Tag Archive | "Bay Street"

Bay Street’s First Annual New Works Festival Highlights Emerging Playwrights

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By Tessa Raebeck

From farmers contending with fracking interests in rural Pennsylvania to unrequited love for a high school flame built up to unrealistic—and potentially devastating—expectations, Bay Street Theatre is exploring the various manifestations of struggle this spring.

The Sag Harbor theater will open the 2014 season with its first annual New Works Festival April 25 to 27, highlighting the work of three of New York’s emerging playwrights.

The festival will include readings of the newest work by P. Seth Bauer, Jess Brickman and Molly Smith Metzler, as well as talkbacks following each reading, in which the audience can interact directly with the artists. An “Artist Interact” on Saturday will offer further dialogue with the authors through a panel discussion led by award-winning writer John Weidman.

The festival is the first event led by Bay Street’s new artistic director Scott Schwartz, who has voiced his dedication to giving a stage to promising playwrights. Bauer, Brickman and Metzler, are “very exciting writers,” Mr. Schwartz, who is currently out of the country, said in February.

Playwright Molly Smith Metzler. Photo courtesy of Bay Street Theatre.

Playwright Molly Smith Metzler. Photo courtesy of Bay Street Theatre.

In discussing his vision for his inaugural season at Bay Street, Mr. Schwartz and the team at Bay Street have a “deep commitment to new work and developing new plays and musicals at the theater.”

Bay Street Executive Director Tracy Mitchell reiterated that sentiment on Monday.

“When Scott came to us as our new artistic director, one of the first things we talked about was really wanting to go back to trying to include — well, first of all,  — extending our season into the shoulder seasons by helping artists with their new work. It’s something that we wanted to do for a long time and with his help, we’ve been able to implement it,” Ms. Mitchell said.

The festival is being produced in association with SPACE on Ryder Farm, a non-profit artist residency program on the grounds of Ryder Farm in Brewster, New York, “another organization that helps people develop new work,” according to Ms. Mitchell. Led by founding executive director Emily Ryder Simoness, SPACE provides writers and theater companies with residencies.

Mr. Schwartz and Ms. Simoness together decided on the plays to be featured in the festival and cast them using Bay Street’s equity actors.

“Fight Call” by Jess Brickman, a graduate of the Juilliard School’s Lila Acheson Wallace American Playwrights Program, will be read on Friday, April 25 at 8 p.m. The backstage comedy about the theater world explores the boundaries of trust between an up-and-coming young actor and a seasoned veteran after one threatens to commit an act of violence on stage during their performance.

Playwright Jess Brickman. Photo courtesy of Bay Street Theatre.

Playwright Jess Brickman. Photo courtesy of Bay Street Theatre.

In addition to plays, Ms. Brickman has written essays, articles, screenplays and for television and web series. After premiering at Lincoln Center, her films, “The Five Stages of Grief” and “I Am Not a Moose” were selected at the Hamptons Film Festival and several other festivals for the 2013 circuit.

On April 26, the second day of the festival will begin with the panel discussion at 4 p.m., followed by a cocktail reception. Led by John Weidman, the panel will allow audience members to ask questions of the playwrights, Mr. Weidman and Mr. Schwartz.

Mr. Weidman won a Tony Award for Best Musical Revival for “Assassins,” and has written the books for a variety of musicals, many with scores by Stephen Sondheim.

“This is someone who obviously reached the pinnacle in our world as a playwright,” Ms. Mitchell said.

Following the discussion will be a reading at 8 p.m. of “The Orchard Play” by P. Seth Bauer of Philadelphia.

“It’s a contemporary re-imagining of Chekhov’s ‘Cherry Orchard’,” Mr. Bauer said Tuesday. Old family farms near Mr. Bauer’s home in Pennsylvania, “facing incredible hardships financially,” were offered “enormous sums of money” by oil companies interested in drilling for natural gas through “fracking,” or hydraulic fracturing.

