Richard Kalinoski Past News & Updates (03/15 - 05/15)

"Beast On The Moon" Review From Paul Kuritz

May 6, 2015

Noted professional theatre consultant and acting coach, Paul Kuritz, recently had an opportunity to witness the Raven Theatre's production of Beast on the Moon, and raved with high accolades for Richard's playwriting abilities. He had this to say of the production, and of the piece itself:

"Rarely does a play come along which illustrates Aristotle’s dramaturgical wisdom as well as does Richard Kalinoski’s Beast on the Moon.

The play’s success throughout the far reaches of world – ten years running at the Moscow Art Theater, winner of France’s Moliere Award, in production in Japan, and being translated into Turkish- testifies to the work’s power among all strata of society, regardless of the expertise of the producing organization, whether secondary school students or the most accomplished theater artists in the world.

Aristotle believed a play’s story – the story’s unfolding in the ordered incidents of the plot – to be the primary component of the theater experience. (“The greatest part of a drama is the construction of the incidents…Plot, therefore, is the principle element, the soul, of drama.”) An audience’s first objective is to follow and understand the events of the narrative, as they unfold through the characters.

At the other end of Aristotle’s scale is the play’s “spectacle” – the scenery, the costumes, the lighting, the properties, etc., even though Aristotle acknowledges spectacle to be the basic material out of which the story’s plot on stage is manifested. That is why all qualities of spectacle can inexplicably produce the same effects on an audience, if the story’s plot is clear and compelling. A great plot will work its theatrical magic on anything from a bare stage to a David Belasco-archeologically-precise mise-en-scène.

Richard Kalinoski is that rare theatrical artist who knows, consciously or unconsciously, this fundamental theatrical truth. He has fashioned a great plot from the events of the Armenian genocide, the slaughter of millions of Armenian Christians by Islamic Turks. Beast on the Moon tells the tale of two survivors and their escape to America.

The second Aristotelian truth Mr. Kalinoski knows is the difference between history writing and playwriting. The historian tells of the incidents which have happened; the dramatic poet tells of incidents which might have happened. Because of this, the process of playwriting is “both more philosophic and more worthy than history, for making speaks more of universals while history speaks more of particulars.”

In Beast on the Moon, Richard Kalinoski has taken the actual historical facts of Armenian history and, through his poet’s imagination, fashioned a story which, though true to history, achevies universality. It is a play which speaks to all people of all times and of all places. Mr. Kalinoski’s narrator even proclaims this fact in the course of his storytelling: “Gar oo chugar. There was and there was not”.

Robert McKee, Hollywood’s master of storytelling, knows that a story is about “fundamental conflict between subjective expectation and cruel reality.” What could be a greater conflict than that between the subjective expectation that one will age with one’s family in one’s own country and the cruel reality of seeing one’s family slaughtered before one’s own eyes, of being forced to flee for one’s life to a strange land? This is the conflict haunting Mr. Kalinoski’s main charcaters – Aram Tomasian, recently arrived in Racine, Wisconsin, with only a few personal mementos and the hope of creating a new, replacement family for the one he lost; and Seta Tomasian, the teenage orphan girl Aram has purchased through the mail to be his wife and the mother of his children.

Aram and Seta discover that their histories have not ended in their new land, but rather have become crushing psychological burdens in the making of a new family.

Through the particular story of Aram and Seta, Mr. Kalinoski has captured the universal trauma of seeing one’s subjective expectations destroyed, and struggling to overcome one’s past in order to have a healthy future. The struggle involves the most difficult of human actions – forgiving the unforgivable, and trusting another with love after experiencing the worst cruelty imaginable.

Another feature of a great story is resonance. Mr. Kalinoski’s play resonates with both the masterpieces of dramatic literature and the foundational stories of the Judeo-Christian world. Consciously or unconsciously, Mr. Kalinoski’s broad and deep wisdom provides his story with a profound base. Aram descends metaphorically from father Abraham, also an exile heading to a strange land, while Seta descends from Sara, his infertile wife. Aram, at one point, recalls Abraham’s son, Isaac, and Isaac’s difficulty with his own infertile wife.

Mr. Kalinoski makes Aram a photographer by profession, allying him with the stage’s first photographer, Ibsen’s Hjalmar Ekdal. Like Aram, Hjalmar has difficulty with his arranged-marriage wife, and while the Ekdal child sees less and less in the course of the play, the Tomasian child as the adult the Gentleman, sees the whole story. In addition, Seta rebels against the kind of wife Aram wants her to be; she nails her precious doll to his easel, thereby rejecting, through a symbolic action, what Ibsen’s Nora does by abandoning her husband

Michael Menendian’s vigorous and heart-felt production of Beast on the Moon clearly understands the play’s power. His cast is superb. One can get the experience of the so-called “Chicago-style acting” here, raised stakes and wide developmental arcs. (It is the style David Mamet, one of the style’s founders, came to wish paid less attention to emotion and more attention to the power of the unadorned word.) The powerful Matt Browning’s Aram eventually yields to his softer emotions, after first causing us to despair for the future of this couple. Sophia Menendian as Seta carries the burden of the play’s hope with a skill and grace which belies her youth. She is a young actress to watch. Aaron Lamm plays the young Vincent, the Italian orphan who wanders into the Tomasian household, with an infectious naturalness which wins everyone’s heart, while Ron Quade gently narrates the action as the Gentleman, the adult Vincent, who proudly maintains the Tomasian story for posterity.

