Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Notes from Justine: Winter 2011 Writer/Director Forum

Notes from Justine Winter 2011 Writer/Director Forum Rehearsals
WEEK 1 – DECEMBER 1-4: A Time and Place for Everything
What a great time I had on Monday, November 14 observing Forum Week 1 rehearsals!  Each of these shows is about a very specific and very different place and time.  It’s a rare treat to see inspiration coming from these unusual settings.  Each setting (detailed below) creates a world that has its own rules and imperatives.  The clarity of these backdrops helps each story being told to hold us captive and keep us questioning as the plot points are revealed

Written by Jennifer Barclay, Directed by Anais Koivisto
Featuring: Kati Rae Cowardin, Joey Lozada & Thami Moscovici

Set in the not too distant future, The Golden Ticket is about a contest to receive an experience once common but now rare and precious, an uncertain daughter with a mom desperate to give something of her own youth to her child, and a daughter seemingly uncertain of the value of anything…as teens tend to be.

Written by Jan O’Connor, Directed by Estefania Fadul                  
Featuring: Cindy de la Cruz & David Harrell

Oscar, a record keeper for the "cremains" of thousands of unclaimed dead in a large city, is visited by a young woman looking for her long lost love.  An office filled with records, books, organization and…remains- lost remains, unclaimed humanity.  Who could be so uncared for they were not even claimed?  Or was it the lost who choose not to care?
Pedestrian Casualty: Bronx, USA
By Nina Mansfield, Directed by Christina Neubrand     
Featuring: Manny De La Cruz, Shannon Harris, Alexandra Hiotakis, Keenen Jones, Darla Juniper, Josh Mahaffey, Norma Perez-Hernandez & Austin Young

A school teacher.  A student.  A car crash.  The Bronx; high school, teachers who care, students who don’t, or is it the other way around?  Does anyone care?  In fact it’s possible they all care.  Sometimes caring isn’t enough and what’s broken doesn’t get fixed, just more broken.
This is a very strong threesome of plays.  Original ideas told clearly and with sympathy to the human problems at the center of complicated situations.  The three formidable ladies at the helm of these plays have ideas and a clear understanding of the material they are working with.  I am excited to see these plays blossom into full production.
Extra thanks go to this week’s Assistant Directors/Stage Managers Francesca Galbo and Taylor Reynolds for being such a great part of our discussions and helping create smooth transitions throughout the night!  Also what a great treat to have Lighting Designer Ryan Metzler attend the same rehearsals as I did.  Why didn’t we think of that earlier…? Perhaps this could be the beginning of a beautiful policy…
WEEK 2 – DECEMBER 8-11: Strange and Stranger

Watching Week Two’s rehearsals on Monday 11/21 I was struck by all the many many ways humans can be strange, weird, unusual, odd.  There’s flat-out insanity of course, there’s awkwardness that just might be normal but might be quite quirky and there’s the inherent strangeness of lying.  People are so bizarre when they know they aren’t telling the truth aren’t they?  Most of the time we don’t know what is making them act so odd but as an audience we are let into their internal machinations and can enjoy the weirdness.  Of course these three plays also have stories and situations to go along with their odd inhabitants.
Based on the works of William Shakespeare,
Adapted & Directed by Katherine Sommer
Featuring: James Bascomb, Samantha Cains, Kevin Hoffman,
Lilli Stein & Nick Zappetti

This is an exciting mash-up of two great plays by the Bard.  When you put together Ophelia and Lady Macbeth clearly the theme is madness.  It’s fun to see these two ladies take their journeys through sanity and out the other side together.  What do they have in common?  More important in my mind was the question what do these two women need from each other?  Wouldn’t it be a different world if Lady M. could advise Ophelia?  Could the Lady learn to keep herself together if she had the presence of the fair Ophelia to shore her up?  Although it’s a pair of tragedies the result is surprisingly fun.
Written by Elizabeth Swearingen, Directed by Jessy Grossman                     
Featuring: Daniel Blatman, Olivia Boyle & Lesley Noyes

Sweet young love is here.  Or is it?  Um, that’s always the problem at the beginning isn’t it?  Is this real?  Are these feelings going to last?  Does he/she REALLY LIKE ME???  Some of the most eternal questions of life are present in this slice of life.  They may not be the meaning of life or even the answer to why the sky is blue but we’ve all been there and we feel the urgency and importance of that sweet moment keenly with the two young people breaking their fast together for the first time.
Written by Erin Leigh Steiner, Directed by Laura Hirschberg            
Featuring: Rory Kulz & Chanel Thomas
What happens when the one you love is no longer the one you trust?  This is about murder!  Whodunnit?  He said/she said. She says she doesn’t remember and he says it was her… but why? And they love each other so they are going to stick together whatever may come.  But, still, why?  Why would they kill him?  What is the real reason for the tension in this moment?  How could it not be the dead body!?  People can be weird and sometimes the dead body is not the real skeleton in the closet.  What are they really upset about?  Could it be their relationship?  And what are they going to tell the police?
I loved Assistant Director/Stage Manager Caroline Angell’s summation of the evening; An evening of Love and Murder!  Perfect.  I really enjoyed getting to know her through our discussions after each play!
WEEK 3 – DECEMBER 15-18: Brief but Not Slight

