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Lester Bangs, Strawdog and Neo-Futurists coming to Steppenwolf’s 1700 Theatre

Written by
Kris Vire

Steppenwolf Theatre Company has revealed the summer slate for LookOut, the company’s interdisciplinary performance series, including a solo play about the rock critic Lester Bangs, a new Robert O’Hara play produced by Strawdog Theatre Company and a visit from the Neo-Futurists’s new flagship show.

How to Be a Rock Critic (Based on the Writings of Lester Bangs) is a piece by documentary theatermakers Jessica Blank and Erik Jensen (best known for The Exonerated, about wrongly convicted death-row inmates). As the title suggests, it uses Bangs’s own writing to construct a portrait of his outsize personality, embodied by Jensen. The play had a 2015 run at Los Angeles’s Kirk Douglas Theatre, prompting Bangs’s old pub Rolling Stone to write that “Jensen brought Bangs back to life, right down to the mustache and the DETROIT SUCKS T-shirt: hectoring, joking, lecturing, fumbling towards a state of grace.” How to Be a Rock Critic comes to Steppenwolf’s 1700 Theatre July 6 to 22. Evening performances are followed by musical sets, including rock critic and Bangs biographer Jim DeRogatis leading the Lester Bangs Memorial Tribute Band from July 13 to 15.

Strawdog will stage the Chicago premiere of Barbecue, a 2015 comedy about an intervention at a family picnic (from the author of Bootycandy, this makes perfect sense). The hinge here is that scenes alternate between two families, one white and the other black but all with the same names—and that’s not even the big twist. Damon Kiely will direct Strawdog’s production, opening August 17.

The Neo-Futurists will kick off the summer programming with two fully accessible performances of their new Too Much Light replacement, The Infinite Wrench, June 2 and 3. (For all of the Neo-Futurarium’s quirky charms, accessible it is not.) Other highlights of the 1700 slate include the return of the storytelling show You’re Being Ridiculous with three LGBTQ Pride Month shows on June 7, 14 and 21, a two-night musical stint by actor and singer Bethany Thomas June 16 and 17, and a workshop reading of a new play by Isaac Gomez, La Ruta, on June 22. And in an early warning for the fall, Lucky Plush Productions is set to premiere its new dance-theater work Rooming House, created by Julia Rhoads and Leslie Buxbaum Danzig, in the 1700 Theatre in November. Check out the complete schedule below.

The Neo-Futurists present The Infinite Wrench
June 2, 3 at 7pm; $15

You’re Being Ridiculous: PRIDE
June 7, 14 and 21 at 8pm; $20

The Dilettantes present: Science Night
June 9, 10 at 8pm; $10

SHADE: An ACTUALLY Diverse Comedy Show
June 15 at 8pm; $20

An Evening with Bethany Thomas
June 16, 17 at 8pm; $20

Erik & Jessie and Everyone You Know Variety Show
June 19 at 7:30pm; $15

SCOUT presents a reading of La Ruta
June 22 at 7pm; free, reservations required

An Evening with the Fergus Daly Band and the Lonely Belles
June 24 at 8pm; $10

WERKSHOP featuring music from Erick Deshaun Dorris
June 26 at 7:30pm; $15

How to Be a Rock Critic (Based on the Writings of Lester Bangs)
July 6–22; $30

WE HERE: Growing Concerns Poetry Collective record release
Aug 4, 5 at 9pm; $20

Strawdog Theatre Company presents Barbecue
Starts Aug 17; $TBD

Lucky Plush Productions presents Rooming House
Nov 4–19; $TBD

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