Category Archives: Regional Theatre

Who Was Edgar Degas? The Musical ‘Degas in New Orleans’ Reveals Another Side of the Painter

Degas in a Green Jacket, Edgar Degas. Photo taken courtesy of the Wiki Art site.

Degas in a Green Jacket, Edgar Degas. Photo taken courtesy of the Wiki Art site.

Much of the background (setting 1872, New Orleans) ,of the Musical, Degas in New Orleans written by Rosary O’Neill, music composed by David Temple, is gathered from biographies written about Edgar Degas.

The World Premiere of Degas in New Orleans produced and directed by Deborah Temple with the Red Hook Performing Arts Club is being presented at The Bard Fisher Center. The dates are Thursday, December 18th and Friday, December 19th at 7:00 pm. It is being presented at Red Hook Central School District on Saturday, December 20th at 7:00 pm and Sunday, December 21st at 3:00 pm.

About Edgar Degas, the Background for Degas in New Orleans

Edgar Degas (1834-1917) has been regarded as a  founder of Impressionism because he was a key organizer of exhibitions of those painters who designated themselves as spontaneous and painted en plein air (in the open air). However, he disliked the categorization and preferred to be noted as a realist. He commented, “What I do is the result of reflection and of the study of the great masters; of inspiration, spontaneity, temperament, I know nothing.” (Armstrong, 1991, p. 22) His scenes of Parisian life, his experiments with form and color and his friendship with several key Impressionist artists, for example,  Mary Cassatt and Édouard Manet,  connect him intimately to the Impressionist movement (Roskill 1983, p.33), even if he denied it himself.

Pink Dancers, Before the Ballet, Edgar Degas (1884). Wiki site.

Pink Dancers, Before the Ballet, Edgar Degas (1884). Wiki Art site.

The eldest son of a wealthy banking family, Edgar’s artistic talent was recognized early by his father. Degas wanted to improve his artistic skill, so in his youth, as was done in Paris, he spent time copying the Italian masterpieces in the Louvre. Later, Edgar traveled to Italy in search of copying the greats: Michelangelo, Titian, and other Renaissance painters, visiting various churches to see the works on display. Not stuck in the past, Degas enjoyed studying modern artistic techniques, including photography and engraving. In searching about for his life’s work, he studied law to help with the family business as most sons did. But he decided against it and ended his law career in 1855 to pursue his early love of painting, sketching and drawing.

Degas had family in the US, his mom’s family, the Mussons. It was his Uncle Michel Musson and his daughters who lived in New Orleans on Esplanade Avenue in what is today known as “The Degas House.” After the Civil War broke out, and the conflict increased in intensity, the Musson sisters, Edgar’s cousins, were sent to France which is where Edgar first became acquainted with them. The youngest cousin, Estelle (Tell), lost her first husband during the War, while pregnant with their daughter.  Despite Edgar’s affections for Tell, it was Edgar’s youngest brother, René who married her and took her back to live in New Orleans. René amassed tremendous debts, ruined the business and eventually had to be bailed out by Degas, after Degas returned from his stay in New Orleans. It is his trip to New Orleans to visit his brother and the family when he discovers the family crisis and his brother’s negligence to the business and his own family.

Portrait of Estelle Musson Degas, Edgar Degas (1872). Courtesy of the NOMA site.

Portrait of Estelle Musson Degas, Edgar Degas (1872). Courtesy of the NOMA site.

Composer David Temple’s Observations Related to the Musical World Primere ‘Degas in New Orleans’

Degas joined the National Guard to fight for France during the Franco-Prussian War. During rifle training, his eyesight was found to be defective. And it was on his subsequent visit to New Orleans that he realized his right eye was permanently damaged: “What lovely things I could have done …if the bright daylight were less unbearable for me.  To go to Louisiana to open one’s eyes, I cannot do that.  And yet I kept them sufficiently half open to see my fill.”  In years to follow, he lost his ability to read and to identify colors, and he worked more and more in sculpture, a more tactile medium.  By 1891, he would write, “Ah! Sight! Sight! Sight!… the difficulty of seeing makes me feel numb.”

