Tuesday, December 29, 2009

NYTE's Vision for 2010

I make New Year's resolutions every year about this time. When a nonprofit organization like The New York Theatre Experience, Inc. creates an annual budget and a business plan, it is making New Year's resolutions, too.

I am excited to share our 2010 Resolutions with all of you.
  1. We are going to celebrate the diversity of New York theatre this year, in a big way. We want to make sure that theatre-makers and theatre-goers understand just how thrillingly diverse this community is--our focus will be on building awareness and access to the many, many choices available to audiences. Diversity includes gender, ethnicity, and race, but that's not all there is to it! We are interested in diversity in terms of form--theatre styles that break down the barriers between traditional disciplines to create new genres that often get lumped together in categories like "physical theatre," "experimental theatre," or "avant-garde theatre." We are also interested in diversity in terms of location: we are going to search for theatre everywhere it is being made in the NYC area, throughout all five boroughs. This diversity initiative isn't about being politically correct; it's about learning, exploring, and discovering art, ideas, cultures, and ways of communicating that are different from the status quo. A good thing, we believe.

  2. We are going to provide new and better tools to make sure people can find the kind of theatre they want to see. We believe that a lot of people want simple, focused, accurate information about the many choices available to them so that they can decide how to spend their precious hours and dollars in the theatre. I met with a group of high school students recently in a seminar about theatre criticism. I was excited to discover that these teenagers don't like superficial rating systems: they don't care if Rolling Stone gives an album five stars or if some pundit calls a movie "essential viewing." They want data. We're going to keep on providing exactly that on nytheatre.com, recognizing that many different elements affect the theatre-going decision--not only content and form, but also the artists involved, performance times and lengths, and price points.
Technology plays an ever-larger role in our lives, and we are focused on that as well. We will continue to ensure that we respect the diversity of our constituents by making all of our resources completely accessible. And we will provide choices as to how our services are delivered--some people like books and other people like e-books, and we're gearing up to offer both; a lot of folks are becoming increasingly dependent on mobile devices like the iPhone or the BlackBerry and we are making sure all of the info we provide can be conveniently read and used regardless of your computing platform.

So, there's a high-level look at what we are resolving to accomplish in 2010. Now I want to focus on some specifics. Here are some of the actions we have already taken to move toward achieving our vision:

  1. New features on nytheatre.com that celebrate diversity: We've already made some additions to nytheatre.com that highlight the works of diverse artists. There are now separate Now Playing listings on our website for Plays by Women and for Plays with Gay & Lesbian Themes. These join our existing listings for Physical Theater and shows in the Outer Boroughs to help audiences identify and focus on each of these kinds of work. Last week, we added keywords to every current show page as a further enhancement (see a sample here). Also, our new PlaywrightALERTS (see below) include up-to-date feeds of new productions of plays by women and plays by people of color.

  2. nytheatre.com PlaywrightALERTS: To help audiences keep abreast of current and upcoming productions of plays and musicals by authors they care about, we've launched nytheatre.com PlaywrightALERTS. You can learn much more about this new service in this blog post.

  3. 50/50 in 2010: NYTE is partnering with 50/50 in 2020, a grassroots movement to acknowledge the contribution of women to theatre and to achieve employment parity for women theatre artists by the 100th anniversary of American suffrage in 2020. We will be working with them to significantly augment coverage of women theatre artists on our websites. We believe in putting our money where our mouth is, so to speak; and therefore we are committing to "50/50 in 2010"--we are going to attempt to review equal numbers of plays by women and plays by men in 2010. (Note that, given the disparity between numbers of productions, this may not actually be possible. We will keep everyone posted.) We recommend Marsha Norman's American Theatre article on this subject for those seeking an explanation of the importance of this initiative.

That's what we have to report right now. I'll keep you up-to-date with new features and new projects as the year progresses. Your feedback is vital, so please comment here or send me an email with your thoughts about our vision for 2010.

Monday, December 28, 2009

BardALERT! (Announcing Some New Features on nytheatre.com)

There are lots of ways nowadays to find out about theatre that's going on in New York City. But it's sometimes difficult to stay on top of the particular kind of theatre that you love and cherish and care about.


nytheatre.com is here to help! Today I am announcing the nytheatre.com BardALERT and the nytheatre.com PlaywrightALERTS. These are constantly-updated web resources that keep you posted about the newest current and upcoming productions of works by Shakespeare (that's the BardALERT) or other groups of playwrights. Check them out.


In addition to the BardALERT, we have alerts for the following groups of plays:

These are RSS feeds, which means that you can subscribe to them using an RSS reader or your web browser software. You can also subscribe to them via email. If you're not sure how to subscribe to an RSS feed, it's explained here.

The purpose of the BardALERT and the PlaywrightALERTS is to keep you up-to-date about NYC presentations of plays by the authors you like. Please post a comment or email me to let me know what you think about this new feature on nytheatre.com!

nytheatre.com BardALERT and PlaywrightALERTS are part of our broad initiative in 2010 to provide theatre audiences with the information they need to find the shows that interest them. I will be talking more about this initiative in upcoming nytheatre i posts.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

A Year-End Message about nytheatre.com and NYTE

Today, I share some thoughts about the first 10 years of The New York Theatre Experience, Inc...

25 years ago, New York theatre pretty much meant Manhattan theatre. Today, there are thriving epicenters of theatrical activity in Williamsburg, Bushwick, Long Island City, downtown Brooklyn, Astoria, the Bronx and other spots in what we used to call the “outer boroughs.”

Back then, you could tell someone you were going to see a play or a musical and they’d have a pretty good idea of what you were talking about. In 2009, the lines between those traditional forms have blurred, and new and re-imagined genres like performance art, multimedia, burlesque, improv, dance, physical theater, puppetry, mask, vaudeville, and even opera can all coalesce within a single production. Home-grown companies intermix with artists from all over the world, and theatre created from every conceivable point-of-view finds its way to the stage here in the Big Apple.

This is why I love living where I live and doing what I do. But it’s also why our mission here at The New York Theatre Experience, Inc., becomes more challenging every year. When we launched NYTE as a nonprofit corporation ten years ago, our vision was pretty straightforward: to help theatergoers navigate the NYC theatre scene via our website, nytheatre.com.

Since then, we’ve expanded the scope of our mission. Today, NYTE is committed to using new and traditional media to highlight, nurture, promote, and advance the work of thousands of indie/nonprofit theatre practitioners who make groundbreaking and foundational art in New York City. We do this by giving thousands of artists free space to list and explain their work on nytheatre.com and our other websites and on our nytheatrecast podcast series. We do this by reviewing more productions than any other media outlet every year—917 so far in 2009. And we do this by providing the first publication for worthy emerging and/or unheralded playwrights—144 of them in our first ten years.


As the community we serve keeps growing and morphing in unpredictable ways, so too has our bailiwick. The world of 2010 is a world of e-books and Kindles, iPhones and Droids. Our #1 focus is to keep providing our community of readers and listeners with the content they need to stay on top of the NYC theatre scene, to know what’s playing, what’s coming, what’s hot, what’s cool; all of the who-what-where-when-why-and-how details, in a format and style that’s easy to deal with and fun to engage with. I will be writing in detail about our plans in upcoming blog posts, right here on the nytheatre i.

Meanwhile, today I ask you to help us make this happen. There are two important actions you can take. And please know that both are very very important.


First, please make a contribution to NYTE. This year we were recognized by Microsoft Corporation with a $5,000 grant for our “promotion of the work of hundreds of nonprofit theatre companies to an audience of 3 million people annually, and all at no cost to the nonprofit theatres themselves.” This extraordinary gift has helped us lay the groundwork for the complicated yet exciting new-tech goodies we are building to make sure we can keep achieving our mission. Your gift of $5, $25, $50 will enable us to enter the world of ebook publishing in 2010, and thereby to bring the works of even more gifted playwrights to a broad, deep, diverse audience. Your gift of $10, $35, $75 will allow us to continue development, testing, and implementation of new features on our websites and a whole new kind of theatre information resource designed for mobile devices like the iPhone.


Any amount—one dollar or one hundred dollars or anything in between—will be greatly appreciated and is in fact essential to make sure we can continue to provide and grow the services we’ve built during our first ten years. NYTE is a nonprofit corporation, and so your donation is tax-deductible in accordance with federal and state laws. You can use your credit card or you can send a check to:

The New York Theatre Experience, Inc.
P.O. Box 1606
Murray Hill Station
New York, NY 10156

If you have already recently made a contribution, thank you very much!

The second action you can take is to stay in touch with us. Your show listings and company updates help make nytheatre.com interesting and comprehensive. Your opinions, ideas, and feedback keep us on track. Post your comments anytime, right here on the nytheatre i. And email me your thoughts about nytheatre.com, NYTE’s publication program, and what we can do to make them more responsive to your needs as a theatre-maker and/or theatre-goer.


I am lucky to be able to work in a field that is so rich and rewarding, and to do that work for people who care deeply about our common culture, our values, and our future. So thank you for reading this, and thank you for being an active part of NYTE’s community, and supporting us.

Here's to a successful, peaceful, and beautiful 2010!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

nytheatre Readers' (and Listeners') Choice: 2009 -- Part 2

Yesterday, I shared with you the most popular podcasts and artist cyberinterviews on nytheatre.com during 2009. Today, we continue exploring what our readers were most interested in by looking at the top nytheatre i blog posts and the most-read nytheatre.com reviews.

