Thursday, September 30, 2010

John - Sounds on the Set

Our director has been rehearsing his own role onstage with a music remote in his hand. So even though Devilish Children is still 4 weeks from opening, most of the scenes are already being played with musical accompaniment, which is quite a charming effect. I have the impression most of the actors find it helpful. I certainly do, for my little turn on the stage.

I almost wrote "Herr Director" for "our director," so accustomed am I becoming to the German accents and words which the cast is working with. In the first weeks of rehearsal, the cast sometimes reverted to some sort of Cockney accent, or French, or Swedish. But no more. They've locked the right country into place in their brains.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Bil - We Are Master Builders

Read it in the Reader!
In case you haven't already heard, "Devilish Children and the Civilizing Process" has been named a Best Bet from the Fall Arts Guide in the Chicago Reader. Thanks, Reader!

In hopes of living up to the Reader's prediction, we've been working furiously not only to memorize our lines, but also to build the set.  We've also been working really, really, really, really hard to find our characters.  Since our characters are all children, we've been trying to find innocence, immediacy, and the ability to switch emotions in the blink of an eye.
You'll never guess which colors we chose.

Unfortunately, we've been working both projects at the same time, and now it looks like our set was constructed by a bunch of toddlers.

That's okay, though.  We'll milk that charm and run with it.

This is possibly the first proscenium stage that most of us have worked on in a long, long, time.  It's certainly Dream Theatre's first proscenium stage, even though it's just a mock proscenium set inside our big black box.  It's more of a beast to work with than we all remembered; all those basic acting things like "cheat out to the audience" and "speak loudly and clearly" are now heightened, and our the wings of the set present a unique-to-us (but actually quite normal) logistics problem.  So, in another Dream Theatre first, we actually spent today writing down our entrances and exits, and placing chalk outlines where our props are supposed to be set.  IT'S LIKE WE'RE PROFESSIONAL OR SOMETHING.

But if you're thinking Dream Theatre is trying to turn itself into the next big Broadway house, you're wrong.  This set is no ordinary set, and our story is no Eugene O'Neill rip-off.  We're not aiming for "professional" in the stuffy sense of the word, we're aiming for "prepared."  Being prepared is the only way we're going to blow the audience's unprepared minds.  This is one tricky play, and we're gonna burn through it like a comet through the stratosphere.  We need to be precise in our execution.  We need to be all grace and manners.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Bil - Ass

I was thinking about assumptions recently in a rehearsal, and it dawned on me all of a sudden that our little social clique of Devilish Children makes an assumption in the beginning, when we first encounter Little Karl and his Vati (father). It can't be helped, everybody makes assumptions when we first meet new people.

So, in the course of the rehearsals, I had decided subconsciously that we all (or at least I) hated Vati right away and would sympathize with Little Karl, him being a poor young boy being scolded by his mean father.

But it occurred to me the other day that it makes more sense if the Devilish Children immediately assume that Vati is correct, and consequently we'd immediately assume that Little Karl is an asshole. This is why we take it upon ourselves to torment him with education.

It's okay for the audience to decide that Vati is an asshole, but we children must think of him as the proper way to be. Vati's cold demeanor and strict adherence to proper society's rules is what we believe we ought to strive for, and the bad things happen when we break the rules.

"Devilish kinder are not tolerated in civilized society."
It takes the show's "prison" element to a whole new level. We see so often, especially in American literature and cinema, the prisoners' tendency to band together against "the man."  It would have been easy and boring for us to fall into that mentality, so to make things more watchable, we're now taking this question with us: "What happens if the prisoners agree that they ought to be imprisoned, and try to emulate their wardens?" We use our unique story talents to convince the new prisoner that he's wrong about his situation.

What we get when we do this is a society of prisoners teaching each other, and the wardens – adults, in this case – become absent and irrelevant.  Can't say at this point whether the absence begets the irrelevance, or vice-versa; for now, though, it doesn't matter.  The important part is that we children teach another child how to behave the way we believe is correct.  (Think "Lord of the Flies" here.)  We don't try to escape, and we don't cry up about our own innocence.  Because when you assume your own make an ass out of you and me. (Right? Right.)

