The New York Innovative Theatre Awards

Communications Director Matt Clevy spoke with The New York Innovative Theatre Foundation about Fault Line Theatre's 6 nominations!

Full of IT

Fault Line Theatre has garnered six nominations this year for two different productions: Frogs by Aristophanes and From White Plains by Michael Perlman.

We asked Fault Line’s Communications Manager, Matt Clevy to tell us about this relatively new company.

What are the origins of Fault Line Theatre?

Fault Line Theatre is a collaboration between Craig Wesley DivinoTristan Jeffers and Aaron Rossini, founded in 2010. Craig and Aaron were graduate students at the Brown University/Trinity Rep MFA Programs while Tristan was assisting Eugene Lee and designing for Brown and Trinity. They worked together on several projects, including a production of Henry V that they built together, and about a year after Craig and Aaron graduated, the three decided they wanted to continue producing their own work. Fault Line Theatre was created in August of 2010, and launched with a production of Christopher Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus in February 2011.

 Karl Gregory in  Frogs  (photo by Jacob J. Goldberg)

Karl Gregory in Frogs (photo by Jacob J. Goldberg)

You did a version of Aristophanes The Frogs.  How did you update it so that it would resonate for modern audiences?

Aaron was first drawn to direct Frogs because it created an opportunity to combine the two things he loves the most: theatre and cartoons. He saw in Aristophanes’ ancient comedy the origins of the vaudevillian performers that made Looney Tunes so brilliant. With that in mind we set to playing with language and movement to find the best way to nail each joke, which was usually the Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck way. We also added a musical element to the show: replacing what could be dry chorus speeches with hilarious and rousing musical numbers composed for us by Eric Thomas Johnson. Using familiar comedic tropes allowed us to create a world that anyone who’s ever seen a cartoon would recognize. Once we’d created that world, our job was to tell the story as clearly, immediately and specifically as we could. Through the rehearsal and design processes, we discovered that Frogs is really a play about the purpose of art, not just in the world of Aristophanes, but in our world. The play literally asks why we make art, and if you’re a producer of independent theatre that’s a question that certainly hits home.

 Jimmy King and Karl Gregory in From White Plains (photo by Jacob J. Goldberg)

Jimmy King and Karl Gregory in From White Plains (photo by Jacob J. Goldberg)

Fault Line Theatre created From White Plains. What was the inspiration for that? and how have audiences reacted to the piece?

From White Plains started with an idea for a moment: ‘a man wins an award for a screenplay about the death of his friend, a gay man bullied to suicide ten years before, and in his acceptance speech says the name of the bully.’ Michael Perlman and Fault Line Theatre had wanted to work together for some time, but hadn’t found the right play, and in December 2011 Michael brought us this idea and we decided to develop it together. We brought a cast and design team on board, and for the next four months we talked about what the story could be, who the characters were and what we were trying to accomplish. The entire team contributed source material, including news, pictures, videos and personal stories to a tumblr feed which now serves as a record of the process. Michael brought a first draft of the script to the actors in early May, and that script was collaboratively workshopped and rewritten over the four week rehearsal process, with Michael making his final changes the Thursday of the final week.

The reaction to From White Plains was overwhelmingly positive. Reviews were excellent, and we’re very proud to have received nominations from the NY Innovative Theatre Awards. I think people were affected by the play in very personal and very different ways. From White Plains’ great success is that is not a message play. The characters in the play have vastly different experiences and different perspectives on how to deal with them, and the focus of the action is on their relationships to one another. That allows the play to discuss a very important issue without beating on any particular drum, which in turn gives people a lot of space to choose how they engage. We held talkbacks with scholars from Brown and NYU, and the discussions were very exciting.

Fault Line was nominated for two different productions. What is the unique quality in your work that you think judges and audiences responded to.

I think it comes down to clarity and effective storytelling. We excel at rehearsing plays, we take our time at the table and refuse to let anything go unexplored. Rehearsing well means that we can communicate complex ideas and difficult questions simply and personally, and because we know what we’re doing the audience feels that we’re taking care of them and can relax and really engage. We also prioritize our actors above other considerations, and we’ve been able to assemble really incredible teams of actors for each show. There was a lot of spectacle in Frogs, but its strength came from the people on the stage.

What is Fault Line currently working on?

We’ve got a few exciting things coming up this season. One of our main goals is to find a venue for a larger, longer production of From White Plains, whether on our own or co-produced with another company. The play is important and we want to share it with as broad an audience as possible. This fall we’ll be producing a live performance of a somewhat notorious sci-fi radio show, and we’ve got a great group of people assembled to make that happen. There will be another new play in the late winter, and looking further ahead, we are developing a completely new adaptation of A Christmas Carol that will see production in December of 2013.

Congratulations to the Fault Line Theatre

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