Monday, August 24, 2009

From director Allison Shoemaker

Neal Starbird makes a last minute costume change. He has my full support. I always thought HEIST PLAY was a little like 'Eraserhead.'

Thursday, August 20, 2009

From Bridget Dougherty, stage manager

Last night, we got to hang out in an alley and sand down furniture. Oh joy. The Old Style and show tunes made it worth it. A little. Mostly the Old Style helped. A lot.

So if you wanna see what the finished pieces look like, you better get to HEIST before it closes.

Here’s a sneak peek at the awesome bars that got delievered to us early this week by our set designer (and owner of a really pimp truck) Clay Barron.

Can you tell I like to read blogs with pictures? In normal life I quite prefer books with out them, but there is something pretty about seeing them on the computer screen in the middle of the blogs. When I was a kid, reading books of scary stories (specifically “Scaries Stories to tell in the Dark” by Alvin Schwartz) I would never place my finger in between pages that had freaky pictures on them because in my head the pictures might come alive and hurt/kill me.

How could this pic not scare you?!? It is intended for ages 9+. I was and still am a wimp. Stephen Gemmell’s illustrations are so freaky. The stories fail to scare me now (I’m not THAT much of a wimp still), but the images remain awful.

This is the story by Alvin Schwartz that goes along with it. No wonder I was a morbid child.

HAROLD by Alvin Schwartz

Thomas and Alfred were two best friends. Whenever it got hot, they would take their cows up to a cool, green pasture in the mountains. Usually they stayed there with the cows all summer. The work their in the mountains was easy, but really boring. All they did was tend their cows all day. They would return to their tiny hut and night. Every night they ate supper, worked in the garden, and went to sleep.

Then one day, Thomas said "Let's make a life-size doll. We can put it in the garden and use it as a scarecrow." There was a farmer they both hated named Harold, so they decided to name the doll Harold and make it look like him. They made it out of straw and gave it a pointy nose and tiny eyes, like Harold's. Day after day, they would tie Harold to a pole in the garden to scare away the birds. They brought it in the house every night. Sometimes, they would talk to it, saying things like "How's it going?" And the other would say in a weird voice "Not good." Of course, Harold wouldn't appreciate it. When they were in a bad mood, they would even curse at him or kick him.

A while later, when Thomas was taking out his anger on Harold, Alfred swore he heard the doll grunt. "Did you hear that? Harold grunted!" "Impossible, he's just a sack of straw," replied Thomas. Alfred dismissed it, but they both stopped talking to it, kicking it, or even touching it, they just left him neglected in the corner of the room.

After a while, they decided nothing was to be feared. Maybe a few bugs or rats were living in the straw. So they went back to their old routine. Every day, they would take it outside, and bring it back in at night. Then they even started treated him badly again.

One night, Alfred noticed something that scared him. "It looks like Harold is growing." "I was thinking the same," answered Thomas. "Maybe it's just our imagination. I think the elevation is getting to us." The next morning, they saw Harold stand up and walk outside, climb onto the roof, and he stayed there all night. In the morning, it came down and stood in the pasture. They got very scared and decided to flee. They took their cows and started heading back down for the valley. After going only a mile or so, they realized they had forgotten the milking stools. They knew they didn't have the money to replace them, so Alfred forced himself back to get them. "I'll catch up with you later. You just keep moving." After walking for a while, Thomas looked back at the hut and did not see Alfred. What he did see, however, horrified him. He saw Harold, on the roof of the hut, stretching out a bloody piece of flesh to dry in the sun.

Friday, August 14, 2009

From playwright Mitch Vermeersch

It would be difficult to imagine film noir without the smoking. The cigarette is a visual element of the films as quintessential and recognizable as the fedora or the silhouette.

One reason for this is the clever way in which directors used cigarettes for elegantly crafted character moments. In Jules Dassin’s beautiful film Theive’s Highway, Valentina Cortese produces a cigarette she hopes Richard Conte will light for her. He declines. Ignoring the fifteen or so matches that have been lit and held out to her by hopeful male patrons, she takes the cigarette from his mouth and suggestively lights her own smoke off the burning end of his. These are the moments that characterize film noir. It would be difficult to imagine the stalwart noir detective without a burning cigarette firmly planted in his countenance. The same goes for the lusciously villainous femme fatale. What else is she going to do with those sexy, gloved fingers?

