Monday, July 28, 2008

FringeNYC on nytheatrecast (#2)

Sometimes I just can't believe who turns up in my office.

We recorded our second FringeNYC Preview Podcast last night -- we do them in our office; a soundproof studio would just be too fussy -- and the assemblage really blew my mind.

Representing Too Much Memory were playwrights Keith Reddin and Meg Gibson (Meg is also directing), along with actors Peter Jay Fernandez and Laura Heisler, plus producer Daniel Talbott. I had actually gotten to meet Keith and Meg a few days earlier, at Daniel's current production Don't Pet the Zookeeper. Nevertheless, I was bowled over that they agreed to be part of our podcast for FringeNYC. Their play is an adaptation of Anouilh's Antigone; Heisler plays the title role and Fernandez plays Creon. Wait til you here what these folks have to say about this piece.

Steve Hayes, who I loved in The Penguin Tango a couple of years back, was on our show with his co-star Tom Cayler. Their show, Parental Indiscretions, sounds like a hoot!

FringeNYC super-veteran Vinnie Marano came on to talk about his 2008 show La Vigilia, which is inspired by postwar Italian film comedies (among other sources). If you don't know Vinnie's work, you should: I believe he's been in every FringeNYC save one since 2002 (and in one of those years he had 2 shows).

We had two productions of Shakespeare. Guerrilla Shakespeare Company's Julius Caesar--represented on our podcast by director Jordan Reeves and actor Jacques Roy -- sounds like it will be timely and compelling. They've stripped the text to 90 minutes and they're staging it with only a few props -- oil drums. I was very impressed with these young theatre artists, who are recent Brown/Trinity Rep grads. The other FringeNYC piece with a script by the Bard is Moonwork's Bound in a Nutshell, which is a recontextualization of Hamlet. Director/co-adaptor Gregory Wolfe came on the podcast to explain what that means, and he brought a few actors along to give us some examples.

Another classically-themed show on the podcast we did last night is Performance Lab 115's Mourn the Living Hector. We met director Shira Milikowsky and actors Rebecca Lingafelter and Jeff Clarke. I am very excited to see this play, which is by the excellent writer Paul Cohen and combines a modern story of an Iraqi War soldier on leave with a tale of Hector and the Trojan War.

Sara Thigpen, who was one of the first winners of a New York Innovative Theater Award for acting, is directing a FringeNYC musical this year, Nudists in Love. Book writer Shannon Thomason accompanied her for a discussion of this show, which is not as light-hearted as it might sound (but, they assure us, is still very much a comedy). Sara and Shannon have signed on as nytheatre.com FringeNYC reviewers as well--thanks, ladies.

Continuing the "naked theme," we invited playwright Larson Rose and some of his actors to be on our podcast, talking about their show The Naked Dead Elephant in the Middle of the Room. I saw an earlier version of this funny play at last year's Fresh Fruit Festival and so I was delighted to get to meet Larson and his cast members. (You can read my review of last year's production here.)

The podcast commences with a song and a scene from Robert Attentweiler's FringeNYC contribution, Kansas City or Along the Way. Rebecca Benhayon and Adam Grove are the actors; they work wonders with Robert's remarkable poetic dialogue. (Robert's play ...and we all wore leather pants, which premiered right after last year's FringeNYC, is in Plays and Playwrights 2008.)

So there you have it...quite a lineup, and quite a night. By the end of the this week, you'll be able to hear them all for yourself--the podcast is scheduled to debut on August 1. Enjoy it. Trav S.D., as usual, is our host.

And if you haven't heard our first 2008 FringeNYC preview podcast, give it a listen. It's got nine other FringeNYC shows represented on it--giving you great insight into what this year's festival is going to be like.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Midtown International Theatre Festival

Although FringeNYC is already keeping us busy here at nytheatre.com, there is another fairly large theatre festival currently in progress that we don't want to lose sight of: MITF, or the Midtown International Theatre Festival. It's about halfway through its three-week run, and we're more than halfway through reviewing all of its mainstage productions. Here's a list of the five most popular MITF reviews on nytheatre.com to date:
  1. The Wendy Complex
  2. Natalie
  3. Kidnapping Laura Linney
  4. Flagboy
  5. Exit Cuckoo

You can read all of the MITF reviews here.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

nytheatre.com's FringeNYC Reviewing Squad

As you probably know, nytheatre.com reviews every show in the New York International Fringe Festival every summer--we've been doing that since 2002.

The way we accomplish this task (201 shows in 14 days this year!) is to enlist the help of many, many wonderful volunteers. Our FringeNYC Reviewing Squad for 2008 consists of 67 theatre artists of every stripe who are giving of their time to make sure that all of the shows in this year's festival get the coverage they deserve.

