The Flea Welcomes New Resident Directors!

The Flea Theater is proud to announce the addition of six new Resident Directors to its intensive practicum for early-career directors. Rebecca Aparicio, Jake Beckhard, Daniella Caggiano, Lauren DeLeon, Will Steinberger, and Raz Golden will join the current group of Resident Directors.

The Flea welcomes back Resident Directors Misha Chowdhury, Anne Cecelia Demelo, Kate Moore Heaney, Kimille Howard, Marina McClure, David Monteagudo, Yuriy Pavlish, Tyler Thomas, Ran Xia, and Dina Vovsi as they continue to deepen and broaden their independent directorial careers.

Says Artistic Director Niegel Smith, “The field is bursting with talent and the range of emerging directors looking to find a place to make theater was inspiring. The Flea is committed to widening their opportunities by giving these incredible artists a place to call home.” Adds Carol Ostrow, Producing Director, “We look forward to adding these young visionaries to the diverse voices already ensconced at The Flea. We are sure they will make a mighty roar.”

Modeled after The Bats, The Flea’s resident company of actors, this intensive residency program offers a small team of early-career directors the opportunity to work, train and direct in support of The Flea’s season under the supervision of Artistic Director Smith, Producing Director Ostrow and The Flea Theater staff. The Flea Resident Directors engage in the full spectrum of directing. They assistant direct and stage manage each other’s shows as well as those of guest artists, review scripts for the theater, direct readings and workshops of plays under consideration by the Artistic and Producing Directors and ultimately direct their own full-length production as part of The Flea’s season.

BIOGRAPHIES

Rebecca Aparicio is a Cuban-American writer/director/producer. Directing credits: Radical (DUAF-Best Play Award), Paper Towels (New Works Series), World Classic (Parsnip Ship Podcast), Pedro Pan (FringeNYC), Prison Song (DUAF). Assistant Directing: Gloria: A Life (dir. Diane Paulus), Endlings (dir. Sammi Cannold); An Iliad (dir. Whitney White). As a writer, her musical Pedro Pan was developed by New York Musical Festival (2017 Reading Award, 5 Awards of Excellence), Rhinebeck Writer’s Retreat, Musical Theatre Factory, FringeNYC, the TRUF Theatre. Additional Writing: Legacy (Prospect Theatre), Sweet Tea and Jesus (Best Musical-SASF), Acceptance (SASF). Founding member of Nasty Women Unite Fest, now in our third year. www.RebeccaAparicio.com 

Jack Beckard is a freelance theater director and Director of Performance at Chinatown Soup, a gallery in Manhattan’s Lower East Side (www.chinatownsoup.nyc). He is a theater artist who likes to fill challenging plays with spectacular delight, accessibility, and the enormity of being an alive person. He is a Drama League Directing Fellow, the 2016 Westport Country Playhouse Directing Fellow, and an alum of the 2017 Williamstown Theater Festival directing corps. Most recently: Peter Smith’s Diana. at Ars Nova with multidisciplinary artist Peter Smith; AIA (Ajax) at the Hangar Theatre; and Water by Celine Song at the Williamstown Theater Festival. Selected assistant director credits include work with Molly Smith, Trip Cullman, Danya Taymor and Scott Elliott. www.jake-beck.com 

Daniella Caggiano is a freelance director and native New Yorker. She was named one of The Interval’s 2016 “Women to Watch” and is a former MTC Directing Fellow, 2018 Drama League Resident, and an alum of Lincoln Center Directors Lab. She has directed at Joe’s Pub, Dixon Place, MTF, Le Poisson Rouge, HERE, FringeNYC, and 54 Below among others. Favorite projects include Next To Normal (benefit presentation starring Tony nom. Christiane Noll), Vinegar Tom, Macbeth, All The Ways To Say I Love You (Assistant, dir. Leigh Silverman) and School Girls; Or, The African Mean Girls Play (Associate, dir. Rebecca Taichman). MFA The New School, BA Sarah Lawrence College www.daniellacaggiano.com

 Lauren DeLeon holds a BA in Theatre & Performance Directing and minor in Playwriting. Lauren has directed productions in support of organizations including Planned Parenthood, My Sister’s Place, Standing Rock, and a non-profit she co-founded, Mission Flint, who just partnered with The Public Theater for their production of cullud wattah. Credits include: City Theatre Next Generation (Adrienne Arsht Center), Men On Boats (SUNY Purchase), FM (SUNY Purchase), Let Me Explain… (SUNY Purchase), Austentation (SUNY Purchase), Ladies of the Land (Drama League, AD), The One Minute Play Festival (INTAR), SERIALS (The Flea), and Surely Goodness and Mercy (Theatre Row, AD).

