Tuesday, December 23, 2008
It always feels necessary when writing about the past that you portray some sense of newly found wisdom, self – knowledge previously unrealized, or that your soul has been touched with a slow revelation about the human condition, the struggle for enlightenment, etc, etc…blah blah blah. A lot of the time it feels like when I read, or write, these remembrances that there is a terminus. When recalling the year just lived you get a feeling that all learning, introspection, self-assessment and moving forward consciously suddenly halts and the screen goes blank and the dials are set to zero again. The reports are turned in to silent managers and accountants who record the earnings and dues in ledgers scrawled across pages with the forgotten memories of millions of others. The train has pulled in to Union Station of Memory. All riders must depart. Next train leaves tomorrow, first stop, Union Station of Id en route to Union Station of Plantar Wart.
I can't pretend to have any profound bits of personal awareness to share with other people this year. I haven't fooled myself into thinking that the big picture is a little more in focus after another three hundred and sixty five days and nights. That, in turn, makes me think that maybe I've never been much on the big picture anyway. It's not that I don't see it. I know it's there. I just don't give a fuck about looking at it right now. You see the problem is that there's so many damn people in front of me trying to see it too, pushing and shoving, being rude, wiping their noses then shaking your hand, elbowing you in the face then looking back as if their blank mongoloid expressions are supposed to convey an apology, or at least some humanity, then turning away again, eyeballs bulging to see it, necks craning, hands waving, dancing in some meaningless and hollow celebration. The importance, the purpose of it all is right there. For sale. Look at it, and keep looking. Maybe I'm some kind of Zen Nihilist. Anyway, all I can do is recall the last three sixty-five with as much clarity as is allowed by Mr. Evan Williams (have you heard I'm unemployed?).
The story Twenty-Ought-Eight began with a great last quarter of Twenty-Ought-Seven. I made some new friends and got back together with some old ones. My buddy Aris Tompulis took on Eddie Carbone for A View From The Bridge and my old friend, roommate, and collaborator from W.V. Ed French joined the GreyZelda ranks as the D.P. for the filmed portions of the show. I also got to know Ravin Dave Lykins, who played Alfieri, on a personal and professional level and feel like I've been a better person ever since because of it. We started rehearsing that October and filmed in the first week of November. The rest of the cast included new and old as well. Good old friends Tom Gordon and Dave Goss were paired with new friends Gene and Nicolle Van Dyke, Holly Micelli, and Kelly B. The show went up at StageLeft on January 3 to great responses from audience and reviewer alike. Heath Hays and Julie Ballard continued to impress Chicago with their work on set design and lighting respectively. Overall, I think it's the piece of directing work that I'm most proud of so far. But, I'm not one to spout on about my feelings of accomplishment, or my process. Rather, I look back in appreciation at the great work everyone involved put forth and am truly reminded about how symbiotically cool it is when collaborative art works out. We all benefit and become better from the endeavor. I am better for having been and worked with them. They've heard it before so I'll stop.
Here's where it gets a little crazy. Around this time we found out BZ was carrying our progeny. As my full-on partner in crime, BZ is always in the mix of things regarding our productions, but this go round she had stand back a little bit due to some unforeseen complications with the pregnancy. As it turns out, strenuous work isn't very good for pregnant mothers and a couple of days before opening night our little baby (just an embryo then, but how fragile these negligible moments seem later on, for she was very close to not being born at all) had become detached from her mothers uterine wall, the lifeline, the well to her life that was to be. That being said, BZ did everything humanly possible to handle all things administrative regarding the show, and as always performed swimmingly.
The big challenge was in April. BZ still had to direct The Skriker, a show that spanks Views l'il ass like a red head stump chile in terms of directorial commitment and vision. The good news is that she had Lisa Wilson to play The Skriker and that was probably one of the luckiest things GreyZelda ever had happen to her. Lisa completely made the show her own with what may be one of the most physically and mentally challenging roles put to paper. And again, BZ continues to teach me the art of directing when I work with her. Her ability to create vast and specific worlds out of blank, black spaces still intrigues me and makes me enormously envious of her ability. The cast for Skriker was also as lot of fun to work with and I enjoyed working two separate analogue two-scene pre-set boards to run the lights on. Because of that, I can say that for the first time, as a light board operator, I felt like I had an organic influence in the flow of every show…for better or worse.
Suffice it to say that Lisa leaving Chicago was a huge blow to GreyZelda. Never have we had a stronger supporter, collaborator, contributor, colleague, and friend than her. She will always be with us and welcome to come in and get dirty with it. BZ and I will miss her and her Beau Dave McCaul, who both moved to Seattle. Dave formed a band called SuperSideways that played in our basement once and is now posthumously remembered by such recordings as the one you can listen to on Chicago Acoustic Underground right here.
Also, the day preceding load-in for Skriker I ended up over-exposing myself to critical amounts of toxic fluorocarbons and lots of other just-plain-evil-and-malevolent shit contained in spray paint. See it was raining that day, and like I said, load in was the next day. The decorative wrought-iron that we used to create the antebellum looking proscenium for Skriker was, well – iron colored, and it needed to be white colored. So, I built a paint tent off of my back stoop with drop cloth held in place by clamps from the awning over the sidewalk and spray painted some wrought-iron, which were many pieces, for like…over an hour, or two. The thing about spray painting inside a tent, as I'm sure you can surmise, is that there's no place for the fumes to go. Unless you count inside my body. When I was finished, I had spray paint lining my nostrils and filling my mustache, presumably from the inhalation. I passed out for a second and decided maybe it was time to stop. I scrubbed my nose and mouth with Fast Orange, went inside and took a shower, almost lost control of some bodily functions, puked a little, listened to the wah wah wah wah wah sound in my head for a bit (like wippits, except not fun kids) and had to focus for a little while on how to use my legs for the walking function. The moral of the story folks, is, if you're going to spray paint for hours on end, do it in a ventilated area. That stuff about masks; useless, don't believe it. Unless you enjoy the aforementioned symptoms, then it's a real hoot so spray away and inhale deeply. Sorry, did I mention the headache sent from the torments of the worst hell ever envisioned? No? Oh, well, too late.
Later on, BZ had the baby and that story requires another set of blogging ambitions. The list of names included Delilah, Violet, Mina, Clara, and Virginia. Clara won and Virginia took second and got the middle name. I witnessed her arrival upon the surface of Earth with my own eyes on 08/23/2008 and saw BZ display more strength and resolve than I'd ever thought imaginable from such a delicate and tender creature….Who am I kidding? She's a powerwagon. But it was the most grueling thing I've ever seen someone endure and she'll forever have my respect and honor for it.
Clara is the most precious and wonderful thing that could happen to me. I'm constantly amazed at the look of pure innocence and joy her smile brings. She has created an entirely new inner world for me. The inner world that is my imagining her life, the kind of mind I wish for her, the ways I can help her attain it, the world-view she'll develop over time, how she'll interact with others…the way that I'll factor into all of these factors. Suffice it to say, I'm fulfilled by her. I feel like, no matter how big a piece of shit I think I am sometimes, she makes me feel worthy. I've never been happier in all my life and I owe it all to her.
Later in October, I got let go from my job because my presence was deemed no longer "mutually beneficial". That one still gets a chortle from me. Anyway, I got approved for unemployment benefits after six weeks of red tape and Kafkaesque bureaucratic nonsense and we got the whole family covered for insurance on AllKids (thanks Blago). Knock on wood, for awhile bills and necessities should be covered as long as we're frugal, which honestly, we were to begin with. In the meantime, I love being home with my little family. Seeing Clara everyday is a constant joy and Becky and I always entertain each other pretty well.
I've begun work on writing a new play about my drug-study days and hope to re-write Thimbleberry Gallows. I'm also building a model of a '41 Ford pickup and love watching the Blackhawks. Yep, I'm a fucking dork friends. Maybe we'll all just have to get used to it, or maybe, I've always been this way and nobody's ever let me in on it. Oh yeah, and some time in there my man Barack Obama swooped in and took back the executive branch in the name of sanity and all things good about America. So overall, despite some hardship, I'm feeling decidedly optimistic about the upcoming year.
For those I love and haven't seen for awhile, let's get together and drink some whiskey in a seedy Chicago bar soon, or at least just talk while I still have the time. For all the others; the ones forgotten, forsaken, and forgone; I wish you good luck going about your way. Just stay out of mine.
Best wishes and happy new year,
Friday, December 19, 2008
I found out I was 7 weeks pregnant with Clara at the beginning of January when we were moving A View from the Bridge into Stage Left Theatre. I had lunch with Rebekah at Pick Me Up Cafe, which is right across the street from Stage Left, while our respective husbands worked on getting the set up. She was the first person, other than Chris, that I told about the pregnancy and because we had had a wonderful day searching for last minute props at Target and Lost Eras, I was inspired to share the news. We talked about parents, theatre, babies and the future.
The play opened and we told a few more people that we were pregnant, but we had a scare during opening weekend which kept us mum from spilling the beans to everyone involved in the show. I had started bleeding heavily after helping out with the set and the load-in. One of our cast members was in the bathroom with me during intermission while I was silently freaking out and asked me what I thought of the acting that night ... the person, of course, was doing a wonderful job and I told the person so, but ... I had other concerns on my mind and was hoping that everything was ok...I probably sounded a little weird when I answered. I went to a fetal specialist the following day and discovered that the embryo had separated from the placenta but it was still fine and, with a few weeks of bed rest, it would most likely reattach itself to the uterine wall and would continue growing but there was still the chance of a miscarriage. Dear God. So, I had to excuse myself from helping out backstage and with box office. Thankfully, Melissa Kuhlmann filled that position almost every night and Lisa Wilson filled in when she couldn't. Holly Micelli rocked out as the Stage Manager and Chris did the lights, sound and video, so my help wasn't needed, to be quite honest. I just chilled at home, took reservations, managed Ovation Tix and attempted to produce the show as much as I could from behind the computer screen and on the phone. Clara, being the tenacious wonder that she is, reattached herself and the pregnancy continued as normal. I'm so thankful for the support of our friends and family during that time. It was pretty scary for me.
I was set to direct The Skriker in the spring but wondered if I would be able to do it. I had always wanted to be the type of pregnant woman who could do everything, but discovered that wasn't going to be the case. I really needed to take it easy and focus my energies on creating the healthiest baby I could. I wanted to keep myself cool as a cucumber and avoid the stresses that often accompany a production. I strengthened myself up mentally and, with the help of Chris and Lisa, I decided to go ahead and direct the show. We held auditions in February and selected an amazing group of ladies and one guy.
The rehearsal process went smoothly, the design staff was exceptional and my dear husband helped me keep my sanity during the whole process. I lost my cool a couple of times with folks not directly involved in the production and I could blame it on hormones being all over the place, but that seems too easy. I realized during my pregnancy that I didn't have much of a filter and I could say that I regret my actions but that would be lying. Would I do it again? Yes. Would I do it again to the extent I did it? Probably not. Do I feel like I should apologize for my actions? Not at this point. Would I like to move forward? Most definitely.
In June, we attended the Jeff Awards for the first time to celebrate Nicolle Van Dyke's nomination for Best Supporting Actress. Her portrayal of Beatrice in A View from the Bridge was so honest, so raw, so supportive and so touching. It was an honor to be with her that evening and I'm still elated that her first role in years garnered her a nomination from the Jeff committee. Melissa Kuhlmann and Tom Gordon also were there to support her, along with Gene, her husband, so we had a grand turnout from the GreyZelda peeps.
And, that, as they say was that in terms of mingling with the theatre community this year .... I did get a chance to see The Mammals'Clay Continent, Point of Contention's Radium Girls, Kat Daniels in a show at the Irish Heritage Center (can't think of the title right now ... I think my brain's still a little smaller from the pregnancy) and, of course, Our Town, which, like the rest of Chicago's audiences, I adored. I said to Chris before I left, "If I don't like this show and if it gives me the same 'meh' feeling I've gotten from so many other shows the last few years, than something's seriously wrong with me and I've lost my love of theatre." Our Town delivered, I was moved to tears and I couldn't stop gushing about it when I returned home. Thank you, David Cromer and The Hypocrites, for being that spark that reminded me why I am attracted to this art form.
Which leads me to the present and our future ...
Internally, we've shuttered the doors and windows for a spell. Lisa Wilson, a company member who was with us from One Flea Spare, moved to Seattle with dear Dave McCaul in August and that's created a pretty big void as she was a huge supporter and collaborator with the company as well as being a creative, driving, inspirational force of an artist and friend. We've got an incredible pool of actors, designers, etc who have helped keep our company strong, but we don't have the driving force to keep this going right now while I'm home rearin' our dear baby girl. Chris and I, in the meantime, are blowing off the dust from our Metamorphosis adaptation and our original play, The Thimbleberry Gallows. We're going to rework and take the editing knife to them. We might send the scripts out after we're finished to see if anyone would like to take a swing at producing them. Chris is also starting work on a play that's been rumbling around in his noggin for several years. There's been some very light talk of joining forces with another theatre company in town. Basically, it comes down to this: Chris and I have been a team and we've been able to to work and produce shows together. Now, we have a little girl on the scene that we want to devote the majority of our time to. In order to get things rolling theatrically again, we need another person who is willing to devote as much time and energy into the company as we have so that Chris and I can swap out responsibilities instead of doing the majority of the behind-the-scenes roles and responsibilities.
I'm not sure what 2009 holds for us at this point ... Chris lost his job in October and is still on the job hunt. I'm not quite ready to go back to work because I love being Clara's mom full time. We're going day to day, at this point, and hope that we have enough money from Chris's unemployment to pay our bills, rent, etc. So, thinking about what we're going to produce next is very far down on our list of priorities. I'm sure we'll figure out the balance and I hope that's sooner than later but, right now, we're just trying to survive and take care of Clara, who is a pure ray of happiness and fills our world with wonder and warmth.
