PerformInk is Chicago's entertainment industry trade publication.
By David Rabe
Two weeks into a pretty tight rehearsal schedule – nothing new, however, in having a tight schedule – we did a stagger-through, and I saw the need to alter a brief section. The alteration would not involve a lot of pages, but it was important. It was a bit scary until I had an idea that felt viable. Woke up with it floating around in my thoughts, got up, typed it down in sketch form and went back to bed. Mike Thornton [Director Michael Patrick Thornton] and I both felt good about it after I developed and showed it to him. I love working with this gang at THE GIFT. A couple of years ago, working with them for the first time on their production of GOOD FOR OTTO, I hoped to be here again. Mike directed then, as he is now, and we have a strong rapport. We had it back then and have it now. An ease of communication. A bit of mind reading every now and then. I sometimes wonder how I got here and think back to my first contact, which was an e-mail request to see if I might contribute a 10-minute play to the program of short plays they do every year. A mutual friend put us in contact. This was at least seven or eight years ago. I had something, a fragment I was working on, and sent it on to them. With that Mike and I started talking on the phone. A couple of years later, I gave them a section of GOOD FOR OTTO for their ten-minute program, and as Mike and I kept talking, that sample led to the production.
Some of the actors from OTTO are in COSMOLOGIES in key roles, Kenny Mihlfried, Darci Nalepa and John Connolly. It’s great to know I can count on their grit and talent, and their fearlessness –and there’s plenty to challenge any actor in the characters they play. The other ensemble actors, James Farruggio, Gregory Fenner, Martel Manning and Hannah Toriumi have more than enough to challenge them, too, and everybody is present and accounted for, which isn’t always the case. There’s something irreplaceable in the trust these actors have in one another and in Mike, and the designers; the knowledge they share, both personal and from having worked together, or having seen each other in numerous roles over time.
Now we’re in tech week – the set having evolved to one that pleases us all and illuminates the spirit of the play. Overall I find that the experience here, the talent and willingness, reminds me of when I was first writing plays after getting out of the army. I was in grad school, as a student and then as a teacher at Villanova University, an unlikely place for a freewheeling, rich creative burst, but that’s what it offered – a little black box theater in the late sixties, and very early seventies – a time when it seemed everyone believed that in excavating themselves they would find something worthwhile. It’s clear now that what was true of many wasn’t true of all. But it was true there for that time. With directors and casts made up of students and teachers, I had a production of STICKS AND BONES; wrote a first draft of THE BASIC TRAINING OF PAVLO HUMMEL; a one act that eventually grew into STREAMERS. Another that became THE ORPHAN. I only had parts of IN THE BOOM BOOM ROOM written when we started rehearsal. I remember writing scenes and driving over with them to the campus and waiting actors.
Anyway, today is my day off, and tomorrow we’ll be back in tech and then on to first preview.