Archive for October, 2012

Beautiful Women in Terrible Trouble

Monday, October 29th, 2012

On Friday and Saturday November 16th and 17th, 2012, at 7:30 PM, Polarity Ensemble Theatre of Chicago proudly presents two special performances of Beautiful Women in Terrible Trouble.  This two-hour experience is a ‘best of’ from a much longer work that has been buzzing around Chicago these past few months.

Writer/Director Darren Callahan reveals his inspiration for the event, discusses the development process, and, of course, teases you with sex and violence, in this broadcast from the field.

Beautiful Women in Terrible Trouble is the ‘umbrella’ title for three separate, full-length plays – “Sources,” “Desperate Dolls,” and “Witness to an Accident.”  They’re not sequels, they don’t share characters, but together they’re intended to create a bonded narrative – a “world” – that has thematic similarities and stylistic cohesion.  If you see all three plays, it forms a whole much greater than the sum of the parts.

Darren Callahan

According to Darren: “Beautiful Women in Terrible Trouble is, if nothing else, very ambitious.  I like to think there’s not much like it happening in theatre today – either locally or nationally.  Some of the content is very taboo, but moreso, it’s a large commitment in these lean times – both for audiences and for theatres.  It requires three separate companies to commit to produce the plays concurrently or consecutively.  One theatre company can’t do it alone.  It was meant to be a ‘cross-town classic’ – a partnership between different ensembles, different casts, different directors, and different locations (even experimental spaces.)  Patrons could buy a ticket to one show, but it is best under a festival pass where they can see all three plays for a bundled price.  Despite the challenge of getting such a big commitment, I firmly believe in the pieces’ artistic value and box office possibilities.

“Polarity’s always been a great champion of new work – particularly risky work.  Their annual Dionysos Cup Festival of New Plays includes a rigorous judging process, leading to months of script collaboration and summative performances in front of packed houses.  Through this, they’ve brought about several new works for theatre that have gone on to production at Polarity and elsewhere.  I like their approach (having developed my own play The White Airplane in 2007 for its 2009 production, and also directing G. Riley Mills’ Death & Devils for the company in 2010.)  When (Polarity’s Artistic Director) Richard Engling spoke about Beautiful Women in Terrible Trouble, I was pleased that he wanted to get it on its feet, see what happens.

“The vision for an eventual production is to have three simultaneous productions over a four or six week run, with a singular marketing campaign.  At the very least, it would be noticed for its ambition.  My other hope is that it would be noticed for its quality.  The commercial potential of film/stage hybrids could be greatly realized, particularly in Chicago, where kitchen sink realism is still the common type of drama in this town.  Someone might see just one of the plays and like it.  But by seeing another and another, it leads to a cumulative, and more rewarding understanding.

“It’s crazy!  Three producing companies getting along, sharing lists, sharing theatre?  Nuts.  Bonkers.  And as one of them told me, ‘Never gonna happen.’  A few companies have approached me with doing just one, but that’s not my position (as of today.)  It’s best at a long length, as an experience.  I’m stickin’ to my guns.

“Here’s what led me to be so bold…

Dario Argento

“A few years ago, I saw my first Dario Argento movie.  I was late to the party, as he has been around since 1970.  For those unfamiliar with his work, he is an Italian director of thrillers and horror stories who has made about thirty films, including Deep Red, Suspiria, Opera, Tenebre, and The Bird with The Crystal Plumage.

“When I was indoctrinated with Trauma, I didn’t like it.  Too Italian.  Not enough sense in the plot.  Way too violent.  At the very least, I had to admire his technique, and was compelled to see another (Suspiria.)  That one I liked better.  So I saw another (Deep Red, his best).  I enjoyed it even more.  Then on to …Crystal Plumage, Four Flies on Gray Velvet, Cat o’ Nine Tails, Inferno, Phenomena, etc.  I was hooked.

“All of Argento’s films follow familiar patterns – a killer wearing gloves, operatic violence, and beautiful women. They are all part-thriller, part-horror, with excellent music, stylized performances, and acrobatic camerawork.  Argento makes films that are all from the same world, with his own rules applied and a unique perspective on Good and Evil.

“I decided that the plots I had been writing needed a similar uniformity.  I had already completed Sources, a play about the 1970s Hollywood exploitation film circuit, and had started on two companion pieces, Desperate Dolls and Witness to an Accident.  As they came together, I realized the whole – all three stories – were much more powerful and interesting if combined, set against each other as reflections.  These are not Argento rip-offs, but he had been the germ.

“There is also the added lurid appeal of the subject matter.  The plays are very sexy – purely so. They’re not porn, but they are definitely hot.  They’re the stories of strong women characters fighting almost natural elements – forces of evil as persistent and unpredictable as a raging storm or fatal diagnosis.  To sustain an atmosphere for six hours could be an amazing triumph and great, collaborative opportunity to work with interesting people in this town.  It’s nothing if not great networking.  Hopefully, it will be something even more memorable.

“For these performances at Polarity, I decided to direct a selection of scenes from the three plays.  There’s enough meat there to know the plot, understand the characters, enjoy the show as it stands, but it’s meant to be a first step.  We want to hear the plays aloud, sense what works and what doesn’t, but most importantly get people to understand what we’re trying to do.

“I got lucky on the cast – all my first choices.  Talented, beautiful women (Alyssa Thordarson, Ellen Girvin, Stephanie Leigh Rose, Michelle Courvais) and tough, intensive men (Charley Jordan, Brian Alan Hill, and Zach Uttich) will bring their all to a show where they will be saddled with script in hand, only a little blocking, and just a few rehearsals.  But don’t let that frighten you.  This is the A-team.

“And it’s a chance to get in on the ground floor.  Say you were there first.  Spread the world.  Have a drink with the actors.  It’s a cheap date and one expected to show many returns, so I hope everyone can make it out.  This show will truly live up to its title.”

Darren Callahan has written drama for the BBC, SyFy Channel, National Public Radio, and Radio Pacifica New York.  As the author of several successful stage plays, including The White Airplane and Horror Academy, both published by Polarity Books, he is highly involved in theatre as a writer and a director.  Novels include The Audrey Green Chronicles and City of Human Remains.  Screenplays include Documentia, Nerves and Summer of Ghosts.  He is writer, director, and composer of the films Under the Table and Children of the Invisible Man.  He is also a musician and has released many records, including film soundtracks, on various labels.  His website is

Beautiful Women in Terrible Trouble, directed by Darren Callahan and starring Alyssa Thordarson, Stephanie Leigh Rose, Ellen Girvin, Michelle Courvais, Charley Jordan, Zach Uttich, and Brian Alan Hill.


1970s L.A.  The Lymans are a happy family living in Hollywood. When the middle daughter, Sienna, a budding starlet, performs a strange magic trick at a family party, their lives are turned around.  A few days later, Sienna vanishes, her father dies, her older sister has a miscarriage, and her mother loses her memory.  Knowing a curse has befallen the Lymans, Katherine, the mother, goes searching for her missing Sienna, leading the family deeper and deeper into a haunted past and a nest of violence.  This horror-noir features a mostly female cast, some stage combat, mature themes, and brief nudity.


1960s L.A.  After auditioning for a low-budget film producer, three beautiful young actresses become tangled in a nightmare of hypnosis, killing, and apparitions.  Sunny Jack Fennigan has the best intentions – to make female-led independent feature films that make a quick buck at the box office.  A powerful agent known only as “Captain” calls with a proposition that may turn his life around.  His three best prospects – girls with handpicked nicknames – seem ripe for stardom.  But then Hollywood becomes a dark parade of seedy motels and murders that threaten to wipe out all three of the girls and Sunny Jack, too.   This horror-noir features a mostly female cast, blood and media effects, mature themes, and brief nudity.


1950s L.A.  Agatha Moll is a rising young actress who suddenly finds herself locked in “The Hotel” – an all-female sanitarium.  But, she’s not crazy.  What secrets does she know that trapped her in this fate? Could it be something about Ray Pendarsky, a film executive, whose daughter was committed to The Hotel one year before?  Or is it regarding Dean Foster, her director, whom she’s entangled with in a torrid affair? At the mercy of a sadistic orderly and a failed ingénue named Lillian, will she ever find her way out of The Hotel?  This horror-noir features a mostly female cast, blood and violence effects, mature themes, and brief nudity.

Performances will take place at the Polarity Ensemble Theatre in the Josephinum Academy, 1500 N. Bell, Chicago, IL (Wicker Park, Western & North).

Two performances only. Friday, November 16th and Saturday, November 17th.  Showtimes are Friday and Saturday at 7:30 pm.

$5 general admission.  Tickets can be purchased in advance by clicking Brown Paper Tickets or by calling 1-800-838-3006.  Press tickets available by emailing