A staged reading series that showcases new, full-length work by Chicago area playwrights.
Each script is brought to life through collaboration with a director and cast of talented actors.
INFATUATION by Hallie Palladino
Directed by Kristina McCloskey
Featuring Tara Bouldrey, Spenser Davis, and Mansa Ubuntu
Monday, November 14
The Den Theatre, 1333 N. Milwaukee Ave., Chicago, IL
$5 suggested donation
Alyssa and Hugh have been a committed couple since their first week of college. Their relationship is perfectly balanced. She’s a scientist. He’s an artist. She’s pragmatic. He’s sentimental. He nurtures her. She motivates him. But there’s a problem. She can’t stop fantasizing about Kai, Hugh’s dangerously sexy best friend. When Hugh ignores Alyssa at their engagement party, Alyssa finds herself making eyes at Kai. When Kai reveals his longstanding attraction to her she finds herself consumed by infatuation.
MEET THE PLAYWRIGHT
HALLIE PALLADINO ’s recent plays include Missed Connections (PFP’s LezPlay Fest 2015; Idle Muse Athena Festival 2015) and Sunrise: Ardmore Beach (Something Marvelous Night of New Work 2015). She serves on the Stage Left Theater’s literary committee. Hallie has worked in new play development both a dramaturg and producer. She is proud to have been one of the original staff members of the Ojai Playwrights Conference. Hallie cofounded the long running Tuesday Funk reading series at Hopleaf (celebrating its 100 show in December). She lives with her family in Edgewater.
Read on below to learn more about Hallie and find out what she has to say about Infatuation, playwriting, and more!
I grew up in a lot of places including New York City, Jackson, Wyoming and Ojai, California. I moved to Chicago for college in 1997 and have lived here most of my adult life except for a few years in Los Angeles and London.
Q. Is this your first staged reading of your work?
This is the first staged reading of Infatuation. I’ve had public readings of a number of other plays. Last year my play Missed Connections received readings in both PFP’s Lez Play Festival and Idle Muse’s Athena Festival.
Q. What do you think an audience gets most out of a staged reading?
As an audience member I love to attend staged readings. When the play is well cast and the actors have had enough time to engage with the text, I feel like I’m getting a very pure version of what is in the playwright’s imagination. Staged Readings to me are the theatrical equivalent of the unplugged album—the storytelling is on full display and there are no design elements to compensate for or offset fundamental weaknesses in the script. Because of this it’s a great way to discover if a play succeeds dramatically.
Q. What do you hope to gain from a staged reading?
The two-week rehearsal process Dandelion has given this project is a fantastic opportunity for me as a dramatist to develop a first draft into a presentable piece of theater. Hearing the play read by smart actors--Tara Bouldey, Spenser Davis, and Mansa Ubuntu--with good instincts followed by a focused discussion lead by our savvy director, Kristina McCloskey, means I'll be able to move the play forward faster in two weeks than I could in two months just alone at my desk. The excitement of a public reading is not only motivating but it signals to the community I have a new play and perhaps generate some excitement around it. My hope is the audience will find it to be engaging, entertaining and thought-provoking. Dandelion Theatre has made my inclusion in the Reservoir Series an incredibly positive and affirming experience.
ABOUT THE DIRECTOR
KRISTINA McCLOSKEY is a freelance director heralding from Virginia and currently living in (and loving) Chicago. Most recently she assistant directed Midsommer Flight's As You Like It running in Chicago Public Parks this past summer. She's also had the pleasure of directing Election Season as part of Dandelion Theatre's The Hot Dog Stand as well as assistant stage managing Griffin Theatre's Pocatello. Currently, she is directing the Midwest Premiere of Malefactions by Matt Minnicino, showing at Gorilla Tango Theatre starting October 20th. She equally loves ancient texts, fresh new works, and every single dog she sees. Many thanks to Dandelion for this opportunity!
