Ever wonder what happens behind the scenes leading up to opening night at the theater? Do you have any idea how much detail goes into a stage production? Can you imagine the funny moments that could take place while building a set or rehearsing lines? Do directors really get as frustrated as we hear?
Theater Wit brings to the stage the latest, and possibly most innovated, work by author Anne Washburn 10 Out of 12. A headset rests on each seat in the theater for audience members to wear as they become engulfed the midst of tech rehearsals just one week prior to a production opening. We hear random chatter and instruction from the stage crew as 10 Out of 12 gives us an in-depth view of the goings on behind the scenes of mounting a show. Burns, known most recently as the playwright behind Mr. Burns, A Post Electric Play that found a successful run at Theater Wit in 2014, delves into the high stress that comes with detailing theater specifics such as lighting, cues and prop placement while also touching on actor stereotypes, tantrums and the desire in some to hold their work to a standard that demands integrity.
“No one in Chicago has ever seen anything like 10 Out of 12. Simultaneously exacting real-to-life and riotously funny, Anne Washburn’s detonation of a single technical rehearsal is promising to be a unique and thrilling viewing experience,” said Jeremy Wechsler, Artistic Director of Theater Wit and director of 10 Out of 12.
We watch as the production team fastens bolts to secure the set, samples the lighting and sound from scene to scene, place each mark to the director’s satisfaction and amuse themselves during down time. We see actors rehearsing their lines, suggesting where changes might be made (usually to the director’s chagrin). In our headsets we get a real feel for the high levels of demand that must be met along within a time crunch that increases by the minute. We also hear stage hands discussing their lunch and such, along with occasional side remarks about what is transpiring on the set. The fourth wall is often broken with actors using the aisles and theater as though an audience were not present, the director and actors often taking a seat amongst us to watch their handiwork from a patron vantage point.
The production as a whole is a truly inimitable experience and provides an insight to theater that most may not be familiar with, adding a new appreciation for the art. Upon leaving the theater many discuss how they’ve had no idea the work and precision involved in mounting a play, making 10 Out of 12 an informative piece – perhaps also an homage to those behind the scenes.
Star Chicago theater personalities are recruited to provide pre-recorded roles such as John Mahoney, Martha Lavey, Barbara Robertson and Jeremy Wechsler, Mahoney delivering some of the play’s funniest lines. The stage cast also packs a punch with Erin Long, Adam Shalzi, Dado, and Riley McGliveen as the production team, Shane Kenyon as The Director, and Eunice Woods, Gregory Fenner, Christine Vrem-Ydstie, Kyle Gibson and Stephen Walker as the actors. Walker, taking advantage of several moments to shine in only the way he can in delivering highly-charged monologues with just the right amount of entitlement and sardonic flair as the veteran actor brought in to bring credence to the production. Walker’s character questions the truthfulness in his character, conflicted by his passion for honest art, which he feels is losing its grip in modern day theater.
So what does the title 10 Out of 12 mean? A 10 out of 12 is a day in which, per the rules of Actors Equity, the actors are contracted to work for 12 hours with one 2-hour dinner break. It’s during that time that all the designing elements of the production are united as a whole, as costumes, sound, lighting, projections, set and acting are fine-tuned just prior to a show’s opening.
When asked why she wrote a play about a tech rehearsal, Washburn descriptively states, “A decade ago most theaters didn’t have Wi-Fi…and no one is more useless in tech than the playwright. So, I began taking notes. I was fascinated by the strange surreal interplay of light and music. I loved the mysterious technical languages being used around me, the rhythmic drone of the calling light and sound cues. I liked watching the actors freed from their normal self-consciousness. I liked the low continual volume of play which bubbled up throughout the tech as a desperate counterpoint to the long periods of tedium and waiting. And the endless snacking, and discussion of snacking.”
Throughout the production we hear small talk between the techs – everyday musings that are often quite humorous. We also hear the actors talking hopefully about getting their big break, but also turning down roles for the sake of integrity. At one point the leading actress asks the stage manager if she can leave early to audition for a role in a pilot. We have entered the world of theater.