In closing, I'd like to say that we hope that your Winter and Holiday Season proves to be merry and bright. Enjoy your family. Enjoy your friends. Enjoy your respective companies. Try to escape to the theatre when you get the chance. Support your local Storefront scene. Be there for each other and appreciate those that surround you. Give each other support, love and kind words.
It's been an incredible year and thanks for reading.
Sunday, November 30, 2008
Monday, November 17, 2008
Click here to check it out.
I didn't until recently when I googled the play to find some information for a friend.
Trees always dress up a place. You can see their loveliness up above there with Ms. Melissa Kuhlmann modeling in front with Julie Ballard's snazzy lights.
I'd really like to return to the play, edit the bejesus out of it and see what else we can do with it. Maybe remount it. Maybe send it out on the submittal process. Maybe give it a reading and have our respected peers give us a good whatfor to help us fix it up.
One of these days ....
Monday, September 15, 2008
The future is gaping wide open, but is quite focused on a little girl who is currently sleeping in her bouncer alongside me as I type.
I'm not at all interested in getting into theatre debates with theatre bloggers or writing long winded essays decrying the state of the stage. To be quite honest, I find the whole darn thing pretty lame and lacking in life content and force. Everybody takes everything so personally ... if someone writes something complaining about this and that, all the other bloggers read it to mean that that person must be talking about them specifically. Ah, theatre people ... thy vanity is laughable and ever so predictable.
So, I choose to hang with a wee thing who takes the world day to day and is experiencing firsts everyday ... she doesn't repeat herself, thank the gods.
So ... someday ... maybe we'll do something again. Until that day, keep on creating, avoid stifling others, avoid the negative nellies and the noids and remember to breathe. And smell those flowers.
Friday, August 01, 2008
He, Nick Keenan and many others have done an amazing job collecting information from Chicago's theatres to make a highly comprehensive site that will be incredibly helpful and educational.
So ... get your information into him as soon as possible!
Thursday, July 31, 2008
Our dear friends, Lisa Wilson and Dave McCaul, are loading up their U-Haul and are going to make the voyage to their new destination of Seattle, WA. We will sorely and severely miss them, but are incredibly excited about their new adventure in a land I've never visited. A land of trees, water, trolls and lots of coffee. And Frasier lives there. And, I hear tell, there are those who are sleepless.
Lisa's been with GreyZelda since the beginning and has been the biggest supporter, company member, collaborator and maven we've had. She's hung up posters, made costumes, acted lots of times, assistant directed, donated furniture, time and lots of effort ... she's been amazing and not having her around to be involved in whatever the company does next will be a sad endeavor. But, on the positive side, we have a lot of people who have started getting involved with the company who are excited to help and grow our little group.
Lisa and Dave also quickly became bosom pals of ours and we've spent many a late evening with them talking about music, dancing, breaking glasses, bobbing for apples, watching movies, debating, arguing, crying, seeing lots of concerts together, being silly about Tori Amos ... we've shared a great deal together and they've been two of the best friends we've had. We've learned a great deal from them and they've introduced us to many things from authors to musicians to movies to restaurants. Many, many things. For they are adventurers of the highest degree. We'll really miss them.
And, now before I become too verklempt, I will bid them adieu and safe travels and will regale you with pictures.
And it'll be super cool to visit them in Seattle. I hear tell you can take a 6 hour ferry ride to Alaska from there.
Monday, June 30, 2008
I'm often my own box office staff and producer when we put up a show. So, ultimately, we tell our actors that we hold the right to ultimately decide. Now, our actors will often not want to perform if there are less than five people in the audience. If one of those people are a reviewer or noted theatre member of the community, however, they will. But, they just don't want to do the show if it's a regular ol' audience member. We even had one of our casts almost mutiny because I made them perform for three people one evening. One of the people was a person I had acted with several years ago and I hadn't seen him since - he just happened to walk by the theatre and saw me at the box office. The other two were a mother/daughter team from Iowa that were interested in the show because the daughter had studied it in high school and they had planned on seeing it during their very brief stay in Chicago. They couldn't see it any other time because they were headed back to Iowa the next day. I made the executive decision that, yes, we were going to do the show. And the cast was infuriated. Which infuriated me. It wasn't a good night.
We have canceled shows based on low attendance, but I always regret doing that. Another example ... one of our good friends and fellow bloggers came to see A View from the Bridge. He was the only member of the audience on the night he came and we asked if he could come another night. He was very accomodating and said, "Sure, no problem." Unfortunately, he planned on coming our closing night ... which we had to cancel because one of our actors had the whooping cough and we couldn't put the show on (there were thoughts of me jumping in there, script in hand, but we decided against it because, at that time, I was on bedrest due to early problems in the pregnancy and I knew I would push myself over the limits in multiple ways.) So, our friend didn't get to see the show at all and I still feel guilty about that.
There's a "Show Must Go On" quality missing from a few of the actors we've worked with. Now, if an ensemble member has, say, the whooping cough and is hospitalized then, yes, that person should not be acting and we just have to cut the losses. I know that actors get tired - (we get tired, too), but ... I dunno. We've also had actors who are team players and want to perform no matter what. And know that it's our decision if we do the show or not. I like working with those actors.
So, I proclaim, from now on ... The GreyZelda Theatre Group will always perform the show unless there are no people in the audience. Actors, if you're reading, if you're not comfortable with that policy ... please don't audition or accept a role. We're there to perform, the space has been rented, the rights have been paid. Costumes have been put on, warmups done, lights checked, props checked, toilet paper in the bathroom. We're doing the show. And the show's going to be just as energized as a show played to a full house. Because we're all professionals. And that's how it's done.
Wednesday, June 18, 2008
Thank you, Johnny Knight, for such a great picture!!! This picture was snapped of Chris and me before the Jeff Awards Ceremony began and it's my new favorite picture of us. I'm with David Moore (yeah, you look great in that picture, D.A.M!!!!) in agreeing that I often don't get the best pictures taken (my eyes are kooky or closed; I'm making a goofy face, etc). Chris, in my unbiased opinion, always takes a good pic and looks like a dashing gentleman. We were there to support the incomparable Nicolle Van Dyke who was nominated for Best Supporting Actress in a play for A View from the Bridge and had a very nice evening eating strawberries and seeing what the Jeffs are all about.
Tuesday, June 10, 2008
For example ... Chris and I love going to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Copper Harbor, especially. Lake Superior crashing on volcanic rock. Bald eagles patrolling the rocky shores on their migratory paths. Silent bike rides under oranges, reds and yellows. Full glimpses of the Milky Way and flirting from the Northern Lights. Visits to Fort Wilkins and tales of girls who come from the south to visit their sisters and disappear after picking thimbleberries.
We decided to start working on The Thimbleberry Gallows after such a visit in the Fall of 2004.
What gets your juices churning? What's your secret sauce?
Cross posted at Terroristic Optimism and GreyZelda's Myspace Blog.
Tuesday, June 03, 2008
From Geoff Short's blog:
"A 1945 Code of Ethics for Theatre Workers Surfaces"
Equity member Kathleen Freeman died of lung cancer in August, 2001 while she was appearing on Broadway in her Tony-nominated role of Jeanette in The Full Monty. Equity Councillor Jane A. Johnston, a longtime friend, was executrix for Ms. Freeman’s estate. Among Ms. Freeman’s papers she discovered a yellowed document containing A Code of Ethics for Theatre Workers. Ms. Freeman was a daughter of a small time vaudevillian team and it was her childhood experience of touring with her parents from which this Code of Ethics sprung, Ms. Johnston writes. She also notes: “What is particularly interesting about this list of dos and don’ts for the theatre is that it was written in 1945 when Kathleen was establishing one of the first small theatres in Los Angeles and she was 24 years old. I wish I had been told some of ‘the rules’ when I was a young actress instead of having to pick them up as I went along.”
The theatre was the Circle Players, and among its backers was Charlie Chaplin. That group subsequently evolved into the Players’ Ring. Although there is no record that either company used an Equity contract (they certainly pre-dated the 99-Seat Code in Los Angeles), nevertheless, Ms. Johnston confirms that all the participants were professionals.
Foreword to the Code
“A part of the great tradition of the theatre is the code of ethics which belong to every worker in the theatre. This code is not a superstition, nor a dogma, nor a ritual which is enforced by tribunals; it is an attitude toward your vocation, your fellow workers, your audiences and yourself. It is a kind of self-discipline which does not rob you of your invaluable individualism.
“Those of you who have been in show business know the full connotation of these precepts. Those of you who are new to show business will soon learn. The Circle Players, since its founding in 1945, has always striven to stand for the finest in theatre, and it will continue to do so. Therefore, it is with the sincere purpose of continued dedication to the great traditions of the theatre that these items are here presented.”
The “rules” follow:
1. I shall never miss a performance.
2. I shall play every performance with energy, enthusiasm and to the best of my ability regardless of size of audience, personal illness, bad weather, accident, or even death in my family.
3. I shall forego all social activities which interfere with rehearsals or any other scheduled work at the theatre, and I shall always be on time.
4. I shall never make a curtain late by my failure to be ready on time.
5. I shall never miss an entrance.
6. I shall never leave the theatre building or the stage area until I have completed my performance, unless I am specifically excused by the stage manager; curtain calls are a part of the show.
7. I shall not let the comments of friends, relatives or critics change any phase of my work without proper consultation; I shall not change lines, business, lights, properties, settings or costumes or any phase of the production without consultation with and permission of my director or producer or their agents, and I shall inform all people concerned.
8. I shall forego the gratification of my ego for the demands of the play.
9. I shall remember my business is to create illusion; therefore, I shall not break the illusion by appearing in costume and makeup off-stage or outside the theatre.
10. I shall accept my director’s and producer’s advice and counsel in the spirit in which it is given, for they can see the production as a whole and my work from the front.
11. I shall never “put on an act” while viewing other artists’ work as a member of an audience, nor shall I make caustic criticism from jealousy or for the sake of being smart.
12. I shall respect the play and the playwright and, remembering that “a work of art is not a work of art until it is finished,” I shall not condemn a play while it is in rehearsal.
13. I shall not spread rumor or gossip which is malicious and tends to reflect discredit on my show, the theatre, or any personnel connected with them—either to people inside or outside the group.
14. Since I respect the theatre in which I work, I shall do my best to keep it looking clean, orderly and attractive regardless of whether I am specifically assigned to such work or not.
15. I shall handle stage properties and costumes with care for I know they are part of the tools of my trade and are a vital part of the physical production.
16. I shall follow rules of courtesy, deportment and common decency applicable in all walks of life (and especially in a business in close contact with the public) when I am in the theatre, and I shall observe the rules and regulations of any specific theatre where I work.
17. I shall never lose my enthusiasm for theatre because of disappointments.
In addition, the document continued:
“I understand that membership in the Circle Theatre entitles me to the privilege of working, when I am so assigned, in any of the phases of a production, including: props, lights, sound, construction, house management, box office, publicity and stage managing—as well as acting. I realize it is possible I may not be cast in a part for many months, but I will not allow this to dampen my enthusiasm or desire to work, since I realize without my willingness to do all other phases of theatre work, there would be no theatre for me to act in.”
All members of the Circle Theatre were required to sign this document. And they must have—because the theatre, and the group into which it evolved, was successful for many years."
Thursday, May 29, 2008
So ... you may or may not know that Tori toured with Alanis Morrissette back in 1999. I saw her on that tour in Pittsburgh. Anyways ... Tori was asked by interviewers time and time again about what it was like working with Alanis, yadda yadda yadda and a couple of quotes popped out to me and sum up how I feel about our theatre company, art, how we go about creating it and how we collaborate with other theatre companies ...
"We get along very well . . . It's like two pirate ships that have gone into the same cover together."
"It's been about holding space for each other ..."
"Charlie Rose: I mean.. well, was their conflict, was there tension? or was it just a
Tori Amos: no tension because.. I think honestly, she approached me and she did it
in a way that was like, "hey, lets be creative and put two shows together,
two separate shows and um.. I had to bring my own production. I didn't want
to do anything where I couldn't bring my own production because that's not
how i work. I have a pirate ship, I have a captain..
T: I'm the ship(giggle)
T: i have loads of chefs
T: and all sorts of people floating around. thieves, fantastic. few
T: all on my ship
T: and we all had to come and be respected that, you know, no compromise on
any level. and, she has her captain, she is her ship, and of course thats
how it had to be approached. and, because of that mutual respect it worked
out really well."
We're the captains of our pirate ship. You do what you have to do to keep your art and motivations sacred. And you have to remember to do things your own way. Sometimes you can converge with another but it's a very tricky negotiation. You have to maintain your own identity.
How do you imagine your theatre company?
For more Tori quotes on Alanis and vice versa, please visit http://www.thedent.com/torialanis.html
Tuesday, May 20, 2008
This blog is going through a personality crisis right now, but its moderator is pregnant so that probably makes sense. There's a blog here one day, then not here, then another one, then that one goes down ... sorry about that.
The GreyZelda Theatre Group will be taking an extended break for a spell as its cofounders and coartistic directors are preparing for the birth of a little girl who will be making her appearance at the end of August. We'll be having a celebratory BBQ on Saturday for the casts and crew of A View from the Bridge and The Skriker on Saturday, which we're very much looking forward to as that might be our last shindig for a while. Which we're also looking forward to as breaks have proven very beneficial for our company and our creative process.
We might give a go at writing another play. I might do a little sumthin', sumthin' on the acting end w. Ms. Van Dyke. She and I talked about a project during View rehearsals and I think it would be really fun to start working on it without the pressure of definitely putting a date on it. And, who knows ... we might post a season announcement sooner than later, once we get this parenting thing figgered out. (Does anybody ever completely get it figgered out? I'm looking forward to learning and teaching and watching our little one grow. And laugh with us. And play. And do what families do ... yay!)
So ... stay tuned for announcements. I'm also going to try to write daily blogs here and they'll also be posted on my myspace page. If you're on myspace and would like to befriend me, please do.
Many hugs and kisses.
Thursday, May 15, 2008
Monday, May 12, 2008
Let's put some of our talking to action now.
(Update: According to the Chicago Music Commission:
Chairman Schulter (47th Ward) has decided not to report the event promoter ordinance out his City Council Licensing and Consumer Protection Committee. In other words, it will not be on the City Council agenda tomorrow and there will not be a vote on the bill as previously scheduled. It has been pulled until further research is done.)
"When a football team loses, they players get hammered by just about everybody. Writers opine, fans fill the sports sites with assessment, talk radio shows are devoted to sports opinions. Result? More attention for the sport. Now, how comfortable is that for the quarterback being hammered, the pitcher being sliced and diced? But they handle it. But artists? Man, we would shrivel up an DIE under that scrutiny. Or...maybe we wouldn't. But we sure act like we would. All that delicate rehearsal time, and if somebody posts negative comments about a show once it's open WEE-OOO, the yogurt hits the fan. Are we really, truly that delicate? I'm just askin'."
And, to that, I answer with a resounding
That's what I'm talkin' about.
Sunday, May 11, 2008
Wednesday, May 07, 2008
Our run of Caryl Churchill's The Skriker is almost at a close - our final performance will be this Saturday, May 10th.
Thursday's performance is close to being sold out - we have six tickets left, so I encourage everyone to take advantage of Friday and Saturday.
Thank you so much for coming out and supporting GreyZelda! It's been a wonderful run and I look forward to writing some closing thoughts next week.
Friday, May 02, 2008
She's been nominated for Best Actress in a Supporting Role/Play for her role as Beatrice in A View from the Bridge!!!!!!!! We're so excited for her, I can't begin to tell you. I'll write more about this tomorrow because I need to go to bed, but I wanted to make a quick announcement. And I just called Nicolle even thought it's super late. I believe she's jumping on her bed right now.
(Edited on 5/2/08 at 10:00am) I've known Nicolle since college and she was in The Boys Next Door with me, which was one of my all-time favorite theatrical experiences. Part of the reason the show was so wonderful was because I got to act closely with Nicolle. She's one of the most giving, committed, funny, honest and professional actors I know and I speak for anybody who has ever acted with her in saying she totally and completely deserves this nod. And she's an incredibly nice, beautiful person. So ... theatre companies ... get to know this girl, will yins? She's the bee's knees.
And! Rebekah Ward-Hays was nominated in the same category for her role in Backstage Theatre's Waiting for Lefty!!!!! Ahhhh! I saw Rebekah perform in this and was really proud of her and the show in general. Congratulations, Rebekah and Backstage!!!!
It's all too exciting.
Monday, April 28, 2008
"SKRIKER: The Horrible World of Faerie
Events / 4/28/2008 11:49:46 AM
Welcome our newest contributor to the dark world of Killer-articles, C.S.E. Cooney! As a huge theatre buff, writer, and performer, she was the perfect person to check out this latest Chicago play by The Greyzelda Theatre Group currently disturbing audiences.
To reach the theatre, I have to sidle past a fairy in fishnets and black feathers. She sneers. Two lights like eyes glare from the back of the stage, giving everything an eerie green glow. A trellis of ivy delineates the proscenium. It casts strange shadows.
Soon, the stage fills with visions from a fairytale that probably never made most shelves. Horse-heads and fanged pig-faces, blank angels, corpse girls and stately Green Ladies drift to the music of erratic breathing and a mournful violin.
The Dark Fairy “my fairy“ approaches a slumped bum and shrieks: "Are you dead? Are you DEAD?" Other creatures squat and cluck and click and sigh and tickle each other, creating an atmosphere both of threat and mischief.
SKRIKER, by Caryl Churchill, is a difficult script to wrest meaning from. For the first ten minutes, a monologue rambles like a nursery rhyme sung by an idiot. A dangerous idiot. As with Shakespeare, the ear needs this time to acclimate to Churchill's language, which is dense and poetic throughout but not quite as inexorably as those first ten minutes.
The Skriker, "a shape shifter and death portent," is played by Lisa Wilson. She opens the play in tattered long johns and a black cloak, moaning like a professional. Her cloak falls open, and we see she is breast-feeding a bundle of bones. This image, like her ensuing monologue, sets the tone for the rest of the play.
SKRIKER is not the horror of axes and arterial fountains. This is the horror of dark alleys, motherhood, madness and the danger of wishes. Good behavior is rewarded; bad behavior is punished. But whether you're vomiting gold coins for kissing an old hag, or vomiting dead toads for refusing to do so, the gifts of fairy burn on the way up.
The most intriguing part of this GreyZelda production is its ensemble. No matter if the scene being played is relatively normal in execution, the monsters are still looking on. There is always a girl in red shoes dancing in the shadows. Her expression is desperate: as if she knows she will only stop if both her feet are cut off.
Parts of the play do seem a bit hellish, in that you don't know when or if it will ever end. But for the most part I was captivated. There were some unexpectedly funny moments, as well as deeply creepy ones. Kathryn Daniels, playing the tough sister Josie, is grounded enough to bring Churchill's high-falutin' rants back down to earth. I particularly enjoyed Rebecca L. Mauldin's Dead Child.
I would recommend this show to adventurous and literary loonies. But remember: "Don't eat. Don't drink. Or you'll never get back!"
Jill's p.s. This show runs until May 10th, for ticket and location details visit www.greyzelda.com"Posted at www.killer-works.com
Thursday, April 24, 2008
" Caryl Churchill plays—always intensely verbal, Surrealist and heavy on choreography—can easily become trainwrecks, but GreyZelda’s production of one of her most difficult and strangest remains afloat, often inspiringly and always coherently—no small feat. The success of this "Skriker," a series of nightmarish scenes following a terrifying shapeshifter and her human victims, is due in large part to Lisa Wilson’s brilliant inhabiting of the title character. She remains magnetic and articulate, even as she spouts out verse after verse of Churchill’s sometimes almost incoherent monologues. The other actors keep up, and the show feels fresh in its exploration of gender, horror and dream, not least of all because of its strong interactive element; making audiences squirm in true Brechtian fashion, actors consistently break down the fourth wall in what could otherwise be an estranging production. The set and costumes are a bit uninspired, relying too heavily on tropes from Halloween costumes, but once the lines begin, it hardly matters."