But what would it look like if you were forced to remove the cigarette from the noir film? Humphrey Bogart walks into a bar from the street and takes a seat alone amid the swirling maelstrom of greased hair and wild dresses. There is a rhumba band playing and people are dancing but he is too solitary and world-weary to dance. The bartender brings him a glass of dark dark liquor as he surveys the room for the crook he’s tailing, all the while looking out for the girl who’s tailing him. He is a man at once within and detached from the room. To calm himself he reaches into his jacket pocket and casually pulls out his pack of… gum. He lets a stick dangle coolly from his lips, tastes the soothing menthol soon to fill his mouth with minty freshness… sounds silly doesn’t it?

My point is that to take the cigarettes out of film noir would be like taking the color gels out of a theater. You could get along fine without them, but the aesthetic of a lot of plays would likely feel very awkward. However in this city, as in many others, they’ve taken the smoking out of everything. Including the theater. See a production of Glengarry Glenross and the masculine, hard smoking real estate agents (if they’re lucky) will be exhaling electronically controlled water vapor or (if they’re not lucky) thin rolls of bubble gum candy wrapped to look like Marlboro Reds. Because Heist Play is inspired and informed by the world of film noir, to remove the smoking from the world of the play would have felt somewhat unjust. Thusly, we’re forced to find creative ways to portray smoking, and you’ll have to forgive us for any gaps in the authenticity of our substitutions.

Personally, I am a stickler for authenticity when it comes to things like this, but I can’t bring myself to argue with the reasoning behind this obstacle. There are many good reasons why so many major cities have instituted smoking bans. There are many good reasons not to smoke. Noir films were made at a time when smoking was a much more accepted and universal habit. Today, children come out of the womb familiar with the inherent health risks. There are, however, those of us who still enjoy it, and the culture of smoking today is much different than in the days of noir. In non-smoking cities like this one, smokers gather at regular intervals outside public buildings in small congregations. At once within and detached from the population, these congregations meet to talk about nothing in particular. They are united only by the individual enjoyment they get from partaking in a particular vice, an enjoyment not unlike the kind I feel watching noir movies, films populated by lonely characters whose flaws and personal interests set them apart from the public at large.

Desire for a particular vice sometimes forces you to be creative when it comes to getting your fix. It is this desire that occasionally sends me on extensive searches for hard to find noir titles. It sends smokers out of doors to find small, secluded corners where they can smoke among those who share the same interest. Vice breeds a strange congregation, but it’s a congregation that, like most, is ever willing to welcome a newcomer. Smokers light smokes for other smokers today the same way they did in the days of Sam Spade and Phillip Marlowe.

And so when Heist Play opens on Sunday, you will find me standing outside the Side Project Theater smoking to calm my nerves during the act breaks with a handful of people who find enjoyment in the same silly activity as myself. That cigarette will end, the way all cigarettes do, and I will head back inside to take my place among a crowd of people united only by the strange enjoyment they get from watching a cast of actors tell stories onstage with fake liquor, plastic pistols, and bubble gum cigarettes.

Come see Heist Play. The space is small and tickets are going fast.

From director Allison Shoemaker

When people make ‘noir-esque’ movies today, what they mean is that they look like film noir, or the dialogue is similar in rhythm and cadence -- essentially, they’re talking about style. There are a lot of remarkable movies that fall into this category. I was entertained as hell by 'Kiss Kiss Bang Bang’ and ‘Brick.’ ‘L.A. Confidential’ and ‘The Man Who Wasn’t There’ are both beautifully shot and incredibly evocative of the genre. Here’s the thing, though: when film noir movies were being made, it wasn’t just about the style. That was a huge part of it, yes, but so was moral ambiguity and characters that refuse to inhabit a world in which one can be truly good or purely evil. The movies we now call film noir were about failed redemption, about what it is to be unable or unwilling to assert your own destiny and avoid damnation. They were about the clever banter, certainly, but also about what happens in the air between the words. When I started to think about what contemporary examples we have of that fundamental aspect of the noir tradition, a scene popped into my mind.

