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L O C A L   E V E N T

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Appoggiatura
Saturday March 09, 2013
08:00 PM

Three Generations Linked by Loss, Find Themselves
February 28 – March 9 @ Hatlen Theater

Set in one of the world’s most famously
photographed and written about cities Venice, Italy, APPOGGIATURA
(say it: uh-poj-uh-toor-uh) is award-winning playwright James Still’s
most recent work. Santa Barbara audiences are in for a moving, funny
and intimate journey with three Americans who find themselves in a
new, yet in some ways, familiar place 5,000 miles from home. The title
of the play comes from the Italian word appoggiare meaning “to lean.”
In music, appoggiatura is a note of long or short duration sometimes
creating a dissonance before resolving into a main note. And so it is
with the play: what begins on a rainy night inside an old-world hotel
room in Venice ends on a bright sunny day outside on its streets and
campos. The story follows a woman of a certain age who knows this
might be her last trip to Italy; her granddaughter who has just graduated
from college and has no idea what comes next; and a middle-aged
man who doesn't know how to mend his broken heart. Add to the mix
their young Italian tour guide who makes up any history he doesn't
know, and a collection of roving street musicians. APPOGGIATURA is a
play about an American family finding itself by completely losing itself.
Italy is a good place to do that.

This ‘Preview Production’ is produced by UCSB’s Theater & Dance
Department along with vital donors & patrons. LAUNCH PAD is
presenting the eighth new play directed by Risa Brainin, Chair of the
Theater & Dance Department. She describes LAUNCH PAD as a
crucial part of “the eco-system of new play development.” It’s a working
ground for preview productions of new plays made by playwrights,
guest and faculty artists and students in dialogue with audiences.
APPOGGIATURA begins playing on Thursday, February 28 and runs
through Saturday, March 9 in the newly refurbished Hatlen Theater on
the UCSB campus for seven performances. Audiences will be
encouraged to engage in conversations between artists & audience
after each show. (http://www.theaterdance.ucsb.edu/news/event/287-010713)

Two years ago, playwright James Still had just finished a five-year cycle
of work that culminated in three world premieres within a four-month
period. “Suddenly I was looking down an open road again. I could write
about anything I wanted. I started writing a contemporary play about a
woman who was taking her just-graduated granddaughter in her early
20s on a ‘grand tour’ of Europe,” said Still. He knew the play would be
set in Venice, knew there was a shared history and making the trip was
important to both generations. Thus began the APPOGGIATURA script.
In the process, he realized this play would be better as part of a trilogy,
and not the first play. So he put the Italian script and location aside to
write the history of the family in THE HOUSE THAT JACK BUILT. Set six
months earlier at the family’s home in Vermont on Thanksgiving, THE
HOUSE THAT JACK BUILT was workshopped at the New Harmony
Project¹ (Spring 2012) before its world premiere in the fall at Indiana
Repertory Theatre² - where Still is playwright in residence. It also won
the Todd McNerney New Play Prize from the Spoleto Festival³. Still has
been lauded for his keen ear and ability to capture the lyricism of
modern conversations getting to the heart of what makes people tick.
Still emphasized the importance of LAUNCH PAD’s format which
allowed him to work with the design team from the very beginning of the
process and invent the play with them. “The thing that’s unique about
LAUNCH PAD is it looks at new play development in a timely and fresh
paradigm shift. I write plays for the theatre. I want to see them in a
three-dimensional space; I want to see actors explore the silences as
part of the language, to experiment with behavior as part of the action.”
He acknowledged, “LAUNCH PAD gives me the necessary and rare
opportunity to develop my new play the way I dream about: by doing it on
stage.” He added, “Working with Risa Brainin who I’ve known and
whose work I have treasured for 15 years is important to this story. It’s
an essential collaboration on a play that is essential to my artistic life.
Process has to be thoughtful and risky and bold – all within a safe
environment.”

Just a few months ago, Still learned the Denver Center Theatre would
commission APPOGGIATURA. For Brainin and LAUNCH PAD getting
the commission was the next natural step for this play and process.
“Crystallizing the idea of a panel I moderated this past October for the
National Theatre Conference called ‘The Role Of The University In The
Ecology Of New Play Development,’ the preview production of
APPOGGIATURA is poised to become a precedent setting project for
us. My ultimate goal is for other universities to be excited by this model
so that, in a short time, preview productions at universities become a
standard way to develop new work in the American Theatre,” said
Brainin.

Brainin, at the hub of all this creativity, has extensive regional theatre
credits and was hired in 2004 to join the faculty. She immediately
began an initiative to bring playwrights of national stature to the
University of California, Santa Barbara, working side by side with
students, faculty artists and guest artists to create plays.

APPOGGIATURA reflects the LAUNCH PAD mission exactly and director
Brainin has assembled a stellar team of theatre artists she has
collaborated with throughout her career: Award-winning playwright
James Still; scenic designer Nayna Ramey; lighting designer Michael
Klaers; and costume designer Devon Painter; complemented by Santa
Barbara’s well-known music director, David Potter. APPOGGIATURA is
brought to life on stage by faculty artists Irwin Appel and Anne Torsiglieri
alongside theater students Andrea Barborka, Chris Costanzo, Ian Elliot,
Sophie Hassett, Dominic Olivo, Julian Remulla, and Sachi Tanaka.

Nayna Ramey noted that the LAUNCH PAD approach “forces me to
crack open my process.” Ramey spoke about the rich experience of the
design team going to Venice to be immersed in the culture of that
venerable city. Her set beautifully evokes the canals, gondolas, cafes,
campos, palazzos and narrow streets of Venice. She noted, “My
backdrops are actually refracted versions of the photos I took while we
were there. It’s a tight palette of colors – ochres, reds, golds – and this
amazing blue green that dominated the city – it ranged from fresh to
ages old and peeling.”

In the design presentation on the first day of rehearsal, costume
designer Devon Painter described her clothing as “extensions of the
scenery. There’s a sense of timelessness in the clothes worn by the
locals in Venice.” She went on to share photos of Venetians to illustrate
her point – “women still wear house dresses there – the only things
that bring them into the modern world are the accoutrements like a cell
phone.” She is also devising ways to integrate masks into the
production. Venice is famous for its Carnivale celebration marking the
Catholic celebration of Lent.

APPOGGIATURA previews are February 28 through March 9; Thursday
through Saturday at 8 p.m. with a matinee on Sunday, March 3 @ 2 p.m.
- plus there will be conversations with the artists after every
performance. The Hatlen Theater is located on the UCSB Campus on
Ocean Road. Park in Lot 22 and follow the signs to the Hatlen. Tickets
are $17 general; $13 student/senior, UCSB staff & faculty. Box Office
hours: Monday – Friday 12 noon to 4 p.m. and one hour prior to all
shows. Call (805) 893-7221 or order your tickets online now.


The Hatlen Theater is wheelchair accessible and has the Assistive
Listening System in place for patrons who are hard of hearing. Please
call in advance to make arrangements (805) 893-3022

www.theaterdance.ucsb.edu & www.mcfaddenpr.com

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