Mr. Braddock Speaks Up

 

How have the first performances of the show gone?

I've been really pleased with the shows so far.

What has the response been from audiences? 

Considering the standing ovations for Dean and Megan, I'm reasonably certain at least a dozen people have liked the show :-) Actually the audience response has been very kind.

What drew you to The Graduate?

When I choose shows, I look for two things. One, will this be artistically interesting, and two will it be fun working with this particular group of people? It's a huge time investment, so both things are important to me. In the case of this show, I was drawn to working on such a classic, and I knew I'd like working with Mary and Marty. 

What is your experience with the material? Have you ever seen the play? The movie?

I knew the basic story from it being a common cultural reference as I grew up, but I've never seen the movie or a production of this play before. Once I was committed to the show, I decided to wait to see the movie until after the show ran so that I wouldn't subconsciously imitate others' ideas about how the characters should be.

What do you think makes this story such an American classic?

We live in a culture where each generation has the freedom and the burden of creating their own world view. This play portrays that. So it has classic themes of coming of age through rebellion against authority, sexual exploration, and then coming to some sort of mature resolution. And that's just one take. There's all kinds of material to explore around our conflicting attitudes towards sexual expression, and I think also towards materialism.

What are some elements to the CST production of The Graduate that you think add a different or fresh twist to a well-known story?

Well, I think Dean has a much more handsome nose than Dustin Hoffman. But don't tell Dusty that, he gets very insecure when I talk like that.

How have the cast and crew come together on this production?

From my perspective, the cast and crew were great to work with from word go. Dean, who plays Benjamin, is a generous actor who gives you a lot to work with and is willing to try different takes on the characters. Amy, "my onstage wife," has been awesome to work with, and the directors provided a supportive environment to develop the characters. I mention how great those because I work most closely with them, but this cast has been fantastic, both in terms of talent and ability, as well as just being great people to spend time with.

What is your favorite scene in the show? Favorite line?

Just for sheer fun: Ben's first date with Elaine in the strip club. His trying to sabotage the date gets me every time, and I never tire of Lady Ginger. Artistically for my character, my favorite moment is actually a very sad one. Ben returns from his "walkabout," and his father is so hopeful that Ben will return a fully grown man who appreciates the value of a hard day's work. When that's not what happens, Frank feels all of his dreams have come to an end, that he's a failure as a father, and that has irreversably gone off track. The moment is I think masked under the humor of what's going on at that time for the audience, but it resonates with me. I remember that moment as a father. Now, I see how my step-son was laying the groundwork to be his own person, and how he went on to make me unbelievably proud. But Frank doesn't see that yet. He just feels the death but without the resurrection yet. It's a poignant moment for me.

One character in The Graduate utters the famous line, "One word - plastics." If you could describe this play in one word, what would it be.

I'd start with the line where Ben says, "I'm through with all this ... I don't know what it is, but I'm sick of it. I want something else." I see the play as being that journey. So I'd sum it up with a word that's not in the play, "Quest."

What makes Chicago Street Theatre such a unique venue?

For me, it's the blend of the passion and zeal of volunteers, who do this just because they love to, combined with the very professional standards and practices of CST. I believe that's a recipe for compelling shows and excellence on the stage.

Meet Lady Ginger

How have the first performances of the show gone?  

They were fantastic!  The audiences were so receptive and so with us, and you could feel this amazing energy within the cast.  I couldn't have asked for a better opening weekend.

Is this your first experience performing at Chicago Street Theatre? 

It isn't, though it's the first time I've been back at CST in approximately 8-9 years.  It's been like coming home.

Talk a little bit about your background as a dancer.

It was a fluke, actually. I was acting in Chicago, but getting a little burned out.  I decided to take a "quick" break, and saw Burlesque classes being offered by my now instructor/director, Michelle L'amour.  I tried a class and got hooked....I've been doing it now for about 7 years. I'm also a burlesque instructor at Michelle's studio, Studio L'amour.  It's been one of the most fun, most challenging experiences of my life.

What has been the most enjoyable aspect of this production for you?

Being a part of a cast again.  I forgot how much fun, and how well, inspirational, it is to be a part of a group that are all working together on one production.  I'm inspired by how dedicated everyone is to this one purpose, to put on a hell of a show.

What has been the most challenging?

Truthfully, other than the commute, it's been a truly enjoyable experience. That's the only part that sometimes gets to me, but even that's worth it in the end.

What drew you to Chicago Street Theatre?

Initially, it was my friends Patty and Mary Bird....they initially got me involved there. What kept me coming back was the incredible quality of work put on there, and the truly dedicated artists who make CST what it is.

What drew you to The Graduate?  

I love period pieces, and I love plays, movies, etc., that are really challenging and a little shocking....this is a perfect piece for that....and the chance to come back playing a stripper didn't hurt ;)

What has the response to the show been from audiences so far?  

It's been incredibly positive...you never know with a period piece, and one known so well as a film, how they will respond.  But, they've been really supportive, really "with" us the whole way.

What do you think makes this story such an American classic?

It's a story that deals with universal themes: mistakes we make, personal growth, fighting for what's really important to you.....and you set it against a particularly sexy time period....it's a recipe for a classic.

