Friday, December 20, 2013

From the Desk of the Executive Director: Thank You for a Wonderful 2013!

Much like Santa’s elves, the members of our production team for Amadeus have been hard at work preparing their designs and concepts for a formal unveiling at our kick-off event in January. Immediately following that presentation, we will be sharing their renderings and inspirations with you on Facebook and Twitter. If you haven’t yet “liked” BoHo Theatre, consider going to Facebook or Twitter and joining our conversation. You’ll hear updates about BoHo, opportunities to get involved, and see behind-the-scenes activity for 2014 productions: Amadeus, Myths and Hymns, and Parade.

To our audience: Wishing you and yours a fantastic holiday season. Thank you for making BoHo a part of your artistic story. We couldn't have done any of this without you.

To our Company members and Board of Directors: Thank you for all you do to keep us going throughout the year. Your passion, commitment, and dedication to BoHo and its future represent all that has made our company strong and successful.

The Company members of BoHo are a volunteer staff, and while we do work tirelessly throughout the year to bring each production to its feet, it is you, our patrons, who help nurture and support our artistic efforts. If you can, I invite you to show your support for BoHo by making a monetary donation to help us continue to support the art in 2014. Your tax deductible donations will subsidize our production expenses, including our actors, singers, and dancers; our costumes, our sets, our props, and more.

On behalf of myself, our company, and our Board, I wish you and yours a happy holiday season! We look forward to your visit in 2014! From Pygmalion to Veronica’s Room, we have shared the Bohemian Pillars with a wonderful audience and community who were thoughtful enough to make BoHo Theatre a part of their artistic story this year. I look forward to welcoming you back in 2014 for Amadeus, which will be produced at Stage 773 in February.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Being Bohemian: Meg Love

BoHo Theatre's Production Coordinator Meg Love, on what it means to be bohemian:

Before I even knew anything of BoHo Theatre, I don’t know if I really had an accurate interpretation of what being "Bohemian" meant. What I did know was that it was what I wanted to be. To "high school me," it meant thinking outside of the box, being offbeat, being "alternative," being cool and funky and doing all of this with like-minded individuals. I equated it with modern-day hippies or beatniks— or at least having that kind of style, which I found so very cool. And so, in an effort to be Bohemian, I ended up wearing a lot of paisley.

Fast-forward about 10 years and I happened to work on a show for BoHo Theatre— and I was drawn back to working for the company again and again until I finally became a company member in 2012. The reason I returned for show after show was because it was an environment where all artists are encouraged to flourish. No one was ever told that their ideas were too "out there." In fact, some of the wackiest ideas produce the best work.

This concept is the heart of innovation and BoHo embraces those it. I’m not sure anyone here has ever said that something is impossible. We only say, "Why not? How can we make that work for us?" Given our limited budgets, it would be very easy to rule out hundreds of the ideas our directors, designers, actors and even administrators have had over the years. But, we don’t. We pool our resources. We call on our company, our affiliates and our board to do some creative problem solving. We use objects we have at hand and turn them into something new.

These people, the BoHo family as it were, are cool individuals. They're funky and alternative and I love working with each and every one of them because it is in that spirit of innovation that we are able to create anything we can imagine to touch the hearts and minds of our audiences.

So I guess, after all these years, I was never really that far off with my concept of "Bohemian." Only, it's less about your style and more about how you live. What really makes a Bohemian is the innovative spirit. What truly makes us cool is a can-do attitude that believes that anything is possible and makes something out of nothing. And so I have now found myself exactly where I always wanted to be — thinking outside of the box with like-minded individuals.

Though I still wear a good deal of paisley.

Throughout BoHo Theatre's milestone 10th Season, BoHo company members will be revealing what being "bohemian" means to them. What does Bohemianism and BoHo Theatre mean to you? Let us know in the comments or on Facebook!

Friday, November 22, 2013

From the Desk of the Executive Director: Welcome to New Faces

Welcome to November, er…rather, halfway through November. I’m hoping that as the cold air rushes in, and we prepare to kick off the holiday season, our loyal Bohemians are finding themselves toasty warm and enjoying all the wonderful holiday shows and installations that the City of Chicago has to offer.

We certainly have a lot to be thankful for this year.

CAST LIST ANNOUNCED FOR AMADEUS:

Up Next for BoHo Theatre will be Amadeus by Peter Shaffer. This dramatic masterpiece tells the story of genius, jealousy, and lies, and captures the story of Antonio Salieri as he explores his tempestuous rivalry with the boorish but brilliant Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. BoHo is pleased to welcome home several familiar faces, as well as welcome new friends to our artistic family.

Directed by Peter Marston Sullivan
Produced by Kaela Altman
Set Designer: Patrick Ham
Costume Designer: Theresa Ham
Lighting Designer: Megan Turnquist

Salieri.........................................Steve O'Connell (BoHo Artistic Affiliate)
Mozart.........................................Chris Ballou
Constanze.........................................Amanda Jane Long
Joseph II.........................................David Tibble (BoHo Company Member)
Rosenberg.........................................Scott Danielson
Strack.........................................Russell Alan Rowe
Van Swieten........................................Sean Thomas (BoHo Company Member)
Venticelli 1, u/s Mozart...........................Jeff Kurysz
Venticelli 2.........................................Sasha Kraichnan
Ensemble, u/s Venticelli 1.................Patrick Byrnes
Ensemble.........................................Chelsea Taylor
Ensemble.........................................Kaitlin Henderson
Ensemble.........................................Jim Heatherly

Look for updates on the production, design team, and cast in the coming weeks! Tickets are on sale now through STAGE 773. We look forward to seeing you in February.


BOHO WELCOMES NEW COMPANY MEMBER:

DAVID TIBBLE

This month, the BoHo Company welcomed a brand new Company Member, David Tibble. David certainly isn’t a new face to BoHo, having appeared in multiple shows including Dirty Blonde, Floyd Collins, and will appear in the February, 2013 production of Amadeus. Throughout his pilot period, he tackled house managing with enthusiasm and was quick to give our guests the five-star treatment each time he greeted them. Additionally, David has joined the team of BoHo’s who will be participating in our Strategic Planning Initiative, our joint venture with the Arts & Business Council of Chicago.  Keep your eyes peeled for David throughout the rest of the season and beyond!


BOHO WELCOMES NEW BOARD MEMBER:

DIANA WENDT

Diana Wendt joined the BoHo Board of Directors this month and brings with her a dynamic background in writing, public relations, and marketing. Diana was a frequent patron of BoHo this past season, having seen Pygmalion, Hauptmann, and Kiss of the Spider Woman and decided to reach out and officially join our leadership team. We look forward to introducing everyone to Diana as we work to get her up and running in her new role.


A TIME TO GIVE THANKS

It’s important that I stop for a moment and just say a simple thank you to our Community for all the love and support they have given us this past year. 2013 has been a magical year: We produced four fantastic shows, including our first partnership with STAGE LEFT THEATRE; we celebrated 14 Joseph Jefferson nominations, and most recently received 15 BroadwayWorld Chicago nominations.

We hope we can count on the support of our community to cast their votes for BoHo.

We have added two new Company Members, two new Board Members, and a whole host of Artistic Affiliates. It’s with a truly grateful heart that I say to our Company, our Board, and our Affiliates who all work tremendously hard throughout the year to support our mission:

THANK YOU

Wishing you all a safe and happy Thanksgiving.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Being Bohemian: Stephanie Sullivan

BoHo Theatre's Casting Associate Stephanie Sullivan, on what it means to be bohemian:

I’ve heard and seen several variations on the definition of Bohemian, all of which speak to me in positive ways. Our theatre company’s “new” mission and vision statements do a great job of capturing how we collectively feel about being Bohemian, so when asked to speak about this from a personal standpoint the first thought that came to mind was to talk about how it FEELS to be bohemian.

One source describes Bohemianism as “the practice of an unconventional lifestyle, often in the company of like-minded people, with few permanent ties, involving musical, artistic, or literary pursuits. In this context, Bohemians may be wanderers, adventurers, or vagabonds.”

To me, being Bohemian is a way of life and it’s something you feel/experience.

Being bohemian means constantly pursuing truth, love, freedom, and beauty; it means living honestly and genuinely, and it means honoring who you are, no matter what others may say (thereby foregoing conventional norms at times.) I am always in pursuit of the things that bring me the most joy in life. Interpersonal relationships and human connections are the most important thing in my world, which is a huge part of why this theatre company has become my home. I also try to live my life to its absolute fullest; for me, this means experiencing as many things in this world as possible; it also means incorporating art and creativity into every day.

