A Fragile Memory

We’ve been receiving many questions from audience members about how we arrived at the portrayal of Angus’s memory loss in our production of Michael Healey’s The Drawer Boy.  It has been a collaboration between the playwright (who sculpted the character and his thought processes), the director, the dramaturgeand — of course — Will Kinnear, who has taken on the challenge of playing this enormously difficult role, and who does so with honesty and grace.  We love that our audiences are curious about Angus’s background, and at how we arrived at the choices we made, and we would love to share some of the research and resources we used in rehearsal!

One of the major challenges in The Drawer Boy is how to represent Angus’s memory loss. As written, Michael Healey provides a generous and empathetic portrayal of the character, with a full inner life and clear thought process. In transferring the writing from the page to a living, breathing character, the production team of The Drawer Boy wanted to dive deeper – to gain an understanding of the symptoms and effects of brain trauma, so that we might represent Angus as truthfully as possible. Together, with the help of our dramaturge Kati Sweaney, we researched different kinds of amnesia and brain trauma, in order to fully understand the character and the unique inner-working of his mind.

One of the main cases we studied was a man named K.C., who suffered a traumatic brain injury following a severe motorcycle accident. According to the website on K.C. and his history:

“The motorcycle accident drastically impacted K.C.’s personality and memories. His once thrill seeking-character was changed to a soft spoken and calm person. He is still able to gather his own and other’s thoughts, feelings and intentions, since that part of his brain was unaffected. His humour and sarcasm remain intact, yet he is unable to remember any previous personal memories (referred to as retrograde amnesia) or store new ones. K.C. has no problem recalling that an event has occurred but is unable to associate that event to him. It is as if someone else experienced his memories and just told him about them. Therefore, he has no personal attachments to his past memories. K.C. is no longer able to commit any new type of information to long term memory (referred to as anterograde amnesia) and details of his personal occurrences exist only in the present, vanishing from his reality as soon as he thinks about something else. However, he can learn new information or skills normally, like sorting books but he doesn’t remember actually learning it.”

There are also some fascinating interviews with K.C., which provided us with a helpful frame of reference for understanding someone whose memory loss is in so many ways similar to Angus’s.


Another patient we studied was Clive Wearing, a gifted musician who suffered from a virus, leaving him with both retrograde and anterograde amnesia.  Fascinatingly, Clive exhibits no symptoms at all when he is playing the piano or conducting, which you can see in this video:


Like K.C. and Clive, Angus does not fall along one clear, clinical diagnosis of amnesia, but exhibits symptoms of retrograde amnesia, anterograde amnesia, and repressed memory. He can remember basic tasks such as knitting, running the tractor, baking bread, etc., but cannot maintain a conversation, recognize new faces, or remember events from long in the past. And, although one review mischaracterizes Angus’s injury as having “unlocked Rainman-like abilities with numbers,” both the script and our research suggest that Angus was always intelligent and academically-minded (he had planned to go to university), so his ability to do the accounting on the farm would still be part of his procedural memory.

We are so thrilled that our audiences have been as curious as we were to find out more about Angus, and the cause and symptoms of his memory loss.  Please do not hesitate to contact us of you have more questions, or would like to find out more about our process and research!

orpheus, filament theatre ensemble, jack novak, bouffons, dj puzzle

Sympathy for the Bouffon

So… those creepy clown things in ORPHEUS: Featuring DJ Puzzle as Fate…  Who are they? What are they thinking?  Where do they come from?  Well, here to answer all your questions is Filament’s literary manager and Bouffon Extraordinare, Jack Novak.  And now that you have all the inside scoop, come see Jack for yourself in ORPHEUS on Fridays and Saturdays through May 29. Click HERE for more information.

orpheus, filament theatre ensemble, jack novak, bouffons, dj puzzle

Jack Novak (left) and his fellow Bouffons

In ORPHEUS: Featuring DJ Puzzle as Fate, we have stripped away many of the myth’s traditional elements. As substitute for the destructive forces of the story – the serpent which kills Eurydice, Hades, and the Maenads who ultimately tear Orpheus apart – we have put in place three bouffons. In our production, these disfigured and slightly mysterious beings are denizens of the underworld, who come to the club to wreak havoc on Orpheus, his bride, and the world of light.

