Tangent Arts was born with the new millennium, a collaborative effort of playwright/actor Michael Rhodes and producing director Andrea Rhodes. Tangent’s well-received downstate productions included classic pieces like Edward Albee’s “Zoo Story.” But the couple, who’d graduated from neighboring Dutchess County high schools and met at a friend’s wedding there, felt professionally and personally drawn back upstate. “We had done the city and loved it. It was time to move on,” says Andrea.
Meanwhile, an equally powerful magnetic force was calling from across the Atlantic, and they made their first trip to Ireland in 2006, discovering the wonderful Dublin tradition of the pub reading, which they first imported to Mr. Dennehy’s, a West Village watering hole. Relocating Tangent and their lives to Tivoli three years ago, they found receptive pub-reading venues at the Black Swan and later at the Dubliner in Poughkeepsie.
Ireland has become “a second home,” says Andrea Rhodes. “Michael has roots there, and we’ve found the most wonderful people, a Dublin theater company called About Face. Michael has performed with them over there, and a couple of their members have moved to New York and work over here. It all started because I had this crazy whim to find and e-mail some Irish theater people and see if we could meet them.”
Meanwhile, their first home in Tivoli has proven fertile soil indeed for their endeavors. “When we moved in where we live, part of the building was an actual carpenter’s shop,” Rhodes explains. “We really loved the space, so we asked the owner if he’d mind if we did some theater in it.” Tool benches were relocated and the Carpenter Shop Theater, intimate and flexible, was born in 2011. “Our landlord moved all his stuff to the garage and gave us this raw space to rework; he’s happy to be a part of it. The whole village of Tivoli—the mayor, everyone—has been so welcoming. It’s an amazing, eclectic place to begin with. These woods are full of weekenders and city expatriates—actors, writers, directors, journalists—it’s nice to be back where our roots are and find so much support.”
Reading through an anthology of Irish plays not long ago, Michael Rhodes discovered “The Good Father,” written by acclaimed young Irish playwright Christian O’Reilly and produced to considerable critical acclaim in Ireland, Europe, and Canada, but never before in the United States. “The Good Father” is the story of a mismatched couple and an unplanned pregnancy. “It’s a gorgeous play,” says Rhodes. “It’s lovely and poignant and sweet, just a quintessential Irish love story.” Pub readings at the Dubliner were well received last year.
Now, the couple is excited to be bringing the American premiere of “The Good Father” to the Carpenter Shop this May, with direction by Greg Skura and Michael Rhodes in the title role. Playing opposite him will hopefully be a genuine Irish lass with whom Rhodes performed in an American-written play the couple produced with their About Face pals in Dublin. “They had a wonderful synergy, professionally and personally, and when Michael read Good Father he said she’d be his ideal female lead,” Andrea says. “We figured it was a long shot, but she wrote back and said she’d come over and do it.”
“Christian’s play is perfect for us, a very ‘Tangential’ study,” says Michael Rhodes, “offering an emotionally truthful look at two very human characters, where love isn’t a storybook, and hopes and fears are obstacles in a struggle to connect.” Vin Roca, the technical director of Bard’s Fisher Center, will be lighting the Carpenter Shop for the occasion.
“The Good Father” will be staged May 3 through May 26, Thursday to Saturday at 8pm, Sunday at 3pm, at the Carpenter Shop Theater, in Tivoli. Tickets are $20. (845) 230-7020; Tangent-arts.org