Wednesday, December 15, 2010
Will you play a game and allocate some points to 16th Street and/or any other organization you dig? Link is below. I just played and I am so stupid about these things it took me the whole game to figure out how to play it. I still don't really know. Anyway I wouldn't be bugging for some multi-national, but Vertical is a small company full of good-hearted people I really love. So I pass on to you. Go go Santa!
Here's how it works:
Go Go Santa is a free-to-play game designed by Vertical to help people relieve holiday stress. We launched our first game in 2009. The 2010 version of Go-Go-Santa goes a little further, giving players an opportunity to allocate Vertical’s end-of-year contributions to one of five organizations.
At the end of the game, Go-Go-Santa players will be asked to allocate their points to one, two or more of the organizations. Vertical is limited to making $5,000 in holiday contributions for 2010. It will give a minimum of $250 to each of the five organizations. The remaining $3,750 will be divided among the five organizations based on the number of points each organization earns from Go-Go-Santa game players. Players have until December 28 to allocate points to the organizations. In addition, each organization will have the opportunity to link its donor page to Go-Go-Santa to allow players to make direct contributions.
Have fun with the game and enjoy the holidays!
Tuesday, December 14, 2010
Friday, December 10, 2010
Rosen: When you attend a symphony, you lean back, close your eyes, and go for the ride. You’re not thinking to yourself, Now, what was Beethoven trying to say with that particular chord? Most of us don’t analyze a painting by Georgia O’Keeffe. We stand in front of it and observe what happens in our own bodies and minds.
But with poetry, because it’s words on a page, we think we’re supposed to understand it the way we understand a newspaper article. The left brain says, Aha! This is my domain. It wants a literal meaning to the poem. But poetry is the stuff of the right brain — the ineffable, the emotional, the relational — arriving dressed up in the costume of the left brain: words. Billy Collins has a great poem called 'Introduction to Poetry.' He invites people to "take a poem and hold it up to the light like a color slide," but all they want to do, he says, is beat it with a hose to "find out what it really means."
Luterman: You recently wrote a blog in the Huffington Post about this country’s “metrophobia,” or fear of poetry. Why is American culture so poetry-phobic, whereas other cultures revere poetry and poets?
Rosen: Only a few generations ago in the U.S., poetry was much more popular than it is now. My father, who is ninety, still remembers the John Donne sonnet he memorized in grammar school. Poetry recitation used to be a fixture of small-town American entertainment. But over the last few generations we have managed to marginalize the art form. And it’s not just about the rise of tv, radio, and other technologies taking the place of poetry. Did you know that the most popular tv show in the Middle East is Million’s Poet? It’s like American Idol, but the contestants recite poetry. The show has even inspired a tv channel completely dedicated to poetry, an idea that seems unimaginable in the U.S.
Friday, August 27, 2010
"The first 2 weeks of rehearsal are over! We’ve had additions, cuts, and revisions of the script. It’s crazy to see the process of a new play. Because no one knows what they’re doing. Just kidding, I do, I make the coffee, remember? But seriously, we’re all trying to figure this play out together. Ann will take time to talk about the scenes making sure we’re all on the same page, and every day the actors will bring something new to their characters. It’s been great to be a part of the process. I’ve been helping the actors out with their lines, and I even got to fill in for an actor the other day! Well, it was really for just a scene or two… and I was carrying a bulky stage manager binder. But still fun!
Next week the actors are supposed to be off book. We’ll see how well they do."
Monday, August 23, 2010
It is a video of Elizabeth Gilbert's speech at the 2009 TED Conference. Didn't know anything about this author before or her work (though I think I saw the film Coyote Ugly) but now I am intrigued.
I hope you enjoy it and that it inspires you to show up for your part.
Tuesday, August 17, 2010
"Most of my days this summer consisted of half hour drives down Harlem Ave. that took 20 min. or 45 min. depending on road construction, car accidents or my own tardiness. My destination? The 16th Street Theater. Yesterday was our first rehearsal for Menorca. I was told to make coffee. I really don’t drink coffee… How much do I put in? I figured stronger was better than weaker. The actors can always put more creamer in it, so I went with five – not four – spoonfuls of the generic coffee mix that Ann bought.
The actors slowly filled in the seats around the large table that our stage manager (Patrick) and his assistant (me) made out of two smaller tables that can be found in many park district basements. I noticed the age diversity in our cast as they poured their coffee (hope they liked it) and chatted with each other. The older members of the cast are, for lack of a better description, middle aged. The younger members range from early 20s to young 30s. Where do I lie? I’ll be 21 on August 18th. Ages are important. It helps when we can put people on a spectrum.
The opening monologue begins with the main character’s perspective on time. Layers are more important to her than linear progression. She’s an archeologist and likes to dig. Apparently that qualifies her to make grand statements about the world. Like she’s been through life or something. Oh wait, I forgot... she’s middle aged. And of course, we later see her struggle through slightly confusing time lapses that capture everything from love to identity crisis. And she doesn’t really talk about layers and linear progression again… at least not as overtly as in that opening monologue. Her life is confusing. She grew up speaking Catalan with a Basque accent, then Castilian with a Catalan accent. Then went to England with a “Spanish” accent, and now she’s in America where she fits perfectly. Ha! Just kidding, she doesn’t fit perfectly. That’s the whole point of the play.
