Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Wine and Spirits

Written by Thomas Ott
Directed by Mel Williams
Produced by Red Shark Productions  

Nomination: Outstanding Actress in a Lead Role, Carla Briscoe


About the Company: Red Shark Productions is passionate about producing projects that encompass and unite all performance-based mediums. Whether re-imagining a classic or revealing new work, RSP is committed to creating a safe space for actors, directors, and designers to explore and expand their creativity. As the shark swims through the sea, we move forward - curious, insatiable, and hungry for the next opportunity.

About the Production: Many years ago, Selina, Beth and Kate’s lives were changed forever. They just didn’t know it. That is until tonight, when a long kept secret is revealed. Pay attention or you might miss the clues, as Felicia and her three daughters embark on a hysterical and heartwarming journey through their past. Full of laughter and surprises, this limited engagement comedy is sure to leave you satisfied… and a little suspicious.

Producer Jennifer Yadav and nominee Carla Briscoe talk about their journey in staging this family comedy about discovery.


What first attracted you to this project?

Carla: I was drawn to the story, that the play centered around three very different, often antagonistic sisters, who were dealing with the loss of their mother. I never had sisters (but desperately wanted them)--and having dealt with the loss of my own mother when I was in my 20s, I saw it as an opportunity to examine how we all, despite our best intentions, can't help but grieve differently, and always alone. The loss of a loved one is never the same for any two people. The relationships we have with the people we love are so singular--even within a family you can feel like you're grieving in a vacuum...that no one understands what you've lost.

Jennifer: Red Shark Productions is a New York City based production company creating theatre, film and music, which explore the depth, intensity, and power of the human spirit. We believe in the challenge of deepening and awakening our understanding of complicated emotions. Our goal is to foster new artistic talent in all disciplines. This play gave us the opportunity to showcase the work of a new writer, Thomas

What was your favorite part of working on this production?

Carla: The cast and production team were such a joy to work with. It's true that that often happens, that you fall into family mode on a show...but working with Christine Seisler and Zoe Anastassiou was so special. I love those women with all my heart. They stripped themselves bare every night, giving so much of themselves on stage. We'd lose time with one another...we'd step on stage and disappear into the play with one another. And, as a result, we developed a sisterhood offstage that was far more loving than the one on it.

Jennifer: The actors and creative team were fabulous and collaborated well.

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

Carla: The actress who was originally supposed to play the role of Selina stepped out due to another professional engagement, and I was asked to take her part. (I was supposed to play Kate originally.) Then, we lost our director just before beginning rehearsals. These things can feel extremely stressful at the time. I remember initially being sad that I could no longer play Kate, it was such a fun comedic role--and I'd grown attached to it the part-- but Zoe came on to play that role brilliantly, and become an incredibly dear friend to boot. So it felt like a gift in the end...the way the chips fell. And losing our director right before going into production was really hard for everyone (especially our producers) but Melvin Williams came onboard and brought his spirit and vision to the production--and we all, everyone of us, just pushed and worked harder to make it the very best we could. There's something.

Jennifer: This was my first experience as a producer and handling the details is a challenge!

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

Carla: We actually had to drink an obscene amount of a wine-like substance on stage every night, 4 bottles worth. This is noteworthy for three reasons. In real life I'm not a big drinker, and when I do drink I lean into whiskey (so I had to do a little personal research with wine)... secondly, the three of us were all on stage for almost the entirety of the show...thirdly, there are no restrooms backstage at The Playroom Theatre. So whenever we finished a performance, if a friend or family member was there and wanted to chat with any of us sisters, that exchange tended to feel like a long car ride with a boy armed with a bottle while all I could do was squeeze my knees together as I scanned the road for the nearest gas.

Jennifer: It was a great joy to bring together a group of people who had all worked together in different capacities before this project.

Did you learn anything new from your experience of working on this production?

Carla: I learned that sometimes it's the moments of silence on stage that can be the most powerful. All the sisters having to be on stage all the time...we weren't always speaking during those moments. It was a really interesting choice that Mel Williams made as a director, and it forced each of us to live in these solitary extended silences while two of the sisters spoke...or else all three of us quietly performed mundane mourning tasks (packing, going through photos, the deceased clothes, drinking heavily) while the ghosts of past characters were onstage--all three sisters not acknowledging this other spirit world; and there was something those extended and active silences required that felt incredibly rich. A dance between those worlds (and the actors who lived in those separate worlds) that was so dreamy and perfect. I looked forward to those moments most.

What was it like working with this group of artists?

Carla: Christine and Scott Seisler of Red Shark Productions are amazing to work with. This is my third production with them. They treat their performers with tremendous dignity and trust, and they're incredibly loyal. Just last week they called to see if I was available to do a show coming up in the Fall, written by the same playwright of "Wine and Spirits," Tom Ott. If they believe in you, they want to bring you in on every project they can. That's pretty extraordinary, to feel you're loved and supported in that way as an artist. I'm very grateful to them both.

Jennifer: Carla is great to work with--she is always happy, motivated, prepared, and professional.

Make sure to follow Red Shark Productions on Twitter @RedSharknyc

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