Tag Archive | "Bay Street"

Bay Street Theater Announces “Grey Gardens, The Musical” Will Close 2015 MainStage Season

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A film still from the documentary “Grey Gardens” featuring Little Edie Bouvier Beale at her East Hampton home.

A film still from the documentary “Grey Gardens” featuring Little Edie Bouvier Beale at her East Hampton home.

Sag Harbor’s Bay Street Theater Announced last week it will stage “Grey Gardens,” a musical, as the third production of its 2015 Mainstage Season, which runs May 26 through August 30. “Grey Gardens” will open July 28 and run through August 30, with book by Doug Wright, music by Scott Frankel and lyrics by Michael Korie. According to a press release issued by the theater last week, casting and the creative team will be announced soon.

“Grey Gardens” tells the story of Big Edie and Little Edie Bouvier Beale, the eccentric aunt and cousin of Jaqueline Kennedy Onassis. The play is based on the 1975 documentary by Albert and David Maysles, a cult classic which is celebrating its 40th anniversary in 2015 and inspired the HBO film of the same name starring Jessica Lange and Drew Barrymore. Set at the Bouvier mansion in the Georgic section of East Hampton, the musical follows a mother and daughter on their hilarious and heartbreaking journey from glamorous aristocrats to notorious recluses in a crumbling house filled with memories and cats.

“I am very excited we will bring the daring musical ‘Grey Gardens’ to Bay Street this summer,” says Scott Schwartz, Artistic Director for Bay Street Theater. “This is a story set in the heart of the East End and that is woven into the social fabric of our community. What a thrill it will be to see the lives of the Beales unfold onstage just miles from their now infamous home. This musical is entertaining and complex, featuring a terrific score and delicious characters. With this production, Bay Street will continue to share innovative, contemporary musical theater with our audience.”

Tickets to “Grey Gardens” are currently only available through a full subscription to the 2015 Mainstage Season. For more information, visit baystreet.org.

 

Bay Street Theater Brings World Premiere of “My Life is a Musical” to Sag Harbor

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A rehearsal photo taken at the New 42nd Street Studios in NYC with the cast of "My Life is a Musical:" Danyel Fulton, Wendi Bergamini, Howie Michael Smith, Adam Daveline, Brian Sills, Justin Matthew Sargeant, Kathleen Elizabeth Monteleone, Robert Cucciolo. Photo by Barry Gordin.

A rehearsal photo taken at the New 42nd Street Studios in NYC with the cast of “My Life is a Musical:” Danyel Fulton, Wendi Bergamini, Howie Michael Smith, Adam Daveline, Brian Sills, Justin Matthew Sargeant, Kathleen Elizabeth Monteleone, Robert Cucciolo. Photo by Barry Gordin.

By Tessa Raebeck

Parker has lived his entire life seeking solitude, trying to hide his affliction from the rest of the world. He doesn’t make new friends, he doesn’t have romantic relationships and he most certainly does not want to join the local chorus.

Parker, a straight-laced accountant, is suffering from a rare condition that makes his entire life take the shape of a musical. Bay Street Theater’s latest play, “My Life Is a Musical,” follows Parker’s struggle as he tries to navigate a world in which everywhere he goes people are singing, dancing, and going through life with an energy that is only found in musical theater—which he happens to despise.

The musical, written by Adam Overett and directed and choreographed by Marlo Hunter, “both real rising stars in musical theater,” according to Bay Street’s artistic director Scott Schwartz, will have its world premiere in Sag Harbor.

Director/choreographer Marlo Hunter, playwright Adam Overett and music director Vadim Feichtner. Photo by Barry Gordin.

Director/choreographer Marlo Hunter, playwright Adam Overett and music director Vadim Feichtner. Photo by Barry Gordin.

The play opens on a normal—and thus strange—day in the life of Parker, who quickly sees the order through which he controls his affliction turned upside down when his accounting firm sends him to work for none other than a rock band.

“Of course, it’s his worst nightmare,” Ms. Hunter said in an interview on Friday, July 18, “because he has to be around music all the time and he won’t have any idea what’s going on.”

With his company’s future hanging in the balance, Parker accepts the position.

In a structure similar to “Cyrano de Bergerac,” the 1897 play by Edmond Rostand, the play follows Parker’s struggle to discern between what is song and what constitutes a person’s inner thoughts.

