WBEZ | Writers Theatre http://www.wbez.org/tags/writers-theatre Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Daily Rehearsal: 'Hamlet', round one thousand http://www.wbez.org/blogs/onstagebackstage/2012-05/daily-rehearsal-hamlet-round-one-thousand-98750 <p><p><span style="font-size:14px;"><span style="font-family:georgia,serif;"><strong>1. The latest <a href="http://timeoutchicago.com/arts-culture/theater/15327496/ethan-dubin-performer-of-the-week"><em>TimeOut </em>Performer of the Week </a></strong></span></span>is none other than friend of this blog writer, Ethan Dubin. On a note that's less biased and more applicable to the community at large, really digging Oliver Sava's choice to highlight performers who usually don't get their due. Dubin is currently starring in&nbsp;<em>Sixty Miles to Silver Lake</em>&nbsp;at&nbsp;<a href="http://www.collaboraction.org/" title="Collaboraction">Collaboraction</a>, which, before you ask, I have not gotten to yet.</p><p><span style="font-size:14px;"><span style="font-family:georgia,serif;"><strong>2.&nbsp;Next Up&nbsp;from Steppenwolf (with Northwestern)</strong></span></span> starts in June. This year's three productions are<em>&nbsp;Life and Limb</em> by Keith Reddin; <em>South of Settling</em> by Emily Schwend; and <em>The Glass Menagerie</em>.&nbsp;“In the Garage Theatre, Steppenwolf sets out to cultivate young artists and multigenerational audiences. Next Up offers a unique way for us to do this—in concert with theater’s roots as a guild-based craft in which emerging artists learn from experienced practitioners,” said Steppenwolf Artistic Producer Rebecca Rugg in a statement&nbsp;“For Steppenwolf, this project is a natural extension of a strong association with local universities, whose stream of graduates continually feeds Chicago’s vibrant theater ecology.”</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/writers%20hamlet.jpg" style="float: right; " title=""><span style="font-size:14px;"><span style="font-family:georgia,serif;"><strong>3. The latest <em>Hamlet </em></strong></span></span>comes from&nbsp;Writers’ Theatre, with the lead role going to&nbsp;Scott Parkinson.&nbsp;Of course, this doesn't open until September, so you have a nice, long, non-depressing summer before you have to gird your loins. This one is directed by Michael Halberstam "on the most intimate of stages", though anyone who saw <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blog/onstagebackstage/2011-07-07/daily-rehearsal-trib-redesigns-their-theater-section-88824"><em>Hamlet </em>at the Oracle</a> last year might disagree.</p><p><span style="font-size:14px;"><span style="font-family:georgia,serif;"><strong>4. Some show closings this weekend:&nbsp;</strong></span></span><em>As You Like It (A New Adaptation)&nbsp;</em>from&nbsp;Strangeloop Theatre;<em>&nbsp;Naked Mole Rat Gets Dressed</em>&nbsp;from Lifeline;&nbsp;<em>Beyond the Fringe</em> from Oak Park Festival Theatre and&nbsp;<em>Doubt</em>&nbsp;at AstonRep Theatre.</p><p><span style="font-size:14px;"><span style="font-family:georgia,serif;"><strong>5. Second City's<em> Who Do We Think We Are?</em></strong></span></span> got a much <a href="http://www.avclub.com/chicago/articles/second-citys-who-do-we-think-we-are,73256/">more positive review</a> from <em>The A.V. Club</em>'s New Pollution than I recall it receiving from some of the other outlets.</p><p>Questions? Tips? Email <a href="mailto:kdries@wbez.org">kdries@wbez.org</a>.