Uncategorized

Primary Stages Profile: Taylor Gregory, Primary Stages/Fordham MFA, ’17

taylor (1)What was your very first play about?

Chittenango was about a Broadway director who forgets that it’s opening night for his show Jesus Fantastic!

What is your earliest memory of the theater?

When I was young, my cousin Tommy, who is now a priest, would write and stage plays in the basement every Thanksgiving as entertainment for our extended family. All of the cousins had roles and the shows were not very good.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received as a playwright?

Mark Bly told me, “Characters have secrets.”

What makes a good artistic home?

A Keurig, cozy socks, a small guitar and sunflower seeds.

Tell us about your play! What was your inspiration?

A Small Group is about a man who wakes up in rehab with no recollection of how he got there. He is befriended by four other patients who take him into their group where he discovers that his struggles with identity are not uncommon, and that everybody has a story.  The prevalence of addiction in our culture inspired this play.  We all know “someone.”

Taylor Gregory’s A Small Group will be presented April 27-30 at HERE Arts. Click here for more info.

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.

032117_Husband_083(1)

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: Edward Precht, Primary Stages/Fordham MFA, ’17

EdwardPrechtWhat was your very first play about?

My first full-length play was about a guy who, in so few words, went on a very weird drug trip, during which he learned about the entire history of theater. So many theater puns. Like, 100% theater puns. It’s embarrassing in its own charming way, but it’s what got me here.

What is your earliest memory of the theater?

I couldn’t tell you my earliest, but I do know the most important: the day I saw George Brant’s Elephant’s Graveyard. Up until then I’d only seen pretty standard, kitchen sink-y plays. That production was the first that showed me the versatility of theater and the power of words.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received as a playwright?

I think it was Julie Jensen who told me she didn’t believe in writer’s block – that the best way to keep writing was, well, to keep writing. I’m still a little on the fence about it, but it has gotten me through some rough writing patches.

What makes a good artistic home?

The people. The people, the people, the people. Life sucks, man, and art is hard. But if you can find yourself a family – folks who understand you and challenge you and fuel you, both as an artist and a human being – then you’ll have found a home.

Tell us about your play! What was your inspiration?

Strange, America is about a young couple that gets stranded in a mysterious town in the Pacific Northwest. It’s a play about belief, cultural collision, and a very lifelike stuffed jackalope. I took inspiration from all over – Twin Peaks, Dante, Welcome to Night Vale, Rossetti, Gravity Falls, etc., etc., etc. – as well as a few things I (and, I think, all of us) struggle with from time to time. It’s been a joy-and-a-half to write. I hope it’s just as enjoyable to watch.

Edward Precht’s Strange, America will be presented ad April 20-23 at HERE Arts. Click here for more info.

Excerpts from Morning in America: November 9, 2016, 9:00am

The week after the election, we reached out to playwrights across our community and asked them each to write a one-minute monologue from the point of view of a character reflecting on the results the morning after at 9:00am, November 9th. We received over 70 monologues from a diverse group of playwrights, which we presented in a staged reading on February 18 & 19, 2017. We are pleased to include a few here on the blog.

Fruit Loops

By Michele Lowe

(A WOMAN not unlike Huma Abedin, stands outside a door and talks to someone on the other side. She is dressed in work clothes, ready to go to her office.)

WOMAN: Open the door.
Please unlock the door.
There are people downstairs who want to talk to you. I’m not going to tell you who.
Of course you can wear sunglasses.
Because they want to make sure you’re all right.
They’re worried about you. We’re all worried.
Of course you’re going to feel better.
Soon.
And you’re going to do great things, important things. But you need to come out first.
Fine, don’t come downstairs. Just come out and be. Take a shower. Brush your hair. Let me give you some breakfast.
Please open the door.
(gaining speed as she speaks) Because I love you. And I’m so proud of you. Because the world needs people like you. America needs you. I need you. I need you to come out so I can take you to kindergarten. Because if you don’t go to kindergarten you won’t grow up smart and strong. And the smart and strong people are going to figure out a way to keep us all going.
I don’t have any Fruit Loops.  Because they’re pure crap. You can cry all your want.
Nope.
Nope.
Not.
Never.
You know what the President-Elect eats for breakfast? That’s right.
Because I know.
Now, let’s go.

Hungover

By Eljon Wardally

(Nicole, 30s, Black. The boss’s office. NICOLE, in leggings, slippers, and a t-shirt, stands in front of her boss. Her hair is mussed. She either just woke up or hasn’t slept at all.)

NICOLE: I’ve been drunk for two days now.
Wine. Red.
Not my first choice but once you start you don’t want to switch. That’s what makes you sick.
Wasn’t even planning on it.
I mean, I purposely went to the polls in the morning so my evening could be free to curl up on the couch with popcorn and soda to watch the show.
Went out with some cousins for some pre-celebratory tacos because… Taco Tuesday when results started to pour in.
And nerves started to pour in.
And then wine started to pour in…
But my cousins didn’t have the same reaction as me.
I think they were relieved to have a different passport, an escape plan in case this-
But I don’t and when I knew all hope was lost…
It felt like I died.
Like your heart breaking, your insides exploding and going deaf, all at the same time.
And I don’t have an escape plan. Because it’s not something I prepared for like a terrorist attack or a blackout…
We are lost and I am still drunk.
And my family says it won’t be so bad, and they pat me on the back but, no, you have a way out to another country.
I don’t.
So don’t tell me to calm down.
I know what could happen.
We’ve seen this before.
This man-
We know there are tyrants who started out, charming at first,
you know, those big talkers who could command a room?
We know the power they have over people who ache for change they think is right.
So don’t tell me it won’t happen again.
Don’t tell me they won’t put us on boats or planes or send us away or brand us because, we’ve seen this before.
Taco Tuesday…
History might repeat itself.
Again.
Again.
Again.
And I am still drunk.
Maybe the whole world is still drunk.
Maybe I’m in a nightmare like Leonardo DiCaprio was, in that movie Inception?
Because that is the only explanation that makes sense to me.
Except I have no totem.
My country was my totem.
And I can’t wake up.
…So yes, today I will wear my t-shirt, leggings, and slippers, because that’s all I can do right now.
Until I open my eyes tomorrow and hope that the world isn’t still drunk.
Can I go back to my desk now?

