Monday, December 27, 2010

From actor Alyse Kittner, ESCAPE FROM THE HALTSBURG BOYS CHOIR's 'Nils'

Happy almost New Year, Blog!

Here comes the Boys Choir bonanza. Up first, the delightful Alyse Kittner. Alyse is really kicking the sh%t out of this little musi-cale of ours, and now I know why -- it's all because of Google! Also, anything that conjures images of Adam West-era Batman villains is a-ok with me. Take it away, Alyse.

Alyse Kittner in a promotional photo for ESCAPE FROM THE HALTSBURG BOYS CHOIR

Sunday Fun with Google Images

As a part of my “process” (I know that sounds pretentious – deal with it) I like to use images. It may be a picture of how I envision my character, the setting, something that visualizes my relationship to other characters, lots of stuff.

Thanks to the brilliance of Google Image search, finding images for inspiration has never been more easy or fun. The actual algorithms of how Google searches and ranks images and websites is a highly guarded secret. I have no idea how they do it, but the results are fantastic and most often hilarious. My favorite search has been “creepy choirmaster.” Below are the results. Thank you Google Images.

Bonus: “funny boys choir” – I don’t know who these kids are, but I love it.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

On the writing of music, by the wonderful Jason Rico.

Gustav Mahler once said "If a composer could say what he had to say in words he would not bother trying to say it in music."

And that's what I'm usually doing. I write these little black odds, lines and squiggles all over pieces of paper. I give these pieces of paper to someone who either hits, taps on, blows in or runs some hair along a device that makes sound. If all goes as planned, the sound you hear matches the squiggles I put on that piece of paper. That is how I write a perform my plays. I call them movements instead of acts, and instruments instead of actors, but to me, the concept is the same and I have the extra advantage of writing in a language everyone understands.

Once in a while, a composer reads a book or a poem and thinks, "Hey, this would sound great set to music!" That's how songs and operas are born.

Occasionally, a composer is gifted with not only music, but story writing ability and can create a great play or book himself so he can add a musical line to it.

But sometimes, a composer is selling computers and a coworker runs up to him, so excited he thinks she may explode and she says:

"Oh my gosh, you have to read this play, because I know the playwright and he is conceiving it as a musical and I know you'd be perfect for it because the play is perfect for you and this needs to happen as soon as possible."

Or something to that effect.

And that is how a straight play entitled "Escape From the Haltsburg Boys Choir" becomes a fantastic musical produced by The Ruckus.

"Escape.." is a wonderful project to work on for many reasons. The Ruckus is all over some new stage work. Aaron Dean is a fantastic playwright and perfection to work with. The material is so well written that the songs (almost) wrote themselves.

I got lots of influence from pop music and 17th century choral music to name a few sources and had the unique opportunity to be able to craft some of my own lyrics, which isn’t always the case for a musical. I also have the honor of having seen the type of production The Ruckus puts on which helps me adapt my ideas to their stage ideals.

The official blurb can be read on a preceding entry, but I'd like to give you a little more insight, without ruining the story. Imagine yourself a kid with not much memory of your parents, if any. Imagine you have one of the most beautiful treble voices in Europe. Imagine someone wanting to cut your balls of to keep you that way. Do you remain a choirboy forever or search for what else is out there, be it fantastic, grotesque or life threatening?

Come to the world premiere in January and find out, cause lemme tell you… you better use 'em or lose 'em.

Born in 1978, Jason Rico is an American composer of instrumental, vocal and theater music. He has created a body of work in multiple genres including symphonic, wind ensemble, choral, art song, chamber music and opera. Rico studied composition with Michael Schelle at Butler University and with Andrey Kasparov and Adolphus Hailstork at Old Dominion University and completed the doctorate program in music at Manhattan School of Music. Rico’s compositional style has been praised for it’s complex and truly American style. He is currently Music Director for Quixotic, a sketch comedy troupe based in Chicago.

Workshoppe. A blog, by Aaron Dean of the Michigan Deans.

[Editor's note: much of the charm of Aaron's bloggery lies in its haphazardness. Much is retained, for authenticity's sake, bless it.]

[Blogger's note: I tried to do this legit, and of course it did not work. We must teach this man to fish. Most spelling errors are intentional. ]

Hello again blog,

Today I have been commanded to write to you on the workshop process for Escape From The Haltsburg Boys Choir. I think every playwright dreams of hearing her words spoken on stage by actors. I have to say, it is a nice old time. I have been lucky enough to see it done about three times or so.

