Thursday, December 18, 2008

Backstage with the Cast and Crew of HOME

We spent some time backstage with the cast and crew of Home before a recent performance -- here's what we saw!



Kevin T. Carroll (Cephus Miles) shaves before the show...

...with a straight razor!

January LaVoy (Woman 1/Pattie May Wells) gets her hair just right

Tracey Bonner (Woman 2) puts on the finishing touches

Assistant Stage Manager Kara Aghabekian is focused on the task at hand

Deck carpenter Derek Loehr and Stage Manager Chandra LaViolette hang out before it's time to do their thing

The cast warms up their voices before the show -- break a leg everyone!

All photos by Gregory Costanzo

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The Cast of HOME Talks Back to the Students



On November 20, a group of student playwrights came to see Home, and the cast stuck around after the show to participate in a talkback with the aspiring artists, moderated by Signature's Associate Artistic Director Beth Whitaker. Check out the photos below of Tracey Bonner, Kevin T. Carroll, January LaVoy.

All photos by Gregory Costanzo













Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Coming HOME: Photos From First Rehearsal

The first rehearsal for Home, the second show of our 2008/09 season celebrating the historic Negro Ensemble Company season, was last week, and we were there to take photos!

Stage Manager Chandra LaViolette, Director Ron OJ Parson and Assistant Director Lileana Blain-Cruz discuss what topics to go over before the reading begins

Old friends January LaVoy (Woman 1) and Kevin T. Carroll (Cephus Miles) embrace

The cast and Ron OJ Parson check out the plans for the set

The set, as imagined by designer Shaun Motley

Ron OJ Parson and his assistant Lileana Blain-Cruz share a laugh

Signature Artistic Director James Houghton welcomes back Signature alum January LaVoy

Tracey Bonner (Woman 2) and Kevin T. Carroll already hard at work!

Ron OJ Parson talks to the cast and crew about his vision for Home

Home playwrightSamm-Art Williams and NEC founder Douglas Turner Ward in deep discussion

Douglas Turner Ward listening to the first read-thru

Kevin T. Carroll getting into his role of Cephus Miles

Tracey Bonner during the read-thru

January LaVoy flashes a smile at one of her co-stars

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Go Backstage With the Cast of THE FIRST BREEZE OF SUMMER

Signature Theatre photographer Gregory Costanzo snuck backstage at a recent performance of The First Breeze of Summer to take some photos of the cast getting ready for the show...and here they are!

Sandra Daley

Yaya DaCosta

Keith Randolph Smith

Leslie Uggams

Marva Hicks

Quincy Dunn-Baker

Quincy Dunn-Baker and Gilbert Owuor

Brandon Dirden

Brenda Pressley

Crystal Anne Dickinson

Harvy Blanks

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Photo Feature: "Signature After Hours"

On September 12th, Signature Theatre Company launched "Signature After Hours," a post-show cocktail party (hosted by 10 Cane Rum) that allowed the audience to mingle with the cast and crew of The First Breeze of Summer. The event was a big success -- most of the audience stuck around to enjoy delicious Passion Fruit Daquiris and discuss the show with their fellow theatregoers. Check out the photos below, and make sure to attend our next "Signature After Hours" event, scheduled for December 12th following Home.

10 Cane Rum provided the delicious Passion Fruit Daquiris

The audience enjoys the drinks and the company

Cast members John Jelks and Brandon Dirden mingle with the audience

Yaya DaCosta chats about the show...and the drinks!

Leslie Uggams shares a laugh with cast member Quincy Dunn-Baker

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

In the Rehearsal Room: Inspiring the Cast of THE FIRST BREEZE OF SUMMER

"Any form of art is a form of power; it has impact, it can affect change -
it can not only move us, it makes us move."
-- Ossie Davis

At the start of each day of work, the cast and team would assemble, and each person in the room would read a quotation aloud to prepare for the task ahead. These words came from prominent black leaders, artists, scientists, and thinkers and were used to inspire the team throughout the rehearsal process. Cast members were encouraged to bring in quotations found on their own that inspired them, which were then added to the collection.

The following quotations represent a selection of those adorning the rehearsal space chosen by The First Breeze of Summer director, Ruben Santiago-Hudson.

"The man who has no imagination has no wings."
-- Muhammad Ali

"Prayer begins where human capacity ends."
-- Marian Anderson

"If we lose love and self respect for each other, this is how we finally die."
-- Maya Angelou

"From what we get, we can make a living; what we give, however, makes a life."
-- Arthur Ashe

"Sometimes I would almost rather have people take away years of my life than take away a moment."
-- Pearl Bailey

"Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced."
-- James Baldwin

"Education is the key to unlock the golden door of freedom."
-- George Washington Carver

"I find, in being black, a thing of beauty: a joy; a strength; a secret cup of gladness."
-- Ossie Davis

"It is not light that we need, but fire; it is not the gentle shower, but thunder. We need the storm, the whirlwind, and the earthquake."
-- Frederick Douglass

"As you live, believe in life! Always human beings will live and progress to greater, broader and fuller life. The only possible death is to lose belief in this truth simply because the great end comes slowly, because time is long."
-- W. E. B. DuBois

"I am not tragically colored. There is no great sorrow dammed up in my soul, nor lurking behind my eyes. I do not mind at all. . . . I do not weep at the world -- I am too busy sharpening my oyster knife."
-- Zora Neale Hurston

"In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends."
-- Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

"I'm not concerned with your liking or disliking me... All I ask is that you respect me as a human being."
-- Jackie Robinson

"Success is to be measured not so much by the position that one has reached in life as by the obstacles which he has overcome."
-- Booker T. Washington

"The future belongs to those who prepare for it today."
-- Malcolm X

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Podcast Kickoff: A Chat with First Breeze of Summer Cast Members Jason Dirden, Brandon Dirden and Crystal Anne Dickinson

We're thrilled to present the Signature Podcast Series, which will bring you the latest news and insights into our current historic Negro Ensemble Company Season.

The inaugural podcast features The First Breeze of Summer cast members Jason Dirden (Lou Edwards), Brandon Dirden (Nate Edwards), and Crystal Anne Dickinson (Hope), who, in addition to portraying members of the family in the show, are also related in real life! Jason and Brandon are brothers from Houston, Texas who grew up doing theatre together; Brandon then met his future wife Crystal while attending graduate school in Illinois, and the three have been continuously working together since.

In this three-part interview Brandon and Jason discuss their childhood, Crystal and Brandon take us through their first time meeting, and all three actors talk about their rehearsal process.

Listen below to hear their stories:


Monday, July 28, 2008

Spirituality and Theatre: What I've Learned in My New York Theatre Debut

This blog entry was written by Crystal Anne Dickinson, who plays Hope in Signature Theatre's The First Breeze of Summer.

Spirituality is a tremendous aspect of Leslie Lee’s The First Breeze of Summer, and our director, Ruben Santiago-Hudson, made it a big part of our rehearsal process. Inspirational quotes and images dominated the walls of our rehearsal room and at the beginning and end of each rehearsal day everyone in the room was invited to gather in a circle to say a word of prayer, reflection, or thanksgiving. It is an experience I have never had in a rehearsal room, but one I would love to have again. In my opinion, art and religion rarely meet. Perhaps it has something to do with the theatre’s commitment to individuality and free thought, or the fact that many adopt the theatre as their religion. Nevertheless, here in our rehearsal room, these ideas seem to lovingly coexist.

