BMCC’s motto is, “Start Here, Go Anywhere.” That applies to any aspect of the college, including theatrical productions.
A version of the play Woyzeck—Georg Büchner's 19th-century expressionist drama—started at BMCC in 2010, and featured BMCC students.
Since then, Theatre Professor Elizabeth Chaney has continued to revise her adaptation of the performance at BMCC, working with musical director Christopher Peifer to incorporate traditional mountain music and original songs.
Two years later, a new adaption, called Dark Hollow: An Appalachian Woyzeck, debuted at the 16th annual NY Fringe International Festival this summer.
Directed by Theatre Professor Alkis Papoutsis, Dark Hollow: An Appalachian Woyzeck is playing at Theatre 80/St. Marks Place.
“The feedback from opening night was very positive” says Chaney. “In this adaption, there are parallels between the original German culture and the culture of Appalachia. The Fringe festival allowed us to further explore the story with music, and a greater use of costume and scenery.”
The Fringe show involves 10 current BMCC students and four alumni who have gone on to other CUNY schools. “This endeavor involves at least 17 people with a CUNY association,” says Chaney.
Beginning of modern drama
In the Fringe version of the play, Woyzeck, a poor soldier who is verbally abused by his superiors, is haunted by apocalyptic visions. He cracks under stress, and brutally murders his unfaithful girlfriend, Mary. Music adds to the show’s suspense, giving it an "eerie" feeling.
Woyzeck is played by Kevin Kash, who originated the role at BMCC. “I relate to this role because I myself am a veteran,” he says. “Of course, as a kid from Brooklyn, adapting to this Appalachian version was a bit of a challenge, but I love the culture of support that surrounds this show, from the cast to the crew.”
According to Papoutsis, the New York Fringe Festival has performed Woyzeck before, “but not like this.”
“This play has been called ‘the beginning of modern drama,’ and I’ve always loved anything that was a ‘beginning,’” says Papoutsis. “Büchner’s original message remains the same, only this time, a rural atmosphere is used to show the injustices in the world.”
The New York International Fringe Festival (FringeNYC) is the largest multi-arts festival in North America, with more than 200 companies from all over the world performing for 16 days in more than 20 venues.
Visit fringenyc.org for more information and tickets.