Queens Theater Artists Battling Back After Hurricane Sandy with a Show-Must-Go-On Spirit
Queens-based theater artists with productions scheduled to open last weekend faced lost rehearsal time, postponement and diminished audiences, thanks to Hurricane Sandy. But they’re slowly battling back with a show-must-go-on spirit.
The Variations Theatre Group had been set to open its 2012 Harvest Theatre Festival at the new Chain Theatre on Nov. 1. The group began renovations on the old U.S. Chain Company building in Long Island City over the summer to convert it into a new theater complex. The construction site was not damaged during Hurricane Sandy, though the storm did affect opening plans.
“It did set us back in our construction schedule and we will more than likely be opening our doors before 100 percent completion,” said Rich Ferraioli, artistic director of Variations Theatre Group. “But at a time like this we feel many folks will need an outlet to escape to.”
The Harvest Theatre Festival was postponed until Nov. 6 with the main stage production, “Wait and See What Happens,” now slated to open Nov. 9.
"Of course we were disappointed that Mother Nature dealt us a rough hand during a crucial time,” director Gregory Cicchino said via e-mail. “We are aggressively moving forward and used the last few days to get back on track with the build, and this extra time to rehearse and fine tune the shows.”
The Astoria Performing Arts Center (APAC) was scheduled to begin previews of “Billy Witch” by Gregory S. Moss last Thursday evening. Because of the storm, APAC canceled its Thursday and Friday performances. "Billy Witch" premiered on Saturday to a sold out house and will run as scheduled.
APAC’s Artistic Director Tom Wojtunik said that while a few customers asked for refunds, most simply rescheduled. "I don't think that the postponement will affect the season as a whole," he said.
Jennifer Lane, an Astoria-based playwright and APAC's literary manager, had been excited about plans to hold invitation-only industry performances of her play “The Seer and the Witch” on Nov. 2 and 3 at the Interborough Repertory Theater in Greenwich Village. But because much of lower Manhattan was left without power after Sandy, Lane and her director, Kimberly Faith Hickman, were left to frantically search for a new venue.
“I am disappointed that I won't get to rewrite the way I had hoped, but our primary concern is getting it in front of the amazing group of people who have RSVP'd,” Lane said.
They eventually moved both performances to ART New York, a Midtown theater with power. Lane was happy with the performance, though noted only about 75 percent of those who RSVP'd were able to make it.
"But all in all I'm feeling really confident in the play and excited about its prospects," she said.
Actor Nathan Scherich, who is in the cast of "Jersey Boys," walked over the Queensboro Bridge and into Manhattan to make last Wednesday’s evening performance.
"There were some empty seats last night but that was to be expected with how difficult it was to get into town," Scherich said Thursday via e-mail.
He and some of his fellow Broadway colleagues have banded together to put on a benefit concert for Hurricane Sandy relief in Woodside on Nov. 5. Scherich said that the concert would offer the community a musical break from the hurricane and election coverage, and for a good cause to boot.
Corpus Christi Benefit Concert-Starring Queens Broadway Actors
Monday, November 5, 7pm
$5 suggested donation
Corpus Christi Auditorium
31-30 61st Street
Woodside, NY 11377
Variations Theatre Group Harvest Festival
Starts November 6 at The Chain Theater
Check website for schedule
21-28 45th Road
Long Island City, NY 11101
"Billy Witch" at Astoria Performing Arts Center
Through November 17
Thursdays and Fridays at 8pm, Saturdays at 2pm & 8pm
Good Shepherd United Methodist Church
30-44 Crescent St (at 30th Rd)
Astoria, NY 11102
Casey Cipriani is an arts and entertainment writer who lives in Astoria, Queens. She is pursuing a masters degree in Arts & Culture writing at the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism.