BWW Special Feature: 99 and Under the Radar, A Look at Indie Theatre's Movers and Shakers
Welcome to 99 AND UNDER THE RADAR: A LOOK AT INDIE THEATER'S MOVERS AND SHAKERS, BroadwayWorld's new weekly series that showcases standout productions and production companies from the independent theater scene in New York City. Each week, independent producer Michael Roderick will be discussing the latest goings on in the theatrical wings, highlighting those with potentially bright futures.
This Week's Topic: Clap your hands if you believe in collaborative producing!
In the darkened corners of the Tribeca based Walkerspace this past weekend, there was some real magic. There were pirates, lost boys, fairies, and people flying all accomplished with practically no set in J.M.Barrie's Peter~Wendy. This type of work is often tried in Indie theatre, but frankly comes off looking cheap and under-developed in most instances. In this case however, very little was used to make something extraordinary. It takes a certain kind of magic to make that happen and the man behind the curtain who we should be paying attention to is a young theatrical alchemist by the name of Jeremy Bloom.
Mr. Bloom decided to adapt the classic tale we all know and love about the boy who never grew up and turned it into a piece that was visually fascinating, using practical lighting techniques, partnering, and an incredibly specific movement aesthetic. It's not surprising that he studied under Mary Zimmerman who won a Tony award for her visually arresting direction of Ovid's Metamorphoses, or that he has already started to make a name for himself amongst the Indie Theatre community. Bloom has won awards in The Midtown InterNational Theatre Festival and The Planet Connections Theatre Festivity, in which his staging of Wait of the World involved turning the seating normally reserved for the audience into the stage and using the tech booth as playing space. The thing that makes Bloom stand apart is that much like theatrical pioneers before him, he chooses to re-imagine staging, story, and sometimes even structure. When asked why he chooses to do these pieces in such different ways, Bloom replied, "I try to be open minded about arranging the environment of a play to highlight the story. Less conventional set-ups allow us to refocus and energize our attention, and I get excited about seizing any opportunity to highlight the actual architecture of the building." It's also not surprising that he amassed an extremely accomplished group of performers and some top notch collaborators to make this dream a reality.
Peter~Wendy, produced by Lindsay Meck in association with Sarah Ann Masse, Kaitlin Fine and the Vagabond Theatre Ensemble, was certainly a quintessential manifestation of Blooms 'open mind.' In addition to his innovative aesthetic, Bloom employed a hip Indie rock band to provide music that would keep the audience in this world and direction that inspired refreshingly artistic performances. Joyce Miller's Captain Hook blurs the line between confident villain and insecure vagabond with a performance that leaves the audience wondering if we really want to see him swallowed by a crocodile. Christopher Heijl's Peter Pan plays everything with such incredible nonchalance that when he makes his emotional plea for Tink it is both disarming as well as heart wrenching. Holly Chou's Tink who illustrates the severity of the Wendy love triangle through superb physical gesture and multiple sub-textual readings of the line "you silly ass." The entire cast works seamlessly as an ensemble, a feat attributable to the fact that "The producing team is really just a hodgepodge of random people," according to Bloom. "To me that's what's special about it - that we aren't a fundraising entity or a group of college friends. It's just an extended network of miscellaneous people that felt like doing a play. The cast helped with the "producing" along with the producers themselves."
One thing is certain, Bloom and his team are on to something. The only thing that was not pleasing about this theatrical experience was that it only lasted one weekend. Of course, if we clap our hands a little harder we may see more pieces like this in the mainstream soon.
Read more of Michael's insights at www.oneproducerinthecity.typepad.com.
From This Author Michael Roderick