Returning to the Stage

“The relationship between actor and audience during a performance is essential in being able to enjoy a full theatrical experience,” explains Westchester Collaborative Theater (WCT) President Alan Lutwin. “Theater is a ‘live’ art form.”

For the first time since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, WCT will return to live on-stage performances with a festival of one-act plays from December 3-12.  The never-before-seen plays are written, directed and acted by well-established Westchester and New York City professionals. 

“WCT’s primary mission is to develop and nurture new plays. The selected plays were culled from works that went through our Lab/Workshop process over the past two years,” Lutwin explains. The Company’s member playwrights, actors and directors participate in a Lab process in which, three nights per month, new plays are read and critiqued.

Lutwin says that the plays are “one of the highest quality collections [they]’ve yet to present,” and points to this assessment as proof that “there is an alternative to traveling to the City to catch quality theater.”

The five featured plays offer a mix of dark humor, drama and plot twists. Most of them take place in a diner or dive bar, which inspired the festival’s Diners, Dives & Dreamers title. They also “explore the essential question of what it means to be human from totally unique perspectives.”

In a play by Lori Myers, Sight Unseen, an insecure metrosexual, who is all-consumed with appearances, becomes infatuated with a woman he meets at the bar, flaws and all. 

In searching for a cure for her migraines, Kim, in Albi Gorn’s If I Loved You, is presented with a potion to remedy her unrequited love, but is confronted with the question of whether what she “wants” is what she “needs.” 

In Pat O’Neill’s The Hereafter Café, an actor hits a farmer with his car and they both die, landing them in “the Hereafter,” which turns out to be a diner in an unspecified location, where they find out about being assigned another life on Earth. 

Evelyn Mertens gives a window into her character’s anxiety in Ode to Flannery. When Jo’s partner doesn’t come home by 4am, she fears for his life – only to discover that he’s fine and it’s their love that is in trouble. 

Robert McEvily’s Full Effect finds three visitors in a mysterious installation at an art gallery as they are forced to confront their insecurities in unexpected ways.

During the pandemic, WCT presented productions on Zoom and explored the potential of outdoor theater during the summer months with its “Parking Lot Theater” productions in a nearby parking lot. Though this virtual programming helped the company to expand its audience, Lutwin emphasizes: “Our intention was always to resume live theater in our space as soon as practically possible.”

On why the decision was made to finally return to the stage, Lutwin explains that WCT installed upgraded HVAC, ventilation and filtration systems. “We wanted to have this in place before we reopened the theater.”  Performances will be in the renovated WCT Black Box Theater in Ossining.

WCT will also observe limited seating for all shows, and requires that audience members show proof of vaccination and wear masks throughout the festival.  

Eight performances will take place during two consecutive weekends, from December 3 through 12. A talkback follows the December 4 afternoon performance. 

A version of this article first appeared in the December 2021-January 2022 issue of ArtsNews, ArtsWestchester’s monthly publication. ArtsNews is distributed throughout Westchester County. A digital copy is also available at​​​​

About ArtsWestchester

For more than 50 years, ArtsWestchester has been the community’s connection to the arts. Founded in 1965, it is the largest private not-for-profit arts council in New York State. Its mission is to create an equitable, inclusive, vibrant and sustainable Westchester County in which the arts are integral to and integrated into every facet of life. ArtsWestchester provides programs and services that enrich the lives of everyone in Westchester County. ArtsWestchester helps fund concerts, exhibitions and plays through grants; brings artists into schools and community centers; advocates for the arts; and builds audiences through diverse marketing initiatives. In 1998, ArtsWestchester purchased the nine-story neo-classical bank building at 31 Mamaroneck Avenue which has since been transformed into a multi-use resource for artists, cultural organizations and the community. A two-story gallery is located on the first floor of ArtsWestchester’s historic building on Mamaroneck Avenue.