“He hears the truth of their emotion in the song,” explained Ms. Hunter.

Although the proximity to music is what terrifies Parker, in the end, it is what helps him to see the value of his affliction.

“It’s about how this person struggles with and ultimately embraces the thing about him that he thinks makes him a freak, which is a very universal theme,” the director said.

“We all have things about ourselves that we feel don’t fit in or we’re not comfortable with,” Mr. Schwartz said. “This show explores that life from a wonderful, musical land.”

The cast, which Ms. Hunter called “sensational,” has appeared in celebrated shows including “Evita,” “Hair” and “The Lion King.”

It stars Howie Michael Smith as the confused Parker, and Robert Cuccioli, who plays the rising rock star Zach, with Kathleen Elizabeth Monteleone and Justin Matthew Sargeant playing other the principal roles.

The ensemble, “the hardest working people in show business,” according to Ms. Hunter, features Wendi Bergamini, Adam Daveline, Danyel Fulton and Brian Sills. They play over 70 characters between the four of them.

“It’s pretty astounding what they do,” Ms. Hunter said of the cast, “and they have to sing, dance and have broad comedic ability—they were hard to find.”

The show’s music is as varied as the ensemble’s roles.

“We really run the gamut stylistically,” she said. “It’s not all just traditional musical theater. There’s some pop, rock in there.”

Through Mr. Cuccioli’s character Zach, who Parker hears singing like a musical theater star, Mr. Overett shows how musical theater moments get transformed into rock songs.

Mr. Overett, Ms. Hunter and Mr. Schwartz agree this is a show for both people who love musicals and people who hate them.unnamed-5

“I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard people in previous readings or in our workshops who have said, ‘I don’t usually like musicals, but I love this,’” Ms. Hunter said, adding she thinks both sides of the audience will walk away from Bay Street with a love—or at least an appreciation—for musicals.

The show addresses the aspects of  musicals that bother people while celebrating them at the same time.

“The form of musical theater, there’s an aspect of it that is—it’s larger than life—and in some ways, that feels inaccessible to people, because it seems insincere in its grandeur. But that’s also what other people love about the form—that it requires such a suspension of disbelief,” Ms. Hunter said.

“The beauty of the way Adam has written this show,” she added, “is that it may not seem realistic but he’s written us characters who are very real and very accessible and a story line that is incredibly heartfelt.”

“My Life is a Musical,” Ms. Hunter said, delivers the big production and entertaining numbers of a musical, but with “real heart and a strong core.”

“This is the kind of show that in your career you hope you find and I’ve been lucky enough to have found it,” the director said.

“My Life is a Musical” opens Tuesday, July 29, and runs through Sunday, August 31, at the Bay Street Theater, located at the corner of Bay Street and Long Wharf in Sag Harbor. For more information or tickets, call (631) 725-9500 or visit baystreet.org.

Tom Stoppard’s “Travesties” Brings Belly Laughs to Bay Street

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Richard Kind in "Travesties" at Bay Street. Photo by Jerry Lamonica.

Richard Kind in “Travesties” at Bay Street. Photo by Jerry Lamonica.

By Tessa Raebeck

Strip teases, pie fights and Lenin. The three don’t normally go hand in hand, but playwright Tom Stoppard brings them together in “Travesties.”

The Tony award-winning comedy is running through July 20 as the second production in Bay Street Theater’s main stage season, called a “season of revolution.”

The play is told through the memory of Henry Carr, an elderly man who was a British consul in Zurich in 1917 during World War I. Mr. Carr reflects on his participation at the time in an amateur production of Oscar Wilde’s play The Importance of Being Earnest, in which (in Mr. Stoppard’s take on it) he worked alongside some of the early 20th century’s most influential figures: James Joyce, Vladimir Lenin and Tristan Tzara.

“What it really gets at,” Bay Street’s artistic director Scott Schwartz said of the play when the season was first introduced this winter, “is the sort of passion and fire and revolutionary spirit of these guys as they’re trying to meet girls and trying to have a great time in Zürich at this time.”

When you think of Lenin in 1917, in the heat of the empire’s collapse and subsequent community revolution in Russia, you don’t necessarily imagine him spending his time trying to meet girls, but Mr. Stoppard expertly humanizes even his most notable characters with humor.

