"Citizens of the Gray," new ensemble work by Elia Schneider, takes a Strindbergian look at the battle of the sexes.

 

WHERE AND WHEN
November 9-25, 2018
Theater for the New City (Johnson Theater), 155 First Ave.
Presented by Theater for the New City in association with Teatro Dramma and Elia Schneider.

N EW YORK, June 25 -- Playwright/director Elia Schneider, formerly of Venezuela, is known for hauntingly visual productions that transcend language with strong imagery and a dreamlike fresco of movement and design. Her newest work, "Citizens of the Gray," deals with the war of the sexes in the age of the #MeToo Movement. Hitherto, her theatrical productions have mostly emerged from ideas derived from Kafka. Now she is channeling Strindberg for a new work of ensemble creation with her Teatro Dramma. The piece, now in process, is a choreography of movement and actions. The setting is clean, empty and minimal. Every detail is controlled. The mood is dark, gray and post-apocalyptic. Women fight against men for control and domination. Sometimes, they sacrifice control for care and sometimes the men weaken and seek comfort, but there is no connection between the sexes. Robotically, they pair for sex, which they often use to punish. How can they survive if they exist to destroy each other? Music by Osvaldo Montes, a renowned Argentine composer of Tangos. Texts from poets including Sylvia Plath and Heiner Müller. Lighting by José Ramón Novoa. Cast of ten actors, all of Latin American background.

Ms. Schneider burst into worldwide recognition in the 1980s with her Caracas-based Teatro Dramma and was "adopted" artistically, by La MaMa's Ellen Stewart, who gave her a New York creative home and regarded her as one of her internationally-famous theater's elite directors. Schneider's previous productions at La MaMa include Franz Xavier Kroetz' "Request Concert" (1982), Franz Kafka's "Blumfeld" (1985), her own play "Gaz" (1989), developed for the 50th Anniversary of the Holocaust, and her own play "Rooms" (2000), which set three women in a Kafka-esque world of isolation and everyday obsessions. All four of her La MaMa productions were critically controversial.

Her Teatro Dramma relocated from Caracas to Los Angeles in 2011.

This is Ms. Schneider's Theater for the New City debut.

Ms. Schneider works with her husband, Joseph Novoa, in two production companies, Joel Films and Unity Films, interchanging responsibilities as producer and director. She directed "Huelepega" (Glue Sniffer, 2000), a film about street kids in Caracas, which was initially censored by the Venezuelan authorities during President Caldera's period and later released in that country, earning the highest box office gross of the year. It won 15 international awards and was the Venezuelan submission to the Academy Awards. Her "Punto y Raya" (Dot and Line, 2005) was a dramatic comedy about an imaginary and absurd war between Venezuela and Colombia in 2004. It was the Venezuelan submission to the Academy Awards and won 30 international prizes. Her "Desautorizados" (Unauthorized, 2010), about a theater writer who lives inside a story he is creating, was nominated for the Golden Globe Award in the International Film Festival of Shanghai. Her “Tamara” (2015) is a film about a Venezuelan lawyer who underwent a sex change. She has produced and cast four films by Novoa and one by her son, Joel Novoa Schneider. She is a part time faculty member of the Stella Adler Academy of Acting in Los Angeles.

For theatrical works, her rehearsal process is like a work in progress that never ends: starting with basic ideas, the group of artists relies on improvisation and physicality. The assumption is that the actor's body is clear and capable of expressing all the ideas of the play. There is no need for dialogue per se: the metaphor of the images is the main idea, with actions always reflecting the inner thoughts of the characters.


REVIEWS OF PREVIOUS WORKS:

"Judgment on a Gray Beach," 2015
One of the most visually striking theater pieces I've seen in a long time....The ensemble company, with admirable, understated acting and movement skills, endeared me to their plight. I cared about their horrors and pleasures. Especially Daniela Mandoki, the 'Accordian Girl' who sent shivers down my spine with her deadpan acting, singing voice and musicianship....Normally I'd be grudgingly depressed by yet another reminder of the omniscient, repressive powers that lurk in the dark holes of cruel bureaucratic governments. Instead Elia Schneider made me laugh and think differently about the candidly disorganized human side of that horrendous power. It was well worth my sit down time." -- Larry Litt, NY Theatre Wire

"Rooms," 2000
"An unspeakable sorrow of hopelessness spreads through the theater like the shadow of death's wings. Yet it is such a triumphant moment of theater that it brings cries of admiration and a thunder of hands from the audience....To feel such exhilaration and despair at once is a rare epiphany." -- D.J.R. Bruckner, New York Times

"Blumfeld," 1985
"a troubling, startling and beautiful meditation on loneliness" -- Laurie Stone, Village Voice

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