Category: Monica Bauer

Bauer’s one-act ‘Democracy Sucks’ streaming now

August 25th, 2020 in Alums, Blog, Monica Bauer, new plays, one-act plays

Alumni playwright Monica Bauer’s one-act play Democracy Sucks is streaming through Aug. 30 as part of Edinburgh’s Free Fringe Festival. Congratulations!

Bauer’s ‘Vivian’s Music, 1969’ at 59E59

November 15th, 2018 in Alums, Blog, Monica Bauer, new plays, New York City, Off-Broadway

Happy first performance to playwright alum Monica Bauer and everyone behind Vivian's Music, 1969 at NYC's 59E59 Theaters, produced by Good Works Productions. The play runs until Dec. 2, after successful runs as part of 59E59's East to Edinburgh festival earlier this year and at last summer's Edinburgh Festival Fringe. Congratulations!

 

Bauer’s ‘Anne Frank…’

June 24th, 2017 in Alums, Blog, Monica Bauer, new plays, New York City

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Break a leg to playwright alum Monica Bauer on this first performance of her new play Anne Frank in the Gaza Strip, at NYC's Planet Connections Theatre Festivity until July 9!

Bauer’s ‘Machiavelli’

March 4th, 2016 in Alums, Blog, Monica Bauer, new plays

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Happy opening of The Real Machiavelli—which opens tonight in NYC in a production by Stage Left Studio—to Monica Bauer! The Real Machiavelli runs until March 12. Read more more about the play here.

‘Chosen Child’ family

November 24th, 2014 in 2014/2015 Season, Blog, Chosen Child, Monica Bauer

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We said goodbye to Chosen Child over the weekend, but not before posing for this family photo. (Thanks Greg Nash!)

Standing (L-R): Stage Manager Greg Nash, Lewis D. Wheeler (David), Lee Mikeska Gardner (Claudia), Director Megan Schy Gleeson, Playwright Monica Bauer, Assistant Stage Manager Mary Darling. Front (L-R): Melissa Jesser (Anne), Debra Wise (Donna), and Margaret Ann Brady (Lee).

Meet Lee: Margaret Ann Brady on her role in ‘Chosen Child’

November 21st, 2014 in 2014/2015 Season, Alums, Blog, Boston Playwrights' Theatre, Chosen Child, Monica Bauer, new plays

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L-R: Margaret Ann Brady as Lee and Lee Mikeska Gardner as Claudia Photo: Kalman Zabarsky

What is your role in 'Chosen Child'?

I play Lee Bailey, the stepmother. Some would say, the evil stepmother.

What have you learned while creating this role?

Wow. I wish I even had words to say. I think I could more readily say I've grown, than learned, but I've definitely learned as well. I am easily intimidated, and so doing a wicked dramatic role with such luminaries as Lee Mikeska Gardner, Debra Wise, Lewis Wheeler, and Melissa Jesser made me feel certain that I'd finally be exposed as the fraud I am. They, like, have college degrees in acting, whereas I dropped out in 1979 to perfect my joint-rolling technique. I learned that for each of these actors there was a wholly separate approach to creating a role and an ensemble and that there was room for mine as well.

How did you approach and play your character? Have there been any surprising discoveries about Lee during the rehearsal process?


All the discoveries were surprising because they were all new. I myself am the product of good Midwestern clamped-down Depression era upbringing, so I felt kinship but I didn't have any preconceptions about why Lee is who she is or does what she does. Megan is magnificent at creating an environment for actors to explore and build relationship -- she trusts actors to do their imaginative work, while shaping it into an integrated piece. I discovered at the very first rehearsal, before we were even working with text, that Lee had a rift with God -- that she, like so many people who want God but cannot find their way to a faith that works, sees God as the cosmic Santa or scorekeeper, and as long as she follows the rules (in this case, of Catholicism), she has a reasonable expectation of getting what she wants. When she has to confront the fact that despite being a good little girl and not going down the path of tight skirts and red lipstick, God will still not grant her the baby she craves, her devotion turns into a bitter resentment turned against the bad girls who seemingly get to do whatever they like -- and schadenfreude when she sees Claudia getting what she believes is Gods comeuppance.

As an actor, what are the unique challenges of working on a new play?

