Mason Holdings Presents HART ISLAND, Multimedia Theatrical Meditation on NYC’s Potter’s Field, March 8 - April 9
Last Edit: Official_Press_Release 11:00 am EST 01/26/22
Posted by: Official_Press_Release 11:00 am EST 01/26/22


Multimedia Theatrical Meditation on New York City's Potter's Field Written by Tracy Weller and Directed by Kristjan Thor

Featuring Julie Asriyan, Nora Cole, Jimmy Crowell II, James Foster Jr., Daniel Kublick, Donald Paul, and Tracy Weller

Mason Holdings, a company known for creating intimate experiential theatre, is proud to present the world premiere of Hart Island, a multimedia theatrical meditation on New York City's potter's field and the humans connected to it, living and dead. Written by Mason Holdings Founder and Artistic Director Tracy Weller and created with longtime collaborators , director Kristjan Thor and set designers Christopher and Justin Swader, Hart Island weaves together the voices of friends and family of Hart Island's deceased, Rikers Island inmates and gravediggers, and fictional documentary narration. Performances begin March 8 at The Gym at Judson (243 Thompson Street, Manhattan), with an opening set for March 13, for a limited run through April 9. Tickets are now on sale at https://masonholdings.org/.

Based on historical research, Hart Island weaves together six seemingly disparate voices, all connected to Hart Island. As audiences enter The Gym at Judson, they'll be greeted by a scenic installation that suggests the depths of an archeological dig. At first, the characters of Hart Island seem anonymous and alone, locked in their own solitary existence. Gradually, however, the walls that separate them become more porous until every voice is revealed to be intrinsically linked.
"The forgotten little islands of New York City, like Hart Island, offer profound enlightenment," says writer Tracy Weller. "The word 'island' is born of the same root as 'isolation.' Every island, like every human, however, is the offspring of something greater. Even Hart Island is a fragment of Pangea; you and I are mere cells in the macroorganism of all life on earth. Yet, when a human dies, an absolutely unique and irreplaceable ecosystem vanishes forever. And, as sea levels rise, every island is threatened with the same fate. There's so much we don't want to look at - within and without - fundamental truths and societal truths that we have relegated to the periphery. We are terrified of pain and ugliness, but maybe our blinders are also concealing vast and transcendent beauty. I believe, if you are willing to pass through darkness, you will find the purest, most undeniable hope. That is Hart Island."

Director Kristjan Thor remarks, "As with all the work I have done with Mason Holdings, the hope is always to create a performance that is a full and total event-an experience that takes up emotional space and stays with you after you leave the theater. When working with this incredible team of artists, we constantly ask how our decisions will deepen the experience-make it more impactful. This approach is central to how we are thinking of Hart Island-we aim to create a rich, emotional landscape for the audience to enjoy and revel in. Honoring, embodying, and depicting New York's countless untold stories."

The cast for Hart Island includes Julie Asriyan, Nora Cole, Jimmy Crowell II, James Foster Jr., Daniel Kublick, Donald Paul, and Tracy Weller.

The additional creative team for Hart Island includes Natalie Loveland (costumes), Christina Tang (lights), Philip Carluzzo (sound), Yana Biryukova (video/projections), Liz Nielsen (production stage manager), Reed Ridgley (producer), and Rashad Bailey (associate producer).

Twenty-seven performances of Hart Island will take place March 8 - April 9, 2022, at The Gym at Judson, located at 243 Thompson Street in Manhattan. The performance schedule is Thursday - Sunday at 8pm, Saturday at 2pm, and Sunday at 3pm with an additional 8pm performance on March 8 and no performance on March 11. Critics are welcome as of March 10 for an opening on Sunday, March 13 at 8:30pm. General admission tickets are $40 and can be purchased online at https://masonholdings.org/ .

Mason Holdings will require proof of full vaccination for all artists, staff, and audience members for all performances. Masks and/or CDC-recommended face coverings will be required for audiences and employees inside the theater at all times.

Please visit https://masonholdings.org/ for more information.

History of Hart Island

Hart Island, New York City's potter's field, is the largest mass gravesite in the United States, but its existence has been, until recently, almost entirely unseen and unheard. Approximately one mile long and less than half a mile wide, this tiny island lives where New York City's East River meets the Long Island Sound. In the age of the climate crisis, most islands are vulnerable to severe erosion, and in the case of Hart Island, this means that the modest pebbled shoreline frequently exposes the bones of the deceased. And, in the wake of the covid19 pandemic, the island is now under ever-growing strain.

