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COMMEDIA DELL'ARTICHOKE to Play Gene Frankel Theatre in 2016

Frances Black Projects in association with CAP21 proudly presents Commedia dell'Artichoke, a new comedy about love, dreams, pizza and trying to make it in New York. This production, a contemporary take on commedia dell'arte - the classic Italian style of theatre with masked actors performing a blend of scripted and improvised comedic scenarios - plays January 15 - February 6 at the Gene Frankel Theatre (24 Bond Street, between Bowery and Lafayette).

Commedia dell'Artichoke transports audiences to a New York pizza shop, following Pulcinella, a struggling independent pizza maker, and the cast of characters he deals with on a daily basis. True to traditional commedia dell'arte, this contemporary spin on the classic form features a riotous mix of scripted and spontaneous scenes, reflecting the current social and political pulse of the town in which the masked players are performing. Featuring an actual pop-up pizza stand on site in an inviting space adorned with brick and wood, this theatrical experience is raucous and unpredictable, offering an outrageous take on timeless themes including running a small business and chasing the American dream.

Commedia dell'Artichoke is conceived by Frances Black, Carter Gill and Tommy Russell, and created and performed by Carter Gill, Alexandra Henrikson, Tommy Russell and Shannon Marie Sullivan, with the cast of four playing over ten different characters and performing musical numbers. Commedia Consultant is Christopher Bayes. Playwriting Consultant is Matt Moses. Devin Brain directs.

This production features Original Music, performed live, by Robert Cowie and the company; Choreography by Frank Ventura; Set Design by Katherine Akiko Day; Costume Design by Lisa Loen; Masks by Emilia Buescher, Den, Jordan Allen-Dutton and Mister Face; Lighting Design by Marie Yokoyama.

About commedia dell'arte, Christopher Bayes, Commedia Consultant for this production and Head of Physical Acting at the Yale School of Drama, offers, "Although commedia dell'arte is an important part of theatre history, it is inherently only concerned with today and tomorrow, not yesterday. The search for the heart of the commedia dell'arte is not an archeological dig but rather a re-discovery of what makes it hilarious and vital in the moment. True commedia is alive, covered in sweat and leather, played with spontaneity and audacity in front of a brand new, breathing audience, inspiring them to gasp, weep and laugh wildly at our own idiocy." Director Devin Brain adds, "The masks are archetypal and they give us access to universal ideas: the hopelessly passionate lovers, the shop owner struggling to make it work, the fools reaching for something that is always out of reach. This piece is a wild chaotic romp that connects the alleys of Renaissance Italy and the narrow streets of NYC today, because while everything changes, everything remains the same, and the only proper response is to laugh."

Commedia dell'Artichoke first delighted audiences, an essential ingredient, in 11 performances at Artichoke Basille's Pizza & Bar in Chelsea, spanning December 2014 - April 2015. These performances, vital in the evolution of the show, entertained the crowd and at the same time, offered a fertile environment in which the ensemble continued to develop the characters and their stories.

Commedia dell'Artichoke plays January 15 - February 6 as follows: Wednesday at 7:00pm, Thursday - Saturday at 8:00pm. Additional performances Tuesday, January 19 at 7:00pm and Sunday, January 24 at 7:00pm. Running time: 75 minutes. The Gene Frankel Theatre is located at 24 Bond Street, between Bowery and Lafayette. $30 General Admission tickets include a slice of Artichoke Pizza. For tickets, please visit



Frances Black Projects exists to create fun and unconventional theatrical experiences in New York City. They primarily encourage, nurture and produce theatrical artists who are playing in the world of comedy, clown and commedia dell'arte and who are committed to bringing audiences and communities together through laughter and fun at the theatre. They also produce theatrical events that bring people together to celebrate shared interests, such as the company's Annual Canada Day Party. They believe love, laughter and offline human connection can heal the world, one heart and one experience at a time. New York theatre credits include: Manifest Destiny created by Aitor Basauri, Zack Fine & Lucas Caleb Rooney (2015, IRT Theater); The Most Beautiful Thing in the World created by Gabriel Levey (2015, Cloud City); Standards Under the Stars created by Megan Loughran (2014, Aboard the Mariner III); Becoming Liv Ullmann created by Crystal Finn (2013, Artichoke Basille's Pizza); Walled In, created by Zack Fine (2011, IRT Theatre); Co-producer on A Life in the Theatre by David Mamet (2010, Broadway); Even Maybe Tammy, by Christopher Bayes & Company (2009, The Flea). Frances Black is the founder and lead producer. She served as the Director of Programs at A.R.T./New York from 2009-2014, was the Associate Managing Director at Yale Repertory Theatre & Yale Cabaret and is currently on the board of Ice Theatre of New York and the Resource Board of CAP21. She also currently represents Spymonkey Theatre Company (UK) in the USA. A Toronto native, Frances has an Hons. BA in Theatre Studies from University of King's College and an MFA in Theatre Management from Yale School of Drama.