At the risk of sounding like an entry in ‘Stuff White People Like,’ I have to say -- I think The Wire might be the best show in the history of television. At the very least, it’s the closest thing to film noir we’ve seen this decade. As a result, it’s been on my mind a lot lately. (Fellow fans can listen for the theme song in ‘Heist Play’.) A lot of factors went in to making The Wire what it was -- talented writers, a devoted, adventurous and mostly unknown cast, a network brave enough to produce a show where the most heroic character is a gay stick-up boy who only robs drug dealers and lives by a code. This is a show you actually have to learn how to watch. You expect it to be one thing, and it’s not. It’s more. It’s a novel. It’s an epic.

I can’t exactly say I’ve stolen things from ‘The Wire’ for ‘Heist’, but it has certainly informed my work. When Katie Canavan and I started talking about Dietrich, we talked about cops who want but aren’t sure how to be more, and I was thinking of poor Beadie Russell. When Josh Davis was working to find how exactly Nick is altered when he’s drinking, Jimmy McNulty was swimming in booze through my head. When I talk, or rhapsodize, really, to my cast about the amazing things Mitch does with language, with such simple words and the great meaning they convey, I think of that scene where D’Angelo Barksdale teaches Bodie and Wallace and Poot about how chess works using the drug trade to communicate the ideas, and the total lack of expression on each of their faces as they begin to talk about the pawns. And when I want to remind myself to think about the remarkable things you can do with great characters and great actors, I think about that amazing scene in season one when McNulty and the Bunk go to investigate a crime scene that was royally botched by the first set of police who looked it over, and figure the whole damn crime out, and talk it through and figure it out, and they only ever say ‘f*ck’ and its many derivatives. Talk about inventiveness.


We’re a few days out from opening now. We’re close enough to opening that I am just now getting around to writing this thing I’ve been so stoked about writing. We’ve found the props (or most of them) and fitted the costumes and taped the floors. We’ve emptied a 12-pack of Old Style and need to empty many many cans of Coors Light in the next few days (for props, I swear). We’ve gotten it done. It’s a terrifying and exhilarating feeling.

It’s been a real privilege to work on ‘Heist Play’. I’ve known many of the people involved for many years, and hope to know the new ones for many more. (Katie Canavan stole my blog idea -- but how many Odes to Starbird or Melton or Stulik can one blog take? Anthem of Hornreich and Dean, perhaps?) We of The Ruckus are so fortunate to be working with such a remarkable cast and crew, and I can’t wait for the world at large to see the remarkable work they’ve been doing. I’m proud and inspired and humbled and wildly entertained. Not a bad deal, if you ask me.

Last but far from least, I’m so lucky to be working elbow to elbow with Mitch Vermeersch again. In a world of style-but-no-substance, Mitch creates these truly original plays that never fail to surprise. In ‘Heist Play’, Mitch gets to convey his love of film noir through Nick, and the passion and fascination he feels is so clearly conveyed that it cant’ help but be contagious. His braveness in breaking rules of structure and in allowing characters to be ugly people who do ugly things has created a genuinely unique work of art that has inspired me to be better and do more, and has done the same for our remarkable cast. I can’t wait for ya’ll to see it.

Back to work. Oh my wow, I hate and love scene changes. But mostly hate. But mostly love.

Down to the Wire

Submitted by Katie Canavan

It’s that time again. We have a scant few days. We are all working hard and it feels like it just might not make it. Everyone is stressed. It’s almost 100 degrees in our rehearsal space. We are adding costumes and props and sets and lights and music and dancing and it is a bit overwhelming.

This is my favorite part of the process.

Don’t get me wrong, this is also the most horrible part of the process. The most stressful part. But this is what will make everything more satisfying on Sunday night. This is why we do what we do. I cannot think of anything better than telling a story with little more than ourselves, some lights, and a few pieces of wood to sit on.

And this story is a pretty good one. So please come join us. If not on Sunday, then on Monday. Or Tuesday. Or even Wednesday!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

An Ode to Starbird

Submitted by Katie Canavan

The cast of Heist Play is above-average fantastic. I may be slightly biased, since I have known most of them for years, including my roommate and a best friend from college. But there are a few new faces, and I could not be more pleased with the people we have picked up along the way.

Today, however, I come to talk to you about Neal Starbird (how great is that name?!). Neal is playing Murphy, a role that was hard to fill. Since I live with the casting director of the company, I know that quite a few rounds of auditions were held for Murphy. The way the character is written is very specific, and it takes a special person to step into that. Neal has not disappointed. His grasp on Murphy’s language is complete, his humor razor-sharp and sometimes disturbing.

