Stop. Just Stop.

Posted on November 07, 2012  ·  0 Comments

I find interesting our culture’s obsession with violence. By day, I work for Music Box Films, the film distribution arm of the Music Box Theatre. We often talk about the specific genres of films that sell well. “Action” and “Thriller” are always at the top of that list. Why do they sell well? Violence. Lots of gun play, blood, war, and death. Doesn’t it seem a little backwards that the typical parent has a problem with his children watching an intimate sex scene in a movie, but doesn’t bat an eye when there is gruesome violence in a movie? Why is it okay to watch content where life is being snuffed out at any age, but there is this strange rite of passage before you can watch content where life is being created? I suppose one could argue that the typical “sexy” movie isn’t so much about procreation as it is about lust, pleasure, and passion. If you’re the religious type, both wrath and lust appear in the seven deadly sins list, so shouldn’t both be regarded with the same weight, the same taboo, the same fear?

I’ve also always been fascinated by the psychology of violence. Why do people get violent? Taking that a couple steps back: why do people get physical? Why do people yell? Anger is what fuels it all, and anger is the harbinger of violence. Anger is usually hiding a deeper emotional truth that lies beneath it: Hurt. Disappointment. Jealousy. Sadness. Loneliness. But before we can communicate that deeper emotion, we need to stop further action. We get angry and yell and throw punches and fight and kill to make others stop. To stop them from talking, to stop their action. Simply to stop. Whether it’s war (I want your country to stop murdering its innocent citizens) or the more mundane friendship squabble (I want you to stop talking so I can participate in this conversation too), the psychological implication of anger and violence is always the same.

There are a number of “violent” moments during FUDDY MEERS. I use the word “violence” in this context to describe any moment of physical struggle. The emotional intentions and underpinnings sometimes vary, but without fail, the first goal of violence is always that the character inflicting the violent act is attempting to get the victim of the violent act to stop whatever he or she is doing. Only when the scene partner has been stopped can the action of the story move forward. “I need you to know how hurt you have made me feel, but before I can do that, I have to stop you from continuing to hurt me.” That’s a bad example, but you get my point, I hope. Whether it’s a fist fight or a sword fight, the goal is always the same: to stop. If you see the show, I challenge you to figure out what each character is trying to do in the wake of “stopping” his or her scene partner after a violent act, a shove, a slap, a disarm, etc… What deeper emotional truth are they trying to communicate to their scene partner? Do they succeed? Do they fail?

This simple action, “to stop”, carries enough importance that stage violence or “stage combat,” as many folks call it, is its own microcosm within the world of theatre. Actors-in-training can take stage combat classes where they learn to “fight” safely and effectively and with purpose. There are a number of organizations, most notably the Society of American Fight Directors, whose sole purpose is the advancement and education of safe and effective violence on stage, ranging from unarmed combat (fist fights, punches, slaps, and falls) to weaponry (small sword, broad sword, sword and shield, quarterstaff, knife, etc…). In fact, there are people that build entire careers out of designing violence, choreographing fights, and staging sword play, both in theatre and in film.

Having trained as an actor-combatant in a number of weapon styles myself, I can tell you that the training is quite useful to effectively “sell” a fight on stage in a real and believable way, but isn’t this funny? There are actually classes and workshops offered to learn how to fight on stage. To learn how to do what we watch others do in the movies all the time. To learn how to do what we see in wars on the news all the time. Makes you wonder why there isn’t a sex class where you learn how to safely and effectively fuck on stage. That’s what I’ll leave you with to ponder, and I’ll stop.

 

By Scott Allen Luke
Business Manager, Ka-Tet Theatre
Fight Choreographer for Fuddy Meers

 

Claire’s Dirty Laundry

Posted on October 30, 2012  ·  0 Comments

I’m currently playing Claire in Ka-Tet’s production of Fuddy Meers.  Claire has the unique experience of waking up every morning as a blank slate.  She has a form of psychogenic amnesia, and from the moment she lifts her head from the pillow, she’s counting on her helpful compadres to give her the answers:  who is she, where she is, and what is happening!?  Yes, Claire is depending on all of the pleasant and honorable characters of Fuddy Meers to steer her in the right direction. No problem.  Good thing each of the characters in Fuddy Meers is dependable, selfless, responsible, and has exemplary communication skills, right!?  Wrong.  These eccentrics have secrets and skeletons in their closets.  Some are even willing to rewrite her past in order to influence her future.  And as they lead her on the most terrifying goose-chase of Claire’s life (not that she would know), she discovers that her cloudy memories are finally catching up with her.  Getting the truth from these people is like pulling teeth, and when it does surface, it isn’t always pretty.

