Dial “M” Director’s Blog

August 21, 2014 § Leave a comment

I was so excited to sign onto this project, because I had never done a true psychological thriller like this before. I had directed some intense pieces such as the musical JEKYLL & HYDE, but nothing like DIAL “M” FOR MURDER with so many twists and turns throughout. The other thing I loved about the show was that it took place during the 1950’s, a time period that I happen to love because of the overall sophistication and wardrobe. There’s just an elegance about it all that makes it intriguing to me.

The staff on this show is top notch. The great thing about it is that we were all on the same page from day one. The show is centered around The Wendice’s, a wealthy couple who reside in London. Since they were wealthy, it was important for me that we show the grandiose lifestyle that they live in. I also love levels, so having a platform raise upstage was something we thought would really give the set some dimension. There are some other fun tricks we’ve concocted for the show, including some brilliantly intense fight choreography by Claire Yearman, but I definitely don’t want to give anything away.

With all shows there are challenges to overcome. This show definitely has its share of challenges. The first big challenge are the props. This show is extremely specific when it comes to who has a key, who doesn’t have a key, or if the key is placed somewhere on stage or if it’s removed. The same thing goes with stockings, scarves, handbags, glasses. Sometimes during rehearsal, we find ourselves having a NOISES OFF “sardines” moment. We stop in our tracks and say “wait, who has the key now?” or “where is that handbag?” At times, though it can be frustrating, it tends to be comical after the fact. The other thing that is challenging, is that the script is also very specific in terms of directions. I, sometimes, try to ignore some of the stage directions so I have the opportunity to get creative, but with this play, I don’t really have that option most of the time. Most of the stage directions within the script are so important to the story and what happens next that we have no other option but to do what it tells us. However, even though we have some restrictions, I think we have created a lot of great moments and stage pictures in the show. I think the audience is really going to be at the edge of their seats.

In order to have a successful show, though, it really comes down to the casting. If you have a cast that has chemistry and trust, the possibilities are very exciting. The cast for DIAL “M” FOR MURDER is a group of fearless actors that are excited to explore during rehearsals. Directing needs to be a collaborative process; not just with fellow staff members and designers, but with the actors you’re working with as well. It’s important for a director to have an idea of what he/she wants, but at the same time, the actors involved need to be apart of that creative process. I feel so fortunate to be working with these talented artists, and I am looking forward to Opening Night!

Kevin Wiczer
Director

Executive Director Charlie Beck on The Last Five Years

May 15, 2014 § Leave a comment

I am pleased to share my thoughts regarding the latest Metropolis Production of The Last 5 Years that begins previews on May 15 and opens on May 18 to run through June 15. As has been my pleasure as Executive Director I always catch our main stage productions during their final dress rehearsals so I can attest to the work we are doing.

In a word, I loved this show.

It brings all that is great about live theatre and does so showcasing all of the strengths of Metropolis. Our intimate space is so perfect for this show. Given that it is an intimate glimpse into the love between the principals; Cathy a struggling actress and Jamie a rising star writer. I cannot imagine seeing this show anywhere but in a place like Metropolis.

Resident Director; Lauren Rawitz brings the performers front and center often, indeed, even into the house so that you cannot help but feel the emotions that are being portrayed through the terrific score and music of the show. Matt Edmonds, as Jamie and a familiar face at Metropolis and, Elissa Newcorn, as Cathy and making her debut here, display such incredible vocal skills and acting talent that one wonders how long before either or both are snatched up by a Producer on Broadway. They are indeed that good. And, they tell the stories of their love from the falling into to the dissolution of with pure honesty and emotion. Anyone who has lived and loved will find something in the score that will resonate with them. Kleenex is highly recommended.

Even better, the staging, again orchestrated by Lauren Rawitz, and the team lead by our Production Manager Bill Franz makes the maximum use of our space. No orchestra pit? No problem, let’s put the orchestra on stage behind the actors. This works extremely well as the musicians become part of the story as well they should since it is all music from end to end. Seeing music director Charlotte Rivard-Hoster and cellist David Richardson put themselves physically into the music tells you that the orchestra is not just doing a gig but feeling the show as much as the actors.

No wing space to store and move a variety of set pieces, no fly system or trap doors to make things magically appear? No problem. The stage is strewn with moving boxes which herald both the idea of moving in at the start of a relationship and moving out at the end. Creating an interesting space to look at with many levels and nooks and crannies to stage the various scenes in the show. Very cleverly conceived and executed by scenic designer and tech director Kaitlin Donelon.

