Tony's blog

Podcast: Lisa Portes

  • Posted on: 20 April 2016
  • By: Tony

In this episode, Halcyon Theatre artistic director Tony Adams talks with Lisa Portes. A director and educator, she  serves as the head of MFA Directing program at The Theatre School at DePaul University and is artistic director of Chicago Playworks for Young Audiences. She is also a founding member of the Latina/o Theatre Commons, and one of the producers of last year's Carnaval.

She talks about her path as a director, her process, and more.

(58 min)

intro music Whispering Through by Asura



Interview with Callie Kimball (audio)

  • Posted on: 5 April 2016
  • By: Tony

We're trying out a new longform podcast format for some of our interviews. In this debut episode of Moment to Moment, artistic director Tony Adams talks with Callie Kimball, playwright of our current production Dreams of the Penny Gods. She talks about her work, life as a playwright, what keeps her going, weathering rejection and more.

(48 min)


Callie's play Dreams of the Penny Gods plays at Halcyon Theatre through May 1, 2016.


intro music Whispering Through by Asura

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.

The War Zone is My Bed Trailer

  • Posted on: 13 July 2014
  • By: Tony

The trailer was written and directed by artist-in-residence Ted James, and features company members Laura Stephenson and Fin Coe.

The War Zone is My Bed
By Yasmine Beverly Rana
Directed by Dani Snyder-Young

Fridays and Saturdays at 8pm, Sundays at 6pm.
August 14 through September  7, 2014
At Christ Lutheran Church, 4541 N Spaulding Ave. in Chicago

In 1994 Sarajevo, in a bedroom brimming with bullet holes, Dahlia and Peter have a whirlwind romance. A famous writer reporting on the Bosnian War, he leaves her to return to his wife. In 2001 Kabul, in a bedroom with blacked out windows, an Afghan prostitute is having affair with a member of the Taliban religious police. Dahlia’s book about Leila, Ash and the aftermath of their affair in Kabul makes her a famous writer in her own right. On her book tour, struggling with how we all profit from telling stories of war from a safe distance, Dahlia and Peter meet again.

Find out more about the show at

12 Artistic Criteria

  • Posted on: 28 August 2012
  • By: Tony

Last week Harvard Business Review posted an intriguing article, "Every Leader is an Artist."  The basic premise is fundamentally flawed, but it's intriguing nonetheless. 

O'Malley argues "leadership is an actual art, not metaphorically an art." And he follows it up saying, "While people may disagree about the quality of a given work of art, we generally know how to communicate our experience of what we've seen or heard."

Both of which strike me as problematic.  While there is an art to leadership, a leader is not an artist--except for in a metaphorical sense. Unless he's using leader is an artist in the same sense as a con artist is an artist, which I don't assume he is. There are many parallels to be drawn between leaders and artists. There are also many parallels that can be drawn between great leaders and great athletes. However, would anyone say every leader is an athlete? 

The second fatal flaw in O'Malley's premise is the assumption that we know how to communicate our experiences. As a whole we--artists, critics, audiences--generally are at a loss when we try to communicate our experience of what we've seen or heard, especially when faced with works that are not wholly familiar to us. That's probably a couple books in itself.

With familiar works, Shakespeare being the granddaddy of them all, it's easy. There is a massive amount of context provided for us and we can just compare pieces of each production to other productions and other parts of the cannon. As a whole, we are much better with comparison than with comprehension. When we can't simply compare and contrast, we generally lack the context, clarity, curiosity and criteria for evaluating a work. 

Ok, so the basic premise of O'Malley's post is problematic. However, O'Malley suggests 12 artistic criteria for judging the art of particular leaders. This is what intrigues me about O'Malley's post.  I wonder how well these criteria would function for judging the work of an artist? Obviously some tweaks would need to be made, striking the language specific to business.  With a few slight modifications, it could read:

So let me suggest 12 artistic criteria for judging the work of particular artists. To appreciate their art, we should ask about its ...

  1. Intent. Do they make an express commitment to achieve certain exceptional ends?

  2. Focus. Do they highlight certain features of the world over others to separate the important from the trivial?

  3. Skill. Do they demonstrate mastery or virtuosity in critical aspects of their work; do they possess a foundation for understanding people, communities, and the way work is created?

  4. Form. Do they combine their aesthetics, structures, politics, etc. into a unified, coherent whole?

  5. Representation. Do they convey meanings, in nonobvious and captivating ways, as opposed to giving simple directives and making straightforward declarations of fact?

  6. Imagination. Do they make surprising and unconventional departures from the ordinary that create a new sense of awareness or understanding?

  7. Authenticity. Do they present a stylistic distinctiveness that is an honest expression of their individuality and personal beliefs?

  8. Engagement. Do they offer complex and challenging information that stimulates intellectual effort and imaginative contemplation?

  9. Pleasure. Do they provide emotionally rewarding experiences that are shared among members of an audience, promoting stronger bonds and fostering personal fulfillment?

  10. Human significance. Do they facilitate personal reflection about who one is, what is most important, what is culturally valuable, and what is possible?

  11. Context. Do they create work that is in conversation with other practices, customs, and artists, and communicate in a style that is understandable and appropriate?

  12. Criticism. Do they welcome discourse and evaluation from others regarding how well they have performed and the amount of appreciation they should be afforded?

What do you think? How would these criteria work as a template for evaluating artists and their works? What criteria would/do you use?