Edgar’s own failing eyesight most probably increased his empathy and affection for Tell who he discovered had gone blind after she returned to New Orleans with René. Edgar expressed his feelings in a letter to a friend: “My poor Estelle, Rene’s wife, is blind as you know.  She bears it in an incomparable manner; she needs scarcely any help about the house.  She remembers the rooms and the position of the furniture and hardly ever bumps into anything.  And there is no hope!”

Our attempt in this production is to elicit the artistic — and amorous — affections of the Musson – Degas clan, and to have a window into this beautiful yet tragic connection of the two who are losing their sight — yet perhaps truly “see” more clearly than anyone else — has been an exciting journey.  We so hope our work reaches the passion and artistic vision of each audience member.
Rosary O'Neill with Degas' The Dancer in Green exhibited at NOMA (New Orleans). Photo by Carole Di Tosti

Playwright Rosary O’Neill with Degas’ The Dancer in Green exhibited at NOMA (New Orleans). Photo by Carole Di Tosti

PERFORMANCES AT BARD FISHER CENTER BLACK-BOX THEATER

Tickets are selling fast. But you can call Bard Fisher Center’s Ticket Office to purchase tickets.

WHEN:  THURSDAY, December 18 and FRIDAY, December 19 at 7:00 p.m.

Tickets are $10.00/$8.00 students and seniors available in advance for Thursday and Friday night performances at the Fisher Center Box Office, 845-758-7900/6822 and sold at the door. Click on the dates (December 18, December 19) in the calendar for tickets.

Deborah and David Temple, director and composer of 'Degas in New Orleans.' Photo courtesy of the Temples.

Deborah and David Temple, director and composer of ‘Degas in New Orleans.’ Photo courtesy of the Temples.

PERFORMANCES AT RED HOOK CENTRAL HIGH SCHOOL

WHEN:  SATURDAY, December 20 at 7:00 p.m. and SUNDAY, December 21 at 3:00 p.m. at Red Hook Central High School.

Tickets are $10.00/$8.00 students and seniors. Tickets for the Saturday and Sunday performances will be available at the door at Red Hook High School.

Sources

Armstrong, Carol (1991). Odd Man Out: Readings of the Work and Reputation of Edgar Degas. Chicago and London:      University of Chicago Press. ISBN 0-226-02695-7
Roskill, Mark W. (1983). “Edgar Degas.” Collier’s Encyclopedia.
David Temple co-wrote the article.

Degas in New Orleans, a Musical World Premiere, Opening Thursday at Bard’s Fisher Center

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Edward Degas’ dancers. Courtesy of the website, Old Art. 

The year 2017 will mark the centennial of Edward Degas‘ death when the renown French Impressionist died in Paris, quite alone and nearly blind. Events celebrating Degas’s life and work are already gearing up. Playwright Rosary O’Neill, and the husband wife team, composer and solo guitarist David Temple and producer/director Deborah Temple are in the forefront celebrating the beloved artist in the World Premiere of the musical Degas in New Orleans which is opening Thursday, December 18th at Bard’s Fisher Center.

Degas is most famous for his paintings, prints, and drawings, and is closely identified with the subject of dance, since more than half of his works depict dancers. He has been associated with Impressionism, though he preferred to characterize himself as a realist. What many Americans and French do not realize about Edgar Degas was that he spent a period of his life in New Orleans, Louisiana, with his brother Rene and his family, staying at the home of his Creole uncle, Michel Musson, on Esplanade Avenue. This dramatic period of his life is the setting of the new musical Degas in New Orleans, written by Rosary O’Neill, with music composed by David Temple. The production, which is beautifully conceived and directed by Deborah Temple, has the honor of being presented by a select group of students in the Red Hook Central School District.

Rosary O'Neill with Degas the green dancer in NOMA (New Orleans). Photo by Carole Di Tosti

Rosary O’Neill with Degas the green dancer in NOMA (New Orleans). Photo by Carole Di Tosti

Degas in New Orleans is about Edgar Degas’ visit to his family who were in a state of crisis after the Civil War and struggling to survive. Degas is swept up in the events of family, the political currents and the cultural changes that are upending the city of New Orleans. He  attempts to give his moral and financial support, but finds the circumstances there more and more troubling as he becomes entranced with Estelle and other family members. He gains solace through painting family; notably there is a niece who loves to practice her dance. As the conflicts grow more desperate in his life with them, he discovers secrets about his sister-in-law, Estelle and his brother Rene. The circumstances which spin beyond his control ultimately break his heart. The production of Degas in New Orleans is in its final rehearsal stages. As you can see from the production photos, it looks to be one more amazing achievement in the careers of the husband and wife team David and Deborah Temple and Rosary O’Neill.

