Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Indie Theatre Week

Indie Theatre Week will be July 20th-27th this year.  

There are lots of events and some great so mark your calendars now.

  • July 19th or 20 - Flat Indie Team will be in Time Square promoting Indie Theatre Week, handing out OOB production post cards and taking photos with the Flat Indies
  • July 19 - 27 the IT Awards blog will be dedicated to Indie Theatre Week
  • July 21 - IT Awards Nominee Announcement Party
  • July 22 - LIT Hosted Event
  • July 25 - BOOBs (Broads of Off-Off-Broadway) gathering
  • July 26 - Indie Theatre MidSummer Classic softball game and picnic - followed by drinking
  • July 26 or 27 - Flat Indie Team in Time Square promoting Indie Theatre, handing out OOB production post cards and taking photos with the Flat Indies 
  • July 19 - 27 - Lots of Off-Off-Broadway productions

Updated information
is now available!

Monday, June 23, 2014

The Heart of Science Fiction

Contributed by Dan Wolpow

Quick, what’s your favorite science fiction musical? If you answered "The Rocky Horror Show,” “Little Shop of Horrors...does that count?” or “I can’t think of any,” then you’ve pretty much covered all available options. When we think about science fiction, various genre trappings usually come to mind: outer space, extraterrestrials, futuristic technology, alternate dimensions, time travel, etc. What do all of these elements have in common? They usually require special effects that are typically best left to the budgets of major motion pictures or the economically-unchallenged imagination when they appear in literature.

But if we examine more closely, we soon realize that the most popular and beloved science fiction generally uses the genre as a jumping-off point to examine character relationships and interesting themes. The film Back to the Future, to cite a favorite example, would technically be classified as a science fiction comedy, but the sci-fi (a time-travelling car) exists only as a vehicle (sorry) to propel the fascinating and hilarious notion of a teenager playing Cyrano to his own parents when they themselves were teenagers. Most of the Star Trek universe is set in a highly advanced 23rd century, but its enduring popularity is owed to a love of Kirk and Spock (or Picard and Riker, if you so choose) and their interactions with one another.

My musical Cloned! takes a similar approach. Cloned! is the story of a young, self-absorbed particle physicist named Wally Waterman, who is trying to create the world’s first functioning human teleporter. He accidentally (and unwittingly) clones himself, thus unleashing two identical Wallies into the New York City of the early 1990s. The show contains a fair amount of technobabble and features a flashy-looking telecloning machine, but we are decidedly more interested in the comedic consequences of insta-cloning than we are in the scientific plausibility behind it. With the presence of teleportation/cloning and the examination of themes of identity and individuality, the show is undoubtedly sci-fi, but it’s in service of creating unforgettable characters and musical numbers that you hum on your way out of the theater.

In this way it is possible to bring grand sci-fi ideas to the stage in the form of a musical. It’s my hope that Cloned! will join the pantheon of great science fiction stories that are as entertaining to watch as they are inherently thought provoking.


Dan Wolpow is a graduate of Cornell University and past participant in the BMI Lehman Engel Musical Theater Workshop. He contributed several songs to Keepers: A Broadway Benefit which was performed in November 2010 at Studio 54 and also appeared in the 2011 New York International Fringe Festival. Dan’s music has also been heard in association with the Public Theater’s Emerging Writers’ Group and his short musical, A Lunchtime Story, has been performed at Wayne State University. With composer Adam Spiegel, he wrote music and lyrics for The Spiegel & Wolpow Musical Comedy Hour (& A Half)! at the Laurie Beechman Theatre, and this show, which was previously read at the York Theatre in February 2013, and again as part of NYMF’s Developmental Reading Series in July 2013. He is a foodie, film enthusiast and avid video gamer. He currently resides in Brooklyn Heights. www.danwolpow.com

CLONED! plays July 7 - 15 at The Alice Griffin Jewel Box Theatre at The Pershing Square Signature Center.  For full performance schedule and to buy tickets, click here:

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Universal Blender

"Science fiction is like a blender - you can put in any historical experience and take influences from everything you see, read or experience."
                                        ~ Joss Whedon

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Happy Birthday to Us!

