Thursday, July 17, 2008

Captain Mandy and Cristoff, Scott Cupper pulls double duty!

So our esteemed playwright, Emily Schwartz, asked if I wanted to write about what it's like to play "two totally different fellows" in The Mysterious Elephant...
I play two characters in The Mysterious Elephant...: Capt. Mandy Addington and his brother Cristoff Addington. I write this because several castmates have told me they know people who weren't aware of this after having seen the show, which is cool. It helps that to play Capt. Mandy I wear a beard that looks like I skinned a wookie, but cool none-the-less.
Let me begin by saying what playing these two characters is not. It is not a high-wire act in which I'm afraid I'm going to blurt out the other character's line. I say this because people have asked. I was talking with my roommate recently, I forget about what, and he mentioned paths in the brain. We learn things a certain way, and a "path" is made and it's very difficult to change that. Scientific or not, that's what it feels like. Both of these characters talk, walk, act in such distinct ways, my mind would have to completely derail for the wrong line to come out.
So, that's what it's not like. What is it like? It's like starting the show twice. I put a lot of pressure on those moments where the audience is introduced to the characters you've created. All the prep work and discovery and all the rehearsing, they lead to that moment every night where you lay it all at the feet of the audience. So that's what consumes my thoughts.
For Cristoff, there's a whole lof of logistics. I try not to think about them. Some nights I'm more successful than others. It begins inside the trunk. (Let me tell you, it's tight in there.) Will I be able to get my feet underneath me? Will the trunk lid stay up? Bang on the trunk. Ow, my foot's cramping! Say your line! Etc. And suddenly, the trunk lid opens, Cristoff pops up and I've a brief respite. Then I wonder how Cristoff's going to move. It's generally the same, but it feels new every night.
With Mandy, it's that first line he has. The family sings a song beforehand, but it's Mandy's voice that sets everything in motion for me. He always sounds so loud to me, every night.
After these moments...well, it doesn't take care of itself, exactly, but the pieces are in place. Honestly, I'm more along for the ride at that point. I guess this is where the high-wire analogy can come into play. Yes, you're off to the races, but you best be aware of what's going on. It's live theater. Who knows what could happen? Maybe I'll say the other character's line.
So that's what it's like to play these two guys. If you've seen the show, it was a pleasure performing for you. I hope you had as much fun as I have. If you're coming to the show this weekend, I'll see you there.

---Scott Cupper

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

The Mysterious Ending of the Mysterious Elephant

Hello dear friends, and welcome back to the blog. Well, this is it! The final three performances of The Mysterious Elephant start tomorrow and run through Saturday night. I'm afraid to say that online tickets are nearly sold out for all of the remaining shows and that by the time I post this blog will most likely be totally gone. We usually hold between 5 and 10 tickets at the door on any given night so (and no promises here) if you show up very early you just *might be able to score a seat if you haven't snagged one already on Now, this seat might be behind say...the left flank of a large mechanical elephant...but he is a very friendly fellow. Please note that our hotline number is merely for inquiries and not for leaving reservation requests. We're a very small group and are currently only able to reserve seats thru the website with a (credit card) and in person at the box office (with cash) before each show. The last remaining tickets will be sold on a first come, first served basis. The Box office usually opens at 7pm day of show and someone friendly will be there to help you.

Many thanks to everyone for your generous support thus far! We couldn't be more thrilled with the response to the Elephant and we truly appreciate your attendance, coverage and reviews. They make us happy and proud. Strange Tree takes enormous pride in the amount of detail work we put into our original productions. Currently we scrape by on ticket sales from one show to the next with each show providing funding for the following new piece. Selling out the past three weekends has been such a joy for us. So, thank you! Theatre is truly alive if the audience is there to play along and we have been extremely fortunate to welcome so many of you into our haunted parlor.

And so, dear friends, if you liked what you saw or if you like the sound of things you haven't yet seen please consider making a donation to the cause. We raise our voices for good theatre, odd plot lines, beautiful accordion music, painted waves and lantern light! You can make your contribution at

But for now, onwards and upwards to the final 3 performances!

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Thursday, July 10, 2008

The Mysterious Elephant Soundtrack (Pre-show/Intermission/ and Post)

Hi foos,

Welcome back to the blog! Well it's Thursday the 10th and we're entering the final two weekends for The Mysterious Elephant. Folks we must insist that if you plan on coming to see it (which you should. I mean, how could you miss out? it's awesome, really)you should get your tickets ASAP because we will S.E. double L to the O.U.T. For Reals.

Since it's Thursday and there's only one little ticket left online for this evening's escapades, I thought I'd do a posting in reference to our awesome house music. Creating around the whole space is really important to us and the music we pick is no exception. Usually the uber talented Kate Nawrocki and myself (Emily Schwartz) sit down a month or two before the show opens and go through our music collections to try and find the right feeling/theme. As a writer I always have some songs that inspire me while i type and these are often a good jumping off point for the rest of the tracks we select. This year I was totally enamored with that Beirut song "Elephant Gun" as well as an acoustic version of 'Gold Lion' by the yeah yeah yeah's. As you can see below Elephant Gun made the final cut (I've stolen Kate's final track mix from her own blog 'indie girls Wear Glasses) and Gold Lion took the big dumpster dive but everything fits in there for a reason. And if you like any of the songs all are easily downloadable via itunes. Isn't the future amazing? Remember when you had to go to the record store to do such things? I marvel at innovation.


