“It was a total collaboration,” says composer/sound designer/music director Kevin O’Donnell about “
(Photo by Eric Futran)
(Photo courtesy of the-hypocrites.com)
Last weekend at The Paper Machete, we talked about the culture of theater in Victorian London. The gaslit auditoriums were hardly ideal for the performers: the sounds, the smells, and the audience made it nigh impossible for artists to accomplish something resembling art.
Yet out of this same culture, came the famous W.S. Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan and their novel light operas. After we discussed their impact on theater(as well as their business practices), the Hypocrites dropped by to perform a few songs from their recent production of Gilbert and Sullivan's "The Pirates of Penzance."
In the last few years, at least two blockbuster feature films have shot on the streets of Chicago: "Batman, The Dark Knight" in 2007 (released in 2008) and "Transformers 3, Dark of the Moon" just last year (release date next July 1). Such multi-million dollar giants are sensational for Chicago-based suppliers of film equipment and services, and for Chicago actors, too, who fill in many of the usually-small background and cameo roles.
But good as a big feature film can be, from an actor's perspective nothing can beat episodic television; a weekly TV show shooting in or near Chicago that needs a fresh set of local faces every seven days.
Can it be five years—five, really?—since Brett Neveu’s “The Earl” made the pavements run with blood at A Red Orchid Theatre? Has it been a year since TUTA Theatre Chicago scored a quirky hit with Bert Brecht’s rarely-produced comedy, “The Wedding?” The answers are “yes” and “yes,” and now these two shows are returning for limited runs “by popular demand.”
Neveu’s extremely violent noir comedy concerns three brothers who get their family jollies through rituals of violence with things pretty much ending in a draw until and outside—the Earl of the title—is invited into the fray. The show, originally a late-nighter, ran for six months at A Red Orchid and later was turned into an indie film, both with veteran Chicago tough guy Danny Goldring in the title role.
The good news is that Goldring lives to clobber again in this all-too-brief revival of “The Earl,” presented once again at A Red Orchid in a co-venture with a new theater entity calling itself The Inconvenience. Duncan Riddell directs the Feb.
Entering the Greenhouse Theater last night, I was struck by the very obvious lack of pickets outside. Why, you ask, should there be pickets? Because inside there’s a man dressed in women’s clothing and pretending to be a woman—specifically, Lady Bracknell in "The Importance of Being Earnest."
If you think it would be ludicrous to protest such a thing, recall that when the Wooster Group brought "The Emperor Jones" to the Goodman several years ago, picketers showed up outside the theater because a white person was performing in blackface. That person was also a woman portraying a man, but no one cared about that: it was the blackface to which they took offense.
I happened to disagree, regarding that particular use of blackface as a case of deconstructing and attacking a cliche. But in general, my heart is on the picket line, and probably so is yours: performance in blackface is almost universally condemned. The most uncomfortable moment in the 2009 season of "Mad Men" involved a white character’s blacked-up minstrel imitation.
Playwright Itamar Moses ("Bach at Leipzig," "Celebrity Row," "The Four of Us") stopped by The Paper Machete to tell a story about his first motorcycle ride and the ritual of post show talk-backs. His play "The Four of Us" ran at Chicago’s Theater Wit.
Recorded live at Ricochet’s. Paper Machete can be seen live at Ricochet's, every Saturday afternoon at 3pm.
Chicago's newest Fulbright Scholar has a theatrical connection: it's playwright, professor and Mortar Theatre co-founder Jacob Juntunen, who takes off in several weeks for five months teaching in Poznan, Poland. Juntunen earned his doctorate at Northwestern University in 2007 and co-founded the Off-Loop Mortar Theatre in 2009. He's also been an adjunct faculty member at the University of Illinois at Chicago for five years, teaching several courses in the Department of Performing Arts Theatre Program.
His Fulbright Scholarship takes him to Poznan to teach two theater courses to master's degree students. Once back in the U.S., Juntunen takes up residence this fall in Athens, Ohio where he'll teach at Ohio University while pursuing a master's degree in playwriting under Professor Charles Smith, the Chicago-bred playwright who is a member of the Victory Gardens Playwrights Ensemble (see related story). Juntunen also has a fiancée, and somewhere along the line is going to try to find time for a wedding.
I think playwright John Guare owes playwright Charles Smith a large apology. When the New York theatrical trades announced a few months back a big Lincoln Center production of "A Free Man of Color," I assumed it was the play by Charles Smith that had received its world premiere in 2004 at Victory Gardens Theater, where Smith is a member of the Playwrights Ensemble. It seemed like a great one-two combination for Smith who also had an upcoming Off-Broadway debut of his 2000 play, "Knock Me A Kiss," also originally presented at Victory Gardens.