I've been peeking in on tech week rehearsals for A View from the Bridge. If first impressions are any indication (and, I believe they are), then we have quite an incredible show about to open on the mainstage. The first thing that strikes you when you walk in is the incredibly detailed period set. From the wallpaper and woodwork to the props and furniture, great care has been taken to make sure the world of the play is conveyed from the moment the audience is ushered to their seats.
I debated revealing the set on the blog with pictures. There is a magic that happens when you first enter the theatre and I don't want to spoil it. Instead, I've photographed some of the incredible details just to give you a small taste of the fantastic scenic design. Enjoy!
-posted by Traci Brant, Artistic Chair
What drew you to A View from the Bridge?
After having directed two comedies as my first projects, I was decidedly on the lookout for a drama that gripped me. Additionally, Justin and I usually speak about shows we like, I had to share this work with him after reading it. We had discussed other projects, but this piece we agreed on proceeding with almost immediately.
Arthur Miller is obviously one of the greatest playwrights of the 20th Century, what makes his storytelling so powerful?
Arthur Miller, like many playwrights who find major success, has the gifted ability to literally put conversationalism on paper. Outside of A View From The Bridge, the other glaring example of his would be Death of A Salesman. It's a challenge for actors to really get a sense of the conversation, dynamic and tone of a scene, but when it's performed accurately, the enitre life of the story is already written. The challenge is right there in black and white. That is part of his brilliance as a playwright.
What makes this particular story an American classic?
It's a truly American story based on an actual life occurrence. It has everything the pursuit of the "American Dream" offers: success and reward for honest work and a chance for happiess, but with cautious sirens about the perils of taking too much, of holding on to what may not rightfully be yours.
What does A View from the Bridge have to say about issues of immigration that are still relevant today?
Regardless of the current jobs situation and economic climate America currently faces, it still does represent a chance for a better life to may who come here. Adapting to one's new environment is also a timeless experience for anyone.
What does the play have to say about families and relationships?
Through the contrast of Eddie, the protagonist, and the immigrant, Marco, we see a idealistic clash as to what makes family important, and how the definition of honor and respect differ between these two men. While one tends to focus on power and possession, the other views family as a village of virtuous individuals all worthy of respect, no matter what.
The cast features quite a few experienced CST actors. What have they brought to this production?
We do have some seasoned veterans, and they have really helped to lead by example for those who are younger in their craft as actors. It has been a learning experience for everyone, and it's a joy to watch the actors not only make discoveries together, but to mutually enjoy them and build on them.
Tell me a little bit about the crew and technical aspects of the show.
We have an unbelievable Jill-of-all-trades in Vicki Zimmerman. I can say, certainly, we would not be as far along without her. She has an amazing work ethic and attention to detail in every aspect of live theatre. Our set was designed by Jeff DeBoer, who Justin and I have both worked with in the past and who has a keen sense of how to use a given space based upon a director's needs. Auriel Felsecker is our youngest lighting designer. After apprenticing under Marcia Burbage, she is now creating her own unique designs. Marsha Gerhardt--who is back with us after a long hiatus--has had some great vision as far as costumes; a period piece requires quite a bit of detail, as does taking a character's class standing into consideration. Costumes tell a story in and of themselves.
What do you hope audiences take away from the show?
I'm hoping--especially if they've never seen A View From The Bridge--that we've done justice to Arthur Miller's work, and that they'll enjoy this grim, hard-hitting piece of 1950s, east-coast Americana.
What makes Chicago Street Theatre such a unique venue for theater in Northwest Indiana?
What makes Chicago Street theatre unique is their unwavering tendency toward taking risks for the chance of creating new artistic statements. Providing directors, actors and designers alike with chances to explore and create live art from abstract, off the beaten path or even controversial works is an avenue not often found in small-town community theatre settings.
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
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!”
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.
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!
-Posted by CST Historian Marcia Burbage
Why all the Italian references? Well, the characters in View are all of Italian decent, some of them fresh off the boat! So please, come see our set, stay for the show, and enjoy little bit of Italy.
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.
Last night I snuck into the CST mainstage to watch rehearsal for A View from the Bridge and it was truly thrilling. Arthur Miller is without a doubt one of America's greatest playwrights, and sitting there watching his words come to life reminded me of just how prolific and beautiful they are.
Directors Karl Berner and Justin Treasure have assembled an asolutely stellar cast for this very difficult piece including
- 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
- Rodney Thornton as Louis, a longshoreman and friend of Eddie's
- Jim Drader as Tony, a friend of the Carbones, and 1st Immigration Officer
- T.J. Aubuchon as Mike, a longshoreman and friend of Eddie's, and 2nd 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
They definitely hit a home run when they assembled this group... and they are working their tails off! Between the confrontations, emotional intensity, fight scenes, and Italian accents, these actors have their work cut out for them. If this rehearsal was any indication, they're up to the task.
The first scene I watched began with actor Jim Henry asking director Justin Treasure if he could "try something a little different." The rehearsal definetely had a positive tone of collaboration and mutual respect. I won't give away too much as I saw a couple of scenes at the end of Act II and don't want to spoil it for those who have not had the pleasure of reading or seeing this moving play. Suffice to say, director Justin Treasure was pleased with their progress by the end of rehearsal. During their note session, he reminded the actors to keep up their intensity, to find even more emotion, to take their time at some points and to proceed with urgency during others. Justin's directing style is almost like that of a therapist; he asks the actors questions to make them think and arrive at their own character motivation. It was really a pleasure to watch. Perhaps I'll sneak in again later this week and report back.
posted by Artistic Chair Traci Brant