The 3rd Annual Shakespeare in the Park

Thanks to everyone who made CST's third annual Shakespeare in the Park an incredible event! The financial support and services donated from our sponsors made the event possible from the start. A huge thanks to Urschel Laboratories, City of Valparaiso, Thrivent Financial, Computer Services, Inc., Regional Federal Credit Union, Thorgren Tool & Molding, Ideas in Motion, Centier Bank, Doelling Decorating Center, Family Express, J & J’s Pizza, MacLennan and Bain Insurance, and Buoscio, Pera and Kramer Attorneys at Law. 

The dining tent is a major feature of the event and we're so lucky to have such incredible restaurants participating.  Thank you to don Quojote, Pikk's, Martinis, Bon Femme, and Valpo Vienna.  Also, thanks to Valpo Velvet and Kernels and Kones for provided the sweet treats.  

The Valparaiso High School Drama Club staffed the face-painting booth this year. They did a terrific job entertaining the kids!  A big thanks to them.

The Valparaiso Department of Parks and Recreation was the first organization to believe in this project when it began three season ago. We are deeply grateful for their help and support of Shakespeare in the Park.  

The cast and designers of Shakespeare in the Park must endure a process unlike any of our other shows. The hours are long, the audiences are massive, and the pressure to perform is like no other production. We thank them for sharing their incredible talent with CST and the community. 

Last, but certainly not least, is the crew of volunteers that sets up the event and the stage. They are truly amazing. They perform the sweaty, back-breaking work that makes the whole thing possible.  We are beyond grateful for their help.  And, a special shout-out to those that both perform and build/strike the set... their stamina and committment was awe-inpiring at around midnight on Saturday as they rebuilt the set back at CST after a very long tech week and two park performances. 

Our community, partners, sponsors, audience, and volunteers are hardcore awesome. Many, many thanks to all!

 

Director's Notes: R&J First Blocking Rehearsal

Monday night was something big as we began the process of blocking this year's Shakespeare in Central Park Plaza's production of Romeo and Juliet. Present at this blocking rehearsal were: myself, Assistant Director, Mary Bird, our rehearsal assistant Alyssa Rosselli, and actors Dan Matern (Friar Lawrence), Kat Lutze (Juliet) and Tom O'Neill (Romeo). 
During the process of directing a show I think it's important to take time to reflect on what parts of the production are going on and a blogging about it is a nice way to let others know about the creative process. Hopefully Mary and I will be able to do spots about Romeo and Juliet as we work toward our July 11 opening.
For those who aren't familiar with the term "blocking", it's when directors and actors work out where and how the actors will move  when they are delivering lines. We create a make shift set mostly comprised of tape marks on the stage floor and benches or chairs. We follow a map called a ground plan from the set designer that informs the actors where doorways or walls or items to sit on or stand on will be. 
This will be the fourth set that I have designed tis season and it will be very different from the last production Rabbit Hole. Because the set has to be multiple locations throughout the play blocking and lighting will determine when the location is different than the last scene. Since I'm also the set designer for the production, we have an even clearer understanding of how the stage will be used for the production.
Mary and I generally have an idea of what areas of the stage will be used for what. To start, we decided that the Stage Right areas of the stage will primarily be used as the Capulet's zone. Center Stage will be used as more of a community area like the city of Verona and Stage Left will be used more by the Friars and the Montagues. Having established these three areas as a starting rule will help establish it in the minds of the audience. When directing Shakespeare, we try to make each play as accessible as we can for the people coming to experience it.
With script in hand we tell the actors what area of the stage they'll be using and what doors they'll be using to get in or out of the scene with. Because we are doing our park performances without intermission, we have had to cut our production to 100 minutes running time. With this in mind we are collaborating on edits with the cast and rather than starting at the beginning at the beginning of the show, we are working only scenes where our three actors appear. In fact for this initial blocking rehearsal, we're actually starting at Juliet's last scene in the play.
I very rarely ever pre-block a show because I want the actors to bring their creative talents to the process. Theatre is a collaborative art form. By letting actors understand their whereabouts, they can create their motivations for the movements and bits of business we arrive at. Too many times I've seen shows that seem as though they've been pre-blocked so rigidly that it looks like the only reason an actor got up and moved was because he was told to. By letting actors work smaller portions of scenes it gives us the opportunity to try different things until we see what works best.
As we work toward making the play accessible, it is important that the dialogue be as conversational possible and that the movements of the characters come out of that organically. Each night we will be focusing on about six small scenes this week and working them several times so that the actors get comfortable with where they move. After we have blacked all the scenes in the show we will revisit these scenes again and then eventually put them all together in sequence like a movie. I think some directors work sequence too early instead of looking at the more difficult scenes that may need more work.
On Monday we tried to tackle some of the more emotionally charged scenes that we'll have to revisit to keep making better. So far Mary and I are very excited with what this cast is bringing to this material.
-Eric Brant, Member and Director