“They laugh at me because I’m different. I laugh at them because they are all the same.”

“When you show up authentic, you create the space for others to do the same. Walk in your truth.”

“When she transformed into a butterfly, the caterpillars spoke not of her beauty, but of her weirdness. They wanted her to change back into what she had always been. But she had wings.”

Throughout BoHo Theatre's milestone 10th Season, BoHo company members will be revealing what being "bohemian" means to them. What does Bohemianism and BoHo Theatre mean to you? Let us know in the comments or on Facebook!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Being Bohemian: Charles Riffenburg

BoHo Theatre's Marketing Director/Graphic Designer Charles Riffenburg, on what it means to be bohemian:

When I joined the cast of BoHo Theatre’s The Merchant of Venice in the summer of 2008, I immediately sensed something different about the company. For the first time in Chicago, I had encountered a group of artists who went out of their way to make the rehearsal and artistic process something uniquely special and supportive. I felt like there was true collaboration going on, and that the voices of the cast were valued in the overall process.

It was this supportive environment that motivated me to want to become a member of the company the following year. When I joined up, it wasn’t as an actor joining an ensemble of other actors who all perform onstage. I joined as the website designer, and soon took on more and more tasks, like graphic design and overseeing the company’s marketing and social media presence. BoHo gave me an encouraging place to explore all of my talents as a multi-disciplinary artist.

Many theatre companies have a focus with their work that makes their point of view special. Perhaps they believe the work of the playwright is the most important, or they specifically celebrate an ensemble of actors. Maybe visual or aural spectacle is their thing. What makes BoHo Theatre not only special but UNIQUELY BOHEMIAN is a commitment to ALL artists and their artforms. In a BoHo production, the artistic work of the set builder or props designer is equal to that of the actors or choreographer or director. The “ensemble” in the Bohemian Theatre Ensemble is truly that of ALL the artists involved, not just those whose faces you see onstage. To me, this approach of working together creatively across multiple disciplines— environmental design, writing, acting, singing, dancing, etc— to create something that makes the world better is what it means to be Bohemian.

It was this philosophy that I used as my primary inspiration in directing our current production, Veronica’s Room. The amazing success of this show is not due to any one person or discipline; it is because all of the artists on the show worked collaboratively to create something greater than any one of us could individually. Like a true Bohemian community, BoHo Theatre gave us the most supportive environment it could to foster our creativity.

Throughout BoHo Theatre's milestone 10th Season, BoHo company members will be revealing what being "bohemian" means to them. What does Bohemianism and BoHo Theatre mean to you? Let us know in the comments or on Facebook!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

From the Desk of the Executive Director

Welcome to BoHo's 10th Season.
BoHo Theatre Company Picture


There is always a flurry of activity within every theater company and BoHo is no exception. This post will be the first of many monthly updates heading your way. We invite you to consider this series as your “Go-To” resource for upcoming projects, opportunities, and announcements as well as sharing exciting news and updates from our Company and Board.

Our goal is to share those activities and spread the word about everything there is to get involved with. If you are interested in lending a hand, assisting with a build, or just learning more about BoHo Theatre, I encourage you to follow this blog series, and reach out to us for more information.

BoHo Partners with the Arts & Business Council of Chicago:
Business Volunteers for the Arts


Last month, BoHo's Board of Directors proudly kicked off a project with the Arts & Business Council of Chicago - BusinessVolunteers for the Arts (BVA) program. The BVA Program recruits and trains experienced business professionals, and then assigns them to serve on pro bono consulting projects for small-to-medium sized nonprofit arts organizations. Over the next six months, our fantastic board members will work alongside our BVA team to develop a formal Strategic Plan to take BoHo into the next three years. The Strategic Planning Initiative will provide a focus for BoHo as we continue to advance our mission in the storefront community.

Call for Board Members: Become a Pillar of the Art

As we continue to advance through our 10th season, BoHo Theatre is still actively seeking board members. Serving as a “pillar” of BoHo Theatre, the Board works to drive the direction of our fiscal and organizational planning. By assisting with community outreach, donor stewardship, and network building, you would help BoHo continue to advance its mission within the Chicago Arts Community.
This month also marks the opening of our 10th Season. On Friday, September 27, BoHo opened Veronica’s Room by Ira Levin. I’m proud to announce that tickets are moving fast – and we only seat 31 people per show. So if you are hoping to catch this “downright terrifying” production, we recommend you hop over to our website for your tickets as soon as possible.

Become a Member of BoHo: Share the Season


Lastly, we recently announced our newest program – BoHo’sMembership Program. Many of you may have seen our posts on FB, or perhaps received an email announcing this exciting program. What I personally love about this offering is the flexibility it gives you, our patron. BoHo's flexible ticket program affords you the opportunity to see one show - or all our shows - for one low cost. Our membership program also allows you to reserve your seat in advance so you are guaranteed the spot you want for an evening with BoHo.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Being Bohemian: Peter Marston Sullivan

BoHo Theatre's Artistic Director Peter Marston Sullivan, on what it means to be bohemian:

From my first project with BoHo, to my latest production of Kiss of the Spider Woman, being Bohemian has always meant finding connections with artists and audience through intimate storytelling, and fostering a process wherein artists are allowed not only to explore, but also to learn, grow, make mistakes, and create new bonds with those that strive daily to tell a story that challenges and changes an audience. Being Bohemian, to me, means looking internally at my past, my present, and my future - those elements that have created who I am today, and exploring the human elements of truth, beauty, freedom and love within my own life - my own story. It is the search for these pillars within my own life, and how they connect me to others, that makes me Bohemian.

Looking back at my years with BoHo, I certainly remember productions that were successful, and find pride in the work that I've been a part in creating. But... more importantly, I remember moments and stories with the artists I worked with and the audience that I feel shared that journey with me. I remember the opening of the first show I directed for BoHo, I remember endless nights debating shows, I remember laughing with casts, company members, and audience, I remember closings of shows and dramatic (and frightening!) openings... I remember moments that have created a bond with cast, company, friends, audience - all of which are now family. While I certainly remember challenges of tech, or clashes of ideas and personalities, these are all overshadowed by moments of pride and companionship with friends and family that came together to make something special.

Being Bohemian, to me, means eradicating boundaries that separate me from others - whether ideology, gender, race, religion, or orientation. For me, it has meant discovering what connects me to others - what makes us all the same at our core. There are some essential elements that bind us all together, and through telling a story, and the process of creating that story, I have found that being Bohemian means understanding how differences are just as powerful and as wonderful as similarities... how passion for a story and the sharing of that story demolishes all boundaries in order to come face to face with the core human values that we all share.

Throughout BoHo Theatre's milestone 10th Season, BoHo company members will be revealing what being "bohemian" means to them. What does Bohemianism and BoHo Theatre mean to you? Let us know in the comments or on Facebook!

Friday, August 2, 2013

BoHo Welcomes New Artistic Affiliate Christa Buck

At the end of April, we were pleased to induct a new group of passionate, talented, and hard-working individuals into the BoHo family as Artistic Affiliates. This month, we welcome another long-time collaborator into the mix. It is our great honor to introduce you to our newest Artistic Affiliate:

Christa Buck

BoHo got to know Christa as an actor in our productions of Floyd Collins, Tartuffe, and Big River. Additionally, Christa has worked with Porchlight, Court, TimeLine, Theatre at the Center, Emerald City, the Savoy-Aires and Drury Lane. She has also traveled extensively around the World Showcase at EPCOT (luckily she has a husband and kids who understand that mama needs her Disney). She sends many thanks to Peter Sullivan and the entire BoHo family for this wonderful opportunity!

Congratulations, Christa! We're so proud to have you as part of our artistic family!

Friday, July 12, 2013

Welcoming Ashley Hannon to the BoHo Family!

BoHo Theatre is pleased to introduce you to our newest face, our brand new Social Media Coordinator, Ashley Hannon.

Ashley got bit by the theater bug at a young age when he performed in a kids play at the age of seven. As a lad growing up in Marietta, Georgia, he continued to perform in local plays and musicals and went onto Wright State University where he received his BFA in Musical Theatre. Following graduation, Ashley toured with Sesame Street: Elmo Makes Music. He then moved to New York City where he worked as the Company Manager for the Zipper Theater Company before relocating to Chicago.

BoHo: Ashley, what drew you to BoHo?

Ashley: Two things, really. One, I have friends who are involved in the Company and always talked about what a the great group of people involved. I loved the idea of having a place to go collaborate and be creative. I came out and saw a few shows during the 2011-2012 Season, including The Rainmaker and Floyd Collins and I was hooked. The work I saw reignited my love of theater, and I thought this was a great opportunity to reconnect to my artistic side while contributing to a growing organization.

