Playwright Arlene Malinowski talks “…Sainthood”

Living the same life as us, but in a different way

 

by Dani Kaslow

A-MalinowskiFor most people, starting one’s career as a Deaf education teacher, obtaining a master’s degree in counseling followed by a doctorate in higher and adult education before ultimately settling into writing and acting would seem like an unusual path. For Arlene Malinowski, writer and performer of the autobiographical solo show Aiming for Sainthood, it was a logical progression. “Everything I’ve done career-wise has fed into  the next thing,” she said in a recent telephone interview. First and foremost, Malinowski sees herself as an educator. “Writing and sharing my story and my family’s story are just educating in a different way.”

Malinowski’s parents are Deaf, with a capital D. In Deaf culture, a “Deaf” person is someone with a hearing loss who is part of the Deaf community and uses American Sign Language. A “deaf” person is someone who has a significant hearing loss, but who is not culturally Deaf. Although she is hearing, Malinowski grew up in the Deaf community, straddling (and often bridging) the worlds of mainstream American culture and Deaf culture.

The role of hearing children in Deaf families often involves taking on adult responsibilities at a young age as the children are called on to interpret the conversations and the cultural differences of the adults around them. Aiming for Sainthood is the second in Malinowski’s trilogy of full-length solo shows about her experiences as a CODA (Child of Deaf Adults). When asked if she, like many other aiming CODA’s, ever went through a period of rebelling against her role in the family and its responsibilities, Malinowski laughed and said, “it’s all in my first show, What Does the Sun Sound Like. That show is about growing up CODA and coming to the realization of ‘that’s my tribe.’” Although some of her duties were unique, Malinowski thinks she was similar to most other teenagers. “I think every kid goes through some kind of rebellion. Mine manifested itself as ‘do I have to?’ (interpret or whatever), but I think every kid goes through it in some way or other. I got wild, but I wasn’t a bad child.”

Aiming for Sainthood is billed as “a solo play for Deaf and hearing audiences,” and is told in sign language and voice. Director Richard Perez does not know American Sign Language, but Malinowski doesn’t see Perez’s inability to sign as negatively impacting the process. “It is different, in that it is solo work, especially autobiographical solo work, so the [actor-director] relationship is much more collaborative,” said Malinowski. She also praised Perez’s efforts to learn about Deaf culture. “He’s been great trying to learn about Deaf culture. It’s opened a great world for him to start understanding what Deaf culture is. He’s been just great.”

It isn’t only her director who has earned Malinowski’s respect in this area. “I am humbled by hearing people who have stepped across their comfort line to communicate [with Deaf individuals]. I am grateful for every hearing person who has tried to sign, or gesture, or write a note, because I know it’s hard. I know it is. I am awed by their ability to be kind and to make contact.”

Malinowski challenges audiences to learn about Deaf culture while they’re being entertained. Though a Deaf family is beyond the experience of most audience members, she has been surprised to find how many people could relate to her story. She has been approached by several people whose first exposure to Deaf culture was through her work who say, “that’s my story!”

Malinowski has found that the struggles of children of first generation immigrants can especially reflect similar experiences she went through. Linguistic and cultural differences within a single family are themes common to immigrant and Deaf/hearing families. Malinowski can relate to the need to find an identity within a culture that some immigrants feel. “My first show is primarily about finding identity, in my case as a CODA.”

Malinowski said initially people were shocked that “my family life is so normal,” but she was pleasantly surprised to find how quickly audiences seemed to understand that. “Aside from the flashing lights for the doorbell and the waving of the hands,” family life in Malinowski’s house growing up was “like anybody else’s.”

The universality of human experience, while the details may differ, seems to be part of Malinowski’s larger message. “I would want people to know that everyone does have a story, but we have stopped listening to each other. Hopefully, through my work, people will start listening to each other. In the Deaf community, because storytelling is such a high art, their stories are passed from hand to hand to hand and the Deaf community embraces that storytelling. Deaf culture has done that right. They’ve passed their culture and their history from hand to hand. Really, in the end, we all live the same lives, just in many different ways.”

