Feb 182016
 

Joe MartinFROM THE DIRECTOR – JOE MARTIN

Dario Fo’s first version of the play They Don’t Pay? We Can’t Pay! premiered in the late 1970s (Originally in Italian as Non si paga! Non si paga!) and was not only played widely throughout Europe but made its way quickly to the San Francisco Mime Troup in the US and Tamanous Theatre in Canada, among other places, as an outrageous working class farce. (His other very famous play Accidental Death of an Anarchist made him one of the most produced playwrights in 20th century Europe.) Since that time he has revised it various times – as cultural and political conditions have changed. He even changed the title (Sottopaga! Non si paga!) He has opened up the original play so that it is less of a living room farce, and more of an epic theatre piece: a sort of boulevard theatre, with a subversive curtain adding a vaudeville element, adding the twist of putting some of the action out on the streets, bringing it somewhat closer to Brechtian theatre – only potentially much funnier.

In the more recent version, as we have received it—with great delight—from Fo translators Jon Laskin and Michael Aquilante, the social backdrop for this imaginative farce remains some form of recent economic collapse. In our production we find ourselves viewing a story of desperate people when banks and financial institutions in our own country are bailed out at the expense of taxpayers – who are losing their homes which are “under water” due to loans they can’t pay (This is not a departure from Fo’s script). Wages are forced down and people now have trouble buying the necessities to get by. In this regard Fo keeps the original plot of earlier versions from the 1980s and 1990s intact: working class women begin taking five-finger-discounts in grocery stores, and during a spate of evictions a resistance begins and the authorities close in.

In the spirit of Fo’s wish that very production of this play be topical for the time and place of the production, as we worked we placed our play in a mythical Newark, New Jersey. Newark, with its industry, its role as a transportation hub – much like Fo’s Milan–provided for us, a fitting American model. Italian place names and corporate institutions have been changed to American Equivalents. And while Fo previously reserved some his sharp barbs ever for “the Pope”—that is Pope Benedict—he has defended Pope Frances from “the forces around him” – causing us to improvise a few “tweaks” to this part of the satire.

Fo also seems occasionally to be writing with the recognition that non-commercial theatre is always
working with hard times – forced into multiple casting and peculiar set and design arrangements by
ever increasing budgetary restraints. To do a comedy or farce in these times, requires that we expand the repertory of beloved overclass farces from Noel Coward, Oscar Wilde, et al.
Therefore, as a tribute to the underclass created by the Great Recession, the bail-out of Wall Street, and even to our fellow “off-off” theatre companies working with little to create big artistic statement, we offer our underclass farce.  Joe Martin, Director

DC PREMIERE of THEY DON’T PAY? WE WON’T PAY  Opens March 3, 2016

SHOWS: March 3 – March 26, 2016 WED-SAT at 7:30 PM; SUN at 3 PM 

At FLASHPOINT, 916 G Street, NW, Washington DC 20001

TICKETS ONLINE

May 212015
 
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At Rehearsal of The Trap on 5/19/15 by Eliza Anna Falk

“I’ve written my plays, so as to make difficulties for the directors who stage them, not to make their lives easy. What I like best in the theatre are the rehearsals, when the director fights with everything and everyone -The drama of the battle over the shape of the performance”. -Tadeusz Rozewicz.

How well was the author aware of the degree of challenge, difficulty and pressure his innovative, open theater would bring into a rehearsal room!

IMG_0114What I am seeing is indeed a battle of the director and cast to achieve perfection in transitions, movements and performance, and a lot of very hard mental and physical work. What I see is the director trying to realize her vision as it unfolds, talking out her ideas as they ‘come’ to her and asking the cast to make changes. I see the actors seemingly tired of a number of new adjustments, yet despite the pressure, ready to state their point of view, offer advice and comment on safety.

Most reviewers agree that Rozewicz’s plays are best appreciated when seen in performance rather than read, because of the reliance on visual imagery to convey meaning” (Halina Filipowicz). Rozewicz’s theatre does not have action, it presents situations and images instead, like in a collage, yet the meaning of his plays also lies in between those images, in things unsaid and unseen. That is why it is so important and so challenging for the director and the actors to re-create the images in such a way as to not to lose the hidden and unarticulated. The task is overwhelming and arduous.

   The Trap is constructed as a sequence of tableaux. In the words of Daniel Gerould it “is a family photo album through which we can move backwards and forwards”. The process to create the ‘photos’ and smoothly transit between them presents all involved with an array of extremely demanding challenges. The set consists of a number of movable and multipurpose elements, which need to be precisely repositioned between scenes. Majority of actors are not only required to physically rearrange the set, but also, as the margin for a mistake is almost none, to master the transitions through numerous repetitions. To add to the challenge, group scenes performed in unison demand strict synchronization of movement, a process involving numerous trials/errors and adjustments.

It may well be that “For Rozewicz, the struggle between a play and its realization on stage is the crowning moment of the whole theatrical FullSizeRenderprocess” (Daniel Gerould), however I doubt that the same can be said for the Director and crew. Pasting together the “photo album” of the Trap, requires an enormous creative, technical and physical effort, as well as time, lack of which increases already growing pressure. Observing the wonderful cast and devoted crew’s hard work piecing the ‘collage’ together, repetition after repetition, adjustment after adjustment without seeing results would have been frustrating. However, as an observer, I see what they could not – the pieces of the almost finished product, gems of scenes, quality of which truly amazes me.

The seven days remaining to the preview are undoubtedly going to be extra taxing on the production team, yet the biggest battle seems to be over and the Trap brought to life with passion and force. Although sadly Tadeusz Rozewicz, one of the great writers of our time who passed away last year, will not be with us at the premiere, his genius, powerful spirit and legacy ‘trapped’ in The Trap will be present on stage ‘released’ by Hanna Bondarewska and her team for all of us to see and experience!

May 28 – June 21, 2015

May 26, 27 Previews at 8 pm

May 28 at 8 pm, Opening 

TICKETS ONLINE

 

 

May 082015
 
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Early in Tadeusz Różewicz’s “The Trap”, young Franz, having suffered the berating of his father at the dinner table, scorns himself as a spoiled and ungrateful brat. His boorish father, who looms as a monster throughout Franz’s memories in the play, angrily reminded his children of the traps of his own hard life — long days of physical labor, hard beds, and little food. He has provided a better life for them, but keeps the family in a trap of his own devising with his heavy-handed dominance of the household.

IMG_0488Franz would escape that trap and establish himself as a man of the middle class, with a degree in law and a career in insurance. But in so doing, he wanders successively into new traps, with each escape being only the prelude to the next.

Many in the audience will be familiar with Franz’s trap of career and moderate success. He does not toil in the fields like his father, but sacrifices each day to an office and a stack of files. He freely gives up his freedom in order to achieve a higher standard of living, one which comes with its own fresh obligations.

After securing the suitable job, Franz must secure the suitable wife, but he finds himself baffled by her insistence on buying a suite of furniture he neither wants nor needs. Fiance Felice seeks these things to escape her own trap and to establish a household of her own, but her need to achieve status and worth in the eyes of society is just another snare to Franz. When she is forced to admit that she has not read a word of the Tolstoy novella Franz implored her to read, it becomes clear: She is seeking a husband, but his identity does not matter much.

The Artist’s predicament as represented in “The Trap” will be familiar to any of those among us who put aside artistic endeavors and dreams in order to “be realistic” and “grow up” — and who, having achieved financial stability at the cost of creative freedom, try to fill the void with objects designed to impress a society made up of others who have also opted for the comforts of the cage over the uncertainty of the Artist’s path.