This Monday, November 28, I observed the final week of this December Forum.  There are four plays in this one yet the evening stays well below two hours.  Clearly they are short.  Yet while not lengthy these plays are not insubstantial, they address issues of guilt (lots of guilt), loss, betrayal, and the human need for contact.
Written by K. Alexa Mavromatis, Directed by Sarah Simmons
Featuring: Kiley Rothweiler & Anna Drezen

In this piece we see two young girls watching someone.  Over the course of the play we will discover who he is.  We also see the girls’ relationship develop as they learn things about each other they may or may not have known but are only now coming to understand.  Will they find the courage to approach this mystery man?  Should they?
Written by Karin Diann Williams, Directed by Karyn DeYoung    
Featuring: Nathalie Frederick & Kea Trevett
Here again we have two young girls but these two are not friends.  It’s even hard to understand why they are together.  They are different.  One of them is a bit strange but then what teenager isn’t a bit strange?  In the end they are reaching for something.  It might be human connection.  It might be a bit of magic in their lives.  Whatever it is I think they need it.  I hope they find it.
He Says His Name Is John
By Laura Rohrman, Directed by Ashley Scoles
Featuring: Hazen Cuyler, Josiah Laubenstein & Caitlin Morris

A dream apartment seems to be the central issue in this play.  What is wrong with this amazing apartment??  But there may be other things wrong here.  Is this couple as happy as they seem?  What has happened to her job?  And then there’s this guy John, their real estate agent.  But the new neighbor looks just like him…

By Brit Hawkins, Directed by Gretchen Ferris 
Featuring: Kate Dickinson, Billy Roberts and Jodi Savitz

Sometimes you know the difference between right and wrong.  And then you do it anyway.  A classic love triangle.  He is cheating on her, with her.  It’s simple and so is the play but then it’s complicated.  Real human situations are always complicated and so is the play.  On the verge of a stereotype the play sidesteps that completely by being real and making us care.  These people are trying.  They are imperfect and needy and it leads to a mess that can’t be easily swept under the rug.  I particularly enjoy the depiction of a mistress who is not the obvious other woman.  She is her own woman, not an extension of anyone else.
There is a lot of exciting work here.  It doesn’t hang together in any obvious way but when I spoke with the Assistant Directors/Stage Managers Gina Femia and Kitty Lindsey about how they viewed the evening as a whole they had enlightening viewpoints to share.  Gina said that these plays are all in some way about people wanting to be seen and accepted for who they are and Kitty added that in these plays we see people confronting their insecurities and facing the qualities in themselves they are least proud of.  I thank them both for their wonderful insights throughout the evening!
This Forum is going to be an exciting and enlightening trio of evenings!
Justine Lambert
Artistic Director
Looking Glass Theatre - http://www.lookingglasstheatrenyc.com/
Written byJennifer Barclay, Directed by Anais Koivisto
Featuring: Kati Rae Cowardin, Joey Lozada & Thami Moscovici 

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Halloween Special- CALAMITY JANE!

Friends of Looking Glass Theatre! 
If  you are reading this then you're in for a great deal!

To celebrate the Halloween weekend we are offering a special discount for this weekend (10/29, 10/30):

COME IN COSTUME and get a Special Discount for
Thisweekend only: Adults $10, Kids $5!!!!!

So join us in the Wild Wild West for some wild wild fun!

Justine Lambert
Artistic Director

Read my recent director to director interview - http://www.2amtheatre.com/2011/08/24/spotlight-meet-justine-lambert-director/

