The two works in this exhibition were filmed in Chicago in locations that opened themselves to creative interpretation; several are institutions in their own right. I want these works to contribute to the evolving spirit of the Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts as it establishes its presence as an institution at the University of Chicago and beyond. I am very honored to stage the inaugural exhibition.
The Last Days of British Honduras (2012), in collaboration with Farhad Sharmini, is a screen adaptation of Ronald Tavel’s play of the same title. The drama is transposed from Belize—known as British Honduras at the time—to Chicago’s Near West Side and filmed in and around a constellation of buildings including the United Center, two neighboring churches, Malcolm X College, and the hulking shell of the long-abandoned Cook County Hospital. This convergence of past, present and future is cleaved by the rush of the Eisenhower Expressway.
Tavel’s drama was staged only once, in 1974, and given his wide-ranging body of work—Last Days stood out for us as especially eccentric. The stylistically eclectic play is set in the nervous politico-ethnic context preceding the 1971 British Honduras referendum on independence (which was rejected.) Just like the lead character in the play, our adaptation has crash-landed into a geographic-meteorological crossroads of cultures and histories in which demographic tensions have been historically, and now all too familiarly, exacerbated.
Ice Floes of Franz Joseph Land (2003) is a film work for five channels, shot at the Polish Army Veteran’s Association in Portage Park. The brutally arbitrary pantomimes and vignettes seen in the piece are derived from Soviet author Veniamin Kaverin’s love and adventure story, Two Captains. Set within Czarist Russia, the October Revolution, World War II and the search for a lost expedition into the Arctic Ocean, the novel received the USSR State Prize in 1946. Two Captains is also the source material for Nord Ost, the musical playing when Chechen separatists took a Moscow theater audience hostage in 2002. The producers of the musical Nord Ost aspired to create a “Broadway spectacle, but with Russian Soul.” The piece features an ensemble of thirty actors, many from Chicago’s Trapdoor Theater.