As much as this often funny and revealing play is a fantastic chance to catch the inner-workings of theater production, it misses a few opportunities that were begging for the injection of timely humor, at points drifting away only to grab the audience again just in time. It would also have been nice if the script called for a larger role from Mahoney, whose well-timed remarks were almost always met with crowd laughter. Notable was the play’s pace, perhaps running about thirty minutes too long (two and a half hours plus intermission), making the thought of a slightly condensed version somewhat appetizing. Washburn's story nicely envelopes the stresses, complications and rewards in theater production.
Still, there is much to like in 10 Out of 12, the good outweighing the bad by significant measure. One should expect a fun lesson in Theater Production 101 that is coupled with fine acting performances and enough humor that insures an overall pleasant experience. The headsets are a nice touch, giving audience members an opportunity to feel at times as though they were part of the production team.
10 Out of 12 is being performed at Theater Wit through April 23rd. For tickets and/or more show information click here.
CHICAGO, December 22, 2016 - Chicago theater luminaries Martha Lavey, John Mahoney, Barbara Robertson and Peter Sagal will play key roles in Theater Wit's much anticipated Midwest debut of 10 Out of 12, the newest, most adventurous work by Anne Washburn, author of Wit's 2014 smash hit Mr. Burns, a post-electric play.
Hailed by the New York Times as a "wholly original love song to the maddening art of the theater," 10 Out of 12 is an extraordinarily funny and touching workplace comedy. With its story of the challenges of bringing a new play to life, Washburn'snear-perfect recreation of a technical rehearsal is also a moving tribute to the complexity and beauty of human endeavor.
"No one in Chicago has ever seen anything like 10 out of 12. Simultaneously exactingly real-to-life and riotously funny, Anne Washburn's detonation of a single technical rehearsal is promising to be a unique and thrilling viewing experience," said Jeremy Wechsler, Artistic Director of Theater Wit and director of 10 Out of 12.
"This is the most technically extravagant piece of design we've ever done at Theater Wit," he added. "For instance, armed with 98 individual headsets, our audience will get to experience the play in three distinct auditory spaces simultaneously. As a special bonus, Anne is working with us to customize the play to our city's own rich theatrical history (and contemporary reality), which is going to provide an immediacy and context that will make 10 out of 12 a must-see show for every Chicago theatergoer who loves Chicago Theater."
Performances are March 3-April 23, 2017: Thursday through Saturday at 7:30 p.m., and Sunday at 2 p.m. Press opening is Tuesday March 14 at 7:30 p.m. Exceptions: Sunday previews on March 5 and March 12 are at 7 p.m. There is no performance on March 16.
Theater Wit is located at 1229 N. Belmont Ave., in the heart of the new Belmont Theatre District in Chicago's Lakeview neighborhood. Tickets are $12-$70. To purchase tickets, a Theater Wit Membership or Flex Pass, visit TheaterWit.org or call 773.975.8150.
Behind the scenes of
10 Out of 12
10 Out of 12 will feature the recorded voices of a clutch of Chicago on stage icons cast in key backstage roles:
Former Steppenwolf Artistic Director Martha Lavey will voice the lighting designer.
John Mahoney, best known for TV's Frasier, will play back stage crew person #3.
Peter Sagal, host of NPR's Wait Wait...Don't Tell Me!, is the sound designer.
Noted Chicago classical actor Barbara Robertson will voice the costume designer.
At every performance, each audience member will be given their own headset to hear their pre-recorded backstage chatter, mixed in real time with live actors on stage for a very meta look at seemingly the most mundane of processes and the hopes and visions that emerge from the 10 hours commonly known as "tech."
On stage, one of the city's edgiest storefront theater pioneers, Dado, takes on the role of the stage manager. Dado is joined by Gregory Fenner as Jake, an actor; Kyle Gibson as another actor, Ben; Shane Kenyon as the director; Erin Long as the assistant stage manager; Riley McIlveen as electrician #2, Adam Shalzi as assistant director; Stephen Walker as the troublesome lead actor, Paul; Eunice Woods as supporting actor, Siget; and Christine Yrem-Ydstie as the female lead, Eva.