Let's start with this blog -- the nytheatre i, home in 2009 to Good News about NYC Theater. Here are the top ten postings for the year:

  1. David H. Koch Theater Gets Aisles (Mar 28)
  2. 14th Annual Lower East Side Festival of the Arts (May 8)
  3. Puppetry of the Penis Stimulus Package (Apr 10)
  4. Watch the Inauguration at BAM (Jan 10)
  5. Keen Teens Free After-School Theatre Program (Jan 31)
  6. FringeNYC -- Popular Shows (Aug 15)
  7. Barefoot Theatre Company Celebrates Israel Horovitz's Birthday (Mar 18)
  8. 50/50 in 2020: Parity for Women Theatre Artists (Sep 6)
  9. Plays and Playwrights 2010: First Announcement (Oct 13)
  10. Ground Up's Barefoot in the Park Announces Events (Jun 25)

Finally, here are two lists of the most popular reviews on nytheatre.com for 2009. I was surprised myself by these results.

Here are the top 10 Broadway/off-Broadway shows:

  1. Shrek The Musical
  2. Billy Elliot the Musical
  3. Jersey Boys
  4. West Side Story
  5. Wicked
  6. God of Carnage
  7. Our Town
  8. South Pacific
  9. The Lion King
  10. Naked Boys Singing

And here are the top 10 indie theater shows:

  1. Jailbait
  2. That Pretty Pretty, or the Rape Play
  3. The Pied Pipers of the Lower East Side
  4. Line
  5. The Temperamentals
  6. Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind
  7. Sweet Storm
  8. Soul Samurai
  9. Homer's Odyssey
  10. The Lily's Revenge

Thoughts about these, anybody?

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

nytheatre Readers' (and Listeners') Choice: 2009

So, I've posted nytheatre.com's view of some of the most memorable theatre and theatre artists of the past year here, here, and here. All well and good...but perhaps even more meaningful will be for us to look at what nytheatre.com's readers and nytheatrecast's listeners looked at and heard during 2009. I am certainly interested in what portions of our content were most appealing to our many constituents. I thought perhaps you would be too.

So, for starters, here's the list of the most popular podcast episodes for 2009, from all of the nytheatrecasts we produced throughout the year:


  1. Playwrights In Conversation: Matt Freeman and Adam Szymkowicz (#282)
  2. Metropolitan Playhouse Spring Season (#276) (features Alex Roe)
  3. Balancing Acts--Surviving and Thriving in Theater (#278) (features Robin Rothstein, Melanie Armer, Craig Pospisil, and David Hilder)
  4. Plays and Playwrights 2009: Author Roundtable (#287) (features Colette Freedman and Nick Mwaluko)
  5. Playwrights In Conversation: Matt Freeman and James Comtois (#289)
  6. FRIGID New York Festival Preview (#273) (features artists from six festival productions)
  7. Pan Asian Rep's New Works 2009 (#277) (features Tisa Chang and Ron Nakahara)
  8. Indie Theater NOW! 2009 Holiday Season Preview (#316) (features artists from four holiday productions)
  9. Playwrights In Conversation: Crystal Skillman and Daniel Talbott (#299)
  10. Waterwell's Newest Drop: #9 (#290) (features Tom Ridgely and Kevin Townley)

You can find links to more info about these (and to download each of the podcasts) here.

Now let's take a look at the most popular nytheatre voices interviews:

  1. Maria Striar (Clubbed Thumb's Summerworks Festival)
  2. Carol Polcovar & Fresh Fruit Participants (Fresh Fruit Festival)
  3. Francisco Reyes (Way to Heaven)
  4. Kelly R. Haydon, Tzipora Kaplan, Katherine Heberling (Bird House)
  5. Jon Stancato (Economic Revitalization for Performing Artists)
  6. Chance D. Muehleck and Melanie S. Armer (A Gathering)
  7. Michelle Vest (Sole Survivors: Journey Across Borders)
  8. Kathryn Chetkovich (She Said, She Said)
  9. Chiori Miyagawa (I Have Been to Hiroshima Mon Amour)
  10. Tina Chen (The Shanghai Gesture)

Intriguing, no?

I will have more of these lists for you tomorrow.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Stolen Chair Theatre's Community Supported Theatre: Event #2

This is the third in our series of postings about Stolen Chair Theatre's new initiative, Community Supported Theatre. It's written by our embedded journalist, Jo Ann Rosen.

*****
December 14, 2009

Despite the torrential rains, die-hard members of Stolen Chair’s Community Sponsored Theatre (CST) showed up for an evening of movie clips that demonstrated the effect of science on popular culture and everyday life. Reactions to the clips followed. The movies are part of CST’s research and inspiration for a play to be written by Kiran Rikhye, resident playwright. The year-long creative process is being shared with its membership. This year’s theme: Quantum Poetics: A Science Experiment for the Stage.

The movie clips highlighted nuclear energy, mathematics, electro-magnetics, and quantum physics. But, before you turn your back on topics you feel you’ll never understand, consider this: among the films were award-winning A Beautiful Mind, with the ever-engaging Russell Crowe, The Matrix with Keanu Reeves, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind featuring Jim Carrey, and Sliding Doors, starring Gwyneth Paltrow. Also included were an embarrassingly naive government-sponsored propaganda film from the 1950s illustrating the proper way for elementary school children to protect themselves during an atomic explosion (Duck and Cover), an animated film moderated by Martin Sheen demonstrating dimension (Flatland), an historical re-enactment of the discovery of electro-magnetic activity by the scientific genius Michael Faraday (Einstein's Big Idea: E is for Energy), Contact, a science fiction film featuring Jodie Foster, Memento, a movie in which the protagonist functions without memory, and Awakenings, the popular movie starring Robin Williams based on Oliver Sacks’s book of the same name, which describes Sacks’s treatment of catatonic patients with a drug that brings them back to life, if only temporarily. Following each clip, attendees participated in animated discussions moderated by Emily Otto, resident dramaturg.

It was clear from the start that one didn’t have to be a math wizard to enjoy A Beautiful Mind. Rather, someone offered that the movie elicited a great respect for genius and a voyeuristic thrill for discovery without demanding an understanding of the equations scrawled all over the movie’s university campus. After viewing Flatland, one participant suggested that scientific knowledge could actually hold back progress. Just as the movie’s animated two-dimensional line could not fathom the words ‘above’ or ‘below’, it’s all-knowing sphere was equally baffled by the possibility of a fourth dimension. Jon Stancato, resident director of Stolen Chair, said he liked NOVA’s production of Einstein's Big Idea, because it showed that a mark of a good scientist was his bold ideas and his rebelliousness – not unlike some of the best playwrights. He also found it appealing that Michael Faraday, who discovered electro-magnetic induction among other things, was depicted as an awestruck child and that he used his science not only to reinforce his religious beliefs but as salvation, in general. Another attendee noted that many scientists found inspiration outside of their field, such as Newton with his apple and Faraday and his wedding ring.

Bringing science into the living room or even the bedroom humanizes the concept. In Sliding Doors, Gwenyth Paltrow inhabits two universes simultaneously: one in which she misses her subway, because a child got in her way as she raced down the stairs, and another in which she actually catches that train, ultimately making a disturbing discovery. All in all, the films inspired thought and conversation – just what the exercise was meant to do!

Following the clips and discussion (did I forget to mention the popcorn and wine?), we read snippets of dialog written by Kiran, ideas that may or may not appear in the final play. The creative process continues. Members can look forward to another stimulating evening on January 24th, where again, science will take center stage.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

My New York Theatre Experience: 2009

It's the time of year for looking back and making lists. I actually enjoy doing a bit of this, especially where the world of New York theatre is concerned--because there are always plenty of great memories to cherish as I think back on the last 12 months of my own personal New York Theatre Experience.

I've already shared with you the names of the 15 theatre artists and companies whom we've cited as nytheatre.com's People of the Year--all of the work these folks contributed to the scene in 2009 ranks among the best of the best as far as I'm concerned.

And I've also told you about the 10 new plays that we'll be including in NYTE's next anthology, Plays and Playwrights 2010. Obviously, these dramas and comedies are to be counted among my top faves of the year as well.

But why should I stop at two lists? I've still got more stuff I want to remind everybody about--so here's my final year-end list, of what I found most worth celebrating in the year in theatre in 2009:

Here, in absolutely random order, are the other new American plays that really excited me this year:
  • Balaton by Ashlin Halfnight
  • The Good Negro by Tracey Scott Wilson
  • This by Melissa James Gibson
  • The Temperamentals by Jon Marans
  • The Savannah Disputation by Evan Smith
  • Behind the Bullseye by Kevin Doyle

In the not-exactly-a-play category, there are these two:

  • The Lily's Revenge by Taylor Mac
  • The Pig, The Farmer, and the Artist by David Chesky

The performances I will remember for a long time include:

  • Jane Fonda in 33 Variations
  • James Spader and David Alan Grier in Race
  • Mercedes Ruehl in The American Plan
  • Geoffrey Rush in Exit the King
  • Chris Harcum and Kyle Haggerty in The Hypochondriac

Behind-the-scenes, I feel attention must be paid to:

  • David Korins, for the set design of Why Torture is Wrong and the People Who Love Them
  • Scott Reynolds, for his direction of Simon Armitage's dramatization of Homer's Odyssey

It was a great year for revivals of American classics. For me, the best of these included:

  • Joe Turner's Come and Gone, Lincoln Center Theater (directed by Bartlett Sher)
  • Vieux Carre, Pearl Theatre Company (directed by Austin Pendleton)
  • It Pays to Advertise, Metropolitan Playhouse (directed by Michael Hardart)
  • Fifth of July, T. Schreiber Studio (directed by Peter Jensen)
  • Our Town (directed by David Cromer)

The indie theater company CollaborationTown had a fantastic year in 2009; if they hadn't already been named a "Person of the Year" back in 2006, they would have been on our list this year. They had two excellent, very different new shows: Let's Go and Children at Play.

