Monday, September 5, 2016

Steel Birds

Written by Niki Hatzdis & Anastasia Rutkowski
Directed by Jennifer Bronstein
Produced by manhattan theatre source's EstroGenius Festival

Nominated for: Outstanding Original Full-Length Script, Niki Hatzdis & Anastasia Rutkowski; and Outstanding Premier Production of a Play

Photo by Joseph Borduin

About the Production
manhattan theatre source's EstroGenius Festival  is committed to providing opportunities to female artists. Written by Anastasia Rutkowski and Niki Hatzidis, Steel Birds is an original adaptation of Anton Chekhov’s masterpiece, Three Sisters. Set  in a military base in Pearl Harbor during the late 1930’s this play focuses on a changing culture on the on the eve of the Second World War.

What attracted you to this production?

Anastasia: Niki (my co-writer) and I met in an acting class while performing a scene from Anton Chekhov's 'Three Sisters'. We were inspired to write Steel Birds because we found that the themes in 'Three Sisters' were universal and we wanted to explore what happened to these characters when we took them out of 1800's Russia and put them in 1940's Pearl Harbor.

Niki: Anastasia and I met in an acting class where we worked on the fire scene from Three Sisters together. We quickly realized that we worked really well together and that we would love to have the opportunity to work on the whole play. After a three hour coffee date, the idea to put a historical and American spin on the classic Chekhov play was born and the adventure that became Steel Birds began.

Vincent: That two friends from college decided to adapt Chekhov's The Three Sisters, set in pre-WWII Hawaii and really deal with the racial aspect of American colonization.
Photo by Joseph Borduin

What did you want the audience to come away with after watching Steel Birds?

Vincent: That "classic" works of the non, Shakespeare/Greek/Roman variety are ripe for re-interpetation and adaption, especially in the exploration of gender and racial issues of today.

What was your favorite part of this production?

Anastasia: My favorite part was being able to hear our work read out loud for the first time. It was amazing to watch it all come off the page on and to the stage. It was a thrill also to be able to perform in this piece that Niki and I worked so hard on.

Niki: The eight months that Anastasia and I had spent writing this script was one of the most fun and exciting times I've ever had. Hearing the words and seeing the characters come to life on stage was one of the most amazing feelings in the world.

Vincent: Nurturing the first major work of female artist's early in their careers and seeing. Even though our community is far ahead of artistic community, I believe that so much more must be done for gender equality in NYC Indie Theater scene.

What was the most challenging part of this production?

Anastasia: The most challenging part of working on this production was trying to balance the writer and the actor aspects. I found that I would literally have to wear two different hats and learn to separate the two.

Niki: Separating the roles of playwright and actor was a challenge that was very new to me. There is always an added pressure when the production has your name attached to it as playwright.

Vincent: Trying to guide and the support the artist in realizing their vision on small budget. So much of this production's visual and creative success was a tribute to the ingenuity of director and designers involved.

What was the most unique aspect of this production?

Anastasia: Women were at the helm of it: Writers/Director.
This was mine and Niki's first time collaborating and our first full length play ever produced.

Niki: Alison, Anastasia and I always had a sisterly bonding moment backstage before walking on stage for the first scene. In character we would tease each other: practice Julia's "stern face" see gives to Mary in the first act, mock Mary's dramatic mood swings and point out the daring styles in Irene's Vouge magazine. Whatever we did, it ended up in us trying to stifle our giggles. We called it our "Bennet Sisters Moment."

Vincent: We were the last production in the 4th street theater before their upcoming renovations and were patient with all the technical aspects of the show.
Photo by Joseph Borduin

What was it like working in the EstroGenius Festival?

Anastasia: The best part about working with Estro was that they gave us four walls, a stage, and said sky is the limit, go for it. It really allowed us to create a special show.

Niki: I love working with other actors and creatives. They have an openness, generosity and playfulness unlike any other group of people I've met. When you put all those characters and personalities together in a room there is such joy and comradery. It's the best part of being in a play. Likewise, it was a privilege to work in a festival like EstroGenius that gives a platform for female voices and stories.

What was it like working with Anastasia & Niki?

Vincent: They were up for anything and worked over time to create a identity for this show in a crowded theater scene.

You can follow these artists on Twitter 
Anastasia Rutkowski - @ALRutkowski
Niki Hatzidis - @NikiHatzidis

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