Review Fix chats Jake Lipman, producing artistic director of Tongue in Cheek Theater Productions, who discusses his latest production, “Buffalo Heights.”
About the Production:
Buffalo Heights presented by Tongue in Cheek Theater Productions
Deported from France, expatriate Fran, a lesbian, attempts to start a new life in the land of opportunity, Buffalo, NY. Her new career as a high school French teacher, gets sidetracked after getting on the bad side of a congresswoman’s power-hungry daughter.
Born of a idea producing artistic director Jake Lipman had to combine comedy with the dark conflicts in the classic plays, The Children’s Hour and Rhinoceros, Buffalo Heights explores – through absurdist comedy – the ultimate victories of pride and justice. The play received a Puffin Foundation grant in 2014. www.tictheater.com
June 15 @ 7:00 PM; June 17 @ 1:15 PM; June 19 @ 9:00 PM; June 24 @ 3:30 PM; June 25 @ 9:30 PM; June 30 @ 7:15 PM
LATEA Theater, 107 Suffolk Street, 2nd Floor, LES
Review Fix: What’s been your creative process for Buffalo Heights?
Jake Lipman: For the creation of the play Buffalo Heights, my creative process began with a wacky idea that blossomed into a play, thanks to a talented group of collaborators: playwright Adam Harrell and 5 talented actors.
My idea was to take two existing plays, The Childrens’ Hour and Rhinoceros, both dramas grappling with isolation and scandal, and mash up them up to create a new comedic work.
The new work we created, Buffalo Heights, is about an outsider, Francoise Favre, who comes to Buffalo, NY, looking for a fresh start. Francoise unwittingly crosses a power-hungry junior named Piper Matthews, who happens to also be the daughter of a local congresswoman. When Francoise gets a charismatic stoner to run against Piper for class president, a school sex scandal erupts.
Our Planet Connections Theatre Festivity production is a revival of Buffalo Heights, so my creative process continues to evolve with a largely new cast and production team. That’s the most exciting thing – to see and hear how the piece feels with new interpreters.
Review Fix: What makes this production of Buffalo Heights different or special?
Lipman: In 2006, I founded Tongue in Cheek Theater, my production company, to produce and create thought-provoking comedies. Our goal in creating Buffalo Heightswas to do just that – infuse serious themes (political scandal, isolation, misunderstanding) with humor.
What makes this production special right now is that Buffalo Heights’ themes are even more topical than they were when this piece was first created. Fortunately, our piece is also a goofy comedy, so we hope to make our audiences think and laugh.
Review Fix: What did you learn about yourself through this process?
Lipman: This is my first time reviving a play – revisiting both the script of Buffalo Heights and playing the role of Francoise Favre anew.
The biggest revelation for me is that I can still be surprised by the story and my role in telling it. I’m discovering new things about my character and the story at every rehearsal, thanks to our wonderful cast and production team.
It’s such a gift to get to go back and work on something I loved so much the first time, and see that there’s still more to add and say.
Review Fix: How does it feel to be a part of something like this?
Lipman: It’s gratifying for Buffalo Heights to be a part of The Planet Connections Festivity, as New York’s premiere socially-conscious arts festival.
Our production of Buffalo Heights is partnering with Trinity Place Shelter, a homeless shelter for LGBTQ youth. We are collecting bath and beauty products for the Trinity residents and will be sponsoring a dinner for the shelter’s residents this summer.
Review Fix: What are your ultimate goals for this production and for the future?
Lipman: My ultimate goals for this production are to reach new audiences in NYC, to have the play published, and to take this production to other festivals in other cities (Buffalo? New Orleans? Portland? Philadelphia? Montreal?). I don’t want the fun to end!
Review Fix: What do you think your audiences will enjoy the most about Buffalo Heights?
Lipman: …that Buffalo Heights is unabashedly goofy!
Every single character has their goofball moments, from a hapless security guard (played by Patrick Truhler), to a paddle-wielding principal (Maria Maloney), a power-hungry junior who hands out “apology lollipops” (Brittany Anikka Liu), her Congresswoman mother (Lori Funk), to a charismatic stoner (Jordan P. Schroeder).
And there’s even a moment where my character, Francoise Favre, crosses over to another metaphysical plane.
Review Fix: What’s next?
Lipman: When I first founded Tongue in Cheek Theater, I didn’t have a master plan, just a list of plays I hoped to produce.
Now, 35 productions under my belt, my goal for the second half of 2017 is to devise a new work that features and all-female ensemble, and to produce a revival in October (still putting finishing touches on which show that will be). Stay tuned!