THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 3, 2011
Crystal Skillman and Andrea Day on GENTRIFUSION and CRAWL
GENTRIFUSION: an installation of new work
Red Fern Theatre tackles the divisive subject of gentrification in New York City's neighborhoods. 6 award-winning playwrights, 3 stellar directors, and 19 actors from every background use their experience as artists living in the city to push beyond the bounds of political correctness and speak to the heart of what really goes on in our changing neighborhoods, for better or for worse. From Crown Heights to Washington Heights, long time residents and the new crop of "gentrifiers" are given voice in these commissioned new short plays. Join the conversation, and hear what your neighbors are saying.
Playwrights include: Carla Ching, Joshua Conkel, Michael John Garcés, Jon Kern, Janine Nabers and Crystal Skillman
Directors include: John Giampietro, Colette Robert, and Moritz von Stuelpnagel
Artistic Producers: Andrea Day and Kel Haney
Executive Artistic Director: Melanie Moyer Williams
Full Cast List in Alphabetical Order:
Sheldon Best *, Rajesh Bose *, Tim Cain *, Molly Carden, Wayne T. Carr *, Salvadore Chevez, Gilbert Cruz *, Andrea Day, Nathan Hinton *, Devin Norik *, Eugene Oh, Gio Perez*, Casey Robinson, Michael Schantz, André St. Clair Thompson, Federico Trigo *, Megan Tusing, Tai Verley, and Tiffany Villarin
January 27 - February 13, 2011
The LABA Theatre At The 14th Street Y
344 East 14th Street between First and Second Avenues
4/5/6/N/R/Q to Union Square; L to First Avenue
Thursdays at 8 p.m.
Fridays at 8 p.m.
Saturdays at 8 p.m.
Sundays at 3 p.m. (Super Bowl Sunday, February 6 at 2pm)
Additional performance on Monday, February 7 at 7pm.
Tickets are $25 and are now available online atwww.theatermania.com or by calling 866.811.4111. Tickets may also be purchased in-person at the theater box office ½ hour prior to the performance.
Running Time: 120 minutes (with intermission)
Actress, Producer Andrea Day
NYTR: Why do you make theater?
ANDREA DAY: Hmmm...me, personally? Lots of reasons. For the release. For the surprise. For the ability to say something bigger than myself, perhaps something that I might not even believe in but learn to believe, for a time. For the synthesis of people and ideas, and a visceral way to tap into a shared consciousness. For the people, the beautiful push of creativity and openness and genuine effort despite the zilch pay, rough schedule, and inevitable disappointments. Because ultimately, I love the business of play. GENTRIFUSION has been such a fantastic project for me as both an actor and a producer precisely because of the people. We throw around the word "collaborative art" so often when talking about theater it almost seems cliche but then you are in the thick of it and you suddenly realize - damn, what a supreme group effort this really is. To create a moving, unified artistic statement with 6 writers, 3 directors, 6 designers, 19 actors, plus a production team? That IS collaboration. Take a look at the fantastic (huge!) line up of people involved in this production here: http://www.redferntheatre.org/p_gentrifusion.asp
As for Red Fern: Red Fern Theatre has such a smart, generous mission. All plays produced address social issues from local to global, and each production is paired with a philanthropy whose work relates to the issue of the play. A portion of the proceeds from each play produced goes to the designated philanthropy. Its inspiring to do good work, and know that someone else's good work will benefit as well. In honor of the 5 year anniversary of Red Fern and the city-wide scope of GENTRIFUSION, Red Fern is partnering with all 12 past show philanthropies. You can take a look at them here:http://www.redferntheatre.org/red_fern_theatre_philanthropies.asp
Andrea Day and Federico Trigo in "(2) 11". Photo by Jordan Popalis
NYTR: Can you talk a little about where the idea from this project came from or developed?
ANDREA DAY: Red Fern produced a series of commissioned short plays on a theme last January called +30NYC, which was an exploration of where New York might be 30 years in the future. It was a great success and brought together such an exciting group of working artists that there was no question that it should be repeated in the 2010-2011 Red Fern season.
