STAIRWAY TO STARDOM Launches HERE's 25th Anniversary Season Tonight
HERE begins its 2017-2018 producing season with Stairway to Stardom, a world premiere Resident Artist production by Amanda Szeglowski / cakeface, commencing the 25th Anniversary of this award-winning, boundary-stretching institution.
Stairway to Stardom, developed through the HERE Artist Residency Program (HARP), will have 10 performances tonight, September 12, through September 23 at HERE (145 Sixth Avenue, just below Spring Street), launching this milestone season.
With crackling wit and startling honesty, Amanda Szeglowski and the women of cakeface serve up a silver-sequined dissection of the American Dream. Synthesizing razor-sharp choreography and a poker-faced delivery of original text, the cast shatters the facade of "making it." Featuring live-mixed sound and visuals from electronic duo Prism House and clips from the 80s cult-favorite New York public access TV show of the same name, Stairway to Stardom honors the contributions of the wildly passionate but questionably talented among us.
From poised to hyper-presentational, infused with and influenced by movement from the tight gestural vocabulary of the pageant industry to the unfettered tone of performances on vintage 'Stairway to Stardom' broadcast appearances, the choreography, by Amanda Szeglowski in collaboration with the company, is performed by Ali Castro (while a student, named to Variety's "100 Students to Watch"), Jade Daugherty, Ayesha Jordan (Broadway's Eclipsed), Nola Sporn Smith and Amanda Szeglowski. Stairway to Stardom features a script drawn from original composition, and sourced from over 100 hours of conversations with people of all ages and backgrounds, and observed from reality TV, movies, blogs and magazine articles, exploring everything from childhood dreams to parents' wishes, talent, career choices, regrets and what it means to "make it."
Amanda Szeglowski, Artistic Director of cakeface, is a writer, director, choreographer and performing artist. She is a HERE Resident Artist and a recipient of the Virginia B. Toulmin Foundation's Women Playwrights Commissioning program. Formerly a Company Dancer with the internationally acclaimed Ellis Wood Dance (NYC) over a span of four years, she performed with the company throughout New York and on tour in locations such as Portugal, Germany, San Diego and Washington DC, and set work/taught at UC Berkeley and New York University, among others, all while also serving as the company's Managing Director. Amanda launched her all-female company cakeface in 2008. As Culturebot describes, "cakeface is a group of fierce, funny, talented women," and later offered, "Think Monica Bill Barnes for the Amy Schumer Generation," in the Culturebot article "Eight Reasons cakeface's Harold, I Hate You Is Your New Favorite Downtown Dance/Theater Piece." cakeface projects thread together intricate choreography and original, abstract scripts, contemplating the uncomfortable through the use of grim themes and an inherently wry female wit. cakeface has been presented by En Garde Arts, Stony Brook University, Ars Nova, Dance New Amsterdam, AUNTS, Movement Research at Judson Memorial Church, Dixon Place, Triskelion Arts, RoofTop Dance with the Roger Smith Hotel, The Tank, Going Dutch (Chicago, IL), Smith & Tinker writers' group, Hillsborough Community College, Rebound Dance Festival (New Haven, CT) and the Florida Dance Festival (Tampa, FL). With cakeface, Amanda has guest lectured at the University of South Florida, and taught master classes at the University of Tampa, Hillsborough Community College and Howard W. Blake School for the Arts. She also received a residency at Marble House Project this spring in Dorset, VT to further develop Stairway to Stardom.
Matt O'Hare (Video) is a digital artist and performer based in and around New York City. Recent projects include creating tour visuals for the band 311, the sci-fi doom cult spectacle We The New Community, and his latest work The Cure For All Disease, which is basically a Satanic mass with interactive sound and video. Other clients include Skype, Firehorse and Chrome Sparks. He is currently a doctoral fellow of Electronic Arts at RPI, finishing his dissertation about acting within responsive environments. Matt is the recipient of a career development grant from TCG and the Andrew Mellon Foundation.
BrIan Wenner (Composition, Sound Design, Live Mixing) is a New York City-based composer, sound designer and audio engineer. His work as the musical half of Prism House relies heavily on the manipulation of found sound recordings, analog synthesizers and Internet sampled content. The result is a collage composition style that feels both controlled yet chaotic, as well as danceable and rhythmically diverse. His most recent work was a commissioned multichannel installation piece that debuted at Manhattan's Westwood Gallery in May of 2017 for the KAZ Shirane show "Evolve." He also recently completed a full-length album of ambient compositions entitled "Momentum" coming out in September 2017. His work has been covered by outlets such as The FADER, The Creator's Project, VICE and XLR8R. He performs regularly in NYC and has toured throughout the United States.
