Friday, May 29, 2009

The Ibsen Award

The International Ibsen Award for 2009 goes to French director Ariane Mnouchkine (pictured)

Their website says that "The International Ibsen Award honors an individual, organization or institution in the fields of arts and culture for exceptional achievements defined within the spirit of Ibsen`s work."

Any Ibsen scholars reading this? What would you predict the parameters of such an award would be?

Final performances of Enemy of the People are Fri-Sat, 7:30pm, May 29-30.
Tickets are available through our website.

Paul G. Miller
Season Dramaturge

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Picking Sides

The Doctor and the Mayor in Enemy of the People have very different solutions to their towns problems, and everyone in the play is forced to pick a side. How about you? Where did your sympathies turn during the course of the play?

Final performances of Enemy of the People are May 28, 29 and 30th. Tickets are available through our website.

Paul G. Miller
Season Dramaturge

Monday, May 25, 2009

Green Night of Theatre - The Discussion

Red Tape Theatre’s Green Panel was presented on Sunday, May 24, alongside our adaptation of Enemy of the People. The play concerns the fallout from an environmental disaster, so we asked our guests to discuss green advocacy in our homes and community.

Stacy Meyers-Glen from Chicago Openlands suggested that the most important things an environmental advocate can do is volunteer and lobby. There’s lots of work to be done and not enough people to do it. Chicago Openlands protects the natural and open spaces in and around northeastern Illinois.

She announced that the Illinois Envronmental Protection Agency (IEPA) has proposed stronger water quality standards which would require the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District (MWRD) to disinfect treated sewage that flows into Chicago’s waterways. This would reduce pathogens, such as giardia and salmonella, that can infect people and wildlife. She encouraged supporters to write to:

John Therriault, Assistant Clerk
Illinois Pollution Control Board
100 W. Randolph Street, Ste 11-500
Chicago, IL 60601

More information on the proposals can be found at the Friends of the Chicago River website.

Courtney Bennett, who plays Dr. Stockman, spoke of her work at the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum. The museum hosts a Savannah prairie and the largest butterfly haven in the Midwest. The blue Rubbermaid bin she brought with her contained a sanitary, smell-free, compost bin containing red wiggler worms, brown paper, and fruit and vegetable food scraps that would ordinarily be preserved in a landfill. By balancing the food to worm ratio the bin provides compost for lawns and house plants.

Workshops on indoor and outdoor bins, green house cleaning, recycling 101 and other fascinating topics are taught at the museum and can be read about here. The nature museum is one of many organizations seeking volunteers to care for animals, clean up parks, and educate the community.

Their green careers are full of opportunities and surprises. Ms. Glen-Meyers recounted a public hearing asking for a river cleanup. One of the scientists asked to speak brought the judges a sample of the polluted river water. Some stuck their fingers in, and were given handwipes. “You’ll want to disinfect your hands.” They quickly complied. Ms. Bennett recounted a surprising conversion with an adult visitor at the haven who refused to believe that caterpillars and butterflies are the same creatures, despite footage suggesting the contrary. “He’d made up his mind.” Education will always be needed.

Final performances of Enemy of the People are Thu-Sat, May 28-30.
Tickets are available through our website.

Paul G. Miller
Season Dramaturge

Friday, May 22, 2009

Green Night of Theatre - May 24

This Sunday, May 24, following the matinee of Enemy of the People, Red Tape will host our Green Night of Theatre

Ibsen’s play examines the fallout from an environmental disaster. Join our guests from Chicago Open Lands and the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum as they show us how to be greener in our homes and our community.

Courtney Bennett, Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum

The Chicago Academy of Sciences and its Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum inspire people to learn about and care for nature and the environment. The Academy improves quality of life in Chicago and the region by delivering superior environmental and science education programs to students and teachers, by offering Museum exhibitions and conducting public programs that foster green living, and by restoring local ecosystems and advancing scientific knowledge through collections and research.

