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Monday
Apr252016

An "Improv Rock Star" Comes To Artistic New Directions

By Roger Gonzalez

Micheal Gellman is a rock star of improvisational theatre, even though he speaks in terms of jazz. 

“It is the Jazz of theatre,” he says.  “It is simply acting without a script.  It is the act of creating spontaneously whether it's in music dance or acting.  Writing is almost always improvised. The craft of improvisation is an important part of the actors tool kit.  Like a symphony, acting is to a great extent the space between the notes.  Improvisation encourages the actor to play between the notes - in the moment with truth and awareness.

Michael GellmanThe co-author of “Process: An Improviser’s Journey,” published by Northwestern University Press, Mr. Gellman is also a master instructor on the subject and someone you want to meet if you are a serious actor. 

As a former Senior Faculty Member at The Second City – Chicago. He is an Alum of the Second City Main Stage and was a resident director there for 25 years. He is also an Adjunct Faculty member at Columbia College teaching in Comedy Studies and has worked/taught/directed with the likes of Stephen Colbert, Gilda Radner, Bill Murray, Dan Akroyd, Catherine O'Hara, Chris Farley, Steve Carrell, and Tina Fey. If you want to learn Improv, he is the man to see.

Much has been written lately about how American actors lack training. Not that Mr. Gellman and I discussed the matter, but when asked what actors should be looking to “take,” in terms of training, he went back to the basics. “In most cases "improv" people have only studied 'improv'.  Without sounding like an arse, the usual advice is… to take acting classes if they really want to pursue acting.  If they are there for human development then another improv class...or maybe a painting or writing class might be of interest.  If they have been studying acting and are exploring a more diverse set of tools I will often suggest either a movement workshop - for comedy definitely a workshop in clown or mask work.

Put simply, actors need to train. And as an actor myself, I can’t imagine an actor not wanting to take some sort of improvisational training. This is why Mr. Gellman’s upcoming workshops at Artistic New Directions is so important.

I try to combine old school 'Improvisation for the Theater' (Viola Spolin)… techniques I have developed over the years and  techniques used  in traditional acting from Stanislavski to Shurtleff.” he says.

Any student will take away what they are ready to learn.  What they are open to.  I know that might sound airy… but the whole philosophy of improvisational training is to provide an opportunity for the participants to make their own discoveries.  Set up an exercise with a goal and have 5 different students go through it and they are going to take away 5 very different things based on many aspects of where each individual is in their work and life.

In my workshops I hope I can provide each participant an opportunity to make discoveries about themselves, gain practical tools and techniques to add to their working methodology as actors. and a better understanding of how to create new work. I am teaching 3 different workshops with 3 different learning outcomes but in general we will be exploring methods of acting and creating with a stronger understanding of truth in our work - from Character to Reacting to Living in the Moment to Developing Text and Movement in order to develop a present our very unique stories."

If you're not an actor, you might still Mr. Gellman's workshops useful. 

"Improvisation has over the past 20 years formed 3 branches of training, he says. (1) Improvisation for business (communication, interaction and team work); (2) Improvisation for human development -  (Classes for "civilians" to have an opportunity for social interaction and methods to enhance their communication skills), and (3) Training for the actor.  (This includes an huge array of methods and techniques for a variety of different purposes:  All improvised shows (so called long and short forms),  tools and techniques for actors form the experienced working actor to raw beginners,  developing new shows and scripts, rehearsal techniques for character, text development and exploring the space between the notes."

"I  had a student in an acting class in Columbia College once announce in the middle of a class - 'Oh,  I get it. Scripts are just very, very, very, very tightly structured improvisations.'  I liked that a lot."

 

Michael J. Gellman is in town beginning Thursday, April 28th holding workshops for Artistic New Directions in Midtown West.
For details on all three workshops, visit their website here: 

 

Monday
Mar142016

Why Playwrights Need to Let Go

By Roger Gonzalez

When my oldest daughter left for college a few years back, I was heartbroken, a little scared, and, yes, proud. She was going away to that frigid upstate, Cortland, New York. The trip alone was at least 4 hours by car! It might as well have been 2000 hours! True, I was excited for her. She was gaining her independence and I would root for her success, but a part of me felt she wasn’t ready. Maybe she should stay and go to a nearby college where we could keep a close eye on her. When we finally said goodbye at her new dorm, we all cried.

