Thursday, June 3, 2010

An Open Letter to the Buffalo Artie Committee

I know we're all supposed to be too busy licking the Artie Committee's ass to ever voice the slightest breath of complaint, but I have to say that it seems quite obnoxious of the Artie Committee to pretend to be in a position to judge the best shows in Buffalo Theatre when they haven't even seen them all. We've barely ever seen any Artie Committee members at Subversive Theatre (the only one who comes on a regular basis is the narcoleptic Tom Dooney -- he snores so loud through each show that you can barely hear the actors -- but, hey, at least he comes! And Tony Chase comes to almost all our shows. But what became of all the rest of 'em?). As a result -- surprise, surprise -- we don't get any nominations.

Of course we at Subversive Theatre don't do what we do to get awards -- all that bourgeois snobbery is precisely the opposite of what the arts should be about. But over this last year we've had some very fine artists do some very fine work. And since the Artie Committee is either too busy, too blind, or too biased to give them the recognition they deserve, I'm going to do it instead.

So here's a list of the nominations you would have seen if the Artie Committee had ever bothered to come out to the Manny Fried Playhouse:

Best Actress -- Victoria Perez, TWILIGHT
Victoria played eighteen different roles in this one-woman show and was absolutely extraordinary! Every night she made superb lightning-quick transitions playing the roles of Black Congresswomen, Latino teenage gang-bangers, white lawyers, Korean store owners, cops, Black Panther Leaders, clergymen, etc. For her to not even be nominated is an insult to sanity.

Best Actress -- Arlene Clement, WIDOWS
The perfect role for the perfect actress! Arlene is one of the most tenacious and fiercely intense actresses I've ever seen. Playing the half-mad matriarch of a Latin American town where all the men had been dragged away by an unnamed military junta, Arlene was an unstoppable powerhouse of defiance, disgust, and determination.

Best Actress -- Rebecca Ward, EIGHTY-FOUR
Who would've thought that anyone could make the role of George Orwell's brain-washing torturer sexy? But that's just what Rebecca Ward did adding a sultry side to the sinister Big Brother lackey O'Brien in a performance that unfalteringly brought together the evil and the intelligence of Orwell's distopian authorities to life in a disturbingly believable way.

Best Actor -- Patrick Cameron, THE HAIRY APE
With incredible ability, the short and trim Patrick Cameron magically transformed into Eugene O'Neill's huge, boisterous, obnoxious "Yank" commanding the stage every second he was on it and demonstrating a masterful use of dialect with an out-of-this-world early Twentieth Century Brooklynian accent that would have made both Dashiell Hammett and Clifford Odets proud.

Best Actor -- Victor Morales, WIDOWS
Victor was just plain brilliant as the wanna-be reformer turned military strong man of Ariel Dorfman's anti-authoritarian drama. Every night he ran the gamut from tender peace-maker to brutal oppressor with chilling conviction. Seeing Victor and Arlene Clement square off in this play's truth vs. power showdown was downright electrifying.

Best Actor -- James Wild, THE LESSON
James was a man on fire in his relentless portrayal of the instructor in Eugene Ionesco's bizarre absurdist work. James rattled the rafters with his super-human lung capacity and voraciously turned in one of the gutsiest performances I've ever seen exploring depths of savagery and blood-lust that few actors would dare to touch!

Best Supporting Actress -- Martha Rothkopf, NECESSARY TARGETS
A gut-wrenchingly beautiful portrayal of a one-time proud doctor reduced to a meager existence as a destitute Bosnian war refugee. Martha played this role with a stunning balance of fortitude and righteous indignation. I felt my dignity as a human being rise five notches every time I watched her performance.

Best Supporting Actor -- Jack Agugliaro, WIDOWS
Jack displayed astonishing range miraculously managing four separate heart-rending portrayals in just one production. Playing a callous military doctor, a gun-shy village priest, a deranged torture victim, and a grandiose countryside patrician, with craftsman-like expertise, Jack infused every role with an unmistakable sense of honesty, individuality, and intensity that any actor would be proud to achieve with one character let alone four!