About the composer, playwright, director/producer

David Temple at a solo event. Photo courtesy of David Temple.

David Temple at a solo event. Photo courtesy of David Temple.

David Temple is a noted composer, classical guitarist and faculty member of The Bard College Conservatory of Music. Temple collaborated with Rosary O’Neill and Deborah Temple on the production Broadway or Bust, which was also presented at the Bard Fisher Center a year ago and for which he originated all of its music. Temple is a solo and instrumental composer who has performed globally and whose works are being used for film and television. His CDs may be found online along with his performance schedule and videos of his performance events.

Rosary O’Neill is a noted playwright, whose works have been produced at The Southern Rep, a theatre she founded in New Orleans. Her plays have been published by Samuel French. Some of them have been compiled in three anthologies whose subject is one of the loves of her life, her native New Orleans. She  has written novels and screenplays and has also authored texts on the theater, acting and the dramatic arts. Her most recent published work is non fiction. It is a subject close to her heart and on which she is an expert, New Orleans Mardi Gras which has its roots steeped in the occult and mystical Carnival celebrations of Europe.

Deborah and David Temple, director/producer and composer of 'Degas in New Orleans.' Photo courtesy of the Temples.

Deborah and David Temple, director/producer, and composer of ‘Degas in New Orleans.’ Photo courtesy of the Temples.

Deborah Temple has years of experience producing and directing musical theatre and is well known in upstate New York’s Hudson River Valley circles. For over a decade her dedication and tireless efforts directing and producing talented students in the Red Hook Performing Arts Club with the assistance of friends and community members have garnered the support of all those in the Red Hook Central School District and beyond. Her reputation for high standards in producing quality productions precedes her.  As a long time Red Hook Central School District employee and Performing Art’s Club adviser, she is thrilled to be an integral part of the community. And whether she is aware of this or not, in producing exceptional high school productions she has become an important vehicle for sustaining regional theater in upstate New York, especially in a time when it is increasingly difficult to mount and/or innovate theater productions without incurring massive debts (the budget of a minimalist production could feed 2 families with children for a year).

 Degas in New Orleans. Photo courtesy of Deborah Temple, producer/director.

Tom Bloxham and Mickey Lynch in ‘Degas in New Orleans.’ Production photo courtesy of Deborah Temple, producer/director.

The Cast of Red Hook Performing Arts Club is a group of select, highly talented students whose energy and creativity have inspired them to collaborate with composer David Temple and director Deborah Temple. Together this group of artists have evolved the songs for Degas in New Orleans in “real time,” honing the words and the musical lines to perfection. It is a process all composers use when innovating the musical scores for both opera and regular musical productions. Their dedication to this amazing project is truly remarkable and speaks to their professionalism, work ethic and love of performance.

The cast of the Red Hook Performing Arts Club in rehearsal for Degas in New Orleans. Photo courtesy of Deborah Temple, producer/director.

The cast of the Red Hook Perform(L to R) Lucy Makebish, Elizabeth Lococo and Natalie LeBossier in  ‘Degas in New Orleans.’ Production photo courtesy of Deborah Temple, producer/director.

The production photos indicate the quality of the scenic design, the staging and the sheer beauty of the dramatic rendering thus far created by the director’s artistry and skill. The period costumes and set pieces were generously supplied by Montgomery Place, the Center for Performing Arts Center at Rhinebeck, Bard College, and other local sources.  The Pit Orchestra is made up of Red Hook Central students and teachers.  Production staff, technical support, and set construction staff are a combination of professionals, students, parents, and Red Hook alumni.

 

PERFORMANCES AT BARD FISHER CENTER BLACK-BOX THEATER

Tickets are selling fast. But you can call Bard Fisher Center’s Ticket Office to purchase tickets.

Cast of the Red Hook Performing Arts Club in rehearsal for Degas in New Orleans. Photo courtesy of Deborah Temple.