Four years later, she’s a college graduate, now working as a teacher, and still growing and maturing. It’s more than okay. It’s the right thing. Parents need to let go!

And playwrights need to let go too....of their plays

For playwrights, letting go of their baby - their new play - often bears a strong resemblance to cutting ties with a child. I should know. As someone who works closely with playwrights, I see it happen too often. And there are consequences to keeping a play so close.

I know one musical, for instance, that played at a festival and was absolutely unique and fun and quite phenomenal. It was the best show in that festival and received acclaim and tons of positive feedback. Several years later, I am still thinking about it. The composer wrote the book, produced and directed it. As far as I know, the work is now sitting hidden away in some desk draw or binder (I guess I will reach out and ask her). But if it is, then it stopped growing. Or worse yet, it lost momentum. It might possibly be dead. There is no publisher to publish it, and no theatre producer to take to the next level.

Playwrights do other crazy things. A few playwrights I’ve met write the plays, produce them, direct them, and star in them. All at once! The end result is a play that may have some commercial potential but falls short on the writing, the directing, the producing, and the acting! When you spread yourself too thin and rush the process, you are bound to come up short somewhere.  I call it the “falling star” vehicle. You could say it crashed before it even took off.

I know we have many examples of self-made success stories, like Sylvester Stallone and the now famous tale of how he insisted on starring in “Rocky” and refused to sell the script without that condition. He held out, got his way, and the rest is history. People still talk about it decades later. There are dozens of talented actors who write, direct, produce, and star in their own productions. It absolutely happens. But the truth is that many playwrights stand to benefit from focusing their energy on letting their baby – and not their ego - go (and grow). Unfortunately, I see this too often in theatre, and particularly in the theatre festival circuit.

The saddest part about the “falling star” vehicle is that oftentimes these same playwrights don’t want to hear the advice of others, advice that is perceived as personal assaults. This is the most hurtful thing a playwright can do to their precious "baby." 

I encourage playwrights to focus on their strengths, or at least be economical with their creative time. Juggling things that someone else can do better (or with more focus) is going to be in the best interest of the production. It’s important that playwrights make this choice early and commit to it. Sure, the playwright may be talented on many levels, but the question is, will the playwright have enough time and creative juice to do rewrites, observe performances objectively, raise money, hire the right technical support, and pretty much get involved in every aspect of the production. Sleep is a valuable asset to the creative type.  Does the playwright want to surrender their sanity to get the play off the ground?

In my business I see plays go from concept to stage all the time. The biggest thing that can hurt this process is either holding on too tightly, or completely letting go and paying for everything out of pocket. Both can be detrimental in the early stages of development, so here are some tips:       

  1. Know when the play or musical is ready, and don’t rush into production.
  2. Plan ahead and have a clear idea of all the things your play will require to make it to the stage (venue, crew, logistics).
  3. Have a real sense of a budget. You will rarely, if ever, produce something without some money or investment coming out of your own pocket, even if you are backed by crowd-funding.
  4. Always be prepared to lose money. If you are using money you can’t afford to use (or just don't have), you will derail the project.
  5. Have a sense of outcome. Why are you producing the play and what do you envision will happen after the run?
  6. Don’t be too anxious to spend all your crowdfunded money. Treat it with respect and be thrifty.
  7. Be smart about how and where you produce your play. There can be many hidden expenses in renting a venue, for instance. Such things as casting equity actors come with very specific rules and expenses. Make sure you are familiar with these nuances before you jump in.
  8. If you can afford it, hire a General Manager, a director, actors and LET GO of aspects of your play that a professional might be able to do as good or better than you.

There is so much we can discuss in terms of tips and suggestions. Feel free to share your thoughts.

At the end of the day, you want to make progress with your material. You want it to have a life of its own.  Staged readings, self-produced limited engagements and festivals are a great way to see your work come to life. But a quality production on at least several levels is critical to the work continuing its growth and development. If you put up a terrible production, people will see it and judge it… maybe for the very last time. 

