Friday, February 29, 2008 interviews GSP Alumns! has two fantastic features on two very special actresses who have appeared recently on our stage.

Out today, is an interview with Alison Fraser about her return to Broadway after a 15 year absence! Alison has appeared in Gunmetal Blues, Lend Me a Tenor, and Lips Together, Teeth Apart at George Street. But it's her role in Gunmental Blues which she attributes to landing her the job in GYPSY which begins previews March 3rd at the St. James Theatre directed by Arthur Laurents.

Playbill also interviews Mary Beth Piel who is now appearing in the Roundabout Theatre Company's production of Sunday in the Park With George at Studio 54 on Broadway

Here's a preview of the Playbill interview with Ms. Frasier:
Question: Congratulations about Gypsy transferring to Broadway!

Alison Fraser: It's been a joy. It's just a joy to watch [everyone] at work: Arthur [Laurents] and Boyd [Gaines] and Laura [Benanti] and Patti [LuPone]! Patti is just the bomb. She's fantastic. It's really the most lovely group of people, and having Lenora [Nemetz] is such a nice addition. Nancy [Opel] was on tour with Drowsy Chaperone, so Lenora Nemetz came in as the new Mazeppa. It's just so much fun to reconnect with her. I had known her years ago, and I was a big fan of hers. She's just a great, great, great performer. It's thrilling to see. I'm sharing a dressing room with her.

Question: Let's go back to the summer. How did the role of Tessie come about for you?
Fraser: You know what? It was basically through the
George Street Playhouse. I have a long association with them. I had done three shows in a row for David Saint, who is just one of my favorite directors in the world. He is, of course, a great, great pal of Arthur Laurents. Arthur came to see a show that I did a couple of years ago [Gunmetal Blues] . . . and shortly after that we went out for dinner, and he said, "I really would like you to be my Tessie Tura." It was months before the City Center show came about. Whenever you hear something like that, it's like, "Yeah, that'll be great if it happens," and it happened! And, then, it not only happened, but it escalated to me being back at the St. James again for the first time in 15 years.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Play's words make perfect sense to Arkin

The Home News Tribune recently published a great feature article on Matthew Arkin, about The Scene. It's a great read and worth sharing for those of you who missed it.


If Matthew Arkin gets an early call, he's ready.

He got used to it when he was spending time watching his dad make movies.

Since then, Arkin, 47 — a soft-spoken and thoughtful man, and son of the noted actor Alan Arkin — has built an extensive career. His latest stop is the George Street Playhouse, where he will star in Theresa Rebeck's play "The Scene" — a co-production by George Street and
Hartford Stage, to be directed by the Connecticut company's associate artistic director, Jeremy B. Cohen.

And although he gathered a substantial background for acting by watching his father, the performance he will give in this play will be his own. In fact, the performance is so not programmed, so unique to this particular work and production, that even he didn't know, as rehearsals proceeded, where he would be in his character the first time the lights went up.
His character is Charlie, one of four people who are trying to find their way in the New York entertainment world. The others are Stella, Charlie's wife, somewhat frazzled by the need to support him; Lewis, his close friend, and Clea, an ambitious blonde who never lets a scruple stand in her way.

Charlie has had a flash of success as a television writer, but the play finds him in the midst of a dry spell as he and Lewis first encounter Clea at one of an interminable series of parties.
The script gives a spare inkling of how these men and women came to this point in their lives, and Arkin doesn't care to speculate further about that.

"I had a discussion with an actress once," he said. "We were working on . . . "Lost in Yonkers,' and this actress came to me and said, "We talk about this incident in the past, and my character says this happened and your character says that happened. . . . I want to sit down with you and talk about what actually happened.'

