A Twist of Water

Twist is moving to The Mercury Theater and running until June!

Posted by A Twist of Water on March 28, 2011

From Chris Jones’ Theater Loop blog at The Chicago Tribune:

 

The Route 66 Theatre Company production of “A Twist of Water” is transfering to the Mercury Theatre. This very successful show will start performances on Apr. 14 and re-open officially on May 1.  Tickets are already on sale.

It will be the first production at the 300-seat Mercury Theatre since Walter Stearns took over the theater. This is not a straight rental deal; Stearns’ theater is sharing the burden of producing with Route 66.

The deal came together quickly, and when “A Twist of Water” closed at Theatre Wit Saturday night, the set was moved over directly to the Mercury on 3745 N. Southport Ave.

Penned by the young writer Caitlin Montanye Parrish and directed by Erica Weiss, “A Twist of Water” sold out virtually every seat at Theatre Wit. It deals both with the history and spirit of Chicago, and with the lives of a group of struggling modern-day Chicagoans.

An early performance was attended by Rahm Emanuel, Chicago’s mayor elect.

 

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An audience member responds – by Beth Urech

Posted by Erica Weiss on March 7, 2011

On March 6th, I met and spoke with an audience member at A Twist of Water‘s sold-out Sunday matinee. Her name is Beth Urech, and this morning she sent me a lovely response to the play and has given me permission to post it here in full. Thank you so much!

A Twist of Water, Sunday, March 6, 2011

The bare and barren set exudes Chicago before A Twist of Water starts.  A curving wall above a two-tiered platform wraps around one side of the stage evoking the water’s edge at Division Street. A single bare tree branch protrudes high from the side wall signaling winter and despair.  On the other side of the stage, way up high, is a cut-out of our beloved Chicago skyline.  From my second row seat, I cannot see it well, but I know that skyline almost by heart.  It’s my Chicago.

Over the course of the play, John Boesche’s projections make Chicago history come alive.  A lonely first homestead, the crowded riverfront, the city pre and post fire, the Columbian Exposition stating, “Here we are.  Come and see us, you citizens of Paris, London, and New York.  We’re Chicago.”

We’re also the Chicago of Carl Sandburg with broad shoulders and little cat feet.  Carl is quoted by the English teacher (Alex Hugh Brown).

But A Twist of Water is more than a history or English lesson, although the two male characters are high school teachers of, yes, history and English.

A Twist of Water insinuates its way into our hearts and souls by telling a simple story of grief.  You want to know the plot?  Won’t it suffice if I tell you what I told Erica Weiss (Co-creator and director) afterwards in the lobby:  “This play is all that a play is meant to be.”

All right, then.  Dad (Stef Tovar) and teenage daughter (Falashay Pearson) are at odds.  They are grief stricken over the tragic death in a car accident of the other Dad whom Jira loved unconditionally. He was a doctor.  She plans to study medicine.  She grates under the constraint and clumsy surveillance of Dad Number Two. He’s the history teacher.  During the course of the play, he and the much younger English teacher become lovers which galls Jira who seeks out her birth mother. She needs her father’s help; eventually he offers it.  The meeting with 17 year old Jira and her mother now only 33 (Lili-Anne Brown) is heart wrenching and oh, so real.

I wept.  Most people in the audience wept. Is that why we go to the theatre? To shed a tear. No, we go to be transformed. We want to witness a human conflict that tears us from our warm complacency and hurdles us into a cold body of water. Then we want to be rescued and dried off so we can reenter the world knowing that life goes on and lives intertwine like A Twist of Water.
Beth Urech, after years as a speech &  communications consultant based in Switzerland, is segueing back into theatre in Chicago (bethurech.com) and recently established www.101010scholarship.info to support The Beaver Island Lighthouse School.

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“Twist” announces an extended run, extra performances, and rave reviews!