*********************************

Roger Gonzalez is President of Alliance Media & Communications, a marketing and PR firm dedicated to theatre and live entertainment. He is also the editor and publisher of the theatre website, LocalTheatreNY.com, and the blog, Theatre Marketing Insights. He works in NYC on major Off and Off/Off Broadway projects and with dozens of independent theatre companies. He also teaches marketing at various schools for The City University of New York. You can reach Roger at RogerGonzalezNYCMedia@gmail.com

Wednesday
Mar022016

An eclectic evening of Shorts IX: Boxers & Briefs opens at AND

If you have never heard of "An eclectic evening of Shorts IX: Boxers & Briefs," well here is your chance to try them on! uh, it...the shows. 

A series of short plays brought to you by Artistic New Directions, "An eclectic evening of Shorts IX: Boxers & Briefs" opens in just two days at Theatre 54. For a full list of shows and offerings, please see below. Click on timetable or HERE for tickets.

Playing at THEATRE 54 / Shetler Studios & Theatres 
244 West 54th Street-12th Floor

Boxers

Hangman

by Gregory Fletcher, directed by Marshall Mays 
With David Spadora* & Dino Petrera

Childlike Laptops

by Ben Sen Dan Foley, directed by Irene Carroll 
With Ben Sen Dan Foley & Helene Galek*

Larry at the Gaza Strip Club

by Ira Gamerman, directed by Cotton Wright 
with Cheryl Horne * Ira Gamerman, Katie Mack * Isaac Rodriguez

The King

by Nicole Pandolfo, directed by Kristine Niven* 
With Douglas Manes* & Jared Wilder

What Came After

by christopher oscar peña, directed by Tonya Pinkins 
With Carmen Lobue, Soccorro Santiago* & Treshelle Edmond*

The ANDsemble

directed by Scotty Watson 
with Emily Brock, Irene Carroll, Katherine Lazarus, Catherine Santino, Jim Ewing, Kristine Niven*, Isaac Rodriguez, Michael Sause, Jon Schaefbauer, David Taylor, Stephen Thornton, Jerry Topitzer, Jared Wilder

Briefs

GPS III

by Raphael Badagliacca, directed by Janice Goldberg 
With Shauna Bloom*, Nathaniel Janis, John Lampe, Katie Pinke

Nursery Rhymes in the 99

Nursery Rhymes in the 99by Cesi Davidson, directed by Sara Berg 
With William Oliver Watkins*& Elizabeth Acosta*

Autograph Table

by Nicholas Walker Herbert, directed by Kate German 
With Josh Frank*, Chrissy Basham, Craig Lenti

The Second Collection

by Drew Keil, directed by Gene Santarelli 
With Anton Obeid & Ben Rowe

Side Effects

written & directed by Donald Steele 
With Sandra DeLuca & David Marx

The ANDsemble

directed by Scotty Watson 
with Emily Brock, Irene Carroll, Katherine Lazarus, Catherine Santino, Jim Ewing, Margaret Geraghty, Mark Hudson, David Marx, Kristine Niven*, Isaac Rodriguez, Michael Sause, Jon Schaefbauer, David Taylor, Stephen Thornton, Jerry Topitzer, Jared Wilder

*members Actors Equity

****************************

ALSO RUNNING DURING THE ECLECTICS

David Razowksy Headshot

Showcase Performance for

Putting It All Together - David Razowsky's Improvisational Acting Workshop

Monday, March 7, 8:00 – 9:00 pm

$10 suggested donation 
Over the course of 4 days, participants will focus on and practice sticking with and surrendering strong points of view; engage in naturalistic, truthful acting; intentionally use mindfulness, awareness, and patience; courageously use silence; and, of course humor.

This hour-long performance at AND's Eclectic Evening of Shorts: Boxers & Briefs is a culmination of this workshop.

************************************** AND***************

A Special Play Reading of Anand Rao's new play,

"A MUSLIM IN THE MIDST."

Directed by Gene Santarelli

March 8th at 7PM - Playing at Theatre 54 
Suggested Donation: $10 
More information: CLICK HERE

PLEASE SHARE

Friday
Jan292016

2016 Midtown International Theatre Festival Announces Spring Line-up*

The first round of shows and performances have been announced by the MITF: Spring.

MITF: Spring combines some of the most popular features of past MITF festivals: short plays and musicals, a Variety division, the Short Play Lab, and staged readings.

The Festival will take place at the WorkShop Theater's Jewel Box Theater and will run from March 7-27, 2016.

