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A Brief Look at the playwright: Robert Francis Curtis

Brief Looks from the Afterglow is our next amazing production. Over the next 4 weeks Cold Basement Dramatics is going to be giving you a little more information about the artists behind the project. Where else to start but with where Brief Looks itself started – with playwright Robert Francis Curtis.

 

Hey Robert, in your words, what is Brief Looks from the Afterglow about?

There are lots of things the Brief Looks touches on. Mostly, the little moments between people are my way of commenting on the things in our world that I think are worth preserving. As far as what we are preserving it from, in the play it is the Apocalypse, but in reality it is our own world as tradition and culture is slowly replaced by the congestion of the next big thing. In the play, people talk about this disaster which led to this disaster, but it wasn’t as bad as the next disaster they describe. The problem with the world is that too many things are the most important things that will change the way we look at the world, but they are replaced in a matter of days. That is why Ipod’s have to have numbers after them. This is a simple element of the play.

Really, at its heart, the play is about faith and hope. We live in a world where hope was abundant a few years ago, but without swift delivery from the evils of our society, we lost it just as easily as it came. The argument I present in this play is about how faith impacts the level of hope people cling onto. What do we put our faith in? That is the question every person needs to answer for themselves. Some people place it in a sort of higher power. Others place it in more tangible things. Family, friendship, love, God, escapes, homes, etc. There is so much to trust your faith within and so much hope keep someone going, and yet few people have either of those things.

I wrote this play for my Great Aunt Lo, who clung to faith and life far longer in the face of death then I thought humanly possible. The simplest way I can say what this play is about is to say that this play is about her.

What inspired you to write this play?

I was inspired to write this play at 3 in the morning at a 24 hour diner as I drunkenly ate a Monte Cristo sandwich with my good friend Eric Sweeney. Being fans of horror films and novels and comics, particularly those about the undead, we began conceiving the idea of reinventing the idea of what a “zombie” was. The idea got kicked back and forth between him and I for about three years until I finally sat down and started writing this dark farce about people in a cabin trying to outrun the inevitability of Hell. After the deaths of my Grandmother and Great Aunt (two women who had a large hand in raising me as a child) more humanity started to come out and I began to see these characters as more than just stereotypical horror archetypes. I first submitted this script in a different form for a contest, which really pushed me to finish it by the end of 2010.  I lost. So, I began to give up on the idea of trying to reinvent the “zombie” genre and began trying to write a good story that just happened to have an undead army involved.

How do you feel about this play in comparison with other plays you’ve written?

I am very proud of this play. Before this piece I had only written smaller stage pieces. 10 minute plays and staged comedy sketches. I had also written several short screenplays. I do have a bias towards nerd culture related material, so this started out as a very fitting topic. I think as I wrote it I realized how important some of the more abstract concepts were to me as well.

You are also an actor, how is that process different for you in comparison to being a playwright?

I was told in my first year of college by my theater professor that actors make the best writers. I don’t know how true that is but I do know how I enjoy writing. This has been the first time I have participated throughout the entire process as only a playwright. It is… interesting.

It’s probably some sort of writing taboo to ask this, but which character is your favorite?

That is not taboo at all. My favorite character is Atticus Finch from Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird. As far as characters go, he always seems to get more interesting each time I read the book. I have read it about 14 times.

What is your favorite play?

My favorite play is Arthur Miller’s A View from the Bridge for which this plays title is a parody of. As far as dramatists go, Arthur Miller is a person I greatly respect and admire. His ability to create complex relationships within what are seemingly simple circumstances is everything I strive for as a writer. Granted that some would argue Brief Looks is the gravest or most dire of circumstances, I disagree. Sure it has the end of the world and all, but it already happened. Now, its just people living in a cabin, running out of food trying to figure out how they will survive either together or alone.

What’s do you think is going to happen at the end of the world?

When the world dies, so will we.

Brief Looks from the Afterglow is to be produced by Cold Basement Dramatic on June 30 – July 2 in a limited 3 night run at Gorilla Tango Theatre. Tickets are $10 and are available at http://www.gorrillatango.com
For more information on Brief Looks from the Afterglow please visit Cold Basement’s Website
For more information on Cold Basement Dramatics please visit www.coldbasement.org

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Meet the Company: Sam Hubbard

We finish introducing the 3 founding members with the loved and hated Sam Hubbard, our resident Violence Designer. Here you go!

Name:
Sam Hubbard
Age: 20
Hometown: Ann Arbor, MI

What do you do?
Actor/Fight Director, in that order.

Favorite Play?
Hamlet.  More important the penicillin?  You bet ya!

What’s your favorite show you’ve ever seen or worked on?
That’s a tough one.  As far as shows I’ve seen I’ll never forget Patrick Stewart’s Tempest with the RSC in 2006, superb blending of genre and incredible performances. The original American God of Carnage with Jeff Daniels and James Gandolfini will also always stick with me, just one of the most air-tight 2 hours I’ve ever spent.  Also, like just about any Chicago theatre-goer I was blown away by Steppenwolf’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf.  When it comes to shows I’ve been a part of Cody Estle’s The Normal Heart, George Lyon’s The Lonesome West and A Streetcar Named Desire with Pioneer Theatre Guild all stand out as particularly great experiences.

