Archive for ‘Past Shows’

The Audience

Sunday, September 4 2011
Technically Directed by Spencer Christiano
Photos by Annette Dragon

Video from this performance can be found at the bottom of the page.

I am beginning to understand more and more that my attraction to theater work has a lot to do with the social contracts that performance is based on. Performance is an ant colony with assigned, assumed roles. It is a co-operative ecology where, when something goes wrong, it is instinctively set right. My interest is in breaking the network of responsibilities to see what happens.

The Audience reverses the role of audience and performer. Ideally, I wanted this piece to be a surprise for the audience. They would be thrust into role of the performers with no advance knowledge. But I couldn’t figure out a way to attract an audience for The Audience without giving away the experiment. If I had access to season ticket holders or a Broadway performance and changed the rules in those venues, now that would be a social experiment. It also would be a provocated rage replete with tens of thousands of dollars in refunds.

So for my The Audience, the audience was told well before curtain the rules. There was to be no planned performance. Everything that appeared on stage would be whatever the collection of viewers brought to the experience. My opening remarks emphasized a sense of play and encouraged people who had not been on a stage since grade school to test the boards.

Spencer, my colleague, and I differed as to how much assistance and encouragement we wanted to give the audience members. Since I always fear humiliating my performers with my inversions, I wanted to give them performance crutches. Spencer wanted to provide them with nothing but a bare stage and a spotlight. This seemed like slapping a bug down under a microscope. I overruled. I gave the performers:

1) A giant inflatable Easter bunny popping out of an Easter egg, suitable for a front lawn.
2) A rack of costumes including 2 gorilla outfits, one clown get-up , a monk’s cowl and a few sequined dresses.
3) A writing table and several chairs.
4) My beloved Charlie McCarthy dummy
5) A Yayoi Kusama punching bag
6) Copies of the ten greatest speeches of the 20th century.
7) A laptop with access to the internet.
8) A piano
9) A microphone

I also learned from the open-ended frustration of Dinner Theater. I needed to make sure the audience knew when The Audience would be over. For this I secured a large digital scoreboard clock and hung it in the middle of the stage. I set the clock at 90 minutes and after my opening remarks, the clock began its countdown. Anyone can put up with any theater performance for 90 minutes, I reasoned.

I then sat back and watched. The first forty-five minutes was spent in what I could best call inchoate exploration. People walked up and examined the costumes and the props, sang fragments of songs, did fragments of improvisation. There was no through line in any of the activities on stage.

And then, as we hit the halfway mark, a complete song was sung. And then another with back-up. At this point, people I would characterize as having less performance experience developed a courage and direction and started to come up on stage, sometimes only to rush off after reciting a line or two. One gentleman spoke quite touchingly of his aged mother. A couple did a tango after realizing that they had gone to the same tango studio. A performer did an impromptu monolog on African-American hair that she had never performed before. The evening ended about two minutes early with a full-blown cabaret performance – singer and pianist in remarkable synch.

And then the last two minutes were a countdown of unwilling starts, giggles and asides about what could be done that wouldn’t be truncated. All performers obeyed the rule of the clock. Ninety minutes was ninety minutes.

The response afterwards was one of exhilaration and opening night stage survival. Several people wanted to repeat the experiment, but I decided against this. Someone had asked me earlier in the week what was the difference between The Audience and an open mic. I was offended by this comparison. The difference was in the expectation. If you don’t know what’s going to happen, it’s The Audience. If there is a defined format, repeated, it’s an open mic. The unexpected is greatly diminished in the repetition. For this reason, The Audience was retired. Unless someone wants to give me a matinee of The Lion King.


During the performance, five cameras were distributed and shared. The following videos were filmed by members of The Audience and are available in 720p HD.

Camera 1

(00:06:35)

Camera 2

(00:51:36)

Camera 3

(00:01:20)

Camera 4

(00:50:09)

Camera 5

(00:57:17)

John Borek’s Vaudeville (Video)

Filmed at John Borek’s birthday party on May 21st, 2009.

Download the complete show (right click, save as):

John Borek’s Vaudeville – Part 1 of 2.m4v (975.66 MB)
John Borek’s Vaudeville – Part 2 of 2.m4v (545.59 MB)

Having trouble playing the file? Try downloading VLC Media Player at videolan.org. It’s free!

The 24-Hour Play Festival

Friday, May 6 2011-Saturday, May 7 2011
Die Again Romeo – Written and Directed by Kimberly Niles
Photos by Annette Dragon
The Vestigial Life – Written and Directed by Spencer Christiano
Photos by Annette Dragon

MuCCC’s Playwrights-in-Residence each wrote, cast, directed, and performed a play over the course of 24 hours based on suggestions from the audience of the previous evening’s production.

How I Became Famous

Friday, May 6 2011
Directed and Designed by Spencer Christiano
Photos by Annette Dragon

Follow the trajectory of John W. Borek’s rise to fame from his beginnings as a child model to his pre-adolescent authorship of books on New York and Hungary to his teenaged formation of an eponymous religion to his rise as one of America’s premier rappers. How I Became Famous explores the meaning of celebrity in America and investigates the toll it takes on the artist.

Starring The Anbu Clan, Michael Arve, Spencer Christiano, Joe Fox-Boyd, Jacqueline Levine, Krysia Mnick, Timothy Lawler, Kimberly Niles, Declan Ryan, Jack Simel, Rebecca Solomon, Kelly Webster and Vanessa Q as the Goddess of Fame. Choreography by Thomas Warfield; Music by Brandon McNeil, Anthony Irwin and Joe Fox-Boyd.

