About Smith Street Stage

The mission of Smith Street Stage is to present affordable, exciting and consequential theater arts to a diverse audience. The Company believes in the power of live theater to engage philosophical issues, anatomize the human condition, excite spectators of all backgrounds and predispositions, and bring communities closer. The Company believes that the best dramatic literature engages deeply human conflicts that are universally recognizable, and audience confronted with such conflicts rendered skillfully and earnestly will achieve greater individual and communal awareness of the human condition. Go to www.smithstreetstage.org for more information.

“Give me your hands if we be friends”

No matter what career we choose to delve into, our educators emphasize the importance of professionalism. When meeting new clients, be professional. When handling conflicts at work, be professional. When seeking connections and career-long relationships, always be kind, courteous, and professional. Many people tend to associate professional behavior with a level of distance and distrust of others. However, my experience as an assistant on Smith Street Stage’s production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream has taught me that– especially in the case of the arts, the most successful definition of professionalism is one that encourages familiarity and openness between members of the company, allowing both the newbies and the ol’ faithful’s to feel safe in their working environment.

Smith Street Stage has been my entry way into the world of professional theatre, so naturally I began the production process quite nervous about joining a serious company. I am younger, less experienced, and an outsider. Much to my relief, I was met with open arms by every member of the company—actors, directors, and producers alike. Everyone was eager to get to know me on not only a professional level, but a personal level. unnamed.jpgAlthough in this case, as in the case of many successful productions, I believe that professional and personal often bleed into one another. While company members don’t necessarily share their deepest secrets, they treat their colleagues like family.  Every time someone had a birthday, Shaun Bennet Fauntleroy (Hippolyta, First Fairy) would bring treats and have the entire cast and crew sing “Happy Birthday.” Moments like these made every person feel special, allowing us to share love and respect in a way that makes it easier to take risks and make bolder choices in the rehearsal room without fear of embarrassment or judgement. A greater sense of trust offstage lead to deeper connections onstage, making the story all the more compelling.

We live in a country that places such heavy weight on family values. While it’s true that theatre is a different type of field than accounting or engineering, perhaps we could learn from the way Smith Street Stage operates, valuing every member of the company like a one of the family.  I want to bring this idea of professionalism which I experienced at Smith Street Stage to my developing theatre career. They embody what drew me to the theatre in the first place: every individual’s success becomes the entire group’s success. I am incredibly grateful to have been a part of something so special, something that brings communities together and allows artistic energy to flourish.

Danica Clauser – 2018 Smith Street Stage Assistant

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Cue Fireflies

“Hand in hand with fairy grace, we will sing and bless this place…”(Act 5, Sc 1)

[Cue fireflies]

Cue crickets, howling dogs, cooing pigeons and all of the other woodland creatures of Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn—or of Athens, in the case of Smith Street Stage’s production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream in Carroll Park which is set in the exact same place where it is performed: present-day New York City.

This is my first summer volunteering with the local Brooklyn theatre company and I have particularly enjoyed watching the creative process unfold from start to finish. Beginning with the first read-through inside the cozy Park House—or as Peter Quince describes in Act 3, Scene 1.

“…this green plot shall be our stage, this hawthorn-brake our tiring-house.”

To opening night when young children playing in the park were startled to find themselves running side-by-side with Helena and Demetrius. But they didn’t seem out of place, blending in with the actors dressed in contemporary clothing.

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When it comes to the setting, Directors often take many liberties with Shakespeare productions.  Popular treatments include post-apocalypse, the Roaring 20s, traditional Elizabethan, Victorian age, circus troupes, flower power 60s, etc.

As I considered Director Jonathan Hopkins’ choice to set the show in present-day NYC, at first it seemed sensible, simple, not too flashy. But then again, I live in NYC. I have lived in Brooklyn, and now Manhattan, for nearly four years. While I still love it here, I have become desensitized to its innate flashiness, its awe, wonder and magic.

So when on opening night I watched the actors have to hold their lines so that a commercial cement truck could pass by during the Mechanical’s scene, my inner New Yorker screamed,

“Oh come on, you gottabe kiding me!”

