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Interview with Misha Kachman, Set Designer for Mr. Burns

The production team loads the car into the building for the set of Mr. Burns, a post-electric play

About three weeks ago was the first rehearsal for Mr. Burns, a post-electric play, and as with most first rehearsals we heard presentations from the creative team—showing us their models and mock-ups and explaining their vision and what they’re going to be working on. When our Company Member Misha Kachman told us his set design for Mr. Burns was going to include the most amount of scenery he’s ever put on stage I was intrigued. Last week I spoke with Misha about what the process has been like so far.

Brooke Miller: When did you first find out you were going to be working on Mr. Burns, and what were your first impressions about the play?

Misha Kachman: I first found out I was going to work on Mr. Burns sometime last spring, that’s typically when theaters seek designers for their projects. Before I read the script I received about a three sentence synopsis and I thought wow I want to see that and be a part of that. I think also my friend Colin Bills told me about it—he said you have to be on this project, it’s a really cool idea.

BM: What is your process like for coming up with a set design? How much is your own brainstorming and how much is collaborative with the other artists involved?

MK: Well the process for this show was not a typical process because the needs of the play are incredibly specific. There’s poetic input on the part of the design team mostly about surfaces, textures, little things. But the play tells you what needs to be on stage at any given moment. The logistical challenge in this particular script is we need to find a way to get those things on stage in a way that’s elegant and practical. So it’s challenging but also very exciting—there’s three completely different locations in the play, very fleshed out locations, so how do you do that? Where do you keep all that stuff?  Some of the other brainstorming has been thinking about 80 years after collapse of civilization, what are shirt materials like? What kind of paint would still be around? What pigments haven’t faded? You have to be creative and curious and have to research those things.

BM: So building off of that, what sorts of research did you have to do for this show?

MK: Well we did lots of research about the iconography of the cartoon itself. People of the future don’t have visual evidence of what The Simpsons were like, everything is oral tradition. We studied how the imagery mutates—are the Simpsons recognizable 80 years from now? There’s this great book that playwright Anne Washburn recommended that the entire production team read, called The World Without Us. The author Alan Weisman wrote an exploration of civilization once it stops functioning—how it comes apart and what happens to materials, structures, and infrastructure in the future.

BM: At first rehearsal you told us that this is the most scenery that you’ve ever put on stage and you want the audience to wonder where we were keeping all of it. Can you talk a little bit about that?

MK: Yes, well in Act III the goal is to create a spectacle—to make the audiences’ jaws drop. In this scene the characters are resorting to the old forms of theater, such as baroque theater of 18th century. It’s idiosyncratic because we want it to be a spectacle but the visual elements have to look amateur and pathetic at the same time.

BM: I know you and our props master Jenn Sheetz had to travel to a junkyard to pick out car parts, what was that like?

MK: That was quite exciting, we needed the car to look very generic and it had to be compact and small, so we went with an early 1990s Toyota. The challenge was to figure out how to get into the building, it was just big enough to fit in the elevator. The real car was very heavy but they took out the engine, and now the car has to be “tricked out.” There’s a scene with three people dancing on the hood so we also have to make sure it can sustain that.

BM: What has been the most challenging part of designing this set for you?

MK: I think the most challenging part is ahead of us, getting through the tech rehearsals and putting this thing together. We have to find places to hide things on stage which is an exciting exercise in geometry…but I don’t want to give anything away. It’s a terrific script and at the end of the day it all comes to the words, if they’re funny and exciting and interesting.

BM: Is there anything else you want our audiences to know about?

MK: We’ve been cooking ourselves in this for awhile, for a year, so I’m looking forward to the reactions of people who don’t know the frame of the story, and the story is being told to them from scratch. I’m interested in finding out how this thing plays out for a person who doesn’t know or watch The Simpsons.

BM: So if you found out the world was going to end tomorrow, what things would you make sure to save?

MK: Well probably the tools of my trade such as brushes, paints, pen and ink, model making. I also think I would save my dog.