The New York Innovative Theatre Awards officially launched on June 21, 2004. We could not be more proud of the growth that we have made over the last 10 years or of the amazingly inspirational community that we have the honor to be a part of.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Theatre on Distant Worlds

Contributed by A. Vincent Ularich

Brian McCarthy in The Aurora Project by Bella Poynton, produced by Science Fiction Theatre Company,
September 2013. Photo by Meghan Quigley

Why is science fiction theatre suddenly so popular?  Science Fiction has existed in society, by even the strictest of definitions, for over a hundred years with novels such as Mary Shelley’s The Last Man and H.G. Wells’ The War of The Worlds. Science Fiction is prominent in many mediums including radio dramas, movies and television shows, yet until very recently it has rarely been performed onstage. Though the Wikipedia page for Science Fiction Theatre has a total of nine entries the 21st century has seen a fantastic shift in this status quo. Science fiction plays are consistently produced in major theatre cities all across the United States. Science fiction theatre festivals are becoming increasingly common including “Sci-Fest” in Los Angeles and the "Sex with Robots Festival" in Queens. The theatre community has welcomed the addition of several companies devoted to staging science fiction theatre such as Stars or Mars Theatre Company in London and Otherworld Theatre Company in Chicago. Also theatre’s academic community has embraced science fiction through the world’s first science fiction theatre conference, “Stage the Future," which was held this spring in London.  With these exciting new outposts for science fiction in theatre, a community is being built that is dedicated to establishing the growing genre.

Why did this exciting genre that has been around for generations just start building traction in the last ten years? It’s not a coincidence that the emergence of science fiction theatre occurred around the same time Hollywood recovered its main stream audience for super hero movies.. The world now has four decades worth of people who grew up on Star Wars and a president who reads Spider-Man comics. Society is in the midst of a geek revolution. This drastic shift from fringe to popular culture for comic book heroes, space epics, time travel romances and other tropes sets a foundation of legitimacy. Kids that grew up watching Star Trek and reading Batman now want these types of stories again now that they are adults. Consequently these stories require a transition into maturity and complexity. Science fiction theatre has been able to fill this void by providing fantastic, complex stories in an intimate setting that cater to an adult palette.  A blue-skinned alien ambassador with glowing eyes can stand in front of an audience without the feeling of camp. Theatre audiences now have the cultural memory to connect with these characters and worlds.

As society’s understanding of science fiction has matured playwrights have been able to use the medium to tell culturally significant stories.   A play about a teleportation accident that creates a duplicate person can address the concept of self.  A story of a woman’s search in space for her lost husband can cover grief at loss of a loved one. A tale of clones can reveal the inner workings of a father/son relationship. The natural interest we having in the fantastical is a great tool and when matched with the intimacy of theatre.  

Today’s theatre audience is ready to be taken to far off universes and distant futures because there is something about these worlds and these stories that feels very familiar.


A. Vincent Ularich is the Artistic Director of Science Fiction Theatre Company (www.SFTCBoston.com) which is entering its fourth season at the Factory Theater in Boston. He is also a playwright and director with over ten years of experience working in the New York and Boston theater communities. His short play Future Boyfriend was recently featured as part of the comedy line-up of Los Angeles’ science fiction festival “Sci-Fest.”

