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Are you getting what you need at home? Do you have the intimacy you crave? Can one person really meet another’s every little need? Not when it comes to....poetry? Get ready to meet the Poetry Whores at where else? The Poetry Bordello, an event boasting a unique combination of Victorian costume party, performance art, musical performance and poetry readings.  The evening includes interactions with “Bordello Regulars” who dress and act as characters from a Victorian-era brothel as well as authentic burlesque. If you’re thinking, big deal, my partner provides all of that on a nightly basis, then you won’t want to miss the evening’s highlight: a chance to purchase a one-on-one poetry reading with one of the Poetry Whores. Our Town spoke with creator/Madame Susan Yount and Poetry Whore Nate Lowe aka Carlo Matos about what to expect from this naughty literary event.

Our Town Describe Poetry Bordello’s genesis. 
Susan Yount Our resident historians inform us that it all started at the 2007 Brighton Fringe Festival in the U.K., when Jimmy McGee and Chris Parkinson created the idea to sell poetry directly to the people within the setting of a brothel. Their brothel setting was a bit tongue-in-cheek but ultimately received numerous awards including "Best Literary Event"! The idea traveled to other cities, including Chicago. The first show in Chicago was organized in mid 2010 and included poets from New York and Chicago. Our first all-Chicago show opened on 24 September 2010.

OT Why take the Victorian age as inspiration?
SY It was during this time that Chicago quite literally raised itself from the ashes of the Great Fire, like a great Victorian Phoenix, and as a result its culture, history and architecture are intertwined with the gilded age in a manner that is distinctly Chicago. Also, during the conception of an all Chicago Poetry Bordello, I was inspired by Karen Abbott’s book, Sin in the Second City, a fabulously researched and brilliantly written historical novel about the Everleigh Club. It made sense to choose the same age the most famous and luxurious house of prostitution existed. Finally, there is also a strong & supportive Steampunk community here who set a very high bar with their impeccable wardrobes (and of course, also an impeccable taste in poetry). We love seeing and interacting with them at our shows!

OT Nat, what’s the benefit of having poetry read in a one-on-one situation?
Nat Lowe When I was young, I wanted to be a poet, but I had this notion that poetry was something that people didn’t do anymore. Sure, we could marvel at the great poems of the past, but no one was writing anything new. I don’t know where I got this idea, but I find that many of my students share a similar idea. The Bordello shows them that poetry is alive and well. It also takes a lot of the bologna of poetry performance and brings it down to a very personal level without it having to be confessional. I find that my clients like to suggest topics or genres. For example, I’ve had clients ask for poems that are funny, or poems about zombies, or poems about stuff that really happened to me. When I get a more knowledgeable client, I sometimes get to have interesting discussions about poetry and poetics. It allows for a tailor-made experience, which for many people—like my students, who sometimes come to the events—can’t get anywhere else.

OT How do guests respond to the intimacy? 

NL Return customers know that the ultimate bordello experience is in the one-on-ones. It’s a little bit poetry, a little bit illicit affair and a lot of fun. For some of the new guests, I am sure it can be a tad daunting. When I get a guest to myself, I relax and try to give them what they want. They paid good money for me, after all. Mostly, I want to maintain the air of fun and debauchery and not turn it into class time. Poetry at the bordello can still be dangerous.


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I hate myths. No matter Greek or Roman, ancient anything makes me barf. It’s my shortcoming, I know. Without the ancients we wouldn’t have the modern novel, concrete, Hedwig and the Angry Inch, all of which I can’t live without. Well, add Lookingglass Theatre Company's METAMORPHOSES to my ‘must have’ list. Thank Jupiter, a friend convinced me to see this riff on Ovid’s poem. Gorgeous. Innovative. Mesmerizing. Don’t even bother reading the rest of this blog, just get yourself a ticket to this much anticipated revival. Or fine, read it, but quickly. Our Town spoke with Lookingglass ensemble member Raymond Fox about this exceptional show.

Our Town Why bring back the show now?
Raymond Fox This is Lookingglass’ 25th anniversary season [so] we wanted to bring back a favorite.  Although METAMORPHOSES has enjoyed success across the country--productions both on and off Broadway, we have not presented it in Chicago in 14 years.  [Writer/director] Mary [Zimmerman] and her designers were intrigued by the opportunity to bring the play to our home in the Water Tower Water Works in a much more intimate venue than we’ve presented it in the past.   

OT As an actor, what is it like to revisit a play years later?
RF I was fortunate enough to appear in the first Lookingglass version and the two productions in New York as well as numerous regional productions of the play.  As a result I was in METAMORPHOSES on and off for six years from 1998 to 2004.  My wife (Anne Fogarty) and I start dating during the original run.  We’re back onstage together in this revival.  Our six year-old daughter is now able to see a production we thought we’d only have an opportunity to describe to her.  

OT What do you feel you bring to it now that perhaps you didn’t the first time?
RF Hopefully our work has deeper emotional resonance.  We’ve all experienced our own changes – both through joy and pain – over the years.  We try to bring that to these ancient tales.  As a result they feel richer to us.  We hope we can impart that to the audience.


By now you’ve heard that Kinky Boots, en route to Broadway, has high-kicked its way into town. Our Town got a behind the scenes glimpse into the show’s workings when we spoke with Kinky Boots' Assistant Prop Manager Jacob White.

Our Town When did you realize you wanted to do tech professionally?
Jacob White I actually remember that moment clearly.  It was about half-way through my junior year of college. I was a computer science major but had always done work in our college theater. I worried a lot about falling behind in my studies because I spent all my time in the theater.  I was thinking this over in the shower one day and it just struck me that I was doing the wrong thing.  I literally got out of the shower, changed my major, and was totally excited to be on track to doing something I was passionate about.

OT What behind the scenes info would people be surprised to know about Broadway shows?
JW I hate to say it but there is no magic. It’s the same as a high school theater, a college theater, a regional theater--only with more resources.  Broadway is the collected efforts of a lot of very experienced people doing the same work that goes on in every other theater across America, or probably the world for that matter.

OT What's the best part of your job?
JW The job itself. It’s fun being backstage. It’s fun getting to meet and work with all sorts of creative people [and bringing] entertainment to a room full of people is exciting!

OT And the worst?
JW The hours. I've been in Chicago now since Labor Day and have had a total of 6 days off.

