When Leigh Jones ran Club Lower Links in the late 80s, there was something happening every night of the week at the cozy basement cabaret; when you walked in the door you didn't know if you'd see a DJ, Cheryl Trykv, Richard Hell, or the NRG Ensemble.
She sold the business in 1992, then spent a couple of years managing a band, the Texas Rubies, and tried to put together a performance series at Smart Bar, but that went nowhere. She worked a series of "nonresponsible types of jobs" at places like Copy Max, Earwax, and HotHouse, but eventually landed a gig as the producer and director of the Chicago Jazz Ensemble. She also produced a few shows for some of her old performance-art pals from Lower Links, including an elaborate 1995 performance by Robert Metrick at Chicago Filmmakers.
Jones quit the jazz ensemble last year, and now she and her husband, Chip Roach, are trying to raise funds for a feature-length film about bluegrass legend Bill Monroe. Jones has also teamed up with New York filmmaker Paul Marcus to make a series of short films about local performance artists. The first, a collaboration with Matthew Owens, is in the editing stage; the next will feature Paula Killen, another Club Lower Links old-timer.
Jones has continued to produce shows for a select group of performance artists, including Dolores Wilber and Lawrence Steger. That involves making phone calls, sending out mailings, finding musicians and crews, "discussing the work a little bit with the artist and doing whatever it takes to make it happen."
For the past two years Jones has helped produce Joan Dickinson's outdoor performances at her McHenry County farm. At her first show, Dickinson led the audience to the top of a knoll, where she used the sunset and moonrise as a backdrop. The new one, The Architecture of Honey, features a cast of 14 and examines the life of her Danish great-grandmother and our connections with the past. "I think her work is so beautiful," says Jones. "One thing I like about a lot of the performers I work with is that visually I think they're amazing, and you can peel more and more layers away and get more meaning out of what they're doing.
"It's a strange thing to enjoy, but I do," she says. "I love being able to help people make their art and take away some of that stuff for them so they actually have more time to create the piece."
Dickinson will perform The Architecture of Honey on Saturday at 6:30 at her farm in McHenry County. The bus leaves at 4:30 from the old Randolph Street Gallery building, 756 N. Milwaukee; those who wish to drive should meet there for directions. Admission is $15, $10 for students, plus $2 for the bus. Call 773-506-1375 for reservations. --Cara Jepsen
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo by Dorothy Perry.