2016 Introductory Speech from Night of Flight

  • Posted on: 27 January 2016
  • By: Fin.Coe

(Associate Artistic Director Fin Coe here.  This past Friday was our fourth annual Night of Flight gala.  It was a wonderful night of dancing, dining, and celebrating our honorees, Coya Paz and Chay Yew.  Here's the text of the introductory speech I gave to start the evening off)

Halcyon is a theatre unlike most theatres in Chicago, or anywhere else for that matter.  We strive to not only be a part of the theatrical community, but to add to it and improve it, to contribute positive social change to the artistic conversation.  For the last decade, we’ve pushed boundaries and bucked trends, producing plays you don’t often see by people you don’t often hear about.  We curated and produced six Alcyone Festivals of plays written exclusively by women, created countless performance opportunities for emerging local talent, fostered outside artists, provided acting and writing development in our Compass Labs and Nest Labs, and built relationships with progressive artists and companies within Chicago and outside of it.

It’s not that we’ve “given a voice” to the underrepresented or the marginalized, but rather that we’ve consciously and uncompromisingly given those voices a place to be heard, and have helped to turn the spotlight onto a broader spectrum of artists.

We are a company of actors, directors, writers, technicians, dramaturgs, designers, dancers, photographers, activists, puppeteers, entrepreneurs, teachers, musicians, and other sundry vocations.  There is more to our company than you’d expect, and we aim to show that that’s also the case with our city, and its theatrical possibilities.  Our programming, our casting, our staffing, all serve our mission: To make the stage as diverse as the city of Chicago.

I am honored to be a part of the work that we do, and to apply myself to the mission that we work towards, and I thank you all for coming out tonight to support that mission.

Special Events for In Love and Warcraft

  • Posted on: 19 August 2015
  • By: Tony

Siobhan Reddy-Best as Evie in In Love and Warcraft, photo by Tom McGrath.

Plate and Play Thursdays
On Thursday nights beginning August 20, Halcyon is partnering with three neighborhood restaurants for a pre-show meal package for audience members of In Love and Warcraft; Ruk Sushi & Thai, Semiramis Lebanese Cuisine and Tortugas Cantina. Find out more.

Tortugas Cantina
A gem in Albany Park bringing authentic Latin American food, drink and entertainment
3224 West Lawrence Avenue, Chicago, IL 60625

Semiramis Lebanese Cuisine
Everything we serve is made from scratch daily, using only the freshest ingredients.
4639-41 N Kedzie Ave, Chicago, IL 60625

Ruk Sushi & Thai
Our menu is inspired by Thai and Japanese cusine offering the best of both worlds. It doesn't matter if it's pad thai, tom yum, curry or sushi, we have a dish to suit almost any taste.
4700 N. Kimball Ave, Chicago, IL 60625

Cosplay night - Friday, August 28The characters of In Love and Warcraft use cosplay to bring to life their Warcraft avatars - and to show how they really see themselves.  Come dressed in your favourite cosplay outfit (no genre restrictions, no judgement, but bear in mind that we don't have great climate control in the theater) and share in a geek-friendly good time.

Panel Discussion - Saturday August 29 at 5pm
There will be a panel discussion featuring Sex Therapist Constance Sheehan, on the topic of sex communication, sexuality and internet role playing games. Additional panelists TBA.

Constance Sheehan, Ph.D., L.C.S.W., received a Master of Clinical Social Work at New York University and Ph.D. at Loyola University Chicago. She completed an Interdisciplinary Fellowship in Palliative Care at the Bronx VA and subsequently completed post-graduate studies at: NYU’s International Trauma Studies Program; Ackerman Institute for the Family; Harvard Medical School’s Mind/Body Medicine program as well as Harvard’s Positive Psychology in Mind/Body Medicine. She trained at Loyola Medical Center in Sexual Dysfunction Clinic.

Constance has a long-standing interest in yoga and mindfulness and it’s integration in psychotherapeutic approaches and is a certified yoga instructor in restorative yoga, and yoga for depression and yoga for homeless youth. She is fully teacher trained in Mindful Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) through UMASS Medical Center. She has had extensive training in Restorative Justice and is a certified Circle Keeper. Constance was Clinical Faculty for nine years at The Family Institute at Northwestern University where she taught Sex Therapy and Integration of Family of Origin an Systems and remains the founding director of The Mental Health Human Rights Clinic in the Counseling Program at Northwestern. She is full time Clinical Faculty at DePaul University Department of Social Work. She also teaches Human Rights at University of Chicago SSA, and Clinical courses at Loyola University Chicago MSW program. She has a private practice in Evanston, IL.

