Tag Archive | "Scott Schwartz"

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.

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.

World Premiere of “Conviction” Opens Bay Street’s Mainstage Season in Sag Harbor

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Rehearsal for "Conviction" in New York City. From left to right: Director Scott Schwartz, playwright Carey Crim and the cast, Brian Hutchison, Sarah Paulson, Daniel Burns, Elizabeth Reaser and Garret Dillahunt. Photo by Barry Gordin.

Rehearsal for “Conviction” in New York City. From left to right: Director Scott Schwartz, playwright Carey Crim and the cast, Brian Hutchison, Sarah Paulson, Daniel Burns, Elizabeth Reaser and Garret Dillahunt at the New 42nd Street Studio in New York City. Photo by Barry Gordin.

By Tessa Raebeck

You can grow up with your friends, live with them, even marry them, but can you ever truly know them?

This is one of many questions, perhaps unanswerable, in “Conviction,” a new play by Carey Crim that will have its world premiere Tuesday, May 27, opening the Bay Street Theatre Mainstage Season.

“In relationships, be they spouse or parent-child or friends, there is always a limit to how much we can know about another person,” said Bay Street’s new artistic director Scott Schwartz, who is directing the play.

That limit is clear in “Conviction,” the story of Tom Hodges, a beloved teacher at his local high school, who, early on in the play, is accused and convicted of having sexual relations with an underage female student.

“Conviction” stars Garret Dillahunt (“12 Years a Slave,” “Raising Hope”) as Tom Hodges. His wife Leigh is played by Sarah Paulson (“12 Years a Slave,” “American Horror Story”) and Daniel Burns (“Twelfth Night,” “Shipwrecked!”) portrays their 17-year-old son.

Brian Hutchison (“Man and Boy,” “Looped”) and Elizabeth Reaser (“Twilight” films, “Grey’s Anatomy”) play a married couple, Tom and Leigh’s longtime best friends.

“These five actors are all powerhouses,” said Mr. Schwartz. “I feel so lucky to both just be in a room with them, but also to have the opportunity to bring them to Bay Street and to share their amazing talent.”

“Conviction” explores the aftermath of Tom’s fall from grace and how his wife, son and best friends struggle with whether or not they believe his claim of innocence—and how to reconcile those beliefs with their love for Tom.

“This play,” said Mr. Dillahunt, who plays Tom, “examines the possibility of relationships of all sorts surviving where there is even a kernel of doubt and distrust.”

The cast of "Conviction:" Sarah Paulson, Brian Hutchison, Daniel Burns, Elizabeth Reaser and Garret Dillahunt. Photo by Barry Gordin.

The cast of “Conviction:” Sarah Paulson, Brian Hutchison, Daniel Burns, Elizabeth Reaser and Garret Dillahunt at the New 42nd Street Studio, New York City.

Photo by Barry Gordin.

 

“There are things that we individuals can just never know about the people we are with, so all we can do is live with conviction…and have belief about who they are deep inside them,” Mr. Schwartz said. “And when that conviction is challenged, when you’re forced to realize that there are things that you cannot know about the people you are in or choose to be in a relationship with, what does that do? How do you navigate that? How do you live your life—and is it possible for your relationship to survive?”

Ms. Crim came up with the idea for “Conviction” after a month of seemingly constant headlines involving inappropriate relationships between children and those in positions of authority culminated in a gig as a camp counselor, during which staff were directed against hugging campers or taking them to the bathroom without another witness present.

Although the rules made sense, she recalled her own experience as a camper climbing into her counselor’s bunk to hear ghost stories.

“Although I completely understood why we did it, it also made me a little bit sad for a more innocent time,” Ms. Crim said. “I started thinking about, putting those two things together, what has led us here?”

“I wanted to look at what it does to family and friends, who can never truly know…we can never, no matter how much we love someone, no matter if we live with that person, can we ever really truly know another human being,” she added.

