Final Show Day

Today is the final performance of Lynn Nottage’s Intimate Apparel.  We are very sad to have to say goodbye to this play and its characters, but we know we are lucky to have one more Lynn Nottage play in our season! Mud, River, Stone is sure to be another exciting adventure.

Through this play, Lynn Nottage has given us the opportunity to see into the world of 1905 and get to understand it better.  And more importantly, she has given us the the ability to see what Esther’s life was like and what the harsh realities of the time were.  In the spirit of honoring what we now know about people who were nearly lost to history, here are some of Lynn Nottage lines:

Esther: The other day George asked me to read a letter. I took it in my hand and I lied. I lie every day. And I’m a Christian woman.

Mrs. Van Buren: We do what we must, no? We are ridiculous creatures sometimes.

Esther: Do you love Mr. Van Buren?

Mrs. Van Buren: I am a married woman, such a question is romantic.

(Act II, Scene 3)

 

Sometimes its easy to forget that among the big changes in history and the inventions, there were people dealing with real loneliness and hurt.  Thank you to Lynn Nottage for revealing the humanity in these characters’ lives.  We are so excited to continue our discovery of Lynn Nottage’s work in our next production!

 

An Interview with the Actor Playing GEORGE

Intimate Apparel actor Brandon Greenhouse was interviewed by Isabel Corona about his experience with the play and the rehearsal process, and here is what she found out!

Acting for the better part of the last fifteen years, Brandon Greenhouse, has recently been nominated for the Ossie Davis Award (Best Featured Actor in a Play) for the Black Theater Alliance Awards for his portrayal of George Armstrong in Lynn Nottage’s Intimate Apparel. This is his Eclipse Theatre debut.

Greenhouse graduated from the Santa Fe University of Art and Design with a BFA in acting and after moving to Chicago he went to Northern Illinois University for his MFA in acting. He has worked with American Players Theatre, American Theatre Company, and American Film Institute. He trained in the Meisner Technique, a technique he continues to apply to his work.

“At the core of what it is is being alive in the moment and being present with your scene partner,” Greenhouse said. “I struggle to do it in my own work – to actually be present. I always refer to it as being electric and being able to respond to any stimuli whether you knew it was coming or not.”

As the Barbadian George, Greenhouse has to portray him as the sweet and charming man writing letters and then switch over to someone almost entirely different. Greenhouse sees him as an outsider from all the outsiders in the show and he said it “feels like two different plays sometimes.”

“He’s coming from a very patriarchal world and now finding himself in these circumstances where he has a wife who is the breadwinner and doesn’t quite understand him,” He said. “They can’t seem to find a common ground. I think that’s where it comes in most, where I allow myself to truly hear things for the first time and try to keep that alive.”

With his later actions in the play, George is often painted as the villain, but it’s not always so clear.

“I think George is a good guy who’s been put in really complicated situations,” Greenhouse said. “I think it’s interesting to watch the play and walk away with the feeling that this person’s the bad person and this person’s the good person. What I think is really wonderful about the play is that it’s not that simple and it never really is that simple in life

“Steve [Scott] was really clear in the fact that just as Esther didn’t get what she thought she was going to get, George didn’t necessarily get what he thought he was going to get. So it’s two people that present false versions of themselves to one another.”

While the complex character was a bit confusing at first, Greenhouse was able to approach and connect the two versions of George after some thought.

“I was able to stop trying to reconcile the two of them and create this sort of like line between the two of them. Trust that there were going to be things there that existed in the first act that were true to who George was in the second act,” he said. “But also more than anything understanding that those pieces are going to fall where they may.”

His good relationship with director Steve Scott throughout the production served as good learning experiences as well.

“The thing that I took away from Steve the most is that he’s super intelligent. He knows what he’s talking about but he’s super open to others opinions at the same time,” Greenhouse said. “He doesn’t talk down to you. He has a lot of passion and love for this play and it just showed in the way that he directed with such love and such heart. That’s contagious. When you feel like you’re working with a director who is striving for excellence it makes you want to meet that standard as well.”

Even though he said he feels most like George, Greenhouse said he wishes he “has as much fun as Mayme, and was as sure as Mrs. Dickson, and had the sensitivity of Mr. Marks and Esther’s strength at the end of the play” likely due to his hope of the audience being able to connect with the characters.

“I think the idea that although life may not turn out the way that you want it to turn out, there’s always something to be grateful and there’s always hope,” He said. “Hope for rebirth and growth and the idea that there’s something to be learned from every struggle and trial we go through as human beings. It’s a metataking on loneliness and a celebration of humanness.”

Nottage doesn’t offer any information about the future of the characters, so does George get his horses?

“There’s a little part of me that likes to believe he does get his horses, but for some reason I feel like he starts a new life,” Greenhouse said.

Intimate Apparel will run through Sunday, August 24.

Interviewed by Isabel Corona

 

Panama Canal Turns 100 Years Old!

Last Friday was the Panama Canal’s 100th birthday!

Dubbed one of the “Seven Wonders of the Modern World” by the American Society of Civil Engineers, the canal connects the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans in order to expedite international trade. Upwards of 13,000 vessels a year make the 48-mile journey between the oceans, moving over 200 million tons of cargo.

 

 

Take a minute to acknowledge the enormous feat accomplished by mankind, and learn more about what George’s life was like as he helped to build the Panama Canal.  Click here to continue reading the article and to see more pictures, or take a look at some of our Dramaturgical Research on Intimate Apparel.

Throwback Thursday!

Can you guess who’s in this picture?

 

Plaza Suite by Neil Simon

 

It’s our most beloved Frances Wilkerson who is playing Mrs. Dickson in Intimate Apparel this season!

She is pictured here with Artistic Director Nathaniel Swift in Eclipse’s 2008 production of Neil Simon’s Plaza Suite.

New York City’s Population Changes and Intimate Apparel

The great things about plays set in the past is that you get a bit of an idea of what that time was like. Luckily, Lynn Nottage stays far away from giving us a history lesson, but gives us enough information, that once you find out other information about the period, you discover a lot through the play’s lens.

The play does take place at a time when a lot of people were coming to New York City.  Both Esther and George come to New York City, so you would think they have that in common, and yet the period of nearly 20 years separating their migrations actually means a lot.

At a certain point, WHERE you were coming from became important, even within the African American community in New York City.

In her book, Before Harlem: The Black Experience in New York City before World War I, Mary S. Sacks explains the shift:

The development of chain migrations had a tremendous impact on the nature of the black community in New York City. No longer complete strangers in an unfamiliar environment, later migrants might arrive in the city with a name and perhaps an address of someone who could possibly help the newcomer find a place to live and maybe even provide a lead on a job opening. In addition, as family connections stabilized with extended kin networks being transplanted to New York City, cultural forms could be replicated as well. Residents of particular villages, regions, or states congregated in New York’s tenements, established restaurants that could cater to specific culinary preferences, and prayed together in the profusion of black churches. Forming geographic enclaves in the congestion of New York City, the constant infusion of additional members allowed southerners to begin establishing a degree of cultural continuity in the North. At the same time, while the presence of family members or friends gave new arrivals a certain degree of security, the geographic distinctions being created within New York’s black population precluded the formation of a cohesive community able to collectively resist the poverty and racism affecting all black people in the city. The chain migrations thus offered only a mixed blessing, allowing for the preservation of specific identities, but at the same time making racial unity a greater challenge to achieve.