BoHo:What are you most looking forward to in the coming months?

I really look forward to working with a fantastic group of artists who share an extraordinary vision. I’m also looking forward to seeing everything that BoHo has in store for its 10th Season. It’s an exciting time to be a part of the organization.

BoHo: As the newest face of BoHo, what’s one fun fact you want folks to know about you:

True Story: When I was in second grade, I alternated between watching Funny Girl, The Little Rascals, and Mrs. Doubtfire every day after school.

Favorite Composer? Stephen Sondheim

Favorite Musical? Ragtime

Favorite role you have played?: MacHeath in Three Penny Opera

Ashley is currently masterminding BoHo’s social media presence in coordination with the rest of the BoHo marketing team. You can also connect with him throughout the 10th season at BoHo events and opening nights.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

BoHo Announces Its 10th Season!

BoHo Theatre is excited to announce its milestone 10th season line-up for 2013/2014. For this landmark anniversary, BoHo renews its artistic focus towards the Bohemian Pillars— Truth, Beauty, Freedom, and Love— and how they are experienced through the lens of human relationships. The season will explore Freedom with Ira Levin’s Veronica’s Room, Truth with Peter Shaffer’s Amadeus, Beauty with Adam Guettel’s Myths and Hymns, and Love with Alfred Uhry and Jason Robert Brown’s Parade.

A MILESTONE YEAR


Tom Samorian and Stephen Genovese at the opening of Yerma in 2006.


Peter Robel helps renovate the Heartland Studio in 2006.

Bohemian Theatre Ensemble was first conceived in 2003 by a group of friends— including founding Artistic Director Stephen M. Genovese, founding Executive Director Thomas Samorian, and Associate Artistic Director Peter Robel— who were looking to fill what they perceived to be a void in the Chicago theatre scene: multi-disciplinary, artistically rich non-Equity theatre. The mission for the company was to bring together diverse forms of art, including music, dance, and poetic language, in a nurturing theatrical environment that put the artists’ process front and center. Fittingly, the company’s first production was Yasmina Reza’s Art, which ran March 18 through April 17th, 2005, at the Bailiwick Studio, followed by the Chicago premiere of Andrew Lippa’s musical The Wild Party and William Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale.

As the company grew, it found a home at the Heartland Studio in Rogers Park. Balancing the intimacy of the small space with runs of larger productions at the Theater Building (now Stage 773), Bohemian Theatre Ensemble rose to acclaim with such shows as Side Show (which received six Joseph Jefferson Awards), Jekyll & Hyde, Songs For a New World, and The Glorious Ones. In 2009, the company, now known primarily by its nickname BoHo Theatre, became an inaugural resident theatre company at the Theater Wit space under the leadership of new Artistic Director Peter Marston Sullivan and new Executive Director Peter Blair. BoHo went on to receive national attention the following year with its revival of Floyd Collins, which the Wall Street Journal called “a masterpiece... BoHo Theatre’s revival brings [Floyd Collins] to impassioned life for the first time in far too long.” Last year, with new Executive Director Kaela Altman producing, BoHo found continued success with a popular co-production of Pygmalion with Stage Left Theatre, universal praise for its staging of John Logan’s Hauptmann, and 14 Jeff nominations—more than any other non-Equity company in the city for the 2012-2013 season.


THE SEASON REVEALED

Looking to the future, the company has reaffirmed its dedication to creating a nurturing and supportive artistic environment for directors, designers, and performers to create their best work. By using bold and innovative theatre to examine Truth, Beauty, Freedom and Love, BoHo seeks to create a shared community of artists and patrons in which all members are moved through art to make thoughtful, well-examined, caring relationships the highest priority in their lives.

To this end, BoHo’s 2013/2014 Season will include:

VERONICA’S ROOM

By Ira Levin
September 28 – October 27, 2013 at the Heartland Studio
Representing the Bohemian Pillar of Freedom

This thriller from the author of Rosemary’s Baby and Deathtrap explores the thin line between fantasy and reality. Students Susan and Larry find themselves enticed to an old New England mansion by its dissolute caretakers to meet Cissie, the sole surviving member of the family. They insist that Susan bears a striking resemblance to Veronica, Cissie’s long-dead sister. If she will agree to briefly impersonate Veronica, they believe it will comfort the dementia-afflicted Cissie and allow her to die in peace. But what begins as a simple errand of mercy quickly spirals into a nightmare cycle of guilt, sacrifice, and murder.


AMADEUS

By Peter Schaffer
February 15 – March 16, 2014 at Stage 773
Representing the Bohemian Pillar of Truth

BoHo presents Peter Schaffer’s masterpiece about genius, jealousy, and lies. In his twilight years, the composer Antonio Salieri explores his tempestuous rivalry with the boorish but brilliant Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Alternating between trusted confidant and devious backstabber, Salieri wrestles with his place in a conflict that may have resulted in murder. Amadeus is a rich period drama, told as much through music as it is dialogue, questioning the reliability of memory in the search for truth.


MYTHS AND HYMNS

Music and lyrics by Adam Guettel
June 13 – July 13, 2014 at the Heartland Studio
Representing the Bohemian Pillar of Beauty

A seldom-produced song cycle from the composer behind Floyd Collins and The Light in the Piazza, this sophisticated work explores nothing less than man’s search for meaning in the universe. Guettel has drawn inspiration from Greek mythology and Christian hymns, as well as electronic jazz, piano ballads, gospel, and musical theater, to create a work steeped in longing, fear, doubt, and transcendence. The loose structure of the piece will allow BoHo’s artists to craft an intensely personal and intimate piece which explores the beauty in our search for the eternal.


PARADE

Book by Alfred Uhry, music and lyrics by Jason Robert Brown
September 13 – October 12, 2014 at Theater Wit
Representing the Bohemian Pillar of Love

BoHo’s tenth season culminates in Uhry and Brown’s heart-breaking musical about race, prejudice, and violence in the American South. When Leo Frank, a northern Jew, is accused of raping and murdering a young girl in his factory, the entire town turns against him, and if they cannot be appeased, they threaten to take justice into their own hands. Against insurmountable opposition, Leo finds his only solace in the love of his wife— who is herself unsure of her husband’s innocence. Following on its success with complex musicals such as Floyd Collins and Kiss of the Spider Woman, BoHo will deliver this epic real-life story with attention to the relationships that help us keep our world together.


TICKETS ON SALE SOON

As part of BoHo’s 10th season, the company will be launching a new membership subscription program to connect the company’s patrons to the art in a more meaningful way. The program will feature flexible discount tickets, access to the artists through exclusive events, and more. Memberships will be available to purchase beginning in August.


BoHo Theatre’s mission is to create bold theatre that challenges convention through innovative storytelling and unites artist and audience in the examination of Truth, Beauty, Freedom and Love through the lens of human relationships. Its vision is to create a shared community of artists and patrons in which all members are moved through art to make thoughtful, well-examined, caring relationships the highest priority in their lives.

Monday, April 29, 2013

BoHo Welcomes Our Newest Artistic Affiliates

We at BoHo Theatre are proud and elated to introduce a wonderful new group of Artistic Affiliates into our Ensemble!

I am very impressed by the amazing artistry and knowledge that each and every new Affiliate brings to the table. Each inductee has partnered with BoHo Theatre in some capacity, working tirelessly to bring each story to life. Whether through the spark of lighting design, the precision of fight choreography, the detailed nuances of a property, or the conveying of a character, each Affiliate brings a distinct and wonderfully unique quality to the BoHo family. BoHo could not be more honored to advance our partnership with each new member, as we continue to tell stories of truth, beauty, freedom and love.

And now, a HUGE WELCOME to our NEW AFFILIATES!

Diane D. Fairchild Diane Fairchild

Diane acted as Lighting AND Set Designer for Floyd Collins and The Spitfire Grill for BoHo Theatre, while also designing lights for Hauptmann, The Rainmaker, and Icarus. Diane's passion for storytelling through lights and set make her an incredibly valuable member of BoHo.


Steve O'Connell in 'Pygmalion' Steve O'Connell

Steve has been an actor for BoHo in many productions including Pygmalion, Floyd Collins, Elephant Man, and Ghosts. While displaying a true "bohemian" spirit during rehearsals, he also has worked as fight choreographer for BoHo. Steve directs and writes projects on his own accord, and we are thrilled to have his eye for precision among the family.


