Review Fix chats with the team behind the upcoming production of “The Shadow Box.”
About the Production:
The Shadow Box performing at The Gene Frankel Theatre, 24 Bond Street, New York City, from January 30 to February 9 (January 30, 31; February 1, 3,6,7,8 @ 7:00 p.m.; February 2 & 8 @ 2:00 p.m. and February 9 @ 1:00 p.m.) https://regeneration.brownpapertickets.com/
Michael Cristofer‘s award-winning play looks at terminal illness from a deeply personal angle. Over a course of twenty-four hours, three stories depicting the lives of three families facing different version of the inevitable offer up journeys toward acceptance. Even facing the end – there are always forms of hope. Not seen in New York in 25 years, Cristofer’s powerful portrayal of human struggles remains timely and sadly, still echo today due to our current conversations on healthcare.
Shadow Box won the 1977 Pulitzer Prize for Drama and that same year’s Tony Award and Drama Desk Award for Outstanding New American Play
Directed by Marcus Gualberto, the play features Jon Spano,* Nikole Marone, Leonard W Rose, Robert Maisonett, Nicole Greevy,* Cameron Tharma, Jenne Vath,* Anita Daswani. Mr. Gualberto is assisted by Allison Hohman (* members appearing courtesy of Actor’s Equity Association).
Review Fix: What was your inspiration behind this project?
Marcus Gualberto: When I first read THE SHADOW BOX, I was deeply moved at how real the characters are. To hear a character simply say “I don’t know…” and not really know anything else beyond that is such a human trait. We say that in real life but hardly hear a character on stage admit it. When I mentioned the idea to a few friends, their reactions always ended with: What a beautiful play! I can’t believe I forgot that play…
Part of our Regeneration mission is to regenerate plays that should not be forgotten. And this is one of those plays. It became obviously clear that we need to see this play now, most especially given its resonant themes of health and care, and dealing or not knowing how to deal.
Review Fix: What’s your creative process like?
Marcus Gualberto: Whether working with actors or designers, it’s very important to try to bring out the best of their availabilities. It’s vital to uplift that each artist involved is smart, talented, passionate and intelligent. I am only as good as the people I am surrounded with and I am lucky to continually find people who share my own work ethics and passions.
When working on a production, we are all tasked with specific jobs. My job is to provide as many tools as I can to my fellow colleagues so they can do the best job that they can. If I can’t provide that to them, then I haven’t done my job to the full extent.
Allison Hohman: I relish in seeing what others bring to the table. When given permission creative minds can come up with so many beautiful things. Giving actors and designers the freedom to fail like they can try, fail and then try again is imperative to a creative process. Providing a safe environment with love and respect is my main goal when putting up a new piece.
Review Fix: What did you learn/are learning about yourself through this process/production?
Allison Hohman: These characters are so real. When watching these actors and reading the text I realize that I’ve known people in my life who could represent each role. I’ve known a Felicity. I’ve known an Agnes. I’ve been a Steven. We are all forced to be one or more of these characters eventually in our lives. I’m realizing that. I’m also realizing that we all respond differently to grief or change and transitioning into a life without your father or a life without your lover is not easy. It’s handled differently by everyone and that should be respected and acknowledged.
Marcus Gualberto: Each project is different and requires a different approach. Even before starting with THE SHADOW BOX, I knew I wanted to challenge myself and stage it in a semi-round to really give the characters (and audiences) as close to that natural 360-degree perspective and deliver true and honest portrayals of real struggles.
Throughout rehearsal, I realized that I had been one of these family members at one point or another – I have been Maggie and Steven; Mark and Beverly; and Agnes. And the time will come when I will find myself ending up like Joe, Brian or Felicity. But I surely have seen all of these characters among my family and friends. I learned through this process that we all have a different way of dealing, especially when faced with personal hardships. And some process quicker than others; others not so much and need more time. And that is okay.
Review Fix: What are your ultimate goals for this for the future?
Marcus Gualberto: Michael Cristofer has written such an important and deeply moving play and it should not have taken 25 years for it to receive a full production. I hope this production inspires other theatremakers to look at some of his other works, or even consider other theatre gems that should be revived. Great works such as THE SHADOW BOX should not gather dust and be forgotten.
I also hope that our production of THE SHADOW BOX offers a reflection of what families look like today – diverse and intersectional. I hope that it opens up people’s minds in what they think a family on stage should look like because, in reality, we don’t get to cast our own family and extended family.
Allison Hohman: Conversations about death and dealing with death are so hushed. My hope is that those who see this show will be more open about the subject. They may open up within themselves and begin healing from a loss or maybe they’ll heal with an also hurting family member. This play doesn’t answer any questions on how or why, but it puts in front of us realities we’ve seen or will see that should be dealt with. If people who see this show can take one step towards healing on their way out of the theater then we’ve had success.
Regeneration Theatre is such an excellent company because it presents works that were perhaps lost in the shuffle and just needed a chance to be worked through. The Shadow Box is forever relevant and I’m thrilled it’s getting the presentation it deserves.
Review Fix: What’s next?
Barnaby Edwards: We’re looking at a couple of possibilities for the Fall 2020 production. A lesser known play from Edward Albee, and a forgotten flop from the late 1950s that has a lot to say about young people today. We’re also looking at our first musical soon. Watch the website and Facebook pages for updates when we confirm! Meanwhile Marcus and I are co-directing a new play called DENNIS in April at Shetler 54, which a refreshing change of pace and a powerful piece about a gay man dealing with the sudden loss of invincibility that comes from growing older.