When you start working on a published play, the text is the one thing that's not moving. In this process, though, everything was fluid. The bones of the story was in place, but there was a collaboration happening. Monica and Megan were watching for how the text would change as humans started to inhabit the words. It's exciting, and the two of them were a perfect team for this kind of process -- Monica was pretty much open to any changes that made sense to the actors. One difficulty I encountered was, I am a visual learner and sometimes when there would be a radical revision, especially changing the order of lines, I would find myself having a hard time "picturing" the order of what I was saying. I learn text quickly, but then it can take a while for the text to come completely off the page -- to fully become an idea rather than a "line" -- and until that happens, it was rather nerve-racking.

What else inspires you artistically?

I go to a lot of theater. I'm particularly devoted to the smaller fringe theaters. We have an outstanding scene here, and that kind of energy really turns me on.

What’s next for you?

I'm having a knee replacement on December 12. Everyone's tired of hearing me talk about it, but it is looming rather large. I am in denial to the extent that I'm picturing it as an extended vacation of narcotics and binge watching The Simpsons, but I understand the physical recovery is actually rather grueling.

 

Don't miss Monica Bauer's 'Chosen Child,' which closes this Saturday, November 22.  Tickets

And that’s the way it was: Walter Cronkite on Apollo 8

November 18th, 2014 in 2014/2015 Season, Blog, Chosen Child, Monica Bauer, new plays

In Chosen Child, half siblings Donna and David bond over their mutual passion for space exploration when they meet for the first time. Check out this footage from 1968 -- the first of several parts -- of CBS News' Walter Cronkite reporting on Apollo 8, the first mission to orbit the moon.

And don't miss Monica Bauer's Chosen Child, which closes this Saturday, November 22. Tickets

Meet “The Annes”: Melissa Jesser on her roles in ‘Chosen Child’

November 14th, 2014 in 2014/2015 Season, Blog, Chosen Child, Monica Bauer

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Melissa Jesser as Anne and Debra Wise as Donna Photo: Kalman Zabarsky

What are your roles in 'Chosen Child'?

I play the three various Annes of the show: Port Authority Anne, social worker Anne, and Donna’s daughter LeeAnne.

How did you approach and play these characters? Did you discover any connections between them?

The only way I know how to approach characters is by jumping right in. During our first rehearsal, Megan conducted an exercise through which we discovered a base level sense of physicality for our character and how they interact with each other in the space. This kind of work is much of what I did in my acting training at Emerson so it was quite a luxury and joy to be able to use this exercise as a jumping off point. Especially since I, unlike the other characters who switch ages trough out the play, switch entire characters.

What I focused on more so than making connections between my characters was finding the differences. Each of my characters want to save someone, but how does LeeAnne’s desire to reunite Claudia into their family differ from Port Authority Anne’s need to help David reconnect with his sister, Donna? As rehearsals progressed, each of my Anne’s continued to deepen and find their own shape. It's still quite a challenge to sink myself into a tough love woman from the Bronx and transition right onstage into a mousy social worker, but I love to do it. Isn't that why many people find passion in the theatre when they first start? Finding the truth and giving integrity to many different characters that are far from who you are. I Feel lucky to be able to explore that in Chosen Child.

You’re a recent college graduate (Emerson College, 2013). What are some of the challenges you face as you work to establish yourself in this community?

Like the majority of fairly recent postgrads, I’ve been on a roller coaster of ups and downs that hasn't slowed down much since graduating. I think I set myself up for the worst during college through all my frantic meetings with teachers and late night freak out sessions about being thrust into the “real world”, so with that in mind I think post grad life has surprised me in being better than I thought it was. I'm still working to find my place in the community, but that is ongoing and I assume will change constantly as the faces of the community continue to change. There are always  the stresses of overcommitment, rejection, self doubt, being young and not taken seriously, and finding good people to surround yourself with. Luckily, I feel that Emerson prepared me well for all these stresses- as well as they could in an educational setting. The rest I've had to start learning on my own, but I'm comforted knowing that everyone else has to learn this too.

What else inspires you artistically?

Often, I find myself largely inspired by my colleagues and peers in the artistic community. I have a very collaborative and curious nature and try to see as many shows as I can because, in my opinion, that is the best way to find things that stimulate your creativity. Theatre is not the only art form that inspires me though. When the MFA had the special quilt exhibit last winter, I went to see it. It was incredibly inspiring to see how vastly different a quilters artistic process is from my own. As an actor, my work deepens and grows with Tim and rehearsal. Where I am on day one is vastly different from the end of the run. Quilters on the other hand must envision their entire quilt prior to even starting it. The symmetry of the squares is not something they can create as they go.  I crave just as much inspiration in my personal life as I do artistic life (not that they are really separate at all, but hopefully you know what I mean). I find this through books, podcasts, walking everywhere instead of taking public transit, and most often through the brilliant children I nanny.

