Monthly Archives: November 2011

The PTC Arrives on Wikipedia.

Fans, friends and former members of The Practical Theatre Company can now celebrate another PTC milestone: The PTC has made it to Wikipedia.

Thanks to the good work of University Archivist Kevin Leonard and his staff at the Northwestern University Archives, a brief history of The Practical Theatre is now available worldwide on the largest and most popular general reference site on the Internet. Check out The Practical Theatre Company’s Wikipedia page at:

Here’s a few interesting facts about Wikipedia from


Filed under Comedy, History, Improvisation

The Holiday Season Has Begun — And that means “The Vic & Paul Show”!

Here’s what our friends Brad Hall, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Suzie Plakson and Lewis Black have to say about “The Vic & Paul Show“…

Join the holiday happening at Mayne Stage. Click here for tickets, or call the Mayne Stage box office: 773-381-4551

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Filed under Art, Comedy, Improvisation, Music

Lincoln’s Proclamation of Thanksgiving: Context, Conflict and Commemoration.

Abraham Lincoln issued the Presidential proclamation that set the precedent for our national day of Thanksgiving on October 3, 1863.

On that date, America was just past the halfway point in the Civil War. The great Union victories at Gettysburg and Vicksburg in July of ‘83 had raised hopes in the North that the Southern rebellion was doomed – but two months later, the Confederate victory at Chickamauga proved that the war was far from over.

The Battle of Chickamauga, September 19 and 20, 1863, were the two bloodiest days in American history. Chickamauga claimed the lives of 1,657 Federal troops — with 9,756 soldiers wounded and 4,757 missing for a total of 16,170 casualties out of 58,000 troops.

Painting by Keith Rocco

Confederate losses were just as steep: 2,312 dead, 14,674 wounded and 1,468 missing for a total of 18,545 out of 66,000 troops.

It was only the courageous rear-guard stand of Union General George “Pap” Thomas – the legendary “Rock of Chickamauga” – that kept the Federal army from suffering a total rout in northern Georgia — and set the table for a Union victory at the Battle of Missionary Ridge two months later on November 25, 1863.

Drawing by Ron Crawford

Today, though the Occupy Wall Street movement is provoking a healthy dialogue about the plight of the 99% versus the insane, unbalanced power, influence and affluence of the 1% — America is not embroiled in a civil war on the scale of the 19th Century War Between the States.

But, with pepper spray, police “batons”, riot gear, and other forms of authoritarian violence being directed against ordinary Americans seeking freedom and social and economic justice — it’s not entirely beyond the pale to suggest that this year’s Thanksgiving celebration falls on a date fraught with historic significance.

So today, November 24, 2011, let’s remember why Abe Lincoln established Thanksgiving as a national holiday in a much more desperate and pivotal moment in our national history. And let the Occupy Wall Street movement dine on turkey today — and draw strength for the battles ahead.

By the President of the United States of America.

A Proclamation.

The year that is drawing towards its close has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God.

In the midst of a civil war of unequaled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union.

Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defense, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle or the ship; the axe has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore.

Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battlefield; and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom. No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy.

It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People.

I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union.

In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the Seal of the United States to be affixed.

Done at the City of Washington, this Third day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the Independence of the Unites States the Eighty-eighth.

By the President: Abraham Lincoln

Happy Thanksgiving, everybody!

And god bless the Occupy Wall Street Movement!


Filed under Art, History, Politics

Just One Fleeting Month Until “The Vic & Paul Show” opens in Chicago…

There’s just one month until “The Vic & Paul Show” opens at Mayne Stage in Chicago – and here’s what a few of our very good friends have to say…

If you don’t have your tickets yet – you can get them here.

See you at Mayne Stage for the holidays!

And fans of Riffmaster and the Rockme Foundation should check out closing night, December 30th – when Riff and the boys are going to cap the run with a rocking closing night celebration.

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Don’t Miss Larry’s Concerto!

Don’t miss the broadcast of Larry Schanker’s first piano concerto on radio station WAUS this Sunday, November 20th at 6:00 PM Michigan time.

Photo credit: All photos of the Southwest Michigan Symphony Orchestra by Alden J. Ho Photography.

I am delighted to announce that our good friend, the amazingly talented pianist and composer, Larry Schanker, has performed his first piano concerto — Concerto for Jazz Piano — with the Southwest Michigan Symphony Orchestra. Better yet, we’ll all get a chance to listen to it on Sunday November 20th – by clicking this link at 6:00 PM Michigan time.

Larry was the Practical Theatre Company’s first musical director, and played keys for our comedy revues at the Piper’s Alley Theatre: The Golden Jubiliee, Megafun and Babalooney (with Rockin’ Ronny Crawford hitting the skins.) Larry also worked with us on the development of our musical, “Rock Me!” for the Columbia College New Musical project in 1988. He’s also a lifetime member of Riffmaster & The Rockme Foundation.

But Larry is also one of those longhair serious classical artists — and he’s been busy in the past year writing his first piano concerto, preparing the orchestral parts over the summer, and, as he says, “practicing more than I have in many years to make sure I could play the darned thing.”

