According to its three founders, “inquiry” and “practice” are at the core of the Troy Foundry Theatre’s mission. The newly created professional company aims to explore social issues by producing new work or reinterpreting existing work using immersive performance and devised theater techniques. They value collaboration, and they value the theater as a place that can poke and prod and prompt audiences to reflect on the social and political climate, as well as the artist’s role in interpreting that climate. It’s a tall order, but if the group’s inaugural production is any indication, the Troy Foundry Theatre isn’t shying away from the task.
First up is New World Order: Six Short Plays by Harold Pinter. Pinter, who died in 2008, was a giant. His plays are menacing – oppression, violence, torture, and abuse by authority are common themes in his work. An outspoken critic of the Iraq War, Pinter’s politics became more prominent in his later years, especially in the years leading up to his Nobel for Literature (2005). Once upon a time, his late plays seemed like grim, dark portraits of power and abuse, but now, less than a decade since his passing, these same plays have a new resonance and a new relevance, which is one of the reasons the Troy Foundry Theatre selected the work for their debut.
The six shorts on the bill vary from four-scene one-acts to dramatic sketches. “One for the Road” and “Mountain Language” are the most substantial plays in the suite. Those two pieces are accompanied by “The New World Order,” which is a 10-minute play; “God’s District,” which is a monologue; and two dramatic sketches, “Precisely” and “Press Conference.” “From the satirical to the macabre, each of Pinter’s plays depict society as a prison without walls, where any hope of oppositional agency is buried within linguistic menace,” the company notes in their description of the show. Interestingly, they are reinterpreting the work for “a post-truth world.” To sum up, there’s a lot to unpack in these pieces.
The co-founders of the Troy Foundry Theatre are David Girard, Emily Curro, and Alexandra Tarantelli. Girard, who serves as artistic director, is well-known in the Capital Region theater scene for his work with Saratoga Shakespeare Company, Capital Repertory Theatre, and New York State Theatre Institute. Curro, artistic associate, has worked for Williamstown Theatre Festival and the Academy of Music Theatre (Northampton, MA). Tarantelli, business manager, has performed on regional and off-Broadway stages, including The Rep.
The idea for the theater had been kicking around for years. Girard and Curro laugh as they describe how they’d talk about the concept over the phone while they were both muscling through graduate school. After graduate school, Girard says the timing wasn’t quite right. “I needed some time to decompress. I ended doing a lot of teaching and it gave me more structure, got me reading a lot and thinking about starting the company.”
“It’s kind of amazing how it all came together,” Tarantelli adds. “How everyone has a professional theater background and how we all stepped away from performance to dabble in other areas, learned different things, and how we’ve all come back together, bringing those skills back to the theatre.”
It’s no accident that the group choose Troy as their home. All three founders are graduates of Russell Sage College’s theater program. In fact, the company is officially a “Theatre Institute at Sage (TIS) Incubator Project.” David Baecker, Managing Director of TIS, notes that the Incubator Project was the brainchild of Leigh Strimbeck, Teacher/Artist in Residence at Sage and Artistic Director of TIS. “Leigh’s reasoning was that space, specifically rehearsal space, was a major hurdle for young artists wanting to create new work,” Baecker said. “When David [Girard] approached me about space, it seemed like a good fit.” Troy Foundry will offer the first three performances of New World Order in the James L. Meader Little Theatre on the Russell Sage College campus. The final two performances will be at The Hangar on the Hudson. Curro notes the symmetry, saying that it’s only fitting that they launch the company from the place the idea was born.
Also, no accident – the timing. “Clearly the last year has changed things for this country,” Girard says. “It’s influenced our mission and the type of work we want to produce. We want tie it to what’s going on in the world, our country, and our communities. This is why I became an artist – so I can bring my unique voice to the discussion.”
At the same time, Girard speaks about the need to strike a balance between the full-throated Brecht / Epic Theatre approach, which calls for a certain amount of distance and alienation, with the need for entertainment and “theatricality.” For Girard, there’s a middle ground to be had. “We want to get people talking. We want them to leave the theatre with some new idea or a different way of looking at things.”
In addition to the audience’s experience, the company is also focused on the collaborative process – it’s central to their mission. In its support of working artists, Girard sees an opportunity to educate the audience. “We want to show them what training looks like in all its forms.” he says. “We have great designers working on the show, for example. The audience gets to see what the difference is when you get a group of professionals working together.” In some ways, the company’s collaborative approach may become more apparent in future production of new work, but Girard is eager to note that his actors are amazing collaborators, who’ve helped him shape and order the work.
“We are literally building this from the ground up,” Curro says, noting how they utilized all the connections and networks they’ve built over the years with working professionals, people who believe in the company, and those that want to see the company to get off the ground. “We’re taking flight and doing something that’s hard to do – launch a brand-new theatre from the ground from nothing.” Curro continues. “We’re lucky to be in this area with so many great collaborators and influencers.”
What’s happening beyond the Pinter plays? The Troy Foundry Theatre envisions building a full season of offerings, running Fall to Spring. Now, they are planning a play reading seasons for the end of 2017, which is titled “Theatre of Revolt: The Festival of Resistance.” As always, so much is dependent on the support they receive from the community, from crowdfunding (they have YouCaring campaign up now), to individual donations, to sponsorships – those tools help keep the performances free to everyone.
New World Order: Six Short Plays by Harold Pinter is directed by Artistic Director David Girard and features John Romeo, Ethan Botwick, Shayne David Cameris, Emily Curro, and Alex Tarantelli. It plays at the James L. Meader Little Theatre at Russell Sage College on October 19, 20, 21 at 8pm and The Hangar on the Hudson on October 26, 27. Admission is free.
Visit www.troyfoundrytheatre.com for more information.