2010-2011 Season

Choose Thine Own Adventure

Adapted from William Shakespeare by Allison Powell*
October 2010-December 2010 at the Underground Lounge

Production Team:
Director: Julie Ritchey*
Scenic Design: Amy C. Gilman
Costume Design: Kristen Ahern
Lighting Design: Will Dean
Stage Management: Kathleen Wenzlick

Dromio: Marco Minichiello
Antiono: Ped Nesari
Bernardo: Omen Sade*
Rosalind: Mary Spearen*

Arlecchino’s Odyssey

Conceived by Omen Sade*
Written by Julie Ritchey* & Omen Sade*
April 2011 at the Den Theatre

Production Team
Director: Julie Ritchey*
Lazzi Director: Elizabeth Bagby
Costume Design: Mieka van der Ploeg
Set Design: Omen Sade*

Arlecchino: Omen Sade*
Musician: Mary Spearen*


by Sarah Ruhl
April 2011-May 2011 at the Lacuna Artist Lofts

Production Team:
Directed by Julie Ritchey*
Stage Management by Luke Heiden
Original Music by Peter Oyloe* and Shannon Bengford
Costume Design by Mieka van der Ploeg
Lighting Design by Kyle Land
Set Design by Joe Schermoly
Sound Design by Andrew Surasky, Peter Oyloe*, and Shannon Bengford

Eurydice: Carolyn Faye Kramer*
Orpheus: Peter Oyloe*
Eurydice’s Father: Patrick Blashill
Nasty Interesting Man/Lord of the Underworld: Nathan Pease
Loud Stone: Brandon Cloyd
Big Stone: Ted Evans
Little Stone: Ashley Alvarez

Orpheus: Featuring DJ Puzzle as Fate

conceived and directed by Omen Sade*
April 2011-May 2011 at the Lacuna Artist Lofts

Production Team:
Adapted and Directed by Omen Sade*
Original Music by Jason Donnelly (“DJ Puzzle”)
Additional music by Kevin Crowley
Stage Management by Kiri Palm
Costume Design by Mieka van der Ploeg
Original Mask Design by Jeff Semmerling
Lighting Design by Kyle Land
Set Design by Joe Schermoly

Fate: Jason “DJ Puzzle” Donnelly
Orpheus: Kevin Crowley
Eurydice: Audrey Bertaux-Skeirik
Lead Bouffon: Lindsey Dorcus
Second Bouffon: Jack Novak*
Third Bouffon: Nathan Paul
Nymphs: Alyssa Duerksen, Becca Drew Emmerich, Ashley Moret

Meeting Shakespeare

This week the Filament Blog asks the question, “What was your first experience with Shakespeare?” Ensemble members and the Choose Thine Own Adventure cast weigh in on middle school plays, boring high school English classes, and Leonardo diCaprio. Sharing all these stories has made us wonder – What was your first encounter with Shakespeare? Comment below and let us know!

CHOOSE runs through Dec. 11!

My most memorable Shakespeare casting was as a dancer in a Maui production of Comedy of Errors. It was set in New York’s 1970’s Studio 54 club, complete with drugs, boas, glitter, plenty of polyester and numerous Diana Ross dance numbers. It was hilariously awful and yet fabulous as only a room lit with a mirror ball can be. To this day, every time I hear Amii Stewart’s cover of “Knock On Wood” I expect to see twin Dromios in white bell bottoms dancing on a bar.
-Allison Powell, Business Manager and Adapter of Choose Thine Own Adventure

When I was seven, my mom took me to a production of The Tempest at a local college. The images from that play have stuck with me ever since. I don’t think I knew at that point that Shakespeare was supposed to be “hard” to understand, so I understood the meaning of every moment. That experience fixed Shakespeare in my mind as something thrilling. Seven years later I played Puck in my highschool’s Midsummer. Inhabiting the words and actions of Shakespeare at that moment caught me hook line and sinker and I’ve been caught ever since!
-Omen Sade, Associate Artistic Director and Bernardo in Choose Thine Own Adventure

The first Shakespeare play I was ever in was Much Ado About Nothing. I was twelve years old, and I played Benedick. After that, I thought I knew everything there was to know about Shakespeare and probably annoyed the bajeezus out of all of my friends. That continues to this day.
-Reggie Gowland, Ensemble Member

