Jessie Mutz Returns for Hamlet

The famous Jessie Mutz is back! (Soon!) Jessie will be joining us for Unrehearsed Hamlet this coming Monday the 25th, at BlackRock Pub (3614 N Damen Ave, 7:30pm, $5 at the door).

Here’s a thing I wrote about Jessie when we first learned of her departure to grad school.

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Jessie Mutz, Managing Director of the Unrehearsed Shakespeare Company, is picking up and moving back to Florida to further her education. It’s an exciting future, and I (like everyone) wish her the best. Parting is such sweet sorrow, though.

Jessie first met the Unrehearsed World in Summer of 2010. She attended and observed our ReUp, then watched our Chicago debut: Much Ado About Nothing and The Tempest. She immediately expressed interest in spreading the technique, fostering classes, and performing more.

This was a dark time for Unrehearsed Shakespeare. Virtually every aspect was managed by one man: me. I had all the company props and costume pieces in my car, since I was homeless. It was a full year before I had the security I needed to produce another show (Shrewthello: Taming of the Shrew and Othello). Jessie was onboard from the get-go, spearheading our advertising, discussing recruitment opportunities, and very happy to finally perform the technique onstage after waiting a full year.

Jessie in her debut as Curtis in Taming of the Shrew

Jessie in her Unrehearsed debut as Curtis in Taming of the Shrew, with Danny Pancratz as Grumio. Photo by John McDaris, Jr.

Most of us were introduced to Unrehearsed via the annual Bard in the Barn festival in Macomb, IL. Even though we’d performed four additional shows in our final year of Grad school, we were still used to getting to perform Unrehearsed just once a year.

Without Jessie Mutz, things may well have stayed that way.

Both our 2010 debut and our 2011 Shrewthello had insular audiences. We weren’t reaching new people (we didn’t even make Facebook events!), and even some of our base was dwindling. In 2012, thanks in no small part to Jessie, we finally started to grow.

Collaboration is how companies thrive, and we kicked that off with Blunt Objects’ Shakespeare I Love You. We worked with four other companies to produce Pericles, each of us handling one of the five acts. Thanks to Jessie, we greatly expanded our notoriety in Chicago with this single performance.

Then we went on a Pirate Ship! With the Tall Ship Windy, we got to perform an hour-long cutting of Comedy of Errors at Navy Pier.

Jessie as Luciana in Bard on the Boat! Opposite her friend and mentor Tiza Garland as Adriana

Jessie as Luciana in Bard on the Boat! Opposite her friend and mentor Tiza Garland as Adriana

It wasn’t until Comedy of Errors that we became a real company, I think. We started having regular meetings (often hosted by Jessie), responsibilities were divvied up and assigned (often to Jessie), and the freedom of delegation allowed us all to thrive in our specific areas of expertise. Imagine producing a show with no design budget and little-to-no control over a cast of 12-to-16 actors, and you can imagine the frustration that was magically lifted from my shoulders, thanks to Jessie.

Along with all these heavy responsibilities (she consistently handled the most mundane and arduous tasks), Jessie has also performed major roles in many of our shows. And deservedly so: there are few actors who so quickly take to the rapid pace, powerful energy, and deep commitment that Unrehearsed requires; or at least, that good Unrehearsed requires.
Probably my favorite photo. Jessie and me at a ReUp before Bard in the Barn 2012

Probably my favorite photo. Jessie and me with Brian Elliott at a ReUp before Bard in the Barn 2012. Photo by John McDaris, Jr.

In 2012, Zack Meyer and I took over a flagging Bard in the Barn festival in Macomb, and Jessie was cast as Rosalind in As You Like It: the largest female role in a single play and the largest Comedic lead in the canon. Preparations for As You Like It were frequently eclipsed by Antony & Cleopatra, the other show in the festival. Despite all this, and despite scheduling and managing text sessions for two shows at once, and despite hosting and managing track proofing sessions, she still managed to deliver a powerful and dynamic performance.

