ChiIL Live Shows On Our Radar:
Upstairs at Chicago Shakespeare
a WorldStage Production from Belgium
written by Alexander Devriendt, Angelo Tijssens, & the Cast
directed by Alexander Devriendt
**run approximately 80 minutes with no intermission**
I'll be out to catch Fight Night the 27th, so check back for my full review. I enjoyed the thought provoking launch to this 3 production series from Belgium and can't wait to see what's next. Check out my Big Mouth review and more details on the series here.
Five candidates. One winner. You decide. Arriving on the brink of our own midterm elections, Belgium’s extraordinary Ontroerend Goed offers a fun and thought-provoking examination of free will and politics that puts electronic voting boxes—and the candidates’ fate—directly into the hands of audience members. As the battle for your attention, sympathy, and approval ensues, what will your snap-judgments reveal? This critically acclaimed Edinburgh Fringe Festival hit explores the nature of democracy, and will leave you with questions to debate and, possibly, your own prejudices to confront.
Fight Night (October 23–November 4, 2018) from collective Ontroerend Goed, which returns to Chicago Shakespeare after A History of Everything in 2012, and the stirring Us/Them (January 22–February 3, 2019) from BRONKS.
A stinging examination of free will and politics staged by company founder and Artistic Director Alexander Devriendt, Fight Night immerses audience members (equipped with electronic voting boxes) in a showdown between five contenders vying for their votes. Employing a dizzying array of tactics and strategies, the candidates compete to survive a relentless succession of eliminations, and ultimately be crowned the elected victor. Blurring the lines between theater and interactive performance art, Fight Night is a hilarious, thought-provoking look at the mechanisms of democracy.
Fight Night is presented as part of a series of three pioneering works that represent the next wave of boundary-pushing International theater—fueling a dynamic engagement between artist and audience.
Fight Night is written and directed by Alexander Devriendt, Angelo Tijssens and the cast. The company includes Aaron Gordon, Abdel Daoudi, Angelo Tijssen, Aurélie Lannoy, Charlotte De Bruyne, and Michai Geyzen. Completing the creative team are Lilith Tremmery (Scenography, Light Design and Production), Babette Poncelet and Iben Stalpaert (Technicians), Sophie De Somere (Costumes and scenography), Cameron Goodall and David Heinrich (Music), and Nick Mattan (Graphics Voting System).
Fight Night is produced by Ontroerend Goed, The Border Project, Richard Jordan Productions, and Theatre Royal Plymouth in association with Big in Belgium.
A Note from the Director
by Alexander Devriendt
Your vote. So many people fight for it. So many promises are made to obtain it.
And yet it feels so small. Such a tiny contribution. A seemingly insignificant voice muffled by the turmoil of the powers that be. I’ve been all kinds of voters: a frustrated one, one who consciously abstains, one too lazy to go, a fervent one, a social one, a strategical one.
But more and more I became fascinated by the extent to which my choice was manipulated on so many levels, and not just by the politicians themselves or by the media. All sorts of little things in my immediate or faraway surroundings had an impact on my vote.
What it mostly boiled down to is the feeling that made me say: ”I trust this person.” A trust that seemed to be of my own making.
I trusted this one person in Belgian politics. He seemed intelligent and somebody who could represent me in the political field. When he appeared on television he said things that made sense. Whether it was in a game show or political talk show, I can’t remember (the distinction has become blurrier day by day). It’s a feeling I share with many Trump supporters today. You trust your own judgment so well that you rarely question what it’s really based upon.
Then while I was in rehearsals for this show, I took a closer look at the views of this Belgian politician and I was amazed how different our views were on so many levels. How the things I cared about were not even mentioned in his political agenda. I still trust the guy. He is a strong politician. He just doesn’t get my vote anymore.
