Jake Lipman, Molly Ballerstein, and Brittany Anikka Liu of “Rapture, Blister, Burn”

Tongue in Cheek Theater presents Rapture Blister Burn by Gina GionfriddoWhen choosing the plays to be presented this season by Tongue in Cheek Theater Productions, artistic director Jake Lipman had remarkable foresight. The company’s mission is to produce thought-provoking comedies, and the shows usually have a woman at the center of the story. But they don’t always reflect a VERY current debate in American politics.

The company didn’t mean to produce a political play the week before the US presidential election. But because their current show, Rapture, Blister, Burn examines how women are often validated (or not) based solely on their societal roles as mother, wife or career-woman, one can’t help but see parallels in the current election. When Hillary Clinton is criticized for not baking cookies and also criticized for bragging about her grandchild, it’s easy to see that feminism still has a long hill to climb in America.

Rapture, Blister, Burn, written by Gina Gionfriddo (and a finalist for the 2013 Pulitzer Prize in Drama), is a deeply-moving story about feminism, choices, family, love and unfulfilled dreams. It also examines why people don’t always practice the beliefs and theories they say they support. Does the show “play the woman card?” If getting audiences to understand that women can be respected for whatever life choice they make is playing the woman card, then Tongue in Cheek has dealt a beautiful hand.

Listen in as GSAS! correspondent Tara Gadomski talks with Artistic Director and actor Jake Lipman, director Molly Ballerstein, and actor Brittany Anikka Liu to discuss diving deep into feminism to prepare for your show, the eerie prescience of the play, the role of music in TIC’s production, gendered and non-gendered audience responses to the show, actors’ perspectives between generations, what it means to make your own work, and shows that stay with you long after you’ve seen them.

“It’s extremely rare to find something that feels so topical and fresh that is a revival. All of it felt very close to the surface for me. And right now, we’re all on edge.”

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Jake Lipman, Molly Ballerstein, and Jennifer Teska of “Women Playing Hamlet”

Tongue in Cheek Theater Productions presents Women Playing Hamlet, written by William Missouri Downs and directed by Molly BallersteinTheatre in the United States is in the midst of a deep, important and ground-breaking conversation about gender and racial equality on stage. Can actors play historical figures of a different race? (Answer: YES.) Can women play roles originally written for men (Answer: YES.) And while this evolution in the theatre is a positive step, it’s curious to think about how an individual actor might process being cast in a non-traditional way.

In Women Playing Hamlet, a young female actor, Jessica, is cast as Hamlet. The rehearsal process leads to a breakdown of sorts with a brutal and and hysterically funny examination of Jessica’s life as Midwestern Millennial woman who shed her accent during her MFA training and now survives in New York as a barista and occasional soap-opera star. Jessica, with the help of a rotating cast of outrageous characters from her life, try to figure out if the iconic Shakespearean role can be played by a young woman, and, if indeed, Hamlet might actually be female.

Literature scholars will appreciate the sharp debate in the script, but you really don’t have to know anything about the Bard to laugh out loud at this Mel Brooks-esque comedy, presented by Tongue in Cheek Theatre Productions.

Go See a Show! correspondent Tara Gadomski sat down with TIC Artistic Director & actor Jake Lipman, the show’d director Molly Ballerstein, and actor Jen Teska—listen in as they discuss the progression of their own thinking on Shakespeare, where to source six prop skulls, why Tongue in Cheek has thrived for the past eleven years, and the central question of the play: can a woman play Hamlet?

“Hamlet is one of those iconic roles. I’ve heard—usually ac-TORS—say that there is ‘before Hamlet’ and ‘after Hamlet’ in their career…When I was younger I struggled with the idea of a female Hamlet because I was trying to figure out how it would work in the context of the rest of the play. Gender politics are such a part of the play that when I was younger I couldn’t wrap my head around how it would work. But the more I’ve studied the play, and looked at the role, the more interested I am in seeing a female Hamlet…Hamlet as a woman. I think with the right director and right actress, I would love to see that.”

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Jake Lipman and Molly Ballerstein of “The Inn at Lake Devine”

Tongue in Cheek Theater Productions presents The Inn at Lake Devine, adapted for the stage by Jake Lipman from the novel by Elinor LipmanAt the age of 14, if someone told me I couldn’t do something, I might get pretty righteously indignant, but likely would have felt powerless to do something about it, and then moved on to the next thing to be righteously indignant about.

In Tongue in Cheek Theater Productions‘ The Inn at Lake Devine, at age 14, protagonist Natalie is so affronted when her mother receives a letter suggesting, essentially, that there are “no Jews allowed” at the titular inn…well, she finagles a way to get there herself, to see just what’s up with that. That’s the inciting incident for a pretty epic memory play of love, loss, discrimination, and acceptance between three families through the ’60s and ’70s.

Listen in as Jake Lipman, TIC Producing Artistic Director/adaptor of the play/”Natalie” and fellow metaphorical multi-hat-wearer (but literally often sporting a fedora) Associate Producer/Assistant Director/Stage Manager Molly Ballerstein discuss how personal experiences helped to bring TIC to adapting this play, what it’s like to adapt a novel to a play, teaching/practicing space work, the importance of great designers, and what’s next for Tongue in Cheek.

