Tag Archive | "Bay Street Theater and Sag Harbor Center for the Arts"

Veterans Tell Their Stories to Heal Themselves

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From left to right, Adrienne Brammer, Matthew Thomas Burda, BR McDonald, Roman Baca and Sandra Lee, all veterans, told their stories at Bay Street Theater on Saturday. Photography by Jody Gambino.

By Mara Certic

Every soldier has a story; a report of why they enlisted, a personal account of rigorous training, their experiences in war and, very often, their difficult civilian epilogues.

On Saturday, October 3, Sag Harborites had the opportunity to hear some of these stories when “This is What We Fought For” came to the Bay Street Theater. The Joseph J. Theinert Memorial Fund, in collaboration with The Telling Project and the Veteran Artist Program, welcomed veterans and their family members to the stage to tell their honest, scripted and rehearsed tales of war.

Shelter Island native Lieutenant Joseph J. Theinert was killed in action during combat operations in Afghanistan on June 4, 2010. In his honor, the Joseph J. Theinert Memorial Fund was founded to award scholarships and to provide support to organizations that enrich the lives of active and veteran United States service members. By the end of this year they will have given out $20,000 in scholarships and $15,000 to various military service organizations.

One of the organizations the foundation supports is the Veteran Artists Program (VAP), which helps artists who happen to be veterans, propel their work into the mainstream.

This original production began with Lt. Thienert’s brother James, affectionately known as “Jimbo,” recounting the story of when he found out his brother had been killed. He was working on the South Ferry when his father broke the news to him. He talked about how he tries to deal with that loss, and about the importance of the performance to follow, and telling your story.

“The men and women on stage tonight will never forget their experiences… it is just not possible,” he said.

“It is part of the mission of the Joseph J Theinert Memorial Fund that we help to create a world that allows them to share these experiences so they are not shackled by them for the rest of their lives,” Mr. Theinert said.

Five veterans of the armed forces, all members of VAP, took to the stage, weaving their stories together in little vignettes, intertwined with the occasional song or military chant.

During one musical interlude, Roman Baca pirouetted across the stage. Mr. Baca, who served in the United States Marine Corps, was deployed to Fallujah, Iraq from 2005 to 2006. “I didn’t tell anyone in boot camp I was a ballet dancer,” he said in one vignette. When he finally told three of his friends, “two of them thought it was the greatest thing they’d ever heard. One never spoke to me again,” he said.

Mr. Baca likes to remember the humanitarian missions he went on, delivering soccer balls to children and giving food and water to people in need. But that didn’t stop him from becoming angry when he left the army. He was often enraged, he said, and his relationships suffered. Ballet has helped him, and recently Mr. Baca returned to Iraq to teach young adults how to express themselves through dance.

Air Force veteran Adrienne Brammer also served in Fallujah. Ms. Brammer joined the air force to see the world, she said. She worked as a reporter, anchor, cameraman and radio deejay for the American Forces Network in Iceland, South Korea and Italy. She loved traveling and exploring and enjoyed her work, but when she was reassigned to the 1st Combat Camera Squadron, she felt somewhat underused.  She left the air force after 14 years, without benefits, and is now following her dream and studying acting at Marymount Manhattan College.

BR McDonald, founder of VAP, always had a strong love of the arts. Mr. McDonald joined the army after the events of September 11 and served for seven years as an Arabic linguist and a Special Operator in the Joint Specials Operations Command. He lived his life in “cover,” he said. He lived his covers; he became who he needed to be to get missions done.  This made him one of the best at his job, but changed his personal life forever.

Mr. McDonald kept his life in America with his girlfriend completely separate from his life overseas. When living a cover on one mission, Mr. McDonald fell in love. He sweetly told the story of how he spent time with this woman for months, until one day he was re-assigned and had to leave without telling her why.

The evening was awash with unexpected, honest and raw tales of the military. U.S. Air Force veteran Matthew Thomas Burda’s stories of working security in an Afghan prison were interwoven with U.S. Army veteran Sandra Lee’s account of the first time she was blown up by an IED. This would happen to her three more times before she eventually left the army.

Ms. Lee served in civil affairs in the army; one of the many things she did overseas was to oversee the rebuilding of schools in Western Baghdad. She had never seen anyone so excited to have working plumbing, she said, adding there was “a lot of good” that happened.

“A lot of not so good things happened too,” she said.

After leaving the army, she went back to finish school and immersed herself in her studies. It wasn’t until more than a year after returning to civilian life that Ms. Lee fell into a deep, debilitating depression and was eventually diagnosed with PTSD.

She’s doing better now, she said. “I’m on medication that stops me remembering my nightmares,” she said, which helps, but that also means she cannot recall her good dreams.

“But now I study acting,” she said. “It’s been my therapy, my healer.”

