Unscripted Moments is a continuing Addison Recorder series highlighting Chicago storefront theatre by Leigh Yenrick. Leigh is an actress who has worked in Toledo and the Twin Cities, and who currently resides in Chicago.
For this installment of Unscripted Moments, I sat down with Tosha Fowler, the Artistic Director of Cor Theater. We talked about their current production, A Map of Virtue, for which Fowler is also wearing the hat of director.
A little about the production….
This is the Midwest premiere of A Map of Virtue, written by Erin Courtney. The play debuted in New York City at 13P, won an Obie Award, and was named a New York times Critic’s Pick. This show has a lot going on; It is in part a play about chance meetings, in part a play about knowing ones true self, and in part a horror story. The play does take a dark turn when an obsession becomes a group of friends reality and they become stranded in the woods. All the while, we have a tour guide from the perspective of an inanimate object in the form of a bird statue.
Leigh Yenrick: I know you’re fresh – but not too fresh here – but fresh enough here?
Tosha Fowler: New and old. I have been here for about 9 years this September. I went to grad school at DePual for acting. The year after I graduated, I did a one woman show that I self-produced with a woman named Victoria Delorio, who is an awesome and amazing sound designer. And we produced it and it did pretty well and I wrote it and it was this whole thing . Two year later, we decided to do something else. So we did this two person show called Skin Tight.
LY: And that was your first production right?
TF: Right, And we didn’t know we were going to start a theater company. But it did really well . And we ended up getting all the reviewers there. And I think it had to with all the people that were involved. … And we got all these great reviews and made money on the show.
LY: In your mission statement for Cor, you talk about producing stories about courage. Does Map of Virtue fit that for you.
TF: It does. The original idea was that I wanted stories about heart and took heart to produce, and took courage to produce. When I read Skin Tight, I was like “Oh shit! That would be really hard to do but it is beautiful and it moves me”. And I felt its heart beat and the same thing happened for Map of Virtue. I remember reading that first scene when they are just talking and I was like “Oh my God”. There were moments like that throughout that whole play that really hit me, but also I thought nobody would take this on…. nobody would do this. So I think Cor is morphing into something. Not only are we telling stories about courage but [stories that] take courage to tell.
LY: What was the concept for the Bird Statue Character? Because this character could be interpreted in so many different ways.
TF: When Erin Courtney wrote this play, she was exploring the idea of, what happens when you go through something horrific. What is the fall out? How do you cope with it? How do you deal with it? And so you meet these two characters; Mark, who has already gone through something horrific and in the midst of this trauma grabs the bird statue from the man who causes the trauma, and he holds on to it. And I think we as people do that. We have something that is super painful and awful and we hold on to it as out badge of courage.
LY: Since this series is called “Unscripted Moments”, I always like to ask what is your favorite moment in the show, and what about that moment to do you most connect to?
TF: Oh God! That’s unfair. My most striking moment in rehearsal – because the show is like a baby and it is like you are asking the favorite body part of the child – but one of the most striking moments was…well, the actor who plays Mark was so worried about the moment about teaching the other people while being at gun point [that] this thing that [would make] no sense. And I am sitting there watching the actors on stage, and it is their first time running this, and Will is looking down and he sinks to the ground and he won’t look up, and I can tell he is worried about it because it is a big acting moment.
[So] I walk up to him gently and say you can’t hide. Whatever it’s going to be, it’s going to be. You just have to open yourself up and put yourself in the given circumstance that someone is pointing a gun to your head. And if you don’t teach them, they’re going to blow your brains out right here right now, and you are going to have a full audience watching you, and you can’t hide from us. And you have to show us your Courage and you have to show us your Heart. And he did it again and he was simple and still and he was sobbing. He is trying to teach these words that he didn’t know what they meant. And it was Beautiful.
Map of Virtue will be playing at the Rivendell Theater, which is located at 5779 N. Ridge Ave. Chicago. The performances are Thur/Fri/Sat at 7:30pm and Sun at 5pm, and they will run until February 14th. For tickets and information, visit CorTheater.org or call (866)811-4111.