Yolanda K. Wilkinson and Joey Rizzolo of “Bible Study for Heathens”

The New York Neo-Futurists present Bible Study for Heathens, written and performed by Yolanda K. WilkinsonIt takes moxie to critique religion while performing in a church. But for Yolanda K. Wilkinson, Judson Memorial Church Loft is exactly the right place to premiere her new solo show: Bible Study for Heathens.

The show is presented by The New York Neo-Futurists and, like everything this ground-breaking theatre company does, Bible Studes for Heathens defies definition and pushes theatrical boundaries.

With hilarious visual aids, fantastically-produced videos, sock-puppets, graphics, and sometimes intense audience participation, Yolanda chronicles her personal life quest to find some kind of meaning, attachment or even divine inspiration in ten different religions she has taken part in, since her childhood. Along the way, she hones in on some disturbing truths about the American religious experience, but in the end, she—and the audience—find hope through basic, affirming, human communion.

Go See A Show! correspondent Tara Gadomski sat down after a recent performance—in the cavernous church—to speak to writer and performer Yolanda K. Wilkinson and director Joey Rizzolo. Listen in as they discuss avoiding “therapy” on stage, how to interact with audience members who may strongly disagree with you, and why religion and theatre intersect.

“We think about artistic media as having a relationship with one another, but theatre has a really close relationship with religion and it’s unique that way. And you can say that theatre has a closer relationship with religion than it does with any other storytelling medium. Because it’s the only one that requires people being in a room at the same time.”

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Katie Palmer and Paul Bedard of “The Debates”

Theater in Asylum presents The DebatesTheater = Politics = Theater = Politics

If you’ve seen that equation on a t-shirt around the independent theatre world in NYC of late, then you’ve seen someone who’s worked on or seen Theater in Asylum‘s ever-changing The Debates.

It’s the perfect slogan for a project theatricalizing the Democratic Presidential Primary debates, with the intent to bring theatre people to the political process, and political people into the theater—and it sounds like the project is doing its intended work.

GSAS! sat down with the show’s director, Paul Bedard, and choreographer, Katie Palmer, to discuss how they trained their team, how to balance a scene, how to handle material that’s moving so quickly, why they’re focusing on only the Democratic Party, the actual differences between Hillary and Bernie (and how to present them fairly), and “who am I, who are you, who are we.”

I think one of the reasons people stay out is that it seems like such a big thing, that if, “I’m not in it already, it’s just too much to learn, and I don’t want to get involved.” And I think people stay away from theaters for the same reason…”I couldn’t possibly understand what’s happening in this theater”…and I think we’ve tried to take the fear and the elitism out of both of those avenues, saying that, “you can engage in both things, here’s some helpful tools…”

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Andrew Schneider of “YOUARENOWHERE”

Andrew Schneider's YOUARENOWHERE, photo by Maria BaranovaYou might have heard of Andrew Schneider‘s YOUARENOWHERE if you listen to theatre podcasts that aren’t this one (thanks for the recommendation, Maxamoo!), because the Obie-award winning piece has been on the lips of anyone who’s seen it.

Rightfully so.

But if you have heard the title, I hope you haven’t heard much else, other than, “go see this.” Because that’s how I experienced it, and I must say, it made for an incredible theatrical experience. So that’s all I’m going to give you: go see this show.

…but first, listen in to this (spoiler-free!) episode, as Andrew and I discuss the performer/audience contract, regional theatre gigs, frames, frustration with the traditional infrastructure, and destroying expectations.

“…what I wanted to do was just communicate in a room with a person […] what I’m fascinated by is moments, and experience, and curating emotion without narrative. So we’re all experiencing the same thing at the same time…”

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Lauren Swan-Potras, Jon Riddleberger, and John Kurzynowski of “Rhinbecca, NY”

Theater Reconstruction Ensemble presents Rhinbecca, NY at The BrickDark yet humorous, absurd but vaguely political, Theatre Reconstruction Ensemble‘s Rhinbecca, NY occupies a strange place between the source material of the films of Alfred Hitchcock and the plays of Eugene Ionesco, letting the audience draw their own conclusions from the action onstage.