Understudy Performance - Saturday Sept. 5th at 8pm.
Understudies Krystal Ortiz (Evie), Alexandra Gonzalez (Kitty) Ian Michael Smith (Raul) and Ted Kitterman (Ryan) will perform in the show alongside Allyce Torres (Female) and Michael Turrentine (Male)

Game Day - New Works Edition
Saturday, September 12 from 3-7pm. Tickets are $30 for Games and advance admission to the 8pm performance, $20 for advance admission to the show only.

To celebrate the Chicago premiere of In Love and Warcraft, Halcyon's Game Day fundraiser this year celebrates new board/card/tabletop games being developed here in town! Come hang out with Halcyon on Saturday, September 12th (3pm-7pm), and play a wide range of boardgames, with an emphasis on new and developing games designed locally. A number of designers, including The Nerdologues and Ironrise Games, will be on-hand to teach their games in exchange for your valuable playtesting feedback. Food and drink are included in the price of admission, as is a ticket to see In Love and Warcraft after the gaming event wraps up. Join us for an epic day of eating, drinking, gaming, and theatre.

pictured at top: Siobhan Reddy-Best (Evie), photo by Tom McGrath.

Arthur Chu On In Love and Warcraft

  • Posted on: 15 August 2015
  • By: Tony

A note from the program for Halcyon's production of In Love and Warcraft

Arthur Chu HeadshotWhenever I need a funny anecdote to tell people about my personal life, I fall back on the story of how my Dungeons and Dragons character started dating my wife’s Dungeons and Dragons character before we ourselves began dating in real life.

That was, at least, an in-person “virtual” relationship conducted at a tabletop over game books, dice and pizza on paper plates--although I’ve also had my share of brushes with the kind of online romance In Love and Warcraft deals with.

It’s an unusual story but maybe not as unusual as it seems at first glance--it’s not so different from the fairly common story of actors who play characters who are in love with each other and end up dating in real life. (Disclaimer: I know nothing whatsoever about the cast of this production or whether this applies to them.)

All relationships start on the surface before going deeper. Everything starts off as a fantasy, a possibility--imagining what it would be like to know this person, love this person, have sex with this person, live forever with this person--that we hold at arm’s length for some time in consideration before we plunge into the reality.

After all, isn’t “normal” dating a role-playing game? We dress up nicer than we normally look, we psych ourselves up to be wittier and more interesting than we normally act, we tell little white lies to put ourselves in the best possible light. We sell a fantasy version of ourselves. Just like the role-playing game of a job interview, or Thanksgiving with your parents.

Geeks just tend to take this a little further than most, as geeks are wont to do. I include the geeks who play D&D and World of Warcraft alongside the theatre geeks here--there is, after all, major overlap between the two groups.

I’d like to think that those of us who are drawn to any form of escapism--high art or low art, Shakespeare or Star Wars--are so drawn because we see the fantasy in reality and the reality in fantasy. We know that all the world’s a stage, and we’re unhappy with the roles we’ve been asked to play. We gravitate to “abnormal” environments where we play “artificial” roles that we feel somehow reveal more of our true selves than what we show when we’re at the office or hanging out at the bar. We’ll repurpose any environment we’re given to our own ends, be it elaborate sword-and-sorcery sagas like World of Warcraft or simple iPhone apps like Words with Friends. (My two friends who got together over Words with Friends got married last weekend.)

And yes, a lot of what we do is messed up and unhealthy. But is it that much more unhealthy than what everyone else does?

In Love and Warcraft isn’t the first work of art I’ve seen that explores the messy world of online gaming from an authentic, insider’s perspective--I’d have to give credit for that to Felicia Day’s The Guild. But In Love and Warcraft isn’t really about Warcraft the way The Guild is.

Only one of the major characters is a gamer, and rather than the all-too-common approach of treating Evie’s alienation from the “real world” as a bizarrely fascinating sickness to be studied and cured, our playwright Madhuri Shekhar explores how Evie’s alienation is just one alienation among many.

Evie is a Cyrano de Bergerac, someone intimately familiar with and fascinated by the idea of romance, enough to make a living ghostwriting love letters for other people. But she’s never experienced romance in the flesh, is physically a virgin and is wrestling with her fear of intimacy. She loves the idea of love but is terrified of its physical reality, whether it will or won’t live up to the image she’s built up for it in her mind.

