By ERIC SCHELKOPF
Chicago's The Public House Theatre, 3914 N. Clark St., will examine the relationship we have with our possessions during "It's Still Life," which will be presented from July 10 to July 31. Showtime is at 8 p.m. each night and tickets are $10, available by calling 1-800-650-6449 or at PubHouseTheatre.com.
I had the chance to talk to director Ashley Nicole Black about the play.
Q - Great talking to you. What made you want to direct the play? What would you like for the audience to take away from it?
The cast! I was familiar with some of their work already, and when I saw the rest of them work I thought they were all so smart, and funny in unique ways.
I’d like the audience to take away an appreciation for the small moments: in life, in watching a piece of theatre, the time we spend searching for our keys…. observation is the impetus of comedy.
Chicago is the first place I’ve lived where theatre felt so“anything goes." Pretty much any idea for a show you have, you can find someone in this city who wants to collaborate on it, and a theatre in which to do it (for not a ridiculous sum of money!)
The Los Angeles theatre scene is much more professionally focused. Like, “What will it do for my career to do this show?” as opposed to “What will I learn from doing this show?”
Neither is wrong, I just think it helps to do it the Chicago way first.
Q - You are also a comedy writing teacher at The Second City Training Center. What do you try to convey to your students? Why do you think that Chicago is such a hotbed of comedy talent?
I try to help my students find their own voices. I never thought I would get so heavily into teaching, but it turns out nothing is more rewarding than helping someone find their own point of view.
I think they think I’m there to teach them the “right” way to write, and I will, but I’m much more interested in helping them find their own way to do it.
I think the Chicago theatre scene is so “hot” right now, because it's an incubator. See what I did there?
A lot of the performers I meet aren’t looking for agents, or trying to get famous, they are focused on craft. This is the only place where I’ve seen such a concentration of people like that.
Of course, we have some of the best teachers in the world concentrated here as well and that helps a lot too. But a city full of people focused on getting great at comedy means two things, community and competition.
Community feels good, competition feels terrible; but both create an environment where everyone gets better faster than they would have alone.