Tag Archive | "Theater"

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

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,


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.

Guild Hall’s John Drew Theater Lab Presents The April Fool’s Show

Tags: , , , , , ,


By Tessa Raebeck

The John Drew Theater Lab hosts The April Fool’s Show, an evening of staged readings from a range of comedic plays, some new work, music and performances.

Chloe Dirksen will direct the readings, featuring Ms. Dirksen, Alan Ceppos, Peter Connolly, Lydia Franco-Hodges, Josh Gladstone, Kate Mueth. Bobby Peterson will play piano and Liz Joyce of Goat on a Boat Puppet Theatre will give a “very special racy performance,” according to the theater lab.

The April Fool’s Show is Tuesday, April 1 at 7:30 p.m. at Guild Hall, 158 Main Street in East Hampton. For more information, call 324-0806 or visit guildhall.org.

After 23 Years, the Hampton Theatre Company Revives “The Foreigner”

Tags: , , , , , , ,


The Hampton Theatre Company in "The Foreigner." Courtesy of director Sarah Hunnewell.

Krista Kurtzberg, Ben Schnickel, Matthew Conlon and Diana Marbury in “The Foreigner.” Photo by Tom Kochie.

 

By Tessa Raebeck

After a widely successful run in 1991, “The Foreigner” will return to Quogue this month as the Hampton Theatre Company revives of one of its greatest hits.

“This show is just a very, very funny comedy, which we did 23 years ago with huge, huge sell-out success and so we decided, 23 years later, to revive it,” said HTC executive director Sarah Hunnewell, who is directing the play this time around.

“The Foreigner,” written by the late playwright Larry Shue, will run from March 13 through March 30 at the Quogue Community Hall.

It is the best-known play by Mr. Shue, a promising young playwright and actor who died in a plane crash at the pinnacle of his success in 1985. At the time of his death, two of Mr. Shue’s productions, “The Foreigner” and “The Nerd,” were enjoying successful runs both in London and New York, he was gearing up to make his Broadway debut as an actor and he was working on a screenplay of “The Foreigner” with Disney.

“It’s a silly play, but it has a lot of cards and it actually says some nice things about life and people and all that kind of stuff—but it’s wildly entertaining at the same time,” said Ms. Hunnewell.

Unhappy with his life, Charlie, a shy and awkward Englishman, is brought to a quaint fishing lodge in the middle of rural, backwoods Georgia by his friend Froggy.

“He basically, at the beginning, thinks he should never have come and is completely horrified with the fact that he’s there and he’s horrified by this seedy, peculiar fishing lodge in the rural south,” the director said.

Rather than adapting to his surroundings, Charlie decides to pretend to be a non-English speaking foreigner and invents a strange dialect so that no one will talk to him.

Diana Marbury and Matthew Conlon in "The Foreigner." Photo by Tom Kochie.

Diana Marbury and Matthew Conlon in “The Foreigner.” Photo by Tom Kochie.

“That’s sort of the comic premise of the play, the fact that he politically doesn’t speak any English,” Ms. Hunnewell said.

About to abandon his role-playing, Charlie gets stuck in his position when those around him begin to spill their secrets in front of him under the assumption he knows no English. Upon discovering an evil plot, Charlie must expose it without also exposing his own cover.

“It’s just a lovely, very fun piece and we’ve got a wonderful cast who are a joy to work with and all very talented,” said Ms. Hunnewell, who has directed all but two of the actors before.

Matthew Conlon is returning to the HTC stage after a near 20-year hiatus to play the lead role of Charlie. “It’s a nice fit, it’s like going home to that theater,” said Mr. Conlon of his return to the Quogue stage.

“The character is just like an outsider. It’s an outsider story about someone who finds himself through the challenge of having to extend himself to other people,” said Mr. Conlon. “At its heart, it’s sort of a sublime foolishness, but it has a heart to it. There’s something about this play that’s very sweet and real.”

Longtime HTC members Diana Marbury and James Ewing are reprising the roles they played in the original production, with Ms. Marbury as the naïve innkeeper Betty Meeks and Mr. Ewing as “this nasty southern stereotype guy,” Owen Musser, said Ms. Hunnewell.

