Friday, October 23, 2015

Season 8 fundraiser wrapping up

We are winding up our fundraising campaign for Season 8 next week. This entire season we are focused only on new works, which while exciting are always a challenge to produce and market effectively. Known plays come with a built-in audience, but new plays by unknown or lesser-known playwrights require a bigger leap of faith on the part of companies to produces. But if no one produces these new works, how will your next new favorite play ever be seen?

Help us uncover these hidden gems by supporting their productions. Learn more about our season here and more about our development process here. We chatted with playwright Maria Burnham last weeks to learn more about her play Mitera, which will be our spring mainstage show. Read her interview here and watch a video about her inspiration for the show below.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Thanks to all who attended our 7th Anniversary Party & Karaoke Fundraiser! (There's still time to donate)

A big thank you to everyone who attended our 7th Anniversary Party and Karaoke Fundraiser on Saturday, October 17. We packed the basement of Matilda's in Lakeview and a rockin' time was had by all!

Santa and Krampus were there, as well as a Greek fortune teller reading coffee grounds. There were raffle gifts galore, readings of a few of our 5-Minute Plays written for donors, a preview of our holiday show Krampus! and, of course, karaoke including a rousing rendition of Cyndi Lauper's Girls Just Want to Have Fun by our co-Artistic Director Brad Gunter and Company Member Michael Wagman.

If you missed the fun, or just want to relive the evening, a photo gallery of the happenings can be found here. Tag yourself or add your own photos to our Facebook page.

If you weren't able to attend, but still want to help support Strangeloop's 8th Season, there's still time to donate to our Kickstarter campaign. Maybe you attended, saw the 5-Minute Plays or had some biscotti and want more. Both are rewards for donors. Enjoyed that sneak peek at Krampus! and want to pick the brains of its creators over drinks? That's a reward too.

In addition, we have a matching donation challenge from a donor, who wishes to remain anonymous. Our donor is matching every dollar we receive up to $600 beginning now. Help us double your dollars by donating through October 28. And Strangeloop is a 401(c)3 non-profit organization, so your donations are tax deductible to the full extent of the law.

Let's carry the fun throughout the 2015-2016 season!

Monday, October 12, 2015

Mother always knows best...even after she's dead

Strangeloop is in the middle of a capital campaign to raise funds for our 8th Season. Your donations will help support new and exciting works like Mitera  Strangeloop's mainstage production, which will go up in the spring of 2016. We recently sat down with playwright Maria Burnham to chat about her inspiration for the play.

What is Mitera about? Mitera is the story of three, single adult sisters who live at home and have their lives turned upside down when they find out their mother is still micromanaging their lives from beyond the grave. As the play begins, they discover their mother has left their entire inheritance contingent on the youngest sister marrying within a year of her death, otherwise everything goes to their oldest male relative in Greece. But the youngest sister is an unattached romantic who believes in marrying for love.

What does Mitera mean? Mitera, or (ἡ) Mητέρα, means mother in Greek.

Where did you get the idea for this story? There were several different things going on when I decided to write this piece. One was simply that I wanted to write roles for Greek-American actresses because that’s not something that exists. We play a lot of other ethnic groups that are more prevalent in theater – Italian, French, various Middle Eastern nationalities. I have no idea if Greek-American actresses will be cast in these roles, but I wanted to create that opportunity. Then when I started thinking about the actual story that I wanted to write, I kept coming back to my own mother and her desperate desire that my brother or I get married and produce some grandchildren. I wanted to explore how far a mother might go to force that desire onto her children.

Is this a story that will be relatable to people who aren’t Greek? Ultimately it is a story about love. Love between family members, the things people do for love, the bad choices people make in the name of love, the ridiculous lengths we go to out of love. That’s what makes all stories relatable regardless of setting. Audiences relate to Les Miserables despite having no firsthand experience with the French Revolution. It’s not the trappings of a play that make a story compelling or interesting to an audience, it’s the heart of the story being told.  

