Upcoming season at the Cherry mixing new with tried and true

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By Jamie Swinnerton
Tompkins Weekly

 



The Cherry Arts Space isn’t just a theater. It’s exactly what the name implies, a space for art. All kinds of art. From within this theme of accepting and collecting all kinds of art, the theater that is performed at the Cherry is as diverse as art itself. It’s a home for the off-off-Broadway that you won’t find anywhere else in Ithaca. The Cherry’s upcoming season, just recently announced, is no exception.

“We are a company with this very specific vision, which is radically local, radically global, formally innovative, and so within that there are a ton of endless possibilities,” said Samuel Buggeln, Artistic Director at the Cherry. “In a really good way, it makes us focus on really specific things.”

There are things that theater can do that other mediums cannot. This is one of the things the Cherry kept in mind when choosing the shows that will make up the 2018-2019 season. Two of the shows fit into the “radically local” aspect of the Cherry’s vision. The first show of the season, “The Missing Chapter,” is a headphone, walking play based on Ithaca’s history with the silent film industry and produced in collaboration with the Wharton Studio Museum. It was written by Katie Marks, an assistant professor in the Department of Writing at Ithaca College, and Aoise Stratford, a visiting assistant professor in the Department of Performing and Media Arts at Cornell University, and will run from Aug. 31 through Sept. 9.

This is not the first time the Cherry has done a headphone walking play. While the Cherry was still working without a permanent space a headphone walking play was a great way for the company to put on a show. After the idea became big in Germany the Cherry decided to try it out last year with the play “Storm Country.” This year’s show is a little different because it was produced by the Cherry and is based in Ithaca, about the area’s history. The play’s heroine is Beatrice Fairfax, an advice columnist for those seeking advice about love. She is also an amateur sleuth. The play’s audience strolls through Stewart Park as they listen to Fairfax’s daring adventures solving crime during the exciting days of the women’s suffrage movement.

“That’s really exciting because it’s a really cool form that doesn’t get done much in the US,” Buggeln said.

Following “The Missing Chapter” comes the English language premiere of “George Kaplan,” one of the most produced plays from Europe in recent years, written by Frédéric Sonntag. This one falls into the “radically global” part of the Cherry’s vision. It was translated in-house by Buggeln and will run from Sept. 20 through 30. Originally, this show was scheduled to run in last year’s season but was postponed to this season because the Cherry decided to do its own translation in order to make its own artistic decisions over the show.

Named for the fictional spy in Alfred Hitchcock’s thriller “North by Northwest,” the play is a comedy spy-thriller that explores how fictional narratives in the media can affect, and possibly infect, the political narrative. But the political themes certainly don’t drag the show into a somber tone. The comedy is not lost in the theme.

 



For the third show, just in time to run around the holiday season from Dec. 13 through 22, the Cherry will be bringing back a family favorite. “The Snow Queen” will make a return for its third season, updated with new songs and puppetry to keep it fresh. The show is an original musical adaptation of the Hans Christian Anderson classic and is already being rehearsed.

The fourth and final play of the season is another international show from a writer that the Cherry company collective has long admired, Rebekka Kricheldorf.

“There are at least two plays of hers that we had read in our salons that we just loved,” Buggeln said. “We love them and we love how funny and awesome she is but for different reasons neither of them was exactly right, and so we just thought ‘It’s Rebekka’s moment, let’s find out what she’s written recently.’”

Through this method, they found Kricheldorf’s play “Testosterone,” a comedy that poses a number of questions about society today and the idea of toxic masculinity. The show will run from Feb. 21 through March 3 next year for its English language premiere.

“What’s great is that they’re both plays that never could have been written in the United States,” Buggeln said of both “Testosterone” and “George Kaplan,” both of which have overarching political themes, if not a specific political message. “But they have so much to say to us.”

While the company didn’t create this season with a goal of bringing political theater to the area, Buggeln said he thinks there is a reason that these are the plays that they gravitated to, that perhaps these feel like the important plays for this moment in time.

But, as mentioned, the Cherry Art Space is not strictly a theater, it is a fluid space for all types of art. One weekend the Cherry might be hosting a local band, the next a performance piece from a visiting artist, and later that week a series of sculptures from a class at one of the Universities. You never really know just what you’ll find at the Cherry.

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