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Year in Review Chat with Lia Romeo

Rachel Goodgal

Next up in our year end recap: we talked with playwright Lia Romeo, who developed her play American Dreamers with West of 10th. 

Lia Romeo.jpg

What excited you most about this particular company?
I was really excited that it was a company focusing on plays about millennials, because I’m really drawn to writing about that age group.  There’s something inherently dramatic about people who are doing certain things for the first time.

What was it like developing work with West of 10th?
It was great!  Jen and Rachel are incredibly on top of things, and the whole process was really smooth and well-managed.

How does West of 10th help you as a young theatre artist in the city?
New play readings in front of an audience are so important for playwrights, because they let you hear what’s really “there” in your play and what’s working. West of 10th provides a really valuable opportunity.

Why is it important for companies like West of 10th to exist?
There are a lot of small theater companies in the city, but West of 10th stands out because of the specificity of their mission and the professionalism of their company members.

More about Lia:
Lia Romeo’s plays have been seen at 59E59, Project Y Theatre, Unicorn Theatre, HotCity Theatre, the Lark, San Francisco Playhouse, Abingdon Theatre, Writers Theatre of New Jersey, Orlando Shakes, and elsewhere. She has been recognized by the O’Neill (finalist), the Heideman Award (finalist), and the Kilroys List (honorable mention). She is the associate artistic director at Project Y Theatre Company and the new play coordinator at Jersey City Theater Center. Her plays are published by Playscripts and Smith&Kraus. She earned her B.A. from Princeton University and her M.F.A. from Rutgers/MGSA, and she teaches in the graduate creative writing program at Fairleigh Dickinson University.

Year in Review Chat with Cary and Colette

Rachel Goodgal

This holiday season, West of 10th Director of Development Sean Tecson interviewed several of our recent, awesome collaborators about their experience working with us! First up, Colette Robert and Cary Gitter, director and writer of this summer's After Dad workshop.

Colette Robert.jpg
Cary Gitter.jpg

Sean Tecson: How did you get involved with West of 10th? What excited you most about this particular company?
Colette Robert: I got involved through one of my favorite playwrights and people, Cary Gitter. We've worked together on many projects, and I was excited to be given the time and space to work with him and a supremely talented group of actors on his beautiful play. The work that Cary was able to do with the script in just a week's time was incredible!

Cary Gitter: I got involved with West of 10th through a mutual playwright friend, who passed along the company's call for play submissions. I sent them a play and began a dialogue with Jen and Rachel that lasted about a year, and then they offered to produce a reading of my play Menorah in the fall of 2016. That was the start of our relationship. What excited me most about West of 10th was its commitment to new work and to the voices and stories of people of my (millennial) generation. And the fact that Jen and Rachel are fellow North Jerseyans didn't hurt either.

ST: What was it like developing work with West of 10th?
Cary: Developing work with West of 10th has been a gift to me as a playwright. In 2017, Jen and Rachel offered to give my play After Dad--a very personal piece about the death of my father--the company's first developmental workshop. My director, Colette Robert, and I had a fantastic week of work with an amazing cast at the Dramatists Guild Fund's beautiful Music Hall space, and the play grew by leaps and bounds. The culminating reading was a wonderful experience. And all along, we were nurtured by the support and belief of the West of 10th staff.

Colette: Cary and I both felt really supported by West of 10th throughout the entire process. I didn't have to worry about any of the producing or administrative details because I knew that Jen and Rachel were taking care of it!

ST: Why is it important for companies like West of 10th to exist?
Colette: West of 10th gives young theatre artists agency and opportunity and institutional support. And they do it with a lot of energy and tremendous grace.

Cary: It's important for companies like West of 10th to exist because there's a whole new generation of playwrights and theater artists in their 20s and 30s who need outlets to tell their stories and be heard. And if bigger institutional theaters are closed to them, then smaller, scrappier companies like West of 10th can provide that outlet. They can seek out exciting plays and put them on a path of development and growth. They can give artists a sense of worth and confidence. We need companies like West of 10th to help push the next generation forward.

