Sunday, August 31, 2014


Written and Performed by Kim Katzberg
Directed by Raquel Cion
Produced by Eat a Radish Productions in association with IRT Theater

Nomination Kim Katzberg is nominated for Outstanding Solo Performance

     Photos by Sarah Rogers

About this Production
Set in the late 1980’s, Darkling follows Trinity, a thirteen-year-old wanna-be Goth girl from a suburban, affluent family who worships an older sister who escapes from a lock-up boarding school for troubled teens.  After a failed first romance, Trinity journeys to find her fugitive sister, who is living on the streets. Trinity makes many life choices based on the idealized vision she has of her older sister, but when she finally finds her, Trinity discovers her idol isn’t the person she thought she was.  When Trinity learns the truth about her sister, she must choose: follow her role model into fantasy and insanity, or stay in the world and fight to make an impact. But is making an impact even possible?

Writer and Performer Kim Katzberg and Director Raquel Cion talk about their work on this piece that looks at a thirteen-year-old girl’s artistic expressions of subversive feminism.


What attracted you to this project/subject matter?

Kim: Darkling, a semi-autobiographical solo play in which I play multiple characters, is dedicated to my sister, Jenna. One of the characters I embody is a heightened version of myself at thirteen. I began working on this show because as a girl I idolized my incredibly cool, punk older sister. Now she is missing from my life. The process of writing and then performing Darkling allowed me to live out the fantasy of being back in the late '80's, early '90's when my sister and I were very close.

Like Kathleen Hanna from Bikini Kill talks about in the Punk Singer, there is something radical and feminist about a girl making art in her bedroom. Girls’ bedrooms are a safe space for creativity and self-expression.  Much of the creation of the characters for Darkling happened in the safety of my little bedroom of my Brooklyn apartment, and the narrative of Darkling springs from the thirteen-year-old girl, Trinity’s, bedroom. As a girl, I definitely isolated in my room and that’s when I felt like I could finally just be me.

Raquel: The answer to this is crazy easy for me, Kim Katzberg! Kim and I worked together while she was still an undergraduate at NYU's ETW, my alma mater as well, and I was always blown away by her brilliance and commitment to her work. For years we had been trying to work together again. Luckily the schedules aligned as did the material. I was a teenage punk rock/alt girl in the 80's and the work resonated deeply with me. That said, Kim's vision was both so specific and brave. Though based on her own life experience Darkling reached beyond that realistic place. Through her video work and spot on characterizations this was no ordinary teen angst story. We were able to touch on the supernatural, the ridiculous, create real relationships within a solo show, multiple narrative lines, travel and arrive at such freedom and poignant moments that, I felt, it transcended her own story. Well, that's the goal, right? To be specific, tell your story and truth and hopefully touch on things universal. I fully believe Darkling grabs that brass ring.

What was your favorite part of working on this production?

Kim: Working intensively with my director and friend, Raquel Cion, and my colleague and friend, Nora Woolley was game-changing. Years ago I saw a play that Nora Woolley wrote and acted in at PS 122 that was directed by Raquel. The piece was dark, risky, hilarious, tragic and highly original. I dreamed of one day working with Nora and Raquel because I thought their sense of humor, over-the-top tragicomic sense of characters and daring aesthetic was similar to what I was attempting in my work. Nora and I were in the same class at ETW, NYU but we weren’t in the same friend circles. In fact, Nora was a superstar at ETW and I had transferred in my junior year and was very insecure and not such a good actor then. Raquel also attended ETW, NYU some years earlier than Nora and I and had assistant directed us in Raina Von Waldenburg’s Das Kaspar Theater. Eventually, Nora and Raquel saw the first solo show that I wrote and performed and after that Nora reached out and asked if I wanted to get together in a studio to just bounce work off of each other. I was beyond thrilled! That began the creation process for Darkling and Hip. Nora and I had a shared residency at IRT Theater where we co-produced both our shows, shared director Raquel Cion, and performed our shows back to back each night of the run. Nora’s writing and acting is at such a high level that it pushed me further than I could have ever gone in my acting and writing if I were going it alone. I had to be able to hold my own if I was going to be performing right after Nora each night! Raquel’s work ethic is unmatched and the way that she deeply understood being a punk girl in the late ’80’s, coupled with her sheer brilliance as a highly innovative director, drove Darkling to a level that was beyond my wildest dreams.

I feel like Raquel and Nora are now my sisters after having gone through the insane, exhausting, gut wrenching journey that we endured to put on our plays. Nora was also nominated for "Outstanding Solo Performance" and “Outstanding Original Short Script.” Again, we are going through another part of the amazing journey together! All the intensive work was totally worth it for BOTH of our pieces to be recognized.

Raquel: Directing Kim and Nora Woolley's Hip (Nora is also nominated for Outstanding Solo Show and Outstanding Short Script) was a complete joy. These women very simply rock my world. We challenged each other, were intrinsically supportive of each other and found a shared language and way of working that well, worked. It was such an honor to share in the process and production. As we all know doing creating work here in NY, hell, anywhere isn't easy. There are those times though when even with extreme challenges, and there were some, you feel at home. A good home. A happy home. A functional home and wow, that's a rare gift.

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

Kim: The most challenging part of working on the production was the physical, psychological and emotional rigor that it required. There were many moments when I had overwhelming self-doubt and was physically and emotionally exhausted during the creation process, rehearsals, and not to mention the three week run of the show. The whole deal spanned two years and there were unrelenting highs and lows. I just hung on, pushed through and showed up, which I could not have done without the immense support I received from my wife and the team.

Raquel: Kim and I had done a workshop production in July 2013 at IRT and naturally after that there had been some rewrites. There was one line, one little line of not even ten words that was added to the end of a pivotal scene, my favorite scene, in the show. Oh, even writing about it now my heart begins to race. Basically we butted heads over this line for weeks.

Understandably we both dug our heels in on whether or not it should be included. It was painful. There were many heated, emotionally charged conversations in rehearsal about it. Phone calls. Both of us saying, "trust me on this." We were like two bucks with their antlers locked. One line! One line but such an important fulcrum to the story we were telling. Luckily, one night at a rehearsal where we ran both shows back to back as they were to be presented Nora, in her incredible clarity and grace managed to very simply untangle the issue. We were able to finally agree and it all flew from there. I think it was so intense because the work was so risky and personal and Kim and I have the utmost respect for each other. Getting to the other side of that busted through many things for both of us and the show.

