Photo Flash: THE ASSIGNMENT Kicks Off with Meet and Greet and Design Presentation
Houses on the Moon Theater Company (Emily Joy Weiner, Co-Founder & Artistic Director; Kevin Connor, Managing Director) will present two world premiere productions in repertory developed through company workshops: The Assignment, a new original play by Camilo Almonacid, directed by Emily Joy Weiner, is a co-production with Rhymes Over Beats (Patrick Blake, Artistic Director; Cate Cammarata, Associate Artistic Director), and will be performed in repertory with gUN COUNTRY, curated by Jeffrey Solomon and Emily Joy Weiner,written, developed and performed by Houses On The Moon company members and directed by Jenna Worsham.
Performances are set to begin Wednesday, April 19, 2017 for a limited engagement through Sunday, May 7, 2017. Opening night for The Assignment is Saturday, April 22, 2017 at 7:30pm. The productions are being staged at the Jeffrey and Paula Gural Theatre at the A.R.T./New York Theatres (502 West 53rd Street).
The world premiere of The Assignment, an original play by Camilo Almonacid, developed by Houses on the Moon Theater Company, a co-production with Rhymes Over Beats,and directed by Emily Joy Weiner, will feature Erick Betancourt as Julian J. Torres,and Karen Kandel as Helen Paynein this two-character play about an English Professor who is shaken when a student's personal essay describing an act of violence, reopens long buried wounds.
The Assignment was inspired by a remarkable friendship between two individuals brought together by storytelling workshops facilitated by Houses on the Moon Theater Company: A woman who founded a youth violence prevention program after her teenage son was murdered by street violence, and a man who found education and rehabilitation while serving 17 years in prison for manslaughter. Though a fictionalization, the seeds of the play were born from a mother's desire to understand what caused another to take her son's life, and a man's need to express remorse and to try to reach lost young people before they take arms. The play explores the long-term emotional toll of violence from both sides of the gun barrel, and the struggle to forgive others and ourselves. The Assignment was developed in part at SPACE on Ryder Farm and as part of the Theater Resources Unlimited Play Reading Series.
"The Assignment grew out of creative storytelling workshops," shared Emily Joy Weiner, co-founder of Houses on the Moon and director of the play. "There was one encounter that terrified us. A mom whose son was murdered came face to face with a man who served most of his adult life in prison after taking a life. What would come of this encounter?" She went on to add, "We witnessed a lot of difficult emotions in that room but also grace. They were hungry to understand and empathize with each other's experience as they had both been marked in some way forever by gun violence. What did it feel like to take a life? Do you think you can ever forgive?"
"It was always the intention that a play would organically emerge, and it did, from the relationship of members in the group," said Houses on the Moon Board member Jane Dubin, speaking during a post-reading panel. "The play began by trying to understand the perspectives from different sides of a gun."
"Part of Rhymes Over Beats' mission is to create and produce seldom-told stories of the community, which is why we're partnering with Houses on the Moon--to help tell this story," says Patrick Blake, Artistic Director of Rhymes Over Beats.
The creative team for The Assignment includes Patrick Rizzotti (scenic design), Genevieve V. Beller (costume design), Christina Watanabe (lighting design), and Erik T. Lawson (sound design). The Production Stage Manager is Jamie Rose Bukowski. The Production Manager is Libby Jensen. Producing Consultant is R. Erin Craig, LaVie Productions.
The Assignment will play the following performance schedule: Tuesdays at 7:30 p.m., Thursdays at 7:30 p.m., Fridays at 7:30 p.m., Saturdays at 2:00 p.m. & 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 2:00 p.m. There is a special Wednesday performance on April 19 at 7:30 p.m.
Tickets for The Assignment are priced at $35 (plus $2 ticketing fee) with Premium Seats available at $55 (plus $2 ticketing fee) that includes a meet & greet with a member of the company after the performance. For Groups of 10+, contact email@example.com, or call (929) 335-3261. Student Rush: $20 cash-only, ID required, subject to availability. Can be purchased an hour and a half before curtain. Tickets may be purchased by calling (866) 811-4111 or visiting www.HousesOnTheMoon.org.
The Assignment community sponsors and partners working with Houses on the Moon include Life Camp, Save Our Streets, Harlem Mothers Save, Echoes of Incarceration, and Urban Justice Center.
Running in repertory with The Assignment is gUN COUNTRY, a sneak peek into Houses on the Moon's creative process of developing new work. Curated by Jeffrey Solomon and Emily Joy Weiner, gUN COUNTRYis a collection of true stories written, developed and presentedby Houses on the Moon Theater Company members and members of the community whose lives have been touched by guns. Jenna Worsham is the director of the evolving new work. The cast will feature company members Brenda Currin, Ian Eaton, Dashiell Eaves, Cristina Hernandez, Amir Khafagy, and more to be announced. This program has been described by audiences as powerful, soul stirring, deeply moving, surprising, hopeful, and even humorous. The Assignment was inspired by this process.