Malinowski has acting credits in theater, television, and film. In addition to the trilogy of which Aiming for Sainthood is a part, Malinowski has written and starred in three solo one-act plays which she has performed in multiple venues. For now, Chronic, the third show in Malinowski’s trilogy, is in the conceptual stages. She continues to educate, and not only through her solo shows. Malinowski has taught at colleges throughout the country and currently teaches solo intensives in her studio in addition to teaching at Chicago Dramatists, where she is Resident Playwright.

Theatergoers will have the opportunity to see Aiming for Sainthood this weekend at Millennium Park as part of the In the Works series. Aiming for Sainthood will be produced later this season at Victory Gardens Theater’s new Studio Theater in Chicago.


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Aiming For Sainthood

A Solo Play For Deaf And Hearing Audiences Written/performed by Arlene Malinowski
Directed by Associate AD Richard Perez

About the Play

When her Deaf mother gets cancer, a middle-aged daughter moves back into her childhood room with two questions: “Where is God?” and “Who took my Springsteen poster?”

The hearing daughter of devout Deaf parents must navigate through the cross-cultural maze of the medical world, the Deaf world, and the world beyond. This story is about parents and children, Deaf and hearing, love and forgiveness, faith and tolerance, and finding yourself amid the clash of cultures we call America.

Through this autobiographical, one-woman play, Ms. Malinowski shares her heritage. It is told through both sign language and voice, using both Deaf and hearing storytelling techniques. It challenges audiences to share a world beyond their experiences: the culture of Deafness – a community of people defined not by their disability but by their shared language, perspective and values – a community which believes, “We aren’t broke – so don’t try to fix us.”

REGULAR PERFORMANCES:

Thursday, March 25, Friday, March 26 and Saturday, March 27. All shows at 7:30pm.

TICKET PRICES: All Tickets are $10
To purchase tickets, call 312.742.TIXS (8497) or buy online here of at http://millenniumpark.org/

NOTE: With the In the Works series, audiences have a chance to sit on the stage of the Jay Pritzker Pavilion, experiencing works in development by local theater artists or companies. The series is supported by a grant from Boeing Charitable Trust.

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ATC celebrates 25th Anniversary with SILVER PROJECT

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American Theater Company will be presenting their first installment of the company’s 25th Anniversary celebration, The Silver Project, which will include world premiere plays by playwrights Steven Belber, Itamar Moses, Yussef El Guindi, Stephen Karam and Brian Tucker. The first Silver Project presentation will take place at American Theater Company, 1909 W. Byron Street, Chicago on Monday, February 8th at 7:30 p.m.  (more info)

A little background

To celebrate the company’s 25th Anniversary, Artistic Director PJ Paparelli asked over 30 playwrights across the country to choose a year between 1985 and 2010 and write a short play that explores the company’s mission: “what does it mean to be an American?Directed and performed by over 50 Chicago artists, the plays will be presented in five parts throughout the year and as a complete cycle during the National Theatre Communications Group Conference June 16-20, 2010 here in Chicago.

"ATC is proud to launch our Silver Project with world premieres from five of the country’s most innovative playwrights. From Rudy Guilliani’s radical clean up of New York City to a school satire sparked from the Bush/Kerry debate to collateral damage caused by Hurricane Katrina and 9/11, Part I explores pivotal American events in the 00’s from five diverse perspectives," Paparelli says.

 

The Program

The program for the initial showcase on February 8th will include:

 

Year 2000:  Quality of Life, written by Steven Belber, directed by Jason W. Gerace.
   
