RAR web

Row After Row

January 15 – February 16, 2014

by Jessica Dickey
directed by Daniella Topol

“Likable comedy-drama…FUNNY, TOUCHING…persuasively acted…well directed.” – The New York Times

“Jessica Dickey’s funny, sad, deep, and smart play is BEAUTIFULLY WRITTEN and, under the direction of Daniella Topol, masterfully acted.” – The New Yorker

“A HANDSOMELY STAGED dark comedy with solid performances.” – Time Out NY


When two hard core Civil War re-enactors show up for their annual Gettysburg beer and find a pretty stranger at their table, old allegiances come into question. Straddling 1863 and today, ROW AFTER ROW is a dark comedy about choosing your cause and finding your courage.



Jessica Dickey

(Playwright) Jessica Dickey is most known for her one woman show The Amish Project, which premiered at the New York Fringe before transferring to Cherry Lane and then opening at the Rattlestick Playwrights Theater to great acclaim from audience and critics alike.  The Amish Project has gone on to be produced around the country and the world, and is published by Samuel French.  Jessica’s play Charles Ives Take Me Home is currently running at Rattlestick Playwrights Theater (who nominated it for the Susan Blackburn Prize), for which Jessica was hailed as “a talent to watch”.  Charles Ives Take Me Home is already slated for the City Theatre in Pittsburgh next season.  Jessica was a Writer in Residence at the New Harmony Project for her new play about Civil War re-enactors, Row After Row, which had a production in Tucson and is slated for its official world premiere with the Women’s Project in NYC in 2014.  Jessica is also an actor, and most recently appeared in the Broadway production of Wit and the Barrow Street Theatre’s production Hit The Wall, as well as The Big C and several episodes of Law & Order.  www.jessicadickey.com.


Daniella Topol

(Director) For Women’s Project Theater: Jessica dickey’s Row After Row, Catherine Trieschmann’s How the World Began (in association with South Coast Rep)Sheila Callaghan’s Lascivious Something (with Cherry Lane), Trista Baldwin’s Sand. Off-Broadway: Jessica Dickey’s Charles Ives Take Me Home (Rattlestick Productions), Lloyd Suh’s Jesus in India (MaYi Theatre & Magic Theatre, SF), Judith Thompson’s Palace of the End (Epic Theatre), Sheila Callaghan’s Dead City (New Georges).  Regional world premiere credits include: Rajiv Joseph’s Monster at the Door (Alley Theatre), Stefanie Zadravec’s Electric Baby (Quantum Theatre, PA). Ari Roth’s Andy and the Shadows (Theatre J), Caridad Svich’s Instructions For Breathing (Passage Theatre), Niko Tsakalakos and Janet Allard’s Pool Boy (Barrington Stage). A graduate of Carnegie Mellon, Daniella has been the Artistic Program Director of the Lark Play Development Center and the New Works Program Director of the National Alliance for Musical Theatre. She is an NYTW Usual Suspect, an EST Member, a member of the Lark’s Board of Directors and a WP Lab alum.


Rosie Benton

(Leah) Broadway: Stick Fly, Les Liaisons Dangereuses (Roundabout Theatre), Accent on Youth (MTC). Off-Broadway: Saturn Returns (Lincoln Center), Temporal Powers, Wife to James Whelan (Mint Theatre), Howard Katz (Roundabout Theatre). Regional: One Slight Hitch (George Street Playhouse), A Time to Kill (Arena Stage) Stick Fly (Arena Stage, Huntington Theatre), Spike Heels (Syracuse Stage), The Night Season, Dissonance (Bay Street Theatre), Betrayal (Hangar Theatre) Film: Return, Bridge to Bourne, Angels in Stardust, Flood. TV: “Vegas”, “Law & Order, SVU”. M.F.A. from NYU.


Erik Lochtefeld

(Tom) Broadway: Metamorphoses.  NY credits include Tamar of the River (Prospect Theater), Melancholy Play (13P), February House (Public Theatre), The Notebooks of Leonardo Da Vinci (Second Stage), But I’m a Cheerleader (NYMF), Powerhouse (NY Fringe Festival).  Regional: Hamlet (Yale Rep), Candide (Goodman, Shakespeare and Huntington Theatre), Ethan Frome (Lookingglass), The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (Hartford Stage) Abe Lincoln in Illinois (Intiman), The Glass Menagerie, The Pillowman (Berkeley Rep), as well as work with Long Wharf, The O’Neill, Cincinnati Playhouse, CENTERSTAGE, Cal Shakes,Two River Theatre, McCarter, Seattle Rep, Mark Taper Forum, Chicago Shakespeare and Williamstown among others.  TV/Film: All My Children, Third Watch, Law&Order.


PJ Sosko

(Cal) Select stage: Coney (Blue Coyote); Jonathan’s Blaze ( Summer Shorts 4), The Jazz Age (World Premiere – Ernest Hemingway) @ 59East59 ;  Serendib (EST)   One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (R.P. McMurphy), Sometimes A Great Notion (Hank Stamper) @ Portland CenterStage; Rounding 3rd, Orphans @ Penguin Rep; : Much Ado About Nothing (Benedick) –The Folger; Spike Heels (Syracuse Stage) ; Angels In America (Joe Pitt) –The Hangar and Reentry (which was performed at urban stages, Baltimore centerstage, and in front of thousands of our military at bases like Quantico and Paris Island.)  TV-Person of Interest, Unbreakable, Gravity, Law & Order, Royal Pains, Guys in a Hot Tub Talking –Webseries (co-creator) Film- Cured (currently filming), Premium Rush ,Whaling City (2013), Paul Sorvino’s Looking for Cali,  Allan Knee’s Film Noir, Betrayed, A Jersey Christmas, The Standard Man, Company K, and  The Reunion (1st Run & Avignon  Film Fesitval winner) .  http://www.hyreviews.com/pjsosko.htm

Clint Ramos

(Set & Costume design) WP: sets and/or costumes for How The World Began, Smudge, Sand, Transfigures. NEW YORK:set and/or costume designs for the Public Theater, Playwright’s Horizons, Lincoln Center Theater, Roundabout, City Center Encores!, Second Stage, New York Theater Workshop, Culture Project, Foundry Theatre, Ma-Yi, Mint, Naatco, New Georges, Red Bull Theater, Clubbed Thumb, Gotham Opera, many others. REGIONAL: set and/or costume designs for at Arena Stage, American Repertory Theater, Alliance Theater, Alley Theater, Asolo Repertory, Berkeley Repertory, Baltimore Centerstage, California Shakespeare Theater, Cleveland Playhouse, Cincinnati Playhouse, Chautauqua Theater Company, Denver Center Theatre Company, Dallas Theater Center, Folger Theatre, Geva Theater, Huntington Theater, La Jolla Playhouse, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Old Globe Theater, Opera Theater of St. Louis, Opera Boston, Prince Opera Theater, WIlliamstown Theater Festival, Wilma Theater and many others. Numerous international credits. AWARDS: 2013 Obie Award for Sustained Achievement, 2013 and 2010 Lucille Lortel award, 2011 Craig Noel award; ; 2009 TDF Irene Sharaff award; 2007 and 2009 American Theater Wing Henry Hewes award. MFA from NYU.

Tyler Micoleau

(Lighting Design) has designed lighting for over 300 live productions including plays, opera,dance, movement-theatre, multi-media performance, and puppetry. He is the recipient of an AmericanTheatre Wing Henry Hewes Design Award, two Lucille Lortel Awards, two OBIE awards, among manyothers, and holds a Bachelor of Arts from Bowdoin College. NEW YORK: Lincoln Center Theater, MTC,Atlantic Theater, New York Theatre Workshop, Primary Stages, Signature Theatre, Playwrights Horizons,MCC, Vineyard Theatre, Soho Rep, among many others. REGIONAL: Alley, Goodman, Huntington,American Repertory Theatre, Dallas Theater Center, Old Globe, Trinity Repertory Theatre, Long WharfTheater, among many others.

Broken Chord

(Sound Design) Daniel Baker and Aaron Meicht compose and design sound for theater, film, anddance. For Women’s Project Theater: The Cataract, Victoria Martin, Sand, Lascivious Something. NEWYORK: Atlantic Theater, Classic Stage Company, Cherry Lane Theater, Keen Company, Primary Stages,The Public, MTC, The New Group, Second Stage, Rattlestick. REGIONAL: Actors Theater of Phoenix,Arena Stage, Dallas Theater Center, Dorset Theater Festival, Geva Theater Center, Huntington Theater,Long Wharf, Passage Theater, People’s Light and Theater, Portland Center Stage, San Jose Rep, TheShakespeare Theater, Studio Theater D.C., TheaterWorks Hartford , Westport Country Playhouse,Weston Playhouse, and Yale Rep.

  • ROW AFTER ROW Trailer

  • ROW AFTER ROW Interview Trailer

  • ROW 6

    PJ Sosko in ROW AFTER ROW
    Photo by Carol Rosegg

  • ROW 5

    Rosie Benton, Erik Lochtefeld, and PJ Sosko in ROW AFTER ROW
    Photo by Carol Rosegg

  • ROW 4

    Rosie Benton, Erik Lochtefeld, and PJ Sosko in ROW AFTER ROW
    Photo by Carol Rosegg

  • ROW 3

    Rosie Benton, PJ Sosko and Erik Lochtefeld in ROW AFTER ROW
    Photo by Carol Rosegg

  • ROW 2

    Rosie Benton in ROW AFTER ROW
    Photo by Carol Rosegg

  • ROW 1

    Rosie Benton, Erik Lochtefeld, and PJ Sosko in ROW AFTER ROW
    Photo by Carol Rosegg


GIna Gershon-Ironbound


“You are not my great love for talking to me fake ideas.” – Darja

GINA GERSHON has enjoyed a successful and diverse career in entertainment, earning acclaim as a film, television and stage actor, as a singer/songwriter/musician and most recently as an author.

Gina is currently in production on the independent film, PERMISSION, starring opposite Rebecca Hall and Dan Stevens.  She can currently be seen on the hit Amazon comedy series, RED OAKS and in the Lorne Michaels produced feature, STATEN ISLAND SUMMER.

Previously, Gina starred opposite Matthew McConaughey in the dark comedy “Killer Joe”, directed by William Friedkin. Gershon received rave reviews as well and was awarded “Best Supporting Actress” at the Toronto Film Festival for her performance as Sharla Smith.

Gershon’s prolific film career began when she landed her first speaking role with a memorable turn in John Hughes’ box office hit “Pretty in Pink.” In addition to her breakout roles in Paul Verhoeven’s “Showgirls” and the Wachowskis’ “Bound,” Gershon has appeared in such films as “Red Heat” opposite Arnold Schwarzenegger, “Cocktail” opposite Tom Cruise, John Sayles’s “City of Hope,” Robert Altman’s “The Player,” the John Woo blockbuster “Face/Off” opposite John Travolta and Nicolas Cage, and Michael Mann’s Oscar-nominated “The Insider” opposite Al Pacino and Christopher Plummer. Gershon was also in Richard LaGravenese’s “P.S. I Love You” opposite Hillary Swank and Taylor Hackford’s “Love Ranch” opposite Helen Mirren.

On television, Gershon starred in the biopic “House of Versace” as the iconic Donatella Versace. She has appeared in three different series for HBO reoccurring in Larry David’s “Curb Your Enthusiasm”, “How to Make It In America” and appearing in Danny McBride’s “Eastbound & Down.” Other notable credits include Denis Leary’s FX series “Rescue Me”, a reoccurring arc on ABC’s “Ugly Betty”, the CBS mini-series “Sinatra,” the TNT original movie “Legalese”, and starring in David E. Kelley’s action detective drama “Snoops.”

In Theatre, Gershon most recently starred in the the Stephen King/John Mellencamp/T Bone Burnett musical “Ghost Brothers.” Gershon made a huge splash on Broadway, receiving rave reviews as the Italian flight attendant Gabriella in the 2008 Tony Award-winning revival of “Boeing Boeing.” She returned to the stage starring in the first-ever Broadway revival of “Bye Bye Birdie” as Rosie. Additional stage credits include a 2001 starring role as Sally Bowles in Sam Mendes’s Broadway revival of “Cabaret” which won “Best Revival” at the Tony Awards, the stage plays “Camille” opposite Kathleen Turner and Jon Robin Baitz’s “The Substance of Fire” (both at the Long Wharf Theatre). As a founding member of the New York-based theater company Naked Angels, Gershon has appeared in numerous productions with the company. Gershon also appeared in the original production of William Mastrosimone’s “Nanawatai,” which opened the Los Angeles Theatre Center.

Having always enjoyed singing and songwriting, Gershon’s musical career blossomed with the independent film “Prey for Rock & Roll,” receiving critical acclaim for her role as singer/guitarist Jacki. Gina sang live and wrote for the soundtrack. Her powerful turn as a rock performer in this project led Gershon to star in and produce the IFC documentary “Rocked,” which followed her on the road touring with the indie rock band Girls Against Boys. Gershon’s musical career continues to thrive with her latest CD “In Search of Cleo,” a compilation of original songs with a unique sound that mixes country, rock and jazz. Additionally, Gershon has also played Jew’s harp on recordings for Herbie Hancock, the Scissor Sisters, Rufus Wainwright and Christian McBride. Gina’s book “In Search of Cleo: How I Found My Pussy and Lost My Mind” was released in October 2012, whose audio book includes music by Gershon and Christian McBride. Her previous book “Camp Creepy Time,” co-written with her brother Dann, was optioned by DreamWorks.

Follow Gina @RealGinaGershon #IronboundPlay #Immigrant



#Ironbound Cast Announcement



Morgan Spector-Ironbound


“I could…try to be more understanding-“ – Tommy

MORGAN SPECTOR’s credits include Broadway: Machinal, Harvey, A View From the Bridge. Off-Broadway: Russian Transport (New Group, Drama Desk Nomination). Regional: Dissonance (Bay Street Theatre), The Lion King national tour, Enemies: A Love Story (Wilma Theatre). Television: Series Regular: “The Money (pilot),””Allegiance”, “The Broad Squad” (pilot), “Paradise Pictures (pilot). Recurring: “Boardwalk Empire,” “Person of Interest,” “Zero Hour,” “Law & Order: CI,” “How to Make It in America.” Guest Star: “Orange is the New Black,” “Do No Harm,” Film: Permission, The Bleeder, Christine, Split, The Drop, All Is Bright, Grand Street, Musical Chairs, Burning Blue, The Last Airbender. BA, Reed College; MFA, American Conservatory Theatre.

Follow Morgan @MORGUEINSPECTOR #IronboundPlay #Immigrant


#Ironbound Cast Announcement



#Ironbound Cast Announcement

IRONBOUND CAST ANNOUNCEMENT! The cast of IRONBOUND has been announced and it’s the #bestthingever! Starring Gina Gershon (Cabaret, Boeing Boeing) alongside co-stars Josiah Bania (Sarah Ruhl’s Three Sisters at Yale Rep), Shiloh Fernandez (“Red Riding Hood”) and Drama Desk nominee Morgan Spector (A View From The Bridge, “Boardwalk Empire”). Read the big announcement here!




Josiah Bania - Ironbound


“We are not just body. Lift. Pull. Push. We are more than this.” – Maks

“Josiah Bania is the embodiment of youthful, crazy charisma!” – DC Theatre Scene on the world premiere of IRONBOUND at Round House Theatre

Josiah Bania is making  his Rattlestick, WP Theater, and New York City theatre debut in Ironbound. Regional credits include the world premiere of Ironbound, at Round House Theatre, Sarah Ruhl’s adaptation of Three Sisters at Yale Repertory Theatre; Loves Labour’s Lost at Chautauqua Theatre Company; The Secret in the Wings, at Yale Summer Cabaret; The History Boys at Artists Repertory Theatre; The Uneasy Chair at CoHo Theater; A Christmas Carol, and JAW: A Playwright’s Festival at Portland Center Stage. Television credits include “The Good Wife”, “Leverage”, and “The Mysteries of Laura”. Josiah holds an MFA from the Yale School of Drama, where he appeared as Iago in Othello, Bolingbroke in Richard II, Medvedenko in The Seagull, and Nolan in Petty Harbour.

Follow Josiah @JosiahBania #IronboundPlay #Immigrant



#Ironbound Cast Announcement



Shiloh Fernandez headshot

“…I’m just tryin to help.” – Vic

Shiloh Fernandez grew up in the small Northern California town of Ukiah. He moved to Los Angeles and has been in several major motion pictures and television productions including starring opposite Amanda Seyfried in “Red Riding Hood,” Shailene Woodley in “White Bird in a Blizzard,” and  alongside Zac Efron and Emily Ratajkowski in “We Are Your Friends.”  In 2015, Shiloh made his debut as a producer and screenwriter in the independent thriller “Queen of Carthage,” in which he also starred in opposite Oscar-nominated actress Keisha Castle-Hughes (“Whale Rider”).  Shiloh is making his New York stage debut in Rattlestick Playwrights Theater’s and WP Theater’s premiere of the award-winning and critically acclaimed IRONBOUND by Martyna Majok and directed by Daniella Topol.

Follow Shiloh @shilohfernandez #IronboundPlay #Immigrant


#Ironbound Cast Announcement


Susan Smith Blackburn Prize Announces 2015–16 Finalists

American Theatre logo

Susan Smith Blackburn Prize Announces 2015–16 Finalists

Ten female playwrights from the U.S. and the U.K. are nominated,
with the winner to be announced Feb. 22.
By American Theatre Editors

WP’s Sarah Burgess, Dominique Morisseau, Lynn Nottage & Suzan-Lori Parks among finalist.

NEW YORK CITY: The Susan Smith Blackburn Prize has announced the finalists for its 2015–16 playwriting award, the oldest and largest prize given to female playwrights. Selected from more than 150 nominated plays, the 10 finalists are Sarah Burgess for Dry Powder; Rachel Cusk for Medea; Sarah DeLappe for The Wolves; Sam Holcroft for Rules for Living; Anna Jordan for Yen; Dominique Morisseau for Skeleton Crew; Lynn Nottage for Sweat; Suzan-Lori Parks for Father Comes Home From the Wars (Parts 1, 2 & 3); Bea Roberts for And Then Come the Nightjars; and Noni Stapleton for Charolais.

The judges for the 2015–16 prize are Kate Bassett, Jeremy Herrin, Tanya Moodie, Greta Gerwig, Sam Gold, and Branden Jacobs-Jenkins.

The winner will be announced on Feb. 22 at a presentation at the National Theatre in London. The winner will receive a cash prize of $25,000 and a signed print by artist Willem de Kooning created especially for the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize. The other finalists will each take home an award of $5,000.

The Susan Smith Blackburn Prize, a Houston-based organization, reflects the values of  American actor and writer Susan Smith Blackburn. She grew up in Houston and lived in London for the last 15 years of her life. Since the award’s inception in 1978, more than 350 playwrights have been honored as finalists.

Martyna Majok’s favorite part of the playmaking process…



What is your favorite part of the playmaking process, and why?

Martyna Majok: Workshops. Tom Stoppard likens outside perspectives on his plays to going through customs at the airport. The officer asks you to declare what you have in your luggage. you tell him. “A four character play about a lady at a bus stop in Jersey.” Then he goes rifling through your bags and finds all these things you didn’t realize you’d packed. Like capitalism and the contradictions of modern feminism in certain socioeconomic situations.

Read more at Steppenwolf.org


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Daniella Topol

Director Daniella Topol’s previous WP Theater productions include: Cori Thomas’ When January Feels Like Summer, Jessica Dickey’s Row After Row, Sheila Callaghan’s Lascivious Something, Trista Baldwin’s Sand. Recent productions include: Rachel Bonds’ Five Mile Lake (South Coast Rep),  Jessica Dickey’s Charles Ives Take Me Home (Rattlestick Theatre) Rajiv Joseph’s Monster at the Door (Alley Theatre), Lloyd Suh’s Jesus in India (Magic Theatre and MaYi Theatre), Carla Ching’s Sugarhouse at the Edge of the Wilderness (MaYi Theatre), Willy Holtzman’s The Morini Strad (City Theatre), Sheila Callaghan’s Dead City (New Georges) and Janet Allard and Niko Tsakalakos’ Pool Boy (Barrington Stage Company), Anna Ziegler’s PHOTOGRAPH 51 (Theatre J), Susan Bernfield’s STRETCH (People’s Light and Theatre Company). She has directed readings and workshops for a number of companies and is currently a member of the board of the Lark Play Development Center, has been a grants review panelist for the National Endowment for the Arts, NYC Department of Cultural Affairs, NY State Council on the Arts and TCG. She is an NYTW Usual Suspect, member of EST, a Women’s Project Lab alumnus, and a New Georges affiliated artist. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband and daughter.

Learn more about Daniella Topol

Website: daniellatopol.com

Read Meet the Directors, The New York Times

Photograph of Daniella Topol by Chad Batka


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Playwright Martyna Majok was born in Bytom, Poland, and aged in Jersey and Chicago. She has worked with Steppenwolf Theatre Company, Rattlestick Playwrights Theatre, Women’s Project Theatre, John F. Kennedy Center, and New York Stage & Film, among others. Awards include David Calicchio Emerging American Playwright Prize, New York Theatre Workshop’s 2050 Fellowship, Global Age Project Prize, and NNPN/Smith Prize for Political Playwriting. Commissions from Marin Theatre Company, Actors Theatre of Louisville, Manhattan Theatre Club, The New Yorker, and The Foundry Theatre. BA: University of Chicago; MFA: Yale School of Drama. Martyna is the 2015-2016 PoNY Fellow at the Lark Play Development Center.


Recent Articles:
Heavyweight Playwriting Fellowship Names 2015-16 Recipient, Variety
8 Playwrights Receive ‘Exit’ Grants as They Graduate From EST’s Youngblood, American Theatre
UpClose: Martyna Majok, Women’s Voices Theater Festival, DC Theatre Scene
Getting to Know Playwright Martyna MajokSteppenwolf Theatre Company


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Thank you for your continued support of WP Theater! See you in 2016…



you celebrate this holiday season, your WP Theater family hopes that it is full of JOY & GREAT CHEER!


For your listening pleasure, Team WP Theater put together a sing along, snap your fingers, swaying playlist of classic holiday songs. Click above, listen, and enjoy the holiday season and new year with these tunes by your side.

REMINDER! #IronboundPlay tickets are on sale now! Learn more and buy tickets here.

“IRONBOUND is…The first KNOCKOUT of the Women’s Voices Theater Festival” – The Washington Post



Women's+Voices+Theater+FestivalThe premiere of IRONBOUND by Round House Theatre with the dynamic duo, Martyna Majok and Daniella Topol, at the 2015 Women’s Voices Theater Festival was met with rave reviews! Here are just a few of the stellar reviews:

“The first KNOCKOUT of the Women’s Voices Theater Festival” -The Washington Post

“…a deceptively simple, thought-provoking, and an ELEGANT WORK OF ART.” -Broadway World

5-Stars“IRONBOUND by Martyna Majok…amounts to 90 MINUTES OF BLISTERING GOODNESS.” -DC Theatre Scene

#1 HIT OF THE WEEK” & “…a well written script; superb acting and a high-end production all helmed by the immensely talented director Daniella Topol.” -MD Theatre Guide





WP Theater & Farrar, Straus and Giroux present

December 5, 4:30pm, WP Theater, 2162 Broadway & 76th Street, NYC

KRJ and AC

Dr. Kay Redfield Jamison, Psychiatrist, Author, Educator, Touched With Fire, An Unquiet Mind

Interviewed by Dr. Anthony Charuvastra, Clinical Assistant Professor, NYU Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry

Recognized by NPR as one of “their all-time favorite books,” read a review of Jamison’s bestselling classic, An Unquiet Mind, at NPR Books.


GET TO KNOW: Harris Yulin starring as Robert Lowell in DEAR ELIZABETH

Harris Yulin

Harris Yulin has appeared on Broadway in Hedda Gabler, The Price, The Diary of Anne Frank, The Visit, A Lesson From Aloes, and Watch On The Rhine. His off-Broadway credits include Raindance at Signature Theatre; Don Juan In Hell at Symphony Space; Steve Tesich’s Arts And Leisure at Playwrights Horizons; Tina Howe’s Approaching Zanzibar at Second Stage; Hamlet, King John, Richard III, and A Midsummer Night’s Dream at New York Shakespeare Festival; and Mrs. Warren’s Profession and Hedda Gabler at Roundabout. Regional credits include Finishing the Picture at Goodman Theatre; a recent appearance in the title role of King Lear at New Jersey Shakespeare Festival; The Talking Cure at Mark Taper Forum; Tartuffe at the Guthrie and Arena Stage; Henry V at Hartford Stage; and The Tempest at Shakespeare & Co. Mr. Yulin’s directing credits include Horton Foote’s The Prisoner’s Song at Ensemble Studio Theatre; Conor McPherson’s This Lime Tree Bower at Primary Stages; Don Juan In Hell in London (Riverside Studios) and in New York (Symphony Space), Steve Tesich’s Baba Goya (Second Stage), Adele Shank’s Winter Play at Second Stage; Candida at the Shaw Festival; and The Front Page and The Guardsman at Long Wharf. His television credits include “Muhammad Ali’s Greatest Fight,” “Mister Sterling,” “24,” “Buffy The Vampire Slayer,” “Frasier” (Emmy Nomination), and “La Femme Nikita” (Emmy Nomination). His film credits include Fur, The Place Beyond the Pines, The Emperor’s Club, Training Day, The Million Dollar Hotel, The Hurricane, Looking for Richard, Murder at 1600, Multiplicity, Clear and Present Danger, and Scarface.

WP Theater presents

New York Premiere
Written by Sarah Ruhl & Directed by Kate Whoriskey

Full Casts Wall - Dear Elizabeth




LISTEN to our DEAR ELIZABETH Soundcloud Playlist!

WP Theater presents

New York Premiere
Written by Sarah Ruhl & Directed by Kate Whoriskey
Limited Engagement: NOW – DEC 5 ONLY!

Full Casts Wall - Dear Elizabeth




“It’s Captivating! Ravishing!” says WNYC! Listen to a review of WP’s DEAR ELIZABETH by Sarah Ruhl at WNYC.org

Read the full review here.

WP Theater presents

New York Premiere
Written by Sarah Ruhl & Directed by Kate Whoriskey
Limited Engagement: NOW – DEC 5 ONLY!

Full Casts Wall - Dear Elizabeth




GET TO KNOW: Mia Katigbak starring as Elizabeth Bishop in DEAR ELIZABETH by Sarah Ruhl

Mia Katigbak

NYC: Most recent: Awake & Sing! NAATCO (Obie Award); Washeteria (Soho Rep); A Beautiful Day in November…Great Lakes (New Georges/Women’s Project), Scenes from a  Marriage (New York Theater Workshop). Other NYC: Public Theater, Foundry Theater, Civilians, Ma-Yi, Target Margin, Clubbed Thumb, Intar, Pan Asian Rep. Regional: Berkeley Repertory Theater (CA), Swine Palace (LA), Guthrie (MN). International: Manila, Philippines; Abu Dhabi, UAE.  Film: I Smile Back, Clutter, Slow Jam King. TV: “Mysteries of Laura,” “Chicago PD,” “Conviction.” Artistic Producing Director and co-founder, NAATCO (National Asian American Theatre Company).  Founding director, CAATA (Consortium of Asian American Theaters & Artists). Other awards:  Lucille Lortel, Lee Reynolds Awards (League of Professional Theatre Women); Actors Equity’s Rosetta LeNoire Award, in recognition of her “artistic contribution to the universality of the human experience in the American theater”; New Dramatists’ Charles Bowden Actor Award. BA, Barnard College; MA, Columbia University.

