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.


Friday, September 6, 2019

Entangled

Produced by The Amoralists
Written by Charly Evon Simpson & Gabriel Jason Dean
Directed by Kate Moore Heaney

Nominations: Outstanding Actress in a Lead Role – Naomi Lorrain; Outstanding Original Full-Length Script - Gabriel Jason Dean & Charly Evon Simpson

About the Amoralists
We are The Amoralists. A diverse collective of uncompromising artists. Founded in 2006, we produce original work that confronts the American condition in all its complexity. Our stories are emotionally charged and character driven, a place where politics and perspectives collide and no side emerges unscathed. Explosive, vital, raucous and raw, we do theatre, no moral judgement.

Photos by Travis Emery Hackett
About Entangled
In the aftermath of a mass shooting in NYC, the black mother of a victim and the white brother of the shooter try to make sense of what happened, each individually grappling with a soul-shattering experience that few understand. An exploration of loss and survival, Entangled is the story of two strangers connected by tragedy in a nation still struggling to see itself for what it is.

The nominees and producer James Kautz give us some insight into developing Entangled.

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What first attracted you to Entangled?
James: The opportunity to explore this very important topic with extremely talented playwrights and artists

Naomi: I am an eternal fan of Charly Evon Simpson's writing and I originated the part of Greta in her previous play Stained.

Gabriel: I was commissioned by the Amoralists as part of their 'Wright Club. I had been working on a musical, OUR NEW TOWN, with the Civilians which was about a fictional shooting on a college campus and so the crossover to the Amoralists Ricochet project was easy.



What was your favorite part of this production?
James: The creation process was incredible personal for all involved - and sharing it with our audience - the conversations in the lobby and the house after the show - was our favorite part of the production. The conversations were heartfelt, heated and abundant.

Naomi: I especially enjoyed illuminating the racial politics that exist within the modern day epidemic that are mass shootings.

Gabriel: It was so rewarding to work with Charly over the course of 18 months. Our conversations were incredible. Entangled was the first time I’ve done something so collaborative with a straight play. And I feel the work is a lot deeper and more examined as a result.

Charly: Getting to work along side Gabriel was a true delight.

What was the most challenging aspect of this experience for you?
James: Building new plays around difficult subject matter with multiple playwrights takes time and care - and scheduling was by far the most difficult part of this process. Our two playwrights exploded with popularity and productions in 2018/2019.

Naomi: The subject matter was extremely difficult and the monologue style of delivery had its challenges but I believe in Charly's writing and the importance and urgency of the story being told.

Gabriel: Charly and I both had rolling world premieres through the National New Play Network going on at the time and so finding the time to get together was tricky. We eventually settled on writing the script via a Google doc which we both edited and offered comments on and then we followed up with phone conversations.

Charly: Co-writing a play when you are barely in the same place at the same time was a huge challenge for us and really affected how we wrote the play.



What did you want the audience to take away with them after seeing Entangled?
James: I wanted them to have a greater need, ability and urgency to discuss gun violence (and violence in general) in our country and a deeper compulsion to change the status-quo.

What was the most unique or noteworthy part of this production?
James: Our two playwrights wrote this play over the course of two - three months through phone calls, emails and a shared google doc. They’re warriors at the top of their craft.

Naomi: Entangled was one of my most unique & noteworthy experiences I've ever had because of three main things: One, I've never been in a play were I never spoke directly to my scene partner. Two, we had an extremely sparse set consisting of only two chairs and a projector and lastly, I've never been in a show with literally no props whatsoever. The story and connection with the audience was all we had.

Gabriel: When Charly and I first began talking about the characters for Entangled--the brother of the shooter and the mother of one of his victims-- we both knew we were attempting an impossible conversation.Rather than forcing a more theatrical conflict on characters who were already traumatized, we decided it would be more honest and ultimately more thought-provoking to explore the characters’ conflicts through soliloquies and instant messages, both sent and unsent. We had many meetings and phone conversations, but ultimately created the play together on a Google Doc with Charly writing for Greta and me writing for Bradley. That process allowed us to respond to each other in real time, leaving notes and ideas for each other along the way. By accident, we also discovered that the writing process we were experiencing for the play ultimately correlated almost seamlessly to the structure and experience of the play we were creating.