What’s next for you?

I’ll be waking up very early and touring schools in New England performing Juliet in Romeo and Juliet, Lady Macbeth in Macbeth, and various queens, fairies, and players in A Midsummer Night’s Dream with Shakespeare Now! Other than that I'll be auditioning, wondering where the wind will take me, and watching my favorite show Call The Midwife.

 

Don't miss Monica Bauer's 'Chosen Child,' now through November 22.  Tickets

Meet Claudia: Lee Mikeska Gardner on her role in ‘Chosen Child’

November 12th, 2014 in 2014/2015 Season, Blog, Chosen Child, Monica Bauer

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L-R: Margaret Ann Brady as Lee and Lee Mikeska Gardner as Claudia Photo: Kalman Zabarsky

Tomorrow begins the third week of performances of Monica Bauer's Chosen Child. Today...a little Q&A with actor Lee Mikeska Gardner, who is the new artistic director of The Nora Theatre in Cambridge.

What is your role in 'Chosen Child'?

I play Claudia, the mother who gave up one child and kept her second. I, as Claudia, was also abandoned by my birth mother, who had a mental illness and was taken away when I was 10, and then later as well (but I won’t go into that as it’s a bit of a spoiler). Pops, who is mentioned in the play but never seen, was of those distant fathers who love their children in an abstract way, so I had to grow up on my own.

What have you learned while creating this role?  

Growing up in a dysfunctional family and having people in my life who have given up children or have been adopted, the material was very familiar – but I am always heartened by the resiliency of people when they open their minds and hearts, when they realize the way they are living isn’t working and actively change. So many people don’t and they either perpetuate cycles of abuse or are lost to us in their own struggles. One of the things theatre does on its best day is give people permission to transform in some way, large or small.

That’s one reason why I like to play damaged and/or unsympathetic characters. I don’t fear the dark side of human nature and I find it very rewarding to play flawed human beings that just might resonate with someone who knows someone like that or use to be someone like that, or still is and struggling to find a better way.

Which leads to ---

How did you approach and play your character? Have there been any surprising discoveries about Claudia during the rehearsal process?  

As with all roles, I take my first clues from the text and then build on that. The fact that Claudia is based on a real person is only important in what Monica, the playwright, chose to include in the text. On a first read of Chosen Child, Claudia seems like an angry and desperate person, selfish and a bit unstable. But we learn that she raised a son as a single mother, cared for him as he developed schizophrenia and is leaving him in the best care possible when she dies. She’s a survivor, who started out with the deck stacked against her, and, to mix metaphors, with every wall she comes to, finds a way over it or around it.

The emotional reasons behind her behavior were always very clear to me – what was lovely was to discover that she is an innate optimist. She has to be or she would have not been able to turn her life around and care for her son. After four scenes of hearing about how evil Claudia is, we first see her dancing and singing – (The Champs’ "Tequila") in a great mood, moving her life forward – she thinks. At the end of that story strand, which takes place on Halloween and which is presented non-linearly, we see Claudia making a different choice – and still moving her life forward.

Her choice to give her daughter up was, with the information she had at the time, the best thing for the baby. The fact that she distances herself from this incredible pain is not surprising and something with which I wholly identify.

The tragedy in the play comes not from the decisions the characters make, but from the lies they tell. When the truth does come out, in vengeful ways, the damage is far worse than if they had acknowledged and lived with the hardest decisions. It always is. It is hardest for Donna, Claudia’s daughter, who is caught in the middle at the age of 15 and reacts horribly and childishly – as to be expected. But her actions prevent any reconciliation and the family is estranged for another 45 years. Fear and lies rule the day.

And yet --- at the end of the play, each character has grown and we see a damaging cycle coming to an end. At some point, in a scene we don’t see, Claudia forgives herself and lives her life. We do see Donna’s act of forgiveness on stage and the potential for moving forward is palpable.

As an actor, what are the unique challenges of working on a new play?  

