Thursday, April 28, 2011

Goodman Youth Arts Council and God of Carnage!

By Teresa Rende, Education and Community Engagement Associate

The Goodman Youth Arts Council (GYAC), our newest program for teens, has been in high gear this spring! GYAC members serve as the Goodman’s teenage ambassadors. Donating their time, work and brain power, GYAC members not only aid the Goodman with special events, but strive to create theatergoers among others their age. Whether it is through their mission statement, videos or outreach work, they find innovative ways to seek out new teens who have not experienced live theater, and spread the message that theater deserves the attention we already give to movies, TV, video games and popular music!

As we closed God of Carnage earlier this month, the council saw a great opportunity to bring in other teens from their schools. Their goal was to bring teens they didn’t know, and teens that weren’t already involved in drama at school. In conjunction with our 10Tix program, the council offered fellow students tickets at a discounted rate, and on Saturday, nearly 50 fresh faces rolled into Goodman to see God of Carnage. Many from this group had never seen a live theater performance in their life!

To welcome these newcomers, the council threw an after party. They arranged a prize raffle, and one lucky student won the opportunity to see Matthew Morrison perform live at the Goodman Gala in May! If that weren’t enough, the newcomers were welcomed by God of Carnage stars Keith Kupferer and Mary Beth Fisher themselves, who talked about the behind-the-scenes action on God of Carnage as well as their careers and lives; they even stayed to draw the raffle prizes and award winners!

All in all, GYAC throws a pretty great party.

Top: GYAC members (l to r) Brandon Rivera, Vicky Giannini and Lauren Escobar. Bottom: God of Carnage stars Keith Kupferer and Mary Beth Fisher and the GYAC. Photos by Teresa Rende.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

New and Familiar Faces

By Jenny Seidelman, Campaign Manager

Sarah Ruhl’s new play, Stage Kiss, is in tech rehearsals right now and will begin previews this Saturday. This world premiere brought a batch of brilliant new faces to the Goodman along with it—among them two hilarious young actors, Jeffrey Carlson and Sarah Tolan-Mee, who are both making their Goodman debuts in the comedy.

But if you are a long-time Goodman patron—or even if you’ve joined us every once in awhile— it’s likely that you’ve seen some familiar faces grace our stages over the years. Brian Dennehy, Mary Beth Fisher and Karen Aldridge, among others, make frequent appearances on our stages. Among the Stage Kiss cast, audiences may remember Erica Elam from her appearance in The Trip to Bountiful in the Horton Foote Festival; Ross Lehman from Waiting for Godot, Wings and The Rover (among others); Mark L. Montgomery from A Christmas Carol; Scott Jaeck from this season’s The Seagull and Mary; and Jenny Bacon—who returns to Goodman Theatre as “She” (the actress with no name) in Stage Kiss.

Behind the somewhat anonymous character that Ms. Bacon plays in Stage Kiss is an actress who has made frequent appearances on Goodman stages over the years. Among them are performances in Eugene O’Neill’s A Touch of the Poet (1995/1996) with Brian Dennehy (directed by Robert Falls) and Anton Chekhov’s Three Sisters (1994/1995; pictured above), also directed by Falls. She was also in Paula Vogel’s The Baltimore Waltz (1992/1993) for which she received a Jeff Award nomination for Best Actress in a Principal Role in a Play.

Here’s an article from a 2000 edition of the Chicago Reader in which Ms. Bacon talks about her journey from wallflower to leading lady.

Top: Jeffrey Carlson and Sarah Tolan-Mee in rehearsal for Stage Kiss. Photo by Liz Lauren. Middle: Jenny Bacon and Mark L. Montgomery in Stage Kiss rehearsal. Photo by Liz Lauren. Bottom: pictured in Robert Falls' 1995 production of Three Sisters by Anton Chekhov are Susan Bruce (Olga), Jenny Bacon (Masha) and Calista Flockhart (Irina). Photo by Eric Y. Exit.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Planting the Nogalar in the Owen Stage

By Erin C. Gaynor, Development Intern

Upon entering the Owen Theatre to see El Nogalar, the most striking feature on the set are the trees. Long and lean (and maybe a little gangly), these trees are beautiful and real.

As readers of my previous post about clafouti know, my favorite part of theater is how so many aspects of it are imitated to fit the stage. When I found out all of the trees on stage for El Nogalar were actual trees, I talked with Assistant Production Manager, Matt Chandler, to find out how the El Nogalar trees came to live in the Goodman.

According to Matt, a friend of Director Cecilie Keenan’s brother knew of a gentleman in Frankfort, Illinois, who was looking to clear some trees off of his property. A few members of the properties team went down to Frankfort to help the gentleman clear the trees and put them on a flatbed truck. The trees were then brought to the Goodman’s scene shop.

The trees on stage are anchored similar to how Christmas trees are every year, but on a much larger scale. Specially cut holes were carved into the deck of the Owen stage. The trees were then placed in those holes, putting the trunks four feet under the stage. Similar to a Christmas tree, the El Nogalar trees are slowly dying (a far more depressing outlook than most of us take around the holidays); their branches have “begun to droop and we are constantly trimming them during the run,” Matt told me.

So why use real trees? Primarily cost. “It’s far easier to cut down a tree versus build, carve and paint a fake tree—the time, labor and materials add up,” said Matt. The last production to use real trees was Ruined, which had palm trees shipped from Florida.

When looking to use real versus false trees, structure and use on stage typically dictates which will be picked. For instance, the tree in The Trinity River Plays needed to be fake due to Iris (Karen Aldridge) and Rose (Penny Johnson Jerald) sitting and interacting with the tree. Real trees begin to decompose after a while and would have been dangerous for the actors.

The El Nogalar set, designed by Brian Sidney Bembridge, is gorgeous.I appreciate that real trees are on stage. For me, the trees limbo between life and death, present yet decomposing, is reminiscent of the memory Maité clings to of the pecan ochard. If you haven’t yet, go see El Nogalar before it closes on Sunday—both the set and the acting are beautiful.

Top: Yunuen Pardo and Carlo Lorenzo Garcia in
El Nogalar; photo by Brian Sidney Bembridge. Middle: The set of El Nogalar; photo by Brian Sidney Bembridge. Bottom: Penny Johnson Jerald in The Trinity River Plays; photo by Brandon Thibodeaux.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Reel vs. Real: Iconic Kisses on the Silver Screen

Stage Kiss is in full-on rehearsal mode, and the dialogue around the Goodman’s administrative offices (and in rehearsal, and in photo shoots) these last few weeks has become increasingly kiss-oriented. In the current issue of OnStage, Associate Producer Steve Scott explores some of the most legendary kisses of the silver screen; you can read the full text of his article here; then, if we forgot your favorite film kiss, let us know in the comments!

By Steve Scott
Whether it signifies the beginning of a romance, the consummation of an illicit affair or a death sentence pronounced by a Mafia Don, the kiss is one of the most common and most intimate human interactions found in popular entertainment, providing audiences with some of their favorite memories—and sometimes, as in Sarah Ruhl’s play Stage Kiss, leading to unanticipated results off camera as well. Here is a look back at some of the most memorable stage and screen kisses of the recent past.

The Kiss (1896)
The first kiss recorded on film originated on the Broadway stage in a musical comedy entitled The Widow Jones. In the second act of the play, the show’s stars, May Irwin and John C. Rice, engaged in a lingering smooch that caught the attention of Thomas Edison’s company, which had recently purchased the rights to a motion picture projector known as the Vitaphone. To showcase his new product, Edison filmed Irwin and Rice’s kiss in his New Jersey studio. Although it lasted a scant 20 seconds, the sequence (above) caused an immediate sensation, with critics and civic leaders expressing outrage. Critic Herbert Stone wrote, “Neither participant is physically attractive and the spectacle of their prolonged pasturing on each other’s lips was hard to beat when only life size. Magnified to gargantuan proportions…it is absolutely disgusting!” Perhaps inevitably, The Kiss became the Edison Company’s most popular release of the year.

From Here to Eternity (1953)
The adulterous affair between an army sergeant and a captain’s wife culminated in perhaps the best-known screen kiss of all time: Burt Lancaster and Deborah Kerr locked in a fervent seaside embrace with the ocean’s waves washing over them (above). Although torturous to film, the scene was one of the most erotically charged couplings yet seen in an American film, and helped make the movie one of the blockbusters of its time. It also may have led to an offscreen romance between the two stars: although Kerr denied the rumors, Lancaster eventually confirmed the affair.

[Continued here.]

