Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Notes From the Director - On the Shore of the Wide World


Beginning this conversation, I spoke to the design team about two things that were important to me. First – the location itself. Stockport is a small suburb just outside of Manchester. (About 10 miles) It is a place for people who can't quite afford to live in the city, or want a bit of distance from an area that is more active and bustling. It's got a lot of dilapidated buildings and suffers, to some degree, from the loss of any substantial industry. It reminds me, if not in look than in feel, of my hometown of Detroit. A place where more people used to live but has a sense of abandonment.

The other place we looked was at images of abandoned hotels. The Bluebell Hotel plays a major role in the setting of so many of these scenes and I just had this strong visceral response to the idea of a place that used to be a lovely human retreat being abandoned and left behind as it is repossessed by nature. It speaks to me about both neglect and potential. It was built with such grand human intentions and is now trying to maintain its dignity as nature slowly chips it away.

There is, for so many of these characters, a disappointment with their lot. They are not living the lives they thought they were going to. Even surrounded by people, they feel lonely and alone. It seemed really fitting then to put all of the scenes (there are probably 12 different locations) in the same space. I loved the idea of it all taking place in this abandoned hotel with the chairs that had been left behind serving as all of the furniture. (There is nothing more poetic to me then an empty chair – chairs are meant to hold people, and there is both sadness and potential when one sits empty and abandoned.)

So this is where we've started. Things will shift and be rethought as we enter rehearsals, but for now, this feels very right.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Notes from the Director - On the Shore of the Wide World

Beginning this week you'll start to see a series of posts from the director of On the Shore of the Wide World, Jonathan Berry as he works through the up coming rehearsals leading up to the plays' opening. Check out his first post today.


It's the week before We have some conversations with actors on relationships this week, and then kick off fully August 25^th – a read through with full cast, and full design presentations, and the start of full time rehearsals.
There is always that moment, before starting, of trepidation. Do I know enough about the play? Have I done the right kind of prep work? Will the actors respond to my thoughts and will I grow with theirs? Will we be able to find 35 wooden chairs?
When we were looking for plays, I was knee deep in rehearsals for BE MORE CHILL and I frankly didn't have a lot of time. I knew it was going to be a big year, and so I was looking for something small – one room, 3 – 4 people – relationship driven. Bill found this play. He read it and he called me and suggested I read it. I asked him if it was small, and he said "well, no – but read it anyway. I think it feels like a 'you' play."
I knew I was in trouble the second scene. Sometimes you DO just know. Kind of like meeting someone – sometimes you have to learn to like them and sometimes something just clicks. This was a click. More like a slap, or a shake, or a grab you and pick you up and throw you down. I had to stop three times, in the first read, from tears. I felt for this family. I knew this family. I knew, by the second section, that I would direct it, and I plunged on breathlessly to get to the end and find out what happens.
This is interesting because this is not a large, flashy play. Its really pretty simple in what actually occurs – no rivers to ford, or computers to come alive – just a family dealing with all of the challenges inherent in a group of people tied together for life – and all the wonderful/terrible complications that surround those relationships. I find it heartbreaking. And beautiful. And true.

There is a lot of imagery dealing with stars – looking up – the multitude of stars that populate the earth – the wonder of that, and the terror. To know, at once, that you are part of something so enormous - that you can be so inconsequential in the grand scheme of things, and yet, you are there – with hopes and dreams too big for this world to contain. How do you rectify that? Being simultaneously miniscule and bursting. What does it mean when others are tied in with that? How do you rectify what you have with what you want? What does it actually MEAN to be a family?
Playwright Simon Stephens asks all of these questions – and like any good playwright, he leaves room for everyone who is touched by the play to ask them and answer them for themselves. There is no big simple answer, or any kind of "moral" on how to live – no. He understands that life is too beautifully complicated for simple platitudes. He presents life, as he has experienced it, and he asks us to draw our own conclusions. I'm looking forward to getting in that room and asking some questions. I can't wait to start.


Saturday, August 16, 2008

20th Anniversary Season

Choosing a 20th Anniversary season was no easy task. Obtaining rights was a daunting task this year. In fact. our final production of the year changed just at the last minute. I was trying desperately to get the rights to a very popular novel, not worth mentioning NOW. A great story set in Chicago that mixes relationships, math and a crazy road trip to Kentucky. Of course a movie deal got in the way. SO luckily, we had also been trying at the same time to obtain the rights to another fantastic book--Cory Doctorow's LITTLE BROTHER. It seemed at first that "Brother" was going to be tougher to get the rights to because of its recent stay on the New York Times Best Seller list. And believe me it wasn't easy because it's a new book and the author has been getting some major press. Although "rights are still pending" we hopefully are going to be able to work things out with the author's agent and Dorothy Milne (who's directing) and I are just thrilled. I think we've in many ways we've achieved a great mix of challenging and exciting work for this year.

So here it is.....

ON THE SHORE OF THE WIDE WORLD (North American Premiere)
By Simon Stephens
Directed by Jonathan Berry
Theatre Building Chicago
September 27 – November 16, 2008

Simon Stephens powerful family drama focuses on three generations of the Holmes family in Stockport, England, as they deal with a tragedy that forces each of them to examine carefully their lives, the choices they’ve made and what they are leaving behind. The play deftly explores both the joys and fears that come from every day life, and the daunting task of making a mark in society. Winner of the prestigious 2006 Olivier Award for Best New Play.

Based on the novella by Eudora Welty
Book and Lyrics by Alfred Uhry
Music by Robert Waldman.
Directed by Paul Holmquist
Theatre Building Chicago
February 7 – March 29, 2009

Based on the novella by Eudora Welty, this jubilant, blue grass and folk infused Tony Award-winning musical focuses on Robin Hood-like Jamie Lockhart, a legendary character in Mississippi folklore, who rescues the wealthiest plantation owner in Natchez Trace from the Harp gang and attempts to woo and win his daughter Rosamund. Standing in his way is her conniving stepmother Salome, whose romantic designs on the gentleman robber lead her to plot the girl's murder. What ensues is a series of hilarious and dark escapades worthy of a Grimm fairy tale.

LITTLE BROTHER (World Premiere)
Based on the novel by Cory Doctorow
Adapted by William Massolia
Directed by Dorothy Milne
Venue to be Announced
May – June 2009

What would happen if the United States underwent another major terrorist attack? Would the government out of fear turn the country into a police state? Cory Doctorow gives us a vision of the future as seen through the eyes of Marcus, aka "wln5t0n, a seventeen year old hacker who decides to fight back against a government out of control. Will he succeed? Maybe, but only if he's really careful...and very, very smart.

Friday, August 15, 2008

What's the Latest!

Welcome to the Griffin Theatre Company Blog. This is the place to find out the latest news and events going on at the Griffin Theatre Company. If you haven't been reading the papers it's our 20th Anniversary Season! That's right. We're that old. We have a great season planned which you can read about in the next post.

You can also check back here often to find out about our planned move into the police station at 1940 Foster Ave. It's just outside of the Andersonville neighborhood in Bowmanville right near the corner of Foster and Damen Avenues.

We also have a big 20th Anniversary Season party planned for Monday, September 8th at the Leadway Bar & Grill from 8:00pm to Midnight. More to come on that too.