Hey Iews Fans! We got a chance to sit down and dish with avant-garde wunderkind Sean Graney about food, sex, acting, and The Hypocrites!
We met at a place called Filter, which was a coffee house that had been infiltrated by horrible hipsters in their Chuck Taylors and Elvis Costello glasses. We knew we were in the right place, and once we braved the hipster tide to find our man of mystery, Sean Graney, we settled in for mochas and gossip! Let's take a look at what this darling of the Chicago storefront theatre scene had to say!
Nice to finally meet you. So you are a vegan?
What do you eat?
Sean: A lot of tofu and fruit.
I can tell you eat a lot of fruit. Why you so vegan?
Sean: I love animals. I guess it's a spiritual thing.
Whatever, fag. Let's talk for a sec about your home life.
You are married?
Sean: Yep. Her name is Vanessa Stalling and she is beautiful and great.
Who are some actors and actresses you really love in Chicago?
Sean: Jude Law?
Sean: Any of The Hypocrites and Erik Hellman.
What is the biggest problem you run into in non-equity theater?
Sean: Well, by far it's the fatigue. You have people giving all they can, and usually working another day job also.
Eric and I aren't afraid of looking stupid, why don't you cast us more?
Sean: Well, why don't you guys audition for me more?
Audition? No thanks. Let's talk about the value in your work. What do you find value in?
Sean: I find a lot of value in breaking the normal ways if presenting plays and doing the unexpected. I like to challenge audiences sometimes. I also like to satisfy the work ethic of Chicago theater. Chicago has this, blue collar/ hard working way of looking at the world, that I've always had. But I also like to do weird artsy things every now and then.
Do you feel like you have a certain style?
Sean: I don't feel like I do. I try to challenge myself with every show, and make it different from all the others. But I do have a big fruity toolbox that I draw from, every now and then. That means, when faced with a road-block I look at what has been successful in the past. And then I also draw from criticism of my work.
Sean: Yeah, it's never really from "critics" per se, as much as from audience feedback. For example, Comedy of Errors or Pirates [of Penzance]. Some feedback that I've received has basically been, you know, "You ruined this play" which I take to heart. I understand people's frustration, because they think I offended a basic rule of life, that a play is made of words on a page. But I think a play is an experience that unfolds in front of audiences. So to the people I offend, I really am sorry, but they should know, it's not like I go to the library and burn the Comedy of Errors, it's not like other artists can't do it in more traditional ways.
How many tattoos and piercings do you have?
Sean: 4 tattoos and 1 piercing.
Eric: (sotto voce) This is getting a little heavy, brah. Shall we get a drink at that place that looks like a bar next door?
Andy: (sotto) I think we should. Do you think Sean can hear us whispering right now?
Sean: I am leaving the Artistic Director position for The Hypocrites. Helena Kays will be taking over. It's time for me to go, although it's not like I have anything better lined up..The company needs a strong active Artistic Director, and I just couldn't make that re-commitment .
I had one major question...Do I want the company to go on? The answer was yes. Next thing i had to ask was, how can it go on without me?
Not too many companies make theater like we do (for better or worse). I would be heartbroken if the company didn't go on, if we closed the doors and didn't give it a chance to survive beyond me. But we need an AD who is fully committed to the business as well as the art.
Do you feel like it was too much of a business?
Sean: When we first started, it was so exciting! The challenge of running a small business, but we reached a point where the business was moving but there still wasn't money coming in. We had to continue to APPEAR like we were growing and it was hard, because no one was getting paid but we had to keep growing somehow.
So how did you do it from a business standpoint?
Sean: In the early days, sheer will, determination and insanity. When business started to suffer, I had to start programming plays I thought would sell well. We started doing safer plays.
Sean: Sort of. That was just a play I felt like we should do, but I didn't really want to do that.
How did Our Town effect your bottom line?
Sean: Besides our productions of it at the Chopin, which did very well, we didn't make anything on the New York production. The work on the stage is the intellectual property of the director, so we had to let it go.
That sucks. Do you get along with your board and managing director?
Sean: I do, but we need a board that brings in money. I don't wanna kick in my own money any more. I'm also bad at raising it, so to grow, something needed to change.
Will you still be involved?
Sean: Yes. I will direct 2 shows a season for the next 2 seasons. This will give Helena a chance to find her own voice and direct 1 show a season while figuring it all out.
What are you gonna do with yourself? Do you have other things lined up?
Sean: Nope. I have been directing 7-8 shows a year for the last 3 years, and now, when I decide to leave to free up time, I've got nothing lined up. Hopefully some one will hire me for something. I can direct bar mitzvahs.
Maybe you need a new career. If you hadn't gone into theatre, what would you have done?
You would be a weird lookin' math guy. What are your favorite companies in town?
Sean: You know, when I first came here, I was hugely inspired by the Factory Theater and still hold them among my favorite companies. Also Strawdog and the Neo-Futurists. Court and Goodman are good too.
Give em Hell, Sean Graney. We love you so very much.
-Eric Roach, Anderson Lawfer
-Anderson Lawfer, Eric Roach