Stacy Meyers-Glen, Policy Coordinator, Chicago Openlands

Founded in 1963, Openlands protects the natural and open spaces of northeastern Illinois and the surrounding region to ensure cleaner air and water, protect natural habitats and wildlife, and help balance and enrich our lives.

Enemy of the People runs May 4-30.
Tickets are available through our website.

Paul G. Miller
Season Dramaturge

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Tribune covers "unusable" nature preserve

Enemy of the People concerns the fallout from an environmental disaster. We recently highlighted the parallels to the incidents in Crestwood County. This morning I came across a story in Maywood.

'Dangerous' conditions at preserve
by Gerry Smith, Chicago Tribune
May 20, 2009

And after visiting Miller Meadow last fall to look into allegations of
open dumping, an Illinois Environmental Protection Agency inspector determined
that there were no violations, said state EPA spokeswoman Maggie Carson.

But Cox said the debris on the site is widespread and "physically
dangerous" for people who want to use the area for recreation.

"Purely from a public-use point of view, it makes the site unusable," Cox

And Dye said she worries about the threat to wildlife at Miller Meadow
after seeing how erosion on the restoration site has carried debris and
biosolids toward the river banks.

"I'm not an expert, but if you dump a bunch of construction debris and soil
near a river and it starts to erode into the river, I think that's a problem,"
Dye said

Our Green Night of Theatre is Sunday, May 24 after the 2:00 pm performance of Enemy of the People. Panelists from Chicago Openlands and the Notebaert Nature Museum will discuss how to be green in our homes and community.

Tickets are available through our website.

Paul G. Miller

Season Dramaturge

Monday, May 18, 2009

Robert Oakes on Adapting Ibsen

We asked Red Tape Ensemble Member Robert L. Oakes to discuss his reasons for adapting Henrik Ibsen's Enemy of the People.

There are a several reasons I chose to adapt this play. First, was the sense that the play had not aged well. In spite of being dramatically compelling, it seemed to lack the psychological weight of some of Ibsen's other scripts.

Second, was a desire to re-imagine the play in a contemporary setting. How would the themes and ideas of script be realized in a contemporary context? And how could those themes and ideas be presented in a way that was compelling and dramatic for a contemporary audience.

Third, was the desire to re-imagine Dr. Stockmann as an Ibsenian woman. I some respects, I think Dr. Stockmann is the woman character Ibsen would write if he were alive today: feminine, intellectually powerful, emotionally independent and deeply conflicted.

Lastly, there was one particular aspect in the original script which I felt needed to be developed and that was the relationship between the two siblings. What does it mean to this story if those two characters actually love each other?

Robert L. Oakes

Enemy of the People runs May 4-30,
Tickets are available through our website.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Welcome Our New Company Member!

It is with great joy that we announce Red Tape's newest company member Kyle Land.

Kyle hails from Kansas City and comes to Chicago via Emporia State University, where he served as Technical Director for four years before arriving here last August. He is a freelance designer, director, carpenter/welder, TD, and stage manager. He has worked with several theatres in the Chicago area: including Adventure Stage, Metropolis, Noble Fool, Next, New World Rep.

Kyle's lighting design can currently be seen in our production of Enemy of the People.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Norway's Economy Makes Headlines

Company member Mark Jacob Chaitin brought this piece of news to our attention:

Thriving Norway Offers a Lesson in Frugality
New York Times
May 13, 2009

The global financial crisis has brought low the economies of just about every country on earth. But not Norway. With a quirky contrariness as deeply etched in the national character as the fjords carved into its rugged landscape, Norway has thrived by going its own way. When others splurged, it saved. When others sought to limit the role of government, Norway strengthened its cradle-to-grave welfare state.