This play is a mysterious adventure through some kind of crude Wonderland.  It’s Toad’s Wild Ride on a road full of tacks.  Fuddy Meers airs the dirty laundry deep-down in the bottom of your hamper that you forgot you even owned, and no one is immune.  It is a mess, but as it all unravels, Claire is one step closer to taking ownership of her story; no matter how outrageous it may be.  So far, it’s been a wonderful challenge to uncover each dirty secret, every crazy tick, and to just go with it.

 

By Kathryn Bartholomew
Artistic Producer, Ka-Tet Theatre
Playing Claire in Fuddy Meers

Being Dysfunctional is Effortless

Posted on October 25, 2012  ·  0 Comments

According to my grandparents, our family credo should read: “Putting the fun in dysfunctional”. They obviously have a loose understanding of the term ‘dysfunctional’. Sure we have a few skeletons in the closet, but who doesn’t, right? Of course, then I read Fuddy Meers again, and comparatively, our family is downright saintly.

What strikes me most about this production is how frighteningly easy it’s been (seemingly for everyone) to jump onboard the crazy train and ride it to destination ludicrous. After all, Fuddy Meers is a lot of things, but at the core it’s still a reflection of damaged relationships within a broken family…with hysterical results! Don’t get me wrong, this play is very funny and will always have the potential to walk the thin line between heartfelt drama and flat out farce, but now that we’re in the thick of rehearsal, I was contemplating various actor-type-things when it hit me that this family is just about the most dysfunctional I’ve ever had the privilege to be a part of. This crazy, probably certifiable family just has so much physical and emotional damage between everyone that it’s no wonder they are in the circumstance they’re in when we meet them.

We’re still learning more and more with each rehearsal about the depths of this dysfunction and more importantly, how this family has had to deal with it. In truth that’s part of the fun. Again though, it’s shockingly effortless to just let the dysfunction envelope these characters from one relationship to the next, and couple that with all the lies and deceit and violence and…well friends…you’ve got a laugh-out-loud comedy on your hands! Really, this play could get so dark so fast but part of the genius is that we can laugh at the ridiculous choices these people make and hold absolutely unwaveringly steadfast to…in true dysfunctional form.

 

By Andrew Marchetti
Playing The Limping Man in Fuddy Meers

Coffee With John Godber!

Posted on July 06, 2012  ·  Coffee With John Godber!

In April, I flew to England to tour the towns of Upton and South Kirkby which form the environs for John Godber’s “Salt of the Earth.” I had been in email communication with John for a couple weeks before my trip, and he suggested that we meet for coffee at the Theatre Royal Wakefield, which is where the play originally debuted in 1988. While I was initially nervous about occupying the time of a playwright of his stature, he was incredibly generous throughout our meeting.

The play is very personal to John because the parental characters of May and Harry are based in large part upon the lives of his own parents. The character of Annie is representative of his aunt, and the character of Paul is drawn from his own experiences growing up in the West Yorkshire mining country. He said that the play is still fiction, however. He has a strong relationship with his father, and he was headed to Upton to visit him after we finished our coffee together. His mother passed away a few years ago, but they too had a good relationship to the end. One thing that defined it, he said, was that his mother always referred to him as a teacher. Even after he’d taken over the artistic directorship of Hull Truck Theatre, after his plays had been performed across the U.K. and around the world, and after he’d won two BAFTAs for his screenplays, she still would refer to him as her son “John, the professor.” The world of Hollywood and showbiz acclaim was so inaccessible to her that she preferred to think of him in terms she approved. There are certainly prominent echoes of that in the character of May.

He was also interested in our rendering of the play as a story of class struggle and the bridge back to one another. As we talked about how Paul was raised to revere culture and study and healthy eating (white-collar values) while his parents remained entrenched in their blue-collar lives, John pointed out that the key division in his life was education. The more education a Yorkshire boy receives, the greater the chasm from his roots. I found this note to be invaluable. May wants Paul to be educated, but May herself is not an educated woman. As she pushes Paul to have better than what she was given, she also finds him further away at every step. Even side-by-side physically, they are worlds apart as people.

I am grateful I had the chance to walk the streets of Upton and absorb the spiritual echoes of the long dismantled Kirkby Colliery. The work-a-day reality of that region grounds the work that we do on the play here in Chicago. Most of all, however, I appreciate that John Godber’s generosity with his time and with his language allows us the opportunity to honor the real Yorkshire men and women who inspired this stirring family drama.

 

By Thomas Murray
Artistic Director, Waltzing Mechanics
Directing Ka-Tet’s Salt of the Earth

Dialect of the People

Posted on June 29, 2012  ·  Dialect of the People

Chances are you’ve heard of Yorkshire. It’s the largest county in the UK located directly northwest of London. You’ve also probably heard a Yorkshire dialect without even knowing it. It’s simple. It’s beautiful. It is speech born of a gritty working class society. Within the past couple of years the sounds of the British North Country have been on prominent display in some of our favorite TV shows such as PBS’s Downton Abbey and HBO’s Game of Thrones.