Cassy Schillo

Cassy has designed and managed properties for almost every BoHo show for several years now. She has been on hand for every tech process, and (when not working tirelessly on props) she has assisted with lights, sound, set, costumes, and even stage management. Cassy has been covered in paint for this ensemble (literally), so her willingness to bring a story to life in whatever way possible goes to show her strong work ethic. She is a true renaissance woman.


Jeremy Trager in 'Hauptmann' Jeremy Trager

Jeremy has played a multitude of roles for us now, including Caleb in The Spitfire Grill, and, notably, the title roles in Tartuffe and Hauptmann. His passion for the work is extraordinary, and we're so excited to have him as a part of the family.


Megan Turnquist Megan Turnquist

Megan has been a lighting guru for multiple shows now, and is always willing to come in and lend a hand whenever we need her! She was most recently the Associate Lighting Designer for Hauptmann, and I know will be excited to be working on numerous shows in the future!


Again, we are ever so proud to bring in these impeccable individuals into the Ensemble. They join photographer Brandon Dahlquist, set designer Patrick Ham, costume designer Theresa Ham, founding executive director Tom Samorian, performer Danni Smith, and set designer John Zuiker as part of our BoHo Artistic Affiliate family. It is with sincere pleasure and great pride that we extend our congratulations to each of them.

WELCOME to the BoHo family!

-Peter Marston Sullivan
Artistic Director

Monday, April 15, 2013

Roundtable Talk With the Cast of Hauptmann

During the run of Hauptmann, we were lucky enough to sit down and have a round table discussion with three of our actors&mash; Chris Amos, playing Charles Lindbergh; Sasha Kraichnan, playing Anne Morrow Lindbergh; and Eleanor Katz, playing Bruno Hauptmann’s wife, Anna Hauptmann. These are the excerpts from that conversation.


BOHO: What was it like doing research in order to play these real characters? And how did that research inform what you do onstage?

Sasha Kraichnan as Anne Morrow Lindbergh in 'Hauptmann'

SASHA: I was really lucky because Anne Lindbergh published her journals and letters from almost every year of her life. I didn’t know those existed when I first got the role, but I was looking through the bookstore and in the aviation section I saw Diaries and Letters of Anne Morrow Lindbergh and I said “Alright, I don’t care how much that costs. I’m bringing that home!”

And those diaries and letters gave me a sense of her voice, because she’s very gentle and very demure, but also very direct and to the point. She also writes a lot about grief and processing this whole experience-- or not processing it-- and how her and Charles as a couple did not really process it.

When Anne wrote about it being more difficult to watch her mother’s testimony in the trial than to be on the stand herself-- because she had more room to feel, she said-- I got the sense that she held herself very, very tightly. She held herself as tight as she could just to get through her delivery, and she would not express anything in a public setting. That helped me understand her.

Chris Amos as Charles Lindbergh and Jeremy Trager as Bruno Hauptmann in 'Hauptmann'

CHRIS: In my research, one of the things that struck me was just how much of a private person Lindbergh was. He was this giant public figure, but it wasn’t entirely anticipated by him just how huge flying a plane across the ocean would be to the public. And the way the public went insane about that really turned him inward.

It was right around this time in history that we changed from being a country that celebrated people who did things to a country that instead celebrated people who were just people, like celebrities and the culture of personality. I feel like Charles was one of the first victims of that.

In the play, there’s really only one private moment that Charles has and that’s at the end, and it’s kind of a relief to get to after all of the public figure scenes and the posturing-- just to see him as a human being at the end.

Eleanor Katz as Anna Hauptmann in 'Hauptmann'

ELEANOR: There were a lot of articles written about Anna Hauptmann and her struggle. I’m from the Philadelphia area, which is where she ended up moving after the trial. She worked in a bakery that was run by a friend and she raised her son by herself. She never changed her last name and she never took off her wedding ring, and that helped inform me about who she was.

She also worked until the day she died to clear her husband’s name. And the state of New Jersey, mainly Governor Florio, who was the governor for a long time when I was a kid living in New Jersey, just completely rebuffed her and would never give her audience or reopen the case. So I think for me, when Anna reads Hauptmann’s farewell letter, his final words, to me it’s easy to be emotional. She knows that he’s going to be killed for something that she doesn’t believe that he did and he’s left her with a son. So that knowledge really informed how I deliver that piece.

CHRIS: Overall, it’s a very limited perspective we have on these characters in this play. It’s all seen through Hauptmann’s filter, so we’re not seeing all of who they are throughout the play. We’re just capturing those little bits and pieces that are relevant to his story.



The cast of BoHo's 'Hauptmann'

BOHO: Has doing this show influenced how you see sensational trials in the news?

CHRIS: I’m always skeptical of what I see in the news.

SASHA: And was before this.

ELEANOR: There has been “The Crime of the Century” so many times now that I think we already see how the court of public opinion plays into it-- sometimes more than actual evidence does. In Hauptmann’s case, they HAD to kill him whether he was guilty or not. The public demanded a scapegoat.

CHRIS: I always thought it was interesting how much Charles meddled in the whole investigation. He took charge of it, and was listening to these gangsters who would give him information, because (he said), “they’ve got connections in the criminal world.” They totally took advantage of him.

ELEANOR: I can’t believe he had the police wipe down the fingers prints on the ladder!

SASHA: He may have been part of it!

CHRIS: I don’t think he was part of it, I think he just incredibly mismanaged the whole thing. I think he was a father trying to find his child and took charge and made a bunch of horrible mistakes.

ELEANOR: But they all listened to him!

CHRIS: Yeah, because nobody was going to tell him “no,” and that’s what he really needed. He needed somebody more powerful than him to say, “Look, Charles, I know you’re...”

ELEANOR: Did that exist? Someone more powerful than him?

CHRIS: At the time? (thinks) Maybe the president.



Sasha Kraichnan and Chris Amos as the Lindberghs, with Jeremy Trager as Bruno Hauptmann, in 'Hauptmann'

BOHO: Do you have any favorite moments in the play?

CHRIS: I like to watch the trial scene. I like watching Nate[Randall Miller] as the lawyer just really drilling down on Hauptmann.

ELEANOR (to Chris): I like the beginning of your final scene with Hauptmann, because you’re just like two guys having a conversation.

SASHA: And the handshake at the end!

ELEANOR: You play that so well-- it’s not hateful or vengeful. You’re a human being talking to another human being, and I just love that. I think you were smart not to play the obvious angle.

CHRIS: That scene to me is really two people trying to find resolution-- trying to find closure in some way.

ELEANOR: Yes. I think that’s what’s lovely about it.

CHRIS: And they almost get it…. And then Hauptmann ruins it, like everything! (laughs)


Hauptmann by John Logan closes this coming weekend at The Heartland Studio in Rogers Park. For tickets, videos, photos, and more information, visit www.bohotheatre.com

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

BoHo's Favorite Rogers Park Hangouts

Personal Recommendations From The BoHo Team

BoHo Theatre has been producing theatre at the Heartland Studio for six years now, and the Glenwood Arts district is our home. If you’re going to come visit us at the Heartland (perhaps for our current production, Hauptmann, running through April 21st), consider grabbing a drink, or a bite with friends before or after the show! There’s so much to do in the area, from pre-show dinner to after-show treats and wonderful store-front businesses throughout the neighborhood. We know because we love visiting all these places ourselves! Here’s just some of our favorites.

A Bohemian Experience With BoHo Artistic Director Peter Marston Sullivan

Peter Marston Sullivan

Heartland Café, 7000 N Glenwood Ave, Chicago

One tasty and reliable dining option around Heartland Studio is Heartland Cafe. The menu is full of rustic and hearty food, including a whole bunch of vegetarian and even vegan options. Heartland also has a great bar with a terrific beer list (and daily drink specials!). This charming café also frequently has live music and entertainment.

The décor is truly Bohemian, and if you stop by on a Saturday morning, you can watch them broadcast “LIVE From the Heartland” radio show, a special treat for Rogers Park. We are so proud to partner with the Heartland Café and hope you enjoy your experience there.


Dinner With BoHo Executive Director Kaela Altman

Kaela Altman

Act One Pub in the Mayne Stage, 1330 W Morse Ave, Chicago

I love a good pub, and Act One on Morse is a favorite in Rogers Park. They have a fantastic beer selection, and my personal favorite is their French Onion Soup as well as their Market Chopped salad. The lemon-basil vinaigrette is just heaven, and a fabulous change from some of their heavier fare. If a sandwich is what your palette craves, I recommend any of their burgers or a BBQ Pulled Pork.

