The Actors Company Theatre Blog

March 24th 2017 – The Gravedigger Composed

Melodic or dulcet, sharp or dull, whimsical or eerie : music can take a theatrical production in many complex directions.

 Just as a playwright conveys the story with carefully curated words, a composer underscores moments both tender and poignant with chords and notes. The music one discovers within The Gravedigger’s Lullaby gorgeously fashions the world of playwright Jeff Talbott just as well as any other element within the production.

Be it paired with dialogue or the transition of a scene, the original music, composed by Will Van Dyke, gives our gravedigger the heart of his lullaby.

Will Van Dyke is a New York based composer/lyricist and music director. Will most recently penned the original score for the Off-Broadway play Straight and has contributed original music along with music supervision, arrangements, and orchestrations for Disney Theatrical such as Winnie The Pooh, Kids  as well as the popular The Lion King Experience.  Will has also contributed music for The Devil’s Bitch (Playbill), One Small Step For Melvin (Wine & Cheese Club Prod.), and The Girls I’ve Liked (Ars Nova). His songs have been performed at venues all over the country.

We caught up with Will to learn more about him and his process creating the beautiful haunting music for The Gravedigger’s Lullaby.

When composing new music for a play, where do you begin your process? 

Will Van Dyke

Will Van Dyke

 I always start with a fresh reading of the latest draft of the play when I’m ready to sit down and write.  Before I take notes on where music might fit in, or how music might even be used, I sit down and read the play and wherever it leads me emotionally I then write.  Sometimes it’s just a phrase, sometimes it’s an entire song, but I find that tapping into what the play ignites in me is a great starting off place.  Then from there it is a refining process for me and the creative team of deciding where/how/when music happens.  Once that has been decided I will go back to my initial musical ideas and see if they mesh with the plan.  Sometimes they do, sometimes they don’t, but they are always helpful in launching me into finding the final sound for the show.

What were your initial reactions when you first read ‘The Gravedigger’s Lullaby”? How did this shape the beautifully haunting music we now hear in the production? 

My initial reaction to The Gravedigger’s Lullaby was a somber musical idea that built into a really hopeful release.  That isn’t the music you hear in the show currently, but I think that the sense of hope is an undertone to the music.  That was really important to me, because despite everything that happens in the show there is love, which is really the easiest thing to connect to as humans.

Do you feel you are more influenced by the text or realized visuals of a production? 

Generally the text is always where I start.  As the process moves forward the visuals can be helpful, but I find that those have been tweaks as oppose to major changes.

Do you recall the first time you were truly affected (even in the smallest way) by music? 

I remember having a really strong reaction as a VERY young child to the electronic music at the electric light parade in Disney World.  I was totally obsessed with it and how it made me feel.  I think it is what sparked my interest and got me into piano lessons at a very young age. I’ve always felt a strong connection to how music can affect emotion.

What is next for you creatively? 

I have some things in the pipeline coming up in the next couple of years.  Some of them include writing musicals with Jeff Talbott, the playwright of The Gravedigger’s Lullaby.  He and I have been writing together for a few years and are gearing up to start working on an original idea, while we keep pushing other shows we have written together.  In the short term I’m thrilled to be music supervising and orchestrating The Man In The Ceiling at Bay Street in Sag Harbor this summer!

Will and Jeff Talbott are frequent collaborators, such as with this song, A New Year, featuring Annaleigh Ashford.

Let your own ears be the judge. Click here to unearth tickets to The Gravedigger’s Lullaby before it goes silent! 

 

 

March 10th 2017 – The Actors Company Theatre & TACT FACTS

The Gravedigger’s Lullaby has unearthed moments upon the Beckett Stage at Theatre Row that are beautiful, haunting and perhaps that most sought after word in the theatre lexicon – truthful.

The Actors Company Theatre has revealed scores of plays with great literary merit to the world, dusting off classics and planting the seeds of new work yet to be celebrated. Over the past few weeks we have focused on “getting the dirt” on all things related to TACT’s current theatrical offering, “The Gravedigger’s Lullaby”, written by Company Member Jeff Talbott and directed by Company Member Jenn Thompson. With opening night just a few short days away (Sunday March 12th) the hard work of our incredibly talented cast and creative team is at last going to be fully unearthed for YOU to witness for yourself. Previews (which began February 28th) have been a living testimony to the power of what deft creative determination can accomplish. “The Gravedigger’s Lullaby” has unearthed moments upon the Beckett Stage at Theatre Row that are beautiful, haunting and perhaps that most sought after word in the theatre lexicon – truthful. Since its inception TACT has presented work that explores the eternal truths of the human condition.

Stella Adler, the famed actor and acting teacher once said:

“…[The theatre] is the place people come to see the truth about life and the social situation.”

