Hot theater options at Infringement
400plus acts at more than 90 venues
Stefanie Warnick is in La Pucelle
Photo courtesy of Laura Haberberger
For WNY theater lovers accustomed to seeing a show or two a month—minimum—summer can be a vast chasm between seasons. Sure, there’s Shaw and Chautauqua and Shakespeare, but this month’s Macbeth notwithstanding, the others require both travel and cash. Closer to home, the Buffalo Infringement Festival offers a slate of innovative projects eager for fresh ears. If you like being in on the ground floor, experimental works, bargain theater, or being part of new play development, this year’s festival—in addition to Infringement stalwarts like Babushka, Car Stories, graffiti, and Ron Ehmke—offers a host of new and rarely seen pieces. Check the schedule at infringebuffalo.org for dates, times, and venues, and to see how you can fit in all of them. In alphabetical order, read about this year’s offerings:
The Blue Room
presented by Nick Russo
Set in London, The Blue Room depicts a daisy chain of ten sexual encounters between five women and five men, all portrayed by one actor and one actress. “The play explores the humor, tension, passion, awkwardness, and desire to make a connection,” says presenter Nick Russo of David Hare’s 1998 take on Arthur Schnitzler’s La Ronde. “This show does an incredible job of not only showing the wide range of emotions, but also connecting to any audience member who’s ever had a desire to make a connection. This piece has enjoyed long runs in both London and on Broadway.”
Russo saw the show about a decade ago, and always had the dream to do it. “Infringement is a place where you go outside the box, raise the bar, and bring something you really wouldn’t see most other places,” says Russo. “The Blue Room is all of those, and we’re lucky to have a festival that allows artists like me to bring a show they’re passionate about.”
The Blue Room runs about one hour.
Hearts of Stone
by Donna Hoke
“Hearts of Stone was inspired by events at Willard Psychiatric Center in Ovid, New York, but speaks to similar events that have happened at institutions across the country, namely that psychiatric patients were anonymously buried on the grounds and remain unidentified today,” says playwright Donna Hoke. “Hearts of Stone is one of those rare plays that springs to mind as a fully formed idea, which isn’t to say it immediately became a fully formed play. In it, Lydia is ‘visited’ by these former inmates; as she becomes more and more involved with these voices and visions, her husband becomes more and more fearful she’s losing her sanity. It’s a ghost story, a love story, and a query about how we receive things that don’t line up with our definition of ‘normal.’
“The show is performed by a killer cast: Josie DiVincenzo, Phil Knoerzer, Jennel Nadine Pruneda, Steve Copps, Ben Michael Moran, and Melinda Capeles Rowe,” Hoke continues. “And, because the project is funded by the New York State Council on the Arts, we’ve been working for months leading up to these four enhanced staged readings, meaning they will be script-in-hand, but include blocking and some props. Our first public read in April was amazing, and it’s been revised and rehearsed more since, so we’re very excited to get more feedback and reaction. We also hope to have a speaker from the Museum of DisAbility on opening night, July 30.”
Hearts of Stone runs about 80 minutes. There will be an optional talkback following the performance each night.
Hearts Young and Gay, Part 1
by Frank Canino
Frank Canino presents the first act of an in-development script that traces the gay lib movement in Toronto from the early seventies through early nineties. “Parallel to the gay lib movement in the USA was a wave in Canada; Toronto was a focal point for decades,” says Canino. “What started at Stonewall became a complex and energetic movement in Canada. The script is structured as a fluid story being told by Tim and Saul as they remember and recount their experience in the gay movement.
“I was involved in the Toronto Gay movement for a few years,” Canino continues. “The experience was both exhilarating and disturbing, so much so that I kept avoiding the urge to write any script about that experience. I justified my reluctance by insisting the story was too big and complex, that I wasn’t up to it, and that there was little or no printed history of the movement. But when I went back to research it out of curiosity, I discovered a plethora of printed and online material, so I no longer had any excuse. It’s the closest I’ve written to epic theater, with nearly twenty scenes in Part 1 alone, so it’s more Brecht than Ibsen.”
Hearts Young and Gay Part 1 runs a bit over an hour.
Resist Militarism: The Lonely Soldier Monologues: Women at War in Iraq
presented by Kate Meehan
“The Lonely Soldier Monologues: Women at War in Iraq is a play by Helen Benedict. Described as a ‘non-fiction play,’ the piece is a subjective account of some female soldiers’ experiences in the military. Every word of the piece is verbatim, based on interviews the author conducted with former soldiers,” says Kate Meehan, presenter. “After first presenting the Guantanamo Prison street theater project for last year’s Infringement, the Western New York Peace Center sought to once again submit an entry into this year’s festival. Our Resist Militarism Taskforce particularly wanted to explore an issue related to the military and women. In doing so, we came across this excellent piece by Benedict. The play is based on the book The Lonely Soldier: The Private War of Women Serving in Iraq, also by Benedict, which furthermore served as inspiration for the documentary, The Invisible Soldier. We dig the inclusive spirit of Infringement, and felt it an ideal venue to tell stories that are often relegated to the margins. We are hoping to help create conversation around war and anti-war issues, and shed light on issues that women in particular face while serving in the military.”
The Lonely Soldier Monologues runs approximately 90 minutes.
Shakespeare’s La Pucelle
presented by Lara Haberberger
“Shakespeare’s La Pucelle is an adaptation of the Bard’s Henry VI Part 1. We are extracting the Joan La Pucelle—Joan of Arc—storyline and focusing on her journey in the play in order to explore Shakespeare’s, an Englishman, version of the legendary character,” explains Lara Haberberger, artistic director of Brazen-Faced Varlets. “This is not your typical Joan of Arc; she is seen not as a demure, saintly, martyred young woman but as a vain, passionate, flirty, witchy warrior. This one-woman show features Stefanie Warnick, who is a certified intermediate actor combatant with the Fight Directors of Canada, competent in fifteen weapons including sword and shield, small sword, and hand-to-hand. We hope to utilize her training and experience to flesh out La Pucelle.”
