This year the United Stages playbill and audience club is celebrating its 10th year of providing show information and prize giveaways to theater-goers who frequent the intimate venues of the Indie, Off- and Off-Off-Broadway universe. Thousands of discount ticket offers, hundreds of ticket and dinner giveaways and millions of distributed playbills later, we continue to celebrate the joy and excitement of live performance. We hope you'll enjoy this first installment of our look-back at favorite playbill covers from past seasons.
Claymont & Young Stowaways in Space
In 2004 Emerging Artist Theatre Company (now in its second decade headed by artistic director Paul Adams), was United Stages's first theater company client—or second…we'll get back to that later—and the play was Kevin Brofsky's coming-of-age story set in the small Delaware town of Claymont during the Vietnam War draft. Transferring from a 60-seat to a 300-seat house, Claymont was revived in 2008 for an Off-Broadway run at the Baruch Performing Arts Center's Rose Nagelberg Theater. Of this show, Back Stage wrote, "This is the world of Kevin Brofsky's Claymont, a dour world that trivializes both public happenings and private brewings. Just as in that ill-fated war, conclusions are vague, characters are drifty, and the television drones both Hollywood Squares and news from the front." The reviewer also saluted the ensemble cast for their fine acting but seemed to have missed the warmth and humor that I remember from Brofsky's compassionately drawn world.
Also in 2004, double billed with Claymont, was the TOSOS (II) production of artistic director Mark Finley's adaptation of Richard M. Elam's sci-fi drive-in movie genre novel Young Stowaways in Space. In 2004 TOSOS (The Other Side of Silence), a company founded by the late great playwright Doric Wilson, continues to be helmed by Finley. Of the production, one OOBR critic wrote "Stowaways showcased Finley's directorial genius in a way that surprised. The stylized execution of this play was daringly entertaining. TOSOS II did it again."
FringeNYC: The Whole Enchilada
China: The Whole Enchilada is an example of a festival-dedicated playbill that United Stages created especially for The New York International Fringe Festival. The Present Company's Elena Holy is the driving force behind this NYC mainstay that presents 5000 artists in over 200 shows in 20 venues every August in Lower Manhattan. Of this production, a local critic noted that Mark Brown's musical "succeeds its goals of providing a comprehensive whirlwind of Chinese history, at the same time critically identifying the faults of both the Chinese and the West in our shared history. On the whole, I found China: The Whole Enchilada funny, smart, surprisingly deep, and very enjoyable."
On 42nd Street, Theatre Row
Theatre Row has always been a special complex of venues where non-profit theater companies rub shoulders with for-profit entrepreneurs and present a bridge for the Broadway crowd to experience more intimate shows in smaller yet comfortable surroundings. One of the more memorable playbill covers was that of Bradford Louryk's lip syncing tour de force Christine Jorgensen Reveals, a true story about an ex-G.I. who in 1952 went to a Copenhagen hospital to change his sex and consequently became a media sensation and an articulate spokesperson for the rights of transgendered persons. The show ran the length of the 1958 recorded interview (a little over an hour) that was later transferred and sold on LP. Of this show, a local theater website noted "Bradford Louryk is a wizard of deception and a master of the impossible as he morphs his six-foot frame into a completely convincing demure woman of the 1950s who stands no taller than 5′6″ in a size-10 suit draped over an extremely petite 120-pound figure."
Board of Tourism
Since 2004 United Stages's mission has been to encourage theater-goers to be more adventurous and mix up their live performance experience to include smaller venues. After all, the majority of creative artists working today in NYC are found in hundreds of small venue theaters throughout the five boroughs. Cofounder Ian Marshall had fun creating an ad that playfully employed reverse psychology for the 2009 FringeNYC playbill shell and encouraged audiences to break the yellow safety tape and explore the wide variety of smaller venue shows.
To be continued in our next installment