Jeremy Beck and Ted Koch. Photo by Marielle Solan.

TACT is 100% behind the telling of truth – both on and off the stage (and has been for nearly 25 years). However, we can all agree that at times a little levity is needed, even when examining such a raw and layered work as The Gravedigger’s Lullaby. Let’s have a little fun this week, shall we?

 

 

 

 

 

We invite you to dig in with these  (potential) TACT Truths! Some are true, some are false – all are we hope amusing! 

1. TACT’s first ever Salon production was “​Cats”

2. “The Gravedigger’s Lullaby” marks the 13th production Jenn Thompson has directed at TACT (if you include Salons and newTACTics readings)​. .

3. TACT is actually an underground front for a ring of cadaver selling gravediggers. 

4. TACT was named the Wall Street Journals “Company of The Year” in 2012.

5. Actor Todd Lawson is​, in fact,​a cyborg (no human should be that good looking). 

6. TACT is an acronym that stands for: They Always Catch Trout.​

7.  Actor Ted Koch had to receive a special ​Papal dispensation to appear on stage for this production​ (Thanks ​Vatican!​).

8. “The Gravedigger’s Lullaby” is now playing at Theatre Row.  Tickets can be purchased by clicking here!

March 3rd 2017 – TACT Goes Green

“Plenty of earth to go around” 
                                       – Jeff Talbott, The Gravedigger’s Lullaby 
 
​TACT/​ The Actors Company Theatre is a company of theatre artists that reveals, reclaims, and reimagines great plays of literary merit. Those three vital ‘R” words have guided TACT for nearly 25 successful years. Three important “R” words that many of you may live by are: reduce, reuse and recycle! 
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Ted Kock and KK Moggie, The Gravedigger’s Lullaby. Photo credit: Marielle Solan

With spring nearly right around the corner (and dirt on our minds as of late) it is only fitting we discuss TACT’s commitment to operating as “green” (or environmentally​ minded) as possible!

The Broadway Green Alliance (BGA) is generously supporting TACT’s world premiere production of “The Gravedigger’s Lullaby” (currently in previews) with a grant in the name of its eco-conscious scenic design. The BGA is an industry-wide initiative that educates, motivates, and inspires the entire theatre community and its patrons to adopt environmentally friendlier practices.
The set design and construction for The Gravedigger’s Lullaby backs this green standard in various ways. A great deal of the lumber and materials utilized to construct the set came from other (now closed) productions of work from across New York City. A large portion of the wooden lumber came from the New York Theatre Workshop’s production of “Othello”, while parts of the platforming came from our technical director Ken Larson’s own scene-shops stock collection. Even Andrew Diaz (props) was able to source used fabric and items from his own scrap collection to further create the haunting aesthetic of The Gravedigger’s Lullaby. 
 
Under the talented eye of Wilson Chin (scenic designer) the production delivers​ a strong visual world waiting to be unearthed (while keeping the literal Earth’s interest at heart). When asked why he felt it was important to approach his work with an eco-conscious mind, Wilson had this to say:  
“Theatre is so transitory….with so many temporary structures coming and going, it’s important that we minimize the amount of waste we create in doing so. It honors the ephemeral nature of theatre”.
In addition to the efforts within production, TACT is constantly striving to create an even more “green” office environment. This includes double sided printing for our scripts, recycling all paper waste, reducing paper waste by utilizing electronic communication whenever possible, reusing fundraising materials and recycling our water cooler bottles (no plastic waste permitted at TACT)! Our deepest thanks to the Broadway Green Alliance (click here to learn more about their important work). 
Want to see how green we kept our dirt-making? Unearth tickets to The Gravedigger’s Lullaby today (click here for more info)! 

FEBRUARY 24TH  2017 – Spotlight On: Jenn Thompson

In an exciting new milestone for TACT, we are thrilled to be presenting the World Premiere of company member Jeff Talbott’s powerfully haunting play The Gravedigger’s Lullaby. This show was first work-shopped and developed in our 2015 newTACTics New Play Festival. We spoke to Director Jenn Thompson, who has been a part of the TACT company since 2002 as both an actor and director, to talk about her directorial strategy and the challenges of working with a new original piece.

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Jenn Thompson

1. As a director, does your directorial approach vary when the production is an original (such as The Gravedigger’s Lullaby ) as opposed to an established piece or a revival? If so, how does it vary? What tactics do you employ to reveal a piece of theatre as the director?

The principles are the same – the application is different.  With a new piece, you’re blessed with the playwright in the room (at least for The Gravedigger’s Lullaby) and that access is incredibly helpful. It’s great to be able to check-in across the room to see if you’ve gotten a moment right – or wrong! There’s less sleuthing. You’re obviously making changes throughout that require very smart and facile actors who can absorb new information and help illuminate the play, their characters and why a particular moment is or isn’t working. But you always need those actors. Patience is important. Allowing things to develop and reveal themselves.