“The paradox was that these farmers, they sold their mineral rights, they ended up decimating their land and drinking water — getting money but perpetuating their own demise,” he said.

“There seemed to be an interesting if painful parallel to be drawn here, so I chose the Chekhov play as my inspiration…is it inevitable, I’m not sure, and it’s not for me to say. I just wanted to humanize the problem and write about people who had a deep and complex love for their home, their legacy and their land,” he added.

Playwright P. Seth Bauer. Photo courtesy of Bay Street Theatre.

Playwright P. Seth Bauer. Photo courtesy of Bay Street Theatre.

The festival ends Sunday at 2 p.m. with a reading of “The May Queen” by Molly Smith Metzler, which will premiere at the Chautauqua Theatre Company in July. The comedy centers on the obsessive love of Mike Petracca for his high school flame, former May Queen Jennifer Nash, and the realities of their reunion versus his high expectations, revealing the strange roles people play — often unknowingly — in each other’s lives.

As the audience learns the backdrop of the creative process through the interactive dialogues, how a play develops from reading to workshop to — ideally — Broadway, the playwrights will be able to bounce their work off the audience.

“The audience is the finishing part of the play,” said Mr. Bauer. “It doesn’t exist without the audience. I can have an idea in my head, but the real test is — does an audience connect with that idea or no.”

The New Works Festival is April 25 to 27 at Bay Street Theatre, 1 Bay Street in Sag Harbor. For more information, call 725-9500 or visit baystreet.org.

With the New Year Comes New Sales for Sag Harbor Shoppers

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Veteran shopper Mara Certic checks out the wares at Urban Zen Monday morning. (Tessa Raebeck photo).

Veteran shopper Mara Certic checks out the wares at Urban Zen Monday morning. (Tessa Raebeck photo).

By Tessa Raebeck

While most retail stores in East Hampton and Southampton board up their windows for the winter, leaving a desolate Main Street for the local population, in Sag Harbor many stores are not only staying open, they’re also offering great deals for the year round community.

The sale signs are popping up across Bay Street and Main Street, with some stores offering as much as 75 percent off select items.

“It’s just a nice way to give back to locals,” says Kim Keller, the manager at Urban Zen on Bay Street, which is offering 50 to 75 percent off select items through March.

Giving back is at the foundation of the Urban Zen business model, which is centered around a “soulful economy,” as Keller calls it.

Haitian crafted goods are for sale at the store through the Haiti Artisan Project. Started by owner Donna Karan following the earthquake that shook Haiti four years ago, the project returns 100 percent of the proceeds from the items to Haiti.

The luxury items at Urban Zen range in price from $20 for “Haiti hearts,” or handmade heart-shaped rocks, to $7,000 for a crystal chandelier handcrafted in Haiti.

In addition to the Haiti Artisan Project samplings, Urban Zen has a variety of pieces from across the world, ranging from handcrafted belts made in Brooklyn by designer Jason Ross to leather jackets made by hand using the best materials in Italy.

“Obviously,” said Keller, “this store could not survive if it weren’t for our summer clientele. Like everyone around here, that is our business.”

Keller added that about two-thirds of the store’s business is conducted from June to Labor Day, but staying open in the winter – and having sales – is Urban Zen’s way to support the local community.

Although most locals may not be stopping into Urban Zen for a $895 cashmere dress from Italy, sales make it tangible to “collect” items by buying one or two pieces a season.

“They’re beautiful,” said Keller, wearing a cashmere sweater, scarf and hat, of the clothes at Urban Zen, “they last forever and go with everything.”

The men’s and women’s stores of Flying Point Surf Boutique on Main Street are similarly thinking of Sag Harbor’s year round community this winter, with sales of 15 to 50 percent off on all summer items.

“It’s basically to bring people in during the winter and help the locals out,” said Loreto Vignapiano, manager at the Flying Point Women’s store in Sag Harbor.

