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March 2013 Archives

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Actor Bradford Lund is thinking about how hard it is to let go. A lead in Benjamin Brownson’s Beautiful Broken, Lund has thought a lot about the dramady’s themes--the messiness of relationships, peoples’ darker selves. “We hold onto people, things, ideals, disappointments.” Lund says. “There is no formula that can tell you how to move on.” Lund spoke with Our Town about relationships, rehearsal and Chicago theatre.

OT Beautiful Broken is set in the Chicago theatre scene. Why will non actors find the show interesting?
BL We can't help but be caught up in other people's business. Our need to change or inspire change in others is universal, whether our not you're involved in theatre. I also think humans enjoy watching each other being broken down and then built back up.

OT Brownson says the show grew out of a fascination with the messiness of relationships. How does that come through in the text?
BL The text definitely reflects a lot of diagnosing and/or misdiagnosing of relationship issues. It is fascinating to me that communication can be so hard won between couples whose foundation is built upon openness.

OT What aspects of your character do you particularly connect with?
BL I connect with Paul's need to improve the well being of the people around him. He sees the potential for opportunity and change in the lives of his best friend and girlfriend. There have been times in my life that I have chose to avoid dealing with my own problems, and instead project them onto others. Oops.

OT What’s the rehearsal process been like?
BL Playful, safe, and emotionally challenging. Thomas Murray is a very nurturing director.  I also consider it a blessing to work so closely with the playwright.

OT What’s the best part of doing theater in Chicago?
BL The wide range of work being produced.  There is incredibly brave work being done in some of the city's smallest storefronts. I love Chicago theatre because the vast majority are collaborating for the love of storytelling.

OT Who is your dream audience member?
BL Someone who is listening and being attentive. Someone who is respectful of the actors and other audience members around them.

OT Tips for actors just starting out?
BL Get involved. See shows. Take a class. Be patient. Be humble.

"Beautiful Broken" runs March 29 through April 21. Purchase tickets here.

A writer with an MFA in Creative Writing from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Sarah Terez Rosenblum freelances for sites like Pop Matters and
afterellen.com Her debut novel, “Herself When She’s Missing," was called “poetic and heartrending” by ALA Booklist. Sarah is also a figure model, Spinning instructor and teacher at Chicago’s StoryStudio. Inevitably one day she will find herself lecturing naked on a spinning bike. She's kind of looking forward to it actually.
IMPORTANT: the official Our Town site doesn't support comments. Join in the conversation by following facebook.com/OurTownBlog.ChicagoSunTimes and Sarah on Twitter: @SarahTerez
and Facebook.

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Name: Anna Unger

Age: 32

Day job: Bookkeeper

Why do you run?  I love the feeling of giving my all and being totally worn out in the best possible way.

How long have you been running?  A little over 2 years.

What makes someone a runner?
  Anyone who runs is a runner, whether they believe it or not.

Miles per week:  On an average week when I'm not training for something specific, 20-25 miles.

Mile time: For a leisurely run: 10-10:30.  If I'm pushing myself to the max: 8:30-9:00.

Races you’ve competed in (if any): Rock 'n' Roll Chicago Half Marathon, F^3 Lake Half Marathon, Chicago Half Marathon, Chicago Marathon

Favorite running route(s):  You can't beat the lakefront path.  Beautiful all year round and much less crowded in the wintertime.

Best run:  2012 Chicago Half Marathon.  Everything fell into place.  I had done a handful of half marathons before this and there was always something holding me back, from high temperatures to injury.  On this day, though, the weather was cool, the sun was shining, I was running fast, I felt great and my friends were there to greet me when I finished.

Worst run:  Any time I'm running, I'm happy.  That being said, I did a 16 mile training run this summer on a very hot day and I was very glad when that was over.  After a while my legs just stopped working like I needed them to, so I stopped and walked for a while. Then I used all my energy to run the last mile.  Even so, that run was very important to my training.  Sometimes your worst runs show you just how much you are capable of.  It may have been hard, but I finished those 16 miles and even though I walked some of it, I didn't quit.

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Event planner and catering lead Jodi Fyfe has long been an integral part of the Chicago hospitality scene. Since 2005, she’s brought her skills to bear on an endeavor close to her heart. After Fyfe’s cousin died of breast cancer, Fyfe created Tickled Pink and Carrie’s Crusade, both of which help raise funds to fight breast cancer. Fyfe spoke with Our Town about her campaign.

