Thursday, September 22, 2011

What are you going to do to participate?

Had our first talk back tonight after The Beats. Guest poet Shannon Matesky was doin' some truth tellin'. Her spirit is awesome. Confident and full and unafraid and full of love and desire.

We talked about spoken word and poetry. And is there a difference. She said "it's poetry if it has art in it." She said she liked Amiri Baraka saying: "I'm not interested in writing sonnets or sestinas or anything. Only poems." and then he adds: "If a poem has got to be a sonnet, it's certainly let me know. (Though I doubt it.)"

We talked about audience engagement because when I saw Louder Than a Bomb we were encouraged to make noise, give props, snap, clap, say "ye-ah". The performers were doin' it. The audience was doin' it. And she said it's all about giving permission.

Actor Malcolm Callan talked about when he was going to shows as a teen and the band saying: "We are the band. And you are the band. What are you gonna do to participate?"

I guess it's all about asking the question. Giving permission. Turning up the lights maybe just a touch.

We will see what happens in the experiment that is "poetry as theater."

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

"It's not that I didn't want children....."

Rebecca Gilman's play THE CROWD YOU'RE IN WITH has got people talking! Theater is dialogue and we hope that this is a safe place to share thoughts, opinions and feelings. Of course we all will not agree with each other. But we treasure the voices of ALL in our community. Hope you enjoy this below from Rosie Newton. After seeing the play last weekend and telling me about her own choices, I asked Rosie to write her thoughts down for our blog. We would love to hear from you too. Please email me yours at

"It's not that I didn't want children. It's that I never had the urge to have them. It just wasn't there. I never thought about it. When I was in my 20's and friends were starting to get married and then to have babies, I was always a little surprised--"Really? You're having a baby?!"--I had a hard time picturing my high-school pals as parents--probably because I couldn't picture myself as a parent. I still felt like such a kid.

When I got to my early thirties, most of my friends were married and starting families. I was less surprised at each new toddler that showed up at barbecues and pool parties, but I still didn't think about my so-called biological clock. Children simply were not on my radar. Once, when a single woman I knew confided that she couldn't believe she was still unmarried and childless, I was struck at how sure she was that she would have been a wife and mother by now. I mentioned the conversation to another friend, and related my astonishment at how let-down this woman had felt--parenthood had seemed, to her, a natural course of events, and somehow it hadn't happened. My friend let me know that most people felt that way. Most people grew up wanting to get married and have a family. I was stunned.

I took up the conversation with other friends, and yes, it seemed that nearly everyone I knew had always known that they would have children--even when they were children themselves. As a child, I always saw myself as alone in adulthood--of course, I always saw myself saving a busload of orphans from plunging over a cliff, or curing cancer, or opening a speech with, "I'd like to thank the Academy...", but I never had a motherhood fantasy. My Walter Mitty daydreams didn't include a vision of myself as a mother.

Looking back--I'm glad I didn't have kids. As a young adult, I had my own issues to work out, and taking on a helpless, dependent child would quite simply have been a disaster. I am sure of that. My brothers and sisters gave me a dozen nieces and nephews, each of whom I adore and absolutely cherish. Having them in my life has been an absolute joy, and I wonder sometimes what my life would have been like with kids at the center of it, but other than that curiosity, I don't feel a void in my life. Being a mom wasn't for me, and I knew that. It was a certainty that I've held all my life, and I don't regret it. I rarely tell people, though--it makes most folks uncomfortable."
Rosie Newton is an actress and writer. You may have seen her in Teatro Vista's OUR LADY OF THE UNDERPASS at 16th Street. Interestingly enough, she played the woman who was heartbroken over the fact that she was childless.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

What a Stumble Through Teaches Us by Brad Harbaugh

Earlier tonight, the cast of Rebecca Gilman’s The Crowd You’re In With (Crowd), the next play going up at 16th Street Theater, did it’s first stumble through of the show. A stumble through is exactly what it sounds like. The actors start at the beginning of the show and stumble their way through to the end, without stopping, and without shame. They have a notion of their blocking (the movement their characters makes on the stage), they have their lines memorized, more or less (mostly less), and they try their best to do the show without causing injury to self or others or embarrassment to the playwright.

(Pictured cast members Skyler Schrempp and Joan Kohn with Brad Harbaugh.)

Stumble throughs are often angst ridden experiences for the actors. Moments of the play they thought they had down suddenly go up in flames. Whole chunks of memorized lines simply vanish. The actor’s desire to go slow and not force anything crashes up against the performers desire never to suck, and often the result is ugly. Nevertheless, as bad as a stumble through can be, it is a necessary step in the evolution of a play – a right of passage the artists must go through. Crowd director, Anish Jethmalani, said doing the stumble through is like assembling the skeleton, from which we can then hang the meat.

With those words in mind we took to the stage tonight…and the results were not bad. Nobody crashed into anyone else, the lines were said mostly in the order they were written and by the characters to whom they belong. And for those moments I was not on stage, I sat in the audience and watched, and I was transported into the world of this play as if I were an audience member seeing it on its opening night. It was wonderful.

Of course the set needs to be finished and the props need to be assembled and the costumes finalized, and many moments need tightening up to meet the director’s and the playwright’s visions. However, even in this stumble through – there was a living, breathing play that was lovely to behold. I’ve experienced that before in rehearsals, where I am able to step back and experience it the way the audience will…just rarely this early in the process. It’s a special cast, with a great production crew, and I think it’s going to be a very good show.

That’s not something I say or feel about every show. The truth is, like parents who secretly like one kid more than another, actors have favorites too. Sometimes we don’t know a show is good until it’s in front of an audience…but sometimes there is no denying that what’s taking place in rehearsal is something special. This is one of those times. Of course, no play is complete until the audience is there…and I can already feel my fellow actors itching for that connection with you; for someone to tell this story too, and from whom we will learn what is really important.

Still, what does it all mean? It means that instead of waiting until the show opens to invite friends and family to see the show (after we’ve had a chance to work out the kinks). I’m going to invite them now. Let alone the fact that the topic is one everyone can relate to on some level, I think this play is going to be a hopping good time. The only downside of this production, that I can see, is the limited number of seats. If you’re thinking of coming, my advice would be to get your tickets early…before every last seat in the house is sold to a friend or family member of the performers. If they have the same feeling about this show that I do, they are going to be inviting everyone they know to come see it. The old theater adage is “Bad final dress rehearsal, good opening night.” I might add another. “Not a terrible stumble through, very good play.”

Written by Brad Harbaugh. Brad plays Dan in 16th Street's upcoming THE CROWD YOU'RE IN WITH starting July 7. He also happens to be married to Julie Ganey (the blond dentist) in our winter production DENTAL SOCIETY MIDWINTER MEETING.

Friday, April 29, 2011

OUR DAD in Spanish

From Maria who came to OUR DAD IS IN ATLANTIS first weekend.

"so i actually found a clip of the staging of play in san luis potosi (my mom's home state). check it out - it certainly conveys some of the same feelings but in spanish it is quite different:"

thank you for sharing, Maria!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Associate Artist Kurt Sharp

Kurt Sharp's Scenic design rendering for Javier Malpica's OUR DAD is in ATLANTIS

The reverse rake gives the subtle illusion that the boys are further away than they really are when they are all the way upstage.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Holy the rap gestures!

Here is what I emailed to Kelly Kleiman, regarding her great review of The Beats. I have one "But" I must respond to though, so I share my email to Kelly here:

You know I love to dialogue so here are my thoughts RE: "rap gestures"

This ain't no period piece. The whole point of the show was to see how these words would sound and feel in the mouth's of today's hipsters. These actors play themselves right now right here in Berwyn reading the words of The Beats from back then. Only once do we go nostalgic and attempt to "bring back the dead" when Adam reads The Railroad Earth in the tone, voice and style of Jack Kerouac. (Our little theatrical moment.) The rest of the time, they let the words influence their own selves. They are not trying to become Kerouac, di Prima, Baraka, Corso, Ginsberg. We are not trying to bring the audience back to the 1940s and 1950s, we are bringing these words of that time right into 2011. But with no tricks and no "updates".

The influences of today exist on stage including the wordle painted on the stage wall and the fact that the actors wear their own clothes. (which is amazing that their clothes of today fit right in!!)

I am rarely interested in going back and going period. Going period most often to me can feel inauthentic and just a bit phony.

Rap on and gesture freely!!!

Thanks so much for coming and for your review. I always love to hear your thoughts especially regarding women's roles. Holy Kelly Kleiman!

oops: actors names misspelled: John Taflan, Carly Ciarrocchi

Holy the dialogue!
Ann Filmer

Sunday, January 16, 2011

About Poetry

This from Artistic Associate Kirsten D'Aurelio (lead in Menorca)


Bravo on a really spirited and beautifully-staged production!

When you talked about the light switch, I thought of this Billy Collins poem. Is this the one you meant? I always read it to my Performance of Lit classes when we start the poetry unit.

Have a great run!


Introduction to Poetry
by Billy Collins

I ask them to take a poem
and hold it up to the light
like a color slide

or press an ear against its hive.

I say drop a mouse into a poem
and watch him probe his way out,

or walk inside the poem’s room
and feel the walls for a light switch.

I want them to waterski
across the surface of a poem
waving at the author’s name on the shore.

But all they want to do
is tie the poem to a chair with rope
and torture a confession out of it.

They begin beating it with a hose
to find out what it really means.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Obama keeps the beat

This from actor John Taflan who plays Allen Ginsberg in The Beats among others.

"Thanks for the inspiring words, Ann.

A quick bit for you:

I was moved to tears this morning by President Obama's speech in Arizona.

View speech here.

Not only because of the maddening brutality of the event which necessitated it, but because of just how BEAT the speech was.

Listening to him you could hear Corso, LeRoi, Kerouac, Ginsberg; all of them. A chorus of love flowing from the pedestal.

At the end of the speech, in reference to Christina Green--the youngest victim of that terrible day--he says (and I paraphrase, slightly)

'May we be forever worthy of her gentle spirit'

Holy the supernatural extra brilliant intelligent kindness of the soul."

-John Taflan
Photo by the great Anthony Aicardi

It's all about the words

Words I shared with the cast on opening day of The Beats yesterday:

"The day a show starts performances I love to go back to the first idea and the first intention with the work.

And as I look back way way off in the distance..... ha ha.... over 3 weeks ago way WAY back to, uh

Dec 20

I remember thinking and maybe saying:

"it's all about the words
we discover them at the same time as the audience
we do not set the vibe and then say the words. the words carry us to the vibe."

or some words like that

of course this is theater and we have craft and magic and theatrics on stage and cues and transitions and we have worked all that out and made it precise and swell and fade and pop and all those things that give us structure and magic moments

and now we step back from craft and manipulation because that was what rehearsal was for

and let the words carry us where they will

as poet Jim Carroll said, and I paraphrase:

'With performing poetry you just open the door and turn on the light.
No need to tell us what all is in the room.
No need to point to the chair telling us this is the chair, that is the rug.
Just open the door and turn on the light'

Holy holy holy

It's all about the words"

Ann Filmer