Last Monday, well-dressed theater patrons entered the Tiffany-domed Chicago Cultural Center to find the annual fundraising event for Lifeline Theatre overrun with strange people, weird music, and an atmosphere of transient phantasmagoria. Which was all well and good, as they’d arrived in time for the company’s Floating Market Benefit, tied in with their upcoming adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere, opening April 30th.
Around the parameter of the Preston Bradley Hall, three different bands of musicians created a sensorial cacophony throughout the event space. Steampunk samurai mixed and mingled alongside rag-tattered underfolk and rainbow-haired eccentrics. Fortunetellers lurked in various corners, among the lavish decorations. As the guests dined on beastwiches and earl cakes, storytellers, belly dancers, and mock swordfights kept them entertained throughout the night. Managing director Allison Cain says that the venue was chosen because “it felt like it shouldn’t be here, and so of course it should be here.”
“This is by far the most interactive benefit they’ve ever done,” commented one of the many patrons who were fans of both Gaiman’s popular novel and of the Chicago theater company. Many Gaiman fans were in attendance at the event, both watching and performing, though possibly none more impassioned than two men in contrasting black and white suits.
“There’s so little time in the stage version of the market,” said playwright and lead actor Rob Kauzlaric, “we saw this as a way to flesh out the market.”
The event contained a small spin-off story to the main play as well; the stage combat scenes were fleshed out with a story and dialogue by Chris Hainsworth, who plays the Marquis de Carabas.
The event is more than just fun and games, though. Money raised by ticket sales, the silent auctions and the “Wheel of Destiny” treasure hunt go toward helping support Lifeline Theatre’s projects, including scholarships and a summer drama camp for kids, among others.
The play opens on April 30th in Chicago. When asked what epic story they’d like to adapt next, Kauzlaric suggested Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell’s From Hell. Holmquist suggested China Mieville’s Perdido Street Station. “How could you do Perdido on stage though?” asked Kauzlaric.
“I don’t know,” replied Holmquist, ”how could you do Neverwhere?”
Greg Baldino lives and writes in Chicago, where he watches over the local comics scene like a posthuman autocrat. His fiction and journalism has appeared in many publications internationally. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photographs copyright Lisa Marie Ogle.
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