Arts & Culture » Culture Club

CTA to Ban Busses?/Steppenwolf Has Seats to Fill/Beau Jest Heading for NY?/Mating Dance on North Broadway/Actors Into Act at Body Politic/Moroccan Rolls Onto Halsted Street

Warning: The practices depicted in this artwork are not condoned, approved of, or engaged in by the board members or employees of the Chicago Transit Authority, at least insofar as they are willing to admit.



CTA to Ban Busses?

Can CTA patrons stand to ride in the same buses with graphic depictions of homosexual kissing? We may soon find out. The latest skirmish in the public-art wars will come to a head early next month, when more than 30 works will go up on approximately 1,500 billboards, buses, and subway platforms citywide as part of the national Art Against AIDS campaign. The pieces, intended to "explore the ever-deepening concerns of contemporary artists in the face of the devastation wrought by AIDS," were created by artists such as John Baldessari, Cindy Sherman, Ed Paschke, and the late Keith Haring and Robert Mapplethorpe. But the work likely to attract the most attention and debate is a bus panel by Gran Fury titled Kissing Doesn't Kill. The poster depicts three couples--man-woman, man-man, and woman-woman--kissing each other mouth-mouth. The unabashedly graphic images are presented with a tag line stating "Kissing Doesn't Kill: Greed and Indifference Do." Early last week Annie Philbin, the New York-based director of the Art Against AIDS public exhibition, was proud to note that the Chicago Transit Authority had agreed to display the Fury poster despite its potential for controversy, "We were worried that we wouldn't get the Fury piece up in Chicago, she said, "but in the end the transit authority decided to go ahead with it. The CTA is being very brave."

But not quite as brave as Philbin thought. Late last week she heard the CTA was demanding a disclaimer be put on the posters before they went public. She explained to the CTA that that would be impossible because the posters already were printed and en route to Chicago. Using contacts on the CTA board of directors, Philbin went into action last week to get the CTA's demand reversed. As we went to press, she was still waiting to find out if the posters would go up as printed. Philbin isn't new to this kind of thing. She failed to get the same poster displayed in Washington, D.C., earlier this spring. "This always happens, at the last minute," she says.

Steppenwolf Has Seats to Fill

The Steppenwolf Theatre Company, preparing to move into its new home on Halsted Street next spring (after doing the first part of its season at the Apollo Theater on Lincoln), now faces the need to increase its subscriber base to fill the extra seats it will have at its disposal. Toward that end, Steppenwolf is mailing out a subscription brochure that departs markedly from recent company policy, actually naming the first two productions the company expects to mount next season: David Hare's The Secret Rapture and the classic comedy Harvey. In recent years Steppenwolf has often avoided announcing specific plays until just a few weeks before rehearsals were to begin, usually because of uncertainties about what ensemble members would be available for any particular show. But that policy no longer will work given the demands of a larger theater. With the new programming approach Steppenwolf hopes to increase its subscriber base to around 16,000 from the current 13,000, though staffers concede it will be tough reaching that goal quickly.

Beau Jest Heading for NY?

Beau Jest, the James Sherman comedy that originated at the Victory Gardens and continues to run at the Halsted Theatre Center, may be a prospect for off-Broadway production now that New York-based producer Arthur Cantor has bought an option on the work. But savvy observers aren't holding their breaths. This is the same Arthur Cantor who several years ago optioned Summer Stock Murders, a campy musical whodunit that enjoyed a long run at the Theatre Building. That show never made it to New York, so Beau Jest's Chicago producers are taking a wait-see attitude.

Mating Dance on North Broadway

Torso Theatre Company is doing its share to improve the New Town neighborhood. The company has taken over a former second-floor adult bookstore at 2827 N. Broadway and transformed it into a cozy 80-seat theater where the troupe next week opens a sexual thriller by James F. Engelhardt called The Mating Dance. Torso is hoping for a big hit with this piece, which spokesman Jim Casey says has been optioned by Orion Pictures. The troupe has a one-year lease on the new space, with an option to extend it for three more years.

Actors Into Act at Body Politic

As the Body Politic Theatre saga continues to evolve, word comes that the company's acting ensemble has put forth a proposal that the board of directors is seriously considering. Worried that a new artistic director might opt to dissolve the ensemble and cast each show by open call, a group of ensemble members has proposed the creation of an artistic committee of three that would work with producing director Nan Charbonneau. That committee, sources say, would comprise ensemble members James McCance, Joe Sadowski, and Donald Brearley. None of the committee members would serve in a full-time capacity, which means that much of the decision-making power would remain in Charbonneau's hands. Sources also say that Tom Stoppard's pretentious piece Artist Descending a Staircase is under consideration as the first play of the 1990-'91 Body Politic season. The play opened and closed quite promptly this season in New York.

Moroccan Rolls Onto Halsted Street

North Halsted Street's culinary diversity just got a little more diverse with the arrival of chef Abdellatif Baatile, formerly of Marrakech, Morocco. Chef Abdu, as he likes to call himself, is the proprietor of the Taste of Morocco at 3255 N. Halsted. Taste of Morocco is, in fact, the transplanted reincarnation of La Menara at 4904 N. Pulaski. Chef Abdu said he moved closer to the lakefront because that's where much of his younger clientele resides. And he changed the restaurant's name because too many people mistakenly presumed his eatery was Spanish or Italian. As theyll now discover, the cuisine and ambience are definitely Moroccan: couscous, kabobs, lentils, and belly dancers on the weekends.

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