Thursday, April 29, 2010

The Inquirer Raves About WHEN WE GO UPON THE SEA

Check out these excerpts from Wendy Rosenfield's review of WHEN WE GO UPON THE SEA in today's Inquirer:

A Comedy About Issues
Bigger Than Bush

By Wendy Rosenfield
Friday, April 16, 2010

In this world-premiere production of Lee Blessing's When We Go Upon the Sea, commissioned by InterAct Theatre Company, George W. Bush ... will get his comeuppance and be exposed as the evildoer we knew he was all along. ... Wrong ... this isn't even really a drama about Bush, though it riffs on the former president's administration and personal history ... Instead, it's about power and servitude, God and his absence, and what we allow to step in and fill the void. ...
Blessing's parable owes much of its success to Paul Meshejian's direction - orchestration, really - which places the apostle Piet [(Peter Schmitz)] and his Mary Magdalen-like associate Anna-Lisa (Kim Carson) amid a metaphoric tide that rages and recedes according to George's humor. ... If [actor Conan] McCarty's blunt force powers the production, and Schmitz's steady unflappability anchors it, Carson provides its depth as a refugee seeking shelter from the global storm ...

Blessing (A Walk in the Woods, Thief River) raises more questions than he answers ... but that's OK. With the help of InterAct and its tireless advocacy for an audience of soul-searchers, the playwright implores Americans to take to the helm while our own shores are still relatively calm.

Links to more information about WHEN WE GO UPON THE SEA:

Read Audience Reactions in This Entry's Comments Section

Read Wendy Rosenfield's Full Review

Purchase Tickets

Play Description, Artist Bios & Performance Calendar
(including a talk-back with playwright Lee Blessing)

An Interview with Playwright Lee Blessing

Actor Conan McCarty on Playing George W. Bush

InterAct's 20/20 New Play Commission Program

Friday, April 23, 2010

CITY OF NUMBERS Wins Prestigious Smith Prize

InterAct is pleased to announce that CITY OF NUMBERS: mixtape of a city... (since renamed KILLADELPHIA: mixtape of a city...) by Sean Christopher Lewis has been named one of two winners of the National New Play Network's 2010 Smith Prize, an award that goes to the best new play focusing on American politics.

Established in 2006 and funded by a gift from screenwriter, novelist and playwright Timothy Jay Smith and a number of other socially-conscious donors, The Smith Prize has been administered by NNPN, and is awarded annually to a play that asks: Who are Americans as a people? What are we becoming? What are our global responsibilities? Previous Prizewinners are Y York's take on the Rodney King riots, ...AND L.A. IS BURNING; Seth Rozin's satire on Big Oil, BLACK GOLD; and Peter Gil-Sheridan's TOPSY TURVY MOUSE.

This year, KILLADELPHIA: mixtape of a city... shares the award with Martín Zimmerman's WHITE TIE BALL, an explosive story of two Latino brothers set against the backdrop of Southwest politics. This is the first year since the Prize's inception that more than one winner has been selected; Lewis and Zimmerman will share the $5,000 cash prize.

For more information about National New Play Network or present and past winners of The Smith Prize, visit these links:

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Conan McCarty on Becoming George W. Bush

Icarus Continued...

It was a magnificent honor to meet Lee Blessing on this project...

4/19: First Monday off after we have opened and I am engulfed by a tsunami of guilt for not writing a blog entry in ages. Such things can happen during rehearsals and opening week; especially with a play such as SEA. Yes, it is only 85 minutes long, but it is a very dense piece and demands its players bring their ‘A’ games and as much versatility as they have as it slides from comedy (almost farcical at times, satirical at others) to thought provoking drama. Lee Blessing’s plays are always very smart, this is no exception. Lee visited for a day of rehearsals and then came back to see an early technical run through, and it was a thrill to meet him. I was amazed at his trust, but then he has already had two works produced at InterAct, WHORES and GOING TO ST. IVES, and he also knows Paul and Seth well. This complete trust he exhibited and hearing him laugh at his own jokes during the run gave the three players a great deal of confidence in our work.

We now have the benefit of a few performaces under our belt. I look very forward to the rest of the run. There have been announcements at each performance since opening that we are moving the production to New York for the month of June, but I have been around long enough to know that until there is a signed contract, nothing is definite. Still, the opportunity to fine tune our show is very welcome, and we have a full three weeks (at least) to mine as much richness as we can out of this wonderful piece. And if the New York run happens, we will be that much better prepared.