ST: What hopes do you have for the future of the project you worked on with West of 10th? Colette: More development opportunities and eventually: a production.

Cary: I worked on two projects with West of 10th. My play Menorah went on to be an O'Neill semifinalist, a Jewish Playwriting Contest finalist, and a finalist for a SPACE on Ryder Farm Creative Residency. My hope is that it will find a home for further development and production in the near future. And the same goes for my play After Dad. Whatever happens with either of them, I know they're in the shape they're in today in large part thanks to West of 10th's support.

More about Colette:

Colette Robert is a Los Angeles native currently living in New York. Recent credits include: HOW MY GRANDPARENTS FELL IN LOVE (EST), WHAT EVERY GIRL SHOULD KNOW (NYU/Stella Adler), HOTTENTOTTED (The Tank; ANT Fest), THE MOUNTAINTOP (Chester Theatre Company), ICONS/IDOLS (Ice Factory Festival), and WHEN LAST WE FLEW (Diversionary Theatre; FringeNYC). Colette is a member of EST and co-facilitator of the New Georges Jam. Alumnus of Mabou Mines Resident Artist Program, Lincoln Center Directors Lab, The Civilians R&D Group, New Georges Audrey Residency, and The Public’s Van Lier Directing Fellowship. M.A., RADA and King’s College, London. B.A., Yale.
@coletterobert on instagram
@colettemrobert on twitter

More about Cary:

Cary Gitter is a NYC-based playwright and a member of the Ensemble Studio Theatre's (EST’s) Obie Award-winning Youngblood group. His play How My Grandparents Fell in Love was a New York Times Critic’s Park as part of EST’s 36th Marathon of One-Act Plays. He received a 2017 New Play Commission from the EST/Sloan Project. His plays have been developed at Columbia University’s Center for Palestine Studies, EST, the Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park, the Flea Theater, NJ Rep, NYU, the Tank, and elsewhere. He has been a two-time O'Neill semifinalist and a Jewish Playwriting Contest finalist. BFA, MA: NYU.


Rachel Goodgal

West of 10th Marketing Director, Mikayla Petrilla went behind the scenes to have a conversation with playwright Jessica Moss about Cam Baby, Juilliard, swing-dancing, and more!

Mikayla Petrilla: Where is your hometown and where do you currently reside?
Jessica Moss: I'm from Toronto, Canada, but I'm living in New York right now. 

MP: Where did you pursue an education/what did you major in?
JM: I'm going into my third year of the playwriting program at Juilliard. Prior to that, I did undergrad at University of King's College in Halifax and the University of Toronto, where I finished with a major in English and minors in Drama and History. Then I did the acting program at the National Theatre School of Canada. 

MP: Cam Baby: what are the origins of the play? How did this come about? Did you have any influences?
JM: I like when people do impressions of things they've seen, or try an re-enact something, either from real life or from something the've watched: I find it truly magical and theatrical and deeply entertaining. So I started writing a scene of a girl trying to describe a YouTube video to a guy. I also love watching people watch things, so it kind of blossomed into a play about privacy and people watching from that.
A little over a year ago, the Brock Turner rape case and the Jian Ghomeshi case were getting a lot of attention, and my outrageous anger and fear about both of those cases really focused the play. 

MP: Describe Cam Baby
JM: It's a fast paced ensemble comedy about privacy, identity, and the value of women. 

MP: Tell us more about you! Are you involved at any theatres, have an exciting day job, have a pet, etc. We want to know about your career and interests:
JM: I do improv and like writing musical theatre song lyrics! I work for a theatre non-profit called The Lilly Awards, which advocates for gender parity. My life is pretty theatre-centric....I used to love baking but then I moved to New York and my kitchen is so awful. I'm actively looking for a non-theatre hobby right now. Maybe I'll get back into swing-dancing, which I was pretty serious about once upon a time. 

