Pilsen is strange. Turn down one block and it’s a hip, happening, vibrant neighborhood. Turn down another block and it’s deserted factory warehouses.
On two occasions my mind has been blown by such deserted blocks. The first: Visiting Mana Gallery for The Nexus Project last month. Then, on a different but equally creepy block, is the (relatively) new home of Redmoon. I visited Redmoon last Saturday to check out preparations for its annual Winter Pageant. Having outgrown its home in Westtown, this massive production is the first full-scale performance for Redmoon since moving into an unassuming abandoned warehouse space in Pilsen. Though everything appeared fairly calm and laid back in Spectacle Hall (the main performance space that could likely fit an aircraft carrier if it wanted to) when I visited last weekend, co-director Will Bishop assured me that this was the calm before the storm. Winter Pageant is built from the ground up, and it’s no easy task.
Each year Redmoon brings a mythical story to life using theater, dance, music, and other creative art forms such as puppetry and circus arts. In its 15th year, the 2013 Winter Pageant promises to be the biggest spectacle yet, including collaborations with Hip Hop dance company The Happiness Club, Mexican clown artist Fernando Córdova Hernández, varied traditional cultural dances from across the globe (Indonesian Dance of Illinois, Kalapriya Dance, Pineapple Dance Studio), aerialist Helena Reynolds and San Andreas Fault (who calls itself a surf-rock band – whatever that means). The story of the year is “The Conference of the Birds,” in which a mythical flock of birds protected by a Tree of Light until the Light is stolen by an evil Raven. A Pigeon and a Dove are selected to venture through forests, under seas and through the Underworld on a journey of hope and discovery.
Long story short: Winter Pageant is a hootenanny.
More than just spectacle, at its heart Redmoon is about the community. “The Conference of the Birds” offers an alternative to the holiday theater and dance scene, which is primarily Nutcrackers and Christmas Carols. Each Winter Pageant is true to Redmoon’s mission of joining Eastern and Western traditions and celebrating “community, creativity, and an empowered democracy.” The space has open to community members on Saturdays where families have joined Redmoon artists in painting sets and sewing, so that when they return for the performance they see a tangible contribution. Bishop commented on how special it is to see such a diverse range of artist groups working together, and exposing their community members to a wide-range of creative experiences is something that drives him to keep going.
The 15th annual Winter Pageant runs December 13-22, Fridays at 7 pm, Saturdays at 4 pm & 7 pm, and Sundays at 1:30 pm & 4 pm at Redmoon (2120 S. Jefferson, Chicago). Accessible by #8 Halsted bus and Cermack Red Line trains. Tickets are $10-25 (Student ID required for $10 tickets), on sale at the Redmoon Box Office 312-850-8440 x123 or online at www.redmoon.org. Discount group rates available.
Photo credits: Redmoon “Winter Pageant” 2013 Preview. Photos by Al Sayed.