So that would make EFTHBC my fourth play written with intent to perform. But this was neat, this time, because I had the added bonus of doing a workshop.

A workshop [editor's note: at least, as we of The Ruckus do them] is where you almost do the play. It is like a full on performance in many respects except you hear comments and impressions from the people who are good enough to brave yellow skies and share breathing space with shady people who leave five minutes into the performance because of the show's lack of "young boys" therein.

[Editor's note: That really happened. "I was told there would be boys!" Also, the actors hold scripts and work from music stands and someone reads stage directions and the focus is on rewriting. Just sayin'.]

Sleep tight, blog readers.

I cannot blog to you how valuable this process was to me. I was three drafts into the show when we put that workshoppe uppe.

After we finished, I blogged two more drafts. Two days after it closed. I sat up there in the dark, blogging like a real playwright. What a cast, what a director, what a composer, my goodness what a group. I am so thankful. This workshop stuff, if all goes well, fills one with much confidence, and inspiration. And not just for me, but for all involved. One seldom gets the chance to hear candid and constructive comments in the actual performance, and one is not as heady with their achievements, so we actually listen. And want to.

A treat indeed, nothing short of it. Workshops ain't for Santa's elves any longer. This I speak truly.

Thank you all who came to see it, and say stuff about it. Thank you to all who helped make it happen. And thank you ahead of time for your work in what lies ahead!

Friday, May 7, 2010

Making the Video: The Gay American trailer #2

Or what one might call 'Stevie, Neal, Julie and Aaron unleash their inner Britneys'. Trailer forthcoming, photos below. Big thanks to Ruckuser Byron Melton, who produced, actors Stevie Chaddock, Julie Cowden, Aaron Dean and Neal Starbird, who thoroughly brought it, and Jared Ewing of LJE Productions, who generously donated his time and considerable talents. Give him yer bizness!

Product placement!

Hell of a family portrait, don't you think?

Oh, poor Morag.

Straight gangster.

Stage Manager Lizzy Powers has her turn in the stall.

Byron is such an auteur.

It's Britney, b*#ch!

Brian Ruby costars as the Statue of Liberty.

Thanks again, Jared!


You know your playwright is onto something when:

Final draft, courtesy of some index cards and a little shrine of sorts.

Circa April 25th-ish: Kristian O'Hare maps out all three acts by scene in the shadow of Liberace (from the Liberace museum, which Kristian calls 'the only good thing about Vegas), Jim McGreevey's book 'The Confession' (or as I like to call it, 'The Confession-ish'), and a vinyl copy of David Bowie's 'The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars' (which we both call 'awesome'.)

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

This cannot possibly be happening. Is this really happening?

Oh. My. God.

Dig this:

Join The Ruckus and Pandora Boxx for Biscuits & Mangravy: a filthy, naughty, witty, not-for-the-faint-of-heart fundraiser benefiting the company's world-premiere production of The Gay American. “The Lizard King” and Freddie Donovan host an evening of cocktails, lip syncing, celebrity judges and a performance by Ms. Pandora Boxx herself. So bring your cash and your cutest pumps (wigs are provided) and join us for a ruck of a good time. Doors open at 10pm ($10 cover). Free Colt beer from 10pm – 12am; $3 Mini-Teas benefit The Ruckus.

I know, right?

PS - Boxx Forever. Love, The Ruckus.

"It made me want a hot dog, real bad."

From Freddie Donovan, appearing as Philly Buster in THE GAY AMERICAN:

I was sitting at work, not sure what I was working on, probably a spreadsheet, when my phone buzzed on my mouse pad. I always have my phone on my mouse pad. One time it buzzed while my boss was sitting at my computer showing me something. That was embarrassing. Anyway, it buzzed, and tearing myself away from Excel, I saw that my friend Allison had texted me. She wanted to know if I would be interested in coming to Chicago for two months to do a show called The Gay American, in which I would play a Congressional page named Philly Buster who moonlighted as a go-go dancer and had a penchant for older male politicians. Given my own sordid past as Private Dancer for the Cheney family, I was intrigued.

