Friday, February 25, 2011

FRIGID New York Interview - Ryan Emmons and Julie Congress of "The Oregon Trail: Quest for the West!"

By Byrne Harrison
Photo by Ryan Emmons

Name: Ryan Emmons and Julie Congress
Show: The Oregon Trail: Quest for the West!

How did you first get involved in theatre?

We were both theatre majors at Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, NY. We loved Skidmore, particularly the collaborative and company driven philosophy of the theatre department. Senior year, we decided to form No.11 Productions to continue developing as artists and as a means to make our own opportunities. No.11 was formed in the summer of 2008 and we have done ten full-length productions, a reading series and a music video. For past two and a half years we have been dedicated to creating theatre that brings to the forefront the strength of the human spirit and the importance of hope. A kind of theatre we call “Theatre of the Unexpected.”

Who are your biggest influences?

We are greatly influenced by the SITI Company and the Steppenwolf Theatre Company. We aspire towards the ensemble approach to theatre these companies represent as well as their precision and constant ability to push boundaries.

Tell me a little bit about your show.

The Oregon Trail: Quest for the West! is a new interactive musical comedy about five brave pioneers heading west to fulfill their manifest destiny. This is the world premier of this exciting show inspired by the iconic computer game. The show is a game for the audience and their decisions effect what happens on stage and what their final score will be.

What inspired you to write it?

The Oregon Trail computer game was a shared experience across the country for people of our generation. We all have inside jokes and stories about playing this iconic game but it has never been addressed on stage. We are excited to present something that is not only a fun interactive experience but also highlights the strength of the human spirit and the importance of hope. It brings to the forefront ideas of Manifest Destiny and how this goal-oriented philosophy has, 162 years later, stuck with us.

Who are your collaborators and how long have you been working with them?

The book for the musical was written by founding company members Julie Congress, Ryan Emmons and Jen Neads, with Zachary Fithian. The music was written by Danny Tieger and Rebecca Greenstein (who also wrote music for No.11 Productions’ FRIGID production of Medea). It is directed by Ryan Emmons and the cast features John Bambery, Julie Congress, Haley Greenstein, Roger Mulligan, Max Schneller and Brian Walters, many of whom have worked with the No.11 consistently during the past two and a half years.

What's next for you after FRIGID?

We are currently working on Places, an episodic soap opera for the stage that performs the second Sunday each month at UNDER St. Marks (94 St. Marks Place).

And finally, if you could say anything to your potential audience, what would it be?

Come with a sense of adventure! It is only with your help and well thought out choices that these brave pioneers will make it to Oregon. They must brave rivers and snakebites and dysentery… but you can see them to safety on the Oregon Trail!

The Oregon Trail: Quest for the West!
Presented by No. 11 Productions, New York, NY

The Kraine Theater (85 East 4th Street)


Wed 2/23 @ 7:30pm, Sat 2/26 @ 7pm, Mon 2/28 @ 6pm, Thu 3/3 @ 10:30pm, & Sun 3/6 @ 1pm

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