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Child's Play

July 12, 2015 / by Austin Regan. Hangar Theatre Fellow


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Another update coming at you from Austin and the Hangar Fellows!

Last week I opened and closed my KIDDSTUFF show, Red Riding Hood, by Mike Kenny and Julian Butler. I mentioned a bit in a previous blog post, but this exciting, charming, and heartwarming adaptation is a play-within-a-play-within-a-play about two kids spending the night at Grandma’s house, and exploring through imagination how they can confront and conquer the big scary world without grown-ups. I absolutely loved every minute – it’s one of my favorite productions I have ever directed.

This was a joyful and intense rehearsal process – a two-person musical with multiple high-energy dance numbers – but my wonderful cast, Jeanfranco Cardentey and Paulina Kurtz, absolutely KILLED IT with their talent and hard work. I also had the great pleasure of collaborating with Stephanie Card, the resident choreographer here at the Hangar this summer, who is an endless font of joy and imagination. I wish we had run for more than six performances so everyone could have seen this wonderful show!

One really enlightening thing about doing theater for young audiences here has been watching the kids watch the show. The Hangar KIDDSTUFF series is very popular in Ithaca, and grown-ups bring kids as young as 2 or 3 to begin or continue a theater-going family tradition. Pretty cool! I loved seeing how focused the kids got in certain moments, how silent, how excited – and of course, their giggles and squeals of delight at the comedy. Clarity, playfulness, surprise, focus, simplicity, honesty, fun: these are the things that I saw made the kids lean in and listen so intently to Red Riding Hood. And aren’t those so often the things that we look for in the theater as grown-ups, too?

Check out some photos from the show! The design team nailed it.

As if that wasn’t keeping me busy enough, I also had a couple of studio projects going on. First, I spent a couple of days playing with Aphra Behn’s terrific Restoration-era play The Rover, the first ever (as far as I know) woman-written, woman-driven sex comedy. It's both hilarious and has a lot to say about sex and women's rights. But for the bulk of my studio time, I had the great pleasure of continuing to develop Ana Nogueira’s new play Empathitrax, which I directed a reading of a couple of months back as a part of the Ensemble Studio Theatre Bloodworks series. Ana is a fabulous actor and writer who is a member of EST Youngblood, and also a dear friend from our college days together at the Boston Conservatory.

We more or less skipped table work entirely (with only 20 hours available for the project) and jumped right into staging the first three scenes, as well as a pivotal moment near the end of the play. We were able to learn so much from putting the play on its feet, instead of the typical and sometimes frustrating process of reading after reading. And best of all, Ana was able to come up from New York and join us for a few days, giving her input and editing her script as we worked. I think it was also a special treat for the Lab Company members, who, as college students, had never had the opportunity to be a part of the development of a new play, particularly with the author in the room, and the joyful back-and-forth between director, author, and cast as we made this amazing play better and better. We had such a wonderful time in the studio -- I can’t wait to find a home for it in New York!

We documented our rehearsal process a little bit – check out the photos below, with actors Jeanfranco Cardentey, Maya Musial, and Chris Isolano.

It’s a shock that we will be heading back to New York in barely two weeks. I have only some administrative time and some teaching left in my Hangar Fellowship. I teach a lot in New York with Other Side of the Table, my teaching organization, and I really enjoy it, so I am looking forward to that. It’s also an opportunity for me to get to know the six Lab Company actors who were not a part of either of my productions – I have gotten to see their work in my colleague’s shows, but this will be a chance to further connect with them, and to share some important information and develop some skills that will be useful to them in their future professional lives.

I am also looking forward to relaxing, seeing some waterfalls, connecting more with Jen and the artistic and administrative staff here at the Hangar, and seeing the final Wedge and KIDDSTUFF productions, directed by my brilliant and amazing fellow Fellows.

Oh, and one thought to leave you with…we cut each other’s hair last night. I hope that one of the other directors will blog about that. We all look really awesome now.

Love from Ithaca!