Below are just some of the confirmed shows so far as of January 19, 2016:

~TICKETS GO ON SALE MONDAY, FEBRUARY 1st!~

A KIND SHOT written and performed by Terri Mateer. A 6’ 1” chick lets it rip about playing pro basketball in France, modeling, stripping, designing Michael Jordan’s headboard and taking lots of shots at life. (Solo Show) *This show has adult content.  Performance Schedule: Wed 3/16, 7:00pm; Fri 3/18, 7:00pm; Sun 3/20, 2:00p - Running Time: 60 minutes

A SOLDIER’S LOVER by Jacklyn Thrapp, directed by Heather Cole. The story takes place in the present time & the possible future, as a woman spends a year experiencing the reality of what it’s like to love a soldier overseas. (Comedy). Performance Schedule: Mon 3/7, 8:45pm; Tues 3/8, 8:15pm; Wed 3/9, 7:30pm - Running Time: 45 minutes

CORPUS by Jordan Stovall. In a run down New York health spa, Renata, a brash fifty year old Serbian widow, finds an unusual kinship with Matthew, a twenty something who believes he’s being visited by a dead lover. *AEA.  Performance Schedule: Mon 3/14, 6:00pm; Thurs 3/17, 7:15pm; Sat 3/19, 2:30pm - 
Running Time: 60 minutes

DIE by Leonard D. Goodisman, directed by JC Sullivan. A woman accused of killing her baby daughter has a powerful sexual control over men and women, the detective investigating her and the reporter protecting her. (Fairy tale/Drama). Performance Schedule: Mon 3/7, 6:00pm; Thurs 3/10, 6:00pm; Fri 3/11, 7:15pm - Running Time: 40 minutes

GODHEAD by Richard Curtis, directed by Paul Navarra*; starring Laura Fay Lewis* and Mike Roche*. “Godhead” is the title of a favorite painting that the artist sold in a moment of weakness. Now she wants to meet the man who bought it, to discover if he is worthy of her masterpiece: He isn’t. *AEA.  Performance Schedule: Wed 3/23, 7:30pm; Fri 3/25, 6:00pm; Sun 3/27, 3:30pm - Running Time: 30 minutes

GOD SPELLED BACKWARDS by Marjorie Conn, directed by John Buckingham; starring Marjorie Conn, Dreidel, Puppets: Ervina and Frosty. A unique ventriloquist routine written and performed by Marjorie Conn who sings songs and tells dog stories with the assistance of two dog puppets, a Greyhound mask and a real dog named Dreidel. (Ventriloquist Routine).  Performance Schedule: Mon 3/21, 7:15pm; Thurs 3/24, 7:30pm; Sat 3/26, 4:15pm - Running Time: 30 minutes

GRAHAM'S LAW OF DIFFUSION by Michael K. White and Dianna Stark, directed by Terry V. Prideaux; starring Quinn Wise and Sean Doherty. Two teenagers. A can of antiperspirant. Dying never smelled so fresh! (Comedy). Performance Schedule: Wed 3/23, 8:30pm; Fri 3/25, 7:00pm; Sun 3/27, 1:00pm - Running Time: 30 minutes

I CHOOSE TO BE SINGLE, TO STAY SAVED by Monica Mikell, directed by Monica Mikell; starring Tametria Harris, Monica Mikell, Danielle Harris, Maya Lewis-Johnson and Angela Berrien. “When all else fails, no need to cry about it, just be about it.” (Comedy). Performance Dates: Thurs 3/17, 8:45pm; Sat 3/19, 1:00pm
Running time: 60 minutes

INSIDE HIMSELF by Thomasine F. Crawford, directed by Paul Navarra*; starring Holly O’Brien,* Ron Barba, John Fennessy,* Amber Crawford,* and Jimmy Cintron. In his anguish, David cries out for someone to see him, hear him, but his illness leaves him trapped inside himself. (Drama) *AEA - Performance Schedule: Mon 3/7, 7:15pm; Wed 3/9, 6:00pm; Thurs 3/10, 8:15pm - Running Time: 60 minutes