For those less familiar with the intricate pedagogies of physical theatre, the bouffon, in its most contemporary sense, is a term devised by French actor and teacher Jacques Lecoq. I’m not qualified, nor do I have the time or patience, to write out a background on Lecoq here, but I would recommend a quick trip to Wikipedia if you’ve never heard of him. However, to give you a basic idea, bouffon is one of Lecoq’s dramatic territories – a sort of archetype, like clown or Commedia. Some precursors to Lecoq’s concept of the bouffon include the court jesters of the European monarchs – who were given the privilege of freely criticizing or mocking the people of the court, to provide entertainment or insight, like the fools of Shakespeare’s plays – as well as the satyrs of Greek mythology and the grotesquely parodic satyr plays of ancient Greek and Roman theatre (and coincidentally, one version of the Orpheus myth tells of Eurydice getting bitten by the venomous serpent while fleeing a satyr). Similarly to the satyrs and royal fools, the bouffon’s central characteristic is its instinct to mock everything around it. Lecoq writes in The Moving Body, (his book on his methods of instruction) “Their function was not to make fun of a particular individual, but more generally of everyone, of society as a whole. Bouffons enjoy themselves, for their whole life is spent having fun imitating aspects of human life. Their great delight is to make war, fight, tear out each other’s guts.” Yes, the bouffon relishes in destruction as well as basic mockery, and in our production, the bouffons do a lot of damage – we mangle a beautiful flower, we tear apart a star-crossed love, and we dismember the greatest musician of all time. It is this destructive quality of the bouffon that often puts the word “evil” in the audience member’s mind, and with good reason, but I question – are the bouffons really evil?

My Orpheus cast-mates and I had generally sparse experience with the concept of bouffon, and even our fantastic director & Filament Associate Artistic Director, Omen Sade, who commands a deep understanding of physical theatre (the phrase “master comic” has been bandied about here and there), admitted to us from the beginning that his knowledge of bouffon, specifically, only went so far as he had read about it. So we embarked on a journey of experimentation, and what we ended up with is really a unique fusion of Commedia-style mask work, clown, grotesque, and Mime, all overlaid with the philosophy of the bouffon as we understood it. I did come into this process with a little bit of physical theatre training – a lot of Mime, some red nose clown, neutral mask, a smidge of Commedia – but my only knowledge of bouffon was

Bouffons in Rehearsal

a brief mention on the last day of a clown workshop with Giovanni Fusetti (a Lecoq-trained pedagogue himself). He had a group of us do a very basic exercise, in which we clustered onstage and went from audience member to audience member, singling each out by pointing and laughing cruelly. On our first day of Orpheus workshops, Omen had us play out part of the story in extreme grotesque parody. So I started to construct an understanding of the bouffon psychology, and one of the most immediately distinct things about playing this way was how much fun it could be. Lecoq writes, “No one is more of a child than the bouffon and no one is more of a bouffon than a child.” The parody that the bouffon creates is not highly intellectual – there’s no elegantly constructed satire here – it is more like the playground antics of a group of children, and opening myself up to that experience invoked a kind of pre-adolescent delight. What makes the bouffon really hard to watch, though, is that they bring this type of play to the realm of tragedy. So, in contrast to the fun one has inhabiting the bouffon, is the experience of looking up to the audience, expecting to see them laughing along with you, and seeing instead looks of disgust.