I think this play is about deconstruction. We start with the epiphany. We start with message. It’s there in the first five minutes. The audience can leave. See ya later! Come back for next season! But a paragraph or a quote or a cute little message doesn’t really touch an audience. It doesn’t let the audience have their own epiphany. We have to deconstruct first, and that happens when we see this character slowly realize how fragmented and chipped and fractured her life is. She doesn’t think linearly. She can’t.
Every night I drive home from 16th and Ridgeland and go back to Burbank, IL, and I see the landscape slowly change. I pass through Chicago’s very own borderlands. Cultures and languages that have nothing in common find their place on a pot holed line called Harlem Ave. Do we just see it as a spectrum? Where each end stays put and everything in the middle is lost in the shuffle of left turns and yellow lights? Or do we see it as layers? Where one thing makes up the other thing and we build upon each other?
I guess the only way to answer that question is if we deconstruct. What are our layers? How can we be this thing and also be that? Can I be the rehearsal assistant stage manager and learn more than just how many spoonfuls makes the best coffee?
I don’t know… I guess we’ll have to see how the rest of the rehearsal process turns out."
Monday, July 26, 2010
"On our last day of “Where’s Ollie?”, I was up and out of our Barcelona hotel with great anticipation to see a local phenomenon of cultural identity: the Sardana.
Every Sunday at noon in Barcelona's Barrio Gotico area, traditional Catalan music is played by an 11-piece band. As the music begins, groups of men and women appear, forming circles of about 12-30 people. In the center of the circle, they all place their belongings—purses, shopping bags, etc. as a statement of sharing, unity, trust. When the music starts, they clasp hands and hoist them above their heads, where they remain for the whole dance. Then the fancy footwork begins (I couldn’t get it down), sometimes with a spring in the step but never rotating the circle very much at all. This is the mid-19th century folk dance known as the Sardana. The dancers, most of whom were in their 60’s and above, had very determined expressions on their faces. Though the music sounds pretty upbeat to me, there’s wasn’t a lot of joy expressed in the dance; it doesn’t seem to be about that. There is a quiet elegance, a rootedness about it. Some of the dancers wear white espadrille shoes (invented by the Basques, by the way.) When the song ended, the groups dispersed, but others popped up all around the plaza while the band continued to play. An elderly woman approached me for a donation “for la musica”, and then looked me strongly in the eye and carefully pronounced the word “Sardana” to me, as if this were an important moment of cultural transmission between us. When I repeated it back, she nodded and gave me a sticker with the name of the sponsoring organization on it, and then disappeared into the crowd, just like the dancers. I was so moved by this display of unity, cultural pride, creative expression. For me, there was a feeling emanating from them that this dance is a link to a collective past, and ain’t no way they’re letting go of it (and indeed, there was one group of 40-somethings, not quite as skilled, but clearly grooming themselves to receive the torch.) All of this was made even more meaningful to me when I learned that the Catalans had their own 9/11 terror---in 1714. The King of Spain sent orders from Madrid to slaughter Catalan patriots, and they were killed on September 11, 1714 and buried in a mass grave in another plaza nearby, which has a monument with an eternal flame commemorating their 9/11 massacre. Even today, this dance is apparently ridiculed by many in Spain. So expressing their cultural identity week after week is an act of historical defiance and cultural survival. The serene but resolute looks on the dancers’ faces tell the whole story of what this enduring ritual means to them. I was moved to tears by the entire thing and will never forget it. Here’s another traveler’s footage of it:
After this glorious beginning, it was on to the Picasso Museum. Somewhere into his Blue Period, I was hit with a mild case of Stendhal Syndrome and Could. Not. Take. In. One. More. Visual. So I sat on a bench while my husband finished the exhibit, and I contemplated the artist’s loooong baptismal name, a series of names honoring various saints and relatives. The early paintings in the exhibit were signed “Pablo Ruiz Picasso”. Then “Ruiz Picasso.” And by 1901, I noticed that the Ruiz had dropped out. From then on, he was just Picasso, which is his mother’s birth name. Why did he go the nontraditional matrilineal route to self-identify? Was Ruiz too common? Was he closer to his mother? My character’s name, Ollie, is actually a nickname for a long set of names like Picasso’s, but her surname is the traditional patrilineal. So much of the “who am I?” and “where do I belong?” questions seem to be wrapped up in a name. Perhaps that’s because, as the Basques say, “Izena duen guria omen da.” (“That which has a name, exists.”) When you choose a name, you pull that identity more strongly into existence.
Continuing our exploration of the Barri Gotic, we found the old Jewish Quarter, which was an active ‘hood in the 12-14th centuries but now has been completely subsumed. We peered at buildings up and down those narrow streets until we finally spotted a mezuzah (ritual door ornament) on a small, unobtrusive doorway. At that moment, a young man and and elderly woman approached and knocked on the door. “It’s the old synagogue,” he said, and it was closed, but according to the elderly lady we could find a Hebrew plaque “dans la rue.” Several meters down la rue, we finally saw some Hebrew lettering and an inscription dedicating the service of one Rabbi Samuel. Scrawled on the plaque in pink spray paint were the words “LIBRE PALESTINE!”, making the dedication to the rabbi only partially legible. As Ollie says in the script, “It does not matter if you are not political, because the world is political, and you live in it every day....you cannot avoid it, it follows you home.”
The easy, clean Metro took us to 3 final attractions: La Sagrada Familia, Gaudi’s cathedral-in-progress (since 1882); Park Guell (wonderfully whimsical Gaudi—Willy Wonka meets Dr. Seuss); the Magic Fountains of Plaza Espanya (even better than Buckingham Fountain). Then on to a fabulous farewell meal with tapas and sangria. Barcelona is a beautiful city that anyone would be proud to call home.