 Raz Golden is an East Coast-based stage director of new and classic plays. Recent directing credits: East of the Sun, In The Same Space, If You Want My Heart (Come and Take It) (Williamstown Theatre Festival). Assistant directing credits include: Long Lost (dir. Daniel Sullivan), Dangerous House (dir. Saheem Ali), Emma and Max (The Flea, dir. Todd Solondz), and Crowns (dir. Regina Taylor). He is a Drama League Directing Fellow, a member of the 2018 Williamstown Directing Corps, a Jonathan Alper Directing Fellow, and an alumnus of the McCarter Theatre Directing apprenticeship and the City Theatre Directing Observership.

Will Steinberger has developed new plays at Hartford Stage, the Drama League, Berkshire Theatre Group, the Wilma, 59E59, Judson Church, The Tank, Jewish Plays Project, Passage Theatre, Theatre Horizon, InterAct, FGP, Uglyrhino and several universities. Favorite productions include Sarah Pappalardo’s Cold (Quince), Hannah Van Sciver’s Marbles (FringeArts) and Fifty Days at Iliam (Greenfield Collective) and David Auburn’s Proof (Neumann University). He has assistant directed for Doug Hughes, Darko Tresnjak, David Auburn, Michael Wilson, Vivienne Benesch, Kip Fagan, Lee Sunday Evans and Robert O’Hara. His dramaturgy was recently featured in The Wall Street Journal. He is Co Founder of InVersion Theatre. Wsteinberger.com

Misha Chowdhury is a queer Bengali director, writer, musician, and performance-maker based in Brooklyn. He is currently a Resident Artist at Ars Nova, a member of the Soho Rep Writer/Director Lab, and a New York Theatre Workshop 2050 Fellow. His work has also been seen or developed at SPACE on Ryder Farm, HERE Arts Center, NYMF, Vineyard Arts Project, the Hemispheric Institute of Performance and Politics, Barn Arts Collective, Cloud City, Vox Populi, Asian American Writers’ Workshop, and the CATWALK Institute. Misha is the Levitt Artist-in-Residence at Williams College, where he recently directed Sarah DeLappe’s The Wolves and will be directing Aleshea Harris’ Beast Thing this fall. Other upcoming collaborations include Virginia Grise’s rasgos asiaticos (Soho Rep and CalArts Center for New Performance) and MukhAgni (Ars Nova), co-created with Kameron Neal. This past year, he assisted Jo Bonney (An Ordinary Muslim, NYTW) and Richard Jones (The Hairy Ape, Park Avenue Armory). Misha received his Bachelors in Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity at Stanford University, his Master of Fine Arts in Directing Theater at Columbia and studied Lecoq-based physical theater at the London International School of Performing Arts.

Anne Cecelia Demelo is a bilingual Brooklyn-based director, musician, and translator. Her​ ​​production of Ellen McLaughlin’s The Trojan Women ​was nominated for a Drama Desk​ ​Award for Outstanding Adaptation. Recent directing credits include​ Max Mondi’s​ House of Karen (Signature Theater x Columbia University) and ​Eli Nixon’s ​B​lood Bag (Brown University,​ ​Barn Arts). Anne has also developed and directed work at JACK, The Bushwick Starr Reading Series, The Samuel French Off-Off​ ​Broadway Festival​, ​Dixon Place, Rising​ ​Circle, The Brick, The Tank, Cloud City/The Freight Project, and Highways​ ​Performance Space, among others. ​B.A., Comparative Literature, University of Virginia.​ www.annececeliahaney.com

