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.

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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.

Meet the Cast: of …Discord

The first show of our 2017/18 season is The Gospel According to Thomas Jefferson, Charles Dickens and Count Leo Tolstoy: Discord by Scott Carter. Meet the three actors who will portray these historical figures and debate everything from religion to literature to marriage in this New York Premiere.

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DUANE BOUTTÉ (Charles Dickens) played Harlem Renaissance artist “Bruce Nugent, young” in Rodney Evans’ film Brother to Brother, and “Bostonia” in Nigel Finch’s Stonewall (’96). Boutté appeared on Broadway in Parade and Carousel (Lincoln Center), and Off-Broadway in The Bubbly Black Girl Sheds Her Chameleon Skin and as “Louis Chauvin” in The Heliotrope Bouquet by Scott Joplin and Louis Chauvin (Playwrights Horizons).

Michael Laurence

MICHAEL LAURENCE (Thomas Jefferson) previously appeared at Primary Stages in Opus and The Morini Strad. Also: Talk Radio (Broadway), Hamlet in Bed (playwright/performer, Rattlestick), Appropriate (Signature), The Few (Rattlestick), Genet’s Splendid’s (La Colline, Paris), Poison (Origin), Krapp 39 (playwright/performer, DramaDesk nomination),“John Proctor” in The Crucible (Hartford), Starbuck in The Rainmaker (Arena).TV: “Shades of Blue” (recurring), “Damages,” “The Good Wife,” “Elementary,” others.

ThSesmaHeadshot2014_scan_NoName

THOM SESMA (Count Leo Tolstoy) has appeared in leading roles on and Off-Broadway, and at some of the nation’s leading regional theaters, including The Old Globe, Yale Rep, Cincinnati Playhouse, Arena Stage, McCarter, and Baltimore Centre Stage. Most recent credit: John Doyle’s acclaimed revival of Pacific Overtures (Classic Stage Company.) Television: “Madam Secretary,” “Jessica Jones,” “Gotham,” “The Good Wife,” “Person Of Interest,” “Over/Under,” “Single Ladies,” and more. Proud member AEA and SAG-AFTRA.

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.

Experiencing Pride and Prejudice Two Ways

Pride and Prejudice, adapted by Kate Hamill, is a co-production between the Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival and Primary Stages. To celebrate the show’s opening at Hudson Valley, here are a few fun facts about how experiencing the show at each performance venue will differ.

The Venue

Primary Stages performs at the Cherry Lane Theatre which is a traditional theater space with 179 seats.

The Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival performs in an open air tent at the Boscobel House and Gardens,  with a natural backdrop, 540 seats, and a stage floor made of sand.

Your Visit

The Cherry Lane Theatre is located in Greenwich Village. It is a short walk away from beautiful Washington Square Park, and is surrounded by amazing restaurants, bars, and clubs. It is a short walk from the Christopher Street Station on the 1 line or the West 4th Station on the A,B,C,D,E,F, and M lines, which are easily accessible by subway from all over NYC.

Patrons can arrive at the Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival up to 2 hours before the performance to picnic or tour the grounds. There is also a café for those who wish to purchase a meal instead of bringing one. It is about an hour and a half by car from central Manhattan, and an additional hour by train. On select Saturdays there is a round-trip bus from Lincoln Center organized by the festival.

The Seasons

2017/18 Season at Primary Stages:

The Gospel According to Thomas Jefferson, Charles Dickens and Count Leo Tolstoy: Discord by Scott Carter running September to October

Pride and Prejudice by Kate Hamill running November to December

A Walk with Mr. Heifetz by James Inverne running January to February

Feeding the Dragon by Sharon Washington running March to April

 

Running in repertory until September at Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival:

Pride and Prejudice, adapted by Kate Hamill

The Book of Will, by Lauren Gunderson

Twelfth Night, by William Shakespeare

The General from America, by Richard Nelson

Love’s Labour’s Lost, by William Shakespeare

Talk Backs

Primary Stages will offer post-performance talk backs on select performances of Pride and Prejudice. The Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival also offers pre-performance talks for Pride and Prejudice.