Monday, September 15, 2008

This American Wife

Odds are anyone who cares has already intimated this, but I am no longer with Per Diem, the theatre company that once found its origins on this blog. The gory details are unimportant and really aren't all that gory; it suffices to say that I have stepped down from the company to give my work its proper time and attention. It was a clean break; there's really no story to tell.

At their inaugural show, This American Wife, I was met by this blurb in the program:

"Per Diem was founded earlier this year by Co-Artistic Directors Bil Gaines and Lance Brett Hall. The new theater company was founded with the express purpose of introducing the relevancy and immediacy of artistic and cultural accomplishment into daily life. The best way to take up this lofty and important mission, the company decided, is to offer up a popular cultural accomplishment to laugh at."

As I mentioned, it was a clean break; and just as I am under no further obligation to the company, the company is under no further obligation to me. I have no ownership or influence in any matters in the current state or future of the company. Its past, however, is an entirely different matter. I don't really have anything else to say on the issue; I feel I said more than enough well over a year ago.

Lest anyone gets the impression that this post is born of bad blood, I want nothing but the best for Per Diem. As much as I no longer have any right to, I still do think of the company as my baby from time to time and I, naturally, want great work to come from it and to be met with equally great accolades. That's why it pains me so much that their first show is such an utter, dismal failure.

This American Wife is a parody (it bills itself as satire, but don't be fooled) of NPR's This American Life. Except it's a parody along the lines of a late-period Leslie Nielsen movie crossed with an episode of Family Guy minus the self-awareness. The host of This American Wife is named Ira Gwass. This is the humor we are dealing with. This is bad wig and leopard print boxers sight gag humor, mail-order bride won on a game show humor, insert a line (a line, not a joke) referencing Sarah Palin because it's topical humor combined with topical humor that has already been forgotten since the first draft (Remember this story? Good, now the long, protracted joke won't be in vain). It's the type of show where you feel awful because you can see the actors on stage formulating ways to avoid talking about this experience ever again. It's the worst show I've seen in Chicago this year, and I saw Nunsense. It avoids the title of worst show I've ever seen by the sole fact that it's a tediously scant 45 minutes long.

This American Wife is Hobby Theatre -- theatre because, gee, wouldn't it be fun to put on a show with my friends? That's not what Per Diem was about when I founded it, and, as much as "introducing the relevancy and immediacy of artistic and cultural accomplishment into daily life" is everything I hate about mission statements (using a lot of big words to say absolutely nothing), it's not what Per Diem is supposedly about now that I'm gone. It's a shame. That's what it is.

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It's a pair of matinees for me this week: Redmoon's Dr. Egg And The Man With No Ear on Saturday and The Hypocrites' The Threepenny Opera on Sunday. And why is it only a couple of matinees for me, you ask? 'Cause I'm opening a muhfuckin' show on Friday, that's why! Let me tell you about it!

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So, if you haven't figured it out by now, I'm in Dracula at The Building Stage. We open on Friday and I would be lying if I said there weren't a couple of pieces of the show that I'm not a little worried about right now, but it's been that sort of process where uncertainty and frustration are something we have been consistently pushing through to find the gold on the other side, so I have no fear that whatever you see on stage Friday night, it will be something we are proud to present. This ain't your momma's Dracula, neither, so come prepared to follow, not to be led. Our Dracula is an ensemble built adaptation and stylization of Bram Stoker's original novel that takes much influence from silent films and graphic novels and makes great use of found music in the place of text. And it's got perhaps the sexiest Jonathan Harker ever put to stage. I think you should all probably come.

We open this Friday, September 19th and run through October 18th. (And to get it out of the way now, yes, that means we're not running through Halloween. I am aware.) We run Thursdays through Saturdays at 8 and Sundays at 7 at The Building Stage. Details and further linkage are available under the 'What Next?' section to your right. Tickets are $20, but if you're planning on coming, let me know at least a few days in advance and I can get you 10% off. I'm a nice guy like that.

Awesome. I'll see you there.

P.Rekk
2008

3 comments:

Ed said...

Isn't it amazing how brevity can be the saving grace of a terrible show? The two worst things I've seen so far this year (directed by the same guy, incidentally, though I'll not name names) were both alike in badness, but I consider one 'better' than the other because it, too, was only 45 minutes long.

Threepenny Opera, huh? Look for the 'Ed was here' scrawled on one of the tables....seriously though, I'd tell you to keep an eye out for Sara Sevigny, but I know you won't be able to keep your eyes off her anyway. Enjoy!

p.s.- I think "No Darkness Round My Stone" was cool too, but I have to admit the first time one of them exited by running into a wall and collapsing, it made me giggle. I think some of them were better at that than others.

Trevor said...

This wasn't really about art, was it? How easy for you to criticize the work of a company you abandoned. What poor taste. And such hypocrisy. If there's no bad blood, why bother writing a negative review at all, especially for a show that has received no press by a new theater company no one has heard of? How truly passive-aggressive. Tell me: how many shows have you written and produced in Chicago, Adam/Bries/Paul? I mean actually produced, not just talked about producing. Your stint with Per Diem was all talk, no action, just as your blog is. Your compatriots followed through and produced a show. You have not. Shame on you.

Paul Rekk said...

Hi, Trevor.

I had kinda hoped to avoid dragging unpublic issues into public, and still do, but I do have to say that I question your ability to speak as an authority on the internal affairs of an artistic ensemble in which you played no part.

If you'll take a quick look around, you'll see that I write at least a small entry on every show I see. I don't give free passes to shows I dislike or shows with friends involved, because one can often mine the best discussions from the former and the latter is the sole reason for the self-inflating two-faced post-show lobby discussion that I despise so much and hope to cut through. I certainly don't give free passes to shows by new companies, shows receiving no press, and shows that no one is aware of -- on the contrary, in that situation, I would find not wanting to be written about a little counterproductive.

The act of producing a show inspires no awe in me, Trevor. Anyone in this town could and does produce a show with a little bit of cash and/or a couple connections. Producing falls under the same rules as acting, writing, directing, designing, or any other aspect of the theatrical process: if you are going to do it, you damn well better do it well. There's no pat on the back just for trying.

"This wasn't really about art, was it?"

That seems to be the problem. For me it almost always is about art, and it sometimes seems to be harder than I feel it should to find 'artists' of the same mindset. Otherwise this could have been a discussion on the merits/demerits of This American Wife and its goals rather than an exercise in unfounded accusations and comparing resumes.