</p></p> Wed, 02 May 2012 16:08:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/onstagebackstage/2012-05/daily-rehearsal-hamlet-round-one-thousand-98750 The Don't-Miss List: The return of 'Patsy Cline,' 'Amerville' and Kiss Kiss Cabaret http://www.wbez.org/blog/onstagebackstage/2012-02-23/dont-miss-list-return-patsy-cline-amerville-and-kiss-kiss-cabaret-9 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/photo/2012-February/2012-02-23/ammunition.jpg" alt="" /><p><p><u><strong>Kelly Kleiman</strong></u></p><p><span class="diffchange"><span>To close out Black History Month, <a href="http://writerstheatre.org/">Writers' Theatre</a> brings its one-woman show,<strong> <em>The MLK Project: The Fight for Civil Rights</em></strong>, to First Church of the Brethren on the West Side. Dr. King preached from the church's pulpit during his stay in Chicago in the late 1960s, when he fought for open housing against violent opposition. </span></span>This Saturday's matinee is only the second public performance of the show, which includes poetry, hip-hop and excerpts from interviews with Chicago leaders of the civil rights movement. And, it's FREE. Feb. 25, 2 p.m., at the church, 425 S. Central Park Avenue.</p><p><span class="diffchange"><img alt="" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2012-February/2012-02-23/ameriville.png" style="margin-left: 10px; margin-top: 10px; margin-bottom: 10px; float: right; width: 185px; height: 200px; " title=""><span>Also: This is the final weekend of the amazing <strong><em><span>Ameriville</span></em> </strong>at <a href="http://victorygardens.org/">Victory Gardens</a>. Likewise a compendium of interviews, poetry and music, this hip-hop opera grabs the audience even before its performers arrive on the stage, as they come stomping and singing through the aisles. They are Universes, a performance cooperative of three men and one woman, the latter of whom (<a href="http://www.universesonstage.com/page18/page36/page36.html">Mildred Ruiz-Sapp</a>) has one of the richest blues altos you'll ever hear. The group developed the piece with Victory Gardens' new Artistic Director, Chay Yew, who also directed with clarity and the perfect rapid-fire pace.&nbsp;<em><span>Ameriville </span></em>uses the impossibly slow recovery from Hurricane Katrina as a jumping-off point to consider everything from poverty and race to global warming and water purity. (Hear more in my <a href="episode-segments/2012-02-10/dueling-critics-%3Cspan%3Eameriville%3C/span%3E-victory-gardens-theater-96252">on-air review</a>.) Agit-prop of the very first (you should pardon the expression) water. Through Sunday the 26th on the mainstage at the Biograph, tickets $25-$40.</span></span></p><p><strong><u>Laura Molzahn</u></strong></p><p><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2012-February/2012-02-23/ammunition.jpg" style="margin-right: 10px; margin-top: 10px; margin-bottom: 10px; float: left; width: 200px; height: 300px; " title="Ammunition of Kiss Kiss Cabaret">It’s a slow weekend for dance in Chicago. Especially classical dance, if you had your heart set on old-school ballet: Russia’s Grigorovich troupe got canceled. But the Joffrey’s excellent contemporary program, <a href="http://www.joffrey.com/">“<strong>Winter Fire</strong>,” continues through Sunday</a>.</p><p>At the other end of the spectrum, <strong><a href="http://www.kisskisscabaret.com/">Kiss Kiss Cabaret</a></strong> celebrates its second year of weekly burlesque this Friday with the KKC debut of Serenna Starr (who enters, swallowed by a fish, in her “Gone Fishin’” routine) and the return of comedian Tamale Sepp (whose clever tattooed corset saves time and money!). And then there’s Ammunition, whose specialty is attacking herself with a grinder in a strategic spot—thankfully, protected by a big brass plate—and sending geysers of sparks in all directions. Fridays at 11 p.m. at the Greenhouse Theater Center.</p><p>Can there be a third end of a spectrum? Anyway, slow week or not, a new piece by <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blog/city-room-blog/choreographer-molly-shanahan-gets-budding-nu-actors-moving">Molly Shanahan</a>/Mad Shak is always a unique pleasure. In <strong><em><a href="http://www.colum.edu/dance_center/">The Delicate Hour</a></em></strong>, Shanahan riffs on what she calls the “haunting hour of sunset” as she aims to capture “the magic of change and the promise of loss in a second-by-second dead heat.” I saw it. Beauty wins. Thursday through Saturday at the Dance Center of Columbia College.