What was the craziest thing that happened during this production?

Kim: We had a few matinees where random families including adolescent kids came. I think it was because the main character in Darkling is thirteen and it was advertised as a coming of age story. However, there is an intense and fairly graphic scene where Trinity loses her virginity. It must have been really embarrassing for parents and adolescents to see together.

Raquel: Well, I ended up running the box office which felt like an I Love Lucy episode. Not my forte. So, there's that. Also, the first couple weekends we kept getting families, teen and sometimes pre-teen kids with their parents. Now, both shows are coming of age stories but I don't know if they're family friendly per se. That was a bit awkward.

What did you want the audience to come away with after watching your production?

Kim: I don’t really know what I want the audience to come away with after watching Darkling. I tried to write and perform it as if no one would ever see it. That’s the only way that I can trick myself into writing and performing honestly. I guess I want the audience to feel as if they touched a hidden part of their thirteen year old selves and are able to laugh about, celebrate and feel compassion for those inner, secret, dark parts.

Raquel: When I was studying in Paris I had a wonderful mask teacher from Le Théâtre du Soleil, Erhard Stiefel. When scenes weren't working he'd stop the actors and often say something to the effect of, "Start again. Go on a journey." Simple. Well, not always. I feel that Darkling is an epic journey for Trinity its main character. If the audience gave itself over to its wild ride then whatever they come away with is theirs and well earned. I believe we achieved that. A journey that allowed the audience to both reflect and re-experience their own awkward journeys through adolescence and to experience Kim's whirlwind tour of her experience, fantasies and huge heart.

Saturday, August 30, 2014


Created by Gyda Arber, Brian Fountain, David Gochfeld, and Allen Hahn
Produced by The Brick Theater

Nominations: Gyda Arber, Brian Fountain, David Gouchfeld and Allen Hahn are nominated for Outstanding Innovative Design for Phone and Text Design; and FutureMate is nominated for Outstanding Performance Art Production

About this Production

Set in a future devastated by “The Cataclysm,” which makes finding a fertile mate more challenging than ever, FutureMate will help audience members locate that special someone (free of the Nightwalker mutation, of course). Come see all the benefits that await you while doing your part to rebuild our great nation. An immersive experience that combines film, theater, and web-based storytelling, FutureMate is a wickedly funny satire about life, love, and the modern surveillance state that should not be missed!

FutureMate was the winner of StoryHack Beta, StoryCode’s first story-centric hackathon hosted at the Film Society of Lincoln Center. The full experience premiered at The Brick in Williamsburg, Brooklyn in 2013. In addition to the theatrical experience, the FutureMate story world spans multiple platforms that include: (a government-run dating site); a two-minute commercial for the FutureMate system, (an anti-government manifesto); a guerilla-style anti-government print campaign; ‘in-world’ Twitter feeds; as well as a phone-based speed-dating experience to pair audience members with one another.

Gyda Arber and Brian Fountain talk about creating this truly innovative and interactive theatrical experience.


What attracted you to this project?

Gyda: FutureMate was developed as part of the StoryCode/Film Society of Lincoln Center StoryHack in March of 2012. We did a 15-minute version of the piece there, and won(!!) which was very exciting. From there, a few of the members of our team really wanted to continue with the piece, so we expanded it to a full-length work.

Brian: It was a fun way to explore the idea of post-apocalyptic dating.

What was your favorite part of working on this production?

Brian: Watching the audience slowly discover the world of FutureMate through small details like: a restructured government, a new national anthem and the existence of Nightwalkers.

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

Brian: Multi-platform shows with audience participation can be tough for theatre-goers to wrap their head around. We worked hard to acclimate attendees slowly.

What is the craziest part of this production?

Brian: We ask audience members to give us a DNA swab when they arrive. As you can imagine, it's lead to some pretty varied responses.

What did you want the audience to come away with after watching your production?

Gyda: The theme of a surveillance-state runs throughout the piece, from the opening DNA swabs to the recorded calls. Something to be aware of with the NSA and our phone companies tracking everything these days!

Friday, August 29, 2014

A Little Night Music

A Little Night Music
Book by Hugh Wheeler & Music and Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim
Directed by Tom Rowan
Produced by The Gallery Players

Nomination: A Little Night Music is nominated for Outstanding Production of a Musical

          Photos by Bella Mucari

About this Production

Based on the Ingmar Bergman film “Smiles on a Summer Night,” the five-time Tony winning musical features an elaborate score of waltzes, including the Grammy-winning “Send in the Clowns.” Night Music features the most iconic traits of Sondheim’s repertoire, boasting a complex score riddled with hilarious wit. A delicate dream of a musical, the sentimental comedy follows a trio of mismatched lovers as they twist, turn, and tumble toward their true love. While the material is sure to impress, make no mistake that the lavish costumes and luxurious set will invite Gallery’s audiences for a taste of “The Glamorous Life.”

An Appeal to the Woman of the House

An Appeal to the Woman of the House
By Christie Perfetti Williams
Directed by DeLisa White
Produced by Retro Productions

Christie Perfetti Williams is nominated for Outstanding Original Full-Length Script; Heather Cunningham is nominated for Outstanding Actress in a Lead Role; and An Appeal to the Woman of the House is nominated for Outstanding Premiere Production of a Play

       Photo by Kyle Connolly Photography LLC

About this Production
An Appeal to the Woman of the House is about what happens when history knocks on your door. It's about how large activist gestures create smaller ripple effects. Appeal… takes place on one fateful night in May, 1961 in the farmhouse of Rose and Gideon Walker on the Alabama-Tennessee border. It is just after midnight when David and his fellow lost Freedom Riders knock on the door seeking assistance in the form of a phone and a place to stay until daylight. But Gideon, who knows this is Klan country, is reluctant to let in this band of mixed race college kids until Rose forces him to open the door with the acknowledgement that "they're just babies." What follows is a touching story of race, love, acceptance and learning how to stand up for what you believe.

