Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Thinking Caps Q&A: Laura Stratford

We sat down recently with Laura Stratford, who plays Maggie Cusick in Strangeloop's current production, Thinking Caps, and chatted about Cabaret, dogs and what it would be like to connect with the entire world.

Q: What do you like about your character and Thinking Caps
A: Maggie is a passionate, vibrant person who's a lot of fun to play, and the possibilities of the Thinking Caps world are nearly endless for her.

Q: What have been your biggest challenges? 
A: Trying to really feel what it would be like to be connected to the entire world and then have them turn on you. That's embarrassment and terror on a scale that's hard to imagine.

Q: What are you working on after Thinking Caps
A: Producing the Chicago Musical Theatre Festival with Underscore Theatre Company.

Q: What are you favorite highlights on your resume?
A: I was Sally Bowles in Cabaret in college and convinced them to put Maybe This Time back into the stage show.

Q: Any interesting hobbies when not acting? 
A: For awhile I was taking aerial silks classes; I'm out of the habit right now but would love to get back into it.

Q: Anything else about Thinking Caps you'd like to add? 
I'm really excited for this show I think it has everything, from humor to horror to heart. 

Q: Tell us a little bit about where you live and what you like most about your neighborhood.
A: Andersonville is the perfect blend of small-town feel, families, inclusive LGBT storefronts and visibility, and interesting stores and restaurants. Plus lots of dogs.

See Laura in Thinking Caps through May 31 at The Charnel House, 3421 W Fullerton Ave. in Chicago. The show is at 8 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays and 2 p.m. on Sundays. Tickets are $18 for general admission and available at the door or in advance through Brown Paper Tickets. Discounts are available for students and seniors.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Thinking Caps Q&A: Drew Wancket

We sat down recently with Drew Wancket, who plays Charles Cusick in Strangeloop's current production, Thinking Caps, and chatted about the future of technology, his alter ego and the challenges of acting with actors who are not physically in the same room.

Q: What do you like about your character and Thinking Caps?
A:I love that Charles is, more than anything, so grounded. In a seemingly inevitable future where technology is slowly replacing every aspect of human interaction, Charles is an anachronism. He seems to exist in a world completely different than the rest of the characters. I love how he is so disinterested in keeping up with the times. He only cares about his family, and their happiness. Thinking Caps are the future, maybe not 20 years from now, but they seem inevitable. They frankly kind of terrify me. For all the reasons the play exhibits. I am much like Charles, I love old things, and losing such simple objects as books is not something that appeals to me.

Q: What have been your biggest challenges?
A: My biggest challenge has been figuring out how to relate to this world. Much of the script involves interacting with this headnet space, which is something I have no experience with.  It kind of like how I imagine acting with a green screen is like. The give and take is difficult without the other present.

Q: What are you working on after Thinking Caps?
A:  I am moving to New York City the day after this show closes. I am looking forward to finding new experiences in this city.

Q: Before you leave for NYC, tell us about your Chicago experience.Where do you live and what do you like about that neighborhood?
A: I live in Rogers Park, which I believe is one of the most diverse neighborhoods in the country. Even block to block can have a different feel to it. It feels much more family oriented than other neighborhoods I have lived in. In addition, it is pretty convenient, but it is far enough away from the city center to still be affordable.

Q: What are you favorite highlights on your resume?
A: I am immensely proud of my improv teaching, both at Columbia College and Independence. I also produce and host a variety comedy show every Sunday Night at the Underground Lounge. 

Q: Do you have any interesting hobbies when you're not acting?
A: I work on my blog, the taoofsteven, and have interdisciplinary projects I work on, involving my alter ego, Steven. I also write theater reviews for chicagostagestandard.com

Q: You have a masters degree in Interdisciplinary Arts. What does a program like that look like?
A: It is a one year MA program. It is focused on giving artists from various disciplines a chance to increase their artistic knowledge. For me, is was incredibly rejuvenating. I have always considered myself more than an actor, and now I am involved is so many different projects, ranging from writing to art installations and performance art.
See Drew in Thinking Caps through May 31 at The Charnel House, 3421 W Fullerton Ave. in Chicago. The show is at 8 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays and 2 p.m. on Sundays. Tickets are $18 for general admission and available at the door or in advance through Brown Paper Tickets. Discounts are available for students and seniors.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Ada Grey reviews Thinking Caps

Photo by Chris Owens/For Strangeloop Theatre
If you aren't familiar with Ada Grey's reviews, you're missing out.

