Remnants of Presidential History Given to Long Wharf

Woodrow Wilson inauguration The Sunday Star

Front page of The Sunday Star March 4, 1917

The box office phone is the busiest line at Long Wharf. Every day our box office staff fields dozens of calls about ticket purchases, subscription inquiries, and a wide range of questions. Box Office Manager Josh Sinclair recently picked up the phone to hear a very interesting question on the other end. “Would you have any interest in a newspaper from Woodrow Wilson’s second inauguration?” How else could we respond but with a resounding, “Yes!” We just so happen to be getting ready to put history on stage with our production of The Second Mrs. Wilson so what could be more appropriate than to be able to hold an actual piece of that history in our hands.

Sometime after that most unique of phone calls a package arrived at Long Wharf. Enclosed was a note: “I came across an inaugural newspaper my great grandmother had saved – in very fragile condition but thought perhaps it might be useful in some way in your upcoming Second Mrs. Wilson.” Under the note lay two clear plastic sleeves of yellowed newsprint. When opened they were revealed to contain the front page of a March 4, 1917 edition of The Sunday Star celebrating the second inauguration of Woodrow Wilson set to take place the following day, March 5th, 1917. The Star was the newspaper of record in Washington D.C. that ran from 1852 to 1981. When laid out the weathered pieces of the front page displayed four glamorous portraits: President Wilson, Vice President Marshall, the vice president’s wife, and Mrs. Woodrow Wilson, Edith Wilson’s preferred title.

New York Times May 1917 Sunday Star 1917 Woodrow Wilson Inauguration

 

 

Along with the remnants of the May 16th and 31st issues of The New York Times also found in the sleeves, the newspaper pieces gave us a rare direct peak at this particular era in history. One newspaper marks a month before the United States’ formal entry into World War I while the other two issues exist in a world over a month after the declaration. Articles about German U-boat sinkings sit next to advertisements for corsets. An optician on the back page advertises Folding Oxford glasses, very similar to the ones perched on the president’s nose on the front page, as “very in vogue.” Coverage of President Wilson’s now historically famous Memorial Day address at Arlington Cemetery to departing doughboys quotes him as saying “the great struggle in to which we have now entered…is a struggle of men who love liberty everywhere.”

To read and study about the history behind The Second Mrs. Wilson is certainly interesting, but to touch and read ink printed on paper when Edith and her dear Woodrow were in the White House has been a special treat. Thank you to our loyal patron Cary Peterson for allowing Long Wharf to engage with the history we’re telling onstage at this unique level!

- Kimberly Shepherd

Sunday Star 1917 Woodrow Wilson InaugurationNew York Times May 1917

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The “Relentless Hope” of Brownsville

One day while simply walking down the street, 18 year old Tray ends up being violently killed. That’s the story Kimber Lee tells in brownsville song (b-side for tray) and sadly it’s a story inspired by real life events, but this is not the only kind of story the streets of Brownsville Brooklyn are able to produce.

One day last winter while walking down the street in Brownsville just like Tray,

The picture Brandon Stanton took of Vidal Chastanet on the streets of Brownsville  that was used in the Humans of New York post.

The picture of Vidal Chastanet on the streets of Brownsville used in the Humans of New York post.

13-year-old Vidal Chastanet ran in to Brandon Stanton who runs the popular photography blog Humans of New York. Stanton took Vidal’s picture and asked him about the person who influenced him the most. “He told me about his principal, Ms. Lopez, and he explained how she had taught him that he mattered,” Stanton wrote. That picture of Vidal and his story about Ms. Lopez and his school, Mott Hall Bridges Academy (MHBA), ended up receiving over 1 million likes and shares on social media.

So influenced was Stanton by Vidal’s story and the response to it that he started a fundraising campaign for MHBA to take a class trip to Harvard. He ended up raising $1.4 million to be used for class trips, summer programming, and a scholarship fund, of which Vidal will be the first recipient. The campaign also spurred an invitation from the White House in February and on the same week that brownsville song opened at Long Wharf Theatre, MHBA was able to take a group of real life Trays and Devines from Brownsville to visit Harvard.

Humans of New York Brownsville

The students of Mott Hall Bridges Academy at Harvard University

“Harvard’s smaller than I thought it would be,” one MHBA student said after seeing the campus. That kind of statement really encompassed the goal of the trip: to break the barriers of how these students see the world and what they think is possible for themselves. Similar hopes surround our production of brownsville song. There are hopes that the show will break some barriers as well: barriers that limit how people think of Brownsville, barriers that may have kept us from seeing the complex identities of the Brownsvilles that exist in our very own backyards, and barriers that keep certain parts of our community from feeling theatre is accessible or relatable to them.

Kimber Lee’s play is, at its core, a story of hope inspired by a community whose residents live, breathe, and die on its streets, and yet, somehow manage to thrive there as well. As Lee writes, “This play is dedicated to the people of Brownsville, and their tremendous heart, courage, humor and relentless hope in the face of sometimes overwhelming circumstances.”

- Kimberly Shepherd

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What does brownsville song sound like?

Brownsville Song  LWT  210You may be wondering how brownsville song came to be titled a ‘song’. Why would a writer choose to describe her play as a song when it’s not a musical? For Kimber Lee the answer is pretty straightforward: it simply felt like the right title for the work. “I wanted [it] to be something musical because it felt to me there was something musical in the rhythms of Brooklyn,” Lee says.

So she set out to compose for the stage a chorus of words, phrases, and pauses that lives side by side with the soundscape of everyday life in Brownsville: subwoofers thumping in the distance, cars whooshing by, and subway cars rattling on the overhead tracks. The structure of the script on the page sometimes appears more like poetic verse than dialogue, but that’s not to say it isn’t true in sound to real life speech. Lee insists, “the aliveness of the play lives in the rhythm and flow of the language.”

In “a note from the playwright” that prefaces the script she specifies how exactly to approach her unique writing style. “Pauses or silences in this play are not negative space,” she explains.” they hold the space of a thought just as a rest in a musical score holds the space of a note.”

It sounds simple but Lee’s vision for the sound of brownsville song gave our actors quite a challenge to work with. “From the beginning I was struck by the language of the play, which in some ways is very poetic,” explains Catrina Ganey who plays Lena in Long Wharf’s production. “A lot of it is not so much complete sentences, but phrases. So you as an actor have to know the inner monologue. Each word, each phrase has a different meaning, so that’s been a challenge for me.” Curtiss Cook Jr., who portrays the titular character, admits he was probably the cast member who struggled the most at memorizing the play’s dialogue. “The text in this play is a little weird for people, especially if you’re classically trained in acting and voice.” However the story behind the words helped him surmount the challenge. “Because this story does relate to me in a way, it’s not as challenging to feel where he’s (Tray) coming from.”

So if the dialogue of brownsville song functions musically, what about the actual music of the show: the sound design? What role does it play in the show? Director Eric Ting says sound design “allows a space like our set for brownsville song to really take on the multiple locations that exist within the play.” The unique definition of time and space was what sound designer Ryan Rumery thought as well was the biggest challenge he faced designing for this script. “We had to pick out sounds that were iconic, and sounds that the audience would understand.” However, even for him, Lee’s dialogue was the most important sound of the show. “I am a minimalist,” Rumery says, “so I don’t ever want to over design a play. To me the text and story is important, not what I am doing.”

- Kimberly Shepherd

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Long Wharf Theatre announces titles in its 2015-16 season

Long Wharf Theatre, under the direction of Artistic Director Gordon Edelstein and Managing Director Joshua Borenstein, announces four titles in its 2015-16 season.

Subscriptions are currently on sale, and can be purchased by calling 203-787-4282. Single tickets will go on sale August 1, 2015.

The season will begin in October with the Pulitzer Prize-winning drama Disgraced by Ayad Akhtar, directed by Edelstein. “One of the most significant themes of the past 20 years in Western culture is the confrontation of Judeo-Christianity with Islam,” Edelstein said. “This is a play that deals face to face with the cost of assimilation – what do you lose when you are part of a minority culture and your goal is to assimilate fully into the dominant culture.”

A co-production withHartford Stage, and based on actual interviews, Having Our Say, by Emily Mann, is the story of two sisters who grew up in the Jim Crow South and lived through the Harlem Renaissance. History at its most immediate, and poignant. Having Our Say received three Tony nominations in 1995 and has since been produced internationally to critical acclaim.  “The most provocative and entertaining family play to reach Broadway in a long time,” said The New York Times. Having Our Say is an utterly winning evening of theatre,” Edelstein said. “The Delany sisters survive the racial strife of the 20th century with their charm, warmth, and dignity intact.”

The Lion, Benjamin Scheuer’s award-winning musical, comes to Long Wharf in January. A smash hit in New York, The Lion chronicles through song one young man’s journey through adulthood, coming to grips with his difficult past and overcoming tremendous obstacles to a bright and shining future. “An irresistible winner, Benjamin Scheuer beams charisma,” said the New York Daily News. “I love this play. It’s a thrilling, spirited journey through one young man’s life. You cannot walk away without tears in your eyes. It is a completely unique and original evening in the theatre,” Edelstein said.

Long Wharf will conclude its Stage II offerings in April 2016 with the world premiere of Lewiston, by the 2014 MacArthur “Genius Grant” winner Samuel D. Hunter, directed by Eric Ting. Edelstein believes that Hunter is one of the most exciting and humane writers working in the theatre today. “He writes about people who don’t normally get written about,” Edelstein said. “He most reminds me of William Inge and Tennessee Williams in his delicate empathy for all the people in his stories.”

The 2015-16 season is characterized by deep humanity, a search for connection and understanding, and an effort to push past one’s pain to claim a better place in the world. A couple comes to grips with the sentiments lurking just below the surface of their relationship. Sisters tell the story of their long and eventful lives. A young man uses music to triumph over his difficulties. A grandmother and her granddaughter work out their family legacy.

Mainstage titles scheduled for November and May will be announced at a later date.

For more information, visit www.longwharf.org or call 203-787-4282.

2015-16 SEASON

Disgraced

By Ayad Akhtar

Directed by Gordon Edelstein

Mainstage

October 14 through November 8, 2015

Amir and his beautiful wife Emily enjoy their charmed life in New York – he’s poised to make partner at a white-shoe law firm while her painting is being considered for a prestigious gallery exhibit. When Amir’s teenaged nephew asks for help in defending an imam accused of funding terrorists, a series of emotionally shattering events upends their perfect world, and forces them to confront the compromises they endured to stake out their own piece of the American dream. Winner of the 2013 Pulitzer Prize, Disgraced is a compelling and provocative tale about the consequences of denying one’s own identity.

**

TBA

Mainstage

November 25 through December 20, 2015

**

The Lion

Written and performed by Benjamin Scheuer

Directed by Sean Daniels

Stage II

January 6 through February 7, 2016

Benjamin Scheuer uses his guitar — actually, six guitars — in The Lion, a wholly original musical experience of one man’s gripping coming-of-age story. The award-winning songwriter inspires and disarms with his raw wit and emotional depth as he leads you on his heartfelt journey to manhood, through pain and healing, to discover redemption through the power of music. His surprising story is about courage. His songs are how he finds it. Much like its hero, The Lion mixes power and beauty in a one of a kind experience.

**

Having Our Say

By Emily Mann

Adapted from the book by Sarah L. Delany and A. Elizabeth Delany with Amy Hill Hearth

Mainstage

February 17 through March 18, 2016

Come listen to an amazing story. 103-year-old Sadie Delany and 101-year-old Bessie Delany have welcomed us into their Mount Vernon, New York, home. Making dinner to celebrate their long deceased father’s birthday, they tell us about their lives, how they fought injustices big and small, overcoming the racial strife of the 20th century with their charm, warmth, and dignity intact. They tell a personal, family tale of people who yearned to do the right thing, and strove towards it with every ounce of their beings. Come have dinner with the Delanys, and hear the story of our nation. “…a window on a world now lost, full of love, a little pain and a wondrous deal of hope… Do see Having Our Say…” —NY Post.

