Anyone who knows me, knows that I love shows and movies that are some how connected or rooted in historical fact. So imagine my delight in getting to see our current production of A Picasso by Jeffrey Hatcher this past weekend in Chicago Street Theatre's New Edith B. Wood Studio Theatre. The one act featuring the venerable Larry Hinken and talented Maggie Reister-Walters is the inagural production to take place in the intimate studio space. It is also the first, of what CST hopes will be many opportunities to co-produce with other theatre groups throughout the Region.
A Picasso was proposed by the Genesius Guild President, Ed Griffith, who had the work brought to his attention by his long time colleague Deb Johansen. The two wanted to produce the play but felt the intensity of the piece and smaller cast wasn't a good fit for their space in Hammond. CST's Jim Henry brought the show to our Artistic Committee as they were looking at shows for the 58th season. After reading Hatcher's script based on real life events during Nazi occuppied areas of France and destruction of "indecent" art during World War II, the Committee decided it would be the perfect work to open the studio space.
In 2010, Chicago Street volunteers renovated the upstairs rehearsal studio to create a better space for classes, showcases, auditions, and rehearsals with the intent of one day using it as a performance space. The space is equipped for sound and lights with a small black-box stage at the end of the room. At the time the space was renovated, it was also set up with a rubberized flooring to minimize the noise between the studio and the mainstage area.
For me, the space is reminiscent of the Alley Studio that CTG occupied from 1996 to 1998 while making the transition from the Memorial Opera House to our current Chicago Street home. When we were at the alley, we produced a number of initimate small cast shows like Love Letters, Orphans, and Eleemosynary, as well as brought other area theatre groups in to do small venue theatre that wouldn't fill the seats of their mainstage houses.
As an actor, I loved the Alley Studio because the stage was so close to the audience that every detail of your performance mattered. It also taught me to focus and "stay in the moment" of the play. Admittedly, I was somewhat jealous watching what Larry and Maggie were getting to do as I saw the play on Saturday night. The minimalized set in the black box space made the focus about two actors just being and inhabiting their characters.
I think Edie would approve of our new space. The new 40 seat venue, named for CST's long time matriarch (read more about Edie Wood here), is perfect for projects like A Picasso. The proximity of the stage to the audience makes you feel as though you are part of the drama, humor, and intensity of Jeffrey Hatcher's play. People should take advantage of wonderful theatre tour de force which has its remaining performances on May 16, 17 and 18 at 8 PM. Tickets are only $10. It's exciting that CST has the environment to co-create this kind of experience.
-Posted by CST member Eric Brant