Monday, July 31, 2017

Three Sisters



Written by Anton Chekov
Directed by Maggie Cino

Produced by Obvious Volcano in association with Maggie Cino


Nominations: Outstanding Actress in a Lead Role: Sarah K. Lippmann; Outstanding Actress in a Lead Role: Moira Stone; Outstanding Actress in a Featured Role: Ivanna Cullinan; Outstanding Revival of a Play: Three Sisters


Clockwise from top: David J. Goldberg, Paul Weissman, Clara Francesca, Richard Lovejoy,
David Arthur Bachrach, Mick O'Brien, Ivanna Cullinan, Derrick Peterson, Sarah K. Lippmann
(not pictured: Lynn Berg, Amanda LaPergola-Bernhard)



About the Production: A full length, fully realized, environmentally-staged production of the Three Sisters where the comedy comes from fully investing in the story.

Here the artists talk to us about their experiences performing this challenging classical work.
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What attracted you to this project?


Maggie: I work full time for the marvelous storytelling The Moth, but sometimes I like to go deep into psychologically complex literature. Chekhov himself was one of the inventors of contemporary narrative nonfiction, so the connection is closer than it originally appears!

Moira: The cast Maggie put together was like a murderer's row of indie theater. I had deep, years-long relationships with at least half of them. If we were going to put up one of the great plays in the Western canon in a comically short rehearsal period, then this was the way to do it; with a group that had that history and trust on Day One.

Sarah: It's Chekhov! How could I possibly say no?

Ivanna: The possibility of working with the crazy-talented Maggie Cino and her committed ear for the play's meaning


What was your favorite part of working on this production?

Maggie: Having the opportunity to work with actors whose work I respected at a theater that I love and with a script I have wanted to do for a very long time!

Moira: Working with Sarah Lippmann — a fantastic actress who happens to be my best friend of 18 years. Any chance we get to share the stage is one I treasure. Also, falling in love with Derrick Peterson's Vershinin every night was no chore.

Sarah: Great cast, great script, great director. A total gift from beginning to end.

Ivanna: Engaging with Chekhov in a way that finally opened up his work for me, and all the marvelous actors involved.


Moira Stone (foreground); David Arthur Bachrach, Clara Francesca,
Ivanna Cullinan, Mick O'Brien, Richard Lovejoy (background)

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

Maggie: It's an epic undertaking. Twelve actors, environmental staging that changed configuration from the round to thrust, and a gorgeous script that is so intricate that as we unpacked layers of meaning it felt like a series of psychological Russian nesting dolls!

Moira: I don't do classic plays! I spent maybe a semester in college 20 years ago studying Chekhov, and aside from some Shakespeare, haven't touched a play written before 1950 since. I was completely convinced I would fuck it up, and relied heavily on Maggie's steady directorial hand.

Sarah: Truncated rehearsal process and a short run.

Ivanna: We had a very tight, albeit well-organized rehearsal time frame. It was terrifying and exciting.


What was the audiences' reaction to the work?

Maggie: The audience was warmly invited in as the show began. They were greeted by the servant characters, ate food off the very table the characters eat dinner at in Act 1. But as things got more unstable and uncomfortable for the Prozerovs, they got more unpredictable for the audience as well! The seating configuration was changed at intermission and the audience was forced into a much smaller space. The audience loses the beautiful, comfortable world the same way the characters lose it and so become more invested in their destinies.


What was the quirkiest part of the production?

Maggie: One of our last rehearsals was during the huge March blizzard - and the actors still found their way to the theater rather than lose the opportunity to work more on this intricate script!

Sarah: Always a joy to know so many people in the show. It's like family.

Ivanna: I now have a standing burger date with a cast mate who is equally committed to deadly food.

What insight did you gain while working on this production? 

Ivanna: Every scene in a Chekhov play is its own short story. Ignore its completeness at your peril.

What was it like working with this group of artists?

Maggie: All three actresses have been doing top notch work in Indie Theater for years, and I'm honored that this is the platform that got them recognition from the IT Awards!

