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

 

M&M_logo

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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Dael’s Inspirations: Where do the ideas come from?

Dael Orlandersmith in Forever

Dael Orlandersmith in Forever

The set for Dael Orlandersmith’s production of Forever is beautifully spare. A simple floor. A record turntable. Some photographs. A small stack of records. An equally small stack of books.

In some sense, the books and the records could be the most important objects on the stage. They offer a glimpse into the character’s identity, one she carefully cultivated through music and literature.

The album titles are eclectic. Marianne Faithfull’s Dangerous Acquaintances. Patti Smith’s Horses. Blind Lemon Jefferson’s The Immortal. The Doors’ eponymous album.

The books are also classics. Steinbeck’s East of Eden. Another Country by James Baldwin. Women in Love by D.H. Lawrence. Ernest Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast. Black Boy by Richard Wright. Alexander Hamilton by Willard Sterne Randall.

As an artist, Dael’s inspirations are myriad and wide reaching. “I like dark work. I look at stuff like The Piano Teacher or if you read The Bluest Eye or listen to The Velvet Underground. It’s a natural place for me, a natural habitat. It’s where I live,” she said.

For the next several weeks, we’ll be sharing some of Dael’s favorite artists, writers, and music via Facebook and Twitter, offering a fascinating insight into the work of a powerful and unique writer and performer.

– Steve Scarpa

 

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Donor profile: John Sawyer and Pam Stanton

John Sawyer and Pam Stanton have been coming to LWT for over two decades

John Sawyer and Pam Stanton have been coming to LWT for over two decades

John Sawyer and Pam Stanton, longtime subscribers and donors at LWT, have also been active at WSHU Public Radio, even answering the phones for their pledge drives. So, they have a good sense of what donors like to do. “The automatic monthly gift is what most donors like, especially those on fixed incomes.  It’s easy to do, and easier on the monthly budget,” John said.

So, mirroring their experience with public radio, they decided this year to take advantage of Long Wharf Theatre’s monthly online giving program, where an automatic monthly deduction is made from their credit card.  “It’s great to be able to make our Long Wharf gift this way—everybody should try it!  Plus, as a donor, you get invited to interesting behind the scenes events—we’ve been lucky to hear Phylicia Rashad speak at a working rehearsal, and Sam Waterston at a donor party. We love being part of it,” Pam said.

John and Pam have been coming to Long Wharf for at least 25 years, with a group of equally devoted friends.  They love the social time with their friends, having dinner before the show, and comparing their reactions and thoughts afterwards, often at the talkback.  They “can’t imagine living in an area without great theatre” and “appreciate that Long Wharf doesn’t just stick with the easy plays.”  Their wide ranging tastes are apparent when they list some of their favorite productions, which include both the A.R. Gurney comedy “Sylvia,” in which the main character is a dog played by a woman; and Sam Shepard’s gritty, difficult “Curse of the Starving Class.”  While Pam “prefers more traditional plays over new ones,” she enjoyed the contemporary take on “Our Town,” which opened this anniversary season.  Highlights of long ago seasons include John Lithgow and Richard Dreyfus in “Requiem for a Heavyweight”, Al Pacino in “American Buffalo,”  and Margaret Edson’s “Wit” starring Kathleen Chalfant.

Both John and Pam are retired, and now that they have more time, use their expertise to help others.  John, who grew up in Boston, is an information technology specialist, with a long career working for such well-known companies as Winchester Firearms and Sikorsky. He teaches information management and technology through professional societies, such as APICS, sharing the knowledge and insight developed over many years.  Pam, who worked in the Woodbridge school system for 37 1/2 years teaching Kindergarten through 5th grade—all of them!—volunteers at Yale-New Haven Hospital’s “Family Read” program, providing guidance to parents and other caregivers about using picture books with children to foster social, emotional, and intellectual growth and enjoyment.  “Just like theatre, it’s all about storytelling,” she says.

When they’re not seeing plays at Long Wharf, or volunteering throughout the community, John and Pam love to go the Metropolitan Opera, as well as the Met HD Broadcasts at the Quick Center in Fairfield. But they always come back home to New Haven—and home to Long Wharf.

 

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Finding new ways to fund new work

Kristen Sieh and Julian Fleischer in the world premiere of the musical February House

Kristen Sieh and Julian Fleischer in the world premiere of the musical February House

A new play doesn’t generally come to the stage white hot out of the playwright’s printer directly into the actors’ hands, nary a change to be made, a story fully realized for the stage. No, the genesis of a new work is a lot more difficult, complicated, and costly than that. It requires careful shaping, care, and a lot of support to see the light of day.

Some theatres have large programs to create and foster new work. They build audiences that understand how a new play functions and have an appetite for that process. Long Wharf Theatre has had a long track record of developing new work, and Artistic Director Gordon Edelstein regards it as an important part of the institutional agenda. However, since the economic downturn in 2008, the theatre has had difficulty getting its new play apparatus up and working. In his mind, it’s a real problem.

“I am convinced that receptivity to new writing represents the very best of remedies for spiritual, emotional, and intellectual stagnation. And what better form than the theatre: live, immediate and visceral,” said Artistic Director Gordon Edelstein.

Mia Farrow and Harris Yulin in Fran’s Bed

Not only is Long Wharf Theatre’s charge the re-examination of classic plays, it is to add to the theatrical canon by seeking out unique and innovative voices, and giving them a platform for their work. In the recent past the theatre has supported the work of Julia Cho, Noah Haidle, Laura Jacqmin, and Heidi Schreck, all considered at the time up and coming playwrights. “In order to be doing work that reflects our community and our world here and now, we need to be finding people who are writing now,” said Elizabeth Nearing, Long Wharf Theatre’s literary manager.

John Douglas Thompson in the world premiere of Satchmo at the Waldorf

John Douglas Thompson in the world premiere of Satchmo at the Waldorf

Finding and creating new work is an expensive proposition. Most plays have several workshops before a production, theatrical laboratories, so to speak, where a playwright can hear how a play sounds without the pressure of full performance. To give an example, a one week reading of a play could cost over $10,000, depending on the number of actors involved and the needs of the play. A musical tends to be more expensive, with a month long workshop running over $100,000. “It gives the playwright a sense of what the play is like off the page,” Nearing said. “The benefit of a new play development program is that it can be tailored to each playwright and what they need. Many plays have a long path towards being concrete. A play is a living breathing thing and each one is different.”

In many cases, the best way to assure that Long Wharf Theatre always has new work in the pipeline is to commission writers. It’s a way to take an exciting new voice and create a long term relationship with them, giving them the freedom they need to reach the full blossom of their creative impulse. “We want to give the playwright a place where they can feel at home and be supported,” Nearing said.

Using the theatre’s 50th anniversary as a launching pad to the future, Long Wharf has created the Lord/Kubler Fund for New Work to help generate the resources to fund the process. The fund is named in memory of Ruth Lord and Betty Kubler, two of Long Wharf Theatre’s beloved founding trustees who were driving forces behind the theatre for decades. The fund will be invested with the Community Foundation forGreater New Haven. Thanks to the support of Betty and Ruth’s friends, and other local organizations over $1 million has already been raised.

It’s a good beginning, but more is needed to for Long Wharf Theatre to continue its role as an innovator in the field. “Long Wharf Theatre continues its commitment to enriching the lives of our patrons, our city and our country by producing compelling and challenging new ideas and voices on our stages,” Edelstein said.

– Steve Scarpa

 

 

 

 

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