The difference between some of the stage work I have done in the past and the work I am doing in my New York debut with First Breeze is the willingness of each and every individual to do whatever is asked of them, from the interns, production crew and designers, to the actors of whom I am a part. During this process, Ruben has asked us to “explore the meaning of what God is” and tell a story about “love, spirituality and family”. Thus, we are all met with the challenge to connect with something spiritual, and, as I said, and all were up for the task.

Today was our last day in the rehearsal space and on Tuesday we will all meet in the theatre for the first time. My hope is that all who come to see our work will have the privilege of feeling the “spirit” we created in the rehearsal room, because it is something that I will take with me when the curtains close.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Ruben Santiago-Hudson in Action!

As most theatregoers know, the director is a key player in constructing a successful production, leading all those involved towards a singular creative vision. At a recent rehearsal, The First Breeze of Summer director Ruben Santiago-Hudson illustrates this vision to the actors.

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

For exclusive photos of the cast and crew, click on the links below to see:

The First Rehearsal

A Family Portrait of the Cast

All Photos by Gregory Costanzo

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Signature Podcast: Interview with Signature Interns

We're excited to post our inaugural Signature Theatre Podcast!

As the NEC season progresses we hope to include interviews with those involved, bringing you a behind the scenes understanding of how our creative and administrative forces work together in creating the performances you see on our stage.

Our first podcast features four of our summer interns (Tess Howsam, Yi-Chen Lai, McKenzie Murphy, and Liza Witmer) talking about their experiences so far in working with Signature.

Stay Tuned!


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*This podcast was recorded and edited by Chris Bannow, Marketing Intern

Friday, June 13, 2008

Monday, June 9, 2008

The Reviews Are In!

The critics have spoken...Edward Albee's Occupant is a hit! Here's a sampling of what they had to say about the show, which has now been extended through July 13th:

"A touchingly modest tribute to one of the most important American sculptors of the 20th century. Occupant bows its head in awe and gratitude before the mysterious force of will that allows great artists to be. Louise Nevelson is reincarnated with disarming casualness and unimpeachable conviction by Mercedes Ruehl. ‘The Man’ is played by Mr. Bryggman with a fine mix of academic fatuity and true insight."
– Ben Brantley, The New York Times

"It's riveting. Put it on your must-see list immediately..”
– Jacques le Sourd, The Journal News

“A fanciful, fascinating meditation on not only Nevelson, but on the cult of celebrity and the impossibility of ever really knowing if you are getting the truth about a famous person or not.”
– Michael Kuchwara, Associated Press

“A fascinating addition to the playwright's body of work that climaxes in a moment of vivid self-revelation. Mercedes Ruehl is transfixing. She loses herself in a full-immersion inhabitation of the flamboyant Nevelson”
– David Rooney, Variety

"MERCEDES RULES. She commands the stage and delivers Nevelson’s stories with humor and gusto."
– Malcolm Johnson, Hartford Courant

To purchase tickets to Edward Albee's Occupant click here or call 212-244-PLAY.

Opening Albee

Posted by Liza Witmer, Company Management Intern

As I clutched my handful of opening night presents to my chest and watched our small lobby quickly fill to capacity with smiling faces, I couldn’t help grinning myself at the exciting situation for which I was privileged enough to be present. Yes, folks…opening night finally arrived for Edward Albee’s Occupant, our legacy (and final) production in Signature’s 2007-2008s Mee season.

Members of our staff rushed around, making sure everything looked beautiful and that everyone would feel welcome and comfortable. My fellow intern Louisa and I tracked down designers and other people affiliated with the show to congratulate them and give them their mighty cute gifts of Louise Nevelson note cards. It was simply amazing to see my fellow coworkers come together and produce the well-oiled machine that our opening night became.

Our audience was star studded to the max. A quick sweep of the house revealed the man-of-the-hour Edward Albee; Signature alumni Lois Smith, Dallas Roberts, Lanford Wilson, and Charles Mee; a few cast members from our upcoming production The First Breeze of Summer; and Louise Nevelson’s granddaughter Maria. We were able to start fairly close to the intended curtain time (well-oiled machine, I tell ya) and Jim Houghton gave a beautiful speech to thank all of our supporters and guests.

The show was, as always, both funny and moving. Both Mercedes Ruehl and Larry Bryggman were incredibly perceptive and masterful at their craft, as per usual, but carried with them a certain extra spark which pleased the audience greatly. As Louise Nevelson’s facsimile retold the highs and lows of her life, the audience reacted with heartfelt compassion and empathy. It was truly an incredible piece of theatre and I am so glad I was able to see it on this special occasion.

The performance was followed by a fun filled after-party at West Bank Café, just a few blocks from the theatre. When I walked in, pictures were being taken of the actors, director, playwright and everyone in between. I thought I’d stumbled upon an unseen red carpet! Everyone was rewarded for their hard work with some serious R & R in the form good food, good drinks and good company. My personal favorites were the little chocolate mousse cake cubes for dessert!

I looked around the restaurant and realized what an amazing family I’ve recently joined. Signature has not only made me feel at home in my brand new internship but also produced such a glorious work of art that brought everyone together in a triumphant opening night celebration!

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Talking Back With Edward Albee

Posted by Chris Bannow, Marketing Intern, 3 June 2008

At age 80, Edward Albee retorts and spars with the tenacious spunk of a collegiate know-it-all, showing no signs of ever appeasing his relentless attack on tomorrow’s theatre. How do I know this after only one day as the new Marketing intern at Signature Theatre Company? Well…

Signature’s mission of producing fully staged works by playwrights-in-residence requires a devout relationship between artist and host, and to this end the company has created the means by which intimate and productive relationships are formed between the writer and the theatre for which he writes. Our code name for this event: Staff Talkback. 14 Staff Members, 1 Playwright, only about 10 chairs, and an even playing field with room for questions one could only ask in such an environment.

May 19th was Signature’s Staff Talkback with Edward Albee on his current play Occupant, and what we learned could have never been attained from the run-of-the-mill New York newspaper interview.

As we filed into the room, notepads and questions in hand and mind, we were met with Mr. Albee, sitting rather casually, eased back in his chair as if getting ready to watch his play rather than talk about it.

My fantasized construction of the Pulitzer/Tony/Drama Desk-Award Winning Playwright was shattered with the comfortably dressed, white-haired man sitting before me. Is this really the guy who wrote Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

Yes. Yes it is.

For the next 40 minutes we sat, leaning on ledges, as Artistic Director Jim Houghton and his Associate Beth Whitaker led us through a plethora of questions and points of interest on Occupant. Whether it was plot, Pam MacKinnon, Mercedes Ruehl, and Larry Bryggman (the director and company of actors), a career in theatre, an artists’ inspiration, or the real-life relationship between himself and Louise Nevelson, Edward was quick to divulge stories and fearless in his blunt depiction of all the nitty gritty details. He ushered us through his fascinating history, and painted Occupant both as a furnished play and as a clockwork composed of quotes, conversations, and fabrications all deriving from the actual Louise Nevelson.

Before I knew it time was up, and we said our thank you’s and goodbyes as we departed from the entity that is Edward Albee to head back to our desks and computers. My first day at an award-winning Off-Broadway theatre, already an exciting event, was made all the more exciting by meeting with an award-winning, nationally renowned playwright. Signature cares as much about its staff as it does its audience, and I am excited to be a part of this family.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

2008-2009 Signature Subscriptions On Sale Now!