That’s not so unusual in a world where all of us are inundated by book and film and TV romance plots long before we hit puberty. I certainly find her more relatable than her roommate and best friend Kitty, who’s been through the trappings of romance time and time again--especially the sex part, which is the most fun part--but has neither experience with nor desire for a “real relationship.”

Our culture has plenty of people in both situations. Our technology enables us to move as far as we want in either direction. There’s couples on the Internet who spend months or years communicating by emails and chats without ever meeting; there’s people who get smartphone apps so they can swipe right on a person’s photo within five miles of their location for an instant hookup, no questions asked.

Both are valid strategies. Both are ways to choose to expose one part of your life while keeping another protected. Both are masks you can wear, roles you can play. One isn’t any more or less real than the other.

In Love and Warcraft presents the complicated world we live in and the many masks we wear without judgment, asking us simply to empathize with the hard choices the characters make about what to conceal and what to reveal at any moment.

As a gamer I love finally being able to hear terms like “DPS”, “L2P!” and “noob” on a theatrical stage. But ultimately In Love and Warcraft isn’t about games. It just uses one particular, colorful stage and set of masks--the avatars players assume when they enter the mystic land of Azeroth--to illustrate the eternal challenge of one person, in her time, forced to play many parts.

In 2014 Arthur Chu found himself a viral celebrity after winning $400,000 on the game show Jeopardy!, becoming a controversial public figure in the process. Along the way, he caught the attention of the media speaking on the toxicity in online culture and “geek” spaces. He currently writes about his various cultural and political obsessions for The Daily Beast, Salon and other publications.

Respectful Necessity, and the Necessity of Respect

  • Posted on: 20 August 2014
  • By: Fin.Coe

Photo of a talkback for The War Zone is My BedAfter last night’s performance of The War Zone is my Bed, we had the honor of having the playwright on hand for a talkback after the show. Although all of the actors were onstage to take questions alongside Yasmine Beverly Rana (said playwright) and Dani Snyder-Young (our director), I just kept my mouth shut and listened. I wanted to hear about the genesis of the show, and what the person who wrote the script had to say about her work.

The first question, from the talkback’s moderator Jenn Adams, inquired about the inspiration for the piece, which was years in the writing. I was surprised when Yasmine told us that while real life events had inspired the first iteration of the show, her desire to explore and portray identity also informed the script. She talked about growing up biracial, with a name people found difficult to pronounce, and how being the product of different cultures influenced the interplay of identity within this show.

I can relate. I am an American actor of Irish and Chinese ancestry, living in Chicago. People have mispronounced my name on occasion, and I don’t often see my particular genetic combination in the ethnic breakdowns of audition listings. Plays that explore identity speak to me, especially stories of love across cultural divides. I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for one such story.

This is all fine and dandy. A biracial writer’s play happens to be performed by a company and cast by a director who are comfortable casting an actor who happens to be biracial himself. Not tremendously important—yet. But then we had another question, from an audience member (Helen Young, who has herself worked with Halcyon several times), who asked Yasmine about the idea of appropriation presented in the play, and the danger of telling the stories of others to one’s own gain, and not that of the original subjects. Yasmine replied that these questions were conscious ones raised by the script, based on first-hand experiences with people treading the very thin line between appropriation and exploitation. And that is indeed a seamy current that runs through the show; a two-sided coin of resentment and guilt, for stories stolen and stories coaxed away. The journalist characters of War Zone tell themselves that they are bringing national attention, and bearing witness, and following noble intentions. But time makes them question themselves, and their guilt grows stronger with their cynicism. It gets complicated; as Yasmine said, when an audience member asked if Yasmine herself had ever returned to the place that inspired this story; “No. I never went back.”

And that’s what’s been on my mind since this project started. How do we tell this story without taking advantage of it? How do we do this justice to this piece?

I think the first question that needs to be answered is: Should we be doing this piece? A lot of gauche theatrical faux pas can probably be avoided if that’s the first question asked: “Should we do The Mikado?” “Should we do this minstrel show?” “Should we really do The Merchant of Venice without any Jewish actors at all?” In this particular case, for this piece, I feel that the answer is an emphatic “Yes.” You can read the Director’s Note about why Dani chose this script, but the short answer is this: it’s an important story. It’s topical, it asks tough questions, it’s well-written, and it will open some eyes, some hearts, and some minds.

