Co-Op Theatre East’s new play “Season to Taste.”
Co-Op Theatre East (COTE), the New York-based theatre ensemble, will begin a series of theater activities in the North Country in August.
They will be establishing their North Country Theatre Initiative, hoping to expand it in the near future.
“With our North Country Theatre Initiative, we’re essentially starting from the same place as when we started the company on 2008,” said Robert Gonyo, co-founder of COTE. “We’ve got artists excited to make and share work but little by way of resources.
“Any proceeds, after costs, are going back into the project to make more and better theatre in the North Country.”
The new play, “Season to Taste,” corroboratively created by Robert Gonyo and COTE Ensemble Members Laura Iris Hill and Anna Savant, will start off the North Country Theatre Initiative that will be presented at three different venues.
The new play will be performed at Amazing Grace Vineyard in Chazy July 31 at 7 p.m, Opera House at Enosburg Falls Aug. 1 at 7:30 p.m. and BluSeed Studios in Saranac Lake Aug. 2 at 7 p.m. Tickets will be available at the door, and cost is $10.
At a local grocery store, Evie, a 15-year-old teenager played by Savant, works to avoid being home all summer. At this time, Evie begins to navigate how things are going to be different in her life, at home and at school, when her older brother goes off to college.
Single mother Sam, played by Hill, works at the grocery store because it’s a place where she was able to get a job to support her daughter, whom she had very young.
“It’s a story about real people with real concerns that builds a friendship that is unlikely based upon age difference and situations,” Savant said. “However, these people are able to help each other and give each other hope for their futures.”
Through coffee, crises and home-cooked recipes, this drama wrapped in comedy explores the difficult choices people make and the people who try to help make it better, something people do today in real life.
“We all carry our concerns around with us, and we think we’re the only ones who are suffering,” Savant said. “I think a story like this is one that you can say ‘yes, I felt like that.’”
The Strand Center for the Arts will host a class taught by Gonyo on Forum Theatre techniques for students ages 12 to 18.
This theater-making experience focuses on bodily expression and movement, while encouraging class participants to think creatively and collaboratively to problem-solve and develop their own piece of theater.
“What I particularly love about the kind of class that I’ll be teaching is it encourages practitioners to tell their own stories and explore issues that they find important in their lives,” Gonyo said. “Shakespeare, Chekhov [and] all the great playwrights wrote plays with characters and stories that audiences still find fascinating to watch and can identify with, [but] there’s a difference between hearing someone else’s words and saying your own.”
Classes will be held Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays Aug. 4 to 27 from 10 a.m. to noon. The cost of registration is $120, and need-based scholarships are available.
There will be a final performance by the kids in the Forum Theatre class in the Strand Theatre, featuring pieces that they themselves have written. The exact date is currently unknown, as it depends on the venue’s schedule.
William Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” will be performed at the Amazing Grace Vineyard in Chazy Aug. 22 at 6:30 p.m, Aug. 24 at 3 p.m, Aug. 29 at 6:30 p.m. and Aug. 31 at 3 p.m. for $20 per ticket.
COTE was co-founded by Clinton County Native Gonyo along with Ashley Marinaccio and Casey Cleverly in 2008 who all met in a graduate program in Performance Studies in NYU.
“[There was] lots of thinking, lots of talking and fascinating ideas flying around but not many outlets to put those ideas into practice while we studied for a year,” Gonyo said. “So, right after the program ended, we decided, as people interested in making theatre, to form a theatre company that grew from the ideas we studied.
“Starting a theatre company in New York City is both remarkably simple and incredibly difficult.”
Immediately, the company put out a call for plays, thinking they might find a few people they liked to produce a short play festival, in which they had received around 150 submissions of actors willing and eager to make new work.
Even though they didn’t have a lack for people and plays, Gonyo said they had no money. They snagged rehearsal space at NYU, raided their closets for costumes, wrote press releases and promoted the company’s performances themselves.
“We just made it work because we really wanted it to happen,” Gonyo said.
From the company came the COTE Ensemble, which is a group of resident artists who meet regularly for workshops rehearsals and performances.
COTE has created and performed a number of murder-mystery dinner performances at places like the Butcher Block, Elks Lodge and elsewhere around Plattsburgh, Altona and Champlain over the past few years in collaboration with Woodmen of the World.
“We don’t have large name recognition or a local group of artists in the area yet,” Gonyo said “However, if...when, these classes and performances are successful, we hope to grow a group of theatre artists and audiences excited to make more work in the future, so, next year, we can expand the program [with] more performances, more artists involved, more classes [and] just more theatre.”
For more information on the performances or the class, contact Gonyo at 518-578-2506 or firstname.lastname@example.org.