Or when I saw the audience turn their heads distractedly as a stopped car at an intersection began blasting Etta James from their speakers during the Theseus and Hippolyta wedding scene, I was like,

“Really, dude?!?”

Or most recently, when a “hilarious” teenager on a skateboard at the other end of the park yelled a profanity during Puck’s final soliloquy, I rolled my eyes and muttered some not-so-nice words under my breath.

But then it clicked.

This is a collaboration. A collaboration beyond just the audience and the actors, but between the production and the city itself. The play seemed to be activating a response from the city and as a result it summoned a magic far more powerful than any lighting design or set construction could provide. They didn’t have to simulate or construct a NYC set or soundscape, because they have the real deal each night.

The moment when this magic was first clear to me was when Titania entered for the final blessing ritual at the conclusion of the play. As she commanded her fairies to “sing and bless this place,” a cluster of fireflies, as if on cue, appeared right in front of me, framing the scene before my eyes.

That’s when I realized that even that clunky cement truck is very much a part of the world of Jack Bottom, Peter Quince and the laborers.

Etta James playing in the background of the wedding scene is no more out of place than the saxophone serenading NYU lovers on the benches of Washington Square Park.

And that screaming teenager? Well he is in fact, “the screech-owl, screeching loud” (Act 5, Sc 1) on a Saturday night. The very same one that Puck addresses in his final speech.

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Living in New York City, I encounter and navigate a cacophony of sounds and characters the moment I step out my front door. That’s the charm and the magic of this city.

So why should this production be any different?

Smith Street Stage’s production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream has certainly changed the way I walk through the streets of New York City this summer. I see Hermia and Lysander in the couple making out on the F train. I see the Dukes and Hippolytas on stage in Madison Square Garden. I see the fairies hiding in alley ways, rummaging through garbage cans, tagging walls with cans of spray paint and playing music in Union Square.

New York City is in fact, “a marvelous convenient place for our rehearsal” ( Act 3, Sc 1).

And the city shows up, right on cue.

[Cue applause]

Author, SSS Assistant Kayla Prestel

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Thou shalt like an airy spirit go

A few questions answered by Brian, Patrick & BA

What are you most looking forward to about this production in particular? 

BRIAN – I am looking forward to going back to Shakespeare. It was my bread and butter for many years and what started my love for acting. 

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BA – I’m looking forward to really discovering the fairy world in a modern adaptation. I’m keep looking out for for today’s equivalents to these mysterious creatures living in our city. That, and Joe Jung’s music. That man is magical. 

What sound or noise do you love?

 BRIAN – I love the sound of being in a forest with no one else around. 

 

BA – The first crack of thunder.

What is your favorite Shakespeare quote or section of text from any of his plays and why? 

BRIAN –    

“We few, we happy few, we band of brothers.”

This is one of the most inspiring speeches in Shakespeare. It’s us against many and win or lose, we will go on in infamy. It says we should revel in being the underdog.

BA –

When we are born, we cry that we are come to this great stage of fools.”

Lear was the first Shakespeare play I every worked on. Certain words from that play still ring in my soul.  

 

 Who is your favorite character from A Midsummer Night’s Dream and why?

 Much Ado-0937.jpgPATRICK – Puck and Bottom are two of my favorite characters in the canon. That they happen to exist in the world of the selfsame play puts Midsummer towards the very top of my list.

BA – I really like Starvling. Poor Starvling. 

Have you ever worked on this play before? 

BRIAN – AMND was the first Shakespeare play that I worked on. I was 15 and I played Lysander. From that point I knew I wanted to be an actor. 

 

Have you just finished a project or are about to start a project that you’d like to tell us about outside of SSS? 

PATRICK – In May I was lucky enough to star in the world premiere of a new play, Old Names for Wildflowers, at The Tank. Written and directed by Corbin and Emma Went, respectively, the play was a feminist bent on The Crucible with a group dedicated to queering up the theatrical canon, if you will. I had an utter blast.

BA – I just finished and I’m about to start Titania with my good friends at Shakespeare in the Square. A very different “food fight” production 🙂 (August 2018). Also Jonathan and I just premiered our first feature film Hamlet in the Golden Vale with Roll the Bones

What is your favorite Shakespearean performance from a movie or a play?