Christie Perfetti Williams, Director DeLisa White and Producer and Actress Heather Cunningham share their experiences of dramatizing a highly volatile moment in American history.


What attracted you to this project?

Heather: As producing artistic director for Retro Productions, a company that specializes in 20th Century period work, I'd been looking for years for a project about the Civil Rights Movement. Although I'm sure that a lot of people hear the word Retro and think kitsch and comedy (and there's nothing wrong with that - I love me some kitsch and comedy!) I also believe we are in a unique position to educate our audiences by using historical stories to create parallels to current circumstances.

Christie Perfetti Williams approached me several years ago about writing a play for Retro. After a long conversation about what that would mean we started talking about the Freedom Rides. It was the 50th anniversary of the rides and there was a documentary on TV that we were both watching. I said things like "imagine the play that takes place on that bus" and "imagine the play that takes place in that bus station." Then a former Freedom Rider was interviewed and she spoke about the time she and several other riders were taken out of jail by the sheriff and driven to the border in the middle of the night and dropped off. They walked until they came to a farmhouse but the man didn't want to let them in, he was afraid. So the rider said "My Mama always told me if I was in trouble to go on and appeal to the woman of the house. And that's what we did - and she let us in. And those people saved our lives that night." I said "imagine the play that takes place in that house," and that is what Christie did (although in full disclosure, Christie's play is FICTION, it is merely inspired by that event, not a documentary of it). AND I had the distinct pleasure in this production of portraying, for the first time in my career, a character who was written specifically for me.

DeLisa: Retro can always be counted on to do high quality work and I had longed to work with Heather who is a magnificent talent and a super cool broad. So when she told me they were working on their first original piece I knew it had to be quality. And once I heard the premise  - and realized I had never seen any play, movie, or television show about the Freedom Riders, I was tremendously excited. Then I got to read the play, which even in its earliest development stages was profoundly moving. I can’t tell you how proud was every day to be able to be the one to direct this incredible play.

Christie: I was able to write a play not just for Retro Productions but for Heather Cunningham. A lead role for Heather Cunningham. A kick ass lead role for a brilliant actor. It was a playwright's dream.

What was your favorite part of working on this production?

DeLisa: There was SO much talent involved in this show.  It was an immense luxury to have such a huge cast and crew of this tremendously high caliber - full of passion, commitment and ideas. It was an embarrassment of riches, for sure – but to watch them all find their way to shine and shine solely in service of this beautiful play moved me immensely. To have the front row seat as it comes to life is always the great treat of being a director, but given all the elements  - a huge cast and crew – involved, it just was wondrous to see and feel it blossom.

Heather: As a producer - I'm also a research geek - so I loved doing the research - watching documentaries and news clips, reading books, searching the faces in the mug shots.

The cast was glorious - we had a wonderful time in the rehearsal room. It felt like such a wonderful ensemble. And even when it came to the singing (which I suspect some of them were surprised by) everyone was game. There was a lovely camaraderie - and a lot of chocolate!

Christie: My favorite part was probably the most distressing...the revision process. Workshopping and revising and tearing apart and gluing back together. Opening myself up to feedback and criticism, hoping and praying that throughout the process I would never lose love for the piece. Never become disenchanted with the work. It was both exhilarating and agonizing. Lots of risking, deep inhales. A truly white-knuckle landing!

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

Christie: See above : )

DeLisa: Nine cast members, 12 or so crew – it was a lot to juggle.  Without the amazing production team of Heather and Ricardo and Monica Daniels astonishing work as Stage Manager, I can’t imagine how we would have gotten it all done.  While I feel the play was at top form at opening, perhaps more than any I have worked on, I would have loved if we had had the time and money to have a “preview” structure before the full run.  The play, the remarkable cast, and the superb crew all rocked the target, but they also all deserved more time to go even deeper and further and get more sleep during the process.  That’s always the challenge of indie theatre – how do you match the quality of off-Broadway or Broadway with a pittance if the time and money. As your nominee list shows  - indie theatre DOES do that. Routinely. But we all spread our elbow grease to the very thinnest.

Heather: When doing the research on this play the most challenging part was, as I'd be inspired by the students and CORE and SNCC and the leaders who made the rides possible, I'd also have to take in the actions of white supremacists and try to somehow understand how they could think they were right, while still believing in their own Christianity. It's a very hard thing for me - and it's just as hard in 2014 when someone uses their religion as an excuse to discriminate against LGBTQ or really anyone who is unlike themselves.

Spoilers! There is an unspoken fact about Rose, which is that she has recently had a miscarriage - and that it is in fact one in a long line of miscarriages and failed attempts at conception. As a woman who has never had a child this was difficult on many levels - not just because I don't know that particular physical pain, having never been pregnant myself, but because I do know a little something about the emotional pain of wanting a family and feeling like I don't get to have one. Harnessing that - getting past it and over it - that was the most challenging part of this role.

Oh, and, pulling a gun on a guy - that was pretty challenging too!

What makes An Appeal to the Woman of the House so different?

DeLisa: Firstly, there’s never (to my knowledge) been a play or movie (other than a GREAT American Experience documentary) or tv show about this particular element of the civil rights movement. The play captures a part of history that has been somewhat left in shadow culturally. But it also take a different, more complex and more nuanced approach to history than a lot of historical fiction, which I think is so important. Often historical fiction is in the business of deification, which makes us all feel admiration but distance from the course of history. THIS play demonstrates astutely that multiple people can be committed to “doing the right thing” and still interpret that differently. The world changes because of a confluence of individual choices, not because of one brave hero. This play isn’t about “Look at how some people in the past were brave” but asks us “what would YOU do if history knocked on your door?”

Because it does. Every day.

Heather: One of the loveliest experiences was having an audience member afterwards say to me "how much would it cost to keep this running?"

Also, the audience member whose father was a Civil Rights worker in Mississippi during the Freedom Summer of 1964 who came up to me and said "you got it right - it's all so right - and the young Jewish woman who comes in in Act 2 - she reminded me so much of my Father."