Now back to Chicago to integrate the things I’ve learned in the last 9 days so I can bring Ollie to life! Thanks for traveling with me. Hope to see you at the show in September!" ----Kirsten
Thursday, July 22, 2010
"We’re back in Catalan territory here in Barcelona, though there are little touches of Basque culture here---mostly bars or restaurants, where the Euskera font is used to draw you in, but the food isn’t really Basque cuisine. It’s just a lure, a way of appearing exotic or something, and a bit exploitative if you ask me, like a Native American at a casino. No Basque flags, no Euskera on the signs here. It’s fascinating how geographically contained Basque culture is; just a short 45-minute flight southeast within Spain and poof! A whole would-be nation has disappeared. Which means that Ollie was an outsider here at 8 years old, and found herself faced with a new language (Catalan.) By the time this play begins, adult Ollie can speak Euskera, Castillian Spanish, Catalan, and English (British, Canadian, and U.S. varieties.)
To get a fast orientation to Barcelona since we’ll only be here 2 days, we hopped on a city tour bus that allowed us to hop on and off as we pleased. First stop: the Joan Miro museum. Really wonderful collection. Then we rode a cable car gondola that took us to the top of Mont Juic (“Mount of the Jews”). Ironically, the 9th century Jewish tombstones that gave this place its name were moved to a museum one year ago, so it’s now really “Mount of No Jews”...But the view from there is stunning, overlooking the whole city, harbor and sea. Barcelona really is a gorgeous city. Back on the bus, we glimpsed the Olympic Stadiums and a cool sculpture by Calatrava. Then a very tall statue of Christopher Columbus on a colonnade near the harbor. It’s interesting how many peoples like to claim him: his native Italians, Italian-Americans, the Basques (who built his ships and sailed with him), the Spanish (who employed him.)
Also saw the stadium complex for FC (Football Club) Barcelona, the city’s pride and joy athletic institution and soccer team. Ollie mentions them in the play.
Got a brief taste of the wonderful Gaudi architecture at the Pedrera house. I’m starting to understand “modernisme” (the Catalan art noveau movement) better, and in general the contributions by Catalans like Gaudi and Miro. Catalans here live inside the city, but are also outside it (one bit of graffiti read “Catalonia is NOT Spain!”) So would Ollie have felt a kinship with Catalans, who have a separate, distinct cultural identity just as the Basques do? Interestingly, there was a “Forum of the Cultures” in Barcelona in 2004 to recognize “nations without states,” and attendees included Basques, Catalans, Native Americans, Roma (Gypsies) and Maoris. A big party for the outsiders.
Late in the day, we wandered the Ramblas, a long pedestrian mall lined with trinkets, trash and tourists, which I found to be crass, commercial and cacophonous (wasn’t happy to see Burger King, McDonald’s and KFC jammed with excited tourists at 1 a.m., either.) But on one side street off the Ramblas, there is a recently-discovered Roman necropolis right in the middle of this commercial district! Not your every day find in modern day Barcelona, and the novelty of this made me wonder how the heck a person like Ollie becomes interested in antiquity (archaeology) when surrounded by so much modernity in a big, up-to-date cities like Barcelona and San Sebastian. Where did her vocational passion come from? Have to figure that one out.
Here are the tombs:
Tomorrow: my last day to soak up sunny Spain, and to find more of Ollie in her childhood city!"
Monday, July 19, 2010
John Rice is the guitar player, the music director and the one who wrote (along with Kat) the music for the song poems that Kat sings.
John did not have his back to the audience the whole time.
That man playing the harmonica was Buzz Kilman as the Hobo Ghost. You could also think of him as Mr Fowler.
The lyrics for those song poems are from Tony's Hobo Alphabet Series of collages. A collage was projected after a story (they go together) while Kat gives voice to the poem within the work of art. Video artist Kristin Reeves focuses our attention onto the detail of Tony's art so we can see the hobo alphabet symbols, poetry, details and objects within his collages. Then she shows the collage in its entirety.
THIS TRAIN was not found. It was deliberately and specifically crafted to give the audience a deeper look and understanding into Tony's work as an artist and a storyteller, along with his day-to-day struggles and shortcomings as a human being who lives, works and participates in our great and complicated city of Chicago.
"Devoted the last day in Euskadi (Basqueland) to visiting Ollie´s birthplace: Donostia (also called San Sebastian, in Spanish.) I was eager to see what kinds of formative sights/sounds/flavors might have shaped Ollie as a child. 2 buses got us from Bilbao to Donostia´s Boulevard near the old town, which is chock full of pintxos bars, gelaterias, and bakeries. After a quick breakfast, we strolled along the 2-mile shoreline of the Playa Concha, which has beautiful views of the surrounding hills and the Atlantic Ocean. Less beautiful though is the dingy promenade and the surrounding buildings. A bit like Coney Island--faded glory. For some reason that even the tourist office couldn´t explain to us, there were polizia everywhere, some doing random vehicle checks, and we also encountered some pretty unfriendly merchants in the shops. Are they sick of all the tourists (who apparently comprise 50% of the population at any given time), perhaps? We tried to shake it off by wading into the ocean, but the hypodermic that washed ashore didn´t help matters. What to do? Something that is not deductible on my performing artist tax return: a visit to the fancy beachside spa. 4 pools, 2 saunas, and a relaxation room later, we felt ready to return to the town. I sought out the famous "pastel vasco" (Basque cake), which has been around for centuries. It was oddly-shaped, sort of like a pot pie, but tasted delicious. The ikkariña (Basque flag) was displayed everywhere. Unfortunately, we ran out of time to stop by Bar Herria, a haunt for Basque nationalists, where apparently there are photos displayed of some of the more violent members of the movement, who are currently serving prison terms.
