York College Production Wows at Fringe Festival

After wowing audiences in Queens, the York College theatre production, Istwa! received rave reviews at the 15th annual New York International Fringe Festival.

Adapted and directed by Professor Tom Marion and featuring a team of students mostly from the college’s Department of Fine and Performing Arts, the play, based on four classic fairy tales, originally opened at the College’s Little Theatre last October (2010) to local acclaim before being taken on the road to area public schools.  Then in August it was back on the road again -- this time to the renown Living Theatre on Manhattan’s Lower East Side.

Time Out New York  listed Istwa! as a “Critic’s Choice.”

Gwynne Watkins from Time Out New York also explained: “Ten actors play all the parts—and all the scenery—in the often hilarious retelling of folktales from around the world. Restless kids will get a kick out of the “participation journey” in the middle of the show, when the ensemble guides the audience through an imaginary adventure of their own,” she said. 

Lynn Berg from nytheatre.com added his own praises for the production:  “The performers rely on imagination by creating diverse settings and characters with their bodies and voices….the ensemble play humbly and generously, supporting each other as equals without attempting to hog the limelight. Alex Constantinides gave my favorite performance, providing comic accompaniment on kazoo and percussion while inventing delightful sound effects.”

Professor Marion’s faith in his troop was certainly well-placed.

“The goals to be in the fringe festival were to challenge our students to the rigorous expectations of professional performance;  to expose them  to presentations from around the world produced at an international festival; to provide the opportunity to meet and share ideas with artists from around the world;  to showcase their talents on a professional stage and be professionally reviewed;  to showcase the work and name of York College to a wide audience of festival participants and patrons and to engender excitement with current and prospective students for the York College Theatre discipline,” said Marion.

Putting the opportunity into perspective, Professor Marion added that only 150 shows out of over 1000 submissions are selected for participation in the Festival each year.

“I think it is very good exposure for York College in an area of the City that doesn't know of us,” he said. “I was very impressed with the professionalism of the students.”

Marion needn’t have worried. He bragged that though being at the Festival is “lots of fun,” there was no time for fun and games. He noted that if one cast member arrived late, the whole performance would have been in jeopardy. This was not the case. The cast of 12, which comprised of York College undergraduates and one Queens College undergraduate, were on time each day.

“Most importantly to me,” he said, “was the energy they brought forth.   It was amazing to me to see individuals buck up to overcome their personal difficulties for the good of the entire group and the audience.”

Marion said that on the last day of performance “a group of 15 tweens” with a church group from Long Island City attended the show and expressed their appreciation not so much by what they said, but by what they did afterwards.

“They stayed outside and waited for the cast to appear and then begged for autographs to their programs,” said Marion. “It was wonderful to see the cast looking and being treated as the bright stars that they are.”

For further information see the user-friendly web site on Ishtwa! at  http://www.wix.com/tommarion/istwa.

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