Vital Theatre Company imported the show that probably ranks as the happiest surprise of my year: the delightful comedy Perfect Wedding, by British playwright Robin Hawdon.

And finally, the most fortuitous non-production event of the year, for my money, was the renaming of the La MaMa Annex as the Ellen Stewart Theatre. What a great tribute to her in the year she celebrated her 90th birthday!

So, there you have it. Martin's New York Theatre Experience for 2009. You can hear me talk about some of this with playwrights Kevin Doyle and Saviana Stanescu on our year-in-review podcast. (We also chat about the theatre scene abroad, beyond the borders of NYC.)

So, now I have to ask: what's on your list for 2009? Send in your "New York Theatre Experience" by posting a comment.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

nytheatre.com's People of the Year

Today on nytheatre.com we announce our 2009 People of the Year.

I want you to read the article so you can find out all about these amazing folks; you'll also find lots of links to reviews, podcasts, and other resources that will spell out how significant their work has been to the indie theater community in NYC.

But I won't tease you...here's the list of the 15 we chose.

There are six theatre companies:
  1. AXIS Company
  2. Inverse Theater
  3. The New York NeoFuturists
  4. Nosedive Productions
  5. Soho Think Tank
  6. Wide Eyed Productions

All but the last of these are long-running companies that have given us dozens of innovative works over the years. Wide Eyed is a relatively new company that has already made a big impact.

There are four actors:

  1. Michael Gnat
  2. Alyssa Simon
  3. Paco Tolson
  4. Matthew Trumbull

There are two directors:

  1. Shannon Sindelar, who runs the Ontological Incubator Series
  2. Sarah Cameron Sunde, who is associate director of New Georges and co-artistic director of Oslo Elsewhere

There's one sound designer, the prolific Elizabeth Rhodes.

There's one playwright/actor, the prolific Richard Lovejoy.

And capping the list is a new very worthy organization, 50/50 in 2020, founded by Melody Brooks, Julie Crosby, and Susan Jonas; its mission is to devise strategies to address the differences in representation of male vs. female playwrights in American theatres.

People of the Year are nominated by the contributors to nytheatre.com, and the final selections are made by NYTE's Board. It's hard to choose just 15 people to represent the broad spectrum of the NYC indie theater scene. But we think it's important to recognize artists who are doing significant work that may otherwise be taken for granted or fall under/off the radar.

So read all about them. And take a look at our past People of the Year, 2004-2008. I think you'll find that we've been doing a pretty good job at identifying the up-and-coming stars of our community.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Help NYC Theatres via the Chase Community Giving Program

You've almost certainly already heard about the charitable giving program that Chase is conducting through Facebook. The basic concept is that individual Facebook members can vote for their favorite organizations, and the top vote-getters will receive $25,000 grants from Chase.



The link is here--it requires you to be a Facebook member to use, as well as to allow access to this charity application to some of your personal data:

http://apps.facebook.com/chasecommunitygiving/charities/780875

I've personally been asked to vote for a number of very worthy theatre groups who are vying for this funding. If you're on Facebook and open to using this application, I urge you to show support for the nonprofit theatre community in NYC by voting for one or more of these deserving companies.

I got a lovely note from Elena K. Holy of the Present Company/New York International Fringe Festival about this opportunity earlier today. Elena says that the Present Company seems to really be in the running to receive this grant! As she says:

If we were to get this $25,000, it might mean that we could keep our ticket price at $15 for another year....This Chase campaign, as you know, is limited to organizations with a budget of $10 Million dollars or less. Despite the fact that we're on the tiny end of the spectrum (as to staff size as well as budget) we seem to be competitive.

Right now:

Invisible Children = 5374 Votes

Tony Stewart Foundation = 555 Votes

Present Theatre Company = 485 Votes

Quite frankly, for our organization to be doing so well, is amazing. All of the above organizations, and all of our peer organizations, are incredibly worthy.

I would love to see The Present Company get one of these grants because the work they do in turn supports 200 indie theater companies every year; I would love to see all of the winners come from our NYC indie theater community, though that's not terribly likely to happen! You can vote for up to 20 different organizations. I hope you will vote for The Present Company and for many other theatre organizations whose work you love.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Holiday CD Round-Up by Seth Bisen-Hersh

The nytheatre i happily presents this holiday feature, a look at some recent theatre-related CD releases, written by our CD columnist, Seth Bisen-Hersh:

*****

2009 CD Reviews
by Seth Bisen-Hersh


I admit it: I have been procrastinating writing CD reviews for a while now. The amount of Broadway performers making solo CDs in the last year alone has created quite a backlog. In fact, there are even CDs from 2008 and, dare I admit, 2007 that I failed to cover, and it hardly seems fair to suddenly become a good Samaritan but only cover ones I missed in 2009. Thus, I have decided to review all of the solo (and 1 duet) CDs I have received but not reviewed from 2007 to the present en masse; I hereby present to you 15 concise reviews just in time for holiday shopping.

First, I will say I would highly recommend all of these CDs. They are all pristinely recorded. If you are a fan of the performer, I promise you, you will not be disappointed. Here are the highlights, most recently released recordings first:

Marcy & Zina: The Album: Marcy & Zina’s songs are staples of the cabaret scene. This marks the first time a lot of their classic songs have been professionally recorded, and it’s about time! The songs range from the hilarious--“Fifteen Pounds” and “The Last Song”--to the emotional--“Oh, How I Loved You” and “Welcome to Rain”--but always they exhibit the exquisite song-writing craft you expect from this wonderful writing team.

Chita Rivera: And Now I Swing: Words cannot express how iconic Chita Rivera is. She is without a doubt a Broadway legend and has finally come out with a solo recording, which certainly swings, as the title promises. The highlights are many and include a wonderful new Kander and Ebb song from The Visit--“Love and Love Alone”--a heart-wrenching “Where Am I Going” from Sweet Charity, and a frenzied “Carousel” from Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris.

Liz Callaway: Passage of Time: Liz Callaway’s voice is angelic. This recording is replete with highlights--in fact just about every track is a highlight. Simply put, if you are a fan of Callaway, you should have this CD. Here are a few of the reasons:– a new song by Flaherty and Ahrens (“Nothing to Lose”), two Sondheim songs (“Being Alive” and “Children Will Listen”), a rendition of a song from Baby she didn’t get to perform in the show (“Patterns”), and a new duet with her sister, Ann Hampton Callaway (“That’s the Way I’ve Always Heard It Should Be”). Plus there are four great medleys.

Rebecca Luker: Greenwich Time: Rebecca Luker expresses so much emotion with just the subtlest change in her vocal tone. Her soprano melts over the listener’s ear, as soothing as a mother’s caress. Her recording contains mostly world premiere songs by new composers, but has a few obscure treasures from older ones, as well. The highlights are an esoteric Jule Styne/ Carolyn Leigh tune, “Killing Time,” a chilling rendition of the Goldrich/Heisler ballad, “Out of Love,” and a gentle “Summer with You,” a world premiere John Kander song, which shows a musical side of him never before exhibited.

Kate Baldwin: Let’s See What Happens: Kate Baldwin's debut recording is charming. Baldwin sings fifteen classics either with lyrics by E. Y. Harburg or music by Burton Lane. Harburg’s clever lyrics are almost unparalleled, and Lane’s music is vivacious. The highlights are a jazzy rendition of “How are Things in Glocca Morra?” a tune Baldwin sings 8 times a week on Broadway in Finian's Rainbow, a passionate “He Wasn’t You,” and the upbeat “I Don’t Think I’ll End It All Today,” which incidentally was pleasantly orchestrated by Tony winner Jason Robert Brown.

Alan Cumming: I Bought a Blue Car Today: That Cumming is not exactly a singer does not deter from the charm of this solo debut. The heavily accented Scotsmen neither croons nor belts through his covers of artists as varied as Sinatra and Cindy Lauper, but fans will not be disappointed. Cumming pulls out his characteristic duality of naughtiness and innocence in each selection. Highlights include the Hedwig and the Angry Inch covers “Wig in a Box”/"Wicked Little Town,” where he is truly in his element, the raunchy “Beautiful,” and the Cabaret tribute “Mein Herr.” Overall, an enjoyable listen.

Malcolm Gets: The Journey Home: Malcolm Gets’s first solo recording is simply charming. His soft, sweet interpretations create a serene ambiance. Highlights include a seductive, cross-gendered rendition of Stephen Sondheim’s “Wait,” a sentimental version of Maury Yeston’s ballad “Getting Tall,” and an earnest “Truly Scumptious” from the children’s movie, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang!

Stephanie J. Block: This Place I Know: The coolest thing about Stephanie J. Block’s solo CD is that she asked all the composers to accompany her songs. The next coolest thing is that Block’s flawless, seamless belt is on audible display throughout the recording. She belts higher than anyone should be able to without the slightest bit of effort. The highlights include dueting with 9 to 5 composer Dolly Parton on her standard “I Will Always Love You,” hearing the original “I Want” song from Stephen Schwartz’s Wicked, “Making Good,” and an esoteric gem by Marvin Hamlisch and Craig Carnelia called “Smart Woman.”

Kerry Butler: faith, trust & pixie dust: Kerry Butler’s recording of Disney songs is magical. Butler sweetly transports the listener to the Magic Kingdom, providing a window into childhood. Her family-friendly recording presents calming renditions of mostly animated classics. The highlights include a hopeful “When You Wish Upon a Star,” an imploring medley of “It’s a Small World” and “God Help the Outcasts,” and a melancholy “When She Loved Me.”