Ok. So it’s a story that should be told, but how to do so respectfully? For our production, we did everything we could. We cast a wide net for audition listings, with accurate ethnic and age range breakdowns, in a casting process that spanned months. We had an incredible suite of support staff, providing us with in-depth dramaturgical resources, as well as designers that did serious homework in order to clothe us and place us in settings that did not caricature or distort, but rather honored the people whose stories we tell. We had a dialect coach at almost every rehearsal, and met with her one-on-one so that anyone who was speaking with an accent other than their own could do so with fluency and with accuracy.

I am an American actor of Irish and Taiwanese descent. I am playing a Bosnian journalist. I am doing so because I too feel that this story needs to be told; and I am doing so with the respect that the role deserves. I don’t go onstage to tell my own story; I hope that my own story, my own background, helps me tell this story, the story of these things that happened in Sarajevo and Kabul, and in Rwanda and Baghdad and at Foxconn, in Gaza and in Ferguson. We must tell this story, so we will tell it as best, and as honorably, as we can.

Special thanks to Yasmine for her beautiful work, and Kendra, Tristan, Celeste, Antonio, Tony, and everyone else who is helping us to tell this story as authentically and as respectfully as we are.

Director's Note for The War Zone is My Bed

Rasika Ranganathan (Laila) and Sameehan Patel (Ash), photo by Johnny Knight Photo.Gaza. Syria. The Ukraine. We live in a time of violence. This summer, I have returned nightly from rehearsing The War Zone is My Bed to watch powerlessly as global tragedies play out across my television screen. I engage with them as a spectator and as a voyeur, sipping a cool drink and eating a small meal in my comfortable family room in my quiet and safe-feeling home a few blocks from here. I have the luxury of turning off the television or changing the channel when the horror of the images gets to be too much.

This play tells the interweaving stories of three couples whose lives are intertwined with the act of representing trauma in times of war. Tragedy may surround them, but they steal moments of pleasure and affirm their humanity; they love and laugh and find joy in being alive together. But a fundamental imbalance of geopolitical power is embedded in each scene—someone has the power to leave and tell the story and someone does not. What does it mean to have the privilege to tell the story?

The goal of this production is to open up a productive conversation about the way we, contemporary American audiences, engage with global traumas as spectators, watching the horrors of war from the safe distance of our television screens, interacting with them as we choose to click on internet links or play out fictionalized narratives in war games. I ask you to look at this work as a provocation, thinking critically about ways we, as the privileged ones who get to watch, are complicit in these characters’ struggles.

Pictured: Rasika Ranganathan (Laila) and Sameehan Patel (Ash),
photo by Johnny Knight Photo.

CTA Construction Saturday, August 16 and Sunday, August 17

  • Posted on: 16 August 2014
  • By: Tony

Just in case you are taking the CTA to the show this weekend, we wanted to give you a heads up that there's brown line construction this weekend.

Saturday, August 16 and Sunday, August 17, shuttle buses replace rail service between Western and Kimball. Trains will operate between the Western station and the Loop only. Shuttle buses will make stops at the Western and Kimball stations, and the #81 Lawrence bus stops on Lawrence at Rockwell, Sacramento, and Kedzie.

More details here:

Please allow extra travel time getting to the show if you're taking the brown line train.

Spotlight Artist: Jenn Adams

Jenn Adams

Founder, and currently Director of Education and Community Engagement

Favorite Halcyon show you directed:
I loved directing Haroun and the Sea of Stories. It was so fun, and magical, and I made incredible friends. I also learned a lot about directing something that comes from a culture different from my own. And it was such a blast! Dance rehearsals were so fun—I just loved it all.

Favorite Theatre Artist:
I am sitting here trying to narrow down, even just here in Chicago, and I really can’t. I never was one to have “idols” when I was younger, but now that I am “older” I find myself really being impressed but longevity and commitment to the craft and the business by people who stay in it when so many don’t.

But, let me try- Charin Alvarez is incredible, and gets better every time I see her. Barbara Robertson also- her performance in Camino Real took my breath away. Coya Paz works in a style I admire and am only beginning to understand, and I really appreciate how her social conviction is connected part and parcel with her art. John Barry is a director I admire as someone who has a style very similar to my own, Fawzia Mirza is just fearless and vulnerable with every breath. I could watch Victoria Alvarez-Chacon eat her shoes and enjoy it, she is that good. And Rinska Carrasco Prestinary is younger, but insanely insightful and specific in her approach, as well as really wonderful to work with.

