Friday, September 13, 2019

MEET THE 2019 NOMINEES: Mary, Mary

MARY, MARY
By Jean Kerr
Directed by Shay Gines
Produced by Retro Productions

NOMINATED FOR
Outstanding Set Design - Jack & Rebecca Cunningham
Outstanding Costume Design - Ben Philipp
Outstanding Actress in a Lead Role - Heather E. Cunningham
Outstanding Actress in a Featured Role - Meghan E. Jones
Outstanding Actor in a Featured Role - Desmond Dutcher
Outstanding Revival of a Play


Nominated for Outstanding Actress in a Lead Role - Heather E. Cunningham

Nominated for Outstanding Actor in a Featured Role - Desmond Dutcher
Nominated for Outstanding Actress in a Featured Role - Meghan E. Jones

ABOUT THE PLAY
Witty yet somehow earthy, MARY, MARY by Jean Kerr is, arguably, the most perfectly constructed light comedy of the English-speaking stage. Mary is a compulsively wise-cracking magazine editor who uses her sense of humor to shield her insecurities, while Bob is an infuriatingly sensible publisher. Their marriage ended in divorce and they haven't seen each other in 9 months, but now Mary has been called back to Bob's apartment by their mutual friend and lawyer, Oscar, in the hopes that they can avert an audit by the IRS. Throw in Bob's young fiancee Tiffany; his old war buddy, the handsome and single film hero whose star is in decline, Dirk Winston; and one major snow storm--and we begin to wonder, will Mary and Bob recognize that they are soul mates in time to get back together before they each end up in the arms of another?

Starring Heather E. Cunningham*, Desmond Dutcher*, Chris Harcum*, Meghan E. Jones, and Robert Franklin Neill*

Stage Manager:  Lara Tenenbaum
Set Designers: Jack and Rebecca Cunningham
Costume Designer: Ben Philipp
Sound Designer: Trevor Williams
Properties Designer:  Sara Slagle
Lighting Designer:  Asa Lipton
Press Representative:  Alton PR and Production
Photographer:  Connolly Photo NYC

*Appeared courtesy of Actors' Equity Association.

Nominated for Outstanding Costume Design - Ben PhilippPHOTO: Kyle Connolly 

What attracted you to working on this project?
It is not often that we think of female playwrights when we think of this time period, and when searching for our next production I made the decision to only consider plays written before 1980 by women which fulfilled our mission of “Retro” (and honestly, I wanted to do a comedy!). Jean Kerr was one of the most prolific female playwrights of the 20th century and Mary, Mary is by far her best work. It’s really not hard to see what made it so popular that it ran for 1,572 performances (it remains number 52 on Playbill’s list of the 119 longest-running Broadway shows to this day).

What was your favorite part of working on this production? And why?
The cast and staff.

Nominated for Outstanding Set Design - Jack & Rebecca Cunningham. PHOTO: Kyle Connolly

What was the most challenging part of working on this production? And why?
Productions that require large scenic elements are always a challenge in small spaces and on small budgets. But our set design team figured out how to make the small stage seem much bigger than it was!

Nominated for Outstanding Actor in a Featured Role - Desmond DutcherPHOTO: Kyle Connolly  

What do you want the audience to come away with after watching your production?
Honestly, that they'd had a good time!

Why are the nominees from this production awesome?
Amazing designers, amazing actors - and every single one of them lovely people.

Nominated for Outstanding Actress in a Featured Role - Meghan E. JonesPHOTO: Kyle Connolly 
Was there anything odd, quirky, innovative, funny or otherwise noteworthy about your experience with this production?
As a producer I HATE curtain speeches. I have always made an effort to create curtain speeches that don't feel like curtain speeches - that feel like they are part of the world that we are building for the play. For this show, since one of the characters is a movie star, we created a short film in the style of some of old Hollywoods fourth-wall-breaking previews. As a joke, for ourselves mostly, but one the audience definitely got, the end had a version of the MGM lion - played by my little black cat, Master Pinter Paws.

What does this nomination mean to you?
There is no greater reward than your peers telling you you did good work. None.