"And I said, "I don't want to discuss that. Forget you and me. Our characters will not agree on what actually happened. And what informs our action in the present is not what actually happened, but our perception of what happened.' "

Kind of like real life, the actor observed, where "we also rewrite our pasts to make better stories or to justify what we've decided we want to do and be."
By whatever route Charlie came to the place where the play first finds him, it is quickly apparent that he is deeply conflicted — out of work, insecure, resentful of the industry that isn't knocking at his door, but unwilling to make any compromises.

"Charlie has this flaw," Arkin said, "this thing that he cannot let go of even if it's going to destroy him. He's got one piece that maybe you could call his artistic soul that he insists on keeping pure; and in order to keep that pure he's willing to pollute everything else in his life."
But that observation, it turns out, may be just a step in how Arkin's understanding of Charlie evolves during rehearsals.

"That's how I feel now and today," Arkin said, after the analysis of Charlie. "In a week I'll feel differently. At this point in rehearsal and discovery of who this guy is and what this play's about, that seems to be . . . "

His voice trails off, as though to emphasize that he knows he and Charlie are not through with each other. All the characters in this play, and Charlie most of all, take a caustic view of the same individuals and business they circle like moths. Again, Arkin finds this true to life.
"I think we all live in that place, being somehow with and somehow opposed to whatever society we're in," he said. "That great line in "Life of Brian' when he screams out the window, "You're all individuals,' and they scream back, "We're all individuals.'

"We are all individuals, and yet we all live in a larger society and we try and find our place in that. And every joining of the larger society is a threat to our autonomy and our individuality, and what I think is interesting about this play is the different resolutions to that conflict that each of the characters finds."

These resolutions unfold largely through salty dialogue that demonstrates Rebeck's ear for natural speech, and Arkin says that's an advantage to the actor.

"Some dialogue is next to impossible to learn," he said, "because the words don't come out of your mouth the way we speak, and Theresa's do. Once you figure out what the internal thought process is, the words you're saying make perfect sense."

If Arkin — like his brothers Adam and Anthony — wasn't destined to be an actor, he might as well have been, spending so much time, as he did, watching his father at work.
"One of the things that was formative for me," he said, "was just growing up on sound stages and on locations with my dad and in theaters when he was directing. . . .

"And I was a watcher. If his call was 5 o'clock in the morning to be picked up to go to location, I would be up at 5 o'clock in the morning to be out there with him. I'd spend some of the time running around playing like a kid, and I'd spend an awful lot of time just sitting and watching — often sitting next to the script supervisor to get a good view of what was going on and just watching it and soaking it up."

But, said Arkin — who works on stage, film and television — the knowledge he gained from all those hours of watching and listening later turned out to be, at least temporarily, a stumbling block.

"I started getting work, and my work was pretty good, I think, and I was able to get by, but I think I was getting by because I was imitating what I knew to be really good work, which is different from doing really good work as kind of an organic process where you've built a character or built a scene from the ground up.

But he got over that with the help of the legendary teacher of acting, Uta Hagen.
"She would watch my scene work in class and say, "That was terrific, you know; every moment made sense. The scene had a cohesiveness to it, but I knew what was coming every moment of the way.'

"What she was trying to say was that I was representing real life very well, but what she wanted to see was somebody living real life. And that was a real struggle for me, to sort of crack that nut."

And, Arkin said, that didn't mean that he had learned how to act once and for all, but rather that he learned what lay ahead with each new opportunity.

"It happens in every rehearsal process," he explained, "that you'll say, "What's wrong with this scene, why isn't this scene flying?' And you suddenly realize it's because you've made too many decisions about how the scene goes and where it's going to end up, instead of making decisions about where your character comes from and what is the reality that launched you into this scene. You have to know all of that, have a clear picture of all of that, all of your past, all of your experiences, all of the history, all of the world that this character lives in.

"But once the scene starts, you can't know what's going to happen. You have to allow yourself to live in this odd place in which obviously there's an actor who knows his lines and knows where this scene's going to end up. But as you're listening to the other character, you have to allow yourself to live in a place of uncertainty."

posted by Scott Goldman, Executive Assistant, photo of Christy McIntosh and Matthew Arking
by T. Charles Erickson

Friday, February 15, 2008

Aunt May makes special appearance.

