Inaugural Studio Show is a Treat

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

A Look Back: Edith B. Wood

The production A Picasso, which opened May 10, 2013, is being presented as a collaborative effort with the Genesius Guild – responsible for the artistic side (directors, actors, set, tech) – and CTG - providing the venue and ‘front end’ needs (facility, tickets, refreshments, house manager).  For the first time a fully staged play is being presented in the Edith B. Wood Studio.  This space was used as a Fellowship Hall by the Assembly of God Church. CTG’s first use was as meeting and rehearsal area,  furniture storage, and a place to take portraits for programs and our 50th celebration. Eventually it became the domain of our education department.

This large room was called simply the Rehearsal Hall until 2009 when our last remaining charter member, Edith Wood, passed away.  She was one of the committee of 3 who were sent to inspect the Memorial Opera House in 1955 to determine if the new theatre company could work there.  When asked about the experience she said, “You had to watch your step, and you were afraid to put your full weight down anywhere (on the stage).  One whole corner of the floor was missing, damaged scenery was stacked everywhere, And you were wary of the crooked battens hanging on unsafe-looking ropes above your head.”   

A graduate of Northwestern University School of Drama where she had studied and taught technical theatre, her first responsibilities in the newly-formed company were lighting and sets.  The lighting consisted of 3 huge dimmers.  One was either on full or off, the second worked as it should, and the third didn’t work at all.  The picture below shows Edith at the dimmers, and her husband Fred at the ropes.  Flats had to be cut down to size and re-covered for the set.

Her first role was Emeline Randall in Southern Exposure, CTG’s 4th production.  She was on the Board of Trustees for 20 of the first 27 seasons, and served as it’s chairman twice.  At the same time she continued to design lights and sets, do make-up, make costumes, act, and direct.  One of her most inventive costuming jobs was for CTG’s first musical, Once Upon a Mattress (2/64).  “Actors wore draperies and shower curtains, sported bleach bottles as crowns, and balanced headdresses made from bent coat hangers.”  

In 1986 one of our Board members, Steve Holm, suggested it was time to create an award to honor ‘one of us’ for unselfish service to CTG “beyond the call of duty”.  The first recipients of the Community Theatre Guild Board of Trustees Achievement Award were Edith and Fred Wood.

Fred was drafted – as were other husbands – to perform in Stalag 17 (9/57), which needed a large cast of men. For Little Mary Sunshine (11/64), he was the only one tall enough to wear Chief Brown Bear’s headdress.  He repeated that role in 1982, and performed in a few other productions, as well as helping on various crews. 

However, his greatest contribution to CTG was the slide library he began with the 3rd production, The Heiress (3/56).  Dress rehearsal for each production found him seated in the front row with his camera.  It wasn’t until the mid to late 80’s that he had to stop for health reasons, and we lost him to cancer in 1990.  Fred’s faithfulness is the main reason we have so many pictures of our early history.

Edith continued to support CTG financially as well as actively.  If someone needed information about a period costume, “Call Edie!”  If they needed help with a special set design – “Call Edie!”  

L-R: Life with Father (1971-Costumes), Eddie (1981), Light up the Sky (1971-Set design)

In 1991 she helped finance our trip to Scotland creating a special costume so she could go with us, and gave moral support as she watched “her kids” perform in international competition….and win!  

When we held our Encores fund raisers, she always attended, cheering us on when we bought Chicago Street Theatre. In 2007 CTG became more serious about classes and hired our first Director of Education.  The ‘rehearsal hall’ became CTG’s classroom.  When Edith passed away in 2010, her children, Cathy and Chris Wood, donated $20,000 in her name to remodel that area ... hence the name Edith B. Wood Studio. Besides classes, we have held staged readings, readings of new plays, and One Night Jam concerts in that room. 

L-R: Stage area, Office/props/kitchenette (March 2010)

There are still a number for things to improve in order to bring the stage area up to par.  We hope the students will be able to use sound and lighting for their showcases as they learn on their own technical equipment.  Edith would approve.  CTG is honored to present this collaborative production of A Picasso as the first fully-staged play in Edie’s space!  

Photo for CTG's 50th Anniversary Season

-Posted by CST Historian Marcia Burbage

This Play is Not the Truth

Director Ed Griffith shares his thoughts on tonight's opening of A Picasso in the Edith B. Wood Studio Theatre.

We all know that Art is NOT truth

Art is a lie that makes us realize the truth

- Pablo Picasso

This play is not the truth. It is rooted in history, biographical facts, and quotations by its famous subject. But as far as anyone knows, this encounter never actually occurred. That the author weaves so many themes about art, war, guilt, betrayal, responsibility and love in a single room with 2 actors and only 80 minutes is a miracle of economy. When my partner-in-crime, Deb, brought this play to my attention, I immediately wanted to direct it. But I also knew it wasnít exactly appropriate for the Genesius Guild space. So when the opportunity arose to open a new studio theatre at Chicago Street, there was never a second choice in my mind. This was the perfect space for this play.

I hope audiences enjoy the twists and turns that this roller-coaster of a play takes us on. This play should make you think, discuss ideas, and be shocked. But most of all, audiences will be entertained. So I hope you will join us in the new Wood Studio Theatre and enjoy the ride that is A Picasso.

