Thursday, February 26, 2009

Rouw siert Electra (Mourning Becomes Electra)

Toneelgroep Amsterdam made their Chicago debut last night with their provocative production of Rouw siert Electra (Mourning Becomes Electra).

Are you going to the show, or have you just come back from a performance?

Thoughts? Comments?

We want to hear from YOU!

Provide feedback on Rouw siert Electra (Mourning Becomes Electra) by clicking the comments link below.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Lucky. Grateful. Terrified.

Posted by Cliff Chamberlain

Ah, my first blog post.

This is exciting.

“Where do I start?” I wonder.

I guess I might as well start by introducing myself.

Hello reader.
My name is Cliff. I’m one of the actors in Magnolia.
Let me re-phrase that.
I’m one of the “extremely luckygratefulandterrified to be a part of the cast” actors in Magnolia.

I’m lucky because Anna Shapiro is directing Magnolia.
She won a Tony Award.
She’s a Tony Award-winning director.
You may remember her acceptance speech because it was the best acceptance speech in the history of acceptance speeches.
And let me tell you.
Anna Shapiro makes a Tony Award-winning acceptance speech pretty much seven times a day, just minus the Tony Award-winning part.
She’s just naturally that good at, well, the art of speech.
The art of communication.

And she’s super smart and patient and kind and funny and wears cool scarves and even though she won a Tony and could probably be directing on the moon, she makes a living right here in Chicago and she tells the truth and likes her actors to turn upstage if that’s the natural thing for her actors to do and she can sum up the human condition more precisely than anybody I’ve ever met so that I find myself constantly nodding my head and going, “Yeah...Totally. That story totally makes sense and ohmygodthat’swhatmycharacterisfeeling you’re a genius.”

Also, she’s in my Top 5 list of The Coolest People I’ve Ever Met.
So she’s got that going for her.

I’m grateful because Regina Taylor has written Magnolia.
Regina has written, like, 4,000 plays.
Many have been performed at the Goodman.
And somehow I’m now in one of them.
I have an actual part.
And Regina is okay with that.
Regina Taylor is okay with me being in her play and saying her lines.
I know.
It’s a dream.
You know what else is a dream?
Regina Taylor.
Seriously, just having a normal conversation with Regina is like talking to somebody in one of your dreams. And by that I mean that you can swear that you hear music playing somewhere in the distance and you’re pretty sure it’s a harp or maybe a trumpet and time seems to slow down and you feel you’re in quicksand and you’re thinking, “This woman is tapped in to something more powerful than the rest of us and when she talks to me I feel gooooood.”

Regina was the first black woman to play Juliet on Broadway.
Scratch that one off the list of fantastic things to do in one’s lifetime.

I’m terrified because Anna Shapiro is directing Magnolia.
I’m terrified because Regina Taylor has written Magnolia.

Terrified because they’re on top of their game.

They’re like Tom Brady in the 4th quarter (before he hurt his knee).
They’re like Tiger Woods on the back nine (before, after and during his knee problems).
They’re like Kirk Gibson, bottom of the ninth, ’88 World Series. Home run. Game over.

I’m just hoping that I can keep up.
So the pressure is on.

I mean, even without two forces like Anna and Regina in the room,
I constantly find myself being driven by two things when I act:

1. Make honest, specific and brave choices.

2. Don’t get fired.

Like I said.
It’s still early.
A little terror is a great motivator.
Maybe I’ll get lucky and make a few nice passes.
And I’ll be grateful to have been given a chance to play.

Being in plays is fun.

Go Behind the Scenes with the Cast of Magnolia

In the weeks to come the cast of Magnolia will take us behind the scenes in the process of getting this world-premiere production on stage. They will share all the surprises, sensational stories, absurdities and wonders of the rehearsal process, opening night and the experience of performing Regina Taylor’s compelling play. Cliff Chamberlain, who plays Paul (and last appeared at the Goodman in Ifa Bayeza’s The Ballad of Emmett Till) will get us started shortly.

We also want you to feel welcome to respond—either to the thoughts of our artists, or your own feelings on Magnolia. We'll see you at the Theatre!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

If Not for Our Audience…

Posted by Kurt Ehrmann of The Hypocrites

Kurt Ehrmann
Well it’s done—for good or ill The Hairy Ape is open for business. It’s been a hard play to wrap my head around but, truth be told, they all are. Theater is just a weird thing to do. We work as hard as we can to create a piece of art for ourselves, the whole time knowing the only thing that matters is the collaboration that happens once the audience arrives.