Guess who else gets someone’s address before coming to the city? George Armstrong!  In rehearsals, we talked about how George reached out to Esther in order to put down roots in New York before getting there.  Who else might he have contacted in this attempt?

But ultimately, despite coming together Esther and George do experience differences that cause them to clash. Here is Mary S. Sacks’ view on the differences between migrant groups.

The disparate experiences of the different groups of newcomers helped foster ethnic, class, and geographic distinctions within the burgeoning black population of New York City. The preservation of strong family and island connections among Afro-Caribbeans allowed them to maintain a separate identity from that of other black Americans. Hoping to avoid the mistreatment faced by native-born black people, many specifically chose to distance themselves from their U.S. brethren by refusing to become citizens. Southerners also tended to sustain their particular customs when opportunities allowed them to do so. And northern-born blacks, confronting an aggravation of race relations and a decline in job prospects, often placed the blame at the feet of the newcomers. As their proportion of the population shrank with each passing decade, this group struggled to privilege its heritage as native New Yorkers by staking a claim—without great success—to elite status.

 

There’s lots more to read! Click here to continue Reading Mary S. Sacks’ research on the period.

Discovering more about Mr. Marks

“What sort of things do you like to do?”  Mrs. Van Buren asks of Esther in Intimate Apparel.
After mentioning her love for going to church, Esther describes her trips to Mr. Marks’ apartment. Her description sounds a bit odd to Mrs. Van Buren, who does not quite get Esther’s taste in “fun.” But what exactly is Esther describing?

“And on Tuesdays… I take the trolley down to Orchard Street, and I climb five flights, in darkness, to this tiny apartment. And, when I open the door my eyes are met…”

In these few short sentences, Lynn Nottage subtly gives us a few clues about where Mr. Marks is living.
If you’ve gotten the chance to take a look at the dramaturgical research on our blog about Mr. Marks, you will know that he is a Romanian Jewish immigrant and would therefore be living near others like him.

Aside from that, we know that he lives on Orchard Street, and thanks to the Tenement Museum in New York City, we actually happen to have quite a bit of information about his street!

According to the Tenement Museum: “An estimated 7000 people lived in 97 Orchard Street between 1863 and 1935” in a tenement that was located there.

Esther talks about how dark it is in Mr. Marks’ building. Here is what the museum has to tell us about that: “In the 1860s, tenements were dark places. At 97 Orchard Street, only the parlor rooms had exterior windows. There was originally no gas light or electricity. Residents relied on kerosene or oil lamps to light the way through dark hallways and rooms.”

So when did they get light?
“Gas lighting was added to the tenement sometime between 1896 and 1905, possibly to comply with the Tenement House Act of 1901, which required a light source on every floor of the public hallway from sunset to sunrise. Tenants paid for gas individually, through a coin-operated gas meter in the kitchen of their apartments. Although Thomas Edison’s “electric illuminating system” went into operation in 1882, 97 Orchard Street wasn’t electrified until sometime after 1918. One resident remembers that electricity was added in 1924, the year he started kindergarten.”

Well, the mood lighting could explain how Mr. Marks and Esther’s chemistry…?

Click here to take a look at the great info and resources the Tenement Museum offers!

Throwback Thursday!

As we begin another weekend of performances of Intimate Apparel, I can’t help but think how much fun we are having this season. Here is a THROWBACK to the first show of the season: Ruined.  This is a picture from rehearsals, before the set was built and before costumes were added!

Last weekend, we got to spend time with Ruined cast members TayLar, Krystal Mosley, and André Teamer at the Playwright Scholars Series reading of Lynn Nottage’s Crumbs from the Table of Joy. Loved getting to continue working with them!

 

Crumbs from the Table of Joy

Last Saturday, Eclipse got the chance to share one more Lynn Nottage play that wasn’t a part of the season with audience members who chose to come out and experience more of Lynn Nottage’s work.  Actors from the Chicago community came together to read aloud Crumbs from the Table of Joy so we could all engage in the play together.

As you can see, the actors held their scripts and sat right on the set of Intimate Apparel.  There was no attempt to create the illusion that we were in the world of this play.  And yet, the words came alive the minute Krystal Mosley, playing the part of a 17-year old Ernestine Crump who has just moved to Brooklyn with her father and younger sister, started reading the text.  The surprising thing about this play is that Nottage chooses to have Ernestine narrate the story as it is taking place.  This was a big surprise for those in the audience that had already seen Intimate Apparel and Ruined.  How could one playwright manage to so successfully write in such different styles?

Well, it was an afternoon full of discussion about how different her plays are and discovery of what kinds of characters Nottage is inspired to write.  One audience member commented on Nottage’s use of religion in her plays.  The father in Crumbs from the Table of Joy has turned to religion to settle his grieving heart since the passing of his wife, and though it consoles him, we also experience how much of a fool he becomes in the eyes of his daughters, but yet Nottage never condemns him for his choices.  Esther in Intimate Apparel also holds tightly to the need for religion in her life, but fails to be able to really join the church community until she can “walk in on [her husband’s] arm.”

It was a very stimulating afternoon and a joy to be able to really dig into an extra play with our audiences.  Keep a lookout for more readings in our Playwright Scholars Series! It really is a great chance to dig deep into our study of a wonderful playwright.

It’s time to find out why our sewing machine isn’t “just a prop”!

If you’ve already come to see Intimate Apparel, then you’ve gotten the chance to check out our sewing machine! People are amazed by it and some people have been lingering a bit on their way out of the theatre to sneak a closer look at our sewing machine.

At our Post-Show Discussion last Sunday, Costume Designer, Rachel Lambert, talked a bit about our sewing machine and audience members got to ask Kelly Owens (pictured below), all about what it is like to sew with this machine during the course of the play. But if you missed the talkback, here is your chance:

Take a look at Theatre in Chicago‘s article about our very own machine! You’ll get to know more about what it takes to use an antique sewing machine onstage.  Read it here!

 

Post-Show Discussions with the cast and crew follow all Sunday performances!
They can also be arranged for student groups following any performance.

How to Make Friends with Corsets

An interesting idea came up during the discussion that followed yesterday’s performance of Intimate Apparel (we have discussions after all Sunday matinee performances): the idea that a corset can create a friendship.

Intimate Apparel Kelly Owens Skye Shrum

 

An audience member started the conversation by asking the cast how their work as actors is affected by the costumes – a great question to explore in a period drama about a seamstress, where the clothes really do take center stage. Since all of the women in the play wear corsets (designed by Costume Designer Rachel Lambert), they all had strong opinions on the subject. On of the most interesting things that came up is that it’s not possible to get into a corset by yourself — you need another person’s help to tighten and tie the corset. This need for help, in an inherently intimate setting, creates a genuine bond between women that our cast felt both as actors and as characters.

Broadway and Subways in 1900s New York

Scenes between Nottage’s characters ESTHER and MRS. VAN BUREN in Intimate Apparel reveal how different even entertainment could be for people of different classes and races in New York City in the early 1900’s. So let’s take a look at what the entertainment industry was like back then!

Something that significantly affected entertainment was the birth of the subway!

 

New York’s exploding population was also enjoying increased mobility. In 1904, the city opened its first underground commuter railroad lines. Thanks to this extensive system of “subways,” tens of thousands living miles away from the theatre district could catch a Broadway show and still sleep in their own beds. Add in the ever-increasing numbers of tourists who came into the city by rail and steamship, and Broadway had an expanded audience base that could support more productions and longer runs than ever before.

