PAC/edge Performance Festival | Festival | Chicago Reader

Arts & Culture » Festival

PAC/edge Performance Festival

Sign up for our newsletters Subscribe


This "convergence of Chicago artists," presented by Performing Arts Chicago and the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, runs weekends through April 18. The avant-garde showcase features presentations by some of the city's most adventurous artists working in the disciplines of theater, performance, circus arts, storytelling, dance, music, video, and sound and installation art. Participants include Plasticene, Local Infinities, A Red Orchid Theatre, Sheldon B. Smith, 500 Clown, Mathew Wilson, Lucky Pierre, Goat Island, David Kodeski, Mad Shak Dance Company, Connor Kalista, the Walkabout Theater Company, Carol Genetti, the Bumblinni Brothers, and the Curious Theatre Branch.

All activities take place at the Athenaeum Theatre, 2936 N. Southport; the sprawling arts complex hosts often simultaneous performances and installations on its main and studio stages and in offices, lounges, hallways, stairwells, and other spaces. The principal performance venues are the first-floor main stage and Studio 1; Studio 2 and Studio 3 on the second and third floors respectively; and the main-stage balcony lobby on the second floor in the rear of the building. (The second- and third-floor spaces must be reached by stairs.) The fest also offers workshops and panels with participating artists as shown below.

Prices for most events range from $5 to $20, though workshops generally cost more and some events and installations are free; see listings for details. For tickets and more information, and to register for workshops, call Performing Arts Chicago at 773-722-5463. Tickets can also be purchased through Ticketmaster by calling 312-902-1500 or logging on to

Following is the schedule through March 28; a complete schedule is available online at


The Surrender Office

Conceptual artist Mathew Wilson will, according to a press release, "be available for a confidential, one-on-one consultation regarding the client's need to surrender to any person, object or idea. . . . At a mutually ageed upon time and place, Mr. Wilson will surrender on your behalf, wielding a large white flag and noble demeanor." Wilson's stated goal is to remain "earnest in the face of the ridiculous." Yet his task can be tinged with profundity. Wilson admits that in this piece he's a cross between a two-bit private eye and a third-rate psychoanalyst, yet his symbolic act has the potential to yield genuine results. (JHa) Coat check room, 7-10 PM. Free. Wilson and collaborator Adam Brooks will also team up for a weekly stunt on the streets--dates and times to be posted online at Free.

The Usual Haunts

See review in this section. Main lobby, 7-10 PM. Free.

My Name Is Mudd

Playwright-director Shawn Prakash Reddy has fine-tuned his gloriously profane send-up of historical reenactments, premiered last fall at the Rhinoceros Theater Festival. Fortunately he's kept the excellent ensemble and general approach, putting forth speculative half-truths and fabricating outrageous lies about John Wilkes Booth's assassination of Abraham Lincoln. Reddy proves there's an awful lot of wiggle room when it comes to history, which can easily be distorted to serve any agenda. Anchored by Guy Massey's acid portrayal of Booth as a preening ham, the cast of this Curious Theatre Branch production gleefully delivers Reddy's raucous slide show/lecture/sucker punch to the entire American educational system. (NG) Studio 1, 7:30 PM. $15.

500 Clown Frankenstein

See Critic's Choice. Studio 3, 7:30 PM. $15.

Edge of Allegiance

Swedish immigrant Malin Lindelow explores her cross-cultural identity in this linguistic examination of the pledge of allegiance. Lobby studio, 8 and 10 PM. $15.


Morganville--Trevor Martin and Kym Olsen--draws on Robert Louis Stevenson's The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and other fictional and factual 19th-century psychological case studies to explore trauma and hysterical memory. Studio 2, 8 PM. $15.


See review in this section. Studio 3, 9:30 PM. $15.

Windows Server 2003/Active Directory Infrastructure

This new piece by the experimental theater company DOG attempts to translate into theatrical form an actual Microsoft program, Active Directory, that allows a network of computers to communicate with one another. The performers are subtle and sophisticated, but they exhibit a maniacal need to entertain--even when nothing entertaining is at hand. They spend most of their time trying to charm the audience into not noticing that they have little to do. The humor that results, built around a center left intentionally empty, is most satisfying when the show seems least concerned with its purported subject. What matters is that five unsettled and unsettling people in a tiny space are interacting with the explosive, unforced joy of a virtuoso clown routine. But the show falters when it takes a literal approach; Windows Server 2003 doesn't give the mind much room to wander, pinning down meaning rather than opening it up. Though this skilled ensemble is enjoyable in itself, the evening promises more than it delivers. (JHa) Studio 1, 10 PM. $15.