"Since the script emerged from a real-life community workshop, tidy conclusions aren't possible (or preferable)," said Jeffrey Solomon co-curator of gUN Country.
gUN COUNTRY will play 3-benefit performances only in repertory: Sunday, April 23 at 7:00 p.m., Wednesday, April 26 at 7:00 p.m. and Wednesday, May 3 at 7:00 p.m. Talkbacks with the company and a non-profit partner will follow each performance.
Tickets for gUN COUNTRY are priced at $50 (plus $2 ticketing fee) with General Rush: $20 cash-only, subject to availability, can be purchased an hour and a half before curtain. For Groups of 10+, contact firstname.lastname@example.org, or call (929) 335-3261. Tickets may be purchased by calling (866) 811-4111 or visiting www.HousesOnTheMoon.org
Houses on the Moon Theater Company works with many community partners in the development of new projects and initiatives that foster awareness, engagement and involvement. All proceeds from gUN COUNTRY will benefit Houses on the Moon Theater Company, David's Shoes, and Echoes of Incarceration.
Karen Kandel (Helen Payne, The Assignment) is a Co-Artistic Director of NYC based theater company, Mabou Mines. Performance Awards and Nominations: OBIE Award (Peter & Wendy, Talk, Mabou Mines' Lear), Dramalogue, Connecticut Critics Circle, Craig Noel Award, Edinburgh Festival's Herald Angel Award, Helen Hayes nomination, Drama League Outstanding Performance citation (Peter & Wendy), 2016 Lucille Lortel nomination (Futurity) Most recently, Washi Tales, written in collaboration with Elise Thoron (Asia Society 2016), co-creator/performer. Karen is a United States Artists Fellow and one of six artists in the US to receive the Audrey Skirball-Kenis T.I.M.E. Grant. She has been supported by: The Asian Cultural Council, TCG/Fox Fellowship, TCG Future Collaborations, Alaska AIR/Rasmuson Foundation, Jim Henson Foundation, Peter S. Reed Foundation, Spencer Cherashore Fund. Karen is a NYTW Usual Suspect.
Erick Betancourt (Julian J Torres, The Assignment) graduated with his MFA from The Actors Studio Drama School (ASDS). He is a Lifetime Member of The Actors Studio. Recently he was seen in the Henry IV production at St. Ann's Warehouse with The Donmar Theater directed by Phyllida Llyod. His most recent film credit: 11:55currently screening at The LA Film Festival, Culver City and other surrounding cities. He can also be seen on Amazon Prime new series "Sneaky Pete" starring Bryan Cranston. Erick is a teaching artist at Trinity Repertory Company summer youth program in Rhode Island.
Camilo Almonacid (Playwright) earned a BFA in acting from Rutgers University (2008) and his MFA in Playwriting from Hunter College (2014). He won the Irv Zarkower Award for his play Checkin' In and The Rita Goldberg Playwriting Award for his thesis play West Pine Myopes. In the summer of 2014, Camilo's short play After The Crowds (part of the World's Fair Play Festival at Queen's Theater) was a New York Times Critic's Pick. Almonacid is currently an adjunct lecturer in Public Speaking at Hostos Community College, lives in New York City with his wife, and continues to work as an actor and playwright in theater, film, and television.
Emily Joy Weiner (Director, The Assignment) is the Artistic Director and Co-Founder of Houses on the Moon Theater Company, founded in 2001 with the critical mission of telling untold stories in the interest of social justice. Emily has been an accomplished actor, director, creative developer and teaching artist for the past 20 years. She served as the Director of Performances for Enact, Inc for 10 years where she created and directed several original productions that toured NYC public schools and beyond. She continues to work as a teaching artist specializing in working with teenagers who are going through the criminal justice system. With Houses on the Moon, she has been creating, developing, producing and directing new works that address the complex and sensitive issues of our time in partnership with community organizations and a talented company of artists.
Jenna Worsham (Director, gUN COUNTRY). Broadway: The Heidi Chronicles (Associate Director); Picnic (SDC Fellowship). Recent Directing: The Siblings Play by Ren Dara Santiago (Cherry Lane Mentor Project); Street Children by Pia Scala-Zankel (New Ohio Theatre, NY Times Critics' Pick); Have You Been There by Emily Zemba and The First Immigrant by Martyna Majok (Williamstown Theatre Festival); Invincible Ones by Samantha Cooper (Signature Center/Columbia University); Balm in Gilead (Lee Strasbourg Institute); Here to Be Seen (Social Justice piece featuring formerly incarcerated women, commissioned by the Brooklyn DA); Kids by Daniel Talbott (IRT); The Vagina Monologues for Taconic Correctional Facility; Agnes by Catya McMullen (Rattlestick), Bus Stop (The Producer's Club). Readings and workshops: The Public, Yale Rep, EST, The Lark, LAByrinth Theater Company, Playmakers Rep, Primary Stages, MCC, among others. Jonathan Alper Directing Fellowship (MTC). Member of the Lincoln Center Theater Directors Lab and an Affiliated Artist of New Georges. Co-founder of Creative Solutions, a social justice retreat program at SPACE on Ryder Farm.
