Tuesday, September 30, 2014

NYC Living

Contributed by Sophia Gutchinov

Since I was little, I have always gone to NYC to see the Christmas tree or for a day trip since I am from NJ. When I was in high school and a drama major, I went more frequently for acting auditions. I did some jobs here and there and every time I went to NYC, I loved it even more. I love how every person has a story in this world and how even more interesting people’s stories in NYC happen to be. People come from all around the globe to the USA for opportunity and a better way of life. Certain individuals come to NYC to pursue their dream. I did just that. I applied to colleges around the Northeast coast and one in California. I applied to two colleges in NYC. I ended up at Marymount Manhattan College, as a BFA acting major with a minor in neuroscience. I have now lived in NYC for 10 months of my life and intend to live there for the next three years at the least. I chose NYC not because it is close to home, but because I really feel like I belong here. I enjoy the rush hour that seems to be every hour of the day. I enjoy meeting new people every day with such inspiring, hear trenching, and interesting stories. I fully realized what it is like to come to America with no money when I started my new job as a server’s assistant at The Mark Restaurant by Jean-Georges two months ago. I work with people from Bangladesh, Egypt, Senegal, Albania, Georgia, Poland, and around this country. Some of my coworkers really came here with nothing and decided to make a new life for themselves in NYC and I respect that entirely.

Being in NYC as a 17-year-old freshman for the first time away from home was self-shaping I have to say. In NYC, you are alone and must fend for yourself. Someone will take that empty seat on the subway train or bus before you even spotted it. You are one in a city of 3 million and you can be easily replaced, if you allow yourself to blend in as a number. I did not do that. I took opportunity where I saw it and never took a break. I have now learned this summer working full time and having three internships is a lot to handle. But now as an incoming sophomore, I will take a break because by living in NYC, you can caught up in it all and never stop moving.

I do enjoy my peace and quiet, though. After living somewhere where every moment is go-go-go, it is really worth it to take a ride away from the commotion of the city and go somewhere like Brighton Beach or a spot that no one seems to know about, which you have to find for yourself. Don’t get me wrong; it is not easy living in an over-populated city where everyone is in competition. But this is what keeps us “New Yorkers” going, right?


Sophia Gutchinov: 2014 Innovative Theater Awards Intern. Attends Marymount Manhattan College to receive the Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree theatre and minors in neuroscience. Her educational achievements are: Dean’s List, International Baccalaureate Certificate, and previous member of National Honor Society.Other achievements are: Rising Sun Performance Company General Management Intern, NY Innovative Theatre Awards Production Intern, Research Assistant for a Multiple Sclerosis at Aspire Health and Wellness Center, Emerging Leaders program at MMC, creating a chapter of Glamour Gals-volunteer organization at MMC, modeling in Tara Subkoff’s Imitation of Christ “This is Not a Fashion Show” Fashion Week 2012 Event-NYC, Two River Theatre Playback Program, Barbizon Outstanding Personality Award. Her personal interests are: animals, biking, cosmetology, swimming, nutrition, fitness, yoga, geography, culture, psychology, art, photography, museums, traveling, and music. Wherever her life’s journey takes her, she always wants to continue helping the world through her altruism.

Monday, September 29, 2014

The Interns Take the Stage

"Thanks to our interns
So young and eager and savvy

Sophia, Heide, Karley, Lidia and Gabby
Rebecca, Sally, Stephanie and Brian Petty
Their all so freaking awesome, it makes us a little heady
You deserve so much more than just a college credit
If we had a million dollars you can bet that you would get it.”
                                 ~ Jason, Shay, Nick and Akia

This year we had an incredible group of interns who worked with us to host the 2014 celebrations.

They are smart, dedicated and incredibly capable.
If you have a chance to hire any of these amazing theatre artists, DO IT! You will be glad that you did.

We asked our interns to write about their impressions of OOB, NYC and theatre in general. Over the next week we will post their thoughts.

Friday, September 26, 2014

My Favorite Moments of the 2014 Ceremony

Contributed by Shay Gines
Because we want the awards ceremony to be the best that it can be, we will often push ourselves to the very limits of what we think is possible. Each year we try to improve on the previous year through the look and feel of the show as well as the process of producing it. We try to utilize every resource we have to make the awards more accessible, more dynamic and reach more people – because we are excited to share how important and amazing this community is and because OOB deserves our very best.

Our entire team pushes themselves physically, mentally and emotionally. The chaos always seems to reach a fevered pitch at 6:25PM, right before the doors to the house open. Every year there is a moment when I question if it is actually all going to come together. It is a moment that every theatre creator knows all too well. And yet, somehow through the miracle that is live performance, and the incredibly talented and capable people who work with us, the house lights go down and the music comes up and hallelujah, the show goes on.

After I’ve had a few days to decompress, I love looking back at the event and remembering my favorite moments. I thought I’d share a few of them with you.

The first time that I saw the opening number in costumes was amazing. It was so extravagant and exhilarating. The golden winged angel that spun across the stage was rhapsodic. There was an amazing moment of serendipity when I realized that the pink robes that the choir was wearing were from a production of Legally Blonde which was written by one of our presenters, Larry O’Keefe.  I love stuff like that.

This is a little embarrassing, but Jason Bowcutt and I were in the dressing room and he was helping me on with my … (cough) Spanks. I was literally standing in my underwear when Craig Lucas walked in. I was hopping around, pulling my dress over my head and stammering, “I’m so sorry…. I’m just… Sorry, I’m in my underwear.” Mr. Lucas was not fazed at all. He smiled, sat down and said, “I prefer it that way.”  It took me totally off guard, defused any awkwardness and he could not have been sweeter.

But the spanks apparently worked because when I walked into the house for the first time I was greeted with gasps of approval by the live blogging crew, Jody Chrisopherson, Shaun Bennett Fauntleroy and Alaina Feehan. I really wanted to do something dramatic and special for our 10 year anniversary, but a full-length fire engine red dress is a very bold statement and I was admittedly a little worried that it might be too much. I was so glad I had the courage to wear it when I saw my dear friend Jeffrey Keenan literally stop in his tracks when he saw me. That reaction was echoed by several others including Ken Simon and Louisa Pough who made me feel like the belle of the ball. And of course my vanity was completely satiated when our amazing host Jason Kravits called me back out on stage to show off a little.

I had a moment before the show started to chat with our back stage correspondents Desmond Dutcher and Ellen Reilly. I reminisced with Ellen about sitting in a dressing room circa 2003 and telling her about this “idea” that I had that would simultaneously help bring recognition to the work and bring the community together in celebration. Ellen was so thoughtful and asked some very logical and important questions that ultimately helped clarify how we explained this whole process. At our very first awards ceremony, Desmond was tapped to be our back stage correspondent. That first year, he was literally stationed in an alley next to the theatre. The next year we asked Ellen to join him and over the years, they have become experts at interviewing everyone from OOB artists to theatre luminaries to politians.

We started livestreaming our ceremony in 2006, long before any of us really knew what we were doing. The incredibly innovative Ryan Holsapple introduced us to the concept and the ingenious Corey Behnke actually made it possible. I cannot tell you the number of headaches or the amount of head-exploding frustration that has come with using an emerging technology at a live event. But we could see the value of this tool. Not only were we recording the event for posterity, we were able to reach a much broader audience and include friends and family across the country and around the world. During her acceptance speech, Outstanding Stage Manager recipient, Haejin Han mentioned that her family was watching from South Korea. I was sitting back stage listening and nearly burst into tears. Knowing that her family was able to share in this special moment with her, made all of the annoying technical issues that we’ve experience over the year completely worth it. Later, when Carlos Neto told us that his family was watching from Portugal, was icing on the cake.

When we first developed the awards we researched other awards organizations. We wanted the Innovative Theatre Awards to have a familiarity that would be appreciated by the general public but also a specificity that reflected the work that is happening Off-Off-Broadway. We included categories such as Original Short Script, which is quite unique to our awards. Outstanding Ensemble, Choreography/Movement and Performance Art Production are also rare. When we inaugurated the Outstanding Stage Manager Award in 2009 we were breaking ground and we believe we are still the only theatre awards organization to recognize stage management along with all of the other production awards. However we were surprised - even in our first year - that awarding sound design is not common. We were shocked when the Tony’s decided to eliminate their award for sound design earlier this year, however that decision makes our commitment to supporting sound designers that much more important. It was very gratifying to have this commitment acknowledged by presenter and Sound Designer Andy Lang, “the IT Awards actually value Sound Designers.”

