Arts & Craft

Deaf actor Peter Cook today.

Good tidings for those of you wallowing in your own personal tale of woe ... the tear-stained one about missing out on tickets for the Illinois Shakespeare Festival's "I Heart Juliet," which sold out before the fest opened three weekends ago (a fest first, by the way).

The 2 p.m. shows are on weekdays, so schedule those personal days off from day jobs now: Thursday, July 27; Wednesday, Aug. 2; and Tuesday, Aug. 8. 

Here's a strategic tip: Per our reviewer Marcia Weiss' hand-timed review that ran in Friday's Pantagraph, the show — pushed along its merry way by that dizzying Q-master spin on iambic pentameter — clocks in at a trim 75 minutes, sans intermission.

So you might just take a belated lunch hour (plus change) on any of those days, and make it play.

Since, after all, the play's the thing.  

Oh, and don't forget: The production is being staged off-fest-site, inside ISU's Westhoff Theatre partly due to technical reasons beyond the outside Theatre at Ewing's control.

According to director Kevin Rich, "I Heart Juliet" requires that each of its 10 cast members wear body mics to keep the hip-hop beats clearly delineated.

Ewing currently, but likely not permanently, is wired for just two of the mics, which served the previous Q show well enough: "Q Gents" was strictly a two-man affair.

Will-ith Fair: For you Q fans who need another fix, the boys will be back at the summer's Lollapalooza stand in Chicago for the 13th year running/rapping. 

This year's fest runs Aug. 3 through 6 in Grant Park downtown, with headliners like Chance the Rapper, The Killers Whiz Kalifa, Blink-182, Ryan Adams, Foster the People and Muse.

The Q Bro's role is running a Hip Hop Workshop in the festival's Kidzapalooza area. It's a role that has expanded to original Q founders JQ and GQ emceeing the main Kidza Stage.

Say they: "We’ve watched some of these kids grow up before our very eyes, and some of them have entire albums of themselves (featuring the Q Brothers), one song per year that they’ve attended."

Note: Kidzapalooza gets its own enclosed area of Grant Park, and all the music is designated as family-friendly. Hours are 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. each day, with free entry for kids 10 and under.

The Q workshops are at 12:30, 2:30, 3:30 and 6 p.m. each day.

Words weren't enough: Someone asked us recently what was the most memorable interview we've conducted in connection with the Illinois Shakespeare Festival over the years.

That's an easy one: It was deaf actor Peter Cook, who not only starred in a festival production without speaking a single word, but also did it in the title role of one of the Bard's tougher sells to a midsummer's mass audience, "Pericles."

Cook performed the role entirely via American Sign Language and bodily gesture ... the means by which our interview with him was also conducted.

The complex staging of "Pericles" involved Cook's equally skilled leading lady, Chicago actress Margo Buchanan, speaking Pericles' lines as well as signing the surrounding action to him.

"I don't like plays about deaf people, talking about 'ohhh, poor thing!' I prefer to see a play in which a character just happens to be deaf. That's more real-life," said the young man with the long mane of brown hair and live-wire eyes through his interpreter.

How about the term "deaf actor"?

"The term doesn't bother me. I am an actor, and I happen to be deaf. I AM a deaf actor."

To the best of everyone's knowledge, that 1993 production of "Pericles" was the first production of a Shakespeare play, anywhere, any decade, starring a deaf actor.

"Peter Cook's eloquent, marvelously detailed performance gives the character of Pericles a dynamic, utterly compelling presence on stage," extolled this newspaper's reviewer.

"His gestures, facial expressions and oddly enough his noises give us intriguing glimpses into the character's rich interior world."

Nearly a quarter century later, we're happy to report that Cook troupes on: He's an associate professor in the Department of ASL-English Interpretation at Columbia College Chicago, and continues his role as internationally renowned deaf performing artist, storyteller, comedian and, of course, Shakespearean actor. 


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