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!


  1. Bohemianism to me means a lifestyle of freedom, expression, and love--immersing yourself in art and the things that you like to do even if they aren't accepted by everyone or most people. As an artist and art lover, I'm really excited to become acquainted with BoHo Theatre and I'm really digging your Bohemianism, professionalism, and support of the artist. Right on! When I saw Veronica's Room, I saw a show that was obviously the result of a very organic and supportive process, where dedication and passion were poured into every detail, from moments created by the actors to subtle details crafted by the set designer and crew. The performance was a well-crafted expression of art in every aspect, and the experience was a thrilling rollercoaster of emotions. Thank you, BoHo, for what you do and for helping us to embrace the Bohemian lifestyle!

  2. Thanks for your thoughts, Glenn. I think we're on the same wavelength with the Bohemian lifestyle. It's interested to me though that many people, now and throughout history, see Bohemianism from slightly different angles. I think that pantheon of opinions is also a very Bohemian thing.