“…there’s that element of my experiencing something [like this] at a similar age to Natalie, and then I just love her chutzpah and her moxie…she has a flair for the dramatic which I really enjoy.”

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Joseph Samuel Wright, playwright, and David Carl, composer, of “Rise”

Rise_logoWe all know the maxim: “power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

It’s the dangers of unchecked power & blind ambition that unites the two narratives of Roots & Wings Theatrical‘s new play Rise.

In one thread: an operatic telling of the story of Elagabalus, the boy emperor of Rome who overturned gods, prostituted himself in the temple, and demanded a sex change operation—following the ego-maniac emperor, his naive formerly-chaste Vestal Virgin lover, his scheming grandmother, and his ambitious mother willfully ignoring her son’s flagrant (and dangerous) disregard for prudence.

In the other: a modern drama of an ego-maniac porn star, his naive young lover, his scheming agent, and the ambitious young lady blind to whom she hurts on her rise to the top.

…starting to see where this is going?

If you’re curious to see (and hear) more, listen in to this episode of the podcast with Rise playwright Joseph Samuel Wright and composer David Carl as they discuss empire-level intrigue, big voices in small spaces, and rising vs. rising above. Continue reading

The Cast & Crew of Perchance to Dream Theatre’s “Antigone”

Antigone, by Perchance to Dream TheatreThis episode of Go See a Show! features the first-ever hat-trick on the show — the third episode featuring members of Perchance to Dream Theatre (listen to the first and second episodes here & here).

Joining me in the seating of Shetler Studios Theatre 54 to discuss the company’s own adaptation of Sophocles’ Antigone are director (and, speaking of hat tricks, fellow Sabres fan!) Emma Schimminger, set designer Luc S. Hotaling, and actors Megan Lee, Bret McCormick, Leanne Mercadante, Lauren Pennline, Brian Sheppard, and Kevin Paul Smith (with a quick shout-out from Stage Manager Aaron Salley).

Listen in as the cast & crew talk about how to create a modern version of a Greek classic collectively as a company, learning to be honest with each other for the sake of the work, and “day-dreaming” with the harsh deadlines of a 24-Hour play festival. Continue reading

Michael Poignand, Laura Iris Hill, Kathleen Foster, Matthew Foster, and Bryn Boice of Australian Made Entertainment’s “Speaking in Tongues”

Australian Made Entertainment's "Speaking in Tongues"One of the most beautiful things about New York City is its global nature; it truly feels like the center of everything, a place that people from all over the globe are drawn to. Three of the artists on this week’s episode are originally from the other side of the world, and are producing a play from their native Australia as part of the company’s mission to bring Aussie plays to New York.

If there’s more theatrical gold like this down under, Australian Made Entertainment is going to have much success Stateside.

Listen in as actors Michael Poignand & Laura Iris Hill, producers/actors Kathleen Foster & Matthew Foster, and director Bryn Boice of AME’s production of Andrew Bovell’s Speaking in Tongues discuss filling in the open spaces lovingly left by the playwright, creating two (and three) different characters each night, and bringing Australian works to the U.S.

“Dancing & shoes, dancing & shoes.”

Australian Made Entertainment presents

Speaking in Tongues
by Andrew Bovell

directed by Bryn Boice

Theatre 54 @ Shetler Studios
244 W. 54th Street, 12th floor
(between Broadway & 8th Avenue)

November 30 – December 16, 2012
Wednesdays to Saturdays @ 8 p.m.
Sundays @ 2 p.m.

Tickets available via BrownPaperTickets

"Speaking in Tongues," photo by Kyle Groff "Speaking in Tongues," photo by Kyle Groff "Speaking in Tongues," photo by Kyle Groff "Speaking in Tongues," photo by Kyle Groff

photos by Kyle Groff

Emma Schimminger, Neal Moeller, and Leanne Mercadante of Perchance to Dream’s “The Tempest”

The good folks at Perchance to Dream Theatre return to Go See a Show! to give us the low-down on their production of The Tempest, running now (for one week only!) at Theatre 54.

Director/Producer/Lighting Designer Emma Schimminger, and actors Neal Moeller (Prospero) and Leanne Mercadante (Ariel) took a break from tech to talk about Emma’s many hats, oozy gooey non-neutral masks, Leanne chasing around stage with a big dog head, and the future of Perchance to Dream after this, their first full-length production.

There’s only one weekend to catch this production, so don’t delay!

…oh, and learn a bit more about Perchance to Dream by listening to this earlier GSAS! episode (the third ever!) with company members Megan Lee & Kevin Paul Smith, which incidentally was recorded during a hurricane.

Full circle, back to The Tempest.

Perchance to Dream Theatre presents
The Tempest
by William Shakespeare
directed by Emma Schimminger

July 12–15, 2012
Thursday–Saturday @ 8PM
Saturday, July 14 @ 3PM
Sunday, July 15 @ 2PM

Theatre 54 at Shetler Studios
244 W. 54th Street, New York, NY
Tickets: $15, available via Brown Paper Tickets