With dinner, some people get wine or appetizers or dessert. Now, visit Logan Square sushi hot spot Wasabi (@wasabichicago, 2539 N. Milwaukee Ave.) on Wednesdays until March 27 and you can get even more: an evening of candid, animated storytelling about topics ranging from dumpsters and depression to elephants and Cabrini-Green.
The centerpiece of your dinner experience is Ron Bieganski, accomplished in both the worlds of painting and theater arts. In this performance, called “My Dinner with Ronnie,” you’re invited into Bieganski’s world of triumph and loss, a world that is always tied to his art, which is currently on display at the restaurant.
Bieganski starts the evening with a stack of wooden cards that he pulls from a mysterious drawer on the middle of the table. Written on them are titles like, “rhythm and silence,” “caged animal” and “morning sickness” and he asks fellow diners at the table to choose the order of the stories, after which he promptly dives in.
The artist’s paintings form an exhibit called “Dumpster Love,” and there is some truth in that name. After his long-term job abruptly came to an end, Bieganski found himself in a deep depression. Diving into dumpsters in search of the beautiful and unique patterns in their inner walls was the activity that kept him going.
At the dinner performance, Bieganski explains that he was drawn to painting after decades involved in theater arts partly because it was an escape from the ephemeral nature of performing.
“I wanted to build things I could see and touch,” he says.
In fact, diners also get to see and touch Bieganski’s work. He built the table that seats his audience from redwood, concrete and metal, and calls it a “gravity table” because it’s so large and heavy that it “has its own gravity.”
In his narratives, the artist touches on the elusive notion of creativity, which he says can only be accessed when people look at things with fresh eyes and find new connections within their existing repository of knowledge.
“Creativity is the byproduct of creating space, creating light in someone’s brain,” says Bieganski during his performance, breaking up a neatly piled stack of wooden cards as an example of this desired disruption.
His ruminations on creativity and performance are coming in handy these days. Bieganski is co-director at NeuroKitchen Arts Collective, a group made up of youth and adult members who not only create original performances, but take part in running the organization. The group is looking to recruit more youth members ages 14 to 18 for a current program with After School Matters.
In addition, the organization is hosting a “Summer Curiosity Club” for kids ages 8 to 12 at the Prop Theatre at 3502 N. Elston Ave., from July 8 to August 16. The program explores the intersection of science and art.
On top of that, Bieganski is busy running StudioWorksBieganski, located in Avondale, where he creates everything from furniture and paintings to concrete countertops and home repairs, all with what he describes as a “contemporary, earthy aesthetic.”
As for the neighborhood that is host to his current project, Bieganski says it has hit a sort of sweet spot. A place for artists and people of all ages, it reminds him of how Wicker Park was for a time.
“This is the time when a place like Logan Square is the best,” he says.
Tickets for “My Dinner with Ronnie” are $20 and can be purchased at www.studioworksbieganski.com. Stories begin at 6:30 pm. Participants must buy their own food.
Editor’s note: “My Dinner with Ronnie” has been extended to May 8.
Cover Photo: Anita Evans