian-biographer, a rock star.

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Chicago International Film Festival Documentaries not to miss

ent@thetimesweekly.com TWO TRAINS RUNNIN' (U.S.) Art and Activism, Music and the Civil Rights Movement, intersected in Mississippi in June 21, 1964, one year after the March on Washington. Two groups of young white men, one from the West Coast and one from the East Coast were in the area searching for Country Blues legends Skip James and Son House, respectively. At the same time, Andrew Goodman and Michael (Mickey) Schwermer, CORE activists from New York, arrived to register voters for the Mississippi Freedom Summer Project. The day before they were to begin their work, together with James Chaney, a local Rights worker of color, they went to investigate the burning of a local black church in Philadelphia. They were murdered by the Ku Klux Klan. The two tracks happened in close proximity of place and time. Director Sam Pollard uses archival footage, animated reenactments and blues performances to recreate that revolutionary time. Common narrates. Nearly three dozen interviewees speak and perform. RAISING BERTIE (U.S.)

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52nd Chicago International Film Festival October 13 - 27

ent@thetimesweekly.com CIFF 2016 opens Thursday, with LaLaland, "a musical masterpiece" (The Guardian) starring Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone and closes two weeks later with Arrival, starring Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner and Forest Whitaker, an elite team helping humankind communicate with aliens. Peter Bogdanovich is the recipient of the Festival's Gold Hugo Lifetime Achievement Award and a Tribute to Steve McQueen celebrates the 20th anniversary of the Festival's Black Perspectives program. Others honored with Tributes include Geraldine Chaplin, and directors Claude Lelouch and Alfonso Arau.

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Wonderful Town

Originally, Wonderful Town had been scheduled to end Goodman Theatre's 2015-16 season. Then Goodman got War Paint, which closed last season and moved Wonderful Town to open this one. The buoyant, joy-filled production is a grand celebration to begin Robert Falls' 30th anniversary as Goodman's Artistic Director. The story is based on Ruth McKenney's stories about her sister, Eileen – who, tragically, died before even the book was published – and the play, My Sister Eileen, by Joseph Fields and Jerome Chodorow. Turning the play into a musical was problematic until Betty Comden and Adolph Green got involved and brought along their friend, Leonard Bernstein, who provided a exuberant and musically sophisticated score. Wonderful Town bookends On the Town, another musical love letter to New York, the trio created a decade earlier. Two sisters, Ruth (Bri Sudia) and Eileen (Lauren Molina) Sherwood, leave Ohio for New York City where they dream of "making it" as writer and singer, respectively. Their first day the meet Mr. Appopolous (Matt DeCaro) who convinced them to move into his rundown Greenwich Village building. Though awful looking to an outsider – I still remember my mother's horrified face when she saw my first Village apartment – it quickly became home. Like two sides of a coin blond, bubbly, guy magnet Eileen is the Yin to Ruth's industrious Yang.

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Appomattox

WASHINGTON, DC: Washington National Opera at The Kennedy Center ended its run of the world premiere of the Philip Glass-Christopher Hampton opera Appomattox (revised from the 2007 San Francisco Opera original) on the anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. The performances marked 150 years since the end of the Civil War and 50 years since President Lyndon B. Johnson passed the Voting Rights Act. Representative John Lewis, veteran and venerable Civil Rights activist, who stood with Martin Luther King and who is one of the characters in Act II, was the honored guest. In this version, the Civil War material–from the fall of Richmond through Lee's surrender at Appomattox–was condensed into a 90-minute Act I and material about Voting Rights issues–including the March from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama–became the new Act II. Given the pushback against President Johnson's seminal legislation–the Supreme Court's striking down parts of the 1965 Act in 2012; Ferguson, Mo; the murder of Laquan McDonald and Black Lives Matter–another revision may soon be warranted. Revisions are not so unusual in opera: Puccini revised Madama Butterfly five times.

