Benefit for Literacy Works

posted 04/20/2015

Our final Sunday performance, April 26, of Song About Himself will be a benefit for Chicago-based Literacy Works.

Literacy Works’ mission is to strengthen adult literacy, parent education, and workforce development programs by developing and providing innovative training and knowledge-sharing opportunities for professionals and volunteers.

50% of what you pay for your ticket will go to this fine organization. Advance tickets are still available.

If you would like Theater Oobleck to host a benefit for your 501©3 organization, please contact us.

"A dystopian future of missed connections"

posted 04/16/2015

The Chicago Trib’s Nina Metz gives Song About Himself three stars, saying:

Ultimately Maher is digging his finger around in that gaping hole of what it means to connect with another person — the wistful, persistent desire for it, and the technology that we’ve come to rely on to make so much of it possible.

Full review.

TimeOut hails "an engaging, resonant online ode."

posted 04/15/2015

TimeOut Chicago’s Kris Vire writes:

Borrowing equally from WWW and W.W.—as in Walt Whitman, whose Leaves of Grass plays into the virtual poetry—Maher crafts an engaging, resonant online ode.

Full review.

Photo by Evan Hanover.

Ada Grey weighs in

posted 04/14/2015

Chicagoland’s ten-year-old theater-critic sensation (and actress in her own right) Ada Grey came to see Song About Himself and posted this thoughtful review.


People who would like this show are people who like poetry, lengthy posts, and clarinets. I think people should definitely go see this show. It is eye-opening and it will blow your mind. And I actually think that while I was writing the review I understood it even better than when I was watching it. So, I think it would be good if when you got home you could write down some ideas that you had about the show and you can think about those ideas for a little while.

Full disclosure: Ada Grey’s dad, John Henry Roberts, is an Oobleck Irregular, having appeared in The Golden Election by Marilyn Quayle and her Sister and Theater Oobleck and our staged reading of The Forbidden Bestsellers of Pre-Revolutionary France.

Photo by Evan Hanover.

"RECOMMENDED" by Newcity

posted 04/07/2015

Newcity’s Christopher Kidder-Mostrom writes:

While the piece pulls from Walt Whitman’s poetry, no knowledge of the source material is necessary to glean deep, impactful meaning from the show. It is a rich psychological and metaphysical landscape through which to travel, even for those not well-versed in “Leaves of Grass.”

Full review.

Photo by Evan Hanover.

"Of [Maher's] many artful, resonant plays, this one has the potential to eclipse them all."

posted 04/03/2015

The Chicago Reader’s Justin Hayford weighs in on Theater Oobleck’s new play:

In typical fashion, Maher creates a world of ridiculous, ominous inadequacy, given mesmerizing expression in this Theater Oobleck premiere…

Throughout, Maher borrows specific lines and images from Song of Myself—ironically, a work fundamentally about self-reliance—as well as Whitman’s thematic spirals, intoxicating rhythms, and circuitous plainspokenness, all rendered with great clarity and warmth by Oobleck’s cast: Guy Massey, Colm O’Reilly, and Diana Slickman, who, astonishingly, work without a director, as Oobleck has done for 26 years…

Full review.

Photo by Evan Hanover.

A Request for Your Support

posted 12/30/2014

Dear Friend of Oobleck,

Imagine, if you will, that you are looking at a computer screen or other internet-enabled device. Why, it’s a message from your friends at Theater Oobleck! Imagine that you are excited. So excited, in fact, that you begin to make a list of all of your hopes and dreams for Theater Oobleck in the coming year.

Did your imaginary list include the March 27th world premiere of a new dystopian science fiction play by Mickle Maher, written entirely in “ornate verse,” derived from a corruption of the work of Walt Whitman? Did it include a new episode of our epic cantastoria cycle Baudelaire In A Box, with music by Bobby Conn and Monica Boubou? Did it include a full-length satirical clown show about a plague-infested cruise ship adrift at sea, performed in both San Juan, Puerto Rico, and Chicago’s Hermosa neighborhood? Did it include plans to bring the 2012 hit There Is A Happiness That Morning Is to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival? Great! Now imagine that this message on your screen outlines precisely such a theatrical season, in tantalizing detail. Visualize how that makes you feel. Pay close attention in particular to any notable sensations in the body—say, a buzzing in the extremities, a quickening pulse, or a trembling lip.