Karen Mason: Right Here/Right Now: Karen Mason is a magnificent musical talent. Being extremely versatile, Mason finds the nuance in both comedy and dramatic songs. The highlights of her new CD include the funny “Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend” and “Hurry! It’s Lovely Up Here,” an intense, incredible medley of the Beatles song “Help” with the Sondheim masterpiece “Being Alive,” and a touching rendition of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “As If We Never Said Goodbye” from Sunset Boulevard (Mason covered the role of Norma Desmond on Broadway).

John Pizzarelli: With a Song in my Heart: The intricate jazz stylings of John Pizzarelli are on clear display on his new album. 7 of 12 tracks feature Pizzarelli’s group, the wonderful Swing Seven (with incredible arrangements by Don Sebesky), and two of the others feature great guest instrumentalists. The selections are all songs written by the legendary Richard Rodgers--some are well-known, while others are fairly obscure. The recording is uniformly grand with each track providing eclectic and unexpected twists. If you are into jazz and enjoy the music of Rodgers, this CD is for you!

Sutton Foster: Wish: Sutton Foster is a like a breath of fresh air. Her first solo CD is whimsically joyous and showcases her dynamic range from sweet to brassy, from funny to poignant and from introverted to extroverted. The highlights of the CD include the folky rendition of Christine Lavin’s “Air Conditioner,” a thrilling duet with Little Women co-star Megan McGinnis: Craig Carnelia’s “Flight,” an emotional “Once Upon a Time” from Charles Strouse and Lee Adams’s All American and a belty rendition of the anthem “On My Way” from Jeanine Tesori and Brian Crawley’s Violet.

Lauren Kennedy: here and now: Lauren Kennedy continues to be a stunning voice for new composers with her second solo CD. When she belts, it’s a seamless, shimmering sound. The highlights of the CD include a new upbeat song by Andrew Lippa, “Spread a Little Joy,” a fantastic jazzy song by The Wedding Singer team, Matthew Sklar & Chad Beguelin, “Pretending that I’m Somebody Else,” and Marcy Heisler & Zina Goldrich’s hilarious, honest cabaret song, “Apathetic Man.”

Kelli O’Hara: Wonder in the World: Kelli O’Hara has a seductive soprano. Her jazzy debut recording features new arrangements of some standards plus three original songs by Harry Connick, Jr, O’Hara’s Pajama Game co-star, who also duets on the title song. The highlights are the aforementioned title duet, the soft arrangement of Billy Joel’s “And So It Goes,” an emotional, mature “Fable” from Adam Guettel’s The Light in the Piazza, which O’Hara co-starred in playing the younger role, and a delicious “I Have Dreamed” from Rodgers & Hammerstein’s classic, The King and I.

Judy Kuhn: Serious Playground: The Songs of Laura Nyro: It could be said that one of the greater tragedies in Nyro's career was that her music was so heavily covered that no one outside of the music industry revered her songwriting with the same esteem as peers such as Joni Mitchell. However, here her catalog is treated with the appropriate amount of respect that perhaps only a Broadway Baby could dish out. Other singers might be weary of tackling these highly complex pop songs, so treasured by Nyro fans, and so varied in their keys and melodies. So intricate is the songwriting that Nyro can flawlessly swing from a variety of melodies, pitches, keys, time changes etc.--all in the same song! And Kuhn dutifully follows along, her love for the music clearly evident. It would be impossible to choose a highlight from an album that encompasses so much light and so much darkness.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Kickoff! -- Stolen Chair Theatre's Community Supported Theatre

Here's the first dispatch from Jo Ann Rosen, nytheatre.com's "embedded journalist" with the Stolen Chair Theatre's Community Supported Theatre program.

*****

November 22, 2009

Even before President Obama urged educators to concentrate their efforts on math and science, Stolen Chair Theatre co-artistic directors Jon Stancato and Kiran Rikhye were reaching for the stars. Last night, they launched the pilot program of their Community Sponsored Theatre (CST) that introduced friends, family and, most importantly, the new CST members to this year’s theatrical theme: Quantum Poetics: A Science Experiment for the Stage.

The evening, divided into two parts, began with a slide presentation by Jon, also the resident director, explaining the CST concept, which he hopes will solidify a long-term relationship between the theater group and its membership. The plan is to update and educate the members monthly on the creative process. Kiran, Stolen Chair’s resident playwright, focused on their mission statement: to create “playfully intellectual, wickedly irreverent and exuberantly athletic original works.” Aviva Meyer, the communications director, explained how they intend to increase awareness through telephone interviews that will become pod casts and through their online social network, The Chaise Lounge, where subsequent CST events and other related activities, will be posted.

But it was the second part of the evening that delivered on the CST concept; that is, they shared the result of their first steps in the dynamic process of creating a play. Seven actors re-enacted exercises developed during a recent creative retreat. To prepare for the retreat, each actor received a 211-page compilation of articles and books on a wide variety of scientific subjects, including theoretical physics and neuroscience. They also received books by Bertolt Brecht, Aristotle, and Richard Schechner, who, in Jon’s words, “approach theater with the same sort of empirical rigor as scientists.” During the retreat, ideas percolated and Jon added requirements and boundaries to the concepts. The actors interpreted and enacted them. The best of the compositions were presented at the kickoff.

Performances represented the personification of five theories: chaos, gravity, memory, evolution, and synethesia (senses crossing from one part of the brain to another, as from brain damage or drugs). The first exercise, made up of all seven actors, reflected an imaginative interpretation of a human collider creating new matter. The group, held tightly together by a hula hoop, moved slowly to center stage. Once the plastic ring dropped, each burst from the whole with great energy. Another performance related the story of The Three Little Pigs to represent three gravity-defining moments; a third showed the daily routine of two people that could easily have doubled for two rats in a maze. All were big scientific ideas applied to every day life. They were made comprehensible and whimsical by this very clever group.

Kiran, who will be giving shape to the final play, knows there will be lots of changes during this year-long collaboration. The final version may include parts of the exercises, maybe only a gesture, or none of it. But, what the charter members saw last night was the first spark of a new play – Quantum Poetics: A Science Experiment for the Stage. The next event is on Sunday, December 13. They will be screening clips from movies that explore scientific themes. Membership is still open.

*****

Learn more about Stolen Chair and CST here.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Major Savings on Tickets to Pilar Rioja Flamenco

Theatergoers who have never experienced authentic flamenco on stage have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to do so at a very affordable price this month. Thanks to a grant from Target, Repertorio Espanol is offering a great ticket discount for purchases made on or before November 16th. You pay regular price for the first ticket ($30 and up) and just $1 for the second ticket. (You can buy up to 8 tickets with this offer.)

Pilar Rioja was born in Torreón, México to Spanish parents who hailed from the Rioja region of Spain. Ms. Rioja combined her modern, ballet and classical dance training with traditional Spanish dance forms. She has taught throughout Latin America, Spain, the United States and even Armenia, and to the dancers of the Bolshoi Ballet in Moscow. Ms. Rioja has been an inspiration for many artists' work including: a sculpted bust by Arnold Taylor, drawings and paintings by Hector Javier, paintings by Spanish artist Antonio Peyri, a collection of songs and poetry by Luis Ríus, poetry by Juan Duch and Alfonso Simone and an audiovisual production by Neil Goldberg in New York (http://www.neilgoldberg.com/). Ms. Rioja has performed in the United States, México, Latin America, Spain, Austria, Bulgaria and throughout the former Soviet Union. In 1996, she performed in England with the BBC Proms Orchestra and in 1997 with the Brooklyn Philharmonic in New York; as a guest artist with the Oregon Symphony Orchestra in Portland and the San Antonio Symphony in Texas as well as two participations in the prestigious Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival in Massachusetts. Ms. Rioja debuted solo in New York at Repertorio Español in 1972, this is her 37th season with the Company.

You can read more about her show here. Tickets for Pilar Rioja may be reserved by phone: 212-225-9920; online: repertorio.org or in person: Repertorio Español’s Gramercy Arts Theater Box Office located at 138 East 27 Street, New York, NY between Lexington and Third Avenues.

Friday, November 6, 2009

The Temperamentals Moves to Off-Broadway

Here's a great piece of news: The Temperamentals, Jon Marans's excellent and insightful new play about Harry Hay and the founding of the Mattachine Society, is moving to New World Stages in February.

This is a terrific work that reminds us how recent the struggle for gay rights really is; it's particularly timely in this current period of opposition to same-sex marriage rights. I reviewed the original off-off-Broadway presentation here.

I had the privilege of interviewing playwright Jon Marans on an episode of our nytheatrecast podcast series. Listen here or read more about it.

I'll post details about casting, ticketing, and more as they are released, on nytheatre.com

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Stolen Chair Theatre's Community Supported Theatre

Stolen Chair Theatre Company was recently awarded a grant to develop a new model for funding their work. Their program--Community Supported Theatre--is based on the very successful Community Supported Agriculture concept. You can read much more about what Stolen Chair is planning to do here. I did a podcast with Stolen Chair members Jon Stancato and Aviva Meyer along with Jennifer Wright Cook from The Field which provides lots of great background about this initiative as well.

We at NYTE think that what Stolen Chair is doing has real significance and applicability to the indie theater community. So we've asked the folks at Stolen Chair if we can have one of our contributors follow the program as it develops and unfolds, as an "embedded" member of the new CST. They've graciously consented, and so today I am happy to let readers know that nytheatre.com staffer Jo Ann Rosen will be reporting about CST for the next nine months, right here at the nytheatre i.

