BWW Interviews: A Chat with Bay Street's Artistic Director Scott Schwartz
The Hamptons theatre scene will be getting the Summer started early this year as Sag Harbor's Bay Street Theatre will be holding their Second Annual New Works Festival. Being held this weekend, April 24th through 26th, preparations are in full swing for some exciting new works to be displayed in a theme of "Rediscovery". Artistic Director Scott Schwartz took time to speak with me today about the festival.
Thank you for joining me today! How did the New Works festival come about? Who conceived the idea?
When I joined Bay Street as Artistic Director a little over two years ago, I was so inspired by the history at this exciting theater. From its very start, Bay Street has been a home for new works in the Hamptons. The first show I saw at Bay Street in 1994 was the world premiere of Blue Light by Cynthia Ozick, directed by Sidney Lumet and starring the incomparable Dianne Wiest and Mercedes Ruehl. As the new Artistic Director, I am committed to producing new works and wanted to find a way to build upon this great tradition at Bay Street by creating a forum in which new plays and musicals could further their development. So we founded our Bay Street New Works Festival, featuring readings and also panel discussions. The Festival is an opportunity for our audience to experience cutting edge, new theater by established and emerging writers in an intimate way and to be exposed to the process of creating new work. It gives authors the opportunity to see their projects in front of an audience, so they can continue to develop and hone their work based on the response they get. The first Festival took place last year to open our season, and this year we are presenting our second festival. It's going to be an annual event at Bay Street.
Who is on the creative team?
This year, the Festival is co-curated by me and Associate Artistic Director Will Pomerantz. Each work has its own director and cast. This year, Jeremy Webb is directing Anna Ziegler's A Delicate Ship; Carl Andress is directing Charles Busch and Rusty Magee's musical The Green Heart; and Michelle Tattenbaum is directing Julia Brownell's Plane Play.
Now in its second year, how will this year's festival differentiate from last year? Besides the works, of course!
This year, the theme of the Festival is "Rediscovery." Based on a need expressed by writers in a panel we offered last year, we decided to give works that have had an initial production the chance for further development. So two of the three projects in the Festival have had premiere productions, but are still being worked on and rewritten for the future. They are A Delicate Ship and The Green Heart. The third play, Plane Play, is having its very first public reading with us, so that one is more about "discovery" than "re"! Also new for us, this year we are presenting a musical - last year the Festival included only plays. We have a passion for new musicals at Bay Street and have a dedicated fund to support their development called the Joseph Stein Fund for New Musicals which is partly underwriting this reading.
What is the selection process for the works chosen for the festival?
Over the course of the year, we solicit scripts from literary agencies and from the artists we are associated with. The submissions we get are considered for production as well as development. Will Pomerantz and myself go through all the scripts as we receive them, and as we find plays and musicals that are of potential interest to Bay Street, we start to consider how and if we might work on them. All the new works we get are eligible for the Festival, and in the winter we look at which projects could go together to create an interesting slate for our audience over the course of the Festival weekend. Ultimately we settle on three shows, though there are always more great projects that we get than we can include in one year.
Speaking of new works, Bay Street's upcoming main stage season features the world premiere of Alena Smith's The New Sincerity. What else can we expect from Bay Street this summer?
I'm so excited about The New Sincerity. It's smart, funny, political and cynical. I can't wait for our audience to get to experience this edgy new comedy as the first full production of our season! We have three other great shows in our season, two of which are East Coast premieres. The first is Five Presidents by Rick Cleveland, a political drama set on the day of Richard Nixon's funeral in 1994. All five of the living presidents (both current and ex-) gather before the funeral, and they interact, argue, and reveal the toll it takes to lead our nation. Rick is well known as a writer of "House of Cards" and "The West Wing," so he knows a lot about Washington and the political world. His take on these five men is captivating. The second East Coast premiere is The Darrell Hammond Project, a very personal solo show written by and starring Darrell Hammond about his complicated life and history, and how he found his voice as comedian. Darrell pulls no punches in his play, and while it's very funny and includes many of his famous impersonations, it's also a deep and serious drama of his life. The final show of our season is the wonderful musical Grey Gardens. This is one of my favorite musicals of the last ten years, and tells a story set in the heart of the Hamptons and that is a part of the fabric of our community. I know it's going to be a very special experience for our audience to see this story told just miles from the actual location of the infamous house in which it's set. I look forward to sharing all the works on our stage, new and established, with our audience this summer!