A funny thing about working on a devised physical theatre piece like this one is that the traditional rehearsal process gets flipped. Instead of starting with text work and extended thought about motive, objective, subtext, etc., we constructed this story from the outside in – beginning with isolated physical bits, slowly fitting them together into an arc, and finally examining the internal specifics of the characters. As such, it wasn’t really until a couple weeks ago that someone actually asked, “why do the bouffons want to destroy Orpheus?” We had taken the goal of destroying Orpheus for given, and hadn’t completely examined how the bouffons fit precisely into our telling of the story. We did have design concepts from our costume designer, Mieka van der Ploeg, which characterized the bouffons in this club world as a gang of neo-punk nihilists (and a particularly astute parallel pointed out by one of my cast mates is the group of nihilists in The Big Lebowski). That wasn’t something we really excavated until this late point in the process, but it is immanently clear that bouffons, when placed in the same space with non-bouffons, become societal outcasts, which fits beautifully with the nihilist archetype. Meanwhile, Orpheus is the very epicenter of society, of light, of love, of music. Omen noted a parallel between our bouffon and Dante’s vision of Satan – in the Inferno, Hell is the crater formed by Satan’s epic fall from grace, and Satan sits at its center, which is the very point of greatest distance from God’s love. To draw another parallel, for Dante, God’s love was embodied by the sun, and Orpheus is the son of Apollo – the Greek god of the sun. The bouffon, particularly our lead bouffon, (essentially Hades) played by Lindsey Dorcus, are people who are devoid of love, like Dante’s Satan. When they look in on club Dionysus, and see the Nymphs in their joyous revelry, and see Orpheus wrapping up the crowd in ecstatic worship, they do not understand it. In fact, it is so far from their understanding that, to them, it is completely stupid, and they are compelled to show the crowd how idiotic it all is. In particular, they want to show everyone that Orpheus is a fool, which ultimately means reducing him to ruin. Here’s another Lecoq quote: “In their rituals, bouffons do not invoke heavenly powers, they spit on them! They invoke earthy forces; they are on the side of the devil and the underworld.” One of the objectives our bouffons enter this story with, aside from destroying Orpheus, is to turn club Dionysus into club Underworld. You’ll have to see for yourself if they succeed.

Jack in Rehearsal

Will the bouffons disgust you? Probably a little bit, but they might also fascinate you, and as we’ve been getting new audiences into the club, the bouffon have, I believe, managed to bring some guests to their side, if only for a moment. There’s even a laugh here and there. Are the bouffons evil? If evil means malevolence, destruction for the sake of destruction, ill will born of irrational hatred, then I would say no. They simply have no way of interacting with society other than to mock it. Lecoq, again, probably never intended this kind of realist speculation, but as an actor I ultimately decided (and again, this came at the very end of the process – during previews, in fact) that I needed to understand a little more about my bouffon’s origin. I won’t divulge too much, as it’s mostly irrelevant, but I asked myself how a person in the real world might come to have such an aversion to society, and I thought of someone who has been confronted by extreme loss – the death of a loved one – and who is thenceforth unable to understand joy in the world. When Orpheus sings his song of loss to the denizens of the underworld, my bouffon experiences empathy for one brief moment, as he realizes he, too, has felt the pain of such a loss. So, hate the bouffons all you want – spit on them, be disgusted by them, heckle them (and expect us to heckle you back) – but please, don’t call them evil. Have some sympathy for the bouffon.

Coming Home

Ensemble member Carolyn Faye Kramer recently returned to Chicago after five months studying in Israel.  Here she shares her experiences abroad – and jumping right back into life with Filament.  See Carolyn as the title role in Sarah Ruhl’s Eurydice, coming to the Lacuna Artist Lofts April 20-May 29.