Year 2001: There Was So Much We Were Going To Do, written by Itamar Moses, directed by Jeremy Wechsler
   
Year 2003: So Unlike Me, written by Yussef El Guindi, directed by Eric Ziegenhagen
   
Year 2004: Pee in the School by Stephen Karam, directed by Jesse Young
   
Year 2005: Famous Blue Raincoat, written by Brian Tucker, directed by Derrick Sanders

 

Playwrights’ Bios

Steve Belber Stephen Belber’s work as a playwright has been produced on Broadway and in over 25 countries. His plays include Match (Tony nomination for Frank Langella); Tape (Time Out’s Top Ten Plays 2001); McReele (Roundabout Theater); Geometry of Fire, (Rattlestick); Fault Lines (Cherry Lane) and A Small, Melodramatic Story (Labyrinth Theater Company). He was an Associate Writer on The Laramie Project (Drama Desk and Lortel nominations), and co-writer on the more recent Laramie Project Epilogue. Movies include Tape, directed by Richard Linklater; The Laramie Project (Associate Writer/Emmy Nomination for screenwriting); Drifting Elegant and Management, which he also directed, starring Jennifer Aniston and Steve Zahn. Currently developing screen adaptations of both Match and McReele. Television includes Rescue Me and Law and Order SVU (staff writer). He is a proud member of both Tectonic Theater Project and the Labyrinth Theater Company.

Yussef El Guindi Yussef El Guindi’s plays include Jihad Jones and the Kalashnikov Babes, (Golden Thread Productions, InterAct Theater, and Kitchen Dog Theater), Our Enemies: Lively Scenes of Love and Combat (Silk Road Theatre Project, Jeff Nominated), Ten Acrobats in an Amazing Leap of Faith (Silk Road Theatre Project), Back of the Throat (Theater Schmeater), and an upcoming production of Language Rooms (Wilma Theater). His play, Ten Acrobats in an Amazing Leap of Faith, is included in Salaam/Peace: An Anthology of Middle-Eastern-American Playwrights, published by TCG in 2009. Yussef holds an MFA from Carnegie-Mellon University and was playwright-in-residence at Duke University.

Stephen Karam Stephen Karam is the author of Speech & Debate which was produced off-broadway by Roundabout Theatre Company as the inaugural production of Roundabout Underground.  He is the co-author of columbinus (2006 Helen Hayes nomination), which ran off-broadway at New York Theatre Workshop following a co-production by Round House/Perseverance Theaters.  His latest play was commissioned by Roundabout Theatre Company and will have its world premiere in their 2010-2011 season.  Current projects:  screenplay of Speech & Debate for Overture Films and the libretto for an original chamber opera with composer Nico Muhly.

Itamar Moses 3 Itamar Moses is the author of the full-length plays Outrage, Bach At Leipzig, Celebrity Row, The Four of Us, Yellowjackets, Back Back Back, and Completeness, and various short plays and one-acts. His work has appeared Off-Broadway and at regional theatres across the U.S. and Canada. Moses holds an MFA in Dramatic Writing from NYU and has taught playwriting at Yale and NYU. He is a member of the Dramatists Guild, MCC Playwrights Coalition, Naked Angels Mag 7, and is a New York Theatre Workshop Usual Suspect. He was born in Berkeley, California, and now lives in Brooklyn, New York.

Brian Tucker is a graduate of The Juilliard School’s Playwrights Program, in New York, where he was a Lila Acheson Wallace American Playwrights Fellow.  Tucker’s other plays include The St. James Infirmary, Sins of the Father, The Great Defeat of Coltrane Grey, and Bathing Van Gogh.  Tucker’s work in film includes Broken City, currently in development with Mandate Pictures, and an adaptation of the Korean film Sympathy For Mr. Vengeance for Warner Bros.  He resides in New York City.

 

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REVIEW: 24th Annual Young Playwrights Festival

The voices of the future are here.

 

YPF24 (2010)

January 7-31, 2010

Fridays and Saturdays @ 8:00 p.m.

Sundays @ 3:00 p.m.

special first preview performance on Thursday, January 7 @ 8:00 p.m.

Click here to purchase tickets

(All seats just $15 each)

 

review by Oliver Sava

The three works that comprise Pegasus Players‘ 24th Annual Young Playwrights Festival offer unique views on youth, mortality, and abuse, and were all written by high school students. Aided by professional writing mentors, the playwrights are given the opportunity to see their ideas take shape under the guidance of some of the city’s top directing, acting, and design talent. The results are positive across the board, but like any group of adolescents, maturity varies from script to script.