“It’s one of the most bracing theatrical challenges to be a part of—full of brilliance and fun—overflowing with ideas and using all the elements; knockabout humor, song and dance, the ‘theatre’ of theatre, to create a whirligig of intriguing ideas,” Gregory Boyd, the artistic director for the Alley Theatre in Houston, who is directing Bay Street’s production, said in an email interview.

Photo by Jerry Lamonica.

Photo by Jerry Lamonica.

“There isn’t another play like it—unless it’s another Stoppard play. He is unique,” added the director.

A Czech-born British playwright, Mr. Stoppard was 2 years old when he moved with his family to England to escape the Nazi occupation of Czechoslovakia. He was knighted in 1997 and the next year won an Academy Award for “Best Original Screenplay” for “Shakespeare in Love,” which he wrote with Marc Norman. He has also won four Tony Awards.

Written in 1974, “Travesties” has been performed in productions across the world. The play won the United Kingdom’s Evening Standard Award for “Best Comedy of the Year” in 1974 and in 1976 both a Tony Award and a New York Critics Award for “Best Play.”

“Stoppard,” Mr. Boyd said, “is writing about art and artists, revolution and revolutionaries and how they collide. James Joyce, Lenin and Dadaist artist Tristan Tzara were indeed in Zürich during World War I, but it is the playwright’s genius that brings them all together through the eyes and erratic memory of a minor civil servant, as he (Henry Carr) looks back over his life.”

“It’s dealing with the whole question of how art and change interact in our lives,” said Mr. Schwartz, adding that “Travesties” is the “centerpiece” of Bay Street’s summer season.

Having directed or produced over 100 new productions from writers as varied—and renowned—as Tennessee Williams and Edward Albee, Mr. Boyd is no stranger to the stage. There’s already one “Travesties” production under his belt; he directed the comedy several years ago at the Long Wharf Theatre in New Haven, Connecticut.

“He’s a brilliant director,” Mr. Schwartz said. “I’m so excited to bring his vision to the theater.”

As Bay Street’s artistic director, he added, he would like to “bring great directors in from around the country and perhaps eventually around the world.”

Richard Kind, noted for his roles on HBO’s “Curb Your Enthusiasm” and “Spin City,” returns to Bay Street, where he serves on the Board of Trustees, for his role as Henry Carr, who, like the legendary figures he hangs out with, was a real person in Zürich at the time.

Actors Michael Benz, Carson Elrod, Aloysius Gigl, Isabel Keating, Julia Motyka, Emily Trask and Andrew Weems are also in the cast.

“The cast we have is a wonderful group—and working with them on this marvelous script is the most enjoyable part of it,” said Mr. Boyd. “Stoppard asks that the actors be comedians, but capable too of giving full voice to the brilliant language.”

Photo by Jerry Lamonica.

Photo by Jerry Lamonica.

Credited for shaping stream of consciousness and other techniques of the modernist avant-garde movement, Joyce is in the middle of writing Ulysses during the time of the play. Tzara, a French avant-garde poet, essayist and performance artist, is busy creating art and poetry that gain him notoriety as a leader of Dadaism and Lenin is planning to overthrow one of the world’s largest empires, which has been in power for nearly 200 years.

But then Mr. Stoppard comes in, and—although the figures are still their distinguished selves—they are flanked by the wild theatricality of his writing, with an almost burlesque style of humor.

“I love the Bay Street Theater space—and ‘Travesties’ uses it in an interesting way, I think. From toy trains to pie fights, there are a lot of moments that come together in a fresh way,” said Mr. Boyd.

“It’s a wonderful conceit of a ‘small’ man hoping to achieve some meaning in his life through his association with these three giants,” the director added. “The play is full of comedy, gorgeous language, exhilarating ideas—and some real heart, too. That combination is very hard to resist.”

“Travesties” opened Tuesday, June 24, and runs through July 20 at Bay Street Theater, located on the corner of Main and Bay streets in Sag Harbor. General admission tickets range in price from $60.75 to $75. The “Student Sunday” matinee allows high school and college students to attend the 2 p.m. matinee on Sundays for free. A $30 ticket is available for those under age 30. For tickets and more information, visit baystreet.org or call the box office at (631) 725-9500.

