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Back to Basics

We're performing at COOL NY 2011 this weekend.  (White Wave's John Ryan Theater, 25 Jay Street, Brooklyn.)  The performances are on Saturday night at 9 pm, and Sunday at 6 pm. Admission is FREE.  

l-r: Mark Peters, Robin Gilbert & Charles Hinshaw in rehearsal for our COOL NY performances.

l-r Debra Zalkind, Erin Ginn, Charles Hinshaw, Rebecca Whittington

l-r: Robin Gilbert, Carlos Fittante, Charles Hinshaw (on floor)

Foreground: Robin Gilbert & Carlos Fittante, Background: Mark Peters, Erin Ginn

Our COOL NY performances are providing us with some interesting new challenges.  Since this is a festival with a lot of dance groups following each other quickly in performance, we are limited in what we can do technically. There is no time to hang a white curtain onto which we can project our video, and if we use a projector in the very intimate theater, it can't be hung high enough to avoid splashing video onto the dancers. So I've chosen not to use our video in this performance at all.  But without our "moving set," we have to get things across to the audience in another manner.  So we're reverting to the "tried and true" -- using more live onstage action in this production.

In addition to "Natasha's" dialogue changes (discussed in the last post), there was still a lot of confusion in my mind about what on earth was going on in the opening, when the video could not be used to "explain" it.  A dead body had to somehow appear onstage, then a dictator had to be murdered when a coup d'état began, not to mention we had to inform the audience about a few wars along the way (done in the video with quick news flashes).  I decided to make "Boris" the narrator throughout, and also used him to commit the murder -- so that the dead body was where we needed it, when we needed it.  

Without the video, the cast also had to handle some real props (a stuffed animal, for instance) instead of having them (squirrels in the park) on the screen.  One of these props inadvertently gave me another joke. Debra, sweetheart that she is, was nice enough to offer to go shopping one day for stuffed animals.  She couldn't find a squirrel and came back to rehearsal with a skunk that looked somewhat like a squirrel. Debra's character, "Natasha," has Alzheimer's disease, so when Debra put the skunk on the floor and said, "Hello, little squirrel," this seemed just right to me! 

Above l-r: Carlos Fittante, Rebecca Whittington, and Debra Zalkind, along with the skunk that is playing the role of the squirrel.

"Natasha" is about to poison her furry friend as Liz Deutsch, our wardrobe mistress, looks on.

It will be very interesting to follow which changes make the work stronger than it was before, and which should be scrapped as FUNDING THE ARTS continues to evolve.  -- Felice Lesser

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