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Critical Mass: Mike Schulz and Thom White Discuss Area Theatre in 2012 - Page 5 PDF Print E-mail
Theatre - Feature Stories
Written by Mike Schulz   
Monday, 31 December 2012 06:00

Haley Nellis, Garrin Jost, and Aaron Lord in the Center for Living Arts' Spring AwakeningSpring Awakening was the first thing you got to see at the Center for Living, and you also got to see the first shows at the QC Workshop space, where we did Red, and where the Prenzie Players did The Rover. Of course, you saw the Prenzies at several different venues this year. What did you think of their using the Stern Center space, in the District, for Titus [Andronicus]?

I liked it a lot. There’s too much echo in that space, and I thought it actually added to the grandness of that production. There was just enough echo.

And so much wing space! When they rolled out that huge freaking rolling platform? It was like, “How far back does that wing space go?!”

Yes! And then they rolled it off the other side of the stage!

Right! [Laughs.] I was bummed that they didn’t do another show there, actually. I really thought that space was awesome, at least for Titus.

Well, I was a little surprised when I came in and the seating was so limited. It’s this huge space, and they condensed the audience down to only a few dozen seats; it seemed like they were going to be throwing away money. And then, seeing it, I was like, “Okay, no, this is perfect.” Because it’s a show that probably shouldn’t be intimate, but that intimacy gave it more of an impact, I think. Like, “I’m a little too close to this, and I’m uncomfortable, and I should be.”

It had some really off-putting effects.

It did. I didn’t think handing out little meat pies to the audience worked, but ... .

I saw the show with a friend who was really upset about that. He’s a vegetarian – as I’m sure were several people who bit down into a big chunk of meat without being told what it was. He told me later, “I thought it was going to be chocolate.” And I love the Prenzies, as you know, but I thought that was pretty uncool. I mean, I like the idea behind giving us meat pies; as a Titus cannibalism gag, it’s gross and funny. But I’m surprised that didn’t come up in a rehearsal – that idea of “What do we do if somebody’s a vegetarian and gets really pissed off?” But hey, they take risks, right?

And that would definitely be considered a risk.

Nikki Steinbaugh, Jake Walker, Andy Koski, Adam Michael Lewis, and Nate Curlott in the Prenzie Players' The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged)Where did you see the Prenzies’ Complete Works [of William Shakespeare (abridged)]? Did you see it at the [St. Peter’s Episcopal] church in Bettendorf? ’Cause I saw it at the Establishment Theatre.

Yes, I did.

Did that work okay for the material?

It did. The space was just a room with chairs. But that worked. It’s kind of a sloppy show, and so the minimalism worked for it. That show’s kind of supposed to be “We’re just goofballs up here,” like they’re in a frat house or something, and that’s what it felt like.

It was like a frat-house show!

But in a church. [Laughs.]

And what a find Nate Curlott is. He was just spectacular in that show. Spectacular. More than held his own with Adam [Lewis] and Andy Koski and Jake Walker. That kid just showed up and was like, “I’m in charge now.”

Aren’t they staging it again?

They are, on December 29. I hope more people get to see it. I was weeping, I was laughing so hard.

I think that show’s a really good choice for them, with the way they handle Shakespeare.

Kitty Israel, Diane Emmert, Cole McFarren, Catie Osborn, Mike Schulz, Angela Rathman, Andy Koski, Denise Yoder, and Jeremy Mahr in the Prenzie Players' The RoverThe Rover was another one I was in, so we’ll breeze past it, but I gotta say I’m so glad you liked Jeremy Mahr as much as you did. That performance, I thought, was magnificent.

Absolutely magnificent.

I love all those guys in The Rover, and I adore Jeremy in everything, but wow, what a smart, fully fleshed-out character that was. It’s been way too long since he’s had a lead role on stage. Doubt in 2009, maybe?

I like when there’s a performance like that – where I catch myself watching actors when they’re not in the spotlight. The metaphorical spotlight. Watching them in the background and seeing that they’re still the character.

And that brings us to Genesius Guild – a group I totally screwed up with this summer, because I was convinced they were doing one-weekend runs of the Bacchae plays, and didn’t realize until way too late that they were running the first two parts again on a third weekend.

That’s right.

We totally could've reviewed them. And should have. So that’s my major mea culpa for 2012. That was totally my fault, and I still feel awful about it. But you liked the shows you did see this summer, and I think you even mentioned that Measure for Measure was the funniest Shakespeare you’d ever seen anywhere.

Yes! I quite enjoyed that one.

And the end-of-summer comedy?

Oh, The Frogs was just great. You know, that was the first Genesius comedy where I thought the story itself was cohesive and interesting aside from all the humor. Sometimes there’s like this loose little plot that you can really do away with; it’s just kind of a glue for all these fun things that Don Wooten puts into the show for fun. But with that one, I was like, “I’m really interested in the story as much as I am the comedy!”

Anna Tunnicliff, Neil Friberg, Bryan Woods, and Torey Baxa in Genesius Guild's The FrogsThose are words of high praise.

Yes! Win-win! But that show was just so much fun. I loved it.

So what are you most looking forward to in area theatre in 2013?

Well, [Playcrafters'] Proof ... .

Oh, I really like that one. My boss Jeff calls that play “unf---upable,” which I love.

Really?

Because it’s such a strong script that it seems impossible to screw up.

But you can’t print that, can you?

Sure. It’s the Reader.

Oh, right. [Laughs.]

Amanda Wales and Michael King in Genesius Guild's Measure for MeasureI’m excited to see Peter Pan at Music Guild ... .

Oh yeah!

