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Ithaca Times - July 27, 2011: AWITC Second Season

Second Time Around: Actor's Workshop of Ithaca Theatre Company plans new season

By Jim Catalano

After a stellar debut, the Actor's Workshop of Ithaca Theatre Company is gearing up for a strong second season. The company, which grew out of the Actor's Workshop of Ithaca (which offers classes in the Meisner Technique), has just announced its 2011-12 season.

There will be fewer productions than last year, but longer runs of each show. The season will include: "Rabbit Hole" (Oct. 5-9, 2011), "Hatshepsut, The Female Pharaoh" (Jan. 8-15, 2012), "Mitzi's Abortion" (Feb. 2012) and "Museum" (July 2012). All of the shows will be staged at Risley Theatre on Cornell University's north campus. For more information, visit www.actorsworkshop.biz.

"We were really happy with last year's lineup," said Eliza VanCort, founder of the Actor's Workshop of Ithaca. "This year we want to continue to mount shows that appeal not just to the typically older set of theater-goers, but to younger people as well. A huge number of the people who came to see our shows were under 35, and I think that may have been the thing that I was the most excited about because it's tough to get that generation to go the theater."

"Museum" will be directed by David Kossack, who helmed "Poona the F**kdog" last season. "David knows how to do crowd-pleasing spectacle shows with huge casts of great characters like no other," VanCort said.

VanCort acknowledged that "Mitzi's Abortion" has an "unfortunate" title. "The play isn't simply about abortion. It's about religion, class, gender issues, you got it," she said. "And it handles these sticky issues grace and humor without every being polemical or preachy. I hate the damn title but I simply can't say enough about this play."

"Rabbit Hole" will be directed by Ithaca native Jeremy Webb, who's currently having much success in New York City's theater world.

"‘Rabbit Hole' is a gorgeous new American play, written by one of our leading American playwrights, David Lindsay-Abaire, and I was psyched that Eliza VanCort, whom I grew up with in Ithaca, would think of me to direct it," said Webb via email. "Ithaca is my hometown and it was where i was nurtured and encouraged as a young artist. Eliza and I had all of the same guiding artistic voices during our formative years as teenagers in Bryant Park. So when she asked me if I might be interested in returning to direct a show for her company, I was immediately interested."

The show also will feature VanCort's return to the stage, after she swore her appearance in last season's "Four Dogs and a Bone" would be her final role for several years. "I know she wanted to take time off from acting, but I felt that given our specific history and our mutual love of the theatre and our decades-old history together, that the experience would not be as special unless she thought about taking on one of the acting roles in the show," Webb said.

"In many ways, this opportunity is about giving back to this rich artistic community that has given me so much. I feel really fortunate that The Actor's Workshop of Ithaca has given me an opportunity to continue to grow as an artist through this experience as the director of ‘Rabbit Hole.'"

Another production, "Her Majesty, Herself," will feature the return of Actor's Workshop alumnus Esosa Edosomwan, who will play dozens of characters in the show.

"I have always wanted to do a one-woman show," said Edosomwan. "Over the years I have been inspired by so many talented actors, especially Whoopi Goldberg performing ‘The Spook Show,' Anna Deavere Smith in ‘Fires in the Mirror' and Roger Guenvere Smith performing ‘The Huey P. Newton Story.' It wasn't until about a year ago that I felt confident enough as a performer to start looking for a piece. But I couldn't find anything that suited me until I came across ‘Hathshepsut,' a play.

"It has always been a dream of mine to play an Egyptian Queen. I wasn't sure who it would be, but I've always had an obsession and affinity for all things Ancient Egyptian. So when I found Timothy Lawrence's play, I knew it was a piece I was born to do, and the writing was brilliant. I want to give the play everything I have, and Eliza and I have had a longstanding relationship, as the Actors Workshop was the first place I trained as an actress. She is a gifted director, knows me well, and I know she'll be able to push me to bring out the best performance I can bring. I am always looking for an excuse to spend some time in Ithaca, and to be able to support the workshop season was too good to pass up. The show will be touring after this Ithaca run, and for me, Ithaca feels like home; there's no better place to begin."

While she's looking forward to the upcoming season, VanCort is also looking at the long term.

"It's my dream to eventually be able to hire staff that are devoted solely to the theater company," VanCort said. "This would allow us to do more shows without it negatively impacting our teaching staff. The theater company is a great way to give students, alumni and occasionally our staff a place to sharpen skills in a fun but focused environment. When we're big enough that it doesn't tax our small staff too much, it will be really fun to see it grow."

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