From March 31 to April 11, 2010, Theater for the New City will present “Stops Along the Road,” a new play written by Walter Corwin and directed by Jonathan Weber. This is the first time sets for a play by Walter Corwin will be designed by his son, William, who is a visual artist of emerging prominence. The production attempts to capture the confusion of our contemporary political mindset through direct symbolism and the play’s own complex, refractive three-act structure in which each act is a different play-within-a-play.
“Stops Along the Road” consists of three separate acts, in which a second, smaller stage is mounted upon the existing stage. The second stage will enable the audience to envision characters interacting backstage and onstage during a performance. Each act takes place in a unique situation and tells a story based on political themes from America’s recent past such as equality of women’s rights, the current economic crisis, and the need for hope and leadership. The performance will feature new music by composer and pianist Arthur Abrams. In one act, it has children destroying their own play about reproductive rights and world peace. In a second, it playfully casts President Obama as Moses. In another, it casts a group of actors as iconic Manhattan superstructures, including one as “the ghost of the World Trade Center.”
“A Close Call,” the first act of “Stops Along the Road,” recreates an annual Spring school pageant in which students from each class act as characters such as eggs and children of the world in several different scientific and historical themes. The performance gradually turns into pandemonium as children acting as mummies pull those posing as zygotes and students assigned to the starvation theme fight with those in the peace theme. This chaos symbolizes America’s recent past under President George W. Bush, when our nation almost went over the edge.
The second act, “The Desert,” is symbolic of a new stage in our history, the Obama era, and highlights issues at the forefront of our current political agenda. In this act, President Obama goes up a mountain as Moses did in the Hebrew Bible and chisels the Ten Commandments onto tablets while speaking to God on issues such as health care and the mortgage crisis, later to return with the tablets broken into pieces because of greed prevalent on Wall Street.
The final act, “The Rehearsal,” reflects a cry from the heart of New Yorkers seeking what to do in today’s times. The cast of a theatrical rehearsal deals with an arguing crew, as one member finally reflects on the strength of a relative who survived the Armenian holocaust and endured through the 20th century here in America. Cast members eventually give up on the rehearsal, complaining of the current economic crisis and calling life “a mixed bag.”
Each act in the play ends on a hopeful note. In “The Rehearsal,” Corwin’s advice to the cast as playwright is “Be hopeful even if you’re confused.” At the end of a warfare scene presented in “The Desert,” a cop appears, stating “There’s only one way to go,” implying that those listening must tackle the matters at hand rather than trying to escape to other locales, thereby evading the challenges we face at home.
Playwright Walter Corwin is a teacher at the City University of New York. His plays have been performed at Theater for the New City, The Public Theater and La MaMa.
Director Jonathan Weber has directed several of Corwin’s plays at Theater for the New City, including “Laugh, Damn Ya, Laugh,” “The Womens’ Strike,” “Your Town,” and “Menage A Trois.”
Set designer William Corwin is a visual artist and has been presenting and curating for about ten years in New York at La MaMa E.T.C., Theater for the New City, Flushing Town Hall in Queens, the Gallery in Brooklyn, Gallery Afero in Newark, the Michael Steinberg Gallery, and the Gordon Parks Gallery in the Bronx. He is currently featured in a group exhibition which he also curated, titled “Suspension of Disbelief,” at the Hudson Guild Gallery in Manhattan through April 7, 2010.
Arthur Abrams is a composer, music director, arranger, and pianist. His music has been featured in “The Golden Age of Second Avenue,” a documentary film shown on PBS, and various other productions held at Theater for the New City including: “The Iron Heel, Ludlow and Broome” and “The Further Adventures of Uncle Wiggily: Windblown Visitors.” He has also performed music for other productions written by Walter Corwin held at Theater for the New City including “The Glory that Was” and “Library Love.” He has composed scores for several musical revues and has been the recipient of a DAAD music fellowship, a scholarship to the Orff Institute and a “Meet the Composer” grant.
The cast includes Joey Mintz, Jonathan Weber and Rachel Krah.
“A Close Call” will be broadcast in May, 2010 on Will Corwin’s online radio station, ARTRadio (www.artonair.org).
Theater for the New City is located at 155 First Avenue, between Ninth and Tenth Streets, in Manhattan. Showtimes for “Stops Along the Road” are Wednesdays-Saturdays at 8 PM and Sundays at 3 PM. The running time is one hour and twenty minutes. Tickets are $10, available through the box office phone at (212) 254-1109 or online at www.theaterforthenewcity.net.