After reading the script, I decided that the insane story of a gay governor, his strange estranged wife, their disturbed daughter and a pedophile Congressman was a little hard to swallow. If you know what I mean. It was too outrageous when it wasn't being hilarious and bizarrely heartwarming. There was no way a cast could make this story believable. But then I found out that the story was TRUE. I was apparently the last person to hear about Jim McGreevey when I Wikipedia'd him in February. But that's beside the point. I knew I had to be a part of something this biting, outspoken, real, and most importantly, important.

Upon arriving in town, I knew one of the first orders of business would be to find Buster's footwear, as he is often found within the pages of the script wearing rollerskates and go-go boots. The first time I skated was when I was on a third grade field trip, and I was the proud recipient of the Most Bruises Award, which consisted of a cheap certificate and a package of glow stars to stick on my ceiling. The second time I skated was Easter Sunday 2010 on a sidewalk by Lake Michigan. The x-rays showed that the damage was minimal. Onwards and upwards!

As for the go-go boots, Allison and I scrounged around Boystown one sunny day looking for the perfect pair. I wanted a pair that exploded with neon pink or orange and went up to my knees. After an afternoon of zero leads, I went out a few days later, once again in the town of Boys, for an altogether unrelated purpose, when I saw them: shiny, slick, and although not neon pink or green, they did explode with the patriotic fervor of a thousand Fourth of Julys. It made me want a hot dog real bad.

The perfect pair of go-go boots.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Thursday, March 4, 2010

"Trade a coffee shop for a dive bar."

The last of our new five to make a blog appearance is Kate Holst. Kate makes the trains run on time, but she also tries to make the trains party trains. She isn't on board with Battlestar Galactica yet, so instead I'll speak her language and make a Deadwood reference: "This is her f*#^king blog entry, pardner."

Bloggtastic! Alright kids – I’m Kate, formally Katie, sometimes K-Ho. I’ve known Allison since we were in High School and the word on the street is hated one another for a majority of it. Seriously though, we didn't really become friends until we worked on our senior year production of Kiss Me Kate (I only wish I had a picture to include here).

[Editor's note: Kate -- you're welcome.]

After that our friendship was sealed after many conversations about where the best spinach and artichoke dip existed in Grand Rapids and whether or not one should eat it with chips or bread. Today we prefer pita bread, never fries.

So yeah…I grew up in Grand Rapids, Michigan (well Jenison, but Grand Rapids is much more interesting, trust me or ask Allison) and for me Chicago was the place I always wanted to be. When I was a freshman in High School my teacher asked us to write a paper about where we saw ourselves when we were 30 years old. Mine said that I would be living in Chicago, working in the theatre and married to an Art History Professor. We would eat Chinese food on the floor of our studio apartment and hang out at our favorite coffee shop on the weekends. My teacher told me that it was a bit idealistic, but he wished me luck. So here I am being a bit idealistic and not quite 30. For clarity's sake I think I should mention that a few key differences to this earlier plan: not married, no longer think Chinese food is the most exotic or interesting thing to eat, and trade a coffee shop for a dive bar.

My mom also likes to tell a particularly silly little story about bringing me on a trip to Chicago when I was twelve years old - I begged her to take me to the Art Institute immediately. Apparently, I couldn’t bear to be close to a Picasso without seeing it in person. My mom can be a bit dramatic in its retelling, however the truth is The Old Guitarist still has this affect on me when I am at the museum.

Needless to say, I have always been interested in art in its many forms and have been passionate about finding my place in this world for as long as I can remember. I didn’t start working in theatre until the end of high school and didn’t get to Chicago until just a few months ago – however I know that this is the place for me, even if (as they say in Avenue Q) it is only for now.

Kate Holst is a Chicago based theater professional and artist, and is one of the newest members of The Ruckus. She's worked with theater companies all over the country, from The Alliance in Atlanta to Vermont's Weston Playhouse and many in between. She's currently the Audience Services Manager at Evanston's Next Theatre and is working her way through all of Chicago's dive bars and spinach dips.

Friday, February 26, 2010

"Shout out to nerds in their twenties and thirties."

Our latest in the series of posts I'm affectionately calling "better-know-a-Ruckuser" comes from production manager and bad-joke-teller extraordinaire Brian Ruby. Brian's the guy who can always get you what you need -- like the guy in The Shawshank Redemption that gets Tim Robbins the Rita Hayworth poster, only theater-related. Brian is also the only new Ruckus member who appreciates the Cylon jokes I've been making. Take it away, Brian!