Nominated for Outstanding Actress in a Lead Role - Heather E. Cunningham PHOTO: Kyle Connolly  



Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Shinka

Produced & Written by Ren Gyo Soh
Directed & Choreographed by: Yoshiko Usami / Yokko

Nominations: Outstanding Actress in a Featured Role – Yoshiko Usami, Outstanding Choreography/Movement & Outstanding Director – Yokko; Outstanding Premiere Production of a Play

About Ren Gyo Soh
Creates theatrical productions that builds cultural bridges and promotes awareness of environmental issues.

Photos by Krzy Sien
About Shinka
Shinka explores the mystery of living beings. We are born; we grow, struggle, suffer, and finish the cycle. A life cycle. We create, we destroy, and again create. Mankind has developed technology rapidly; and with that development, the pace of life has begun to move with increased speed. Now, everything is realized so quickly by these digital networks. So many things happen at the same time. We swim in a digital ocean in this modern time. With this increased digital connection we have started to lose our personal connections. More and more we disconnect with others, our landscapes, and ourselves. We disconnect from our own bodies, minds, and souls. Through Shinka, we research how this modern civilization and the development of technology have affected our minds. After all of the destruction, life begins anew. Creation begins again. Evolution continues. By using Japanese Butoh, Trish Arnold Movement, contemporary dance, and other theatrical elements, we express life itself, physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually through Shinka. Shin-Ka is a Japanese word. The meaning of the word changes depending on the Japanese characters you choose. The meanings include Evolution, Truth, Deepening.
 

What first attracted you to working on this subject matter?
 
Yoshiko: I am interested in "growth,” "change" and "transformation, as a choreographer, I wanted to tell a short through movement this topic. When I developed the short piece to the full -length, I corporate more environmental issue which I have been interested in.

"A green bird" which is my short dance piece. I was interested in "breaking through" own comfort zone to be born. A baby bird struggles to be born and breaking the shell and learn to fly. It is simple, but it reflects our own spiritual growth.



What was your favorite part of working on this production?
Yoshiko: Working with my performers. That is the best. it was such a breathtaking moment to witness my performers to transform their own journeys.

What was the most challenging aspect of this production for you?
Yoshiko: For 45 minutes I was stillness inside of the egg shell. That is the challenging part, because I get panic if I don't manage my mental state correctly every time.

What was the weirdest part about your experience with this production?
Yoshiko: Well. I go inside of an egg shell before the show, and so my assistant director and tech director/lighting designer will be in charge for the show, and I cannot do anything as a director before the show. I had to meditate and calm and stillness. The opening night was tough. The show starts a bit late, and I was panicking inside of the egg (as a director/choreographer), but I could not do anything, because I was an egg on stage. Eventually I had to give up panicking and choose to focus and calm. (but to be honest, I was really close to losing my mind)

What is the best thing about working with this company of artists?
Yoshiko:Transformative experience.

Did you gain any insight or learn anything new while working on this project?
Yoshiko:Team Work. We are not on stage or off stage alone. Its team work. It's collaboration. Blessing to work with beautiful people.

What does receiving this nomination mean to you?
Yoshiko:Encouragement!

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Man Frog and Other People

Produced by Necessary I. T. E. M. S. Project
Written by Eugene Muzica
Directed by Irina Abraham

Nomination: Outstanding Actor in a Lead Role - Ron Williams

About Necessary I. T. E. M. S. Project
Necessary I.T.E.M.S. Project is an award winning experimental theatre company. I.T.E.M.S. stands for Inner Truth, Experience, Movement, Style - all are items necessary in their creative work. Actors look for INNER TRUTH of their characters and therefore - their own artistic truth. They are constantly searching for and EXPERIENCE the emotional and intellectual states of their characters. The directors love movement and choreography. MOVEMENT is life! As a collective of artists, they are in constant search of their own unique STYLE of expression on stage.
Photo by Tom Schubert
About Man Frog and Other People
Man Frog and Other People is a satirical adaptation of the fairy tale Prince Frog.

What first attracted you to working on this show?
Ron: The first thing that attracted me to this role was simply becoming a frog and bringing it to life!
Irina: We were attracted to the mythology and symbology of fairytales in general and wanted to find parallels between the plot lines and messages of some of the most famous fairy tales and life in the modern world.

