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UHS production of Little Women at Illinois High School Theatre Festival

From an Urbana High School press release:

Urbana High School’s production of Little Women: The Musical has been selected to perform at the Illinois High School Theatre Festival, January 8-10, 2015. It is the second time in two years that UHS theatre has earned this honor.

While the Theatre Festival is not open to the public, a benefit performance will be staged in the UHS Cobb Memorial Auditorium on Tuesday, January 6 at 7:00pm. All proceeds will help defray the costs associated with taking the show to the festival.
UHS Director of Theatre Tim Broeker referred to the show, written by Alan Knee, as a “bestkept secret of Broadway.”

“This adaption brings the classic story to life with some of the most colorful and beautiful orchestrations and lyrics,” Broeker said. The music is challenging, he added, but the level of vocal talent currently in his theatre program made this the year “to pull off the show.” With a cast of only 11, the production doesn’t lean on large ensemble numbers for momentum and energy. Instead, strong vocals and character development carry the show, stirring real emotion. UHS Senior Caitlin Elliott, who plays the lead role as Jo March, said that when the show ran in early November, real tears were shed on stage and in the audience.

“We go through such a range of emotion in this show—sometimes we would come off the stage from a scene crying,” Elliott said, pointing to “the beauty of the writing” and the cast’s character development work as keys to that emotion. “We had the luxury of a small cast, which allowed us to devote a lot of time to character development—there are so many strong character personalities in the show,” she said. “It was also important to really examine each of the relationships between the characters. The energy on stage makes up for not having a huge ensemble.”

Other contributions to the success of the show, Broeker said, include the minimalist scene design, the decision to put the 15-member orchestra on the stage behind a scrim, and the use of projection to guide the audience through the story’s timeline, and to enhance Jo’s role as a writer. A stage and technical crew of 30+ students make everything come together.

In producing Little Women: The Musical, Broeker was assisted by vocal director Cullyn Murphy, technical director Breanna Morton, and orchestra conductor Darren Hicks.

The Illinois High School Theatre Festival, produced by the Illinois Theatre Association, is the largest and oldest non-competitive high school theatre festival in the world. More than 4,000 students from 150 schools, as well as teachers, university representatives, exhibitors and volunteers, come together to put on over 25 different high school productions and over 150 workshops. In addition to Urbana High School, downstate Illinois will be represented at the 2015 festival by Centennial High School and St. Joseph-Ogden High School.


Check out a video update on the new Black Dog location

The News-Gazette posted a video update for the new Black Dog location in Downtown Champaign. Check that video out over there, where you can see some of the progress they've made on rennovating the old train depot space. Not a ton to see other than some construction happening, but it is still cool to see what it is shaping up to be.

Check out the floor plan below, which was also available here.


Urbana’s Market at the Square to host first annual CSA Fair

Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) has become a popular way for consumers to buy local food, bridges the gap between consumers and farmers, and can be a valuable option for anyone wanting access to fresh fruits and vegetables (and even meat, cheese, bread, and more!). The First Annual Market at the Square CSA Fair is your opportunity to talk to the farmers that offer CSAs, buying clubs, and similar programs.

What is a CSA?
CSA is a method of going business.  Generally, farms are the businesses operating CSAs and in doing so offer fresh food products through annual subscriptions, or a flat fee, that a customer pays up front once a year in exchange for a portion of that farmers products that is typically delivered to a central location weekly or made available for pick up at Urbana’s Market at the Square.

Why Should I Participate in a CSA?
CSAs allow folks committed to the local food economy an opportunity to connect, on a deeper level than purchasing from a retail store, and even differently than at a farmer’s market. There is still plenty of shopping to be done at Urbana’s Market at the Square, and you’ll never want to skip a weekend. But by participating in a CSA you’ll have the opportunity to help your favorite farmers at a whole new level.

What Exactly is the Market at the Square CSA Fair?
At the First Annual Market at the Square CSA Fair, you’ll be able to learn about the farmers and their farms, their products and programs, and select a share or club that best meets your needs! Why is it happening in the middle of winter? For farmers, this is the time when they’re deep into planning and right before they begin their planting. Some farms accept new members throughout the course of the year, as well. We encourage consumers to connect with farmers directly to learn about their specific parameters around sign-up.

