We Profile Chicago's Hottest New Playwrights!
Playwright Helen Valenta
The Dionysos Cup Features Four Women Playwrights with Four Radically Different Plays
This year Polarity presents four new plays in development written and directed by women. We continue our series of profiles this week with Helen Valenta.
In Helen's comedy, The People of Chicago, Allie's depressed. Her cat's depressed. Her father wants her to get married -- now. Her friends are slackers. Who can you turn to for help in the big city? Who else but the people around you: the people of Chicago. . .
Helen Valenta, author of The People of Chicago
This interview was conducted by Dionysos Cup playwright Jenny Seidelman. The Dionysos Cup Festival of New Plays is co-sponsed by our friends at the Greenhouse Theater Center, 2257 N. Lincoln Ave, Chicago, July 10-20.
Jenny: Do you have a favorite part of the writing process? How often do you write? Do you have a regular routine?
Helen: My favorite part is when the pen actually moves across the great expanse of white paper. Empty pages fill me with horror, as they seem to be a reflection of my empty mind. I like to fill notebooks; which means that I recently found a long-forgotten basket filled with notebooks. For a while I was writing every day and I think of that as the gold standard. My routine is to write at night, which often leads to nightmares.
Jenny: How long have you been working on The People of Chicago. When did the idea originally begin germinate?
Helen: I have been working on this play for 2 years. The idea began when I got a foster cat, Gizmo, which is, oddly enough, the name of the cat in the play. (I hope he doesn't sue me.) He was crazy and had the pills to prove it. I had to put him in a play. Maybe his new owner will bring him to the show.
Jenny: What are some of the themes of The People of Chicago that you feel are most important to convey to audiences and why?
Helen: I love this question! The most important theme for me is hope. Why? Because it makes everything seem bearable and/or possible.
Jenny: What drew you to Chicago (if I remember correctly, you are not a native)?
Helen: I wasn't born here but did grow up here. I guess I chose the city as the backdrop because of laziness—if I had been living in Portland the play would be called The People of Portland.
Jenny: Do you tend to write in certain genres or theatrical types?
Helen: All my plays are different but tend to feature idiosyncratic people –I guess I like the heightened person—the individual in extremis.
Jenny: I know you have another life as an editor. Does that make you more critical when you write, or are you able to take off your editors hat?
Helen: I can't stop staring at typos, especially my own. . . it's a real problem.
Jenny: Your play The Longing of a Stray Dog was a Dionysos Cup finalist in 2011. How different (or similar) was your experience with the Festival and working on The People of Chicago this time around?
Helen: The opportunity to work with theatre professionals is invaluable –I feel so lucky to have had the opportunity to work with Jen Poulin and Maggie Carlin, my director and dramaturg, respectively. They have spent time with me and provided such thoughtful analysis—time that has meant the world to me and makes me feel so humble and gives me hope!
Please join us for the festival. There's free parking in the lot a block north.
Polarity Ensemble Theatre invites you to CELEBRATE THEATRICALITY!
Join us on July 20th, 7:30 p.m. at the Greenhouse Theater Center as we raise funds for our 2014-2015 season. Celebrate your own theatricality by arriving dressed as your favorite literary, theatre or film character. Best costume of the night wins tickets to our upcoming world premiere production of Miracles in the Fall!
Mingle with our award-winning company over food and drink, all included. Bid on treasures at our silent auction. Enjoy live musical entertainment by classic rock band, Union Jack, featuring Polarity board member and ace set designer, Chuck Palia.
Purchase your tickets early and save! Prior to July 14th, tickets are $45 each or 4 for $160 using the promotional code "four". Starting July 14th, all tickets are $50. Purchase tickets online at the Greenhouse Box Office or call 773-404-7336.
Raise a glass and celebrate with us!
Support a Season of All New Work!
The Polarity Ensemble Theatre 2014-2015 Season is amazingly ambitious, including two world premiere plays by Chicago-area playwrights and two original novels!
Playwright Chuck O'Connor
First up will be MIRACLES IN THE FALL by Chuck O'Connor, playing September 4 through October 5, 2014. Chuck's play operates like a work by Eugene O'Neill. The deep betrayals of the past twist the lives of the Connelly family, nearly destroying the next generation. MIRACLES IN THE FALL was developed in our 2013 DIONYSOS CUP FESTIVAL OF NEW PLAYS. It will be directed by Richard Shavzin, director of our award-winning 2013 production of Bill Jepsen's comedy, NEVER THE BRIDESMAID.
It has been almost 30 years since award-winning author Fern Chertkow ended her own life, but her legacy lives on through the Afterlife Trilogy, a unique undertaking that fuses her writing with the work of novelist, playwright Richard Engling and the creative team at Polarity Ensemble Theatre.
Paying tribute to the late author, the trilogy combines two novels: Visions of Anna by Engling and She Plays in Darkness by Chertkow (October 7, 2014, Polarity Ensemble Theatre Books) with a world premiere play written by Engling, Anna in the Afterlife, which will run April 23 to May 24, 2015.
The three works span 35 years of creation, offering a multi-sensory experience when taken as a whole.
In addition to a book release event, Polarity will present a number of readings throughout October and November at bookstores, libraries and book groups. We invite book groups to contact us to learn how to participate.
Purchase tickets online for our benefit or call the Greenhouse box office at 773-404-7336.