Neal and I have only one scene together. Alas. However, this scene has not been played exactly the same way twice. Neal is the kind of scene partner you dream about – he works with you, he makes new choices, he listens and reacts. He is solid without being predictable. I have not had this much fun within a scene in years.

I could not be happier that Neal found his way to The Ruckus and Heist Play. Please come out and find your way to the Ruckus and Heist Play this weekend. We won’t disappoint.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Noir at the Table

Submitted by actor Neal Starbird

With Heist Play, Mitch Vermeersch and The Ruckus are examining elements of film noir, a cinematic style, in the context of live theatrical performance. Got me to wondering, where else can this style be extended? There have been other stage explorations; George F. Walker's Theatre of the Film Noir being a blatant example. Certainly fashion and music can draw heavily on ideas put forward in those films (though it would be hard not to cop as simply "retro"). What about the dining room? With field-to-table emerging as the Seattle Sound of the new era, can styles and aesthetics closely associated with another medium be satisfactorily pulled across the art/craft barrier and plopped on a plate in front of us?

What sort of thing would make a meal
noir? You could easily say, "Bring a couple of bottles of Oregon Pinot, and away we go!" And, hey, that's a start! There's plenty of alcoholic beverages that lend themselves to the mood; the inhabitants of those unhappy films thought as much. In addition to the red wine, whiskey would seem appropriate. For dessert, you can throw out some deep Spanish sherry, and, of course, coffee is right in there.

And on the plate, how do we want to approach it? Little jumps to mind from the movies. Maybe the odd diner hamburger steak and fries, but maybe we can do better. Maybe we think of dark flavors, things redolent with
umami, things like mushrooms and beef. Maybe bring the burger-steak and spuds idea uptown with a heavy stew of meaty shiitake and beef shoulder braised in red wine and whiskey with some roast potatoes on the side. That feels like a delicious bowl of deep, dark americana.

Another way to look at it: seems like there's an awful lot of tension in those movies between the haves and the have-nots. Let's look at pairing high-end items with more humble ingredients. Take that expensive piece of tail we call Lobster and let it lay down with some honest, hard-working noodles. But noodles packing a bit of chili heat. Lobster with chili noodles? I'll eat that while I sit on the wharf and watch the fog roll off the bay.

Some of you may read this and wonder "where's the recipe card, pal?" Well, you know what? Sometimes in life things just don't turn out the way we expect 'em to. Ain't that a daisy?

Saturday, August 8, 2009

A Room of Our Own

Submitted by Bridget Dougherty, stage manager

So at the risk of sounding like a space/control freak, and writing another blog on the same topic – wow it was nice to be in our own home for the last week of rehearsals. We moved in this evening, and while the space has not been taped out yet and we are without air conditioning, we are finally on our own. Actors no longer are sitting on top of each other in the space and can actually run lines in another room. We have room to spread out on stage and make all of the entrances and exits accurately and now have a bar and barstools!!

After recently reading “A Room of Ones Own” by Woolfe for the first time, this experience is really driving those ideas home. While I don’t agree with all her concepts, it is incredibly freeing to have a space that is your own, that you can change, that fees you from having to worry about where you belong – I totally get what she was going through.

And of course, some more fun pics from our first rehearsal in our new home for the rest of rehearsals.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Highlights of a Noir Bar

Last night was pretty amazing. Here is a list of my favorite parts of the evening:
  • A borrowed long cigarette holder
  • A black beret, purchased at American Apparel for $24
  • Playing my ukulele in front of a full bar for the first time ever!
  • Byron starting to chant my name during the set
  • Melissa’s vintage dress that fit her perfectly
  • Red, red lipstick
  • Allison’s mid-party costume change
  • Ryan’s awesome 40’s hair
  • Josh’s fedora & trench coat
  • Mitch playing the most amazing set with the most amazing guitar – complete with “Moondance”
  • Running into an old friend I hadn’t seen in at least a year, if not two. It’s a small world, people.
  • I almost forgot – open bar! 2 G&T, 1 whiskey diet
  • Intro-ing Money Money Money
  • Byron’s reaction to the MMM intro
  • MONEY MONEY MONEY. They were seriously awesome
  • Raffle!
  • Winning the perfect raffle prize for me! Comic books and a bike tune-up!
  • Stopping on the way home for a bottle of water. A lot of singing and screaming and drinking does not treat your throat well.
Thanks to everyone who came out and had a great time supporting and partying for The Ruckus!