The theme of GENTRIFUSION came out of a narrower concept of looking at one house and the stories of various generations in that house. That piqued my interest and got me thinking on a broader scale about gentrification in neighborhoods and the different ways people are affected by that change, both good and bad. This is something that particularly resonates with me. I live on the Crown Heights/Prospect Heights border, and for my "day job" I rent apartments - usually to artists looking for cheap rent, and usually in my neighborhood or neighborhood like mine. You really get to know and love a place that way - I've met so many people, newcomers and old timers, and heard incredible stories. I wanted to create an artistic statement that tapped into these stories, to tell the truth of what really goes on as a neighborhood changes, the incredibly diverse points of view - the building supers, the deli owners, the investors, and the skinny jean hipsters. Gentrification is such a loaded word. There are entire organizations devoted to fighting it, it has become synonymous for loss of culture and history, and yet - it is a reality. And is it really all bad? I think that depends on who you ask. I figured, who better to tackle this word and all the baggage that comes with it, than a group of artists who know first hand what it's like to live in the midst of this change? Luckily (Red Fern Artistic Director) Melanie Williams and (Co-Artistic Producer) Kel Haney thought it was a good idea, too, and with their help, smarts, and hard work we launched the project last Fall.
NYTR: How did you choose writers?
ANDREA DAY: (Red Fern Artistic Director) Melanie Williams, (Co-Artistic Producer) Kel Haney, and I have been lucky enough in our careers to come into contact with a wide range of exceptionally talented new playwrights. We then looked for a spectrum of writers who we hoped would speak to the topic of gentrification in different ways. The GENTRIFUSION writers are men, women, gay, straight, white, non-white, native New Yorkers, and New York transplants, and their work is just as diverse as they are. These 6 plays are a fascinating kaleidoscope of the New York experience - touching and funny and smart and true.
playwright Crystal Skillman
NYTR: Talk to me about the word gentrifusion and your take on it...
CRYSTAL SKILLMAN: For me, I love how that word sums up Andrea’s original awesome idea: to take on the huge subject of gentrification by asking playwrights to craft new, short plays inspired by that theme which are fused together to make one night. The result is this show called Gentrifusion that the wonderful Red Fern Theater Company is running for three weeks, which features writers honestly exploring the effects of changing communities, of those gaining and losing homes – this issue from both sides. My goal as a playwright (reflected in plays like Birthday, The Vigil, Sleeping World and even my comedies like Hack! and Killer High) is to reflect the world around us and all its complications though the lens of a more personal, intimate story told in an inventive way. The opportunity to be involved was very exciting to me as I always want my audience to sit down and see a world they can relate to. The result of my take on this theme is my play, Crawl, about a younger brother who shows up to face his older brother about selling the Brooklyn home from their childhood. It’s deceptively simple, but as their fight ensues it’s clear how complicated their relationship is, how personal it is. It’s a personal play for me, as it’s set in Brooklyn where gentrification exists all around me. At the same time, I’m realizing as I get older that family means more to me than ever, yet, it seems that you have to come to terms with the family you have, not what you wished they could be. The title, refers to the pub crawl the brothers had the night before, but it’s also what I learned one has to do to accept their own family. One has to let go of pride and past expectations. One has to crawl. The issue of gentrification seems the same to me from both sides struggling to hold on or let go – to really hear each other and move forward we need to lose the importance of being the one who is right, who has all the answers, to find a way to embrace change but preserve community. That’s what I love about the whole night. All the playwrights (and it’s a writer rockstar line up: Carla Ching, Joshua Conkel, Michael John Garces, Jon Kern, Janine Nabers) have created such diverse, truthful, funny as hell, touching, crazy wonderful plays. There’s a “queen” stealing a moment with an adopted baby in a once all gay city neighborhood; the story of zip code 11211 is given the “our town treatment”; two old friends start to connect just as one is about to leave the city; three characters are afraid to leave their apartment when they hear the ghosts of the past (and present); an ex-Park Sloper mom moves into a neighborhood that isn’t ready to change as much as she seems unable to. We sure as heck don’t have all the answers but have tried our best to raise emotional questions about the impact of change to our neighborhoods – for good and bad.
Nathan Hinton and Sheldon Best in "Crawl" by Crystal Skillman from GENTRIFUSION. Photo by Jordan Popalis
NYTR: Best part about the process . . .