Vignapiano said after realizing last season that a lot of customers were coming into the store looking for summer clothes to wear on tropical vacations this time of year, they decided to put on a winter sale.

Until the new spring gear comes in in March, all swimwear and summer clothing in the women’s store is half off and flip-flops are buy one, get one free.

At the men’s store, board shorts, Reef sandals, and “pretty much all summer clothing” is half off, according to manager Bethany Semlear. Rashguards and tee shirts are buy one, get one free. The store is also offering 25 percent off wetsuit tips, 20 percent off body and boogie boards and 15 to 20 percent off sunglasses.

A few blocks down Main Street at Satori, a women’s boutique, owner Jessica Kenny is offering 30 percent off all clothing, excluding accessories, bras, hats, scarves, gloves, jewelry and some leggings, as part of its end of the season sale.

Kris Kim, a Satori employee, said there is also an ongoing selection of items for 50 percent off in the back of the store.

Traditionally less expensive than its luxury counterparts, Flashbacks is, as usual, offering items for $10 on a sale rack displayed outside the storefront.

An end of season sale of up to 75 percent off items at luxury boutique Life’Style ended last weekend.

A winter promotion at Calypso for 60 percent off of all sale merchandise also ended Monday. With the new collection having just arrived in store, however, manager Jennifer Lucey expects another deal is just around the corner.

Local Cinephiles Handicap the Oscars

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By Clare Walla

Three-hundred-sixty-five days of production, nearly 1,500 films, hundreds of thousands of cast and crew, and over 6,000 votes from members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences—but in the winner’s circle, it all comes down to one.

This Sunday, February 27, televisions across the United Sates will be tuned into The Academy Awards ceremony, broadcast live from the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood, Calif., as many wonder who will take home one of those coveted, gold statuettes.

While Sag Harbor may be one of the furthest places in the continental U.S. from the star-studded streets of Hollywood, ties to the film world are peppered throughout our little seaside village.

So, without further ado, here are some of the voices from our community to weigh-in on the nature of this year’s nominees.

As an organizer for the Haywall Summer Film Series at the Silas Marder Gallery in Bridgehampton, Sag Harbor resident Hilary Hamann is familiar with the art of selection. And she thinks this year’s nominees for Best Picture adequately reflect the best of what this year had to offer.

“What is so great about this year’s selections is that they demonstrate a mature contentment with the small, local, regional,” Hamann wrote in an email. Referencing her four favorite nominees, “Black Swan,” “The King’s Speech,” “The Fighter,” and “Winter’s Bone,” she continued: “Ballet is regional, as is royalty, as is the boxing ring, as is the world of the girl living in the Ozarks. None of these films sensationalize their subject matter. They investigate the soft underbelly of these places.”

While she praised Darren Aronofsky’s directorial expertise on “Black Swan,” and lauded director Debra Granik’s ability to create raw, almost realistic footage for “Winter’s Bone,” ultimately Hamann hopes “The King’s Speech” will take top honors.

“I think the director’s choices here were impeccable—subject matter, performers, direction, etc.” she added.

Screenwriter and Sag Harbor resident Bill Collage—who will pen the upcoming films “Tower Heist,” “Moby Dick,” and “The 10 Commandments”—agreed with Hamann’s praise for Aronofsky, though he took it a step further.

“The best film of the year for me is ‘Black Swan.’ It’s unbelievable visual story telling. Darren Aronofsky is the genius of our era. This was a great companion piece to [his previous film, 2008's] ‘The Wrestler.’ He did something low-brow, then something high-brow,” Collage said, explaining that Aronofsky has a great ability to tap into the troubling side of human emotion from different angles.

While no one seemed poised to push “The Social Network” to the top slot—even though it nabbed the Golden Globe award for Best Feature – Drama last month—Collage did give it credit in the writing department.

