Mar 2011 06

With a great run, POSTMORTEM closed Saturday night. There is no show tonight, March 6th, but you can check out the next FREQUENCY show on Saturday March 18th.

Feb 2011 19

Below is a small sample of the records of Thomas Studnary, my wife’s grandfather. Born in 1927, he worked (while a minor) as a trackman for a railroad company, served as a Seaman on the Pacific front in World War II, the Coast Guard, moved through barbering school and working at a coal mine before moving to Long Island where he began a long career at a hospital. He and his wife Angeline had three children. He passed away in 1994.

Feb 2011 05

Maybe it’s because I just turned 45.

For some reason, 45 seems more substantial than any year since, maybe, 33 (which meant I outlived Jesus).

Maybe it’s because I’ve finally put some demons to rest (but – oh – be careful.  Demons tend to go into hibernation and wait til you aren’t looking and then join the party from the side door wearing a Big Party Hat and bearing Destruction as a party favor) and am looking at the balance of my Days Thus Far from a wiser vantage point.

Whatever it is, Postmortem has become a genuine Benchmark show for me.

The simple idea of having ten improvisers get up onstage and create a fictional account of a life lived and written about in a few paragraphs is daunting and amazing.  The whole experiment reminds me of Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game Series and the concept of The Speaker for the Dead.

In this novel’s precursor, Ender’s Game, the last surviving member of ‘the Buggers’ contacts the lead character (Ender Wiggin), who had unwittingly wiped out the rest of the species. Ender tells the story of the Buggers as it is related to him, and publishes it as The Hive Queen under the pseudonym “Speaker for the Dead.” The audience of The Hive Queen is not aware of the identity of the author (or that the work is factual and not speculative). However, Hegemon Peter Wiggin (Ender’s brother) recognized the writing and requested that Ender also act as ‘his’ “Speaker”. Ender complies with the request by writing a second book titled The Hegemon, giving a parallel, but uniquely human, perspective to the ideas and lessons of “The Hive Queen”.

The two books become classics and inspire the rise of a movement of Speakers for the Dead. The movement is not a religion, although Speakers are treated with the respect accorded to a priest or cleric. Any citizen has the legal right to summon a Speaker (or a priest of any faith, which Speakers are legally considered) to mark the death of a family member. Speakers research the dead person’s life and give a speech that attempts to speak for them, describing the person’s life as he or she tried to live it. This speech is not given in order to persuade the audience to condemn or forgive the deceased, but rather a way to understand the person as a whole, including any flaws or misdeeds.


At it’s best, Postmortem treats the life of the Subject in the same way – no research but an unflinching portrayal of an ordinary person going through life, making choices, changing perspectives, learning lessons and, ultimately, just getting through it all.

And here’s the thing – a live lived without trials or adversity or bad luck or hardship A) doesn’t exist although we like to pretend it does and B) is fucking dull to watch unfold.  Every one of us is a sinner and a saint, an ideologue and a hypocrite, both full of wisdom and full of shit.  We all judge others for their heinous natures while hiding our own so that we aren’t judged in turn.  Every one of us is jealous, petty, generous and self sacrificing – all in different moments and at different times.

When it works, the cast of Postmortem behaves collectively like a Speaker for the Dead, offering a way into a life that allows us to attempt to understand ourselves as a whole.

I’d love to see you swing by the Viaduct and check it out.

Feb 2011 02

As we prepare to reprise the strange and wonderful world of Postmortem, here’s a taste of what’s to come…


SOURCE: Chicago Reader (2000)

Postmortem, WNEP Theater Foundation, at the Playground.

Inspired by our fascination with obituaries and the raw appeal of real lives, the WNEP Theater Foundation has found fresh fodder for improvisation. Each night a tight ensemble of seven performers takes a newspaper obituary and performs an hour-long characterization loosely based on that small amount of information. The real strength of this concept is that the actors give us more than just a hypothetical survey of one person’s life, also portraying characters who have no direct contact with the central figure to provide context and comedy. The atmosphere created for each of the decades represented (the 1920s through 1990s the night I attended, introduced by audio vignettes from each period) grounds the production, making it a comment on America’s history as well as that of the individual.

This sort of improvisation isn’t solely devoted to making the audience laugh easily and often–although there are funny moments. On opening night the audience heard tales of babies lost to the croup, jobs terminated, suicides prompted by the 1929 crash, women who attempted to sell their sons for drugs, and bitter, estranged couples who could not forgive. Carrying themes through the decades and their various characters, the talented cast show off their skills. Conveying wit and drama in a truly human manner, Postmortem successfully mines a concept that could easily have been exploitative. –Jenn Goddu

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Jan 2011 25


February 11 through March 6, 2011
Fridays, Saturdays, & Sundays at 7:00 p.m.
Tickets are $15.00 Friday/Saturday, $10 on Sundays

Viaduct Theater Studio
3111 North Western Avenue
(773) 296-6024 for tickets

WNEP Theater is freakin’ proud to present the reprisal of 2000′s hit improvised documentary “Postmortem” at the Viaduct Theater Studio in February and March of 2011.

“Postmortem” is a 75-minute improvised documentary based upon an actual obituary taken from the Chicago Tribune on the day of the show.  The cast of ten then presents scenes and monologues that take us through that person’s life from birth to death.

In 2000, said that “Postmortem” was “A startling and well-staged trip to a possible afterlife…moving and emotionally satisfying…” and the Chicago Reader mentioned that “…the talented cast shows off their skills…conveying wit and drama in a truly human manner…a comment on America’s history as wellas that of the individual…”

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