Wednesday, September 28, 2016

City Spaces



One of the biggest challenges facing Indie Theatre artists, is space!

Our good friends at the League of Independent Theatre continue to tackle this issue and are supporting new legislation to help address it. Check out their website for more information.






Monday, September 26, 2016

In the Heights

Written by Lin-Manuel Miranda, and Quiara Alegría Hudes.
Directed by Michael Bello
Produced by The Gallery Players

Nominated for: Outstanding Director, Michael Bello

Photo by Scott Cally & Bella Muccari

About the Production
In the Heights is a vibrant, touching, and thought-provoking musical that tells the story of the changing cultural landscape of Washington Heights. It makes us ask, what is home? We follow a young bodega owner, Usnavi, his cousin, and the rest of the neighborhood as they navigate the times in Washington Heights. This modern musical engages the audience, and makes them consider their own role in their families, their neighborhood community and in all of New York City.

Director Michael Bello and Producer Jonathan-Bruce King talk about staging with modern musical that is a true celebration of New York.


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What attracted you to this production?

Michael: As a Cuban-American theater artist In The Heights holds very special meaning to me. More personally, my grandparents and father immigrated from Havana, Cuba to 183rd Street in 1952, my parents met on the 181st St A stop that was upstage left, and I was born in Washington Heights. My family and I saw the show off-Broadway and Broadway, I saw the National Tour in Boston the day after my Abuela passed away, and it was the only Broadway musical by grandfather and I ever saw together. The story of In The Heights is one that speaks to me in a profound way and has a very special place in my heart. After working on the show, it became clear from the amazing group of Latino/a artists that gathered around the piece that Lin Manuel Miranda's writing spoke to us all and each of our family's culture, sacrifices, communities and love. When The Gallery Players asked me to return to the theater, after directing last year's NY It Awards nominated Next to Normal, I simply couldn't pass up the chance to bring my family and my culture to life on stage.

Jonathan-Bruce: I wanted to work on this musical because it explores a wonderful concept: what is home in the face of adversity? The theater wanted to explore the concepts of the play given the changing backdrop of our part of Park Slope. We have seen so much change in the past few years, the bodega is now a juice bar, starbucks and artisan coffee have opened up, and rents have risen astronomically. It is a musical about Washington Heights, but it could be about Park Slope.
Photo by Scott Cally & Bella Muccari


What did you want the audience to come away with after watching is production of In the Heights?

Jonathan-Bruce: I hope the audience came away with a sense of what home was to them, how their choices in living and life affect others, and how to find home within themselves.


What was your favorite part of this production?

Jonathan-Bruce: I loved working with an amazing cast and crew. Everyone had some kind of connection to the neighborhood or the culture, and were so excited to bring these characters to life.


What was the most challenging aspect of this production?

Jonathan-Bruce: This is a very big musical, and a very realistic musical. We had to make sure we were firmly rooted in realism but also could stay within budget.
Photo by Scott Cally & Bella Muccari


What was it like working with Michael Bello?

Jonathan-Bruce: Michael Bello is an incredibly adept and skillful director. His vision and specificity showed throughout the production and led to a cohesive, well thought out, and enthralling production.


You can follow The Gallery Players on Twitter - @tgpbrooklyn



Exposure

Written by Laura Zlatos
Directed by Devin Brian
Produced by Next In Line Productions LLC


Nominated for: Outstanding Lighting Design, Govin Ruben




About the Production
Exposure is inspired by the life and work of American photographer Francesca Woodman, who created a critically acclaimed body of work before killing herself when she was only twenty-two. Exposure has become more than a play about Woodman and her work however - it explores the ideas surrounding Art, and the myths of the "Tortured Artist".



Lighting Desginer Govin Ruben talks about working on this OOB production.

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What attracted you to this project?

Govin: I've worked all over the world on different productions with various companies, festivals and organizations. Exposure was the first productions from America that I was offered and I thought it would be exciting to work in New York City.

What was your favorite part of this production?

