Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Why Produce Sarah Ruhl's Eurydice?

It takes a playwright of uncommon bravery to write the kinds of cryptic stage directions that Sarah Ruhl uses in EURYDICE. Directions like "He picks her up and throws her into the sky" or "He creates a room of string. It takes time to build a room out of string" or simply "Time passes." Many playwrites would be tempted to spell out in detail what should happen in these scenes and these moments, but Ruhl leaves all of this up to the imaginations of the play's creative team. She invites us to be creative partners and to invent a truly unique experience.

This is part of what inspired me to direct this play: the opportunity to gather a team of talented artists and create this play together, as an ensemble, in a way that is personal and meaningful to us. This invitation to be playful and explore the play from new perspectives is what led us to tear apart the Heartland Studio to create a whole new audience configuration, to match the poetry of the words with stylized movement and original music, and to cast a young woman in the male role of Orpheus. We can confidently proclaim that this is a production of EURDICE like none you have seen before.

For me, all of this artistry is aimed at a very personal message: At the heart of this weird little play is danger and tragedy of not being able to let go of the people we love when their time with us is over. We will all deal with loss and change in our lives. Maybe you have already. It is part of being human. Everything in life, including this production, will eventually be over and gone. But we cannot spend so much time looking back that we never look ahead. And in this play, and in the courage and love and creativity that our artists pour into each performance, I am reminded of this lesson.

Charles Riffenburg
Eurydice Director

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

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Fugitive Songs Director Asks "Why Do We Run?"

"I’m over my head and under the gun with so many reasons to run,” completes the opening verse in Fugitive Songs.

Working with our extraordinary cast on this song cycle has shown me that the word “fugitive” can have so many definitions. On the surface, this show appears to be a series of vignettes with unique characters singing killer music. But what this material truly captures is a perfect example of life. It is not just about successes and failures, it is about the transitions between those events. That is what really defines us as extraordinary individuals.

Many of us have thought at one time or another: what would it be like to 'start over', to abandon our personal problems and start over from scratch with the goal of a new perspective or purpose? What we are really seeking is a renewed sense of hope. Every day we face the barrage of our social, political, and economic climate in the news. But what about the emotional, mental, and physical challenges we are facing as a society? It starts with each individual. How can we expect to change the world if we can’t face ourselves first?

I feel strongly that Fugitive Songs is not about what we leave behind, it is about the unknown that lies ahead. Remarkably, it is what we all experience within the human condition. My hope for our audiences is that they will be able to acknowledge their own reasons to run, and at the same time, accept their reasons to stay.

Zachary L. Gray
Director of Fugitive Songs

BoHo Theatre's Fugitive Songs runs through March 13th, 2016, at the Heartland Studio in Rogers Park. Tickets and more information...

Friday, January 22, 2016

Eurydice to replace Uncle Vanya in 2016 Season

Since the beginning, BoHo Theatre has always looked to include the most contemporary plays and musicals in our seasons to complement our classics. We’ve even been lucky enough to stage a few regional and city premieres in our day (such as The Wild Party and The Glorious Ones). We were thrilled when we announced that we would be producing Annie Baker’s new translation of Uncle Vanya in our 2016 season.

BoHo is a storefront theatre. We do amazing productions given our size and budget, but we are still a relatively small fish in the pond of Chicago theatre. And sometimes that means having to get out of the way for larger fish. At the end of 2015, we were approached by a much larger theatre in Chicago that wanted to produce Uncle Vanya in their upcoming season. Given the choice between us and a large theatre, the licensing company asked that we relinquish the rights. It’s just business, nothing personal. At the same time, this theatre (who we won’t name because we want them to announce their season in their own time) was extremely gracious and supportive about the incident, a testament to how much of a family Chicago theatre is, from the largest union theatre to the smallest storefront. We wish them well on their production and can’t wait to see it ourselves.

We were then left in a position to quickly fill a hole in our season. After substantial debate amongst our company, we chose Sarah Ruhl’s Eurydice. This play is a beautiful, heartbreaking work that is a playground for designers and directors. And at its core, true to our mission, it is a story about relationships. Eurydice is in love with her musician husband Orpheus, but when she dies on their wedding day, she meets her father in the Underworld, who still loves her and dotes on her. She is torn between staying with her father and returning to the world of the living with her husband—an impossible choice. It is poetic and absurd and hilarious and speaks to very real emotions. It is truly a BoHo (and bohemian) show, and we feel it is a story that our community needs to experience.

We’re already beginning preliminary work on Eurydice, but most of our focus right now is on our upcoming production of Fugitive Songs. Fugitive Songs is a moving song cycle about running away from your problems and finding your way back. The cast already sounds amazing, and we can’t wait to share rehearsal photos and videos with you next week! Memberships for our entire 2016 season are still available. Here’s to a wonderful and artistic 2016!