It's a fantastic restaurant, and the best part is that it's located a short walk away from BoHo's Heartland Studio. Insider Tip: It's typically very crowded on Fridays and Saturdays, especially when there is a show at the Mayne Stage, but if you go early, you can typically get a table pretty quickly.

We look forward to seeing you around the neighborhood.


Dinner with Company and Board Secretary Mary Kate Robel

Mary Kate Robel

Gruppo di Amici, 1508 W. Jarvis, Chicago

Are you coming from up north and don't mind stopping one station north of the Heartland Studio? Then you’ve got to stop in to Gruppo di Amici! Their crispy wood-fired pizzas are ah-mazing, and their tortellinis will melt in your mouth. I love it there! And it’s all right off the Jarvis stop on the Red Line!


Dog Days With Casting Associate Stephanie Sullivan

Stephanie Sullivan

Rogers Bark Pet Salon, 1447 W. Jarvis Ave, Chicago

On the opposite corner of the street to Gruppo Di Amici (where you’ll find Mary Kate) of the street is a grooming salon called Rogers Bark where the people are extremely nice! I've taken my dogs there several times.



Drinks With Media Director Charles Riffenburg

Charles Riffenburg

The Glenwood Bar, 6962 N Glenwood Ave, Chicago

My favorite place to go for drinks is the Glenwood, one block south of the Heartland Studio on, you guessed it, Glenwood Ave. The staff is friendly, the drinks prices are a steal, the space is open and never cramped, and sometimes the manager orders free pizza for everyone on weekend nights! Drop by after a show and you’ll often find members of BoHo’s cast, crew, and company having a quick drink. We’d love to see you there!

We hope you'll join us up here in Rogers Park, for our current show Hauptmann and our future shows!

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

BoHo Partners With Lifeline To Offer Free Parking

We know that finding parking around the Heartland can be difficult. This is why we are super excited to announce that BoHo has partnered with Lifeline Theatre to extend their popular remote parking and shuttle service program to BoHo’s patrons. You can now park in the lot on the northeast corner of Morse and Ravenswood labeled "Lifeline Theatre Parking" (about six blocks from the theatre) and catch the Lifeline Theatre Shuttle Van directly to the theatre. That’s right, the Lifeline Shuttle will drop you off right outside of the Heartland Studio if you are a BoHo patron!

The shuttle service starts its run 45 minutes prior to the show (that’s 7:15 for evening performances, 1:15 for Sunday matinees), and will complete rounds 5 minutes before show time. After the show, the shuttle will be safely returning all our patrons to the lot for their drive home.

Oh, and one more thing: this service is completely free to you, our patron.

And if driving really isn’t your thing, don’t forget that we are only steps from the Morse Red Line stop. Exit the station at the north end of the platform and walk a half block north on Glenwood, and you’re at the theatre. Couldn’t be simpler.

With all these options, there are no more excuses. We’d love to see you in our neighborhood very soon!

Google map to the lot >
More information on this service >

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Pygmalion: The Fun and Challenges of Acting Shaw, with the Higgins Family

The family unit is an integral part of George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion. In past posts, we’ve explored how the Eynsford-Hill family presents strong foils for the primary characters, and examined what similarities exist within the Doolittle family. Today, we finish our series by talking to actors Lisa Herceg and Steve O’Connell about the relationship between mother and son in the Higgins household.

HENRY AND WOMEN

Henry Higgins and his mother

Throughout the play, Henry Higgins behaves impulsively and with considerable distain for society’s rules and manners. Few people are able to keep him in line except for his mother.

“I think that Mrs. Higgins is one of those very bad mothers who did a sudden switch,” says Lisa, who plays Henry’s mother. “She doted on him so much early on in his life that there was no need for him to behave appropriately according to society. Then once he became a man, she said ‘Now you need to behave in this certain way,’ And it didn’t work.”

“She created the beast, and then all of a sudden wanted it to be tame,” observes Steve, who plays Henry.

Mrs. Higgins, like a good doting mother, is concerned about her son finding a romantic love interest. In the play, Henry brushes off his mother’s laments about his lack of a love life by proclaiming “My idea of a loveable woman is someone as like you as possible!”

“I think that the key word in that phrase is ‘loveable,’” Steve says. “Henry understands that women are attractive and that they’re amusing, but the difference between that and loving a woman and having that sort of romantic relationship… he would want somebody who dotes on him as much as his mother does, someone who is not interested in seeing things and being seen and being part of the societal parties and soirees.”

“Well and someone who doesn’t take any guff from of you,” Lisa observes wryly.

“I don’t think he would ever admit that, but yes,” Steve concedes. “He is attracted to that without even knowing it. I think we see that in Scene 5 with Eliza, and how she won’t just bend to his will. There’s something enormously attractive about that, and he has no idea what to do with it. Women have defined roles in his life, like his mother and his housekeeper, and he thinks he has Eliza’s role defined, but it ends up not being defined for him. It’s the fact that he can’t pin it down that’s very attractive and very frightening at the same time.”

THE HIGGINS’ POSITIVE OUTLOOK

Higgins with Eliza
“I’m a really big believer that whatever the audience sees and takes away from the show is an individual experience, and that experience is always correct. I’m very hesitant to talk about process in a way that seeks to influence what somebody’s experience might be.” -Steve O'Connell

There is a danger in playing Henry Higgins that he might come across as cold and removed because of the density and intelligence of the language. The other characters often refer to him as a bully, a brute, rude, and having no manners. But Steve took a unique approach to the character.

“I think the key for him is that he’s excited about life. He’s just so excited about the possibilities of what life has to offer, and if you play excited— even if you’re barreling over people—, there’s a twinkling in the eye and an openness of the heart, and I think that with that in mind, you can sort of forgive a person like that. If the heart is open, then I think, as an audience and as other people in his life, we’re more willing to be like ‘Oh, it’s just that guy. It’s just Henry being Henry.’ Instead of thinking, “What a jerk!’”

Lisa agrees. “He always seems like a gigantic golden retriever puppy to me. Like, he has no idea how big he or what kind of mess he’s making.”

“I can see how the language sort of draws you into thinking of him as being cold and removed, but the first time I sat down and read the play, I was like ‘man, this guy just really loves what he does and is very excited about trying to convince everybody else that the study of phonetics is this wild and crazy time!’ He really believes that it can change the world. And that philosophy is not cold or removed at all. It’s all about trying to connect with other people. He just wants to connect on his own terms and his own way, and that’s kind of where the disconnect comes from. But it all starts in a positive place, in a connecting place. If you started with a cold ‘I’m better than you and don’t want to deal with you’ attitude, where would you go for two hours?”

A similar positivity can be found in the actions that Mrs. Higgins takes through the play.

“You would think that the train wreck that is Eliza would send her reeling,” notes Lisa, “and you’d think she would want to get this train wreck out of her drawing room as quickly as possible. But instead, she leaps to Eliza’s defense when Freddy is laughing at her. She asks Freddy if he’d like to see her again, which would indicate that she wants Eliza to come back. She takes her in when she leaves Henry. She’s really going out on a limb for this kid. She’s an outgoing and compassionate woman.”

AN UNUSUAL PASSION

Shaw’s plays are known for being full of rich language and dense with ideas, and Henry Higgins is a unique character in his obsession with dialects, sounds, and the way people speak. We asked Steve why he thought Higgins is so fascinated and drawn to the study of phonetics.

“Why is anybody fascinated and drawn to anything?” Steve replies.”I’m sure it was something that just piqued his interest when he was younger. I think it stems from the fact that he was just good at it and it was an intellectual pursuit that I think not a lot of other people were very interested in, and therefore he could shine. Especially when he was a younger person, I think he was very interested in being the best at something, and if he wasn’t the best at it, he didn’t have time for it.

“And then it became a passion. Things don’t become a passion right away until you learn more about them. And I think that has been and continues to be a life-long process for him. But the initial attraction I think came from success, which is kind of like a drug for him.”

THE LANGUAGE AND PHYSICALITY OF SHAW

Mrs. Higgins
“I am not accustomed to working from the outside in. I am accustomed to coming from the inside out, and the physicality comes as I’m working more on the character.”

In addition to being an ensemble member with Stage Left, Lisa is also a member of Babes With Blades, a company which focuses on stage combat in their productions. Most recently, Lisa played the title role in their production of Susan Swane and the Bewildered Bride. Transitioning from that role to Mrs. Higgins, who spends almost all of the play sitting in a chair, was a challenge.

