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TODAY

Monday, February 18

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Over the past 10 years Dado has become an exciting and valuable fixture within Chicago theater. As a director, Dado has worked with such stalwarts as A Red Orchid Theatre, Shattered Globe, Victory Gardens, Mary-Arrchie Theatre, Trapdoor and Prop Theatre. A few highlights of her directing career have been the Jeff Recommended The Seahorse, the smash hit The Fastest Clock in the Universe (both at AROT), the Jeff Cited Midwestern premier of Coyote on a Fence (SG), and Tracer's for which she received a Jeff Citation (M-AT). Recently, Dado received the 2005-2006 Michael Maggio Directing Fellowship at The Goodman Theatre. She serves as the Director of Education for Emerald City Theatre Company as well as an artistic associate.

Dado directs A Red Orchid Theatre's current production of The Hothouse by Harold Pinter. Tribune critic Chris Jones has commented that Pinter's play is "now enjoying a rare, immersive and wholly worthwhile Chicago revival at A Red Orchid Theatre, courtesy of the always-provocative director Dado." The play runs through December 3 (Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 8pm, Sunday at 7pm) at 1531 N. Wells St. For ticket information, information on A Red Orchid Theatre's newly opened season, and for season subscriptions visit www.aredorchidtheatre.org.

Q: Writers who also direct have the advantage of having it already "built" into the directorial process how their characters are to reflect the writer/director's vision — the easiest example of what I'm thinking about here would be Woody Allen. However, when being solely a director, how are you able to infiltrate the characters of a particular play and help the actors bring through them your vision of the production?—

Dado: I don't infiltrate the characters; the actors do all the work. I'm the medium. I say yes, no, maybe. Sometimes, on a particular work, I see a character in a very specific way, but I try to remain open to the actor's sensibility for the role. If I have already cast an actor in a role it is because I believe that they already fit into my "vision" (which is constantly totally evolving) of the play. I already know that they can play the role. They don't have to worry about that; they have to memorize their lines, and establish their relationship to the other characters (or not) and the environment (or not). A great deal of what I do happens before the rehearsal process ever begins, and that is casting the play. I do that really well. If actors are worried that they are not right for the role or that I think they suck then they can't do their job.

I managed to infuriate the actors in The Hothouse recently by refusing to answer their questions about the specific location of the play. They kept asking me, "Where are we?" and I kept saying "I don't know" or "Where do you think you are?" This really pissed them off. But the thing about Pinter is he is so specific and so ambiguous all at once. So I kept saying [to] play the stakes in the scene and play what you know. The audience is not going to know exactly where we are, so you have to decide for yourself but we are not serving the play if we try to lock down all these specifics together. What we know is that it is Christmas Eve and we are in an institution. That is all that Harold Pinter tells us. He didn't tell us where the play was set, so why should I?

Q: Poetry, story-telling, painting, sculpture, music, dance: each of these artistic endeavors is able to stand alone — work on its own; accomplish a "message" on its own. Theater needs all of the aforementioned artistic endeavors to work and to accomplish. Have you ever located a moment within theater where theater has successfully relied purely on itself to exist?

Dado: No I absolutely haven't. Theater is a collaborative effort. Even if you are doing a monologue in a park next to a fountain you still need the park and the fountain and you need people to see you doing the monologue. If you do that same monologue alone in your basement in the dark, then that's not theater. You could argue that anything is collaborative. You could argue that painting is collaborative if you wanted to because the artist needs the exact right brush, the exact right texture of surface, the exact right color, and the exact light to be able to execute his painting — that is a collaboration of the elements, wouldn't you say? I guess my brain works only in collaboration mode, because I can't see theater as anything but that.

Q: I'm sorry if this is too obvious a question, but I'm wondering what the Chicago theater audience has brought to you and your craft? It sometimes seems to me that the audience here in our city is the best talent there is in Chicago theater, and I'm wondering how this talent has informed you as a director?

Dado: After a production I've directed opens, I find I come back frequently to see it. I learn a lot watching the work I've done with a live audience that is different every night. Sometimes you give an actor a note three weeks in to the rehearsal process and two weeks into the run you see it materialize, for whatever variety of reasons, and that is fascinating to me. I also like to experience the play with various audiences, I don't know how to describe it, but they teach you things. I worked for years in the office at Blue Man Group and I would sneak over and peek in at the end of the show whenever I could. I learn a lot from watching the phenomenon that is theater.

One of the really terrific things about Chicago audiences is its diversity. It is terrific but also under-utilized. I recently directed a play from Serbia and the Serbian community really came out of the woodwork to see this production. I can't say they were terribly pleased, but they came to check it out at least. A lot of them were visibly upset, and some of them left. But it was moving to see them in the seats. I used to work with the European Repertory Company and a lot of their audience was Russian. The Russian audience is very different from the American audience. They are reverent during the performance, not as vocal as American audiences, and then they are effusive at the curtain, clapping and sometimes staying after to speak to the actors. I wish Chicago could do more work that could pull these communities out, and I wish Chicago could do more to unite these communities as well. I know Chicago has a reputation for risk taking but there are certain plays and certain audiences that can tolerate those risks. You may have noticed lots of the bigger theaters doing things like Pillowman and radical versions of King Lear, and then you see smaller houses doing stuff like Come Back Little Sheba and A Room with a View. I have to wonder why this is — do the bigger houses have less to lose on those kinds of risks? Are the smaller houses focusing on building a stronger subscriber base?

I'm not claiming to know the answers, but I think they are good questions. We are in Chicago. There are a lot of communities out there that need theater — Serbians, Latin Americans, Indian, Polish, Russian, Asian — and what are we doing to serve those communities? We can go see a play about wealthy white people anytime, but what about these other pockets of the world that live in our city, what about their heritage, their ideals or dreams or problems? I like to read about what companies like Silk Road and Congo Square are doing. How do we perpetuate the act of theater so that is accessible to all of us, and not just a few?

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About the Author(s)

John Hospodka is a life-long Chicagoan, and today lives with his wife in Bridgeport. He does not profess to be an expert in anything; he's just a big fan of the arts and is eager to make more sense of them. Direct comments or suggestions for interviews to tqf@gapersblock.com.

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