LETTERS TO ZOEY by Garrett Buhl Robinson, directed by Garrett Buhl Robinson; starring Garrett Buhl Robinson. Take a journey through lyrical stories and foot stomping songs on a wild search for liberation and love.(Solo Show, Musical, Coming of Age). Performance Schedule: Wed 3/23, 6:00pm; Fri 3/25, 8:00pm; Sun 3/27, 2:00pm - Running Time: 50 minutes

LIKE A SACK OF POTATOES by Ric Siler, directed by Bette Siler; starring Ric Siler. The 'shotgun and rock salt talk' usually was enough to keep boyfriends in line, but when one of his daughters marries an abusive husband, a farmer finds more drastic measures may be called for. (Hillbilly Gothic) *AEA. Performance Schedule: Tues 3/15, 7:15pm; Sat 3/19, 7:45pm; Sun 3/20, 5:45pm - Running Time: 35 minutes

MEN VERSUS WOMEN by Steve Gold, directed by Chris Weihert. “And they fought happily ever after. (Comedy). Performance Schedule: Tues 3/22, 6:00pm; Sat 3/26, 7:45pm; Sun 3/27, 5:45pm- Running Time: 35 minutes

OVERLOOKING THE SHADOWS by Renee McNeil, directed by Renee McNeil; starring Justine J. Hall and Sean Kane. A lonely writer gets a visit from a stranger who has secrets of himself and her deceased husband. (Drama). Performance Schedule: Mon 3/21, 8:15pm; Thurs 3/24, 6:00pm; Sat 3/26, 2:00pm
Running Time: 60 minutes

PASS/FAIL by Ashley Lauren Rogers, directed by Samantha Elizabeth Turlington; starring Ashley Lauren Rogers. Through stand up comedy and video segments, Ashley Lauren Rogers tackles the pervasive nature of passing privilege within transgender circles by analyzing her own failures… or instances of "not passing," in life. (Comedy). Performance Schedule: Tues 3/8, 7:00pm; Wed 3/9, 8:45pm; Fri 3/11, 6:00pm - Running Time: 45 minutes

THE GRADE by Seth Freeman, directed by Mike Keller. The challenges of intimacy can be heightened by unexpectedly blunt feedback. (Comedy). Performance Schedule: Tues 3/15, 6:00pm; Sat 3/19, 5:15pm; Sun 3/20, 7:00pm - Running Time: 35 minutes

THE TENANTS by Bill Holland, directed by Mark Cirnigliaro. This is a mostly true story and you'll laugh at Bob's misery. (Dramatic Comedy). Performance Schedule: Mon 3/14, 7:30pm; Thurs 3/17, 6:00pm; Sat 3/19, 4:00pm. Running Time: 35 minutes

THE WAPSHOT WHATEVER by Susan I. Weinstein, directed by Charlie Kanev. The Wapshot Whatever—Computer Romance between two programs. When a Rogue meets an Off-Shore Server, sparks fly within your power strip. WARNING: Fractured I.T. lingo. (Avant Garde).  Performance Schedule: Wed 3/16, 6:00pm; Fri 3/18, 6:00pm; Sun 3/20, 3:30pm - Running Time: 30 minutes

THREE’S A CROWD by Marilyn Recht, directed by Emma Roddy; starring Emily Anne Parrish, Dominique Siqueira Woo, and Alexandria Collins. Three young women at a New England college circa 1969 wrestle with desire, societal pressures, and the tensions in their friendship. (Drama). Performance Schedule: Tues 3/22, 8:30pm; Sat 3/26, 5:15pm; Sun 3/27, 7:00pm - Running Time: 45 minutes

WHAT'S IN ALASKA by Gloria Bess directed by Gloria Bess. Jack and Mary, a couple at a crossroads in their relationship, are invited to a dinner party. Tensions turn into hallucinations and this night ends with no return. Based on a Raymond Carver short story. (Drama). Performance Schedule: Tues 3/15, 8:30pm; Sat 3/19, 6:30pm; Sun 3/20, 4:30pm. Running Time: 30 minutes

WORD PLAY by Ran Xia, directed by Florence Le Bas; starring Julia Bray and Adrian Burke. In the last days of his life, Icarus invites Esme on a trip; as his memories fade, she recounts the moments of their love and loss. (This play is inspired by a buzzfeed post, with each scene based on an untranslatable foreign word.) Performance Schedule: Tues 3/22, 7:15pm; Sat 3/26, 6:30pm; Sun 3/27, 4:30pm - Running Time: 45 minutes