OT So, have you had any chance to experience Chicago?
JW Despite growing up in Milwaukee, my previous Chicago experiences were limited. I haven't had a lot of chances to explore, however as a cyclist, I've found the city very accommodating. I love the lakefront parks and trails, and have also been able to explore the nightlife from the Loop to Wicker Park to Lincoln Square, and found I really love it here. It will be bittersweet to return home to New York in a few weeks. One bright spot was a late night excursion to the Green Mill Lounge on Lawrence and Broadway which was amazing. I had such a great time there.


Redtwist Theatre may be small in size, but since 1994, they’ve broadcast impressive ambition, producing a cavalcade of notable shows. Now, the storefront theatre heads into fall with Arthur Miller’s Broken Glass, a gripping drama about a New York couple in Kristallnacht’s aftermath. Our Town spoke with founder and Artistic Director Michael Colucci and star Jacqueline Grandt.

Our Town Broken Glass is one of Arthur Miller’s later plays, not as frequently performed as earlier ones. Why did Redtwist chose to produce it not once but twice?
Michael Colucci Broken Glass was—and still is—a buried treasure by the master American dramatist, written in 1994 during his golden years of full wisdom at age 79. We chose to produce [the play] in 2004, our first full season in our Bryn Mawr space. At that time, we were a relatively unknown resident company and thus very few people saw Jacqueline [Grandt]'s compelling performance as Sylvia Gellburg. Since then, she has become Redtwist's leading lady and one of the finest actresses in town. And so we felt it was imperative for her to revisit the role. Now that Redtwist has a bit of a following, many more people will see her exciting interpretation of this passionate and uniquely intriguing character.

OT Jacqueline, what’s it like to revisit an old part?
Jacqueline Grandt It is truly amazing!  I didn't go back and review my previous script or look at the DVD. I wanted to allow a fresh perspective and take advantage of my added experience on stage, as well as my own personal life experiences, to create a new character, one which I believe is fuller and more complete than before. 

OT Obviously you’re playing a character pretty far removed from your experience. What are you doing to prepare?
JG I did a lot of research on the era itself, as well as research on hysterical paralysis, which Sylvia suffers from. I discovered that the author of a book she is reading in the play, Anthony Adverse, suffered from shell shock, which is very similar to hysterical paralysis.  It certainly isn't difficult to be frightened by the horrific articles and pictures of Germany at that time. 

OT How did the dramaturge serve in prepping all of the actors for the show?
JG The research on each and every part of the script is so necessary and our dramaturg, Cassandra Rose, did an excellent job. I worked with her on Bug last year and she is wonderful!  Thorough, thought truly helps in shaping any character. 

OT Are there specific onstage moments you can point to over the course of your career during which you felt the way growing up you’d imagined an actor feeling?
JG Yes. I believe it's the times that I've been in a scene where you actually feel the audience holding their breath...where you can feel their eyes watching and feeling every emotion you put forth.  Those are the moments that I believe all actors live for. 

OT What are your feelings on Chicago’s theater scene?
JG I believe its reputation is well deserved.  We produce some of the very best live theatre in the country.  Redtwist is signature Chicago because it gives you the "up close and personal" theatre that you don't see very often.  I'm so very proud to be part of that!

Broken Glass runs through November 18th. 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 a number of web sites and print publications. Her debut novel, “Herself When She’s Missing," (Soft Skull press) is available for pre-order here. She 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 and Sarah on Twitter: @SarahTerez
and Facebook.

Actor Sean Parris

If any theater knows its way around Edward Albee’s work, it’s Remy Bumppo. From 2011’s The Goat, to their current production of Seascape, the company and Albee have proved a perfect match. Our Town spoke with Artistic Director Nick Sandys about Seascape.

Our Town Seascape seems to be one of Albee's lesser produced works. What made you decide to stage it?
Nick Sandys The play includes everything Remy Bumppo looks for in a script: great, demanding language, complex ideas and arguments, wit and humanity, emotional depth.  It was only after we had chosen it to begin my first season as Artistic Director that I learned from James Bohnen, the founding director, that he had wanted to produce it in his first season but could not attain the rights. I actually think that there are numerous smaller productions of the play,  partly because its quirkily absurd surface is appealing, but it is actually very demanding physically--aside from the actors' physical movements, the costumes and the set need to be very detailed and essentially spectacular.

OT You've complimented Albee's ability to mix drama with humor. Is this somehow rare?
NS I don't necessarily believe that this combination is rare--tragicomedy is after all the 20th and 21st centuries' most common dramatic mode or genre.  But I do think that Albee uses humor in a unique way.  He is not afraid to include linguistically adroit and self-conscious characters who can punctuate an emotional scene with verbal wit or quibbling, a daring tactic that somehow allows humor into the darkest emotional scenes and never releases the tension, instead simply allowing the audience to feel safe and continue the ride.  

OT In the program, you write that Seascape is about our cultural moment. Can you expand on that?
NS Seascape was written in an eight-year stretch from 1967 to 1975, a period of particular turmoil for the American psyche: Vietnam, Watergate, environmental initiatives, the moon-landing, suburban white flight, etc.  And I feel that none of those issues have disappeared--in fact, as the play suggests, we seem destined to repeat our human behavioral errors over and over again, whether it be in the habits of a marriage or in our lack of historical knowledge.  We can all find contemporary versions of those same issues.  As the play states, "Is [evolution] for the better? I don't know. Progress is a set of assumptions."

OT With Remy Bumppo, this is Annabel Armour's second take on an Albee matriarch in two years. Is she a particularly good fit for Albee or why use her repeatedly in similar roles?
NS I have to say that there is very little in common between Stevie in The Goat and Nancy in Seascape.  They are world's apart as characters.  Annabel does have a unique rhythm as an actress, which makes her very watchable on stage, and her naturalism does fit Albee's linguistically quirky characters perfectly, as does her ability to suddenly access dangerous emotional depths.  


Ever wonder if Bill Pullman’s romantic comedy career has taken a toll on the actor? Does he resent Tom Hanks? Get tired of losing the girl? Playwright Brian Work did so he created Once Upon a Rom Com: A Bill Pullman Story. But one fictionalized famous guy wasn’t enough for work. Says director Neal Fischer, “with the backdrop of a fairy tale, [Work] needed a good Fairy Godmother, or in this case, Godfather. He decided to pick one of his favorite actors, and someone who he knew would be a terrific and neurotic narrator. That man is of course Jeff Goldblum.” Fischer immediately warmed to Work’s script and he thinks audiences will too.

