National Ensemble Theatre Festival
June 21-22 1999
San Francisco becomes home to the inaugural Festival of Ensemble Theatre, June 21 and June 22, at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts’ Forum Theatre. This two day celebration of collectively-created theatre features performances by some of the U.S.’s top ensemble companies, with more than a hundred years of combined history, including: San Francisco’s own A Traveling Jewish Theatre; Bloomsburg Theatre Ensemble (Bloomsburg, PA); Dell’Arte Players Company (Blue Lake, CA); The Independent Eye (Philadelphia, PA); Irondale Ensemble Project (New York, NY); and Touchstone Theatre (Bethlehem, PA). The Festival is being produced under the auspices of the Network of Ensemble Theatres (NET), a newly-formed consortium of nationally-recognized ensemble theatre companies with seed funding provided by the National Endowment for the Arts.
In conjunction with the two-day festival, the NET is also hosting a national Conference of Ensemble Theatre, June 21-23, 1999, co-sponsored by Golden Gate University’s Arts Administration Department. More than two dozen ensemble theatres from across the country are anticipated for this three-day conference, exploring the unique world of ensemble-based theatre and the various techniques companies are using today to survive and thrive.
Ensemble theatres have made a unique and significant contribution to the American theatre — from New York’s Mabou Mines and The Wooster Group to San Francisco’s A Traveling Jewish Theatre and the San Francisco Mime Troupe, helping to create some of the most fruitful collaborations and impactful productions over the past three decades. What these diverse companies from coast to coast share is a deep commitment to long-term artistic relationships at the center of their work, embodied in the formation of an artistic ensemble. This inaugural Festival of Ensemble Theatre celebrates the tremendous creativity and power of ensemble-created work and offers it as an alternative model to the more hierarchical model that currently dominates the modern theatrical landscape.
6 pm PATCHWORKS: Life And Legends Of The Coal Towns
by The Bloomsburg Theatre Ensemble
The Festival begins at 6 pm on Monday, June 21 with the West Coast premiere of PATCHWORKS: Life And Legends Of The Coal Towns by the Bloomsburg Theatre Ensemble. This original work designed for the whole family uses stories, songs and first-person narratives to illustrate the anthracite coal heritage of Northeastern Pennsylvania. A cast of three spin compelling stories of the men, women, boys and girls whose work in Pennsylvania’s coal towns helped fuel America’s Industrial Revolution.
The Bloomsburg Theatre Ensemble (BTE) was founded in 1978 by a group of young artists studying with legendary acting teacher Alvina Krause. Today, the resident ensemble of eight, including actors, directors, teachers, writers, and a production manager, together with an administrative and technical staff, continues a long-term commitment to provide the non-urban region of Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania with unique cultural opportunities. BTE embodies the belief that theatre is a necessary tool for learning and communication and is dedicated to developing original works and adaptations of classics through the ensemble method.
8 pm YOU CAN’T WIN: Memoirs Of An Outlaw In The American West
by the Irondale Ensemble Project
At 8 pm on Monday, the Festival continues with YOU CAN’T WIN: Memoirs Of An Outlaw In The American West by the Irondale Ensemble Project. The play is based on the memoirs of Jack Black, a hobo/outlaw turned librarian/writer, in the American West at the turn of the century. This American Dickensian-style epic and “on the road” tale recounts Black’s experience in the San Francisco Bay Area of the 1880s where he encountered opium dens, western prisons and the inhabitants of the murky underworld that populated them. Both Jack Kerouac and William S. Burroughs credit Black with having tremendous influence on their work. Irondale’s production involves a cast of seven, portraying more than twenty characters, complemented by original and traditional music.
The Irondale Ensemble Project is an experimental/research theatre ensemble established in New York City in 1983. The company has roots in improvisation, traditional Stanislavski techniques, extensive movement work, and collaborative writing techniques. The primary goal of the ensemble is to discover how theatre can be utilized as an important or central aspect of daily life. Irondale has produced 25 major Off-Broadway shows, including the American premiere of Brecht’s CONVERSATIONS IN EXILE and ten original pieces.
10 pm THE VOICE OF SOULS: Touchstone Plays Shakespeare’s Sonnets
by Touchstone Theatre
Monday evening concludes with a 10 pm presentation of THE VOICE OF SOULS: Touchstone Plays Shakespeare’s Sonnets by Touchstone Theatre. Known for their movement based ensemble works, Touchstone takes on their newest challenge, the words of William Shakespeare. With humor and pathos, the ensemble uses the Bard’s tightly knit, 14-line poems to examine the condition of being human, loving and losing. Shakespeare fanatics and Bardophobes alike will be smitten by this buoyant and passionate journey through some of Shakespeare’s most articulate and powerful works.