And in the midst of the worst global downturn since the Depression, Norway’s economy grew last year by just under 3 percent. The government enjoys a budget surplus of 11 percent and its ledger is entirely free of debt. By comparison, the United States is expected to chalk up a fiscal deficit this year equal to 12.9 percent of its gross domestic product and push its total debt to $11 trillion, or 65 percent of the size of its economy....

Instead of spending its riches lavishly, it passed legislation ensuring that oil revenue went straight into its sovereign wealth fund, state money that is used to make investments around the world. Now its sovereign wealth fund is close to being the largest in the world....

Eirik Wekre, an economist who writes thrillers in his spare time, describes Norwegians’ feelings about debt this way: “We cannot spend this money now; it would be stealing from future generations.” Mr. Wekre, who paid for his house and car with cash, attributes this broad consensus to the country’s iconoclasm. “The strongest man is he who stands alone in the world,” he said, quoting Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen.

Enemy of the People runs May 4-30, 2009
Tickets are available through our website!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Ibsen's Women - The Discussion

Red Tape Theatre's panel, Ibsen's Women, was presented on Sunday, May 10, alongside our
gender-swapped adaptation of Enemy of the People.

Prof. Jacob Juntunen (UIC Dept of Theatre), began with Nora from A Doll's House, who abandons her husband and children. The revolutionary aspect of this may be lost in a time of 50% divorce rates but Nora's action was unthinkable at the time and caused fierce debate among the audiences.

Mr. Robert Scogin (Artistic Director, Shaw Chicago) compared Ghosts to a Greek Tragedy, citing Mrs. Alving as a modern Clytemnestra who kills her husband with her moralizing only to be punished by her children. Mrs. Alving's resignation to stay with her husband despite their incompatibility has also branded her as "Nora grown up."

Prof. Julie Ward (Loyola Dept of Philosophy) commented that this made Hedda Gabler into "Nora on steroids." Unhappy with her timid husband, but unwilling to submit to her immoral admirers she sabotages their lives then ends the life of life of herself and her unborn child with her fathers pistol.

Mr. Scogin argued that in Ibsen's time evil springs from boredom as society leaves his women with nothing to do. Prof. Ward countered with the heavy responsibilities Nora takes by running the finances of her household. Mr. Scogin agreed, but added that society left Nora no legal way to do so, forcing her into forgery. Ibsen's plays critique aspects of a society that does not allow one to make a moral choice.

When asked if these women are still relevant, Prof. Juntunen answered that the plays present
women who actively reject their socially prescribed roles. The plays still has the power to make husbands and wives very afraid.

Enemy of the People runs May 4-30, 2009
Our next panel, Green Night of Theatre, will be Sunday, May 24.
Tickets are available through our website!

Paul G. Miller
Season Dramaturge

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Ibsen's Marriage

The Stockman’s marriage in Enemy of the People has its share of troubles but they are one of the healthiest couples in Henrik Ibsen’s canon. At today’s panel, Ibsen’s women, we will discuss the fraught relationships in A Dolls House, Ghosts and Hedda Gabler. Critics have enjoyed contrasting these plays to Ibsen’s own marriage.

Henrik Ibsen married Suzanna Thoreson in 1858, at age 30. His one time friend Martin Scheneekloth saw the marriage as a tragedy. In his letters about Ibsen he wrote:

“To find that one does not really love the woman one has married, that one’s requirements for a happy co-existence are so opposed to one’s wife’s that no reconciliation is possible, must be a desperate situation for a man, and that is Ibsen’s. He is a domineering character, egocentric and unbending, with a passionate masculinity and a curious admixture of personal cowardice, compulsively idealistic yet totally indifferent to expressing these ideals in his daily life… She is unwomanly, tactless, but a stable, hard character, a mixture of intelligence and stupidity, not deficient in feeling but lacking humility and feminine love. They can not find peace through love, so they wage war on each other, ruthlessly coldly, and yet she loves him, if only through their son, their poor son, whose fate is the saddest that could befall any child, to see divided what should be reconciled in him.

