Waltzing Mechanics, Chicago’s stage for documentary theatre, is growing and transitioning, and we have so many developments to share with you! Let’s get started:
Our founding artistic director, Thomas Murray, has been admitted to the M.F.A. program in Directing and Public Dialogue at Virginia Tech. This highly individualized graduate course of study accepts only one student a year, and its core tenets include forming creative community partnerships and animating community dialogue through theatre – both key aims of Waltzing Mechanics’ work as well. Since Thomas will be relocating to Blacksburg, Virginia to complete this program, he will remain a Mechanic but will step down from his role as artistic director at the end of the summer.
In August, co-founder Zack Florent will assume the role of Waltzing Mechanics’ artistic director to foster our continued public and community-based programming. Zack has helmed four editions of our flagship EL Stories series, co-directed our 2014 production of Line One, and associate directed our 2013 production of Kate’s Dates. While serving as a Peace Corps volunteer, he also constructed a theatre education curriculum for students in the Phillippines. Zack holds a degree in theatre from Ball State University.
A Mechanic since 2011, Bryan Campbell will serve as the company’s managing director starting next month. As an actor on our stages, Bryan appeared in five editions of EL Stories and anchored our 2012 production of Over My Dead Body in the role of cemetery advocate Bob Sell. He made his directorial debut with the 14th edition of EL Stories last year and will helm our 6th annual EL Stories: Holiday Train at the end of 2016. He has served as Waltzing Mechanics’ company manager for the last year. Like Zack and Thomas, Bryan is a graduate of Ball State University.
As our production director, Carinne Uslar will assume additional responsibilities as a primary liaison between Waltzing Mechanics’ growing artistic and management teams. Artistically, she will return to the director’s chair for our 5th annual EL Stories: Holiday Train in November. Carinne also graduated from Ball State University.
Kanomé Jones is our newest casting director, succeeding fellow Mechanic Adrienne Matzen who managed our audition processes exceedingly well for the last four years. Kanomé performed in our 10th edition of EL Stories in 2013 and associate directed EL Stories: Love Train earlier this year. She will make her directorial debut on the 24th edition of EL Stories in the winter of 2016. Prior to moving to Chicago, Kanomé was an acting apprentice with the Actors Theatre of Louisville. She is a graduate of Missouri State University.
Since our production of Line One last fall, Adrienne Matzen has served as the company’s resident voice coach. Her work with the rotating casts of EL Stories has been particularly notable. A Mechanic since 2011, Adrienne has performed in five editions of EL Stories and our 2012 production of Over My Dead Body. She is a graduate of LAMDA and Wichita State University.
Waltzing Mechanics is thrilled to launch its first partnership in higher education with Ball State University‘s acclaimed Department of Theatre and Dance. As the recipient of a Provost Immersive Learning Grant, associate professor Karen Kessler will lead a group of undergraduate students on the creation of a documentary play about sexual assault on college campuses. Mechanics Bryan Campbell, Thomas Murray, and Eleni Pappageorge will travel to Muncie, Indiana this month to teach research methods for devising ethnographic drama. Three Mechanics under the guidance of education director Amy Hopkins will return to campus in September to teach adaptation and performance of documentary plays. The partnership will culminate in a public reading of the new script in Chicago this December.
We’re on the cusp of announcing an exciting production partnership as the next step forward for Body/Courage, a full-length verbatim play adapted from interviews and performed by guest artist Danielle Pinnock. Mechanics Patrice Foster and Thomas Murray collaborated with Danielle through a series of workshop performances in 2014 under the banner of The Body Image Project. Stay tuned for additional news in the coming weeks as this docudrama nears its official world premiere!
The Mechanics are also eager to announce an additional project among our works in development. In 2010, director Andrea Beschel traveled to Kuwait to interview Filipino domestic workers who were abuse victims under the kafala sponsorship system. A drama culled from those experiences, Kafala, had its world premiere staging at Carnegie Mellon University last year. As a guest artist, Andrea will work with members of the Waltzing Mechanics artistic staff this summer to adapt her ethnographic research into a verbatim play. A workshop reading of Kafala is targeted for later this year.
Mechanics co-founder Keely Leonard remains hard at work adapting correspondence, diary entries and official records from the Romanov dynasty into an original documentary play charting their rise, their fall, and their familial love. Teamed with incoming artistic director Zack Florent, Keely is preparing the script for a workshop reading later this year. Keely serves as our Director of New Play Development and holds a degree in theatre from Ball State University.
Meanwhile, fellow Mechanics have been popping up frequently on area stages. Eleni Pappageorge just wrapped production on the world premiere of An Issue of Blood at Victory Gardens Theatre. Shariba Rivers is understudying roles in both Target Behavior for 20% Theatre Company and the world premiere documentary play The Project(s) at American Theatre Company. D.J. Reed is designing props for Doubt at Writers Theatre. Patrice Foster recently directed a series of one minute plays in the 5th annual One Minute Play Festival at The Den Theatre. Finally, Lew Wallace and Elise Spoerlein both had original short plays featured in arciTEXT at The Arc Theatre last month.