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The 2017/18 Primary Stages Season in Review

It seems like just yesterday that we were kicking off our 2017/18 season. Alas, our season is now officially over, so before we dive into our new and exciting 2018/19 season, here is our year in review:

Our first show of the season was The Gospel According to Thomas Jefferson, Charles Dickens and Count Leo Tolstoy: Discord. A few of history’s most famous men, all of whom wrote their own version of the gospels, debated everything from religion to literature to marriage. Whose ideas did you agree with most?

Thom Sesma, Michael Laurence and Duane Boutte in Primary Stages' production of DISCORD - photo by Jeremy Daniel.jpg

Thom Sesma, Michael Laurence and Duane Boutté in DISCORD. (photo by Jeremy Daniel)

Next, you’ll fondly recall our second show of the season, Kate Hamill’s Pride and Prejudice. This adaption had many of us laughing for two straight hours. (And if you haven’t yet heard, Kate Hamill is returning next season to Primary Stages with her adaptation of Little Women next May! Make sure you don’t miss it!)

The Cast of Primary Stages' 2017 Production of PRIDE AND PREJUDICE - photo by James Leynse

The Cast of PRIDE AND PREJUDICE. (photo by James Leynse)

Our Annual Gala (this was number 33!) honored Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty, the tony-winning songwriting team behind Ragtime, Once On this Island, and Anastasia; Broadway producers Janet B. and Marvin Rosen of In Transit; and corporate honorees Jose Mendez and Katie Graziano.

Primary Stages Annual Gala 2017

Terrence McNally presents awards to Stephen Flaherty and Lynn Ahrens

This season, we also had the pleasure of enjoying live music in A Walk With Mr. Heifetz. Mariella Haubs skillfully played the violin as the story in pre-Israel Palestine unfolded before our eyes. (And some of you may have even stayed for our special post-show concert series, Saturday Night Strings.)

A Walk With Mr. Heifetz by James Inverne and directed by Andrew Leynse playing at Primary Stages in New York.

Yuval Boim, Mariella Haubs, and Adam Green in A WALK WITH MR. HEIFETZ (photo by James Inverne

Our last show of the season was Feeding the Dragon. Written and performed by Sharon Washington, it was a true story of Sharon’s experience growing up inside the St. Agnes branch of the New York City Public Library. As I’m sure you’ve noticed, we’ve had quite the literary season this year.

"Feeding the Dragon" at Primary Stages in New York

Sharon Washington in FEEDING THE DRAGON (photo by James Leynse)

In addition, we honored the 10th Anniversary of Primary Stages ESPA, our multidisciplinary theater training school for artists in all stages of their development. As part of the celebration, we brought back some of our favorite throwback classes and faculty from the past decade, and enjoyed many special events.

Sarah Matteucci, Miranda Wilson and Amy Harris

Team Primary Stages ESPA: Sarah Matteucci, Miranda Wilson, and Amy Harris

And we finished off our season with the Spring Fling, where we presented the Einhorn Mentorship Award to Kimberly Senior. Kimberly is a beloved teacher at Primary Stages ESPA as well as the director of the season opener,  …Discord.

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Kimberly Senior receiving the 2018 Einhorn Mentorship Award.

Overall, it has been a truly wonderful season. Thank you for being a part of it and we hope you are looking forward to our coming 2018/2019 Season as much as we are!

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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!

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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.

 

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 Sneak Peak at Feeding the Dragon

IMG_1274In anticipation of our production of Sharon Washington’s autobiographical solo piece Feeding the Dragon, Sharon recently presented pieces of her work during special events at library branches around the city. Sharon’s first event was at the New York Library for the Performing Arts at Lincoln Center, where she performed an excerpt of her play and then answered questions posed by Casey Childs (Founder of Primary Stages) and members of the audience. Here’s a recap:

In Feeding the Dragon, Sharon recounts her experience growing up in the St. Agnes Branch of the NYPL on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, where her father served as the building’s custodian. The St. Agnes branch is a historic Carnegie library, heated by coal during Sharon’s youth, and housed a hidden private apartment for the custodian and their family.

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While Sharon has considered telling her story for decades, it wasn’t until 2010 when she finally committed to writing her experience down on paper. At first, Sharon pictured writing a children’s book, but it ended up coming out as a memoir and when she read her work aloud, Feeding the Dragon was born. Although she does plan on turning her story into a book someday, she wanted to make sure her story was told this way first.

During the creation process for Feeding the Dragon, Sharon had to make a leap from being just an actor to also being a writer. While rehearsing, Sharon learned it was tough to be both at the same time. So while rehearsing the show, she often spends certain days from the perspective of a playwright, and others from that of an actor treating her play like she would any other production.

IMG_1277To this day, Sharon frequents libraries often. Whenever she goes out of town to a new city, one of the first places she visits is the local library. Growing up in a library is an experience that has stayed with her and Feeding the Dragon examines her love of literature and how it has shaped the rest of her life.

Feeding the Dragon plays from March 21 – April 27, 2018. For more info, please visit primarystages.org.