Joe Mohammed’s lighting scheme adds emotional elements moving between subtle starlight, blazing sunrise, searing spotlights and brooding darkness that all serve as great counterpoint to the action on stage and the story as it unfolds.

I could not be more proud of the work done here. Art at its best is moving and shines a light of truth on the subject matter helping us to see things in a way we may not have otherwise. As love goes it has always been one of my favorite of the human emotions. Yet, it is also one of the most nuanced and can be felt in incredible highs while love is in bloom and incredible lows when it fails and withdraws.  Author, lyricist and composer Jason Robert Brown has captured all of the shades of love in this story. Some will leave feeling blue after seeing it, others will leave feeling edified and informed, some will leave saying ‘yes, I can relate’, but no one should leave without feeling something.

There is simply too much good work going on here to do otherwise.

To all who are part of this creative effort I say…wow! What an amazing thing you have done.

Anne Frank Actress Jaclyn Holtzman on Playing the Iconic Role

March 26, 2014 § 1 Comment

Anne’s story isn’t shared to make us feel miserable, and it’s not shared to make us feel fortunate or lucky or to make our trials and tribulations seem insignificant. Every struggle is real, and every struggle is relative. As she herself says, “What’s the point of thinking of misery when you’re already miserable? That’s stupid.” It is important to not misunderstand the purpose of spreading this amazing account. I am not portraying Anne so that teenagers today see how lucky they have it. Metropolis, my castmates, Kevin, and I are sharing her story to teach a lesson, to illustrate the danger of groupthink, to prevent anything similar from happening again. We are telling her story to make certain that history does not repeat itself.

We lost so much by letting evil win. Imagine what Anne’s brilliance, intuitiveness, passion, and optimism could have done for the world. Imagine where we might be if her life wasn’t cut short, if she had grown to her full potential and had unleashed her virtuosity on society.

Evil may have temporarily won, but it did not permanently prevail. Thanks to a miracle, Anne was still able to “go on living even after [her] death.” She still made her mark. The Nazis may have ended her life, but they didn’t end her spirit. It lives on through her writing and through actors like me, who are awarded the amazing opportunity to play her.

As you can imagine, this is a tall order. On one hand, Anne Frank is the easiest role an actor can play: never is an actor delivered a character’s inner thoughts on a silver platter. On the other hand, I have never been so petrified in my life. I need to do Anne justice. I need to convey how seriously frightening her life became in an instant. I need to tell her story in a way that will spur action, or more importantly reaction.

Herein lies the real challenge: effectively conveying the constant anxiety, the crippling fear, the severe loneliness, the intensifying frustration, and the courageous hope with which Anne lived every day. It is so easy to distance ourselves from the horrors that occurred 70 years ago. It is simple to pretend it will never happen again, to block our minds and our hearts from really feeling, really understanding that this actually happened. To real people. People with feelings. People with normal lives like ours. Innocent people. I have read thousands upon thousands of pages about Anne Frank, the 1940s, WWII, the Nazis, and Amsterdam. I ingested this information as facts, separated myself from it. It was not until I started watching videos that I began to feel. It is one thing to think and another to feel. This show consumes audience members and makes them feel. They will meet Anne, relate to her, and feel for her. They will realize that she was a normal teenager with normal hopes, desires, qualms, and dreams. That what happened to her could happen to them. This show will take Anne’s story from a tale to a reality. And that is why it needs to be done.

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Director Kevin Wiczer’s Journey with Anne Frank’s Story

March 18, 2014 § Leave a comment

When I was in middle school, I remember being assigned “A Diary of a Young Girl: Anne Frank”. Being a 13 year old boy, I didn’t come to appreciate it as I do now. Recently, I read the Definitive Version of the diary which included thirty percent more diary entries than the version most people have read. I hadn’t realized how much of her daily struggles with her family and her thoughts on sexuality had been removed from the original manuscript. Understandably, it wasn’t proper to discuss sexuality or to talk badly of your parents when it was first published. However, when I read this version, a lot of that was in there which really opened my eyes to who Anne really was. It made her more of a real person. I remember reading the original and thinking that this was a girl who was perfect and could do no wrong, when in reality, she was a very normal teenager who dealt with normal teenager issues and happened to express those issues in her diary.
 
