FOR THE NEW CITY TO PRESENT PREMIERE OF
"THE VERY LAST DANCE OF HOMELESS JOE" BY RICH COURAGE.
Lyrical portrait of homeless New Yorkers by a once-homeless playwright
will stir up feelings of compassion and empathy.
WHERE AND WHEN
December 1-18, 2022
Theater for the New City, 155 First Ave. (at E. 10th St.)
Thursdays through Saturdays at 8:00 PM, Sundays at 3:00 PM
$18 general admission, $15 seniors & students
Buy tickets: www.theaterforthenewcity.net, (212) 254-1109
Running time : 90 min, no intermission.
Preview December 1. Critics are invited on or after December 2 (opening date).
NEW YORK, November 20 -- You will never look at a homeless person the same way after seeing "The Very Last Dance of Homeless Joe," a new play by actor/playwright/comedian/visual artist Rich Courage that will be presented by Theater for the New City December 1 to 18. It's a character study of nine archetypal homeless people, written in lyrical realism by a playwright who has, himself, been homeless.
The play is a multicultural story of a young woman named Charlie who works as a copy editor for a little Manhattan newspaper. Wanting to do something important and meaningful, she decides to write about people who are homeless and encounters nine people who make her laugh and cry, open her eyes and ultimately change her life for the better. They include a Vietnam vet, a woman suffering from mental illness and a woman who went blind as a child. There are also a woman named Nobody, who refuses to be saved or spoken to, and a man who says his biggest problem is dating. Their parts are written in tour de force monologues with heightened stage language and inescapable truth. They all refer Charlie to a man named Homeless Joe who lives on the streets with his dog. He cares for many other homeless people and his story, they insist, trumps all theirs. Charlie's quest to find Joe is the trip of the play.
The piece won third prize in the Power Stories Theater Festival in March, 2021. That was followed by a Zoom performance in May, 2021 for members and staff of Fountain House, a clubhouse for people who are challenged with mental illness. It was then performed to standing ovations in the New York Theater/Winterfest at Latea Theater. A monologue from the play (delivered by Blind Sally, a blind African American woman telling her story) was published in Smith & Kraus' Best Women's Monologues 2021. Up to now, playwright Rich Courage has directed and played the title character. The play's premiere run at TNC will be directed by Emily Hausman with Mr. Courage as Homeless Joe.
Courage reflects, "There's a lot of me and my gypsy past in the play, and a composite of many other folks I've run across. Broken dreams, voices in my head and nightmares in my bed. My life is so much better nowadays, and I hope my play can shed much needed light on the lives and humanity of folks who are homeless."
He recalls, "I knew a guy who was homeless with his dog and we hung out some, and one day he was just gone. Got me thinking. All these folks who are homeless on Manhattan's streets needed a voice: someone to make people see them not as homeless people, but as people who happen to be homeless. And then, well, my play sort of wrote itself. I intentionally left out the swear words cause I'd like to see it in classrooms everywhere. Kids need to learn early on that all lives are precious and we need each other now more than ever."
On the effect of the play, he explains, "I wrote it to break folks' hearts.
To break them open, that is. To stir feelings of compassion, empathy and love
for folks who need it most. I hope that audiences come away realizing that people
who are homeless are, well, just people. And they have as much to offer us as
we do them, if we just give them a chance."
The actors are Tim Brokema, Samekh Resh, Valerie Johnson, Emma Littig, Selena Donayre, Rich Courage, Robert Rishi Mafia, Louis Courage (no relation to the playwright), Roger Rover and Herut Ashkenazi. None are homeless. Set and sound design are by Angelina Meccariello. Lighting design is by John Lance Harrison. Stage manager is Izy Taylor. Board Operator is Geoffrey Kinsey-Christopher.
Playwright Richard Courage has been homeless at various times, but currently dwells in supported housing in Washington Heights and is now living a personal renaissance. He was a Peer Counselor at Fountain House, working at a kiosk in Times Square where he served up coffee, conversation and resources to homeless people. When he was laid off, he began selling his artwork--tarot themed three dimensional collages--on midtown streets. He had previously reinterpreted comic book covers and set out in a new artistic direction when someone gave him a deck of tarot cards; he began re-interpreting their designs in paper tole. Mirabe dictu, the colorful 3D collages seriously caught on and he "has done pretty darn well" since then, selling these creations from a table in Hell's Kitchen and on Ninth Ave. between 48th and 49th Streets. He has appeared regularly at Broadway Comedy Club and sings folk rock at the Music Inn's open mic Thursdays at 9:00 PM.
Courage is Falstaff-looking at 62 and speaks in a booming voice. He was a successful child actor in commercials in the 1960's. In the late 1970's, he appeared as Iago in a Fordham College production at Lincoln Center. In the '90s, he did some black box theater and subsequently wrote, directed, acted, filmed and edited several short comedic films at Fountain House. These were very well attended and received by staff and members.
Director Emily Hausmann earned a BFA in Theatre Arts from Molloy University's CAP21 Musical Theatre Conservatory. After moving to NY from Victoria, Texas in 2016, she made her professional performing and directorial debuts at the Madison Theatre on Long Island. She has been a performer and director in NYC at The Triad, Town Stages, Green Room 42, CAP21, Irvington Theater's Arts Incubator Play Festival, and in various concerts and workshops around the city. (emilyhausmann.com )
Rich Courage writes, "Theater For The New City is much more than just a venerable theater and Crystal Field is so much more than just a theater director. TNC is a marvelous place where playwrights, emerging and mid-career, have their dreams brought to full, vibrant life. Crystal is a living, breathing legend--a visionary who founded the theater and continues to build on its legacy of bringing meaningful, poignant stories to the stage. TNC and Crystal are what theater in New York is about and I am grateful that she saw themes in my play that needed to be shared with the rest of the world. She has helped me to give voice to the voiceless."
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Critics are invited on or after December 2 (opening date).
Photos are available at: https://photos.app.goo.gl/vvP6KyN5sYBFUje78