In Salt of the Earth our lovely cast of characters all speak in such a tonality. Those rich open vowel sounds have a sense of pain and longing to them. Those clipped consonants cling like daggers meant to find warm targets. There is a reason this dialect sounds the way it does. Within the structure of this speak you’ll often hear truncated words stitched together to form a Frankenstein of phrasing. There is no time for frills. There is an urgency in the modulation and when it is spoken it commands attention. You feel the heartache and rejoice in the humanity that is the very fiber of this palaver.

Our playwright, John Godber, has deftly crafted a world in which extravagance isn’t commonplace, and respect is earned through blood, sweat, and tears. It’s incredibly endearing; the language he gives us in which to play is authentic and visceral.

We cannot wait to share the musicality with you. Won’t you join our Ka-Tet for a quick jaunt into a world of such aching authenticity?

See you at the show!

 

By Dan Meisner
Co-Founder & Dialect Coach
Playing Mr. Poole/Tosh in Salt of the Earth

Retreating Back: A family to behold

Posted on June 22, 2012  ·  Retreating Back: A family to behold

A family is an ensemble. Strike that. Reverse it.

What a span of work is John Godber’s Salt of the Earth!  In it, we experience the 40 year story of a working-class family through its celebrations and heartaches. It is a true ensemble play.  This family, this neighborhood, this town, this time, has a rich story to tell.  Godber’s Salt gives you the truth of what it was to be each of these people living at this specific time. The script speaks to what actually did happen, without affect or apology.

We see a slice of life that is at times alarming. At the same time, it brings the kind of comfort that you or I can experience by retreating back to our parents’ homes where we grew up: with those old framed family pictures on the walls, the odd knick knacks, the ugly wood-paneling that went out of style so many years ago, and the unsettling buzz of your mother and father bickering in the kitchen while you read a book in your bedroom with the door closed. Maybe this isn’t what your nostalgic memories drift back to when defining “home.” But it is what home IS–for better or for worse.  And it’s yours.

This family is something to behold, and for actors, they have a gift to give us that is worth its weight in gold.  They teach us that projecting preciousness isn’t worth half of what it means to actually just live in the truth of what your life has been, and is–to live in the world without pretense.  This is a family that certainly can’t afford pretense, and wouldn’t know what to do with it if they could.  They are salt of the earth people. And as a theatrical ensemble, we are enjoying our Salt of the Earth family, complete with all the bumps, bruises, and growing pains.  We are savoring the nitty gritty of this world, and discovering, for better or for worse, that the truth keeps calling us home, day after day, until the end.

 

By Kathryn Bartholomew
Executive Artistic Producer
Playing May in Salt of the Earth

From the Page to the Stage

Posted on June 15, 2012  ·  From the Page to the Stage

Plays are meant to be seen or heard not read.

I’m not usually a fan of blanket statements, but I’ve been consistently reminded of the validity of this since we began rehearsals for Salt of the Earth. I’ve probably read this play to myself at least half a dozen times throughout script selection, finding a marketing strategy, and delving into my characters, but I realize now that I couldn’t truly grasp who these people were or what their story was until I heard their voices aloud.

They are real and intimate and raw, and they’re funnier than I remember them being in my head. There is just so much love present in this story that can be somehow skipped over while reading alone to oneself. Surely, this can be attributed to the acting, but it has to start on the page.  It has to.  So when words are written down for the sole purpose of being spoken aloud for people to hear, we should oblige. It’s only then, in the company of others, that we can truly begin to listen to a play and to its characters on a visceral level.

Yes, plays are meant to be seen or heard not read.

 

By Stevie Chaddock Lambert
Director of Marketing
Playing Kay/Cherry in Salt of the Earth

(Company members Kevin Lambert & Stevie Chaddock Lambert)

The First Rehearsal

Posted on June 08, 2012  ·  The First Rehearsal

The first rehearsal is a nervous, exciting, and incredibly hopeful night.  You meet everyone, hear ideas being kicked about, and most importantly you are starting a journey that will forever change you–hopefully for the better.  I remember my very first, first rehearsal with Ka-Tet.  It was in the summer of 2009, and we were starting rehearsals for our inaugural production Road by Jim Cartwright.  It wasn’t too different a night.  Once again, we were all gathered around Suzanne Miller’s dining room table, and naturally, there didn’t seem to be enough chairs.  We were trying our best not to butcher the North Country dialect while reading a lesser known play by an amazing British playwright.  Though there was little cross over between the people present on those two nights, the most amazing similarity is the extreme love and dedication brought forth in order to produce, design, direct, and act in the greatest piece of art we can make. Just like that first, first rehearsal back in 2009, none of us know where this journey will take us, but we know we are going there together as an ensemble.