**

Lewiston

A World Premiere

By Samuel D. Hunter

Directed by Eric Ting

Stage II

April 6 through May 1, 2016

Friends Alice and Connor sit by their roadside stand in Lewiston, Idaho, selling cheap fireworks, while developers swallow the land around them. Promised a condo by a pool in the new development, they feel their future is secure. Enter Marnie, Alice’s long lost granddaughter – a young woman who unexpectedly arrives, proposing to buy the land to save a piece of her family legacy. Deeply held secrets, uncertain pasts and hopeful futures are all at stake when Marnie and Alice get to know each other. Hunter, a MacArthur Genius Grant recipient, imbues his most recent work with deep human affection, poignancy, and a profound sense of empathy. Lewiston explores the emotional frontiers of a family struggling to make a home in the vastness of the American landscape.

**

TBA

Mainstage

May 4 through 29, 2016

##

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Student reporters talk to the cast of brownsville song

The cast of brownsville song visits student reporters at East Rock School in New Haven

The cast of brownsville song visits student reporters at East Rock School in New Haven

A reporter stood up, pad in hand and addressed the cast of Long Wharf Theatre’s production brownsville song (b-side for tray.) They wanted to know what made the actors want to perform in the play.

“You guys get up in the morning to go to school, right? You get ready, you have breakfast, you go to school. That is how our family is in the play,” said Curtiss Cook Jr., who plays Tray, the doomed hero of the play. “Unfortunately, something happens to me in the play that’s really unfair. This is a real story that people hear about sometimes. The play is about addressing those problems that seem so senseless, and working to stop it from happening again.”

The reporters asking questions were from the East Rock Record, the twice-yearly newspaper of East Rock Community Magnet School in New Haven. Thirty-eight third through eighth grade students participate in the weekly afterschool journalism program, working in teams to report and write a variety of stories.

The program is led by Laura Pappano, an author and journalist with the New York Times, and a Long Wharf Theatre board member. It’s a serious operation – the front page stories in the first edition of the year include an interview with New Haven Police Chief Dean Esserman, coverage of First Lady Michelle Obama’s talk at Wilbur Cross High School in October, and a piece on expansion of the school garden. The Long Wharf interview will be a full page in the next edition, with a photo spread to go along with it.

“What are some of the things you are curious about?” Pappano asked her young reporters, all of whom sported press passes and carried genuine reporters’ notebooks.

It turns out they were curious about quite a bit. They wanted to know what drew the actors to the play. One little girl asked if doing a play with such serious subject matter effected them emotionally and mentally. Another wanted to know if it was hard to learn all those lines, prompting a big laugh from the cast and a confession from Curtiss Cook that he had a bit of trouble in that department. They wanted to know if the actors got paid. How much were the actors like their characters?

It was a freewheeling conversation, with actors joking with the young kids, and them listening seriously to the answers they were given. “(Kimber Lee) wrote the play like it was poetry and we had to bring it to life like it was real,” said actress Sung Yun Cho.

Curtiss Cook Jr. (Tray) and Kaatje Welsh (Devine) performed a charming scene in which she tells her big brother about her role as a tree in an upcoming production of Swan Lake. “She’s my little sister for real. It feels like that,” Cook said about his relationship with Welsh.

Sure, the kids were cute and the actors charming. But the interaction had a serious undercurrent. The actors took the opportunity to tell them about the importance of their story, and how kids like Tray aren’t just statistics, or a clip in the newspaper. “The play is shedding light on something that gets overlooked,” Cook said.

After the impromptu press conference (and a few autographs) the young reporters headed over to a computer room to write. After all, they were on deadline.

- Steve Scarpa

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Long Wharf Theatre’s Studio School announces Spring and Summer classes

Studio_classes_fb Local actors seeking to brush up their skills or acquire new ones will have a unique opportunity this spring at Long Wharf Theatre’s Studio School to work with some of the American theatre’s most innovative artists.

