I began hosting events like Salonathon many years ago in my unfinished basement in Seattle," Jane Beachy wrote recently, in a curatorial statement explaining the origins of her Monday-night performance series.
"Frustrated by the feeling that my own creative impulses as well as those of the hilarious, talented, and fascinating people around me were being thwarted by practical concerns, I built a ramshackle theatre out of mismatched chairs and some wicker blinds. . . . I asked my roommates to let me have a huge party, and then we invited everyone we knew into our basement."
She was, she continued, "Peter Brooking it"—a reference to the Brit director for whom the essence of theater is an empty space, an action, and someone to bear witness—"but with a little more of a punk attitude and a lot more Pabst Blue Ribbon."
Beachy took the concept with her as she moved around the country, ultimately starting the actual Salonathon here in Chicago. A variety show dedicated to "underground, emerging, and genre-defying art," it's been happening since 2011 at Beauty Bar.
And that's where a special five-year anniversary edition convenes Monday, starting at 8 PM (with a dance party after).
Beachy says by e-mail that she and cocurators Bindu Poroori, Joe Varisco, and Will Von Vogt tried to line up the "perfect balance of artists who have been with us since the very beginning, artists who have really knocked our socks off this past year, artists who represent the wonderful diversity of our communities, and artists who represent (or defy?) different creative genres."
Sure enough, the 16-act roster covers a lot of territory, from burlesque (Erin Kilmurray, Jeez Loueez) to poetry (Bea Cordelia, Raul Alvarez), tongue-in-cheek Andrews Sisters-style close harmony (Babe-alon 5) to postgender dance (Darling Shear) and queer comedy (Tien Tran). A probable highlight: an excerpt from Moon.stone, a "visual song cycle" currently under construction by the gifted Alexa Græ, who calls Salonathon her "church." v