What was your favorite part of working on this production?
Irina: The process of adapting the story and physical exploration of it were most exciting. Finding precision in actors' physicality helped us communicate the essence of the characters and the world they lived in. Building the story itself drawing on the original plot of Prince Frog as well as mythology and current events was an interesting process in which we learned a lot.

What was the most challenging aspect of working on this production?

Ron: The most challenging part of working on this production was trying to find the good in my character.

Irina:
There was a delicate balance between staying truthful and working with a magical plot framed by a highly stylized execution.

What was the funniest or most quirky part of this production?
Irina: Everything about this production was quirky, innovative and funny. We usually do work that is in the realm of experimental. The rules are rather different in that territory, so the process is unique every time with a lot of laughter and surprises along the way.

What did you want the audience to come away with after watching Man Frog and Other People
Irina: We were experimenting with genres and aimed at creating something new from something old. We wanted our audience to look beyond the well known plot line of Prince Frog and see the hidden meaning and the connections to mythology, psychology and tendencies in today's society.



What is the best thing about working with this company of artists?

Ron: The best thing about working with Necessary Items is not only are you able to work with such talented a creative people, they also have become my family. I am truly grateful to share this nomination with them.

Irina: Our nominee Ronnie Williams joined our team for the first time in this production. Ronnie's work is very deep, humorous and physically charged. He is very precise in his body language and creates bald, memorable characters, which is very much in tune with our company's approach.

Did you learn anything or discover anything new while working on this project?

Ron: I discovered that my body can move in ways i never thought it could.

What does receiving this nomination mean to you?
Ron: Receiving this nomination means I have touched someones heart /soul and a part of me is with them. This is what I enjoy doing! Putting everything I have into each performance on stage to make someone feel something, whether its happy, sad, angry, etc.

Irina: We are very happy for Ronnie's nomination. From the start we were admiring his work: creating a character that is part animal, part human and is essentially a walking metaphor is not easy and he accomplished the task with elegance and ease. We are proud to have worked together and to have provided the creative space for Ronnie to spread his wings and apply his artistry.

Monday, September 9, 2019

Bruce Barton

Hamlet
Written by William Shakespeare
Conceived & Directed by George K. Wells
Produced by Hudson Warehouse in association with Susane Lee

Nomination: Bruce Barton - Outstanding Actor in a Featured Role

About Hudson Warehouse
Hudson Warehouse's mission is to provide quality, exciting, innovative, and affordable classical theater to the community. Those unable to pay are still welcome. The Warehouse believes theater is a "ware" and essential for daily life. To this end, through our partnership with Goddard Riverside, the New York City's Department of Parks and Recreation, and the New York City Department of Corrections, our audience is a vast community of people who wouldn't otherwise have the opportunity to experience quality live theater. Hudson Warehouse believes everyone deserves to have the theater experience, because theater is so essential to what makes us human.

Photos by Susane Lee

About Hamlet
An adaptation of Hamlet conceived and directed by Hudson Warehouse Associate Artistic Director George K. Wells. Wells also appeared in the title role. Wells devised the gravedigger scene, originally written as a two character scene, essentially as a monologue for the gravedigger (played by Bruce Barton,) who has assorted skulls in his graveyard. These skulls do respond to him, but purely in his head.

What first attracted you to this version of Hamlet?

Bruce: I'm one of the Artists in Residence with Hudson Warehouse, so any chance to appear in one of their summer season productions is an experience I know I'm going to enjoy, as the productions invariably are cast with those who I've enjoyed working with in the company previously and newcomers bringing their own new energy to the group. With Hamlet I knew many of the cast going in. And Hudson Warehouse does classical theater so I always know going in that the material will be great.

Susane: George Wells’s adaptation was inspired. He explored Hamlet’s motives and relationships, with Ophelia and Horatio in particular, in a truly innovative way. His staging of Hamlet’s soliloquies, the most famous as a dialogue between Ophelia and Hamlet, was gripping and brought a much deeper layer to their relationship. And the emotional, passionate relationship between Hamlet and Horatio made so much sense within the text. And added another layer to the emotional heartbreak in the story.


What was your favorite part of working on this production? 

Bruce: Getting to be in Hamlet, for one. And getting to play two contrasting roles is always fun.
Susane: Watching the production evolve through the rehearsal process. Wells’ Hamlet was so raw and invigorating. I have seen many productions of Hamlet in my life, but his adaptation was the most innovative and really grabbed me. We had a terrific cast and production team that fully embraced this adaptation and the audience response was so gratifying because it was such an innovative adaptation.

What was the most challenging aspect of this experience for you? 


Bruce: Well, doing something, anything in Hamlet is challenging because you have the challenge of honoring the material and also finding a way to put your own take on the role while staying true the particular production you're in.

Susane: There were several technical elements including sound cues throughout the production. It was essential that the sound and music cues move in and out of the dialogue. Getting these two elements aligned was a challenge. It was a thrill when it all came together.





What did you want the audience to walk away with after watching this production?
Susane: A deeper sense of Hamlet’s struggle and all the emotional turmoil brought on by the loss of a parent, only elevated by the message from ghost of his father. It was so gratifying when parents told us afterwards that their children wanted to immediately go to Barnes and Noble and purchase the book!

What is the best thing about working with this company of artists?
Bruce: Being an Artist in Residence with a company whose work you respect means you have a home. A place where people whose artistic vision you respect provide an environment where you can work on great material with talented people and can feel safe to take chances and be supported. Hudson Warehouse has provided me with that so the experiences are both challenging and fun.

Susane: Bruce Barton has been an actor in New York City for the past 35 years and been an Artist in Residence of Hudson Warehouse for the past 7 years. He is an incredibly humble and modest man. This nomination really honors a man who really deserves to be recognized. He is a strong and versatile actor, someone who is memorable in all his roles, a beloved member of our company, and we couldn't be more proud or happier for him.


What was the funniest part of this production?
Susane: Bruce Barton’s gravedigger was hilarious, incredibly quirky, and conceptually inspired. Bruce has great comedic timing and delivery and gave us a gravedigger no one had seen before -- and blew everyone away!

What does receiving this nomination mean to you?
Bruce: It's very special to be nominated by audience members who've seen the show and don't necessarily know you personally but have enjoyed/appreciated your work. It's also meaningful because it reflects well on the company. Since all performances are the product of the ensemble effort, it's a tribute to the whole company's work, so as an Artist in Residence with Hudson Warehouse I'm glad to reflect that.

Susane: Independent Theater in New York is entirely motivated by the love of the work. The desperate need to get an idea, a vision and a story out there. To have our Bruce Barton nominated is so satisfying after all the energy that goes into creating Off-Off-Broadway theater. We are so proud of this recognition because outdoor theater is definitely a labor of love. It is so hard to put up a full fledged production, outdoors, only to take it down after each show. We do this for 48 shows over the summer, for three very different shows, over three months. It's so much work to put up and take down a show every night, not counting the heat and elements. But we do it because theater matters and we work incredibly hard to make our outdoor theater experience exciting and memorable for our audience. It is such an honor to be recognized by the NYIT Awards. We are thrilled and grateful.



Sunday, September 8, 2019

Honors Students

Produced by Tavine Productions
Written by Rae Mariah MacCarthy
Directed by Leta Tremblay

Nominations:
Outstanding Lighting Design - Cha See; Outstanding Sound Design - Jeanne Travis

About Honors Students
Kora and Minnie are best friends. And honors students. (Duh.) They are as smart as they are mischievous. And yes they are plotting a scheme involving a lot of money and a little blood. But when their volatile relationship is threatened by Minnie's friendship with awkward YouTube sensation Megan, all bets are off. In the tradition of Heathers and The Virgin Suicides, Honors Students asks one question: Who will survive?

Photos by Stephen Shadrach

The nominees and producer Hope Chavez answer questions about their experience of creating this production.

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What first attracted you to Honors Students?
Hope: We were drawn to Mariah's play Honors Students because it puts the ambiguities of female friendships and the extremes of being a teenage woman front and center.

Cha: The idea of being nostalgic going back to my high school days. How it can a tool to mold the shape of your body and mind.

Jeanne: Mariah MacCarthy! I have been a HUGE fan of Mariah 's work for years! She's so cool and her work is so important for women.

