Talkin' BroadwayV.J.

by Nancy Rosati

Charles Loffredo founded the Moving Parts Theater Company last year. He had already spent seven years acting, directing, producing, and designing sound for New Directions Theatre when he decided he was ready for a change. He was working at his day job in a literary agency when he met Clay McLeod Chapman. "We hit it off and I decided I would start my own company based on producing his works," says Charles.

Clay McLeod Chapman is 24 years old, a native of Richmond, Virginia. He's been writing since he was a child. Most of his work has been short plays, but for the past five years he's been writing short stories. He started performing them himself, initially in Virginia and then he moved to New York and performed in the East Village. He received a lot of attention and sent his stories to the agency where Charles works. An agent sold his work, a short story collection called rest area and a novel, to Hyperion for $100,000. "He was 22 years old and hadn't even graduated from Sarah Lawrence yet. It was a flying start for him."

Patricia Randell in Moving Parts Theater Company's Broken Boughs
With Clay's work in mind, Charles set about to make his theater company a reality. "Everything just sort of lined up correctly at the right time. I came up with a name for the company. I wrote a letter to everybody that I knew and raised a nice chunk of money. That was basically how it all began. I sent out approximately 160 letters. I didn't raise thousands and thousands, but it was enough to start getting me on the road. Producing a showcase is a $15,000 investment at the most. Broken Boughs is the trial production. Obviously what we would like to do is get some nice reviews so that we can then go for some bigger funding to do bigger things. I've been producing in the off-off-Broadway venue for so long that I know it very well. It's a venue that I'm very comfortable with so I'm ready to move to the next step. I want a challenge and this material is strong enough that I think it can really go someplace."

Charles feels that Clay is ready for New York. "He's the sweetest, most genteel Southern gentleman you'd ever want to meet but his stories are edgy and sometimes violent, covering the darker side of life. They're also wickedly funny and contain some fantasy aspects as well. When you read his stuff you wonder where it comes from. He's this very wise soul in this very young body, writing for all kinds of characters, from old women to female prostitutes to children - really running the gamut, so eloquently. He's also a very talented performer. Time Out New York and The Village Voice have really taken to him. When he performs his stories, they're very much in an East Village performance style, where there's live music going along with him and it's very high energy.

"The stories appeal to me on a different level - more dramatically and more realistically. I thought I would like to take them and expose them to a broader audience. The mean age of his audiences is always around 25 years old. These stories appeal to everybody so I decided to put them in a venue in a way that we can reach more people. I chose four stories that all have a similar theme - bad parenting - and put them together as one evening, using actors who are age and gender appropriate for the parts."

It's been a challenge to get everything off the ground but Charles feels he made the right decision. "Forming a non-profit corporation was a big deal. You have to do it incrementally, bit by bit. Now it's coming down to the big day on March 1st."

Part of his goal is to incorporate literary art and visual art into a theatrical experience so that people can be exposed to different art forms in one evening. "After Broken Boughs, I'd like to take Moving Parts to another level where we're doing similar work but it's more elaborately produced. I think these stories will lend themselves to more extravagantly produced shows with dancers and puppetry. I see something like a mixed media event. I want to do something that's not traditional. It really is as old as time but I don't want to do the usual script. This is all about story-telling. Generally it's one person telling the story but I like to bring in other elements of theatricality to make it more interesting for the audience. The writing is so rich and so visual that I think it lends itself to that kind of thing.

"The set won't be anything traditional. We're going to have very large paintings hanging on the wall. The Blue Heron Arts Center also has a gallery in the lobby so the same artist represented in my play [Jonathan Spiegel] is also going to be hanging there at the same time."

Fresh from a favorably reviewed fund-raiser in October in which Clay performed his own material with Kim Hunter, it appears that he and the Moving Parts Theater Company are on their way. You can catch their show throughout the month of March.

Moving Parts Theater's mission is to present dramatic theatrical productions that draw on alternative forms of text such as literature and poetry and fuse them with other performing arts such as live music, dance and puppetry, as well as fine arts such as painting, sculpture and photography. The objective is to create productions that expose the community to a greater number of art forms in one event; raising cultural awareness by juxtaposing seemingly incongruous elements into an integrated program, and thereby shedding new light on these art forms by virtue of their union. Other benefits are the involvement of young artists in new mediums, thereby providing additional employment opportunities while simultaneously exposing them to a larger, more diverse audience.

Broken Boughs by Clay McLeod Chapman
featuring excerpts from his Hyperion Book rest area
Directed by Charles Loffredo
March 1-24, Thursday to Saturday at 8 pm, Sundays at 3 pm
Additional performance Wednesday, March 20 at 8 pm
All seats $15, TDF Vouchers Accepted
Reservations (212) 539-3500
Featuring Hanna Cheek, Heather Grayson*, Patricia Randell*, Joe Sangillo, and Matt Tomasino*

In the Gallery: Jonathan Spiegel, Recent Works
Curated by Patrick Christiano
February 14-March 25
Gallery Hours: Tuesday-Sunday, 11-5 pm

Blue Heron Arts Center, 123 East 24th Street, NY, NY 10010

* Member AEA

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