Thoughts on the New Production of FUNDING THE ARTS

We just finished our LPAC LAB 201 residency at LaGuardia Performing Arts Center, and presented a performance on March 22nd that included our latest work on FUNDING THE ARTS, en route to an entirely new production.

This time the action was streamlined by having Boris (Mark Peters) take on the role of "narrator," with his pre-recorded narration occurring between scenes, which helped clarify the action. (It also allowed Mark a little extra time to change costumes, as he now plays "Edgar" as well as "Boris.")  

Live dance was added throughout!  For instance, instead of having Debra Zalkind ("Natasha"), speak to her toy skunk, Kristin Licata was cast as a live one.  Robby & Lu (Christian Serrano & Sakie Hachiya) got several new balletic duets -- one, introducing their characters at the beginning, and the second, a love duet, just before Lu's marriage to the Oil Tycoon.  The computer robots (Taylor Gordon & Elise Giannotti), were mined for their comedic value, becoming the true "scene stealers" they should be.  I kept asking myself the question, "When the humans are out, or not paying attention, what would the robots do?" and then choreographed accordingly. "Kevin" (Jeremy Stanfield) went from an acting role to a dancing one, providing a delicious opportunity to make a parody out of the main theme from "Swan Lake" as Edgar's bombs fell!  

I found myself looking at the stage quite differently this time around -- trying to make this a dance work that just happens to have dialogue, rather than a play, where actors stand and speak.  (Interestingly, I found my questions about communicating through movement and dance in Funding The Arts spilling over into our other new work, 2BZ4U, which was also premiered at LPAC.)  All this to say -- my goal to turn Funding The Arts into a dance work is now taking shape.  -- Felice Lesser


Sakie Hachiya (Lu) and Christian Serrano (Robby)


Jeremy Stanfield as "Kevin" 


 (l-r) Sakie Hachiya (Lu), Mark Peters (Boris), Christian Serrano (Robby), Taylor Gordon (Maya, a Robot), Elise Giannotti (Margot, a Robot)


Debra Zalkind (Natasha), Kristin Licata (Skunk)


Photos by Rodney Zagury




The Next Production of FUNDING THE ARTS

Kristin Licata (skunk) and Debra Zalkind (Natasha) in FUNDING THE ARTS at LPAC

We're back in rehearsal, and will present excerpts from the new production of FUNDING THE ARTS as part of our upcoming performance at LaGuardia Performing Arts Center on March 22, 2013, 8 pm.  This version has considerably more dance and movement and features original cast members Debra Zalkind (Natasha) and Mark C. Peters (Boris/Edgar), as well as Sakie Hachiya (Lu), Christian Serrano (Robby) Elise Giannotti (Maya), Taylor Gordon (Margot), Kristin Licata (skunk/guerilla fighter) and Jeremy Stanfield (Kevin/Ivan/guerilla fighter). Please visit the link below for tickets:




And now for something completely different...

Taking a break from working on FUNDING THE ARTS, we just performed IN ANOTHER ROOM (my piece about a serial killer and his victims) at the Alvin Ailey Citigroup Theater on August 25 & 26, 2012 (as part of Kat Wildish's "NY Performance Experience").  This work was originally commissioned by the LIU/CW Post Dance Ensemble for its 2008 Choreographers' Showcase, and was danced for the first time by our company in a revised version.  If you missed it, the piece will be performed again at LaGuardia Performing Arts Center on March 22, 2013.  -- Felice Lesser

All photos are by Arthur Coopchik.

Robin Gilbert & Christian Serrano with Taylor Gordon and Christiane Rottmann on the floor.

Taylor Gordon & Christian Serrano

Taylor Gordon & Christian Serrano

Christiane Rottmann & Christian Serrano

Christian Serrano & Christiane Rottmann

l-r:  Taylor Gordon, Christian Serrano, Robin Gilbert & Christiane Rottmann taking their bows




And now... the Screenplay

l-r: Robin Gilbert, Taylor Gordon, Nathan Kosla, Rebecca Whittington Ross, and Christian Serrano in "Arnie's Ballet" from FUNDING THE ARTS.

I guess it did pay off to go back to the screenplay of FUNDING THE ARTS last Spring and rewrite it as an exercise before I tackled the stage play, because it's now one of 25 Semi-Finalists in the Free Screenplay Competition -- out of a field of 3264 entries. (They'll announce the winner on February 15th.) But I'm amazed at how different the two works are turning out to be due to the differences in the two forms -- stage and film. While the cast of the screenplay is growing larger all the time, the play's cast has shrunk considerably. Scenes that were cut entirely in the play (i.e. the cocktail party) remain in the film (which, of course, features more gun fights, car chases, explosions, and special effects).  While the play is becoming more and more dance-oriented, the film does not currently use dance as much (although it certainly could, and I'd love to see much more of the screenplay realized in animation -- animation that is way beyond what can be done with one little computer here.  So Disney and Pixar, if you're out there looking for projects... please give me a call!) -- Felice Lesser  


What's Next?

Photos of "Arnie's Ballet" by Gerry Goodstein:



l-r: Robin Gilbert, Rebecca Whittington Ross, and Taylor Gordon in air, with Christian Serrano and Nathan Kosla on floor  

l-r: Taylor Gordon, Robin Gilbert, and Rebecca Whittington Ross

I learned from our LPAC 101 Residency that I want to add a lot more dance to this show, perhaps even think about choreographing the entire work.  For dance and movement are just as effective in making people laugh as words are, as I saw with “Arnie’s Ballet.”  I also learned to keep alert to those moments of serendipitous and fortuitous accidents.  We had worked for months on overhauling Act I, Scene 1.  But it wasn't until the very last rehearsal, when I was watching from the house, and Rebecca and Taylor were just lying still on their backs on the floor dressed in their tutus for the very first time, that I got a sense of the comic possibilities that could yet be mined from those two characters in just that one episode. Asking them (at the 11th hour) to then roll in those tutus made for a few deliciously funny jokes. It’s amazing and thrilling when moments like that occur. So now I’ll take some time to digest it all, rewrite the script yet again, and continue working on the best ways to get more dance into the show, and the show onto the stage.  --Felice Lesser