WBEZ | Tracy Letts http://www.wbez.org/tags/tracy-letts Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Why actors deserve our respect http://www.wbez.org/blogs/leah-pickett/2013-06/why-actors-deserve-our-respect-107719 <p><p><img 8.="" alt="" august="" broadway.="" class="image-original_image" film="" flickr="" meryl="" michael="" november="" on="" osage="" premieres="" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/August Osage County.jpg" starring="" the="" title="A scene from Tracy Letts' Pulitzer Prize-winning play &quot;August Osage County&quot; on Broadway. The film version, starring Meryl Streep, premieres November 8. (Flickr/Michael Brosilow)" /></p><div class="image-insert-image ">Friends may outright tell you that acting is a terrible career choice, or barely conceal their judgment behind a condescending smirk.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">However, what these people may not realize is that actors are skilled professionals (no matter how much or how little they get paid) and that acting is more than just strutting around a stage and looking pretty for a camera. If forced to deliver a monologue before an audience of thousands, they might have a better appreciation for what actors do every&nbsp;<a href="http://www.dummies.com/how-to/content/finetuning-your-acting-performance-on-film.html" target="_blank">18-hour day</a>&nbsp;on a film set or&nbsp;<a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Broadway_theatre">eight shows a week</a> on Broadway.&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image "><strong>Acting is hard work</strong>. Those who pursue acting as a career often work full-time jobs during the day, then hurry off to auditions on their lunch breaks and to the theater for rehearsals and shows at night. They eat, sleep and breathe their craft, sacrificing other more lucrative job offers in favor of their first love. Actors are a passionate bunch, and many have the<a href="http://blogs.indiewire.com/theplaylist/on-the-rise-13-10-actors-set-to-blow-up-in-the-near-future-20130311?page=2#blogPostHeaderPanel" target="_blank"> jaw-dropping talent</a> to merit star status alongside professional musicians, authors and athletes&mdash;even if they never acheive it.&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">Yes, some actors are hired for plum roles on film and television solely because of their looks or family connections (see Sofia Coppola in <em>The Godfather Part III</em> and Megan Fox in everything). However, other rising A-listers who are not conventionally attractive (like Steve Buscemi on <em>Boardwalk Empire,&nbsp;</em>the great Tilda Swinton&nbsp;and Chicago&#39;s own <a href="http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0788335/" target="_blank">Michael Shannon</a>) succeed because they are astoundingly good at what they do.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image "><strong>The act of &quot;acting&quot; is harder than it looks</strong>. Although pretending to fall in love with Johnny Depp might not look like the hardest job in the world, imagine the real-life scenario. Under the pressure of hot lights, multiple camera angles and several dozen crew members watching with bated breath, just remembering lines (not to mention delivering them well and performing convincingly) is a rare and <a href="http://movies.amctv.com/movie-guide/the-50-greatest-actors-of-all-time.php" target="_blank">truly impressive</a> skill.&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">Many of the best film actors working today (Meryl Streep, Edward Norton, Al Pacino, etc.) first honed their skills in the theater. Myriads more have studied under the rigorous acting tenets of <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r7v5zB-jg40" target="_blank">Uta Hagen</a>&nbsp;and <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HNBRFSUXR-A" target="_blank">Lee Strasberg</a>, devoting themselves completely to an art that few people can master, and even fewer actually acknowledge or respect as a viable career.&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image "><strong>Good acting deserves to be seen and celebrated</strong>.&nbsp;Go to the Goodman, Steppenwolf, Victory Gardens or practically any other small storefront theater in Chicago to see the <a href="http://www.chicagotribune.com/entertainment/theater/theaterloop/chi-20121221-best-theater-actors-pictures,0,3491546.photogallery" target="_blank">sublime acting talent</a>&nbsp;that our city has to offer. For a better understanding of film actors and the intense work that goes into their craft, watch&nbsp;<a href="http://popwatch.ew.com/2013/05/29/inside-the-actors-studio-250th-episode/" target="_blank"><em>Inside the Actors Studio</em> </a>with James Lipton (recommended episodes: Jack Lemmon, Paul Newman and Kate Winslet).&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">Not everyone has what it takes to be a great actor; but to study acting as a true art form is a noble pursuit, and certainly worthy of respect. In the words of legendary acting coach <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stella_Adler" target="_blank">Stella Adler</a>, &quot;Life beats down and crushes the soul, and art reminds you that you have one.&quot;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><p><em>Leah Pickett writes about popular culture for WBEZ. Follow her on <a href="https://www.facebook.com/leahkristinepickett" target="_blank">Facebook</a>,<a href="https://twitter.com/leahkpickett" target="_blank"> Twitter</a> or <a href="http://hermionehall.tumblr.com" target="_blank">Tumblr.</a>&nbsp;</em></p></p> Mon, 17 Jun 2013 05:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/leah-pickett/2013-06/why-actors-deserve-our-respect-107719 Tracy Letts's 'Bug' up close http://www.wbez.org/blog/onstagebackstage/2011-06-14/tracy-lettss-bug-close-87840 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/photo/2011-June/2011-06-14/Grandt copy.jpg" alt="" /><p><p style="text-align: center; "><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2011-June/2011-06-15/Grandt copy.jpg" style="width: 500px; height: 332px; " title=""></p><p>Last weekend, Pulitzer-winning playwright Tracy Letts took in a show: his own <em>Bug </em>at tiny Redtwist Theatre. “He loved it,” says Jacqueline Grandt, who plays sleazy, tough-talking waitress Agnes. “He was very kind to all of us, the whole cast. We went out to the lobby, and he gave me a big hug. It was cool!”