Aristotle warned that “When storytelling goes bad in society, the result is decadence.” Richard Kalinoski is doing his part to hold back the tide, with great craftsmanship, intelligence, and passion. A trip to the Raven Theater will refresh your memory as to the power of a well-plotted story."

These thoughts, and more, can be viewed here.

"Beast On The Moon" Reviews and Praise - Raven Theatre

May 5, 2015

Word is spreading fast on the Raven Theatre production of Beast on the Moon, and Richard is elated to see the positive support from Chicago patrons. Online news source "Around The Town Chicago" posted a review to their site, which you can read both here and below:

"The award winning “Beast on the Moon” by Richard Kalinoski is the final play of Raven Theatre’s 2014-15 season, and what a way to end a great season! While the topic of this play may turn away some people, as it is a story that deals with survivors of the Armenian Genocide of the early 1900’s, it is a warm-hearted love story that delves deep into the minds and souls of the people who have survived such ordeals in their lives.

Smoothly directed by Artistic Director Michael Menedian, the story takes us to Milwaukee during the 1920’s as we meet our couple, Seta Tomasian (the incredible Sophia Menedian) who has been brought there by Aram Tomasian (a very strong performance by Matt Browning) as his bride. They are both orphans of the incidents mentioned earlier, but she as a child, who saw her family after they were killed. He was able to sneak out of the country and with his father’s valuable stamp collection, which he sold off, managed to bribe his way into the Unites States where he became a photographer.

For two hours and twenty-five minutes we move from historical events to the tragedy that has brought these two people to where they are today. There is a Gentleman (deftly handled by Ron Quade), who is sort of a narrator, sort of an extra character and then as the story evolves, becomes a witness so that we can see how true the story is, from her side and from his. The last character is a little boy, Vincent (ably brought to life by young Aaron Lamm, who is able to project his character to the back row along with his voice), who as it turns out is also an orphan. While his circumstances in Milwaukee are a far cry from that of the Tomasians, he is nonetheless a suffering young man with some of the same pains and fears as the adults who end up helping him accept life.

As we watch the story unfold, and we see the frustrations that each of our characters faces, we often wonder how happy can they be with each other and the life they lead. How strong are the memories of their past? Can they ever come to closure with the past and go on to a future that can hold more in store for them in this new country, that has accepted them for who they are and not what they endured? In this case, the director and leading lady, father and daughter are Armenian-Americans, so the content of the story has deeper meaning than for most. Yet, I would think that anyone who has had any history involving the genocides that have affected our world, will have a deep understanding of how difficult closure can be.

While there were some moments where the story appeared to be like a puzzle missing a few of its parts (which is why only 4 stars instead of 5), I will say that in the final, and quite dramatic scenes, each and every part finds its place and the audience can leave the theater very satisfied with the conclusion that Kalinoski has brought to the stage. Bravo!

Another Bravo, must go out to the tech people on this show as well. Kristin Abhalter’s set is perfect, Mary O’Dowd’s props and dressing pieces are accurate and outstanding, Leif Olsen’s original music is sheer perfection as are the costumes (Lauren Roark) and lighting (Diane D. Fairchild). The fight choreographer, David Woolley, did not have a great deal of actual fighting, but did create some very tense moments that if mishandled could have ruined the outcome of the entire production. The projections by Kelly Rickert were well done, with the opening being a sort of history lesson and the final projection an implant on the brain that will last the whole ride home!

“Beast on the Moon” will continue at The Raven Theatre through June 6th with performances as follows:

Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m.

Sundays at 3 p.m.

Tickets are $36 with special student rates of $15 as well as for active military and teachers. Seniors are $31.00. Tickets can be purchased by calling 773-338-2177 or online at www.raventheatre.com

There are free parking spots, plus street parking in the area is available (some metered, some not) and the bus stops at Granville and Clark Street (at the door). The theatre is located at 6157 N. Clark Street.

This is the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide, so check with The Raven Theatre on some special events that will coincide with this production."

You can view additional reviews here.

Additionally, Beast on the Moon has been selected as a Top 10 "Thing To Do" in Chicago by ChicagoBusiness.com, who had this to say about the production:

"With all the recent attention to the Armenian genocide of a century ago, Raven Theatre Company's production of “Beast on the Moon” feels important as a commemoration of those horrors, but it's also just plain good drama. Survivor Aram (Matt Browning) has made his way to Milwaukee, and he's basically ordered a bride from his homeland by mail. Both are sole survivors of families murdered by the Turks, but Seta (Sophia Menendian) is particularly traumatized, and marriage to Aram, obsessed with producing a next generation to make up for the family he has lost, is itself pretty traumatic. The play doesn't shy away from showing Aram as both troubled but also at times a brute. The script builds to some emotional moments that, in less able hands, could feel hackneyed and manipulative, but the cast commits to the feeling so deeply that it works."

"Beast on the Moon" Receives Jefferson Award Recommendation in Chicago

Apr 30, 2015

Richard is both excited and humbled to announce that his play, Beast on the Moon, has been recommended for the Jefferson Award in Chicago. The designation of "Jeff Recommended" is given to a production when, after the opening night of its run, at least ONE ELEMENT of the show was deemed excellent by the opening night judges of the Joseph Jefferson Committee. The entire production is then eligible for nomination for awards at the end of the season.

Richard is honored to be presented with this recommendation, and looks forward to seeing his new pieces grow to the same level as Beast on the Moon has over the years.

"Beast on the Moon" @ Raven Theatre in Chicago Officially In Performances

Apr 28, 2015

Raven Theatre's production of Beast on the Moon is officially underway, having completed their starting previews on April 21st, and their first show as of April 27th, 2015. Richard is excited to have this performance continue its run through June, as Broadwayworld.com's Chicago branch has released a notice of the production. Here is what they've had to say:

"Raven Theatre Company to produce Richard Kalinoski's universally celebrated Beast on the Moon CHICAGO - The final play of Raven's 2014-15 season will be Richard Kalinoski's Beast on the Moon, a touching and frequently humorous story of two refugees from the Armenian Genocide as they struggle to build a new life together in 1920's and 1930's Milwaukee. Beast on the Moon begins previews tonight, April 21 and opens on April 27, 2015, playing through June 6. Beast on the Moon has been produced in 17 countries and 12 languages, enjoying a four-month New York run in 2005. In 2001, it won France's Moliere Award for Best Play (the equivalent to the Tony Award) and has also received Argentina's Ace Award, the Osborn Award, the Garland Award and in 2005 it received the Khorenatsi Medal which was presented by President Robert Kocharian, on behalf of the country of Armenia. When it was produced as part of the Humana Festival in 1995, the Louisville Courier-Journal said that the play "...took its place as one of the most beautiful, sensitive and emotionally complete dramas in the 19-year history of Actors Theatre of Louisville's annual Humana Festival of New American Plays." In 2005, The New Yorker called the play "Compassionate and humane" and The New York Daily News said, "The play moves from tragedy and turmoil to a profound sense of promise." And a review in The London Times Online said of a 2007 Nottingham production, "The past finds a sort of closure, but the author's skill has kept us on tenterhooks throughout, uncertain whether any happy outcome can be possible." Beast on the Moon was selected to be a part of Raven's 2014-2015 season as it tells a story with which Michael Menendian, as a first generation Armenian-American, has a deep personal and cultural connection. The cast also features Sophia Menendian, a second generation Armenian-American and daughter of Michael (Raven Theatre's Co-Founder and Artistic Director). Joining Raven ensemble member Sophia Menendian on stage will be Raven newcomers Matt Browning and Aaron Lamm and returning artist Ron Quade. Sophia Menendian was last seen in Raven's productions of Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Christmas Goose and last season's Good Boys and True while Ron Quade last appeared in Brighton Beach Memoirs.Matt Browning has been seen in The Zoo Story, Richard III and The Glass Menagerie, whileAaron Lamm has previously appeared in The Crypotgram at Profiles Theatre and Medea at Theater Y. The creative team for Beast on the Moon includes Kiley Morgan (stage manager), Kristin Abhalter (set designer), Mary O'Dowd (props/set dressing), Diane D. Fairchild (lighting designer), Lauren Roark (costume designer), Leif Olsen (original music), Joe Court (sound designer), David Woolley (Fight Choreographer), Zhanna Albertini (scenic artist), Laura Zarougian (assistant director), Conor Clark (technical director), Justin Castellano (master electrician), and Deborah Blumenthal (dramaturgy). Tickets and information are available at www.raventheatre.com or 773-338-2177."

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You can read the article here for additional context. Reviews and reactions to follow!

"Beast on the Moon" Received Greenlight for Japanese Production

Apr 2, 2015

Richard is elated to announce that the Japanese production for Beast on the Moon is ready to begin preparations. The Actor's Company Theatre, having been around for over 60 years and known locally as "Haiyuza Gekijo," has been approved to commence their production. Noted Japanese theatre translator Chizuru Urabe has been approved to translate the play, set to open October 4, 2015 in Tokyo, Japan. At least 9 performances are scheduled in October, although some other performances may follow.

This marks the first official production production of Beast on the Moon in Japan.

"Beast On The Moon" Negotiations with Japanese Theatre

Mar 28, 2015

Richard is excited and humbled to announce that a theatre in Tokyo, Japan has expressed genuine interest in preparing a production of his critically-acclaimed play, Beast on the Moon. A production in Japan would bring the total amount of translations to 19, and the proposed translator has worked in a similar capacity for the New National Theatre of Japan.

The cross-cultural element of having Beast performed in a theatre better known for its kabuki-style is intriguing by itself, and Richard is delighted to see how the universality of the message of the play continues to make international marks.

More information will be made available once final negotiations have been decided.

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