Thursday, August 20, 2015

Donkey Punch

Contributed by Conor O'Brien

Sexually adventurous Kareena delves into monogamy with her boyfriend Teddy, while her inhibited best friend, Sam, starts dating Kyle, a pornographer. After a makeover, a scandal, and a documentary; the real question is, who is the donkey?

This is the description offered by The Ivy Theater Company, for their three-time 2015 IT Award nominated production, Donkey Punch - previously titled The Feminism of a Soft Merlot or (How The Donkey Got Punched). Donkey Punch was written by Micheline Auger and Directed by Audrey Alford. The production was presented at the SOHO Playhouse. This production is nominated for Outstanding Original Full Length Script, Premier Production and Actress in a Lead Role (Diana Oh).

The mission statement of Ivy Theater Company states: Ivy Theatre Company is dedicated to dynamic storytelling that explores the human condition in a visceral way in order to provoke thought and challenge both the artist and the audience. Our work climbs inside, up and over the walls that have confined and silenced the voices of the few and the oppressed.

Director Audrey Alford stated what attracted her the production: “Micheline has such a distinct voice and I was so excited to read a play about two complex female characters struggling with their respective roles in their friendship and romantic relationships. We have Kareena struggling to keep her agency in a monogamous relationship and Sam testing her boundaries with sex. I have been both of these women and I thought it was so important to see women with depth, flaws, and unique senses of humor on stage.”
Audrey added a quirky (and innovative) note on her reflections of this piece. She
stated that “the funniest part of the production was definitely the donkey mask. He took on a life of his own. We took it everywhere and got some amazing pictures with it on. Donkey had his picture made with Lea DeLaria, Jenny McCarthy, Constantine Maroulis, and lots of tourists. He also had us cracking up in rehearsal.”

Diana Oh portrayed Kareena and is nominated for the 2015 IT Award for Outstanding Actress in a Lead Role. An innovative and layered role as Kareena would undoubtedly come with challenges. Diana stated that the most challenging aspect(s) of playing Kareena was, “Diving deep into a character who seemingly has everything together but is afraid to admit out loud that she was afraid of commitment, of love, of being loved, of showing love....(it) made me question and realize people's tendencies to self-preserve and irrationally protect and judge their "soft" feelings. And by people's, I'm pretty sure I mean my own.”

Follow this blog to learn more about other innovative Off-Off Broadway productions! Join us as we celebrate all the dynamic and unique voices of the 2015 season!

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Run for Your Wife

Contributed by Conor O'Brien

Written in 1983 (by Roy Cooney) Run For Your Wife concerns London cab driver John Smith, with two spouses, two lives and a very precise schedule for juggling them both and what occurs when his two very separate worlds collide. In January 2015 TheGallery Players mounted their own 1970’s stylized production of this comedic gem! The Gallery Players’ mission is to provide the Brooklyn Community with professional-quality theater at an affordable cost, to nurture and support theater artists, and to cultivate an appreciation of theater in future generations.

We asked producer Sidney Fortner what particularly attracted her to the production? Sidney stated that, “I enjoy the British farce form” to which Sidney also added “...and I'm always happy to work with Director Mark Harborth.” Sidney stated that her favorite part of working on Run For Your Wife was “observing the process of crafting the difficult timing, as the excellent cast brought the play into focus step by step under the collaborative direction of Mr. Harborth."

Nominated for the 2015 NYIT Award for Outstanding Ensemble, we asked Emily Hooper (who portrayed the role of Barbara Smith) what attracted her to this particular production. Emily elaborated that, "After living in the city for almost a year now and having worked on several different projects, I know that the camaraderie our cast shared was truly special. I feel so grateful that this show was my very first New York production, and I think I lucked out with the kind of people I got to work with. Not only was everyone incredibly professional...but I never felt alone for a single second on that stage.”

The outstanding nominees from the entire ensemble are: Emily Hooper, Graciany Miranda, James Swanson, Joseph Cassese, Joshua Nicholson, Maria Silverman, Michael Hardart and Timothy Park.

Follow us to learn more about all the 2015 nominees and help us celebrate Off-Off Broadway!

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Temple of The Souls

Contributed by Conor O'Brien

Temple of The Souls is a forbidden tale of secrets, loves and lies of what might have happened in 16th Century Puerto Rico when a chance meeting changed the world forever.   This is a time when women were chaperoned, marriages arranged, and social classes never mixed. A time when Spaniards enslaved thousands of indigenous Taínos, stole their women, their land, their lives. A time when Taínos jumped from the highest cliff in the El Yunque rain forest ... jumped to their deaths to escape the white man. This is the time where it all begins, on the eve of the great fiesta, when a Taíno boy and a Spanish girl fall in love.

Temple of the Souls (a musical drama) was developed and directed by Lorca Peress, with story by Anita Velez-Mitchell, music by Dean Landon and Anika Paris and book by Anita Velez-Mitchell, Lorca Peress and Anika Paris. Temple of The Souls was produced by MultiStages, which was founded in 1997 with the mission of developing multicultural and multidisciplinary new works through collaborations between playwrights and artists (within and outside the theatre arena) that celebrate a fusion of art forms rarely found in today’s theatre.

Temple of The Souls is nominated for a total of nine 2015 IT Awards, including Outstanding Production of a Musical.

From its inception, collaborative development and final product - Temple of The Souls captures so much of what true innovative theater is!  Lorca Peress provided some unique insight when asked what she found to be the most enjoyable part of the entire process:

"Combining all of the various elements and being graced with a fabulous artistic team was a favorite part of working on this production. Finding a terrific venue at Theater for the New City with its 20' plus foot ceiling that made the audience and actors feel like we were in the rain forest and seeing the result of our work and the development of our show since our first workshop in 2011."

Be sure to continue following the NYIT blog for highlights and fantastic insights into our 2015 awards season!

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

In the Bones

Contributed by Isaiah Tanenbaum

In the Bones
produced by Astoria Performing Arts Center is one of the most-recognized shows this year, earning nominations for Premiere Production of a Play, Jaime Vallés' Innovative Design, and acting nominations for Emily Koch, Sean Hankinson, Mel House, and Zac Hoogendyk. We asked them to tell us a little about the production and what brought them on board.

"The first time that I read the script, I got lost in the story. I felt angry, laughed out loud and wept," wrote House. Hankinson agreed: "Cody Daigle wrote a beautiful play." And Hoogendyk added: "When I read it, I knew I wanted to do it."

The production made extensive use of video elements, which earned Jaime Vallés his Innovative Design nomination, and many of the nominees reflected on video's impact on the production as a whole. "I loved the different elements used within In the Bones," wrote Koch. While integrating video into a stage play was not without its challenges, such as a more complicated tech process, it had an upside: "we had one day to shoot all the video footage, and the cast and crew bonded very quickly," said Vallés. Creating the video elements "was a rare opportunity to work with the cast and director on the play's backstory," pointed out Hankinson. "Normally, that work is never really focused outside of personal prep. It was a treat."

The run had its share of memorable moments -- one audience member vomited; another time a pipe burst during the final act, soaking everyone on stage (the show continued, of course). One scene involves House's character's enthusing to Koch's character about the production of Wicked she had seen. Ironically, Koch was in callbacks for a swing role in the national tour of that play, a role she booked. That evening, House went completely blank on the monologue, and all she could get out was a breathless "Wicked!" "Luckily, [Koch's] agent/management team and lots of people in the audience understood and had a big response, and we picked up the scene and proceeded just fine. But I was a very proud Auntie indeed!"

All in all, the cast and crew had a wonderful time working at the Astoria Performing Arts Center (APAC), whose mission is to "bring high quality theater to Astoria, Queens, and to support local youth and senior citizens" and whose productions have garnered 36 NYIT nominations and have received six awards (plus the 2012 Caffe Cino Fellowship). We'll give Koch the last word: "they are so giving and smart and fun that every rehearsal was a joy to be a part of."

Monday, August 3, 2015

ACTING ALONE: Outstanding Solo Performances of 2015

Contributed by Conor O'Brien

Renowned American playwright Thorton Wilder is quoted as saying, "I regard the theatre as the greatest of all art forms, the most immediate way in which a human being can share with another the sense of what it is to be a human being."

This statement is further augmented when considering the raw power and unique challenges that comes from solo-based theater. One person, perhaps capturing a collection of voices or just one unique perspective, striving to share with an audience a true sense of something intimate and vital. Solo theater is truly an amazing representation of the innovative spirit of the performing arts!

There are six nominees for the 2015 NYIT Award for Outstanding Solo Performance.

Joe Assadourian
The Bullpen, Eric Krebs Theatrical Management, Inc

Christopher J. Domig
Dirt, DRECK Productions

Dominique Fishback
Subverted, Dominique Fishback

Sylvia Milo
The Other Mozart, Little Matchstick Factory

Tanya O'Debra

The Ultimate Stimulus, Felipe Ossa

Lucie Pohl
Hi, Hitler, Great Pretender Productions
We spoke with a few of them to see WHY they chose these particular roles/projects and what they found most challenging.

