Tom Wojtunik, who’s just been named the artistic director of the Astoria Performing Arts Center, wants his playwrights to hit the big time, which means Broadway.
“Why not?” he says ebulliently. He wants APAC to be a place where playwrights can premiere their works and then transfer to New York and beyond. It’s a change from the usual mission of APAC, which presents revivals of classic plays and musicals and runs programs for kids and senior citizens.
“We’re close enough to the city that you have talented artists who can come and premiere their work without having to worry about the New York theater critics. It’s a safe environment,” says Wojtunik, who’s been living in Astoria for five years.
Toward that end he’s started the 15⁄20’s, which are staged readings of new plays. One night will be dedicated to each reading. “And they’re terrific new plays I hope to make part of the mainstage. The readings are open to the public and they’re free.” Some of the performers are in Actors Equity, and the union stipulates they can only rehearse 15 hours for plays and 20 hours for musicals. “So that’s where that name came from,” Wojtunik explains.
Wojtunik was born in Meriden, Conn. and came to New York to be an actor. He soon realized he wasn’t good at it and became a director. He began a theater company after graduating from Marymount College and has directed such works as “Man of La Mancha,” “Six Degrees of Separation,” “Urinetown,” which won the Innovative Theater Award as Best Musical, “Take Me Out,” “The Play About the Naked Guy,” “Edenville,” and others. He became involved with APAC when he directed their revival of “Proof.” “That was a great experience,” he says. “The staff at APAC, Taryn (Drongowski, their executive director) and Brian (Swasey, APAC’s founding artistic director) were amazing. It was such a positive experience.”
APAC doesn’t have a permanent home at the moment and has performed out of a couple of different venues. “We’re always looking at buildings,” Wojtunik says. “We don’t really have an office. We have meetings and rehearsals all over the place. It’s not a 10−6 kind of job −− I’m always working.”
The first 15⁄20 reading of “Woyzeck: Homecoming” by Eric Henry Sanders was held on Oct. 8 at the Good Shepherd United Methodist Church at the corner of 30th and Crescent Streets. Woyzeck will be followed by “End of Land” by Kathleen Warnock, The Patient River by Kevin Brofsky, and Sans Merci by Johnna Adams. They’ll be followed by a mainstage production of Ragtime in February.
“I am super excited about that,” Wojtunik says. “I’m thrilled to be part of the community and amazed how supportive the whole community is, especially Astoria.”
©2008 Community News Group
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