These photos just in from Rosemary Harris' special appearance at the Bristol Myers Squibb Children's Hospital at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital. The Hospital graciously sponsored our recent production of Oscar and the Pink Lady. Our "Pink Lady" best known to children as "Aunt May" from the Spiderman movies, met some of the kids at the hospital. Here's a look at her extraordinary visit.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

A sneak peak of "The Scene"

A few weeks ago, The Scene started rehearsals. Our Literary Apprentice, Jeremy Stoller, sat down with Jeremy B. Cohen, the show's director (and Hartford Stage’s Associate Artistic Director), to talk about this deeply funny and complex script byTheresa Rebeck. An excerpt of the interview is below.

George Street Playhouse: As a playwright, Theresa Rebeck is a rigorous supporter ofstructure. On multiple occasions she has mentioned admiring melodramas for the waythey plot their action.

Jeremy B. Cohen: Theresa is incredibly adroit with dialogue and structure, but thisplay, along with her newer plays Mauritius and Our House, proves she’s still very much challenging herself and raising the bar with each new play she writes. If you look at major American writers of the last century—Edward Albee, Tony Kushner, August Wilson,Jose Rivera, Tennessee Williams, Naomi Wallace, Tina Howe, etc.—they all have a distinct voice; a rhythm to their language. Theresa has that in spadesShe’s lived an incredible life and imbues her plays with such complexity and color. Ands he’s at the top of her game right now. It’s really fantastic to witness someone whose artistry is at its peak.

GSP: The play takes place in Manhattan, and the location—not just in its present state, but the way it has changed—has a great effect on the characters. And it’s a contemporary play that includes entertainment bigwigs that doesn’t take place in Hollywood.

JBC: People have referred to this as an industry play—about film people or the theatricalworld—and it’s a world Theresa knows well, as she’s been both in Manhattan and outin LA doing film and television. But I think she’s actually written something much moreexpansive than that.The city has a major effect on people. It makes them think of themselves in a sort of greater than/less than way. It can be a very lonely place. And this play finds Charlie thrust out into the middle of it, as he goes searching for a sense of honest connection.

GSP: You talked on the first day of rehearsal about how this play has similarities to ancient Greek drama.

JBC: Yes, it feels very Greek to me: in its stakes, in the “if only” nature of the story,and in the way characters interact. You think, “if only they would say what they reallyfeel to one another;” or “if only she would walk into the room right now, then everything would change.” But they don’t. And at the same time, it’s also very modern in its embracing of the many complexities of relationships. The challenge in this play is how tobalance the ranges of emotion, and how to negotiate those shifts with what’s so inherentlycomedic and human about it.It’s also very difficult because all four characters must be accountable for what happens in this play. If one person becomes the bad guy, the whole paradigm goes wonky. If wegive the audience a moment to hate a certain character, they’ll shut that character out. And so, in a way, it becomes like a perverse game of whack-a-mole. Each time we get to these moments in rehearsal, where it seems one character is taking the blame, we stop,and investigate why… and shift it.

GSP: You said on the first day of rehearsal that it’s a very funny play, but that it’salso a really dramatic text as well.

JBC: For all of you who have embraced the great, brave, ridiculous, complex, dif-ficult, joyful, thrilling privilege of marriage as I have… I salute you. With this production, we certainly have endeavored to shed some light and truth on the whole institution. My husband is the most patient, loving, and generous guy out there and we all need to remember to remind our partners of their marvelousness… all the time.

I suppose when the audience is reading this, they’re already in their seats, so all I’ll really say is… fasten your seatbelts, and enjoy the ride!

posted by Jeremy Stoller, Literary Apprentice

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Where are they now? Part II

GSP alumns have taken to the stage....elsewhere.

Rosalyn Coleman: Roz is all over the saw her recently in Doubt here at GSP as Mrs Muller. Roz can now be seen in War at the Rattlestick Playwrights Theatre. Roz can later be seen at the Kennedy Center in August Wilson's 20th Century as Martha Pentacost in Joe Turner's Come and Gone and in Ma Rainey's Black Bottom. The cycle plays the D.C. theatre March 4 - April 6!

Ebony Jo-Ann: The scene stealing Ms. Jo-Ann from GSP's The Sunshine Boys will also appear in the Kennedy Center production of August Wilison...Century. Ms. Jo-Ann will play the title role in Ma Rainey's Black Bottom.

Anders Cato: Who has directed Doubt, Souvenir, and I Am My Own Wife is currently in previews for War by Lars Noren. In addition, Anders will direct Candida and Waiting for Godot for the Berkshire Theatre Festival this summer.

Yuval Boim, an actor for our Educational Touring Company, and from our production of Wilderness of Mirrors and The Pillowman can be seen in The New Group's production of Two Thousand Years.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Briefly Speaking with: Michelle Bergamo

For a new content installment for our blog, we thought we'd spotlight some of the hard working staff at GSP!

Michelle Bergamo has been with George Street Playhouse for 6 years as a Group Sales and Marketing Associate. Whether you're with a bunch of friends, or coming from Monroe on a bus, Michelle can help you see a show.

Hometown: Byram, NJ

Favorite Thing to do on a day off: sleep in, catch a movie, see family & friends, attempt to plan my wedding

Favorite Restaurant recommendation in New Brunswick: Daryl Wine Bar

Favorite GSP moment: hanging out with the ladies from the Monroe Bus trip

What do you listen to on the way to work: cars passing by - I walk!

Funniest thing ever overheard in the lobby: A husband and wife came in to buy tickets and they didn't want to sit next to each other - "Sit me far away from HER!"

First Broadway Show: Phantom of the Opera

Must See TV: Desperate Housewives, Brothers & Sisters, all of the Law & Orders

Lastest Movie Recommendation: Juno

Lots O' Press!

Well the reviews are in for Oscar and the Pink Lady. In case you still haven't seen Rosemary Harris' inspiring performance. Here's a few more reasons...

Anita Gates of the NY Times writes: "Here is the grand lady of the stage, costumed as a hospital volunteer of an advanced age and a certain style...and she still radiates an effortless grandeur....Rosemary Harris is absolutely charming, and so the evening is, too." Read the full review

Peter Filichia of the Star Ledger writes "Harris' portrayal of a 10-year old is consistently smart. She offers the squinty and scrunched-up face of a lad who's trying to understand his fate. She's so accomplished there that an audience could easily overlook her other achievement in making a fully developed "Granny Pink." There she offers a soft Irish brogue and an arms-clasped around-her-waist stance that shows Oscar she's taking him seriously....the opportunity to see Rosemary Harris must be seized."

Simon Salzman for US1 and Curtain up says "Rosemary Harris is Luminous and Enchanting...To say that the dual role-playing is simply a tour-de-force for the celebrated actress is to diminish the play's earnest if heavy-handed mission: to question and celebrate the value and delicacy of life from a perspective of youth and old age."

There's also a fantastic read about David Saint's 10th Anniversary, covered by the Princeton Packet. "It’s shaping up to be a bravo kind of year for Mr. Saint during his 10th season as artistic director of the playhouse in New Brunswick. It opened with Jack Klugman and Paul Dooley, along with record-breaking attendance numbers at the theater, in Neil Simon’s The Sunshine Boys. An acclaimed production of John Patrick Shanley’s Doubt followed, and now Ms. Harris is finishing her run in Oscar and the Pink Lady. Next up is the 2007 play The Scene (written by Theresa Rebeck, a hot playwright in the wake of Mauritius’ Broadway run), then the world premiere of Elaine May’s Roger is Dead, starring Marlo Thomas."
posted by Scott Goldman, Executive Assistant