Wednesday, August 31, 2016

A Little Night Music

Music and Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and Book by Hugh Wheeler
Directed by Judith Jorosz
Produced by Theater 2020

Nominated for: Outstanding Costume Design, Viviane Galloway; Outstanding Production of a Musical

About the Production
A Little Night Music is a charming musical with. Inspired by the Ingmar Bergman film Smiles of a Summer Night, it involves the romantic lives of several couples and has proved to be one of Sondheim’s most popular pieces for performers and audiences alike. The musical includes the immensely popular song "Send in the Clowns". Come and see this piece directed in a (haunted or haunting?) gothic chapel, and be literally surrounded by the sounds of Sondheim.

Dedicated to providing affordable theatre to 21st Century audiences, Theater 2020’s production of A Little Night Music brought a story about the endurance of love to Brooklyn Heights. According to David Browning of the Huffington Post, this professional and grounded production explored “young love, love revived, and love found again.”

Director Judith Jarosz and Costume Designer Viviane Galloway discuss the process of reimagining this classic and the gratification of surprising audiences.


What attracted you to this production?

Viviane: I was very excited to work on this production because I knew that I would have the opportunity to work with several people that I love to work with. Especially because it has been many years since I've worked with Giles Hoyga--he is a wonderful lighting designer and I was excited to work with him again.

Judith: I have three words: Sondheim, Sondheim, Sondheim. We were also performing at the First Unitarian Church, an intimate gothic space where the fabulous singers do NOT have mics and the audience is surrounded, so they can hear every brilliant lyric.

What was your favorite part of working on this production?

Viviane: I had actually never seen a production of A Little Night Music before ( I don’t know, how is that possible?) and in addition we were working with a non-traditional concept so I really wasn't influenced by any previous productions. I didn't have any worries about how our production would compare to others. I just got to have fun exploring this world that we were creating.

Judith: I have worked with Sondheim at the NYC Opera and it is always a dream to work on his pieces. This one is probably an all-time favorite. Also, the staff, crew and cast all worked incredibly hard (some traveling from another state!) with top notch professionalism and little more than their artistic fulfillment and pride in the production as a reward. The sound blend for this cast was superb.

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

Viviane: It always takes longer for me to feel that I really "get" a musical. When I read a play, I hear all the voices and I see the characters in my head and I understand the subtext and because it is easy for me, my mind can explore ideas as I read. When I read a musical, I don't have that as much because I don't speak the language of music. So my mind is working harder just to understand the structure and the lyrics and the pacing, and it isn't free to drift--my ideas come from the drifting. I had a really hard time seeing Charlotte, the Countess. I didn't understand who she was from the music, and the actress hadn't had time to discover her yet either...but I think in the end we both nailed it!

Judith: Tiny budget, high cost & limited rehearsal time always make creating magic at a showcase level a major challenge. And musicals are usually 3 times the work of many straight plays.

What did you want the audience to come away with after watching is production of A Little Night Music?

Judith: I wanted the audience to see that there are many ways to present a piece of theater. And then blowing them away by how even more amazing Sondheim is when you can hear every lyric.

What was the most noteworthy part of this production for you?

Viviane: It took some audience members a while to understand that this production wasn't going to look like other productions that they had seen before. It wasn't going to be a period production. It wasn't going to be light and airy. We wanted it to be rather dark and gothic. Often when Judith or I told someone it was going to be gothic, they thought we meant Goth! Which also would have been a fun choice...

Judith: There were many fun moments with this cast & crew. We laughed a LOT!

What was it like to work with Theater 2020?

Viviane: During this production, I got really sick during a production. I mean, 'worried that I wouldn't get out of bed to finish things" kind of sick. But I did, I think I missed a dress rehearsal, but I got everything done. And the cast was amazing, they helped where they could, they helped each other with hair and makeup, they were patient when I kept promising things like suspenders and hooks and it took longer than I hoped for all that to get done. But everyone was awesome, and I felt that they were supportive of me no matter what happened.

You can follow these artists on Twitter
Theater 2020 - @Theater2020
 Viviane Galloway -  @CostumeGal

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

The Further Adventures Of...

Written by Kathleen Warnock
Directed by Eric Chase
Produced by TOSOS

Nominated for: Outstanding Original Short Script, Kathleen Warnock; and Outstanding Ensemble: Tim Burke, Mark Finley, and Jamie Heinlein

Photo by Katrina del Mar

About the Production
TOSOS (“The Other Side of Silence”) endeavors to “explore the unique LGBT experience and cultural sensibilities in a life-affirming and respectful way.” In Kathleen Warnock’s play The Further Adventures Of..., a woman explores her childhood fascination with a 1950’s Sci-Fi TV show and what it reveals about her own sexuality.

Producer Barry Childs, Playwright Kathleen Warnock, and Ensemble members: Tim Burke, Mark Finley, and Jamie Heinlein talk about developing this work from the page to the stage.


What attracted you to this production?

Jamie: I have known the playwright for almost 30 years. She wrote the play originally for a 24 hour play festival where she had pulled my name out of a hat as an actor and was given 3 words that had to be used in the play. It was 10 minutes to start and has grown over the years.