Did a mad dash back to Bilbao to catch our flight only to find it delayed due to the rain in Spain. So all in all, not the best day of the trip. But still some highlights, like the picturesque views of the hills and valleys and the whitewashed, red-roofed Basque houses I could see out the bus window between Donostia and Bilbao. Also a great ariel view of the Pyrenees on the flight to Barcelona tonight (where I am writing this blog entry.) By the end of the day, we will have followed Ollie´s trail on 5 buses, 2 taxis, and a plane---whew!
And what of Ollie today? I came away from Donostia wtih the thought that due to the massive tourism industry in her hometown, Ollie was exposed to lots of people from different places, speaking different languages, different cultural values, etc. San Sebastian today has 180,000 people, so Ollie didn´t grow up in a tiny Basque village like the one we visited last night. She had a big view of the world right from the start, and though she would have had plenty of company as an "euskal herria" (speaker of Euskera), she was living in a place where other cultural identities were alive and well. Was that environment enough to cement her Basque identity, or did it leave a window open for questioning who she was? At 8 years old, she would move to an even bigger place--Barcelona--with her family, so that´s where I´m headed now to see where she finished growing up. Tomorrow: Barcelona!"
Sunday, July 18, 2010
"Took some time away from show research to visit Bilbao´s pride and joy: the Guggenheim. Fantastic. Shimmering. Sculpture within sculpture. For a Chicagoan, seeing designs by Gehry, Kapoor and Calatrava is a very familiar experience, so that makes Bilbao truly feel like a sister city. I love it here.
But in the evening it was back to the show. We were treated to 4 hours of incredible hospitality from our new Basque friends, Itsaso and Egoitz. (These are older Basque names that are being revived by the parents of the post-Franco generation. Itsaso means "sea.") They picked us up at the hotel and we took a scenic drive out to their farm in Laudio, about 30 minutes outside Bilbao. Their traditional etxea (house) has been in the family for 150 years, and its name and family crest are prominently displayed over the door, just as Ollie describes in the script. We met an aunt, grandmother (88 años)and Dad. Beside the house is a vegetable garden, and lots of roosters. Down a short path, the family´s vineyard appears---4 hectares worth. We got a tour of the winery, and Itsaso and her dad explained the process with the vats and showed us the labeling and corking machines.
Then the fiesta! We drank the lovely wine, of course---a white variety called txakoli--and Egoiz cooked for us. Our meal: deep-fried pig´s blood cubes (very good if you follow Itsaso´s advice and don´t think about it too hard), tortilla espanola (Spanish omelette), fresh (from their garden) green peppers with coarse salt, bread, and some chocolate candies we had brought as a gift from Gernika. Delicious! Served informally on napkins with toothpicks for utensils. The weather was perfect,and we were joined by 3 more friends as well. So the 7 of us had a lively conversation about gender roles in Basque life, politics, Basque culture, music. Some struggling to understand each other at times, but Itsaso´s great English saved the day (and her Spanish-English dictionary, which enabled us to look up harder words like¨"wild boar", "partridge", "woodcock", "criminal", and "stubborn".)So grateful to Itsaso for all her translating. 4 hours must have been exhausting, though we all tried to help by being enormously expressive and pulling on the little Spanish and cognates my husband and I knew.
Some ideas: there is displeasure that, especially by Spaniards in the south, the Basque country is perceived as a dangerous place, since in reality there is so little crime and the terrorism has been so infrequent and small-scale (esp. compared to 9/11, as one person pointed out.) It´s true--we´ve felt perfectly safe here even at midnight on the Gran Via, and there are no partitions between driver and passenger in the cabs as there are in Chicago and NY and other US cities. There´s a feeling that politicians use the terrorists as a dodge for talking about real problems, such as drunk driving and domestic violence. Sound familiar?
What about a separate Basque nation, we asked? Not much interest in our group. They feel solid in their identities as Basques (their primary identities) and feel very content with their lives. Securing a nation isn´t a priority for them, and they consider themselves apolitical (like Ollie.)
Speaking Euskera outside of Basqueland? This would provoke curiosity, they said, but not necessarily disdain.
Female power? Lots of spontaneous discussion about this. Women rule the home and family in Basque culture. But they cannot inherit the legacy homes, and they aren´t always paid equally in the workplace or represented in political bodies. Despite this, Basque women are considered to be very independent, especially compared to other Spanish women as a whole. They have jobs, own property, delay motherhood. We were told repeatedly that Basque women have this very strong, indepdendent character, and that their men aren´t threatened by that, including the possibility that a woman would earn more money. This is a lot for me to think about as I consider Ollie´s relationships to the men in the play.
All of these serious themes were interspersed with guitar playing and loud singing (including La Bamba and "Don´t Worry, Be Happy.") As if all of this weren´t enough, Itsaso very graciously agreed to read Euskera words and even an entire English monologue from the script into my digital tape recorder, so I have fantastic source material now to design my dialect for Ollie.
One final treat on the way home: a stop at a scenic overlook for a fabulous view of Bilbao at night. Reminded me of Mulholland Drive in L.A. What an incredible, authentic experience! I feel so fortunate.
Tommorow: to Ollie´s birthplace!"