What was your favorite part of working on this production?
Hope: This production process was transparent and joyful in so many ways, and we think that is no accident when you put a mostly queer, femme, and POC team together. The team was able to be authentically and safely themselves which made the work shine even more!

Cha: The collaboration with sounds, sets and direction.

Jeanne: The design team was a blast! It was an all-girl-badass line up of amazing designers. It was a dream team and we had a million inside jokes after it was all said and done.

What was the most challenging aspect of this experience for you?
Hope: 100% the fake blood. We had to create danger and chaos onstage that literally made the audience squirm in there seats—on a shoestring budget. Our magical team pulled it together, though! We heard the gasps every night.

Cha: The dimensions of the space. It was very challenging doing the math and dealing with colorful backdrops and are arranged diagonally.

Jeanne: The most challenging part of the show was not wanting to leave tech! The acting was so good. The dance montages were challenging but they were so much fun we could have watched them over and over again. I still re-play the last min. of the show in my mind sometimes and my eyes get teary!

What was the funniest part about this process for you?
Cha: When the collaborators are fun and focused- half of my job is done. Everyone came in the room with openness and smart ideas.

Jeanne: Haha. We had an inside joke from a line in the show. One of the main characters says "you're so basic" a lot. So, we hashtagged #basic to everything. EVERYTHING. Even in conversation. And the whole company ran with it. If someone ate a carrot on break, we would say. OMG, gurl, that's so basic. That carrot is like so basic right now. (We're weird!! haha). :D

What did you want the audience to come away with after watching Honors Students?
Rae Mariah MacCarthy: If you find yourself judging these characters, ask yourself why. Ask yourself what your judgment is protecting you from. What would you have to give up in order not to judge them? What might you learn about yourself by relinquishing that judgment?

Did you gain any insight or learn anything new while working on this production?
Cha: It brought me back to my experiences when I was in high school in the Philippines. It was very different but at the same time it was also very similar. The struggles, the awkwardness... 
Jeanne: I met a lot of really awesome new people that I have huge design crushes on now. We're so lucky to have a community of folks that are so freaking talented.

What was it like working with this company of artists?

Hope: Cha and Jeanne are actually the perfect example of brilliance and flexibility in a production process. There was so much we dreamed for with this play and such a finite amount of resources with which to make it all possible. Jeanne and Cha worked with a spirit of abundance and not scarcity, putting the playwright’s vision front and center, and doing it joyfully along the way. They remained always curious about what was possible and highly collaborative in designing their elements of the work. Without them, the world of this play would not be possible.

Cha: They trust me. They're open for discussions - all agreements and disagreements are healthy because we all have the same end goal- to bring out what it means to be a woman or more like being a teenager in high school.

Jeanne: The producers put their hearts, souls and guts into making this show. There were a lot of risks but no one backed down to the challenges. I owe this IT nom to our fearless director, Leta Tremblay!

What does this nomination mean to you?
Hope: This nomination is a validation that work by, for, and with QPOC communities matters and stands up to the rigor of “mainstream” theater. We believe this production centered equity, justice, and access at every point (did you hear about our land acknowledgment practice and gender pronouns in the programs?) while also bringing rigor and artistry to the production. We thank all the voters for seeing us and supporting this gem of a story.

Cha: I feel that I have won already. Showing my artwork (lighting design) is very vulnerable in my opinion. Showing it is one thing and being recognized is another. It makes me feel like I am seen.

Jeanne: I'm so honored. If it wasn't for the ITs so many artists would feel "without a home". I cannot help but feel incredible appreciation for all involved. It's always a humbling experience. Thank you!



Saturday, September 7, 2019

Experimenting with Katz

Produced by New Ambassadors Theatre Company in association with Julia Botero
Written by David Adam Gill
Directed by John Robert Tillotson

Nominations: Outstanding Actor in a Featured Role - Jacob Lovendahl; Outstanding Costume Design - Julia Kuliya

About New Ambassadors Theatre Company
New Ambassadors Theatre Company is a not-for-profit collective of professional theater artists of diverse and varied backgrounds and life experiences. Through collaboration we aim to empower artists to do their finest work in an environment that fosters inclusion and honesty. A production focused company that inspires, entertains, educates, and ultimately challenges audiences through new works created by company members to celebrate and to illuminate our common humanity.