I'd like you to meet them! To begin, here are our Team Heroes--these folks have been reviewing FringeNYC ever since the squad began seven years ago:
  • Alyssa Simon
  • Anthony Pennino
  • David Fuller
  • Josephine Cashman
  • Michael Criscuolo
  • Matt Freeman
  • Pamela Butler
  • Saviana Stanescu
  • Julie Congress

We're also welcoming several newbies--people who have not reviewed for us until this festival:

  • Ethan Angelica
  • Joshua Chase Gold
  • Ryan Nicholoff
  • Mitchell Conway
  • Michael Mraz
  • Roger Nasser
  • Shannon Thomason
  • Sara Thigpen
  • Zachary Fithian
  • Jessica McVea

Our Squad includes actors:

  • Amber Gallery
  • Chris Harcum
  • Danny Bowes
  • David DelGrosso
  • Gyda Arber
  • Heather Lee Rogers
  • Jason Grossman
  • Joe Beaudin
  • Matthew Trumbull
  • Melle Powers
  • Micah Bucey
  • Nat Cassidy
  • Natasha Yannacanedo
  • Nathaniel Kressen
  • Peter Schuyler
  • Robert Weinstein

Playwrights:

  • Daniel Kelley
  • Jack Hanley
  • James Comtois
  • Jo Ann Rosen
  • Lucile Scott
  • Melanie N. Lee
  • Richard Hinojosa
  • Robert Attenweiler
  • Robin Rothstein
  • Stan Richardson

Directors:

  • Edward Elefterion
  • Garry Schrader
  • Jason Jacobs
  • Judith Jarosz
  • Kristin Skye Hoffmann
  • Kyle Ancowitz
  • Mark DeFrancis
  • Pamela Butler
  • Pete Boisvert
  • Ryan Emmons
  • Jon Stancato

Stage Managers:

  • Debbie Beaudin
  • Kelly Aliano
  • Kim Wadsworth
  • Megin Jiminez

Composers:

  • Emily Otto
  • Russell M. Kaplan

Educators:

  • Nancy Kim
  • Ross Chappell

Dramaturgs:

  • Allison Taylor
  • David Gordon

Producers:

  • Josh Sherman
  • Loren Noveck

Of course, many of these artists do a lot of different things, so these categories are not at all meant to be limiting--just indicative. They're an awesome bunch.

You can learn about them on our reviewer page on nytheatre.com.

FringeNYC starts up on August 8th, just two weeks from now. I'm planning to be a host of the Opening Ceremonies at FringeCENTRAL (more about that coming soon!), and of course I am looking forward to seeing lots of great shows during the 17 days of the festival.

Meanwhile, bone up on what's coming to FringeNYC (and pick the shows you want to see) by looking at our artist-written previews, featuring more than 170 of the shows in the festival. You can buy tickets to shows directly from links on the preview section too!

And FringeNYC Preview Podcast #1 goes live tomorrow...

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

League of Independent Theater Website Now Online

The League of Independent Theater's website is now online. Check it out. It's a modest site, but it contains all the basic info you need to learn more about this new advocacy organization for NYC's indie theater community, including bios of the Board members, concise statement of mission and objectives, and a downloadable application for membership.

I'm writing this, by the way, after a very energizing and interesting Town Meeting sponsored by the League at the undergroundzero festival. Lots of excellent ideas about directions this group should/may take. If you were there and want to share some of your ideas with the world-at-large, please comment here!

NYIT Awards on Playbill: No Respect

A question for the editors of Playbill's website: Why don't the New York Innovative Theatre Awards garner the same level of respect that other theatre awards do? In their article about this year's nominees for these awards celebrating off-off-Broadway/indie theater, Playbill lists only five categories. Come on, Playbill--all of the nominees deserve recognition: why not list all of 'em on your website? Would you only list five categories when the Drama Desk or Outer Critics Circle nominations are announced?

For the record, here are ALL the nominees. Congratulations to all.

OUTSTANDING ENSEMBLE
Tanya Calamoneri, Heather Harpham, Lisa Ramirez, Cassie Terman, Art of Memory, Company SoGoNo
Jessica Burr, Zenzele Cooper, Dave Edson, Jason Griffin, Anna Kepe, Eunjee Lee, Celli Pitt, Matthew Sincell, Darrell Stokes, Laura Wickens, Burn, Crave, Hold: The James Wilde Project, Blessed Unrest
Elena Chang, Noshir Dalal, Jon Hoche, Kelley Rae O'Donnell, Melissa Paladino, Maureen Sebastian, Andrea Marie Smith, Paco Tolson, Temar Underwood, Fight Girl Battle World, Vampire Cowboys Theatre Company
Michael Crane, Andrew Guilarte, Sanjiv Jhaveri, Rock Kohli, Ramiz Monsef, Gita Reddy, David Sajadi, The Leopard and The Fox, Alter Ego Productions
Danny Ashkenasi, Matt W. Cody, Paul Daily, Tatiana Gomberg, Emily Hartford, Ned Massey, The Night of Nosferatu, Rabbit Hole Ensemble
Joe Basile, Christopher Borg, Jeffrey Cranor, Kevin R. Free, Ryan Good, Eevin Hartsough, Jacquelyn Landgraf, Sarah Levy, Erica Livingston, Rob Neill, Joey Rizzolo, Justin Tolley, Jenny Williams, Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind, New York Neo-Futurists

OUTSTANDING SOLO PERFORMANCE
Dana Berger, Washing Machine, Fist In The Pocket Theater in association with The Chocolate Factory
Andrea Caban, You Got Questions? I Got Answers!, Coyote REP Theatre Company
Taylor Mac, The Young Ladies Of..., HERE Arts Center
Petronia Paley, On the Way to Timbuktu, Ensemble Studio Theatre
Jonathan Pereira, American Cake, Prickly Pear Productions in association with the FRIGID Festival
Melle Powers, Whence Came Ye Scarlett O'Hara O'Hanrahan?, 53 Hysterics in association with the FRIGID Festival