If you weren't a theatre artist what would you be:
A teacher probably, or a therapist. And a bartender.

What's your first step for tackling a design/role/play/script?
It really is different for each one. Some scripts need physicalization, some need psychology, some just need to ruminate and watch it unfold… You have to be willing to role with it. Oh that’s funny… ROLE with it. Ha! I didn’t mean to do that, but now I’m keeping it!

What's the strangest thing you've been asked to do onstage?
I was chained up naked in a cave by a wolf in Trickster

I create theatre because...
I Make Theatre on the Outside—To Give... Hope, Justice, joy, revolution, laughter, enlightenment, a moment.

I Make Theatre on the Inside—because the rehearsal room and the stage are the only places where my depression knows it's not welcome. My soul lives in a higher plane of hope that my depression can't touch, and doesn't dare to try.

What does "making it big" mean to you? How do you judge success in a show?
Success in a show is that moment of beauty when it all comes together, and the audience feels the same beauty that the artists do. That is success. I felt it most recently, I think, at the March Ceyx Series.

How do you overcome rejection?
It’s hard, I’m not gonna lie. I’m an empath, and my well runs very deep, so it is hard to let go. You just gotta keep going. Keep working to make something else, something new, something beautiful.


That Little Bit of Hope in the Rubble

Approaching this project was daunting. There is so much going on, so many layers. First though, I have to say-- It’s crazy how relevant the script is. As fortunate as we are to live here, it’s hard for us to comprehend what is actually happening in Ukraine or Gaza, right? There’s just no possible way to know what that fear, what the kind of daily life is truly like. There is a completely different mentality when you are living in a war zone. Every day things, normal boring stuff is thrown into extreme levels of danger. There is the chance that any moment can be utterly blow apart in an instant.

When you first meet my character, Dahlia, the Bosnian war is still going on literally right outside her window. There’s a large possibility that her entire family has been killed, her hometown destroyed— that she has very, very little left. And during that same moment, the man she loves is going back home to America. Back home, to be with his wife. He’s going back to safety and comfort, after having robbed her of a life she can hold on to. I mean, YIKES. That’s some pretty intense shit that I’ve certainly never been through.

So, where exactly do I begin? – I’m playing a character whose entire historical background and life alone I can barely even grasp. As an actor, my imagination has to be my greatest tool. I exercise it often, but with this show, it is hard to know if I am truly doing justice to what that must have been like. Even with research and being alive during both the Bosnian War and Invasion of Afghanistan— I watched from a television screen, or an internet media outlet. I was very distant and very safe.

We were incredibly lucky to have a Q&A session with an actual war zone reporter, Timothy McNulty. Hearing his stories sounded like something straight out of the movies. There’s no real way to comprehend the magnitude of what he saw and lived through, unless you had been there too. I left rehearsal that night thinking about what an incredible life this man has had so far, and how brave and intelligent he is— and how I could never do anything like that. I am a complete wimp! It genuinely blows my mind that he is excited about going to Israel in a couple of months. WITH his journalism students.

Not that I’m a total square, but I’m certainly not about to throw myself into a war zone.

And yet, that is exactly what my character does. Well, first Dahlia was born into the Bosnian War- but she chose to stay, write and find the humanity where there was little to none to be found.

And that… that is where I was able to find some common ground when playing Dahlia. I completely understand wanting to be a voice for those who can’t be heard. Trying to find that little bit of hope in the rubble, to feel it and bring it out into the open- that is something that makes us want to see stories like this one. I took a lot from this idea, and it created further life for the character.

I will also say that this play focuses so much on the personal relationships of these people- which is a fantastic gift to the actors. Relationships. There’s something I can understand. Maybe not all the specific layers included in this show- but it’s much easier to play make believe when you get at least 50% of what your character is going through. And those relationships really are at the center of this story. Despite the desperate circumstances surrounding it, the story is very personal and very grounded in human connection. It can be hard to understand the ways in which a person visits, or attempts to even live in a war zone. But we can access the soul of these characters because of how very human they are.

I am incredibly proud to be part of such a remarkable show. These stories feel real. These people could have actually lived. And when I watch the other scenes, I am genuinely moved by the vibrant lives and the sheer will these characters have to come alive. I only hope the audience will enjoy the journey as much as I have.