OF A CERTAIN AGE to Examine the Lives of Aging Actors Through Reversed Casting

Could experiencing the lives of aging performing artists through young actors cause people to rethink their beliefs about aging and disrupt implicit biases? Of a Certain Age-a verbatim performance comprised of eight students portraying 16 performing artists and professionals over the age of 65-will explore this concept through performances at the Provincetown Playhouse from Friday, February 23 to Sunday, March 4.

Suzy Jane Hunt, Josh Batty, and Keith Morris in technical rehearsals.

The experimental performance replicates the voices, intonations, and gestures of aging actors, commentators, and professionals based on interview transcripts, audio recordings, and field notes. Of a Certain Age is a production of NYU Steinhardt’s Program in Educational Theatre in collaboration with The Actors Fund, an organization providing assistance to the entertainment community, and NYU Steinhardt’s Verbatim Performance Lab. Joe Salvatore, playwright and clinical associate professor of educational theatre at Steinhardt, created the play utilizing verbatim performance techniques similar to those in the Off-Broadway production,Her Opponent, an ethnodramatic re-staging of excerpts of the 2016 presidential debates co-created with economist Maria Guadalupe (INSEAD) in 2017.

Eight students conducted interviews with 37 performing artists-ranging from a back up singer for George Michael to an original cast member from West Side Story on Broadway-about their experiences growing older in an industry that has traditionally favored youth. Students will perform interview excerpts word for word and exactly replicate interviewees as they discuss the struggle to land roles, sexism in the industry, forced retirement, age typecasting, and more.

Piecing the script together.

Salvatore said casting choices were designed to disrupt audience expectations. In one scene, a young man depicts an older woman while a second actor on stage discusses being overlooked for voiceover roles, as these are typically given to men.

“Verbatim performance gives us an opportunity to reexamine how we think about aging. Watching gender-reversed and age-reversed actors perform these roles while in dialogue about sexism and ageism forces the audience to challenge their subconscious beliefs. How do we think about actors or celebrities over the age of 65 and how does this change when their experiences are portrayed by young people? The casting deliberately includes moments to shake up the audience’s perceptions; the theatricality is always present,” Salvatore said.

Salvatore said these choices cause an ‘alienation effect’ which forces the audience to reflect on what is being presented in critical and objective ways, rather than simply being immersed in the performance as they would with more a traditional play. This process of ‘making the familiar strange’ helps audiences to challenge their implicit biases and intolerances.

The performance also includes interview excerpts with writer and activist Ashton Applewhite, who recently gave a TED Talk about ageism as the last socially acceptable prejudice. The actor portraying Applewhite discusses the pejorative ways aging celebrities are discussed and structural discrimination in the industry.

Traci DiGesu, Senior Program Volunteer and Activities Coordinator at The Actors Fund, said the project helped participants feel heard by the next generation and discuss prejudices that affect artists of all ages.

“I was hearing from my clients about their experiences of ageism and feeling invisible, but I was also hearing a lot of good stories about how much they were still enjoying their work. It’s important for them to maintain their identities as artists and this project presented a terrific opportunity for participants to talk about their lives with student researchers who were genuinely interested,” DiGesu said.

The project is part of NYU Steinhardt’s newly formed Verbatim Performance Lab, which is committed to using verbatim performance techniques as an investigative tool to challenge and disrupt preconceived notions, implicit biases, and intolerances across a spectrum of political, cultural, and social beliefs and experiences.

“Of a Certain Age” runs Friday, February 23 and Saturday, February 24 at 8 p.m.; Sunday, February 25 at 3 p.m.; Thursday, March 1 to Saturday, March 3 at 8 p.m.; and Sunday, March 4 at 3 p.m. Tickets are $15 general admission and $5 for students and seniors. For tickets, contact NYU Box Office at tickets.nyu.edu, call212.998.4941, or visit in person at 566 LaGuardia Place (at Washington Square South).

“Of a Certain Age” is directed by Joe Salvatore and assistant directed by Andy Wagner. It features scenic design by Andy Hall, lighting design by Daryl Embry and Leah Cohen, sound design by Darren Whorton, props by Sven Nelson, and costumes by Márion Talán. The dramaturg is Sarah Bellantoni and theraturg is Traci DiGesu. The production stage manager is Cassie Holzum and assistant stage manager is Jiawen Hu, with research and assistance from Han Yu. The cast features NYU Steinhardt students Rai Arsa Artha, Josh Batty, Megan Conway, Sherill-Marie Henriquez, Suzy Jane Hunt (appears courtesy of Actors’ Equity Association), Keith Morris, Amalia Ritter, and Hayley Sherwood.

