At first blush it might seem that the three performing groups for “The Unexpected: 2014” have little in common other than similar fundraising management by Creative Partners.
Disparate though the performing genres were—puppets, experimental music, narrative dance-- in this performance they had in common that they delighted by bringing off-the-beaten path and humorous takes for us to chew upon. Unexpected turns in plot lines, rhythm and movement kept the audience alert and amused.
First up was Blair Thomas & Co.’s larger-than-life puppets whose very appearance makes your break out in smiles. As these figures bumbled about, pianist Mary Rose Norell skillfully played Chopin. Just to watch these larger-than-life puppets jiggle into too-small chairs is a good belly laugh.
Then, playing a work for toy piano, Norell again entertains while an elegant puppet dances artfully to the beat. Spoiler alert: It’s all in the ending.
For puppet lovers this group is a must-see, which you can do now through June 14 at Loyola University Museum of Art, 820 N. Michigan, on Saturdays at 2:00 and 4:00 PM, “The Vinegar Works” concerts as well as other venues this year. See the Blair Thomas & Co. website for details.
Next up was eighth blackbird, new music pioneers that many know from performances at Chicago’s Museum of Contemporary Art, among other city venues. The group performed “Counting Duets” and adapted the usual two person song-of-sorts to their 6-performer format. This composition is as if one had set an explanation of the theory of fractals to music. It’s fun to watch it in different languages on Youtube—such as Dutch and Japanese.
Eighth blackbird’s rendition of this piece had an air of excitement that the duet format lacks. It also served to tune our ears for an arrangement by eighth blackbird pianist (Lisa Kaplan) and flutist (Tim Munro), of Ligeti’s work originally for piano, “Études”. This piece was the epitome of the show’s title, “Unexpected”, with rhythms and melodic lines twisting unexpectedly all the way to sudden gong with ensemble crash ending.
Eighth blackbird is always about giving your ears a good stretch in new directions. Chicagoans will be able to see them on June 19 in the Loops and Variations Series in the Pritzker Pavillion at Millennium Park before the group heads out to California and then Lincoln Center in New York. For their schedule see the eighth blackbird website.
Last up was a snippet from Lucky Plush Productions’ “The Queue”, of which you can read a review of the full-length production here. Having seen the full-length piece not long ago it was easy to imagine how difficult it must have been to whittle this down to an hors d’oeuvre, since the full-length performance of this narrative dance with music is without a lag.
Another excerpt of “The Queue will be performed on May 29 at the Arts Club. For information on that performance and to make sure that you don’t miss other Lucky Plush productions follow the Lucky Plush Productions website.
Creative Partners, host of the evening’s event, has a mission to create a new funding model in the nonprofit arts. Let’s hope that part of their mission is to maintain an annual performance by these three groups in their funding family.
For more information on Creative Partners see the Creative Partners website or call 312 – 898 – 4674.