WP Theater presents

New York Premiere
Written by Sarah Ruhl & Directed by Kate Whoriskey
Limited Engagement: NOW – DEC 5 ONLY!

Full Casts Wall - Dear Elizabeth




GET TO KNOW: Rinde Eckert starring as Robert Lowell in DEAR ELIZABETH

Rinde Eckert

Rinde Eckert is a writer, composer, librettist, musician, performer and director. His Opera / New Music Theatre productions have toured throughout America and to major theater festivals in Europe and Asia. Eckert began his career as a writer and performer in the 1980’s, writing librettos for Paul Dresher (Pioneer, Power Failure, Slow Fire, Ravenshead). He composed dance scores for choreographers Sarah Shelton Mann and Margaret Jenkins, including the evening-length Woman, Window, Square for The Margaret Jenkins Dance Company. Rinde began composing and performing his own music/theater works in 1992 with The Gardening of Thomas D, an homage to Dante which subsequently toured the United States and France. Staged works for solo performer include Becoming…Unusual: The Education of an Eclectic; three one-act plays: An Idiot Divine, Romeo Sierra Tango and Quit This House; and works for radio including Shoot the Moving Things and Four Songs Lost in a Wall. Writing credits for the theater include Highway Ulysses, Horizon, Orpheus X, And God Created Great Whales, which has been produced three times with the original cast and director, for a total of 227 performances. And God Created Great Whales, Horizon and Orpheus X have run off-Broadway, garnering Drama Desk Nominations and the Lucille Lortel Award. Rinde has received numerous honors and awards for his body of work. In 2012 he was named an inaugural Doris Duke Artist, was honored to receive the 2009 Alpert Award in the Arts for Theatre, a 2007 Guggenheim Fellowship, and The American Academy of Arts and Letters 2005 Marc Blitzstein Award. In 2007 Rinde Eckert was the finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in Drama. Eckert wrote the text and performed in the multi-media production Slide with composer/guitarist Mackey and the new music ensemble 8th blackbird, which toured to major university campuses and the Ojai Festival. Renamed Lonely Motel by Cedille Records, the project won the 2011 Grammy Award for Best Small Ensemble Performance. Eckert and Mackey are members of BIG FARM, a ‘prog-rock’ super group with drummer Jason Treuting (So Percussion) and bassist Mark Haanstra. Rinde Eckert’s own uniquely eclectic music is released on Germany’s Intuition label and through Songline/Tonefield Productions.

WP Theater presents

New York Premiere
Written by Sarah Ruhl & Directed by Kate Whoriskey
Limited Engagement: NOW – DEC 5 ONLY!

Full Casts Wall - Dear Elizabeth




GET TO KNOW: Ellen McLaughlin starring as Elizabeth Bishop in DEAR ELIZABETH by Sarah Ruhl

Ellen McLaughlin

Ellen McLaughlin’s acting work includes originating the part of the Angel in Angels in America, playing the role in workshops and regional productions through its Broadway run in 1993-1994. Other favorite work includes the Homebody in Bart Sher’s production of Homebody/Kabul (Intiman, Seattle, WA), Pirate Jenny in A Threepenny Opera (Trinity Rep. Elliot Norton Award), Claire in Albee’s A Delicate Balance, (Arena Stage, Yale Repertory Theater), Margie in Good People (George St. Playhouse. Seattle Rep.) and Rosemary in Outside Mullingar (George St. Playhouse.) New York credits include: String of Pearls (Primary Stages), Blue Window (Manhattan Theater Club), and A Bright Room Called Day (Public Theater). Television work includes several appearances on “Law and Order”. McLaughlin is also a playwright.

WP Theater presents

New York Premiere
Written by Sarah Ruhl & Directed by Kate Whoriskey
Limited Engagement: NOW – DEC 5 ONLY!

Full Casts Wall - Dear Elizabeth




WP Theater honored by the KILROYS


To celebrate just a few of the theaters achieving playwright parity on American stages this season, the Kilroys surprised 13 theaters around the country on Thursday, November 19, 2015 with cakes to honor the efforts they are making to produce women and trans* writers. Stealthy playwright allies delivered the cakes, which feature the names of playwrights the theater or festival is producing this season. Pizza and beer were delivered to industry leaders at yours truly, WP THEATER, for “feeding artistic ambitions for nearly four decades!” #CakeDrop

WATCH ‘Conversations with Cherry Jones’

Screen Actors Guild Foundation and Broadway World have partnered for an inaugural filmed Conversations Q&A series to recognize and celebrate the vibrant theatre community in New York City and the union actors who aspire to have a career on the stage and screen. View a featured career Conversations with Cherry Jones moderated by Broadway World’s Richard Ridge of “Backstage with Richard Ridge!”

WP Theater presents

New York Premiere
Written by Sarah Ruhl & Directed by Kate Whoriskey
Limited Engagement: NOW – DEC 5 ONLY!

Full Casts Wall - Dear Elizabeth




GET TO KNOW: Cherry Jones starring as Elizabeth Bishop in DEAR ELIZABETH


Recent News: 

November 10, 2015: Anjelica Huston & Cherry Jones Join ‘Transparent’ – Watch Season 2 Teaser, Deadline Hollywood

November 4, 2015: Bradley Whitford and Cherry Jones Join Hank Williams Biopic ‘I Saw the Light’, The Hollywood Reporter

Cherry Jones starred most recently in the triumphant Broadway revival of Tennessee Williams’ The Glass Menagerie (Tony Nomination), which originated at the American Repertory Theater in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where she is a founding member and where earlier in her career she appeared in more than 25 productions including Twelfth Night, Three Sisters and The Caucasian Chalk Circle. Broadway and Off-Broadway: Doubt (Tony, Drama Desk, Lucille Lortel, Outer Critics Circle and Obie Awards), Lincoln Center Theater’s production of The Heiress (Tony, Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle Awards); Pride’s Crossing (Drama Desk Award); When We Were Young and Unafraid; The Baltimore Waltz (Obie Award); Faith Healer; Flesh and Blood; Imaginary Friends; A Moon for the Misbegotten (Tony Award nomination); Angels in America; Our Country’s Good (Tony Award nomination); and Roundabout Theatre Company’s productions of Mrs. Warren’s Profession, Major Barbara and The Night of the Iguana. Television: President Allison Taylor in “24” (Emmy Award), “What Makes a Family,” “Awake,” the next season of “Transparent” on Amazon, the upcoming series “Mercy Street,” and the upcoming mini-series “11/22/63” starring James Franco. Film: Ocean’s Twelve, Cradle Will Rock, The Horse Whisperer, The Perfect Storm, Erin Brockovich, Signs, The Village, Mother and Child, Swimmers, the upcoming films I Saw the Light, and Fun House opposite Tina Fey.

Photograph of Cherry Jones by Zachary Maxwell Stertz

WP Theater presents

New York Premiere
Written by Sarah Ruhl & Directed by Kate Whoriskey
Limited Engagement: NOW – DEC 5 ONLY!

Full Casts Wall - Dear Elizabeth




GET TO KNOW: David Aaron Baker starring as Robert Lowell in DEAR ELIZABETH

David Aaron Baker

David Aaron Baker is thrilled to once more share the stage with Cherry Jones after playing her husband in Jon Robin Baitz’s play, The Film Society, directed by the late Roger Rees, at The Williamstown Theater Festival in 1997. David had the great fortune to work with Sarah Ruhl in 2008, when he performed in the Playwrights Horizons production of her play Dead Man’s Cell Phone. He is honored to work again with these extraordinary artists. David attended Illinois State University, received a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from the University of Texas – Austin and a diploma from The Julliard School.

WP Theater presents

New York Premiere
Written by Sarah Ruhl & Directed by Kate Whoriskey
Limited Engagement: NOW – DEC 5 ONLY!

Full Casts Wall - Dear Elizabeth




DEAR ELIZABETH Ticket Holders + RedFarm


“RedFarm is indeed groundbreaking” – Time Out New York

Need a reservation at RedFarm in the Upper West Side? Popular restaurant RedFarm doesn’t take reservations but your ticket confirmation for WP’s DEAR ELIZABETH is your ticket in! Email Nina (nina AT redfarmnyc Dot com) to book your after-show seats. You’ll enjoy walking in to your very own table at RedFarm as well as a tasty treat from the kitchen. Enjoy!

Be sure to mention DEAR ELIZABETH when booking and show your confirmation upon arrival. 24 Hour Notice is Required. Red Farm is conveniently located a few doors away from WP Theater at 2170 Broadway (between 76th and 77th Streets). Subject to availability after 9pm. Offer valid until December 5, 2015.

GET TO KNOW: Playwright Sarah Ruhl

View a video playlist with interviews with playwright Sarah Ruhl over the years:


GET TO KNOW: Kate Whoriskey, Director of the New York Premiere of DEAR ELIZABETH by Sarah Ruhl

Kate Whoriskey

Director Kate Whoriskey most recently directed Lynn Nottage’s Sweat at Oregon Shakespeare Festival. Other productions include Ping Pong and Manahatta at the Public through Public Studio, Ruined and Tales from Red Vienna at Manhattan Theatre Club, How I Learned to Drive at Second Stage, The Piano Teacher at the Vineyard Theatre, Oroonoko at Theatre for A New Audience, the world premiere of Fabulation and Inked Baby at Playwrights Horizons, and Massacre by Jose Rivera at the Labyrinth Theatre Company (of which she is a member). Internationally, she directed Magdalena at the Chatelet theatre in Paris and Teatro Muicipal in Sao Paolo. Regionally, she directed Ruined, Vigils, Heartbreak House, The Rose Tattoo and Drowning Crow for The Goodman, The Tempest at Shakespeare Theatre, the world premiere of Intimate Apparel, The Piano Teacher, Life is a Dream, Caucasian Chalk Circle, Antigone, and The Clean House at South Coast Repertory, and Master Builder at the American Repertory Theatre. Nominated for a Drama Desk and Lucille Lortel for her work on Ruined, she has also directed at the Huntington, The Geffen, Baltimore Center Stage, Perseverance Theatre, Actors Theatre of Louisville, Sundance Theatre Lab, The Fisher Center and The Eugene O’Neill Center.

WP Theater presents

New York Premiere
Written by Sarah Ruhl & Directed by Kate Whoriskey
Limited Engagement: NOW – DEC 5 ONLY!

Full Casts Wall - Dear Elizabeth






Review: ‘Dear Elizabeth’: A Deep Friendship, Told in Letters, WNYC

Go Behind the Scenes: Poet Meets Poet: An Interview With the Artistic Team Behind ‘Dear Elizabeth’, The Huffington Post

Harris Yulin Joins Cast of WP Theater’s ‘Dear Elizabeth’, Broadway World

BWW Review: Sarah Ruhl’s Touching DEAR ELIZABETH; Friendship Through the Mail, Broadway World

Theater Review: ‘Dear Elizabeth’, The Epoch Times

“I Remember Dreaming About Them,” Says Sarah Ruhl Of the Supposed Soul Mates Who Inspired Her Newest Play,” Playbill

To Do: November 4–November 18, 2015: Twenty-five things to see, hear, watch, and read. – ‘Dear Elizabeth’, New York Magazine

FREE EVENT SERIES: Paul Muldoon and More Set for WP Theater’s ‘DEAR MISS BISHOP’ Poetry Series Alongside DEAR ELIZABETH, Broadway World

‘Dear Elizabeth’ Theater Review, The Hollywood Reporter

Review: In ‘Dear Elizabeth,’ Two Solitary Poets Commune, New York Times

Openings and Previews: ‘Dear Elizabeth’, The New Yorker

HBO’s GIRLS Stars Becky Ann Baker and Peter Scolari Join ‘Dear Elizabeth’ at Women’s Project Theater, Broadway World

Read more news here!


GET TO KNOW Peter Scolari starring as Robert Lowell in DEAR ELIZABETH by Sarah Ruhl

Peter Scolari

Broadway/NY: Hairspray, Sly Fox, Magic Bird, Out of This World, Ziegfeld Follies of 1937 (City Center Encores!), World Premiere of A.R. Gurney’s Family Furniture, Lucky Guy. Regional: World Premieres of Daniel Sullivan’s Inspecting Carol, Ken Ludwig’s Fox on The Fairway at The George Street Playhouse. Winner Best Actor, Berkshire Theater Festival for The Foreigner. VQT Emmy Award Winner for “Newhart,” Three Time Emmy Nominee, Film Critic’s Award Nomination as Best Featured Actor for “Girls” (HBO), recurring on “Gotham,” also “Bosom Buddies,” “Honey, I Shrunk the Kids,” “The West Wing,” “E.R.,” “Family Ties,” “White Collar,” “King of Queens,” “Reba,” “Ally McBeal,” “From the Earth to the Moon” (HBO), “Stop the World, I Want to Get Off” (Showtime). Selected Film: That Thing You Do, Polar Express, Suburban Girl, Camp Nowhere, The Ryan White Story, and upcoming Madoff for ABC films.

WP Theater presents

New York Premiere
Written by Sarah Ruhl & Directed by Kate Whoriskey
Limited Engagement: NOW – DEC 5 ONLY!

Full Casts Wall - Dear Elizabeth




GET TO KNOW: Becky Ann Baker starring as Elizabeth Bishop in DEAR ELIZABETH by Sarah Ruhl

Becky Ann Baker

Becky Ann Baker is most recognized for her mothering skills, or lack thereof, on two Judd Apatow series, “Freaks and Geeks” and “Girls”, where she plays creator Lena Dunham’s mom, and for which she received a Critics Choice nomination.  But Becky has appeared on Broadway in both musicals and plays, including Good People, All My Sons, Assassins, Titanic, A Streetcar Named Desire, and The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas.  Her Off-Broadway credits include: Barbecue at the Public Theater, Suddenly Last Summer for The Roundabout; Comedy of Errors, Othello and Two Gentlemen of Verona for New York Shakespeare Festival; Wonderful Town for City Center Encores; The Most Fabulous Story Ever Told for New York Theatre Workshop; Shanghai Moon and June Moon for Drama Dept.; Durang, Durang for Manhattan Theatre Club; To Whom It May Concern and Laura Dennis at the Signature; The Vagina Monologues at Westside Arts; and more. Becky has performed regionally at the Williamstown Theatre Festival, where she is an artistic associate, the Old Globe, the South Coast Rep, Arena Stage, the Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park, the Shakespeare Theater of New Jersey and the Goodman Theater in Chicago.  Film credits include “The End of the Tour,” “23 Blast,” “Hope Springs,” “Nights in Rodanthe,” “Spinning into Butter,” “Stay,” “The Night Listener,” “Gretchen,” “War of the Worlds,” “Two Weeks Notice,” “A Simple Plan,” “Celebrity,” “Men In Black,” “In and Out,” “Sabrina,” “Unstrung Heroes,” “White Squall,” “Lorenzo’s Oil,” and “Come See the Paradise.”  Other TV appearances include: “Gotham,” “Madam Secretary,” Person of Interest,” “Elementary,” “The Good Wife,” “Smash,” “Black Box,” “A Gifted Man,” “Kings,” “Nurse Jackie,” “Mercy,” “Storm of the Century,” “Soul Man,” “Ruby Ridge,” “Frasier,” “Star Trek: Voyager,” “Sex and the City,” “Law & Order,” “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit,” “Oz,” and “Mind Games.” She is a member of the Actor’s Studio, Drama Dept. and Usual Suspects –NYTW.  Becky’s best and favorite production: Willa, co-produced with actor/director Dylan Baker.

WP Theater presents

New York Premiere
Written by Sarah Ruhl & Directed by Kate Whoriskey
Limited Engagement: NOW – DEC 5 ONLY!

Full Casts Wall - Dear Elizabeth




GET TO KNOW: John Douglas Thompson starring as Robert Lowell in DEAR ELIZABETH by Sarah Ruhl

John Douglas Thompson -Headshot

(Robert Lowell in WP’s ‘Dear Elizabeth’) won Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle Awards for Outstanding Solo Performance for his portrayal of Louis Armstrong in Satchmo at the Waldorf.  Shakespeare & Company: Richard IIIOthelloThe Dreamer Examines His Pillow, All’s Well That Ends Well, King Lear. Joe Mott in The Iceman Cometh with Nathan Lane and Brian Dennehy at the Goodman Theatre, Kent in King Lear at the Public Theater with Sam Waterston, Macbeth at TFANA, Marc Antony in Antony and Cleopatra at Hartford Stage with Kate Mulgrew, Gennady in The Forest at CSC with Dianne Wiest, Brutus Jones in The Emperor Jones at The Irish Rep (Lucille Lortel, Drama League and Drama Desk nominations), Othello at TFANA (OBIE, Lucille Lortel Award, Drama League nomination, AUDELCO nomination). Broadway: A Time to Kill, LeBret in Cyrano with Kevin Kline and Jennifer Garner, and Julius Caesar with Denzel Washington. International credits: Hotspur in Henry IV (Royal Shakespeare Company). Other off-Broadway credits: Women Beware Women (Red Bull), Enobarbus in Anthony and Cleopatra, Orombo in Oroonoko (TFANA, AUDELCO nomination), Judge Brack in Hedda Gabler (NYTW), Edgar in King Lear (Classical Theater of Harlem, AUDELCO nomination). Regional credits: Lucious Jenkins in Jesus Hopped the A Train (The Wilma Theater, Barrymore Award), Williamstown Theater, Trinity Rep, Shakespeare & Company, ART. TV/FILM: “Law and Order”, “Conviction”, “Michael Clayton”, “Midway”, “Malcolm X”.

WP Theater presents

New York Premiere
Written by Sarah Ruhl & Directed by Kate Whoriskey
Limited Engagement: NOW – DEC 5 ONLY!

Full Casts Wall - Dear Elizabeth




GET TO KNOW: J. SMITH-CAMERON starring as Elizabeth Bishop in DEAR ELIZABETH by Sarah Ruhl

J Smith-Cameron Headshot

(Elizabeth Bishop in WP’s ‘Dear Elizabeth’) has appeared in numerous theatre productions off and on Broadway.  Highlights include Our Country’s Good (Tony® nomination), Sarah, Sarah (Drama Desk nomination), Fuddy Meers (Outer Critics and Drama Desk nominations), and As Bees In Honey Drown (Obie award, Drama Desk, and Outer Critics nominations).  Recent credits include a critically acclaimed run as the title character in Juno And The Paycock at the Irish Repertory Theatre in NYC, as well as Richard Nelson’s Sorry and Sweet and Sad (Drama Desk and Obie awards) at the Public and That Hopey Changey Thing by the same author.  Also Midsummer Night’s Dream at La Jolla Playhouse and The Starry Messenger by Kenneth Lonergan at the New Group.  TV work includes a Series Regular role on SUNDANCE’S “Rectify” and a Recurring Role on HBO’s “True Blood.”  Recent film work includes Frank Whaley’s “Like Sunday, Like Rain” and J. also stars opposite Anna Paquin in Kenneth Lonergan’s film “Margaret”, which won her the Best Supporting Actress award for the International Cinephile Society.

WP Theater presents

New York Premiere
Written by Sarah Ruhl & Directed by Kate Whoriskey
Limited Engagement: NOW – DEC 5 ONLY!

Full Casts Wall - Dear Elizabeth




New York Times Review: In ‘Dear Elizabeth,’ Two Solitary Poets Commune


As both poets and personalities, Elizabeth Bishop and Robert Lowell could hardly have been more different.  She: intensely shy and self-doubting, producing gemlike, allusive poems so infrequently that…read more here.

WP Theater presents

New York Premiere
Written by Sarah Ruhl & Directed by Kate Whoriskey
Limited Engagement: OCT 26 – DEC 5

Full Casts Wall - Dear Elizabeth



DEAR ELIZABETH Production Photos: Cast of Week One

Featuring a rotating cast of award-winning actors, week one of DEAR ELIZABETH by Sarah Ruhl stars Kathleen Chalfant, Polly Noonan, and Harris Yulin. Kate Whoriskey directs.

Dear Elizabeth by Sarah Ruhl: Week One Cast

WP Theater presents

New York Premiere
Written by Sarah Ruhl & Directed by Kate Whoriskey
Limited Engagement: OCT 26 – DEC 5

Full Casts Wall - Dear Elizabeth



WP Theater Featured in Amtrak’s ARRIVE MAGAZINE

WP Theater is featured on the cover and in a 2-page spread in Amtrak’s ARRIVE MAGAZINE‘s November/December 2015 Issue. Be the first to read it here!



Go Behind the Scenes of DEAR ELIZABETH at WP Theater

Take a peek behind the scenes and watch interviews with Sarah Ruhl and the celebrated actors that play ‘Elizabeth Bishop’ in the New York Premiere of DEAR ELIZABETH.


WP Theater presents

New York Premiere
Written by Sarah Ruhl & Directed by Kate Whoriskey
Limited Engagement: OCT 26 – DEC 5

Full Casts Wall - Dear Elizabeth






See Sarah Ruhl, Kate Whoriskey, Kathleen Chalfant, Polly Noonan, and Harris Yulin Celebrate Opening Night of Dear Elizabeth: View Pictures at Playbill.com

WP Theater presents

New York Premiere
Written by Sarah Ruhl & Directed by Kate Whoriskey
Limited Engagement: OCT 26 – DEC 5

Full Casts Wall - Dear Elizabeth




DEAR ELIZABETH Production Photos: Cast of Week One

Go behind the scenes and view pictures of a videotaping with all of stellar actors playing “Elizabeth Bishop” in the New York Premiere of DEAR ELIZABETH by Sarah Ruhl and directed by Kate Whoriskey. Featured Actors: Kathleen Chalfant (Week One), J. Smith-Cameron (Week Two), Becky Ann Baker (Week Three), Cherry Jones (Week Four), Ellen McLaughlin (Week Five), and Mia Katigbak (Week Six).

Behind the Scenes: DEAR ELIZABETH

WP Theater presents

New York Premiere
Written by Sarah Ruhl & Directed by Kate Whoriskey
Limited Engagement: OCT 26 – DEC 5

Full Casts Wall - Dear Elizabeth



John Krasinski to Lead Sarah Burgess’ DRY POWDER at The Public in 2016

Sarah Burgess headshotThe Public Theater announced today that John Krasinski has been cast in the role of “Seth” in the world premiere play DRY POWDER by Sarah Burgess (WP Lab Member, PIPELINE FESTIVAL). Directed by Thomas Kail, this gripping, razor-sharp new play about the people molding and messing with the American economy begins previews on Tuesday, March 1 and runs through Sunday, April 10. Read more here at Broadway World.

Learn more about THE PIPELINE FESTIVAL by the WP Lab, including Playwright Sarah Burgess: http://bit.ly/pipelinefestival.



WP Theater at Theatermania’s BLOCK PARTY!


WP Theater at Theatermania's BLOCK PARTY

Check out pictures from yesterday’s fun-filled TheaterMania BLOCK PARTY on 3rd Avenue. WP Theater, Lincoln Center, Signature Theater, Playwrights Horizons, Roundabout Theatre Company, and many more joined the festivities!

Take a Look Inside! WP’s New Season Brochure!


WP Theater presents

New York Premiere
by Sarah Ruhl & Directed by Kate Whoriskey
Limited Engagement: OCT 26 – DEC 5

Full Casts Wall - Dear Elizabeth




WP’s New Season Brochures! Subscribe Today!

Theatermania Features WP’s New Season!

theatermania logo

Sarah Ruhl’s Dear Elizabeth to Make New York Premiere at Women’s Project. The two-character drama is on tap for the organization’s 2015-16 season.

The two-character drama is on tap for the organization’s 2015-16 season.

David Gordon • Off-Broadway • Aug 24, 2015

Off-Broadway’s Women’s Project Theater has announced its 2015-16 season, set to take place at the organization’s new home, theMcGinn/Cazale Theatre.

The season will kick off with the New York premiere of Sarah Ruhl’s Dear Elizabeth, under the direction of Kate Whoriskey. Performed with a rotating cast (still to be announced), the drama follows the friendship between poets Elizabeth Bishop and Robert Lowell, whose relationship spanned 30 years and included more than 400 letters. The play will run from October 26-December 5.

Next is Martyna Majok’s Ironbound, directed by Daniella Topol. A coproduction with Rattlestick Playwrights Theater, the work follows Darja, a Polish immigrant cleaning lady, over the course of 20 years as she negotiates for her future with three different men who can offer her love or security, but never both. The work runs March 2-April 10.

Closing out the first season at the McGinn/Cazale is the first-ever WP Pipeline Festival, in which WP Lab playwrights, directors, and producers present five brand-new plays from March 24-April 23. The writers are Sarah Burgess, Monet Hurst-Mendoza, Martyna Majok, Riti Sachdeva, and Susan Soon-He Stanton. Directors are Adrienne Campbell-Holt, Lee Sunday Evans, Sarah Krohn, Danya Taymor, and Tamilla Woodard. Producers are Rachel Karpf Reidy, Pearl Kermani, Kristen Luciani, Liz Olson, and Rachel Sussman.

Women’s Project Theater is currently under the leadership of producing artistic director Lisa McNulty and managing director Maureen Moynihan.

For more information on WP’s New Season click here.

BroadwayWorld.com Features WP’s New Season!


Sarah Ruhl’s DEAR ELIZABETH to Launch Women’s Project Theater’s 2015-16 Season at New Home

Women’s Project Theater, under the leadership ofProducing Artistic Director Lisa McNulty and Managing Director Maureen Moynihan, just announced the 2015-2016 Season and the beginning of its three-year residency at the McGinn/Cazale Theater (2162 Broadway, at 76th Street), creating an artistic home for women in theater.

“I’m thrilled for WP Theater to set down roots in this wonderful space with such a storied theatrical history, and to bring all of these brilliant women together in one season,” said McNulty. “Our upcoming season features such an exciting range of talent: from Sarah Ruhl, one of our most treasured and accomplished writers; to Martyna Majok, who is making her Off-Broadway debut; to a festival fully dedicated to new work from the emerging artists of the WP Lab. This is the essence of what WP Theater does-creating a theatrical home where female-identified artists are welcome at every point in their careers, a place where women’s voices are central. I’m also really excited to partner with The Kilroys and The Lilly Awards this year on a series of events that will celebrate all of these invaluable organizations under WP Theater’s new roof. With the generous support of The Royal Little Family Foundation, WP has been given the opportunity to make 76th & Broadway the destination for some of the most exciting new theater in town.”