Monday, June 16, 2014

Staging the Impossible: Theatricality in Science Fiction

Contributed by Kelley Holley

Erin Eva Butcher in Solace by A. Vincent Ularich,
produced by Science Fiction Theatre Company, May 2013. Photo credit: Becca Lewis

Science fiction is no stranger to the stage. Though science fiction theatre may seem to be a budding concept, gaining ground in the last decade, science fiction plays have graced stages for more than 100 years. Whether these plays are adaptions (as many are, including numerous adaptions of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein) or new works, science fiction has been a constant thread through contemporary theatre history. It has waxed and waned in popularity, perhaps never reaching the truly mainstream (though popular dramatists such as George Bernard Shaw, Ray Bradbury and Sam Shepard have dabbled in it). Many have attributed science fiction theatre’s decline in the late 20th century to the prominence of movies, which are create vast worlds on screen with special effects, have epic chase scenes, and have a cast of thousands believably and easily. Yet, science fiction theatre has seen a recent surge in popularity. As science fiction theatre cannot provide the unending landscape nor the 100 foot tall creature of film. Instead, it must strive for something other. It must stage the impossible.

Rather than trying to compete with science fiction on the screen, science fiction theatre must produce a uniquely theatrical experience. “Theatricality” is not easily defined, and in the confines of this blog post, I will not attempt to do so. However, the packed term does provide a general understanding. It may be grand or it may intimate. It may be puppetry or costumes. It may be a pillar of light that demands the audience to use their imagination to create the setting. The question surrounding science fiction theatre is often “how do you put a spaceship on stage?” Theatricality is key here. Theatre artists must not try to replicate film. It can never be achieved. There is a vast, rich world for science fiction in theatre and we must strive to achieve it.

As I struggled to define “theatrical” in any strict sense, I used both the terms “intimate” and “grand.” My experience with science fiction theatre has made great use of the intimate. Creating a new world in a 50 seat theatre requires a true connection with the audience. The proximity to the bodies on stage is essential. As the audience forges a relationship with the actors, they are able to venture into strange new worlds. Theatrical science fiction does not need universe spanning battles. Instead, it can focus on questions. Science fiction theatre acts as lens for artists and audience alike to imaginatively explore possibilities. Can sound be a spaceship? Can light? Can dance?

Science fiction theatre allows artists to push the boundaries of possible. The genre already provides for the unusual and atypical: it is just that staging it must allow for these as well. Consequently, not only does science fiction provide space to ask important societal questions, but also the boundaries of how artists create theatre. The tool box of science fiction theatre is vast. There are no limits beyond what the artists can fathom. The imagination can create a creature more terrifying than CGI can, simply through the suggestion of sound. A costume can suggest an alien, both strange and immediate. Puppets can create a chase scene across universes through mere suggestion, creating a space where the intimate and tiny approaches the grand and spectacular.

Science fiction theatre is not in competition with itself in other mediums. There is something truly unique about science fiction on stage that demands the imagination to be an active participant. The theatre artists encounter questions that demand new genres and stories to explore, and new methods and aesthetics to embody them.

How does one place a spaceship on stage? How does one stage the impossible?

Nothing is impossible.


Kelley Holley is the Literary Manager of Science Fiction Theatre Company (www.SFTCBoston.com). She is a recent graduate of San Diego State University, where she earned her Master of Arts in Theatre. She has worked as a dramaturg for such organizations as The Playwright’s Project and American Repertory Theater.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Crucial to Our Salvation

"Individual science fiction stories may seem as trivial as ever to the blinder critics and philosophers of today - but the core of science fiction, its essence has become crucial to our salvation if we are to be saved at all."
                                                              ~ Isaac Asimov

Friday, June 13, 2014

Hard-to-get Beauty

"The kind of beauty I want most is the hard-to-get kind that comes from within - strength, courage, dignity."  ~ Ruby Dee

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Informal Geek Performance Art

Contributed by Charles Battersby

The stage is a natural medium for passionate extroverts clamoring to get their manifestos in front of a cheering crowd. Unfortunately, nerds tend to be introverted and would rather express their thoughts through media that doesn't require direct interaction with other humans. This might explain why science fiction theater is relatively rare, but those shy nerds have other outlets for their artistic inclinations. Online multiplayer games have improvised roleplaying just as intense as any live improv show, and comic book conventions feature costume contests where the contestants perform skits to show off outfits as elaborate as anything seen on Broadway.

