Theater Oobleck presents ‘Closed Casket: The Complete, Final and Absolutely Last Baudelaire in a Box’
Theater Oobleck’s “Baudelaire in a Box” project, a seven-year adaptation of Charles Baudelaire’s scandalous 19th-century classic “Les Fleurs du mal (The Flowers of Evil)” as an epic illustrated song cycle, culminates this summer with “Closed Casket: The Complete, Final and Absolutely Last Baudelaire in a Box.” The 15-hour festival presentation of the complete cycle is timed to coincide with the 150th anniversary of Baudelaire’s death. “Closed Casket” will be presented Aug. 4 to 6 at Links Hall at Constellation, 3111 N. Western Avenue in Chicago.
Over the past seven years Oobleck has produced 12 episodes of “Baudelaire in a Box, each featuring hand-cranked boxed panoramas drawn and painted by artist Dave Buchen and scored with original music performed by an ensemble of musicians and singers. Many of the compositions are set to original translations written expressly for this project.
Each episode features a unique ensemble of musicians, ranging from solo performances to an eight-piece band, and includes composers and performers from some of the most highly regarded outfits in Chicago, such as Mucca Pazza, Bobby Conn, Expo 76, Matchess, Tallulah, and Azita, as well as TheaterOobleck regulars Jeff Dorchen and Chris Schoen. To this Oobleck has added luminaries from the music scenes of Chapel Hill, NC, San Juan, Puerto Rico, and New York.
The musical genres captured in these 13 episodes are too numerous to name, but include glam rock, bolero, cabaret, soul, tango, folk, golden-era country, chanteuse, ambient and reggaeton.
Charles Baudelaire (1821 – 1867) was a French poet, critic and translator whose explorations of the themes of humiliation, decay and “spleen” revolutionized modern poetry. The first edition of his notorious “Les Fleurs du mal” was published in 1857. Six of the poems were banned by the French government until 1949 for offending public morality. He died of syphilis-related complications at the age of 46.
"Baudelaire is a great poet to work with if you like your regret, irritation, disillusionment and horror measured out in stanzas so well crafted they seem to invoke a kind of natural, inevitable law of human failure and loss,” says curator Chris Schoen. “There are other great prophets of disappointment and frustration, but none I know who are so energetically cranky as Baudelaire. The man knew how to employ an exclamation point. It makes for great songs."
“When I read Baudelaire I hear Lou Reed, The Cure, Iron Maiden, Suicide and other touchstones of adolescent angst,” says Bobby Conn, curator of episode eight “Delicious Night.” “I see David Lynch films circa “Eraserhead,” fog and Klieg-lit synth-pop music videos, urban grime and glamour. In short, a Goth paradise.”
Tickets to “Closed Casket: The Complete, Final and Absolutely Last Baudelaire in a Box” are on sale beginning June 1. Single tickets are $15 - $50 or pay-what-you-can. Tickets on sale June 1. More information available on the Theater Oobleck website or call 773-897-7666 (not a box office phone).
“Closed Casket” Schedule
Friday, Aug. 4, 7 p.m.
The Chicago premieres of
“Bad Luck” (from North Carolina)
Saturday, Aug. 5, 11 a.m. to midnight
“The Wine Cycle” (in Spanish and English)
“Consolations of the Moon”
“Death and Other Excitements”
“The King of Rain”
“El rey de la Lluvia”
Tickets $50 (includes lunch and dinner)
Sunday, Aug. 6, 6 p.m.
“Episode X” includes 32 world premiere songs from the remaining poems in “Les Fleurs du mal”
Theater Oobleck’s “Closed Casket: The Complete, Final and Absolutely Last Baudelaire in a Box,” features original artwork by Dave Buchen, with songs and translations written and/or performed by Martha Bayne, Emmy Bean, Javier Carbadillo, Robert Cofresi, Reid Coker, Bobby Conn, Jeff Dorchen, Kate Douglas, Curtis Eller, Adelind Horan, Billie Howard, Andrea Jablonski, Angela James, Whitney Johnson, Diane Koistinen, Jeff Kowalkowski, Ronnie Kuller, J Kutchma, Mickle Maher, Katira Maria, Troy Martin, Mark Messing, the New Town Drunks, Colm O'Reilly, Bati Paz, Julie Pomerleau, Maximiliano Rivas, Lizbeth Román, Chris Schoen, Diana Slickman, Brad Smith, David E. Smith, Joey Spilberg, Killian Sweeney, Amalea Tshilds, Amy Warren, and Azita Youssefi.