Four Stories by Philip Barry

Production Supervised by Spencer Christiano

Holiday – Directed by Philip Frey – Friday, April 29 2011
Second Threshold by Philip Barry by Spencer Christiano – Directed by Spencer Christiano -
          Saturday, April 30 2011
The Philadelphia Story – Directed by David Henderson – Saturday, April 30 2011
Hotel Universe – Directed by Michael H. Arve – Sunday, April 31 2011

Philip Barry is Rochester’s most famous playwright.

The author of The Philadelphia Story and Holiday went to Nazareth Hall Academy and East High before heading for Yale. The son of Irish immigrants who ran a successful and then not-so-successful marble fireplace business, he married into a well-to-do Connecticut family, got a villa in Nice for a wedding gift and spent the rest of his life examining the existential crises of the rich. Barry’s plays teeter between the comfort of money and the call of art and although The Philadelphia Story is his most famous play, it is hardly his most challenging. Holiday is a bolder approach to the question of happiness versus money. Other, darker plays are laced with a dose of strychnine – suicide or the threat thereof.

MuCCC Producer, John W. Borek re-introduced Rochester audiences to its favorite theatrical son with staged readings of four Philip Barry plays.

The Injured Superhero Show

Monday, February 7 2011
Directed & Designed by Spencer Christiano
Photos by Annette Dragon

The Injured Superhero Show opened on the same night Spiderman was scheduled to open at the Foxwoods Theater on 42nd Street in New York City.

Injured Superheroes were cast the night of the show. Those interested in auditioning came in costume to the MuCCC Theater, 142 Atlantic Avenue at 7 PM. Those injured superheroes who auditioned were admitted for free.

Injured Superhero Show is the most exciting theater debut since, well, since Spiderman. But whereas, Spiderman cost $65 million, Injured Superheroes could only raise $973. The good news: although Spiderman should re-coup its investment in 74 weeks of sold-out performances, ISH was able to re-coup in one night.

Both shows are the beneficiaries of some of the world’s great talents. Spiderman’s creative team includes Bono and The Edge and celebrated director Julie Taymor (The Lion King). Injured Superheroes has been conceived by conceptual artist John Borek (aka The Professor of Rap) and playwright Spencer Christiano (The Sidewalk that Couldn’t Be Plowed).

No Superheroes were injured in the creation of Injured Superhero Show.

A Window on the Carrageenan

Saturday, December 11 2010
Written by Maeve Gamorra
Directed by Spencer Christiano

View the post-show recap.

What Would Happen If Your World Disappeared?

“Lyrical” The San Francisco Post Dispatch
“Riveting” The Houston Morning News
“Haunting” The Philadelphia Beacon Sentinel

John W. Borek, Producer, has secured the rights to the new Irish theater sensation, “A Window on the Carragee” capitalizing on Broadway’s mania for all things Eire. He has spent his last penny on a cast imported from The Abbey Theater and the most expensive stage set in history – a fragment of a real Dublin street of row houses constructed in 1892 with original street lamps and trolley tracks. He has created special effects that allow the second act to take place in a steady drizzle.

There are just a few problems. He didn’t pay playwright Maeve Gamora for the rights, and he hasn’t paid the actors and production team since rehearsals began. When he introduces the play to the opening night audience, he finds that the actors have walked out, the stage set has been destroyed and the costumes have been impounded. He is served with a court order preventing him from performing the play. Only one stage tech is left and then only because he is locked in the tech space.

Borek has no alternative but to go on with the show. He needs the box office to stay out of jail. He decides to put on another show called “A Window on the Carrageenan” with props and costumes left over from the previous booking, “The Wizard of Poz,” an AIDS benefit performance. He will recruit his actors from audience members who have always wanted to be stars, promising them a reality show contract. He will force them to make up a play on the spot.

Read more…

Spirits Open Mic

Saturday, October 31 2009
Directed & Designed by Spencer Christiano

An evening devoted to asking people to address the spirit world through performance or narrative.

Learn to Play the Theramin
Discover How to Hold a Seance
Meet Pastor Robin Higgins of the Plymouth Spiritualist Church
Hear Herb Street’s ghosthunting adventures
Listen to the Music of the Spheres performed by Jon Young and the Fastastickal Lisa
Experience performances by Richard Storms, Mark Allan Davis and The Professor of Rap!

Phone Calls from the Dead

Sunday, October 31 2010
Directed & Designed by Spencer Christiano

Want to talk to Marilyn Monroe? Theodore Roosevelt? The Duchess of Windsor? Come to Phone Calls From the Dead at the MuCCC on Halloween. Place phone calls to dead people in history. Pick up the phone and talk to them on our stage.

RRRRRRRing !!!!! Hello, Thoreau?

Best Plays of 1919

Saturday, August 28 2010
Directed & Designed by Spencer Christiano

In 1919 Theodore Roosevelt died in his sleep; Rosa Luxemburg was murdered; prohibition went into effect; suffrage was guaranteed to women; and The League of Nations was founded.

John W. Borek’s performance art piece, The Best Plays of 1919 presents excerpts from eight plays that were Broadway hits in 1919 alongside eight short plays about 1919 that were written this year.

The mash-up was inspired by a book, The Best Plays of 1919, that Borek bought for a quarter. “When I read the plays I didn’t find them timely. I found them remote. Oddly, the plays by the most famous playwrights—Eugene O’Neill and Booth Tarkington– were the most inaccessible to today’s audiences. I wondered how we could make that year speak to us in 2010. I became interested in the effect time could have on drama.”

Borek asked his friends to write short plays that were somehow connected with 1919. He did not allow his friends to read the original plays. ”I was intrigued by how perceptions of the era would change over time. I was interested in what we thought today of a distant, barely perceivable America and compare it to what America then thought of itself.”

Read the publicity article by David Wheeler at MPNnow.