Solopalooza | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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At first glance Seattle-based performance artist David Schmader is doing what countless other monologuists across the country do these days: telling painful autobiographical stories to total strangers and calling it art. Schmader's stories detail his experiences as a gay man in America--his first sexual encounters, crushes on pop stars, bathhouse liaisons, the games he plays to "pass" in straight society, that sort of thing. And he does it very well: he's so open and likable you want him to reveal more. But Schmader does the masters of the confessional monologue (like Spalding Gray) one better by yoking the form to an older, more literary tradition, that of the personal essay, which makes private experience a springboard to broader issues. In Letter to Axl Schmader uses his autobiographical stories and his obsession with the notoriously homophobic, misogynistic, chemically dependent rock star Axl Rose as a way of examining homophobia, masculinity, and the scary power of the mass media to inspire unrequited love in millions of people. Schmader performs on the first weekend of the three-week festival "Solopalooza" with Chicagoans Jennifer Marx and David Isaacson (see listing for details). Splinter Group Studio, 1937 W. Division, 342-7656. Opens Thursday, February 9, 8 PM. Through February 25: Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 PM. $10; $24 for a festival pass.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Photo/Eric Randolph.

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