On Sunday, Larry’s performance with the Southwest Michigan Symphony Orchestra will be broadcast on a local Michigan university radio station, WAUS. Larry says it may only be accessible in real time.

Techincal note: Mac users will need an updated version of Flip4Mac, the program that enables Quicktime to read Windows Media Player files.

Here’s a link to the concert program and program notes.

Larry’s on the bill with some guys named Aaron Copland and Dvorak.

So, tune in to Larry’s concerto Sunday evening and get a taste of the talent that so many of his friend have marveled at over the years.

Congratulations, maestro Schanker!


Filed under Art, Beauty, Music

“You Can’t Evict An Idea”

A billionaire autocrat orders his police force in riot gear to clear a public square of peaceful demonstrators in an early morning raid. This riot squad makes dozens of arrests and destroys the protestors’ personal property. The authorities also muzzle the press, confiscate cameras, order news helicopters out of the airspace above, and arrest journalists in an effort to keep news of this suppression of free speech and the right of assembly out of the morning papers.

This must be an old story out of Egypt or Libya, right?

Or did it happen yesterday in Syria or Yemen?

No, sadly. It happened here.

In New York City, Generalissimo Bloomberg sent his shock troops to evict Occupy Wall Street from the now legendary Zuccotti Park, which has become, according to one journalist, “the epicenter of the worldwide movement protesting corporate greed and economic inequality.”

At one o’clock in the morning on November 15, the NYPD announced that OWS protesters had to vacate Zuccotti Park with their belongings so that it could be cleaned. Following that announcement, hundreds of cops in riot gear raided the park.  About 200 people were arrested: 142 in the park, another 50 to 60 nearby – including many journalists, despite their press credentials.

The problem for El Presidente for Life Michael Bloomberg – who should be paying more attention to recent history — is that such authoritarian tactics cannot stop a truly popular movement. Even as cops and the sanitation works trashed the tents and occupied the park, the Occupy Wall Street media team was already issuing a statement saying, ”You can’t evict an idea whose time has come”.

The statement continued: “This burgeoning movement is more than a protest, more than an occupation, and more than any tactic. The ‘us’ in the movement is far broader than those who are able to participate in physical occupation. The movement is everyone who sends supplies, everyone who talks to their friends and families about the underlying issues, everyone who takes some form of action to get involved in this civic process.

“Such a movement cannot be evicted. Some politicians may physically remove us from public spaces – our spaces – and, physically, they may succeed. But we are engaged in a battle over ideas. Our idea is that our political structures should serve us, the people – all of us, not just those who have amassed great wealth and power. We believe that is a highly popular idea, and that is why so many people have come so quickly to identify with Occupy Wall Street and the 99 per cent movement.”

Well said, OWS.

Within hours of the raid, the National Lawyers Guild obtained a court order allowing OWS to return with their tents to the park. Emperor Don Pedro Magnifico Bloomberg has said he’ll challenge that court ruling.

So, the legal battle for Zuccotti park is not over. But, in many ways, the larger struggle for hearts and minds in America is already being won. The 99% have raised their voices and are being heard.

Big Brother may try to confiscate newsmen’s cameras and TV camera can be kept at bay – but the thousands of iPhones in the hands of Little Brother can capture the truth and post it for millions to see within minutes.

For instance, you can see a great photo timeline of the eviction at this link:

As comedian Rick Overton has said, “Big Brother may be watching. But Little Brother is watching Big Brother.”

You can’t evict an idea whose time has come.


Filed under Politics, Truth

Louis D — RIP

Louis DiCrescenzo (right) and Terry Shaughnessey backstage at "Bozo the Town".

The one and only Louis DiCrescenzo, the gifted artist who designed and built both The John Lennon Auditorium at 703 Howard Street and The Piper’s Alley Theatre at North & Wells, passed away last week.

Brad Hall, his cast-mate in the original production of “Do Black Patent Leather Shoes Really Reflect Up?”, introduced Louis to The Practical Theatre Company in 1981. Louis’ imprint on the PTC was much, much larger than the big man himself.

The big man in a note session backstage with us during "Bozo the Town". (From right) Sheldon Patinkin, Vic, Paul, Louis D., Bea and Steve Rashid. (Kyle Hefner, below left)

Big, affable, talented Louis D will be remembered by members, friends and fans of The Practical Theatre Company not only for his visionary theatre designs – but also for his scene-stealing performances as stage manager in “Art, Ruth & Trudy” and “Bozo the Town”, as well as his wonderful turns on the PTC/WMAQ-TV projects, “Overnight Guest” (as landlord, Nick Nickolopopolous) and the Emmy-winning live broadcast of “Deer Season.”

Paul, Louis, Kyle and Vic in "Bozo the Town". (1987)

Louis D was larger than life.

And we were glad to have worked, rehearsed, performed – and laughed – with him.

RIP Louis.

We love you.

