First Rehearsal: The Last Five Years

The company of The Last Five Years - director Gordon Edelstein, Katie Rose Clarke, Adam Halpin, musical director James Sampliner

The company of The Last Five Years – director Gordon Edelstein, Katie Rose Clarke, Adam Halpin, musical director James Sampliner

First rehearsal is its own kind of ritual at Long Wharf Theatre. The cast and company get together and introduce themselves. The artists talk a little bit about their vision for the play, and then the cast reads the script together for the first time.

Our production of The Last Five Years provided a welcome departure from that script. The actors Katie Rose Clarke and Adam Halpin got together for a few days before the company assembled, working with Musical Director James Sampliner to get a handle on the music. So, after a few brief remarks from director Gordon Edelstein, Clarke and Halpin favored the company with a duet.

The romantic ballad, entitled “The Next Ten Minutes” comes at the middle of the play, and chronicles Jamie and Cathy’s hope for a future full of love and happiness. Clarke and Halpin were in mid-run form, vocals soaring, connecting with each other through the music.

“There’s so many lives I want to share with you. I’ll never be complete until I do,” Jamie, played by Halpin, sung.

“I will never be complete. I will never be sure. I’ll never change the world until I do,” Clarke’s Cathy responds later in the song.

It was a bravura performance, and only whetted the appetite of the staff for what the rest of the rehearsal process might hold. Edelstein was smitten by their performance, and excited by the prospect of working on this beautiful score. “I’ve loved this musical since I first heard it,” he said.

– Steve Scarpa

 

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Split Knuckle Theatre Company’s Endurance to play Stage II in June

The Split Knuckle Theatre Company will kick off Long Wharf Theatre's 2014 summer season with its production of Endurance

The Split Knuckle Theatre Company will kick off Long Wharf Theatre’s 2014 summer season with its production of Endurance

Long Wharf Theatre will present Split Knuckle Theatre’s production of Endurance to begin its 2014 Summer Season.

The performances will take place June 17-29, 2014 on Long Wharf Theatre’s Stage II. Tickets are $55 with student discounts available.

The piece was devised and performed by Jason Bohon, Andrew Grusetskie, Michael Toomey, and Greg Webster. The creative team includes Nick Ryan (collaborating writer), Ken Clark (musical composition), Dan Rousseau (lighting), and Carmen Torres (stage manager.)

The year is 1914.  Trapped in Antarctica with no hope of rescue, the great British explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton kept 27 men alive for two years in the most inhospitable climate on Earth. Ninety-five years later, in the worst economic meltdown since the Great Depression, Hartford insurance man Walter Spivey, struggling to justify his recent promotion and save his employees’ jobs, relives Shackleton’s story. Can one of the greatest leaders in human history inspire Walter to save his men ? The internationally acclaimed Split Knuckle Theatre Company presents this funny, physical and moving exploration of how the human spirit can conquer any obstacle with wit, humor, and invention.

Endurance continues to travel the world and tour to great acclaim. When performed at Shakespeare and Company in the Berkshires in 2012,  Berkshire on Stage said “people should not hesitate to go and be entertained. And enlightened. And amazed.” Curtain Up said “The members of the phenomenal quartet … have created this poignantly and hilarious, sometimes bordering on zany, examination of what it means to overcome life’s obstacles no matter the time period.

Split Knuckle Theatre formed in 2005 in London England, beginning with an adaptation of John Steinbeck’s The Pearl, which received a 5-Star review from The Scotsman at  Edinburgh Festival. Since that time they have traveled and performed in 19 different counties and across the United States.

Greg Webster, a New Haven resident and University of Connecticut professor in Movement Theatre, said the ensemble are all trained in method of collaboration and creation  of the French theatrical artist Jacques Lecoq, whose physical techniques inspired works like Sleep No More and War HorseEndurance was inspired by two things, Webster said: a dream in which he saw a business man being swallowed by a photocopier, and his long admiration of the unique heroics of explorer Ernest Shackleton. These two ideas taken in tandem prompted a series of improvisations  and exploration that resulted in the play.