What was it like working with this company of artists?
James: They risk being vulnerable - really vulnerable

Naomi: They are fearless. They enjoy challenging the mindset of their audience and I think that's vital in order to amplify the empathy and humanity we have as a society.

Gabriel: With the entire project, we had 18 months to talk, think, try things. It was an amazing experience to have a company get behind and stage your first draft and to work on crafting that draft during rehearsal. Typically there is a lot of development along the way and in my experience, sometimes the play can lose its force that way.

Did you gain any insight or learn anything new throughout this process?
Naomi: Most definitely. I realized how unnecessary props, sets or even lights are to telling a story. The connection to the story and relying that story to the audience is key.

Gabriel: Work with Charly as much as possible!

What does receiving this nomination mean to you?
James: It’s an incredible honor that we’ve been recognized for contributing something noteworthy to NY’s Indie Theatre community.

Naomi: Working on this show was especially difficult. It was one of the hardest plays I've done this season (specifically due to the style and lack of traditional play elements) and this nomination is a reminder that the intense emotional life that I brought to Greta was recognized and appreciated.

Gabriel: It's really a true honor to have our experiment and collaboration recognized with this nomination. I'm very grateful!

Charly: I love that I get to share this nomination with Gabriel. The writing process for this play felt a little crazy at times, but it is nice to know that Gabriel and I found our way and the story we were trying to tell came alive.

Thursday, September 5, 2019

Shadows, a dance musical

Produced by Go Joe Enterprises
Book by Randall David Cook
Music by Edison Woods, Maxim Moston and Karen Bishko
Directed by Joey McKneely

Nominations: Outstanding Choreography / Movement - Joey McKneely; Outstanding Original Music: Karen Bishko, Maxim Moston, & Edison Woods


About Shadows, a dance musical
When a married woman starts an affair in her NYC pied-à-terre, she discovers it is haunted by spirits. Trapped by their own violent past, the spirits try to stop this affair from escalating. Past informs the present as the cycle repeats itself to a dramatic conclusion.

How far will you go to keep the one you love?

Photos by Jay Michaels

The nominees and producer Jay Michaels discuss their experience of creating this new concept musical.

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What first attracted you to this work?
Joey: The show was an opportunity to create a new form of a musical. Trying to create something fresh using dance as a major form of narrative was the big attraction.

Karen: I was attracted to this show because it's a script about a passionate affair between two unhappily married people. I remember hearing an interview with Sting once where he talked about how love triangles are brilliant for songwriting. I thought I could get stuck into this.

Maxim: My writing partner Julia Frodhal came to me with this project and I loved the idea of melding dance and drama.

Jay: Joey McKneely and Randall David Cook created the project

What was your favorite part of working on Shadows...?
Joey: My favorite part was collaborating not only with my fellow creatives, but with our extraordinary cast of actors and dancers. To see how passionate they all were from the get go was a real treat to experience.

Karen: The people. What a wonderful team.

Maxim: Seeing the actors and dancers put it all together after years of looking at a page or a sound file.

Jay: Watching it come to life

What was the most challenging aspect of this experience for you?
Joey: The most challenging part was trying to get it right. Once an audience comes into the theater, they let you know what's working and what's not. With the limited time we had, it was really a push to try to make the changes to the show and discover how we could improve our show.

Karen: Being sent home to write a song overnight. There was a hole in the script, which I pointed out and then got nominated to fill. By then I knew the amazing actor and voice that I was writing it for (John Arthur Greene) so it was a different and better experience. Also rewarding because John loved the song when I took it to him the next day.

Maxim: Multiple directions were explored, which meant multiple cues and some brilliant cues needed to be discarded.

Jay: Producing it. Independent theater is far more "hands-on" than Broadway (which McKneely is used to) and needed a lot more care and attention. It became that much more satisfying as all facets could have your signature.