After 40 Years in Comedy, Richard Lewis is Still Insane

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Comedian Richard Lewis will perform at Bay Street Theater Saturday, June 21.

Comedian Richard Lewis will perform at Bay Street Theater Saturday, June 21.

By Tessa Raebeck

Richard Lewis’s inflection never changes. He doesn’t stray from his monotone; whether the topic is murder or birthday cake, he rambles on in the same raspy, somewhat disengaged tone. Yet everything he says is hilarious.

A veteran comic best known for his role playing his somewhat disengaged self alongside his longtime friend Larry David on HBO’s “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” Mr. Lewis is returning to Sag Harbor on Saturday, June 21, to perform his stand-up comedy act at Bay Street Theater.

“It’s really lovely,” Mr. Lewis said of Bay Street in a phone interview Thursday, June 12. “It’s like a little theater. It’s almost like if Carnegie Hall gave birth to a child—it sort of popped out.”

Mr. Lewis has been recognized by Comedy Central as one of the top 50 stand-up comedians of all time and made it on GQ Magazine’s list of the “20th Century’s Most Influential Humorists.”

Within minutes, he’ll go from speaking about working with Jennifer Aniston to his lifetime love/hate friendship with Larry David to a story of how his acquaintance Bruce Springsteen sent him a letter telling him how he would stay in bed with his wife and watch an entire season of a show in one sitting.

In the four decades since Mr. Lewis began performing comedy in the early 1970s, his show has evolved into a nightly ad-libbed, off-the-cuff masterpiece.

“People should know that I don’t even know what’s going to happen when I get out there, so I think I need a couple of mercy laughs the first few minutes to bolster my confidence,” he said. “It’s pathetic, I know. I’m a pathetic human being.”

“But I’m looking forward to coming up there, it’s so beautiful up there,” he said of Sag Harbor. “Even though I live in LA, I’m a New Yorker, so it’s good to come back East.”

Like all good artists, Mr. Lewis is comfortable with his insanity.

He recently wrapped production on “Squirrels To The Nuts,” a movie directed by Peter Bogdanovich set to be released in 2015, in which he acts alongside Jennifer Aniston, Owen Wilson, Imogen Poots and Cybil Shepherd, to name a few members of the star-studded cast.unnamed-7

Mr. Lewis got a call from Mr. Bogdanovich some six months ago, asking him to be in the film alongside “a whole load of A-List actors.” The script was great, he said, but he had just three days to get to New York to film.

He immediately flew East with just four pairs of black underwear, four black socks and four presumably black shirts.  “It didn’t give me much time to get anxious. I got anxious after I finished,” he said.

“I was to play sort of a moronic redneck guy and I thought, Jews can’t be rednecks,” he said. “You know, when you’re walking around in boots and underwear and a cowboy hat, I don’t look like a cantor or a rabbi. So, I’m going to get either high marks for being so different or I’m going to have to quit the business and walk around in a disguise so I don’t embarrass my wife.”

Mr. Lewis has been married since 2005 to Joyce Lapinsky, a board co-chair and program development consultant for Urban Farming, a not-for-profit dedicated to helping people in need create gardens on unused land and space.

The two almost met in the early ’90s, but Ms. Lapinsky’s better judgment got in the way.

A mutual friend told her they could try to fix her up with Mr. Lewis “and she shudders,” the comedian recalled of his now wife. “She says, ‘He’s too nuts for me.’ She’s never even met me and she said that. But actually, I was pretty nuts back then—on a personal level… so I guess it worked out for the best.”

Today, Mr. Lewis is weeks shy of being 20 years sober and the two are happily married.

“But it turned out that I did find the right woman, I fell in love immediately. It’s uh…I recommend it to people,” he said.

Another pivotal person in Mr. Lewis’s life is his longtime friend and collaborator Larry David, who was likewise hesitant to get to know him at first. The two were both born at Brooklyn Jewish Hospital, since closed, in the spring of 1947.

“I was a preemie, so I came out and then he came out a few days later, out of the toaster,” Mr. Lewis said. “We started arguing even then. We didn’t even get along as little babies and then we were at camp together and I didn’t know who he was—I didn’t recognize him from one hour old, but we hated each other then.”

