On August 20th through 22nd, Mary-Arrchie Theatre Company presents its Abbie Hoffman Died for Our Sins festival, a 72-hour-straight jamboree of peace, love, and theatre. The fest founder, Richard Cotovsky, oversees the melee, which involves 50 or so local theatre groups and provides a wild finale to the summer performance season. Here, we chart the influences that inform the three-day happening, named after the flamboyant antiwar protester of the 1960s.
ABBIE HOFFMAN Cotovsky performs as Hoffman during the fest’s opening ceremonial march, which takes off from Daley Plaza at 2 p.m. on Friday, August 20th, and heads to Mary-Arrchie’s beloved postage-stamp-size space in Lake View. “Hoffman used theatre to heighten awareness. His antics had a point,” says Cotovsky, 56, the artistic director of Mary-Arrchie. “Levitating the Pentagon, that was mass guerrilla theatre, getting people to think about the Vietnam War.”
WOODSTOCK Think the famous musical celebration, minus all the mud and with theatre troupes instead of bands. Also: If you want to catch a snooze between acts, which run continuously for three days, you don’t need a tent. “Sometimes people sleep in the seats. We don’t encourage it, but it happens,” says Cotovsky.
PHARMACEUTICALS A registered pharmacist for almost 25 years, Cotovsky claims no firsthand knowledge of the off-label sorts of self-medications Hoffman was known to embrace. But he can guess: “From what I’ve heard, the fest is like an acid trip. It starts out kind of low and crescendos. By Saturday night, it’s euphoric. So it’s like an acid trip in that way, although I’ve never done acid, so I can’t say for sure.”
DICK VAN DYKE Never mind Lenny Bruce. It was the strait-laced shenanigans of Mary Tyler Moore’s TV husband that inspired Frank Carr, the founder of the sketch comedy ensemble Famous in the Future, to get into show biz. At presstime, Carr was still writing the script for his performance, but if the past is any indication, it will be funny.
TALK SHOW HOSTS During A Red Orchid Theatre’s twisted talk show (always in the 5 a.m. slot Saturday and/or Sunday), the host makes random calls, rifling through the White Pages to find complete strangers. Past conversational topics have included public transportation, cake baking, and pool playing.
SHAKIRA In the sketch Moosehumps (inspired by R. L. Stine’s Goosebumps series), Lights Out Theatre incorporates an homage to “She Wolf,” the Colombian pop star Shakira’s trippy tune about Canis lupus.
GO: The Abbie Hoffman Died for Our Sins fest runs August 20th through 22nd at Mary-Arrchie Theatre Company, 735 W. Sheridan Rd.; 773-871-0442, maryarrchie.com.
Photography: (Hoffman) Chicago Tribune photo by M. Budrys, (Van Dyke) Everett Collection, (Shakira) AP Photo/Hassan Ammar, (pills, phone, tie-dye) istockphoto.com