Village Hypochondriac: “The Queen has demanded a new Will Shakespeare play.”
Will Shakespeare: “But I don’t have one ready. Can’t she just write one herself!”
Village Hypochondriac: “I’ll give her your reply sir!”
Will Shakespeare: “NO no no no”

Thus begins every performance of Instant Shakespeare performed at Renaissance Festivals across the country. After this set up, the actors launch into creating a new Shakespeare play based on one of the classics (the first one I saw was Romeo & Juliet); however Shakespeare would ask the audience for help through the process. Names, circumstances, and insults from the audience filled in this Madlib Shakespeare that would then unfold before the audience full of improvisations in Iambic pentameter and audience involvement. To give an idea of the atmosphere, when the audience was asked for an insult, a jolly portly gentleman holding a huge smoked turkey leg (you know the guy) yelled out: “YOU VOMITUS PENNY PINCHING SCUM!” (That insult has been a part of my family’s vocabulary ever since.) At 6 years old, this was my first exposure to Shakespeare and quickly became something I looked forward to every year when my family attended the Renaissance Festival. From that point on, I knew that there was an underlying joy and playfulness in Shakespeare’s plays, and later when I read my first Shakespeare play in English class (you guessed it… Romeo & Juliet), I was able to connect with the joy and irreverence inspired by Instant Shakespeare.
-Christian Libonati, Managing Director

My first experience with Shakespeare was in 7th grade when we were required to read Romeo and Juliet, I distinctly remember hating the play. I get so angry at how silly the whole thing is, all of it could have been so easily avoided. What made it worse was when our teacher made us sit through the 1968 film version. That was pure torture. It wasnt until my senior year of high school that I would learn to love the bard. I read Macbeth, which to this day, is my favorite Shakespeare play.
-Shayna Kamilar, Production Manager

My first “Shakespeare encounter” occured in 7th grade, and was the result of two simultaneous events. First, as part of our English cirriculum, we were to cover both Romeo and Juliet and Julius Caesar. Second, there was a speech contest which occured each year for 7th graders and encompassed several topics – one of those was dramatic interpretation (in other words, a monologue). I chose Cassius’ monologue from I.ii, which begins “Why, man, he doth bestride the narrow world/Like a colossus…” So there I was reading Romeo and Juliet in class, as well as working on a Shakespeare speech for the speech contest. A Shakespeare nerd from the start, you might think. Well, that simply was not the case! I still had glorious dreams of being a professional baseball player, and was riding high on skipping a level of the local leagues due to my great tryout the previous fall. In my free time I was most likely playing video games, sports, or chasing girls – theatre, Shakespeare in particular, was the least of my interests.

The speech contest went well (I scored high, but did not win), and I received high marks in English. I can’t say that some seed was planted at that moment, but I certainly can remember that I felt an affinity for the language (even if I didn’t understand a lot of it). I don’t know when I first really considered acting seriously as a field of study, and eventually a profession, but I do know that every time I have come across an opportunity to study Shakespeare, or work on a Shakespearean production, there has been some unseen pull toward his language. If you went back in time and told my 11 year-old self that he would be an actor, and have an affinity for Shakespeare’s works, he would probably laugh at you, and yet still have some subconscious understanding of that future reality.
-Marco Minichiello, Dromio in Choose Thine Own Adventure

When I was about eight, my grandparents showed me Franco Zeffirelli’s Romeo and Juliet. I was instantly obsessed (I mean, John McEnery’s Queen Mab speech is killer, right?!).  I spent an enormous part of the subsequent months performing the balcony scene in my house, using the staircase landing as the balcony and my four year old sister as Romeo. She had a pretty impressive speech impediment at the time, and to this day I can hear her little voice saying “He jests at scaws that nevew fehwt a wound!” In the two decades since then, my sister has outgrown her speech impediment, but I’m still going strong with my love of the Bard.
-Julie Ritchey, Artistic Director and Director of Choose Thine Own Adventure

When I was just a few years old my mom–who is a theatre teacher at a private school in San Diego–directed a production of Hamlet. My dad guest-starred as the Ghost. I don’t remember very much from the production, but I do have a few blurry images in my head. I certainly liked the sword-fighting (which, I believe, my dad also choreographed). Sword-fighting may have played a big role in drawing me into the theatre–when, as a kid, I had to keep myself entertained while my mom finished a rehearsal, I’d get to play with some of the prop swords that were always lying around.
-Jack Novak, Ensemble Member

I read Othello in high school with my remedial English class and I do not remember if I understood what happened in the play but I remember that I was mad at everybody for not acting the parts out.  How could they just read this stuff without any emotion?

