Monday, January 23, 2017

The Purely Fiction World of Urinetown

"He who laughs has not yet heard the bad news.”
-Bertold Brecht

Imagine a world where people must pay to carry out one of the most basic human functions. A world where times are so bad that big business ideology is the law, and the top 1% is the only percent that could possibly prevail. A world where fear is the guiding force of politics and socio-economic status. A completely, utterly, wholly fictional world like this is difficult to imagine, I know (no, really!) ... but such is the world of Urinetown.

Not only does the show challenge us to imagine this theatrical world, but it also asks us to re-examine the form of musical theatre. It is a show that breaks all the typical conventions… Not only breaks, but laughs at! A show that makes you chuckle while you cringe. Daniel Marcus, who played Officer Barrel when it opened in New York, called it “a love letter to the American musical in the form of a grenade.”

Why produce this hilarious, satirical, completely fictional, catchy and clever account of a mythical place called Urinetown, you ask?

I don’t know. I enjoyed the music.

-Peter Marston Sullivan,
BoHo Theatre Artistic Director

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Why Produce Sarah Ruhl's Eurydice?

It takes a playwright of uncommon bravery to write the kinds of cryptic stage directions that Sarah Ruhl uses in EURYDICE. Directions like "He picks her up and throws her into the sky" or "He creates a room of string. It takes time to build a room out of string" or simply "Time passes." Many playwrites would be tempted to spell out in detail what should happen in these scenes and these moments, but Ruhl leaves all of this up to the imaginations of the play's creative team. She invites us to be creative partners and to invent a truly unique experience.

This is part of what inspired me to direct this play: the opportunity to gather a team of talented artists and create this play together, as an ensemble, in a way that is personal and meaningful to us. This invitation to be playful and explore the play from new perspectives is what led us to tear apart the Heartland Studio to create a whole new audience configuration, to match the poetry of the words with stylized movement and original music, and to cast a young woman in the male role of Orpheus. We can confidently proclaim that this is a production of EURDICE like none you have seen before.

For me, all of this artistry is aimed at a very personal message: At the heart of this weird little play is danger and tragedy of not being able to let go of the people we love when their time with us is over. We will all deal with loss and change in our lives. Maybe you have already. It is part of being human. Everything in life, including this production, will eventually be over and gone. But we cannot spend so much time looking back that we never look ahead. And in this play, and in the courage and love and creativity that our artists pour into each performance, I am reminded of this lesson.

Charles Riffenburg
Eurydice Director

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Change, Family, and Fear of the Unknown, by Paul Di Ciccio

“I don’t recognize him! That’s a stranger!”

Amanda Jane Long and Peter Robel in Eurydice
One of the themes of Sarah Ruhl's Eurydice that has particularly resonated with me over the last few weeks has been the fear of growing up. In the play, we see Eurydice grow up in the Underworld with her father. When it is time for her to leave her father and to go to the land of the living with Orpheus, we see Eurydice become terrified of leaving her father’s protection, declaring that she no longer recognizes her husband.

I relate to Eurydice’s fear of growing up, especially her fear of leaving a place where she feels protected. At the time I’m writing this, not only did Eurydice just open, but I also graduated from Columbia College with my degree in theatre directing and I left my job. All of this happened in a period of two days.

The weeks before all of this change had been overwhelming with finishing school, finishing my final projects and papers, going to work, and going to Eurydice rehearsal every night. Now that the show has opened, I've graduated, and I've left my job, for the first time in my life I have nothing to do– and no visible end to this period of having nothing to do. Other than applying and interviewing for jobs, I have nothing to do but to think about the fact that I no longer have the artistic protection of school or the financial protection of a job. It’s almost as if I’ve lost the protection of waking up each morning with a purpose. I understand why Eurydice is so terrified.

All of this would have been a hell of a lot more terrifying if I didn’t have BoHo. I really mean this. I have so much emotional, creative, and career-oriented support here. When I arrived at the theatre after the opening performance of Eurydice, having just left my college graduation, I was presented with a graduation card signed by the cast and crew of Eurydice and by other members of the BoHo company. They had so much to focus on before Eurydice opened, but, in spite of it all, they each took time to write a personal note of encouragement for me. That meant so much.

Director Charles Riffenburg’s caricature of Paul
BoHo has taught me that anything is possible. For each of the three shows I’ve worked on here (Scotland Road, Dogfight, and Eurydice), this small storefront theatre company has attempted something far too big for its britches. When I think about the intricacies of the cracking effect in the walls in Scotland Road, the magnitude of the technical elements in Dogfight, or the raining elevator with ACTUAL running water in Eurydice, I know that these are all obstacles that should have been insurmountable for a theatre company of BoHo’s size, resources, and budget. I have been lucky enough to experience BoHo's triumph over each of these obstacles through the true spirit of collaboration (see Tony Churchill’s beautiful BoHo blog entry) and through incredible ingenuity. I’ll never forget when we couldn’t get a curtain to close in Dogfight and Meg Love devised a contraption made of straws and a Dunkin' Donuts cup to get it to close. In my life, I tend to err towards pragmatism and reticence. BoHo has taught me that what seems to be impossible probably is possible with enough effort, resourcefulness, and collaboration. In this way, BoHo has permanently changed me.

BoHo has also given me an artistic home that I know will be there for me whenever I need it. I am constantly reminded by BoHo collaborators: “You are part of the BoHo family.” It’s not just “We like working with you” or “You are useful to us.” It’s “You are family.” And, in return, my BoHo collaborators are my family. A lot of things in my life are uncertain right now, but I know that I have BoHo’s open and loving arms. Knowing that has provided me with a great amount of emotional security. Who else graduates from theatre school with a theatre company saying that they are family? How did I get so lucky?

Despite most of my life being up in the air at the moment, BoHo has been my emotional bulwark. And I could not be more grateful.

Also, to anyone reading this, please hire me.

Paul Di Ciccio
Eurydice Assistant Director