COMING UP SOON: MAY 26 – JUNE 21, 2015  TICKETS ONLINE

Peter Orvetti

Oct 092014
 

PMP_8947 (3) When I first got the script, it was evident to me that Rage was going to be a pretty complex character. It is not say that  the other characters I have played were not complex, but simply that there are aspects of Rage that are difficult to  gauge and manipulate in order to present him believably. During that first week of rehearsals, our Director, Joe  Banno, helped me with finding the right balance in the many aspects of Rage’s character. The aspects of his character  that I had to consider and be mindful of were Rage’s anger, his age, his maturity level, his intelligence, and of course  his level of “crazy” and “creepy”.
I knew from the start that his anger had to fluctuate. I did not want Rage to come off as solely angry the entire length  of the play. Joe and I also agreed that we did not like the idea of Rage’s burst of anger to come out of left field. We came to the consensus that there had to be smaller bursts of anger towards the beginning of the play that build at certain points throughout. These bursts of anger, however, have to be strategically placed or else they might not coincide with the progression of the show. I think this allows Rage to be less stagnant. I think it is a lot more interesting and more real for a character to have different levels. As an audience member, if an actor is yelling every line, I find it hard to empathize with them. And honestly, it is boring to watch a one dimensional character.
When I tried to focus in on Rage’s anger, Joe pointed out to me that what I was doing with my voice really matured Rage beyond his 17 years. He mentioned that the register of my voice had gone much deeper than my natural voice. Subconsciously, I must have made the connection that a deeper voice was much more serious and sounded angrier. It is not a huge stretch, but it just does not fit with who the character is. I had been given similar notes in the past regarding my voice; I realized that because my natural voice was a bit high, I was compensating for it by bringing it down to a lower register. However, by doing so I was compromising Rage’s age. It’s something I will definitely have to monitor much more closely. There is a quality of my voice that I have to tap into to make sure he sounds young but also mature. More than likely, I will have to decide when in the show it would be appropriate to sound one way or the other. That will be dependent on how comfortable and confident Rage is with what he is saying.
Despite the fact that Rage is quite intelligent and formulates mature arguments in his discussion with Laura, his age cannot be ignored. If we forget to address his age, the audience cannot be expected to believe that he is 17. The show also loses that element of innocence being overpowered by anger and violence. It is something I have somewhat been struggling with because what I naturally gravitate towards usually comes off as a bit older. I might deepen my voice, change my posture, or even move in a grandiose fashion. Again not necessarily way off track as these mannerisms can reflect Rage’s confidence in his intelligence or his assertive personality, but not exactly what I should cling to if I’m 17 years old. I’ll sometimes catch myself and realize I might be coming off a bit older, and compensate for it. The problem is I find myself overcompensating and lose the threat level. It is truly a matter of finding the delicate balance of youth and maturity without compromising either.
When considering the threat level, I thought I would benefit from doing some research on psychopathy. Specifically, I wanted to look at the characteristics that come with psychopathy as well as those associated with it. I thought psychopathy would be a good starting point, because the shooters to which Rage relates were described as psychopaths by psychiatrists. Rage also shows signs of being a psychopath because of his lack of empathy and his bold behavior. I found that self-assurance, cruelty, and disinhibition were the main characteristics in psychopathy. My goal thus far is to highlight these characteristics in Rage but only to the extent that a juvenile would be able to address them. I say this because he “still a kid” as Laura puts it, and similarly to what I mentioned before despite his violence and anger we cannot forget he is a teenager. I hope that has the rehearsal process continues I will get more comfortable with the voice, physicality, and anger that comes with playing Rage.

Marlowe Vilchez

rage_200x200 (2)                                                                 Ambassador Theater Presents

RAGE

By Michele Riml

Will “justifiable” violence or passive resistance win the day? Who will survive?

Directed by Joe Banno

Helen Hayes awarded director

Featuring: Ariana Almajan as Laura Whalen

                                     Marlowe Vilchez as Raymond Stitt

October 22 – November 16, 2014

Flashpoint, 916 G Street, NW, Washington DC 20001

Wed – Sat at 8 pm; Sun at 2 pm

TICKETS ONLINE

Jul 032014
 
Photos from SUMMER

Ambassador Theater’s campers, most of whom, were awarded scholarships to attend a International Youth Theater Production Camp at the George Washington Masonic Memorial are busy putting together a play, where they will be showcasing their pottery, costumes, paintings, amongst other crafts

Students learned much about the many stories and attributions regarding the Gods and Goddesses of Ancient Greek Times! They worked diligently to learn about these figures to better assume their roles in the play, The Gods & Goddesses Bake Off. A comical and descriptive production, where all the Gods of ancient times meet to compete in the one thing they’ve never had to do, a bake off! IMG_0263

During the summer camp, students, along with the help of Ambassador Theater staff, especially Ms. Lilia Slavova, made paintings, depicting the Gods and their characteristics, to better learn more about their role. They designed pottery, with Ancient Greek designs. Also, they used crafts as props to compliment their Godly wardrobe.

