Laura Nessler, Sam Parry & I are proud to present the latest 108 Stories production THE DIFFICULT SEASON, a film about a struggling group of young Chicago actors, artists, attorneys, therapists, and friends suffering through the 2015 holiday season and fighting against alcoholism, political strife, loss, addiction and infidelity along the way. Featuring a great cast and beautiful Windy City locations, we hope you enjoy the movie and thanks for watching!
With two jam-packed weeks of filming complete, the holiday-themed drama THE DIFFICULT SEASON is almost ready for post-production! This film, written by myself and my partner Laura Nessler and co-directed by myself and Sam Parry, is a Robert Altman-style journey through the lives of some troubled, hard-drinking Chicago actors, artists, therapists, writers, lawyers, musicians, campaign operatives, working stiffs and drug dealers as they face death, depression, doomed romance, infidelity and alcoholism during a particularly trying December. Inspired by the titular Dave Frishberg song and the real-life tragedies afflicting the Chicago theatre community this past year, THE DIFFICULT SEASON is a labor of love and will be available for viewing come soon in the new year. Happy holidays!
From the newly-created 108 Stories Productions comes the film DEPARTURE TIMES, written by myself and Ellen Chambers and directed by Sam Parry, featuring an original score from Mallory Nees and performances from the truly extraordinary cast featured above. The story of a Chicago weekend, of the joys, friendships, darknesses, doomed romances and deaths that meet a troubled young woman as she traverses the North Side looking for connections before leaving forever, and of the tragedies and dreams that make up the city's emotional map. We recently finished shooting and we're looking forward to screening the final product: watch this space for further developments and we will see you once we're edited and can't wait to take this voyage through the Windy City with all of you!
It's back, cats & kittens: after a three-year hiatus since the last staged reading of this play, at the dearly-missed New Leaf Theatre's Treehouse Reading Series, my play A PERFECT SHADE OF SKYLINE GRAY will return for one night only, Tuesday June 23rd! It's a FREE staged reading at the great Black Rock Pub & Kitchen, where you can order delicious food and drinks off their stellar menu before, during, and after the performance, which starts at 7:30pm...what, you ask, is this show all about?
September 1957: Joliet, Illinois. On a fog-enshrouded evening in this Illinois steel town, a hot-tempered newswoman walks onto a bridge and disappears, leaving behind a mystery that will haunt the Midwest forever. While the clock runs out on the reckless reporter's life, a wealthy young Rackets Committee attorney named Robert F. Kennedy arrives in Joliet just in time to plunge into a maelstrom of lies and violence, where he will be forced to confront his own guilt for the dark secrets of our country's favorite decade. And when Kennedy weaves his way through a nightmarish maze of hot dog massacres, whipping cults, disfigured torch singers and hired killers, truth becomes maddeningly elusive, and questions of loyalty, lust and legacy get answered by the cries of passion forming a dying city's sordid soundtrack. Before it's over, more than one murder will have changed the lives of everyone in Joliet...and America.
Join us for a FREE staged reading of this play featuring an amazing cast, great music, drama, madness, history, violence, secrets and sex, all at Black Rock Pub & Kitchen: we can't wait to see you there!
A Perfect Shade of Skyline Gray
A Play by Mark Mason
Starring Jamie Bragg, David Boren, Natalie DiCristofano, Carl Wisniewski, Andrew Jessop, CJ Langdon, Carissa Meyer and Mike Krystosek
Tuesday June 23rd, Black Rock Pub & Kitchen, 3614 N. Damen Avenue, Chicago
Dinner and Drinks: 6:00pm
Start of Show: 7:30pm
Thirty years is a long time for a family to fall apart. Countless disasters, little miracles of love, and a epic political nightmare of unfolding history are all centered on a bedroom in a tiny Main Street house in Morris, Illinois where the McCauley family is slowly disintegrating. A love-struck young real estate agent fills us in on the beautiful, lyrical love that birthed this shoddy dynasty, a love that began in a ’74 Dodge Challenger with Elvis Costello on the radio and would end with blood coughed by a woman surrounded by plastic angels while her daughter lies unconscious covered in Iraqi dust. Love is fulfilled: trust is betrayed. Resentments, hopes, dreams and yearnings are pursued by the ashes of the past, miscarriages and zombie movie marathons the chasers for terrorism and war; cancer, rage and adultery the blips on a television set to Cubs games and Hurricane Katrina coverage. Welcome to A FAMILY EMERGENCY, a comedy about the worst memories of all the best people.
