Saturday, January 31, 2009

Keen Teens: Free After-School Theatre Program

This is from Blake Lawrence, of Keen Company:
It is time for the third season of Keen Teens to begin and we have begun inviting students to participate. In our first two seasons, over 60 students from the New York City area have made their Off-Broadway debuts in our World Premiere productions and our first six plays have been published and are being produced by high schools around the country.

Keen Teens is a unique opportunity for students in grades 9-12 to work in a professional theater setting and help develop plays written exclusively for them. No prior experience or training is required. Only a curiousity about acting and theatre and a commitment to our process. Students who have worked with us continue to come back and bring their friends. It is a once in a lifetime opportunity.

This is the audition notice for Keen Teens:

LOOKING FOR STUDENTS FOR 3 OFF-BROADWAY PLAYS

Off-Broadway theatre company, Keen Company, in a partnership with Playscripts, Inc. invites you to join its FREE theatre program for students, KEEN TEENS.
If you are a high school student in grades 9 through 12 and can get to midtown Manhattan once a week for rehearsals after school,than please stop by. We are looking for actors as well as students interested in learning about directing, designing and playwriting.
AUDITIONS
WHEN:
TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 10th 3:30-6pm
WEDNESDAY,FEBRUARY 11th 3:30-6pm
THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 12th 3:30-6pm
Email blakelaw@nyc.rr.com to schedule an appointment
Or just come by during the above times

WHERE:
Theatre Row Rehearsal Studios, West 41st Street between 9th and Dyer Avenues; follow the signs for Keen Teens auditions

WHAT:
A short monologue if you have one. If you do not have a monologue, come anyway! We will have something for you to read.

For more information about KEEN TEENS, visit www.keencompany.org/teens.html

Friday, January 30, 2009

How'm I Doing?

So the Good News Initiative on the nytheatre i blog is now more than a month old. Last Christmas Day, we launched the Initiative--NYTE's plan to tell the positive, upbeat, uplifting stories, too often underreported, that happen all the time in the New York indie theater community.

So I want to step back today and ask: how is this going? Do you like the stories being posted here? Do you have ideas for topics, subjects, themes that belong on the Good News Blog?

(You may be interested to know that the most popular posts on the blog this year--by far--were the ones about BAM and Queens Theatre in the Park hosting free screenings of the Inauguration.)

Never forget that everything NYTE does is grassroots, for the community. So the Good News Blog really is for everybody working in indie theater. Let me know how you like it, and what we can do to make it better. Thanks!

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Repertorio Espanol Turns 40

I just received details about the newest show coming to Repertorio Espanol--a very exciting play called The House of the Spirits (or La casa de los espíritus) adapted by Caridad Svich from Isabel Allende's famous novel and directed by Jose Zayas. Caridad and Jose are two of the most exciting Hispanic theatre artists working in New York right now; interestingly it's their first collaboration together and also Caridad's first Spanish language play in NYC.

Repertorio Español is a very special place, and if you haven't been there, let this new work take you to their lovely theatre on East 27th Street. This company offers the only true repertory theatre in NYC -- a series of plays every season rotating with actors performing many different roles, often in a single week. Here's some more information about Repertorio:
Repertorio Español, now in its 40th season, was founded in 1968 to present the best of Latin American, Spanish, and Hispanic-American theatre in distinctive, quality productions, and to bring theatre to a broad audience in New York City and across the country, including seniors, students and Hispanics of all national backgrounds. The organization has been awarded Drama Desk, OBIE and New York State Governor's Awards.

Repertorio Español has a long and successful tradition of adapting master literary works by Latin American authors. The Company has commissioned and produced to great critical acclaim, adaptations of Gabriel García Márquez's Chronicle of a Death Foretold (10 years in repertory); Mario Vargas Llosa's The Feast of the Goat (6 years in repertory); Miguel de Cervantes' El Quijote (4 years in repertory) and Jorge Amado's Doña Flor and Her Two Husbands (2 years in repertory).

Also in the repertory right now is Carlos Lacamara's Nowhere on the Border (also directed by Jose Zayas), which will be published in Plays and Playwrights 2009. So here's an addendum to my post from a few days back--there are actually three shows from my upcoming anthology that are currently running in NYC.

We'll be recording a podcast with Jose and Caridad soon, so you'll be hearing more about The House of the Spirits in coming weeks. (The show begins performances on February 13.)

Learn more about Repertorio Español here.

I want to close this post with a query for my readers. Repertorio Español is a full-time Spanish language theatre; there are a few others that I'm aware of, including Thalia Theatre in Queens and Pregones Theatre in the Bronx. And I'm familiar with two Yiddish theatre companies--the Folksbiene, of course, and a newer company called The New Yiddish Rep. Are there companies that people know about that perform in other languages in New York City? Please post a comment if you know of one!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The Dramatist Talks to the Critics

The current issue of The Dramatist magazine--the bimonthly journal published by The Dramatists Guild of America, Inc.--is titled "Yikes! The Critics." Inside are several articles that deal cogently with the subject of theatre criticism, including an essay that I wrote entitled "Confessions of a Critic." Here's my first paragraph, just to tantalize you:

I love my job, but it has its idiosyncrasies, and one of them is that the specific tasks I do depend entirely on the whims or caprices or what-have-you of a whole bunch of people I have absolutely no control over.

(I've already received some nice feedback about the piece from several folks, whom I thank sincerely; also thanks to Robert Ross Parker, editor of The Dramatist, for asking me to writing the piece.)

I am in distinguished company in this journal--in fact I am the only Internet reviewer included, the other critics being folks who are much more widely read than me: Robert Brustein has an interesting piece about the art of criticism, and Edward Albee leads a roundtable discussion about theatre criticism with Michael Feingold, Charles Isherwood, Leonard Jacobs, and Linda Winer. There are also some fascinating articles that talk about criticism from the playwright's perspective.

There's more information about The Dramatist here. And if you aren't familiar with the work of The Dramatists Guild of America, you should be: read more here.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Indie Theater--Up Close and Personal

I'll be hosting post-performance talkbacks with several indie theater artists on three different nights during the first part of February. These are great opportunities for readers/audience members to meet some of the most impressively talented folks on the indie theater scene at the moment--and engage with them in discussion about their work and about the state of theatre in general.

All three of these events are in conjucntion with presentations of work that's been published/being published in NYTE's Plays and Playwrights anthology series. Here's the rundown:

Sunday, February 1: I will moderate a discussion with Christopher Carter Sanderson, the founder and artistic director of Gorilla Rep. We'll be talking specifically about Washington Square Dreams, the play Gorilla Rep commissioned which is published in Plays and Playwrights 2001. Our talkback follows a staged reading of Washington Square Dreams performed by No. 11 Productions. This event is at 7:30pm at Manhattan Theatre Source. This event is FREE!

Monday, February 2: I'll chat with Boo Killebrew about her play They're Just Like Us. Boo is an award-winning actor, playwright, and choreographer. Our discussion will follow a staged reading of the play by No. 11 Productions. In addition, I'll introduce special guest Tim Collins, who will perform a brief excerpt from his play A Fire as Bright as Heaven, which is being published in Plays and Playwrights 2009. This event is at 7:30pm at the McGinn/Cazale Theatre. This event is FREE!

Friday, February 13: I'll moderate a talkback with Rick Burkhardt, Andy Gricevich, and Ryan Higgins of The Nonsense Company following their performance of Great Hymn of Thanksgiving / Conversation Storm. The latter of these 2 one-act plays is being published in Plays and Playwrights 2009. We hope that books will be available at this event so you can purchase a copy and get Rick (the playwright) to autograph it! Details about this event are here.

Watch the nytheatre i for an announcement of the free events that will officially launch Plays and Playwrights 2009, coming soon!

Monday, January 26, 2009

Irondale Reaches Out to Families in Brooklyn

Irondale Ensemble, who have just recently opened their exciting new space in Brooklyn (in Fort Greene, near BAM), are reaching out to their local community in a very positive way. On Valentine's Day they will host the first of a planned monthly series of "Family Saturdays," with a presentation for kids called Big Box of Distractions. Check out the excerpts from their press release for more info about this commendable new program:

The Irondale Project Ensemble is proud to announce the first of an ongoing series: Irondale's Big Box of Distractions: Kids Day at the Theater on Saturday, February 14 at 1pm. The event will be held at the Irondale Center (85 S. Oxford Street in Fort Greene). The event will be between one and two hours long and will cost $10 for the first child and $5 for each child after that. Adults are admitted FREE with a child.

The Irondale Ensemble will sing love songs, both modern and ancient; perform love scenes, serious and silly; and work interactively with the audience to create wacky love letters and improvised scenes. All material is appropriate for children as young as six. The afternoon will culminate in a celebratory feast of red velvet cake and a cocktail of ginger ale (or juice), served by the actors.

This event will be the first in a series. "We plan to have at least one family Saturday every month," said Executive Director Terry Greiss, "And each one will have a different theme." On March 28, the ensemble will host a story telling performance /workshop, led by Brooklyn storyteller Tracy Cook-Person. On April 18, musician Walter Thompson will lead participants through an interactive musical workshop called Sound Painting. In May two very different sessions will be offered: a movement and dance workshop, featuring the theater troupe bluemouth on May 9, and a restaging of Irondale's famed production Celebrating Dr. Seuss on May 30. [Editor's Note: The bluemouth event should be a blast: we here at the nytheatre i LOVE bluemouth.]

"We really want these events to provide kids and parents with opportunities to experience new things—and also to experience joy. Each performance or workshop will end with a shared meal—cake seems appropriate for Valentine's Day, but maybe we'll have callaloo on the Storytelling day. It all depends on what the artist we're working with that day wants, and also with what's cooking in the neighborhood."

"We are offering this series because there is a real need for high quality family entertainment, in this neighborhood. Of course," Greiss said, "part of why we want them to know us is because we want them to come and see our performances. We want to get young Brooklynites in the habit of going to the theater, since we believe that theater can change lives. We want to grow the Center into a place where people expect lots of different stuff to be happening all the time. We want the neighbors to feel that they can drop in whenever they feel like it, just to see what's going on."

Agreed.

Get more info about Irondale and this family event here.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Show Support for the Ohio Theatre. I Did.

You've probably heard about this already, but this is important so I'm posting it here anyway.

It looks like the Ohio Theatre, home of Soho Think Tank and the Ice Factory, and one of the theatres in Manhattan with the very best energies and vibes, may not be closing down right away after all. (If that's not Good News, what is?)

They're asking their supporters to donate a dollar to demonstrate the commitment that our theatre community has to keeping this extraordinary institution alive.

I just did it. (I gave $1.04, so that the Ohio doesn't have to pay the administrative fee.) It took about 3 minutes.

Here's what came in the email:
It's Official!

The Ohio Theatre WILL continue through June 2009. (Maybe longer...Click here for The New York Times article)

Thank you, everyone, for your many calls and emails. Many of you have asked: What can I do to help?

This is our fundraising drive from now until Valentine's Day.

But instead of focusing on "how much" we raise, we're trying to establish "how many." As in: "How many people love the Ohio Theatre and care about its future?"

Please donate One Dollar as a symbolic gesture of your love. This is our first step in trying to quantify the expressions of loss, sympathy, and support we've received in the last month from artists and audience members, as we try to secure a long term future for the Ohio Theatre.

Click here to "quantify your love"!

Please, feel free to forward this to any Ohio Theatre Lovers you know.

Ohio Theatre, 66 Wooster Street, New York City, NY 10012
sohothinktank.org

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Hardy Audiences Brave the Cold

Here's a brief but affirming Good News item from nytheatre.com contributor Heather Lee Rogers:

Saturday night, at 11:00 PM, in brutal 8-degree weather, in BROOKLYN, at the Brick, there was a huge mob of determined theatergoers all clamoring and conniving to get in to the sold-out 10th episode of Penny Dreadful. They packed 60 chairs into the space and sold them all. Yay theater!!