Julia Motyka and Megan Minutillo

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Julia Motyka (right), director of education at Bay Street Theater, and her summer intern Megan Minutillo (left), are the driving forces behind Bay Street’s expanded education and camp programming this summer. They discussed their backgrounds and some of the exciting options there are for budding thespians on the East End from now until Labor Day.

By Mara Certic

Why did you two decide to get involved with the summer camps at Bay Street this year?

JM: Well this year, Megan and I came on board to kind of help diversify the programming and extend it to a new location and give that a little more focus. I actually came to teaching through performance, I still work primarily as an actress in New York City. I was actually just in “Travesties” at Bay Street, and we just closed that show. I started teaching a bunch of Shakespeare workshops when I was 24. It becomes about wish fulfillment–What do I wish I’d had when I was falling in love with this? I feel like as a performer; it’s incredibly grounding to come back and to teach and to watch the light bulb moment with kids.

MM: I’ve always loved theater. And when it came time to study further, after college, I saw that NYU has a really wonderful educational theater program. And I decided to do that program and it was wonderful, I taught in the city for a bit. This summer, I wanted to do a little bit more of a crossover of the professional and teaching aspects and so I came to Bay Street. I have a real interest in producing and directing as well, and Scott Schwartz has so graciously made me the assistant producer on “Black Out at Bay Street,” our new late night programming.

How does this year differ from last year?

JM: In the past there were generally two or three camps and they were generalized musical theater camps. And what we’ve done this year is diversify from just the Bridgehampton location to Bridgehampton and Southampton. And we’ve also shifted from three to four camps and shifted to a more diverse age group. In the past it was 8 to 12, and now it’s 7 to 9 and 9 to 12. And then in terms of actual programming we have two different tracks; in Bridgehampton we have two Shakespeare-based camps. One for the younger campers is called a “Mini-Midsummer Night’s Dream” and for the older age group is “Green Eggs & Hamlet”—It’s like a Dr. Seuss sort of send-up of the great Bard’s tale. And in Southampton we have two make-your-own-adventure camps. There’s a camp called “Land of Make Believe” which is like a fairytale mash-up and kids get to make their own fractured fairytale over the course of the week. And then there’s “My Life is a Musical” where the kids create their own musical over the course of five days.

“My Life Is a Musical” sounds a little familiar, how did you come up with the idea for that?

JM: The show that’s about to open at Bay Street is called “My Life is a Musical” and we thought it would be really cool this year to take the theme of that show and use it as the structure for the musical theater camp this year. We thought it would be fun to say to the kids, what would happen one morning if you woke up and your life was a musical. It’s basically all songs with a little bit of dialogue, we’re looking at having at least five songs in the 10-to-15 minute production that will be performed to friends and family at the end of the week.

Will you two be teaching the camps?

MM: I like to call us the principals. Julia and I both thought that it’s always nice to have some sort of administrator or figurehead who’s going to be troubleshooting everything that we anticipate, and it’s nice to go to someone with questions: especially when you’re a teacher watching 10 or 15 little people.

JM: We’re sort of trying to offer some programming support as well; the teachers have been given a lot of jumping off points for how to structure their lessons and they’re coming back to us with ideas and questions so we can be a sounding board.

The various weekly Bay Street summer camps begin on Monday, August 4, and will continue until the end of the month. For more information visit baystreet.org.

New Name, Mission for Bay Street

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Bay Street

It’s now called the Bay Street Theater and Sag Harbor Center for the Arts.

 

You say theatre, I say theater.

Bay Street Theatre in Sag Harbor announced on Friday that it had changed its name to Bay Street Theater and Sag Harbor Center for the Arts.  Along with the change in name is a new mission, new design and new programming.

In its new incarnation, Bay Street plans to continue to develop and present new productions, performances and events under the leadership of its new artistic director, Scott Schwartz.

The new name reflects that fact that Bay Street is more than just a theater, but a year-round arts center for the community that presents artists, concerts, lectures, and films. The non-theater programming will now be presented under the Sag Harbor Center for the Arts banner.

Bay Street also announced that it will have a new logo designed by Harun Zankel that is intended to reflect how the cultural center is moving toward a bright future with the help of its new artistic director, staff and the support of its board, patrons, and volunteers.

“This is such an exciting time of creativity and a fresh start with Scott’s vision guiding us,” said executive director Tracy Mitchell. “We look forward to rolling out new designs for all of the new programming later this year.”

Bay Street has also announced a number of new and expanded programs and initiatives. The Bay Street Shakespeare Initiative will bring classics to the East End, including “The Tempest” this August with Tony Award winner John Glover in the role of Prospero. “Blackout at Bay Street” will offer late night cabaret and avant garde theater in the lobby. “The Bay Street New Works Festival,” which was introduced in April, will return in 2015 with three days devoted readings of new plays by some of New York’s best emerging playwrights. There will be an expanded education program, including programs for children and teens, as well as a summer theater camp for kids.