Inside Primary Stages

Primary Stages Annual Gala 2017

The annual Primary Stages Gala was held at Tribeca 360° on October 16, 2017. This year, we celebrated Artistic Honorees Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty (the Tony-winning songwriting team behind Ragtime, Once On This Island, and Anastasia); Producer Honorees, Janet B. Rosen and Marvin Rosen (In Transit on Broadway); and Corporate Honorees Jose Mendez and Katie Graziano (The Excel Group and MIC Floor Covering, LLC).

It was a beautiful evening filled with good food, fun conversation, and showstopping performances (Liz Callaway, the cast of In Transit, Ramin Karimloo, and Quentin Earl Darrington, among others). Thank you to all of our featured guests and attendees for making it such a warm and festive event, and to everyone for supporting the work and vision of Primary Stages as we continue building an off-Broadway home for American theater creators.

For more information about supporting Primary Stages and our extensive education programs, visit our website.

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Primary Stages Profile: Michael Palmer, Stage Manager

As Stage Manager for the Primary Stages production of Daniel’s Husband, Michael Palmer takes on a variety of roles throughout each step of putting a show on stage. In this candid interview, Michael talks about what his job entails, his favorite theater memory, and the one factor that makes his job worth it, every single time.

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The Primary Stages production of Daniel’s Husband. Photo by James Leynse.

What made you want to become a stage manager?

I fell into it. I started out as an actor, dancer, chorus boy, and a musician. I played and piano and violin, and I was a music major in school. And my roommate was a stage manager. Years ago on a tour, they needed an ASM (assistant stage manager). So I said, ‘I’ll do it’. And so throughout the years I would, if someone said, “Hey we need a stage manager, will you do it?” I would do it. And then I was casting a production of the Scottish play, and the stage manager left before we even started so I said “I’ll do his work until you find someone else.” And then the director was fired, and a new director came in and they still hadn’t found a stage manager so I was basically stage-managing it. The show never ended up going up and the producer pulled out eventually. But then I got another stage managing gig and another stage-managing gig. And then I just became a stage manager. I’ve been stage-managing now for about ten years full time.

Not everyone knows what a stage manager does. Could you explain your job?

It’s a hard job to describe, but how I look at it is that everyone is involved in the show, I put it in a big circle: producers, directors, actors, and designers. I kind of stand in the middle and just make sure everything is working, everyone is communicating, and everyone has what they need. It’s sort of like an office manager because, especially in the beginning, you’re doing all the scheduling, and paperwork and things that are happening: everyone has scripts, making sure scripts are updated. When you get into the rehearsal process, you’re making sure everything is written down: what props are needed, where they’re going, where the actors are moving, staying on lines to make sure they’re learning their lines correctly, and you’re working as a right hand with the director. When the show starts running, you do what’s called, “calling the show”. You’re on the headsets calling for the lights, and the sound, and the crew, and so you’re running the show.

Do you have a favorite theater memory?

There’s just so many. I grew up here in New York so I was always seeing shows: Broadway shows, off, off-off. Well one thing I remember from when I was a kid, I saw a production with Bernadette Peters before she was “Bernadette Peters,” you know? When she was just starting out- it was called Curley McDimple, she must have been about 18. Me and my family, we followed her career because she was the girl we saw. In college, I saw a production with Estelle Parsons and she just blew me away, it was just an amazing thing to see. I stage-managed a show that she directed, so I got to work with her for a little short while. On the second day, she called me, and I was like ‘every time you say my name I shake’.

What is the most rewarding part of your job?

I think the most rewarding part of the job is the show. Everything about it, I can’t find just one thing that is rewarding, it’s the whole thing. The show, getting our show up and people applauding at the end, you know? Liking the work that we’ve all done, collaborative efforts of everyone.

The most challenging?

The scheduling (laughs). The hardest part is just trying to…doing everything that everyone needs, you’re making their lives easier. I mean not only their life on the outside, but you know people having bad days, or things going on, they need this, they need that, sometimes there may be friction. So, I think that’s the most challenging part is to make sure that you’re getting it all done the way people need it, and without stepping on toes or hurting someone. Just do it all with a smile and you’ll get it done.

What is your favorite play? Why?

It’s usually what I’m working on at the time. I mean I do have to say Daniel’s Husband is one of my favorites, it really is. I love everything about this: this experience, the people I’m working with, the actors, the crew, the play itself, the writer. I’ve worked with this director a lot, I love working with him. I love A Midsummer Night’s Dream. I don’t know if I would call that my favorite. I don’t think I have a favorite. I don’t have a favorite color either.

Primary Stages is in the midst of a season-long initiative about “home.” What does that word mean to you? 

Well it conjures up different things in different contexts. But in this context, home is right here. I feel really at home sitting here, or up there, in my booth with my headset on, I’m at home. Coming into this whole process, going to rehearsals. Most people have to have other jobs: waiting tables, working in offices, none of that is home. This is home.

 

The Primary Stages production of Daniel’s Husband runs until April 28, 2017 at the Cherry Lane Theatre. For tickets and more information, visit our website.

 

Primary Stages Profile: Development Intern Christine Kullman

From time to time, we like to feature guest bloggers. This time around, Development Intern Christine Kullman shares her experience volunteering during our Free Student Matinee Program for NYC Public School Students.

IMG_2553Primary Stages Free Student Matinees allow the students to experience live theater, something that might be new or a rare occurrence, and they encourage discussion to expand past the classroom.

