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Poem for the NYITA

Monday, September 20, 2010 5 comments

Congrats and huzzah to the winners and nominees of the 2010 NYIT Awards! We were thrilled to see Crystal Skillman win for Outstanding Original Full Length Script and the New York Neo-Futurists grab the Caffe Cino award; and were admittedly disappointed when our Heather Cohn did not take home the IT for Outstanding Director.

As always, though, the night is mostly about celebrating this amazing community we're a part of, and it was great to hang with friends old and new. But I confess that old dirty question dressed up and sat on my other side, whispering its name in my ear:

Is this enough?

Sometimes, all our awards and blogger blather and Twitter banter and grant gilding feel like a filibuster against what's really happening; like keeping up the bed room of a child long gone; like "a speech of the self that sustains itself on speech".

Is this enough?

Sometimes it hurts, to care so much about something the rest of the world doesn't much care for; to pour your one life into little rooms like rain onto dry gardens.

A career for most of us is not a big break but a series of small stones piled high enough that when the tide comes, we can still see the place we've made. An NYIT Award is one such stone, and I am so grateful for what Shay, Nick and Jason do; giving a little weight to the light we make.

So to all the ninjas and chickens and robots,
To all the fairies and Moors and Danes,
To all those who feel half hour to places
Like a bell to prayer,
I yop this poem for you.

A Poem For The Artists At The NYIT Awards
To all those who stab their hearts with toy swords
And find their light to cry on cue and hold
A half beat longer to make the laugh double
Over; last night, did we take a cab home?

Home is where the house is sold out. Send me
Your conflicts so I can make the schedule,
We get so few hours with this damn code.
How many speakers? How many dimmers?

Tell me what you really thought, I trust you.
Tell me what's beautiful, what's a mistake.
Tell me mistakes alone are beautiful.
Give me the bad news, that nothing we do

Is ever enough; give me the good news,
Nothing we do will ever be enough.

Here's to another year of pouring our lives into little rooms. Read the full story

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Flux Sunday, September 19th

(What is Flux Sunday?)

After 3 weeks off for our 5th Annual Retreat (aka, Flux Sunday all day long), we returned to action with a high spirited Flux Sunday.

Playwrights: Johnna Adams (Nurture), Fengar Gael (The Spell Caster), August Schulenburg (Denny and Lila, The Refrigerator Hums)

Actors: Isaiah Tanenbaum, David Crommett, Alisha Spielmann, Richard Watson, Candice Holdorf, Nancy Franklin, Matthew Archambault, Tiffany Clementi

-David Crommett as Doug reading a litany of comforting, loving words in his near-oblivious effort to win over Cheryl in Johnna Adams' Nurture. It's been so exciting to watch him get more of this role every time!
-Finally getting to share Isaiah Tanenbaum's work on Marcus in Denny and Lila - we'd worked on it at the retreat, but ran out of time to share some of the scenes.
-Mary's super-theatrical mirror-maze scene in The Spell Caster - the carnies chasing each other through the distorting maze, and through Mayra's strange powers of perception - I'd love to see this scene on stage
-Nancy Franklin as the Italian conjurer of self, Louisa, in The Spell Caster - when she speaks as this character, we all look around and smile at how good she is in the role
-Our post Flux Sunday impromptu hang out w/Candice, Tiffany, Alisha, Heather and I...sometimes, you're not quite ready for Flux Sundays to be over (hence the incoming innovation of Speak Easy - more on that anon!)

If you were there, what highlights or discoveries did I miss? Read the full story

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Hearts Like Fists Photos And Thoughts

Thursday, September 16, 2010 3 comments

(Photo: Isaiah Tanenbaum. Pictured: Tiffany Clementi, August Schulenburg, Christins Shipp, Cotton Wright)

Thanks to everyone (around 100!) who came out for our sixth Food:Soul, Adam Szymkowicz's Hearts Like Fists. This was a special Food:Soul for us, as our first Food:Soul was Adam's Pretty Theft. It was also our second partnering with Judson Memorial Church's Bailout Theater series, a relationship we're hoping to deepen.

(*Remiss in our first posting was including a thank you to the businesses that provided food, including John's Pizzeria of Bleecker Street, NoHo Deli and Juice Bar, and Norwich Meadows Farms, provider of the Judson Church Community Supported Agriculture program.)