Leigh Fondakowski, an Emmy Award nominated head writer of The Laramie Project, and Daniel Passer, a Cirque du Soleil lead clown, will be offering adult classes through the Studio School this spring. Fondakowski’s workshop, taking place on Saturday, April 11, will focus on Moment Work, a simple technique devised by Tectonic Theater Project to actively engage different theatrical elements to their fullest potential. Passer, whose master class will take place May 30-31, will explore elements of clowning and Commedia Dell’Arte. Beth F. Milles, Long Wharf Theatre’s new director of education and an accomplished theatre artist who has spent her career building new work on Broadway and regionally, will offer a scene study class using the plays of Anton Chekhov on June 13.

“I am so thrilled to share the work of both Leigh and Daniel with our community in spring’s Studio School offerings,” Milles said. “Their artistry and creativity I hope will inspire and infuse and I am looking forward to the conversations which will ensue from their work and teaching.” Classes start at $75 and take place at 222 Sargent Drive, New Haven. For more information about Long Wharf Theatre’s education offerings, visit www.longwharf.org or call Mallory Pellegrino at 203-772-8272.

STUDIO SCHOOL COURSE DESCRIPTIONS

Moment Work with Leigh Fondakowski Saturday, April 11 from 11am-2pm Ages 18+; Cost: $75 Leigh Fondakowski is a playwright, director, and a long-time member of Tectonic Theater Project. She was the head writer of The Laramie Project, a co-writer of Laramie: Ten Years Later, and an Emmy-nominated co-screenwriter for the adaptation of The Laramie Project for HBO. Her other original plays include The People’s Temple, Casa Cushman, I Think I Like Girls, and her latest, Spill. Participants will use a simple technique developed by Tectonic Theater Project to actively engage with the elements of the stage – exploring lights, sound, costumes, movement, character, and architecture – to discover their full theatrical potential and inherent poetry. This master class will encourage participants to think theatrically in practical and theoretical ways, and to discover the multitude of ways that the elements of the stage can communicate without text. The pressure to create or to be clever is replaced by a deep understanding that the elements will speak to us if we listen to them. The participants will have a unique opportunity to learn how to create moments of magic on stage.

Clowning and Commedia with Daniel Passer Saturday, May 30 from 10am-1pm and Sunday, May 31 from 1pm-4pm Ages 18+; Cost: $125

Daniel Passer is an acclaimed Cirque du Soleil Clown, Comedy Conceptor and Master Teacher at CalArts, Harvard, Brown University, The Second City and The Moscow Art Theatre. Most recently, Daniel played the lead clown in the world tour of Cirque du Soleil’s latest spectacle Zarkana directed by Francois Girard. You can find out more about Daniel’s extensive body of work by visiting his website: www.danielpasser.com. In this two day master class, participants will explore the elements of clowning and Commedia dell’Arte. There is no need to be physically fit—or need to have any previous experience with clowning—this is a place to explore further or start anew.  Exercises will be customized to each player as we investigate playing and playing hard. Discover, surprise and offend your senses! When was the last time you let loose?

Scene Study with Beth F. Milles June 13 from 10am-1pm  Ages 18+; Cost $75 Beth F. Milles is Long Wharf Theatre’s new Director of Education. Beth has had a prolific career developing and directing new work at many regional theaters, on Broadway and in Los Angeles. She is a member of the faculty at Cornell University, and has lectured at many Universities including Harvard University, Loyola Marymount and The University of Texas at Austin. While on leave from Cornell, Beth served as the head of the directing program at Brown University and as associate director for Trinity Repertory Company. Beth is a graduate of Cornell University and the ART Institute for Advanced Theater Training at Harvard University.​ This scene-based workshop will explore the plays of Russian Playwright Anton Chekhov. What exists between his words? How do we break into the moments with the emotional charge by the character stakes?  In this class, explore and discover these moments in scenes taken from Chekhov’s master works The Three SistersThe Seagull​ and The Cherry Orchard. This class is geared toward those students with previous acting experience. Specific scenes will be selected based on enrollment, and participants will be requested to read one of these plays prior to attending the workshop. ​ ##

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Moments & Minutes Festival To Showcase New Haven Youth Talent

When Kristianna Smith, Long Wharf Theatre’s Interim Principal Teaching Artist, put out a call to local students to create performance pieces about things they found inspiring, she didn’t quite know what to expect.