WP Theater’s inaugural season at the McGinn/Cazale Theater will commence with the New York premiere of DEAR ELIZABETH, written by two-time Pulitzer Prize nominee and Tony Award nominee Sarah Ruhl (The Oldest Boy, In the Next Room, or the vibrator play), directed by Kate Whoriskey (Ruined, Sweat) from October 26 to December 5, 2015. Drawn from the famed correspondence between Elizabeth Bishop and Robert Lowell – two of the twentieth century’s most brilliant poets – DEAR ELIZABETH tells a tale of unconventional friendship and intimacy that spanned thirty years and more than 400 letters, with postmarks from Maine to Key West, from London to South America. Performed with a rotating cast of the theater community’s most brilliant and beloved performers – to be announced shortly – DEAR ELIZABETH is an insightful and impassioned examination of Bishop and Lowell’s lives, their work, and the true nature of friendship.

In a co-production with Rattlestick Playwrights Theater, IRONBOUND by Martyna Majok (Petty Harbor), directed byDaniella Topol (When January Feels Like Summer, Row After Row) will make its New York Premiere March 2 – April 10, 2016 at Rattlestick Playwrights Theater. IRONBOUND is a darkly funny, heartbreaking portrait of a woman for whom love is a luxury – and a liability – as she fights to survive in America from award-winning playwright Martyna Majok. At a bus in a run-down New Jersey town, Darja, a Polish immigrant cleaning lady, is done talking about feelings; it’s time to talk money. Over the course of 20 years, three relationships, and three presidents, Darja negotiates for her future with men who can offer her love or security, but never both.

To cap off the first year at the McGinn/Cazale Theater, WP Theater will present the first-ever WP PIPELINE FESTIVAL in which WP Lab playwrights, directors and producers’ two-year residency culminates in the presentation of five brand new plays – written, directed and produced by the fifteen women of the WP Lab – from March 24 to April 23, 2016. As the artistic heart of WP Theater, the Lab provides rising stars in the industry with a vital professional network, entrepreneurial and leadership training, rehearsal space, and most significantly, tangible opportunities for the development and production of bold new work for the stage. The Lab artists featured in the inaugural WP PIPELINE FESTIVAL are:

Writers: Sarah Burgess, Monet Hurst-Mendoza, Martyna Majok, Riti Sachdeva, Susan Soon-He Stanton

Directors: Adrienne Campbell-Holt, Lee Sunday Evans, Sarah Krohn, Danya Taymor, Tamilla Woodard

Producers: Rachel Karpf Reidy, Pearl Kermani, Kristen Luciani, Liz Olson, Rachel Sussman

Some recent successes by WP Lab artists include: Director Adrienne Campbell-Holt’s theater company Colt Coeur’s production of Dry Land, by Ruby Rae Spiegel, earned rave reviews from New York’s top critics and was listed as one of New York Post’s Top 10 theater experiences of 2014. Playwright Majok’s IRONBOUND is a part of the 2015-2016 WP season, Lee Sunday Evans earned a 2015 Obie Award for her direction of A Beautiful Day in November on the Banks of the Greatest of the Great Lakes (New Georges, in association with WP Theater) and Sarah Burgess’s play, Dry Powder, is slated for the 2015-2016 season at the Public Theater, directed by Thomas Kail.

In addition to the two New York play premieres and WP PIPELINE FESTIVAL, WP Theater will also produce a series of events with other gender-focused theater and advocacy organizations, including The Kilroys (thekilroys.org) and The Lilly Awards (www.thelillyawards.org). WP Theater is invested in making its new artistic home a place where the theater community can come together to celebrate women’s talents and voices onstage. Details on these events to follow.

For details on WP subscriptions, visit WWW.WPTHEATER.ORG or call (212) 765-1706. WP Theater makes its home at the McGinn/Cazale Theater thanks to the generous support of The Royal Little Family Foundation.

WOMEN’S PROJECT THEATER (WP) is the nation’s oldest and largest theater company dedicated to developing, producing and promoting the work of female theater artists at every stage in their careers. WP Theater supports female-identified theater artists and the world-class, groundbreaking work they create, and provides a platform where their voices can be heard and celebrated on the American stage.

Founded in 1978 by visionary producer, Julia Miles, WP has been the launching pad for many of our nation’s most important theater artists. Eve Ensler, María Irene Fornés, Katori Hall, Pam MacKinnon, Lynn Nottage andLeigh Silverman, among many, many others, all found early artistic homes here. Throughout its 38 year history, WP has produced over 600 main stage productions and developmental projects, and published 11 anthologies of plays. No other producing institution in the country can claim this kind of ongoing history of advocacy and support for women in the theater, and we look ahead to the next generation of artists who will also begin their careers here.

WP Theater accomplishes its mission through several fundamental programs: the WP Lab, a two-year mentorship and new play development program for women playwrights, directors, and producers; the Playwright In Residence commissioning program; the Developmental series; and the Main Stage series, which features a full season of Off-Broadway productions written and directed by extraordinary theater artists.

Lisa McNulty (Producing Artistic Director). Lisa is about to enter her second season as Producing Artistic Director of Women’s Project Theater. Lisa comes to WP from Manhattan Theatre Club, where she served as Artistic Line Producer for eight seasons, working on more than 30 productions both on and off Broadway, including plays byLynn Nottage, Sarah Treem, Harvey Fierstein, and Tarell Alvin McCraney, among many, many others. Lisa has a long history with WP Theater. She was originally hired by the company’s founder, Julia Miles, as the Literary Manager from 1997-2000, where she dramaturged work by María Irene Fornés, Julie Hébert, and Karen Hartman, among others. In 2004, she returned to WP as its Associate Artistic Director where she served as the company’s casting director and literary manager and again ran WP’s Playwrights Lab. Her independent producing career includes projects with Sarah Ruhl, Todd Almond, and Lucy Thurber, all at 13P. Lisa has also served as the Producing Associate at the McCarter Theatre, acting as Line Producer on McCarter’s mainstage, as well as developing McCarter’s commissioned short series.

Maureen Moynihan (Managing Director) Maureen started her career in Chicago working for the Steppenwolf Theatre Company and commercial producer Fox Theatricals. Prior to joining WP Theater, Maureen spent over a decade working for Blue Man Productions in several positions including serving as their Executive Director for five North American Productions. Since moving to New York, she has worked for several nonprofit and commercial organizations including Manhattan New Music Project, York Theatre Company and the immersive theatrical experience Queen of the Night.

Selected through a highly competitive process, the WP Lab is the only program in America putting playwrights, directors, AND producers together in the same room. Providing both professional development and leadership training, Lab participants obtain executive coaching, make professional contacts, and receive training that proves invaluable to their development. The benefits of the WP Lab extend well beyond the two-year residency. Having forged strong working relationships in the Lab, both with fellow Lab artists and outside professional contacts, Lab artists continue to work together and with other brilliant voices in the artistic collective long after their official residency ends. WP’s top priority is to achieve a standard of excellence for these artists, advocating for women by producing stellar work featuring extraordinary talent.

For more information on WP’s New Season click here.

Playbill Features WP’s New Season!


Sarah Ruhl NY Premiere Part of Women’s Project Theater Season 

By Robert Viagas
and Michael Gioia
25 Aug 2015

Women’s Project Theater, founded in 1978 to develop, produce and promote the work of women theatre artists, has announced its upcoming season lineup at its new artistic home.
To begin a three year residency at the McGinn/Cazale Theater (2162 Broadway, at 76th Street in New York) artistic director Lisa McNulty announced that the season will include the New York premieres of Sarah Ruhl’s Dear Elizabeth and Marytyna Majok’s Ironbound.

New this season will be the inaugural “Pipeline Festival,” which will include five new plays written, directed and produced by WP Lab Artists.

McNulty issued a statement calling the McGinn/Cazale Theater “an artistic home for women in theatre,” adding “I’m thrilled for WP Theater to set down roots in this wonderful space with such a storied theatrical history, and to bring all of these brilliant women together in one season. Our upcoming season features such an exciting range of talent: from Sarah Ruhl, one of our most treasured and accomplished writers; to Martyna Majok, who is making her Off-Broadway debut; to a festival fully dedicated to new work from the emerging artists of the WP Lab.”

She said, “This is the essence of what WP Theater does—creating a theatrical home where female-identified artists are welcome at every point in their careers, a place where women’s voices are central.”

Here’s a closer look at the season:

Dear Elizabeth (Oct. 26-Dec. 5) is written by two-time Pulitzer Prize nominee and Tony Award nominee Sarah Ruhl (The Oldest Boy, In the Next Room, or the vibrator play), directed by Kate Whoriskey. “Drawn from the famed correspondence between Elizabeth Bishop and Robert Lowell–two of the 20th century’s most brilliant poets–Dear Elizabeth tells a tale of unconventional friendship and intimacy that spanned 30 years and more than 400 letters, with postmarks from Maine to Key West, from London to South America.” It will be performed with a rotating cast of “the theater community’s most brilliant and beloved performers.”

Ironbound (Mar. 2-April 10, 2016) A co-production with (and performed at) Rattlestick Playwrights Theater. Written by Martyna Majok (Petty Harbor) and directed by Daniella Topol. Described as “a darkly funny, heartbreaking portrait of a woman for whom love is a luxury – and a liability – as she fights to survive in America. At a bus in a run-down New Jersey town, Darja, a Polish immigrant cleaning lady, is done talking about feelings; it’s time to talk money. Over the course of 20 years, three relationships, and three presidents, Darja negotiates for her future with men who can offer her love or security, but never both.”

The WP Pipeline Festival (Mar. 24-April 23) Five brand new plays – written, directed and produced by the fifteen women of the WP Lab: Writers Sarah Burgess, Monet Hurst-Mendoza, Martyna Majok, Riti Sachdeva and Susan Soon-He Stanton. Directors Adrienne Campbell-Holt, Lee Sunday Evans, Sarah Krohn, Danya Taymor and Tamilla Woodard. Producers  Rachel Karpf Reidy, Pearl Kermani, Kristen Luciani, Liz Olson and Rachel Sussman.

For more information on WP’s New Season click here.

American Theatre Magazine Features WP’s New Season!


Women’s Project Theater Announces New Season in a New Home

Women’s Project Theater Announces New Season in a New Home
On the slate are Sarah Ruhl’s epistolary play about Elizabeth Bishop and Robert Lowell, and a co-production with Rattlestick of Martyna Majok’s ‘Ironbound.’
NEW YORK CITY: Women’s Project Theater announced their 2015–16 season of plays, which will run in their new Upper West Side home at the McGinn/Cazale Theater. Producing artistic director Lisa McNulty and managing director Maureen Moynihan announced the beginning of a three-year residency at the theatre on Broadway at 76th Street.

“I’m thrilled for WP Theater to set down roots in this wonderful space with such a storied theatrical history, and to bring all of these brilliant women together in one season,” said McNulty in a statement. “This is the essence of what WP Theater does—create a theatrical home where female-identified artists are welcome at every point in their careers, a place where women’s voices are central.”

The season will begin with the New York premiere of Sarah Ruhl’s play Dear Elizabeth(Oct. 26–Dec. 5). The play, which will feature a rotating cast, examines the relationship between the poets Elizabeth Bishop and Robert Lowell through letters they wrote to each other.

Rattlestick Playwrights Theater and WP will then partner to present Ironbound by Martyna Majok (March 2–April 10), in its New York premiere. The play follows a woman for whom love is luxury.

Closing the season will be the first WP Pipeline Festival, running March 24–April 23. The festival will feature five new plays developed during the WP Lab’s two-year residency. The artists involved are Sarah Burgess, Money Hurst-Mendoza, Martyna Majok, Riti Sachdeva, Susan Soon-He Stanton, Adrienne Campbell-Holt, Lee Sunday Evans, Sarah Krohn, Danya Taymor, Tamilla Woodard, Rachel Karpf Reidy, Pearl Kermani, Kristen Luciani, Liz Olson, and Rachel Sussman.

WP Theater will also produce a series of events with other gender-focused theatre and advocacy groups, including the Kilroys and the Lilly Awards. Details of these events are yet to be announced.

For more information on WP’s New Season click here.

Video: Martyna Majok on IRONBOUND

Exciting news! IRONBOUND will be featured as part of the WOMEN’S VOICES THEATER FESTIVAL. Congratulations to Martyna! Go behind the scenes and watch an interview with the playwright as she discusses her inspirations and process.

Video: Sarah Ruhl on DEAR ELIZABETH

WATCH an interview with Sarah Ruhl as she shares her inspiration for writing DEAR ELIZABETH.


WP Theater presents

New York Premiere
Written by Sarah Ruhl & Directed by Kate Whoriskey
Limited Engagement: OCT 26 – DEC 5

Full Casts Wall - Dear Elizabeth




Get to Know Kate Whoriskey

Kate Whoriskey
Director Kate Whoriskey most recently directed Lynn Nottage’s Sweat at Oregon Shakespeare Festival. Other productions include Ping Pong and Manahatta at the Public through Public Studio, Ruined and Tales from Red Vienna at Manhattan Theatre Club, How I Learned to Drive at Second Stage, The Piano Teacher at the Vineyard Theatre, Oroonoko at Theatre for A New Audience, the world premiere of Fabulation and Inked Baby at Playwrights Horizons, and Massacre by Jose Rivera at the Labyrinth Theatre Company (of which she is a member). Internationally, she directed Magdalena at the Chatelet theatre in Paris and Teatro Muicipal in Sao Paolo. Regionally, she directed Ruined, Vigils, Heartbreak House, The Rose Tattoo and Drowning Crow for The Goodman, The Tempest at Shakespeare Theatre, the world premiere of Intimate Apparel, The Piano Teacher, Life is a Dream, Caucasian Chalk Circle, Antigone, and The Clean House at South Coast Repertory, and Master Builder at the American Repertory Theatre. Nominated for a Drama Desk and Lucille Lortel for her work on Ruined, she has also directed at the Huntington, The Geffen, Baltimore Center Stage, Perseverance Theatre, Actors Theatre of Louisville, Sundance Theatre Lab, The Fisher Center and The Eugene O’Neill Center.

Get to Know Sarah Ruhl

Ruhl, Sarah- credit-Courtesy the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation

Playwright Sarah Ruhl’s plays include The Oldest Boy, In the Next Room, or the vibrator play, The Clean House, Passion Play, Dead Man’s Cell Phone, Melancholy Play; Eurydice; Orlando, Late: a cowboy song, Dear Elizabeth  and Stage Kiss.  She has been a two-time Pulitzer prize finalist and a Tony award nominee. Her plays have been produced on Broadway at the Lyceum by Lincoln Center Theater, off-Broadway at Playwrights’ Horizons, Second Stage, and at Lincoln Center’s Mitzi Newhouse Theater. Her plays have been produced regionally all over the country, often with premiers at Yale Repertory Theater, Berkeley Repertory Theater, the Goodman Theater, and the Piven Theatre Workshop in Chicago. In 2014 she was the second most produced playwright in the country. Her plays have also been produced internationally and have been translated into over twelve languages. Originally from Chicago, Ms. Ruhl received her M.F.A. from Brown University where she studied with Paula Vogel. She has received the Susan Smith Blackburn award, the Whiting award, the Lily Award, a PEN award for mid-career playwrights, and the MacArthur “genius” award. You can read more about her work on www.SarahRuhlplaywright.com. Her book of essays 100 Essays I Don’t Have Time to Write was published by Faber and Faber last fall. She teaches at the Yale School of Drama, and she lives in Brooklyn with her family.


Women’s Project Will Present 2015-16 Season in a New Home

The BIG + EXCITING NEWS is OUT! Women’s Project Theater will Present its 2015-16 Season in a New Home on Broadway & 76th Street

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The Women’s Project Theater will begin its coming season in a new home, at the McGinn/Cazale Theater on Broadway, at 76th Street. This Off Broadway company dedicated to promoting female artists announced its three-year residency at the theater along with its 2015-16 season, which includes two New York premieres.

“Dear Elizabeth,” written by Sarah Ruhl and directed by Kate Whoriskey, is based on the correspondence between the poets Elizabeth Bishop and Robert Lowell, and will be the Women’s Project Theater’s inaugural production at the McGinn/Cazale Theater. The play, a New York premiere, will be performed with a rotating cast and is scheduled to open Oct. 26.

“Ironbound,” another New York premiere, is a tragedy about a Polish maid living in the United States. Written by Martyna Majok and directed by Daniella Topol, the play, a co-production with the Rattlestick Playwrights Theater, will open at Rattlestick on March 2.

The Women’s Project Theater also announced on Monday that its season will be capped by the new WP Pipeline Festival, which will feature five new plays by participants in the company’s artist residency program. It will run from March 24 to April 23.

The three-year residency at the McGinn/Cazale Theater will be the company’s longest stretch at one home since it sold the Julia Miles Theater in 2011, said Lisa McNulty, the company’s artistic director. “It’s so powerful that there is a marquee,” Ms. McNulty said, for a company that is dedicated to women. She added, “That feels very powerful and appropriate to the moment we’re in.”

The lack of diversity and women’s participation in New York City theater recently led to an outcry on the Internet after the Manhattan Theater Club’s roster for its 2015-16 season revealed that the majority of its plays were written by white men.

A version of this article appears in print on 08/25/2015, on page C3 of the NewYork edition with the headline: Women’s Project’s New Season and Home.

For more information on WP’s New Season click here.

Watch and Learn Why the World Needs WP!

Watch it here! The 2015 Women of Achievement Awards Gala Video

Check out WP artists from the 2014-2015 SEASON and beyond!

2015 #WPAwards Coverage on the DAILY MAIL UK

Amanda Seyfried at #WPAwards

Amanda Seyfried is lovely in lace as she wears a mini-skirt to the Women Of Achievement Awards in New York City

by Ross McDonaugh

Amanda Seyfried joined a host of influential ladies at the 30th Annual Women of Achievement Awards event in New York City on Friday night.

The 29-year-old looked chic as she arrived at the The Edison Ballroom for the Women’s Project Theater event ready to honour some of her fellow females who’d had an outstanding year.  Read more here at Daily Mail UK.

2015 #WPAwards Coverage on THEATERMANIA

Tyne-Daly-2015 WPAwards-Honoree

It Shoulda Been You Star Tyne Daly Honored at Women’s Project Theater Gala
Tony winner Bebe Neuwirth hosted the annual event.

Women’s Project Theater held its 2015 Women of Achievement Awards Gala on June 8 at the Edison Ballroom. The evening honored It Shoulda Been You‘s Tyne Daly, Stephanie George, the president and vice chairman of Fairchild Fashion Media, and Procter and Gable North American president Carolyn Tastad. Read more and view photographs from the gala here at Theatermania.

2015 #WPAwards Coverage on PLAYBILL



HOT PICS! Photo Call: Amanda Seyfried, Thomas Sadoski, Bebe Neuwirth, Sierra Boggess and More Celebrate Tyne Daly

By Matthew Blank

 View photographs from the gala here at Playbill.com.

2015 #WPAwards Coverage on WWD


Carolyn Tastad, Stephanie George Honored at the Women of Achievement Awards Gala

Was this the official Tony Awards after party?

No. But that’s the type of energy that was whirling through The Edison Ballroom in New York City where the Women’s Project Theater hosted the 30th annual Women of Achievement Awards Gala on Monday evening. The theater company develops, produces and promotes the work of female theater artists. Read more here at WWD.com.


Jeb Brown


by Jane Dentinger

Plays about music and musicians are tricky things —- especially when the play isn’t a musical itself. It demands that the actors carry the beat in their bones, and the cast of The Undeniable Sound of Right Now does this brilliantly.

Laura Eason’s evocative play is set in 1992 Chicago and centers around the upcoming 25th anniversary of a legendary rock club run by Hank (Jeb Brown), a man whose great ear for great music has helped launch a thousand bands but has left him with little money to show for it. Hank hates the “retrospective” pieces about the club that are appearing in the press. He’s not ready to be a revered rock’n’roll relic. But his daughter Lena (Margo Seibert), who has all of her father’s passion for the sound, is also burdened with the problems of keeping the place afloat.

When her budding romance with a hot new DJ named Nash (Daniel Abeles) offers a way to financial salvation, Lena is caught between new loves and old hates as her father despises DJs in general—“A DJ is not a musician…Spinning records is not a skill set.”

Under Kirsten Kelly’s adroit direction, the play is funny, wrenching and right on the money. While set designer John McDermott’s rendition of the dingy rock club is so perfect that you can smell the stale beer coming off the floorboards.

And the cast is — well, it’s like a really great band! Jeb Brown and Margo Seibert, as the father and daughter who adore each other but are at odds about the future, have the ardor of a rock’n’roll King Lear and Cordelia. While Lusia Strus as Bette, Hank’s understanding ex, effortlessly conveys the humor and poignancy of a good old girl who may have stayed too long with the band.

Playwright Eason wisely gives each character their moment, their riff. So we get to hear Brian Miskell, as the bar manager Toby, profess his love for Lena even though he knows he’ll always be “a safe bunny.” Even as we hear Daniel Abeles’ Nash argue with Hank about the future of the sound. And even as Joey (Chris Kipiniak), the landlord’s son and greedy heir apparent, delivers the bad news about the rent.

The great thing is every performance rings true and is pitch perfect. The bottom line: The Undeniable Sound of Right Now rocks!

Posted on NYTheatreGuide.com – April 1, 2015

Featured photograph of Jeb Brown (Hank) from ‘The Undeniable Sound of Right Now’ by Sandra Courdert Photography

Introducing Lusia Strus

LUSIA STRUS: Makes her Women’s Project Theater and Rattlestick debut in ‘The Undeniable Sound of Right Now’.  Broadway credits include: Enron, Elling. Off-Broadway: The Retributionists (Playwrights Horizons). Other credits include IronboundGood People (Jeff Award nomination- Supporting Actress), her own solo show, It Ain’t No Fairy Tale (LA Weekly award Solo Performance), Hysteria, Our TownWhispering City (Steppenwolf Theatre Company); Commons of Pensacola (Northlight Theatre); Love’s Labours LostMerry Wives of Windsor (Chicago Shakespeare Theater); Henry IV (Royal Shakespeare Company); Big Love (Goodman Theatre/BAM); SLAVS!Go Away Go Away (Jeff Award-Principal Actress) (European Repertory Theatre) Travesties and John Guare’s World Premiere of Are You There, McPhee? (McCarter Theater) and many years of Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind (Chicago and New York City) as a Neo-Futurist. Film: Gus Van Sant’s Restless, 50 First Dates, Miss Congeniality 2, Stir of Echoes, The Secret (Best Supporting Actress, ljijic Film Festival), Mexico and independents currently in festivals – Kelly and Cal, The Mend, Cotton. TV: “Modern Family”, “Blue Bloods”, and “Wayward Pines”.

Featured photo of Lusia Strus in ‘The Undeniable Sound of Right Now’ by Sandra Coudert Photography.

Introducing Chris Kipiniak

CHRIS KIPINIAK: Broadway credits include: Macbeth with Alan Cumming (dirs. John Tiffany/Andrew Goldberg; Metamorphoses (dir. Mary Zimmerman). Off-Broadway credits include: Kit Marlowe (Public Theater), Charles Winn Speaks…(Living Image Arts), Nora (Marvell Repertory). Regional credits include: Huntington Theater, Lookingglass Theater, Arena Stage, Berkeley Repertory, Mark Taper Forum, Goodman Theater. Film/TV/Web: “Love Life” (also writer), “Deal Travis In”; “The Blacklist”, “The Good Wife”, “Delocated”; the web series “Real Actors Read..Playwright”: Save the World (Roundtable Ensemble), Iiiinsaaaaaaaane!, Change the Be, Stalled (Horse Trade Theater Group); Comics Writing: Nightcrawler, Amazing Fantasy and Marvel Adventures: Spider-Man for Marvel comics, the upcoming Behemoth from MonkeyBrain comics. Learn more about Chris at ChrisKipiniak.com


Introducing Brian Miskell

BRIAN MISKELL: Recent credits include The Hill Town Plays by Lucy Thurber (Rattlestick, Obie Award), The Aliens by Annie Baker at The Studio Theatre (Washington, D.C.) and The SF Playhouse (West Coast premiere), Eightythree Down (Horse Trade; NY Innovative Theatre Nomination), Barn (Rising Phoenix Rep), Home Universe (Columbia Stages), The Un-Marrying Project (Purple Rep), and The Sunken Living Room (Theater 80). A company member with Rising Phoenix Rep., Brian studied at the Lee Strasberg Institute and graduated from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. Upcoming at Rattlestick Playwrights Theater in May 2015: Afghanistan Zimbabwe America Kuwait written and directed by Daniel Talbott.  Learn more about Brian at BrianMiskell.com.

Featured photo of Brian Miskell in ‘The Undeniable Sound of Right Now’ by Sandra Coudert Photography.


Jeb Brown and Margo Seibert in The Undeniable Sound of Right Now

Talkin Broadway

Theatre Review by Matthew Murray

The Undeniable Sound of Right Now

No visionary lasts forever. Take, for example, Hank, the Chicago bar owner at the center of Laura Eason’s new play at Rattlestick Playwrights Theater, The Undeniable Sound of Right Now. In his ’60s and ’70s heyday, he launched and/or transformed more bands than anyone can count. But now it’s 1992 and he’s struggled at finding the types of new voices and sounds that once defined his starmaker career. The business is on the outs and under constant threat from the building’s lease holder, and, of all things, DJs have begun cutting in on his clientele, their remixes and spinning sessions not the kind of cutting edge he wants to risk his own blood on. Can’t things just go on until they go out naturally?

Nope. In telling her story about a fundamental shift in the ethos of popular music, Eason, best known in New York for writing Sex With Strangers, which premiered at Second Stage last year, reinforces the sobering notion that even progress has a limited lifespan. Hank is so committed to always doing the next thing — he loathes nostalgia and rants endlessly about a recent backward-glancing newspaper profile — that he’s lost his ability to determine what the next thing is. So when it arrives in the form of Nash (Daniel Abeles), a hot up-and-coming warehouse DJ who fall’s for Hank’s daughter Lena (Margo Seibert) and cut his teeth and his love for music at Hank’s once upon a time, his first instinct is to reject and run.

Eason spends most of her 95-minute play showing why that’s perhaps not the wisest response, and why “change or die” may be the blade that kills long-time survivor Hank professionally. She does this with skill and clarity, even if the “villain,” Joey Kaczmarek (Chris Kipiniak), the no-nonsense son of the once-upon-a-time agreeable landlord, is sketched with strokes a bit too broad (he offers to cut a deal for the building if Lena will sleep with him, among other things). But the play is essentially excitement-free; there’s not a lot of suspense to elicit from the situation, as the dramatic deck is constantly stacked in one direction, and possessing even a cursory knowledge of the rock scene in the last 20 years is enough for you to know who won the fight in real life.

More engaging are the interpersonal stories behind the scenes that describe the price of obstinacy from multiple viewpoints: Lena trying to juggle a relationship with the aggressively ambitious Nash over her father’s disapproval; the attempts of Hank’s ex-wife, Bette (Lusia Strus), to remain a part of his and Lena’s life even after she moves out of their home; low-rung employee Toby (Brian Miskell) pining away for Lena, even as it becomes increasingly clear their one-time thing will not become permanent; and the offstage scuffling between Joey and his father (whom we don’t meet) about the outcome of Hank’s establishment, another instance of the way the tensions between the past and the future bleed into these people’s everyday existence.

