Month: September 2017

ESPA Drills presents: All My Love, Kate by Joe Breen

Primary Stages ESPA Drills is an annual new play development program providing extensive workshopping, a public presentation, and advocacy within the theater community for four new plays written at least in part at Primary Stages ESPA. A staged reading of All My Love, Kate by Joe Breen will be held on Tuesday, October 3 at 6:30pm.

Joseph Breen

What is your play about?

For years, Jack and Danny have lived quietly and privately; keeping their life together separate from the world outside their door. But after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the couple find themselves separated by an ocean, a War, and a world that would rather pretend they didn’t exist. Thrust into this new reality, they must find a way to stay as strong apart as they ever were together.

What inspired your play? How did you go about the research process?

The initial idea for my play came from a photo (below) that I found online. After that I began researching the experiences of gay Americans during WW2 and came across a book (and subsequent documentary) by Allan Berube called “Coming Out Under Fire: The History of Gay Men and Women in World War Two”. More than anything I was inspired by the idea of the countless “Gold Star” widows that went unacknowledged during the war because gay soldiers couldn’t speak of the loves they had waiting at home for them.

During the writing of this play I’ve been inundating myself with photos from the period, magazine advertisements, War Posters, etc. Also the music of the 1940’s—especially Vera Lynn, Artie Shaw, and Glen Miller—because the music from that period is so specific to the experiences of a world at war, that it truly does help set a scene and provide me with a certain mood to write in.


Primary Stages ESPA Drills will be held on October 2 and 3, 2017 at the Cherry Lane Theatre. All readings are free and open to the public. Visit our website for a full list of readings and to RSVP.

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ESPA Drills presents: Carl’s Not Here by Daniel Loeser

Primary Stages ESPA Drills is an annual new play development program providing extensive workshopping, a public presentation, and advocacy within the theater community for four new plays written at least in part at Primary Stages ESPA. A staged reading of Carl’s Not Here by Daniel Loeser will be held on Tuesday, October 3 at 2:00pm.

Daniel Loeser

What is your play about?

In a small Texas border town, Roger doesn’t have much left to lose except the family bar, and now he’s about to lose that. What Roger does have, however, is super-powers, and his nemesis has arrived from a most unlikely place. Carl’s Not Here is a dark comedy about a man who believes he can save the world, even if he can’t save himself.

What inspired your play? How did you go about the research process?

I suppose what initially inspired me to begin this play was the time we lose when we’ve had too much. The idea that in that window between the painful morning and the previous night’s last memory, there’s a version of you out in the world that you’ve had little control over. I think it’s generally agreed upon that that version of ourselves is not our best, so I started to examine the possibility of that person being an even better version of ourselves. Someone that is benevolent and mighty and out for the greater good, but the only present after passing through an intoxicating, dangerous, weak, and ultimately, selfish act.

At least that’s where I began with Carl’s Not Here. It’s been through my classes at ESPA and now looking ahead to continued work in Drills that the play has taken a shape that I hadn’t imagined, and I’m very excited to expand it even further.


Primary Stages ESPA Drills will be held on October 2 and 3, 2017 at the Cherry Lane Theatre. All readings are free and open to the public. Visit our website for a full list of readings and to RSVP.

ESPA Drills presents: Another Revolution by Jacqueline Bircher

Primary Stages ESPA Drills is an annual new play development program providing extensive workshopping, a public presentation, and advocacy within the theater community for four new plays written at least in part at Primary Stages ESPA. A staged reading of Another Revolution by Jacqueline Bircher will be held on Monday, October 2 at 6:30pm.

Jacqueline Bircher

What is your play about?

Two graduate students from opposing scientific disciplines are forced to share a lab at Columbia University in 1968. Amid interpersonal differences, a campus devolving into political chaos, and the uncertainty and turmoil of the outside world, they each discover what it’s like to be thrown into someone else’s orbit.

What inspired your play? How did you go about the research process?

Writing a period play about scientists requires a ton of research, so there were many, many inspirations for this play. My process included everything from trips to the Hayden Planetarium, to combing through Columbia’s student newspaper archives, to talking to a real-life ecologist about how she conducts her experiments. I found inspiration from some pretty unlikely places as well, but some of my favorites were:

  • “How the Universe Got Its Spots” by Janna Levin and “Lab Girl” by Hope JahrenSince both of the characters in my play are scientists, there was a lot of research involved in learning about each of their scientific disciplines. These two books were invaluable to me in shaping the personalities and worldviews of Kat and Henry, and one of the many reasons I found these particular books to be the most crucial is the way they each present science as just one facet of a larger life, and drive home how scientific theories, whether they’re about plants or black holes, can creep into your life and relationships so that the world seems somehow bigger and more interconnected than you originally thought.
  • Hillary Clinton’s interview with Humans of New YorkWhen interviewed by Humans of New York, Hillary Clinton told this story of taking her law school admissions test surrounded by a group of boys who taunted her and the other women in the room, claiming that if the women were to take their spots at law school, they would be drafted to Vietnam and likely face death. This story really resonated with me, because the stakes on both sides are so high. In exploring the parallels between 1968 (when my play takes place) and now, Hillary Clinton became a very important touchstone. She was there in 1968, nearly the same age as my characters, and 50 years later, she was there again, still fighting the same battles.
  • The 2017 Women’s March and the 1968 Columbia University ProtestsThe Women’s March earlier this year was another strong inspiration, as it ushered in a new culture of resistance. That mindset entering back into our culture became so important as I continued to explore the Columbia University protests of 1968, which provides the backdrop for my play. In addition, Columbia’s meticulous archives and exhibitions about even the not-so-flattering portions of its history were instrumental in creating the world of this play and maintaining its authenticity.
  • The Detention Series at Primary Stages/ESPA: This full length play actually began its life as a ten-minute play written for Detention at ESPA! I wrote this short play for the very first Detention I ever participated in, and even though I’ve been part of several more Detentions since then, this first one sparked something that I couldn’t quite shake. While the play has certainly evolved since then, many of the most important seeds came from that original piece and I’m so excited about the amazing journey these characters have taken!

Primary Stages ESPA Drills will be held on October 2 and 3, 2017 at the Cherry Lane Theatre. All readings are free and open to the public. Visit our website for a full list of readings and to RSVP.

ESPA Drills presents: Moonshine by Liz Appel

Primary Stages ESPA Drills is an annual new play development program providing extensive workshopping, a public presentation, and advocacy within the theater community for four new plays written at least in part at Primary Stages ESPA. A staged reading of Moonshine by Liz Appel will be held on Monday, October 2 at 2:00pm.

Liz Appel

What is your play about?

After their world is suddenly cracked open by a moment of violence, Wolf and Rooster are on the run. Alone, in the dark, and desperate to start a fire that will keep away the night, memory becomes a battleground as the brothers struggle to survive in the wilderness of their new world and each other.

What inspired your play? How did you go about the research process?

I’d say that this play comes out of a deep love for two other plays: Suzan-Lori Parks’s Topdog/Underdog and Enda Walsh’s Disco Pigs.  Both plays are two-handers, visceral and explosive, the kind of theater that grabs you by the collar and won’t let go. Both plays experiment with form, particularly with language; both sets of characters seem to have a language of their own making, totally unique to their respective worlds. Both plays also feature souls trapped in sealed worlds: Booth’s tiny apartment in Topdog/Underdog, and Pig and Runt’s shared imaginary kingdom playing out alongside, but separate from, the very real city of Cork in Disco Pigs. Both plays also look at what happens when these private worlds are blasted open and the outside world comes rushing in.

I’m particularly interested in the sibling relationship, how unique it is. I think of siblings as the holders of each other’s childhoods, as each other’s ultimate witnesses. It’s like they keep the vanishing time of childhood alive for each other. This is quite an amazing and complicated burden. What does it mean to carry the past for someone else? Are there parts of ourselves we’ve stowed away in other people for safe keeping? Can we ever reclaim these parts or are they lost to us forever? What happens when different versions of history collide? Can denying a memory be an act of love?

On that note, and tying it all together, I think both Topdog/Underdog and Disco Pigs are finally and profoundly about love. There’s a moment early in Disco Pigs when Runt turns to Pig and says: “Wa colour’s love, Pig?”

And this puts the focus squarely on what the play is about: how to understand love, how to get it, how to keep it, what it feels like when it’s lost.

Love. Tiny word. Casts great shadows.