Kate Moore Heaney is a NYC-based director, producer, and dramaturg committed to promoting empathy and investigating social, political, and human rights issues through theatre. Kate is Artistic Producer at Noor Theatre, Co-Program Director of the Amoralists’ ‘Wright Club, and a Resident Director at The Flea. She has directed with the Amoralists, The Civilians’ R&D Group, The Shakespeare Society, The PIT, Theatre 4the People, Directors’ Gathering Jam, and more. She has worked, trained, and/or assistant directed with Ibex Theatricals/The New Vic, McCarter Theatre, Second Stage, Clubbed Thumb, CRY HAVOC, Yale Institute for Music Theatre, Théâtre du Châtelet, and 24 Hour Plays on Broadway. BA: Yale. katemooreheaney.com

Kimille Howard is a New York based director, producer, writer, filmmaker, and occasional sound designer from Carmel, Indiana. She is currently a Jonathan Alper Directing Fellow at Manhattan Theatre Club and a NYTW 2050 Directing Fellow for the 2019-2020 season. Kimille recently directed LOW POWER by Jon Kern in EST’s Marathon ‘19, BLACK GIRLS ARE FROM OUTER SPACE by Emana Rachelle at the National Black Theatre, Skeleton Crew by Dominique Morisseau at TheatreSquared and TRIGGERED by Gabriel Jason Dean at the Cherry Lane Theatre. Kimille was awarded Best Director at the 2016 Thespis Festival for It’s All About Lorrie by Joseph Krawczyk at the Hudson Theater and remounted the production for a commercial run at The American Theater of Actors in 2017. Her work has also been seen at The Flea, The Lark, MTC, Manhattan Repertory Theater, The National Black Theatre, JAGFest, NYU, Atlantic Acting School, and the Producers’ Club among others. Kimille is the assistant director to Des McAnuff on Ain’t Too Proud: The Life and Times of the Temptations, which opened on Broadway in spring 2019. She has worked with Ruben Santiago Hudson, Emily Mann, Stephen Wadsworth, Jessica Stone, Jade King Carroll, Niegel Smith, Lorca Peress, and Melissa Maxwell. She is the co-program director for the Amoralists’ Wright Club and has produced shows at the HERE Arts Center, FIAF, and more.

Marina McClure creates emotionally-charged theater, opera, and spectacles by fusing striking visual design and physical performance. She specializes in developing new intercultural work that creates space for exchange between artists and with the audience. Projects in development include Tear a Root from the Earth, a new musical that examines the legacy of American intervention in Afghanistan, with Qais Essar and Gramophonic (Creative Capital: “On Our Radar”, The Kennedy Center, BRIC, New Ohio’s Ice Factory); Letters from Home, a multimedia performance in collaboration with a Cambodian-American father and daughter team that explores the impact of the Khmer Rouge genocide on both of their artistic practices (UC Irvine; UCSD; Willamette; Independent Shakespeare). She directed Wing It!, a large-scale community performance for the Tony-winning Handspring Puppet Company in celebration of South Africa’s National Day of Reconciliation and collaborated on Casablancabox (2017 Drama Desk Nomination for Unique Theatrical Experience, HERE). Marina is a resident director at The Flea, where she recently directed the world premiere of Steph del Rosso’s Fill Fill Fill Fill Fill Fill Fill and an episodic adaptation of Italo Calvino’s Cosmicomics for The Flea’s new initiative for young audiences, Cereals. Other recent: The Unbelievers, a collaboration between playwright Hannah Rittner and Yazidi Nobel Peace Prize winner Nadia Murad (Theatre Centre, Canada); Leisure Labor Lust (The Mount). Her direction of Gao Xingjian’s Nocturnal Wanderer was awarded Dartmouth College’s Gurdin Prize. Last season, she was an artist-in-residence at BRIC Arts Media and a nominator for the Drama League Awards. She has developed new plays and musicals at the Playwrights Realm, Boston Court, ACT, Northern Stage, Peterborough Players, REDCAT, Independent Shakespeare, United Solo, JACK, Voxfest, Dartmouth College, Brown University, Columbia University, NYU-Tisch, and is an alum of the Lincoln Center Directors Lab. Marina teaches at The National Theater Institute at the O’Neill, and was a finalist for the 2018 Creative Capital Award. Upcoming: Revolt. She Said. Revolt Again (Willamette). MFA: CalArts www.marinamcclure.com

David Monteagudo is a Brooklyn-based director and producer. He has developed and produced work with The Flea, The Atlantic, Theater for the New City, and Ma-Yi Theaters amongst others. His project Under the Hoodwhich melds game theory and theatrical conventions was featured in the 2014 Come out and Play Festival and will be presented as part of The Best Games Festival in Pittsburgh. He is a founding member of State of Play.