Jessie as Rosalind/Ganymede in As You Like It, assertively interacting with an audience member

Jessie as Rosalind/Ganymede in As You Like It, assertively interacting with an audience member

Oh! and later that year we staged Comedy of Errors again. TheaterRED in Milwaukee put up Bard in the Bandshell, and Jessie performed her first male lead: Antipholus of Syracuse, where (among other things) she got to beat up a Dromio that outweighed her by about a hundred pounds of muscle.

Jessie as Antipholus of Syracuse, practicing some violence with Christopher Elst as Dromio of Ephesus

Jessie as Antipholus of Syracuse, practicing some violence with Christopher Elst as Dromio of Ephesus

2012 was a good year for us, where we sowed and reaped a lot from our new friends in the biz. But in 2013, things really started to explode.

The low overhead of Unrehearsed shows makes it easier to put up productions, and in 2013 we produced nine shows: productions both in Chicago and Milwaukee, small staged readings of new verse plays, and even a high school workshop in Carbondale that Jessie and I ran. In 2013 alone, Jessie played Viola, Hipolyta, Beatrice, the Host of the Garter (AND Anne Page), AND Lady MacBeth. All in a single year!

Jessie as Hipolyta in Midsummer Night's Dream

Jessie as Hipolyta in Midsummer Night’s Dream. Photo by Corey DiNardo

2014 is a bit slower, but she still managed to knock Sir Andrew Aguecheek, Julius Caesar, and Juliet herself off the ol’ Shakespeare bucket-list.

"Ay me..."

Jessie in the Balcony Scene. Photo by Jill Meyer

I’ve frequently said that genius exists in small moments. Jessie’s “Banishment” Monolog in Romeo & Juliet was one of those moments. Her combination of physicality and psychological gesture, her commitment to emotional truth without sacrificing technique, her language, her refusal to judge, and her connection with herself and others, is a rare privilege to observe in Theater. And this was at least 90 minutes in, just when exhaustion starts to set in (and after the crowd-pleasing Mercutio and Tybalt are gone), and less experienced actors might start to flag or fail.

The Unrehearsed Shakespeare Company is suffering a serious loss, but we have grown so much stronger because of Jessie, that we will continue to flourish and grow stronger. And while I hope deeply that she will still be able to attend and perform in some of our shows, I am heartened by the ever-increasing number of actors who show a genuine interest in the technique and freedom and personal growth we can offer. None of this would have been possible without her, and I wouldn’t be the artist I am without her.

Jessie Mutz is a gift to any person or institution that meets her, and I hope Florida appreciates what it has.

If the dull substance of my flesh were thought,
Injurious distance should not stop my way;
For then despite of space I would be brought,
From limits far remote where thou dost stay.
No matter then although my foot did stand
Upon the farthest earth removed from thee;
For nimble thought can jump both sea and land
As soon as think the place where he would be.
But ah! thought kills me that I am not thought,
To leap large lengths of miles when thou art gone,
But that so much of earth and water wrought
I must attend time’s leisure with my moan,
Receiving nought by elements so slow
But heavy tears, badges of either’s woe.

-Sonnet 44

By for now, Jessie!

Bye for now, Jessie!

Zack Meyer returns for Hamlet!

Zack Meyer is returning one night only for Unrehearsed’s performance of Hamlet. Here’s a thing I wrote around this time last year for Zack’s last official performance with us in Richard III.

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Zack Meyer, Fight Director and founding member of the Unrehearsed Shakespeare Company, will be leaving to pursue his graduate degree very shortly. He has deep roots here in Chicago, so it’s not likely that we’ve seen the last of him, but it goes without saying that he’ll be leaving a noticeable chasm in the Unrehearsed community.

I first saw Zack perform in a studio show at Western Illinois University while I was earning my MFA. His natural charisma, ease with elevated language, and (most importantly) his genuine connections with other actors were immediately palpable. Although I allege without hesitation that he is one of the greatest conventional actors I have yet met, it is in the realm of Unrehearsed Shakespeare where he remains unique.