In addition to the many crafts, students have strengthened their acting skills, being directed by the Ambassador Theaters Artistic Director, Hanna Bondarewska. For all students, it’s their first time entering the George Washington Masonic Memorial, where they were awed by the paintings, architecture, and overall elegant atmosphere. Soon, they will show their friends, family, and all who come how godly they can be.

Don’t miss the performance of “The Gods and Goddesses Bake Off” on Thursday, July 3, 2014 at 12 pm at the George Washington Masonic Memorial Theatre, 101 Callahan Drive, Alexandria VA

Yorman Amador

Jan 292014
 
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CAM00496Ambassador Theater was extremely honored to accept the Proclamation from Mayor William D. Euille and the CAM00495City of Alexandria Council recognizing the Extraordinary Arts Organizations in 2014!

Ms. Lilia Slavova, ATICC’s Board Member and I among many accomplished arts organizations, including Metro Stage, Little Theater of Alexandria and others accepted the proclamation and introduced their organizations to all guests.

The Arts organizations celebrating extraordinary anniversaries include the Old Town Theater 100 years; The Little Theatre of Alexandria 80 years; Alexandria Symphony Orchestra 80 years;  The Art League 60 years; Northern Virginia Fine Arts Association 50 years; Torpedo Factory Art Center 40 years; MetroStage and the Alexandria Commission of the Arts 30 years; Washington Balalaika Society 25 years; First Night Alexandria and Ten Thousand Villages 20 years; Choreographers Collaboration Project 15 years; Arts on the Horizon, Ambassador Theater, and the Youth Arts Festival, 5 years.

Mayor William D Euille, and on behalf of the Alexandria City Council, do hereby proclaim 2014 as

“CELEBRATING THE ARTS:

A YEAR OF EXTRAORDINARY ARTS ANNIVERSARIES”

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Nov 142013
 

ElizaFalkwebIt is Friday November 8, one week before the premiere of Protest, the team’s first rehearsal at Flashpoint Theatre.  The set is ready. Audience members will be up for a surprise, as their seats scattered around small round tables are now part of the stage transformed into an intimate cafe. Two small platforms, one on each side of the cafe, are designated as stage spaces for actors only. They mirror each other, each furnished in the likeness of Stanek’s home study – writing tables with old-fashioned typewriters, crystal brandy carafes and glasses, magnolias in vases – cozy and affluent. Set designer, Jonathan Rushbrook is in attendance to make any necessary adjustments, if needed. So is Zachary Dalton, lighting Designer and Jim Vincent, Stage Manager.

Following warm up exercises with the actors, Director, Gail Hump

hries Mardirosian starts the rehearsal. Beautiful music, written especially for the production by Jerzy Sapieyevski, opens the performance. It has become an intrinsic part of how the story of Protest is told, giving it additional expression and force. Ivan Zizek (Stanek) and his double Hanna Bondarewska (Stankova) enter and each walks towards their stage. Michael Crowley (Ferdinand Vanek) and his alter ego, Sissel Bakken (Ferdinanda Vankova) enter shortly after. And so the extraordinary performance begins. Protestsmaller

In the break, I asked the Director about her thinking behind the innovative idea to introduce female counterparts for Stanek and Vanek. Gail Humphries explained that her concept originated in a feminist perspective which called for introduction of female presence to balance out the all male energy. She also wanted to provide alter egos for Vanek and Stanek and thus making the characters more rounded and powerful, and through this to increase the impact of Havel’s ‘voice’. Gail added that there was an additional advantage in her approach that would benefit the audience. The play’s complex and at times condensed text gets to be broken down and repeated which makes it more accommodating for the spectators.

I mentioned to Ms Humphries that her concept whilst fascinating and bold seemed to be very challenging, especially for the actors. Watching the rehearsed performance reminded me of a carefully crocheted ornamental piece of silk throw, which demanded perfect smoothness as even a slightest irregularity would spoil its beauty. Gail concurred and compared her version of Protest to a musical piece which cannot afford even single bad harmony and agrees that it was a demanding and at the same time searching experience for the actors.

