New York City
Last night we went to a reading of a new play in midtown, at a bar called Nation (on 45th, between 5th and 6th), put on by Prophecy Productions. A friend of Michelle’s was directing it and so I had higher expectations than I might have otherwise. What??? No automatically high expectations for theatre in New York? That’s right; there’s a whole lot of crappy theatre done in New York–and sometimes I think I’ve seen most of it. Think about it, a city of 8+ million people (plus the burbs) is bound to turn out a lot of bad work based on sheer volume alone. Of course, with 8+ million people, there’s a lot of good theatre going on as well. My point is that the good stuff isn’t just falling out of the sky, you have to search it out like anyplace else.
Well, I was not disappointed; I really enjoyed the evening. It was the first public reading of a script that had been in workshop for about 5 months and afterward there was a talk-back with the cast, director, playwright, and producer of the writing lab. The show was titled The Virgin, The Witch, and the Wardrobe and was written by Brittany Rostron. It centered around the lives of two half-sisters and was quite engaging and well paced for something getting its first full run. The actress playing the sisters, Victoria Scott and Melissa Lusk, were very good, and the 4 guys supporting them each had very nice moments as well.
After the reading was over, a 20-25 minute discussion was had amongst artists and audience about the though processes that went into creating the show and what effect those decisions had on viewers–what worked, what didn’t work and why. I really enjoy those sorts of things; sometimes I can almost believe that I like the rehearsal process more than the actual performances. I would really like to see this script again in a few months–on its feet this time, even script-in-hand. Actually, I think the cast had put in enough work on this reading to have done a more fully-realized script in hand production, but there were space and rehearsal issues that wouldn’t allow that here. And the director, Ain Rashida Sykes, commented that she really wanted to do the reading straight and to the audience, allowing the focus to be completely on the words–especially in a first performance of the script. I agree with the importance of this step in early stages, butit doesn’t stop me from wanting to see something more.
We went for dinner and drink with the cast after the show (that’s what actors do: audition, eat, audition, drink, audition, drink, do some filing at a temp job, audition, occasionally get a job, etc). Very enjoyable as well, we discussed a little Bertolt Brecht, the ending of the play (which Michelle and I still disagree about its effectiveness), some Antonin Artaud, and then we started talking about training and where we had gone to school. This is when New York City became very small.
One of the actors in the cast hadn’t studied theatre in school, but had gone to Binghamton. I had mentioned, in passing, that I really got a lot out of my classes with Ted Swetz, who was a teacher in the UMKC theatre program.
Justin said, “Theodore Swetz?”
“Did he teach at Binghamton?”
I say, “Yeah, he left UMKC to head up the department at Binghamton, but now he’s back heading up the MFA professional training program in Kansas City.”
Small world. And not only that, this same guy grew up in Gillette, WY. In high school, he wrestled Buffalo, WY every year (they’re about 70 miles apart). My dad lives in Buffalo, WY. The actress playing the Catholic sister was from Sioux City, IA. I’ve performed several times in Sioux City (a little less than 4 hours from Kansas City).
8+ million people, sometimes I think I’ve met them all.