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Chicago by Charles Eichler

Redmoon's Winter Pageant

The word "pageant," according to Webster, indicates a joyous celebration usually filled with spectacle, elaborate parades and plenty of glamor. In its own way, Redmoon Theatre's 11th Annual Winter Pageant fits the bill. This annual celebration of the coming of winter, being performed at the Pulaski Fieldhouse in Chicago through December 29th, is a perfect way to welcome the Winter Solstice. Blending its neighborhood arts program with professional artists, Redmoon has created an original, innovative piece of theatre artistry that can be wholeheartedly enjoyed by all ages.

Redmoon Theatre has always been known for its mixture of plot and music accompanied by giant masks, puppets, shadowplay and comic entertainment. This year's Winter Pageant reminds me of a cross between The Wizard of Oz and Alice in Wonderland. The first winter Pageant consisted of a single performance on December 12, 1992, a celebration of the changing seasons and the coming of Winter. How the theme is presented has changed completely from year to year as different artists have taken the reigns. This year's performances include professional and volunteer performers, plus members of Redmoon's Dramagirls and Children's Company programs, as well as members of Powergirls and Khymer Angels.

The intention has always been to celebrate the solstice season in an original manner. For this particular production, six designers, each putting his/her "stamp" on one scene, have collaborated with Christopher Krause, the artistic "engineer" and Mark Messing, the musical director, in creating a simplistic, but heartwarming story of a mother and seven children who live in a shoddy apartment. When a power outage suddenly occurs, the mother and one of her children begin a quest to resolve the problem.

The play is performed in the auditorium of a fieldhouse on the near northside of Chicago. The fieldhouse is old, but the auditorium is truly a relic of architecture from the 1940s. An Art Deco framework surrounds the stage (the pageant, however, is performed on the gym floor). Audiences sit on bleachers, or in the case of this performance, on gym mats. There are openings in the balcony area for scenes to be played. Working with limited facilities, Redmoon has produced an outstanding production.

It is a wonderful experience to see urban teenagers as well as professionals working together. Redmoon's brand of puppetry, stick figures, creative design and beautiful orchestration plus the warmth provided by the cast keep this production going, entrancing not only the adults in the audience but also the young children. As we journey with the mother and her daughter (who only speak in gibberish), we come across scenes that are simple and meaningful. The Mother needs to find someone to endorse her "form" for the electricity to be turned on. As they confront a group of public work individuals, one of the balcony openings shows them in stick figures meeting the obstacles. Another hurdle concerns the changes of the seasons. This is depicted by a "Price Is Right" spinning wheel, which displays the benefits of each season.

Finally, Winter is ushered in by a group of performers walking on stilts and dressed in white. They are accompanied by a group of black students holding branches which eventually shower the audience with snow. The personification of winter is played by Tanera Marshall, costumed layer-over-layer with petticoats as the whole group unites and sings a song testifying to the new season. A beautiful patchwork sun emerges in the upper balcony and the whole cast rejoices.

Special mention should be given to the whole cast and the production staff. This is a community effort that should be applauded and supported. I was very proud to be a part of this audience. When theatre can unite children and adults (and this audience was packed), they are to be congratulated. Thank you to Artistic Director Jim Lasko - you have made this a very Merry Christmas!

Redmoon Theatre's production of 11th Annual Winter Pageant runs through December 29th in Chicago. Contact Pulaski Park Fieldhouse, 1419 W. Blackhawk at (773)-388-9031 or visit www.Redmoon.org.

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-- Charles



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