Thursday, August 6, 2009

NOIR BAR tonight!

August 6 at The Spot
4437 N Broadway / Chicago, IL 60640
7pm doors open 7:30-8:30pm open bar
$15 cover $1 from each drink purchased benefits The Ruckus
More information

A film noir themed fundraiser benefiting the world-premiere of Heist Play.
Featured entertainment includes:
The ukulele-stylings of Katie Canavan
Singer-songwriter Mitch Mead on guitar
Rap group Money Money Money
Noir-inspired portraiture by Irma Hapsari-Ahadiah


Also, our tommy gun came in the mail today. We are stoked.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

The Dealer Wore Red

An attempt at noir comedy from assistant stage manager Phil Baranski

The cool Chicago breeze whipped up the edges of my duster as I stood on a lonely street corner under the full moon. I held down my fedora, nervously awaiting my contact. She was late. She was never late. Something was wrong.

Vanessa, my .38 snub nose revolver, burned a hole in my jacket pocket. A truck drove noisily by and I cocked her, ready for action. Then, like an angel in a red dress, she was there.

Julia was a vision, all done up for a night on the town. Her dress hugged the curves of her body, leaving little to the imagination. Her fur coat hung lazily on her shoulders, and her wide brimmed hat covered her curly brown hair. She walked up close her doe eyes looked right into mine with a passion unmatched in any dame I've ever seen.

"Sorry I'm late, Tiger" she said cooly, "Bad Mexican food."

She slipped me a piece of paper with the information I needed, then kissed me on the cheek. She lingered by my ear, whispering, "See you later, handsome."

With that she turned to walk away, out of my life until God knows when. But she had left me a present. And it smelt like burrito.


From actor Joshua Davis

Sweetheart you're a bitter little lady and it's a bitter little world. I know you like a book, ya little tramp. You’d sell your own mother for a piece of fudge. But you’re smart with it. Smart enough to know when to sell and when to sit tight. You’ve got a great big dollar sign there where most women have a heart. Why not cash that organ in and put that money to good use. Shake it's little man eating backside to THE SPOT come this Thursday. I need you baby. Life without you is just about as smart as cutting my throat to get some fresh air. With you by my side I'll make money like you want me to. Big money. But it takes time, you gotta give me time. Who am I kidding? A woman doesn't care how a theater company makes a living, just how it makes love. You're cold hearted baby. Selfish enough to convince me that alligators have the right idea. They eat their young. The truth to much for ya? Keep on riding me doll, and they're gonna be picking iron out of your liver.

Katie & Aaron Talk Music Over a Ukulele& Bongos Rehearsal

From actor Katie Canavan

If you haven’t heard – I will be playing a completely unoriginal ukulele set at our fundraiser this Thursday, August 6th, at the Spot. Get there at about 7:15 to catch me playing some covers, backed percussively by Aaron Dean.

Aaron and I got together on Saturday to play some music and prepare for the fundraiser. Since I first picked it up in January, I have had a fiery passion for the ukulele. Maybe it’s because it’s so small? So easy? Either way, it’s been fun and I’m addicted to playing covers on my tiny instrument. Not to give anything away, but we play quite a few upbeat pop songs, including “I Wanna Dance With Somebody,” and “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow.”

The latter, “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow,” holds a special place in my heart. Within our rehearsal process for Heist, we have talked a lot about music. About expressing your emotions more deeply using music and letting music do the talking when you feel as if you’ve run out of things to say. This song – WYSLMT – is a perfect example of music that captures a moment in history, and uses the melody and lyrics to express the contradiction between inner and outer self. Although at first glance it appears to be a sugary pop ballad sung by teenage girls, a close examination of the lyrics reveals a narrative that almost everyone has experienced: the uncertainty of love and affection within the bloom of teenage sexuality. This deeper message shrouded in upbeat guitar and tight harmonies tugs at my heartstrings. I love few songs as much as pop songs with sad lyrics. This is the kind of song I can use in my acting. This is the kind of complex emotion that music makes more accessible. This is where I turn when I’m having trouble opening a door to a character.