OUTSTANDING ACTOR IN A FEATURED ROLE
Tom Bain, The Pied Pipers of the Lower East Side, The Amoralists Theatre Company
Jason Griffin, Burn, Crave, Hold: The James Wilde Project, Blessed Unrest
Greg T. Parente, Night of Nigro, The Strain Theatre Company
Rob Sheridan, The Two Lives of Napoleon Beazley, Incumbo Theater Company
Matthew Sincell, Burn, Crave, Hold: The James Wilde Project, Blessed Unrest
Paco Tolson, Fight Girl Battle World, Vampire Cowboys Theatre Company

OUTSTANDING ACTRESS IN A FEATURED ROLE
Britney Burgess, Professional Skepticism, Zootopia Theatre Company
Megan Byrne, No End of Blame, Potomac Theatre Project
Kaylin Lee Clinton, The Round of Pleasure, New Stage Theatre Company
Catherine Correa, The Round of Pleasure, New Stage Theatre Company
Tatiana Gomberg, The Night of Nosferatu, Rabbit Hole Ensemble
Erica Terpening, Night of Nigro, The Strain Theatre Company

OUTSTANDING ACTOR IN A LEAD ROLE
Michael DiGioia, Elizabeth Rex, Nicu's Spoon
Alex Draper, No End of Blame, Potomac Theatre Project
Peter Judd, You Can't Take It With You, T. Schreiber Studio
Cameron J. Oro, The Accidental Patriot: The Lamentable Tragedy of the Pirate Desmond Connelly, Irish by Birth, English by Blood, and American by Inclination, The Stolen Chair Theatre Company
Maximilian Osinski, Cherry Docs, Theatre of the Expendable
Bobby Steggert, Yank! A New Musical, The Gallery Players

OUTSTANDING ACTRESS IN A LEAD ROLE
Abby Baum, Triumph of Love, Astoria Performing Arts Center
Stephanie Barton-Farcas, Elizabeth Rex, Nicu's Spoon
Laura Heidinger, Six Degrees of Separation, The Gallery Players
Lauren Kelston, Mill Fire, Retro Productions
Kira Sternbach, Gerald's Method, Gallant Arts
Kristen Vaughan, Mill Fire, Retro Productions

OUTSTANDING CHOREOGRAPHY/MOVEMENT
Julie Atlas Muz, The Round of Pleasure, New Stage Theatre Company
Barbara Charlene, The Accidental Patriot: The Lamentable Tragedy of the Pirate Desmond Connelly, Irish by Birth, English by Blood, and American by Inclination, The Stolen Chair Theatre Company
Kelly Hayes, Burn, Crave, Hold: The James Wilde Project, Blessed Unrest
Patrick Hogan & Robert O'Neill, Echo Lake, Embodiment Productions
Anabella Lenzu & Qui Nguyen, (RUS)H, HERE Arts Center
Qui Nguyen, Fight Girl Battle World, Vampire Cowboys Theatre Company

OUTSTANDING DIRECTOR
Edward Elefterion, The Night of Nosferatu, Rabbit Hole Ensemble
David Gow, Cherry Docs, Theatre of the Expendable
Emma Griffin, Removable Parts, HERE Arts Center
Richard Romagnoli, No End of Blame, Potomac Theatre Project
Robert Ross Parker, Fight Girl Battle World, Vampire Cowboys Theatre Company
Damen Scranton, Burn, Crave, Hold: The James Wilde Project, Blessed Unrest

OUTSTANDING LIGHTING DESIGN
Christopher Brown, (RUS)H, HERE Arts Center
Deborah Constantine, Same Train, Algonquin Theater Productions
Kevin Hardy, The Night of Nosferatu, Rabbit Hole Ensemble
Kerrie Lovercheck, Mill Fire, Retro Productions
Philip Sandstrom, Echo Lake, Embodiment Productions
Benjamin C. Tevelow, Burn, Crave, Hold: The James Wilde Project, Blessed Unrest

OUTSTANDING COSTUME DESIGN
Rebecca Cunningham, What I Did Last Summer, Retro Productions
Leon Dobkowski, The Leopard and The Fox, Alter Ego Productions
Jessica Sofia Mitrani & Ildiko Nemeth, The Round of Pleasure, New Stage Theatre Company
Mioko Mochizuki, Art of Memory, Company SoGoNo
Bobby Pearce, The Chaos Theories, Shotgun Productions in association with The Resistance Theatre Company and MILJam Productions
Jessica Wegener, Fight Girl Battle World, Vampire Cowboys Theatre Company

OUTSTANDING SET DESIGN
Sean Breault, Art of Memory, Company SoGoNo
Jack Cunningham & Rebecca Cunningham, Mill Fire, Retro Productions
Michael Kramer, Proof, Astoria Performing Arts Center
Michael Kramer, Triumph of Love, Astoria Performing Arts Center
Travis McHale, The People vs. Mona, Ground Up Productions
Tim McMath, Six Degrees of Separation, The Gallery Players
Matt Ward, Mary Trilogy, Mir Productions

OUTSTANDING SOUND DESIGN
Amy Altadonna, Mill Fire, Retro Productions
Dan Bianchi, The Invisible Man, Radiotheatre
Dan Bianchi, The Island of Dr. Moreau, Radiotheatre
Miguel Frasconi, Art of Memory, Company SoGoNo
Damen Scranton, Burn, Crave, Hold: The James Wilde Project, Blessed Unrest
Patrick Shearer, Fight Girl Battle World, Vampire Cowboys Theatre Company