Here’s Louis’ obituary in The Chicago Tribune…


Filed under Art, Comedy, History

Capturing Occupy Wall Street: The Crawford Chronicles

Our great friend, the outrageously talented artist, Ron Crawford, has been spending a lot of time at Occupy Wall Street in lower Manhattan. Here’s another gallery of images that Ron has captured with his keen eye and splendid pen.

Solidarity forever!

The commentary that follows is Ron’s own.

“Down this morning to OWS. Keeping the place neat and clean. We donated some thin metallic blankets for warmth.”

“Here is the brass statue made famous in the 9-11 photo.”

“The fire department took their bio-diesel generator away so they’re recharging cell phones and computers with bicycle generators. The rigs were brought in by Times Up. Note their logo on the computer guy’s cap.”

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Filed under Art, History, Politics

“The Vic & Paul Show” in Chicago — Last Day to Get 2 for 1 Tickets!

(Sorry. The discount is not available for all dates.)

“The Vic & Paul Show” will run for 10 performances, December 20-30, at Mayne Stage in Rogers Park.

And we’d love you to be there with us.

Go the Mayne Stage website’s “Vic & Paul Show” page…

And type in the promo code “paul” when you order your tickets through Friday, November 4th.

See you all in December!

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Filed under Art, Comedy, Improvisation

The Occupy Wall Street Movement Doesn’t Need Black Bloc Buffoonery.

It’s obvious to readers of this blog that I am in wholehearted solidarity with Occupy Wall Street and the struggle for economic and social justice for the 99% of our citizens who have been increasingly denied their fair share of the American Dream.

As the OWS movement has spread from lower Manhattan to big cities and small towns across the country, few of these protests have attracted more national headlines than Occupy Oakland, especially after last week’s spasm of police violence energized the Bay Area movement, leading to today’s General Strike and the effective closing of the Port of Oakland by thousands of patriots rallying to the cause of the 99%.

However, among the media reports on today’s General Strike in Oakland, I was disturbed to read this article by Ben Margot of the Associated Press.

OAKLAND – Protesters supporting the Occupy Wall Street movement smashed the windows of a Wells Fargo bank branch in downtown Oakland on Wednesday during a day of demonstrations in protest of wealth inequalities.

 A group of about 300 men, many wearing black, some carrying wooden sticks, was part of a group of hundreds who set out to cause a general strike in the area around City Hall. The smaller group smashed several windows of the Wells Fargo branch while chanting, “Banks got bailed out; we got sold out.” They also spray-painted an expletive on the outer wall of the bank. Employees were inside while this took place, but it did not appear that anyone got hurt.

 Who were these 300 vandals “many wearing black, some carrying wooden sticks”? Were they right wing provocateurs infiltrating the OWS movement to discredit it?

The Raw Story blog shed more light on black bloc tactics in Oakland:

“The vast majority of the protesters remained peaceful, but a small group of black bloc protesters defaced ATMs and broke windows at Wells Fargo, Bank of America and Chase Bank branches as the protesters marched through downtown, according to the Oakland Tribune.

 A group of protesters also vandalized a Whole Foods store and someone spray-painted “fuck” on the side of the Christ the Light Cathedral.”

And who are “black block protestors”?

You can click on this link to get the full story – but basically, a black bloc is a tactic in which protestors wear black clothing, scarves, ski masks, and other concealing garb to avoid identification and promote solidarity. Black bloc tactics include vandalism, rioting and street fighting.

Black bloc? Let’s just say no to the black bloc.

The Occupy Wall Street movement is doing just fine, thank you, without black bloc tactics. OWS is attracting the old as well as the young, middle class teachers and union workers as well as students and unemployed youths. Dressing in black and hiding your face while engaging in violent acts will not win the hearts and minds of the 99% in America.

If the police attack non-violent protestors, OWS keeps the moral high ground. If the police crack down on provocateurs that smash windows and paint obscenities on bank buildings, grocery stores and churches – then that’s just the cops doing their job.

Scott Olsen, the Iraq War veteran who was shot in the head with a tear gas canister by the Oakland police during a courageous act of non-violent resistance did more to win average Americans to the cause of the 99% than any of these window-smashing anarchists ever will.

Remember the words of John Lennon, who knew a thing or two about street demonstrations and the struggle for social justice.

You say you want a revolution
Well, you know
We all want to change the world
You tell me that it’s evolution
Well, you know
We all want to change the world
But when you talk about destruction
Don’t you know that you can count me out

 You say you got a real solution

Well, you know
We’d all love to see the plan
You ask me for a contribution
Well, you know
We’re doing what we can
But when you want money
for people with minds that hate
All I can tell is brother you have to wait

We win a lot more hearts and minds when our movement looks like this…

Rather than this…

Or this….

Rather than this…

OWS must stay non-violent. The movement has already changed the national conversation in a positive way. The politicians, pundits and media are talking more about OWS and the legitimate concerns of the 99% than yesterday’s national debt hysteria.

Martin Luther King won. Ghandi won. Dressing up is a black disguise and busting windows is only a way to lose. So, take off those black masks. Put down those clubs. Pick up a witty, pithy sign – and join the peaceful movement that’s on the verge of changing the status quo.

Let’s not snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.


Filed under Politics