Sunday, May 31, 2009

Seth Bisen-Hersh Reviews Barbra Streisand: The Concerts

Today on the Good News Theatre Blog, we turn over the space to our colleague Seth Bisen-Hersh, who is very happy to have reviewed the new Barbra Streisand DVD collection (The Concerts):
Five hours of Barbra! The new DVD set includes FIVE HOURS of Barbra! The first DVD is a live recording of the most recent concert from 2006. The second DVD is a live recording of the concert at the Arrowhead Pond in 1994 previously only available on VHS. The third DVD is a recording of the tv special Putting It Together – the Making of The Broadway Album. Any one of these DVDs would be worth purchasing, but to get all three in one package is simply divine. If that wasn’t enough reason to get them, there are ELEVEN bonus tracks ranging from footage from Barbra’s TV specials to specially recorded songs just for this DVD from the recent concert to interviews with collaborators and her foundation. It is magical to watch Barbra throughout the years from her tv specials in the sixties through the most recent concert. Basically every song is a highlight, but the highlights for me personally included her honest interview about recording Broadway songs even though everyone told her not to, her understated rendition of the title song from Funny Girl, her dueting with herself in the Yentl Medley, and the two bonus tracks created solely for this DVD collection of songs she hasn’t sung in years – “Nobody’s Heart Belongs to Me” and “When the Sun Comes Out.” Thus, for five hours, happy days are indeed here again.
Thanks for the heads-up, Seth! You can purchase the DVD set at amazon.com (and earn NYTE a little bit of a commission, thus aiding your favorite nonprofit theatre site) by clicking here.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Lanford Wilson Visits T. Schreiber Studio

Last night, I had the pleasure of seeing the new production of Fifth of July at T. Schreiber Studio (my review will be on nytheatre.com soon). While I was there, I chatted with producing director Cat Parker and the show's director, Peter Jensen, who shared news with me about Lanford Wilson's visit to the Studio about a week earlier.

He loved the production; Cat sent me this quote from Mr. Wilson: "T. Schreiber Studio has presented one of the best productions of Fifth of July that I’ve witnessed in a long, long time. Peter Jensen and his cast have brought so much of this play to life – it’s funny, touching and provoking. I’m glad I got the opportunity to see it." Congratulations to all of the dedicated folks at T. Schreiber for this accolade -- Good News indeed. How terrific (though not really surprising) that a playwright of Mr. Wilson's stature and talent recognizes that indie theater is worth his and our time, a place where excellent work is the norm.

Cat shared a couple of photos that I am happy to post here:





The top image shows Lanford Wilson (right) with director Peter Jensen. The second features (top row): Michael W. Murray, David Villalobos, Jamie Neumann, Jonathan Orsini, Liz Richards, Edward Campbell; and (bottom row) Ellen Reilly, Terry Schreiber, Lanford Wilson, Peter Jensen, Lily DePaula, and Lucy Avery Brooke.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Indie Theater NOW! on TV -- Your Feedback Please

So our initial foray into TV -- the first pilot episode of Indie Theater NOW! -- has been broadcast twice on public access cable and will have its final showing on Sunday, May 31 at 11pm. If you haven't had a chance to watch, I really hope you will!

You can view it on cable TV in Manhattan: It's on channel 56 (Time Warner) or channel 83 (RCN). And you can stream it live on MNN's website (www.mnn.org). The time, once again, is this Sunday, May 31 at 11pm.

If you've watched--or after you watch on Sunday night--please let me know what you think. The future of this TV project truly depends on viewer feedback. What do you think of the format? Was the number of guests ok -- too many, too few, just right? What about the mix of topics? What do you think of our host, Trav S.D.? What subjects would you like to see on a half-hour show of this nature?

Please comment here or send me an email with your thoughts!

Thanks for helping us with our planning for Indie Theater NOW! I'll have info about our second pilot show, which features performances and interviews by/with Kevin Augustine, Rob Neill, and Clay McLeod Chapman, very soon.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

St. Clement's Episcopal Church Celebrates the Lives of Theatre Folk

Today we have a somber, but meritorious, item here at the Good News Theatre Blog. It comes from James Ashcraft:

On Sunday evening, June 14, 2009, one week after the 63nd annual Tony Awards officially draws the 2008 - 2009 theater season to a close, St. Clement's Episcopal Church will hold its Twelfth Annual A Celebration of Their Lives service at 5:00 p.m. A Celebration of Their Lives is a brief service of song and meditation remembering and celebrating the lives of those in the theater community who have died during the past year. Special music, special readings, a tolling of the names of those who have died and a signing of a memorial parchment will be part of this unique memorial service. The public and the theatre community are especially invited to join with the congregation of St. Clement’s Episcopal Church for this special service. Admission is free. St. Clement’s Episcopal Church is located at 423 West 46th Street (between 9th and 10th Avenues).

Check the church's website for more info: www.stclementsnyc.org.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

DecadesOut Launches on June 3 -- They Are Making a Documentary about the History of Indie Theater

DecadesOut, a new indie theater-related nonprofit organization here in NYC, founded by Frank Kuzler, is launching on June 3. I asked Frank to talk about this new endeavor of his. Here's our cyberinterview:

ME: Frank, congratulations on forming this new company DecadesOut. Can you tell readers a bit about the company’s overall mission, and who is involved with it?

FRANK: Thank you Martin for your good wishes. The overall mission of the company is to develop and produce new works that explore the impact of science in our lives and our relationship with science. It sounds like it runs the risk of being a college seminar or about the gadgets that have taken over our lives, but fundamentally it’s about relationships, making connections between ideas and people and looking behind the technology to the heart of science. I’ve always looked at science not so much as a school subject but as a philosophy and an art form. I think there are parallels between the way we communicate emotionally and the way we analyze who we are and our existence here. The real basis of the company is that these ideas (and whatever grows from this initial seed) be explored through the eyes of today’s artists with a focus on new work.

Since we started the company, we’ve gotten great feedback from artists and organizations that want to see the mission in action, so we feel that the energy behind the organization is already so positive. So I guess to answer the question, so many people are already involved, and the network of people has expanded well outside of myself, my lovely wife Jen [Jennifer Larkin Kuzler], and our wonderful friend Morgan Harris, who are the founding members. Jen, of course is an actress who has worked in the indie theatre scene for many years; Morgan has a fine arts background in photography and film and really rounds out what we’ll be trying to accomplish in film and visual arts; and my background is as a writer, director, and producer in the indie film and theatre worlds. I’ve learned a lot from those I’ve worked with and have had the pleasure of seeing work, and one of the most important lessons has been to not be afraid of taking chances. So here goes.

ME: One of the key activities DecadesOut will be working on is a documentary called Burning to Communicate. Tell us what this film is about.

FRANK: The film is about the origins, social impact, and development of the off-off/indie theatre scene from the late 1940s to the present. It is a mammoth project, but one I feel very strongly about, and one that has to be done right, so that’s the challenge. So far we’ve gotten great interviews with icons of the early days including the Living Theatre’s Judith Malina who is a fantastic soul and a force of nature; Lanford Wilson, writer of the American classic Balm in Gilead; and Doric Wilson, writer and active supporter of the indie theatre movement. Both Doric and Lanford got their start at the Caffe Cino in the 1950s where so much of the foundation of the indie theatre scene rests. We’re also in the process of arranging interviews with many other figures throughout the movement’s sixty year history including, Ellen Stewart at La MaMa who also continues to work and create amazing theatre. It’s going to be a busy summer. One of the things I want to explore in the film is the spark behind creativity and how from a social science perspective creative energy flares into a movement which leads to social change. I mean, it’s no secret that we’ve been in the midst of a movement which started sixty years ago and continues to grow everyday. With every new theatre person coming into town to follow their dreams or participate in a festival, ideas continue to get exchanged and the dialogue expands. This is what leads to new visions for society and social change.

ME: How did you get interested in off-off-Broadway/indie theater? Why is it important to document the history of this movement?

FRANK: I think those two questions are actually tied together for me on a personal level. Why did I get interested? My involvement was far from deterministic. I didn’t set out to do it. It’s simply the path that got laid out in front of me. There was little choice, and I went willingly. I studied theatre in school but was more of a poetry student. I like images, telling stories or revealing ideas image by image, moment to moment. My love of film and playwriting grew from that. Then I studied acting because as a writer I wanted to know about the actor’s perspective. Then I acted for awhile, found Boomerang Theatre Company, found FringeNYC, and here I am. I’ve had the extreme good fortune of being involved with companies and people doing great work at a great time, so my interest grew to fascination and activity. And that’s why it became important for me to document the history. I want to know more about the things I love, and I want to share it with as many people as possible. That may sound like a big ole can of corn, but that’s where it comes from for me personally.

On a different note, I’m a researcher at heart, and always want to know more, more, more about things by jumping in and learning about them and then trying to bring it together and present it to the world. I think that history teaches us everything we need to know about reshaping ourselves and the present world into the ideals we aspire to. The history of this movement has value on social, artistic, and individual levels. That’s why it’s important to embrace the past as vital to the present.

