The Short & To-The-Point Bio...
Dave Awl is a writer and performer based in Chicago. He currently hosts a cabaret variety show called The Partly Dave Show. In 2002, Hope and Nonthings published his first book, What the Sea Means: Poems, Stories & Monologues 1987-2002. He is a ten-year veteran of Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind and The Neo-Futurists theater company. Back in the mid-90s, he founded the Pansy Kings performance series. He has appeared on the NPR show
This American Life. He's also an occasional New Wave DJ who spent a couple of years spinning records on Sunday nights at Club Foot in Wicker Park. You can find Dave's blog at Ocelopotamus.com.
The Long, Rambling, Please-God-Make-It-Stop Bio...
Dave shares a birthday with Edward Lear,
which perhaps explains his obsession with nonsense, cats, and dactylic
rhyme. He spent the first 22 years of his life in Peoria, Illinois,
although if confronted with this at a party he will initially deny
it. During his junior year in high school he read five Hermann
Hesse novels in three weeks for a term paper and this appears
to have precipitated his lifelong fascination with Jung,
mysticism and the unconscious (and perhaps led to some of his later
In college he competed on the Bradley Forensics Team (eventually
winning a national championship in After Dinner Speakingdon't
ask); outraged Peorians by creating surrealist sculpture out of
Styrofoam heads, Walkman headsets and colored light bulbs (this
piece, dubbed "Ceremonial Loonerist Headdress", was entered
in a local youth art show and led to Dave receiving anonymous hate
mail suggesting he be put on "a one way trip to Moscow");
and published a poetry and nonsense zine called Damned Pansies.
Dave moved to Chicago in 1988 (initially to canvas for Greenpeace)
and spent the next two years making noodles at Pastafina and performing
strange metaphysical poetry at clubs like Dreamerz and Batteries
Not Included. In 1989 Dave went to see his college chum Lisa Buscani
performing with a group called The Neo-Futurists, in a show called
Too Much Light Makes The Baby Go Blind
(then in its first year, at Stage Left Theatre). The show intrigued
him. He conceived an Eve Harrington-like desire to become one with
it. The little fool had no idea what he was getting himself into.
He started submitting plays and eventually wrote "I Remember
the Leg" which became a Neo-Futurist favorite and led to him
formally joining the company in the summer of 1990.
Since then he's produced and created several other shows, including
his 1997 one-man show, Talking To Myself.
Windy City Times called it "Witty and intelligent"
and Gay Chicago gave it 3 1/2 stars, calling it "Masterful"
and praising Dave's "Keen eye and ear and wicked and illuminating
Between 1994 and 1997 Dave created and curated the Pansy Kings
performance series, a showcase for Chicago's gay male performing
artists (which included fellow Neo-Futurist David Kodeski, video
artist Kurt Heintz, novelist Robert Rodi, one-man-show maven Edward
Thomas-Herrera, and songwriter Eric Lane Barnes among many others).
Dubbed "The Sultans of Swish" by the Chicago Reader,
and described by Windy City Times as "Sort of a queer
vaudevilleexcept naturally, ever so much more fabulous,"
The Pansy Kings' main annual event was The Pansy Kings' Cotillion,
traditionally held in the fall. The Pansy Kings were, not surprisingly,
a rather high-maintenance group so in 1998 the series went into
cold storage to allow Dave to focus on other projects. However,
it has been prophesied that one day the Once and Future Pansies
shall return in a blaze of glory and fabulousness to usher in a
new era of queer vaudeville.
Other shows Dave has created and directed include The Collapsible
Detachable Self-Cleaning Universe Show (1993) and Parts of
Me Function Like a Dream (1994). His style has been described
by the Chicago Reader as "somewhere between conceptualism,
the Marx Brothers, and high art." He has also been described
as "an accomplished performance poet" (Reader),
a "fey clown" (Chicago Tribune), and "sweet-faced
and bearlike" by an apparently charmed San Francisco reviewer.
Dave has also performed with Chicago's legendary tribe of anarcho-theatricalists Theater
Oobleck, appearing in 1998's Antistasia (in which he played the 11-year-old Czarevitch Alexei) and in 2000's The Golden Election (in which he played the triple roles of Alan Greenspan, Manuel Noriega and Barbara Bush).
