DaVinci to Rube Goldberg
Andy’s Summer Playhouse is all about invention
By Heidi Masek email@example.com
Andy’s Summer Playhouse is something of an anomaly in children’s theater.
“It’s actually unusual for us to go into rehearsal with a full script,” Artistic Director Bob Lawson said. “We are interested in taking kids through the process of developing work, how theater [comes to be].”
Given that, the 36-year-old Wilton company’s 2006 “Summer of Invention” theme is rather fitting.
Director Henry Akona had suggested having 32 contributers – writers, artists, photographers, videographers – create pieces to follow Bach’s “Goldberg Variations.” That was paired with a Rube Goldberg concept, which led to an inventor season.
More than 20 children, ages nine through 18, will perform the 32 different pieces, some abstract, one just video, for Goldberg Variations July 13 through July 22.
“It didn’t start that way,” Lawson said. In the beginning they used existing scripts. Dan Hurlin, the artistic director for the decade before Lawson’s ten years, started a tradition of commissioning new pieces for Andy’s. About half are “more spin than direct adaptation,” Lawson said. “All we do is new work in one form or another.”
Tom Swift, on stage June 29 through July 8, is a revised Andy’s play about a “1950s boy scientist” who “also discovers he’s an alien.”
“Really, just the character names are from the book,” Lawson said.
He’s finishing music for Leonardo’s Tank, a coming-of-age story in which he wanted to include Leonardo daVinci without the 16th-century setting and a girl lead. She’s told that she is the sixth incarnation of daVinci. “She runs away from her destiny and is pursued by the other reincarnations,” Lawson said. The rock-based score with “a bagpipe thing in act 2” is “eclectic.” It runs July 3 through Aug. 9.
Playscripts, Inc., a new company for new plays (playscripts.com), recently expressed interest in publishing work developed at Andy’s. “That’s something we’ve been trying to engineer for years,” Lawson said.
That’s good news for Useless, Inc., a “stripped-down, no frills, workshop production.” The script is finished but playwright Karen Smith-Vastola will be in residence for rehearsal, which will use a process called “Viewpoints.” The July 15 through 29 performance might be script-in-hand, and may lead to a full production next summer.
An alumni invention beginning this summer is “Cheap Cabaret,” which gives “older kids” an informal venue for their plays, improv, film or other projects. Lawson called it a “21st-century variety show.”
Andy’s alumni often return as staff members. About 120 or 130 kids are at Andy’s this year. About 40 or 50 kids apprentice under production staff. Andy’s also offers a playwrights’ lab, young directors’ lab, and conservatory training.