2017/2018 Season

Primary Profile: Einhorn Mentorship Award Recipient Kimberly Senior

This year at Spring Fling, we are presenting the Einhorn Mentorship Award to Kimberly Senior! You might remember Kimberly from earlier this season at Primary Stages as the director of Gospel According to… Discord or as the director of Disgraced on Broadway! You might also know her as one of our beloved teachers at Primary Stages ESPA. Check out the interview below to learn more about Kimberly and why we think she’s so deserving of this special honor:

Did you always want to be a director? How did you end up becoming one?
It’s an ever evolving process. I have always known I am a Maker and a Doer. Maybe I could have been an urban planner. Or a chef. Storytelling called to me at an early age, mainly as an audience member. The transformative power of stories, of histories unfolding, of futures being discovered has always had a profound effect. I am deeply curious as to how a disparate audience unites under this transformative magic and it has been a lifelong quest to understand this challenge and ultimately expand the relationship between the story and the audience it reaches. Being a director is the best fit for this hunger!

artist-senior-kimberly2

What advice would you give to young directors?
Don’t rush! I have been doing this professionally for over twenty years and still am not even halfway through my career. Take time to be a HUMAN BEING. Fall in love. Take walks. Read books. Talk to your grandparents. All of this will inform your work as you go, too! Also, be kind. Always.

And there’s this Annie Dillard quote, which is about writing, but I think words to live by:

One of the things I know about writing is this: spend it all, shoot it, play it, lose it, all, right away, every time. Do not hoard what seems good for a later place in the book or for another book; give it, give it all, give it now. The impulse to save something good for a better place later is the signal to spend it now. Something more will arise for later, something better. These things fill from behind, from beneath, like well water. Similarly, the impulse to keep to yourself what you have learned is not only shameful, it is destructive. Anything you do not give freely and abundantly becomes lost to you. You open your safe and find ashes.

Has teaching changed you as a person and/or director?
100%. I don’t even know how to begin to answer this question. When teaching I have to articulate what it is that I do often so unconsciously. And in this process of reiteration, I always discover something new. Teaching reminds me that not all of our brains are the same- what works for one student doesn’t always work for another. I love the challenge of finding the best way to communicate, which absolutely translates into my directing work and my life. Most importantly, teaching expands me. It is an innately generous place to be, and when I am teaching, I feel more ready to receive as a result. My students challenge and inspire me. You can’t skip any steps in a classroom. Any laboratory bound by the laws of curiosity is destined to advance and expand one’s thinking and one’s heart.

What has been your favorite class to teach at Primary Stages ESPA?
All of them! One of the great delights of teaching at ESPA is how genuinely game the staff and students are to try something new! It’s a constant collaboration. It’s another wonderful thing about teaching- the classroom is a safe place to explore and risk. I have had this approach with my classes. Dreaming big and digging deep is what ESPA is all about for me.

Interested in taking a class with Kimberly? You’re in luck! She is teaching two courses this summer at Primary Stages ESPA: an Acting Intensive and a Directing Workshop!

Is there anything in your career you still haven’t done but really want to do?
Everything.
Really.
There are so many stories to tell, so many places to tell them, so many people to make them with, so many more people with which to share them.
And I’m ready for a musical. 🙂


If you’d like to join us this year for Spring Fling, get your tickets here!

This year’s Spring Fling is a tasting party, featuring many different dishes and drinks from several restaurants in the West Village. Mark your calendars for Thursday, May 10th because proceeds from this event help us offer performances and talkbacks to over 1,600 NYC Public School students.

 

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Behind the Stacks: The St. Agnes Library

Sharon Washington grew up in the St. Agnes branch of the New York Public Library, but Feeding the Dragon covers just a tiny sliver of this century-old building. We decided to investigate the storied history of this literary establishment.

The Beginning

St. Agnes Theater

Photo from NYPL by Elizabeth Felicella

In 1893, the St. Agnes Chapel created a parish library now known as the St. Agnes Library.  Originally located on West 91st Street, the library contained a small collection of literature for the blind, in addition to the standard books of the time. The following year, the library was extended to accommodate the Upper West Side’s growing population. It changed its locations a few more times until it found its present home at 444 Amsterdam Avenue in 1906, as part of the New York Public Library system. The St. Agnes library is one of the original sixty-plus libraries funded by Andrew Carnegie, who allocated $5.2 million specifically for the construction of libraries in the city. Overall, Mr. Carnegie helped create 1,600 libraries in the United States, all built near schools, community centers, and other social organizations, as they were meant to become a central part of society.

Renovations
In October of 2007, a little over a hundred years after its opening, the St. Agnes branch closed for renovations for over two years. In February of 2010, it reopened, keeping many of its historical features with upgraded technological improvements. Originally designed by Babb, Cook, and Willard, the library has a Renaissance Revival facade and a beautiful staircase, both repaired to keep the original look. An accessible elevator was added in a way that maintained the beauty and age of the building. The basement (where Carnegie libraries housed their massive coal furnaces, including the one Sharon Washington’s father was employed to stoke) is now where you’ll find the library’s ongoing book sale. 

The St. Agnes Chapel

St. Agnes 2

Image from the Museum of the City of New York

If you know the Upper West Side, you might be asking yourself, where is this St. Agnes Chapel? Well, that is an interesting story all on its own. In June of 1892, the St. Agnes Chapel opened on West 92nd Street, between Columbus and Amsterdam Avenues. It was built by the Parish of the Trinity Church to welcome those who were unable to make it to their main church downtown, with space to seat approximately 1,500 people.

