This year marks Road Less Traveled Productions Tenth Anniversary Season, and to celebrate they are presenting a special Curtain Up show, Buffalo Rises, featuring Western New York’s exceptional talent in playwriting, performance and fine art. RLTP asked eight WNY playwrights to tell Buffalo’s story through their eyes and imaginations. The result is Buffalo Rises—a collection of eight short plays, accompanied by original artwork by local artists, that recall our city’s history, humor and hope. In one night we are taken on Buffalo’s rollercoaster history as seen from the highs of the 1901 Pan American Exposition, the lows of post-industrial decay and all that’s in between. Over the next few weeks Road Less Traveled Productions, generously sponsored by Buffalo Rising, will present an eight part series taking a look into the plays and playwrights that make Buffalo Rises.
Repurpose. Reuse. Rejuvenate. Buffalo is going through many changes as she finds her way in the world. Once an industrial giant, the ground fell out from under us mid century and we’ve been finding our way back ever since. Changes are occurring structurally, with buildings being repurposed and revitalized: The Psychiatric Center as a hotel; grain silos as performance spaces and art galleries; churches as condos, Buddhist Temples or concert halls. \And changes are occurring demographically, with the steady population seep draining the city, while new residents move in, replenishing dwindling supplies of Buffalonians. Darryl Schneider takes a look at the shifting landscape of Buffalo’s neighborhoods “Steps”, part of Road Less Traveled Productions Buffalo Rises premiere.
“Steps” tells the story of Buffalo’s Lovejoy neighborhood through the relationship of an Italian-American contractor to his mother’s Haitian priest. Lovejoy, as Schneider’s childhood home, occasionally appears in his works as a chance to explore and honor the community he knows and loves best. With the rise of the railway system in Buffalo during the mid-19th century, Lovejoy prospered. This Iron Island, bound in by railway tracks on the Eastern edge of Buffalo, was a hub of activity as the city rose to prominence. In less than a square mile of land, ten houses of worship were erected to accommodate the flood of German, Italian, Russian and Irish immigrants who came to Lovejoy, each with their own distinct culture and religion. Today, there remains a large population of Italian-Americans who took ground after World War II, when many others began to leave the city.
From its great expansion in the 19th century, when European immigrants were filling Buffalo homes and jobs, the city has shifted considerably. And yet, in the 21st century, Buffalo is once again a draw for those immigrating to America, particularly refugees seeking asylum. The Queen City has surpassed New York City as the largest recipient of international refugees in New York State. The city is shifting, but the draw for refugees remains the same: opportunities for employment and a lower cost of living make her an appealing draw. Coming from Bhutan, Burma, Iraq, Iran, Somalia, Eritrea, the Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Burundi, Liberia and Cuba, 1,600 were resettled in Buffalo last year, with an expected 2,000 this year.
In “Steps” Schneider takes an honest and revealing look at the reality of change, and the mental and personal roadblocks that must be overcome in order to adapt and grow. Lovejoy, Buffalo, and change—these are topics he knows, he sees, and he feels a responsibility to represent with integrity and clarity. Heading back to Lovejoy for a weekly family dinner with his mother and to visit friends, Schneider sees the how the neighborhood is transforming. His work aids and supports these shifts by painting reality in full color, yet with a sensitivity that allows the message through. Honesty, integrity and humor—Schneider’s characters and works are characterized by their life and truth. Such intensity and refinement, has led him to four Artie nominations for Best Play, and recently brought his work, Clean House, to New York City. Schneider is a resident playwright at RLTP and a member of the Dramatist Guild of America. His play War Room won the Emmanuel Fried Award for Outstanding New Play in 2007; Twice Around and Two to the Head were also nominated for the award. Other works include The Merry Widow, Strange Love, Four Bows, Chance at Odds and Farm Girl from Ukraine.
Buffalo Rises, directed by Scott Behrend, premieres September 13, 2013 at Road Less Traveled Productions theater inside Market Arcade Film & Arts Center on Main Street in Buffalo. Shows are Thursday through Saturday at 7:30pm and Sunday at 2pm (with the exception of Friday, September 20th at 8pm for Curtain Up!). Tickets are $33 for Adults, $15 for students. For more information and to purchase tickets visit www.roadlesstraveledproductions.org.
See Buffalo Rises #6 – The Fountain at Gates Circle by Matthew Crehan Higgins
see buffalo rises #5 – Bride of Buffalo Movie by Jon Elston
see buffalo rises #4 – Mad Dogs by Ibn Shabazz
see buffalo rises #3 – On the Eastern Shores of Lake Erie by Justin Karcher
see buffalo rises #2 – Good Neighbors: Caitlin McAneny
see buffalo rises #1 – The Man Who Saved the President, Almost by Gary Earl Ross