Showing posts with label THEATER FOR THE NEW CITY. Show all posts
Showing posts with label THEATER FOR THE NEW CITY. Show all posts

Wednesday, December 27, 2017


Krystle Adams With Betty Hudson And Curry Whitmire

NEW YORK -- Part of our shared experience as Americans today is how we strain under the weight of the tech sector. Millionaires are made overnight and we endure the distortions of social media while gentrification pushes us out of our homes. When that happens, it rips us away from our history as if we never mattered. That's the idea behind "Or Current Resident," a new play by Joan Bigwood, which will be performed by Squeaky Bicycle Productions from February 3 to 25 at Theater for the New City, where it is a resident company. Brandi Varnell, Artistic Director of Squeaky Bicycle, directs.


The play is set in a Silicon Valley bungalow, from which three generations of the Finch family are in constant fear of being uprooted. The family patriarch, an engineer, has passed on, and the resilient matriarch, Mimi, holds the household together in cramped and rambunctious harmony. Everyone pools their earnings to rent month-by-month from a landlord who is yielding to the tech-driven real estate market: she is "making other plans for the property," meaning she will sell the house to a Facebook millionaire. Ironically, the tech sector both suppresses and sustains the Finches, since their primary breadwinners--Mimi's two daughters--make their livings off it. Lynn, an aspiring realtor, white-knuckles a marginal living based on housing turnover. Jill, an agoraphobic technical writer, earns meager fees writing user manuals from home. Jill has twin 16 year-olds: Mason, a budding film maker bewitched by war movies, and Molly, an addict to social media. Both teens are being bullied in school. This crowded household becomes explosive when Ted, Mimi's ex-con son, is released from prison and tries to fit himself back into the family unit.

While Mimi uses her optimistic disposition to steer her family through hardships, she may finally be overmatched. The fragility of the family's finances challenges the earning power of Lynn and Jill. There is great personal drama in the struggles of Mason, Molly and Ted. The teens are outsiders, ostracised from their peer groups. Crisis ensues for Molly when she is ambushed on social media. Ted is straining to reintegrate into society and clings desperately to the life lessons in serenity that he learned in prison. He struggles to defend Molly in her Facebook fracas but fumbles awkwardly in his attempts to help her. Mason, fighting for his own self-image, attempts to stage a backyard combat scene for a video project that could gain him some respect. He uses prop weapons that attract a police raid. Of all the Finches, Jill provides the most formidable challenge to her family. She is battling mental illness and struggling to reclaim ownership of her circumstances. Who will have the resources to take care of her when Mimi is gone?

The dramedy reveals a family in crisis as it lies shivering in the cold glare of untenable revelations. Silicon Valley, which they can no longer afford, has first sustained but ultimately expelled their family together with its history, as if it never mattered. The play's themes carry very real stakes, but its characters are endearing and drawn with wit. The piece was inspired by stories and events of playwright Joan Bigwood's earlier life in Palo Alto and her friendship with a fellow writer, now deceased, who went to prison for a crime he didn't commit. The play was developed as part of Squeaky Bicycle's 2016 Reading Lab under the guidance of the Company’s resident dramaturg, Kathryn McConnell.

Director Brandi Varnell has cast the nuclear family non-traditionally, as the experiences of the Finch family are universal. She explains, "The issues this family face--finances, gentrification, mental illness, criminality, school bullying--are common to all of us. As soon as you say they are somebody else's problem, they will affect you too. The more you look at the commonality of these issues, the more empathetic you will be."

The very realistic set by Meg McGuigan will highlight the family's history in the home and their relationship to technology in all its forms.

Thursday, February 23, 2017


Theater For The New City

NEW YORK -- When the chips are down, are we men or beasts? That's the question of a new tragicomedy by W.M. Akers, "Dead Man's Dinner," which Theater for the New City will present March 23 to April 9 in a production by resident company Squeaky Bicycle Productions, directed by Kathryn McConnell. The piece is an absurdist adventure story set in a dystopian future. New York has been under siege for ten years and three women are struggling to survive in a frigid, rent-stabilized apartment on the Upper West Side. Olympia and her daughter Petra have spent years surviving any way they can. When Petra falls in love with Jackie, an injured soldier, their food supplies are stretched to the limit. Death creeps closer and each woman is torn between love and hunger. Hunger always wins.