2. What unique challenges have you identified or experienced as the director of this piece? How are you planning to overcome these challenges?

There are some logistical issues (as there always are). Any play always comes with its series of questions/problems to answer.  It’s always helpful to have plans b, c and d percolating. And also to remind yourself that you can’t know until you know.

3. How would you describe The Gravedigger’s Lullaby with your vision in mind, using just six words?

Desperate times call for desperate measures.

4. What is one of the most practical piece of wisdom you would offer aspiring or emerging directors, seeking your advice?

Work! Say yes to the project whatever it is. Be in the room. Surround yourself with wickedly talented people and create your own work.

FEBRUARY 16TH  2017 – Spotlight On: Jeff Talbott

At TACT, we pride ourselves in reclaiming and reimagining works of literary merit to create a new, exciting theatre experience. This season, however, we are also thrilled to achieve an exciting milestone for the company for our upcoming mainstage: the World Premiere of The Gravedigger’s Lullaby, an original play written by company member Jeff Talbott. Previously, Talbott received the Laurents/Hatcher Foundation Award for his play, The Submission, which was produced Off-Broadway in 2011. We spoke to him about the evolution of this new show, his creative process, and advice for new artists.

 1. What initially interested or inspired you to create The Gravedigger’s Lullaby? 

Like most of my writing, it started with an image – a poor man and a rich man, sitting together, eating.  From there, I started working outward to find out more about them: met a wife, met a friend, and started to let everybody talk to each other.  Once I realized it wasn’t set today, the trick was finding a contemporary but timeless language for them to use and shape the story from there.

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Jeff Talbott

  2. The Gravedigger’s Lullaby was read as part of TACT’s newTACTics  New Play Festival in 2015. For those who may have been exposed to it then, how has the text transformed?

It has changed in many ways, large and small.  There’s been tightening (because there’s always tightening), but more importantly Jenn and I have worked to clarify key things about the characters.  There are several completely new scenes and, in the case of one character, an almost completely new approach to who he is.

 3. How would you (as its playwright) describe The Gravedigger’s Lullaby  using six words (no more, no less)?

Life seems unchangeable; nevertheless, we persist.

4. What is a practical piece of wisdom you would offer aspiring or emerging writers seeking your advice?

Keep writing.  It’s the only good piece of advice.  Everything else is just noise – the practical matters of how to get people to know your work are what they are, and every writer combats them daily.  But the trick is to keep writing.  Every day.  Write.

NOVEMBER 18th – No Rest For the Weary! QUARTERMAINE’S TERMS in the Salon Series

The cast of Quartermaine's Terms

The cast of Quartermaine’s Terms

She Stoops to Conquer closed only ten short days ago, and in those ten days TACT rehearsed, opened, and closed another show. The Clurman Theatre had barely been repainted by the time the curtain opened on Quartermaine’s Terms, the first installment of the 2016/17 Salon Series.

The Salon Series is the cornerstone of TACT and the longest-running performance program the theatre presents. Performed at the TACT Studio exclusively for subscribing members, the Series presents plays in “concert-style” staged readings using the Acting Company’s signature style of face-out, lightly costumed performance. With the Salon Series, TACT strives to create an intimate theatrical experience for our audience, free of any bells and whistles. The focus is on theatre’s core elements: the playwright’s words and the actor’s ability to bring them to life.

​Each year, the Salon Series focuses on a theme. Last year’s series explored for hundred years of comedy with plays representing the 17th, 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries. This year, the Company goes back to the classroom with the theme “It’s Academic!”: four plays revolving around students, their teachers, and the schools in which they come together.

Quartermaine’s Terms by Simon Gray was the first selection of the year for the Salon Series. Written by Simon Gray in 1981, this darkly emotional comedy takes place in the staff room of a Cambridge English language school for non-English speakers. Throughout the play we see the goings-on of the school and witness the interactions of the teachers and the school principal. With a profound sense of lineliness, the characters attempt to connect with one another on a meaningful level, but their sense of propriety, alienation, and reserve keep them estranged.

Simon Gray’s seminal work was original mounted in 1981 at the Queen’s Theatre with famed playwright and Nobel Prize Laureate Harold Pinter directing the production which starred Edward Fox as the titular teacher​ St. John Quartermaine​. More recently in 2013, Rowan Atkinson played St. John Quartermaine at the Wyndham’s Theatre, also in London.

