It’s All A Game: an interview with Erin Cronican, Executive Artistic Director, The Seeing Place Theater

The take away for audiences who come to see The Maids is to “make people stop and think about how they treat people, particularly people who are in service; that our society is built on people in service positions and we can treat people with humanity . . . to understand what it’s like to be ‘less-than’ and to walk out with a new found empathy for those in the service industry.”

Gaia Visnar, Erin Cronican

Gaia Visnar and Erin Cronican Photo credit Russ Rowland

“The Game — can we continue with it?” a question posed in The Maids, an absurdist play by Jean Genet is not so remotely detached from the current complicity confronting both American and global citizens. Pretending to strangle their employer, Claire and Solange, sisters and maids to Madame, struggle for their sense of selves under the guise of a game of make-believe; at first, the fantasy is amusing but then turns darkly tragic for the women who find themselves prisoners of their own diversion.

 

Produced by The Seeing Place Theater, Executive Artistic Director Erin Cronican exposes the dilemmas associated with the abuses of power in the class system. Selecting plays rarely seen, Cronican chooses to utilize her theater programs to focus on “creating edgy and compelling reinterpretations of works by playwrights that reflect the struggles and triumphs of our current society.” Honing a three-phase methodology, Cronican guides the ensemble through an organic two-month process: Pre-Rehearsal “Discovery”; Rehearsal Inquiry; Performance Feedback. One full month is spent “just breaking down the play, talking about it, talking about its impact on society, and what the playwright is trying to say, what he’s trying to do.” The Maids has its singular challenges in that there “are no definitive texts or quotes to pull together the things that have been written . . . hours were spent exploring the play’s meaning.” Once the ensemble creates a vision for its production they then proceed to getting it staged. Rather than have directors bring their singular perceptions to the play, Cronican’s approach invests in the imaginations of its talented cast — Gaia Visnar as Claire, Christine Redhead as Madame. “We don’t have the directors do it separately,” explains Cronican, who serves in both roles as actor/ Solange and director, “[that way] the actors are part of that developmental process.” Once the cast is “up on [their] feet trying out a lot of things discussed in the pre-production period . . . by the time we get to performances we have plumbed the depths of these plays very, very personally, and I think that makes the play very different for our audiences because we know them so intimately.”

The outcome of this organic process compels the cast to answer the major dramatic question: What is the effect of the abuses of power in the class system? In its final performance phase “we want the audience to look at this and say, ‘I recognize this struggle of power, maybe not in my own life, but maybe I recognize it elsewhere and what do we do about it?’”
Gaia Visnar personally shared how “it speaks to me today because . . . [as an immigrant working in the USA on a VISA] it’s about being subordinate and not having power and not being fair.” Cronican adds how artists pursuing their art, be it music, dance, theater feel a sense of “helplessness . . . being an artist in the city, wanting to take care of people but not necessarily have the resources to do so.”

At the close of the fast and furious hour and twenty-minute performance, actors go in the lobby to address audience questions so they “have someone to talk to about what they saw.” Feedback has been favorable: “People so far have really loved the play.” Audiences are encouraged to “come up with the answers for themselves.”

The take away for audiences who come to see The Maids is to “make people stop and think about how they treat people, particularly people who are in service; that our society is built on people in service positions and we can treat people with humanity . . . to understand what it’s like to be ‘less-than’ and to walk out with a new found empathy for those in the service industry.”

For Erin Cronican, the Arts truly are transformative. “‘The Seeing Place’ is the literal translation of the Greek word for theater, theatron: ‘the place where we go to see ourselves’ and if we can open up our [hearts and minds] and really listen to a piece of art, and try to find [ourselves] in it — painting, music, dance, that’s everything; then it opens your heart . . . it opens up your empathy. And it just makes you a better citizen.”

TSP The Maids

Theater Review: Theater Barn Cast Definitely Not Phoning It In

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A wrong number leads to some interesting possibilities for Verna (Linda Seay), Kathy Ann (Stefanie Rosenberg), Diane (Frances McGarry) and Rose (Laurel Letteri), in a scene from Old Ringers, playing through February 23rd at Ridgefield Theater Barn.
(Paulette Layton photo)

By Elizabeth Young

February 07, 2019 at 07:00 am

The Newtown Bee

Frances McGarry is a brave scene stealer. A gifted comedic actor, she takes hold of her character and plays her at full tilt.

RIDGEFIELD — The phones are ringing off the hook at Ridgefield Theater Barn, and for good reason. They are being answered by crafty women of a certain age who provide a certain kind of comfort for lonely souls. Joe Simonelli’s Old Ringers is on stage for a full-on hilarious evening of theater.

A group of New York women gather frequently in the Bronx apartment of one very sassy and bawdy Diane (played by Frances McGarry). Diane lives in the home she shares with her religious and uptight daughter, Amanda (Sarah J. Ahearn). Constantly at odds with the other’s concept of a good life, they exasperate each other.

Diane is well fortified by her drop-in lover, Harry (Mark Rubino), her cadre of likeminded friends, and vodka. Amanda is appalled.

Sexually charged Verna (Linda Seay) has not been active for some time and is highly motivated to end this drought. Rose (Laurel Lettieri) suffers from a sore hip and rejection. Rounding out this posse is Kathy Ann (Stephanie Rosenberg), a youngish widow with a naïve charm, until she gets the hang of her calling.

Financially fragile, these women gear up to earn some cash in a modestly illegal immodest manner. With support from Harry, in chaps, the calls for their services just keep coming, until Police Officer Tony Rumson (Joshua Adelson) starts stopping by to woo Amanda, with whom he is instantly infatuated.