It was also our first event after our 5th Annual Retreat, and so was the first chance to test out our newly articulated Core/Aesthetic Values and Mission in action. Part of that mission is to treat our audience as partners in our process, so if you were there, PLEASE share with us your thoughts in the comments section below. What were you favorite parts in the play? What worked at the event, and what could we do better?

To inspire you, here are some beautiful shots of the reading, all courtesy of Isaiah Tanenbaum.
(Christina Shipp as Lisa and Jason Paradine as Peter)
(Amy Staats as Nurse and Tiffany Clementi as Jazmine)
(Christina Shipp as Lisa, Cotton Wright as Sally)
(Jill Knox as Nina, August Schulenburg as Dr X)
(Christina Shipp as Lisa)
(August Schulenburg as Dr X)
(Cotton Wright as Sally)
(Christina Shipp as Lisa)
(Amy Staats as Nurse, August Schulenburg as Dr X)
(August Schulenburg as Carson, Jason Paradine as Ed)
(Jill Knox as Nina)
(David Crommett as the Commissioner)
(Tiffany Clementi as Jazmine, Cotton Wright as Sally, Jill Knox as Nina)

A happy cast...

..and a happy audience!

Thanks again to everyone who made this possible - now share your thoughts in the comments below! Read the full story


Aesthetic Values

Tuesday, September 14, 2010 0 comments

(Photo: Tiffany Clementi. Pictured: Adam Szymkowicz, Kelly O'Donnell, August Schulenburg, working on Adam's play CLOWN BAR)

After establishing our Core Values at the 5th annual retreat, we moved onto Aesthetic Values. There was plenty of discussion surrounding these values as well; including whether or not we even needed them.

After all, we're artist-driven, and good artists often shed aesthetics as they evolve from one project to the next. Worse, aesthetics can often devolve into generalizations where every theatre sounds like the other; or can become so specific they stifle creative exploration.

But it is helpful - when discussing potential plays for the season, or communicating our work to outside artists, or evaluating our work internally - to have some common aesthetic language. We therefore attempted to parse our creative DNA; the building blocks that make up the wildly diverse kinds of work we do. We've always felt drawn to the words "transformative theatre", and they have ended up in our mission statement; but what exactly does that mean?

Flux’s aesthetic is ensemble-artist driven and evolves according to the needs of our community.

Character-Driven: Our plays are illuminated by human choices, by how people change, and through the conflict and consequences of their actions.

Structural Complexity: Our plays contain layered worlds, multiple stories and shifting perspectives that cohere into a dynamic whole.

Juxtaposition: Our plays embrace collisions of different tones, styles and genres - often within a single moment.

Transformative Staging: Our plays take a single element (e.g. an actor, prop, set piece) and use it in multiple ways, trusting the rough magic of theatre and the audience’s imagination to build layers of meaning.

Moral Ambiguity: Our plays allow contradictory forces equal presence and challenge conventional notions of absolute right.

Audience Intimacy: Our plays seek the most direct route to share the experience of the characters with the audience to inspire collective catharsis.

As with Core Values, these Aesthetic Values emerged from a long and winding process. We began in 2008 by identifying key moments of heat in our production history.

We then grouped these moments into clusters, pairing them with other moments that seemed to share something essential. These clusters were then grouped again into larger categories.

In 2009, we attempted to define these categories, and that work continued into 2010. This allowed us to move quickly at the retreat to put the final touches on the values above.

Ideally, these values will serve as a way of talking about the work, and if we diverge from the values above, we do so knowingly. The values should serve as inspiration more than definition; direction rather than destination.

What do you think? Would you want to see the kind of theatre described above? If you have a company, have you defined Aesthetic Values; and if so, what advice do you have to share? Read the full story


Core Values

Monday, September 13, 2010 2 comments

(Pictured: Kelly O'Donnell and Tiffany Clementi on the bus to Little Pond for Flux's 5th Annual Retreat)
There is much to unpack from our 5th annual retreat. The 4th retreat generated so many ideas about values, mission, strategic plan and more that the sheer amount of thought made synthesizing it into a cohesive frame difficult.

However, with all that work behind us, our discussions at this 5th retreat were much more focused, and we emerged at last with Core and Aesthetic Values, Mission, and a new Membership Structure.

We'll be rolling out the above over the next weeks; today, we take a look at our newly defined Core Values, and share a little of our process on how we got there.

These values live in all aspects of our work and in every point of contact with our community.