“Jim is having a wild time, he loves his character. He plays the bad guy—which is always very fun to do,” Ms. Hunnewell said.

“It’s always interesting to come back to a role and just revisit it and see how it changed,” said Ms. Marbury. “You have different casts, so the other people involved in the show bring a different dynamic to the play itself—and, consequently, to you and your character. So, each time it’s a very fresh kind of piece.”

Other HTC veterans include Joe Pallister as the complicated Reverend David Marshall Lee, Terry Brockbank as the cheerful Froggy and Ben Shnickel as Ellard Sims, “sort of the comic character because he’s very dumb,” according to Ms. Hunnewell.

“Our new Ellard is just a charming young man that has done some work with us and really has quite a good grip on the character,” Ms. Marbury said of Mr. Shnickel.

James Ewing and Matthew Conlon in "The Foreigner." Photo by Tom Kochie.

James Ewing and Matthew Conlon in “The Foreigner.” Photo by Tom Kochie.

Newcomer Krista Kurtzberg plays the beautiful young debutante Catherine Simms. A native of Georgia, Ms. Kurtzberg is “a great addition in terms of getting our accents right,” said Ms. Hunnewell.

Primarily a drama director, Ms. Hunnewell has found a welcome challenge in directing comedy, especially with her cast of friends and longtime collaborators.

“The actors in a comedy have to just be good comic actors because you cannot teach comedy. Comedy is all about timing, delivery and timing, and if you haven’t got it, you haven’t got it,” she said.

“The challenges of doing this kind of comedy for me are to play it as truthfully as possible,” added Mr. Conlon. “This character, Charlie Baker, is funny because of situation and circumstances. I don’t think he’s trying to be funny, I think it comes. So for me, it’s to really find the values and the moment-to-moment reality that allow the play to be funny.”

“There just has to always be truth in the character, and as long as the character is real, the comedy or the drama come out of that,” said Ms. Marbury. “One of the tricky parts is not just playing for laughs, so the laughs come out of the truth of the character and also the dialogue—the premise itself.”

“The Foreigner” will run from March 13 through March 30, on Thursdays and Fridays at 7 p.m., Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2:30 p.m. at the Quogue Community Hall, 125 Jessup Avenue in Quogue. Tickets are $25 for adults, $23 for seniors (except on Saturdays) and $10 for students under 21. The Hampton Theatre Company is offering special dinner and theater packages in collaboration with the Southampton, Westhampton Beach, Hampton Bays and Quogue libraries. For more information or to make reservations, call 866-811-4111 or visit here.

“August: Osage County” at the Southampton Cultural Center

Tags: , , , , , ,


The female members of the cast of "August: Osage County." Courtesy of the Southampton Cultural Center.

The female members of the cast of “August: Osage County.” Courtesy of the Southampton Cultural Center.

By Tessa Raebeck

Presented by Center Stage at the Southampton Cultural Center, the Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award winning “August: Osage County” will have its Long Island premiere Thursday, March 20 at the Levitas Center for the Arts.

The darkly comedic and dysfunctional family drama by Tracy Letts received a Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 2008, after making its Broadway debut at the Imperial Theater in 2007. “August: Osage County” closed on Broadway after 648 performances and won five Tony Awards, including Best Play, Leading Actress and Director. The film adaptation was released last year and starred Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts, who both earned Oscar nominations for their performances.

The play covers the tumultuous relationships and divergent lives of the strong-willed women of the Weston family, who are brought back together when a family crisis forces three sisters to return, along with their significant others, to the Oklahoma house they grew up in – and to their mother, a manipulative addict.

Directed by Michael Disher, the Center Stage presentation of “August: Osage County” will run March 20 through April 6 on Thursdays at 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2:30 p.m. at the Levitas Center for the Arts, 25 Pond Lane in Southampton. General admission is $22 and $12 for students under 21 with ID. On Fridays, seniors are $20. For tickets, call the Southampton Cultural Center at 287-4377 or purchase online.

Hampton Theatre Company to Hold Auditions for “God of Carnage”

Tags: , , , , , , ,


unnamed-2

By Tessa Raebeck

The Hampton Theatre Company in Quogue will hold open auditions for two of the four roles in “God of Carnage,” an award-winning volatile comedy written by Yasmina Reza.