If you enjoyed Signature's record-breaking August Wilson Series or the electrifying Charles Mee Series, then you have to check out the 2008-2009 season, celebrating the historic Negro Ensemble Company. Subscriptions are on sale now (for just $20 per show, thanks to The Signature Ticket Initiative). To purchase your subscription, click here or call (212)244-PLAY (7529).

The NEC has been awarded with a Pulitzer Prize, Tony Awards, Drama Desk Awards and more than a dozen Obie Awards, and their productions have featured such boldfaced names as Angela Bassett, Laurence Fishburne, Samuel L. Jackson, Phylicia Rashad and Denzel Washington. The 2008-2009 Signature season will feature some of the NEC's most acclaimed shows: Leslie Lee's The First Breeze of Summer, Samm-Art Williams' Home, and Charles Fuller's Zooman and the Sign, as well as a staged reading of Douglas Turner Ward's Day of Absence. With Ruben Santiago Hudson serving as Artistic Associate, this season is not to be missed!

For more information on the 2008-2009 Signature season, please click here.

And don't forget -- Edward Albee's Occupant has been extended through July 6th, so if you haven't yet gotten your tickets, there's still time to see this world premiere production by one of America's leading playwrights. Click here to purchase tickets.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Edward Albee's Occupant: The Final, Final Dress Rehearsal

Posted by Siobhan Lockhart, Artistic Intern, 9 May 2008

Final dress rehearsals are always significant, as they mark the end of one stage of the theatrical process (rehearsals) and signify the beginning of another (performing in front of an audience). However, Sunday night’s final dress rehearsal for Edward Albee’s Occupant was especially sentimental for me, as it was not only the final, final dress rehearsal of the 2007-2008 Signature Theatre Company season, but also the final, final dress rehearsal of my internship here at Signature.

The final dress rehearsal is one of many events in the great tradition of Signature camaraderie, as the entire Signature Theatre staff is in attendance. I have really appreciated the conscious efforts Signature makes to ensure its entire staff and the members of the show’s creative staff, production team, and actors are all a part of the process together. The result is an incredibly inviting and positive environment -- no one is toiling away in a bubble, and everyone is aware of the work everyone else is doing.

My final, final dress rehearsal not only exemplified what I value about the collective aspect of working at Signature, but was also a satisfying culmination of some of the more individual and departmental work I have done here as well. My primary responsibility since I have been at Signature has been to assist with the dramaturgical research for the productions. I really didn’t know what to expect when beginning the research for Edward Albee’s Occupant. I was an art history novice, and admittedly knew nothing about Louise Nevelson, though I’ve since found out that I used to pass by one of her sculptures nearly every day on the way to high school!

Thanks to the research that I’ve done for this production, however, I now have a greater appreciation for sculpture and art. First of all, I cannot wait to see a Nevelson exhibit in the future. I have now seen countless images of her sculptures, and just from these photos it is easy to see why many consider her work to be so unique and compelling. It’s not just her art that I have a deeper appreciation of, however – the research I’ve done has also helped me to understand her complex life and personality. As I watched the final dress rehearsal on Sunday, knowing it was in many ways the culmination of my work here at Signature, I found it truly thrilling to have the opportunity to see this artist who I had read so much about brought to life on stage.

Yes, it was a significant final, final dress rehearsal indeed.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Edward Albee's Occupant: First Rehearsal

Posted by Evan T. Cummings, Artistic Intern, 17 April 2008

Maybe I’m biased, but it seems to me that the theatre is the only place where a wildly diverse and eclectic grouping of people – all with their own specialties, skills, and singular roles – can come together in service to a common goal, a specific event: that is, a story being told on a stage – presented with affection and fierce commitment to anyone, everyone, who is willing to listen. Especially unique to the theatre is that the first step towards achieving this goal happens in one room, at one time, with all collaborators present – and usually with a mood of anticipation, apprehension, excitement, and possibility in the air.

At least this is how it happens at Signature Theatre.

Case in point, the recent first rehearsal for Edward Albee’s Occupant – the fourth, and final, production of Signature’s 2007-2008 season.

A part of Signature’s Legacy series, this play is an intimate, funny and fascinating portrait of the artist Louise Nevelson, written by a playwright whose own legacy to the form is, now, after a decades-long career, well established – with, hopefully, many more plays to come from his ever-working 80-year-old imagination. I speak of course of Mr. Albee, in attendance at these opening festivities, where he, like the rest of us, got stuck in a strange dance for the half-hour before the work began: To meet, or not to meet. To greet, or not to greet.

As always on first rehearsal days, all Signature staff, members of the production team, designers and their assistants, the cast and any other participants-to-be are asked to gather in the cavernous (…by New York standards) rehearsal room on 43rd street and mix and mingle over frosted pastries and cups of coffee. We were, truly, no better than junior high-schoolers at a chaperoned dance, though. Some, it seemed, (and here I can’t let myself off the hook) were branded to wallflower status, stalled by our “talent-crushes” – the high degree of respect and admiration we had for some members involved in the production. This included Mr. Albee to be sure, but also Larry Bryggman, a long-time veteran of the New York stage and, of course, the incomparable Mercedes Ruehl, a force to be reckoned with any time she graces a stage or screen. For those of us in the room who felt lower on the totem pole it was hard to reconcile these personalities with the true people behind them.

Yet, ironically, when the rehearsal formally began, any fake hierarchies or false divisions seemed to break down. We were all sharing in this process together. When the play’s set and costume designers presented their vision for the look of the play, most of us – intern and actor alike – were seeing and hearing these ideas for the first time. More importantly, for a play with a cast of two who have only each other and the audience to play off of, the rest of us had the distinguished honor of being that very first audience to hear these actors read this play. In the moments where “Louise” talks directly to the audience, we were there – agreeing, or not; laughing, or not; but following every word, the first of many audiences to come.

And amidst all this, with each of us playing our roles, big or small, the playwright himself was there to play his. Looking distinguished, but also weathered from a life of telling challenging stories, he settled in quietly for a time, taking in the remarks presented by the director, designers, actors and Signature’s Artistic Director Jim Houghton. When the floor fell to Edward, though, he gathered himself and stood with a gravitas that hadn’t been apparent previously. He spoke very briefly of his friendship with Louise Nevelson and her influence on the play, then took his seat again. It was clear, in his opinion, his part had been completed when he got the words on the page right. He was now ready to watch the play along with the rest of us, ready to follow along with the process, ready to see what would, what could, happen next.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Paradise Park: Closing Night

Posted by Elaine Wong, Production Intern, 14 April 2008

Hello everyone, this is Elaine Wong, part-time Production Management intern for
Signature. A little about me, I am an undergraduate of the University of Reading
in the UK, currently in my 3rd year studying BA Fine Art and Theatre Studies.
Signature is my first taster of Off-Broadway theatre and my oh my,
it’s been one hell of an experience. I get to intern in New York City
it really doesn't get much better than this. This is my first blog for the
website, and sadly my last! My internship is almost over
... but not just yet ;)
Right, enough babble about myself.

This past Sunday was the last ever performance of Paradise Park.
So this is it for resident playwright Chuck Mee this season.
I for one can honestly say I am sad to see the end of Paradise Park!
My first day as an intern was the first rehearsal of the play so I have\
been there right from the start. I have witnessed all the drama (and
I am talking about what goes on BEHIND the scenes and not
onstage!), the FIRST and LAST ever Superman drop /
fruitcake toss / inflating of the bouncy castle, all the problems
that come with staging such a prop heavy show and other issues
we won’t even get into. Let’s just say it was not a smooth ride.