ME: How are you going about collecting material for this documentary? If someone reading this thinks they have a story to tell or something to contribute to this endeavor, can they get in touch with you?

FRANK: The project will likely be a multipart piece. I think it has to be because of its scope which needs to not only explore theatre history but also look at the social conditions of each segment. As I said, it’s a mammoth project. We’ve been doing copious research into the history of each decade, and as I mentioned, have been conducting interviews. We have a ton of interviews planned, and continue to build the list of people we need to speak with. It’s great (and a little daunting). Everyone we speak to always has at least five other people they say we need to speak to. We’ve also been fundraising and meeting with potential producing partners in the documentary world, and we’ll be showing a trailer of some of what we have at our launch/benefit party happening on June 3rd. That being said, we are reaching out to everyone and support has been great so far. We would love to hear from as many people as possible. We welcome people to contact us at http://www.blogger.com/info@decadesout.org if they have stories or would like to be part of the project.

You can learn more about DecadesOut at their offical website: http://www.decadesout.org.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Mainspring Collective Collects Good Karma and Gives Back

Today's Good News Item is from Jenna Weinberg of Mainspring Collective:

Dear Martin,

I've been reading your blog (the nytheatre i) for quite some time now and since you began the 'Good News Initiative' theme, I've been wanting to write to you about my own good fortune in working in thetheater in New York City.

About 2 years ago, I started a company with a fellow schoolmate from Indiana University and after 3 full length productions (built with a lot of hard work, generous gifts, and tireless fundraising), we are about to move our latest original play to an off-Broadway house for 2 weekends. In looking back, there have been a lot of wonderful things that have happened to us that have allowed us to arrive at this point. I'll try to keep our story brief...but there is no shortage of goodnews to be shared.

A mentor and dear friend of mine once asked me: "Jenna, do you want a career in theatre or a life in theatre?" This sounded like a trick question to me. Of course I want to work, but I want to work in such a way that will allow me both to grow as an artist and to make way for more professional opportunities. We founded Mainspring Collective with this in mind: the need for an artistic "home" to nurture artists in addition to giving them professional opportunities. But with no money or connections in the theatre world, how and where were we to do it?

We met the owners of the Producers' Club (Ernest and Freddy Tollja) in August of 2007 and they were so inspired by our enthusiasm and work ethic that they agreed to produce our inaugural performance, a 1950s adaptation of Euripides' Medea. Following this, we began working at the Producers' Club, running their office, house managing at night in exchange for free rehearsal/performance space at the theatre. We threw huge fundraising parties and managed to raise almost $8,000 in our first fiscal year thanks to the support of our friends and people we met along the way.

Medea was followed in 2008 by a devised theatre workshop with Bridget Fallen (a Chicago-based playwright) and the World Premiere of Legends, Myths, and Hieroglyphs by Demetrius in the Sonnet Theatre at the Producers' Club.

In January of 2009, when scouting for another space to produce a new play, we came across the cell, a brand new performance space/arts salon in Chelsea. We met with the women who ran the space and they welcomed us with open arms as artists-in-residence for the year. They gave us rehearsal space to develop our original play, Dream of Me (based on Charles Mee's Fetes de la Nuit) as well as our most exciting gift yet: a 3 week run of our new show in the space. The run was successful beyond our wildest dreams, with most performances sold out, and a slew of great reviews from Show Business Weekly, the Greenwich Village Gazette, and, of course, nytheatre.com.

Which brings us to the latest chapter of good news for Mainspring Collective. One of the theatre managers at the Players Theatre saw and enjoyed Dream of Me so much that he approached me with an idea: In exchange for a portion of our box office, the Players Theatre would bewilling to co-produce an extended run of Dream of Me for a two weekend run. It was an unexpected opportunity, and we knew we had to take it.

So here we are. Dream of Me opens off-Broadway in one week. We have no idea what's going to happen, and whether or not our new publicity tactics (a relentless guerilla campaign of shock and awe going on in the West Village as we speak) are going to work. We can only hope for the best and try to make the best of each new opportunity as it presents itself.

That is our story. It's the kind of story of good fortune and hard work that makes me believe that one can be successful in this crazy world of theatre, even while the economy and national morale are suffering. In fact, I think those things make theatre more important and necessary than ever.

Thank you for all of your help in promoting our shows over the past two years. And thank you for taking the time to let me share this with you.

Sincerely,

Jenna Weinberg
Executive Director
Mainspring Collective
http://www.mainspringcollective.com/

Send in your Good News Theatre stories -- I think these are very inspirational and valuable for our community to know about!

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Talkback at APAC's Children's Hour

Astoria Performing Arts Center is hosting a talkback following a performance of Lillian Hellman's The Children's Hour. Here are the details:

Sunday, May 31, 2009 - Immediately following the 6pm performance - This event is free and open to all APAC audience members. You can purchase your tickets to the Sunday, May 31st performance by visiting www.apacny.org.

APAC is proud to announce the first in its new series of post-performance discussions with our audience, the APAC Talk-Backs. These discussions will give APAC audiences a chance to learn more about the work they have just seen, hearing from experts on that particular play and writer.

APAC artistic director Tom Wojtunik moderates a panel of industry professionals and Lillian Hellman experts, as we learn more about this major American playwright and her first big success as a writer seventy-five years after its Broadway premiere.

PANELISTS INCLUDE:
- Sharon Friedman (specialist on feminism in theatre, Associate Professor, NYU)
- Carl Rollyson (author of Lillian Hellman: Her Life and Legend)

SHARON FRIEDMAN is Associate Professor of literature and drama in the Gallatin School of New York University. Sharon’s teaching and research interests are in the areas of dramatic criticism, feminist criticism, and theories of adaptation. Her most recent publication is an edited volume entitled Feminist Theatrical Revisions of Classic Works (McFarland, 2008), and publications relevant to this seminar include “Feminism as Theme in Twentieth Century American Women’s Drama” in American Studies (1984), “Revisioning the Woman’s Part in Paula Vogel’s Desdemona” in New Theatre Quarterly (1995) and “Honor or Virtue Unrewarded: Susan Glaspell’s Challenge to Ideologies of Sexual Conduct and the Discourse of Intimacy” in New England Theatre Journal (2006). Other essays on women playwrights have appeared in Contemporary Authors Bibliographical Series: American Dramatists, TDR, Women and Performance, Susan Glaspell: Essays on her Theater and Fiction, and Codifying the National Self: Spectators, Actors, and the American Dramatic Text.

CARL ROLLYSON is Professor of Journalism at Baruch College, The City University of New York, and the author of Lillian Hellman: Her Life and Legend. He has also published biographies of Marilyn Monroe, Norman Mailer, Martha Gellhorn, Rebecca West, Susan Sontag, and Jill Craigie. He is currently at work on Recovering Amy Lowell, a new biography of a neglected American poet, and on Dana Andrews: Hollywood’s Enigmatic Hero.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Green Light for Midtown

New traffic rules for Broadway between 33rd - 35th Street and 42nd - 47th Street go into effect on May 24. The idea is that it will be easier to get around the Theatre District (and the shopping district near Macy's). So this could be good news for tourists and theatregoers alike!

The official info detailing the changes is available here: http://www.nyc.gov/html/dot/downloads/pdf/greenlight_theaters.pdf

Friday, May 22, 2009

Zentrale Intelligenz Agentur Presents Slow Capitalism

Here's information about an interesting and unique performance event from Berlin, coming to the Goethe-Institut New York. Thanks to Jeffrey Essmann for alerting me to this. He writes:

Hey Martin:

I’m pleased to attach the press release for Slow Capitalism, a two-day series of performance events by the Zentrale Intelligenz Agentur (Central Intelligence Agency), a socialist-capitalist collective of freelance artists, activists, and intellectuals from Berlin.

In three separate events ZIA agents will state their case for a Slow Capitalism. It’s fairly clear at this point that the fast version doesn’t work, and the ZIA has a number of innovative and witty ways of slowing it down. And for all the things that the world could use right now, it could certainly use a little wit.

Their presentations, while clearly savvy about economic and political realities, translate those realities into a unique type of performance where intelligence is tempered by irony: dollars are replaced by slime; people are paid wages for doing things they actually like; PowerPoint presentations are karaoke. Lecture is subverted by vaudeville, order by improvisation, and economic politics are turned into performance, into cabaret, into theater. Into a situation where you can think about—and maybe even laugh at—what Marx called the "contradictions."

So please join us for this terrific group of events, all of which are free and will take place at our satellite venue, the Wyoming Building, 5 East 3rd Street, just off Bowery.