&nbsp;</p><p><u><strong>Jonathan Abarbanel</strong></u></p><p><img alt="" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2012-February/2012-02-23/patsy_cline_sm.jpg" style="margin-left: 10px; margin-top: 10px; margin-bottom: 10px; float: right; width: 200px; height: 300px; " title="">The 1936 Broadway production of <a href="http://www.strawdog.org/index.php?section=history&amp;production=petrified"><strong><em>The Petrified Forest</em></strong> </a>featured Leslie Howard (already a star) as suicidal hero Alan Squier, and Humphrey Bogart (then unknown) as bad guy Duke Mantee. Both also starred in the film that followed, with the addition of Bette Davis as the ingénue. Now’s your chance to see the original 1936 Robert E. Sherwood drama, staged at Strawdog Theatre Company by a very good director, Shade Murray. Sherwood’s odd combination of gangster melodrama and poetic realism has just about everything but sex (doomed romance, yes; sex, no). <em>The Petrified Forest</em> plays at Strawdog through March 31.</p><p>A chance post-concert meeting between Patsy Cline and an ordinary, everyday fan turned into an enduring friendship that spanned several years until Cline’s untimely death in 1963. That real-life friendship is chronicled in <a href="http://www.theatreatthecenter.com/2012_patsy.asp"><strong><em>Always . . . Patsy Cline</em></strong></a>, which also is a showcase for 27 of Cline’s most popular songs. The show was staged locally in 1995 by director Brian Russell at Northlight Theatre with a long run following at the Apollo Theatre, and Russell is in charge again for this new production by Theatre at the Center in Munster, IN (about 40 minutes from The Loop if traffic is moving). Heather Beck stars as Cline. <em>Always . . . Patsy Cline</em> runs through April 1. Remember, gas is a lot cheaper in Indiana, so fill up while you’re there.</p><p><em>Correction: An earlier version of this story stated that </em>Always...Patsy Cline<em> runs through March 1. It runs through April 1.</em></p></p> Thu, 23 Feb 2012 16:42:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blog/onstagebackstage/2012-02-23/dont-miss-list-return-patsy-cline-amerville-and-kiss-kiss-cabaret-9 Brevity is the soul of wit, but . . . http://www.wbez.org/blog/onstagebackstage/2012-02-16/brevity-soul-wit-96475 <p><div class="inset"><div class="insetContent"><p><span style="font-size: 10px;">Listen to the Dueling Critics on&nbsp;<em>Eight Forty-Eight</em></span></p><p><audio class="mejs mediaelement-formatter-identified-1332735873-1" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/sites/default/files/120217 Dueling Critics.mp3">&nbsp;</audio></p></div></div><p>We've recently seen a spate of shows running between 75 and 90 minutes, no intermission. At first I greeted this trend with joy: Intermission has always galled me by interrupting the fictive dream, and I'm not averse to being home in time for<em> The Daily Show</em>. But I've started to notice the downside of all this expeditiousness: The plays often seem unfinished, like sketches rather than full-fledged pieces. Perhaps this is the result of our theaters' intense hunger for new work, and the concomitant pressure on playwrights to finish up this thing so they can start on the next thing. But a number of recent openings have demonstrated the drawbacks of this speed-dating version of playwriting.</p><p><em>Hesperia,</em> at <a href="http://writerstheatre.org/">Writers' Theatre</a>, captures its mise-en-scene perfectly, portraying a town dominated by an old-fashioned Evangelical Christianity with respect rather than ridicule while examining its impact on the archetypal strangers who come to town, a pair of porn stars. And playwright Randall Colburn takes care to demonstrate that the impact is mutual, and to probe the fragility of what at first seem to be rock-solid beliefs and principles. Unfortunately, Colburn sets up this situation and then fast-forwards to the conclusion, so that when our pro- and antagonists make their final decisions they seem to have come from nowhere---or, more precisely, to have happened during a scene we'll never see. A friend asked wherther all the dramaturgs in town had gone on strike, but Colburn's work had the benefit of development at <a href="http://chicagodramatists.org/">Chicago Dramatists</a>, whose fine reputation for honing plays is well-deserved. Still, <em>Hesperia</em> managed to come out of the oven without being fully baked.