Whose is the fault if not the man? He took her from her father’s house, led her out into the strange world, and instead of devoting his life to finding some form of reconciliation he gives all his mind and passion to a demonic pursuit of literary fame. It is disturbing to hear him describe his plans to send his wife and child home so that he may work in peace abroad. He lacks the courage to pursue his career without abandoning his domestic responsibilities, to face up to the consequences of his ambition, to work incessantly to give her life fulfillment, to suffer and strive to educate his son. Thus he, who so loudly and brilliantly condemns the cravenness of our age, who in mighty poems proclaims the strength of human will, is himself a craven vacillating weakling. "

However their son Sigurd painted a very different picture. He saw his mother as Ibsen’s greatest champion who forced him to write in the many time she was tempted to give it all up. “The world can thank my mother that it has one bad painter the fewer and got a great writer instead.”

Henrik stayed with Suzannah till his death in 1906. While she encouraged the publishing of his work, she did her best to burn all his letters to her declaring their correspondence private. The letters that have survived are very affectionate. Ibsen referred to her by pet names such as his “cat” or “eagle.”

In 1914, a few days before her death, she spoke to an interviewer. “When we were young, many so-called friends came to Ibsen, but I sent them away… I had many unkind words for it, but I didn’t care. He had to have peace for his work… Ibsen had no steel in his character- but I gave it to him.”

Most likely glimpses of the truth remain in all his late plays of the joys and the sorrows, while the rest remains a mystery.

Our panel on Ibsen's Women is today, May 10, after the 2pm matinee.

Enemy of the People runs May 4-30, 2009.
Ticket are available through our website.

Paul G. Miller
Season Dramaturge

Saturday, May 9, 2009

A Scottish "Enemy" in 1980

It’s the first Saturday after opening. Time to do the laundry, clean the dishes, and clean the apartment. I pop in a DVD for background noise. It’s a BBC adaptation of Enemy of the People buried in an Ibsen collection. I’ve put off watching it and it’s due back at the library soon. Turns out I’m in for a treat.

There’s Peter Stockman, speaking for a crowd in a large factory, about the board’s decision to bottle and sell the water from Scotland’s Baikie springs. As the crowd applauds, the mayors brother rolls his eyes. Then the mayor pushes a button and conveyor belt springs to life filled with bottles of poisoned spring water. As the line of bottles fills the camera the ABBA song “Money, Money, Money” starts to play on the soundtrack. I realize I’ve stumbled on a delightfully irreverent modern adaptation.

Broadcast in 1980 on the BBC, Maggie Allen’s adaptation sticks close to the structure of Ibsen’s original but steers towards comedy and rewrites the text in local dialect.

Dr. Stockman to the crowd: “Yeh kinnae be that stupid!”

Billing to Stockman: “Yer talkin’ like a bloody fascist!”

Horster to Petra: “Ach, ye kin buy spa water anywhere in the world, but
there’s very little truth on view.”

I was also pleased to see that Maggie Allen’s Stockman, like ours, considers moving to Canada. “The air is freshest and a chemist can get work!”

Red Tape Theatre’s Enemy of the People runs May 4-30, 2009
Tickets are available through our website.

Paul G. Miller
Season Dramaturge

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Hedda's First Impressions

The protagonist of Henrik Ibsen's Hedda Gabler agrees to an unsuitable marriage, then destroys everyone in her path trying to get out. The premiere in 1891 was met with hostility by the critics who failed to understand Hedda's behaviour. Their sometimes hysterical responses mirrored a line in the play: "People don't do such things,"

Ibsen scholar Michael Meyer found insight in Gerhard Gran's review for Samtiden:

Gran: “It is a law, or anyway has until now been a law, that drama, in its present state of technical development, can only present comparatively simple characters… Everything that should make this curious being intelligible to us, her development, her secret thoughts, her half-sensed misgivings and all that vast region of the human mind which lies between the conscious and the unconscious – all this the dramatist can no more than indicate. For this reason, I think a novel about Hedda Gabler could be extremely interesting, while the play leaves us with a sense of emptiness and betrayal."
Meyer: "Gran’s remarks explain why people who accepted Emma Bovary, Anna Karenina and Dorothea Brooke wre baffled by [Ibsen's heroines] Ellida Wangel, Rebecca West and Hedda Gabler. Neither actors nor audiences, nor even those who bought the play in book form, were able to read between the lines of dialogue as we can today."