Ivanna: The level of commitment to the best show every time



Ivanna Cullinan (left), Sarah K. Lippmann (right)



Sunday, July 30, 2017

I hate endings... Sam Shepard


"I hate endings. Just detest them. Beginnings are definitely the most exciting, middles are perplexing and endings are a disaster.  The temptation towards resolution, towards wrapping up the package, seems to me a terrible trap. Why not be more honest with the moment? The most authentic endings are the ones which are already revolving towards another beginning. That's genius."
                                                              ~ Sam Shepard 


Picture courtesy of Caffe Cino Pictures


"When you write a play, you work out like a musician on a piece of music. You find all the rhythms and the melody and the harmonies and take them as they come."                                                 ~ Sam Shepard


Friday, July 28, 2017

Much Ado About Nothing


Written by William Shakespeare
Directed by Nicholas Martin-Smith
Produced by Hudson Warehouse



Nominations: Outstanding Revival of a Play; Emily Rose Parman for Outstanding Costume Design


Benedick (Greg Horton), Claudio (George K. Wells), Don Pedro (Paul Singleton), Balthasar (Nate Mattingly) Photo by Susane Lee

About the Company: Hudson Warehouse's mission is to provide quality, exciting, innovative, and affordable classical theater to the community. The Warehouse believes theater is a "ware" and essential for daily life. To this end, the Warehouse doesn't sell tickets, but has a "pay what you can" policy because the arts should be affordable to everyone. Those unable to pay are still welcome because the Warehouse believes everyone deserves to have the theater experience, because theater is so essential to what makes us human.

About the Production: A peace treaty is signed and the war between Prince Pedro and his brother Don John is over. Well-deserved R & R on the estate of Don Leonato brings with it: Friendship, Love, Conspiracy and Betrayal. For “Idle hands are the devil’s workshop.”

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What attracted you to this project?

Susane:  Benedick and Beatrice is usually cast with younger actors, but Nicholas Martin-Smith, the director, and I felt the story would be more profound and meaningful if the actors cast in the title roles were older. When you're older and haven't found your match, then love is even more hard-won. Greg Horton and Roxann Kraemer, two very fine actors, were the perfect match for this production. Once they were on board, we knew this production would be special.

What was your favorite part of working on this production?
Susane: Getting to work with Greg Horton and Roxann Kraemer was a special treat. The fact that they are a couple in real life made their chemistry true and sizzling -- and it was also special because this was a play that they had wanted to do for a long time. They came to us with the play, letting us know it was on their bucket list. So to be able to fulfill one of their long-cherished wishes made us at Hudson Warehouse immensely happy.

Emily: Working with our leading actors, Roxann Kraemer and Greg Horton, is always a delight. The late 1930's/early 1940's is a period that is particularly close to my heart.

What was the most challenging part of working on this production?
Emily: Recreating period Military Uniforms on a budget.

What did you hope the audience would take away from this production?

Susane: To appreciate what we do. While we are an outdoor theater production, we hope people can see how much care we take in putting on the biggest, most exciting and engaging show possible. This includes having furniture on the north patio, many props, gorgeous costumes, incredibly talented actors and a dedicated backstage crew. It takes a special kind of person to do outdoor theater and we want our audiences to be WOWED by what we can put out there, in a public park, a production that can rival any indoor production.
Beatrice, played by Roxann Kraemer, Benedick, played by Greg Horton

What was the strangest thing that happened during the production?

Susane: Greg Horton, who played Benedick, eats cake during one scene. We perform outdoors and very quickly, the wildlife in the park was aware that delicious vanilla cake was on the premises. Although we covered his cake onstage, birds still dive bombed the stage during the performance, catching crumbs that fell to the ground. It actually made the scene very amusing and real.

What was it like working with this group of artists?