St. Agnes 1

Image from the Museum of the City of New York

Its gorgeous design included mosaic decorations created by the Tiffany Glass Company, a beautiful organ, and a 185-foot high tower with one of the largest swinging bell peals in North America. By 1943, the Upper West Side neighborhood demographic had changed and there was no longer a need for the chapel, so it was closed and sold to Trinity School. The next year, Trinity School demolished the chapel and created an athletic field. Most New Yorkers don’t know that this Chapel even existed, but by carrying its name, the memory of the St. Agnes chapel lives on through the historic St. Agnes branch of the New York Public Library.

Listen Up: Music Inspired by Feeding the Dragon

Sharon Washington’s Feeding the Dragon is about her life growing up on the Upper West Side of New York City in the 1970s. Our production’s Sound Designer and Composer Lindsay Jones helped us compile this groovy playlist inspired by that era and Sharon’s memories.

 

Feeding the Dragon runs through April 27, 2018. For more info, please visit primarystages.org.

Suggested Reading: Feeding the Dragon

Growing up in the St. Agnes Branch of the New York Public Library instilled a lifelong passion for literature in Sharon Washington. Sharon shares her story in our production of her autobiographical solo show, Feeding the Dragon.  If you enjoyed Sharon’s tale, here are some of the books Sharon loves:

Some of Sharon’s Favorite Adult Books:

Some of Sharon’s Favorite Children’s Books:

Sharon mentions these books, and many more in her tale of growing up in the library, Feeding the Dragon. Performances run through April 27. Visit our website for tickets.

Washington Family Album

In Feeding the Dragon, Sharon Washington revisits her time growing up in an apartment on the top floor inside the St. Agnes Branch of the New York Public Library, where her father served as the building’s custodian. Take a look back at some of the family memories from her time growing up there.

Accompany Sharon on her trip down memory lane in our production of Feeding the Dragon, playing through April 27, 2018. Visit our website for tickets.

A world in flux: Jen Caprio’s costume design for A Walk With Mr. Heifetz

Primary Stages audiences will remember Jen Caprio’s costume designs for Daniel’s Husband, Perfect Arrangement, and In Transit (which earned her a 2011 Lucille Lortel Award nomination for Outstanding Costume Design). In James Inverne’s A Walk With Mr. Heifetz, Caprio uses texture and color to evoke the often fraught intersection of personal and cultural identity.

Caprio did all of her sketches for our production using an iPad Pro and her notes alongside each drawing offer an insightful glimpse into her creative process.

Jascha HeifetzYehuda Sharett Act 1Yehuda Sharett Act 2Moshe SharettViolinist


The Primary Stages production of A Walk With Mr. Heifetz runs through March 4 at the Cherry Lane Theatre. For tickets and additional information, please visit our website.

Who was Jascha Heifetz?

Heifetz

Born: February 2, 1901 in Vilnius, Lithuania (then part of the Russian Empire)
Died: December 10, 1987 in Los Angeles, California

Jascha Heifetz is considered by many to be the greatest violinist of all time. Heifetz’s father was a local violin instructor and noticed his son’s potential from a very young age, purchasing a small violin to teach basic techniques when Jascha was barely two years old. At five, Heifetz enrolled in a local music school and began taking formal lessons. A child virtuoso, he made his public debut at seven in the nearby city of Kaunas and, at nine, entered the St. Petersburg Conservatory to study with the famed Hungarian violinist and pedagogue, Leopold Auer. Auer reportedly wrote to a German manager, “He is only eleven years old, but I assure you that this boy is already a great violinist… In all my fifty years of violin teaching, I have never known such precocity.”

Life in and beyond the concert hall

“If you provoke a jealous God by playing with such superhuman perfection, you will die young. I earnestly advise you to play something badly every night before going to bed, instead of saying your prayers. No mortal should presume to play so faultlessly.”

— George Bernard Shaw, in a letter following Heifetz’s London debut (1920)

Playwright George Bernard Shaw’s tongue-in-cheek warning went, thankfully, unheeded. Over the course of his career, Heifetz toured internationally and throughout the United States (where his family settled after leaving Russia in 1917, shortly after which he made his Carnegie Hall debut at 16). He also performed in a number of benefit concerts and served extensively with the USO during WWII.

In addition to being an incomparable violinist, Heifetz was also a gifted pianist and composer; he expanded the violin repertoire through transcriptions and arrangements of works by other artists. (A close friend of George Gershwin’s, his transcriptions of the latter’s piano preludes and selections from Porgy and Bess are some of the most beloved to this day). Not to be outdone by the gravity of his existing accolades, he also wrote several popular songs under the pseudonym Jim Hoyl, one of which was recorded by Bing Crosby.  

A lasting legacy

Heifetz_illustration

“Jascha Heifetz” by James Charles Jr. House; Woodmere Art Museum

“The goals he set still remain, and for violinists today it’s rather depressing that they may never really be attained again.”

— Itzhak Perlman, from The Guardian

Over the course of his lifetime, Heifetz made hundreds of recordings with Decca Records and RCA Victor; he was one of the first musicians to amass a following via recordings before he appeared in person on any one of his worldwide tours.

Jascha Heifetz taught at the University of Southern California from 1962 until 1983, where several of his masterclasses were filmed and broadcast on television. In 1972, a shoulder injury put an end to his public career, but his bow arm remained unaffected and he continued performing privately until his death in 1987.  


Performances of the Primary Stages production of A Walk With Mr. Heifetz start January 31 at the Cherry Lane Theatre. For tickets and additional information, please visit our website.