Listen in as Smith Street Stage‘s Executive Director (and director of this show) Jonathan Hopkins, and Beth Ann Hopkins, Artistic Director (& “Titania”), discuss their new production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream in Carroll Park, why this was the right year for the company to produce this comedy, playing to a large & diverse audience, going beyond actor voice for the outdoor stage, the overlap of personal/professional partnerships, making original music & sound, advice for producing in public places, and why it’s important to be an active part of the community you’d like to perform in.
“…I think last year, we tried to afflict the comfortable, and this year we’re trying to comfort the afflicted…”
“…although this is not a ‘Midsummer’ of just clowns and fools, there’s a lot of deeper ground that we’re digging…”
“…it’s a play about the power of art to change people, and bring people outside of the normal boundaries, and it’s a play about how people change themselves, and the circumstances in which people are changed…”
Listen in as Jessica Burr, Artistic Director of Blessed Unrest and director of the company’s new production of This is Modern Art, discusses grabbing opportunities when they’re presented, how they “bombed” (graffiti-style) their set, getting invited into “the institution,” the company’s mission and what they’re up to next, the importance of having an incredible team, and “who gets to decide what art is, and where it goes.”
“…we decided that [it] had to be true to the act itself, in that it needed to be difficult, it needed to be physical, and there needed to be time pressure…and it needed to be fun, and we needed to be able to play loud music.”
Listen in as Cannibal Galaxy: a love story playwright Charise Greene, along with the duo behind the producing company Between Two Boroughs—the show’s director, Jenn Haltman, and Becca Schneider, who plays “Claire”—discuss impossibility in the theater, finding communal experiences in the wake of trauma, “the relationship between violence, science, and spirituality in our country,” embracing the structural elements of a space, galactic cannibalism, magical realism, irrevocable change, and where creativity and violence collide.
“…I always ask the question, ‘why does this have to be a play?’…for me, impossible plays are an opportunity to welcome collaboration…Becca’s ‘Claire’ coughing up peach pits, or ash, is going to be very different than another actress, and I want Becca’s version of that, and Jenn’s version of the larger picture…to me, it’s a leap of exciting theatricality that is the reason why I go to the theater.”
Listen in as Phoenix Theatre Ensemble Artistic Director Craig Smith, who directs & plays “Pontius Pilate” in the company’s new production of Robert Patrick’s Judas, along with fellow cast-member Elise Stone (“Mary”), discuss giving equal weight to both sides, the drama of philosophical arguments, the challenge of living a good life, “blasphemy,” libertarianism and faith, communication breakdowns between mothers and sons, what happens when we see our heroes as humans, and how to answer the big question: “what are we supposed to do?”
“…I think that’s a dilemma for anyone who’s trying to live some kind of ethical, humane life in a really messed up world. And the world is really messed up for Judas, and the world is really messed up for all of us right now. So when I listen to Judas’s struggle, I feel like it’s so human. There’s all these wonderful words, and all this wonderful language…and then there’s this real human-ness…”
Listen in as Mark Plesent, Producing Artistic Director of Working Theater, and Adam Kraar, the playwright of Alternating Currents, the company’s new show in their “Five Boroughs/One City Initiative,” discuss inspiration from the unique place of Electchester, Queens, discovering your main characters, putting an audience’s own story onstage, “wonderment,” advice for new indie theatre artists, and what it takes to live in a community.
“…what quickly gripped me…was the multiplicity of voices that seemed to contradict each other, about everything from the politics of the street fair, to how nice it is to live here, to what race relationships are like. And everybody was very heartfelt and sincere, but there were a lot of contradictions, some disturbing things, some really inspiring things. So the initial impulse for the piece was really to write a play for a multiplicity of voices…”
Listen in as collaborators on The Assembly’sSEAGULLMACHINE—conceiver/co-director Nick Benacerraf, co-director Jess Chayes, dramaturg Steven Aubrey, and performer Jax Jackson—discuss layering multiple theatrical sources, permission to find points of resonance, turning on a dime, the company’s development process, finding new roles through that process, bringing an audience into a world “oozing word-slime,” different versions of ourselves, and the question of whether or not theatre can produce change.
“…every night, by a certain time in the play, it feels like we’re also just people, human beings in a room with our audience. And that has been one of the most special experiences of it, to me…”
Listen in as Retro Productions Producing Artistic Director (and “Joan” in the show) Heather E. Cunningham, along with fellow performers Chad Anthony Miller & Ben Schnickel and playwright Gina Femia of We Are a Masterpiece, discuss multiple lenses, levity in the midst of suffering, what makes a play “aggressively contemporary” (and where that fits into the “retro” of Retro Productions), “the cyclical nature of prejudice,” healing through art, universality through specificity, what we’re capable of, and making the choice of love.
“…there’s always hope. Hope is always the way through tragedy, and despair. Yes, this is a very sad story, and yes, you will cry, and we cry. But there are beautiful things that happen when people, in the face of adversity, step up to the plate and do what’s best for their fellow human beings…”
Listen in as Echo creator & sound sculptor Ran Xia, along with director Nicholas Orvis and performers Andrea Lopez & Max Henry, discuss inspiration from books about harmonicas, moving from sound collage to stage play, improvising to audio, physicality with constantly changing things, handling nakedly honest material, timelessness vs. time specificity, and the importance of simply listening.
“…when I was editing them, it’s like, I could cry, like every second, every other track, because everybody was just so open, and very real. You get real very fast…”
Listen in as Love Trade writer/director/performer Elizabeth Hess, along with collaborators/performers Katie Palmer and Lucas Tahiruzzaman Syed, discuss their collaborative process, feminist revenge fantasies, integrating and playing with the audience, fetishization of race, balloons, lived text, and performance poetry.
“…it’s a very hybrid approach to performance, and I am a magpie. I am thrilled that Lucas is foremost a musician…Katie is also herself an artistic director, and she’s got an incredibly strong dance background. I beg, borrow, and steal from that […] create [your] own hybrid approach that really resonates with [your] own voice and vision…”
Listen in as Blessed Unrest Artistic Director and director of Platanov, or, A Play with No Name, Jessica Burr, discusses the company’s staging process for the round, adapting early Chekhov, finding the humanity in “dreadful” people, putting the audience in the world of the characters, sleepless nights thanks to blocking, and the similarities between this 140-year-old play and our current world.
“…I guess for me, ultimately, I don’t go to the theatre to see Platonov, or to see Hamlet. I go to the theatre to see actors, to see human beings being exposed…that’s really what I want to see. Of course it’s story, it’s narrative, it’s context, but it’s really about the humans, we put these humans in this situation, and we watch and see what they do. And hopefully we learn from them.”