Zack has been doing Unrehearsed longer than I have. He played Archidamus in The Winter’s Tale, the first first production of the Bard in the Barn Festival, which means Zack spoke the first Unrehearsed words in Illinois and probably in the Midwest. He also portrayed a hilarious Lucio in Measure for Measure, and Romeo himself, all before achieving his degree. Most topically, he played Richmond in Richard III, 2008

Somewhat ironically, Zack and I never interacted onstage while at WIU. We were never cast together, and even when he returned in 2009 for Unrehearsed King Lear, we were scarcely ever onstage and barely spoke to each other.

Zack as as dying Mark Antony, with Tiza Garland as Cleopatra (2012)


So it was a bit of a surprise even to me when I realized that Zack has been one of the most influential artists in my development, and that there quite literally would not be an Unrehearsed Shakespeare Company without him.

Like many school theater societies, WIU held an annual award show managed entirely by the students: in this case the Grannies (a nod to Irene Ryan awards). Being the president of WIU’s theater society in 2009, Zack gave a short speech at the award show’s end. I’m paraphrasing of course, but essentially he said: “No matter how many opportunities you have here at WIU, no matter how much you do, when it’s time to leave, it still won’t have been enough. So take advantage of every chance to get to make some art.”

Zach Roberts and Zack Meyer as Don Pedro and Count Claudio

Zack’s brief speech inspired me to get more out of my final year at WIU. Despite some noticeable and (in some ways) almost fatal attempts to do so, this eventually led to my throwing together an Unrehearsed production ofMacBeth. It went well enough, and led to further productions of Merchant of Venice, Midsummer Night’s Dream, and Hamlet, all before getting my degree in May of 2010.

Things were rough after that: jobless, directionless, often homeless (both of the couch-surfing and the genuine variety), clueless but never without ideals. Despite having no income and no idea where I was going to sleep next week, I helped bring Unrehearsed to Chicago with Much Ado About Nothing and The Tempest. Zack played Claudio in Much Ado; he’s never been a creature of ego, despite his abilities, so he also played Adrian in The Tempest.

I had extremely limited means, so we were only doing one or two shows a year, usually at the same time (next year was Shrewthello, which brought us Jessie Mutz and a slightly wider audience). It wasn’t until Orion Couling (coworker and friend of Zack) brought us on the Tall Ship Windy for Comedy of Errors, that things had the chance to take off. This was early 2012, and I had resolved to quit Unrehearsed Shakespeare for good as soon as Comedy of Errors was over.

Zack as Antonio in Twelfth Night (2014)

By complete coincidence, Zack and I crossed paths while walking to the performance early, and so had a quick lunch together. During this lunch, he commented several times on how great it was that Unrehearsed was catching on, and the powerful sense of creative autonomy that having our own acting technique afforded us. Once again, Zack had inspired me, unintentionally and without agenda.

It was shortly after that (again, thanks to Zack) that a team was assembled to help produce shows, and a proper Unrehearsed Shakespeare Company was formed: Jessie Mutz, Danny Pancratz, Brian LeTraunik, and Zack Meyer. There was an immediate upswing in the number of shows we could produce, and the fate and direction of the company was no longer linked to my (often mercurial) financial/housing condition. Now, we have regular seasons and produce four to eight shows a year. Despite the limitations of our esoteric acting style, we are always trying new things and discovering new insights.

Zack as the First Player (Hamlet, 2010), which led to the revolutionary Story-Telling aspects of Unrehearsed.

Zack has delivered some stellar performances in the last few years: Mark Antony (twice), Benedick, Henry V, and the director of Midsummer Night’s Dream and Romeo & Juliet. But I will always be most grateful for the sincere words he offered to his classmates at Western Illinois: no matter how many opportunities you get, they will never be enough.

Tonight, Zack is performing in Hamlet. Seeing him perform is a rare treat, and I urge everyone to take advantage of this artistic opportunity, while you can.

Hamlet
July 19 & 25, August 2
7:30pm
@ Black Rock Pub
$5 at the Door

Unrehearsed Hamlet Comes to Chicago

hbTO BE OR NOT TO BE? Unrehearsed Hamlet finally arrives in Chicago! Featuring a completely different casts each night, this “The greatest of Master Shakespeare’s works” is presented in the wholly unique fashion of Unrehearsed Shakespeare!

