Thursday, September 6, 2012

Project Y Theatre Company

Project Y Theatre Company is a transplant from Washington, DC. Since 2009 they have been producing new works here in the Big Apple.

We asked Artistic Director Michole Biancosino to tell us about their process of developing new works.

What are the origins of Project Y Theatre Company?
Project Y started as the dream of two recent college graduates, me and my co-Artistic Director, Andrew W. Smith, who moved to Washington, DC and saved up money to rent a small space in Adams Morgan and put up two plays over the course of a year.  After that immediate critical and personal success we agreed to a project-based company - we were choosing plays that were new or unseen and that spoke to our younger generation - and set a life limit of 5 years on the company to avoid any pressure to "get big" or plan seasons.  After those 5 amazing years were up, we parted ways and went to grad schools, got married, moved abroad, lived life. Then in 2007 we were both pulled back to Project Y, to the passion we had for producing new work together, this time in NYC.  We started up again in our new home, first with a reading and then with the world premiere of Karl Gadjusek's FUBAR. We have been doing exciting work with Project Y ever since - we have a new team of awesome producing partners who go above and beyond to support the work - and we're still staying true to our project-based philosophy of focusing on the development of new work and artists.

LoveSick is a collection of humorous love-gone-awry stories incorporating music. What was the inspiration for LoveSick?
LoveSick in its current form was really a three-separate-parts inspiration.  Lia Romeo, the playwright, was inspired by her fascination with romantic comedies, and she wrote all these stories about screwed up love happening to screwed up people - she focused on the funny fact that most people search and hope to find love.  Tony Biancosino, the songwriter, was inspired by breakups, relationships, and all the misery that comes along with being in love when a relationship is either doomed or done - and he found a sick humor in the heartache.  The combination of those two parts - plays and songs - was just a crazy idea I had to make a musical all about screwed up love - to stage it as an event and let theme be the force behind the musical.  I had directed a reading of Lia's plays and I had been listening to my brother's songs on my computer and they just started to fuse in my mind as a perfect combination, so we put it together in a workshop production in 2010 to see if there was something to this. That was the birth of the current musical, LoveSick or THINGS THAT DON'T HAPPEN.

What was the most satisfying part of working on this production?
The choice to use actor/musicians was the best decision we made, because not only did it get the actors intimately involved with every aspect of the production (if they weren't acting, they were playing guitar, or dancing in a spotlight, or singing or shaking a tambourine), but it got them to fully support each other both on and off stage.  Watching the audience scream with laughter after our boy band-type number, then seeing one of the lead singers hop on stage, take off his tuxedo jacket, and play a full drumset, illustrates how dedicated and ego-less our cast was.  It was a unified effort and the audience could sense how all the actors were in sync with each other.   

Do you think musical theatre is still important and why?
I actually think musical theatre has the potential to be the most important theatre because it is seen by so many people. Audiences pour into town everyday and want to see the latest musicals, and later the biggest hits will be performed and seen at high schools, colleges, and small theatres across the country.  So musicals reach people. LoveSick is not your grandmom's musical - in style, tone, and structure it breaks all the rules - yet we still wanted people to leave the theatre humming the songs.

Your process for developing new work includes; readings, online video projects, workshop productions and full productions. How do each of those elements help the production progress?
We have developed this amazing three-tiered approach to working with new playwrights on new work.  Our online projects have introduced us to so many writers and actors, who become life long collaborators. The yearly themed reading series are the backbone of our company - LoveSick started in our reading series, last June we did a Workshop Production of Sean Christopher Lewis' "Goodness" at Under St. Marks that started in our reading series, and our next full production also came from this year's "Holy Cow!" series: plays about religion, faith, and Life after death.  Workshop productions have allowed us to develop a new work with the playwright and then put it up before audience without the stress of money or reviewers. We mount a full production every 12-18 months because we normally work with the writer for at least 18 months to develop the piece and because we wrangle every ounce of man-power and fundraising available to have high production values and amazing casting. By the time we open a production, every producing and creative team member is fully immersed in the play.  Its actually a pretty unique way to run a company - focus on the development process and get everyone involved in and excited about the play from the first reading, through a development process, then a workshop production, and culminating in a fully realized show.  

What is next for Project Y Theatre?
We are thrilled to announce we will be producing the world premiere of "User's Guide to Hell, featuring Bernard Madoff," by Tony- and Pulitzer nominee, Lee Blessing.  Lee is a huge supporter of Project Y - he has been one of our Champions (our version of an Advisory Board) for years and comes to everything we do.  We were excited to have his play as part of this year's reading series; it was a huge hit. This play is so smart but also laugh-out-loud funny.  The reading went so well, we all kind of thought, "Let's do this again!"  We are once again on the furious search for the "right" space, which is always a huge hurdle for us, since we pick each theatre for the needs of the play itself.  We're putting those pieces together right now.

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