CAP21, the unique Manhattan not-for-profit that offers extensive musical theatre training, produces Off Broadway shows and presents readings of new works, has four plays and a musical lined up for its Barbara Wolff Monday Night Reading Series, Feb. 11-March 25.
Collaborative Arts Project 21 (CAP21) begins the free, public series Feb. 11 with Tony Manzo's family comedy, On the Treetop, directed by Janice Goldberg. A new musical, Beach Radio, directed by Larry Fuller (Sweeney Todd), gets heard Feb. 25. Readings are at CAP21's headquarters at 18 W. 18th Street, Sixth Floor. The works are performed and directed by professionals as part of CAP21's commitment to developing new works. More than 100 new works have been seen there since the series launched in 1997. CAP21 was founded in 1993 and is known for its musical theatre training conservatory, which is linked to New York University's Tisch School of the Arts. The reading series is offered three times a year, presenting 15-20 works a year.
CAP 21 is largely associated with musical theatre, but the Wolff series, named after the late CAP21 board member and New York City commissioner and arts lover, is also committed to non-musical plays, said Eliza Ventura, artistic director of the Wolff Monday night series.
"The musical is harder to develop, but we are always looking for new musicals," Ventura told Playbill On-Line. "It takes a longer time, there are more people involved, and it's not an easy thing to read out loud because a longer rehearsal period is needed."
Writers do not have to be agented, and Ventura cautions that a reading there is not meant to be a backers' audition. "It's really designed for development of the work, at whatever stage the work is in," Ventura explained. "The work is ready to be seen and needs to be seen in front of people in order for the writer to go to the next level. Sometimes works are more developed than others. It really helps the writer to be in the presence of an audience." Writers from all over the country are welcome to send scripts and resumes to Ventura, who said she is seeking work "that hasn't had a long history of development with other organizations." The hope of CAP21, eventually, is that plays developed there that go on to greater glory would earn CAP21 some kind of royalty or recognition for the seeds sown in the series.
If a script is accepted, a private in-house reading is held with the writers, staffers, Ventura and her husband, Frank Ventura, CAP21 artistic director. If a director is not attached to the script, CAP21 assists in getting a director for the reading, and can help with casting. Space is provided for rehearsals toward the public reading. At the Equity-affiliated reading, a talkback session with the audience is provided and then the writer may go off and do more rewriting and ask to come back to develop the show further. If the work is at a level that is determined to be mature, it may go onto CAP21's Blackjacks Festival, which is a showcase for a fuller reading with an invited industry audience and a special contract with Actors' Equity. The goal is a full production, whether staged Off-Broadway by CAP21 itself (as was the case with the 2000 musical, The Immigrant) or picked up by another producer (Bay Street Theatre picked up a Wolff series show, The West End Horror, by Marcia Milgrom Dodge and Anthony Dodge, for summer 2002).
CAP21 was founded in 1993 by artistic director Frank Ventura. He was about to announce the company's first three-play full season at its theatre on West 28th Street when the Sept. 11 tragedy occurred. Due to losses in funding and reduced theatre attendance, the season was cancelled, however CAP21 continues to "fulfill its mission of creation of new works for the theatre, the development of new talent and the building of new audiences" with the Wolff series and the upcoming Blackjacks Festival IX in April.
CAP21's Barbara Wolff Monday Night Reading Series schedule includes:
On the Treetop (7 PM Feb. 11), a New York set romantic comedy by Tony Manzo, directed by Janice Goldberg, is "the story of four characters navigating a minefield of the best intentions. The philanderer and his ex-wife, their unwed, pregnant daughter and her estranged husband...[who] are locked in a smothering claustrophobic embrace, awaiting, at any moment, the birth of a child."
Beach Radio (7 PM Feb. 25), a musical with book and lyrics by Drey Shepperd, music by Gerard Kenny, directed by Larry Fuller, musical-directed by Michael Hicks, is set "on a sun-kissed New Jersey beach, [where] a group of college-bound friends spend their final summer together exploring their sexuality, guided by an opinionated Radio Sex-Guru."
Autumn Run (7 PM March 4), a play by Susan Bigelow-Marsh and Janice Goldberg, directed by Janice Goldberg, is set in "the time of the year in the Pacific Northwest that the salmon swim upstream to spawn and then die, the time of year when four brothers revisit the riverbank cabin of their youth to confront the realities and non realities of a summer 10 years past — the summer a teenage girl was shot and killed by Brad, the youngest brother (or so two of the brothers think)."
The Handle (7 PM March 18) is a play by Liza Lentini that explores "the depths of adulthood, manhood and parenthood," when a man discovers "a one-night stand has sought him out...and brought his newborn son with her."
The Moon From Mars (7 PM March 25), a play by D. Lee Miller and directed by John Steber, set in the "interview room at the 20th precinct in New York's Upper West Side," following "a double murder in Marty's fiance's apartment" and concerns Marty's confession and the detective who wants to know more.
For reservations to the free Barbara Wolff Monday Night Reading Series at CAP21, 18 West 18th Street, Sixth Floor, call (212) 807-0202. For additional information about CAP21, visit the website Cap21.org.
— By Kenneth Jones