Read more about Penny Dreadful here.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Bronx's Center Stage Playhouse Turns 40

There are a few theatre companies in NYC that have been around for four decades -- The Public Theatre, Roundabout Theatre Company, and La MaMa E.T.C. are a few of the best known. Joining their exclusive ranks in 2009 is Center Stage Playhouse, which has been producing plays and musicals in the Bronx since 1969.

Currently headed by artistic director Donna Bellone, Center Stage Playhouse offers a diverse season of shows every year. This year they began with Terrence McNally's It's Only a Play. Up next (in February) is David Lindsay-Abaire's Pulitzer Prize play Rabbit Hole, and that will be followed by William Finn's musical A New Brain. An eclectic and contemporary lineup, don't you think?

I had the opportunity recently to sit down with Nick Leshi, who is the Vice President of Center Stage Playhouse. We recorded a podcast in which Nick talks at length about the history of this Bronx institution, as well as about the current season. He also tells us about the neighborhood where Center Stage is located--it's right off the #6 train, so it's very accessible for Manhattanites as well as folks in the other boroughs and in Westchester County. Listen to the podcast here.

Center Stage Playhouse has updated their website for their 40th anniversary; they've done a super job. Take a look.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Some Free EnrichMINT Events

The Mint Theater's next production will be The Widowing of Mrs. Holroyd by D.H. Lawrence, starting performances on February 4th. As always, the Mint will be presenting a number of free events designed to enrich and expand the theatergoing experience. Here's a sampling:
  • Saturday February 14th, after the matinee: "Lawrence & Dramatic Modernism" -- Talkback/discussion with Gregory F. Tague, associate professor of English at St. Francis College in Brooklyn Heights; he is the author of Character and Consciousness (2005), Ethos and Behavior (2008), and, most recently, the editor of Origins of English Literary Modernism, 1870-1914 (2009)
  • Saturday February 21st, after the matinee: "Connecting the Dots in the Work of D.H. Lawrence" -- Talkback/discussion with Elizabeth Fox, who is the current President of the D.H. Lawrence Society of North America, and has delivered and published papers using psychoanalytic theory to explore Lawrence’s works. Elizabeth teaches at MIT and New England Conservatory of Music.
  • Sunday February 22nd, after the matinee: "Love, Hate, & Conflicted Grief in The Widowing of Mrs. Holroyd" -- Talkback/discussion with Jeffrey Berman, who is Distinguished Teaching Professor of English at the University at Albany and the author of ten books, including Dying to Teach: A Memoir of Love, Loss, and Learning.
  • Saturday February 28th, after the matinee: "Literary & Autobiographical Sources of D. H. Lawrence’s Plays" -- Formerly an arts journalist for Back Stage and Backstage.com for 26 years, Victor Gluck is currently a drama critic for TheaterScene.net. He leads this talkback/discussion.
  • Saturday, March 21st at 11:30 am: "How Plays Work" -- Martin Meisel, Brander Matthews Professor Emeritus of Dramatic Literature, Columbia University and author of How Plays Work, will draw upon his recently published book in discussing The Widowing of Mrs. Holroyd. Meisel will articulate some of the most important aspects of drama as a performed art while exploring their workings in Lawrence’s play. In this 90 minute session, Meisel will examine how a play defines its world; how it creates and redirects expectation; how it organizes space and time; how it shapes action, uses words, creates meanings; and how, at its most fulfilling, it combines the experience of wonder with that of involved witnessing. This session is free and open to the public: you may have already seen the play, or plan to see it on this day or in the future--or not at all. There will also be a Q & A with Professor Meisel after the performance.
You can learn more about these events and The Widowing of Mrs. Holroyd here.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Plays and Playwrights 2009: See the Plays Live!

For the first time ever in the ten-year history of publishing our Plays and Playwrights anthologies, audiences and readers will have the opportunity to see two of the plays in our current volume on stage in New York City, right at the time that the book will be released!

Krapp, 39, written and performed by Michael Laurence, is currently running at SoHo Playhouse. Here's some of what I say about this remarkable solo play in the introduction to Plays and Playwrights 2009:
The premise of Krapp, 39 is that an actor decides to record the monologue from the Beckett play on his 39th birthday, with the intention of using this recording in his own production of Krapp’s Last Tape when he is 69 (the age of the character in Krapp’s Last Tape). This does not actually happen in Krapp, 39, however; instead Laurence’s play takes the shape of an elaborate archivist’s birthday ritual, in which said actor looks back on the artifacts of his life (journals, photos, recordings) and videotapes himself in the act.

It feels intensely personal and genuine, though in fact it is brimming with artifice and turns out to be startlingly universal. Who, as middle age approaches and youth vanishes, does not examine their own story so far? Who does not at least suspect that failure is the only legacy he or she will leave behind?

You can find details about the current engagement of Krapp, 39 here.

Rick Burkhardt's Conversation Storm will be at the Interborough Repertory Theatre from February 3 - 15. It plays on a double bill with Burkhardt's brilliant percussion piece Great Hymn of Thanksgiving. Burkhardt co-stars with Ryan Higgins and Andy Gricevich, his colleagues in The Nonsense Company. Here's a bit about Conversation Storm, again from the Plays and Playwrights 2009 introduction:
This, it turns out, is a play about torture, and the rationalizations for torture. And it is, at the same time, itself an act of torture, at least of a kind. Burkhardt understands the power of language, and though Conversation Storm consists only of words, it is as brutal and horrifying a theatre experience as any I’ve encountered.

It is also elegant, almost classically so; darkly funny in places; utterly surprising yet oh so carefully constructed. Two men have a hypothetical discussion about when it might or might not be justifiable to torture someone in the interest of national security. A third man alternately mediates, participates, and interrupts. Somehow, before the brief single act of this play is finished, everyone onstage has been compromised irreparably. And everyone in the audience has been implicated in the carnage.

There's more info about Conversation Storm's upcoming NYC run here; plus there's a brand new interview with Rick Burkhardt (written by nytheatre mike) here.