YOU BELONG WITH ME BECAUSE YOU’RE SO VAIN By Heider Tunarrosa; starring Ian Whitt, Michelle Persoff, Ty Baumann, Tristan J. Shuler, and Phillip Shinn. When a neurotic songwriter accidentally falls in love with his best friend’s ex-boyfriend, and he must decide between losing his best friend or the love of his life, he receives help from the imaginary versions of Taylor Swift and Lady Gaga. (Romantic Comedy).  Performance Schedule: Mon 3/21, 6:00pm; Thurs 3/24, 8:30pm; Sat 3/26, 3:30pm. - Running Time: 35 minutes

*********************VARIETY*********************** 

MITF SPRING VARIETY consists of programs featuring traditional cabaret performers, tributes to Broadway musicals, singer-songwriters, variety acts, and a little rock-and-roll. 

*************************************************** 

YOU GOTTA FEEL ME!? Phil Brooks explains life through his eyes in this hilarious collection of short stories ranging from topics such as playing sports for a division 2 school, being “young, broke, and black” in Manhattan, and popular topics including Baltimore Riots and Bruce Jenner. (Standup)
Performance Dates: Fri 3/18, 8:30pm - Running Time: 45 minutes

ELLEN ORCHID: Punchlines and Prozac. NY psychiatrist Dr. Ellen shares her humorous take on life's challenges. (Standup)
Performance Dates: Wed 3/16, 8:30pm - Running Time: 45 minutes

ELIJAH HOWARD: SERENDIPITY. (Standup) 
Performance Dates: Sat 3/19, 9:00pm - Running Time: 45 minutes

LANE BRADBURY: LET ME ENTERTAIN YOU, AGAIN. Conceived by Doug DeVita. In 1959, a young Southern Debutante was cast in what was to become one of the greatest musicals of all time. How Lane Bradbury went from Atlanta High Society to creating the role of Dainty June in the original production of Gypsy (directed by Jerome Robbins and starring Ethel Merman) is told in this musical memoir, which Lane has performed to wildly enthusiastic audiences from the Strasberg Institute in Los Angeles to the intimate 54 Below in New York. (Cabaret)
Performance Dates: Sat 3/26, 9:00pm - Running time: 45 minutes

RALPH GRECO, Jr.: SALACIOUS SONGS AND DIRTY WORDS starring Ralph Greco, Jr., Joe Diamond, Andrew Vetterlein, Tom Kennedy, and Yolanda Dunderdale as Madam Marvelous. (Cabaret) *This show has adult content.
Performance Dates: Fri 3/11, 9:30pm - Running Time: 45 minutes

VICKIE PHILLIPS A Carousel of Colors With Brel, Weill, and Aznavour. Vickie brings back all the magic in her return MITF encore performance of international European Genius Composers Jacques Brel, Kurt Weill and Charles Aznavour! (Cabaret) 
Performance Dates: Mon 3/14, 9:00pm - Running Time: 45 minutes

************CHECK BACK FOR ADDITIONAL SHOWS***************

Still seeking SUBMISSIONS:

MITF: Spring is seeking Variety Acts. MITF: Spring combines some of the most popular features of past MITF festivals: short plays and musicals, a Variety division, the Short Play Lab, and staged readings. The Festival will take place at the WorkShop Theater's Jewel Box Theater and will run from March 7-27, 2016.
The Variety division spans cabaret, magic, improv, sketch comedy, standup, and burlesque. Acts can be solo or group affairs, so long as they fit within an hour, including setup and strike, and so long as they bring their own music director and so forth. The Festival provides a keyboard, mike, and amp. Each act will be given one performance with the possibility of added performances to those acts with the best advance ticket sales-Festival schedule permitting. Shows receive a 1-hour tech rehearsal and a share of the profits, if any.
To submit a Variety Act: Mark it clearly "MITF: Spring," and that it is a variety act. Please also include video reels (you tube, etc.), of your act as part of your submission application. We'll curate the entries as they come in. Please send all Variety submissions to: john.chatterton@gmail.com 
We look forward to watching your acts!

Submission Deadline For Variety Is February 27, 2016

Saturday
Dec262015

Live staged "radio show" by Radio Theatre is an experience not to be missed!