</p><p>Of course the first impulse of any writer when confronted with what's not working is simply to cut it out. I saw this demonstrated at the old Wisdom Bridge by no less a figure than David Mamet, who offered up a version of <em>Speed-the-Plow</em> so truncated by his own red pencil that the point of the play disappeared. He must have known he had a problem making the female catalyst believable (a problem he's had with women ever since: See <em>Oleanna</em> et seq. ) so he simply cut most of her part, leaving the audience to wonder what the two men on the stage were blathering and scheming about. Mamet did something similar with <em>Race</em> (notwithstanding the intermission). The betrayals and counter-betrayals come so rapidly, and to such an abrupt end, that I was left wondering what actually happened and why.&nbsp; It's fine to take a scalpel to one's work, but simple amputation is rarely sufficient surgery.&nbsp;</p><p>Other shows that could have benefitted from being longer: <a href="http://www.atcweb.org/"><em>Disgraced</em>, at ATC</a>, which sped from cosy domesticity to violent collapse in 80 minutes leaving the audience gasping in its wake; Simon Stephens' <a href="http://griffintheatre.com/"><em>Punk Rock</em> at Griffin</a>; and <a href="http://www.steeptheatre.com/">Love and Money at Steep</a>. The case of Stephens is particularly instructive, because he's had four plays done in Chicago in the past four years. Perhaps the playwright is over-busy, leaping from project to project in an attempt to cobble together a living. He's hardly the first to encounter this dilemma---there was a period when Rebecca Gilman was turning out plays faster than she could finish them---but the result leaves the audience slightly undernourished. Even Conor McPherson, perhaps the premiere English-language playwright of this generation, falls into the trap of declaring a play finished when it's merely through its second draft. <em>Shining City</em>, a neo-realist tale concluding with an unpersuasive ghost-story bang, would have been far stronger if the playwright had waited until the muses brought him a genuine ending.</p><p>Again: This may be the inevitable consequence of contemporary theater economics, a system which also frequently dictates the choice of two- or three-character plays rather than the crowds required by Miller or Shakespeare. But let's try to figure out a way for playwrights to incubate their works a bit longer. That should reduce the likelihood of their laying an egg.&nbsp;</p></p> Thu, 16 Feb 2012 17:52:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blog/onstagebackstage/2012-02-16/brevity-soul-wit-96475 Top 5 directors of 2010 http://www.wbez.org/blog/city-room-blog/onstagebackstage-top-5-directors-2010 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/cat on a hot tin roof.jpg" alt="" /><p><p style="text-align: center;"><img height="476" width="450" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2010-December/2010-12-15/cat on a hot tin roof.jpg" alt="" /></p><p>I already honored Ron OJ Parson for his outstanding direction of <a href="http://courttheatre.org/ ">Home at Court Theatre</a>, by honoring <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blog/city-room-blog/onstagebackstage-top-5-chicago-actors-2010">every one the actors</a> he directed in that superb production. That means I get five more bites of the apple!