WBEZ | First Ladies http://www.wbez.org/tags/first-ladies Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en A quiz on first ladies http://www.wbez.org/blogs/bez/2012-10/quiz-first-ladies-103292 <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/3224581830_5a00e9455a_z.jpg" style="height: 412px; width: 620px; " title="The First Ladies exhibit at the Smithsonian. (Flickr/clio1789)" /></div><p>Resident history blogger John Schmidt is out Monday and so in his stead, we rounded up WBEZ theatre critic Jonathan Abarbanel, who has a love of history. He&rsquo;s put together today&rsquo;s brain-stumper about First Ladies.</p><p><iframe allowtransparency="true" frameborder="0" height="600" scrolling="auto" src="http://cpm.polldaddy.com/s/a-quiz-on-first-ladies?iframe=1" width="100%">&amp;amp;amp;lt;a data-cke-saved-href=&amp;amp;amp;quot;http://cpm.polldaddy.com/s/a-quiz-on-first-ladies&amp;amp;amp;quot; href=&amp;amp;amp;quot;http://cpm.polldaddy.com/s/a-quiz-on-first-ladies&amp;amp;amp;quot;&amp;amp;amp;gt;View Survey&amp;amp;amp;lt;/a&amp;amp;amp;gt;</iframe></p></p> Mon, 22 Oct 2012 08:44:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/bez/2012-10/quiz-first-ladies-103292 Dado comes back in A Red Orchid's 'Megacosm' http://www.wbez.org/blog/onstagebackstage/2012-02-01/dado-comes-back-chicago-red-orchids-megacosm-96019 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/photo/2012-February/2012-02-01/dado 2.jpg" alt="" /><p><p><img alt="" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2012-February/2012-02-01/dado.jpg" style="margin-right: 10px; margin-top: 10px; margin-bottom: 10px; float: left; width: 358px; height: 501px; " title="">"I love directing Brett’s work, but it’s a joke between us that we had to move to LA to work together," says Dado, director of Brett Neveu’s brand-new <a href="http://www.aredorchidtheatre.org/"><em>Megacosm </em>at A Red Orchid</a>. She and the playwright happened to move to Los Angeles the same month in 2007, and right away she pitched his <em>American Dead</em> to Rogue Machine Theatre. "They snatched it up, and it did so well," she says.</p><p>Making pitches—to corporate America—is a big part of <em>Megacosm</em>, set in a bizarre sci-fi world uncomfortably like our own but amped up to satirical, hysterically funny levels.</p><p>Thanks to set designer John Dalton, it has what Dado calls a “Death Star” look. Both Dalton, who does a lot of commercial work, and Neveu, who’s still living in LA, “have had the weirdest meetings in the weirdest rooms to pitch their ideas,” she says. “We wanted a place that looks like it’s been moved and redesigned and put back together haphazardly.”</p><p>“I believe when Brett wrote <em>Megacosm</em> he was writing in response to the BP spill,” says Dado. “Which is great for me because I live down in BP-land.” In 2009 she left LA and moved back to Whiting, Indiana, where her family lives. (“I come from a long line of union ironworkers and carpenters,” she adds. “Our maternal grandmother, however, was ‘in the vaudeville.’”)</p><p>“My town is three-quarters refinery and one-quarter town,” Dado says. “So when Brett told me the play has so much to do with how corporations spin things, suddenly it all clicked into place.”</p><p>The antagonists in <em>Megacosm</em> are an inventor and the CEO of an undefined business. But “I don’t think I chose a side when I directed this play,” says Dado. “Instead I wanted the audience to want to protect the megacosm.” That is, a box containing tiny people—so small they can only be seen through a microscope, a view represented onstage on multiple TV screens.</p><p>“I shot that footage,” Dado says. “I specifically chose those actors. I directed it, in [<a href="http://www.oddmachine.com/">media designer Seth Henrikson</a>’s] wonderful facility. He let me stand there all day and just yell at them, ‘Pick up your hand! Move your leg! Jump up and down!’ It was all MOS—no sound.”</p><p>“I’m not a filmmaker like Seth is. He helped me so much—we had to figure out so many things. It was so much work.” But definitely worth it, as these perfect miniature human beings innocently dancing around in their box get under our skin in a big way.</p><p><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2012-February/2012-02-01/dado 2.jpg" style="width: 600px; height: 399px; " title="'Megacosm' with Larry Grimm, Danny McCarthy and David Steiger (Photo by Michael Brosilow)"></p><p>While she was still in LA, Dado also directed a 13-minute film, <em>Convo</em>, scripted by Neveu. And she’d like to make another film, she says, “especially after the <em>Megacosm</em> experience.”