Monday, January 26, 2009

GSP TV: Matthew Arkin Interview

Joe Vierno from Edison Onstage recently interviewed Matthew Arkin, who plays Jonathan Waxman in Sight Unseen. Take a look!

Friday, January 23, 2009

Sights on the Scene

In conjunction with the production of Sight Unseen which opens tonight, GSP has invited Collaborative Arts, a local arts organization, to install an exhibition reflecting the work of former and current student artists, many of which have strong ties to Mason Gross School of the Arts and the New Brunswick community.

Collaborative Arts’ Leanne Catena has organized an exhibition that explores a diversity of style and color, but asserts the honesty and earnestness of the young artist’s voice. The artists included in this exhibition are Kaitlin Deering, Robert Mermet, Danielle Ramirez, Jon Sykes, Marie Nyguist, Elizabeth Santana, and Cynthia Yurcisin. These talented artists along with Waxman’s character continuously revisit issues of identity, authorship, and artistic integrity within their work and themselves. This exhibition was created in the spirit of Sight Unseen, a production that sympathizes with that struggle.
Based in New Brunswick, Collaborative Arts has a vision of a shared experience between artists and their community that not only creates opportunities for artists but that also encourages forward-thinking art practices. The composition of coLAB Arts is made through a combination of artists, a public with common interests, and a team that is committed to building a community of creativity. A goal of coLAB Arts is to not single-handedly operate projects of its own design, but to focus on cultural and artistic interests of the community while remaining true to the principal that art finds its own direction and artists are faced with their individual concerns that are reflective and progressive to the community to which these artists live and work in.

About the artists on display:

Kaitlin Deering was born in March of 1985 in Tulsa, Oklahoma. She lived in Oklahoma for twelve years with her parents and three younger sisters. At age twelve her family moved to Indianapolis, Indiana where they would live for four years, and then Chatham, Illinois for the following two years. In July of 2001 she relocated to New Jersey and has lived there ever since. She is currently residing in Highland Park. She has studied painting under Melvin Leipzig, Mark Stockton, and Cindy-Stockton-Moore. She has been painting since 2004 and as of 2009 has completed over one hundred works.

Robert Mermet was born on August 27, 1984 and grew up in a small town in New Jersey. He attended Rutgers University, Mason Gross School of the Arts, where he received a BFA in visual arts with a concentration in film and video. He currently resides in Highland Park, NJ with significant other, painter, Kaitlin Deering.

Marie Nyquist is a twenty-year-old painter from Morris County. She concentrates her subject matter on figure studies and portraiture using mainly oil, ink, and watercolor to convey her realist style. She has also worked with ceramics, sculpture, printmaking, papermaking, and bookbinding.

Danielle Ramirez is in her third year at Mason Gross School of the Arts. She

started as a graphic design major but has since moved to painting and drawing where she feels greater emotional connection to her work. In her spare time she likes to knit and crochet toys.

Elizabeth Santana graduated from Middlesex County College in 2003, where she received an Associates Degree in Fine Arts. She is currently a senior at Mason Gross School of the Arts, Rutgers University, where she is concentrating on sculpture, painting, and ceramics. Her artwork has been exhibited at the Alfa Art Gallery (2008), Women Center (2007), and Center Gallery at MCC (2005, 2006, 2007). Her artwork is permanently featured at River Bank Arts in Stockton, NJ. Elizabeth has also taught various sculpture workshops during the Artist Residence weekend at Purnel School (2007), and during the Teen Arts Festival at Middlesex County College (2007-2008).

Jon Sykes is a painter, sculptor, and graphic designer. He graduated with honors from Brookdale Community College in 2006 with his Associates in Art, and will graduate from Rutgers Mason Gross in May 2009 with his Bachelors of Fine Arts. His passion for the arts is shown by the diversity of his work, ranging from paintings and collage to steel and ceramics. Humor, depth, and personal growth are some of the main ideas of his work. His work has been featured at the Phillip J. Levin Theater, the Mason Gross Galleries, and the Zimmerli Museum. He has been published in the Humanities Review out of St. John's University in Queens, New York. Jon is currently studying with Thomas Nozkowski and preparing for his senior thesis, involving spray paint on stretched canvas.

Since graduating from The School of the Arts, The University of South Florida (Tampa), Cynthia Yurcisin has taken additional studies at the School of Visual Arts (NYC) and Brookdale College (Lincroft) in the pursuit of a creative life. She is continuing this pursuit under the tutelage of Grace Graupe-Pillard (NYC). In any of her works, Ms. Yurcisin has utilized life models, photographs, dreams, music, readings, intuition, hunches and accidents to achieve a desired result. Known for her jewelry design and handmade one-of-a-kind pieces, Ms. Yurcisin has established herself as a creative problem solver whose portfolio includes clothing and costume design, photography, drawing, painting, and assemblage.