I really appreciated when an actress friend of mine pulled me aside after seeing the show and said "I'm from the South and I have seen many women in my time in NYC attempt to play southern - but you - you actually did. When you said 'You from Louisiana? I thought so - I got kinfolk there myself' I thought to myself, yes. Yes she does."

That was a great complement to this native NYer! (Albeit with kinfolk in Louisiana!)

Christie: Too bad this is listed under the 'different' column but the truth is the fact that our production's producer, playwright, director, lead actor and stage manager were all women is pretty phenomenal, as well as inspiring.

What do you want the audience to come away with after watching your production?

DeLisa: What I have always hoped people would take away is that every choice you make, no matter how small it may seem, impacts the course of history. You are a part of change or an obstacle to it. It’s not just the high profile activists who are catalysts for change. The Freedom Riders sat on the bus, but there were people who chose to attack them, or be neutral or help them or join them. At some point or other, history knocks on your door – whether you answer it or not impacts the course of history. We are all activists, whether we intend to be or not - it’s just a matter of scale.  And we are all responsible for the world we live in – we can’t hide from that. It’s foolhardy to try.

Heather: I think the overriding message is one of love - and I hope that when they leave An Appeal to the Woman of the House they have a sense of the love of humanity that is in it - and also how far we've come and how far we have still to go. Hopefully they are inspired and they feel good - that we are all capable of change and love.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

At First Sight (and Other Stories)

At First Sight (and Other Stories)
By the Broken Box Mime Theater Ensemble
Directed by Becky Baumwoll
Produced by: Broken Box Mime Theater

Nominations: The Ensemble (Becky Baumwoll, Dinah Berkeley, Seikai Ishizuka, David Jenkins, Meera Rohit Kumbhani, Tasha Milkman, Marissa Molnar, Dan Reckart, Joe Tuttle, Leah Wagner) is nominated for Outstanding Ensemble;
At First Sight (and Other Stories) is nominated for Outstanding Performance Art Production

         Photos by Bjorn Bolinder

About this Production

At First Sight (and Other Stories) is an evening of twelve pieces told only with lights, music, and mime. Born from a desire to achieve both riveting storytelling and exploration of complex themes the audience is taken on a whirlwind journey that will leave each audience member with a different set of memories—a different dining room wallpaper, a different color horse, a different costume on the villain—but all with the same question: How did I just see all that? Pieces include: Fifth Wheel, an uproarious sitcom that begins when an uninvited guest crashes what would have been a lovely double-date, Reservoir, a thought-provoking illustration of the process of depression and recovery, and Some Day, the story of an old man who is transported to the past by putting on his favorite record. The record player becomes a woman on a street corner, and the two of them carry us to an unexpected romance in the rain—the power of a moment. Between these we weave a Wild West complete with horses, trains, and revenge, a bizarre comedy in which a mugger gets quite carried away, and a thoughtful look at PTSD as it affects a family welcoming home a Veteran.

Becky Baumwoll, Joe Tuttle, Tasha Milkman, Marissa Molnar, Seikai Ishizuka, and Meera Rohit Kumbhani talk about the challenges of communicating complex tales through mime.


What attracted you to this project?

Becky: Broken Box Mime Theater is the passion project of its 14 current members and beloved designers. We were not drawn together because of a particular penchant for mime, per se, but a desire to celebrate and explore what we love most: Moving theater. Mime allows us to approach theater with an incredibly limited palette, and we find that it's this limitation that allows us to emphasize the art form and bring a new and enriched experience to the stage. There is nothing to hide behind in mime, and we are able to work on whatever we want as co-creators of our shows. As professional actors, it is our pleasure to expand upon our own understanding of our bodies as instruments, and as collaborators, it is our joy to share ownership over some of the best work we've ever written and performed.

As a professional (speaking!) actor, BKBX gives me the opportunity to make my own work, whether it reflects my nutty humor or allows me to explore deeper feelings or questions I'm experiencing in the safety and support system of a group of trusted collaborators. When I'm working with the mimes I feel the magic of all being focused on the same goal, of mutual support mixed with high standards for our art. It is so incredibly unusual to have a community of artists to come home to, and BKBX provides just that, while all the while staying focused on the goal of creating moving theater. I am a better writer, director, collaborator, and actor because of Broken Box, and At First Sight (and Other Stories) was a huge step for us, showing a new level of sophistication, of collaboration, and a restructured writing process that helped us to grow. When I get hired as an actor outside of BKBX, I am constantly enacting what I've learned about working with others, a high level of body awareness, and a keen attention to storytelling.

Joe: I've been performing mime and physical theatre since I was in high school in Ann Arbor, Michigan. And I was a company member of the Chicago Mime Company for several years before moving to New York City. So, being a part of another mime company sort of just comes naturally to me. I have been a part of every show Broken Box has produced since the beginning. It's family. So, of course I was going to be part of this show. Who wouldn't want to work with all these amazing, talented, smart, funny people?

Tasha: Broken Box Mime Theater breathes new and vibrant life in to the often under-appreciated art of mime. I am honored to surprise audiences at how deeply they find themselves invested in a story told without words, costumes, sets, or props.

Marissa: This was my third show as a company member with BKBX, and we really reached for new levels on this one. I love telling stories without using words, props, or costumes-- using people as a blank canvas for story creates so many opportunities for the audience to make wild imaginative leaps, and that is thrilling and deeply satisfying.

Meera Rohi: Broken Box Mime Theater is my artistic home. The people I share this company with are family and I would not be who I am without the work we create together.

What was your favorite part of working on this production?

Becky: As the AD and Founder of BKBX, this production brought me particular joy because of how it proved that our collaborative process had reached the next level. We pushed ourselves farther than ever before and that is incredibly important. I’m so proud that we created a safe, inspiring, and demanding rehearsal room.

I loved seeing the show come together into such a diverse group of stories. We had an incredibly moving piece about PTSD, an exploration of relationships through gestural movements, a slapstick comedy about an annoying fifth wheel on a double date, a sisterhood story in the wake of a zombie apocalypse, a heartbreaking look at self-destruction through our actors becoming burning walls of a beloved home - it all came together to create such a varied and vibrant evening.