(more…)

3 Ways You Can Help Save the NEA

If you’re reading this, there’s a fair chance you support the Arts. We don’t need to explain to you the deep importance of Art in America and the absolute necessity of a federal organization to champion our national artistic identity, as the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) has done since 1965.

The current administration’s budget proposal eliminates the NEA and in the effort to combat rhetoric that increasingly undermines the values Primary Stages cares so deeply about, we wanted to share with you some things we know to be unequivocally true:

  • The NEA provides funding to all 50 states.
  • This funding helps provide theater (and other arts) access and arts education to communities large and small.
  • Every $1 of NEA funding is matched by almost $9 of private or other non-federal support.

These are just three reasons that the NEA is absolutely vital for the United States international leader in the Arts.

Additionally the NEA provides critical support to the Arts Market,  maintaining jobs and vital tax revenue.  Nationally, the arts generated $135.2 billion of economic activity. $61.1 billion of the overall revenue is stems from the nation’s nonprofit arts and culture organizations.  This economic activity supports 4.13 million full-time jobs and generates $86.68 billion in resident household income. The arts also generate $22.3 billion in revenue to local, state, and federal governments every year. 1

But beyond the dollars and cents the arts brings to our state, local, and federal economy, the arts has a deep, intrinsic impact on our identity as individuals and as a nation. The Arts foster empathy, community, and an expansion of our understanding as humans. As such, we must do everything we can do to protect this critical institution.

On March 21st, people from communities around the country visited Washington, D.C. or called their Congressional Representatives to express support for the NEA and other cultural agencies as part of National Arts Advocacy Day. It’s not too late to make your voices heard.  Here’s how:

  1. Call your Representatives, two Senators, and the White House. Tell them you are a constituent and that you support sustained funding for the NEA and other cultural agencies. 

    To find out your Congressperson’s phone number, go to www.house.gov.

    Locale senate phone numbers:
    Kirsten Gillibrand (D) New York – (202) 224-4451
    Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer  (D) New York – (202) 224-6542

    Cory A. Booker (D) New Jersey – (202) 224-3224
    Robert Menendez (D) New Jersey – (202) 224-4744

    Richard Blumenthal (D) Connecticut – (202) 224-2823
    Christopher Murphy (D) Connecticut – (202) 224-4041
     
  2. Share this information on Facebook and reach out to your friends. 
  3. Ask those small businesses with whom you work to make these calls as well. 

Primary Stages has devoted itself for 32 seasons to nurturing an artform that thrives on the support of a community of real people, like yourselves. We thank you in advance for everything you do to keep the Arts alive in America. We promise we’ll return the favor.

-The Staff of Primary Stages

1: http://www.americansforthearts.org/by-program/reports-and-data/research-studies-publications/arts-economic-prosperity-iv/national-findings

2: Advocacy cheat sheet courtesy of Art/NY

Daniel’s Husband: Suggested Reading

If you were intrigued by the topics addressed in Daniel’s Husband, you might also like these plays, movies, and articles:

Plays

  • Next Fall by Geoffrey Nauffts: Luke and Adam are two gay men in a committed relationship. There is just one complication– Luke is extremely religious and Adam is an atheist. The men make their relationship work despite their differences, but one accident will change everything for Adam and Luke.
  • Standing on Ceremony by Mo Gaffney and Jordan Harrison: This compilation of short plays explores the touching, heartbreaking, and sometimes ridiculous moments before same-sex couples say “I Do.”

Films

  • I Do by David W Ross: This 2012 American drama follows a gay man who marries his lesbian best friend in order to get his green card. When he meets the love of his life, he is forced to make a daunting decision and confront the inequality that same-sex couples in America face.
  • Whose Life is it Anyway? by Brian Clark: (It’s also a play!) Ken Harrison is a sculptor who is faced with difficult decisions and a harrowing journey when circumstances alter his life forever.

Documentaries

  • Bridegroom by Linda Bloodworth-Thomason: This 2013 documentary tells the story of Tom Bridegroom and Shane Bitney Crone, a gay couple that plan to marry when the gay marriage ban in California is lifted. When Tom dies in a tragic accident, his family bars Shane from attending the funeral.
  • The Case Against 8 by Ben Cotner and Ryan White: A look into the journey of the team of people who brought the first lawsuit to the Supreme Court on marriage equality, this documentary spans five years and shows how the same-sex marriage ban is overturned in California.
  • Limited Partnership by Kirk Marcolina and Thomas G Miller: After Richard Adams and Tony Sullivan become one of the first gay couples to be legally married, they face discrimination at the hands of Immigration and Australian born Tony faces the possibility of deportation.
  • State of Marriage by Jeff Kaufman: This documentary sheds light on Mary Bonauto and the two lawyers that helped make Vermont the first state to legalize gay marriage and marriage equality.

Articles

The Primary Stages production of Daniel’s Husband runs March 22 to 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.