Starring the brilliant cast of Abby Blankenship, Mary Jo Bolduc, Brian Chambers, Ellen Chambers, Eric Gerard, James Lusk, Kein P. Onickel, and Bridget Schreiber , A FAMILY EMERGENCY is my epic and occasionally hilarious tragedy about what it means to be an American millennial and what it is to love and die in the Midwest, and will be presented in a FREE, ONE NIGHT ONLY staged reading on Tuesday June 16th, 7:30pm, at Church in the City, 1040 W Huron Street #1-W, Chicago, IL 60642. Invite your friends, yourself, and maybe even your family here on our Facebook event page: we sincerely hope to see you there!
Two years in development, my play ANGEL DOWN AT LOVE is finally ready for its first public performance, in a FREE staged reading, one night only, Tuesday June 2nd at Black Rock Pub & Kitchen, 3614 N Damen Ave in Chicago, Illinois. Take a trip to Dallas, 1963: a terminally ill teacher's senior drama class is preparing their annual "Tribute to American Poetry" recital; a violent manic-depressive from Chicago attempts to run a stripclub with a combination of generosity and violence; a divorced policeman's proposal to an exotic dancer humiliates his teenage daughter, two high school girls plot to disrupt the Homecoming queen's imminent deflowering, a hard-drinking right-wing fanatic schemes to get incendiary fliers printed by a black friend at the Texas School Book Depository where a tormented ex-Marine stacking books on the sixth floor starts a diary of his failures that prompts one last try for glory and meaning. Romance sparks and dreams burn bright, as Big D and all its scared and hopeful citizens prepare for the visit of President John F. Kennedy.
Starting at 7:30 (though please come early to enjoy dinner from Black Rock's awesome menu) see a FREE staged reading about one of the most shocking events in American history, told from a brand new perspective and featuring a cast of Chicago's very finest actors, featuring the outstanding Ali Burch, Wardell Julius Clark, Rebecca Flores, Joe Goldammer, Rob Grabowski, Sasha Kostyrko, James Lusk, J.B. Meyer, Carissa Meyer, Brian Muldoon, Katy Nielsen, Kein P. Onickel, and Brenann Stacker, this is an epic and ambitious drama I'm excited to present to Chicago, hopefully on a first step in a long journey towards something bigger. So please, come for dinner and stay for the drama, storytelling by the most brilliant voices in Chicago, starting at 7:30pm on TUESDAY JUNE 2ND...see you there!
I've been thinking a lot about the "theatre community" recently, what it means in general, and what it means specifically to Chicago: partially due to the Chicago One-Minute Play Festival, which both myself and my partner Laura had plays in this year and which was a terrifically fun, poignant, eye-opening event that showcased both artists I've known for years and actors/directors whom I've never met but with whom I instantly became very impressed and to whom I immediately reached out. I've been remiss in telling you about it here, but I was lucky enough to have my plays directed by Sydney Chatman and Spenser Davis, both of whom represent the finest qualities of Chicago theatre folk, incisiveness, boldness, creativity and raw (in the very best sense of the word) talent. I hope to learn quite a bit more from them in the future.
It was a wonderful night of risk-taking, high spirits, political engagement, honesty and challenges, and that made the events of the next week all the more difficult to bear. Within the space of a few days, the theatre community endured the deaths of both acclaimed actress/singer/blogger Erin Myers and legendary Chicago Dramatists founding artistic director Russ Tutterow. The following is from a Facebook post I made on the afternoon of May 4th, shortly after Russ passed away:
"What a very depressing couple days it has been for Chicago theatre with the death of Erin Myers, who I did not know but whose eloquent blog about her living with cancer I've read and admired, coupled with the death of Russ Tutterow this morning, a man I knew a little through some Dramatists readings and saw as a sweet, hardworking and kind man whose greatest quality to me seemed to be how he cared about the work and the people of theatre. That's what hits me, that he obviously didn't give a shit about fame, fortune, schmoozing with celebrities or getting more attention and acclaim...in retrospect, it's a beautiful way to live and the only way to live, and I think I've learned a valuable lesson from that. Death is a strange and scary thing, and while I am what I would describe as a foxhole Christian, it's not for me to say the departed are watching over us in heaven, are beautiful stars in the sky, etc., because I don't know what happens when one dies...all I know is that it can leave one with unbelievable pain and sadness, and there's nothing you or I can do for the bereaved but say 'I'm there for you' and to actually be there. I wish I could speak more profoundly to how the impact of these two losses, one person I knew only through her writing and one I knew only though a five-minute tutorial on how the Dramatists light board worked, has affected me, but I can't. I don't know what the right way to grieve is...I don't know whether there's a better place than this. All I know is that love- for people, for animals, for nature, for beauty, for art- seems a lot more important today than it did before."
