The Summer theatre arts retreat held at, The Way of the Labyrinth, was a resounding success. Everyone involved confirmed that it was a life-changing experience. The value of an intensive workshop retreat for a playwright can’t be overstated. It is the kind of attention a writer craves and needs in order to successfully move forward, and the work that was done by these four playwrights working on their solo shows was nothing short of amazing.
Each day everyone enjoyed a wonderful breakfast prepared by our gourmet chef, Sue, who is pictured here with her sweet little poodle Cooper.
After breakfast, the playwrights set to work on their individual pieces implementing the re-writes they discussed the day before. Under the auspices of Artistic New Directions, our award winning director, Janice Goldberg worked with each playwright to help them craft their piece according to what she saw and heard, as well as in-depth discussions between them, one on one.
Here is Leilani hard at work on her piece that tells the story of her father George Gibbs. George was the first African American to set foot on Antarctica, as part of the crew aboard the naval tanker “The Bear” commanded by the legendary, Admiral Byrd. Her story is both inspiring and important as her father’s experience elevated him and consequently set up a drive in him to take action, working tirelessly as a humanitarian and a civic community leader. He did so much work in his community that helped to improved the lives of the people who lived there that he was posthumously recognized by having a school and a street named for him, as well as a point of land in Antarctica now known as Gibbs Point. The following is a snapshot of his story:
On the morning of Jan. 14, 1940, the Bear steamed into the Bay of Whales, an indentation in the massive Ross Ice Shelf, that stretches out into the Ross Sea — it was a special day for Gibbs, who recorded the events in his journal: When the Bear came up to the ice close enough for me to get ashore, I was the first man aboard the ship to set foot in [Byrd’s old base] Little America, and help tie her lines deep into the snow. I met Admiral Byrd; he shook my hand and welcomed me to Little America and for being the first Negro to set foot in Little America. Leilani stated; “He lived a long life of community service and never really retired… My father enjoyed life to the fullest and said that Antarctica was his best experience!” George Gibbs, is one of those people who made the most of the opportunity he was given and she hopes to inspire others to do the same by telling his story. She feels his story can serve as a model of an exemplary way to live one’s life.
After breaking for lunch and long walks or trips to the quaint and charming towns of Mystic and Stonington, or a few hours on the beach, it was back to work. One day everyone took a lovely afternoon sail on the Poet’s Lounge with Captain Darin Keech. Poet’s Lounge a 39′ Erickson www.sailpoetslounge.com sails out of Noank into Fishers Island Sound where the water is calm, the sky is blue and the breeze was gentle. It was a spectacular sail and a highlight of the retreat.
Dinner time was the time to enjoy another delicious meal (lobster this night) prepared by Sue, some wonderful wine and desert (out of this world chocolate crepes made by our French resident Helene – these were the real thing!) and coffee.
This particular evening we see Janice and Sue with special guests Artistic New Directions ( AND ) Board President, David Marx, along with his partner, and actress, Sophie. At the end of the table visiting playwright Jeffery Sweet. Our solo artists are backstage in the kitchen cooking up a special surprise for desert. Artistic Director, Kristine Niven is behind the camera for this one.
Then off to watch the performances of the work done that day. Everyone provided feedback for what was performed, and those notes were incorporated into the work for the next day. Day by day, the pieces took shape, and while there was still more to do on these works in progress, all the playwrights felt they made huge strides, leaping forward much closer to a finished product eagerly looking toward eventual productions.
Mimi is a veteran Broadway dancer and actress. Mimi gave nightly performances from her solo piece “Lunch at the Minskoff” which tells the enthralling and engaging tale of her life as a young dancer being hand picked by Gwen Verdon to be Bob Fosse’s assistant for the 1986 Broadway revival of Sweet Charity – Mimi was Fosse’s assistant keeping the book for the show, in addition to being in the show as a featured dancer and dance captain. All three positions for one young woman – not for the fainthearted. She had so many stories to choose from, her biggest task was picking the ones that truly conveyed the magic of the experience. The stories are funny, fascinating, touching, and immensely dramatic. Working with these show business legends in the early stages of her career as a dancer and performer, contributed to making her who she is today. We were so lucky to have her share with us.
In preparation for the world premier of his solo performance the following week, Richard, rehearsed for three days straight and performed the piece for us on Wednesday evening. The writing and the performance was electrifying, and we were privileged to be the first audience to see this amazing show.
One week later, the following Wednesday he performed his piece, Downstairs on Cornelia Street, in Greenwich Village NYC. http://www.corneliastreetcafe.com/ The story of, I OF THE STORM, celebrates the days and ways of a man who has lost it all and then finds himself. Homeless, outside a city park, he holds forth for all passersby – musing, ranting, singing, dancing and spitting poems. A comic tragedian, he is an Everyman on steroids, and a Superman who does not leap tall buildings at a single bound, but takes them one story at a time. Directed by Kennedy Center Gold Medallion Award winner Janice Goldberg.
Here is Helene – She is very French and very Funny!!! She tickled and delighted us with her science based piece that tells the tale of the failures of the World Health Organization to eradicate so many deadly viruses taking the lives of so many that are continuing to spread disease throughout the world and take the lives of so many. A research biologist with a Phd, her take on this topic is both unique and original as she impersonates all the various viruses (HIV, Hepatitis, AIDS, Malaria and more.) She personifies the evil demons giving them voices as they are interviewed by an ambitious journalist attempting to get the scoop on where they stand on their own demise. As they converse and conspire with each other, the talking viruses revel in avoiding detection and extinction in spite of all the efforts by science to rid the world of them – hilarious material – it gave us all the laughter we were looking for, adding a fun, light hearted piece to the retreat.
And after the performances we headed down toward the labyrinth to sit around the fire, listening to the sounds of the night – crickets, frogs and other creatures, reflecting on the days work and looking forward to the next. And we also look forward to our annual summer retreat. If you are interested in participating please email Judith Clinton so we can keep you informed as to the next scheduled retreat.