Our Town The show seems to both gently mock rom coms yet fit within the genre. How does that work?
Neal Fischer When I approached the script, I had one thing on my mind: Story. Whether it's film, TV, stage, poetry, books-- the most important element is always the story. You can have all the effects, bells and whistles, big name actors, but with no story it won't work. At the center of this play is a love story [about] a guy down on his luck, who is misunderstood and always pushed aside. I think most guys have felt that at one point or another and I knew that's what I wanted to build from. So as far as mocking rom coms, but fitting in, it was a delicate balance I was always cautious of. There are some pretty slapstick moments, and funny one-liners, but there are also some very sweet moments. Some of that was in the script, but with my direction I wanted to capitalize on the chemistry between Bill Pullman (Philip Platakis) and Karen (Madalyn Mattsey). I needed to make sure that their arc was strong enough to stand on its own. If their relationship wasn't believable, even with all the crazy antics, then no one would buy the show or the story.

OT Any qualms about working with a fictionalization of an actual person?
NF When I read the title for the first time I was excited but cautious. I'm a big movie buff, and film is my passion. I knew before reading it that I couldn't sign on to direct it if just made fun of the actors. Luckily Brian had that figured out, and I directed it in a way where I hope Bill and Jeff would be proud and flattered. I think in any situation like this your first thought is, "Will Bill Pullman be mad at me?" "If Jeff Goldblum sees this, will he punch me, or Brian?" After that initial thought, I completely forgot about it. Brian's script doesn't make fun of Bill Pullman, or Jeff Goldblum, but really celebrates them and the characters they played.

OT As a director, did you encourage your actors to emulate the real people they represent? How did you guard against caricature? 
NF That's a great question. I was very conscious of that; in the audition posting for Bill and Jeff, I put "mannerisms and vocal impression welcomed but not mandatory." I didn't want this to be an hour long impression show, with some dialogue in between. I had a lengthy conversation with Phil when he asked if he should study Pullman and get him down exactly. I told him that above all else, people need to relate to him, to feel for him, and that must come first for the story. So Phil did his research, and we worked on a few minor character traits that Pullman possesses and Phil got them down to a point where if you know Pullman, you get it right away. If not, Phil is just a very real guy.
Jeremy Eden on the other hand. Wow. He has Jeff Goldblum down. With Phil as the straight man, I basically let Jeremy loose with his Goldblum.


What if men wore makeup and earned less than women? What if they clicked around in heels and were afraid to walk alone at night? Chicago writer/performer Vincent Truman asks these questions in his new play Venus Envy. He spoke with Our Town about directing, feminism and “Glen Steinem.”

Our Town Stereotypically, one might expect a play like Venus Envy to have been written by a woman. Thoughts?
Vincent Truman I think that's a marvelous idea.  I wish one would have.  

OT What was your original inspiration for the play?
VT The year 1920.  That was the year that women, after a 40+ year struggle, finally got the right to vote.  Although this was pretty common knowledge amongst my peers when I grew up, I have been appalled to discover that the majority of my younger female friends had no idea of this date or the importance of it.  Perhaps it is because there are not enough monuments for women's history - there are few Martin Luther King Drives or Stonewalls for women - but I do not see the ignorance (not stupidity) of their own history to be a primary cause for the erosion of women's rights, especially recently.  That bothered me intensely.  I knew I could not write a play about women's history, but I could do a "flip," make it a woman's world in which women deride men for not knowing their history.  That way, I could get the point across without being too aggressive or preachy.
OT The concept you're working with is one seen before--in 1986 Gloria Steinem wrote an essay imagining the sort of world you’ve set up--how do you move beyond a clever idea to create the depth needed to fuel a full show?
VT Indeed!  And before that, Norman Lear concepted a short-lived show called 'All That Glitters' which had the same conceit.  What I did with Venus Envy was gave lip service to the surface issues - men wear make-up in the play while the women do not - and did a great deal of research into how society and civilization evolved thousands of years ago.  Prior to the emergence of the three major monotheisms that are so prevalent, many theologies were based on and around woman.  The three monotheisms have, for millennia, made a concentrated effort to keep women in their place (making them, literally, chattel, along with cows, pigs, homes and other things owned by men).  For Venus, I stripped those out of history altogether (replacing them with a female version of Christianity), which affected the majority of the writing, attitudes and performance.  The hunter/gatherers in Venus are errand boys, not claimants of power.

On that score, there was much discussion about the word 'empowered.'  Most of the female actors responded favorably to the concept when we first started discussing the piece.  I then asked them, 'what would the world be like if you weren't empowered at all... but you simply had the power to begin with?'  There were so many eye-opening moments in the rehearsal process for everyone, but that was a big one.  Everyone's performance changed.

Incidentally, Gloria Steinem is namechecked in the play, but is remarked on as 'Glen Steinem.'  There are so many references that have been flipped - the three main characters meet at a restaurant on Coretta Scott Boulevard, there's discussion of how many children President Rodham has - that I don't think I can count them all.

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Last year writer/performer Kate Healy was a Chicago Fringe Fest newbie but this year she’s back with a rave from Time Out Chicago under her belt and Lie Light, a new show which uses literal bindings to illuminate the repercussions of small, daily lies. Healy spoke with Our Town about the purpose of lying and the ethics of using real people as inspiration.

Our Town Is lying necessary?
Kate Healy It is if you want to be liked by all, never get in trouble, and never change. We say we like the truth but we tell and accept lies because we don’t want to own our mistakes and deficiencies. In some cases our pride is more important than someone else’s feelings, in some cases hiding evil is more important than watching innocence suffer, in some cases pumping someone full of faith is necessary to get the opportunity you’re after. But that choice, because it is a choice, alters you permanently.

OT What inspired your new show?
KH At the end of a relationship, I was feeling particularly vulnerable and started protecting myself with little lies. They felt harmless, but I was anxiety-ridden and impossible to get to know. My play is not autobiographical, but it comes from the feeling I had of wanting to appear in control.

OT As a writer what are your responsibilities when you write about other people?
KH I think they have a right to know. If you write about others it's not fully your story. I think it’s important to know why you’re writing, why you’re compelled to record and share the selected events and people. Lately it seems I only learn from true stories.
What are the ethics of using another person's experience in your art?
KH There is no need for apology. I don’t know if a true artist ever apologizes [but] you have to be brave enough to state the source, approach the source, and honor the source. It is humbling to admit that you learned from others, that who you are is a constant work of progress with contributions from anyone you’ve ever met or read or listened to. I believe it says something beautiful about art, that one might live and work in the voices of others to eventually arrive at what they want to express and find their own form of communication.