I've seen live Performance Art productions in which artists try to make theater out of online video games played live onstage. They do this by typing lines into in the game and projecting it on a screen. The stage is filled with computer workstations where performers sit onstage and type while “Virtual Actors” run around in the game. This isn't much fun to watch in a theater, and it gets in the way of other players who are trying to play the game.

However some of the more devoted players in games like World Of Warcraft will roleplay their characters with just as much gusto as legitimate actors, and create elaborate backstories that rival most playwrights. Many online games have official servers where all players are required to be in character when playing the game (They can't type things about the real world, and can only behave as if they really are their game character when playing).

Roleplaying in an online game is just like doing improvisational theater. It elevates the gaming experience to see people playing in character, and it's a creative outlet for shy people who don't want to perform in a theater, but still want to perform for a live audience – if a virtual one.

Cosplay is another form of improvisational performance art. Cosplay (A portmanteau of Costume and Play) is when fans dress up as characters from comic books, video games and movies, then run around a convention pretending to be that character. It's a blend of costume design, and acting.

Perfectionism is a common trait among cosplayers, who will add in minute details to their costumes. A theatrical costume designer is making the outfit for an audience that's far away in a huge theater, but cosplayers design their outfits for people who will be standing mere inches away (With high-definition cameras). The detail and extravagance is far beyond what's seen in most stage plays, and can include full-body transforming robot suits, or Space Marine armor that's really bullet-proof, and gowns that wouldn't look out of place in Broadway's Cinderella.

Some cosplayers will take it a level further, and totally immerse themselves in their character then stay in character for lengthy periods of times at conventions. This form of emulation is a different path than being a playwright, or performing on a proper stage, but cosplaying can be art.

This sort of informal nerd theater helps make the real world more like the fictional worlds that cosplayers and gamers love. As a performance art, it doesn't get much respect, and that's the fault of artists who remain willfully ignorant of geek culture. Fortunately for the theatrical community, there are a few writers and actors who learned their medieval dialects in Azeroth, or honed their improv skills at Comic Con.


Charles Battersby is a playwright, actor and journalist who is known for his plays That Cute Radioactive Couple, and sTopless Go-Go Girls at the Troll Hole. He also writes the bi-weekly Fallout Lore webseries for Shoddycast. He is a videogame journalist who has written for sites including Complex, Joystiq, Explosion, GamesReviews, and Explosion.

Charles' new play The Astonishing Adventures of All American Girl & The Scarlet Skunk is playing through June 25th in The Brick's Comic Book Theater Festival.  http://charlesbattersby.com/astonishing-adventures

Monday, June 9, 2014

Geek Theatre Takes Over

Contributed by Charles Battersby

“Geek Chic” has taken over the film industry in the 21st Century. The producers who green light movies about giant robots and superheroes used to be children who played with toy robots, and watched the Superfriends. However the theatrical community has lagged behind in trying to tap this vast audience pool of sci-fi, comic book and video game fans. An Old Guard of theater snobs turned up their noses at geek theater, while greedy Broadway producers watched in horror as Spider-Man Turn Off The Dark became a legendary disaster. MEANWHILE: The Off and Off-Off-Broadway scene has been slowly cultivating geek artists and audiences for years. I've been a theater critic for over a decade, and a playwright for twenty years; in that time I have seen an entire generation of nerdy theatre people spring up to replace that old guard. For this generation, nerd culture isn't a novelty, it's just another form of storytelling.

There are theater companies that specialize in science fiction theater now, and a few venues that have whole festivals dedicated to gaming and comic book theater, but only a few years ago it was still a very difficult task for a playwright to get a “Genre” show produced. The stereotype was that anything with aliens, robots or superheroes had to be a children's show.

