Sunday, June 27, 2010

The Altoona Dada Society is coming to Cherry Lane

When you produce at FringeNYC you get your venue assignment in mid June. One thing that they ask though is that you not release the information for another week so that the festival has a chance to hear from people about any possible mistakes about the listing.

Last week we got our venue assignment for The Altoona Dada Society Presents "The Velvet Gentleman". This year we are going to at 38 Commerce Street, performing in the Cherry Lane Studio.

This is what the Cherry Lane Theatre's website has to say about history of the 60 seat black box space:

Prior to its present incarnation, the 1,000-square-foot space housed a restaurant in the 1950s that was built and managed by the Carroad family, who once owned and operated the entire block. The yard behind their building at 44 Commerce Street served as an outdoor eating area for the restaurant during spring and summer, and the Cherry Lane boiler once served all the properties on our stretch of Commerce Street. The restaurant, which had a floor dotted with gold-plated fleurs-de-lis, also served as a late-night gay club in the 60s and 70s.

Arnold Warwick, a tenant at 40 Commerce Street since 1950, claims that the Carroad family evicted an old sea captain in order to create a public ante room where our current lobby is located. Kim Hunter’s children, who grew up in the building, tell the story of an excavation next door at 36 Commerce Street in the late 50s that not only revealed an underground river, but also thousands of turtles.

At last year's FringeNYC, we performed at the Connelly Theatre. We couldn't have been more excited about the assignment, the Connelly was the perfect venue for Professor Ralph's Loss of Breath. Even the review for the show on commented on the space saying:
While many FringeNYC shows may end up in spaces that add little to the play onstage, Loss of Breath is different. In the old Connelly Theatre, with its faux ornate fixtures, small balcony, and rounded proscenium, it is easy to feel transported back to an age when Loss of Breath-style comedies played out on stages across America.
One of the drawbacks that we experienced at the Connelly was that it was very hard for us to fill the 99 seat house. (I can't image how shows assigned to the Lucille Lortel manage to get asses in the seats, but they do it all the time.) The truth is that we never did fill the house and the audience size didn't begin to pick up until the last two shows.

The Cherry Lane Studio on the other hand has a 60 seat house. I am optimistic that with a larger cast size and fewer seats that the actors will see fewer empty seats during the run. Only time will tell.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Making an Icon: The Velvet Gentleman

One of our favorite things at Playlab NYC are the wonderful graphics that Robert Ullman has been providing for us for every production.

During the last year, in which we have been working THE VELVET GENTLEMAN, we have been using Suzanne Valadon's 1893 portrait of Erik Satie. Valadon and her portrait figure predominantly in Jon Steinhagen's script so it was a natural choice.

Once the show was accepted into the Fringe this year, we got in touch with Rob and sent him a couple of different pictures of Erik Satie so that we could get started.

Our hope was to generate a graphic that represented some kind of Rob Ullman style riff on Suzanne Valadon's painting. Because Valadon's portrait of Erik Satie appears in the show as a character, our first idea was to have a graphic that suggested René Magritte's 1947 oil painting The Liberator.

Below is the first sketch Rob sent us of Satie as The Liberator.

It looked exactly the way we had imagined. Seeing it on the page, our fear was that it would be too much like our portrayal of Valadon's portrait on stage and perhaps it was too literal a take of an image for the show.

Sticking with Magritte, we pointed Rob towards The Dangerous Liaison from 1926.

The idea was that instead of the woman, it would be something like a Magritte's recurring image of the faceless man in a bowler hat , hiding his face behind the Satie portrait.

The feedback that we got when Jennifer and I passed the image to a couple of friends was that it looked like the silhouette was too similar to the portrait, and perhaps the clothing needed to be more contemporary. With Satie formally dressed in the picture, but with the man holding the picture to be in a t-shirt and jeans or possibly shorts. A more casual look.

Once we saw the sketch above we were sold. The image seemed to convey the idea of the fringe festival itself, with theater being presented on hot August New York days.

Our final request was that Rob would add a circle to the background of the figure. The other images that Rob had created for us were framed in a circle. While we didn't want the man with the portrait framed inside we were eager to keep the circle in some form.

In addition to a black and white illustration, Rob has always provided us with a color version. The color image is evocative not only the Suzanne Valadon painting but it is a wonderful contrast against the simple background.

We really do love having Rob's work on our website and marketing.

Thank you again Rob, for your all your help.