Following in the footsteps of my fellow new additions to The Ruckus, allow my to start by blogging about blogging for a moment. Unlike the others, I must admit that I have a past that includes blogging. I had a blogger account; in college I was on LiveJournal; hell, I even had a blog of sorts on my old Angelfire website (Shout out to nerds in their twenties and thirties). I was of course not a real blogger per se, but rather I rambled somewhat self-indulgently in a manner none would care to read. (Side note: Microsoft Word does not recognize the words blog, blogger or blogging, but why should it, those word have only been in the lexicon a scant ten years or so). [Editor's note: iWork recognizes those words. Just sayin'. -- AS]

I suppose my involvement in theater technically began at summer camp when I was young, performing in plays crudely written by our counselors, and dealing primarily with the events of that summer. Looking back I suppose it was all rather Brechtian considering that due to a general lack of acting ability we mostly wore signs around our necks with our character names on them, though I’m guessing that was not a conscious choice on behalf of the camp and rather a happy accident I later realized.

In high school I reconnected with theater, acting in my schools play and musicals, as well as building sets, and becoming involved in local summer productions. At the time I viewed all this as merely a hobby, a belief I carried with me into college and my initial participation in the theater program there. It was over my first few summers home from college that I gained the certainty that theater was what I would pursue as a career. Returning home from my first year at college I found that the summer theater I had been involved with in the past was no longer in existence and took it upon myself to fill the void. Through mounting multiple productions with a company I created over the next few summers I realized that my passion was theater. That belief was only cemented by the time I spent studying theater in London and getting the chance to see approximately 75 plays in one of the most amazing cities for theater in the world.

I’ve worked with a number of theaters in Chicago, and while my experiences with them have ranged from wonderful to horrible, The Ruckus is the first group that’s made me feel like I have a home. I’ve been thrilled to work with them in the past, and look forward to everything I will do as one of them in the future.

Brian Ruby is a Chicago based director, designer and generally awesome guy. He was one of several talented directors that made TELL IT & SPEAK IT & THINK IT & BREATHE IT possible, and he'll be working tirelessly on The Gay American this spring. Brian is also an avid fan of bad movies; if you've got a great one, email

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Friends of The Ruckus!

I just launched the latest edition to The Ruckus' website: Friends of The Ruckus. Check it out!

Our first Featured Friend: ElvisBride.

Wanna be friends with The Ruckus? Come and join the fun.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

The Gay American - Teaser Trailer #1

Etcetera IX here we come. [Byron Melton]

I got in touch with my old pal Chris Rutherford, (exceptional playwright, actor and producer who’s been making his living in the Tampa scene for the past few years) and borrowed a script.

The first time Chris and I worked together we put up a small art show in the “gallery” on the first floor of our dorm.

It was a concept piece based around a hip-hop record cover from 1989. The Album and the show shared the same name:

“What is it, Yo?!”

The show mostly included garbage and found art. Scene shop dumpster diving will reveal some real treasures. We dressed up in suits, invited the press, and help court at the grand opening. Many people suspected it was a joke. We had no comments for them. The only thing we told people was that:

To this day I still really don’t know if it was a joke. And all this was done before I had ever done any drugs or drank heavily.

Chris and I teamed up a few times over the years, and later our projects turned to short films. He wrote a great script called “What Lies Ahead” and we never got to shoot it.

I thought it might be perfect for submission when Allison approached me about getting something together for this.

It’s a great script – I think with the right tweaking it might make a pretty cool short play. And given that Etcetera this year is billed as “four nights of contemporary, experimental, progressive, and interdisciplinary live performance”, I think we can show those sword swallowers and acrobats that theatre isn’t always cherry orchards and cancer.

So we’ll see if it wants to fly as a short play. Film on stage Byron? You swore off projectors. They never work! Well, maybe it’ll be different this time. I read somewhere that if Shakespeare was alive today he’d be doing films. Maybe this humble project can bridge the gap.

Also, I have no shortage of good actors around me. Who doesn’t have time to memorize 15 pages of dense, rapid–fire dialogue?

Further bulletins as events warrant.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Birthday Party!

We celebrated the second birthday/reading of our upcoming play, The Gay American by Kristian O'Hare this evening. We learned a lot--both about the play and the maximum length of audio recordings in GarageBand--and can't wait to punch you in the face with this awesome new "farcudrama" (c) The Ruckus, 2010. Watch us Ruckusers and our co-conspiring friends work to make this play better one slice of red velvet cake at a time.

