Bay Street’s Scott Schwartz Reflects on First Year and What’s Ahead

Bay Street’s Scott Schwartz Reflects on First Year and What’s Ahead

As I look forward on these cold days to the warmth of next summer, I’m amazed at how quickly time has flown by since I joined Bay Street Theater as the new Artistic Director. It’s been just over a year, and I have learned so much, both about my new home on the East End and about the theater that I feel privileged to be a part of.

I have many memories from my first year, but two stand out as emblematic. I remember, early on last summer, walking into the lobby before the final Sunday matinee of Conviction, the new play that we premiered, and being taken by surprise. Looking around, I saw many teenagers there, waiting for the show. We had certainly had young people attend throughout the run, but this was a crowd, and on a Sunday afternoon! When I went to the box office and asked about this, Anthony our box office manager reminded me of the new Free Student Sundays program that we had started just a few weeks prior. Under this program, anyone with a student ID can attend Bay Street’s Sunday matinees for free. To see this young crowd come to watch a world premiere play and share in the complex social conversation it raised made me feel so grateful. I was grateful to be a part of a community that values art and ideas, and one that has so many inquisitive students.

Late in the season, I experienced another moment like this that has stayed with me. In mid-August, we presented the inaugural event of the new Bay Street Shakespeare Initiative. It was a free reading of The Tempest starring Tony Award winner John Glover, held outdoors at Mashashimuet Park in Sag Harbor. For this event, we set up a semicircle of bleachers, leaving an open field in front of our temporary stage. Our hope was that an audience would bring chairs, blankets and picnics and come watch the show. But this was the first time Bay Street had tried something like this, and I had no idea if anyone would show up! Our afternoon rehearsal ended and for a while it was pretty quiet by our stage in the back of the park. Then, as the afternoon sunlight began to slant through the trees, suddenly people started to appear, walking down the dirt road that led to our stage. And they kept coming. By 7 p.m. when the show began, our entire field was filled, and most of the bleachers too. It was a perfect night, hearing one of the Shakespeare’s greatest plays under, as the Bard wrote in another play, “this most excellent canopy, the air.” To partner with the park to bring this special, ephemeral performance to our community, and to share the joy of poetry and performance with our neighbors that night, reminded me why I love theater in the first place.

With a little over a year of lessons and memories, I am proud of what Bay Street Theater is and excited about what we can be. We are a center for the performing arts on the East End, a place where visionary artists come to create cutting edge work that gets us talking. We are a home for new works, and for classics given new life. And we are a gathering place for the community, not just in the summer, but also year round—a place to be entertained, to start conversations, and to share our ideas and hearts.

We have performances going on now, and will throughout the rest of the winter and spring. This summer, we have a great season coming. And we will continue our Free Student Sundays, and our outdoor Shakespeare Initiative too. Maybe we’ll even have a few new surprises, and we’ll surely make some more memories. I hope you’ll join us in doing so.

—Scott Schwartz

Jason Alexander

Jason Alexander, Photo: Courtesy Bay Street Theater

Bay Street Theater Announces 2015 Mainstage Summer Season

Last Friday, January 23, Bay Street Theater announced their three 2015 Mainstage Summer Season productions.

The Mainstage season begins with the world premiere of The New Sincerity, a comedy by Alena Smith, directed by Bob Balaban. The production will run from May 26-June 14. In today’s world, balancing politics, love and the quest for success (along with one’s social media presence) can get complicated. When her ambitious literary circle gets involved with a rowdy Occupy-style movement, young journalist Rose Spencer finds herself in a love triangle where it’s hard to tell the difference between sincere action and skillful self-promotion. Alena Smith offers a smart and savvy portrait of a rising generation.

The second Mainstage production is Other People’s Money, a drama by Jerry Sterner, directed by Lonny Price and starring Jason Alexander. The production runs from June 23–July 26. It’s the good “bad old days” of 1987, the later Reagan years, when all was fair in love and business. Lawrence Garfinkle is an expert at buying up undervalued companies and liquidating them for a profit, and he’s the kind of guy you love to hate. But will he win in his newest attempt at domination when he comes up against a surprising adversary, the brilliant and beautiful lawyer Kate Sullivan? Suspenseful and funny, this greed-filled drama is as timely and titillating today as it was when it premiered.

The Mainstage Season culminates with the musical Grey Gardens, with music by Scott Frankel, lyrics by Michael Korie and book by Doug Wright, directed by Michael Wilson. The production runs August 4–30. Based on the 1975 documentary by Albert and David Maysles, the musical tells the story of Big Edie and Little Edie Bouvier Beale, the eccentric aunt and cousin of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. Set in 1941 and 1973 at the Bouvier mansion in East Hampton, this bold musical follows a mother and daughter on their hilarious and heartbreaking journey from glamorous aristocrats to notorious recluses in a crumbling house filled with memories and cats.

“I am thrilled to announce the full summer Mainstage season at Bay Street,” Artistic Director Scott Schwartz says. “These three works are portraits of America, explorations of our need for social and financial success. They are stories about how love factors into this need, and struggles with it. They are visions of different eras in our country, but all speak to today through the times in which they’re set. We are proud to offer our audience a world premiere as part of the season, continuing our commitment to making Bay Street a center for new works for the theater. And we are delighted to welcome the distinguished and dazzling artists Jason Alexander, Bob Balaban, Lonny Price, Alena Smith and Michael Wilson to our stage.”

The 2015 Mainstage Season is sponsored in part by New York State through the generosity of Assemblyman Fred Thiele and State Senator Kenneth P. LaValle; the New York State Council on The Arts, a State Agency; Town of Southampton; The Harold and Mimi Steinberg Charitable Trust; The Shubert Foundation; and fully or partially funded by the Suffolk County Executive’s Office. Additional support for the musical comes from Adrianne and Jerry Cohen. Preview weeks for all three productions are sponsored by Peconic Landing. Support for new work comes from The Scott Schwartz New Development Fund and the Joseph Stein New Musical Fund.

To purchase a Mainstage Season subscription, visit baystreet.org or call the box office at 631-725-9500. Don’t miss the Friday, January 30 Nancy Atlas Fireside Sessions concert featuring Bill Sims Jr.at Bay Street Theater in Sag Harbor, sponsored by Dan’s Papers.

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