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Bil - Photos Shot

After a rambunctious, caffeine-filled Saturday preparing for Theatre of Women 5, capping the night with sold-out performances and massive artistic satisfaction, the cast and crew of The Devilish Children & the Civilizing Process quietly got together and created some "tasteful" photographs for our "humble" marketing campaign. We had a chance to calm down and reflect on the festivities of the night before.

This is what we look like when we're calm and reflective:

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Annelise - photo shoot

Today we took photos for posters, etc. The coolest thing about the experience was seeing everyone build the physical exteriors of their characters. I realized that we've already created a visually rich mental world for the action of our play. It was a real treat to see it realized today!

More impressive? During the portions of the shoot that I was able to see, each and every cast member projected their characters through the minutest details of their respective facial arrangements, even though most of us have been living with these children for a comparatively short amount of time. I was reminded of what an incredibly talented group of actors I'm getting to work with.

Finally, I personally enjoyed playing Sigi's look today. It was like being a child myself: playing dress-up with the heirloom clothes up in the attic and letting my imagination take over. More importantly, experiencing that sense of play again made me appreciate the seriousness of the world of "Devilish Children." Nothing is too horrible or too wonderful to exist in the Devilish Children's theater, because the scope its reality is as wide as a kind's imagination (very wide indeed).

The crux of these impressions? I think "Devilish Children" is going to pack quite the physical, visual, and emotional punch. I can't wait for our next rehearsal!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Annelise - say what you mean to say!

Hey all, Annelise here! I’m playing Sigi Sleeplessness/Awakedness and understudying Conrad. I’m still a little new to the Dream Theatre (I started working with them this past March), so I’m excited for this process!

Tonight’s rehearsal really brought home a few things about technique that I’ve learned from Dream Theatre in the past six months. It was the first time I got to take a crack at Conrad (with admittedly mixed results). In a way this jumps off Michelle’s lovely post about how to act like a child.

Most adults, myself included, have these lovely layers we drape over what we think or feel. For example: adults who observe the rules of propriety don’t cry in public (as the Devilish Children tell us). If someone whom Person A loves puts her down, she will process the insult, feel the hurt, cover it with a fa├žade of composure, and change the subject to something quotidian, like the weather. Nevertheless, it’s likely that an undertone of A’s hurt will carry through and she’ll still sound a little upset. As an actor playing that situation, I’d normally identify those hurt feelings, get comfortable with them, and cover them back up with the civility. Children, on the other hand, don’t do that. Most children haven’t fully internalized all the rules of normal social conduct. They wear their hearts right on their sleeves. So it seems as though playing a child should be easier, right? Just leave out that last step, don’t cover up the emotions!

Sadly, it wasn’t that simple tonight, mein Lieblings, primarily because as an adult, I’ve already internalized the rules of socially appropriate behavior as part of my acting technique! I’m used to adult characters who rarely say what they really mean (at least in contemporary texts), and so have a knee-jerk reaction hide my character’s full emotional world: I think what my character really means, then cover it up a little bit. So tonight, I read Conrad looking for both the emotion and a way to cover it up at the same time! Yikes!

It’s my thought that to play a child, you have to speak on the thought. Young children don’t have an internal monologue – they say what they mean when they mean it. You can’t really play a child honestly by placing yourself in the child’s situation and bringing the character down to you. If you try to do that, your adult brain will run amok with the clarity of your character’s thought process. You truly do have to lift yourself up to the character and alter the way you mind works (check out Jeremy’s post on the 4 rules of acting).

One last fragment of a thought: the children in this school, though they know the lessons of the civilizing process through and through, have not fully internalized them. They do have some adult qualities, for example the ability to deceive, but they also have moments when they revert back to their child-like straightforwardness and play. They seem more like they’re in limbo between the children that they were before they came to the school and the little ladies and gentlemen they’ve learned to be.