​TACT’s production of Quartermaine’s Terms featured longtime TACT Company Member Jack Koenig as St. John (pronounced “​Sinjin”​), Brandon Jones as Derek, Terry Layman as Eddie, and Dana Smith-Croll as Melanie. Rounding out the cast were three TACT guest artists: Marc LeVasseur played Mark, John Pasha played Henry, and Lori Vega played Anita. The production was directed by Associate Artistic Director Jeffrey C. Hawkins and featured music from composer Nick Vannoy. The production stage manager was Adjunct Company Member Yetti Steinman.

Within one short week, these artists came together for the first time, rehearsed the show, and performed it for an audience of dedicated subscribers. Therein lies the real beauty of the Salon Series: its intimacy and its immediacy. With the company working so hard and tirelessly to produce the play with such a short turnaround time, you as an audience member cannot help but feel that energy and connect with that work.

Did you miss Quartermaine’s Terms? Fear not: you only have one short month to wait before the second installment of the Salon Series hits the TACT Studio Stage. Starting on December 10th we will be traveling across the border to Wales with Emlyn Williams’ The Corn is Green. Remember: only subscribers can attend these readings, and it’s not too late at all to become a subscriber!

In the meantime, please enjoy this slideshow of pictures from Quartermaine’s Terms. We hope you’ll enjoy viewing them as much as we’ve enjoyed creating them.

NOVEMBER 4th – She Stoops… CONQUERED!

Tony Roach, Richard Thieriot, and Jeremy Beck

Tony Roach, Richard Thieriot, and Jeremy Beck

One of the primary reasons TACT chose to produce SHE STOOPS TO CONQUER as the Fall Mainstage show is that we knew our audience would be looking for a laugh come November. Perhaps it is only fitting, then, that Oliver Goldsmith’s seminal comedy about identity and romance comes to a close this weekend, mere days before November 8th.

It’s hard to believe, considering that just a few short weeks ago we were reporting on the Opening Night festivities for the production, but all good things do come to an end, and the end for SHE STOOPS will be one final special matinee performance this Sunday, November 6th. There will be an evening show tonight, two shows tomorrow, and then the cast will take their final curtain call the next day.

TACT produces ten plays every year through three different performance programs, so it only makes sense that each play has a quick turnaround time. It has been less than two months since the cast and crew came together for the first time, and now they are getting ready to move on to the next; but in those two months the team behind SHE STOOPS took a brand new adaptation of this classic script and turned it into a magical theatrical experience for our audience.

And even that is an understatement, because the truth is that come the end of the run the cast and crew would have created thirty-six different theatrical experiences. TACT’s focus has always been the relationship between the audience and the actors,  being different from the one before.

Moreover, technically speaking, the cast and crew itself changes every performance of SHE STOOPS. The Fourth Wall in this production was not just blurred, it was obliterated. Actors performed in the house, directly interacted with patrons, and ultimately invited one lucky patron on stage every night to play a small servant role. As Jeremy Beck put it last week, the audience “brings the play to life.”

With that in mind, we want to take this opportunity to thank you, our audience, for bringing SHE STOOPS to life on stage over this past month. Thank you to everyone who came out to see the play, and thank you for making it all possible.

Were you not able to see SHE STOOPS? Have no fear: TACT’s quick turnaround time will be in full effect next week as we prepare to officially kick of the 2016/17 Salon Series with a concert-style reading of QUARTERMAINE’S TERMS by Simon Gray. Remember: the Salon Series is the exclusive domain of our subscribing members, and it’s not too late to purchase your membership.

One play down, nine to go! The 2016/17 Season has only just begun.

OCTOBER 28th – An Interview with Jeremy Beck

Jeremy Beck as Charles Marlow in a scene from SHE STOOPS TO CONQUER. Photograph by Marielle Solan

Jeremy Beck as Charles Marlow in a scene from SHE STOOPS TO CONQUER. Photograph by Marielle Solan

SHE STOOPS has had quite an eventful second-to-last week. First, on Tuesday, it was announced that the production would receive an extension and would perform one more additional matinee on November 6th. Then, on Thursday the 27th, we celebrated TACT Social Night, a special event for students and young professionals. For a discounted rate, people under the age of 35 were able to see SHE STOOPS, attend a talkback with the cast, crew, and company members, and then mingle with them at Bourbon Street Bar & Grille. And finally today, as the icing on the cake, Charles Marlow himself Jeremy Beck participated in an interview about his experience with SHE STOOPS. Read all about how the show has evolved since the Salon Series reading and how he sees his character through a modern lens.

1. We’ve heard from Scott about what excites him about this production of She Stoops; what excites you about performing in it?

We’re bringing the spirit of the Salon Series to a full production. I hope our production honors those first years of TACT, where audience and actors came together and, with only a hint of costumes, experienced a great play. This play is so fun, lyrical, witty, and surprising.

2. You performed this role in the Salon Series last winter; what has the experience of reviving the role for the Mainstage been like? What have you learned about your character that you didn’t know before?