CRYSTAL SKILLMAN: It’s been so cool to see the whole show be built piece by piece and over a relatively short period! When Andrea first asked me to be involved in November (!), I realized what a gold mine she was for research/inspiration as she shared with me her own stories showing houses around Franklin Ave., which became a big part of the play for me. The minute co-producer Kel Haney introduced me Colette Robert, I just had this amazing feeling we were going to create something special. We got so excited when we snagged rock star actors Nathan Hinton, who I first worked with at the New Harmony Project, and Sheldon Best, we’ve become friends after working with Vampire Cowboys, though this is the first time he’s working on one of my plays! Working with Colette and them, the play went to a whole other level. All contributed so much to the play and artistically we were so supported as we played. Melanie Moyer Williams who is the Artistic Director of Red Fern is just amazing. We have a set. With a working door. A real freakin’ awesome set and design team who just perfectly highlights each play with their work. And I’m working with some of my favorite playwrights and directors and actors in the indie world. The truly best part in the process of creating this show is we’ve created something so, so diverse. These are stories – and characters - you rarely see in the theatre. To me it’s indie theater doing what only it can do: tell stories that seem to be lost from the more commercial side of theater and do so in kick ass imaginative ways.
NYTR: You're a busy woman, what all are you working on?
CRYSTAL SKILLMAN: I’m currently writing Geek a new full length play on commission for the wonderful Vampire Cowboys, about two girls racing though a japanime con in Ohio to get the signature of their childhood idol. As they race through the crazy Dante Inferno-esque con they find themselves facing what they they’ve railed so hard against: the onslaught of adulthood knocking on their door with all the horrible truths it brings, as they face the loss of a friend and their own mistakes. It’s a very dynamic, action-packed (of course!), personal story for me as a life long geek using fantasy as the armor against harsh reality. I’m also a part of some great upcoming events as I’m the guest playwright at New York Maddess Feb. 21st at Primary Stages, where I’ll be giving out a theme a week before and a great group of very brave playwrights will create new short plays read that night. On the publishing front I have some great news: Birthday and Nobody will be published by Sam French this spring, joining the shelf with Out of Time and Place, the anthology of Women’s Project lab alumni that features The Vigil, which won the NY IT Award this year. It’s an amazing time development wise-- the best way I can describe it is that I feel like every play I’m writing is speaking to the other – it’s a whole new way of working and it’s all happening so fast! I think it’s partly thanks to the experience of learning so much in recent productions like Vigil at the Brick with Impetuous, Birthday both here and in London, and Hack! and partly thanks to being inspired by the directors who keep kicking my ass like Colette, John Hurley, Daniel Talbott. One of my upcoming projects is with Daniel – we’re working on my play Sleeping World which we’ll do a member workshop of at EST later this year. So excited about it. And there’s two new site specific commissions coming up: a mini series forTheater in Van to be directed by David James Jackson that will most likely debut this summer and one for Rising Phoenix Rep’s amazingCino Nights at Jimmy’s No. 43 this fall.POSTED BY JODY CHRISTOPHERSON AT 4:04 PM LABELS: ANDREA DAY, CRYSTAL SKILLMAN, RED FERN THEATRE COMPANY
Rachel Merrill Moss · January 28, 2011
Pictured: Nathan Hinton and Sheldon Best
in a scene from Gentrifusion (photo © Jordan Popalis)To many, May 1st each year lives in infamy as the one sweaty, frenzied day of moving that signifies a fresh start. But vacating is no such thing for so many across the city: forced moving and displacement are the harsh realities of gentrification. The Red Fern Theatre Company has gathered six playwrights to showcase pieces delving into the g-word, presented as Gentrifusion: an installation of new work, now playing at LABA Theatre.
With six playwrights and three directors at the helm, and less installation than installments on a theme, Gentrifusion explores the ongoing gentrification throughout New York's boroughs. Though disparate in content, dialogue, and character, the plays appropriately all touch on overlapping issues of displacement and disavowal versus ownership of the past.