Here's Jo Ann's initial dispatch:

Good ideas are plentiful, but the number of people willing to invest time, money, and a detailed plan to see whether, in fact, their concepts actually work are far fewer. This appears particularly relevant in theater, where the daily scramble to keep the dinghy afloat is particularly acute. Therefore, it seemed worth more than a glance to talk to Jon Stancato, co-artistic director of The Stolen Chair Theatre Company, and learn about his ambitious plans for developing community sponsored theater (CST). For the next nine months, I will be embedded for nytheatre.com as a member of Stolen Chair, reporting on the monthly events of Stancato’s new business model for theater production.

Basically, Stancato is rethinking the relationship of the audience to his theater, offering an alternative to the actively-engaged theatergoer. His idea grew from his long-time membership in Community Sponsored Agriculture (CSA), where each member invests seed money and in return reaps the profits of local farms. According to Jon, some weeks the produce he received looked gorgeous and tasted even better, other weeks less so due to heavy rains. At times, he received a nice variety of vegetables, other times his share could amount to five pounds of cauliflower. Still, he is nothing short of ecstatic about his heightened understanding and better appreciation for the farm-to-table process. “I’ve learned so much about food!” - about the process, what goes into putting it on the table, an increased enjoyment of eating, and an interest in cooking. Then, the connection sank in. Could he do the same thing with his theater? That is, could he create a rich and committed community by including people in the process?

Jon thinks so. Members will participate once per month in a wide range of events that illuminate his chosen topic: panel discussions, lectures, viewings of rehearsal footage, movies, field trips, and more, ending with a full production of a new play. “My plays always start with an obsession,” he offered. He reads, and reads, and then reads some more on topic. His references for each production are listed on Stolen Chair’s website. “I’m trying to create theater that hasn’t been done before.” The topic for the pilot project is Quantum Poetics. Not interested in science? Too intellectually challenging? According to Jon, the concepts will be presented in relevant, understandable ways that have meaning for the members.

Stancato is aiming for 100 charter members, but will breathe easy with 50. They might be connected to people in the production, interested in the subject matter, or intrigued by Stolen Chair and its process. Wherever they come from and whatever their interest level, Stancato is intent on building a group of invested audience members. “This is not about rewarding donations. It’s about creating community,” he emphasized. “By buying into the community, you get nine months worth” of enlightening and thoughtful entertainment related to the play’s topic. All members receive the same benefits, but there are several ways of joining. A group of three can join for $325; one person for $175; and a student for $150. Stolen Chair has already received a $20,000 grant to jumpstart this idea. Stancato will kick off his CST on November 22.

Watch here for monthly updates of the events. It should be a fascinating year.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Meet Susan Louise O'Connor and Greg Kotis

Next Monday night (November 9), at the Kraine Theater, members of the indie theater community will have a chance to meet two of its biggest success stories in a panel sponsored by the League of Independent Theater.

Susan Louise O'Connor has been given nicknames like the "queen of downtown theatre" after a long history of memorable performances in plays by Daniel MacIvor and others at venues like the Red Room and 14th Street Theatre. Her career has recently taken off in more commercially viable directions, happily; last spring she appeared on Broadway in Blithe Spirit, alongside Angela Lansbury, Christine Ebersole, and Rupert Everett, in a performance that was highly regarded enough to bring her a Theatre World Award.

Greg Kotis had a long career working in the trenches in Chicago and NYC indie theater scenes before his musical Urinetown (co-written with Mark Hollman) made a splash (pun entirely intended; sorry) first at the FringeNYC festival in 1999 and then off-Broadway and finally, in 2001, on Broadway at the Henry Miller Theatre. Greg won 2 Tony Awards for Urinetown.

At Monday's "Get Lit with LIT" event, you will have the chance to hear from Susan and Greg as they talk about the trajectories of their careers. Mark Lonergan will moderate a panel with these two artists, and afterward there will be time for audience members to speak directly with both of these folks. This is a great chance for people in the indie theater world to spend some quality time with people who have set down roots in our community but achieved success in the more "mainstream" world beyond it.

This event is free!

Get Lit with LIT, featuring Susan Louise O'Connor and Greg Kotis, is at the Kraine Theatre, on Monday, November 9, from 7-9pm.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Previewing Ars Nova's ANT Festival

Ars Nova's ANT Festival, which runs from October 20 - November 22 at the Midtown venue, is tough for a website like nytheatre.com to cover. All of the programs are one-night-only, and many are works-in-progress, not really suitable for review. How can we get people excited about this festival, and give them the info they need to decide whether they want to go to it, and if so, which shows they want to sample?

We are solving this dilemma with a two-pronged attack on the festival! By tomorrow, our preview podcast for the 2009 Festival will be online at nytheatrecast.com and available for download. This podcast is one of the most fun ones we've ever made. We got artists from 18 out of the 32 shows participating in ANT and we gave each of them 90 seconds at the microphone. The result is a collage of every kind of contemporary performance you can imagine! Cudzoo and the Fagettes sing an a cappella ditty about a-b-o-r-t-i-o-n, Soce the Elemental Wizard performs a 30-second rap, Jesica Delfino plays on her v-shaped ukulele, Elsie Jay's Improv Girl Smash tantalize us with a chat about what sort of hookers they will play at their show, and The Mighty Third Rail give listeners a sample of their beatboxing accompanied by a mean fiddle player.

And there's much more! Check out our podcast and get a real taste of the ANT Festival. Then check out Ars Nova's website for the details about showtimes, ticketing, etc.

Now for the second prong: I asked Emily Shooltz, one of the curators of the festival, to answer a few questions about this event. Here's our cyber-conversation:

ME: How do you go about finding the artists who will participate in the festival?

EMILY: We accept open submissions for ANT FEST each summer. We put out the call to emerging artists in theater, music, comedy and everything in between to send us their original shows, and this year we were lucky to have an embarrassment of riches--we received hundreds of applications from a truly phenomenal range of talent. We could have programmed the festival twice over from the materials we received, so choosing just thirty nights was a challenge! Our goal is to find the next wave of emerging artists, those who see the future of live entertainment and need a chance to show off their skills. Over the five weeks of the festival this year, more than 200 artists will use ANT FEST as a way to showcase their talents.

ME: What can audiences expect at Ars Nova during the festival?

EMILY: Every night a new group of performers takes the stage and the festival is designed to be eclectic, so you definitely won't see the same thing twice! Expect to see emerging artists pushing the boundaries, and a lot of hot new talent exploding preconceived notions of what a concert, or a play, or a crypto-zoology-horror show can be. Our hope is that audiences will take a chance on a few different shows to get a taste of the wide range the festival has to offer. We definitely have concerts for music lovers, great improv and sketch for comedy fans, but also magic, vaudeville, a play or two, and even an interpretive dance squad to wrap things up. Plus we've added late-night variety shows called Showgasm on Thursdays during the festival--they're free and a great way to hang out with festival artists and sample what's coming up in ANT FEST.

ME: What's it like to attend one of the performances?

EMILY: It's an awesome, fun, night out! Because each performance is for one night only, the crowd is pumped to be there and there's a great vibe around the whole event. All of the ANT FEST artists are very supportive of each others' shows, and it's not uncommon for the party to continue at a bar around the corner when the curtain comes down.

ME: Can people get drinks and/or food?

EMILY: We have a full bar in the theater (be warned--the drinks are strong!) and snacks like chocolate and Pirate's Booty. People are welcome to take drinks to their seats, but we have no drink minimum, so no pressure!

ME: Do the artists hang out?

EMILY: Absolutely. ANT FEST artists can see any of each others' shows for free (space permitting), so they are around for performances, and the Showgasms are a way for everyone to come together and have a beer and watch some hilarity each week. Plus, our festival bars, Bar Nine and The Ritz, are offering ANT FEST artists and audience members a free drink with their program after the shows, so why would anyone go home?

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Plays and Playwrights 2010: First Announcement

Friends, colleagues, readers -- today I am very excited to announce the forthcoming publication of NYTE's 11th annual anthology of new works from the world of indie theater: Plays and Playwrights 2010. We are now in production for this volume, with an expected release date of February 1, 2010.

Plays and Playwrights 2010 will include ten plays, culled from the hundreds of new American plays that premiered in NYC's indie theaters from September 2008-September 2009. Here they are, in the order they appeared on stage:
  • The Invitation by Brian Parks: This is a scathing, vitriolic, and surprising dark comedy from one of the masters of contemporary comedy of manners. In it, a dinner party among five old friends goes horribly awry.
  • Flip Side by Ellen Maddow: This play from The Talking Band contrasts two opposite worlds--one drab and predictable, the other fast-paced and dynamic. It's an exploration of symmetry, balance, and harmony--in our lives, and in theatrical style.
  • Any Day Now by Nat Cassidy: A modern epic tragicomedy about a family coping with their daily lives...and an epidemic of zombie-ism. Nat's play The Reckoning of Kit and Little Boots was recognized last month at the New York Innovative Theatre Awards.
  • The Spin Cycle by Jerrod Bogard: As the title suggests, this is a cycle of short plays about the notion of "spin" in contemporary America. Jerrod's "green" musical for children, Jack and the Soy Beanstalk, is currently playing at the Algonquin Theatre.
  • Suspicious Package: Rx by Gyda Arber and Aaron Baker: This interactive "iPod" play premiered at the Brick's Antidepressant Festival. It embraces Web 2.0 technology in a dazzlingly innovative way.
  • Our Country by Tony Asaro and Dan Collins: A new musical about a country & western singer who is inadvertently outed following a tryst with a cop in a public men's room. Full of heart and vigor, this show premiered at the brand new Planet Connections Theatre Festivity.
  • Maddy--A Modern Day Medea by Will LeVasseur: This is a contemporary re-telling of the legend of Medea, set in a Southern trailer park. Its exploration of the cosmic forces invoked in the story bowled me over.
  • Al's Business Cards by Josh Koenigsberg: The format of La Ronde is freely adapted here into a hilarious farce about circumstance and coincidence and miscommunication and misunderstanding.
  • The Songs of Robert by John Crutchfield: A one-man musical about a young man growing up in Appalachia. This smart and sensitive piece debuted in the New York International Fringe Festival.
  • MilkMilkLemonade by Joshua Conkel: A parable about growing up queer in the American heartland, by a young playwright who has made a big name for himself within the indie theater community in a very short period.

