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Ebertfest 2023: Frank Oz and Derek DelGaudio Screen In & Of Itself, Rita Coburn Spotlights Marian Anderson and More!



"To Leslie" screens at 10am on Friday, April 21st, at the Virginia Theatre, as part of Ebertfest 2023. Below is an excerpt from the review of the film penned by Matt Zoller Seitz, followed by the bios of each guest scheduled to attend the screening.

The film's tour-de-force, for the lead actress as well as the filmmakers, is an unbroken tracking shot of Leslie sitting at a bar at closing time, listening to a song whose lyrics seem to be a withering comment on her life ("Is this a joke?" she says to the ceiling) then listening to the entire song as the camera inches closer to her. This isn't the moment when things turn around for Leslie, but it's the start of the start of something better. Riseborough's face lets us imagine all of the decisions and reversals, recriminations and justifications, that might be cycling through the character's mind. As a bravura piece of close-up silent acting, it's up there with Robert De Niro in "GoodFellas" imagining the bloodbath that his character is about to unleash, Diane Lane on a commuter train in "Unfaithful" delightedly recalling a tryst, Nicole Kidman at the symphony in "Birth," and other great moments in acting. Long, uninterrupted closeups of people thinking are a big part of what makes cinema a unique art form, and "To Leslie," to its credit, is built around them. 

Click here to read the full review.



Michael Morris is a British director and producer. He recently directed his first feature, "To Leslie," starring Andrea Riseborough, which premiered to great acclaim at SXSW, and received a Best Actress Oscar nomination for Andrea Riseborough’s performance. The film was also named as one of the Best Independent Films of the year by the National Board of Review, and was named “Film of the Festival” at London’s Raindance. Michael was awarded “Best First Feature” at the 2023 Kodak Film Awards. 

In television, Michael was the executive producer and director on the final season of "Better Call Saul" (AMC), which was the recipient of several 2022 awards, including an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Drama Series, a Critics Choice Award for Best Drama Series, the AFI award for TV Program of the Year, and many others. Michael recently directed the season finale of Scott Z. Burns’ "Extrapolations" for Apple, premiering in 2023. 



Matt Zoller Seitz is the Editor at Large of He is also the TV critic for New York Magazine and, and a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in criticism. His writing on film and television has appeared in The New York Times,, The New Republic and Sight and Sound. Seitz is the founder and original editor of the influential film blog The House Next Door, now a part of Slant Magazine, and the co-founder and original editor of Press Play, an IndieWire blog of film and TV criticism and video essays.

A Brooklyn-based writer and filmmaker, Seitz has written, narrated, edited or produced over a hundred hours’ worth of video essays about cinema history and style for The Museum of the Moving Image, and Vulture, among other outlets. 


Brian Tallerico, the Managing Editor of, has covered television, film, video games, Blu-ray/DVD, interviews, and entertainment news for two decades online, on radio, and in print.

In addition, he is a TV writer for, a contributor at The Playlist, and freelancer for multiple outlets, including The New York Times, Rolling Stone, and GQ. 

He also serves as President of the Chicago Film Critics Association, co-produces the Chicago Critics Film Festival every May, and is a regular guest on radio stations and podcasts. 

You can follow him on Twitter @Brian_Tallerico. Read his answers to our Movie Love Questionnaire here.


"Marian Anderson: The Whole World in Her Hands" screens at 2:30pm on Friday, April 21st, at the Virginia Theatre, as part of Ebertfest 2023. Below is a synopsis of the film, followed by the bios of each guest scheduled to attend the screening.

Directed by Peabody and Emmy Award-winner Rita Coburn, "Marian Anderson: The Whole World in Her Hands" explores the life of the African American singer and civil rights pioneer, who died in 1993 at the age of 96. The film highlights Anderson’s career, art, and legacy as a Black classical singer with a breathtaking and rare vocal range as well as her work to further civil rights. 

The film allows viewers to hear Anderson’s own voice and point of view through archival interview recordings, photographs, and personal correspondence with family and friends, including Martin Luther King Jr., Josephine Baker, and Langston Hughes


RITA COBURN, director/producer

Rita Coburn is the Peabody awardwinning Co-Director/Co-Producer of the first feature documentary on Maya Angelou, American Masters – Maya Angelou: And Still I Rise. An award winning multi-media writer, director, and producer, Rita’s television work earned 3 Emmys for documentaries Curators of Culture, Remembering 47th Street, and African Roots American Soil. 

Rita’s work has also been featured on C-Span, Harpo, and The History Channel. Rita is the owner of RCW Media Productions, Inc., a multi-media production company. Coburn’s value is such that she bridges the gap between generations and preserves African-American history.


Brenda Robinson is an entertainment attorney and producer with extensive experience in the film, television, and music industries. Brenda is currently Head of Film Finance and Inclusion Strategies for HiddenLight Productions, a global studio creating premium documentary, scripted and unscripted entertainment for film, TV and digital, founded by Hillary Clinton, Sam Branson, and Chelsea Clinton.

Brenda was most recently a financier on the Academy Award-winning documentary "Icarus" as well as "Won’t You Be My Neighbor" and "Step". She is an executive producer on numerous projects including the BAFTA-nominated "Passing", directed by Rebecca Hall, and produced by Nina Yang Bongiovi and Forest Whitaker.


Houston, Texas native Soprano Viveca Richards is currently pursuing her Master’s in Performance and Literature at the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign under the vocal direction of Yvonne Redman. Recently, Viveca made her role debut as Susanna in Le Nozze di Figaro at Krannert Center in Champaign, Illinois. As a previous student in attendance at Stephen F. Austin State University, she received the role of Monica in The Medium

An avid competitor, most recently, she was awarded the Strauss Award at the Orpheus Vocal Competition and the notable accomplishment of receiving the Congressional Black Caucus Performing Arts Scholarship. While at Stephen F. Αustin, Viveca obtained her Bachelor’s in Vocal Performance. Viveca loves to engage in activities to gain experience in developing her artistry, such as attending vocal workshops and pushing her students to succeed in their musical endeavors. 

KATIE BARR, pianist

Formerly Boston-based pianist and vocal coach, Katie Barr is a 1st Year DMA student in Vocal Coaching and Accompanying at U of I. Ms. Barr worked as studio accompanist at The Boston Conservatory at Berklee, music director and vocal coach with Boston Opera Collaborative, and pianist with Opera on Tap - Boston. 

Recent opera credits include répétiteur for Manitoba Underground Opera’s Gianni Schicchi and Suor Angelica; Die Fledermaus with MassOpera; Albert Herring, La Clemenza di Tito, Turn of the Screw, Hydrogen Jukebox, Die Lustigen Weiber von Windsor, Alcina, The Old Maid and the Thief, and La traviata with Boston Conservatory Opera.

DR. DOUGLAS A. WILLIAMS, co-moderator

Dr. Douglas A. Williams is a past Fulbright scholar in Africa and National Park Service – DSC landscape architect. He studied abroad in the Caribbean and Europe, while completing his B.S. in horticulture at the University of Illinois (UIUC). In addition, he studied abroad in Japan, before finishing his M.L.A. at Cornell University. 

He earned a Ph.D. in landscape architecture from UIUC, where he was also a postdoctoral research associate in the College of Applied Health Sciences. Williams joined the distinguished list of Harvard University, Dumbarton Oak research awardees and lectures at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Recently, this Chicago High School for Agricultural Sciences alumnus became a 2023-2024 Landscape Architecture Foundation Fellow for Innovation and Leadership. 



Nell Minow is the Contributing Editor at She reviews movies and DVDs each week as The Movie Mom online and on radio stations across the US. She is the author of The Movie Mom's Guide to Family Movies and 101 Must-See Movie Moments.

Her articles have appeared in the Chicago Tribune, the Chicago Sun-Times, the Kansas City StarUSA TodayFamily FunDaughtersParents, and three editions of The Practical Guide to Practically Everything. She is the founder of Miniver Press, a publishing company specializing in non-fiction ebooks and print books about the arts, music, sports, history, and culture. She is a graduate of Sarah Lawrence College and the University of Chicago Law School and her wonderful husband allows her to have a "10 best movie" list with 20 movies on it.


"Derek DelGaudio's In & Of Itself" screens at 7:30pm on Friday, April 21st, at the Virginia Theatre, as part of Ebertfest 2023. Below is an excerpt from the review of the show upon which the film is based penned by Matt Fagerholm, followed by the bios of each guest scheduled to attend the screening.

I knew nothing about DelGaudio prior to seeing “In & Of Itself,” and when he first stepped onto the stage, I initially thought he was an audience member who hadn’t yet found his seat. So unassuming was his behavior and so measured was his voice that he caused the 150 people in attendance to lean forward, listening carefully to his hypnotic, often heartrending stories. Only afterward did I realize that the woman sitting next to me was the magician’s cousin, who informed me that each memory from DelGaudio’s past that he shared with the crowd was entirely true. During one particularly dramatic moment, DelGaudio stood mere feet away from me as he delivered a powerful monologue while crying real tears. Never for a moment did it appear as if he were “acting”—he was simply being—all the while guiding our attention without us realizing it (like the skilled camerawork in a Welles film). When Oz came aboard the project, he took the fragments of DelGaudio’s blueprint and helped connect them in a way that made the entirety of the show—like the entirety of a Muppet—feel alive

Click here to read the full review.


FRANK OZ, director

Earlier in his career, Frank Oz was known for his creative collaborations with the famed Jim Henson performing many Muppet characters, including Miss Piggy, Fozzie Bear, and Animal, as well as Bert, Grover, and Cookie Monster. Some projects Henson and Oz worked on included "Sesame Street", "Saturday Night Live", and "The Muppet Show". He has also performed the unforgettable Jedi Master, Yoda, in all "Star Wars" films.

Oz has directed "The Dark Crystal" (With Jim Henson), "The Muppets Take Manhattan", "Little Shop of Horrors", "Dirty Rotten Scoundrels", "Housesitter", "What About Bob?", "The Indian in the Cupboard", "In & Out", "The Score", "Bowfinger", "The Stepford Wives", "Death at a Funeral", and "In & Of Itself".

DEREK DELGAUDIO, creator/subject

Derek DelGaudio is an author, director, and sleight-of-hand artist. DelGaudio created the award-winning theater show and film, "In & Of Itself." 

He wrote the acclaimed book, AMORALMAN, served as the artist-in-residence for Walt Disney Imagineering, and co-founded the performance art collective A.Bandit. 

He is currently an Affiliate Scholar at Georgetown University and co-conspirator at Deceptive Practices, a creative firm that provides “Arcane Knowledge on a Need-to-Know Basis.”


Jake Friedman is a manager and producer who has contributed to numerous #1 albums, sold-out tours, and critically acclaimed works in music, theater, and film. 

He launched his own record label at the age of 19 and led We Are Free Management for a decade. 

In 2019, he co-founded Crush Works, where he manages artists across multiple disciplines while producing notable works like "Derek DelGaudio's In & Of Itself" on Hulu/Disney+ and "Neal Brennan: Blocks" on Netflix.


Vanessa Lauren is a producer of award-winning theater and film productions. She was a creative producer for the arts education platform Marky and produced several record-breaking crowdfunding campaigns for films such as "Super Troopers 2", "Anomalisa", "MST3K", and Alex Winter's Zappa documentary. 

She served as executive producer for Neal Brennan’s "Blocks" for Netflix, after producing its successful off-broadway run at the Cherry Lane Theater. 

Most notably, she produced the groundbreaking theater show and award-winning film, "In & Of Itself", directed by Frank Oz. Vanessa is based in New York City, where she strives to elevate the arts and entertainment industry.

JANET PIERSON, co-moderator

For fifteen years, Janet Pierson was responsible for the vision, programming, and execution of the SXSW Film Festival (now the SXSW Film & TV Festival)  and the film and episodic focused content within the SXSW Conference. As of October 2022, she transitioned to Director Emeritus, continuing on the 2023 Programming team.

Before joining SXSW in April 2008, Janet spent over 30 years championing independent films and filmmakers in a variety of roles including exhibitor, producer’s rep, executive producer, and segment director of the IFC cable TV series Split Screen (now streaming on the Criterion Channel.)

Pierson made The Guardian’s Film Power 100 list in 2010 and 2013’s Indiewire Influencers.  In March 2023 she and her husband John were inducted together into the Texas Film Hall of Fame.



Matt Fagerholm is the Literary Editor at and is a member of the Chicago Film Critics Association. He spent four years writing film reviews and interviews for and has contributed to a variety of publications including Time Out Chicago, The A.V. Club, No Film School, Cinema Femme and Magill's Cinema Annual. 

For nearly a decade, he served as a monthly guest on Vocalo radio's The Morning AMp program, and is also the founder of Indie Outlook, a blog and podcast featuring exclusive interviews with some of the most exciting voices in modern independent filmmaking. Follow him on Twitter at @IndieOutlook and @mattfagerholm.

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