Trevor Kowalsky as Degas in ‘Degas in New Orleans.’ Production photo courtesy of Deborah Temple.

WHEN:  THURSDAY, December 18 and FRIDAY, December 19 at 7:00 p.m.

Tickets are $10.00/$8.00 students and seniors available in advance for Thursday and Friday night performances at the Fisher Center Box Office, 845-758-7900/6822 and sold at the door. Click on the dates (December 18, December 19) in the calendar for tickets.

PERFORMANCES AT RED HOOK CENTRAL HIGH SCHOOL

WHEN:  SATURDAY, December 20 at 7:00 p.m. and SUNDAY, December 21 at 3:00 p.m. at Red Hook Central High School.

Tickets are $10.00/$8.00 students and seniors. Tickets for the Saturday and Sunday performances will be available at the door at Red Hook High School.

 

Degas in New Orleans: A Musical World Premiere Presented at Bard’s Fisher Center

Rosary O'Neill with Degas the green dancer in NOMA (New Orleans). Photo by Carole Di Tosti

Rosary O’Neill with Degas’ Dancer in Green in NOMA (New Orleans). Photo by Carole Di Tosti

Producer and director Deborah Temple and the Red Hook Performing Arts Club are presenting a world premiere of the new musical, Degas in New Orleans.  The play is written by New Orleans native Rosary Hartel O’Neill. It has been set to music by local composer David Temple.

Degas in New Orleans, tells the story of the French painter Edgar Degas’ five-month stay with his family in the Crescent City shortly after the Civil War.  It reveals much about the post-war South, political and ethnic strife unique to Louisiana, the dynamics of a family in its social descent — as well as the passions of unrequited love, and the struggling vision of a great artist at a crossroads in his life and career.

The historic marker which indicates the house where Degas' family lived and where he visited in New Orleans. Photo by Carole Di Tosti

The historic marker which indicates the house where Degas’ family lived and where he visited in New Orleans. Photo by Carole Di Tosti

A select group of students in the Red Hook Central School District have embraced an extraordinary artistic challenge: to transform a drama based on a life-changing time in a famous painter’s life into an original musical and make it performance ready for a state-of-the-art stage at the incomparable Fisher Center. The project was initiated by long time Red Hook Central School District employee and the Performing Art’s Club adviser, Deborah Temple. Deborah Temple has worked alongside playwright Rosary Hartel O’Neill at Omega Institute during summer writing seminars for a number of seasons and their collaboration at Omega inspired their working together on two of O’Neill’s plays: Broadway or Bust and Degas in New Orleans.

Neither O’Neill nor Deborah Temple are new to the theater. Temple has almost two decades of experience in direction and production. O’Neill ran her own theater, Southern Rep, in New Orleans. She has authored over twenty-two plays, twenty of which are published by Samuel French. And her plays may be found in three anthologies. She has written textbooks on the dramatic arts, as well as novels and screenplays. Her book about New Orleans Mardi Gras has been receiving notices as a fascinating account of the secrets of  Mardi Gras Carnival Krewes. O’Neill, who now resides in Rhinecliff, proposed to have Degas in New Orleans transformed into a musical, knowing of David Temple’s extensive musical gifts. The Performing Arts Club has stepped up with its energy and talent to make the project a reality.

The Degas home on Esplanade Avenue, now converted into a noted Bed and Breakfast. Photo by Carole Di Tosti

The Degas home on Esplanade Avenue, now converted into a noted Bed and Breakfast. Photo by Carole Di Tosti

Composer and classical guitarist David Temple is renown as a solo performer and instrumental composer. His works are played internationally for film and television. He composed music for O’Neill’s Broadway or Bust which premiered in November 2013, also at the Fisher Center. Having collaborated with O’Neill he was excited about this new project. Songs for Degas in New Orleans were created in “real time.” Sketches of the new pieces were originated during the actual rehearsals of scenes, designed not only for specific characters, but for the vocal capabilities of the actors. This is one of the finest ways to originate and compose musical works by collaborating with the singers/actors. Douglas Moore in his operatic composition, Ballad of Baby Doe created the music and worked with singers to test out the musical waters and vocal ranges elaborating and changing the score and enhancing it.