Theater asks a lot of you, and with no small amount of fear and pride I believe The Hypocrites demand a good deal on top of that. It’s crazy, really, that when you think about it we are asking, Please give us some money and come to this place at this time and celebrate with us how deeply painful and alienating it is to be a human being. We’ll have a few laughs along the way but make no mistake, consciousness is horrifying. We’re very mean to each other most of the time and there’s no doubt that we all would have been much happier had we been born otters.

But it’s better than TV.

Just think, in 1922 there was no TV. But there was Eugene O’Neill, complete with his broken heart, bottomless glass of whiskey and a stack of paper upon which he wrote this savage little play about Yank and his quest to belong somewhere. Here we are 87 years later and Yank is still searching. A sacrifice never ends well for the offering, and Yank is our sacrifice.

And yours, if you’re game enough to join us. I hope you do. If not for the audience, all of our work won’t be worth a monkey-fur coat.

-Kurt Ehrmann

Thursday, February 12, 2009

The Hairy Ape

Are you going to The Hairy Ape, or have you just come back from a performance?

Thoughts? Comments?

We want to hear from YOU!

Provide feedback on The Hairy Ape by clicking the comments link below.

Friday, February 6, 2009

The Puzzle of Technical Rehearsals

Posted by Robert McLean of The Hypocrites

As of today, we have one rehearsal left in the Horn. Then we move on to the comparatively palatial (and toasty!) confines of the Owen Theatre. We are all understandably excited to move on to the next phase: Tech Rehearsals. But with tech rehearsals comes a new crop of frustrations.

Here’s how it always works: you get through the first read-through, you learn where and when to stand, you learn all the lines (hopefully in the right order), you start to understand how your character relates (or doesn’t relate) to the other characters and the world at large. You start to understand the flow of the play. You don’t get “comfortable,” because that kills tension, but you learn the framework of the story you’re telling. For me, at least, knowing that framework gives me the freedom to find the life behind the lines, the truth behind the artifice. You’re talking and relating to your scene partners, and every now and then, you may actually feel like you’re acting.

That feeling gets ripped away from you at the start of every tech rehearsal.

Because no matter how well things may be going, no matter how many discoveries you make, no matter how many moments start to really click, there are more elements to add to the framework. Lights, sound, music, set, costumes and props all exist only in the imagination during the rehearsal process. When these elements finally come to life, they can really play hell with the work you have been doing in rehearsal. For several rehearsals, you feel like you’ve lost the show you spent weeks creating. Acting goes right out the window as you realize that you now have to climb up an actual ladder. You suddenly realize that during the quick costume change you’ve known was coming, your boots take longer to take off and put on than you had imagined, and there are three more pieces to the costume that need to be buckled or tied or fastened. Suddenly that entrance or exit you’ve been making is 20 feet farther away than you thought and the timing you’ve developed is obsolete.

One might think that, as an actor in a tech rehearsal, when you find yourself in a panic about losing some element of your performance due to all of the new elements, you could go to the director and ask for help. One would be wrong.

I remember the first show I did with Sean Graney. It was his adaptation of Ajax. During our first tech rehearsal, Sean announced to the cast that he loved us all, and appreciated our work, but he was going to stop caring about our problems for awhile. Our questions about our characters or anything relating to acting should be tabled until after tech, and we should figure them out for ourselves. I suspect every director feels this way; Sean is just one of the few honest enough to say it up front. And after 10 shows with the man, I can see why.

Like the Rubik’s Cubes that Sean is so frighteningly good at, a production has a multitude of elements that need to be brought precisely into place. To extend the metaphor, the acting of the show is only one side of the cube and all the other tech elements make up the other sides. Once tech starts, Sean has to worry about the whole cube, not just the one side.

So while we may be frustrated for a little while, it’s going to be thrilling to see all the sides of this cube that is The Hairy Ape fall into place. I will put up with feeling lost for a few rehearsals because I am so excited to share this show with you. I believe it will be funny and heartbreaking and will leave you stunned.

See you all at the show, once we’ve come out the other side!