 

In the next few days, we will take a look at what kind of shows the different characters in Intimate Apparel might have had access to and just how much societal rules impacted how people could spend their free time.

Click here to continue reading the article about musical theatre and broadway in the early 1900s.

Playwright Scholars Series

Eclipse Theatre Company invites you to continue your journey through Lynn Nottage’s works with us! Explore the breadth and depth of the worlds created by this season’s playwright.

 

A Playwright Scholar Series staged reading of Crumbs from the Table of Joy

by 2014 featured playwright LYNN NOTTAGE.

Directed by Artistic Director Nathaniel Swift

SATURDAY AUGUST 2ND at 2:00PM
Athenaeum Theatre
2936 N. Southport, Chicago

 

Featuring Eclipse ensemble members Rebecca Prescott* and TayLar* with guest artists Kendra Turner, Krystal Mosley, and Andre Teamer.
*appears courtesy of Actors Equity Association

“Imagine a pairing…between Tennessee Williams and Lorraine Hansberry, a memory play about a black family, a glass menagerie in the sun…CRUMBS FROM THE TABLE OF JOY [is] a small window into the past, and this almost voyeuristic glimpse is worth attention.” —NY Post.

Recently widowed Godfrey and his daughters, Ernestine and Ermina, move from Florida to Brooklyn for a better life. Not knowing how to parent, Godfrey turns to religion, and Father Divine, for answers. Godfrey’s sister-in-law, Lily, arrives from Harlem, having promised her sister she’d look out for the girls. Lily stands for everything Godfrey dislikes: communism, sexual freedom and the fight against racial discrimination.

No reservations needed. General admission. $5 suggested donations. For additional information, visit eclipsetheatre.com or call 773-728-2216.

INTIMATE APPAREL performances have begun!

Eclipse Theatre presents INTIMATE APPAREL by Lynn Nottage. Directed by Steve Scott. Pictured are Kelly Owens and Frances Wilkerson. Photos by Tim Knight.  Get  your tickets here!

 

Intimate Apparel Kelly Owens Brandon Greenhouse 2

Intimate Apparel Kelly Owens Brandon Greenhouse 3     Intimate Apparel Kelly Owens Brandon Greenhouse   Intimate Apparel Kelly Owens Ebony Joy   Intimate Apparel Kelly Owens Eustace Allen   Intimate Apparel Kelly Owens Frances Wilkerson 2   Intimate Apparel Kelly Owens Frances Wilkerson   Intimate Apparel Kelly Owens Skye Shrum

Previews begin TONIGHT!!

Previews for INTIMATE APPAREL begin tonight! We are so incredibly excited to share this beautiful story with you.

$8 industry tickets will be offered all of our previews of Intimate Apparel! We’re offering $8 industry nights for all of our previews on July 17th, 18th and 19th!

The real story that gave life to Intimate Apparel!

So what inspired Lynn Nottage to write a play set in 1905? Take a look at this great article in which Nottage reveals how Esther’s story is really based off of a curiosity Nottage had for her great-grandmother’s life.  Read it here!

Photograph: Eugène Atget / Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Photograph: Eugène Atget / Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Previews for Intimate Apparel start on Thursday at the Athenaeum, so it’s a great time to get to know more about Lynn Nottage’s writing.  Even if you missed our production of Ruined, it’s not too late to experience Nottage’s writing performed live.

A look back at the 4th of July

Hope you had a wonderful 4th of July weekend! Ever wonder what the holiday may have been like in 1905? Perhaps not…but thanks to Lynn Nottage’s play coming up real soon, we have!

 

 

We took a look at what people might have been up to on this important day off of work.

These young ladies are on the beach on Coney Island. Take a look at those bathing suits!

 

But Esther Mills, the African American seamstress who is the central character in Intimate Apparel, would not have been allowed to be there…

Despite Coney’s democratic spirit, which brought together people of various classes, the segregation universal in American society was also seen there.   Though Coney was often called the “People’s Playground,” not everyone was always allowed to play in the same places. African Americans had to use segregated bath houses and were discouraged from occupying certain sections of the beach.   Jews were also not welcome at first in some establishments.

In fact, all but one of the characters in the play would have been banned!

Click here to continue reading this article about Coney Island. 

 

 

 

Tightening our waists

As you can see, we have begun to work with corsets in rehearsals! It takes the actors some time to get used to moving when they are all tied up.  It also affects the way they breathe.  On the bright side, it gets them into the mood for 1905.

Throwback Thursday

Check out this picture from Eclipse’s production of A Song for Coretta. It’s from our 2007 Pearl Cleage Season.

Have you figured it out? Kelly Owens, playing Esther Mills in our upcoming production of Intimate Apparel is in this photo!!

 

Character Work

Eclipse’s Dramaturg is sharing her research for Intimate Apparel on the blog! The actors have been using this information to get in touch with who their characters really are.  In this play, many of the characters have very different backgrounds, one is a laborer from Barbados, working on digging the Panama, another is Romanian Jewish Immigrant, and of course one is an African American seamstress in New York City, sewing intimate apparel for all kinds of women around the city.  The actors are doing a lot of talking about how their characters’ history’s affect them during the course of the play, and how their characters should interact based on social standards of the time.

Take a look at the dramaturgy page to start learning about our characters’ backgrounds!

Intimate Apparel First Rehearsal

Image

After an amazing run of Ruined, and a long stretch where I apparently forgot the blog existed, the 2014 Lynn Nottage Season continued last night with the first rehearsal of her beautiful play Intimate Apparel. The designers took a few minutes to present their research and ideas so far (starting with the theatrical metaphors of a patchwork crazy quilt and early 1900s daguerrotype style photography that are written into the script), and then we got to sit back and listen to the enormously talented cast read the play out loud for the first time together. On to dramaturgy and table work tonight; the cast will be exploring the characters and the world of the play this week, and then the play will start to really take shape towards the end of the week. I can’t wait.

 

First Rehearsal of One Flea Spare

It’s been a long, cold winter here in Chicago, and we’ve been itching to get back to work for months now – tonight we finally got to dive into a new script and new playwright with a great new group of people, with the first rehearsal of Naomi Wallace’s One Flea Spare.

Listening to the cast read through the script for the first time, I was struck by the power, sensuality, and humor of this play, which explores the tense relationships of strangers brought together by circumstance during the Great Plague of the mid 1600s.

Tomorrow we’ll come back together to begin discussing the dramaturgical research and characters, and by the end of this week the actors will be up on their feet. Based on their first trip through the play together, this promises to be a fascinating six weeks we’ve got ahead of us, and we’ll be sharing the experience here on the blog as we go along.

The photo above, taken by our fantastic photographer Scott Cooper, features Elizabeth Stenholt (Morse) and JP Pierson (Bunce). More photos, including some behind the scenes shots from tonight’s rehearsal, are in our One Flea Spare set on Flickr.

Never fooled anyone

Our crackerjack dramaturgical team has started posting all of their research here on the blog, and it is filled with fascinating nuggets of information to help artists and audiences alike understand Miller’s brilliantly complex script on a deeper level.

One of my favorite pages so far is a collection of quotes by and/or about Marilyn Monroe, who (despite Miller’s occasional claims to the contrary) is widely seen as a model for the character of Maggie. All of the quotes are worth reading, digesting and ruminating on, but here’s my favorite:

“I’ve never fooled anyone. I’ve let people fool themselves. They didn’t bother to find out who and what I was. Instead they would invent a character for me. I wouldn’t argue with them. They were obviously loving somebody I wasn’t.”
-Marilyn Monroe

Browse through the research by clicking the link on the right, and keep checking back in as we add more…

Friday photo rescue

Women and Water, from the 2002 John Guare season:

Happy 4th of July Weekend!