Full details about Slow Capitalism are here: http://www.goethe.de/ins/us/ney/prj/wyo/en4514116v.htm

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Economic Survey of Indie Theater Folk

This item comes from David Johnston of NYC Performing Arts Spaces:

We’ve put together this survey to assess the current economic situation for artists, facilities and arts admin – and also one for cultural facilities and performing arts venues. We’d love to get your feedback. If you have additional questions on this information, check our blog or email me at david.johnston@fracturedatlas.org.
http://nycpaspaces.org/blog/postShow/id/26

For the performing artists, directors, playwrights, choreographers, here’s your survey:
https://www.surveymonkey.com/s.aspx?sm=bjWSNKn86GUb1sN9ZfvL4w_3d_3d

And for facilities, nonprofit or otherwise, go here:
https://www.surveymonkey.com/s.aspx?sm=MnkAUHfr13zYXdDfEjXu8w_3d_3d


Please help his organization out by participating in this survey.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Summer Festival Previews

Every year at nytheatre.com we face the challenge of how to showcase all of the amazing work appearing in summer festivals. As you probably know, we work hard to review as many of these shows as we can. But in a way, that comes after the fact; we want also to provide interesting and insightful coverage BEFORE the fact--so that readers and potential audience members can make good decisions (and get enthused) about the myriad festival offerings IN ADVANCE.

We've got a number of tricks up our sleeve this summer to try to make some of that happen.

For the Jewish Theater Festival and TeatroStageFest (both coming to NYC in May/June), we'll be podcasting. Trav S.D. interviewed Edward Einhorn, the artistic director of the Jewish Theater Festival, along with Julia Pearlstein, a former member of the Ridiculous Theatre Company who has written a play called Rat Bastard that is featured in this festival. (Eureka, another Ridiculous alumna, is the director.) The three of them had a great conversation, which we will be presenting to you on our very next nytheatrecast episode, to be posted within the next 24 hours. (Visit www.nytheatrecast.com to check this and other podcasts out.)

Javier Gomez has been working with us to create both English- and Spanish-language versions of our annual preview podcast of TeatroStageFest, the festival of Latino theatre. In addition to artistic director Susana Tubert, we'll have some exciting special guests on hand. Details about the Teatro podcasts will be available in about a week, and I'll keep you posted.

We did a different sort of audio feature for the soloNOVA Arts Festival this year--a multimedia preview that I'm quite proud of, that you can check out here: http://www.nytheatre.com/nytheatre/solonova_2009.php

Next month brings the Brick's annual themed summer shindig, The Antidepressant Festival. For this event, we're asking participants to answer 20 questions about their shows. The results will be posted for your enjoyment and edification in about 10 days. I hope you like the questions I asked.

Following that is the brand new Planet Connections Festivity. This is a pretty ambitious event, wtih two dozen full productions along with readings and other events. It's also a socially conscious (and green) festival, with each production promoting a specific charitable cause or organization. We've asked each of the participants to tell us about their chosen causes -- and they've already started responding, eloquently and incisively. I'll be collecting their responses and posting them right here on the Good News Theatre Blog in a few weeks.

We're also doing a standard festival preview feature for Planet Connections, which you'll be able to see on nytheatre.com very soon.

What's next? Obviously, the big daddy of summer festivals, FringeNYC, is on our radar. The Town Meeting happens soon; that's the event where the festival kind of officially "kicks off." We've got some ideas for some new stuff to help make FringeNYC more manageable and fun than ever this year -- I'll share those after the Town Meeting.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Kudos to Indie Theater Stalwarts

Our friends at The Chocolate Factory in Long Island City are worthy winners of one of this year's Obie Award Grants, presented last night. Congratulations to Brian Rogers and Sheila Lewandowski, the co-proprietors of the company, for a richly deserved honor!

And Susan Louise O'Connor, one of our all-time favorite indie theatre actors, is among this year's recipients of the Theatre World Awards, for her Broadway debut in Blithe Spirit. Way to go, Susan!

(Just remember that we've known about both of these amazing honorees for a long time here at nytheatre.com. Susan was one of our People of the Year back in 2005, while Chocolate Factory was on our list in 2007.)

****

I close tonight with a quick personal note: today marks my 10th anniversary as a New York City resident. Feels like only yesterday that I moved here (though in another way it feels like I've been here all my life). Moving here was the best decision I ever made. NYTE's 10th birthday is just a few months off...

Monday, May 18, 2009

New Goodies Are Coming to nytheatre.com

If you've noticed that I've been keeping a slighter lower-than-usual profile of late, it's because I've been spending most of my last few weeks working on implementing a new data base infrastructure for the nytheatre.com website.

This behind-the-scenes project will enable us to bring a number of enhancements and new features to nytheatre.com and our other websites during the coming months.

You can already see two of these enhancements on the site. Our new system is facilitating expansion of our venue listings. We've added about three dozen venues to our website since last Wednesday, many of them in the outer boroughs. Check out the Venue Listings and the Now Playing: Outside Manhattan listings to see what's new.

Also, when we did our redesign of nytheatre.com last year, at least one reader noticed that the archived show review pages featured only abbreviated credits. We've fixed that: for reviews of shows that closed on May 17th and thereafter, a full roster of credits is provided. We hope this will be helpful to folks!

But these little tweaks are only the tip of the iceberg! Over the next several weeks, I'll be sharing with our plans and alerting you when significant new functions and features are available. Look for enhanced findability of listings and easier and more ways for readers to select and be alerted to the kinds of shows that matter most to them.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

New Broadway Theatre is Green

Roundabout Theatre Company is set to re-open Henry Miller's Theatre on West 43rd Street this fall with their revival of Bye Bye Birdie. This is exciting news, and not just because we don't get new Broadway theatres every day... the new Miller Theatre is Broadway's first green theatre. Here's some info from The Durst Organization and Tishman Construction Corporation, who built the venue:

The 1,055-seat house is located inside the new 55-story Bank of America Tower at One Bryant Park and will be New York’s first LEED®-rated theater. The theater and the Bank of America Tower are an Empire State Development Corporation project and a joint venture of The Durst Organization Inc. and Bank of America, N.A.

Henry Miller’s Theatre is the first new Broadway theater built in more than a decade and sets new standards for environmentally sustainable design and construction of performing arts venues. The 50,000-square-foot theater is located behind the preserved and restored neo-Georgian façade of the original 1918 theater.

Creating the best possible indoor environment for audiences, performers and production staff was a top priority for the design and construction team. This has been achieved through 95% air filtration, carbon dioxide sensors to maximize fresh air supply, and the selection of healthy, low-emitting materials. Environmentally responsible materials used in the theater’s construction include Forest Stewardship Council-certified wood products used extensively in finishes; high-recycled content wall panels and baseboards; locally sourced marble flooring and countertops; and waterless urinals to reduce consumption of potable water.

Green construction at Henry Miller’s Theatre was multi-faceted. A minimum of 25 percent of materials was locally sourced (originating within a 500-mile radius), supporting the regional economy and reducing emissions from transportation. Forty-five percent of cement in the foundation and superstructure concrete mix designs was replaced with blast furnace slag, a by-product of iron manufacturing, significantly reducing the amount of CO2 being released into the atmosphere. Waste was reused/reduced: a minimum 85 percent of construction and demolition debris was diverted from landfill and instead was recycled.

In addition, Henry Miller’s Theatre breaks new ground in washroom availability for a Broadway playhouse. There are 22 fixtures in the women’s (three times the code requirement) and 10 fixtures in the men’s (one and a half times the code requirement) bathrooms. The new theater will be fully handicapped accessible with 20 wheelchair positions.

The mezzanine is at street level in the theater and patrons go down one level to the orchestra, where two-thirds of the seating is located. Support for a sophisticated sound system is integrated into the new theater, as well as a larger orchestra pit and a fully functional fly-tower and set-loading facilities. Other amenities include improved public circulation and concessions areas, with a spacious lobby bar at the orchestra level, a bar and café at the ground level, and a restaurant on the upper mezzanine.

The new theatre is slated to open on September 10. I am looking forward to checking it out!

Saturday, May 16, 2009

The Bushwick Starr Wants You!

I recently did a podcast with Sue Kessler and Noel Allain, who are the co-founders and operators of the snazzy Brooklyn venue called The Bushwick Starr. (Listen here.)

They provide listeners will lots of great information about this venue, which is in a rising neighborhood that is feeling more and more like the way the Lower East Side felt in the mid- to late-'90s.

One of the best parts of the podcast is when Sue explains that The Bushwick Starr is available to companies looking for an inexpensive, well-stocked venue for rental/rehearsal space. This is indeed Good News in this time of fewer and fewer available spaces for indie companies.

There's some more info about the podcast here.

Friday, May 15, 2009

A Couple of Updates

Daniel Talbott of Rising Phoenix Rep, a good friend to the Good News Theatre Blog, writes about a recent post from the road:

We just went on break cause of a major storm delay out here and I got back and got this and it made me so homesick in a really wonderful way I can't even say! I miss you guys and hope you're both doing great and loved your Good News Theatre Awards and since I can't leave comments on the blog for some reason I'm throwing a bunch of stuff I loved below in no order and very quickly off the top of my head so I'm sure I'm leaving a bunch of stuff out right
now.