Friday, April 15, 2011

Clafouti and Carnage

By Erin C. Gaynor, Development Intern

When I think of theater, I think of its innate “whiz-bang” properties. It’s an art form that has subsisted on making the most with the least amount of money. At least in the not-for-profit world, but we won’t dwell on certain productions of certain superheroes that may or may not be the laughing-stock of Broadway. So when I found out that the clafouti that appears on the Goodman stage in God of Carnage wasn’t gelatin and some food coloring but the actual French dish, I had to investigate.

First of all, Goodman Theatre not only houses two amazing performance spaces, but also has a working kitchen. According to Stephen Kolack, the properties head at the Goodman, real food made in the Goodman kitchen is prepared all the time. In the 2010/2011 Season alone, both The Trinity River Plays and God of Carnage had real food onstage, including pie dough, pie filling, a decorated birthday cake, and of course, clafouti.

It should be known that the Goodman kitchen is not elaborate. It’s tucked into a corner of the props room, like a corner of a classroom that accidentally has an oven in it. Upon entering the props room, there are containers full of fresh tulips (if you’ve seen the show, you know their fate). Stephen, the preparer of all this food, does not believe himself to be a cook. I disagree—as I watched him make the clafouti, he made it with such swift ease, it was like watching a chef on television.

Clafouti is a bit on an unusual dish. It’s made with eggs, flour, vanilla and fruit. It tastes like a custard and can be served warm from the oven or at room temperature. Michael and Veronica discuss the odd qualities of clafouti in God of Carnage:

So, clafouti, is it a cake or a tart? Serious question. I was just thinking in the kitchen, Linzertorte, for example, is that a tart? Come on, come on, you can’t leave that one little slice.

Clafouti is a cake. The pastry’s not rolled out, it’s mixed in with the fruit.

You really are a cook.

I love it. The thing about cooking is you have to love it. In my opinion, it’s only the classic tart, that’s to say on a pastry base, that deserves to be called a tart.

As an avid baker, I was the only person who busted out laughing in the entire theater after this line. Stephen told me the actors in God of Carnage have been great about eating the clafouti every night, especially since the clafouti served onstage is adapted to fit their dietary needs. Here is the recipe for Goodman Theatre’s God of Carnage clafouti:

Serves 4, lasts 3 performances

One 9” – 10” ceramic tart pan
3/4 cup egg whites, from approx. 5 – 6 eggs
1 cup flour
½ cup sugar
½ teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 ½ cup soy milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 apples, peeled, cored, and thinly sliced
(Note: the mechanism used to do all three of these tasks at once—an early version of which is pictured below—is Stephen’s favorite part of making the dish. Also, the God of Carnage script calls for a clafouti with apples and pears and gingerbread crumbs. Just the apples and cinnamon do the visual trick. Remember the “whiz-bang?”)

1)Preheat the oven at 350 degrees fahrenheit.
2)Mix the flour, sugar, baking powder, and cinnamon in a medium-sized bowl. Set aside.
3)Whisk together the egg whites, soy milk, and vanilla in a large-sized bowl. Add the dry ingredients and whisk until just combined.
4)Quickly spray the tart pan with a non-stick spray. Lay in half the apple slices in the pan, then pour half the egg mixture.
5)Place the tart pan in the oven and bake for 15 minutes. The apples should have risen to the top of the egg mixture. Pour the remainder of the egg mixture on top of the partially baked mixture, then layer the remaining apple slices. Bake for approximately 30 – 40 minutes, until the clafouti has risen and bounces back when pushed gently.
6)Let cool slightly. Serve with coffee and be forewarned: a heated discussion may ensue.

Stephen is an incredibly nice and kind individual and I was impressed by his knowledge of clafouti prior to our meeting. Since Stephen is a little camera-shy, the above photo is a picture of clafouti that I made, with blueberries and raspberries.

Top: My clafouti; photo by me. Above: An apple peeler similar to Stephen's. Photo by David Carroll.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Adapting to Adaptation

By Clayton Smith, Audience Development Coordinator

By now, the dutiful Goodman blog reader is undoubtedly aware that El Nogalar, the play currently running in our Owen Theatre, is an adaptation of Anton Chekhov’s The Cherry Orchard. The art of adaptation is certainly nothing new. Everywhere we look there are movies based on books, plays based on movies and movies based on musicals.

Broadway, of course, is no stranger to the art of adaptation. One of the most famous Broadway adaptations is West Side Story, the Leonard Bernstein musical famously based on William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. But did you know that these smash hits are also adaptations?

