Volume 23, Number 5 | The Newspaper of Lower Manhattan | June 11 - 17, 2010
Downtown Express photo by Michael Mandelkern
Student’s from I.S.89’s after school drama club rehearsing for their upcoming play, “The Madwoman of Tribecca”
Mad at oil and saving Gee Whiz
BY Michael Mandelkern
Four days before their first performance, the cast seemed nervous, determined and excited at rehearsal. The directors nudged the pre-adolescents to focus as they socialized amongst themselves.
Connie Tarbox, screenplay writer and co-director alongside Lance Windish of I.S. 89’s new play, draws a parallel between the artists’ search for freedom and the cast’s aging into adolescence. “The kids are getting older and independent, and are defining themselves,” she said
This weekend, the after-school program’s drama club will perform “Madwoman of Tribeca,” inspired by Jean Giraudoux’s “The Madwoman of Chaillot.” In the middle school version two opportunists discover the last bit of oil in the world under Gee Whiz, a local diner, and then plan to drill into the neighborhood for the lucrative resource.
An executive, played by Henry Lilian, has collected funds from investors but has no product while the prospector, played by Isaac Ilyashov, found the oil by accidentally drinking petroleum-laced water but cannot afford to drill. Together they pursue their common goals of money and power.
The madwomen, all over 80 years old and sporting ‘60s Afro haircuts, artists and Downtown friends collectively try to stop them from infiltrating Tribeca. The leader, played by Anna Bernath, spreads the love she was denied long ago. A Gee Whiz waitress, played by Raina Schoen-Thomas, falls in love with a young painter, Walter Bernath.
The prospector, who wants to get even with the New York City Council for denying him a drilling permit, naively manipulates the artist.
The play will hold two showings at 7 p.m. on June 11 and at 3 p.m. on June 12. Non-I.S. 89 students are suggested to donation $10 for admission. They have been practicing since February.
Once Theseus Roche, director of Manhattan Youth after-school programs led warm-ups, however, they became more serious. He emphasized the importance of avoiding all distractions and being more like actors than children.
“Theseus is a theater man at heart,” remarked Talbox.
The cast had fun as they rehearsed, with scattered chatter still lingering and exchanged laughter. Tarbox directed the cast to raise their voices and face the audience that will sit in the intimate auditorium this weekend.
But they knew their lines by heart and spoke with conviction as the directors prompted them.
Part of the cast performed a preview of “Madwoman of Tribeca” during the after-school cuts protest on May 27 in front of P.S. 234.
Offered $5,000 as he struggles to sell his artwork, the painter is given a basket of fruit to bring to City Hall, but once he realizes the pineapple is a bomb he tosses it into the Hudson River and then gets arrested when he tries to retrieve it so that the explosive does not detonate in the river for swimming there.
The main madwoman then demands that the officer release him before she exposes the police chief’s “men’s room fiasco,” as phrased by Talbox, in reference to former U.S. Senator Larry Craig’s airport bathroom sex solicitation.
The madwomen then hold a mock trial, charging the prospector and oil boss with “destroying peace and beauty,” according to Talbox. The defense argues, however, that, “The artists wouldn’t have their Bohemian lifestyle without a bad guy,” said Talbox.”
The antagonists are found guilty and the artists celebrate. The prospector and businessman are duped into rummaging through the madwoman’s closet expecting to find money. Instead, they fall into a “downward spiral to hell,” said Talbox, ending the production.
Although not a musical, there were spontaneous bursts of dance and singing with music in the background from artists ranging from Lady Gaga and Madonna to Vanilla Ice and 50 Cent.
Even though I.S. 89’s after-school program is likely to lose funding from the city for the next school year, the children remain hopeful that this will not be their last show.
“I don’t get the feeling they believe that would happen,” said Talbox.