Wednesday, August 30, 2006

You Have the Power

To all you theatre promoters and producers out there:

You don't have to invite all the reviewers in Chicago. There's not a set rule. You don't have to please everyone. I learned from Larry Bommer at a panel discussion I attended a few months back that it's better to do your research on the reviewers you're wanting to invite, read what sort of reviews they write, decide who is worth it to invite, then invite that person. Sound and thoughtful words.

You Have the Power especially if you know how powerful words can be. If there are critics out there who write irresponsibly, just don't invite them.


Saturday, August 26, 2006

Third Week

Good afternoon, almost eventide, my friends.

Mulch and I will be venturing forth towards StageLeft in less than an hour, but I wanted to take a few minutes to give a quick "How do" and let you know the skinny on The Scarlet Letter.

Our audiences haven't been good, point blank. We thought people would like the Scarlet Letter. There's quite a bit of resentment, to tell the truth, about the book before people even enter the theatre. About half of our audience has entered the lobby with the "I hated The Scarlet Letter in high school" sentiment. My my my. And, the thing about The Scarlet Letter is that old and young have been required to read it during their high school years. It's been considered a Great Book for years, y'see. I know you know.

I was required to read it the summer before my senior year in high school along with The Chosen and The Handmaid's Tale. It took me a couple of tries to get used to the language, truth be told, and I always fancied myself a decent reader, so I found it strange that I was having a hard time with the rhythm. It is flowery, yes. Once I got into it, though, it, obviously became one of my favorites. I've never denied that I'm a geek or a reader.

So, is this a reflection upon the students? A reflection upon the teachers? A reflection upon Nathanial Hawthorne? Hawthorne had a hard time getting his stories to great success. He was friends with several people that went on to become quite famous, but never was able to jump on that bandwagon, even though he wanted to. He was roommates with Martin VanBuren, a president of ours, but that still didn't help matters in his world.

Anyway . . . it all culminates, on the producing end, in the fact that you can't say for sure, before a show gose up, what's going to work with your potential audience. We thought we might have good audiences because there's not tons of theatre happening right now, not tons of major Chicago events happening right now, and it's the time between most other theatre company's seasons. But, alack, alay, we haven't had many people.

Yeah, you've seen those reviews, but we hope that our audiences will give a show a fair shake regardless of what a sole opinion has to say. We had a guy from France come last Saturday and say, "Did you see that you received a bad review in the Trib?" and I said, "Yes." He said, "My friends didn't want to come see the show because of that reason, but I always loved the story and wanted to come. I thought it was a very powerful show and I'm sorry you received that review." So, we invite you to come, form your own opinions, talk to us about it if you feel inspired to do so or enraged to do so, so we can learn from your experience. It's a new show, after all. A calculated risk. I'd like, personally, to hear what you have to say and see how that could potentially be incorporated into our process for next time. I'm talking about constructive criticism here, folks, not bathroom humor.

Regardless, as far as the next show goes, we're going to have to sit tight for a little while because of the sheer money factor. That doesn't mean we're not going to do this and that, but . . . we'll have to sit tight, as prudence is dictating. Mulch and I are the primary donors to the GreyZelda Theatre Group and our pockets are billowing out of our pants right now. We're not worried. We don't want you, Dear Readers, to feel worried. It'll all get back on track, but this notch on the GreyZelda belt definitely is making things tight.

So, come see our show soon, please. Our actors need you. The company needs you.

It's two hours. You'll be able to go elsewhere as soon as 10pm rolls around. Our Hester Prynne rocks. The rest of the ensemble does really cool things. Miranda Sex Garden rocks if you like that kind of thing. It's two for one on Thursdays. Pay what you can Industry nights on Sundays. And only $15.00 the other evenings. And, if you're saying to yourself, shit, I ain't payin' that much for The Scarlet Letter, well . . . give me a call and we'll talk about it. I'd rather have your presence in the theatre than out of it. It's not a bad show. It's a GreyZelda show. And GreyZelda's pretty neat. If you like our kind of stuff. I always do.


Wednesday, August 23, 2006

It's All About the A

It's All About the A.

Here's what Chicago has to say about GreyZelda's adaptation of The Scarlet Letter!
Kerry Reid of the Chicago Tribune says:

"Elizabeth Styles is a striking and dignified Hester . . ."

Tom Williams of says:

" . . . dramatic moments from Toby Minor as the tormented Dimmesdale."

" . . .witness Elizabeth Styless commandingly powerful performance as Hester Prynne. Meredith Rae Lyons added several effective scenes as the impish child Pearl."