Can a Greek story be told without a wedding? Ha ha ha! Yes. I’m sure it’s possible, but ceremony and celebrations are a huge part of Greek life, and so it feels like there is always a wedding on the horizon. It seems like for most of my life there’s been talk of someone getting married or babies being baptized or someone’s funeral or memorial service…every time I talk to my parents I get the update on all these points from back home. 

And back home is? Jackson, Mississippi. It’s probably not the first place that pops to mind when people think of Greek-American communities, but there is a small Greek community there with ties to the larger Greek communities in Memphis and New Orleans. You can find us everywhere. 

Because everywhere needs diners? You joke, but that’s pretty true. 

So is this play influenced by your own life? In some ways, yes. I’d say the larger world I’ve set this in is most influence by my own life. The sisters in this play grew up in an insular community, like we have in Jackson, where everyone knows everyone else’s business – where people can be friendly to you, even as they are gossiping about you behind your backs. They are half Greek, like me, which makes you an outsider to two difference communities. Character-wise, Sharon, the youngest sister’s godmother, is definitely modeled on my own godmother, and the Greek cousin has shades of my oldest male cousin back in Greece – though Adonis is not quite as nefarious as Demitrios. The sisters, though, are not based on anyone. They just sort of sprung to life on their own.

Do you want to explain the photograph that is accompanying this interview? That is the playwright at the tender young age of 4 being forced to recite something at a Greek Independence Day celebration at my church. It’s probably the least humiliating of the things Maria was made to do as a child to celebrate her Greek heritage. Most of the others involved funny hats.   

What can people do to support this production? We can always use help raising awareness of the productions we mount. More immediately we have a fundraising campaign going on that will help pay for rehearsal and performance space rentals and costuming, set and prop needs. It’s not a play with a lot of spectacle, but it still costs money to produce. We have a karaoke fundraising party coming up on Saturday, October 17, at Matilda’s in Lakeview. It’ll be a lot of fun and I’ll be there reading futures in coffee grounds if you want a glimpse into one of the more bizarre Greek customs. Plus, of course, karaoke. But if people can’t make that, we also have a Kickstarter campaign going on through October. You can help us out from the comfort of your own home.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Come a little closer...The Krampus is waiting for you

October is a spooky time of year. Ghouls and goblins come out to play. Cold winds blow in. Drunk football fans spill out of bars. And Strangeloop is deep into planning for our upcoming production, Krampus! But this devil isn't meant for Halloween. Oh no. This Christmas demon is as old as Saint Nick himself.

Strangeloop recently sat down with playwrights Jaclyn Jensen and Mike Wozniak to learn a little more about Krampus — the tradition and the script.

Who is Krampus?

Mike: Krampus is the bad cop to St. Nicholas' good cop. He began as an Austrian-German folk tale to frighten children into being good.

Jaclyn: As far as being Santa’s counterpart - You don’t get coal in your stocking if you’ve been naughty. Krampus comes for you if you’ve been naughty. From the lore, he would chain up the naughty children and beat them with reeds. Or put them in a burlap sack to toss in a river and drown them. It’s pretty dark.

Why Krampus and why now?

M: It started with the Christmas song It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year. A few years ago I noticed the lyric: “There'll be scary ghost stories, and tales of the glories of the Christmases long, long ago”. Since we love ghost stories, I wanted to know where that came from, and how we could incorporate it into our holidays. Turns out it was a Victorian tradition to tell ghost stories. But when looking for that, I rediscovered Krampus.

J: I seriously didn’t know that until now. That’s awesome.

Where did you get the idea for this script?

J: Mike is the one who introduced me to Krampus. He’s a natural storyteller and always has ideas for great stories. He actually had several other possible Krampus plotlines in mind, including some really complicated period pieces. But we decided we wanted to explore the idea of Krampus terrorizing one family that could be just like ours.

M: We combined a lot of ideas. A story my third grade teacher Sister Clarissa told me, and a lot of campy horror movies, like the Evil Dead series.

Tell us about your love of horror?

J: Some of my earliest movie memories are horror movies. I was raised on it. And I actually find that the older I get, the more horror movies scare me. I love being scared. Haunted places, ghost stories, all of it.