Steinhardt’s Department of Music and Performing Arts Professions, established in 1925, instructs over 1,600 students majoring in music and performing arts programs. Music and Performing Arts Professions serves as NYU’s “school” of music and is a major research and practice center in music technology, music business, music composition, film scoring, songwriting, music performance practices, performing arts therapies, and the performing arts-in-education (music, dance, and drama)

https://www.broadwayworld.com/off-off-broadway/article/OF-A-CERTAIN-AGE-to-Examine-the-Lives-of-Aging-Actors-Through-Reversed-Casting-20180220

NYU Steinhardt to Stage ‘HEAR THEM ROAR’ to Commemorate 100 Years of Women’s Suffrage in NY

NYU Steinhardt’s Program in Educational Theatre will stage two events this month to celebrate the women of New York State winning the right to vote a century ago, exploring the historical context through the individuals who fought for the cause.

A newly created play entitled Hear Them Roar: The Fight for Women’s Rights investigates the untold stories of the suffragists of 1917, including women of color, immigrants, and the men (or “suffragents“) who helped win the vote.

Under the direction of Nan Smithner, clinical associate professor of educational theatre at NYU Steinhardt, the play was devised by an ensemble of 15 actors, who wrote and created the scenarios by deeply researching historical facts of the time.

The show is conceived as an environmental theatre performance, with historical scenes related to the struggle for women’s rights taking place in Washington Square Park. These scenes are connected thematically in Pless Hall’s Black Box Theatre to present day issues.

The audience for Hear Them Roar: The Fight for Women’s Rights will meet at the Black Box Theatre, located at 82 Washington Square East (entrance on Washington Place), and will stroll from scene to scene throughout the performance. Audience members should dress warmly and wear comfortable shoes. In case of rain the performance will move inside Pless Hall.

Hear Them Roar: The Fight for Women’s Rights runs for seven performances between Friday, October 20 and Sunday, October 29. For a list of performance dates and times, visit the NYU Events Calendar. Tickets are $15 general admission and $5 for students and seniors. For tickets, contact NYU Box Office at tickets.nyu.edu, call 212.998.4941, or visit in person at 566 LaGuardia Place (at Washington Square South).

The Thursday, October 26 performance will feature a talk back after the show with Professor Burt Neuborne, who held the Inez Milholland Chair at NYU Law for the past ten years, and NYU Journalism Professor Brooke Kroeger, who wrote the recent book The Suffragents: How Women Used Men to Get the Vote (SUNY Press, 2017).

The Program in Educational Theatre will also present Upon a White Horse, the latest event in its Storytelling Series at the Provincetown Playhouse, produced by storyteller and NYU Steinhardt adjunct professor Regina Ress.

While many fought for women’s suffrage, one woman in particular stands out for her aptitude for drawing attention to the cause: Inez Milholland, a 1912 graduate of the NYU School of Law. Milholland may be best remembered sitting astride a white horse, channeling Joan of Arc, and leading parades down New York City’s Fifth Avenue and Washington, D.C.’s Pennsylvania Avenue to fight for women’s rights.

Called the New York Times’ “Poster Girl of Radicalism,” this labor lawyer, war correspondent, and outspoken crusader for social justice literally worked herself to death for the cause of women’s suffrage. Storyteller Darci Tucker will bring her back to life on Sunday, October 22 at 1 pm at the Provincetown Playhouse (133 Macdougal Street).

Upon a White Horse is free and open to the public, and is appropriate for adults and youth 12 and older. For more information, visit the NYU Events Calendar.

Steinhardt’s Department of Music and Performing Arts Professions, established in 1925, instructs over 1,600 students majoring in music and performing arts programs. Music and Performing Arts Professions serves as NYU’s “school” of music and is a major research and practice center in music technology, music business, music composition, film scoring, songwriting, music performance practices, performing arts therapies, and the performing arts-in-education (music, dance, and drama).

https://www.broadwayworld.com/article/NYU-Steinhardt-to-Stage-HEAR-THEM-ROAR-to-Commemorate-100-Years-of-Womens-Suffrage-in-NY-20171010

The Man Behind the Curtain

Dr. John Newman will perform his solo play The Man Behind the Curtain on Saturday, September 23 @ 2p at the United Solo Festival on 42nd street at Theatre Row in NYC.

The main character in the play is L. Frank Baum, best known as the author of The Wizard of Oz and 13 other Oz books. The play is set on New Year’s Eve the stage of the Hudson Theatre as one of Baum’s popular theatrical productions has been abruptly cancelled because of its excessive production costs. The “Royal Historian of Oz” offers the expectant audience his own story of how he “found his way to The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.

Before finding his calling as a writer of children’s stories, Baum struggled to make his living as an actor, director, store-owner, baseball team secretary, small-town newspaper editor, reporter, and traveling salesman. In the play, L. Frank Baum tells how each of his professions developed his abilities as a storyteller and how he transformed his dreams and nightmares into his best known story. His life intersects with American notables including author Charles Dickens, inventor Thomas Edison, and his mother-in-law, suffragist Matilda Joslyn Gage.