The play, according to the company, “reveals how quickly and disastrously the thin veneer of civility can be stripped away when two sets of parents attempt to discuss a confrontation between their sons.”

The roles of Michael Novak (in his 40s to 50s) and his wife Veronica Novak (in her 40s) are available. Diana Marbury will direct “God of Carnage.” Rehearsals begin in mid-April and performances run from May 22 through June 8 on Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings and Sunday afternoons at the Quogue Community Hall.

Auditions will be held on Sunday, March 23 and Monday, March 24 from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Quogue Community Hall, 125 Jessup Avenue in Quogue. Readings at the auditions will be from the script, with no monologue or appointment necessary. Contact info@hamptontheatre.org or call 917-532-4440 for more information, or visit here.

There’s Daggers in Men’s Smiles: Shelter Island Shakespeare Continues with “Macbeth”

Tags: , , , , , , ,


 

A performance of "Much Ado About Nothing" at the Sylvester Manor in the summer of 2013.

An outdoor performance of “Much Ado About Nothing” at the Sylvester Manor in the summer of 2013. Photo courtesy of the Sylvester Manor.

By Tessa Raebeck

Bloodlust, revenge and sin will fill the Shelter Island Presbyterian Church this weekend, as Sylvester Manor presents “Macbeth,” one of Shakespeare’s most harrowing plays.

Sylvester Manor, with a history of arts programming that goes back to the late 19th century when members of the Sylvester family hosted “summer salons” entertaining artists and writers with poetry readings, music performances and plays, is returning to its creative roots through Shakespeare at the Manor. “Macbeth” marks the fifth production in the series.

And the Shelter Island community is part of Shakespeare at the Manor productions, with residents hosting members of the company at their homes during the length of the production, playing small roles in the show and even cooking meals for the cast.

“This engages the community beyond being members of an audience and provides everyone with the opportunity to feel connected to the excitement of the weekend. We’ve had a tremendous response from both the companies and the volunteers who have participated,” said Samara Levenstein, the co-chair of the Manor’s arts and education committee, who calls the island’s engagement in the production “community-supported theater.”

It is the fruition of Ms. Levenstein’s “pet project” to bring outdoor and site-specific theater performance to Shelter Island, in the model of Shakespeare in the Park. It started in 2011 with “As You Like It,” performed in a field surrounded by the property’s organic farm. Last summer, “Much Ado About Nothing” brought audience members to the theater, the Manor’s front lawn, by way of canoes.

Drew Foster, the director of “Much Ado About Nothing,” returns to Shelter Island for “Macbeth.” Since graduating from Julliard, Mr. Foster has been directing in Chicago and New York City. “It’s really exciting to have found a gem in Shelter Island and it has a really rich performance history,” Mr. Foster. “It’s fun to carry on the tradition that’s pretty rich within the manor already.”

Director Drew Foster.

Director Drew Foster.

For “Macbeth,” Mr. Foster chose the Shelter Island Presbyterian Church, which will highlight the religious undertones of the play and the dilemmas characters face as they grapple with murder, power and vengeance against a daunting moral backdrop.

“The question of the play is do I kill Duncan or do I not kill Duncan,” said Mr. Foster. “So when Macbeth is wrestling with these questions, he’s literally standing underneath a giant cross, so he has to use that and when someone does something sacrilegious, they’re actually doing it in a church. When the witches come and defame it, they’re literally turning the church on its head—it becomes more immediate.”

“It’s not necessarily a traditional stage or theater experience where you go into a theater and the theater is manipulated to fit the show. We actually chose the show to fit the space,” the director added. “We try to do the whole show around everyone.”

Scenes will be performed in the choir loft, behind the audience, up and down the aisles, on the altar and in the hallway, where the characters are invisible but their voices audible.

With lines as familiar as “blood will have blood,” directors can struggle with how to keep the classic Shakespeare production fresh, but rather than shy away from the challenge, Mr. Foster embraces it, happy to expand on the work of those before him.