The salons are great for big risks and broad strokes. Everything changes once you start watching and reacting to the actor in front of you (as opposed to the face-forward “TACT style” of the salons). We’ve let go (sometimes through tears) of some ideas and bits that worked in the salon but no longer served the story or relationships. We’ve found more than we’ve lost.

The Marlow that is emerging one who yearns for love and happiness but is convinced he lacks the tools to acquire them. His attempts to compensate for his inadequacies only lead to further humiliations. His behavior, while extraordinary, stems from very ordinary hopes and fears.

3. What is it about SHE STOOPS that makes it so relevant to a modern audience? What aspects of Marlow do you think people will find relatable?

The 18th-century English social conventions set the stage for the “Mistakes of the Night” but beyond that, these are all characters either trying to be the best version of themselves they can imagine or attempting to pull off a version they think will appeal to the person they hope to impress (or dupe).

The characters in “She Stoops” are full of assumptions about each other. That’s a universal trait with unlimited shelf life.  People will surprise you, though! There are assumptions here about class, gender, education, and identity, to name a few. You get the sense that Goldsmith delighted making fun of them.

Marlow is “in for a list of blunders.” Haven’t we all had those days?

4. This production features a great deal of audience interaction. Your character in particular directly interacts with the house on several occasions. Who would you say is the ideal audience member for this production? Who absolutely must see SHE STOOPS at TACT?

Obviously, the audience is critical for any theatre. They are that last piece that brings the “play” to life. In “She Stoops” there are moments when the characters can’t go on without enlisting the ear of the audience for a clarification, a confession, or a complaint. As a device, it allows the characters to reveal to the audience what they can’t to the others onstage. And there is even a little bit of competition among some of the characters to get the audience on their side. As an actor, it’s great to share an intimate thought with a stranger in the audience. Hopefully, by the end of the night, we won’t feel like strangers anymore.

OCTOBER 21st – Opening Night and the First Week of Performances

L-R: James Predergast, Cynthia Darlow, Richard Thieriot, Justine Salata, Scott Alan Evans, Jeremy Beck, Tony Roach, Mairin Lee, John Rothman

L-R: James Predergast, Cynthia Darlow, Richard Thieriot, Justine Salata, Scott Alan Evans, Jeremy Beck, Tony Roach, Mairin Lee, John Rothman. Photo by Robert Gelberg.

The work that began almost one year ago culminated on Sunday evening, October 16th, with the official opening of TACT’s production of SHE STOOPS at the Clurman Theatre at Theatre Row

After two weeks of previews with the production team honing and refining the show, She Stoops opened to an invited audience of Board and company members, press, industry insiders,  supporters, friends, and family. The performance was followed by a reception at the upstairs lounge at Theatre Row where the audience and cast came together over drinks and bites, including cheese and nibbles donated by Beecher’s.

Since then, the reviews for She Stoops have been pouring in, and it’s clear that people are looking for a laugh this Election Season, because they have been overwhelmingly positive and warm. Theatre is Easy in particular noted the need for comedy in a political world:

“The cast and crew have managed to execute a purely delightful production at a time when the theater is too often used as a soapbox…The cast knows exactly what they’re doing, and the chemistry between one another allows the story to flow freely…For a show that premiered in 1773, it holds up remarkably well” – Will Jacobs, Theatre is Easy.

Other critics have noted how hilarious and timely Goldsmith’s comedy is. Chloe Edmonson for Off Off Online noted that “the moments when this production shines most are when it is faithful to Goldsmith’s unique genre of ‘laughing comedy,’ aimed to elicit belly laughs with physical ridiculousness and silly twists of plot.” Curtain Up reviewer Charles Wright added that “Evans and his cast are demonstrating that Goldsmith’s gem holds up as a source of merriment and a fine chance for actors to flaunt their comic gifts.”

As humbling and emboldening as the reviews from professional critics have been, what has been even more exciting for us has been hearing what audience members have had to say on Show-Score. One person who saw the production on October 18th said, “I thought it was delightful!! We laughed and enjoyed ourselves immensely!” Another person who saw the same performance encouraged people to “See it if you love the dynamic, comedic staging of a very funny Oliver Goldsmith play.”

Whatever it might be, whether it’s the way Goldsmith’s writing has managed to remain relatable to modern audiences or whether those audiences are just looking for a laugh, something seems to be clicking between She Stoops and our patrons. Single tickets are on sale now, and it’s still not too late to subscribe to our whole season. We can’t wait to see you there, and when we do we hope you’ll review the show on Show-score, too!

OCTOBER 14TH – From Salon to Mainstage: Two Days Until Opening!

