2000-01-29 / Columnists

From The Artists Studio


Rockaway Artists Alliance

Geoff Rawling and John Gileece build a theater set with helpers Matthew and Meridith Edelson.

Rockaway Theater Company "Susquehenna Hat Company" sketch. Director John Gileece is third from right.

By Susan Hartenstein

Various events are scheduled for the coming months involving the Rockaway Artists Alliance and the Rockaway Theatre Company in conjunction with Gateway National Recreation Area. "Animals in Winter", a theater workshop, will be held on Saturday, February 5 from 2 to 4 p.m. in Building T-149 at Fort Tilden. John Gileece, director of the Rockaway Theatre Company, will be directing the workshop, which will include reading, acting and puppetry. For further information, please call Nancy Corona at Gateway, Fort Tilden. "Spring Nature Stories", a theater and set design workshop, is coming soon to a national urban park near you (Gateway, that is) on Saturday, March 25 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Building T-149 will be the location. John Gileece and RAA’s president, Geoff Rawling, will conduct this workshop. Geoff is the unbelievably talented gentleman who designs and executes all the sets for Rockaway Theatre Company productions. So if you are at all interested in theater and the artwork that goes into making theater magic come to life, you won’t miss this workshop. Two separate Saturday art classes, both entitled "Drawing from Nature", will be given on April 8 and May 6 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. in Building T-1. The second will involve charcoal and pastel. Coming somewhat further in the future, but still not a bad idea to note now on your calendar, will be Junior Rangers programs at Fort Tilden. These "Performance Arts Workshops for the Family" will take place six summer Saturdays in July and August. They will be conducted by John Gileece and Geoff Rawling, the "Lunt and Fontanne" of Rockaway theater. More information about these events will appear in this column as their dates approach. For any Gateway/RAA/RTC collaborations, you may call Nancy Corona for information.

Presently playing at the Royale Theater is a superior production of Arthur Miller’s, "The Price". Directed with enormous intelligence and insight by James Naughton, I was reminded, in watching it, of what differentiates a good production of Chekhov from a bad production of Chekhov. A bad production of Chekhov is slow and lugubrious, striking every single note of tragedy on the keyboard with a sledgehammer attack. A good production recognizes that "Chekhov" need not be synonymous with "heavy". It recognizes that the human condition is equal parts comedy and tragedy and seeks out the humor written into the play by the playwright himself and by the nature of what a human being is. Naughton and his actors discover all the sweet, often bittersweet, humor in these characters and their circumstances. Thus this play becomes all the more poignant and these characters all the more human. Indeed, "The Price" is a Miller to which you may be unaccustomed. The audience was laughing out loud through much of it in response to passages obviously meant to make them laugh out loud. The piece is less heavy-handed than Miller can sometimes become. Jeffrey DeMunn, Bob Dishy, Lizbeth Mackay and especially Harris Yulin played their roles with great skill and subtlety—as master chefs pulling back the thin and delicate layers of onions to reveal their complexities. The scenery designed by Michael Brown served the play well. The backdrop, done in warm grays, was beautiful yet unobtrusive--the perfect complimentary support to the story being told. Even the music which opened each act set just the right tone. "The Price" is an enormously satisfying piece of theater.

Our photographs this week show the Rockaway Theatre Company in performance and an RTC/RAA collaboration, with assistants—the dynamic duo of John and Geoff passing their knowledge on to others.

Enjoy. Stay warm and safe and return here next week.

 

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