By Roger Gonzalez

STARRING: FRANK ZILINYI, R.PATRICK ALBERTY, JOSHUA NICHOLSON, CORY BOUGHTON, ROBB MOREIRA, CHARLOTTE FOSTER, JEANNE LAUREN SMITHIf you have never experienced a live, staged “radio show,” make it your goal in 2016 to go see a Radio Theatre production. In fact, you can begin enjoying it this holiday week with “War of The Worlds” by Radio Theatre on Christopher Street at 8PM. It opened December 26th and runs until mid January. Dates are below.

Radio Theatre, which this year celebrated its 11th anniversary staging radio shows, is an experience you don’t want to miss.  The brainchild of artistic director, founder, producer and much more, Dan Bianchi, this company takes storytelling to new heights. Sitting through this version of Alfred Hitchcock’s “The Birds,” for instance, is a creepy, emotional experience that is enhanced by the sound effects of flapping wings, birds crashing into windows, and music bouncing off the walls of he company’s new venue, the Theatre at St. John’s in Greenwich Village

Basically a 140-year old church on Christopher Street with great charm and history, the church is dark and lit in such a way that you are immediately drawn into something gothic and archaic, like a trip to a time in New York history when stories were shared in dimly-lit flats by creepy relatives telling tales from the old country…except most of these tales are horror classics and have an old New York feel that is crafted by the company as tribute to old downtown, where the venue is based.

It should be noted that Bianchi is not the creator of this staged story-telling genre, but he is a master in heightening the effect of this format and taking your imagination to a new level.  The company uses state of the art sound equipment and is masterful in every detail. Radio Theatre’s H.P. Lovecraft Festival, which runs early during the season is a critically acclaimed, award-winning sellout that draws audiences from all over the globe and has become the company’s signature offering.  I had the pleasure of seeing … or I should say listening to their previous production of “Fright Night” at St. John’s and I was floored at how quickly the stories draw you in and how easily the narrative comes to life. The program varied for “Fright Night,” but on the night I saw the show, I was treated to four tales: “The Monkey’s Paw,” “The Demon Lover,” “All Soul’s Eve,” and the classic best known from the Hitchcock filmed version, “The Birds.”

The effect of telling a story in this manner with sound effects, music, and remarkably versatile actors playing an array of characters was enjoyable and fulfilling in ways I had not expected. I’ve been to other staged “radio shows” in the past, mostly holiday versions of “It’s A Wonderful Life” and I love that the story unfolds in your mind. It’s creative, it’s unique, and you would probably enjoy it several times and always come away with something new with each retelling. Yet, the horror and gothic choices made famous by the folks at Radio Theatre proved especially rewarding...and electrifying.

Much credit has to go to this ensemble of seasoned performers. They are spectacular, they never disappoint or miss a single beat or word or inflection. With each telling of the story, you are lost in the world they create and the 90-minutes fly by before you know it. Frank Zilinyi, R. Patrick Alberty, David Nielsen, Charlotte Foster, Jeane Lauren Smith make up a cast that is nothing short of extraordinary. Occasionally, they lend physical elements to the performance and this heightens their ability to create characters that come to life with great gusto and energy. Their timing is perfect! Sound effects and clever lighting complement the performances to enhance some very memorable, fun performances. Wes Shipee who is the engineer is in perfect sync the whole time and the direction by R. Patrick Alberty is right on point.

Don’t miss their current production of H.G. Well’s “War of The Worlds,” now playing at Theatre at St. John’s, 81 Christopher Street. Doors open at 7:30PM, and the show begins at 8:00PM.

Tickets are available at the door or online at Smart Tix by clicking HERE

"War of the Worlds" plays December 26, 27, 29, 30, and JAN 5, 12, 16, 19. Doors open at 7:30 and showtime is at 8:00PM    

TDF accepted

 

Adapted by DAN BIANCHI, Directed by FRANK ZILINYI   

Music/Sound Design by DAN BIANCHI
Sound Engineer: WES SHIPPEE
 
STARRING:  FRANK ZILINYI, R.PATRICK ALBERTY, JOSHUA NICHOLSON, CORY BOUGHTON, ROBB MOREIRA, CHARLOTTE FOSTER, JEANNE LAUREN SMITH