Greetings to the Minds -
Welcome to our current State of the Notion address. As we’re currently closing up on the end of Summer days, it’s a good time to reflect of where we’ve been. The year of 2013 has brought a beautifully mixed bag of adventures. From burlesque to music to strong storytelling, the Mental Notion Society was able to spread its wings after our big 2 year anniversary celebration in October of 2012.
First, we must continue to thank all the great artists, idea makers, and risk takers to which we’ve had the pleasure to have worked with thus far. Without the methods of madness behind figures, forward movements would not have occurred. It’s the strong trust and bond that we create between relationships which help set the tone of the art we produce. A Director to an Actor / A Musician to his Guitar / and even a Tech Guru to his Stage. So THANK YOU to all the elements that play a factor to each of our productions. The following are short summary thoughts on past journeys.
FIGHT CLUB: A PROJECT MAYHEM BURLESQUE.
In cahoots with the talented squad of Plan 9 Burlesque, this affair was a good challenge as the source for our project already brought it’s own following. Fight Club nerds are far too familiar with the storyline of “the Narrator” and “Tyler Durden.” So how do we make this different beyond the expected element of ladies taking off clothing? Why not add even more substance to this already heavy hand of a great novel / screenplay!
Stella Cheeks, Dance Choreographer, advised Jonald Reyes, Director/Writer, of the necessary feminine undertones and understanding why women fight. Rather than have the story of women playing men, we flipped the script and had written the play as if women started an actual fight club. The interesting aspect of incorporating these elements to the stage version was actually translating it to the actors themselves. Each actor had to dig a little deeper to grab a hold of a moment in their life when they wanted “to release.” This was a good challenge for all players, as well as the Director.
We also had the element of a new venue being assembled during our rehearsal process – the Public House Theatre. Usually not an intricate detail if we had minimal set design, BUT we did have costume changes and transitions which makes it just as important to know what we’re working with.
In the end, we still received good feedback and everyone chaulked it off as a good learning experience. Plan 9 continues to rock the burlesque community and if you’re not a fan on all of their social media outlets, you’re lessening your merit as a human being.
CHICAGO TRANSIT MINORITIES PRESENT “DAMN! $2.50 For a Ride!?!”
This project brought old friends back together. Of previous comedy troupe names (Urban Indigenous / Taco Flavored Egg Rolls), the players of these squads decided it was time to put something new out. Not having everyone playing together for a couple of years took a bit of time to get gears in motion in terms of taking the dust off of sketch writing pens, team chemistry, and understanding personal goals within the Chicago Transit Minorities.
The rehearsal process was fun and brought old feelings back, like in a high school reunion sort of way. It was good to see growth from people who had been working on creative projects during the break. There were moments where comfort overlapped focus but nonetheless chemistry is always a good element to have solidified for any group work.
Only a 3-week run, the process felt fast and overwhelming. In post production, the group questioned if more time were allotted, would the final product be even better? Something to keep in mind for the future, as you just never know….
MONO(LOGUE): HELP ME FIND MY VOICE
Before we get into the complex simplicity of this piece, as Director/Producer of MONO(logue), I’d like to say that Chris DeSalvo is a very talented individual. Why does that need to be noted? Because, as artists, I believe that there’s a moment during our personal process when we need to push ourselves to do something that’s just for us. Something that makes us get all that outter layer of creativeness out.
It’s raw ; old to the artist but new to the audience ; thick ; personal and vulnerable ; trying ; and amongst other things, a first push in getting exposure out for one person’s voice. That’s MONO(logue).
In what looked to be a simple production was actually a complex show due to the evolution of the pieces. Again, when working on something personal, new, and vulnerable, you just want to make sure you get all the right elements of your voice out. Sometimes you don’t realize what else is needed or what’s missing till you have it done in front of an audience. So we had our moments of unsurety which tested the actors’ skills in improvisation and grounded work with moving “scenes” forward.
Nevertheless, what’s always the best result in any theatrical piece is hearing the feedback of people days / weeks after attending the show. Just a week ago, someone asked me how the rest of the run went and reiterated to me how great of a show it was and how catchy the music was. That pay off always motivates for future shows.
TETRAZZINI’S LAST HURRAH
Mr. Jason Sebacher, you are a gem of a writer and if no one has ever attended a play that you’ve written, he/she has cheated themselves in what pure play writing is.
Tetrazzini was a play that’s been in the back burner for awhile and when it was finally able to be showcased in the right style of venue, the wait paid off. Jason and I must also press on the luck in acquiring the perfect players for this piece. Ben Harpe & Jove were great great compliments to Jason’s acting.
Yes – if you didn’t know, Jason not only wrote the entire play but requested of this Director / Producer to play one of the co-leads.
Something that I strongly noted to Jason was that if I were to Direct him, he must understand that no form of exception will be made and that all my comments & Directing skills will push him as an Actor for the good of the show. With this understanding and in his own preparations of the play, the show itself was nothing less than spectacular.
Associate Artist, Jason Sebacher, is currently working on something new to bring to the Mental Notion name. Keep your ears in tune!
