ECC slate includes John Lithgow, Klingon Christmas
By Annie Alleman For Sun-Times Media July 29, 2013 3:02PM
"A Klingon Christmas Carol" produced in Chicago by Commedia Beauregard. | Submitted photo
ECC Performing Arts Season
♦ Elgin Community College Arts Center
♦ Building H, 1700 Spartan Drive, Elgin
♦ (847) 622-0300
Updated: July 31, 2013 10:48AM
Comedians, dinosaurs and Klingons will all be a part of Elgin Community College’s upcoming Performing Arts season.
Single tickets go on sale Aug. 1 for the 20th season of the Elgin Community College performing arts center.
Director Steve Duchrow is particularly excited about this year, especially after four years of record and near-record selling seasons.
His goal is when scheduling artists is booking someone that’s going to grab everybody’s attention, be they performing on a street corner or bar room or stage in front of 2,000 people, he said.
“We’ve been working with the Do Art Differently concept, that I think is really audience-centric,” he said. “So we try to make it artist-centric and audience-centric, where in most cases you have a venue that is totally focused on the artistic product. It certainly starts here with us, but it also starts with the audience. That’s why there are the reasonable ticket prices, the dinners with our culinary school; we’ve tried to throw in surprise bands in the lobby, and our $5 thank-you party has been a big hit. Our ticket fees are $1 a ticket, not $7 a ticket. We allow people to vote on our artists. All that stuff is audience-centric. A season ends like this because audiences respond.”
Certain events during the season feature an optional meal created by ECC’s Culinary Arts and Hospitality students.
He’s excited about several artists this season. Take season opener Tommy Emmanuel on Sept. 18, whom he has been trying to book for years.
“If you like any stringed instrument, this is the guy to see,” he said. “Tommy Emmanuel is one of the all-time brilliant players of guitar. He stands up there by himself and commands an audience for two hours.”
Marc Cohn on Sept. 29 is another musician he’s excited to see, as Cohn will be touring with his latest record, “The Listening Booth,” on which takes groups from the 1970s and gives them a new millennium shine.
“In the old days of vinyl and record stores, people could go into listening booths and preview a record,” Duchrow said.
Singer Lizz Wright is another vocal powerhouse he thinks patrons will enjoy Oct. 26.
The face of the new season has to be award-winning actor John Lithgow on Nov. 2.
“I’ve been trying to get John for three years. Finally we were able to make it work,” Duchrow said. “He’s one of the classic faces and voices of the American screen. I think it if he were to read out of the dictionary, I’d be happy. But he’s got this great show, ‘Stories By Heart,’ in which tells his stories … that he brings to life by doing 12 different characters. People are going to be treated to a real lesson in acting and characterization.”
Elsewhere in theater, The American Place Theater is returning with “The Things They Carried” Sept. 28, part of The Big Read program.
“We’re partnering with about 20 to 30 organizations … to have everybody read that book about Vietnam,” he said. “Then we’re bringing the theater company in for a week, and people are seeing about 15 different workshops then a final performance and a mock-up of the Vietnam Wall. The traveling wall is going to be here. Adults are going to be reading this book, book discussion groups are going to be reading and discussing this book, little children are going to be reading a book that’s related to it. So that’s a pretty exciting thing that happens at the end of September.”
“Cocktails With Larry Miller” returns Oct. 12 with special guest Jake Johannsen.
“Larry is one of the funnier guys I’ve ever seen,” Duchrow said. “He’s quick-witted, a good writer, and his comic timing is brilliant.”
Finally, there is “Broadway’s Next Hit Musical” on Feb. 1. It is a show that consists of several musical improvisers that take suggestions from the audiences.
“They take the best songs and make an entire musical in 20 minutes,” he said. “It’s sort of like Second City meets ‘Whose Line is it Anyway.’”
Naturally, ECC would be remiss if the 20th season didn’t have a giant T-Rex, he said. “Erth’s Dinosaur Zoo” will make a stop at ECC April 1 and 2 and features lifelike prehistoric creatures, from cute baby dinos to fearsome T-rexes.
But perhaps the most unusual show on the slate is “A Klingon Christmas Carol” Dec. 7 presented by Commedia Beauregard. Based on Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol,” it’s performed entirely in Klingon with English subtitles and has a Vulcan narrator.
“The guy who wrote the Klingon language for ‘Star Trek’ has, I believe, seen the show and endorsed the show. Obviously, they are using the language he created,” Duchrow said. “As I talked with the director, it was amazing how they worked through it. They had to learn everything in English, then they had to learn it in Klingon, then they had to block it. It is a very labor-intensive show because people had to learn a whole new language.”
The slate includes up and coming artists like Motown act Naturally 7 on Feb. 5 and bluegrass duo Milk Carton Kids on Nov. 9.
“These are people you haven’t heard of now, but you have a likelihood of hearing them in the future at much bigger venues,” he said. “I do think the Milk Carton Kids — they’ve got it. They’ve got that Simon and Garfunkel kind of chemistry. And Dala — we have Dala back every other year and I do think the two women of Dala are two of the finest songwriters and have vocal harmony that is on the level of probably the top five artists that ever performed in the rock contemporary world. They’ve got something special you don’t hear in other places.”
He hopes that people give the ECC a chance this season because of the superior artistic talent, he said, but also for a first-class experience.
“We try to honor our patrons in such a way that we don’t take advantage of them. We don’t charge for parking and we don’t hit them with really heavy box office fees. It’s an experience you get; it’s not just a show.”
Other acts this season include American Grands XIX Jan. 25, American English performing “The Beatles on the Ed Sullivan Show” Feb. 8; and a night of Americana music on Feb. 15 with a triple bill of Corky Siegel’s Chamber Blues, Michael J. Miles and Sons of the Never Wrong.