And Now for Something Completely Different ....THE SKRIKER "Caryl Churchill's 1994 play isn't easy going. It follows a "shapeshifter and death portent" bent on stealing the newborn child of teen mother Lily while avoiding the sometimes violent efforts of Lily's mentally-ill friend Josie to protect the baby. The creature says she's out to avenge the underworld, which has been left to wither and starve. But Churchill's multiply fractured narrative and Joycean wordplay communicate only a swirl of potentially provocative ideas that never realize their dramatic potential. Director Rebecca Zellar focuses most of her ensemble's energy on creating an underworld of childlike malevolence--part punk after-hours club, part dyspeptic kindergarten class. But even with a smart, committed cast, this GreyZelda Theatre Group production is comprehensible only in fits and starts." --Justin Hayford
A Note from the Director ... It's a Tomayto/Tomahto type of play ... if you like your theatre easy and don't want to put in any brain work, then this probably isn't the show for you. We don't hand you all of the answers on a platter. When one of the college students on Saturday basically said, "I don't get it. What am I supposed to walk away with? How am I supposed to apply any of this to my life?", I turned the question around on him and asked back, "Well ... what did you get from the images, from your initial instincts and remembrances of the show?" He had a hard time answering. One of our cast members afterwards said, "We should have just asked him if he believed in faeries," which would have been a much better answer. I feel our show is like taking a walk through the Art Institute ... some pieces are pretty easy to figure out, but some take a little bit more of abstract thinking and impulsive thought to begin the process of "figuring it out." That's what The Skriker's like, in my opinion. I've noticed that the reviews we've received so far are pretty split down the middle ... some people embrace the subtleties and humor of Churchill's words; some find it too "Joycean", so ... it's really a taste thing. It's definitely not a walk in the park. Thank goodness.
Wednesday, April 23, 2008
by Mary Shen Barnidge
"You can hear their eerie cries as you climb the stairs at Angel Island's loft space, and if you linger in the lobby before taking your seats, you might see winged fairies fluttering at the windows. Inside the auditorium, you will find yourself confronted by a swarm of grotesque tricksters from Celtic/Saxon myth—ogres, brownies, kelpies, bogles, ghosts, ghoulies, long-legged beasties and other creatures you wouldn't want to meet in the dark. But that's before we're introduced to the queen of them all, the Skriker, who speaks in a curious echolalic-associative idiom ( calling someone a “toxic-waste-paper-basket case”, for example ) and who greets us by exhibiting the leftovers from her most recent meal of stolen infant.
For most theater companies, a setting such as that invoked by English playwright Caryl Churchill's celebration of her national folklore would constitute an invitation to dazzle us with high-tech fantasy at the expense of the story. Not so this GreyZelda Theatre Group production, whose director, Rebecca Zellar, keeps the scale comfortably life-sized. Oh, Jeff Semmerling's masks, Tomas Medina's prestidigital instruction and Joseph Ravens' movement design for the athletic ensemble supply the requisite menace associated with apparitions stalking their human prey. But always at the center of the action are the two unwary mortals seduced by the shape-shifting Skriker, who assumes the guise of a street-beggar, orphan child or leather-jacketed butch as easily as she bewitches people into spitting money—or frogs.
Immersion in this dramatic universe for almost two intermissionless hours could overwhelm an audience's suspension of disbelief, but for the copious assistance offered, not only by the ingenious spectacle employing an array of narrative arcs ( note the progress of the red-slippered dancer, or the humble janitor-boy, over the evening's duration ) , but the tightly focused performances of Kelly Yacono and Kathryn Daniels as ambivalent young mothers targeted by kidnappers from a literal Underworld. The tour de force in this ambitious project, however, is Lisa Wilson's portrayal of the top-ranked Weird Sister herself. In a role that could have come off like a Karen Finley-wannabe afflicted with the pip, Wilson remains the most charming and congenial of hostesses as she guides us on our tour of twilight realms too often ignored since the proliferation of intimate brightly lit playhouses put an end to shivery Things That Go Bump In The Night."
Thursdays and Sundays are our Theatre Industry performances - Pay What You Can with a Headshot/Resume/Business Card
If you're a Student, you can pay $10.00 with an ID. If you're a Senior Citizen, you can pay $10.00 with an ID.
If you've seen the show once and would like to come back again (something we strongly encourage because there's a heck of a lot to absorb - I've been working on this thing for ten plus years), please do and you'll see the show for free if you bring a paying customer.
The Skriker by Caryl Churchill Running until May 10 - Thursdays - Saturdays - 8pm; Sundays - 3pm
Regular ticket price - $20.00
Visit www.greyzelda.com to purchase tickets online or call 773-427-1935 for reservations.
Monday, April 21, 2008
British playwright Caryl Churchill pushes the limits of theatre in her epic theater plays, of which, her 1994, The Skriker, is a prime example. Churchill’s plays require loads of patience and strong heart. I find her work most exasperating and somewhat agonizing yet I feel compelled to see all her plays. The Skriker, directed with creativity by Rebecca Zellar, is too long, too dense and too vague—yet it intoxicates me.
The show contains terrific work from the dozen fairies from the underworld and their leader, The Skriker (Lisa Wilson). She is a demonic shape-shifting fairy who covets a child. Josie (Kathryn Daniels) is in a psycho ward because she killed her baby. The Skriker, constantly changing forms, wants her sister Lily (Kelly Yacono) to give her baby to her once she gives birth. I think? Understanding a Churchill play is no easy task!
After a long stream-of-conscious monologue filled with gibberish and rhyming wordplay, the action erupts into many self contained scenes filled with eerie movements. The fairies crawl, saunter, dance and grope around the stage dressed in unique outfits with some wearing masks, some more animal than human. We hear this group comment through moans and groans to what The Skriker does. This marvelous ensemble works hard to give special characteristics to their beings with crafty body movements, scary, demon-like gestures and sounds.
Lisa Wilson, as The Skriker, propels the action as the evil demonic spirit leader bent on getting Lily’s new born. Kelly Yacono, as Lily, and Kathyn Daniels, as Josie, are effective as the sisters who cross the line into the underworld.
Kudos to Director Rebecca Zellar for the amazing stagecraft exhibited by her cast of fairies. Their costumes, movements and disciplined characterizations gave this show a lively and unpredictable element that was engaging. We never know what will happen next. The dozen fairies’ performances alone make this show worth seeing.
Churchill’s use of language pushes her works into a Brechtian style absurdist play. Many theatre patrons will find this play troubling while others will admire the creativity and craft of The Grey Zelda production. I usually end up finding Churchill’s plays irritating as I did this one but I’m glad I witnessed this provocative play. The production values are terrific.
Reviewer: Rory Leahy
Monday Apr 21, 2008
The mythic notion of babies being stolen by fairies is horrifying—and, indeed, morally deplorable—but on another level, it is also awesome. The extent to which you appreciate this may affect your enjoyment of Caryl Churchill's "Skriker," produced by GreyZelda Theatre.
Fairies, like angels, have suffered from centuries of Disney-style sanitization that has reduced them to being creatures of sweetness and cuteness, but in the words of modern mythmaker Neil Gaiman, "giggling, dangerous, bloody psychotic menace...is more like it". Rebecca Zellar's nightmarish staging, which makes good use of the intimate Angel Island space, is true to that vision and envelops the audience in it.