Susane: Everyone involved in Much Ado About Nothing spent their heart and soul into the production, and it showed. The entire cast and crew was a splendid delight to work with and our audiences were fabulous! Emily, who is our resident costume designer, outdoes herself in every show. From the handsome uniforms, to the women's dresses, to Hero's wedding dress -- the costumes were a treat for the eyes and perfectly set the scene in Italy. A truly rewarding and spectacular experience for all!
 
Emily: Since Costumes are our main design element, I always feel an extraordinary sence of contribution to the final product. On our stage, the costumes truly create the world of the show.

Check out Hudson Warehouse on Twitter & Instageram @HudsonWarehouse


 

Thursday, July 27, 2017

In the Room



Written by Lawrence Dial
Directed by Adam Knight
Produced by Kelli Giddish with SLANTheatre Project, in association with Wheelhouse Theater Company

Nominations: Outstanding Premiere Production of a Play; Adam Knight for Outstanding Director; Lawrence Dial for Outstanding Original Full-Length Script; Jacob Perkins for Outstanding Actor in a Featured Role; Outstanding Ensemble: Susan Neuffer, Jacob Perkins, Suzy Jane Hunt, Chelsea Melone, Matt Harrington, Reuben Barsky, Rob Karma Robinson



About the Companies: Slant Theatre Project is a group of artists that thrive on the danger of building the plane in flight. We do visceral work. We tailor each process to the artists and performance space, and are committed to creating a playground for emerging theatre artists.

Wheelhouse Theater Company is an ensemble driven by collective inquiry and curiosity that deepens our sense of trust and abandon, which allows our audience to delight in the risks that are complicit in the telling of bold stories. Born from a shared enthusiasm for playful collaboration, we are a company of theater artists committed to producing joyful, transformative and highly physical productions.

About the Production: In the Room finds seven disparate characters in a playwriting workshop. The classroom takes on a life of its own, as alliances are formed and broken, and each writer confronts his or her “unresolved issue.” How do you close that door once it’s been opened?

The artists talk to us about creating this intimate performance about creating theatre, when there is no place to hide.

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What attracted you to this project?
Adam: Slant had worked with playwright Lawrence Dial in 2008 on BEEF. I’ve know him for a long time and have directed three of his plays. We often meet up and he’ll hand me a stack of pages and a glass of wine and go from there. This play was one of those stacks, and the more we talked about it, the more we realized it was the right project for this moment in our lives and careers. In many ways it captures this moment in the industry, with the economics of holding workshops and renting our rehearsal space trumping the economics of putting on a new production and the risk that entails. And it's about people at all stages of their life in the theatre: some hopeful, some jaded, some hobbyists -- and all of those are valid. This play of hearkened back to an earlier period of Slant Theatre Project’s history where we’d stage plays in comedy clubs or the hulls of ships, anywhere but a theatre. We performed this play in a rehearsal room – which is where the action of this play would actually take place – allowing the audience to experience the piece from an intimate vantage point.

Susan: I had worked with director Adam Knight previously on a production of Lend Me A Tenor, and I adored him. I was delighted at the prospect of working with him again.

Jacob: The playwright, Lawrence Dial.

Suzy: The script and the people working on it

Lawrence: Exposing the unseen toils of amateur playwrights.

What was your favorite part of working on this production?
Adam: This play had an ensemble that was off the charts. Some of them I'd worked with for years, and some I'd just met, but there was an intimacy in the room that was palpable and that translated into the nuanced performances. It really was theatre without a net, with the audience literally inches away from actors who seemed to be truly living these characters. Collaborating with co-producers Kelli Giddish and Wheelhouse Theater Company was for us a very rewarding experience. These are artists we respect immensely, and the work never would have found such richness and depth without their input from the early periods into techs. Kelli is such an impressive actor and she was able to illuminate Lawrence's characters in a unique way. And Jeff Wise of Wheelhouse lent his signature artistry to the transitions in the piece: a dance of tables and folding chairs!

Jacob: The ensemble with whom I shared the story every night was my favorite part of this experience. Everyone led with tremendous heart and generosity.

Suzy: The challenging intimacy of the space we worked in and definitely the people involved.