This adorable play is a very funny in the hands of this comedic cast, who appear to be enjoying every minute of the ribaldry. The direction of Carol Dorn allows the determination and unity of this group of sisters in kind to shine. The laughs are as easy as the action is unforced.

Frances McGarry is a brave scene stealer. A gifted comedic actor, she takes hold of her character and plays her at full tilt.

Linda Seay is gorgeous as the long tall wannabe seductress, Verna.

Rigid and demanding, until she is not, Amanda is wonderfully rendered by Sarah J. Ahearn. She energetically lets her character loose with expert timing.

As a shy and very innocent Kathy Ann, Stephanie Rosenberg is sweetly befuddled. The reticence of her character is the perfect contrast to her enthusiasm as she gets the hang of her new job.

Laurel Lettieri is lovely as the older and more worn out Rose.

Playing the sidekick to Ms McGarry, Mark Rubino is a hoot. He is gleeful in this role and super fun to watch.

The soulful performance by Mr. Josh Adelson, as his Tony falls in love for the first time, is authentic.

The set, designed and constructed by Nick Kaye, is wonderfully cozy and worn. The design provides large spaces for the actors to gather and move, yet retains a small-space feel. Much credit to Will Heese for fabulous and funny costuming.

The Barn is the absolute perfect venue for this light-hearted fare that pairs excellently with a snack and beverage. Make the call, ring the bell, and get yourself a ticket.

Performances continue weekends through February 23, on Friday and Saturday evenings as well as the afternoons of Sundays, February 10 and 17. Visit ridgefieldtheaterbarn.org for full performance and ticket details, directions, and reservations.

 

OLD RINGERS: a new comedy by Joe Simonelli

old ringers revised outside

A Hilarious Comedy By Joe Simonelli

Directed by Carol Dorn

It’s Golden Girls meets Calendar Girls in this semi-sequel to Men Are Dogs where four senior women try to fight the shrinking economy and their shrinking pocketbooks by investigating alternative means or generating income.  
A wrong number leads to interesting possibilities in this adult bawdy comedy.

*Mature Audiences Only*

.fran on phone mouth open

February 1 ~ 23
Fridays and Saturdays at 8pm
Sunday February 10th & 17th at 2pm

GET TICKETS

Cabaret Seating ~ Bring Food & Drink

Doors open one hour prior to curtain 

Featuring:
Frances McGarry
Linda Seay
Laurel Lettieri
Stefanie Rosenberg
Sarah Ahearn
Mark Rubino
and Joshua Adelson

Ripple Effect Artists: Guarding the Bridge

July 18, 2018 was Nelson Mandela International Day:  “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”  Change your perspective.  Visit those dark spaces.  Shed some light on it and spread the love. 

Final performance  July 30th at 7pm!!! Tickets

Guarding the Bridge CoverWhat a fierce evening of theater and substance!GUARDING THE BRIDGE with authentic performances by Scott Zimmerman, Tim Dowd  deftly directed by Jonathan Libman and one-woman wonder, Spoken Word Artist, Dawn Speaks!

It is the mission of Ripple Effect Artists to address injustice and causes social impact through art — primarily by producing masterful plays – presenting them along with talk-back discussions in partnership with educators and advocacy groups.  Jessie Fahay, Founding Executive Director recollected seeing A Normal Heart and was so incredibly moved and thought “theatre moves people.  What can I do about this? Theater can cause a ripple effect”; thereby, becomes the laser focus of Wednesday evening’s performance of Guarding the Bridge by Chuck Gorden and Spoken Word Artist Dawn Speaks.

The juxtaposition of the powerful one-act play about the roots of racism and Dawn Speaks’ one-woman jam-poetry entertaining narrative candidly tackles issues of racism, fear, and bigotry.  Following this, a panel featuring Erika L. Ewing of Got To Stop Think TankDawn Speaks, Chuck Gorden and two representatives from Center for the Study of White American Culture, Inc. shared their insights and solutions to start a conversation about these issues:

“People are hungry.  And what am I gonna do about it? People are helpless. And what am I gonna do about it? Bring humanity back. Be willing to hear; be interested to hear it.  Systems [are] designed to suppress.  [We] have to be in that conversation.” ~Erika L. Ewing

“Why we hate we? The material is not new but the conversation is very old. . . I decided to educate; that’s how I intend to spark a revolution.”  ~Dawn Speaks

“You can’t say I’m not a racist – it’s inherent.  As long as you’re not aware of it it perpetuates. White people fear [being called] racist.”   ~Chuck Gorden

Catch a glimpse of their exchange:

https://www.facebook.com/jessica.l.jennings.33/videos/10156557155178887/?comment_id=10156557162083887&notif_id=1532011170859783&notif_t=comment_mention

July 18th, 2018 was Nelson Mandela International Day:  “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”  Change your perspective.  Visit those dark spaces.  Shed some light on it and spread the love.

Final performance on July 30th at 7pm!!! Tickets: https://www.rippleeffectartists.com/productions #socialjustice

The Trauma Brain Project PODCAST!

THE TRAUMA BRAIN PROJECT is a unique theatrical narrative about the personal journey of one of its survivors, playwright Dayle Ann Hunt. Actress Marsha Mason talks about her role in the play and how The Arts can spark a conversation about early sexual trauma.

Following the NYC performance, a panel of neurologists, psychologists, and body-oriented psychotherapists discuss the relationship between early sexual trauma, PTSD and its hidden effects.