I hope you’ll be able to come out on Thursday and see what Aaron and I have done with “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow,” and 6 other pop & indie favorites. Although we only worked on it for about 15 minutes, it’s worth a listen. Plus we will be dressed as beatniks, and how could you pass up a black beret?

The Prowler

From director Allison Shoemaker

Hello, new Ruckus blog! It’s so nice to meet you! I had intended to write a long and gushing blog-type-thing about The Wire and how it’s the closest thing we have to authentic noir in this decade, but then I got my ass kicked by The Prowler. McNulty, Stringer Bell and Omar (OMAR COMIN!) will have to wait while I wax noir-stalgic for a bit.

Check it: last night I was lucky enough to catch a showing of The Prowler at the Noir City: Chicago’ film festival that the Music Box is hosting this week. I have to tell you, Chicago is incredibly fortunate to be the latest Noir City. These festivals, curated and sponsored by the Film Noir Foundation, offer a rare opportunity to see some of the greatest films of the 30s, 40s and 50s on the big screen -- and many of them are the last, or one of the last, prints in existence. About the Film Noir Foundation, created by writer and historian Eddie Muller:

The Film Noir Foundation is a non-profit public benefit corporation created as an educational resource regarding the cultural, historical, and artistic significance of film noir as an original American cinematic movement. It is our mission to find and preserve films in danger of being lost or irreparably damaged, and to ensure that high quality prints of these classic films remain in circulation for theatrical exhibition to future generations.

That's the high-toned legalese. Here are the facts: Even as the high-tech revolution lets us own vast film libraries on DVD, the risk grows greater all the time that 35mm prints of some films will fall into disuse and eventually disintegrate—especially lesser-known titles that have slipped through the cultural cracks, but are worthy of rediscovery.

As a focal point of the classic film noir revival, the Foundation serves as a conduit between film companies and repertory cinemas still eager to screen these films in 35mm. Revenues generated by ticket sales encourage studios film archives to strike new prints of films that are at risk of disappearing from public view, either through neglect or scarcity.

With rehearsals and work and everything else going on as we gear up for HEIST PLAY, I didn’t think I was going to get the chance to see any of the remarkable films being shown this week, but I was able to dash in to The Prowler at the last minute. It was two hours and ten dollars very well spent. The Prowler was restored only recently and is rarely shown. The film was fascinating, but perhaps even more compelling was the backstory shared with us prior to showtime by Muller and renowned Noir scholar Foster Hirsch. Produced in 1951 in the shadow of the House of Un-American Activities Committee, many of the people involved in the film’s making could not attach their names to it. It is billed as ‘A Horizon Films Production’ -- a moniker John Huston came up with to mask his involvement. The film’s producer, Sam Spiegel, is listed as ‘S. P. Eagle.‘ Most importantly, while the screenplay is credited to Hugo Butler, it was originally written by Dalton Trumbo.

After being blacklisted, Trumbo continued to work as a screenwriter, and had a ‘front’ stand in for him. Other such films include Spartacus, Gun Crazy, The Brave One and Roman Holiday, for which he received an Oscar posthumously. The producers of The Prowler were determined to get Trumbo’s signature on their film, come hell or highwater, so they did the only sensible thing. They cast him in it.

One of the creepiest and coolest elements of The Prowler is the presence of a radio (and later a record player) through which we hear the voice of Susan Gilvray’s husband. Susan was played by Evelyn Keyes in a really stellar performance -- Keyes was in the thick of a truly bizarre marriage to John Huston at the time, and while there is no way her situation was as strange as Susan’s in The Prowler; I’d imagine she had some great stuff to pull from. Quick synopsis: left alone throughout the day by her ‘ordinary’ radio announcer husband, Susan sees, or thinks she sees, a prowler at the window, and calls the police. All seems to be well at the house, but one of the cops, Webb Garwood, played by Van Heflin (TOTALLY AWESOME in this movie, by the way -- terrifying and wildly funny) has other ideas. His attempts at seduction are frequently put off by the voice of Susan’s husband, who is always in the house thanks to his daily radio program. Susan stops Webb from turning the radio off, saying her husband quizzes her on what he talked about. The unseen husband also signs off every night with a little charming ‘I’ll be seeing you, Susan,’ a phrase that becomes creepier and creepier as the movie goes on. We see Mr. Gilvray once in the movie, and in that scene he’s played by an actor, but every recording of Gilvray’s radio program is Dalton Trumbo, talking right to us, signing his movie the only way he can.