Lawrence: Definitely the ensemble of actors and crew that came together to make the show a success.

What was the most challenging part of working on this production?
Adam: The play takes place in a rehearsal room, mostly around a table. I chose to stage the play in a deep thrust configuration, and that creates about a million variables and sight-lines to consider, especially when many of the scenes are static. Every little gesture was ultimately choreographed down to head turns and glances... The result was outstanding -- a play that felt unique and personal from every vantage point.

With any Off-Off Broadway production, there's the need for press and audience, and how to balance that with the artistic needs of the piece. For this play, we really felt that the play needed to be staged in a rehearsal room -- but those rooms aren't really conducive to the audience experience: sitting in a cramped room in a third-floor walk-up. I'm very proud that we stuck to our artistic guns and that the audience and the critics went along for the ride.

Susan: The play was staged in the round as if we were "in the room,"  -- in the playwriting class. And the theatre was a very intimate space. So you could look up from your notebook and be looking right into an audience member's face. It took a little getting used to.

Jacob: The intimacy between audience and actors was a challenge. There was no opportunity to hide a false note in our storytelling. This was also the greatest reward.

Suzy: The intimate and vulnerable nature of the text and translating that to a theatrical experience.

Lawrence: Transitions, transitions, transitions. (We had to figure out a way to breakdown and then moments later rebuild a playwrighting workshop every fifteen minutes without annoying our audience.)

What was the audiences' reaction to the work?
Adam: Usually when working on a play, you move from the rehearsal room into the theatre, and that transition is when the illusion starts to better take hold. This play took place IN a rehearsal room, so we didn't have that luxury. Instead, we had to ask ourselves to more fully see the space around us, and to unearth the reality of these rooms and all their quirks. There's a scene where noise is coming from a loud rehearsal next door and how the characters respond to that is instantly recognizable to anyone who's been in that situation. Our production really placed the audience as a fly on the wall of an artistic process: the chairs literally lined the perimeter of the space. I hope that they really felt like they experienced, not only the seldom-seen world of a writers' workshop, but also saw real lives unfolding before their eyes. It was incredibly close proximity, which I think is something that Off-Off-Broadway can deliver better than any other medium. It's theatre without a net.

What was the quirkiest part of the production?
Adam: Our production took place in a rehearsal room, and there are ALWAYS pianos in rehearsal rooms. We had one of our actors (Jacob Perkins) open up the piano and perform a song he wrote. I think that was very satisfying, to finally use one of those pianos!

Jacob: I played an originally composed piano piece while wearing a dress and lipstick -- that was a highlight.


What insight did you gain while working on this production? 
Adam: I learned that an audience will be willing to walk up two flights of stairs and sit in a crowded space if the art is worth it!

Suzy: Folding tables are the devil.

Lawrence: It became obvious early on, that less is more was really key to the success of the actor's performances with this play. It was surprising how much fun it was just to watch the actors do nothing. Previously, I had been self-conscious that there wasn't enough happening in this play, but by the end of the production we were doing less and less with bigger results.

What made this team's work stand out?
Adam: Our cast and team are BRAVE BRAVE BRAVE. This was a show performed literally inches from the audience in a room that left nothing to the imagination. There was nowhere to hide, and our cast found thrilling moments of vulnerability, nuance, anger, and passion. And it was funny.

What was it like working with this company?
Susan: What a fantastic, talented group of actors. Also, the production team was lovely and generous and treated us like we were stars!

Jacob: The support provided by Mat Smart, Matt Dellapina, et al. just by showing up again and again with positive attitudes and patient humility.

Adam: They were brave! And they made it personal. It's so difficult to fully "be" onstage when you're inches away from the audience. Especially without the illusion of wings or a fourth wall. I tip my hat the ensemble.

Suzy: The company was terrific and showed unfettered support of all involved.

Lawrence: Slant Theatre Project and Wheelhouse Theatre Company are both very 'hands on' collectives that like get down and dirty when working on a project. Nothing is precious; trial and error reigns supreme.