Kirsten Kelly’s staging on John McDermott’s excellent, comfortably cluttered backroom-bar set is sure if seldom rich, and the actors have dug deep to find the most heated passions and short fuses that will help things spark to life. Seibert, who made a splash last year starring in the Broadway musical Rocky, does the best, making Lena immensely likable but also unforgiving (she’s quite obviously Hank’s daughter). But everyone except Kipiniak (he tries his best, but is unable to escape the confines of Joey’s schematic writing) is terrific at letting us see how their characters toe the line between the ever-shifting definitions of alternative and mainstream, in their work and their emotional lives.

It’s a difficult dance, to be certain, and not one without casualties; Eason makes abundantly clear that every decision everyone makes has a cost, something that proves to be good fuel for getting the play past the duller moments that are concerned with facts we can ignore (even if the people onstage can’t). That’s why, on some level, it doesn’t much matter that so little in The Undeniable Sound of Right Now is new. Change is the only thing that stays the same from era to era, and we always have to cope with it even if the most eagle-eyed among us can’t see it coming (and they often can’t), and Eason’s play points the way to, if nothing else, a strategy for making the best of a situation that’s rarely what anyone involved wants.

Posted on TalkinBroadway.com – April 2, 2015

Featured photograph from ‘The Undeniable Sound of Right Now’ by Sandra Courdert Photography


The New Yorker


A “Cherry Orchard” for the indie-rock crowd, Laura Eason’s new play, set in 1992, finds a grizzled rocker named Hank (Jeb Brown) and his nubile daughter, Lena (Margo Seibert), clinging to their grimy, imperilled Chicago club. (John McDermott’s set is a dingy knockout.) Lena is tempted by rave music—and by Nash (Daniel Abeles), the swashbuckling d.j. who plays it. Her dad isn’t swayed, even as he faces rent increases and a suspicion that the culture is changing, while his tastes aren’t. As in her earlier play “Sex with Strangers,” Eason favors oppositions—women and men, young and old, dated and new. Here, under Kirsten Kelly’s tentative direction, the parallels and polarities feel more schematic, the play more prescribed. But Eason, who used to be in a band herself, captures what music means to her characters, especially Hank, whom Brown inhabits feelingly. It is, Hank says, “some kind of magic.”

Posted on NewYorker.com – April 2, 2015

Featured photographs  from ‘The Undeniable Sound of Right Now’ by Sandra Courdert Photography



Final NYTimes Logo

Theater Review

‘The Undeniable Sound of Right Now,’ a Lament for a Dying Rock Club


“Flawless”, “Engaging”, “Superbly Acted”, “Sexy” & “Moving”!

Although no special olfactory effects have been employed, you can practically smell the spilled beer and stale cigarette smoke as you enter the Rattlestick Playwrights Theater, where “The Undeniable Sound of Right Now,” a new play by Laura Eason, opened on Thursday. Ms. Eason’s engaging, superbly acted drama takes place in a Chicago rock club that’s been in business for a quarter-century and looks like it hasn’t been given a good scrub since it opened its doors.

The set, by John McDermott, will strike a nostalgic chord in the hearts of dive dwellers of the 1970s, ’80s and ’90s. (It’s still a heartbreaker that CBGB is now a John Varvatos store.) The bar stool seats are more duct tape than vinyl; the windows have been painted black — sloppily — to block out offending daylight; posters from bands both familiar and obscure are slowly decaying on the walls.

We are visiting this grunge kingdom, ruled over since 1967 by its proprietor, Hank (Jeb Brown), in 1992, just as the grunge-rock tidal wave is breaking over the airwaves. Wistful references to a legendary performance by Nirvana (“Right after ‘Bleach’ came out”) are aired by more than one character. But while rock ’n’ roll still (mostly) rules the radio, dark clouds are thickening on the horizon for Hank’s Bar. The crowds aren’t as big as they used to be, and money’s getting tighter. Looming ahead is a 20 percent rent increase that Hank’s daughter, Lena (Margo Seibert), warns will put them in the red. Lena, who was raised by Hank in an apartment upstairs after her drug-addict mother departed, has recently moved back to help run the club, although she now has her own space.

Also trying to get Hank to understand that he needs to shake things up or be swamped by the forces of gentrification are Toby (Brian Miskell), the rock-dweeb who works tirelessly at the bar and pines hopelessly for Lena, and Bette (Lusia Strus), who is Hank’s ex-wife but spends most of her nights having her eardrums blasted out at the bar.

Ms. Eason, the author of “Sex With Strangers,” seen off Broadway last summer, draws an affectionate but unsentimental portrait of this makeshift family as it undergoes a period of sudden stress. The production, presented by the Rattlestick and Women’s Project Theater, has been expertly staged by the director, Kirsten Kelly. All of the actors inhabit their roles with an admirable ease, making the occasional formulaic turn of the plot easy to ignore, like one or two bum songs in a great set.

Mr. Brown’s pungent performance as Hank is the play’s heart. Although he’s clearly losing hope as intimations of his club’s mortality begin to sink in — he has to be reminded to eat, or his diet would could consist of whiskey and beer — Hank nevertheless remains loyal to the idea that animated his life: Music is best heard live. Mr. Brown, who has the grizzled sexiness of Kris Kristofferson in his prime, gives a laid-back but emotionally resonant performance that’s pretty much flawless. (He even plays a good electric guitar, recalling a duet he performed with Stevie Nicks one night at the club.)

Hank flares up into righteous anger when he discovers that Lena has been hanging out with — well, dating — a young D.J. named Nash (Daniel Abeles, suitably brash). The rise of electronic music and rave culture has begun to percolate, and Hank naturally sees it as an abomination. “I hate the whole scene,” he growls at Nash when they meet. “It’s processed. Packaged. Soulless.”But Hank’s antipathy to Nash has deeper roots in his protective affection for Lena. With the one constant in his life — his club — on the verge of extinction, Hank feels more acutely the painful possibility of losing his close connection to his daughter. In one of the play’s most moving speeches, delivered with raw simplicity by Mr. Brown, Hank reveals to Lena just how central his love for her has been.“I keep thinking I’ll get over it,” he says of the crushing burden of his affection. “For years, I’ve been hoping, O.K., when she can sit up, I’m not going to be so attached. O.K., when she can talk, when she can walk, O.K., when she’s 10 and like a little person, I will not feel this.”

But feel it he still does, and Lena, too, harbors a deep loyalty to her father, rendered with gentle grace by Ms. Seibert, tinged with exasperation at his resistance to change. Yet Ms. Seibert also transmits Lena’s germinating feelings for Nash, and her excitement at the possibility that the empty warehouse space next door might be used for a rave night that could help right the bar’s fortunes — an idea that, naturally, causes Hank to reach for the whiskey.

Mr. Miskell’s put-upon Toby exudes a mousy charm as he grouses about Lena’s new boyfriend. And Ms. Strus gives a wonderfully warm and lived-in performance as Bette, her smoky rasp and luminous beauty only slightly weathered by the years. Bette is less wistful than Hank about the passing of her woolly bohemian days. In one of the wry observations that season Ms. Eason’s gently nostalgic play, she recalls, “I vowed to myself that at a certain age, no matter how far out I had to move, no matter how square a place I had to live, I was not going to the laundromat anymore.”

Posted on NYTimes.com – April 3, 2015 

Featured photograph from ‘The Undeniable Sound of Right Now’ by Sandra Courdert Photography



The Undeniable Sound of Right Now


Being legendary? Good. Being relevant? Priceless.

Ask Hank, the shaggy Chicago club owner in Laura Eason’s likable play “The Undeniable Sound of Right Now.”

A nimble-fingered guitarist in his own right, Hank’s famous for launching kickass rock bands for 25 years. The tales he’s told are as worn out as the taped-up bar stools in director Kirsten Kelly’s fine-tuned production.

But now it’s 1992. Times change. Tastes in music change. House music and deejays are elbowing out live rockers. More change is on the way.

So it’s looking like last call for Hank and company, including his devoted daughter, Lena. They love each other, but have opposing visions of the future. As expertly played by both Jeb Brown and Margot Seibert, the relationship gives the story a steady heartbeat.

An echo of Eason’s play “Sex With Strangers” emerges in Lena’s attraction to Nash, a deejay with dreams who may not be trustworty. Daniel Abeles plays him with swagger and sweetness.

Luisa Strus, Brian Miskell and Chris Kipiniak lend strong support as Hank’s earthy ex, a heartsick bar manager and a grasping landlord.

The play strikes familiar notes. But like a vintage Fender, it still plays.

By Joe Dziemianowicz

Posted on the NY DAILY NEWS – April 2, 2015 

Featured photo by Sandra Courdert

Introducing Daniel Abeles

DANIEL ABELES: On stage credits include Rattlestick: Where We’re Born (Lucy Thurber Hilltown Plays); Wyoming (Lesser America), reasons to be pretty (Philadelphia Theater Company),  Offices (Atlantic Theater Company), Helping People (IRT), Squealer (Lesser America), Too Much Too Soon (Lesser America), Keep Your Baggage With You… (TNC), Too Little Too Late (HERE), The Gnadiges Fraulein (Provincetown), and The Comedy of Errors (Lake George). TV credits include: Forever, Elementary, Smash (recurring), Law & Order, and Wallflowers (recurring). Film credits include: Seattle Road, You Bury Your Own, Son of Mourning, and Gasoline. Dan attended NYU Tisch and is a founding member and producing director of Lesser America, an ensemble of renegade artists dedicated to smart, quality entertainment that puts the audience first, fulfilling the promise of affordable, accessible theater for the 21st century.

Featured photo of Daniel Abeles in ‘The Undeniable Sound of Right Now’ by Sandra Coudert Photography.

Introducing Margo Seibert

“A star is born here in the work of Margo Seibert” – Times Sq. Chronicle

MARGO SEIBERT most recently made her Broadway debut as Adrian in ROCKY. Off Broadway: Tamar of the River. (Drama Desk Nom., Prospect Theatre Co.), Saturday Night (at the York). Regional: Candide (Goodman Theatre/ Shakespeare Theatre Co.), In This House, Anne Washburn’s Orestes: A Tragic Romp (Two River Theatre Co.), Arcadia (Folger Theatre), The Boy Detective Fails (Signature Theatre), Next to Normal, Pregnancy Pact (Weston Playhouse), as well as new work development at The Public, MTC, Playwrights Horizons, the O’Neill, New Dramatists and NAMT. TV credits include Boardwalk Empire. To learn more about Margo, visit MargoSeibert.com and follow her on Twitter: @Margo_Seibert.

Read about Margo joining the cast: Margo Seibert Cast in World Premiere of The Undeniable Sound of Right Now – Theater News – Feb 17, 2015

Featured photo of Margo Seibert in The Undeniable Sound of Right Now by Sandra Coudert Photography.

Introducing Jeb Brown

JEB BROWN recently originated the role of legendary pop/rock leisure suit Don Kirshner in the Tony award winning Beautiful – The Carole King Musical.  Other Broadway credits include: Spider-Man: Turn Off the DarkTime Stands StillHigh FidelityRing of FireAidaI’m Not RappaportGrease, Bring Back Birdie, and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. Off-Broadway credits include: Romantic PoetryGame Show. Regional credits include: Steppenwolf, McCarter, Old Globe, Actors Theatre of Louisville, Dallas Theatre Center, Kennedy Center, Ford’s Theatre, Coconut Grove, Hartford Theatreworks, and Paper Mill. TV credits include: “Law and Order: SVU,” “Star Trek: DS9,” and so many in between. Film credits include: The Dictator, Salt, The NamesakeRenaissance Man, and I’ll Do Anything. He is co-Founder of LA’s award-winning Evidence Room Theatre Project. Jeb is graduate of Yale University, has played in several bands, and the proud family man.

Read an interview with Jeb in the The New York Times: Memories of a Kid on a Hot Tin Roof.

Featured photo of Jeb Brown in The Undeniable Sound of Right Now by Sandra Coudert Photography.

theINTERNVAL: A chat with Laura Eason Writer. Director. Mother. Insomniac.

“I feel like if you’re talking about theatre’s with subscription audiences, the best thing would be for audience members, subscribers, to call and write the artistic directors and say, “We want more plays be women.” – Laura Eason on the future of theater…

Celebrated writer Laura Eason talks with ‘the Interval’. Her new play THE UNDENIABLE SOUND OF RIGHT NOW, presented by Women’s Project Theater & Rattlestick Playwrights Theater: http://bit.ly/theintsle

Introducing #USORN director Kirsten Kelly….

KIRSTEN KELLY  is a theatre director, educator and documentary filmmaker. Recent credits include Macbeth at Chicago Shakespeare Theater.  Kirsten is the creator of CPS Shakespeare! and was just awarded the President’s 2014 Award for Youth Programs in the Arts & Humanities at a ceremony at the White House with First Lady Michelle Obama.  New York theatre credits include shows for The Shakespeare Society, Roots&Branches Theatre (an intergenerational theatre company), Rattlestick Playwrights Theater and Piece by Piece Productions (off-Broadway), Rising Phoenix Rep, The Juilliard School and Lincoln Center. Kirsten also directed Big Love in Washington D.C. (Helen Hayes nomination for Best Direction), and the D.C. premieres of The Clockmaker and Boy Gets Girl by Rebecca Gillman (Helen Hayes Nomination, Best Direction) as well as the Midwest/Chicago premiere of Mamet’s Boston Marriage (After Dark Award, Best Director). Recent documentary film credits include: The Homestretch, a feature film about homeless high school students in Chicago Public Schools which was supported by the MacArthur Foundation, the Sundance Institute and will appear on PBS Independent Lens on April 13, 2015 as part of the American Graduate Initiative with Corporation for Public Broadcasting.  She is also in development on The Girl With the Rivet Gun, an animated new media film project based on Rosie the Riveter.  Kirsten is a Fellow at the Sundance Documentary Institute and a graduate of the Master’s Directing program at Juilliard. She is the former Associate Artistic Director of Roots&Branches and is a proud member of Rising Phoenix Repertory.  Kirsten directed for many years in Chicago and was the former Artistic Director of Strawdog Theatre.

Click here to read about Kirsten Kelly being honored at the White House.


Bright Half Life Video

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Bright Half Life Review: The New Yorker

The New Yorker

Now Playing:


In Tanya Barfield’s engaging new play, presented by Women’s Project, two attractive and articulate women (Rachael Holmes and Rebecca Henderson) meet at work in their twenties, date secretly, fall in love, have children, get married (when it becomes legal), fight a lot, split, and, separately, watch their kids grow up. This well-written portrayal of smart women finding, losing, and finding themselves and each other again, is profound, and…read more at The New Yorker

In her Own Words: Lee Sunday Evans on directing GREAT LAKES

Lee Sunday Evans headshot
Lee Sunday Evans is a director, choreographer, and WP Lab member. She is the resident director for CollaborationTown, and her work has been presented and developed at: 59E59, Sundance Theater Lab, The New Ohio, Brooklyn Arts Exchange, Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, The Culture Project, Robert Wilson’s Watermill Center, Dixon Place, LaMama, Emerging America Festival/Huntington Theater, Williamstown Theater Festival, Coatesville VA Medical Center. Read more about her

Can you talk about your history with GREAT LAKES? Were you involved in development at all? What initially attracted you to the project?
New Georges was doing this festival [JAM on Toast], and I said, “Kate, let’s do something together!” She sent me the script, and I thought it was completely interesting and difficult. I had no idea how we would do it, but I thought the language was amazing and creative. We submitted it, and we got a slot in the festival for a full production.Trial-and-error led us to the concept. I really learned over the course of the process that we needed more information about the characters than what was just in the text. We needed to see them, their behavior, and we needed to experience something visceral about them, but it couldn’t be in any naturalistic way, because that made the text feel flat. Kate and I spent hours and hours talking, pouring over the text, and looking at all of the details of how it was structured. Then we did staging workshops.

Youve touched on this a bit already, but can you explain how you tackled the intense physicality with the actors, and the process of devising it?
We did it on our feet, bit by bit in the room, through trial-and-error. It took us a long time to develop the first draft. It got easier as we went along, because we started to understand what we needed from the actors onstage and how it reflected what the announcers were saying.It also got harder as I learned that I couldn’t repeat visual imagery and compositional language too much. I really needed to keep reinventing the way that people were moving around onstage. I learned that the story of this play is made from the composite of the text and the movement. The text has a ton of interesting information, and the movement needs to bring what I call emotional physics. Emotional physics is not necessarily miming a task, which always feels flat and was never my intention. Instead the movement needed to be the characters’ internal experiences. In that way, it is a little bit like clown work, in the sense that they are wearing their insides on their outsides.

I know you identify both as a director and choreographer. What is your background as a choreographer? Do you view those as two separate roles?
I think of them in a very connected way. I actually started as a piano player, because my mom was an incredible piano player and taught me how to play for many years. When I was in highschool, I started training with these modern and contemporary dance choreographers and companies. I trained for awhile with a woman from the Paul Taylor company. I took a lot of classes with Jim May, who worked with José Limón and was the preeminent Limón teacher in New York. Modern dance is so expressive and rooted in people being able to express themselves onstage. It was so exciting to me and really shaped my sense of movement onstage.

I also had a revolutionary experience with a teacher I had at Boston University who was really interested in Grotowski’s work, and the legacy from Grotowski to Eugenio Barba, who was Grotowski’s main assistant. She studied with Eugenio and worked with his company in Denmark. I did a lot of wacky physical theater work with her, which was extremely influential; that is where the fusion comes in. I think there is always a disconnect between teaching physical theater technique and connecting with text. I found that a lot of people are inspired by what Anne Bogart has done with Viewpoints but don’t know how to connect that with scene work, text, and the idea of real people onstage with real problems. I’m really interested in choreographic principles, ideas, and systems influencing actors onstage. To give them permission to have a wider range of expression and movement than quotidian, everyday movement.

As well as a Mainstage Director for this season, you are also a member of our current Lab. What are your hopes for the rest of your tenure?
The lab is a great way to get to know my peers, artists who are in similar stages of life and have similar career and artistic questions. It is so lovely, the conversations that come up those few hours a month with the full group of fifteen women. That time means a lot to me and it is very nourishing and a release, in a way. We talk about things you don’t get to talk about in other places; you realize you aren’t the only one who is struggling with something. In my case, I am always shy to ask for help or clarification, so that has been really wonderful. There are all of these amazing relationships that form, and you get to see everyone’s work which is very inspiring. The other thing that I think is really amazing is that the Lab has this legacy of women who have participated; being a part of the legacy of artists whom Women’s Project has supported for so many years is really meaningful to me, and I feel super lucky to be a part of that.

What is a piece of non-theatrical art/media that inspired you recently and why
One of the biggest things that has influenced me is this documentary called The Century of the Self, made by Adam Curtis. It is a four part documentary that aired on BBC awhile ago, maybe 10 or 15 years ago. It completely changed the way that I encounter so many things. It is about the invention of public relations. It tells this incredibly story about Freud’s nephew who immigrated to the United States in the early 20th Century; he created an idea that people would buy things because of their desire, as opposed to their need. He orchestrated celebrity visits to the White House to see Woodrow Wilson, who was a kind of uninteresting, unappealing president. And It goes on to chronicle the impact of this all of the way up through the 1980s.

The thing that has inspired me about it is that we still take for granted how manufactured all of the information that we get from the media is. It has given me a perspective of how critical we need to be about what we see, and then what the role of theatre is in response, or in counterpoint, to that. The media problem right now is so extreme, and it is mind-blowing to remember that there was a world before public relations. There was a world before people had ever watched advertisements, a world before what we bought became a part of your identity.It is an enormous thing we take for granted.

What is your current subway playlist?
I have just been listening to Tune-Yards over and over again. It is also my pump-up music before rehearsal.

Interview by Lilla Goettler.

In Her Own Words: Kate Benson on GREAT LAKES

Kate Benson 4 cropped

Kate Benson is a writer and actor living in Brooklyn. She has had readings and showings of her work at Dixon Place, 13th St. Theater, Jimmy’s No. 43, and the Room at New Georges. Her plays include [PORTO], Lee Miller, Radium Now, and A Beautiful Day in November on the Banks of the Greatest of the Great Lakes onstage now at City Center.

You began writing GREAT LAKES while enrolled in the Brooklyn College MFA Playwriting program, correct? Can you talk about developing this piece in an academic setting and how it influenced the process?
One of the amazing things about the Brooklyn program is that there is almost no academic setting to it. All you do is bring it to class, and everyone reads it cold, and then everyone offers observations, and Mac [Wellman] goes last. My fellow students were coming at it from different points of view, so I remember the feedback being really helpful and encouraging the sense of play and what was possible.

Also, I was taking a class on Modernist Poetry with this really brilliant woman, Marjorie Welish, and we were reading the Italian and Russian Futurists, Ezra Pound, Gertrude Stein and [Stéphane] Mallarmé. There were a lot of literary ideas that were getting taken apart and getting put back together again. I can see in a reverse-engineering kind of way the effect that had on the play.

GREAT LAKES has a fun, almost meta-theatrical structure with a take on family holidays that everyone can relate to. Can you talk a bit about what inspired the subject matter and the style of the piece?
Because I was reading all of these writers who were making these formal experiments, I got inspired by taking apart something I knew very well and assembling it in a new way, so I could look at it differently and examine what it was made out of, like a dissection. I figured if I was going to do this formal experiment, I should pick something I know really well, so I chose the architecture of my family tree, and I picked Thanksgiving Day.

Once on Thanksgiving Day, I was grocery shopping in my neighborhood and I witnessed this great conversation between two people and one of them wished the other a Happy Thanksgiving and the other one replied, “You mean Happy Imperialistic Colonialist Genocide Day?” I thought, there are so many ways of observing this day. It is so difficult to undermine this pretty intense cultural tradition we’ve built. It is a creepy cultural tradition in a lot of ways: Why football on that day? Let’s watch this balletic representation of war, even though we don’t talk about our own wars, and we pretend that we made a peaceful entry into this country. I wanted to see if I could make this thing that we all know really well strange, so we can think about why it is strange.

In all of your plays you demonstrate innovative and highly theatrical style. Can you describe your overall theatrical vision? Or what you want theater to do to people?
Theatre to me is a little bit of a miracle because it requires a group to arrive somewhere together and experience something together. But everyone is free to—and has to—experience it differently. You can watch the same film over and over again in different settings, but you can’t see the same play over and over again in different settings. The particular audience has a huge effect. So I want to write plays that ask people to reconsider their own experiences. I want them to feel a little bit less lonely. I want people to feel brave about looking at the strangeness of this society that we’ve built. I want people to participate.

I understand that some of the theatrical and structural experiments we are making are off-putting to some people, but I think that’s a really interesting question to answer: Why?  Why does that thing make you feel left out, and why does that other [thing] make you feel included? I’m trying to make communal experiences for people where they walk out feeling like their own experiences are a little larger than when they walked in.

You initially trained as an actor and have worked as an actor in downtown theatre for a long time. How has your work as an actor influence your writing or vice versa?
I know there are many, many different kinds of performances that we consider theater, so I don’t believe in making hard and fast rules about what a play is. I know the theater contains an impossible number of permutations. I’m glad that I’ve experienced as an actor over and over again, “Oh, this can’t work, this choice doesn’t make any sense,” and then I’ve just been wrong. One of the things that you learn as an actor is the Beckett line, “Fail again. Fail better.’ You just keep approaching it from different sides until it lets you in. That liberty, that awareness that many things can work, and that freedom, is something I’m grateful for. I don’t feel like a play is this one thing, and therefore I must write it like that, and if I don’t I’m like a writer. I feel more freedom as a new writer because of that performance experience, because I know that almost anything can engage an audience if it’s specific and full in some way.

What is a piece of non-theatrical art/media that inspired you recently and why?
The visual artist Sarah Sze makes these highly obsessive, very beautiful installations with different objects. The first thing I saw was a giant waterfall made out of water bottles, astroturf, and tubes, outside of The Whitney during one of the biennials. I’m pretty obsessed with her work. I also have an embarrassing one, which is I am crazy about Jackson Pollock. When I feel really disjointed, sometimes I just go to the Met and look at the one they have there for awhile.

What is your current subway playlist?
There is a band called The Books I am really enjoying right now. Also on there is Van Morrison, The Philip Glass Opera called Hydrogen Jukebox that uses text from Allen Ginsberg, some Mozart,  Bach’s Mass in B Minor, The Beatles, and Radiohead, probably.
Interview by Lilla Goettler.

In Her Own Words: Kristine Haruna Lee (Gumbo from GREAT LAKES)

Kristine Haruna Lee plays Gumbo in  A Beautiful Day in November on the Banks of the Greatest of the Great Lakes. She is a playwright, director, performer, and founding member of harunalee theater company.

GREAT LAKES seems like one big Brooklyn College party. Can you talk about how you initially got involved with the project?
Kate and I were at Brooklyn College together, and she actually brought this play in, maybe, second year. We all read it as a class; I believe I played Gumbo at that reading, too. I forget which character Jess [Jessica Almasy] read, but we had done the play as a table read before— me, Jess and Kate. So when Kate came to us about this opportunity, that she was going to be able to do the play [with New Georges], we were so excited because Jess and I knew the play ahead of time. It has been really cool seeing it unfold from there, from that very first draft, all the way to this production at City Center.

Had you worked with Lee [Sunday Evans] before?
No, this is my first time [working with her.] I was familiar with her; she had directed something a friend of mine, Anna Greenfield, wrote and that was really great, so I knew of her but I had never worked with her before.

You just officially founded your own theatre company, harunalee, this year. Tell us about your journey with the company, artistic goals, and upcoming projects.
harunalee is a group of six people, including myself, who have been working together for four years now. Before we even named it harunalee, we had been creating work together, so this formalizing of the company was just putting a name on it. We all share many disciplines, some people are designers, photographers, actors, writers; we are all pretty versed in all kinds of disciplines and we come together and create shows together, experimental theatre, that I have written. So my text is the unifying element of the company.

We are putting up a show called Drunkfish Oceanrant, about a drunk Japanese fisherman in kind of a post-tsunami environment. He tells these stories in the style of Japanese rakugo, which is a really old style of one man comedy. Intersecting that are these wonderful, original J-Pop/J-punk songs that Katie Hathaway, who we work with a lot, has written. We are really excited to see that unfold.

What is the experience of performing in GREAT LAKES, taking a break and coming back to it for a production months later?
With this piece, it is amazing how easy it all came back. I think for everyone, it really felt like returning home to something. I think that is because the piece is so physically precise, and the text is really precise, too. Once we all jogged our memory and remembered those very specific gestures, where our bodies live in the play, where the text lives in our voice, it was like a machine that just got dusted off and started running all over again. I think something that has been exciting for me is seeing Lee shift the most minute things about the play: Notes, character, adjusting character, making things work even better, and her specificity in doing that is so exciting.