Give me the Details!
We hope that you’ll join us for our First Annual Market at the Square CSA Fair on Wednesday, January 21st from 3-6 p.m. at the Urbana Civic Center, located at 108 East Water Street in Urbana. There will also be educational information about local food, free samples and recipes, a Sprouts at the Market activity table, music, and more.

Where Can I Learn More?
To learn more, please call Natalie Kenny Marquez, Director of Urbana’s Market at the Square at 217/384-2319, or email nmkennymarquez@urbanaillinois.us or visit www.urbanaillinois.us/CSA-Fair. Be sure to follow the Market on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for timely updates and event specific information.


Illini basketball preview: Oregon

The final score of Illinois’s loss to Villanova (73-59) looks worse than the actual game did, because for a while the Illini were really hanging with them. Three minutes into the second half the game was actually tied, 38-38; but that’s when Illinois committed three consecutive turnovers and essentially lost the game.

Illinois did good things, like holding Nova to zero threes in the first half and shooting better than 40 percent, and Malcolm Hill looked like a an All-American with his 20-point outburst. But the way Nova dominated in the paint (42-30 points in the paint and 37-30 on rebounds) combined with continued poor shooting from Ahmad Starks and Aaron Cosby (combined 3-13) spelled doom for the Illini.

After the game John Groce called his players “selfish,” adding that they did not help one another in the  loss. He also stressed that practice would be grueling between the loss and Saturday’s game against Oregon at the United Center in Chicago (tip at 6 p.m.). Fans won’t see how those practices go, but they shouldn’t be surprised at some changes based on what happens at Ubben.

The most obvious change could be Cosby dropping from the lineup. Over his last four games the transfer from Seton Hall is shooting just 13% (4/30), whereas Kendrick Nunn has looked especially strong on defense in recent games and could be poised to return to the starting five. With Oregon being a smaller team than Villanova, I would still expect to see Hill at forward quite a bit, but expect a little more cooperation between him and Nnanna Egwu. The two have not developed a rhythm on switching and helping inside, and that will certainly be a point of emphasis for Groce in the time between games.

As for Oregon, they’ve compiled a 5-3 record, but the losses don’t look very good. First there was Michigan, who has since crumbled into some kind of garbage heap, then VCU, who plummeted out of the top 25 shortly after beating the Ducks, and finally Ole Miss, who has been sporadically impressive but did lose to Charleston Southern to open the season. Oregon is ranked really high in terms of rebounds per game (30.8, 2nd), but KenPom.com has them rated 87th for defensive efficiency (Illinois is 29th), so I’d say the rankings might be skewed by the opposition in Oregon’s wins (such as the Illini being the top-scoring team in the nation after their back-to-back 100-point games).

This game isn’t going to make or break the season, but Groce will want his team to make a statement in Chicago, especially after losses to two ranked teams in three games. I think they can do just that.

My prediction: Illinois 71, Oregon 60.


Tonight on SP Radio: Dancing Dog Eatery and Juicery

Tonight on Smile Politely Radio we hear from the newest restaurant in downtown Urbana: Dancing Dog Juicery and Eatery, a vegan restaurant serving all three meals and tasty juices. Tune in to hear about what they have to offer and their views on vegan dining in C-U.

Smile Politely Radio airs each Friday at 5:30 p.m. on WEFT 90.1 FM in Champaign and is available as a podcast the following week. You can find our past episodes here.


The Great Impasta to close on December 31, 2014

With serious regrets, we've learned that The Great Impasta will be shuttering its doors for good on December 31, 2014. From a Facebook post this evening: 

It's hard to fathom the idea that you won't be able to get a piping hot plate of The Great Impastanoff, or Papa Piero's Chicken and Cream Sauce, whenever you want it. 

But three cheers to Harold and Nancy for keeping the place open long after the founder, Piero Faraci, founded the joint in 1983. Best wishes, indeed. 


Bunny’s Tavern hosting Italian pop-up dinner tonight

According to the Bunny's Tavern Facebook page, there will be an Italian pop up dinner tonight (starting at 5:30 p.m.). 

Thursday night starting at 5:30 Bunnys is hosting a pop up Italian dinner featuring Frank Fonte's family recipes! Your choice of spaghetti and meatballs or lasagna, both served with salad and bread. If you haven't tried it you're missing out! It sells out quick so get there early. See you there!

So if you're into spaghetti and meatballs or lasagna, this is your thing. Go. And eat your spaghetti with a spoon