- Geoffrey Rush in Exit The King
- Kindness at Playwrights Horizons
- Our Town
- Lady
- Blasted at Soho Rep
- That Pretty Pretty or The Rape Play

Thanks, Daniel, for the great nods. I hope others will weigh in with the shows and artists from the past season who made a difference to them!

* * * * *

I also want to remind everyone about the IMMERSIVE THEATER PANEL that I will moderating next Saturday, May 23rd, at St. Johns University in Lower Manhattan. All the details are here. The speakers on the panel are playwright/directors Kirk Wood Bromley and Frank Cwiklik, plus creator/performers Stephen O'Connell and Lucy Simic of bluemouth inc. It is going to be a fascinating discussion. I hope I will see many of you there! It runs from noon to 2pm.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

NYTE's Indie Theater NOW Makes TV Debut

Today's Good News item is one I've been looking forward to writing for several months. As you may know, during the past six months or so, we've been collaborating with the good people at Manhattan Neighborhood Network (MNN), our local public access cable TV station, to create two pilot episodes of a possible/planned TV series--based on our audio podcasts--called Indie Theater NOW!

(Before I go any further, I need to commend the folks at MNN for choosing to work with our organization and grant us many hours of technical training and studio time in their facility. Particularly, I want to publicly acknowledge Cory Brice of MNN's Community Department, who has been our facilitator through the training process.)

So, here's the Good News: our first pilot episode of Indie Theater NOW! will be airing on MNN during the next few weeks! The show will be broadcast three times in Manhattan, as follows:
  • Wednesday, May 20 at 7:00PM on channel 56 (Time Warner)/ 83(RCN)
  • Monday, May 25 at 11:00PM on channel 67 (Time Warner) / 85 (RCN)
  • Sunday, May 31 at 11:00PM on channel 56 (Time Warner) / 83 (RCN)

Please tune in! And most important, please send comments and feedback to me, either here or via email. We are seriously considering moving forward with developing a regular monthly TV series. To do it well--and to do it in a way that will best meet the needs of the indie theater community--we need honest feedback from everyone who watches our pilot programs.

This very very first episode of Indie Theater NOW! is hosted by Trav S.D., and features three segments:

  • Playwright Kirk Wood Bromley, who coined the phrase "indie theater," talks one-on-one with Trav
  • A roundtable discussion about the early days of indie theater features John Clancy (co-founder of FringeNYC and current executive director of the League of Independent Theater), Ellie Covan (founder of Dixon Place), and Elena K. Holy (producing artistic director of Fringe NYC)
  • The show concludes with a brief conversation between Trav S.D. and yours truly

Six amazing volunteers from nytheatre.com's community of contributors helped us make this show: Peter Schuyler (director), Amber Gallery and Judith Jarosz (camera), Lucile Scott (media), Danny Bowes (sound), and Jason S. Grossman (floor manager). Seth Bisen-Hersh composed theme music for our pilots. David Fuller, Christopher Eaves, Mitchell Conway, and Julie Congress helped us put together our "test run" before we shot the first pilot.

I am SO EXCITED to finally see our first effort on TV. Let me conclude by sharing some thoughts about my vision for the TV version of Indie Theater NOW!:

The mission of the programs will be to explore and explain the diversity, quality, and value of indie theater in New York City—to educate audiences about indie theater, promote it among audiences, and of course at the same time entertain audiences by showing them copious samples of indie theater during the program. Our plan is to also make the program available on the Internet after the episodes have aired on MNN; and to make the video available to the indie companies/artists that participate on the program so that they can use it for promotional and fundraising purposes.

So don't forget to tune in on May 20, May 25, or May 31 (or watch all three times!). You can also tune in to the program via streaming video at MNN's website: http://www.mnn.org (on the left hand side of their home page there are links to stream the shows when they're on the air)--this is how you can watch the program if you don't live in Manhattan or don't have cable.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Theatre of the Small-Eyed Bear Speaks: An Interview with a Playwright, a Director, and a Producer -- Part 2

Here's the second part of my interview with Jesse Edward Rosbrow of Theatre of the Expendable, Michael Roderick of Small Pond Entertainment, and Duncan Pflaster of Cross-Eyed Bear Productions. These gentlemen have banded together to share production costs, performance space, design teams, and resources to present Mare Cognitum by David McGee, Squiggy and the Goldfish by Lenny Schwartz, and Ore, or Or by Duncan Pflaster.

Me: Each of you wears many hats. Can you talk a bit about the different roles you play and how you balance the many activities against each other and also with the other things you have to do in your daily lives? Which artistic role is your preference?

MICHAEL: I am primarily a producer. I direct only when I am really passionate about something and feel I absolutely have to. I have wanted to direct Squiggy since I saw it five years ago in Rhode Island, so I jumped at the chance. My main expertise lies in producing and I have been very involved in the producing of all three shows, from how we present it, to watching ticket sales and collecting data, to campaigns to raise funds, to managing space and negotiating agreements, etc. I am currently an associate producer on a commercial venture, so I have been pretty deep in the producing world lately. It was rather tricking raising money for a commercial production while laying the groundwork for this production, but Jesse, Duncan, and our associates have really helped me to balance things. I am a high school English teacher so my days are pretty packed, but I feel we have a great team that knows how to delegate and that's helped with the balancing act.

JESSE: Primarily I'm a director. It's what I love the most, and it's what I get the most out of doing.

I also enjoy artistic directing and producing – which are, honestly, pretty much the same exact thing. They're both about figuring out which shows are going to happen – including how they would fit into a season or a repertory merger, how different artists would be able to grow through their work on certain projects, how to get audiences engaged in the work, et cetera – and then doing all of the necessary work to make this happen. There are a lot of theatre pieces out there that I would want to produce or, as artistic director, chose for my company to produce that I wouldn't want to direct – plays that I feel audiences will want or need to see and interact with, art that I would feel proud of having been involved with, but that I don't want to spend all of my waking hours inhabiting, like I would if I were directing it.

Sometimes I've just directed plays, sometimes I've just produced them, and sometimes I manage, somehow, to do both.

On this project, I've been directing one of the three plays, Mare Cognitum – which, as a revival, with the same three actors, isn't taking up as much of my time as it would if I were directing a play I'd never directed before or with different actors, but is still a lot of work – as well as being sort of the head coordinator of the producing team. I have some other specific producing tasks, as well, but the role I've ended up fitting into best is being the point person who knows what work everybody else is doing and is checking in on their progress and offering suggestions and, when someone has a question about what's going on, I either know the answer or know how to get the answer quickly from someone else. It's been an interesting and organic process figuring out which of us producers is doing what, based on what our specialties and experiences already are as well as how much time we have to devote to the producing of this project, and we've slowly shifted some of our roles around over the last few months.

These past couple of months, I haven't been doing much else with my life. If I were, I wouldn't have been able to sign on to do as much for this project as I've been doing, I think.

DUNCAN: My main vocation is as a playwright, but here I'm also producing, and doing graphic design. I was unfortunately let go from my money-job in December, so I've been on unemployment for several months, which certainly gives me more time to work on things, so that's a mixed blessing.

Me: Finally, what have you learned from this experience working together as co-producers? Do you recommend this model to other indie theater producers? What advice can you offer to producers based on what you’ve learned/accomplished so far in Get S.O.M.?

DUNCAN: For me personally, this is my first time producing outside a festival setting. It's been really exciting for me to see all the other stuff that goes on. I would certainly recommend this model to other producers, but you have to like and trust each other, both as friends and colleagues, for it to really work, I'd think.

JESSE: I have three main pieces of advice:

1) Make sure you're in it for the same, or complimentary, reasons. In this process we're working with maybe six sets of goals – the mission statements for the three companies, as well as the personal missions for this project of myself, Duncan, and Mike. Before we agreed to do this, we talked about what we'd like and what we'd need to get out of this, not just monetarily but also artistically and ethically, and, wonderfully, we realized that it looked like we could meet all of our goals with this one project.

2) Agree to your terms ahead of time. There aren't necessarily many of these, but the important things – who's going to pay for what, who's going to get what back, what can each of these companies and people provide, what our ideals for a budget look like – are very important things to decide upon at the beginning. Building some wiggle room in can't hurt – we have – but we've also built what would happen if certain things get wiggled around a bit. Since we've agreed to what our terms are, we won't get sideswiped with broken unspoken expectations later, and we can keep focused on the work of actually producing these shows.

3) Whenever possible, keep the lines of communication open, and avoid making executive decisions on behalf of everybody. In fact, budget extra time for this. We've been having regular producing meetings, and in between these we've been writing extended and detailed conversations via email on tons of subjects daily, in addition to myriad phone calls and text messages. We've used a lot of time coming to slow consensus on a lot of topics, but because we have we're all happy about how nearly everything is going and are getting everything done.

