WBEZ | Trap Door Theater http://www.wbez.org/tags/trap-door-theater Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en 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 2011's funniest and best-dressed Chicago shows http://www.wbez.org/blog/onstagebackstage/2011-12-21/2011s-funniest-and-best-dressed-chicago-shows-95076 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/photo/2011-December/2011-12-21/funniest.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Being funny and looking good aren’t mutually exclusive (see below), but they don’t always go together either. Just think of your high school boyfriend.</p><p>Most of these dance and theater shows were new—because to me, though original work can be downright awful, it can also pay off big-time. Seems like, once all the creative juices get flowing, they flow into every corner of the work. (And, <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/style/arena-stage-bans-media-public-from-new-play-conference/2011/11/02/gIQAqAhOmM_story.html?wprss=rss_style">as the <em>Washington Post</em>’s Peter Marks recently remarked</a>, what stage artists are creating right now is “the true measure of a nation’s artistic vitality.”)</p><p>Two of these shows—candidates in both categories—are currently running: the Hypocrites’ remount of <a href="http://www.the-hypocrites.com/"><em>The Pirates of Penzance</em></a> and the Neo-Futurists’ <a href="http://www.neofuturists.org/"><em>Burning Bluebeard</em></a>. Actually, so is perennial favorite <a href="http://www.barrelofmonkeys.org/"><em>That’s Weird, Grandma</em></a>.</p><p><span style="font-size:14px;"><strong>2011’s Top 5 Funny Shows </strong></span></p><p><a href="http://www.dancemagazine.com/reviews/November-2011/Lucky-Plush-Productions">Lucky Plush Productions’ dance/theater hybrid <em>The Better Half </em></a>poked unmerciful fun at its source, George Cukor’s 1944 film noir <em>Gaslight</em>, and at marriage, theater, and the movies. Collaborating with 500 Clown’s Leslie Danzig, Julia Rhoads managed to nail the bittersweet tragicomedy of wedded (or unwedded) “bliss.”</p><p><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2011-December/2011-12-21/funniest.jpg" style="margin-left: 10px; margin-top: 10px; margin-bottom: 10px; float: right; width: 300px; height: 214px; " title="Q Brothers' 'Funk It Up About Nuthin'">The Neo-Futurists’ <em>Burning Bluebeard</em> also inhabits the universe of high-spirited comic takes on tragic subjects. (And, though hardly dance-theater, it often conveys meaning and emotion through nonverbal means, including Mike Tutaj’s amazing sound design and the chair dance that <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blog/onstagebackstage/2011-12-14/jay-torrence-playwright-behind-latest-neo-futurist-sensation-burnin">playwright-performer-amateur choreographer Jay Torrence</a> cobbled together.)&nbsp;</p><p>Jumping from the sublime to the ridiculous: another <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blog/onstagebackstage/2011-10-19/jill-valentine-heart-living-dead-93277">irreverent take on a film, <em>Musical of the Living Dead</em></a>. The campy Halloween hit, which had its second season at Logan Square’s Charnel House last fall, deserved every shred of its word-of-mouth fame. (And, in a unique take on set design, part of the décor is blood-spattered audience members.)</p><p>Moving on to the only slightly less ridiculous: the Q Brothers’ rap-a-thon <em>Funk It Up About Nothin’</em> at Chicago Shakes. The brothers themselves—Chicagoans JQ and GQ—compared it to <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blog/onstagebackstage/q-brothers-re-funk-it">Brecht crossed with <em>The Simpsons</em></a>. And they were right.</p><p>And finally there’s Barrel of Monkeys’ ongoing <em>That’s Weird, Grandma</em>, which for ten years has been <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blog/onstagebackstage/2011-05-11/monkeys-business-whats-behind-grandmas-success-86396">doing good in multiple ways,</a> including re-acquainting full-grown adults with the joys of spazzy childhood humor.</p><p><span style="font-size:14px;"><strong>2011’s Top 5 Best-Dressed Productions</strong></span></p><p>As every fashionista knows, style has nothing to do with budget. All these shows substituted intense creativity for cold hard cash. (And by “dressed,” of course, I mean the overall stage design.)&nbsp;</p><p><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2011-December/2011-12-21/best dressed.jpg" style="margin-right: 10px; margin-top: 10px; margin-bottom: 10px; float: left; width: 266px; height: 400px; " title="Nicole Wiesner in Trap Door Theatre's 'First Ladies' ">A commercial loft’s old refrigerator room, painted and lit in blinding white, served as the whistle-clean hellish set for <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blog/onstagebackstage/2011-07-19/theater-ys-melissa-hawkins-89356">Theatre Y’s <em>Vincent River</em></a>. A door allowed the audience to peer in at the story’s two victims, Laura Jones in a festive poppy-red dress and Kevin V. Smith in nondescript coat and tie. But somehow they radiated the horror of the story—especially given the beads of sweat visible on Smith’s face, illuminated by the harsh beam of a slide projector.