 

GET INTO THE ACT WITH SUMMER CAMPS AT CST!

Chicago Street Theatre's Education Program is about to celebrate its 20th year of providing the community with theatre arts classes for youth. This summer is no exception as we are offering a wide variety of Summer Camps and Workshops to help young people "Get into the Act" throughout the upcoming month's. Registration for classes can be done online or by contacting CST's Box Office at 219-464-1636 or in person weekdays 10 AM to 2 PM. 

 

This Summer Chicago Street Theatre offers a choice of eight unique and exciting summer camps for ages 5 to adult.  Camps begin in June, end in July, and range from one to six weeks.  Our popular Shakespeare Workshop for teens will focus on Romeo & Juliet and be presented at the end of July on CST's mainstage. Students will also participate in our Shakespeare at Central Park Plaza event, the weekend of July 11 & 12. Students ages 8 through 13 can also have fun while learning about the Bard with our brand new, Shakespeare In Shorts program.  This new Camp is held three mornings a week between 9 and 11 AM and culminates with two mainstage performances along side the teens. 

 

For those interested in what happens on the technical side of theatre, we offer Booth CampBe Backstage and our new, Costume Workshop.  All provide hands-on training and experience, and the ability to run a show on our state of the art lighting and sound computers.  Students enrolled in these programs will also take part in the mainstage productions done by both Summer Shakespeare camps.

 

Children ages 5 to 7  and 8 to 11 can begin their journey in theatre with two summer camps designed to foster their imaginations and understanding of theatre. Stage One, provides a safe and fun environment for getting introduced to being on stage with a week long day camp offered June 23-27 and July 14-18. For those just a bit older and maybe a little more experienced, Stage Two provides three weeks of exciting exploration in creative dramatics.  

 

Kids aren't the only ones who can get involved in theatre this summer. Adults interested in exploring theatre will greatly enjoy our four-week, Sacred Drama Workshop, which will explore works for the church and the stage based on religious themes. This summer's text will be the book of Ruth read during Shavuot during the Jewish calendar year and Advent in the Christian tradition. The workshop will explore techniques and exercises for dramatizing the scripture in a worship setting, as well as secular plays inspired by the story. 

 

Instructors facilitating the Summer Camps this year:

 

Lisa Formosa-Parmigiano, Director of Education & Instructor, received her M.F.A. from the Actors Studio Drama School in NYC. She has taught privately in Chicago and New York, along with international workshops in England and Venezuela. She currently teaches at Columbia College-Chicago. 

 

Kari-Anne Innes, PhD., Instructor, is a lecturer at Valparaiso University with a passion for directing young actors in adaptations of literature, espercially Shakespeare. She previously directed with the Young Actors Shakespeare Workshop at Valparaiso University for eleven years. She has written and performed the liturgical dramas The First Witnesses, co-written with Dr. John Steven Paul, and Widows, Brides, and Bridegrooms, as well as the solo performances Performing Lydias and An Evening with Pilate's Wi[ves].