What she received from the students was honesty, empathetic observations about the world, and a profound sense of hope. “Given the choice to say anything, what the students chose to say was how they wanted to impact the world in the largest way possible,” Smith said.

Long Wharf Theatre is going to give those students an opportunity to speak their truths. Fifteen middle and high school performers from New Haven, Hamden, and Trumbull will be featured at Long Wharf Theatre’s first Moments and Minutes Festival. The festival will be an evening of celebration where spoken word, monologues, and visual art are showcased by students. Each piece will feature students’ perspectives of life in their community today. The performance will take place on April 17 at 7 pm on Stage II. The event is free and open to the public.

The idea for the festival came from two of the shows in Long Wharf Theatre’s 50th anniversary season: Our Town by Thornton Wilder and brownsville song (b-side for tray), by Kimber Lee.

In Our Town, students were transported to Grover’s Corners and introduced to Emily and George, learning about their lives together in their small New England town. At the end of the show, Emily poses the question to the Stage Manager: “Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it—every, every minute?”

Similarly, in brownsville song (b-side for tray), students will meet Tray, an eighteen year old growing up in Brooklyn, and will get a glimpse of his neighborhood, family and future dreams. Tray tells us in his scholarship essay “You define your life by living it, day by day, every MOMENT a chance to rise.”

Using these themes as inspiration, students were asked to write about where they come from, their hopes and aspirations in the world, and offer advice on how to really see and appreciate the world. They are working with Long Wharf Theatre’s teaching artists to shape and stage their pieces.

Jamia Jones of Hamden High School took the opportunity to talk about identity and labels. “Call me all the things you can’t and won’t figure out about me, because those labels are gonna peel off once the adhesive wears away. And no matter how many more times you try to stick them to me, your labels will never define me. I am not your labels, because those blank little pieces of paper coated with glue on one side, aren’t My identity,” Jones wrote.

Being positive. Racial identity. Health issues. Searching for one’s place in the world. Learning how to become the best person possible. These are the topics the students are bringing to the stage.“They are talking about issues everyone deals with, not just teens,” Smith said.

“I am so immensely proud of the work of the Moments and Minutes Festival which will offer students a forum for conversation self expression and discovery through the arts. Nurturing this work is of our highest mission. The courageous voices of the student artist/performers articulate a wisdom which transcends age,” said Beth Milles, director of education.

 

 

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Long Wharf Theatre to hold Non-Equity local auditions for TYA show

NS_fb

Long Wharf Theatre is seeking Non-Equity performers for its upcoming Next Stage production of The Boy at the Edge of Everything, by Finegan Kruckemeyer, directed by Artistic Resident Emily Breeze.

Auditions will take place April 2 & 3 from 6-10 pm. Callbacks, offered by invitation only, will take place on April 4.

Actors should bring a headshot and resume and have a monologue prepared. They should also know their availability for rehearsals between April 14 and May 29. Performances take place May 22 at 7:30pm, May 23 at 11am & 2pm, May 24 at 2pm, and from May 26 through 29 at 930 and 11:30 am.

Appointments are suggested and can be made by calling 203-787-4282.

Breeze is looking for five ensemble members, ages 18-30. All ethnicities and races are welcome. Movement and dance experience is a plus and the performer must be willing to move mobile set pieces.

The Boy at the Edge of Everything tells the story of 12-year-old Simon, who just longs for some space. Between music lessons, soccer, and karate (not to mention school!) he can’t find the chance to just be. Meanwhile, at the edge of the universe lives a Boy, lonely and bored. When their worlds collide via a meditation tank rocket-ship and lots and lots of fireworks, neither will ever be the same. An imaginative journey through space and time, The Boy at the Edge of Everything is a wisecracking, charming play.