The 10-year-old reviewer has been seeing theater and sharing her thoughts with the internet since she was 4, and her youthful curiosity and enthusiasm brings a unique perspective to theater. Her reviews are a delight to read. They are cute and funny and at the same time insightful in a way adult reviewers often miss.

She recently saw Thinking Caps and she had a lot to say about the show (including more than a few spoilers, so consider yourself warned).
People who would like this show are people who like virtual reality, scifi, and Superman. I think people should definitely go see this show. I think it is an amazing low-budget production and I really want you to go see it. I had a lot of fun.
 Read her full review here.

Thanks to those who attended the reading of The Odyssey

Thanks to everyone who came out on Monday evening and packed the house for our staged reading of The Odyssey. We're looking forward to receiving additional feedback as we continue to develop this script and concept with an eye toward production.

The reading, which took place at Black Rock Pub on Damen Avenue, was directed by Maria Burnham with movement direction by Miona Lee and Carrie Campana. The script is being written by Tim Lee and Maria Burnham.
Actors for the reading were: Brian Barber, Tara Bouldrey, Gilly Guire, Cassandra Hannan, Nellsyn Hill, Arti Ishak, Andrew McClelland, Karissa Murrell Myers, Kyla Norton, Kamron Palmer, Howard Raik, Madeline Schmit and Audra Yokley.

Strangeloop Theatre is in the process of developing a movement-driven adaptation of Homer’s The Odyssey.

We are working toward a production that will use a chorus of about 15 to 20 actors who will embody not just the human characters in the story, but the gods, monsters and inanimate objects – from storms and ships to bows and looms – on a bare stage. Lighting will be the primary technical storytelling element in our production with minimal assistance from costumes, props and sound. This is not a dance piece. We are developing a physical theater piece that relies almost completely on the ensemble of actors telling the story.

The Odyssey tells the story of the Greek hero Odysseus and his 10-year journey home after the fall of Troy, as well as the political situation in his homeland of Ithaca during his 20-year absence.

Select scenes from this work in progress have been presented as part of Strangeloop's short play and new works development series, Loopshop, in 2013, and at a staged reading last year. Revisions to the script are already underway and the creative team plans to present a second, more movement-enhanced reading later this year.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Strangeloop presents a new adaptation of The Odyssey

Strangeloop Theatre will present a staged reading of its original movement-driven adaptation of Homer's The Odyssey at 8 p.m. on Monday, May 18, at Black Rock Pub.

The Odyssey centers on the Greek hero Odysseus and his 10-year journey home after the fall of Troy, as well as the political situation in his homeland of Ithaca during his 20-year absence.

Strangeloop is in the process of developing a movement-driven adaptation of Homer’s The Odyssey. This free staged reading of the first draft of our script is part of that process. We welcome and need your feedback.

Our adaptation, conceived by Company Member Carrie Campana, will eventually use a chorus of actors to embody not just the human characters in the story, but the gods, monsters and inanimate objects. This physical theater piece relies almost completely on the ensemble of actors telling the story. As part of the reading, we will be presenting examples of this style of theatre.

Actors for the reading are: Brian Barber, Tara Bouldrey, Gilly Guire, Cassandra Hannan, Nellsyn Hill, Arti Ishak, Andrew McClelland, Karissa Murrell Myers, Kyla Norton, Kamron Palmer, Howard Raik, Madeline Schmit and Audra Yokley.

The development team for The Odyssey is: Maria Burnham, Carrie Campana, Miona Lee and Tim Lee.

More information is available is available on our Facebook page.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

DeSitter contorts her way onto the stage and into the virtual world

Thinking Caps actress Ellen DeSitter was featured in this story on The Chicago Tribune.com.

