Summer Re-hash: Directors Salon Co-Curator Nicole A. Watson interviews Co-Curator Dina Vovsi about All the Windows On Alcatraz at FringeNYC!

Our 2011 Directors Salon participants and co-curators have had a busy summer of Fringe shows (NYC, Minneapolis, Indiana, San Francisco, upcoming Philly…we’re Fringe-ing like crazy), doing plays in gardens and garages, and stepping into producing and acting roles.

This is the first in a series of interviews where we find out what everyone’s been up to this summer – Directors Salon Co-Curator Nicole A. Watson sits down with fellow Co-Curator Dina Vovsi to chat about her FringeNYC show, All the Windows On Alcatraz, a new play by Rebecca Poulson.  Alcatraz opened last week and is running through August 27th. 

Gene Gallerano and Kathleen Littlefield in All the Windows On Alcatraz

NW: What did you most enjoy about FringeNYC?

DV: The artists I’ve had the good fortune of working with.  For the most part, I’ve never worked with any of the artists involved in All the Windows On Alcatraz – my actors, my design team, my stage manager.  Even after multiple rounds of auditions and callbacks, you really have no idea what you’re in for with the cast you’ve chosen, especially if you’ve never worked with them before.  I completely lucked out with my actors.  They are not only incredibly talented but a really inquisitive, bright group of people who have made the rehearsal process one of discovery and play and so much fun.  We were lucky to have 5 weeks of rehearsal time so they’ve gotten to know these characters inside out and have been so dedicated to exploring them – Tracy Willet even taught herself how to knit and made some of her own props.  It’s a dark play and we’ve all opened up to one another and shared our own experiences that relate – friendships gone awry, relationships that have ended, loss–we grew comfortable enough with one another to delve into the intensity of the text with our guards already down.

I’d also say the amount of control I’ve had in this project has been both incredible and terrifying all at the same time.

NW: Why did you pick this play?

DV: All the Windows On Alcatraz is inspired by August Strindberg’s A Dream Play, and the play alternates between what we perceive as reality and a Dream World, or what is happening inside the head of the main character, Beth, who has recently discovered that she is HIV-positive.  I was instantly attracted to the non-traditional structure of the piece as well as its treatment of the subject of HIV and AIDS.  These are characters that most of the world still does not believe could be affected by this disease – they’re straight, privileged kids who aren’t drug addicts.  They feel as though they’re prisoners in their own bodies; that they’re stuck because of the choices they’ve made – both irreversible choices and not-so-irreversible choices.  The one exception is Eight, Beth’s younger, innocent self – she doesn’t understand why everyone is so miserable until she puts herself in their shoes.

NW: What were you hoping to accomplish? 

Tracy Willet and Samantha Debicki in All the Windows On Alcatraz

DV: My favorite element of the play is that it allows the audience to decide for themselves what is real and what is not.  I wanted to create two different worlds that are also very much the same world.

NW: How did your work as a curator of Directors Salon prepare you for FringeNYC?

DV: Although I have two wonderful co-producers, I’ve had to pitch in a lot with the business, marketing, and fundraising side of things so fortunately two years of producing and curating the Directors Salon has been a great pool of experience to draw from.  The Directors Salon has also taught me the value of community and fostering relationships as well as the necessity of a positive attitude, and that’s an outlook that I’ve taken into the Fringe with me and have always tried to maintain throughout the process.  At this year’s Artistic Director/Agent/Producer Panel, Ralph Pena said, “The most important thing is to not be a jerk.”  I’ve really taken that piece of advice to heart and have made it a point to work with other artists who strive to do the same.

NW: What would you do differently?

DV: Oh gosh, so much!  No, I mean, in an ideal world I wouldn’t have a second job and neither would both of my producers.  It’s really hard to communicate when the three of us are all at our respective restaurant jobs until late into the night, unable to check our phones or e-mail, and there is a pressing matter to be dealt with but we all have to pay our rent somehow.  It’s unfortunate, and it’s the worst part about being an artist, but it’s the reality of the situation.  I went into this project thinking I really needed to not worry about the producing side, but I care so much about the play that I’ve ended up extremely involved and I’m glad.

I would’ve really loved to this in a 3/4 thrust space but unfortunately we weren’t assigned to one.

This show is messy and complicated and it would be easy for me to say that I would choose a play that was simpler and didn’t involve actors getting their heads dunked in a fish tank, but what would be the fun in that?

NW: What was the most rewarding part of being a director at FringeNYC?

DV: Having the chance to be a director at FringeNYC!  The playwright and I submitted this play together, and when we found out it was accepted, it gave me the power to put myself into a rehearsal room and do work that I believe in.  Anyone can do that, but having a platform to present the work gave me the confidence to actually follow through with it.  Thanks, FringeNYC!

NW: When is your show?

DV: All the Windows On Alcatraz has three more performances – Wednesday, August 24 @ 6:45pm, Thursday, August 25 @ 7pm, and Saturday, August 27 @ 9:30pm all at Teatro SEA (107 Suffolk St. b/w Delancey and Rivington).  Visit us on Facebook for more information or www.allthewindowsonalcatraz.com.

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