Touchstone Theatre is a not-for-profit regional theater center based in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania and is home to a theatre, a cafe and a professional resident ensemble dedicated to creating and presenting original theatre. Touchstone is committed to being an active force in the renewal of theatre as a vital form and in its use as a community-building tool. Founded in 1981, Touchstone is led by Artistic Director and Ensemble Member Mark McKenna.
Tuesday, June 22
6 pm DIAMONDS IN THE DARK: A Celebration Of Yiddish Poetry
by A Traveling Jewish Theatre
June 22, Tuesday evening’s program begins at 6 pm with a one-night revival of A Traveling Jewish Theatre’s celebrated bilingual work, DIAMONDS IN THE DARK: A Celebration Of Yiddish Poetry. ATJT’s ensemble goes beyond the “schlepping” and “schlemiels”, crossing boundaries and exploding stereotypes about the Yiddish language by returning to the poetic impulse itself through use of performance, music, movement and the spoken word. Featuring a kaleidoscope selection of poetry and set within a postmodern musical score by Albert Greenberg and movement by Stephen Pelton, DIAMONDS brings a contemporary theatrical voice to the lyric passions of Yiddish poets. The San Francisco Chronicle wrote: “Poetic images glitter in DIAMONDS IN THE DARK.”
A Traveling Jewish Theatre (ATJT) was founded in 1978 by Corey Fischer, Albert Greenberg and Naomi Newman. Helen Stoltzfus joined the ensemble in 1986. The company is dedicated to creating original works of theatre, as an ensemble and in collaboration with a variety of outside artists, that contribute to a generous vision of the human condition. ATJT recently celebrated its 20th anniversary with the opening of the company’s newly-renovated 88-seat theatre center in San Francisco’s oldest artist cooperative, Project Artaud.
8 pm MAD LOVE
by Dell’Arte Players Company
At 8 pm on Tuesday, Dell’Arte Players Company presents its international touring production, MAD LOVE (L’AMOUR FOU). Adapted from the 1935 expressionist film starring Peter Lorre, the play tells the dark tale of a brilliant surgeon who replaces the damaged hands of a concert pianist with the hands of a murderer. MAD LOVE, set in “the Theatre of Horrors” and given a unique Dell’Arte spin, explores the thin line between horror and humor. The play explores the power of suggestion and its effectiveness as a controlling device. Directed by Jael Weisman, MAD LOVE features Dell’Arte co-artistic directors Michael Fields, Joan Schirle and performer/writer Donald Forrest, a team responsible for more than fifteen collaborative works since 1977.
The Dell’Arte Players Company is one of the few actor-managed ensembles in the U.S. Based in a small town in a rural area of Northern California, Dell’Arte has an international reputation for its touring performances and professional school, the Dell’Arte International School of Physical Theatre, which attracts students from all over the world. The core company of artists have been creating collaboratively since the 1970s, and their many original works have been seen in Brazil, Uruguay, Canada, Italy, Holland, Denmark, Sweden, and throughout the U.S.
10 pm MATING CRIES
by The Independent Eye
The Festival concludes on Tuesday at 10 pm with The Independent Eye and their innovative work, MATING CRIES. This medley of six micro-plays celebrating the lust, comedy and wonder of human bonding is written and performed by The Independent Eye’s founders, Conrad Bishop and Elizabeth Fuller. MATING CRIES is a web of word jazz and character snapshots, drawn from myth, from daydream and from the creators’ own 37 years as artistic life-mates.
The Independent Eye is a professional theatre ensemble using many story-telling forms to reflect shared human experience. Since 1974, the Eye has played over 3,000 performances in 34 states, including engagements at Chicago’s Body Politic, Baltimore Theatre Project, Seattle’s New City Theatre, Milwaukee’s Theatre X, Pittsburgh’s City Theatre, New York’s CSC Repertory, Theater for the New City, and Jean Cocteau Repertory, and many others. The Independent Eye is led by founding directors Conrad Bishop and Elizabeth Fuller.
Yerba Buena Center for the Arts’ Forum Theatre, 701 Mission Street at 3rd Street in San Francisco.
TICKETS: $15 each or $30 for any 3 plays can be purchased in advance by calling the box office at (415) 399-1809. Half-price student tickets and senior and group discounts are available.
Posted under 1999, Archive
This post was written by AkilahC on June 22, 1999