Scott Schwartz: Leading Bay Street’s Bold New Direction

“I wanted to bring the most dynamic and cutting edge theater to Sag Harbor—that’s also fun!”

When Dan’s Papers last spoke with new Bay Street Theatre Artistic Director Scott Schwartz, he was in the early stages of planning the Summer 2014 Mainstage season. Six months later, Schwartz’s first season as Artistic Director looks to be an exciting and daring venture; two of the three productions will be world premieres. In addition to the Tom Stoppard comedy Travesties, audiences will be among the first to see Carey Crim’s Conviction, a contemporary drama about a beloved teacher whose life is torn apart by a damning accusation, and Adam Overett’s My Life is a Musical, a musical comedy.

“It’s really funny,” Schwartz says. “It’s about a guy who experiences the world as a musical. But the thing is—and this is what hooked me—is that he’s deeply ashamed of it and thinks it makes him a freak.” To escape this torturous situation, the main character takes jobs like in accounting, but ends up stuck working with musicians. “There are parts of all of us that we don’t want to show the world,” Schwartz says. “It’s actually quite a universal story—learning to accept the parts of us that are different. And it has a wonderful score.” Schwartz fell in love with the musical after attending a reading of it and felt it would be a good fit for his vision. “New musicals and development is something very important to me, so I felt that this is a show that’s both ready and fun. I want to bring stuff to Bay Street that you can’t see anywhere else.”

The innovative Mainstage season is just one of Schwartz’s new initiatives. From April 25–27, the theater will present the First Annual Bay Street New Works Festival,
a series of readings of in-development plays.

“In addition to bringing the writers and directors from the city and a cast from both the Hamptons and Manhattan, we’re going to have an ‘Artist Interact’ panel with the writers on how to develop a play and how [a writer] works in the theater,” Schwartz notes. Three plays will be presented throughout the weekend, all free. “It’s our attempt to support writers and give our audiences opportunities to see new work.

“In addition to April’s New Works Festival, we’ll be starting late-night programming in July, where we’re bringing in wild, fun events,” Schwartz says. “We’re also going to have a summer Shakespeare initiative.” Schwartz notes that the Shakespeare
piece will be free and star a Tony-winning actor.

With all of these projects in the works, Bay Street is knee-deep in auditioning actors. “We’re in the process for auditions from Manhattan and right here in Sag Harbor,” Schwartz says. “I was very impressed by the level of talent by the local acting community. The auditions were my first real introduction to the community.” Bay Street audience favorite Richard Kind will be starring
in Travesties.

Schwartz is pleased with the response the theater has gotten to his ideas. “What I’m grateful for and honored by is the fact that the community and Bay Street are open to bringing some of these new programming ideas to the theater,” he says. “I haven’t gotten any negative feedback about the season; I believe that our audience is a sophisticated, smart theater-going audience. They want to see stuff that’s fresh and new. Bay Street is going to give
them that.”

Reservations are required for the free Bay Street Theatre New Works Festival readings. The Artistic Interact panel is $20 and includes a cocktail reception. For tickets and more information on Bay Street Theatre’s other upcoming productions, visit baystreet.org.

Scott Schwartz

Scott Schwartz, Photo: Courtesy Bay Street Theatre

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