Likewise, with the Temples these student/actors have been refining their character portrayals, running lines and learning original songs in an ongoing developmental process that has been organic and alive.  The final result is a celebration of the creative process. Their effort and dedication to a project that has demanded ingenuity, acting craft, brilliance and flexibility is nothing short of astonishing. To say that these highly talented students have embraced a professional work ethic wholeheartedly is an understatement.

Period costumes and set pieces were generously supplied by Montgomery Place, the Center for Performing Arts Center at Rhinebeck, Bard College, and other local sources.  The Pit Orchestra is made up of Red Hook Central students and teachers.  Production staff, technical support, and set construction staff are a combination of professionals, students, parents, and Red Hook alumni.

David Temple with his guitar. Photo taken from the David Temple website.

David Temple with his guitar. Photo taken from the David Temple website.

Click links below for more information.

PERFORMANCES AT BARD COLLEGE FISHER CENTER BLACK-BOX THEATER

WHEN:  THURSDAY, December 18 and FRIDAY, December 19 at 7:00 p.m.

Tickets are $10.00/$8.00 students and seniors available in advance for Thursday and Friday night performances at the Fisher Center Box Office, 758-7900 and sold at the door.

PERFORMANCES AT RED HOOK CENTRAL HIGH SCHOOL

WHEN:  SATURDAY, December 20 at 7:00 p.m. and SUNDAY, December 21 at 3:00 p.m. at Red Hook Central High School.

Tickets are $10.00/$8.00 students and seniors. Tickets for the Saturday and Sunday performances will be available at the door at Red Hook High School.

Bard Fisher Center Website

Westchester Collaborative Theater! 2013 Summerfest Success

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WCT 2013 Summerfest cast and Artistic Director, Alan Lutwin (far right)

The Westchester Collaborative Theater‘s innovative work never fails to amaze me. A collaborative of mostly professional artists, directors, actors and writers who gather each month to share, develop, promote and exchange ideas about their work, they are a vibrant regional theater laboratory. Instead of trying to “reinvent” shows that have been done before, often with lackluster results (I’ve seen more than my share of regional theater revivals and few are worth the trip and the time.) this group has persisted in what it does best: experiments, creates, dares to risk.

WCT premiers works, mostly one act plays, some longer. Many of these are developed through the lab which is the petri dish through which all the collaborators can hone their skills and perfect their craft. Oftentimes, the works continue being developed after premiers at their performance base in Ossining, with the thought of entering them in festivals in NYC and/or in other areas of the country or developing them further perhaps into full length works.

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2013 Summerfest cast of the Westchester Collaborative Theater

The WCT holds two major performances of plays, one in the summer and the other in the winter. This 2013 Summerfest of 5 one-act plays which was produced in late June reveals how far this collaborative has extended its reach, creativity and will. Each of the one-act productions showed the collaborators’ manifest effort and enjoyment with expressing their talent and artistry. It was obvious they were having fun and the crowd which was the largest I have seen to date at the WCT, demonstrated their enthusiasm and pleasure with the offerings.

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Artistic Director of the WCT, Alan Lutwin. Here he is making the introductory remarks for the evening.

I brought along three of my friends who are Broadway goers and who enjoy live theater. They are not dilettantes and each has a discerning nature and circumspect opinions. In other words they do not suffer through mediocre theater eagerly and two of them are “walk-outs.” They would rather sit in the lobby or go home than sustain performances that are slap-dash with little deliberation and effort or those that are misguided and whose logic is so skewed, the production just doesn’t work to uplift, entertain or enlighten.

They agreed that the night they spent at WCT was so much better than paid performances they’ve attended in Queens and even some on Broadway. (One walked out of Mary Stuart, and the other fell asleep during Beyond Miss Julie, to name a few.) Two of them especially expressed surprise at the energy, camaraderie and esprit de corps of the company which is a testament that not only is regional theater not a bust, it is thriving in the New York City area. They agreed with me that a collaborative is the right way to go, offering a continuum of progression that is free and integrated away from the constraints of ego machinations, financials and politics that unfortunately stifle NYC theater’s creative, innovative, risk-taking. In NYC though celebrity names are king, they do not provide insurance against ill-conceived or misdirected productions circled by fans and tourists out for a night of forgettable entertainment that is more for “show” and tourist talk-back to friends at home. Off Broadway presents more innovation, still with the caveat of expenses.