One of Ibsen's worst reviewed works went on to become his most produced among new generations of actors and audiences who wanted to "read between the lines."

I'll be hosting the panel on Ibsen's Women this Sunday, May 10 after the 2pm matinee.

Raven Theatre's Hedda Gabler runs May 3 - June 27, 2009

Red Tape Theatre's Enemy of the People runs May 4-30, 2009.

Paul G. Miller
Season Dramaturge

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Augusto Boal 1931-2009

May 2, 2009 saw the passing of Brazilian director, writer and activist Augusto Boal.

His first book, Theatre of the Oppressed (1973), was the subject of disucssion at one of my first meetings at Red Tape Theatre.

Paul G. Miller
Season Dramaturge

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Opening Night Artwork!

Congratulations to the cast and crew of Enemy of the People!

We run May 4-30, 2009.

Paul G. Miller
Season Dramaturge

Monday, May 4, 2009

Ibsen's Inspiration

Ibsen scholar Michael Meyer discusses the incidents that inspired the plot of Henrik Ibsen's Enemy of the People.

He reveals that the father of Ibsen's colleague was stoned and chased out of the town of Teiplitz after speaking up about an outbreak of cholera at their spa in the eighteen-thirties.

Ibsen was also in Norway in 1874 when chemist Harald Thaulow waged ware on the Christiana Steam Kitchens "for neglecting their duty towards the city's poor." The chairman and the crowd prevented him from speaking at their annual meeting. The newspaper account read:

THAULOW: "I won't cast my pearls into the sand. This is a damned insult being inflicted on a free people in a free society. Now I'll go! Stand in the dunce's corner and be ashamed of yourselves!"

Meanwhile in 2009, as swine flu sweeps the news and the poisoned water investigation in Crestwood, IL continues to unfold, Red Tape Theatre's production grows more topical by the day.

Enemy of the People runs May 4-30, 2009
Tickets are available through our website.

Paul G. Miller
Season Dramaturge

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Meet the Cast! - Courtney Bennett

Part seven in a series of interviews with the cast of Enemy of the People at Red Tape Theatre.

Name: Courtney Bennett

Role: Dr. Tammy Stockman

Where are you from?

I was born and raised in Little Rock, Arkansas, and I went to college in a town near there. I lived very briefly in New York City, but I moved to Chicago in October 2007.

What is the first stage play you remember seeing?

My folks aren't very interested in plays or movies, so those weren't a very big part of my childhood. Once I showed an interest in acting, my mother took me to see a traveling production of Chicago. After that, I think she got me every possible piece of Chicago merchandise-- hats, posters, t-shirts, etc. Little did I know I would inhabit the city one day.

When/why did you start acting?

I was always driven to entertain. In elementary school I vied for the speaking parts in assemblies, and in high school, I began taking drama my freshman year. My first real part was at 14 as a munchkin in the school's production of The Wizard of Oz. After that I was hooked; I attended every drama tournament and auditioned for every play.

Tell us about your character in Enemy of the People.

Tammy is an idealist. She believes in people and their ability to make big decisions with ease. I think she is naive, but she believes so deeply in the greater good that she often is willing to break rules to make things happen. I admire her willingness to take risks for what she believes in and her appreciation of the world around her.

What's next for you?

