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Just a little over a year ago, my associate, Dave Copeland, sent me some information on a theatre project in NYC - The Spiral Theatre Studio.
I took one look at the fascinating Spiral stage and contacted the founder/artistic director, Paula J. Riley. I threw a few ideas at her of steps that might expedite her mission and, after a few emails, she asked me to join the team as Managing Director. Wanting to keep my dramaturgy hat on, I signed on to do both.
Three weeks ago we moved into our home at 242 W. 36th Street. Last Friday night, we kicked off our company with STORIES MY GRANDMOTHER TOLD ME by Nashville playwright Ted Swindley, who is best known for his internationally acclaimed play ALWAYS....PATSY CLINE.
I can't begin to express how exciting it is to open with a new work by a playwright of Mr. Swindley's stature - and a play which also gives me a chance to honor the memory of my own Southern grandmother, Lena Hand Callaway, who made sure that I got not just a good education, but an extraordinary one.
In addition to the expected challenges of starting a theatre, we had to build the Spiral stage, which can be seen on our website www.thespiralthearestudio.com.
The stage was built in Nashville by David Allds, Steve Alberts and David's sons. But then we had to transport the stage to NYC, which proved incredibly frustrating on many levels, but was finally achieved with the support of actors in the cast of STORIES, who were anxious to get to rehearse on the stage.
Thanks to Carolyn German and the Metro Nashville Parks Theatre Department's new play reading series, we have been able to do developmental work on our first two shows, STORIES MY GRANDMOTHER TOLD ME by Mr. Swindley, and the SALT and PEPPER plays of New Mexico playwright Robert Benjamin, which opens with its new title, WRINKLES, on October 20th.
The stage itself is the legacy of Paula J. Riley's mentor and acting teacher, Russian born Iza Itkin, whose father, David, was a founder of The Goodman Theater in Chicago and whose sister, Bella, was also a renowned 20th century acting coach.
Both the modular units and the stage floor are carpeted, and again we were blessed by the support of Mohawk Carpets, who donated the $10,000.00 in carpet needed to do this and, in so doing, became our first corporate sponsor.
And of course, we wanted a home in Midtown Manhattan, which we have, thanks to Paul Michael's The Network at 242 W. 36th Street.
We have spent the first half of 2013 producing a new play reading series that has focused on playwrights, actors and directors over 60 and can already boast a handsome gallery of Spiral posters thanks to our graphic designer, Steve Hill.
And a really special thanks to our actors! You know who you are!
As dramaturge, I am excited to have somewhere to go with the incredible network of playwrights and new plays that I have developed since pionneering the graduate dramaturgy program at VCU in 1978 - especially the amazing library of new African American plays that have come my way since founding The African American Playwrights Exchange in 2007.
Being on the team of a New York City theatre company with a home in Manhattan has got to be the dream. Pinch me!
Come to the Spiral and Go to the Theatre! (It's in our DNA).
The Spiral Theatre Studio
242 W. 36th Street