You often wear multiple hats in your own projects. In terms of GREAT LAKES, can you talk about the experience of just acting in a play with a more traditionally structured production team, and the difference and rewards of both?
Self-producing is chaos, it’s an amazing, beautiful, chaotic experience and, like you said, wearing so many different hats. With GREAT LAKES, it has been so wonderful to be able to focus on that one thing, to clear my mind and have the play be the only thing I focus on— instead of producing it, getting people involved, writing, and directing. It has been lovely.

What is a piece of non-theatrical art/media you are really into/inspired by recently and why?
The one that pops into my head is this exhibit I went to see, Robert Gober at MOMA. It was this amazing installation; whole rooms were transformed by him, so it wasn’t just these small objects in space but an entire room would be decorated and created in his vision or style. All of these separate objects in a room together were in conversation with each other to create a story or narrative. I really loved that; he had all of these severed limbs jutting out from different places, and then wallpaper that he had designed spanning up the entire walls of MOMA. These gigantic, really haunting wallpaper images of a white man sleeping and a black man being lynched. It was exciting to see something as simple as wallpaper, something that we put in our homes that is supposed to soothe us, that we live with in our daily lives, be so disturbing.

What is your current subway playlist?
I have been listening to this group called Metronomy; I’ve been really digging their tunes. I’m trying to think of their song titles, but I really just listen to their whole entire album.

Interview by Lilla Goettler.

Meet Lisa McNulty, Producing Artistic Director

Lisa McNulty

Lisa McNulty is the Producing Artistic Director of Women’s Project Theater. She has a long history with WP, originally hired by the company’s founder, Julia Miles, as the literary manager from 1997-2000, where she dramaturged work by María Irene Fornés, Julie Hébert and Karen Hartman, and others. Full bio here.

What is most theatrically exciting to you right now?
Well, first and foremost, I’d say I’m interested in producing work that takes chances. Work that combines disciplines, work that plays with form, language, and alternate modes of storytelling. I feel like our current production, A Beautiful Day in November on the Banks of the Greatest of the Great Lakes by Kate Benson, really colors outside the lines in a thousand amazing ways. Kate’s wildly inventive script tells what is actually a very traditional story – the story of a family holiday dinner- but takes it apart in a way that allows you to see the mechanics of family dynamics in every bit of its weirdo dysfunction. Also, Lee Sunday Evans’ production is just so vivid and contemporary, and as beautifully human and oddball as the play.

You have a long history of working with Women’s Project over the years. What is your favorite memory or funny story from the past?
I used to be the only person who knew how the air conditioning system worked at the Julia Miles Theater.  The system was really arcane and weird, because the building was so old.  You had to crawl inside what I’m sure was an asbestos-filled cinder block wall to get to the AC unit, and wiggle a specific button in a very, very specific way. One especially hot summer, we were renting to Naked Boys Singing! and the Stage Manager would call whenever the AC went out, and I would have to go to the theater, often in the middle of a performance, and would find myself squeezing backstage past so many naked men.  I would be pressed up against the back wall of the theater, as all of them squished their entirely naked bodies past me. It was the middle of the summer, the air conditioning was broken, and they were all very sweaty. I don’t know that that is my favorite memory, but it is definitely a vivid one.

How have you seen the role of a “women’s theater” change over time? What is different now?
You know, I have to say that I’m as interested in the way that the role hasn’t changed as I am in the way that it has changed. There is certainly a larger conversation about women’s place at the theatrical table that is happening, which is exciting. I, like everyone, was a huge supporter of the Kilroys’ List, and love the way that Kilroys conversation has been taken up by the field, and The Lilly Awards, and the way that they have opened up the conversation about how and who we reward.  There have also been some thoughtful pieces in the press recently acknowledging that the scarcity of women’s voices onstage is actually pretty shameful.  All these things are great. That said, when WP was founded, approximately 6% of the work being produced was by female artists, and in 30 years since, that ratio hasn’t grown or changed all that much.  Everyone understands that it’s a problem, but the actual programming behavior of the industry at large hasn’t changed. And that’s insane. It’s exciting to see this recent groundswell of conversation in the field, but I think there is an outstanding question as to how producers will actually turn that talk into action when they start to put together their season?  I gotta say, I don’t entirely know, but I’m really looking forward to starting to sort it through with folks.

One of WP’s most defining features is its Lab for Playwrights, Directors and Producers. What are your hopes for the lab now, and how is the function or purpose of the Lab different from when you first ran the Playwright’s Lab?
When I first came to WP, I ran the development group for Playwrights and Suzanne Bennett ran the arm for Directors. At that time, we didn’t meet together as often, it was a much more straightforward writing workshop for the writers and a developmental workshop for the directors, which was a terrific breeding ground for artists, and a place where I formed the beginnings of some of the most important creative relationships in my career.

That said, it has been exciting for me to come into this new version of the Lab that’s now composed of five directors, five playwrights, and five producers. I think we are currently the only developmental group which puts all three of those disciplines together for development and collaboration. This format provides such rich fodder for collaboration and conversation—I’m thrilled by the relationships that are beginning to take root.

My goals for the two-year program of this cohort is to have them develop projects in their collaborative teams that have a life beyond the Lab, and for each of them to walk away with a community of fifteen artists that they can rely on throughout their careers.

What was your first theatrical role, ever?
In our Kindergarten spring pageant the boys dressed as bees and the girls dressed as flowers.  The entire play consisted of the boys pretending to fly over to the girls and sit on our heads to pollinate us. I’m sure it was as disturbing then as it sounds now. I decided to be a tulip, because my friend Carol was a tulip, so I wanted to be a tulip, too. There are some really unfortunate pictures of me being pollinated by Cullen Buckland, while attempting a very, very unsuccessful curtsy.

What is on your current subway playlist?
The Serial podcast was my most recent subway jam. And I’m not quite sure I’m proud to say that I started a Serial podcast page on Facebook. I suspect that my next podcast rabbit hole may be to be RuPaul and Michelle Visage’s What’s the Tee? where it appears they just get drunk and gab about eyeliner and the nature of reality.

Last question. The New York Times has described the Women’s Project as “enduringly vital.” What does ‘vital’ mean to you?
To me, it means that we are creating work that people are interested in. What does ‘vitality’ mean? I suppose it means that, at 37, WP has reached middle-age and we are still in the game, we are still effecting change and making amazing things happen.

Interview by Lilla Goettler.

In Her Words: Mahira Kakkar talks Nirmala, her character in WHEN JANUARY FEELS LIKE SUMMER.

Nirmala Collage

The intricate nature of When January Feels Like Summer creates a complex reality with multifaceted characters to match. Mahira Kakkar plays one of these parts, Nirmala, a struggling wife and business owner trying to keep tradition of her native India alive while satisfying her own needs.

What has been the most rewarding part about this production?

I don’t know if I can focus on any one single thing. I have worked with Daniella Topol (the director) before, and getting to work with her again was a gift. I got to work with a dear friend of mine – Debargo Sanyal – and got exposed to three other super smart actors. I love that audiences responded to the character Debargo played with empathy. I am thrilled that so many people come to see the show. What really moved me was when some people who weren’t regular theatre goers came, young people whose story was basically being represented on stage, and they loved it.

What has been the most challenging part of playing Nirmala? 

I think finding her steel and vulnerability was challenging. She’s a stronger, smarter woman than I am, and so I had to think of her in those terms and find her. Playing opposite Debargo, who is basically a comic genius, is also hard, because I often want to laugh at the things he does, and Nirmala might not find them as amusing.

Nirmala gathers a lot of strength in order to manage a business by herself, support her brother, and care for her husband. Where do you think this strength comes from? 

Nirmala’s pretty businesslike and strong, yes. I think she feels she has to be – she has a lot of things to take care of. Duty and loyalty I think are important to her – more so than personal happiness perhaps. Put another way, it’s a kind of love that she might have grown up with – love as action, as doing, as being there when the chips are down – though I’m pretty sure this is my way of thinking. I know women like Nirmala who would roll their eyes if I were to use language like this in front of them.

How has your own personal background influenced your work in When January Feels Like Summer, since you and Nirmala both grew up in India?

I have had the good fortune to meet and interact with women like Nirmala, for whom family, duty and tradition are paramount. Smart, very capable women who choose every day to fulfill what they think are their responsibilities. I think mostly the accent work comes easily to me, because of my background. I think women like Nirmala exist everywhere in the world, in different cultures.

You’ve worked on some incredible projects in the past, both on stage and film. Do you have any advice for young artists looking to break into the theatrical scene? 

Don’t give up, have faith in yourself, take the long line, try and be kind to everyone including yourself, write your hate lists in pencil (the late Ms. Joan Rivers said that last one), work harder than you think you can, give over to this thing you love. Also, know that everything will work out and that you will be just fine. That’s my truth.

What’s the most valuable lesson you’ve learned from theatre, either from When January Feels Like Summer or even beyond?

I’m part of a great tradition – what I do contributes a little bit to the tapestry – so I have to do my work well, but also know that without other people around me, supporting the story, it wouldn’t happen.  I think I’m talking about respect for the artist/craftsperson in myself and in other people. It’s also really fun and joyous, and it should be. I think that that’s right, it is ok, warranted and necessary to feel joy in this often brutal world. Oh, and also to drink lots of water.

For more information about the production, visit When January Feels Like Summer’s page.

Director Daniella Topol’s take on WHEN JANUARY FEELS LIKE SUMMER


Daniella Topol, the director of When January Feels Like Summer, has given this play a world to exist in, creating a lively and colorful place true to Cori Thomas’ words.  Daniella discusses the creative process of the production.

What has been the most rewarding part about this production?

Daniella: Watching so many different audience members, of different ages and backgrounds, relate to this show. Don’t get me wrong – we had an amazing rehearsal process with fearless and talented actors and designers – but sharing the play with audiences has truly been the most unique aspect of making this play.

After the success of When January Feels Like Summer, how does it feel to have the play come back for another New York run?

Daniella: The audience reaction to When January Feels Like Summer the first go-round was so energizing, and there was a strong sense then that we were not done sharing it with audiences. But often you want a show to have a continued life and it just isn’t possible between wrangling actors’ schedules, theater availability, funding, etc. It is truly amazing that all of the key components have lined up to make this remount possible and that so many more audiences will now be able to experience this play.

What was your vision for this piece?

Daniella: When January Feels Like Summer is about change. About new beginnings. About shedding your old life, be it your boyhood, your manhood, your past marriage, your loneliness, your loss, your wrong choices. It’s about the ways in which the world around us can surprise us – be it the weather or the person that you are standing beside on the subway or a family member that you thought you knew well. It is about daring to transform. It is about finding meaning behind what we discard – the way in which we can recycle our life to find meaning once more.

Our production is fluid, surprising, honest, courageous. Cori has done such an amazing job depicting five unique, vibrant individuals with foibles and longings and artfully found ways for their worlds to collide. We think that this collision might be dangerous. But surprisingly, she finds a way for their collision to be transformative.

The play is about what it means to be discarded and then reborn. About intersecting lines and lives. About the complexities of how we love.

Where did you draw the inspiration for your vision?

Daniella: My biggest inspiration is living in NYC for 15 years. The ways in which our lives intersect with strangers in intimate and estranged ways.

What were some of the challenges of directing this piece?

Daniella: The play asks for a lot production-wise – there are many different scenes and locales, and we are working in an intimate space, so creating a production that moves swiftly from one world to the next with specificity and innovation has been our biggest challenge. Fortunately, the entire design team found innovative ways to address this challenge.

How involved have you been with the developmental process of When January Feels Like Summer?

Daniella:  I have been working with Cori [Thomas] to develop the play since January, 2014. The play had an extensive development life prior to our work together (she can fill you in on this), but our work together has shaped and deepened the characters’ trajectories and the overall arc of the play.

What has been your favorite moment directing this play?

Daniella: I love the climax of the play – the ways that each of the characters and their storylines build to a dramatic catharsis. (I don’t want to spoil the end of the play for folks!)

This is your fifth production with WP Theater, along with being an alumnae of WP’s Lab.  Can you share with us what you enjoy about working with our company?

Daniella: Working with WP means working with an amazing community of artists who support the work and ask challenging questions.  I am so grateful to have this deep and ongoing relationship with a company who embraces visionary playwrights like Cori and who finds the resources to realize their work so fully.

For more information about the production, visit When January Feels Like Summer’s page.

WHEN JANUARY FEELS LIKE SUMMER: Debargo Sanyal, on playing the beautifully complex Indira


Left to right: Debargo Sanyal as himself and as the character Indira

For seven years, Debargo Sanyal has seen the development and evolution of the beautifully complex character, Indira, in When January Feels Like Summer. His career as an actor is extensive (acting opposite of Robert De Niro is no small feat), and Debargo has given full life to this characterDebargo has graciously described his journey with this marvelous play.

After the success of When January Feels Like Summer, how does it feel to have the play come back for another New York run?

Debargo:  I am quite happy that When January Feels Like Summer has returned this fall. We had such a terrific time doing those initial twenty-six performances during the final weeks of spring.  The response to our run was so overwhelmingly warm and loving and heartfelt that we all started to hope that the journey with this production could somehow continue beyond that time. So, it feels really great that, after getting to recharge our batteries over the summer, we will be bringing it back to the stage this fall.

What has been the most rewarding part about this production?

Debargo:  There are a number of rewarding things about being in this particular production. One is that I love my cast mates– they are all such wonderful scene partners to play with every night on stage. Another is that I have been associated with this play/role for quite a while now, so it is very gratifying that this New York premiere full production is finally actually happening at all–especially considering that this play is very much a NYC play, set in the heart of Harlem.  Another major reward is the beautiful energy we get from audiences who are loving the experience of receiving the show as much as we are loving the experience of presenting it to them.

You’ve been playing Ishan/Indira off and on for seven years, both in New York and in Pittsburgh. How have you seen the character develop, both through rewrites and even for yourself as an actor?

Debargo:  I first played this role in the very first public reading presentation on September 28, 2007, right here on this very stage at EST, as part of their ‘Going to the River’ Festival…and then again, nine months later, on June 15, 2008, in the second-ever public reading presentation, which was at City Theatre in Pittsburgh, as part of their ‘Momentum’ Festival…and then, twenty months after that, in Feb-April 2010, for the world premiere full production back at City Theatre in Pittsburgh…and then, six months after that, on October 17, 2010, in a reading at the New Black Fest in Brooklyn… and then, three-and-a-half years after that, we commenced rehearsals for this current NY premiere full production at EST.  Every step of the way, there have, of course, been helpful edits and rewrites that have affected the development of all five characters in the script. Cori Thomas is a smart playwright, and she has been able to find great ways to clarify and streamline things in the story without sacrificing the unique core of what she had built in to her script from day one. As for me, personally, I know that I have certainly changed/grown/evolved as an artist (and, well, as a human being) over the past seven years–and I would like to believe that it has somehow resulted in a more interesting portrayal of ‘Indira’, a character that I have grown incredibly fond of.

What has been the most challenging thing about playing a character like Ishan/Indira?

Debargo:  Hair removal.

How has the experience in Pittsburgh to NYC been different? Either audience reaction, overall success, general sentiments… etc.

Debargo:  The experiences in Pittsburgh and NYC have felt quite different. Four full years elapsed in between our world premiere full production in Pittsburgh and this New York premiere full production at EST. In Pittsburgh, my four wonderful castmates were Gita Reddy & John Marshall Jones & Joshua Elijah Reese & Carter Redwood, and our director was the wonderful Chuck Patterson; here in NYC, my four awesome castmates are Mahira Kakkar & Dion Graham & Maurice Williams & J Mallory McCree (and now again Carter Redwood) and our fantastic director is Daniella Topol. While it has been a rather unique and unfamiliar experience to perform the same play/role with a completely new set of collaborators and with such a large time gap in-between regional and NYC productions, it has also, ultimately, been a valuable learning experience that has taught me a lot. With each new collaborator comes a new energy and a new way of looking at the characters and story, and that has turned out to be quite informative over the years. And, of course, the main unifying entity throughout it all has been this beautiful script (and its talented playwright, who I am very glad invited me along on this seven-year journey).

Ishan/Indira is a rather fiesty character with some great lines. Do you have a favorite?

Debargo:  I don’t really have a single favorite line, per se. I guess my favorite thing about almost everything that comes out of Indira’s mouth is that it is usually coming from a very brave place of eagerly embracing huge (and necessary) life changes at all costs. She knows exactly what she (and, sometimes others, like her sister) must do in order to find love and happiness, and she makes a very conscious choice to not be afraid to doggedly pursue this, no matter what anyone else may think… sometimes this lands her in humorous situations, and sometimes it lands her in rather serious ones… but, regardless, she always has the guts to really go for it. I genuinely admire that about Indira.

You’ve worked on some incredible projects in the past, both on stage and film. Do you have any advice for young artists looking to break into the theatrical scene?

Debargo:  Be unique. Be informed. Be personable. And have a thick skin (…that you, like, moisturize as well.)

What’s the most valuable lesson you’ve learned from theatre, either from When January Feels Like Summer or even beyond?

Debargo:  Life, like theatre, is a team sport. You could try to do it alone, but that’s just not nearly as much fun…playing well with others is much more interesting and enlightening and gratifying… and it does require more work sometimes… but it is usually so worth it (or, at the very least, it can make for a good story later).

For more information about the production, visit When January Feels Like Summer’s page.

Meet the Playwright: WHEN JANUARY FEELS LIKE SUMMER’s Cori Thomas


“This play, of all my plays, is the one I wanted to see in New York.”

Edited and Interviewed by Blair Nodelman

Cori Thomas is the playwright of New York Times Critics’ pick and smash hit When January Feels Like Summer. Cori joined me to discuss the success of her play and the world within New York that often goes unseen.

In When January Feels Like Summer, we see a whole world within New York City that is largely unknown to the typical audience member. How did go you about creating/representing this diverse environment?

Cori: I don’t think I ever actively consciously think about what I’m going to write. What I do is an organic representation of what I know and what I see and the world that I live in. Because I live in New York and I come from a family that’s very multicultural, I think it’s just the way that I see the world. Someone pointed it out to me that my plays always have these mixes of people that you don’t usually see one, on stage, or two, together.

The play covers a wide range of topics, from sexuality to race and even religion that are weaved brilliantly together. How did you organize the many layers of this play?

Cori: I wish I was a person that sat down and mapped out a play and knew what it was about before I sat down to write it. I never do. I have some idea or character or a line or something just pops into my head and I try to follow it as blindly as possible. The more I stay out of the way the better it usually ends up being. It feels almost like channeling when I’m writing. I listen to characters and voices, and I write what they say without judgment. In the beginning, it comes from some internal place. I can see the root of it.

What was the inspiration or impetus for When January Feels Like Summer?

Cori: The background of this particular play is that I was on a train and I was sitting across from two young African-American men and they were speaking really disrespectfully about a woman who had very bad teeth. They offended and scared me a little bit because they were using really harsh words and bad language to describe her as a woman. I went to turn my iPod on so I could just block them out. Instead, I listened to them, and all of the sudden, I started to be able to translate what they were saying. The language that they spoke, they weren’t saying anything bad about her, they actually were trying to express that they were worried about her and her future, how was she going to get by in the world, how is she ever going to meet someone. It was so unusual to just sit there and have an experience of taking time to listen to what people are saying instead of judging how they’re saying it; to try and understand what they’re saying and to sort of see into them. It was just a little moment but it just affected me very deeply and I started then judging myself and realizing that I sat there and made a judgment about them without knowing them or giving them a chance. Especially, I think, African-Americans and especially young male African-Americans, have this reputation in the world and are seen in this certain way in society, in literature, in drama. I think I’m trying in my own way to just see if there’s any way we can see past that

But it wasn’t a conscious inspiration. I think in a way, it made me question myself, made me question the environment I live in. I started thinking about everyone. You know, how you ride on the subway you don’t know who these people are and what they’re going through in their lives.

Which character was the hardest/easiest to write for?

Cori: I think the hardest character was Joe, the sanitation worker. He’s the least, in a certain way, complicated. I think the other characters were clearer. The two young men were the easiest. They’re the ones who spoke to me first. I just love them. There are some people who have been offended by them. They don’t understand that I’m trying to let you go through what I went through which is to be offended by them and then if you just stay with them you will grow to love them and see the inside of them hopefully and respect them actually. I really care very much about them, but also all of the characters in this play. Each and every one of them showed me their heart. It was always my wish that the audience would see that and care about them also.

How has the play developed into what it is today? Has it stayed mostly the same or has it seen many different evolutions?

Cori: The very original reading of the play was at EST seven years ago. It was at a “Going to the River Festival”, which is a festival of African-American female playwrights. After that, fairly quickly, it got accepted into Sundance. It was also in Pittsburgh. They have a reading series called “Momentum.” Then it got produced in Pittsburgh, at Pittsburgh City Theatre. By the time it came here it had already had a production. It had a really great developmental process. There were changes between Sundance and the production. And then there were changes between the first production in Pittsburgh and here. Here it is also now four years later and we’re in New York. It’s very intimate space here. There are things that could be very broad that worked in Pittsburgh that had to be honed down a little bit to make sure that it worked here. Different actors have different strengths as well. I try really hard to pay attention to actors because they’re the ones who are going to be saying my words and I want them to be comfortable and enjoy doing it. I was an actor for so many years, and I still think that way. I feel like they’re the ones who have to be up there. I respect that so much.

After the success of When January Feels Like Summer, how does it feel to have the play come back for another New York run?

Cori: I can’t even begin to tell you how exciting that is. There a lot of people who I know who said, “I really wanted to see it, and I didn’t get to see it.” I’m very proud of our work on it. I enjoyed the process immensely. I’m so embarrassed, almost. I can’t tell you how many times I came to see my own play. I enjoy it. I’m watching, because I like it. I enjoy watching these people there.

What has been the most rewarding part about this production?

Cori: This play, of all my plays, is the one I wanted to see in New York. I’ve had plays done outside of New York and three regional productions. It’s weird, because I’ve almost gone backwards. You start in New York, and then you go out. I’ve been regional, and now I’m finally getting to come to New York. In a way, I’m still very unknown. It’s very exciting to have a play that means a lot to me that I love and a production that I love so much being done in my hometown where my friends and family and people I know and respect can come see it.

What have you enjoyed about working with Women’s Project Theater?

Cori:  It is an organization I have long admired. As a woman, the concept of an organization that supports and promotes the work of women is very exciting. Especially because in the “real” world we don’t always get the same consideration. And the quality of the work is high!!! It’s a great company and I have been thrilled to have my work join their great oeuvre.

For more information about the production, visit When January Feels Like Summer’s page.

Artist Vignettes with SMUDGE director Pam MacKinnon

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Pam MacKinnon having dinner with Edward Albee.

We sat down with director and WP Lab alum, Pam MacKinnon, and asked her to share a few of her favorite things with you…

What’s your favorite NYC pastime?

Exploring different neighborhoods on foot or by bike.

Best neighborhood restaurant?

Picnic on Broadway and 102nd. Get the steak frites.

Cocktail hot spot?

54 Below or The Harrison

Theater that’s inspired you lately?

BLOOD PLAY by the Debate Society at the Bushwickstar and HIM by Daisy Foote at Primary Stages.

Who’s on your fantasy dinner party guest list?

Elizabeth Warren, Ruth Bader-Ginsburg, and a group of my closest friends.

What’s on your playlist for walking around NYC?

Beethoven quartets recorded by the Emerson Quartet

Dream holiday destination?

Easter Island

A quote you love?

“I am the earth mother, and you’re all flops” – from WHO’S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF?, playing at the Booth.

Pam MacKinnon’s won a Tony for the Broadway production of WHO’S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF?. She directed Rachel Axler’s SMUDGE for Women’s Project Theater in 2010 and is a WP Lab alumna. Pam is a frequent interpreter of the plays of Edward Albee. She also recently directed Bruce Norris’s Tony-winning CLYBOURNE PARK (Broadway, Tony and Lortel nominations for direction, Obie Award; Taper; Playwrights Horizons).

In Their Words: Meet the cast of THE MOST DESERVING.

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How do the themes in The Most Deserving resonate for you?

Veanne Cox: Well, for me personally, my whole life is driven by keeping the theater alive. And my character Jolene really wants to make art survive.  Life as we know it must have art to survive. It must be a part of our society, or we will perish.

Adam LeFevre: I love this play because it manages to do at least two things. It lampoons the way we relate, as a culture, to art, and that somehow art elevates us in a social way. At the same time it shows the real, emotional component to those who are driven to make art. Writers write, artists paint, singers sing, and those that have to do it for whatever reasons that are maybe inexplicable but have nothing to do with recompense of any kind, financial or public glorification… That’s an artist, you know.

Daniel Pearce: It’s about second chances.  There’s something about the age I am now, where I am in my life, and this character and these people in this play resonate. Ted has a line, where she (Jolene Atkinson) says, “Oh you know, you always wanted to be a rock journalist,” and he’s like, “Yeah… You know, imagine sitting down with Jerry Garcia, just a real heart-to-heart. I could still do that. It’s not too late”, and that’s what the play is about for me. “I could still do that; it’s not too late.”

Ray Anthony Thomas: The inanity of what the characters strive for, what’s important to them, versus the reality of the situation. It’s sort of an absurdist, maybe farcical take on it. I think Catherine has tried to write something that’s a little on the farcical side, not necessarily slapstick, a comedy of manners, I would say.


What do you think audiences will enjoy most about this play?

Kristin Griffith: It’s very warm and hysterically funny. It’s a truthful, joyous look at the kind of messed up way that we try to judge art, which you can’t do. You can’t put objective criteria on a very subjective thing. It’s hard to measure immeasurable stuff, but I think that’s a very human instinct, that we want to know why.

Adam LeFevre:  They’re going to laugh, laugh, laugh, but it is one of those fine comedies that finds its laughter in very fundamental truths about people.  To quote that famous esthetician, Homer Simpson, “It’s funny, because it’s true.” She’s [playwright Catherine Trieschmann] got this group of people together, each of whom wants something very badly and will stop at nothing to get it, and that’s great fun to watch people go about their schemes to achieving their ends, particularly in the kind of microcosm of this small town.  There’s great opportunity to make commentary about people and about art, how art functions and, sometimes, saves people. And, in other cases, it makes people mean and venal.

Jennifer Lim: Catherine’s written these incredible characters that are funny but also incredibly complex. They are all people who have very strong beliefs and are prepared to do anything to make sure the right thing is done, and I think that is something that’s very relatable.


How does your character fit into the comedy of The Most Deserving?

Veanne Cox: Jolene is a can-do person, but the obstacles that each person surrounding her gives her is something that anybody who’s ever run anything will be able to identify with, she desperately wants to succeed in something where you cannot measure success.

Kristin Griffith: You have a woman of a certain age on a journey of self-discovery on being able to do anything she wants without her husband. Although she loved her husband very much, but I don’t think she knew how tightly held she was until he died, until these things started loosening up for her!

Adam Lefevre: I love this guy! Dwayne is guileless, and particularly in the realm of art and talking about art that he has truly become impassioned. Irony escapes him; he is very literal in terms of the way he thinks, but he’s not stupid. There’s something very innocent about him, which is wonderful.