 Yuriy Pavlish is a Ukrainian-American artist based in New York City. A maverick director, actor, musician, and producer, he has had the opportunity to work and study with a slew of trailblazing American theater artists, including Emily Young (Fiasco), Ted Lewis (Bedlam), J. Allen Suddeth (SAFD Fight Master), Tara O’Con (Third Rail Projects), and many others. He is currently is the Executive Director of Shakespeare in the Square, an innovative classical theater ensemble, and works extensively with Roll the Bones Theatre company and Combative Theatre Company. Recent credits include: Coriolanus: From Man to Dragon (Director), Hamlet in the Golden Vale (Laertes), which won Best Feature at the Manhattan Film Festival in 2018, and Smith Street Stage’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Producer) in Carroll Park.

Tyler Thomas is a NYC-based theater maker, focused primarily on ensemble-driven, multidisciplinary work reframing marginal space, narrative, and event. Her work has been shown at Signature Theatre, The New Ohio, The Flea, New York Musical Festival, HERE Arts Center, Paradise Factory, and various theaters across NYU. She is a former SDCF Observer, member of the Lincoln Center Directors’ Lab, Visiting Artist at the Athens Conservatoire in Greece, and current Resident Director at The Flea Theater. As an assistant director, she has worked with Lear deBessonet, Taibi Magar, Jo Bonney, Niegel Smith, Lee Sunday Evans, Katie Brook, and as associate dramaturg for The Builders Association. Tyler holds a BFA in Drama and MA in Arts Politics) from NYU Tisch. She is a native of Louisiana.

Dina Vovsi is a New York-based director and theatermaker. Current and upcoming: The Only Ones (Working Theater 5 Boroughs 1 City commission co-created with Liba Vaynberg). Recent: Drive (The Civilians’ R&D Group), Iphigenia and Other Daughters (LIU Post), Untitled Parlor Play, or, For Home Amusement (Access Residency), First by Faith: The Life of Mary McLeod Bethune (United Solo, Best Educational Show), The Bastard (Dixon Place), Visiting Hours (TheaterLab). Dina has developed new work at The Culture Project’s Women Center Stage, The Barn Arts Collective, FringeNYC, Working Theater, Atlantic Acting School, Pipeline Theatre Company, Fresh Ground Pepper, Theatre 167, The Flea. Assistant directing: Broadway, off-Broadway, and regionally, with Roundabout, Playwrights Horizons, Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival, Spoleto Festival USA. Dina is a Resident Director at The Flea and a member of the 2018-2019 Civilians R&D Group. She has been a Robert Moss Directing Fellow at Playwrights Horizons, the recipient of an SDC Foundation Observership, a member of the Lincoln Center Directors’ Lab, an O’Neill National Directors Fellowship Finalist, and a Mass MoCA Assets for Artists Grantee. www.dinavovsi.com

Ran Xia is a playwright, director, and interdisciplinary artist born and raised in Shanghai, China (aka soup dumpling dreamland). Her plays have been seen on stages around New York City, including Pomegrenade at IRT; Harmony at HERE Arts Center, [ai] at the Brick, and many more. Member of Pipeline PlayLab 2020. She is currently a Resident Director at The Tank (Inaugural Artist of the Year award), where she directed the world premiere of Ben Gassman’s Independent Study, and Ailís Ní Ríain’s The Tallest Man in the World. Ran is also a frequent collaborator of Exquisite Corpse Co. (Co author of The Enchanted Realm of Rene Magritte, audio/visual installation version of Echo at the Memory House on Governors Island). Assistant Directing credits include: Flea Fridays (The Flea), The Great Leap (by Lauren Yee, Dir. Taibi Magar at Atlantic Theater Company), Two Mile Hollow (by Leah Nanako Winkler, Dir. Morgan Gould at WP Theatre), and Refrigerated Dreams by Carrie Mae Weems, Nona Hendryx, Francesca Harper, and Niegel Smith at Joe’s Pub. A staff critic at Theatre Is Easy and Exeunt. ranxia.info

HYPE MAN is Back at Battery Park City May 16-18

Photo by Hunter Canning

The Flea Theater’s HYPE MAN: a break beat play, written by Idris Goodwin and directed by Kristan Seemel, plays on a limited outdoor run next month as part of the Battery Park City Authority’s lineup of summer programs and events. HYPE MAN runs Thursday-Saturday, May 16 through 18 at Irish Hunger Memorial Plaza in Battery Park City.