OT Your show uses actual bindings to represent lies. Employing a visual metaphor, how do you avoid being heavy handed, yet also get your point across?
KH I wanted to show in a physical and material way, how we guard our feelings. The visual of a rope being attached to each character gives the audience a complicated agency. It allows them to discern a character’s strength, see the insecurities that the lies are coming from, and watch how that spirals out of control or gets reeled back. It will be clear who is lying, but very difficult to decide who is right, who is good, and if the truth should even come out. The world of this play is set up by a narrator who is experimenting. I play Gracie, and she builds this thought-machine that allows her to see when she is being lied to, but as soon as hears truths about herself the world starts to break down. To me it is a symbol that if you’ve been lied to, the bigger problem is that you can’t believe again.  

'Lie Light' shows at the Chicago Art Department Shows are August 31 at 8:30 p.m., September 1 at 7 p.m., September 7 at 10 p.m., September 8 at 5:30 p.m. and September 9 at
2:30 p.m.

A writer with an MFA in Creative Writing from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Sarah Terez Rosenblum freelances for a number of web sites and print publications. Her debut novel, “Herself When She’s Missing," (Soft Skull press) is available for pre-order here. She 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 and Sarah on Twitter: @SarahTerez
and Facebook.


Want to know what your therapist is really thinking? Yeah, me neither. Writer/performer and yep, therapist Jude Treder-Wolff is here to tell you though. Her one woman show Crazytown: My First Psychopath hits the Chicago Fringe Fest this week. A comic take on an over-eager therapist's wake up call, Crazytown evolved over years of solo performance work. Treder-Wolff spoke with Our Town about the relationship between art and therapy and how to nurture a heckler.

Our Town How do performance, therapy and writing relate?
Jude Treder-Wolff From my perspective, an effective performance, therapeutic process or piece of writing deals with some kind of transformation. A person who begins in one circumstance or state of mind, faces obstacles, tries various ways to overcome the obstacles and is changed by the process. It may not be the change one envisioned or even wanted at the start of the process, but that is often because in facing down the obstacles we discover things – inner strengths, hidden connections between events or people, secrets or truths that redefine the problem - that could not be discovered without those obstacles. The role of performer and therapist are linked in the sense that an effective performance takes an audience through some kind of emotional experience, but entirely different in every other way. As a psychotherapist, my opinions, feelings, and concerns have to be put to the side so I can give my full attention and connect as deeply as possible to the person or group in front of me. The role is about good listening, good timing and creative guidance to help a person discover their own strength, creative capacities and path out of the problems they face. The performer role is me with my big opinions and big mouth out in front of people sharing what I really think about things. Being a performer made me a more effective therapist because I had this outlet to express ideas and work through my own perfectionism, fear of being judged, negativity, desire for control and disappointments which continue to flare up all the time in the process of creating or writing anything. Working through those issues has the side effect of expanding awareness about other people and their stories, which translates into being a more effective therapist.

OT Molding real life events into a story with a compelling narrative arc can be tough. How did you go about deciding what was interesting to you vs what might interest an audience?
JTW This is a great question. Just because something interesting or dramatic happened in real life does not make it viable as an entertaining story onstage. Because I started writing monologues exploring an idea or a theme and I often use vignettes or experiences from my own life when doing training or shows on these themes, I have lots of opportunity to see how a story lands on an audience. For example, I run a Smoking Cessation Program for a very large company on Long Island, and most of the participants are pretty cranky about having to be in the program. If I can get a laugh from a group in an 8 a.m. workplace smoking cessation group or staff meeting, I know I can get that laugh from an audience in a theater. So I have a great deal of real-time opportunities to try out and sharpen the stories of real experiences from my own life that make the point I want to make. The evolution of Crazytown has been almost an 18-month process of improvisation. Every performance was different, because I was trying out different ways to tell the overall story. The audience response is immediate and shows me clearly what works, what should be changed, and what needs to be cut.

OT I’m curious about what sort of moral quandaries might have resulted from using real-life clients to create entertainment.
JTW I’ll clarify right away that although until about two years ago I was seeing psychotherapy clients, I never used any of their stories in my shows. While the material and the characters created for my shows are rooted in real-life dilemmas common to many people who show up for psychotherapy, they are about my failures, flaws, and flops. It would be a terrible violation of the therapist/client relationship – not to mention of their ethically-enforced right to confidentiality - to use what I heard in sessions onstage. That said, in Crazytown I am telling a story about my struggle, my fear and my obstacles through a real event with a real person in a real place. Details of everyone involved are completely disguised.

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“Doesn’t this remind you of life with your sister?” my friend asked. Onstage, three corseted actresses clung to each other, sobbing, philosophizing and exchanging barbs. My friend was joking of course, pointing out the melodrama inherent in Chekhov’s Three Sisters, but she’d unwittingly identified the source of the playwright’s strength and staying power. So what if his work is punctuated by suicide attempts and fatal duels? Blame my Russian ancestors, but I absolutely relate. Life’s like that sometimes and its Chekhov’s ability to harness life’s heartbreaking absurdity that has kept his work relevant for over one hundred years.

Our Town spoke with Three Sisters actress Caroline Neff about Steppenwolf’s solid production and Chekhov’s dexterity concerning the union of pathos and mundanity.

Our Town You’re from Texas. Why head to Chicago rather than one of the coasts?
Caroline Neff When I moved here at nineteen, I knew someone that lived here and Columbia had accepted me [but] as I get older, it makes more sense why Chicago was the place I landed. I stay because there is an integrity that I cherish and hope that I do justice to. The level of work here is unprecedented. There is a community of people who essentially work two full time jobs (day job plus theater job) because they love it and they think it's important. That kind of dedication is really breathtaking and it compels everyone in the community to work harder.

OT How do you go about breaking down a script?
CN Breaking down a script is tricky. Everyone has their own methods and mine is by no means the "right" way. If I'm not careful, I will read, and re-read a script that I'm working on until I've cemented a ton of decisions, making it difficult to change those opinions once I'm in a rehearsal room with the director and the cast. So I try to do the technical elements of it, like learning my lines without imbuing it with anything until I've sat down and read it with the group. I always try to make choices that I believe in, but that I can change. 

OT What sort of work do you do to create a character?
CN I think there is a part of a well written character that anyone can identify with, so that's the first thing I look for. What about this person can I identify with, from the type of clothing they wear to their reactions to certain situations. We've all made good and bad decisions, so finding where those come from can be really universal and incredibly cathartic. A lot of creating a character just comes from rehearsal time though, finding the modes of interaction that are successful with the other people in the room, but sometimes, even though you do all the work creating the character in your rehearsal room, the identity can be solidified with the things your designers put you in. The lighting, costumes, set and sound can inform your choices like crazy. In Three Sisters, it is hard not to be aware of the corset which changes the movement, so I can't make the same physical decision that I would were I in something different.


Dan Caffrey loves Bruce Springsteen. A musician himself, Caffrey is also Artistic Director for Tympanic Theatre and his influence is apparent in their latest production. Deliver Us From Nowhere: Tales From Nebraska pairs eleven playwrights with ten Chicago directors to create a night of theater inspired by Bruce Springsteen’s legendary album, Nebraska.  Each song on the record serves as a springboard for a ten-minute play that explores the track in ways both literal and thematic. Caffrey spoke with Our Town about the innovative show.

Our Town How did the idea for Deliver Us develop?
Dan Caffrey We wanted to produce a night of short theater based on an album for a while.  I'm an absolute Springsteen fanatic [and] Nebraska seemed to be the most logical choice; its stories are very much in line with the stories we like to tell as a company: eerie tales about loners and outcasts.  You can't listen to that record and not think of ghosts. 

OT How did you go about pairing playwrights and directors?
DC Our Literary Manager Chris Acevedo and I first wrote down every possible playwright and director we could think of that might be a good fit.  Then we had to narrow it which was really tough. From there, we had every playwright pitch the top three songs they [wanted] to use as inspiration for their piece.  Luckily, there wasn't a ton of overlap.  We kind of predicted which writers would be drawn to certain pieces.  We assigned them each their respective songs, they turned in their work, the directors read all the scripts, then pitched the top two or three they wanted to helm.  From there, we tried to build teams consisting of people who had worked together before, as well as directors and writers who had never met.  It's important to get that mix.

OT What are some favorite scenes you’ve seen developed from the tracks?
DC Man, that's a tough one. Everyone took a different approach, from the straightforward to the abstract.  While I'm hesitant to pick favorites, I always love watching "The Drive," written by Mary Laws and directed by Michael Carnow.  It's inspired by the song "Used Cars," which is arguably the least well known on the album.  It makes great use of the track's simplicity; just the idea of a family going through some troubled times as they take a normal car ride. I also really dig the final show of the night, "Dead Dogs" (written by Joshua Mikel and directed by John Ross Wilson).  It's based on "Reason To Believe" and took the lyrical image of a guy staring down at a dead pet and just ran with it.  It's so spooky and sad and has some great, naturalistic performances from Michael Rice and Chris Smith. The vibe feels like No Country For Old Men.  I could go on and on about the plays.  I really do love all of them.

OT Can you take us through the process of creating your scene?
DC Well, my Dad actually wanted to submit something to be considered.  We had already picked playwrights, but I suggested we write something together.  He was a New Jersey State Trooper back in the 80s (around the time Nebraska came out), so we of course picked the song "State Trooper."  We originally had the play seen through the eyes of the song's protagonist, the guy who gets pulled over.  My Dad started telling me all these stories about officers who led double lives--guys who bought houses for both their wives and their girlfriends, you know?  And we wanted to have this kind of moral standoff between the officer and the speeder.  We eventually simplified it and shifted it to the trooper's point of view.  The play deals with moral flexibility, how we're all willing to be morally passionate about one thing, but morally indifferent towards something else.  It's not a statement on cops on all, but on all of our moral compasses and how skewed they can get.  After we got all that heady stuff out of the way, we added in some of the spooky imagery from the song--gospel stations, radio towers, and the like.

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Photo by Peter Coombs

Sue Fabisch writes what she knows and she knows motherhood. A longtime singer-songwriter and stage veteran, Fabisch started Mommy Music Inc after reading of a famous songwriter’s contempt for female songwriters. From there, her songs found focus in a one woman show which grew into Motherhood the Musical which opens March 30th at Chicago’s Royal George Theatre. Fabisch spoke with Our Town about Veggie Tales, her show’s success and of course balancing career and motherhood.

Our Town What are your musical influences?  
Sue Fabisch Well, I love me some Barbra Streisand!  How I wished I could sing like that.  Hence, the switch to songwriting! And I think Bette Midler had a huge impact on me as well.  I just loved her ballsy in-your-face attitude.  Believe it or not, I was also influenced by the songs in all the Veggie Tales videos (that I had to watch over and over and over again with the kids!)  They're really well crafted songs, very silly, very catchy and really smart lyrically.  So Barbra Streisand, Bette Midler and Larry the Cucumber.  Yep, those are my musical influences.

OT You started your company in part as a response to a songwriter who disparaged housewives.
SF This famous songwriter talked about looking for songs for other artists.  When his team couldn't find the perfect song, out of desperation, they turned to the 'housewife pile,’ a box in the corner where he would throw songs mailed in from housewives who thought they could write.  Here was a guy, who had made it in the music business, passing judgement on me and my talent because I chose to stay at home and raise kids?  Um, no thank you.  I have a degree in music and I can write a song and breastfeed at the same time, dude!  Can you do that???

OT So why aren’t moms taken seriously?  
SF Oh man, I wish I knew!  When I first started putting out Mom songs two things happened:  Audiences loved it and the music professionals hated it.  They would call it "niche" and "cute".  They would send me condescending emails saying things like "too bad it's just not commercial."  Yet as I stood there and watched the audience, I saw huge amounts of laughter.  So I just ignored them and kept going.

OT Has your show faced similar marginalization?   
SF Well, the title kind of puts it out there that we're targeting moms, but when I see men in the audience (and this is worldwide) they are laughing just as hard.  The comments afterwards are usually "Oh, I remember my wife saying that" or "My daughter is going through that right now".  So I do believe that men are relating.  The question is:  Will men actually admit (in public) that they enjoyed the show?

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March's Hot Writer: Rory Leahy

My genre: Plays, which are generally seen as comedies but I prefer to think of
them as dramas with lots of jokes in them, and sketch comedy, as well
as prose fiction, generally fantasy/and or comic, absurd.

My literary influences: Kurt Vonnegut, Douglas Adams, Neil Gaiman, Harper Lee, Margaret
Atwood, Mark Twain, Tom Stoppard, Keith Giffen, PG Wodehouse, to start
an incomplete list.

