Press Portal

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PushPush Theater closing New Street Arts, launching ‘GRFX’

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Thanks in part to a two-year grant from the National Endowment of the Arts, PushPush Theater is moving from its New Street Arts space into cyberspace. At least partially. The Wed., Sept. 5, performance of the monthly show Naked City, will be the final performance at New Street Arts, making a dramatic transition to the playhouse’s next phase.

Artistic director Tim Habeger explains that economics partly drove the decision to relinquish New Street Arts, given the company’s financial reliance on rental shows. “We realized that our rental stuff was causing trickle up poverty. We were getting about 60 percent of our income by providing rental space for homeless groups, and that breaks even, it doesn’t actually make money. Giving up the space seemed like a relatively painless option. We’re not in debt now. We can make this move and do it nice. One thing that scared us is that the AC went out on a 106-degree day; if we had a show going on that day, would’ve been terrible.”

From the administrative perspective, PushPush will be moving literally across the street, opening new offices and larger rehearsal hall at 114 New Street. Monthly performances like ISMprov, Syllabus, Naked City and Write Club Atlanta will be held at 627 East College Avenue, and the company has several productions planned for locations to be announced, including co-artistic director Shelby Hofer’s one-woman show, The Interview Show.

Some of PushPush’s work may not have a traditional, physical location as the company explores the relationship between film, theater and digital media. “Where will PushPush be if it’s digital? And the answer is that it lives in the story. That’s where our grant comes in.”

In April the National Endowment of the Arts announced that PushPush would receive a $75,000 Arts in New Media grant for the production of GRFX (pronounced “graphics”), an online mixed-media series about creating art in the 21st century. Habeger explains, “The story of GRFX is how this young man inherits a German-American comic book company called Dresher’s Publishing, founded by his grandfather in World War II. It begins on the day of the founder’s death, and instead of passing it onto his son, who’s a much more pragmatic businessman, he passes it to the ne-er-do-well grandson, Paul, who has to coalesce a bunch of people to do a creative endeavor in the 21st century.”

As a web series, each installment of GRFX will follow a day in the life of Dresher’s employees. Habeger explains, “Each day sets up a problem, which we follow through even. Each day will feature two different graphic novel styles. The first will be a historical style, like, say, a comic book involving a superheroine with a domintrax-style costume. The women characters at the company would say ‘This is such bullshit.’ Almost every episode has a problem of ‘This is what exists now: can we rewrite our story?’ So it would shift to a cutting-edge or avant-garde style in the second half.”

The web site for the fictional graphic novel publishing company will provide a hub for PushPush’s creative endeavors. “Dresher’s will become our avatar. You can come to our site and go upstairs and find out that there’s a play reading tonight, and watch it. During part of one story, the characters go through Piedmont Park and see a dance performance by Zoetic and GloATL. So you can see the dance, and then follow the dancers as one part of the story. In the same what that you might see an artist at PushPush and want to follow their work, you can follow them here.”

It’ll be interesting to see how GRFX develops over the next two years. Habeger says that the grant doesn’t require GRFX’s completion, but adds, “We would love to have distribution and beginning of the series shot by the end of the two-year period.”

I have to say that I’ll miss seeing shows at New Street Arts, which was probably the scruffiest, least “slick” performing venue in Atlanta. PushPush’s home since 2003, New Street Arts also proved to be one of the most relaxed and welcoming place to see a play, whether a hilarious, top-notch work like Hofer’s 101 Humiliating Stories or a rowdy work of audience interaction like Write Club. Going to New Street was like hanging out at this era’s equivalent of a beatnik club and feeling like part of the community, not just a spectator.

by Curt Holman

source: www.clatl.com

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‘Syllabus’ makes the grade as a college-themed write-off

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YO, TEACH! The August curriculum for ‘Syllabus’

I knew I wasn’t going to win Syllabus when I laid eyes on Ryan Lee’s visible villainy. Lee and I, along with Jackson Pearce, Jef Holbrook, Reay Kaplan and Topher Payne, were the faculty of the August edition of Syllabus, a light-hearted, collegiate-themed public writing competition held at PushPush Theater. Organized by Payne as “headmaster,” Syllabus serves as a spin-off of Write Club, another monthly event that pits writers against one another for timed original readings, with winners decided by audience applause.Held the fourth Wednesday of every month, Syllabus began in June and features rules slightly more complicated than Write Club’s rowdy variation on debate. Each month has a different “major” or overall theme, and the six professors deliver rigidly-timed, seven-minute lectures on specific topics within the theme. The evening is divided into two “semesters” of three courses each, and the winning professors of the three courses face off at the end of the evening with a one-minute “thesis defense.” All unfolds in a freewheeling spirit of infotainment.

Last night’s major was “Fairy Tales” and Jo Howarth Noonan, as acting headmaster for the evening, gave an introductory speech that wittily tied the theme to the Led Zeppelin concert film The Song Remains the Same. Lee went first to deliver his lecture on “villains” and was dressed for the part, with a chin-beard, monkish robes and amusingly intense stare. Even better, he played up the wicked concept to the hilt, posing questions to the class and deducting hundreds of points for incorrect answers.

When Payne originally invited me to participate, about 10 days earlier, I selected “Sidekicks” for my course. In the “Faculty Handbook” sent to the professors, Payne suggested that we prepare our lectures by making a “PIE.” “That stands for Point of View, Information, and Entertainment. Your class needs all three. You don’t want to just list information for them; you need to give it a perspective, choose a few key details that you find interesting, and focus there. Making 90 points in 7 minutes doesn’t resonate, even if they’re 90 awesome points. You do not have to be a professional performer to capture the attention of the room, as long as you’re serving up the PIE.”

