Sunday, May 31, 2009

Catching Up With.....Allison Cain

Allison Cain is as responsible for the success of the Factory Theater as anyone.  She guided the company through some extremely rough waters during this decade, and it is due to her leadership that the Factory is where it is today.  The number of people she has brought into the Factory borders on amazing.  Not only that, but she produced some of the Factory's biggest hits and starred in several others.  (On a personal note, she was Wilma Gladstone.)  What CAN'T she do?

Allison will appear in Dead Wrong (previews June 19, opening June 26) at the Prop, and she took the time to sit down with the Factory blog to plug the new show, reflect on her time at the Factory, and offer her insights into Chicago theater as a whole.  The Factory instantly improved once she set foot through our door.  She's one smart person and her thoughtful answers reflect it.  Enjoy.....

Allison Cain
I saw the first run-thru of Dead Wrong last week, and came away impressed with your performance.  How do you feel the show is going?
The process has been great.  Manny is really big on feedback, so we are now on version 4.  I am a new works freak.  As an actor, I feel like I am helping to shape the show and nothing can beat that. The actors in this show are amazing and it has been a joy working with them.  I also like that I get to kiss a boy. The last play that I was in, I was a nun and therefore, did not kiss anyone.  That sucked.
Currently reading:
When I am in this part of the process, I do not  read anything as all of my free time is spent memorizing lines.  As I get older, it is harder and harder to do so I really have to concentrate on it.  Kind of blows but thems the breaks.  When I am off book, I will go back to this biography of Katherine Swynford, Duchess of Lancaster that I started.  I also have 2066 next to my bed and I want to get into that one.  Ohhh, I also am in the middle of the second volume of a biography of Eleanor Roosevelt.  Christ.  I gotta lot of reading to do.  That just stressed me out.
Recently you signed on as managing director of the Lifeline Theatre.  What do you like best about your new job (besides the ability to walk to work)?
Besides the ability to walk to work (the merits of this should not be underestimated), I love that I am now making my living working for an amazing theater company that does new work.  Previous to taking this position, I acted in four shows at Lifeline and was very impressed with the organization as a whole.  It is an honor to be able to be a part of the staff and have a part in shaping the future of the company.  I am a very lucky person.
There are traces of humor in Dead Wrong, but the overall mood of the show seems to be one of suspense that gradually leads to out-and-out horror.  Would you agree with that?
Yes, I would.  Every single character is this show comes to the table with a lot of personal pain and demons.   For some characters, you see it immediately.  For others, you learn as you go along and all, of course, culminates at the end. 

Your approach to your character is obviously a bit different from Factory roles past.  What do you have to say about Donna (without giving the plot away)?
Actually,  my approach for Donna is no different that it has been for any other character that I have played. I try to get to the heart of the character as soon as possible and then layer from there.  So, whether a part is realistic or cartoon, I always figure out what they want and how they go about getting it.  Can't really say much more cause I do not want to tip my hat.
You basically steered the Factory ship for the better part of this decade.  What achievement in that time are you the most proud of?
I am proud of the fact that the Factory is a creative and safe place to work and that we have survived for so long.  There were times at the beginning of my tenure, that I was not sure we were going to make but through the vision and hard work of many, we came out on top.  We also were able to recruit really well.  The company has some of the most talented people I have ever worked with.  That feels great.
What attracted you to the Factory in the first place?  What show did you first see?
Um, well I always considered myself a dramatic actresss.  I went to Columbia College for a while there, and Sheldon Patinkin kept telling me that I was a comic actress.  When Sheldon tells you something, you gotta listen so I felt like I needed to work out my comedic side which scared the crap outta me.  What attracted me about the Factory was the manic brillance of the work, the speed at which the comedy came at you, and the creative forces behind all of it.  That and the group could knock back beers like you would not believe.  I think the first show I saw was Alive...and I loved it.
In your opinion, what should off-Loop theatres be focusing on to survive the current economic mess we're all in?
Companies need to be conservative in their budgeting and extravegant in their creative product.  Programming should never be cut due to lack of funds.  If need be, companies should figure out how to do more on stage for less money.  Cut back on the set desgin if you must, but never, ever cut your season down.  Our shows are our product.  If we cut back on them, why would any potential donor or funder, want to contribute?
Do you feel that the on-stage talent drives the success of a theater company, or is it the organization and fund-raising ability of the company's management?
Both.  The onstage talent creates the passion necessary to keep the momentum of the company going.  The leadership of the organization harnasses this energy and steers the ship by using good business sense which includes but is not limited to fundraising, prudent financial planning and relationship management (with a touch of crazy thrown in because this is a ridiculous business).
Your greatest on-stage moment:
This is tough because every show I do, I fall in love with the character I am playing.   So, that is kind like asking me to pick my favorite child.  Can't do it.  

(Editor's Note:  What she meant to say was:  "Every moment I have ever spent on stage with you, Beave."  But that would have created some problems, huh?)
Jazz or blues?  You can only pick one.
If I can only pick one, I guess that would have to be jazz.
If you and Manny could hang out with just one person for a night, it would be:
Wow.  Manny and I have to agree on something?  Hmmmmm... that is going to be tough.  OOOOOOHHH, I got it.  Okay, it is two people but I know that he would want to hang out with them.  Gonna have to be Gena Rowlands and John Cassavettes.

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