 

Kat Lutze graduated from Augsburg College in Minneapolis with a degree in Theater Arts Administration. While at Augsburg she was the President of Music + Theater, a student run Musical Theater program for which she wrote, produced, and directed two collaborative musicals. At Chicago Street, Kat was the Assistant Director and Stage Manager for Comedy of Errors and Elizabeth in Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Past productions at CST have included roles in Julius Caesar, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, Alice in Wonderland, The Little Mermaid, Letters Home, and many others.

 

Parents can also get into the act with CST's new volunteer program Parents in the Wings to find out how they can support the arts and educational programming at Chicago Street Theatre. Registrations are open through July and the start of each camp, however enrollment is limited. Affordable payment plans are available. For detailed camp descriptions, dates, times and convenient on-line registration, click here.

 

Chicago Street's Educational Programming boasts an impressive Alumni of students who have gone on to work professionally in theatre, television and film. Among these students are: film and television actress, Carly Schroeder; lighting designer, Aaron Porter; Playwright/Activist Mark Blane; Singer/Songwriter, Sarah Dooley; and Playwright, Julia Weiss whose satirical comedy TAMMY: A Coming of Age Story About a Girl Who is Part T-Rex will be produced next February as part of CST's 60th Season.

ON THE SET FOR RABBIT HOLE

I have often said that the reasons I like doing theatre are because it allows me to be part of something bigger than myself and the extra bonus of getting to wear a lot of hats. One hat that I take an extreme amount of pride in is as a set designer.

For me scenic design is a technical area of theatre that is just as important as acting or directing. Like lighting and sound, the set to a play is like an additional character in the play. It suggests an environment that the other characters will inhabit and creates a tone for the work that the audience is about to see.  It also gives the audience their first impression of the characters that they will see on stage because Chicago Street Theatre is essentially a "Black Box" stage with no Act Curtain. The audience because of this, sees the set from the moment that they enter the auditorium.

As the designer for our current production of Rabbit Hole I wanted to design a location that looked like a contemporary suburban home in Upstate New York. We as the audience need to see a world where everything appears to be going right for the characters in the play. I designed the living room to be fresh and contemporary and wanted the kitchen to be an additional extension of the family's living space. The space had to suggest this is a new family that spends a lot of time in the open concept living room and kitchen. These are areas that they are comfortable in and where they gather quite frequently. We wanted the appliances and furnishings to be new and comfortable.

My plan all along was to use a couch and a chair from my own home for the living room. Both of these pieces are used a lot by my own kids. For the coffee table we used these beautiful footstool pieces loaned to us from our friends at Bargain Barn. Because Danny, the boy whose death is at the center of the play, would have been a toddler not that long ago, I chose to use footstools with soft corners rather than a traditional coffee table with hard edges. Being a parent myself, I know that when my first child was born how my wife and I got rid of quite a few hard edged furniture items when our daughter was learning to walk. As with directing, a set designer is at their best when they get inside the heads of all of the characters in the play.

In terms of thinking like the characters, we also wanted the appliances to be new in Becca and Howie's eat-in kitchen. The characters do quite a bit of eating in the show as many of our audience members have pointed out. We knew there had to be a sense of convenience to the kitchen and wanted stainless steel for the stove and the refrigerator maintain the modern sense of style. Fortunately we work with Matt McCann whose company Green Appliance refurbishes refrigerators, stoves, washers and dryers. As luck would have it Matt had just what we were looking for. The same was true for the cabinets because Jim Drader in addition to being the Chairman of CST's Board, is also the Director of New Creation Men's Center and Resale Shop. They had lots of kitchen counters to give our kitchen the look we were going for. We wanted both areas to reflect a warmth and love expressed by the members of this family.

To further add to the sense of style we were going for, Lighting Designer, Bob Cooley and I talked about the types of "practical lighting" that could be present in the space. Bob found some gorgeous lighting fixtures to use above the breakfast bar we had designed and some lovely paper lanterns for above the living room. Bob is brilliant to work with and totally nailed the modern look we were creating for the set. In addition to picking the perfect lighting fixtures, I suspect that Bob did the lights in groupings of three to represent Becca, Howie and Danny. The man's a genius! 

