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Strawberry Festival Sails Into New Horizons

Van Fisher

Van Fisher is a long time fixture in the New York Theatre Festival circuit. As the Artistic Director of The Riant Theater's Strawberry One-Act Festival, as well as a long time producer, his festival has proven to be one of the longest-running, and most reputable in the business. An innovator to the festival format, including bringing live video streaming to the festival judging format, his most recent venture, being launched at the beginning of next year, comes in the form of a Retreat Cruise for actors, playwrights, producers, and pretty much anyone in the theatre scene. We caught up with Mr. Fisher for more on this new venture... or adventure as the the case may be.

Q: The Strawberry One-Act Festival has been one of the more successful and established festivals for a while now. Tell us about this retreat cruise. How was the idea born and what are your expectations?

Van Fisher: Well I’ve always wanted to do a retreat. Initially, I was thinking about doing one in the Catskills, but then when I went on my first cruise I had the idea, “Why not do the retreat on a cruise?” I gave it a lot of thought. I spoke to some people about it and they thought it was a great idea too. The best part for me was having the opportunity to mix business with a vacation. I was sure that other people would jump at the idea too. So I spoke to some of the industry people who have conducted workshops for us in the past and they liked the idea as well. And the rest is history. I’m hoping that the Retreat Cruise becomes an annual event that artists and industry people look forward to attending with the possibility of collaborating on new projects.

Q: What can we expect the cruise to offer in terms of the balance between work and play? What can guests expect from a given day?

Van Fisher: Well first of all you’ll be happy to know that there will be an unlimited Open Bar for everyone. So we definitely intend to have a good time and party. The days that the ship is at sea we will conduct our workshops. The days we are at port people will be free to take advantage of various excursions or just spend the day on the beach. We will have workshops for writers, actors and singers. Our staff includes an agent, a casting director, a filmmaker, an acting coach and a vocal coach. People will be able to sign up for the workshops they are interested in taking in advance. A typical day of workshops will consist of an early morning exercise class, followed by a writing workshop, then a workshop for actors and a separate one for singers. We will keep the evenings open so people can enjoy the entertainment and other events on the ship like the casino, swimming pools, mini golf, etc. For the daily schedule of workshops and the days that we will be in Orlando, Florida and the Bahamas click HERE,

or to read up on the various Onboard Activities and Excursions click HERE.

Q: How does the retreat cruise tie into a bigger plan for the festival? What’s in store for the festival? Van Fisher: The Riant Theatre attracts playwrights and performers from all over the world. Our mission is to develop new plays and outstanding artists. So the Retreat falls in line with our mission. We are planning to make the Retreat Cruise an annual event, one that attracts industry professionals and artists, who are looking for an event where they can get some r&r and work on their craft at the same time and network. It’s all about making connections. That’s the beauty of the festival. The opportunity to be seen by several playwrights, directors and producers and the potential to collaborate on new projects. Our judges for the Finals in the festival have been very impressed with the plays featured and some of the actors and playwrights have even found representation from agents. In addition, several producers have created relationships with some of the playwrights and have produced other plays written by them at such places as New York City Center. One playwright even had his play optioned by the Manhattan Theatre Club. Some plays have been made into films and were featured in film festivals around the world and even won prizes. Anthony Martinelli’s play ACOUSTIC SPACE was made into a film and was featured at Cannes in 2015. I’m hoping that the Retreat Cruise will offer many opportunities for artists to network and make connections and get work. It’s all about making connections.

I see the Retreat Cruise as being the official kick-off to the Strawberry One-Act Festival, which will run from March 13, 2019 through March 24, 2019 at Theatre 54 at Shetler Studios in NYC. On Saturday, February 16, 2019 we will have a Bon Voyage Party at our Guest Hotel with Guest Speakers talking about Producing Theatre in NYC, Book Signings and a Meet and Greet with the Artists in the upcoming Strawberry One-Act Festival. Interested people can register by going HERE, calling 646-623-3488 for further information. Keep in mind that the deadline to pay for the Cruise is October 20, 2018. Q: What’s in the future for all things Strawberry?

Van Fisher: Our next festival will feature over 30 one-act plays. We are working on a few other things for the festival and we will be making a special announcement at our Bon Voyage Party. Tickets for the Strawberry One-Act Festival will go on sale November 15, 2018 on our website at

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