A comedy about a still-born baby — starring the baby. Let’s see how Performing Arts of Woodstock (PAW) pulls this one off!
PAW will present Still by Jen Silverman from June 2 to June 18 at the Mescal Hornbeck Community Center in Woodstock. Director Sande Shurin said the play has been the most challenging production of her long career, taking a stillborn baby from birth to four days later, exploring the mother’s grief, and turning the story into what Shurin called “a devastating comedy.”
One of the challenges was finding an actor who could handle the part of Constantinople, the baby. Originally Tripp Hanson, a former Broadway actor who has become an acupuncturist, was looking to return to acting and eagerly accepted the role. Then he had to cancel due to changes in his acupuncture practice. Shurin’s husband, Bruce Levy, a playwright who acted in soap operas when he was young, took over the part. However, Levy’s dyslexia prevents him from memorizing lines. In rehearsals, “Bruce was doing great,” recalled Shurin, “but he didn’t have the words.”
Actress Elisabeth Henry-Macari offered to call Ron Morehead, well-known to local theater-goers as a versatile actor. “Ron came to audition and fell in love with the play,” said Shurin. “Immediately I knew no one else could ever do the role. He’s doing a fantastic job. If we were doing this in New York, he’d win a Drama Desk, a Tony, he’s so good.”
The cast also features Maria Elena Maurin as the mother, Sharon Breslau as the midwife, and Jessie Truin as the dominatrix. Shurin is a seasoned director and actress who teaches acting in Woodstock and in New York City. Her list of credits a mile long includes directing The Price of Genius on Broadway as well as directing plays at BAM, Lincoln Center, Playwrights Horizon, Carnegie Hall, LaMama and other theaters.
Still won the 2013 Yale Drama Series award and was presented in a staged reading at Lincoln Center. It was produced at Julliard in 2016.
“This play is about all of us who have gone through unbearable pain and come out transformed and better for it,” said Shurin. “We all have a dark night of the soul. Look at what we’re going through in the world politically. Hopefully we’ll come out of it stronger.”
She hopes the play’s offbeat, metaphysical quality will draw young people. “A dead baby is wanting to find out why he’s dead,” she said. “We live in the physical dimension, but he’s still in the existential dimension of consciousness. It will also appeal to older people, but we’re trying to develop a younger audience. There are references to punk rock, and I do things in a nontraditional way, with a lot of movement and visuals.”
Backstage support includes stage manager Lena Adams, production manager Richard Ralph, set and lighting design by Bob McBroom, costume design by Bruce Levy, and sound by Jonathan Delson.
Performing Arts of Woodstock presents Still by Jen Silverman from June 2 to June 18, at 8 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays and 1:30 p.m. on Sundays, at the Mescal Hornbeck Community Center, 56 Rock City Road, Woodstock. Tickets are $23 general admission, $20 for seniors and students, and $18 for group rates. Contact PAW at 845-679-7900 for reservations or see performingartsofwoodstock.org.