“I think the social relevancy of ‘The Social Network’ is on full display,” he said. “Beyond the characters and the story, I think [Aaron] Sorkin gave the audience a challenge that’s very rare in most films.” The film cuts back and forth between two significant aspects of the story and, as Collage pointed out, there are no subtitles to orient the viewer.

“That kind of faith in the American filmgoer is kind of cool,” he added. “I haven’t seen it since ‘Syriana’ [in 2005].”

He believes “The Social Network” should win for Best Adapted Screenplay, and “Inception” (written and directed by Christopher Nolan) should win for Best Original Screenplay.

“‘Inception’ is top-notch,” Collage added.

But of course, as is the nature of art, not everyone agrees.

“Art is a subjective thing,” said Murphy Davis, artistic director at the Bay Street Theatre in Sag Harbor. Case in point, Murphy said he actually walked out of “Inception,” and although he really enjoyed the performances in “Black Swan,” ultimately Davis shrugged and said the movie was “eh.”

“The films that affect me the most are the films that speak to the human spirit,” Davis noted. In fact, he said his four top films would be “The Fighter,” “The Social Network,” “True Grit,” and the film he thinks should take the cake: “The King’s Speech.”

However, he reiterated, “The awards are voted in by Academy members, and because it’s a human voting system, the members will have a human response,” he said. “They’re voting on their guts. Who knows what affects us and why?”

It is partially for this same sentiment that Academy member, and Bridgehampton resident, Anthony Harvey (who directed “A Lion in Winter” and “The Glass Menagerie”) doesn’t give too much weight to the final outcome of the Academy Awards. In fact, to illustrate his thoughts he goes back to 1968.

Harvey’s film “A Lion in Winter” was up for several Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director for Harvey, and Best Actress for Katharine Hepburn. However, Hepburn chose to stay home in New York rather than attend the ceremony because, as Harvey put it, she didn’t like awards ceremonies.

And as luck would have it, she won.

“I called her that night and I said: You’ve won!” Harvey recalled. “And she said, ‘Oh, for God’s sake, I’m asleep—just put it in a parcel and send it to me.’”

Harvey continued, “Eight or nine years later, I was at her apartment in New York for dinner and she was looking in her cabinet for chocolates, or something, and there it was, still wrapped. It hadn’t even been engraved.”

Harvey is still amused by the story, and said he sympathized with Hepburn’s point of view.

“She though all the other nominees were just as wonderful as she was,” he said.

As for this year’s Best Picture contenders, Harvey said they’re all great films. “Being nominated is a pretty good honor in itself,” he said.

By law he’s not allowed to reveal what his pick for top honors would be. But, Harvey did say one of his favorite films this year was also “The King’s Speech.” For what it’s worth.

The Bay Street Theatre will be broadcasting the show live on Sunday, February 27, beginning with Joan Rivers’ annual red carpet commentary at 6:30 p.m.  There will be raffles, champagne specials and a cash bar.  Entrance is free.

Bay Street Revives “Ain’t Misbehavin’”

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by Raphael Odell Shapiro

 Marcia Milgrom Dodge is more than familiar with the musical “Ain’t Misbehavin’,” which opens this week at the Bay Street Theatre. “I’ve done the show nine or 10 times now,” she said. Indeed, the critically acclaimed, award-winning director and choreographer has lost count of the number of times she has mounted her version of the 1978 Broadway musical built around the music of jazz legend Fats Waller.

Dodge first directed and choreographed the show in 1991 with the Virginia Stage Company in Norfolk, Virginia. The original Broadway production, written by Murray Horwitz and Richard Maltby, Jr., was constructed as a musical revue. The production, directed by Maltby and which starred Nell Carter and Andre DeShields, won the 1978 Tony for Best Musical. When Dodge re-imagined the celebrated play, she established a more concrete sense of story and place.