What do you think the funniest or most ironic part of the production for you?
Joey: Wow...being the producer, director, choreographer, conceiver, set/tech supervisor, delivery driver, janitor and anything else that needed to get done during this process was the most exhausting yet inspiring thing I have ever attempted to do.

Karen: Our dress rehearsal was a disaster. Everything went wrong. Ballerina Irina Dvorovenko, possibly the most graceful woman I've ever met, couldn't shut the french doors on the set. She ended up slamming them so hard that the whole set nearly fell over. Randall David Cook (the book writer) and I nearly died laughing. I still laugh every time I think about it.

Maxim: Melding of "high art" and comedy reminded me of On The Town.

Jay: The musical is a Gothic ghost story that took place in a 100 year old building and the theatre is over a century old (which McKneely didn't know when acquiring it) so the whole picture was "supernatural."

What was the best part of working with this company of artists?
Joey: The best thing about these artist is that they all believed in the show. They gave they're all every day. I am so grateful for their time and commitment to the show.

Karen: No egos! Everyone was just a team.

Maxim: Their total dedication.

Jay: Brilliance and mind-reading. Amazing talent and knowing what "works"

Did you gain any insight or learn anything new from this experience?
Joey: Yes, I discovered being a producer is way harder than directing/choreographing a show!

Karen: I learned so much, especially from Joey McNeely. He worked so hard and he pushes everyone and they respond. I also really learnt, quite simply, to work from someone else's script. Randall would give me extra notes about exactly what he thought the song should say, I'd put my twist on it and somehow it worked.

Maxim: I actually like dance.

What does receiving this nomination mean to you?
Joey: It is a huge honor to get this nomination. For all the hard work and sacrifice I made just to get the show on stage, it feels like a little slice of heaven is saying "don't give up, keep going!" It is an enormous gift.

Karen: I'm over the moon to be nominated for this award because I knew this show was different and special and I've worked hard on the songs for years. They're not traditional musical theatre songs at all and it's lovely to be recognized for them.

Maxim: A true honor.

Jay:
Validation for the work; acceptance by the community; an honor.

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Friendly’s Fire

Produced by The Rising Sun Performance Company in Association with the Theatre at the 14th Street Y
Written by John Patrick Bray
Directed by Anna Hogan

Nomination: Outstanding Set Design - Daniel Hogan

About Rising Sun Performance CompanyRising Sun is committed to the principle of ensemble process and performance through the collaboration of a resident company of theatre artists. Their goal is to provide a safe artistic home which stimulates risk-taking without limits of genre or agenda and where all the artists stand together to create vivid stories.Their mission is to advance the vitality and diversity of American theater by nurturing artists, encouraging repeatable creative relationships, and contributing new works and revitalized pre-existing work to the national canon. They believe in preserving a history of performance and the integrity of theater that can not be found in any other medium today.

Photos by David Anthony

About Friendly’s Fire
Friendly's Fire shows us to what lengths one man will go to preserve the sanity of his friend - a veteran who lost his brother in service to our country.

Daniel and Producer Akia share their thoughts on Friendly's Fire.

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What first attracted you to Friendly's Fire?
Daniel: I have previously worked with several of the artists and producers of the show, and I was thrilled to have the chance to collaborate with them again.

Akia: We have had a long working relationship with the playwright John Patrick Bray, he presented this work to us many years ago and the timing was never right. We finally had the right venue, the right team and the political climate also influenced our timing of the work

What was your favorite part of working on this production?
Daniel: I really enjoyed discussing the concept of the show with the director. She is my sister, and I have had few chances to work with her. Friendly's Fire was a chance to develop a cohesive vision together!

Akia: The venue at the 14th street Y was spectacular, they were great champions and partners. Our creative design team was amazing and this show elevated our work on many levels

What was the most challenging aspect of this experience for you?
Daniel: The world of the show is deeply complex and spans different dimensions and states of consciousness. It was challenging to create levels of reality in a minimal theatrical setting.

Akia: All of the complex design and technical elements the script required . Our lead actor also ruptured to his appendix during the run. Fortunately we had an understudy who was ready, who went on with one full rehearsal.