It's partially a generational issue. In the last twenty five years, the quality of geek media has changed.  Middle-aged people might be confused by adults “Playing with the Atari” and watching cartoons, but anyone under 30 came of age as nerd culture was rapidly maturing. To them, Watchmen and Return of the Dark Knight have always existed.  Super hero cartoons mean Kevin Conroy's Batman.  Video games mean Mass Effect. For this generation, geek culture has always been intelligent, complex and mature.

There's also a left-brain, right-brain conflict.  Poetry versus science.  Theater people are very accepting of ghosts, fairies and gods.  But if someone writes a play about a character who has special powers due to a lab accident, then theater audiences and critics will tune out.  Spider-Man Turn Off The Dark was a perfect example; it was re-tooled so that Spidey's origin is influenced by mythology and magic, rather than being pure sci-fi.

I've reviewed a few other shows where the writer tried to make science fiction, but ended up dumping in elements of spirituality, as though they were worried that their audiences wouldn't be able to accept a pure sci-fi setting (Or the writers themselves just didn't have a good grounding in the genre). A few years ago I reviewed a musical that had many themes in common with the novel Brave New World. When I mentioned that to the playwright, she rather smugly stated that she'd never read Brave New World.  This would be a lot like a comic book writer making a story about a vengeful Danish Prince, then declaring that they had never seen Hamlet.

I also watched in astonishment as some of my fellow theater critics wrote positive reviews of a show that was blatantly plagiarized from famous comic books. This was a clear indication that the critics had never read Watchmen or Squadron Supreme when they praised a certain show for it's clever story and cerebral concept (And unabashed appropriation of Watchmen's most famous moment).

All of this indicates that there was a general lack of understanding about sci-fi within the majority of the theater community. Yet in just the last couple of years we've seen smaller theatrical organizations create a subculture of people who bring aliens and robots to the stage. In doing so, they're cultivating a new audience who are brought to the theater by a love for the subject matter, not the medium. That's a trait which is very distinct to the new generation of audiences; they can enjoy the same franchise on a variety of media, whether it's a film, a video game, a book, or a live performance.


Charles Battersby is a playwright, actor and journalist who is known for his plays That Cute Radioactive Couple, and sTopless Go-Go Girls at the Troll Hole. He also writes the bi-weekly Fallout Lore webseries for Shoddycast. He is a videogame journalist who has written for sites including Complex, Joystiq, Explosion, GamesReviews, and Explosion.

Charles' new play The Astonishing Adventures of All American Girl & The Scarlet Skunk is playing through June 25th in The Brick's Comic Book Theater Festival.  http://charlesbattersby.com/astonishing-adventures

Friday, June 6, 2014

Science Fiction: The Art of the Possible

"Science fiction is any idea that occurs in the head and doesn't exist yet, but soon will, and will change everything for everybody, and nothing will ever be the same again. As soon as you have an idea that changes some small part of the world you are writing science fiction. It is always the art of the possible, never the impossible."
                                                       ~ Ray Bradbury

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Science Fiction—A Brave New Stage

Contributed by Jen Gunnels

The question of science fiction in theatre has become a hot topic of late, but it’s presence in theatre is not something radically new. In fact, I’ve been specializing in it as a drama critic, and it’s been around in quantity and quality for the last ten years or so, especially in regard to new original work. A quick jaunt over to Facebook’s Forum for Science Fiction in the Theatre will reveal a worldwide network of artists and critics. In New York alone there are so many sci-fi plays I cannot review all of them. For those in the know, it’s some of the most exciting new theatre in decades, but for others more versed in the “traditional” venues of science fiction—books, television, and film—natural reactions might be, “Wait . . . what?”, “Impossible to do!” and “Why bother?”
DEINDE with Rachael Hip-Flores; Photo by Justin Hoch
DEINDE with Isaiah Tanenbaum, Ken Glickfeld, David Ian Lee,
Rachael Hip-Flores, and Nitya Vidyasagar; Photo credit Justin Hoch
Sovereign with Hanna Cheek, Erin Jerozal, Sara Thigpen,
Neimah Djourabchi, Stephen Heskett, & Daryl Lathon
Photo credit Deborah Alexander