Govin: It was a very passionate group of artists who were all very dedicated to their craft. It’s always great to be a part of a team where everyone works and wants to work towards a common goal.

What was the most challenging aspect of this production?

Govin: Budget and technical limitations of the space were very challenging. However I think that that sometimes makes most designs more interesting. Exposure is a great testament to that.

What was the most noteworthy aspect of this production for you?

Govin: I was flying in from Istanbul; fresh from doing a large government festival in a 3000 seat theatre; then walking into the beautiful 60 seater Gene Frankel Theatre on the Lower East Side was a quick reminder of how varied this industry can be. From spectacle and scale to visceral and intimate.


Sunday, September 25, 2016

One Way To Pluto!

Written and Directed by Seanie Sugrue
Produced by Locked In The Attic Productions

Nominated for: Outstanding Original Full-Length Script, Seanie Sugrue; and Outstanding Premier Production of a Play






About the Production

One Way To Pluto!, is an existential journey through the life of Peter Cooper, a hostile persona struggling to make sense of his transgender dysphoria. Falling out of grace with everyone around him, Peter plunges from shared housing to homelessness, seldom user to heroin junkie and from punk rock drummer to pathetic, washed-up rock star. Destroyed by his ego, comfort comes through a psychedelic journey to Pluto and back with Dwight, a chronic vagabond, and from an act of criminal desperateness, he befriends one of Pluto’s moons. This story is a restless exploration of one man’s search to find meaning and delves into the fight against personal delusion, addiction, and the trepidation of inferiority.



Playwright Seanie Sugrue and Company Manager, Amanda Martin share their thoughts on creating this challenging "punk theatre" piece.


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What was your favorite part of working on this production?

Seanie: Getting to work with Dan Sweeney and Bret Koheart of Acquiesce (the band), two guys who I've hung out with in the village for over a decade, were kind enough to let us use their music to soundtrack the play.

What did you want the audience to come away with after watching One Way to Pluto!?

Amanda: We wanted to offer them a time out from their financial insecurity. We believe in the pursuit of happiness and that money, materialism and capitalism shouldn't be the answers to what they are looking for.

What was the biggest challenge of working on this production?

Seanie: When I wrote the play, I wrote the part of Johnny for our dear friend James Anthony Tropeano III (Jimmie), who had worked on our last two productions. This past December, weeks before rehearsals were set to begin, he was killed in a tragic accident. The most challenging part was replacing him and rehearsing knowing that Jimmy wasn't playing his role. Most of the actors were friends with Jimmie so we had a pretty rough time with it, but we knew the show had to go on.

What was it like working with Locked in the Attic Production?

Seanie: Their commitment is remarkable. We have worked with a very brilliant and committed group of people. Many of the actors in One Way to Pluto! have been with us for the last 5 productions, including 4 original plays within a year.

What was it like working with Seanie?

Amanda: Seanie is amazing, because you can’t teach what he does.


Saturday, September 24, 2016

Street Theater

Written by Doric Wilson
Directed by Mark Finley
Produced by
TOSOS


Nominated for: Outstanding Ensemble, Tim Abrams,
Chris Andersson, Christopher Borg, Ellis Cahill, Johnathan Cedano, Desmond Dutcher, Russell Jordan, Josh Kenney, Jeremy Lawrence, Michael Lynch, Joe MacDougall, Rebecca Nyahay, Patrick Porter, Ben Strothmann; Outstanding Revival of a Play

 
About the Production
Set in Greenwich Village June 28 1969, shortly before the first brick was thrown at the Stonewall Inn, Doric Wilson's legendary satire STREET THEATER follows the exploits of the cruisers, drag queens, undercover cops, dykes, hippies, mobsters and bystanders (innocent and otherwise) as they catapult toward the moment that changed the course of history.





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What attracted you to this project?
Tim: The show itself is a time capsule for the LGBT fight! Also, the company, TOSOS, is a wonderful theater group and that I love working with!