Cats: Here’s one you don’t hear every day—a Broadway musical based on classic American poetry. Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Cats is adapted from Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats, a book of poems by T. S. Eliot, one of the most important English-language poets of the twentieth century. One of the musical’s characters, Jellylorum, is even named after T. S. Eliot’s own cat.

Miss Saigon: This war-time tale of woe is based on the great Puccini opera Madama Butterfly, which was itself based on the short story “Madame Butterfly,” written by John Luther Long in 1898. That means Miss Saigon is an adaptation of an adaptation. Did that just blow your mind? Fun Fact: Puccini’s Madama Butterfly was also the inspiration for the play M. Butterfly, written by David Henry Hwang, whose world premiere production of Chinglish opens at the Goodman this summer!

: This Kander and Ebb success, which takes place in Nazi Germany, is another mind-bending adaptation of an adaptation. The musical is based on the 1951 play I Am a Camera by John Van Druten, who based his script on the novel Goodbye to Berlin by Christopher Isherwood. Fun Fact #2: Isherwood also wrote the novel A Single Man, which was adapted into an Academy Award-nominated film starring Colin Firth in 2009.

La Cage aux Folles: This long-running Broadway hit by Harvey Fierstein and Jerry Herman is based on a 1973 French play (in case the name didn’t give away its origins) by Jean Poiret. For the less Broadway-savvy out there who may not recognize the title La Cage aux Folles, you might be more familiar with the movie The Birdcage, starring Robin Williams and Nathan Lane, which is based on the same original Poiret play.

Romeo and Juliet: If you haven’t taken the time to “Brush up Your Shakespeare,” you may not be aware of the fact that “Shakespeare basically stole everything he ever wrote” (potential Fun Fact #3: name that play). The great, tragic Romeo and Juliet is no exception. The Bard based this play off of Ovid’s Pyramus and Thisbe, a tale of ill-fated lovers that stems from Roman mythology.

Top: T.S. Eliot, the original inspiration behind Cats? Illustration by Simon Fieldhouse. Above: Romeo and Juliet; engraving by James Heath, painting by James Northcote.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Compelling Chekhov

By Jenny Seidelman, Campaign Manager

In our current edition of OnStage, playwright Tanya Saracho talks about her personal connection to the work of Anton Chekhov and how she came to reconceive The Cherry Orchard as El Nogalar.

Many other artists at the Goodman seem to have found this masterwork quite compelling—we’ve produced The Cherry Orchard four times in our history (during the 1956/1957, 1970/1971, 1974/1975 and 1984/1985 seasons). That doesn’t include Regina Taylor’s adaption Magnolia (2009), which set Chekhov’s tale in Atlanta, Georgia, amidst the civil rights movement of the 1960s.

Some theatergoers might remember our 1985 production of The Cherry Orchard—several of the artists involved with the show are now theatrical and film powerhouses. The production, which was adapted by David Mamet (whose work will return to the Goodman stage next January with Race), featured William H. Macy, beloved Chicago icon Mike Nussbaum and Peter Riegert (aka “Boon” from Animal House)!

Above: Pictured (l to r) in the Goodman's 1985 production of Chekhov's The Cherry Orchard, adapted by David Mamet, are Peter Riegert, Lindsay Crouse and Colin Stinton. Photo by Brigitte Lacombe.

Scene and Heard

As we frantically inhale our last few gulps of clafouti, here are some tasty theater links we've harvested from around the world wide web for your consumption:

Remember the Belarus Free Theatre? They’re still traveling around (current stop: England), and they’re busier than ever! Co-founder Natalia Kaliada recounts the journey that led her and the company to their current state of exile—and eventually sparked a fortuitous partnership with Kevin Spacey.

In the spirit of “making theater work despite external forces,” the Sudanese are experiencing a revival of theater after years of violence and economic troubles. Hooray!

Across the pond, some British actors are feeling a bit less holly-jolly about their government. Last week the government cut the funding for 200 arts organizations in London and the surrounding area. Never fear, Sir Patrick Stewart is here!

Up north, Montreal's Le Théâtre du Nouveau Monde is raising eyebrows with a controversial casting decision.

