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posted: 2/14/2014 5:45 AM

Elmhurst native plays put-upon worker in 'Assistance'

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  • Elmhurst native John Taflan stars in LiveWire Chicago Theatre's production of "Assistance" by Leslye Headland.

      Elmhurst native John Taflan stars in LiveWire Chicago Theatre's production of "Assistance" by Leslye Headland.
    courtesy of Austin Oie

  • John Taflan, left, stars with Brian E. Crawford in LiveWire Chicago Theatre's production of Leslye Headland's "Assistance," directed by Joshua Aaron Weinstein.

      John Taflan, left, stars with Brian E. Crawford in LiveWire Chicago Theatre's production of Leslye Headland's "Assistance," directed by Joshua Aaron Weinstein.
    courtesy of Austin Oie

 
By Joe Salvato
jsalvato@dailyherald.com

Elmhurst native John Taflan prepared for his role in LiveWire Chicago Theatre's latest production, "Assistance," in an unusual way.

He watched TV.

"I watched a lot of 'Curb Your Enthusiasm' and 'Veep,'" the 40-year-old actor said. "Both of those shows are both particularly known for their salty language, and just seeing how people use it and say it but don't necessarily mean it was important to understand for the role."

LiveWire's latest comedy revolves around a group of young assistants who work for a degrading boss. They perform meaningless tasks, hoping to climb the corporate ladder.

Talfan plays Vince, who has worked for a relentlessly mean boss for about a year.

"Vince has an absolutely filthy mouth on him," Taflan said. "So that's always a little difficult to get your head wrapped around because you want your audience to understand where he's coming from, but when he's saying some of the most horrible things you can imagine, it's kind of a difficult task."

The production is a series of vignettes that take place over the course of several years, mostly focusing on the relationship between two co-workers, Nick and Nora.

Taflan was originally interested in "Assistance" because he "is drawn to the theatrical" and enjoys "productions that take risks."

"This play we're doing is far from conventional," he said.

As a boy, Taflan began acting at Elmhurst's Jackson Elementary School when he took part in a musical re-imagining of "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer."

From there, he was hooked, and the York High School grad went on to major in musical theater at Illinois Wesleyan University.

Since then, Taflan has worked hard to get roles in plays as well as to work behind the scenes.

"I just started auditioning for every show I could find, and then it becomes a numbers game. For 30 shows you might get a call back for five of them and then maybe get one part," said Taflan.

In addition to acting, he has worked as an assistant director and a dramaturge. The behind-the-scenes experience is vastly different.

"So when you're acting on opening night, it's just beginning, and you have to continue to create your character every single night," Taflan said. "When you're on the production side of a show, it's a mad rush to try and get as much rehearsed for the show as you possibly can and then, when opening night happens, it's like 'that's it.'"

Taflan is enjoying his role in "Assistance" and finds the topic to be timely and insightful.

"These characters are just applying for an assistant job, but they don't realize how intense it's going to be, and when they finally do, they're too deep into it to do anything else or quit," Taflan said. "I think some people can definitely relate to that situation for sure."

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