Joe: I was thrilled by the ridiculous and incredible solutions we came up with in solving certain story or clarity problems. In mime, we have to constantly ask ourselves, "will the audience understand what is actually happening in this moment right now on stage?" And if the answer is, "no," the audience will be lost and lose interest in the story. So, finding creative solutions is my favorite part of creating in mime.

Tasha: Our show was developed entirely by the ensemble of performers. I was honored to work with such a talented, generous, and thoughtful group of artists.

Marissa: I had a lot of fun writing The Double with Dan Reckart, but I think my favorite part of a process like this overall is figuring out how to clearly stage difficult scenes that require mime effects. Finding a way without using props to show things like a high-speed stagecoach robbery on horseback or a burning house -- that's my favorite kind of challenge.

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

Becky: Writing a dozen new short plays and performing them in mime less than two months later is a huge feat - but working with a group of artists as diverse and passionate as BKBX is particularly challenging. Our greatest strength is our greatest challenge, but the work is the better because of it.

The hardest part was knowing what edits or notes would make the piece sing, and which would slow down the momentum of creating our show. This is always a balancing act.

Joe: The most challenging part of this show was making sure everyone's voice was heard in the rehearsal room. Since our creative process is a total collaboration, pretty much everyone is in the room working on something at the same time. This can provide for some amazing ideas, but also can get us stuck on something for an inordinate amount of time with too many opinions on how to solve it. But, in this ensemble-driven environment we have always found equitable and creative solutions.

Marissa: We decided to do a western-style piece as our long episodic piece in this show, but when we got into working on it we realized there would only be three men in this particular cast -- and six women. How do you write a western-style genre piece without words with female protagonists without making the women prostitutes in some way and without copying any other plot that's already out there?! It was tough, and that plot changed dramatically up until the very last minute about a thousand times, mostly centering around which characters did or did not get killed off at the end.

Seikai: It is very challenging to compose music for mime. The music should support the story, but not tell the story. The music should be dynamic and structured but not so specific as to distract from the movement or give away too much. I wrote the music through improvised interplay. There were some beautiful moments where I would hear the performers pulse and feel their energy and play the music to support the nuances of their work. Finding the balance of being an integrated part of the ensemble was the most challenging part and favorite part of working on this production.

What was the most the most exciting or surprising part of the production for you?

Becky: A mime show with a group of hip young artists guarantees the unexpected! This was our first foray into live music, and our collaborator Seikai Ishizuka wrote beautiful accompaniment to several of our pieces. We had our students from 52nd Street Project come on our Opening Night, which was fantastic. We had a mime who had just had a baby taking time off to perform. And, though each show features work whose ownership is inevitably shared by all collaborators, each piece comes from a single original writer, and this time all of our members had pieces they originated in the final show, something that's very unusual for us.

Incredibly, when one of our wildly talented performers got injured after the second piece and went to the hospital, the rest of the group banded together not only to do the rest of the show without her (remember - nothing has lines, so it's hard to fill in for someone else without rehearsing!), but to create an ALTERNATE ENDING to the show that included a call-back to our piece about a zombie apocalypse. It was hysterical, and perfectly topped-off by that same actress coming back and giving heartfelt performances for every night thereafter, despite stitches over her eyebrow. Go, Marissa!

Joe: We used live music to accompany several of our pieces, which we have never done before. We also, had a piece that "broke the fourth wall" with some audience interaction, which we've never done before.

Marissa: During a blackout near the beginning of the show right after opening night, a couple of us moved just a beat too soon and collided really hard in the dark. I ran backstage and my face was covered in blood-- I had to go to the emergency room. But the show must go on! The cast did it without me-- they stepped in and played my roles, edited on the fly, and completely rewrote the ending of the show backstage. They were amazing!! And when I came back the next night with a helluva shiner and 3 stitches in my browbone, we all realized the great thing about mime makeup -- it covers everything!

What do you want the audience to come away with after watching your production?

Becky: We hope each audience member leaves feeling that their imagination is a powerful thing, and that communication through live theater can be a truly transcendent experience. We want them to have felt deep joy and deep sadness, laughed with us and gasped with us, to have gone on the journey with us and been surprised that they could have ever felt that way after a mime show. Time and time again we shock people by our ability to create such intimacy through what seems to be an antiquated art form - but in fact the intimacy comes from their own willingness to experience each story. Simple storytelling can be deeply moving and wildly inspiring.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014


By Imre Kertész
Directed by Gia Forakis
Produced by SceneHouse Productions and Gia Forakis&Company

Nominations Adam Boncz is nominated for Outstanding Solo Performance

       Photos by
Jonathan Slaff

About this Production
Fatelessness is the world premiere of a solo performance adapted from the novel by Imre Kertesz, a Nobel Prize-winning author who is himself a survivor of the Nazi death camps. The 75-minute monologue is performed by Hungarian actor Adam Boncz, who is the first to have exclusive rights to adapt the novel for the stage.

In the summer of 1944, the 14-year old Hungarian boy, Gyuri Köves, is taken off a bus on his way to work and sent to Buchenwald. In a place called a “work camp” he finds starvation, selfishness and death but he also discovers a sense of order, wonder and camaraderie, along with something he had never understood before –what it means to be Jewish. It is a story, told with the guileless perspective of Gyuri, as he is introduced, step by step, to a place unlike any he has ever seen before -at once an establishment of extreme order and efficiency while at the same time a strange nightmare of new experiences and unfathomable realities. The result is an alarming, charming and uncharacteristically ironic tale of one of the darkest examples of systematic cruelty, and calculated horror of the 20th century. It is through Gyuri’s naïve, and sometimes indignant, point of view that his steps toward freedom are set in motion: this is his gift, and the fate that no one can take away from him as long as he continues to remember…

Performer Adam Boncz and Director Gia Forakis talk about their multi-year journey to take this world renown work about the Holocaust and adapt it for the stage.


What attracted you to this project?

Adam: Our company, SceneHouse Productions is dedicated to enriching the American cultural life by introducing new, eastern European works to the New York stage and film scene. Our productions are always a collaboration of international artists in order to experiment with cultural dialogue and artistic influence between the two continents.

