Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Retrieving thoughts on Chesapeake

We know the critics believe Chesapeake is barking up the right tree, since the show is lapping up great reviews. But we'd like to know what you think about the play as well, so please take a moment to retrieve a few ideas and type them up as Lucky did.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

The Remy Question for CHESAPEAKE

Kerr: To live not a life, but a work of art.

Have you ever had a "Kerr" moment, when a piece of art, theatrical or otherwise, has shifted your perspective or changed your feelings about the world? Has any art moved you to take action, whether political or social, or just within your own life?

Share it with us!

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Greg Matthew Anderson talks to David Weidenfeld

New Board member David Weidenfeld interviews Greg Matthew Anderson, who will be starring in Chesapeake.
David Weidenfeld: Where do you get the energy when you don’t have other actors?
Greg Matthew Anderson: That has been my biggest fear going into it. I have some friends who have done one-person shows; Tim Kane who just did An Iliad down at Court; Mary Beth Fisher who did The Year of Magical Thinking at the Court; another friend who is an improviser, he did a show at iO. I am about to take a couple of them out for lunch to glean their insights. The way I have been thinking about it: some days people don’t want to go to work right? I mean some days you just don’t want to go to work. When that happens in a show, there is always the other person in the room who you are working for in a way. You’re like “I have to give them my best”. I show up for them in a way. It’s my joy to give it to them. I have been thinking about, “Wow, I will be the only person in the dressing room. Where am I going to go and I think?” But I have been telling myself after reading the play over and over again that the character in this play is an artist and a performer and a performance artist and there is an incredible amount of energy and enthusiasm in the text for the work. Every time I read it, I get energized reading it. I get a little fluttery, just reading it to myself and thinking this is going to be my ‘well’. It’s one of those plays that’s not dour or really dark. It’s kind of buoyant. I am excited about that being there for me, just inside the text. I think it’s a play that hopefully audiences will respond to in a way where there is going to be a connection, like comedy. It lives and dies in what you are getting back. When we did Earnest, 99.9% of the time there was just great energy coming back at you. My hope is there will be that connection, there will be that energy because a lot of it is direct address to the audience.
DW: Does that mean you adjust within the parameters of what you have done in rehearsal to the energy level being different.
GMA: I think so. I think some folks may consider that heresy. I really think that those are great performers who can adjust to the situation. The sense that there might be audiences that implicitly ask you to take your time and you might find that they respond in a way that you modulate a performance in a way that seems to work and you feel it working that way. There may be audiences that are so smart and with it that you don’t have to wait for them to get something. That push and pull that casts work with all the time. That dynamic might be more intense because it’s just me. I don’t have to work in concert with someone else. It’s just me and an audience. That’s kind of exciting to me. To think about how some performances may be different or some moments might be different depending on what I feel like is happening out there
that’s exciting.
DW: No we have the next little twist here, which is in the middle of everything you suddenly have a different director and which adds a whole other kind of dynamic. What does that do for mental preparation or the mindset you have going into this?
GMA: Shawn [Douglass] is a terrific gift following Timothy’s [Douglas] departure. Timothy, I was really excited to work with because I heard about how he works and it is a way in which I have kind of worked in school. Just his process in the room. And we had spent a chunk of the year getting to know each other, building a relationship, and having that was going to be essential
embarking on this type of project. When Timothy couldn’t do it, Shawn stepped up – thank God he was available. I hope we don’t tired of each other because we are going to be in the same room for a while. We have a working history, we have a great friendship, we have deep respect, and implicit trust. Years of not just working together on the stage but just in the room, having discussions and talking. It is a huge relief to know I have a friend and a respected colleague there. So in some ways the adjustments mentally weren’t that gymnastic. I was excited to work with Timothy, I am excited to work with Shawn. I know they are very different directors, but I am really grateful to have someone who is so close. I feel like, second one, we won’t be wasting anytime.
DW: It helps to bridge the gap a little easier, having someone you know rather than a complete stranger, and because he directed you last year.
GMA: He directed The Importance of Being Earnest and he directed Philadelphia Story that I was in as well. So it’s been great to imagine the two of us going into rehearsals. Knowing what that is about, what he is about in the rehearsal room. So now we just have to work on a play. Which is really cool.
DW: Maybe an obvious question. Have you done one person shows before?
GMA: I have not.
DW: So it is completely new.
GMA: Completely new. Completely terrifying and completely exhilarating, and exciting to do. You always read about people who are asked the question: why did you choose this role? Mostly film actors. They say well I took it because it scared me or it was outside of my thing. I always thought that was b******t. Then this opportunity came up Nick [Sandys] brought it to
the table and I thought maybe that is right. Maybe it is that kind of ‘I don’t know how I am going to do that’ and that means I should do that. I worked with a friend of mine at Improv Olympics, now iO. He did a one-man show and I in a way directed him. He directed a lot of it himself, but I became his eyes in the theatre as he was getting it. So there was a window into how I perceive
it at least. I thought “I don’t know if I can do that”. I thought about it and read it a lot and thought, “Let’s do this”.
DW: So this isn't your normal structure of working as an actor. How have rehearsals been going? Has any of that changed?
GMA: We haven’t started yet. We start next week. So to be continued.
DW: To be continued. That's interesting. I would be curious to come back and hear what you have to say two weeks into this. Do you think any of those answers would change?
GMA: My gut feeling is that it will be all of those things on different days. Like any play that you start working on. You have that first table read and you look around and you think, “All these really good people and, wow, this is going to be great”. And then a week in you are like, “this is not right”, “This is not going well. I don’t how to act. I don’t know what I am doing”. And then, “Oh, I’m killing it”. And then three weeks into the run you think, “I just made a huge discovery and I am only getting it now and we close in a couple of weeks.” So, I am sure in the rehearsal period I will go from “I can’t do this” to “I can totally do this” to “I have been doing this all wrong, but I feel like I am getting there.” If I feel like I am getting there, then the rehearsals will be in ok shape.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