I'll be posting about the new book every so often between now and its release, to keep you apprised of our progress and, more importantly, to introduce the plays and playwrights to you. I am proud to be working with these 12 distinguished artists, and thrilled to present their work to a wide audience in Plays and Playwrights 2010.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

The Ellen Stewart Theater

On November 1, the La MaMa Annex Space will be renamed The Ellen Stewart Theater, as a living tribute to La MaMa's founder and artistic director. I can't think of better way to celebrate the life and career of Ellen Stewart; nor can I think of a theater person more deserving of having a theater named after them.

The following comes from the press release from La MaMa:

La MaMa ETC - one of the standard-bearers of experimental theater in New York and around the globe since it was founded in 1961 by the inimitable Ellen Stewart - will rename its Annex theater the Ellen Stewart Theater at a gala entitled "Celebrating Ellen" on Sunday, November 1 at 4 p.m. at the Annex (66 E. 4 St.), it has been announced by Mia Yoo, Associate Artistic Director of La MaMa, and Frank Carucci, President of the theater's Board of Directors.

A host of La MaMa alum - including Tony winner Bill Irwin, Meredith Monk, John Kelly, Peggy Shaw, Lois Weaver, Elizabeth Swados, Andrei Serban and members of Ms. Stewart's own Great Jones Repertory Company - will perform and pay tribute to Ms. Stewart, affectionately known as "Mama," at the November 1st event, which will also mark the 48th anniversary of the founding of La MaMa ETC.

Through Ms. Stewart's guidance and vision of international and multi-cultural collaboration in the arts, La MaMa ETC is considered the home of experimental theater in America, one of the premiere presenters of the international avant-garde, and a beacon to all artists who explore the boundaries of creative expression. Well-known names of the theatre for whom La MaMa was their first artistic home in the United States include Andrei Serban, Elizabeth Swados, Jerzy Grotowski, Tadeusz Kantor, Tom O'Horgan, Lee Breuer,Tom Eyen, Mike Figgis, Joel Zwick, Harold Pinter (THE ROOM -- La MaMa was the first presenter of Mr. Pinter's work in the United States); Kazuo Ohno, Tan Dun, Julia Stiles and Diane Lane, as well as artists from Japan, Nigeria, Korea, Zaire, Ivory Coast, Poland and countless other countries. La MaMa was the first Off-Off Broadway theatre to support full-time resident companies, and was the first Off-Off company to tour Europe. La MaMa has been honored with numerous OBIE Awards, dozens of Drama Desk Awards, Bessie Awards and Villager Awards.

For ticket information about "Celebrating Ellen," call the La MaMa box office at 212-475-7710. Single tickets are available for $100, with various patron packages also available.

Ellen Stewart also won the first Stewardship Award from the New York Innovative Theatre Foundation (an award that NYTE was honored to received in 2008). La MaMa's website is at http://www.lamama.org.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Theater for the Adventurous Soul

There is always so much interesting and surprising theater going on in NYC at any given time that it's sometimes easy for shows to "fall through the cracks." Our mission here at nytheatre.com--and at our affiliated website, indietheater.org--is to try to make sure that this doesn't happen. We want to be certain that while the mainstream media is talking about Hugh Jackman and Tony Roberts and Jeremy Piven, there's also a place on the web where people can learn about the New York Neo-Futurists and Rich Lovejoy and David D'Agostini.

That's why today we launch Theater for the Adventurous Soul.

It's a new section of indietheater.org where I will highlight (to quote myself) "the best in unusual, inventive, out-of-the-ordinary, under-the-radar indie theater." TFAS will be updated continually, to provide news and views about the great stuff happening in the world of indie theater that you might not have heard or read about...shows that are perfect for folks who want to be challenged by and immersed in a fulfilling and stimulating theatrical experience.

The current lineup at TFAS includes Laika Dog in Space, The Dark Heart of Meteorology, and Homer's Odyssey.

Please check out this newest feature and let me know your thoughts about it. And, if you have ideas for some other kinds of theatre you'd like to see spotlighted here at nytheatre.com and indietheater.org -- i.e., theater for people other than "adventurous souls" -- please send me your suggestions! (Email me.)

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Another Look at Indie Theater

Theatre Resources Unlimited (TRU) is presenting a panel on Wednesday, October 21, that should be both interesting and edifying. It's called "Where Do I Belong: Off-Broadway or Indie Theater?" Here's the description, from the good people at TRU:


We'll attempt to define "indie theater," the new designation for showcase and off-off-Broadway productions, and compare it to off-Broadway. Are the differences mainly economic, or are there significant aesthetic distinctions? Does "indie" necessarily encompass fringe and festival production? When planning a production of a new work, what are the reasons for aiming at one medium versus another? What economic impact does "indie theater" have on New York's economy? And how different is producing not-for-profit from producing commercially?
As you may know, the term "indie theater" was coined by Kirk Wood Bromley back in 2005, and has been championed by me here on the nytheatre i and on nytheatre.com's community website, indietheater.org. I am very excited that TRU has invited me to participate on their panel to talk about what it means for theater to be "indie"--economically, artistically, and in other contexts. I am really looking forward to this event, and hope that lots of you will attend!

The other panelists slated to participate are: Paul Bargetto, Managing Director of Public Affairs, League of Independent Theater; Frances Black, Director of Member Services, ART-New York; Virginia Louloudes, Executive Director, ART-New York; and Stacey Cooper McMath, Associate Arts Program Specialist, NYC Department of Cultural Affairs.

Here's the rest of the important info about the event:

Doors open at 7:00pm for networking and refreshments, panel starts promptly at 7:30pm. FREE for TRU members; $12 for non-members. Please call at least a day in advance for reservations: 212/714-7628; or e-mail TRUnltd@aol.com. The panel will be held on Wed, October 21, 2009 at the Players Theatre, 115 Macdougal Street, Mainstage Theatre.

***

You may also be interested in this TRU event: Pitching & Presentation Skills for Producers, Writers & Everyone! This is a new full-day, two-part program with Jane Petrov and Roy Havrilack of Skytown Entertainment, Saturday October 10, 11am to 5pm, Players Theatre, 115 Macdougal Street, 3rd floor loft. Full details are here.

Readers of the nytheatre i can attend for the special price of $125 (a $50 savings from the regular price of $175). Just tell the folks at TRU you heard about it from Martin.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

New Ways to Navigate the NYC Theatre Scene on nytheatre.com

Yesterday, we added two new features to nytheatre.com that I hope will be useful to our readers.

PICK A PLAYWRIGHT provides you with an alphabetical listing of playwrights whose work is currently playing (or about to be playing) in NYC. It's a simple, convenient way for you to keep up with the dramatists that matter to you. Who's the most popular playwright in New York right now? I don't think you'll be surprised, but you'll find the answer right here. (There's a tie for 2nd place between two very successful contemporary American playwrights.)

SEE SHOW WEBSITES is a portal to the official websites of shows with currently scheduled runs in New York theatres. What I love about this feature is that it lets you move rapidly from one show's site to another without having to hunt for the links--you can get a real feel for what a show is like by visiting its official site (usually!). The journey from one to another is fun and entertaining.

These are two additions that I've been looking forward to bringing to nytheatre.com for a while now. And they are just the beginning of what we have planned.

As you may recall, nytheatre.com won the "Show Your Impact" contest sponsored by Microsoft last summer, and received both a cash grant and a ton of software as the prize. Well, we've started working with some of our new software and we've made subtle but far-reaching changes to the nytheatre.com infrastructure. Maybe you've noticed some of the new little ways we've started enhancing our site: the design of the individual show/review pages has been improved, and we're listing more information about closed shows... we've added venue links to the festival calendar... we've upgraded the way festival productions are displayed throughout the site... and those are just a few examples.

I'll be announcing some new technology-related enhancements to nytheatre.com and to NYTE's suite of services to the NYC theatre community quite soon in upcoming posts on this blog. In the meantime, please let me know what you think of our new features and what changes/additions you'd like to see on nytheatre.com.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

How Does It Feel to be a Winner of the NYIT Awards? Part 2

The nominees for the New York Innovative Theatre Awards sit nervously in the dark at the New World Stages waiting for their category to be announced. Then, from the stage comes the boom of "and the winner is....".

For the 2nd year, nytheatre.com wanted to get the instant reaction at that moment from the winners. We asked three questions: (1)What was the absolute first thought you had when you heard them call your name? (2)Who was the first person you called/emailed to tell that you won? (3)What does this award signify or mean to you personally? Here are the answers in the order we received them. This is the second batch of responses (see previous post for the first group).

LEE/GENDARY - Outstanding Production of a Play
Soomi Kim, producer/creator

First thought: “YES!!!”

First called: My good friend Lillie Haws who helped dress me for the event.

Award means: SO much! This project has been a passion of mine for a long time. It is an original play about Bruce Lee. Not only was he the first real Asian American Hollywood star who brought the recognition of Kung fu to millions, he was an icon/iconoclast, martial artist, choreographer, teacher, philosopher an simply a super badass human being. To be able to portray someone of this magnitude and to be able to bring his story to the stage is a dream come true. To have won an award for this production is just icing on the cake. But I also recognize that I know that we won this award for “Outstanding Production of a Play” because I have surrounded myself with Outstanding collaborators and people.