Jennifer Lim:  Liz is a fighter, and she’s not scared to be a little scrappy about it. She’s relatable. She’s a fish out of water, but she doesn’t let that stop her. She loves what she does, and she’s passionate about it, and she’s prepared to fight for what she believes in.

Daniel Pearce:  Ted’s British, so that’s just funny! I love anything eccentric, and Brits tend to be more eccentric than Americans. Brits have all these nooks and crannies, like an English muffin, that I love so much.  He’s a little slow on his feet and burnt out. He’s constantly getting befuddled, and that’s funny.

Anthony Ray Thomas:  Everett’s eccentricity, his quirkiness, the way he deals with people…he’s an outsider artist, who doesn’t see things normally.  He’s got a big heart.  Things inspire him, and he doesn’t know why.


This is your second play with Women’s Project Theater.  What do you enjoy about working with us?

Kristin Griffith:  I love the women! I love the freedom, and I think Women’s Project Theater takes a lot of chances in the plays they produce,  they are willing to push a bit into the audience, to challenge the audience.

Adam LeFevre: The work that gets done here is fantastic, and as an actor looking for good roles, it’s a great place to come.   The people who work here are so committed to doing good work and are so personable. That part of it is great fun, the senses of humor and empathy that any artist would die to have as part of…coming into that kind of an embrace.

Meet the creative duo: Q&A with THE MOST DESERVING playwright Catherine Trieschmann & director Shelley Butler

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Where did the idea for The Most Deserving spring from?

Catherine:  All my plays come from two places: a desire to explore a certain emotional terrain and a desire to try a new form. I wanted to write an out-and-out comedy, in the style of a wonderful artist like Alan Arkin. I’ve lived in Kansas for seven years, and I’ve always been tickled by people getting excited or angry about minor issues like library renovation. I thought it would be fun to take the sort of comedy and dynamics of small town politics and marry that to aesthetic questions that are faced by an arts council, who are tasked with the job of giving a living wage grant of the remarkable, vast sum of $20,000 to a local artist.

As the director, what’s your vision for the play?

Shelley: I wanted to create a really voyeuristic experience that takes you right inside the council, inside the private lives and bedrooms of the members. It’s a comedy that comes out of truth, and we’ve created a set and clothes and sound that is grounded and authentic, and the humor just bubbles forth from that situation.

What are the questions or themes The Most Deserving asks the audience to consider?

Catherine: The central question of the play is, “Who is qualified to determine what artists are most deserving of funding?” It’s a very tricky question. It’s not only a question of taste, like, “What makes great art?” This play focuses on who gets to determine what artists are funded. What makes an artist more deserving than another one when it comes to these decisions?

Shelley:  In addition to all the shenanigans that the characters get up to, pursuing what they want or vying for their candidate, there are also real human exchanges in this. It’s about intimacy; connection, passion, the arts, all of those things we connect to. Vying for what you believe in and vying for the arts is very important. There’s something about having a passion for what you believe in that audiences will connect with in a real way.

What do you think excites audiences the most about this show?

Catherine:  Well, first of all it’s fun, and it’s surprising. I think what I always long for the most when I go the theater is to be surprised. And with this play, there’s a surprise in every single scene. The humor is rooted in true human psychology. The characters are striving after things that we all can relate to, so humor grounded in truth.

Shelley: My favorite kind of comedy comes from defying expectations, and this play does that again and again. It’s chock full of surprises. Audiences are going to love watching how far these characters will go to get what they want. It all comes down to a vote and, like any great democracy, there are conflicting opinions, conflicting desires, and none of these characters are afraid to vy for what they want.

We’ve seen it with congress; people are willing to charm and coerce and sling mud and seduce to get what they want, and our characters are willing to do the same things.   This world, which irises in on a small town, but is not unlike congress or Richard III, or House of Cards, where the characters are willing to really go after what they want with everything that they have. The play is full of quirky, unique, surprising characters.

The Most Deserving sheds light on the politics of arts funding and the role of minorities and race. Do you think it’s easier to discuss these issues through humor?

Catherine: Humor is the great neutralizer, right? So it’s the ultimate coping mechanism; it’s what we have when faced with the dark and terrible things that happen to us. So certainly, it’s much easier to talk about race through humor, to talk about the politics of arts funding through humor… It opens up a space for audiences to see the more difficult, intricate issues.

What do you enjoy most about working with Women’s Project Theater?

Catherine: This is my third play with WP and my favorite thing about working at Women’s Project Theater is that the staff, across the board, is completely dedicated to creating the best theater possible. They’re attracted to risky projects; that are provocative, that aren’t safe.

Shelley: As a WP Lab alum, I know WP is committed to nurturing dynamic artists and supporting artists to deliver really important and delightful work. WP is making work that I want to go see, so to be able to be a part of that and make work for the WP is thrilling.

THE ARCHITECTURE OF BECOMING: A Discussion with the Artists

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Christopher Livingston as Dude in THE ARCHITECTURE OF BECOMING.
Photo by Carol Rosegg

By Aktina Stathaki, Producer

The Architecture of Becoming is a journey of discovery and exploration into the lives of artists and travelers who call New York home, and whose lives have crossed paths with the iconic New York City Center. The Women’s Project Lab Artists, made up of five producers, five directors, and five writers, have been collaboratively creating the piece for the last eighteen months, and now that we are up and running, I thought it would be fun to sit down with a few of my fellow “Labbies” and ask them about their sources of inspiration, and how it feels to move across different eras and characters.

I first spoke to Lauren Yee, playwright of The Shriner.  The Shriner is inspired by the Shriners, a group of Freemasons that inhabited New York City Center in the 1920’s, naming it the “Mecca Temple of the Nobles of the Mystic Shrine.”

Lauren Y: My piece, directed by Lydia Fort, uses storytelling and devised theater techniques to transport us back to the 1920’s and 1930’s. Two stories unfold simultaneously before the audience’s eyes: a girl from Ohio who moves to New York in the 1920s and falls in love with a mysterious stranger, and the young Kapowski a decade later making the same journey to New York curious to discover his past, which he believes to be hidden in the secrets of the Mecca Temple.

Next I went to Lauren Keating, director of The Art of Gaman by Dipika Guha which focuses on a Japanese woman who comes to live with her new husband in New York and aspires to be an actress. Set in the 1940’s, the piece moves from the realistic to the grotesque, and borrows elements from silent movies.

Lauren K: The Art of Gaman deals in two worlds.  A literal, linear reality and the impressionistic, fantastical world of Tomomi’s inner life.  I approached the piece like an archeologist.  I had theories about how it functioned and how to bring it to life, but ultimately the play was going to teach me as we dug into the piece with the actors.  At the end, the literal and the fantastical worlds come together as Tomomi learns how to manifest and own the power of her dreams in the real world.  I take a lot of inspiration from Tomomi, and from Dipika [the playwright], to honor the power of my voice and my vision in a world that can be inhospitable to dreamers.

Kara Lee Corthron wrote The Poetics, which is set during the heat wave and Bronx Fires of 1976. It’s a story of three outsiders who meet by chance one summer evening outside of New York City Center.

Kara: I was interested in exploring early hip hop because there was so much to discover before it became a white phenomenon. There was this whole “no wave” movement, between punk and new wave, and I wondered how I could bring that into my piece.  I had an idea for a black kid from the projects uptown, and a girl coming from the new wave school from the Village, which used to be a poor neighborhood. They would meet in the middle and have this sort of connection. There is another character who comes from a different influence, she’s more disco. We had a lot of fun playing with those external elements and then we grew the characters and the relationships from there.

It has been thrilling to watch cast members play such a wide range of characters over the course of the play.  I asked Christopher Livingston, the actor playing Marco, Jerry, and the Dude, to tell me about his experience embodying so many different roles.

Christopher: I love it! I live for stuff like this. I was talking to [fellow actor] Jon Norman Schneider about it and we were saying how fortunate we are to do a play like this. It’s not often that you get to be in so many different worlds and play so many different characters. You get the opportunity to do that in college but once you get out of school it just doesn’t happen. It’s not necessarily easy, but then it wouldn’t be fun if it was right?  I think my favorite character is Grande Dame just because she is so….grand! And some of the language Sarah Gancher (playwright of Grande Dame) has written is amazing. My favorite relationship is between Loco Loca and Siempre (Go Away, by Virginia Grise). I love the relationship between these two characters, I find it very real and also very heartbreaking.

THE ARCHITECTURE OF BECOMING runs through Sunday, March 23 at City Center Stage II.  More info at wptheater.org – we hope you’ll come check it out!

In Their Words: The cast of ROW AFTER ROW discuss their characters and the show.


How would you describe ROW AFTER ROW?

Rosie Benton (Leah): This play is very funny. Jess, our playwright, is hilarious. It deals with very heavy issues, but on a certain level, it’s just about three Civil War re-enactors who meet in a bar. The ideas that come out of re-enacting and discussing the civil war help the characters recognize things about themselves that forever change all three of them.
Erik Lochtefeld (Tom): The emotions of the show will surprise the audience, like a ghost would. They’ll come to see a comedy, and it is funny, but the real emotions and the real power and the emotional scars of the Civil War are still underneath.
PJ Sosko (Cal/General Longstreet): It’s sad and powerful and a little bit mysterious. I think it’s going to take you on a really wild trip.

Can you introduce your character and tell us a little bit about what happens to them?

Rosie Benton (Leah): I play Leah, a New Yorker who has recently moved to Gettysburg, PA. She’s struggling with her career and her relationships, and she gets drunk one night, closes her eyes, and puts her finger on a map, and it lands on Gettysburg, PA.
Erik Lochtefeld (Tom): I play Tom. He’s an American history teacher, he’s grown up in Gettysburg. He’s been friends with Cal for 20 years and has really identified himself as Cal’s best friend, and as a Civil War re-enactor. We meet Tom as he is beginning to question all those parts of his identity; his job, his family, and his friendship with Cal.
PJ Sosko (Cal/General Longstreet): I play Cal and also General Longstreet. He is a take-no-prisoners type of character. He makes no apologies for who he is. He’s sort of like a bull in a china shop.

What appeals to you about your character?

Rosie Benton (Leah): I enjoy the wild energy she has in her life. She acts and then thinks, and I’m sort of the opposite in my life. So I enjoy the wild energy she has, and her ability to grasp things, to take situations and make them hers very quickly.
Erik Lochtefeld (Tom): I’m at a similar point in my life to Tom. I’m a father now, and you reach a point in your life where your identity becomes more than just you. Tom is saying “Can I actually do this?”, and that’s where I connect most with him.
PJ Sosko (Cal/General Longstreet): I just love that Cal says what he thinks. He doesn’t shy away from his opinions. He’s a guy’s guy. I think someone calls him a “meathead douchebag,” but there’s a lot more to him than that. That’s his defense mechanism. And the events of this play really broaden his scope.

So you went to Gettysburg with the cast on a field trip – how did that influence you?

Rosie Benton (Leah): I got to stand at the exact spot where the union defended the stone wall and Pickett’s Charge came over, and you could feel it in the earth, in the vista around you. It’s such a beautiful place. As we discuss those things in the play and recall them, it’s so nice to have that visceral memory, having your feet in the exact streams they’re talking about.
Erik Lochtefeld (Tom): It was essential. Seeing that battlefield, seeing how vast it was. We also took a trip to the local regimental quartermaster, and we essentially met Tom and Cal, or very similar people, and that was unbelievably helpful. You don’t get that opportunity very much, unless you’re playing a real person, you don’t get the opportunity to meet those people, and we randomly happened upon it and it was really exciting.
PJ Sosko (Cal/General Longstreet): Standing in the actual footsteps where so many people died to protect what they believed in…there was a feeling there. It enhances your imagination. There’s a great line in a Kings of Leon song that’s “I walked a mile in your shoes, but now I’m a mile away and I have your shoes”. It gave us something to hold on, and it has stayed with us. Having the opportunity to do that is rare.

If you took part in a re-enactment, what part would you play?

Rosie Benton (Leah): I’d really love to be a nurse. I’d love to wear a hoop skirt. I think I became an actor so I could wear corsets and hoop skirts. I’m a little bit more of a homemaker, so I think I’d like to cook. Leah would be very disappointed in me for saying that, but it’s true.
Erik Lochtefeld (Tom): There’s a lot of statues of the flag bearers at Gettysburg, who I believe are not armed, who are just holding the flag, saying “this is my side” and stepping into combat. When they go down, someone else has to pick up the flag. I find that incredibly brave and moving.
PJ Sosko (Cal/General Longstreet): I would want to be on the front lines and leading the charge if possible. I would want to be there so I could experience that first hand. What that walk was like, what it was like to have the guns firing right at me, and to keep going. That’s where I would be.

In the spirit of the play, what’s your signature drink when meeting a stranger in a bar?

Rosie Benton (Leah): The fact that it’s meeting a stranger in a bar is a very specific drink. I’d have a dirty martini. There’s something very stranger-y about that. It’s a classic drink, and it’s delicious.
Erik Lochtefeld (Tom): Back in the day, I would have ordered a vodka gimlet, if it were summer, or a Makers Mark on the rocks to seem tough and cool. In retrospect, I would change that and make it a Dark and Stormy. I think maybe I want to be dark and stormy secretly, on the inside.
PJ Sosko (Cal/General Longstreet): I like fruity drinks. And I make no apologies for that. So I will walk up and order something like a pear vodka with a seven up, and ask you to put a little blow up animal in it, or frozen is even better. That makes me really happy.

From the Director’s chair: ROW AFTER ROW’s Daniella Topol on what it means to be an American and how we carry the past with us


What drew you to want to direct ROW AFTER ROW?

I love how the play surprises you; how in one breath it’s comedic and fun and light and easy, and then all of a sudden the bottom drops out and we realize it’s about so much more. As somebody who is in in her late thirties, I can relate to the struggles the characters are dealing with – what kind of fight are we fighting? Who are we fighting for? Why are we fighting? In a certain way, Row After Row is about our individual fights, but in a larger way it’s about what are we as a country fighting for. What have we fought for? Are we a union? How do we learn from the past and what are the seeds we’re planting for the future?

What’s your vision for the play, and how has the design process helped to illuminate your vision?

In looking at the play, we know that it has to be set inside a bar. But it also needs to expand and surprise us when we move into 1863. [Set & costume designer] Clint’s design creates the bar very realistically and keeps the action contained.  But the perimeter of the design is made up of the logs and woodchips that help give a sense of the world, of the depth of the history and the resonance of 1863. Therefore when I staged the scenes that take place in 1863 I used the whole expanse of the stage AND the log and woodchip area, so we get a sense of the fullness of terrain.  We’ve been really trying to figure out how to create a vocabulary that’s full of surprises as we shift from world to world, from tone to tone, from character to character.

What do you think audiences will enjoy most about the experience of coming to see the show?

Jessica is asking questions about our country, and what we stand for, and what the ground is that we stand on in ways that I haven’t seen in the theater. What does it mean to be American and how we’re carrying our past with us, and what the resonances of the Civil War are in our culture today. The freedoms we have or don’t have, or the unions we have or don’t have as a country. I think there’s a deep resonance.

What has your collaboration with [playwright] Jessica Dickey been like?

I first met Jessica as an actor, then I got to know her a playwright. We went into production last spring at Rattlestick Playwrights Theater on her play Charles Ives Take Me Home. I love Jessica’s vision for creating work, and how muscular and clear and innovative and visionary she is, and yet really warmhearted and generous and easy.  Our friendship and our collaboration is very much one of mutual respect and appreciation.

So you’re a member of WP Lab and this is your fourth show with WP, how has your relationship evolved with this company over the years?

It’s amazing! I was thinking about that, about how lucky I feel to have such a deep collaboration with Women’s Project Theater. To have such trust and deep familiarity. I’m just honored to be continuing my work with WP. I feel like together we are building a body of work. There is this incredible amount of trust between me and Julie and the company. It makes me feel very safe, that we can be innovative because we trust each other so much, and there’s an ease. I would say I also feel very lucky to have the design team that I have because I worked with each of these designers before and they have all worked with each other, so collectively there’s a real trust and commitment and loyalty that enables us to do our best work.

In the spirit of the play, what’s your signature drink when meeting a stranger in a bar?

WHISKEY! So everyone knows not to mess with you unless they really want to…

Meet Jessica Dickey: A Q&A with the Playwright of ROW AFTER ROW

Jessica Dickey InterviewPlaywright Jessica Dickey taking part in the 150th anniversary of Pickett’s Charge re-enactment, Gettysburg.

Can you tell us a little bit about Row After Row?

It’s a comedy about Civil War Re-enactors. I grew up in Civil War territory.  I’m from right next to Gettysburg, a little town called Waynesborough, PA.  I kind of grew up in those fields and creeks. I’m interested in the Civil War and  how it kind of lives or vibrates in us as contemporary beings. That’s where the play comes from.

What do you think people will enjoy most about the show?

I think they’ll enjoy the performances. These actors are really kicking ass. They’re funny and brave and fierce and earnest and  are really putting their hearts on the line and fully embodying these three people and what they’re really trying to do. The questions and problems and joys of these characters hearts are really being honored onstage. People will really relate to them, and they’ll enjoy laughing with and at these characters, but I also think in the end they’ll see themselves. It’s a great way to spend some time with the themes and ideas that are evoked by the Civil War. I hope that that helps us shed an interesting and new light on that narrative that we’re carrying from 150 years ago.

What excites you about Civil War re-enactments?

Before writing this play, really nothing! I now think of it as kind of this secret subculture. Once I started encountering that subculture, I felt an immediate affinity to it because it reminded me so much of theater and being an actor. By re-enacting or participating in something false, you encounter something true. There’s also some really juicy fun terrain. I found re-enactors to be warm-hearted, generous and passionate about their subject but also private and defensive about it in a particular way.  Again, it reminded me so much of the theater. And then I had the opportunity to do a re-enactment. This was the 150th anniversary of Pickett’s Charge. Through a series of coincidences and lucky encounters, I was able to meet two re-enactors from the South Carolina Second Rifles. They had an extra uniform and they invited me to join them, and literally snuck me in, so I got to do Pickett’s Charge as a Confederate.

What is “Farbing”?

It’s when something in your gear – it can literally be your eye wear, your earrings, your thread count – is inaccurate to the historical context. Even something about the way that term was presented to me – the comedy just kind of wrote itself, vis-à-vis the terrain of the re-enactors.

So you’ve now written about Gettysburg and Amish communities. Is there something that draws you to American subcultures?

The answer must be yes. I’m from rural Pennsylvania, and it’s sort of deeply embedded in my DNA and my vernacular as an artist, so when I write, it’s coming from that vocab, mixed and remixed. It’s interesting always taking a look at something very specific as a means of understanding something universal.  Amish culture, the Amish Project, re-enacting, the Battle of Gettysburg and Pickett’s Charge are these specific slices, but are a means of contacting and questioning and being in dialogue with something vast.

How have you found your whole experience working with WP?

Women’s Project Theater has been so great. I was thinking about the level of support, in preparing the script for production, has been so luxurious, and yet without any trappings of pressure, oddly. And I think that’s just because of the candor and generosity and natural charm of the staff and Julie. It’s been this kind of dreamy experience of having endless opportunity to get into the script, to work with actors and team, and really articulating the specifics of the piece, and being in dialogue with others about how to usher it through, how to really sculpt the architecture of the evening of the play. But all in this warmth and creative synergy. It’s really kind of amazing, and I’ve probably taken it for granted, how at ease I feel coming here to work on the play. I feel trusted and I feel championed and adored. It’s been pretty great.

In the spirit of a scene in the play, what is your signature drink when you meet a stranger in a bar?

I’m not really in the phase of life where I meet strangers in a bar. Truthfully…a Coke with lemon. Now I’m not cool, but its really true. God, I just love me a soda.

Trista Baldwin shares with WP’s audience the inspiration and deeply personal nature of SAND.

TB bw2

SAND explores the emotional impact of the Middle East conflict on a US soldier and two of his company members.  Did the war provide the inspiration for the characters emotional journey or was the war a fitting backdrop for the emotional journey you wished the characters to undertake? 

The war catapulted me into the play.  It was absolutely the inspiration.   Not the politics of the war, but the people on the line, the people we Americans sent to war.    SAND was triggered by seeing the first of our casualties printed in the newspapers.  I saw these photos of young, incredibly young, beautiful, handsome faces full of potential, full of a future that would never be.  I lost my brother when he was seventeen years old.  I think the photos of these dead soldiers hit that nerve, the nerve of my own grief, and sparked this play.  It’s a very personal play in a lot of ways, but it is absolutely about the war.

When did you start to write SAND and did the changing theatre of this war alter the creative process?

I started the play as the war started.  The changing theatre of war made me focus and refocus on the gut truths of the play, which are not about the politics or strategy of the Iraq war but about how we went to war.  What drove our country into this blind, naïve place where we thought this war was a good idea? Where we thought it would be easy?

As the war has gone on I’ve asked myself how SAND fits in to the larger social, political dialogue.  (What does SAND say about this war?  How is it saying something different than other plays?)  Every time, the core of the play answers, the core that’s been there from the start.

SAND is not about whether the war itself is right or wrong or whether our strategies are right or wrong, it is about the soul of our country, told through three souls trapped in a confusing, boring, sometimes terrifying occupation.
SAND explores what I think of as an American crisis of spirit.  There seems to be a hole in us, something vital is missing, or damaged, and I’m asking questions about that in this play.

Did you meet with returned US soldiers as part of the development process? 

I read correspondence from one soldier in particular that was influential to the development of the characters and I’ve met with soldiers at both ends of the war – the leaving and the returning from war.

You have an established work history with your director.  Why do you enjoy working with Daniella Topol?

Daniella is wonderful to work with for so many reasons.  She’s a great dramaturge and an insightful and soulful person who really listens to the writer.  She seeks the writers vision as she forms her own vision for the play and she really investigates, really gets in there and pulls the play out.
Daniella is wonderfully warm and open, even as she’s a force to be reckoned with.

As a playwright, what interests you about Women’s Project?

I’ve admired the Women’s Project for a long time. As a young writer searching for role models I turned to the Women’s Project publications, which inspired and affirmed.  I’ve admired the diverse and vital writers the Women’s Project has supported.  And I very much admire the mission of Women’s Project.  I think it’s interesting that even as more female playwrights are being produced and applauded, there still seems to be significant hesitation to produce inherently feminine work on a large scale.   So, there’s more thinking to be done, more work to be done towards theatre reflecting our society.
I’m thrilled to be produced by a company that I’ve admired for so long.

Playwrights often have many lives.  Would you like to expand on your career history?

Grocery bagger, bagel baker, bartender, clerk for a methadone clinic, literary manager, night shift clerk for a laboratory of pathology, Executive Assistant for a NY hedge fund and an Austrian transformer company, dramaturge, tenure-track professor in playwriting.

Care to share something utterly unique about yourself with WP’s audience?  And it doesn’t have to be about your life as a playwright...

I come from a pretty eclectic blue-collar place.  I spent my formative years in the country, on a couple of acres in Western Washington, near enough to a military base to get some odd characters hanging out in the woods.  My dad worked as a truckdriver, my mom taught preschool and there was always classical music blaring in the house.  I had a pet chicken, was raised an atheist and  earned to shoot rifles with my dad, who keeps a gun in the nightstand and votes Democrat all the way.  We went through a nudist period when I was seven.   We ate a lot of lentils.

The first writing contest I won was in second grade.  I won with a horror story.  It was the story of two girls trying to escape a horrible orphanage, with victims of the orphanage hanging in the trees all around as the girls ran towards freedom.

My first paper in elementary school was on the Khmer Rouge.  On the cover of my paper I carefully rubber glued photographs of skulls stacked one on top of the other.

I’m an optimist who believes in evil.
I love to cook.
I hate cleaning the house.

Saviana Stanescu reveals to WP’s audience her inspirations for ALIENS WITH EXTRAORDINARY SKILLS.


As a foreigner living in the US, how has your own experience influenced Aliens?

Well, I am myself an “alien with extraordinary abilities in the arts” as my O1 visa states, so I know very well what means to be considered an “alien”. For me this is a huge irony, because I actually studied here, at NYU (MA in Performance Studies and MFA in Dramatic Writing – John Golden Award for Excellence in Playwriting), I teach part-time at NYU in the Drama Department, I won the 2007 New York Innovative Theatre Award for Outstanding Play, I’ve had some significant achievements here, in the NYC theatre world and I feel that I am a part of it. It’s true, I won the Best Play of the Year in 2000 in my native country, Romania, and I was an established writer over there. I was even a host for a one-hour live cultural talk-show! So I had to start from the scratch over here, in my 30s: I had to live in small dorms with a shared bathroom placed far away on the other side of the floor at International House, I had to work hard on my English language, as words are a writer’s tools and you can’t really do your work until you feel the core and subtleties of a language. It took me a few years to “move” into the English language, to grow to “own” it, to play with it, to truly love it. But it is extremely important for me to tell my dramatic stories in American-English, to reach larger audiences, to make my voice really heard by the world. The sacrifices I’ve made are justified, I think.

I came to New York as a Fulbright fellow in 2001, a week before 9/11. Somehow I feel that I belong here, I don’t really feel like an alien, I felt accepted by NYC and I fell in love with NYC, so it’s a bit hard to see that it’s so difficult to be officially accepted. There are “little” things reminding you daily of your status. I can’t get to clubs on weekend nights because I don’t have an American ID with my birth date on it and I am afraid to carry my passport with me when I go out – what if I lose my purse with my passport&visa in it? I’m always worried when I have to travel abroad to see one of my plays performed in Europe and beyond – what if I can’t get back? So I had to refuse many trips and my career in Europe slowed down as a consequence. Today I got an email to be invited to a festival in Alexandria, Egypt, where a play of mine is to be translated/presented in Arabic. I am honestly afraid to go. What if I’m not gonna be allowed to come back to my New York? Stuff like that. And I don’t even want to mention financial issues…

I long for a bit of normality in my life and while I am officially an “alien”, that’s impossible. Despite my “extraordinary skills” in resilience, hope, ambition, friendship, love, and survival.

Would you like to share with WP’s audience the real immigrant story that inspired Aliens?

In Orlando, Florida, an Ukrainean and a Romanian got arrested for smuggling aliens under fake “aliens with extraordinary skills in the circus” visas. They created a bogus circus. When those guys got caught, the illegal immigrants received deportation letters. That is the starting point of my play.

All four main characters have been emotionally scarred by life.  How important was this to the development of the relationships?

I really wanted to write about people who have been alienated by life, circumstances, status, personal choices etc. It is important for me to dig deep inside people’s souls – yes, I know that “soul” sounds a bit old-fashioned in the present day ultra-rational cyber-clever media-obsessed pragmatic society – and see if they can meet on a profound level, beyond their differences in birth and upbringing. I wanted to write about people finding each other in a world that encourages selfishness and loneliness. A world in which you are surrounded by people but you feel so often alone.

My characters are two illegal Eastern European immigrants, a legal immigrant from the Dominican Republic, and a divorced American washed-up musician – all of them with their own traumas and resources for resilience. Paraphrasing Beckett, my characters’ refrain is: “I can’t go on. I can’t go on. I go on.” And of course I added a little love and friendship to spice up and help their journeys.