Chris: The playwright Doric Wilson was a friend. STREET THEATER is a historically significant play and is extraordinarily well written.

Johnathan: I knew playwright Doric Wilson, and this is always a great experience and a story that needs to be told.

Desmond: It's a show that I've been a part of for over 13 years now, and I feel very connected to the character of Gordon as well as to the history behind Doric's writing of the play.

Josh: It's historical significance, humor, and heart. Doric has written a wonderful piece of theater to capture an important moment in the LGBTQ movement.

Jeremy: Doing a play by Doric Wilson, a major creator of the queer theatre scene. The fact that he asked me to do the play the first time was a real honor. His invitation. 

Doing a play about this most important event of the gay rights movement. 

Working with TOSOS a theatre company of whom I am proud to be a part especially working with Mark Finley as director.

Michael: I have been working on this show way before there was an IT award, was in the original cast of the mineshaft production.

Joe: The company, TOSOS, and the play itself. 

Rebecca: I first started working on this show a number of years ago when I was working with EAT. I was asked to audition and while there, met Doric and was cast on the spot. I already knew a number of the other cast members and Mark Finley and was excited about working with them. Once we did the first show, I knew I wanted to play this part as many times as I could. I continued all these years not only because of the cast and crew (who have become family) but because of the message of the play. It's a story about a group of people that come together to stand up for their rights, and it's the kind of play that made me want to be an actor in the first place. 

Ben: Telling the story of my LGBTQ people and our struggle for our freedoms — and just getting to work with Mark Robert Finley and the amazing cast.

 

What was your favorite part of working on this production?
Tim: Doing it in a sacred place like The Eagle was thrilling!

Chris: The sharp wit in the lines, the arc of the character, and the fast pace. And the required ensemble effort, of course.

Christopher: This is one of my favorite theatre experiences as a performer. Not only because of the fantastic historical value of the piece itself, but because of the wonderful cast and creative team involved. I've been working on this piece for about 7 years, and was lucky to perform in it before Doric Wilson passed away. Doric was a great writer, a huge supporter of working artists and a true friend to me.

Ellis: The cast in this show is just incredible. I still can't believe I got to share the stage with them. They moved me, rocked my world every time, even in rehearsals.

Johnathan: Going back to The Eagle bar and having the experience with everyone who attended. 

Desmond: Working with the ensemble, because our collective group energy is almost more fun off-stage than on-stage! 

