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