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Wednesday, October 12, 2011

MAGNIFY YOUR DIRECTING- Workshop with Justine Lambert, 10/22

Magnify Your Directing
With Justine Lambert

A directing workshop to put some oomph behind your urges.
Where:  Looking Glass Theatre, 422 West 57th Street
When:   Saturday, October 22, 3:30-6:30pm
You have the creativity, you have the ideas with inspiration to spare, now you just need to implement those ideas with as much passion and conviction as you feel.
This class is an accelerated sketch of what needs to be done.  In three hours we will touch on implementing concepts, crafting the acting to serve your needs while being true to your actors own impulses and telling the story through the lens of your vision.
The class begins with an email exchange in advance to ensure that you are prepared and can get the most out of the class time.  Scenes are assigned for you to read and think about in advance, and our talented Fall 2011 acting interns will be there; ready to work, grow and get to know you and your aesthetic.
Breakdown of activities;  Meet and Greet; Accelerated Viewpoints Workshop; Concept Discussion, initial direction and showing of scenes;  Staging with Viewpoints Workshop; Moderated Scene work; Final Showing;  Wrap Up discussion
Cost:  $20 suggested.  No one will be turned away due to lack of funds.
Space is extremely limited, email lookglassjustine@aol.com to reserve your space.
About Justine...
Justine Lambert is the founder and artistic director of Looking Glass Theatre in New York started in 1993.  A recipient of The Lucille Lortel Award for her work with Looking Glass she has been working in theater in NY for over 25 years; directing, writing, acting in and producing dozens of shows, ranging from classical to contemporary, traditional to experimental.  In 2003, she was named one of the top 100 New Yorkers by NY Resident magazine.  Her direction of Three Sisters at Looking Glass won an Off Off Broadway Review Award for Best Production and her Direction of M at Turnip Theatre won her Honorable Mention as Best Director.  From 1989 through 1991, she was co-Artistic Director of Peregrine Theater, a company that produced classics and children’s work in Central Park. http://lookingglasstheatrenyc.com/JustineLambert.html
Justine in the Press (selected quotes):
Blood Sky
"The production is wonderfully directed by Justine Lambert who is obviously gifted at coaching and working with performers.  ~ Hi Drama

Cardboard Moon
"Cardboard Moon is a joyous piece of work. Writer/Director Justine Lambert focuses ... and moves through the story swiftly and efficiently, keeping the audience highly entertained while relating a simple but not insubstantial message." - Washington Square News
"The acting is daring from start to finish.  The play calls for stylized, overblown bits of stage business and for snatches of absurd dialogue, all of which are performed delightfully." - Columbia Spectator
"Works wonderfully ... Lambert draws nice parallels between fantasy and reality, the past and the present, and new and old forms of theater." - TheaterMania.com

The Three Sisters
"Ms. Lambert directed a real dramatic feast against great odds." – OOBR
"...directed by Justine Lambert, has all the profound seriousness inherent in a Chekhov play coupled with all of the palpable energy and vivaciousness of a new theatrical company-a winning combination. Lambert's production has added many small touches to The Three Sisters that go a long way towards winning the audience's heart." - Columbia Spectator

Laodamia: Queen of Epirus
The director "discovered and sucked the passionate marrow of ...an obscure 17th century play.... (the director) and (her) cast are up to the challenge." -TheaterMania.com

Richard III
The production "breathes the enthusiasm and creativity of its cast and director." - The Fordham Observer
"The all-female cast (is) this change...valid? My answer ..was instantly yes." - The Hunter Word
Justine Lambert
Artistic Director
Looking Glass Theatre -

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Worlds of Dragons and Snakes

Worlds of Dragons and Snakes!
On Saturday September 24 we held a reading of Dragonslayer, the one woman show that I co-authored with the amazing Judy Sheehan http://www.judysheehan.com/. It was so exciting and HELPFUL!  I can’t believe how much work these four talented actresses were able to do in only two rehearsals.  Huge thanks to Shannon Altner, Emily Daly, Arielle Hader, and Hannah Tamminen.

 After the reading there ensued such a lively and helpful discussion with cast, staff and audience that I never wanted it to end.  Perhaps most gratifying for me was the participation of members of our creative community - Robert Gonyo, the artistic director of Co-Op Theatre East, the company in residence at Looking Glass this season, and Looking Glass staff members Aliza Shane, Rose Ginsberg and Erica Nilson.  Knowing that I have a community to lean on for my creative needs is tremendously important to me! 

I learned so many things about our play.  I saw who this young woman we’ve created was, and the audience has made it clear that they want to know more; more about her inner workings and more about who she is.  Who will she be after this play if she survives?  Why does she need the things she needs?  I am excited to continue to explore this character that I’ve come to love and this world I sometimes wish we all lived in.

Check out some clips of my fantastic four working as one:

The following Monday night I had the privilege of sitting in on rehearsal for Calamity Jane Battles the Horrible Hoopsnakes (Written by by E. J. C. Calvert, directed by Jacquelyn Honeybourne and featuringfor the first time.  To my great joy, our preview in Time Out NY Kids came out the very next morning! http://tinyurl.com/3audvt7
Abraham Adams, Gianna Cioffi, Jessica Kelly, David Mangiamele, Monica O’Malley, Katie Proulx and Sarah Pullman)
I greatly enjoyed listening to director Jacquelyn Honeybourne giving notes when I first arrived.  Then after getting the lowdown on set, scenes and snake costumes, the real fun began.  I only saw four scenes run in their entirety, but within them was an encapsulated world - courageous Jane and her mom heading off to make a new life for themselves only to encounter the cowardly (adorable) inhabitants of a town harassed by Hoopsnakes.  

As they try to fit in well enough to be allowed to spend the night something happens…Mom is mom-napped!  But never fear; Calamity Jane is not panicked.  She’s ready, willing and eager to embark on a rescue mission.  She has quite a lot of convincing to do with the Townies however who are quite happy with their cowering ways. 