 Get to know Ellen and then come see her work, May 8-31 at the Charnel House.
For a girl who can stilt walk, make small talk in Russian, draw, paint and contort herself into pretzel-like poses, bringing a dragon to life is all in a day's work. 

Actress Ellen DeSitter, a Lisle native, pulls from all her various skills to craft honest portrayals of multiple characters - from the personification of a what a four-month old would imagine her adult self to be, to a television host, to a dragon - in her latest production, Strangeloop Theatre's Thinking Caps.
Read the full article here, including her thoughts on what she loves about playing Emma Cusick.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Thinking Caps: Cast and Crew Bios


Maggie Cusick:                  Laura Stratford
Charles Cusick:                  Drew Wancket
Emma Cusick:                    Ellen DeSitter
Kim Ayers:                         Jaclyn Jensen*
David Scrab:                       Casey Kells

The Headnet

Headnet Voice:                   Letitia Guillaud
Crystal Freema:                  Kyla Norton  

The Forum for the Integration of Sensible Technology: Caitlin Jackson, Kirk Jackson, Miona Lee+, Tim Lee+, Allison McCorkle+, Paul Tinsley, Patricia Tinsley and Chad Wise

Headnet Friends: Julia Beck, Maria Burnham*, Jean E. Burr, Gabrielle Cauchon, Grace DeSant, Elana Elyce, Stefanie Johnsen, Carolyn Minor, John Morrison, Mark Penzien and Denise A. Stein

Production Team

Playwright:                                                      Keith Gatchel*
Director:                                                          Maria Burnham*
Assistant Director:                                          John Morrison
Production Manager:                                      Holly Robison*
Stage Manager:                                               Jennifer Roseman
Assistant Stage Manager:                                Miona Lee+
Projections/Video Designer:                           Chris Owens
Sound Designer/Original Composition:          Antonio Bruno
Scenic/Thinking Cap Designer:                      Archer Curry
Light Designer:                                               Brad Gunter*
Costume Designer:                                          Molly Mason
Props Designer:                                               Holly Robison*
Violence Designer:                                          Robert Tobin
Fight Captain:                                                  Casey Kells
Movement Designer:                                       Miona Lee+
Graphic Design:                                              Mike Wozniak
Marketing:                                                      Maria Burnham*

*Denotes a Strangeloop Company Member
+Denotes a Strangeloop Associate Company Member

Playwright's Note: Thinking Caps

This play is not trying to predict the future. It's about how amazing the present is right now and how used to it we all are.

My nieces and nephews don't know a world before cell phones and the Internet. I've never lived in a world without cable or home video. My parents remember when TV was only black and white, and my grandma was 22 when the atomic bomb changed the world. There's no way to fully convey how absolutely revolutionary these concepts are when, to you and I, they've always been around. But, every day we hold better technology in our hands than what sent man to the moon, and we use it to play games.

The moment Martin Cooper at Motorola called his rival, Joel S. Engal, at Bell Labs in 1973 from outside of a New York Hilton practically divides human history into “before cell phones” and “after cell phones.” My nieces and nephews are starting to reach 10 years old as of this production. Someday, they'll tell their kids about a world before 3-D printing, self-driving cars, nano-surgery and possibly even electronic telepathy.

And, we can only imagine how they might tell them.

Keith Gatchel

Thinking Caps Bio: Drew Wancket

Drew Wancket (Charles Cusick) has most recently performed with 20% Theatre and The Public House Theatre. He is a professional improv coach with One Group Mind in Chicago and also teaches a team at Columbia College. He performs with his improve group, Kat Dadz, and hosts and produces the Sunday Night Show, a weekly variety show. He can also be seen around Chicago with his two-man, musical comedy duo, Lange and Wancket. Drew recently finished his Master’s in Interdisciplinary Arts at Columbia College. He is excited to get back into scripted theater after spending so much time making the words up.

Thinking Caps Bio: Laura Stratford

Lara Stratford (Maggie Cusick) is a co-founder and the Executive Director of Underscore Theatre Company (www.underscoretheatre.org). Thinking Caps marks her return to the stage; her last performance was as an emergency understudy for the role of Charlotte in Underscore's production of pr0ne: a casting couch musical comedy. She is thrilled to be performing in an establishment that used to be a funeral home, and devoutly hopes for some paranormal activity.