 


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The Nowhere People

Gabriella Bonamici‘s heartbreaking drama about widower Ernie (Benjamin Sprunger) and his mission to communicate with his dead wife, Ann, is the highlight of the evening, expertly directed by Kimberly Senior, who has steadily created a career around her ability to capture grief on stage (see: Timeline Theatre’s All My Sons and Next Theatre’s The Overwhelming). Luckily, Ernie’s neighbor Danny (Alice Wedoff) has a ghost of her own, and she’s been building a ghost-machine to open a portal to the spirit world and send it back. Bonamici’s script moves with fluidity and ease, filled with humor while never losing the gravity of the loss of a loved one on the human spirit. The script also handles exposition beautifully, gradually revealing essential information about the characters as the dramatic tension builds, and each discovery adds a new layer to the conflict. As landlord Sid (Michael Gonring) becomes increasingly concerned with Danny’s mental health and the ghost-machine’s uncanny ability to knock out the building’s power, Ernie has to decide between his own life and the answers he so desperately seeks. Sprunger and Wedoff have great chemistry, bonding through their joint experiences of loss and their common goal of reaching into the afterlife, and both actors are fully committed to the slightly far-fetched circumstances. The actors shine because of the script, a subtle yet powerful examination of the ghosts that haunt us all, and the extraordinary measures people go to escape the past.

 

Rating: ★★★½


 

 Roller Coaster

roller-coastTrapped atop a roller coaster, Effie (Rinska Carrasco) and Milo (Gonring) discover the unexpected connections they share while learning a bit about themselves. Gixiang Lee‘s hilarious script balances high school dramedy with a hefty load of cultural references that actually serve to flesh out the characters rather than simply give the piece an air of relevance. Effie enthusiastically singing Salt N’ Pepa’s "Push It" as they are elevated to the top of the coaster while Milo clings for dear life, terrified at what awaits below. Total opposites, but you know what they say about opposites. Lee’s script isn’t realistic, the Effie and Milo’s relationship is almost completely based on coincidence, but it is her fearlessness with the comedy that makes the piece so memorable. Milo’s list of fears, ranging from heights to large rabbits to "the small but ever present threat of death from falling out of bed," is brilliant, and the T.P. Employee (Sprunger) that comes to their non-rescue is played with a ridiculousness that borders on caricature but works in the context of the play. The humor might not be the most sophisticated, but Lee creates sympathetic characters that are easy to root for, making Roller Coaster an excellent comedic piece with real heart.

 

Rating: ★★★


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deliver me from evil

 

In therapy after being hospitalized for attempted suicide, Magdelina (Wedoff) reveals a history of physical, emotional, and sexual abuse inflicted by her mother (Gilmary Doyle) in Kat Blackburn‘s deliver me from evil.The strain of past trauma begins to weigh on Magdelina’s relationship with girlfriend Soda (Caren Blackmore), and she must confront her demons in order to salvage the only loving relationship she has ever known. Petra (Carrasco), Edward (Gonring), and Jenny (Mildred Marie Langford) represent the childish, masculine, and feminine aspects of Magdelina’s tortured psyche, giving form to the poetry in her journal. These sequences, combinations of interpretive movement with symbolic imagery, have varying degrees of success. One particularly chilling entry features the four teens cutting together, the act taking on a communal nature reminiscent of ritual sacrifice, but at times the poetic sections feel a little too much like they were ripped from a teenager’s journal – angstful , angry, and lacking in maturity. The actor’s do a fine job with the material, but deliver feels the most like a play written by a high school student of the three.

Rating: ★★½

BET presents its 5th-Annual Black Playwrights Festival

 

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Black Ensemble Theater presents

The 5th-Annual Black Playwrights Festival

DECEMBER 7-14, 2009

Jackie Taylor, Founder and Executive Director of Black Ensemble Theater, is proud to announce the 5th Annual Black Playwrights Festival, produced by the Black Playwrights Initiative (BPI). running from Monday, December 7 through Monday, December 14, 2009.