CAP21 (Collaborative Arts Project 21), a not-for-profit organization, dedicates itself to the creation of new work, the development of new talent and the building of new audiences. These three critical and distinct artistic components will drive the entertainment industry in the 21st century. CAP21's goal is to create programs to achieve substantial and lasting contributions to the future of the arts. Every CAP21 endeavor embraces the following values: collaboration; an exchange between the emerging and accomplished artist; a nurturing support system; an infusion of the traditional with the innovative, and a commitment to serving and cultivating a diverse audience. CAP21 Theatre Company productions have won the Jonathan Larson Grant Award for new musicals for five straight years, have twice received The Kleban Prize for Excellence in Musical Theatre Writing, and have been selected to participate in the New York Musical Theatre Festival, the National Alliance for Musical Theatre (NAMT) Festival and the New York Fringe Festival. The new musical Southern Comfort by Julianne Wick Davis and Dan Collins, which was developed and produced by the CAP21 Theatre Company (winning the 2012 GLAAD Award), was recently announced for a run at The Public Theater beginning in February 2016. Numerous new musicals developed and produced by the CAP21 Theatre Company have gone on to productions on Broadway (It Shoulda Been You), Off-Broadway (The Mapmaker's Opera, Academia Nuts, Gigantic), National Tours (Murder for Two), and Regional Productions (Triangle, The Trouble with Doug) at theaters across the country including: The Public Theater, Theater for the New City, Goodspeed Musicals, Trenton's Passage Theatre, LA's Tiffany Theatre, Arts Garage Florida, Barrington Stage Company, Lyric Theatre of Oklahoma, The Village Theatre among others.


Christopher Bayes is the Head of Physical Acting at the Yale School of Drama. Previously he has served as Director of Movement and Physical Theater at the Brown University/Trinity Repertory Theater Consortium and has been a faculty member of the The Juilliard School, NYU's Graduate Acting Program and The Tisch School of the Arts, The Actors Center and The Shakespeare Theater's Academy for Classical Acting in Washington D.C. and a Founding member of The Funny School of Good Acting. He is a MasterTeacher of Physical Comedy/Clown. He is also the Movement Director and part of the creative team for The 39 Steps (Broadway, Off-Broadway and National Tour) and the director of A Servant of Two Masters, A Doctor In Spite of Himself and Accidental Death of an Anarchist, which have played extensively around the country. His work has been seen at Yale Rep, Berkeley Rep, The Guthrie Theater, Seattle Rep, Intiman Theater, Arts-Emerson, Idaho Shakespeare Festival, The Public Theater, Court Theater and Theatre for a New Audience among others.


Matt Moses is a playwright who recently won the 2015 Helen Merrill Award. He performs every Friday night at the UCB Theater in NYC with The Law Firm. He has an MFA from the Yale School of Drama.


Devin Brain is a NYC-based freelance director whose work is split between Shakespeare and ensemble-generated new work. With an MFA in Directing from the Yale School of Drama he is currently the resident director at The Acting Company, where he is currently developing the 2016/2017 seasons of Julius Caesar and a new work by Marcus Gardley. Prior to NYC he was based in Chicago, where he was a proud company member and producer with the Hypocrites, for whom he directed The Fourth Graders Present an Unnamed Love Suicide by Sean Graney and toured it to 59e59. Recent work includes: national tour of Macbeth for the Acting Company, assisting on Karin Coonrod's Tempest at La MaMa and her Love's Labor Labor's Lost at the Public, producing Bones in the Basket with the Araca Project, the droll {Or, a Stage-Play about the END of theatre} by Meg Miroshnik at Hudson Valley Shakespeare, and Rose Mark'd Queen (an adaptation of Henry V, Henry VI parts 1-3, and Richard III) for the Yale Summer Cabaret.