JEFF GROW - Outstanding Solo Performance
Outstanding Performance Art Piece
Creating Illusion

First thought: Wow!! (Then my mind went blank to focus on not tripping on the stairs, etc. and preparing to say something coherent)

First called: Jessi D. Hill, who directed the show and couldn't attend ceremony because she’s working in Chicago.

Award means: It is really nice to have one’s work recognized and it appears people enjoy it, so that gives me inspiration to continue presenting it.

BRUCE STEINBERG - Outstanding Lighting Design
Blue Before Morning

First thought: I was totally floored when I heard my name. I couldn't really think of anything besides remembering to get my thank you list.

First called: I texted my classmates at the graduate design program at NYU. I've been so lucky to learn from and grow with all of them.

Award means: I am really happy that I won for a piece produced by terraNOVA. I've worked with them for three years and think Jen and JD's work is wonderful and challenging.

WILLIAM APPS IV - Outstanding Actor in a Featured Role
Amerissiah

First thought: I was not there for the ceremony because I was in a show that night , but when I got the text message from Derek Ahonen it was intermission of Oedipus the King which was the show I was doing at the time and I was so happy that I had to try so hard to forget about the award , because theres nothing happy about Oedipus.

First called: The fist person that I called was my amazing friend and talented actress Selene Beretta who was also in the Amerissiah in the role of Loni my drug addicted girlfriend.

Award means: What I hope this will do for my career is give me the chances to play roles that others may not think I can do and also give me the opportunities to perform at the higher levels of our wonderful industry.

CONSTANCE PARNG - Outstanding Actress in a Featured Role
Lee/gendary

First thought: Nothing. My mind completely emptied itself. I was stunned.

First called: My brother Walter. It was also his birthday!

Award means: I loved doing Lee/gendary. It was challenging and rewarding. I got to do good work with good people. The award was the icing on top. And it truly wouldn't have been possible without my amazing cast-mates, our director Suzi Takahashi's tireless work and dedication, Derek Nguyen's great script, Lucrecia Briceno's beautiful lighting, Airon Armstrong's expert choreography, our awesome crew, and Soomi Kim's inspired vision of Bruce Lee, whose heart & soul carried the show.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

How Does It Feel to be a Winner of the NYIT Awards?

The nominees for the New York Innovative Theatre Awards sit nervously in the dark at the New World Stages waiting for their category to be announced. Then, from the stage comes the boom of "and the winner is....".

For the 2nd year, nytheatre.com wanted to get the instant reaction at that moment from the winners. We asked three questions: (1)What was the absolute first thought you had when you heard them call your name? (2)Who was the first person you called/emailed to tell that you won? (3)What does this award signify or mean to you personally? Here are the answers in the order we received them. Enjoy!

JILLIAN ZEMEN - Outstanding Stage Manager
Ragtime, Astoria Performing Arts Center

First thought: Oh my God, I hope I don’t throw up when I give my speech. I’m not one for public speaking and I just wanted to get in and get out as gracefully as possible and not forget to thank anyone who was a part of the production.

First called: My parents/sister/family.

Award means: It’s the first award to go to someone in my field, so it’s such an incredible honor to be the inaugural recipient. It’s validation, it shows that my hard work is paying off and people do notice. It pushes me to keep working just as hard to go further and further in the future.

SARAH LOWE - Outstanding Original Music
The Apple Sisters

First thought: Well... I am currently living in Vegas doing the show Jersey Boys... so I didn't hear them call it, but Kimmy was there and she called me & Rebekka and we screamed and gave each other a big hug! We couldn't believe it! The best part is that Rebekka was in town to celebrate my recent engagement!! I am having the best week EVER!

First called: I got the call right as I was heading into the theater... so I called my Dad, my Mom, then told the whole cast!! then, of course I posted it as my facebook status.

Award means: We started as a little comedy show... we had no idea- at least I had no idea- what would happen. We have been so lucky to have found each other. To me, this just means we're gonna keep working... more songs! more shows!! More, more, more!!!

NAT CASSIDY - Outstanding Original Full Length Script
The Reckoning of Kit & Little Boots

First thought: “Oh, shit, try not to curse too much.”

First called: Throughout the show, I kept getting text messages (phone on silent, don’t worry) from people who were, somehow, finding out before I could tell them. So, I guess, technically, the first person I myself told was my mailing list, which is filled with wonderful, beautiful people who haven’t yet told me to stop e-mailing them fart jokes.

Award means: I’m hugely honored, as I’m still relatively new to playwriting. I wrote a lot of short stories (and a few abortive novels) when I was younger, and a ton of sketch comedy throughout my life, but I’ve really spent the majority of my time focusing on acting—constructing full-length playscripts is still kind of a brave new world to me. I was so incredibly excited to even be included in the list of nominees (particularly alongside Mac Roger’s Universal Robots, which was so personally inspiring to me), and it really confirmed for me there will always be an audience for new, intelligent, different, occasionally wacky, but always bold theatre.

MICHAEL P. KRAMER - Outstanding Set Design
Ragtime, Astoria Performing Arts Center

First thought: Holy shit! Did I really hear my name? Sounded like my name, I should make my way to the stage just in case.

First called: I didn’t have cell service in the theatre, when I was done with the press photos, interviews etc. I made my way outside and sent a text to family and friends.

Award means: I am just happy to be recognized and be part of this community. It is an honor to be one of the nominees, and I was lucky enough that the judges and the public voted for me. I have been nominated in the past, but I am really proud to have won for this specific production. It was a very special production for APAC. I think it touched a lot of people. This is the type of show you always hope you are involved with, the type of show you are always trying to create, but somehow eludes your best efforts. I am proud and extremely thankful.

THE GALLERY PLAYERS - Outstanding Production of a Musical
Like You Like It - Heather Siobhan Curran, artistic director

First thought: Oh, my God! 3 times in a row!

First called: My husband

Award means: That The Gallery Players should continue to program new musical theater work as part of their regular season. It also validated my choices as Artistic Director and producer.

NICO VREELAND - Outstanding Original Short Script
The Interview, Elephants on Parade 2009

First thought: A combination of “Is this really happening?” and “Don’t trip on the stairs.” It gets a little hazy after that.

First called: The director of my show was busy texting people while I was backstage, so by the time I turned my phone on, my sister and my mother were already calling me. When I got home, I emailed my girlfriend, who’s in Africa. I haven’t heard back yet.

Award means: As an aspiring artist, it’s great to know that you’re not shouting into a void. It’s a thrill for me that somebody’s watching, and a real honor that they like what they see.

THE BRICK THEATER - Caffe Cino Fellowship Award
Michael Gardner, co-founder

First thought: The Caffe Cino Fellowship Award is actually determined and announced many weeks before the awards event. So it wasn’t any sort of surprise. But the announcement of our name marked the pinnacle of a month’s worth of nervousness over how to address 500 of my peers.

First called: The first person we notified was EVERYONE WE KNEW ON FACEBOOK.

Award means: Caffe Cino was before my time. Which makes it all the more meaningful for me, personally. I studied and devoured literature about 1960s Off-Off theater in undergrad. It was a period of intense creativity and fearlessness that I try to emulate as an artist and venue director on my better days. To be honored in the name of the institution which is credited with launching Off-Off Broadway as we know it is humbling, to say the least. We at The Brick like to think of ourselves as artists and community-builders in equal measure. And to be recognized as such by The New York Innovative Theatre Awards was insanely gratifying.

NEW YORK NEO-FUTURISTS - Outstanding Ensemble
(Not) Just a Day Like Any Other, Christopher Borg

First thought: Because I’m on the staff, when I heard them announce the recipient, there was a flash moment where I thought “am I in trouble?” then “there was a mistake!” – but after the initial flash of confusion I was overcome with such a feeling of elation and gratitude. It was one of the best feelings I have ever experienced, frankly.

First called: My sister, Meg! I texted her as soon as I got to my phone. And then I twittered it, of course!

Award means: It is especially meaningful to have received THIS particular award (Ensemble) for THIS particular production! The Neos always work as an ensemble, so we value this recognition above all others. But “(Not) Just a Day…” is by FAR the most ensemble-driven piece of theatre I have ever worked on. It was intensely personal and vulnerable to create an autobiographical piece, but the high-level of support and artistic guidance from the rest of my ensemble (Eevin, Kevin and Jeffrey) enabled me to open up and tell my part of the story honestly and openly. The show was one of the most gratifying theatrical experiences of my career and receiving the IT Award made me more proud and honored to be a part of my ensemble and my community in general. I couldn’t be happier. It couldn’t happen to a better group.

NEW YORK NEO-FUTURISTS - Outstanding Ensemble
(Not) Just a Day Like Any Other, Eevin Hartsough

First thought: Well, I was wishing they’d say the show’s name in my head and at the same time bracing myself to hear something else. So I was saying it over and over in my head “(Not) Just A Day . . . (Not) Just A Day . . .” and then that’s what Charles Bush said and what surprised me was the lack of jolt – the lack of dissonance – that what I was saying in my head was what the presenter said. Then I thought “hurry up! We only have a minute!” so I moved it . . .

First called: Exiting New World Stages I updated my facebook status which, in effect, let a lot of people know. My husband was with me so I didn’t need to tell him. I called my mom first thing in the morning.