So I arrive at the theatre just before 2pm on the day of the final
performance just in time to see our Founding Artistic Director
Jim slip into the Peter Norton space. I decided not to sit in on
the last performance as I have lost count of the times I have
seen the show. That and I was a little tired, irritable and hungry.

Anyways, I watched the play from the screen in the lobby instead
and it was weird thinking that this was it forever. So the play
finally wrapped up at 4pm, the cast got a great applause at the
end and many of the audience members got to take home
Superman dolls. There was a catch with that, the dolls have
been made fire retardant. It makes them especially unsuitable
for children so Signature staff had to ensure the patrons took
home miniature ones that hadn't been treated... The result of
touching the dolls? Rather tingly hands, like a burning sensation.
Where was I?


Pizza time! With the final performance out of the way it was time
for everyone involved with the production to see it out with a bang.
We had a lobby full of pizzas and beer. Good times. At the closing
party I spotted Chuck Mee and his lovely wife, Daniel Fish
(director), Kaye Voyce (costume designer), Peter Pucci
(choreographer) and Joshua Thorson (video designer)
to name a few as well as some old faces from Queens
Boulevard
. I got into a conversation with actor Alan Semok
(who played Edgar) over a bottle of beer to ask about the
fate of dear Mortimer (the dummy for those of you who
weren't paying attention during the show). Just so that we
are clear, the dummy lives in Alan's front room with his cat
who likes to sleep in Mortimer's lap apparently. So now we
know. Oh and the head comes off the body. Yes kiddies,
the dummy is not real and he can be decapitated. I also
found out at this point that Alan is alumni of the college
that I am studying at currently and his house is only down
the road from mine, only after say three months of working
together. A small world indeed.
Moving on, with the pizza
and beer gone Paradise Park was officially over.

Everyone said all the goodbyes that needed to be said and before
I knew it, time had come for us to clear out. I noticed cast
member Satya had managed to take away a number of
rollerskates that were show props – damnit, I wanted to
take a pair home too! So for all the hours I have spent
at the theatre working on the show, for all the broken
window blinds, all the unused fluffy toys hiding backstage
and the entirety of Manhattan I have scoured on the search
for the many props used in the show... Paradise Park really
has been a very rewarding show to work on for me and a
real learning curve. Everyone involved in the show has
been so dedicated and worked so bloody hard and I
really admire how much effort everyone has put it,
Paradise Park could not have turned out any better.
With that I say adieu. Thanks for reading this.

Monday, March 31, 2008

Manhattan Boulevard

Posted by Edward Freeman, Development Intern, 31 March 2008

The Island of Manhattan is so small, yet can seem so big. My journey through the streets of the City, in search of the perfect gifts for Charles Mee, proved long and arduous as I wove in and out of sleek Upper East Side pumps and cell phones, looking for an exceptional pair of red suspenders; zoomed by the strolling dog walkers and nannies of Gramercy Park, scouting out Chuck’s favorite teas; and pushed through the cascade of tired briefcases descending down the SoHo Subway steps at the end of their workdays, as I ran up them, in pursuit of Dean and Deluca, Jacques Torres and some chocolate covered cherries. All this in a torrential down-pour, mind you.

I came back to Signature’s office in Hell’s Kitchen, soaked, worried that the Thomas Pink suspenders had gotten wet, and ready to go home to Brooklyn Heights, yet completely satisfied and proud of my accomplishments. Mr. Mee may not have requested that we find these gifts for him, or that we hold a party in his honor, for that matter. But the look of sheer joy and appreciation on his face when we gave him a bagful of his favorite things; or when his favorite marching band paraded around the dining hall; or when his friends, colleagues and admirers read love letters to him; or when there was an explosion of confetti at the end of the festivities; was priceless and let me know that my journey and the effort was worth it.

Remember, it’s what you do for others and what you give of yourself that counts the most sometimes. Mr. Mee is an amazing playwright, role model and person, and the entire season of his art that he gave to Signature and its audience has been invaluable. He has left an indelible impression on us and so many others…it is only fitting that this year’s Gala was titled “A Love Letter to Charles Mee.”

Thursday, March 6, 2008

NY TIMES: PHOTO SLIDESHOW

Posted by Mike Trerotola, Marketing Intern, 6 March 2008

Hey all you fine Signature fans reading this blog! Check out this cool NY Times photo slideshow, entitled "Moving a Carnival," which features Paradise Park! Our choreographer, Peter Pucci, who also choreographed Queen's Boulevard (the musical), is featured in the slideshow. Hope you enjoy!

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Paradise Park: Opening Night!

Posted by Sofiya Akilova, Executive Assistant, 5 March 2008

This past Sunday Paradise Park, the third show of Signature’s Charles Mee Series, enjoyed a brilliant and very special opening. The house was filled with the likes of Romulus Linney, Tina Landau, Dylan Baker and Peter Norton, to name a few. Jim Houghton kicked off the evening with a warm welcome to all our guests, and paid tribute to the courageous collagist we were all there to celebrate, Charles Mee!

This happens to be my favorite play of the Charles Mee Series, and it was my fifth time watching the show and I kind of expected to sit back and kick it rerun style, ya know? But to my glorious surprise, I never enjoyed the show more. Maybe it was the couple of glasses of champagne I had during the lobby reception before the show–I’m completely serious about that. When you watch a Charles Mee play I think your inhibition can really stand in the way of fully experiencing it. You kind of can’t come in expecting anything, even if you’ve seen other Charles Mee plays. The barrage of sensational distractions combined with sudden plunges into characters’ painfully personal journeys oscillates so feverishly in PARADISE PARK that I think the less inhibition the more you allow the beautiful chaos to just have its effect on you, without judgment. And then at the end you just sit back and feel the aftershock.

The beauty of the opening night show could’ve also been due to the theatre being filled with people who have worked on, admired, championed, understood, explored, and connected to Chuck’s work. There was just an amazing sense of communion in the audience – yes, we understand this depiction of reality and life, it makes sense to us! At the end there were two boisterous curtain calls. It was a wonderful moment of simple and genuine appreciation for Chuck and all who unfurled the wonders of Chuck’s mind on that stage.

The crowd then proceeded to the after-party over at 44 ½, replete with cosmos, bite-size spoonfuls of risotto and other delectable hour devours, servers in tight pink t-shirts labeled with things like “naughty,” “heaven,” “tasty;” in other words, Paradise.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Paradise Park: Video Montage

Posted by Mike Trerotola, Marketing Intern, 27 February 2008

Hey all! Check out this really awesome video montage of Paradise Park that our own Marketing Associate, Jen Taylor, put together!

Both Paradise Park and the video montage were mentioned in the "Pencil This In" section of Gothamist. John Del Signore writes "If this far out video montage is any indication, you'd do well to buy the ticket, take the ride."

Monday, February 11, 2008

Chuck Mee and Daniel Fish Discuss Paradise Park

Posted by Mike Trerotola, Maketing Intern, 11 February 2008

Check out this really cool video that we posted on our website! You get an up close and personal interview with Chuck Mee, our Playwright-in-Residence, and Daniel Fish, director of Paradise Park. Hear what they have to say about Signature Theatre Company's world premier production of Paradise Park.

Paradise Park: First Rehearsal!

