Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Change, Family, and Fear of the Unknown, by Paul Di Ciccio

“I don’t recognize him! That’s a stranger!”

Amanda Jane Long and Peter Robel in Eurydice
One of the themes of Sarah Ruhl's Eurydice that has particularly resonated with me over the last few weeks has been the fear of growing up. In the play, we see Eurydice grow up in the Underworld with her father. When it is time for her to leave her father and to go to the land of the living with Orpheus, we see Eurydice become terrified of leaving her father’s protection, declaring that she no longer recognizes her husband.

I relate to Eurydice’s fear of growing up, especially her fear of leaving a place where she feels protected. At the time I’m writing this, not only did Eurydice just open, but I also graduated from Columbia College with my degree in theatre directing and I left my job. All of this happened in a period of two days.

The weeks before all of this change had been overwhelming with finishing school, finishing my final projects and papers, going to work, and going to Eurydice rehearsal every night. Now that the show has opened, I've graduated, and I've left my job, for the first time in my life I have nothing to do– and no visible end to this period of having nothing to do. Other than applying and interviewing for jobs, I have nothing to do but to think about the fact that I no longer have the artistic protection of school or the financial protection of a job. It’s almost as if I’ve lost the protection of waking up each morning with a purpose. I understand why Eurydice is so terrified.

All of this would have been a hell of a lot more terrifying if I didn’t have BoHo. I really mean this. I have so much emotional, creative, and career-oriented support here. When I arrived at the theatre after the opening performance of Eurydice, having just left my college graduation, I was presented with a graduation card signed by the cast and crew of Eurydice and by other members of the BoHo company. They had so much to focus on before Eurydice opened, but, in spite of it all, they each took time to write a personal note of encouragement for me. That meant so much.

Director Charles Riffenburg’s caricature of Paul
BoHo has taught me that anything is possible. For each of the three shows I’ve worked on here (Scotland Road, Dogfight, and Eurydice), this small storefront theatre company has attempted something far too big for its britches. When I think about the intricacies of the cracking effect in the walls in Scotland Road, the magnitude of the technical elements in Dogfight, or the raining elevator with ACTUAL running water in Eurydice, I know that these are all obstacles that should have been insurmountable for a theatre company of BoHo’s size, resources, and budget. I have been lucky enough to experience BoHo's triumph over each of these obstacles through the true spirit of collaboration (see Tony Churchill’s beautiful BoHo blog entry) and through incredible ingenuity. I’ll never forget when we couldn’t get a curtain to close in Dogfight and Meg Love devised a contraption made of straws and a Dunkin' Donuts cup to get it to close. In my life, I tend to err towards pragmatism and reticence. BoHo has taught me that what seems to be impossible probably is possible with enough effort, resourcefulness, and collaboration. In this way, BoHo has permanently changed me.

BoHo has also given me an artistic home that I know will be there for me whenever I need it. I am constantly reminded by BoHo collaborators: “You are part of the BoHo family.” It’s not just “We like working with you” or “You are useful to us.” It’s “You are family.” And, in return, my BoHo collaborators are my family. A lot of things in my life are uncertain right now, but I know that I have BoHo’s open and loving arms. Knowing that has provided me with a great amount of emotional security. Who else graduates from theatre school with a theatre company saying that they are family? How did I get so lucky?

Despite most of my life being up in the air at the moment, BoHo has been my emotional bulwark. And I could not be more grateful.

Also, to anyone reading this, please hire me.

Paul Di Ciccio
Eurydice Assistant Director

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

New Executive Leadership Takes The Reins At BoHo Theatre

BoHo Theatre, now in its 12th season, announced today the appointment of BoHo company member Meg Love as the company’s new Executive Director. Love has been part of the company since 2012, serving as producer, production manager, and stage manager prior to accepting the new position.

Love assumes the Executive Director position from Kaela Altman, who held the position since 2012. Altman oversaw a period of exciting growth at BoHo, helping to expand the company’s board of directors and staff. She also spearheaded a partnership with the Arts & Business Council of Chicago resulting in a multi-faceted five-year strategic plan. Under her executive leadership, the company produced such hits as Pygmalion (co-produced with Stage Left Theatre), Hauptmann, Veronica's Room, Parade, Ordinary Days, and Dogfight, and was recognized with 26 Jeff Award nominations. Altman will remain a company member with BoHo.

“Kaela’s contributions to this company over the past several years have been, in short, remarkable,” Artistic Director Peter Sullivan says. “She has worked tirelessly to promote company growth through fundraising and personnel, and has continually nurtured a safe and collaborative creative atmosphere. I am proud and honored to have worked alongside her.”

“Kaela is leaving some very large shoes to fill,” Love confides. “And while I am both extremely excited and a bit scared to assume this incredibly important position, I know that I will succeed. I am inheriting a very healthy company. She has fostered an active board of passionate individuals, she has molded an organized company and a near-seamless production process, and we are the most financially stable we have ever been as an organization.”