So, that's two out of the 11 plays in Plays and Playwrights 2009, being presented live with their original casts/productions, right here in NYC! It's a thrill for us--the book should be in our hands sometime in February. Here's a chance for folks to see first-hand what made us so eager to publish these two extraordinary plays.

Finally: I should note that on Monday, February 2, Tim Collins--whose play A Fire as Bright as Heaven is also in Plays and Playwrights 2009--will be performing a brief excerpt of that play at the final staged reading in the 11 Celebrates 10 Series. That event is at the McGinn/Cazale Theatre at 7:30pm on Feb 2, and it's absolutely free! There's more info on Facebook.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

NAATCO's Expanded Mission Breaks Down Barriers

NAATCO -- the National Asian American Theatre Company -- is going to be producing the world premiere of Karen Hartman's play Leah's Train in February. What might be surprising about this is that Leah's Train is about a family of Russian-American Jews; and that all of them will be portrayed by Asian actors in the NAATCO production.

It doesn't surprise me, though, given what I know about NAATCO. Permit me to quote directly from their press release to explicate:
After nearly 20 years of presenting first-rate revivals of western stage classics with all Asian American actors, the National Asian American Theatre Company expands its mission to include world-premiere works from other cultures based on the company's founding principle that NAATCO provide Asian American actors the opportunity to portray roles not usually made available to them, and also to challenge audiences to examine their perception and expectations of other cultures.

About this world-premiere production of Leah's Train, NAATCO artistic director Mia Katigbak says, "This new initiative is inspired by courageous playwrights who agree with NAATCO that Asian Americans are capable of interpreting characters from a multitude of cultures. The world premiere of Leah's Train, in which characters who are Russian and American Jews are being created by an all Asian American cast, comes at an auspicious time: the historic inauguration of an African American president. What better way to celebrate the richness of American culture."

On a personal level, Ms. Katigbak, who is Filipino American and will also perform in Leah's Train, notes: "I was touched by the story of these three women as it reminded me of a trip I took to Portugal years ago with my mother and grandmother. As our train traveled from Lisbon to Caiscais, the modern world faded away and my Grandmother began to speak of her youth 70 years earlier in a way that seemed as clear as if it had just happened."

There's info about Leah's Train here. The NAATCO website is here.

Monday, January 19, 2009

NYMF Next Link Project Information Session

This information is from the producers of the New York Musical Theatre Festival (NYMF):

Twelve of the Festival’s full production slots are reserved for participants in The Next Link Project, NYMF’s primary writer service program. The Next Link Project empowers emerging musical theatre writing teams as both artists and entrepreneurs by providing the training and relationships needed to help them move their musicals from mere readings to fully-realized productions and to advance their careers by maximizing the exposure they receive in the Festival.

A meet and greet to answer any questions from those interested in applying will be held Wednesday, January 28, 6-8pm at the Irish Rogue (356 West 44th Street, between 8th and 9th Ave). NYMF staff members will be on hand to answer questions about the Next Link Project submissions process and chat about other ways to get involved with the Festival.

Any work that has not been produced professionally in New York City may be submitted by authors with or without industry representation, but scripts should be ready for developmental production and the widespread exposure NYMF provides. All entries undergo double-blind evaluations by several members of NYMF’s reading team, with finalists referred to a grand jury of celebrated industry professionals.

Authors submitting to The Next Link Project will need to provide a demo recording of their songs, a detailed synopsis of their show, a 15-page script sample (15 consecutive pages representing the heart of the show and including lyrics for at least one of the songs), a complete script, and, if applicable, proof of rights to adapt underlying material. The Next Link Project will accept submissions through March 2, 2009, with a reduced application fee for any submissions received by the February 2 early bird deadline. For important additional information, including details about what it takes to produce your show in NYMF (and what you get in return), please visit http://www.nymf.org/.


The 6th annual edition of NYMF runs from September 28 - October 18, 2009.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Indie Theaters in the Community: Profile #1 - Nicu's Spoon

One of the regular features I want to include here on the nytheatre i "Good News Blog" are profiles of indie theater companies that are making a difference in their community. I'm kicking off this "series" with a look at Nicu's Spoon, a very community-minded company based in Manhattan, headed by Stephanie Barton-Farcas.

Before I talk about how Nicu's Spoon serves a variety of constituents groups in its community, let me also mention that they've recently (in 2007) opened a new venue in Midtown, the Spoon Theatre. I went to visit it for the first time about a month ago. It's a charming, intimate black box on the fifth floor of an office building on 38th Street between 5th & 6th Avenues. It's in a terrific location--just a couple of blocks away from Bryant Park (to the north) and Macy's (to the south). One of the nice features I got to take advantage of was the rooftop "smoking lounge," up just one flight of stairs from the theatre, offering great views of Midtown. Nicu's Spoon puts up several shows a year in their home venue, plus they also rent it out sometimes. The Spoon is a lovely addition to the dwindling number of Manhattan indie theater venues!

One of the important contributions Nicu's Spoon has made to the community apart from creating this new space is the development of "co-playing," a new kind of performance for both deaf and hearing audiences. They have featured this style, in which sign language and spoken language are integrated within a single production, in several productions since 2006. They've also presented a series of free panels on working with disabled artists.

Nicu's Spoon has also implemented a new program (thus far done all by their volunteers) called ‘PLAY!,’ which introduces 2-8 year-olds to theatre arts at no cost to them or their schools. I asked Stephanie to tell me a bit more about PLAY!--here is what she said:
For 'PLAY!', mostly we have the groups come in [to the theatre], but not always; occasionally, we will travel to the school or group. We involve dress up and playing with makeup, if it is in our theatre we let the kids go into the booth so they can really learn how sounds and lights work, and they can make a short play. If we travel we keep the dress up and add puppet making of characters in the play, as well as letting them make their own play when they are done--thus letting them create art.

So that's the nutshell of it. We are, of course, always trying to raise funds (many schools cut arts and theatre programs so we hope to fill the gap) to subsidize the project.

