Monday, October 12, 2009

My Post On The Summit I Have No Firsthand Knowledge Of, As Inspired By An Evening With The Chicago Underground.

Let's get the gushing out of the way first -- I know I'm not ahead of the curve on this one, but Mickle Maher is a prince among playwrights. Tracy Letts and Keith Huff can enjoy their success, god love 'em, but Maher... Maher's got a good run on the Chicago playwright crown. There's something uberhuman about the way the man can take the broadest of abstract concepts and completely bend it to his whim, like a ventriloquist and his dummy. In An Apology For The Course & Outcome Of Certain Events Delivered By Doctor John Faustus On This His Final Evening currently in remount by Theater Oobleck, the dummy concept is Meaning. And Meaning didn't stand a chance, didn't even know to put up a fight. Maher's Faustus whims on the glories of meaninglessness, of the world of pre-meaning; brings everyday nonsense taken for granted in contemporary society into light, then brisk-handedly slides it under the table; dwarfs the entire concept in the human scale beside that of the unknowable, the unimaginable, the silent actor right in front of our eyes; and metatheatrically disallows us any solution to the universal equation. That's just the basics. And all of this happens in round about an hour or so. Not once do we see Maher's lips moving. The man is a master, and you must see this show.

Straight after I shot up Milwaukee and landed myself at the Rough House's Great Trash Spectacle Of Aught Nine. This is the launchpad for my summit talk, but first a summation. Whereas Oobleck is the old guard of Chicago Underground Theatre, the Rough House is helping to usher in the new. The evening consisted of five pieces, ranging from two to fifteen minutes and from read poetry to dell'Arte, all built around trash. Trash found by the performers that served as a kickstart for their creative juices. The show was preceded by, followed by, and included two ten minute intermissions of party. A five dollar donation at the door got you into the show as well as plenty of booze. And it was a smash. The whole performance aspect lasted about the same as John Faustus and, at times, reached the same levels of untouched brilliance, from Jason Economus' equally meta one-man life breakdown to the entire crowd cheering in unison as a ballerina princess beats down her beercan + milk jug prince after he (cardboard) dicks her over when she saves him from a dragon. It was as wacky as it sounds and every bit as winning.

Now, Summit attendees, interested Summit nonattendees, and especially Summit organizers, here is my number one question for you. Was the Rough House asked to take part in the Summit? Please, correct me if I'm wrong, but I'm guessing not. And I'm guessing the reason is that no one was aware of the Rough House. And my real question, which that was all a set up for, is this: Why was no one aware of the Rough House? They had a jam-packed house full of art lovers and paying guests that night, so some people are obviously familiar. Why was no one aware of the Rough House? That one is an open question.

Of course, the Rough House in particular is not my point here, they are serving as the handiest example. But when you talk about unifying the theatre community and getting better communication and group action amongst storefronts, you fail to consider the idea of Chicago Storefront as a community with as wide a spectrum as the entirety of Chicago Theatre. Everyone loves to play the underdog, but your better bet is to acknowledge those operating even closer to the core than you. When you talk Storefront, you're talking independent art. So think like independent art. Keep the current guest list, sure, but add to it the Rough House, add to it Cupola Bobber, and, at the risk of vanity, add to it myself, not as a representative of Signal, not as a representative of WNEP, not as a blogger, but solely and specifically to speak from the perspective of The Nine. And add to it the dozens of people that I'm sure others can provide that I'm not yet aware of, either. And add these people not because they are fellow Chicago theatre artists who were overlooked last time, but because they are an integral part, a part that probably have better ideas than most. Because, while you are brainstorming on the best way to achieve your goals within the current system, they're already achieving theirs in whatever system they damn well please. (And they are achieving -- from what I've seen, Cupola Bobber and the Rough House are able to pull in a crowd just as well as most storefronts and, what's more, a more enthusiastic crowd than almost all storefronts.) Because, while you continue hoping that one day the city will kowtow and create spaces dedicated to theatre, they're finding and creating their own affordable space, zoning and licenses be damned. (You want to turn this into an issue the city cares about? Work on getting the the entirety of Chicago Storefront as a unified front creating theatre everywhere EXCEPT where the city wants it, rather than continually heading back to your PPAs with your tails between your legs.) Because, for god's sake, if you are going to invite a representative from the League, not only do you need people who are willing to question the League, you need people who couldn't give two shits about the existence of the League. Because whether you invite them or not, whether you inform them of your Code of Fucking Ethics or not, whether you know they exist or not, they're gonna keep doing what they're doing. And what they are doing is exactly what you all want to be doing -- it's just that most of you want it on a larger scale. So ask them to come to the table and share their insight. And then don't be surprised if they choose not to participate; don't take it as a rude gesture, don't take it as a dismissive gesture, and don't take it as a lack of opinion. Give it as much weight as you would have given anything they would have said had they come. If they're uninterested, maybe it's because you're forcing yourself to sift through a haystack of nonessential to find that needle of worthwhile.

