by Tony Lance · January 13, 2015
[Editor's Note: Tony Lance, artistic director of Essential Theatre Group, talks about the creation of Zurich, New York, which takes in three Indie Theater Now plays.]
From concept to a successful run, this is how Zurich, New York came to life:
This ambitious project started with Andrew Justin Smith. I found Andrew when casting our workshop production of a folk-musicalized Twelfth Night in November of 2013. When he approached me at the end of our run with helping him realize his vision for mounting a 3-play cycle at The Tank in May, I didn’t hesitate for one second. I knew that whatever he had up his sleeves would be an exciting project, based on his drive to present the best theatre experience possible. At the time, he only had one playwright on board: Alex Riad (author of When You Go and If You Ever Come By Here). Alex had a friend: Lindsay Joy (author of Repast), who in turn had a friend: Charlotte Miller (author of Rocks). After a few meetings at some coffee shops in the village, Zurich was incorporated and a town was born.
The production team quickly went from two people to a team of 20 artists. What made this project unique and exciting was the three distinct voices that each of the writers brought to the table. After initial brainstorming, each playwright went off on their own to construct their vision of the town of Zurich. I know I speak for everyone involved in the production when I say this: the first time reading each of these plays was one the most exciting moments for me as a leader of Essential Theatre Group. Knowing that these stories were going to come to life in front of a few hundred people in midtown Manhattan and that I had anything to do with it was a spectacular feeling.
I’m immensely proud of what Zurich, New York accomplished for everyone involved. The writers created this perfectly realized town in upstate New York, the directors blended them together to form one 3-act play, the stage managers kept three simultaneous rehearsals going (a truly incredible feat) and the actors were so fully committed to their roles that there was no doubt in anyone’s mind that they were from the same town by a lake.
Audiences and reviewers alike praised the production for its naturalistic and thoughtful storytelling. David Lally from nytheater now said: “Credit must go to Essential Theatre Group whose mission is to bring 'highly collaborative and thought-provoking storytelling to adventurous audiences.' Many times an evening of one-acts involve plays that have nothing to do with each other but by setting all three plays in one town, on the same day, and apparently all sharing the same weed dealer, a guy aptly named Toast, with references to the funeral, the evening feels cohesive, even with three separate directors. James Fauvell (Repast), Michael Padden (Rocks) and Andrew Justin Smith (When You Go) must be commended for making it seem as if all three plays were directed by the same individual. Zurich, New York is an excellent way to kick off your summer play going experience.”
Brooke Pierce, from EDGE Magazine stated: “Whether you grew up in a small town, the ’burbs, or a tight-knit neighborhood in the big city, most of us can relate to being a part of a community that we feel drains us, sustains us, or sometimes does both at once. Zurich, New York ably reflects that experience by introducing us to a new world that is full of familiar faces.”