</p><p>Lett’s 15-year-old play, made into a film in 2006, is still very much a work for our time: though the objects of paranoia may have shifted, conspiracy theories live on. That hook, and the knife-edge balance between comic hysteria and tragic horror maintained in Redtwist’s intimate production, makes <a href="http://www.redtwist.org/">the play’s extension (through July 31) </a>no surprise. Most of that time it plays in repertory with <em>That Face</em>, which also features Grandt. “I actually have never done two shows at the same time,” she says. “It’s freaking me out a little bit.”</p><p>Though the script calls for Agnes to be nude at times, Grandt wasn’t comfortable with that—and director Kimberly Senior thought the audience might be uncomfortable too, sitting just inches from the performers. Most of the tiny venue is taken up by Jack Magaw’s brilliant set, designed with Senior. “Initially Kimberly wanted only 30 people in the audience,” Grandt says. “She wanted everyone to feel enclosed and locked in. She wanted the audience right on top, so they could feel everything we feel.” It works. This production’s a pressure-cooker.</p><p>“This is probably the closest, the most intimate I’ve ever been with the audience,” says Grandt. “It’s really wonderful, because even though you are in your moments, you still feel the audience member there. Every movement you make, every eye contact you have with your fellow actor—it’s all seen. It’s almost like doing a movie because you’re so close up.” A few audience members are seated virtually onstage. “But I think they enjoy it,” Grandt says. “They wouldn’t have picked those seats if they didn’t want to be involved.”</p><p>A lot of people laughed at <em>Bug</em>’s crazed ending when I saw the show, and Grandt says responses vary from performance to performance. “It can be silence, it can be laughter. We actually expected uproarious laughter when the pizza guy comes, right? And the first couple nights it was dead silence. I’m like, oh no! When did I order a pizza? I mean, come on! But however the audience reacts, you have to take it in and say, ‘As long as I’m playing this truly, people are going to react how they’re going to react.’ I mean, you take out of it whatever you want, because there’s no answer in this play. No answer.”</p><p>Of her character, Grandt says: “She hasn’t had anybody treat her with an iota of respect. I’m sure the customers where she works just don’t see anybody, just a person serving them. But I love Agnes, she’s become one of my favorite roles. Some of that is to do with her compassion. So many people may think of it as ignorance or oversights, but I see it as compassion, how much she really loves Peter.”</p><p>Grandt’s character in <em>That Face</em>—the mother in Polly Stenham’s 2007 family drama, which Stenham wrote at age 19—is harder to like. “She’s a very disturbed woman, a divorced alcoholic, a sad character who’s 100 percent dependent on her 18-year-old son,” Grandt says. “But the play is amazingly written. The verbiage, it’s eloquent. She speaks from the heart, but it’s just horrible things.”</p><p>After eight rehearsals (previews start June 29), Grandt says, “I’m on a good path about [my character’s] past, but I haven’t gotten it all yet. And there’s a lot to get, so it’s gonna take some work. But honestly, I’ve never not liked any of my characters because I don’t think you can go into it like that. You have to somehow find the good in them, because otherwise the audience can’t find the good in them.”</p><p style="text-align: center; "><img alt="" class="caption" height="400" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2011-June/2011-06-15/1BugMineWeb.jpg" title="" width="600"></p></p> Tue, 14 Jun 2011 20:08:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blog/onstagebackstage/2011-06-14/tracy-lettss-bug-close-87840 Dueling Critics: Tracy Letts' latest 'Man from Nebraska' hits the stage http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-04-08/dueling-critics-tracy-letts-latest-man-nebraska-hits-stage-84915 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/segment/photo/2011-April/2011-04-08/NebraskaCake Andrew Jessop.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Have you ever been at an existential fork in the road? Stuck in a rut? Wondering if there’s more to life than the same-old-same-old? How do you break out of it?&nbsp; And what are the consequences of a prison break – for you and those you love?<br> <br> Those questions and more are tackled in <a href="http://www.steppenwolf.org/ensemble/members/details.aspx?id=41" target="_blank">Tracy Letts’</a> <em>Man From Nebraska</em>. <a href="http://www.redtwist.org/Productions/Nebraska/Production.html" target="_blank">Redtwist Theatre</a> in Chicago’s Edgewater neighborhood is giving the Pulitzer-nominated play a rather intimate revival. The play runs through April 24.<br> <br> <em> Eight Forty-Eight's</em> <a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/dueling-critics">Dueling Critics</a> Jonathan Abarbanel and Kelly Kleiman joined host Alison Cuddy to provide their review.<br> <br> The Dueling Critics also offer their picks for good theater around Chicago.</p><p><strong>Kelly's Pick:</strong><br> <em>Merrily We Roll Along </em>runs through May 1 at <a href="http://www.themusictheatrecompany.org/index.php?option=com_content&amp;view=article&amp;id=25&amp;Itemid=2" target="_blank">The Music Theatre Company</a><br> <br> <strong>Jonathan's Pick:</strong><br> <a href="http://www.remybumppo.org/the-goat-or--who-is-sylvia--pages-342.php" target="_blank"><em>The Goat, or Who is Sylvia?</em></a> runs through May 8 at Remy Bumppo Theatre Company</p></p> Fri, 08 Apr 2011 14:28:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-04-08/dueling-critics-tracy-letts-latest-man-nebraska-hits-stage-84915