The Rhinoceros Theater Festival celebrates its 31st year with six weeks of performances from January 11 – February 23, 2020 at Prop Thtr, 3502 N. Elston Ave. in Chicago. This year’s Rhino Fest features 48 shows, including new plays, dance, devised works, variety, music, performance, and fresh takes on classic texts. Tickets ($15 or pay what you can) are on sale now, along with the performance schedule, at rhinofest.com.
This year’s Rhino features 48 shows, including new plays, dance, devised works, variety, music, performance and fresh takes on classic texts. Rhino Fest, curated and hosted by the Curious Theatre Branch and Prop Thtr opens Saturday, January 11 with the Full Moon Vaudeville featuring The Crooked Mouth, an art-cabaret rock band piloted by Curious co-founders Beau O’Reilly and Jenny Magnus. The Vaudeville will also feature performances by harpist Tom Hack, prison educator Jenny Alexander, singer Leo Brün, standup Stephanie Weber, and an excerpt from Chris Vanderark’s The Spacewoman of Dutlerville, MI, a new work in performance at Rhino Fest.
Fiercely independent and committed to discovery, this year’s Rhino features many young and emerging companies and individuals including Social Sciences Productions, El Bear, Theatre of the Beyond, Museum of Unnatural History Chicago, Ashley Hollingshead, Briana Morris and Persephone Jones, alongside Chicago performance stalwarts including David Shapiro (performing Wallace Shawn’s The Fever), Chris Bower (with a new chapter in the life of Café Neckbeard, a fictive fine dining establishment in Logan Square), and a performance by M.C. Steffen of Mickle Maher’s celebrated monologue An Apology for the Course & Outcome of Certain Events Delivered by Doctor John Faustus on This His Final Evening. The Rhino welcomes new and developing works by Kate Black-Spence and Chris Brickhouse (Ghosts of Whitechapel, a fictionalized account of the five women murdered by Jack the Ripper), composer Rosśa Crean (whose opera The Priestess of Morphine follows the life of Marie-Madeleine, a lesbian erotic poet condemned by the Third Reich) and Whimsy Stiff (The Privilege of Floating, a musical exploration of love and queerness between a clown and a concertina).
This Rhino also sees the return of festival favorites Jeff Glassman and Lisa Fay, with the movement piece Lickety Split and Other Forms of Collapse; Ira Murfin, continuing his formalized conversation series An Interview; Kelly Anchors’s Sweetback Productions in the family ensemble piece Deep Fried Refried; and Tyler Anthony Smith, directed by Stephanie Shaw in Out, Darn Spot!, a drag monologue portraying Lady Macbeth as a fed-up midcentury home-maker. Several late-night shows will include Mari DeOleo’s irreverently direct character Mango in That’s Not the Way I Heard It: A Surreal Cabaret Dramedy Spectacular, and punk-cabaret musician Violet in Hotel Violet.
Curious Theatre Branch premieres Four Story Animal Plus Dessert, an ongoing series (with dessert) including performances of short works by Samuel Beckett, Flannery O’Connor, Anton Chekhov, and Elizabeth Bishop. Curious also welcomes the return of Jenny Magnus’ beloved Office Hours: Aid and Comfort, a talk experiment originated during Magnus’s residency at the Museum of Contemporary Art, in which anyone is welcome to come speak to the artist in a free-form setting as a means to build community, provide care in unconventional ways and deepen the relationship of artist and audience.
Prop Thtr will produce several new and visiting works for this year’s Rhino: Panther Women: An Army for the Liberation and Emergence, two new devised works from Cleveland Public Theatre; and @midnight, a group-devised meditation on late-night consciousness, co-produced with The Whisper Theatre Collective.
The event that became the Rhinoceros Theater Festival began in 1988 as an offshoot of the Bucktown Arts Fest, and in its first year featured just two days of performances, including work by Jenny Magnus and Beau O'Reilly. When the event's founder moved away from Chicago in 1990, he asked a ragtag group of local artists (including Beau O'Reilly and Scott Turner) to keep the event going, and the Rhino Fest was born. The Curious Theatre Branch produced the Rhino across many neighborhoods and venues over the years, with events variously taking place in Wicker Park/Bucktown, Rogers Park, Andersonville, and Avondale; at spaces including the Lunar Cabaret and Full Moon Café, the Neo-Futurarium, the Society for New Things, The Garage, The Firehouse, Remains Theatre, and Prop Thtr. In 2009, Rhino Fest settled at Prop Thtr in Avondale as its long-term base, and Prop and Curious now co-produce the festival among a shifting group of curators. The Rhino is currently helmed by Beau O’Reilly (Curious Theatre Branch Co-Founder), Jenny Magnus (Curious Theatre Branch Co-Founder), Olivia Lilley (Prop Thtr Artistic Director), Stefan Brün (Prop Thtr Executive Director), Julia Williams (Curious Theatre Branch Ensemble) and Marlana Carlson (Prop Thtr Director of Operations). Find more information about the companies at propthtr.org and curioustheatrebranch.com.
Opening Night Event: Full Moon Vaudeville, Saturday, January 11, 2020 at 7 pm
Regular run: Friday, January 17 – Sunday, February 23, 2020
Performance schedule: Wednesdays – Mondays (after opening weekend)
Location: Prop Thtr, 3502 N. Elston Ave., Chicago
Tickets: $15 or pay what you can. go on sale Thursday, December 26, 2019 For tickets and a full performance schedule, visit rhinofest.com.
Editor's Note 1/3/19: Panther Women: An Army for the Liberation was previously listed with an incomplete title. Cleveland Public Theatre's name has also been corrected.
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