I generally don't like to design traditional "Box Sets" that are excessively realistic. "Box Sets" are usually created for shows that stay permanently in one location. Rabbit Hole does stay within Becca and Howie's home the whole time with the exception of the character, Jason's letter/monologue to the family. Although some designers may have approached the script with the idea of making things very real and literal, I tend to treat set design much in the way I create paintings or illustrations. If I wanted it to look super real I wouldn't draw it, I'd take a picture of it. Because it's a play, things can be more interpretive and symbolic allowing the "real" moments to be with what the actors are doing with their performances. 

While we wanted there to be a sense of realism with the two main areas of the house, we also wanted imply that something is missing. To convey this I wanted the set to be unfinished in the middle with the tangible walls vanishing. While it might seem like a little thing we wanted the absence of the wall in the center with just a free-floating window to represent a whole host of elements that are in the subtext of David Lindsay-Abaire's Pulitzer Prize-winning script. 

One aspect that we wanted to symbolize with the incomplete set was the idea that there is a lot of "unfinished business" within this family. Throughout the play the characters share feelings of being "incomplete" as they are learning to cope with the loss of Danny. Because each character is dealing with the loss in their own way, the space can also represent the "divides" they feel toward one another or the idea that each of them is a "work in progress" as they try to complete their home again. Another aspect that I wanted the incomplete area to represent was Howie's accusation that Becca is trying to erase the memory of Danny. Like a drawing the center of the home is missing or erased. 

Once again "Brilliant Bob" comes to the rescue of taking the idea further by using projections of a child's drawings on our cyclorama curtain in the unfinished area. We intentionally use the space to be the character who is at the center of what this play is about. By having the ability to light the "cyke" and project on it we were able to establish mood and create a presence for the Danny character who never appears in the show. Had we gone the literal route with a completed "box set" we probably wouldn't have been able to create this more imaginative environment with such symbolic depth.

One of the best things about being a set designer at Chicago Street Theatre is this level of collaboration that goes into the art we produce. Hats off too for the volunteers like Matt, Jim, Kat Lutze, Mike Porter and Mike Strayer who put their talents into getting the design from the page to the stage. Their efforts certainly gave this incredible show a set deserving of the cast's outstanding performances. If you haven't seen Rabbit Hole please check out this amazing show and our awesome set that will be at CST through June 7.

-Eric Brant, Member


Eric Brant has been a member of CST for 35 years and is currently our Director of Marketing. He creates the painted images for our plays each season and will be directing this year's Shakespeare in the Park production of Romeo and Juliet. He is an award-winning set designer who designed the sets for this season's presentations of: Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde; The Beauty Queen of Leenane; Rabbit Hole; and Romeo and Juliet.

 

Guest Review: "Truly remarkable"

 

Two days after seeing the performance of Rabbit Hole, I’m still thinking about it.  I did not expect to be so consumed by a play.  

It’s a testament to the talent of the five member cast and to director David Pera who assembled them. They have created a tightly knit family unit bound together by the same tragedy, each dealing with it as best he can. They are going through the motions of living their lives, but each simmers under the surface with unresolved grief.  That these five fine actors can relay the shattered emotions of each character is remarkable.

Mary DeBoer portrays a mother consumed by the overwhelming need to control everything she can while her life reels out of control.   Her performance is a strong contrast to Dean Perrine as the father who secretly controls his inner self, hiding his impotent rage.  Barbara Baker Malangoni, as the grandmother, is the rock for her daughter but is never given permission to grieve as she needs to.  Carly Smith, the aunt, and Jacob Barber, the teenage driver, personalize self-destruction, guilt, and a desperate need for forgiveness.  All characters represent different aspects of the grieving process, and none can either understand or help anyone else.