Anna - Theatre of Women 5

This is our 5th year for Theatre of Women and our 3rd 24 hour festival at Dream Theatre.
I am excited to announce our Writers, Directors, Actresses and Artists for this year's festival!

Writers arrive only 24 hours prior to the performance and write all night. Actresses and Directors work all day to prepare and the show is performed that evening.

Giau Truong and Chad Sheveland will be designing the show and running Tech.
Rachel Martindale and Annelise Lawson will be designing the lobby and running the House.

the show runs only twice: 9/11/10 at 8pm and 10pm

This year we asked actresses: "What is your dream role, what do you never get to play and wish you could, what turns you on?"
The writers' challenge is to write those characters into their stories.
The actresses will be asked to push themselves to what they always wanted to be.

play 1 - by Randall Colburn directed by Kaitlen Osburn
starring: Amanda Batterson, Samantha Affram & Emily Harpe

play 2 - by Anna Weiler directed by Eileen Tull
starring: Caitlin Chuckta, Laura Kruegel, Alexandria Frenkel, Katelin Stack & Megan Captaine

play 3 - by Mishelle Apalategui directed by William Bullion
starring: Megan Merrill, Joanna Bess, Meredith Rae Lyons & Dayna Shrader

play 4 - by Lani Montreal directed by Britnee Ruscitti
starring: Sarah Bockel, Sarah Welborn, Stephanie Limesand & Molly Todd

play 5 - by Bil Gaines directed by Nathan Robbel
starring: Candice Johnson, Kristen Noel Glogowski & Denise Smolarek

play 6 - by John Enright directed by Lance Brett Hall
starring: Jelisa Morgan, Judy Steele & Heather Joireman

play 7 - by Jeremy Menekseoglu directed by Jason Miller
starring: Judith Lesser, Courtney Arnett, Alicia Reese & Audrey Bertaux-Skeirik

I cant wait to see what imaginative work shows up in this performance!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Jeremy - The History of Theatre of Women

Theatre of Women began as a call to action for actresses. Theatre has always been a male dominated art form where many plays feature male leads while actresses become a sort of accessory. Dream Theatre has always produced shows with a predominately women cast and so decided to produce a play that celebrate the actress. Theatre of Women 1 was a collection of pieces written by Jeremy Menekseoglu where seven actresses took you on a journey into nightmares where the actress played the kind of roles that have historically been reserved for men. The play opened with a large table covered in weapons and each actress would step forward choose a weapon and her scene would begin.

With Theatre of Women 2: the format changed dramatically. Instead of one writer, we brought in 5 and instead of 7 actresses, we brought in 20.

With each Theatre of Women the themes have changed, the roles have become more and more exciting and this now annual event has become a highlight of Dream Theatre’s Season.

The celebration of the Actress. The Power of the Actress. The beauty and virtue of the Actress.

Buckle up my dear Audience, these actresses are about to blow your damn minds!

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Bil - A Night at the Opera (and Other Places)

The Civic Opera House.
Our rehearsal at the Civic Opera House was a smash success - we went through the first meditation exercise of the rehearsal process for "Devilish Children" and we even got our first scene up on its feet.

We also got a preview of what Sigi Sleeplessness and Sigi Awakedness will look and sound like.

Annelise amuses the crowd.
The meditation exercise is a Dream Theatre process tradition, where the lights go low and the sound comes up, we close our eyes, and typically Jeremy walks us through various points of interest inside the world of the play.  This time around, however, he simply provided sound and let us travel around on our own separate journeys, using only the sounds we hear as the one link between us.  We spent a good deal of time listening to various German songs, or else children making some kind of communal noise (either all crying or all laughing), or in between the highlights, a brooding, deep hum that both moved and didn't move, like the ocean.