Posted by A Twist of Water on March 4, 2011

DUE TO OVERWHELMING TICKET SALES, ROUTE 66 ANNOUNCES THE EXTENSION OF A TWIST OF WATER

AN ADDITIONAL WEEK AND EXTRA PERFORMANCES HAVE BEEN ADDED THROUGH MARCH 26

“INDUSTRY NIGHT” ON MONDAY MARCH 21 BENEFITING “SEASON OF CONCERN”

MUST CLOSE MARCH 26!

Tickets for the one-week extension are now on sale through the Theater Wit box office or by calling 773-975-8150

Get all the info you need HERE.

The critics are raving about A Twist of Water! Here is a sampling of some of the reviews:

Chicago Tribune – Highly Recommended (Four Stars out of Four)
“Parrish’s play — which reaches with more passion, wisdom and lyricism towards civic definition (and redefinition) than any Chicago work I’ve seen in a long, long time — captures this precise moment of Chicago’s re-invention with such astonishing alacrity …This is a piece that does for Chicago something like what Armistead Maupin (“Tales of the City”) did for San Francisco a generation ago.” – Chris Jones Read Full Review

Time Out Chicago – Highly Recommended
“…This is compelling work, well worth sitting through a bit of history.” – Julienne Bilker Read Full Review

NewCity Chicago – Highly Recommended
“…Caitlin Montanye Parrish’s script is a provocative mix of history, obstacle and longing that insists you root for all the characters. Tovar’s performance is solid and sympathetic as Noah tries to rebuild his life; Pearson makes her character’s abandonment palpable. But the highlight is Brown, whose crack timing and dry wit enable him to walk off with every scene. His work is a cool drink.” – Lisa Buscani Read Full Review
Windy City Times – Highly Recommended
“…Stef Tovar is well-versed at playing all-American middle-aged Nice Guys, acquitting himself capably as the grieving Noah (who wasn’t allowed to say goodbye to his husband). Alex Hugh Brown lends Liam a refreshing candor, as does Lili-Anne Brown as the fairy godmama bred of orphans’ fantasies, both of whom suffer misleading introductions before transcending cliché to become plausible and individualized personalities. What focuses our sympathies, however, is Falashay Pearson’s performance as the lonely Jira, whom you want to sweep up in your arms—or at least offer your scarf—along with assurances that everything will get better. Really.” – Mary Shen Barnidge Read Full Review
Centerstage – Highly Recommended
“…Stef Tovar bares his soul as Noah, a middle-aged parent trying desperately to reconnect with Jira, his adopted daughter (touching teenage actress Falashay Pearson) while beginning a new relationship with Liam (brilliant newcomer Alex Hugh Brown), the young English teacher who brings poetry, humor and wisdom to their world. Lili-Anne Brown is strong as Tia, the mother who gave up Jira because she was just a baby herself. Altogether, this exquisite cast bathes in the waters of truth.” – Colin Douglas Read Full Review
Chicago Theater Blog – Highly Recommended

“A contemporary masterpiece…A Twist of Water is an important play that speaks to our time. Hopefully it will see an extended run because it deserves a large audience. Just remember to bring a tissue because, when I saw it, there wasn’t a dry eye in the house.” – Keith Ecker Read Full Review


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Thank you and Congratulations to our Mayor-Elect…

Posted by Erica Weiss on March 1, 2011

On Saturday morning, the front page of The Chicago Tribune featured Chris Jones’ Four-Star review of A Twist of Water. In his write-up, Jones made a point of encouraging our recently elected Mayor to attend.

“Mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel and those jockeying to share his power to put down the reports, resumes and briefing books this Saturday night and head, not to party with the Bulls, but over to Belmont Avenue where they might ponder the living soul of the paradoxical town they will soon be leading, and to whose citizens they will need to articulate a vision that goes deeper than parking meters.”

He added:

“Since Parrish’s starting point is as much Abraham Lincoln as Sandburg, they could pick up the governor on the way. They would witness one of Chicago’s greatest assets: artistic self-examination moving from generation to generation. Performed intimately, affordably, to whoever cares to show up.”