The second most memorable moment was when I read Merchant of Venice unassigned one summer before my senior year of college.  It was the first Shakespeare play I read on my own accord and the first time I understand the story.  I remember the moment I finished the play.  I was sitting in an upstairs part of the library where I worked during the summer and the sun was coming in on my face.  I remember being very hungry and I was poor at the time so I kept myself busy that week with this play.  I needed nourishment and this play supplied it.  I never told anybody about this but I guess I have now.  I really saw this play happening as I read which was the first time visualization had happened throughout an entire Shakespeare play.  I want to re read it now just thinking about this moment.
-Mary Spearen, Development Director and Rosalind in Choose Thine Own Adventure

Shakespeare is to the English language as the moon is to the sky, it is as though the two always belonged together, describing love and the pain that comes with the journey that is the path of life.  I must say that my early experience with the Bard was as an explorer of words, as a creature in love with the texture and smell of old books and the oceans of words upon the shelves. It is from some such exploration that a weathered copy of the Complete Works cast its breath upon my face like some volume of sacred text, calling forth the boy to worship at its soft and faded page. And with its voice taking my hand and softly whispering some reminder of what I was to come to know. I don’t think I fully understood at the time what I was looking at, but I knew right away that it was a very important part of the history of life. I knew even then that it had the power to change lives.
Peter Oyloe, Marketing Director

My first encounter with Shakespeare was more tangible than most, it was not by reading any of his plays or even attending one of them.  At age 10 I visited Stratford-upon-Avon and have fond memories of visiting the various landmarks around the town, my favorite being Anne Hathaway’s cottage.  Here I purchased a beautiful, picture book edition of A Midsummer Night’s Dream.  Upon returning home, I immediately rented the movie edition, read the actual play and thus began a love of “the bard.”
-Kristen Ahern, Costume Designer of Choose Thine Own Adventure

My sister put up a giant poster of Leonardo DiCaprio from Romeo + Juliet behind the fish tank on her wall – when I say giant, I mean takes up half the wall space giant. I was 10. I would sneak into her room and kiss the poster!
-Carolyn Faye Kramer, Ensemble Member

High school sucks and here is why. I had the greatest English teacher in the world. Did I know or appreciate it at the time, no. Example, in addition to reading poetry, and studying drama, this guy brought us on field trips to the Ruth Page Theatre (now Chicago Shakes) to see incredible productions. As a 15 year old (at least in 1996) there is nothing more uncool than liking Shakespeare. So, I distinctively remember sitting in the front row of a matinee of Comedy of Errors with my arms folded across my chest, slumped into the chair with my coat still on, acting way too cool for school. This was all for show (or at least to keep the bullies at bay). Inside I was dying with excitement. I LOVED every second. The mistaken identities, watching the Dromios get pummeled, the prat falls, the lights, the costumes, the music, the oh so happy ending… it was awesome! Those matinees have a lot to do with how and why I’m an actor today. The coolest part is I’ve now shared the stage with some of those guys I grew up watching and admiring. So to Mr. T. I thank you. Even though there was no way you could have known it then, I was deeply in love (and still am) with the things I was exposed to in your class.
-Ryan Reilly, Ensemble Member

I don’t remember my first encounter with Shakespeare but it must have been much like my first encounter with chocolate. That stalwart and king of sugary treats has always been in my sensory memory just as Shakespeare seems to have always been a part of the ether of my nostalgic subconscious, sweetly satiating the appetite of my intellectual curiosity and theatrical cravings. Over the years I’ve tasted chocolate in a plethora of forms — dark, milk, white, with peanut butter, rice crispies, jalapenos, etc — and have similarly seen Shakespeare’s works in classical theater style, post-modern interpretations, recontextualizations of all sorts, and in Japanese samurai cinema. That’s the deliciously beautiful thing about chocolate and Shakespeare, they go well in almost any form. The reason, I think, is because at some very basic level, they hit us in the pit of our brains, arousing some fantastic and cathartic feeling in our cores, satisfying a primal human desire to feel joy. And although too much chocolate can lead to a number of health concerns, too much Shakespeare only makes me wish the Bard was still around to share the second Twix bar with.
-Ped Naseri, Antonio in Choose Thine Own Adventure