"I admire the ambition . . . "

"Kudos to Greyzelda Theatre for stretching to present an original adaptation."

Kay Daly of Timeout Magazine says:

"This staging of Hawthornes novel of sin and redemption opens promisingly enough with a striking image: a tangle of actors entwined in a sort of living sculpture, groping hopelessly to move apart while staying connected. Its an evocative and eloquent symbol for Hawthornes New England: repressed, interdependent and hypocritical."

Jack Helbig of the The Chicago Reader says:

"Adapter-director Rebecca Zellar and the ensemble do a good job finding the drama . . . The acting is strong and many of the scenes are spare and pointed."

Barbara Vitello from the Daily Herald says:

"GreyZelda's version stands head and shoulders above Roland Joffé's spectacularly ill-conceived 1995 film starring the spectacularly mediocre Demi Moore as Hester Prynne."

"Rebecca Zellar remains faithful to Hawthorne. Her scrupulous adaptation keeps intact the novel's dialogue."

" . . . newcomer GreyZelda shows promise."

"The production also benefits from solid acting from its principals, especially Elizabeth Styles as an appropriately stoic Hester . . . Styles carries herself with the dignity and calm reserve Hawthorne's proto-feminist heroine demands. It is a quietly noble performance, capped off by an emotional, well-acted reunion with Toby Minor's Reverend Arthur Dimmesdale . . .Minor is passionate . . . "

"(Ron) Kuzava makes an especially effective predator."

"Lisa Baer stands out among the supporting cast . . ."

Tickets on sale now at or by calling 773-267-6293 for reservations!

Windy City Times Review of The Scarlet Letter

Theater: The Scarlet Letter

Playwright: Nathaniel Hawthorne,

adapted by Rebecca Zellar

At: The GreyZelda Theatre Group

at Stage Left, 3408 N. Sheffield

Phone: 773-267-6293; $15

Runs through: Sept. 16


It is ironic that Nathaniel Hawthorne’s romanticist view of Puritan society in 17th-century Boston should become MORE coherent through Rebecca Zellar’s introduction of abstract elements in her adaptation of The Scarlet Letter for the GreyZelda Theatre Group. But if a picture ( as the saying goes ) is worth a thousand words, it should come as no surprise that a few moments of silhouetted corybanting, accompanied by Miranda Sex Garden’s orgasmic synth-rock, should convey subtext more vividly than the evocative inner monologues so irksome to generations of students required to read what may be the least salacious tale of adultery ever penned.

For those who succeeded in avoiding that homework assignment ( like I did ) , it is enough to know that Hester Prynne, her husband long missing at sea, has given birth to a child whose father she refuses to name. This decision being deemed inappropriate by her community, she is sentenced to wear a badge proclaiming her sin. But that brave woman flourishes, while the father of her illegitimate offspring falls ill under the stress of his secret. His decline is exacerbated by a mysterious physician—actually the incognito Mr. Prynne—bent on avenging the wrong done his beloved, if unfaithful, wife.

Hawthorne’s point is that only by being true to one’s own code of conduct does one achieve the dignity that confers happiness. Hester does this, as does her daughter, Pearl, and their protector, the ruthless Dr. Chillingworth. But only on the point of death does the Reverend Dimmesdale find peace, confessing his guilt by revealing the literal stigma engendered by his crime.

Zellar’s direction matches her production’s tone to the operatic proportions engendered by this gothic climax. Ron Kuzava renders Dr. Chillingworth as grotesquely menacing as his name, while Elizabeth Styles and Meredith Rae Lyons deliver heroic portrayals of gentlewomen Hester and Pearl Prynne. But the dramatic scope inspired by their performances inadvertently diminishes Toby Minor’s no-larger-than-life Rev. Dimmesdale, making us question, at times, if he is truly worth all the trouble taken by the others in precipitating his downfall.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Chicago Reader Review of The Scarlet Letter

This isn't the entire review - we have to pick up another copy of the Reader and will add what was omitted.

THE SCARLET LETTER Nathaniel Hawthorne's classic story of adultery and hypocrisy in a Puritan town is brought to the stage by the GreyZelda Theatre Group. Adapter-director Rebecca Zellar and the ensemble do a good job finding the drama in this rather static, meditative work. The acting is strong and many of the scenes are spare and pointed. But the nuances of Hawthorne's brilliant writing and spiritually complex message get lost amid the play's romance and melodrama. (Jack Helbig) Through 9/16: Thu-Sun 8 PM, Stage Left Theatre, 3408 N. Sheffield, 773-267-6293, $15.