Russell: Sharing an essay I wrote shortly after STREET THEATER finished its 2015 run. (I don't believe I ever posted this.... but I might have.) My apologies for the "dump" of info, but this encapsulates my experience on the project. --- I performed the role of Donovan in The Other Side of Silence’s (TOSOS, pronounced "tah-sos") production of “Doric Wilson’s STREET THEATER,” which played in October 2015 at Eagle Bar NYC, a leather bar....“Set in Greenwich Village June 28, 1969, shortly before the first brick was thrown at the Stonewall Inn, Doric Wilson’s legendary satire STREET THEATER follows the exploits of the cruisers, drag queens, undercover cops, dykes, hippies, mobsters and bystanders (innocent and otherwise) as they catapult toward the moment that changed the course of history.” is the synopsis theatergoers read in the show’s playbill. And both audiences and critics alike shared positive feedback about the show. [When you have a moment, I invite you to read reviews by drag artist
Lady Bunny, theater blogger Tari Stratton, arts/humanities website Extra Criticum, NewYorkQnews.com’s [Q]onStage, and Entertainment website Theater Pizzazz (who describe my performance as “convincing.”)] (...I’ll get back to Theater Pizzazz’s “convincing” in a few minutes.) There are so many things I learned about the play this time around(...I was a cast in the role of Jordan in TOSOS’s 2013 production of STREET THEATER). At the top of the list was what I learned about Doric Wilson, whether it be a short memory shared during rehearsal by our director Mark Finley, or information shared with me by castmate Christopher Borg, while we were waiting to be called onstage to run through our respective scenes. It was not unusual during rehearsal to bear witness to a “remember when Doric” moment, which made me appreciate this artist and understand why TOSOS continues to honor his memory in their productions of STREET THEATER. Castmate Rebecca Nyahay asked me to share my “Doric moment” as part of her on-camera interviews for a forthcoming STREET THEATER documentary. My response was simple: “I never met Doric.” The surprise on her face brought a quick smile to mine. After explaining that my entré into the world of TOSOS was via an introduction by playwright Kathleen Warnock, Rebecca shifted the focus of her questions to my preparation for the role of Donovan. She asked had I ever been to the Stonewall Inn. I told her that I had, but that my exposure to Stonewall was somewhat limited. (I have never been the “bar-fly,” and even when I did my then weekly jaunts to Christopher Street, it was usually to “Chi Chiz” or “The Hangar,” venues frequented more by an African-American clientele.) I was aware of existence of Stonewall. I knew it was “that” place where “that” event happened, but the cultural significance of Stonewall as the launchpad for the gay rights movement didn’t really register with me. Rebecca then asked me about Donovan, an undercover police officer. I initially skirted the question, as I did not want to reveal any spoilers about the play....a play written in 1982, so I really don’t know what “spoilers” I was trying not to reveal. (It could have very well been temporary insanity.) But then she said we could discuss the character and she encouraged me to do so. There was this silence…. I needed to intelligently, and hopefully coherently communicate, who Donovan was, and what I was bringing to the table in my portrayal of this character. The Oprah “a-ha” moment happened. While I am sure it was not communicated as clearly in the interview, I said that Donovan, like Seymour (another undercover police officer, played by Joe MacDougall), represents the government-sanctioned evil in society. And how one in such a position of power can do such grave harm to that society. “Just like with the ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement…” I uttered. Almost immediately, it was as if a download of information (similar to the experience of Neo in “The Matrix”) was flooding my brain. I would go on to communicate that my job in the role of Donovan was to shine a light on this issue - this abuse of power issue - carried out and exacerbated by people placed in positions of power against populations marginalized in varying degrees: black and brown people… transgendered people… women. Further, I felt my job was to show how extreme the actions one could take, when they already have a bias against the population over which they believe themselves to have control. The interview ended, but now I knew what the course of action was to portray this character honestly. In STREET THEATER, the audience learns that Donovan was one bust shy of making his quota for the day. There’s that. He harbors a hatred towards the LGBT community, saying to Seymour, “This place is crawling with queers...If it weren’t for us, they’d overrun the whole country...Homosexuals represent a threat to the community.” Donovan believes this to his core, and he wants the gays gone. And Donovan knows he is good at what his does — entrapping gay men — so he can bust them and get them off the street. One of his stronger skills is his ability to survey a potential "collar," and know exactly the right approach to use to get them to say or do just the right thing...so he can arrest them. So, for me, success in this performance had to honor Donovan’s essence, so that the audience can see how he and the other “Donovans” in our society are dangerous...especially when they are wearing a police badge. So, back to Theater Pizzazz’s “convincing.” ...I did my job. 

Josh: The cast. I had the wonderful opportunity to do the show in June for a one-night only event at Google during Gay Pride 2015 in NYC right before the SCOTUS announced its marriage equality decision. I got to meet some wonderful actors who were so giving and passionate about Doric's piece. Many had worked on the piece many times before and they adore the work. It was an honor to be a part of that magic and in a heartbeat I agreed to the September run. 

Jeremy: Finally getting to do a real run of the show, fully rehearsed. I had done it four times previously but ony for a one- or two-show run during gay pride at the LGBT center. To do it at the Eagle was delicious. 

I had my first gay sex the year of Stonewall, i was in the first march after Stonewall. Getting back in touch with those times — not because I was young — but because it was the beginning of a revolution was thrilling.

Michael: Any time i get to do it its informing young people of a part of history where gay people fought back its an honor and a privilege to work on this show in the memory of Doric Wilson.

Joe: Performing at The Eagle! 

