Over the Hill

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What do a dancing CEO, patriotic terrorist and neurotic Jewish man (who drugs his wife in order to keep her from cheating) have in common?

They will all be on stage at the Brick Theater in August, thanks to jack-of-all-theater-trades Ian Hill. For the past two decades, Hill, 40, has been running around the New York theater scene as an actor, playwright, director, manager, techie and more.

For the second year in a row, Brick — under the direction of Michael Gardner and Robert Honeywell — is turning over the month of August to Hill for some “indie theater,” including two original plays by Hill and one Richard Foreman revival.

“This year, I wanted to do very different works in style and feelings,” Hill said. “We have a madcap, large farce in ‘Harry in Love,’ a very serious — and even upsetting — piece with ‘Spell,’ and an entertaining piece of social criticism in ‘Everything Must Go.’

“Having the three different styles strengthens each one,” he said, adding, “It keeps me sane while working on them.”

Hill and his fianc e Berit Johnson, 32, live together in Gravesend as partners in life and art. In addition to being the Brick’s tech directors — managing the theater’s lights, sound equipment and sets, they also run the arts production company Gemini CollisionWorks which is presenting the three works at the Brick.

Hill is the artist and creator, while Johnson serves as a critical eye and craftsperson, making sure her fiance doesn’t get too wrapped up in his work to miss the kinks.

‘Harry in Love’

Beginning July 31, Hill presents avant-garde playwright Richard Foreman’s 1966 play “Harry in Love.”

Hill played the lead role of Harry in the play’s world premiere in 1999 at the now non-existent Nada Theater in the Lower East Side.

“[The ‘60s] was a time when Broadway playwrights wrote about big, neurotic Jewish men running around rooms and having anxiety attacks,” Hill said. “Harry Rosenfeld thinks his wife is thinking of cheating on him and goes through horrible neurotic extremes to stop her.”

When Hill played Harry in 1999, he was managing the Nada, and like a cliched starving, New York artist, he was also living in the theater’s basement because Nada didn’t have the funds to offer him a salary.

After Nada closed, Hill spent a year sleeping on friends’ couches until he found his way to Brooklyn in 2001.


Premiering the day after “Harry in Love,” is Hill’s “Spell” on Aug. 1, which introduces a woman (played by Moira Stone) being cross-examined after committing a terrorist act.

“I had fragments of text on paper that I realized were one play,” Hill said about the creation of “Spell.”

His play came to life after Hill combined two ideas, one about a woman explaining herself to a doctor, and lines of dialogue about violence and terrorism. He combined them, but only brought some of the scenes to rehearsals for the actors to perform. He used the actors’ backgrounds and opinions to further develop the scenes and characters, and with just two weeks before “Spell” is scheduled to open, Hill was still molding the play.

“I’m a little nervous about it, but it’s all there in my head,” Hill said. “Up until the last few years, I’ve avoided political art. I’ve felt that political art shafts the art or the politics: one will wind up being inferior. But with the state of the world, I’ve felt more and more inclined to say something.”

‘Everything Must Go’

Inspired by what he calls “weasel language,” Hill created a dance-theater piece with actors constantly shifting in speech and motion, creating a day in the life of an advertising agency.

And if you’re thinking, “weasel language”?

“You know [what I mean],” Hill said. “We have to increase our synergy for the core competency of our company! Achieve the totality of the project!”

In this comedy, Hill looks at the process of how things are sold to the public. The ad agency worker-dancers express what they’re feeling by exploding into movement as they work on a big project.

“Everything Must Go” premieres Aug. 6.

With all three of these shows in rehearsal, and all opening within the same week, Hill has his work cut out for him, but he says he’s used to the schedule.

“It feels a lot like the best of the Lower East Side from the late ’90s — in terms of the creativity and joy and drive going into it,” Hill said. “Brick is devoted to what it does. People don’t quite understand that it isn’t as if we’re trying to audition to move up to Broadway. We’re here to make sure good work gets done, and we’re finding more and more that audiences will make the trip out to Brooklyn on the L train.”

Gemini Collisionworks presents Richard Foreman’s “Harry in Love” on July 31, Aug. 2, 8, 14, 17, 22 at 7:30 pm and Aug. 10, 16, 24 at 4 pm; “Spell” on Aug. 1, 3, 7, 10, 20, 24 at 8 pm and Aug. 9, 23 at 4 pm; and “Everything Must Go” on Aug. 6, 9, 13, 15, 16, 21, 23 at 8 pm and Aug. 17 at 4 pm at the Brick Theater (575 Metropolitan Ave, at Lorimer Street in Williamsburg). Tickets are $15. For more information, call (718) 907-6189 or visit

Posted 4:29 pm, July 24, 2008
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