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Madhouse Theater Company Wins Hotel Obligado Award at Spark Showcase

On Friday, June 25, five small theatres presented original premiere pieces at the 2010 Spark Showcase, for the chance to win the 2nd annual Hotel Obligado Audience Choice Award for New Work. At the end of the 90 minute show, the audience votes were collected and Madhouse Theater Company's Dysfictional Circumstances, by David Robson and John Stanton, was awarded the honor and a $1,000 prize at the post-show reception.

Dysfictional Circumstances brings back Madhouse's previous amusing yet controversial take on Leni Riefenstahl with an expanded, reworked, and now co-authored production. Chosen by Hitler himself, the infamous Leni Riefenstahl made some of the greatest propaganda of all time. But now, with the war nearly over, Riefenstahl and a mysterious soldier take a darkly hilarious romp through the Austrian countryside on the twisted road to Dachau, where Riefenstahl must defend her Nazi past to herself and to the world. The scene from Dysfictional Circumstances that was presented at the Showcase was directed by Seth Reichgott and performed by Colleen Corcoran as Leni and Robert Daponte as the solider, Budd. "I think that the Showcase was a great success for everyone involved," says Reichgott. "I believe that it truly served the mission of the event, which is to show off the small theatre companies and give them the opportunity to present to an audience and flex the muscles of a new work in development."

The Theatre Alliance of Greater Philadelphia refocused the Spark Showcase last year specifically on new works. With 26% of all productions in the Philadelphia region being world premieres, many of the small and emerging theatre companies are already incubators for new, unique voices in American theatre. Building upon this tradition and with the funding and guidance from former Spark member and experimental theatre Hotel Obligado, the Theatre Alliance established the Hotel Obligado Audience Choice Award for New Work. At the Showcase, Spark companies, defined as producing theatres with budget sizes under $200,000 annually, produce snippets of new plays for a chance to win the award, which includes a $1,000 cash prize to the entry which receives the most votes from the audience at the one-night-only event.

Once again, the companies that applied for this year's festival submitted either a complete new piece or just a part of a full length play that they would like to produce, with the hopes of furthering the work on the piece in the coming season. The play submissions were then reviewed by returning Showcase Curator and Co-Artistic Director of Theatre Exile, Deborah Block, who made the final selection of the five pieces that were presented. "I'm pleased with how well the event showcased all the companies that participated and that the diverse pieces represented the broad range of styles that are available in the local theatre community," stated Block. "In addition, these small companies proved that they should not be dismissed based only on their size. It is the very fact that they are small that allows them to do this daring and exciting work. What was demonstrated here tonight is only the tip of the iceberg for the hotbed of new plays that we have here in Philadelphia."

A stipulation of the Hotel Obligado cash prize is that the winning company uses the funds specifically to further develop their showcase piece, whether by hosting a workshop or reading, presenting a full performance, or putting the funds towards marketing of the production. Dysfictional Circumstances will have a full reading during the 2010 Philly Fringe Festival, with an eye towards a full production in 2011. Seth Reichgott has been asked by Madhouse to stay on as director. "It was truly gratifying to be a part of this process," he says. "Before the Showcase, I had not read or been involved in any of the previous incarnations of this script. I look forward to continuing to be a part of the development of this play."

Founded in 2004, Spark is a key program of the Theatre Alliance of Greater Philadelphia. With a mission to assist smaller Philadelphia professional theatre companies in all areas of operation, Spark acts as a catalyst for theatre in the trenches, and is representative of the strength of the Philadelphia performing arts community. Since its creation, membership in Spark has remainEd Strong, and despite the current economic climate, the program boasts 80 member companies; a fantastic indicator of the breadth and quality of the work happening in Philadelphia. In addition to the annual Showcase, the Theatre Alliance presents monthly meetings, February through May, on topics of importance to smaller theatre companies, including a "theatre starter kit", board networking, and payroll, and hosts occasional social gatherings to encourage networking among the small theatre community. The Spark section of the Theatre Alliance website also includes an archive of helpful materials from these meetings.

The Theatre Alliance of Greater Philadelphia is a member-based leadership and service organization composed of non-profit professional theatres, individual theatre artists, and affiliated organizations within the Greater Philadelphia region. The Theatre Alliance strengthens and leads the region's richly diverse theatre community by promoting positive awareness and serving as a resource for information, professional development and advocacy.

Major funding for the Theatre Alliance is provided by the William Penn Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, The Pew Charitable Trusts, The Philadelphia Foundation, The Shubert Foundation and the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts. Program sponsors include 6ABC, Philadelphia Inquirer, Philadelphia Daily News and, PECO, Rep Radio, Tria, and ZipCar.

Hotel Obligado Physical Theatre Company (member theatre 2005-2008) existed to develop and present innovative physical theatre that touches the soul. Each piece was developed collaboratively by exploring the artistic possibilities and responding to the social challenges of our time. The organization decided to dissolve in December of 2008, and granted the Theatre Alliance its remaining surplus funds as seed money to establish the Hotel Obligado Audience Choice Award for New Work, given annually at the Spark Showcase.

2010 Spark Showcase Featured Companies:
Luna Theater Company in co-production with Philadelphia Dramatists Center - Pussycat by Katharine Clark Gray
Madhouse Theater Company - Dysfictional Circumstances by David Robson & John Stanton
Plays and Players - Simulations by David Strattan White
Represented Theatre Company - M.A.C.H.O. by Armando Batista
Secret Room Theatre - Sally Sock by Alex Dremann

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