The biggest challenge is to be ready for anything: script changes which might mean re-thinking your character; being willing to articulate what you get from the page – is it going in the direction the playwright intended or are there mixed messages?; owning that we are all there for the play – not the playwright, not the director, not ourselves – the play. The sum of the parts is greater than any ego and being willing to check ego at the door is key.

In Chosen Child there was another challenge given that the play jumps around in time. Besides the fun of transforming from age 34 to 19 to 80 to 12, I wanted to make sure Claudia’s voice – her language and grammar and sensibilities tracked, so that if you strung the scenes together in chronological order one could see her evolution. The script is very spare right now, so each word and moment needs to add to that journey and as full a person as possible. That work will continue until the day we close the show. In each performance I find another nuance or get to recalibrate a moment. And since all the cast is doing the same thing, we are finding the show together.

What else inspires you artistically?  

I love bold and fearless characters and language. I love human stories told in a non-realistic way. I love subversive writing that acknowledges we are intelligent people who don’t need our hands to be held and can laugh at our flawed selves. I love a good musical. I love dance and I don’t see enough of it. I love fearless actors who don’t judge the characters they play, but embrace the messiness of who we are. I love plays that accord us the respect to not be nice, but to look at an unvarnished truth unflinchingly. With humor. I love plays that are written for the stage and are not a screenplay in disguise – and I especially love the playwrights who are not afraid of any of the above.

You’re new to Boston. What else would you like us to know about you? 

I’m far less serious than this blog would indicate.

Maybe not.

What’s next for you (and The Nora)?  

The next show I’m doing is Grounded at The Nora in which I have the supreme pleasure and honor to direct Celeste Oliva in the role of The Pilot. I’ve started working a great team, including Steve Royal, our Resident Set Designer this season, Wen-Ling Liao (Lighting Designer), Kathryn Lieber on Projections, Dewey Delay, Sound and Caitlin Lowens assisting me. It’s sort of the perfect Nora show – an amazing play centered on a woman who could be any soldier adjusting to a new kind of warfare and utilizing a mix of seasoned and emerging artists. Gender parity: 6 women in key positions; 3 men. Woot-woot.

 

Don't miss Monica Bauer's 'Chosen Child,' now through November 22.  Tickets

Playwright Monica Bauer on ‘Chosen Child’

November 6th, 2014 in 2014/2015 Season, Blog, Boston Playwrights' Theatre, Chosen Child, Monica Bauer, new plays

Monica Headshot1a_2x2.5Most writers find themes in their own experiences and one way or another, transform them into something less than strict autobiography, and something more than pure fiction. The more I read about playwrights, the more I see that even plays that are not thought of as autobiographical, like Angels in America by Tony Kushner, or Jerusalem by Jez Butterworth, germinated from a true story. Certain themes pop up over and over again as signatures, written in sweat and blood and personal history, for all writers. This particular play of mine is a mix of my personal history and my characters running away with the play for their own purposes.

This workshop production is of a play in progress, still becoming itself, like a puppy growing into its feet. It began in February of 2014 as I struggled to write a memoir, and instead of a book, out popped this play. It’s been popping ever since, from the first private reading for me in a New York rehearsal room, to a pair of staged readings at Stage Left Studio in New York, one of my off-off Broadway home theaters, directed by the great Austin Pendleton. The invitation to bring the play to Boston was incredibly generous on the part of BPT, and I’ll be forever grateful to Kate Snodgrass for allowing me to work on Chosen Child with this terrific director, cast, and crew.

They say that Tennessee Williams brought his mother to the first performance of The Glass Menagerie, and he nervously awaited her verdict on the character of Amanda Wingfield. She is reported to have said something to the effect of “what a silly woman!” either completely unaware that the character was based on her or willing herself to be unaware. Eugene O’Neill famously requested that his family play, Long Day’s Journey Into Night, never be performed and only published 25 years after his death, a request his widow refused to fulfill. I waited until both the real Claudia and Lee were long dead to write this play, and if they are here, haunting the theater, I hope they see the love and forgiveness in this play.

Anybody who’s ever had a mother, whether by birth or by adoption, should be able to find herself or himself in Chosen Child. Memory plays shouldn’t veer off into revenge or score settling; they should be an invitation to the audience to take their own childhood memories out for a spin, to always return to the basic facts of every family: that there is no “normal,” but there is plentiful forgiveness for those Chosen and Not Chosen and for those who Chose or were compelled to Choose.

 

Don't miss Monica Bauer's 'Chosen Child', now through November 22.  Tickets