Volume 74, Number 19 | September 08 - 14 , 2004

Theater

The Issues Project:
DEMOCRACY
The Culture Project
45 Bleeker Street
Sept 13 - Oct 2
Mon-Sat @ 7 pm
212-352-3101


Annual ‘Issues Project’ more relevant than ever

By Davida Singer

22 one-act plays performed over four nights at the Culture Project, 45 Bleecker St.
Tired of what you’re not seeing and hearing during the current political conventions? Stay tuned for “Issues Project: DEMOCRACY,” at Culture Project on Bleeker Street.

Conceived by Naked Angels Theater Company in 1987, The Issues Project has become a refreshing annual event, headlining lots of local writing and directing talent, and addressing social issues of the moment.

“As a young, collaborative company dedicated to the creation of works of our own design, we started doing these evenings of one-acts,” says playwright Pippin Parker, the Artistic Director for this year’s DEMOCRACY festival. “We grew from that, developed signature pieces and eventually got a space on 17th Street. We had very strong writers and had formed a writer’s group, so we decided to speak to a particular issue for the special evening series.”

The first Project, “Homeless”, presented in 1988, has led to numerous other theme events, including “Gunplay” and “Fear”, all of which follow the Naked Angels guidelines to “engage, enlighten and entertain” their audience.

“We were also doing 3 to 4 full-length productions a year for awhile, things like “Snakebit”, “Side Man” and “Machinal”,” Pippin explains. “Now Naked Angels has become more like a Diaspora than a theater company, but we still manage to do this yearly project. All of them are issue-based, and usually include live music as well. The theme is fueled by one or two members - in this case by writer Frank Pugliese, and actor, Bruce MacVittie - together with company Artistic Director, Tim Ransom. Then I came in to oversee everything.”

How many plays are involved in the DEMOCRACY project?

“We have about 22 one-acts — each about 12-15 minutes long - spread out over 4 evenings,” said Pippin. “We literally ask people to respond however they want to. Some use this as a platform for their beliefs, some look for a side door to go through. Usually our work has a certain subtlety involved, and generally we’re known for naturalistic writers and often-personal, intimate pieces.”

According to Pippin, DEMOCRACY, whose tag line reads, ‘You never know what you are going to get,’ involves more writers and a more diverse group than ever, and touts names like Eduardo Muchado, Nilo Cruz, Lynn Nottage, Tom Fontana and Lee Blessing.

Highlights of the festival include Blessing’s “Reagan in Hell,” an unrestrained take out of the former President, as he checks into the Alzheimer division of Hell. Fontana’s “Kandor” features a future-view of two guys on another planet, in an allegory “not far from Bush’s America.” “How We Got To Where We’re Going” by Teresa Rebeck, finds two men in an office debating theories of what terms like ‘threat’ mean, and how they are defined. “The Fitting” by Frank Pugliese deals with a young man who gets his suit fitted by an immigrant, the former partner of his dying father. Then there’s Pippin’s own play, “The Arizona Rule,” where two college students - she, a Mexican-American, he, a New Yorker about to leave for Israel - meet up and get involved.

“There are 10-15 directors in this, so essentially each piece has its own director and cast, with 4-5 days to rehearse intensely,” notes Pippin. “Choices were made by reacting to the current situation, and the desire to engage as best we know how. “The whole presentation is being done with one, big, beautiful set at Culture Project, a very deep space with its own grandness. We’re using a tiled floor with a marbleized look, hard walls, and a palette of charcoal, sepia and rust.”

A bevy of hosts and musical performers like Lou Reed and Mike Doughty round out each evening, along with group discussions of whatever plays have just been performed.

“I hope these pieces and evenings bounce ideas around and lead to people articulating a point of view or questioning things that are brought up,” Pippin says. “As long as people are engaged in a real way, we’ve hopefully done our job.”

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