Now please imagine that you are thinking back upon all the moments you shared with Theater Oobleck during the past year. Imagine that you are lovingly lingering on each memory. Imagine that there is no rush. Did your imaginary recollections include two (two!) new episodes of Baudelaire In A Box? Did it include a free outdoor collaboration with El Circo Nacional de Puerto Rico in Humboldt Park? Did it include a four-week residency at The Hideout, showcasing writers, actors, and musicians from throughout Oobleck’s 26-year history? Wonderful. You’re doing great! Now imagine that this on-screen missive reminds you of precisely those warm, expansive, vivifying experiences. As before, visualize how this makes you feel. Feel it in your body. Feel it in your heart. Especially the cockles.

Now imagine that none of this is in your imagination. Imagine that the imaginary message on your screen is in fact an actual on-screen-message, enjoining you to financially support Oobleck’s unique and often foolhardy theatrical endeavors in the coming year. Imagine that you are able and willing to support our mission — presenting new works, without a director, on a pay-what-you can basis — with a tax-deductible donation through paypal or by sending us a check. Most importantly, imagine—really visualize in your mind’s eye — how grateful we are for your ongoing support of our work, and how much we look forward to seeing your face in the audience in 2015.

Yours In Positive Visualization,
Theater Oobleck

The Reader Recommends "Baudelaire"

posted 12/11/2014

From Philip Montoro in The Chicago Reader.

This seventh episode of Theater Oobleck’s Baudelaire in a Box sets lively new English translations of poems from the 1861 edition of Charles Baudelaire’s The Flowers of Evil to witty acoustic songs played by a six-piece ensemble…

The translations can be playful too—somehow I doubt Baudelaire’s original text uses “hummus” for a rhyme. Only once, on Sad Brad Smith’s rendition of “Grieving and Wandering,” does the troupe match bleak music to bleak verses, and the effect is so wrenchingly mournful it’s almost startling.

Full review here.

Oobleck's Decameron Circus receives NEA grant

posted 12/05/2014

Big news! Theater Oobleck has just received our second grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. This one will support our ongoing collaboration with El Circo Nacional de Puerto Rico, which will continue with shows in San Juan, Puerto Rico in January and May, and a brand new Chicago show in June: SOS: A Decameron Clown Cruise.

See our full press release for details.

Photo by Eiren Caffall.

Oobleckers News Round-up

posted 12/04/2014

We’ve got plenty on our plate, but Oobleckers are keeping busy. Here’s the latest from the ensemble and our pals:

Coming up December 13th, Martha Bayne’s ongoing Soup and Bread project will have a Holiday Jamboree fundraiser at the Hideout.

Martha is also currently co-editor of the Sunday edition of the on-line magazine The Rumpus.

Dave Buchen’s Why Is a Tiger Tiger? is back in print, and his hand-printed 2015 Calendars are ready to be mailed to you. You can order these from his website, where you can click on the paypal link.

New productions of plays Mickle Maher wrote for Oobleck recently wrapped up in DC and Cleveland. The WSC Avant Bard production of There Is a Happiness That Morning Is garnered a nice rave in Broadway World. And the Cleveland Plain Dealer called Spirits to Enforce (in the Cleveland Public Theatre production) a “nimble, surreal comedy directed with smarts and a puckish sense of the absurd” in their must-read review.

Diana Slickman is in Jet Black Chevrolet at the side project theater. Get your tickets, and see the great reviews from the Reader (“The talented Diana Slickman”) and Trib (“Slickman and Koon are terrific”).

She is also featured in a new anthology, Bare-Knuckled Lit: The Best of Write Club from Hope and Nonthings books. You can buy your very own copy at a book-release event (at the Hideout, again), 7pm December 16, a show that will feature our own David Isaacson. That’s right, this show is directly before the latest episode of Baudelaire in a Box, The King of Rain. Come for Write Club, stay for Oobleck.

And speaking of Baudelaire in a Box, we would like to direct your attention to a couple great reviews that former participants in this mega-project have been getting. Lindsey Noel-Whiting, who sang the songs of Jeff Dorchen in Episode 5: Possession, is currently sharing the role of Alice in Lookingglass Alice, and got a great review in the Trib.

And back in September, Kate Douglas (from Episode 6: Elevation) got this nice notice in The New York Times.

Columbia Chronicle on "Baudelaire in a Box"

posted 11/06/2014

Baxter Barrowcliff of The Columbia Chronicle previews Episode 7: The King of Rain.