Scythian Empires - Andrew Bird
Start Wearing Purple - Gogol Bordello
Lady, Your Roof Brings Me Down - Scott Weiland
Dead End Street - The Kinks
Junkyard - Page France
Mount Wroclai - Beirut
Carribean Blue - Vitamin String Quartet
Neighborhood #1 Tunnels - Arcade Fire
The Underdog - Spoon
The Middle - Vitamin String Quartet
Guyamas Sonora - Beirut
Expectations - Belle & Sebastian
The Radio's Hot Sun - Handsome Furs
Energy Spent - Liam Finn
The Bleeding Heart Show - The New Pornographers
Through the Roof 'n' Underground - Gogol Bordello


Comrade Z - DeVotchKa
Snow (Hey Oh) - Vitamin String Quartet
Charlotte Mittnacht (The Fabulous Destiny Of...) - DeVotchKa
Something Sinister - Andrew Bird


Elephant Gun - Beirut
The Winner is - Mychael Danna/DeVotchKa

Saturday, July 5, 2008

The Mysterious Elephant is Amazing and Delightful!

Dear Glorious Goodfellows!

Greetings now and greetings again. Have you seen THE MYSTERIOUS ELEPHANT yet? Well, if you have then thank you dear reader, thank you! You stir in our souls a bubbly feeling akin to light touch of butterfly wings tittering across our rusty hearts. And if you haven't...Why good god, man! What's been stopping you?

The Chicago Tribune:
An ingenious mash-up of literary and visual styles, Strange Tree Group's "The Mysterious Elephant and the Terrible Tragedy of the Unlikely Addington Twins (*Who Kill Him)," is Charles Dickens somehow crossed with Tim Burton and Monty Python—at once lowbrow and highbrow and no-brow at all. Imagine a world of black ankle boots and striped stockings, of self-reflexive meta-theatrics, Edwardian kitsch and a winking spirit that is ridiculous and ironic yet deeply, deeply felt."The Mysterious Elephant" deserves to be seen—from any seat in the house.

The Windy City Times:
The Mysterious Elephant is a thorough delight that playfully toys with the whole notion of storytelling...

TimeOut Chicago:
Playwright Schwartz thrives at the intersection of goofy and ghoulish, and the quasi-Victorian Elephant environment only makes the obligatory invocations of Edward Gorey and Charles Addams even harder for us to avoid. Schwartz, though, also cuts her creepiness with a kindness less common in the cartoonists' work.

The Chicago Reader:
The Mysterious Elephant and the Terrible Tragedy of the Unlikely Addington Twins* (*Who Kill Him) provides a banquet of toothsomely morbid wit to savor. Galen Pejeau's jumble of set pieces and the ensemble-created costumes and props convey the sense that they opened a long-closed trunk in an attic and put on the show with the contents—and I mean that as a compliment.
...This show is well-written, surprisingly clever and filled with humor, rich characters and excellent performances. There is much to admire and laugh at in this special show. You need to experience an Emily Schwatrz comedy to see a wonderful new voice emerging. This is a delightful, fun show. Laughs and cleverness abound—The Strange Tree Group does Chicago storefront theater proud.

And your little Blog Too!

Christopher Walsh:
The elephant (yes, there is an elephant on stage) is a hell of a creation, with a patchwork design that makes it look like a giant, well-loved stuffed animal. It is actor-operated by Thomas Zeitner, who also plays accordion as part of the musical ensemble. When you see the show (are you going to see the show? Go see the show!) take a moment during intermission or something and get a look at the elephant up close.

Paul Rekk:
...A flume ride of romance, intrigue, humor and corpses that stops just short in order to punch you in the heartstrings with a painfully gorgeous refrain of "Oh, Elephant". Honestly, Strange Trees, that's really all it took before my belly laughs transformed to welling tears. You've done something magical. Keep doing it.

Rob Kozlowski:
This show is an absolute riot, combining adorably unabashed old-fashioned comic sensibilities with hip postmodern self-awareness, throwing at us a veritable goulash of styles and even the accursed pillars of the Chopin Theater's basement are utilized imaginatively. I implore you - nay, I command you - to see this show, spread the word, communicate with glee your enthusiasm for this kind of fantastic creativity on Chicago's stages, and if you are lucky, you will be rewarded with more of it.

It is true! If you attend why then we can accomplish two things:
1 entertain you beyond all human capacity to believe that you could ever be entertained on the planet of earth!
2 Have enough money to rent more theatre space for more shows

So do attend friend, do! There are only two official weekends left in our run and you don't want to miss this delightful experience. See what good theatre is all about. Don't leave wishing you had never even been born. Come to our show and live again! For you will find true joy in the basement of the Chopin Theatre. Along with one very happy ele-friend and several pleasantly attired trees.

Theatre doesn't have to be painful.
Sometimes, like now, it 's a beautiful fiery phoenix of awesomeness.

Come and see!

Get your tickets online while you still can at:

With fondest hopes of meeting you at theatre,