Posted by Siobhan Lockhart, Artistic Intern, 7 February 2008

Tuesday, January 15, was the first rehearsal of Paradise Park, the final play in Signature Theatre Company's Charles Mee Series. It was a packed house (well, packed room) as the cast, creative team, and the entire Signature Theatre Company staff, including interns, gathered at the rehearsal studio at Manhattan Theatre Club to hear the first reading of the play. Also in attendance were members of True Love Productions, the producing partners of the show, and a class of extremely engaged ninth graders from Brooklyn Generations Charter School, accompanied by Signature alum, actor Chad L. Coleman (August Wilson’s Two Trains Running). So it was an excellent crowd, a mixture of old faces (to note just a couple, Satya Bhabha and William Jackson Harper, cast members from Queens Boulevard) and new faces to Signature, all unified by a great deal of anticipation. And before the actual read-through began everyone chatted and ate the very nice spread of bagels, pastries, and coffee. It also ended up being an interesting meet and greet for me personally because I ran into both someone I went to college with and someone who attended the same high school as me...it really is a small world. But I digress...

This being my second first rehearsal at Signature, I was definitely excited, remembering the Queens Boulevard read-through and how much of a difference it made hearing the play read out loud by actors rather than just reading it on my own. It’s strange how you can already start to hear/feel how the play will begin to shape just in an initial reading by actors. It’s definitely a great way to kick-off (excuse the football lingo so close to Super Bowl time but it can’t be helped…Go Giants!) and inspire not only the cast and creative team, but also the staff to get even more geared up for a production. I’ve already been feeling a special kinship to this play. Over the past few months I have been helping out with some of the initial research for Paradise Park and have been feeling somewhat immersed in the world of this play—reading up on many of the references and inspirations in the text. Having the opportunity to sit in on the reading was a chance for me to see the beginnings of the production take shape.

Until Tuesday I mostly had vague visions, characterizations, and factoids of Coney Island, Esther Williams, and Devonshire circling my head. Hearing actual voices put to the dialogue helped to really bring a lot of it together for me. And the design presentations helped bring these initial visions together even more. I can’t wait to see how this production will develop. I miss Queens Boulevard, but this first rehearsal really fueled everyone’s enthusiasm for the upcoming show.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

“TOP CHEF” SPECIALITY, coming up!

Posted by Marianne Miller, Management Fellow, January 23, 2008

(Subscribers, this one’s for you)

I’ll be honest. Bravo’s top-of-the-line editing skills suck me into every reality competition show they’ve ever done, whether it be about clothes, cooking, or carving soap (not out to market yet, but my faith in Bravo means it’s a possibility).

I was excited when the Signature heard of the newest restaurant on the block: Dave Martin’s (yes ladies and gentlemen, Season 1 of Bravo’s “Top Chef!”) Crave on 42nd (between 11th and 12th). Signature exchanged ideas with Dave and added Crave on 42nd to our subscriber benefits. Subscribers, you can now get 10% off all food purchases (not including the Pre-Fixe menu, but that was also created with you in mind!).

I just had to try it out. Andrew, my boyfriend, and I snuggled down into the comfy couch-like seating in the corner of the restaurant and began quite the whirlwind of a journey. We picked through the world-wide wine list, both settling on a Pinot Noir. Andrew is vegetarian (with vegan-like qualities), and it’s often quite the task to find something on the menu he would enjoy to eat. Not a problem here! We started off with the “Top Chef” Season One dish of Dave’s Black Truffle Mac ‘n’ Cheese. Andrew went on to have the Mascarpone and Green Apple Ravioli, a taste that “blew his mind.” I quite enjoyed my meat, trying the Hoisin and Cider Pork Tenderloin. This dish came with a side of mashed potatoes even my very Southern grandmother would approve of. We finished the meal off with Erika’s Chocolate Addiction (Erika and I would be best friends, I feel), which was dressed with vanilla cream anglaise. I was delighted with the food, and absolutely stuffed!

Best of all, Dave and his staff are some of the hardest-working, most generous people in the city. They came around to every table in the restaurant to check in and see how the evening was progressing. Many patrons wanted pictures with Dave, and he granted each request with a smile. The food had integrity, which rounded the evening off in just the right way. I’m happy to welcome their business into Signature’s family, and I hope each one of you will go and experience an ingenious menu and a lovely dining experience at Crave on 42nd.

NEW BLOG SPACE!

Posted by Mike Trerotola, Marketing Intern, January 23, 2008

Welcome to Signature Theatre Company’s new blog! My name is Mike Trerotola and I am the new Marketing Intern for Signature. I’m really excited to start working for second half of the Chuck Mee season at Signature.

Over the next couple of months I will be posting on the blog about my time at Signature. Marianne Miller, Management Fellow at Signature, will also be joining us and posting her own blog stuff every now and then. I hope you find this blog entertaining and enjoyable to read.

Any of the previous posts were originally posted on Signature's website.

If you have any questions/comments/concerns/suggestions/etc., please email me at intern_marketing@signaturetheatre.org. Happy blogging!

CLOSING NIGHT-QUEENS BOULEVARD

Originally Posted by Marianne Miller, Management Fellow, January 10, 2008

"Can I really just take a pair of flip-flops from the wall?!"
Starving young artists are often over-zealous about free stuff.
"Yep," Paul Ziemer, Production Manager, replied, motioning to the vendor wall of the set. I was ecstatic. I bounded up the stairs of the theatre and found a pair of sea-green flip flops, size 38 (I didn't realize I had feet that big), that were perfect for me. The joy of Charles Mee's Queens Boulevard is certainly infectious.

It's always strange when a show ends, especially when it's a show that packed as much energy as Queens Boulevard. Each element of the production only heaped on more and more life and vitality to what was already a dynamic piece of work (Bravo, Mr. Mee). Every cast member brought his or her own history, culture, and life story to the table, and what resulted was a show that was chaotic, exhilarating, and just downright fun. The closing night audience on Sunday evening displayed this exuberance. Patrons (a whole list of VIPs, family, and friends) whooped, hollered, clapped, and laughed longer than any other audience. The momentum of the piece was unstoppable.

Queens Boulevard was a production that enjoyed artistic progression. Playwright, Director, and actors tinkered and toyed with the humor of the play, adding a Metrocard bit during the preview period. Crew members and designers alike slaved over the solution to the paper flowers that fell from the Queens sky (perhaps a less heavenly-seeming project for those involved). The production was always growing and changing, and even when the show was officially opened, actors continued to explore the journey of their characters. What resulted on Closing Night was only evidence of long hours and hard work.

The run of Queens Boulevard ended with a wonderful speech from Jim Houghton and more celebration of life (with beer, pizza, and new flip-flops of course). There was no better way to end the run of such a delightful piece of work.

HAPPY NEW YEAR!!! 2008

Originally Posted by Marianne Miller, Management Fellow, January 3, 2008

No doubt it's hard to drag your feet back to work after such amazing celebration and conviviality during the holidays. Not so much at the Signature Theatre Company! My first outing in New York after returning from my visit in my homeland (Kentucky!) was to the Signature to see Queens Boulevard with my boyfriend. He loved it, I had a great time, and we rang in the New Year with some excellent theatre. That's the way to do it!

The Sig has certainly had a fantastic year. With reverence, we ended the August Wilson Series, celebrating a great man, his work, and a true reach to the city of New York with our $15 TimeWarner ticket initiative. The August Wilson Series certainly didn't go without notice: Entertainment Weekly chose King Hedley as a top ten play of 2007! The recognition and enjoyment didn't stop there. David Bell, blogger extraordinaire, brought the voice of the people to light with his entries about the best, worst, and favorites of 2007. I am happy to say the Signature Theatre Company walked away with two awards: Favorite Off-Broadway play (Iphigenia 2.0 by Charles Mee), and my personal favorite: Hottest Moment! Also from Charles Mee's phenomenal Iphigenia 2.0, the soldiers claimed the 'Hottest Moment' prize for their testosterone-filled, fatigue-stripping dance (I must admit, one of my favorites of the year as well!) In August 2007, Charles Mee steered the theatre in New York in a new direction. Challenging to audiences, certainly. Brave, stunning, and ingenious art, absolutely.

We look with excitement towards what is to come for the remainder of our Charles Mee Series and the advent of our NEC season in 2008, but with a nod to the work done here in 2007. There's certainly no dragging of feet here. Happy New Year!

OPEN CAPTION

Originally Posted by Edward Freeman, Development Intern, December 20, 2007

Queens Boulevard (the musical) is a play that amalgamates a multitude cultures, assimilating their different customs, their different values, their different fashions and, of course, their different languages. At one moment in the show, a female actor uses sign language to communicate with her character’s ailing husband, and for that one moment, the hard of hearing audience members at the matinee this past Saturday focused on the action instead of the open caption screen. Finally the actors were speaking their language.

The open caption performance of Queens Boulevard (the musical) happened last Saturday. Those who have seen the show will know that the set includes several screens on which text that interprets foreign language is projected. Saturday’s performance, however, included one more screen (that looked actually like part of the set) that displayed text of the entire production for the hard of hearing. It functioned the way the closed caption subtitles on television do, giving the opportunity for everyone to understand the dialogue clearly.

Signature presents two open caption shows per season (the last one was during Iphigenia 2.0). Development works closely with the Marketing and Artistic Departments to plan the production, acting as a contact, liaison, and final reporter for David Chu (the man who captions the performance), while Marketing advertises the event and Artistic interprets a whole new script, tailored specifically for David and his clientele.

When I was a kid, I was enthralled with the closed captions on television. My eye still focuses on them whenever the function is turned on at a bar or the gym, even when I can hear the television clearly, causing me to lose the delivery of the action. Throughout the whole performance this past Saturday, the hard of hearing audience members had to focus on the open caption screen, so they could follow the story. But for that one moment in the show, while the rest of the audience focused its attention on the subtitles screen, the hard of hearing audience was able to capture the beauty and profundity of a moment in a hospital as acted by Marsha Stephanie Blake and Demosthenes Chrysan.

ALL GOOD THINGS

Originally Posted by Adam Wright, Production Intern, December 13, 2007

Adam Wright is a student at UNC Chapel Hill who spent the fall working with Signature Theatre Company as the Production Intern. Upon completing his internship he sent out an email to the entire staff of Signature to share with us his thanks for the experience he had here as an intern:

Dear Friends,

As I will soon be working on my honors thesis in creative writing, Signature's mission to allow a single playwright to hone and shape an entire season was of particular inspiration to me. As a result, once I knew I would be coming to NYC this semester, I immediately let my professor know that I wanted my internship to be with this company. Thankfully, I am so proud to say that my experience here has been everything I hoped it would be. Jim, your energy and commitment to this company shines through every individual and project here, and I am so thankful to have worked in an environment driven by your ongoing commitment to honor the written word. Knowing little about the production world beforehand, it was such a treat to start my first week as Queens Blvd. was in the midst of wrapping up pre-production talks and to end my final weeks here celebrating at our opening night part - it was pleasure working on the entire process of this show, and as result, I have learned so much more than I would ever have expected. Thanks to you all, especially to Paul, who I find to be one of the committed and selfless men I've had the pleasure to work with.

Look for a postcard from me this summer - I found out today I received a $6,500 grant from UNC to study the art of storytelling across the UK! So, appropriately, here's to you all who work so hard to shape the experience of so many individual storytellers year-round. The end of something is always the beginning of another...

Adam

OPENING NIGHT: QUEEN'S BOULEVARD

Originally Posted by Marianne Miller, Company Management Intern, December 6, 2007


After an epic preview period that left actors, designers, staff, and crew somewhat exhausted, the long tweaking period Queens Boulevard had to endure was well worth the time!

The staff worked all day on Monday to prepare for the Opening Night. Our Development Department prepared the list of guests. Sara Danielsen and I gathered the opening night gifts (#7 line key chains-very Queens, really) and the flowers for the actors, bathrooms, and lobby. All fell well into place as "Happy Opening!" was the resounding note in the office. We prepared a big show for a big night!

Meanwhile, actors prepared for their ninth (!!!) performance of the week. Not a single actor looked down or tired, however, upon entering the theatre. The members of the large and very diverse cast were all smiles as they prepared for the celebration of their hard work. There was a tangible sense of eagerness, nervousness, and excitement that I enjoyed sharing. Loads of gifts came in for each actor, and I happily placed them backstage. In the midst of the holiday season, I couldn't help but draw the festive parallels.

An entire list of VIPs poured into the theatre, packing the house and adding loads of energy to the performance. The men and women made their entrances, and the entire theatre lit up! The transformation was fantastic, and I was so enthralled, I stood at the top of the stairs for over half the show. Delighted by the changes Chuck, Davis, the designers, and the cast had made throughout the process, I was drawn in to see what new aspects of the show appeared. This performance was certainly different from that which I had experienced during tech rehearsals!

The company enjoyed a smooth performance, followed by recognition of top VIPs present, including (but not limited to) Lee Blessing, Romulus Linney, Luis Castro, Charles Weldon, Oskar Eustis, Kate Mulgrew and many others. I was absolutely honored to be in their company. A well-attended party followed, and I maneuvered around large groups of congregating people to enjoy the excellent food and company.

Although the process was long, the product was well worth it. The evening was a fantastic success that was well deserved by all who placed their love and energy into the show. To all sharing in the success of Queens Boulevard: Congratulations!

AUGUST WILSON CENTURY CYCLE

Orginally Posted by Chris Fuller, Box Office Manager, November 29, 2007


Peter with his brand new century cycle's

Happy Holidays!

All of you who have been to a show at Signature Theatre must be familiar with our bookstore!?!? We carry a large assortment of plays published by former Playwrights-in-Residence. Most of the plays we sell are either the Sam French acting copy of a script or a compilation of single artist's work and we even sell a couple of the Humana Festival Anthologies that feature our Alumni. We recently sent around our second edition of the Signature E-Newsletter announcing the publication of a box set of August Wilson's Century Cycle. The asking price of the set is a little out of line with the usual fare on the shelves at the Peter Norton Space so we were excited about the potential interest from our audience.

The day after the eblast went out we got a call from Signature patron Peter Bay. He had his sights set on two collections one to be given as a gift and the other for his own library. Peter told us about how he saw eight of the ten century cycle plays last season, three of which he enjoyed at Signature Theatre. The gift of the box set was for a friend who had accompanied him to many of Wilson's shows over the past year. It is wonderful to see the enthusiasm generated during the August Wilson season has stayed with people. I think Peter had a great gift idea for Hannukah, Christmas, Kwanza or maybe just a selfish indulgence! August Wilson's Century Cycle in a hardbound collector's set. Get one before they are gone!