Photos by Priyanka Krishnan
About Experimenting with Katz
Michael Katz has a problem: he’s just come out of the closet (again), and it’s not going particularly well. First, his mother shows up unexpectedly in the midst of a snowstorm to ambush him with (among other things) the daughter-in-law of her dreams. Then his best friend selfishly decides to start putting her own life above his (and it’s still snowing)! On top of everything, the one person who’s willing to put up with him is the only person he doesn’t want anything to do with (at least that’s what he keeps telling himself), leaving Michael to wonder, is this really the course of true love, or is it some social experiment gone horribly wrong? And why won’t it stop snowing?!!

What first attracted you to working on this show?
Jacob: I absolutely loved the character. From her very first words. Broccoli/Ella is funny, brutally honest, and yet also really loving, and kind. She is confident in herself, and went beyond just being the typical sassy funny drag queen or as she likes to call herself "gender illusionist", to also showing great kindness and compassion and understanding. David, in my opinion, is a brilliant playwright and I remember reading the very first full version of the play, and laughing hysterically, and then crying, and then laughing again, and saying to myself, I am so so grateful to be a part of this, because its pure magic.

What was your favorite part of working on this production? And why?
Jacob:I absolutely love the rehearsal process. The cast had been together through many many readings together, and it was just beautiful to watch us all put the characters fully on their feet. Our director John Robert Tillotson and playwright David Gill, gave us such freedom to play, discover, and try new things, and through that were able to give our most authentic characters, and performances and I am so grateful for that! Also we had the MOST supportive and amazing crew... I just adore them all so much!
David Adam Gill: Watching the actors bring the characters to life. It was a gift.


What was the most challenging part of working on this production? And why?
Jacob: My Wig. hahah. She actually had a mind of her own. You know the saying some girls just can't be tamed? Well, neither could my wig. But in all seriousness, the entire experience from start to finish was really really amazing, and every time we were together it was beyond fun.

David: It was the first production I fully produced, so all the things that come more easily with subsequent productions I was learning for the first time. It was daunting.

What was the funniest part of your experience with this production?
Jacob: Three of us shared a very very very small dressing room. And Ella had a fabulous, gorgeous extensive wardrobe including tulle, and a fur coat... and tons of makeup... and tons of jewelry, and hair, and shoes... we basically had to choreograph our changes, it was hysterical.

David: We'd mostly visualized the production as proscenium presented, and had to re-visualize the entire thing once we'd settled on TheaterLab which is (or can be) has audience on two sides of the playing area. That was a challenge we had to rise too.


What is the best thing about working with this company of artists?
Jacob: I absolutely loved this cast. I was so unbelievably fortunate to work with such talented, kind, amazing actors. Supportive, encouraging, open, and the trust and safety we all had in one another was really wonderful.

David: Jacob Lovendahl was the first person ever to read for Ella and I fell in love then and there. He is so talented, and really cared to bring Ella's humanity to the forefront. Julia was a recommendation from my Costumer Shop professor at college and at our first meeting (again) I knew she would see the characters through that special lens that would enable her to dress them - not as characters, but as people. We really lucked out with Julia.
Did you learn anything or discover anything new while working on this project? If so, what?
Jacob: I learned so much from Ellas character. The biggest thing she taught me though was self love, and strength.
What did you want the audience to come away with after watching Experimenting with Katz?
David: That once you get to know someone, you'll realize you have more in common with them than not, and that fear can only thrive in an atmosphere of ignorance.
What does receiving this nomination mean to you?
Jacob: I am just beyond grateful. There are so many incredible actors and shows out there, and I am honored and humbled to be a part of the theater family, and to have shared this experience with some really incredible, amazing actors and crew. Very very humbled and grateful.
David: I'm thrilled. Again, for Jacob, I never saw anyone else playing Ella. He gave so much love and care to the character - to a character very close to my heart - I think this nomination is so deserved. And as for Julia, she just got it right away, and a good costumer can enhance or really add to the production without pulling focus away from the action, which she 100% did.