Best Supporting Actor -- Paul O'Hern, THE HAIRY APE
With his extraordinary facility for Irish accents, Paul crafted an unforgettably touching rendition of Eugene O'Neill's sorrowful old seaman "Paddy" beautifully contrasted by his light-hearted performances of this play's horny prison guard, crusty I.W.W. activist, and dehumanized 5th Avenue gentleman.

Best Set Design -- Dyan O'Connell, EIGHTY-FOUR
Subversive Theatre's resident set designer demonstrated her abilities once again taking our raw shoe-box-shaped ex-warehouse space and transforming it into the cold, intimidating world of Orwell's distopian dictatorship. Dyan's inventive set incorporated multi-tiered scaffolding, projection screens, ominous hand-crafted torture devices, massive tentacle-like webs of electrical cable, and even live rats! An unforgettable mise-en-scene if ever there was one!!!

Best Lighting Design -- Carlie Todoro-Rickus, EIGHTY-FOUR
Distopia never looked so elegant as it did amidst this breath-taking ambiance-rich lighting scheme. Somehow Carlie took the all-too-limited technical capacities of our humble venue and crafted a series of eye-popping lighting effects featuring side lights, up lights, gobos, intense shadows, and jarring interrogation lights that worked beautifully in tandem with this production's multi-tiered set and almost non-stop video projections.

Best Costume Design -- Paul Stephenson, THE HAIRY APE
Operating on one of Subversive Theatre's notorious shoe-string budgets, Paul found a way to assemble a resplendent menagerie of Turn-of-the-Century costumes replete with delicate parasols, lavish corsets, sailor suits, carny blazers, keystone cop-esque uniforms, upper class ladies gowns, deliciously sleazy prostitute attire, ape suits, and all the other regalia needed to complete the carnival atmosphere of our play within a play withing a play!

Best Ensemble -- WIDOWS
This fourteen actor ensemble came together with stunning beauty. I need only mention some of the names for you to know what I mean -- Arlene Clement, Victor Morales, Diane Gaidry, Bethany Sparacio, Jack Agugliaro, Joy Scime, Sandra Gilliam, Jenna Winnett, Hanna Lipkind, Justin Fiordaliso, Joanna Farrell -- it also featured the debut of high school actors Marisol Torres and Elijah Tyner. It was a great honor to work with such an exemplary team.

Best Production -- THE HAIRY APE
Undoubtedly one of our greatest productions to date, our totally experimental re-interpretation of Eugene O'Neill's uniquely political work THE HAIRY APE was an overpowering spectacle filled with daring use of interpretive movement, pantomime, and dance, puppetry, juggling, and even a live found-sound orchestra that provided music and Foley effects throughout. This production featured outstanding performances by Patrick Cameron, Candice Kogut, Paul O'Hern, Betsy Bittar, Sarah Brown, Brian Zybala, and many others and brought standing-room-only crowds to almost every performance. It was both a joy and an honor to have the opportunity to bring this project to life.

And here are some artists who made their Buffalo acting debut with us this season (in no particular order) . . . a fact that I'm betting will be woefully overlooked by the Artie Committee as well:
Joanna Farrell, JennaBeth Stockman, Marisol Torres, Daniel Henderson, Eric Mowery, Anthony Orlowski, Mary Boatman, Andrew Kottler, Ryan Berkun, Jane Cudmore, David Utter, Brittany Kucala, Angelina Buscaglia, and Dacia Dunnigan.

I'm happy to be able to say that we've had far too many excellent artists at work to mention them all. My apologies to anyone I missed. Congrats to EVERYONE who made our 2009-2010 Season such a terrific success!

Kurt Schneiderman,
Artistic Director,
Subversive Theatre Collective.