“When you’re doing a new play, I find that much more difficult because you’re trying to create something out of nothing,” he said. “These plays have rich histories of performance, so you sort of get to borrow and learn from brilliant people who have tried it out before you.”

Mr. Foster solicited the help of his peers at Julliard and in the New York City theater world in forming the company. “Luckily, I have very talented friends,” he said of his cast. “They’re all amazing. About half of them have been on Broadway and they’re all terrific.”

Actors who attended Julliard with Mr. Foster are portraying both Macbeth and Lady Macbeth. Robert Eli, who plays Macbeth, has done several shows on Broadway and has a small part on the acclaimed political drama “House of Cards.” Phoebe Dunn will play his bloodthirsty wife, Lady Macbeth. “She’s just out of school,” said Mr. Foster, “very young, but very talented.”

As part of the manor’s partnership with the Shelter Island School, the cast will direct a workshop for high school students this Friday. Students will act as stagehands and ushers and a few students have small roles in the play.

“Macbeth” will be shown Friday, March 7, and Saturday, March 8, at 7 p.m. at the Shelter Island Presbyterian Church. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. Tickets are $20 for adults and $7 for students age 8 through college-aged (the play is not recommended for children under 8). Tickets are available at sylvestermanor.org.

Bay Street Theatre Hosts 2014 Mainstage Local Auditions in Sag Harbor

Tags: , , , ,


ScottSchwartzBayStreet

Bay Street Theatre Artistic Director Scott Schwartz. Courtesy of Bay Street Theatre.

By Tessa Raebeck

Bay Street Theatre is hosting local auditions for three plays premiering over the summer during the Mainstage Season and a fourth production opening in the fall.

The auditions will take place on Saturday, March 8 from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. and 1 to 3 p.m. at the Bay Street Theatre in Sag Harbor. Actors can audition for the three mainstage plays, “Conviction,” “Travesties” and “My Life is a Musical,” as well the Literature Live arts-in-education production of “To Kill a Mockingbird.” Judging the auditions will be Bay Street’s new Artistic Director Scott Schwartz, joined by John Sullivan, associate producer, and Will Pomerantz, associate artist.

“The summer of 2014 at Bay Street is a season of art and revolution,” Mr. Schwartz said. “As the new Artistic Director of Bay Street and also as a new member of the East End community, I am deeply committed to making this theater a home for local artists. I hope everyone who is interested in working with Bay Street comes to these auditions, and I look forward to this opportunity to continue to get to know our artistic community.”

All actors should bring a resume with a photo stapled to it and prepare a monologue under two minutes. Those who would like to be considered for “My Life is a Musical” should prepare 16 bars of music to sing. An accompanist will be provided.

For more information on the productions, characters and auditions, visit baystreet.org.

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

Tags: , , , ,


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.”

After Starring in Commercial, Pierson Junior Abi Gianis to Join the Screen Actors Guild (SAG)

Tags: , , , , , , , ,


 

Pierson High School Senior Abi Gianis makes her professional acting debut in a new commercial for Clean & Clear.

Pierson High School Junior Abi Gianis makes her professional acting debut in a new commercial for Clean & Clear.

By Tessa Raebeck

Although celebrities are known to frequent Sag Harbor, they are usually in the village as visitors, not lifetime residents. Homegrown stars are rare, but Abi Gianis, a junior at Pierson High School, is well on her way to changing that.

Gianis recently filmed her first national commercial, “See the Real Me,” an acne spot treatment commercial for the international brand Clean & Clear. The 30-second commercial features seven teenage girls, including Gianis, delivering lines and smiles about how the spot treatment allows people to look past the zits and “see the real me.”

While some of the actors don’t speak at all, Gianis delivers two lines, including the commercial’s ending catchphrase – arguably the most coveted line – “clean and clear and confident.”

Gianis, who possesses the natural charisma vital to show business, used the limited resources on the East End to perfect her craft, performing on Pierson’s stage in a number of plays and musicals and dancing at Studio 3 in Bridgehampton. Most recently, last weekend she played a lead role (Cassie) in Pierson’s production of “A Chorus Line,” acting, singing and dancing ballet.

“We are very proud of her,” Paula Brannon, Pierson’s director of musicals, said of Gianis, adding that her student “is now a pro.”

