Innovating use of both space and audience expectations is extending to a dramatic use of the Internet. The Gertrude Stein Theater, founded in 1990, focuses on encouraging and supporting innovation in the performing arts, promoting such developments, and working internationally. John Reeves, co-director with Cheryl Faver, says, "We hope for a richer experience sensually, dramatically, and conceptually, and to find new ways to hold audiences' attention." Stylized movements from such diverse sources as Chinese opera, Indonesian dance, and Russian theater from the 1920s inform the aesthetics of the company, whose next production involves an adaptation from Gertrude Stein's novel The Making of the Americans. They also do work with arts education and recently coordinated, via the Internet, rehearsals of The Crucible which took place between students in the Bronx and students in northern England.
For John Clancy, the artistic director of The Present Company, producers of the annual New York International Fringe Festival, finding an old garage on Stanton Street two years ago to become their Theatorium was sheer luck. The rehearsal space and dressing room occupy what was once a speakeasy. Clancy opens a drawer in the rehearsal room wall and says, "Here's where there was a secret compartment to hide drugs during police raids." When he's not directing plays that explore language and/or the relationship between audiences and actors, Clancy's sweeping and cleaning the 75-seat house.
For director/writer/actor Sergio Cacciotti and his three partners, cleaning, fireproofing, and completely renovating a former pornography auditorium on 42nd Street four years ago was worth the $4,000 investment. Formerly Show World, now named The Pantheon, the place has lured even larger crowds since the changes have taken place in and around Times Square. "It's a dream come true," says Cacciotti, "being able to produce the kind of work we love."
Director Justine Lambert found a space for The Looking Glass Theatre in the basement of Trinity Presbyterian Church (113 years old and still very active) on West 57th Street. "In the beginning the space was very rough," according to Lambert. "There were no pipes from which to hang the lights, which were nonexistent anyway. There were no risers either. We hung up cheap flood lights and used regular household dimmers." The Looking Glass is dedicated to exploring and expanding the role of women in theater. Their upcoming production of Laodamia, Queen of Epyrus was first produced in 1689 at the Comedie Francaise, where it was the first full-length play produced by a woman.
Currently moored among the ice floes of the Hudson off of Chelsea Pier is The Frying Pan, a lightship boat built in North Carolina in 1929, which owners John and Angela Krevey rent to party givers and theater companies. The generator room has been emptied of its engines and was recently the site of a production of Daniel Pelican. "Since the generator room is beneath the water, it's cool there in the summer," Krevey explains. And with a large heater warming the boat, its also theater-worthy in the winter. The rust edging the boat's interiors and exteriors recall its years buried under the Atlantic Ocean, and certainly qualify it as an extra-special location for that certain piece of site-specific theater. "Someone was going to do Dracula here awhile ago," says Krevey. "That would have been really great."