What was the quirkiest part of this production?
Daniel: The script itself is quirky, charming, whimsical, and dark. I didn't realize how much of it resonated with me until i was watching the actors in dress rehearsals.

Akia: We had a dancing Russian bear, a flying helicopter (YES A FLYING HELICOPTER), a skateboarding Santa and a fighting bee.

What was it like to work with this company of artists?
Daniel: Each artist was able to come together to tell this story.

Akia: The sheer challenge of space/storage/budget. Daniel did so much with so little it was amazing! He worked so closely with the director and team to bring alive the complicated different locations.


What does receiving this nomination mean to you?
Daniel: I have worked extensively in regional theatre for many years where I designed mostly large-scale musical theatre. This show was a return to the essence of design, style, and concept, and I am glad that others enjoyed my work.

Akia: We are excited to have this nomination be for design, as this work really challenged us in so many ways. Visually this has been the most beautiful work we have done to date

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

The 11th Dimension


Produced by ETdC Projects' Lab in association with Roi Escudero & Valentin Ewan
Designed and Directed by Roi Escudero

Nomination: Outstanding Performance Art Production

About ETdC Projects' Lab
ETdC Projects' Lab was founded by conceptual performance artist Roi Escudero creates post-modern immersive works for the stage. Their immersive dramatic spectacles and postmodern performance-artwork is inspired by cultural storytellers and the mystique of the fantastic and vérité. Hand-make the visual elements: sets, costumes, masks and life-sized body puppet characters, utilizing recycled materials and found objects as well as multimedia video are hallmarks of ETdC Projects’ productions and used to exaggerate everyday reality and blend together fantasy, magic, myth and natural phenomena.

Photos by James Ewan
About The 11th Dimension
“Sometimes to get to paradise you have to journey through hell.” Through their travels across space and time, the existential heroic beings of light, the Bubulinos, struggle with the ephemeral and physical troubles of mankind’s present, striving to keep their “divine child” pure. In their quest to rescue the Bird of Truth, the Bubulinos guided by Antonin Artaud, traverse The Inferno of today’s world and arrive to the true paradise of life. The 11th DIMENSION is a post-modern vérité tale inspired by The Theory of Everything, Antonin Artaud, Deleuze and Guattari’s concepts of “a body without organs”, and Dante’s 9 Circles of Hell. It was created for the stage by award winning conceptual-performance artist Roi Escudero. This performance-art piece blends magic realism and surreal humor with a persuasive visual art collage containing nostalgic music hits. Roi uses her background in visual arts and theatre to create immersive works on stage.

What first attracted you to this subject matter?
Roi: I was challenged by Artaud’s words: “No one has ever written, painted, sculpted, modeled, built, or invented except literally to get out of hell.” His words inspired me to create a performance-art piece merging Artaud’s brilliant madness with Dante and his Divina Comedia.
What was your favorite part of working on this project?
Roi: Enjoying a space to rehearse thanks to the generosity of The LIT fund and The Times Center NYC, and experimenting and collaborating with other artists in the creative process.

What was the most challenging aspect of this experience for you?
Roi: Merging my Bubulinos contemporary vérité tales with the brilliant madness of Artaud and the poetic universe of Dante was a strong effort of knowledge that challenged my imagination.

What did you want the audience to take away from your piece?
Roi: I hope that they leave the theatre with questions and a heart in peace, with space for love, sensibility and tolerance.


What was it like to work with this company of artists?
Roi: I love sharing this nomination with my phenomenal co-producer Valentin Ewan and the talented artists at ETdC Projects’ Lab, our guests and sponsors. Each one of them were precious in the creative process and production of The 11th DIMENSION: Ioan Ardelean, John Cencio Burgos, Lia Barcellona Tamborra, Richard Stevens, Ruben Celiberti, Jack Placidi, Cesar Valderrama, Antonio Miniño, David Stalling, James Ewan, Horacio Gerpe, Karina Alexander, Carter O'Brien Ford, Gabe Garcia, Shennie Shaw, Dinyasia Crum, Sean Phillips, and Patrons of the Arts Joan and Frederick Nicholas, founder and former Chairman of the Board of The Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) Los Angeles, CA. Much thanks also to: The Ray and Wyn Ritchie Evans Foundation, The Indie Theater Fund, The League of Independent Theater, The Times Center and Planet Connections. IATI Theater, Erez Ziv, FRIGID New York, Marcina Zaccaria, Randi Berry and Patricia Herrera-Latin-Media. Gracias IT Awards! Merci Artaud and Grazie Dante.