MP: Do you have any other projects up your sleeve?
JM: I'm working on a few plays and musicals. 

MP: What's it like working with West of 10th?
JM: I'm very grateful to them for the opportunity to share my work


Rachel Goodgal

West of 10th Marketing Director, Mikayla Petrilla got to sit down with Cary Gitter, playwright of next week's developmental workshop of After Dad.

Mikayla Petrilla: Where is your hometown and where do you currently reside?
Cary Gitter: My hometown is Leonia, New Jersey, and I currently reside in Astoria, Queens. 

MP: Describe your education - where did you attend and what did you major in?
CG: I received a BFA in dramatic writing and an MA in English and American literature from NYU.

MP: Tell us more about you! We want to know about your interests and involvement in the theatre community.
CG: I'm a current member of Youngblood, the Ensemble Studio Theatre's (EST's) Obie Award-winning group for emerging playwrights under 30. EST is an incredible theater dedicated to the development of new work, and it's my artistic home. I'm beyond lucky to get to collaborate with the immensely talented people I've met in my time there. As for my day job, I'm senior editorial manager in the marketing department of the 92nd Street Y, the community and cultural center on the Upper East Side. It's a great job to have, and everyone there is extremely supportive of my work as a playwright. Probably my most interesting interest is the Yiddish language--the language of my Eastern-European Jewish paternal grandparents--which I've been studying (at 92Y) for almost four years now.

MP: Describe After Dad.
CG: AFTER DAD is a dark comedy about Cammy, a 29-year-old woman whose father has died unexpectedly and who comes home from New York City to New Jersey for the seven-day Jewish mourning period known as shiva. During the week, she has to deal with an orbit of people who all want what's best for her: her grieving mother, her high-energy childhood best friend, her gorgeous high school crush, and the well-meaning rabbi. (Plus a supernatural Jersey Bro who's invading her dreams.) But what Cammy really needs to do is to grieve her father and get her messy life together, and that's what the play is about.

MP: Let’s discuss After Dad some more. What are the origins of this play? How did this come about? Did you have any influences?
CG: The origin of AFTER DAD is the unexpected death of my father in October 2016. I went home from New York City to New Jersey for the burial and the shiva. I saw a lot of people from my past. I experienced real grief for the first time in my life. And even though I was right in the middle of it all--with no perspective whatsoever--I found it was the only thing I could write about. So I wrote a first draft of the play in an intense two-month period, in the immediate aftermath of the death. It was a form of therapy, I guess. But because it's me, the play turned out to be a (dark) comedy.

A couple of plays have influenced me with AFTER DAD. One is Clare Barron's beautiful YOU GOT OLDER, which Page 73 produced in 2014. That play is about a young woman coming home to care for her sick father at a time when her own life is in crisis. And it's really funny and raunchy and strange. There's even a cowboy sexual-fantasy figure. Another influence is Annie Baker's unproduced NOCTURAMA, which is published in her collection, THE VERMONT PLAYS. There's no death in that play, but it's about a depressed guy in his 20s who comes home to stay with his mom and his stepdad and makes everyone around him miserable. I love that play because it shows, hilariously and sadly, how someone in pain can cause a lot of grief for the people who love them.

MP: What do you want audiences to take away from After Dad?
CG: I never really write with clear messages or takeaways in mind. I think I just want audiences to have a certain kind of experience with my work. With AFTER DAD, I've tried to write an honest (and hopefully amusing) account of grief and returning home to one's roots. I think this is pretty universal stuff. So I hope audiences who see the play will find that it resonates with their own experiences of pain and loss and trying to move forward in life. Or, if they haven't had to go through that yet, maybe the play will teach them a little bit about what it can be like. Mostly, I want the play to make feel people less alone. In the face of death, it's okay to be a mess. It's okay to be ridiculous. It's okay to be ugly. And it's okay to laugh about it too.