MICHAEL: I have learned that this process takes a lot of time and a lot of planning. We have made it a point to always make decisions once everyone has had their say and that can lead to very long email chains, but it's ultimately for the best. I have learned that good business partners are strongest where you're weak. I can't put together a graphic image but Duncan can make beautiful postcards. I can analyze wrap reports and construct pretty solid ticket selling strategies, but the little things sometimes fall to the way side and Jesse is amazing when it comes to catching those things that fall through the cracks. We're all artists, but we have VERY different ways of working and that makes for a much more enjoyable process because we pick up where the others leave off. It's good knowing there's always someone there if you don't have time to send out that last email or deliver that last form.

I do [recommend this model to other indie theater producers]. This is the time to look at what you bring to the table and what other people need. You may have a great relationship with the press, but no show worth talking about, and another company may have an amazing playwright, but no real street cred. If you join forces, you'll cut your costs and you'll both get something great out of the collaboration. You never know what you can do with another company until you try.

Start early. Even now, I feel like I wish I had started this even earlier than I did, We've been working on this since January and May came faster than I can imagine.

Know what you want to get out of it and be clear about expectations. Everybody is going to want different things, decide if you can get what you want together before you start the process. It's not a good situation if there's no structure to your agreement. We have contracts for that purpose.

Be willing to compromise. Nothing will get done if you say no to everything and odds are no one will want to work with you. There will always be some decisions you don't agree with, but if you shoot every idea somebody else has down, you'll never get anywhere. That's what I like about this collaboration. There's plenty of give and take.
Lastly, Indie Theatre is TOO BIG to compete. There are way too many of us, so why wouldn't you want to increase your audience base and introduce another company's fans to your work? We're in this together. I'm willing to help any Indie Theatre member out regardless of how my sales are because we're all drinking from the same fountain and we need to work together to keep that water pumping.

The plays comprising GET S.O.M.! are: Mare Cognitum, Squiggy and the Goldfish, and Ore, or Or. Thanks to Emily Owens for coordinating this cyberinterview, and to Jesse, Michael, and Duncan for sharing their insights.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Theatre of the Small-Eyed Bear Speaks: An Interview with a Playwright, a Director, and a Producer -- Part 1

Get S.O.M. is the umbrella title for a partnership of three indie theater companies, who are producing three plays in repertory in May at the WorkShop Theatre. The companies are Theatre of the Expendable, Small Pond Entertainment, and Cross-Eyed Bear Productions; the plays they are mounting (respectively) are Mare Cognitum by David McGee, Squiggy and the Goldfish by Lenny Schwartz, and Ore, or Or by Duncan Pflaster. In today’s declining economy it’s getting harder and harder for indie theatre companies to be able to afford to produce their work in New York City. These three companies have banded together to share production costs, performance space, design teams, and resources to present these three shows.

I asked the three men who are the principals of this unusual partnership to talk to the Good News Theatre Blog about their producing model. They've obliged with great generosity. So I'm turning over the nytheatre i today and tomorrow to Jesse Edward Rosbrow (TOTE), Michael Roderick (Small Pond), and Duncan Pflaster (Cross-Eyed Bear). In today's segment, we talk about how this collaboration came to be, and the special "extra" events they're offering apart from the three mainstage productions.

Me: Gentlemen, congratulations on this exciting endeavor. Can you each talk about how this collaboration came to be? How did you guys meet? How did you decide to work together in this innovative way?

DUNCAN: I've known Michael for several years and we've always been on each other's periphery, but we've never worked together till now. Jesse I met last year when Theatre of the Expendable did a workshop of my play Ore, or Or as part of their New Works Festival in the dark nights of their production of Three Sisters. Jesse and Michael came up with the idea for this repertory merger, and invited me along for the ride.

MICHAEL: I had been doing networking parties for Indie Theatre companies and at the time, I was working with a board member of TOTE who suggested that Jesse come and be a part of our networking evening. I invited him along and got to meet the gang and eventually got to see one of TOTE's productions and was really impressed. I subsequently invited TOTE to be part of any other networking event I had coming up. Duncan's company also participated in my networking parties. He also was part of the first Producer's Sprint where four producers put up brand new shows in one week and his show was part of TOTE's reading series that was going on during their production of Three Sisters.

At Three Sisters, Jesse had mentioned to me that he wanted to sit down and talk about producing with me at some point. We met at the Tea Spot in the West Village and started discussing how difficult the times were and how we each had shows we wanted to produce, but knew that there were limited resources. I had mentioned how I really wanted to direct Squiggy and the Goldfish, but I wasn't going to produce it on my own, so I asked if he'd be interested in joining forces and perhaps putting our shows in rep. We then decided that it would make even more sense if we got three companies together at which point we both thought that Duncan's company would be a great choice since TOTE had already done a reading of Duncan's show. We realized that each of the shows we wanted to produce had a magical realism quality so we decided that it'd be really cool to do all three in rep. We then brought on a few associate producers to help us and broke down duties and started getting this thing going as well as getting it into the press and building buzz.

JESSE: Mike and I were getting coffee one day, and were brainstorming about the problems our companies were facing. 2008 was a watershed year for Theatre of the Expendable, and I was trying to figure out how we could do at least as much if not more with less funding. One of the ideas I'd already had was to put up a few shows in rep (perhaps including a remounting of Mare Cognitum, which we produced and I directed in the 2008 New York International Fringe Festival). Doing this could cut many costs for us, but still might cost a bit too much on its own, and it would likely also require a larger producing infrastructure than we had. Mike mentioned that he'd been bitten by the directing bug for the first time in a while, and wanted to direct Squiggy and the Goldfish, but that since he'd be directing it as well as producing he'd need some kind of other serious producer on board to shoulder some of the producing jobs. We realized, hey, the solution to these two problems is the same one.

Then we thought, well, can we find a third company who might want to get involved in this with us? We immediately knew which company was the obvious choice – Cross-Eyed Bear Productions, Duncan Pflaster's company. Mike and I both know Duncan – in fact, Mike introduced Duncan to me – and this play of his, Ore, or Or, was one which Theatre of the Expendable produced a staged reading of in our First Annual New Works Festival back in 2008. So, we jumped on asking Duncan if this sounded like as good of an idea to him as it sounded to us, and the answer was, "Yes!"

Me: I know there are many other events scheduled as part of this group “repertory season” in addition to the three plays. Can you tell us more about them?

JESSE: Sure! We're also presenting our Arts in Action series, which are a slew of interactive works where our audiences can become involved in facets of this repertory merger. For example, we have interactive readings of short plays by the authors of our three mainstage productions – where a director will present a reading of a short play that has already been rehearsed with a cast, but then the plays will be read a second time with volunteers from the audience, with the assistance of the director, taking over the roles. We'll have panel discussions on aspects of our mainstage plays, as well as a panel discussion and a mixer for producers, where the producers of this project as well as other collaborative projects like this one will be on hand to explain how we managed to do this and offer advice to other producers who are considering ventures like this. We'll have a playwriting workshop where people will be helped through the process of writing short plays based upon the themes of the three mainstage plays, after which their short plays will then be rehearsed and will have readings where they can invite people to see and hear their work. And, too, we're going to have events where the audience will be encouraged to stay after a performance and have a drink with the playwright – and, if they want, challenge the playwright to a drinking game based upon the themes of their play.

DUNCAN: The Arts In Action series will include post-show Q&As with the playwrights on selected nights (which will be in the form of drinking games- mine involves haiku), a poetry workshop, a playwriting workshop, readings of other plays by the playwrights that share themes with the main play (mine is Six Silences in Three Movements, a one-act which I was working on around the same time as Ore, or Or, and has a lot of the same theatrical elements- much like Thornton Wilder's The Happy Journey to Trenton and Camden has elements in common with Our Town). We've also just added a Producer's Panel, which should be very interesting.

MICHAEL: There is an "Arts in Action" series which you can read more about on the website http://www.totseb.com/. This will involve audience memebers seeing new plays by the playwrights as well as getting a chance to act and be part of the development experience. We also have drinking games with the playwrights, a panel on collaborative producing and much more. I'm excited that the education element will be included in this process as I have a real passion for adding educational experiences to the viewing of the work. I am happy that Ore's director Laura Moss volunteered to head this up as it is also a big undertaking.

The plays comprising GET S.O.M.! are: Mare Cognitum, Squiggy and the Goldfish, and Ore, or Or. Check back tomorrow for Part 2 of the interview, which is about roles, dividing up the work, and lessons learned.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Theater in Brooklyn -- Trav S.D. Hosts a Panel

Today's Good News Item is from our colleague Trav S.D.:

Trav S.D., The Theatre Museum and the Brooklyn Public Library Present

Theater in Brooklyn: Past, Present and Future: A Panel Discussion at the Brooklyn Public Library’s Dweck Center in conjunction with the Theatre Museum Exhibition Brooklyn Sees Stars -- Saturday, May 16, 4pm. Admission is FREE.

Once upon a time, Brooklyn’s theatre scene was one of the most vibrant in the country…before television, movies, and decades of living in the shadow of Manhattan took their toll. Today, it’s on the upswing again, and promises to get even better in the immediate future.

