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for The Brooklyn Paper
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When Matt Schicker and Heather Curran took over direction of the Gallery Players’ Black Box New Play Festival last year they made a dramatic departure from with the past. Instead of focusing on presenting new one-act plays, they inaugurated an active program of developing plays throughout the season, with the festival as the culmination of the effort.

"If you’re trying to provide a structure for playwrights to see their work you can establish a relationship and allow the plays to go through a development process," Curran told GO Brooklyn. "Depending on what playwrights give us, it might be a long or short process."

This is the first time in the festival’s seven-year history that it will present one full-length play, "Wedding Album," by Joe Lauinger, for two weekends.

"We’re running the full-length play for a total of eight performances because we wanted to give more people the opportunity to see the play because of the amount of work the playwright, the actors and the directors put into it," said Schicker.

The play, which recounts a wedding day, has 13 characters and seven unique scenes. Curran, who is directing, says that each scene could be done separately, so it fits nicely into the Black Box format, which before last year was limited to one-acts.

"This is the kind of play I probably wouldn’t have sent out to a regular theater because of the number of actors involved," said Lauinger. "I was inspired by the Black Box form. They generally have six or seven one-act plays in an evening. I thought in those terms. So what the play really consists of is seven one-act plays. They all interconnect to make one play."

Lauinger, a professor of dramatic literature at Sarah Lawrence College who has had plays produced at the Black Box Festival every year since its inception, gave the first draft to Curran last fall and she arranged a reading before a small audience. He believes the audience response was important, but even more important was the conversation with Curran afterward.

"I generally don’t like workshops," he commented. "But Heather makes them special."

Daniel Damiano, who plays the groom in Lauinger’s play (he was last seen at the Gallery Players in "Bedroom Farce," which opened the 2003-2004 season), is also the author a one-act, "The Dessert Cart," which will be presented the third week of the festival.

"It’s theater of the absurd, much like Pirandello or Ionesco," he said. "A couple is dining at a Euro-cafe. They are waiting for the dessert cart to arrive so they can try a special dessert - marble cheese cake. But things get more complicated. It’s metaphysical, crazy and fun."

Although they have just begun casting, Damiano is very pleased with his director, Joseph Rosswog.

"He’s very smart. He has a real understanding of the text. But he’s also completely willing to question," he said.

Indeed, Curran said that she and Schicker have been trying to attract more experienced directors who know how to work with playwrights. "There are lots of directors in New York City," she said.

Schicker believes the direction the Black Box Festival has taken benefits not only the playwrights but also the audiences.

"The audience is seeing better plays. They’ll be able to see that more work has gone into the plays," he said.

 

Black Box New Play Festival performances take place Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, at 8 pm, and Sundays, at 3 pm, starting June 3. A free staged reading of a new play, "The Fall of the House of Kate," by Mary Grisolano, takes place on Saturday, June 26 at 3 pm. Tickets are $15 for adults and $12 for children under 12 and senior citizens. A Festival Pass, which admits a patron to one performance for each of the four weekends of the festival, can be purchased for $20. The Gallery Players is located at 199 14th Street, between Fourth and Fifth avenues in Park Slope. For reservations, call (718) 595-0547.

Updated 4:00 pm, November 10, 2010
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