What has the collaboration been like among your fellow cast members?

It's been amazing...everyone really supports everyone else.  Cast members have gotten together outside of scheduled rehearsals to work scenes, everyone is helping everyone with costuming, quick changes, etc.  I really believe everyone likes, and respects everyone else and will do whatever is necessary not only to improve their own performances, but to help their fellow cast members to be his/her very best.

What is your favorite scene in the show? Favorite line?

While I'm obviously partial to the Strip Club scene ;), my favorite scenes are actually: the Taft Hotel check-in scene (for the comic relief it provides), the Vestry scene (for its intensity), and the final scene with Elaine and Benjamin...it's a perfect ending.  My favorite line actually is Benjamin's "You're missing a great effect here"....for obvious reasons. :)

One character in The Graduate utters the famous line, "One word - plastics." If you could describe this play in one word, what would it be?

Universal.

The Graduate Opening Festivities

Last Friday, The Graduate opened to a packed house! After more than 6 weeks of rehearsal, it is always such a cathartic moment to finally share the production with audiences. As patrons entered the lobby, they were greeted by a 60's soundtrack put together by director Mary Bird.  She wanted the audience to be brought immediately into Charles Webb's iconic 1960's world. Other period touches included gorgeous costumes in a monochromatic palette complete with stylish hair and makeup.  The set also added to the atmosphere with its clean lines, horizontal shafts of light, and transformative properties. To the delight of the audience, the actors brought the biting comedy and rich characters to life on stage. 

After the show, patrons headed to the after-party hosted by downtown Valpo's Bon Femme Cafe. They could be overheard chatting about the "technical marvel of the glowing bed," the "best soundtrack of the season," and "terrific acting by everyone." Bon Femme's Keith Gurley provided an incredible celebration for the patrons, cast and crew. There were delicious shared plates of spring rolls, stuffed mushrooms, tortellini, and more.  The guests also had a large selection of wine, beer, and spirits from which to choose.  

A wonderful evening was had by all! We look forward to the next two weekends of The Graduate.  

-Posted by Artistic Chair Traci Brant

In Conversation with Mrs. Robinson

What drew you to The Graduate?
The role of Mrs. Robinson. I loved the movie, and she is an icon. The first cougar. An archetype.

Barbara Malangoni with co-star Dean Perrine at the Bon Femme for the Opening Night celebration.What is your experience with the material? Have you ever seen the play? The movie?
I had never read the play. I had seen the movie--a couple of times. I loved it.

What do you think makes this story such an American classic?
First of all--it is edgy. It explores all kinds of things that were hovering around the periphery of discussion in the 1960s: sex, the youth movement, the breaking with conformity, post adolescent angst. These are all things that the previous generation did not have time to do...because they were too busy trying to survive and make a living/life. The character Mrs. Robinson is very well known in both theatre and film - does that affect your approach to the role at all? Yes and no. I loved Ann Bancroft in the movie, but I think the script for the play lends itself to a whole character, while the movie--though it tried not to in a couple of scenes--made Mrs. R. two dimensional at best. Mrs. R. is a real person. She is just trying to survive.

What are some elements to the CST production of The Graduate that you think add a different or fresh twist to a well-known story?
Well, Mrs. R., for example, has redemptive qualities, and we get to see what transpires between Elaine and Benjamin after the wedding. They are not just on a bus with stunned looks on their faces.

What are your thoughts on the cast and crew?
This cast and crew are second to none. I love them all. They all worked very hard to make this show a success. I couldn't be happier with all of them.

What can audiences expect from this production?
Everything they got from the movie x 10

What makes Chicago Street Theatre such a unique venue?
It is intimate, edgy, and dedicated to making Live Art. All who see this show will come away happier for it.

15 years on Chicago Street. Production No. 289

Posted by CST historian Marcia Burbage

A LOOK BACK….

The Graduate , opening April 12, 2013, will be the 289th major production presented by the Community Theatre Guild.  Just 15 years ago, on April 1, 1998, CTG came into possession of the Assembly of God Church.  The first play produced in the newly named Chicago Street Theatre was Greater Tuna on April 12, 1998…major production number 192.

Of course, besides these 97 major plays, there have been many other productions presented in these 15 years – 14 Popcorn Festival children’s shows;  20 some other productions for children and young people;  around 10 guest presentations (Valpo Reads a Book, African-American Weekend, St. Paul Catholic School);  some 20 One-Night Jams (guest musicians who concerts). . . .

All in all Chicago Street theatre has been a very busy place, and it doesn’t look like events will slow down any time soon!

The building was transformed from a church into a theatre over a short time – about 7 months – but other improvements followed intermittently.  

Tune in for more historical musings in the coming weeks.

Re-imagining a Classic

Barbara Malangoni (Mrs. Robinson) and Dean Perrine (Benjamin)Posted by Director Mary A. Bird

Not many stories define an era as well as The Graduate. The film was released in 1967 to critical acclaim and has been a touchstone of pop culture ever since.  The Graduate received new life in 2000 when it was adapted for the stage by Terry Johnson, and I was thrilled when the CST's Artistic Committee approached me to direct it.

