Guild Hall has announced the John Drew Theater Lab (JDTLab), a new workshop series designed to give East End performing artists an opportunity to develop their work in an exploratory environment.
Featuring theater, dance, music and more, works developed by JDTLab will be performed on select Tuesdays through May at the John Drew Theater. The series began on January 21 with a staged reading of Turing Test, a new play by Dominick DeGaetano. Guild Hall artistic director Josh Gladstone is very excited about this unique initiative and can’t wait to see what develops. “The John Drew Theater Lab is an extension of our mission, which is to provide our community with opportunities [in the arts],” Gladstone says. “We’ve done play readings and series, but we wanted to give a little more to the artists than we have in the past.”
Although Guild Hall does have opportunities for performers throughout the year, JDTLab is providing artists with an open platform that allows them to work on projects that are special to them. Local actor Sawyer Avery, for instance, is making his directorial debut with JDTLab. “It goes back to the artist getting an opportunity to extend [their skills]. Sawyer has never directed before, and was jonesing to direct,” Gladstone says. “He’s directing a staged reading of Neil Simon’s Biloxi Blues. He’s working with an experience co-director on the project.” Gladstone also points out that Avery chose the play he wanted to direct, and that they’re not limited to new or original works.
Gladstone hopes that JDTLab will help performing artists advance their careers. “One of things I’m really excited about is that they’re going to be able to network. The chance to have people networking, using their resources…it’s really healthy to do out here [on the East End],” he says. “I think we’re really onto something here. I think that some of the choices we’ve got programmed are very interesting. There are some younger, emerging artists who are building their strengths [through JDTLab]. I like to see artists in their 20s, 30s; we also have veterans, of course. We’re lucky in that having done a number of plays here, we have actors and directors we know.”
While Gladstone notes that these workshop productions are not guaranteed to develop into anything more, he doesn’t rule out the possibility of a successful lab getting a full-fledged Guild Hall production. “It’s absolutely conceivable that we could mount a full production,” Gladstone says. But if a lab doesn’t turn out to be successful or live up to its potential, that’s okay too. Gladstone believes that the whole purpose of a lab is to experiment, and experiments sometimes include failures. “You can create something wonderful, or it could explode in your face.”
The opening season of JDTLab is filled with interesting, unique programming. Turing Test is centered around a mysterious experiment that an unemployed teacher agrees to participate in involving tutoring a student in poetry. On the other end of the spectrum is Biloxi Blues, a classic Neil Simon comedy, which will perform on Tuesday, February 4. On Tuesday, February 18, Joe Brando and Susan Vecsey direct an improv workshop featuring actors enrolled in Manhattan’s Upright Citizen’s Brigade. On Tuesday, April 29, the Neo-Political Cowgirls take the stage for a performance of Kate Mueth’s latest dance/theater piece Voyeur. On May 6, a new band featuring Lynn Blumenfeld, Randolph Hudson, Kylph Black, Mick Hargreaves and Jim Lawler perform an informal evening of original acoustic songs.
There’s no formal process for artists who are interested in getting involved or proposing a JDTLab project. “It’s pretty informal,” Gladstone notes.
“They should send me an email (firstname.lastname@example.org) at Guild Hall. The slots between now and May are almost all filled, but I’ll be lining these up for the year to come. I think it’s a series that has legs and will establish itself as the go-to place to see work in development.”
For more information on the John Drew Theater Lab and a complete lineup of performances, go to guildhall.org. Performances are open to the public and free of charge.