FOR THE NEW CITY'S DREAM UP FESTIVAL PRESENTS A DOUBLE-BILL BY WILLIAM
HUGEL, "MEDUSA" AND "THE
NEW YORK, July 14 -- In "Medusa" and "The Oddity" (https://medusaandtheoddity.wordpress.com), playwright William Hugel takes an impressionistic look at the stigma of mental illness and the declining power of women in society. The plays, directed by Chad Chenail, will have their world premieres August 31 to September 10 in Theater for the New City's Dream Up Festival 2015.
"Medusa" adapts the Greek myth into the present day to examine global violence against women. "The Oddity" is a journey into the dark world of Western psychiatry and the suffering of the human soul. Both plays exist in a disjointed and unstable present. The reality of the space is dim and unwelcoming. Movement and rhythm play an important role, with drums a motivating factor in "Medusa" and dance being a major tool of communication in "The Oddity."
"Medusa" explores the title character, a woman, through the way man, represented by Perseus, has tried to repress and dominate her. The voice of her daughter, Eliza, narrates the story, eager to return her mother to her rightful place of power. Eliza's words are hypnotic, taking the other characters under her spell as she says, "They know you're getting stronger! This era when you lay buried, is coming to an end." Medusa is helpless to resist the world Eliza evokes and the words breathe life back into her body. This re-imagining of the Medusa myth brings it into today's world, with Medusa's journey from queen to monster to the terrifying harbinger of a new age paralleling the evolution of gender roles and power hierarchies. The language is lyrical and the show feels like a prolonged poem. The staging is dynamic and dance-like, with the words serving as the backdrop to pantomimed movements that are animalistic and fluid, evoking Medusa's rise to power. The cast includes Erin Hanraty, Gina DeMay and Christopher Barba.
"The Oddity" is filled with ambient sounds of a psychiatrist's office heard through the filter of an un-medicated, schizophrenic mind. The stage is set up in three parts, each one representing the world of one of three characters. Jessie, fed a never-ending variety of pharmaceuticals since he was five years old, exemplifies the need of sufferers of mental illness to communicate about themselves. A man named Finely, a desk attendant in a cheap residential hotel, fills this need by listening to what Jessie has to say. A doctor in the show uses medication himself to escape the very reality he defends to his patients. A neutral character, "It," communicates only through movement and moves among the three, representing ideas such as mental illness, addiction, and temptation. Each character 'stages' their own play by telling a story; the dialogue jumps around with the characters filling in each other's blanks, thus tying together the three disparate worlds of the stage. Their stories exemplify some of the many stories of mental illness and suffering that need telling and need someone to listen to them. The play illustrates the stigmas surrounding mental illness and asks what it means to be crazy and who gets to decide these designations or who needs medication. The cast includes: Christopher Barba, Joe Cordaro, Poorna Swarmi and Chelsea Roe. Lighting Designer and Assistant Director is Hao Bai.
Playwright William Hugel has been producing literary work for the past two decades. His full-length plays include "Demons," which was selected to be part of the 2014 Hive Theatre's Exposed Reading Series, and "Gödel," which is currently being workshopped at The Pulse Ensemble Theater. "Medusa" was selected for a staged reading by the Stella Adler Studio of Acting, part of the 2014 Harold Clurman Festival of the Arts. "The Oddity" was selected for a staged reading by Playwrights at The Grand in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, as part of their October 2014 Night of One Acts. Other credits include "Gypsy Courtyard," published by The Furious Gazelle and nominated for the Pushcart Prize; "The White Stag," published by Atticus Review; and a collection of original fairy tales, which he wrote after experiencing the tragedy of Hurricane Katrina. The first of these, "Beautiful Wild Rose Girl," was awarded a Gold Medal by Children's Literary Classics International Book Awards. (www.williamhugel.com)
Director Chad Chenail has staged "Subverted" at Lynn Redgrave Theatre, "Rough for Theatre II," "Refresh" and "The Family Continues" at La MaMa, "Douche" at The Player's Theatre and "In Your Mother's Garden" in MITF. He was Assistant Director for "Hildegard" at St. Anne's Warehouse, "Latvia/Latvia" at The Access, "Something Cloudy, Something Clear" in Provincetown's Tennessee Williams Festival, and "Maria Celeste: Galileo" at Incubator Arts. He is a graduate of Pace University. (www.chadchenail.com)
Choreographer is Erin Hanraty. Assistant director and lighting designer is Hao Bai. Sound designer is Chad Chenail.
The sixth Dream Up Festival (www.dreamupfestival.org) will be presented by Theater for the New City (TNC) from August 30 to September 20, 2015, offering a lineup of wide-ranging and original theatrical visions embracing drama, musicals, improv, aerial and more. This year, owing to growing popularity, the festival has expanded beyond its primary venue. For the festival's first five years, all productions were presented at Theater for the New City, 155 First Ave. This year, 19 productions will be presented at TNC and seven will be presented at an outside venue, The Producers Club Theaters at 358 West 44th Street.
The festival is dedicated to new works. TNC feels this festival is especially needed now in a time of declining donations to the arts, grants not being awarded due to market conditions and arts funding cuts all across the country and abroad. The festival aims to push ideas to the forefront through imaginative presentations so as to challenge audience expectations and make us question our understanding of the way art illuminates the world around us.
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