Working at a residency at UConn in 2008, Webster encouraged actors, musicians and writers to all be together in the rehearsal room at the same time, exploring different ideas using their respective disciplines. They would then improvise based on a theme, and writers would then create scenes based on their improvisations. The end results went through a rigorous editing process “Theatre has to do something different from television and film,” Webster said. “It has to engage the imagination.”

Webster said that Split Knuckle is planning to make its permanent home here in New Haven and the company is currently at work creating two new devised pieces, which will be released  in the spring of 2015.

For more information about Split Knuckle Theatre, visit www.splitknuckletheatre.org.

– Steve Scarpa

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John Lithgow returns to Long Wharf Theatre to perform his one-man show

John Lithgow returns to Long Wharf Theatre

John Lithgow returns to Long Wharf Theatre

Gala 2014 Presenting Sponsor
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John Lithgow came to Long Wharf Theatre in 1973 to perform in David Storey’s “The Changing Room,” and perhaps direct some projects for then-Artistic Director Arvin Brown. He was, at that point in his young career, a journeyman actor finding steady and perhaps meaningful work in regional theatres.

“It felt like home. I was perfectly prepared to work there for the rest of my life,” Lithgow wrote about Long Wharf Theatre in his recent memoir “Drama: An Actor’s Education.”

A young John Lithgow in his Tony Award performance in The Changing Room

A young John Lithgow in his Tony Award performance in The Changing Room

“The Changing Room” changed his life. Three weeks after his Broadway debut, Lithgow won a Tony Award, launching a beloved and prolific career on stage and screen.

Lithgow will return home, so to speak, in June, performing his one man show, Stories by Heart at Long Wharf Theatre’s 2014 Gala. Invoking memories of his grandmother and father before him, Mr. Lithgow traces his roots as an actor and storyteller, interspersing his own story with a great story read to him and his siblings when they were children – “Uncle Fred Flits By” by P.G. Wodehouse. In the Wodehouse tale, a fretful young Englishman is taken on a wild afternoon’s escapade in suburban London by his irrepressible uncle. In a hilarious tour de force, Lithgow performs with zany abandon, portraying ten distinct, outrageous characters (including a parrot).

Gala tickets start at $300. Limited number of performance only tickets may be available in May. Invitations to the Gala are available by calling 203.772.8234 or emailing kathy.cihi@longwharf.org.

 

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Gladwell and Gopnik to speak at Long Wharf Theatre April 17

 

Malcolm Gladwell and Adam Gopnik

Malcolm Gladwell and Adam Gopnik

Long Wharf Theatre is holding a “Creative Conversation,” featuring New Yorker writers Malcolm Gladwell and Adam Gopnik on Thursday, April 17 at 7 pm on the Claire Tow Stage in the C. Newton Schenck III Theatre.

Tickets are $50. To buy tickets, visit www.longwharf.org or call 203-787-4282.

“We are extremely excited to announce this unmissable event,” said Artistic Director Gordon Edelstein. “This wide ranging conversation on innovation and creativity is sure to be inspirational.”

The event is sponsored by Assa Abloy, Connecticut Innovations, Stratton Faxon, WSHU, and the University of New Haven: The Graduate School of Business and the Alvine Enrichment Program.

Malcolm Gladwell is the author of five New York Times bestsellers — “The Tipping Point”, “Blink”, “Outliers”, “What the Dog Saw”, and now, his latest, “David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits and the Art of Battling Giants.” He has been named one of the 100 most influential people by TIME magazine and one of the Foreign Policy’s Top Global Thinkers. He has been a staff writer for The New Yorker since 1996. He has won a national magazine award and been honored by the American Psychological Society and the American Sociological Society. Malcolm is an extraordinary speaker: always on target, aware of the context and the concerns of the audience, informative and practical, poised, eloquent and warm and funny. He has an unsurpassed ability to be both entertaining and challenging.