Muller and Hirsch really know their stuff, and their passion and wealth of knowledge were infectious. In talking about Spiegel, Huston and Trumbo, both scholars talked about the culture of fear in which the late noir films were made. It really is apparent in The Prowler, which focuses both on class war and, most prominently, on the ability of one human being to control and manipulate another using fear, guilt and shame as his tools. Webb Garwood is a real piece of work, and watching him twist and mold Susan, his friends and her family is fascinating, terrifying and sometimes very funny. That culture of fear really does permeate the film, particularly in those scenes where we watch Susan get deeper and deeper into his hornet’s nest without even realizing.

Webb is a terrifying, manipulative, calculating machine -- but he’s also a product of a society where he’s gotten a lot of bad breaks. The difference between Webb and Susan can be summed up in this: he thinks his life has been nothing but bad breaks keeping him from the life he deserves, and when he tells her this, she says ‘Well, everyone has bad breaks.’ Webb doesn’t see it that way. He wants Susan, and her big house, and her husband’s money, and to not be a cop anymore, but he doesn’t want to work for a dime of it. Hirsch, in the discussion following the movie, said that the truly bad guys or doomed people in film noir movies are the Joes and Janes ‘that want things and need things, but don’t feel they should have to work for them -- they’re entitled to them, and someone or something is standing in their way.’

Does this play into HEIST PLAY? You bet your fedora it does.

Here’s the point of all of this: if you’ve got time this week, run, don’t walk, to the Music Box and see one of the remarkable films they’re showing this week: Double Indemnity, The Killers, The Lady From Shanghai and many others. Make sure to get there early enough to hear the film introduced by these two really knowledgeable and fascinating guys. And make sure to get popcorn. I didn’t. It was the wrong choice. Always get the popcorn.

The Oddities of Rehearsal Spaces

From stage manager Bridget Dougherty

What this city really needs is what everyone had in college – a big wipe board with a schedule of all the rehearsal rooms on it and you just get to sign up on the board for when you need rehearsal space. And it’s free. It’s cause you pay tuition, but still, essentially free.

We have been moving around a bit with this show. Next week we get to move into our first real “home” where we can actually tape out the floor (yea!). Of course, this move comes just before we move into the actual performance space to begin tech, but whoo hoo! It’s a real rehearsal space!

Not that we haven’t been treated well as squatters at our usual space…

Pictured in rehearsal for Heist Play are Melissa Pryor and David Hornreich.

Or that our weekend rehearsal home (really a company members apartment) hasn’t been a cozy place to work.

Pictured are Aaron Dean and Neal Starbird.

Heck, it has even been nice getting to rehearse and do warm-ups while enjoying the gorgeous sunset...

Pictured are Joshua Davis, Katie Canavan, Byron Melton, Melissa Pryor and Neal Starbird.

But geeze, it will be nice to be in a real rehearsal space that is all our own. We’ll let you know how it goes.

From Actor David Hornreich

"Maybe Larry really does have super powers," Allison says. "Or Maybe he thinks he does, but Cosmo doesn't believe him. Maybe Larry doesn't have super powers at all."

I'm Larry. I may or may not have super powers.

"Maybe the brothers mug everyone they come across. Maybe not."

This is Allison's direction. It is focused, but non-prescriptive. It makes us think. It's super.

"Let's just try it again and see what happens."

And so we wander through the scene, trying things out. Gestures, ticks, shifting points of focus. Powers super, not-so-super, or althogether non-exisitent. We don't really know quite what the scene will look like when it's a finished product, but we know it will amount to a story that's worth telling and - should we do our jobs properly - well told.

It's in this moment I realize this rehearsal is a perfect microcosm of my own life.


At fourteen I decided I wanted to try acting. I was a shy kid. Only child. Liked reading. I tried acting because I was terrified by the very thought of it. Where was the order? In math class, for example, we learned that 1.5 = 3/2 = 3:2. This was irrefutably true. But in acting - all interpretation and nuance - what's true? What's right? It's chaos!