Kathleen: Once this was a 10-minute play. We had great fun doing it all over the place, and it was even published in a "Best 10-Minute Plays" anthology. Then, when I had to step in for the leading lady at the last minute, I realized (while I was acting in it), that there were ways that the play could be expanded. I know it's still considered a short play, but its time span is now over 50 years (actually, over a million years).

Mark: I love how the camp elements reveal the truth of the story

Barry: I was really drawn to the subject matter and how it is handled. The secret affair between the male stars in the TV show is never trivialized, it is simply taken for what it is.

Tim: TOSOS is the oldest LGBT theatre company in NYC. I have always been drawn to their work. In 2014 I had the opportunity to work with TOSOS or the first time in The Wind Behind us, part of the Unchained Theatre Festival in Long Island City. Kathleen Warnock's play is fascinating on many levels, as it explores our inner voice as it guides us in the formation of identity, as well as the masks that we wear, from the time of Golden Age of Hollywood to the present.

What was your favorite part of working on this production?


Kathleen: We created a kind of dream team for this production: Eric Chase, whom I'd been wanting to work with since he directed a short monologue I wrote; Jamie Heinlein, whom I'd written the original play for; Mark Finley, who made the role of The Commander his own; and the final piece was Tim Burke, who stepped in to the role of the Prince, which had been a bit of a revolving door before that.

Mark: The script, crew, company and the chance to create 4 distinct characters.
Tim: Developing the play was collaborative the actors, writer and director, as well as the assistant director. Each time we rehearsed and performed, the play evolved and grew.

Barry: It just felt so easy - The cast, playwright and director were all in sync with each other and it made watching rehearsals a joy.

Jamie: The character is great - not many parts so full of character growth and discovery for a woman my age so that was amazing to work on. Plus I love working with every single person involved in this show so it's a treat!

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

Tim: Playing multiple characters, male and female, from a child to elderly. We developed a "neutral" character, to watch each scene from onstage, staying part of the action, even if not part of the scene. Then a simple physical gesture or movement to embody the next character and join the scene.

Kathleen: We have been so peripatetic: at Dixon Place, in Provincetown, in Ireland, the Upper West Side, and now the Fringe. We know we have a good show, and we work hard to make it fit the space we are in, wherever we are.

Jamie: Lots of direct address to the audience. I love the interplay with other actors and forgetting the audience - which isn't possible here.

Barry: That is a bit hard to say, as this was one of the 'easiest' shows I have ever worked on. I guess I would say that the play has a loyal and small following, so getting the attention of a larger audience has been a challenge.
Photo by Katrina del Mar

What was the most unique thing about working on this production?

Tim: The play started at a 24 hour play festival, but when I joined the project, the playwright had just completed the additional material, from 10 minutes to one hour, and 6 new characters. Very exciting, and intimidating, as we had two weeks before the 2014 Hot! Festival on the lower east side.

Jamie: The whole "born of a 24-hour play festival" comes to mind again. The required words form the festival are all still in the play - but no one would ever know they weren't organic.

Kathleen: I've never worked on, or enjoyed working on, a show for such a long time, and it never gets old. I end up making changes in every production, working within the current structure, and every time we do it, it feels deeper and richer.

What did you want the audience to come away with after watching The Further Adventures Of...?

Barry:  I would say that the story told in the play illustrates how far we have come as a society in accepting same sex relationships and how far we still have to go.

What was it like working with TOSOS?

Tim: They love what they do, and the material is meaningful, and often quite personal. They do theatre because they live it, love it, and believe in its importance.
Jamie: Immense fun & respect from everyone!

Mark: One of the things that is unique about us is that we always focus on supporting non-mainstream LGBT work.

Kathleen: TOSOS is my home. Its founder, Doric Wilson, invited me to join, and it's given me more joy and satisfaction as a working theater person than almost anything else. Not just my shows: but we've put on some wonderful, important plays, and I'm proud of that.

What was it like working with Kathleen, Tim, Jamie, and Mark?

Barry: These nominees were an incredible team. They all work together so well, it was as if they all share the same mind.

You can follow these artists on Twitter
Jamie Heinlein -  @jimmyjameynyc
Kathleen Warnock - @kwarnockny


Monday, August 29, 2016

Unity (1918)

Written by Kevin Kerr
Directed by KJ Sanchez
Produced by Project: Theater

Nominated for: Outstanding Sound Design, Joe Jung & KJ Sanchez; Outstanding Ensemble: Wendy Bagger, Alicia Dawn Bullen, Jessi Blue Gormezano, Doug Harris, Beth Ann Hopkins, Joshua Everett Johnson, Joe Jung, Alexandra Perlwitz, Melanie Rey; & Outstanding Revival of a Play

Photo by Russ Rowland

About the Production

Project: Theater focuses on new or forgotten works that nurtures the audience/performer relationship and helps build community. Kevin Kerr’s play Unity (1918) tells the story of a Canadian town “blindsided by a mysterious and deadly plague known now as The Spanish Flu.” Illuminates how the strength of community can help individuals face even seemingly insurmountable challenges. 

