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Monday, January 18

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The General Admssion Sat Jan 05 2013

Column: The General Admission

On Christmas Eve, I walked along the beach near my hometown in Florida; the day after Christmas, it was back to the Chicago snow. It's my second winter in the city, and while everyone tells me how mild the two have been, I still don't like anything below 75 degrees. If you ever meet me in person, I won't admit that I don't like the winter, though -- I'll tell you, "I can handle it." This snow-white lie is something that I want to believe, at least halfway convince myself, so I don't freeze to death and so people will stop telling me to deal with it.

Although I wanted to stay with my family in the metaphorical (sun kissed, orange blossom, tropical) Florida paradise, I had to come back for The Straight and Narrow, a show I co-wrote that had a one-off performance at Stage 773 last Thursday (Dec. 27). My friend Jane Blackburn-Hammer (wearing the tiara in the above promo photo for the show) and I wrote the play together, and a few months ago we had submitted to Stage 773 as part of their pro-theater space proposal program. Opportunities like producing my first play -- although I never thought a comedy -- are the main reason I moved to Chicago. Stage 773 chose our proposal and gave us the Dec. 27 date. Two days after Christmas is not the ideal time for a one-off show, but the theater offered us their (really nice and big) space for free and that's hard to pass up no matter what the weather.

We were worried that Christina, playing "Nancy," would get stuck in Cleveland because of snow, but she made it and the whole cast met an hour early to do our last run-through, our first on the stage. For about six or seven weeks, we had weekly rehearsals at the director's apartment in Uptown; here again, an apartment isn't ideal, but we didn't have to pay for rehearsal space (our/my life budget was/is zero). Most of these rehearsals were spent laughing and gossiping, which I chalk up to the "process."

We had one legit run-through in front of an audience at Kitchen Sink, a café off the Berwyn Red Line stop. The owner of Kitchen Sink (where I host a monthly open mic) had heard about our play and sent me a Facebook message about putting on a preview at the space. "Non-conventional theater space," as you would. Having a run in front of live people is extremely valuable, because it makes you realize that shit is real. One of the shop's employees (and CLLAW ladies) Erin Stevens designed our poster and owner Ally Brisbin printed them off for us. Remember the zero-budget for the show? Community members can surprise you, if you put it out there.

When we opened the house at Stage 773, I halfway thought that we'd have about four people in the audience. Friends of mine who've been performing in the city for years have told stories about one-person audiences. There is a lot of comedy going on in Chicago so people have choices, and throw in the holidays and weather... well, four people wouldn't be a bad crowd. I worked the sound booth, and when I flashed the house lights I was surprised to see about 30 audience members.

Although we didn't have a lot of rehearsal time or space or budget, when the lights went up, I couldn't stop laughing, because, well, we did it.


"I've been so nervous all day that I couldn't eat," Jane said to a small group of us outside.

Jane's frosty breath hung in the night air. The thought of my alarm clock taunted me (I had to work the next morning) but some nights you have to keep it going -- it would be a huge mistake to call it an early night. The sidewalk was slippery, a little frozen over by ice and I did my best not to fall as we walked to Clarke's on Belmont.

The diner was almost empty and it played a mix of Barry Manilow and *NSYNC Christmas music. We told stories and laughed at things we probably shouldn't, like [redacted] and [redacted]. I laughed so hard that I forgot about the snow, at least for the night.

photo courtesy: Carol Bontekoe of Colorful Cow Photography

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Architecture Tue Nov 03 2015

Paul Goldberger Describes the "Pragmatism and Poetry" of Frank Gehry's Architecture in His New Book

By Nancy Bishop

Architecture critic Paul Goldberger talks about Frank Gehry's life and work in a new book.
Read this feature »

Steve at the Movies Fri Jan 01 2016

Best Feature Films & Documentaries of 2015

By Steve Prokopy

Read this column »


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