By seventeen I'd fallen in love with that chaos and told my parents I was going to make acting my major in college. I auditioned for shows and my life changed every time a cast list was posted. Defining my four years at college were the decisions of dozens of directors. I didn't know who would say "yes" to me, but I know some would, and out of those "yeses" would come adventure.

At twenty-two and on a whim I moved to Chicago. In the five years I've been here I've attempted many things. I've failed - a lot - but I've succeeded too. All things considered, I'm satisfied with the ratio.

And on I go, figuring things out. Today I audition for theatre, commercial voiceover, on-camera work, print, tradeshows; I act, direct, write, teach. I don't know which of these things will take off and which won't. But I'm trying things and seeing what happens. And while I don't quite know what my life will end up looking like when it's all said and done, I know it will amount to a story that's worth telling and - so long as I still have my wits - well told.


Back in the microcosm, we finish the scene. Some of the things we'd tried didn't work - at all. But others did, and we can tell that we're progressing. Slowly but surely. We're getting there. Allison offers her notes and her encouragement.

"Really good," she says. "Let's try it again."

And on we go, figuring things out.

From Playwright Mitch Vermeersch

One of the cool things about writing a play is that you get to justify as “research” what others might call “profound waste of time.” Over the past few months I’ve spent a despicable amount of time watching noir films as research for Heist Play and I’ve come across a lot that I think everyone should see because they’re awesome. There are many more great movies than I could cover in one post, but for this entry I thought I would just mention a few that I think are very cool and worth checking out.

Double Indemnity – A noir classic and one of my favorite movies. Double Indemnity exemplifies what makes film noir film noir: doomed love, murder, the perfect crime, first person narration, flashback structure, stylistic cinematography. Fred MacMurray, Barbara Stanwyck and Edward G. Robinson are brilliant and the dialogue is some of the best in all of film noir.

Gun Crazy – A precursor to Bonnie and Clyde, this movie follows the tragic love affair of a couple whose love for each other is matched only by their love of guns. Shocking for its day, the cinematography in this film takes steps that are way ahead of its time. The famous one-take Hampton Robbery sequence alone is reason enough to watch.

Detour – While noir films were traditionally low budget movies, Detour makes the Maltese Falcon look like Pirates of the Caribbean. Shot in six days, Edgar G. Ulmer’s incredibly sparse and fatalistic tragedy about a traveling man whose every move seems cursed by bad luck is creepy creepy creepy and will leave you feeling paranoid for days.

Rififi – This one set the standard for all heist films to come. Jules Dassin’s direction of this French movie is astounding not only for his typically gorgeous visuals, but for the unbelievable suspense he creates. The famous heist sequence runs a quarter of the film’s length without music or dialogue, and manages to be one of the most captivating scenes I’ve ever watched.

Leave Her to Heaven –Despite being shot in color, this movie is typically referred to as a part of the noir cycle because of Gene Tierney’s terrifying portrayal of Ellen Berent, a femme fatale that will scare the crap out of you. Without spoiling anything, the silent drowning sequence in this film still gives me chills.

These are just a few. I will go into more in the next entry. However as it is late and I cannot think of a clever way to end this one, I will close with a chunk of dialogue from Double Indemnity. This is one of many reasons why I love film noir:

Neff: I wish you’d tell me what’s engraved on that anklet.

Phyllis: Just my name.

Neff: As for instance?

Phyllis: Phyllis.

Neff: Phyllis, huh. I think I like that.

Phyllis: But you’re not sure.

Neff: I’d have to drive it around the block a couple of times.

Phyllis: Mr. Neff, why don’t you drop by tomorrow evening around 8:30. He’ll be in then.

Neff: Who?

Phyllis: My husband. You were anxious to talk to him, weren’t you?

Neff: Yeah, I was. But I’m sort of getting over the idea, if you know what I mean.

Phyllis: There’s a speed limit in this state, Mr. Neff, 45 miles an hour.

Neff: How fast was I going, Officer?

Phyllis: I’d say around 90.

Neff: Suppose you get down off your motorcycle and give me a ticket.

Phyllis: Suppose I let you off with a warning this time.

Neff: Suppose it doesn’t take.

Phyllis: Suppose I have to whack you over the knuckles.

Neff: Suppose I bust out crying and put my head on your shoulder.

Phyllis: Suppose you try putting it on my husband’s shoulder.

Neff: That tears it…