Our Town What motivated you to create Tickled Pink? 
Jodi Fyfe I created Tickled Pink in 2004 after my cousin and best friend, Carrie Kenney, lost her battle with breast cancer. After Carrie's death at the tragically young age of 35, I was determined to keep my cousin’s fun-loving spirit alive. I formed a team for a 2004 breast cancer walk.  She was the best person I knew, and I wanted to find another way to remember her the way that she lived, always so vibrant and fun-loving, and she inspired me so much. So Tickled Pink was born!

OT How do you think you were able to transform grief into proactive goal-setting? 
JF Year after year, in her honor, I continue to give back to breast cancer organizations so that they can help others like Carrie deal with the questions, fear, and pain she faced while battling breast cancer. My continued goal is to help get the word out and generate money so no one else has to face this battle alone.

OT How does Tickled Pink work? 
JF In 2005, I gathered a group of close friends and colleagues to start Tickled Pink Chicago in honor of Carrie. In February 2005, the first Tickled Pink party was thrown and we raised $35,000. Every year, the party and team of individuals that came together to celebrate those affected by breast cancer have grown, and to date [we’ve] raised more than $900,000.  We all dedicate and donate our time to plan and leverage our business connections to sponsor this wonderful event. From the venue, to the catering and food sponsors, lighting, décor, entertainment, we have a great committee.

OT What sort of work does Carrie’s Crusade do to raise awareness?  
JF We partner with breast cancer organizations to help raise funds for their programs, support networks and help get the word out.  We are proud to be walking in the Komen Chicagoland Race for the Cure on Mother's Day as part of Carrie's Crusade. The event raises money to support breast cancer education and screening in the Chicagoland area, and funds research in hopes of finding a cure for breast cancer.

OT What are your fundraising/ awareness raising plans right now? 
JF We are hoping to sign up at least 100 people to walk with Carrie's Crusade in the Komen Chicagoland Race for the Cure and aim to be among the largest fundraising teams.  We are also gearing up for Tickled Pink 2014 which will be held again at River East Art Center on Friday, February 28th 2014.

To learn more or get involved go here.

A writer with an MFA in Creative Writing from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Sarah Terez Rosenblum freelances for sites like Pop Matters and
afterellen.com Her debut novel, “Herself When She’s Missing," was called “poetic and heartrending” by ALA Booklist. Sarah is also a figure model, Spinning instructor and teacher at Chicago’s StoryStudio. Inevitably one day she will find herself lecturing naked on a spinning bike. She's kind of looking forward to it actually.
IMPORTANT: the official Our Town site doesn't support comments. Join in the conversation by following facebook.com/OurTownBlog.ChicagoSunTimes and Sarah on Twitter: @SarahTerez
and Facebook.

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Personally, I think you’d have to be crazy to let someone cut your hair onstage, but that’s just what Monica Barcelona invites her guests to do in Bitch, I'll Cut You, her improv-based show. In the show’s latest incarnation, comedians Justin Kauffman, Kelsie Huff and Corey Rittmaster join Barcelona for salon style gossip while special guest Claire Zulkey gets a haircut. Our Town spoke with Monique Madrid aka Monica Barcelona about comedy and makeup tips.

Our Town Which came first for you, comedy or hair cutting?
Monique Madrid I’ve been a licensed cosmetologist since I was 19, so technically that came before my comedy career, but I was in my first improv troupe when I was 16. Plus as a kid I would recite Gilda Radner scenes and make short funny videos with the heavy, giant video camera my parents gave me. In high school, I was always the girl that would fix my friend’s hair, sometimes even cut it, so I guess I’ve kind of always done both, just not always professionally.

OT What are the best parts of being a stylist?
MM I meet really cool people and get to know them in a way a lot of other jobs wouldn’t allow for. It’s such an intimate setting that my clients tend to open up. Plus I get to hear some pretty juicy gossip. I’m like a priest, just less judgmental. Another great thing about being a stylist is that I honestly love to make people feel good about themselves. On the surface, hair and makeup may seem superficial, but self-esteem is important and it’s nice to know that I can help in that way, while still being creative myself.

