The Paper Machete Interview: Dueling Critic Kelly Kleiman on her theater origins
You work across a lot of fields -- WBEZ theater blogger, Nonprofit consulting, and now Paper Machete performer (and I know I'm missing stuff). How do you feel about crossing all these boundaries? Do they all work together semi-seamlessly?
- They work together pretty well until I try to persuade certain journalistic outlets to let me cover the nonprofit community. Then they either say, "Well, you work in the nonprofit sector so it would be an automatic conflict of interest" (which I think is nonsense when I write about stuff that has nothing to do with the clients I serve) OR "Well, you're that funny Dueling Critic so no one would take you seriously if you report on the nonprofit sector." But that's a small price to pay for being able to work simultaneously in fields that I love--writing and helping charities.
What will you be talking about on Saturday? Is this ground you've covered before, or fresh material?
- I'll be talking about the likelihood that a bunch of nonprofits, including arts organizations, will lose their exemption from property taxes. I know how snooz-oid that sounds but it will be really important when, say, the YMCA suddenly has to pay property taxes on all its facilities--a big and unexpected expense. It's a subject I've been writing about since last spring, when the Illinois Supreme Court handed down a big decision on the subject, and I'm reviving it now because there was another big decision last week. The Paper Machete material is fresh in the sense that I'm talking to people who have no idea this is even an issue, and my goal is to take them from zero to educated in fewer than 10 minutes.
Were you a theater star as a kid? What spurred all this arts-love?
- I was never in the theater as a kid--always envied those cool theater people. I started doing theater in college and soon discovered that onstage I have too many arms and legs. Became a "producer" (organizing all the tech aspects of college productions) and then a stage manager and even, briefly, a director, at which point I got perhaps the single worst review Chris Jones ever gave. After licking my wounds, I decided to combine my love of theater with my love of writing and stay safely in the audience. As for the origins of arts love: my parents, who couldn't agree that today is Thursday, both loved the theater, and starting taking me when I was about 4 years old. (First show: Guys & Dolls. First Shakespeare: Midsummer Night's Dream, at camp.) Then they were all surprised when I became a theater critic. I was, like, "Were you there during my childhood?"
And of course, what else are you doing this weekend?
- On Saturday before The Paper Machete I'm going to a behind-the-scenes tour of the Field Museum. Tonight I'm seeing the new show by Mortar Theatre Company, "Corazon de Manzana," at the Storefront Theatre downtown. And in my copious free time I'll be preparing for the Remy Bumppo season opening salon, for which Jonathan and I are the moderators. This means reading three plays and figuring out brilliant put-downs of Jonathan suitable for every one.