Monday, 16 May 2011

Gi60 New York - How it all started

Gi60 Director Rose Burnett Bonczek on the history of Gi60 in New York and to Brooklyn College

When Steve first invited me and the New York gang to join Gi60, I had no clue what that meant. At all. I only knew from having worked with Steve in the past, that when he invited you to a party, you said 'yes, and...'. My colleagues in the department of theater at Brooklyn College kind of scratched their heads and said 'OK, that sounds weird, but sure, go ahead.' They gave us the theater, tech support, and I gathered students, alums, and 'Pros from Dover'; professional actors to serve as mentors for our students, and to be calming voices of experience should this evening of fifty plays jump the rails - a very real possibility. One of my acting students, Randall Ehrmann, was a double major in film - and as my nickname was and is "The Luddite", he walked me through the finer points of filming, the technology needed to eventually upload the plays to the web, and he grabbed two friends to ‘volunteer’ as camera operators. We borrowed three separate cameras, none of the equipment really matched, and we had only one performance to get it right.

On the night of the show, we had more people in the New Workshop Theater than I had ever seen in that space. Sold out; people were sitting on steps, we snuck others in to the booth, and others huddled near the camera operators having made a solemn vow not to breath or sneeze during the filming. The actors and I looked at each other before going on. I still remember my dear friend and damn fine actress Joan Lunoe looking at me before the show and saying 'Rose, I have no idea what's going to happen.' I looked at her and said 'Neither do I.' I'm sure that was reassuring to hear from one's director... I gave a pre show speech, clapped hands for slate, and we were off. Fifty plays. In fifty minutes. The energy from the audience was insane, I mean utterly, kinetically, joyfully insane. They had never seen anything like it. We had never done anything like it. We not only made it through, but at the end, the audience went crazy. They shouted, applauded, stomped, snorted, and were - well - giddy is the only word that comes to mind. We had done it. We performed 50 plays. In one night. The audience knew something special had just been born; and so did we.

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