Make sure to check out these artists on Twitter:
SLANTheatre - @SLANTheatre
Wheelhouse Theater Company - @wheelhousetcnyc 
Kelli Giddish - @KelliGiddish
Susan Neuffer - @sneuffer
Adam Knight - @adamknightnyc
Suzy Jane Hunt - @swoozyjane

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Evensong



Written by Christina Quintana
Directed by David Mendizábal
Produced by Astoria Performing Arts Center

Nominations: MarieLouise Guinier for Outstanding Actress in a Featrued Role & Arlene Chico-Lugo for Outstanding Actress in a Lead Role


Francis Mateo as Ricardo and Arlene Chico-Lugo as Rosa    Photo by Michael Dekker

About the Company: APAC’s mission is to bring high quality theater to Astoria, Queens, and greater NYC, and to support local youth and senior citizens.

About the Production:  This was the world premiere for Christina Quintana’s play Evensong. Teofilo “Teo” Aguilar is a young Mexican-American gay man and member of New York City’s working homeless population. A Texas transplant with big dreams, Teo works as a bank teller, goes on mediocre online dates, and searches for stability and human connection while navigating the tangled shelter system. Using structural elements of choral music and conventions of theatrical magic, Evensong is a tale of survival, growth, and faith in moments of loneliness and solitude.

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What attracted you to this project?
Dev: I was drawn to programming Evensong because of its intimate look at the life of NYC's working homeless and the idea of the need for connection among busy and lonely city dwellers that it illuminates. The beautiful writing and the characters drew me in immediately.

MarieLouise: When I was called by the casting agent Robin Carus, I was immediately interested as I have a great deal of respect for her work and the projects she works on.

Arlene: To be honest, what really attracted me to the show was getting the sides and realizing that I would get to work with a box for the audition. I love object work, something to hold on to. The character receives a box in the mail that ends up playing a major part in her life. I felt Rosa's words were a world I could easily slip into. It's a beautiful story and play.

Marie Louise Guinier as Gladys
Photo by Michael Dekker


What was your favorite part of working on this production?
Dev: Getting to watch a wonderful director/playwright collaboration and to learn more about the relevant topics in the play.

MarieLouise: It's hard to choose one favorite part of working on this production. The actors, director, author ~ all extremely talented which made the process and the outcome something I could be proud of.

 






What was the most challenging part of working on this production?
Dev: Our middle weekend of shows was right after the election and so it was challenging to keep going. But the actors came in and delivered and the audiences were so happy to be with us sharing in this particular story at a time when we needed to be reminder about compassion and caring for one another most.

What insight did you gain while working on this production?

Dev: That everyone deserves a second look - from the guy on the subway, to the woman on the sidewalk. We don't know anyone's "story" until we get to know them. Evensong challenges viewers to take a look at preconceived notions about the people we meet.

Arlene: I guess the biggest takeaway for me came from playing the character. Sometimes, as hard as it may be, you have to fight for hope. And it was heartbreaking learning about the homeless rate and shelter system in New York City. In place where so much new development is happening, it feels pretty inexcusable that so many people are without a home.

What made Arlene and MarieLouise's work standout?

Dev: Arlene Chico-Lugo and MarieLouise Guinier brought such truth and strength to their performances. Their work was incredible!

What was it like working with APAC?

MarieLouise: Acting in the theater often makes me think of an exciting basketball game. All players need to be present and on their game, in the zone, throwing, receiving, making those amazing dunks, 3 pointers or scoring at the buzzer, no matter the refs, the crowd etc. But when someone is having an off night, other players pick up the slack. This is what working with this company was like.

Make sure to follow APAC on Twitter @APACNYC and on Instagram @apacgram


Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Boys of a Certain Age


Written by Dan Fingerman
Directed by Dan Dinero
Produced by Willow Theatricals

Nomination: R. Scott Williams, Outstanding Actor in a Lead Role

R. Scott Williams and Joseph J. Menino, Boys of a Certain Age, Willow Theatricals, photo by Hunter Canning

About this Production:
Ira and Larry were Hebrew school classmates who took different paths in life. Ira came out and moved to the city; Larry got married, had a family and came out later in life. Now, following the 2016 election, they're spending one memorable weekend together with Larry's son Bryan, Ira's nephew Christopher and a whole lot of gay history.