Watching part two of the rehearsal I am in awe of the originality and force of the performance with female actresses mirroring and occasionally challenging the males, lines being echoed, actors moving across the stage, swapping partners as if in a dance. The actors, directed by Ms Humphries, are going through the lines, repeating if necessary; adjusting tones and phrases; perfecting synchronicity, eye contact, pauses and movements – witnessing all this makes me understand how difficult the parts are to master. The rehearsal indeed resembles a piece of a wonderful and very elaborate work, which despite of being almost completed, still requires final adjustments before achieving perfection.

I cannot wait to see this original and powerful piece of theatre in all of its perfect harmony and encourage all of you to come and see it!

To Read More by Eliza Anna Falk

To Get Tickets

 

WHERE:

Mead Theater Lab at Flashpoint

916 G Street NW, Washington DC

WHEN: November 19 – December 15, 2013

November 19, 2013 Preview at 8 pm

No performances during the week of Thanksgiving: Nov. 27 – 30

Opening November 20, 2013 at 8 pm

Press Night: Saturday Nov. 23 at 8:00 pm

Wednesdays – Saturdays at 8:00 pm

Matinees: Saturday and Sundays at 2:00 pm

TICKETS: $20 – $40

On line: http://www.aticc.org/home/box-office

For mature audiences

Oct 042012
 

When I first heard that Ambassador Theater was mounting Egyptian plays my mind immediately began swimming with imagery: the stereotypical pyramids, but also palms, gold, perfume, mud-brick, mummification, and the hard-beating sun. Egypt is a place and a culture which I have only ever read about – never visited or studied in depth – and that got me terribly excited. What would a play about or set in Egypt be like? What time period were the one-acts from? How much of what I already knew would I find in the text, in the story, in the characters?
Other than a passing familiarity with Egypt’s ancient and classical history, I was ignorant.  I had vague notions of several wars between Israel and Egypt (not to mention the rest of the Arab world), and that the conflict was cooled, but not resolved, by a peace treaty.
This look back into my previous understanding of Egypt has revealed to me a host of prejudices I didn’t realize I had. I thought (still think?) that Egypt is a great mystery, that its culture and its heritage since antiquity have been held hostage by religiosity and superstition. Come to find out through the process of working on these two plays, that understanding was simplistic, and failed to tell the whole story.
The most relevant swath of history to Farag as a playwright was much more recent: 1917 onwards – from the time of the Balfour Declaration to the present. At the Treaty of Versailles, European powers, led by Britain and France sliced up the Middle East without much respect to ethnicity or religious homogeneity. In some cases (think: Kurds) international borders were drawn specifically to divide and suppress certain groups.
The strongmen-led, divided Middle East of 1919-WW2 had a profound impact on one of Farag’s political heroes: Gamal Abdel Nasser. Once in power (~1952 until his death in 1967), Nasser presided over a socializing of Egypt: with a march toward a more egalitarian distribution of wealth, a reliance on Arab nationalism as a political force, the refocus of Islam into the religious (and not necessarily political) sphere, and an anti-colonial hostility toward the West.
The 1960s were Farag’s most prolific period of writing, when his plays were consistently produced. Beyond his own success, Farag considered the decade a ‘golden era’ of theater. He and his contemporaries actively resisted the idea that Arab writers were incapable of producing ‘proper’ theater, like Western Tragedy. Together, they sought to define a new, quintessential Arab national drama; they expanded folk tales, experimented with form and style, and produced plays in large annual festivals. Theater’s variety and scope tanked with Nasser’s death, and the end of the 60s.
The Visitor (1971) and the Peephole (1977) came later, from a period of great disappointment and ennui. With both plays, Farag tried to correct society’s faults, rather than lift it to greater heights. Materialism and the middle class’s willful blindness to social problems became his focus.
So far the process has been illuminating, frustrating, and rewarding. Getting into the mindset of each character, finding their motivations, priorities, hang-ups, and points of pride is a high-energy task – each and every rehearsal.
As with the whole cast and crew, I am very excited that our opening night is coming up soon. Get ready for a suspenseful, challenging, and confusing evening of theater; come be an accomplice!