Joy: We love what we do, we have fun doing it, and we want to inspire that passion in others.
Compassion: We practice contagious empathy and mutual respect.
Collaboration: Our process is inclusive, transparent, and sustained through long term partnerships.
Creativity: We extend the imaginative act beyond the stage into our administrative practices.
Excellence: We take risks to make great theatre and challenge ourselves to improve every day.

What do you think? Do these values represent the Flux you know? The Flux you'd like to see? If you don't know us well, do these values give a sense of what working with us might be like?

While these values may seem straightforward, they are the result of several years of hard campaigning and discussion. Our process began as early as our first retreat, but much of our efforts then went towards organizational structure. We drafted a constitution that looked at the rights, responsibilities, and decision making functionality of the company.

This focus on organizational structure continued for the next two years, as we attempted to navigate several layers of Membership, trying to find a way to guarantee artistic opportunities in return for administrative help. A Baroque system of checks and balances emerged, but even by 2008, at the height of this hope, the sense that it was unsustainable was rising.

2009 saw a refocus on values, both Core and Aesthetic, and some of the fruits of that discussion were highlighted here, here, and here. We generated a long list of values, battled over definitions, voted numerically to identify the most important values as accurately as possible, and then wrestled with that shortened list post-retreat.

But at this last retreat, everything snapped into focus. We stopped trying to force the Core Values to do the work of the Mission and Aesthetic Values; and we recognized that many of the Core Values could actually fit within larger umbrella values. For example, transparency is an important value, but it is important because we value collaboration, and so transparency wound up a part of that larger value.

Please note to the sub-header below Core Values:

These values live in all aspects of our work and in every point of contact with our community.

This is the critical part; that we bring these values to bare on every aspect of our work, and that we do not present different faces to different constituencies.The act of arriving at these values was difficult, but now the more difficult work of weaving them into our daily practice begins.

We'll be unpacking each of these values individually, as each means something very specific to us. But for now, what do you think of the list as a whole?

(Photo: Jason Paradine helping with the strike of Little Pond, after all the guests are gone) Read the full story

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Flux's Season 4: Don't Look Away

Friday, September 10, 2010 0 comments

Flux is thrilled to announce our fourth season!

Our fourth season explores the cost of a society remaining always vigilant. In our see something, say something world, what happens to empathy when we're always on guard?
What is our responsibility to those keeping watch?
And what happens when our defenses are breached?

Season 4: Don't Look Away

Dog Act
By Liz Duffy Adams
Directed by Kelly O'Donnell
February 4th-20th, 2011

Ajax in Iraq
by Ellen McLaughlin
Directed by August Schulenburg
June 3rd-26th, 2011

by Erin Browne
Directed by Heather Cohn
Winter 2011-12

From the post-apocalyptic comedy of Dog Act to the Greek tragedy crashing into the present of Ajax in Iraq to the subversive storytelling of Menders, our fourth season takes a penetrating look at the walls and watchers that keep us safe.

Information on the plays:

Dog Act: A theatrical, post-apocalyptic dark comedy, Dog Act follows Zetta Stone, a traveling performer, and her companion Dog (a young man undergoing a voluntary species demotion) as they walk through the wilderness of the former U.S.A with their little troupe. They are heading toward a gig in China, if they can find it…and if a secret in Dog's past doesn't undo them.

"[A] delightful dark comedy…. It’s a bright dystopian blend of pop and high culture… peppered with astonishing and exhilarating eruptions of storytelling and wondrous plays within the play…. Adams’ vaudeville routines are each a stroke of genius…. The monologues by each of the performers are near classics of their kind. Best of all is ‘The Mortality Play...’ a blissfully eclectic history of humanity… Dog, as they say, has legs.” –Robert Hurwitt, San Francisco Chronicle

Ajax in Iraq: Past and present collide in Ellen McLaughlin's mash-up of Sophocles' tragedy Ajax and the Iraq War. The play follows the intertwining paths of the Greek hero Ajax and A.J., a female soldier in Iraq, both undone by the betrayal of a commanding officer. The atrocities they commit as a result of those betrayals force us to look at our culpability in the actions of those keeping us safe.

Developed over 16 months in 2009 with the graduate acting students at A.R.T., Ajax in Iraq weaves together Sophocles' play with material based on interviews with veterans. Says McLaughlin, "[Ajax's] pain, however much we wish to turn from it, compels our attention and our empathy. Looking at this play in the light of our times, his agony suddenly seems terribly modern. His voice can be heard in the voices of veterans speaking now about their experiences in Iraq. I came to feel that this disturbing and impossible play might be the means of grappling with this disturbing and impossible war."