SECOND ANNUAL ALUMNI NIGHT

Originally Posted by Siobhan Lockhart, Artisitic Intern, November 22, 2007


Actress Heather McComb, Actor James Van Der Beek and Signature Founding Artistic Director James Houghton

This past Sunday, November 18, Signature Theatre Company celebrated (what is to become a regular ritual for all Signature productions) its second Alumni Night. The centerpiece of course was that evening's performance of Charles Mee's Queens Boulevard (the musical).

I arrived at the theater about an hour before the show, prepared for an exciting evening with so many past Signature playwrights, directors, actors, designers, technicians, and staff attending--but I really had no idea what a party it would become. With an ideal vantage point from the beginning, sitting behind a table near the entrance of the theater with Marianne (the company management intern), we tried (mostly in vain) to get all of the alums to fill out name tags. We were soon aware that it would be a near impossible task to get people over to our table when everywhere you turned everyone arriving wanted to greet, hug, and catch up with everyone else. Former Signature staff and interns sought out their old colleagues and I immediately noticed past Playwright-in-Residence, Bill Irwin. A large contingency from the cast of Charles Mee's Iphigenia 2.0 all seemed delighted to come and cheer on the current group of actors taking the stage that the Iphigenia 2.0 cast had most recently vacated.

There was a definite eagerness and anticipation in the crowd gathering. Sensing that it could be a special performance night I decided to go watch the show, promising Sara, the artistic assistant, that I would return to help the staff during the post-show cocktail party. I had sat in on some rehearsals and seen the first preview, but I was keen to see the show in front of a crowd that was shaping up to be quite lively and receptive. (Personally, I think I made the right choice!)

The energy of the show was fantastic. Living up to the previous Alumni Night crowd (described in Sara's blog), it was one of the warmest, most enthusiastic audiences of a show I have ever seen. It reminded me of doing shows in high school - not, mind you, in quality - it just felt like everyone there was rooting for their "classmates" on stage. And it certainly rubbed off on the cast who could not have seemed more into the show. So much so that when they were tested with some prop malfunctions and even a smoke alarm that briefly stopped the show, their comedic ad-libbing skills proved to be at their sharpest and most playful.

It was an exhilarating performance, but the fun wasn't going to end there. After Jim Houghton, Founding Artistic Director's welcoming remarks the cocktail party began. Congratulations to Sara for putting together a wonderful spread of food. The festivities went on into the night, Queens Boulevard (the musical) cast, creative team, and production staff now mingling amongst the crowd of alumni and staff. People did not seem to want to leave, but eventually we did run out of booze and food, and well, it was a Sunday. But overall, a successful night, a wonderful performance, and an event that will secure "Signature Alumni Night" its place -for shows and years to come-as the party not to be missed.

OVERCOMING THE OBSTACLES

Originally Posted by Marianne Miller, Company Management Intern, November 9, 2007


Extensive, numerous, and challenging tech cues.
Ever-developing budget alterations.

All of these situations posed a genuine threat to the Company in successfully preparing Signature's current show, Queens Boulevard (the musical) for an audience. Challenges are not new to the Signature Theatre Company, however, and in genuine Signature form, each and every new obstacle was met with tenacity and determination, and opening preview was a delightful and fun-filled evening.

The entire staff here at the Sig threw all of our weight behind helping the cast, crew, and designers to get the show up and running. One of the most memorable events of the evening of Opening Preview (which was even joked about during a subsequent staff meeting!) was watching my supervisor and our General Manager, Mr. Adam Bernstein, vacuum the front lobby before the show. The time-crunch demanded that everyone pitched in.

Our hard work paid off. Pre-show, a nervous and excited energy permeated the air. Patrons were clearly delighted upon entering the transformed house at the Peter Norton Space-One can't help but to develop a visually-stimulated high after being inundated with neon lights, bright decorations, and an extraordinary set. Actors passed out wedding reception jellies to and greeted the incoming audience. From the beginning, one could tell this would be a very different theatre experience.

Ultimately, this experience is one that would not have been possible had it not been for the fact that the Signature Theatre Company works as family. We face these challenges with the security that we all work for each other and for the greater good of the company.

Despite the setbacks, all is well. The lights went black at the end of Opening Preview, and we all breathed a sign of relief. We have a fantastic show to prove we can handle even the toughest of obstacles.

INSIDE QUEENS

Originally Posted by Jennifer Taylor, Marketing Associate, November 1, 2007

Everyone at Signature has been very busy getting Queens Boulevard (the musical) ready to begin previews this Tuesday, November 6th. Charles Mee and Davis McCallum (the playwright and director) were kind enough to take some time out of their very busy rehearsal schedule to sit down with us for an interview so that we could give you some insight into the play.

CLICK HERE to check out the interview!

BRING IN THE BOULEVARD

Originally Posted by Adam Wright, Production Management Intern, October 25, 2007

Chuck Mee’s Queens Boulevard demands that one of New York’s most colorful and diverse neighborhoods be somehow squashed down and thrown on stage, taking audience’s on a topsy-turvy journey through karaoke bars, bathhouses, underground clubs, and everything in between. As you can imagine, creating an accurate and lively representation of such a place has been no easy feat. So as one of the largest scenic designs Signature has yet to undertake in its 17-year history, set designer Mimi Lien and production manager Paul Ziemer should be commended for all the dedicated and exhausting work they have put into such an epic project. Finally, with load-in underway at the Peter Norton Space, Lien’s vibrantly bold, intricately detailed vision of Queens has finally begun to take shape, and the result, even in its half-finished state, is still, quite simply, stunning.

I missed out on load-out for Iphigenia 2.0, but as punishment I got to rip down all the FHM and Maxim girls that blanketed the USR walls by hand. (The new Radiohead came out the day before, so I jammed out on my iPod and made the most of the good music and the cute girls and it actually wasn’t all that bad.) Paul and I readied ourselves for the chaos to come, but fortunately we offered our theatre space to UCSD graduate showcase before load-in, so we had at least had one day of calm before the storm was to arrive. Shortly afterwards painters came in and began transforming the boards into pavement and pedestrian walkways, and soon enough, hoards of neon signs and steel beams began pouring in. The first few days of last week were spent getting up the walls of the set and Queens seemed to be growing into its own.

However, nothing could have prepared me for what awaited in the space after my weekend off. Monday I arrived at the theatre to be greeted with a giant subway highline running across stage, over house right and straight into our sound booth. The effect produced a reaction of “That’s cool” from what I got to see on Mimi’s model, but in person the piece knocks the wind out of you with its grand presence. And though, like most all other aspects of the set, the highline has yet to be painted and properly safety-proofed, but one can be assured that Queens Boulevard is going to be nothing like you’ve ever seen before.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

SIGNATURE WEDDING

Originally Posted by Ed Iskandar, Artistic Intern, October 18, 2007


Davis McCallum, Charles Mee and James Houghton


The first day of any rehearsal process is (quite appropriately, given the play at hand) like the wedding day of an arranged marriage. The to-be-weds have been introduced by their respective parents (often with the intervention of a few eager matchmakers), decided they like each other enough to go ahead, and on the agreed-upon day, they marry. The rehearsal process that follows is an anxiety-ridden, much hoped-for conception, followed by a lightning-speed pregnancy, and, on the first preview, the audience is witness to the delivery of a new baby. The previews follow the child's first words and steps, through an accelerated education, and eventually to the coming out party that is opening night, after which it is left alone to grow, mature and fend for itself through the rest of its performance run.

At Signature, the rituals that accompany the first day of rehearsal are as detailed as any wedding an imaginative bride might plan. The entire staff of the company takes the day off to attend the first rehearsal, meet the new company, and hear the play that we are working to support. Among the many exciting things about Queens Boulevard (the musical), is that it is a World Premiere steeped in the tradition of Kathakali, an Eastern theatrical form thoroughly underexposed in Western production. Mr. Mee has taken a traditional Kathakali play, The Flower of Good Fortune, and given it a contemporary spin in the same way that his Iphigenia 2.0 is a modern meditation on Greek tragedy. His inexhaustible supply of creative energy lights up the rehearsal room, which is somewhat astonishing given that Iphigenia 2.0 closed its sold out run only two nights previously, and his Hotel Cassiopeia would open later that same day at BAM.

The wary informal meet 'n greet while the company slowly gathers gives way to the Artistic Director's address, contextualizing the production within the season. And then, anxiously scrutinized by the assembled company, the Director delivers his opening address and the cast speaks the words of the text aloud for the first time, after which, designers unveil their vision of the play that has been rendered concrete in the months of pre-production and preparation that precede rehearsal.

The boldness and the uncertainty of a group of actors encountering for the first time the text on the page and the text in live space as the very first impression of the play is being created are always astonishing, but it is difficult to imagine a more diverse company trying to simultaneously create a more complex common language together. The thrill and surprise of the room is palpable at moments of unexpected depth in a simple comic scene, or moments of hilarity in an otherwise serious encounter. The play comes to life for the first time, in a fashion so electric and exciting that often, a rehearsal process is described as the process of reigniting the play toward the uncontrived and unadorned reactions of the first read-through. Off we go!

CLOSING NIGHT-A GREAT BEGINNING

Originally Posted by Marianne Miller, Company Management Intern, October 11, 2007

Friends, family, loved ones, and Signature fans alike joyously rushed out of the performance of Iphigenia 2.0 on Sunday evening, October 7th, 2007. One observing might assume the rush was for the awaiting Brooklyn Brown, Brooklyn Lager, and Amstel Light in the lobby (and indeed, we had to fight a few guests off until the party officially began). Truly, however, the exuberant rush came from the final exhilarating performance of the first show in the Charles (or Chuck, as we colloquially refer to him) Mee Series at the Signature Theatre Company-Iphigenia 2.0.

As the Company Management Intern, I was absolutely blessed to work next to these actors in their final moments of this process. I shared conversation over a Pret-A-Manger banana nut muffin with Louisa Krause (a favorite pastime of ours) right before she warmed up for the final performance. She was all smiles mixed with a hint of nostalgia for the total process of the show. We talked about what came next for the young actress. She was hopeful for what would follow, and I was reminded that Iphigenia 2.0 is certainly not the last any of us will see of these phenomenally talented people. She then scurried off to put on her ballet shoes-the excitement for the evening had begun!

The house packed in quickly, and the show finished strong with a dynamic standing ovation, complete with daisy throwing by Sara Danielsen and me (I pat myself on the back-no injuries to the cast during this carousing, so to speak). Jim Houghton, Artistic Director, recognized a few very important constituents to the process: the designers and crew were praised profusely, director Tina Landau shyly stood up to welcome applause, the cast beamed at Jim's commendations, and Chuck Mee gave a quiet smile as the seated audience erupted to show their support for this man and the work he has completed thus far on Signature's stage.

Iphigenia 2.0 had, without a doubt, a glorious run. From the beginning stages of casting, designing, and rehearsal to the pizza, salad, and general communion of artists in the lobby after the final show, the entire artistic endeavor stayed true to a genuine execution of Charles Mee's first show of the season. The one-week extension attested to the powerful voice Iphigenia 2.0 had for its audiences.

After all the Brooklyn Lager, Brooklyn Brown, and Amstel Light had been put away and the lights turned out, the excitement and energy of the artists and their guests lingered. Without a doubt, our season has begun!

WELCOME BACK!

Originally Posted by Sara Danielsen, Artistic Assistant, October 4, 2007

Signature Alumni
Actors from the Wilson Season

What would happen if you took a random sampling of all of the people you met in each year of your life and invited them to a big party? Would they have anything in common? Would they know what to say to each other? Would the idea of hosting all those people from different parts of your world give you a conniption? Well, the Signature took that chance and threw that party this Sunday. And much to my relief, the first ever Signature Alumni Night was by all reports a huge success.

Let's go back a few months. Jim Houghton, the Signature's Founding Artistic Director, had been talking for a while about wanting to set aside one performance in each of the Signature's runs as a night for former Signature artists and staff to come together and see the show; a homecoming night of sorts, and a chance to make connections between all of the amazing people who've worked here over the past sixteen plus years. As the new Artistic Assistant, Alumni Night was handed over to me as my first project. After setting the date during the run of Iphigenia 2.0, my first big task was gathering email addresses for all of the people who'd ever worked at Signature (which brought me face to face with the fact that in 1991, the only people who had email addresses were working for the Defense Department). After we sent out an email invitation to as many people as I could track down, Marianne, the Company Management Intern, and I sat down with old copies of the contact sheets and started making phone calls. We had some charming conversations with past company members. We also left a lot of messages. I white-knuckled my way through my message on Parker Posey's voice mail. (She is one of my favorite actresses, but have you seen Dazed and Confused? The idea of actually reaching her on her cell phone made me a little nervous.) As we moved further and further into the past, the "disconnected" and "no longer at this number" messages became more and more frequent. All in all we reached out to over 700 people, which is only a fraction of the people who'd worked with Signature over the years but a good start for our first party.

The responses started coming in immediately. There were lots of people who couldn't attend because they were working out of town or in other shows, but they sent their congratulations and love to Jim and Signature. By the Friday before the event we had a full house, and I had to sit down with the seating chart and figure out where to seat everyone. Imagine the most complicated dinner table you've ever had to arrange. Do you seat all of the directors next to each other, or is it better to sit them with the designers they've worked with? Will the stage managers be shy? (Not at all as it turns out.) Should you sprinkle the actors amongst the house or seat them by cast? Who gets to sit next to Chuck? I dropped the seating chart off at the box office on Friday night with my fingers crossed. As it turns out, I shouldn't have worried about any of it. Once we managed to get the chatty crowd into the house and seated, they turned out to be the best, most enthusiastic audience a theatre could ask for. The Iphigenia 2.0 cast, who'd already had a matinee that afternoon and would have been justified in being a little low energy at the end of the week, responded to the liveliness of the crowd and gave a fabulous performance. Even a shower of flour over the first two rows in the final scene didn't dampen anyone's enthusiasm.

After the curtain call, Jim got up to welcome everyone to Alumni Night and to introduce Chuck. The audience gave Chuck a rousing ovation that went on for so long that witnesses say Chuck may have blushed a little. Everyone spilled out into the lobby for wine and snacks and more talk. I was working at the bar, so for a little while it was all a blur of handing out wine and champagne. Every time I looked up however, a new cluster of people were in front of me hugging and laughing and gossiping. I heard some great stories about the first production in the Peter Norton space. People who knew each other in different contexts realize that they had the Signature in common. Assistant designers and directors reconnected with their mentors and former interns passed on the word about their current projects.

As the evening wrapped up, people spilled out into the night still talking and finishing their last glasses of wine. The wardrobe crew staggered out from the theatre under the weight of the cake covered costumes ready to be sent to the dry cleaners before the final week of the run. I dragged the last bag of empty wine bottles out to curb happy with the event, conniption free and looking forward to the next Signature Alumni Night.