MP: What questions do you want answers to in regards to how to make After Dad better?
CG: You know, I don't know that I have a specific answer to this right now. There are always so many ways to make a new play better, and I'm looking forward to discovering things about AFTER DAD in the workshop week and at the reading. Fortunately, I'm working with a director and a cast who are super smart and will shine plenty of light on how the play can grow and develop. And I'm also excited to hear the reaction of the audience at the reading, which always says a lot.

MP: Do you have any other projects up your sleeve?
CG: My next big project is a commission from the Ensemble Studio Theatre/Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Science & Technology Project for a new science-based play called THE HOLIEST PLACE IN THE WORLD. The play has to do with archaeology and the Arab-Israeli conflict over the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, so it requires a ton of research, including possibly my first trip to Israel. I'll be working on it this fall. I'm very excited to dive into a timely project that exists at the intersection of science, history, politics, and religion.

MP: What's it like working with West of 10th?
CG: I love working with West of 10th. They produced a reading of my play MENORAH back in October 2016, so this is my second time collaborating with the company. And I'm thrilled and honored that they've chosen After Dad for their first developmental workshop. Jen and Rachel are terrific producers: thoughtful, supportive, proactive, and committed to serving the needs of the play and the creative team. And like me, they come from Bergen County, New Jersey, so we all understand each other as only Jews from North Jersey can!

Karate Hottie is on Fire!

Rachel Goodgal

Congrats to Catherine Weingarten! Her play, Karate Hottie (Reading, June 2016) was a semi-finalist for the Association For Theatre In Higher Education Award for Excellence in Playwriting. We are so thrilled for Catherine and can't wait to continue tracking the development of this fun and empowering play!

Praise for Lonely, I'm Not

Rachel Goodgal

West of 10th has produced an intimate, heartwarming, question posing, stirring production that galvanizes the spirit to want to go out and connect in the flesh.

Director Christopher Campbell-Orrock has done a truly brilliant job maximizing the challenges of the small space with innovative devices... The pace was electric, and yet each scene had its own perfect rhythm.

-Jacquelyn Claire, NY Theatre Guide

West of 10th is a small burgeoning company... They deserve kudos for hitting the ground running with such great momentum.

The cast gives energetic performances and Goodgal is especially affecting as Heather.

-Helen Herbert, Theatre is Easy

It's the contention of Maggio, Goodgal, Campbell-Orrock, and Weitz that perfection has its limits, and the right set of wrong circumstances can test them like nothing else. If we're lucky, the bonds that matter most will endure, or at least show us what connections we really want and deserve. Maybe in a world that doesn't obey the edicts of silver-screen romantic comedies, that's enough—or maybe it's better. Lonely, I'm Not, on the page and in this production, lets you decide for yourself, a responsibility you won't mind given how ingratiating, affecting, and honest the evidence on all sides is.

-Matthew Murray, Talkin' Broadway

Congratulations Cary!

Rachel Goodgal

Cary Gitter's hilarious dark comedy, Menorah (Reading, October 2016) has been chosen as a finalist for two of the most prestigious emerging playwright honors!

Menorah has been selected for the top 10 of The Jewish Plays Project's 2017 contest. Menorah will be toured throughout America where it will be voted on by esteemed panelists. If it wins the contest, Menorah will receive an Equity workshop in NYC this summer.

In addition, Menorah has been deemed a Semi-Finalist for the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center’s 2017 National Playwrights Conference!

Please join us in congratulating Cary on this magnificent achievement! We are excited to see where Menorah goes next!


Anne Boleyn at Dixon Place

Rachel Goodgal

gina anne.jpg

Congratulations are in order to reading series playwright Gina Doherty! Her play, Anne Boleyn for President of the Class of 2014 (Reading, April 2016) will receive a one-night-only production at Dixon Place on November 29. Gina will also be playing the role of Anne. We are proud to have been involved in Anne Boleyn's development and look forward to seeing this next step!