On Deck Theatre emerged in 2012 promising to promote new Chicago artists by producing original plays and premiering new actors and directors. The company’s second show, "Three Days of Rain," opened January second. Our Town spoke with Artistic Director, Eric Martindale about On Deck’s goals and the Chicago theatre scene as a whole.
Our Town Chicago is full of theater companies. How is On Deck different?
Eric Martindale From the very beginning, the goal of On Deck was to showcase artists around Chicago who are, figuratively, "on deck." The first show we produced was a play called Empty Bottles, an original work, that included one actor who was making their Chicago debut. The city is full of people that have written amazing original works, or who have just arrived to audition. Fortunately, even with the saturation of wonderful companies, there is plenty of talent to go around.
OT How would you describe your directing style?
EM Active and Collaborative. I probably burn 800 calories an hour. Sitting down feels completely unnatural. I like to inject the actors with the same energy and passion for the text that I have. It's interesting, having been someone who was an actor, you get a better feel of what's required from you. Half of that is knowing when the note has been taken and it's time for you to shut up so they can work. But the whole process has to feel absolutely collaborative and I think the key to that for me has always been to respect what actors have to go through. On opening night, they're the ones that have to tell your story.
OT You’re also a writer, what are some of your influences?
EM Name a famous playwright and chances are they've had some influence on the way I write. Not the playwrights themselves, always, but specific plays they've written. With [On Deck's first show] "Empty Bottles," a lot of my inspiration came from conversations I've had with people at bars, and failed relationships.
OT What are the pros and cons of the Chicago theater scene?
EM I think the pros far outweigh the cons. Most of the cons lie in the sheer expense of the entire venture. Which is something that can't be helped, and was an obvious expectation we had going in. The artists you meet, the stories you get to see and create, far outweigh the cons. It's wonderful how interconnected the theatre world is here. I see people in shows that have worked with friends of mine who are in shows I've done and so on. It's a tight-knit group.
OT What can audiences expect from the production?
EM A hilarious, warm, but distressing tale. It's the kind of story that makes you wish you could speak to the characters and restore their faith in each other because you know what they don't. It's quite suspenseful in that way. I know it stuck with me for a long time after the first time I read it. It's a feeling we were intent on passing along.
OT Who is your dream audience member?
EM If there was a talkback session, then George Bernard Shaw. Otherwise, Elia Kazan all the way.
"Three Days of Rain" runs January 2-12 at The Den Theatre.
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.
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