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Category — Borough Play

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The cast of Trade Practices

The cast of Trade Practices


In Trade Practices, audience members “purchase” pieces of the story

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

For a practical lesson in economics, try being hungry on Governors Island. The ferry ride to this lovely enclave is only $2—or completely free if you sail out early—and considering all the activities, views, and traffic-free silence the place offers, that’s a spectacular deal.

But if you don’t bring your lunch, noontime might find you on the receiving end of an $8 sandwich. And if you want a lemonade, that’ll be $12. Is it worth it? Does that transaction change your sense of the entire experience?

Such predicaments make Governors Island the perfect home for HERE’s Trade Practices, which runs through Sept. 21 and is co-created by David Evans Morris and HERE artistic director Kristin Marting. Set in the historic Pershing Hall, the show meditates on behavioral economics by telling site-specific stories about the boom and bust of a fictional paper company.

The production itself is as massive as the topic it treats. Marting and Morris developed characters and concepts with the help of an epic flow chart of narrative threads. Along the way, they enlisted six playwrights to craft intersecting storylines and recruited a video designer to make company orientation videos and financial news reports. They also cast ten actors who not only come together for group song and dance numbers, but also disperse into Pershing Hall’s various rooms to play out individual dramas about the paper company’s owners, workers, management, and communications department.

The audience helps create the experience, too. It’s impossible to see every element of the show, so patrons “invest” in the stories they want to follow. Using fake money that’s handed out by the cast, they regularly gather in a room called the “trading floor” to buy entry into various scenes.

For example, if someone wants to see what happens to the worker who’s being spied on by an owner’s cousin, then she might have to pay eight fake dollars to keep following the story. However, the latest chapter of the management drama, where two characters get increasingly ruthless in their quest for promotions, might be selling for a mere four dollars. A choice must be made. [Read more →]

September 3, 2014   No Comments

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