Thinking Caps Bio: Jaclyn Jensen

Jaclyn Jensen (Kim Ayers)is a native of Sandy, Utah, and has her BFA in Theatre Performance from the University of Central Missouri. She is proud to be a company member with Strangeloop Theatre. Other Chicago credits include productions with Consortium Project, Chicago Parks District, Saint Sebastian Players and Shapeshifters Theatre Company. Thanks Mike, and thank YOU for supporting live theatre.

Thinking Caps Bio: Casey Kells

Casey Kells (David Scrab/Fight Captain) is ecstatic to be making his Strangeloop debut with Thinking Caps! Casey is a graduate of Roosevelt University where he obtained his B.F.A. in acting. He has worked with companies around Chicago including Cold Basement Dramatics, Nothing Special Productions, and Emergent Theatre. Casey would like to thank his family and friends for their support, with a special thanks to Cress, who makes everything possible.

Thinking Caps Bio: Ellen DeSitter

Ellen DeSitter (Emma Cusick, Moderator, Becky) is very excited to be working with Strangeloop Theatre for the first time. Her most recent performance credits include the Fool in Queen Lear, the Genie in the Windy City Players touring production of Aladdin and Lula in Manual Cinema's touring production of Lula Del Ray. Other companies she has had the privilege of working with include: Steep Theatre, Suitcase Shakespeare, Navy Pier, Redmoon and Side Project Theatre.

Thinking Caps Bio: Letitia Guillaud

Letitia Guillaud (Headnet Voice) has a B.A. in Theatre from Ball State University. She is Co-Artistic Director and Development Director for Strangeloop Theatre, a Company Member at CIC, and an Artistic Associate at TUTA Theatre Chicago. Favorite roles include, Stella a.k.a. Pinkie (The Cockups - Mobilewave Films), Hermia (A Midsummer Night's Dream - Strangeloop) and Joan of Arc (The Maid of Orleans - Strangeloop). She is the proud new mother of baby Felix Gunter and would like to thank her husband and all of Strangeloop for their support in that endeavor.

Thinking Caps Bio: Maria Burnham

Maria Burnham (Director, Marketing) is a director, writer, sometimes stage manager,   full-time theater monkey and all around jack-of-all-trades. Storefront theater, ho! She studied creative writing and theater at Louisiana State University and has worked in Chicago with such companies as Appetite Theatre Co., New Millennium Theatre Co., Red Theater, Stockyards Theatre Project and TUTA. Maria is thrilled to be a member of Strangeloop. She loves pursuing the undiscovered, though mostly she’s just in it for the chicken.

Thinking Caps Bio: Keith Gatchel

Keith Gatchel (Playwright) comes to us from Rockford, IL, by way of Southern Illinois University (with a few stops in Florida). Since 2005, Keith has worked tech at The Goodman Theatre, Collaboraction, Teatro Vista, Victory Gardens, Pegasus Players, Blue Man Group and more. He was also a writer for Big News at IO and Second City, and contributor to several productions of Loopshop and French With Me, as well as Strangeloop's Our Perfect Holiday 2012 with the cast. Along with being the co-literary manager for Strangeloop, he also is the stage manager for The Kiss Kiss Cabaret at Uptown Underground. He would like to thank his family, the cast, designers and especially everyone in Strangeloop for all of their contributions to this script and production. If this were a jewel heist, I'd want you all on my crew.

Thinking Caps Bio: Jennifer Roseman

Jennifer Roseman (Stage Manager) earned her degree from Franklin College in Theatre and English. Since moving to Chicago, she has enjoyed working as a stage manager, including for Theatre Y's production of Happy Days. She looks forward to continuing to work with great theatre companies.

Thinking Caps Bio: John Morrison

John Morrison (Assistant Director)is a proud member of the Bruised Orange Theater Company. Favorite directing credits include Autumn Leaves, Wyrd Sisters, The Bugaboo Room, Daddy Long Legs, Determination, The Nebraska Project, Geeks Vs. Zombies, and Heft. More about John is available at jmorrisondirect.com.

