Friday, April 30, 2010

An Equation for a Great Show

Posted by Austin Savage, Observer for the Society of Directors & Choreographers for The Good Negro

Hello Goodman blog followers! The Good Negro has just completed its tech week and we are ready to start fine-tuning the show for our May 10th opening. Since the beginning of my participation in the show, I have observed a few interesting things that feel compelled to share with you:

1. Ever since the first day of rehearsal, director Chuck Smith has yet to remove what he calls his “working cap.” This ever-present cap has become integral to my image of Chuck. The equation is essentially: Thoughtful Director + Hat = Chuck Smith.

2. Tracey Scott Wilson is SUPER-photogenic. Her headshot on page 8 of the Goodman’s OnStage magazine is pretty cool. She writes even better than she photographs.

3. I find that I am able to identify with the vices of my heroes much more easily than I identify with their virtues. Their vices give me confidence that my virtues are as attainable to me as their virtues were to them. That gives me hope for not only for myself, but for humanity on a larger scale.

4. This cast can act. As my friend Russo would say, “They got some chops.”

5. The biggest difference between my previous theatrical experiences and this one is the amount of care that has been involved in this production. Every person I have encountered in this production cares. This is the first project in my burgeoning career in which the amount of sincerity and genuine passion for the piece is apparent in every aspect of the show, from the soles of the shoes to the powerful performances on stage. I hope you can all make it out to the show.

Hoping to one day see the top of Chuck’s head in person,
Austin Savage

Monday, April 26, 2010

“Partna” or “Partner”

Posted by Terrence Mosley (Assistant Director of The Good Negro)

Intimacy among men has always been a hot-button issue. Most don’t usually want to admit that we need each other. Most of us don’t want to admit that we need help—period.

“I don’t need directions…I know exactly where I’m going”…Right.

I’ve been thinking about this issue during The Good Negro rehearsal process. We were sitting around the table working on a scene that dealt with the deep relationship between two male characters, when our director Chuck Smith stopped the actors and proclaimed, “When I was growing up, I had Partna! He was the guy that had my back no matter what.”

I retorted, “Nowadays, people have partners.” The table laughed at my wit (at least that’s how I remember it), but Chuck’s comment got me thinking.

It seems that that the bond between men was more evident—and maybe even stronger—50 years ago. What has changed in the span of 50 years to make intimacy between men considered negative? I'm not saying that men ran around hugging each other. Maybe men did not put their feelings on display or express them publicly all the time, but when you look at the photographs of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Ralph Abernathy, you could see true intimacy and trust between them. These men had a deep rapport…they were “partnas,” as Chuck Smith would say. They held each other up. They weren’t afraid to touch, to pray, to celebrate, to cry, to be with each other and to show the full extent of their friendship in public.

Now, men are forced to hide their intimacy in order to keep social order, sometimes even in their own lives. As more GBLT Americans come to the forefront and become part of the fabric of our everyday lives, straight men seem to be becoming more fearful of expressing intimacy—physical or otherwise.

I ask: “So what if two male friends hug? Does their hug mean anything other than that these two men have a strong bond? Does it mean that they are more than friends? And if they are more than friends, why does it matter if they’re partnas or partners?

I think The Good Negro does an excellent job of showing intimate moments between men…something we all need to become more comfortable with.

Friday, April 9, 2010

The Life-Changing Minute

Posted by Austin Savage, Observer for the Society of Directors & Choreographers for The Good Negro

I was sitting at home in El Paso, Texas, when a mysterious phone number flashed across my cell phone. I normally choose to avoid answering unknown numbers due to the fact that they tend to be solicitous calls for magazine subscriptions or automated voices relating to student loan payments. However, the prefix listed it as a Chicago number, and I decided to answer in the hope that it may have something to do with the fact that I had recently applied to be an Observer for the Society of Directors & Choreographers for the Goodman Theatre production of The Good Negro. The call went like this:

ME: (Shakily) Hello?

KINDLY VOICE: Hello? Is this Austin Savage?

ME: (Equally frightened/hopeful) Yes.

KINDLY VOICE: This is Chuck Smith.

ME: (Trying to play it cool after immediately recognizing the name thanks to online research leading up to my application essay, including this clip.) How are you doing, sir?

KINDLY VOICE: I’m doing fine. I was calling to see if you were still interested in working on The Good Negro. Are you still interested?

ME: (Scrooge-on-Christmas-morning-giddy) Yes, sir! Absolutely! Yes, very much, most interested. Definitely interested, sir. Uh...yes. Thank you, sir.

KINDLY VOICE: You don’t have to call me “sir.” Just call me Chuck.

ME: (Afraid of already blowing it) Sorry, sir...Chuck! Sorry Chuck.

KINDLY VOICE: Alright, I’ll let them know and we’ll get all the arrangements taken care of. You should get your contract soon and I look forward to meeting to you.

ME: (Officially catatonic) Me too.

KINDLY VOICE: Take care.

ME: Me too.

That was it. In less than one minute I was going to be working at the Goodman. (I had actually interviewed for an internship at the Goodman this past fall. I got the call about the interview while working at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., and I flew back home, then hopped into a rental car with my girlfriend the next day to make the 24-hour drive to the Goodman for the interview. I didn’t get that gig, but karma and work ethic eventually get you where you want to go!)

Unfortunately, there was no one around to immediately share the good news with, so I just jumped around the room like Tommy Lasorda after Gibby’s homer in ’88 (for those of you who don’t know or have forgotten, check out the 9:15 mark).

We are nearly two weeks in to our rehearsal process, but that abundant enthusiasm has still not left me—I’m at one of the greatest theaters in the world with an incredible director, talented cast and incredibly talented playwright! As required by the SD&C I am “observing this process in order to further develop myself as an emerging young professional.” So far, Goodman Theatre has held true to its claim that it is “what great theater should be.” It’s hard not to be continually excited when you find yourself surrounded by intelligence, inspiration and artistic sincerity on a daily basis, and it is my hope that I can take these lessons learned here and apply them to my own start up theater company back home.

I am thankful for the opportunity provided to me through The Good Negro and I hope to share the journey with you in further posts.

Take care!
Austin Savage

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

The Echoes of Our Past

Posted by Terrence Mosley (Assistant Director of The Good Negro)

I was Chuck Smith's Assistant Director on a play called First Words by Aaron Carter at MPAACT, and I was honored when he asked me to be his assistant for this important and relevant play by Tracey Scott Wilson.

We have been in rehearsal for about a week now, and it has been an incredible experience. It's pure electricity in the room, and all of the actors in the cast are bringing their A-game to Tracey’s amazing and challenging piece.

The strides that King and his contemporaries made in the 1960s have allowed me, as an African American, many basic freedoms. His work has made the playing ground more equal for all.

King's dreams echo in the dreams of President Barack Obama, whose bipartisanship and innovative ideas are reminiscent of King’s. I don't think President Obama's openness would be possible without leaders like King who, at the risk of losing a whole people's shot at equality and dignity, had to constantly be the "Good Negro.” Leaders like King were just men, however. They were not saints or saviors; they were just men with thoughts, fears and faults.

The Good Negro reminds me how much of our past echoes in our present, and I hope that people will remember what it took to get here, and decide to continue to press forward.