Adam Gopnik has been writing for The New Yorker since 1986. During his tenure at the magazine, he has written fiction and humor pieces, book reviews, profiles, reporting pieces, and more than a hundred stories for “The Talk of the Town” and “Comment.” His books, ranging from essay collections about Paris and food to children’s novels, include “Paris to the Moon” (2000), “The King in the Window” (2005), “Through the Children’s Gate: A Home in New York” (2006), “Angels and Ages: A Short Book About Darwin, Lincoln, and Modern Life” (2009), “The Table Comes First: Family, France, and the Meaning of Food” (2011), and “Winter: Five Windows on the Season” (2011). Gopnik has won the National Magazine Award for Essays and for Criticism three times, and also the George Polk Award for Magazine Reporting. He is an active lecturer, and delivered the Canadian Broadcasting Corporations Massey Lectures in 2011. Gopnik lives in New York.

There are a very limited number of patron tickets available at $1,000, which includes premier seating and an invitation to a reception with the speakers.  For more information about this opportunity, contact Director of Development Eileen Wiseman, 203.772.8237 or eileen.wiseman@longwharf.org

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First rehearsal: The Shadow of the Hummingbird

Athol Fugard chats with members of the Long Wharf Theatre staff at first rehearsal

Athol Fugard chats with members of the Long Wharf Theatre staff at first rehearsal

One of the traditions of first rehearsal at Long Wharf Theatre is that everyone in the company, from the leading performer to the rawest intern, introduces themselves and says what their role is in the institution. No one expects the actors and visiting artists to remember everyone, but it a statement of communal purpose. We are all in this process together.

Athol Fugard, a South African who can be counted as one of the most important playwrights working in the English language, really doesn’t need to introduce himself to the group. But tradition calls, and his simple statement set the tone for the entire process: “I’m Athol Fugard, and I’m home.”

Fugard continues his collaboration with Artistic Director Gordon Edelstein on his newest play, The Shadow of the Hummingbird. The play, a story about the relationship between a grandfather and his beloved grandson, makes Fugard’s return to the stage in over a decade.

“I have no reason to be alive. I have made many many mistakes in the past and it is something of a miracle that I am standing here, ready to do some work,” Fugard said.

The play is a deeply personal one for the 81-year-old playwright and actor. It is inspired by his relationship with his own grandson, his only grandchild. He looked to his young co-stars Aidan and Dermot McMillan and promised them that doing the play would be a great experience. “I’m looking forward to a good time with you guys,” he said.

One of the main reasons Fugard feels like he has a home is because of his relationship with Edelstein. “We met for the first time down in San Diego and we were walking, and I was telling him about Have You Seen Us? (a previous play of Fugard’s Long Wharf Theatre produced.) His response to that piece of writing left me in no doubt that this man understood why, for 60, 70 years cause I started when I was a kid, put pen to paper. When you find someone like that, because putting pen to paper is the only thing I know how to do … Gordon understood that and that is a big big find in any writer’s life,” he said.

The theme of the play is a simple one. “The last moment of the play has some of the most important words in the English language – love. Every form of it, from the intimate moment, to the moment we share admiration or joy at being alive, nature, people, anything, that’s what’s the play’s about, ultimately,” Fugard said.

- Steve Scarpa

 

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Meet Leah Karpel of the cast of 4000 Miles

When Leah Karpel, playing Bec in Long Wharf Theatre’s upcoming production of 4000 Miles, sat down with members of the marketing department to chat about the play, she wasn’t sure her take on the piece was going to work well with their efforts to sell the show.

Leah Karpel as Bec in 4000 Miles

Leah Karpel as Bec in 4000 Miles

“If I had to say what this play’s about, I’d say it’s about death, because I’m very dark. I know that’s not going to help you sell any tickets,” she said with a glorious laugh. “No, the play isn’t that dark.”

She’s right, it’s not that dark. 4000 Miles, a Pulitzer Prize finalist, is a funny and thoughtful, intelligent and empathetic story about a lost grandson Leo reconnecting with his grandmother Vera. “I love this play. It is a really well made play,” said Karpel, who plays the grandson’s staunch girlfriend. “The relationship between Leo and Vera is true because they love each other, but it is very hard for them to communicate. They haven’t seen each other in so long and there is such a generational gap. They find ways to communicate.”