This was the first time we'd gone without guidance, and it was also the longest meditation exercise we'd ever done.  Each of us had our own respective idea of who we were and where we went during this time, and the songs and sounds had different effects on all of us.  Some of us started out as our own characters, some of us did not.  Some of us spent a lot of time inside the theatre where these children reside, some of us did not.  Some of us flew, some of us walked.

All of us had some kind of particular revelation about the play.

 Personally, I realized most strongly that the scene where our play takes place – a run-down, dilapidated old puppet theatre in the middle of a nineteenth-century German city – was the most colorful, warm, and safe place we could possibly be.  I started out as a sort of steady-cam-style omniscient presence, not myself or the character Conrad.  The sky was gray and overcast, but the day itself was bright and clear.  I moved slowly from the outskirts of town, where the rich people live, inward, watching the city get dirtier and meaner as I wandered closer to the center.  Buildings got denser and darker as I moved in.

In my mind, I could see the entrance to the theatre as I reached the center, but for some reason I always hesitated to go inside.  With each new song or noise, I'd instead sneak into some place of work, either where back-breaking factory work is carried out, or else a business office filled with unsatisfied middle-class clerks or lawyers or accountants maintaining a brain-numbing bureaucracy; or, if not a place of work, it would be a home, with an over-crowded family inside, all screaming and miserable.

Eventually I did go into the old puppet theatre, and I found our characters (including Conrad) antagonizing Little Karl as they do in this play.

What occurred to me by the end of it was that these children in here have no good cause to escape their theatre-school-prison.  The harshness and misery of the outside world are worse than being locked in a school of manners for children.  And the way we, the children, take it upon ourselves to teach Little Karl to behave properly in society is not for the purpose of preparing him to go back out into that world, but for...some other purpose.  I'm not sure we've decided exactly what.  But part of it involves staying in the school, not escaping.

I don't want to give away the end of the play, so I'll stop here, but I do want to say that this revelation will definitely inform the intentions we have as actors, and ultimately, it'll make us move toward the more interesting choice.

And when that happens, the audience always wins.
A view from the stage at the Civic Opera Studio Theatre.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Bil - Dancing in the Street

I know rehearsals are working because I actually remember some of it two days later.  Mainly, the more basic acting points that are so easy to forget, like "don't lose momentum in the middle of a sentence" and "don't forget what's happening in this scene."  I could slap myself in the forehead every time I have to be reminded.  Luckily, these (and other) points have carried over since our last rehearsal.

It's Friday now, and our first two rehearsal were on Tuesday and Wednesday.  The first rehearsal of any Dream Theatre show involves the cast creating the universe of the play so that we're all on the same page.  We've collectively decided that our play takes place in a creepy old medieval puppet theatre in the center of a dingy, dirty, polka-laden, industrial city somewhere in Germany in the mid 1880's.  High society has no tolerance for the whims of naughty children.

Our second rehearsal centered around Romping Polly, whose tragic tale involves carelessness on the same level as this romping gangsta:

Since it's early in the rehearsal process, there's still lots of figuring-out going on.  In this scene, I play Conrad playing Romping Polly's older, more distinguished brother.  Something occurred to me after I left the rehearsal that stuck with me: these children are putting on a show.

Herr Director has been telling us over and over (and I hope he continues to tell us) that this is not children's theatre.  It's not grown-ups acting like children for the sake of relating to children in order to teach them lessons.  Neither are we satirizing this particular pillar of society.  Our world is very real, and the things that happen are quite real, but at the same time, they comprise several layers of theatrical performance.  It's a little bit absurd, a little bit realism.  There needs to be this balance of delightful humor and appalling horror – like having fun dancing in the street, only to get hit by a passing ice cream truck.  I guess we'll have a clearer idea of what this means as we figure out even more along the way.

Tonight we rehearse in the Lyric Opera of Chicago building.  I've never even been in there, let alone seen a show there, let alone rehearsed a show that had nothing to do with the Lyric Opera of Chicago.  This should be fun...or scary.