Production Photo by Marielle Solan

Production Photo by Marielle Solan

So much has happened since our first blog post. It has been one month and one day since the first table read of She Stoops to Conquer, and in that time this play has transformed multiple times. First, the script transformed from words on a page to voices in the air as the actors read their roles aloud for the first time. Then, those voices transformed from line readings into real dialogue as the actors began to formulate their characters. Finally, over the course of the past two weeks of preview performances, the production itself has evolved from a simple idea into something special that audiences have already labeled “one of the best productions of this classic we’re likely to see for some time to come.”

As we prepare to officially open She Stoops this Sunday, we’ve been thinking back on the biggest transformation this production has taken, that of course being the transformation from Salon Series reading into Mainstage production. Back in December of 2015 TACT presented She Stoops as a concert-style staged reading at the TACT Studio and have now moved the play to a full production.

That transformation has us thinking about the other times TACT has moved a Salon Series reading to the Mainstage. It does not happen often – so far seven plays have gone from readings to productions – but each time it does a process of artistic discovery and investigation begins that is incredibly exciting and fulfilling for all artists involved.

In fact, Home by David Storey, one of TACT’s very first Off-Broadway productions and the inaugural play of the Mainstage program, originated at TACT as a concert-style reading back before the Salon Series was even called the Salon Series. That was in 2006; TACT wouldn’t make a similar transfer again until the Fall of 2009 with the Mainstage production of The Late Christopher Bean by Sidney Howard, which was originally read in the 2006/07 Salon Series season. Christopher Bean was immediately followed on the Mainstage by another Salon Series transfer: T.S. Eliot’s The Cocktail Party.

Several other wonderful plays have made the leap from Salon Series to Mainstage over the years. Three Men on a Horse by John Cecil Holm and George Abbott went up at the Beckett Theatre in 2011. In 2013, Anita Loos’Happy Birthday received a full production. TACT’s most recent Mainstage production, George Bernard Shaw’s Widowers’ Houses, was originally a Salon Series play in the 2001/02 season.

And now She Stoops to Conquer is the latest play to make the jump. When asked about what excites him about making the switch, director Scott Alan Evans said, “Having had the experience of initially exploring the play together in our Salon Series, we have the opportunity to build upon that work in wonderfully unexpected ways.”

Building upon the Salon Series reading has certainly paid off, if initial audience reactions are any indication. Audience members writing on the theatrical review aggregator Show-Score.com are calling TACT’s adaptation of She Stoops “Funny, Entertaining, Delightful, and Clever.” Tickets are still available for the run, and of course there it’s still not too late to subscribe to the season. By doing so, you’ll get access to this year’s Salon Series readings, the first of which starts in less than a month. Who knows which reading will be the next to make its way to the Mainstage?

OCTOBER 7TH – A “Preview” of What’s to Come

Production Photo by Marielle Solan

Production Photo by Marielle Solan

TACT has made its home at Theatre Row as a resident company since 2006. Over the course of ten years of work you would think we here at TACT would become jaded to the process of opening up an Off-Broadway production. After producing twenty plays at Theatre Row you would think it would simply become routine for us, and that starting preview performances for She Stoops to Conquer would be just another day at the office. After our first week of previews, we can confirm that there is absolutely nothing “routine” about producing an Off-Broadway play, and that even after a decade of being a resident company it is always best to expect the unexpected.

For one, there’s the matter of the theatre in which She Stoops is being performed. As was mentioned in last week’s edition of “She Stoops to Blogger” TACT found its way into the Clurman after a complicated game of “theatrical chairs” involving several other Theatre Row resident companies. While the Clurman is less than thirty feet away from the Beckett and the two theatres are identical in almost every conceivable way, the few ways in which they differ make all the difference. Scenic Designer Brett Banakis had to redesign the show’s entire set to account for the Clurman’s specifications, and Lighting Designer M.L. Geiger had to do the same with the lighting concept.

Next, there’s the matter of the cast of the play itself. TACT audience members may recognize some familiar faces in the She Stoops cast as several of them are reprising their roles from the Salon Series reading of the play last December. Richard Thieriot, James Predergast, Jeremy Beck, and Cynthia Darlow are all stepping back into their roles for this Mainstage production. The other roles, meanwhile, are all being filled by newcomers to TACT’s She Stoops.

Finally, and most significantly, there’s the audience. One of the central tenants of TACT’s mission is audience involvement. Theatre cannot exist without an audience, and we take that point very seriously. In the case of She Stoops, we take it one step further. How? Well, we’re not going to tell you here; you’ll have to come see the show! Suffice it to say that if every audience is different, that means every performance is different. There have been three public performances of She Stoops so far, and each one was completely different than the last.

What has made this week so interesting is that we have all of these elements that have been changing and coming together over the past few weeks of rehearsal now all working in tandem with one another as we begin performances. If there is nothing routine about producing theatre, then the first week of preview performances is all about finding that routine, getting into the rhythms of the show, and ultimately getting the ball rolling on what is already turning out to be an incredibly exciting production.

