Friday, January 6, 2012

2012 - The end is just the beginning!

Happy New Year! Managing and Co-Artistic Director Chas LiBretto here! 2012 is here at last – will it bring the apocalypse or hover-boards? When will we take jetpacks to work? While we mull these questions over, I’d like to reiterate what Louis said in the previous post that a number of exciting things are in the works over here at Psittacus Productions. More news as it comes, but the new year will bring:

- a CYCLOPS studio album this year (click here and here for the two singles we recorded last fall)

- a few concert-appearances in anticipation of the next New York City run. We did two concert appearances last fall (one at the Tea Lounge in Brooklyn and one at The Falcon in Marlboro, NY), and they were more fun than a sharp stick in the eye (Polyphemus would know)!

- and, just in time for what’s sure to be a positive and uplifting election season: a brand new take on Shakespeare’s Richard III, in the spirit of 2010’s award-winning “A Tale Told By An Idiot.”

I write this post from New York City. I’m back here for a number reasons, foremost among them because I missed New York. I had a great time working on CYCLOPS here, and felt like Psittacus had come home. There’s a ton of amazing work happening here, and it’s hard not to feel inspired to up one’s own game. Don Shirley’s LA Stage Times post criticizing the Charles McNulty’s LA Times “End of the Year List” notwithstanding (not to toot our own horn, but we’re on it. Then again, this is our blog, after all, so if we won’t toot our own horn, who will?), some of the best work is happening here, and if you throw a rock you’re likely to hit a non-profit theater. I don’t necessarily advocate throwing rocks at theaters, though.

In the meantime, I’m spending my days as a reader at the Vineyard Theater. The Vineyard is an Obie and Drama Desk award-winning Off-Broadway, non-profit theatre located just east of Union Square. Since 1981, they’ve been dedicated to producing bold, new work, including the first productions of Avenue Q, How I learned to Drive, The Scottsboro Boys, and [title of show]. Their production of Zayd Dohrn’s Outside People opens on Tuesday, so get your tickets – it’s sure to be great!

I hope 2012 finds you well, and be sure to watch this space in the coming months for news about what's next for Psittacus Productions!

Monday, January 2, 2012

It's A Brand New Year!

Hello and Happy New Year from Louis Butelli! I’m currently in Montgomery, Alabama (affectionately known to locals as “The Gump”) where rehearsals are underway for “The 39 Steps,” beginning January 27th at Alabama Shakespeare Festival. Planning a trip this winter? Come on down to The Gump, and pick up your tickets now.

Today, I’m going to tell you a little bit about ASF and talk a bit about the play.

But first, here are a couple of juicy tidbits about “CYCLOPS: A Rock Opera,” the show that consumed us at Psittacus Productions for the whole of 2011. Plans for a studio recording of our cast album are underway, and negotiations for brand new gigs in the fall have begun. In the meantime, the New Year is traditionally the time when critics put out their “Best Of” lists. We’re honored to have made it on to a few of these. Here are some links:

Los Angeles Times - Chief critic Charles McNulty says that "adventurous" audiences were "galvanized" by "Psittacus Productions' electrically flamboyant 'Cyclops: A Rock Opera.'"

Bitter Lemons - Tastemaker and provocateur Colin Mitchell makes us his top pick for 2011 and says that Cyclops was "hands down the most original show of the year."

Compositions on Theater - Critic, composer, dramaturg, and self-professed Cyclops superfan Sarah Ellis also makes us her top pick for the year and says that she "loved being a friend and advocate for such a smart and sexy new work."

So. “The 39 Steps.” What on earth is it?

Here’s the blurb from the ASF website:

“Four actors play 140 roles in this Tony award-winning Broadway smash that is a combination of Alfred Hitchcock, James Bond and Monty Python. Richard Hannay’s dull life is transformed by a meeting with a mysterious female spy. When she is murdered in his home, he is forced to become a fugitive. But who really done it? And what are the 39 steps? Don’t miss the chase of a lifetime and a death-defying finale!”

Essentially, the play is a physical, minimalist, and highly theatricalized stage adaptation of Alfred Hitchcock’s 1935 film – which, if you haven’t, see it!

In the first three days of rehearsal, we laid down some basic blocking for the first act of the show. In that time alone I play, among other things, the star of a vaudeville “memory” act, an underwear salesman, a policeman, a Scottish farmer with a sexy wife, a paper boy, a Cockney landlady, and a posh housewife.

For those last two, I was fortunate enough to head to the costume shop for “boob fittings.” I won’t say too much about that except to say that one pair is pendulous, one pair is perky, the entire staff of the costume shop came to watch me try them on and, most worryingly, once they’re on, it’s almost impossible not to touch them constantly. Not quite sure just what that says about me.

While it’s probably too soon in the rehearsal process to know exactly how everything is going to play out, I will say that we four actors have already staged an epic chase on a moving train, a death-defying climb across a bridge, and a stealth mission in a fighter plane. And all of it done with simple props – hats, chairs, ladders, etc. – and the imagination of the audience. This is what the theatrical art form is all about. It’s gonna be a hoot.

So far, ASF is awesome. The staff are friendly, hard-working, and very much on the ball. The facilities, which include the 750-seat Festival Mainstage (where “39 Steps” will play), and the 225-seat Octogon Second Stage, are impeccable. The theater is on the grounds of a gorgeous 250-acre park, and it is an absolute delight to go to work there every day.

There will be lots more to come about the play and about ASF – in the meantime, check out their website for more info.

OK. Psittacus Productions is getting ready to roar into 2012, and we wish you all of the very best for a Happy, Healthy New Year.