HAMLET UNREHEARSED
July 19 (Tuesday) @ 7:30pm
July 25 (Monday) @ 7:30pm
August 2 (Tuesday) @ 7:30pm

BLACK ROCK PUB
3614 N Damen Ave
$5 At the Door

CAST, July 19 (Tuesday)
Carolyn Baker Biery
Alexandra Boroff
Erin Caswell Brutscher
Nathan Ducker
Megan Gilmore
Kevin Johnson
Zack Meyer*
John Mobley
Izis Mollinedo
Danny Pancratz
Jack Sharkey
Lisa Tosti

CAST, July 25 (Monday)
Alexandra Boroff
Erin Caswell Brutscher
Bill Daniel
Christopher Elst
Sarah Franzel**
Megan Gilmore
Dawn MT Haley
Deanne Haywood
Gaby Labotka
Kathleen Lass
Jessie Mutz*
Kaelea Rovinsky
Lisa Tosti

CAST, August 2 (Tuesday)
Robbie Bersano
Adam Betz
Bill Daniel
Marcee Doherty-Elst
Christopher Elst
Sarah Franzel**
Gaby Labotka
Jared McDaris
Kamron Palmer
Stephen Rowland
Jack Sharkey
Mike Speck*
Aiyanna Wade

*Special Guest Artist
**Student Performer

Feel free to browse some photos from our last production of Hamlet, 2010.

Workshops Are Returning!

Jessie Mutz as Buckingham in Richard III, 2015

Jessie Mutz as Buckingham in Richard III, 2015

Unrehearsed Shakespeare is looking to schedule new-performer classes for late May and early June. If you’d like to receive more information, please send your email address to jared@wethreeplays.com or unrehearsedchicago@gmail.com, to be added to our class contact list.

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TEXT WORK: Turn poetic language into immediate action and tangible relationships, independent of traditional rehearsal.

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TEAMWORK: Storytelling, in a very literal sense, focuses on group interaction, improvisational impulses, and environmental awareness.

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TOTAL WORKOUT: Unrehearsed Shakespeare is physically dynamic and intensely committed in ways that few other performance techniques are. Use some of the greatest phrases ever written to help leave your dramatic inhibitions behind you.

 

The Tempest, 2015

The Tempest, 2015

Twelfth Night, 2013

Twelfth Night, 2013

a&j

As You Like It, 2016

New Photos: As You Like It

Check out all these photos from our most recent production: As You Like It!

You can see more photos here.

All photos courtesy of iNDie Grant Productions

Alexandra Boroff Flees into the Forest of Arden

tree pictureAlex Boroff is the Managing Director of The Unrehearsed Shakespeare Company. She joined the company in 2012 playing (fittingly) Phoebe in As You Like It. She now returns to the Forest of Arden tonight at Uncommon Ground.

Alex will be stage managing Annie Jr. in Tinley Park with E.D.G.E. Theatre and Down in the Southland, a production featuring typical functioning kids and kids with Down Syndrome. For tickets, email Alex at alexandra@edgeoforion.com.

Q: If you were banished by your dukely uncle, where in the world would you flee?
ALEX: I would be banished to the mansion that Richie Rich lived in. I was always really jealous of his basketball hoop in his room.

Q: What is your most recent journey?
ALEX: I went home to Massachusetts for a week at Christmas. I WILL be going to Virginia and Mexico this year for some friends’ weddings!

Q: If you were banished to the Forest of Arden, what three things would you take with you?
ALEX:

1. Iphone with a solar charger
2. Water
3. A good bra. I hate it when it’s not well made and the underwire pokes you. If that had to be forever? I’d just end it all.
Q: There are lots of people in the Forest of Arden: Lovers, Wrestlers, Shepherds, Nobles, Clowns, Cross-dressers, and Real Estate Enthusiasts. How would you fit in? Which of these would you be?
ALEX: My first instinct is to go the Noble route (heh…heh…puns), but being a Noble in a Forest would not be fun. I’d rather be a Noble in a castle. Cross dressing would be fine for me because I’m sure the men in the forest of Arden wear more comfortable clothes, but I’d rather wear a skirt so it’s not so hot. I don’t like wrestling, shepherding, clowning, or real estate…..Lover. Let’s go with that. Rawr.