These are some of the questions I’m trying to explore in Moonshine.


Primary Stages ESPA Drills will be held on October 2 and 3, 2017 at the Cherry Lane Theatre. All readings are free and open to the public. Visit our website for a full list of readings and to RSVP.

Discord: The Crossword Puzzle!

Crossword fans and history buffs will love this special puzzle inspired by The Gospel According to Thomas Jefferson, Charles Dickens and Count Leo Tolstoy: Discord by Scott Carter. Put your knowledge of these three historical figures to the test in this challenging puzzle.

Discord Crossword2

Download a printable PDF version here. Download the solution here. (But no cheating!)

Performances of The Gospel According to Thomas Jefferson, Charles Dickens and Count Leo Tolstoy: Discord by Scott Carter run September 19 – October 22, 2017 at the Cherry Lane Theatre. Click here for tickets and more information.

 

Enter the Mind of Celebrated Costume Designer David Hyman

Ever wondered how costumes transform from small sparks of inspiration into the fully finished garments you see onstage? David Hyman, the costume designer of The Gospel According to Thomas Jefferson, Charles Dickens and Count Leo Tolstoy: Discord
by Scott Carter, gave us an exclusive sneak peek into his personal drawings and research for the three iconic characters before the play’s New York Premiere.

Check out David Hyman’s sketches and inspiration behind the costume designs of Thomas Jefferson, Charles Dickens and Leo Tolstoy.

Discord Drawings 1

Sketch of Thomas Jefferson alongside various portraits of the third President and his contemporaries in distinguishable attire.

 

Discord Drawings 2

Colorful portrayal of Jefferson decked out in green next to textured and patterned fabric swatches.

 

Discord Drawings 3

Draft of Charles Dickens with pictures of the famous writer in his trademark bow tie.

 

Discord Drawings 4

Drawing of Dickens draped in purple with an assortment of unique fabric influences.

 

Discord Drawings 5

Depiction of Leo Tolstoy in traditional Russian garments beside the images that inspired the design.

 

Discord Drawings 6

Illustration of Tolstoy in classic peasant attire featuring a belted loose-fitting shirt and trousers with distinct red and brown fabrics.

 

Discord Drawings 9

A close up of the of fabric samples for Thomas Jefferson, Charles Dickens and Leo Tolstoy’s costumes.

Performances of The Gospel According to Thomas Jefferson, Charles Dickens and Count Leo Tolstoy: Discord by Scott Carter run September 19 – October 22, 2017 at the Cherry Lane Theatre. Click here for tickets and more information.

Special Talkbacks Scheduled for …Discord

Scott Carter (Executive Producer of “Real Time with Bill Maher”), and playwright of The Gospel According to Thomas Jefferson, Charles Dickens and Count Leo Tolstoy: Discord will lead several post-show talkbacks with a number of special guests.

Scott Carter Talkbacks for Discord

The lineup is currently as follows, but is subject to change.

Saturday, September 30 at 2pm – Iconic Performance Artist & Author Karen Finley

Saturday, October 7 at 2pm – New York Times Columnist & CNBC “Squawk Box” Host Andrew Ross Sorkin

Saturday, October 7 at 8pm – Ex-New York Times Ethicist & “Person, Place Thing” Host Randy Cohen

Thursday, October 12 at 8pm – Comedian, Author & Playwright Lewis Black

Friday, October 13 at 8pm – Thrive Global Founder & CEO Arianna Huffington

Saturday, October 14 at 8pm – New Yorker Contributing Writer & Author Maria Konnikova

Sunday, October 15 at 3pm – Ex-U.S. Representative Rick Lazio (R-NY)

Sunday, October 21 at 8pm – Progressive Radio Talk Show Host & Author Thom Hartmann

Sunday, October 22 at 3pm – “Curb Your Enthusiasm” Star & Comedian Susie Essman

Traditional Talkback Performances for Discord

We will also continue our traditional talkbacks led by a member of the Primary Stages artistic staff on October 4 and October 11.  These evenings  opportunity for the audience to engage in a dialogue with the artists in our productions.

Performances of The Gospel According to Thomas Jefferson, Charles Dickens and Count Leo Tolstoy: Discord by Scott Carter run September 19 – October 22, 2017 at the Cherry Lane Theatre. Click here for tickets and more information.