I don't really have anything more to add on the subject than that: it'd be inappropriate for me to comment further on both of those departed individuals given how one I knew only through her writing (which isn't to discount how edifying the relationship between a writer and a reader can be) and the other whom I knew as a gentle and kind man but unfortunately never got to work with him or really know him. But the lesson I learned in the last few weeks is how intertwined the Chicago theatre community really is, and how the loss of one wonderful person can change everything, and the only thing anyone can do about it is give more to others, give more to your art, and concentrate more on creating something of lasting value, something that can inspire, can help, can bring people together and be remembered. These thoughts, though, can have some unfortunate side effects, which I further elaborated via social media just the other day:
"One of the most difficult thing about being an artist- or trying to be an artist, or pretending you're an artist- is that brief periods of self-satisfaction/feelings of pride & accomplishment in your work are so soon followed by long periods of exhaustion, depression, self-loathing, intense loneliness and melancholy. At least that's how it often is for me...in the twenty-four hours after a table reading or staged reading or even a production (on the rare occasions I've had them) my feelings run the gamut from elation to boredom to worthlessness and despair. I suppose it's part of the writer's condition, or the actor's condition, director's condition, designer's or painter's or sculptor's condition, etc. but I don't really think there's a cure...it is what it is, and one must accustom one's self to these feelings if one is to continue to try and create. The only thing that seems to help is by providing words of thanks, praise and encouragement to those you admire, for if he or she is doing work worthy of your admiration, most likely they've suffered the same insecurities and are fighting the same fight. And that's something that, in times like these, is worth noting, ever so softly: the words 'thank you' and 'you're very good at what you do.' If you're reading this, then you are."
And indeed, you are. That's about all for now, keep writing, keep directing, keep acting, singing, painting, dancing, reading, marching, cooking, making music, taking action, falling in love, caring for others, caring for animals, using your heart and creating. That's about all you can do. Fortunately, you're good at that.
"NOW IT BEGINS..."
A scream in the dark: two Chicago cops are torturing a suspect on the North Side. It's midnight on December 31st, 1959, and a beautiful woman with bloodshot eyes stands at a microphone reciting a Love Song for a new age: her name is Eve Slaughter, and before she's through the Sixties will be born in baptismal blood, a tide washing over the sinners who begat the biggest scandal in Chicago police history.
Almost six years in the making, BLACK ICE COFFINS is a play written by Mark Mason and Kay Kron, presented in a staged reading by Katy Nielsen's Outlaw Production Collective. This nightmarish noir based on a true story is narrated by Mary Jo Bolduc and stars Robbie Bersano, Chris Brown, Joe McCauley, Jennifer Melyndon, Nathan Randall Miller, Katy Nielsen, and Kein P. Onickel, and we would like to welcome you to this beat-inspired cocktail party/poetry reading in the awesome Mars Gallery, 1139 W. Fulton Market in Chicago, this upcoming Monday, March 2nd. Cocktails start at 7:00pm, the show starts at 7:30...we'll see you there for an exciting evening guaranteed to heat up a brutal winter.
It's almost here! City Lit Theatre's Art of Adaptation Festival is going on TONIGHT, featuring my play FROZEN FIRE directed by Amy C. Buckler and Laura Nessler's play PACHELBEL, directed by me! There's still time to get your tickets here...see you there!
Nightclub singer Doris Brack (Teresa Veramendi) prepares to demonstrate her cosmetic talents on police stenographer Marion (Rebecca Flores) in my film noir-styled FROZEN FIRE, coming THIS WEEKEND to the City Lit Theatre Art of Adaptation Festival! Friday the 13th at 7:30pm and Sunday the 15th at 2:00pm are the two only performances, at City Lit Theatre, 1020 West Bryn Mawr Avenue in Chicago. Tickets are available here, but be warned, they're going fast: see the electrifying work of director Amy C. Buckler and a phenomenal cast giving their all in this story of sin, sex and murder in 1940s Chicago. What's that, you say you're not in the mood for darkness, seduction and scandal? Well, you're in luck, for I'm directing the heartfelt and hilarious Pachelbel by the lovely playwright Laura Nessler, a piece about a doomed but inspired romance in a string quartet starring Ellen Chambers and featuring Miss Nessler herself on cello: fortunately for you Chicago theatre lovers, Pachelbel is running the same nights as Frozen Fire, and only at City Lit Theatre! See you there!
The Official Sounding Board for Playwright and Director Mark Mason