Alice and Me, Filament Theatre, Children's Theatre, Chicago, Monee School District

The Rule of Threes

This week on the Filament blog, artistic director Julie Ritchey looks back at this week (in which the Filament Theatre Ensemble opened three world-premiere plays) and looks forward to tonight (the opening of Choose Thine Own Adventure)!

When it rains it pours, they say, and what an appropriate adage for today! Not only are we edging into autumn with one of those classically cozy rainy Chicago days, but we at Filament are arriving at the end of an epic week of shows. It’s been a unprecedented week here for us. This week has marked the world premiere of THREE Filament shows.

We started the week off with our very first performance of Alice and Me! in Monee, Illinois on Monday. By Friday, the actors had performed the show seven times, reaching over 2100 students in the

Alice and Me, Filament Theatre, Children's Theatre, Chicago, Monee School District

The First Performance of Alice & Me!

Monee school district. I have to take a second to applaud the actors’ energy and focus (especially considering they’d been waking up at 5:30 a.m. five days in a row!) to be able to match the energy of an entire gymnasium of elementary school students. I wish you could have seen them! As Peter put it, it felt more like a rock concert than a play. The kids were so invested in every moment they could hardly even stay still. My favorite moment would have to be when Mary as the Red Queen challenges Alice (played by Melissa Law and Lauren Malara) to a game of croquet and then never lets her have a turn. The kids went wild defending Alice, yelling that it was her turn, that the Queen was cheating, that it wasn’t fair. A baby riot was narrowly averted! It was so refreshing to see an audience so personally invested in a story that they couldn’t help but yell out in defense of one of the characters. That was our hope and it seems to be working. As we move forward we will take what we have learned and continue to refine the experience that we are bringing to these schools. Jack, the playwright and an ensemble member, has really written such a smart and wonderful play – one that connects to an enormous age range on so many different levels. I’m already looking forward to the next booking!

This afternoon, Omen Sade and Mary Spearen are heading up to Wauwatosa, WI to perform the world premiere of Arlecchio for Kids, a complete re-imaging of Omen’s one man show The Odyssey of Arlecchino, which premiered at the Theatre Building Chicago in February.  As I write this, they are midway through the performance!

Our audience for the preview!

And tonight at 8:00, Filament officially kicks off its fifth season with the world premiere of Choose Thine Own Adventure at the Underground Lounge in Wrigleyville. We had our first preview last night, and it couldn’t have been more fun. Since the entire show is contingent on the audience, it has been a pretty non-traditional rehearsal experience, but as you can imagine finally having an audience added that last element that really makes the show what it is. It was such a joy to, for the first time ever, have that last piece of the puzzle in place.

Tonight is our official opening night, and it’s very likely that we will be performing a completely different play than we did last night! I have no idea what the audience will vote for, and therefore no idea what I’ll be watching tonight. Is it 8:00 yet? I can’t wait!

(Re)Launching Forth Filament!

Hey there!

I wanted to take a moment to say hello and catch you all up to speed on what we’ve been up to the the last few months, and where we’re headed next! So travel with me, if you will, to where our story begins: November of 2009.

After closing our successful production of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow at the Viaduct Theatre, it became clear we had outgrown our scrappy-young-company-fly-by-the-seat-of-our-pants business model. As we have grown since our founding, we have been joined by many extraordinary collaborators to create a wide range of shows that we couldn’t be more proud of. In order to continue growing in a healthy and sustainable way, we needed to develop some infrastructure to support these artists and these productions.

So we did.

