New York City's Playhouse Creatures Theatre Company Launches Exciting New Season
Originating in one of the most historically creative and dynamic areas of New York City, the Playhouse Creatures Theatre Company (PCTC) has what may be best described as a trans-generational vision. They seek to honor the creative mission and legacy of the American theater and its contributions to culture, while also keeping their eyes on what their audiences want and need as we approach 2017. Since their birth eight years ago, PCTC has been very prolific. They've produced six Main Stage productions, five new works series, five staged readings, several weekend-long Tennessee Williams festivals, and also cabaret and comedy events. The Company promises that their future will be busier than ever. One of their upcoming projects is their first musical: an original rock opera called Lady Monday, composed and written by David Alan Thornton. Their goal is to have a full production in the spring of 2018.
The Playhouse Creatures bring the audience a contemporary classic every season-- a previously produced but under-served play which is aching for a revival. This season, it will be One Flea Spare, a 1995 award-winning play by Naomi Wallace set to open at NYC's Sheen Center on October 16. Set in plague-ravaged London of the 17th Century, the piece deals with the clash of cultural, social, and sexual boundaries-- all while confronting the characters and the audience to examine their own ideas of morality. One Flea Spare boasts an interesting distinction: In 2009, the play was incorporated into the permanent répertoire of the French National Theater, the Comédie-Française. Wallace is the only living American playwright to enter the répertoire. In fact, only two American playwrights have ever been added to La Comédie's repertoire in 300 years: the other being Tennessee Williams, whose work PCTC has also produced. This fall engagement, directed by Caitlin McLeod and featuring two Tony-nominated actors (Concetta Tomei and Gordon Joseph Weiss), will be the first production of One Flea Spare that the author has allowed in New York City in 20 years. Naomi Wallace will also be doing some talkbacks with the audience.
PCTC's spring production, Emily Mann's equally provocative Mrs. Packard, will premiere at the Cambridge Multicultural Arts Center in Cambridge, MA starting March 12, 2017 before coming to New York City in June. Inspired by true events, Mrs. Packard tells the story of the title character, who has been proclaimed insane by her husband and committed to an insane asylum against her will. The Playhouse Creatures will be teaming up with Bridge Repertory Theater to bring this rarely produced piece from 2009 to the stage, under the direction of Emily Ranii. Yes, that's two women playwrights and two women directors!
Joseph W. Rodriguez is the Producing Artistic Director of The Playhouse Creatures. He also serves as an acting teacher and a Teaching Artist for the company's children's outreach program. Rodriguez will also be playing Bunce in One Flea Spare. Rodriguez envisions the theater and other arts as a gateway to increased empathy (a word he likes use a lot!) for other people and cultures, which be believes is sadly not encouraged or taught as much as it should be. He tells me, "This goes back to my own personal belief in viewing art-- whether it's visual, performance, dance, or music. You go and see or hear something that's foreign to your personal experience, and somehow you connect to the humanity in that performance. You're like, 'Oh, that makes me feel something. I understand them'. You may not accept them, but you understand something about them. It gives us a wider perception of the world and of the differences that surround us. Sometimes I think that living in New York City is both a blessing and a curse. It's a a curse in the sense that we live in a world where we think that everyone is engaged in diversity, and that we all accept the differences around us. And then you drive 20 miles outside of the city, and you realize, 'Oh, that's not the world!' The world is very segregated. People have not experienced the diversity that we live in on a day-to-day basis in New York City. That's not to say that we necessarily have the best aspects of that, but in some way we are forced to deal with different people. We have to engage with them. Through that engagement, if it's not understanding, then it's at least acceptance. That's so important. You learn. You know someone who's gay, or you know someone who's black, or you know someone who's Jewish-- and now you may even have a friend or a family member who's gay, or black, or Jewish. It becomes normal, and no longer foreign. In New York, it's just part of your world experience. You accept people. I think that's what theater at its best can do. It can give us that window into into other worlds that we otherwise wouldn't enter."
Rodriguez and the other men and women of PCTC have other goals for 2017 beyond just entertaining their audiences-- starting in their own neighborhood. They are committed to reaching out to both the generation addicted to their Smartphones, as well as the pre-Smartphone generation. PCTC does this both philanthropically and creatively. They offer free camps and trips to Broadway for under-served youth in New York City through their Little Creatures Act Out initiative. On the other end of the age spectrum, they do readings and workshops at New York City's Greenwich House Senior Center. They also work with New York City's Nazareth Housing, which serves the homeless.
The Playhouse Creatures Theatre Company clearly view their work as more than a job, and even more than a display of their joy of producing and performing. They sincerely look at the theater as a means to break down some of the barriers between people that we've created through the years-- whether generational, cultural, economic, or even as the results of technology. The audience will clearly reap the benefits-- while being entertained too.
(Gordon Joseph Weiss as William Snelgrave, Donte Bonner as Kabe, Remy Zaken as Morse, Concetta Tomei as Darcy Snelgrave, Joseph W. Rodriguez as Bunce with director, Caitlin McLeod)
For more information on PCTC, One Flea Spare, and Mrs. Packard, visit the Playhouse Creatures Theatre Company's site, www.PlayhouseCreatures.org.