BWW Special Feature: 99 and Under the Radar; A Tale of Two NOVAS
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: A tale of two NOVAS and a song of Blood
One of the most exciting things about Indie Theatre is that it has a history of breaking the mold. If something has been done the same way for years, you can always count on an Indie artist to think of a new way of doing it. To that end, this week covers two organizations that share a similar vision and a similar name and an artist who is smashing the box of traditional musical theatre.
First up is the terraNOVA Collective which is an organization whose mission reads, "terraNOVA Collective is a vibrant playground for artists devoted to innovative new and original theatrical works. Our multi-layered development process, solo arts festivals, and productions serve to nurture and liberate New York City." The most interesting part of all of this is that the organization nurtures work from the earliest development stages into production. The organization finds art and cultivates it as if it were some seeds in barren earth and by the time they finish, they have a field. Also, in a very bold move, the organization tackles multiple genres and presents every kind of material. So if someone has a dance piece, a stand up comedy piece, a theatrical piece, or all three rolled into one, there is a home for them with terraNova. In addition the programming offers a late night festival as well as a soloNOVA Festival that focuses on developing solo shows of all genres.
They also do something with their festivals that supports the artist is a new way. They provide full technical support if needed. So rather than an artist having to go out and hire technicians, they have them in house so that the artist can focus on their art. So from a customer service standpoint, one might say they are the Zappos of festivals. Another very interesting point of differentiation is in the marketing. The team at terraNOVA assists with the individual marketing of each show providing them with separate email blasts and social networking campaigns as opposed to festival wide blasts where the artist is in danger of being lost. Another feather in the cap of this group is that they house the longest running solo festival in new york city. All the more reason to check them out.
When speaking with Artistic Director Jennifer Conley Darling about what sets them apart from other festivals, she had this to say: " This festival is meant to be innovative. It's meant to be the best of the best, and if you love music, comedy, dance, or theatre, we'd love for you to come see some shows" The two main spaces that terraNOVA works out of are PS122 and The D-Lounge in the Daryl Roth Theatre and they run shows any time of day or night including a late night series for those who are up till all hours. They will also be honoring Nilaja Sun, writer and performer of the solo show No Child as their artist of the year on May 21st. To find out more about their projects click here.
Next up is Ars Nova whose mission reads "Ars Nova is committed to developing and producing theater, comedy and music artists in the Early Stages of their professional career. Our unique development programs are designed to support outside-the-box thinking and encourage innovative, genre-bending work. By providing a safe environment where risk-taking and collaboration are paramount, Ars Nova gives voice to a new generation of artists and audiences, pushing the boundaries of live entertainment by nurturing creative ideas into smart, surprising new work." Truer words were never spoken after seeing their latest offering, the absolutely hilarious Bloodsong of Love by musical theatre phenom Joe Iconis. Seeing Mr. Iconis play in concert is more like attending a Ben Folds Five show, than seeing a musical theatre production and his latest musical directed with razor sharp precision by John Simpkins takes us into the next wave of musical theatre, and this is one wave that is very fun to ride.
Bloodsong mixes the quirky nature of Blazing Saddles with the wacky bloody moments of a Monty Python sketch. During all of this, it is musically entertaining and will leave the audience with songs that will sing in their heads long after the sun has set. The use of space in this production is absolutely inspiring. This is a relatively small stage and yet the production takes on the caliber of a full Broadway show thanks to a very clever set design courtesy of Michael Schweikardt that involves pieces that fold in and out like a a giant wooden rubics cube. Also of note is Jennifer Werner's choreography which combines theatrical dance styles with moments of music video madness. Werner also choreographs the show with such specificity that it feels like the stage is completely empty rather then being filled with stools, bar tables, chairs, and other western paraphenelia. The show itself revolves around a set of outlaws. Narrated with excellent timing and boundless energy by the talented Jason 'SweetTooth' Williams, we are introduced to our hero "The Musician" played with such commitment by Eric William Morris that Iconis' tongue in cheek commentary on the smoldering Malrboro man stereotype lands with comic power every time. Combine this with Lance Rubin's endless string of misnomers as the sidekick "Banana", Jeremy Morse's Justin Timberlake meets Scarface antics as the villian " Lo Cocodrilo", The amazing belting of Katrina Rose Dideriksen as a whore who suffered thanks to Cocodrilo's sick fashion sense, and the terrific multi character femme fatale work of MK Lawson as "Santa Violetta/Sofia" and you have all of the ingredients for a rocking good time with plenty of blood. Make sure you pay attention to where you sit and what you're wearing as they have "splatter seats" for a legitimate reason. One thing is for sure, this show will be rocking out of seats very fast, so lasso your tickets here.
The Indie community offers its audience a look at the future, and the future is looking very good.
Read more of Michael's insights at www.oneproducerinthecity.typepad.com.