Because Long Island lies in such close proximity to New York City, local theater companies have a decision to make with their missions. Those who work under the assumption that audiences who want new, risky or offbeat fare head into Manhattan stock their seasons with tried-and-true musicals, children’s theater and Norm Foster comedies. Less often, theaters will view Long Islanders as adventurous and culturally savvy. And as people who would gladly attend shows closer to home if only there were something stimulating to see.
Scott Schwartz, the newly installed artistic director of Sag Harbor’s Bay Street Theatre, takes the latter, more daring view. For his first season at the helm, he’s lined up two world premieres and a rarely performed Tom Stoppard play. “From what I can tell,” Schwartz told Pulse, “the audience out here is smart and knowledgeable about theater. They go to shows in New York a lot, so I want to give them cutting edge, fresh work they can’t see anywhere else.”
With that in mind, Schwartz picked Carey Crim’s Conviction to be his first play. The story is about a beloved high school teacher whose career has been destroyed owing to his inappropriate relationship with a student. But Conviction, which runs May 27th to June 15th, also casts a light on how friends and family cope with the aftermath of scandal.
“In any relationship,” Schwartz explained, “we can never fully know the other person. We can only believe things about them. We’re forced to confront unknowables about people we choose to love, so how do we live with that?” Lauding Crim’s writing for her “strong voice” and “individual vision,” Schwartz added that all three of the season’s productions focus on “how art and revolutionary thought intersect.”
Certainly, Tom Stoppard’s Travesties, about a British consul meeting the most famous figures of the 20th century, fits the bill (June 24th to July 20th). Yes, Stoppard can be so highbrow you need an enigma machine to wade through the first act, but this play, Schwartz gushes, “is a wild comedic ride with burlesque, magic and flat-out funny, pie-in-the-face physical comedy.” Plus it stars Tony-nominated Broadway and film actor Richard Kind.
Laughs will also be on tap in Adam Overett’s My Life is a Musical (July 29th to August 31st), about a guy who experiences his everyday world as a Broadway musical—and he hates musicals. “It’s got a tuneful, rock-based score with wonderful songs,” promised Schwartz, “and it shows how we must learn to love those things about ourselves that are different because they make us who we are.” Indeed, for Bay Street’s 23rd season, vive le différence!