“It drove me bananas the first three weeks,” Lisa confesses. “I thought I was going to lose my mind. And then I realized why I was being asked to be so still and not move, and I started to visualize the character. I am not accustomed to working from the outside in. I am not an “outside-in” kind of actor. I am accustomed to coming from the inside out, and the physicality comes as I’m working more on the character. When I got it, I got it, but I had some work to do to get to it.” -Lisa Herceg

Steve also found working on Higgins from a physical place to be helpful. “I’m usually more of an “inside-out” sort of person,” he says, “but with Higgins, when I started really physicalizing him and letting him talk with his hands and using the length of my body, that really helped. That was a continuation of the character that I couldn’t have done if I was just looking at the lines. And it also brought a kind of lightness and enjoyment that I was seeking, that came from a purely physical place first rather than an intellectual place.

“I found that I’ve been able to work from that place on the last few projects that I’ve done. I said to myself, ‘Just let your body do what it wants to do and don’t judge it,’ and it’s been really liberating. I used to think, ‘No, I have to intellectually figure out what’s going on first.” But that’s not how people act in real life. You don’t figure things out first and then act; often times you’re informed by what your body is telling you to do. That’s something that has been relatively new in my work as an actor: letting physical things inform the emotional.”

“In this case, the language informs it,” Lisa adds, “because these characters have very specific rhythms in their speech, and they’re all slightly different. How my character sounds was a big part of how I approached working on her.”

“I had a great teacher in grad school who did a lot of Shaw,” Steve says, “and he talked about how doing Shaw was like riding a bicycle in a crowded attic. You’re in a confined space, and there is no place to stop and put your foot down, so you always have to just keep driving. And there are so many boxes in the attic that you always have to make these twists and turns, and if there’s a box in front of you, you have to slow down and go around it. It’s all about down shifting and moving and adjusting, but never stopping.

“Describing Shaw’s language in that visual way just made sense to me. It was a great image for me eight years ago, and I came back to it here.”

You can see the Higgins family in action in BoHo and Stage Left Theatres’ joint production of Pygmalion, now playing at Theater Wit until February 10th. Do you have thoughts on the characters or our actors’ approach to them? Leave a comment below and join the conversation!

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Pygmalion: Catching Up With The Doolittles

George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion shows us three very different family units. We’ve already peeked behind-the-scenes at the trio of secondary characters that make up the Eynsford-Hill family. The next family is the Doolittles: Eliza and Alfred. While the two characters are family, they share little stage time together, and the particulars of their relationship are left up to the actors playing them. We caught up with our actors backstage before the show one day.

SOLITARY LIFESTYLES

Pygmalion production photo

“I don’t think that the characters really have much of a relationship,” says Stage Left Ensemble Member Mark Pracht, who plays Eliza’s father, Alfred Doolittle. “It says in the script he hasn’t seen her in two months, and I don’t think that’s unusual. I have it in the back of my head that Alfred has, like, 28 kids that are all running around London and he hardly sees any of them.”

“Her falling in with Higgins is just an opportunity for him to suck some money off of somebody. I think that’s just of the nature of that family, at least from Alfred’s perspective. He lives for himself. He doesn’t want to take care of a kid. If forced to he will, but he doesn’t really want to. So the fact that Eliza is able to take care of herself with selling flowers means he doesn’t have to deal with her.”

Stage Left Ensemble Member Mouzam Makkar, who plays Eliza, concurs. “I feel like Father Doolittle was just this remote presence in the household. She does tell the story of “my aunt died of influenza, but my father, he kept ladling gin down her throat…” So I feel like he was around, but they didn’t really talk. But I knew he was my dad and he would come by sometimes and-“

“And ask if you have money,” chimes in Mark.

“Exactly,” says Mouzam. “I feel that was pretty much the extent of the relationship.”

AN OPPORTUNISTIC STREAK

Mouzam Makkar as Eliza Doolittle
”Early on in the show, I’m doing a lot of just touching things, because I feel like Eliza probably hasn’t touched, for instance, nice engraved wood or plush couches, and I just totally imagined her being very sensory and touching and smelling things.”
-Mouzam Makkar

Still, the two characters came from the same neighborhood and the same class structure, and even if they didn’t have much interaction, they do share some familial similarities. “There is a certain assertiveness to the characters,” admits Mark. “The ability to just walk into the Higgins household and ask for what they want— that takes a certain disdain for the class structure. They’re both very opportunistic people. I think that’s probably on the Doolittle coat of arms: ‘Do for yourself.’”

Mouzam agrees. “Yeah, Doolittle is a smart guy, he knows where his strengths are, he knows what he can do, and I feel like Eliza knows what she is capable of too.” This is aptly demonstrated in the first scene of the play, in which Eliza rallies the crowd to her defense when she feels she might be arrested. “They both know how to manipulate a situation. They’re not strangers, she just knows ‘this is how I do my thing and this is how he does his.’”

COSTUMES AND BEARDS

Mark Pracht as Alfred Doolittle
“The interesting thing about Alfred’s argument as to why he should be given the money for Eliza is really hilarious to me, because at the time the concept of a dowry was pretty common, and I think that’s the way he looks at it: you’re taking my daughter, and that means you give me some money. He’s adept at using the society against itself.
-Mark Pracht

Mouzam and Mark are each drawn to their characters for different reasons.

“I love how strong Eliza is,” says Mouzam. “And it’s a role that kind of scared me at first, and I thought that meant I should probably audition for it. Because how often do you get the chance to say, ‘If get this role, then crap— I’m going to need to really figure this out and work hard at it!’”

For his role as Alfred, Mark has been specifically highlighted in many reviews, such as in the Chicago Sun-Times, which noted that he “mines every ounce of the comedy and self-awareness in Eliza’s dad.”

“I describe it as sort of a paratrooper role,” muses Mark. “You drop in, you say some funny stuff, and then you leave. And that’s always fun to do. You don’t have to carry the show.” No, but he certainly steals every scene he’s in. “I would never say I do that,” he demurs.

For this role, Mark grew an impressive set of friendly mutton chops, a style in which the mustache and side burns are connected. “In the last couple of years, I’ve been lucky enough to do parts that required me to do fairly extensive makeup, of one kind or another, and I really enjoy that,” Mark comments fondly. “I enjoy the idea of looking in the mirror and being about to go onstage and not seeing me, but just seeing the character. That’s also why I enjoy getting the costume. Thing don’t really come together for me until then.”

Speaking of costumes, Mouzam undergoes no less than five complete costume changes in the course of the two hour show. The evolution of these costumes also helped inform her acting choices. “The first costume I wear is so bulky and I can just slouch and be on the ground and I don’t think about ‘is my skirt set right?’ Plus I get to put dirt on my face and have scraggly hair. That really helps define early Eliza.”

“And then I get to do a slow transformation, where I take the dirt off first, and then I put all of my hair up, which makes me think, ‘oh, I don’t have anything on my shoulders now, this is nice,’ and then I get to put on the nice dress. My dresses get more and more constrained as the evening goes on, and that really does help me get to the point at the end where I’ve become a lady.”

You can see the Doolittles in action in BoHo and Stage Left Theatres’ joint production of Pygmalion, now playing at Theater Wit until February 10th. Do you have thoughts on the characters or our actors’ approach to them? Leave a comment below and join the conversation!

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Pygmalion: Dialect Coach Lindsay Barlett Sounds Off On Working With Our Actors

In our continuing series of posts looking behind-the scenes at BoHo's co-production of Pygmalion with Stage Left Theatre, we got a chance to talk to Dialect Coach (and Artistic Director of 20% Theatre) Lindsay Barlett on how she approached her work for this show.

Working on Pygmalion would seem to be a dialect coach's dream because it's a show all about dialect. Where do you start with a play like this? What is your process for gathering info?

Lindsay: This show is definitely a dialect coach's dream but then again any show with a vast amount of dialects is a dream to do because it challenges me. When I got the job working on this show I watched a lot of My Fair Lady as well as taped versions of Pygmalion just so I could get the tone. I also, as per usual for the shows i worked on, started gathering worksheets and voiced examples to not only use but pass on to the actors. A lot of my process happens after the show is cast and the rehearsals have begun because then I can witness how well a person will do with a specific dialect and whether we can tailor it or not.

What is the most fun about being a dialect coach?

Lindsay:I think the most fun thing about being a dialect coach is watching people become somebody different. Even when an actor is in their normal street clothes when you watch them put on a dialect they become a completely different person even though they are just changing the sounds that are coming out of their mouth. I kind of see it as a super power and I taught them it. I think Higgins nails it on the head when he says "you have no idea how frightfully interesting it is to take a human being and change her into quite a different human being"

What is the most challenging aspect about what you do?