Saturday, July 17, 2010
"The rain in Spain falls mainly on the northern coast, according to Ollie (in a shared line with George), and sure enough I am seeing overcast skies and lush terrain. Once again, I'm in chocolate heaven with what is basically hot drinking chocolate, almost a pudding. Fantastic. This country really knows how to do chocolate! Still trying to get my ear around the Euskera. I can´t quite detect a rhythmic or melodic pattern yet, so it sounds like a rapid jumble of consonants at the moment.
We boarded a bus for Gernika (Guernica in Spanish) today, the symbolic center of Basqueland, and saw 3 important sites that certainly would be a part of Ollie`s heritage. First, the Peace Museum, a theme museum which documents the horrific 1937 bombing by the Nazis and Italians that razed this peaceful Basque village. Visitors are asked to contemplate concepts and tools for conflict resolution, and there are profiles of the world's peacemakers, who get so little coverage compared to the warmakers. My favorite quote: "violence is the last refuge of the incompetent" (Isaac Asimov). See this inspiring place at www.museodelapaz.org
Next stop: the Assembly House and the Tree of Gernika. Since the Middle Ages, the 7 Basque territories have each sent representatives here to uphold the ancient fueros (laws), many of which were quite progressive for their time and would have directly conflicted with the US Patriot Act. The oak tree is a universal symbol of unity for the Basque people and there is controversy over how it survived the 1937 bombing. But survive it did--very much like the Basques themselves.
So, all this evidence of Basques as a collaborative, peaceable people is a contradiction with the modern image of the violent terrorist Basque nationalist. No wonder Ollie has trouble sorting this out for herself.
Finally, the Basque Cultural museum, where we learned about Basque history, geography, language, sports, legends, Proverbs, and my favorite part: music. Videos of traditional dances were accompanied by flute and drum songs, so I heard the sound that according to the script should begin and end the play. I learned that Ravel was Basque, and now "Bolero" makes so much cultural sense to me (dominant flute and drum.)
Ended our Guernica visit with another pintxos crawl, featuring slightly different(more Basque?) cuisine. OMG--I think I ate octopus. Or squid. Or anemone. All 3 are popular. I chewed through a little suction cup thingy......but mild tasting. These pubs and stores all play American pop music, so we're eating these exotic things but hearing Beach Boys and Whitney Houston. Back to Bilbao on a very efficient bus, and then we fell asleep watching a televised pelota match. Tomorrow: our dinner with the Basques!"
Thursday, July 15, 2010
"Now that I´ve learned about Ollie`s work life, it´s time to learn about her personal background. So it´s off to her childhood home around the Pyrenees: Basque country. We bid farewell to Antoni, our Menorcan host in Ciutadella, and drove to see the only part of Mahon I´ll get to: the airport. While there, I stepped onto a scale in the Farmacia and was horrified to learn that I now weigh a 5-digit number: 65,700! Too many Trufo bars and ensaimadas! Luckily my husband calmed me down by converting that awful kilo number back to the 3-digit lbs I´m used to, and since I wasn´t in the "Obesidad" column on the slip, I thought it would be a really good idea to try a chocolate croissant. The best one of my life! Good thing there is so much walking involved in these cities, or I won´t fit into my costumes...
Arrival in Basqueland brought signage with Spanish and Euskera, and temperatures that are 10-15 degrees cooler than Menorca. We checked into a plush hotel that was once the headquarters of the Republican Basque government, and a favorite of Hemingway, Bacall, Ava Gardner, and many famous bullfighters. Probably says something about Spain´s current economy that we can afford this place, which costs less per night than a lesser quality room in downtown Evanston.
At night, we ventured out to the charming Casco Viejo (old town)and did the wonderful tradition of txikiteo (pub crawl) that features Rioja wines and a dazzling array of pintxos (tapas.) We got the hang of it quickly: step right up, order your beverage, and choose 4 or 5 pintxos. Stay about 15 minutes, remember how many pintxos you had so you can pay the bill (about 10 euros for bevs plus the tapas--couldn´t even get two glasses of wine for that in Chicago, let alone these gorgeous, delectable works of art with cod, pork, olives, quesos, mushrooms, and other unidentifiable things--we think we might have eaten some baby squid legs)and then you´re off to the next bar. The whole ritual is so enjoyable and efficient. Napkins are to be thrown on the floor in order to keep the bar clear for the next patron, since the turnover is so fast. We hit 4 bars in rapid succession, and in the last one, my friendly husband asked the woman next to us if she was Basque--and she said yes and excitedly began speaking to us in good English. She introduced us to her brother and mother (whose birthday they were celebrating) and took us to a 5th bar to sample a particular kind of wine that her family grows. By the end of the evening, we had an invitation to visit their vineyard and have dinner on Thursday at their traditional Basque home, which has a name, just as Ollie describes in our script. Jackpot! We are in for a very authentic experience. I am so excited and awed by the kindness of these strangers (to paraphrase Tennessee Williams) and our new friend told me that it´s important to her that we have a good time in Basque country because even in the south of Spain, Basqueland is considered by many to be filled with terrorists, and not a nice place to live. So she is deeply appreciative of our interest in Basque culture and, I think, our potential as ambassadors. I´m glad to oblige! Tomorrow: deeper into Basqueland."
Wednesday, July 14, 2010
"This morning, our last full day in Menorca, we walked around the city centre. These narrow cobblestone streets are where the fiesta de Sant Joan took place 3 weeks ago, so it was great to take in this exact locale and picture the horses, revelers and bonfires which are part of the world of our play. At the shops, I was able to get some items that might make great props for the show (with our propmaster´s approval, of course.)
The 12th century cathedral (mostly Gothic) intrigued me, not only with its beauty and the organ recital we stumbled upon (Mozart on a 2,347 pipe organ is pretty magnificent!), but because, like Menorca itself, the cathedral has been looted and nearly destroyed many times, all the way up to the Spanish Civil War. So the decor is a hodgepodge of time periods and styles in the same way that Menorca contains such a diverse combo of elements from its history of domination and surrender to the Turks, the Moors, the Brits, the French. I see now that Menorca is the perfect backdrop for a play whose themes include misplaced cultural identity and boundaries.
In the afternoon we drove to the southern coast and the sparkling waters of Cala en Turqueta, a gorgeous cove beach that was about 40% topless (don´t ask--I´m not telling.) Also had a wonderful ensaimada from the oldest bakery on the island, and am continuing my love affair with the Trufo bar (the creamiest ice cream bar I´ve ever had---nuevo flavor "choc-orange"! For dinner, we opted for modern Menorcan cuisine, including more Menorcan gin and some tasty mozzarella and pinons (pine nuts.) Struck up a conversation with the table next to us, and voila! met my first Basque, a lovely 20 something French Basque woman who spoke excellent English and whose favorite shows are "Dexter" and "True Blood" (ah, the things we export!) She and her brother were taught some Euskera in school, but her mother doesn´t speak it, and her grandmother still feels the shame and secrecy brought on by the Franco regime´s cruel banning of the language. This attitude is depicted in one of Ollie´s monologues. I asked her if I look at all Basque, and to my delight she said, "Oh, definitely. Except for the nose--Basques have a hump on the nose, like a beak." This is not a feature I plan to acquire for the show, although that kind of thing won Nicole Kidman an Oscar....
Only one disappointment as we leave Menorca: no sightings of the famed Menorcan horse which is so central to the culture and to our play. As one tourism brochure put it, this exquisite breed is "a means by which to understand our history, our present and future, which we share with a character who has the leading role: the horse." We made several attempts to schedule equestrian shows, peered eagerly into fields, even drove to a stable, but to no avail. So, I´ll have to rely on the many beautiful photographs I´m bringing back with me, and fill in the rest with my actor imagination in order to do Ollie´s Act 2 monologue justice. Tomorrow: on to Basqueland!"
Monday, July 12, 2010
"Today was the big day for archeological ruins, to immerse myself in the world of the play and in Ollie´s profession. First we saw a well-preserved naveta (collective burial tomb) and then a second site with the mysterious structures of taula and talayot, thought to be a religious structure and a watchtower, respectively. Then a short drive (everything is a short drive on an island that is only 40km wide) to the Ecomuseo de Cavalleria, on which the play is based. We met the founder, two senior assistants, and about a dozen students (mostly American and Canadian.) I got to hold lots of artifacts: a skull, bones, a handle of a pitcher, Roman glass shards,and small pieces of pottery. The students are working to do the detail work of excavating the vertebrae of what they believe to be the remains of a 3year old child. We had a fascinating interview with one of the archaeologists from the British Isles, who was so knowledgeable and gave me lots of insights about the mindset and lifestyle of an archaeologist. We learned how to identify a skeleton´s gender based on pelvic and cranial structures---fascinating! Due to the 37degree celsius heat and the World Cup match, there was no live excavation to observe today. But we were able to wander the dig site and see where the artifacts (often an entire basket a day)have been unearthed. Afterward, we drove up to the Cap de Cavalleria and the desolate area surrounding it and the lighthouse. Evening brought tapas and watching Spain win the World Cup! Lots of happy Spaniards, firecrackers, and cheers of ESPANA!!! Tomorrow:in search of the Menorcan horse."
Sunday, July 11, 2010
"Got to Menorca easily and safely.Last night went to a minor fiesta for St.Christopher in Es Mijorn Gran and met Lana, who is one of the people in charge of the Ecomuseum. We got to stroll the cobblestone streets covered in palm leaves, eat some traditional baked goods (including the popular ensaimada!) and got our first sampling of Menorca gin (excellent--sweet tasting)in Britain´s legacy to Menorca: pomade (gin and lemonade.) Been navigating the maddening streets of Ciutadella, with me driving a stick shift for the first time in 15 years! Lots of Catalan spoken here and even on the international flight, where safety instructions were given in English, Catalan and Castillian Spanish.
So I'm hot on the trail of Ollie´s many languages. To get along,though, been hauling out some of my French and even Italian sometimes to cover my lack ofCatalan, but of course the most successful interactions are happening in the universal language of pointing and pantomime...
Today we visit several archeological ruins. Tonight we find a bar to watch the World Cup with the very excited locals, who have even shortened their time at the archaeological dig today so they can watch the match. The adventure has begun!"
Wednesday, May 19, 2010
Kirsten D'Aurelio is one of those 'wow' actors who you think after working with her... "She can just do anything and make it multi-layered, full, honest and engaging." She was one of the powerhouse cast of our all-female FIRES IN THE MIRROR during our Season Two in 2009. She tore it up as Leonard Jeffries talking about the making of Roots. Made you squirm, she did. She will play Ollie, a woman misplaced.
