Tag Archive | "Theater"

Stages Brings a Favorite Back to Bay Street

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The cast of Stages' 2006 performance of "Once Upon a Mattress." Photo courtesy of Stages.

The cast of Stages’ 2006 performance of “Once Upon a Mattress.” Photo courtesy of Stages.

By Tessa Raebeck

A twist on the fabled tale of “The Princess and the Pea,” the romantic comedy “Once Upon A Mattress” returns to the Bay Street stage this weekend in three shows by Stages, a Children’s Theatre Workshop, Inc.

A fractured fairy tale that takes a comedic twist on the classic story, “Once Upon a Mattress” has music by Mary Rodgers, lyrics by Marshall Barer and book by Marshall Barer, Dean Fuller and Jay Thompson.

The play will mark the 97th production for Stages, which begins its 20th season of professional-quality shows featuring local young actors this summer.

Director and choreographer Helene Leonard manages a cast of 30 young actors. Local musicians Amanda Jones and James Benard will provide accompaniment.

For Sunday’s Mother’s Day show, all mothers in the audience will receive a crown marking them “Queen-for-a-day.”

“Once Upon a Matress” is Saturday, May 10 at 2 and 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, May 11 at 2 p.m. at Bay Street Theatre, 1 Bay Street in Sag Harbor. For more information, visit stagesworkshop.org, email info@stagesworkshop.org or call 329-1420.

Bay Street Theatre’s New Works Festival Explores the Craft of Playwriting

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By Tessa Raebeck

With three staged readings and an interactive panel discussion, Bay Street Theatre’s first New Works Festival will give up-and-coming playwrights a chance to develop their work in front of an audience—and give that audience a chance to see the culmination of the playwrights’ creative process firsthand.

At 4 p.m. Saturday, an “Artist Interact” panel discussion moderated by award-winning writer John Weidman will allow the playwrights to explore the challenges of being a modern playwright and the process of developing new work in the theater.

At 8 p.m. Friday, the festival starts with a reading of “Fight Call” by Jess Brickman, a comedy about the backstage of the theater world. The play explores the boundaries of trust and professionalism between a veteran theater star and a young up-and-coming actor when one of them threatens to commit an actual act of violence—as opposed to an acted act of violence—on stage during their performance.

A contemporary reimagining of Chekhov’s “Cherry Orchard,” according to playwright P. Seth Bauer, “The Orchard Play” will be read Saturday at 8 p.m. It follows the struggle of a Pennsylvania family farm as it tries to contend with outside pressure to sell their land to oil companies interested in “fracking,” hydraulic fracturing to release natural gas.

The final reading is of “The May Queen” by Molly Smith Metzler Sunday at 2 p.m. The comedy focuses on the disappointment of Mike Petracca when he is reunited with the high school flame he has been obsessed with since her departure years before. It examines the unreliability of expectations and the roles people play in one another’s lives, often unknowingly.

“Talkbacks” in which the audience can interact with the writers will follow each reading.

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

Bridgehampton Students will Reunite the Peanuts Gang in “Snoopy! The Musical”

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By Tessa Raebeck

Focusing on the life of Snoopy—and the natural comedy found therein—the Bridgehampton School is presenting “Snoopy! The Musical” in three shows today, Thursday, April 24, Friday, April 25 and and Saturday, April 26.

The second musical ever produced at the school, “Snoopy! The Musical” is the sequel to “You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown” and also stars the characters of Charles Schulz’s iconic comic strip “Peanuts.” The book musical follows Snoopy and the gang through trials from trying to not be called on in class to trying to get a manuscript published, as Charlie Brown grows more and more insecure of Snoopy’s growing independence.

“It is hysterical,” said Lindsey Sanchez, the choral director at Bridgehampton School. “It’s all brand new for the students and they are loving it, the show is going to be great.”

“Snoopy! The Musical” will premiere today, April 24, at 1 p.m. in a show for Bridgehampton’s elementary students, and also run April 25 and 26 at 7 p.m. in the gymnasium at Bridgehampton School, 2685 Montauk Highway in Bridgehampton. Tickets are $5. For more information or to purchase tickets, call Lindsey Sanchez at 537-0271, ext. 127.

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.

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

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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”

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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

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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”

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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”

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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

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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.