Michael Hardart, Sidney Fortner, Michael LeBron, Marc LeVasseur, Erin Beirnard of “The Climbers”

The Metropolitan Playhouse presents THE CLIMBERS by Clyde Fitch, directed by Michael HardartListen in as director Michael Hardart, designers Sidney Fortner (costumes) and Michael LeBron (sets), along with actors Marc LeVasseur and Erin Beirnard of The Metropolitan Playhouse‘s production of Clyde Fitch’s The Climbers, discuss finding opportunity in constriction, pacing, showing & reflecting the mechanics usually reserved for the background, hearing from the servants, being in tune with your audience in an intimate space, achieving elegance by suggesting elegance, and why this play from 1901 fits in our “new gilded age.”

“…what it’s driven me to…is an appreciation of what I enjoy, what I love: when a play can continue moving forward, even in a set change…you make it something that’s part of the story…”

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Alex Roe, Kendall Rileigh, Cliff Miller, Perri Yaniv, and Lorinne Lampert of “Injunction Granted”

Metropolitan Playhouse presents Injunction Granted, a living newspaperIt would be easy to say, “this play is important to your understanding of U.S. theatre history, and therefore you should see it”—but that sounds lame and boring.

And Metropolitan Playhouse‘s production of the Federal Theater Project’s Living Newspaper Unit‘s Injunction Granted is anything but.

Six actors take on a script originally performed by a cast of a whole lot more than that, built from primary sources to give the history of the struggle between labor and capital in the U.S. up to 1936…all while making it relevant to the U.S. of 2015.

It’s a neat trick, and great fun. And there’s a lot of hats.

Listen in as director/performer Alex Roe and actors Kendall Rileigh, Cliff Miller, Perri Yaniv, and Lorinne Lampert discuss creating your production like a sculpture, making sense of dense legalese from the 1930s, the importance of unions today, and why it might be time for a fight again.

“…this play, by touching on all those issues so strongly, so very very clearly, and coming from 80 years ago, I think is incredibly refreshing. It gives us a chance to look at it, not through the headlines that we’re almost inured to now, but through a very unusual and unfamiliar history…as well as an unfamiliar staging technique that makes it seem new…”

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Chris Harcum, Lillian Rodriguez, Jason Brown, & Tammy McNeill of “East Side Stories: The Indelible”

Metropolitan Playhouse presents East Side Stories 2015Like New York City itself, the East Village is one of those places that seems mythical to anyone who’s never been there—less a location, and more an idea shaped by popular media. It could be easy to forget that people actually live & work there.

Metropolitan Playhouse is in the neighborhood, and for years they’ve been presenting the series East Side Stories, sharing tales that get at the truth of the place that inspired them, whether they be fictional or factual. Included in 2015’s series are two collections of monologues created from interviews with East Village residents, and GSAS! got out to see the evening entitled The Indelible.

Actors Lillian Rodriguez, Jason Brown, and Tammy McNeill went out and found locals whose stories intrigued them, then, under the direction of Chris Harcum, shaped those interviews into monologues: Lillian as Jonas Mekas, a filmmaker, poet, and artist who founded the Film-Makers’ Cooperative and the Film-Makers’ Cinematheque (now known as Anthology Film Archives), Jason as Jeanise Aviles, hair artist / color specialist / wigmaker / performance artist / KnitBomber, and Tammy as Jimmy Webb, manager and buyer at Trash and Vaudeville.

I sat down with the actors and director after a performance; listen in as Chris, Lillian, Jason, and Tammy discuss their relationships with their subjects, prisms, tensions, and what it means to change while maintaining authenticity.

“…there are different elements of what you get with the interview from the person, what you get from the spirit of the person, what you bring to it, because it is your body, your voice, your everything that you tweak and do different things with to be that person, and then what you’re doing in giving to the audience. So there are four or five different elements that I feel are always kind of changing, and being part of this…”

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Chris Van Strander and David Koteles, playwrights of “Edison’s Elephant”

"Edison's Elephant," by Chris Van Strander and David KotelesIn 1903, Thomas Edison publicly electrocuted Topsy the elephant at Coney Island, in a demonstration of the “dangers” of alternating current. The event was filmed by Edison, later becoming a huge hit as the new ‘moving pictures’ were shown across the country.

So, how does one dramatize such a sad, momentous, and gruesome story from last century for the modern stage? In the case of Edison’s Elephant, playing as part of the Gilded Stage Festival at the Metropolitan Playhouse, you start with not one, but two talented playwrights — Chris Van Strander, and David Koteles.

Listen in as Chris and David discuss the circumstances that led them to join forces to write the play, the tension between exploitation and enjoying the fruits of that exploitation, and the similarities between Gilded Age and modern-day America.

“…everybody for the past few months has been asking me, ‘what’s your new play about?’ and I said, ‘it’s about Thomas Edison executing an elephant,’ and everybody sort of looks at me like, ‘what in the name of God are you talking about?’ And so if that piques your curiosity at all, you should definitely come down and see the show…”

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