While death is certainly included, the play’s rehearsal process has brought up a lot of other subjects for the actors to explore: the uncertainty of aging, finding one’s place in the world, reminiscences of one’s own grandparents. All those subjects distilled down to their essence deal with a matter at the heart of Amy Herzog’s play: connecting with one another.

“In rehearsal we are exploring a lot of the ways that people miss connections with each other. That when you get the opportunity to spend time with your grandparents you don’t always necessarily make the best of it or ask the questions you should ask. A lot of time there is a lot of talking at people, not talking to people,” Karpel said.

Lost moments gather – it becomes easy to forget to pay attention or to be present. It is easy to get caught up in one’s own problems and not realize that the help you need might be right in front of you. It can happen to 20-somethings or 80-somethings.

“We are also exploring from the younger characters point of view what it is like to be at that point of your life, in your twenties. You don’t really know who you are going to be. You know where you come from, but you don’t know where you are going and the anxiety, uncertainty and fear that that brings up. In a lot of ways it is similar to the experience of someone who is late in life, in their 80s, and don’t really know where they are going and what the rest of their life is going to be like. In those ways, the characters in the play connect,” she said.

Karpel enjoys special connection with her grandparents. They live in Chicago, and come to see all of her work. They are going to travel to New Haven to see her in 4000 Miles. “My grandmother is coming to see this one because I know she’ll love it,” she said.

Karpel feels that 4000 Miles is the kind of play that has something for everyone.  “I hope that audiences that come to see 4000 Miles come away with a greater appreciation of the relationships in their lives, their family relationships, and an appreciation of the moments we get to spend with families and loved one. Those moments should be savored,” she said.

Leah Karpel

Leah Karpel

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Non-Equity auditions to take place at Long Wharf Theatre

Wiley_art1

Long Wharf Theatre is seeking Non-Equity performers for its upcoming Next Stage production of Wiley and the Hairy Man, by Suzan Zeder, directed by Artistic Resident Eliza Orleans.

Auditions will take place March 15 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Actors should bring a headshot and resume and be prepared to read from the script.

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

Callbacks will take place by invitation on March19 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. Rehearsals begin the second week in April. The performances take place May 16-23, 2014.

Wiley and the Hairy Man was written by four-time Distinguished Play Award by the American Alliance of Theatre winner, Suzan Zeder. It’s the story of a boy who uses his cunning to face his greatest fear, the Hairy Man.

“I’m passionate about working in a collaborative environment. The message of Wiley is so universal. It’s a play about facing your fears, so I’m interested in everyone’s insights about that topic. This show is a great opportunity for actors with movement experience, but I am open to incorporating individual talents into the show, such as music, puppetry, and other skills,” Orleans said.

The hunt is on in this tale of family, bravery, and magic. Wiley lives with his mother in the backwater. He isn’t afraid of anything, except the legendary and fearsome Hairy Man who roams the mysterious swamp. But with the help of his faithful dog, a little magic from his mother, and his own wits, Wiley will turn the hunter into the hunted. When Wiley comes face to face with the Hairy Man, he must learn to stand up for himself and face his greatest fear head on. This family friendly performance combines humor, adventure, and a great lesson into a wonderful evening of entertainment.

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

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

CHARACTER BREAKDOWN

Wiley

(Male, 18 – 25)

A young boy who lives with his mother in the Swamp. Mischievous and cunning, though completely terrified of the Hairy Man. He has trouble remembering the magical spells that his mother has taught him and tries to use her teaching and his own smarts to conquer his greatest fear.

Mama

(Female, 25 – 35)

Wiley’s mother, and the best conjure woman in the Southwest. She is magical, mysterious, and wise. She seems to have a potion or spell for every problem. Mama loves her son and wants to help him in his quest to fight the Hairy Man, but she also knows that he needs to learn how to fight his own battles.

The Hairy Man

(Male, 18 – 35)

The legendary bad guy of the Swamp, and Wiley’s greatest fear. Mean and menacing, though a little clumsy. He has conjuring powers and uses them to battle both Wiley and Mama.

Dog

(Male or female, 18 – 35)

Wiley’s dog and best friend. Energetic, adventurous, and fast. He helps Wiley navigate the Swamp and battle the Hairy Man.

Chorus

(A group of 2 – 4 actors, male or female, 18 – 35)

Magical beings of the Swamp.  The Chorus narrates the action of the play and provides the soundscape of the environment.  When Mama and Hairy Man cast magical spells, the Chorus becomes the animals or elements that have been conjured.

 

 

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Meet Micah Stock of the cast of 4000 Miles

Micah Stock’s new bicycle crush is bright red, with a 1973 Raleigh frame, vintage seat, new wheels and brakes. “It’s very exciting,” Stock said. “The man who sold us this bike at the bike shop was extremely excited about this bike, was sad to let it go, which told me we need this bike.”

Cycling has been on Stock’s mind quite a bit these days, tackling the role of Leo in 4000 Miles. The choice of what would represent Leo’s mode of transportation from Seattle to his grandmother in New York City was an important one for the actor to make. One can’t understand the character of Leo without understanding his ride.

“Leo has ridden from Seattle to New York City. This isn’t necessarily part of the play, but what we’ve decided, is that he’s refurbished this vintage touring bike … It’s a hodge-podge of all of these old pieces that Leo in his eco-conscious and sustainable visions would appreciate,” Stock said. “He cannibalized other bikes to improve his own.”

Micah Stock

Micah Stock

Stock and director Eric Ting have done a bit of research into to understand the mindset behind those who travel cross-country on their bikes (a trip the playwright Amy Herzog did in real life.) “One of the things we learned about when researching cross-country bike trips and the culture surround cross-country biking is that there is a sect of people who are extremely interested in bicycle touring the way it should be done, which is without bells and whistles  and computers and electronics and things tacked onto the trip. It is pure, and I think that is the way Leo and his best friend decide they are going to do their trip,” he said.

A closeup of the 1973 Raleigh

A closeup of the 1973 Raleigh

Crossing the nation on a bike is feat of logistical planning and physical endurance. Obviously, one has to be able to move quickly and travel lightly. “In Leo’s case I have four panniers which sit on the front and back wheels of the bike on racks that are over the wheels. The total weight of the four bags is 50 pounds, after which I have a  camping stove and tent. I don’t have that many clothes, just basics for riding. I would also carry food and water, of course,” Stock explained.

In real life, Stock is a casual cyclist, mainly using his bike for transportation around his neighborhood in Brooklyn. His bike was recently stolen and he’s looking for a new ride.  “I am going to adopt this beautiful vintage touring bike from Long Wharf,” he said.

– Steve Scarpa

 

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Long Wharf Theatre to partner with White Heron Theater Company in Nantucket

The White Heron Theater Company, Long Wharf Theatre's new summer home for new play development, mounted a production of God of Carnage at the Dreamland Theater on Nantucket

The White Heron Theater Company, Long Wharf Theatre’s new summer home for new play development, mounted a production of God of Carnage at the Dreamland Theater on Nantucket in January 2013

Long Wharf Theatre will partner with the White Heron Theatre Company, located on Nantucket, to establish a “New Play Collaborative,” allowing the theatre to have a summer incubator for new works.

The new collaborative will take place with Long Wharf Theatre in residence on Nantucket in June to develop new work by an established playwright. The name of the play and the playwright will be announced at a later date.

“I am very pleased to enter into this relationship with the White Heron Theatre. Long Wharf Theatre has a long tradition of being innovators in the field of new play development, and this partnership helps continue that legacy. New play development is vitally important to the health of our theatre, and for the art form as a whole. To have a place to incubate these new projects is invaluable,”said Artistic Director Gordon Edelstein.

“We are pleased to be Long Wharf’s summer home for new play development. Long Wharf has been committed to new plays and has transferred over 30 plays to Broadway or off-Broadway,” said Lynne Bolton, artistic director of White Heron. “White Heron is committed to new work. The “New Plays Collaborative” with the Long Wharf Theatre will develop new plays that could go on to have a long life on the American stage.”