I love listening to the students as they first enter the theater. They comment on how cozy it is and how much warmer it is inside than the sidewalk where they have been waiting anxiously. The young people come in single file, backpacks on. A Primary Stages staff member leads the group to their seats and we go over a few house rules: cell phone off and no food in the theater.

Watching Fade with teenagers was definitely an exciting experience because they see things so differently from the evening audiences, which tend to be a bit quieter. There were scenes in the show where the students ALWAYS vocalize either their excitement or their disapproval of the characters’ actions.

In one particular scene, the character Abel opens up to the other person in the play, Lucia, about his past. Every time this part came during a Student Matinees, the students were very attentive. I think the reason why they were so engaged at this point is because Abel’s demeanor was challenged, and the students realized that there was so much more going on than met the eye.

When the shows end, our students always seem very eager for the talkback. They are fully engaged with the themes of the show and each one of the students has come to care for the characters.

Shows like Fade allow the next generation of young adults and theater-goers to become engaged not only in their communities but globally as well. Hopefully, these young people will take the lessons taught in Fade, honesty, challenging assumptions, and creating an environment of equity and inclusion, and apply them to the world around them.

Our Free Student Matinee Program for NYC Public School Students has been running for over twenty years, and is generously funded by Primary Stages supporters. In addition to this long-standing program, we also provide free tickets to every Primary Stages production to any NYC middle school, high school, YABC and Pathways to Education student through our TIXTEEN program.

Primary Stages Profile: Rockwell Scholar Vanessa Pereda-Felix

In the program for this winter’s production of Fade by Tanya Saracho, we featured a brief interview with Primary Stages ESPA actor Vanessa Pereda-Felix.  Below is the extended version of the interview.

vpfheadshot3Vanessa Pereda-Felix moved to New York in 2009 from Central California.  She ventured east with a BFA in theater and a dream to perform in New York.  After three years in the city, she longed for a community of artists and the opportunity to hone her craft.  She found that home at Primary Stages ESPA.

You are an ESPA Rockwell Scholar.  Tell me a little about the scholarship.

When I choose to be part of a community I really want to be active, so when I first started taking classes I’d always ask if I could help out.  Based on my participation in and out of class, I guess the company thought that I’d be a good match. As a Rockwell Scholar, I’m an ambassador for new and interested students.  I also get to take three classes for free each year and serve as the teaching assistant in those classes.  As the teaching assistant, I act as the liaison between the teacher and the class, for example, making sure everyone understands the assignments.  I also convey information about all the events sponsored by Primary Stages and ESPA [like Detention or ESPAFest].  Additional  responsibilities as the Rockwell Scholar include being part of Detention as both an actor and an audience member; going to ESPA Drills; and going to mixers, where I represent both ESPA students and Rockwell Scholars, to talk about what makes ESPA great (which I was already doing before I received this honor, so it’s easy).

What has being as Rockwell Scholar meant to you?

I didn’t see the scholarship coming and it was an honor to receive it.  I was so in awe and overwhelmed.  It means that I have the support of company behind me as both an artist and a person.  And it represents how nurturing and caring ESPA is; it’s a cheerleader on my side.

What are you currently working on?

In the spring I work with Superhero Clubhouse, which is a company at the intersection of environmental science and theater.  We do a project called Big Green Theater where we work with 4th and 5th grade students at two schools in Bushwick.  The students write short plays inspired by the information they learned from an environmental scientist who visits each class at the beginning of the semester.  Then five to seven of those plays are given full productions at the Bushwick Star, which is our partner on this program.  The plays are always produced during Earth Week, and really helps demonstrate the power of storytelling.

To learn more about Vanessa visit her website. To learn more about ESPA visit our website.

 

A Note from the Artistic Team of The Roads to Home

With this production of The Roads to Home we celebrate Horton Foote’s centennial. Horton was a major American dramatist and Primary Stages had the great fortune of working directly with him on his plays Dividing the Estate (which we moved with Lincoln Center Theatre to Broadway) and The Day Emily Married. Horton also directed When They Speak of Rita by Daisy Foote for us and we produced his Harrison, TX, directed by Pam McKinnon, in 2012.

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The company and producers on the Opening Night of the Primary Stages production of Horton Foote’s The Roads to Home.

Horton was instrumental in fostering a sense home at Primary. He created work that
chronicled the American home, shared his actual family with us, and employed his
infectious charm and generosity wherever he went. When he was with us, he attended
almost every performance, always sitting in the same seat. At intermission, audience
members would line up to share a word with him, often extending the break, much to the
chagrin of our house manager, but to the delight of Horton and everyone else in the room.

Although Horton is no longer with us, the feeling of home he created lives on, through
his plays, his family, and of course you, the audiences who so love and support his
work. Horton’s plays are the gold standard of what American playwriting can be and we
are honored to be an enduring home for Horton’s plays, family, and legacy. As Horton’s
characters discover, home can be a place, a memory, a longing, a person, a family, or
even an idea. In the theater, we are lucky. We get to create homes of people, of stories,
and of places we love on stage night after night, season after season. We thank you,
our adventuresome audience, for sharing our enthusiasm for new American plays and
playwrights and for being part of the Primary family.

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The Primary Stages production of The Roads to Home runs September 14- November 27, 2016 at the Cherry Lane Theatre. Visit the Primary Stages website for tickets and more info.