Hart Island has variously been home to a workhouse for destitute boys, a psychiatric hospital, a rehabilitation facility, and more, but since the end of the Civil War, it has been a public burial ground for the poor, homeless, unclaimed, and anyone unfortunate enough to have gotten lost in the bureaucracy of a flawed system. Under the jurisdiction of the Department of Corrections, the island has been held under tight security, utilizing the incarcerated men of Rikers Island to dig and load the anonymous trenches that hold up to 162 adults or one thousand infants. Until recently, it was almost impossible for families to even set foot on the island, much less pay their respects to the unmarked graves.
Though ownership of the island was recently transferred to the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation, it remains uncertain what this will mean for accessibility, not to mention the stigma that has haunted the island.

For over one hundred years, Hart Island has been a place of near complete obscurity, pushed to the utmost periphery of any kind of public awareness. Today, however, amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, Hart Island has begun to receive attention in the press. Due to the overwhelming toll of this health crisis, burials have gone up from 25 per week to 120, and Rikers' incarcerated gravediggers have been replaced by contract laborers in protective gear. Anyone who has died of COVID-19 and whose family has been unable to make arrangements may well be buried, un-embalmed, in a pine box, in the trenches of Hart Island. For some, this kind of burial is highly objectionable. Viewed through a different lens, however, the island represents an egalitarian resting place in the serenity of the natural world.

About the Artists

Tracy Weller (writer, actress) is an actress, writer, and Founder/Artistic Director of the theatre company Mason Holdings. She has performed throughout New York City and abroad in Germany, South Korea, and Italy. Some NYC credits include Jarring (writer/performer, play and short film, Finalist, Blow-Up International Arthouse Film Festival); Holiday House: Christmas Bends (writer/performer, featured in the New York Times, Design Live and Chance Magazine); Consumption (by Devin Burnam, conceived/developed by Mason Holdings); Most Sincerely, Edward Albee (writer/performer, Women in Theatre Festival); Love & Death Traveling Circus (by Devin Burnam, Women in Theatre Festival), and Found (featuring the artwork of Mikel Glass, in partnership with The Cell Theatre). She is the creator and curator of Mason Holdings' Unseen & Unheard, a monthly play reading series for innovative writers working outside the bounds of commercial theatre (producing over 25 playwrights in three years), and writer/producer of The Mason Holdings Radio Hour (an experiential podcast in the spirit of old-fashioned radio), featuring The Lost Diaries of Elena Hoyos. In development: The Old Folks Home for Aging Puppets. Weller received her MFA from Columbia University, with additional training from Anne Bogart and SITI Company. Trained as a classical ballet dancer, she has additional experience in flamenco, modern, mime, and biomechanics. https://tracyweller.land

Kristjan Thor (director) is a critically-acclaimed director of film, theater, and immersive experiences. Over the course of a 15-year career, Thor has directed and produced two feature films, countless theater, short film, and video projects as well as produced various types of live events. Thor is also the cofounder and creator of The Blackout Experience, the world's most notorious fear experience. He has taught at NYU, Dartmouth, Fordham, and NYCDA. Additionally, Thor often works as an acting coach for various industry professionals. https://kristhor.com/

Christopher and Justin Swader (set design) are scenic designers for theatre and live events. Previous collaborations with Mason Holdings include: Jarring, Holiday House: Christmas Bends, Consumption. Selected designs with: Dallas Theater Center, Two River Theatre, Everyman Theatre, Miami New Drama, Tectonic Theater Project, Dorset Theatre Festival, New Victory Theatre, Classical Theatre of Harlem, Lincoln Center Education, Bristol Valley Theatre, York Theatre Company, INTAR, SpeakEasy Stage Company, Kitchen Theatre Company, Penguin Rep, Luna Stage, IBEX Puppetry, Trusty Sidekick, A$AP Rocky, Sotheby's, Big Apple Circus, National Geographic. Henry Hewes nominations, AUDELCO, IRNE & Carbonell Awards. www.cjswaderdesign.com

Natalie Loveland (costumes) is a costume designer and proud member of United Scenic Artists, Local 829. In New York, her designs have been seen at Classic Stage Company, Lincoln Center Education, Park Avenue Armory, Theatre Row, and New York Theatre Workshop's Fourth Street Theatre among others. Regional credits include The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey, Mile Square Theatre and Arkansas Shakespeare Theatre. Assistant credits include Irish Repertory Theatre, American Players Theatre, Illinois Shakespeare Festival, The Ohio Light Opera, and the national tours of NETworks' Elf The Musical and Dirty Dancing. http://nataliemarieloveland.com/

Christina Tang (lighting design) is a lighting designer based in New York City. She is a frequent collaborator on new works for theater and dance. Her work has been seen at The Flea, The New Ohio, Performance Space New York, HERE Arts, and internationally in Cuba and Edinburgh. https://christinaftang.com/

Philip Carluzzo (sound design) is a musician based out of Washington DC. He writes and records music for the stage, for film, for himself, for his friends, and of course for you. Prior work with Mason Holdings includes Holiday House (2016).

