WBEZ | Andreas Mitisek http://www.wbez.org/tags/andreas-mitisek Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Queering Poe: Chicago Opera Theatre goes full-on gay in 'Usher' http://www.wbez.org/blogs/nico-lang/2013-02/queering-poe-chicago-opera-theatre-goes-full-gay-usher-105770 <p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/USHER.jpg" title="(Chicago Opera Theatre)" /></div><p>Same-sex makeout sessions. Punks with mohawks. Guitars. Nazi references. These are not phrases one generally associates with a night at the opera, but the Chicago Opera Theatre all but flew over the cuckoo&rsquo;s nest with their staging of Philip Glass&rsquo; <em>The Fall of the House of Usher</em>. With Edgar Allan Poe and Glass, one expects a prerequisite amount of strangeness, as Glass&rsquo; minimalist loopiness and Poe&rsquo;s wall-to-wall macabre stylings are brands in themselves. However, director Ken Cazan&#39;s production is effusively bonkers in the best possible way. General director Andreas Mitisek kicked off the evening with a fictitious letter directed from the deceased Poe to the audience. Sounding a bit like Christoph Waltz, the Austrian-born Mitisek told us of Poe&rsquo;s journeys in Hell, while also reminding the audience to donate. We were clearly in for a weird night.</p><p>As Chicago Opera Theatre&rsquo;s newest director, Mitisek has promised that, under his tenure, the company&rsquo;s vision will be bold and boundary-pushing. Although it&rsquo;s far from Glass&rsquo; finest work, <em>The Fall of the House of Usher</em> is a perfect thesis statement for Mitisek: a production that unleashes all the ghosts and the insinuations buried within Poe&rsquo;s texts and brings them to light. Like a heart beating in the floor boards, Poe deals with our hidden ghosts, the terrors we think we can keep to ourselves. And Alan Muraoaka&rsquo;s sets give them nowhere to hide. The sparse set design and ghoulish lighting accentuate the actors&rsquo; shadows, ones that consume the backdrop. Although Poe&rsquo;s story refuses Roderick or William&rsquo;s motivations clear, Cazan and Mitisek give their demons life.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/HarrisTheatre.jpg" style="float: right;" title="(HarrisTheatreChicago.org)" />A major hook of the production was the Chicago Opera Theatre&rsquo;s queering of Poe, as their interpretation literalizes the psychosexual subtext in the Usher melodramas. Whereas Poe hinted at themes of doomed, unspeakable love, the COT goes full-on gay&mdash;with the aforementioned soft-core scene, multiple massage interludes and an extended three-way incest fantasy straight out of David Lynch. If Mitisek wants to prove he&rsquo;s unafraid to take chances, this is the way to do it, as the predominantly heterosexual audience was squirmy throughout. I noticed a lot of coughing, throat clearing and butt shifting in the seats around me. Clearly they didn&rsquo;t get the memo. They came for <em>Einstein on the Beach </em>and Cazan gave them <em>Poeback Mountain</em>. The whole thing is impressively ballsy.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">As Poe&rsquo;s story ends in (19th century spoiler alert!) Roderick&rsquo;s eventual death, the gaying of the joint could have felt like a cheap way to capitalize themes of LGBT suicide. However, adding social relevance to the play brings an unexpected emotional center to Poe. We share William&rsquo;s sense of doom not just about the Usher house&rsquo;s legacy but the loss of his beloved, who descends into an increasingly over-the-top madness. Ryan MacPherson does an outstanding job of highlighting Roderick&rsquo;s gothic eccentricity without descending into too far into camp, and MacPherson makes for a fitting juxtaposition to Lee Gregory&rsquo;s baritone innocence. They transform Roderick and William into natural stage partners and make their tragedy touchingly human.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">However, the opera&rsquo;s camp element is left to Suzan Hanson as Madeleine, and Hanson nails it. Instead of a corpse hidden away, Glass and Cazan imagine Roderick&rsquo;s sister as an omnipresent apparition provoking the characters&rsquo; split psyches. Hanson&rsquo;s Madeleine is present for what <em>feels</em> like every second of the play, wailing the libretto and stealing the scene without disrupting it. In a memorable sequence, she crawls between Roderick and William as they attempt to eat dinner, writhing on the glass table and doing her best Helena Bonham Carter impression. After her death is revealed, they will then dine on her remains&mdash;in a sly nod to Alfred Hitchcock&rsquo;s <em>Rope</em>. For those who dismiss the opera as boring, <em>The Fall of the House of Usher </em>proves to be anything but. In its 80 minutes of unbroken descent into Hell, it&rsquo;s tense, gripping and more fun than a tragedy has any right to be.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/ChicagoOperaTheatre.jpg" style="width: 320px; height: 220px;" title="(ChicagoOperaTheatre.org) Harris, left, Macpherson, right" /></div><p>If the queer interpretation goes over like gangbusters, I was less a fan of the show&#39;s punk aesthetic, which felt too on the nose. Rather than reifying Poe&rsquo;s dragons, costume designer Jacqueline Saint Anne transforms the house&rsquo;s spirits into eight mohawked rebels, who are charged with moving around set pieces. Although making the spirits into physical bodies is a creative way of bringing the house to life, the goth costuming is irritatingly obvious. I don&rsquo;t want to have what Andrew Lloyd Webber is having. If Cazan wants to instill a sense of dread in his rock opera, the Riefenstahl-esque columns of the House of Usher achieve what his goths cannot. They draw us into the House, as its walls slowly imprison Roderick within it. With Glass&rsquo; chilling score behind it, we can&rsquo;t help but get pulled in with him.