Last week was a very exciting week at Chicago Street as we prepare for our massive event of the Summer: Shakespeare in the Park. As many of you know, Matt Pera, Mary d'Aloisio, the cast of Comedy of Errors and I have been cooking up some crazy ideas to promote the show and the festival we're hosting on July 12 and 13.
Some of the event's greatest supporters have been John Seibert and Dan McGuire of the Valparaiso Parks and Recreation Department and our own mayor, Jon Costas. One of the videos we wanted to make to highlight the feel of the Sean Graney adaptation we're using and the CST's Dining Partners who will be staffing the food tent at the park's performances was to create a parody of the opening credits to Saturday Night Live.
Of course to take the parody to its completion we needed to have a "Special Musical Guest" and a "Guest Host". To fulfill that concept I contacted John and Dan about coming in to have photos taken for the "Musical Guest' title card.
The two from Valpo's Parks and Recreation were totally up for doing the different poses that our talented photographer Mary d. had them do. She posed them in heavy metal, indie band and rappers poses to give us a variety of shots to pick from. This was a completely awesome photo shoot we did at Chicago Street where the recently cleaned out "Shoe Room" is doubling as our photo studio. There was a lot of laughter and joking as well as full-on embarrassment! John said several times that he thought that I was completely "nuts" with the projects we were working on, but both guys were truly great sports about anything we wanted them to do. They also chatted with great excitement about the vision they have for Central Park Plaza's additional area ( site of the former Welfare building) which will be started in January of next year.
For the "Special Guest Host" I really wanted to try to book Jon Costas the Mayor of Valparaiso. This proved to be a little more difficult of a task because of his busy schedule. My solution was to speak to his awesome Executive Assistant and Gatekeeper, Lori Good. Lori was hugely receptive to the ideas that I pitched for what I wanted the Mayor to do. She talked them over with his honor and he really wanted to make it happen. Jon had made a guest appearance in a production of It's a Wonderful Life a few years back with us and I think he may have been itching to "walk the boards" again.
Lori and I set things up for the morning of the 28th and the plan was to have Mary d. take his title card photo as she had done with the Parks & Rec Guys. However, on Monday Lori called to say that the Mayor's schedule had filled up on that Friday. She wondered if we could make things happen sooner on Wednesday afternoon. I went into scramble mode and contacted Matt and Mary d. to start setting things up. We also needed to contact our friends at Martinis to make sure that we could use their stage for the Mayor's opening monologue.
As luck would have it I was also able to get a few members together to act as groundlings for the monologue that would have definate Shakespearean overtones. Mary Bird, Jeff Zimmerman, Kelly Hite and Steve from Martinis made up my cast of hecklers for the Mayor's bit. I wrote the script and sent it to Lori for Jon to look over before hand.
At 1:30 PM the Mayor arrived at Chicago Street to take his title card photo with Mary. He seemed excited but fairly casual. Lori had made it sound like we needed to hurry things along, but Jon said to use as much time as we needed "to get everything as good as you can make it."
After Mary got her shots of the Mayor done he came downstairs as I was finishing the cue cards he would be using for the monologue. He said, "I just want you to know how much I appreciate your talents and all you guys do for our community," before we left to film at Martinis.
He looked over his cue cards and talked over how everything was going to work for the video taping as Matt and Steve got things set up. We ran through the script on the stage as bar patron's watched and added to our audience noise. After three rehearsals we taped his monologue twice with the interruptions from our crew of groundlings. Matt said that he felt really good about what he got on tape. The cast all shook Jon's hand and weposed with him so that Mary d. could capture the moment on film. Mayor Costas would return to Martinis later that night to do a guest jam for a Dollars for DAWGS fund raising event with Chad Clifford and Mike Moore.
Overall it was an awesome Wednesday. I feel very fortunate that we have the support of our Parks Department and our mayor for Shakespeare in the Park. Everyone spoke of how excited they were that Chicago Street made the event happen last year and shared hopes that this year's turnout will be even bigger.
At the present moment, I'm once again, speaking with Lori Good to see about the Mayor introducing the show this year. Hopefully we'll see him and all of you on July 12 & 13 for The Comedy of Errors!
-Eric Brant, CST Director of Marketing