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The Great Fire: A Traveling Truck Show

A travelling variety act contains more hilarity than history.

The Great Chicago Fire: A Traveling Truck Show

When interdisciplinary artist Kayce Bayer rolls her 16-foot rental lift-gate vehicle-meets-stage The Great Fire: A Traveling Truck Show into a nabe near you, do not expect a reenactment of the 1871 tragedy.

“The name may be misleading,” admits Bayer. “We open with an animation about the Fire and proceed with feeding audiences a little scripted history on each neighborhood. This is meant to be wacky and eccentric. It’s also to honor the Fire and early American traveling medicine shows, which occurred at harvest season.”

A few years ago, Bayer and her sculptor husband, Chris Lin, received good feedback from a similar pop-up installation at Hyde Park’s Op Shop. They decided to set their sights on a larger-scale show, enlisting storytellers, musicians and local artists as featured sideshow acts. Most are solid performers and aren’t as wacky as Bayer thinks, with the exception of the guy who sings from his throat like Froggy from the Little Rascals.

Tim the Mind Bender performs an impressive magic trick, increasing six one-dollar bills to more than $200. Unassuming classical tenor Mark Piekarz sings a Polish ditty, and belly dancer Phaedra’s hip-swiveling usually gets loud applause, mostly from the cast, though several residents come out on their porches to take in the spectacle.

Bayer is optimistic about the reception. “I’m happy to be able to bring performance art to the people. I’ll consider the show a success if I can keep the audience engaged.” Mon 8 marks the 141st anniversary of the Great Chicago Fire. Catch the Great Fire Traveling Truck Show (travelingtruckshow.org) in Logan Square (Sat 6), Lakeview (Oct 13), West Town (Oct 20) and Pilsen (Oct 26). Sideshow 4pm, stage show 5pm; free.

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