Remember when you were little and you would try and sit at the bottom of a pool? Cross legged, blowing bubbles through your nose, pushing your arms up against the forces of not-gravity in order to keep yourself planted. In this space, if you open your eyes, the whole world is blue. And if you listen to the words of your best friend as she passes you a cup of imaginary tea, it sounds like a strange, muffled, far away, almost-but-not-quite song.  Your hair lifts off your neck, the stinging of the chlorine subsides, and you can see things as they must be seen from the eyes of a fish (a fish who happens to live its life in a swimming pool). Coming up from your tea party, your eyes burn from the shock of the chlorine, and your shoulders are cold from the wind, and you are so relieved to be taking in this familiar atmosphere: air!

Coming home to Filament was an experience similar to that of coming up for air.

In October of 2010, I made my way to Pardes Hanna, Israel, jumped in, and swam at the bottom of that pool for five months. Everything in this new place was stirring and strange to me: the sounds, the tastes, the rich red color of the dirt and the shape of the trees (the best of which looked like Jurassic Period heads of broccolini). At night, bats would furiously wing their way through the cover of the branches. My favorite houses were the ones without roofs that solitarily stood in abandoned fields or orange groves – peeling cement blocks that nature had decided to take back, so that trees and vines grew wild through their windows and up towards the sky. Strangers invite you into their homes for Friday night dinners and offer you cup after cup of nana tea, a kind of mint that grows wild in virtually everyone’s backyard. For the first two months, whenever I opened my mouth to speak a word of Hebrew, I would immediately begin to speak in Spanish (a language that I had not explored since high school).

Before I arrived in Israel, I decided to study dance, movement, and performance at a school called Artness, and so spent most of my time in a

Movement at Artness

sun filled studio, finding strength I did not know that I had, and experiencing the biggest moments of frustration in my life so far; “Don’t explain to me what you are doing with your face. Use your body.” So, each day I would enter the studio and try, try, try, to steer away from the form of expression to which I was most accustomed. Soon afterwards, I came to realize that my words were not something I could rely on either: when I chose to use them, so much of their significance was lost in the translation of things. What I did have was my body. So I learned to swim – metaphorically, that is.

To say that landing in Logan airport in late February was a bit disorienting would be a great understatement. As soon as I returned to the States, I experienced reverse culture shock in a major way. Starbucks and shopping malls, and business men reading English newspapers – English newspapers! For the first time in months, I could read the news – I suddenly went from sounding out street signs, to communicating with the world around me in a way that I had taken for granted my whole life. Furthermore, the in-flight movie on my way home was Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps. This is not to say that these things do not exist in Israel – shopping malls, coffee chains, and consumerism of all kinds – but, I had been living in such a way that I did not interact with them nearly as much as I do here. I was in class for most of my time and living very simply the rest– with few belongings, attachments, and little spare cash to spend on anything other than bus and train fare – in what could be described as a green, bohemian, “Artness” sort of atmosphere.

Making new friends.

What’s more, I had not “acted” since the summer. Fears and doubts peeked their way between my ribs and up under my collar bones, but I swallowed them as best I could. I was scared. Towards the end of my time abroad, I would speak with my family over the phone and find myself feeling like English was my second language. What if I had forgotten? By this, I mean everything: how to interact with English speakers; how to be in a rehearsal process; how to approach a script; how to return to everything I had loved and worked towards before I left. My shape had changed. I knew this. If I were a cookie (surely snicker-doodle), I would not fit into the same shaped cookie-cutter as I did before. So, how would things be different? How would I be different in this new, but familiar space?

What I did not anticipate, was just how much returning to Filament would be like returning home to a family. It is simply the truth, as cheesy as it may sound. And I do not say things that I do not mean. It was as relieving, joyful, and necessary as coming up for that first gulp of air. Filament is a group of the most open hearted, positive, kind, capable, energetic, spirited, passionately and limitlessly creative individuals that I have ever met. Again, this is just the truth. The first meeting of the Eurydice and Orpheus design teams, production teams and casts, was a pancake-breakfast-potluck party, held at the “Crow’s Nest” – artistic director, Julie Ritchey’s, second story apartment that has a Neverland-esque whimsicality to it, rocking between ancient Pirate Ship and the Lost Boys’ Home Under the Ground, with as much over arching greenery as would be imagined if J. M. Barrie had decided on a house above the  ground instead. Twenty-five people tucked their way into the living room, on couches, floor cushions, chairs and laps.