What does receiving this nomination mean to you?
Roi: This nomination means a lot to me, “toda una vida de trabajo”. Thank you IT Awards for recognizing performance-art for the stage as a “whole.” Performance-art is an achievement of my lifetime. My work is a platform for other artists to collaborate and experiment with imagination. I dedicate this nomination to the Dreamers. I know by experience that it is not easy to achieve the American Dream. As an immigrant and as a citizen, I love the Americas from South to North. Muchas gracias IT Awards for the nomination!



Monday, September 2, 2019

The Art of Acting: A Master Class with Fozzie Bear

Written, Performed, & Produced by Larry Phillips 
Directed by Ben Liebert

Nominations:
Outstanding Solo Performance & Outstanding Original Short Script – Larry Phillips

About The Art of Acting: A Master Class with Fozzie Bear
You have been invited to attend a Master Class on Acting taught by the legendary Fozzie Bear.


What first attracted you to The Art of Acting...
Larry:
Always wanted to do a solo piece.

What was your favorite part of working on this project?
Larry:
It was a small rehearsal room. 3 people; me, the director, and the stage manager.

What was the most challenging part of this experience for you?
Larry:
Being alone.

What does receiving this nomination mean to you?
Larry:
Anytime someone recognizes your work it's thrilling

 

Larry Phillips has written and appeared in: Koalas are Dicks (Theater 80), The Weekend Will End (Theatre 54), Must Win (14th St. Y), Last Chance for Mama (LaTea), The Rise of Mediocrity (Hudson Guild), The Other Harvey (Theatre 54), Secondary Pitch (The Bridge), Arbuckle Syndrome (Hudson Guild), Fistful of Cake, Pocketful of Miracles (Wild Project), Learning to Skip (The Bridge). The New York Theater Festival has nominated him three times for Best Play (winning once), and a nomination for Best Actor. He has also been nominated at The Planet Connections Theatre Festival for Best Play (Comedy) Best Script (Comedy) and won Best Lead Actor in a Comedy.


Sunday, September 1, 2019

The Head Hunter

Produced by One Shot Deal in association with Scott McCord
Written by Mark Borkowski
Directed by David Zayas Jr.

Nomination: Outstanding Actor in a Featured Role – Scott McCord

Scott McCord and Ali Arkane

About The Head Hunter
Casmir, a screenwriter, has sold the exclusive rights of his screenplay to a sleazy Hollywood producer. He confesses what he has done to his cousin Salvatore, a hit man for the mob. The screenplay, a bio-pic, contains truths about Sal’s father that are more than incriminating. Enraged, Salvatore vows to get the screenplay’s rights back to Casmir even if it means eliminating the producer. The two cousins are forced to deal with issues that tore their family apart and drove them to be who they are: one an artist, the other a ruthless killer.

 
What first attracted you to The Head Hunter?
Scott:
The writing by Mark Borkowski, and working with Ali Arkane

What was your favorite part of working on this project?
Scott:
The character work. Writing was so rich - Mark is an actor and wrote deeply flawed characters who desperately need each other’s love

What was the most challenging part of the experience for you?
Scott:
Two act Two hander - lots of lines

What was it like to work with this company of artists?
Scott:
Mark, Ali and myself are about always deepening the work. I think we did that with every performance




Did you gain any insight through your work on this project?
Scott: That it’s about deepening the work every time out there.


What does receiving this nomination mean to you?
Scott: That we did what we needed to do out there. I’m deeply honored and grateful for this recognition of the work.