One of the truly great playwrights of the last half-century, Churchill has always expertly blended the mythical and the mundane; here, the titular Skriker (Lisa Wilson) is a living metaphor for death, madness and yearning. The play concerns the torments she inflicts upon two young women, Josie (Kathryn Daniels) and Lily (Kelly Yacono) and their infant children. Wilson plays the Skriker (when she is not taking on a variety of disguises) much like Linda Blair playing Robin Goodfellow by way of Gollum. The results are—unsettling.
This is a dense work, not so easy to comprehend at times, particularly due to the Skriker's bizarre but fun language patterns, in which the last word of a familiar phrase becomes the first of a new one (e.g. "gone with the window cleaner"). It is probably best read as well as seen, but seen it should be for its haunting, well realized atmosphere.
It's a satisfying meal for those who like their dark fantasy served extra dark.
And Now for Something Completely Different ....
When you’re a big talent like Caryl Churchill, the greatest danger lies in overplaying your hand—and that’s something she does here, especially in the eternity of this play’s opening moments, five minutes of expositional confusion. Of course, performance poetry has largely ruined the kind of Joycean wordplay she employs; it’s impossible not to hear that subgenre’s cadence of somewhat-clever, class-conscious expression in the titular faerie’s stream-of-consciousness inaugural monologue. But even on its own merits, Churchill’s typically challenging narrative doesn’t begin to take shape until about a half hour in, long after any audience members in their right minds would’ve stopped caring about what all the laughter-shrouded moaning might mean.
In broad outlines Churchill charts the tale of the Skriker (Wilson), a malevolent Celtic-style spirit menacing a couple of young women, perhaps in revenge for society’s vague environmental diss. There’s a genuinely creepy changeling motif on hand and some significant notes concerning the horror of fertility, but otherwise it’s all nonsense, a lot of movement and maskery in search of a purpose. Thankfully GreyZelda’s production is excellent, though Daniels as Josie should be crazier, and Wilson wastes some opportunities to humanize her inhuman role. That note notwithstanding, Wilson is still a small marvel in her embodiment of the shape-shifting villainess, delivering the goods in numerous incarnations.
A Note from the Director ... We're looking for audience members who aren't in their right minds, by the way ...
Thursday, April 17, 2008
Please check out Theatre In Chicago's website for all the information, as well as a Photo Preview of the show.
A friend of ours came to see our final dress rehearsal yesterday and said,
"Peeps, this is a good show.
Very strange, very beautiful.
I found myself repulsed and engaged all at the same time.
Simply put, it's risky theatre.
Go, enjoy the risk! :)"
Indeed ... please come and enjoy the risk. If we can repulse and engage you at the same time, then I think we can safely say we've done our job.
Tuesday, April 15, 2008
Tuesday, April 08, 2008
We're in the final week of full runthroughs before we move into Angel Island ... the cast is doing really well and the show is coming together, as it should. The big theme of last night's rehearsal was "specificity", "firm choices" and "take the journey from scene to scene". Those three things will probably continue to be a mantra throughout the run, as well, as they're always excellent things for any actor to remember.
We attempted to put our transitional/incidental music last night ... with a little doctoring, that should be good to go. Chris is in charge of the sound and the lights once we move into the space, so he'll also be in charge of that at rehearsals. Robert Filippo did an excellent job, as per usual, with the music ... I'm really happy with it. He wrote the pre-show music on Saturday night and it's gorgeous. He lost his grandmother this weekend and used those feelings to create something mournful and monastic, with a side of mania ... which is similar to the character of The Skriker, so it all works out serendipitously.
We open April 17th. We're a couple tickets shy of being sold out on Saturday, April 19th, so if you're planning on coming the opening weekend, I encourage you to come any other date than Saturday.
A reminder to you kind folks on our ticket deals ....
Regular Ticket Price is $20.00. If you'd like to purchase them online, you may do so at www.greyzelda.com.
If you're listed to the right of this post on my blogamaroll, you may come for FREE!!!!!! That's right. I look forward to meeting you!
If you're looking for an Industry night deal, we have two of them! Thursday nights and Sunday afternoons are Pay What You Can for those with a headshot/resume, business card, or some other proof that you're in the theatre business.
If you come see the show and pay a ticket price and decide to come see the show again ... It's FREE to you!!!!! As long as you bring a paying guest with you.
If you're a student or a senior citizen and have an ID to show that to the box office person .... you'll be able to pay $10.00.
And them's our ticket deals, my friends.
Come see the show. It's playful. It's creepy. It's complex. It'll stick with you after you leave the theatre. It's like nothing you've ever seen before. Unless you've seen The Skriker.
Wednesday, April 02, 2008
Wednesday, March 26, 2008
What three things have I learned the hard way?
1. Pay attention to that first impression. I don't know how many times I've met someone, gotten a weird feeling about them and had that feeling turn up down the road to remind me that it was there in the first place. I often put that instinct aside because I want to believe the best in people, but ... boy, has it come back to haunt me. On the other, positive end ... when I immediately take a strong liking to a person, that feeling continues to stay throughout the years.
2. Those who say the past is not dead ... Stop and smell the smoke. Some things cannot be resurrected and put back together, no matter how good the intentions and hope. It's good to let the sleeping dog lie ... I firmly agree with that. For example ... here's a personal example: I haven't spoken with my real father since age 18. I'm now expecting my first child in August and family members have asked if there's been any contact, which has led me to think about what I would do if there were .... the only sane way I could deal with something like that is to leave the last several years out of moving forward and simply do that ... move forward. I choose not to dwell on what could or could not have been. It's a waste of time, gentlemen.
3. On the other hand, to quote Magnolia and Ian McKenzie, you might think you're done with the past, but the past is not done with you. Again, like the first impression, I don't know how many times bad old pennies have shown up in my life when I hadn't thought about them in years. Time and people have a hard time letting things go and if I've said or done something cruel that has hurt someone in the past, even thought I've moved on, those who I've hurt haven't. And vice versa. I have a lot of old wounds that have helped make me the person I am today and still remember most of the nasty things done or said to me over the years.
I keep on learning and even though these hard lessons have a way of insisting I re-learn them over and over, I'm still enjoying riding the bike of life and falling off every so often and skinning these knees o'mine. I'm proud of the scabs.
OK ... now I'm going to tag some folks .... David Alan Moore, lizarinny and Kris Vire.
Monday, March 24, 2008
Taken from http://www.elearnenglishlanguage.com/difficulties/its.html
It's is a contraction of "it is" or "it has."
It's time to go.
Do you think it's ready?
I read your article - it's very good.
Do you know where my purse is? It's on the table.
It's been a long time.
Its is the possessive form of "it."
That's an interesting device - what is its purpose?
I saw Les Misérables during its initial run.
This stove has its own timer.
The bird lost some of its feathers.
Where is its head office?
The Bottom Line
The confusion between it's and its occurs because on virtually every other word 's indicates possession, so English speakers naturally want to use it's to mean "something belonging to it." But it's is only used when it's a contraction of it is or it has.The ironclad rule - no exceptions - is that if you can replace the word with "it is" or "it has," use it's. Otherwise, it's always its."