You can learn more about Nicu's Spoon and its interesting and worthy programs at their website.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Off-Broadway Shows for $20

The "20at20" program returns from January 26 thru February 8. This initiative, which is a project of the Off-Broadway Theater Alliance, helps allow theatre-goers to obtain low-priced ($20) tickets to many shows whose regular prices are signficantly higher than that. Among the shows participating are long-running hits like Altar Boyz, The Fantasticks, and Perfect Crime, along with new shows like Architecting, Shipwrecked! An Entertainment, Aristocrats, and Looking for the Pony.

The reduced-price tickets are for seats still available twenty minutes before the curtain; they must be purchased at the box office (cash only at some venues; some restrictions may apply).

All of the details about "20at20" are here: www.20at20.com

Friday, January 16, 2009

ArtHouse Productions is Building a New Theatre in Jersey City

Art House Productions has been producing theatre and other kinds of performance/art in Jersey City for more than seven years now. It was founded by Executive Director Christine Goodman who oversees operations with Artistic Director Jack Halpin. I spoke with Jack recently about what's going on at Art House, and he had a great Good News story to relate.

It seems that about two years ago, they relocated to a brand new space. The community-minded folks at Exeter Properties (the Silverman Brothers--Eric & Paul) were renovating the old St. Francis Hospital (next to Hamilton Park in Jersey City). Their plan was to eventually build condos with a view of Manhattan. They offered the top floor of this building to Art House to create a new space there. And for the past many months, Jack and Christine and a host of volunteers have been doing just that.

One of the most exciting things about Art House's approach is how grassroots/volunteer-based it is. They are working with folks from their community to make their new home a reality. Jack told me that they've had people help them in their particular areas of expertise -- some work for days while others do what they can do for a half-hour. But all are leaving their stamp on this project.

Learn more about Art House Productions at their website. And if you're interested in volunteer opportunities to help build this new theatre, contact Jack.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Life After the Zipper

The sudden closing of the Zipper Factory Theatre (announced in the New York Times and elsewhere yesterday) caught lots of people by surprise. But the folks who make indie theater are nothing if not resourceful, and so I'm happy to pass on word from two of the shows scheduled to be at the Zipper Factory about their brand new, alternate plans.

First, from Jonny Porkpie of Pinchbottom's Burlesque:
MURDER MOST NAKED (or, The Strange Affair at Pinchbottom Manor) -- Saturday, January 17 @ 10:30pm will now play at THE BLEECKER STREET THEATER. Tickets: $20 available online soon at www.pinchbottom.com/tickets. If people bought tickets in advance (89 did!) their money was refunded, and they'll need to buy new ones.

It looks like Pinchbottom will be settling in at Bleecker Street for a while, too.

Second, from the folks at Joe Iconis's Things to Ruin:

The Zipper has closed but that is not going to get the Things to Ruin gang down. While they look for a new home, join Joe Iconis and family for a THINGS TO RUIN PEP RALLY - FRIDAY, JANUARY 16, beginning at 8PM at DALTON’S (611 9th Ave, between 43rd and 44th). This is a FREE event. An announcement regarding the future home of T2R is coming shortly, but until then--let the party continue: have some fun, make some noise, sing some songs and put our arms around the people we love. As a wise man once said, “They can take away our home, but they can’t take away our rock and roll.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Indie Theater Directors Answer Your Questions!

Coming up on February 11, 2009: our first ever nytheatrecast where we will take questions from our listeners/readers!

On that date, we will be posting (for download from iTunes and the nytheatrecast website), a podcast where a panel of indie theater directors will answer your questions. (The directors' names will be announced soon; watch the comments section of this post!)

This is your chance to ask directors how they do what they do. What do they look for in auditions? How do they select scripts? How do they work with designers, actors, stage managers, and other artists?

Make your question(s) as specific and concise as you can. Send them to me here. Questions must be received by February 1st. Be sure to indicate whether you want your question to be anonymous, or if you want your name to be read "on the air."

The questions used on our podcast will be selected by Cat Parker --who is a freelance director and Producing Director of T. Schreiber Studio; she will host this discussion -- and myself. We'll be looking for the queries that seem to be most universally applicable to our community.

I'm very excited that we are going to be engaging with our listeners and readers in this way! I can't wait to see the submissions. Send in your questions for directors now.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Summer Festivals: Not Too Early To Plan!

I know it's only January, and it's really cold outside. But that doesn't mean it's too soon to be thinking about the spring and summer theatre festivals that are coming to NYC later this year, when it's warmer.

Deadlines for applying to a few of the mainstay festivals are not that far off. The New York International Fringe Festival deadline is Valentine's Day. Apps for the Midtown International Theatre Festival are due February 6. The deadline for the Samuel French short play festival is March 6. And the Brick Theater's annual summer festival (this year's theme: "THE ANTIDEPRESSANT FESTIVAL") also has a February 14 due date.

There are links to info about these and other festivals here and here.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Melvillapalooza: Not Just a Theatre Festival

I just came home from opening night at Metropolitan Playhouse's Melvillapalooza (where I saw two very different one-act plays--one based on Billy Budd, the other a fanciful comedy about the genesis of Moby Dick; my review will be on nytheatre.com soon).

I want to make sure that folks know about this festival, during this amazing month of festivals all over downtown Manhattan. This the fourth year in a row that Metropolitan has given over its January to a celebration of a significant American writer of the 19th century (previous years were dedicated to Hawthorne, Poe, and Twain). For two solid weeks, artists present new work adapted from or inspired by the author in question--in this case, Herman Melville. It's a very inexpensive and educational way to bone up on some of those classic American works you haven't thought about in a while or somehow never got to read.

I had a nice chat with Alex Roe, the artistic director of Metropolitan Playhouse, and he mentioned something that I found particularly inspiring about Melvillapalooza. He said, rather than just focusing on theatrical works inspired by Melville, his goal this year with the festival was to make it a truly literary event. To that end, in addition to the plays, musicals, and staged readings that comprise most of the schedule, there are three evenings devoted to the works of Melville, as he wrote them: readings of Bartleby the Scrivener, three short stories including "Benito Cereno" and "The Lighting Rod Man," and selected poems. These readings will feature actors doing the prose and poetry of Melville himself, not in dramatic form. They take place on Tuesday, January 13; Tuesday, January 20; and Wednesday, January 21.