Creative team members: Alexandra Perlwitz, Beth Ann Hopkins, Doug Harris, Jessi Blue Gormezano, Joe Jung, Joshua Everett Johnson, KJ Sanchez, Melanie Rey, and Wendy Bagger give us some insight about working on this dark, but up-lifing work.


What attracted you to this production?

Doug: I was attracted most by the incredibly relevant content. Unity (1918) spoke to what it means to be a community in crisis. It is stories from moments of such darkness as this that are truly honest and inspiring. It spoke to my humanity in a way that truly touched and broke my heart.

Jessi: The script. It is a stunning fictionalized account of the folks in a small Canadian town during The Great War. Playwright Kevin Kerr's effortless fusion of historical accuracy and the imagined comedies and tragedies of the young people and a few adults in the rural town of Unity blew me away. The short scenes and theatrical fluidity of the storytelling were captivating and let much to be filled in by the cast and creative team.

Joe: First off, the script is incredible. It was brought to us by the director KJ Sanchez after she saw one of our previous productions. She said Unity (1918) was a passion project she had been pitching to companies for years but had never been picked up. Upon the first read we were floored by the play's heart, humor and humanity. It is beautiful and poetic and magical, yet completely grounded in the human experience. It's a story of love in a brutal time. It's full of hope in the midst of what might be the deadliest plague in human history. We had no idea how it could be staged but were thrilled by the sense of adventure that the play inspired and the fearlessness of KJ to dare to tackle such an epic, and at the same time, intimate play.

Second, the chance to work with KJ Sanchez and the rest of this marvelous cast and crew was impossible to resist. It is rare to have this amount of creativity working in complete conjunction. We all worked together in the spirit of artistic collaboration to create this complete world with the limited resources we had at our disposal.

KJ: This is a play that I have loved and carried with me for years. I was dying to direct it.

Melanie: The Director: KJ Sanchez. She is a dynamo...a tsunami...a perfect Actor's Director. And the chance to perform comedy always excites me. And most of all, to be working in an ensemble means: everyone is an equal part of it all: from lights to sound and music...scenic changes and prop changes...its a group effort from the moment it begins to the moment it ends.

Alexandra: I have always enjoyed working with Project: Theater and I trust Joe Jung with all my being.

Beth Ann: Joe Jung, has never let me down. When he contacted me to work on the piece there was no way I was going to miss an opportunity to work with such a creative and interesting mind.

The character of Sunna also really compelled me to work on the piece.

Joshua: I was attracted to the show because of the quality of the team and the script. The producers, designers and director are all impressive talents and amazing humans and the script is a wonderful combination of well written human perseverance and comic relief. It's also a story about one of the most devastating tragedies of our time that has for so long been shrouded in mystery and half truths - a story that really needed to be told.

Wendy: First, the theatre company putting the show on: Project Theatre. I'd seen many of their productions and I knew they were working on interesting stories and with interesting artists. And then reading the script I fell in love with how relevant this story is to us today: How we handle fear, and love in a time of crisis.
Photo by Russ Rowland  


What did you want the audience to come away with after watching Unity (1918)?

Joe: We wanted the audience to come out of the theater feeling that they were part of a community. We wanted the audience to feel as though they were as much a part of the world of the play as the actors. We tried to immerse them in sound, at times plunged them into darkness, seated them so they would always see each other, utilize the space so the actors could be as close as possible and still tell the story. We wanted them to still feel the show the next day.

What was your favorite part of working on this production?

Alexandra: The ensemble work.

Beth Ann: Working with KJ and the rest of the cast was just extraordinary. They were some of the most generous and caring actors and staff I've ever worked with. We all fell in love with each other.

Jessi: The fearless ensemble and the trusting and inventive director. From the first rehearsal KJ Sanchez, the director, invited each actor and designer into the creative process and encouraged input on all aspects of the production.

Wendy: The collaborative spirit of the whole team of actors, designers and our director! Everyone was given room to create and build on each other’s work. Creating the soundscape together was haunting and thrilling.

Melanie: The Cast. Wonderful people. Ensemble work is where I got my start back at The Western Springs Children's Theater under the direction of VI Dawson. She used to snap her fingers and yell "ENSEMBLE!!" and every single one of us kids had to stop everything on stage and create a unique and theatrical "group position". We were trained to make sure every human on that stage was in a "stage picture" in those moments and that we formed a perfect integrated theatrical group AT THE DROP OF A HAT.

Doug: NY theater scene inspired me. Unity was a show all its own and we prided ourselves on that fact.

Joshua: Again the depth of talent involved in the team and the writing. We really got to dive in deep while also finding those lovely moments of comedy. And creating the live sound design together - that was amazing!

KJ: The cast and company (Project: Theater) - such great people. Good, kind people, skilled, very talented and a whole lot of fun. Every day of rehearsal was sheer pleasure.

Joe: Every day the team entered the rehearsal room with the intent to work. Each rehearsal and performance was a joy. Each moment of discovery in this process was a treasure. I can only look at this production as an entire experience because each part was integral to the whole. Every moment was precious.

Witnessing the full actualization of the piece from the page to the stage was a tremendous thrill. The script has incredibly dreamlike stage directions and the scenes move quickly from one to the next, sometimes switching locations and moods incredibly quickly. The way the director, actors, and designers worked together to seamlessly build the entire world of the play was inspiring and the amount of heart and work everyone poured into the piece was incredibly humbling

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

Beth Ann: The Icelandic accent was a challenge, I'd never done anything like that before, but I loved learning.

Wendy: We were working in a quirky performance space so it was a challenge to make the play look like it belonged in that space. Using every inch of the place to tell the story helped.

Jessi: The space we worked in provided some interesting challenges but thanks to the director's innovative use of the space, it ended up being an asset.

Joe: As is most often the case in Off-Off-Broadway theater, the money factor was terribly challenging. We had a successful crowdfunding campaign and a few strong supporters of our work, but New York is an expensive town and we wanted to compensate our team as well as we could. In the end, the challenges we faced forced us to come up with creative solutions that only deepend the level of commitment to the play and strengthened the creativity that went into it.

However, the most challenging aspect for me was knowing we would have to let it go. Having to accept that it would eventually end. I feel like I left a part of myself on that stage and I'm not sure I'll ever be able to get it back.

Joshua: The story is dark. Real dark. So there were days when you and your team connect with the material in a personal way and it really hits hard. So you carry it with you and that can be tough. At the same time you can't give in to it, it's a story about forging ahead, so that's what we needed to do as well. Sometimes the toughest part about tragedy is the fact that you still have to keep moving, that there is still work to be done, even while trying to pay respect to the people around you that you have lost.

Alexandra: Having everyone "die" every performance.

KJ: We had a big play, a big cast and a tiny, tiny space. This forced us to be inventive and that's what led to the idea of a soundscape created by the whole company.

Melanie: Recreating the exact sound effects the director had requested in rehearsal...all throughout the performances. I had to make the water feature noises with a paint pan of water, my hands and my ability to dribble and drain water sounds through my the same level and effect as had been requested from the accompaniment to the scene. And the same went for the chain-in-can sounds I repeated whenever we were making the wheat thresher sounds. And drop everything and sing back stage at a level that carried the emotion...yet ended and began by fading in and out on cue...and still hit perfect notes beginning and ending notes without a tuning for/pitch pipe...each night. As well as begin singing on stage as background to a funeral...never allowing my vocal work to over shadow the scene but to remain integrated.
Photo by Russ Rowland

What was the weirdest part of working on this production?

Beth Ann: Staying up late and making sounds with Joe was just a blast. We'd just constantly try new things and fail and laugh and do it all over again.

Jessi: Every actor was so perfectly cast. I don't think I've ever been in a production where each person fit their role so beautifully.

The weird stuff we used to make the soundscape was bizarre and so fun! The fact that all of the actors were responsible for generating all the live sounds in the show required that even when we were offstage, we were invested in the telling of the story.

Joshua: We decided to create a sound design that was played on mostly found objects and we didn't record anything. We played the "music" of the story live together each night in the corners of the stage. Not only was that an amazing experience - the creating and performing of the sound design - but it kept us all engaged in each other's stories and the piece as a whole the entire duration of the show. It was a very challenging, rewarding and immersive experience.

Wendy: The soundscape! We used musical instruments sure. But also bags of rice and paint trays, gel frames, jars of water, violin bows against cymbals, a hurdy-gurdy. Sometimes we were creating a very specific sound (like the digging of a grave) or just underscoring the feelings of a moment. It was the texture in a very spare production.

Joe: Our sound design was completely organic. We used no recorded sound in the show but created the entire soundscape with musical instruments, found objects, and the theater itself. The fact that we were nominated for a sound design award in a world ruled by technology is a real honor.

Our brilliant lighting designer Kenton Yeager, and his assistant Maanda DeBusk, designed the entire show within an hour of being in the theater after flying up from Knoxville, TN. With a giant smile on his face, he took a look at the lighting inventory, investigated the grid, and pointed to the ceiling saying, 'That goes there, that goes there, that goes there...' while his assistant took notes and created the plot on her ipad. The entire show was hung within a few hours, then Kenton led us all in guided meditation. It was the most chill, focused tech ever.  Also I never got to see any part of it. I was blindfolded for the entire show so I was never able to visually interact with anyone onstage! Sometimes I really wanted to see my scene partner, but then, when I didn't have my eyes, I just needed to trust my other senses to lead the way.

Melanie: Working in Comedy Tandem with Wendy Bagger was a joy and challenge each night as we concentrated mightily to sustain a frantic speaking rhythm while delivering exactly choreographed comedic beats which had to deliver the laughs as a contrast to the intense sadness during the rest of the piece.

KJ: Since it was a small room, the actors had nowhere to go so we embraced this idea, that they were always tucked into a corner, watching, creating the soundscape, witnessing, and rooting each other on. Oh yes, and the play is all about death. Death, death and more death. And it's funny. And we got quite used to laughing about very dark things. And one day we got caught in a torrential downpour as we were loading in a coffin, a huge (and real) sythe and a wheel barrow used for carting bodies. We got soaked and had a ball.

Alexandra: No. Not a thing. We are all extremely normal...

What was it like working with Project: Theater?

Beth Ann:  Aside from the people, whom I love... I'd say my favorite part of working with Project: Theatre is the openness for experimentation. I really felt ready to explore and keep diving deeper into where the story and character and sounds could go.

Doug: Project: Theater is an amazing organization. They produce work that speaks to who each of us are as humans. They tell stories that matter about people we should all know. Their drive to bring valuable stories to the forefront of the artistic conversation sets the bar for how we should all view our roles in the artistic conversation.

Jessi:  I am so impressed by how much each person, from the lighting designer's assistant to the volunteers who worked front of house, shared enormous amounts of their time, talent and unique perspective to make Unity 1918 such a joyful experience.

Joshua:  The level of talent at Project:Theatre is off the charts. As is their level of compassion, fearlessness and commitment to creative story telling based on truth. And the director, KJ Sanchez, really knew how to push you forward while giving you space to create and discover on your own.


Melanie:  Their respect and camaraderie for each other. No one hesitated to come to one another's aid...often running backstage to alleviate a problem...find a missing prop and/or provide a necessary handkerchief on stage when it became lost and had to be replaced with another cast member's! Filling in a sound effect as though it was your own...since we all knew each other's sound effect "choreography" and who did what--

Wendy: Our director, KJ Sanchez was a creative powerhouse. And Jessi Blue Gormezano and Joe Jung are possibly the most generous and loving producers and artistic directors I may ever get to work with. They work from such love.

Alexandra: Joe Jung is a master creator, and Jessi Blue is a master communicator. They set the tone for absolute creation and imagination.

What was it like working with this creative team?

Joe: The team and the creativity they all brought was electrifying. Everyone worked together on nearly every part of this production, and the nominations reflect that. Everyone used his or her own strengths and fears as an ensemble, working on a fantastic play, creating beautiful sounds. For us the ensemble is the key to making good theater, and the ensemble is everyone involved in the project.
These three nominations are a strengthening of our mission of creating community through theater. 

You can follow these artists on Twitter
Project: Theater - @projecttheater
Beth Ann Hopkins -  @balouwho
Joe Jung - @fivepointscbg

Wendy Bagger - @wendybagger 


Sunday, August 28, 2016

The Bacchae

Written by Euripides 
Directed by Mark Greenfield
Produced by The Faux-Real Theatre Company in association with LaMaMa ETC

Nominated for: Outstanding Innovative Design, Lynda White (Mask Design); Outstanding Original Music, Jonathan Elliott, Mark Greenfield, Tony Naumovski, Emily Serotta

About the Production
Faux-Real Theatre Company’s production of The Bacchae employed music, dancing, masks, and audience engagement. Described as a “feast for the senses,” they made this 5th century BC Euripidean tragedy poignant and immediate for modern NYC audiences.

Director Mark Greenfield, Designer Lynda White, and Composers Jonathan Elliott and Tony Naumovski  talk about bringing this ancient Greek classic to life.


What attracted you to this production?

Mark: Faux-Real had been doing immersive devised theatre projects since 1997. We wanted to apply our aesthetic to traditional scripts. The broad gestural style and heightened language of Greek theatre, as well as the built in element of direct audience address makes The Bacchae and other Greek plays an ideal match for our non-naturalistic approach.
Jonathan: I was eager to hear how my music would be used in a new production of the play

Lynda: I have been working on Greek Tragedies with Faux Real theater for seven years. It has been very rewarding to develop the visual language over the years with a variety of Greek classics.

Tony: Working with Mark Greenfield is always exciting and innovative. I love his energy, talent, enthusiasm and dedication. And he is an amazing director.

What was your favorite part of working on this production?

Lynda: Mark Greenfield (director), Jeff Wood (music) and I went to Antioch College together many moons ago. Mark is a very dynamic director and we all have a long history of making art together. The process is intense and rich. The cast was strong with a combination of veterans of Faux Real and new actors who had open minds and hearts. LaMaMa is an amazing venue to work in, my favorite.

Mark: Seeing this archaic spectacle brought into ferocious existence by such an amazing cast and crew.
Jonathan: I loved the wonderful spirit and energy of the performers, and the fact that I have loved the play for decades

Tony: Playing Tiresias with closed eyes (for real) and opening my eyes as a specific stylistic choice at only one moment in the show. In addition pretty much performing as Tiresias more so as a musical instrument, with its own signature and specificity, rather than a character in the traditional sense. Although this angle of interpretation is a unique character blend of the soundscape of voice and movement of the body, music, costume and props and most importantly the silence.

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

Tony: Well I did most of the music for it, which is always a new test for me cause I grew up with music more so than with acting and my expectations are very high. Then, a great deal of the show is soundscape which is always a balance of not too much not too less. And then how do we mix and make this ancient tunes and sounds also contemporary and not distant ourselves from the modern audiences.

Playing Tiresias with closed eyes (for real) and opening my eyes as a specific stylistic choice at only one moment in the show. In addition pretty much performing as Tiresias more so as a musical instrument with its own signature and specificity rather than a character in the traditional sense. Although this angle of interpretation is a unique character blend of the soundscape of voice and movement of the body, music, costume and props and most importantly the silence.