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A NEW PRODUCTION OF WOZZECK AT LYRIC OPERA

When Alban Berg's Wozzeck debuted in Berlin, in1925,it was an immediate success in spite of its atonalities and sprechstimme. Though many sounds were edgily new, Berg's sprinkling in of tonal sections and his use of classical forms–including symphony, dance, variation, fugue, largo, rondo, passacaglia–to underpin his intricately constructed 15 scenes (three uninterrupted acts) provided a cushion of familiarity to the listener's inner ear. But what mostly grabbed and held attention was the story of the poor, common soldier who is so beaten down by life that he eventually implodes and murders his unfaithful mistress, the mother of his son. Sir David McVicar's new production for Lyric Opera, brilliantly conducted by Sir Andrew Davis, evokes similar responses nearly 100 years later. Wozzeck (Tomasz Konieczny), Marie (Angela Denoke), the Captain (Gerhard Siegel), the Drum Major (Stefan Vinke) and the Fool (Brenton Ryan) are artists making Lyric Opera debuts. Their returns will be welcome. Margaret (Jill Grove), the Doctor (Brindley Sherratt) and Andres (David Portillo) have appeared here previously. Together they make a fine, integrated ensemble, acting equal to singing, to create an spellbinding whole.

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Chicago Film Festival: KAKEKOMI

Kakekomi, a traditional story based on a novel by Hisashi Inoue, might be subtitled "Divorce, Samurai Style." Tokei-ji, the Buddhist temple at which Kakekomi takes place, opened as a shelter for abused and battered women in 1285. In old Edo, it was also a place where women seeking divorce or escaping bad marriages would flee. Once through the temple gates they became “kakekomi” and would spend two years pursuing a monastic existence. In the meantime, the wise divorce arbitrator Genbei helped them prepare to restart their lives. The new "kakekomi" include a beautiful but tragic concubine (O-Gin), anexpertiron-worker (Jogo), and a vengeful female samurai (Yu). A man with ties to the temple also seeks refuge there since he is an aspiring writer (as well as a doctor) and all entertainments had been banned. He provides the comic relief in a drama of serious issues.

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Chicago Film Festival: PAULINA

Like her father, Paulina (Dolores Fonzi) is a liberal, humanistic lawyer. He became a judge; she is completing a PhD in sociology but puts it and her promising legal career on hold–to his great dismay–to go work in a pioneering education program in a rural slum high school in the Northeast, where Argentina abuts Paraguay and Brazil, at the border of poverty and despair, where the forests have been made victim to the lumber industry. Her first night in the village, in a case of mistaken identity, she is attacked by five boys from the school, raped and impregnated. She refuses to name the attackers, though she knows them. Her responses bring into question who is victim and who a survivor, what is chaos and what is justice.

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Chicago Film Festival: ROAD TO LA PAZ

Sebastian, a 30-something unemployed Argentinian (Rodrigo de la Serna), agrees to accept a large sum of money to chauffeur Jalil, old Muslim (Ernesto Suarez) to La Paz, Bolivia, a distance of about 2,000. There he will join his brother to make Haj. Sharing life changing adventures both sacred and profane, funny and heart rending, the men develop a relationship like father and son, or master and disciple. At the end of their time together, Jalil tells a story: One freezing night a mountain climber falls and dangles from his cord. He calls out to God to save him. "Do you believe in me"? "Yes, of course." "Then take your knife and cut the cord." The next morning rescuers found the climber frozen to death, attached to his cord, two feet above level ground.

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Chicago Film Festival: MOTLEYS LAW

Motley’s Law follows Kimberly Motley as the Wisconsin-born lawyer’s lives and works in Afghanistan. When 38-year-old Kimberley Motley left her husband, Claude, and three kids–Diva, Seoul and Cherish–in the US in order to work as a defense lawyer in Kabul (2008), she was the only foreign lawyer, and the only woman, who had a license to work in the Afghan court system. She didn’t know where Afghanistan was, but she and her family needed the money, so she jumped at the chance to be part of a nine-month legal education program run by the U.S. State Department to train Afghan lawyers.

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