Monday, September 11, 2006

Secretaries and the National Pastime Theatre

For everyone who doesn't know, which at this point is everyone, Rebecca and I are going to put on a play called The Secretaries. It was written by a collaborative women's group called the 5 Lesbian Brothers. It features secretarial life in the late 80's, a cult, lumber jacks and of course lots of sex, blood, and slim fast.

Rebecca and I want to do everything for this play. There are only 5 characters and we figure we're 2 of them, we'll audition for 3 more and we'll get a space, the rights, and charge something like $5 at the door. We're shooting for opening night to be November 4, 2006. Fast and dirty is the way she and I get most things done.

We spent last weekend looking at theatre spaces. The coolest one was the National Pastime Theatre. It was listed on craigslist as an authentic speakeasy. Because of troubles with the horrible rapid transit system I arrived by bike 15 minutes before Rebecca and got to hear the whole history of the place from a true Theatre Man, Lawrence Bryan...but not before he told me he too had been to Madison, and loved the town. He had gone several times for the pot smoking fete. While there he got the impression that Madisonians are really relaxed.

Back to the history of the theatre: it used to be a huge ball room (the columns and beautiful wood work survive). In 1923 they decided to build a big wall in the middle of the ballroom and create a secret room. The only way to access the walled area was through a broom closet in a second floor apartment and a secret door in the back of a near by restaurant. The secret room became a speak easy. A real jazzed bar I imagine. In 1943 the owners decide they've had enough and wall of the area with cinderblocks completely. I guess they were worried about taxes or something. The area was just left until 1992 when Lawrence Bryan and his friend were looking for more space and cut through the wall finding air, etc. that hadn't been touched since 1943.

I told him he should put that story in the magazine Infiltration which is all about exploring underground and secret areas. He told me there really was a whole underground network in that area of chicago. All of it was built during Prohibition. There were tunnels to the lake from the secret bars. Underground routes used to transport alcohol into the city. Holy shit I'd love to find those.

Then he told me more about the theatre and how it is haunted and how 100 nudists came in last weekend on a haunted tour, dropped "trou' " and walked around with diving rods looking for something. Then he told us it would be thousands of dollars for us to even think about using the theatre. Thousands of dollars we totally don't have. So now we're looking to rent a store front for 2 months to put on the play. Maybe there'll be a tunnel in the back, more than likely there'll just a creepy old dude who smokes pot and thinks we're cute and weak florescent light.


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