Wednesday, March 26, 2008

The Road of Hard Knocks

The Devil Vet tagged me with a meme that goes a little somethin' like this:

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

A GreyZelda Grammar Lesson: Its vs. It's

I am definitely not an expert on grammar, but the rules that I have managed to learn stick with me and whenever I see the following error appear in a bloggy blog or email, it takes me out of the writer's intent and reminds me of an unresolved gestalt.

Taken from


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

The Value of Theatre

Quick note before I begin ... I emailed most of our current and past collaborators to see what they thought about the questions being asked today. I only received three responses. I can think of a myriad of reasons why people didn't respond, but one thing that always interests me is the lack of input that comes through from people. Are they bored with theatre even though they do it? Are they really not interested in the conversation? Are they doers and not talkers? Are they afraid of what others may think? Are they indifferent to the questions? Are they just too busy with their work day to form cohesive thoughts on the subject? Do they think I'm a dork for just asking the question? Just food for thought ... though I know I'm a dork. (Edited at 5:27pm ... more feedback to the questions asked are coming on in ... please check the comments for additional thoughts. Peeps are busy with their day jobs, as I suspected or working on shows, etc. Great deduction, Holmes. Thank you, my dear Watson.)

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.
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 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 flat screen TV 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 University of Texas. 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 Chicago is akin to CBGB rock in the 70's. Wicked, Jersey Boys 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:

Rat Sass
An Angry White Guy in Chicago
Theatre Ideas
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
Mike Daisey
steve on broadway
Jay Raskolnikov — half hillbilly, Demi-Culture
The Mission Paradox Blog
Adam Thurman
Paul Rekk
Travis Bedard
Dennis Frymire

Monday, March 17, 2008

Ticket Deals for The Skriker

Hey, Bloggers listed to the right of this post .... you'll be able to see the show for free! I'd love to meet and see you all in person and this might be our last show for a spell, so ... I look forward to seeing you at the show!!!!

*If you're a student or a senior citizen, you'll be able to see the show for $10.00 with proof of ID.

*If you're a part of the Theatre Industry, you'll be able to pay what you can on Thursdays and Sundays, with headshot/resume or a business card.

*If you're a return customer to The Skriker and seeing the show for a second time, you'll get to see the show for free IF you bring a paying customer with you.

Spread the word!

Friday, March 14, 2008

The Skriker Photo

Lisa Wilson as the Skriker (Photo by Joey Steakley)

Monday, March 10, 2008

Whatever's happening with the death portent and its peers?


So, it's March 10th, which means we have about five weeks before The Skriker opens. You can purchase your tickets online now. They're getting snatched up already, which is wonderful.

We're almost completely blocked.

We ran into a bit of a snaffu last week, however. Erin Ordway, who was playing Lily, had to drop out of the show due to a serious personal situation and we've replaced her with Kelly Yacono, who was playing the Kelpie. Kelly's going to rock and here are just a couple of reasons why:

1. She knows how to play Cat's Cradle.
2. She's funny, game for everything and gets along splendidly with the entire cast, not to mention Lisa and Kat, who are playing The Skriker and Josie, respectively.
3. She rocked her audition and really made the role pop.
4. She's a clever gal and will be able to learn her blocking and lines quickly.

So ... all things happen for a reason. I think this will be an excellent change for the show. Amanda Eaton, who is our Bogle, will be moving into the Kelpie/Yallery Brown role as well, so ... rock and roll.

Robert's written excellent music for the show. Go check out his myspace page he's made for his show compositions and you'll be able to hear his music for the huge Underworld scene midshow as well as other music he's written for us from past productions. His partner, Kristen Strezo, has also done quite a bit with helping us with music, as well.

Jeff Semmerling has completed the masks and he'll be bringing them to one of our ensemble rehearsals to see how they fit the cast and also see how the cast is moving in them.

Joseph has been absolutely amazing with his assistance with the character movement. The cast loves him, I love him and he's been a huge part of the creation of this show, thus far.

Heath talked to me yesterday about his design for the set. You're going to love it, people. I'm quite taken it with it.

Erin Lapham, our lighting designer, is totally on the ball and has been getting ready for moving into the Angel Island space. Speaking of being "totally on the ball" ... I need to email her about scene breakdowns.

And, last but not least, our fearless cast keeps on jumping through these swampy waters with me and we've been having an excellent time. Other than Erin Ordway leaving the show, it's been one of the smoothest rehearsal processes we've had in a long time and I'm incredibly thankful to everyone who has helped so far.

And now, I will share with you a painting that was a source of conversation and inspiration for the Underworld scene we worked on Saturday.

Friday, March 07, 2008

My Kind of Town

A lot of bloggers from our toddlin' town have been causing a bit of a stir over at Theatre Ideas and I was inspired to look up some quotes about Chicago. You may have seen them before, but ... they make me happy to a part of this city.

Chicago is an October sort of city even in spring.
- - - Nelson Algren, Newsweek, August 13, 1984

Perhaps the most typically American place in America.
- - - James Bryce, 1888

Chicago is a city of contradictions, of private visions haphazardly overlaid and linked together. If the city was unhappy with itself yesterday-and invariably it was-it will reinvent itself today.
- - - Pat Colander "A Metropolis of No Little Plans" NY Times 5 May 85

A facade of skyscrapers facing a lake and behind the facade, every type of dubiousness.
- - - E.M. Forster

I have struck a city - a real city - and they call it Chicago. . . . I urgently desire never to see it again. It is inhabited by savages.
- - - Rudyard Kipling, 1891

Chicago was a town where nobody could forget how the money was made. It was picked up from floors still slippery with blood.
- - - Norman Mailer, Miami and the Siege of Chicago, 1968

New York is one of the capitals of the world and Los Angeles is a constellation of plastic, San Francisco is a lady, Boston has become Urban Renewal, Philadelphia and Baltimore and Washington wink like dull diamonds in the smog of Eastern Megalopolis, and New Orleans is unremarkable past the French Quarter. Detroit is a one-trade town, Pittsburgh has lost its golden triangle, St. Louis has become the golden arch of the corporation, and nights in Kansas City close early. The oil depletion allowance makes Houston and Dallas naught but checkerboards for this sort of game. But Chicago is a great American city. Perhaps it is the last of the great American cities.
- - - Norman Mailer, Miami and the Siege of Chicago, 1968

I give you Chicago. It is not London and Harvard. It is not Paris and buttermilk. It is American in every chitling and sparerib. It is alive from snout to tail.
- - - H. L. Mencken

Gigantic, willful, young,
Chicago sitteth at the northwest gates.
- - - William Vaughn Moody "An Ode in Time of Hesitation," 1901

Chicago will give you a chance. The sporting spirit is the spirit of Chicago.
- - - Lincoln Steffens "The Autobiography of Lincoln Steffens," 1931

Chicago is not the most corrupt American city. It's the most theatrically corrupt.
- - - Studs Terkel, 1978

It is hopeless for the occasional visitor to try to keep up with Chicago-she outgrows his prophecies faster than he can make them. She is always a novelty; for she is never the Chicago you saw when you passed through the last time.
- - - Mark Twain "Life On The Mississippi," 1883

The Off Loop Freedom Charter

Check out D. Hall's plans.

I'm in.

I'll write more about how The Skriker's going one of these days, I swear.


Monday, March 03, 2008

Tickets for the Skriker Available Online

Tickets for our upcoming production of Caryl Churchill's The Skriker are now available online.

Please visit to purchase them now.

"We'll be under the bedrock a bye and by ... ready or not here we come quick or dead of night night sleep tightarse."