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PATRICK – When I lived in London, I was lucky enough to catch both parts of Henry IV at Shakespeare’s Globe, featuring Roger Allam as Falstaff and Jamie Parker as Prince Hal. The performances in that show, and the way the actors were so viscerally driven by the text, despite working on a plain stage with intricate period costumes, was breathtaking. 

BA – I have two I must mention. As a whole, the movie A Midwinters Tale is just everything. Watch it and tell me I’m wrong. And as a single performance, Orsen Wells in Chimes at Midnight. It doesn’t get much better than that. 

What’s a fun fact about yourself?

BRIAN – I will be having the honor of acting with my fiance this summer and marrying her in the fall.

Learn more about Patrick Harvey

Learn more about Beth Ann Hopkins

Learn more about Smith Street Stage

 

 

 

Hard Handed Men of Athens

We spoke with Corey, Hannah, Justin, Jonathan & Brendon.

What sound or noise do you love?

COREY – I love waking up to the sound of Rain in the morning…the love quickly wears off if I then have to get up and travel in it.19-cropped-gd2_orig

HANNAH – I love the sound of my cats sighing in their sleep.

JUSTIN – The sound my puppy makes when she finally crashes herself to sleep at night.

What sound or noise do you hate?

HANNAH – The sound of Silverware on certain plates is very bad.

COREY – I HATE the sound of Styrofoam! It cuts right through me like a knife.

JONATHAN – The sound of fingernails on vinyl fabric- or at least I think it’s vinyl. 

SSS Henry IV - Part 2 - 9547You know those CD/DVD binders that you’d pack a whole bunch of CDs or DVDs in and zip it up, and it had that fabric on the outside? I’ve always gotten a really obnoxious chill whenever I hear fingernails running along it.

Fun fact about yourself 

JUSTIN – My husband and I are proud owners of a puppy named Senator Witherspoon. She is very excited to see her daddy in a play in a park this summer!

BRANDON – At the time of writing this, I’ve never had a banana.

What is your favorite Shakespeare quote or section of text from any of his plays and why?

JUSTIN –

“The course of true love never did run smooth”

is just a beautiful line, while also being perfectly accurate.  

BRANDON – My favorite Shakespeare quote is said by Polonius in Hamlet:

“This above all: to thine own self be true”

My mother would always quote it to me and it is fantastic advice.

JONATHAN –

“Our doubts are traitors and make us lose the good we oft might win by fearing to attempt”- Lucio in Measure for Measure.

I think anyone who has at any time been in a position where the only thing getting in their way is themselves can take some inspiration from this quote. I have a print-out posted next to my computer at work.

HANNAH – When I was doing MSND in North Carolina, I got to spend some time in the Blue Ridge Mountains, and I saw on a hike Demetrius’s line

“These things seem small and undistinguishable/ Like far off mountains turned into clouds.”

Seeing these massive, solid mountains seem to fade into something as ephemeral as a cloud. It brought that moment of the play to life for me.

Who is your favorite character from A Midsummer Night’s Dream and why?

BRANDON – My favorite character in this play is Bottom as it was my first Shakespeare role. He will always hold a special place in my heart.  

SSS Tempest - 2973COREY – I feel like I should say that my favorite character is the one I’m playing…but its actually Titania. She has such beautiful and evocative language in her scene with Oberon in Act 1. She also has the opportunity to go from regal to ridiculous. Plus she’s Queen of the Fairies which is just, you know…awesome!

What are you most looking forward to about this production in particular?

JUSTIN – Performing Midsummer outdoors in the middle of summer has always been on my bucket list. Plus, I’m really excited to get to work with Smith Street Stage as my first production back in NYC after having been away for a few years! 

HANNAH – I can’t wait to be back in the room with old friends and new, and to find out what makes this band of theater makers (the mechanicals) so excited about Pyramis and Thisbe.

COREY – I am most looking forward to performing in Carroll Park again, but also getting the opportunity to the transfer to the Actors Fund! I’m very excited to see how the piece will change and develop once its in a more traditional venue after our park run.