That afternoon went on to be the warmest welcome back to Filament and the Chicago theatre scene that I could have imagined. After everyone had their plates piled with pancakes, syrup, fruit, chocolate chips and the like, introductions were made and designers passed around sketches and shared lap-top slide shows of their plans. A few hours later, Julie, Peter, managing director, Christian Libonati, and I braved the wind and

Photo for "Eurydice"

the chill at North Shore Beach, in order to capture the beaming sun and the storybook-like, cloud-filled sky for Eurydice’s promotional photos. The day concluded with all of us going out for sushi and seeing a show down town (the first play that I had seen since being in Israel!). In the morning was our first rehearsal/read through, followed by more promotional photos (this time in a comparably toasty elevator) and cozy soup and sandwiches at the Birchwood Kitchen, before we all fell asleep at the Crow’s Nest. We woke up from our power-two-hour-nap (unfortunately for Christian, in whose lap I feel asleep on the couch, I woke up in a small puddle of drool), rested and ready for the Ensemble meeting that was called for that evening. Kettle corn, oranges, and tea kept us going into the wee hours of the evening after our meeting “ended”, and we split off into separate teams in order to work on press packets, website content, grants and the like. I arrived home at 3am exhausted, satisfied, and grinning like a ninny. Those two days were epically fun, and I was finally in the right place. I was home.

If it is not quite obvious how much Filament welcomed me under its wing as part of a family, I will break it down:  in those two days we spent virtually all of our waking hours together, shared all our meals, had family nap time, quality bonding time, played (not board games, but theatre games!), helped support each other, and challenged each other to do better work.

Filament’s mission statement emphasizes their commitment to sustainability, asserting, “we strive to make choices that have a long-lasting

Carolyn Faye Kramer as Eurydice

positive impact across a broad spectrum, and not just ‘pieces in isolation.’” This theme of  seeing the whole picture, especially from an environmentally aware perspective, is quite different from the bleak, first impression I had of the United States upon my return, one which highlighted the wasteful, utilitarian, self-serving qualities that are indeed present here. However, I am pleased to report that my culture shock has mostly subsided. With the help of some family, I can see that strip malls, fast food, and unconscious consumption do not occupy the landscape of the States as much as I felt when I first arrived. I also realized that my fears about remembering how to interact with the world as I had known it prior to living abroad were unfounded – Yay! I discovered my voice again, and not only as a theatre artist (my ability to socialize and communicate was not as stunted as I had anticipated it would be – Yay times two!). Filament welcomed me home with support for where I had been and encouragement for where I am now, asking me to share my experience in Israel and honoring the newly shaped cookie (okay, last reference to the metaphor, I promise) that I have become.

Fundraiser, Love, Cabaret, Filament, Underground Lounge, Performance

Thank You!

Fundraiser, Love, Cabaret, Filament, Underground Lounge, PerformanceFilament is thrilled to announce that our current fundraising goals were successfully met!

Both our annual appeal and our cabaret event Love: It’s All Greek To Me! exceeded our projections.

We would like to thank you so much for your support and for you contributions. Because of you, we are off to a great start in 2011, and are now heading into our upcoming productions of Sarah Ruhl’s Eurydice and ORPHEUS: Featuring DJ Puzzle as Fate with confidence and excitement!

Annual Appeal

Goal: $2000
Actual: $3155

Fundraising Party

Goal: $1000
Actual: $1402

Filament is also honored to be one of twenty Chicago theatre companies to receive a grant from the Alphawood Foundation’s Theatre Support Initiative. We would like to extend a huge thank you to the Alphawood Foundation, both for supporting Filament and for contributing so much to the Chicago theatre community!