Lot's Wife

This new hour-long work by Local Infinities has precious few evocative moments. The performance utilizes salt--spilling out of pockets, dumped from a suitcase, even raining from the ceiling in a delicate white sheet. But the journey the performers take through this salty landscape seems aimless. Their gestures feel random and empty because they don't create meaningful characters or genuine relationships. The salt piles up but significance doesn't. (JHa) Studio 2, 10 PM. $15.

In the Solitude of Cotton Fields

A Red Orchid Theatre remounts its 2003 staging of French playwright Bernard-Marie Koltes' 1986 existential drama, in which two men--the Dealer and the Client--meet at "the hour when, ordinarily, man and beast are falling savagely one upon another." In this taut, mystifying, and deadly difficult work, the characters trade dense poetic monologues for 75 minutes, dissecting the indeterminacy of human desire. While the playwright's fascination with the dealer-client relationship seems at times more obstinate than evocative, his images are tantalizing, and his unsparing approach fascinates. Director Dexter Bullard avoids all gimmicks in this bare-bones production, letting the play proceed on its own maddeningly secretive terms. (JHa) Main-stage balcony lobby, 10 PM. $15.


Lucky Pierre Workshop

The troupe takes participants through the process of creating a performance piece in a two-part workshop today and tomorrow. Studio 1, 1-4 PM. $40 for both sessions.

Taking Risks

This workshop by 500 Clown urges participants to expose themselves to a "true experience" onstage. Studio 3, 1-5 PM. $50; $80 for workshop and the group's upcoming workshop "Relationships in Clown Theatre."

Down in the New Chair

Beau O'Reilly directs fellow Curious Theatre Branch members in short plays penned by students in the School of the Art Institute's writing program. Studio 2, 4:30 PM. $5.

Marketing New Work to the Public

Festival publicist Carol Fox leads a group discussion on building audiences for challenging work. Studio 1, 5 PM. Free.

The Surrender Office

See listing for Friday, March 26. Coat check room, 7-10 PM. Free.

The Usual Haunts

See review in this section. Main lobby, 7-10 PM. Free.


This multimedia performance piece by GirlCharlie is centered on Charlie Levin's wax paintings. Lobby studio, 7:30 and 10 PM. $15.

Windows Server 2003/Active Directory Infrastructure

See listing for Friday, March 26. Studio 1, 7:30 PM. $15.

Air Tact Light

Logic conspires to make director Brian Torrey Scott's new performance piece, created by the ensemble on the basis of a framework he devised, as deadeningly formalistic as a John Cage work. Air Tact Light gains life only when the performers briefly and seemingly accidentally escape from Scott's elegantly conceived but cold Pirandellian prison. Wordless scenes that require the six performers to shuffle chairs around the stage make up the first part of the show; later scenes with dialogue involve guns and police officers, giving the piece a violent edge. Scott drags a chair from the audience down to the edge of the stage midway through and inserts himself into the proceedings, whispering stage directions to the ensemble and effectively alienating the audience completely. Scott seems to have a strong visual sense: this hour-long piece might have worked better as an installation. Balled up in Scott's iron fist, this airless, precious piece feels like a cheat. (NG) Studio 2, 8 PM. $15.


See review in this section. Studio 3, 8 PM. $15.

The Angel in Moloch

Free Street uses spoken word, hip-hop, and video in its exploration of Allen Ginsberg's Howl. Studio 1, 9:30 PM. $15.


See listing for Friday, March 26. Studio 2, 10 PM. $15.

500 Clown Frankenstein

See Critic's Choice. Studio 3, 10 PM. $15.

In the Solitude of Cotton Fields

See listing for Friday, March 26. Main-stage balcony lobby, 10 PM. $15.


Lucky Pierre Workshop

See listing for Saturday, March 27. Studio 1, 11 AM-2 PM.