That afternoon, Mr Emanuel called the box office and made reservations for the evening performance. You can read the scoop on The Chicago Tribune HERE, and The Wall Street Journal’s pickup of the story HERE.

Our first impulse, after the immediate giddiness in hearing the news of his ticket purchase, was to make sure not to tell the cast. Why put them under added pressure when they’re already delivering such solid shows night after night? Also, it gave me a chance to practice my acting skills – for I am nothing if not a terrible liar, and had to come up with a reason I was so dressed up when I visited backstage. I think it was something like, “I’m giving the curtain speech tonight!” It never hurts to tell the truth when you’re trying to conceal part of it.

We were stunned and honored to have Mr Emanuel there, and very impressed that Mr Jones sent such a resounding message. The Mayor-Elect showed up in the Theater Wit lobby with two friends, in an untucked shirt, jeans, and a bomber jacket, to many “congratulations!” from folks in the lobby, and some photo requests. There were three shows running at Theater Wit that night – in addition to Twist, Stage Left’s Enemy of the People and Wit’s This were in previews. His presence excited everyone. I do not report the details this way to be sycophantic or fawning (though, let’s be honest – he was President Obama’s right-hand man. I might have been a little fawn-y), but because I believe that his showing up at this Chicago storefront theatre sends a signal that all theatre artists in this city should be looking forward to his term – that we may see in Daley’s successor an Arts Mayor who puts his (fingers crossed) money where his mouth is.

Mayor-Elect Emanuel was a fantastic audience member. He was engaged, responsive, and quite friendly. After curtain call, before we brought up the house lights and opened the doors, I got up onstage (which is not my natural habitat) to acknowledge our special guest. The cast’s reaction, having no idea, was so priceless I wish I could have bottled it. Falashay Pearson, who plays Jira, and is also amongst the world’s most entertaining human beings, actually jumped in the air and made a sound which is probably not reproducible. It was a really wonderful shared experience between artists and audience. A commenter on The Chicago Tribune’s story, Jason R, who was at the show that night, says:

“Absolutely one of the most magical nights of my theater going life in Chicago. The play, probably the best new script to hit this town since August Osage, and Rahm being present in this intimate audience made for live theater experience that was not only enjoyable…but important. It said that the man who is going to run this city feels as though what is being done on that stage is vital. Astounding.”

We should, all of us in the Chicago arts community, be excited by this story. It shows us that he cares, and acknowledges the value of the small theatres as well as the larger institutions. I am very much looking forward to seeing what the Emanuel Era brings for The Windy City.

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Chris Jones of the Chicago Tribune gives “Twist” 4 Stars!

Posted by A Twist of Water on February 25, 2011

“Parrish’s play — which reaches with more passion, wisdom and lyricism towards civic definition (and redefinition) than any Chicago work I’ve seen in a long, long time — captures this precise moment of Chicago’s re-invention with such astonishing alacrity that you want Mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel and those jockeying to share his power to put down the reports, resumes and briefing books this Saturday night and head, not to party with the Bulls, but over to Belmont Avenue where they might ponder the living soul of the paradoxical town they will soon be leading, and to whose citizens they will need to articulate a vision that goes deeper than parking meters.”

“This is a piece that does for Chicago something like what Armistead Maupin (“Tales of the City”) did for San Francisco a generation ago.”

Read the entire rave review HERE.

Then buy your tickets now! You can purchase them online at mercurytheaterchicago.com or by calling 773-325-1700.  Check out all the info you need about seeing the show HERE.


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We are Jeff Recommended!

Posted by A Twist of Water on February 22, 2011

After a fantastic weekend of previews, A Twist of Water opened last night and a great time was had by all! Even if that great time did include a fair number of tears… we were so happy to have such a great crowd for opening night. The show has been Jeff Recommended! (The designation of “Jeff Recommended” is given to a production when at least ONE ELEMENT of the show was deemed outstanding by the opening night judges of The Joseph Jefferson Awards Committee. The entire production is then eligible for nomination for awards at the end of the season.)