For a show that pulls the curtain on the tech process, major props are due for Wit's production team: Adam Vesness (set), Izumi Inaba (costumes), Diane Fairchild (lights), Brenda Didier (choreography), Andra Velis-Simon (original music and music director), Joe Court (sound), Vivian Knouse (props), Greg Pinsoneault (scenic charge), Andrew Glasenhardt (technical director), Kristof Janezic (master electrician) Majel Cuza (production manager) and Katie Klemme (stage manager).
Anne Washburn (playwright) play, Mr. Burns...a post electric play, was produced by Theater Wit, Playwrights Horizons, Woolly Mammoth (DC) and The Almeida (London). Her other plays include Antilia Pneumatica, The Internationalist, A Devil at Noon, Apparition, The Communist Dracula Pageant, I Have Loved Strangers,The Ladies, The Small and a transadaptation of Euripides' Orestes. Awards include the 2015 Whiting Award, 2015 PEN/Laura Pels International Foundation Theater Award, the Guggenheim, a NYFA Fellowship, a Time Warner Fellowship, Susan Smith Blackburn finalist, and residencies at MacDowell and Yaddo. She is an associate artist with The Civilians, Clubbed Thumb, New Georges, Chochiqq, and is an alumna of New Dramatists and 13P.
Jeremy Wechsler (director) most recently staged Theater Wit's workshop of Mitchell Fain's This Way Outta Santaland and the extended Midwest premiere of Mat Smart's Naperville. Other directing credits at Wit include the company's election night reading of The Trump Card by Mike Daisey, The New Sincerity by Alena Smith, The (curious case of the) Watson Intelligence by Madeleine George, Bad Jews by Joshua Harmon, Mr. Burns, a post-electric play by Anne Washburn, Madeline George's Seven Homeless Mammoths Wander New England, and that show's summer remount at Art Square Theatre in Las Vegas. Wechsler also staged Wit's acclaimed Completeness and The Four of Us (Itamar Moses), Tigers Be Still (Kim Rosenstock), This (Melissa James Gibson), Spin (Penny Penniston), Feydeau-Si-Deau (Georges Feydeau), Men of Steel (Qui Nguyen), Thom Pain (Based on Nothing) (Will Eno), Two for the Show (James Fitzpatrick and Will Clinger) and The Santaland Diaries. A veteran director in Chicago with over fifty productions, his work has been nominated for and won multiple awards for design, performance, adaptation and best new plays.
About Theater Wit
Theater Wit, Chicago's "smart art" theater, is a major hub of the Chicago neighborhood theater scene, where audiences enjoy a smorgasbord of excellent productions in three, 99-seat spaces, see a parade of talented artists and mingle with audiences from all over Chicago.
"A thrilling addition to Chicago's roster of theaters" (Chicago Tribune) and "a terrific place to see a show" (New City), Theater Wit is now in its sixth season at its home at 1229 N. Belmont, in the heart of the new Belmont Theatre District in Chicago's Lakeview neighborhood.
The company's most recent hits there include Naperville by Mat Smart, The New Sincerity by Alena Smith, Bad Jews by Joshua Harmon, Mr. Burns, a post-electric play by Anne Washburn, The (curious case of the) Watson Intelligence and Seven Homeless Mammoths Wander New England by Madeleine George, andCompleteness and The Four of Us by Itamar Moses.
In 2014, Theater Wit was awarded the National Theatre Award by the American Theatre Wing for strengthening the quality, diversity and dynamism of American theater. Theater Wit also brings together Chicago's best storefront companies at its Lakeview home, including 2016-17 resident companies About Face and Shattered Globe.
In addition to its popular Membership program, Theater Wit also offers a 10-play Flex Pass for $215 to anything presented in the building, a savings of up to 40%. To purchase a Theater Wit Membership, inquire about a Flex Pass or to buy single tickets, visit TheaterWit.org or call 773.975.8150.
To receive an "artisanal selection of consonants and vowels from Theater Wit," sign up at TheaterWit.org/mailing for exclusive updates, flash deals and behind-the-scenes production scoop every few weeks.
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