The Graduate tells the story of Benjamin Braddock, a recent college graduate who returns home with new clear idea of what to do with his life. He becomes involved with the wife of his father’s business partner, the iconic Mrs. Robinson character, but soon finds himself falling for her daughter. 

I wanted to re-look at a classic... breath new life into it. I'm confident that our production of the show will offer a fresh take on the material. We want it to be a unique experience for both audience members who are familiar with the story, and those who are seeing it for the first time. There are new scenes that have nothing to do with the movie and there are different nuances. 

As we embark upon tech week, I am thrilled with the incredible work this cast and crew have accomplished so far and I know we will be ready to share the play with audiences this Friday.

A Peek at Graduate Rehearsal

Posted by Artistic Chair Traci Brant.

It's a frightening proposition to present a play that happens to also be one of the most iconic films of all time. When the artistic committee decided to produce The Graduate that was certainly a major cause for concern. Admittedly, I continued to be a bit worried about it ... that is until I watched rehearsal last night.

Barbara Malangoni as Mrs. Robinson and Dean Perrine as BenjaminAs actors Barbara Malangoni (Mrs. Robinson) and Dean Perrine (Benjamin) rehearsed the iconic seduction scene, a huge smile spread across my face. The wonderful, rich characters and the witty, sometimes biting, dialogue is even more thrilling when you sit just a few feet from this quintessential scene in Chicago Street's intimate auditorium. The scene was so thrilling in part because directors Mary A. Bird and Martin Weisenbacher have absolutely nailed the casting with Barb and Dean. They are in no way doing a cheap imitation of the film actors' portrayals. They are breathing their own life into the incredible characters that were first brought to life in pages of Charles Webb's 1963 novel. The dialogue was crisp and humorous with dark undertones--like it leapt off the pages of the novel. 

Director Mary A. Bird (in her signature jammie pants)I can't imagine how enjoyable the scene will be once the actors have refined their roles, added the 1960's costumes (in this case a wet suit and a slip), lights, set, and music.   Directors Mary and Marty are passionate about this piece (it's one of the reasons CST was persuaded to produce it). They know this play, these characters, and the time period well so we're in good hands.

Tomorrow night The Graduate actors and directors will share their thoughts on camera. Matt Pera will be putting together a video in the next week so you can get your own sneak peak into the process. 

Yes, the film was incredibly stylish and unique, but I think audiences are going to find that the stage play at Chicago Street has its own rewards. 

Chatting w/ Actor Dean Perrine (Benjamin)

What drew you to The Graduate?

I really was attracted to the complexity of the characters. It's most certainly outside my comfort zone and tackling these subjects - in these situations - I knew would be a challenge. A good one. And a scary one.

What is your experience with the material? Have you ever seen the play? The movie?

Here it comes...

I haven't seen the movie or the play. Of course I'm familiar with the story and some of the themes, I mean, who at my age (not telling), isn't? I did sit down right after I was cast to watch the movie...but decided against it. I suppose if I didn't have the talented direction and cast around me I'd be more inclined to study the film, but I thought, 'let's just see how things fall into place.' It really only took a few read-throughs to see that the character nuances are on the page.

I fully intend on watching the film after the show opens and hope to become Mr. Magorium as soon as I am able. **tongue placed firmly in cheek**

What do you think makes this story such an American classic?

Universal themes (uncertainty / fulfillment / love / regret / hope). It's exciting and dangerous! It's a 1960s full length Springer episode, with a great soundtrack.  But mostly the themes...

The character Benjamin is very well known in both theatre and film - does that affect your approach to the role at all?

No. To be the cliche' - I'm simply looking and working for honesty. Lame, but nonetheless true. 

What are some elements to the CST production of The Graduate that you think add a different or fresh twist to a well-known story?

This is a tough one given that so much of what the show will be is developing now. But we bring our own baggage, our own stories. Mary and Marty (and Auriel) have put the cast in position to use our collective experiences to find the show. It's not a twist necessarily, but perhaps the freedom from prescription. I think the show will feel different simply because we're creating, not re-creating. That sounds lame-o. But I think that's what I think. 

What are your thoughts on the cast and crew?

Two words: Professional. Goofballs.

What can audiences expect from this production?

They can expect a quality production, top to bottom. My hope is that audiences will be challenged to find some reason and meaning behind the decisions made by each character - to see past the compromising situations and maybe even empathize with these characters.  Who am I kidding? I want and expect them to be entertained. That will do. 

What makes Chicago Street Theatre a unique venue?

Superb facility, top notch shows, clean bathrooms and excellent popcorn.

Recipe for The Graduate

Recipe for The Graduate from Director Mary A. Bird.

  • Take one director born the year The Graduate movie was released.
  • Combine with a ton of passion for the art and sound design.
  • Add one director with an incredible talent for design and music.
  • Stir in one directing ingenue and lighting goddess.
  • Mix in brilliant actors.
  • Fold in amazing crew.
  • Turn up the heat and watch magic unfold.
  • Let stand until April 12, 2013.
  • Sit back and enjoy Chicago Street Theatre's dish "The Graduate."

 

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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