Usually Nick, Jason and I come out at the top of the show and do all of our thank yous and acknowledgements.  These acknowledgements are so important because without the generosity of our sponsors, donors and volunteers, we literally would not be able to do what we do, however we know that listing a bunch of names, is not the most exciting part of the evening.  We do it early while the audience is still fresh and excited and we get it out of the way so that we can get to the good stuff. This year, director Robert Ross Parker suggested that we move our bit later in the show to help the flow and build of the evening. I have to admit it panicked me. I was afraid that we would lose the momentum and the audience. Robert said, “well, maybe there is a way to make it entertaining so that it keeps the audience engaged.” Initially, I thought he was crazy. We had meetings every night and lists of tasks to get through. With one week until the event, there was no way that we would be able to come up with a concept, develop it and rehearse it in time for the ceremony. However, we all agreed to think about it. I did think about it. The more I thought about it, the more I could see Robert’s point. The thank yous could actually be a fun moment. Akia would be joining us on stage. We are all performers. We could make something work. The Saturday before the ceremony we finalized our thank you list. I had 2 and a half days to write it. I literally slept with the pad of paper and pen in the bed and woke up to jot down ideas throughout the night. On Sunday I shared with Nick, Jason, Akia and Robert what I had so far (which was only the first two sections). They were very encouraging. I finished the piece Monday morning and printed it when I arrived at the space. We rehearsed it twice for a total of 20 minutes prior to performing it on stage. Robert was absolutely right. We had fun. The audience had fun. Everyone felt honored and I think it actually helped shake things up a bit and buoy the remainder of the evening.

I spend a lot of the ceremony running from one station to the next. It has been like that for Nick, Jason and I from the very beginning. We want to personally thank each and every presenter. We want to check in on specific stations, witness certain moments on stage, check the quality of the sound or see what is happening with the presentation. We may need to solve a problem, or make sure the air conditioner is running or… secure a shiny 70’s style jumpsuit for the host… lots of different things.  But I happened to be standing stage left during Nicole Hill’s heartfelt acceptance speech and cheered when she said, “I stand in celebration of, YES.” What a profound moto. If there is one sentiment that binds this community together, it is that we ALL stand in celebration of “YES.” Do you want to do a version of Romeo & Juliet that recruits audience members to play drinking games with the Montagues or the Capulets? YES! Let’s do that. You want to produce a sci-fi love story that reanimates one of the dead lovers on stage? Oh My God, YES! Let’s DO that. You want to do a musical about in utero genetic mutations set in a circus?! Of course YES! Let’s DO THAT! We say ‘yes’ to the impossible. We say ‘yes’ to the absurd and to the daydreams. We say ‘yes’ to the creative spirit that constantly seeks a muse. So to all of the “that’s impossible,” “we don’t have the resources,” “it will never work” ideas… I stand with Nicole Hill and David Stallings in celebration of “YES”! Let’s do it.

There are a lot of little moments that I will remember like hugging DeLisa as she walked off stage from receiving the Outstanding Director award to realize that she was still shaking while crying and laughing at the same time; standing in the wings hugging Jason Bowcutt while watching Marshall Mason present the last two awards of the evening; singing “Downtown” with one of our Stage Managers, Louisa as Jason Kravits closed the show, kissing Nick and having Akia tell me that she loves my face.

It has been an exhilarating and inspirational ten years. We have had the honor or meeting some of our idols like John Guare, Ellen Stewart, Tom O’Horgan, Lanford Wilson, Judith Malina, Charles Busch, Edward Albee and the list goes on. We have had the pleasure of celebrating our fellow artists and watching a community bond and grow. Thank you Off-Off-Broadway for being brave and tenacious and awesome in the truest sense of the word.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

The Exhilarating Diversity of OOB

It was an exciting year for Off-Off-Broadway and the 2014 nominees represented the kind of exhilarating diversity that is being produced on intimate stages all over New York City. We are very proud to celebrate the work of this community. Each day for the last two months, we have featured a different nominated production and talked with the artists about their inspirations and process.

The New Stage Theatre Company's production of Cosmicomics   Photo by Lee Wexler

The 59 nominated productions by 56 different organizations represented an eclectic group of theatrical creations. Subject matter ranged from stories of teenage angst and self-discovery, such as in Kim Katzberg’s Darkling or Kate Gersten’s First Love, to exploring epic questions about life after death as in Gideon Production’s Frankenstein Upstairs or Vincent Marano’s Lights Narrow; from intimate family dramas like Ann Napolitano’s Within Arm’s Reach to cosmic journeys that questioned the nature of God like La MaMa and the Lone Wolf Tribe’s production of The God Projekt.

There were productions that had international inspirations such as Theatre 167’s Pirira, which takes place during the civil unrest and riots in Malawi and Group.BR’s staging of the work of one of Brazil’s most famous poets Vinicius de Moraes in Infinite While It Lasts. While others like Lenore Wolf’s April March, Fragments from an Unintegrated Life focused on a story of an East Side artist or Nora Woolley's Hip which is set in Williamsburg. Many nominated productions addressed hot button social issues such as Aizzah Fatima’s Dirty Paki Lingerie or Buran Theatre Company’s Magic Bullets, which examined healthcare. And Take Wind and Soar Productions believe that they produced the first all African American production of The Importance of Being Earnest.

    Magic Bullets by
Buran Theatre Company                                              And To the Republic by The Guerrilla Shakespeare Project
     Photo by
David Pym                                                                         
      Photo by Debby Goldman Photography

Some productions utilized traditional theatrical techniques such as the shadow puppets in the New York Neo-Futurists’ Mute or the mime techniques used in At First Sight (and Other Stories); while others like Gyda Arber’s FutureMate broke ground by incorporating text and phone design elements. And other productions like Yara Arts Group’s Fire. Water. Night explored the juxtaposition of nature and modern technology.

Many of the productions were original works like Flux Theatre Ensemble’s Jane the Plain or Ground Up Productions’ Rubber Ducks and Sunsets while others were classics like Metropolitan Playhouse’s A Man’s World which was written at the turn of the century or Phoenix Theatre Ensemble’s production of Shaw’s Don Juan In Hell. And of course there was a healthy dose of deconstructed and reimagined Shakespearian productions like Three Day Hangover’s R+J: Star-Cross’d Death Match and The Guerrilla Shakespeare Project’s And to the Republic.

These posts provide a more in-depth look at this exciting work.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

April March, Fragments from an Unintegrated Life

April March, Fragments from an Unintegrated Life
Written and Performed by Lenore Wolf
Directed by Yvonne Conybeare
Produced by Metropolitan Playhouse

Nomination: Lenore Wolf is nominated for Outstanding Original Short Script

About this Production

April March is a performer who lives in the East Village. In the piece (among other things), she talks about and discovers what it means to her to have worked at her art and to live as an unrecognized actor. She struggles in the moment with what is important to her, with loneliness and revealing herself to the audience.

April March...
was a part of East Side stories: Movers, three one-man portraits of East Village residents based on in-person interviews.

Writer & performer Lenore Wolf talks about illuminating a prominent burlesque star and East Side resident.


What inspired you to write April March...?

I wanted to write something true.  I hope people experienced the story and performance as true and found something about life that they recognized. I also owe MANY thank Yvonne, who directed the piece -- She spent long, late hours with me -- and to Lee Brock, of The Barrow Group, and to Austin Pendleton.

What did you want your audience to come away with after viewing your play?

I think each audience member will come away with whatever he or she needs to come away with. In a sense that is not my business. It would be nice to think that someone felt better about themselves or did something differently after experiencing the play--but I certainly did not think about that when I wrote the piece. I tried to tell some truth that meant something to me and to the person it was written about.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Jane the Plain

Jane the Plain
By August Schulenburg
Directed by Kelly O’Donnell
Produced by Flux Theatre Ensemble

Nominations: Janie Bullard is nominated for Outstanding Sound Design; Kelly O'Donnell is nominated for Outstanding Director; Kia Rogers is nominated for Outstanding Lighting Design

              Photos by Deborah Alexander

About this Production
Football, popularity and the clash of the gods: it's all going down at Plainview High School's homecoming game in the comic fairy tale Jane the Plain. Jane's status takes a sudden rise after she saves the mysterious Glowing Girl and is given the gift of beauty. Everyone starts falling for her: quarterback Scotty the Hotty, second-stringer Lesson the Decent, even the most popular girl in school, Lexi the Sexy. As the jealous Betty the Pretty seeks to eliminate her newfound rival, Leonard the Awkward tries to win his best friend Jane back. But when another mysterious god, the Mirror Man, starts haunting Scotty, this battle of love and social status takes a dangerous turn of cosmic proportions. What if the wrong choice in high school really could end the world?

Producers Heather Cohn and  Rachael Hip-Flores, Lighting Designer Kia Rogers, Set Designer Will Lowy, Playwright Agust Schulenburg, Director Kelly O'Donnell, and Actors: Becky Byers, Chinaza, Sol Crespo, IsaiahTanenbaum, Alisha Spielmann share their experiences of working on this collaborative process about beauty, humanity and the nature of the universe.


What attracted you to this project?

Kia: The play, Jane the Plain, really resonated with me. The feelings of not fitting in, all the crazy things we do as teenagers to try to fit in, and that everything is the MOST important thing, EVER. It's been 20+ years and August Schulenburg put me right back into the hallways of my youth. That's powerful writing, and I wanted to support it creatively, with honesty and beauty. Lighting it was fun, challenging and rewarding.

Heather: About a year ago, Flux expanded our ensemble rather significantly, bringing on five new Creative Partners all at once. These five new CPs (Alisha, Becky, Chinaza, Rachael & Sol) are all actors and Jane the Plain seemed like to perfect show to do to honor our new CPs with great roles for four out of five. Alisha had helped developed the role of title character Jane since the early days. It's also a very ensemble-y show and for that reason too it seemed like a great choice.

What was your favorite part of working on this production?

Becky (Betty the Pretty): My favorite part of working on this production was the true ensemble nature of it all.  Bouncing ideas off one another, trying different things out, being malleable and open toward one another...it's not something you get with most productions.  With Kelly at the helm, this show was something we truly created together, like we were all responsible for our own individual ingredients in making this delicious theater stew.  I felt as though this process brought together us as friends, colleagues, and artists by the art we were creating, manifesting in an honest sense of kinship. Also, there was a confetti cannon. It's mostly the confetti cannon.

Chinaza (Scotty the Hotty): Becky, already said it best... Every face in the room was an artist we loved and respected. The play is about old friends coming back together - to remember one of their own. To look back on this magical moment of time they shared together. And to take that theatrical journey with that group of people brought a special kind of resonance to the piece.

Kelly: My favorite part was to be given the opportunity to work with such a dynamic cast and creative team. It felt like a true team effort. The process was everything I could hope for as a director: everyone involved believed in the show, gave it 100% commitment, and together we created a wonderful production. It was a privilege to be the leader of so many talented artists who trusted me to guide the show to fruition.

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

Sol (Lexi the Sexy): Not having enough time in the space before opening. This play was very physical, had many moving parts- literally- we moved the bleachers around to create a new scene and with such a tech heavy show, for example, confetti cannon precision, it would've been great to have more time to iron those details out. I know a huge challenge of many indie theatre companies is not having enough in the budget to facilitate this extra time. Flux is a very movement oriented company and a lot of us have training to supplement that so I am very confident that we rallied and did the very best we could during our load-in and tech and I'm very proud of our work in JTP. Also, carrying a star drop that requires 6-8 full grown adults is part workout, part teamwork, all fun!

Will: As the set designer, I'm tempted to say the design process itself. With this particular show we needed to create a recognizable high school environment that not only had to flip between locations quickly but had to encompass various levels of our reality, from the everyday to the nostalgic to the mythic. However, that's admittedly just my job when it comes down to it -- every show has its own world that has to be developed and hammered out choice by choice. So to choose something much more specific, I'd have to say the confetti cannon, as every part of its journey sketchpage to stage took an incredible amount of brainpower. Our early research phase was extensive as we determined what would suit our needs theatrically; the cannon itself appeared like it would be unaffordable until Red Mountain Theatre Company loaned us theirs; there were some delivery issues getting the supplies in by tech; due to the manual trigger it took the clever craftsmanship of Friend of Flux Mike Mihm to rig the special effect in a way that the stage manager could trigger it from the back of the house; and then we encountered several consistency issues as we ran the effect in tech that had to be individually solved. Ultimately, we overcame the obstacles, and I was ecstatic that we were able to pull off that particular theatrical exclamation point.

Kelly: A great deal of the play was devised with very little indication, in the script, on how things should be staged. A majority of the final product came out of the rehearsal room and we discovered the vocabulary of the play as an ensemble.

What was the most memorable moment for you during the creation of this production?

Kelly: Flux used wordbuilding marketing strategies to bring the show out of the theatre as much as possible. For example, each character in the show had his or her own Facebook page which the actors in the show maintained and updated on a regular basis.

Isaiah (Leonard the Awkward):  Flux heads out to Little Pond, PA every summer for a week-long retreat, where we workshop plays, talk about the future of the company, and just hang out with some of our nearest and dearest fellow artists. It's magical and invigorating, like the theater camp I never got to go to as a kid. We staged Jane the Plain in its entirety for the first time at the especially magical 7th Retreat in 2012, and for Jane's run through the rain to the edge of the highway we made the rain sounds using whatever was at hand (a design choice that was translated to the staged version two years later) and then had the audience run with her around the back of the converted barn that serves as our staging area as we named all her names for rain. Then Ryan Andes delivered Scotty the Hotty's showstopping "young girl" monologue leaning against his motorcycle, and the Spirit of Beauty was a tree that we puppetted, which drew Jane into its branches before sending her rolling down the actual hill next to the road and back to mundane reality, whereupon we returned to the barn to stage the rest of the play. The way that we physically broke out of the space for that supernatural moment was so powerful that it propelled the rest of the play forward, and that shift has stuck with me through all the subsequent iterations of the show as not only a favorite Jane the Plain development moment, but also a favorite Flux moment, and a favorite theater career moment.

Rachael: Dude, let me tell you about the thing that, like, literally made me believe in God. So, we had a costuming mishap. Our take-no-prisoners-talented costume designer, Stephanie Levin, ordered a custom-made varsity jacket for the character Scotty "The Hotty" Johnson, from a vendor off Etsy whose house I may or may not have burned down several days after this all took place. Of course, the jacket never showed up. The vendor waits until I think it was actually the day before previews to say, "Oh, BTdubs, totally not gonna be able to do this, sorry, don't burn my house down, byeeeee."

So, we're out a very specific, rather important, and pretty damn iconic costume piece (Scotty "the Hotty" Johnson is jock, after all) with maaaybe 24 hours to replace it? So Stephanie is like, "Go to these stores - we're looking for a heavy-weight letterman's jacket in purple or teal" (because ps- our kick-ass set designer, Will Lowry, has made the school colors purple and teal and designed the entire set in those colors) "but seriously, if it's a neutral, grab it because we need something and we're not gonna get anything. Whatever name is on it is fine. Hopefully it's something generic, but whatever." So I set off on a trek which takes me through the bowels of Brooklyn, into second hand stores housing objects which - you know, probably haunted. Also, it's May? And even if someone were willing to part with his/her somewhat expensive and probably sentimentally valuable high school varsity jacket, remarkably few places sell winter coats at the beginning of summer.

I went to...I think it was 7 different stores. The last store. In the back. I'm pawing through all manner of tweedy nonsense...And I see...this heavy-weight letterman's jacket...in purple!...the right size!...with the name JOHNSON embroidered in enormous letters right across the big, broad back. AND it was half the price of what we had anticipated. I just stood there, looking at it and laughing.

For, like, an uncomfortably long time.

I saw Jane the Plain a bunch of times, and every time that jacket came out, there was a part of me (the face part, mostly, with some help from the lungs and the soul) that could still not stop giggling.

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

Alisha (Jane the Plain): "And what I think is, and this is the great secret: I think that happens all the time. Every day, the glowing girl against the mirror-man, every night, beauty and death, every hour the world almost ending, then going on instead." I think what I want people to come away with after watching this story is that there is magic all over the place if you are open enough to see it, and that at the end of the day you need to be true to who you are, to yourself.  That's your truth, your inner beauty. It's easy to forget though. Jane never actually changed her physical appearance, it was how people saw her that changed. People will say things and try to do things and crazy things happen all the time every day but the more you stay true to who you are the more your beauty, your true inner beauty will shine.  Your job is to let that shine by just being and embracing who you are.  Jane realized who she was in all of this, and her walk at the end in my opinion is the most powerful of them all because of everything she had been though. She came out of this knowing herself a little better, and that knowledge is strength that can last a lifetime. That is life.

Heather: Questions about how we define beauty and what it means to be human.

August: I suppose I wanted the audience that followed the adventures of the Plainview Jaguars to walk away with the same thing I myself hope for: More life.

As artists, we are advocates for life as it really is: complex, evolving, difficult, beautiful, interconnected, precious, dangerous, and as far as we know, unlike anything else in our universe. We create work in opposition to forces that seek to simplify, commodify, categorize, deaden and cheapen life for their own self-interests, turning each unique human life into an expendable statistic. These are powerful forces, and we work on little stages, but their size is part of our declaration of what matters: not a huge viewership of interchangeable consumers, but these irreplaceable humans in the here and now.

