New York – Upstate by Donna Hoke
Since its first production—New World Order, a mash-up of Harold Pinter plays—in October 2017, Troy Foundry Theatre has performed in 21 different spaces. “When people ask, ‘Where’s your space?’ I say ‘Troy’s our space,’” says Artistic Director David Girard, a Capital Region native who returned post graduate school and started the company with Emily Curro, Producing Executive Director. “In fourteen months, we performed in people’s homes, backyards, a gasholder building, Victorian mansion, a couple churches. I even looked at an HVAC supply company that had some performance space in the back.” This month, a commissioned project will explore the Troy’s Prohibition subculture.
Embracing and exploring Troy is also at the heart of the company’s name. “Troy at one point was the fourth richest city in the country. All the collars and cuffs were made here, all the army uniforms were made here,” Girard explains. “I came across a lot of metal foundries, bell foundries. There was a Troy Bell Foundry and that’s where I got the name. Foundries get really hot and things are molded from excessive heat, and it made sense to put a bunch of artists in a room, heat it up, and see what you can make.”
Immersive and devised performances comprise the company’s “mainstage” season, but new work is also part of the mission. To that end, two pieces of programming invite outside participation. The first is Dark Day Mondays, a thematic reading series that takes place in different locations. So far, Girard has hosted a women’s playwright series, Mountain Valley series—Troy is “smack between the Adirondacks, Catskills, and Berkshires,” Girard points out—and supernatural series. “Our first was Theater of Revolt, anything to do with resistance. We tend to lean toward female playwrights and female directors.”
Aside from the geographically limited Mountain Valley series, the DDM series have had open calls that allow the company to explore more traditional (by this, Girard means single-playwright, scripted works) with “the idea of getting that playwright their piece read with good actors and directors and a pretty savvy audience. Every playwright we’ve worked with it so far has been absolutely thrilled with what we’ve been able to give them; we try to engage them as much as possible before and after, and always do a post mortem, and also get feedback from them to see if there’s something we could have done better as a company.”
The second piece of auxiliary programming is the salon series, which is a flexible event open to all. “We started with summer, and just launched winter—never fall or spring because of Dark Day Mondays,” Girard notes. “We did the first salon in a backyard with a roaring bonfire and constructed a small stage and had musicians. I came across this Russian scholar at [Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute] and she and her partner were trying to have a baby; she came across this post-Soviet play called I Want a Baby, so we read excerpts from it and she gave a laid-back lecture with a Q&A about the play and why it was interesting to her. Our winter salon was a reading of play by Joe Breen, a New York playwright who has a lot of connection to this area; we did that because a patron really wanted to read this play. Whoever hosts gets to co-curate the event with us, kind of decide what that night looks like.
“It’s amazing how the Dark Day Mondays and salons have become the backbones to build our audiences,” Girard continues. “And those are always free. We have no intention of ever charging for those events.”
For anyone interested in submitting to DDM, Girard has this advice: “You gotta get me in the first ten pages.”