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WOMEN WE LOVE 3

Continuing Midnight's series of WOMEN WE LOVE (thanks to Esquire magazine for the concept – for earlier WOMEN WE LOVE blogs, they are Feb 12, 2014 and May 24, 2012), we're paying tribute to the women who we've worked with to present some outstanding theatre this year (and next!)

In May, Midnight presented the rarely produced THE TWO-CHARACTER PLAY at Tennessee Williams Festival St. Louis. Despite being beat-up, support and money-wise, by the fledgling Festival, we kept our heads down and produced what was the artistic triumph of the week-long event, then extended it for a couple of sold-out weekends at Winter Opera's space on The Hill.

Though we were united in this production by chance, the collaboration with Michelle Hand as my twisted sister in the play was a seamless and supportive experience. We ground through this challenging script – scene by scene, sometimes line by line – figuring out what Williams' was working towards, and what would work for us.

And Michelle performed impeccably each night (and one matinee), bringing a consistency of commitment and passion to the play, despite all curious circumstances.

Of course, it was directed by Sarah Whitney, Midnight's resident house mother, who started behind us in connection to the play, but wound up leading us through the maze of production, at each stop upping the bar and the stakes.

And then there were/are the women of Slightly Askew Theatre Ensemble. Ellie Schwetye and Rachel Tibbetts have been running this company successfully for several years, with each year and each season building audience response and critical acclaim.

I was kind of aggressive in getting connected with them. When Sarah Whitney had to bow out of directing the revival of SEX, DRUGS, ROCK & ROLL because of travel commitments, I "scouted" a few shows and directors, and liked what Rachel did with SATE's BACHELORETTE. I asked her to direct and she accepted, with perfectly positive results.

Ellie then asked me to act in the SATE's ONE FLEA SPARE, another great experience.

Thus I immediately thought of the two of them when I learned about CUDDLES. Happily, they liked the script as well, but then I got aggressive again, bringing another show for the two of them (and me), LITTLE THING, BIG THING, and all of a sudden the three of us were doing two shows, back-to-back (or one behind the other, as they might say in THE WILD BUNCH – which, in some strange way, CUDDLES reminds me of.)

Writing this, we're right in the middle of the two, but I am so looking forward to acting with Rachel, who amazed me in CUDDLES. Even though I directed it, and saw every show, she continued to surprise and delight in her performances as Eve, constantly searching for (and adding) new, small, very character-appropriate bits of business. And I could repeat this last paragraph, or just say Ellie matched her step-by-step, constantly stirring and recreating the role of Tabby.

Their performance level, night by night, was astonishingly strong and consistent. And what a pleasure to work with. From their oversight as producers to their onstage responsiveness to broad or specific direction, it made what could have been a pleasure more a stimulating, deeply rewarding effort.

And though not pictured (they do most of their work behind the scenes) other sterling women have been supporting and energizing these productions:

Liz Henning – Costumer Designer for THE TWO-CHARACTER PLAY (she also stage-managed this beast), ONE FLEA SPARE and CUDDLES, creating a variety of costume looks that subtly, viscerally supported the script and characters, and made artistic statements by themselves.

Bess Moynihan – Set/Light Designer for CUDDLES. Just as she did for ONE FLEA SPARE, she magically created separate worlds – worlds enveloping the audience during the first moments of the plays – worlds that they couldn't leave, and didn't want to.

Kristin Rion – Stage Manager for both SATE plays (and happily, for LITTLE THING, BIG THING coming up.) Ran the shows with a ruthless efficiency that echoed the dark scripts. And with a sensitivity fueled by her own work as an Actress/Director/Playwright.

Pam Reckamp – Speaking of speaking, our Dialect Coach for both SATE shows (and happily, for LITTLE THING, BIG THING coming up.) She only had to do a bit of polish for the excellent skills of Ellie and Rachel in CUDDLES, but she'll have her work cut out for her coming up for LTBT. Rachel and I each have a central character, but also about 8 bit roles – mine are Irish, with one British; Rachel's character is actually Scottish, but then she'll do several Irish accents as well as several Nigerian ones.

All Women We Love…and Love Working With!

MORE WOMEN WE LOVE

RACHEL HANKS Apologies, but in my haste to do a post about all the women I've worked with on multiple shows lately, I omitted Rachel, who I worked with on just one show, but her assistance encompassed the entire production of CUDDLES. She was, in fact, Assistant Director, and she assisted just where I needed assistance – as someone with a graduate degree in social work with focus on child abuse, she tracked through every legitimate, clinical step of the complicated relationship in the play; as a working theatre artist, she helped identify any number of small onstage moments that needed identifying, and as someone with taste and understanding of the script, turning me on to Nicole Dollanganger's music, which filled a big hole in the CUDDLES soundtrack. Big contribution to the show, but I expected it, she's a big talent. Look for her on stage in Stray Dog's A DOLL'S HOUSE in February.

And LINDA MENARD. Apologies, but in my haste to do a post about all the women I've worked with on multiple shows lately, I omitted Linda, who stage managed Midnight's THOMPAIN this past summer, and who has stage managed many, many Midnight shows in the past. We have dragged her to all sorts of places – from a Cathedral to a basement room under a halfway sleazy bar (I meant that in the best possible way), and she has come through every time, managing shows with big ambitions but sometimes offbeat support systems to constant, clean (if not wildly successful) productions. Major contributions to Midnight, but I expected no less, she started her theatre career with Sam Shepard in San Francisco. Look for her stage managing A VIEW FROM THE BRIDGE for Clayton Theatre in January.

 


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