Smile Politely

Five things in arts this month: July 2019

For many of us, July means vacation time. But here are on the arts beat, local artists of all stripes are working overtime to bring you everything from provocative live theatre, to a display of historic writers’ instruments. So If your July break includes a staycation, make sure to include these must-see stops on your itinerary. 

The Trestle at Pope Lick Creek

Just last week theatre writer extraordinaire Mathew Greene previewed Trestle for Smile Politely.  And I quote: 

Call it Americana Noir. It reads a bit like Tom Waits lyrics:

“High atop a railroad trestle that spans a bone dry creek, two teenagers plan to race across the bridge against an oncoming locomotive. At first their scheme adds excitement to life in a small factory town during the Great Depression, then sensual experience awakens dangerous passions in an era of stifled ambitions. With theatrical flourish and lyrical finesse, award-winning playwright Naomi Wallace delves into a world where people struggle to change lives.”

This is the synopsis offered by the Station Theatre for its next summer offering, Naomi Wallace’s The Trestle at Pope Lick Creek. You might never have heard the title before, or of the playwright, but odds are you’ll soon be hearing a lot about the show’s director, C-U native Saskia Bakker. 

A cast combining Station veterans and newcomers includes: Katarina Blakeslee (as Pace), Gabriel Halstead-Alvarez (Dalton), Christine des Garennes (Gin), David Heckman (Dray), and Kevin Wickart (Chas). 

Green’s thoughtful interview will surely pique your interest in the play and its director. This moody, passionate production is perfectly suited for a hot summer night.  Stay tuned to the arts section for a review by KT Burke coming this Wednesday. 

The Trestle at Pope Lick Creek
The Celebration Company at the Station Theatre
223 N Broadway Ave, Urbana
July 5th through 20th
Tickets $15, $10 for students and seniors
Get ticket information here

Writers & Their Tools: Parchment – Paper – Processor



As someone whose hands rarely leave her laptop or device, I maintain a Romantic fascination with analog writing tools. Perhaps it’s their simplicity, their beauty, or, in the case of this exhibit, their proximity to important writers. Readers and writers alike will journey back in time while touring this exhibit. For those of us who crave information about a writer’s process, the chance to see his or her instrument of choice is irresistible. Of particular note are the typewriters of Hugh Hefner and Roger Ebert. If this isn’t a reason to take advantage of the University of Illinois Campustown lull and check out the Rare Book & Manuscript Library, I don’t know what is. I’ll be touring the exhibit myself later this week, so stay tuned for my review. 

Writers & Their Tools: Parchment – Paper – Processor
The University of Illinois Rare Book & Manuscript Library
346 Main Library
1408 W Gregory Dr, Urbana
Through August 28th

Elective Reportage

Local photography group Elective Reportage has brought their evocative exploration of Chambana urbanization to the Analog gallery, and this is one you don’t want to miss. As a gownie turned townie, I’ve seen my share of transformations to our local cityscape. They are captured here with the informed eye of a social scientist (photographer Brian O’Neill is a sociologist) with the soul of a poet. Last week, writer Micah McCoy, a member of Elective Reportage, shared his insights on Brian’s work. Stay tuned to Tuesday’s art section for a follow up by O’Neill himself. 

Elective Reportage
129 N Race St, Urbana
Throughout the month of July 

Don Lake Watercolor Retrospective

(’57 Airstream Caravanner, transparent watercolor, 2013, collection of the artist)

I know I’ve written about this exhibit before (see my preview and review of Lake’s artist talk) but it definitely deserves a mention here, if only to remind you to head to Parkland’s Giertz Gallery to see it yourself. This is work you need to see in person, particularly with the large scale paintings. If you can, stop by the noontime gallery walk by Gisele Atterberry (who interviewed Lake for the beautifully written exhibit program) on Tuesday, July 23rd. 

Don Lake Watercolor Retrospective
Giertz Gallery at Parkland College
2400 W Bradley Ave, Champaign
Through August 8th
Gallery hours online here

Explorations in Abstract: Phil Strang and Kory Twaddle

(Abstract © Phil Strang)

Local artist Phil Strang is both prolific and wide ranging in his subject and style. Yet, his abstracts are among my favorites of his work. Here he’ll be showing with fellow abstract painter Kory Twaddle, whose work was previouslfy unknown to me. Thank you, Phil Strang for introducing us to this talented painted whose work explodes with color, form, and texture. I can’t wait to see the combined works of these two dynamic painters. Lazy summer days are the perfect time to sit quietly and let these abstracts take your imagination to places far and wide. We’ll have to wait until August 1st to meet Strang and Twaddle at the artist reception, but I know it will be worth it. In the meantime, stop by on or after July 13th for your own preview. I know I will. 

Explorations in Abstract: Phil Strang and Kory Twaddle
Champaign Park District Springer Cultural Center
301 N Randolph St, Champaign
July 13th through August 24th
Artist reception on August 1st, 5 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.

Oh, and one more thing. If seeing all this amazing art inspires you to make your own, check out the July lino block and wood print poster workshops at Lisa Kesler’s studio in Tolono.

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