It's always gratifying to see our friends' names in print, especially when they make that big jump from talented unknown actor to member of an internationally famous ensemble. This was certainly the case with Justin Hayford's profile of Michael Cates and his debut with Blue Man Group [Calendar, October 10].
Unfortunately, in reeling off a quick synopsis of Michael's experiences, the article made it sound as if Plasticene were no more than a speed bump in his career--and not a very enjoyable speed bump either.
Yes, Plasticene produced two shows in three years. One of them, Doorslam, went to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival after running at the Chopin Theatre, the American Blues Theatre, and for five highly successful weeks at the Steppenwolf studio--where Mr. Hayford refused to write a review after accepting his complimentary press ticket. The other, Refuge, had several runs both here and in New York, including two showings at Dance Chicago.
Plasticene's rehearsal process typically takes several months per show. Each ensemble member is involved in at least one other project--acting, directing, or teaching--at any time. The intention is not to crank out pieces right and left in order to pay the rent. The intention is to rehearse, or produce, when ensemble members are available and willing to create new work. Blue Man Group has been running Tubes since 1991. That makes one show in six years. Yet nobody questions their body of work on grounds of quantity. I suspect Michael's remark was a small part of the conversation taken out of context--don't we all wish we had more to show for the work we love doing?
The phrase "company that drew brief critical acclaim" implies that Plasticene is defunct--which is astonishing news to anyone involved with the ensemble. In addition to a new piece, Volume XII, opening this fall at the Athenaeum Theatre, Plasticene will appear at Link's Hall, the Kohler Arts Center in Wisconsin, and Pfeiffer College in North Carolina. There will also be a repeat of this summer's intensive physical training workshop, which drew 20 participants for six days of Plasticene's creative process. Mr. Hayford receives regular press releases from us, so his apparent confusion on this point is mystifying.
By emphasizing that Michael speaks of Plasticene "with a wince," Mr. Hayford seems to be trying to paint the whole experience as an unpleasant memory. I'm sure that minute physical gesture doesn't sum up all Michael has to say about the group.
Whatever Mr. Hayford's personal or artistic objections to the work may be (whether explicitly or covertly stated), Plasticene is alive and continues to draw critical acclaim, and Michael Cates continues to be a creative and spiritual presence within the group, as well as a worthy newcomer to Blue Man Group.
Justin Hayford replies:
To describe Plasticene as having received "brief critical acclaim" does not imply the company is defunct--just out of the media spotlight. The group offered me a complimentary ticket to Doorslam; I did not request one, nor did I suggest that I would review the piece.