Lindsay:I think the most challenging aspect about what I do is that sometimes people just can't do dialects. It's the same was as singing, not everyone is born with that talent and it takes time. It's very difficult sometimes to carve out time with an actor to work on dialect stuff because the blocking, working and general rehearsal process takes precedent but the dialect work sometimes takes the longest.

What is something that you think people don't realize about what you do?

Lindsay:I think that people don't realize how long dialect work takes. It's a different sort of designer schedule than more prominent designers like set or costumes. A Dialect Coach has to be available as often as possible at rehearsals and outside of rehearsals. Coaches are essentially an extension of the cast and not the production team.

Where do you find the time to be so knowledgeable about dialects AND be an artistic director at the same time?

Lindsay:sometimes I ask myself that very same question ;) To be honest, dialects come very easy to me, it's second nature and I have been doing them since I was a little kid so it is easy for me to translate what I know into teaching it to other people...I also am addicted to coffee and can run on very little sleep.

You can learn more about Lindsay on her website: www.lindsaybartlett.com. You can also hear all of Lindsay's carefully crafted sounds in person: Pygmalion is currently running at Theater Wit through February 10th. Learn more...

Friday, January 25, 2013

Pygmalion: Tips on Playing the Same Role Twice from Sandy Elias

Colonel Pickering appears in every scene of Pygmalion as Henry Higgins’ steady companion, eager to dissect dialects and help train Eliza in becoming a proper lady. As a counter point to Higgins’ disinterest and cruelty, Pickering offers a kind, supportive, grandfatherly presence to Eliza. But what really makes him tick?

A FAMILY AT WIMPOLE STREET

Pygmalion production photo Stage Left Theatre Ensemble Member Sandy Elias plays Pickering in our production. He believes Pickering leaps into the task of training Eliza—going so far as to move into Higgins’ apartment at Wimpole Street—because he’s attracted to the youthful energy there. “I used to be a college professor,” Sandy says, “and it’s a lot of fun to teach somebody. That’s the best way to learn a subject—to try to teach it to somebody else. Just being in that kind of environment of learning and watching Eliza develop is fun and exciting for him. He says it in the play: ‘It makes me feel young again.’

“So that’s part of what keeps him there. But it’s also genuine affection for Higgins and Eliza, and Mrs. Pearce, who takes care of everyone. It’s like an adopted family.”

“That’s one of the reasons I do plays,” Sandy continues. “It makes ME feel young again, just being involved in that kind of energy. Obviously, Steve [O’Connell] has tremendous amount of energy, as does Mouzam [Makkar], and it just carries into our offstage life.”

PICKERING REVISITED

Sandy Elias headshot Our production is not the first in which Sandy has played Colonel Pickering. He first played the role five years ago with Southwest Shakespeare Company in Arizona. Recreating a role under new circumstances is a unique challenge.

“Part of the trick, for me, was to forget about the other production I did and just play the moments as they occur in this one. That’s a bit of a challenge because sometimes I’ll be thinking about what happened last time, and maybe how this other kid delivered that line last time. But it makes you realize the organic, marvelous nature of live theatre. As you know, each performance is different, and obviously each production is different. So it’s kind of fun!”

SWEET HOME CHICAGO

Sandy is a graduate of Northwestern University’s theatre program. “When I moved to Chicago, I was 18, and I started at Northwestern in their summer theatre program. I had a wonderful time! I really owe a lot to Northwestern. It’s a great school, and I met some great people there.”

In all his years traveling around the country for theatre—and in working for over a decade at the Southwest Shakespeare Company—one thing stands out to him. “Every actor that I meet, when I’d tell them I was retiring from my teaching post and going back to Chicago, they were all jealous. They all want to be here, because the scene is so vibrant and alive… You can’t beat this city!

Catch Sandy's work while you can: Pygmalion is currently running at Theater Wit through February 10th. Learn more...

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Pygmalion: How Stephanie Sullivan discovered Mrs. Pearce

In our co-production of Pygmalion with Stage Left Theatre, BoHo's own Casting Associate Stephanie Sullivan plays Mrs. Pearce, housekeeper to Henry Higgins. She shared with us the process behind finding her approach to the character.

Stephanie Sullivan

"The path to discovering Mrs. Pearce has taken many different turns, especially because in the beginning, I wondered how I would take a character that is traditionally played by an older woman and make her story believable in the context of our production.

"The simple answer to the age thing? Mrs. Pearce has simply known Higgins her whole life, which affords her the knowledge she needs to 'handle' him (perhaps she even inherited her role from her mother, who would have been around to help raise Higgins.) Although my Mrs Pearce wouldn't have been around to help with the raising, she's been around long enough understand what it takes to manage him. She knows her position in life, but also knows that he could never manage without her. I've had a lot of fun in discovering what that fine line is— there's a balance between what her station in life dictates, and what her personal relationship with Higgins will allow.

"Luckily, I had a lot of inspiration to draw from; shows like Downton Abbey have prompted a whole new level of interest in the life of maids and footmen, many of which aren't too far from my actual age! In fact, one of the first things I remember Vance saying early on was, "I think of Mrs Pearce as someone kind of like Mrs O'Brien, but softer." Indeed, I think Mrs Pearce has the conviction and tenacity of Mrs O'Brien, without her cunning, scheming quality.

"The other fun thing we played with was dialect. Early on I rehearsed the script with standard RP in mind, but Vance wanted Mrs. Pearce's dialect to reflect a class distinction. We also knew that in the presence of a dialectician she couldn't sound anywhere near as bad as Eliza— no way he would be able to tolerate that for years!

Pygmalion production photo

It was Peter Robel who planted the seed of using a slightly Northern English influence in the dialect, which I feel has given this character a whole new flavor and life! Somehow this new direction made her much more three-dimensional, and brought qualities to her character that I wouldn't have discovered otherwise.

"What a fun show to be a part of! I am truly grateful for the experience and grateful to have worked with such an amazing cast and crew!"


Catch Stephanie's hilarious work while you can: Pygmalion is currently running at Theater Wit through February 10th. Learn more...

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Pygmalion: A Look at the Research Process with Skye Robinson Hillis

In our continuing series of posts looking behind-the scenes at BoHo's co-production of Pygmalion with Stage Left Theatre, we spoke with dramaturg Sky Robinson Hillis about how she approached researching a period show with this much history.

How to you get started when you're putting together research for a show? What's your first step?

Skye: It depends on the type of play you're working on, and whether or not it's a new play. Usually I begin with research of the era, particularly with a play like this. The time period is always the jumping off point for me. It usually guides me in the right direction. Everything starts there.

How do you anticipate what research might be most useful for the production team?

Skye:Anticipation is not always reliable, so I prefer just to ask them. I lay the groundwork and then if there's something specific they need me to focus on, better to find that out sooner than later. But generally, I would say we all tend to be interested in the same thing, and have a similar idea of what's important, as per the director's vision.

Drowning in information is possibly even less useful than having no information at all.

Where do you find your information? What has been your most interesting source for Pygmalion?

Skye:All over. Both the library and the internet. They each have their strengths and weaknesses. For this production, I read a lot of books on Victorian and Edwardian etiquette, so I became "Miss Manners." Maybe due to the time period we were looking at, the library was actually the more useful of the two. My most interesting source was actually this fantastic website that essentially turned Victorian England into an interactive Google map-type deal and allowed us to explore the city of London at that time. (I would include the link, but evidently now you have to pay for it.)

What is the most fun about being a dramaturg?

Skye:I'm just a giant nerd, so just about everything is the most fun thing. Working on this was especially so because Pygmalion has been one of my favorite plays since I was about thirteen and this was the first time I'd had any opportunity to actually be involved in a production of it. Researching the relationship between George Bernard Shaw and Mrs. Patrick Campbell is pretty much just an average Friday night for Skye Robinson Hillis, so it was a blast.

What is the most challenging aspect?

Skye:The most challenging aspect tends to be the filtering the information. Picking and choosing from all the gems you've discovered in order to focus on what's most relevant to the production, to the play we're making. But it's important to make those decisions and not overwhelm. Drowning in information is possibly even less useful than having no information at all.

Pygmalion is currently running at Theater Wit through February 10th. Learn more...

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Pygmalion: Crafting the Costumes with Theresa Ham

In our continuing series of posts looking behind-the scenes at BoHo's co-production of Pygmalion with Stage Left Theatre, we sat down with long-time BoHo Costume Designer Theresa Ham to discuss how she approached her work for this show.

