Some dreams are worth the wait.
Back in 1988, Dan Haft met Robert Weinstein while they were both
working on the Heights Players’ staging of "Joseph and the
Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat."
"We’ve been best friends and partners ever since,"
About two years later, the two men founded a nonprofit, project-based
theatrical company they named The Sackett Group, because at the
time, they both lived on Sackett Street in Carroll Gardens. (Weinstein
was a tenant of Haft, who owns a brownstone.)
Most of their projects were produced in Manhattan, but Haft,
the group’s producing director, says, "Our mission has always
been to have a theater in Brooklyn, because we’re from Brooklyn."
That dream began to look like a reality on Nov. 1, 2003, when
Borough President Marty Markowitz came to a Sackett Group fundraiser.
"A couple of months later, we had a meeting with [Markowitz]
and his aides where we expressed the desire to establish a permanent
home in Brooklyn," says Haft. "They suggested a couple
of underutilized spaces in Brooklyn, among them the Brooklyn
Music School Playhouse [BMS Playhouse]."
Subsequently, Liz Koch, of the borough president’s office, contacted
Karen Krieger, executive director of the Brooklyn Music School,
to lay the groundwork.
"Over the next 18 months, we met, we negotiated and the
two boards ratified a collaboration agreement," says Haft.
And this spring the Sackett Group announced its premiere season
as the resident company at the BMS Playhouse at 126 St. Felix
St. – in the heart of the BAM Cultural District.
"[The Sackett Group] has a stage expertise that, hopefully,
we can bring to our students at a later date," Krieger told
GO Brooklyn. "So we can offer theater as part of our curriculum
down the road."
Members of the Sackett Group have already helped the Brooklyn
Music School with lighting for its production of "A Brooklyn
Nutcracker," staged last December, as well as the June dance
Haft and Weinstein, the group’s artistic director, plan to stage
four productions, beginning with Tennessee Williams’ "Suddenly
Last Summer" (which opened on July 14 and continues through
Aug. 7). The three other productions this season are "Women’s
Work V," the Sackett Group’s fifth festival of one-act plays,
directed by six of the city’s emerging female directors (Oct.
26-Nov. 20); Arthur Miller’s little-known "The American
Clock" (Jan. 26-Feb. 12); and the world premiere of Joe
Costanza’s "One Big Happy Family" (April 27-May 21).
"We have to work around [Brooklyn Music School’s] needs.
They use the space for classes, recitals and several performances,"
says Haft. "Four shows is about the max we can handle now."
Weinstein says his goal is to showcase American playwrights because
"plays about the American experience are artistically worthy
and more in line with my personal experience. The sensibility
and issues the playwrights deal with have universal appeal as
well as an American flavor."
Weinstein decided to stage – and direct – "Suddenly Last
Summer," Tennessee Williams’ horrific story of a young man’s
strange death and the lengths his family goes to suppress the
truth, after taking an "informal poll of people in my creative
life" about what they wanted to see produced. He also says,
"I did ’Sweet Bird of Youth’ several years ago at the Heights
Players and have always wanted to get back to Williams."
"Suddenly Last Summer," originally produced in 1958
along with "Something Unspoken" in a double-bill called
"The Garden District," is a one-act in four scenes.
But Weinstein says that the fourth scene is an act in itself
and by inserting an intermission between the third and fourth
scene, he can turn the work into a traditional two-act play.
One of Weinstein’s two favorite playwrights is Miller. "The
American Clock," which Weinstein calls a "storytelling
collage of the American Depression and the resiliency of Americans,"
is the Sackett Group’s tribute to Brooklyn’s native son.
Weinstein is also looking forward to producing original plays.
"Over [The Sackett Group’s] 10-plus years of existence,
we’ve come in contact with writers whose work has appealed to
us on many, many levels – not only American, but New York City
– and Brooklyn-content playwrights who need a voice as well,"
Joe Costanza, who hails from Queens, is a working Hollywood actor
whom Haft met in the early ’80s while doing his Actors Equity
apprenticeship at the Falmouth Playhouse in Cape Cod. Both Joe
and his brother George were young friends of Jerry Seinfeld,
and Weinstein says that George is partly the inspiration behind
the "Seinfeld" character of the same name. Joe will
be coming back east to direct his play about the everyday adventures
of a Queens family in July 1979.
With this new joint venture of the Brooklyn Music School and
the Sackett Group, the BMS Playhouse, once known as "the
Little Opera House" because of its proximity to the Brooklyn
Academy of Music’s Opera House, will again become part of the
borough’s theatrical life.
The Sackett Group’s production of "Suddenly
Last Summer" continues through Aug. 7 at the BMS Playhouse
at 126 St. Felix St.at Lafayette Avenue in Fort Greene. Performances
are Thursday through Saturday, at 8 pm, and Sundays, at 5 pm.
Tickets are $19; a season subscription is $65. For tickets, call
(212) 868-4444. For more information, visit the Web site www.sackettgroup.org.