~Brooke Miller, Press and Digital Content Manager

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Mashups

In the music industry, it is common for artists to practice “sampling,” which is taking a portion of one sound recording and reusing it in a different song or piece. Some popular examples:

Queen/David Bowie’s “Under Pressure” in Vanilla Ice’s “Ice Ice Baby”

 

Rick James’ “Superfreak” in MC Hammer’s “U Can’t Touch This”

 

Stevie Nicks’ “Edge of Seventeen” in Destiny’s Child “Bootylicious”

 

John Cougar Mellencamp’s “Jack and Diane” in Jessica Simpson’s “I Think That I’m in Love with You”

 

One step beyond this is the “mashup” which has become popular recently. In a mashup, two or more songs are performed together in a row or intermittently throughout the piece. The TV show Glee (yes I still watch it) even had an episode entitled “Mash-Up” in which Mr. Schuester attempts to create a mashup wedding medley for Emma and Ken. There are also a bunch of mashups that the Glee kids have performed, here is one of my recent favorites:

 

Perhaps the most famous mashup-er is Girl Talk AKA Gregg Gillis. A former engineering student, Gillis often mixes a dozen or more samples from different songs to create a new song. Here are some examples:

 

In Mr. Burns, a post-electric play make sure you pay attention for some mashups of pop hits from the past ten years. Do you have any favorite samplings or mashups?

~Brooke Miller, Press and Digital Content Manager

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Fun Facts About The Simpsons

Hey there Woolly blog readers. Today is the first rehearsal for the last show of our 32nd Season, so crazy! We’re getting very excited for the World Premiere of Mr. Burns, a post-electric play, Anne Washburn’s witty take on post-apocalyptic society and pop culture. The play opens soon after the apocalypse hits—there’s no TV, no radio, no Internet.  A group of survivors sit around a campfire and recall an episode of The Simpsons to escape from despair. From their collective memories, a new industry struggles to be born: a crude theatrical re-creation of the digital culture we can’t possibly live without.

As always, we’ll be exploring many of the topics that the play addresses, as well as giving you an inside look at the artistic process for the show. Make sure you check back every Tuesday and Friday as we write about the tradition of storytelling, explore super fandom, and tell you about some of our Connectivity programming.

To get you in the spirit of Mr. Burns, I’ve decided to put together a list of recent news and fun facts that you may or may not know about The Simpsons. Here you go:

  • The Simpsons has Guinness Book of World Records titles for Longest Running Primetime Animated Television Series and Most Guest Stars Featured in a Television Series.
  • This past February, the 500th episode of the show aired.
  • Conan O’Brien was a writer for the show in the early 90s.
  • Homer Simpson’s catchphrase “D’oh” is now listed in the Oxford English Dictionary.
  • In 1998 TIME Magazine named Bart Simpson one of the most influential people of the century.
  • There’s speculation that The Simpsons are coming to Angry Birds.
  • Recently, Simpsons creator Matt Groening revealed to Smithsonian Magazine that the town of Springfield is named after Springfield, Oregon. Although later, Groening stressed that the Simpsons don’t actually LIVE in Oregon.
  • Recently, The Simpsons wished their network Fox a Happy 25th Anniversary…but took a jab at Fox News. (#womp)
  • There’s a trademark battle over Homer’s favorite beer.
  • Last but certainly not least: Lady Gaga guest stars on the season finale May 20th!!

Anything to add? Have a favorite episode you want to tell us about? Let us know on Twitter, use the hashtag #WoollyBurns!

~Brooke Miller, Press and Digital Content Manager

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Meet Your Wild Wild Woolly Hosts and Entertainment

Howdy pioneer folk! We’re getting SO excited for our Wild Wild Woolly Spring Benefit this Saturday at the Fairmont Hotel! For our last blog post, we decided to give you some information about your hosts for the evening and some of the entertainment that you’ll see there.

Autria Godfrey

We’re so thankful to have ABC7/WJLA-TV and News Channel 8 as our Media Sponsor for the event, and they’re sending over reporter and anchor Autria Godfrey to be our emcee during the dinner program. A native Texan, Autria has an impressive career, from her start in Charlotesville, VA where she served as reporter, weekend anchor, and finally morning anchor of Good Morning Charlottesville where she covered stories such as the Virginia Tech shootings, the death of Reverend Jerry Fallwell, and the visit by Queen Elizabeth II to historic Williamsburg, VA. During the past couple of years, Autria’s covered exciting events such as the rescue of the Chilean miners, presidential and vice-presidential debates, and even braving the frigid temperatures of Inauguration Day on the National Mall in 2009.

