Artists in Conversation:

Mark Sutton

Trying to Use Up All The Funny

You know how some people seem to always have really ridiculous things happen to them?  Do comedians have different experiences than normal …. or do they just see normal things in a different way?

I’ve joked with other improv actors that we see the same thing other people see, but

Scott Illingworth

What happens next? Transitioning from the classroom to the profession.

I finished graduate school this past spring. It was great. I loved it. I also couldn’t be happier to be done. Does finishing make me a professional director? Not really. Instead it puts me in this weird purgatory. The puberty of a directing career – exciting, but awkward.

Directors spend a lot of time trying to figure out how to get from one place to another. How do we travel from an intimate scene in a kitchen to a busy street corner in 30 seconds? How can we instantly move from one scene to the next? How can I coax this actor from the hard and resistant read on this scene to a softer more open performance? It is, in no small part, our job to manage the ongoing transformations within a play and the people making it.

Richard Moskal

Profile: Chicago Film Office

Rich Moskal of DCASE Surveys the Field

Chicago filmmaking has seen windfall years before and, unfortunately, they’re often followed by crippling drought.

Steve Scott - Goodman Theatre

How Has Your Past Experience and Training in Theater Prepared You for Your Role as an Associate Producer?

I began working for the
Goodman Theatre on my 30th birthday, in the late summer of
1980. For the first few years, I was the director of our education
and outreach programs, and led workshops for such varied groups as
high school students, senior citizens in nursing homes, and inmates
(more correctly known as “residents”) of Stateville
Correctional Center. I continued in this position when Robert Falls
became the artistic director of the Goodman in 1986; the following
year, he asked me to take on the duties of Associate Producer, and
I’ve held that job ever since.
Initially, Bob wanted me to take on that position because he wanted to be free

Lucia Mauro, Arts Writer and Critic

How did you develop your niche as an Arts Writer and Dance Critic?

Like many aspiring dancers, one of my earliest inspirations came in the form of the unapologetically melodramatic 1948 film,The Red Shoes, featuring Moira Shearer as art- and love-torn ballerina, Victoria Page. When asked why she dances, Shearer’s character famously responds, “Why do you want to live?” I became captivated by the movie’s strange and glamorous universe, complete with a Svengali-esque ballet impresario, Leonide Massine’s wild-eyed turn as a sinister cobbler in the fantasy-ballet sequence, and sweeping views of the French Riviera.

Robby Zar

How do you cope with multiple roles as artist and professional? Answer: You are not your job.

*Click here for a recent performance

is April Fool’s Day, 2008. I am standing in the living room of my grandmother’s
house as mourners attempt to make light of a difficult day with conversation. A
stranger approaches me and, although I try to avoid eye contact, manages to
appoint himself at my side. He says to me, “What do you do?”

Johnny Knight

What strategies work for you in balancing your art practice with your 'day job'?

How magnificent, to live the life of the working artist. Work? It’s great, I tell you! I get paid to do what I love. Most artists work a job to pay the bills; I get to pay the bills with the same camera that feeds my art. Beats telemarketing. Right?

Sure, my greatest passion is for pictures no one hires me to take. But I try to let my work placate the muse. I churn out pretty pictures for my client base all year. I make actors look intriguing and, I daresay, hot. I help the noble theatre artist tell his story. (Never mind my own stories, I get paid. At least enough to keep the basic cable on.)

William Rattner - Lawyers for the Creative Arts

What do Lawyers Have to do with Art?

I don't have a story, I have a plea to the arts community, based on hundreds of stories told by the artists who come to us for help. My plea is simple, and not very original. I am urging each of you to realize that, whether or not you like it, you are in business.

Carol Ng-He

How has your education changed your career path?

The decision to attend graduate school became a turning point in my career path and artistic life. Some people advised me that one should clearly know his or her career goals and skills before even applying for graduate school. Honestly, it wasn't precisely like this in my situation.

Karin McKie, Tree Falls Production

How Can Theatre Groups Get the Word Out?

"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has."

-Margaret Mead

The more public relations and marketing work I do, the more this quote by anthropologist Margaret Mead resonates.

Kevin Heckman - Stage Left Theater

What Should be Considered When Casting an Ensemble?

Running a theatre ensemble can be a contentious, aggravating and, ultimately, fruitful experience for all concerned if the right combination of personalities and talents come together. A lot depends on the sort of work the ensemble is interested in pursuing.

Don Hall - WNEP Theater in Chicago

What Are the Challenges of Promoting and Marketing a Show in Chicago? How Do You Overcome Those Challenges?

You have spent months in preparation. You have fine-tuned
the script and show concept, agreed to pay five times your apartment rent for a
venue, rehearsed with your cast. Opening night approaches and suddenly it
occurs to you that you have to actually work to get an audience that is
comprised of more than just your friends and family.

Brian Golden, Theatre Seven of Chicago

What Key Strategies Can You Share About Starting and Running a New Theater in Chicago?

In our limited experience at Theatre Seven, I think I've found the most difficult challenge is achieving a balance between planning for growth and success and realizing that you've never done this before, and haven't the faintest idea of how things are going to go. We created Theatre Seven believing, as I still do, that the reason so many companies fail is that they look at their first production as the finish line, gearing all their operation around just "getting the first one off the ground." Then, once that's over, they seem to come to a dead stop for a while. I have no idea how true that is, but operating under that assumption has helped us incorporate a vision for the future in everything we do, even with the awareness that we're not quite sure where we're headed.

Erica Daniels - Steppenwolf Theatre Company

As a Casting Director, What Advice Do You Have for Actors Looking for Gigs?

Erica Daniels, casting director of Steppenwolf Theatre Company, offers valuable advice on succeeding at auditions, when to turn down an opportunity, and the benefits of being an understudy.

Stuart Carden, Silk Road Theater Project

Why is Your Work Important in our Current Political/Cultural Climate?

The Silk Road Theater's production, OUR ENEMIES, written by Egyptian-American playwright, Yussef El Guindi, is important because Arab-American literature is important. And because Arab-America needs to find its place on America's stages. In an age characterized by conflict between the United States and the Arab World, Arab-America needs to be woven into our national tapestry (and consciousness). We at Silk Road Theatre Project believe strongly, believe passionately in fact, that this weaving, this becoming American, is best served through cultural production.

Like so many twenty-first century "hyphenated" Americans, Yussef embodies that transnational spirit of hailing from both here and there, belonging to both us and them.

Jiba Anderson - Griot Enterprises

How Have You Become More Legal-savvy in Your Artistic Career?

Every artist has to remember that, first and foremost, art is a business. If you don't want to face that fact, then do not try to survive off of your talent. Find something else to do. With that being said, I have learned early on that artists need to protect themselves.

Mindy Rose Schwartz

How important is it for you to update your skills on an ongoing basis?

UPDATED NOVEMBER 23rd: Mindy Rose Schwartz receives the 7th annual Achievement Award from The Helen Coburn Meier and Tim Meier Charitable Foundation for the Arts. 

Bob Sloane, Harold Washington Library

How can the Harold Washington Library archives be useful to artists?

Bob Sloane currently heads the Art Information Center at the Harold Washington Library Center. He is in charge of the dance collections, and has programmed more than 350 live dance performances in the last 18 years. Here he speaks on the library archives, how they preserve Chicago's dance history, and how artists can submit works for inclusion.

Tania Richard

As a playwright how do you seek feedback in the beginning stages of writing?

People’s opinions are influenced by so many things and pure objective feedback is a rare commodity.