Fictional Fact & Factional Fiction

Our final FEED event for WALT DISNEY has Soho Rep collaborating for the first time with McNally Jackson Books, our favorite local bookshop. The brilliant moderator Helen Shaw probes Lucas Hnath about how he fictionalized the factual Walt Disney. This was set against Elevator Repair Service’s John Collins about his approach to theatricalizing a US Supreme Court in the company’s newest work ARGUENDO. 

John Collins is the founder and artistic director of Elevator Repair Service (ERS), a New York City-based ensemble that creates original works for live theater. A native of Vidalia, Georgia, Collins graduated cum laude from Yale in 1991, with a B.A. in Theater Studies and English Literature. Under Collins’ direction, Elevator Repair Service builds theater performances from a variety of sources that include found text, amateur video, film, literature, and ensemble-generated choreography. Finished productions clash high-tech and low-tech design and mix disparate texts and forms to create live performances that are propelled by humor, narrative, pathos, and controlled chaos. ERS has cultivated a large following in New York and throughout the United States, Europe, and Australia. As artistic director of ERS, John has directed or co-directed over seventy domestic and international productions of fifteen original full-length ERS works. Recent work includes Gatz (New York premiere at The Public Theater, 2010), The Sound and the Fury (April Seventh, 1928) (New York Theatre Workshop, 2008), and The Sun Also Rises (premiering at The Edinburgh International Festival in 2010). John and ERS are recipients of the 2009 Foundation for Contemporary Arts Grant. John is also the recipient of a Bessie Award for Visual Design (ERS’ Room Tone) and was nominated for an Elliot Norton Award for Outstanding Director (Gatz). ERS is the recipient of TCG’s Peter Zeisler Memorial Award for Outstanding Achievement; The Zurich Theater Spektakel ZKB-Acknowledgement Prize (Gatz), an Elliot Norton Award nomination for Outstanding Visiting Production (Gatz); a Lucille Lortel Award nomination for Outstanding Play (The Sound and the Fury); and a Helpmann Award nomination for Best Play (Gatz). John’s work with ERS is documented in Sara Jane Bailes’ book Performance Theatre and the Poetics of Failure (Routledge, 2010) and in her chapter on the company’s work in Making Contemporary Theatre: International Rehearsal Processes (MUP, 2010)

Lucas Hnath‘s plays include Red Speedo (Studio Theatre); nightnight (2013 Humana Festival); Isaac’s Eye (Ensemble Studio Theatre); Death Tax (2012 Humana Festival); and The Courtship of Anna Nicole Smith (Actors Theatre of Louisville). His other plays have been seen in readings or productions at Boston Court, Carolina Actors Studio Theatre, Prelude Festival, University of Miami, Rattlestick Playwrights Theater, Cleveland Public Theatre, Target Margin, and the Ontological Theatre. Lucas has been a resident playwright at New Dramatists since 2011. He is a proud member of Ensemble Studio Theatre and has enjoyed residencies with The Royal Court Theatre and 24Seven Lab. Lucas is a winner of the Whitfield Cook Award for Isaac’s Eye, recipient of the 2013 Steinberg/ATCA New Play Award citation for Death Tax, and a two-time winner of the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Grant for screenwriting. He has received commissions from the EST/Sloan Project, Actors Theatre of Louisville, and New York University’s Graduate Acting Program. Lucas received both his BFA and MFA from NYU’s Department of Dramatic Writing and is a lecturer in New York University’s Expository Writing Program.

Helen Shaw is a critic, dramaturg and performance curator, currently covering theater for Time Out New York magazine and teaching theater studies at NYU Tisch. Her writing has appeared in The New York Sun, Performing Arts Journal, Playbill, TheatreForum, the Jewish Daily Forward, and the forward for Mac Wellman’s anthology of plays, The Difficulty of Crossing a Field.

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