</p><p>Since she moved back, Dado has done a lot of things she didn’t envision in 2009. “I didn’t think I’d be doing any more acting or directing,” she says. “I was just gonna be a schoolteacher.”</p><p>“I didn’t mean to start acting again.” Then director Zeljko Djukic (“an amazing artist!”) asked her to perform in Trap Door’s production of Werner Schwab’s <em>First Ladies</em>. “To be asked to do something like that,” Dado says, “after seven years of not acting? I was really honored.”</p><p>Next acting gig was another critically praised Schwab/Trap Door production, <em>Overweight, Unimportant, Misshape</em>. “We were eating people,” she says. “<a href="http://www.wbez.org/blog/onstagebackstage/2011-04-01/holy-sht-nicole-wiesner-goes-home-trap-door-84611#"><em>First Ladies</em> was all about poop and blood</a>, and in this one we literally raped and killed the people and ate them. It was very X-rated, in a good way. But my children [8 and 12] didn’t see it.”</p><p>In some ways, directing Neveu’s <em>Megacosm</em> was the result of (reluctantly) turning down his <em>The Meek</em> in 2006 at A Red Orchid, where both are ensemble members. Instead she directed Pinter’s <em>The Hothouse</em>. “Flash-forward to opening night 2012,” she says, “and Brett turns to me and says, ‘You know, I wrote <em>Megacosm</em> largely in response to <em>Hothouse</em>.’”</p><p>“I’m a creature of instinct in a lot of ways,” Dado adds. “You just have to make decisions on the basis of what’s shaping your life at the moment, and try not to think ahead too much."</p></p> Wed, 01 Feb 2012 16:20:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blog/onstagebackstage/2012-02-01/dado-comes-back-chicago-red-orchids-megacosm-96019 What the Jeff Awards left out http://www.wbez.org/blog/onstagebackstage/2011-06-08/what-jeff-awards-left-out-87589 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/photo/2011-June/2011-06-08/Festen_Lev4.jpg" alt="" /><p><p style="text-align: center; "><img a="" alt="" class="caption" for="" jeff="" nominated="" not="" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2011-June/2011-06-08/Festen_Lev4.jpg" style="width: 500px; height: 334px; " title="The cast of "></p><p>A Jeff recommendation is the first step. If your production isn’t recommended for <em>something</em>on opening night, you can’t be nominated for an award—or get one. So it’s no surprise, looking at <a href="http://www.jeffawards.org/home/index.cfm">this year’s Jeff-recommended productions</a>, to see that the roster is long and inclusive.&nbsp;</p><p>That makes certain curious omissions even curiouser. Like <a href="http://www.steeptheatre.com/shows/shows_main.html">Steep Theatre’s <em>Festen</em></a>, a production that’s gotten rave reviews—and is sold out through the end of the run, no surprise given the incredible acting, direction, and stagecraft.</p><p>But <em>Festen&nbsp;</em>is about incest. Could the problem—for the Jeff committee, anyway—have been the subject?</p><p>It’s not the only strange omission. Despite a similar array of dazzling reviews, Trap Door’s <em>Hamletmachine </em>also got stood up for a Jeff rec. What was the issue there? My guess: playwright Heiner Muller’s experimental approach, Jonathan Guillen’s original operatic music, and Max Truax’s chilling staging. All just too weird.</p><p>At least Trap Door’s <em>First Ladies</em>—which was about s**t—got recommended, which allowed Nicole Wiesner to get nominated for best actress, which allowed her to tie for the award with Caroline Neff. (<a href="http://www.org/blog/onstagebackstage/2011-06-07/robots-invade-jeff-awards-martians-next-87512">Jonathan, you left the best actress awardees out!)</a> But why were supporting actresses Dado and Beata Pilch not nominated for their stellar work in Werner Schwab’s gut-wrenching play?&nbsp;</p><p>Even Tanya Saracho’s <em>El Nogalar</em>, a Goodman/Teatro Vista coproduction that updated <em>The Cherry Orchard&nbsp;</em>to contemporary Mexico, got ignored by the Jeff committee. Completely. Really? It wasn’t good enough in any way to be recommended for anything? Though I’d call that piece a good idea that didn’t quite work out, it was more than worth seeing for the script’s inspired parallels, its comedy, and the impressive acting.</p><p>Meanwhile moldy old chestnuts like <em>Seven Brides for Seven Brothers&nbsp;</em>and <em>The Odd Couple&nbsp;</em>got green-lighted. Even the new plays on the list played it safe, including such empty, easy, formulaic fare as <em>Sex With Strangers&nbsp;</em>and <em>The Big Meal</em>. We all hear about the catastrophic aging of the theater audience, but not so often about its possible cause, effect, or both. Could the theater community’s conservative tastes be producing a vicious cycle of the tried-and-true?