We also see the other side of the situation.  Mom is in the lair of the snakes.  They have an interesting discussion (yup, discussion with snakes) regarding what Mom has done wrong (in her life or in Hoopersville is not certain yet) and discover things about snakes that you might not guess just by looking at them. 

Whenever I am in a rehearsal room I inevitably learn something, sometimes about theatre (usually), sometimes about life.  Last night I learned something that can be applied to both: snakes are not only scary (they’re a bit scary, that’s a given) they’re also funny.  Slithery, slimy, limbless silliness. 

Justine Lambert
Artistic Director
Looking Glass Theatre - http://www.lookingglasstheatrenyc.com/

Notes From Justine 10-4-11

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The Season is Upon Us- Fall Season HIGHLIGHTS from Artistic Director Justine Lambert

The Season is Upon Us!

You might think that since our first full production is opening in October we’re having a calm start to the season, but Fall is already barreling full steam ahead.  We’ve been so busy, in fact, with getting our programs up and running that I have barely had time to look up from the computer and appreciate the artists I’m working with.  Here’s a quick rundown of what to look for this season!

Our Fall acting internship is well under way with 12 wonderfully talented performers working in the office, taking improvisation classes with our Fall acting instructor Naima Moffet-Warden and getting ready to perform in our Writer/Director Forum in December.  The rising stars are: Joey Lozada, Olivia Boyle, Samantha Cains, Cindy de la Cruz, Nathalie Frederick, Josiah Laubenstein, Norma Perez-Hernandez, Kiley Rothweiler, Nathaniel Ryan, Jodi Savitz, Chanel Thomas and Nick Zappetti.

Dragonslayer -- A free developmental reading this Saturday, September 24 at 7 p.m.  I co-wrote this with long-standing collaborator Judy Sheehan.  This is the first time I’ve had the honor of co-authoring a piece with this consummate professional.  One of the original co-creators of Tony-N-Tina’s Wedding, Judy has had eight shows (I hope I counted them all!) produced here at Looking Glass.  I’m so excited to go on this journey as we create an entire world and one amazing character together.

Calamity Jane Battles the Horrible Hoopsnakes -- Already cast with rehearsals underway, this family show is a piece of laughter and childhood.  Inspired by our own Jacquelyn Honeybourne’s love of the traditional American Tall Tales, E. J.C. Calvert has written an original story about the plucky heroine as a young girl faced with an unusual and hilarious situation involving scaredy snakes- wait, I meant scary snakes of course… or did I? ;-) Runs October 15 through November 20.

Co-Op Theatre East Residency-- We are so excited by our new partnership with this amazing company.  They will be an artist in residence for the entire season starting this Fall with bi-monthly workshops and Radio COTE, their 2nd annual radio play festival on November 15.

Staged Readings of New Works – The 5 shorts for $5 bucks series returns! Title TBA. On Wednesday, October 26, we’ll be holding the third of our exciting new short play reading series.  Based on the set of the current show (in this case it will be Calamity Jane, so who knows??!), so far the themes have been “Submerged” and “Naked.”  With an open call for artists to create “on theme,” we’ve already had amazing and inspired work come out of this series from veterans and rookies alike.  I am truly excited about the potential for growth and new projects this program is bringing us.

Big Benefit Party- Our Fall benefit party is set for Tuesday, November 8 from 6-10pm.  That’s right, Election Day!  So put it in your calendar; after you rock the vote, come rock with us.  Planning is well underway; our interns have begun soliciting (and getting!) exciting raffle prizes and musical guests are banging down the doors (well…they’re emailing) for the opportunity to perform.  It’s going to be a blast!

theater IN ASYLUM’s Frankenstein – This exciting Fall space grant recipient presents their re-imaging of Mary Shelley’s classic November 15-19.  I enjoyed reading this proposal so much, and I can’t wait to see this show happen in our space.

Winter 2011 Writer/Director Forum -- Of course, this half of our season will culminate with our semi-annual festival of new works in December.  We have a very full Forum with ten talented directors currently in the process of choosing their projects and getting geared up for the big meeting in early October.  We have a perfect mix of experienced artists and new blood this go round and I am not exaggerating when I say this one promises to be one of the best. With planning started earlier than ever and the ideas flowing so smoothly already, I can’t believe I have to wait until December to see these shows!

Justine Lambert
Artistic Director
Looking Glass Theatre -

Read my recent director to director interview - http://www.2amtheatre.com/2011/08/24/spotlight-meet-justine-lambert-director/

Follow us on Twitter! http://twitter.com/LookingGlassNYC
Find us on Facebook!
Follow our blog! http://lookingglasstheatre.blogspot.com/

Friday, June 10, 2011

Notes From Justine- Spring 2011 Writer/Director Forum, Week 4

Notes from Justine
The Queens of Comedy - Forum Rehearsal 6/6/11

Finally three shows that go together…sort of. Well, they don’t have all that much in common actually but they are all definitely comedy! They run the gamut of comic styles from full on realism to flat out absurdity!