I researched ome fun factoids about fairy tale and literary sidekicks, including the fact that the term “sidekicks” began as pickpockets’ slang in reference to trouser pockets. The handbook also suggested that we could have a teaching assistant, as long as the person didn’t speak. I didn’t want my PIE to be nothing but “I,” so I asked my friend Ryan Lucas to join me as a silent example of a sidekick, which I think improved the lecture significantly. My biggest laugh came when I got tongue-tied in a discussion of Pinocchio and referred to Jiminy Cricket as a “talking critic.” Oh, did the audience appreciate that one.

Holbrook gave a high-energy rant against the anti-feminist trope of Damsels in Distress. Payne riffed amusingly on Magical Mentors from Merlin to Morgan Freeman in any role he’s ever taken. Kaplan used the topic of Heroes to discuss her admiration of her female relatives in the most emotionally moving piece of the evening. But I doubt any of us had a prayer against Pearce, a leggy blonde with the stage presence and punchlines of a stand-up comedian. Her subjects was “Hags,” and her observations about Hansel and Gretel tucking into the witch’s gingerbread house provoked the evening’s biggest laughs. She and Lee won their respective semesters, and Pierce prevailed at the thesis defense.

As the overall winner, Pearce got to choose next month’s major. She said that she considered picking “Philosophy,” under the assumption that it would be easy for Headmaster Payne to come up with six courses under that heading. She added that she did not actually want to make it easy for him, and announced that next month’s major would be “Animal Husbandry.” Payne absorbed that bit of information with deadpan timing worthy of Jack Benny. Next month’s Syllabus will be held Sep. 26 at a location to be announced.

by Curt Holman

source: www.clatl.com

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PushPush Theater moving out, moving ahead

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PushPush Theater, one of Atlanta’s more adventurous organizations, is vacating its Decatur space after nearly 10 years, and diving into a two-year transition that will include new venues, partnerships and additional staff.

The company, co-founded by actor Shelby Hofer and actor-director Tim Habeger, her husband, is run by artists and focuses on theater, film, and a blend of the two.

“We’re ready to focus more directly on our work,” Hofer said in a news release. “Too much time, money and other resources have gone into maintaining a traditional arts facility. We want more of our energy and income to bolster new programming and people.”

Co-founders Shelby Hofer and Tim Habeger.

The new PushPush’s first project is the development of a digital arts network built around an episodic series called GRFX, or graphics. The filmed series will try to tell the story of a new creative class and the battle between higher aspirations and cultural differences. It comes from the company’s 16 years of arts service, production and international activity.

PushPush will partner with other arts organizations, studios, galleries and other spaces in and outside Atlanta for projects in the next year. Hofer and Habeger will leave their East Decatur Station facility by October. They are looking for office and studio space.

PushPush will continue to present artists, workshops and performances and work with current partners to continue key programs: the International Portal Project, the Dailies Film projects, Write Club Atlanta and three new literary performance projects.

The changes are backed by a new media grant from the National Endowment for the Arts: $75,000 over two years; and PushPush fundraising.

by Atlanta Encore

source: www.encoreatlanta.com

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PushPush Theater works out with PinterFest 

The workshop theater takes on the late Nobel laureate Harold Pinter

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Sometimes PushPush Theater’s self-description as “Atlanta’s premiere workshop theater” strikes me as a misnomer. I’ve seen many shows there that proved every bit as effective and intriguing as the work of any other small local playhouse. PushPush’s PinterFest, however, seems slightly more ad hoc than usual. The festival of the late Nobel laureate Harold Pinter’s short works features more than 50 Atlanta artists, but the individual shows won’t be presented for paying audiences until the company deems them ready, leaving the exact schedule up in the air. PushPush encourages fans to check the website for the latest updates.

Two works, “Landscape” and “The Dumb Waiter” anchor PinterFest and will play at least through June 18. The challenging “Landscape” presents Joanna Daniel and Daniel Burnley as Beth and Duff, a married couple whose dialogue goes so far past each other, it’s more like a pair of alternating monologues than an actual conversation. Directed by George Faughnan, “Landscape” lacks a conventional plot, but Beth and Duff provide sharply contrasting perspectives. She emphasizes sensuality as she recounts, in almost circular fashion, a seaside reverie with a man who may or may not be her husband. Duff offers more prosaic, linear anecdotes in concrete detail.

Daniel and Burnley seem perfectly cast. The work’s elliptical treatment of memory proves reminiscent of Samuel Beckett plays like “Rockaby.” Nevertheless it’s a difficult piece, made more so by Beth’s half of the play appearing almost entirely on video, projected on the rear wall. The video adds another level of interpretation “is Beth even still alive? ” but also muddies the play’s thematic waters.

“The Dumb Waiter”is more than 50 years old, but still feels contemporary. Ben and Gus (Jonathan Chaffin and Charlie Adair) portray two verbally amusing hit men caught in an existential dilemma, similar to more recent hipster noir like Pulp Fiction and In Bruges. Ben and Gus occupy a shabby, ground-level room waiting for their next victim, only to receive baffling messages from an old-fashioned dumb waiter. Pinter tweaks the criminal mentality in the way the hired killers quickly fall into subservient roles as they try to accommodate the orders of an enigmatic authority figure.

Chaffin and Adair speak in spotty English accents, but bring snappy comedic timing to Ben and Gus’ Abbott-and-Costello exchanges, such as an argument about whether “light the stove” makes sense as a turn of phrase. “The Dumb Waiter” stumbles on the show’s final image, which should be its most powerful moment, but otherwise lives up to Pinter’s thought-provoking blend of humor and menace. If the works in PushPush’s PinterFest don’t qualify as “full” productions, the workshops suggest that watching talented athletes going through rigorous workouts can be a worthy diversion.

by Curt Holman

source: www.clatl.com