Friday photo rescue

Spinning into Butter, from the 2006 Rebecca Gilman season.

“After the Fall” : A Production History

“After the Fall”
Production History

First Production

Opened in New York City January 23rd, 1964.

Director: Elia Kazan

Notable Actors:  Jason Robards (Quentin), Barbara Loden (Maggie), Fay Dunaway (nurse), Hal Holbrook (Harley Barnes)

Critical Response:

Continue reading

Marilyn Monroe and Arthur Miller: part one

This rare documentary looks at the relationship between Marilyn Monroe and Arthur Miller, and contains interviews with Miller himself. It’s in two parts – here’s part one:

I’ll post part two, along with some thoughts on what this means in terms of After the Fall, later this week.

Facebook Friends Unite! Help us secure $20K in funding!

Chase Community Giving is using Facebook to determine which 200 non-profit organizations nation-wide will receive donations of $250K, $100K or $20K.

Eclipse is in the top 200 now, and we need your help to stay there!

If you’re on Facebook, visit Chase Community Giving and cast a vote for Eclipse Theatre Company!

If you’re not on Facebook, please pass this message along to someone who is!

And once you’re there, you can keep right on supporting the Chicago theatre community … you can cast up to twenty votes, and help secure funding for all your favorite Chicago theatre companies! Use the links below to support our friends in the community:

… or use the handy Chase Community Giving search page to find and vote for your favorite non-profit organizations.

Voting ends on July 12, 2010 – we need your vote and your help spreading the word so Eclipse can receive $20,000 or more!

Friday photo rescue

The Rimers of Eldritch, from the 2005 Lanford Wilson season.

Friday photo rescue

A Song for Coretta, from the 2009 Celebration Series II:

Kristy Johnson (left, playing Keisha) is nominated for a Jeff Award for Best Supporting Actress – we’re wishing her all the best for Monday’s award ceremony!

First photo from After the Fall

Blogging has been slow lately, but we’re ready to pick things up again as we prepare for After the Fall, which started rehearsals last week and opens July 11th at the Greenhouse Theater. Our brilliant photographer, Scott Cooper, spent the weekend with a few of our actors and created the beautiful image below, with the overlapping relationships between Quentin (me, on the right), Maggie (Nora Fiffer, left), Louise (Julie Daley) and Holga (Sally Eames-Harlan):

Friday photo rescue

Women and Water, from the 2002 John Guare season.

The Man Who Had All the Luck

Tomorrow afternoon (Saturday April 10th, 2:00 pm at the Greenhouse Theater) we’ll be reading and discussing Arthur Miller’s first full-length play, The Man Who Had All the Luck. It’s kind of like Death of a Salesman in reverse – everything goes right for David Beeves, and his good fortune drives him slowly to the point of madness as he watches everyone around him struggle with their lack of luck. Miller called this “a fable,” and the story is by turns tragic, funny, instructive and cautionary. It’s a fun script to explore, and a fascinating look at a legendary playwright’s early ideas.

This event is part of our Playwright Scholar Series, giving subscribers a chance to explore our featured playwrights with us beyond the three main productions. It’s free for Eclipse subscribers and for the general public ($5 suggested donation for non-subscribers), and a good reason to subscribe to the 2010 Arthur Miller Season.

The 2010 Arthur Miller Season
Playwright Scholar Series: The Man Who Had All the Luck

Saturday, April 10th at 2:00 pm
The Greenhouse Theater Center
2257 N. Lincoln, Chicago

For more information or to reserve seats, call 773.325.9655.

Friday photo rescue

Set Designer Kevin Hagan’s model from Candles to the Sun by Tennessee Williams, from the 2008 Celebration Series Part I.

Playwright Scholar Series, Join Us!

Please join us for our Playwright Scholar Series

Arthur Miller’s

The Man Who Had All the Luck

April 10th, 2010 at 2pm

Upstairs Studio, Greenhouse Theatre

$5 Suggested Donation (Free for Subscribers)

How did Miller’s work change or mature? Did it become more or less progressive as he became more well known? This is a unique opportunity to dive into Millers early work . I am not a Miller enthusiast (in fact I haven’t been exposed to much of Miller), but I’ve noticed that  Miller has encorporated an element of madness and even desperation, in one way or another, in his plays(at least in Resurrection Blues and The Crucible). I am looking forward to learning a bit more about him and his work, and why this motif is so.

Friday photo rescue

From the new batch of photos for Resurrection Blues, which opens this Sunday, here’s a shot we dubbed Felix vs. the Intercom:

Prop Lobsters (with video)

The script of Resurrection Blues calls for lobsters in scene five, to be eaten by Felix and Emily as the scene opens on them finishing their elegant meal. For a small-budget Non-Equity theatre company, this is a challenge to solve, and our props designer Kim Lyle not only solved it beautifully (with the essential help of my fantastic sister in Maine who donated and shipped four live Maine lobsters!), but also documented her adventure in the brilliant video below:

Friday photo rescue

A brand new photo, from the theater as we prepare for Resurrection Blues, here’s a shot of Set Designer Steph Charaska’s scenic art in an early stage of the process – there are more photos on the Flickr set, and I’ll put up a full post about these wonderful set pieces soon …

Friday photo rescue

Eccentricities of a Nightingale, from the 1999 Tennessee Williams Season:

Friday photo rescue

From last year’s Total Eclipse 2009

There’s still time to get your tickets for this year’s party, Sunday March 7th at 12 noon.

Thoughts on the Resurrection

As difficult as it is, the old saying is true – the show must go on, and for me personally it’s been an important part of the healing process to get back to the work of exploring this challenging and beautiful script. Rehearsals have been going very well this week, and we’re starting to get a sense of what this play needs to be and what we need to be working on over the next four weeks.

I’m working on the Director’s Note for the program now, trying to find a way to articulate the important place that Resurrection Blues has in Arthur Miller’s body of work, and the importance that this story has for me personally.

Since I first found this play at the library downtown, I felt strongly that it needed to begin our Arthur Miller Season. The style of the writing is in some ways very recognizably Miller – the rhythms and language share the technical beauty and emotional resonance of his most popular works, and the ideas are huge and complicated, leaving audiences with a lot to talk about and process on the way home. In many ways, though, this is a very different kind of play from what we traditionally think of as an Arthur Miller play – it is, most obviously, a comedy, and a very funny one, that satirizes politics, religion and media with no punches pulled. It is also a very contemporary play, written in 2002 and set firmly in the present.

What fascinated me the most, though, is that this play is, in my, mind, a mature and reverent exploration of faith from an artist who wrestled with a sense of bitterness towards religion in many of his plays. Despite all the humor (much of which comes in the form of blasphemy), this is a story of our common cultural search for a true and deep sense of the divine and a powerful personal relationship with a faith that feels more universal than any specific religion.

Now more than ever, this is a play that I’m grateful to have the opportunity to explore, for myself and for Arthur Miller fans as we begin the season.

Saying goodbye to a friend

It has been a difficult and tragic week within the Eclipse family; our good friend and ensemble member Kat Saari passed away on Monday, leaving our hearts broken and our souls aching. Kat’s passion, intelligence and artistic vision will be missed as much as her friendship. The outpouring of support and love from throughout our extended family in the Chicago theatre community has been nothing short of amazing, and a wonderful reminder about the lives she touched.