Here was WCT’s 2013 Summerfest roundup, all varying degrees of delightful, insightful, humorous, telling and clever.

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2013-06-28 06.46.43Facebook Friends by Marshall Fine, directed by Karina Ramsey revisits for all school graduates the possibility of reunions with former lovers and friends awakened by the Facebook revolution. Facebook has brought us “face-to-face” online with those we thought we might never see again, and if we take it further, like characters Simon (Sherman Alpert) and Arlene (Tracey McAllister) do, we’ll dare to meet them in person with funny, poignant and awkward moments and final or not so final resolutions to part ways or see each other again.

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Sandra Lucas and Deacon Hoy

Wander Inn by Virginia Reynolds, directed by Elaine Hartel is every woman’s dream of vindication come true. Charlotte (Sandra Lucas) returns to visit a former partner Tim (Deacon Hoy) at his financially down-and-out Wander Inn. She continually surprises him with a series of truths which peel back the onion on their past. Charlotte’s revelations are gleefully, ironically delivered and she relishes  her triumphs over her past and him. Each reveal jolts him like a prod leading him to the final realization that he has made a complete mess of his life. It is a reversal of fortune with Charlotte on the top ladder rung and Tim on the bottom. When she proclaims that her final order will be to torch the place (She became the owner unbeknownst to him.) where their past was staged and he’s been in a cage ever since (at the Wander Inn) we are shocked and somehow relieved. Things can only get better for both of them, unless Tim devolves further. Based upon the clues, the play leaves it for us to decide the probabilities.

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Matt Silver and Sara Colton (as the newly weds, with invasive parents, from left to right, Nick Pascarella, Nancy Intrator Jim Coakley and Janice Kirkel)

Excess Baggage by Carol Mark and directed by Joe Lima is a joyful, humorous play with which all can identify, especially if they come from a larger family which is the clinging type whether in one’s mind or in actuality. Steve (Matt Silver) and Pam (Sara Colten) are on their honeymoon but their parents,  Francine-Janice Kirkel, Edward-Jim Coakley, Margaret-Nancy Intrator, Chuck-Nick Pascarella, show up at the newlyweds’ hotel room to watch, supervise and help  launch the marriage. The couple, ready for this “big night,” have to contend with their folks who interject, proclaim and interfere until they’re over themselves, and are ejected so Steve and Pam can finally be alone together. However, the question remains, will Steve and Pam ever be able to shed the carcass of childhood and parental intrusion? We are reminded, as the title suggests, that when we are united with our significant others, we also bring along the generations that have gone before us and this baggage, for good or ill, remains in ourselves and our relationships, unless we “jettison” it. The underlying message affirms that when it gets to be “crazy” with all the competing voices in our heads and our interactions and self become befuddled, then we need to take charge as Steve and Pam humorously and finally do. Do the couple continue this path during their marriage? The answer leaves us smiling and shaking our heads.

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Howard Weintraub in control and on high as the boss. Enid Breis as the demur secretary

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With roles reversed: Enid Breis and Howard Weintraub

Hedge Fund by Csaba Teglas, directed by Richard Manichello is a humorous look at the Venus/Mars relationship between men and women against the backdrop of the not so recent financial debacle and fiduciary mismanagement prevalent during the Lehman, Bear Sterns, Washington Mutual, Countrywide Financial mess which is most likely still occurring today in varying degrees. Miss Prune (Enid Breis) is the demur secretary of James (Howard Weintraub) the preeminent, arrogant, know-it-all boss. Miss Prune acts the subservient, dutiful, coffee-making assistant until the tables are turned and we discover she has been surreptitiously brilliant while James and others have been twiddling their thumbs while the Roman market has been burning. Only Miss Prune was prescient and common sensical enough to take clever positions, short and long the market, and walk away with millions while the blindly incompetent “professionals, didn’t see looming disaster on the horizon.By degrees, Miss Prune sheds her demur, “button-down” collar to reveal the hottie she is, single-handedly saving the firm and her boss with the ultimate final position, taking over fiduciary responsibility and setting herself up to be his rich girlfriend (a mild tweak on sexual harassment). By the end of the play, she is in the catbird seat and James is getting her coffee. All the women in the audience applauded loudly. One of my friends thought the play might go the distance adding another act and developing the premise.