</p></p> Wed, 08 Jun 2011 17:37:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blog/onstagebackstage/2011-06-08/what-jeff-awards-left-out-87589 Holy sh*t! Nicole Wiesner goes home to Trap Door http://www.wbez.org/blog/onstagebackstage/2011-04-01/holy-sht-nicole-wiesner-goes-home-trap-door-84611 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/photo/2011-April/2011-04-01/firstlady.jpg" alt="" /><p><p style="text-align: center; "><img alt="" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2011-April/2011-04-01/firstlady.jpg" style="width: 500px; height: 332px; " title=""></p><p>“I kind of do forget that almost every line I have is about … poop,” says Nicole Wiesner. By the time she got up onstage as Marie in <a href="http://trapdoortheatre.com/">Trap Door’s “First Ladies,”</a> she says, the dialogue about turds and toilet habits “had become natural” to her and fellow actors Beata Pilch and Dado.</p><p>It’s not likely to feel natural to audiences. But Austrian playwright Werner Schwab goes far beyond the potty-mouthed to show the dynamics of power when armored individual realities butt up against each other (so to speak). These actors nail those realities. And though Schwab’s 1990 play is somewhat autobiographical—he’s the unseen alcoholic son raised by hyper-religious single mom Erna—it doesn’t come across as angry. “I think he finds love, sympathy, for these women,” Wiesner says.</p><p>Oh, and the production’s very funny.</p><p>Wiesner describes her character, Marie, as definitely slow: Think German female Lennie. “One thing I was really scared of,” Wiesner says, “was making her a caricature rather than a real person. In the late rehearsals I kept asking the director [<a href="http://www.tutato.com/ensemble/zeljko-djukic">TUTA's Zelijko Djukic</a>],&nbsp;‘She doesn’t seem too retarded, does she?’ In the script she’s described as rocking rhythmically back and forth, which I don’t do but I took that as a cue when developing her.”</p><p>“I had to grow my hair everywhere,” says Wiesner, who wears a shift, heavy boots, and little else. It’s not a role designed to make the actor feel glamorous, yet Marie has her own charisma, especially in Wiesner’s hands. “She speaks truth. She’s like the fool character or the village idiot who seems so slow, but she really has a better understanding than anyone else of what’s going on. She tells the truth no matter what the cost.”</p><p>This is a very Catholic play (an effect enhanced by Ewelina Dobiesz’s meticulously detailed set). Cincinnati native Wiesner, 32, grew up in a nonreligious household, so she had to do some research. “I started by looking at a lot of religious ceremonies on YouTube, kind of seeing the connections between the Catholic rituals and the fact that Marie is a cleaning woman with the specialty of unblocking toilets. People explained to me how a rosary would be held and how you go from bead to bead. For me, that became an obsession with the hands.”</p><p>“The director, who’s amazing, said to me that there’s so much going on inside Marie that she can’t show. So I started concentrating on that energy being in my body but not being allowed to let it out. The gestures and movements became stilted and cut short. And then what are the moments like when she loses control?” Djukic also advised her that, though “Nicole the actor wants to make sense of the language for the audience, Marie wouldn’t make that much sense—it just comes out of her.”</p><p>“I went Equity four years ago,” says Wiesner. “And it was a wonderful time in my life, a lot of great projects, working at the Goodman and Steppenwolf.” But she missed Trap Door, where she’d started just out of Columbia College, in 1999. “I was such a tomboy in those days that [artistic director] Beata never remembered me—she always thought I was a boy, I wore baggy pants and always a hat pulled down and short hair.”</p><p>Wiesner recently quit Equity to go back to Trap Door. “This is my home,” she says. “Here I have the opportunity to be an artist, to direct, to help pick the plays, and I have a voice. I’d never be able to play this part at Steppenwolf.”</p><div class="daylife_smartgalleries_container" style="border: none; margin: 0; padding: 0; overflow: hidden;height: 400px; width: 600px;"><iframe class="daylife_smartgalleries_frame" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" src="http://galleries.wbez.org/gallery_slideshow/1301678649330?width=600&amp;disable_link_to_hosted_page=0&amp;height=400&amp;show_related=0" style="border: none; margin: 0; padding: 0; overflow: hidden;height: 100%; width: 100%;"></iframe></div></p> Fri, 01 Apr 2011 16:48:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blog/onstagebackstage/2011-04-01/holy-sht-nicole-wiesner-goes-home-trap-door-84611