Directed by Christopher Diercksen
Produced by Team Awesome Robot
Nominated for: Outstanding Lighting Design, Chelsie McPhilimy; Outstanding Set Design, Jennifer Neads; Outstanding Actress in a Featured Role, Lauren Nordvig; and Outstanding Original Music, Ryan McCurdy
About the Production
Committed to fully embracing a collaborative process, Team Awesome Robot’s inaugural production Rush, was an ensemble effort. According to Theatre In the Now’s Michael Block “Team Awesome Robot takes the audience to a place where they may not have ventured to before.” Set in the Yukon in 1899, Rush is a dark tale about a couple who are far more than they appear to be.
Producer Yvonne Hartung and nominees Chelsie McPhilimy, Jennifer Neads, Lauren Nordvig, Ryan McCurdy share their experience of working on this ominous and thought provoking mystery.
What attracted you to this production?
Chelsie: I loved the script for Rush from the moment I finished reading it. It was so unique, and that really piqued my interest in the production.
Jennifer: I'm a pretty big Chris Diercksen fan. I'm thankful that he trusted me to help create this world. Not to mention that it was Team Awesome Robot's inaugural production!
Lauren: Team Awesome Robot is a brand new company of amazing artists and I was so excited to be involved in their first full-fledged production. Being able to lend time and energy to their mission of bringing to life new plays was my pleasure and I can't wait to see what they do next!
Ryan: I don't get to score theatre nearly as much as I'd like to, so I jumped at the chance of creating something wholly original within an historical framework.
Yvonne: The script never stopped surprising us from beginning to end. The plot was an adventure but the story effectively relied on mystery. Further, the themes of early feminism and a challenged masculinity were fascinating.
What did you want the audience to come away with after watching Rush?
Yvonne: We wanted the audience to have that feeling after a play where the real world is a little unfamiliar… a little disoriented but having been entertained. And then later, as time passes, for the audience to consider the roles of gender in our society today.
What was your favorite part of working on this production?
Lauren: This company's spirit of collaboration was phenomenal--the assembled team was so talented and did wonders with their limited resources. Music, lighting, set...the perfect blend of beauty and function.
Chelsie: My favorite part of working on this production had to be the wonderfully talented group of artists I was privileged to work alongside. It was truly a collaborative endeavor, and I'm so thankful to have been a part of it.
Ryan: The collaborative nature of Team Awesome Robot and the opportunity to work inside of a terrific Beth Lake sound design.
Yvonne: The generosity of our collaborators: everyone, from the playwright to the house manager was all-in on serving the story was our favorite part of working on this production. Working with people who are so giving of their talents and time is rare and to have a great time in the process of an indie-theater tech week is even rarer.
Jennifer: The entire creative team is so talented.
What was the most challenging part of working on this production?
Lauren: Switching back and forth between two dialects...my ear had to fight to stay on target and I'm sure I raised a few eyebrows when people noticed me muttering to myself between scenes.
Yvonne: The realization that none of us knew any performers who identified as Native American or First Nations to play the role of Rosie, a First Nations character, was the most challenging part of working on this production. It speaks to the lack of opportunity for native performers in this country. We broadened our network, asking friends of friends of friends to find performers to audition and were finally able to find a great actress, Charley Flyte, to play Rosie.
Ryan: The entire production took place on a bed of dirt fragments, which affected the venue's acoustics in a number of unexpected ways!
What was the weirdest part of working on Rush?
Yvonne: We had an amazingly dedicated design and production team- and not just dedicated to their own prescribed designs and jobs. Most notably, Rush’s set was made up of nearly 100 lbs of corn cob animal bedding, which then had to be dyed to the color of soil for use as a dirt floor. This was a big job and adding to the fact that we did not have a lot of time, we also learned that we did not have enough! So over the course of 4 days, cleaning out every PetCo between New Rochelle and Wayne, New Jersey, we dyed, dried, and spread the floor. Along with set designer, Jennifer Neads, our lighting designer, Chelsie McPhilimy, sound designer, Beth Lake, Production Manager, Rhiannon Tasker, and Stage Manager, Rivka Friedlander, worked tirelessly with us to dye all of the corn cob over the course of four days. Ultimately the “dirt” looked amazing, providing texture and sound to the piece that wouldn’t have been achieved by just painting the floor. It definitely wouldn’t have happened without the entire team.
Jennifer: It was a bit of an undertaking to fill a stage with faux dirt and get it to just the right shade of Yukon topsoil-brown. That one was truly a group effort.
Lauren: Its always terrifying to work on a play when you know the playwright is going to see it. I don't have to worry about that so much with "the classics" so it makes me nervous on a whole new level!
What was it like working with Team Awesome Robots?
Jennifer: I loved working on with this company. Everything. The clear focus on good storytelling.
Lauren: Their passion and drive--ah, the energy of youth!
Ryan: Their staff and their respect for their playwrights and cast/crew was impressive and made us all feel like our creative efforts were valued.
What was it like working with Chelsie, Jennifer, Lauren, and Ryan?
Yvonne: Lauren Nordvig is such a giving performer. Her confident performance as Alice never left any doubt that this woman is capable and not to be underestimated. She’s also a lovely collaborator and a joy to spend time with.
Jennifer Neads can make anything. We gave her next to no budget and she made a tangible world. That floor took the audience out of New York City and into the Yukon immediately.
Chelsie McPhilimy was able to create very specific locations with not a lot of instruments or time to experiment. She perfectly supported the very active and dynamic staging of our play that never stopped.
Ryan McCurdy wrote haunting and engaging music that perfectly complimented both Beth Lake’s sound design and Callie Kimball’s text. This music provided a sense of mood that permeated throughout the production.
You can follow these artists on Twitter
Team Awesome Robot - @teamawesomerobo
Jennifer Neads - @jenniferneads
Ryan McCurdy - @ryanmccurdyarts