In conjunction with the Theatre Museum’s Brooklyn Sees Stars exhibition at the Brooklyn Public Library, Brooklyn-based author, journalist and performer Trav S.D. will provide a brief snapshot of Brooklyn theatre back in the day, and also interview a panel of representatives from several of Brooklyn’s thriving performing arts organizations and consortia to learn about their recent activities and future plans. Participants include:

- Virginia Louloudes, executive director of A.R.T./New York
- Robert Elmes of Galapagos
- Eric Richmond, of the Brooklyn Lyceum
- Craig Morrison, architectural historian and curator of the Theater Museum’s Brooklyn Sees Stars exhibition
- Bill Updegraff, marketing director of the Arts at St. Ann’s
- Terry Greiss of Irondale Ensemble Project

Trav S.D. is the author of No Applause, Just Throw Money: the Book That Made Vaudeville Famous (Faber & Faber, 2005) and over 300 published articles in the Village Voice, Time Out New York, American Theatre, the New York Sun, and many others, in addition to being the host of the Indie Theatre Now podcast on nytheatre.com. He has also written over 50 plays, which have been produced at such venues Joe's Pub, LaMama, Theater for the New City, HERE, the Ohio, the Brick, Dixon Place, and numerous others in NYC, around the nation and in London. His voice has been heard on National Public Radio, WNYC, WOR, WBAI, WFMU, et al.

Founded in 2003, The Theatre Museum is New York State's first and only chartered, non-profit museum dedicated to the history of theatre. The Museum's programs include community outreach, education programs and the annual Theatre Museum Awards for Excellence Ceremony. The museum's primary mission is to preserve, protect and perpetuate the legacy of theatre through innovative programming. It currently functions as a museum-at-large while looking for permanent gallery space.

The Dweck Center for Contemporary Culture is located at the main branch of the Brooklyn Public Library, Grand Army Plaza, Brooklyn. For more information about this event: 347-419-4590.

Brooklyn Sees Stars is funded in part by a generous grant from the New York Council for the Humanities.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

The Good News Theatre Awards

Regular readers of this blog and its predecessor and other stuff I've written know that I'm not a big fan of theatre awards. I think that putting up a slate of five actors in five different performances, and then selecting just one of those as the "best" of the season, is reductive and not particularly interesting or valuable.

But I do think that recognizing outstanding and memorable work, publicly and enthusiastically, is always worth doing. So I think it's useful to pause, as we near the end of the 2008-09 season, and as numerous bodies begin bestowing awards on this and that, to acknowledge some of the shows that really mattered to me this year. Note that while I liked and admired and enjoyed literally hundreds of shows and performances this season, I am writing here about the rare few that felt cathartic and transformative to me.

On three occasions this season I found myself moved beyond expectation or description. The first was when I saw All My Sons, which featured performances by John Lithgow, Dianne Wiest, and Patrick Wilson that got to the heart of the family in peril at the center of Arthur Miller's tragedy. The second was the night I saw Kirk Wood Bromley's it has no title, which I thought and thought about for fully a day and night before I appreciated what it was about--what an extraordinary work of art he created. The last was the extraordinary revival of Our Town, staged by David Cromer at Barrow Street Theatre.

So that's MY New York Theatre Experience. What's yours? I hope you will post a comment here to share the show(s) that mattered most to you during the past 12 months. Together we can compile a list of notable theatre that deserves our collective respect and gratitude. Hopefully we can inspire artists to give us more of the same in 2009-2010.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Three Survivors of Hiroshima at the Ohio Theatre

The very best thing about my job is that almost every night I am invited (by playwrights, actors, directors, etc.) to take a journey, where I generally meet intriguing people, go unusual and unexpected places, and learn something new about the human condition.

Sometimes, there's a bonus on top of that experience--which is what happened to me last night.

I was invited to see the very first preview of Chiori Miyagawa's new play I Have Been to Hiroshima Mon Amour at the Ohio Theatre. It's a beautiful piece--I'll have a review for everybody to read next week. It's about a Japanese man whose fiancee was killed at Hiroshima on August 6, 1945 and a French actress whom he meets in Hiroshima 14 years later; and also about a group of contemporary Americans watching Alain Resnais's film Hiroshima Mon Amour.

What made last night's performance special was the fact that three survivors of Hiroshima were in the audience as honored guests:
  • Ms. Toshiko Tanaka was six years old and was burned during the bombing. She explained that her family's home had been right near Ground Zero in Hiroshima but they had been forced by the government to move shortly before the bombing and so escaped certain death as a result.
  • Mr. Hiro Iso was four years old. His immediate family survived the bombing (though his uncle and cousins did not) and they relocated to the countryside where it was "clean" and never returned to Hiroshima.
  • Mr. Takehisa Yamamoto was a year old in 1945. He told an astonishing story about his father, a teacher in Hiroshima on the day of the bombing: he was shielded from the intense heat by a tree, and was thrown to the ground by the impact. When he regained consciousness, there was not a trace of any of his students.

Our three guests watched the play with us, then delivered some brief remarks and participated in a question and answer session (some of the highlights of which I have just imparted).

Ms. Tanaka spoke for all three when she said that at 70 she is not sure how much longer she will be able to recount her experiences to young people--and that young people, in America and Japan, do not know enough about what happened on August 6, 1945 at Hiroshima and on August 9, 1945 at Nagasaki. These three survivors are in New York City as guests of Youth Arts New York and have toured schools in NYC and around the world to share their experiences.

I felt enormously privileged to have been in the audience, to hear first hand from these three about an event I know too little about. I am grateful to Chiori for inviting me to this special evening, and to all the folks at Voice and Vision and Crossing Jamaica Avenue, producers of I Have Been to Hiroshima Mon Amour, for making it possible.

Friday, May 8, 2009

14th Annual Lower East Side Festival of the Arts

Today's Good News Item is from Bob Lasko, publicist for Theater for the New City's Festival:

NEW YORK CITY'S MOST ECLECTIC FREE 3-DAY ARTS FESTIVAL
NOW IN ITS 14TH YEAR at THEATER FOR THE NEW CITY!

Theater for the New City presents
THE 14th ANNUAL LOWER EAST SIDE (LES) FESTIVAL OF THE ARTS

Friday-Sunday, May 22, 23 & 24 (Memorial Day Weekend)

FREE—Theatre, Music, Dance, Puppetry, Poetry, Film, Cultural Fair and more FOR THE ENTIRE FAMILY!

Some of the sparkling talent and companies set to participate include: JAZZ LEGEND DAVID AMRAM, TALK-SHOW LEGEND JOE FRANKLIN, THE LIVING THEATRE'S JUDITH MALINA, VINIE BURROWS, TAYLOR MEAD, PHOEBE LEGERE, THE LOVE SHOW,NEW YORK THEATRE WORKSHOP, ROD ROGERS DANCE COMPANY, TRASHED ON FICTION,JUDY GORMAN, LA MAMA, JOE'S PUB, THE MARIANA BECKERMAN DANCE COMPANY, DADA NEW YORK, THE BANGLADESH THEATER OF AMERICA, KINDING SINDAW DANCE COMPANY, AND MANY OTHERS AND MANY NEW UP AND COMING COMPANIES.

Plus, excerpts from Theater for the New City's recent hits and upcoming shows; new works from writers EDUARDO MACHADO, BARBARA KAHN, LISSA MOIRA, and LARRY MYERS, and much more!

The complete lineup and schedule will be posted online at www.theaterforthenewcity.net

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THE 14th ANNUAL LOWER EAST SIDE (LES) FESTIVAL OF THE ARTS will bring together under one roof in just three days over 100 performing arts organizations, local and international celebrities, independent artists, poets, puppeteers, film makers and many others -- all of whom reside, work or have their roots in the culturally diverse, willfully anarchistic Lower East Side -- for New York City's most diverse FREE 3-day festival, from Friday, May 22 through Sunday, May 24, at Theater for the New City (155 1st Avenue, between E. 9th and 10th Sts.) in Manhattan.

The 3-day, indoor and outdoor festival of the arts is organized by Theater for the New City and a coalition of civic, cultural and business leaders, and is FREE to all New Yorkers and visitors. THE LOWER EAST SIDE FESTIVAL OF THE ARTS was founded in 1996 to demonstrate the creative explosion of Manhattan's Lower East Side and the area's importance to the culture and tourism of New York City. Last year's festival attracted more than 3,000 people.

"Art: A Necessity for Life in Good Times and Bad Times" is the theme of the 14th Annual LES FESTIVAL. All weekend events celebrate the rich history of Theater for the New City and the Lower East Side which have embraced all genres of the arts and nurtured artists, including George and Ira Gershwin, Irving Berlin, Yip Harburg, Eddie Candor, Molly Picon, Eugene O'Neill, Mark Twain, and countless others, who have live and created in New York, in poverty and in wealth. The LES FESTIVAL, which continues to offer its events FREE, is a time to remember the past and continue their tradition by continuing to create.

