Clearing a Path for the Future
Dramaturg Guy Lancaster: Researching St. Vincent's
Demolition is due to start August 6th. What??!!!
We are actually just removing our stage, our seating platforms, and our lighting grid but contractors use the word ‘demolition’ which is a bit too dramatic for my taste.
We have been meaning to give the physical plant of Rattlestick theater some love for quite some time. Like anything in one’s life, if it hasn't been loved in a while, it needs tending to.
The impetus for all of this is Sam Hunter’s diptych in the fall. He wrote these two beautiful plays -- set on either side of the Snake River in the Pacific Northwest -- to explore what has happened to the American West. The audience will experience Lewiston, eat a meal together, and then watch Clarkston.
So Sam's ambitious vision, along with the steadfast partnership of director Davis McCallum and set designer Dane Laffrey, became the catalyst for our upcoming “demolition.” And we intend to re-set after with flexible configurations.
I have been thinking about these changes as a stunning metaphor for the seismic shifts taking place in our country and certainly in the theater field. We are exploring what can be broken down and reconstituted anew. How do we do theater? What parts of your foundation do you hold onto and what can we let go?
Here's what I feel strongly we need to hold onto; how about you? We must prioritize telling stories that haven't been heard as loudly. We must open up our space to artists and audiences of color not traditionally welcome in dominant-culture institutions. What do you think? Will you share your ideas with me about what this means to you?
Playwright Cusi Cram: On Researching the St. VINCENT'S PROJECT
Researching The St Vincent’s Project – Guy Lancaster, Dramaturg
When you are listening to people talk about St Vincent’s Hospital the experience can sometimes feel like the ancient Indian Parable of the Blind Men and the Elephant. In that story each blind man describes a piece of the elephant but is unable to grasp the totality of what an Elephant is. We wanted to see if we could offer a larger history for people in relation to the hospital. Because the scale and complexity of that history seemed to be uniquely representative of the forces which have shaped not only the Village but the city as a whole and even, in certain respects, the world.
Annie's Reflections: TYWLS at Rattlestick
If you stand on the corner of Bank and Greenwich Avenue and look up at the place where St. Vincent’s once was, inevitably someone will start talking to you about it. Villagers have heated opinions on the subject. So, in discussing the Village and what interested me about it from a storytelling perspective with Rattlestick’s Artistic Director, Daniella Topol, the hospital’s closing seemed like a wound in the neighborhood which had not yet healed. There was a play to be found somewhere in the 161 years of the hospital’s history.
What Happens When Local Goes National?
One of my favorite things about working at Rattlestick is having the opportunity to develop and carry out educational programs around our artistic programming. Job descriptions for Managing Director positions do not typically include educational program development, so this is one of many perks of being a part of a small but mighty team like Rattlestick.
Following My Artistic Gut
A couple of days ago, we did our first “tech stumble-through” of our next play, Dael Orlandersmith’s UNTIL THE FLOOD, which explores the impact of the shooting of Michael Brown in August 2014 on the residents of that area. It was presented it at St. Louis Rep (who commissioned the piece) in 2016. So, now in 2018, in winter’s deep freeze, what tone should these storytellers take in New York with UNTIL THE FLOOD? After its run in NY, the creative team will head to Milwaukee, Chicago and many other cities around the country. How does a local theater piece go national? How should this local theater piece go national?
Running a Theater Company is Like Playing a Video Game
One of the most complex things about being an artistic director (and there are many complex aspects to the position) is determining which artists and plays to program in our season.
Quite simply, I am following my artistic gut.
What's Going To Happen?
Running a theater company is like playing a video game…with the twists and turns of near-death and good fortune, advancing to the next level and then crashing into unexpected potholes. I’ve only been doing this for about 14 months so perhaps next year I will have a different analogy. But let's stick with video games for now.
Join the Conversation
I was recently at the Humana Festival in Louisville, Kentucky, an annual festival of new plays in its 41st year. Taylor Mac, actor, playwright, performance artist, director, producer, and singer-songwriter, led a talk in which he asked the audience to say aloud, “What’s going to happen?”, making us collectively articulate our deep uncertainty about the future.
A Conversation with Ken Urban
Early on Friday, March 24th, Rattlestick hosted an intimate gathering of artists, educators and audience members to talk about how their lives have been changing since the election and what, if anything, the theater can do to address the divide that appears to now be such a dominant part of our culture.
The Orange Fog
Rattlestick Alumni Playwright, Ken Urban, had his play The Correspondent, produced a few years ago at Rattlestick. He returns back to Rattlestick this month in an Amoralists' Production of Nibbler, a dark coming-of-age comedy about five teenagers in a small town in South Jersey during the summer of 1992. I asked Ken to answer some questions that were on my mind.
Last night was the second preview for Orange Julius. About 10 minutes into the play there is a Vietnam fantasy scene where a hazer pumps light fog out to give the illusion of other-worldliness. Last night's hazer malfunctioned and the stage was instantly flooded with thick fog. We could barely see the actors standing right in front of us. Fans were switched on and side doors were opened. Though there was no real danger, the moment felt uncertain.
General Manager Annie Middleton, Associate Producer Victor Cervantes and I have been moved by the many people who have helped Rattlestick over these past few months. These champions of our company have taught us (cliche alert!) how "it takes a village" and why we need to "depend on the kindness of strangers." As we approach Thanksgiving, these are some of the people/groups we want to acknowledge:
You Try Running a Theater Company Named After a Native Indian Totem
I am not an early morning person by choice. But that has changed since becoming Rattlestick's Artistic Director.
Recently, on a Wednesday morning at 7:30 in the morning, I walked into the Waldorf-Astoria to see a program involving the charming and self-possessed girls and young women who are the students at the Young Women’s Leadership Network (YWLN). YWLN is an outstanding network of all-girls public schools across the country whose mission is to create powerful young leaders of color. The visionaries behind YWLN are Andrew and Ann Tisch.
Rattlestick Stair: Sketches
After being named Artistic Director of Rattlestick, during these past few months I’ve received a lot of advice from people who know a lot about running a theater and running a board. I want to share some of that advice with you to show the pushes and pulls on someone trying to run a creative organization in NYC.
As an architect I have worked on the design of museums, exhibits, towers, houses and even a new palace for the Ruler of Dubai. Although always interested in the narrative underpinnings of architectural design, I had never worked on set design and when Daniella asked me to host the first Rattlestick Actors/Writers lab, I jumped at the opportunity.