By 1AM, Alan Bresloff of ‘Around the Town Chicago’ had beaten the pack with our very first review – a Five Star Review, at that!

Around The Town Chicago – Highly Recommended

“…This is a very moving and touching story directed with a great sense of feeling and heart by Erica Weiss, who helped to create this wonderful and moving story. The set by Stephen H. Carmody is mostly a video projection screen with projections designed by John Boesche and some marvelous phots of old Chicago making this almost a history of the birth and rebirth of our great city. On the eve of the 2011 Mayoral election, it would have been very cool to have all the candidates in the audience and see their reactions to this glorious story of our city and some of the people who call this their home! The music and sound by Lindsay Jones and the lighting by Sean Mallary are the icing on the cake of this marvelous theatrical experience. I will suggest that you bring some extra Kleenex with you as there are moments where your eyes will swell to the point where the tears cannot be held back.” (READ THE FULL REVIEW HERE)

The whole team is very proud and we can’t wait to see you at the theater! You have until March 20th to see the show, but don’t wait til the last minute to buy tickets! Go to www.theaterwit.org/boxoffice or call 773-975-8150.

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The AV Club Chicago features “TWIST” in their Cheap Seats Theatre Section

Posted by A Twist of Water on February 17, 2011

The AV Club’s Oliver Sava interviewed playwright Caitlin Montanye Parrish and co-creator/director Erica Weiss for their “Cheap Seats” Theatre Section. Here’s an excerpt! Read the whole article HERE.

Best reason to try it: While the play’s subject matter is heavy, its two passionate creators use the Chicago setting to help bring the audience into the world of the play, creating characters and situations that should be familiar to anyone living in the city. Parrish’s script impressively captures the complicated family dynamic—especially in an emotionally devastating scene when Jira meets her birth mother—but there are also moments of intimacy and humor that keep the play from becoming overbearing. “I feel really strongly that when presenting a play that has ‘issues’ attached to it, if you want to move people, the best way to do so is just to present them through the lens of characters people can love and relate to, to the point where they don’t see the issues anymore,” says Weiss. “The best reason ultimately is that this is a play for Chicago. I think anyone who lives here has a feeling of Chicago pride, and the whole element of Chicago identity that runs through the play will make them feel like there is a play for them.”

“And the cast is really attractive,” Parrish adds.

Weiss concludes, “If you like boys kissing, you’ll love A Twist Of Water.”

 

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The first shock to the system

Posted by Erica Weiss on February 10, 2011

It’s been a while! We’ve been a little busy.

Last night was our final evening in the rehearsal space at Northshore Baptist Church in Andersonville (THANK YOU, NORTHSHORE BAPTISIT CHURCH!). Tonight, we move into our performance space at Theater Wit and onto Stephen H Carmody’s beautiful set. The myriad technical elements, so integral to this show, like lights, and music, and projections, now come into the process. It is no longer our little band of 7 (a four-person cast, our stage manager, our assistant stage manager, our assistant director, and myself). It’s time to expand our family – and how appropriate for this play.

For the past three weeks, we’ve been working with the bare minimum in furniture. Folding chairs, a piano bench that stands in for a teacher’s desk, and an invisible kitchen table. The show has very few props, but we’ve been miming a bottle of orange juice, a bottle of gin, a laptop, etc. The cast has been using their own cell phones, and their own coats. The rehearsal room is barely more than half the width and depth of our actual stage. The set has a long curved platform with stairs and a cut-out wall with a door, and we’ve done all our rehearsals at one level on a dirty (it’s been a little snowy out here in Chicago) floor with tape to indicate the most approximate of approximate playing areas on the ground. Bringing the show to its feet, adding all these new physical elements, is a shock to the system.

The smaller shock, though, the one that makes you understand that this show is really happening and here-we-go… In rehearsal, Rita Vreeland (our amazing stage manager), starts and ends each act with the words: “And, we’re in black-out. And, lights.” But starting this week, the lights will go up and down without a word, bookending the play as a piece of theatre, ready for an audience to experience in the dark. It’s a small thing, but it’s what gives me goosebumps.