The White Heron/Long Wharf connection, which began last summer with a reading of the play 4,000 Miles starring Judith Ivey (The Glass Menagerie, Shirley Valentine, Curse of the Starving Class), Patch Darragh (The Glass Menagerie), and Elvy Yost (Curse of the Starving Class) and directed by Edelstein will continue in 2014 with the development and reading of a new play by an established playwright. The reading will be open to the public.

White Heron is a not-for-profit theatre company, first formed in New York in 2005, by Lynne Bolton and Earle Gister, former dean of the Yale graduate acting program. The company moved to Nantucket in December 2011. The company produces classical and contemporary works in a transformational, character-driven way. The company also in the process of developing the Nantucket Theatre Institute, which will bring theatre professionals and students from around the country to study, do professional development and workshops year-round in downtown Nantucket.

In January 2012, White Heron produced a full Equity production of Shaw’s Candida at Nantucket’s Bennett Hall. That production travelled to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe for the month of August, 2012, to great reviews. In January 2013, White Heron produced God of Carnage at the Dreamland Theater Main Stage. For more information about the White Heron Theatre Company, visit www.whiteherontheatre.org.

 

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Biking in New Haven with Matt Feiner of Devil’s Gear Bike Shop

“Riding brings you peace of mind. A lot of people don’t realize this. It’s meditation,” said Matthew Feiner, owner of the Devil’s Gear Bike Shop.

Matt Feiner (left) and his staff

Matt Feiner (left) and his staff

At least three times a week, perhaps even more, Feiner takes to the roads, travelling all over New Haven on his bike from his Orange Street home. It’s his exercise, his community contribution, his bliss. It’s his way of making his city a better place.

“You are focused straight forward, on the road. When you are doing this, your mind isn’t on your shitty day at work, or the problems at home or at school … you are seeing everything and focusing on nothing. The next thing you know, for 20 or 30 minutes you are in a zen state. You’ve strengthened your body, relaxed your mind, and you’ve bettered your community.”

Feiner and his staff at Devil’s Gear are working with Long Wharf Theatre on its upcoming production of 4000 Miles. The central character, a young man named Leo, travels cross-country on his bike from Seattle to New York City to be with his grandmother Vera. Devil’s Gear is teaming up with the prop shop to cast the perfect bike in the role of Leo’s trusted machine.

Feiner has made bicycles his life’s work, a path that was apparent at a young age. In middle school Feiner rode around with his friends, just like any other kid tooling around his neighborhood. “I was a fidgety child. I had a lot of energy,” Feiner said.

By eighth grade, the riding became a solitary effort. In high school, he began racing competitively, becoming a successful amateur racer. Life took him away from his Connecticut roots, out to Austin, Texas for a few years, before he returned home to be close to his brother in Madison. Upon his return, he encountered an entrenched car culture. “We just weren’t bike friendly here,” he said. “I remember I got made fun of for riding my bike in the rain … I said ‘I ride my bike, that’s just what I do,’ They said, ‘Just get a car.’”

In an effort to create the kind of supportive bicycling community he thought was lacking, Feiner started Devil’s Gear with $600. “I wanted this to be a place where people can come and learn,” he said.

Thirteen years later, the store hasn’t just sold thousands of bikes to enthusiasts all over the region. Through Elm City Cycling, Feiner has become a leading advocate for reform, working with city officials to make New Haven a more bicycle friendly city. As time went on, Feiner was on the short list of people contacted for input on new road development. “Every time they talked to me about it, it became more of an honor,” he said.

Feiner has simple, common sense advice for first time riders tackling New Haven. Learn the city – great bike maps are available here. Follow all traffic rules and signals. Stay in your lanes. Don’t ride on the sidewalks. “It’s just like being in a car. You want to obey the law,” he said. “When everyone is fulfilling their social contract, everyone is safer,” he said.

Similar to the character of Leo, Feiner doesn’t see a bike a simply a mode of transportation. “Moving at 12 miles per hour, you see a lot you don’t see in a car,” he said.

– Steve Scarpa

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