Haberberger expects the show to appeal to Varlets’ base audience, those who enjoy feminist work and stories about groundbreaking women, and Shakespeare fans. “It’s an experimental, edgier take on one of lesser plays that is rarely produced,” she says. “The Infringement Festival is the perfect venue for this type of work: risky, daring, and unique. Infringement audiences are intelligent and open to new theatrical forms and stories.
“We are hoping to illustrate the timelessness of the Bard’s work along with the idea that perception of historical figures is dependent on the writer’s own experience,” Haberberger continues. “We want to bring more Shakespeare into the community, and focus on female actors in unusual capacities like fighting. Plus, chicks who can fight are hot. Women warriors are being reclaimed right now and we want to highlight one of the most famous in history.”
Shakespeare’s La Pucelle runs about forty-five minutes.
Silence Your Devices
by Cathy Lanski
“At a local production, when the announcement came to turn off cell phones, I wondered what would happen if no one did, if the phones themselves were incorporated into the show,” says playwright Cathy Lanski of the genesis of her Infringement piece, Silence Your Devices. “This show will appeal to anyone who enjoys improvisational or participatory theater. Infringement audiences tend to be more open-minded, and I’d like to see what the potential for this sort of show is, and possibly expand it going forward.”
Silence Your Devices should run twenty to thirty minutes.
Sleuth to the Stars
by Carol Alaimo
“A friend suggested I bypass the Infringement Festival this year and have a carefree summer instead. I demurred,” laughs Carol Alaimo, author of Sleuth to the Stars. “About ten years ago, I came upon the Festival by chance and, since then, almost every year, I have participated in one way or another, the past two years, presenting my original plays Prick and Hearts of Evil: the Gentian Violet Murder. As writer, producer, director, performer, and chief water carrier, I was both humbled and enthralled.
“I describe myself as ‘attorney, author, character actress, and animal lover,’ a lifelong Elmwood Villager, and, at age seventy-five, still eager for new challenges,” Alaimo continues. “So, here it is, time for another play, a comedy, Sleuth to the Stars, in the format of the 1940s radio shows, for fifteen readers. Our hero, Kurt Shank, a a post WWII down-at-the-heels gumshoe private eye, takes on as a client Boris Beliskenoff, a shady Russian business man in need of protection. Kurt hires as his crew his own wacky family, and mayhem results! I recognize that a reading is not everyone’s cup of tea, so older audiences might find this period piece more appealing. Infringement exposes my work to a more general public and raises the possibility that these plays may ultimately be performed in a larger context. And face it, ‘the smell of the greasepaint, the roar of the crowd’ still hastens my heartbeat!”
Sleuth to the Stars runs about two hours.
There’s Nothing So Precious
by Nina Vega-Westoff and Jo Johnson
“There’s Nothing So Precious is a contemporary circus and poet’s theater show dialoguing with the ways that water works,” says copresenter Jo Johnson. “It works across disciplines and through improvisation scores to explore the uniqueness of water and our relationships to water as humans living in Western New York. We will use the ingredients of acro, aerial, body movement, dance, music, poetry, theater, and visual art to honor our most precious molecule.”
Johnson says the show is for all audiences, “for those curious how the science of water will fit into a floor-to-air piece with dialogue, those seeking spectacle, those interested in improvisation and collaboration, those interested in aspects of the history of Buffalo, water, and health, theater and language lovers, ecologists, the hesitant, and those interested in seeing what happens when a new ensemble comes together. We love that Infringement encourages art that is questioning and gives space to artists trying something new. We love going to shows at Infringement and how the city is altered. We ourselves are not entirely sure what will happen; we’re hoping to share our love for water and to remain questioning. We’re hoping each step is a surprise. We’re hoping to create quickly and expansively and to learn from each other, the audience, and from water. We’re hoping to honor water and the right to water. We believe in the power of art, science, and activism uniting.”
There’s Nothing So Precious runs about thirty minutes.
The Mighty Maisie
by Bella Poynton
“I’ve been workshopping two full-length science fiction shows,” says playwright Bella Poynton. “Both incorporate sci-fi elements and have casts full of strong female characters. This is always important to me as a writer; I try to stay within my niche. The first play, called The Mighty Maisie follows the lives of four women living in a Detroit trailer park, and a number of supernatural events that happen in the area. The second piece, tentatively titled 3191 (the year it takes place), concerns a young woman searching for her brother after the end of a bloody, crippling intergalactic war. Both shows will appeal to anyone who loves the sci-fi genre, and especially anyone interested in seeing a play that takes place in a very atypical setting. I’m writing them both, and the one in better shape at Infringement is the one you’ll see!
“I love Infringement,” Poynton continues. “It’s a unique opportunity for the artistic community, and I’ve tried to take advantage of it each year since I’ve been back in Buffalo. Last year I was involved with Buffalo Car Plays 2016, as well as a staged reading of a new one-act called Still, Quiet by Emily Dendinger, directed by Antonio Dougherty. This year’s experience will be useful, as the feedback I get from the director and actors is always critical as I move forward with rewrites and eventual productions. Audience feedback is also crucial, and my director and I are hoping there will be some time for that during the performances as well. I’m very excited for this year’s festival!”
Either reading should run about ninety minutes.
Again, check the schedule at infringebuffalo.org for dates, times, and venues.
Playwright Donna Hoke writes about theater for Spree and Forever Young.