Throughout the play, the viewer’s opinion on Tom can change multiple times. Ms. Crim said even her own “very strong” opinion when she began writing the play became less clear as she continued.

“Tom is the only one that really knows the truth,” explained Ms. Crim. “So, the audience is kind of in the shoes of the rest of the characters on stage, in terms of what information they get and don’t get. So, they have to take that journey—it is left up for them to decide.”

Also struggling with that decision are the actors, who remain loyal to the perceived convictions of their characters.

“I do believe that Leigh believes he is innocent,” said Ms. Paulson, adding she agrees. “But, I think part of her pragmatism lends itself to her believing what she wants to believe…She loves her husband very much and she wants to keep her family together.”

While Leigh appears loyal to her husband’s claim of innocence—and Ms. Paulson true to her character’s opinion—Ms. Reaser’s character, Jane, is burdened with doubt.

Ms. Reaser said although she is still figuring it out, she, like her character, thinks Tom is guilty.

“It’s kind of this thing that haunts her and it’s haunted her for years,” she said. “Is he guilty? Is he not guilty? And how do I reconcile that with this incredible man that I’ve always known him to be?”

“Some people can really live a duality and I find that very impressive. I think it’s important that we do know how to live a duality, because not everything is black and white,” she added. “But in Jane’s case, she really can’t straddle that line.”

“There is no template for a family on how to deal with something like this,” said Mr. Dillahunt. “Everyone is flying blind and doing the best they can. It’s a story of survival and, in the end, sometimes, things you hold dear must be sacrificed.”

Tom’s conviction comes down to he said, she said, with only the two parties involved definitively knowing the truth.

“There’s no evidence beyond that, beyond testimony—and that’s really a fascinating, scary thing about the world that we live in,” said Ms. Reaser.

“Conviction” premieres Tuesday, May 27 at 7 p.m. and runs through June 15, showing at 8 p.m. A special “Pay What You Can” ticket offer for the opening show has a limited amount of tickets available at the Box Office after 2 p.m. that day. For other tickets, visit baystreet.org or call 631-725-9500.

Paula Poundstone Opens Saturday Night Comedy This Weekend at Bay Street Theatre

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PaulaPoundstonefor2014

Comedian Paula Poundstone will open a series of special Saturday night comedy performances at Sag Harbor’s Bay Street Theatre on May 24 at 8 p.m.

Richard Lewis will take the stage June 21, and audiences can spend “A Divine Evening with Charles Busch,” accompanied by Tom Judson July 26.

Ms. Poundstone is a regular panelist on NPR’s rascal of a weekly news quiz show, “Wait, Wait … Don’t Tell Me,” and is known in her decades long career in stand-up for her ability to be spontaneous with a crowd.

“No two shows I do are the same,” said Ms. Poundstone. “It’s not that I don’t repeat material. I do. My shows, when they’re good, and I like to think they often are, are like a cocktail party. When you first get there, you talk about how badly you got lost and how hard it was to find parking. Then you tell a story about your kids or what you just saw on the news. You meet some new people and ask them about themselves.  Then, someone says, ‘Tell that story you used to tell,’ and then someone on the other side of the room spills a drink, and you mock them.  No one ever applauds me when I leave a party, though. I think they high five.”

For more information, or to reserve tickets, visit baystreet.org. 

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.

Bay Street Theatre Announces 2014 Mainstage Season, Vision of New Artistic Director Scott Schwartz

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Scott Schwartz directing a play in Seattle. Photo courtesy of Bay Street Theatre.

Scott Schwartz directing a play in Seattle. Courtesy of Bay Street Theatre.

By Tessa Raebeck 

Scott Schwartz is excited. He’s excited about art, he’s excited about expansion and he’s especially excited about world premieres. The new artistic director for Bay Street Theatre, Mr. Schwartz has announced his inaugural Mainstage season and crafted his artistic vision for the theater, which includes broadening its programming to include more traditional works, developing new plays and musicals and “bringing the best and most exciting theater artists to Sag Harbor.”