Carter Gill's acting credits include, Off-Broadway: The Price (Theatre Uncut); Off-Off: Spacebar (Studio42), Even Maybe Tammy (Frances Black Projects); Regional: Comedy of Errors (Allentown Shakespeare Festival), Moonchildren (Berkshire Theatre Festival), The Merchant of Venice (Colorado Shakespeare Festival), Eurydice and Tartuffe (Yale Rep); Workshops and Labs: Comedy Directors' Lab (LCT), Sprawl (Soho Rep), The Architecture of Becoming (The Women's Project), The Cottage (Lake George Theatre Lab), Crime (Real Art Ways); Film & TV: "Couch" (Matt Moses), "Law & Order" (NBC), "Person of Interest" (CBS). Directing credits: A Doctor in Spite of Himself and Ubu Roi, original adaptation (Rider University), Ruzante (Asst. Dir. to Christopher Bayes/ Theatre for a New Audience); Mr. Gill serves as a physical comedy and acting professor at Pace University, Rider University, and New York University. He has a BFA in Directing from Southern Methodist University, and an MFA in Acting from Yale School of Drama.


Alexandra Henrikson's Broadway credits include Fish in the Dark with Larry David, The Snow Geese (MTC u/s). New York City: We Play for the Gods (Women's Project), Bones in the Basket (Araca Group), Hell House (St. Ann's Warehouse) and Much Ado About Nothing (Smith Street Stage). Regional: Ironbound (Roundhouse), Fairytale Lives of Russian Girls (Alliance - Suzi Bass Award), Tall Girls (The O'Neill), Candida and Taming of the Shrew (California Shakespeare Theater). Film/Internet: Love Like Gold, Towheads and Tall Drink Comedy on Funny or Die. Training: NYU BFA and YALE MFA.


Tommy Russell was last seen in Seventy Scenes of Halloween (Vaudeville Park). Other New York theater credits include: The Fever by Wallace Shawn (The Shed; Pratt Institute; Brooklyn College); Midsummer: A Study (New Theatre House); Obama Drama (45th St. Theater; Access Theater); On the Night of Anthony's 30th Birthday Party Again (Manhattan Theatre Source); Ugo's Last Dance (Medicine Show); Prayer of the Expelled (SohoThink Tank); Nuts and Bolts (Woodstock Fringe) as well as readings for Ma-Yi, Red Fern, Juilliard, Fordham and the Lark. As a director, Tommy's work has been seen in The Gallery and The Hole (NY Theatre Barn) and In the Cypher (Drilling Company); he directed The Last Five Years at Yale Cabaret; co-wrote/directed/starred in an original clown show entitled Out of the Box and wrote/directed/starred in an 8-person mime show also at Yale Cabaret; Alls Well That Ends Well (Yale Rep) and title role in Run, Mourner, Run, a short-story adapted/directed by Tarell Alvin McCraney. He received his MFA in Acting from Yale School of Drama.


Shannon Marie Sullivan is thrilled to be returning to Commedia dell'Artichoke. Her credits include: Theater: Dracula (Actors Theatre of Louisville), Guess Who's Coming To Dinner (Repertory Theatre of St. Louis), 4000 Miles (Philadelphia Theatre Company), Romeo and Juliet, Happy Now? (Yale Repertory Theatre), King Lear (Cherry Lane Theatre), Beau Willimon's Breathing Time (Fault Line Theatre), Nicholas Maeve Marianne (FringeNYC) and works at Theatre Row and WNYC. TV/Film: "The Good Wife," "Person of Interest," "Blue Bloods" (CBS), The Rewrite (with Hugh Grant), To Whom It May Concern, Finding Commodities. Web: Blue Belle, The Happiest People in New York, New In Town. She received her BFA from UC Santa Barbara and her MFA from Yale School of Drama.


Robert Cowie is a NYC-based composer, pianist and band leader. He has composed music for theater: The 52nd Street Project's By Degrees: Six Plays Of Separation, Brett C. Leonard's Harold's Harem and Nidia Medina's Every Love Story Ends in Tears, Circus: The Bindlestiff Family Circus, Short Films: Holle Singer's Bang and The Present, Michael Martinez's Courage, and TV: NYC Media's Emmy winning Best of The Bronx Series. He has a BA in music from Cornell University and has studied composition for Film and TV with Michael Bacon and Ben Newhouse. Robert performs regularly. From 2007-2009 he was Musical Director at the famed Lower East Side hot spot The Box and is a Musical Director for downtown chanteuse Lady Rizo. He leads his own jazz trio, and has a band with his wife called The Cowies. He has performed in big bands, rock bands and gospel choirs. He plays guitar, bass guitar, ukulele, banjo, accordion, B3 organ, tenor guitar, and mandolin, and he sings.