SEPTEMBER 30TH – Out of the Studio, Into the Clurman!

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It seems like only yesterday that the cast and crew of She Stoops to Conquer all came together for the first time in the TACT Studio for the first rehearsal. In truth, it was seventeen days ago, but those seventeen days have flown by so quickly that it hardly seems possible that the team has already packed up and moved into the Clurman Theatre. One moment the TACT Studio was filled with music, laughter, and collaboration, and now the studio is eerily silent. The Clurman Theatre, on the other hand, is another story entirely.

Load-in week began on Monday. A truck pulled up outside of 900 Broadway and the TACT staff immediately went to work loading it up with props, furniture, costumes, and equipment. Between the trees on wheels, the ornate chairs, the boxes of flashlights, and the racks of clothes, the truck was filled from front to back before anyone could blink an eye. Technical Director André Sguerra, who has been working with TACT since last season, remarked that he had never filled a truck to capacity on a load-in before. If there was ever a show to do just that, it would have to be the over-the-top, larger-than-life She Stoops to Conquer.

As quickly as it as loaded up, the truck was emptied out once it arrived at Theatre Row. All items were moved from the street, down the freight elevator, and into the backstage area of the Clurman Theatre where TACT will be performing for the first time since its first production at Theatre Row in 2004: The Triangle Factory Fire Project. TACT has been a resident company at Theatre Row since 2006, and all but one of its productions have been presented at the Beckett Theatre. After a complicated game of “theatrical chairs” earlier this month featuring two other resident companies, She Stoops has found its new home directly across the hall from the Beckett in the intimate 99-seat Clurman Theatre.

The next half of the week involved preparing the Clurman for the arrival of the actors on Wednesday evening. This included a little bit of everything: hanging lights, painting the walls and floor, building the set itself, and decorating the lobby with pictures and posters from TACT’s history. Once all of the load-in, building, and prep work was completed, rehearsals resumed.

And not a moment too soon. The first performance She Stoops will receive in front of an audience will be an invited dress rehearsal for TACT Company Members and friends on October 2nd. Then the theatre will be dark on Monday, and the very next day She Stoops will perform for a public audience for the first time. That means that the next installment of SHE STOOPS TO BLOGGER will be published after performances have begun! Single ticket purchases are still available, and there is still plenty of time to subscribe to TACT’s 2016/17 season to get access not only to She Stoops but to our Salon Series as well. We are so close to being able to share this play with you, and we hope you will enjoy seeing it as much as we have enjoyed producing it.

SEPTEMBER 24TH – An Interview with SHE STOOPS director Scott Alan Evans

Director Scott Alan Evans with Mairin Lee and John Rothman

Director Scott Alan Evans with Mairin Lee and John Rothman

SHE STOOPS TO CONQUER has just wrapped up its second week of rehearsals, and what an exciting week it has been. At any given moment in the TACT Studio you may find Jeremy Beck (Marlow) playing the glockenspiel, Cynthia Darlow (Mrs. Hardcastle) doing her best mermaid impression, or any number of other hilarious situations that you will soon get to see on stage. At times it may feel like controlled chaos, as rehearsals often can. The key word there, however, is control, and that is where director Scott Alan Evans comes in. Not only is he at the helm for this production, he also reworked and adapted the script himself. SHE STOOPS is the most recent of the 150 plays Scott has either directed or produced for TACT, and he sat down to answer a few questions about the production for this newest edition of SHE STOOPS TO BLOGGER.

1. What originally drew you to SHE STOOPS as a play that could be read in the Salon Series?

When we landed on the theme for the Salon Series last season of “four centuries of comedy” I knew that I wanted us to do SHE STOOPS.  For me, it is one of the the funniest and most timeless comedy of the 18th Century, and is, in fact, arguably, one of the the greatest comedies in the English language of all time.   It’s very smart, very funny, remarkably modern, and completely relatable for audiences today.

2. What excites you most about transferring the play to the Mainstage? What are you looking forward to doing at the Clurman that you couldn’t do in the Salon?

One thing that particularly excites me about doing the play on the Mainstage – or anywhere for that matter – is working on it with such talented and accomplished actors; to have to opportunity to work on this rich material with so many of my esteemed colleagues at TACT (some of whom I’ve been working with for close to 20 years) is an enormous treat.  Then, having had the experience of initially exploring the play together in our Salon Series, we have the opportunity to build upon  that work in wonderfully unexpected ways.  Our production is going to be very physical and very theatrical, and, oh, so very engaging.  And, like our usual home at the Beckett, the Clurman Theatre is a delightfully intimate space, and our design for SHE STOOPS will make it seem even more so as we blur the line between stage and house in some really fun ways.

