Red, fleshy chunks of watermelon skid off the stage into the faces of the audience.
Good morning, Columbia! It's supposed to be 74 degrees and partly cloudy outside, which actually sounds beautiful. Please, for the love of iced coffee and all that is good, let that be true. In any case, happy caffeinating....
The School of the Arts has taken a step to help students in the master's theater program avoid a future as stereotypical starving artists after graduation. In an agreement with the Actors' Equity Association, announced last week, the SoA theater program and the Classic Stage Company will provide third-year MFA acting students and two stage management students with the opportunity to gain equity membership. Columbia will be the first professional training program in New York City to offer students the opportunity to join the union. "It's sort of elevating the bar for our students, in terms of what we can offer them as part of professional development and equipping them to go out into the world and succeed," theater program chair Christian Parker said. With AEA benefits, actors and stage managers will be guaranteed certain salaries at different contract levels, as well as health and pension benefits. "The school will really support them [the students] on a salary level, which is fantastic," Parker said. "It also confers for you the opportunity to work at a higher level, professionally, earlier in your career." Actors are eligible to become AEA members by having or understudying a part in one of the Classic Stage Company's Young Company productions. The Young Company brings Shakespeare to underserved communities throughout the five boroughs and has reached 12,000 young people in its eight seasons. SoA and the Classic Stage Company joined forces when CSC started to develop its education and outreach program eight years ago. "SoA's graduate acting program felt like the perfect fit in that the program has a strong foundation in performing classics and their energy and diversity rhymed with the schools we wanted to approach," Brian Kulick, CSC's artistic director and associate professor of theater at Columbia, said in an email. Although equity membership doesn't guarantee students will find work, it will open the door to being able to audition for a wider range of professional opportunities that confer actual benefits, according to Parker. The process of getting an equity card is difficult, according to Aislinn Curry, SoA '12, who graduated with an MFA in stage management in October. The new agreement with AEA is "much more of an asset" to the acting students than it is for the stage management students, Curry said. "In terms of alumni that I know and that I've worked with, a pretty high percentage of stage management students are able to get their cards within a few years of graduating, whereas it's not as much the case with acting—that's also inherently the difference in the competitive nature of the acting profession, compared to stage management." SoA hopes the opportunity for union membership will attract more applicants. "Certainly our belief and our hope is that this will help ... make our program even more competitive," Parker said. "It certainly positions us as unique among our peers in New York City." Several of SoA's peers in other parts of the country that are also associated with professional theater companies on their campuses, including the Yale School of Drama and the La Jolla Playhouse at the University of California, San Diego. Both institutions provide students with the chance to join the union through these programs. "I would think this makes Columbia all the more desirable for the next generation of serious young actors who are looking for a program that can help launch their careers," Kulick said. The agreement has been in the works for a number of years. "It's just been a process of negotiating how that would look with the union," Parker said. "The union has an interest in making sure their members are of high quality and professional responsibility and ready to be part of a professional association like that." Curry pushed for this opportunity when she was a student. "I know that the [acting] students have been pushing it for years," Curry said. "I have a friend in the class of 2009, and she told me how much they were pushing for that. So I'm really proud that this thing that's been an ongoing attempt for years now has come to fruition." firstname.lastname@example.org...
The story is a classic, but the distinction is in its telling. With the use of a single whitewashed door on wheels, Paul Scott Goodman's Rooms: A Rock Romance cleverly orchestrates each entrance and exit in the lives of two young Scots. The duo comes to New York in search of romance and rock 'n' roll, and learns a little something about the transience of success and the permanence of love along the way. break A composer, lyricist, and writer, Goodman had some trepidation about coming back to the New York stage for a recent performance—after all, it's been exactly 10 years since his freshman effort Bright Lights, Big City opened to less than stellar critical acclaim and quickly closed. But Goodman, like the characters in Rooms, seems excited to break down the fourth wall this time around. He's even read all the reviews. "The attitude of this show is this," said Goodman, a native Scot who wears his tinted blue glasses both in- and outdoors. "You don't need 50 million dollars to write a musical. If you've got an instrument, two or three great performers, and some good material, you can have a musical." Sitting just beyond the stage door at New World Stages—where Rooms is getting its off-Broadway debut—Goodman spoke about the many incarnations of this production. Beginning work on the musical in March 1999, he said, "It's kind of weird for me because not a lot of material in the show is brand new." Goodman worked on Rooms in between other projects like Bright Lights, Big City and Alive in the World, so "a lot of it has been tried and tested, and I kind of know what's working," he said. Rooms got its first run during the 2005 New York Musical Theater Festival. Both, director Scott Schwartz (son of Broadway mega-composer Stephen Schwartz) and co-book writer Miriam Gordon (Goodman's wife), have been involved with the show since its inception. After recognizing that the second half of the script needed work, Goodman and his team revamped the material for a reading at the now-defunct Zipper Factory in October 2006. More recently, the show enjoyed a successful out-of-town tryout in Washington, D.C., which enabled producers to get it up and running in Midtown earlier this year. Goodman explained that the transatlantic story hits close to home, as he himself moved from Scotland to New York City in 1983. "The show started off with the premise of me being this Scottish, middle-class Jewish kid, who collaborated with this Catholic working class boy to write songs," said Goodman. And it was this challenge of writing a small-scale show that ultimately kept him working on the project. "How do you write a two-person musical and keep it interesting ... rely totally on the performances and the material and yet make it universal?" he added. The result is a musical with a strong voice and a lot of heart, that has caused the critics to reconsider the talents of this now seasoned musical composer. Rooms' co-stars Leslie Kritzer and Doug Kreeger infuse Goodman's music with a constant carnal energy, taking the audience along for the ride, as they move from working at a bat mitzvah to booking gigs at CBGBs. And Goodman—who still feels the rush each time he sees a Rooms advertisement in the subway—is just grateful for the experience. "To get a show up in the best of times is a miracle, and to get a show up now is a double miracle," he said....
Butler bibliographic assistant and part-time student by day, Theo van Joolen is a Cossack soldier at the Metropolitan Opera by night.