&nbsp;</p><p>Trap Door’s fussy set for <em>First Ladies</em> was at the opposite end of the design spectrum. But set designer Ewelina Dobiesz’s Old World parlor—complete with floral wallpaper and framed pictures of the Virgin—created a vivid contrast with <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blog/onstagebackstage/2011-04-01/holy-sht-nicole-wiesner-goes-home-trap-door-84611">Werner Schwab’s highly inappropriate script</a>.</p><p>The dance conglomerate of Jonathan Meyer and Julia Rae Antonick (aka Khecari, at least sometimes) has produced design magic three times over the last year alone, aided in particular by superb lighting. Whether it was the wild party of Antonick’s <em>Commissura</em>, set on the tenth floor of an old Loop building, the treasure hunt of Meyer’s <em>Whence</em> in a 15,000-square-foot Pilsen loft, or <a href="http://seechicagodance.com">the fractured fairytale of Khecari's <em>The Clinking</em></a> in the stodgy old Hamlin Park fieldhouse—these folks know how to transform a space.</p><p>So does Rachel Bunting. Her eerie, magical <a href="http://www.chicagoreader.com/chicago/the-humans/Event?oid=5092495"><em>Paper Shoes</em> transfigured the Hamlin Park stage</a> with shoes and toys painted white, Collin Bunting’s shredded white gowns, two tall stepladders (the base for an anomic “love” duet to the drippy yet stirring “Never My Love”), and horse heads—stuck backward on the dancers’ heads, thereby creating a threatening human/animal herd with oddly moving legs.</p><p>Like <em>First Ladies</em>, the Hypocrites’ <em>Pirates of Penzance </em>sets up a fruitful disjunct between script and stage design. <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blog/onstagebackstage/music-whiz-kevin-odonnell">Treating the Gilbert &amp; Sullivan classic with the utmost disrespect</a>, costumer Alison Siple outfits the cast in flippers, retro bathing suits, and sunglasses. Docks and kiddie pools add to the “seaside” ambience of this sun-drenched visual feast staged, remarkably, in a basement.</p></p> Wed, 21 Dec 2011 15:04:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blog/onstagebackstage/2011-12-21/2011s-funniest-and-best-dressed-chicago-shows-95076 Critics theater picks; seances, the 'OVERWEIGHT, unimportant', and a 'Flowering Tree' http://www.wbez.org/blog/onstagebackstage/2011-10-06/critics-theater-picks-seances-overweight-unimportant-and-flowering- <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/photo/2011-October/2011-10-06/Natya Dance Theatre (6); photo by Amitava Sarkar.jpg" alt="" /><p><p><u><strong>Kelly Kleiman</strong></u></p><p>Do your Thursday nights consist solely of waiting for Friday? Here are three other ways to help you get through the night:<br> &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; •&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Get thee to Stage 773 (the old Theatre Building) to see Open Face Theatre’s <a href="http://www.openfacetheatre.com/Upcoming_Shows.html"><strong><em>Drupelets: Three Vonnegut Vignettes</em></strong></a>. It’s performance art, it’s Vonnegut, what could be bad? Thursdays ONLY at 8 p.m. through October 27; tickets $15.<br> &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; •&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; If instead of American irony you’d like the double-distilled European type, check out&nbsp;Trap Door’s <a href="http://trapdoortheatre.com/current-season/"><em><strong>OVERWEIGHT, unimportant: MISSHAPE</strong></em></a>, opening tonight.&nbsp; Let the company speak for itself: “Never before has degradation, perverse loneliness, and&nbsp;mankind’s toxic ego been so funny.” Thursdays-Saturdays through November 12; tickets $20-$25, with half-price offers available. The setting along is worth the trip: go to 1655 West Cortland, look for the gap between the buildings, open a door into the service gangway between the kitchen and dining room of the restaurant next door, open another door–and resist the urge to say “Swordfish.”</p><p><img alt="" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2011-October/2011-10-06/seance-2.jpg" style="width: 500px; height: 343px; " title=""><br> &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; •&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; And, though this properly belongs in the Dueling Critics’ discussion of Halloween shows (coming soon), I can’t wait: The Strange Tree Group’s <a href="http://www.strangetree.org/spiritplay/"><em><strong>The Spirit Play</strong></em></a>, in previews&nbsp;tonight and opening tomorrow at the Storefront Theater on Randolph. The Trees have&nbsp;never done anything dull, mixing phenomenally detailed period production design with&nbsp;music, dance and serious text.