Rawr it on up with Alex!

AS YOU LIKE IT
April 19th & 26th
Uncommon Ground
1401 W Devon Ave
Doors open at 7:00, show starts at 7:30
$5
COME BE SOMETHING GREAT: THE AUDIENCE!

Eyes on Actors: Carolyn Biery

Carolyn as Oliver in As You Like It

Carolyn as Oliver in As You Like It

Carolyn is an apprentice performer who debuted with last year’s The Tempest. Most recently, she performed as Feste in Twelfth Night on Twelfth Night ’16. She’s also a member of Anarchy: An Improvised Rock Opera. Google it!

Q: How were you first introduced to Unrehearsed Shakespeare?
CAROLYN: I saw a production of Julius Caesar, and then Henry V.

Q: How does Unrehearsed differ from other acting experiences for you?
CAROLYN: Huge risks don’t seem so huge, because if you’re not doing something drastic, what are you doing?

Q: What (if anything) is your biggest challenge so far with this technique?
CAROLYN: The hardest part of the technique is keeping the pace up, while reading lines and remembering all of the rules and notes. So, pacing.

Q: One of the defining attributes of Unrehearsed is its lack of a Fourth Wall. How do you feel about this? How does it affect your work and/or prep?
CAROLYN: I adore the lack of a fourth wall. The words, and actors, literally get to reach out and touch the audience, so the audience becomes a part of the experience rather than a passive observer.

Q: What is the most exciting thing about As You Like It?
CAROLYN: The effect of the woods on everyone is pretty great. Even the high born speak prose until they enter the woods.

Q: Favorite Shakespeare Character? And/or: Favorite role to date
CAROLYN: The Fool in King Lear.

Come fool around with Carolyn!

AS YOU LIKE IT
April 19th & 26th
Uncommon Ground
1401 W Devon Ave
Doors open at 7:00, show starts at 7:30
$5
COME BE SOMETHING GREAT: THE AUDIENCE!

Erin Caswell flees into the Forest of Arden

Erin having some forest fun

Erin having some forest fun

Erin Caswell is an Unrehearsed Ensemble member who’s performed in such shows as Richard III, Titus Andronicus, and Twelfth Night.

Q: If you were banished by your dukely uncle, where in the world would you flee?
ERIN: If I were banished by my uncle, I’d want to be banished to Ireland because it’s my favorite place I’ve been so far.

Q: What is your most recent journey?
ERIN: Minneapolis, MN my native land.

Q: If you were banished to the Forest of Arden, what three things would you take with you?
ERIN: The three things I’d take with me would be My complete works of Shakespeare, a tool to forage for berries/food with, and a compass.

Q: There are lots of people in the Forest of Arden: Lovers, Wrestlers, Shepherds, Nobles, Clowns, Cross-dressers, and Real Estate Enthusiasts. How would you fit in? Which of these would you be?
ERIN: I’d be part noble who would sing at the parties/part clown.

Erin Caswell

Come sing and clown-around with Erin!
AS YOU LIKE IT
April 19th & 26th
Uncommon Ground
1401 W Devon Ave
Doors open at 7:00, show starts at 7:30
$5
COME BE SOMETHING GREAT: THE AUDIENCE!

 

Eyes on Actors: Bill Daniel

"I'd have been a sore one." (Daniel as Stephano)

Bill Daniel first joined Unrehearsed as Chiron in Titus Andronicus and has regularly been playing clowns since.

Q: How were you first introduced to Unrehearsed Shakespeare?
BILL: I had heard about Unrehearsed while working at Navy Pier with Zack Meyer. He had explained the concept behind the shows and I was immediately excited and wanted very badly to be a part of it, but did not know how to go about that.

Q: How does Unrehearsed differ from other acting experiences for you?
BILL: One of the biggest differentiations about this technique is the amount of listening that is required to do it well. Having only the last three words as a cue forces the other players to stay on their toes and keep their ears open. It’s, unfortunately, exposed the lack of listening in other shows I see and do. It shows how easy it is to slip into a comfortable and nuanceless performance if you don’t pay attention.