What is your favorite performance from a Shakespeare movie or play?

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JUSTIN – I’m obsessed with the gay high school musical adaptation of Midsummer, Were the World Mine. I’ve seen it 50 times, and cannot recommend it enough.

Have you just finished a project or are about to start a project that you’d like to tell us about outside of SSS?

JONATHAN – Currently, I’m planning production and fundraising for shooting the back half of my webseries, Everyone Else Has, which I’m writing, directing and acting in. Check it out! (Facebook: www.facebook.com/EveryoneElseHas/

For more information about Hannah Sloat

For more information on A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM

Fair lovers, you are fortunately met

Baize, Nowani, Alex and Will discuss some loves of the theater and Shakespeare’s Plays

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What sound or noise do you love?

ALEX -– Summer crickets.

BAIZE -What sound or noise do you love? My sister’s laugh.  
What sound or noise do you hate?

ALEX -– Mosquitos.

WILL – My cat flipping over her water bowl. I don’t know what she wants from us.

Fun fact about yourself

ALEX -– I’m a bit embarrassed that the answers to my first two questions are both bugs.

What is your favorite Shakespeare quote or section of text from any of his plays and why?

NOWANI –

“The sweetest honey is loathsome in his own deliciousness”.

It’s the same friar speech in Romeo and Juliet that starts with:

“these violent delights have violent ends” 

which is much more quotable, but 

19054894_1407453119321152_1160591263308907064_odidn’t strike my fancy in the same way. I read the line in high school and 

it jumped out to me as magic poetry and I’ve loved it ever since.

BAIZE – 

“ O, not like mine, For mine’s beyond beyond ”

I love the breakdown of formal poetic language in this moment as Imogen attempts to explain her longing for Posthumus…nothing flowery or embellished, but the simple repetition of the word is its own kind of poetry all the same.

ALEX – Benedick and Beatrice’s church scene in Much Ado. When we were kids, my sister forced me to take a breather from Star Wars and watch Kenneth Branagh’s Much Ado. I’ve since found that play, and particularly that scene in its many versions, endlessly charming.

Who is your favorite character from A Midsummer Night’s Dream and why?

BAIZE – The mechanicals for their dedication and sweetness.

Will2WILL –  Francis Flute. He’s so exasperated and exhausted by all of this. He wanted to play a normal part in a normal play and he’s getting the exact opposite of that. My favorite line of the play comes after Quince says that no man but Bottom could play Pyramus and Flute replies, “No, he hath simply the best wit of any handicraft man in Athens”. Bottom’s just the best actor from their office. It’s such a real thing to say and Flute just wants to go home.

NOWANI – Puck- its such a zany character and you can always see how much fun the actor is having with the part.

What are you most looking forward to about this production in particular?

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BAIZE – Performing outside in my home borough of Brooklyn.

NOWANI – I’m excited to see how the production changes from being in the park to going indoors.

Favorite Shakespeare performance 

ALEX – Celine Purcell’s turn as Nick Bottom will forever echo in Shakespeare Camp history. At the tender age of 8, my sister’s rendering of Pyramus’ suicide was virtually a three act play.

WILL – Mark Rylance as Olivia in Twelfth Night.

 Have you ever worked on this play before?

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WILL –Yes! When I was 13 or 14, I was cast in a local professional production of Midsummer as Philostrate. I would come in with Theseus in the first scene, hang out backstage listening to the play, I had my scene with Theseus and then I would watch the Pyramus and Thisbe performance from the wings. It was amazing. 

NOWANI – I have! I played Hippolyta, mostly I sat in a wedding dress while my ankles got attacked by mosquitoes. I look excellent in white and react poorly to mosquitoes, so it’s what I remember most.

BAIZE –  I’ve worked on this play twice before….and both times I’ve played Helena!

For more information on Baize Buzan

For more information on Nowani Rattray

For more information on Will Sarratt 

For more information on Alex Purcell

 

Meet the Royals – Theseus & Hippolyta

We asked Shaun & Pete a few questions about their life and their art. 

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PETE – Who is your favorite character from A Midsummer Night’s Dream and why? Peter Quince. Art doesn’t happen without the Quinces of the world.