A conversation with Chesapeake director Shawn Douglass

The Contributor, Remy Bumppo’s donor newsletter, recently spoke with Artistic Associate Shawn Douglass about his preparations to direct our upcoming production of Chesapeake, the unique challenges of rehearsing a one-man show, and the opportunity to work with long-time associate Greg Matthew Anderson.

The Contributor: What challenges do you feel a one man show will present?

Shawn Douglass: Well, I have directed one other one-man show before, working with Usman Ally to create his one-person show Public Enemy for Remy Bumppo’s thinkTank. Based on that experience and thinking forward about the rehearsal process for Chesapeake, there are a couple of challenges that I anticipate.

The first is simply being sensitive to the physical, vocal and mental stamina that a show like this demands of the actor. It is asking a lot of an actor to work 5 or 6 hours a day, when he is talking the whole time and is also trying to figure out and inhabit the emotional journey of a character. It doesn’t always look like hard work from the outside, but it really is. It demands incredible mental focus. So I have to keep the process rigorous enough that we accomplish our work, but free enough that Greg has time to release his focus for periods of time.

Also, because Greg’s character, Kerr, is addressing the audience directly, we need to find a way to support him in that during the rehearsal process. I anticipate that we will be inviting a few folks in along the way so that he will have new faces to communicate with whose responses haven’t been dulled by having seen the play a number of times. Since we have a relatively short preview process, getting the him comfortable with the audience’s presence early on will be important, I think.

TC: What have you done to prepare for working on a one man show? Specifically working with only one actor/working without any scene partners.

SD: I got this job rather late in the game, and Greg had more experience with the text than I had. We met a couple of weeks ago for a couple of hours of talk. We worked together to try to define some broad parameters for why the character, Kerr, is sharing this fabulous yarn with the audience. We talked about our understanding of place and about the time period in which the play was written. Greg was able to say “Hey, these are my ideas,” and I think I was able to put him at ease by reassuring him that I was open to his suggestions. He is after all the one who has to commit to every word of the play.

We also had an early rehearsal in which Greg read the play to the production team, which was followed by a lively discussion with the designers, Greg, and myself. The designers don’t always have that chance to hear the play that early. And they rarely get to talk one on one with the actor that early in the process. We had some really clarifying conversations.

TC: How do you feel your past experience working with Greg as cast members and as actor-director will help you in this production?

SD: The first way it will help is that I like Greg a lot. I’m looking forward to being in the rehearsal room with him. He’s a talented artist and a generous person, he’s smarter than me, and he’s a charming guy. He does his homework and then comes to rehearsal ready to play and experiment. So he is an actor that needs direction in the best sense. He needs an eye to tell him what is working and what is not, but he doesn’t need to be spoon-fed choices about what his character is thinking or doing. Give him a direction to go toward and he will try it. It makes my job easier!