And back home, Seattle’s A Contemporary Theatre takes a new approach to subscription sales.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Of Cocktails and Chestnuts

By Neena Arndt, Literary Associate

In Stage Kiss (which starts April 30 in the Albert), modern-day actors are cast in a 1930s play, and we see them rehearse and perform sections of this delectably dated comedy. The play-within-the-play does not actually date from the era; Sarah Ruhl concocted it after reading several 1930s comedies. Sarah’s dialogue exaggerates the overwrought style that was typical of 1930s plays, and the setting and characters resemble those from the era: the play takes place in the home of a wealthy family who employ a butler and a maid, consume cocktails in their solarium, and engage in an endless stream of melodramatic banter.

Unlike most regional theaters, which were founded in the 1960s or later, the Goodman dates back to 1925. The theater’s early programming resembled today’s programming: it was a mixture of classics and contemporary plays. Some of the contemporary plays were hits from around the country, and some were world premieres penned by early Goodman artists. Throughout the 1930s, the Goodman produced works which resemble the plays that Sarah Ruhl now parodies—light, melodramatic comedies. Although the Goodman does not have archived scripts from the 1930s, we do have production photos, which provide us with some information about what actors and audiences might have experienced at the Goodman eight decades ago. The sets, costumes, and acting style evident in the photos make it clear that a night at the Goodman in the 1930s bears only a slight resemblance to a night at the Goodman today. The titles of the plays alone conjure up potent images. A few choice examples: Paris Bound, The Romantic Young Lady, For Services Rendered, The First Mrs. Fraser, Mr. Pim Passes By (penned by none other than A.A. Milne, creator of Winnie the Pooh) and Let Us Be Gay.

Top: Let Us Be Gay (1934)
Middle: For Services Rendered (1934)
Bottom: The First Mrs. Fraser

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

El Nogalar in Context: The Rise of Cartels in Mexico

By Allie Wigley, Marketing Intern

El Nogalar, which officially opened last night, follows the reunion of the Galvan family in northern Mexico after a years-long separation during which two family members lived in the United States. When they come home (in 2011), they find that the Mexico they return to is not the Mexico they left. During the past five years, various factions of drug cartels have been occupying and controlling Mexican cities, primarily in northern states along the US border.

In the 1980s the illegal drug trade in Mexico was controlled by Miguel Ángel Félix Gallardo, a former Mexican Judicial Federal Police agent dubbed “The Godfather.” Under his leadership drugs were transferred through Mexico and into the United States, and his drug empire grew so rapidly that he divided it between various lesser-known drug lords in order to avoid being caught by law enforcement. But Gallardo was eventually arrested, in 1989, and after his capture territory conflicts arose between the drug lords and their cartels. The conflicts quickly turned violent and each cartel claimed as much land as possible, resulting in the formation of seven major cartels: the Tijuana Cartel, the Juárez Cartel, the Gulf Cartel, the Sinaloa Cartel (a.k.a. the Pacific Cartel), the Colima Cartel, the Oaxaca Cartel and the Milenio Cartel. The first three took control of northern Mexico along the US border, the area in which the action of
El Nogalar occurs. The cartels grew in scope and power in the 1990s, and primarily moved the drugs from Mexico, other Latin American countries and South American countries across the border. The cartels largely continue not to produce the drugs themselves, but control the shipping and, more recently, the sales distribution of primarily marijuana, cocaine and meth.

In 2006, President Felipe Calderon called in the Mexican army to crack down on the drug trafficking. It was obvious by 2006 that the cartels needed to by dealt with, and Calderon felt the police were too corrupt to deal with the issue effectively (and, truthfully, many police officers were being paid by the cartels for their protection). Currently there are more than 50,000 troops and federal police actively fighting against the cartels, confiscating drugs and jailing (or killing) many of the known leaders. But people continue to debate whether things have gotten better with the introduction of the army; the cartels expanded from moving drugs across the border to selling drugs in their own communities, and as a result cocaine use has doubled in Mexico in recent years. The cartels are responding to the troops by escalating their increasingly horrific methods of violence, since they are now not only fighting rival cartels but the army as well. Over 35,000 people have been killed in the violence between December 2006 and February 2011. Of these, over 15,000 killings occurred in 2010 alone and over half of those were in the northern Mexican states. Northern communities that were once safe and home to upper- and upper-middle-class families like Saracho’s fictional Galvan family are becoming hubs near the border for trafficking.
El Nogalar picks up at this point, after the community has accepted the existence of the cartels as beyond their control. The Galvans must come to terms with the new Mexico occupied by the cartels, the violence and the disintegration of the community they used to know.

Top: Carlo Lorenzo Garcia in
El Nogalar
Above: Sandra Delgado and Christina Nieves in El Nogalar