OUTSTANDING ORIGINAL MUSIC
Dan Bianchi, The Invisible Man, Radiotheatre
Dan Bianchi, The Island of Dr. Moreau, Radiotheatre
Mark Bruckner, Same Train, Algonquin Theater Productions
Larry Lees, The Magic of Mrs. Crowling, Royal Circus in association with Horse Trade
Pete Mills, The Rockae, Prospect Theater Company
Mitun Sinha, The Leopard and The Fox, Alter Ego Productions
Min Xiao-Fen, On the Way to Timbuktu, Ensemble Studio Theatre

OUTSTANDING FULL-LENGTH SCRIPT
Bekah Brunstetter, You May Go Now, Babel Theatre Project
Qui Nguyen, Fight Girl Battle World, Vampire Cowboys Theatre Company
Matthew Opatrny, Burn, Crave, Hold: The James Wilde Project, Blessed Unrest
David Pumo, Auntie Mayhem, Gato Flaco Productions and Wings Theatre Company
James Scruggs, (RUS)H, HERE Arts Center
Stanton Wood, The Night of Nosferatu, Rabbit Hole Ensemble

OUTSTANDING SHORT SCRIPT
Andrea Caban, You Got Questions? I Got Answers!, Coyote REP Theatre Company
Bronwen Denton-Davis, Pealing Figs, Mind The Gap Theatre
Daniel Gallant, Gerald's Method, Gallant Arts
Philip Gawthorne, Modern Life is Rubbish, Mind The Gap Theatre
Nancy Harris, Girl in a Bath, Mind The Gap Theatre
Aliza Shane, The Three Sillies, The Looking Glass Theatre
C. Denby Swanson, Potato Feast, The Drilling Company

OUTSTANDING PERFORMANCE ART PRODUCTION
Art of Memory, Company SoGoNo
The Island of Dr. Moreau, Radiotheatre
Removable Parts, HERE Arts Center
Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind, New York Neo-Futurists
You Got Questions? I Got Answers!, Coyote REP Theatre Company
The Young Ladies Of..., HERE Arts Center

OUTSTANDING PRODUCTION OF A MUSICAL
Conjur Woman, LaMaMa Experimental Theater Club
Honor, Prospect Theater Company
The People vs. Mona, Ground Up Productions
The Rockae, Prospect Theater Company
Triumph of Love, Astoria Performing Arts Center
Yank! A New Musical, The Gallery Players

OUTSTANDING PRODUCTION OF A PLAY
Burn, Crave, Hold: The James Wilde Project, Blessed Unrest
The Caucasian Chalk Circle, Hipgnosis Theatre Company
Cherry Docs, Theatre of the Expendable
Fight Girl Battle World, Vampire Cowboys Theatre Company
No End of Blame, Potomac Theatre Project
The Night of Nosferatu, Rabbit Hole Ensemble

The 4th Annual IT Awards Ceremony will be held on Monday, September 22nd, 2008 at the Fashion Institute of Technology.

Monday, July 21, 2008

A Blast of FringeNYC Energy

Last night, we recorded the first of two nytheatrecast episodes devoted to this year's New York International Fringe Festival. On this podcast, we previewed nine of this year's shows. If these nine are in any way indicative of the whole festival -- and I suspect they are -- then we are in for a major treat next month.

The podcast will be edited and released later this week. Until then, I just want to share some of what the experience was like making it.

We had about two dozen folks from the nine shows in our "studio." Some of them were people we know well, such as director Dominic D'Andrea and playwright Ashlin Halfnight (Good Pictures), director Edward Elefterion and playwright Stanton Wood (Big Thick Rod), and triple-threat Marc Geller (who co-wrote, directed, and stars in The Fabulous Kane Sisters in Box Office Poison). Some were folks whose work is fairly new to me, like Kestryl Lowrey of XY(T) and Anthony Frisina of The Dershowitz Protocol. And some were theatre artists whose work I have long admired, but who I got to meet in person last night for the first time, like actor/playwright Michael Laurence and director George Demas of Krapp, 39.

A couple of fairly new companies were well-represented: No. 11 (We Three) had a crew of four on hand and Studio Six of the Moscow Art Theatre (Hidden Fees*) had one director plus three actors. KNB-The Musical was repped by author/director Christopher Carter Sanderson (of Gorilla Rep fame), four company members (who sang one of the show's songs a cappella), and stage manager Alexis.

On the podcast, as you will discover when it goes live in a few days, we heard excerpts from several of these shows, along with incisive discussion about all of them from the people who make them. Host Trav S.D. was his usual brilliant and jocular self and kept the recording session humming.

What you won't know from the finished podcast is what a fantastic evening this was. Best evidence of this: when the session was over...nobody seemed to want to leave. We were having a real FringeNYC moment, with everybody talking to each other about their work, exchanging phone numbers and emails, and of course (inevitably) passing out the postcards for their shows. (I received perhaps the most unusual promotional item for a FringeNYC show I've ever seen -- a Big Thick Rod condom.)

I think everybody enjoyed the delicious chocolate cake that my niece Sarah made for the occasion, too.

Next Sunday night we do it all again with FringeNYC Preview #2. I can't wait.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

League of Independent Theater Town Meeting

John Clancy has posted a reminder about the next League of Independent Theater organizational event--the Town Meeting on Tuesday, July 22 at 7:30pm. Read the details.

Rochelle and I are planning to be there--hope to see many folks there as well!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

2 Book Events Worth Checking Out

Here's info about a couple of upcoming indie theater-related bookstore events that are worth your time.

