PERFORMERS TAKE STAGE IN
NEW YORK, August 7 -- "Buskers: The Musical," written by Mark Tjarks, directed by Dennis Gleason, spins a unifying story around actual New York subway buskers who share their own biographies and perform their own material. It becomes a blend of the highly stylized, fantasy-driven Broadway musical with a documentary of New York buskers. It's one part American Dream and two parts New York grit. Theater for the New City's Dream Up Festival will present the piece's world premiere September 3 to 9.
The play begins with the day of the annual auditions at Grand Central Station for the MTA's Musicians Under New York (MUNY) program, where over 300 applicants are whittled down to the final talented and lucky few. To get into the program means being scheduled for the prime busking spots in the subway and security chasing away encroachers instead of the busker. It is a chance for a busker to make a living, to build an audience, to be offered gigs and to be discovered. The play alternates between two time frames: a waiting room in the present and the day of the live performances. While in the waiting room, we learn about each and every one of the buskers--their dreams, motivations and reasons for becoming a New York City busker despite the pessimism of veterans who continually discourage them. The struggle between the hardened veterans and hopeful newcomers leads to a mutual respect between two generations and finally an Underground Cabaret, in which the audience chooses the best musical collaborations between subway musicians. Together they mourn the lost heyday of busking but keep faith in a brave new future.
The set will look something like a rehearsal space at Grand Central Station and a theater. The music will be as diverse as one might find in the New York subway: juke joint blues, rap, pop, R&B, hip hop, opera, Indian, Irish-Folk Dance, classical music on the saw, pop-classical hybrids on violin and guitar and New Orleans blues.
Playwright Mark Tjarks is a professor of English at Hawaii Pacific University, where he teaches scriptwriting, film and literature. In July 2016, his"Family Googling" was presented at the Off-Broadway venue Theatre at St. Clements and in August 2016, his play"Houseless in Paradise" won a Po'okela Award for Best Overall Play in 2014 by the Hawaii State Theatre Council and was selected as a Festival Best Bet at the New York International Fringe Festival. Theatre is Easy (Ran Xia) called it "one of the most powerful pieces of documentary theatre I've seen." Tjarks has also won the Kumu Kahua Theatre Playwriting Competition's Resident Award, two Women in Theatre Best Comedy Awards, a Producer Choice Award, Aloha Theatre's Opie for Best Play in its Original Play Festival XXII, and judges' and audience's awards for Best Play at Playbuilders 2015 Festival of New Plays. He is currently a PlayBuilders' Resident Playwright and has had 32 productions and staged readings of 15 one act and feature-length plays since 2004. (https://tjarksplays.wordpress.com/)
Director Dennis Gleason has an MFA in Directing from Actors Studio Drama School in New York City and a 30-year directing career coast to coast. He has 150 credits spread between Off-Broadway, regional theatre, dinner theatre, community theatre, college theatre, high school theatre and children's theatre. Additionally, he has 15 "Outstanding Production" and "Outstanding Director" Awards from various sources. He has directed 60 New York City productions and 35 world premieres. He was the producer for VA-NMNG concerts at The Kennedy Center, U.S. State Department, U.S. Capitol and a concert tour of China. He has directed three of Mark Tjarks' plays,"Houseless in Paradise" and"The Unsalable Thing" at the 2016 Fringe Festival and "Family Googling" at the Theatre of St. Clement as part of the Strawberry Festival.
The cast features Marcin Wisniewski (guitarist) and Dwayne Beach (violinist) of The F Tones, Luke Ryan (retired busker/guitarist, MUNY volunteer and EMCEE), Sakinah Iman (younger sister/actress from Flatbush Brooklyn), Anil Salem (guitarist auditioning for MUNY), Gabriel Aldort (an established MUNY busker and New Orleans jazz keyboard player), Natalia "Saw Lady" Paruz (an established MUNY busker), Azusa SheShe Dance (an auditioning Juke Joint Blues singer), G-Wyll (an established MUNY busker, guitarist/singer, especially of 1970s funk) and Doctor Pure Silver More (a 30-year old rapper/CD hawker who shows up at auditions).
Musical Director is Gabriel Aldort. Stage Manager is Jayde Fuentes.
The eighth annual Dream Up Festival (www.dreamupfestival.org) is being presented by Theater for the New City from August 27 to September 17. An ultimate new work festival, it is dedicated to the joy of discovering new authors and edgy, innovative performances. Audiences savor the excitement, awe, passion, challenge and intrigue of new plays from around the country and around the world.
The festival does not seek out traditional scripts that are presented in a traditional way. It selects works that push new ideas to the forefront, challenge audience expectations and make us question our understanding of how art illuminates the world around us.
A unique and varied selection of productions will again be offered that draw upon a variety of performance specialties including singing, clowning, poetry, street music, magic and movement. The Festival's founders, Crystal Field and Michael Scott-Price, feel this is especially needed in our present time of declining donations to the arts, grants not being awarded due to market conditions, and arts funding cuts on almost every level across the country and abroad.
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