Her family has created a page on Facebook dedicated to sharing memories and photos celebrating her life and our fortune in being a part of it. For those who knew Kat, please follow the link at right to Eclipse’s Facebook page, and from there you can leave your own thoughts and memories. She will be in our thoughts and prayers always, and we miss her terribly.

Friday photo rescue

Blues for an Alabama Sky, from the 2007 Pearl Cleage Season.

Happy Valentine’s Day weekend, all you lovebirds …

First rehearsal

The 2010 Arthur Miller Season officially began last night, with the first rehearsal of Resurrection Blues, scheduled to open (as a Chicago Premiere!) on March 28th at the Greenhouse Theater in Lincoln Park. After two years of celebrating our first decade of playwrights, it was exciting for all of us to return to the “One Playwright, One Season” format and kick off our year-long journey with Arthur Miller.

First read through of Resurrection Blues

With a small audience of subscribers and friends, the cast dove into the script with a fantastic first read through, exploring the rhythms, humor and big ideas in Miller’s penultimate play. The story, which satirizes politics, media and faith in a very contemporary setting, shows a different side of the playwright, even as it explores the themes that resonate throughout Miller’s work. And this cast – a wonderful group of talented actors who are all passionate about this script – had a blast playing with those themes.

Now the real work begins – we’ll spend the next few days sitting around a table talking, asking questions, and maybe finding some answers, and then we’ll start putting scenes on their feet and see where they take us over the next five weeks. Stay tuned for more thoughts, photos from rehearsals, and videos as we go along.

First photo from Resurrection Blues

We start rehearsals for the Chicago Premiere of Arthur Miller’s 2002 play Resurrection Blues in just two short days – here’s a sneak peek from this past weekend’s photo shoot – more to come soon …

Miller’s Struggle with Religion and Identity

Reading Arthur Miller’s autobiography, one gets the sense of a man who struggled all his life with religion and his place in the world. Many of Miller’s plays deal with the “common man” and his sense living with a disappointing life. But as we prepare to produce Resurrection Blues, Miller’s relationship with religion became the focus of my attention.

Being Jewish, Miller struggled with identifying himself with the faith, but also recognizing that God would even care about his little insignificant life. As a child he visualizes God viewing the world as if God was in a theatre watching a play. Miller imagined that God would only come out for weddings and funeral, and then disappear back into the synagogue. In the 1930s, Miller saw socialism as his faith.

All of these childhood and young adult views affects the writing of Resurrection Blues in an interesting way. It is almost as if Miller is struggling with his Jewish identity and God through the prophet in the play. By representing religion the body of a man we never see, the evidence of Miller’s relationship  to God is there.

Friday photo rescue

Candles to the Sun, by Tennessee Williams, from the 2008 Celebration Series I.

Friday photo rescue

Lillian Hellman’s The Autumn Garden, from the 2008 Celebration Series I.

Keith Reddin and the mythology of America

While our current production of Democracy continues to roll on, we’re keeping ourselves busy with additional events celebrating our past featured playwrights. Last weekend, with the help of composer Scott Wheeler and singers from VOX 3 Collective, we had a fantastic evening exploring Mr. Wheeler’s opera Democracy: An American Comedy, based on 2001 featured playwright Romulus Linney‘s Democracy. The event included scenes from the Eclipse production and the opera, along with a fascinating discussion with Mr. Wheeler and the artists.

Our next event, coming up next Saturday, will be just as exciting – don’t miss it!

Keith Reddin and the mythology of America
Saturday, December 5th at 12 pm
The Greenhouse Theater Center, 2257 N Lincoln

Admission is free ($5 suggested donation for non-subscribers).

Eclipse’s 2004 featured playwright, Keith Reddin, explored our collective identity as Americans throughout his works. The Celebration Series continues the exploration by revisiting Eclipse productions from 2004 (Brutality of Fact, Big Time and Frame 312), along with readings from other plays and a discussion with Eclipse artists.

Call us at 773.325.9655 for more information and to reserve seats for this unique event.

We’re posting some background information and research in the Dramaturgy sidebar on the right, including a great interview where Keith Reddin discusses his sense of his own identity as an “American playwright”:

I think of myself as a very American playwright. And when you look at the words that set the American way of life, they are “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.” It’s not happiness, it’s the pursuit of happiness. We have the freedom to pursue happiness but that doesn’t mean that we’re guaranteed to get it. Happiness is very fleeting; that’s a very American theme. We very rarely, if ever, find it. But I enjoy that we have the freedom to pursue it and I think that’s what all the plays are about.

The Opera, Drama and Comedy of Democracy

We’re getting ready for a fantastic event this coming Sunday – we’re offering audiences a fun way to explore our current production Democracy through the spectacular Opera version … This is a free event, and it’ll be a lot of fun – don’t miss it!

Scott Wheeler (Composer of Democracy: An American Comedy) will join actors from Eclipse Theatre Company and singers from VOX 3 Collective to explore the stage and opera versions of Romulus Linney’s story. This unique event will include performed scenes from Eclipse’s production of Democracy and selections from Mr. Wheeler’s opera, followed by a discussion with the artists.

Eclipse Theatre Company's "Democracy"

Democracy: Opera and Drama

Sunday, November 22nd at 7:00 pm
Greenhouse Theater Center
2257 N Lincoln

A suggested donation is encouraged for non-subscribers. Please contact us at 773-325-9655 for more information or to reserve your seats for these exciting events!

Watch a scene from Democracy

From our current production of Democracy, which opened last night, Baron Jacobi (Larry Baldacci) has an old-fashioned plan to stop Madeleine Lee (Rebecca Prescott) from marrying the ambitious Senator Silas Raitcliffe in the scene below from The Stage Channel:

Vodpod videos no longer available.

more about “Watch a scene from Democracy“, posted with vodpod

 

Dramaturgical research for Democracy

In the opening scene of Democracy, Baron Jacobi introduces us to the characters in the play. As President Grant and his wife Julia walk by, Jacobi notes her crossed eyes and explains: 

When they came to the White House, she wanted an operation. The President said no! He could not bear his great burden without the cross-eyed girl he had loved all these years.

I was thinking about this line as I was setting up the links on the Democracy Dramaturgy page – included in the research prepared by Sarah Moeller and Katie Vandehey, co-dramaturgs on the production, is a comprehensive biography of Julia Boggs Dent Grant, including this photo of the cross-eyed girl that Ulysses loved.

We spent the first two days of rehearsal going through this information, giving all of the actors, designers and the director the background information they needed before creating the world of this play. It’s here on the blog for them – and for you – to browse. Enjoy!

First photo from Democracy

I’ll be back for the regular Friday rescue later in the day – first I wanted to share this beautiful photo of Senator Raitcliffe (Jon Steinhagen) courting Madeline Lee (Rebecca Prescott) in Romulus Linney’s Democracy:

Friday photo rescue

Another Part of the Forest, from the 2000 Lillian Hellman season.

 

Friday photo rescue

Frame 312, from the 2004 Keith Reddin season.

Getting ready for a Lunar Eclipse

I wish I had taken a few “before” photos – it’s difficult to describe the chaos here at the Eclipse space three weeks ago, when every square foot was stacked to the ceiling with three shows worth of theatrical debris. We’ve been steadily chipping away, and we’re almost ready for a party

I took a break from setting up last night to take some “during” photos – there’s still more decorating and cleaning to be done before Saturday, but our rehearsal space is almost fully transformed into a hip, funky party pad. There are more photos of the space on our Flickr page – and there will be more (with a lot of people having fun) after Saturday.