We’re excited to introduce you to our auctioneer for the evening: Taline N. Aynilian. Taline has served as a popular charity auctioneer for several non-profit organizations and regularly gives lectures on collecting and investing in art. She currently serves as the Executive Director of Lead Tin Yellow, a private art consultancy company, and prior to establishing this firm, Taline held the title of Assistant Vice President 19th Century European Paintings at Christies, New York; and Head of Department in Orientalist Paintings and Modern and Contemporary Middle Eastern works of art at Bonhams, New York and Dubai. Her knowledge of the art business is backed by her extensive education, both in the US at Barnard College and abroad in London, Paris, and Florence, where she worked at the famed Museo degli Uffizi.

Wil Gravatt Band

If you are anything like many of the Woolly staff members, you LOVE going to Woolly’s neighbor Hill Country BBQ for some happy hour specials and delicious food! And it wouldn’t be a Wild West party without some great music so the Wil Gravatt Band is taking a break from their Hill Country gig to come hang with us for the evening! Some call it honky tonk, some call it traditional country. Call it what you will, it’s real music that people can’t seem to get enough of. With a lineup of excellent DC-area musicians, Wil has crafted a driving roots sound that has made them one-of-a-kind in their respective genre.

DC Cowboys

And last but certainly not least, we are thrilled to announce that the DC Cowboys will be performing for us as part of their Farewell Tour! Performing since 1994, the DC Cowboys is an all-male performing arts organization for gay men in the Washington, DC-metropolitan area. The group garnered international fame through appearances on NBC’s America’s Got Talent season 3, the Closing Ceremonies of the Gay Games VII at Wrigley Field in Chicago, at the Sziget Festival’s Magic Mirror venue in Budapest; shows in Dublin Ireland; and on RSVP’s Caribbean Fantasy cruise. Metro Weekly magazine has described the Cowboys’ style as a “trademark combo of Broadway-caliber verve, sizzling sex appeal and rugged good looks.”

We hope to see you all there on Saturday! For all you social media fans I’ll be posting some live updates throughout the night, make sure you follow along on Twitter using the hashtag #WildWoolly!

~ Brooke Miller, Press and Digital Content Manager

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CIVILIZATION SMACKDOWN

If you’ve been following along on Twitter and Facebook (which um you should be!) you know we’re holding a “Civilization Smackdown” during the run of Civilization (all you can eat) to find out what is the “greatest civilization ever.” We’ve asked experts (and non-experts) from across DC, and we finally have the list of the competitors!

You can vote for your favorites live in our lobby during the run of the show or via Twitter (#WoollyCIV) or Facebook to determine which civilizations advance to the next round. Fill out a bracket à la NCAA March Madness with your top picks to predict which one will make the championship. Accurately predict the winner and receive a free Woolly flex pass!

Thanks everyone for your nominations, here are the competitors:

  • Ancient Mayans
  • The United States of America
  • Ancient Rome
  • Ancient Egypt
  • Harry Potter’s World
  • Abbasid Caliphate
  • Facebook
  • The Ming Dynasty
  • Dutch Golden Age
  • J.R.R. Tolkien’s Elves
  • The Majapahit (1300’s Indonesia)
  • Disney World
  • Apple Inc.
  • Atlantis
  • Sumer
  • The Vogons (From Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy)
  • Yorubaland
  • Twitter
  • Azeroth (From World of Warcraft)
  • Portland, Oregon
  • Red Sox Nation
  • Napoleon’s Empire
  • Voltaire’s El Dorado
  • Iron Age Ireland
  • The American South
  • Canada
  • Mohicans
  • Appalachia
  • The Amish
  • No Civilization! (Hunter-Gatherers)
  • Modern Mexico
  • Flatland

And here are the first round match ups:

  • Ancient Mayans vs. The Amish
  • Apple vs. Yorubaland
  • Dutch Golden Age vs. Red Sox Nation
  • Harry Potter’s World vs. The American South
  • USA vs. Hunter-gatherers
  • Atlantis vs. Twitter
  • J.R.R. Tolkien’s Elves vs. Napoleon’s Empire
  • Canada vs. Abbasid Caliphate
  • Ancient Rome vs. Modern Mexico
  • Sumer vs. Azeroth (From World of Warcraft)
  • The Majapahit (1300’s Indonesia) vs. Voltaire’s El Dorado
  • Facebook vs. Mohicans
  • Ancient Egyptians vs. Flatland
  • The Vogons (From Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy) vs. Portlandia
  • Disney World vs. Iron Age Ireland
  • The Ming Dynasty vs. Appalachia

Stay tuned, we’ll have a bracket that you can fill out shortly and submit to us. Let us know your picks!