The second way it will help is that based on working together on Night and Day and The Importance of Being Earnest, we have a sense of trust and camaraderie with one another. He knows that he has a voice in the process, and that even if I ask him to try something “out there” during a rehearsal, I think he trusts me to reign it in or dump it if it doesn’t yield effective results. And I trust him to do the same.

I remember one night when we were both on stage in Night and Day, I was listening and watching Greg do his thing. I started thinking to myself, “Man, this guy is really good!” Of course, the moment I did that, my focus was lost and I promptly missed my next line. It was the last time I spent any time admiring him while I was acting. So I think I’ll stick to directing him!

TC: What excites you about working in an intimate rehearsal process?

SD: I think our process is going to be a cool experiment. I expect it to be intimate early on in the sense that it will be just me and Greg working together as actor/director. But we will also have very intelligent stage managers and an assistant director in the room daily. Not to mention designers who will be joining us throughout the process. I am the sort of director who likes to ask everyone questions about what is happening. “What is confusing to you?” “Why did you laugh there?” “Does that moment seem a bit much to you?’

So I hope that the work with Greg feels more than just a one-on-one experience. We’ll be a community of people working on this.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Artistic Director change at Remy Bumppo

A message from Board President, Karen Randolph

Thank you for your involvement with Remy Bumppo over this past year of transition – which continues to unfold. On Tuesday, November 29, Artistic Director Timothy Douglas tendered his resignation, effective January 31, 2012.

It was with regret and surprise that we received Timothy’s news. Over the course of several meetings we hoped to find a solution for keeping Timothy successfully and confidently engaged, but his resignation was ultimately accepted.

In a letter addressed to Remy Bumppo's Board of Directors, Timothy expressed, “As a result of my brief but ample tenure I came to understand that in spite of our genuine excitement for one another, I’m ultimately not a good match for the organization.” He concluded, “I remain grateful to all at Remy Bumppo, as well as the greater Chicago theater community, whose enthusiastic inclusion of me into its vibrant world will feed me for the rest of my creative days.”

Our Board of Directors was very pleased to receive candidates for Timothy’s successor from Remy Bumppo’s core company of artists, the Artistic Associates. We convened throughout the month of December and on January 10 appointed a new artistic director from the internal candidates. We are pleased to announce that Nick Sandys will assume the position of Artistic Director effective February 1.

You are familiar with Nick Sandys from his 10-year tenure as an Artistic Associate with Remy Bumppo. Nick is an award-winning actor, director, and fight choreographer as well as an educator. He has appeared in 14 of our productions, garnering him three Joseph Jefferson Award Nominations, including his extraordinary turn in last season’s The Goat or, Who is Sylvia? He has contributed to over 200 productions nation-wide, and brings a wealth of experience and intellect to bear on this leadership role.

We are excited that one of our Associates is stepping up and we look forward to continuing to present the thought-provoking theater that you have come to count on from Remy Bumppo.

“Timothy's tenure was inspiring, brief but valuable,” said Nick Sandys. “Season planning with the Artistic Associates is well under way for our 2012/2013 Season and I am thrilled to continue and expand the language-driven, emotionally rich work of Remy Bumppo in that coming season. I have called this theatre home for 10 years and bring with me my deep understanding of all that Remy Bumppo has been and a tremendous excitement for what more we can become.”

Our final show of the season, Chesapeake by Lee Blessing, was slated to be directed by Timothy. Artistic Associate Shawn Douglass will now helm that one-person show which stars fellow Associate Greg Matthew Anderson.

We encourage you to share any thoughts, questions, or well-wishes you may have. You can still reach Timothy at the office or via his Remy Bumppo email,, until January 28. You may contact Nick Sandys directly at You can reach Executive Director Kristin Larsen at 773-244-8119 x 301 or More information about Nick can be found on our website,

Your continued support is greatly appreciated, all the more during this critical juncture. Again thank you for your loyalty and trust in our work and mission – to delight and engage audiences with the emotional and ethical complexities of society through the provocative power of great theatrical language.

See you at the theater,

Karen Randolph
Board President