Want in on the action? E-mail us at or visit

Intrigued, enticed and excited to see the thing? Get in line. Tickets go on sale soon.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

"Flugelbone (yes, it's a real instrument)."

Our next little getting-to-know-you moment comes from Timo Aker. Timo is definitely not a Cylon. A Cylon would never play the flugelbone.

Ummmmmmmmm. Ok. I have a confession to make: I've never blogged before. Also, I don't usually read blogs. So. I feel a little like:

Anyway. Enough apologizing, it’s boring.

Oh, and let’s just put it out there that I go by the nickname Timo because my full name is Timuchin, and my parents liked calling me Timo. Maybe it makes sense because my dad’s from Istanbul, Turkey? Maybe I just have strange parents…

So, I grew up playing the piano (my mom’s a concert violist). My favorite composers are Beethoven, Chopin, and Arvo Part. I was a band geek in high school. I played trombone during the winter season, and flugelbone (yes, it’s a real instrument) while we were in marching band mode. We were a competition marching band. I was section leader for my last 2 years. Geek.

The first time I did theater was when I was a sophomore in high school. My friend said I should try out, and she was cute. I was cast as Horace Vandergelder in Thorton Wilder’s The Matchmaker. I had no clue what I was doing, but I thought it was pretty cool that I got to yell “Hell and damnation” a few times without repercussions.

Before continuing to get into theater in college I got into hiking and backpacking. I’ve done a lot of both in Killarney Provincial Park in Ontario, and I’ve also done some of the Appalachian Trail, and climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. I got some bitchin’ pictures from that…

I’ve never really had an enlightened hallelujah moment of calling to do theater. It’s snuck up on me over the years. Maybe because it’s a way of combining experiences and other forms of art into one thing, and I like putting all sorts of things together to create something. I was REALLY into legos.

And I’m really glad to be surrounded by people who want to make new things and think about them.

Timo Aker, one of the newest members of The Ruckus, is a Chicago based writer, actor, musician, and man about town. He appeared in this fall's Tell It & Speak It & Think It & Breathe It. He also takes great photos and wears jaunty hats, both with great regularity.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

"Blog, meet Aaron. Aaron, meet blog."

We've asked the five newest Ruckusers - Kate, Brian, Byron, Aaron and Timo - to write something about who they are and what they do and post it here. Left-handed? Right-handed? Human? Cylon? You'll find out in the coming week. First up is Aaron Dean.

To begin with. I hate the term "blog," gross. It sounds so gross. Bllooooahhhgggg. I don't wanna seem like a sourpuss, but who wants to read this anyway? Not I said the Lance. I have not seen the Juno. But I am hesitant, because word 'round the campfire is they say 'blog' in it a lot for no reason, and I don't think I can handle that. I am also not too keen on this sudden onslaught of movies about the joys of unwanted pregnancy.

So, blog, meet Aaron. Aaron, meet blog.

When I was six, my ma and grandma took me to see 42nd Street at the Frauenthal Theatre in downtown Muskegon, MI.

I really enjoyed it. I was really jazzed up about all the singing and dancing and energy. And from then on... I was hooked. Gross. I hate those stories. But, it is a true story.

Theater did not resurface again until I was fourteen and and I auditioned for my first play. But I was hooked on storytelling. I spent all my time outside when I was little, acting out the stories I had read or imagined to myself. We never had money for camps or little league, but I had an allowance so I had comic books, so I had stories, and a lot of space. Fields and rivers and forests and lakes. Then I won a scholarship to art camp. And that was neat, because I was with all these kids who had taken lessons all their lives, and had been in lots of plays. They were all really depressed all the time. I am sure it was affectation. But I bought it, and it made the girls seem sort of sexy. Of this I am sure they were aware.

Then I did high school and became the "drama guy" at a rural high school that did one musical a year. And that was nice because all anyone wants in high school is niche, and I found it.

Then I went to college and it was art camp again. Only instead of pretending they were depressed, they pretended they were deliriously happy all the time, and by that time I was actually depressed. But in real life, they were too.

Then I came to Chicago, and have been working with adults who are in a little more control of their identities. And that has made theater, for the first time, tolerable.

Aaron Dean, one of the newest members of The Ruckus, is a Chicago playwright, actor, musician and novelist. He also babysits and gives drum lessons. Catch him in The Gay American this spring.