Interview: WildClaw Theatre, Part 4: Brian Amidei

As part of our Lovecraft Birthday Week bash, we’re interviewing Wildclaw Theatre members. Today, we’re chatting with the Theatre’s Managing Director, Brian Amidei:
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IFP: Tell us about your current project. What is it called?

BA: We are in the midst of selecting our scripts for DEATHSCRIBE 2009, our second annual festival of 10-minute audio horror dramas, which will be performed live with some of Chicago’s finest actors, directors and musicians on October 5th, at the historic Music Box Theater.

IFP: How did you get involved with Wildclaw Theatre? What roles have you played in it? In which productions?

BA: Charley Sherman has been a good friend of mine for years, and he said he was starting a Horror Theatre company. I said sure, why not? I immediately saw the void when he said it. The fact that no one else in town was even trying to do it was very exciting, and daunting. I am currently the Managing Director, and as an actor I have appeared in all of our productions. I was the Interrogator in Arthur Machen’s The Great God Pan, Dombrowski and Father Iwanicki (as well as a monster my girlfriend called Baby Cthulhu), in HP Lovecraft’s Dreams in the Witch House, and Joe the Zombie in Scott T. Barsotti’s The Revenants.

IFP: What do you want to tell the audience with Wildclaw Theatre?

BA: Hmmm. Horror, I have learned, is often stigmatized and ghetto-ized. While it is still a sure-fire ticket seller in the movie theatres, it is rarely treated with respect. I guess, if I had anything to tell the audience, it would be that Horror is a legitimite theatrical genre, and can lend itself to big and deep themes that ordinary drama often strains to achieve. Not unlike Fantasy and Sci-Fi, Horror allows us to ponder deep human dilemmas, and also deliver a spectacular punch to the gut, or pitchfork to the chest, or knife to the throat, or, you know, rat gnawing through young boy’s chest cavity, right there live onstage in front of you.

IFP: What do you think having a live theatre production (as opposed to television or film) adds to the horror genre?

BA: Immediacy. A removal of the safety net. By that I mean, when you watch a horror film, which is where the vast majority of horror fans get their fix, at the scariest of movies, you know for sure that you are watching a 2-dimensional image and you are physically safe. When you come see one of our shows, you know that this is make-believe; you know we are acting, but you also know, instinctually, that what you are witnessing is happening right in front of you. At that point, when you give us your suspension of disbelief, you unknowingly remove all feelings of safety. My favourite remark, which we have heard often, is when audience members ask what we were doing behind them or under them when we were doing nothing at all. We have them paying attention will ALL of their senses. It can be really cool.

IFP: What other projects have you done? What was your favourite?

BA: I have done dozens of shows in Chicago going back almost twenty years. I just got back from N. Michigan where I performed with Lakeside Shakespeare Theatre. Charley Sherman directed Henry V, and Jeff Christian directed Love’s Labours Lost. That was a blast. Outdoor Shakespeare in beautiful Northern Michigan. It was almost like a vacation.

IFP: How do you think theatre differs from television and film?

BA: I think I mentioned before: the immediacy. The perceived lack of safety. Being part of a unique event that no one outside that room that night will ever see again.

IFP: What do you see as the biggest artistic challenge in producing a horror theatre production?

BA: The balance between the dramatic and the spectacular. I look forward to doing a very scary show without any effects, blood, whatsoever. I love the blood, truly, but, I do look forward to expanding our theatrical style, and achieving new scares and horrific thrills.

IFP: What do you see as the biggest technical challenge in producing a horror theatre production?

BA: That depends on the show. Pan had big, moving set pieces and narrative jumps in time and place, a multi-level set, and a woman who turns into a monster. Witch House starts in another freaking dimension, fer crying out loud. However, with The Revenants, we had one static set, and three of the actors never left at any time. The technical challenge was second to the artistic challenge of making these zombies and their spouses believable, and empathetic, and also scary as hell.

IFP: Do you have a favourite play among the ones you have done?

BA: I was part of a production of Killer Angels at the Lifeline Theatre that I will always remember fondly. The play was wonderful, the production was top notch, and I remain friends to this day with most of the cast and crew.

IFP: What play would you most like to do?

BA: That Scottish Shakespeare Play.

IFP: Who is your favourite playwright/author?

BA: Tough question. Favourite? I don’t think I have a favourite playwright. Currently, my favourite author is James Lee Burke.

IFP: What artistic accomplishment are you most proud of in your life?

BA: Pride goeth before the fall.

IFP: If you could be a Lovecraft/Mythos monster, which one would you be?

BA: If I could be? Nyarlahotep. Because I fulfill random urges.

IFP: What is your favourite Lovecraft/Mythos story?

BA: “Shadow over Innsmouth“.

IFP: Please tell us about your upcoming projects.

BA: DEATHSCRIBE 2009.

IFP: What is your dream project?

BA: Can’t tell you that. Secret.

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Bio: Brian Amidei is a proud founding ensemble member of WildClaw and has been performing in a variety of productions with a variety of theatre companies in and around Chicago for a long time, too many to list here. He has worked with Lifeline Theatre, Hypocrites Theatre, Strawdog Theatre, Open Eye Theatre, and Powertap Theatre, to name a few. He is currently the Managing Director of WildClaw Theatre.

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IFPInterview: WildClaw Theatre, Part 4: Brian Amidei