Much like the boroughs, each of the six pieces has its own rhythm and flavor. The evening covers Brooklyn, the Bronx, Harlem, the Lower East Side, and the West Village, all offering a sampling of the types of previous tenants who occupied the areas but have now been forced out. Ranging from the turn of the last century to the recent turn of the calendar, Gentrifusion briefly delivers six pinpricks of this oft-pejorative process. With an urbanized, colloquial take on Our Town, Jon Kern presents a Brooklyn neighborhood on the cusp of inevitable change, for better and for worse, in Ours Is the Future. Ours Is the Past. Bedroom-mates Sam and Jakob still can't make ends meet in Carla Ching's First of the Month. Transvestite Chantelle reminds privileged gay man Stephan of the struggle for acceptance and autonomy their neighborhood and orientation dealt with for so many years in Joshua Conkel's Robert Mapplethorpe Doesn't Live Here Anymore. Michael John Garcés explores the physical presence of history within each building's walls in his supernatural piece, inhabited. A single white female and her baby are held up at gunpoint, though it is her motives that are questioned in Janine Nabers's (2) 11. And rounding out the evening, Crystal Skillman deftly delivers two brothers' struggle to justify selling their familial home in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, in Crawl.
While displaying the disparaging truth that such "progress" does not come without suffering and sacrifice, the most compelling pieces of the evening are accompanied by hope. Conkel's Robert Mapplethorpe makes a case for the need for compassion when it comes to a shared neighborhood or personal history, that so often gets swept aside in the fray of the move to the top or an area "clean-up." Garcés's inhabited displays the inescapability of the past when it comes to the spaces we occupy in the city, and the beauty of embracing that now-shared history.
But the drearier side of gentrification that emerges from this composite indeed merits discussion as well. This dark side is one in which grown men must take roommates to be able to afford rent and hate crimes are trivialized. Where people who have lived in their neighborhood homes for an entire lifetime have nothing more tangible to hold on to than their emotional roots when priced out.
A life-size, decomposing brick walk-up exterior creates the backdrop for all the pieces. Prior to curtain, during intermission, and between the pieces, projections of quintessentially New York streets, people, and subway scenes play upon the face of the decrepit building. Scenic designer Katherine Akiko Day has smartly captured the very true sense of the all-seeing, all-knowing buildings throughout the city, which have sat idly by as the neighborhood changes around them. In a rather lovely way, Day has given this one façade a means to talk.
The three directors have wisely chosen a talented group for their vignettes. Standouts include Andre St. Clair Thompson as an incredibly charming tranny in the West Village and Nathan Hinton as an older brother ready to sever his Brooklyn roots.
Often times, living in New York is made possible by focusing on the microcosm of the life we've carved out for ourselves, so as not to be overwhelmed by her powerful diversity and boisterous vibrance. Gentrifusion is a proper reminder to be mindful of those who have come before, those who have sacrificed everything to stay here, and those who are as painfully passionate about the neighborhood and city (and that special bodega) as you are.
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Theater Review (NYC): Gentrifusion
To write a very short play is a challenging assignment. To create characters and a storyline with enough substance to make an impression, while at the same time making them recognizably real and interesting without taking Drama 101 shorcuts, is hard enough in two hours; accomplishing it in 20 minutes is that much more difficult. The Red Fern Theatre Company asked six playwrights each to write a short play about gentrification, a subject near, if not dear, to the hearts of so many New Yorkers. The six tried a variety of approaches; some work, some don't.
The biggest problems come when writers smash characters with disparate backgrounds together and force them to interact in ways that seem wholly artificial in order to get the emotional action going. This dooms Jon Kern's Ours Is the Future. Ours Is the Past, in which the apartment of a yuppie couple in a "transitioning" neighborhood has been broken into and the husband suspects two mechanics who work in a neighboring garage of knowing something about it. These two likable men, on the verge of losing their garage to high rents, have been bantering about whether the hedgehogs or baby seals they've seen on TV are cuter; but the yuppie husband, blinded by prejudice and fear, barges in and accuses them of involvement in the burglary, acting as if he really knows them. The wife comes by later to apologize but, bizarrely, opens up emotionally. It makes zero sense.
The same problem ruins Janine Nabers' (2) 11. Mugged by local street thugs, a young white woman with a baby gets the runaround at the police station, but one sympathetic cop bonds with her. This cop bears so little resemblance to real New York City policemen that I wondered whether the playwright has ever met one. "Why have you been so nice to me?" the victim asks. "'Cause no one else around here will," he replies with mild empathy. Sorry, no; by and large, our police are helpful and professional, but they don't resemble this guy in the least. A surprise ending isn't enough to rescue the play.
Carla Ching's First of the Month fares better, mostly because its three characters are more colorful and interesting. It, too, ends up relying on a sudden bond between two people who've never met before, but that's less bothersome here because these young protagonists, charged up by the emotions of moving day, are actually recognizable New York types we can imagine getting it on in conversation.