Newman earned a PhD in Educational Theater at New York University, with concentrations in theater for young audiences and playwriting. He has been a professor of theatre at Utah Valley University and Director of the Noorda Theatre Center for Children and Youth since 2010, after teaching and directing theatre for eighteen years at Highland High School in Salt Lake City. As a playwright, Newman has created authorized stage adaptations of novels by Newbery medalists Avi, Paul Fleischman, Richard Peck, and Jean Lee Latham.

The Man Behind the Curtain was premiered during Dr. Newman’s fall 2016 residency at the Open Eye Theater in Margaretville, New York under the direction of Dr. Tania Myren. Newman has also performed the play at Utah Valley University, the Mercury Theatre in Provo, and at Chapman University in Orange County, California. He has also performed it in places where L. Frank Baum lived and wrote, including Syracuse, New York and Coronado, California. Newman will performing the play at the national conference of the American Alliance for Theatre and Education in New Orleans in August and at the United Solo Festival on 42nd Street in New York City in September.

Two Weeks with the Queen Opens Tonight!

Tonight I caught the dress rehearsal for Two Weeks with the Queen, a fantastic show you won’t want to miss!
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Based on a popular Australian novel by Mary Morris, Two Weeks with the Queen is a moving TYA play that appeals to people of all ages. While it explores some serious subject matter, director Philip Taylor ensures that the story is told with humor and warmth to create an uplifting experience about overcoming fear and handling the challenges that life has to offer. Fast paced, funny and skillfully directed, the show highlights a very talented ensemble of actors. Meghan Crosby gleefully and beautifully portrays the spunky and determined 12 year old Colin, while the rest of the gifted cast, including Cheryl Brumley, Maggie Bussard, Brendan Chambers, Eric Gelb and Shannon Stoddard, impressively play a variety of memorable characters. What a pleasure it was seeing them all work together so well, each making strong choices to create many lovely moments on stage.
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The designers and crew also deserve praise, including Daryl Embry’s clever set design, Leah Cohen and Daryl Embry’s appealing lighting, Meaghan Cross’s delightful costumes, and Kari-Noor Thompson’s effective sound design. The production stage manager Sarah Brown, assistant stage manager Jiawen Hu, and assistant director Andrew Gaines are also to be congratulated for their hard work in helping to create this remarkable show.
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Poignant and full of hope, Two Weeks with the Queen is a production with a lot of heart! Book your tickets now for the performances listed on the poster below.
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Download the program here: https://tinyurl.com/2WksPrgrm
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David Montgomery

Summer Fun at NYU

Paul Carrol Binkley, Nashville-based composer and music director, is pleased to rejoin Laurie Brooks and Jeff Church on the team.  Paul wrote the score for Laurie’s play Selkie: Between Land and Sea which premiered at The Coterie produced by Jeff, directed by Scot Copeland.  Scot and Paul collaborated on their original musical Jack’s Tale, dramaturged by Laurie, which recently premiered at The Kennedy Center. The opportunity to develop this new project at The Provincetown will give the team valuable time to work on Dust at a critical stage of development.  Paul has worn varied hats as a musician over the years including touring with country group Alabama, serving as Artist in Residence at Vanderbilt University, music directing at Nashville Children’s Theatre for over twenty years, and orchestrating for The Nashville Symphony, among many others. To Paul, what sets composing for the Theatre apart from all other commercial endeavors in the music industry is the process of creating music that enhances and supports the storytelling.

TYA@NYU Update

Jeff Church, Producing Artistic Director of The Coterie in Kansas City, Missouri, “is pleased to be back with New Plays for Young Audiences in the Steinhardt’s terrific Program in Educational Theatre at NYU.”   Jeff directed for NYPA in its very first year (1998) and continued for the next seven years though 2005.  “Lowell Swortzell was leading the summer developmental festival at the time, and he was one of the greats.  One of The Coterie’s most important commissions, The Wrestling Season, by Laurie Brooks, was developed here in 1999,” said Jeff.  Jeff used the NPYA program to work on some experimental scripts as well, such as a transgender-themed play, The 12:07, also by Laurie Brooks.

Distinguished Program Alumnus Returns to the Playhouse This Summer

Lowell Swortzell and Laurie Brooks at The Provincetown Playhouse in the late 90s.

Laurie Brooks will be in New York for this year’s NPYA at The Provincetown, developing her new musical, Dust, with her team, Composer/Musician Paul Carrol Binkley and Director Jeff Church. Dust tells the story of Ellie, a girl who the town believes is an angel that can call rain from the skies and make crops grow again. The ravages of the Dusters that caused the death of her mother are bad enough, but  even worse, Ellie knows she’s just an ordinary girl who cannot perform miracles. The phenomenon of one brave family who stayed through the Dustbowl and the prescient topic of climate change are embedded in this story.

 

Look Back at LFS

Here are a few additional photos from Looking for Shakespeare 2016’s production of Romeo and Juliet, directed by Nan Smithner.

Ensemble members Ivan Birchall and Adi Sragovich

The Looking for Shakespeare 2016 ensemble