Make plans to see the show and join us for the opening on January 30th with free wine and food following that evening’s production of Sight Unseen.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

US 1 Interviews Kathleen McNenny

Who among us, at some time or another, has not thought back to our first teenage love? Where is that person now? That’s the “jumping off” spot for Donald Marguiles’ play “Sight Unseen,” now in previews at George Street Playhouse in New Brunswick, opening on Friday, January 23. The story revolves around Jonathan Waxman, a very popular painter played by Matthew Arkin, who George Street audiences will remmber from his role in “The Scene.” Jonathan is so “big” in the arts circle, in fact, that his paintings, not-yet-painted, are prepurchased “Sight Unseen” for large amounts of money. Searching for the inspiration that had inspired his first success — or perhaps he has some ulterior motives, he looks up his former love, played by actress Kathleen McNenny, now an archeologist working in England with her husband.

“Sight Unseen” debuted in 1992 and won the Off-Broadway prize (an “Obie”) for Best New American Play. Playwright Marguiles has written numerous plays, including the 2000 Pulitzer-Prize-winning “Dinner with Friends.” Two earlier plays, “Collected Stories” and “Sight Unseen,” had also been nominated for this prestigious prize. George Street audiences were treated to “Collected Stories” during artistic director David Saint’s first season at the theater, with the added treat of the great Uta Hagen repeating the role she had played to acclaim Off Broadway.

The action in “Sight Unseen” takes place from 1974 to 1991 and is set in a cold farmhouse in Norfolk, England, an art gallery in London, a bedroom in Brooklyn, and a painting studio at an arts college in New York State. This gives you an idea of the scope of the play, but don’t count on it bopping along in chronological order. It is rather a collage of time and place that “paints a picture” that only becomes clear when all the parts are put together.

Actress McNenny and I talked by phone during one of her rehearsal breaks. Primarily a stage actress, she talks about her appreciation of this play, particularly the joys of live theater that allow the play to speak to different people in different ways, depending on what each audience member brings to the theater. As a result, no two performances are exactly the same. “I always think the audience is the last character in a play,” she says. “For me this play is about connections. Connecting with people and being brave enough to do it.” She feels that, for the character of Jonathan, the fact that he had made a connection romantically and artistically with this non-Jewish young woman has troubled him throughout his life. Michael Feingold, chief theater critic for the Village Voice wrote in an article published when the play had its second New York City production, “...the question of cultural identity runs parallel to the play’s more general questions about love, art, career, and the wrenched perspective time gives all three.”

McNenny and Arkin have had, she says, “an interesting dialogue” regarding that theme in the play and their different perspectives that have grown from their own personal identity — Arkin is Jewish and she isn’t. “It’s an interesting conundrum,” she says. “Come and see the play, you’ll hear the play differently depending on your own background.”

For someone who considers herself a staunch New Yorker, it is surprising to find that McNenny’s own roots are in Montana, where her parents and grandmother still live. Her dad is a retired forest services worker and her mom is a homemaker. McNenny is the oldest of five children and the only one who has built a theater career; however, one sister is a drama/dance therapist.

Growing up, McNenny says there was no professional theater but thanks to the enthusiasm of the high school’s drama teacher, there was definitely an energized local theater group. McNenny remembers this teacher, Margaret Johnson, with great appreciation. “You’ll find a lot of actors were inspired by their high school theater teachers. They are incredible human beings, who make teaching theater their life. They teach all day, work on student productions at night, raise money for their programs, and give advice to the students who want to become professional performers.” She adds, “They are always big personalities with incredible amounts of energy.”

After only a year of college, McNenny and some friends got in a van and drove to California for auditions for the major theater schools all over the country. She was accepted by a number of schools, including New York University, Yale Drama School, and Juilliard. “I didn’t know where to go so I called a friend who was attending Juilliard. He said, ‘Don’t be an idiot. If you get into Juilliard, you go to Juilliard.’” So she was off to this prestigious school. “It was culture shock to come to New York City, and I was unbelievably poor. I didn’t see the best that the city had to offer, only the icky part.” But the training paid off and she was soon getting small roles in Shakespeare plays for the Public Theater.

Connections have always been a big part of the theater scene and one thing led to another. Working on a television movie of the week, she met actor Boyd Gaines. Then in 1992, their paths crossed again as they rehearsed for the Public Theater’s production in Central Park of “The Comedy of Errors.” Gaines played Antipholus of Ephesus and McNenny was cast as Luciana, the sister of Antipholus’ love, Adriana, played by Marisa Tomei. Tomei may have gotten the role of the lover in the play, but in real life that part went to McNenny. “Boyd and I started hanging out together and eventually, we decided we wouldn’t mind having a child together. We’re very lucky.” Their daughter, Leslie, is 10 years old.

Having a child helped them decide to make New York their home base and to concentrate on work in the theater. When Leslie was very young, McNenny could just take her along on theater or television jobs, but once Leslie was in school, she and Gaines tried not to work at the same time. This became more problematic when Gaines began working so much and winning so many awards in the process. Also a Juilliard grad, he received Tony Awards for “The Heidi Chronicles,” “Contact,” and the just- closed revival of “Gypsy.” The season before “Gypsy,” he won both the Drama Desk and Outer Critics ircle Awards for “Journey’s End.”

McNenny laughs and describes her husband as “one tired boy” who needs a rest. “He’s been working straight for two years.” Most actors would like to have that problem.

McNenny found her most difficult problem to be lining up babysitters when she recently was performing Off Broadway in “Mind Game” with Keith Carradine and Gaines was appearing nightly in “Gypsy.” “But I’m a mother first and I’m also good at multitasking. It took four babysitters to get through the week. They figured out their own rotation system.” Several years ago, actress Heidi Armbruster, who also appears in this production of “Sight Unseen,” had been a sitter for young Leslie at one time. But as she got more and more acting jobs, she “graduated” from babysitting as young Leslie put it.

Truly a multi-tasker McNenny also teaches at Juilliard. She convinced the school’s administration that she could fill a real need for students by teaching a class that is basically Actor’s Survival 101. “I teach them how to take charge of their careers.” She talks about practical things like day jobs, doing voice-overs and commercials, as well as how to apply for unemployment and do their taxes. “Hopefully, I’ve been helpful. I love love, love spending time with the students. When I started, I was auditioning for the same roles they were; now I’m playing their mother.”

Area audiences have seen McNenny in McCarter Theater’s recent production of “Moon for the Misbegotten,” where the leads were cast as much younger than usual. U.S. 1 critic Saltzman described McNenny’s Josie as looking like the glamorous movie actress Maureen O’Hara. (Josie is described in the play’s text as a “great, ugly cow of a woman.”) McNenny’s transformation as this character was applauded by the critics. She also appeared at the Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey in “Richard III” and in January, 2001, performed at George Street in “Human Events” by A.R. Gurney. On Broadway, she has been in “Coram Boy,” “The Constant Wife,” “A Few Good Men,” and a revival of “After the Fall.” Recently, she and Gaines did a play reading together and her dream would be to find a play in which they could perform together on Broadway or Off — or even regionally.

by Lucy Ann Dunlap, article printed by US 1 Newspaper; photo credit: Kathleen McNenny, Chris Curry, and Matthew Arkin in Sight Unseen, photo by T. Charles Erickson

Thursday, January 15, 2009

"Sight Unseen"-ic Designs

Here's a look at the scene designs by Michael Anania. The designer works with our scene shop who builds the entire set nearby in North Brunswick, before transporting it by truck to the stage. It's then installed on our stage two weeks prior to opening. The final touches are still being worked on.

Take a look at the complete design process for Patricia and Nick's farmhouse kitchen under construction from January 10 - 12, 2009

The model of
Jonathan Waxman's childhood bedroom and Jonathan Waxman's Gallery

Monday, January 12, 2009

You Voted and we Won!

We'd like to thank you to all who voted for George Street Playhouse for the People's Choice Awards. In addition to being voted Favorite Theatre, New Brunswick was also cited as Favorite Downtown Arts District. In a statement, Kelly Ryman, Director of Marketing and Public Relations said, "New Jersey is a state rich with top-notch professional theatre companies -- which makes George Street Playhouse all the more thrilled and honored to be named the People's Choice for Professional Theatre. We are very fortunate to have a loyal audience that is so very supportive of the new plays and musicals that we produce. We are grateful for their support, their patronage and their vote!"

View the results

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Catching up with the GSP!

So it's been almost a whole month since our last blog post! Blame the holidays, but a lot has still been going on!

George Street Playhouse's production of Oscar and the Pink Lady is gearing up for a run at Florence Gould Hall at the French Institute in NYC. So the props and set are coming out of storage, and Rosemary Harris will soon go back into rehearsal with director, Frank Dunlop.

If you missed it at George Street, now's your chance to catch it for 3 weekends only Janaury 16 - February 1st.

In case you haven't heard, The Toxic Avenger which opened our season, is readying for a spring bow at New World Stages! You can read about it here, here and here, and if you haven't signed up, join today! It's like Facebook, for fans of the show!

Meanwhile for the past two months, our Artistic Director, David Saint has been in rehearsals for the Broadway revival of West Side Story currently playing an out of town tryout at the National Theatre in D.C, for which he's the Associate Director. The much anticipated revival is directed by Arthur Laurents, who directed Gypsy with Patti Lupone, but also has brought nine new works to the stage at George Street including this year's New Year's Eve which will star Marlo Thomas.

Included in the cast are GSP alumns Matt Cavenaugh (as Tony, 2 Lives at GSP), Michael Mastro (as Gladhand, Pillowman, Inspecting Carol at GSP), Lee Sellars (as Krupke, Pillowman at GSP). In addition, both designers Jim Youmans and David Woolard have worked here as well.
See all you guys in New York

But for now, David' s back rehearsing for Sight Unseen with Matthew Arkin, Kathleen McNenny, Heidi Armbruster, and Christopher Curry. The set is currently being loaded in, and performances begin January 20th!