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The Black Playwrights Festival was created by playwright Jackie Taylor to provide adequate exposure to the members of the Black Playwrights Initiative (BPI), offer a professional platform to have members’ works produced, and bring attention to the high quality of work that African American playwrights from Chicago have to offer. The BPI is a program created and developed by Taylor for the purpose of highlighting Chicago’s rich community of African American playwrights and to help strengthen the pool of Chicago playwrights by providing a forum for play readings, year round classes, workshops and resources. Additionally, the BPI was created to provide a continuum of scripts for the Black Ensemble Theater, helping to expose playwrights on both a local and national level.

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Highlights of the Black Playwrights Festival include readings of “Nothin but the Blues” written by Joe Plummer and David Barr; “The Dancesical, a play performed through dance choreographed by Rueben Echoles; and “The Clark Sisters” written by Dawn Bless Mitchell.

All performances will take place at the Black Ensemble Theater, 4520 N. Beacon St. Single tickets are $10.00 per night. A “Playwrights Pass” can be purchased for $30.00 and can be used for entrance to any night. Valet Parking is available for $8.00.

Below the fold is a complete schedule for the 5th Annual Black Playwrights Festival. All plays are works in progress and the first acts will be the only acts presented for the reading. Audiences will have the opportunity to discuss each reading with the writers and offer feedback and reaction to each work.

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Stages 2009 – Calling all Musical Theatre devotees!!!

THEATRE BUILDING CHICAGO PRESENTS

STAGES 2009

 

the 16TH ANNUAL FESTIVAL OF NEW MUSICALS IN PROGRESS
Presented by Theatre Building Chicago
AUGUST 21-23, 2009

Especially for musical theatre junkies (and their friends) – Theatre Building Chicago presents STAGES 2009, a festival of 5 new musicals in progress, a new topical revue and 2 panel discussions Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, August 21-23, 2009.

The three-day musical extravaganza performs each new work twice in concert readings and studio presentations. Now in its 16th season, STAGES focuses on the development of new works of musical theatre.  The new works, in staged-reading format, include:

» SONGS IN THE KEY OF TODAY

  A new topical review of songs written specifically for STAGES. Works include numbers by Martin Charnin, George Stiles & Anthony Drew, Wally Harper and Sherman Yellen, Owen Kalt and Elizabeth Doyle and many other writers. Friday 7:30pm, Sunday 4pm (a pre-show reception at 6:30pm will be held before Friday’s performance)

» GIRL DETECTIVE

  Murder is hard. Adolescence is harder. Casey Ames, a teenager
transplanted from New York City to a small town in Pennsylvania, is
obsessed with becoming a detective. This musical explores the full
spectrum of teenage angst.  (Saturday 1pm, Sunday 4pm)

» HUNGER

  This American drama reveals the true history of intrepid settlers
who head west to fulfill their dreams but encounter a nightmare
of challenges that test their faith, spirit and their very souls.

» ON THE BRINK

  When an aging grandfather is confronted by Death in the form of Mr. Brink, he thwarts Mr. Brink’s plans by trapping him up a tree. With Mr. Brink unable to do his duty, no one can die. Mr. Brink works through the grandfather’s family and friends to try and convince the old man to free him and to restore the natural order.

» OPENING DAY

  A troubled Vietnam vet living with his sister is visited by an army buddy who dredges up the memories of a mutual comrade lost in a battle they both survived. This moving drama explores the themes of guilt, forgiveness, love and how we survive our own personal histories. (Saturday 1pm, Sunday 4pm)

» SONG POEMS WANTED! THE MUSICAL

  Song poems are the vanity publishing side of the music  recording industry. The musical features dozens of actual song poems (such as Aliens Stole My Dog) and tells the stories of a song poem composer and the everyday people who submit
their poetry for “consideration”. (Saturday 4pm, Sunday 7pm)

Panel discussions (available to all ticket-holders)

Writing Theatre for Young Audiences – Saturday August 22nd 10:00 AM
Learn what elements make imaginative and engaging theatre for children. What are the special considerations and specific responsibilities in writing material for young audiences? Writers and producers who specialize in this audience share their experiences, trade secrets and vision for the craft.

