Apr 27, 2011

Q&A with Marcy Arlin

The Farnsworth Invention

The Farnsworth Invention opens this week at Oddfellows.
Q and A with Guest Director, OBIE Award-winner, Marcy Arlin

Oddfellows Playhouse is delighted to introduce you to Marcy Arlin, Founder and Artistic Director of the OBIE Award-winning Immigrants’ Theatre in New York City. Marcy is a Fulbright Senior Specialist and a Member of the Lincoln Center Theater Directors Lab.

"The opportunity to work with Marcy Arlin challenges the students in new ways,” said Matt Pugliese, Oddfellows Playhouse’s Managing Director, “Not only are they benefiting from Marcy's wealth of experience and artistry, but the personal challenge of meeting the expectations of an Obie award-winning artist from New York.”

“That little phrase changes a lot in the mind of a teenager. And being able to succeed and perform up to her expectations, changes what our student-performers think is possible in their lives,” he said.

Q: What was your first encounter with theater?

A: Oh, maybe when my parents took me to Stratford to see Shakespeare or when I saw Caucasian Chalk Circle at Lincoln Center, or the famed Storybook Theatre that toured the elementary schools out on Long Island when I was a kid.

Q: How did it change your life?

A: I saw a magic event though it was only costumes and light. I also went to Fiedel School of the Creative Arts as a teenager, apprenticed at a children’s theatre in Massachusetts, I did plays and musicals in high school so I truly get Oddfellows. Theater was a creative outlet, a refuge, a place to find other kooks like myself. I think it saved my life during adolescence.

Q: What do you think of Oddfellows?

A: I am completely impressed by the talent and quality of the kids. I arrived at Oddfellows during one of the worst winters in Connecticut’s history. We had to delay the start of rehearsals, because of the ice and snow. And then the terrible damage to the theatre roof. And then the collapse of the building holding the props and costumes. And Jeffery, who hired me, running around talking to the press and the community. I was awed by the generous response of the community and the beloved presence of Oddfellows in the Middletown community. That kind of devotion is rare.

Once the theatre damage had been repaired, the building became crowded with children of all ages taking art, poetry, theatre and circus classes. I met the skilled and warm staff running and teaching these programs. I am honored to be invited by Jeffery Allen, who I have known for many years, to direct a difficult and eccentric play. I am impressed by the high bar that is set for the kids…texts that are difficult, tricky staging, deep, intelligent and meaningful themes. Again, that is rare and should be encouraged and developed.

The last thing I want to mention is that above and beyond the actual work and staging of plays, the most important thing is the progress and development of each individual child. The actors in the Teen Rep are well known to staff who follow their progress, social and artistic, with care and insight.

I am having a great time working with the kids and I hope they feel the same.

Q: What's next for you?

A: (I’m working on) a bi-national, trilingual (ENGLISH/CZECH/VIETNAMESE) performance project about Vietnamese immigrants coming to the U.S. and the Czech Republic, (which is) based on interviews, working with the Firehouse Theatre of Richmond, Virginia and Divadlo Feste (Jester’s Theater) in Brno, Czech Republic. (I’m also) going to Los Angeles in June at the Asian American Theatre Conference to be on a panel on theater and social change and doing some science fiction writing.

Apr 12, 2011

Nothing Says Spring Like...


Funds raised will help replace destroyed costumes and props.

Middletown, Conn.- When Oddfellows Playhouse lost its entire props and costume inventory when its storage space at 505 Main Street in Middletown suffered a roof collapse in February, the community responded swiftly and generously. So generously, in fact, that Oddfellows is unable to keep and use everything.

The call for donations of clothes and household items began efforts to start replacing props and costumes. The surplus items are now being offered for sale at a tag sale set for Sat. Apr. 16 from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. at Oddfellows Playhouse’s theater located at 128 Washington St., Middletown.

This is a rain or shine event and cash, checks and credit cards will be accepted.

Apr 11, 2011

Meet Monica Velour

Meet Monica Velour

Last Friday MEET MONICA VELOUR opened in movie theaters nationwide. Why does this warrant a post? Because writer and director Keith Bearden is an OP Alum! We had the chance to talk with Keith a little bit about his journey to get to this exciting place.

1. What was it like writing and directing your own feature film?

It depends on the day. Writing it felt lonely, waiting years for it to get made was frustrating, the first days of shooting were terrifying, working for months with Kim Cattrall to transform her into Monica Velour was really satisfying, finding my groove on set with my actors and crew was joyful, editing was tedious, having people laugh and be moved by the film at screenings is the best feeling in the world. I understand why directors don’t retire. That feeling is satisfying enough to spend an otherwise frustrating lifetime chasing.

2. How did your Oddfellows experience shape your career path?

I wouldn’t have a career path without Oddfellows! OP validated my interest in the arts. Working class kids in small towns aren’t supposed to dream of being actors or dancers or filmmakers. Oddfellows was and is full of kids and adults who are interested in and love the performing arts. I could see that my passions were not totally alien. Oddfellows encouraged my interests and let my creativity run wild. After film school, and years of writing, schmoozing and dreaming, what started at Oddfellows Playhouse has come to fruition.

3. What was the defining moment of your artistic life (thus far)?

I think when my short movie THE RAFTMAN’S RAZOR got added to the Museum of Modern Art’ s permanent film collection in 2007. A little movie I dreamed up and made with friends is now preserved for time immortal. I almost got a tattoo of the museum catalog number on my arm, but cooler heads prevailed.

4. Why do you feel the arts are an important experience for young people?

I think the best way to raise children is to present them with as many options as possible for what their life could be like as an adult. I feel like too many grown ups are unhappy because they are living someone else’s life—not a bad life, just not the one that’s right for them. Oddfellows fills such a gap left by school, and sports, and most homes—it’s a non-competitive place to learn about the arts, to be taken seriously and express yourself. Oddfellows is such a different experience for young people, I feel like it’s a huge help in filling in details of the map of the adult world before they have to venture out in it. It’s not that every OP kid becomes a working artist—though it exposes them to that option--but it starts them on their own journey of self-discovery that will aid them so much as the enter the often tricky and treacherous grown-up world. Knowing yourself is the first step in making the right decision, and I think everyone learns new things about themselves at Oddfellows.

5. What is the most challenging part of making a life in the arts?

A: Well, obviously the most challenging part is making a real living doing your art in a country whose government doesn’t support artists (living in Europe looks really good sometimes). The other challenge is more abstract, but more paramount—finding and refining your voice as an artist. What do you have to say, or show, or give, that is special and unique to you? How do you stay true to that in a way that other people will find moving or evocative? Can you work with other people, or in existing structures, and still let that special voice, that flavor, that worldview, shine through? Especially for a filmmaker, where there are so many people and elements to work with, it’s a day-to-day issue. Also, how do you succeed in the arts without becoming a person you don’t want to be? A megalomaniac or a phony or a tyrant? Most film directors are arrogant jerks, because it helps them get their way on screen. I have a hard time being that kind of person.