Photo by Kristin Basta.

Baudelaire scroll-in-progress

posted 10/08/2014

A scroll-in-progress by Dave Buchen
from Baudelaire in a Box, Episode 7: The King of Rain

"Spirits" in Cleveland

posted 09/11/2014

Great news from Ohio. Theater Oobleck’s 2003 play Spirits to Enforce, by our own Mickle Maher, will receive a new production from the Cleveland Public Theatre, opening October 9.

The Cleveland Plain Dealer has a great preview here.

Last year, CPT produced Mickle’s There Is A Happiness That Morning Is.

If you can’t make it to Ohio, Chicagoans can see the Columbia College production in February, directed by the phenomenal Stephanie Shaw.

Here’s a look back at that original production, with a photo by Kristin Basta.

A Slickman September

posted 09/07/2014

Our own Diana Slickman is going to have a very busy month. Come out and see her:

Saturdays in BoyGirlBoyGirl presents The Bible along with David Kodeski, Edward Thomas-Herrera, and Stephanie Shaw.

And Tuesday, September 16th, where she will defend “Imperial” against Ian Belknap’s “Metric” at Write Club.

And Wednesday, September 25th, reading from Hula, a new book of poems from our friend Richard Fox, 7pm at The Brixton, 5420 N. Clark. (No charge, but a 2 drink minimum.)

Sati Word, Rest in Peace

posted 09/06/2014

It is with great sadness that we note the passing of our friend Sati Word, on Wednesday, September 3, 2014.

There will be a Celebration Service for Sati on September 22nd at 6pm, at the Soka Gakkai International Chicago Buddhist Culture Center, 1455 S. Wabash, and a Homegoing Service the following day, September 23rd at 10am, at Leak & Sons Funeral Home, 7838 S. Cottage Grove.

His friends and family have established a Memorial Fund to help pay for his funeral. Please consider giving.

Three of Sati’s castmates from our Oobleck Election Show 2008: The Trojan Candidate shared their thoughts:

Jeff Dorchen writes:

On behalf of Theater Oobleck, I want to extend condolences to the family and friends of Sati Word. His passing is a great loss to those who knew him, and to the arts. It’s hard to express the shock I feel knowing he’s not around anymore.

I met him in the summer of 2008, just as rehearsals were about to begin for The Trojan Candidate, the 2008 Oobleck election play. We had lost our Obama, and Sati showed up. He was game for anything. And he was great. As an enthusiastic improv performer he took to the directorless rehearsal model with ease but not without commenting on the glorious madness of it, was never shy about chiming in with ideas, but never made us old folk feel like we were out of gas. Maybe he adjusted his pace to ours, yet whatever he did, he was 100% there. He crafted his performance with a control that was surprising given what appeared to be an untamable energy.

Backstage he shared that energy with the rest of the cast. He was a non-stop pleasure to work with, and afterwards, on FB, and a few times we met to drink, whatever sardonic or wry social criticism he let slip was tempered by something unsinkable. I was always glad to see him or hear from him, even when he talked about that Ron Paul crap. We had an understanding about that.

He always had something going on: a film, a gig, a sketch show. He was that kind of rare young performer, the kind that assuages the pity older theater folk instinctively feel for the young because of all the disillusionment in store for them. I got the feeling he would be able to handle whatever came at him because of his sheer forward momentum, leading with a blade that would cut through bullshit.

Apparently a series of undeserved incidents of harassment by our historically wonderful Chicago Police Department had gotten under his skin a while ago. Then, recently, health issues. There was so much more he had to do in this life. I hear he was planning to come out to LA. I would love to have seen him out here.

This is the kind of senseless loss that leaves the living grasping the wind. He can’t have been easy to take down, and I can’t figure out why any cosmic force should have wanted to. He was thin but full of power. He was funny and charming as hell. His warm-up mantra:

“I’m awake! I’m alive! I’m energized! And damn I look good!”

He was and he did.

KellyAnn Corcoran writes:

Sati, I hope you are hearing all the things that are being written here from your place in the stars. You were loved and admired and respected. You were patient and thoughtful and kind. You were you, no matter who you were with or what you were doing. I expected to see you again, to work with you again, to stand in the warmth of your presence once more. I am grateful and honored to have known you. Know that you touched my life and left it more full than before I knew you. How sad for us that you have gone. Bless you on your new journey Sati. You are missed and mourned.

