Transport Group and Lucille Lortel Theatre Extend ON SET WITH THEDA BARA to March 16
Last Edit: Official_Press_Release 08:27 pm EST 02/22/24
Posted by: Official_Press_Release 08:22 pm EST 02/22/24

TRANSPORT GROUP AND LUCILLE LORTEL THEATRE ANNOUNCE ONE-WEEK EXTENSION OF JOEY MERLO'S ON SET WITH THEDA BARA

OFF-BROADWAY ENGAGEMENT MUST CLOSE MARCH 16

Six-Time Obie Winner David Greenspan Stars in Gothic Coming-Of-Age Story Directed by Jack Serio

Due to critical acclaim and popular demand, Transport Group and Lucille Lortel Theatre announce a one-week extension of Joey Merlo's On Set with Theda Bara. The Off-Broadway engagement of this "haunting and refreshingly funny fever dream" (Vulture) must close on March 16, 2024. Directed by Jack Serio, this "campy, comic solo show" (New York Times) stars six-time Obie winner and "off-kilter-theatre royalty" (Vulture) David Greenspan, who channels all four characters in this uniquely intimate, seance-like production for just 50 people a night. Performances of On Set with Theda Bara, which opened on February 14, take place at The Brick, located at 579 Metropolitan Ave in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn. Tickets are now on sale at www.transportgroup.org and www.lortel.org.


"Greenspan, a virtuoso of multicharacter solo shows, gives a wild ride of a performance," declared Laura Collins-Hughes in The New York Times. "Stalking, twirling and dancing through the space, even treading on the tabletop, he is quite something to behold."

Helen Shaw in The New Yorker noted "David Greenspan, one of downtown theatre's exquisites, performs an entire psychedelic noir narrative in Joey Merlo's delirious play. The show operates as a séance—phantasmal essences shift in your peripheral vision, and a chill breath finds the back of your neck."

Sara Holdren in Vulture remarked , "On Set With Theda Bara is a solo performer's fever dream, and Greenspan—a nonpareil of the extended soliloquy—steps into its bejeweled slippers with virtuosic ease. The show's real thrill exists in its alchemy of atmosphere and performance, which is by turns haunting; aching with overcharged, Norma Desmond–ish ennui; and refreshingly funny."

In this hallucination of a one-person show, a genderqueer teen who goes missing and their gay detective father come face-to-face with the supernatural and consciousness-devouring Theda Bara, the real-life vamp and silent film star of the 1910s. On Set with Theda Bara is part gothic coming-of-age story and part campy melodrama about identity consumption and the horror of not knowing who you are.

Shortly after the production's very limited seven day run at The Brick as part of The Exponential Festival in February 2023, Transport Group and Lucille Lortel Theatre began discussions on how best to bring this site-specific production to a larger audience. Quickly, they realized that the physical characteristics of the theatre were an essential element, almost a 5th character in the play. In an extraordinary and unprecedented move, these two Off-Broadway stalwarts agreed to produce a six-week run of the show under an Off-Broadway agreement, while maintaining the production's incredibly intimate, parlor-like experience for only 50 audience members.

" On Set with Theda Bara uses the mythology of the silent film star and anti-hero Theda Bara as a metaphor for queerness," says playwright Joey Merlo. "I'm a lyrical playwright who loves the campy, surreal, and melodramatic. My plays explore the cracks between the boundaries of what's ‘real' and what isn't—by fusing the two I attempt to locate my own existence within the realm of the fantastic. Theda Bara was written in a fever-dream state, literally, as I was very sick at the time and mostly bedridden. From that state, I used a cinematically imagistic narrative to create a play that transcends the traditional theatrical experience and invites a collaboration between audience, performer, and text."

"I'm so thrilled that Transport Group and Lucille Lortel Theatre have made it possible to bring Joey Merlo's singular vision back to the stage," says director Jack Serio. "Joey's play is as funny as it is genuinely spooky, seamlessly blending camp and horror. Staged as an intimate seance seated around a 32-foot long table, audiences will experience David Greenspan's athletic, hilarious, and deeply human performance just inches away from him. This kind of intimate theatre going is what I get most excited about and what I believe allows us to lean in, consider stories more deeply, and be our most present selves."

Transport Group and David Greenspan have a creatively rich history that spans decades. "David Greenspan is a once-in-a-generation talent, and one of the most important theatre artists working today." says Transport Group Artistic Director Jack Cummings III. "It's been an honor to direct him in several projects at Transport Group, developing solo iterations of The Patsy and Eugene O'Neil's six-hour Strange Interlude. I'm so thrilled to bring a young playwright's work, especially a play of an experimental nature, to a wider audience, as Transport Group continues to serve as a homebase for David Greenspan's artistry."

Likewise, Greenspan's relationship at Lucille Lortel Theatre has spanned decades. He has appeared on the Lucille Lortel Theatre stage three times since 1996 and, in 2006, Greespan received a Lucille Lortel Foundation Fellowship in Playwriting. In the fall of 2022, Lucille Lortel Theatre presented Greespan's radical reinterpretation of Four Saints in Three Acts, sans music and featuring Greenspan in another tour-de-force performance where he inhabited all the roles from Gertrude Stein and Virgil Thomson's large-cast 1934 opera.

George Forbes, Executive Director of Lucille Lortel Theatre, said, "David is at the pinnacle of his artistry and the very definition of an Off-Broadway artist, always pushing boundaries and form. Shortly after David's tour-de-force performance of Four Saints, I went to see him in Joey's beautiful new play at The Brick. As with so much of David's work, it is much too fleeting and we knew there was a larger audience that should have an opportunity to see this special theatrical piece."