Come on out and see what we’ve done to the place, help us celebrate the current season and look ahead to the 2010 Arthur Miller Season …

For more info about Lunar Eclipse II, check us out on Facebook or send us an email.

Friday photo rescue

A Woman Without a Name, from the 2001 Romulus Linney season:

Join the fun at our second Lunar Eclipse party!

Artistic Director Nathaniel Swift in Plaza Suite. Photo by Scott Cooper.

Artistic Director Nathaniel Swift in Plaza Suite. Photo by Scott Cooper.

Come celebrate & network with all of us at Eclipse as well as our colleagues and friends from the theatre community, as the Chicago theatre fall season begins and Eclipse’s 2-year Celebration Series concludes.

The night kicks off at 7:00 pm at our swanky digs with beer, wine & food, live DJ & dancing, a little Wii Bowling, and your chance to mingle with some of the coolest people in Chicago theatre!

If you are in a show that evening, please come by afterwards!

Actors, Designers, Directors – feel free to bring your pic/resume!

$15 suggested donation or whatever you can donate at the door.

At the Eclipse Space: 4001 N Ravenswood, Chicago, IL 60613

For more info, call us at 773.325.9655 or send us an email.

Friday photo rescue

The Lark, from the 2000 Lillian Hellman Season:

Friday photo rescue

Candles to the Sun, from the 2008 Celebration Series.

Lunar Eclipse: Save the Date!

Put it in your calendar now – Saturday, September 26th, 7:00 pm at the Eclipse Space (4001 N Ravenswood)!

Join Eclipse ensemble members, guest artists and friends as we celebrate our next journey: the 2010 Arthur Miller season …

Friday photo rescue

Blue Surge, from the (current) 2009 Celebration Series II:

Friday photo rescue

Late Bus to Mecca, from the 2007 Pearl Cleage season:

Friday photo rescue

My apologies for being late this week – I was sneaking in a quick vacation visiting family in Maine. Here’s the view from the boat on Friday as we headed out past the point:

Maine

Video: backstage during Six Degrees tech rehearsals

On the first day of tech rehearsals for our current production of Six Degrees of Separation, I handed my digital camera to Eclipse ensemble member Stephen Dale, who plays Ben in the show. Take it backstage, I told him – have some fun, shoot anything you want back there, and maybe we’ll be able to create a quick montage of what it’s like to be backstage during tech.

With a cast of sixteen, there was a lot of down time for actors as we went through tech rehearsals – as we spent time planning and practicing the timings of light and sound cues, the actors were backstage spending their time … well, I’ll let Stephen show you:

The 2010 Season: It’s Miller Time!

It’s no longer a secret … I’m very excited to announce that we are returning to our One Playwright, One Season format next season with a year-long exploration through the works of legendary American playwright Arthur Miller.

 
With a career that spans over seven decades, and a body of work that includes some of the most well-known and most frequently produced dramas in the world, Arthur Miller may be this country’s greatest storyteller. His plays range from realistic psychological dramas to abstract dreamscapes; exploring social dynamics, personal connections and political conflict.
 
The 2010 Arthur Miller Season is an ambitious and exciting journey through Miller’s remarkable vision, offering audiences a truly unique opportunity to immerse themselves in the world of Arthur Miller for a full season. On behalf of everyone here at Eclipse, I’d like to invite you to join us on this unique journey, including:

  • After the Fall, opening March 2010
    This deeply personal 1964 play, which Miller says “takes place in the mind, thought, and memory of Quentin,” explores personal relationships and political loyalties through one man’s examination of his life.
  • Resurrection Blues, opening July 2010
    Miller’s penultimate play, published in 2002, humorously and powerfully satirizes the strength of faith – religious, political and personal – as a repressive dictatorship prepares to crucify a possibly divine prisoner in front of American television audiences.
  • A View From the Bridge, opening November 2010
    This 1955 classic, set in a close-knit Italian-American neighborhood in Brooklyn, explores a father’s response as his safety and family are threatened by his decision to protect his cousins from immigration officials.
  • Playwright Scholar Series Events
    Throughout the 2010 Arthur Miller Season, join us for intimate readings and discussions from works throughout Miller’s canon.

Also, don’t miss productions of Arthur Miller’s most well-known plays at some of Chicago’s best theaters this fall and spring:

  • All My Sons at Timeline Theatre, running August 31 – October 4, 2009 at the Greenhouse Theater Center, 2257 N. Lincoln. Details at http://www.timelinetheatre.com. 773-281-8463.
  • Death of a Salesman at Raven Theatre, running October 6 – December 5, 2009 at Raven Theatre, 6157 N. Clark. Details at http://www.raventheatre.com. 773-338-6547.
  • The Crucible at Infamous Commonwealth Theatre, running March 27 – May 2, 2010 at Raven Theatre. 6157 N. Clark. Details at http://www.infamouscommonwealth.org. 312-458-9780. 
  •  

It’s an exciting season for fans of Arthur Miller! I look forward to seeing you at the theater throughout 2010!
 

A Song for Coretta is nominated for two Black Theatre Alliance Awards!

The Black Theatre Alliance Awards announced their 2009 nominations, and we were excited and proud to see two actors from A Song for Coretta among the talented artists being honored:

The Ethel Waters Award – Best Performance In An Ensemble (Actress)
Kierra Bunch – From The Mississippi Delta – eta Creative Arts Foundation
Kristy M. Johnson – A Song For Coretta – eclipse theatre company
Ashlee Olivia – Radical Hearsay…Stories at Sixty One – MPAACT
Carla Stillwell – Radical Hearsay…Stories at Sixty One – MPAACT
TayLar – A Song For Coretta – eclipse theatre company

The awards ceremony will be held Monday, October 5th. Congratulations and best of luck to all the nominees – especially Kristy and TayLar!

Friday photo rescue

Confessional, from the 1999 Tennessee Williams season.

Another video interview with actors from Six Degrees

Continuing Stephen Dale’s ongoing series of interviews with the cast & crew of Six Degrees of Separation, here’s a part of his conversation with Eric Leonard (Flan) and Karen Yates (Ouisa), talking about their characters and their approach to this complex script.

There’s more on the way, including some fantastic backstage footage from tech rehearsals – if you haven’t subscribed to our YouTube channel yet, now’s a pretty good time…

Friday photo rescue

Spinning into Butter, from the 2006 Rebecca Gilman season.

6 Degrees of Separation Interview – Theme

The second part of our interview with Michael Pogue; he discusses the themes within 6 Degrees… that resonated with him the most.

Cleage – Upcoming Playwright Scholar Series!

Eclipse puts on several Playwright Scholar Series events each season to give the audience a deeper look into each writers canon.

This Saturday, August 1st at 2pm, we will be exploring the prose, poetry and essays of Pearl Cleage.

Ensemble members JP Pierson and Sarah Moeller selected inspirational excerpts out of her writing and brought these pieces to the table at the first rehearsal for the Playwright Scholar Series last night.

It was a great rehearsal.  A group of six actors (male and female) assembled to read selected pieces.  They were given some time to read through the pieces themselves and then choose the piece each actor felt strongest about.  After hearing each piece out loud we discussed more about Pearl Cleage, what inspires her, what inspires us about her and then dismissed for the evening to take some time to reflect on the insightful pieces we had heard over the evening.

Tonight we will meet for rehearsal number two and revisit each piece that was read last night and then work more on how the pieces will be read and presented Saturday afternoon.

We hope you can join us for this event!!  It is free for subscribers and $5 suggested donation for non-subscribers.

Watch videos from Six Degrees of Separation

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

more about “Six Degrees of Separation“, posted with vodpod

Friday photo rescue

Women and Water, from the 2002 John Guare season.

New photos from Six Degrees of Separation

We had our first audience last night – a surprisingly large crowd for a Final Dress Rehearsal before we start Previews tonight (there are still $5 Industry tickets available for all three Previews at 773.404.7336). The show is in great shape – we’re putting the final touches on the design elements, and the cast is having a lot of fun …

We also had a photo shoot with Scott Cooper on Tuesday, and now have a few more beautiful photos in our Flickr set, including the one below of Ouisa (Karen Yates) as she dreams about Paul (Michael Pogue):

Hello from Six Degrees Tech Rehearsal

Michael Gonring (left, playing Trent in Six Degrees of Separation) and Michael Pogue (right, playing Paul) take a break during the first day of tech rehearsals to mug for the camera.

Oddly, neither of them are in costume.

Friday photo rescue

Brutality of Fact, from the 2004 Keith Reddin season.

Playing Paul in Six Degrees of Separation

Ensemble member Stephen Dale sat down recently with Michael Pogue, who plays Paul in our upcoming production of Six Degrees of Separation. It will be a two or three part interview – here’s part one, where Michael talks about playing a character he’s had his eye on for a long time:

Three playwright, three weeks

I dropped a hint yesterday that we’ll be announcing our next playwright soon, and as I said, we are all excited to get back to the year-long focus on a single writer, but for now we’re trying to keep up with a busy summer schedule that has us exploring three playwrights over the next three weeks:

2007 featured playwright Pearl Cleage is on stage now – A Song for Coretta runs through July 26th in the first floor studio at the Greenhouse Theater.

2002 featured playwright John Guare is just up the stairs – I’m sitting in the dressing room of the second floor studio at the Greenhouse right now, where I should really be helping get the space ready for Six Degrees of Separation, which opens July 26th.

2003 featured playwright Neil Simon is waiting in the wings – last year’s production of Plaza Suite will be back for one weekend at the Chicago Park District’s annual summer festival Theatre on the Lake, on Lake Shore Drive at Fullerton, August 5-9.

And we still have two more to go – we just finished casting 2001 featured playwright Romulus Linney‘s Democracy, which opens in November, and we’re planning an extended Playwright Scholar Series event this fall exploring 2004 featured playwright Keith Reddin.

After that, the Celebration will be complete, and we’ll turn our full attention to – but I’m not allowed to say yet.

The 2010 Featured Playwright

Yeah, okay, it’s a tease – I don’t want to scoop ourselves, but I am very excited that the ensemble has just completed the selection process, which began late last year, and we have reached a decision on our next featured playwright. We will have a press release out very soon, and we will post the season here before it hits the papers anywhere else.

There’s a special buzz to this one – although the Celebration Series has been, and will continue to be, a fantastic journey, I think we’re all excited about getting back to the One Playwright, One Season format. And I think audiences will be excited too – but that’s enough teasing for now…

More soon – I promise.

Friday photo rescue

Oh, the days are just flying by …

A Song for Coretta has less than three weeks left, Six Degrees of Separation opens in less than two, and Plaza Suite is at Theatre on the Lake the week after that. And if that’s not enough, we’ve got a big announcement coming up very soon about our 2010 season featured playwright. I’ll do my best to keep up with the blogging.

This is a new photo – from Six Degrees of Separation, which opens July 26th. Ouisa (Karen Yates), Flan (Eric Leonard) and Paul (Michael Pogue) pose for a family portrait. Much thanks to our fantastic photographer Scott Cooper for capturing this loving and creepy family.

Friday photo rescue

From Total Eclipse 2009 (our annual benefit), this is a reading from Jeffrey Sweet’s play The Action Against Sol Schumann, presented as part of the 2010 featured playwright selection process and featuring ensemble members Steven Fedoruk, CeCe Klinger, Nora Fiffer and myself.

The process is almost complete – we’ll have some exciting news to announce by mid-July …

Separation/Insulation

In preparation for our forthcoming show SIX DEGREES OF SEPARATION, now in rehearsals, I had gone through many reviews of the John Guare play; and many had referenced THE BONFIRE OF THE VANITIES by Tom Wolfe.  “Transcendent…magical…a masterwork that captures New York as Tom Wolfe did …” as Frank Rich wrote in his review of the play. So, I set forth to my local bookstore and picked up a copy of the Wolfe satire.  There is maybe a difference of a few years between when both plot lines take place, but the main themes and ideas are shared. The issue of class, race, status, identity, sexuality, and connection are all burned in the pages. The other thing they share is the New York pace, the quickness, the whirlwind, the speed, the thrill.

In early discussions of how we wanted to put our mark on this  play, the theme of isolation and disconnection kept coming up.  There is an excerpt from BONFIRE, they captures an element these themes:

“Insulation! That was the ticket. If you want to live in New York, you’ve got to insulate yourself from these people. The cynicism and the smugness of the tide struck as very au courant. If you could go breezing down the FDR in a taxi, then why file into the trenches of the urban wars?”

Steve  had said that in many ways SIX DEGREES and BLUE SURGE share an equal fate: BLUE SURGE is about the insulation and isolation of the poor and their inability to break out of that world, and SIX DEGREES is about the same thing, only with the upper class, the rich.

A major difference I find in Tom Wolfe’s book and John Guare’s play is that Wolfe has no mercy, sympathy, admiration, doesn’t find or give many redeeming qualities in the menagerie of characters he has created. Guare, on the other hand, has tremendous love for his characters.  It is very important, as Steve said at our reading of the play, with the full glorious cast assembled, that we  like these characters. And there is the trick of the play, I think. If we as the audience, the cast, the crew, the reader, genuinely like all of these characters despite their flaws and status and attitudes, then we have succeeded in delivering the power of this piece; a very timely  piece when it first premiered as it is now.

Perhaps that is why the famous actors of the movie THE BONFIRE OF THE VANITIES, speak ill of the film. Wolfe passed judgement on them through his story telling, instead of leaving it to the reader to cast the stone.

Watch scenes from A Song for Coretta

Stagechannel.com has two video clips of scenes from A Song for Coretta – click the images below to watch.

In the first scene, Zora (Niccole Thurman) interviews Helen (TayLar) about her memory of Mrs. King:

click image to watch video

click image to watch video

In scene two, Helen (TayLar) and Keisha (Kristy Johnson) have a hard time seeing eye to eye across the generation gap:

click image to watch video

click image to watch video

Friday photo rescue

From the currently-running, Jeff-Recommended A Song for Coretta by Pearl Cleage – I promise the whole show isn’t this sad, but this moment between Keisha (Kristy Johnson, left) and Mona Lisa (Kelly Owens) is beautiful:

A Song for Coretta is Jeff Recommended!

I received an email yesterday morning from the Joseph Jefferson Awards Committee – a week after winning two awards at the 2009 ceremony, we’re already in the running for next year.

Congratulations to everyone involved!