There is this other person whose agenda I share completely. She doesn’t get enough votes to really matter in Belgian politics, but I believe the votes she does get keep her going. Because my vote matters to her, and she matters to her party, and the party influences decisions in the country, and the country has a say in the European Union. And maybe the powers beyond are kept in check just a little bit more.
A chain of influence that can alter the world. Eight years under Romney would have been a different world; a Canada led by Trudeau resonates even in our country; a referendum in Britain has altered the course of history.
I remember when we performed Fight Night in London, there was this 80-year-old man who started shouting to younger people who were giving up their device, who were giving up their vote. “Don’t do it. People have fought for this!” he shouted.
I’m probably going to be like him.
Later this season, Big in Belgium—Chicago continues with
Big in Belgium—Chicago is Us/Them—acclaimed as the “unforgettable highlight of the Fringe” by The Telegraph when it debuted in Edinburgh, followed by a sold-out run at the National Theatre of Great Britain. Told through the viewpoint of two children, the production is a chilling look at the 2004 Beslan school siege by Chechen separatists in Russia, in which more than 1,100 adults and children were taken hostage and 334 lost their lives. Using intricate choreography and ingenious staging, Us/Them is not a recounting of the tragedy, but instead a compelling examination of the way young people cope with disaster.
Us/Them is written and directed by Carly Wijs created with Thomas Vantuycom. The creative team consists of Stef Stessel (Designer), Thomas Clause (Lighting Design), Peter Brughmans (Sound Design), and Mieke Versyp (Dramaturg). The company includes Gytha Parmentier and Roman Van Houtven.
Us/Them is produced by BRONKS and Richard Jordan Productions with Theatre Royal Plymouth and Big in Belgium in association with Summerhall.
Big in Belgium—Chicago is emblematic of Chicago Shakespeare’s rich tradition of importing the world's most exciting theatrical events to Chicago and exporting the Theater’s productions to global destinations through WorldStage at Chicago Shakespeare. To date, the program has featured more than 1,000 artists from 23 countries spanning six continents—including artists from South Africa, China, India, Belarus, France, Russia, and the UK. Many of the globe’s most iconic troupes have made Chicago their stage including: The Abbey Theatre from Dublin, Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre from London, the Chekhov International Theatre Festival from Moscow, La Comédie Française from Paris, and The Farber Foundry from South Africa. Chicago Shakespeare expanded the WorldStage programming in 2016 by spearheading the yearlong festival Shakespeare 400 Chicago, the largest international celebration of the playwright’s 400-year legacy.
More information on the Big in Belgium—Chicago series at www.chicagoshakes.com/biginbelgium.
All three Big in Belgium—Chicago productions will be performed in English in the theater Upstairs at Chicago Shakespeare. Single tickets ($38–$56) are on sale now. Save $5 per ticket when you book 2 or more Big in Belgium shows together. Special discounts are available for groups of 10 or more, as well as CST for $20 tickets for patrons under 35. For more information or to purchase tickets, contact Chicago Shakespeare Theater’s Box Office at 312.595.5600 or visit the Theater’s website at www.chicagoshakes.com.
ABOUT CHICAGO SHAKESPEARE THEATER
A global theatrical force, Chicago Shakespeare Theater is known for vibrant productions that reflect Shakespeare’s genius for storytelling, musicality of language, and empathy for the human condition. Under the leadership of Artistic Director Barbara Gaines and Executive Director Criss Henderson, Chicago Shakespeare has redefined what a great American Shakespeare theater can be, putting forward a company that delights in the unexpected and defies theatrical category. A Regional Tony Award winner, the Theater produces acclaimed plays at its home on Navy Pier, throughout Chicago’s schools and neighborhoods, and on stages around the world. In 2017, the Theater unveiled a new stage, The Yard at Chicago Shakespeare. Together with the Jentes Family Courtyard Theater and the Thoma Theater Upstairs at Chicago Shakespeare, The Yard positions Chicago Shakespeare as the city’s most versatile performing arts venue.