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Category — Borough Play

How One Story Became Four Different Plays

A scene from The Blueprint Project

A scene from The Blueprint Project

In The Blueprint Project, writers riff on the same idea

Welcome to Borough Play, our exclusive series on theatre in Brooklyn, Queens, and beyond.

Have you ever watched a play and thought, “That’s not how I would’ve told the story?” This week, Gideon Production is encouraging playwrights to think just that. In Blueprint Project: First Contact, four writers have been called on to create their own short plays based on the same synopsis.

Playwrights Johnna Adams, J. Holtham, Dan Kois and Mariah MacCarthy all received the same plot outline. In a nutshell, it goes like this: Two characters (call them A and B) are trying to establish ‘first contact.’ A third person (C) enters the picture. Conflict ensues, and then a fourth person (D) appears. At the end, one of the characters leaves with D.

Beyond that structure, anything goes. So the works, while sharing the same basic story, differ in tone, genre, and interpretations of the evocative phrase “first contact.” For example, while Adams describes her play Advances as a “popcorn-chewing action thriller” with no aliens in sight, Holtham took a more traditional approach to science fiction with The Great Silence, in which three scientists trying to figure out how to communicate with distant beings.

The four short plays will be presented as an anthology May 21-25 at the Secret Theatre in Long Island City. Inspired by Blueprint Project, TDF Stages asked Adams and Holtham the same set of questions. The result, like the plays themselves, share similar thoughts and sentiments, but they also diverge in many ways. [Read more →]

May 19, 2014   No Comments

Climbing a Mountain With Gertrude Stein

Kristin Sieh

Kristen Sieh

Ripe Time turns a Stein story into a fable for grown-ups and kids

Welcome to Borough Play, our exclusive series on theatre in Brooklyn, Queens, and beyond.

Gertrude Stein may be known for avoiding narrative in her novels, poems, and plays, but her 1939 book The World Is Round tells the relatively straightforward tale of Rose, a young girl who envies her alpha male cousin and decides to climb a mountain in an attempt to find answers about her life. “For Stein, a writer who is usually so ambivalent about narrative, it is remarkably clear in its storytelling,” says Rachel Dickstein, artistic director of Ripe Time.

Now Dickstein’s adaptation of The World Is Round is running April 17-30 at Brooklyn’s BAM Fisher, with music by Heather Christian and aerial choreography by Nicki Miller.

“I was immediately drawn to the brilliance with which Stein dialogues with the children’s book genre while also telling a resonant story of a girl wrestling with her own growing sense of identity,” says Dickstein, who describes the play as a fable for grownups and mature children. “I thought a lot about shows like Shockheaded Peter and the film Labyrinth, with David Bowie, when making this. Those are both based on fable-like scenarios, but have an adult sensibility that lends deeper meaning.” [Read more →]

April 14, 2014   2 Comments

Plato the Secret Playwright


Jess Barbagallo & Jason Quarles

Alec Duffy finds the drama in Plato’s Republic

Welcome to Borough Play, our exclusive series on theatre in Brooklyn, Queens, and beyond.

Director Alec Duffy has a reputation for theatrical high jinks. In the last few years, he has staged a John Cassevetes film, created a choir piece out of No Exit, and even made a wild evening by blending Schubert, music history, and alcohol.

The zippy mayhem continues with Republic, a stage adaptation of Plato’s seminal work that Duffy has created with his theatre company Hoi Polloi. Running through March 22 at JACK, the arts center in Clinton Hill where Duffy is also artistic director, the show unearths the theatricality in the parable of the caves and the ring of Gyges.

Plato’s work is a series of dialogues, after all. Dave Malloy, a frequent Duffy collaborator, pointed that fact out a few years ago when the two were discussing the notion of using the Socratic question-and-answer method in a theatrical piece. “It’s in all of Plato’s work,” Duffy says. “Socrates, who didn’t write anything down, describes himself as a midwife of truth. He doesn’t have any answers, just questions. So when someone makes a statement, he just probes into it so that within a few pages the group has a working definition of what ‘courage’ is, for example.”

Duffy, however, was a newbie to these philosophical investigations and admits feeling nervous when picking up Republic for the first time. “I’m not really a thinker,” he says with a chuckle. “I’m clumsy with thoughts, and I was worried I’d be lost because I don’t read many philosophy books. But it was quite readable!”