When I see a great play, I feel the people around me become irreplaceable again, instead of adversaries walking too slow on the sidewalk; and I become aware of just how much we are capable of, for better and for worse. I’m given more life, and it’s just irresistible when it happens, and so I keep coming back and back, in spite of all the flailing absurdities in this calling called theatre. And if I can give some measure of that to someone else, it’s all worth it. That sounds lofty or overreaching, but I don’t mean it or experience it that way. I think it’s actually an everyday kind of magic, as Alisha says, if we can just let go or hold on enough to see it.

But honestly, one of our audience members said it way better than all of that listing verbiage above. One night, as the applause died down and the actors exited into the house, they heard one person say with great energy and sincerity: “Damn. Go Jaguars.”

And, really, that’s what we all want, right? To throw the best we have on the stage or field and afterward, for someone to say, “Damn. Go Jaguars.”

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Julius Caesar

Julius Caesar
By William Shakespeare
Directed by Jonathan Hopkins and Jessica Weiss
Produced by Smith Street Stage

Nomination: Julius Caesar is nominated for Outstanding Revival of a Play

            Photos by Chris Montgomery

About this Production

With one eye on ancient Rome and the other on a modern America this production of Julius Caesar (featuring a female Caesar) shed new light on the play's political themes. Melding sleek contemporary dress and live original music with highly skilled classical acting, Brooklyn's fastest growing Shakespeare company had a very modern look at the tale of political ambition, personal betrayal and the most famous assassination in human history.

"How many ages hence shall this our lofty scene be acted over, in states unborn and accents yet unknown!"

Producer Beth Ann Hopkins talks about the modern production of an ancient political drama.


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

Beth Ann: Producing outdoor theater always has it's challenges. Weather and what not. But we try to embrace those as opportunities. For instance, one show we had to shut down because of the rain and a rainbow appeared over our stage. We had a nature created proscenium arch right there. That will never happen inside.

What was the oddest thing that happened during this production?

Beth Ann: Minor celebrities are starting to come to our productions and tweet about us during the show. That's odd and a little cool.

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

Beth Ann: With a sense that Shakespeare’s writing and themes, can always be connected to our modern times and troubles.

Saturday, September 20, 2014


By Jonathan Larson
Directed by Mark Harborth
Produced by The Gallery Players

Nomination: Dwayne Washington is nominated for Outstanding Actor in a Featured Role

                Photos by Bella Mucari

About this Production
As Gallery has developed a reputation for reimagining these iconic pieces, President Mark Harborth (Chess, Dreamgirls) promises a unique experience for audiences already familiar with the show. “You won’t see a striped winter scarf in this production (or a sexy Santa suit for that matter) but you will hear every note of Jonathan Larson’s passionate score performed by one of the most dynamic and talented casts and orchestras Gallery has assembled.”

Actor Dwayne Washington shares his experience of performing in this cathartic production.


What attracted you to this project?

Dwayne: The show has a beautiful sense of truth! These characters go through real emotions and they allow the actor to really pull from life experience. It allows you to fall in love every night and experience loss and triumph. It’s all a very cathartic experience. No matter what, your thought process and how you see life is evolved with every lyric.

What was your favorite part of working on this production?

Dwayne: I most enjoyed developing the relationships with the cast a crew and working with some phenomenal talent to bring these characters to life. People were discussing real issues that are still so relevant today. This cast bled and cried to find honesty. I believe that these types of experiences are breathtaking. Paying tribute to those that brought these characters to life prior to us, but evolving them through our personal truths. As well as getting to share that with people every night and allowing them to leave the theater feeling heroic in their stories and truth.

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

Dwayne: The most challenging part to this production was seeing it end.The show finally had its wings, that final night was electric. Everyone was on, maybe it was because the lyrics lined the room and danced with each measure. The words never spoke so loudly. You fought back tears in places and smiled in others but it was all real and raw emotions spoken though Jonathan Larson's great lyrics and melodies. Never stop loving, living and being who you are in this world to make it better.

What was the most memorable moment for you during the creation of this production?

Dwayne: We had an amazing time as a cast, we became a crazy dysfunctional family (in all the right ways). This show was suppose to happen with this cast in it. It was awesome how magnetic the energy was, we had people sliding down stripper poles, Lunch outings, tears, candles, and 525600 minutes, it was just right!