Theatre company challenges gender, identity and all stereotypes

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A new theatre company has sprung up in New York City. Sunglasses After Dark is the brainchild of director/playwright duo Madeleine Parsigian and Becca Schlossberg. The team is creating something fresh and innovative – and challenging gender and sexuality in the process. “Guidance,” Schlossberg’s new show and Sunglasses After Dark’s first solo-produced production, was cast without regard to color or gender.

Parsigian explained, “The real meat of Sunglasses After Dark is going to come from challenging stereotypes. …Even when we cast within gender norms, we are going to utilize stereotype breaking. Creating new statements with old work. Plays that were written long ago show us that we’re enforcing and teaching our children biased gender stereotypes in a new, modern way.”

Some of the actors at Sunglasses At Night

(Left to right) Parsigian, Lamchick and Schlossberg prepare for a photoshoot.

When I arrived for the interview, Parsigian and set/props designer Amber LaCasse were busy getting a tutorial on how to effectively create a bruise with the video help of professional make-up artist Miranda Leiggi. Jaime Lamchick plays the lead role of Tracey, a character who needs to look a little bruised.

Leiggi directed, “Put some red along the bridge of the nose and right under the eyes – where the bags would be.”

“Oh, you mean where the bags are since I haven’t slept in forever?” quipped Jaime Lamchick.

The friendly banter is characteristic of the easy relationship between cast, design team, playwright and director. Many are graduates of Drew University in Madison, NJ.

Schlossberg is currently a 3rd year MFA candidate for Playwrighting at the New School for Performing Arts. A published playwright, she won the Oxnam Award three times before graduating college. Parsigian has directed eight Schlossberg plays, including the critically acclaimed Fringe Festival production of 3boys. She has also worked with EndTimes Productions and Polyglot Theatre.

Schlossberg explained the premise of the show. “Guidance is about a young woman who is searching for love. She sort of experiences the limits of that love with the people that she encounters. Tracey and her younger sister, Cameran, are driving down to Savannah, Georgia to escape an abusive family situation.” Tracey learns that “…people have limits in their ability to love. That doesn’t mean they don’t love or that love doesn’t exist.”

The gender-blind casting process hasn’t been easy. Schlossberg had written the show with names that could apply to any gender. The process has challenged her because she had originally written Tracey with a male in mind. “I think that has been socially ingrained in my mind and changing the gender of my characters has been really challenging and really rewarding.”

Parsigian said, “We acknowledged how the play changed when you read it one way. It’s morphed into something really special and still maintains all the integrity of the original purpose of the piece. It’s not ignoring gender. It acknowledges that gender exists. It’s just challenging audience expectations of gender and how gender is defined.”

When asked whether they were worried about challenging their audiences on gender and sexuality, Schlossberg says, “Absolutely not. If anything, it’s going to do something new and interesting.”

Parisigian adds, “I think we’re really going to find ourselves a niche there. … When we were casting for the romantic leads, we looked at two men, two women and a man and a woman. It was the most challenging and also rewarding experience. There was real dissection of the characters even in the callback stage – about what makes a person right to play a certain role.”

Although some of the cast and production team self-identify as LGBT, they don’t want “Guidance” to be pigeonholed as a “gay” play. Parsigian said, “There is a lesbian couple in this play but never once is the word ‘lesbian’ uttered. And that makes it substantially more interesting to work with. It’s not a gay play, but there are gay people in it.”

“Guidance” will be performed at Theater 5 at The Producers Club Theatres (358 W. 44th, NYC) on October 26th, 28th and 29th at 9 pm. Tickets are $20 and can be reserved by email at info@sunglassesafterdark.org.

 

 

 

A new theatre company has sprung up in New York City. Sunglasses After Dark is the brainchild of director/playwright duo Madeleine Parsigian and Becca Schlossberg. The team is creating something fresh and innovative – and challenging gender and sexuality in the process. “Guidance,” Schlossberg’s new show and Sunglasses After Dark’s first solo-produced production, was cast without regard to color or gender.