~ Brooke Miller, Press and Digital Content Manager

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Viral Videos and Internet Memes

What does it take to go viral?

Something borderline offensive? So ridiculous you want to buy the product? Anything involving really cute kids or hot men (hey Ryan Gosling)?

There’s a hilarious scene in our upcoming show Civilization (all you can eat) that involves a TV commercial with some similar qualities to viral videos we are familiar with.

In that spirit I decided to have some fun in social media-land today and will be posting some of my favorite viral videos and Internet memes from Woolly’s Twitter account, so be sure to follow along and send us your favorites!

Here are my choices:

David After Dentist

Falling under the “cute kids” category, I’ve always loved this video of a seven-year-old boy who has a funny reaction after dental surgery. “Is this real life?”

Charlie Bit Me

Another classic “cute kids” one. Not sure I can add any other commentary here, just watch it.

Old Spice Guy

This is one that’s similar to Civilization in that it started as an advertising campaign and quickly went viral afterwards, propelling Isaiah Mustafa to fame as “The man your man could smell like.”

Potter Puppet Pals

For all the Harry Potter fans out there, the “Mysterious Ticking Noise.”

Shake Weight

Claims to help women tone their arms in actions that appear notoriously sexual…

LoLCats

Moving into the Internet memes category: “I can haz cheezburger?”

Hungover Owls

A favorite in the Woolly office for “mornings after”…I mean no this never happens to us…

Ryan Gosling Tumblrs

There’s pretty much a Ryan Gosling Tumblr for just about every group of people or occupation. Some samplings: Silicon Valley Ryan Gosling, Hey Girl Happy Hanukkah, Is Ryan Gosling Cuter than a Puppy, and of course my favorite: Ryan Gosling Arts Administrator.

Shit ___ Says

The videos that have taken off recently…if you don’t know what I’m talking about you’ve been living under a rock. Like Ryan Gosling, almost every group of people is stereotyped in these videos, which have now been expanded to cities with the brilliant Shit DC Says.

And last but not least my all time favorite:

THE SNUGGIE!!!!

I think the first time I saw this infomercial I was actually sitting on my couch in the middle of winter and knew I needed one of these. A BLANKET WITH SLEEVES! My family currently owns five of them, one for each of us. We’re sick I know…

Happy Friday! Remember to send us your favorites!

~ Brooke Miller, Press and Digital Content Manager

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We’re All Gonna Die…Might as Well Laugh Before You Do

Face it: we’re all going to die. Whether you believe in fate or not, there’s one fate that none of us can escape and that’s death. Our Second City show this year—Spoiler Alert: Everybody Dies—is thematically focused on the twists of fate that propel our universe. We all know the ending of our personal stories, but what do you do before you get there?

In this tradition, we’ve started a “Know the Facts” campaign during the run of the show. You’ll find lots of facts and statistics about the surroundings that you’ll interact with in our lobby, as well as in the playbill. I don’t want to spoil any of those for you because they’re so fab (and stay tuned for a future blog post), but I decided to put together a list of the most interesting/weird/funny statistics about death that I could find on the Internet.  *Note: not quite sure how credible the sites I got these from are…nonetheless they are entertaining so read on!

Here we go:

  • More people are killed each year by coconuts than sharks (150 by coconuts, 40 by sharks). Falling from a height of 80 feet, coconuts can build up an impact speed of 50 mph.
  • Dr. Alice Chase, who wrote “Nutrition for Health” and numerous books on the science of proper eating, died of malnutrition.
  • You are more likely to be killed by a champagne cork than by a poisonous spider.
  • 899 deaths a year are caused by people falling from household furniture.
  • On average, right-handed people live nine years longer than left-handed people (I take offense to this one, lefties unite!)
  • Similarly, over 2500 left-handed people are killed each year from using products created for right-handed people. (Don’t get me started! Scissors = my enemy)
  • A human head remains conscious for about 15 to 20 seconds after it has been decapitated.
  • When a person dies, hearing is generally the last sense to go. The first sense lost is usually sight. Then follows taste, smell, and touch.
  • The owner of the Segway company died when he drove one of his devices off a cliff near his home. (This one’s definitely true, check it out here)

Have any interesting facts you’ve found? Want to let us know what you think about death and/or fate? Tweet to us using the hashtag #EverybodyDies, and follow the conversation surrounding the show!

~ Brooke Miller, Press and Digital Content Manager

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