Mr. Schwartz has been a freelance director for over 20 years, working on and off Broadway, in London and Japan, and with not-for-profit theaters across the country. He has been an associate artist at the Alley Theatre in Houston since 2007.

“I’m just so thrilled now to be working at Bay Street with this wonderful theater,” Mr. Schwartz said Sunday. “Bay Street has an amazing history, an amazing reputation and this tradition of doing great work, so I want to continue that tradition—and I want to expand upon it.”

Mr. Schwartz has three primary goals for Bay Street: Bringing artists from around the country “and perhaps eventually around the world” to Sag Harbor, as well as working with local artists “to create the most exciting theatrical productions;” maintaining a deep commitment to new work, developing new plays and musicals in-house; and expanding the repertoire of productions at Bay Street to include “some of the greatest works of the theatre of all time,” including classic works by Chekhov, Shakespeare and other great historical writers.

“The most important thing for me,” said Mr. Schwartz, “is, ultimately, the productions we do be visionary, exciting, innovative and also be entertaining—a place the audience comes to both be challenged, but also have a great time.”

The Mainstage season begins May 31 with the world premiere of “Conviction,” a modern drama written by Carey Crim that Mr. Schwartz will direct. “It’s a piece I’m very, very excited about,” he said about the play.

“Conviction” centers on Tom Hodges, a popular and caring teacher, husband and father who seems to have it all. The play examines the strength of that foundation when Tom gets accused and then convicted of having an inappropriate relationship with a student.

“It really is a family drama,” explained Mr. Schwartz, “and really is about all of us in that we all have moments in our relationships where we realize we can’t fully know the person we’re in a relationship with, we never can. It’s not possible to know every aspect of another person. And thus how do we live our lives under those circumstances? We have to have conviction about the person we’re with, but when that’s challenged, what do we do?”

Bay Street Theatre's new Artistic Director Scott Schwartz. Courtesy of Bay Street Theatre.

Bay Street Theatre’s new Artistic Director Scott Schwartz. Courtesy of Bay Street Theatre.

That universal significance resonates with the director, who emphasizes the humanity in all the plays coming to Bay Street this summer as part of its “season of art and revolution.”

Richard Kind will return to Bay Street from June 24 to July 20 as the star of the Tony Award-winning comedy “Travesties.” Directed by Gregory Boyd, who Mr. Schwartz calls “brilliant,” the Tom Stoppard comedy is set in 1917 and 1974 in Zurich, Switzerland. It fantasizes about the interaction of British consul Henry Carr (played by Mr. Kind) and some of the major figures of the 20th century, including James Joyce and Lenin, who were living in Zurich at the time.

“I think that play is the centerpiece of our season … what it really gets at 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,” Mr. Schwartz said.

The third Mainstage production is another world premiere, “My Life Is a Musical,” which will run from July 29 to August 31. Director/choreographer Marlo Hunter and writer/composer Adam Overett are “both real rising stars in musical theater,” said Mr. Schwartz.

The musical comedy follows the journey of Parker, a man who experiences the entire world as if in a musical, with everyone he meets appearing to sing and dance. Initially embarrassed by his peculiar worldview, Parker ultimately learns to love even the part of him that makes him different.

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

Mr. Schwartz’s vision for Bay Street extends past the Mainstage. In late April, the inaugural New Play Festival at Bay Street will host readings of new plays by three “very exciting” writers. A summer initiative will bring outdoor readings of Shakespeare’s work to the community. The summer camp program is being expanded to Southampton and the theater is launching after-hours programming “to offer fun, cool theatrical experiences to our audience late night,” Mr. Schwartz said.

On February 10, Bay Street announced the launch of The Scott Schwartz New Directions Fund to “honor the vision of its new artistic director.”

“This fund,” said Tracy Mitchell, executive director of Bay Street, “marks the kick-off to an amazing season of a very new Bay Street.”