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SHAUN – What are you most looking forward to about this production in particular? I’m most looking forward to working with Smith Street again. I just had my first character study session with Jonathan, our director, and after it was over I walked in the area near Carroll Park where we perform. I realized how much like home that area feels, largely due to the fact that being there in the summer with SSS is has become such a special time for me. Performing with Smith Street and doing the kind of wonderfully in-depth, collaborative work they inspire and working alongside such generous, dedicated artists has provided some of the loveliest, most meaningful experiences of my career. I love this company and I love working on and performing Shakespeare with them.

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SHAUN – What sound or noise do you love? I love the sound of the violin or cello and the sound of water: rain, ocean waves, babbling brook, water in a bathtub, puddle splashes, whatever. All of these sounds calm my heart (even when the water is causing mayhem).

PETE – What sound or noise do you love?   The sound of ice hitting a full glass.

SHAUN – What sound or noise do you hate? The sound of plastic grocery bags or plastic packaging rustling, iron or metal screeching, people popping their gum, sniffling noses, packing tape being pulled from its dispenser and stretched across a box.

PETE – What sound or noise do you hate?  The Mister Softee Jingle.

SHAUN – What is your favorite performance from a Shakespeare movie or play. Most recently I’ve come across Ben Wishaw playing King Richard II and Sophie Okonedo playing Queen Margaret, both from the TV series The Hollow Crown, which dramatizes Shakespeare’s history plays in wonderfully produced episodes. Their performances are perfect and astounding. I realized while I was watching them that I was holding my breath, so they quite literally took my breath away.

PETE – What is your favorite Shakespeare quote or section of text from any of this plays and why?  

“When a man’s verses cannot be understood nor a man’s good wit seconded with understanding, it strikes a man more dead than a great reckoning in a little room.”  It perfectly captures the isolation of not being able to connect.

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SHAUN – Have you just finished a project or are about to start a project that you’d like to tell us about outside of SSS? Eulogy, a short film that I’ve written and am directing. It features several friends whose work I greatly admire and respect, Jennifer Tsay and Daniel Robert Walton (an SSS alum) among them. I love creation and collaboration so creating with friends who share a collaborative, hard working spirit is a joy for me.

PETE – Have you just finished a project or are about to start a project that you’d like to tell us about outside of SSS?  My adaptation of Three Musketeers just went up in New Orleans, and I’m about to start rehearsals for Austin Pendleton’s adaptation of 1782025_1019121641487637_9080982584235993729_nRichard III (combining it with key scenes from Henry VI part 3).

PETE – What is your favorite performance from a Shakespeare movie or play. I love Michael Keaton’s Dogberry.  He’s just doing Beetlejuice. But it works!

For more information on SHAUN BENNET FAUNTLEROY 

For more information on PETE MCELLIGOTT and his Theater Company TEN BONES.

For more information about Smith Street Stage and our 2018 production of A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM

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The Villain Protagonist, in Richard III and Beyond

Richard III is one of the most classic examples of a fictional work that features a villain as its main character.  In this guest blog entry, Smith Street Stage assistant Jeremy Harris explains the impact Shakespeare’s writing has had on modern villain protagonists like those in “House of Cards” or “Breaking Bad,” and takes a look at how artistic ideas change and grow over time.

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Artist Q&A: Finding Drama in the Quiet Moments with Joe Jung and Jessi Blue Gormezano.

With performances just DAYS away for The Frankenstein Project, we took a few minutes to talk to the collaborators about their process.

Today we hear from Joe Jung and Jessi Blue Gormezano about their piece, “It Worked!”, which Jessi wrote and Joe is directing with actor Michael Irish.

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Michael Irish* rehearses “It Worked!”, written by Jessi Blue Gormezano and directed by Joe Jung.

Smith Street Stage: What section of the Frankenstein story are you using as your jumping off point?

Jessi Gormezano: The moment after Dr. Frankenstein achieves success and brings life into his creature.

SSS: Do you have a favorite line or image from that section?

JG: I love the moment when the creature’s eye opens for the first time.

Joe Jung: One eye opens and the whole world changes.