Thank you for taking this journey with us. Welcome to our Salt of the Earth, and welcome to our Ka-Tet!

 

By Kevin Lambert
Company Coordinator
Playing Paul in Salt of the Earth

KA-TET’S MARCH MADNESS CHALLENGE!

Posted on March 06, 2012  ·  KA-TET’S MARCH MADNESS CHALLENGE!

   How to Participate in Ka-Tet’s March Madness Challenge!

It is incredibly simple and fun to fill out a bracket! You’ll be taking a guess at who will win each game during the 2012 men’s college basketball tournament, which is broadcast from Thursday March 15th -Monday April 2nd. Every game will be on TV so it’s fun to watch and play along! Just click on the link below for some great advice:

How To Fill Out Your Bracket!

• The challenge is set-up entirely on-line through cbssports.com. Each participant is allowed to submit up to 3 brackets at the cost of $15 each. Please decide how many brackets you would like to put into the challenge upon initial payment.

• Payment must be made through PayPal by clicking on the PayPal button through the link provided below:

Pay Through PayPal Here!

• After we have received payment for the number of brackets you’d like to submit you’ll be invited via e-mail to join the CBS Sports group, Ka-Tet Theatre’s March Madness Challenge, and given a password to submit your brackets.

• Once you have received this e-mail you will need to sign up for a free account with CBS Sports (if you don’t already have one), and if you need help navigating the website just ask us for help by shooting us an e-mail at katet.theatre@gmail.com! If you’ve pre-paid for your brackets before Sunday the 11th then just sit back and relax until the field of 68 teams is announced that Sunday afternoon!

• You are able to submit your brackets between Sunday March 11th at 7:00 p.m.(EST) — Thursday March 15th at 12:00 p.m.(EST) through the free account you set-up on cbssports.com. This is your 4 day window to fill out and submit your brackets! You are allowed to go back and make changes during this time right up until 12:00 p.m. (EST)/11:00 a.m.(CST) on Thursday the 15th.

The winner this year will take home a fantastic bounty!

• 1st place will receive a $100 Visa Gift card and 4 tickets to any performance of our upcoming production of Salt of the Earth running at City Lit Theatre July 13th through August 11th. (Prize valued at $200)

• 2nd place this year will receive 4 tickets to any performance of our upcoming production of Salt of the Earth (Prize valued at $100)

• 3rd place will receive 2 tickets to any performance of our upcoming production of Salt of the Earth (Prize valued at $50)

Please spread the word! If we get 50 brackets submitted the first place prize will increase to a $150 Visa Gift Card!

If you have any questions don’t hesitate to reply to this post or leave a message on the wall. We’ll be checking it multiple times a day up until the magical day of!

 

Chasing Our Dreams

Posted on November 15, 2011  ·  Chasing Our Dreams

When I moved to Chicago I knew I wanted to make big things happen. Chicago, I feel, has always called to me. Having lived here now for over 4 years I can attest that there is no other city quite like it. I speak of the Windy City because it has a big part to do with the success we’ve achieved in such a short time. This town and culture is a nurturing one that is rooting for us.

We, Ka-Tet Theatre Company, now have the opportunity to take that next crucial step in our growth as a burgeoning company. As I write this we are engaged in an online voting competition set up through facebook. Chase is donating 3 million dollars to small charities around the country. The top 100 vote getters will receive a minimum of $25,000 each when the voting ends on November 22nd at Noon(ES). We are sitting at #98. The competition is stiff, and we’ve done well for ourselves, but we need all the help we can muster if we hope to remain in the top 100 for another week.

I can’t even describe what it would mean to us if we were to obtain a $25,000 grant, but I sure can try. We currently operate on a show to show basis having to constantly fundraise just to put ourselves in a position to pay the bills. On average it costs us about $8,000 to produce just one show. Half of that cost goes toward renting rehearsal and performance space. With $25,000 we can, for the first time in our existence, be allowed to “exhale.” Not only would some sleepless nights be erased, but we could start the process of searching for our own space in order to help curb that egregious 50% of our annual operating budget.

To date we’ve only been able to afford our talented artists very modest stipends; often ranging from $20-$40 for usually about 2 and half months worth of work. To say this is a true labor of love is an understatement. I’ve never taken a stipend myself, and only invested my own money back into this wonderful company. To pay our artists more to the tune of what their quality of work deserves would be a dream come true. We aren’t asking for much, but what we are asking for is essential; your vote. It only takes 30 seconds. When was the last time 30 seconds of your life meant so much to someone? That is exactly what it would mean to us; the WORLD!

I’ll leave you with a quote from the great Aristotle, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, therefore, is not an act but a habit.”

Will you please consider helping us sustain excellence?

With heartfelt gratitude,

Dan Meisner

Co-Founder
Ka-Tet Theatre