I am very pleased that the reviews out so far have understood what this play is about. Oh, yes, I have the flashy character, a president who elicited very strong feelings from both directions; but Lee is more interested in those who returned him to office. As Lee himself wrote in a written interview with InterAct’s dramaturg, Becky Wright, ‘I wrote this play not because “W” was our President. I wrote it because he’ll be President again. He’ll have a different name, but make no mistake- it’ll be him. Our inclination to forget what our politicians did to us and “move on” is what every politician counts on.’ I know that I went a long way down the round in understanding the play when at a certain rehearsal I realized that if Lee were to change the circumstances of his piece, it could also be written with Ronald Raegan, or Bill Clinton, or even Barak Obama on the hot seat. In fact, almost any of the giant presidents could be the focal point of the piece, though I don’t think Millard Filmore has much to worry about. The point is that we tend to deify a great leader and allow him to take far greater charge over our lives than we should. The Tea Party, while I think its members are generally misinformed and seven years late, is an attempt for the common man to have greater voice in our government. Such is the central question of Lee’s play. A good play should not answer such questions, but rather force the audience to compare points of view and examine their own lives. As I said in an early entry on this blog, ‘theatre’ means the seeing place.

And then there is the nuts and bolts of the thing, learning how to make it run like a Swiss clock six times a week for however many weeks it winds up being. And many theatre-goers are unaware how important their contribution is to the process. A very wise mentor once told me that theatre happens where the energies of the production meet the energies of the audience. There comes a time when players need an audience as badly as someone lost in the Sahara could use a bottle of Evian, not to mention a whole bunch of sunblock. Especially for a play that is as funny as Lee’s is. The director and stage manager and all the technical people have heard the jokes so many times they yawn through them. The players need the energy of laughter to get the play airbourne, so to speak (‘Houston, we have lift-off!’). And an audience will always tell you that half the jokes you worked so hard on in rehearsal aren’t really that funny,and that it’s the ones you didn’t really pay attention to that work the best. The jokes in this play seem to me to have particular value, because this script goes so quickly from comedy to drama. Therefore, the further we can take each extreme the greater journey the audience will take.

So a constant check-in is required. You must leave a third eye open at all times to see how this particular audience is at this particular performance and calibrate your performance appropriately. There is a moment very early in the show (it is actually on the first page of the script) that I have found to be reliably indicative about how quick and verbal the audience will be throughout that particular show. Basically from that point I have an idea of what kind of pace I can take through the first scene, which is the longest and one of the most difficult in the play. Not that the show is radically different each night; there are different things happening at all times because the players must be free and alive to what is happening to them, and the variables that can occur are numerous. But still we have only varied about two and a half minutes running time of the show since we started before an audience, which I think is incredibly consistent.

And we are all finding new things in our characters; greater depth and more simplicity. It makes it exciting to go to work each night and just see what your colleagues are going to show up with and how it will effect your work.

This is a wonderful script to work on and I do hope the New York run comes through, because I doubt I will be content to finish this play on May 9, and I think Lee deserves a longer life for his wonderful script. The New York Times actually carried an announcement in the paper this morning (4/20), so it looks as though we are a few steps closer. Hope, hope, hope…

- Conan McCarty

Read past entries of the Icarus Chronicles:
Parts I & II, Part III, Part IV, Part V, Part VI

Links to more information:

Purchase Tickets for InterAct's WHEN WE GO UPON THE SEA

WHEN WE GO UPON THE SEA Moves to Off-Broadway!

Read Wendy Rosenfield's Inquirer Review

Read Robert Zaller's Review

Play Description, Artist Bios & Performance Calendar
(including a talk-back with playwright Lee Blessing)

An Interview with Playwright Lee Blessing

InterAct's 20/20 New Play Commission Program

Monday, April 19, 2010

Another Great Review & Some BIG NEWS REVEALED...

Check out some excerpts form Robert Zaller's review of WHEN WE GO UPON THE SEA posted Saturday, April 17 on

[ed. note: Red highlights added for emphasis...]

Lee Blessing’s new play, When We Go Upon the Sea, imagines George W. Bush in a place liberals would love to see him: awaiting trial as a war criminal in The Hague. Blessing has plenty of fun with “George,” as he calls him, but he points a darker finger at the rest of us, Americans and Europeans alike.

... the true interest of the play lies in the subtly entwined strands of shared history and guilt ... The larger question the play raises, however, is whose hands are clean enough to judge? ...

If Blessing’s mysterious hotel is to be regarded as the anteroom to judgment, then what it finally represents is the moral limbo we all inhabit, the impossibility of judgment itself. ...