Gianis has signed with a top agency in New York City and has been invited to join the Screen Actors Guild (SAG).

Troubled Teens Turn to Theater

Tags: , , , , ,


DSC_0053 _Snapseed adjusted

By Claire Walla

Tom Demenkoff would never say he was a therapist. And most people would never assume he was.

Demenkoff kick-started his theater career in the off-Broadway production of Godspell in 1971, and spent the next 40 years acting in television shows and regional theater productions, simultaneously teaching in university theater programs throughout New York State.

But for the residents of Phoenix House, a halfway home for young men 15 to 20-years-old in Wainscott, Demenkoff’s presence certainly may seem therapeutic.

Through the PossibleArts Theatre Project (which he founded a few years ago) and with support from the Artists Writers Softball Game, Demenkoff spent the last eight weeks introducing a group of roughly 15 Phoenix House residents, all adolescents struggling with issues of substance abuse, to the art of playwriting and theater production.

The boys ultimately completed 32 original plays. Some are only a page, and some are up to five pages long; but all of them, Demenkoff said, reflect an honest range of emotions.

“I clearly see how the arts are a vital compliment to education,” Demenkoff explained. “These guys [at Phoenix House] have either been passed over, or have missed something, so a part of their lives is lost.”

Theater give the boys the opportunity to let loose and tap into pent up or oft ignored emotions, Dememkoff said.

“We’re always trying to expose the kids to something that may spark an interest in them,” added Phoenix House Director Dan Boylan. And in the past eight weeks, he added, “Some fo the boys have really come out of theis shells.”

Boylan said he hopes to bring the theater program to Phoenix House regularly, at least on an annual basis.

When the program began, Demenkoff said he pretty much started from scratch—the majority of the boys had never had any theater experience.

Demenkoff started teaching simple acting exercises to get the residents to tap into vocal, physical and emotional abilities. These are skills actors are accustomed to tapping into all the time, he added, though many of the boys at Phoenix House had to learn these techniques. Then, to make the program more relevant for the residents, Demenkoff customized the course.

“I mean, I could go in there and just do theater,” he said. “But, I’ve decided that I need to connect to the whole fabric of the facility, so that when I go in I deliver something that’s a compliment to their work.”

Before the course began, Demenkoff met with Phoenix House staff members to discuss what some of the more pervasive themes were for the boys there, what made them mad or upset.

“A lot of times these guys feel that the challenge is that they don’t have any say, either to carry on a relationship, or within the world at large,” Demenkoff explained. “They feel like stuff has sort of passed them by.”

So, with this in mind, Demenkoff began to focus their work mid-way through the program on a specific theme: “If it was up to me.”

“As simple as that sounds, the minute you start introducing something like that, there’s an explosion of thoughts,” he began. By having a way for the participants to focus their creative energy, he said, “that’s when thing start to click, and that’s when things get written.”

Of course, he added, the process is not the same for everyone involved.

“I definitely understand that these guys are in a recovery program, and they’re dealing with certain issues,” he said. “So, to have this crazy guy come in [with a program] that’s very physical and very vocal — it’s a pretty loose frame-work — it can be mind blowing.”

There are always some people who are reluctant to actively participate, he noted. And while every participant produced written work, Dememkoff said only eight of the boys will be acting in plays this Saturday.

However, he added, the program is still beneficial for all those involved.

“They work out their aggression and their fears through their written work,” he said. “Their plays really reflect their journeys.”

Demenkoff pointed to one of the boy’s plays as an example. Written in the form of a fairytale, the play is about a research scientist who travels to a volcano where he finds a troll. The troll, the research scientist discovers, is terrified of living in the volcano. The heat makes living there very uncomfortable. So, to help, the research scientist invents climate control.

In reaction to the play, Demenkoff said one of the kids exclaimed: “That’s sort of like being here at Phoenix House.”

“It’s true,” he added. “On the outside, recovery looks like a volcano. But, on the inside, it can be climate controlled.”

Eight original works created by the residents of Phoenix House will be performed this Saturday, February 25 at 12 p.m. at the Phoenix House East Hampton Academy.