Bridge Theater opts for the complete “Voyage”

COVID continues to create financial strains for theaters as much of the audience stays at home. As a result, most institutions control their greater artistic ambitions. This is not the case at the Bridge Street Theater in Catskill, where the founders of the company, John Sowle and Steven Patterson, are working on what they have dubbed the Mount Everest of the American drama, “Long Day’s Journey Into Night”. ‘Eugene O’Neill. Their new production of the classic family saga opens Thursday, November 11 for a series of eight performances.

“Any actor who really thinks of themselves as artists wants to try their luck,” said Patterson, who will play Patriarch James Tyrone. The remainder of the five-member cast includes Bridge Street regulars Roxanne Fey, Christopher Patrick Mullen and Christopher Joel Onken with a first company of Taylor Congdon as Cathleen. Sowle directs the four-act tragedy, which lasts over three hours.

From alcoholism and addiction to resentment, guilt and jealousy, all the secrets of the Tyrone family are unveiled in the play. The plot details are so close to O’Neill’s life that he stipulated that it would not be released or played until 50 years after his death. Nonetheless, he made his debut in 1956, just three years after his death. Quickly recognized as a masterpiece, it won the Tony for Best Play and the Pulitzer for Drama.

“There is a feeling of invading the lives of these people because it’s so intimate. It takes you to new places of deep catharsis. Afterwards, you are relieved to have survived, ”says Patterson.

“We printed stickers that say ‘I survived the long day’s journey through the night’ to hand out to all successful participants,” Sowle adds. “It’s an epic experience that we believe is worth living, and we’re doing everything we can for this production.”

Catskill sculptor Marc Swanson offers an all-white ensemble that will be complemented by Michelle Rogers’ white suits. According to Sowle, the colorless concept came from the frequent mention of fog in the script. By the way, Swanson and his iconic white forms will soon become more present in the region with the opening in March of a major installation at the Mass MoCA in North Adams, Massachusetts. A complementary exhibit will be presented in July at the Thomas Cole National Historic Site, also in Catskill.

“You have to open your veins on stage with that and there’s nowhere to hide, especially on that white stage,” says Patterson. “You have to be strong-willed and brave and we’re pretty blown away after each rehearsal. “

The new production also includes original stage music recorded by Californian jazz composer and artist Justin Morell. Sowell describes the cuts as a theme and eight variations. “There is a sense of improvisation in the music that beautifully captures the progress of the piece and the haze of the fog that creeps in,” he says.

According to Patterson and Sowell, aside from the energy and motivation to put on “Long Day’s Journey,” additional financial expense came from the need for a longer rehearsal period. Normally, at Bridge Street, a casting is booked for a four-week engagement that includes two weeks for rehearsal and two for performances. With current production, an extra week has been added for rehearsals.

Above the theater is a four-bedroom apartment housing actors from outside the region. Accommodation for performers is required by the Actor’s Equity Association, which has added specific security protocols since the arrival of COVID. “Additional protections for actors are good, but it causes financial and logistical nightmares,” says Sowel. During the period of closure, things were still happening behind the scenes on Bridge Street. Sowel has edited and uploaded an extensive collection of videos made from 30 years of performances by Kaliyuga Arts, the production company the couple operated in Los Angeles, San Francisco and New York City before settling in the Valley. Hudson River in 2003.

For his part, Patterson recorded new videos of him reading and showing children’s books. “I have great grandchildren living in Oregon and it was a way to stay in touch with them,” he says.

The theater and her upstairs apartment became a place where eight different dance troupes gathered and ‘bubbled’ for two-week residences in which they could work without fear of outside infection. Among the projects created was a pas de deux for two women from the American Ballet Theater choreographed by Adriana Pierce. The liaison with the various dance companies was Duke Dang, a part-time Hudson Valley resident who produces the Works & Process performance series at the Guggenheim Museum in New York.

Catskill producers have also taken care of fundraising with notable successes from government agencies. According to Sowel, Bridge Street received two grants from the federal Shuttered Venues program totaling $ 52,000, and an additional grant from a similar program administered by New York State.

Recently, the company’s annual grant to the New York State Council for the Arts increased from $ 15,000 to $ 25,000. Before the pandemic, the seven-year-old company had grown to have an annual budget of around $ 200,000.

Eugene O’Neill’s “Long Day’s Journey Into Night”

When: Open at 7 p.m. on Thursday, November 11 and seven other performances until Sunday, November 21

Where: Bridge Street Theater, 44 W. Bridge Street, Catskill

Tickets: $ 10 to $ 22. Call (518) 943-3818. More information:

Bridge Street Theater has received government funding since its launch. The 12,000-square-foot building, once a dilapidated factory, has been converted into an 84-seat theater with a $ 180,000 grant from a state program dedicated to projects that revive historic downtown districts .

Joseph Dalton is a freelance writer based in Troy.

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