Written by Gabrielle Fox, directed by Eva Gabrielle Schelbaum
Featuring Shea Davies & Gus Zucco

Of all the gin joints in all the towns, in all the world, she walks into his...in a wedding dress

This is a realistic comedy all about a silly situation. It may be shorter than your average sitcom (clocks in at about 12 minutes) but it certainly runs much deeper than one. The delightfully wacky setup involves a woman stuck in her sister’s wedding gown and the only person who can help her is a stranger. He’s an actor about to star in a production of Casablanca and that great film is a touch point helping to add the deeper notes to this charming ditty about possibilities that have passed us by while new ones open up.

Written by Bella Poynton, directed by Ariel Francoeur
Featuring Petra Denison, Jesse Kane-Hartnett, Dave Herigstad, Sarah Klein, Dan Lovley, Claire Nasuti, David O'Hara & Tom Simonetti

Please turn off all electric devices, make sure that your tray tables are in the upright and locked positions, and hold onto to your sanity...

This play is just absurd. In a good way! In fact one of my only notes was to go ahead and make it even more absurd! It’s about what the best absurd plays are all about: a sane person lost in an insane world. It begins on an airplane and may secretly be about the insanity we all feel when we are heading thousands of miles above ground in a tin can. The story actually follows a man’s descent into hell as he discovers first that his best friend is dead and is then accused of his murder. But plot isn’t really the point here. So what is? Sanity vs. Insanity? Style & Comedy? The way we all feel when faced with the shocking illogical nature of humanity? I’m reeling from "Weinergate" as I write! Life is absurd and I for one need a laugh!

Written by Naima Moffet-Warden and Allison Ungar, directed by Naima Moffet-Warden
Featuring Richard McDonald, Margaret Odette, Ryan-Ashleigh Reid & Biniam Z. Tekola

When Adrian's business and love test her destiny, all she'll be screaming is... JUST GIVE ME A SIGN!

Not absurdist but not fully realistic either, Sign Me is about a young lady’s search for love or success or preferably both. It’s also about another kind of absurdity. The absurdity of trying to find a mate and doing it through the internet. But in this day and age, how else?? Being developed specifically for this Forum, the play is being written (and re-written) with the cast improvising to help develop it as we speak. The tight cast of four plays multiple characters of many astrological signs. They are experimenting with extreme and exciting physical choices/characteristics and the ride is funny, fun and sexy. If I wasn’t married I’d consider “sending out a sign” for love too.

Huge thanks go to the Assistant Directors/Stage Managers: Rebecca Cunningham & Estefania Fadul for making the evening go smoothly and listening patiently through my many absurd and/or realistic ramblings!

Week Four of the Spring 2011 Writer/Director Forum opens on June 23. I can’t wait! This evening of three has something for everyone and after all who doesn’t like comedy?

Justine Lambert
Founding Artistic Director

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Notes From Justine- Spring 2011 Writer/Director Forum, Week 3

Notes from Justine
Forum Rehearsal 5/31
/11 -More Relationships and So Much More

I ended last week talking about how Assistant Director/Stage Manager Karyn DeYoung saw both of the Week Two plays as relationship plays…behold this week starts off with every artist in the room referring to the first two of these wonderfully diverse offerings as “relationship plays!”

Written by Jane Miller, directed by Abigail Strange
Featuring Tyler Gattoni & Bethany McNamara

How long are you willing to wait?

This show is about a young couple on a subway platform. First there’s banter. They seem happy, cute, if quirky. Then Rosy wants to play a game to pass the time, Max is reluctant. Why, we wonder? Does he dislike games, silliness? Is he easily embarrassed? There doesn’t seem to be anyone else waiting for the train at this time of night. Why not indulge her? When he finally gives in to her wheedling it turns out the game is a little scary. It also turns out her motives weren’t so simple. She knows her boyfriend’s issues and has chosen this moment to bring them up. This seemingly happy relationship may be in peril just as the train finally begins to pull into the station…

Written by Mary Flanagan, directed by Gretchen Ferris
Featuring Rob Getz, Elyssa Mersdorf & Emilio Paul Tirado

When you arrive at a fork in the road, take it. ~ Yogi Berra

Back In the Box starts with a couple and a complication. This play takes us farther into the workings of a dysfunctional relationship. Helen is clearly unhappy. We don’t always know why as we watch her journey towards escape. What is she escaping from? Is it spousal abuse or cruelty of some kind? Not precisely. The issues here are subtle. There is indeed something wrong- too much of a good thing, perhaps. Love turned to need, dependence turned to obsession. I find myself hoping Helen’s journey will be a smooth one after the blackout.

Written and directed by Laura Hirschberg
Featuring Emily Daly, Arielle Hader, Timothy Mele & Kevin Russo.

Prometheus brings the spark of inspiration to man. Is it worth it? Come play with fire.

I am inspired and delighted to discover that our talented director Laura Hirschberg is also an impressive talent as a playwright! Fire Thief is full of complex ideas that unfold with wit and clarity.