In addition, there's a symposium featuring Melville scholars from NYU and elsewhere on January 25.

I love that Alex and the folks at Metropolitan work hard to make sure that this festival is as diverse and inclusive as possible. Information about the festival is here and here.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Less is More for NY Gilbert & Sullivan Players

This is from a review I just posted this evening on nytheatre.com; it's written by Daniel Kelley about the new cabaret show I've Got a Little Twist:

Ever since I was a kid growing up in Brooklyn, the New York City Gilbert and Sullivan Players (NYGASP) have put on three productions yearly—two of the "big three" (either H.M.S Pinafore, The Mikado, or The Pirates of Penzance) and one additional lesser-known work. When I first started to attend their performances, they were uptown at Symphony Space. Later on, they moved to Midtown and the much larger City Center. This year, no doubt due to the current turmoil that's gripping the global economy, NYGASP has decided to hold off on a fully staged production of a Gilbert & Sullivan classic for the first part of the year and has instead decided to do something a little more intimate.

The result is the cabaret evening I've Got a Little Twist, a prime example of how arts organizations can use the limitations placed on them by the current financial climate to get back to their roots and get creative. NYGASP's mission statement is "giving vitality to the living legacy of Gilbert & Sullivan." I've Got a Little Twist does just this and in the process gives one of the freshest and most heartfelt performances that I've seen the company do in years.

(The boldface is mine.)

I love the Good News inside this review: that a reduction in resources can lead directly to innovation and invention. I am sure we'll be seeing more of this throughout the year, and that lots of exciting art will be created as a result.

The entire review is here: http://www.nytheatre.com/nytheatre/showpage.php?t=ive7819. NYGASP's website is http://nygasp.org/home.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Watch the Inauguration at BAM

Here's a sequel to yesterday's post: If Brooklyn is more convenient for you than Queens, you can take advantage of this invitation from the folks at the Brooklyn Academy of Music:
BAM will present the live television broadcast of the historic inauguration of Barack Obama on the BAM Rose Cinema screens, free and open to the public.
Tuesday, Jan 20 at 11:30am; Doors open at 11am
BAM Rose Cinemas (30 Lafayette Ave)
FREE (limited seating – first come, first seated basis)

This event, free and open to the public, is a chance to reflect upon this momentous occasion in the company of friends, neighbors, and the communities of Brooklyn.

Info about BAM is here: www.bam.org

Friday, January 9, 2009

Watch the Inauguration at Queens Theatre in the Park

"I have always believed that a theater is first and foremost a place of public assembly."

Those are the words of Jeffrey Rosenstock, Director of Queens Theatre in the Park. I have to agree with Mr. Rosenstock, which is why I am so moved by the fact that Queens Theatre is hosting a free broadcast of the Barack Obama Inauguration on January 20. Rosenstock says: "By hosting this event, we are able to provide a sense of shared community for all who want to celebrate this occasion together." That sounds highly appropriate to me.

Here are the details:
Reservations to this FREE event are required. Please call 718.760.0064 to reserve your FREE tickets. The Theatre lobby will open at 10:30am. Seating will be on a first-come, first-seated basis. The Broadcast begins at 11:30am. As always, parking at Queens Theatre is FREE. For directions or more information please call 718.760.0064 from noon to 6pm, Tuesday through Saturday, or visit www.queenstheatre.org.

All attendees are strongly encouraged to bring canned goods to help hungry neighbors. All contributions will be delivered to the Queens Interfaith Hunger Network.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Lower Manhattan Cultural Council Announces Open Call for Residencies

Do you know about the "Swing Space" residencies available from Lower Manhattan Cultural Council?

This excellent program began after 9/11 as a way to revitalize and bring culture back to the area around the World Trade Center. LMCC works with neighborhood business partners to make vacant spaces in the area available to artists on a short-term basis. This is a terrific "reclamation" project that does not, in my opinion, get enough attention.

LMCC has just announced "Open Call for Applications: Swing Space Project-Based Residencies" with a deadline for applications on January 21. This info is from their "Open Call":
Swing Space makes vacant spaces available to artists, arts groups, curators, and arts organizations for the development and presentation of new projects in the visual and performing arts. Projects recommended by our independent review panel will be considered for placement from May through October 2009 for residencies lasting 2–4 months.

Get more information here: http://lmcc.net/art/swingspace/overview/2009/apply.html

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Extreme Girl Hits the West Coast


I'm always happy when a New York-based show that I admired breaks out and gets produced elsewhere in the world. Today's Good News is an example of this increasingly common phenomenon.

Extreme Girl, the funny and smart one-woman show by Barbara Blackburn, is being presented in Los Angeles at the Hudson Guild Theatre from January 8 - 18. (Note that this is the Hudson Guild Theatre in California--not the one in NYC!)

All the details are here: https://www.plays411.net/newsite/show/play_info.asp?show_id=1833&skin_show_id=1833.

If you're a reader in Southern California, I recommend taking this show in! My review of an earlier New York run of Extreme Girl is here: http://www.nytheatre.com/nytheatre/archweb/arch_013.php (you have to scroll the page about a quarter of the way down).

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

A Broadway Musical with a $99 Top Ticket Price

(Above: a scene from the off-Broadway production of Rock of Ages; photo by Joan Marcus)


Here's a welcome piece of news: Rock of Ages, the new jukebox-ish musical that takes its score from classic rock of the 1980s, is transferring to Broadway -- and when it gets there, its producers will reverse the trend of charging ever-higher prices for tickets and instead have the first under-$100 top ticket price since the age of Rent.

This is from producers Matthew Weaver and Carl Levin:

"We know these are difficult and uncertain times for everyone, so we are thrilled to announce that Rock of Ages will set a new precedent on Broadway with a top ticket price of $89.00 for weeknight performances and $99.00 for weekend performances."