Q: What (if anything) is your biggest challenge so far with this technique?
BILL: Staying active! It is the most daunting and physically exhausting kind of performance I have ever had to do, and the biggest problem I face is staying true to the text and remaining active. I used to be worried about not knowing my lines, and since that isn’t a hurdle anymore, the biggest challenge is suiting the action to the word, and the word to the action.

Q: One of the defining attributes of Unrehearsed is its lack of a Fourth Wall. How do you feel about this? How does it affect your work and/or prep?
BILL: Speaking directly to the audience is one of my favorite things about Shakespeare. In previous jobs, I’ve had to perform directly for an audience, and relied on their interest and their reactions to inform my performance. So now that I can marry Shakespearean language to audience interaction, I’m basically in hog heaven. Love it. Need it. Gotta have it.

Q: What excites you about As You Like It?
BILL: The most exciting thing about As You Like It is the concept, I suppose. A group of nobles, exiled into a forest, scatter and have constant chance encounters with one another. Literally anybody could meet anybody. The amount of confusion and mischief that needs to be righted by the end makes for compelling theatre. I enjoy it.

Q: Favorite Shakespeare Character? And/or: Favorite role to date
BILL: My absolute favorite Shakespearean character is Hamlet. Hands down. It’s a role that requires equal parts comedy and melancholy. And it’s also a huge challenge. It’s like eating an apple in one bite. It can be done, but only an idiot chooses to do it.

Come make a connection with Bill April 19 AND 26!

AS YOU LIKE IT
April 19th & 26th
Uncommon Ground
1401 W Devon Ave
Doors open at 7:00, show starts at 7:30
$5
COME BE SOMETHING GREAT: THE AUDIENCE!

Aiyanna Wade flees into the Forest of Arden

awforestAiyanna Wade has been performing with Unrehearsed for about two years, having portrayed roles as varied as Viola in Twelfth Night and Gonzalo in The Tempest. She’ll be joining We Three June 9 – 25 for its sophomore production of Countess Bathory (a new Elizabethan Tragedy) and is performing in Big Fish at Madison Street Theater in Oak Park, July 21 – August 14. You can also see her on the Youtubes in Awesome Comics.

Q: If you could be banished anywhere by your dukely uncle, where would you go?
AIYANNA: Somewhere green with music, but still with running water and wi-fi. So, basically Ireland or Scotland. That would be super great, actually. Looking forward to banishment now!

Q: What was your most recent journey?

AIYANNA: I enjoy walking around Lincoln Park Zoo almost every weekday. Each day I explore a different part, hoping to catch a different animal awake each time. My new favorite is the baby Macaque that was just born!

Q: If you were banished into the Forest of Arden, what three things would you take with you and why?
AIYANNA: A knife (incredibly useful tool for preparing food, defense, and whittling other tools), a flint (fire is good for cooking, defense, and just warmth), and an animal companion (in addition to being good company, they can catch their own food and also be used as protection) – preferably a dog because my cat would be just the worst in the woods.
Q: There are lots of people in the Forest of Arden: Lovers, Wrestlers, Shepherds, Nobles, Clowns, Cross-dressers, and Real Estate Enthusiasts. How would you fit in? Which of these would you be?
AIYANNA: I’d have to go with the Shepherds. I love animals and have worked my share of odd jobs. Plus I crochet, so hello unlimited supply of yarn! My dog companion could help herd the sheep too. This could even potentially be in Ireland or Scotland! I don’t think I could pull off the cutesy little Shepherdess dresses, though. Ok, I totally could, but I don’t want to be giving the other Shepherds any funny ideas. Can I change my answer to Cross-dressing shepherds? (hello retirement plan…)
12N7 (1)Party in the sheepfold!
AS YOU LIKE IT, Unrehearsed
April 19 & 26
7:30pm (Doors open at 7:00pm)
Uncommon Ground, 1401 N Devon Ave
$5 at the Door