</p><p>1. Michael Menendian, &quot;Cat on a Hot Tin Roof&quot; at <a href="http://www.raventheatre.com">Raven</a>. I don&rsquo;t understand it, actually&mdash;for some years, Raven was known as a middling producer of chestnuts. With the same company and leadership, in the last two years it&rsquo;s come roaring out as a premier interpreter of classics. Menendian&rsquo;s thoughtful and re-focused Cat . . . (not Maggie&rsquo;s play, in this rendition, but Brick&rsquo;s and Big Daddy&rsquo;s) comes on the heels of his definitive &quot;Death of a Salesman&quot; last year, literally the best production of that play I have ever seen&mdash;and I saw Dustin Hoffman do it on Broadway. It&rsquo;s a joy to see a journeyman turn into master craftsmen, and ours not to reason why.</p><p>2. Mark Ulrich, &quot;Mary&rsquo;s Wedding&quot; at <a href="http://www.rivendelltheatre.net/ ">Rivendell</a>. If instead of being &ldquo;Chicago&rsquo;s Premier Women&rsquo;s Theatre&rdquo; Rivendell were run by white men and did work focused on white men, it would long since have been acknowledged as a top-tier troupe, spoken of in the same breath with the Hypocrites and Timeline. Maybe having one man write and another direct this year&rsquo;s superb show (following hard on the heels of last year&rsquo;s unforgettable world premiere, &quot;These Shining Lives,&quot; about the women killed by their job painting radium-dial watch faces) will help overcome that reputational lag. In any case, Ulrich&rsquo;s expert handling of this delicate play about war and remembrance included one of the toughest tricks to turn in the theater: presenting a surprise ending without making the audience feel deceived by everything that came before.</p><p>3. Jaime Castañeda, &quot;Welcome to Arroyo&rsquo;s&quot; at <a href="http://www.atcweb.org/">American Theatre Company</a>. From Dallas and now based in New York, Castaneda&rsquo;s stop in Chicago should be remembered for taking a lively but overstuffed script by Kristoffer Diaz and turning it into a thrilling evening of mixed-media theater. I saw the show in the company of a class of high-school students who began the evening in the usual state of boredom, both real and assumed. Long before intermission they were completely enthralled, cheering on the characters and clearly identifying with their fates. That&rsquo;s directorial magic.</p><p>4. Ira Amyx, &quot;Shakespeare&rsquo;s King Phycus&quot; at the <a href="http://www.strangetree.org/">Strange Tree Group</a>. Amyx came up from Set Designer/Tech Director (at a company whose tech is always noticeable, for better or for worse) to do a slam-bang perfect job with this nearly bare-staged parody of every Shakespeare play ever written using every comic device ever thought of. He kept his tiny cast in constant motion and his not-as-large-as-he-deserved audience in constant laughter. Look for more from him, and from the rest of the elaborately talented and deeply peculiar Strange Trees.</p><p>5. Dale Calandra for &quot;Sweet Bird of Youth&quot; at <a href="http://www.theartistichome.org/">Artistic Home</a>. This was the other half of this fall&rsquo;s unplanned Tennessee Williams festival. Unlike Menendian, whose task was to take a play well-known for being perfect and do something knew, Calandra faced a relatively unknown and difficult script&mdash;the title metaphor nearly jumps off the page and bites you&mdash;and managed to make it feel contemporary even while keeping it in period; to share the focus between the two main characters without losing focus; and to engage the audience with the philosophical and spiritual considerations of aging without losing the visceral pleasures of one of Williams&rsquo; sexier scripts.</p><p>Runners-up: <br />Stuart Carden for &quot;Travels With My Aunt&quot; at <a href="http://www.writerstheatre.org/">Writers Theatre</a><br />Amanda Dehnert for &quot;Peter Pan (A Play)&quot; at <a href="http://www.lookingglasstheatre.org/">LookingglassTheatre Company</a><br />Robert Falls for &quot;The Seagull&quot; at the <a href="http://www.goodmantheatre.org/">Goodman Theatre</a>.</p><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Wed, 15 Dec 2010 15:30:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blog/city-room-blog/onstagebackstage-top-5-directors-2010