It’s been a joy and a challenge so far. Bring on the curveballs and obstacles and opportunities! Bring on the transition! Shock our systems.

Here we go…

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The False Grip

Posted by Stef Tovar on February 4, 2011

Being the Artistic Director of Route 66 and an actor in the show is…challenging to put it mildly. I could write a few pages on the challenges of producing an Equity show with no paid staff, foundation or corporate funding, money for marketing and advertising…etc. HIGH FIDELITY was where the scale tipped and the hats I wore were too many. I underestimated the workload. It hurt my performance and ultimately, the show. I picked myself up, moved past the adversity and finished the show strong. I look back on it proud of the finish, but with regrets.

Our company has learned MUCH since August of 2009.

I’ve now surrounded myself with a great group that gives the show all the production support necessary so I can just be an actor again. The play demands it of me, and Erica (our director and co-creator) has positioned things carefully and made sure that I have the ability to just do my work. Having company members Rita and Matt in the rehearsal room, makes me feel like I’m at home.

So that’s what I’m going to write about…the work.

(big sigh of contentment)

It’s hard to believe we’ve been in rehearsal for four weeks. Seems like we JUST started. I’ve just begun to get that false grip on the character of Noah as we begin tech next week.

Oh and we got a little snow this week…

Third largest snowfall on record, the “Thundersnow” put TWIST out of commission for a couple days. We came back to rehearsal last night having been away since Sunday.  It was a rude awakening for me as I have MUCH to memorize still…but I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. Or so I think…

That “false grip”…is such an interesting time in the process for an actor. You’ve done the table work and you’ve blocked the show. You’re almost off book and are even starting to “think like the character” a bit. You want to go into your scenes guns blazing ready to give it to your scene partner with authority. But you’re shooting blanks. The words are all there, but they’re swimming in this pool of uncertainty along with: your objectives, your tactics, what you had for dinner that night—oh and your scene partner’s reactions too—interpreting them incorrectly and making it all about you, till you eventually drown. But while sinking, you give the director SOMETHING that looks like the play.

I haven’t done any “acting” since December (August before that) so I feel a bit out of sorts. The acting I did in December was for a film and looking back, it gives me a new appreciation for both mediums. Film is so…immediate. I stood in shock as some big name movie stars arrived on set seemingly not really prepared for their scenes–particularly with their lines. Coming from a theatre background, I was so prepared! (mainly due to fear) I had done the research and knew the lines backwards and forwards. I was equipped to stand toe to toe with these stars. But the freshness and believability of their work was so admirable. It was a real lesson (one of the many I learned working on the film) that I’m trying to bring to TWIST. How do you memorize so much text, prepare so carefully for an incredibly taxing journey and then throw it all away so it feels like you’re discovering it for the first time? Well, I do know how to do it. After 18 years in the business I finally found something that works for me. Just a few years ago, Johnny Clark and I, working on ON AN AVERAGE DAY together, devised this system called E.D.S.A. that really clicked for us. In typical fashion, this epiphany arrived after running the show for six weeks in L.A., rehearsing, previewing and opening in it Chicago, but it did arrive and changed me as an actor. I know the freshness will be there, but the “false grip” is making me feel as though that time will never come.

I hope it gets here by tomorrow. With Caitlin coming to see the work, that would be a good time for it to get here. But truth be told, it’s not something that arrives until you’ve got the audience in front of you. I’m most likely going to feel good about things on Tuesday—right before we get into the space at Theater Wit and it all goes away until previews.

This play has come in stages—all drastically different than I anticipated.  From reading it off the page alone (my first blog was about that stage), to the table work and read-throughs with the cast, to getting up on our feet–it’s already been quite a journey. Each stage has stuck around for the appropriate amount of time.