Menders: Corey and Aimes are new recruits mending the wall that guards their city from an unnamed threat. But as their teacher Drew tells them stories of the world outside, they begin to wonder at the real purpose of the wall. His subversive tales also unlock personal desires, until an unexpected act of passion tears the menders apart. Inspired by Robert Frost's poem, Mending Wall, Menders is a hauntingly lyrical look at what we're walling out.

Menders continues our development of Erin Browne's work. After developing plays like Trying and Return at Flux Sundays, and giving her Narrator One a Food:Soul, we knew it was time to share her work at the level of full production. We'll be developing this play with Erin over the next year, so stay tuned for updates from that process.

We are thrilled to be bringing you these three plays, that for all their differences, speak to a common question. We'll be talking a lot more about these plays over the next months, and the fascinating ways they work individually and together. We very much hope you will join us for our Season 4: Don't Look Away. Read the full story

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Mo Plays, Mo Publications

Wednesday, September 8, 2010 0 comments

To begin, I apologize for the title of this blog post. I've been staring at a computer for so long when I go to the bathroom I click on the doorknob.

To continue, it's time for some shout-outs for deserving plays getting published!

James Comtois' play, Infectious Opportunity, is being published by the good folks at Original Works. You might remember this play from our series, Exploding Moments; and we're thrilled for James and his deserving play.

Speaking of published plays, have you picked up your copies of the Angel Eaters Trilogy yet?

And I am not even going to ask if you've purchased your copies of Out of Time & Place, which features plays from past Flux collaborators like Crystal Skillman, Bekah Brunstetter, Andrea Thome, and Christine Evans; of course you have.

I know what you're thinking: that's all well and good, but what about the New York Theater Review and it's impending publication of The Lesser Seductions Of History and Erin Browne's Flux-developed play Trying? One word, one number: October 15th. That's when you can see the cast from Lesser Seductions read from the play as part of the book launch at New Georges' The Room. See you there? Read the full story

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Food:Soul #6 - Hearts Like Fists

(Photo by: Jason Paradine. Pictured: audience for Flux's 5th Food:Soul)

We're back from the retreat with a treat for you: Adam Szymkowicz's crimefighting comedy, Hearts Like Fists. You've heard about this play before, and after an uproarious read at our retreat (more on that anon), we're sharing it with you.

Hearts Like Fists
Written by Adam Szymkowicz
Directed by Keith Powell
As part of Flux's potluck play series, Food:Soul
And Judson Memorial Church's Bailout Theater
Wednesday, September 15th
At Judson Memorial Church, 55 Washington Square South
Doors open and food is served at 7:30, staged reading begins at 8PM
Cast: Tiffany Clementi, David Crommett, Jill Knox, Jason Paradine, August Schulenburg, Christina Shipp, Amy Staats, Cotton Wright
Assistant Director: Casey Schmal

Hearts Like Fists is a superhero noir comedy about the dangers of love. Dr X is sneaking into people's apartments late at night and injecting lovers with a serum that stops their hearts. Lisa joins the Crimefighters, a group of crimefighting women, to stop him. Peter, a heart doctor, is trying to create an artificial heart that can be mass produced so no one will fear to sleep with their lovers again.

Adam's play Pretty Theft was our very first Food:Soul, and that experience was so good we ended up producing it. We're thrilled to be returning to his work. You may know Keith Powell as an actor, but he's an excellent director (and playwright!) as well; my play Good Hope would not exist without him, and Kidding Jane would be in sorry shape. I'm grateful he's finally collaborating with Flux!

Want to RSVP? Let us know you're coming on Facebook.
Want to bring some food? Food donations are welcome but NOT required.

Adam Szymkowicz’s play Pretty Theft was produced by Flux Theater Ensemble in 2009. It was subsequently published by Samuel French. He has three other plays published by DPS. Szymkowicz studied playwriting at Columbia and Juilliard. He is a two-time Lecomte du Nouy Prize winner, a member of the Dramatists Guild, Writer’s Guild of America, Primary Stages’ Dorothy Strelsin New American Writer’s Group, the MCC Playwright’s Coalition and was a founding member of the Ars Nova Play Group. He will be in residence at the William Inge House this fall and was commissioned by South Coast Rep. For more, see www.adamszymkowicz.com.

Keith Powell is an actor, director, and writer living in Brooklyn. He holds a degree from NYU Tisch School of the Arts, where he performed in this very space.
Read the full story