March Madness: Playmaking 2017, #APACHomecoming, & RAISIN
"Adventurous theater in Astoria"

-- The New York Times

March Madness: Playmaking 2017, #APACHomecoming, & RAISIN

Social Media Manager Jessica Taghap sums up the hectic madness that was March at APAC — including a look at this year’s Playmaking performances at I.S. 10, and our Benefit event at the Paper Factory Hotel.

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The participating players of the Playmaking Program.  (Photos: Jessica Taghap)

Just as the saying goes, March 2017 certainly came in like a lion — but it won’t go out like a lamb any time soon.  Our very busy month at APAC kicked off to a pleasant start with the first round of Playmaking, our program in partnership with Horace Greeley Intermediate School (I.S. 10) in Astoria.  Then just this past Monday, we had our annual benefit (made possible by our benefit sponsor Kaufman Astoria Studios) — this year, with a ‘Homecoming’ theme (#APACHomecoming).  All of this, of course, providing an excellent jumping-off point for our Spring revival of Raisin, a musical adaptation of Lorraine Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun, opening this May.

The first round of APAC’s Playmaking 2017 saw a group of tiny theater-makers with surprisingly big ideas.  Our group of five budding playwrights collectively took on the challenge of writing their own individual pieces for the stage, which would eventually be performed by a group of professional actors.  The resulting pieces that followed took us around the world and back, exploring themes of loyalty, bravery, friendship, and love.  Such heady themes from our young playwrights, but as they each took their place in the Writer’s Chair, it soon became clear that their storytelling abilities belied their years.

The Playmaking program originally came about as an adaptation of Daniel Judah Sklar’s book of the same name, Playmaking: Children Writing and Performing Their Own Plays.  Playmaking Teacher Susan Willerman first came across the program at the 52nd Street Project, where she also worked with Sklar initially as his assistant and eventually as a dramaturg and director.  These days, the program thrives at I.S. 10, where our aforementioned playwrights-in-the-making took to the stage with their work earlier this month (March 2nd).  Of the progress she’s witnessed through the program with each passing year, Willerman notes: “The specifics of the characters they come up with are different [every year], and they’re always very individual.  I would say that quite often the boys would go on these great adventure stories, and the girls’ plays are about friendship.”

Back in I.S. 10’s auditorium, tales of adventure and friendship certainly abound, though in some very surprising ways.  In Love On! and Love Comes At One Point, Especially in Japan — by Isabel Nadal Fernandez and Zanab Ibrar, respectfully — we journey to a futuristic Japan; whilst James Dascalu’s Friendship by Miles takes us from South America to the United Kingdom.  Kimberly Solorzano’s Skyler and Gloria’s Horrible Day, a beautiful tale of the friendship between a girl and her dog, was certainly not without its own flair of adventure; as was Shyheim Hailey’s Freda and Bruce and Their Amazing Adventure, about a scientist who stumbles upon a wolf in the mountains, only to befriend him in the process.  In helping depict these stories onstage, help came in the form of a group of professional actors and APAC friends: Arlene Chico-Lugo, Chiara Johnson, Adam Auslander, Ariel Francoeur, Kete Siepert, Asheley Lowell, Heather Lee Rogers, Jason Pintar, Claire Corddry, and Marnie Jones.  Even Playmaking Assistant Jamie Roach got in on the action, participating in four of the five presented plays (and marvellously so)!  Among our directors for the evening were Aleesha Nash (Skyler and Gloria…), Mackie Saylor (Love On!), Christopher Noffke (Friendship by Miles), Graydon Gund (Love Comes at One Point…), and Katie White (Freda and Bruce…).

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The cool interiors of the Paper Factory Hotel, where our Benefit was held.

With the success of Playmaking’s Round One behind us, all of us at APAC immediately started to get things in gear for what would certainly be a more “grown-up” evening: our annual benefit, this year dubbed #APACHomecoming!  Invitations were sent, social media reminders were posted…and before we knew it, March 20th had crept upon us.  This time around, our event was held at the nearby Paper Factory Hotel, a former radio factory in the ’20s and paper printing company in the ’70s, which has since been refurbished to a hotel replete with modern amenities, eye-catching decor and great event spaces — such as the speakeasy-inspired Night Club, where #APACHomecoming was to spend the night.

And oh, what a night it was.

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The madness that was #APACHomecoming!

We kicked things off with dinner and our signature drinks (guests had a choice between the ‘Sweet Home, Astoriana,’ a fusion of gin, Yuzu, Aloe Vera, Lemongrass and Mint; or the ‘Steinway Surprise,’ which consisted of tequila, orange liqueur, cucumber, basil, poblano pepper, lime and Aleppo-Sea Salt), before guests were further treated with a program of special performances from various APAC Alums.  LaToya Edwards (Carefully Taught) performed selections for our sneak peek of Raisin, along with Billy Lowrimore (25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee).  Then, after a welcoming from APAC board President Shelly Felder and further introductions by Executive Director Jessica Bathurst and Artistic Director Dev Bondarin were made, the program continued.  Next on the list were two songs, each titled “Home,” but talked about very different places of origin: the first, from a show by Brett Macias and Evensong scribe Christina Quintana called Gumbo; the second, from Katya Stanislavskaya’s Resident Alien [which you can read more about from the composer’s perspective here].  Finally, all of our performers got together to sing “For Good” from Wicked along with Emily Koch, who regaled the audience with her experience auditioning for the Broadway hit whilst already cast in an APAC production.  After the program, it was time to D-A-N-C-E!  The dance floor soon buzzed with everybody shimmying to their favorite throwback tunes, courtesy of DJ MoeFlow.  As the party continued, guests were also welcome to take some photos at the booth set up just off the dance floor, as well as enter one of our many raffles, the winners of which were announced later in the evening [you can view the full list of winners and prizes here].

All in all, the evening was a success!

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You can catch up on more of the evening’s madness with the #APACHomecoming tag — or follow us on Twitter, Instagram & Facebook.

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