Rebecca: Usually I would say the cast but this time it was bigger as we had the opportunity to perform it for a run and not just one night. Not only that, we got to perform it at The Eagle, which lent a whole new level of authenticity to the show. We were really able to throw ourselves fully into the production and form an even stronger bond than we already had. I've never been a part of such a close ensemble. I really couldn't wait to perform every single night. 

Ben: Ellis Cahill's performance as Heather. Hands down!




 
What was the most challenging part of working on this production?
Tim: Shaving everyday! I played a kid! Also, keeping up with all of the other amazing performances in our little show!

Chris: Out of respect for the playwright and the importance of the play, the most challenging thing was to be letter-perfect with our lines.

Ellis: Nerves! With such a big cast and so many moments and jokes relying on rapid-fire pacing, I had jitters every night about dropping the ball. I also felt perpetual imposter syndrome acting with these Incredibles. They're so good. They'll break your heart.

Johnathan: Seeing how much things have changed in NYC since we last did the show at this venue. Very sad to see the neighborhood gentrified.

Desmond: Having the performance venue be in an actual gay leather bar was a particular challenge (albeit a delightful one) since we had to use the upstairs bar as our dressing room; we had to move the pool table downstairs out of the way in order to create our performance space; and after the show we had to hustle our butts to pack up and get out of there as quickly as possible since there were crowds of bar patrons about to flood the space. 

Josh: The runway stage. Working with 4 or 5 actors at a time and being so aware to keep open to the audience with about 3-4 feet of width is no easy task! It was a fluid puzzle piece masterfully guided by Mark Finely.

Jeremy: I love working with an audience in close range but it's always a challenge and one never knows whether the face you speak to is going to be happy you are speaking to them or hate you for dong it. One quickly moves on if the choice is wrong, but it keeps one on one's toes.

Michael: The last ten minutes of the show it becomes very real

Joe: As with most work I do in theatre, coordinating my money job around rehearsals and performances.

Rebecca: As with any large cast operating on no budget, the challenge was finding the time to get everyone in the room at the same time to run the group scenes. 

Ben: Finding a way to LIKE and have compassion for my character. I think he's pretty unlikable


What would you say was innovative or quirky about this production?
Tim: Running into David Drake after one of the shows that was one of the actors that originated the role! There is so much history and love with the Street Theater family!

Chris: We laughed at every rehearsal — sometimes at our performances but so often at the lines themselves: so clever, so witty, so precisely written.

Ellis: We performed the show at the amazing Eagle leather bar in Chelsea. Our changing room was just the bar upstairs. We'd hang our costumes on the fences and sit on the drink ledges for shoes and makeup. I loved it. Just a big happy communal dressing room and lots of topless dudes. :) I still proudly wear my Eagle NYC t-shirt at least once a week.

Johnathan: This show was in a leather bar, so there's a lot of fun things about that.

Desmond: One night, during our final crowd scene, I came running on stage particularly more "in character and in the moment" than usual, and in this extreme state of realism, I tripped over my own foot and fell flat on my face...right in front of Lady Bunny, who seemed enthralled by my heightened sense of verisimilitude. <wink> 

Josh: It's the first time I have done a play in a bar. 

Michael: The production we did one month after the death of Doric Wilson, we were in places waiting for the show to start and out of nowhere there was thunder and we all said that's Doric. It was very moving 

Joe: Just that we performed it in a leather bar :-)

Rebecca: Besides performing in a S&M bar with pictures of naked men everywhere?? Actually, the funny part about that is that my lovely, churchgoing boss from the suburbs came to see the show. This is a family man who never curses and is very proper. Seeing him in the audience made me a bit nervous, especially seeing him looking at all the pictures on the wall. I second-guessed my invitation to him, but after the show he raved about what an amazing experience it was and how talented he thought the entire cast was. He was blown away.

Ben: Just that we've been doing this show for something like 7 years in a row, and it always seems like just a few weeks have passed since we last performed together


What was it like working with TOSOS?
Tim: Everyone loves what they're doing and we all trusted each other!