This year's participants, representing the unique ethnic and cultural diversity of the Lower East Side, include an eclectic mix of talent, including Jazz legend David Amram; legendary talk show host Joe Franklin; The Living Theater's Judith Malina; Taylor Mead, Phoebe Legere, Broadway actress Vinie Burrows, folksinger Judy Gorman; downtown favorites Epstein & Hassan (The Black & The Jew), clown The Red Bastard (a.k.a. Eric Davis); theatre and dance companies such as Rod Rodgers Dance Company, Joe's Pub, La MaMa E.T.C., DADA NY, New York Theater Workshop, The Mariana Bekerman Dance Company, the Bangladesh Theatre of America, Kinding Sindaw Dance Company and many more. Plus, there will be new works by established and rapidly rising playwrights including Eduardo Machado, Barbara Kahn, Lissa Moira, Larry Myers, and others to be announced.

Events, from Friday, May 22 through Sunday, May 245, are FREE, open to all, and take place within two theater spaces at Theater for the New City (155 1st Avenue, between E. 9th and 10th Streets) and along East 10th Street between 1st and 2nd Avenues.

Additional attractions throughout the 3-day event include film, and multimedia, dance, poetry, puppetry, musicians, readings, theater pieces that reflect the LES life, and an art installation, representing some of New York's most original fine artists.

Participants include artists presently residing on the Lower East Side, arts groups performing in the area, prominent writers and artists whose work has dealt directly with the Lower East Side experience, and emerging playwrights who have written original works specifically for the festival.

Festivities kick off on Friday, May 22 at Theater for the New City at 6pm, with performances hosted by Theater for the New City Artistic Director Crystal Field, Alberto Minero, Susan Gittens, and Sol Escheverria; followed by cabaret, music, comedy and eclectic acts, hosted by actor Robert Fitzsimmons.

On Saturday, May 23, THE 14th ANNUAL LOWER EAST SIDE FESTIVAL OF THE ARTS offers a day-long block party, hosted by composer/satirist Richard West, featuring performances from musicians, singers, belly and flamenco dancers, comics, poets and more, as well as a community Arts Fair with food and crafts vendors. Additional ttractions on Saturday afternoon will emphasize performances with and by kids and tweens, hosted by performer John Grimaldi curated by actor and teacher the talented Primy Rivera and Lily Burd.

Another highlight on Saturday, May 23 is the LES Film Festival. Francesse M. Maingrette hosts screenings of full-length features, shorts, and animation about the Lower East Side and its inhabitants, or created by local filmmakers.

On Sunday, May 24, playwright and poet Lissa Moira hosts a poetry and performance tribute to Jushi, a late poet, musician, performance artist and longtime supporter of The LES Festival whose memory lives in the work of today's artists.

THE 14th ANNUAL LOWER EAST SIDE FESTIVAL OF THE ARTS features performances for and by kids, and performers with disabilities. Additionally, the distinct ethnic communities of the Lower East Side are amply represented, including the Latin American, African American, Chinese, Indian, Irish, Italian, Jewish, Native American, Polish and Ukrainian communities.

THE 14th ANNUAL LOWER EAST SIDE FESTIVAL OF THE ARTS runs in and around Theater for the New City (155 1st Avenue, between E. 9th and 10th Streets) throughout Memorial Day weekend: Friday, May 22, 6pm-1am; Saturday, May 23, 10am-1am (10am-6pm - Cultural Fair, outside on East 10th Street between 1st and Second Avenues; 2pm-5pm - Performances for kids and by kids, inside Theater for the New City); and Sunday, May 24, 6pm-1am.

All events are FREE and open to the public. For additional information and a full performance schedule, please call Theater for the New City at 212-254-1109 or visit www.theaterforthenewcity.net.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Beyond the Mirror, Featuring Afghanistan's Exile Theatre, Heading to San Francisco

About 3-1/2 years ago, I had the privilege of seeing Beyond the Mirror, a collaboration between the American theatre troupe Bond Street Theatre and Afghanistan's Exile Theatre, in its NYC premiere at Theatre for the New City. What impressed me most about this piece was that it provided us with a chance to engage with artists from a country that ours has been intimately involved with for nearly a decade yet with which we have very little first-hand experience. I wrote this in my review:

Consider it: four performers from Afghanistan, a country we invaded just four years ago, are here in America, working with members of the New York-based Bond Street Theatre to share stories of their own lives and experiences and those of their countrymen and -women, in their own words, in their own language, in their own theatrical and musical vocabulary. The courage required to do this—a dangerous and fearful proposition on a number of levels—is breathtaking. I always say that people who work in the world of independent theatre do so only because they have something compelling and important to impart to audience. These remarkable performers, who have journeyed more than 6,000 miles to bring their play to us, exemplify that idea, and reinforce the great power of theatre to break down barriers and bring people from different cultural, religious, and ethnic backgrounds together. That they stay after each show for a half-hour talkback with the audience reveals still more about the nature and level of their commitment. How many Afghan people can be visiting the United States at this moment? We are honored to host these guests from Kabul's Exile Theatre. The thousand or so people who will actually take advantage of this opportunity to see and hear them during Beyond the Mirror's three-week run at Theater for the New City are privileged beyond measure.

So I'm excited to be able to report--for our friends on the Other Coast--that Beyond the Mirror is headed to San Francisco in May and June. Here are the details, courtesy of publicist Jonathan Slaff:

Beyond the Mirror began in the Afghan refugee camps in northern Pakistan in 2002. Members of Bond Street Theatre, performing for children in the refugee schools, met a dauntless group of Afghan actors who dared to present live theatre despite the restrictions of the times. This group was Exile Theatre.

The two companies were immediately drawn to each other's theatrical views, and planned to create a new work together. This plan came to fruition the following year in Kabul and, since that time, has grown into a full length theatre work. Beyond the Mirror made its world premiere at the 2nd Afghan Theatre Festival in Kabul in August 2005. Since then, the play has been presented in Japan, Baltimore and New York, and now makes its West Coast premiere at two prestigious San Francisco festivals.

Beyond the Mirror is a journey through three decades of war and occupation in Afghanistan and a search for stability and peace. Woven through myths and memories, filmed montages and first-hand accounts, traditional dances and live music, story-telling and family histories, Beyond the Mirror weaves an intricate tapestry of events, both desperate and hopeful. Don't miss the chance to see this unique, rare and moving piece!

San Francisco International Arts Festival -- presenting acclaimed international companies
May 29, 30 and 31 -- Friday & Saturday @ 9:00 pm, Sunday @ 1:00 pm
Cowell Theater -- Fort Mason Center, San Francisco
Tickets at www.sfiaf.org or 1-800-838-3006

Fury Factory Theatre Festival -- presenting cutting edge work by ensemble theatres
June 11, Thursday at 9:00 pm; June 12, Friday at 7:00 pm; June 18, Thursday at 7:00 pm
Traveling Jewish Theatre -- 470 Florida Street, San Francisco
Tickets at jewishtheatre.atjt.com or 415-292-1233

Please check www.bondst.org for video-lecture and workshop schedule and additional performances. Lectures and workshops are currently available for booking. Contact info@bondst.org.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Jen Nails: From Performer to Writer (and Back Again)

Jen Nails shares some of her journey--from actress to improv performer to teacher to novelist--in today's edition of the Good News Theater Blog.

I've known Jen for more than a decade; we met after she appeared in the early Amnesia Wars improv show Honey Harlowe, and I've been following her burgeoning and diverse career ever since. She's just published a book, Next to Mexico, which is based on her one-woman show Lylice (which I saw in an early incarnation years ago, and which is now back at the PIT for a month of performances.) I asked Jen to talk about her show, her book, and how she's progressed through the various phases of her show-biz/literary life:

ME: Jen, your character Lylice Martin has been around for quite some time (I remember "meeting" her many years ago myself!). But I suspect that some readers may somehow not be familiar with Lylice. So can you start out by telling us who Lylice is, and what her eponymous show is about?

JEN: Lylice is a sixth grader at Susan B. Anthony Elementary school. She's outspoken, ambitious and the star Blue Ribbon Reader in her English class. Basically, the biggest nerd in school. In Lylice, I play the title character and five of her teachers. The play takes you through Lylice's final year at SBA, gingerly transporting you back to the hideous world of middle school.

ME: Lots of our readers are artists themselves. Can you give us a sense of how you created and developed this character?

JEN: I wrote my first Lylice song in college (over ten years ago) and then moved to New York to audition for theater. I found out I wasn't a very good legit singer and always felt uncomfortable trying, and usually embarrassed myself. Yay! But when I tried improv I loved it and I was hooked. Improvisation made me feel comfortable and strengthened my confidence. I went back to the song I wrote so many years before, and revisited the character Lylice, and started writing other songs and playing them at open mics. Within a few months, I had a handful of songs and then I started writing monologues to compliment the music. Lylice is a combination of how I was in middle school mixed with how I wish I'd been.