Daily Herald Review - The Scarlet Letter

Letter imperfect

Casting, set undermine classic tale of adultery
BY BARBARA VITELLO Daily Herald Staff Writer
Posted Thursday, August 17, 2006

GreyZelda Theatre's adaptation of Nathaniel Hawthorne deserves a letter.

But it doesn't merit an "A."

Questionable casting, a distracting set and some awkward transitions that may confuse audiences unfamiliar with the classic novel mean this adequate production of "The Scarlet Letter" fails to earn a top grade.

And yet GreyZelda's version stands head and shoulders above Roland Joffé's spectacularly ill-conceived 1995 film starring the spectacularly mediocre Demi Moore as Hester Prynne.

Unlike Joffé and Moore, whose famously bastardized ending made a mockery of the tragedy, director Rebecca Zellar remains faithful to Hawthorne. Her scrupulous adaptation keeps intact the novel's dialogue. And while it has yet to match the expertise of say Lifeline Theatre, a company renowned for its masterful literary adaptations, newcomer GreyZelda shows promise.

The production also benefits from solid acting from its principals, especially Elizabeth Styles as an appropriately stoic Hester, who bears a child out of wedlock, is convicted of adultery and is forced to wear a scarlet "A" as punishment. Hester emerges as a woman of commanding will, who from shame and humiliation forges an identity independent of the one her puritanical society imposes. Styles carries herself with the dignity and calm reserve Hawthorne's proto-feminist heroine demands. It is a quietly noble performance, capped off by an emotional, well-acted reunion with Toby Minor's Reverend Arthur Dimmesdale, the flawed clergyman who shares Hester's sin but not her punishment.

Minor is passionate as a guilty man consumed by sin and hypocrisy who draws from Hester the strength necessary to confess and thereby earn his salvation.

Ron Kuzava plays Roger Chillingworth, Hester's husband, who is presumed dead but returns under an assumed identity to exact revenge on his wife's lover.

A study in obsession and vengeance, Chillingworth is a man crippled by hate, whose deliberate revenge emerges as the play's greatest expression of evil.

Playing the role with a perpetual scowl, Kuzava makes an especially effective predator.

Also Kuzava and Minor resemble each other, a clever bit of casting that underscores the bond shared by these men, unwavering in their beliefs and ultimately corrupted by them. The production fares best when this trio is on stage.

Lisa Baer stands out among the supporting cast, most of whom deliver mundane performances, with several inexplicably adopting British accents when an indistinct, mid-Atlantic one would have better suited the 17th century Boston setting. Meredith Rae Lyons also stands out, but for the wrong reasons. Lyons is clearly too old to play Pearl, Hester's 7-year-old daughter. That bit of miscasting, plus several other missteps make this less than letter perfect.

The minimalist set consists of gauzy white panels suspended from the ceiling which serve as the backdrop for projections and shadow shows. As visuals, they work best when only a few actors occupy the stage. Otherwise they are distracting; likewise the ethereal background music from 1980's goth rock band Miranda Sex Garden. However, the stylized group pantomime - an expression of Puritan repression, guilt and passion that serves as prologue - works. But not so the recap of the Hester-Dimmesdale-Chillingworth triangle that begins the second act as little more than a redundant distraction.

"The Scarlet Letter"

Location: Stage Left Theatre, 3408 N. Sheffield Ave., Chicago
Times: 8 p.m. Thursday to Sunday through Sept. 16
Running time: About two hours, including intermission
Parking: Street parking available
Tickets: $15
Box office: (773) 267-6293 or
Rating: For teens and older

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Buy Tickets for the Scarlet Letter Online!

Hey, everyone!

We're opening The Scarlet Letter up tomorrow and have made arrangements to sell tickets online through if you'd like to purchase them early to assure that you'll have a seat. You can go to the following website to buy them:

The show's rockin' it. The actors look gorgeous in their costumes, Heath's lighting is starting to illuminate the billowing white curtains, Miranda Sex Garden sounds awesome in StageLeft's speakers, etc, etc, etc. I think you'll really enjoy yourselves.

We're having a Preview for a few audience members this evening and are considering tonight our final dress, so hopefully everything will come together in one fell swoop.

The Jeff Committee is coming tomorrow to adjudicate the show for possible Jeff recommendations which would be incredibly exciting. This is the first time GreyZelda's been eligible for consideration and we're hoping for the best.

We'll have quite a few reviewers there on Saturday evening . .. if you haven't ever witnessed many reviewers showing up to the same place at the same time, please try to do so. It's more entertaining the show half the time! =)

So, come see, come see!