My favorite literary quote: "Hello babies, welcome to Earth. It's hot in the summer and cold in
the winter. It's round and wet and crowded. At the outside, babies,
you've got about a hundred years here. There's only one rule I know of
babies. God damn it, you've got to be kind." -God Bless You Mister Rosewater, by Kurt Vonnegut

My favorite book of all time: Changes frequently but I'll go with Catch 22 by Joseph Heller.

I’m currently reading: Scarce Resources, 18 Weird Stories by Brendan Detzner (local Chicago writer)

My guilty pleasure book: Walter the Farting Dog.

I can’t write without:
My laptop. It pretty much goes where I go, in a suitcase, which helps
me build the arm strength that is an indispensable aspect of my hotness. I have a mild learning disability that makes me absolutely hopeless at penmanship, I'd have been screwed in the pre-typewriting era.

Worst line I ever wrote: "Lead me, nymph, to the sweetest of all rest, as I absorb myself, into
your dark infinities."

Brief Bio:
I've been writing things pretty continuously since high school. Wrote a bunch of plays for student theatre company at the University of llinois Urbana-Champaign. I then founded my own theatre company, American Demigods, which produces original works by me and other people that I think are cool. Our next production is one of mine, it's called The Factory That Makes Devils. It's an evening of short plays with horror themes. Some are genuinely scary, others are more comedic. That's going to be in June of 2012. I've also got a short story being published in an anthology by Lonely Robot Comics and I'm writing a sci fi novel based on Aristophanes' Lysistrata.

A writer with an MFA in Creative Writing from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Sarah Terez Rosenblum freelances for a number of web sites and print publications. Her debut novel, “Herself When She’s Missing," (Soft Skull press) is available for pre-order here. She 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 and Sarah on Twitter: @SarahTerez
and Facebook.


It’s no secret that I live under a rock. (I have a hell of a time receiving packages and dinner parties go downhill fast when it rains. Literally. On the plus side, my student loan company can’t find me and I’ve become great friends with a family of worms.)
But seriously folks, I’m frequently oblivious to the obvious. Case in point, I’d already written two Our Town blogs before I realized I was writing for The Sun Times. I’m not sure what I thought. Maybe “I’m wearing dirty pajamas and getting paid, no angry customers are talking to me as if I’m the product of an unholy union between a lemur and a catfish, and I didn’t take three buses to get here so this can’t be real.” Truly, there’s no viable explanation. Nor is there any reason for me to have lived in Chicago for six years and only now discover Amy Matheny.

Currently making her Timeline Theatre debut in Enron, Amy has worked for more than a decade in Chicago's GLBT community as a radio personality, producer and event host. In addition, Amy was an Artistic Associate of About Face Theatre for a decade and has appeared in more theatre productions than you can shake a stick at. (I can personally attest to this. Shaking a stick is a primary source of entertainment when you live under a rock.)

It’s pretty much obscene and speaks only to my charming obliviousness that Amy came to my attention at this late date. But nothing says belated reverence like a giant telescope aimed right at a Chicago Celebrity’s house. That’s right, Amy Matheny is March’s Chicago crush!

Full Name: Amy Matheny
Hometown: Cleveland, Tennessee
Profession: Actor, Producer, Talk show host, Sr. Account Manager for Windy City Media Group - "Renaissance Woman"
Hobbies: pilates, theatre, travel, walks with my dog, dinner w/friends, singing, guitar, collecting rocks

Our Town Enron’s made quite a splash. How has the experience been?
Amy Matheny I love being in this show! It is risky, divisive and very funny. Having the opportunity to play a strong, smart, successful Southern woman is rare. True Story: I took classes in the late 80's from a woman in Tennessee who taught Southern businesswomen how to lose their accents so they were taken seriously. And my accent was thick! Her theory was that there is the perception that being Southern and being a woman equals to most people that you are not capable or smart. Well, Claudia Roe, my character gets to be smart and capable in a male-dominated world. And she uses every asset she has...charm, brains and body. Enron is a man's world. And it is exhausting [and a] rush to play a woman who successfully navigates that world and in 5 inch heels!

OT Was working in radio always a dream?
AM Not at all. I fell into it. I was doing some voiceover work and became the What's Happening? segment girl on LesBiGay Radio (the nation's first daily gay radio show). Normally I pre-recorded my segment [but] one day I went live on the air and talked with the host the whole two hours. Afterwards he said, “you are natural. I want you to do this with me.” That was 1998 and I have been talking on the radio--now podcasting-- ever since.

OT You’ve had the opportunity to interview everyone from Margaret Cho to Patti LaBelle. Any standouts?
AM Sandra Bernhard. We've talked many times over the years. She is fresh, smart and outrageous. Also Lynda Carter. I was a Wonder Woman fan as a child, so that was a thrill. Though mostly I love talking to parents of gay and lesbians. They always move me. There is nothing more beautiful than those stories, those journeys.

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You’ve probably seen Brad Smith around Chicago. Not only did he get his BFA at DePaul’s Theatre Conservatory, but he’s worked with theatre companies from Collaboraction to Strawdog. Now he talks with Our Town about his music, his influences and his newest role in Steppenwolf’s queer-themed FML: How Carson McCullers Changed my Life.

Our Town Steppenwolf’s choice of FML was inspired by their fall production of The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter. FML has been called a bold response to Heart. How do the two relate?
Brad Smith Aside from the fact that characters in FML are reading Heart, there are definitely parallels thematically as well in the characters themselves. [Author] Sarah Gubbins used Heart as a jumping off point, I think, more than anything, but there are many subtle links between the two.

OT What’s your experience been like working on FML?
BS Everyone is very kind and committed and we all believe, I think, that this is a timely show whose message and subject matter are vitally important to the health of this country's youth and to society at large. Not every play is Important with a capital "I." So when the chance comes around to do one that is, you savor it.

OT As an actor what sort of work do you do to break down a script/understand your character?
BS It varies based on the play, the character, and the process of the director, but generally I just try to stay open to the character and the words and learn through doing. It’s kind of like trying on clothes. You know when it fits.

OT What’s your dream role?
BS People tell my I look like a young Michael Gross, whom you may remember from Family Ties. Perhaps Sam Shepard could write a father-son piece for us.

OT You’re also a musician. How would you describe your music?
BS Melancholy, psychedelic, up-tempo folk-pop with a defeatist literary bent. Or something.