All characters have suffered in life journey.  Do you think the suffering has led to the compassion they show each other?

Yes, definitely. They understand each other on that subconscious level of people who suffered. There is solidarity between people with traumas, there is support, and sometimes there is even humor. And I like to show those funny and sweet aspects of life, as well as the bitter ones. The tragicomedy of existence.

I don’t like the stereotypical portrayal of immigrants as having exclusively gritty, asexual, humorless lives: work-work-work, make money, send it to families back home, have poor or no English. There is room for subtlety and complexity of immigrant characters.

Love seems to triumph in Aliens.  Do you believe this is always the case in life?

No, there’s very rarely the case in real life. All my other plays have actually dark endings, they are all funny yet grim “fairy-tales” addressing contemporary issues of displacement and alienation. But in this play I wanted Love to triumph. Maybe as a way to provoke it to triumph in life too :)
Plus, my main character, Nadia, is a clown, she makes balloon-animals and enacts little stories she tells to the kids at Birthday Parties. In her world, a happy-ending makes lots of sense … Immigrant life might be for Nadia a big imaginary tragicomic circus show

On a personal note, are you a romantic?  And what’s your idea of a happy ending?

Well, I grew up during Ceausescu’s dictatorship in Romania. I had to daily escape from reality using stories and imagination. I had to somehow believe in romance and a happy-ending, as a way to survive. And then, at some point, Reality stepped in and censored my romantic ideals. So I don’t know if I am a romantic anymore in my personal life. But nothing can stop some of my characters from being romantic. It’s me who decides what’s what. Finally empowered :)

As WP’s writer in residence, how have you found your involvement with WP beneficial to your craft?

YES, Women’s Project and particularly Julie Crosby have been very supportive and friendly to me. The environment provided by the Lab and by the WP community has been stimulating and deeply inspiring. I got lots of work done here, I wrote what I consider my best plays to the date: “Aliens with extraordinary skills” and “For a Barbarian Woman”. I owe Julie a lot and I will never forget this chance that Women’s Project gives me to have my work seen by the NYC Off-Broadway audiences.

Catherine Trieschmann reveals her thoughts on the emotional journey of the characters in CROOKED for WP’s audience.


The themes of power, love and loss seem entwined throughout crooked.  The power we wield, the love and loss we feel.  Do you think they are always linked?

In life, no. In plays, yes.

The Mother/Daughter dynamic depicted in Crooked is real and realistic.  What’s the significance of this relationship to the fabric of the play? No matter the mother, they all have one thing in common: the desire to control their daughters. This is a very easy dramatic conflict to tap into, because the tactics mothers use to “guide” their daughters are well-meaning but endless (although Tennessee Williams may have covered most of them). Elise, the mother in the play, is everything you’d want in a mom on the surface: she’s smart, fun, progressive, cool, but even she has certain expectations for who she wants her daughter to be, and fundamentalist Christianity does not belong there.

(I should note one exception, however, to the above: although all mothers try to control their daughters, my mother does not try to control me, as long as you don’t count the areas of home decoration, wardrobe, and hair color.)

All three main characters seem cloaked in an isolated loneliness.  How does this emotion help each character develop?

I think that desperation can breed intimacy, especially in high school. The two teenagers in the play are so aching to be heard and touched that they jump right on into bed together, so to speak. Much of the play’s humor is rooted in the fact that while we can recognize the only thing they have in common is their loneliness, they cannot. I supposed the heartbreak occurs when they begin to realize this, too.

Playwrights often have interesting twists and turns to their careers.  We would love for you to share some of yours with us.

The most surprising and lovely twist was the premiere of crooked last year at the Bush Theatre in London. Due to the play’s Southern setting and themes, I envisioned it premiering in Atlanta or Louisville; London never even crossed my mind. It gave me such a silly pleasure to tell the woman behind the customs counter why I needed to enter the U.K.

Perhaps the biggest irony of my career is that it started to take off when I left the East coast and set up shop in rural, western Kansas. You would think that would spell certain career suicide for an “emerging” playwright, but instead it’s given me something unusual to talk about at meetings: “You live in western Kansas, really?” And then the inevitable, “why?”

What relevance does Women’s Project have to you as a female playwright in the USA today?

Many years ago, a good friend of mine was starting a fledging theatre company in NYC, as post-college twenty something are wont to do, and I remember one of the first things she did was set up a meeting with Julia Miles for advice. Julia didn’t know my friend but she met with her anyway. She talked her through founding a company and keeping it afloat, but the one thing she told her that really stuck with me was: “producing theatre is really hard, and producing feminist theatre is even harder.” Not the gem of inspiration I was expecting, but perhaps the most truthful thing one can say about a woman’s life in theatre. The Women’s Project makes it a little easier for all of us. Thank you.

 And finally, a personal question, would you like to share with WP’s audience your favorite song? 

Dolly Parton’s “Jolene” is probably my all-time favorite, but I spend a lot of time dancing my infant daughter around the house to Alison Krauss singing “Baby Mine” at the moment.

HOW THE WORLD BEGAN Interview with playwright Catherine Trieschmann


The characters in HOW THE WORLD BEGAN have strong views and experience difficulty finding middle ground.  Why do you think people find it hard to embrace ideals of tolerance and acceptance of beliefs that differ from their own? And what attracts you to writing about the differences that exist between us?

Righteousness is a powerful thing. Without righteousness we wouldn’t have had the abolition movement, the feminist movement, or the civil rights moment. And righteousness depends upon an element of intolerance. The civil rights movement said: your ignorance and prejudice will be tolerated no longer. The tricky business, however, is checking ourselves so that righteousness doesn’t turn into self-righteousness, which is boastful and not conducive to changing people’s minds about anything. It is a very delicate line, whatever one’s cause, whether it be environmentalism, feminism, the abolition of sexual slavery or the advancement of Christendom. To disagree with your “enemy” and yet see the humanity in them, to allow them to be absolutely wrong and yet still view them as your equal is a Herculean task. I suppose, it wouldn’t be too far fetched to say that this task is central to who I am as a writer. I love creating characters with extreme positions and terrific flaws and then finding the humanity within. Frankly, it is much easier to do with imaginary people than real ones. At the end of the day, I’m not sure I’m capable of seeing the humanity in sex traffickers.

Having lived in the South, the Midwest and New York City, have your life experiences in these different places influenced HOW THE WORLD BEGAN?

Certainly I wouldn’t have written this play if I hadn’t moved to Western Kansas. While I was peripherally aware of the creationist/evolution debate, it was not front and central until I moved to Hays, where the first year here, I must have attended three different forums on the issue. What struck me about these forums was not the arguments, such as they are, but the characters, on both sides, who so passionately argued their positions. I became fascinated by what’s at stake for fundamentalist Christians in denying evolution, when there are plenty of Christian traditions that have no problem reconciling faith and evolution. I was also struck by the inability of the pro-science representatives to really hear and respond to the concerns of the other side in a productive way. I think it’s central to productive debate for people to feel heard and respected, and if that doesn’t happen, then minds will not change. How the World Began isn’t a play of ideas, in the tradition of Inherit the Wind; more than anything it’s about human psychology and what drives us to extreme ideological positions in times of duress.

As a practicing Episcopalian living the heartland, was it challenging to write a play that explores the more conservative views of other Christian traditions? 
Not particularly. I am very close friends with both atheists and Christians; conservatives and liberals. I’m a Democrat, but my husband is a Republican. I may be a progressive Episcopalian but living in the South and Western Kansas, I break bread with far more conservative Christians on a regular basis. I can’t post anything remotely political on Facebook without fights breaking out immediately. In some ways, having a foot in both worlds as I do, allows me to see both sides a little more objectively, which hopefully informs my work in interesting ways.

HOW THE WORLD BEGAN is your second play with WP, following CROOKED in 2008.  What do you enjoy most about working with this theater company?

WP doesn’t just support “the play”; they support the whole artist. They have stood beside me through good reviews and bad; half-baked plays and finished ones. If I need to hear a play, they organize a reading. If I need honest and constructive criticism, they provide it. If I need to be picked up off floor of discouragement and dusted off, they do that too. Every playwright should be so lucky to have this kind of relationship with a producing theatre.

How relevant is WP for early career women artists in the US and internationally?

It is essential. The WP Labs are so unique, because they foster playwrights, directors and producers. They develop work, but they also produce work, and there is nothing that grows a writer like seeing her work produced on a stage in front of live bodies.

And finally, as you have lived in both New York and Kansas, what’s one of your favorite day-to-day experiences in both places?

In NY, I love heading up to Fort Tryon park with friends, drinking these out-of-the-world mojitos they make at the little restaurant, and chilling out in the Cloisters for a couple of hours with a nice buzz and lots of medieval art.

In Kansas, I love taking my kids for a walk around a horse farm near us, where we spend the time naming things: gelding, goose, Elm tree, Mulberry bush, Cottonwood. It’s divine in its simplicity.

Interview with Gitta Honegger by Alexis Clements October 16, 2012

Gitta Honegger BlogPost

The writing of Nobel Laureate Elfriede Jelinek is notoriously tricky to translate. Jelinek’s writing uses word play and idioms that reference not only Austrian German dialect, but also the even more specific vernacular of Vienna—Austria’s capital and cultural center. Gitta Honegger has been translating Jelinek’s work into English for a number of years now, in addition to translating the work of numerous other prominent Austrian writers. But it’s not just Honegger’s experience as a translator that makes her a particularly apt person to tackle Jelinek’s complex writing style, they also share similar upbringings and a love of the theater.

Both women were born in the wake of World War II, into an Austria that, for them, appeared to be in a state of denial about its role in the war. During the late 1930s the Nazi party in Austria took over the government and very soon after that Hitler unified Austria with Germany. This led to one of the darker periods in Austrian history, during which some Austrians participated in Nazi-led campaigns, including the deaths of thousands of Jewish Austrians. Both women were also born into families that placed a high value on the arts, and a culture that demanded that they conform to very strict assumptions about how young women should behave in society.

From a young age Jelinek was pressured by her mother to study classical piano and Honegger choose at the age of 14 to pursue acting at the country’s national theater. Since then their lives have diverged, but both have maintained an ardent connection to the theater. Jelinek remains in Austria, and continues to write new works on a regular basis, despite suffering from severe acute anxiety syndrome, which keeps her homebound. Honegger moved to the US early on, where her varied career has encompassed everything from acting to journalism to directing to writing books and translating.

Alexis Clements, an alumna of the Women’s Project Playwright’s Lab and co-editor of the anthology of plays titled Out of Time & Place, sat down to talk with Honegger. They discussed her theater career, the ins and outs of translating Jelinek’s work, and why Jackie, a recent work by Jelinek that is receiving its North American premiere at Women’s Project this season, is a particularly interesting play.

Alexis Clements: I’d love to start by talking a bit about your own biography and how you came to do translation work. You started your acting career at the Vienna Burgtheater, which is Austria’s national theater. But eventually, you decided to move to the US. What led you to move here?

Gitta Honegger: I came here to research my dissertation about Eugene O’Neill. That was the time of the Living Theatre and the Open Theater, and I came from a very structured, classical background. So, to me, America was just great. I didn’t want to go back. I liked the freedom, also, of the ensemble work—instead of the hierarchy of European classical theater. And Off-Broadway was wonderfully experimental at that time.

AC: And then, as I understand it, not long after receiving your doctorate from the University of Vienna, you began working as an arts journalist in the New York City for a handful of German-language publications. Why were you interested in taking the job as a journalist covering theater in the US?

GH: American theatres, and the opportunity to observe the rehearsals and productions of innovative companies became my university. I got to interview, for instance, the Negro Ensemble Company, and then I went up to New Haven to the Yale Repertory Theatre, where [Robert] Brustein [founder of the American Repertory Theater] first did his work. I could learn about American theater from inside.

AC: So, very quickly you were able to immerse yourself in the theater?

GH: Yes. And I was also lucky, because at that time the Jewish émigrés from Germany and Austria were at the height of their careers—Rudolf Bing, for instance, was artistic director of the Metropolitan Opera. I interviewed him, as well as the editor of TIME Magazine Henry Grunwald, for an article about Austrian refugees in New York.

AC: That community of Austrians and Germans in New York must have been important for you. From reading about your life, I gather that part of your desire to leave Austria in the first place related to your disenchantment with Austrian politics and your rejection of the fact that no one in Austria was discussing what happened during the war. Which is an experience you shared with Elfriede Jelinek. She obviously stayed in the country, but why was it important for you to leave?

GH: Well, you know, America, at that time, meant openness to us, not this little country surrounded by Alps and nobody talking about what had happened quite recently. I hate to use the word freedom, because it’s so abused right now, but it offered a more personal freedom.

AC: It was a symbol, then?

GH: It was the idea of America that was so attractive.

AC: At what point did translation become something interesting for you to be involved in?

GH: I don’t know if you are familiar with the plays by Thomas Bernhard. He was a controverial novelist and also a poet, one of the most important writers of 20th century German language literature. He’s more known here because of his novels. When I was directing, which coincides with my time in New York, I looked for material to direct and I was completely mesmerized by his plays because they made it possible for me to deal with Austria as a home through language. The way he approached language was in some way similar to Elfriede. He shows you the fragments of the culture after the war—it’s not whole and beautiful. He shows the rupture in people’s minds through his syntax. I talked with a very active cultural representative from the Austrian Institute (now the Austrian Cultural Forum), Gertrude Kothanek, who thought that Bernhard’s plays should be staged in New York, but first they needed a translator. She said to me, why don’t you do it. So, then I got started.

AC: And that led to the book that you did on Bernhard’s work, just as you’re now working on a book about Jelinek?

GH: Yes. They are pretty related in a way—Elfriede and Bernhard—in terms of their attitude towards Austria. She always differentiates, though, that Bernhard, as a man, could make these authoritative statements and journalists, along with the world, accepted it. But as a woman she could not do the same thing. It took her a much longer time to be acknowledged on a large scale, though she was always acknowledged by certain people.

AC: When were you first introduced to Jelinek’s work?

GH: I first met her in the 1970s. I met her once. One of her directors introduced me to her. She was kind of…awesome, just awesome.

AC: What do you mean by that?

GH: Well, since she’s shy, which you can’t read so well when you first meet her, she was so centered. The first time I met her, she wore this flowing gown, which made her look like a regal apparition out of fin-de-siecle Vienna. Later, she dressed in leather and had spiked hair. It made her look real tough, “awesome” in today’s lingo.

AC: So she presented herself as someone who ran counter to the image of what an Austrian woman should be?

GH: Yes, totally.

AC: And when did you start working seriously with her writing?

GH: That was after I was, more or less, finished with Bernhard—not the book yet, but I had translated many of his plays. I saw Jelinek’s play in Vienna about Hannah Arendt and [Martin] Heidegger [Totenauberg (Death/Valley/Mountain)]. I was very intrigued. I loved it. I said, oh wow, I would love to translate this. But then I thought, oh, no, I don’t want to get into that again, because I was directing at the time. But then my husband said—he’s Austrian too—you’re the only one who can do this kind of language, and actually it’s true. So, I did it. And that was my first, very intensive contact with [Elfriede].

AC: How much does Jelinek participate in the crafting of the English translations of her work? Everything that anyone says about her writing focuses on the incredible specificity of the idioms and word plays that she uses. Essentially, the consensus seems to be that her writing is completely different if you experience it as a native Austrian.

GH: Totally. I was talking about this yesterday. Some translators have German advisors and the advisors can’t even understand some of the idioms she’s using. You have to really understand the Viennese subtexts.

AC: So it’s that specific—not just Austrian German, but the vernacular of Vienna?

GH: Totally.

AC: You have clearly developed a working relationship with Jelinek over a long period of time, having translated a number of pieces of her writing. What’s interesting for you about working with Jelinek?

GH: Two things. First, for biographical reasons—because she really helped me come to terms with my culture; because she gave me a language that is speakable, or thinkable, after the unspeakable horrors of the Holocaust, because it’s artificial, it’s distilled from Austrian vernacular as well as from the German literary canon and media speak. And the other thing is that I’m not a translator who translates anything. You have to live inside the world of a writer and really learn that language. I found that the more I translated, the more I saw the similarities between translation and performance. Because you have to go inside that voice. And since both writers [Bernhard and Jelinek] are very dramatic—I mean, dramatic not like drama, but their language is performative—so you can really go from an actor’s approach.

And actually Gayatri Spivak, the literary scholar and theorist—she is also a translator—she talks about a translator having to go through the text like an actor or a director, which to me was very interesting. She speaks of the language as consisting of syntax, rhetoric, and silence, and the least interesting is the syntax, and the most important is the rhetoric, and how it relates to the silence. And when I read that, I said, oh yeah. When I think of translating, I think much more in terms of post-colonial ideas, and what the English language means in the world, from a colonial perspective, from a corporate, global economy perspective. And that is so exciting with Jelinek because she critiques culture through language, and so the drama is really inside that language—it doesn’t talk about it, but the language expresses it.

AC: Thinking about Jackie and popular culture, the character in the play is so reflective of the conflict between an idealized or mediated person and the real person trapped inside of those false representations. Do you think there are differences between the way that an Austrian writer like Jelinek would understand Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, versus the way an American writer might?

GH: I think that the difficulty in Jackie is obviously Jackie [Kennedy] did not speak like [the character in the play]. So, how do you then make an artificial language acceptable for an audience in a culture that isn’t used it? Do I take away [Jelinek’s] style and make it accessible and elegant in English, or do I really show what she’s doing? Through Spivak and post-colonialism, especially since feminism and post-colonialism are so related, I’m more of the opinion that you have to leave in the foreignness. What Elfriede is trying to do with the language of the canon, which is basically male, is already a foreign language in her own culture because she’s a woman.

AC: I like the way you put that—the idea of a woman’s voice representing a kind of foreign language within her own culture. I think that’s a great moment to reflect on the Tim Parks essay in The New York Review of Books from 2007, which discussed a handful of her novels and none of her theater works. The essay is one of the few major English-language reviews of her work, but Parks’ writing about Jelinek’s work is totally indicative of that sense that her writing just seems utterly foreign to him in a way that he’s unwilling to engage with. It’s as if he simply rejects her language outright and makes no attempt whatsoever to see that it’s being written from a perspective that is unfamiliar to him.

GH: Yes, completely, and that often happens.

AC: Ultimately it’s as if because Parks doesn’t think that he would ever think or behave the way that her characters think and behave, which evokes that sense of foreignness. But it’s also very patronizing and bizarre, because his critique seems to be that her characters aren’t human, but she’s not trying to represent a strict realism in her work.

GH: Yes, that’s on purpose.

AC: This all gets to another point that I wanted to discuss. As we’ve touched on, some of her work can be very challenging, particularly in the novel form. You have to make a commitment as a reader of her work to put forth a bit of effort. But theater allows the work to be seen in different lights, to be interpreted by other artists. Do you think seeing her work in the theater helps people who otherwise might find it difficult to engage with her writing on the page?

GH: Well, you know,her writing is also quite funny. But either you accept her directors’ often experimental approaches or you don’t. She encourages directors to translate her work into their very own visual language and she doesn’t interfere with that. So, you have to go along with their vision. And not all audiences go for it. What she does get is a lot of young people. I’m amazed at the youth of the audience, when I see productions of her plays, I often  see her shows more than once, and young people totally relate to her in Germany and in Austria. And then, of course, you have the women of our generation.

AC: Let’s talk more about her play Jackie specifically. Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis is something of a specter in American culture. Certainly, at the very least, every first lady since John Kennedy’s presidency has had to reconcile their relationship to her legacy. And she’s obviously also a big part of the ongoing cultural obsession with John Kennedy, as well as the increasing connection between celebrity and politics in this country. To your mind, why look again at this woman who has been so discussed and dissected over the decades, through the lens of Jelinek’s writing?

GH: Well, it’s part of Elfriede’s cycle of Princess Plays. She describes them as a satirical counterpoint to Shakespeare’s histories, which in German are called “Kings Plays.” She has Snow White and Sleeping Beauty and Princess Di—it’s actually one big play. And you couldn’t leave out Jackie Kennedy—for the 20th Century she is the essential princess. Also, [Jackie Kennedy] was so closely identified in Europe as the first one to bring culture to the White House. I mean that wasn’t her motivation, but that’s the image of her in Europe.

AC: Picking up on of some of what we talked about before, in terms of the idealized version of America, do you think there’s something interesting about having Jelinek’s perspective on an American icon as an outsider to the country?

GH: Well, you know, I’m not sure that it’s that different, because it’s all mediated reality. In America we are so used to looking at America through the media, and I think the average American, most probably, doesn’t know their royalty either, except through the media. Elfriede’s not trying to go into any biography or psychology, she’s really constructing and de-constructing a mediated image. I think that’s the hardest, ultimately, to get across.

AC: That touches on one of the things that I think is so interesting about this play and other works by Jelinek. There’s a tension in many of her characters between the expectations from outside and the desire of the individual on the inside, specifically the places where the expectations and desires clash. In the case of Jackie, it’s the larger culture, politics, and media imposing upon a real human being who remains subsumed beneath all those things. But in other works, The Piano Teacher, for instance, which for most American audiences is their primary contact with Jelinek, it’s the mother’s expectations of the daughter. In Jackie, as you indicate, Jelinek isn’t attempting to represent the real human being Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, but it so clearly demonstrates everything that was imposed on that person, who was in many ways trapped by those impositions. You have a much wider view of Jelinek’s body of work—do you have a sense of that tension existing in other works of hers?

GH: Well, I think you really got it, and specifically, it does go back to the mother, and that feeling—the expectations. I think that’s at the core—the expectations and the performance you do to meet the expectations. I would say that’s the driving force in Elfriede. When you meet her, and talk to her—we joke, she is so much the good, well bred, convent-educated, lady from Austria. She could never say no to you; she gets very upset if someone asks her something and she can’t say yes. And I think maybe that’s what we share, maybe more intensely because we are out of that same culture.

But she is also someone who can speak intellectually about Heidegger, about a wide range of issues. Although she will always say she’s not an intellectual, but she has an incredible intelligence, I mean, an absolutely unbelievable intelligence. But as the good, well-bred girl, she would also not boast about it too much. She’s very articulate, but she would never say, I’m an intellectual person. She’s actually very modest. But never when she was a public figure. When she was still out there, as a younger rebel, she was not just nice. She would really say what was going on, and she was very articulate. I think it’s more when she meets people one on one, I think that’s more my experience. And since we have similar experiences we can laugh about it—two nice ladies! (She laughs.)

AC: That gets to another thing. Because of her anxiety disorder she’s obviously not available to a lot of people. Do you find that people ask you to be a kind of representative for her, or a kind of middleman, when they are working with texts of hers that you have translated?

GH: Well, she calls me her “riding messenger.” Because her play Rechnitz, is all about messengers, and I went to see the production in Tel Aviv, because it was such a historic event, to have a German-language woman write a play which takes off from the Holocaust but is not about the tragedy of the Holocaust, but about messengers, about how we transmit the memories through generations. It’s a fantastic play—I think it’s her best play.

AC: After all this time working together, would you say that the two of you are friends?

GH: Yes.

AC: So you’re in regular contact?

GH: I see her every time I go [to Austria], and not just when we’re discussing her writing.

AC: We’ve touched a little bit on it already, but because many people’s only real contact with her writing in the US is the film version of her novel The Piano Teacher, which is quite grim in some ways, I’d like to talk about the humor and satire in her writing, which is very present in Jackie.

GH: Who she really reminds me of—not as much in Jackie as in her later performance texts — who she’s actually very close to in her language strategies is Stephen Colbert. Because when he drives the logic to its most absurd, when he takes the rhetoric of Paul Ryan and people like that, and when he aims at the totally nonsensical punch line, which is also so true, that is pure Jelinek—the sense of nonsense, you know, that nonsense which turns out to be the truth.

AC: I think that will be really helpful for people unfamiliar with her work to hear. Because I think the impression of her work is focused so much on the darkness and complexity. It’s good to present Colbert’s word play and rhetorical absurdism as a way to get at the fact that she’s engaged in a lot of play in her writing.

GH: Yes, and she very much sees herself in the tradition of Jewish humor, Jewish cabaret. She says that at her [childhood] home, word play and games were always part of the conversation. I saw that most vividly when I saw the production of one of her favorite directors—Nicolas Stemman, who staged The Merchant’s Contracts (Die Kontrakte des Kaufmanns)—this is her play about the global economic crisis—and he just totally explodes the text. He includes improvisations, even confrontations with the text where the actors, who actually read the script just rip up the sheet of paper when they are done with it. But I think you can do that now because she’s well known in Europe, so it’s understood as a personal confrontation. Here it wouldn’t mean anything, because people don’t know her work.

Ultimately it should be a conversation between the director and [the actor playing] Jackie and Elfriede’s writing.

AC: I think that’s a great way of putting it—that it should be a dialogue. I think that maybe allows the audience to let go a little bit of that sense that this is an important writer who has won an important prize and that they should take her very seriously. By presenting it as a conversation, a flexible interaction, it allows people to see that there’s room for them to grapple with and interpret the work as well—it’s not a fixed thing that can only be understood in one way.

GH: Absolutely.

ELFRIEDE JELINEK, who was born in 1946 and grew up in Vienna, now lives in Vienna and Munich. She has received numerous awards for her literary works, which include not only novels but also plays, poetry, essays, translations, radio plays, screenplays and opera librettos. Her awards include the Georg Büchner Prize and the Franz Kafka Prize for Literature. In 2004 she was awarded with the Nobel Prize for Literature. www.elfriedejelinek.com

ALEXIS CLEMENTS is a playwright and journalist based in Brooklyn, NY. She is currently a Fellow at the Cultural Strategies Initiative. Her creative work has been produced and published in both the US and the UK. She is the co-editor of the two-volume anthology of performance texts by women titled, Out of Time & Place, which includes her performance piece, Conversation. Her articles, essays, and interviews have appeared in publications such as Bitch Magazine, The Brooklyn Rail, Nature, and Aesthetica. She regularly writes about art and performance for both Hyperallergic and The L Magazine. www.alexisclements.com


WP Interviews Anne Bogart about her approach to Virginia Woolf’s one and only play, FRESHWATER.

Anne Bogart1

Virginia Woolf described the first staging of Freshwater at a friend’s studio as an “unbuttoned laughing evening”.  Has this influenced your direction of the play?

Oh yes!  The question that is always of utmost significance to me is “what were the conditions of the original production and what kind of energy was released at that moment?”   The fact that Woolf wrote the play for her family and friends is key.

What are the main challenges of bringing this work to a traditional theatre stage when the play was originally written for a more intimate setting amongst friends – as part of the Bloomsbury parties of the 1920’s?

How can we channel the humor, intelligence, talent and giddiness of the original Bloomsbury group?  How can we mine their extraordinary sensibilities and celebrate them in a way that means something to a 2009 audience?  The characters in Freshwater – Julia Cameron, Alfred, Lord Tennyson, Ellen Terry and the others – had tremendous significance for the Bloomsbury folk.  How do we match their fascination for these characters within the context of our own post-postmodern age?

