Last night, the New York Independent Theater AwardsnominatedUNIVERSAL ROBOTS for four awards: Outstanding Production of a Play (Manhattantheatresource and Gideon Productions), Outstanding Full-Length Script (me), Outstanding Actor in a Lead Role (Jason Howard), and Outstanding Ensemble (Esther Barlow, Jennifer Gordon Thomas, Jason Howard, David Lamberton, David Ian Lee, Michelle O'Connor, Ridley Parson, Nancy Sirianni, Tarantino Smith, and Ben Sulzbach).
At the end of last week, I needed to tape an acceptance speech for the very kind "Best Off-Off Broadway Play" award granted to UNIVERSAL ROBOTS by the Independent Theater Bloggers Association. It was the only time I've ever had to do anything like that, so I was determined to make sure I didn't forget to thank anyone.
UNIVERSAL ROBOTS had two productions, a workshop in 2007 and a fuller production in 2009, and while most of the cast remained the same between the two, that still meant that an awful lot of people contributed to making it happen. I spent a few hours working out the list, and then sent it to a couple of my coproducers for review. And they had even MORE names. And this was after deciding to omit journalists and reviewers in any platform (as I wasn't sure if that would be kosher) and limit the list to only people who made active creative, producerial, or financial contributions to the two productions.
The final list ran to 59 NAMES. Fifty-nine, son.
The running theme of UNIVERSAL ROBOTS for me was of a crazy dream that languished in my head for several years because it just seemed insane, over-the-top, way too elaborate and huge for an independent play (which probably seems pretty funny to Johnna Adams, who writes three of this kind of play at a time). It was private, weird, something I was almost ashamed of. I only finally finished it in early June '07 because I promised Manhattantheatresource I would fill two weeks on the schedule.
So the fact that so many people went on to rally around the play and make it their own may not be the most amazing thing that's ever happened to me, but it's in the Top Four. Most of the actors who now seem indelibly associated with their roles signed on with weeks or days (or, in the case of Tarantino Smith, less than one day's) notice, and then killed themselves to be brilliant in it. Two production teams busted their asses to create the world of the play. A tremendous audience came to see it, with actually a decent number of return viewers. It's the most successful connection I've had thus far as a writer to other theater artists and to an audience, and the most creatively fulfilling project in which I've had the opportunity to participate. With each subsequent project, starting with VIRAL next month, UNIVERSAL ROBOTS is the experience I'm gonna try to top.
That's why of the four noms, Outstanding Ensemble is my favorite. We had a wonderful, insanely dedicated cast on this show, but I think if "the Ensemble" as including and widening out from the performers to encompass everyone who put this play on its feet and made it no longer mine, but ours, no longer private, but shared. The play builds to the choral call-and-response "We belong to each other" - the definitive expression of the Ensemble.
I have more to write about this - about the NYIT Awards as a wonderful organization, about the other nominees that we're just staggered to be included with - but today all I want to do is thank with all my heart the people who made UNIVERSAL ROBOTS - my Outstanding Ensemble.
Written by Mac Rogers Directed by Rosemary Andress
Starring Esther Barlow, Jason Howard*, David Lamberton*, David Ian Lee*, Michelle O'Connor*, Ridley Parson, Nancy Sirianni*,Tarantino Smith*, Ben Sulzbach, and Jennifer Gordon Thomas
*appears courtesy Actor's Equity Association
Production Manager: Saundra Yaklin Artistic Director: Jim Lawson Producer: Lanie Zipoy Set Design: Raul Abrego Costume Design: Nicky J. Smith Lighting Design: Kia Rogers Sound Design: Ien DeNio Stage Manager: Dana Rossi Board Operator: Ian Wherle Graphic Design: Wade Dansby III Web Design: Pete Boisvert
Associate Producer: Gideon Productions
manhattantheatresource and Gideon Productions present
as part of the "Straight from the Source" Summer Showcase series
written and directed by Mac Rogers
Inspired by the play "R.U.R." by Karel Capek
Assistant Directors - Shey Lyn Zanotti and Sandy Yaklin
Featuring Esther Barlow, Jason Howard*, David Ian Lee*, Michelle O'Connor, Ridley Parson, Nancy Sirianni*, Tarantino Smith*, Ben Sulzbach, Jennifer Gordon Thomas, and James Wetzel*