Although it may seem that we had vanished there for awhile, we have actually been hard at work laying the foundation for the future of Filament. I am thrilled to introduce to you our brand new executive staff and our rich ensemble of artists. You’ll see some new faces and recognize some long-time Filament partners. Ladies and Gentlemen, I’d like to you to meet Allison, Carolyn, Christian, Jack, Laura, Madeline, Mark, Mary, Nathan, Omen, Peter, Reggie, Ryan, Shayna, and Tyler. They’re a crackerjack group of actors, musicians, visual artists, writers, athletes, break-dancers, teachers, web developers, mask makers, comedians, world travelers, and all-around good people. I am so excited for you to see them in action. You can get to know these fascinating and dynamic folks all a little better by visiting our Ensemble page!

Once we had the team assembled, it was time to restructure the company and refocus our work. We looked back on the work we had done, and asked ourselves “What do we love? What do we keep revisiting? What do we believe in? What do we hope to accomplish?” Over and over, the idea of folk kept resurfacing. Folk music. Folk art. Folk stores. Folk dance. It was a genre, a tone, a feeling, an idea that appeared over and over in our work. That, coupled with our belief in celebrating the offerings of each of our audiences and artists, led us to the notion of folk theatre – theatre rooted in univeral human truths that reflects and engages the communities by and for which it is created.

From there we explored our values, and they all seemed to be rooted in the same three ideas: community, imagination, and sustainability. We want to build, strengthen, and honor community. We want to celebrate, awaken, and enliven the imagination. And we want to do this in a responsible, forward-thinking way that is sustainable for our artists, audiences, and world.

Out of these goals and values, our new mission statement was born!   The Filament Theatre Ensemble creates theatre in a folk tradition, emphasizing community, imagination, and sustainability. This mission is not only our company’s core purpose and focus, but also a goal, a standard, something to aspire towards. I have great joy in the thought of continuing to learn and grow within this framework.

So with all that philosophy and organization business squarely underneath us, we were able to move forward with the practical planning of our season. I am SO EXCITED to announce our 2010/2011 season. Drumroll please…

August 2010-August 2011, touring to Chicagoland schools
Alice and Me!
Adapted from Lewis Carroll by Jack Novak
Directed by Christian Libonati

October 22-December 11, at the Underground Lounge
Choose Thine Own Adventure
Adapted from William Shakespeare by Allison Powell
Directed by Julie Ritchey

And in the spring, running in rep, the exciting Greek myth double header:
Adapted from Ovid by Omen Sade
Directed by Omen Sade

Written by Sarah Ruhl
Directed by Julie Ritchey

For more information about these plays and how to get involved, please visit our Current Season page!

Plus, on top of all that, we’ve got this brand new website!  Take a minute to explore.  In addition to information about the company and ensemble, we have video clips, this blog, and our Stuff Filament Likes section, which is chock full of recommendations on everything from books to recipes to fun things do to around Chicago.  Check it often for updates, and feel free to leave us comments with your own Likes!  We’re big on sharing here at the Filament Theatre Ensemble, and this website is a great place to get started with that.  Although we’ve got the bones of the site in place, we  will be adding  even more interactive features, video clips, production photos, etc. in the coming weeks.  As we build the site, dear readers, we turn to you.  What features would you like to see on our website?   Let us know!

So as you can see we’ve been up to quite a lot. We’ve been so eager to share our with you, and have been looking forward to this re-launch for such a long time. We will be keeping this blog up-to-date with all kinds of behind-the-scenes information about our projects, thoughts and information about things that excite us, and more! So please stay in touch! Let us know what you like, what you’d like to see, share your dreams and ideas. We love thoughts and questions and dialogue – feel free to leave comments right here on the website or send us an email. We are so grateful to be a part of this vibrant community! We look forward to hearing from you!

With gratitude and affection,

Stuff Julie Likes

I like movies about quirky families trying to love each other, restaurants that spark my culinary creativity, books with uniquely voiced and compelling narrators, things that might be kind of ugly but maybe they’re not and it’s hard to tell, farmers’ markets, music with good old fashioned guitar pickin’, eating bowls and bowls of ice cream, and anthropomorphizing inanimate objects. But most of all, I love discovering¹ new things, whether it’s an author or a song or an easier way to put pillowcases on², I’m always on the lookout for more things to explore. Below are some discoveries³ that I’m enjoying at the moment. If you think of anything I might like, won’t you pass it my way?

ipsento coffee house (2035 N. Western Ave.)