&nbsp; The result is meta-theatrical, simultaneously revealing the tricks of the theater trade and the special form of reality it contains.&nbsp; The Spirit Play takes place in 1870s Chicago, where the idle rich dabble in seances and end up on the wrong side of the divide between reality and–whatever. Take in tonight’s final preview or tomorrow’s opening; the show runs Thursday-Sunday through November 6.&nbsp; $10-$20 with half-price offers available.</p><p><u><strong>Laura Molzahn</strong></u></p><p>And you thought it was just a place to hear schlocky music…This weekend Northerly Island hosts a dance performance, of all things—and a radically non-beer-guzzling, non-sausage-snarfing performance at that. <a href="http://www.ericamott.com/the-victory-project-trilogy/">Erica Mott presents the culmination of her <strong><em>Victory Project Trilogy</em></strong>,</a> billed as “an examination of the female body both broken and victorious.” Intrigued by conversations she had with female veterans of the Korean, Vietnam, and Gulf wars, Mott started wondering whether “victory” is a gendered concept. Performance installations, text, movement, original music (mixed live), and elements of puppetry combine to “dismantle body parts and allegories that fuse and confuse patriotism and perversity.” Tonight through Sunday at the Northerly Island Visitor Center.</p><p><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://www.wbez.org/sites/default/files/blog/insert-image/2011-October/2011-10-06/Natya%20Dance%20Theatre%20%286%29%3B%20photo%20by%20Amitava%20Sarkar.jpg" style="width: 500px; height: 386px; " title="Natya Dance Theatre (Photo by Amitava Sarkar)"></p><p><a href="http://www.natya.com/">Natya Dance Theatre</a> makes <a href="http://www.harristheaterchicago.org/events/2011-2012-season/natya-dance-theatre">its solo Harris debut this weekend, Saturday only</a>, in <strong><em>The Flowering Tree</em></strong>. The perfect show for families, it features a fairy-tale story—based on an Indian folktale about a girl who’s exploited for her ability to turn herself into a tree—complete with message and happy ending. And the bharata natyam dancing, acting, and mime take adults and youngsters alike to a rich new world, the Indian continent. A family affair, it’s choreographed by mother and daughter Hema and Krithika Rajagopalan and narrated by Krithika.</p><p><u><strong>Jonathan Abarbanel</strong></u><strong> </strong><em>liked Kelly's picks so much he repeated them...</em></p><p>Psychological realism long has dominated the American stage. Y'know, Miller and Chekhov and Neil Simon. Thank goodness Chicago troupes provide an occasional break from the mainstream, and the following two companies do so as part of their missions.Eastern European drama, where absurdism long reigned as a type of dramatic protest against Soviet-bloc rule, is at the forefront at Trap Door Theatre, currently offering the North American premiere of <em><strong>OVERWEIGHT, unimportant: MISSHAPE--A European Supper</strong></em> by late Austrian playwright Werner Schwab, directed by Steppenwolf Ensemble member Yasen Payenkov. The company declares that "never before has degradation, perverse loneliness and mankind’s toxic ego been so funny." Trained as a sculptor, Schwab churned out 16 highly-scatological black comedies in the last four years of his life, eight of which were produced before his death at 35 on New Year's Day,1994. <em>OVERWEIGHT, unimportant: MISSHAPE</em> continues at Trap Dorr (1655 W. Cortland) through Nov. 12.</p><p>Like the sachems who describe oobleck in the famous Dr. Seuss book, we can tell you what <em><strong>The Spirit Play</strong></em> at Strange Tree Group isn't, far more easily than we can say what it is. Well, it IS another world premiere by artistic director Emily Schwartz, and the clever Jimmy McDermott returns to Strange Tree to direct. The troupe calls it a play for Halloween, but just about everything the company ever has done would meet Halloween standards. Strange Tree Group consistently is one of Chicago's most imaginative companies, in both the visual and literary senses. Their work never is realistic, always appearing like some giant shadowbox come to life, and frequently exploring myths or fairytales of their own making.<em> The Spirit Play</em> continues at the Storefront Theater (62 E. Randolph) through Nov. 6.</p></p> Thu, 06 Oct 2011 14:25:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blog/onstagebackstage/2011-10-06/critics-theater-picks-seances-overweight-unimportant-and-flowering- 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