Spotlight On: APAC
At the 2010 Innovative Theater Awards, Astoria Performing Arts Center took home the Outstanding Production of a Musical for Children of Eden. This wasn't the first time APAC was nominated. In fact they had received 14 nominations and have received 3 awards for their work (including another for Children of Eden, in the category of Outstanding Set Design for Michael P. Kramer).
"Receiving the IT Award was a fantastic way to start our 10th Anniversary season,” said Executive Director Taryn Sacramone. “Our friends here in the Astoria community certainly felt a lot of hometown pride on our behalf. Children of Eden was a particularly ambitious and challenging production; a lot of people had a role in making it possible, from investing time working on it, donating to it, and more, they share in the honor."
This spring, they reunite their award-winning team with Galt MacDermott and William Dumaresq's musical The Human Comedy, to run May 5-21. The production will be directed by APAC Artistic Director Tom Wojtunik and music directed by Jeffrey Campos, reuniting IT Award Nominee Christine O’Grady as choreographer, IT Award Recipient Michael P. Kramer as set designer, Hunter Kaczorowski as costume designer and casting by wojcik|seay casting.
"It's been such a blessing and a joy to reunite virtually the entire team from Children of Eden,” states Wojtunik. “We already have an artistic short-hand and there is an enormous amount of respect--I think we all truly understand and trust each other as artists, freeing us to really concentrate on our areas of expertise and know that everyone else is bringing their A-game. At the same time, there's a concentration on comparing notes and making sure we are all on the same page, so that the final design feels likes one look, and that the staging and performances grow out of that physical world. It's fun blending the lines as far as who came up with what – and I believe with that level of collaboration that is when we all do our best work."
Based on William Saroyan's short story of the same name, the piece celebrates the idea of home and family. The coming-of-age tale focuses on young Homer Macauley, a telegram messenger who is exposed to the sorrows and joys experienced by his family and the residents of his small California town during World War II. “A spirited, emotionally affecting musical, a joyous celebration of small town America,” (Associate Press), The Human Comedy is one of the most enjoyable and moving musicals to have fallen into relative obscurity. APAC is offering you the opportunity to see the show the first weekend May 5-7 at a special $10/ticket price with code “itawards” at apacny.org.
Wojtunik chose The Human Comedy, having been a fan of the show for over 15 years. In 1982, when Joseph Papp premiered the show at The Public it was huge hit reminiscent of MacDermott’s previous hit, Hair. Later that year, when the show moved to Broadway it struggled next to the more over-the-top spectacle musicals that were beginning to invade the Great White Way. It hasn't had a full-fledged professional production in NYC since. Wojtunik states, "this beautiful show has sadly fallen into relative obscurity since it premiered in 1983. I'm so proud that APAC is producing it, and look forward to sharing it with New York audiences."
When Wojtunik's grandfather was passing, he spent time on the train riding to and from his Connecticut hometown, listening to what was, he proclaims, “one of the best scores ever written for a musical.” At the funeral, when the flag on coffin was folded and handed to his father, Wojtunik watched the generation shift in his family and had a profound sense of change. It was then he knew he had to produce this musical about life changing moments.
"I've been thrilled at how The Human Comedy is so open to interpretation. The source material (William Saroyan's novel) is rich, and there are beautiful, extended musical passages in the musical that you can really interpret in a variety of ways,” says Wojtunik. “I'm having a blast finding my vision for the story that is unique to how it has been staged in previous productions.
The score itself is very demanding, and requires the ensemble to sing in almost every song in many ways the piece functions as musical historian Ken Mandelbaum said like “The Great American Opera,” or an oratorio. So like the original production, we will have almost the entire cast on stage the entire time. I think we've come up with interesting ways to underline the themes of the pieces within this framework. There's also a character in the show called "Beautiful Music" that we've decided to use in a way that will really clarify who she is, and is very effective.”
APAC, called “Adventurous” by the New York Times, has a reputation for pushing the envelope with their show choices, such as their fall production MilkMilkLemonade and the previous year's The Pillowman. “We have always seen ourselves as playing a certain role in Astoria - as filling a need, as relating to other groups and individuals who are also working to enrich our neighborhood in ways that are both arts and non-arts related,” says Sacramone. “We are very much invested in our community. So here we are, doing a show that is very much about lives intertwined in specific place and time. Theatre itself gives audience members a shared or community experience in a special way. Personally, I remember who I was with for every play I've ever seen. I can't say the same about, say, movie-going. I think that our audiences are going to share a very special experience with this one. There is such a strong sense of place. I saw a sing through of the show last week, and felt transported already.”
As New York City can be a very transient place, lonely a times, many people find themselves missing a sense of connectedness and family, now with “The Human Comedy you can go home again--at least for a while." -Frank Rich, The New York Times
For more information on Astoria Performing Arts Center and The Human Comedy visit www.apacny.org.