Pin It

The Ninja Hamlet and the Mermaid 

click to enlarge Iraqi-American Heather Raffo will perform her one-woman show "9 Parts of Desire" as part of the Capital Repertory Theater's "Biggest Little International Play Festival," which opens October 16.
  • Iraqi-American Heather Raffo will perform her one-woman show "9 Parts of Desire" as part of the Capital Repertory Theater's "Biggest Little International Play Festival," which opens October 16.

At La Jolla Playhouse in San Diego, where Elizabeth Doran oversaw finances before joining Capital Repertory Theater last year, the fostering of new plays such as “I Am My Own Wife” and “Jersey Boys” boosted both the company’s reputation and its funding. Producing new work helped La Jolla win a Tony Award as Best Regional Theater in 1993, and it continues to be the measure by which regional theaters are named for that honor each year.

That’s what Doran, Capital Rep’s managing director, hopes to achieve in Albany.

“The American theatrical landscape is changing,” she says. “If you want to be a high-caliber regional theater, you must do research and development of new, important work.”

So while summer-long audience-pleasers like “Menopause: The Musical” keep the professional theater’s books in the black, its upcoming lineup of new, sometimes challenging plays, The Biggest Little International Play Festival, is designed to provide some R&D excitement to the subscription season. The hope is that the festival, which runs from October 16 through November 15, will also bring the theater prestige, widespread media attention, and art foundation dollars.

“The philanthropic [picture] has changed,” Doran notes. “Donors and foundations are looking for something unique. They want to know that you’re doing interesting and creative new things with their money.”

Investing in new plays and new productions also gives the theater first dibs on shows that might otherwise end up at bigger venues. But will more serious and edgy work scare off Capital Rep’s core subscribers? That’s where the idea of a festival—a month-long showcase for readings, minimal stagings, and short runs—comes in. Smaller commitments mean less pressure to fill seats, and more opportunity to offer special pricing and other incentives to entice theatergoers to take a chance on something different.

“If we’re doing a play that’s only running two weeks, we can be more experimental,” explains Producing Artistic Director Maggie Mancinelli-Cahill. “People’s expectations are, ‘I don’t know what I’m going to see, but I’m in.’ ”
The festival lineup promises to stretch every creative department at the theater, Mancinelli-Cahill says. It will take special video projection, for example, to see The Tiny Ninja Theater’s production of “Hamlet”—starring gumball-machine action figures, robots, aliens, and other dime-store miniatures—projected on a big screen. “The Little Mermaid and Other Tails: An Artist’s Guide to Unlocking the Living Universe,” a piece commissioned by Capital Rep about Albany’s own Newbery- and Caldecott-winning children’s illustrator Dorothy Lathrop, will also use projections to bring Lathrop’s drawings to the stage. “Edges: The Musical” presents a song cycle about Facebook and academic overachievers by hot young composers Benj Pasek and Justin Paul—Mancinelli-Cahill calls it a sort of “Jacques Brel” for the next generation.

Giving the Festival its international flavor are two works about the effects of war on women. Iraqi-American writer Heather Raffo crafted her one-woman “9 Parts of Desire” from the stories of the people she met on a post-Gulf War visit to her father’s homeland. Meanwhile, playwright Sonja Linden drew on her experience working with African civil war refugees to pen “I Have Before Me a Remarkable Document Given to Me by a Young Lady From Rwanda,” about the relationship between a middle-aged British aid worker and a genocide survivor trying to convey the facts of her family’s annihilation. Such offerings “shine a light on what theater is all about,” says Mancinelli-Cahill.

The festival is a financial gamble, but Doran believes Capital Rep, with its proximity to both Broadway and the Berkshires, is perfectly situated to become the next big thing in regional theater. Could a Tony be in the company’s future? Doran is ever the optimist.

“Nobody’s ever envisioned that for us—we’re Albany,” she says. “Why not envision it?”

The Biggest Little International Play Festival will run at Capital Repertory from October 16 through November 15. (518) 445-SHOW;

Speaking of...

  • Terrapin Craft Beer Experience
  • Terrapin Craft Beer Experience

    The Terrapin Craft Beer Experience puts NY State food and drink front and center.
    • Oct 1, 2016
  • Brick Alley Block Party, September 24 – Rain or Shine
  • Brick Alley Block Party, September 24 – Rain or Shine

    Celebrate GARNER Arts Center’s Exhibition, Transposing Perception, wandering through site specific art, music & dance installations throughout connecting 19th Century warehouses and alleyways, ending with a DJ set in a starlit Brick Alleyway. Food trucks, craft beer, wine & cider.
    • Sep 22, 2016
  • FreshGrass at MassMoCA
  • FreshGrass at MassMoCA

    Bluegrass festival comes to MassMoCA September 16 to 18.
    • Sep 1, 2016
  • More »


Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Readers also liked…

  • The Souls of Typewriters

    Alon is with his typewriter and looking for collaborators the first Tuesday of every month at Quinn's in Beacon starting at 7pm. He will also be at Beacon Pantry in Beacon on May 16-17 for Beacon Open Studios, and at the Clearwater Festival at Croton Point Park on June 20-21.
    • May 1, 2015
  • Sweet Celebration

    Tal National will perform at the Falcon in Marlboro on April 3 at 7pm (donation requested; (845) 236-7970;; the Half Moon in Hudson on April 4 at 8pm ($10; (518) 828-1562;; the Iron Horse in Northampton, Massachusetts, on April 9 at 7pm ($10, $13; (413) 586-8686;; and the Sanctuary for Independent Media in Troy on April 12 at 7pm ($10; (518) 272-2390;
    • Apr 1, 2015

Hudson Valley Events

submit event

Latest in Theater

Related to Theater

More by Kathy Ceceri

  • Days of Plays

    Not long after winning her Pulitzer, Parks undertook a project that is bringing her subversive and quirky humor right to the leafy hills of western Massachusetts.
    • Aug 1, 2007
  • Blessed by the Bard

    “The aesthetic that we espouse, which is Shakespeare’s aesthetic, is that the language leads the action of the play,” Packer explains. “You have to be deeply connected to the play, always involving the energy of the audience. There is no fourth wall.”
    • Jun 21, 2007
  • More »

Hudson Valley Tweets