A Day for Jane: experience New York City in true Austen fashion

Jane Austen is one of the preeminent writers of the Regency Era. While Britain was in the throes of its distinctive phases in architecture, literature, and fashion, New York City in the 1800s was undergoing its own boom as an economic and cultural center. The soot and gambling dens are best left to history, but in a city as storied as ours, you don’t have to look very far to experience the more rosy aspects of Austen’s day.

Bosie Tea Parlor

Photo by Giles Ashford

“But indeed I would rather have nothing but tea.” – Mansfield Park

What better way to start your day than with a finely-brewed cuppa and a selection of delicate pastries and savory delights? Let the bustle of the city pass you by as you imagine yourself in an English country sitting room (or entertaining the advances of a potential suitor).  

  • Bosie Tea Parlor: A stone’s throw away from the Cherry Lane Theatre on Morton Street is Bosie Tea Parlor. With over 100 curated loose leaf teas by tea master Kiley Holliday (who also holds the distinction for being the youngest tea sommelier in the U.S.) and pastries from third generation French pâtissier Damien Herrgott, Bosie’s quiet elegance is ideal for all your tea service needs. (An even lovelier touch? The check is given to you tucked into a classic novel).
  • Lady Mendl’s Tea Salon: Where else can you sup on petits fours while lounging on brocade couches? Seating at this Victorian parlor tucked in Gramercy Park is limited, so be sure to make a reservation if you’re interested in their luxurious pre-fixe afternoon tea.
  • Tea & Sympathy: Bangers and mash, shepherd’s pie, and sticky toffee pudding? Check. At the West Village’s Tea & Sympathy, you can have your traditional, hearty British fare alongside tiered trays of Victoria sponge cake and scones with clotted cream, all washed down with a pot of Earl Grey (and dozens of other choices).
The Morgan Library

The Morgan Library & Museum

“The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid.” – Northanger Abbey

In Pride and Prejudice, Miss Bingley quips that Elizabeth Bennet “is a great reader, and has no pleasure in anything else.” She meant it as a slight, but what better way to honor Austen’s long list of learned women than by immersing yourself in one of the greatest pleasures in the world?  

  • The Morgan Library & Museum: In 2009, the Morgan Library & Museum honored the life and legacy of Jane Austen with an expansive exhibition of over 100 of her works, from manuscripts to personal letters. Selections from the exhibition can still be viewed online, but if you’re ever near Grand Central or Penn Station, you’ll be hard put to find a more awe-inspiring space for literature and art lovers.  
Frelinghuysen Arboretum

Frelinghuysen Arboretum

“To sit in the shade on a fine day, and look upon verdure is the most perfect refreshment.” – Mansfield Park

Tea and literature is all well and good, but one of the greatest luxuries we have in our oversaturated lives today is time to do absolutely nothing. Leave your screens behind for a few hours and relish in a quiet walk to air out your thoughts.

  • Conservatory Garden: In the northeast corner of Central Park is this six acre formal garden, which is divided into smaller Italian, French, and English gardens (where Kate Hamill’s photos—see above—for our production of Pride and Prejudice were taken). A designated Quiet Zone, let the hubbub of the city melt away as you while away an afternoon surrounded by woodland plants, seasonal blooms, and decorative fountains.
  • Frelinghuysen Arboretum: If you’re itching to take a day trip, the Frelinghuysen Arboretum in Morristown, NJ is a serene (and free!) escape from the city. Meander through the immaculate English-style grounds of the 127 acre arboretum and don’t forget to take a breather by the main house and its sloping Great Lawn, which wouldn’t be out of place in a sumptuous period film.
Thomas Wilson (1816)

Illustration by Thomas Wilson, from his how-to-waltz book (London, 1816)

“To be fond of dancing was a certain step towards falling in love.” – Pride and Prejudice

The ballroom wasn’t exactly the site of good first impressions for Lizzy and Mr. Darcy, but that doesn’t have to be your case! Conclude your perfectly Austenian day by stepping and skipping your night away in the most elegant fashion.  

  • Country Dance New York: You can sip a cup of tea and imagine yourself in an Austen novel, or you can join Country Dance New York every Tuesday in the West Village for an evening of the kind of social dancing Jane Austen herself would have enjoyed. Lessons are provided, newcomers are welcome, and it’s tradition to switch partners for each dance, so there’s no pressure to find a companion to bring with you (but the more the merrier!).
The Cast of Primary Stages' 2017 Production of PRIDE AND PREJUDICE

The 2017 production of Pride and Prejudice at Primary Stages. Photographed by James Leynse.

“One cannot have too large a party.” – Emma

Sated with scones and feeling fancy-free, what better way to wind down your evening than by celebrating Jane’s most beloved story with the quick-changing and sharp-tongued antics of our Bennets, de Bourghs, et al. in Kate Hamill’s playful new adaptation of Pride and Prejudice.


Performances of the Primary Stages production of Pride and Prejudice run through January 6 at the Cherry Lane Theatre. For tickets and additional information, please visit our website.