How terrific is that?

Rock of Ages opened at New World Stages earlier this fall, where it got a nice review from nytheatre.com's Michael Criscuolo. It moves to the Brooks Atkinson Theatre (lately home of Grease) on March 20. Details are here.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Some Free Resources from NYTE

I thought I would take a moment to remind readers -- especially those who produce indie theater here in NYC -- of some of the free resources that NYTE provides to help spread the word about the great work being done by theatre artists in our town.

The obvious ones are our websites: nytheatre.com and indietheater.org both provide listings and reviews as comprehensively as possible. If for some reason you are reading this and don't know how to list your work on nytheatre.com and indietheater.org, you should read this. Everybody should read about nytheatre.com's listing structure, process, and philosophy, because it probably will answer at least one question that you have had about how listings work on our website. Another helpful webpage is the one that explains how nytheatre.com reviews shows.

There is probably no single better way to promote your show on nytheatre.com than using our virtual coupons. These are completely free to productions! They provide you with a simple method to offer a discount to our readers to entice them to see your show. The discount does not need to be deep!--we've had offers of $1 off the usual $18 ticket price, for example. But the virtual coupons put you in front of an audience of ticket buyers and we hear over and over again from those who use them that they're a great tool for audience building. Learn about this program here. (The current list of ticket discounts available to our readers is here; note that this webpage also includes discounts for seniors and students.)

nytheatre.com is more than just reviews. We've been publishing interviews with theatre artists for about a decade now, and they're an effective way to give readers in-depth information about your work in your own words. We're always on the lookout for interesting subjects for our nytheatre voices cyberinterviews. Take a look at this info and don't hesitate to email me when you think you have a good idea for a possible voices piece. Take a look, too, at this just-posted nytheatre voices interview with Seth Duerr and Randy Cohen, to get an idea of what these are like.

Timeliness is essential for all of these various programs and resources! Always allow yourself enough lead time before your show opens to get listed, schedule reviews, and set up interviews and other feature coverage! We really are here to serve the theatre community, and it breaks my heart whenever we can't do a good job because we don't have enough time.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Theater for the New City is Going "Green"

I saw a show at Theater for the New City last weekend, and in the program there was this exciting note from executive director Crystal Field:
THEATER FOR THE NEW CITY is going GREEN!

We have begun planning for a major renovation here at TNC. We will have a Green Roof (Regeneratie Vegetation) on our 15,000 square foot roof...We will open some of our Skylights for more natural light. We will make a really beautiful art gallery here, with rolling walls and a theatre cafe to support it. An audio-visual studio downstairs, a totally multi-use theater in the Cino Theatre with an Acting Balcony" (Shakespeare would be proud!), modernize our storage of masks, props, costumes, and puppets. We are exploring Green Technology for HVAC, Solar Panels for Electricity, Filtered Water for our fountains....

I'm thrilled to see this long-running East Village institution jumping on the Green Bandwagon--that's why I decided to share this news today.

There's a lot more information about TNC's plans on their website:

http://www.theaterforthenewcity.net/green.htm

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Welcome to Nowhere Comes Back to NYC


Here's some good news from Temporary Distortion, the experimental/mixed-media theatre company headed up by Kenneth Collins. It's about their show Welcome to Nowhere (bullet hole road), which was previewed on an nytheatrecast episode back in 2007 (one of the most popular episodes of that year, in fact), and then reviewed very favorably on nytheatre.com by James Comtois at its initial run at the Chocolate Factory in Queens.

Kenneth tells us about the work's subsequent success:


The play has been published in Theatre Forum, with an article by Philippa Wehle about our work, and has been booked at numerous venues, including PS 122 (Feb 2008); Via Festival (FRANCE, March 2008); Exit Festival (FRANCE, April 2008); Mois Multi Festival (Quebec, Sep 2008); Coil Festival (PS122 Now); Temps d'Images (Montreal, Feb 2009); and the Salzburg Festival (Austria, July/Aug 2009.
We are glad to share this news of an American indie theater company breaking out and getting some international attention.

Welcome to Nowhere (bullet hole road) is back in NYC at P.S. 122's Coil Festival. Performances are: January 7 @ 10:30pm, January 8 @ 2:30pm, January 10 @ 7:00pm, and January 13 @ 7:30pm. Click here for ticketing. There's more information about the show here: http://www.temporarydistortion.com/Nowhere.html.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Paper Mill to Award $60,000 in Scholarships

(Shown in the photo are winners of the Rising Star Awards in 2004.)


Education is one of the most important outreach areas for theatres all around the NYC area. This good news story comes to us from the New Jersey suburbs, where Paper Mill Playhouse has been serving its local community of Milburn for many decades.

Since their inception in 1996 the Paper Mill Playhouse Rising Star Awards for Excellence in High School Musical Theatre have ignited the careers of many notable performers, all of whom attended high school in New Jersey. The Rising Star Awards are modeled after the Tony® Awards and Paper Mill’s program serves the entire state of New Jersey with 100 entered productions from public, private and parochial high schools. The musicals are adjudicated throughout the spring by a group of 65 Evaluators, with each school receiving four independent evaluations. The 2009 Rising Star Award gala awards ceremony at Paper Mill Playhouse is set for June 16th when the nominees perform and the award recipients are presented with a crystal award from Rising Star Award partner Tiffany's & Co. Any school that produces a musical between January 22nd and April 19th 2009, is eligible. Only the first 100 schools to apply will be entered into the program.

In addition to honors in performance, design and production categories, the Rising Star Awards recognize other aspects of the process. Special Student Achievement Awards (based on nominations made by teachers and evaluations by a select committee) and an Educational Impact Award (recognizing a school’s efforts to connect their musical production to the district’s curriculum) are presented each year. Paper Mill Playhouse also awards $60,000 in scholarship money at the Rising Star Awards. Three $1000 cash scholarships to outstanding individual students participating in entered Rising Star Award productions, who plan to continue studying theatre in college. A technical theatre scholarship is sponsored annually by Scaramouche Costumes, LLC. Paper Mill has also partnered with Westminster Choir College of Rider University in Princeton, New Jersey to offer a renewable scholarship worth $14,000 each year to a selected student participating in an entered Rising Star Award production wishing to major in musical theatre.