Our production of Fatelessness is the world premiere of the stage adaptation of the only Nobel Prize winner Hungarian writer, Imre Kertesz. Fatelessness is one of the most famous novels of the contemporary European literature and it is probably the most significant piece of literature of my native Hungarian culture. We were the first ones who got permission from the author to make a stage adaptation, and I was fascinated to see if we could translate this piece of literature to the stage. The book has a very unique and one of a kind perspective on the darkest times of history, and it was a tremendously fascinating challenge for us to adapt this renowned book and faithfully communicate this perspective on stage.

Gia: When Adam invited me to help him adapt and to direct Fatelessness for the stage as a one man show, the first thing that attracted me to the project was simply Adam Boncz himself! I did not know the material, but I trusted Adam's taste. I had worked with him in the past so not only did I know he was a terrific actor with great instincts, but I also knew him to be a wonderful collaborator. Adam happens to possess a special kind of charisma that I knew would carry a 75-90min one-man show. Additionally, Adam happens to be a physically expressive actor, which matches my own directorial aesthetic. He has studied One-Thought-One-Action with me, so we already shared a common vocabulary, and Adam also happens to be one of the founding member actors of GF&CO (Gia Forakis & Company), so his proposal to create an original production not only matched GF&CO's mission, but it was something that, in the back of my mind, I thought would be a strong choice for a co-production with Scene House Productions.

What was your favorite part of working on this production?

Adam: One of the favorite part of the process was to assemble and work with a group of international artists on this project. We had Romanian playwright Andras Visky as our dramaturg, American director Gia Forakis, Colombian born Federico Restrepo as our lighting designer and Hungarian Balint Varga as our composer. All of them brought their own, very unique perspective that resulted in a real collaboration between international artists. It was fascinating to work with this diverse group and I was extremely happy with the result.

Even though it is a solo performance, I do have partners on stage. We used countless sound, music and light cues as well as projections to create a full theatrical experience. When all these elements started to work like a clockwork and were in sync with me on the stage, it was an amazing experience. I was performing alone on stage but many people backstage supported my work and performance. This collaboration was truly great.

Gia: I spent 10 years as a solo-performance artist creating and performing my own work for the stage, before focusing my career on directing. So, one of the things I enjoyed the most about working on Fatelessness was bringing that knowledge to the process---being able to trust the power of the solo performance, and that I was able to pass on all that experience.

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

Adam: It was a daunting task to adapt a nearly 350 page, well known novel to a one hour solo performance. Dramaturg Andras Visky, Gia Forakis and myself worked for almost three years to develop (through residencies, staged readings and the rehearsal process) a script that is faithful to the original material. The research on the subject and interviewing Holocaust survivors was the hardest part of the preparation for the role. I've encountered many disturbing and horrific stories. Even harder was to relive the story of Gyuri in the concentration camp night after night during the run of the show. It was especially difficult when I knew that there were real Holocaust survivors sitting in the first row, watching me reliving their memories.

The other big challenge was to coordinate all the technical elements we used (tons of light cues, sound and music cues and projections) with a very short tech time. Luckily, thanks to our designers’ professionalism and the immense help from HERE Arts Center we managed to tackle all the difficulties.

Gia: Well, there was defining what the word Fatelessness means, but I'll say that the most challenging part of the project was keeping everyone on the team, including Adam himself, away from the propensity to make sentimental choices.  This meant the original musical compositions, the set, lighting, video and sound design, everything had to steer away from the inclination to reflect the idea of what a Holocaust story should be. It was curious how insidiously the sentimental choice would creep into the work. This caused some tension and required a fim conviction in what we were doing. We needed to trust the writing (after all it had won a Nobel Prize) and that the audience would take the journey despite the inherent irony of the text or the choices to encourage laughter in the first half of the play despite the fear that this might be seen as disrespectful, or that the character of Gyuri was heartless. But, these were the choices that helped to deepen the impact of what was to come.

What was the most interesting part of the production for you?

Adam: Although the show's subject is the Holocaust, we created a productions that has many light, humorous and heartfelt moments. These moments infused in the touching story of Gyuri should inspire audiences to reconsider the meaning of true happiness, how and why do we make our choices in life and what it really means to be different.

Of course meeting and talking to Nobel prize winner Imre Kertesz was an amazing experience. Mr. Kertesz is one of the most prominent figures of contemporary literature and his support and the friendship that developed between us during the development process is invaluable for me.

Gia: Someone said, in describing the book Fatelessness, that it's as if Holden Caulfield (the narrator in the novel Catcher in The Rye) went to a concentration camp and lived to tell you the story. In Fatelessnes our narrator is Gyuri, whose story is told with the arrogance of adolescence and the guileless perspective of a teenage boy. Gyuri does not speak or understand Hebrew, or celebrate Jewish holidays and is embarrassed about the yellow star he has to wear. The world is his playground, and the authority of adults is to be cleverly sidestepped and mocked. When he and his friends are taken off a public bus and rerouted to a "work camp" he sees this as an adventure. What follows is the transformation of a young man as he is introduced to a place unlike any he has ever seen before, at once a magnificent demonstration of order and efficiency and also strange nightmare of new experiences and unfathomable horrors. Through Gyuri’s naïve, and often indignant, point of view we experience his growth from ignorance to awareness as a portal into our own areas of blindness and culpability.

What do you want the audience to come away with after watching your production?

Adam: It is strange to say, but we hope that by seeing this Holocaust themed show, people will leave the theater with a new appreciation for life.

