Monday, May 5, 2014

Best of Chicago 2014: Anna in the Darkness and Megan Merrill

Voting for the Chicago Reader's Best of Chicago 2014 Poll is now open, and we think Dream Theatre has some of the most outstanding artists in the city. The play that has come to be our signature piece, ANNA, IN THE DARKNESS, is now in its 12th year and nominated for BEST LONG RUNNING PLAY. Megan Merrill, nominated for BEST ACTRESS, has been playing Anna for over four of them.
Megan Merrill in the 2012 production of Anna, in the Darkness
All most people know when they see Anna, in the Darkness for the first time is that Anna is a schoolteacher trapped in her house in small-town Texas, and tonight is the night the people of her town finally come to kill her. Playing Anna once was a rite of passage for actresses hoping to become Dream Theatre Company members; the role has been played by at least a dozen actresses, sometimes two in the same show. Before the show was extended into an open run, many of our Audience would come back Halloween after Halloween to see Anna, and some even would make sure they saw each actress playing Anna in a given year. Anna has been played in a tent, in abstract darkness, in a basement, with different endings for different actresses ... after 12 years our Audience still loves Anna, still wants to experience terror along with her. 

And so does Megan. Megan Merrill has been a company member with Dream Theatre since 2008. Her performance as Anna has been called "flawless" (Chicago Reader) and a "tour de force" (NewCity Chicago). She has this to say about her tenure as Anna: 
"After four years, I still discover new things about Anna in every performance, and it's because every performance has a new Audience. I see what parts of Anna's story they respond to, what parts scare them, what parts upset them. Anna's story is reflected back to me in the Audience's faces. Anna speaks directly to the Audience -- there is no fourth wall -- and she needs them to know her story, she needs them to understand. Some Audience are there with her right away and some need Anna to bring them in. Anna's experience changes based on what the Audience feels along with her, and so playing Anna is just as intense, and just as terrifying, as the first time I stepped on stage with my candle." 
Megan in the 2013-2014 Anna, in the Darkness

These are the other votes we cast in the poll. We'll be posting more about the artists we think deserve recognition as the week goes on. Click here to vote!
Best Long-Running Play: Anna, in the Darkness
Best New Play: Amleth, Princess of Denmark
Best Off-Loop Theatre Company: Dream Theatre Company
Best Stage Director: Anna & Jeremy Menekseoglu
Best Actor: Jeremy Menekseoglu
Best Actress: Megan Merrill (for Anna, in the Darkness)
Best Performing Arts Festival: Chicago Fringe
Best Burlesque Troupe: Vaudezilla 

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