Conan McCarty’s “George” is both a dead-on imitation and a satire of our 43rd president, although in the case of George W. Bush imitation and satire are almost indistinguishable. Peter Schmitz’s Piet, at once deadpan and provocative, makes a genuine character out of an enigmatic symbol, and Kim Carson is a businesslike temptress whose personal trauma is revealed only as a self-alienated, third-person soliloquy that makes her the most mysterious presence of all.

Between these slick European types, W.’s transparent foibles seem almost winning. He was, in retrospect, the perfect American dictator.

Director Paul Meshejian keeps the proceedings going as well as their static framework allows; set, lighting and sound all contribute to the ambivalent, subtly menacing mood the play evokes.

When We Go Upon the Sea is New York-bound after its Philadelphia run. It’s well worth seeing here, a play whose invitation to mock our last president lets none of us off the hook.

That's right! InterAct's production of WHEN WE GO UPON THE SEA is moving to New York for an Off-Broadway run in June! The details are being ironed out now so check back soon for details. In the meantime, thanks to Robert Zaller at for breaking the story.

Links to more information about WHEN WE GO UPON THE SEA:

Read Robert Zaller's Full Review

Read The Inquirer's Rave Review

Purchase Tickets

Play Description, Artist Bios & Performance Calendar
(including a talk-back with playwright Lee Blessing)

An Interview with Playwright Lee Blessing

Actor Conan McCarty on Playing George W. Bush

InterAct's 20/20 New Play Commission Program

Wednesday, April 14, 2010


Rep Radio's Michael Brinkman interviews actor Conan McCarty about playing Dubya, his own Texas roots, a problematic KING LEAR and the secret to working with T.V's West Wing creator Aaron Sorkin...

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

WHEN WE GO UPON THE SEA Featured in the Inquirer

In today's Philadelphia Inquirer, columnist Chris Klein included a nice mention of how Cari Feiler Bender's family and friends joined forces to honor Cari's 40th birthday by sponsoring InterAct's commission of WHEN WE GO UPON THE SEA. Read his full story here.

Click here to learn how you too can sponsor a 20/20 New Play Commission.

CHAD DEITY Named as Finalist for 2010 Pulitzer (& Other Cool News)!

Here at InterAct, we're always so proud when a play InterAct originally produced (or the 2nd production, in this case...) goes on to become a breakthrough hit for its playwright. It's happened on few occassions, most notably for InterAct's Playwright In Resident Thomas Gibbons, who saw over 30 national and international productions of PERMANENT COLLECTION and over 35 productions of BEE-LUTHER-HATCHEE since their World Premiere productions at InterAct in 2003 and 1999 respectively.

Now, we are especially pleased to report that Kristoffer Diaz's THE ELABORATE ENTRANCE OF CHAD DEITY was announced yesterday as one of the finalists for the 2010 Pulitzer Prize in Drama. describes the play as, "a play invoking the exaggerated role-playing of professional wrestling to explore themes from globalization to ethnic stereotyping, as the audience becomes both intimate insider and ringside spectator."

In addition to its Pulitzer nomination, CHAD DEITY is also gearing up for its Off-Broadway debut! Beginning April 27 and running through June 20, 2econd Stage Theatre will present the New York premiere of the play, directed by Edward Torres and featuring Desmin Borges (as Mace), Terence Archie (as Chad Deity), Usman Ally (as VP), Michael T. Weiss (as Everett K. Olson) and Christian Litke (as Billy Heartland). Visit 2econd Stage Theatre's website for information or to purchase tickets.

Finally, CHAD DEITY is currently receiving its 3rd production at Mixed Blood Theatre in Minneapolis, featuring Shalin Agarwal reprising his role as V.P. from InterAct's production. In its review, said Shalin, "...has crack comic timing, and although he appears to weigh about half as much as Ansa Akyea, who plays Deity, Agarwal's crazed, charismatic confidence convinces you The Fundamentalist could take him."

Congratulations to both Kris and Shalin... Long live CHAD DEITY!

Monday, April 5, 2010

InterAction Presents the DELSIT Drama Crew - April 16, 2010

InterAct Theatre Company's education program, InterAction, in association with De La Salle in Towne is proud to present a show created with and starring the talented youth from the DELSIT Drama Crew in TRAPPED IN THE MIXX on Friday April 16th at 1:30 p.m. A gripping story about the trials of a young man trying to follow a better dream despite a world which seeks to destroy him.

This powerful piece will play at 2nd Stage at The Adrienne, 2030 Sansom Street, Philadelphia. Admission is free. For further information call InterAct Theatre Education Director Dwight Wilkins at 215-568-8077.

The 2010 DELSIT Drama Crew along with their teachers,
Nick Gregorio (far left), Bruce Robinson (2nd from right) and Robin Dunn (far right)

Find out more about InterAction, InterAct's education program here