Stairway to Stardom includes Set Design by Aviva Novick, Lighting Design by Amanda K. Ringger, Live Music + Video by Prism House (BrIan Wenner + Matt O'Hare) and Costume Design by Oana Botez. Stage Manager is Alex B. West.
Stairway to Stardom will be followed in HERE's season by: Thomas Paine in Violence, the world premiere of an electronic psychedelic opera-sermon by Resident Artist Paul Pinto (November 6 - 18, 2017); TreePop, An Imaginative Pageant Amongst The Pines - An Ode To Friends That Leave & Objects That Speak, a Dream Music Puppetry Presentation by Lake Simons and John Dyer (November 30 - December 10, 2017); the sixth annual festival PROTOTYPE: Opera/Theatre/Now, co-produced by HERE and Beth Morrison Projects (January 7 - 20, 2018); HERE's annual CULTUREMART festival (March 5 - 18, 2018 ); a revival of a mega-hit from the Dream Music Puppetry Program, Basil Twist's Symphonie Fantastique, with live accompaniment by Christopher O'Riley, in a 12-week engagement (March 29 - July 15, 2018); Assembled Identity, a world premiere Artistic Director production by Purva Bedi, Kristin Marting and Mariana Newhard (April 24 - May 13, 2018) and American Weather, the world premiere of a HERE Resident Artist and Dream Music Puppetry Program production by Chris Green (June 15 - June 30, 2018).
The OBIE-winning HERE (Kristin Marting, Artistic Director and Kim Whitener, Producing Director), which celebrates its 25th Anniversary this season, was named a Top Ten Off-Off Broadway Theatre by Time Out New York, is a leader in the field of producing and presenting new, hybrid performance viewed as a seamless integration of artistic disciplines-theater, dance, music and opera, puppetry, media, visual and installation, spoken word and performance art. Standout productions include Eve Ensler's The Vagina Monologues, Basil Twist's Symphonie Fantastique and Arias with a Twist, Hazelle Goodman's On Edge, Trey Lyford & Geoff Sobelle's all wear bowlers, Young Jean Lee's Songs of the Dragons Flying to Heaven, Corey Dargel's Removable Parts, Taylor Mac's The Lily's Revenge, Kamala Sankaram's Miranda and Robin Frohardt's The Pigeoning, among many others. In 2008, following an extensive renovation, HERE re-opened the doors to its long-time downtown home for the arts, where it continues as a vibrant, welcoming haven for artists and audiences alike.
The HERE Artist Residency Program (HARP) has been HERE's signature development and producing program since 1998. HARP commissions, develops and premieres new hybrid performances. Productions developed at HERE challenge existing boundaries between disciplines -- theater, dance, music, opera, puppetry, media, visual arts, installation, spoken word and more. Through HARP, the Resident Artists are given the unique opportunity to develop their projects for up to three years through free works-in-progress showings, workshop presentations in HERE's annual CULTUREMART festival, culminating in full-scale productions.
Each season, HERE premieres several of these Resident Artist productions as mainstage works. These innovative projects are grown in a diverse artistic community where artists receive career development resources and hands-on training. HARP has been widely recognized as a unique model for artistic development for the field to emulate. In honoring HERE with the 2009 Ross Wetzsteon Award, the OBIE Committee noted, "it's become increasingly hard for artists to find a place to take risks, a safe haven where they can develop daring new work. One theater has regularly bucked the trend, making its mission to ensure that artists have a home for their research and development, and that theatregoers can sample the exciting results."
HERE proudly hosts adventurous artists, companies and productions, whether emerging or acclaimed, through its SubletSeries. It also presents work from New York, across the country, and around the globe through the Dream Music Puppetry Program (co-curated with Basil Twist), and the widely acclaimed PROTOTYPE: Opera/Theatre/Now festival of opera-theater and music-theater, co-produced with Beth Morrison Projects.
Stairway to Stardom plays September 12 - 23: Tuesday - Saturday at 8:30pm. Before each performance, beginning at 7:00pm, original episodes of 'Stairway to Stardom' will be screened in the HERE lobby, with refreshments available for purchase at the HERE café. Post-performance talkbacks are slated Wednesday, September 13 and Wednesday, September 20 (free to all ticketholders). General admission tickets $25.00. Premium Reserved Tickets: $45.00. Purchase tickets early, now through Labor Day, for $18 with code "CAKE". Tickets can be purchased at www.here.org or by calling (212) 352-3101 or at the HERE Box Office (5PM until curtain on show days). For more, visit www.here.org.
Pictured: Nola Sporn Smith and Jade Daugherty. Photo by Benjamin Heller.