 “We have a very specific environment,” she explained. The thrust stage at Bay Street will be transformed, like so many other theaters have been around the country, into a 1930s Harlem apartment on 134th Street and Lenox Avenue.

The central characters are all attendees of a rent party, functions that were commonly thrown by tenants to be able to pay the landlord. It was at these parties where many musicians and composers like Fats Waller would have started to make some noise, so to speak.

“Fats,” born Thomas Wright Waller in New York City in 1904, was a jazz pianist and prolific composer who left an indelible mark on the pages of American music history. Some of his tunes include “Honeysuckle Rose,” “This Joint Is Jumpin,” and of course “Ain’t Misbehavin’.” All of these are featured in the Horwitz and Maltby musical. “Fats Waller was quite an amazing talent,” said Dodge. “And he only lived to 39.” A boisterous man who “lived hard,” Waller died on a train en route to New York from Los Angeles in December of 1943.

The roles in the show dedicated to Waller’s huge talent typically retain the names of the original cast members. Dodge, however, has given the characters their own aliases. In that way, according to Dodge, the new actors never feel like they have to replicate those original performances. In recent years she has also added a few additional characters to the cast, bartenders and neighborhood personalities, in order to provide an even more “fleshed out” environment.

“I always say, ‘Here is the blueprint,’” said Dodge, talking about the beginning of each rehearsal process. “And on top of that we always have new changes and embellishments.”

“The show is very cast dependent,” she noted. “You have to tailor it to the performers, and allow them to take off.”

Most of this cast already participated in a production of “Ain’t Misbehavin’” earlier this year at the Pittsburgh Public Theater. “So they’re all Marcia Milgrom Dodge veterans,” laughed the director. She continued, “It’s a labor of love…everyone involved loves it and has a very strong connection with the material.”

Apparently Dodge is fortunate to have cast members so familiar with the show. “Ain’t Misbehavin’” was reportedly first scheduled to fill the first slot in Bay Street’s summer Mainstage series. After conflicts arose with another production, the musical was moved to become the grand finale of the summer season. For Dodge, who was committed to directing a production of “My Fair Lady” in Sacramento opening in August, this was a problem.

Said Dodge, “I told them that’s fine, you can have the show, you just can’t have me.”

 So for the first time, Dodge has handed over the directorial reigns to actor, director and friend Jim Weaver. Dodge cast Weaver as King (the Andre DeShield’s role) for the first time in 1992, only the second time she staged “Ain’t Misbehavin’.” He has since played King in numerous Dodge productions, but for the first time has assumed the role of associate director and choreographer.

“Jim is a phenomenal performer and a sensitive director,” said Dodge. “And he’s very faithful to what we have.” She added, “I’m not apprehensive at all.”

 “It was a fortuitous accident…we were really lucky to be able to pull it together at Bay Street,” she said. “I always try to put myself in the audience’s shoes, and now I will do that,” said Dodge, who will be arriving in Sag Harbor for the first time this week, in time for previews. “I’m really looking forward to it.”

Weaver, who arrived with the rest of the cast last Wednesday, is equally excited.

“I love the size of the space,” he said, talking about the Bay Street Theatre. “The more intimate, the better, because the audience is really part of the show.” He admitted it was somewhat difficult to adapt the staging intended for a precenium for the more unconventional thrust at Bay Street. “It’s a challenge, but not a bad challenge.” He added, “An interesting challenge.”

According to Dodge, the show has been in high demand. “Every six months or so, we’ve got a new “Ain’t Misbehavin’.” She has a theory why it is still so popular.

“In our trying times, and we keep coming upon that, it’s a great escape,” she explained, exalting the beauty of the American songbook. “I love how it affects you, and how young people still respond.”

She continued, “It tells you like it is, it shoots from the hip….it deals with the heart in a very open way. It deals with bigotry, and teaches you to look inside yourself.”

“It’s a show that never fails, it always delivers,” she said. “I’m always happy to do it again and again and again.”