This performance is truly remarkable. The audience on opening night was mesmerized.  For anyone who has lived long enough to lose a family member, this play will hit home.  It’s personal.

-Jane Sanders, CST patron

BRAVE THE WINTER AND SUPPORT ART THAT FEEDS THE SOUL

Last weekend audiences (January 31 and February 1) were treated to the dark comedy The Beauty Queen of Leenane by Martin McDonagh and the compelling performances by the ensemble of Lisa Formosa-Parmigiano, Tim Gleason, Sheri Nash Braun and Tom O'Neill. The play, directed by my wife, Traci Brant, and Jonni Pera is nuanced and superbly acted. It crackles with hilarious and sometimes vicious bits of humor, while making the most of some deeply sad moments and shocking plot twists. As a play, The Beauty Queen is that breed of theatre that Chicago Street has earned a reputation for doing very well and not one audiences are likely to see anywhere else in Northwest Indiana.

 

It's pretty obvious, I can't say enough about how good our current production is. For years, as a director at Chicago Street Theatre, I tried to wrestle the show away from Traci and Jonni to no avail. They had, after all, directed The  Cripple of Inishmaan in 2004 and the critically acclaimed Pillowman in 2010. Both productions further fueled my love for McDonagh's writing. I love the edginess of his stories and his attention to human behavior in his dialogue. The playwright's movies, In Bruges and Seven Psychopaths, have jumped onto my list of favorites along with films by the Coen Brothers and Quentin Tarantino.

 

The first time I saw one of McDonagh's plays produced it was Beauty Queen at Chicago's famed Steppenwolf Theatre. Many of the things that I had read about McDonagh prior to that were hailing him as the "Irish Sam Shepard and David Mamet all rolled into one." Being a fan of both Mamet and Shepard, the play did not disappoint. It was engaging--especially in the most mundane little conversations between the well crafted characters in the show--and totally terrifying at it's violent climax. Beauty Queen was precisely the type of play I love to see--well-acted, perceptive, mysterious, and gutsy. 

 

When Jonni and Traci announced that they were not going to let me direct the show, I was completely okay with that. I knew that these kind of intense and provocative plays have become their forte. Among directors at CST, we some times even refer to the January/ February play as the "cutting edge slot" because it is when we as a company choose to produce something risky and contemporary like last season's American Rex or The Goat by Edward Albee in 2012 directed by Justin Treasure and Andy Urschel. This is the time of year where we challenge both our artists and our audiences by doing something on par with the "In-Your-Face" style of theatre one would have to go to Chicago to see at Steppenwolf, Shattered Globe, Strawdog, or the like.

 

My hope is that with the popularity of darker TV shows like Breaking BadMad MenHouse of Cards and others, there are audiences who want to see art that tackles difficult subjects with finesse and humor.  A production like Beauty Queen is the type of play I prefer to experience rather than the "name brand" staples that "community" theatres are known for producing. I believe a theatre must step out of its comfort zone every once in a while in order to progress to their full potential and attain the level of excellence that their audiences deserve.

 

The Beauty Queen of Leenane is the type of show audiences who love theatre deserve. While it is important to do work that fills the seats, it is also important to do and support art that feeds the soul. I love that Chicago Street is a company pushes itself by taking risks on shows like McDonagh's. With this type of fearless production being done, I truly hope that audiences will brave our Northwest Indiana winter fearlessly to see it. You'll be so glad you did.

 

-CST member Eric Brant

Beauty Queen Rehearsals

Posted by Director Traci Brant

Rehearsals are in full swing for The Beauty Queen of Leenane and this is the first time I’ve been inescapably  compelled to write about the process.  Although we met a couple of time before the holidays, the true work didn’t really begin until the first week of January.  We spent the first week rough blocking, and last week the actors dropped their books for the first time. Now is the time when co-director Jonni Pera and I really dig in and have some fun refining the scenes. 