The first one is this Friday at 7:30pm at the Barnes & Noble near Lincoln Center (1972 Broadway) -- it features playwrights David Gaard, Carol Polcovar, and Doric Wilson all discussing the Stonewall Riots. Carol & David collaborated last year on the play Stonewall Stories and Doric immortalized the riots in his play Street Theater decades ago. Carol is the artistic director of the Fresh Fruit Festival, which is going on right now as well.

And then next Wednesday, check out Brian Dykstra's one-night only performance of his latest solo show, The Jesus Factor, at New Revolution Books, 146 W. 26th Street , between 6th & 7th Aves. Tickets are $20, and can be reserved by calling 212-691-3345 or emailing revbooksnyc@yahoo.com. Dykstra is the conscience of NYC theatre, in my opinion; read my review of The Jesus Factor to learn more.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Indie Theater Convocation: Rochelle Denton's Welcoming Remarks

Here's the text of Rochelle's speech from the 2nd Indie Theater Convocation on July 12th. Rochelle is NYTE's Managing Director. Can't reproduce her inimitable delivery (or ad libs) here...but this is the crux of what she had to say:

Welcome to the 2nd Indie Theater Convocation. It is absolutely great to see so many faces out there. And each of you is sharing your seat with at least 3 other indie artists – Melle Powers is in rehearsal but wants notes, so Julie sharpen that pencil and write faster; Pam Butler is out of town but wants lots of pictures, Ryan start clickin’; Emily Otto has a gig in Boston; Leonard Jacobs is teaching at the O’Neill; Mike Daisey is performing in DC; Michael Criscuolo, Ian Hill, and a slew of others are rehearsing. And on and on. Each one is here in spirit and the response has been overwhelming. Thank you, thank you all!

And extra special thanks to some really great folks who immediately stepped to the fore and volunteered to help. The absolutely indispensible Jo Ann Rosen whom you met at the sign up table – our lists will be perfect thanks to her. The talented Daniel Talbott (with 2 t’s) who made sure all the techie stuff would work and it does and Denis Butkus, actor par excellence who assisted Daniel to make sure this stuff I know nothing about all came together. Also Julie Congress, Mitch Conway (up in the booth), Ryan Emmons, and Samantha Hooper-Hamersley from the new theater company known as No. 11 who eagerly volunteered and have been scampering around doing a multitude of jobs.

Now on to my completely extemporaneous, short speech that I have here in my hand and will refer to often. On Wednesday I quickly wrote a fantastic speech which combined the lyricism of Shakespeare, the humor of Twain, the incendiary activism of Odets and Brecht, the wisdom of Aristotle, the succinctness of Lincoln, and references to the words and music of Michael Jackson, Michael John LaChiusa, and The Boss. On Thursday, I metaphorically ripped it up – that is I pressed the delete key and now it is gone to the cyber-graveyard of lost masterpieces. Seriously, I did this because what I had written did not have the passion I was looking for, the ‘of the moment’ that was important to convey to you. So here goes the new version – a version with many co-authors.

Indie Theater! In the two plus years since the 1st Ever Indie Theater Convocation, it's become evermore commonplace to hear it used. Here’s one thing that happened as a result of the convocation and, you may not know about it. Right here in, The Best Plays Theatre Yearbook 2005-6 on pp. 261-2. In the Off-Off-Broadway section, essayist John Istel immortalizes our movement in between the covers of this, the bible for academics and theatre lovers. After some background material we read: “Playwright Kirk Wood Bromley suggested ditching the ‘Off Off Broadway’ handle and replacing it with ‘Indie Theater’. No longer tied to geography or Equity contract, Indie Theater could be found anywhere as long as it embodied a certain aesthetic.” The article then quotes from Kirk’s essay on indietheater.org and concludes by stating: “Bromley’s use of the term ‘Indie Theater” was subsequently picked up by critic Martin Denton who created the website…”

But what does it really mean? What is ‘Indie”? Old English Lit major that I am, I looked for source material. Much to my amazement I found “indie” in the dictionary. And here’s its definition -- "one, such as a studio or producer, that is unaffiliated with a larger or more commercial organization; an artistic work produced by an independent company or group." And that aptly describes most everyone in this room.

Recently, Jessica Davis Irons, artistic director of AndHow! Theatre Company, gave a speech at a fundraiser for her company. She and co-founder, Margie Stokley emailed me a copy of her speech. I believe she does a great job of making this definition even more personal:

"There is a magical community in NYC. Some people call it Indie theater. Some people call it off-off broadway, some people call it downtown. I think it is the heart of American Theater. New plays and playwrights are born there....The neat thing about this community, is that we exist not as a springboard to get to the great white way, although that sometimes happens. We exist because there is a want for off the beaten track stories, innovative theatrical moments, odd characters and a place where plays grow."

I was most taken by her use of the word "community" for that it is what indie theater is and should be. The diverse forms of theatrical expression come together to form a community that will provide theatergoers and theatre lovers an opportunity to partake of the creativity of individuality – the creativity of imagination springing forth from the hard work of talented, intelligent people whose artistic vision is unique and of today.

According to Hamilton Clancy, artistic director of The Drilling Company, the roots of indie theater go back further than the ‘50s and ‘60’s, back perhaps to the founding of the Provincetown Playhouse and to the Group Theatre and the WPA. You can read more about this on his comment on Martin’s blog. Beyond its roots, Hamilton states there are other important points to consider and I quote:

"Throughout the history of theatre in New York, artists have been soldiering to create work with vitality. The reputation of the city, around the world, is renowned for attracting artists who were daring enough to start organizations like the Wooster Group or Richard Foreman downtown. This is what makes this a city worth traveling to if you are in search of modern culture either as an audience member or as an artist. The initiation and success of this organization are vital to the future of New York Theatre if it is once again to become a city where culturally relevant work is originated (rather than imported). If the independent theatre community commanded the press attention which the London Underground theatre commands, we would be churning plays to bigger audiences on a regular basis."