“Hate’s a strong word,” he admitted, adding, “But we discovered once that we were the same teenagers that despised one another at this camp 15 years before. We were only about 12 then and then 12 years later… I mean, you change so much, obviously, from 8 to 9 to whatever the hell age I was, 12 years old to 25.”

His math may be a little off, but he remembers the loathing.

“It really freaked us out in the beginning, but then we realized that we were quite a connection,” he added.

“I had dinner over at his house a couple days ago and it was impossible,” Mr. Lewis said of going over to Mr. David’s to watch the Los Angeles Kings play the New York Rangers in the Stanley Cup finals.

When they were broke kids and got to go to games, Mr. David would be on a constant hunt for better seats, “so we’d always wind up missing the game,” Mr. Lewis said.

“And this time, I go to his beautiful home with a pretty ample size television screen and as soon as the Kings scored a goal, he accused me of hexing the Stanley Cup and he turned off the TV and I left,” he said, before adding, “I love the guy, he’s that eccentric.”

“He’s twisted in the nicest sort of way, that would be the best way to put it,” Mr. Lewis said.

“We had to have been in the same baby ward and I’m sure we were arguing… it’s sort of spooky in a way…I hope it doesn’t turn into a Chucky kind of murder mystery,” he said. “It sounds like a bad Lifetime movie, two guys who always wound up with each other, until one of them turned on the other one. I could probably sell that, that’s how stupid that is.”

If there’s one thing he can always sell, it’s Richard Lewis.

“I mean, I’ve tasted property and I’ve tasted a lot of money and I’ve tasted being in the middle and I’ve tasted frustration and you know, my only goal is to be authentic and just be myself. And they can steal my jokes, but they can’t steal my soul and my personality… I have been really ripped off a lot, but in the end, they can’t think like I do—they’re lucky—they don’t have my wacky brain, so I don’t need an insurance policy on my persona. I dare them to be better than me on a Richard Lewis-like takeoff, I’ll beat them,” he said, adding, “Not that you were asking, but…”

Richard Lewis is performing Saturday, June 21, at 8 p.m. at Bay Street Theater, located on the corner of Bay and Main Streets in Sag Harbor. Tickets are $65 for side seats, $75 for center seats and $125 to see the show and attend a reception with Mr. Lewis beforehand. For tickets and information, call the box office at (631) 725-9500 or visit baystreet.org.

Review: “Conviction” at Bay Street Theater

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Brian Hutchison, Elizabeth Reaser, Sarah Paulson and Garret Dillahunt in "Conviction" at Bay Street Theater.

Brian Hutchison, Elizabeth Reaser, Sarah Paulson and Garret Dillahunt in “Conviction” at Bay Street Theater.

By Annette Hinkle

Belief is perhaps one of the most powerful motivators in the arsenal of human emotion. Whether it is held in the absence of tangible proof or in the presence of damning evidence, often little can be done to assuage a deeply held position once it is ingrained in the psyche.

It’s true of politics, it’s true of religion …and it is especially true of relationships.

The notion of belief and trust are at the core of “Conviction,” Carey Crim’s powerful drama which opens Bay Street Theater’s 2014 summer mainstage season. Directed by Scott Schwartz, Bay Street’s new artistic director, “Conviction” enjoys its world premiere at the theater now through June 15.

But be prepared. Despite its fairly simple and straightforward approach, the subject matter is complex and this is one of those plays that will keep you thinking (and talking) long after the final curtain falls.

“Conviction” tells the story of Tom Hodges (Garret Dillahunt) a popular high school teacher whose enthusiasm for Shakespeare is infectious. When bright and engaged students come to him eager to learn more about the Bard, in his mission as an educator, he can’t help but share his enthusiasm.

As the play opens, Tom and his wife Leigh (Sarah Paulson) are arriving home with their best friends, Bruce (Brian Hutchison), also a teacher at the school, and Jayne (played by Elizabeth Reaser) following the school’s production of “Romeo and Juliet,” which Tom has directed.

As they joke about the length of the play and the talent of the lead teenage actress, Tom and Leigh’s energetic 13-year-old son, Nicholas (Daniel Burns) makes a brief appearance to raid the fridge before heading off to a friend’s house for a sleep over. Then the phone rings — it’s the school’s principal calling for Tom and from that point on, life will never be the same.