THE OTHER MOZART is the true, untold story of Nannerl Mozart, the sister of Amadeus - a prodigy, keyboard virtuoso and composer, who performed throughout Europe with her brother to equal acclaim, but her work and her story faded away, lost to history. Written and performed by Slyvia Milo, directed by Isaac Byrne. Produced by The Little Matchstick Factory. 

Why this project?
I received the inspiration to create The Other Mozart in 2006. I saw a small picture of the Mozart family portrait on a wall in Vienna and I began the research on who is the sister of Amadeus. She turned out to be a genius, forgotten and stifled because of her gender. I read books on Amadeus, then I read all the family letters. She emerged to me from those letters. Here was a woman Mozart, a child prodigy and composer, who toured with Amadeus as equals, but her work is lost and her story is not being told. I realized I may be the person who is to tell her story. I worked for years researching Mozarts and the situation of women, particularly women artists, during that time. I spent time in Europe, in the places where Nannerl Mozart lived or traveled through. I started to gathered a team of Polish and American theater professionals.

The result is an abstract concept of the staging and design, together with the emotional, direct telling of a great story, and then there is the music - sound design encompassing Amadeus and Leopold Mozart, Marianna Martines (a great female composer from Mozart -time Vienna) and new compositions of contemporary classical music.

What was the most challenging part of creating this project?
The Other Mozart is the first full-length play I wrote, it is also the first solo show I ever performed. And it was the first time I produced a theatrical run. I learned so much and continue learning through this show!

SUBVERTED portrays the destruction of Black identity as seen through the eyes of Eden, an 18 year-old girl living in any urban city in the USA. Through the colliding viewpoints of 22 friends, family members, and historical figures, Eden discovers that the promise of “equal opportunity” still, to this day, does not exist. She questions why the people she loves the most continue to live blindly subverted by an unrelenting history that they did not live through, yet inherit and must accept.

Why This Project?
The topics in Subverted are truly important to me. I believe that the issues addressed in the show need to be discussed; and more importantly, they need to be seen in the raw state that is Subverted. This way we can put a face, a name, a heart, a smile, and tears to the statistics and those living in the hood. In doing that more people would hear them [us] out. Subverted is raw, its harsh, its funny and its heartbreaking. Subverted is not for the faint hearted. Why should it be? If Black people in America are not allowed to be faint of heart because their [our] circumstances don’t allow for that, then to get a better understanding, the audience has to be infused in the struggle. Additionally, this time around producing Subverted, I was excited to see what a director, light, set, and sound designer who’ve all worked on Broadway productions, would add to a show I already loved so much.

What was the most challenging part of creating this project?
I would say that fundraising and being both a performer and first time producer was very challenging because I had to have many different parts of my brain working at the same time—the performer/artistic side and the business/marketing side. I’m an artist at heart so the business aspect was never really my thing, but I did it and now I know that I'm capable. I also had an awesome director and assistant producer who really made things easier for me.

DIRT focuses upon the character Sad. Sad is an Arab living in our city in 2014. He loves the English language, and America too. He is thankful for the life he is “allowed” to live in this country, and is sensitively aware of his rights – and lack thereof. He is careful about what he says and does, to the point that he remarks repeatedly he has never once sat on a park bench in this city. To Sad, the benches are reserved for the people he at once admires and abhors, including the 40-year-old men that buy his roses but refuse to look him in the eye. He resents their behavior yet feels obligated to respect them, and the exploration of this conflict drives the entire play. Written by Robert Schneider, translated by Paul Dvorak and directed by Mary Catherine Burke.

Why This Project?
I was amazed that no one was interested in doing the English speaking production of DIRT, even though the subject matter of an immigrant was and continues to be extremely relevant. It was a story that no one wanted to tell, and I felt strongly about giving the character of Sad a voice.

What was the most challenging part of creating this project?
DIRT is about the struggle that so many immigrants face on a daily basis. Sad's struggle in DIRT doesn't end well. It took a lot of energy to allow Sad to fight for a solution, instead of giving into despair. As an actor I know how the story will end, but as the character every night, I had to be hopeful, searching and fighting for the right to be be heard. This took quite a toll on my emotional well being, but was worth it each and every performance.

For more coverage of the 2015 IT awards season be sure to follow this blog!