In her last show, Cori Irwin played an extremely bright and organized individual who knew exactly what he was was doing in his life. Her next show, calls for a somewhat different character in a completely different situation.
In September, Irwin, a woman, played Maj. John Wesley Powell in "Men in Boats," directed by Patrick White at the Sand Lake Center for the Arts. That show told the story of the 1868 expedition down the Colorado River. This time around, she's in another period piece (1967), but in "The Babylon Line," opening Friday at the Schenectady Civic Playhouse and running through Feb. 3, her character Joan is considerably less organized than Powell, and is looking to make a connection with someone or something.
"She's someone who has broken from the norm and she's sort of going through an awakening," said Irwin, an Albany native who went to the Academy of Holy Names, then got a degree in interior design from the Sage Colleges of Albany. "She's hoping to have some big life change."
To help broaden her horizons, Irwin's character heads to an adult education class on creative writing. The course is taught by a writer from Greenwich Village named Aaron, played by Knathan MacKenzie-Roy. Also in the cast are Cristine M. Loffredo, Melissa Putterman-Hoffman, Joseph Bruton, Debra Bercirer and Ryan Gillotti. Chris Foster is directing.
"It was a different time back then, and it's interesting to look back at something and see it through a different lens," said Irwin. "I like the time period and I love all the characters, particularly Joan. She's a character with many layers."
"The Babylon Line" was written by American playwright and television writer Richard Greenberg. His most famous play is the 2003 Tony Award winner "Take Me Out," about a Major League Baseball player who casually announces to his teammates and the media that he is gay. "The Babylon Line" is the most recent work by the Princeton graduate, having made its world premiere at the New York Stage and Film & Vassar College's Powerhouse Theatre in July of 2014. It was produced off-Broadway in November of 2016.
"This play is so much about an awakening and being active in changing your life," said Irwin. "My character is taking a break from a traditional way of living, the traditional way of living, and that was hard for people to do back then. She was going against the societal expectations of what the American home and family are all about."
While she's been a busy stage actress in the Capital Region for five years, Irwin has also been involved in some independent films. Much of her early performance career was in dancing, but she fell in love with acting when she was in a production of "BINGO! The Musical" with Clifton Park's Not So Common Players in 2013. She's been in "Cabaret" at Schenectady Light Opera Company, "Angels in America" with the Local Actors Guild of Saratoga Springs, and "Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike" at Curtain Call, to name just a few, then landed her most challenging role to date when, as part of Acting Class with Patrick White, she got the role of Maj. Powell in "Men in Boats." The entire cast was female.
"I danced exclusively for the longest time, and then about five years ago I did a show with the Not So Common Players and my creative path changed," said Irwin. "I've had some wonderful roles since then, but playing a man, an actual historical figure, and figuring out where to go with that was very challenging. It was a great experience and we got a great response from the audience."
Irwin says her goal these days is to get involved in at least two shows a season.
"I had sort of a corporate 9-to-5 job, but I left that to create more time for creative work," said Irwin. "Getting to do this show with Chris Foster was a great draw. He directed me at Curtain Call back in 2015, and I was always looking for the opportunity to work with him again. I like to stay busy. I'm not sure what's happening this spring, but hopefully something will come up."
Bunce play at Cap Rep
David Bunce, well known to Capital Region theater fans for his work as an actor with the now-defunct New York State Theatre Institute, is having his new play, "Red Maple," produced by Capital Repertory Theatre in Albany.
The story centers on a pair of couples, both empty-nesters, getting together for a small dinner party. Add an unexpected visitor and trouble ensues.
"This is the first time I've had something to do with a script that was chosen by someone else, so that's pretty cool," said Bunce, who is part of the adjunct faculty at Russell Sage College in Troy. "It's great to have the words on the page written by you read by someone else and say, 'Hey, we think this is good enough to produce.'"
Bunce submitted "Red Maple" to Capital Rep's "Next Act! New Play Summit 6" back in 2017. It was one of five plays picked to be done in workshop, then was chosen by Capital Rep for a full-scale production. Margaret Hall is directing the show, which stars local favorite Yvonne Perry and New York City-based actors Oliver Wadsworth, James Lloyd Reynolds, Elizabeth Meadows Rouse and Julia Knitel.
"To have other people bring my words to life is great, and now we've been hard at work making this play as good as possible," said Bunce. "The casting is just wonderful. These actors are making the words much funnier than they were just sitting on the page, and I have a great relationship with Margaret. She's open to anything I might want to contribute, but it's tough being the writer because I'm kind of just sitting in the corner and watching. It's my script, but it's her production."
Hall, meanwhile, is thrilled to be working with a contemporary play that is brand-new.
"It's very unusual, as a director, to have the opportunity for this kind of investment," she said. "You're usually working on a complete script that's already been set and staged many times before. It's supremely exciting, in this case, to be in the room with what is already a great script and to be able to participate in fine-tuning it."
'The Babylon Line'
WHERE: Schenectady Civic Playhouse, 12 South Church St., Schenectady
WHEN: Opens Friday and runs through Feb. 3; performances at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 7:30 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday, and 2:30 p.m. Sunday
HOW MUCH: $20
MORE INFO: Call (518) 382-2081 or www.civicplayers.org
WHERE: Capital Repertory Theatre, 111 S. Pearl St., Albany
WHEN: Previews Friday through Sunday; opens Tuesday and runs through Feb. 17; performances at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday, 8 p.m. Friday, 3 and 8 p.m. Saturday, and 2 p.m. Sunday and Wednesday, Feb. 6
HOW MUCH: $57-$22, students $16
MORE INFO: Call (518) 445-7469 or www.capitalrep.org