2013-06-28 08.07.32You Were Awesome by Bob Zaslow and directed by Michael Muldoon explores the hangover theme. Steven  (Jeff Virgo) had a fabulous party but can’t remember any of it, in a stoned blackout of alcohol reeling brain bombing. Ruthie (Suzanne Ochs) was there and has a memory for explicit details, though she didn’t party as insanely as Steven. Anyway, someone has to chronicle the events, “spill the beans,” and get her man. Ruthie is joined by partiers Leesa (Shelley Lerea) and Dirk (Femi Alao) and their expose grows as Steven hangovers his head in shame. Ruthie in a partial state of disrobement (tying in what probably happened between them.) gives Steven each “blow by blow” description of his humiliatingly funny antics on this wild, drunken spree.

Jeff Virgo, Suzanne Ochs encouraging Femi Alao sitting in front, Shelley Lerea

Jeff Virgo, Suzanne Ochs encouraging Femi Alao sitting in front, Shelley Lerea

Ruthie underwrites each mounting event description with, “You were awesome!” By the play’s end after we have laughed at the excesses we put ourselves through, knowing that, like Steve, we’ll regret it in the morning, we come to this realization. Yeah, maybe it was awesome. During a spree we might be able to shed restrictive, up-tightness and be ourselves. In vino veritas! Too bad we need the alcohol or whatever to “Be Awesome!”

2013 Summerfest cast

2013 Summerfest cast

WCT has scheduled events in addition to their bi-monthly labs, development of new work and guest speakers. In July guests Ossining Mayor William Hanauer (July 11th) and renown theater director Mara Mills (July 18th) spoke. Make sure to mark your calendar and try to attend the fun events and meet the WCT directors, playwrights and actors. This regional theater group enjoys schmoozing with the public and discovering those who appreciate the arts and innovative theater. Their annual fundraiser is scheduled for Saturday September 28 at 7:30PM at the OAC Steamer Firehouse, 117 Main St. in Ossining. Entertainment for the event will be cabaret inspired.

For the month of October, the WCT will present a Living Art Exhibit in conjunction with the Ossining Arts Council. The Exhibit is being held on Saturday October 19. Playwrights have selected artworks to inspire their imagination in creating new plays.  They have been busily completing their submissions for an August 1 deadline.

Regional theater on the move, WCT will continue with its winter programs and labs. If you are in the area and are interested, first check out their Facebook page. You will always be welcome as a visitor to their performances and you may always donate as the WCT is a non profit and is carried along solely by public donations.  And if you are a director, actor or playwright, you may apply to join the talented innovators of this collaborative.

I like to think of the WCT as riding over the top of the Philistines who have done much to suppress wonderful artists, writers, actors, playwrights by insisting on curtailing funding programs to the arts.  Live theater inspires our humanity and keeps us involved, enlightened and purposeful in our culture. Whether you are an audience member, actor, playwright or director, the feeling communication is electric during a live performance. Here is a theater group which can be supported for their daring and enthusiasm in putting on quality shows, and doing it on the good graces of their supporters. Bravo WCT!

Westchester Collaborative Theatre: New Season, New Innovations

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WCT announcement for Summerfest 2013

The Westchester Collaborative Theatre has been on a whirlwind beginning January when Alan Lutwin and Marshall Fine received a 2013 Arts Alive Grant from ArtsWestchester! The WCT is officially a non-profit 501C3 corporation and will be able to intensify its fund raising efforts and continued integration with the New York City theatre community in Westchester. This inspiring and vital group theatre continues to evolve productions and projects, some of which with further development may move to New York City venues. The artistic symmetry and free flowing energy between and among artists in Westchester and New York City move their currents back and forth. This company is open and flexible and inspired by its artists’ innovations. It is apparent they will not limit themselves.

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Alan Lutwin, discussing upcoming events at WCT.

LABS, where great work continues to be read and presented and where guest artists conduct workshops, now follow a new tri-monthly schedule. On March 21st Sheila Speller conducted an acting seminar workshop and on April 11th, John Pielmeier, author of Agnes of God was the Guest Artist. Buddy Crutchfield, director of the Off-Broadway hit Freckleface Strawberry, was the Guest Artist at the May 23 Lab.