Jonathan: Getting the singers to sing challenging material with a naturalistic quality

Mark: Time constraints and budgetary constraints are always our biggest challenge.

What did you want the audience to come away with after watching The Bacchae?

Mark: I wanted the audience to realize that Greek theatre is thrilling and entertaining and more transgressive in many ways than our modern experimental theatre.

What was the oddest part of this production?

Mark: During our show, seeing Andrew Bryce as Dionysus, it was actually as if the deity himself had come to life. 
Tony: Everything about working with Mark is odd and quirky and innovative and that's why I love it. LOL

What is is like working with the Faux-Real Theatre Company and LaMaMa?

Tony: It is a very artistic and highly creative environment. Not pretentious. Open and Free.

What was it like working with Lynda, Tony, Jonathan, and Emily?

Mark: Lynda White approaches mask making and design with a belief that theatre is a transformational experience. She believes in theatre as something that transcends the quotidian and leads to the divine.

The music of Tony Naumovski, Jonathan Elliot and Emily Serotta captures the erie trance inducing magic that I have always imagined the songs of the ancient Greeks to sound like. Tony's background in Macedonian music lends a direct historic link to the sounds of ancient Athens. Jonathan Elliot's compositions are both rooted in extensive training, and in a keen sense of intuition that allows for songs that stretch the boundaries of melody. Emily Serotta's background in chanting and chorus work helped bind and free the voices of our Bacchants.

You can follow these artists on Twitter

Faux-Real Theatre Company - @FauxRealTheater

Jonathan Elliot - @ElliottJonathan

Saturday, August 27, 2016


Written by Emily Schwend
Directed by Jay Stull
Produced by The Amoralists

Nominated for: Outstanding Actor in a Featured Role, Alex Grubbs; Outstanding Actress in a Lead Role, Vanessa Vaché; Outstanding Original Full-Length Script, Emily Schwend; & Outstanding Premier Production of a Play

Photo by Russ Rowland

About the Production
The Amoralists endeavor to explore “characters of moral ambiguity, plumbing the depths of the social, political, spiritual and sexual characteristics of human nature.” Emily Schwend’s play Utility provided a rich platform for this ensemble to delve into complexities of the human condition. This play follows an exhausted mother of two, who is barely keeping her oppressive despair at bay while managing the day-to-day struggles of a dysfunctional family.

Actors Alex Grubbs and Vanessa Vaché, and playwright Emily Schwend discuss their process while working on this domestic drama.


What attracted you to this production?

Alex: Emily's script grabbed me right away. I felt a visceral reaction to the world and the story. I'm from the South, so it felt familiar and accurate--without any judgement. I've never connected to a character in a new play as much as 'Jim.'

Vanessa: I was intensely drawn to Emily Schwend's writing. I loved the language of her story, her characters, and the world she created. The character of Amber was such a uniquely honest and compelling heroine. It was a story of feminism that was immediately familiar to me, but one I had yet to see portrayed on stage at that point.

What was your favorite part of working on this production?

Vanessa: I always looked forward to the time I spent with the cast and crew on this production. Jay Stull is an absolute dream of a director, James Kautz, Alex Grubbs, and Melissa Hurst created characters that you couldn't help but fall in love with, and everyone at the Rattlestick provided an incredible amount of support. Every day I came in to work on this show felt like coming home.

Emily: My favorite part was working with my two main theater collaborators -- Jay Stull and James Kautz -- who have had a hand in nearly all of my recent work in one way or another.

Alex: The cast and creative team became a family. That’s the kind of bond you want in a show. We laughed together and pushed each other. Each night the actors took a moment to center together backstage and just revel in how fortunate we were to be working on this show.

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


Alex: The biggest challenge was dialing it in, and my hats off to our amazing director, Jay Stull, who directed with surgical precision. So much of the play was stillness and tension on multiple levels, and it was hard to know early on what exactly was working, but trusting Jay and Emily's text never failed.

Vanessa: This show was far and away the most challenging I have faced on stage so far. The role of Amber was my first experience as a lead in a professional production. 90 minutes on stage is no joke. Every word, every gesture, every expression is open and available to the audience and it requires you to be completely open and vulnerable night after night. But that vulnerability is exactly what a show like Utility requires in order to make the story resonate with every audience. At a certain point I had to learn to give in to the fear of being that visible. On top of the demands of rehearsing, studying the text, and the physical work that went into the role, I was constantly aware of the fact that my role was the driving force of the story.

What was the oddest thing that happened during the production?


Emily: This is a play about Texas, where I am from, and during the process of making this play we discovered many people on our team had ties to the state. Our sound designer, Jeanne Travis, actually read the play out loud to her mother in her childhood kitchen in Texas over the holidays.
Vanessa: Some of my favorite moments during the run of Utility happened in the dressing room before shows. One moment I'll always remember was when the four of us were sitting backstage and telling corny jokes. One joke in particular about a lobster and a bus stop made me absolutely lose my mind. I don't know if it was fatigue or anxiety or what exactly, but I could not stop laughing for at least five minutes. The whole thing was recorded on someone's phone and I'm so thankful that it was. Now I get to go back and watch it whenever I need a good laugh.

Alex: The play was produced at Rattlestick Playwrights Theatre -- one of my favorites in town--but there's not much of a backstage area, so every inch you moved was magnified 100X. Every night, James Kautz and I would have to quietly apply a bunch of drywall dust to ourselves (baby powder) and it was hard not to laugh. Also, James would aways come offstage with a peanut butter and jelly sandwich made by Vanessa on stage for me!

What was it like working with The Amoralists?

Vanessa: I started working with The Amoralists only a few months after I finished school in New York. I was a fan of theirs before I came to work with them and consider myself extremely lucky to have been brought into the fold so early on. This was my sixth production with the company over the past five years and it has always felt like family.

Alex: The Amoralists have a reputation for being talented artists who aren't afraid to do work that pushes boundaries, but doing a production like Utility showed that they can also accomplish that intensity in a quiet way. James Kautz is a committed and generous collaborator and a great friend. I look forward to the next chance I get to work with them.

Emily: Working with the Amoralists on this show felt like going home again. Jay and James produced my first play in New York in 2014, and they are my theater family. I would make a million plays with them, forever.

You can follow these artists on Twitter
The Amoralists -  @TheAmoralists
Alex Grubbs - @alexgrubbs
Emily Schwend - @emilyschwend

Friday, August 26, 2016

The Golfer

Written by Brian Parks
Directed by Ian W. Hill
Produced by Gemini CollisionWorks

Nominated for: Outstanding Original Music, Anna Stefanic; Outstanding Innovative Design, Berit Johnson; Outstanding Actor in a Lead Role, Fred Backus; Outstanding Sound Design, Ian W. Hill; Outstanding Costume Design, Kaitlyn Elizabeth Day; Outstanding Actor in a Featured Role, Timothy McCown Reynolds; and Outstanding Ensemble: Fred Backus, Broderick Ballantyne, Rebecca Gray Davis, Lex Friedman, Ian W. Hill, Bob Laine, Matthew Napoli, Timothy McCown Reynolds, Alyssa Simon, Anna Stefanic

About the Production
As their name may suggest, Gemini CollisionWorks “examines the world and the mind through collisions of unlikely ideas, media, art forms and techniques.” Such is the case with their production of The Golfer. This absurd comedy follows a golfer who is struck by lightning through the surreal world that he is thrust into as a result of the trama. 

Director & designer Ian W. Hill, Costume Designer, Kaitlyn Day, and ensemble members: Anna Stefanic, Bob Laine, Fred Backus, Broderick Ballantyne, Rebecca Gray Davis, Lex Friedman and Timothy McCown Reynolds talk about working on this crazy, mad-cap, break-neck production.


What attracted you to this production?

Anna: I was excited about this production because I've worked on a few of Ian's shows, and they're always a lot of fun, and I'd heard great things about Brian Parks from another company I'd recently worked with!

Bob: I have worked with Ian several times, and remember the author's plays from back in the Toda Con Nada days-- loved them then and loved his working with many of my good friends who are also in the cast was a plus!

Broderick: This show was completely zany and quirky.

Fred: I've been a fan of Brian Parks since seeing his work at the old Present Company Theatorium back in the 90s, so I was thrilled to get an opportunity to finally work on one of his plays, and particularly at the Brick. The Brink was founded by so many groups that got washed up there from the Theatorium and the Lower East Side scene. In some ways Brian Parks' work feels like the artistic forerunner to the Brick Theater in terms of style. Working on his play at the Brick really felt like things were coming full circle.

Ian: The Golfer is one of the most hysterically funny scripts I'd read in a long time by one of my favorite comedic writers, and it had never been done before. Plus I saw in it some incredible possibilities for some of my favorite actors.

Kaitlyn: I was recommended by a friend who was asked but wasn't available. I read the play and was hooked.

Lex: I was excited to work on many different roles at once. Plus, my god, the cast! I mean, have you seen it?

Rebecca: The talent attached to it. I knew this cast would kill it with their character work, and they did.

Timothy: Brian Parks' wondrously funny script was a big attraction for me. I also have a long history of working with the director and many of the ensemble members.

What was your favorite part of working on this production?

Fred: I've worked with most of the cast before, and with many of them multiple times, some relationships going back ten years or more. These are some of my favorite people to work with, and to have so many of us working on the same production was a real treat. There was such an energy and yet ease working on this show - it's an amazing ensemble of actors. It was an honor to be a part of it.

Broderick: My favorite part was watching all my colleagues bring this amazing script to life. The things that came out of rehearsal would split my sides.

Anna: The cast was so much fun, and we all developed a great camaraderie.

Bob: I had a blast playing multiple characters at break neck speed. Plus the script was so funny- it was endlessly entertaining to perform!

Kaitlyn: Figuring out the best way to differentiate each character with minimal quick changes, because I like a challenge.

Lex: We really had to choreograph the labyrinthian and split-second backstage action as well as the work onstage. It could have been a whole other show, just watching what went on back there. It was a unique and necessary symbiosis in which it was lovely to participate.

Rebecca: The quirky darkness of the piece itself really took audiences for a ride, and us as well, and the jokes were so precise, one really had to surrender to the text and work to find Brian Parks' complicated rhythms.

