“A Dead Whale Productions arose out of a desire to create collaborative theatrical events that challenge traditional theatrical convention…We want to provide Chicago with physical, visceral, image-driven work that will stick in their imaginative subconscious long after they leave the theatre.” (Dane Eissler, Artistic Director of A Dead Whale Productions)
Back in May, Gorilla Tango Theatre welcomed A Dead Whale Productions into their space as a new resident company. As they prepare to open their second production of their inaugural season, Hog’sBelly, the leadership team agreed to share a bit about the process and what it took for them to get the company off the ground.
Coming Up at A Dead Whale Productions: Hog’sBelly
Written by A Dead Whale Productions Artistic Associate Tyler Garamella and directed by Artistic Director Dane Eissler, Hog’sBelly is an adaptation of the “film noir” genre, and follows Danny (Natalia Via), a detective trying to solve the murder of his mentor. The location: Hogs’belly, the sewers beneath a seedy restaurant. The characters: a population of rats.
In the midst of his research, Danny finds that far more is happening in the seedy underbelly of Hog’sbelly than anyone imagined. From attempting to manage the drug dealing of his brother, Bambi (Brandon Nelson) to working to uncover the plans of the antagonist, Senka (Elizabeth McAnulty Quilter), Danny suddenly has a lot to handle.
Inspiration Behind the Play
The team describes Hog’sBelly as a “fable noir” piece, and Garamella explains that he has always enjoyed playing around with genre.
“I'm always trying to pretend like I'm living a western, or a film noir, or some crazy nautical adventure. At some point in 2012 my mom and I ate at a Potbelly's in New York City. I started thinking about how nice it would be if I were a rat who lived by the restaurant and got to go through their garbage every night, and how that'd be my whole life and I wouldn't know anything else.”
As a director, Eissler often gravitates towards “children’s theatre for adults,” and enjoyed those elements he found within Garamella’s story. He further explains, “To me, it’s all about the deep pain we disguise with rage and the destructive power of fear. While Hog’sBelly is an homage to the film noir genre, it’s also a fable for adults.”
Along with Meghan Erxleben (Lighting Design), Krystal Dawson (Sound Design), and Sara Mitchell (Puppet Designer/Assistant Director), the team has utilized a variety of design elements that help play to Eissler and Garamella’s re-working of “film noir”– including, the use of hand and shadow puppets, which are controlled by the actors themselves.
While the story lives in a world of imagination, the team also believes in the relevancy to the moment, which is part of what drove the company to choose to produce the piece:
“The story itself is reflective of our times in that so much of what we see and hear is unthinkably cruel and strange, and yet hope persists. We continue to move forward as a society, but what happens to those who don't have a place in the new world order?” (Samantha Price, Managing Director)
What’s next for A Dead Whale?
The company is still new, and the three-person leadership is continuing to learn – both about what it means to run a company, and what it means to work together. According to Price, each show they produce will add to their theatrical voice:
“We know it takes an event to get us off our couches and away from Netflix, and that's what we intend to create. Theatrical events that are not to be missed. And that, I think, is exactly what you can expect from Hog'sBelly: A Fable Noir.”
Through July 29, 2017
Thursdays at 7:30pm
Fridays at 7:30pm
Saturdays at 7:30pm
Run Time: 70 minutes, no intermission
Gorilla Tango Theatre
1919 N. Milwaukee Avenue
Tickets can be purchased through online, or by calling (773) 598-4549
Editor's Note: Full disclosure- the author of this preview has worked with the Managing Director of this company previously at the Steppenwolf Theatre
About the Author:
Lauren Katz is a freelance director and dramaturge, and new to the Chicago Theatre Scene. She recently moved from Washington DC, where she worked with Mosaic Theater Company of DC in Company Management, as well as directed around town with various theaters.