Playwright Dan Fingerman and Actor R. Scott Williams tell us about staging this coming of age story.


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What attracted you to this project?

Dan: I had wanted to write this story for a while. There are so many guys that I know who survived the AIDS epidemic and are now experiencing all of the pro-gay changes of the last few years. I thought that was a very unique vantage point, that wasn’t being represented. At the same time I also wanted to write something about the debates I had witnessed about the definition of gay identity occurring with younger gay men; whether or not it was acceptable or self-hating to put terms like “masc” in your Grindr profile and so on. I had written maybe 10 to 15 pages of each, but it didn’t really go anywhere because there wasn’t enough conflict. Then one day I realized that by merging the two ideas there could be a very interesting perspective. It also allowed for a number of unique differences and unexpected agreement between the four men.

R. Scott: I was very excited for the chance to work on a new play with the playwright in the room.
What was your favorite part of working on this production?
R. Scott: The family feeling the four actors created among ourselves.

Dan: We expected we'd have some, but we had A LOT of older gay men who saw the show and came up to us after or emailed us or posted on social media about how the experiences of the older guys in this show mirrored their own lives.It was very overwhelming to meet so many real life Iras and Larrys and hear them say we got it (mostly) right. It was also very nice that a number of actors like Jack Weatherall and John Benjamin Hickey made it to the show.

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

R. Scott: The biggest challenge was purely a technical one: moving into the theatre only 2 days before the first audience arrived.

Dan: We were homeless for a bit. We did the show at the Fresh Fruit Festival in 2016 and rented Soho Rep's Walker Space for the fall, originally planning on opening around Election Day. We had just announced our show and like two days later they announced that they were closing because they apparently (despite decades of productions) did not actually have the right certificates. It turned out to be a god send because we found TheatreLab and our show would likely not have found a the same enthusiastic audience after the election results.
 What was it like working with this cast?
Dan: It was very enjoyable watching the actors interact. Our rehearsal room was full of education. The younger guys helped the older guys create websites and explained things like Grindr and the older guys told us about the original production of Evita and going to gay bars to watch The Golden Girls on a big screen TV.

R. Scott Williams is a wonderful actor and a great guy who had been working for many years all over the country usually in classics. Boys was very different from his usual work and he told us numerous times how much he was enjoying creating a new work.
It was a wonderful experience and something I'm extremely proud of.



Monday, July 24, 2017

It Awards Manifesto: We Are All in This Together


The atmosphere of 2017 has been challenging, to say the least, with the word "divided" used as a near constant drumbeat. The New York It Awards wishes to stand as a bulwark against this negativity and malaise. As an advocacy organization dedicated to celebrating indie theater, we reiterate our dedication to this art form. Theater is always vital to culture as a way to communicate and express what it means to be human. Art reflects and reveals aspects of life and humanity. We gain relief, release, and respite from art as well as catharsis in living through the events we see on stage, hopefully gaining some level of understanding about our own lives and those of people and perspectives we may have not encountered before. As human beings we are drawn to story, and as artists we share our stories in a manner of daring and vulnerability. 

Art is an act of love.

As artists, we let our audiences know "you are not alone". And in this time of challenge and rancor, where our society increasingly feels unmoored, more than ever it is important to remember you are not alone. We are all in this together. Over the coming months, the It Awards will engage in initiatives to remind you of these simple truths and that you are part of a valuable community across all the disciplines of theater, including its audience:


  • We will be sharing our stories of what theater means to us and why it is important
  • We will be sharing stories from artists across NY indie theater answering those same questions
  • We will invite you to share your stories on our Facebook page and our blogs' comments section

We are excited to take up the gauntlet of positive, loving action toward ourselves, each other, and our community. Please join us.