OT How did it come to be featured in Up in the Air?
BS Dumb luck. If you leave enough CDs around, someone of importance might pick it up and like it.

OT What’s next for you?
BS I'm about to begin the mixing process for my new album, which will come out this year. I'm also auditioning for Tom in Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams here at Steppenwolf, which, if the Michael Gross/Sam Shepard project doesn't work out, would be great.

A writer with an MFA in Creative Writing from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Sarah Terez Rosenblum freelances for a number of web sites and print publications. Her debut novel, “Herself When She’s Missing," (Soft Skull press) is available for pre-order here. She 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 and Sarah on Twitter: @SarahTerez
and Facebook.

Fisherman Production Photo 1.jpg
Photo by Johnny Knight

If Stage Left Theatre’s mission is to develop plays that raise debate around political and social issues, they’ve found their ideal playwright in Jayme McGhan. His new play, The Fisherman was inspired by “sweeping job losses in Minnesota after a high-profile airline bankruptcy.” As such, it takes a hard look at the economy’s impact on the life of a desperate everyman. McGhan spoke with Our Town about the show’s origin and the exhilaration of seeing characters come to life onstage.

Our Town Why playwriting?
Jayme McGhan There are far less frustrating and certainly more financially lucrative ways to tell stories. The moment I stop being wholly enamored with storytelling in live performance I’ll go be a park ranger or snowboard bum [but] I’m deeply committed to the theatre and the people who populate it. A good play, to me, demands thought. It entertains, informs, and posits huge questions. If a play is really doing a knockout job, it provokes--it sees the button on the wall that says “do not push” and it chucks a brick at it…then grins and covers its ears.

OT What’s it like for you to see characters who existed only in your mind, brought to life?
JM I used to feel either completely exhilarated or completely petrified by the process. But now it just seems natural. I’ve come to find that, for me, the words are nothing more than the skeletal frame. My job is to put the bones together, to give the body form and function. The actors, director, designers--they put flesh on the bones, give the frame its heart and lungs. If we’re blessed and everyone has done their job right, we collectively put a soul into that bad boy.

OT Any issues giving up control of a show as it moves into production?
JM Nah. Being in the rehearsal environment early on establishes those much-needed relationships and avenues of communication between the writer and the production team. But if you’re a writer hanging on tightly come late in the rehearsal process then you probably have more problems than just a flawed script. It’s theatre. Crap happens. Frequently. At some point you have to let go and have faith that you’ve done your work and that everyone else is doing theirs.

OT What’s your writing practice like?
JM Writing a play is definitely a committed relationship. I have a rule where, if I think of an idea for a play, I won’t write it down. If it’s still with me after three months, then I get a little crush on it and I’ll jot it in a notebook. If it’s still there after six months, things are getting a little more serious and I’ll start playing with it in my head. If it’s still there after a year, I generally put a ring on it. If you try to marry an idea prematurely it turns out bad for all parties involved. You’ve got to buy the idea ice cream, take it on vacation, and meet its parents first.

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At eight years old the best reward I could hope for was a chance to listen to my mother’s vinyl copy of A Chorus Line. Years before I had my first opportunity to see a production, I’d memorized the words to every song. My favorite was “Dance: Ten; Looks: Three.” Careful to step lightly so the record didn’t skip, I’d twirl around the living room braying the song’s refrain: “Tits and ass, stage and balcony. What they want is what cha see.”
A Chorus Line was first produced in 1975 and offers a behind the scenes look at the life of dancers drawn to New York, each desperate to find stardom. Based on the anecdotes of actual dancers, several of whom joined the first cast, the show went on to win the 1976 Pulitzer Prize for drama not to mention nine Tony’s.

Last weekend I had the mixed pleasure of revisiting what has become one of my top five favorite musicals. Staged by Aurora’s charming Paramount Theatre, the show is directed and choreographed by Mitzi Hamilton, a veteran of the original London company and the inspiration for one of the lead roles.

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“It's my homage to (original director/choreographer) Michael Bennett,” Hamilton tells me. “He created a perfect musical; seamless. [The show] gives the dancer a chance to be in the spotlight. It celebrates their sacrifices and hard work.” Revisiting the show she adds is “like coming home.”

Having only seen Broadway touring productions, my expectations were perhaps inflated. Though Hamilton’s choreography compelled, several vocalists seemed to aim at rather than hit their notes. Still, Paramount’s production boasted several standout singers, specifically Katie Spelman as Maggie. Kevin Curtis (Richie) showed off some eye-popping gymnastic dances moves as well.

At heart however, A Chorus Line is a series of character studies, and if actors are encouraged toward cartoonish, larger than life portrayals, the show falls flat. Though Pegah Kadkhodaian delivered a model Morales, several more minor roles seemed inhabited by women directed to inflate their renderings to the point of caricature. Yet even when imperfect, A Chorus Line remains a favorite; it’s spirit cannot help but shine through.


I’ve seen playwright and actor Rory Jobst naked, but I’ve also seen the unprotected profundity of his work. His new play, Samuel Beckett, Andre the Giant, and the Crickets is likely no exception, by which I mean it’s insightful, not that Jobst shows up naked in it—though I wouldn’t put it past him. Based on the real life connection between Irish Nobel-winning playwright Samuel Beckett and wrestler Andre the Giant, the show is part of Rhinofest 2012. Jobst spoke with me about his famous father Beau O’Reilly, his influences and even his nude interlude.

Our Town Your work tends to reflect on pop culture. What’s the fascination for you?
Rory Jobst People tend to regard pop culture as a passive thing; it's what you discuss on your lunch break. What you watch or listen to in your underwear. While those things are true to a certain extent, I think that pop culture is way more serious. Trends in entertainment are popular because they reflect the world we are living in. We relate to them on some level. "Write what you know," the old adage says. Well, I know plenty about [pop culture]!

OT Your father is Chicago mainstay Beau O’Reilly. What’s it like to enter the Chicago theater scene when your father casts such a long shadow?
RJ It's definitely something I consider, because we more or less have similar aesthetics. The odd thing is, [theater] is what I wanted to do growing up, and I didn't really even have a relationship with him until I was a teenager. I seemed to have been drawn to this lifestyle independent of his influence. That is not to say that he hasn't had a tremendous influence on my life and work. I even had the privilege of being one of his students in a playwriting class at SAIC [and] he has always been very supportive of my work, offering helpful, honest feedback, and getting me involved in some really cool projects to boot. As far as the Chicago Theatre scene, I've met and worked with some amazing companies and people the old fashioned way: by auditioning a lot and maintaining lasting partnerships. I feel like after about eight years on the scene I have developed a name for myself, and so has my brother, Colm, who has been on the scene for a long time, too. But what matters the most is that we are all supportive of each other’s work, and that has been fantastic.

OT You’re infamous at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago for taking to heart an assignment to reenact a dream and running through the halls naked. As an artist is it important to take yourself out of your comfort zone?
RJ Infamous, eh? I had no idea. And half naked, for the record. That was a very rewarding project, because the nudity just brought a vulnerability to that piece. I would always have these dreams of not wearing any pants, but walking around in public as if it were socially acceptable. I was fortunate to have a more or less positive reaction to it. It didn't feel as much shocking as a very private moment that I just happened to be sharing with about 30 people. I think it is important to be taken out of your comfort zone, not to say that I do enough of that myself. I've gotten very comfortable writing these two person pop culture mash up shows. Actually, for my latest piece, I found that getting out of my comfort zone involved resisting the need to be shocking. For instance, my work usually is chock full of profanity, sex, and violence. I am happy to say that there is not a single F-bomb in this piece!

Life's Ruff

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All photos by Sheri Berliner

Animal trainer Chris Dignan has one mission: to raise awareness about the plight of homeless dogs. A former dolphin trainer at the Shedd Aquarium, Dignan is now the President and Director of Training for The Dog Saving Network (DSN), an organization which highlights the benefits of positive reinforcement training. Our Town spoke with Dignan about training tips, his dog talent show, Life’s Ruff, and all things canine.

Our Town What drew you to animal training?
Chris Dignan You will have to ask my mom! As far back as I can remember I have been interested in animals; dinosaurs, whales and dolphins peaked my interest. There isn't a huge demand for dino trainers these days so whales and dolphins it was!

OT Describe your methods.
CD I'm a positive reinforcement trainer. I reward behavior that I like so the dog does it again or train a dog to do what I need him to. Like most trainers, I break a complex behavior into a series of smaller steps and systematically work towards the finished behavior. By using these small steps or approximations, you can teach a dog to do whatever it is physically capable of and it stays fun for the dog throughout!

OT What inspired Life’s Ruff?
CD We had a dog show [at the Shedd Aquarium] for a while about training pets using the same techniques that are used to train marine mammals. Tons of people would come up and ask if they could adopt one of the dogs in the show. The plan was to adopt out the dogs after the show was over so I had to tell people "not now" or "check back in a few months.” I never liked that answer so I started thinking of ways that shows could be used to raise awareness for homeless animals while highlighting the importance of training [but also] as adoption events. I want people to understand that anyone can train their dogs as long as they are committed to the process. Life's Ruff is the first of many new and different shows we hope to produce that can be used to super-charge adoptions while inspiring people to train.


OT You hope to use your Dog Saving Network to change the way the country views shelter and rescue dogs and looks to provide an easy to follow alternative to some of the more popular, aversive training methods in use today. Can you expand on this a bit?
CD I hope to show people what homeless dogs CAN do, when given the chance, instead of focusing on their challenges. There are so many dogs that need homes right now and we, as a country, need to shift our mindset towards making adoption the first choice when looking for a dog. One of the hardest things for me to see is a dog misbehaving and an owner using the excuse of "he's a rescue" or "he's a shelter dog.” Yes, dogs that come from the shelter or rescue system can have behavioral problems but that can be true of any dog, regardless of their previous living arrangements. I want people to be proud of their adopted animals and understand that being a good dog owner requires work, not excuses. Every dog that comes from a shelter or rescue has a chance to become a messenger for all shelter and rescued animals. It's up to the owners to make that happen.

Photo by Johnny Knight

Multifaceted writer/director/teacher Kelli Strickland emailed me from a swamp. Out of town for the holidays, her internet connection was spotty, but Strickland’s opinions came through loud and clear. Star of the much buzzed-about film Hannah Free, Strickland is on the cusp of opening her one-woman show "We’ve Got a Badge for That." A “love letter of sorts to the Girl Scouts,” the show has been performed locally and nationally. Below Strickland shares her thoughts on lesbian films, arts education and more.

Our Town How was your experience filming Hannah Free?
Kelli Strickland It was filmed at a rather breakneck speed but the people who came together to make that happen were a force to be reckoned with. The reception to the story was pretty overwhelming. I still get emails from people all over the world who have lost partners or grew up in a very different time period that tell me that it resonated with them.

OT How do you feel about the category “lesbian films?”
KS Categories are handy and can serve a purpose and inevitably tick some people off. You could argue that to describe any work as 'lesbian' in nature is to contribute to the gay ghetto-ization of a piece or you could argue that there are films made by and for lesbians, and why not label it that? I believe that stories are important. And so long as people are working hard to tell those stories and audiences are benefiting from hearing those stories, call it what you like.

OT I haven’t seen Hannah Free, so this isn’t a swipe at that film, but I’m pretty critical of most lesbian films. I have this sense that lesbians (even in 2011) are so desperate to see themselves reflected in art that they celebrate even the mediocre. Any thoughts on this?
KS I suppose that an under-representation in media does lead to a celebration of any and all representation. But I hesitate to lay the blame at the feet of audiences for not being discerning enough or even the art makers, for that matter. As your question suggests, that desperation for representation indicates what a dearth of films there were. Film is an incredibly expensive proposition and until recently, highly dependent on the literal and metaphorical green light from people who didn't seem all that interested in telling queer stories. So, yes, I think often the projects were and are homegrown, grassroots efforts – made by those same people who wanted to see themselves onscreen. Changes in the cultural landscape are definitely afoot, however, when a movie like “The Kids Are All Right” can not only get made, but get made with that kind of budget, that kind of cast, that kind of marketing and distribution and finally that kind of reception. Artists interested in telling queer stories, like all contemporary artists, are currently learning how to navigate a new media world where you can get product out and very process is much more affordable, accessible and therefore democratic. I think that's a good thing for storytellers, especially those storytellers who want to tell the stories that the heads of major studios won't. My guess is that we're in the midst of a great upswing.

OT If you could only act in one medium, which would you choose?
KS Theatre, without question. Especially now, when we consume so much of our films, television, music in isolation with buds in our ears and [on] a tiny screen. Nothing can replace live actors with a live audience sharing that ephemeral time together. It is pure, simple and a unifying act in an increasingly divisive time.

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