First Theatrical Experience: Seeing Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat at age 6 is probably the least appropriate introduction to the theatre imaginable for me but there you have it.  My first time getting my hands dirty with this acting thing was when I was 7 and got to be a part of Peter Pan with the Ann Arbor Young Actors Guild.  I sword fought, spend time around pretty girls and, as Michael Darling, “I flewd”. Much more up my alley.

Favorite quote: Its a long one.  It starts with “Hung be the heavens…” (Henry VI part I) and ends with “…Let your indulgence set me free” (Tempest).

Whats your secret?
Guess you’ll have to come see our shows to find out.

Meet the Company: Jack Bourgeois

Our next founder, Jack Bourgeois, is perhaps the reason Cold Basement has it’s name. Jack and his dad used to run lines in their basement – which was cold. Jack is the Artistic Director of Cold Basement Dramatics and is the reason our first show This Above All… was produced.

Name: Jack Bourgeois
Age: 21 this June
Hometown: St. Louis, Missouri

What do you do?
Actor/Director.

What is your favorite play?
The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams – Williams flawlessly depicts the struggles of creating a new life to do what makes you truly happy while being haunted by the whips and scorns of nostalgia.

What’s your favorite show you’ve ever seen or worked on?

The Subject Was Roses, 2008. For years, my father told me that the summer I turn 18, he would direct me as the son in this post WWII kitchen sink drama. When the time came, I convinced him to play my father. It was the last thing I did in St. Louis before moving to Chicago and I will always remember it fondly.
First Theatrical Experience: My mother signed me up for a drama camp when I was nine years old. We mounted a production of “The Adventures of Lewis and Clark.” I dazzled audiences with my stirring portrayal of Soldier Number Two.
Favorite Quote: “This above all: to thine own self be true. And it must follow as the night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man.” – Polonius
What’s your secret?
If I told you, it wouldn’t be a secret.


Meet the Company: Cassandra Rose

Cold Basement Dramatics was started in 2010 by 3 very ambitious people. We’d like to introduce you to those people starting with our associated artistic director Cassandra Rose. Here is everything you need to know about Cass

Name: Cassandra Rose
Age: 22

Hometown: Rockford, IL

What do you do?
I’m a playwright and dramaturg. What can I say? Stories make the world go ’round.

Favorite Play?
Equus by Peter Shaffer. It’s the perfect balance of mythology and psychology in a fluid world. Plus there are puppets.

What’s your favorite show you’ve ever seen or worked on?
Gatz by Elevator Repair Service, 2008 at the Museum of Contemporary Art. From a simple premise came a transcendental show: over the course of nine hours (including two intermissions and an hour for dinner) a simple office drone read the entirety of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby out loud. Never before had I seen how much strength performance and design could add to words.

First Theatrical Experience: My father teaches a continuing education dixieland/ragtime band at the community college back in Rockford on Monday nights. At the end of each semester the band performs three nights only. As most of the members are in their senior years, my dad tells a lot of jokes in between songs to help people catch their breaths before moving forward. When I was four I helped my dad tell this telephone joke up onstage in front of everybody.

  • MAN on phone: Ring Ring!
  • Little GIRL on phone: Hello?
  • MAN: Hello there, little girl. Can I speak to your father?
  • GIRL: No, he’s busy.
  • MAN: Can I speak to your mother then?
  • GIRL: No, she’s busy too.
  • MAN: Oh. Is there anybody else in the house with you?
  • GIRL: Yes. The policeman.
  • MAN: The policeman? Well, could I speak with him?
  • GIRL: No, he’s busy too.
  • MAN: Okay. Is there anybody else in the house with you?
  • GIRL: Yes. A fireman.
  • MAN: A fireman! Could I speak to him instead?
  • GIRL: No, they’re all busy.
  • MAN: Busy with what?
  • GIRL: Looking for me.

I was adorable. My hair was in french braids.

Favorite quote: I have the simplest taste. I am always satisfied with the best. -Oscar Wilde

What’s your secret?
I won a Harry Potter costume contest when I was 12. As Harry Potter.


Cabin Fever

By Cassandra Rose

This past weekend marked the end of days auditions for Cold Basement Dramatic’s final show of season one, Brief Looks From The Afterglow. After months of wrangling schedules, game-changers, and rewrites, it’s about damn time.

Ever since I first read Robert Francis Curtis’ play, I have been itching to see everything play out off the page and on the stage. This is a play where the devil walks outside the shadows and a claustrophobic cabin becomes the final stronghold for humanity. The characters shudder from each page with enough force to knock the logs out of the walls. These are people that have survived a disintegrating world to find each other. They’re not going down without a fight. And that fight starts now.

Look out, Chicago, Cold Basement Dramatics is bypassing the Apocalypse and skipping right to the last page.

Found in the Basement

What is in your basement?

This blog is for those who want to know more about the Secrets that we bring to light. It’s a blog with entries by Cold Basement Dramatics about our process and details about the productions that we are working on.

For more info on Cold Basement Dramatics, visit http://www.coldbasement.org