Gia: I am going to answer with a personal anecdote. When it came time to prepare my Director's Bio for the program it dawned on me that the general public isn't going to know from my professional list of credits and credentials that I am half Jewish. Although my father's family is Greek Orthodox, my mother's family is Jewish. In the Jewish tradition that makes me fully Jewish -not half. So, I wondered for half a second if it was important to acknowledge my heritage or if it was it "unprofessional"?  And that's when I knew I had to mention it, because I heard in my question that there is no question. If I had lived in Europe during WWII, it would have been highly likely that I would have been deported to a camp because my mother is Jewish. To not share my heritage would be to disrespect the play, those who died, and make me even more like young Gyuri than I already am --for I do not speak Hebrew, nor do I recognize the holidays with any special regularity. Gyuri survived. He didn't experience the fate of the millions who died in the camps. If their fate was to die, then Gyuri was left fate-less--without the fate that killed the others. Thus he was left to live a life of fate-less-ness. The moment that I added my heritage to my bio, this was a fatelessness moment for me. You do not need to be Jewish to find for yourself what fatelessness means for you, but that is what I hope others come away with from the production.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Magic Bullets

Magic Bullets
By Adam R. Burnett
Directed by Adam R. Burnett & Jud Knudsen
Produced by Buran Theatre Company

Nominations: Magic Bullets is nominated for Outstanding Performance Art Production; The ensemble (Caitlin Bebb, Abigail Blueher, Donna Jewell, Jud Knudsen, Catrin Lloyd-Bollard, Erin Mallon, Michael McKim Karp, Kate Schroeder, Mari Yamamoto) is nominated for Outstanding Ensemble
    Photos by David Pym

About this Production

How do you know you are unwell? How do you know you are better? Is wellness a journey to a new place? Or a return to where you've already been? Can you save yourself by coupling with another? Wait. What are you doing and how did you get here?

Magic Bullets situated itself in a playground of suffering to entertain a trip through mental and physical health. With a cacophonous score of language, dance and live music, the show was an overwhelming theatrical experience utilizing Buran Theatre's joyfully anarchic performance style.

Writer and co-director Adam R. Burnett and performers Michael McKim Karp, Donna Jewell and Mari Yamamoto talk about the process of creating this work that explores physical and mental wellness.


What attracted you to this project?

Adam: We were drawn to developing a show about how a person heals or recovers from pain, loss and suffering. It began as an exploration of "exorcism" as a metaphor and ended with an inquiry into fear and insecurity in light of our health.

Michael: The possibility of working with Buran Theater--a company whose approach to theater integrates the head and the heart in a singular cliche-free and meaningful way...

Donna: The talent of playwright Adam Burnett and co-director Jud Knudsen is what attracted me to doing this show. I work in several theater companies in Europe and I appreciate theater that is experimental, meaningful, and courageous.

Mari: I had worked with Buran Theatre on their previous show Nightmares last year and had really enjoyed their immensely open and dynamic approach to "performance" and the themes they were exploring. I was intrigued by the idea of the exploration of "wellness" and "healing" since we live in a world, and a city on top of that that seems to bombard you with what you should and shouldn't do with your own body...Buran also always manages to bring together a fascinating variety of people in a room and utilize the vast range of qualities that the they bring to the table so I was excited to dive into whatever Adam threw at us with this group of fantastic fellow actors.

What was your favorite part of working on this production?

Adam: We were one of the final companies to present at the now-shuttered Incubator Arts Project. It was an honor to be a part of their legacy.

Michael: Developing the piece... It involved both a sort of free movement improv and a sure directoral hand. It was an extremely supportive way of working, and brought out character elements I never would have thought of... Also, the fact that it was organized like an orchestra: It was truly an ensemble, with actors given the chance to solo... Very cool.

Donna: My favorite part of working on Magic Bullets was the process of seeing the play develop, emerge and unfold. Also in this is watching it come to life in a different way once the audience is present. I loved choreographing for this show because the cast was so open to the movement and the choreographic concepts.

Mari: The process of making this play was like no other production I had ever done. It was roughly a 6 month rehearsal process (although the creation of the foundation had started a few years back in Adam's head) where we met once a week to share our stories and views on the show's theme. We also conducted "experiments" where we prepared each actor's favorite food/something we cannot resist and we all had to sit in front of it for 5 minutes and explore our reactions to suppressing the need to fulfill our desires. My item of choice was music, since I cannot resist dancing when my favorite music is playing and during those 5 minutes while suppressing my physical urge to move I felt so suffocated and deep sadness and even tears at the end. This made us realize how we suppress our urges on a day-to-day basis and that may have a effect on our level of happiness in the long run. The show was deeply personal for everyone involved since we became familiar with each others stories and that was woven into the show. It also made me reflect upon my own wellness and how I did/am healing from different events in my life.

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

Adam: We had many performers and collaborators working on the production from great distances - Minneapolis, Kansas City, and Albuquerque - and many of them were not integrated until tech week. This was certainly the most challenging aspect of the production as we had to wait till the final week to put everything in place.

Michael: I was the oldest actor in the cast by far. Although it fit the character and the play, it did automatically set me apart from the rest of the cast; it was a good exercise to "blend" as much as possible on stage so my age would not be seen as an anomaly, but as a part of the whole...

Donna: Most challenging is being separate from the directors and cast for most of the time leading up to the performance. I came in ten days before the opening, so getting the ensemble to "gel" had to be quick, and we accomplished it.

Mari: Throughout the show the whole cast comes in and out of these peculiar scenes that are in some ways connected but for the most part not clearly so and as actors we had to play these disconnected scenes as one character so finding a through line, figuring out where my character was coming from and making sense of it to myself was the most challenging and also fun part of it. The big ensemble scene with everybody took a lot of time and effort to find the rhythm and tone and the pauses that seemed just right. But that was also a stimulating challenge, feeling separate but simultaneously completely as one on stage with six other actors.

What was the most interesting part of the production for you?

Adam: Many of the performers in the production doubled as the live band. We also used live blenders and foodstuff, which often flung around the space of the theater in the midst of blending!

Donna: I had an injury that prevented me from dancing in one of the dance sections. It turned out that it was more appropriate for me not to be in that section. I enjoyed the fact that that random happenstance served the work.

Mari: There were outbursts of original music and dance pieces throughout the show and 3 of the actors were onstage musicians as well so we would seamlessly go back and forth from the music and acting.

What do you want the audience to come away with after watching your production?

Adam: Feeling as if they have gotten that itch out from their hand - having gone through something new and inexplicable, feeling rigorously worn out from the exuberance of the performance.