The play is realistic at its base, but dialed up a bit with a gossamer level of giddiness. There are reverberations of the experiments of ethologist John B. Calhoun, who tested the effect of overcrowding on rats and advanced an animal model of societal collapse. Amid themes of starvation and desperation in the play, the characters' fear of losing human connection is at its core. The result is a surprising poignancy. The piece is dominated by the battle for Petra's love between her mother and her girlfriend. It is set in an apartment that was once nice but has been turned into a fortress: grimy, utilitarian and militaristic. The door to escape it seems barricaded; it turns out a man has died against it. Everything inside becomes a survival tool, including a skillet that is wielded as a deadly weapon against intruders. With dark humor, the three women are pushed to a brink where we find out where their breaking points are.

Playwright W.M. Akers creates relatable characters and cleverly nods to the unique glories and challenges the city has to offer them. These three women experience the siege from three different socioeconomic and generational vantage points, leaving audiences to wonder how they would respond if faced with such dire circumstances. 

Akers hails from Nashville, TN. He graduated in 2010 from NYU's dramatic writing program, where he received the John Golden Playwriting Prize. A journalist in his "day job," he is a features editor at Narratively and also writes for Deadspin, Vice and others. Squeaky Bicycle has presented two of his previous plays, both directed by Kathryn McConnell. "Tales of Love and Lasers" was three sci-fi stories about people trying to find love and fight loneliness in space. "Pop Dies in Vegas" was about a Justin Bieber-type musician faking his own suicide to live on in legend. Akers' "Cary’s Chainstore Massacre," which Kathryn McConnell directed for another company, was based on a plot to blow up a New York Barnes & Noble by a neighboring independent bookstore. Most of Akers' plays are comedic in their essence. He tends to sets exotic tales of war and conflict in very familiar settings and says that he tries to write serious stuff but then he "gets silly." His plays often tend toward gallows humor with a heavy dose of heart.

Creation of "Dead Man's Dinner" came about as Akers was reading "How To Cook a Wolf" by M.F.K Fisher, a meditation on cooking through hunger, and "Leningrad: Siege and Symphony" by Brian Moynahan, a chilling history of the siege of Leningrad. The perspective on how humans in extremis go to great lengths to preserve their humanity was inspiration for this piece. For Akers, "Dead Man's Dinner" is either a science fiction or an alternate universal survival play. It asks, "If everything breaks down, what is the last thing--for each person--that makes you stop caring or turns you into an animal?"

Director Kathryn McConnell is a co-founder of Squeaky Bicycle Productions. Her other Squeaky Bicycle productions include "Ten Ways on a Gun," "The Last Five Years," "The God Particle," "Tales of Love and Lasers," "The Tragedie of Cardenio," "For Better or Worse," "Récit" and "Supernova." She has a BFA in Dramaturgy from the University of Oklahoma and has worked with Workshop Theater Company, New York Women in Film and Television, Sanguine Theatre Company, NYWIFT, Sanguine, the Hippodrome Theatre, Westport Country Playhouse, OKC Theatre Company, and others. (

Annalisa Loeffler plays Olympia, the mother; Zohra Benzerga plays Petra, her daughter; Kate Garfield plays Jackie, Petra's girlfriend/lover and Marquis Wood plays both of the two brothers who encounter the three women at different times. Assistant director is Brandi Varnell. Set design is by Meg McGuigan. Lighting designer is Christopher D'Angelo. Sound designer is Meg Cully. Fight Director is Casey Mattison. Production manager is Tracy C. Wertheimer. Stage manager is K'Sandra Sampson.

Squeaky Bicycle (, founded in 2010 and dedicated to new works, is now a resident company of Theater for the New City. It is known for its productions of apocalyptic plays. In 2013, it produced "Alligator Summer" by Dylan Lamb at Abingdon Theatre Arts Complex. The play was an audacious farce in which two Louisiana families have taken refuge in an attic, Anne Frank style, after an endless army of alligators have overrun their town. It was subtitled "A Southern Gothic Atrocity in Three Acts." Most recently they mounted "Ten Ways on a Gun" at TNC. The company values the development process, seeking to nurture every contributor's artistic journey, offering a safe place to take risks and explore the depths of their talents. W.M. Akers and Dylan Lamb are resident playwrights of the company. Brandi Varnell is Artistic Director; Kathryn McConnell is Executive Producer and Literary Manager.

Brandi Varnell, Artistic Director of Squeaky Bicycle, writes, "Theater for the New City has been an institution for innovative new work for decades, one of the most known and respected downtown theaters. We could not be more appreciative and more inspired by our residency at TNC. Crystal Field and the staff of TNC have offered us such support and insight as we pursue our artistic vision. They believe in the unique voice of the artists they work with, and we are truly thankful to be nurtured by the innovators and creators at TNC."


