Unscripted Moments: EL Stories

This week’s article is a little bittersweet to write, because it is about a production that is close to me. We are taking a look at Waltzing Mechanics’ seventeenth edition of EL Stories: The New Kids in Town. As a member of this particular production, I wanted to shine a light on the wonderfully talented cast and crew that I have had the pleasure to work and learn from.

To give a little history  Waltzing Mechanics was founded in 2010 by Thomas Murray, Keely Leonard, and Zachary Florent. The Mechanics work “to create original documentary theatre inspired by real people telling stories about their lives. Using methods of performance ethnography, we facilitate dialogues among our audiences and within our communities.” EL Stories is part of that endeavor, and is exactly what it sounds like: stories about being on the EL Train and the other public transportation around Chicago.

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For this interview I sat down with the director of this edition of EL Stories, Rebecca Willett, who provided some insight with her experience on this production. [Read more…]

Mr. Rostan at the Movies: The Still and Moving Pictures of Criterion

Andrew Rostan was a film student before he realized that making comics was his horrible destiny, but he’s never shaken his love of cinema. Every two weeks, he’ll opine on either current pictures or important movies from the past.

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Thirty days before Christmas, one of this year’s best gifts for the film fan will be released. Criterion Designs is a 300-page coffee table book documenting the art of the Criterion Collection. Since 1984, first on laserdisc and now on DVD and Blu-Ray, Criterion has been responsible for reissuing the greatest films ever made in the best possible formats—they popularized letterboxing, restoration, and commentary tracks.

With all this, any fan will tell you that the hallmark of the collection is its design. World-class illustrators and designers work on each new release to create iconic imagery that, minimalist or elaborate, can tell an entire story in a single frame. (Indeed, Criterion art is now so distinctive that many outstanding parody sites have sprung up that give the label’s treatment to much less-deserving films.) The treat of Criterion Designs is in its presentation of sketches and first drafts, culminating in a gallery of every single cover. It’s an art lover’s dream…

That should also serve to make one go out and watch some of the movies. The Criterion Collection’s presentation, for all its aesthetics, is ultimately packaging—but packaging in the best “form serving content” sense. Last week, I wrote about Karina Longworth’s podcast You Must Remember This, and in one episode Longworth discussed how we have so few of the earliest films ever made because producers would simply throw film stock away. The Criterion Collection, in the care it lavishes, is an affirmation that film is not disposable but one of our highest art forms, a dramatic and visual experience like no other that is worth preserving and elevating.

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Breaking Down the Baseball Hall of Fame Ballot: A Golden Era

Image of the Baseball Hall of Fame

This is Part One of a five part series covering this year’s Baseball Hall of Fame Election. This first part deals with the Golden Era Committee’s ballot, a collection of “candidates whose main contribution to the National Pastime came between 1947 and 1972 – the Golden Era”. (That’s the Hall of Fame’s wording, not mine.) Because I wasn’t around for this particular era of baseball, all I have to go off of are cold hard statistics, which is frightfully dull. Therefore, I turned to the scientific minds of the Recorder to create a time machine, a time machine which has brought back from the past a columnist/man/totally-not-a-gimmick who claims to have witnessed the primes of these respective careers. I give you, for your reading pleasure, Roger A. WASPman.

Roger A. WASPman is a suburban father of four from Springfield. He is an insurance broker with an office on Main Street. (Office hours are 8 am to 4 pm) He enjoys golf, listening to the radio, and watching “Hogan’s Heroes”, and has been a registered Republican since the Eisenhower years. His proudest claim to fame is working his way through college “the right way”, and states that Walter O’Malley is the most demonic man in America next to those damn Kennedys. Enjoy.

Well, hey there, sports! Fancy seeing you all here! This time machine thing sure is swell. Say, how’s Vietnam turn out?

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