The main characters in the play are based on real people, some very famous.  Has this had an effect on your direction of the play?
Yes. The characters in the play were the direct predecessors of the Bloomsbury group for whom the play was performed.  They represented the generation that Woolf and her colleagues were rebelling against.  The fact that Virginia Woolf cast specific members of her family as specific characters in the play is also of great interest.  The combination of irreverence and awe for these characters is something I want to emulate.

What do you consider as the main challenges of directing a comedy?
A comedy must be taken very seriously, much as a tragedy must be approached with great lightness and humor.

What do you consider the main benefits of working with Women’s Project?
The mission of the Women’s Project is inspiring.  I’m also a huge fan of Julie Crosby and am so interested in her plans for the future.

WP’s Interview with Playwright Liz Duffy Adams

Liz Duffy Adams

Freedom is a constant theme in Or,– sexual, spiritual and artistic.  Do you feel all three are linked and is it possible to have one without the other two? 

And don’t forget political freedom. I think they’re all linked, yes. Where there’s political oppression all other freedoms suffer, and in those wonderful periods and places that cycle through human history, where the power is less abusive, and people can make free choices in whom to love, what to believe, and what art to make—those are utopian moments, however inevitably flawed, and that’s what Or, celebrates.

Or, plays off the echoes between the 1660’s and 1960’s – two periods in history which allowed for enormous freedom after much repression.  Do you think our society allows people such freedom? 

I think we’re relatively lucky in our current society here. Taking even a casual glance around the world and through human history it’s easy to see how lucky we are, but still, it’s a lot less free for some people than others. I hope we’re heading toward a time of even greater freedom, for many more people. (Of course, even the word “freedom” is subject to interpretation; ensuring all citizens freedom from want and freedom from fear is a part of any civilized society, and we’re not there yet.)

A sense of hope, the promise of change and the need for acceptance seem interlaced throughout Or,.  The advent of the Obama Administration has fostered similar feelings in the US.  Did this moment in our history inspire the creative process in anyway?

Yes. I wrote Or, before President Obama was elected (during the primaries, actually). But I think I wrote it out of the same hopeful longing that millions were feeling, that helped elect him; hope does echo at this moment in history. I was tired of writing out of the anger, outrage and grief that the last few years brought us. I was dreaming of a new era: rational, enlightened, expansive. I was thinking about the cyclical nature of history, and wondering if the wheel was going to turn again.

Aphra Behn is a fascinating historical figure – how did she influence the writing of Or,?

Or, was inspired by a 10-minute play I wrote when I was in the WP Playwrights Lab (run at the time by Lisa McNulty) in 2001. The theme of that year’s short play festival was money; I had just read an Aphra Behn biography and she was always short of money, sometimes desperate.
It’s called Aphra Does Antwerp, now published and licensed by Playscripts, Inc. It’s set just before the events of Or, when Aphra was stuck in Antwerp on a spying mission that was going badly.

It’s different in tone, form, and style from Or,–it’s completely in rhyming couplets, for one thing–but the idea of writing a full-length about Aphra stuck with me for years. I did research and reading off and on over the years, then wrote the first (and close to the final) draft very quickly in 2 weeks during a New Dramatists Playtime workshop. It had another New Dramatists reading and workshop, then a mini-workshop last spring with New Georges.

The character of Aphra Behn is a smart sexy woman who charts her own destiny regardless of the limitations of her gender.   She is the sort of gal who would fit in beautifully at WP!  As a working playwright, how important do you feel Women’s Project (WP) is in American Theater?

I think WP serves a great and important need in the American Theater. There’s been a lot of debate lately about the fact that far fewer plays by women playwrights (and directed or designed by women) get produced. The fact that this hasn’t changed since the time of WP’s founding 32 years ago is just bizarre, I have to say, and it makes WP’s mission more critical than ever. It looks like it could be another generation before we achieve parity, and in the meanwhile WP helps redress the imbalance, encourage some discouraged playwrights, and rescue some plays that I for one want to see.

They say most people will have at least three careers in one lifetime – have you always been a playwright?

No, I started out as an actor, or really first as an experimental theater artist, both writing and performing. Later I studied classical acting, Shakespearean as well as Restoration, and played in some little off-off Broadway classical productions, which turned out to be good training for writing, especially in verse! And I was a copywriter for a while, then Editor for two years of the now defunct Stage & Screen Book Club (nee Fireside Theater). I’ve also had a long career in scrambling for a living, starting when I was 17; I’ve had by rough count some 28 kinds of jobs, some more respectable than others. Also pretty good training for a writer. (See photo of the playwright at left–as Elmire in Moliere’s Tartuffe).

On a personal note, would you like to share with WP’s audience a favorite pastime?

Fantasizing about real estate. I think I became a true New Yorker when I stopped daydreaming about love and began dreaming about square footage and terraces.

WP’s Interview with Ellen Lauren about ROOM


Ellen Lauren talks about Virginia Woolf and the creation of ROOM.

When did you first develop an interest in Virginia Woolf and her work?
My first encounter with Virginia Woolf, when I was a young girl in the 7th grade, was less then friendly. I lacked the patience, understanding, maturity, and/or sensitivity to allow her particular alchemy of feeling and words to work upon me. It was through Anne [Bogart] coming to me with the proposition of making Room – almost a year and a half before actually going into rehearsal – that I set about seriously diving into her writing. I was completely overwhelmed as I recall, staring at a stack of books almost waist high. What I did have, however, was the good sense to pick up her published diaries and letters to begin. I found in them such warmth, such dishy hilarious stories and descriptions, heartbreaking passages of courage as she articulated fighting bouts of pain and illness. There was nothing off putting, but rather a voice and mind more expansive, more modern, kind, and open and funny than I anything I hope to find in this life. A life line in some sense.

“It is so difficult to describe any human being.” This idea is repeated throughout ROOM and seems to inform the composition of the play, as you are not describing the character of Virginia Woolf, but rather distilling her process in a way. Is that an accurate assessment?

Yes. And despite her singular voice, her unique intelligence, what we are trying to capture, as she did, are the places that we all share as human beings. That the container of the body and “what one says and does” is in and of itself not the definition of who we each are.  It is as if we are watching, as Anne says to me often, a wild mad scientist in the lab mixing and stirring chemicals together in a way that never had been done, in order to capture the universal, the quixotic, what it means to be human from the inside of us all. It is the artistic process, a mind in the act of creation, coupled with that rare sensation of deep reading. We are trying to capture in theatrical form, what it feels like to read, to follow someone else’s mind with one’s own. There are always other channels being played while we read, critical ones, practical ones. Deep reading is a revelation of self to oneself. I hope there are moments, flashes of that for the audience. It’s really about us being together in the room sharing that equally.

Woolf speaking to a room of women about the necessity of writing, reading and being in the world is a political act. Does “performing Woolf” feel like a political act?

Yes. One could say that about making, attending theater nowadays couldn’t one. It’s so hard as a cultural endeavor. But still, I have such hope being a part of it. It’s not so much a feminist statement to me, but a humanist point of view. That she was a woman with one of the greatest minds of the 20th Century is critical, of course. Such energy! Such heroism! But it’s this – she wrote, and I can say at the end of an hour,  that “there MUST be freedom, there MUST be peace.” After all the journeys we go through together, the audience and I, at the end I can simply stand there alone and say this out loud. It is such a privilege. We’ve all earned it together by that point. The words are packed with their full meaning, their full weight. To believe in this, to encourage it, she was in the front line fighting for these things.

How did you find the physicality of the role?

Anne and I studied photographs and made a vocabulary of about 26 different physical structures from them. They formed a sort of alphabet. Then we learned the text, did deep study of the text, to speak it perfectly (I still haven’t achieved this…) to understand its loop de loops. Then we aimed our alphabet at the text intuitively, instinctually. The structures began to make a grammar. We also jettisoned more than half, more than two thirds of the specific structures, finding poetry in the minimalism. A strict adherence to recycling a limited language began to give the physical score a resonance and richer meaning.

The action of the play often seems to be the action of a mind unfolding (and a rather phenomenal mind at that). In developing the play, did that action inform your approach in any way?

I can hardly keep up with it, I can’t keep up with it, it gives me such joy, such agony to try. There is not a moment that this balance and contradiction isn’t being played out in me during the performance of this.

Does performing ROOM at a theater dedicated to women artists have a particular resonance for you or inform the work in any new way?

Well, we made the piece years ago and so I have performed it in many different spaces. What is important is that it has particular resonance for members of the audience. Perhaps it will enhance their experience, and that is what is most important. But I don’t look at it or perform it, honestly, through that lens.

I was thinking to myself the other night sitting in the audience at Women’s Project, that it is ironic that this space, in such need of care and funding and repair, is the space that is afforded for ‘women’s projects’. I thought it is the very thing Ms. Woolf was referring to in the opening section of A Room of One’s Own, when she describes the rich lunch and plush soft chairs at the men’s college, and in contrast the thin gravy soup and scraping hard backed chairs at Fernham. But of course that is just the physical environment. But theaters are empathic, they reflect the thinking inside them. The history of theater is the history of the relationship to the body and the performing space. Theaters are a reflection of thought in the three-dimensional.
Now I’m thinking how, if you came to see the SITI offices, you would think we were very careless, very chaotic. And that’s not the case. We’re very invested in being articulate and questioning. So I guess our space doesn’t show our thinking very well either.

WP’s Interview with Anne Bogart about ROOM

Anne Bogart1

Anne Bogart talks about Virginia Woolf and the creation of ROOM.

How important is Virginia Woolf and her work to you as an artist?

Virginia Woolf is one of the key influences upon my own development as an artist and a person in the world.  Her writing introduced me to the power of words to lift the experience of living into dimensions that I had never known before.  She created different ways of perceiving time and space that I could enter while reading her books. With her guidance I was able to experience layers of perception hitherto hidden to me.


When did you first develop an interest in Virginia Woolf and her work?

To the Lighthouse was the first book of Woolf’s that I read. I was probably fifteen years old.  She took me firmly by the collar and dragged me into new territory. I was permanently altered by these experiences.


What were the main challenges of bringing an adaption of the writings of
Virginia Woolf to life on the stage?

The text we chose for Room does not tell a traditional story.  And yet the
journey for the audience must be a compelling and gripping one.  It is
Ellen Lauren’s brilliant sense of storytelling makes this possible.

You once remarked Ellen Lauren was the only actor who could pull off the
role in Room.  What is it about Ellen as an artist that makes this so?

As an actress Ellen is fierce and courageous and yet she also has the
ability to bring an intense lightness of being into the roles she inhabits.  I have never experienced any actor who could differentiate one moment from the next with such acuity, intelligence and passion as she. The role in Room demands delicacy and stringency as well as clarity and a rapport with the audience.  Ellen can do all of the above.

This is the second collaboration between Women’s Project and SITI
Company.  What do you enjoy about working with team WP?

Julie Crosby is full of a contagious enthusiasm for theater, she has a
wicked sense of humor and the courage to walk bravely into any room and
stand up for what is right. She has gathered a formidable team around her
who shares her appetites and makes working at the Women’s Project a
great joy.

WP Interviews Playwright Lynn Rosen

Lynn Rosen

Playwright Lynn Rosen shares her thoughts about APPLE COVE.

Apple Cove is set in a gated community.  Why do you think gated communities have become so popular in the U.S.?  

If you had asked me this pre-9/11, I would have said it had to do with the American dream of upward mobility and perhaps elitism. As we know the winner vs. loser mentality has a firm hold here. So this idea of a community where only the lucky few can get in and the rest of us schlubs are left to wonder what luscious riches we’re missing out on, goes hand in hand with that.

But today I totally understand why someone would want to live in a gated community. Post-9-11, we’ve become more afraid of cultures that are “different.” And as the world grows smaller via technology, we are that much closer to people and ideas that are alien, and therefore scary to us. Living in a place where the houses are the same color, the grass the same height, gives order to a chaotic world.

But of course this kind of controlled environment never truly keeps out the danger of the world or, more interesting to me, the danger that may lurk within the inhabitants themselves. (See the recent murders in Celebration, Florida, a planned community originally conceived by Disney.) When my dad owned a pizza restaurant, we’d get delivery orders from the freshly-built gated communities and we’d all say, “Oooh! Fancy!” But often, instead of returning with grand tales of “the other half,” the delivery guys would regale us with stories about the guy who answered the door half-naked with a gun in his hand, or of the filth on the floors. Sometimes these privileged people would refuse to pay. (The old, “I found a rock in my pizza” trick never works, folks.)

Along those lines, though it first appears the characters in Apple Cove move into a gated community to flee nature and terrorism, ultimately, it is heartache, powerlessness, and their baser instincts that they are trying, with little success, to escape from.

What do you feel it does to the psyche to isolate oneself in this way; to live and socialize on an estate with only neighbors?

In my humble opinion, limiting the scale and scope of one’s world only limits the depth and breadth of one’s thinking, which leads to fear and fear-mongering. (See Tea Party.) Again, I do understand the impetus behind wanting to protect oneself from anything alien. I have two young kids and I’m always grappling with the fact that I’m raising them in a city where we wear a target on our backs. But we also live in a city with cultural opportunities around every corner, beautiful parks, and an amazingly diverse population, all of which expands the way my kids and I think about the world and our place in it. The questions: What kind of world do we want for ourselves and our children? Is it best to live within the security and comfort of the planned community? Or should we opt for the wonder, possibility, and also danger that comes with living in the “wild” world? Where will we thrive? These are the questions I think we all, like Edie in Apple Cove, struggle with.

The more the characters in Apple Cove try and assert control over their lives and each other, the more they seem to lose control.  Do you find that type of rigid control unravels in real life also?

I know with my kids that the more I order them to do something, the worse the result. I mean, I won’t let my son eat candy for breakfast or shoot his sister in the eye just because he really, really wants to. But I’ve noticed that if I say, “Brush your teeth,” he’ll roll his eyes at me. (Isn’t eye-rolling supposed to come when they’re teenagers? He’s seven!) However, if I say, “Brush your teeth whenever you’re ready,” he’s more likely to brush his teeth. And telling him his teeth will fall out is not a good idea. Fear is never a good motivator. I think it’s our nature to seek independence from authority and to revolt against too much rigidity.

Apple Cove is a comedy.  Is it easier to tackle issues by making people laugh?

I always utilize humor—whether in plays or in life—to deal with whatever situation is at hand. It’s the way I communicate and get through the day. I think humor is a powerful and subversive way to tell a story and perhaps reflect a point of view. I’m not a fan of hitting someone over the head to make a statement. I’d prefer the audience laugh their way into the world I’m creating. I’d rather everything sneak up on them. Darker truths secreted in the characters of Apple Cove drive the humor of the play; eventually those truths can’t help but erupt through a glossy veneer of happiness.

How did the experience of being part of WP’s Playwright’s Lab, 2008-2010, help you develop as a playwright?

I met some amazing writers in that Lab! Each artist’s work was singular and compelling in its own way. I learned so much from being exposed to the different voices in the group. Just like barricading yourself within a gated community limits one’s understanding of the world, doing the artistic equivalent limits the scope of one’s writing. Being exposed to different methods of playwrighting and play-development in the WP Lab helped expand my thinking about my own work. Also, they were just cool ladies, you know? Being a part of a community always feels good. (Unless that community is Apple Cove. Or a prison.)

How important do you think Women’s Project is for women theater artists?

Considering that only about 20 percent of plays professionally produced in America each year are by women, Women’s Project is, simply put, necessary. It’s necessary that female artists know there is a place that is not only aware of the parity problem, but is also addressing it, both through productions and via the Lab. It’s necessary that there be a place like WP where the work of female playwrights will be judged on its artistic merits alone. But it’s not only the WP mission that’s so commendable—it’s how they carry out this mission. WP knows what’s relevant and exciting in theatre, and their seasons reflect this. Likewise, the artists they choose for their Lab—producers, playwrights, and directors—all have fascinating and diverse voices and perspectives. Beware! The forces behind WP are creating a battalion of brave new theatre artists in that back room of theirs!

In the spirit of Apple Cove, what’s your favorite flower?  And do you enjoy spending time in the garden? 

I grew up in Gary, Indiana, and while Gary has a lot going for it, let’s face it, Gary is kind of a depressed place. But growing up I was always entranced by the wild lilacs that grew in our yard and around town. To find unexpected beauty amidst a town in decline was powerful and oddly inspiring.

And no, sadly, I don’t garden. I live in New York City in an apartment the size of a shoebox. A shoebox for a pair of baby shoes. Regardless, I wouldn’t be much of a gardener even if I had a garden. Bugs kind of freak me out. (Sorry, bugs! I know you’re necessary.) Nonetheless, the journey Edie embarks on after discovering an exotic, wild rose in her garden might make anyone want to buy some clogs and start digging in a patch of dirt.

WP Interviews Sheila Callaghan about LASCIVIOUS SOMETHING.

sheila callaghan

Playwright Sheila Callaghan shares her thoughts about LASCIVIOUS SOMETHING.

The characters of August and Daphne, and to a lesser extent Liza, appear to suppress passionate emotion and make decisions based on what they can live with as opposed to what may make them truly happy.  Is it fear of hurt or vulnerability that drives such decisions? Do you think most
people live this way? If so, why?

I am not sure most people live this way, but I do know a good number of people who keep themselves emotionally quarantined to protect themselves. Many of them have been deeply wounded in the past so it’s an understandable behavior. It’s true that humans are amazing adapters, and while I think we can’t change who we are at our core, we can certainly manipulate our reactions to various stimuli in ways that provide the least personal damage.  And anyone who has been psychologically marred is no hurry to repeat that kind of ruin.  I think every character in this play wears that mark to some degree.

The character of August has cloistered himself in Greece rather than
continue to fight for the ideals he once followed in America.  Do you feel people often detach when they feel powerless to make an impact for the better?

Sure, and some people fight harder.  I think the ones that don’t stick it out are the ones who are unable to divorce their emotions from their goals.  Everyone wants to do good in the world in some way, but it stands that the larger the good, the greater the personal sacrifice. The person who decides it’s worth that cost is bound to have an elevated opinion of him/herself, and a belief that the inevitable pain is worth the ultimate result.  This is why politicians and activists are quite often unrelenting narcissists.  They have egos that can withstand massive blows, and they can rise above emotion because they see themselves in possession of an almost superhuman gift. I don’t think August sees himself this way.  Although he did once. He wavered.

Lascivious Something takes place in 1980 – at the advent of the Reagan
years.  What was the thought process behind this decision?

I feel like it’s a time when our country took a hard shift to the right, one that still has us skidding on gravel in the shoulder.

What is the significance of setting Lascivious Something in a vineyard?

I was trying to evoke an epic Greek-tragedy kind of tone, and I wanted the environment of the play to feel lush, decadent, drunken, sensual, Dionysian. A vineyard encompasses all that.  Exploding fruit, moist earth, impossible scenery, back-breaking toil and heartbreaking harvests… and of course, wine wine wine.

You have been called a playwright of “risky and visionary scripts” that are “funny”, “sad”, “scary” and “insightful”.   Do you view your writing as a means to provoke thought and discussion on social structures in our society?

Absolutely not!!  My first goal is always to entertain people, to tell a story in a way that won’t leave them bored to tears.  I can’t always accomplish this– it’s an impossible task.  Which is why I keep writing.  I want to make you feel like you’ve just seen something old and new at the same time– an ancient tale strutting around in a snazzy new blazer.  But only half of you will.  Sometimes none of you. This drives me crazy. That’s where the “risky” part comes in, I guess.  It’s an impossible task, so I have nothing to lose! The “provoke thought” part… if that happens I’m happy, but it’s incidental.

You are also a creative writing teacher – do you feel all writers should take classes to hone their craft?

If that’s what a particular writer needs… classes force folks to work, and some folks need to be forced.  Building a habit of writing is a way to hone one’s craft, along with reading and seeing absolutely everything, and finding a community.  Classes help to do this, but they’re certainly not the only way.

A curly question – would you like to share with WP’s audience the most liberating thing you have ever done?

Wow. Well it’s all about context, isn’t it?  What’s liberating to me now would mean nothing to my 19 year old self…  but if we’re talking recently? Buying my MacBook Air.  It’s so light!!!  I can take it anywhere!  I mean it’s not a great machine or anything but HOLY CRAP IS IT LIGHT!!!  A close second would be anything involving public nudity and/or the birth of my son.

WP’s Interview with Playwright Rachel Axler

Rachel Axler

Playwright Rachel Axler shares her thoughts about SMUDGE.

You have mentioned that although Smudge is funny, it is not a comedy.  Would you mind expanding on this thought for WP’s audience?

Well, it contains jokes.  The dialogue is often funny.  If the audience isn’t freed up to laugh, I don’t think the play hits quite as hard — but the topic isn’t comedic, and both structurally and thematically, the intention wasn’t to write a comedy.  I think most of my plays are hybrids, with comic dialogue and darker, or more serious, themes.

What sparked the idea for Smudge?

There was this article in The New York Times Magazine many years back. It was about a woman who was severely physically, but not mentally, disabled, who had become an academic, and who was forced to speak on a panel with Peter Singer, a controversial philosopher whose utilitarian theories about “personhood,” if applied to this woman at birth, might have assessed her condition as, basically, not worth living.  I read this, was briefly fascinated and appalled, and then it vanished to the recesses of my brain.

A few years later, during my last year of grad school, walking to the campus shuttle, I passed a person who brought the article back to mind.  The shuttle stop was right next to the ambulatory area for patients at the UCSD Medical Center.  As I approached the bus, a tiny child in an electric wheelchair came toward me.  As she came closer, I realized that she wasn’t a child at all, but a grown woman — missing, it seemed, most of her body — the rest, severely deformed.  Her face was expressionless, but she looked at me as she passed me, and my first thought was:  nobody will ever love her.  My immediate second thought was:  actually, she probably has a family, friends, maybe a significant other…and that my first thought was the most horrible and unjust snap judgment I’d ever made.

And then I figured — if this was something that inspired the most horrible thought I’d ever had? Probably a good topic for a play.

The husband and wife characters seem to grapple with how to love their child.  If this child is indeed worthy of love.  Do you feel we are socially conditioned to love someone only if they are perfect?

Wow, no.  If that were the case, nobody would ever love anybody.  I think it’s more that it’s difficult to understand something that’s completely outside our realm of experience, and difficult to love something that we don’t understand.
That said: luckily, most humans have a capacity to learn.

Fear and a lack of control seem to propel the parents interactions with each other and the baby.  How important were both emotions in the creative development of each character and the play?

When I was finishing a draft of the play, the fear of deadlines helped a ton.

Otherwise, creating the characters of Colby & Nick, the parents, was mostly about trying not to censor human responses.  Particularly with Colby.  Some mothers don’t feel an instant connection to their children — I’ve talked with friends and mothers about this, and they’ve backed me up.  And they know they’re supposed to.  So looking into a tiny face that you know you’re supposed to adore, and not immediately feeling something that books and movies and wives’ tales tell you you should be feeling — that can be terrifying.
And about lack of control: you always hope that your child will have an even better life than yours. The problem lies, I guess, in trying to define “better.”

Did you always want to be a playwright or did this desire develop while you were working as a TV comedy writer?

Oh, no no no. I finished grad school at UCSD in 2004 — I already had an MFA in playwriting when I got my first job writing for television.

My background is in theatre.  But ever since I realized I wanted to be a writer, I’ve known that I want to be a comedy writer, across medium.  That desire has never really narrowed.  I want to write joke books, too.

…Seriously, I do.

You were the first female staff writer on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart – why do you think women are in a minority position as writers on TV and in the theater?

Actually, I wasn’t the first female staff writer for the show — it was created by two women, one of whom, Lizz Winstead, was the head writer in the show’s Craig Kilborne days.  With Jon Stewart as host,  there was one female writer on staff, Allison Silverman, who was there a few years before me. (She then moved to Conan, then to The Colbert Report, where she still works.) I was the only female writer on staff for the 3-plus years that I was there, but not the first.

But to get to the meat of the question, which is still true (women absolutely are in a minority as writers, and particularly notably in comedy) — I have no idea. Hormones?

No, it probably has something to do with history and societal conditioning on the parts of both men and women. There was just a huge scientific research paper published on this, which I’ve read about, and which I probably should read, because it’s fun to read huge scientific research papers. But until I do, I’ll just say this:  If we can even out the male/female staff ratio, writers’ rooms will smell a lot nicer.

As a New Yorker, what do you consider to be the must-do NYC experience?

Oh, there are so many choices….  It’s insanely hard to pick just one thing that would exemplify New York City.  But I guess if I had to, and since you asked, I’d say going to see a performance of Smudge at Women’s Project, between January 3rd and February 7th, 2010.

Artist Vignettes with COLLAPSE actor Nadia Bowers

We sat down with actor, Nadia Bowers, and asked her to share a few of her favorite things with you…

Favorite NYC pastime:
By myself: trolling my favorite thrift stores for good finds, then eating at Veselka. Not alone: bike rides all around and over bridges with my boyfriend.

Best neighborhood restaurant:
Scalino on 7th Ave. in Park Slope. Great relaxed vibe, terrific food. A standby.

Cocktail hotspot:
My stoop in Brooklyn.

Theater that’s inspired you lately:
I really loved “Belleville” by Amy Herzog at NYTW. I was on the edge of my seat the whole time which I find rare. They all did such a wonderful job conveying this bubbling dread under the characters’ efforts toward normalcy. And “The Flick” by Annie Baker. She has so much love and respect for her characters no matter how flawed. Her plays are a beautiful, human event.


Artist Vignettes with JACKIE Wig & Wardrobe Supervisor Genavieve White


We caught up with Jackie wig & wardrobe supervisor, Genavieve White, and asked her to share a few of her favorite things with you…

Favorite NYC pastime:
When the weather’s not having a fit, I love biking around the city. It’s cheap, scenic and no sudden service changes.

Best neighborhood restaurant:
Jimmy’s Diner in Williamsburg is a great little hole in the wall that’s staying strong while condos sprout up around it. The wait staff are rad, and with a dish called ‘the hangover helper’ you can’t really go wrong.

Cocktail hotspot:
I’m a dive bar girl myself, but I really like the Japanese ‘speakeasy’ Angel’s Share on 9th and 3rd. It’s tiny and can be packed, but if you can get a spot at the bar and watch the bartenders do their stuff it’s totally worth it.

Theater that’s inspired you lately:
I don’t know about recently, but I grew up in Atlanta, and the Fox theater was a huge inspiration for me getting into theater. The building itself was just as much a draw as whatever was playing.


Artist Vignettes with BETHANY director Gaye Taylor Upchurch

We sat down with director, Gaye Taylor Upchurch, and asked her to share a few of her favorite things with you…

Favorite NYC pastime:
Walking/biking along the Hudson at Riverside Park, searching for the best burger, reading at my coffee shop/office, a bloody mary brunch with friends.

Best neighborhood restaurant:
Toss up between Fred’s and Good Enough to Eat (Upper West Side)

Cocktail hotspot:
My kitchen

Theater that’s inspired you lately:
Ann Hamilton at the Armory: the event of a thread; Melissa James Gibson’s What Rhymes with America (directed by Daniel Aukin); Dave Malloy’s Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812 (directed by Rachel Chavkin)