March 23 to April 9, 2017
Theater for the New City, 155 First Ave. (at E. 10th Street)
Presented by Theater for the New City and Squeaky Bicycle Productions
Thursdays through Saturdays at 8:00 PM, Sundays at 3:00 PM. Added performance Monday, March 27 at 7:00PM.

$18 general admission; box office (212) 254-1109,
Running time: 90 min. Critics are invited on or after March 23.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015


Wilmar Saldarriaga With Cesar Morales And Victor Grajales

NEW YORK – From May 28 to June 14, Theater for the New City will present the U.S. premiere of "Maximum Security," a new play by Piedad Bonnett, the internationally acclaimed Colombian writer, performed in English translation (world premiere) by Lucia della Paolera and acted by a cast of Latino actors. The play is a brutally realist account of life behind bars for three inmates and a guard, offering a rare look at the prison culture surrounding political prisoners and the unlikely friendships they adapt to when surrounded by a violent and sociopathic population. It is directed by Nelson Celis of Bogata, Colombia's La Compania Nacional de las Artes ( and co-produced by ID Studio Theater, a NYC theater company that works with a mix of theater professionals and undocumented Latino immigrant communities to create works of artistic and social impact.

Set in a penitentiary in Colombia, a country with notoriously overcrowded and violent prisons, "Maximum Security" explores the lives of three cellmates and one guard as they navigate a labyrinth of degradation and survival tactics behind bars. The provocative play offers an unflinching glimpse into the daily psychological, social, and physical battles fought by the people held within a deeply flawed justice system. Three incarcerated men--at various stages of their "careers" as inmates--form uneasy friendships and alliances, strategizing and bartering with each other and the guards for access to basic goods and protection from a variety of shifting threats. There is rampant sabotage and subterfuge, mental and physical sickness, rotten food, water shortage crises, and scant medical care. Inmates are periodically thrown into the dreaded "hole," a torture chamber, and emerge only to find themselves in the midst of a series of explosive, divisive riots. Meanwhile, intensive conversations, a result of the singular intimacy developed between people forced to spend days on end together, reveal the circumstances "outside" that turned the three men into prisoners. Delving into the depths of despair and political and personal indignation, "Maximum Security" is marked by a palpable mix of existential fury and black humor which here become survival tactics themselves.

Summarizing the play, author Piedad Bonnett remarked in a Colombian press interview, "Prison is an exaggerated version of the outside world, a metaphor for the entire country, where the word is risky, and people dream of getting out, but also of returning to crime. A world without redemption." She a well-known Colombian poet, playwright and novelist whose work have been widely translated and published world-wide. She is best known as a poet of clear language imbued by irony and deep feeling that explores the subjects of love and the harsh realities of life in Colombia. Her writings are profoundly linked to her life experiences and vision as a middle class woman in a country torn by violence, inequality and conflict. Childhood, family life, and an enchantment and disenchantment with different kinds of love are present across her work, including filial, romantic and friendship, which she describes as one of the most beautiful and pure kinds. Her body of work includes eight poetry books, five plays, screenplays and novels. In 2013, she published "Lo que no tiene nombre," a personal testimony about the struggles of her son with mental illness. Other noteworthy publications include her award-winning first volume of poems, "De círculo y ceniza" (1989), and her dictionary of the most important concepts of a Nobel Prize-winning fellow countryman, "The world according to García Márquez" (2005). She has a degree in Philosophy and Literature from the Universidad de los Andes University of Los Andes (Colombia), where she has been professor at the Faculty of Arts and Humanities since 1981.

Wednesday, May 06, 2015



Michael Henchard And Ayanna Williams

NEW YORK – "Casterbridge," based on Thomas Hardy's classic Victorian novel, "The Mayor of Casterbridge," is a new musical theater work with book and lyrics by David Willinger and music by Christopher Beste. The 20-character, two-act musical is fairly faithful to Hardy's parable of the spiritual ups and downs of man and features a score inspired by English country music of the period. Theater for the New City will present the piece's world premiere run June 4 to 19, directed by Willinger.

In Hardy's famous Victorian novel, ne'er-do-well Michael Henchard, when drunk, organizes an auction to sell off his wife. After taking a vow never to drink again, he pulls himself up by his bootstraps to be a pillar of society -- Mayor of the town and a business owner. He reunites with his wife and starts over, only to get pulled back down by his own nature. It is a work full of passion, love, and even humor as Henchard pays his karmic debt. While essentially a romantic tragedy of human flaws, destiny and will, it has both comic highlights and melodramatic moods to enliven it. Its main characters are riveting figures, full of depth and pathos, while its secondary characters are fun in their sharply defined peculiarities.

