Bay Street’s Scott Schwartz on Theater’s 25 Years

Bay Street’s Scott Schwartz on Theater’s 25 Years

Bay Street Theater and Sag Harbor Center for the Arts, founded 25 years ago, continues to entertain and innovate. In addition to its annual summer main stage season, Bay Street has consistently added new, exciting programs throughout the year, thanks in no small part to Artistic Director Scott Schwartz, who joined the theater in 2014. With the new summer main stage season announced, Schwartz continues to make waves at the seaside arts center.

“I feel really good about the 2015 season,” Schwartz says. “It exceeded my expectations, both artistically and from an audience perspective … All three shows ended up being very interesting works.” Schwartz notes that last season—consisting of the world premiere of The New Sincerity, the East Coast premiere of Five Presidents, and Grey Gardens, a musical about the infamous East Hampton estate—was Bay Street’s most successful season in terms of attendance. Bay Street’s production of Grey Gardens, starring musical theater luminaries Betty Buckley and Rachel York, was so successful that the production is moving to Los Angeles this summer. And Five Presidents has proven to be a popular show, as well. “Five Presidents is going all over the place. It’s touring and traveling around to a lot of different theaters,” he says.

For this year’s main stage season, Bay Street will present a pared-down version of Lerner and Lowe’s My Fair Lady. This musical will feature a smaller cast and a two-piano arrangement that Schwartz says allows the show’s characters to shine. “I’d argue that My Fair Lady is, if not the best, one of the top three musicals of all time,” he says. “It’s a seminal, great work and also delightful and fun and has some of the best songs ever written for the theater. Who hasn’t sung ‘I Could Have Danced All Night’ in the shower?” Schwartz points out that My Fair Lady is based on the classic George Bernard Shaw play Pygmalion. “I feel that the story is so rich and the characters are so deep and complex…one of the things that Bay Street offers is the opportunity [for audiences to be close to the action]. Most of the time, My Fair Lady is a large production. What Bay Street offers is a way to get much more intimate with the characters and relationships and to approach it as a great work of drama, as well as the richness of the story.”

It would be impossible to discuss My Fair Lady without mentioning Sag Harbor resident and Bay Street Trustee Emeritus Julie Andrews, made famous for her legendary turn as Eliza Doolittle. “Julie was a major force in the development of Bay Street Theater, and we’re so grateful to her and her family’s generosity. I guess [our production] is a little love letter to Julie, as well as her family, two of Bay Street’s three founders,” Schwartz says, referring to Andrews’ son-in-law, Stephen Hamilton, and daughter Emma Walton Hamilton.

Bay Street’s other announced main stage show is the world premiere of The Forgotten Woman, written by Jonathan Tolins, to be directed by Noah Himmelstein. “Jonathan Tolins is prolific,” Schwartz says. “He’s funny, he’s incredibly smart, and we’re lucky to have a relationship with him. He’s been developing this for years. The thing that really attracted me to the show is that it’s a story of a woman on the verge of becoming an opera star. We see her struggle with so many things in her life: her relationships with her family, with the men in her life, and a guy who shows up that she knew in high school. It also deals with struggles about her weight and self image. It’s the story of a woman finding her own power and ‘divaness.’ It’s fun, it’s funny. There is something [compelling] about stories of women artists. Supporting women in all fields is important to me. This year, I think we’re going to be talking about women in new roles. The two plays speak to each other in terms of women’s roles in society and with their men and their own.”

A third main stage show has yet to be announced, but Schwartz is extremely enthusiastic about what’s to come. “I feel that Bay Street Theater has had an amazing 25 years, and I’m looking forward to kicking off the next 25!”

Bay Street Theater is located at 1 Bay Street, Sag Harbor. For tickets and more information on the main stage season, call 631-725-9500 and visit baystreet.org.

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