Saturday, September 24, 2016

Street Theater

Written by Doric Wilson
Directed by Mark Finley
Produced by

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.

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,’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 entrĂ© 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 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

No comments:

Post a Comment