Opening Night

Eclipse ensemble member TayLar is Helen, interviewed by Zora (Niccole Thurman) about her memories of Coretta Scott King in Pearl Cleages A Song for Coretta

Eclipse ensemble member TayLar plays Helen, giving an interview to Zora (Niccole Thurman) about her memories of Coretta Scott King, in Pearl Cleage's A Song for Coretta

The last few nights of previews for Pearl Cleage’s A Song for Coretta have been great – so great, in fact, that I haven’t been able to get a seat since Thursday. So I’ve been listening from the lobby and talking to audiences after the show as the cast and crew make the final push before the big show tonight.

It’s been a fun week – we’ve had fun and responsive audiences who have really loved the show, and we’ve had our share of weirdness and then some. In the last few days, we’ve seen a doll get accidentally beheaded on stage, an actor lose her footing in the rain, and a trolley of drunk partiers that parked just on the other side of the thin theater wall for half a show. And then there was the naked bike ride, which rolled by the front doors a few minutes after the show ended last night. I think we’ve gotten all the weirdness out of the way, though – and the show is strong and beautiful and ready to rise above whatever else pops up during the run.

Blue Surge honored with two Jeff Awards

I’ve never been all that good at tooting my own horn, and maybe that’s why I’ve been so slow to blog about the fantastic night we – and I – had on Monday. The 2009 Non-Equity Jeff Awards were held at the Park West, and two of the night’s awards went to myself (Actor in a Supporting Role) and Laura Coover (Actress in a Principal Role) from Blue Surge. The full list of nominees and winners is at www.jeffawards.org.

Jeff Award Winners Laura Coover and Nathaniel Swift in Blue Surge

Jeff Award Winners Laura Coover and Nathaniel Swift in Blue Surge

I think the acceptance speeches will be posted soon at www.stagechannel.com – I’m excited to see them, since I have no idea what I actually said. I’ll tell that story when I link to the video, though.

Congratulations and thanks to all involved!

Friday photo rescue

Eccentricities of a Nightingale, from the 1999 Tennessee Williams season.

Friday photo rescue

I forgot to post a photo yesterday, but here’s an action shot from today – from about twenty minutes ago in our tech rehearsal for A Song for Coretta, here’s Sound Designer Adam Smith working on a sound cue:

Fifteen days

I’ve spent the last few days creating an Eclipse Intranet for our office staff to use (with great thanks to the fine folks at Google), and I had a moment of total disbelief when I set up a tool that counts down the days to each production. I put in the date of Opening Night for A Song for Coretta (June 14th), and it told me that that’s only 16 days away. 16 days? And that was yesterday, so now it’s telling me that we have 15 days left until the show opens. 15 days.

Wait a minute, didn’t we just have the first rehearsal? And weren’t we just in the middle of Blue Surge? And, heck, wasn’t it only yesterday that I was worried about too-short biking shorts in an obscure Tennessee Williams play?

Niccole Thurman, Ebony Wimbs, TayLar, Kelly Owens and Kristy Johnson in Pearl Cleages emA Song for Coretta/em

Niccole Thurman, Ebony Wimbs, TayLar, Kelly Owens and Kristy Johnson in Pearl Cleage's A Song for Coretta

Time does have a habit of moving way too fast, especially when we’ve got a lot of great projects in the works. And fortunately not everyone is as surprised as I am – I watched a run through at rehearsal a few days ago, and the cast definitely looks ready to go. Sarah is already working tiny little moments; work that directors sometimes don’t have time to get to. Clearly she and her actors have been doing their homework and aren’t feeling the time crunch the way I am. We start loading into the theater on Monday, we have tech rehearsals next weekend, and then we’ll have audiences before we know it.

And, although I miss the great projects we were working on, there’s not a lot of time to look back. The fancy new gadget tells me that we’ve got 57 days until Six Degrees of Separation and 67 days until Plaza Suite. There’s still 169 days until Democracy, so that’s like forever away. Right?

Friday photo rescue

Candles to the Sun, from the 2008 Celebration Series Part I.

Friday photo rescue

Big Time, from the 2004 Keith Reddin season.

Friday photo rescue


The Talking Dog, from the 2002 John Guare season.

A Song for Coretta Pre-Production Photo

Waiting

Hey everyone! As a production assistant for A Song for Coretta, part of my job was to set up a pre-production photo shoot. After having a lot of luck with scheduling, we were able to get the photographer, the actors, the costumer, and a few others to come and take some great photos! This one is one of our favorites. We have more photos uploaded on our Flickr site. You can find them at our flickr set. Enjoy!

Friday photo rescue

I think I’ve “rescued” this one before, but it’s still my favorite Mom photo in our archives – and not just because I’m playing the son …

From Come Blow Your Horn in the 2003 Neil Simon season, this is Cheri Chenoweth trying to give me some good motherly advice. 

From all of us here at Eclipse, a very happy Mother’s Day to Moms everywhere!

Coretta Rehearsal – Day 3

Day 3 of Rehearsal-Ownership?

We just completed the third day of rehearsal for “A Song for Coretta”

To recap Day 1 was the first read through in which we invite subscribers, ensemble members and other friends of the company to hear designer presentations and hear the actors read the script aloud together for the first time.  Day 2 was a wonderful dramaturg presentation from Katie, dramaturg and ensemble member.  She gaves the cast, management team and director insights into Pearl Cleage, Coretta Scott King, the civil rights movement, the war in the middle east, teenage pregnancy, Hurricane Katrina and other information pertinent to having a deeper understading of the world of the play.  Day 3, today, our first chance to really dive into the script.  This is really the day I, as the director, have been waiting for.  The first chance to get the actors in a room together and talking about the world of the play, the characters, what drives them, where they came from, why are they here.

I had a wonderful evening.  We have assembled a fine, beautiful cast of women ready and excited to tell the stories Cleage puts forth in her script.  We spent the evening reading through the script at a large conference table and stopping many times to discuss points in the script intertwined with our thoughts, feelings, inclinations regarding motives, intentions and using our own personal experience and knowledge to lead to new discoveries.   I am excited to continue the process tomorrow as we go through the last third of the script as over the course of this evening I was reassured that I am working with a group of incredibly intelligent, hard-working, thoughtful and inquisetive women.  Just the type that need to be in a room together to bring Cleage’s brilliant work to life.  OK, maybe I sound a bit like a marketing person at the moment, I just have to express my excitment and pleasure in bringing this piece to life and I am more than excited to continue on this journey over the course of the next few weeks!

Interview with the Jeff Nominees

Laura Coover and Nat Swift, Jeff-nominated actors in Blue Surge, sat down with ensemble member Steve Dale before the final performance to talk about their characters, their process, and the nudity:

A beautiful Song

After almost 24 hours of free time (we had our last performance of Blue Surge on Sunday), we’ve already started to work on the next project – the Chicago Premiere of Pearl Cleage’s new play A Song for Coretta.

There was a lot of energy at last night’s First Rehearsal – the cast was ready to go, we had a great turnout of subscribers and friends, and director Sarah Moeller had just had a wonderful phone conversation with Pearl Cleage, who sent her love and support to all.

There’s a lot to talk about as we start to work on this play, but what jumped out at me last night was the musicality of the play as a whole. Sarah brought together a group of actors with beautiful and distinct voices, and they quickly understood and embraced the rhythms of Pearl’s writing, and the harmonies they can create with one another. The result was a rich musical quality that rode underneath and shaped the powerful stories these five women tell throughout the play.

And this is only the first read through …

Friday photo rescue

Four Jeff-Nominated performances, from 2008/2009:

Jon Steinhagen in Plaza Suite:

Nora Fiffer in The Autumn Garden:

Nathaniel Swift in Blue Surge:

Laura Coover in Blue Surge: