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“I’d really like this to be an incubator that’s free of all the formalities and pressures of a full production,” Jane Beachy says of SALONATHON, the new weekly arts series she launched last month at Beauty Bar.
In its first month, the Monday-night series, which Beachy produces and hosts, has featured acts ranging from eccentric performance unit DoubleDJ (a.k.a. theater artists Dan Stermer, Donnell Williams and Jessica Hudson) to peculiar bouffon troupe Les Enfants Terrible to playwright Ike Holter reading from his work-in-progress Hit the Wall, set to premiere next year as part of Steppenwolf’s Garage Rep.
One recent evening was given over to a slate of Chicago Underground Film Festival artistic director Bryan Wendorf’s favorite shorts, while the most recent SALONATHON had performance-scene gadabouts Jyldo and DJ BoyWonder hosting a hip-hop square-dancing party. Other participants, Beachy says, have included “my roommate, a couple of guys who work at a restaurant with a friend, and a variety of other folks who in no way have a regular performance persona.”
Beachy, who served until recently as the marketing director for About Face Theatre, says “there are so, so many performers in Chicago devising small pieces for their basements, attics, backyards, what-have-you.… SALONATHON is an attempt to give those pieces a home.”
Starting this week, the evening adds a new regular feature called “If You See Something, Say Something,” collecting stories and reenactments of CTA moments. “These can be portrayed by actors that we’ll have on hand, or people can submit their own performances as well,” Beachy says. (Submissions and other performance proposals can be sent to email@example.com.)
Though its DJ-fueled club aesthetic sets it apart, SALONATHON joins a growing menu of regularly scheduled performance samplers. Here are a few more of our favorites:
Writer Claire Zulkey, a WBEZ and A.V. Club contributor, hosts this quarterly-ish reading series at the Hideout, featuring authors, journalists, filmmakers and comedians all making with the funny. The most recent outing on August 2 sported a lineup that included Chicago Tribune advice columnist Amy Dickinson, Comedy Central blogger Dennis DiClaudio and shorts by filmmaker Joe Avella.
The Paper Machete
Since January 2010, former TOC Theater editor Christopher Piatt has curated and hosted this free Saturday-afternoon “salon in a saloon.” The show brings together journalists, theater artists, authors, comedians, musicians and other bon vivants at North Center’s Horseshoe to hold forth on the news of the day. Some of the Machete’s higher-profile recent guests include Michael Shannon, Eight Forty-Eight host Alison Cuddy, SNL player Paul Brittain and 47th Ward Ald. Ameya Pawar.
The Plagiarists Salons
Every month since June 2009, the theater company the Plagiarists has invited another arts group to curate a barroom evening of performance and conversation at the Black Rock Pub. This year’s programmers have included New Leaf Theatre, Suitcase Shakespeare Company, the creators of the Web series Crash Pad and the all-female physical-theater troupe the Harlotry and Necromancy Appreciation Society.
Shits and Giggles
This popular “queer cabaret and dance party” at Rogers Park’s Parlour, hosted by Trandroid (the alter ego of producer A.J. Durand), has featured performers such as Impress These Apes champ Kristen Studard and Annoyance regular Steve Hnilicka. It recently shifted from monthly to quarterly; the next installment is September 21.
The theme of Monday 22’s SALONATHON is “covers.”