Yana Biryukova (video/projections) is a video artist and film editor from Moscow, Russia. Her theatrical designs include The Karamazovs (The Other Shore); Mlima's Tale (Westport Country Playhouse); The White Devil (Red Bull Theater); Dropping Gumballs on Luke Wilson (The Working Theater); SELKIE (Dutch Kills); Grounded (Westport Country Playhouse); Promise Land (Yale University); Imogen Says Nothing (Yale Repertory Theatre); Scenes from Court Life (Yale Repertory Theatre); Square Root of Three Sisters (Dmitry Krymov Lab); Don Quixotte (Yale Opera); Women Beware Women (Yale School of Drama); Don Juan (Yale School of Drama); 1/13/14 (Studio Tisch); Transport (Irish Repertory Theatre). Her assistant credits include Cadillac Crew (Yale Repertory Theatre); Eddie & Dave (Atlantic Theater Company); Candide (Carnegie Hall); Harry Potter and The Cursed Child (Broadway); Charlie and The Chocolate Factory US Tour; Crowns (McCarter Theatre Center); Elevada (Yale Repertory Theatre); Deepest Man (3-Legged-Dog). In addition to theatre design Yana has worked on art installations and performances featured at the Yale Art Gallery, Danspace Project, Harvestworks and others. She is a 2019 finalist of the Robert L.B. Tobin Director-Designer showcase for Opera America. The recipient of the 2020 Connecticut Critics Circle Award for Outstanding Achievement in Projection, Yana lectures and teaches workshops on projection design at Harvard University. MFA: Yale School of Drama. https://yanabiryukova.com/
Reed Ridgley (producer). General management highlights include The Scottsboro Boys (world premiere), [title of show] (world premiere), Avenue Q (Vineyard Theatre), The Book of Mormon (first workshops), Carrie (Off Broadway premiere), Wig Out!! by Tarell Alvin McCraney (world premiere), The Long Christmas Ride Home by Paula Vogel (world premiere), The Slug Bearers of Kayrol Island (world premiere), and God's Ear by Jenny Schwartz (world premiere). A graduate of NYU Tisch School of the Arts, Ridgley is the General Manager at Keen Company and is a proud member of the teaching staff at YogaSpark NYC and ModoYoga NYC.

Rashad Bailey (associate producer) is an American artist & producer. Bailey produced the documentary film, La ENA (2019). He is the Associate Producer of the documentary film, BEBA (2021), being released theatrically in 2022. Most recently, Bailey was an associate to the producers for the November2021 Broadway remount of Slave Play. Bailey is also the co-founder of RaDa, an art collective based in New York City. RaDa exhibited at the NADA Art Fair, December 2016 in Miami. https://www.rashadbailey.work/

About Mason Holdings
Mason Holdings creates intimate, experiential theatre inspired by the unseen and unheard. We build transporting worlds in unexpected spaces, exploring the shadowy terrain of our periphery, and illuminating life beyond quotidian consciousness. Frequently site specific and immersive, our work lifts the traditional barriers between audience and performance in pursuit of deeper, more profound psychological understanding. Creations include: Jarring (play and short film), Holiday House: Christmas Bends; Consumption (by Devin Burnam); Found (featuring the artwork of Mikel Glass, in partnership with The Cell); Most Sincerely, Edward Albee; Love & Death Traveling Circus (by Devin Burnam), and The Mason Holdings Radio Hour (an experiential podcast in the spirit of old-fashioned radio). Mason Holdings is also the producer of Unseen & Unheard, a monthly play reading series for innovative writers working outside the bounds of commercial theatre. In development: The Old Folks Home for Aging Puppets. Mason Holdings was founded by actress/writer Tracy Weller -- and includes anyone & everyone who comes along for the journey. www.masonholdings.org
Link http://www.masonholdings.org

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