GSAS! correspondent Tara Gadomski took a trip out to The Brick in Brooklyn to check out a performance; listen in as she and director John Kurzynowski, who also conceived the piece, and two members of the ensemble who performed and created the show, Lauren Swan-Potras and Jon Riddleberger, discuss TRE’s mode for devising, theatrical moments as questions, the balance between source material and the entirely new, and “the strange middle ground between suspense and the absurd.”

“…what we mean by reconstruction is that we take classic and canonical works and theatricalities, and we play with it, and we say, what does that mean to us now, and how do we interact with that? So when we investigate Hitchcock…it’s our idea of what Hitchcock means. It’s staying true to that, and not trying to recreate something perfectly, but say, ‘this thing exists here, we exist over here, what’s that middle ground?’ And that’s the playing space that we inhabit when we’re creating work…”

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Margi Sharp Douglas, Rachel Murdy, Peter Szep, Joan Jubett, and Cynthia Croot of “The Millay Sisters”

Margi Sharp Douglas and Rachel Murdy of THE MILLAY SISTERS, presented by Vanderbilt RepublicIf you’ve ever wandered around Greenwich Village, you might have noticed a very tiny house at 75 1/2 Bedford Street, built on a former alley (it’s Manhattan, so if there’s land to be built on, someone’s going to try it). Stop and take a look at the facade, and you’ll notice a vermillion plaque, commemorating that this was once the home of poet Edna St. Vincent Millay.

If she’s unfamiliar to you, you’re in the fortunate position of getting to explore her work for the first time. And a great place to start would be The Millay Sisters, a cabaret/performance/play about Vincent (as she liked to be called) and her life, currently running at Gowanus Loft in Brooklyn.

GSAS! correspondent Tara Gadomski is back on the mic! Listen in as she and The Millay Sisters co-creators and performers Margi Sharp-Douglas & Rachel Murdy, musical director/musician Peter Szep, and co-directors Joan Jubett and Cynthia Croot discuss their process of development, light and dark, dramaturgy in Maine, giving your audience the opportunity to sing, and the importance of a bar at your show.

“…people are going to hear this, and think, ‘oh, it’s some sort of biopic;’ and there are a lot of facts in it. But really it’s about the emotional truth of what’s going on with her. When you see the show, you feel like you’ve met the person, not just sort of received facts from on high, and a lot of the music sets this sort of emotional world against which the poetry is then put…”

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Katie Melby, Eric Powell Holm, and Kelly Klein of “Rise and Fall”

BREAD presents Rise and Fall“From the first it has been the theatre’s business to entertain people, as it also has of all the other arts. It is this business which always gives it its particular dignity; it needs no other passport than fun, but this is has got to have. We should not by any means be giving it a higher status if we were to turn it e.g. into a purveyor of morality; it would on the contrary run the risk of being debased, and this would occur at once if it failed to make its moral lesson enjoyable, and enjoyable to the senses at that: a principle, admittedly, by which morality can only gain….The theatre must in fact remain something entirely superfluous, though this indeed means that it is the superfluous for which we live. Nothing needs less justification than pleasure.” —Bertolt Brecht, A Short Organum for the Theatre (trans. John Willett)

I love Brecht.

It felt appropriate to include the quote above in the blog post about this episode—an interview with directors Eric Powell Holm and Katie Melby (who also stars as Jimmy Gallagher in the show), and producer Kelly Klein (who portrays Willie) of BREAD Arts Collective‘s Rise and Fall, their take on Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny—because in my opinion, they’ve succeeded in getting to the heart of Brecht’s moral lesson, while at the same time making a highly pleasurable, superfluous piece of theatre that’s a great way to enjoy a Sunday night on a Lower East Side bar.

Listen in as Katie, Eric, and Kelly discuss creating their production with the people in the collective around them, why this is the perfect show to do in a bar, why you might want to under-rehearse, reading the room, and what to do if someone calls the bar-phone in the middle of your bar-show.

“This shit will live or die on its punk rock spirit. We have to go fast, and hard, and truthful, and we must not give a fuck—that’s the only way this play will work.”