M: I’ve always watched horror movies on Halloween as far back as I can remember. And much to my mother’s chagrin, my grandmother told me ghost stories growing up.

What was the most difficult part about writing this script?

M: For me, it was paring down ideas. I kept bombarding Jackie with ideas, and she’d have to edit me so that we could have a manageable number of things happening.

J: There were lots of difficult parts. But I would say writing actual scary moments was the hardest part. We had a lot of funny ideas, but we hope to actually scare people.

What other writing have you done? 

J: I had a few random projects from when I was a student in high school and college. And I did a bit of sketch writing when I first moved out to Chicago, to try to bring some of my own ideas in to a troupe I was performing with. But my writing projects prior to Krampus! were always “assignments”, and not something I wanted to do for me. I really enjoyed writing this, and Mike was a great writing partner. 

M: Other than helping out a bit on TV and web spots for work, I haven’t done much.

Is this a play that non-horror fans would enjoy?

J: I think so! There is a lot of humor as well, and I think everyone will be able to find characters and moments to identify with.

M: It has something from everyone. To paraphrase Bill Murray, it’s a meatloaf of a play.

What can people do to support this production?

J: So many things – We’ve got a fundraiser party coming up at Matilda’s on October 17th, and a Kickstarter campaign going on right now. Helping fund this project would be a huge help to make sure we can afford to give audiences a proper scare.

M: Come see it as many times as you can, and tell your friends.

What else would you like people to know about this play?

J: There is so much more to know about Krampus than can fit in one play. There is SO much lore that is very interesting. So learn more about Krampus. There are tons of Krampus stories, books, and movies – and every story will be unique.

M: It’s the dark side of Christmas, and we want you to discover it.

Help support Krampus! and all of the unique and original programming that will make up Strangeloop's 8th Season. Come party with us at our Seventh Anniversary Party and Fundraiser, 8 p.m. to 11 p.m. on Saturday, October 17, at babyATLAS (Matilda’s downstairs room), located at 3101 N. Sheffield Ave., Chicago, IL 60657. Admission is $10. OR, consider a donation of any amount here, and take home some sweet or scary gifts.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Strangeloop adds two veterans of Chicago theatre to its Artistic Associate lineup

Strangeloop Theatre is thrilled to announce the addition of two new Artistic Associates to our company. Both are veterans of past Strangeloop productions.

The new members are:

Patricia Tinsley holds a BFA is performing arts from Rockford University, an MA in speech from Northeastern Illinois University and serves as co-artistic director of the Rebekah Theatre Project. Favorite Chicago-area acting credits include The Gin Game (Bowen Park Theatre and Rebekah Theatre Project); Midsummer Night’s Dream (Lightninghead); The Shadow Box (Rebekah Theatre Project); The Tempest (Theatre-Hikes and Performing Arts at Oakton); The Sandbox (InnateVolution); the web series, Ped Crossing and the happiest acting job in the world: playing Mrs. Santa Claus at Navy Pier! Her directing credits include work with the Women’s Theatre Alliance of Chicago, Stockyards Theatre Project and NUFAN. She has greatly enjoyed performing with Strangeloop over the past few years and is excited to begin her journey as an artistic associate.

Paul Tinsley has been doing theatre since 1963 and has amassed a long list of acting credits with such theatres as Remy Bumppo, Organic Theater Company, Piven Theatre Workshop, Theatre-Hikes and Strawdog Theatre Company. For Strangeloop, Paul has performed in Living Quarters, Maid of Orleans, R.U.R. and several Loopshops. A prolific director and writer, Paul was delighted to have his short play, Here’s My Card, performed as part of Loopshop 2015. On the small screen, you can see Paul in the pilot episode of the comedy series Family Values, now available on Amazon Studios. Paul is looking forward to joining Strangeloop as an artistic associate and continuing his role of co-artistic director for the Rebekah Theatre Project.

With the addition of Patricia and Paul, there are nine Company Members and eight Associate Company Members in Strangeloop.