This is one of those places that I stumbled into by accident, and then had to go back every day for a week. They have a delicious and creative drink menu (the latte made with coconut milk, honey, and cayenne pepper is especially delightful), a wide variety of sandwich options, 100% real fruit smoothies, and charming décor. Also, the people who work there are extremely kind. I went in with the two very small and very rambunctious (and also very wonderful) children that I nanny for, and, in addition to being really really really patient, the barista gave them some free smoothie samples – a sure-fire way to win my heart for good.

in defense of food // Michael Pollan

In Defense of Food is (as the cover says) an eater’s manifesto: a look into how food science has replaced food culture, how foodlike products have replaced actual food, how industry and politics have divorced food from the natural world, how – in spite of America’s obsession with “nutrition” and “healthy eating” – we have become more and more unhealthy, and (best of all) how to look at our relationship with food and eating in a healthy, productive, respectful way. It’s not a diet plan. Pollan never outlines exactly what we should or shouldn’t do. He just presents some facts and philosophies and suggestions and leaves it to the reader to apply to his or her life. Some of his suggestions: Don’t eat anything your great-grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food. Don’t eat anything with ingredients you can’t pronounce. Eat your meals at a table (No a desk is not a table). I’m revealing the true depths of my nerdiness here, but In Defense of Food is the page-turning-est nugget of non-fiction I’ve read since James L. Swanson’s Manhunt: The 12-Day Chase For Lincoln’s Killer (I just had to get a plug in for that one, too! It’s so so so marvelous!).

words & music // Peter Oyloe

Even if Peter wasn’t a beloved friend and collaborator of mine, I would be shouting about this album from the mountaintops. Words & Music is a gem from beginning to end, blending a classic folk sound with a more contemporary musical sensibility. Poetic and contemplative without ever being pretentious, Peter offers introspective and insightful music that lives in your bones and articulates your own feelings with alarming accuracy, but in a much more elegant and lovely way than you would have articulated them yourself. You can listen to some sample tracks HERE, but probably you’ll just want to own your own copy. The fact that Patty Griffin and Peter Oyloe are side-by-side alphabetically on my iPod means that the ol’ scroller wheel hasn’t gotten a full spin in the last 12 months. Which leads me to…

living with ghosts // Patty Griffin

Patty Griffin is one of those musicians who I always seem to revisit at just the right time. Whether I was hiking through the mountains in Idaho or grieving the loss of a close friend, she seemed to be right there, singin’ my soul out. It’s hard to pick just one album to recommend (1000 Kisses and Impossible Dream are other favorites, although you can’t go wrong with any of them), but her 1996 debut Living With Ghosts is a great starting point. It is simply produced, not much more than vocals and guitar, which allows the crispness and detail of the songwriting to take front and center. Her songs are both aching and hopeful, in one moment inspiring some quiet reflection and in the next, inviting you to belt your lungs out. “It’s a mad mad mission – sign me up.”

the peggy notebaert nature museum on thursdays

Picture this, if you will. It’s a winter day in Chicago. That kind of day where you are wearing 19 layers of clothing, you haven’t seen a color that isn’t grey in about 5 months, and you can’t remember a time in the whole history of your life when you didn’t feel cold. Well I am here to tell you that there is still joy in the world, in fact in this very city, even on that day. And that joy is the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum.   Any day is great, but Thursdays are free (and actually free, in the way that they don’t even make you feel bad about only throwing two dollars in to the suggested donation which, as a not-so-rich artist, I really appreciate), which adds to the stress-relieving powers of the whole event. The key place to go is the Butterfly Haven, which is just what it sounds like. It’s a beautiful greenhouse (read: it’s warm), full of ground dwelling birds and hundreds of butterflies.  Walking into it is a bit like walking into a fairy tale — it is lush and green, there is a small waterfall, and if you hold really still the butterflies will come and rest on your arms and shoulders.  It is a magical place to be, especially on those cold winter days.

¹I use the word “discovering” in the Christopher Columbus sense of the word, where lots of people know about the new-to-me thing already, but since it’s new to me, I’m super excited.

²My favorite method: (1) turn the pillowcase inside-out (2) stick your arms inside the pillowcase til your hands are in the corners (3) pinch the corners of the pillow through the pillowcase (4) flip the pillowcase right-side-out, pulling it over the pillow while you do so.

³See footnote 1.