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Daniel Adams, Jason Aguirre, Sarah Burkhalter, and Chef Rick Martinez of “krāv”

Daniel Adams directs krāv, an immersive supper-club theatre experienceLet’s face it, the thought of a dinner-party with strangers can be anxiety-inducing.

But while dinner with strangers is exactly what you’re signing up for with 5 Senses Theatre‘s krāv experience, let go of any trepidation. You’re going to have a blast, and a great dinner to boot.

Listen in as director Daniel Adams, co-creators/actors Jason Aguirre and Sarah Burkhalter, and Chef Rick Martinez discuss uniting theatre with a supper-club, identifying audience archetypes, how to use food to contribute to the story, and what happens when you put the audience in the driver’s seat.

…plus, be sure to listen in to the end for a special summer cocktail recipe, courtesy of Chef Rick!

“The food is also the safety net. Even though it can poke at you…it can challenge you…in this form, it’s the audience’s safety net. Sarah and I have always been fascinated with danger, how do we capture danger…in New York, it’s close to impossible to scare people, we’re so ready for whatever…”
“But are we prepped to be at a table with strangers?”
“That’s the thing!”

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David Lawson, creator/performer of “Insomnia in Space”

David Lawson presents Insomnia in SpaceWhat do you do when you can’t fall asleep?

Performer David Lawson is an insomniac. He’s also a solo performer.

So it only makes sense that in his new show, Insomnia in Space, David shares with the audience his musings and discoveries from wakefulness in the wee small hours, reading, thinking, and fantasizing about outer space.

Listen in as David discusses the two-suit, amazing stories from the audience, Mike Daisey, “neutral-face,” and shared experiences.

(then, go and listen to David and I talk about Go See a Show!, the MTA, the League of Independent Theater, podcasts, and more on his podcast with Taylor Miller, Stipend)

“…I so much believe in one person onstage talking to many people…that medium elevates everyone’s life experience in the room…”

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Kiran Rikhye, playwright, and Jon Stancato, director, of “Potion: A Play in Three Cocktails”

Stolen Chair Theater Company presents "Potion: A Play in Three Cocktails"Regular listeners know very well by now that I love to enjoy a drink while I’m at a show. But I don’t think I’ve been to a performance that integrates imbibing as well as this one.

In Potion: A Play in Three Cocktails, playwright Kiran Rikhye, director Jon Stancato, and the lovely troupe at Stolen Chair Theatre Company have not only created a show in a bar with booze readily available for consumption, but they grab a big swizzle stick and mix the cocktails into the drama. The very act of drinking the custom “potions” served throughout the play serves the narrative, and its premise, in a brilliant and beautiful way.

This is a fun night at the theatre, y’all. A fun night of theatre at the bar. With delicious custom cocktails. What more could you want?

Listen in as Jon & Kiran discuss crazy ways to write plays, “potion” as metaphor for the transformation of the actor, how opera is like a great night out at a bar, and scratching your play like it’s on a turntable.

“…I think it was a series of remixes…”

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Liz Davito, Lucy Smith, Eamonn Farrell, & Jessica Weinstein of “I Land”

Anonymous Ensemble present "I Land," part of the Ice Factory festival 2013The Ice Factory festival of new works at The New Ohio comes to a close with Anonymous Ensemble‘s I Land, and while all the works have been creative & adventurous, this, in my humble opinion, might be the most innovative.

Because when you sit in this show, you’re co-creating the show with Anonymous. Despite their name, you, as an audience member, are not anonymous in this production; you help to write it, in a very real way. I’ll stop there, I don’t want to give too much away…but I think it helps to know at least that much about the show before listening to this episode.

On the mic are the performers: Liz Davito, Lucy Smith, Eamonn Farrell, and Jessica Weinstein. I’m going to let them carry this episode from here. To say any more here would take away from the experience you get when you walk into a performance of I Land, and I certainly wouldn’t want to do that.

Listen in as Liz, Lucy, Jessica & Eamonn discuss extraordinary stories, the fine line between “playing with” and “mocking,” theatre as an event, and what happens when the last element you add to your show is a script.

“I felt like I existed. And it was so fantastic.”

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