When in doubt, spread ’em out. Theater companies are like spider plants… the healthier they become, the more offshoots they will provide, and as they grow they must travel outwards into the world, or downwards in this case of The American Repertory Theater of WNY (ART/WNY)
Aside from theater productions, the company also has two open-mics set up, a book fair with a local publishing house and a special evening planned with ten lady poets reading their own original works. Because of this growth, ART/WNY has moved into the basement of Bittner Hall, inside The Church of the Ascension (16 Linwood Avenue) and has converted the space into a Black Box theater and performance venue.
The move downstairs has allowed for the roll out of a spectacular 2013-2014 season branded “ART Inside the Box” to flourish inside a home that will accommodate sets, actors, and even show schedules. “We can build, create and light environments without the overhanging pressure to tear it down and reset the whole thing, from platform to light grid, for each production,” said Executive/Artistic Director Matthew LaChiusa. “That’s going to add to the production values of each piece as well as make it a more colorful experience for patrons.”
Following is the rundown of a fantastic season of plays that are lined up. Two of the plays are original productions by local
1) ART/WNY’s seventh season starts out with a September Curtain Up! production of the acclaimed punk-rock musical, BLOODY BLOODY ANDREW JACKSON with music and lyrics written by Michael Friedman, and a book by Alex Timbers. This WNY debut features ART/WNY Artie Award (FLOYD COLLINS) winning director, Jeffrey Coyle and features in the lead role, ART/WNY Artie Award winning Best Male in a Musical (FLOYD COLLINS), Steve Copps as Andrew Jackson.
Director Jeffrey Coyle described the musical, “BLOODY BLOODY ANDREW JACKSON, first and foremost, is a punk-emo rock concert. It’s exciting, fast-paced with fun, crazy music, but it also has an emotional core that runs through the piece. It will make you rock out, but you will also leave with some serious questions about who Jackson was, what this country permitted, and at times demanded him to do and how that reflects where we as a nation are today.”
The cast (lead photo) features Copps, Steve Sitzman (who’s talent was seen in FLOYD COLLINS and the collaboration with Theatre Jugend, DEAD ENGLISH), Billy Horn, Priscilla Young Anker (JESUS HATES ME), Renee Landrigan, Maura Nolan (JESUS HATES ME), Hannah Sharp (DEAD ENGLISH), Steve Brachmann (DEAD ENGLISH), Matthew Mooney, Matthew Kindley (JESUS HATES ME), Leanne Troutman (FIRST LADY SUITE), Carolyn Lansom, Ian Rowlins, Chris Parada, Michael Wachowiak, Rich Kraemer (FLOYD COLLINS), Sara Kow Falcone and Chris Andreana (FLOYD COLLINS). “I am so excited to be working with this cast. They are a young, energetic and talented group.” Coyle said of the cast. “They are a mix of singers, actors and instrumentalists who, as an ensemble, will portray a range of characters, from western settlers to presidents to rock stars.”
2) The second show in ART/WNY’s 2013-14 season features Artie Award winning writer, Mark Humphrey’s compelling story on the legendary, and mysterious, blues singer, Robert Johnson entitled LITTLE ROBERT. Slated for November, this original work will be directed by Gail Golden, who’s directorial eye was evident in ART/WNY’s MOONLIGHT AND MAGNOLIAS.
Set in Johnson’s smokey apartment, the famed bluesman confronts a gentleman who enjoys games of chance, is an avid collector and enabler of dreams. Humphrey’s LITTLE ROBERT masterfully weavers a dialog of “cat and mouse” between Johnson and the Stranger. The cast list will be released soon.
3) After a Holiday break, ART/WNY gears up for the second half of the season with the production of Michael V Gazzo’s HATFUL OF RAIN scheduled for March, 2014.
HATFUL OF RAIN features the acting talents of Artie Award winning actor Hugh Davis (JESUS HOPPED THE A-TRAIN) as a Korean War veteran fighting his morphine addiction and his wife, played by Maura Nolan, to cope with the White Horse Demon..
Directed by Matthew LaChiusa, HATFUL OF RAIN, is written by the Academy Award nominated actor known from GODFATHER II (Frank “Five Angels” Pentangeli), Michael V Gazzo. Started out as a Broadway playwright and writing for film (including the screenplay for Elvis Presley’s KING CREOLE), Gazzo was an instrumental figure in the Actors Studio and went on to film an TV acting until his death in 1995 Joining Davis and Nolan in the cast is actor Leo Dibello and, featuring Monish Bhattacharyya as “Mother”. The remaining cast will be named by November.
4) The final show of the 2013-14 season is an original piece written by Artie Award winning playwright Matthew LaChiusa entitled SHINE currently schedule for April/May. This Americana ghost story centers on a Moonshining family in the backwoods of Tennessee during the 1960’s.
Established playwright, poet and director, Mark C Lloyd directs this story of the McCormick’s moonshining operations that is deep in tradition and producing top-shelf “White Jesus”. Forced to make a decision to continue the prolific operation or not, a young Linus McCormick faces the obstacles of doing business with the ruthless State Line Mob, the ways of the Ol’ South and a persistent State Senator.
Artie Award nominated David C Mitchell (LAUGHTER ON THE 23RD FLOOR) is joined by Priscilla Young Anker and with up-and-coming talent Michael Wachowiak.ART/WNY is focused on presenting the best productions in the upcoming season and with the move into a more flexible space will maintain a high expectation on production values and compelling stage craftsmanship.
In addition to this diverse season, ART/WNY is gearing up for the 7th Annual Mardi Gras Celebration. The company’s success over the past few events, and increasing attendance, has moved the event to Saturday, March 12th, 2014 from 7 pm to Midnight. Go to http://www.artofwny.org/SpecEvents/MGcelebration/MG.html for more details.
Season subscriptions are currently on sale. Check into ART/WNY’s website at http://www.artofwny.org/subscription/sub.html for more subscription details.
Lead image: Steve Copps & Renee Landrigan