As Noah and I are fathers, I equate the stages I’ve experienced on TWIST like having a baby. You actually get the perfect amount of time when you’re having a child. The “9 months” is a perfectly thought out system to allow you to deal with the absolutely life changing event that will fall on you. Like the craft of acting, you’re never really fully prepared and wind up winging, it and that’s where you hope your years of experience and God given ability will kick in. And it does–for both parenting and acting. Most of the time anyway. It’s so interesting that this play centers on adoption. I imagine that receiving a child through adoption feels like such a gift and somewhat of a surprise. Talk about keeping things fresh and winging it…

I’ve already been given a great gift. This is a beautiful play that gives an actor all they need to succeed.

Almost time to deliver it…

 

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What’s so funny? The First Week of Rehearsal.

Posted by Erica Weiss on January 21, 2011

No matter what the play, no matter how deep or difficult the subject matter… theatre should be fun. And we are having a blast.

Now, A Twist of Water, for all it’s heaviness, actually has plenty of comedy. Caitlin sometimes receives complains that she hasn’t written a comedy, at least not since A View from Tall. I disagree. In a way, all of her plays are comedies. She’s too funny a writer and too funny a person to leave her sense of humor out of a scene for too long. Add that dynamic to the wicked senses of humor that round out the rest of this room, and we wind up with a pretty wonderful balance of good times and hard work. I’m now going to embarrass the cast by both singing their praises and telling you why they crack me up.

Lili-Anne Brown, or Lil (who plays Tia), is a sassy-pants. She is so damn smart and always has a brilliant insight to share. She’s really only in one scene in the play (oh man, but what a scene), but she brings her piercing intelligence and wit to the room whenever she’s with us.

Alex Hugh Brown (playing the role of Liam), aside from being ridiculously cute (seriously, you could sell tickets to your face, Alex), has an incredible method of verbalizing his acting thought process when he hits a line or a moment that needs work. Out of nowhere, he’ll start saying the same line over and over again, with different inflection, talking to himself, trying to figure out the best way to say it, and it’s kind of like watching Rain Man. I admire the hell out of it, actually, and it really works for him, but the first time, it came so completely out of nowhere and went on for so long that I wound up crumpled on the floor, convulsing with laughter, tears streaming down my face, gasping for air. And for the record, he kept going. And going. And going. We all witnessed something magical that night.

Stef Tovar (our illustrious Artistic Director, playing the role of Noah) is fully and hilariously inappropriate. So am I… and really, so is everyone else, so we do encourage him. His recent valiant attempts to understand youth culture and speak the language of the street are reminiscent not so much of Marky Mark and more of Michael Steele. Stef is by no means old or out of touch… but it is pretty fun to make him feel that way. And last night, when we were discussing Lauryn Hill, and he said “who’s that?” it was open season.

When we first met Falashay Pearson (playing the role of Jira), Caitlin and I struggled to find the best way to describe her. We settled upon: “If Christopher Walken and a black Unicorn had a baby.” But Falashay is so adorable and lovely that no one believed me when I described how weird and funny she is, and at first, no one could understand why I started giggling every time she opened her mouth to speak. But now they all understand, especially after seeing her impression of a man she calls “Houndog,” a karaoke regular who sings Elvis songs while wriggling his hips nonstop and barely opening his lips to get the words out of his mouth.

I’m writing this and thinking to myself, “maybe you just had to be there.” To be honest, that’s one of the things that makes rehearsal processes so wonderful and precious – the only people who will really be able to understand what it was like are the people who were in the room. In that way, it’s not unlike theatre itself. The experience of live theatre can never be replicated. Every performance, with a different audience, will be a different show, and those moments are shared only by the artists and the patrons in the room, together, on a shared journey for 2 hours or so.

We’re getting into heavy stuff with this show, but that doesn’t mean we should be crushed by the weight. You don’t have to punish people in order to move them. As long as we are able to laugh together and slowly, organically, become a show-family, we will find the balance between light and dark, and when you come to see this group onstage, we hope you will feel that balance, too.

We miss you, Caitlin. Even though you’re in Los Angeles, you’re in the room with us in spirit.

Onward! We have so much still to do.

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