Frank Ventura is the Founder and Executive Artistic Director of Collaborative Arts Project 21 (CAP21), a non-profit Theatre Company and Conservatory dedicated to creating new work, developing new talent and building new audiences. New York: Broadway: Movement, Etiquette and Choreography: The Winslow Boy, The Importance of Being Earnest (Roundabout Theatre Company), The New York Idea (The Atlantic Theater Company), After Miss Julie (Roundabout Theatre Company); Top Girls (Manhattan Theatre Club); The Constant Wife (Roundabout Theatre Company); Tartuffe (The Public Theater-Shakespeare in the Park); For The Shakespeare Theatre, D.C: The Metromaniacs, The Heir Apparent, The Liar, The Way of The World; The Misanthrope (Classic Stage Company). Assistant Director: Annie Warbucks; Choreographer: Winchell (Broadway Workshop). New Musicals: Director/Choreographer: Six of One, The Library, One Tough Cookie and The Game. Off-Broadway: Choreographic Credits: Girl Crazy, Kiss Me Quick Before the Lava Reaches the Village and The No-Frills Revue. He has served as President of the Stage Directors and Choreographers Foundation, on the faculties of CAP21 Conservatory and NYU Graduate Acting Department, and holds a B.A. in Speech and Drama from Catholic University, as well as a B.F.A. and M.F.A. in Acting from the Goodman School of Drama.


Katherine Akiko Day has a B.A. in Art History and Film Studies from Dartmouth College and an M.F.A. in Scenic Design from Yale University where she received the Oenslager Fellowship. Her film credits include Assistant Art Director for Gotham (Season 2), Limitless (Pilot, CBS), The Mysteries of Laura (NBC), Public Morals (Pilot and Season 1, TNT), The Normal Heart (HBO), Annie (Sony Feature), Taxi Brooklyn (Season 1), The Ordained (Pilot, CBS) and Smash (Season 2, NBC), and Art Director for The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon. Regional Theater credits include the set for L'Incoronazione di Poppea (Yale Baroque Opera), La Calisto (Yale Baroque Opera), The Servant of Two Masters (Yale Repertory Theatre, DC Shakespeare Theatre, and tour), Ulisse in Ritorno (Yale Baroque Opera), Associate set for The Flea and the Professor (Arden Theater), and costumes for The Master Builder (Yale Repertory Theatre). New York theater credits include Assistant Video for Holding it Down (Harlem Stage), set for Walled-In (IRT), set and costumes for Barriers (HERE), set and costumes for Wanderlust and Racine D'Or (Movement Workshop Group), and numerous productions for the Redfern Theater Company.


Lisa Loen most recently was the Assistant Costume Designer on Oppenheimer Strategies, an upcoming film starring Richard Gere. She designed the world premiere of Compulsion, starring Mandy Patinkin (Yale Repertory Theatre). Other credits include Peter Pan, Xanadu, A Chorus Line, The Sunshine Boys, Gypsy, The Drowsy Chaperone, The Music Man, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum (Connecticut Repertory Theatre); The Cloud (Slant Theatre Project); Hairspray, Pterodactyls, Wit, Assassins, The Full Monty, Sideshow (Redhouse Arts Center); Cloud Nine (Columbia University); Oklahoma!, Phantom of the Opera (Wright State University); Tallest Building in the World (Luna Stage) and The French Play (Carlotta Festival of New Plays). She designed costumes for Raptured! (webseries), Fifths (short film, NYU Tisch) and Same Ghost Every Night (short film, Columbia University). MFA: Yale School of Drama.


Marie Yokoyama is a Japanese set and lighting designer based in NYC. She has designed lights at Redhouse for Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson, Spelling Bee, A Man of No Importance and Gross Indecency. Other new plays and opera credit include: Public: Apple Family Series European Tour, Pacific Beats: TALA, Pan Asian Rep: Film Chinois, Three Trees, Monk Parrots: Bum Phillips -All American Opera-. Regional: Yale Rep: Compulsion, Faust, Opera Theater Pittsburgh: Fantasticks, Merry Widow and Ariadne auf Naxos.

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