What a difference. And yet I’d be lying if I didn’t acknowledge the importance of relationships here too. Of course in Fire Thief they are relationships between gods. The fire Prometheus steals is the fire of inspiration. He steals it to bestow it upon his own favorite creation: mankind. Of course in doing so he incurs the wrath of the Gods but more importantly be betrays two people (well, gods) he loves. His journey of self discovery includes allowing an unusual relationship to grow; the one between himself and his creation. If he can love us mere mortals for more than just our finer traits (such as theatre I’d venture) perhaps he can survive what’s coming to him.

Big thanks to Assistant Directors/Stage Managers Jessy Grossman and Sarah Outhwaite. They were a delight to work with. Full of insight and ideas, they were an integral part of our discussion throughout the evening.

Week Three of the Spring 2011 Writer/Director Forum opens on June 16. I’m excited to see this thought provoking, wit filled grouping of three with all the finishing touches!

Justine Lambert
Founding Artistic Director

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Notes From Justine- Spring 2011 Writer/Director Forum, Week 2

Notes from Justine
Forum Rehearsal 5/23/11 -
Challenges as Playthings

Dance and Shakespeare; these are the challenges the directors of Week 2 have taken on. These challenges also prove to be lovely toys to play with, adding multiple dimensions to a week of light uplifting fun.

Written by Yasmine Beverly Rana, directed by Christina Neubrand
Featuring Mike Holt, Tess Howsam , Anthony Perrelli & Jeffrey Walker

Close embraces, open embraces, and embellishments follow three couples through the complicated circle of dance and love.

This is practically a dance piece and yet it tells its story through dialogue seamlessly interwoven with the movement. The characters almost never sit still. It’s a simple story of a girl at a dance waiting to be asked. Why do women still feel we have to wait to be asked? I guess that’s a discussion for another time… This woman clearly feels she must wait for a man to request her company. She’s here to dance and so are the men who do indeed ask her. But are they looking for something else? Are they looking for more? She herself seems to be looking for more but it’s not necessarily the same more. She’s seeking depth, human connection, someone like herself, interested in more. We are rooting for her. I want her to find that something…or maybe even someone more.

Written by William Shakespeare, adapted and directed by Dana Dobreva.
Featuring Kevin Bunge, Michael DeSantis , Charlie Gorrilla, Robert Klein, Amie Lytle, Greg McGoon, Jacob Mondry, Rebecca Nerz, Elliot Wadsworth & Jillian Walker

The Hollywood Remix…

Twelfth Night is a favorite of the gender-bending comedies penned by the Bard, and it’s clear why; this play has all the tricks! A woman in love with a woman she thinks is a man, a man in love with a woman he thinks is a man, mistaken identity, drunkenness, debauchery and Beyonce. What? Yup Beyonce is making an appearance. It’s a modern setting and pop music abounds. You know the story right? Viola is shipwrecked and thinks her twin brother is dead (he’s not). She dresses as a guy and goes to work for Orsino (Why? Dunno, I’ve only seen it twelve times so c’mon.) Orsino sends Viola to court Olivia for him. Olivia falls for Viola (dressed as a boy, remember). Sebastian the missing brother shows up, gets mistaken for Viola, gets in a fight then marries (!?!) Olivia who thinks he is Viola. Immediately upon discovery that his male servant is a female Orsino proposes to Viola who has been pining for him the whole time. Meanwhile Olivia’s relatives are cavorting with and playing pranks on the help. And then there’s the fool. Forget Lucy, I love Will!

As I was leaving the theatre I had the opportunity to chat briefly with Assistant Director/Stage Manager: Karyn DeYoung about her experience working on these two very different productions. She observed (forgive me if the quote is imprecise) “I’ve realized they’re the same play.” In discussion it became clear that she has come to see both shows as “relationship plays.” It’s certainly true that the human connections or lack thereof are the focus in each. The universality of that need is expressed uniquely in both plays. Thanks so much Karyn for sharing a part of your experience with me and for all your hard work!

Week Two of the Spring 2011 Writer/Director Forum opens on June 9. I can’t wait to see these plays in performance. This should prove to be a joyful romp through relationship confusions. Can’t wait!

Justine Lambert
Founding Artistic Director

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Notes From Justine- Spring 2011 Writer/Director Forum, Week 1

Notes from Justine
Forum Rehearsal 5/16/11

And they’re off! My first observation for the Spring 2011 Writer/Director Forum last night was an exciting start to the process that will culminate in the Forum Awards on Monday June 27th. Three very different plays; (although two have a suicide theme…) these are extremely strong offerings with experienced Forum artists represented in each and every project.

First I observed IN THE CHANGELING,written by Maiya Pendleton, directed by Melody Erfani, featuring Heather Burgher, Lash Dooley, Andrew Dunn, Andrew Gelles, Sarah Miles, Kathleen O'Neal, Alzie Rejouis, Marianne Riera & Adam Tyrer. The tagline for this show is “In high school it is all about the drama...a reimagining of the classic by Thomas Middleton and William Rowley.”