A Picasso Takes the Wood Studio Stage

After rehearsing off-site at the Genesius Guild for several weeks, last night the actors of A Picasso took the stage in the upstairs Edith B. Wood Studio Theatre for the first time. As I heard the words spoken, I was reminded why the Artistic Committee was so thrilled to present this intriguing 75-minute one-act.  While doing some reasearch on the play, I found a nice overview by blogger Cristofer Gross: 

"Playwright Jeffrey Hatcher takes us to conflicted Vichy France, where a society renowned for fostering artistic freedom was suddenly under the boot of a paranoid culture at its most oppressive. From 1940 until 1944, France was divided into an area occupied by Nazi Germany and one administered by the hastily devised Vichy-based French government, which collaborated with the Germans.

Paris, in the occupied section, is the setting for this fictional face-off between Pablo Picasso and a less-than-committed German official named Ms. Fischer. Through these two, Hatcher provides sketches of censorship at its most insane and unjust, and a creative genius at his most embattled. In its mad rush to brainwash people into agreement, the Nazi propaganda machine not only generated sanctioned “art” that promoted its narrow racial profile, it also set about discrediting and destroying degenerative art--Entartete Kunst as they called it. Cowed and genocidal as they became, many Germans were nevertheless highly educated and culturally advanced. Deep within the officious, dispassionate Ms. Fischer, a light still flickers with appreciation for the creative breakthroughs and historic achievements that had emerged in this city before Hitler’s rise."

Actor Larry Hinken portrays the masterful painter Pablo Picasso and actress Maggie Reister-Walters brings Ms. Fisher to life under the veteran direction of Ed Griffith. Rehearsal last night looked like a typical Monday of tech week with actors and technicians adjusting to the space. 

As Picasso and Fischer, the actors confront questions of who ultimately owns art and the multiple uses to which it can be put. What is most fascinating to watch is not the political dynamics of these two characters, but the examination of the power and meaning of art. 

I'll be taking another peak at rehearsal tonight... can't wait!

[Above Image: Guernica painted by Pablo Picasso, 1937. Oil on canvas. 349x776cm. The painting was commissioned by the Spanish government to hang in the Spanish Pavilion at the World Fair in Paris, 1937. Guernica is Picasso's answer to the attrocities that were inflicted upon Guernica. It is a powerful work done a grand scale to highlite the futility of war and the suffering that it causes for all.]

posted by Artistic Chair Traci Brant

Cast Lists Announced

Chicago Street Theatre held its Spring/Summer 2013 open auditions last weekend.  We were thrilled by the incredible number of talented actors/actresses who came out to read. As is often the case, we had more talented artists than we had roles to fill. Thank you so much for making the audition a huge sucess.  We are pleased to announce the cast lists for the remaining productions in our 2012/13 season.

The Graduate

Dean Perrine as Benjamin Braddock

Glenn Silver as Mr. Braddock

Danielle Karczewski as Mrs. Braddock

Chuck Gessert as Mr. Robinson

Barbara Malangoni as Mrs. Robinson

Megan Lothamer as Elaine Robinson

Lynette Kucharski as the Stripper

Kimberly Meyne as the Waitress

Jeff Schultz as the Hotel clerk and the Priest

Jim Drader as the Psychiatrist

Patricia Schulz as the Receptionist 

Ensemble: Rodney Thornton, Mary Jo Nuland, Kirby Thomas

A Picasso

Maggie Reister-Walters as Miss Fischer

Larry Hinken as Pablo Picasso

A View from the Bridge

John Larrabee as Eddie Carbone, a longshorman

Heather Chaddock as Catherine, the niece of Eddie and Beatrice

Dona Henry as Beatrice, wife of Eddie and aunt of Catherine

Timothy Gleason as Marco, cousin of Beatrice

Josh Eggleston as Rodolpho, Beatrice's cousin from Italy

Jim Henry as Alfieri, an Italian-American lawyer

T.J. Aubuchon as Mike, a longshoreman and friend of Eddie's, and 2nd Immigration Officer

Rodney Thornton as Louis, a longshoreman and friend of Eddie's

Jim Drader as Tony, a friend of the Carbones, and 1st Immigration Officer 

Mark McColley as Mr. Lipari, a butcher who lives upstairs from the Carbone's

Patricia Schulz as Mrs. Lipari, the upstairs neighbor of the Carbone's

The Comedy of Errors

Eric Brant as Actor 1: The Twin Brothers, Antipholos of Syracuse & Antipholus of Ephesus

Braden Cleary as Actor 2: The Twin Servants, Dromio of Syracuse & Dromio of Ephesus

Patricia Bird as Actor 3: Adriana, Antipholos of Ephesus' Wife, the Boatswain, and an Angry Merchantess.

Peyton Daily as Actor 4: Luciana, (Adriana's Sister), Luce, (the kitchen wench who is married to Dromio of Ephesus), the Towncrier and The Executioner.

Grant Fitch as Actor 5: roles TBA

Mark Baer as Actor 6: roles TBA

Dan Matern as Actor 7: roles TBA

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