... and I’m really curious about Hair at the District.

Yes! And I really want to know if they’re doing the full-nude scene. Not that I really want to see naked people on stage, but I just think if any local theatre is going to do it, it’s going to be the District Theatre.

Right. Because the Prenzies aren’t doing Hair anytime soon.

No. You’re right. They’d keep the nude scene, too.

Exactly. [Laughs.]

New Ground is doing those new works. That’s exciting.

Yeah, that is cool. I’m not sure yet if that’s going to be one full-length play or another evening of short ones.

I would hope Chris Jansen continues with those shorts. You know, give local playwrights a chance to practice their craft. Because that’s great.

For sure. I’m looking forward to seeing Ragtime at the District. Do you like that show?

I love that show. That’s another one where I’m like, “I love that show, so don’t screw it up.” The District is also doing Young Frankenstein. That’s interesting. I’m really curious about that one.

I’m looking forward to the District’s reasons to be pretty. Such a great Neil LaBute script. Augie’s doing this really fun, edgy Eric Bogosian play – SubUrbia. And St. Ambrose is doing Sarah Ruhl’s Eurydice, which I’m really psyched for. Such beautiful, gorgeous imagery in that one. That could be visually stunning, I think.

And who’s doing 9 to 5 next year?

Music Guild.

Fun!

Have you heard the soundtrack?

Only a few songs.

Brooke Schelly and Daniel Conlin in St. Ambrose University's Alice in WonderlandI haven’t heard anything from that one – except the title song, of course. And it seems like Music Guild got the rights to that one fast. Wasn’t that just on Broadway?

Yeah. Really recently.

Timber Lake is doing Chorus Line, which, amazingly, I’ve never seen on stage.

I haven’t either. And I see Timber Lake has a “musical to be announced.” Do you know what it is?

No, but I’m thinking it can only be one of two shows: Spamalot or Book of Mormon. It’s advertised on Timber Lake’s Web site as “a spectacularly funny song-and-dance show” that’s also a recent Tony winner for Best Musical. And I went over the options, and those two are the only ones that really qualify.

It seems a little early for Book of Mormon. They wouldn’t release that yet, right?

I can’t picture they would, since they’re just starting the tours now. My guess is Spamalot, but they can’t announce it ’til March, so we’ll see. At the Showboat, I really like Almost, Maine, which I’ve already seen it a couple times. Death of a Salesman is happening at Richmond Hill, but oh God, if that show isn’t cast beautifully, that could be a long night. Hopefully, with that one, we’ll get to see John VanDeWoestyne in another lead role.

That would be great. What’s the Prenzie show Bear Girl?

That’s an original work by J.C. Luxton.

Oh!

Bill Peiffer, Liz Paxton, Nicholas Charles Waldbusser, and Carli Talbott in the Playcrafters Barn Theatre's The Christmas ExpressIt’s a historical story about a Native American tribe. I was at a reading for it earlier in the year, and it’s epic and huge and has all these fascinating characters ... .

Oh, wow.

Yeah, that could be kick-ass. So we’ve got that new play, and the QC Workshop has a locally-written show this summer – A Green River, by Aaron Randolph, who also had his play The Plagiarists staged at Ambrose this year. And then New Ground has its original work next spring ... . It’s cool to see so much new material getting produced.

Yeah. It really is.

And I have to admit I’m kind of excited to see Click Clack Moo: Cows That Type at Circa. ’Cause that title rocks. [Laughs.]

[Laughs.] Tell me that’s a kids’ show.

It is.

Good. [Laughs.]

So anything else you want to mention before we wrap this up for another year?

I don’t know if it’s worth mentioning, but I do think that my perception of theatre has changed with my job change. When I was working at News Channel 8, my mind was active all day, and it kept going when I went into the theatre – I was always thinking and writing. And now that I’m a tele-data apprentice ... .

And what is that exactly?

I pull cable and work with telephone security systems and stuff like that. No electrical work. I couldn’t put in a light switch for you, but I can wire your house for the Internet.

Andrew Crowe, Tom Walljasper, Matthew Baldoni, and Steve Lasiter in the Circa '21 Dinner Playhouse's Southern CrossroadsGotcha.

But I’m physically exhausted. Now I go home and I’ll be falling asleep on the couch at nine or 9:30. I’m just so tired. And so now two things have happened with theatre: One is that, now, I just want to be entertained. I’m like, “I’m so tired, I just want to go and – .”

I don’t want to think.”

I don’t want to think. And so it’s harder to engage these days, and I sometimes find myself, the next morning, starting to write my review, and thinking, “I should’ve paid more attention to the details.” And the second thing that’s happening: I fall asleep. Actually, I have not fallen asleep, but I have to fight it. It hits about 9:30, and I’m like, oh my gosh ... . Even if I’m really liking the production, I’m so tired, and that’s really frustrating for me. So that’s bad.

Well, hopefully things will improve once you get more used to the job.

At least I haven’t fallen asleep on anybody. Yet. But I’ve come close. So if you’re in a show and you see me nod off, know that you’re not boring, necessarily. I’m just tired from carrying ladders all day.

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Food Issue Anger
written by Jeb Makula, December 27, 2012
I may be biased, because I was in Titus, but I believe that you have to take responsibility for what you eat.

I have an extremely restrictive diet, and I *always* find out what is in something before I eat it. I have turned down food/drinks multiple times and not eaten at parties/potlucks because I didn't know what was in the food.

If you want to eat some food that someone hands you, without knowing what it is (unless you asked and they lied to you) then that is on you, and you alone.

Feel free to get pissed at yourself.

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