Another classic translated to a High School setting. So different from Forum Producer Aliza Shane’s Misanthrope (Forum Winter ’06) yet similar. Why do artists want to set universal stories in High School? Because it’s a universal experience here in the US and one that brought out the worst in many of our lives. High School was miserable…so it’s the perfect place for drama! This compelling script follows the “It girl” and her machinations to get what she wants. She doesn’t mean to hurt anyone but then she doesn’t really mind when she does either. Will she get what’s coming to her? What is coming to her anyway? We sympathize, even while feeling appalled at the effects of her plotting. After all, who doesn’t “want it all”… but at what cost?

Next up was RISK,written by Yasmine Rana, directed by Ashley Scoles, featuring Brooke Hills & Jonny Schroeder. This plays description is (like the play) poetic and intriguing “Two lovers must decide whether to take the risk to love or become engulfed in the flames of hate.”

Spoiler alert; below I will give away a major surprise that comes out in the first 3rd of the play. Yasmine’s intense drama is about something none of us can imagine. What if you were about to go blow yourself up, with others…? How would you or anyone handle it? We understand that the emotional questions usually left unasked would not sit quiet at such a moment. But would you get the answer desired? Can the questioned party possibly know how to answer under such circumstances? Beautiful language examines an ugly situation in this challenging and powerful drama.

Finally I observed DOUBLE CROSS written by Annie Berke, directed by Katherine Sommer, featuring Benjamin K. Glaser, George Hutchinson, Stacy Ann Strang & Hannah Tamminen. The witty description of this play is: “Charles and Samantha are a happily married couple until the daily crossword drives a 5-letter word for "triangular tool" between them.”
Here we have a comedy of character. This married couple fights. They’re not even nice to each other. They seem to be trying to improve their behavior but they end up hurting each other. Even their innocent bystander friends get hit by the emotional shrapnel flying around. Clearly they shouldn’t be married to each other. Or should they? The surprises lie in the people and what they truly need from one another. The result? Comedy!

The charming and ever helpful Assistant Directors/Stage Managers, Anais Koivisto and Mary Trotter were both engaged and engaging in our discussions. I thank them for their work and insight all night long!

Week One of the Spring 2011 Writer/Director Forum opens on June 2. I can’t wait to see these plays in performance. It’s going to be a thought provoking and highly entertaining night!

Justine Lambert
Founding Artistic Director

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

NOTES FROM JUSTINE- Just A Reading opens tomorrow night, April 28!

Notes from Justine

All about the Acting and Writing
Notes from the Just a Reading rehearsals Thursday 4/14 and 4/21.

Just A Reading is a play ABOUT acting and playwriting. More precisely, it’s about a writer writing about real people who are also actors who then play themselves. They must “act” like the real people they actually are. As such, rehearsal for Just a Reading is a rehearsal process about acting and writing. Together these two elements have to combine perfectly, to intertwine to make us believe, at least for a moment here or there, now and then, that what we’re watching is really happening.

Acting-wise, this is the ultimate job. These are roles any actor would salivate over. To begin with, the play has ultra-realistic, naturalistic behavior at its most extreme. You think Brando got away with mumbling? This show has potential for mumbling, shuffling, under-played acting at its best. But then the “actors” (played by the very talented ensemble of Jenn Boehm, Michael Sean Cirelli, Brandon Ferraro, Cas Marino, Alexandra Mingione and Stephen Reich) get to... wait for it...act! They show us their professional abilities to inhabit a character while pretending to do a cold reading. Tricky. Then, as the stakes get higher and higher tempers flare, emotions rise and the melodramatic passion lets fly! Whew. Fun, fun, fun if you’re crazy enough to love acting.

The writing, of course, has to support all this realism/transition/belief in two worlds with deftly smooth transitions and language that seems to say little while really telling us everything we need to know in order to care about, laugh at and worry for these flawed, needy actors.

What about directing? I’m afraid Chanda Calentine has a thankless job in this one. She is working incredibly hard juggling a million balls in the air, all for the sake of a disappearing act; her own. The direction of this piece (at least for much of the play) will be at its most brilliant when invisible: she makes the actors and writer look good. She makes them look real. They are lucky to have her and I am lucky to be privy to her process, but you the audience may never believe she exists. That is, if she does her job!

Just A Reading, written by Ryan Glass & Directed by Chanda Calentine, opens this Thursday, April 28th at 8pm at Looking Glass Theatre, 422 W.57th Street, NY NY 10019.

Justine Lambert
Founding Artistic Director

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Notes from Justine- All About Readings... but not really

Notes From Justine:

All About Readings….but not really.