Danny Thompson writes:

Goodbye, Sati Word.
One of the joys of being in a show is the treat of watching from offstage while waiting for your next scene. One of my favorites of these moments was watching Sati flying solo with his Obama’s I Have a Dream scenes. He was so damn good and so damn fun to watch — and a pleasure to work with.

• • •
(from Oobleck Election Play 2008: The Trojan Candidate)

I have a dream . . . that I am in the midst of an immense multitude. All wearing paper hats, sashes, ribbons, buttons. Everything is red, white and blue. We are all in a gigantic stadium covered in banners and flags. A dozen school bands are playing at once and the noise is deafening. 80,000 people whistling, singing, laughing and waving signs. And then at the 50 yard line a group erupts in a thunderous excitement. They rush the stage. Then everything stops. We are all silent with tingling anticipation. Something . . . wonderful is about to happen.

Murmured rumors race around the room. And then the news rushes past us like a great wave – Obama is here. OBAMA . . . is IN … the room.

I am frozen with overpowering feelings. Obama is here. My legs are shaking. Obama! I’ve forgotten how to breathe. Behind me someone is weeping. Someone else is laughing. Spotlights sweep around the stadium and 80,000 camera flashes sparkle and the air is electric.

And then at the very back. At the center of the stage, under a massive American flag, the spotlights all come together. . . and he’s there. Everyone just explodes with applause and roars, “Obama. Obama. Obama. Obama.”

But as I look up, I can’t believe my eyes. It’s me. The man on the stage is me. One of the spotlights travels down from the stage to find me inside the crowd and I follow in its light to the front of the platform. The crowd divides as I walk. I begin to climb up the steps, but someone grabs my arm. It’s Will Smith. And he yells, “Hey! Who do you think you are? You’re not even human anymore.” Others grab me and hold me back, but I push forward. With all my might I push forward. I have to let Obama know. I have to tell Obama that I’m him. That he’s me.

And then a hundred thousand balloons fall from ceiling and push me away. And I’m just one them again. Just one of the crowd.

Photos by Kristin Basta.

Oobleckers Perform in Children's Organ Transplant Association Benefit

posted 08/10/2014

Help us raise money for Jack Benjamin’s COTA fund!

The Children’s Organ Transplant Association helps children and young adults who need a life-saving transplant by providing fundraising assistance and family support.

Oobleckers Diana Slickman and Chris Schoen, along with a bunch of our closest friends, will perform. Get your tickets now.

Chicago Arts Journal features Oobleck

posted 08/08/2014

We thank the Chicago Arts Journal for consistently covering Theater Oobleck.

The Spring 2014 edition features both Ira Murfin (on page 16) and Carine Loewi (on page 21) ruminating on Baudelaire in a Box Episode 6, and an interview with our own Guy Massey on page 40.

The Summer 2014 edition has a review of Jewboy and Grosbeck (part of the Oobleck Residency at the Hideout) on page 41.

The Most Sarcastic Child in Chicago Watches a Clown Show

posted 07/24/2014

Writer Paul Dailing is chronicling life in our city in his “1001 Chicago Afternoons” blog. He stopped by “SOS: A Summer Clown Cruise,” and gave this report.

Jay Torrence as Stan. Photo by Eiren Caffall The sun started its slow descent over the boathouse to the west, glistening and glimmering off the lagoon where happy fishermen plied their futile hobby. The spot of grass by house and water was filled with smiling families, laughing children and the sounds of a small live band playing a light and smooth 1920s Puerto Rican jazz.

“Is this that clown thing they were talking about?” came a voice from behind me.

The voice was a female one, withering in that way only 12 year olds can muster.

Read the full story

Waiting for the mail carrier…

posted 06/26/2014

…for the amazing cantastorias by Adam Cook and Sam Wilson to arrive. They will be part of the set for SOS: A Summer Clown Cruise.

They sent us some photos to whet our appetites.

Oobleck's Tuesday night residency wraps up this week

posted 06/23/2014

R.H. Palmer reviewed the third week of our Hideout residency.

Theater Oobleck…is wrapping up their June residency at the Hideout, 1354 W. Wabansia, on Tuesday with This Land That I Love, a musical interpretation of a book written by Ooblecker by John Shaw. Every week is different, so it’s hard to encapsulate the experience, but I have yet to be disappointed by Oobleck.

See the full review here

Photo by Matt Greenberger.

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