In HYPE MAN: a break beat play we meet Verb, a young black man who hypes the crowd and Pinnacle, a white front man who writes and rhymes. They’ve been best buddies since they were kids, growing up together on the same mean streets. Now, with the addition of Peep One, a mixed-race, female beat maker, the trio is about to make it big as America’s next hip hop crew. But the shooting of an unarmed black man in their hometown throws them off their beat. Their friendship is tested. Their moral compass is challenged. HYPE MAN immerses audiences in a compelling conversation amongst the beats and rhymes of pulsating hip-hop.

The Flea’s Artistic Director, Niegel Smith says, “Idris has his finger on the pulse – taking the most popular music idiom in our culture and fusing it with a pressing social question. HYPE MAN is challenging and entertaining.” Adds Carol Ostrow, The Flea’s Producing Director, “The Flea is delighted to be a part of Battery Park City’s summer programming and to bring this wonderful New York premiere production that was a part of our Color Brave Season to the larger New York community. We hope it will be the beginning of a beautiful friendship.”

“The Battery Park City Authority is committed to diverse programming as we welcome everyone to enjoy our beautiful parks and public spaces,” said BPCA President & CEO B.J. Jones. “In that spirit we’re delighted to partner with our friends and downtown neighbors at The Flea Theater to bring HYPE MAN here to Battery Park City. We’re inspired by The Flea’s strong support of emerging talent and its bold approach to presenting stories that reflect our everyday lives and the world around us. We look forward to seeing you here!”

TDF Interview with Niegel Smith & Thomas Bradshaw: Why Are People of Color Playing Slave Owners?

 

When Southern Promises premiered in New York in 2008, Barack Obama was on the brink of becoming the country’s first black President. That provided an optimistic backdrop for Thomas Bradshaw‘s incendiary play about slavery. Even though it featured raw scenes of rape and brutality, it had a somewhat happy ending, inspired by the real-life saga of Henry “Box” Brown, a Virginia slave who successfully shipped himself to abolitionists in the North in a wooden crate. “It was easy, in a way, for audiences to feel good about themselves after it finished,” recalls Bradshaw, noting that it ended with the former slave rejoicing in his newfound freedom. The dramatist decided that if Southern Promises were ever revived, he wanted to leave theatregoers shaken, not soothed.

 

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2019 Resident Director Program Applications are Now Open

The Flea Theater, under Artistic Director Niegel Smith and Producing Director Carol Ostrow, seeks emerging directors for its Resident Director Program.

The Resident Director Program is an intensive residency for a small team of ambitious directors. This unique program offers a hands-on approach to directing and producing through the opportunity to work, train, and direct in support of a leading Off-Off-Broadway theater. The Resident Directors work alongside The Flea’s resident acting company, The Bats, and are at the core of our bold and inventive programming. All season long, Resident Directors helm readings, workshops and full-length productions as well as volunteer their time and talents as members of The Flea community.

Over the course of their tenure, Resident Directors will:

  • Assist directors on productions
  • Direct for SERIALS, The Flea’s late-night, episodic play competition
  • Read and discuss plays in consideration for The Flea’s season
  • Stage manage a Flea production
  • House manage for Flea productions
  • Develop and pitch shows for The Siggy, our 46 seat black box theater
  • Have the support and resources of The Flea staff to develop workshops, readings or new initiatives
  • Be mentored in leadership by the Artistic and Producing Directors

Requirements for eligibility:

  • Must be over 21 years of age and not enrolled in a full-time academic program.
  • Must live within 90 minutes to The Flea Theater via car or rail.