Dave served as producer for the Too Much Light
was released in 1997 by local indie label Whitehouse Records. It
was a three-year project that nearly killed him, but he feels it
was worth it to have disembodied Neo-Futurist voices embedded in
plastic for all eternity. Besides, his play "Young Person's
Guide to Synchronicity" from the CD has been played on WXRT's
morning drive show (back to back with "Synchronicity"
by the Police!) and appeared on a CD benefiting
Having apparently learned nothing from the CD experience, Dave immediately agreed to spend the next six years compiling and editing The Neo-Futurists' monumental third book collection of scripts, 200 More Neo-Futurist Plays. Published by Hope and Nonthings in 2004, the book anthologizes work by the 27 different Neo-Futurist authors who were members of the company between 1993 and 2002.
Dave has been featured on the NPR program This American Life talking about
his traumatic high school days on an episode called "Sissies."
He's appeared many times on local radio shows such as LesBiGay Radio and Windy City Radio, and his play The Idea of You
(from the Too Much Light CD) has been played on the NPR program
Between January 1997 and September 1999, Dave wrote the weekly column
Wild Planets, which emphasized a humanistic approach to astrology
along with a gay-inclusive sensibility and a playful sense of humor.
Wild Planets appeared in The Windy City Times as well
as a number of places on the Internet. Dave has written various arts
& entertainment features and reviews for both WCT and NewCity
over the years. Topnotch fantasy/surrealist/magical realist author
Lisa Goldstein has Dave's interview
with her from NewCity posted on her Web page.
In 2002, Hope and Nonthings published Dave's first book of poems and monologues, entitled What the Sea Means: Poems, Stories & Monologues 1987-2002. The book collects fifteen years of Dave's writing, including pieces from his work with The Neo-Futurists, The Pansy Kings, and Spin 1/2, as well as his solo show Talking to Myself, and sections of new and previously unpublished poems.
Since 2003, Dave has been the host and curator of the cabaret variety experience known as The Partly Dave Show. Each show features a mix of spoken word performers and musicians, responding to a theme. One of the show's most popular recurring themes has been the "Gathering of the Gods," in which performers impersonate their favorite mythological figures. Performers for the show have been a who's who of the Chicago fringe scene, including many members of The Neo-Futurists and Theater Oobleck, and musicians have included such noteworthy acts as Even in Blackouts, The Sonnets, Ellen Rosner, Analog Radio, John Greenfield, Big Smith, and Noise Conspiracy.
Things that make Dave's life worth living include: Green Chai tea, cats, stone circles, lawn ornaments, New Wave dancing at Planet Earth, author Russell Hoban (whose
authorized Web site Dave runs), Ursula K.
Joan Baez, cream soda Dum
Dums, Mike Scott and the Waterboys,
Brothers (of Split Enz & Crowded House), sparkly animal pins, skinny ties, The B-52's,
Madness, Lene Lovich, Frank O'Hara, Rilke, Hesse, Wallace & Gromit, Jean Cocteau, Billy Bragg, Donovan, Gore Vidal, Charles Dickens, The Wind In The Willows,
The Judybats, Yoko Ono, Richard Barone & The Bongos, lavender, vanilla, rosemary, Christopher
Isherwood, Tom Tomorrow, The Daily Show, Michael
Moore, Ethan Mordden, Allen Ginsberg, North Beach pesto pizza, Tofu Pups, The Kids in the Hall, The Marx Brothers, Margaret Cho, Patti Smith, the occasional glass of ruby port, and anything
with coconut or basil in it. (Especially if it's Ben
and Jerry's Coconut Almond Fudgealthough to our knowledge
that fine product contains not a hint of basil.)
He takes a dim view of unnecessary cruelty toward animals,
wholesale environmental destruction,
and sinister right wing activity in general.
He believes that heterosexuals should be treated with tolerance
and compassion, and accorded full human rights. It is also
his belief that creating positive social change depends on making
wise use of the available tools. Finally, he has
been known to expound at great lengths on the weather.
Dave lives in Andersonville with his cats Barabajagal (aka Mr. Blue) and Kiwi, as well as the memory of the dear departed
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