It’s well-known that there are far fewer female directors than male directors for the stage, for television and for the movies. One Providence, RI troupe, RISE on Broadway, is working on making a difference. Kathryn Bigelow made a huge breakthrough for women when she won the Oscar for Best Director in 2010 for the film “The Hurt Locker”. But “grass roots” programs like RISE will ultimately really make a difference.
Eighteen-year-old Anna Gyorgy of East Greenwich, RI got a huge leap on the competition by directing this year’s RISE theater production of Thornton Wilder’s “By the Skin of Our Teeth”. The production played at the beautiful Assembly Hall Theater right next to the falls in Harrisville, RI. Although Anna Gyorgy is going to college this fall, she applied to, won and handled all the various director duties while traveling back and forth from her home in East Greenwich to the theater in Harrisville, RI.
In 2006 RISE (Rhode Island Stage Ensemble) thought they had found the perfect home for their organization in the historic and stately Columbus Theater in Providence, RI. The Columbus is well-known and well-loved by local artists and organizations. Unfortunately, issues with the newest Rhode Island Fire Safety guidelines forced the Columbus to shut down suddenly and sadly, it has not reopened.
Sharon Cross, her husband Chuck, their collaborators and Board of Directors have worked hard to keep the RISE organization vital and operating smoothly. They are thankful to have the Assembly Hall Theater available to them for RISE productions. While RISE produces several productions a year, 2010 is the third year they have provided the Young Director’s Program as a unique opportunity during the summer.
The competition is fierce and the application process is not for the shy, but Anna’s presentation was so outstanding the selection committee saw her as the clear standout. Anna was unbelievably serious and prepared for the task. In talking to both Sharon and Chuck Cross I discovered that Anna, the Director, and the rest of her teen support team made all the important decisions and even chose a Dramaturg from their group (Austin Trudeau) to be sure all the details were as accurate as possible.
Thornton Wilder’s “By the Skin of Our Teeth” is one of the most complex works to stage, rehearse and perform, especially for young people. Wilder wrote in a very representational manner – dinosaurs roam the stage, there are ice bergs, floods, and the maid addresses the audience directly to assist them in understanding the play.
At the ready for advice and guidance from the RISE organization are Chris O’Neill, Directing Mentor; Pat Ferron, Stage Manager Mentor; along with Royal Laurent, Technical Director; Tatiana Baptista, Costume Mistress; Melina Cabric, Deck Manager/Props Master. Chuck Cross the Producer/Set Construction Foreman and Sharon Cross, Marketing and Public Relations.
In addition to Directing, Anna Gyorgy did the Scenic Design and fellow student Michael Campbell was Assistant Director and Stage Manager. The stage was extremely well set up for the action of the first and third act, with a completely different look for the second act. The detail of set, staging, design, and costumes was amazing.
Although this is not a review of the performance but of the Young Director’s Program, I must recognize that the acting and direction throughout was top notch. In fact, I have seen this play (written in 1942) a number of times and the RISE production is the most understandable presentation of the play I have ever seen.
RISE empowers their students by allowing them to make key decisions affecting the success of the play. In doing so, the RISE teachers and managers have hit upon a winning formula for growing young talent and presenting a quality production for the public at the same time.
To give them credit, but to protect their identities as well, the cast is listed in alphabetical order, but they were all excellent: Katey Acquaro, Hannah Assermley, Sophie Beron, Maria Corsini, Audrey Crawley, Chandler Cross, Michael Ferron, Steven Ferron, Timothy Ferron, Michael Maio, Justin Morrison, Katherine Murphy, Austin Trudeau.