Araca Project announces 2012 season of works by emerging theater artists

July 11, 2012

Six works by up-and-coming theater artists make up the 2012 season of the Araca Project, an early career development initiative of the Department of Drama in Syracuse University’s College of Visual and Performing Arts (VPA), the University of Michigan and the Araca Group, one of New York City’s leading entertainment production and merchandising companies.

The Araca ProjectLaunched in 2011 as a partnership between the Araca Group and SU, the Araca Project fosters entrepreneurial spirit by giving emerging theater artists the opportunity to take on the full artistic and fiscal responsibilities of producing their work off-Broadway. Selected artists assume such responsibilities as securing production rights from an author, casting, rehearsing, assembling design elements, raising capital, engaging a creative team, loading in and out a physical production, budgeting, marketing and maintaining a box office/ticketing system.

This year, graduates of the classes of 2002-12 from SU and new Araca Project partner University of Michigan were invited to apply for the 2012 season. Approximately 90 applicants submitted entries; six works were selected for a two-week producing intensive in June, an educational/immersion experience that gives each selected artist the opportunity to learn about the essential elements of producing a show from leading theater producers and industry professionals. The producing intensive culminates in performances of the works at the American Theatre of Actors, 314 W. 54th St., New York City.

“We are thrilled to welcome University of Michigan this year,” says Danielle von Gal ’09, executive producer of the Araca Project. “The interest in this year’s project was overwhelming, and we could not be more proud to support these six completely original productions this fall.”

Works chosen for the 2012 season are listed below. Tickets for all performances may be purchased at

July 31-Aug. 5
Produced by Shawn Nabors ’12 and Jasmine Thomas ’12
Written by Shawn Nabors

“Cake” is a 90-minute dramedy about Messiah and Ari, two young African American men who meet online for a casual encounter but wind up invested in and connected to each other in ways neither of them expected. This play takes a heartbreakingly honest look at the unique way grief manifests itself in each of us and, more importantly, how we handle it when it does.

The crew of “Cake” includes set designer Felix E. Cochren Jr., associate professor of theater design and technology in the Department of Drama; lighting designer Evan Gannon ‘10; and sound designer Row Walters ’11.

“The Black Book”
Aug. 8-12
Produced by Phil Blechman ’12, Marcelo Pereira ’12 and Danny Bateman ’12
Written and directed by Phil Blechman

“The Black Book” is a new 99-minute suspense thriller about a troubled college student who leaves a suicidal poem on his poetry professor’s desk. The apprehensive professor is compelled to delve into his student’s past to decipher the true meaning of his poem, understand the guilt he feels for the loss of the girl he loved and ultimately save him from taking his own life. “The Black Book” is a haunting exploration of a mind on the verge of collapse and the struggles inherent in accepting the past.

The cast and crew of “The Black Book” includes actors T.J. Clark ’08, Anto Pereira ’14, Amos VanderPoel ’12 and Brittany Taylor Visser ’11; costume designer Elizabeth Gleason ’12; stage manager Katherine McCombs ’13; assistant stage manager/assistant director Raven Perez ’15; lighting designer Mike Escalante ’14 and assistant lighting designer Susannah Baron ’14; set designer Jen Medina-Gray ’14; and sound engineer Kate Foretek, who is assistant audio engineer at Syracuse Stage.

“The Man With America Skin”
Aug. 16-25
Produced by Alex Bisker, Stephanie Schecter, Seth Moore and Justin Lang

Somewhere in the midst of a wasted Americana, a paranoid artist has spent a year (or was it nine?) alone, trying to pull himself together after leaving his family. The arrival of a soldier, back covered in shrapnel scars, shakes up his world and begins to pull him from the depths. Together, they convert the boarded up house into a camera obscura, watching the world through a bullet hole and healing each other.

“Hot Mess in Manhattan”
Aug. 30-Sept. 8
Produced by Cait Doyle ’05, Meggie Doyle ’09, David Ruttura, Justin Nichols ’11 and Greg Schaffert
Libretto by Cait and Meggie Doyle

“Hot Mess in Manhattan” is a high-heel, low-brow musical comedy following one 20-something woman trying to conquer the big city the only way she knows how: the Way of Carrie Bradshaw. Armed with a score featuring a dozen of musical theater’s hottest new composers and one worn-out pair of Blahniks, she is met with her greatest fear: if “Sex and the City” lied, then what’s to become of a Hot Mess in Manhattan?

“One Night Only”
Sept. 11-15
Produced by Michael Girts ’05

The great Stephen Sondheim composed eight musicals in 31 years. Slacker. At “One Night Only,” the cast creates a brand new musical each night, complete with singing, dancing, rhyming, rapping and free play. These veteran Chicago improvisers use audience suggestions to create a 60-minute joyride that’s never been seen before—and will never be seen again.

“The Rescignos”
Sept. 19-29
Produced by Paul Rescigno ’06, Robbie Rescigno ’06 and Mike Hadge
Written by Paul and Robbie Rescigno and Matt Hoch ’06

Donning sweater vests and each armed with a razor-sharp wit, Paul and Robbie Rescigno are like Cain and Abel, but with more singing and less fratricide. In “The Rescignos,” the titular twin brothers are joined by a talented ensemble of actors for a musical comedy show that hearkens back to an old-school television variety series, with contemporary material and brand-spanking-new music. If “old-school” feels redundant, we only need to remind you: they’re twins. Redundancy is what they do best.

The cast and crew of “The Rescignos” includes actors John Anderson ’05, Peter Dagger ’07, Mary Falkenstern ’06, Phil Gosselin ’07 and Jason Shelton ’06; actor/choreographer Rebecca Weiner ’06; associate producers Sharone Sayegh ’06 and Billy Ward ’07, G’08; consulting producer Craig T. Wood ’05; lighting designer Cory Pattak ’05; and web consultant Joe Tannenbaum ’07.

The Araca Group was founded by University of Michigan alumnus Matthew Rego ’92 and SU drama alumni Michael Rego ’90 and Hank Unger ’90, who serve as mentors and provide services for the Araca Project. In addition to von Gal, Araca Project staff affiliated with SU include Lisa Nicholas, director of creative development, who is also director of the Department of Drama’s Tepper Center for Careers in Theatre, and Dana Li ’11, production manager.

For more information about the Araca Project, contact Kaitlin Fine, marketing director, at (646) 922-0673 or

The Araca Group launched in 1997 with a simple mission: to produce the work of emerging playwrights off- and off-off-Broadway. The group soon established a reputation as a leading theatrical production company; its inaugural Broadway undertaking, the critically acclaimed “Urinetown: The Musical,” received numerous major awards, including three Tonys. Other Araca productions included “Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune,” the blockbuster musical “Wicked,” Arthur Miller’s “A View from the Bridge,” “Lend Me a Tenor” and “Rock of Ages.” In addition, Araca is now the largest screen printing and merchandising company on Broadway and strives to transform the live entertainment experience with innovative apparel, souvenirs and licensed products. Learn more at