Houses on the Moon Theater Company (Emily Joy Weiner, Co-Founder & Artistic Director; Kevin Connor, Managing Director) was founded in 2001 with the mission to dispel ignorance and isolation through the theatrical amplification of unheard voices. Partnership with community groups and extensive interviews with real people about their lives are at the core of the company's developmental process. Through creative workshops, original performances, and post-show discussions, Houses on the Moon helps communities come together by making meaningful connections through the public sharing of their untold stories.
The company's inaugural production in 2001, Building Houses On The Moon, dealt with gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered youth issues, and, in addition to its many ongoing student and Teacher Training performances, was seen at the Lucille Lortel Theatre in New York and the Columbus National Gay and Lesbian Theatre Festival where it won the Award for Best Ensemble Production. The play tours New York City Public High Schools each year in conjunction with "Respect for All Week," the NYC Department of Education's Anti-Bullying and Harassment Initiative.
Additional original company works include Tara's Crossing, one of the first plays ever to deal with political asylum for refugees fleeing persecution based on their sexual orientation or gender identity. The play had its World Premiere in 2005 at the L.E.S. Tenement Theatre and is still presented widely in theaters and as a training tool on gender identity and legal issues. De Novo is a documentary theater piece telling the story of an undocumented immigrant teenager fleeing gang life. The play had its Off-Broadway premiere in 2010 at 59E59. Theaters "Americas Off-Broadway Festival. In 2011, the company mounted an all-Spanish version of the play in El Salvador with a special focus on reaching impoverished young people most at risk for migration. Since then, De Novo continues to be presented at theaters, universities, hospitals, and community centers nationally. TRANSformation is a storytelling performance piece about gender identity and family, with the aim of educating the public and empowering these families in their struggle for inclusion. It was most recently presented in partnership with the NYC Council Speaker's Office.
Rhymes Over Beats is a collective of hip hop and theater artists whose mission is the creation of work, influenced by the hip hop aesthetic, that tells seldom told stories of the community. The collective was launched in March 2014 by founding members Chi Ill (MC) and Patrick Blake (Playwright & Off-Broadway Producer of The Exonerated) while they were writing a hip hop musical, Freedom, which tells the story of an innocent man, arrested, tried, convicted but later exonerated. Patrick had always been interested in theatre that made a difference, and had produced In The Continuum, about women of color and AIDS, and The Soap Myth, a play about Holocaust deniers, in addition to The Exonerated. The reaction to industry readings of Freedom were positive, and he was overwhelmed with actors, directors and hip hop artist friends who wanted to be a part of it. After many discussions he realized that there was enough talent in the hip hop community to create a dozen or more musicals and plays about life as it is and was lived in the urban community. Patrick decided to create a theatrical collective to create theatre using the hip hop urban aesthetic. Because our focus is on hip hop, we chose a name that not only describes the current hip hop sound but also described how Greek drama was structured three thousand years ago at the birth of western civilization - Rhymes Over Beats.
The collective's Founding Artistic Director Patrick Blake is a writer and producer. In 2002 he produced The Exonerated, a play that successfully contributed to the overturning of the death penalty in Illinois after then Governor Ryan invited the production to perform in the Illinois General Assembly. He has also produced In The Continuum, Play Dead, 39 Steps (revival), The Soap Myth, St. Joan/Hamlet (Bedlam) and My Life Is A Musical, among others. He has written numerous short plays for the Players Short Play Festival, and divides his time between NYC and San Francisco.
The A.R.T./New York Theatres are a project of the Alliance of Resident Theatres/New York (A.R.T./New York), which provide state-of-the-art, accessible venues at subsidized rental rates, plus free access to top-line technical equipment, so that the city's small and emerging theatre companies can continue to experiment, grow, and produce new works. Founded in 1972, A.R.T./New York is the leading service and advocacy organization for New York City's 375+ nonprofit theatres, with a mission to assist member theatres in managing their companies effectively so that they may realize their rich artistic visions and serve their diverse audiences well. We accomplish this through a comprehensive roster of real estate, financial, educational, and community-building programs, as well as research, advocacy, and field-wide initiatives that seek to improve the long-term health and sustainability of the industry. Over the years, A.R.T./New York has received numerous honors, including an Obie Award, an Innovative Theatre Award, a New York City Mayor's Award for Arts & Culture, and a Tony Honor for Excellence in the Theatre. For more information, please visit www.art-newyork.org.
Photo Credit: Walter McBride