The bulk of the play takes place three years after that phone call. Tom is coming home from prison after being convicted for inappropriate sexual relations with the teenage actress who starred as Juliet in his play, and in those years, much has changed. Leigh adamantly believes her husband’s professed innocence and makes his homecoming special by inviting Bruce and Jayne to be there when he arrives. But it soon becomes clear this will not be an easy reunion and picking up where they left off nearly impossible.

Bruce puts on a brave face and acts like little has changed, but tension, anger and fear soon surfaces in Jayne, who literally takes on the role of “doubting Thomas,” giving voice to the unspoken suspicions about her old friend. She thinks he is guilty and her own conviction wreaks havoc on the couples’ long-standing friendship. Bruce and Jayne’s two daughters, who have been friends with Nicholas since they were babies, are no longer permitted to spend time at the Hodge’s home, which now shelters a convicted sex offender.

For his part, Nicholas is a young man struggling to come of age in a community that believes his father is a sexual predator. He has undergone a particularly dark transformation during Tom’s incarceration and is a withdrawn and friendless 16-year-old who dabbles in drugs and disappears for long stretches at a time.

Leigh smiles and does her best to keep her family intact, but the stress of the situation is evident. Tom’s purported indiscretion has been front page news. They rarely share a bed and suspicious glances, harassing anonymous phone calls and financial hardship has taken its toll. Leigh works at the hospital, but has been unable to keep up on the mortgage payments and the family is in danger of losing the house. Tom has lost his job, his direction and the respect of the community.

The best plays are those which provide no easy answers, and in fact, leave audiences with more questions than when they came in. “Conviction” does exactly that. Schwartz’s direction of the material is impressive and he has assembled a stellar cast for this production. The material is not easy, yet the actors bring the issues to a crescendo with great skill and sensitivity — particularly Paulson who is quite impressive as the long-suffering and stoic Leigh. Anna Louizos’ well-designed set exudes the comforts of suburban living. But she wisely offsets the American dream with a painted backdrop of neighboring houses which lurk menacingly close, pressing in on a private family drama which is being played out in public.

While the community’s awareness of the situation is key to the characters’ motivations, the power of “Conviction” comes from the fact the play looks intently at the collateral damage of sexual misconduct. Yes, the act is abhorrent, and while society’s revulsion of such crimes is well placed, lost in the debate are the families left to pick up the pieces. Not just the victim’s family, but the perpetrator’s as well — people who are subjected to harassment, judgmental stares and whispered gossip simply because they happen to be related.

So how does a family survive when someone has been convicted of a sexual offense? Can they survive? What if the accusations are false? These are just some of the many sticky questions which “Convictions” sets out to explore.

During a talk with Tom after a night out, Bruce tries to reconnect by pointing out that many teenage girls invite attention from men by dressing and acting far older than they are. Though he’s trying to sympathize with his friend, Bruce’s sentiment is disturbing in its familiarity — how many times have we all heard similar statements made in conversations with our own friends?

It’s a slippery slope indeed. When does a child become an adult? Actually, it depends on where — and when — you live. Shakespeare’s Juliet was just 13. Today, most people would agree a 15-year-old student sleeping with a 36-year-old teacher is a clear case of abuse. But what if the student is 17 and the teacher 23? Is Tom’s accuser a victim or a temptress? Is she a naïve child or a jilted lover? In our effort to protect children from abuse, have we gone too far by not allowing teachers to comfort distraught students with an embrace or offer counsel behind closed doors without witnesses?

While “Convictions” doesn’t set out to answer these questions, it does go to great lengths to explore them. That’s what makes this such an intriguing offering. Whether or not Tom “did it” is beside the point. This is a play about how we go on afterwards and one that considers the many victims beyond the obvious one

There are no easy answers — and in the end it does, indeed, come down to the power of convictions.

“Conviction” runs Tuesdays through Sundays with evening and some matinee performances through June 15 at Bay Street Theater, Long Wharf, Sag Harbor. The play is produced by Bay Street in association with Dead Posh Productions, Rubicon Theatre Company, Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre and Off-Broadway Across America. Tickets are $60.75 to $75. To reserve, call (631) 725-9500.

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.”