Sharp-shooting cowboys, women’s rights activists and America’s first belly dancers may not be the Quadrangle Club’s typical crowd, but all that will change Friday and Saturday as the University of Chicago Revels take to the stage for their debut of “The Impossible City.”
The Revels have been entertaining the Hyde Park community with original musicals since 1904. Although the shows first focused on the University of Chicago, the Revels have expanded in cast, crew, and subject matter over the years. Fittingly, “The Impossible City” celebrates the 120th anniversary of an event both uniquely Chicago and world-renowned: the 1893 Columbian Exposition.
“It’s a great mix of faculty, alumni, students, spouses and some neighborhood people as well as people from around the city,” said Ruth O’Brien, Revels alumna and assistant vice president for schools and programs at UChicago.
This year’s production will feature original characters and historical figures such as Buffalo Bill, Little Egypt and Bertha Palmer. There’s a kidnapping, dancing and one respected oncologist in drag.
Although several of the 25 cast members have appeared in the Revels before, most become actors, writers, or stage managers only once a year. The amateur and all-inclusive nature is part of what makes the Revels such a strong tradition. “It’s a total act of love and enjoyment,” said O’Brien.
Purely for love of the Revels, members of the UChicago community such as Elizabeth Davenport, dean of Rockefeller Memorial Chapel, and David Bevington, professor of English, come together for one month to create a show. Novelist Sara Paretsky and Illinois Rep. Barbara Flynn Currie plan to reprise their appearances from last year as well.
“Anybody’s welcome. You don’t have to sing or act—the idea is to have fun,” said artist Andy Austin Cohen, writer of “The Impossible City” and wife of Ted Cohen, professor of philosophy. “It’s a chance to do something different in your life.”
For the audience, “The Impossible City” is a chance to see familiar faces in a whole new light.
The show will be performed at 8 p.m. Friday, Feb. 1 and Saturday, Feb. 2, at the Quadrangle Club. Tickets are $30 ($10 for students on Friday). Pre-show dinner is available for an extra fee ($30 Friday, $40 Saturday). Call 773-702-7221 to purchase tickets.