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  • Angela Allyn

Travel to the Sun with the Icicle Picnic

If you have lived in Chicago for a long while and are culturally minded, one of your traditions may have been the Redmoon Pageant. My kids, now adults, remember them as cold, fun, magical and big. Cabinet of Curiosity’s Artistic Director Frank Maugeri was the mastermind behind many of the Pageants and he remembers too, and has lovingly restored the tradition to the calendar. ( And the show is also serving as an unintentional prequel to the upcoming International Puppet Fest kicking off later this month)

Cabinet of Curiosity’s The Icicle Picnic:Journey for the Sun now on view at the Chopin Theater adds another Chicago tradition to the mix: youth training and performance, along the lines of Gallery 37, Albany Park Theatre Project and Free Street, where young people are mentored into doing authentic meaningful works of devised theater.

The Icicle Picnic begins with Yuri Basho Lane beatboxing a preshow with a large film of nature and cartoons behind him. He engages attendees to this Drive In. The pillows are set out on the floor for the kids, and we audience sit in the charming unmatched chairs of the Chopin Theater. The show begins with three teenagers with disco ball helmets as satellites, pinging our words and art across the atmosphere. Back on Earth, we will meet three brothers (Michelle Billingsley, Sadie Roz Glaspey, and Mark Piekarz) who run a tired drive in movie theatre in 1964 small town Indiana. Their new staff member is a tap dancing cow, played by Time Brickey who will steal the show. Referencing old tv shows, low budget SciFi and cartoons from the 60’s there is a loose plot of needing to save an overheating earth from a super flare of the sun. Suspend everything you know about science and astrophysics for this tale: in this created universe of duct tape and cardboard, paper mache and sincere intention, characters can fly to the sun, and all our appliances have become sentient– in fact the real hero of the story becomes Poppy the popcorn machine. Have no fear, this hero’s journey will, in the end, save the world, and give us an exquisite soliloquy on why humanity is worth saving.

The youth performers including Avie June Schubert, Selah Herrera Helphand, Delilah Lane, Theo Maciukenas, Lorenzo Borutzky and Cat Nichols add a gorgeous level of newness and fresh wonder to the show.

The Chopin’s intimate lower level space, in contrast to the literal lofty-ness of the pageants of old, allows the story to soar while keeping us physically close to living performers and crafted objects, making it cozy like a communal campfire if your Shaman was a beatboxer. (And there are amazing cookies at the end for the audience). The Icicle Picnic shows you can handcraft a world of meaning and loveliness and hope from meager materials. A good lesson for all the generations that were in and at this pageant, and the right way to begin a new year.

The Icicle Picnic: Journey for the Sun is a very short run– only until January 15, 2023 at the Chopin Theater,1543 West Division Street in Chicago. For tickets and info head to

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