I can’t even imagine what it was like not being able to leave the Annex. To have to be around the same people every single day and night. The thought that if you have an argument with someone, you can’t get away from them, and there’s really no place for you to be alone. No privacy. And at the same time living in constant fear, and any noise you hear outside creates instant paranoia. How incredibly brave these people were.
 
During our Table Read of the play, “The Diary of Anne Frank”, a question came up that really made people think. Miep was a woman who helped them all with bringing food and other necessities along with several other people. They risked their lives for Anne and the rest of them on a regular basis. The question that was brought up was: If you were in that situation, where you had to decide if you would risk your life to help others, would you? All of us said that we would hope we would, but we really dont know for sure. When actually faced with that danger, would we find the courage to help and put others before ourselves? It’s a question we continue to ponder. They didn’t consider themselves heroes; they were doing what they felt was right. And doing what you feel is right, could help others in return.
 
-Kevin Wiczer, Director

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Executive Director Charlie Beck on Half and Half

March 12, 2014 § Leave a comment

     ‘Tracy and Hepburn, Russel and Grant, Streep and Hoffman. When a great actor and actress come together amazing things can happen.
     This was going through my mind as I watched one of the last dress rehearsals for our next production ‘Half & Half’. Andrew Pond and Julie Partyka are the pair that brought those images to mind. At times so comic as they play against one another. At times poignant and oh so painfully truthful that it took my breath away. They are ably supported by Katie Hunter who plays their daughter rounding out a fine cast that I am sure will be enjoyed by all.
     The story is intriguing as well, looking at a family beginning in the early 70’s and then jumping ahead to modern life. Drawing out the challenges of marital and family life that spans the decades of time. How we seem to relive the same issues in our society, in our relationships over and over. Set in Chicago it is also fun to watch to catch the local references.
     ‘Half & Half’ stands out in my mind as one of the most well written plays we have produced this season. Crisp dialogue that explores the foibles of married life, and as delivered by Andrew and Julie will have you reflecting on your own relationships.
     It’s another production that we are proud to present here at Metropolis, from cast to crew to the able Direction of a Metropolis favorite David Belew, ‘Half & Half’ will make you laugh and make you cry but will provide just the tonic we need to bring us out of this prolonged winter into the warmth of spring.
We do amazing things at Metropolis. This is a great example of just that.
Running March 13 – April 13 Call 847-577-2121 to purchase tickets

Why I Support Metropolis: Board Member Denise Beihoffer

January 24, 2014 § Leave a comment

My husband Tom and I have been season subscribers at Metropolis since the theater opened in 2000. At that time, we had a 3-year-old and were looking for opportunities for pre-scheduled “date nights.” Metropolis provided a great option for us to enjoy quality live theater in an intimate setting, while also supporting the local community. As we live only 8 blocks from the theater, an added bonus was our ability to walk to and from the theater and the surrounding downtown restaurants when the weather was nice. 

Metropolis Summer Camp_20100709_6885colorAs she grew, our daughter Kristina performed in several Curtains Up! productions over the years, including her favorite role of Tinkerbell in the 2010 production of Peter Pan. As a parent, there is nothing more fun than seeing your child perform on stage with the many friends she made each summer!

Over the years, we have enjoyed many a show and concert at Metropolis, and when it converted to not-for-profit status, we were happy to sign on as financial supporters as well. Over time, we steadily increased our support and I became actively involved in planning various fundraising events for Metropolis, including my personal favorite, the annual Sunday Soiree. In December of 2011, I was privileged to join the Board of Directors for the organization.

My family loves living in Arlington Heights and we especially love its strong sense of community. We are very committed to supporting local business and supporting Metropolis furthers that commitment. Metropolis adds terrific value to the Arlington Heights community and I am happy to play a small role in its success. If you have not had an opportunity to visit the theater for your very own “date night,” I encourage you to do so soon! 

Click here to learn how you can support Metropolis.

Why I Support Metropolis: Board Vice President Tom O’Rourke

January 17, 2014 § Leave a comment

Genuine respect for the global community is the root of peace, and this is exponentially becoming more and more a reality. The performing arts have always played a paramount role in the appreciation of others – their strengths, their cultures, their humor, their fears and their needs. We are fortunate to have Metropolis at our fingertips. I embrace the Metropolis as a center of learning, engagement and of peace.

Click here to learn how you can support Metropolis.

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