Understanding Intellectual Property Rights – Sunday August 23 – 10:00 AM
Experts in the field will speak on the intricacies and legal  issues regarding adaptations, obtaining rights, paying for  the underlying rights and what is a reasonable fee. What is public domain?  Privacy laws regarding what you can and cannot use regarding real people and events in new works.

STAGES 2009 tickets are now on sale at the box office: 773-327-5252
and Ticketmaster 1-800-982-2787 (www.ticketmaster. com)

For more info, including personnel and performer’s names, ticket pricing, performance location, transportation, and interview possibilities for the press, click on “Read more”

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Chicago Theater tidbits: Batsheva Dance Company, Village Players, "Don’t Dress for Dinner"

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A post-performance chat with Batsheva Dance Company Artistic Director Ohad Naharin will be held immediately following the Feb. 7 (opening night) performance at the Auditorium Theatre. Dance critic Lucia Mauro will moderate. Returning to Chicago for the first time in 15 years, Batsheva Dance Company of Israel will present Naharin’s signature work “Deca Dance”.  The renowned company will perform for 2 evenings only, Feb 7th and 8th.  Tickets: thru Ticketmaster or calling 312.902.1500.  (See pics above)
   

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Don’t worry, although I have my YouTube series “Sunday Night Sondheim”, I won’t add “Monday Morning Pope“.
   

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The world-premier musical “Far From Freud”, presented by Oak Park’s Village Players, has added one final performance – Friday, January 30th at 8pm.  “Far From Freud” is written by Phil Riegle and directed by Christopher Pazdernik.  [Listen to one of the show’s songs “How It’s Gonna Be” by clicking here.]
   

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On this day in history (January 27th): In 1885 stage and screen composer Jerome Kern was born in New York.  And it just so happens that another composer was also born on the 27th: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, born in Salzburg in 1756.
   

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Darren Pettie will join the cast of British Stage Company’s screwball comedy Don’t Dress for Dinner“, by Marc Camoletti and directed by John Tilling. Other members of the ensemble include Mark Harelik (Light In The Piazza) and Patricia Kalember of “thirtysomething” and “Sisters“. Running through February at The Royal George, more info can be found at the show’s website.
   

Video Clip from ‘Don’t Dress for Dinner’

Chicago theater tidbits: Tom O’Horgan, Tuta Theatre, Rachel Rockwell, Oleg Bogaev

Tom O'Horgan's Wikipedia page Sheldon Patinkin, chair and collegue at the Columbia College Theater Department reminisces about about the late Tom O’Horgan, director of the original Broadway production of Hair. Sheldon Patinkin, worked with O’Horgan in the Playwrights Theatre Club in Chicago.  Read the article at the Chicago Reader’s Onstage blog.

Picture: Tom O’Horgan

aladdinExtended: Marriott‘s “Theatre for Young People” has extended their present production, Aladdin, through August 19th.  Directed and choreographed by Rachel RockwellAladdin features music by Alan Menken, lyrics by Howard Ashman and Tim Rice, with the book adapted by Jim Luigs.  For show dates/times, go to Marriott’s website.

 

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Tuta Theatre hosts Reading of Oleg Bogav’s “Russian National Postal Service”

At 12 noon, Saturday, January 24th, TUTA headquarters are getting a whole lot more interesting. To help celebrate TUTA’s Chicago premier of Maria’s Field, in association with Chicago DCA Theater, playwright Oleg Bogaev will be coming all the way in from Russia. As an added bonus, TUTA is presenting a staged reading of Bogaev’s internationally acclaimed one act play: Russian National Postal Service, a rollicking and heartbreaking story of a lonely pensioner and the historical, popular, and other worldly figures of his imaginary correspondences. The reading, featuring actor Gary Houston, will be followed by a discussion with Oleg Bogaev about his work, his experiences, and the state of the art. Coffee and treats will be served up with this delightful event, and admission is FREE.

What: The Russian National Postal Service

Staged reading and discussion with playwright, Oleg Bogaev

When: Saturday, January 24th, 12pm

Where: The TUTA Loft, 2032 W. Fulton, Chicago, IL 60612

(3 blocks south of Grand, Just west of Damen)

How Much: FREE