Monday, August 25, 2014

David's RedHaired Death

David's RedHaired Death
By Sherry Kramer
Directed by Michael Rau
Produced by One Old Crow Productions

Nomination: Tony “Grasshopper” Mitch is nominated for Outstanding Choreography/Movement

About this Production
David's RedHaired Death is the beautiful, complicated story of two redheads who find they have everything in common until the death of a brother drives them apart. The redhaired mythology that empowers and glorifies these women leads them into a big love they can't safely get back out of. It's a story about the heaviness of the things we carry. Our version incorporates aerial silks, 3 walls of immersive projections and video that encompasses the audience, and a food and drink menu in collaboration with the restaurant Cantina Royal.

Diana Beshara, Elizabeth Simmons, and Grasshopper Mitch talk about this complexed and poetic work that became very personal for the artists.


What attracted you to this project?

Diana: Co-producing the show, Elizabeth Simmons, was the one who brought the show to me. At first, it seemed like a logical next step from my company's first production, a site specific version of Sam Shepard's Cowboy Mouth in an apartment in the Lower East Side. That was a two person show, this is a two person show plus some silent presences. That was a one act, this is a full length. Neither seem so concerned with things like plot, on the surface, and leave a lot of open space for interpretation, which I love in a piece. Slowly but surely getting a little bigger, you know? When you are a small new company that has no idea where the money will come from next, these are viable concerns. Plus the language is so beautiful and poetic, I just wanted to chew on it. We started talking logistics, and it was rolling right along. But then, my father died. And her aunt died. Within four days of each other. This is a show about grief and loss. It seemed too hot to even think about, so the project went on hold, and I went into mourning. But the more-and-more I held, the more-and-more I told myself I couldn't possibly do this show, the more and more obsessed I became with it. I really believe that things come into your life for a reason. "There are no coincidences," as Jean says in the play, and this show needed me to deal with it right at this time. So, it actually has a beautiful and tragic symmetry to it. My father is the person who inspired me to believe that I could even do something as crazy as make my own work. I never would have started a company if he hadn't given me the idea and pushed me to make it a reality. The last thing he would have wanted is for me to stop doing what I love because of him. So in the end, I'm doing this show for him, in his honor. And I just hope I can do a little bit of justice to all the faith he had in me.

Grasshopper: I was interested in working on the production because I was given the opportunity to create a different and unique adaptation of the play.

Elizabeth: I had wanted to do David's RedHaired Death (that capital H is on purpose by the way, we asked Sherry Kramer!) for almost 10 years. Acting in DC, I knew one of the original cast members, and the show always fascinated me; the language, the non-linear narrative, the relationship between these two women. And a two woman cast! Where do you see that? Also, the sense of mystery to it, even in the details, like who are these men who come in and out of the RedHeads world?

What was your favorite part of working on this production?

Diana: It was amazing being a redhead! Because, all the reasons you would think :) No, seriously, this piece was a challenge due to some very personal things that resonated deeply with it that were going on in both mine and Elizabeth's lives. My favorite part was watching all of our ambitious moving parts, like the food and drink, projections, aerial, etc, finally come together into a real, quite elegant, cohesive piece. I loved making sense of this stream of conscious non-linear show. We just kept on walking around, in the most high stress times right before we opened, kind of in a daze, just saying "We made a thing!" over and over to each other. It's like a birth, it's difficult and the most rewarding thing you can do, all at the same time.

Grasshopper: The best part of the production was the cast and crew that I was able to work with. Everyone involved in the project was professional and friendly.

Elizabeth: The moment when we were standing on stage during tech and the world just came together. It was really gratifying to see everything go from ideas to reality. It was a great sense of accomplishment, especially for a first time producer. That was pretty amazing.  I also really enjoyed the rehearsal process and just having the space and time to take risks and feel comfortable. There were moments I've never tried before on stage, especially that magical thing that happened when we worked out our monologues with the aerialists, I'd definitely never done that before as an actor.

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

Diana: It's a two woman show, where I had a very creative producer role and ALSO was on stage for the entire hour and a half, minus like 7 minutes. That was a challenge! It was very scary and very raw and hit me in a lot of my actor scary parts. But we think that those things that are difficult to do are the things that are often the most worthwhile to do. We learned so much, and it was such a joy to dive into this abstract, poetic text.

Grasshopper: The biggest challenge with this particular production was coordinating the aerial choreography. The aerial cast had significantly different experience and rotated throughout the show.

Elizabeth: Well, being a first time producer! I learned so much during the process, and it's definitely a challenge when you're co-producing and co-starring. As an actor, a challenge for me was just letting go and not anticipating. Because the play doesn't have a traditional arc, there's a lot of time jumping and memory scenes, sometimes it was tough to really stay in the moment and not let those transitions wash over you.

What makes David’s RedHaired Death so different?

Diana: We got to collaborate with so many awesome designers and creators. The whole show was basically visually soundtracked by our incredible video/projections designer, Asa Wember. And it was so amazing to watch our stark white box transform for the first time when his immersive projections on 3 huge screens engulfed us into many other worlds. It was also so so incredible to collaborate with our jaw-droppingly talented aerialists, Sloan Bradford, Matthew Stuart, and our amazing Choreographer Tony "Grasshopper" Mitch. It was so interesting to see their way into this piece, and how they translated with our awesome director Michael Rau, in collaboration with us, all these surreal moments in the show. It was awesome to work across mediums like that, and I think we all got to take something special away from that. It was amazing how the space, LA SALA at Cantina Royal, which is quite intimate, just exploded out when we accessed the vertical of the soaring ceilings with the aerial silks collaboration.

Grasshopper: Personally, the most amusing part of the production was the first aerial rehearsal and the awe and excitement in the actors' and crew's faces.

Elizabeth: Well, the flying men were pretty different and the amazing projections, and there was delicious food in a theatre behind an amazing Mexican restaurant. Oh, and the writing and the acting too lol! Sherry Kramer's words are just beautiful, there's a sense of poetry and love and heartbreak. There's this relationship between her characters, between my Marilyn and Diana's Jean that I haven't seen before in other plays.

What do you want the audience to come away with after watching your production?

Diana: We hope we surprised people a little, we hope they saw a little magic, had a little awe, and were able to get as swept up in this magical, mythical redhead world as we all were, designers, crew and performers.

Elizabeth: Hope! That you can move on, that you can go through so much heartache and confusion and still come out on the other side, just maybe not exactly the way you thought you would.