Over the years, Altman and Love have worked closely together at BoHo. “Meg has technically been a part of the BoHo family longer than Peter Sullivan and I combined,” Altman says. “Her institutional knowledge as well as her stage management expertise will be an asset as BoHo works to advance into the future. She knows what's worked and what hasn't, and she carries within her a strong representation of the founding mission and vision.”

“Meg brings an immense amount of knowledge, talent, patience and drive to help continue our forward momentum,” Sullivan says. “I have yet to meet someone that isn’t a fan of her both personally and professionally, and I am excited to take the next step in growth with her as Executive Director.”

Meg Love has worked with BoHo for a total of eight years, including four years as a company member. She holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree with an emphasis in Stage Management from the Conservatory of Theatre Arts at Webster University. Before coming to BoHo, she was the Production Stage Manager at the Okoboji Summer Theatre for four years and worked with The Old Globe in San Diego on the Broadway-bound production of Chita Rivera: A Dancer's Life. She has also worked with the Repertory Theatre of St. Louis as Production Assistant and Season Planning Associate, as well as stage managing for the Chicago Gay Men's Chorus and Noble Fool Theatricals.

BoHo Theatre’s 2016 season continues with Sarah Ruhl’s Eurydice, directed by company member Charles Riffenburg, opening at the Heartland Studio May 12th, and Next To Normal, directed by Theatre at the Center Artistic Director Linda Fortunato, opening at Theater Wit August 20th.

New Executive Director Meg Love on Leadership and Friendship

In the spring of 2012, I attended my first BoHo company meeting. I had already worked for BoHo for four years and had finally agreed to join the company as Production Coordinator. At that time, I had no idea how much my life was about to change.

There was someone else joining the company the same day as me. Her name was Kaela. I was told that she was a board member who was becoming a company member in order to take over for Peter Blair as Executive Director. We bonded that night on the Robels' porch while the company inside voted on our membership status – both of us the new kids – both of us anticipating our upcoming adventures.

The first of these was Floyd Collins. I was the Stage Manager. Kaela was assisting Peter Blair as Producer in preparation of assuming his position in a matter of weeks. They say that those who experience a crisis together bond quickly. Even with the passing of time, I still believe it fair to call Floyd Collins' tech a crisis. It was the largest undertaking we had ever mounted at BoHo. There were dozens of sound cues to be crafted, including live echoes, a massive set to construct (and then repair when an actor fell through the stage), a multitude of costumes and props in a narrow dressing room, a pit anchored by a keyboard running on a computer program that kept crashing, and hundreds of light cues (which were still being added for the first time, live, as the show was happening, on preview night with the Wall Street Journal in the house). It was indeed a crisis-- the result of which was an absolutely beautiful piece that was critically acclaimed and a very personal, proud moment in my time as a stage manager, proving that the work is worth it!

While it has now become a blur, I fondly remember how quickly Kaela and I bonded during that week. I remember her intimating how very excited and nervous she was to take on the position of Executive Director and occasionally exclaiming that there were things that she simply “didn’t know how to do.” “But I do,” I said, “and you have me.” And since that day where we vowed to be there for each other almost like two kids at camp promising to be best friends forever. I have been lucky enough to have the most special relationship I could ever expect to have with a supervisor, a colleague and a friend.

It became very apparent over the years that there was, in actuality, nothing she “didn’t know how to do,” only that which she had not done yet.

Kaela is fierce. She is a passionate leader. She advocates for our company like no one I’ve seen. She supports our members and artists alike.

The position of Executive Director is not easy. It’s actually really, really hard-– and also pretty thankless. You’re relied upon to make business decisions in a creative world. Those decisions aren’t always popular-– and can often be met with friction. You’re relied upon to keep all the balls in the air. Way more balls than anyone in the company can fathom. To quantify all the ongoing projects Kaela was juggling at any given time would be a never ending list of licensing, accounting, party planning, providing therapy, and worrying about toilet paper. The varying scope of required talent is unreasonable. It’s like being a mother. Everyone needs you and no one knows exactly how you make the magic happen.

Despite all these factors, Kaela charged bravely forward with intelligence, grace and humor. Through these years she has become a best friend and an absolutely indispensable mentor. I have learned volumes from working by her side.

She is leaving some very large shoes to fill. And while I am both extremely excited and a bit scared to assume this incredibly important position, I know that I will succeed. I am inheriting a very healthy company. We have an active board of passionate individuals-– fostered by Kaela. We have an organized company and a near seamless production process-– implemented by Kaela. And we are the most financially stable we have ever been as a company-– stewarded by the unstoppable collaboration of Ryan Guhde and (you guessed it) Kaela.

So, thank you, Kaela. I will miss you dearly as a leader, but I am comforted to know that you have secured our future through your years of service. Your faith in me as your successor means so much and I will do my best to always do you and this company proud.

But, for me, the most important takeaway is that I have found a lifelong friend. And while this part of our adventure is coming to a close, I know that we have so much more to come!

Thank you – for being our leader – and for being my friend.

-Meg Love, Executive Director

Read the press release about our Executive Director transition