Arts and Culture, Astoria, Community, Event, Music, News, Theater, Weekend
Oct 31, 2019

APAC (Astoria Performing Arts Center) is Going “Beyond Borders” This Season

The Astoria Performing Arts Center (or, APAC) has been around for almost 20 years, with a mission to “bring high quality theater to Astoria, Queens and New York City, and to (…)

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A shot from last winter’s production of “Queen.”

The Astoria Performing Arts Center (or, APAC) has been around for almost 20 years, with a mission to “bring high quality theater to Astoria, Queens and New York City, and to support local youth and senior citizens.” They have received 66 New York Innovative Theatre Award nominations to date, with 16 wins!

We caught up with the organization’s new Executive Director (ED) Jeff Griffin to hear about their upcoming season of shows, the inspiration behind the theme and how the community can get more involved in local theater. Enjoy!

A Season “Without Walls”

Jeff said the 2019-2020 Season came about in an “unusual way.” The team usually plans the upcoming shows throughout the summer, but with no ED (the last one left the company to pursue his PHD) and Artistic Director Dev Bondarin directing a production of Little Women in Illinois, time was cut short. When Jeff came on board, they had to act fast to come up with this season’s themes.

Jump

The first piece Dev felt strongly about was Jump by accomplished playwright and TV writer Charly Evon Simpson. “A bulk of this play takes place on a bridge, and with Astoria and Long Island City sitting between the 59th Street and the RFK Bridges, it just felt very familiar,” Jeff said. “You can imagine the environment so easily.”

He also said the themes in Jump, including loss, family, and wrestling with the past are not new, “but Charly’s writing and way of storytelling is so vivid and fresh that it feels like a new way to talk about them.” Jump will be showing in February 2020.

Marguerite

The next choice came about when one of the play’s own authors, Michael Cooper, who sits on the APAC advisory board, brought it to Dev. It’s a solo musical that tells the story of a French immigrant who comes to the New World in the 1600s to see what she can contribute to the colony of New France (later to become Canada). When the directors found out 2020 marks the 400th Anniversary of Marguerite’s birth, they knew it was meant to be. You can purchase tickets now, for the show running Nov 8 – Nov 23, with a Tony-award winning actress in the starring role.

“It’s such an important story about a remarkable individual,” Jeff said. “And the fact that Tony Award-winner Cady Huffman happened to have a few weeks free and was willing to come to Astoria, that the Church of the Redeemer was available and so gracious to rent us their gorgeous 153 year-old space…it just seemed that the stars were aligned in just a way that we had no choice but to add this to the season.”

A still from last year’s “Caroline, or Change.”

Man of La Mancha

After Marguerite was decided on, the team continued to focus on the theme of immigration and space, since APAC doesn’t have its own space (“we are literally without walls!” Jeff said). Man of La Mancha was discussed because of its relevance to the modern climate. So, they’ll be keeping its original script and score, but want to modernize the environment.

“What does is mean to be locked in a room for an indefinite amount of time? Who’s making the rules? Are these people really criminals, or truly just ‘impossible dreamers’? We hope that Cervantes’ beautiful theme song takes on new meaning and is both inspirational and thought provoking,” Jeff says. Man of La Mancha will open in May 2020.

How to Get Involved

Besides attending productions, APAC started a new membership program called the One-Eleven Club, which invites members to exclusive talk-backs, interviews, readings of works they are considering, and workshops of new plays and musicals.

They are also expanding their community programs early next year and hope to partner with other local organizations to refresh their older programs. Stay updated from their website or on social media! There are also opportunities to volunteer.

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