Today's lesson was brought to you by the sugar rush given to its author by eating too much Easter candy.
Wednesday, March 19, 2008
So ... here are the questions I asked our peeps:
1. What makes theatre more valuable than other art forms?
2. Is theatre, indeed, more valuable? If not, tell me about it.
3. If you could explain to the average, tv-watching, sports-going Joe, why they should come see a small show over something like Wicked, what would you say to them?
And here are the answers I received ... I'm keeping them anonymous because I wanted to keep it more like a survey.
1. What makes theatre more valuable than other art forms?
- The complete and total process. The process is what makes it so totally superior. One must completely immerse themselves in it for it to fully be valuable. It is not a singular process, but one where you must collaborate and learn from one another. Yes, an artist can take advice from a colleague on the way a certain painting is going or musical arrangement, but theater incorporates every one and every thing. It is a whole living, moving piece of art from the beginning to the end. In the end, what completely dominates other forms is its demand for a breathing audience. It gives its whole life cycle - from the process to the last audience member.
- Theater is not more valuable than other art forms. Only insufferable theatre geeks believe that it is. I choose not to associate with these people.
2. Is theatre, indeed, more valuable? If not, tell me about it.
- If I had a gun to my head, then yes. Why? It needs so many art forms to live. I've seen theater done with poetry, music, dance, visual art, movement, masks, sculpture, puppetry, you name it. As long as the theatre lives, these other forms of art live.
- See Note 1
3. If you could explain to the average, tv-watching, sports-going Joe, why they should come see a small show over something like Wicked, what would you say to them?
- Seeing a show like Wicked....you might as well tune in and turn on the TV. It does not challenge the mind. You have more invested in a sporting game than you would with Big Traveling Broadway. Yes, it's pretty, but so are Steven Spielberg movies. I, myself, would rather pay $9 to see a Steven Spielberg film rather than pay $50-$75 to see a big production from nosebleed seating. Yet with smaller theater, there isn't a big enough to receive the kind of intimate, live entertainment it would provide. It's kind of why I decided to go to a smaller private school for college rather than being just another number at . I wanted to get my money's worth. I knew that being in a smaller space, there would be these moments of connection and reflection that I wouldn't have in a larger arena.
- Storefront, blackbox, warehouse theater in is akin to CBGB rock in the 70's. Wicked, etc is the American Idol/Celine Dion of stage. I will judge you harshly if you think any of the latter crap has value beyond soulless entertainment. Any theater where you can smell the actors is going to be worthwhile even if it ends up sucking out loud.
- I usually tell people who go see only big house shows like Wicked that smaller theatres have always seemed to have more to offer in the way of story, acting and overall production because it's all being put together by people who do theatre for the love of it. Not the money. Anytime I see a show at a commercial house the first thing I think it, well the acting and the story was sub-par, but at least I got to look at a pretty set for two hours. I rarely feel that way with non-for-profit theatres. They tend to actually move me in ways that big houses have yet to do. There's too much heart in smaller productions to ignore.
OK - here's my spin on the subject. And I'm really taking the audience's point of view, as I understand it.
Why is there value in theatre? Bob pointed out that theatre is dangerous. I agree. It's safe to sit at home and flip through the channels. It's safe to giggle and shout at the screen. It's safe to munch on your popcorn and answer your cell phone during a movie. Ain't so in the theatre. The actors may stop and see you. They know you're there. They could see you after the show. They might ask your opinion. They might solicit you to see something else. I like that. It's like deciding to go on a roller coaster. Once you start, you can't back out. Theatre's for the thrill seekers of the art world. Especially small theatre. If you're sitting in a tiny, blackbox theatre, you're a part of it and there's no turning back. Your yawn might hurt someone's feelings. Your laughter at inappropriate places might make them cry after the show. It's exciting. Other than a live music concert, I can't think of another art form similar to theatre. The faint of heart need not apply.
The beauty and art is temporary, fleeting. I almost think we should charge more because of this fact. The show will never be the same each time you see it. You have live people in front of you and live people taking your tickets and running the lights and taking you to the seats, welcoming you to the show.
The collaboration of so many people in theatre is quite magical and doesn't happen in other art forms ... except live music. There's that live music comparison again. When I see a great live concert, it gives me the same rush as a great live show of theatre. I don't know about you, but it's holy.
Why see, say, a GreyZelda show other than Wicked? I often think of my family members when it comes to presenting the show to the non-theatre people of the world. I have to figure out what our show has in common with things they like. My mom likes moments of hope. She can watch a dark, dreary play but if there's a bit of hope she can walk away with, the show's a success. My dad likes people he can relate with. Are either of them going to want to see The Skriker? I don't think so. The play doesn't fit into those two categories that always seem to entertain them. And that's ok. I don't think less of my family because of that ... I just have to work harder to find the audience that will enjoy it. If an audience member loves Wicked, I'd like to ask them what they like about it and what they're looking forward to when seeing it. The shows we do might not appeal to everyone. Again, that's ok. People aren't idiots if they like big musicals and not small theatre. Cut the loss and look for people who will possibly like the show. You can't please everyone but always continue your enthusiasm and fascination with your own work because that becomes contagious. Keep asking people to come. You might end up producing something that speaks to their interests. Keep up that sense of community.
Someone, maybe Don, mentioned theatre and church. When we were down in Texas recently, we went and visited my in-laws' church. The sense of community within the church and extending outside its walls was so strong. People were volunteering their time, materials and creativity to make beautiful prayer quilts to send to strangers that was in need of spiritual care. They brought in illusionists. They had dinner there almost every night. A built-in theatre. A fun room with a pool table for teens. Retreats for members. Music for members. So many things ... all inspired by Christ and his teachings. People did things without ego, competition, etc. They have faith in their belief system.
It just got me thinking ... so many churches down there. So much money being given each week to keep the church alive. We're a non-profit theatre company. Why can't we and other theatres inspire that type of devotion? I talked about it a little bit with my mother-in-law and she asked if we ever would consider doing biblical plays? I said that we probably would offend most church-going sensibilities with our versions of the Esther story, say. We'd be attracted to the great offenders of the Bible - Judas, The Whore of Babylon, Lilith, etc.
But, doesn't theatre tell the human story, too? That's why people find such truth in the Bible ... so many human stories and experiences to which we all can relate. And people come together to discuss them and praise them ... always with that great sense of fellowship and community.
Which makes it ever so valuable.
This post is inspired by those taking part in a Theatre Think Tank initiative. Please read the related posts by other participants in the effort, including:
An Angry White Guy in Chicago
Theatre Is Territory
The Next Stage
Bite and Smile by Joe Janes
A Rhinestone World
That Sounds Cool
On Theatre and Politics - Matthew Freeman
Never Trust Your Pet With the Devil Vet
Theatre For The Future
steve on broadway
Jay Raskolnikov — half hillbilly, Demi-Culture
The Mission Paradox Blog