BWW Special Feature: 99 and Under the Radar; Places to See...
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by Michael Roderick
Welcome to 99 AND UNDER THE RADAR: A LOOK AT INDIE THEATER'S MOVERS AND SHAKERS, BroadwayWorld's new weekly series that showcases standout productions and production companies from the independent theater scene in New York City. Each week, independent producer Michael Roderick will be discussing the latest goings on in the theatrical wings, highlighting those with potentially bright futures.
This Week's Topic: Places to see, baggage to keep, and Boomerangs to come back
In the Indie community, the fall is a popular time for newThe Indie community is usually bursting with new material come September and October. School is back in full swing, college's begin presenting their fall shows, and many audience members take to the streets to find fresh entertainment. This week looks at a New Theatre Company, a new play, and an established Indie company giving us a a little bit of old and new.
First up is an interview with The Seeing Place Theatre's BranDon Walker and Anna Marie Sell. When asked what makes the company different, Mr. Walker explained that the company has a very different style of rehearsing a piece that is based heavily in improvisation. The group works quite a bit with character and improvised language before even looking to the actual text of the work they are about to do. Walker refers to this as "hands on sociology" and further explains that the actors are "living through the experience" in every performance rather than presenting what they think the experience is. This raw work has an interesting side-effect in that it causes the audience to feel that they are part of the show. As Walker explains, "We go to the theatre to see ourselves."
This concept is where the name for the company came from. The Greek word for Theatre is "Theatron" which literally translated is "The Seeing Place" Interestingly enough though, unlike some companies who have openly admitted to only forming a company because the actors in it haven't gotten work, Mr. Walker points out that "Operating a company is too hard if the only reason you're doing it is to make work for yourself." With that in mind this group creates work that challenges the audience to take on the role of a character in each production. Another innovative project the company has taken on is spreading the work of new plays and playwrights using podcasts. The idea, the brain child of Artistic Associate Raab Rashi, offers the company a chance to work on new plays and offers the playwrights a way to spread their material and possible have Seeing Place do a full production of the work in the future. For now, the team focuses on mainly established works and enjoys bringing their own style to it. The last production the company did of Waiting For Lefty was run like a town meeting with members of the audience sitting amongst the cast. The company is always actively seeking the work of new playwrights to bring their unique style to and more info can be found here. The company will next tackle John Osborne's Look back in Anger and more info on the show and tickets can be found here. When asked for a quote about the company these were the responses:
Brandon- "We don't really have lives. This is our life. We pick plays and specifically aim our work towards the community in which we live and people can expect to live through an event with us when they come and see our work."
Anna Marie- "The thing most audiences have said after all of our shows is how struck they were by the intimacy and intensity of what they'd seen. So my goal as an actor and a producer is to provide the most personal and honest work I can. That's what we are inviting people to experience with us."
To experience more check out the company's website here.
Next up is keep your baggage with you at all times, playing at Theatre for the New City afterreceiving an extension from the Dream Up festival. An extension that is well deserved. If there are literary agents out there looking for the next hot playwright, they really need to make sure they get down to this show. Jonathan Blitstein has crafted a play that takes a startling look at the evolution of relationships and the human psyche. The piece has a number of very humorous moments but as one watches each of these people change, the humor becomes much darker, landing the audience in a place at the end where no one is laughing with anyone, but many are being laughed at. The story centers around 4 people who experience connection, dissolution, and loss all following their own very specific path through the course of seven years. The thing that is most startling is perhaps the truth that we all realize many of our friends have often undergone similar changes and we have had our own moments of watching best friends change. The piece itself is directed by the incredibly talented Daniel Talbott, who stages each scene and each transition in such a way that we are very clear that this a theatrical production. Rather than trying to move set pieces awkwardly in black outs and hope the audience stays in it while the change is made, Talbott chose instead to flood the house with loud music and let stagehands walk on an off. We even see the actors in the dressing room in a very clever bit of staging. The cast also rises to the the level of artistry that the piece accomplishes with the writing and directing by snapping in and out of periods of their lives. Each scene has months or even years between the scene prior and the cast adeptly snaps into each moment as if in the few seconds of those changes, they did in fact live that number of months or years. Jessica Dickey is particular powerful in the all too familiar scene where she sees someone a good deal of time after breaking up with him. Daniel Abeles is also a virtual chameleon moving from love struck, to sex obsessed, to earth and peace loving and equally startling is Nate Miller's ability to switch from weak and sheepish to bold and pompous all within the course of 75 minutes. Laura Ramadei also does a great job with a character who has very little stage time, but an incredible degree of impact on everyone's lives. Her scene with Dickey is also touching and shows amazing vulnerability. The show is running for a few more performances and tickets can be found here. This is certainly a group to watch.
Finally, Boomerang Theatre Company which has been featured in this column before has launched their rep season. The three shows in rep are a mix of old, established, and brand new plays. More info can be found here. The team is doing Uncle Vanya, Venus Observed, and Endless Summer Nights and each show is running currently. The company was also kind enough to extend a discount for readers of this column. That discount can be redeemed by getting your ticket online and typing in code "Boom99u"
The fall season is still bustling with new opportunities to see Indie Theatre. It's a good time to go outside.
Read more of Michael's insights at www.oneproducerinthecity.typepad.com.