An All-Female Team Leads American Repertory Theater of WNY's production of HOW TO MAKE FRIENDS AND THEN KILL THEM
When the Buffalo-based American Repertory Theater of WNY opens the company's second show of the 2016-17 season, the entire production will see an all-female production team and cast tackle Halley Feiffer's compelling dark-comedy, "How To Make Friends and Then Kill Them."
"Since the company's first and ten seasons later, we've strove to bring diversity to both what's on stage and behind the production." ART/WNY's Matthew LaChiusa on the project's vision. "An all female production team and cast isn't a new concept, but the idea is something this company would like to implement in this and future seasons."
Halley Feiffer's piece centers on two sisters and the dysfunctional environment they endure from childhood to young adulthood. In this vacuum, the values of love and family are redefined and maladjusted. Making her first full-production directorial debut, Maura Nolan paints the story "How to Make Friends and Then Kill Them" as a "whirlwind of a show. It's the kind of show that can be absolutely hilarious, but in the blink of an eye can take a turn for the very dark.'
Nolan explains the two female lead-role characters 'Ada' and 'Sam', played by MeLissa Levin and Sue McCormack, "are brought up by an alcoholic mother and are forced to raise themselves and take care of one another. 'Dorrie', played by Mara Morris, is their oddball friend who would do anything to maintain her friendship with the sisters."
The storyline walks a delicate line between caricature and character. Feiffer's work reflects human nature under dysfunctional circumstances and Maura Nolan is up to the task. "That's the appeal of the show, for me, as a director. These are all very real women dealing with very real issues." Nolan said. "We get to follow these three women from age 10 to 29. Through ups and downs, adolescence to adulthood, breakdowns and successes. We get it all!"
"How To Make Friends and Then Kill Them" fits ART/WNY's vision to create an all-female production once a season. Nolan is at the directorial helm with regional theater personality Catherine Burkhart taking over the Production Manager role.
"Producing an all female production is full of estrogen and attitude," Burkhart reflected on her first ART/WNY role as a producer for this specific production. "But lots of love and camaraderie. It's like a sisterhood of like minds."
Along with Burkhart and a cast of three women, Nolan also finds herself in the company of other females on the production side. "Bringing on Kate Parker as our stage manager wasn't even a question. I worked with Kate on ART/WNY's "House of The Blue Leaves", and knew she was who I wanted with me at the helm of our lady ship. Catherine has brought forward so many wonderful ideas and frankly, is keeping me organized. We have also brought on Emily Skelton as our lighting designer. Elaine Heckler, an ART favorite, is designing our costumes which is perfect. Elaine is a wonderful woman, who does equally wonderful work!"
In contrast to the opportunity for both cast and crew to exercise their dramatic arts craft in this forum, both Nolan and Burkhart recognize the limited opportunities facing women in this field. "There are very few female directors in Buffalo, and even fewer female directors under 30." Said Nolan. "I could not be more excited for this opportunity, this production and to work with this fantastic, talented, strong group of women."
Burkhart channeling Helen Reddy jokingly viewed the opportunity through stronger feminine attributes. "Without men around, things are more organized and definitely cleaner."
"How To Make Friends and Then Kill Them" opens on October 27th and runs to November 19th. This will mark ART/WNY's second show at the 330 Amherst Street performance space. All showtimes are 8 pm.
"We'll make you laugh, we'll make you cry," Nolan summarized, "we'll make you uncomfortable but most importantly we'll make you think."