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Exploring Artistic Freedom, Censorship and Fake News: Premiere of The Potemkin Play
Posted by: Official_Press_Release 09:22 am EDT 06/13/19

Seth Garben’s intricate The Potemkin Play explores the limits of artistic freedom in an age of censorship and fake news

Sextant Productions premieres tragicomic farce inspired by the current moment at HERE mainstage in Soho, July 18-25

When a modern-day theatre troupe in an unnamed totalitarian country mounts a searing satire of the Russian court under Catherine the Great, it becomes the target of intensifying government censorship, harassment, and violence. Bringing the curtain up could mean curtains for them all, and the company is left wondering: is freedom of speech really worth dying for?

This is the backdrop of Sextant Productions’ premiere of Seth Garben’s The Potemkin Play at HERE mainstage that runs from July 18 to July 25, 2019. While the trend for many playwrights working today is to prepare smaller plays with equally small casts, Garben offers a farce for 11 actors with a plot that connects two centuries.

The imaginary country where the play is set is under the control of an oppressive government regime, where blindly devoted high officials and their functionaries — in the form of interrogation officers, fire marshals, zoning inspectors, and police — coordinate their merciless assaults on the nation and wreak havoc on the company of artists.

“The Potemkin Play reminds us why we must hold leaders to account and to a high standard, and guard ourselves from being duped,” says playwright Seth Garben.

While the characters themselves work to discern the line between fantasy and reality, Garben’s play, structured like a complex Russian nesting doll, takes the audience on a narrative romp, replete with countless surprises and reversals.

The play-within-the-play is The Inspection Tour that lampoons Catherine the Great’s official trip to the Crimea in 1787. The empress sought to visit her former lover, the libertine Grigory Potemkin, who set up fake portable villages along the Dnieper River to impress her and deflect attention from his failings as governor of New Russia.

“Both Catherine and Potemkin embody a paradox that is all too common throughout history,” Garben observes. “At the same time that these so-called 'enlightened despots' were making cultural, legal, and military advancements, they were also keeping the majority of their populations in serfdom.”

“The Potemkin Play forces our team to develop a fantastical world that is frighteningly close to the world that we are on the precipice of becoming,” says director Jennifer Sandella.

Playwright Seth Garben is enjoying his New York debut, though his plays have been finalists for productions at Red Bull Theatre and have been workshopped with The Classical Theatre of Harlem.

Sextant’s Artistic Director Isabella Knight, who plays the director of the firebrand theatre company, notes that dozens of Sextant actors have helped Garben over several months in workshops and readings to develop the play.

“Garben is a brilliant new talent who deserves attention. We are honored to be invited to perform on the mainstage for HERE’s Summer SubletSeries: Co-Op. It is a great space that promotes diversity and recognizes and rewards compelling experimental work.”

Starring in this Sextant production are Jennifer Laine Williams* as Catherine (Off-Broadway: Whose Family Values! and 7th Monarch) and John Lenartz* (Broadway: Inherit the Wind; Off-Broadway: currently Little Women at Cherry Lane) as Potemkin. Featured actors include Joyia D. Bradley as The Interrogation Officer, Jim Haines as Georg, Isabella Knight* as the Director, and Emily Sullivan as Lilya. Rounding out the ensemble are Brady Adair,* Daniel Cabrera, Brendan Cataldo,* Thomas Grube,* and Joe Raik.

The design team comprises Mirian Nilofa Crowe (lighting), Riw Rakkulchon (set), J’Mill Wintry Smith (costumes), and Jacob Subotnick (sound).

Performances of The Potemkin Play are scheduled for evenings from July 18-25 at 8:30 pm. The Sunday July 21 performance is at 4pm. There is also an additional Saturday matinee on July 20 at 4:00 pm. (There is no performance on Monday, July 22.) HERE is located at 145 6th Avenue in Soho. Tickets are $20. For reservations and additional information, call OvationTix at 866.811.4111 or 212.647.0202.

Tickets can be purchased online at www.tiny.cc/thepotemkinplay.

About Sextant

Sextant Productions is a theatre company made up of multi-talented actors, managers, designers, and writers, producing previously lost or under-appreciated works, translations, and new plays that speak to our times. Our production last season of the U.S. premiere of Andrew Visnevski’s adaptation of Kafka’s THE TRIAL at The Cherry Lane Studio was acclaimed by critics and audiences alike. Sextant seeks to be provocative, imaginative, and at times indecorous—and to always provoke dialogue and push to the limits what is possible on stage.

This production is a part of SubletSeries: Co-op, HERE’s curated summer rental program, which provides artists with subsidized space and equipment, as well as technical support.

An Equity-approved Showcase. *Equity Member appearing with permission of Actors’ Equity Association without benefit of an Equity contract in this Off-Off Broadway production.

Sextant Productions is a sponsored artist with Performance Zone Inc (dba The Field), a not-for-profit, tax-exempt, 501(c)(3) organization serving the performing arts community. Contributions to The Field earmarked for Sextant Productions are tax-deductible to the extent allowed by law. For more information about The Field contact: The Field, 75 Maiden Lane, Suite 906 New York, NY 10038, phone: 212-691-6969. A copy of our latest financial report may be obtained from The Field or from the Office of Attorney General, Charities Bureau, 120 Broadway, New York, NY 10271.
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