The original creative team for On Set with Theda Bara returns and includes Frank J. Oliva (Scenic Design), Avery Reed (Costume Design), Stacey Derosier (Lighting Design), and Brandon Bulls (Sound Design). Derosier and Oliva received 2023 Henry Hewes Design Award nominations for their work on the production. Production Management provided by Luner Eclipse Productions.

Thirty-five performances of On Set with Theda Bara will now take place through March 16, 2024 at The Brick, located at 579 Metropolitan Ave in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn. The performance schedule is Monday – Saturday at 7pm. The running time is 65 minutes with no intermission. Tickets are $69 (general admission) and $89 (reserved) and can be purchased at www.transportgroup.org . A limited number of $20 rush tickets will be available at each performance.

Please visit www.transportgroup.org/project/on-set-with-theda-bara/ for more information.

About the Artists

Joey Merlo (playwright) is a New York Foundation for The Arts playwriting fellow and the artist-in-residence at The William Steeple Davis House in Orient Point, NY. He is a theatre maker and educator who has worked all over the world including Greece, Peru and Ghana. Projects include his off-Broadway premier, On Set with Theda Bara, at The Brick in February 2024 and Midnight Coleslaw's Tales from Beyond The Closet at The Tank in June 2024. Joey's work has been made possible with support from Eureka!, Dixon Place, Theaterlab, Abingdon Theater Company, where he was a playwright-in-residence, and through grants from The Puffin Foundation, The Merchant & Ivory Foundation and New York Foundation for the Arts. They hold a BFA from NYU, Tisch's Experimental Theater Wing and an MFA from Brooklyn College. www.joeymerlo.com

Jack Serio (director) recently directed the critically acclaimed production of Uncle Vanya staged in a Flatiron loft. His production of Ruby Thomas' The Animal Kingdom is currently making its U.S. premiere at The Connelly Theater Upstairs. Prior to that, he directed the U.S. premiere of Rita Kalnejais' This Beautiful Future at The Cherry Lane Theater. A New York Times Critic's Pick, the production transferred Off-Broadway after a twice-extended, sold-out run at Theaterlab. His work has been seen at Playwrights Horizons, Ars Nova, Clubbed Thumb, 59e59, Cherry Lane, Theaterlab, The Brick, Theater for the New City, and The Pearl Theater Company. He is the Development Associate for Aasif Mandvi's Fat Mama Productions, a member of the 2019 Lincoln Center Directors Lab and the 2019-2021 SDC Foundation Observership Class. BFA: NYU. www.jackfserio.com

David Greenspan (performer) has long been associated with the work of Transport Group, notably his solo renditions of The Patsy and Strange Interlude; and with the Lucille Lortel Theatre in his solo rendition of Four Saints in Three Acts. He has appeared in his plays Dead Mother, She Stoops to Comedy, Go Back to Where You Are, I'm Looking for Helen Twelvetrees, The Bridge of San Luis Rey, The Memory Motel and his solo plays The Argument and The Myopia. He has performed solo renditions of Gertrude Stein's lectures Plays , Composition as Explanation and What are Masterpieces and worked with many contemporary playwrights, drawing particular notice for Some Men, revivals of The Boys in the Band and Faust and the initial production of On Set with Theda Bara at The Brick. His honors include a RUTHIE and six OBIES.

About Transport Group

Transport Group, Artistic Director Jack Cummings III; Executive Director Denise Dickens, is an Off-Broadway theatre company that stages new works and reimagined revivals by American writers. Transport Group's work has been called "storytelling at its purest" by The New York Times, "at once faithful and irreverent." Since the company was founded in 2001 by Jack Cummings III and Robyn Hussa, Transport Group has produced 35 shows: 17 new works; 18 revivals, 14 premieres, 6 commissions, and 3 New York premieres. Transport Group has received The New York Drama Critics' Circle Award, 9 Obie Awards, 3 Drama Desk Awards including a Special Drama Desk Award "for its breadth of vision and its presentation of challenging productions," an Outer Critics Circle Award, 3 Off-Broadway Alliance Awards, and a Dramatists Guild Award. In addition, Transport Group's productions have received 46 Drama Desk Award nominations, 8 Drama League Award nominations, 4 Lucille Lortel Award nominations, 6 Outer Critics Circle Award nominations, 9 American Theatre Wing Design Award nominations, 9 Off-Broadway Alliance Award nominations, 4 Audelco Award nominations, and a Tony Award nomination. www.transportgroup.org

About Lucille Lortel Theatre

Lucille Lortel Theatre's mission is to foster both new and established artists, increase awareness and appreciation of Off-Broadway, and uphold fair and equitable business and artistic practices in service of creating a larger, more diverse community of theatre makers and audiences. The Company builds on the legacy of its founder, Lucille Lortel (1900–1999), who was a champion of work by Samuel Beckett, Caryl Churchill, Athol Fugard, Jean Genet, Adrienne Kennedy, Larry Kramer, Terrence McNally, Marsha Norman, Sam Shepard, and Wendy Wasserstein. In addition to its Off Broadway theatre, which has been in continuous operation since 1955, the Company is renovating a three-story carriage house in Chelsea that will act as the Company's new headquarters. Its programs include The Alcove at the Lortel, a commissioning and development program for early and mid-career playwrights; the 121 Project, a bespoke development program for new musicals; NYC Public High School Playwriting Fellowship, Fellowships in NYC Theatre at Bennington College, Lucille Lortel Awards and Playwrights' Sidewalk, Internet Off-Broadway Database (IOBDB.com), and Non-Profit Theatre Strategic and Management Services. www.lortel.org .
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