LPAC Residency Begins

We had our first rehearsal at the LaGuardia Performing Arts Center today, and this is a choreographer's dream -- having a beautiful theater and a terrific staff at your disposal, not to mention a wonderful cast with whom you totally enjoy working.  How lucky we are to find ourselves here for the next two months!  The best part is that there is no pressure to mount a performance.  We can spend our time experimenting, trying out new things, looking for the best ways to ultimately bring this work to the stage.  

For our first rehearsal we read through the revised script, with Mark and Debra getting their first opportunity to try out their multiple roles. We also started to "play" with "Zelda's ballet" (which I'd like to do this time as a backstage farce), through an improvisation exercise.  I'm hoping that we will be able to add a great deal of choreography to the entire production.  

We hope you will come see our Open Rehearsal on December 2nd at 7:30 pm.  In addition to returning cast members Mark Peters, Debra Zalkind, Robin Gilbert and Rebecca Whittington Ross, we are very happy to welcome three new cast members:  Christian Serrano, Taylor Gordon, and Nathan Kosla.  -- Felice Lesser

Reading through the new version of the script:  Clockwise from left:  Nathan Kosla, Debra Zalkind, Taylor Gordon, Rebecca Whittington Ross, Mark Peters, Christian Serrano, Robin Gilbert

The cast hamming it up:  l-r  Christian Serrano, Robin Gilbert, Rebecca Whittington Ross, Nathan Kosla, Taylor Gordon, Mark Peters, Debra Zalkind


Getting Ready

We're currently preparing for our LPAC LAB 101 Residency, and are auditioning dancers and actors to fill various roles.  If anyone reading this would like to audition, please go to the AUDITION page on this website and follow the directions found there. We are happy to announce that former cast members Robin Gilbert, Mark Peters, Rebecca Whittington Ross, and Debra Zalkind will be returning to work with us during this two-month-long developmental period.

After rewriting everything more times than I can count this summer, I am eager to get to work and experiment with the streamlined script: Will the shortened and revised first act work better? Do the various new scenes work? Will the idea of using Boris as the narrator clarify some of the more complicated moments? In keeping with the "Swan Lake" theme, will Boris and Edgar both be able to be played by the same actor? (How about Zelda and Natasha?)  And what happens if much more of the work is realized in dance and movement?

What a luxury it will be to have this residency in which we can explore and discover the potential of this work, and find the answers to these and other questions. I hope at the end of it, you'll join us at our Open Rehearsal on December 2nd at 7:30 pm to see what we've accomplished. And please feel free to comment on our Blog Posts. I'd be happy to answer your questions about the work and the process (and it would be great to have some feedback).  -- Felice Lesser


The Next Rewrite

This past month was the time I had scheduled to start rewriting the script so that it would be ready in time for our fall residency at LPAC.  One of the problems with being as entrenched in a particular work as I have been in this one, is that at some point you need to be able to step away -- to separate yourself from it and look at it objectively. I also really needed some outside feedback, so I invited the current cast over for dinner one night in late-March to see the video, and to provide their thoughts.  While of course, they were the people closest to the work, they had never seen it from the "outside," and almost a year had gone by since the work's premiere. Debra, Charles, and Robin were able to come, and gave me a glimpse into the work through their eyes, and by extension, through those of an audience. I told them before we started the screening, that as the author I might or might not agree with what they said, and would ultimately make my own decisions in rewriting the script, which of course, they understood. But their responses led me to see what wasn’t being clearly conveyed, and what might need to be changed. There were some minor issues (i.e. Charles mentioned that he never got Zelda's “coin tossing.” That is an inside choreography joke having to do with Merce Cunningham’s chance techniques, a joke that I see now needs to be explained to a non-dance audience), and some larger ones (i.e. Which works better -- having the actors speak their own dialogue live, or continuing to use prerecorded sound so that the dialogue syncs with the video properly and we have enough rehearsal time? When should music be placed under dialogue and when should dialogue stand alone? Where do I need to alter the video so that the actors get the necessary time for a follow through? For example, if a bomb goes off, enough time is needed to actually see the bomb explode, then more is needed for a response to the explosion, before moving on to the next action.)  

After that evening, being better able to see how the work was perceived by others, I sat down to fix it, starting with the script. As several major screenwriting competitions had deadlines coming up, I thought I'd first go back to my screenplay version of "Funding the Arts," which I hadn't looked at in several years and rewrite it as an exercise. If I liked what I had at the end, I'd also be able to submit it to the competitions. I found myself streamlining the plot, cutting dialogue, and simplifying and clarifying everything as I went along. That made it easier to go back to the stage play when I finished, transferring some of the new changes there. I also eliminated superfluous scenes (i.e. the cocktail party), and added others (the gang’s nightly rehearsals to practice their spy skills and figure out the secret code, which is a crucial element of the story that needed to be stressed). I expanded the roles of Natasha and Boris – allowing them to narrate occasionally and present extended monologues, giving them the opportunity to shine in new comedic scenes. And I’ve started thinking how to rebalance the video, dance, and drama in the work -- adding more live action and new choreography, ultimately trying to give live dance and movement more prominence throughout. -- Felice Lesser  


Photos from COOL NY 2011

We'd like to share with you some performance photos from COOL NY 2011 taken by White Wave's photographer Yi-Chun Wu.

Debra Zalkind ("Natasha") 

Robin Gilbert & Carlos Fittante ("Lu" & "Robby") with Charles Hinshaw on floor ("Dead Terrorist")

Erin Ginn ("Maya") Charles Hinshaw ("Kevin"), Rebecca Whittington ("Margot")

Robin Gilbert, Carlos Fittante, and Charles Hinshaw

(l-r) Carlos Fittante, Mark Peters, Robin Gilbert, Erin Ginn, Rebecca Whittington

Mark Peters ("Boris")

Robin Gilbert & Carlos Fittante

(l-r) Debra Zalkind (as "Jane Edgar-Hoover"), Erin Ginn, Charles Hinshaw, Rebecca Whittington


The Next Step

The next leg of our FUNDING THE ARTS journey is about to begin! We're happy to announce that the Felice Lesser Dance Theater has just been selected for a multi-year LPAC LAB Space Grant Residency at LaGuardia Performing Arts Center in Long Island City.  This will give us time to hone, refine, and rehearse the work, add additional choreography, reshape the script, and then ultimately perform it for the public. The first residency (called Lab 101), scheduled for the Fall of 2011, will give the company 40 hours of rehearsal time and technical assistance, culminating in an open rehearsal for the public. Subsequent years (Labs 201 and 301) will provide additional rehearsal time, marketing assistance, and full-scale performances. We are thrilled to have been chosen for this program, and look forward to working at LaGuardia Community College's Performing Arts Center. 

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