October's arts offerings speak to the season. We see members of Dance at Illinois and Illinois Theatre to harvest what they have learned and witnessed. Altered and inspired by the ongoing pandemics of COVID, and LGBTQ+A and racial injustice and inequity, they present new works, many in process, that bring untold stories and points of view to life. There is art that investigates what we see when we look out in the world and look within. And there is the return of the in-person Small Press Fest, which offers an expanded and wide-ranging bill, that, to borrow from from the seasonal lingo, is chock-full of treats. 


Looking in, Loooking Out


Image (cropped) from the CU Comrades in Art Facebook page.

CU Comrades in Art has launched their first in-person show since the COVID shutdown. As its name suggests, the work speaks to how these artists have experienced the outside world, as well as their interior landscapes, during pandemic life. Melinda McIntosh, the plein air painter who is no stranger to the Smile Politely arts section, has recently joined the ranks of the Comrades showing here, including Debra Bogla, Beth Chascoo, Sarah Marjanovic, Donna Monfort, Pat Baron Monigold, Lynn Hawkinson Smith, Sara Taber, and Martha Willi.

Looking in, Looking out
CU Comrades in Art
October 4th through November 13th
Art Coop Gallery
150 Lincoln Square Mall, Urbana
Gallery hours: Monday through Friday: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Saturday: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. 

The Redline Collection


Photo from the KCPA Facebook page.

Redline Collection, written by , a 2010 Illinois graduate Kristen Joy Bjorge and directed by Illinois Theatre faculty member Robert G. Andersoon, represents Illinois' Theatre's "new paradigm... one that lies outside the typical American theatrical canon and shares the creative process of theatre-making while highlighting joyful, compelling, and even family-friendly selections in the season ahead." Bjorge, an "emerging playwright who is writing a play for every decade of the 20th century queer female experience," offers Redline Collection both as a performance and as a "weeklong workshop," where the playwright "hears their words, working with directors and actors to refine and develop story line, character, and more."

According to dramaturg Mariana Seda, Redline Collection, explores "the lives of four young queer women living, working, and finding love in Chicago. "As they reach for their dreams and begin to find success and community, they are also confronoted with the urgency of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, and the consequences of speaking their truths." As Seda reminds us, "it is impossible to ignore the parallels with the current COVID-19 pandemic that hit nearly 40 years after the start of the HIV/AIDS epidemic; how political and public denial slowed progress and fueled misinformation; how companies, media, and even daily conversations invented euphemisms like “sick” and forced us to reconsider who we share spaces with, and whose lives matter."

The Redline Collection
October 7th through 9th, 7:30 p.m.
Saturday matinee on October 9th, 2 p.m.  
Krannert Center for the Performing Arts
Studio Theatre
500 S Goodwin, Urbana
Get ticket information here.

Native Gardens


Image from the KCPA website.

Another powerful example of Illinois Theatre's inclusive new paradigm, Native Gardens explores the changing face of American urban landscapes, Latinx experience, and, Written by Karen Zacarías and codirected by the team of Illinois Theatre professors Aaron Muñoz and J.W. Morrissette, Native Gardens turns both a comic and critical eye towards culture clashes via neighboring garden plots. What starts as a "border dispute" goes on to expose notions of “race, taste, class, and privilege.”

Native Gardens
October 14th through 16th, 7:30 p.m.
October 20th through 23rd, 7:30 p.m.,
Saturday matinee on October 23rd, 2 p.m. 
Krannert Center for Performing Arts
Colwell Playhouse
500 S Goodwin, Urbana
Get ticket information here.

Small Press Fest 


Image from the Small Press Fest website.

Small Press Fest returns to an in-person format with a weeks-long program of events and exhibits. Of particular note are The Zine Landscape Reading Room, held at The Recreation Club from October 19th through 29th, which offers "a selection of zines on the theme of humans, nature, and the relationship between them," Erin Tarr's Be Your Own Rebel, a workshop that invites teen and tween girls to create their own Rebel Story and stylized self-portrait, held on October 16th, Threshold Doula: Tending Grief, led by Melanie Sheckels, and held at Delight Flower Farm on October 17th, a keynote speech from zine author and educator Golden Brown on October 21 via Zoom, and a Bookmaking workshop led by "a scholar of the past, present, and future of the book," Dr. Spencer D. C. Keralis on October 23rd. On November 6th, MFA candidate and Manga author Kofi Bazzell-Smith will lead a workshop on Japanese Manga Storytelling at the University YMCA. You can also meet local small press publishers and authors at the vendor expo on October 23rd at Lincoln Square Mall in Urbana. 

Small Press Fest
October 15th through November 6th
Multiple locations, free
Get the full schedule of events and exhibits.


Studiodance  


Photo from the Dance at Illinois Facebook page.

This writer is beyond excited for the return of an in-person Studiodance experience. I have missed the sound of feet against floor, and the live energy of bodies in motion and in service of "dance-making investigations" curated by a panel of faculty and students. Stay tuned to this space for a deeper dive into Studiodance Fall 2021.

Studiodance
October 21st through 23rd
Krannert Center for Performing Arts
Studio Theatre
500 S Goodwin, Urbana
Get ticket information here.