Juan Gabriel Ruiz is a young man I first worked with when he was still a student at De Paul. It was my first time directing there and I had a blast working with 10 2nd year BFAs on Steven Dietz' THE NINA VARIATIONS. Gabe was a standout, not only acting in the piece but also creating the music for the sound design. So I was thrilled when he appeared in OUR LADY OF THE UNDERPASS in its original production with Teatro Vista and then followed them here to Berwyn. If you partook in any of the post-show dialogues you will remember Gabe's thoughtful, intelligent and passionate musings on Tanya's play of faith and desire under the interstate. He is a very gifted and funny actor. He will play border patrol agent, George.
And then today I had the pleasure of seeing Doug MacKechnie who I have known in name for a long, long time but only recently saw his work in Mia McCullough's knockout Lucinda's Bed at Chicago Dramatists last year. He and Kirsten erupted with an intense chemistry during the callback today. They are going to be great together. Playwright Rob and I could not be happier!
And by the way, on a side note, you can see Kirsten on stage now in PEOPLE YOU KNOW at side project acting with playwright Koon. Yes it is true Rob is back on stage.
Now onward to cast the students. I already cast Rachel Rizzuto (from UIC) who did the reading of MENORCA for us last year. She is fabulous, a smart actor and awesome to work with.
Casting always make a new play seem that much more real. 5 more roles to go. The biggest cast thus far at 16th Street. It will be very exciting to have all that energy up on stage.
Tuesday, April 13, 2010
"On April 13, 2010, Arts advocates from across the country spread out over
Capitol Hill to urge Congress to support the arts and arts education.
While I could not be in Washington, I stand by my fellow arts supporters
in asking you to support the following:
The arts provide an essential service to public life. They are the brick
and mortar with which we sustain our morality, our sense of balance
between what is true and what is illusory and between what is and is not
of value. Some believe you cannot defend the role of the arts in society
to a stubborn utilitarian because their value is intrinsic and not of
immediately visible utility. Yet each of us is a personal witness to the
influence of one or more of the arts upon our individual lives, influences
that led us to better mindsets with which to make important decisions than
we otherwise would have had. This is utility of the personal rather than
the recorded sort, but it is utility all the same. And it is vast in its
impact upon our neighborhoods, towns, cities, states and country."
And now it's your turn. Go here to nudge your representatives:
Thursday, March 25, 2010
It's so nice to wake up the next morning after opening a show the night before to an email like this. Thanks Elizabeth. Spread the word!
"I really loved Unveiled. I was going to tell you last night, but you were busy and I was afraid I wouldn't find the words. But that play was so enlightening, so funny, so poignant, mostly, so important. It taught me a lot about what good theater should be: something that makes you leave the theater just buzzing inside, and dying to tell everyone you know to go and see it. It's the kind of multi-level play that really stays with you. I loved the set design, too. And what an actress!
I've told you this before and I'll say it again: You're doing such good and original and refreshing and thought-provoking work, and I'm so glad to have met and worked with you. But mostly I'm glad I get to see whatever you'll come up with NEXT."
Monday, March 8, 2010
"Last night JRC was honored to host a performance of the one-woman show Unveiled by Rohina Malik. Breathtaking.
Rohina is a playwright, actress and solo artist of South Asian heritage who was born in London and emigrated to Chicago when she was 15. She is an impressive and important contemporary artist – and her identity as an American Muslim woman clearly plays an important role in her art."
Monday, March 1, 2010
I saw "The Last Barbecue" twice, and loved it. I knew that I would have to come back.... so I did. I saw "The End of the Tour" last Saturday and loved it just as much. Cecilie Keenan did great things with a wonderful cast. I was probably most impressed with the relationship that Madrid and Kevin were able to develop. Those two men were outstanding together, so genuine and lovable, so three dimensional and real. They weren't stereotyped people, they weren't over the top gay men, they were real people, they were three dimensional human beings. The stage presence of Madrid was overwhelming, he forces you to listen to every word he has to say. Kevin was able to cry like a man that has been beaten into submission, to watch a man being pushed to that point is painful, and he made it so real. Kathleen was able to dig so deep and truly react to everything, she made everything important, significant, and meaningful. In her specificity she was able to develop a great character. Roslyn is a treat, with her wonderful timing and bravery to just jump in and be bold she keeps you on your toes. Valerie was wonderful, it is often hard to pay attention to the characters that don't really say much, but she was able to say everything without opening her mouth. Her face told a thousand stories because everything meant something to her, and it was beautiful to see her reacting and living through Norma. Ron was definitely able to find subtlety and boldness, and he was good at choosing exactly when each was appropriate. H.B. Ward was just outstanding. He was so invested in his cat, his daughter, his house, Jan, and Tommy... it was heartbreaking. He was able to make me wonder how he got that cat to stay in the box, he got me mad at him for hitting his wife, he made me feel bad that they couldn't even be in the same room any more... he made me feel so much. It is for these reasons that I'm coming back to see the show again. I'm very excited, and I wanted to thank you all. And to you, Ann Filmer, thank you for making all of this possible.
Thank you from a lover of theatre and the art we create,
Thank you, Bob, for sharing. This makes us all here at 16th Street very happy!
Thursday, February 25, 2010
This below from 100 Club member, Rich Faron:
"We were very moved by the play. Afterwards I kept thinking about your theme of 'Home' and one thing that 'Tour' helped to render are the many facets of 'home'. There is the reality of the home that continues to be in real-time but there also exists the home of our memories, the memories of others who have shared our home with us and perhaps most importantly the way that all of that can be suddenly altered when we eventually return home. And for that reason I'd like to shout-out a 'Bravo' for the staging which allowed all of the characters to remain in the scene while the play moved from one scenario to another. Each scene whether 'live' or not... reinforced for me that 'Home' is not something that can be defined in any singular fashion."