3. Why produce SHE STOOPS now, specifically? How does this 1773 play speak to your 2016 audience?

There are certainly plays that hold such truth that they speak to humanity   across generations.  I believe SHE STOOPS is such a play, and there is something to be gotten from it at almost any time.  Also, as we were thinking about what to present in the Fall of 2016 during a presidential election – and SUCH a presidential election – we all felt that providing our audiences with a good hearty laugh would be the most patriotic thing we could do.

4 .What do you hope audiences take away from She Stoops? What do you hope the cast and crew takes away?

As the ACTORS company theatre, we try to make the experience for all our actors – as well as our designers, stage management, wardrobe, technical crew, etc. – one that is artistically rewarding, memorable, and fun.     But it is always the audience’s experience that is the most important to us.  They are, after all, the final and most important element that completes the alchemy and makes an event a theatrical one.  It is our hope that we  will be able to bring a smile, a laugh, a chuckle, a gu ffaw, and, perhaps a tear of joy and a nod of recognition  to everyone that comes to see the show .  And provide a couple of hours when we can come together as a community and share a these hilarious characters, this rich language, and timeless humor as one.  Cause isn’t that what make theatre so vital and important to us all?

SHE STOOPS begins performances in ten short days. The play will officially open on October 16th and will run until November 5th. Single tickets are now on sale, and there is still plenty of time to become a TACT Member and subscribe to our 2016/17 season. You will get access not only to SHE STOOPS, but also our upcoming World Premiere of Jeff Talbott’s haunting drama THE GRAVEDIGGER’S LULLABY, as well as exclusive access to the four plays in our Salon Series. More information on how to subscribe can be found here.

SEPTEMBER 15TH – WELCOME!

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From left to right: Scott Alan Evans (director); James Prendergast (Sir Charles Marlow), Justine Salata (Constance), John Rothman (Mr. Hardcastle), Cynthia Darlow (Mrs. Hardcastle), Tony Roach (Hastings), Mairin Lee (Kate Hardcastle), Jeremy Beck (Marlow), Richard Thieriot (Tony Lumpkin)

After the newTACTics New Play Festival wraps up at the end of June, we enjoy a bit of quiet in the TACT office and studio for July and August. It’s a time for reorganizing, cleaning, and taking a break before it all starts again. Once September comes along things start to become lively. And for good reason, too: today marks the first day of rehearsals for our upcoming production of SHE STOOPS TO CONQUER!

SHE STOOPS is Oliver Goldsmith’s seminal 1773 comedy. The play tells the story of Charles Marlow, an aristocrat who is terrified of women of similar status but ironically comfortable with women of lower-birth, and Kate Hardcastle, a wealthy young noblewoman who, realizing Marlow’s sensibilities and preferences, “stoops” to win him over. With She Stoops, Oliver Goldsmith reimagined what English theatre was capable of accomplishing. In the decades leading to She Stoops’ penning, English theatre was consumed and defined by “sentimental comedy,” a genre Goldsmith publicly admonished and despised. Sentimental comedy was marked, in Goldsmith’s own words, by “insipid dialogue without character or humor… with a sprinkling of tender melancholy.” She Stoops was Goldsmith’s effort to reclaim comedy and redefine it not as “sentimental” but instead as “laughing.” And laugh audiences did; since its premiere SHE STOOPS has become a staple in the theatrical canon and is arguably one of the greatest comedies in the English language.

TACT’s audience is already familiar with SHE STOOPS and the laughter it brings. The play was performed just under one year ago as part of the Salon Series and so was well received and so invigorating to produce that it only made sense for TACT to move the play to the Mainstage for a full production.

This week, TACT entered that production with the first meet-and-greet and rehearsal here in our Studio. In attendance was TACT’s staff,  several of our Board members, and of course the cast and crew of SHE STOOPS. The cast is made up of six TACT company members, four of whom will be reviving their roles from the Salon Series reading. Additionally, two wonderful guest artists will be joining the cast. You can learn all about them and their backgrounds here.

The days festivities began with a cast and crew photo shoot. Director Scott Alan Evans then introduced the show and the cast and crew. He then spoke about the importance of audience involvement to TACT and to the theatre as a whole.

“We’re telling the story with the audience,” he said. “The audience is the last element. It’s all of us coming together in a room to make theatre what it is. We want to take that a step forward with this production. There’s so much direct address to the audience in this play that they are a member of the cast.”

As our audience and as a member of this cast, we invite you to go behind-the-scenes of SHE STOOPS TO CONQUER with this blog. You will get a sneak-peek at the show with photographs from rehearsals, guest blogs from cast members, and regular updates about the show’s progress leading up to its first performance at Theatre Row on October 4th. So visit us every week for new posts. Welcome to the production!