On May 12, Chicago public television station WTTW11 will broadcast "Feast," the critically acclaimed production from Albany Park Theater Project (APTP). The performance filmed at Goodman Theatre last summer was developed by the multiethnic youth theater ensemble along with APTP's producing artistic director David Feiner and his colleagues, as a powerful, theatrical love letter dedicated to Chicago's unique food culture and cooking traditions.
Over the past four years, the Chicago-based international production company Cutters Studios has partnered with APTP to help create videos for its original stage productions. A true creative collaboration, these documentary projects have involved Feiner and other APTP executives like producer/director Dan Andries... as well as key Cutters Studios talents including managing director Craig Duncan, editor Christopher Gotschall, finishing editor and colorist Christopher Elliott from Cutters' creative production studio Flavor, and audio engineer Alison Ho from Cutters' sound design studio Another Country, among many others.
As Duncan pointed out, "There are dozens of people in the Cutters Studios family that contribute to these projects and make them possible. From the top down, we all feel really blessed to work for a company that's willing to commit so much to being the change we want to see in the world."
Summarizing the value of Cutters' contributions, Feiner said, "The creative and emotional investment made by the Cutters team in these productions is even more valuable than the hundreds of thousands of dollars of pro-bono time and equipment they have generously provided. There is no way that APTP could have created these production videos without the investment and generosity of Cutters."
On the Cutters' side, everyone takes great pride in the resulting joint efforts, but also in the growth of APTP – which won a $400,000 MacArthur Award earlier this year – and the rising success of its young players. While APTP's young talents are identified as being at-risk, thanks to APTP, they are earning their ways into higher education in increasing numbers. For Gotschall, who resides in a neighborhood very near Albany Park, his APTP involvement is especially personal. "Working with APTP blends my love of theater, my desire to make a difference in young lives, and my need to stand up for social justice," he began. "At APTP, these kids' level of professionalism and commitment is inspiring. They all deserve to thrive, and to have their stories told."
Andries described the planning that goes into ensuring that APTP's video productions are equally as emotionally riveting and socially searing as its live performances. "We've been documenting APTP's shows since 2006," he explained. "When Cutters came onboard in 2012, it was a giant step forward for us. Craig and his team brought great creativity and energy to something we all believe to be of immense value. In terms of finding the best production strategy for a successful video production, each project since then has upped our game."
In the words of both Feiner and Andries, the video productions are essentially new plays constructed from the live performances. "The Cutters team's contributions begin in pre-production when they collaborate with APTP's stage directors, choreographers, composers, and designers, and with Dan Andries and his fellow director, Anne Northrup," Feiner said. "With our second video project together, Craig proposed that we shoot each stage performance once without any amplified sound and without an audience – then a second time with a live audience. You can hear the results of this approach for yourself in the extraordinary audio clarity and richness of 'Feast.'"
For the beautiful cinematography, Gotschall acknowledges the directors, plus the "brilliantly talented" director of photography Peter Biagi and his camera crew... while Andries returns the compliments. "Christopher knows how to use just enough of what's there to draw audiences in," he said. "In particular, the opening montage is a masterful compression of the play's opening, conveying the commitment and beauty of the ensemble's work while getting quickly to the narrative elements that unfold more slowly on the stage."
Feiner added, "Through his editing, Christopher takes on the role of storyteller himself, making these stories as beautiful and vital on screen as they are in the theater."
In mastering the production, Gotschall also expressed his deep appreciation for all the talents at Cutters Studios. "Christopher Elliott is a veteran of the business and he's so good at what he does," he said. "Everything leaves his room looking perfectly polished. And Alison Ho is an amazing sound designer and audio engineer; her dedication and craftsmanship make huge impacts from start to finish."
Audio recording credits go to location audio recordist Lorian Toth, and APTP's audio designer/composer Mikhail Fiksel. "A typical stumbling block in theater documentation is getting strong, clear audio," Andries continued. "The audio on this project is outstanding; together, Lorian, Mikhail and Alison at Another Country ensured that nothing is lost. It sounds great."
"Feast" premieres at 10 p.m. May 12, and will repeat on WTTW's Prime channel at 4 p.m. May 13. It will also be available for viewing at http://wttw.com
beginning on May 12.