10 Out of 12
"10 Out of 12" had its Midwest debut at Theater Wit. It is the newest work from Anne Washburn and is a meta-love letter to theater. Both technically extravagant, with the audience wearing headsets, and original, "10 Out of 12" is a unique theater experience.
The title refers to the contract that actors sign that requires them to work 10 hours in a day for a tech rehearsal with a two-hour dinner break. For those not in the trade, tech is used to integrate all the elements of the production: lights, costume, sound, projections, and acting. So the actors say their lines and then are stopped for varying periods of time while the rest of the crew works out lighting, discusses the costumes ("Is that the shirt?" "Yes, that's the shirt." "Who picked that shirt?" "You did." "I love the shirt."), prop placement, and more.
"10 Out of 12" shows the tech rehearsal for an unnamed play; a period piece about a young man in the late 1800's, early 1900's who leaves home to be a sailor and various things happen to him and his friends and family. It is hard to put together, and not the point of the work at all. The tech rehearsal going on is the real story.
The audience gets to see snippets of the play and then long portions of tech. They also hear the stagehands, stage manager, electrics, lights and sound people talking on their headsets. Some of this banter is pre-recorded and features Chicago theater luminaries John Mahoney as Electrics, Peter Sagal as Sound, and Martha Lavey as Lights. They talk work, but they also talk sandwiches, handle a box-cutter injury, gossip about the actors and tell war stories of techs past.
Washburn has updated the script to incorporate Chicago's theater scene, rather than New York's (where the play debuted initially) and the additions are charming. Easily half the audience on the night I saw it was made up of industry people, and I know this because that was the half that laughed at the obscure in-jokes that sailed over the heads of those of us who only consume theater, rather than toil in it.
There were plenty of jokes for all to enjoy. Watching the actors quietly amuse themselves with their silly costumes, gossiping, pulling faces at one another while the crew talked around them also put in place the importance and unimportance of the people who the public most closely associate with a play.
"10 Out of 12" was a unique experience in theater. To see behind the scenes of something that strives to maintain an unblemished facade was fascinating. The drama of the theater company rather than the drama just on stage was captivating, and the perfect use of technology (all the headsets worked and worked well) was a triumph.
I highly recommend this work for all Chicago theater lovers, for it is a love letter to the craft of theater; a messy, exhilarating love letter and it should be enjoyed by all.
"10 Out of 12" runs through April 23 at Theater Wit, 1229 W Belmont in Chicago. For tickets or information, call 773-975-8150 or visit theaterwit.org.