Most colorful of all, and funny, is Joshua Conkel's Robert Mapplethorpe Doesn't Live Here Anymore, which frames gentrification as a matter of gay vs. queer; excellent performances by Devin Norik as a gay yuppie with a baby and Andrée St. Clair Thompson as a homeless, transgendered heroin addict who find they have more in common than they thought help make the play a compact delight.
Crystal Skillman's Crawl brings together two estranged brothers to argue over the sale of their childhood Brooklyn home; the playwright skilfully reveals their characters and backgrounds in a satisfying way. Taking the most liberty with the theme is Michael John Garcés, who spins a manic haunted-house tale that seems—though its stichomythic dialogue is a bit hard to follow—to borrow its twist from the movie The Others but has a scare-tastic time getting there.
Gentrifusion, presented by the Red Fern Theatre Company, runs through Feb. 13 at the LABA Theatre at the 14th Street Y, New York.
Photos by Jordan Popalis. 1) Nathan Hinton and Sheldon Best in Crawl. 2) André St. Clair Thompson and Devin Norik in Robert Mapplethorpe Doesn't Live Here Anymore.
Spare Times for Jan. 28-Feb. 3
By ANNE MANCUSO
Published: January 27, 2011
‘Gentrifusion’ (through Feb. 13) The positive and negative outcomes of gentrification in New York are explored in “Gentrifusion,” a collection of short plays presented by the Red Fern Theater Company. Performances are Thursdays through Saturdays at 8 p.m.; Sundays at 3 p.m. (on Feb. 6, the show is at 2 p.m.); there is an additional performance on Feb. 7 at 7 p.m. LABA Theater at the 14th Street Y, 344 East 14th Street, Manhattan , (866) 811-4111, redferntheatre.org; $25.
Photo by Dennis Ho
Don’t go gently: See “Gentrifusion.”
Just Do Art!
Compiled by Scott stiffler
Red Fern Theatre Company’s latest project charged several playwrights with the task of exploring the “different truths” surrounding the gentrification of New York’s neighborhoods. The short plays of “Gentrifusion,” we’re assured, will reach beyond the clichéd ideas of gentrification to explore how imposed changes on the place where you live both improves and diminishes the community. What they’ve found out already is that “both long-time residents and the new crop of gentrifiers benefit and suffer in different measures and different ways.” The roster of short plays are supported by projections created from photojournalist and documentary filmmaker Dennis Ho (dwho.com). Jan. 27 through Feb. 13. Thurs. at 8pm, Fri. at 8pm, Sat. at 8pm, Sun. at 3pm (Super Bowl Sun., Feb. 6, at 2pm). Additional performance on Mon., Feb., 7 at 7pm. Running Time: 120 minutes, with intermission. At LABA Theatre at the 14th Street Y (344 E. 14th St. btw. First & Second Aves.). For tickets ($25), visit redferntheatre.org or call 866-811-4111.
Joshua Conkel and Robert Mapplethorpe...Gentrifusion
RED FERN THEATRE COMPANY
An installation on
New York's dynamic cultural shifts
JANUARY 27 – FEBRUARY 13, 2011
THE LABA THEATRE AT THE 14TH STREET Y
In GENTRIFUSION, playwrights Carla Ching, Joshua Conkel , Michael John Garcés, Jon Kern, Janine Nabers and Crystal Skillman, explore the different truths surrounding the gentrification of New York’s neighborhoods. The playwrights were charged with breaking down the cliched idea of "gentrification".
Their pieces dig deeper to address the ways that change both improves and diminishes a community. All residents are given voice in this series, ultimately discovering that both long time residents and the new crop of gentrifiers benefit and suffer in different measures and different ways.
Joshua Conkel's short play is ,
Doesn't Live Here Anymore
Is the "gay ghetto" dead? Some queens just can't agree on anything.
According to Josh, "My piece is about a war of words between a trans street person and a well-to-do gay man whose just adopted a baby. It's about assimilation vs identity within the gay community and the death of "gay ghettos" due to gentrification."
Tickets are $25 and are now available online at Theater Mania or by calling 866.811.4111. Tickets may also be purchased in-person at the theater box office ½ hour prior to the performance.
LABA Theatre at the 14th Street Y
344 East 14th Street between First and Second Avenues
4/5/6/N/R/Q to Union Square; L to First Avenue