You're all being very nice and studied about this. Which is great, if you want some good hypotheticals. To get shit done, you're gonna want the input of those who just go ahead and do, as well. And you're gonna wanna listen to it.


Sunday, October 4, 2009


It's the fish. The show's about the fish. Those fish in the tank in the middle of the room during all of boom? They, not Jules and Jo, are who survive the end of the world as we know it and evolve into the next evolution of the world.

That was a huge spoiler. When/if you head up to Next to see the show, it will have, in effect, been 'ruined' for you. Normally I would consider apologizing, but believe me, you're better off that way. The show, about two loners in their own way stuck together after an extinction level event, nibbles on the idea of both the futility and the struggle of making a true connection with other humans and the wonders of the simplicity that actually becomes that intimacy. And the show is ultimately a very conflicted (in a promising way) tragicomedy -- a silly 21st century romp in which two virgins are left to people the new world but are too incompatible to do so, yet when they finally fall into each other and decide to brave this new world together, they die within minutes -- still virgins. But Peter Sinn Nachtrieb has decided to mask the tragi- part of the tragicomedy as a half-telegraphed bullshit surprise twist that takes all semblance of actual substance out by the knees and replaces it with "Did you see that coming?" frivolity.

So, for your sake: Jules and Jo die. They die virgins. They do not populate the planet. Barbara, our future meta-guide throughout this show is descended from the fish in the room, who do survive and evolve. This knowledge won't connect you any further to Barbara's story, which is given thousands of pounds more weight than it earns, but it will give you a much deeper frame of reference to Jules and Jo, who quite funnily bicker when they could be humanizing, and who quite sorrowfully find each other just in time to lose each other. A little gravitas and humanity for you amongst the Theatre of the Self-Aware tricks...


So, I meant to make this announcement much earlier, but it got in the way of itself, it turns out: I've put out the official call for subUrbia auditions. They are going to be taking place from 10am - 5pm on Sunday, October 25th and from 7pm - 10pm on Monday, October 26th. Now, I say this having more or less completed filled up those slots already. Response has been fantastic and I'm really excited to get in there and check out the massive amount of talent coming in. I have been able to schedule some overflow on Saturday the 24th, so if you are interested in auditioning, by all means, e-mail for more information and to request a slot on the 24th.

Now, for those of you reading this and not necessarily interested in auditioning, I'm going to request a favor: share your people resources with me. I'm building a great team for this, but there are a few holes that still need to be filled. If you know any actors or actresses in their 20s-30s who are Pakistani or could play Pakistani, please let me know. If you know any set designers who are interested in low-budget (low-, not no-) work that would likely require little building but an ability to work with creative lo-fi solutions, please let me know. If you know anyone who would be interested in coming onboard in a propmaster sort of role, helping procure a well-stocked collection of relatively typical items, plus a couple of guns, please let me know. If you or someone you know would be interested in helping out in any other way that you care to provide or feel might be of assistance, please let me know. Thank you and you rock.

Also, the official website for The Nine is en route -- we're hoping for the big debut in late October. In the meantime, check back here for updates!