Yes, we are Indie Theater. I know it because so many of you have told me similar thoughts to what Hamilton and Jessica have said. I would like to read you one more email I received just the other day from Bryn Manion, co-founder with Wendy Remington of Aisling Arts. Here’s what she has to say:

"I think one of the most courageous moments in the evolution of artistic movements is when, independent of commercial purposes, people acknowledge that the current era is unique from those preceding it. The identification of the new moment, the naming of it, and the collective acknowledgement that, yes, it is a unique time, is an empowering and liberating experience. We live in a different era and make our work under different circumstances than our Off-Off predecessors.

"When Wendy and I first tapped into this "indie" community concept, we breathed a sigh of relief. For us Broadway was not the ultimate aspiration, in fact, it didn’t even register as an ambition of ours; nor did we arrive in New York to emulate other New York artists….. Our simple goal was to make the art we deemed worthy of the long tradition and history of our form, and forge significant/meaningful relationships with a wide variety of people along the way. We've paid largely for our work ourselves and never intend to bend it to someone else's wishes because of commercial needs…. We, sigh, were indie. We are indie. Pretty simple. To have a name for what we were changed our confidence level and our mission for our work. That dawning realization two years ago was a tremendous weight off our chests. Thanks for helping us feel at home as artists living in New York."

The Off-Off Broadway movement and its practitioners are to be revered by everyone who has an interest in theatre. Its importance can never be diminished. But, as Bryn states – indie theater is a new movement, a movement of the 21st century.

A theatre guy named Will asked hundreds of years ago “What’s in a name?” and then answered “that which we call a rose by any other word would smell as sweet.” I would respond to Will that a name is everything and really nothing. If you feel more comfortable calling your work off-off-Broadway or performance art or downtown theatre, or whatever, do so, because each of you is an independent artist and person with independent beliefs and leanings. But be an indie theater artist in addition. Support the indie theater movement. To continue my analogy, identify your art in your own unique way but more people will recognize us as a “rose” if we all use the same name.

News about indietheater.org--Martin's Presentation at the 2nd Indie Theater Convocation

At yesterday's 2nd Indie Theater Convocation, there were three main presentations given to the assemblage. (I should note that it was a gratifyingly large assemblage--we filled the whole downstairs of the Barrow Street Theater as well as about half the mezzanine; very exciting!)

My main topic was the indietheater.org website, and how it has already grown and will continue to develop and expand to become, as attendee Gabriel Shanks puts it so nicely in his comment elsewhere on this blog, "the definitive internet port of call for downtown productions."

Here are my remarks from the Convocation:

I’m very gratified to see all of you here. Thanks for giving up part of your Saturday to be here with us.

Just in case you don’t know exactly who the heck I am -- I’m Martin Denton, and I’m the executive director of The New York Theatre Experience, or NYTE, which is a nonprofit corporation that supports the theatre community, especially the indie theater community, with programs such as NYTE Small Press, the nytheatrecast podcast series, and our websites nytheatre.com and indietheater.org.

All week, I’ve been hearing from people about the Convocation. I’ve been really touched by how much this gathering seems to mean to our community. Even the lady who is about 3 weeks away from opening North America’s largest multi-arts festival wrote to say she was bummed to miss our little event:

"Ugh. I'm heartsick. But our first two Mandatory ACR Box Office trainings are on Saturday, and we do a Noon and 3pm. Until we figure out this cloning thing...I'm sorry to report that I won't be able to join you this time. But I, and all of The Present Company and FringeNYC are with you in spirit, of course....Please give everyone my regards and we'll see them in August and after and let me know what y'all are cookin' up--I'm in. Much love, Elena K. Holy."

Now, before I proceed I have a very important thank you to make: we are absolutely thrilled to be here at the Barrow Street Theater, and right now we need to thank Scott Morfee and everyone here for their hospitality today. Scott and Barrow Street totally get indie theater. They’ve got a number of shows running this month, including this interesting piece from Theater Oobleck that I saw the other night and, at the end of the month, the great improv duo TJ & Dave. Check their stuff out!

So what are we going to do here this afternoon? First, NYTE’s Managing Director Rochelle Denton is going to offer some words of welcome. And then, a few other folks and I are going to be sharing some news with you about happenings in the world of New York indie theater that I hope you’ll find valuable. After that, we want to hear from you: the whole point of bringing all of you into a room together, after all, is so that we can communicate with each other in an immediate and meaningful way.

To begin: April 9th, 2006.

That was the date of the 1st Ever Indie Theater Convocation. I know that a lot of you were there, and I think that those who were will agree with me that it was kind of a landmark day. I mean, the room just exploded with energy and ideas.

At the 1st convocation, we learned a lot about what kinds of support and resources the community values and needs. It became clear that one of the key needs was for grassroots advocacy – a goal that NYTE was not and is not equipped to meet. But I am very proud to tell you that directly from the convocation has emerged an organization that is stepping up to meet that need: the League of Independent Theater. It has, literally, been two years in the making. John Clancy, first executive director of the League of Independent Theater, is going to tell you all about this later in our program.

And while that’s been going on, NYTE has been addressing many of the other burning issues that came out of the 1st Convocation.