Timothy: Performing this intricate, profound, and deeply nonsensical work with a crackerjack ensemble. Why? It is satisfying to make Art with Artists and find flow and spontaneity in performance.

Ian: Directing the incredible ensemble cast. Laughing constantly and very hard as a funny script was made even better by a terrific cast with great ideas.


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

Ian: Taking over a part from a sick actor on opening night. Keeping all those good ideas organized and focused so that the backbone of the script wasn't lost in the insanity we were placing around it.

Broderick: Not breaking character. When another actor would do something hilarious it took strength not to bust out laughing.

Fred: Brian's work requires making big bold choices and delivering lines a breakneck pace with razor precision. And Ian's directorial concepts are big, bold, and ambitious, and require a great deal of commitment of everyone behind the scenes to make it all work. For The Golfer, when you're not onstage, your frantically changing costumes, helping someone else change theirs, paging curtains, striking and setting scenery, etc. No one was walking their way through this thing for even a moment.

Bob: The costume changes-- I exited as one character and seconds later entered as another on at least one occasion, and had several quick changes throughout.

Anna: I had to be out of the country for a chunk of the rehearsal process...I actually wrote most of the songs from an Airbnb in Amsterdam on a tiny borrowed keyboard, and sent them as voice memos to Ian. By the time I got back, Berit had notated a choral arrangement for one, and the cast had already done a great job of learning them!

Lex: Lots going on. Something like 55 scenes. Everything had to be just so or it all would come off the rails. I'm lucky to have participated in this madness with this spectacular group of people.

Timothy: Split-second shape-shifting. Why? It requires intense precision and wild abandon, both.

Rebecca: The most challenging part of this production was landing and maintaining the razor sharpness of the timing and rhythm of the piece. We were changing characters and costumes and props on a dime, and we had to be a very fast moving, and focused machine to pull it off, on and off the stage.

What was the oddest part of working on this production.

Bob: It was my first show after having lost 70 pounds, having been the 'fat' actor for the last two decades, it was a new experience, and a joy to tell the costumer my measurements....of course, one of the characters I played was Santa Clause so I had to wear a fat suit, which was a little ironic!

Kaitlyn: Attempting to search for a Santa suit to rent/ buy but then remembering that my best friend's dad dresses as him every year so I took advantage of that very quickly.

Lex: Right before our first preview, we lost an actor to an illness. (he's ok now)

Ian: An actor became sick during tech week, and wound up having to drop out of the show at the critics' preview, so I (as director/producer) had to step in for him with script in hand and minimal costumes, and still wound up with the show (and myself) getting great reviews.

Rebecca: What other playwright would put a choir of singing gonads in their show? Brian did, and people loved it.

Timothy: There were many oddities. There were many many many many laughs in the rehearsal room.

Broderick: it was so fun and funny yet the point of the story was really poignant, at least for me. Here's this guy who lives a normal life yet when lightning strikes and he goes to another world he's changed to appreciate the unexpected and challenges. When he wakes up and goes back to his normal life it's no longer enough.

Fred: In many ways it was another day at the office at the Brick - but the whole experience really encapsulated so much about what makes the Indie Theater scene so alive.

What did you want the audience to come away with after watching The Golfer?

Ian: When we do farces at GCW, as opposed to our more frequent semi-abstract work, we focus mainly on creating a "machine to make people laugh," but at their best, as in this play, there are a lot more levels to be touched and moved by among all the jokes.

What was it like working with Gemini CollisionWorks?

Kaitlyn: You can feel the passion vibrating in the room around you when you're with this group of people. Everyone is there because they love what they do, but they also know when to get silly and have a good time, after all this is theatre right?

Bob: The best part of this experience was working with extremely talented actors and crew who are also happened to be long-time friends.

Broderick: Berit and Ian are an amazing duo. They are a lovely two-headed theatrical beast.

Rebecca: Performing wildly different characters back-to-back is a difficult feat, and everyone made such specific and interesting choices for each character, I felt like I was in ten plays with them instead of one.

Fred: I think this is my fourth or fifth time working with GeminiCollisionWorks - I think it's the sheer audacity of their vision that is most impressive. Ian and Berit work on a shoestring budget not just as a matter of practicality, but as a real aesthetic, and yet their aesthetic is not barebones in any way. They do some seriously high-concept work on a level where most companies wouldn't even attempt it. As an artist and audience member, their work is often challenging, and always arresting. I've never come away from one of their shows on either side of the stage, bored.

Lex: I've worked on quite a few Gemini CollisionWorks shows in the past few years. My favorite part is always coming to the theater early before a show and spending time with Ian and Berit. They know almost everything and are always working on some little (or great) improvement. Ian likes to say that he knows "what makes actors move" and for this show in particular, we had a tiny dance party each night before places.

Timothy: What sets this company apart is the inherent trust that no matter what happens, the Work will germinate, grow, and flower as it must.

What was it like working with these nominees?

Ian: These nominees are amazing because they were all devoted to working at the top of their game. Each of them being individually awesome to start with, when they realized that was true of everyone else in the company, they all became determined to always bring their A game.

You can follow Gemini CollisionWorks on Twitter - @geminicollision