OT And the worst?
MM The downside can be dealing with difficult clients. Luckily I don’t have many. Occasionally, I’ll get a bridezilla, but for the most part if I can win them over, they trust me and chill out. The other downside is feeling like I always have to look good. People don’t want a stylist who looks like crap, but sometimes I don’t feel like doing my hair or makeup. Overall though, those are pretty small issues. I really do love the job.

OT What’s your experience been like on the Chicago comedy scene?
MM I’ve been in almost all the different comedy circles, from improv, to sketch and writing, teaching comedy, being a part of the Second City family and most recently the standup world. This business is hard. It’s competitive, it doesn’t pay much (yet!), especially for all the work you put in and if you don’t grow thick skin, it can really get you down at times. If you really love it though, it’s worth the sacrifices. Chicago is such an amazing city for comedy. There are so many opportunities to learn, be inspired and experiment to find your own voice. Though, I’ve been here for over 9 years, I feel like these days I’m really finding myself and carving my own path.

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I just want to put it out there that I do a fantastic Angela Chase impression. Okay, now let’s talk about writer/director Tim Paul. In addition to having two first names, Paul is notable for the fact that he’s made a satirical musical based on THE BEST SHOW EVER ON TELEVISION EVER-- My So-Called Life, obv. Paul’s production, entitled My So-Called Afterlife envisions AIDS victim Ryan White posthumously forced to attend Eternal High along with King Edward VI, JonBenet Ramsey and Anne Frank. Paul spoke with Our Town about the show’s genesis and how he did right by Anne Frank.

Our Town I’m guessing you’re a My So-Called Life fan. Who was your favorite character and why?
Tim Paul Angela Chase was and is easily my favorite, which is totally the obvious answer, but 15 year-old me was simply in awe of her. She was my age and she dyed her hair red and I wanted to dye my hair red. Although, I was more like a fat, closeted Brian Krakow in real life. Oh, but Claire Danes winning the Golden Globe that year was my first memory of the Golden Globes. She made one chubby kid from Massachusetts real happy that night.

OT What inspired you to create My So-Called Afterlife?
TP I've always wanted to write a love story for Anne Frank and I liked the idea of a musical where Ryan White was her star-crossed lover. The concept remained dormant for years until last fall when my friend & collaborator, Alex Kliner, agreed to compose the music for the show. He was the catalyst I needed to finish the script and luckily for me, Mick & Jen from the Annoyance are amazing people with an amazing theatre where they truly foster local comedians.

OT Writing about Ryan White, not only an actual person, but a pretty key figure at a certain point, how did you decide what character choices to make?
TP In the pilot episode of My So-Called Life, Angela tells her teacher that she thinks Anne Frank was lucky, because she was, "trapped in an attic for three years with this guy she really liked." Once I knew that I wanted to write a musical called My So-Called Afterlife around the character of Anne Frank, I knew I needed a teacher. I knew I needed a Jordan Catalano. Famous dead people from my childhood, like Christa McAuliffe and Ryan White, popped in my head and I ran with it. I kept getting the idea of writing in Baby Jessica, forgetting that she was still alive.

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March's Honest Parent: Aaron Greer

My greatest parenting strength is: affection.

My greatest parenting weakness is: impatience.

What do you wish someone had told you before you became a parent?
To do it a bit younger (say early 30s). Two things I hadn’t considered about waiting to my late 30s 1) the age and energy level of the grandparents and 2) my “post-kid” age and energy level. That said, I did enjoy the years I had with my wife pre-kids and I wouldn’t want to have forfeited that. Also, I REALLY wish someone had warned me about having two kids close in age. No one really tells you how hard it is to have a toddler and infant at the same time. It’s miserable!!! There’s nothing good about having to deal with the terrible twos (and threes) and sleep deprivation at the same time. Even though it’s a fairly common for people to have kids 2-3 years apart, no one talks about how horrible it is during the early years (supposedly it gets better once they are old enough to really play together). There’s like some kind of code of silence amongst parents. I can’t tell you how many people have said to me, too late of course, “oh yeah, doesn’t it suck. Almost ruined my marriage.” I’m always like, “why didn’t you tell me that sh*t before?!”

How often do you compare yourself to what you think other parents are doing or what you "should" be doing?I try not to compare myself to other parents, but it’s hard… You also constantly compare your children’s progress to others. So there’s a lot of comparing notes with other parents about where their kids are at developmentally. And it starts almost immediately… “so, can your kid hold her neck up yet?... is your kid sitting up yet?... wow, are they already potty trained?”