Award means: (Not) Just A Day . . . was a complete labor of love for me. The New York Neo-Futurists had decided to produce one “Prime time” (as opposed to our usual late night) show in addition to our weekly Too Much Light Makes The Baby Go Blind. There was a rigorous proposal process within the company and my journey began when the company chose my show concept to go forward. From that moment on, I felt a strong sense of obligation to the New York Neos – not to let them down. My first sigh of relief was when audiences responded so well to the play; my second was when we managed to pack our little house up at the Red Room and I didn’t loose the company any money. It was a huge acknowledgement to have been even nominated for the award – this was the first piece I’d ever done before as the Captain of the ship, so to speak. To win feels to me like something to be personally very proud of and it feels like something great!

SUZI TAKAHASHI - Outstanding Director
Lee/gendary

First thought: For the last few days my boyfriend had been telling me that I was going to win. Of course, I did not believe him, as I usually am not the sort of person who wins things… So, my first thought was, “I can’t believe he is right!” Then, I thought that if I kissed him, I would smear my lipstick. Then, I hoped I would not forget to thank my parents; unfortunately, I did forget. Thank you Mom and Dad!

First called: The first person I called was artistic director of BVT, Karin Bowersock. She is the person who insisted that I start directing, and subsequently has given me many of my first opportunities as a director. One day this past summer, she told me that she had a dream in which I won a big award and did not thank her. Apparently, in this dream my omission caused us to have a big fight. Therefore, I was sure that she was the first person I thanked both publicly and privately.

Award means:Winning the IT Award for directing came at a significant moment for me personally. I began directing later in my “career,” and starting over at the beginning has at times been disheartening. A few days ago, I was having a serious conversation with myself about whether I had started too late to ever be able to make a career of it. I asked myself, “When is the moment that a person knows it is time to alter dreams for the sake of pragmatism?” Being acknowledged at the IT awards reminded me that the best art comes out of love for the craft, and in that type of love there is no easy pathway; no pragmatics to fall back upon. To be honored by my peers, who all struggle, create, and dream in the same ways, is a touching reminder that though the audience may be small, there are people out their watching who care about innovative work and believe in me.

KIMMY GATEWOOD - Outstanding Original Music
The Apple Sisters

First thought: Holy crap! (then) Ahhhhhh!

First called: My co-winners: My “sisters", Rebekka Johnson & Sarah Lowe, and the boys, Jeff Solomon & Andy Hertz, who are all on the west coast!

Award means: This award was so unexpected. When Rebekka, Sarah & I formed the Apple Sisters, it was out of pure joy and love of the music and sensibility of the 40s. So to be recognized by our peers means so much more. Music and lyrics are the ultimate expression of an emotional moment. The Apple Sisters are the ultimate expression of flying food products and pratt falls. I am so thrilled our tunes moved people, even with pudding smeared on our faces. Thank you NYIT Awards (in 3 part harmony).

NEW YORK NEO-FUTURISTS - Outstanding Ensemble
(Not) Just a Day Like Any Other, Jeffrey Cranor

First thought: Sadly, I couldn’t be at the ceremony, because I was in tech for a new show, but I got a text message from the NY Neo-Futurists who were in attendance. In fact, I got about 6 text messages. But the very first one was from my mother-in-law in Houston. So my first thought was “HTF did she know I won??!” (She was watching the webcast.)

First called: I told my wife, who was with me at tech rehearsal.

Award means: I’ve never received a theater award before. It’s great! It really is. And it’s not just the pride but the sense of recognition & belonging within this amazing community of New York artists. That’s the most exciting thing.

ELYSE MIRTO - Outstanding Actress in a Lead Role
Any Day Now

First thought: First thought when my name was called was that it was an echo. My name was said last when they read the nominees. Next thought "Sh*%! I have nothing prepared to say because I thought Jan Maxwell would win.

First called: Got outside the theatre on the street, called my mom Karen in Las Vegas and we both squealed like little piggys as my date watched and laughed.

Award means: I took a big chance moving to NYC 18 months ago. Leaving agents, a relationship and a life behind because I felt stagnant in LA. I had $60 left over after my headshots last year. I started waitressing and pounding the pavement. This award means more than I can write here but it is validation that my instincts to return to theatre and start over in the Big Apple were right and now Don Buchwald&assoc has signed me for 3 years so I'm staying!

Monday, September 7, 2009

50/50 in 2020: Parity for Women Theatre Artists - Part 2

Playwright Crystal Skillman continues her report on 50/50 in 2020: Parity for Women Theatre Artists, a panel and working event sponsored by the League of Professional Theatre Women, New Perspectives Theatre Company, and Women’s Project. To be kept up to date about this topic, check out their Facebook page.

“Get it in Print.”

Alexis Greene (critic/author) and Milly Barranger (author) hit home how to share our work, create a record of history and gain production, as well as career opportunities, all through one simple act – publishing. Getting your work in print and knowing your history matters. Because as Milly pointed out, voices are missing from history. Ours. Both Alexis and Milly fight against this in the publications they edit or write, as well as their work in education. Alexis’s recent book Front Lines: Political Plays by American Women (with co-editor Shirley Lauro) is one of my favorite new additions to my library and it was great to hear Alexis remind us playwrights not to freak out about publishing non-produced plays. It not only creates a record of the work, but can go around to universities and school where there is a call for work by women. These classes want published work by contemporary women writers that can be studied and performed. Another Alexis – playwright Alexis Clements, who is in the Women’s Project playwriting lab with me, filled me in with some awesome notes she feverishly scrawled on the working group that Alexis Greene led later in the night:
- Publishing is an important and powerful tool for disseminating women’s work and also for establishing a critical dialogue about the work
- In American there is more squeamishness about publishing ahead of production. For example, in Britain, it’s very common for a work to be published before production.
- Traditional publishing has a very long time-scale 2-5 years to get a book done, but in purchasing a distribution package though a company like
lulu.com, you can get your book published with an ISBN and distribution to major outlets within a matter of months.

During the panel, playwright Caridad Svich’s work publishing playwrights from her group No Passport was also mentioned as a great model. She’s created NoPassport Press that has not only brought great attention to their diverse group of writers, but allowed new readers and possible producers to experience these plays. In short the message is get the work out there, and the more we have in print, the more of a chance we have for future generations to know our history and the work we’ve created.

Soooooo say you already sent off your play to lulu.com. Or you’re putting together a group of plays to be published. Now, how are you going to continue to engage that conversation about you and your work?

“Theatre Can Be About People You Know”

One of my favorite moments of the night was when Linda Winer (critic/television host) spoke. She described coming from Chicago where it wasn’t such a big deal to be a woman theatre critic. But when she came here it was very different for her. Still it wasn’t until she was sitting watching Wendy Wasserstein’s Uncommon Women & Others that she realized the above comment she shared with us. She realized she was never seeing plays that spoke to her directly and over time, as we know, she became an amazing champion of women’s work. But print is in huge trouble as we know. Also as we know, this has put criticism in the hands of so many more people and blogsters have been able to discuss theatre in a totally new way. It was emotional for Linda, sharing her concern of print being at such a crossroads. There is barely the right amount of attention being given to larger shows, not to mention anything below Broadway. But I think for all of us this crisis can bring up how we can really use these postings, reviews, essays in a way that can benefit us all. This is part of a larger conversation and one I’m only stepping into now, but I’ve already seen how exposure with on-line articles, blurbs and reviews can draw attention to those voices that are just not being heard on stage to help raise them up. Shortly after, in the Q & A section, Randy Gener (American Theatre Magazine) stood up and shared some amazing ideas of his own. He talked about looking for ways to get people to write “think pieces” about your work — to start conversations.

And these conversations need to include all generations and backgrounds – we really need to reach out to each other. The panelists themselves remarked on how they wished there was more diversity in the already packed theatre. I noted some of the younger artists who I’d seen in previous meetings were absent. It’s important to keep this in mind because only by working together, in ways that each of us can do best, can we have true momentum, keeping our ideas for solutions as diverse as the work we’re trying to bring attention to.

“We’re Responsible for Each Other.”

Natalia L. Griffith (NYC Commission on Women’s Issues), wrapped up the night in an inspiring way by opening up this conversation to the injustices of racial and gender inequality throughout the world and how important it is to take action. This reminds me of a point Susan Jonas brought up earlier – a call for a need to track statistics “regularly and with a consistent methodology to measure actual progress against perception. And against specific goals”. We need not only to understand the state of things, but measure our own possible effects in the years to come.

When the groups broke off and started brainstorming, groups on the stage, in the aisles, in the lobby, spilling onto the streets I saw people gravitating towards their passion – be it producing, publishing, criticism. This is the key for me. What can each of us do that uses our skills and what skills can we share and/or learn that helps the cause, while enriching our lives as artists and helping any of our neighbors whose stories are not being told? Because if you stand up for others to have their stories told, stories which are having difficulty being heard in the world, you open up possibilities for your own work to be produced. Maybe who you mentored will be getting their first production or reading their first review (yikes!) on-line or in the paper. Maybe for the first time they’ll get to direct a large cast or have a budget to hang lights or create a set. Maybe they’ll get to produce a show. Maybe it’s even yours. I hope so. Cuz I’ll be there. Front row. And maybe, just maybe by 2020 the program from this meeting, this very article, these 50/50 buttons will be in some museum, because they won’t be needed anymore. Maybe Julie Crosby said it best: “Nothing would make me happier than to see the mission of the Women’s Project obsolete.” To keep adding to this conversation or to learn more about 50/50 in 2020 please check out their page/become a fan on Facebook.


Crystal Skillman is a playwright, published in Plays & Playwrights 2008, and contributer to nytheatre.com. Her upcoming projects include Hack, a play in the Vampire Cowboy’s Saloon Series kicking off on Sept. 12th and That’s Andy, a musical about a boy who wants to play Annie, receiving a developmental reading at the York Theatre Oct. 6th at 3 PM.