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

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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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Meet the director of Bad Jews: Oliver Butler

Oliver Butler, director of Bad Jews

Oliver Butler, director of Bad Jews

When Oliver Butler was a boy, he spent many a happy hour hanging around Long Wharf Theatre. His mother, Pamela Payton-Wright, is a much celebrated actress who performed in many shows at the theatre, including a much lauded 1987 production of Our Town with Hal Holbrook. “My mother is all over the walls,” Butler said, referring to the production photos found all around the rehearsal halls and green room.

He recalled doing homework in the dressing room during the show, and making off-stage crowd noises during a production of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. “My memories are all good ones and I’m sure I’ve forgotten the embarrassing ones,” he said. Right out of the University of Connecticut, Butler picked up a little extra cash helping to do technical work at the theatre. Long Wharf Theatre has been part of his life for a long time.

Peter Weller, Christine Lahti and Pamela Payton Wright in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.

Peter Weller, Christine Lahti and Pamela Payton-Wright in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.

Coming back to direct a show was not something he’d ever expected to do. Artistic Director Gordon Edelstein was impressed with the work Butler had done with his own Brooklyn-based company, The Debate Society, and hired him to direct Joshua Harmon’s Bad Jews. “It’s hard for me to put together that this guy is the young kid I knew,” Artistic Director Gordon Edelstein said of the 36-year-old director.

Butler wasn’t initially sure he wanted to go into the theatre to make a living. “It was much too hard. There must be something else I could do,” he said.

But, as he said, the family business beckoned. “It is fitting that this play about family legacy came to me,” Butler said.

Butler said that Bad Jews is ultimately about a group of 20-somethings who are trying to figure out their places in the world and the kind of lives they’d like to have. The chai, the necklace at the center of the characters’ struggle in the play, is a token physical object that represents the thing of real value: the family’s legacy, he said.

Butler said audiences will get to see a lively, interesting battle on stage, and the comedy of the piece will certainly come through, but it’s the family dynamic that gives the piece its heart.

– Steven Scarpa

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There are plenty of ways to support Long Wharf Theatre!

CHAIRMAN’S CHALLENGE A BIG SUCCESS!

In what is becoming an annual LWT tradition, board chair Sandy Stoddard has just completed his second “Chairman’s Challenge” fundraising campaign to double the value of new and increased donations with a generous matching gift. “I hope this challenge encourages people to think about Long Wharf as they make their year-end gifts because nearly 50% of the theatre’s entire budget comes from contributions!,” says Stoddard.  And help it did! Thanks to the many donors who responded to the challenge whose gifts, once matched, raised over $30,000 for the theatre in this 50th anniversary season.  You can see Sandy’s video HERE.

If you missed the Chairman’s Challenge, don’t despair!  There are lots of ways to support Long Wharf—

AMAZONSMILE:
Did you know that you can support Long Wharf with EVERY purchase you make on Amazon?  .5% of your purchase will be donated to Long Wharf once you register with AmazonSmile.  It doesn’t sound like much, but the average American spends about $350 each year on Amazon (AmazonPrime members spend nearly twice that much).  Imagine:  if 50,000 theatregoers registered for AmazonSmile, Long Wharf would receive nearly $10,000 per year! Click here for instructions on registering LWT as your desired charity and for more information about the program!

NAME A SEAT:
Put your name, or the name of a loved one, on one of our comfortable new Mainstage seats.  There are still a handful of seats just waiting to be claimed!  $1,500, $2,500, or $5,000 depending on the location. Find more information about donating a seat here or by calling Jenny Dupre at (203) 772-8265.

ONLINE GIVING:
Next time you’re on the Long Wharf website, click the DONATE NOW button on the home page and see how easy it is to make a secure donation!

MONTHLY GIVING:
Taking a cue from public radio and television, you can now make an automatic monthly donation to Long Wharf Theatre!  Even the smallest monthly gifts add up to significant annual gifts, and our ONLINE GIVING page makes it easy to set up.  Click HERE to make an automatic monthly gift!

CONTRIBUTE USING APPRECIATED STOCK:
Making gifts of stock can offer significant tax benefits.  Please speak with your financial advisor or call Eileen Wiseman at (203) 772-8237.

GIVE TOMORROW:  PLANNED & LEGACY GIFTS:
Those who name Long Wharf Theatre as a beneficiary in their will, retirement plan, trust, life income gift or other deferred gift arrangement will be welcomed as members of the Long Wharf Legacy Circle, along with other visionary philanthropists.  For more information on bequests, life income gifts, and other legacy gifts, please contact Eileen Wiseman, Director of Development, 203.772.8237 or eileen.wiseman@longwharf.org

 
 

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Sunday Symposium hidden LWT gem

Long Wharf Theatre’s Sunday Symposium series is a hidden gem in its feedback programming series, which includes conversations with the cast, nightly talkbacks, and an intimate sit down with Artistic Director Gordon Edelstein.

The Sunday Symposium series, which take places generally after the third Sunday matinee performance during the run of each show, features speakers offering interesting perspectives on the work found on our stages. Some past speakers included Pulitzer Prize winning playwright Donald Margulies, Tappan Wilder, literary executor of Thornton Wilder’s estate, and Barry Nalebuff, one of the founders of Honest Tea and a Yale professor.“Our overall goal is to offer an enriched experience of the show,” said Literary Manager Elizabeth Nearing. “We hope to offer a deep, scholarly perspective on the piece. We want to use the platform of the show to discuss larger themes.”

The Sunday Symposium series is free and open to the public. Click here to view past Symposiums, show trailers, and other interesting videos.