The piece will be staged with a cast of 15. Its set emphasizes the town's crossroads--a central bridge, which is also a metaphor for crossing between various states in a life's journey. The quaintness of England's West Country, where Hardy set the drama, is amply suggested. The score by Christopher Beste is heavily drawn from traditional English sounds. It hovers on the boundary between Broadway Musical and operetta, containing both lively, tuneful numbers and sung dialogue to connect them.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015


Yiddish Theater

Kafka's Quest

NEW YORK -- "Kafka's Quest, a.k.a. Kafka/Samsa" is a quasi-realistic play by the late playwright Lu Hauser that imagines the family life of Gregor Samsa, the tragic victim of Kafka's "Metamorphosis," and his friendship with an historic Yiddish Theater actor and actress in Prague, prior to the events of the famed novella. Set in Prague in 1912, it portrays Gregor Samsa (the name Kafka personified himself with in the book) as torn between his father, who wants to keep him on the straight and narrow with a full time job, and his friendship with artists of the Yiddish Theater, who want him to join and write for them. His father’s bankruptcy forces Gregor to become the breadwinner of the family, which has been forced to take in two mysterious lodgers to make ends meet. The back and forth between the two poles of Gregor's life will culminate in "The Metamorphosis." Theater for the New City will present the play's world premiere February 26 to March 15, directed by Manfred Bormann.

The play is not meant to be historical, but it is based on facts and accessible to anyone who is familiar with Kafka's famous novella. The plot of "Metamorphosis," with traveling salesman Gregor Samsa trying to adjust to his new condition as he deals with being burdensome to his parents and sister, is well known and foreshadowed in the play. There are lodgers in "The Metamorphosis" whom Hauser enlarges in her play, characterizing them as oppressive, threatening characters who take over too much of the household and to whom Gregor's father kowtows excessively. They are used to project into the future and foreshadow the Nazism in Prague's future.

Franz Kafka's actual history with Yiddish Theater is less familiar, and needs a little explanation. In 1910 and 1911, as Kafka was approaching 30, he was strongly influenced by two Yiddish Theater troupes who toured to the Café Savoy in Prague, a shabby little place with a playing area and a piano in one corner. The second of the two troupes featured Itzhak Lowy (sometimes written Yitzhak Levi, Djak Levi and Jizchak Löwy) and his players, among whom was the zaftig, fading yet alluring Mme. Trassik (sometimes recorded as Mania Tshissik). Largely from Kafka's diaries, historians have traced how these Yiddish Theater experiences reversed Franz's attitude toward Eastern European Jews and their traditions, which had been routinely scorned by his family. (The Kafkas were so assimilated that on Franz's Bar Mitzvah invitation, guests were invited to his "confirmation.") Franz found himself infatuated with Mme. Trassik and became a close friend of Itzhak Lowy, ultimately even helping to produce an evening of Lowy's solo works at the Jewish Town Hall in Prague.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014



Celeste Hastings

"Charlotte's Song" by Nancy Ferragallo is a performance-based experimental work that explores a daughter's reality of growing up with her schizophrenic mother and how that impacted her life and healing process. It is a poetic collective of monologues, dialogue scenes and movement theater in the style of the Tanz Theater of Pina Bausch. The work is co-directed by Andreas Robertz and Mario Golden and co-choreographed by Nancy Ferragallo and Celeste Hastings.

A Cocteauvian story is told through the lens of fragmented narratives and movement sequences. A mother (Carol Beaugard) and her daughter (Yvette Quintero) are so alienated from one another that they communicate primarily by letters. A dancer (Celeste Hastings) dances the mother's inner life. As the play progresses, the daughter explores issues of betrayal and abandonment and comes to an ultimate understanding of her mother's behavior. All is played out in the presence of a doll, designed by Maria Hupfield, who bears witness to the daily life of both women.

In shifting auditory landscapes, we hear the language of disconnect that announces the underlying fragility of the mother: both her physical and mental collapse. Rendered in movement sequences, a clothing ritual speaks for her recurrent psychotic episodes. The play was born out of Nancy Ferragallo's experiences with her own mother, who died when Nancy was 37. Ferragallo reports that the idea for this play "tugged at her and waited decades to be born."