Indietheater.org is the centerpiece of NYTE’s strategy to grow audience awareness and appreciation of the work you folks make. It has always been envisioned as something more than just a vanilla listings or events site. It is, to steal a phrase from my friend Kirk Bromley, an engine of enthusiasm for the art. I see it as a central hub for our community online, one that draws its strength from numbers. The more links we add from indietheater.org to your content, the more valuable a resource it becomes. And as more of you link your sites and blogs back to indietheater.org, the number of people who rely on it will grow—will grow exponentially.

NYTE left the first convocation with a strong commitment to build the indietheater.org website – to create a nexus on the Internet for audiences to learn about indie theater in New York. A lot has been accomplished since then:
· James David Jackson designed us a gorgeous distinctive logo.
· We’ve continually enhanced and augmented the design and content on the site, and our readership is growing by leaps and bounds.
· More than 10,000 people were on the indietheater.org home page during the first six months of 2008.
· 170 companies are listed on the indie theater directory on indietheater.org.
· More than 540 indie theater artists have been featured on our nytheatrecast podcast series – check out the names here.
· The Indie Theater Life series on nytheatrecast—an idea that was born at the 1st convocation, by the way, has featured amazing interviews with 9 indie artists so far and has been downloaded more than 2000 times.

When Broadway was temporarily shut down by the stagehands’ strike last fall, we posted prominent links to indietheater.org everywhere we could think to, encouraging theatre-goers to check out the indie theater offerings that were not affected by the strike. Readership on indietheater.org spiked by 50% during those weeks, and I’m sure that many of those readers gave indie theater a try as a result. I think we may have done some lasting good: readership of the indie listings is still up, more than 25%, from last year to this year.

We got some funding from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs to help us build indietheater.org in 2008 and we’ve applied for some more in 2009. My vision is that indietheater.org is going to become one of the cool spots on the web to find out about an entertainment/cultural alternative that feels like a secret but isn’t a secret any longer. We’re applying all sorts of Web 2.0 technologies – if you don’t mind me throwing out a buzzword – to show potential audience members what the art you folks create is all about.

In the last few months, we’ve added a dynamic news feed that automatically aggregates indie theater blog postings onto the front page of indietheater.org, where they can be seen by thousands of people every week. We’ve built a media center on indietheater.org, where videos posted by indie theater companies on YouTube are brought together, again where they can be sampled and played by our large diverse audience of readers. And we’ve been developing innovative approaches to previewing theatre festivals, which are such an important component of the indie theater experience in New York City, such as our new and very popular “20 Questions” feature for the undergroundzero festival.

The initiatives I’ve just mentioned are all brand new and just exiting their pilot stages. Today, I formally announce them to the community for the very first time, and invite everybody here to take part in them.

The best news about these initiatives is that they are unbelievably easy to implement. You can add your indie theater blog to our front page listings or add your preview and trailer videos to our media center – in less time than it just took me to say that.

I’m not going to explain exactly how this stuff works right now. Instead, I’m simply going to tell you that you will receive an email from me tonight that will explain everything. It will have links you can click on to see what all this looks like and how to make it happen. [Note: if you want a copy of this email, and/or want to join the indietheater mailing list, contact me now.]

And there’s more ahead. If the DCA funding comes through, we’re going to add an artist directory to the indietheater website—that’s something that was suggested back at Convocation #1. We’re looking to enhance venue info (without duplicating the great work of the NYC Spaces people), and we’re looking to expand the media center with photos from Flickr and audio.

The compelling, exciting, original content that all of this will bring together onto indietheater.org has immense significance. Think of it: a single resource on the Internet to learn about the hundreds of companies and productions that are the coolest and smartest and snappiest in NYC.

I feel like this sounds hard-sell and I don’t mean it to be. It’s here, now, waiting for your blogs and links and videos to power it.

I’m just about ready to turn things over now to John. Before, I do, I have one more thing to mention. We’re poised to transform indietheater.org into a killer website that’s going to be read not only by theater goers of every stripe but also by people who don’t even think about going to the theatre when they contemplate their options for a night out.

NYTE intends, in 2009, to launch a major marketing campaign whose goal will be to use technology to link up with nontraditional audiences and bring them into indie theaters. Right now, all we have is the germ of an idea here. So I’m inviting folks who are interested to sign up to join a task force to turn this idea into a reality.

To wrap up, I just want to say two things. First, watch for that email I told you about tonight! And second, thank you for listening and for trusting NYTE. I am so proud of what’s already come out of this—well, let’s call it a movement—that started on April 9, 2006. I am so excited to see what happens after today.

2nd Indie Convocation Photos

Here's a link to some photos of yesterday's 2nd Indie Theater Convocation. They were taken by Ryan Emmons and Daniel Talbott--thanks, you two!

http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=32451&id=14423493478&ref=share

Saturday, July 12, 2008

2nd Indie Theater Convocation First Impressions

Got any lingering comments, burning issues/questions, or significant impressions of today’s 2nd Indie Theater Convocation? Please post your thoughts here.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Getting to Know Four Chairs Theatre

We've just posted on nytheatre.com a really excellent interview with Jacob Kreuger and Larry Kunofsky, who are jointly the founders/artistic directors of Four Chairs Theatre.

The main topic of the article is Jacob and Larry's upcoming show, What to Do When You Hate All Your Friends (Jacob is directing, Larry is the playwright). Larry (who--full disclosure--is an nytheatre.com contributor) is extraordinarily articulate about his work and its inspirations, and what he has to say is great reading.