THE RUSSIAN PLAY: AN IMPROVISED BLACK COMEDY
I always find it intriguing when fellow performers ask me what Mental Notion Society does as a Production company. What makes it different from putting up their own show or what does MNS do that they can’t do themselves? Well that’s just it – it’s a matter of making sure you as the Writer / Performer / Director (etc) have the ability to focus primarily on the art while Mental Notion handles the logistics of the administration.
As a Production company, MNS handles your marketing / PR, contracts, audition set-ups, venue acquirement, and any other administrative items that are necessary in putting up a show. All the “behind the scene” factors that make a show happen is taken care of so that the energy and focus of the main source keeps the quality at a high level without the burden of worrying about these other factors.
Sam Roos (via Stacey Smith) reached out and from the beginning, the business of The Russian Play was kept at a level of integrity that undoubtedly matches the vibe of Mental Notion productions. He was and is a man of professional stature and when it comes down to handling the work, he is a student & teacher of this art.
Sam amazed me with the work he put in to create the form which ultimately became “The Russian Play.” With studies in classical plays, a strong understanding in the elements of playwriting, and a strong improviser himself, he was able to formulate a structure which pushes themes / storylines / and characters.
Sam’s own connections within the Chicago improv community had the ability to bring strong performers who were eager to try something new. Also smart players who have the ability to take on somewhat “heady” material, this was a great challenge for vet improvisers.
The production was amazing and brought out good numbers. One audience member complained about the ticket price, saying “how does an improv show cost this much?” (even though we kept it fairly cheap, below $10) BUT when he came out of the show afterwards, he strongly exclaimed “THAT WAS TOTALLY WORTH IT!” –this is a true story as I was working the box office and had no comeback on the complaint, except “Sorry – if you don’t wanna go, that’s cool.”
Keep on eye on this collaboration cause Sam’s already working on new ideas to hopefully make its way to Mental Notion during the 2014 season.
THE FRUIT FLIES MUSIC VIDEO – I’M SORRY (NOT SORRY)
The Mental Notion Society isn’t only theater but also film and music. As the production company keeps busy in bringing new theatrical experiences to audiences, it also makes room to keep people in tune with sounds and cinematic sights.
THE FRUIT FLIES are so talented and we hope you are a friend to them as you are a friend to us on Facebook. So before you continue reading – do that right now! No, really – do it = http://www.facebook.com/fruitfliesmusic
Collaborations happen with sparks of ideas, proactive inquiries, and similar tastes in projects assemble. When it works, its greatness. The Fruit Flies were very open to any ideas and were great at giving input on what they envisioned were their style.
From my own experiences, its amazing to me how musical artists also have a visual thought to what their music “looks” like. With something that’s primarily audible, the artists have such a interesting take on what they see when they hear their own music. This is why I like having brainstorming sessions when people want to work on music videos. We’re basically interpreting what we hear and what each of us see when we’re listening to this whimsical sound.
A huge item that I must make known is how great it is to work with Mr. Brett Hartle. I’ve now worked with Brett on 3 film projects and we’re a no B.S. mini-production crew. He’s great at giving input, taking the lead where needed, as well as being a strong supportive player when necessary.
Now onto the production itself – our video shoot was on a chilly day, but The Fruit Flies were troopers. They were ready to do what was needed to make this a great first video. And that it was! Already with the concept of a silent film, the old timey comedic tones were something that Danni and Molly have attuned within their own live performances. Their jokes styling can be reminiscent of a Laurel & Hardy or Lucy & Ethel feel which is light heartedly humorous. Something beautiful to watch.
The shoot took about 4 to 5 hours with on the moment stops to makes sure the shot selections were on point, as well as the various angles attained. Our end product was premiered at a Fruit Flies show which to this day still gets great feedback from people. So fun to work with and a talent to not be missed if ever wanting to check out some good music.
ALE OBSESSION & THE CONSULTANTS
These two short film projects are currently in post production. “Ale Obsession” has been a continuous production in forward completion. Currently with 3 more scenes needing to film, this is a strong example of necessary planning in acquiring location and right timing. Schedules have pushed the completion but the dailies are definitely beautiful shot selections. The end product is something to keep on eye on!
“The Consultants” is a fun short to what may become a web series. Currently in post production, editing has been a bit slow as technical problems (mainly cursed computer problems!!) have been pushing the end result to a later date.
Honestly – if project completions came so easily to Mental Notion Society, then where’s the learning experience in that??? Yup – that took 3 questions marks.
2013 has been great so far, but we’re still pushing. We’re still trying to make a name for ourselves and in Chicago / in a community full of so many talented people / in a place where so many different projects are always happening / it’s a trying time. With our 3-year Anniversary coming up in October, we’re gonna keep it a bit quieter but keep focused on what we’re working on next. Which is what you might ask? Words / Phrases for your interpretation as follows: 6 Characters ; Sitcom Pilot ; Sir Jove ; Sebacher ; and actually more of the improv community.
Please stay tuned and tell friends to stay in the know of Mental Notion Society. Thank you for all your support and we hope to grow more as an organization in the upcoming 3rd year. Cheers to all!
Jonald Jude Reyes
Mental Notion Society Productions