Thinking Caps Bio: Miona Lee

Miona Lee (Assistant Stage Manager/Movement Director) received her BFA in Theatre Performance at Missouri State University in Springfield, Missouri. She is an Associate Company Member for Strangeloop Theatre and a Company Member for The Living Canvas. Favorite roles include: Emily Cristy in Hack/Slash, Cobweb/Snug in A Midsummer Night's Dream, various characters in several Living Canvas productions (including credits for writer and movement consultant), Vixen in Bram Stoker's Dracula, Martha Graham in Ten Lives in Performance, various villainous characters at the Springfield Children's Playhouse, and Gwendolyn in The Odd Couple. Also, thank you to my husband, Tim, for the constant love and support.

Thinking Caps Bio: Holly Robison

Holly Robison (Production Manager/Props) is happy to help bring to life Thinking Caps, an original work by a fellow Strangeloop Company Member. In her previous work with Strangeloop, she directed last season's A Midsummer Night's Dream, as well as two past holiday production and various Loopshop pieces. She has also performed in numerous Strangeloop productions, including R.U.R.: Rossum's Universal Robots, The Robbers, and As You Like It. Holly is also a member of Improvised Jane Austen. She has been living and performing in the Chicago for several years. Big shout out to Maria, Director and Jedi Master, for her commitment to this show.

Thinking Caps Bio: Chris Owens

Chris Owens (Projections/Video Designer) is from the great state of Nebraska. He received a Bachelor's in the Arts of Theatre, Journalism and Media from Doane College. Since then, Chris has interned at Actors Theatre of Louisville and New York Stage and Film, Assistant Directed at Woolly Mammoth Theatre and toured internationally as video technician with Pilobolus Dance Theatre. Chris currently works as a freelance video designer, director and stage technician around Chicago.

Thinking Cap Bios: Archer Curry

Archer Curry (Scenic/Thinking Cap Designer) is a Chicago-based theatre artist. They are a company member with InGen Productions and a recent graduate of North Park University. Along with set and prop design, Archer builds puppets and enjoys the challenge of bringing strange creatures to life. They are very excited to be involved with this show.

Thinking Caps Bio: Molly Mason

Molly Mason (Costume Designer) is so excited to be part of her first Chicago and Strangeloop production! She is a recent graduate of Carthage College and majored in theatre with an emphasis in costume design. Aside from running wardrobe crew at Carthage, she also had the opportunity to deisgn The Inn a new student work, as well as Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead on the main stage. This summer she will be working at Shawnee Summer Theatre as head of wardrobe and costume designer of two productions. She thanks everyone at Strangeloop as well as her friends and family for their support! Enjoy the show!

Thinking Caps Bio: Robert Tobin

Robert Tobin (Violence Designer) is excited to be back working stage violence with Strangeloop after designing the violence for last year's A Midsummer Night's Dream. He has choreographed fights now for several years in Los Angeles and Chicago for numerous theatre companies. Robert is also currently the Artistic Director with AstonRep Theatre Company. Enjoy the show!!

Thinking Caps Bio: Antonio Bruno

Antonio Bruno (Sound Designer/Original Composition) loves sounds. Nothing makes Antonio happier than helping craft the sonic portion of a creative vision such as theater. Antonio began creating sounds for theater over 10 years ago and has even created sound for a number of films along the way. Antonio has made sounds for Urban Theater Company, Halcyon Theatre and more. Antonio is happy to be working with Strangeloop Theatre. Antonio would like to thank you for reading his bio. Antonio.

Thinking Caps Bio: Brad Gunter

Brad Gunter (Lighting Designer) is originally from suburban Westmont, Ill., and went to Ball State University and Middlebury College with some layovers in different parts of Germany. As a founding member of Strangeloop, Brad wears a lot of hats in the company and typically stays busy during productions as a director, dramaturge or production manager. He’s worked with several other theatres in town, but you’re most likely to see him busy at his other theatre company, TUTA, where he is an Associate Company Member.