HOW WE CAME TO BE
by Carey Harrison
My wife Claire Lambe and I formed the Woodstock Players in the spring of 2010, initially to stage Magus, a play of mine intended for another company, they found themselves unable to stage it, that summer. With Claire taking on the roles of company manager and designer, we recruited actors and stage management and went ahead, in a small theater of celestial charms, the Byrdcliffe Theater in Woodstock, NY. Raised in Britain, I had been writing plays since boarding school. Dante Kaputt was my first play to be staged professionally, at the Leicester Phoenix Theatre (in the UK) in 1966, when I was 22, and it led to the National Theatre taking an option on my future work. In the ensuing years my plays were widely performed in the UK, until my writing time was increasingly fed into scriptwriting and subsequently into novels.
In 2009 I was asked to write a play for the Jewish Theater Festival in New York City. Scenes From a Misunderstanding, a comedy about Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung, was the result, and when it was well received and brought from Manhattan to Woodstock's Byrdcliffe Theater in the summer of 2009, alongside a newly composed companion piece, Bad Boy, I felt inspired to write more for theatre. Magus, our inaugural production in 2010, was followed by a Robert Kelly play, Oedipus After Colonus, co-produced by The Woodstock Players with Dangerous Ground, a Manhattan company. Magus was revived in the winter of 2011 at the Center for Perfoming Arts in Rhinebeck. Emboldened by the enthusiastic reception of both of our endeavors and the reprise of Magus, we decided to keep going and in June 2011 produced another play of mine: Midget In A Catsuit Reciting Spinoza again at the Byrdcliffe Theatre.
My 2011 play for the company, Midget In a Catsuit Reciting Spinoza, was inspired by Henry Akona, the director of Scenes From A Misunderstanding and Bad Boy; on receiving Bad Boy Henry wrote to me expressing doubt that he could direct it. It was, he said, a love story: not his forte. If instead I had written him a play featuring, he wrote, a midget in a catsuit reciting Spinoza, he would have known exactly how to tackle it. I wrote him precisely that play, which he greeted with enthusiasm; the opportunity to premiere it, however, fell to the Woodstock Players. It is a wonderful and unusual thing for a playwright to produce and direct his/her own work and realize the piece as envisioned during writing. Being able to work closely with my wife and partner who is not only gifted as a costume, props, and set designer but has a terrific and natural sense of the theatrical, has meant we have a level of control over the entire process that is unheard of for most playwrights. And it is wonderful for actors to have the opportunity to originate a role - a rare thing for most actors especially outside of the metropolis'.
In 2012, in addition to my play, Hedgerow Specimen, produced in June, we also did a production of David Mamet's American Buffalo, directed
by Tracy Carney, at the Rhinebeck Center for Performing
Arts, and at Woodstock's Kleinert/James Arts Center and, in the fall, Samuel Beckett's Endgame, directed by Andrea Cunliffe with myself as the blind despot Hamm, and Mik Horowitz, who played Spinoza in Midget In A Catsuit Reciting Spinoza, playing
Hamm's servant, Clov. Claire Lambe was, as
ever, our costume and set designer. All three were hits with Hedgerow Specimen receiving
the Woodstock Players' most enthusiastic reception yet, but the pressure of doing three demanding productions in one year, in addition to our other commitments, made us go back to the board-room, aka the kitchen table, and agree that we have to keep to our original mission to do just one production per year. This vow was immediately broken in June 2013 when we did three plays - one, Hitler's Therapist, a staged reading followed by two full productions that ran in repertoire: I Won't Bite You and Rex & Rex - I directed the former and Claire directed the latter in which I also acted. Again we were thrilled with and encouraged by the reception from our audience. We
plan to stage more new work, by myself and others, in the years to
come, and help to return both Byrdcliffe Theater and Woodstock to its
past theatrical pre-eminence. We are already planning for 2014, just one production for real this time, albeit one with a cast of twenty-four... For more information
about the most recent plays, please visit Up Next on this website and for the rest, visit our Gallery and Archive pages, the latter contains brief synopses of the plays. And if
you can come and see our company perform, I can promise you won't be
disappointed. In addition to the 36 stage plays I've
written since Dante Kaputt in
1966, I have directed at theaters on both sides of the Atlantic,
including the National Theatre, or the Royal National Theatre as it is
now, of Great Britain, but I have yet to find a more inspiring space
than the Byrdcliffe Theater, or actors more gifted and committed than
those of The Woodstock Players. Together we hope to do great things,
regardless of scale. In theater, great things are born of passion and
imagination, and we can offer both. - Carey
If you would like to read more about Carey Harrison, we have recently added a new page "Carey on Theater" which you may enjoy - and on that page you will also find the link to his writer's website and more good stuff.
And visit our Facebook page and "Like" us, do:)