We rehearsed on both Saturday and Sunday this past weekend as requested (really demanded) by our dedicated group of actors. Weekend rehearsals give us the time to experiment with blocking, line-delivery, intention, props, and everything in-between. Jonni and I have really come to enjoy this extra time spent outside our usual Monday-Thursday evening schedule.  
We made so many discoveries during rehearsal, and also an decent amount of progress on the set, but what really struck me was a revelation I had about the play—it’s quite a love story. Perhaps this is not a shock for some, but for me, the play as I read it was so much about the relationship between Mother (Mag) and Daughter (Maureen) that I had not realized the beauty of the *almost* relationship between Maureen and Pato. 
The longing and desperation that Maureen feels is made more apparent when the love story feels true and possible.  I got that feeling at rehearsal this weekend and it was incredible. Much of the credit goes to the talented and hard-working actors playing Maureen (Lisa Formosa-Parmigiano) and Pato (Tim Gleason).  While Tim and I have working together on two other McDonagh plays, this is the first time I’ve directed Lisa on stage. The two of them together up there, is pretty amazing.  
While Beauty Queen certainly does contain it’s fair share of hate, the gut-splitting humor and quiet love story that are nestled in the play have become the driving forces in this CST production.

Top 5 Reasons to Get a Flex Pass


5. You save $ when you buy in bulk--but unlike those Costco oranges, the Flex Pass doesn’t get moldy in a week.

4. Opening Night Galas allow you to sample some of the best restaurants in town while chatting it up with the actors. 

3. Watch shows from the comfort of OUR couch.

2. The FLEX Pass takes the drama out of ticket buying and puts it on stage where it belongs.

And the No. 1 reason...

Box Office Mike says, “Don’t miss this season! Call me--I’ll hook ya up.”

Seriously--why pay $72 to enjoy 4 plays, when you can buy a 4-Flex Pass for $60. PLUS, we waive the per ticket Service Fee when you buy a package. Click on a button below to order your Flex Pass and save! 



Or, give Box Office Mike a call at (219) 464-1636 ext. 1.

CST's FREE SEASON PREVIEW PARTY

On Saturday, September 14 slightly over a hundred CST Subscribers attended the Free Season Preview Party held at 7 PM. The evening's food was provided by Bon Femme, Custom Cookies 4 U, Restaurante Don Quijote, El Salto's, Martinis, Pikk's Tavern, South Bend Chocolate Company, and Tommy B's Steak, Seafood & Sushi.
 
This was the fifth year that Chicago Street has hosted this event to showcase the exciting line up of shows for the 2013/14 season and allow patrons to sample food experiences from a number of the Dining Partners who will be working with the theatre. The cash bar for the event was courtesy of Martinis and featured beer and wine.
 
Prior to the show, guests mingled with CST staff and volunteers. Some brave patrons took part in this year's "Find the Exclamation Mark" in the season paintings for a chance to win a CST insulated wine tote. As an incentive, for purchasing their season Flex Pass, subscribers were placed in a drawing one of two prizes. Season Subscriber Anne Sefcik won an original "Be There" cover painting by CST Illustrator Eric Brant and Alexandra Santos won a $50 gift card to Bed, Bath & Beyond.
 
Josette Lott became the first monthly winner of our "SHOW" Me the Money $5,000 Raffle. $50 winners for this year's biggest fund raising effort will be draw on the fifteenth of each month leading up to the Grand Prize Drawing for $5,000 during the CST Vegas Night being held on Saturday, February 22, 2015.
 
The audience was treated to excerpts of scenes from the 59th season featuring Tim Gleason, Mike Hite, KariAnne Innes, Kat Lutze and David Pera. The program was directed by CST's Education Director Lisa Formosa-Parmigiano with narration, once again, created by Nancy Haller and Karl Berner. Box Office Manager, Mike Hite took the stage for the first time in ten years to deliver one of the monologues from The Santaland Diaries.
 
Several of those attending the event purchased their season passes at the eventbased on the material they had seen in the excerpts. Overall it was an enjoyable evening that allowed CST to celebrate the coming season and the patrons who make it all possible.