Thursday, March 27, 2008

Performance artists Collaboraction throw a Mardi Gras-type party with fifth annual Carnaval

by Ben Madeska

Churches are not especially known for housing booze and throwing not-so-holy parties late into the night. But this Saturday, the 120-year-old Gothic cathedral at Ashland and Adams -- home to Epiphany Episcopal Church -- is converting itself into a circus tent-like atmosphere with Collaboraction's fifth annual Carnaval.

The annual fundraiser and launch for Collaboraction's Sketchbook Festival at the Steppenwwolf Garage, Carnaval strives each year to be "a once-in-a-lifetime event with an amazing lineup of music, dancing, spectacle, killer design throughout -- and great people gathered to support our artistic non-profit organization," says Anthony Moseley, the executive artistic director of Collaboraction, Chicago's most well-known performance art company.

As artistic director of such a group, Moseley has an appropriately varied history, including a degree in finance from Notre Dame, urinal advertisement sales for the Chicago Bulls and inspiration from Deepak Chopra. Even after 10 years of leadership, Moseley's enthusiasm for Collaboraction comes through when he explains how the organization fits in with Chicago's storied theater and art history. "Collaboraction follows in the great Chicago theater tradition of the Goodman and Steppenwolf while turning theater inside out and pulling in the sensibility, artists and audience of music, film, visual art and fashion while focused on giving a young, diverse, urban demographic a unique and immersive artistic experience," says Moseley.

Carnaval fits right into to this tradition, and is an outgrowth of Collaboraction's own reputation for throwing monumental parties to raise funds for their projects. "We were looking for a global tradition that would allow us the ability to deconstruct it and put it back together in a funky and fun way every year," says Moseley. "I have always loved the idea of the real Carnaval party and, let's face it, Mardi Gras has become a cheesy Girls Gone Wild thing."

Cheesy? Certainly not Carnaval -- though we can stick with wild. One of the hallmarks of Collaboration is audience participation, and there will be plenty of opportunities for people to take part in the festivities this year. A centerpiece will be the "Carnaval Couture Competition," which will feature participants walking the runway, showing off their fashion/costuming sense and modeling skills. The first 25 entrants taking part in the competition will get in for free and be incorporated into the night's events, so interested parties should e-mail right away.

Audience members not doing their thing on stage will still have plenty of encouragement "to get their freak on," with possible wardrobe and body painting among other planned (and perhaps not-so-planned) activities. Those planning costumes may also want to take note that the live music set by the Final Salvation (aka the Prarie Cartel) is going to be a collection of Lost Boys inspired '80s goth rock.

The fifth annual Carnaval will no doubt be another legendary night in Collaboraction's impressive history. In addition to Final Salvation, there will be performances by LA Jesus, Anacron, Dark Wave Disco DJs, the Blue Ribbon Glee Club, Jordan Z and, for premium donors only, Company of Thieves. Mosely promises "it will be fun, sexy and unforgettable."
Carnaval takes place March 29 at 8 p.m. at the Epiphany Episcopal Church (201 S. Ashland); tickets will not be available at the door; for more info visit