ME: You are now a master teacher at the PIT. Tell us about the class(es) you teach, what you look for in students, and how prospective students can learn more about them?

JEN: I teach a solo performance class at the PIT called Do It Yourself. Over the past six years it's grown from one to three levels. In levels two and three, students are guaranteed a 30-minute slot at the PIT to perform their solo show. Every student in Do It Yourself is different and I always stress that no one can do YOUR solo show better than YOU can. I think that is one of the wonderful things about solo performance -- it's all yours and there's no competition. I think the "secret" to solo performance is to find what you're good at, what you love, what you feel best doing, and explode it onto the stage.

ME: Finally, I am so thrilled that you have put Lylice's adventures into a book. Tell us how this came about. How were you able to make the transition from performer to novelist?

JEN: I had always wanted to write a book. After doing Lylice for several years in schools, I realized that the character might work well in book form and that that would be a great way (ideally) to share Lylice with a wide audience. I have always written and have always loved writing, so it made sense that that would be my next step. I enjoyed the process of writing a novel (okay, it's a love/hate thing but I'm into that I guess) so much that I am just about to graduate from The New School with my MFA in Writing for Children, and am hard at work on a second novel for kids. But I couldn't have written Next to Mexico (based on Lylice) unless I'd written those songs so long ago and performed that show for all of those years. I never saw myself as an official writer at all. I have reconciled that I'm not performing as much lately. It took a while to accept that I have moved on rather than have given up. Those "give up" words are so hard for us actors to take, and I think we are never really looking for fame and fortune, most of us, we are just looking for a way to create something, to make something out of nothing, and make a decent living at it. After over thirteen years in New York, I feel I am just beginning.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Drama League Directors Project Symposium

Here's some good info from our friends at The Drama League:
The Drama League is pleased to announce that Oskar Eustis, Artistic Director for The Public Theater, will serve as the Keynote Speaker for The 2009 Directors Project Symposium on Saturday, May 16, 2009. This year's symposium, titled "Directing Today - and the Next 25 Years," features a day-long series of panel discussions on the craft of stage directing, all of which are free and open to the public, though reservations are required.

The symposium begins at 10 a.m. at the New School for Drama (151 Bank Street) with a presentation and keynote speech by Mr. Eustis. An audience Q&A will follow the presentation. A full series of panel discussions will continue throughout the day, featuring a variety of accomplished industry professionals, including:

• Diane Paulus (Director of Hair)
• Ginny Louloudes (Executive Director of ART/NY)
• Carl Forsman (Artistic Director of the Keen Company)
• Morgan Jenness (Abrams Artists Agency)
• Kristin Marting (Artistic Director of HERE)
• Alex Timbers (Artistic Director of Les Freres Corbusier)

Panel topics include:

• "Directing and Producing Theatre in the New Economy"
• "The Director/Playwright Relationship"
• "The Business of Show: Promoting and Marketing Yourself"
• "Articulating and Sustaining Your Artistic Mission"

For a complete schedule of panels and participants, please visit http://www.dramaleague.org/.

Admission to The 2009 Directors Project Symposium is free, but seats are limited. To reserve a seat for any of the panels, please email symposium@dramaleague.org.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Immersive Theatre: I'm Hosting a Panel

On Saturday, May 23, from 12:00 - 2:00 pm, I will be moderating a panel about Immersive Theater at the theatre at St. John's University's Manhattan Campus, at 101 Murray Street. I hope many of you reading this will join us for what promises to be a stimulating discussion!

So what do I mean by Immersive Theater?

I'm talking about the kind of theater where the audience engages actively in the theatre experience. This is NOT the same thing as interactive theatre a la Tony & Tina's Wedding -- that experience can be fun but from the audience's perspective, how different is it from any public event or party?

No, Immersive Theater is a happening, where as soon as you arrive you are removed from the set of rules you expect and placed in a new context with a new set of rules that are probably not spelled out but that rather you must infer -- this inference being a significant part of the theatrical event. Now that makes it sound dry and theoretical, which is almost never the case. Immersive Theater, in my experience, is never dry or theoretical. It's active, it's engaging, it's fun, it's surprising. And when it's done well it can make for an artful experience that will stick with you for a very long time.

Joining me at this panel to talk about Immersive Theater will be a group of expert practitioners who each implement the ideas of the form in very different ways:
  • Kirk Wood Bromley, a playwright and director, most recently presented it has no title at the Access Gallery

  • Frank Cwiklik, also a playwright and director (I call him a theatre auteur), runs DM Theatrics

  • Stephen O'Connell, Lucy Simic, and Daniel Pettrow are from the theatre company bluemouth inc., who just performed How Soon Is Now? at Irondale Ensemble Project

This event is free, and is generously presented by St. John's University Dept of Rhetoric Communications & Theater, with Dr. Larry Myers (Associate Professor's RWM Playwrights Lab).

Email me if you would like more information. For directions to 101 Murray Street, click here.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

BMI Workshop Publishes a Songbook

The BMI Foundation, Inc. has justy announced the publication of The BMI Workshop Songbook, a piano/vocal folio featuring 20 new, never-before released songs written by members and alumni of the BMI Lehman Engel Musical Theatre Workshop. The songs were chosen for their appeal and usefulness for singers searching for fresh audition, cabaret, and concert material.

Here's a complete list of the songs included in the book: “Back Home” - lyrics by Frank Evans, music by Christopher Berg; “Belle Reve”- music and lyrics by Beth Falcone; “Death by a Thousand Cuts” – lyrics by Beth Blatt, music by Jenny Giering; “Dream Come True” – music and lyrics by Lucy Coolidge; “Gonna Spend The Whole Day Fishin’” – lyrics by Patrick Cook, music by Fredrick Freyer; “Happy”- lyrics by Jill Abramovitz, music by Joy Son; “He’s My Tiger, She’s My Fox”- music and lyrics by Davia Sacks; “I Just Met a Man” – lyrics by Nancy Stark, music by Gerald Stockstill; “It Just Wasn’t Meant to Happen”- music and lyrics by Barry Wyner; “Just Some Guy” – lyrics by Justin Warner, music by Peter Yarin; “The Kid” – lyrics by Jack Lechner, music by Andy Monroe; “Man in the Moon” – music and lyrics by Jeff Blumenkrantz; “My Thing”- lyrics by Susan Murray, music by Marty Fernandi; “One Step Ahead of Goodbye”- lyrics by Amanda Green, music by Tom Kitt; “The Pregnancy Song” – lyrics and music by Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez; “Rock City”- lyrics by Adam Mathias, music by Brad Alexander; “Song for Frances”- music and lyrics by Maury Yeston; “Table Three” – lyrics by Michael Biello, music by Dan Martin; “There’s a World Out There” – lyrics by Alison Hubbard, music by Kim Oler; and “Tom Sawyer”- music and lyrics by Michael John LaChiusa.

The BMI Foundation, Inc. is a not-for-profit corporation founded in 1985 to support the creation, performance and study of music through awards, scholarships, commissions and grants. Tax-deductible donations to the Foundation come primarily from songwriters, composers and publishers, BMI employees, and members of the public with a special interest in music. Because both the Foundation staff and the distinguished members of the advisory panel serve without compensation, over 95% of all donations and income are used for charitable grants.

There's info about The BMI Workshop Songbook, including a link to purchase it plus links to many audio samples, here.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

@ Seaport is Looking for Indie Companies

We just posted a podcast that I recorded with Jeff Cohen about the new Lower Manhattan venue he is managing, @ Seaport. It's a beautiful space on the site of the old Liz Claiborne store in South Street Seaport.

During the podcast, Jeff announced that he is recruiting indie companies to present at the space. This could be a terrific opportunity for talented companies looking to produce in a nontraditional venue. Listen to the podcast to find out more about @ Seaport and how to get in touch with Jeff.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Help Stolen Chair Get a $3K Social Networking Grant

A couple of months ago, I told you about some of the innovative ways that Stolen Chair Theatre Company has approached fundraising in these difficult economic times. Now SCTC artistic director Jon Stancato has alerted me to yet another inventive way this company is looking to fund its work:

Stolen Chair is among a very small handful of organizations currently eligible for a nice $3,000 award from the Jenzabar Foundation. They asked for nonprofits to submit narratives of how they use social media to raise awareness and funds for their work. Worthy submissions are posted on their blog. In the spirit of social media, the submission with the most comments receives the cash.

Our submission was accepted. It is here: http://thejenzabarfoundationblog.com/2009/04/09/the-stolen-chair-theatre-company/.

People just need to write something positive (like "Rock on Stolen Chair! This all sounds incredible!") on Jenzabar's blog. Click here and comment away!http://thejenzabarfoundationblog.com/2009/04/09/the-stolen-chair-theatre-company/or http://bit.ly/2nwHO
Thanks in advance!

I applaud Jon and the Chairs for putting together their application. I've commented on the Jenazabar blog already. I hope many of you will, too, so that we can get this award for one of our own great NYC indie theater companies.