When some people turn 70, their friends throw a party.
American playwright Israel Horovitz’s friends at the Barefoot Theatre Company have been marking his 70th birthday curating a year-long global festival of his works, 70 in all. The “70/70 Horovitz Project” will wrap up March 31, 2010, on the occasion of the playwright’s 71st birthday.
Two Lower Hudson Valley venues — Nyack’s Elmwood Playhouse and Hudson Stage Company in Briarcliff —?are participating in the celebration with staged readings of Horovitz plays.
This weekend, Elmwood and Pear Productions present “Man in Snow,” directed by Bernie Garzia. Next month, Scarsdale’s Matthew Arkin directs his mother, South Salem actress Barbara Dana, in “Fighting Over Beverly,” a one-night-only event Horovitz plans to attend.
Audiences in Nyack will be treated to an American premiere of a Horovitz work, a coup for a small community theater working with a brand-new production company.
Producer Paul Russo says it all started with Facebook.
Russo’s friend, “Man in Snow” cast member Erin deWard, had appeared in Horovitz’s “North?Shore Fish” years ago and was a Facebook friend of the playwright.
When deWard learned about 70/70 project, through a Facebook alert, she mentioned it to Russo, with whom she was shooting a movie in Haverstraw.
“In between takes, we were talking and we said ‘We should really be doing more. We want to be more in control of the process,’” Russo recalls, adding with a laugh: “Everyone else has a theater company, why shouldn’t we?”
Pear Productions was born.
Russo wondered if the 70/70 Project wouldn’t be a good place to start, but deWard doubted a brand-new company would be taken seriously.
“I wrote a letter, describing our connection to all the arts, Rockland World Radio, Elmwood Playhouse, Shades Repertory and Riverspace, at the time, which was open. And we got a beautiful acceptance letter, saying they looked forward to our contribution,” Russo recalls.
Then they had to find the right play.
A Web search eventually led Russo to an eclectic little site run by a British man who dabbled in everything from wine-making to BBC?radio shows.
There, on the site, was a blurb about a radio show Horovitz wrote for the BBC, “Man in Snow,” including the synopsis, which Russo can recite from memory:
“A more-than-middle-aged man climbs mountains, babysitting fornicating Japanese honeymooners.”
(Yes, you read that right.)
“I said ‘That’s the play for me!’” Russo jokes.
Mark Rinis, a retired Ramapo High School theater and English teacher who now lives in Riverdale, plays David Kipling, a grieving father whose friend asks him to lead a group of tourists up Alaska’s Mount McKinley.
It turns out that the tourists are Japanese honeymooners who are convinced that a son conceived under the aurora borealis will have untold power.
The original BBC?production won the Sony Radio Academy Award, the highest honor bestowed on U.K. radio programs.
Russo’s original plan was to broadcast the production over the Internet, but Horovitz demurred, suggesting that he had plans for a film version and an expanded stage adaptation of the radio play and that having an Internet incarnation out there might pose a problem.
Instead, it will be a “radio play on stage,” a sort of reader’s-theater presentation with seated actors reading from scripts.
Set designer Chantale Bourdages has draped the tiny Elmwood stage with sheer panels that suggest mountains, onto which images will be projected. Lighting designer Mike Gnazzo catches the actors in pools of light, and creates a Northern Lights effect.
Rinis, who plays the lead character, says the projections, music and sound will heighten the theatricality, but the writing is what will be front and center.
“The emotions are quite raw here,” he says.
Russo says the writing and structure of “Man in Snow” is lyrical and musical.
“Every word is so carefully crafted and the changes are like movements in a piece of music,” Russo says. He credited director Garzia for shaping the piece in the six weeks of rehearsal.
Elmwood, Nyack’s venerable 63-year-old community theater, happened to have a monthlong break between mainstage productions — “Beau Jest” closed Feb. 6, “Rabbit Hole” opens March 12 —providing an opening for “Man in Snow.”
The production will be filmed, to be included in a documentary on the “70/70 Horovitz Project,” Russo says.
If you go
What: “Man in Snow,” a radio play on stage
When: 8 p.m., Feb. 12 and 13; 7 p.m. Feb. 14.
Where: Elmwood Playhouse, 10 Park St., Nyack
With: Erin deWard, Tanya Garzia, Michael Gruda, Mark Rinis, Sondra Rosoff and Paul Russo.
Another Lower Hudson Valley company will host a 70/70 Horovitz production. At 7:30 p.m. on March 12, Hudson Stage presents Horovitz’s “Fighting Over Beverly,” directed by Scarsdale’s Matthew Arkin and featuring Arkin’s mom, South Salem actress Barbara Dana, as part of a senior love triangle. Horovitz is planning to attend the Hudson Stage reading and take part in the post-show Q&A. $10, general admission. At Woodward Hall Theatre, 235 Elm Road, Briarcliff Manor. At www.hudsonstage.com or call 914-271-2811.
To learn more about the 70/70 Horovitz Project, go to www.barefoottheatrecompany.org.
Did you know?
Israel Horovitz is the father of Beasty Boy Adam Horovitz. His life, as a playwright raising a large family, was the focus of his screenplay for the film, “Author! Author!” which starred Al Pacino.
Photo by Peter D. Kramer/The Journal News: The cast of “Man in Snow” includes, from left: Erin deWard, Sondra Rosoff and Mark Rinis.