</p><p>Glass&rsquo; chamber opera will be playing through March 1 at the Harris Theatre on 205 E. Randolph Drive, and tickets range from $35 to $120. You can purchase tickets at chicagooperatheatre.org or by phone at 312-704-8414. Don&rsquo;t miss your chance to see Poe as you&rsquo;ve never seen him before&mdash;or are likely to ever again. If he is in Hell right now, he&rsquo;s likely burning with a smile.</p><p><em>Nico Lang writes about LGBTQ life in Chicago. Follow Nico on Twitter @<a href="http://www.twitter.com/nico_lang">Nico_Lang</a> or on <a href="http://www.facebook.com/nicorlang">Facebook</a></em></p></p> Wed, 27 Feb 2013 05:00:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/nico-lang/2013-02/queering-poe-chicago-opera-theatre-goes-full-gay-usher-105770 Daily Rehearsal: Chicago Opera Theater welcomes a new general director http://www.wbez.org/blog/onstagebackstage/2011-12-06/daily-rehearsal-chicago-opera-theater-welcomes-new-general-director <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/photo/2011-December/2011-12-07/mitisek.jpg" alt="" /><p><p style="text-align: left; "><span style="font-size:14px;"><span style="font-family:georgia,serif;"><strong>1.&nbsp;The artist&nbsp;Kenneth E. Parris III&nbsp;is doing something cool</strong></span></span>; he's touring with members of the&nbsp;<a href="http://www.merce.org/">Merce Cunningham Dance Company</a>&nbsp;and sketching them, where they're posted on the <em>New York Times' ArtsBeat</em> blog. <a href="http://artsbeat.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/12/05/drawing-dance-the-cunningham-company-in-illinois/">This week's sketch</a> is from their stops in Illinois, where a dancer is surrounded by bags of his stuff.</p><p><span style="font-size:14px;"><span style="font-family:georgia,serif;"><strong>2. John Bucchino, who wrote the musical <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blog/onstagebackstage/2011-11-10/daily-rehearsal-holland-taylor-stage-not-two-and-half-men-93938"><em>A Catered Affair</em></a></strong></span></span>, will teach a small class in February at Stage 773 on cabaret performance. Every student should be prepared with two of his songs, which they'll work on with him personally. They'll then be accompanied by Beckie Menzie on piano for a live cabaret show after<a href="http://porchlightmusictheatre.org/"> Porchlight's production of <em>A Catered Affair</em> that night</a>. These master classes are nothing unusual for Bucchino, but they're typically open to the public this way; the cost is $100, but if you're a student you can audit it for $15.</p><p><span style="font-family:georgia,serif;"><span style="font-size:14px;"><strong>3. An audition listing highlight comes by way of<em>&nbsp;<a href="http://www.theatreinchicago.com/auditions/industrydetail.php?AuditionID=1571">Avenue Q</a></em></strong></span></span>, still being produced by Tom Mullen and Kevin Mayes with Bailiwick Chicago, is looking for non-Equity actors and singers; the final audition date is tonight -- or send it in via YouTube! Ah technology. You don't need to be good at puppetry, &nbsp;but it's "a plus."</p><p><img alt="" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2011-December/2011-12-07/mitisek.jpg" style="margin-right: 10px; margin-top: 10px; margin-bottom: 10px; float: left; width: 138px; height: 160px; " title=""><span style="font-size:14px;"><span style="font-family:georgia,serif;"><strong>4. Chicago Opera Theater has <a href="http://www.wbez.org/story/chicago-opera-theater-picks-new-general-director-94679">announced that Andreas Mitisek</a></strong></span></span> will become the company's new general director, starting in September of 2012. Mitisek has signed a five-year contract. He succeeds Brian Dickie, who has been in the position since 1999. Under his reign, COT "has specialized in baroque opera as well as a broader and definitely contemporary world view,"&nbsp;<a href="http://www.wbez.org/blog/onstagebackstage/2011-07-21/fat-lady-sings-overview-opera-scene-chicago-89376">wrote&nbsp;Jonathan Abarbanel</a>. Mitisek comes from Long Beach Opera, where is Artistic and General Director. Of the new hire, Board President Gregory O'Leary said in a statement,&nbsp;“We chose Andreas to be the next General Director due to his original and unique artistic vision which builds upon the incredibly high standard set by Brian."&nbsp;</p><p><span style="font-size:14px;"><span style="font-family:georgia,serif;"><strong>5. Comedian Matt Elfring talks</strong></span></span> about <a href="http://www.comedyofchicago.com/2011/12/people-i-hate-in-scene-by-matt-elfring.html">people he hates in comedy</a>. Well <em>types </em>of people he hates, so don't get too exited. We wouldn't want to name names would we.</p><p>Questions? Tips? Email <a href="mailto:kdries@wbez.org">kdries@wbez.org</a>.</p></p> Tue, 06 Dec 2011 16:16:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blog/onstagebackstage/2011-12-06/daily-rehearsal-chicago-opera-theater-welcomes-new-general-director