During May, two events enabled WCT to contribute its energy and engage its directing and acting talent. One was in celebration of the Village of Ossining’s two hundred year birthday. Actors (including the current mayor) directed by Alan Lutwin dramatically recreated the first Ossinging Willage Board Meeting that was held in 1813. The event, “The Village of Sing-Sing, How It All Began,” was produced in the Town of Ossining Justice Court. WCT actor members who were in the production were Sherman Alpert, Jon Barb, Marilyn Colazzo, Janice Kirkel, Joe Lima, Ward Riley, Jeff Virgo and Howard Weintraub. These individuals linked their gifts to Ossinging’s history and had a ball. Lutwin who researched the project discovered, among many other interesting facts that some of Ossinging’s early residents had slaves. All slavery was banned in New York State on July 4, 1827.

Playwright Rosary O'Neill

Playwright Rosary O’Neill

The second event was a full length reading premier of White Suits on Sunday, a play by New Orleans/New York City playwright Rosary O’Neill directed by WCT member (actress and director) Elaine Hartel.

Elaine Hartel, Director

Elaine Hartel, Director

With the help of WCT, O’Neill has been developing the play and was thrilled that actors were able to portray the characters, allowing her to understand what sections of the play resonated and what dialogue, if any, needed tweaking. After the reading, discussion followed. Initially, O’Neill thought to entitle the play, Exposition Boulevard, referring to the play’s setting in the elite section of New Orleans. Then she reconsidered (She was raised in New Orleans in a wealthy family.) because those living on the real “Exposition Boulevard” might be offended. O’Neill’s play, like F. Scott Fitzgerald’s work, The Great Gatsby, peels the onion on the culture of wealth, but in New Orleans. (The play has themes similar to a TV series O’Neill also wrote, Heirs. The series is currently being option shopped by Executive Producers Wendy Kram and David Black.) O’Neill’s writings (plays, the TV series) about New Orleans reveal the rages, complexities, machinations of families in this elite class with often humorous results. It is a familiar subject dear to O’Neill’s heart.

O'Neill and Lutwin after the reading listening to audience feedback.

O’Neill and Lutwin after the reading listening to audience feedback.

The discussion after the reading which held praise for the playwright, the play, the director and actors also pinpointed that the title “Exposition Boulevard,” resonated with the action and themes. Considering the current productions about New Orleans on cable TV (Treme) the widest latitude about the cultural life of that amazing city should be explored and O’Neill’s work does that with humor, grace and depth. Hers is a rare look at New Orleans’ economic strata and a reminder that the gaps among rich and poor can only be melded if they are first examined.

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Deacon Hoy, Sharon Rowe, Janice Kirkel, Evelyn Mertens, Enid Breis

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Margie Ferris, Marilyn Collazo, Deacon Hoy, Sharon Rowe, Janice Kirkel

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Cathy Jewell-Fischer, Margie Ferris, Marilyn Collazo

The WCT continued June 1st, with its dynamic Spring Fundraiser at the Steamer Firehouse with their theme “Trash n’ Vaudeville.” Members dressed for the fun event in offbeat attire and enjoyed the food and drink during and after entertainment.  The fundraiser signals that the summer season is in full swing. The SUMMERFEST 2013 plays which were announced in May are currently being worked on by the directors and actors and will be presented on Friday, June 28th at 7:30 pm and Saturday, June 29th at 2:00 PM. Five selected plays that participated in the Lab process will be performed: You Were Awesome by Bob Zaslow, Hedge Fund by Csaba Teglas, Excess Baggage by Carol Mark, Facebook Friends by Marshall Fine and Wander Inn by Ginny Reynolds.

The Friday and Saturday performances will be at the Budarz Theater in Ossinging. Additional performances are planned at Atria-on-the-Hudson on Saturday June 22 at 2 PM and Briarcliff Atria on Sunday, June 30 at 2PM.
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While other theater groups languish for lack of vision, the Westchester Collaborative Theatre continues to move forward innovating, growing, pulsating life.  WCT is fed by the creativity, ingenuity and vitality of its members. All are sustained by an immense passion for theater and the enjoyment and community of creative endeavor. This is a group to watch, nurture and hold dear. You “ain’t seen nothing, yet!”