I plan to go back to school this fall. I got into the MFA in Physical Theatre Acting program at the Accademia dell'Arte in Arezzo, Italy. The next couple years are going to be a blur of European cities, and hopefully I'll come back to the US with a broader mind and soul. After that I really want to teach acting for college. I can't wait to get started!

Enemy of the People runs May 4-30, 2009.

Tickets are available through our website!

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Meet the Cast! - Kieran Kredell

Part six in a series of interviews with the cast of Enemy of the People at Red Tape Theatre Company.

Name: Kieran Kredell

Role: Patrick Stockman

Where are you from?

I was born and raised on the southern end of the New Jersey shore, in a town called Barnegat. But I went to school in Connecticut, and currently live in Ukrainian Village.

What is the first stage play you remember seeing?

Seriously? I'm not sure if I have an answer for this one. Does the Cecil S. Collins Elementary School's adaptation of Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure count?

[Paul: It does indeed!]

When/why did you start acting?

My first performance was in eighth grade. It was the drama club's annual show: Krazy Kamp, a children's musical about rival summer camps. In retrospect, I'm sure it was charming. But at the time, I was convinced I was destined for bigger and better things. I started working at summerstock and community theaters in the area, and I guess the rest is history. I'm still not entirely sure why I started acting (besides the fact that I really really liked it), but it's grown to be a pretty important part of how I think about the world.

Tell us about your character in Enemy of the People

Patrick is Tammy and Peter's cousin (originally, Petra was the daughter of Dr. and Mrs. Stockmann). An openly liberal queer, he is somewhat of an outcast in Cherokee. A substitute teacher frustrated with the politics of his field, he firmly believes in the potential for education to create positive social change. Amidst the overwhelming lack of like-minded voices in town, he looks to Tammy for inspiration and guidance. To Patrick, she embodies the strength, determination, and selflessness required to be heard in such a stifling environment. And when the was reinvented as a radical leftist publication, Patrick began to think the odds were turning in his favor

What's next for you?

I have been working for the past several months with About Face Youth Theatre's Outreach Tour, traveling to schools in the greater Chicago area (and nationwide) introducing kids to sex-positive sex-education, and encouraging adults to push their administrations to support similar efforts. We will continue touring throughout the school year. Also, I will be interning at Redmoon Theater, participating in several guerrilla street performances and helping to create spectacular things. And I'll be auditioning, of course, and looking for representation...

Enemy of the People runs May 4-30, 2009

Tickets are available through our website!

Friday, May 1, 2009

Meet the Cast! - April Pletcher Taylor

Part five in a series of interviews with the cast of Enemy of the People at Red Tape Theatre.

Name: April Pletcher Taylor

Role: Connie Allen, President of the Homeowners Association and Board President of The Sun.

Where are you from?

I’m originally from Niles, Michigan.

What is the first stage play you remember seeing?

I remember taking a class trip to Chicago to see Much Ado About Nothing when I was in elementary school.

When/why did you start acting?

I’ve possessed a fascination with acting since I was a child. A very shy and quiet person, acting and make believe provided a means for self expression. Also, I just plain loved the endless possibilities that existed on stage--still do.

Tell us about your character in Enemy of the People.

Connie Allen is an active board member in a number of community organizations. She has a great deal of pride in Cherokee and aims to protect this community from anything that may jeopardize its blooming prosperity. Experience has taught her that often times it’s not always what you say but rather how you say it that really counts, so she tries very hard to present any threatening issues in such a way that will prompt a remedy while at the same time not rocking the boat too much. Moderation is her motto and preferred method of handling opposition. However, when the stakes are high, moderation has been known to get thrown right out of the window....well, actually…it just gets placed on the window ledge and nudged off like a little bird…yes, that sounds much nicer.

What's next for you?

On June 1 I will be performing in Rubicon Theatre Project’s Becoming Ingrid as part of the Chicago DCA Theater Incubator Series. After that, who knows?

Enemy of the People runs May 4-30, 2009.

Tickets are available through our website!