Just a Reading/Submerged

Last week was such a fun week at super-busy Looking Glass Theatre. We just closed the beautifully theatrical and much adored (by audiences small and large) Three By the Sea. Read audience quotes and view photos here; http://lookingglasstheatrenyc.com/ThreeBytheSea.html

On Thursday (4/7/11) I got my first peek into rehearsals of Just a Reading (Written by Ryan Glass, Directed by Chanda Calentine).

We theatre people love a good play-within -a -play and this is quite a special one. It’s a full production masquerading as “just a reading.” A handful of actors (played by the very talented ensemble of Jenn Boehm, Michael Sean Cirelli, Brandon Ferraro, Cas Marino, Alexandra Mingione and Stephen Reich) casually enter the theatre, greeting each other, adjusting the folding chairs and picking up their scripts. We are introduced to the players and then hear the beginning of a witty little play about a new hit band about to embark on their first tour. So far this could indeed be a simple reading but some weird behavior begins to interrupt the action of the “play.” Actors break character and the playwright isn’t willing to discuss any of the problems that begin to arise. What’s happening becomes clear to us, the audience. This play is about these actors’ real lives and it’s freaking them out. As you can probably tell from the photo, at some point things go terribly wrong…. But Alan the playwright (now a big shot in Hollywood) has some clout (and manic energy) on his side and is going to see this through to the bitter (or will it be sweet?) end! I can’t wait to see how the play continues to evolve at rehearsal this week!

Friday night pre-show I attended a mysterious and exciting meeting with two Looking Glass artists Jacqueline Honeybourne and Mark Gordon. Have I piqued your interest? Good. There’s an unusual project on the horizon here, more on that in the future. Then I attended the first incarnation of a new play reading series. The brainchild of Producer/Director Aliza Shane, the concept is to solicit new short (10-15 minute) work from our artists based on the set of each mainstage production. This evening was based on the watery world of Three By the Sea so our theme was water and our title was Submerged. Billed as “5 shorts for $5 bucks” there isn’t a better deal in town! Also billed as “Staged Readings”, these five plays were almost mini productions. Most actors were off book and fully blocked. Scripts were in hand and referred to however which served as a good reminder that this was indeed work in progress. The evening went off without a hitch and was truly a blast. Actors, playwrights and directors all seemed charged up about the work and the new series. It was so exciting to see artists involved from our past, some who haven’t been with us for years. Just a couple of the shows represented were Adventures of the Puppet Princess (’08), Anna's Perfect Party & The Amazing Magician's Marvelous Mistake (’09), Ask Someone Else, God (’09), Are You There, Zeus? It's Me, Electra (’09), and many many more! I now find myself wondering what the theme might be for Just a Reading’s set? After all, it is basically an empty, stripped theatre.

Our very own bare black box.

The creative possibilities, as always with a blank page, are truly endless.

Justine Lambert

Founding Artistic Director

Monday, March 21, 2011

Notes from Justine-MORE Three By the Sea!

Notes from Justine -Three By the Sea

Having seen Three By the Sea two times now in performance, I’ve realized that the gestalt of this combination of stories is an ideal introduction to theatre for children. There are so many things they are being exposed to here: it’s like sneaking vegetables into the dessert mix! While they watch the charming stories they learn to suspend disbelief and see fabric (or umbrellas, or balloons) as water, to decipher intent through behavior, to appreciate the difference an atmosphere can have on how you interpret the individual elements of a play and how to appreciate the rhythm and flow in storytelling, not to mention simply being introduced to the great theatrical tradition of story theatre.

I really find myself enjoying each play within the play for different reasons. Working backwards, I’ll start at the end:

Foghorn Franny is a crowd pleaser. With its modern characters and sharp clear tone, it gets laughs easily while supporting the most complex story and message of the trio. The oldest audience members get a lot out of this one (both adults and tweens) because the subplot about bullying is clearly and dramatically explored and resolved. Everyone in the audience is held tight in the grips of the plot and even the youngest audience members maintain the hush required for the few (I think it’s actually two) brief moments of reflection. Coming last in the running order it is well chosen in its modern language and depiction as it leaves the audience feeling happy and thoroughly entertained at the end.

The second piece, Coyote’s Moon, is ideal for the central role in this production in part due to its simplicity. There’s not a lot of story here and so we are able to just sit back and enjoy the puppetry, lighting, water (umbrella) ballet, and characterizations. We love Lil’ Rabbit, we fear Coyote (a little), we enjoy the lights and the trickery…and …we’re done!

Appropriately, while our audience’s minds are freshest they are presented with the most complex piece. We are asked to immerse ourselves in the world, the otherness of the mythical Ireland of old. We meet characters from the town of Gollerus and enjoy their quirkiness while sensing what a stranger in their midst might experience in such a self-contained environment. The lilting lyrical language pulls us along in the story while the theatrical elements, such as mermaid costume, Shadow Puppet plays, and ongoing bits of business from comic cap-snatching to ominous umbrella-opening, devised by super-creative director Julia Martin, help keep our young audience engaged throughout.

Enjoy the spinach brownies!

Justine Lambert
Founding Artistic Director