Monday, July 23, 2007

Highlights of the 2007 Season

This past Monday, the IT Awards held our 2007 Nominee Announcement. It was a very successful event. There were over 500 people; we had the incredibly hot DJ Rob and best of all the air conditioner worked.

Each year Nick, Jason and I get so excited to receive the list of nominees from our accountant. Honestly until that moment we really have no idea who will be nominated. It is always a mixture of surprise and joy and sometimes a little disappointment that some of our personal favorites aren't in the mix. This year there are a few folks that are friends of ours that are nominated including Spencer Aste, Judith Hawking, Mac Rogers and the lovely Denice Kondik. Of course we are always excited when we get to recognize the work of people we love.

I had the chance to see quite a bit of Off-Off-Broadway this past season and wanted to take this opportunity to mention some of the fantastic work that graced the more modest stages of NYC.

Let's start with the Havel Festival. WOW! Edward Einhorn and his crew pulled off the impossible. Presenting all of Vaclav Havel's works is no small feat and the inspiration to do so when President Havel was in town was nothing less than genius. When I look back on my years working in theatre, I will always remember the night we crowded into the 40 seat Brick Theatre in Brooklyn and sat across the isle from Vaclav Havel and his date Madeline Albright. I love OOB.

In the interest of full disclosure, my boyfriend works with Nosedive Productions and I actually understudied a part (and went on twice) in The Adventures of Nervous Boy (a penny dreadful). All that aside, I thought it was a great show. I have seen all of Nosedive's productions over the past 5 and a half years and I am probably their harshest critic. Honestly boys, this was your best work to date. The script was right on point. It was lean and had that wonderfully bitter mixture of hopped-up reality, twisted fantasy and sarcastic humor that kept you engaged throughout. And Vagina Dentata and Blinded from Nosedive's Evening of Grand Guignol Horror was some of the most exciting and grossest theatre I've seen all year.

Among other productions, each year Boomerang Theatre Company puts up 3 full shows in repertory. The sheer logistics of that is hard enough to fathom, but to have each of these productions be fully realized, quality works is a feat unto itself. This year they produced Anna Christie, Love in the Insecurity Zone and The Ugly Man. Each production was well conceived, designed and acted, but for me the real standout was Anna Christie. It is such a beautifully sad tale and the work of Jennifer Larkin (the actress playing the title character) was so subtle and honest it really touched me.

It was not surprising to me that Some Historic/Some Hysteric was nominated for Outstanding Performance Art Piece and Outstanding Ensemble. Director Ildiko Nemeth created many incredibly striking stage pictures that will continue stay with me. The piece included 15 actors (although it seemed like there were 30 actors) working together in some very intricate physical and vocal work. It was one of the most demanding theatrical pieces that I had seen in a long time, but the ensemble pulled it off beautifully.

The New York Neo-Futurists are truly doing something innovative with Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind. I first saw the Neo-Futurists (I think it was 1998) when they came down from Chicago to perform here in the city for a month. I was crammed into Todo Con Nada in the lower East Village (it was so packed that I had to sit on the floor). I had no idea what was happening but I was thrilled by it and so excited by what I experienced that I've been a fan ever since. When I heard that the Neo's were setting up a permanent troupe here in NYC I was so happy that we would have this visceral, ground-breaking kind of work as a part of our community.

I suspect that Charles Battersby wrote Kryptonite Hearts so that he and his wife, Lizzie Pepper, could dress up like super heroes and do some stage combat (not that they needed any special occasion to do that). While I'm not sure that the entire production worked, it was certainly fun to see the pure joy that the two of them had while on stage with one another. It is that joy that I aspire to.

When I first came to the city, me and a group of my fellow students from the Actors Training Program (the ATP) at the University of Utah (the U) formed a company called Esperance Theatre Company. I think we did good work for two and a half years. But then, due to lack of funds and no lack of egos, we simply imploded. That is one of the reasons why I am so impressed with the work of CollaborationTown. It is such a tricky business to work with friends. This very talented troupe is so dedicated to one another and so skilled in the art of collaboration and ensemble that their work reflects their very close bonds. 6969 was an intriguing piece of theatre, based on a true story, which had one of those great twists at the end that left you wanting to watch the play all over from the beginning. CollaborationTown was also very smart because they also included program inserts that provided links to additional information about the true events. I admit I spent several hours reading through the news articles and personal accounts.

The Vampire Cowboys were the Caffe Cino Fellowship recipients for this past season. I was very excited to see their work and Men of Steel did not let me down. I actually saw the production twice and was very proud that the IT Awards could help (in our small way) bring this wonderful play to the stage. The script for Men of Steel is so rich and dark and the production captured that with such style. I was reminded of The Watch Men and was very impressed with the entire cast… really the entire production team because each of the elements worked so perfectly together. Congratulations guys.

Finally I want to mention A Mouthful of Birds. This was a "sound painting," a theatrical art form that was first developed in 1986. I have never seen anything like it before in my life. I applaud breedingground productions for embracing this experimental art form. I certainly hope you will be doing more of it in the future.

There were many other wonderful productions this past season, but these are a few that made an impression on me. Tell me about other innovative works that you have seen this last year.

Shay Gines

Executive Director

New York Innovative Theatre Awards

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