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Student inspiration takes the stage in Moments and Minutes Festival April 17

 

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In Our Town’s waning moments, Emily takes the stage to say goodbye to the life around her. At the conclusion of brownsville song (b-side for tray), Tray tells the world what kind of man he wants to be. Two young people surrounded and engulfed by beauty claim their places in the world in very different, but equally moving ways.

Long Wharf Theatre wants to give students a place to express those feelings, to give voice to their lives.

The Moments & Minutes Festival, a new program from the theatre’s education department, 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 festival takes place on April 17 at 7 pm on Stage II.

Kristianna Smith, LWT teaching artist, working with students

Kristianna Smith, LWT teaching artist, working with students

The idea for the festival was inspired by the poetic language in Our Town and brownsville song (b-side for Tray). The education department felt there was a real opportunity, recognizing that an average New Haven kid’s life falls somewhere between the worlds of bucolic Grover’s Corners and urban Brownsville,. “We want to showcase what our students are doing in the classroom here at Long Wharf,” said Kristianna Smith, Interim Principal Teaching Artist.

It’s a novel challenge for young performers. They are asked to write an original two minute monologue on their lives – their neighborhoods, their aspirations, and their challenges. Visual artists will have the opportunity to explore those themes through paint, chalk, pencil, photography, pottery or collage. Students will have the opportunity to submit their work. The festival will feature the top 15 performers, while the top 10 pieces of art work will be displayed in the Stage II lobby on the night of the event.

Smith said students that have already seen Our Town have been working on the project. Students at Davis Street School in New Haven are working on pieces describing what is most important to them. The age range of students expected to participate is sixth through twelfth grades, allowing for a full and interesting range of life experiences. “We want kids to be able to express the full range of their emotional lives,” Smith said.

The festival is open to any student from the greater New Haven area. The deadline for submissions is February 1, 2015. Information on how to submit can be found here: http://longwharf.org/moments-minutes-festival

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Where did the idea for Forever come from?

Dael Orlandersmith in Forever

Dael Orlandersmith in Forever

One of Dael Orlandersmith’s favorite places in the world is the Pere Lachaise Cemetery in Paris. Each time she visits, she makes a point to wander among the graves of both the famous – Jim Morrison, Oscar Wilde, and Chopin, among others – and the ordinary.

Dael draws her inspiration from many different areas. She had recently seen a documentary about the legendary cemetery, called “Forever,” in which there was a central character she was drawn to.

“There was a woman in the documentary I wanted to play named Michelle. Michelle is a woman from Guadeloupe who is married to a white French guy. They were married for four years and she was 20 years his senior. Her first marriage was just about having kids and the second marriage, the one with him was, despite the age difference, was love. They were only together for four years,” Dael recalled.

She initially thought she might adapt the film and take on one of the roles herself. “I never have a shortage of things to write,” she said.

A conversation with director Neel Keller, who had commissioned her to create a new piece, steered her in a different direction. “What got you into art, he asked me. Myself, I said, I don’t know. Then I thought, the books we had in our house. In a weird way, my mom did. He said, ‘Write that story,’” Orlandersmith recalled.

Inspired by a wide array of films, music, and books Orlandersmith carefully shaped a memoir, which is currently playing on Stage II through February 1. Forever received several workshops before premiering at the Kirk Douglas Theatre in Los Angeles. “It’s a theatrical experience with my own impressions and thoughts,” she said.

Part life story, part imagination, in Forever Orlandersmith creates a character that goes through the often painful process of self-determination, forging her identity through poetry, music, and art. “I often write about people having to invent themselves. People who have to reinvent themselves. People who have to parent themselves and be their own person. The outsider people,” she said. “I want to convey a truth. I hope I’ve given people permission to be uncomfortable and comfortable. I hope I’ve told them an interesting story and I hope I’ve told it well.”

– Steve Scarpa

 

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Kids can travel in time at LWT’s 8th annual Discovery Day

An artist's rendering of the Time Machine at the heart of Discovery Day

An artist’s rendering of the Time Machine at the heart of Discovery Day

Almost every single theatre person remembers what hooked them in the first place. It could be a show they did in high school, or the first Broadway hit they saw. For others, it’s a moment in a classroom with a particularly inspiring teacher.

For artistic resident Emily Breeze, that moment happened at Long Wharf Theatre, during a production of William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream when she was in 7th grade. “It was a completely different world. I had the experience of no longer being in a theatre. My disbelief was completely suspended. I was engaged with the theatre in a completely different way. It was really magical for me,” she said.

Emily Breeze, artistic resident, being studious

Emily Breeze, artistic resident, being studious

She and her colleagues, the Next Stage residents, a group of early career professionals training at Long Wharf Theatre in their respective disciplines for a season, want to give children a chance to have their own transformative theatrical experience. They start off with LWT’s eighth annual Discovery Day: Time Jumpers from Dinos to DeMille.” The event will take place January 17 at 9:30 am to noon. Doors open at 9 am.

Kids and staff having fun at Discovery Day

Kids and staff having fun at Discovery Day

Children will have the opportunity to move from prehistoric times, through ancient Egypt, to Medieval Europe, to old time Hollywood, hopping across time and space in a theatrical time travel adventure. They’ll learn how to become dinosaurs, build their own crowns and princess hats, make coats of arms, create the soundscapes for silent movies, and more. Over the course of the day, through the various activities, kids will get a glimpse into the inner workings props, costumes and scene shops, and take a fun acting workshop with a member of the Long Wharf Theatre artistic team.

The suggested age range is three and up. There is a $5 suggested donation per family. All of the funds will go towards funding a play for young audiences performed in the spring. For information about the event, visit http://longwharf.org/discovery-day-2015

– Steve Scarpa

 

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