We are deeply grateful for all of your support and encouragement over the years. We are off to a fantastic start, and we look forward to seeing what else 2011 has in store!

Julie Ritchey, Shayna Kamilar, Allison Powell

Allison Asks, What If?

This week, the Filament blog checks in with playwright Allison Powell, as she shares her experience adapting Choose Thine Own Adventure.

Julie Ritchey, Shayna Kamilar, Allison Powell

Allison Powell (right) in a rehearsal.

It’s alive, breathing, bickering, swashbuckling, beer guzzling, heart breakingly wonderful and that was in just the first ten minutes of Saturday night’s rehearsal in the venue. I have never been more excited about a show. Ever. And that’s a big statement because I excite easily.

Choose Thine Own Adventure had been brewing in the collective subconscious of Filament long before I sat down with my copy of the Bard and started piecing the show together. In fact, it was listed on the company’s website as a future production when I initially interviewed to be the Business Manager. I was devastated to hear (Director) Julie say that, for as brilliant of an idea as it was, they had postponed writing. It’s been on the Filament ‘to do’ list for so long that no one can even remember whose idea it was originally, just that everyone was itching for a chance to ask “what if?”

What if Juliet woke up 10 seconds sooner? What if Hamlet was a bit more action and a lot less talk? What if Lear was a better judge of character?

And the biggest ‘what if?’ of all: what if we could make Shakespeare fun again? Give it back to the groundlings as a bawdy, boozy, brazen good time—all the things we love about these plays—and drop all of those pretentious, boring production habits that have become the norm for Shakespeare. Don’t want to see a 3 hour performance of Macbeth set in 1690s Salem, Massachusetts? Me neither. Sill think codpiece jokes are funny? Me too!

I was not a Choose Your Own Adventure virgin going into this. In college I wrote a CYOA play with The Experimental Theatre Company (hi guys!) so I had some idea of how to structure this kind of show.

And the structure’s the thing (Check out this Scene Map!). With Shakespeare, the wealth of zany characters, thorny plot twists and gorgeous language meant never wanting for good material—but when you make a choice (and you’re going to make lots of them!) there is a ripple effect through the plot line, as way leads on to way. So figuring out how one decision in Twelfth Night would naturally lead to a scene from Othello was like a great unraveling. I got to pull at all of these loose threads to see where each one led me, until a bigger picture finally took shape. And if that’s my metaphor, then picture me completely tangled in yarn on a regular basis.

The script is now in its umpteenth revision, with brilliance regularly added to it by the cast and designers. But you get to make the final edit.

Choose Thine Own Adventure, Map

Scene Map for "Choose"

We have no idea what show you’re going to see when you come so we’re as excited as you are. And, mathematically speaking, the likelihood of any show happening twice is less than .00024%. (I calculated that so leave some room for error.) What the numbers are telling us is that each show is a once-in-a-lifetime experience—so you can come back and see it every night and you’ll always see something new. While that’s true of any live performance, it’s especially true of this one. It’s even possible some of the scenes will never be seen! Imagine, all of that writing, rewriting, blocking, memorizing of lines, costumes sewn, props painted and it never gets chosen! That’s a real risk, but we’re willing to take it to give you the opportunity to have this hands-on experience with characters you’ve seen a hundred times (and hopefully a few you’ve never met) in a new world of your choosing.

Here are some rumors I’d like to dispel:

1. I am a Shakespeare scholar.
– As if! Probably no more or less than you. When I got stuck, which was frequent (see ‘yarn’ above) I had the internet at my immediate disposal. Can’t remember a scene that has pirates? Need another reference to a horse? I’d like to particularly thank MIT for their free on-line posting of all of Will’s work.

2. I LOVE Shakespeare.
– Again, probably no more or less than you. Having irreverence towards the text was crucial in this process. But so was loving his words. I have my favorites (most of which found their way into the final draft) and anything I didn’t think would make you either laugh or cry was cut.