MEET THE CAST
Q. How did you come to write Infatuation?
So often I think that for dramatic purposes love and infatuation are conflated in plays. I’m interested in making a distinction between the emotional experience of infatuation versus the kind of love required to sustain a relationship.
In this play’s opening scene Kai confronts Alyssa about the unspoken feelings she harbors for him. When she dismisses desire as just “chemicals in the brain” he implores her to at least admit she believes in love. She responds: "Of course I believe in love. As sustained consistent action. Giving yourself over to somebody else’s needs, accepting their flaws, forgiving their mistakes, forsaking all others. Anything less, Kai—that’s just infatuation."
As they wrestle with their attraction and the powerful longing that accompanies it, Alyssa must come to allow that though feelings may not be the only truth—as Kai suggests in Act One—dismissing them is just as dangerous as romanticizing them.
As for the subplot, I was motivated to write about the issue of sexual harassment in the sciences after reading Hope Jarden’s New York Times OpEd “She Wanted to Do Her Research. He Wanted to Talk ‘Feelings.’” This was coming on the heels a very disturbing case at my alma mater, the University of Chicago. Microbiologist Jason Lieb was fired (but not prosecuted) after sexually assaulting a young scientist in the department. In Infatuation there’s no assault but Alyssa’s professor does attempt to pressure her into performing sexual favors before he will give her the favorable recommendation she needs to get a job. All these types of incidents are on the same continuum.
It was important for me to juxtapose these incidents in which women are sexually bullied, with the persuasive tactics would-be lovers employ while seducing each other. They are similar only at the most superficial level. The play leans into that discomfort we have in our culture that women, especially sexually confident women "bring it on themselves." When Alyssa rails against men who abuse their power to victimize women, Kai admits he feels implicated "like an asshole." Alyssa makes this crucial important distinction. “Attraction doesn’t make you an asshole. Entitlement makes you an asshole.” One positive thing I can do as a feminist writer is to underline this difference. At our first read through Spenser Davis, who plays Hugh, commented he appreciates the fact that this play does not criminalize feelings of desire or the expression of them.
Q. How did you start writing plays?
Though I have always been both a writer and a theater person, at first I didn’t see any connection between the two. By college I was determined to become a director. In my directing class at the University of Chicago, taught by the amazing Curt Columbus, we were assigned to do something he called “a self-generated scene.” I wasn’t sure what to make of this assignment so I simply wrote a monologue and performed it. Curt gave me an A minus and wrote on my evaluation “Hallie, you’re not a director. You’re a writer.” I went home and cried because the first half of his sentiment sounded so final, so damning. But after directing David Hare’s play “Skylight” as my thesis project I came to understand I’m much more comfortable in the realm of text than of staging. Soon after I began writing drama.
Q. What kind of theatre excites you?
I’m very glad when I see storytelling that is clear, emotionally honest, and simple.
Q. Who are your heroes? Theatrical or other.
Chekhov certainly, “Uncle Vanya” is still my favorite play of all time. I love the fact that his characters understand the why of their predicaments so brilliantly and yet still suffer, perhaps even more, for all their understanding. More contemporary playwrights I love include Tom Stoppard, August Wilson and Sarah Ruhl. I admire playwrights who can engage you emotionally, intellectually and politically with great dialogue including humor, engaging plots and the kind of characters who follow you home.
Q. What do you wish someone had told you when you first started playwriting?
I wish someone had explained to me political drama is more than academic argument disguised as a story. My early plays suffered from too much enthusiastic research into issues that undermined the narrative. I felt the more serious the subject the more seriously I would be taken. It took me longer than I’d like to admit to discover this is not at all the case.
Now I write nonfiction when I’m feeling political, scholarship when I feel scholarly and plays that are character driven—not issue driven. In Infatuation I am mindful of making sure the incident with Alyssa’s professor serves her story, not the other way around.
Q. What do you have coming up next?
In 2008 I cofounded the Tuesday Funk reading series. Though I no longer host, December 6th is our 100th installment and I will be performing along with all other TF hosts past and present. 7:30pm Hopleaf upstairs bar.