To apply please submit the following:

  • Headshot or photo
  • 1 page artist statement- strong applicants will articulate a compelling vision for their artistic practice
  • Short Bio (100 words or less)
  • Resume
  • List of all commitments (directorial and otherwise) for 2019-2020 season

Application deadline:

Monday, April 15th 11:59 pm

Timetable:

  • Application Deadline: Monday, April 15th 11:59 pm
  • Finalists Selected: Monday, April 22nd
  • Interviews and Practical Evaluations: Thursday, May 9th – Saturday, May 11th
  • Notification of Selection: week of Monday, May 13th

To apply, please submit via this FORM

 

Read More About Resident Directors

2019 Bat Auditions are Now Open

The Flea Theater, under Artistic Director Niegel Smith and Producing Director Carol Ostrow, seeks actors to join our resident volunteer acting company, The Bats. The Bats are an inclusive and prolific company who appear in new plays by world-class playwrights, original performance art, devised theater, reinterpretations of the classics, our late-night play competition, SERIALS, and our new family programming initiative, Cereals. In addition to performing on The Flea’s stages, The Bats volunteer in all aspects of making theater at our brand new home at 20 Thomas Street.

This year’s auditions will take place Monday, May 20th–Sunday, May 26th. As part of our commitment to reflecting the diversity of New York City, we are hosting several culturally specific auditions in addition to general open calls. Of course, your identity is more nuanced than these categories, but it is our hope that these calls serve as an opportunity to counter the under-representation of certain peoples in our field and create a more equitable culture in the arts. Artistic Director, Niegel Smith shares, “The work on our stages must be made and performed by a community of artists that reflect multiple perspectives. The history of theater practice in America is burdened by dehumanizing cultural appropriation and a woeful under-representation of specific cultures, ethnicities, and bodies. To help change this, The Flea practices culturally aware casting practices. We strive to level the playing field by welcoming into The Bats a pool of performers who bring diversity to our stages and in turn our larger field.”

All prospective Bats are welcomed and encouraged to attend any posted audition slot with which they identify. If you do not identify with any of the ethnically and culturally specific calls please do attend the general open calls.

More Details:


All auditions will take place at The Flea Theater, 20 Thomas Street. Sign-up sheets will be available at the theater one hour prior to each call time. Do come early—do not procrastinate—the available slots are filled very quickly. If you cannot make a specific date, please look below for the full schedule of auditions. We will be happy to see you anytime we have availability.

Actors must prepare two contrasting (one comedic and one dramatic) monologues. One must be classical (written before 1900) and the other contemporary (written since 1900).

Please also prepare “Happy Birthday” or 16 bars of a song that shows off your range to be performed a cappella. Please remember to bring a current headshot and resume.

You must be over 21 years of age and not enrolled in a full-time academic program to be a member of the company.

NO PHONE CALLS

Audition Dates:

Monday, May 20th 11 a.m.–4 p.m.: African American, African, Caribbean, and African Diasporic Performers
Tuesday, May 21st 3 p.m.–8 p.m.: Middle Eastern and North African Performers | Performers with Disabilities
Wednesday, May 22nd 11 a.m.–4 p.m.: Latinx Performers
Thursday, May 23rd 3 p.m.–8 p.m.: Asian, South Asian, and Asian Diasporic Performers
Friday, May 24th 11 a.m.–4 p.m.: Trans and Non-binary Performers | Native American, and Pacific Islander Performers
Saturday, May 25th 12 p.m.–7 p.m.: Open Call
Sunday, May 26th 12 p.m.–7 p.m.: Open Call

Read More about The Bats

Artistic Director, Niegel Smith, Featured in Playbill’s Off-Broadway Voices

The Flea may have just undergone a major renovation and acquired a new three-theatre complex in Tribeca, but its identity is still firmly rooted in its decades-old mission statement: To raise a joyful hell in a small space.

“We’re a downtown theatre, which means we can be aesthetically ambitious and push form,” says artistic director Niegel Smith, who took the helm in 2015. “The project is to support art for art’s sake. It’s about a community of people revealing rough truths and showing us ecstatic delights.”

Community is at the heart of The Flea Theater, which is home to a vibrant and large collective of resident actors known as The Bats; resident directors; and playwrights (members of the theatre’s SERIALS writers’ room). “It’s so inspiring to work here,” says Smith. “We are that unique place in the ecology of New York theatre that is a hotbed of young talent.” […]

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The Point Compares The Flea’s “Emma and Max” and Oscar-Winner “Roma”

 

In Times Square, the billboard for Roma commands: “FEEL.” “EXPERIENCE.” Don’t think too much, it seems to be saying: remember when you used to feel something, while looking at one of these screens?