As he developed the show, Duffy kept returning to a primary question: Why is it in our best interest to be good instead of bad? [Read more →]

March 14, 2014   No Comments

They Got Dared to Write These Plays


In Taxdeductible Theatre’s Dare Project, the audience tells the artists what to create

Welcome to Borough Play, our exclusive series on theatre in Brooklyn, Queens, and beyond.

In the very best way, Taxdeductible Theatre’s Dare Project reminds me of a game my friends and I invented in high school.

We called it the Exciting Game. When we were crammed in a booth at our local IHOP, we would take out one sugar packet per person and draw a smiley face on the back of just one of them. The packets were placed face down, and as conversation ricocheted from gleeful gossip to heartfelt angst, we would occasionally draw packets. Whoever got the smiley face had to do something exciting. This might mean sticking your fist into your friend’s ice water, squirting mustard onto your pancake and eating it or, in one famous instance, asking the waitress for her phone number.

As silly as they were, these were also exhilarating moments. They were minor acts of rebellion that required our absolute commitment.

And with the Dare Project, Taxdeductible Theatre has an Exciting Game all its own.

Now in its 23rd installment—performing on February 25 at the Chain Theatre in Long Island City, Queens—the project begins when audience members dream up scenarios and then “dare” playwrights to create 10-minute plays about them. These playlets, usually about five in all, are developed for several weeks by the company, then put into a single evening of theatre. (The next round of dares is typically collected at the end the performance, letting the cycle start again.)

Though it’s integral to the company now, the Dare Project wasn’t always part of Taxdeductible’s identity. The troupe launched with a focus on restaging overlooked contemporary plays.

However, one evening in 2006, a Taxdeductible member was in a festival of 10-minute plays and told the rest of the group they shouldn’t both attending. Later, the company met at a bar and discussed the problems they felt were endemic with 10-minute scripts and the festivals that showcase them (i.e., not enough rehearsal time.) Artistic director Scott Casper recalls someone saying, “I could write a 10-minute play on a dare.”

“From there we ordered a round of tequila, and we each dared each other to write a 10-minute play,” Casper says. “We didn’t want it to be an improv game or a 48-hour project. We wanted to give it time. So we decided to give ourselves a month to write and then a month to rehearse and put [the plays] up as a show.”

The project sparked something in the group. It offered them a chance to work together collaboratively on something new and wholly their own. And while they initially just dared each other with ideas, they quickly realized that inviting their audiences to give them prompts would make the project even more inclusive and exciting. Now, audience members drop their dares in a hat, and writers draw them at random. “Once the writer draws a prompt there’s typically a shot of tequila,” Casper says. [Read more →]

February 21, 2014   No Comments

Living the Asteroid Life


Mac Wellman’s miniature science fiction industry

Welcome to Borough Play, our exclusive series on theatre in Brooklyn, Queens, and beyond.

A play set on an asteroid may call to mind green alien heads, Trekker aesthetics, and campy space humor. But Mac Wellman’s Muazzez, running through January 17 at the Chocolate Factory in Long Island City, is no standard piece of science fiction. Featuring Wellman’s long-time collaborator Steve Mellor, the show is sparsely staged—the actor is simply seated at a table with a chair—but dense with rich language. Consider the following, which Mellor announces at the top of his character’s monologue:

They lied to me about the reality of things here on Muazzez. About the foundations of these, their basis, their fundament, the profound bottom of things. I am an Abandoned Cigar Factory (or ACF) groaning in the dunes near the settlement at Culpepper. That alone would be of little interest because there are many abandoned cigar factories near Culpepper. However I am the only one of these many Abandoned Cigar Factories to possess both a telephone booth (nestled handily within the deep recesses of my abandoned tool shed) and also a zygodactyly foot, as of a parrot or vulture.

Mellor is punchy and delightfully curmudgeonly, yet his delivery always maintains a level of matter-of-factness and is devoid of ironic winks. “The trick is saying this stuff so that it doesn’t appear too weird, but that it appears normal and natural,” says Wellman, adding, “It’s not different than any other play.”

However, Muazzez, which is part of this year’s COIL Festival, didn’t begin as a play at all. It was originally in a short story collection. [Read more →]

January 7, 2014   No Comments