Thanks for the dialogue.
Thursday, February 11, 2010
"Don’t miss this play! Great theater in a little space. Our group of four saw ‘The End of the Tour’ and went through the range of feelings – joy, sorrow, fear, hate and love. Johnson writes strong story elements of family and friends, dysfunctional as they were. As audience members, if we didn’t directly relate to their stories, the story certainly appealed to our emotions. Lots, of laughs, pain and hope. Well acted and well staged. Congratulations to 16th Street and the theatrical company for a highly entertaining evening. Keep them coming."
Wednesday, February 10, 2010
In my best David Letterman fashion, here are my top 10 reasons to see "The End of the Tour"
10. Ronald Reagan - his speeches, his home town and his former girlfriends (sort of).
9. The 16th Street Theatre - its intimate setting allows the play to grab you by the throat.
8. Tommy - the stereotypical Sox fan - dressing sloppy, guzzling beer and conjecturing about menopause and love.
7. Silence - the silent acting in the "off-screen" scenes that play out in darkness next to the "on-screen" main scene.
6. Chuck - the husband whose world is falling apart, walking around with a dying cat in a cardboard box,
5. Coldness - the coldness of Jan toward her husband Chuck and Andrew toward his partner David.
4. Andrew - Andrew is HOT!, especially in the opening scene in his pajamas and tank top t-shirt - think older version of Patrick Kane with a more well defined body.
3. Mae, the Drama Queen - .Mae, the elderly matriarch of a dysfunctional family, entertaining her fellow senior citizens in a nursing home by singing the Johnny Cash song "I Walk the Line".
2. Mothers - Mae, the mother who can't give up her small town thinking; David, the ultimate Jewish mother; and Jan, the woman who has become a mother to her husband Chuck.
1. Hugs -
- the frantic hug between Jan and Mae at the nursing home when Jan tells Mae she's moving away;
- the tearful hug between Andrew and David after Andrew is once again rejected by his mother Mae;
- the non-hug between Tommy and Chuck after Jan tells Chuck she doesn't love him any more;
- the awkward hug between Jan and Ronald Reagan's old girlfriend at the nursing home
- the warm hug between siblings Andrew and Jan at the end of the play.
Thanks Ted! You deserve a hug!
Wednesday, January 27, 2010
"Thinking about how my parents both made it through The Depression, Mom in Oklahoma and Texas and Dad in Virginia and West Virginia. Tony Fitzpatrick's This Train opened at 16th Street Theater in Berwyn last night -- it's an emotional ride through those days and today. Thanks Tony and Ann Filmer!" -- Debbie
"The piece was so powerful, it's taken three days to find the words
to express my gratitude for this theater experience!
Like homespun cloth, like jazz . The driving rhythm . . . I could feel the
energy of the rushing train . . . the unrelenting mindless force
that changed a nation and people's lives . . . also as a symbol of the rush
business and politics that catch folks in a whirlwind and obliviously
moves on . . . . contrasted with the details of daily life . . . infused with meaning
through impassioned storytelling.
From my point of view, this was a masterpiece echoing the life force
manifesting beauty, horror, humor . . . heart.
Authentic . . . truly a great privilege to be present to the monumental, human
presence of Tony Fitzpatrick and his friends.
Congratulations, Ann . . . for bringing This Train into the station." -- Joyce
"I must say I've seen a lot of theater in my life and found This Train to be hilarious, sweet, and thought provoking. It made me nostalgic of growing up in the old neighborhood as I have encountered many of the characters Tony speaks of in the play. I laughed, I cried (I did). Wonderful!!" -- Michael
"Thanks for putting together such a fab show! THIS TRAIN was really outstanding....I am a native Chicagoan and so I made a lot of immediate connections with it but I believe there are a lot of universal themes..." -- Rich
Thank you for a string of unique pearls, linked together for an excellent concept of home. You directed a clean and simple sketchbook of impacting notions that appeared and disappeared right before our eyes. With surprising brevity, the echoes reverberated many hours later.
This brought to mind an article I recall from many years ago about Picasso visiting a Kindergarten art class. He said, 'When I was their age, I could draw like Raphael; I've been trying to draw like they do ever since.'
You and Tony succeeded in jumping into the middle of our lives and showed us pictures we're often too busy to otherwise notice."
Ron and Celia
Thank you for sharing your thoughts. Keep them coming. We treasure the dialogue.
Saturday, January 23, 2010
"For some reason Fitzgerald never bothers to explain what the symbols mean. It's a baffling omission that robs the images — of crossed arrows and entwined circles — of their context and power. It's a small yet vital shard of unfinished business."
To Nina: Tony says you and Tribune owe him at LEAST half a star for fu*king up his name in the final paragraph. Hopefully by the time I post this blog Tribune will have corrected the error.
To reader: I also sent Nina, who I really like by the way and who has always made it out to our little Berwyn theater, an email correcting her on another point:
Tony explains three symbols in the show:
"This one is symbol for 'This Town is hostile' " he says as he points to his projected collage before Sally Timms sings.
He also names the hobo symbols tattooed on his arms: "This one means Don't give up. This one means Get out fast. Each morning I look at both and decide which is the most prudent action to take"
So, Nina, I take your bafflement and raise you.
I would love to dialogue more about the show with you, Nina, and others. I love to hear what people get or don't get out of the show, especially with a new work.
Thanks for the dialogue.