With its accomplished cinematography, indigenous heroine and understated dialogue, Alfonso Cuarón’s Roma is both unusual and approachable enough to have hit a sweet spot of critical and commercial success. Adding to its Oscar appeal: the film’s protagonist, Cleo, is modeled after Cuarón’s own nanny growing up, and the film takes up a sufficiently serious subject—the complicated emotional dynamics at play when domestic laborers become part of the family they’re hired to serve.

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Interview: Drayton Hiers, The Flea’s Company Dramaturg on “Southern Promises”

Drayton Hiers, The Flea’s Company Dramaturg is now in his second year at The Flea. Drayton supports the development and production of new plays, manages the literary office, and runs the Serials Writers’ Room. We sat down with him to talk about “Southern Promises” to gain his insights as the dramaturg for The Flea’s upcoming production.

Let’s start with what you do for The Flea i.e. finding scripts that will show off our resident actors, The Bats, and advances The Flea-mission of “raising a joyful hell.” With those two objectives in mind, let’s talk about the script for Southern Promises and how it fits into the current COLOR BRAVE Season.

The plays that we’re producing this season all ask The Bats to go to vulnerable spaces in their spirituality, physicality, and psychology— and Southern Promises is no different. This script came to us at a time that Niegel, our Artistic Director and the playwright, Thomas Bradshaw both wanted to investigate how culture has changed in the last 10-years since the play was first produced.

How does the play specifically speak to the concept of being “color brave”?

At its core, Southern Promises is asking “How are we still living in a white supremacy society?” That is a brave and honest place to generate conversations about racism in America. 

How is this play about slavery and the African American experience different from other plays we’ve seen from other writers?

Thomas is challenging what we think life on a plantation or life as a slave actually was. We tend to hold these ideas about the characters and attitudes of both slaves and slave masters on a plantation. Thomas strips away these expectations and gets at the normalcy of life in the Antebellum South. He shows us the everyday banality of the institution of slavery which, in my opinion, makes it more terrifying.

How does Thomas’ style of writing impact themes that have been discussed frequently? 

Slavery and plantation life are popular subjects. We see most writers working to play up the evil. Thomas isn’t doing that. His writing treats slave masters as real people that happen to own slaves. These are people who treat people as property. By doing this the violence becomes causal and incidental.

What do you think audience members will leave the theater thinking or feeling?

After reading this script, the question that keeps percolating in my mind is, “How complicit am I?” and I hope that the audience will walk away pondering the same thing. The Flea’s audience is liberal, progressive and therefore they know racism is wrong. I think it’s my job to find stories that push our audience to question how they are complicit in these systems. I want the audience to leave with a different understanding of what it was like in that times. I also want them to think ‘those Bats are incredible’ and ‘that was a damn good show’.

Performances of Southern Promises, written by Thomas Bradshaw and Directed by Artistic Director Niegel Smith, begins March 11 – April 14. 

From the Playwright of good friday, Kristiana Rae Colón

My play, good friday, is a provocative examination of our culture of complacency. My goal is to widen the scope of brutal patriarchal influence to include the group most susceptible to its effects—women. My production at The Flea, with its immensely talented and all female cast and creative team, is the very definition of “time’s up”.

My inspiration for this play derives from a combination of my personal and the collective grief around the mass shooting in the United States. These incidents made me pay attention to the National conversation around the topic of gun violence. On social media I constantly read “lone white shooter” and I started to think about the cycle of how news is dispersed, interpreted, re-dispersed and reinterpreted. This cycle is destructive. From this news, what assumptions do we make about the shooter? About the victims? And about the moments between gunshots?

I’m excited for audiences to experience good friday right now because culturally, politically, and environmentally we are at a moment when it’s urgent that we decide how and with whom we fight and how and with whom we build. Do women appropriate the violence and aggression of global patriarchy or do we resist the current paradigm with a culture of nurture and tenderness?

Artistic Director Niegel Smith Featured in Chicago Sun-Times