Aug 102012
 

It turns out, a play.

He announces what will be her future

Carlos Ramirez as Messenger

In January 1578, Polish writer Jan Kochanowski presented his newest play, The Dismissal of the Greek Envoys, to Chancellor Jan Zamoyski and his new bride, Krystyna Radziwillowna, to commemorate their nationally significant marriage in front of a host of leading dignitaries. The play is populated by traditional Ancient Greek characters and narrates the prelude to the Trojan war. Though seemingly distant from the period in which it was first performed, The Greek Envoys echoed the concerns of the day as Poland was on the brink of war with Russia at the time.Ambassador Theater’s Teen Production Camp, took this play, perennially popular in Poland but little-known in the US, as a jumping-off point for their exploration of both the Renaissance period and that of the Ancient Greeks, and the numerous ways the two intersected, culturally, religiously, politically, and most importantly, theatrically.
The three-week intensive focused on the basics–enunciation, projection, and movement–as well as more advanced techniques of text analysis and mask work. The campers, ages 10-19, got a glimpse of backstage jobs as well,

making their own masks and togas, writing and developing images for the audience’s programs, and even getting an introductory tour of the tech booth and lighting board.

We weathered strep throat, family illness, and broke-down cars to put on our final performance, but enjoyed by family and friends. We thank the Consular Division of the Embassy of the Republic of Poland, Cultural Development Corporation and SOURCE and Manny and Olga’s Pizza Restaurant for the supportultimately it was worth the hardship.

The group put on a solid, fully-memorized performance that was thoroughly enjoyed by family and friends.

Ambassador Theater Presents

Ambassadors of International Culture

ATICC’s Summer Theater Production Camp 2012

in

Dismissal of the Greek Envoys

By Jan Kochanowski

Directed by

Hanna Bondarewska

Assistant Director

Marta McKeown

 

Cast

Sofia B. (Chorus, Helen, Ulysses)

Gabriela Kiczor (Chorus, Nurse)

Julia Lachowska (Chorus, Captain)

Carlos Ramirez (Chorus, Antenor, Priam, Messenger)

Rhodesia Roberts (Chorus, Cassandra)

Cole Wright-Schaner (Chorus, Paris, Menelaus)

Stage Manager: Carlos Ramirez, Gabriela Kiczor

Lights: Marta McKeown, Cole Wright-Schaner

Sound:  Julia Lachowska

Costumes: Rhodesia Roberts, Gabriela Kiczor

Props: Sofia B.

Special Thanks to

Polish Consulate, Washington DC

 Cultural Development Corporation and SOURCE

ATICC’s Leadership, its members and supporters

 

Jul 082012
 

What better way to learn about theatre than by traveling to Ancient Greece where it all started?

 That is just what a group of fifteen actors, ages 6 to 12, did for the last two weeks.  Held at the beautiful George Washington Masonic Memorial in Alexandria,  Ambassador Theater’s Youth Summer Camp brought together young aspiring  thespians from as far away as Poland and gave them the opportunity to explore  the culture, music, and history of Ancient Greece.

 With the familiar stories from Aesop’s Fables as our starting point, we were able to  bring the tales  to life on stage, learning lessons not only about morality, but about  the use of masks in Greek  theater, the societal role of actors, women and prisoners in Greek life, and a bit about Greek  architecture and how we got from the Theatron to the Theater of today.

 The two-week camp culminated in a short showcase of the work we had done, which included  performances devised entirely by the campers as well as several dance pieces. The students designed and created their very own togas and masks and were very happy to share all their new-found knowledge with their friends and parents.

Now, we are getting ready for our next adventure with the play of “The Dismissal of the Greek Envoys”

We are so anxious and excited and cannot wait to hear from the parents to join our next camp at Source Theater in Washington DC July 16 – August 3, 2012

Check a special discount through LivingSocial.com!

Browse though our pictures!:

We thank all of our parents, supporters and friends for helping  us all to have so much fun!

See you at our next adventurous and very creative summer camp!