Chris: The sense of dedication to this play. The entire cast, crew and creative team's emotional attachment and devotion to this play.

Ellis: Mark Finley.

Johnathan: Everyone in it.

Desmond: The people involved — pure n' simple. Never has there been a nicer group of artists to work with!

Josh: The nonstop laughs on and off stage.

Jeremy: Complete and utter devotion to the piece and endless delight in each other's work.

Michael: This company is my family im a founding member of tosos and its exciting to see just how far we've come.

Joe: They respect actors.

Rebecca: The people. I love each and every person I share that stage with. I think a testament to the strength of our show/ensemble is that whenever any of our characters were not on stage, we were all sitting in the wings listening. Every single night. Some of us have performed this play many times over the years, and it still thrills us every time. We sit backstage laughing, crying, hugging. We all know every single line and mouth them to each other so as not to distract from the action on stage. We all love this play and loved Doric immensely and I think that is obvious to anyone who has seen us perform. Not to mention, the play itself. It is an important work that needs to continue to be performed in order to educate the younger members of the gay community about their history.

Ben: It's one of those rare companies where everyone truly loves and respects each other no matter the start of their role. We are true ensemble.
 



You can follow these artists on Twitter
Christopher Borg - @borgiborg
Ellis Cahill - @eiliscahill
Johnathan Cedano - @JohnathanCedano
Russell Jordan - @russjordan
Josh Kenney - @joshtkenney
Rebecca Nyahay - @rebeccanyahay
Ben Strothmann - @BenStrothmann



Friday, September 23, 2016

Rizing

Written by Jason Tseng
Directed by Emily Hartford
Produced by Flux Theatre Ensemble

Nominated for: Outstanding Lighting Design, Kia Rogers





About the Production

Rizing is set many years after the zombie apocalypse in Shelter, the last living city on Earth. Infected family members, friends, and lovers have been rehabilitated thanks to a daily regimen of drugs and therapy, but the uninfected that have brought them back do not trust them. Now the drugs are starting to wear off, and Shelter’s two-tiered society is poised on the verge of all-out war. Characters on both sides must choose between rebuilding the world as it was and creating a new one by force.

Lighting Designer Kia Rogers and Producing Director Heather Cohn

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What attracted you to this production?

Kia: There were a number of things that were very attractive about this project, a new playwright, multiple locations, allegory for the aids epidemic told with zombies...

Heather: Our history with Jason and the open-gender casting of this play. The story. The opportunities for other artists involved with Flux to shine.

What was your favorite part of this production?

Kia: Of course I love working with the creative team, director and cast. We really dove into the story and created a whole new world. Everyone was wonderful to work with and brought so many perspectives into the room with respect.

Heather: Seeing two artists grow tremendously in roles that were new to them. It was Jason's first full production as a playwright and Emily's as a director.

What was the most challenging aspect of this production?

Kia: The space! We were at Access and they had a power issue with the building. I only had 16 dimmers and when the conventionals were on we couldn't run the A/C! I brought in a LED package to supplement the limitations and it proved to be the workhorse for emotional and environmental storytelling.

What was the trickiest aspect of this production for you?

Kia: Because this was a new work, and a new playwright, we walked a thin line between wanting to say "yes" to every possibility, and needing to have an editing hand for what would make this production stronger while giving the playwright agency to learn. It was difficult during tech, and we made some big cuts close to opening that proved completely right but it was very hard.

What is it like working with Flux Theatre Ensemble?

Kia: They're awesome. I always have all the design support I get. How everyone wanted me to be satisfied with my vision, and the concern about being in a space that is not technically advanced.

What is it like working with Kia?

Heather: Kia is one of the hardest working artists in Indie theatre and she always goes above and beyond, filling voids that aren't hers to fill. And she's a wonderful collaborator.
You can follow these artists on Twitter
Flux Theatre Ensemble - @fluxtheatre
Kia Rogers - @kialights