But I was also very interested in Jacob's observations about the ways plays get developed in mainstream (non-indie) New York theatre, and how what he observed led to the creation of this new company. Jacob's background is in screenwriting in Hollywood, so he has a perspective that's informed by some different factors than many of his colleagues here in NYC.

So take a look, and get to know this noteworthy new company. And chaw over some of what these guys have to say--it's pretty valuable food for thought.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

More on the Convocation

The 2nd Indie Theater Convocation (Saturday, July 12 at Barrow Street Theater at 2:00PM) has been getting lots of response here and on Facebook; I'm quite excited about it. What I want to do today is let folks know in more detail just exactly what we're planning to do at this event.

Doors open at 1:30pm. Come early to chat with Rochelle and myself, and with folks from the League of Independent Theater (LIT) (we're expecting John Clancy, who was one of the founders of FringeNYC; Shay Gines of the New York Innovative Theatre Awards; Erez Ziv of Horse Trade Theatre Group; Paul Bargetto of East River Commedia; independent producer John Pinckard; and hopefully some other folks who have been involved in getting this new organization off the ground).

The presentation starts at 2:00pm. There are really two main focuses of the Convocation -- first, to talk about some initiatives and programs that I believe will be genuinely valuable to the NYC indie theater community; and second, to provide a forum for folks involved with indie theater to share their ideas and feedback with us and with each other.

Rochelle (NYTE's managing director) is going to kick off the event. Then I will take the floor for a few minutes with a view toward accomplishing a couple of important things -- to review some of what's been happening in our community since the 1st Ever Indie Theater Convocation two years ago; and to share some news about specific programs that we've either recently launched or are preparing to launch that are designed to educate mainstream audiences about indie theater and entice them to become active audience members in this sector of NYC theatre.

I may be yielding the floor to one or more surprise guests, as well; we'll see!

I will then be turning things over to John Clancy, who is the executive director of LIT; he is going to talk about this new advocacy organization. LIT sprang directly from the 1st Convocation and is primed to fulfill a number of needs that were identified there. John is going to make a pitch to have folks in the room sign up as charter members of LIT, but whether you're interested in joining now, later, or never, I think you're going to want to hear what he has to say about his vision for this group.

After these presentations, we'll have time for an open forum. I'm anticipating that there will be questions and responses to what's been said at the meeting, and also that new topics will be brought up. The great news is that NYTE and LIT can now provide structures to facilitate further discussion on whatever comes up, either right here on the nytheatre i where that's appropriate, or in upcoming meetings of LIT.

We'll break up the formal meeting at around 3:15 or so, and then John and the LIT folks will be available to talk one-on-one to people, as will Rochelle and myself.

Everyone who comes to the Convocation will be asked to confirm (or provide) their email address so that they can receive some immediate "follow-up/to-do" information as soon as they get back to their desks/offices.

And for all those who want to attend but can't make it, don't worry--we'll have minutes and other info available here and on indietheater.org. You won't miss out on any of the substance of the meeting. (But you will, unfortunately, miss out on the great opportunity for networking and sharing energy, enthusiasm, and ideas with your fellow indie artists--so do come if you can! Plus, Rochelle and I really do relish the opportunity to see you -- away from the footlights, as it were.)

We've got a lot of ideas and information to share at the Convocation, and I am looking forward to getting jolt after jolt of valuable feedback and energy from the assemblage. If the 2nd Indie Theater Convocation is anything like the 1st one, then we're in for an exciting and empowering afternoon.

See you there.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

2nd Indie Theater Convocation on nytheatrecast

We've just posted a new episode of nytheatrecast in which John Clancy, Paul Bargetto, and myself talk in detail about the objectives of the upcoming 2nd Indie Theater Convocation and invite members of NYC's indie theater community to attend the event and get involved with what NYTE and the League of Independent Theater are doing to increase awareness and viable of the indie theater sector.

This podcast was a blast to record. John and Paul share lots of stories about the 1st Ever Indie Theater Convocation (which NYTE hosted a couple of years ago) and how that event led to the formation of the League. We actually recorded the podcast the day after we got word that the League was officially incorporated, and I think the great energy from that news informs this particular program.

Give it a listen and find out more of the background, history, and goals of the Convocation.

As a reminder, the 2nd Indie Theater Convocation is being held on Saturday, July 12 at 2:00pm at the Barrow Street Theater, 27 Barrow Street.

More info about the meeting agenda will be posted right here on the nytheatre i a few days.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

First Look at the FringeNYC Festival

We've just posted our annual Preview Feature for the New York International Fringe Festival on nytheatre.com. So far, 93 shows are included out of the 201 participating in this year's festival. Watch for many more to be added in the coming days.

Our FringeNYC Previews are unique because they allow the participants to talk to readers about their work in their own words. We ask them answer these three questions:

1. What is your show about and what can audiences expect when they see it?
2. Why is your show pertinent to today's times and/or why should your show be the choice for audiences to see?
3. Why did you choose to present this show?

What they tell us is usually provocative and intriguing and--most important--very indicative of what you'll see when you go to their show.

The Previews are a great way to scope out the festival and start planning what you want to see out of the 200+ offerings. We invite every FringeNYC show to participate and usually by the middle of July just about all of them have sent in their responses. This way you can get insider info about EVERYTHING in the festival, not just about the couple of dozen shows that some editor has decided to feature this year.

We also have a tagging feature for the Previews so that you can search for shows not only by title but also by keywords that describe them.

Please check them out...and enjoy!