The Next Stage program is a program for early career theatre professionals.

For more information, call 203-787-4282 or visit www.longwharf.org.

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Bad Jews sets new box office record

Long Wharf Theatre has crowned a new box office champ during its 50th anniversary season. Bad Jews has supplanted Satchmo at the Waldorf as the highest grossing show in Stage II history.

The show, written by Joshua Harmon, directed by Oliver Butler, has become the highest grossing play since Stage II opened during the 1977-78 season. The play has brought in more single ticket sales than 2012-13 season production of Satchmo at the Waldorf, written by Terry Teachout, and starring John Douglas Thompson. Two of Brian Dennehy’s appearances at Long Wharf, Hughie in 2008-09 season, and Krapp’s Last Tape during the 2011-12 season, round out the top four.

Due to audience demand, the run has been extended through Sunday, March 29. A limited number of tickets are still available at www.longwharf.org and by calling 203-787-4282.

“We are, of course, excited about this play’s box office success. We are even more delighted about how much conversation this comedy has generated at our post-show discussions and throughout the community,” said Managing Director Joshua Borenstein.

Bad Jews joins robust company at the top of the list. The top shows since 1998 are Satchmo at the Waldorf, by Terry Teachout; Hughie by Eugene O’Neill; The Mandrake Root, written by and starring Lynn Redgrave (2000-01 season); Satchmo at the Waldorf; Krapp’s Last Tape by Samuel Beckett; Modern Orthodox by Daniel Goldfarb (2000-01 season); and An American Daughter by Wendy Wasserstein (1998-99 season).

- Steve Scarpa

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sNOw boots

Sorel boots

Sorel boots

Long Wharf Theatre’s costume shop can find or build any kind of clothing one wants. You want specific kinds of multi-colored socks, they can track them down. If you want different kinds of animal hats – no cats or bears – they’ll get them. Those pesky period costumes – our shop can build them in a snap. So, it isn’t very often when they can be flummoxed by a piece of clothing.

Herin Kaputkin, costume design assistant, didn’t expect that a simple pair of popular winter boots would throw them. She was looking for Sorel boots for the character of Melody, played by Christy Escobar, in Long Wharf Theatre’s upcoming production of Bad Jews. The winter boots, ubiquitous amongst some young women, go for about $200 a pair. “I thought it would be totally easy,” she said of designer Paul Carey’s request.

Turns out it wasn’t. Thanks to a problem with the manufacturing of the popular boots, featured in last year’s Vogue magazine, there was a national shortage of the footwear. Kaputkin traveled to Trumbull, Hartford, and all over greater New Haven before she came across a single pair at the Trailblazer in downtown New Haven. The owner refused to sell them to her, given the scarcity. The store had gotten their last distribution in the fall and didn’t have enough for the season. “They haven’t made any recently,” Herin said. “This is the first time we couldn’t find something so obvious.”

So, like in any good theatre, understudies were found. Herin found boots much like the hard to find Sorels, but in a much more affordable price range. North Face boots and Pajar will now be the kind of shoes Melody wears in the play.

The process of gathering costumes for a contemporary play is a shoppers’ dream. After meeting with designers, the costume department goes through the theatre’s substantial clothing stock, looking for possible options. They then go online, checking the overall market, getting a sense of what things are going to cost. Then, they go out, making the rounds of everything from malls to tiny specialty shops looking for the proper clothing. Kaputkin said they generally purchase three or four options for every piece of clothing seen on stage. Everything else gets returned. “All of the local store managers aren’t too happy when they see us,” she laughed.

While many pieces of clothing are simply functional, the best costumes tell their own tales. The boots speak to Melody’s preppy background. Kaputkin recalled the t-shirts worn by Micah Stock’s character – each t-shirt should give the impression of a place the character has been. In short, the clothes are one more way of filling out a life. “That’s true costume shopping,” Herin said. “Finding the random thing that represents a whole story.”

– Steve Scarpa

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