3. Two of the actors have webbed toes.
– It’s just not true.

Shakespeare invented the word ‘laughable’! Really! Look it up! So I take that to mean he really wanted his work to make you laugh. We hope in our hands it does. So come early and often, get a drink (or two) and tell us what you’d like to see happen next because we’re as curious as you are.

Designing In Stages

This week, the Filament Blog checks in with two of the Choose Thine Own Adventure Designers: Amy Gilman (set) and Kristen Ahern (costume). See how these brave ladies are tackling the challenges of designing a show with more than twenty possible storylines!

First, Amy Gilman discusses scenic design, unpredictability, and magical forests:

Scenic Designer Amy Gilman

How do you design a show when you don’t know what scenes will actually be performed? Approaching Choose Thine Own Adventure has been different than any other process in which I have been involved. It is an exciting, yet terrifying task. The instant I heard the idea of a Shakespearean Choose Your Own Adventure play I knew I wanted to be involved, though I was more than a little apprehensive that it would be next to impossible to actually pull off. Luckily, Julie Ritchey has taken the show in stride. She has a very ballsy approach, and has just faced the script and challenges head on, bringing the words back to the idea of the gritty, bawdy Shakespearean crowd. How to translate this into scenery has really been paring down to simple items and gestures. Really, in the original productions of Shakespearean plays there weren’t scene changes. If Puck tells you that you’re in a magical forest, you don’t ask wherethe trees are. You take a swig of your ale and wait to see what is happening in the damn magical forest. As a production team we have been trying to take this idea in stride.

An early scenic design concept.

In our process we have been looking at really using the space of the Underground Lounge being careful not to lose the feel that this is a show in a bar. A lot of the scenes involve actors having to make quick shifts to new scenes and grabbing what is around them to make that happen. Like any show, it is never really its own being until an audience arrives. Choose Thine Own Adventure is really taking that idea to the next level. No one really knows what will happen every night, but I know its going to be fun.

Next, costume designer Kristen Ahern shares her perspective on creating new works, collaboration, and embracing those iconic Shakespearean looks.

The process for designing Choose Thine Own Adventure has been unlike any piece I have ever worked on. The script continues to grow and change as it goes through rehearsal, an element that is truly exciting and daunting! The designs play and integral part of this production because of the ways the actors use the physical design elements (both set and

Costume sketches.

costumes) to create each new place and group of characters. Because the costumes are such an integral part of the production, I have asked the actors, director and stage manager to let me know if someone comes up with a brilliant use for a costume piece during rehearsal. I have found that actors have the greatest insight into their characters and can often aid a designer in putting the final touches on a costume that really transform it into a person’s clothes.

Kristen measures actor Ped Naseri.

Creating the costumes for Choose Thine Own Adventure started by reconciling the differences between the different Shakespeare plays and finding the common elements. In the end I chose to focus on the idea that Shakespeare is iconic and so are his characters. This meant keeping the designs true to the original time period while also trying to show different takes on Shakespeare’s plays.

The final element that had to be considered for the design is Filament’s (and my own) dedication to sustainable theatre. Today I start thrifting for modern clothes that can be converted to look period and old linens that can be re-purposed as costumes.

Choose Thine Own Adventure, Chicago, Filament Theatre, Shakespeare

Living the Story

I often view theatre as an allegory for community. I am not speaking of specific play, playwright, or sequence of scenes, but rather the literal act of theatre. In the abstract it stages (quite literally) how life should be lived – with an ongoing effort to understand each other and ourselves; and that such a project is best undertaken with a community of people. After all, theatre is a shared experience; it is a conversation between the audience, the actors, and the characters they portray. Even when an audience seems to simply sit for two hours to watch a story, they are lending a crucial voice, because they are living it. “All the world’s a stage” after all. I think this reality is what has always drawn me to acting, and Shakespeare in particular.