Mark Fleischer is beginning his fifth season as producing artistic director at the Adirondack Theatre Festival, and getting to know who’s who in Capital Region theater circles.
That will be readily apparent as ATF begins its 18th season Tuesday night at 7:30 in the Charles R. Wood Theater in Glens Falls with a production of A.R. Gurney’s “Black Tie.” Typically ATF lures some of New York City’s busiest stage actors to the Glens Falls area each summer, and that hasn’t changed.
Fleischer isn’t forgetting Capital Region actors with an Equity card, and subsequently “Black Tie” has three very familiar names in the local theater community playing big parts in the production. Terry Rabine of the Lake George Dinner Theatre is directing the show, while two other regulars on Capital Region stages, David Bunce and Brenny Rabine, are among the cast.
“I’m really thrilled to have two great local actors in the show,” said Fleischer. “This is my fifth season here, and I’ve been working with other great theater people in this area for a while now. So I’m getting to know people. We have a great group of professional actors right here in the Capital Region, and I’m going to make sure I use them along with the great talent we get from New York.”
For Gazette theater writer Matthew G. Moross' review of this show, click here.
Fleischer performed in a Capital Repertory Theatre production of “Superior Donuts” last season, and was involved in the 24-hour Capital Region Theatre Project in April produced by the Arts Center of the Capital Region in Troy, WAM Theatre, and the Mop & Bucket Company.
These days, however, Fleischer is focusing on the ATF season and its production of “Black Tie,” Gurney’s comedy set in a Lake George hotel on the eve of a wedding. Bunce and Brenny Rabine play the parents of the groom, and Emmy Award-winner Thom Christopher plays the father of the bride.
Christopher earned his Emmy for his work on “One Life to Live,” played the role of Hawk in NBC’s “Buck Rogers in the 25th Century,” and has been seen numerous times on “Law & Order.” His résumé also includes plenty of stage work, including Broadway appearances in “Caesar and Cleopatra” and “Henry VI.”
“Black Tie” opened off-Broadway in February 2011 to great reviews, New York Times critic Charles Isherwood calling the show “one of this prolific writer’s most enjoyable plays in years, a modest but effortlessly engaging comedy about the generational shifts in the subset of humanity Mr. Gurney has been writing about with warmth, humor and insight throughout his career.”
“It had an extended run in New York, and it’s a show I like for several reasons,” said Fleischer. “It’s a story about a father who wants to propose the perfect toast, it’s very contemporary, and it deals with all of the situations that happen when a multigenerational event, like a wedding, brings together families. Gurney writes very funny material, very touching and it always has a lot of heart.”
Gurney and ATF have a long history together, dating from 1995 when Dave Turner and Martha Banta founded the company. Opening up that inaugural season at ATF was a production of Gurney’s “Love Letters,” starring Jason Robards and Elaine Stritch.
Following “Black Tie” onto the stage July 5-14 at the Charles R. Wood Theater will be “Next to Normal,” a rock musical with book and lyrics by Brian Yorkey and music by Tom Kitt. The story centers on a woman concerned with her ever-worsening bipolar disorder and its effect on her family. The show opened on Broadway in April 2009 and was nominated for 11 Tony Awards, winning three. It also earned the Pulitzer Prize for Best Drama.
“The board and myself are very excited about the opportunity we have of putting on this show,” said Fleischer. “It’s a drama, but there are parts that make you laugh, and I think people will really identify with it. It’s about a family dealing with mental illness, and if it isn’t your story then you know somebody or a neighbor with this story. It’s all about family interaction, and at the end of the day I think it has a very positive ending.”
A story through music
The third and final full-scale production of the season will be “Woody Sez: the Life and Music of Woody Guthrie,” set for July 19-28.
“This play talks about Woody Guthrie using his music to tell the story,” said Fleischer. “It’s four performers who play 21 instruments during the course of the show, and it’s been a huge hit across the country since it premiered in 2007. I saw it in Boston a few weeks ago, and it really shows you what a huge musical influence Woody was on guys like Bruce Springsteen and Bob Dylan.”
David Lutken directs the show and will play Guthrie in this production.
Other events on tap
ATF’s Second Act Cabaret is back for its third summer, and will begin on June 28 with three performances by the New York City songwriter team of Joe Kinosian and Kellen Blair. In 2010, the duo created “Murder for Two: A Killer Musical,” which opened at ATF and then found success in San Francisco and Chicago, as well as other parts of the country, and won the Joseph Jefferson Award for Best New Musical.
The cabaret performance by Kinosian and Blair is called “The More Things Change,” and will follow three performances of “Black Tie” on the Charles R. Wood Theater stage. They will be joined on stage by their comedic colleague, Anna Marquardt.
“We wanted to create a comic and musical experience that connects artists and audiences in a unique and very direct way,” said Fleischer. “The performers on ATF’s cabaret stage have performed in past ATF shows, but at the cabaret they get to let their guard down as they perform, laugh and interact with the audience.”
Also a part of the ATF summer season is a new play reading by Eric Lane July 21-22. The play was commissioned by ATF and is inspired by the time artist Georgia O’Keeffe and Alfred Stieglitz spent at his family home on Lake George. The project marks the return of Banta, the artistic director at ATF from its founding through 2007. Banta will be directing the production, which expects to have its world premiere at ATF sometime in 2013.