David Roberts, Chief New York Critic
Playwright Craig Donnelly will be featured in two New York City Summer Theatre Festivals. His new play “The Pointe” will run for three performances in August at the Broadway Bound Theatre Festival on Theatre Row (see link below). Craig has had two previous plays in the Broadway Bound Theatre Festival: “Adam and Brian” in the Festival’s inaugural season and “The Reigning Princess of Pop” in the summer of 2018. A second play “Doppelgänger” will run for five performances in August at the Rave Theatre Festival (see link below) at Teatro SEA and Teatro LaTea Theatres at The Clemente Soto Velez Cultural Center. Craig will also direct “Doppelgänger.”
In a recent interview, Craig shared thoughts about both productions and a bit of his personal aspirations as a playwright, actor, director, and dancer.
David: Craig, you describe “The Pointe” as a play about four young dancers who are forever changed when a legendary ballerina visits their summer program to teach them more than just ballet. Can you say more about the protagonist Madeline?
Craig: In earlier drafts of “The Pointe,” I tended to focus on telling the story about Madeline, this legend in the ballet world and how her life unfolded. As I reworked the script, I noticed that what her main reason for being in the dance studio with these young dancers is; while she’s teaching them things about life and dance, she’s really resolving these issues within herself. And then that turned into, well why does she want to resolve these issues now? And it’s because she knows she’s running out of time in life and has a strong to desire to leave a positive mark on the world.
David: You are a professional dancer as well as a playwright. You teach Jazz at the Eglevsky Ballet in Long Island. Is “The Pointe” somewhat autobiographical? Do you connect with the character of Madeline?
Craig: What I find interesting about dancing, in comparison to singing and acting is that the evolution throughout the career is different. If a singer takes care of their voice, they can sing for most of their life. Actors evolve into different types of roles as they age and cope with playing different characters than they might be used to. But dancers, especially in such an intense discipline as ballet, must grapple with the idea that as some point, their bodies will never move the way they once did and perhaps they must progress into a whole different way of self- expression. In the play, Madeline tries to get this idea across to dancers who can’t even fathom that idea because it’s so far ahead in their futures.
David: So, dancers especially, tend to move into different dance-related careers?
Craig: Yes, like choreography or teaching in the academic community. I have chosen to explore the theatre, playwrighting and directing.
David: When you described “Doppelgänger” you mentioned a platform you call VideoSpace in the play. From your description, this seems something like YouTube. Can you say more about “Doppelgänger” and its theme?
Craig: With “Doppelgänger,” VideoSpace is absolutely like YouTube. I was watching some conspiracy video online about how a pop star had died and her body double has taken her place all these years. And then I thought, well how would that work? What would that meeting be like? And that’s how Doppelgänger came to be. Mixed into the plot is the fact that these big tech companies have so much information on us, it’s wild. And we don’t even really know the extent of how far sites like Google and Facebook have gone in terms of collect and then selling user data to marketers and advertisers for huge profits.
David: Anything more about the play’s theme?
Craig: The biggest theme for “Doppelgänger” is how important is the Internet in our daily lives. Has it become more important than reality? Will it eventually ever? Our main character Sam must decide if money and fame are worth giving up his family for, but also if it’s up to him to save the viewers that count on Max (the VideoSpace star) to entertain them.
David: I’m wondering what your experience has been to have two plays produced simultaneously at two different Festivals, especially your experience being both playwright and director on “Doppelgänger.”
Craig: I was thrilled that both shows got into different festivals and worked hard with both presenters so that none of the actual performances coincided. It’s important to me at this stage in the game to see every performance of each show so that I can continue their developments after the festivals are finished. There haven’t been any issues so far. I’m very lucky that I have an amazing director (Paul Edwards) whose working on the “The Pointe” with me so that he can be the overall eyes and ears of that show so that I can also put the same energy into “Doppelgänger.”
David: Craig, thank you for your time and your charming transparency. I have one final question. I call it the “one question you always wanted to answer but were never asked.” If this doesn’t put you on the spot, what would that question be for you?
Craig: My question would be, “When you write, what inspires you?” and my answer would be, “I’m a big believer in don’t tell people, show them. That’s the biggest way for entertainment/media to have a real impact. You can tell someone to care about something until you’re blue in the face but if you can show them why they should care, you can change someone's position on anything. Putting a story with realistic characters behind any issue, is the best way to influence the culture.”
David. Thank you. Let’s do this again sometime in early September. I’d enjoy hearing how the two plays were received and, more importantly, how you experienced them at the two Festivals. Please keep in touch.
Craig: I will. I look forward to the follow-up.
Craig Donnelly has had the privilege of performing all over the continent, with the international tours of “A Chorus Line (U/S Mike, Mark, and Larry) and “Cats” (Swing). His regional theater performing credits include “The Wizard of Oz” (Westchester Broadway Theater), “West Side Story” (Gateway Playhouse), “Cats” (Theatre By The Sea and Tuacahn Amphitheater), “Tarzan” (Tuacahn Amphitheater), “Cray for You” (Tuacahn Amphitheater), MARY POPPINS (North Shore Music Theatre and Theatre By The Sea. At Civic Light Opera of South Bay Cities (Redondo Beach, California, Craig performed “She Loves Me,” “Oklahoma!”, and “Seussical The Musical.”
All photos provided by Craig Donnelly.