SSS: What about that particular line/chapter/scene inspired you?

JG: In the film that moment is HUGE!

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Jessi Blue Gormezano

Lighting and thunder and Dr. Frankenstein howling, “It’s alive!”  I was really surprised by how small and intimate the arrival of the creature’s animation is in the book.  In fact, I think that’s one of the moments that Beth Ann [Smith Street Stage Artistic Director, Beth Ann Hopkins] talked about when she first shared her idea for The Frankenstein Project. I guess it stuck with me!

JJ: Me too. The unexpected simplicity and fragility of Frankenstein’s mental state in this moment is extraordinarily human. Who hasn’t been filled with doubt at a moment of great achievement?

 

SSS: How did you approach the task of “re-imagining” or “adapting” a classic story like Frankenstein?

JG: Joe and I took that very small, yet pivotal moment of the Doctor witnessing life appear in the creature and imagined what might have been running through his head.  It was also really striking to us that once life emerges in the creature, the Doctor doesn’t celebrate – he immediately runs in a closet and hides! That completely unexpected response – directly following a possibly grotesque or beautiful moment – was fun for us to explore.

JJ: I’m fascinated by Frankenstein’s internal world at this moment, the moment when he realizes that for months he had all the answers.

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Joe Jung

He knew how to give life, it was just a matter of time and effort. He struggles putting the body together but knows exactly what to do to succeed. Then the creature awakens and Frankenstein is flooded with self-doubt and questions. What does that do to a scientist? Where does his mind go?

SSS: What interests you most in creating new work?

JG: What you set out to write may end up being dramatically different then what you end up creating – I love that.

JJ: The notion that we as artists, along with the audience, get to experience this journey for the very first time.

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Jessi Gormezano is a writer, producer, and casting director. She is the writer of an original commissioned work called Remarkably Normal, and has been the producer of OUR BAR since 2009, a monthly site-specific show created with Project: Theater. As a casting director she has worked recently with The Gallery Players and The Pearl Theater. She is the Associate Artistic Director of Project:Theater.

Joe Jung is an actor, director, and musician. He performed in Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson (The Public Theater/Broadway) and Unity:1918 (Gene Frankel Theatre). He has performed his music at Joe’s Pub among other venues. Joe is the Artistic Director of Project:Theater, where he directed Ken Ferrigni’s Mangella in 2011 and OCCUPATION in 2013.

Get your tickets to see “It Worked!” by Jessi Gormezano, directed by Joe Jung and featuring Michael Irish* as part of The Frankenstein Project by clicking here.

*Appearing courtesy of AEA

An Artist Q&A: Re-Discovering Mary Shelley’s Text with Noel MacDuffie

With less than a week left until performances of The Frankenstein Project, we took a few minutes of our artists’ time to ask them about their creative process!

Today we hear from Noel MacDuffie, a director and choreographer whose piece “Monster and Maker” will feature performers Courtney Salvage and Alexandra Slater in an exploration of text and movement.

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Smith Street Stage: What section of the Frankenstein story are you using as your jumping off point? Do you have a favorite line or image from that section that started inspiring your work?

Noel MacDuffie: I am very interested in the monster’s story of how he tried many times to show the world his good intentions but is brutally rejected based on how he looks.  Mary Shelly was inspired by her father’s idea that humans teach each other to be good.  But her life leading up to writing Frankenstein had been hard, and she postulated that we humans also teach each other to be bad. This idea is illustrated in the monster’s experience.

6376-to-emailAs I had never read the book before, I was struck by how articulate the monster was and the poignancy of his story. I realized I had to explore this.  I am actually starting with the scene when Frankenstein and his monster first speak and then progressing into the monster’s story.

One somewhat unlikely image stood to me from this scene.  Frankenstein notes that his creation moves with incredible ease and possesses great strength.  How unlike the movie versions of a awkward, clumping monster.  I explore that ease and that strength in my section.

SSS: How did you approach the task of “reimagining” or “adapting” a classic story like Frankenstein?

NM: I started with the actual text – because while the language is heightened it is quite beautiful.  I am not a writer, but I am a good editor, and I worked hard to get down to essential material.