Material, Metaphor, and Myth This two-session workshop by Local Infinities explores the transformation of ordinary objects into metaphor. Participants should "come prepared to move and get a little dirty." Studio 3, 11 AM-2 PM. $40 for both sessions (the second part takes place Sunday, April 4).

Down in the New Chair

See listing for Saturday, March 27. Studio 2, 1 PM. $5.

The Surrender Office

See listing for Friday, March 26. Coat check room, 3-6 PM. Free.

The Usual Haunts

See review in this section. Main lobby, 3-6 PM. Free.

Windows Server 2003/Active Directory Infrastructure

See listing for Friday, March 26. Studio 1, 3:30 PM. $15.

Head Poison

Plasticene's 2001 physical-theater piece is seen on video. Structured like a comedy revue, with a series of overlapping sketch-length scenes, Head Poison is very funny. It takes a while for the humor to sink in because it takes almost half the show to figure out that we're watching a comedy. And it's thrilling to see order come out of what looked like chaos. (JHe) Studio 2, 3:30 PM. Free.

500 Clown Frankenstein

See Critic's Choice. Studio 3, 3:30 PM. $15.


See listing for Saturday, March 27. Lobby studio, 4 PM. $15.

My Name Is Mudd

See listing for Friday, March 26. Studio 1, 6 PM. $15.

Lot's Wife

See listing for Friday, March 26. Studio 2, 6 PM. $15.


See review in this section. Studio 3, 6 PM. $15.

In the Solitude of Cotton Fields

See listing for Friday, March 26. Main-stage balcony lobby, 6 PM. $15.

New Sound Works

This showcase of new compositions by graduate students at the School of the Art Institute features "a duet for two televisions." Studio 1, 9 PM. $10.


Good and Bad Things Come From Explosions

Heather Hubbs and Lorelei Stewart curated this showing of 15 Chicago-area visual artists. Throughout the Athenaeum, ongoing during festival hours. Free. There'll be a free tour of the installation on Saturday, March 27, at 5 PM.

Handle With Care: Direct Mail and the American Dream

This installation by GirlCharlie uses direct mail from sweepstakes and political groups to "immerse spectators in the language of hate, fear, and greed." Second floor, ongoing during festival hours. Free.

Mossans Saga (The Moss' Tale)

Participants can put on a moss hat with speakers to interact with "an oversized fairytale book" in this installation by Swedish artist Malin Lindelow. Curtain Call Club, first floor, ongoing during festival hours. Free.


Malin Lindelow invokes the skogsra--a dangerous figure from Swedish folklore with the body of a woman and the tail of a beast--in this video installation. Curtain Call Club, first floor, ongoing during festival hours. Free.

Sodium Chloride

Local Infinities' visual installation serves as a companion piece to their Lot's Wife (see listing for Friday, March 26). Second floor, ongoing during festival hours. Free.

Unmaking the World: Measuring Our Chances Again

Artists Dolores Wilber, Wholesale Chicago, and Donald Lambert use globes, weather balloons, circus imagery, and a grand piano in this visual installation that examines "the political and ecological events threatening to unravel our civilization." Stairwell and second-floor balcony, ongoing during festival hours. Free. "Performance responses" to this installation take place Friday-Saturday, March 26-27, in the second-floor balcony foyer. On Friday at 7 PM, DePaul University ecologist Liam Heneghan reads from his essay "Environmental Consequences of Leaving Home"; on Friday and Saturday at 7 and 9 PM, Douglas Grew performs a wandering homage to both Sally Rand's Bubble Dance and Charlie Chaplin's globe dance in The Great Dictator. These events are free.


Sandra Binion's video installation forms a diptych, using images of water and fragments of conversations between men and women to explore the tension between intimacy and public space. Men's and women's restrooms, ongoing during festival hours. Free.

Support Independent Chicago Journalism: Join the Reader Revolution

We speak Chicago to Chicagoans, but we couldn’t do it without your help. Every dollar you give helps us continue to explore and report on the diverse happenings of our city. Our reporters scour Chicago in search of what’s new, what’s now, and what’s next. Stay connected to our city’s pulse by joining the Reader Revolution.

Are you in?

  Reader Revolutionary $35/month →  
  Rabble Rouser $25/month →  
  Reader Radical $15/month →  
  Reader Rebel  $5/month  → 

Not ready to commit? Send us what you can!

 One-time donation  →