Showbiz Chicago's Actor's Blog: MADISON NIEDERHAUSER from Tea With Edie & Fitz
Welcome to a new feature of Showbiz Chicago in which we will be following select actors through the rehearsal process of an upcoming show. First up we have Madison Niedershauser and Nora Ulrey who play F. Scott Fitzgerald and Zelda in the upcoming Dead Writers’ Theatre Collective’s World Premiere of TEA WITH EDIE & FITZ, written by Adam Pazen.
In this first outing, Madison and Nora talk about their experience putting a new show together.
This play is an absolute beast. In its style, in its breadth, in its complexity. But I think that is what makes the best art. That was what initially attracted me to this play when I first started working on it back in November. I was fortunate enough to have quite a bit of time to work with the script and dive in to researching before rehearsals actually began in February. For months I found a corner at my local public library with a notebook and my headphones in and pages upon pages of scribbled notes. I spent a lot of time with the script, and even more time diving into the life and work of F. Scott Fitzgerald. And without the time for research, I genuinely believe that I would have fallen flat on my face the moment I stepped on the stage.
F. Scott Fitzgerald has proven to be one of the most difficult and challenging eggs to crack as an actor. Actors love complexity. We open our arms and thank the heavens when a character proves to be a challenge. But F. Scott Fitzgerald makes “complex” sound like a walk in the park. Fitzgerald was a notorious alcoholic, emotionally abusive to his wife Zelda, lived with her mental instability, had an ego to rival Petruchio, an intense need to be appreciated by everyone he knew, struggles with homosexuality, and all the while held up an image of smooth togetherness throughout his celebrity. The sheer depth of this man has been astounding and I can only hope that I am able to translate it onto the stage.
Working with a playwright on a new work is always an amazing experience. We quite literally get to watch the play grow and die as changes are made, things are tweaked, and characters are fleshed out. It is truly one of the most rewarding experiences in the artistic world, and the cast has embraced every second of it.
We are well into our rehearsal process now. Much work has been done, but there is always and will always be more. The work is never done. That is why we choose to do theatre. And I for one am very excited about what the rest of this process has in store.
Fitz, directed by Jim Schneider, April 26 – June 9, at the Greenhouse Theater Complex, 2257 North Lincoln Ave. Preview performances are April 26 – April 28. The performance schedule is Thursdays and Fridays at 7:30 p.m., Saturdays at 2:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 2:30 p.m. Ticket prices are $15 for previews and $30 for the scheduled run. All tickets are available at deadwriters.net, greenhousetheater.org or 773.404.7336.
Tea with Edie and Fitz chronicles the tempestuous meeting of literary icons Edith Wharton (Patti Roeder) and F. Scott Fitzgerald (Madison Niederhauser) at her estate for tea in the 1920s. In scenes that jump backward and forward chronologically and span the entire globe (from glittering expatriate Paris to roaring post-WWI Manhattan), the play examines the lives of two authors at the height of their powers and imagines what may have happened in that meeting that led them to never speak again. Particular attention is paid to their relationships with their equally legendary partners: Fitzgerald and his beautiful and troubled Southern wife, Zelda (Nora Ulrey), and Wharton with the ghost of her mentor and longtime companion Henry James (Michael D. Graham). Tea with Edie and Fitz calls into question themes of gender, sanity, time, the purpose of art and the nature of love and loss.
Additional Tea with Edie and Fitz cast includes Christina Irwin, Luke Renn, Ben Muller, Peter Esposito, Bill Chamberlain, Sara Minton, Nelson Rodriquez, Megan Delay, Brandon Johnson and Bill Zorn.
The production staff also includes Kari Warfield, production stage manager; Matthew Bonaccorso, assistant stage manager; Reed Motz, assistant director; Kendra Kargenian, dialect coach; E. Matthew Walter, set designer; Elizabeth Wislar, costume designer; Jeffrey Shields, props designer; Angela Guest, properties mistress and Kris Kontour, technical director.
ABOUT ADAM PASEN
Adam Pasen, Dead Writer’s playwright in residence, recently received his Ph.D. in English with a focus in Playwriting from Western Michigan University. He is honored to continue his collaboration with Jim Schneider after appearing in Schneider’s production of An Ideal Husband and having Schneider direct his adaptation of Ernest Hemingway’s “Hills Like White Elephants” at City Lit. Pasen’s plays have also been produced or workshopped by Theatre Oxford, ATC, Remy Bumppo, the Samuel French Off-Off Broadway Festival, Tectonic Theater Project, and the Kennedy Center (2012 KCACTF National Ten-Minute Play Award). He has been a finalist for the Reva Shiner Comedy Award from Bloomington Playwrights Project and his play Badfic Love was a WordBRIDGE 2012 selection.
ABOUT JIM SCHNEIDER
Jim Schneider, artistic director and founder of Dead Writers Theatre Collective, and his productions have garnered a total of five Jeff Recommendations, 11 Jeff Nominations, and won two, both for Best Costume Design. His production of Design for Living won an After Dark Award for Best Costume Design. His production of The Philadelphia Story won three Broadway World Awards for Best Actor, Actress and Revival of a classic. Most recently he directed Dead Writer’s inaugural production Noel Coward’s The Vortex to critical and audience acclaim. Schneider has also directed Circle Theatre’s Jeff-Recommended productions of The Women and The Philadelphia Story, the Tennessee William’s classic drama, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and the critically acclaimed production of Noel Coward’s Hay Fever. In 2007 his production of An Ideal Husband received unanimous praise from the critics, played to sold out houses for eight weeks and was selected by Chicago Tribune critic Kerry Reid as one of the five best productions for 2007 and by Hedy Weiss of the Chicago Sun-Times as one of the best 10 for the season.
ABOUT DEAD WRITERS THEATRE COLLECTIVE
Dead Writers Theatre Collective, a not-for-profit performing arts collective, is committed to bringing the aesthetic back to the classics through fully staged, period-accurate and highly detailed productions. The Collective focuses on the writer as the primary artist and in their process, all aspects of Dead Writers’ productions and decisions radiate from this point. Their productions, comprised largely of Chicago-based directors, designers, actors and playwrights, are either by or about dead writers.
Adam Pasen’s Tea with Edie and Fitz, directed by Jim Schneider, April 26 – June 9, 2013 at the Greenhouse Theater Complex, 2257 North Lincoln Ave. Preview performances are April 26 – April 28.Opening/press night is Wednesday, May 1, 2013 at 7:30 p.m. and will be followed by a reception.The performance schedule is Thursdays and Fridays at 7:30 p.m., Saturdays at 2:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 2:30 p.m. Ticket prices are $15 for previews and $30 for the scheduled run