Theresa: Designing Pygmalion was a big challenge, not only to create a beautiful full world, but working with the artistic visions of two companies. I have worked with BoHo for eight years, so I feel like I have a good grip on the artistic ideals for that company. But adding in Stage Left Theatre's artistic director Vance Smith, brought a new voice to my work with the company. I am always excited to work with new people, and this experience has been really great!

Pygmalion, Scene 3

How to you get started when you are putting together costumes for a show? What's your first step?

My first step is always to make a list of needs for the show. For example, what are the must haves that are referenced in the script and then discuss how to create the overall look with the director, in this case Vance Smith. Once I have a list of needs and a visual direction, I either draw, do research, or begin pulling items from stock sources.

Where do you find your inspiration in general? What about your inspiration for Pygmalion?

Theresa:I think inspiration can come from anywhere! As an artist, I am influenced by everything: fashion, studio art, nature, history, ect. Pygmalion is a period piece, meaning it is rooted in a past era, so when I have a project like this, the first place I look for inspiration is fashion books that illustrate the style of clothing during the given period— in this case, 1905-1912. From there, I can decide color and fabric to create a complete look.

Pygmalion, Scene 4

What do you find to be the most fun aspect of designing costumes for the stage, especially a period piece like this?

Theresa:The most fun is recreating the style of the period: really getting into how each character would present themselves given the style of the time. I really love watching actors get dressed in period costumes. It always effects their posture, demeanor, and movement. I think it helps them feel more appropriate, and it always makes me feel good to have the costumes make a positive impact on the actors.

What is the most challenging aspect about what you do?

I think my biggest challenge is to get inside each character. As an actor, you really have to know the character you are portraying, but as a costumer, you are making choices about every character in the play. I have to know how each character fits in the social ladder of the piece, how they view themselves, how their inner emotions might effect their clothing choices, and then how to convey that knowledge through costume to the audience! It's a big task, and I often rely on the director and actors to help me make those tough choices.

Pygmalion, Scene 6

What is something that you think people don't realize about your craft?

It is extremely collaborative. I work with everyone involved in the production. My work begins with the director, but I also need to communicate with the scenic designer (who creates the environment), lighting designer (who creates the emotional environment), actors (who actually wear the clothes), producers (funding and artistic vision), stage mangers and crew persons (who give our show continuity and make sure it can actually all work together backstage). If I am unwilling to collaborate and work together with others, my work will never be as good as it could be, because all of these people are inherently a part of it.

Pygmalion cast

See Theresa's beautiful costumes in action: Pygmalion is currently running at Theater Wit through February 10th. Learn more...

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Pygmalion: Behind the Scenes with the Eynsford-Hill Family

You’ve no doubt heard of Henry Higgins and Eliza Doolittle, either from George Bernard Shaw’s classic play Pygmalion or its musical reimagining, My Fair Lady. But how much do you know of the Eynsford-Hill family? This trio of secondary character s pops up to provide some comic relief, but also shine a light on the main characters and help define them for us.

THE SPOILED GIRL

Rebecca Mauldin headshot
“I think Clara is a fabulous character. Sometimes those sort of character roles are especially appealing to me, because they have a lot of places you can take them.”

BoHo’s own Casting Associate, Rebecca Mauldin, plays the spoiled young lady Clara Eynsford-Hill in our joint production of Pygmalion with Stage Left Theatre “She seems to be a very one-dimensional character upon the first read,” she says. “She’s spoiled. She likes things her way. But obviously she’s not one-dimensional, because no one is.

“She has a lot of potential, which Shaw mentions in his epilogue to the play. She’s struggling with a woman’s station in the world. She’s kind of stuck: she’s poor, but she has the training of a lady, and things are changing and her life is different and she doesn’t know how to cope. It kinda sucked to be a lady back then. You didn’t have a lot of options.”

Indeed, Clara is almost a portrait of Eliza in reverse. Over the course of play, Eliza rises in social stature as she sheds her lower-class manners, transforming from the loud flower girl at the beginning of the play to a fine lady at the end. In the process, Eliza finds she has lost her independence. Meanwhile, Clara is part of a family in financial decline, and is embracing the coarse language and manners of the lower-class. Seeking her youthful independence, we see Clara reveling in rudeness and foul language, to the horror of those around her, while Eliza is embracing proper etiquette and speech, to the amazement of others.

As for Clara’s frequent outbursts and generally rebellious nature, Rebecca thinks, “she definitely manipulates her family into doing what she wants. She’s learned that she gets her way by pouting. I do think it’s learned to some degree, you know? You will continue something if it gets a response.”

THE HAPLESS LAD

Charles Riffenburg headshot
“I love getting to a play a character who communicates as much in his reactions as in his words.”

Meanwhile, Clara’s brother Freddie would seem to be nothing greater than a simple upper-class fool. But his courtship of Eliza, and her willingness to possibly marry him at the end, sets him up as so much more than just a fool. In fact, he functions as a foil for Higgins. In the final act of the play, when Higgins scoffs at the idea of Eliza marrying Freddie, he asks, “Can he MAKE anything of you?” Eliza responds, “Perhaps I could make something of him.” In this scenario, the roles are reversed: Freddie has been showering Eliza with the affections Higgins never has, and gives Eliza the chance to be the supportive teacher and friend that Higgins never was to her.

“I like Freddie because he’s innocent,” says BoHo’s Media Director Charles Riffenburg, who is playing Freddie in our production, “which is not to say he’s unfamiliar with the world. He knows proper manner and etiquette, but he also knows how the world works. And he finds it all amazing.

“For me, that’s the only way to reconcile that fact that Freddie knows full well who Eliza is when he meets her at Mrs. Higgins’ at-home— she’s the strong-spirited flower girl who swiped his cab one rainy night— and he still completely and utterly falls for her. He sends her a flood of letters almost daily. Coming from a family with rapidly dwindling money and social stature, at a time when getting a job would plunge his family into being commoners, chasing after a poor flower girl with no money herself, regardless of how proper she acts, is crazy— but he does it anyway. I think it’s because he’s open to that kind of experience. He knows all the proper rules of Edwardian society, but he refuses to recognize them as a limitation.”

THE CODDLING MOTHER AND THE ABSENT FATHER

Laura Sturm headshot
“I think Mrs Eynsford-Hill adores her children, but Clara’s behavior and how it alienates the family is very trying. She was raised to be a lady, but the situation has pushed her off of her comfort level.”

Unfortunately, due to the combining of Clara and her mother into one character in My Fair Lady, Mrs. Eynsford-Hill is often dismissed as an upper-class snob. However, Laura Sturm, who plays Freddie and Clara’s mother, sees the character and her handling of the family from the very different perspective: that of a woman on the edge of crisis.

Whereas Henry’s mother, Mrs. Higgins, has the stature, money, and proper manners to provide her with stability in society (regardless of her son’s boorish disregard for any of the trapping of etiquette), Mrs. Eynsford-Hill is not so lucky. “Honestly, the two children are Mrs. Eynsford-Hill’s lifeline. One of them needs to marry well or she’s going to starve. It sounds sort of silly, that marriage is this life or death thing, but in this time period it’s true. And so when Clara misbehaves in front of a woman who could cut all of us socially, it is terrifying and devastating.”

“In my mind, in the back story I’ve made for the character, there are already people who have cut us socially because we don’t dress as well and we’re not as fashionable as everyone else, and because we can’t reciprocate, we don’t have the means to host parties, so we’re not invited to as many of them anymore. And in my mind, Clara has had her little heart broken by some nasty society witches, which is very upsetting to her mother.”

For our actors, the unexplained absence of Mr. Eynsford-Hill in the play creates a rich opportunity in crafting the history of their family. In order to compose a rich inner life for a character, actors must often invent or infer parts of their history if the script does not provide such information. In this instance, all three actors have decided that the reason Mr. Eynsford-Hill is absent from the play is that he died some years ago. He was the sole source of their money, and it’s been dwindling ever since.

“I did some research on Epsom, which is where Mrs. Eynsford-Hill says she was raised,” Laura reveals, “and it was known for the Epsom Downs Racecourse,” which was (and still is) England’s premier thoroughbred horse race. “It’s my thought that her husband liked to gamble, and that took care of a good amount of the family’s money.”

The loss of Mr. Eynsford-Hill has influenced how Laura approaches playing Mrs. Eynsford-Hill and how she deals with her family. “I think if her husband had stayed alive, and they’d had money, she’d have done a better job raising the two children. She is a fine lady, but she’s on the edge.”

You can see the Eynsford-Hills in action in BoHo and Stage Left Theatres’ joint production of Pygmalion, now playing at Theater Wit until February 10th. Do you have thoughts on the characters or our actors’ approach to them? Leave a comment below and join the conversation!