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All-Chicago Cast Faces Long CTA Commutes for Goodman's 'Carlyle'

By Ted Cox | March 14, 2016 6:29am
 Tim Rhoze and Charlette Speigner find a felicitous moment in rehearsals for the Goodman Theatre's
Tim Rhoze and Charlette Speigner find a felicitous moment in rehearsals for the Goodman Theatre's "Carlyle."
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Goodman Theatre

THE LOOP — How does an actor get to the Goodman Theatre? Practice — and sometimes a long CTA commute.

The all-Chicago cast for the Goodman's new production "Carlyle" finds a couple of actresses coming from far corners of the city and making use of the commute to study lines or to channel frustration through more method-acting techniques.

"I usually give myself an hour and 15 minutes total," said Tiffany Scott, an Albany Park resident who plays the wife of the title character, Carlyle Meyers, an African-American attorney and a Republican. It's a 15-minute walk to the "L" for her, then a train ride of what's usually just less than an hour changing from the Brown Line to the Red.

 James Earl Jones II, Tim Rhoze, Maureen Gallagher and Tiffany Scott in rehearsals for
James Earl Jones II, Tim Rhoze, Maureen Gallagher and Tiffany Scott in rehearsals for "Carlyle."
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Goodman Theatre

It's not the stereotypical actor's life, she said. The 10 a.m. rehearsals, preparing for a April 2 opening, keep her on a different schedule.

"Usually, I'm still kind of waking up in the morning. I'm not a morning person," Scott said. "We're programmed to be at our peak at 7 or 8 p.m."

Like any CTA commuter, she said, "I take the time to get caught up on emails, get caught up on the news." Yet there's another trick of the trade she has, a smartphone app called LineLearner.

"It's really great," Scott said. "It's really changed the way I learn lines."

An actor can record her own lines and a scene partner's lines into the app, then the recordings can be played back as the entire scene or with just the partner's lines as cues.

"When I'm on the train, I typically will set it so that it speaks both my lines and my partner's lines — so I'm not talking to myself," Scott added, not that that would set her apart from the many people having phone conversations on the way to work.

Charlotte Speigner, meanwhile, takes about the same time to get to work from East Rogers Park along the city border with Evanston. It's a straight shot on the Red Line, but "sometimes there's just ridiculous delays," Speigner said. "I had that happen a few times — a few times in one ride. It can be a little funky at times."

Speigner, too, uses the down time to go over lines and catch up with calls, emails and appointments, but she can also channel the inevitable commuting frustrations into one of the two characters she plays: Shaniqua, a precocious African-American student who finds herself sort of landlocked in a tony prep school.

"She is actually quite brilliant," Speigner said, but "not smart in this conventional way." Her attitude toward her uneasy place in society is in marked contrast with the African-American Republican.

"I can take all my angst from CTA and throw it into her," Speigner said.

Both actresses use the time to keep up with the news as well, which plays to the production in that, as a reader can already tell, it's dealing in topical issues, especially during the current political campaign.

"It's very timely, and things are changing daily because of the political environment now," Scott said. "It's possible that we will be getting line revisions in the middle of our run," to address the shifting political sands.

Speigner is also taking the role of Anita Hill, the Supreme Court confirmation antagonist of Justice Clarence Thomas.

"It's not necessarily the Anita Hill we all know, but from Carlyle's perspective of what he feels really went on," Speigner said.

Speigner also typically makes a point of taking the alley from the Red Line station at Lake Street to the Goodman — sometimes referred to as "Death Alley," as it's behind the site of the old Iroquois Theater (now the Oriental Theater), where more than 600 people died in one of Chicago's worst disasters in 1903.

Speigner said she had yet to experience the chills and other paranormal phenomena others have claimed in the alley.

"I walk really fast, and it's like tunnel vision," she said. "If I feel something in my intuition, like 'I don't think you should do this today,' nah, I'll go around."

Both treasure the train for the down time it offers — both on the way in and after performances.

"On my way in, I feel like I'm kind of dizzy," Speigner said. Lines, current events, calls, emails: it all blurs together.

"When I go home, I'm definitely in a different energy," she added. "I just kind of decompress. But my mind is typically exhausted. I don't want to talk to anyone. I don't want to read anything."

Sounds like most people heading home from work on the night shift.

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