Lastly, students receiving final nominations in the lead and supporting acting categories automatically receive a full scholarship to Paper Mill Playhouse's competitive Summer Musical Theatre Conservatory, a professional training program, which along with advanced classes in singing, acting and dance, offers the nominees an opportunity to perform on the stage at Paper Mill in our August season finale concert, "New Voices 2008."


There's much more information on Paper Mill's website.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Heartfelt Thanks

To get the New Year off to the right kind of start, I wanted to use today's blog post to publicly thank the amazing supporters of nytheatre.com and The New York Theatre Experience, Inc.--the contributors of time and money who make our work possible. They are, quite literally, our angels.

First, enormous gratitude to the volunteer theatre artists who review shows and otherwise create content for our websites. These are the folks who comprised this community of contributors in 2008: Kelly Aliano, Kyle Ancowitz, Ethan Angelica, Gyda Arber, Robert Attenweiler, Fred Backus, Debbie Hoodiman Beaudin, Joe Beaudin, Pete Boisvert, Nicole Bournas-Ney, Danny Bowes, Micah Bucey, Pamela Butler, Josephine Cashman, Nat Cassidy, Kat Chamberlain, Ross Chappell, Maggie Cino, James Comtois, Julie Congress, Mitchell Conway, Michael Criscuolo, Ivanna Cullinan, Tim Cusack, Mark DeFrancis, David DelGrosso, Edward Elefterion, Rohana Elias-Reyes, Ryan Emmons, Lisa Ferber, Zachary Fithian, Matthew Freeman, David Fuller, Amber Gallery, Joshua Chase Gold, David Gordon, Jason Grossman, Jack Hanley, Chris Harcum, David Hilder, Richard Hinojosa, Kristin Skye Hoffmann, Jason Jacobs, Judith Jarosz, Megin Jimenez, David Johnston, Matt Johnston, J Jordan, Russell Kaplan, Daniel Kelley, Nancy Kim, Nathaniel Kressen, Larry Kunofsky, Melanie N. Lee, Jessica McVea, Scott Mendelsohn, Shelley Molad, Michael Mraz, Roger Nasser, Anthony C.E. Nelson, Ryan Nicholoff, Loren Noveck, Emily Otto, Anthony Pennino, Joe Pindelski, Melle Powers, Robin Reed, Stan Richardson, Heather Lee Rogers, Jo Ann Rosen, Robin Rothstein, Garry Schrader, Peter Schuyler, Lucile Scott, Josh Sherman, Alyssa Simon, Steven Slate, Jon Stancato, Saviana Stanescu, Allison Taylor, Sara Thigpen, Shannon Thomason, Matthew Trumbull, Heather J. Violanti, Kimberly Wadsworth, Robert Weinstein, Reagan Wilson, Eric Winick, and Natasha Yannacanedo.

Second, a special shout-out to the hosts of our regular podcast series: Leonard Jacobs of "The Leonard Jacobs Show," Michael Criscuolo of "The Indie Theater Life," and of course Trav S.D., who not only hosts "Indie Theater Now!" but also serves as nytheatrecast's announcer. Also, thanks to the volunteers who moderated/organized episodes this year: Cat Parker, Steve Petrillo, and Jo Ann Rosen.

Finally, it is essential to express gratitude to our funders. These individuals and organizations made generous donations to The New York Theatre Experience, Inc., in 2008: 13th Street Repertory, Saul & Ann P. Adelman, Johnna Adams, Silvia Akerman, Eric Alter (Apricot Sky Productions), Manuel A Alvarez, Ellen K. Anderson, Gyda Arber, Jim Baldassare, Ferrell Barnhart (Axis Theatre), Margie Beegle, Christina Benson, David Bland, Patrick Blake, Ron Bopst, Spencer Chandler, Peter V. Churukian, Jeannette Cibinic, Ron Cohen, Michael Colby, Nita Congress, Julia Cornely, Sheila Cowley, William Doyle, Jennifer Elcano, Don Ellenberg, Roi "Bubi" Escudero, Ryan Esposto, Leo Farley, Patricia Feldhaus, Foundation for Fair Capitalism, Steven Froot, Sofia Geier (On the Wing Productions), David Gibbs, Errol Glasser, Joe Godfrey, Elise Goldberg, Julie Hamberg, Chris Harcum, Joyce Healy, Charlotte James, David Johnston, Susan Jonas, Kirill Khvenkin, Kevin Kittle, Jean Knox, Andrea Lepcio, Sheila Lewandowski, Ralph Lewis, Manhattan Neighborhood Network, Richard Mann & Reva Rappaport, Cyndy Marion, Harvey Meltzer, JoAnne Meyers, Todd Michael, Microsoft Corporation, Barbara Miller, Chiori Miyagawa, David Mogentale, Stephan Morrow, Kem Roy Neal, Robert Neill (NY Neo-Futurists), New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, New York State Council on the Arts, New York Times Foundation (Matching Gifts), Matt Oberg, Philip V. Oppenheimer, Rich Orloff, Marc Palmieri, Robert Ross Parker, Bruce Pasquale, Margarett Perry, Chrystin Pleasants, Rachel Reiner & Eric Parness, Jonathan Reuning, Sean Elias-Reyes, J. Scott Reynolds, Heather Lee Rogers, Jo Ann Rosen, Katie Rosin (Kampfire PR), Iris Rothstein, David Sandt, Peg Santvoord Foundation, Jordan Seavey, Gail Shulman, Brian Snapp, Linda Stackhouse, Daniel Talbott (Rising Phoenix Rep), Regina Dreyer Thomas, Richard Titan, Antoinette Tomai, Katherine Towson, Virginia Unanue, Robert Vail, Jane Wells, Christopher Wheatley, Beverly Willey, TJ Witham, Shela Xoregos, and Kenneth Zarecor.