Monday, August 15, 2011 at 12:55 p.m.
Bob Fisher directs the members of Space 55 during a rehearsal of The Unhappiness Plays.
Like many thespians, the actors and actresses of Phoenix's Space 55 dreamed of one day making a splash amongst the bright lights of the New York City theatre scene.
They can now cross the accomplishment off their respective bucket lists, as the Valley theatre troupe traveled this month to the Big Apple to perform at the current New York International Fringe Festival
, earning some rave reviews in the process.
Space 55 staged their rendition of The Unhappiness Plays by Greg Kotis (the Tony-winning playwright behind the renowned Urinetown) this past weekend at the IATI Theater in NYC's East Village.
Shawna Franks, Space 55's artist director, says the troupe feels fortunate to have been chosen to perform at the renowned arts festival, which is the largest of its kind in North America and attracts more than 75,000 theatregoers every year. Specializing in "new and rarely seen work," the annual festival features more than 180 different productions each year has been a launching pad for new stars and new works since it launched back in 1997.
"We've felt really lucky to have been invited, period, since thousands of plays are submitted every year to the festival," Franks says. "It's pretty prestigious, and pretty lucky, that we got in."
She adds that the members of Space 55 certainly known the material, as they performed The Unhappiness Plays numerous times
earlier this year at their venue, which is located at Seventh Street and McKinley. Practice made near-perfect, obviously, as one critic who reviewed
the Space 55's shows in NYC described the troupe's performance of Kotis' surrealist and existentialist dark comedy as "superb."
"It's cool that a Phoenix artists are being seen and exposed in such a huge market," Franks says. "Phoenix isn't really seen as a place where there are big artists and big shows, so its nice showing that perception isn't true and we can hang with the best of them."
Franks says that their shows at the IATI Theater have all been "near sellouts." She's hoping for a similar turnout for their final performances of the festival tonight.
Performing at a big theatrical festival in New York takes some getting used to, she says, especially since thing move rather quickly.
"They have so many shows moving in and out during the festival, so we've really had to pare down our production with fewer props and costumes. We've had just 15 minutes to load in and out," she says. "It's a very quick and dirty theatre where it's essentially just the actors and the words, which is really what theatre is all about."
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