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THEATER BOYS to Offer Talkbacks

The 13th Street Repertory Theater will offer talkbacks--in which audience members can ask any questions they like of the actors, playwright, and choreographers-after select performances of ASCAP award-winner Chip Deffaa's new musical comedy, "Theater Boys." The show-about actors auditioning for a gay musical--opens Sunday, September 21st. Talkbacks will held after the following performances: Sunday, September 21st at 3 p.m; Thursday, September 25th at 7 pm; Sunday, September 28th at 3 p.m.; Thursday, October 2nd at 7 pm; Sunday, October 5th at 3 p.m.; Thursday, Oct 9th at 7 pm; Sunday, October 12th at 3 p.m; Thursday October 16th at 7 p.m.; Thursday, October 23rd at 7 pm; Sunday, October 26th at 3 pm.

Edith O'Hara, the 97-year-old founder/artistic director of the 13th Street Theater (50 W. 13th Street, NYC, www.13thstreeetreo.org), notes that this will be the third show of Deffaa's presented at the theater this year (following "One Night with Fanny Brice," which is still playing, and "Irving Berlin's America," which ran at the theater this past summer)-and she has programmed audience talkbacks after select performances of all of Deffaa's shows. They've been an extremely popular feature, O'Hara says, and audience members can learn a lot.

"And not just audience members learn from talkbacks," notes Deffaa. "Audience members can offer any comments and questions they like, and those of us who create or perform the shows can also learn from the process. It's sometimes surprising to learn what audience members are taking away from a play-which isn't always what the playwright, director, or actors might have anticipated." Actors who've appeared in past productions of Deffaa's concur.

Veteran film, TV, and stage actor Michael Townsend Wright, who recently co-starred with Giuseppe Bausilio in Deffaa's "Irving Berlin's America," commented: "Each audience had a unique perspective and reaction to our show, which was very interesting and fascinating to us."

Ellery Backitis, who was featured in Deffaa's "George M. Cohan: In his Own Words," recalled a performance in which the audience was filled with celebrities-Sarah Jessica Parker, Matthew Broderick, Mercedes Ellington, Bill Boggs, Soupy Sales-and he wondered if audience-members would be focusing their attention more on the celebrities in the house than on the cast. But the audience also included a large contingent of teenagers-a large school group from the Oakwood Friends School in Poughkeepsie-and they directed all of their questions to him, since he was their age, and they wanted to know it was like to be a teenage actor in New York. And some asked if he could give them his phone number or Email address.

Deffaa added that sometimes celebrities in the audience have shared comments or stories of their own-as happened during the run of "Irving Berlin's America," for example, when celebrities such as Lee Roy Reams and Steve Ross turned out to see the show-which added to the fun.

The cast of "Theater Boys" includes Michael Czyz, Joseph Spitale, Philip Louis Calabro, Danny Coelho, Sam Donnenberg, Hawkins Gardow, Joris de Graaf, Andrew Lanctot Taylor Martin, Will Meredith, Ben Orlando, Ken Adams. Deffaa has written book, music, and lyrics (with a couple of standards thrown in for good measure), and is directing. Richard Danley serves as music director; Alex Acevedo and Tyler DuBoys are co-choreographers; Peter Charney is assistant director.

O'Hara notes that "Theater Boys" is a gay musical-the biggest and most ambitious offering at the theater in years-playing at the historic theater where the first big hit gay musical comedy was born. In 1974, O'Hars presented Bill Solly's ground-breaking gay musical "Boy Meets Boy" at the 13th Street Repertory Theater. The following year, O'Hara transferred the show to the larger Actor's Playhouse on Seventh Avenue, where it racked up a 463-performance-run (unprecedented for a gay musical); productions in LA, London, and other cities followed.

According to O'Hara, not all cast members will necessarily take part in every audience talkback. But playwright/director Deffaa, the show's co-stars, and a rotating mix of featured players, will be there to answer any and all questions, whether people have questions about theater in general, gay theater in particular, or the challenges for actors of appearing in this show. A cast album will also be released during the course of the run. If people have questions about the album, they can ask those as well, too.

"You never know what audience members will ask during talkbacks," commented Jimmy James, who's assisting Deffaa on this show, as he has on others. "I've even seen people ask if they could buy costumes worn by cast members. Sometimes we let them do that at the end of the run, giving the money to Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS. I can just imagine someone asking if they could buy some of the hot underwear seen in this show; we can tell 'em to go to the same place we're getting it from-Tagg."

Deffaa says: "The cast of 'Theater Boys' will change from performance to performance. Some roles will be double-cast. We have alternates and swings, and I tell all actors to be ready to cover any given role if need be. I tell em: 'We might cast you to play Andrew Keenan-Bolger, but you'd better be ready to play Celia-Keenan Bolger, or James Franco, or Generalisimo Franco, or Dominic Franco-at any given show.' That's just a hypothetical example, of course; Generalismo Franco is not actually a character in this show.

"But the fellow playing several small roles one night may well be playing a lead role the next night. And that's by design. It's fun seeing different people interpret the same role. Ken Adam's interpretation of the starring role,. for example, might not be quite the same as Michael Cyzy's. But I like seeing the different choices different actors might make." For more information, please visit: www.13thStreetRep.org.


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