Once that was accomplished, I wanted to be sure that the text was really heard.  I felt that tilting the playing field was essential to help people experience the work without comparing it to what they already know (the films). So I messed with casting, I delved deep into movement, and I presented some material more then once.  The goal was always to allow this lesser known part of the story to be experienced.

SSS: What interests you most in creating new work?

NM: I am driven to understand and explore human relationships.  I want to know why and how we try to become better people, and why and how the definition of better can be so different for each of us.

I am interested in the balance between heart and head, emotion and intellect. I want theater to make me feel something, but also I want it to make me think.

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Noel MacDuffie is a director and choreographer. He has choreographed and directed 3 full-length theatrical dance works (The Snow Queen – with aerialist Angela Jones, Soul Descending, and 3 am,  89°, no wind) as well as over 30 shorter works.  He danced professionally with the Carolyn Dorfman Dance Company and Nancy Hauser Dance Company among others.

Get your tickets to The Frankenstein Project here to see Noel’s work!

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An Artist Q &A: Bringing Frankenstein’s Monster Into Today’s Political World with Joby Earle & Charise Castro Smith

With only a week left until performances of The Frankenstein Project, we took a few minutes of our artists’ time to ask them about their creative process!
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Today we hear from Joby Earle and Charise Castro Smith about their piece “The Girl Waiting for the Train” and how their piece was inspired by Chapters XIII—XV in the novel Frankenstein, several scenes in which the monster learns language and attempts to make contact with fellow humans, only to be rejected because of his monstrous appearance.
Enjoy reading about the thoughtful and very modern re-interpretation written and directed by Joby and performed by Charise, and don’t forget to get tickets to The Frankenstein Project by clicking here!
Smith Street Stage: What section of the Frankenstein story are you using as your jumping off point? Do you have a favorite line or image from that section?

 

Joby Earle and Charise Castro Smith:

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Joby Earle

We are responding to the section of the story where the creature tells the story of how he learned how to speak. We found it interesting how it seemed the creature was inherently good to begin with and learned hate, rejection, and bitterness from people. An image that has stuck with us is the moment when the blind man’s family comes back in during the creature’s conversation with him and, after taking one look at him, scream and try to attack him. It’s heartbreaking.

SSS: What about that particular line/chapter/scene inspired you?

JE & CCS: I don’t think we take enough time to consider how we learn things like language, communication, bias, and difference. We grow up like sponges and it isn’t until later that we can consider where these things came from and how they were created. The creature is different. He is in a position to be able to learn the building blocks of interaction, while also having an awareness of their larger ramifications and lessons. On top of that, right after he learns them, he is rejected by his teachers.

 

SSS: How did you approach the task of “re-imagining” or “adapting” a classic story like Frankenstein?

 

JE & CCS: In creating our piece, we focused on the situations that are happening in our world today that feel akin to themes in the book.

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Charise Castro Smith

As the book progressed, I found myself thinking about the migrant crisis our world is facing (or not facing). By many metrics, it can be said that actions our country took over the last 20 years led to the creation of this problem, and now it seems like we can’t face it, in many respects don’t even want to admit that it is happening, especially in the size and scope in which it continues. We are spurning something we had a hand in creating. So we took that idea and began to imagine a woman waiting at a train station being shipped off somewhere out of sight.

 

SSS: What interests you most in creating new work?

JE & CCS: Creating new work forces you to look at what’s come before, what’s going on right now, and respond to it. It makes you figure out what your stance is, and then try to articulate that into what you hope to be an engaging piece of theater.

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Joby Earle is an actor whose work has been seen on Broadway in War Horse, as well as in Familiar (Playwright’s Horizons), The Tempest (ART/South Coast Rep), and multiple productions at Yale Repertory Theater. He is also a member of the Artistic Board of Smith Street Stage.

Charise Castro Smith is a playwright, television writer and actor. As an actress she appeared in Antony and Cleopatra (RSC/The Public Theater) and on The Good Wife (CBS). Her plays have appeared at the Goodman Theater, Soho Rep, Ars Nova, The Actor’s Theater of Louisville, and Trinity Rep among others.

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