First of all, it isn’t impossible. Sci-fi isn’t just about special effects or aliens or whatever stereotypical images the genre conjures. It’s also about people who find themselves in extraordinary circumstances which require them to question their humanity and/or their relationships to one another and their world. That’s pretty much what theatre does. Period. Theatre is very good at examining huge questions about the human experience and has been for quite some time. Long before books and film, actually.
Second, look around for a moment. Are you reading this blog on a laptop? Tablet? Smartphone? Everyday life has become more and more science-fictional. We’re living in the future. It makes perfect sense that theatre, an art form which has always mirrored the social and cultural circumstances surrounding its production, would include sci-fi. This is how we tell stories now, and this is how we come to grips with questions concerning the future as well as dealing with the current fallout from the onrush of technologic progress.

Two playwrights, my unabashed favorites, expertly wield sci-fi to create poignant, powerful characters in unenviable circumstances. August Schulenburg, playwright and artistic director of Flux Theatre Ensemble, did this admirably in DEINDE, explored what happens to humans when they jack themselves directly into a quantum computer in order to save planet from a virus. Mac Rogers, the reigning sci-fi playwright here in New York, wrote the award-winning Honeycomb Trilogy (Advance Man, Blast Radius, Sovereign) produced by Gideon Productions, utilizing the trope of alien invasion and masterfully created an amazing character study without having to show us a single alien.

Blast Radius featuring Becky Byers and Adam Swiderski
Photo credit Deborah Alexander
This is the merest taste of the many original sci-fi plays I’ve seen and doesn’t include the remarkable science-fictional production designs that have been applied to more “traditional” work—as with the most recent Steampunk treatment of The Tempest at the American Repertory Theater.

Are there different concerns with creating this kind of theatre? Schulenburg would say that the concerns of sci-fi theatre are merely the concerns of theatre dressed in speculative drag. True. Rogers would readily echo the sentiment. The challenges of producing science fiction for the stage, however, is a question for another day, and one that is in the process of constant innovation and revision as artists and critics work together in building into theatrical practices sensibilities addressing the needs of sci-fi and theatre alike. (As an aside, artists and critics enjoy an amazing working relationship in this type of theatre for which I am profoundly grateful.) If anything, sci-fi theatre provides an opportunity for the art to move forward in a way that will challenge audiences, artists, and critics in exciting ways.


Jen Gunnels is the theatre editor for the New York Review of Science Fiction and holds a PhD in theatre history and criticism from the University of Texas at Austin. She created the Forum for Science Fiction in the Theatre on Facebook and has contributed essays and reviews to a number of books and scholarly journals. Most recently she gave a keynote at Stage the Future—the First Conference for Science Fiction Theatre at Royal Holloway, University of London.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

The Future is Now: Science Fiction on Indie Stages

Through books and films, the science fiction genre has captured the imagination of audiences around the world. However only the very bold would consider presenting sci-fi in a live performance. Such an undertaking has unique challenges. Of course in the world of Off-Off-Broadway the phrase "unique challenges" is tantamount to "we can't wait to find a way to make it work." So it is not surprising that Indie theatres are spearheading the rise and expansion of this trend.

We have some great contributors lined up this month who will be exploring the challenges, psychology, and future of this genre in live theatre:

Charles Battersby, Playwright and Journalist
Jen Gunnels, Theatre Editor for the New York Review of Science Fiction
Kelley Holley, Literary Manager of Science Fiction Theatre Company
Vincent Ularich, Artistic Director of Science Fiction Theatre Company
Dan Wolpow, Playwright

and more....

Monday, June 2, 2014

Technology in Theatre Wrap Up

We hope you found our month dedicated to technology in theatre interesting and maybe even inspired you to think about using technology in an innovative way for your next production. We would like to thank all of our contributors. 

Check out these thought provoking posts: