There's Always Something Happening On the Square

2008-2013

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Hello to all our OtSP Supporters, Donors, Fans and Creative Community! 

 

We hope you’ve had a relaxing summer and are enjoying this beautiful autumnal time of year! 

The summer brought about many discussions and changes at OtSP. We have decided that after five inspiring and challenging years we will be bringing the company to a close.

In the wake of change with career and life goals, it has been mutually decided that it’s time for us to separate professionally and work towards our own individual objectives. The end of this fruitful chapter is bittersweet and positive for all of us.

We lovingly thank all of our supporters for your help over the years. Without you we could not have flourished. To all the artists and volunteers who collaborated with us, thank you for your time, talents, and dedication.

We are fiercely proud of the work we created, the connections we have made and community we have fostered. We look forward to connecting with you all again outside of On the Square.

With Deep Gratitude,

Jackie & Rachel with the OtSP staff and Board

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On the Square Productions Presents:

Keepsake

by Greg Beam

 

Keepsake

 

as part of our Write Angle Reading Series

Directed by Lori Wolter Hudson

Monday April 8th 7:30PM

 

In the wake of their father’s suicide, Abra and her adopted sister, Samara, find themselves together again in their childhood home in Massachusetts.  While confronting the troubling circumstances of their father’s death, the sisters  attempt to reconnect over drinks and discussions about life, work, and love. Things take a turn, however, when Abra asks Samara to make a huge personal sacrifice, and Samara delivers a reckoning that has been building for almost twenty years.

———

Logan Tracey here! Hello and welcome to our last playwright interview of the season!

Keepsake is our final reading in our Write Angle Reading Series of 2012-2013 but have no fear!

In the coming weeks, we’ll speak with Rob Benson and Deborah Wolfson about what’s going on with The Snow Queen and how that process has been developing.

So let’s talk about Keepsake

I asked playwright Greg Beam some questions about his work and his new play. Here’s what he brought to the table.

GregHeadshot1

Can you talk a bit about your past relationship with On the Square and how did OTSP come to find Keepsake?

I went to the University of Chicago with Deborah Wolfson. We worked together a couple of times (I played Clifford in her production of Cabaret), and smoked lots of hand-rolled cigarettes together on the parapet outside of the University Theater lounge. When I visited New York last spring, several months in advance of moving here, a mutual friend told me about this cool company that Deborah was a part of. Coincidentally, my wife went to UW-Madison with Jackie and Rachel. So I got in touch, sent the play over.

 

Can you talk a little bit about why this play? Why this story? — for you as a storyteller.

I wrote this play with two specific actresses in mind, one of whom is white/blonde and the other Middle Eastern (Iranian, specifically, though the family in the play is not Iranian). The two actresses are close friends and act like they’re sisters, and I wanted to make them sisters in the play. I decided early on that the white sister was the adopted daughter. Then the story unfolded gradually over many afternoons sitting at coffee shops in Southern California. Sometimes, ideas come to me wholesale — beginning, middle, and ending intact — and the job of writing is mostly transcribing and fleshing it out. This was not the case with Keepsake. I found myself surprised at every turn.

Why this story… I find myself fascinated by the legacies of trauma and abuse. How the things that hurt us shape our lives, and how we struggle to rise out of it.

 

What are you hoping to get out of the reading on March 18th? What are you hoping to see?

We did a reading of the play in California early last year. I want to see something different this time. I want to discover something I didn’t know about the play.

 

If I’m an actor in your play, what really excites you about a specific performance? Any actor pet-peeves?

In the first reading of Keepsake, there was a moment when one of the actresses was having trouble getting through an emotionally charged moment in the play. Out of the blue, she screams, “FUUUUUUUUUUUCCCCKKK!!” That made it into the next draft. It’s kind of a tightrope walk in acting, isn’t it, between honoring the script as it’s written and respecting the material enough to go beyond the words on the page.

 

Is a play ever finished? Do you ever hit ‘save’ and think, ‘yep. that’s done now?’

I think that every draft of every play — “There’s nothing more I could possibly do with this.” And every time I return to anything I’ve written, there are a dozen things (at least) I want to change.

 

How do you feel seeing your work performed in the moment? And where in the audience do you usually sit?

I prefer to stand. Somewhere in view of an exit, though I never actually leave.

 

 

We hope to see you Monday April 8th at 7:30 at University Settlement in the LES.

Check out the Facebook invite for all the details!

University Settlement, Speyer Hall
184 Eldridge St,
New York, New York 10002

 

 

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On Monday March 18th 2013, On the Square Productions will present a reading of

mass

by David Ian Lee.

About the play: Kay Hitchens abandons her life for an adventure, and finds what she’s looking for in Leo, a brilliant cosmologist who believes a mutation in Kay’s genetic code can unlock all secrets of creation. In an abandoned corner of the Arizona desert, Kay and Leo confront life-threatening forces — and the unexpected arrival of Kay’s husband, Tom — in a search for meaning at the edge of time and at the end of all things. Also, there are orgasms.
 

As per our usual, we like to do a short interview with the playwright to give you a feel for the development process with On the Square. So here’s David’s interview with me, Logan Tracey, Marketing Director of OtSP:

Can you talk a bit about your past relationship with On the Square and how did OTSP come to find mass?

I met Rob when I was assistant directing Richard II for the Pearl Theatre Company, and shortly thereafter had the opportunity to act opposite Rachel as the titular characters in a staged reading of a play by Gus Schulenberg, Denny and Lila. Later, Rachel saw me act in Gus’s play Deinde, which was produced by Flux Theatre Ensemble. One of the awesome things that Flux does is host nights of short new works inspired by their current productions. For the night of Deindeshorts, I created a short play adapted from the material I was then shaping into what would become mass. Once mass was a little further along, a playwright friend of mine, Lauren Ferebee, suggested I send OTSP my unfinished play for further development.

 

Why this play? Why this story?

 

It’s never easy to identify where a play comes from; you start with a few ideas and a sense of where you could be headed, but then somewhere along the way the creative process takes you where it wants to go. That said, mass had three clear points of origin: I’d spent a few years developing a play for seven men, so I knew I next wanted to write something with a strong female lead. I’m a fan of NPR’s Radio Lab, and was fascinated by an episode featuring a man whose brain tumor had manifested in such a way that he experienced sexual arousal when he thought about thumbtacks. Also around this time, I somehow wound up in a conversation with a friend much smarter than I am, discussing cosmic background radiation and dark matter. I chewed around these three disparate elements, wondering how they could possibly fit together, until I hit on the basic story of mass, but even then the play surprised me as it emerged. For the longest time, I thought the show would occur in real-time, in a single location, and up until quite recently I didn’t know how things would sort out for ol’ Kay and Tom.

 

What is the most gratifying part of the development process with OTSP?

 

I work best when a project has clearly defined goalposts and endpoints; I love imposed pressure.  The first of my plays produced in the city came about because I’d recently moved back to New York from London and couldn’t get cast in anything, so I booked a space for a month out and said, “I’ll be back in thirty days with a show.”  That seemed to work well, and so I repeated the process twice more, each time with a more ambitious project: My plays Liberty & Joe DiMaggio (written with L. Jay Meyer) and Sleeper were written without a net, because theatres had been rented and tickets were being sold, leaving me no choice but to finish my plays. Since then, I’ve not had clocks ticking down to opening nights to hound my writing – I’ve written for the sake of writing, and produced only when the material was ready – and I’ve found the process much more difficult. Sleeper wrote itself in about six months, and when the play was remounted at a regional theatre a few years later I didn’t do much polishing; it was in pretty good shape. In contrast, The Curing Room –my play for seven men – took about two years to pull together, and The Delaware Codicil before that took almost as long. I started work on massin December of 2011, worked in fits and starts, and really only hit my stride when OTSP said, “Hey, you’ve got a deadline for next spring. People are going to show up and you’d better have something for them.”

Rachel, Deb, and the whole of the OTSP crew have been exceptionally supportive during this process, and have offered to host mini-readings, check out my pages, or do whatever development I thought mass might benefit from, and I sincerely regret not having been able to take them up on those offers. I’m currently a graduate student at Illinois State University, getting my MFA in Directing, so I’m out of the city and my time is starkly crunched.  If I ever get another go at this with another play (assuming OTSP hasn’t had enough of me after Kay’s strange cosmic-orgasmic experiences in the desert), I’d love to take full advantage of the incredible talents and generosity of OTSP.

 

What are you hoping to get out of the reading on March 18th? What are you hoping to see?

 

Well…I’m hoping to see a productive rehearsal for Alan Bowne’s Beirut, which is what I’ll be in the midst of on the evening of March 18th. Unfortunately, I cannot be in the city to hear mass receive its first full reading, which disappoints me to no end.  However, I’m sending a gaggle of emissaries to be my eyes and ears: I’ve been fortunate enough to befriend and work with some of the most talented writers in the Off-Broadway and Independent Theatre communities, and I’ll be sending a few folk in my stead.

I’m always curious to hear how a piece lands on an audience: Are they with it, are the jokes working, are the audience members “breathing with” the play and finding its rhythms? I’m also curious to know what’s clear and what is not.  You’re never going to create something that will appeal to everyone (that has that never been my aim), but you can craft with a clarity that most anyone can understand. I want to take people on a ride, so it is important to me that the ride be something that won’t unintentionally buck an audience in the middle of a turn, but what folks ultimately think of the experience is in many ways not in my court.

I’m trying to work for pith these days, though you’d never know it from this interview. Sleeper and The Delaware Codicil are in the neighborhood of three-hour-runtimes, and The Curing Room is dense in its exacting look at a heightened situation moment-by-moment.  Part of my experiment with mass has been to create something far more elided. The play covers a lot of time and a lot of emotional territory; I’ve attempted a style that plays with impressionism, montage, and fractured narrative. I’m hoping the thing holds together.

 

 

If I’m an actor in your play, what really excites you about a specific performance? Any actor pet-peeves?

 

I love actors! I love when an actor teaches me something about my play or about my characters. I always say that all new works reach a point at which the playwright knows all that he can about the play and about the world, and he must turn his work over to a new set of artists to show him what he doesn’t yet know. I find that very exciting.

I suppose I’ve no pet-peeves with professional actors, and a “professional actor” doesn’t have to mean someone who pays dues to any particular union. A pro is someone who is inquisitive, challenges assumptions, makes smart proposals, works in concert with the text to make bold choices, thinks like the character between lights up and lights down, and pushes for the best production possible…and then, at the end of the day, learns the lines AS THEY ULTIMATELY APPEAR ON THE PAPER.  This is not Improv on the Sunset Strip, people.

 

 

Is a play ever finished? Do you ever hit ‘save’ and think, ‘yep. that’s done now”?

 

I hit “save” all the time, and sometimes I am done, though I rarely feel finished. I walk away, marinate– and then I come back. You need distance, and you also need perspective. mass has been a delight because I had a working Act One when I arrived in Illinois last August, and then I wasn’t able to look at the draft and continue pushing forward until several months had passed. That made for a wonderful incubation period, and it also allowed me to come back to the text without feeling precious about my work.  Artists hate killing their babies, but absence can sometimes make the heart a little less fond, which is great.

A play approaches being “finished”when I can hear a handful of actors I didn’t choose sit down and read the thing without any direction from me – without any suggestions from me about what a moment is, or what the piece is trying to say – and still I hear the play I intended. So often I think young playwrights undercut themselves by hosting readings of their work and offering notes and suggestions to the artists assembled. That has its place, to be sure, but it’s very easy to over-meddle – to pave over the holes in the road rather than hearing them and then addressing them through revisions.  When I hear an actor work with my words and turn back something other than what I intended, that’s often when I know that I didn’t write what I thought I had written: If a scene should be sad, but the actors are all in stitches, that probably means I need to go back to work. When a play starts to find itself, it will become – for lack of a better term – concept-proof.  You’ve got to go out of your way to screw up something like Hamlet or Angels in Americaor Inherit the Wind, because those plays are so perfectly constructed.

 

How do you feel seeing your work performed in the moment? And where in the audience do you usually sit?

 

I sit in the back, all the way in the back, where I can duck out the second the thing has wrapped! I flop-sweat and I hold my wife’s hand in a death-grip. This is the same way I watch a play as a director. Performances are very different experiences for writers and directors as compared to actors.  As a performer, I love show time: An audience offers that final ingredient without which rehearsal is nothing more than an exercise. Also, if something big goes wrong or a choice isn’t playing quite right, the performer can adjust in the moment.  It’s different for the writer and the director. Once the curtain goes up, there’s nothing you can do but sit and hope for the best: Gee, I hope I left those commas in all the right places…!

 

That said, when I’ve done my work and the people I’m working with have done theirs, I love letting go and taking the same ride as anyone else in the room.  It’s a fantastic experience to spend weeks – or months, or years – with a play, and yet still be able to enjoy it naively, as though for a first time.  But, again, I’m never finished. I’m always listening, always watching, cataloguing changes– even the microscopic changes – that might improve the final product.

 

mass

by David Ian Lee

Monday March 18th at 7:30pm

as part of our Write Angle Reading Series

Directed by Candace Cihocki

Featuring: Duncan Burgin, Mike DiSalvo*,  Kane Prestenback* & Logan Tracey*

* Actors Appearing courtesy of Actors Equity Association

Speyer Hall at University Settlement

184 Eldridge Street

Tickets are $10 cash at the door

 

 

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On Monday January 28th, On the Square Productions participated in our first ‘Share’ at University Settlement.

Core members Rob Benson and Leone Hanman have been working with a class of senior citizens from the lower east side community for a number of weeks in the beautiful space at University Settlement.

 

From OtSP’s Rob Benson:

“On Monday 28th of January we had a share of the work we have been devising with our Senior Ensemble at University Setlement. Leone and I have been working with this group since September, the idea behind these sessions had always been to share culture and as this particlar time of year is so important to so many different cultures in terms of celebrations and holidays we decided to focus on these. Our devising has come about through members of the group bringing items, dances or songs into the room and working and exploring these things through movement and scenarios. The resulting performance featured a Chinese New Year dragon, a typical American family Thanksgiving gathering and the travel involved in getting home to see loved ones.

 

I’ve always found when teaching drama, that giving a performance to a real live audience is essential, it brings the group together for the final push and is always a massive confidence boost. The Share was great! We had an audience of friends, family and colleagues and are very proud of our ensemble. We are now building to making this a permenant monthly event, where seniors from all over the University Settlement system can come and show their creative work.”

On the Square Productions wishes to thank everyone at University Settlement, Alison Fleminger, and the members of our amazing class!


We greatly look forward to more Shares and more time downtown at University Settlement.


On The Square Productions discovers and cultivates original works by established and emerging playwrights.  Through our unique developmental laboratory, playwrights experiment to transform ideas into fully mounted productions.  We are imaginative and innovative yet socially relevant and accessible. We produce work that is reflective of the world we live in, mindful of the past, with an eye focused on the future.

 

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