Describe your worst moment as a parent.
I’ve never hit my kids and I never would, but about 2 times a week I have to resist the urge to drop-kick them, my son in particular. Once when I was extremely frustrated and angry with him I went through the motions of throwing a big, hardcover book at him. I didn’t intend to actually throw the book, I just was fake throwing it (like pump-faking a football), but I did it with such force that the book slipped from my hand and almost hit the kid in the head. He turned around and said, “What was that, Daddy?” I felt immediately guilty and like I dodged a bullet, cause it would have really hurt him if it had made contact. Needless to say, I don’t do that anymore. Now I just fake cuss him out (or give him the finger) behind his back.

Is there one thing you give yourself a pass on?
We try to limit the kids “screen time” and avoid watching TV ourselves during their awake time, BUT, I make an exception during football season and generally watch at least one whole game a week. It’s kind of agreed (begrudgingly by my wife) that I get a “pass” on football Sundays and can have the TV on for long periods of time (3+ hours). I do have to frequently sensor, via the pause button, the commercials though.

How many hours out of each day do you feel like you’re being a good parent?
Frankly, I feel like I’m doing a pretty good job most of the day… That said, as the day wears on and my patience (and energy) wears thinner, I definitely get less good.

How has having kid/s affected your sex life?
What sex life? Small kids are the biggest cock blockers ever. Nature’s way, I guess, of trying to help you avoid having more small kids. In our case, the chances that both kids are asleep at the same time AND we both have time AND we both have energy are super slim. Plus, it’s hard to feel sexy and romantic when you’re tired, and/or covered in boogies and spit-up, and/or haven’t bathed yourself properly in 24 hours. My kids seem to have some sixth sense about when adult fun is happening and will inevitably wake up and start fussing. You have to be super-focused to knock boots to a serenade of crying babies.

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Photo by Stephen Desantis
Nationally known for her offbeat, heartbreakingly rendered novel, The Time Traveler’s Wife, writer and visual artist Audrey Niffenegger has solid roots in the Chicago literary scene. A teacher in Columbia College’s Creative Writing program, Niffenegger takes part this weekend in Ragdale and Story Week’s Vision and Voice discussion. She spoke with Our Town about ebooks, Chicago’s impact on her writing, and the exciting possibility of a Time Traveler sequel.

Our Town What’s your writing process like?
Audrey Niffenegger Heavy doses of procrastination and chaos. I spend a lot of time mulling things over before I jump in. Once I’m involving in a huge project there will be periods of more mulling. I probably spend a lot of time thinking about it compared to the time I spend actually writing. As I go along it gets easier, projects just go faster as I get more into them. For years, I did really short things so it was over before you had time to procrastinate. So what I’m describing really applies to novels and the graphic work that I do that takes years and years. My writing habits developed out of my habits as an artist.

OT When writing your graphic novels--that’s the correct term?
AN I was calling them visual novels for a while because I thought the comics people might get annoyed if I seemed like I was riding their bandwagon but it turned out that they just thought I was shunning them.

OT Got it. So, does your process differ when you’re writing something visual like The Three Incestuous Sisters?
AN It’s pretty similar. The thing about a graphic novel is you can hop back and forth between the images and the words so if you’re stuck in one direction you can move in the other.

OT What inspired The Time Traveler’s Wife?
AN The title. That phrase came to me and it was helpful because it gives you two characters and their relationship and their situation right there. That was nice to have at the very beginning because it made me say, well, who is this woman and why did she marry a time traveler? What’s their deal anyway? And where do they live? It was an easy start.

OT With such a nonlinear book, how did you keep track of the sequence of events?
AN I kept time lines. I recommend that even when people aren’t writing something nonlinear. To make sure you don’t forget to put in things you know that you think the reader knows but that you haven’t actually communicated. One time line was for Clare and that’s more or less the timeline of the real world. The other timeline was Henry’s and I was also keeping track on that one of what the reader knows at any given moment. I wrote it completely out of order. If I had an idea I just started working on it. And if I ran out of idea I’d leave it and go to something else. So, for most of the process there were all these unfinished scenes hanging around. The original notion was to organize it thematically, which made sense to no one but me. People who read it for me were like ‘huh?’ I thought well, okay, I better organize it more closely to Clare’s experience.

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