Friday, May 13, 2011

Interview with Bruce Ornstein of Wednesday Repertory Company

By Byrne Harrison
Photos by Dan Lane Williams

Bruce Ornstein is a writer-director, filmmaker and actor. He recently wrote and directed his second feature film, "Vamperifica." His first feature, "Jack and His Friends," starred Sam Rockwell and was released through Arrow Entertainment. His original play How Do You Feel? was a finalist in the Actors Theatre of Louisville’s Great American Play Contest. His directorial credits include plays at the New York Fringe Festival and Ensemble Studio Theatre. As an actor he co-starred with John Travolta in Saturday Night Fever and with Griffin Dunne and Dianne Wiest in The Wall. He started his acting workshop fifteen years ago. Bruce also serves on the faculty at Columbia University in the MFA Program for Film.

Wednesday Repertory Company was founded just over a year ago. What made you decide to start a new company in these uncertain financial times?

Money was never a consideration. When you are working with a tight knit group of passionate people whom you love, you develop a faith that things will get done.

Tell me a little bit about your company. What sets you apart?

 LU Bellini, Mike Ivers, Keli Laing
I think we have a consistency of vision. So far, we have been fortunate to be able to rely completely on the company to write, direct, and act all the material that we have presented. This shows up in the work. We can a bit edgy at times, and also we have a tendency to occasionally make things a bit uncomfortable for our audience. But isn't that what theatre should be about? If our audience is looking to be safe, turn on the TV. What we often provide is a challenge, and perhaps asks a bit more of our audience than your average company. We like danger.

How did you find your company members?

So far, all the members of the company were, at one time or another, participants in my Master Class.

Pay As You Exit is your company's second production after last year's Re: Last Night. Both feature original one-act plays written and performed by members of the company. What has drawn you to this format?

The short, one-act format, when done well, is an art form in itself. I like that it takes the viewer on unpredictable, short, but distinct journeys, and deposits them finally often outside of their comfort zone. It's a fun ride. Also, it is good for Wednesday Rep., as we are able to use all the members at once, while simultaneously building a large base audience. It creates a great energy.

Is there a common theme to the nine plays in Pay As You Exit?

We didn't set out to write with a conscious theme. But in repeatedly experiencing the work, it feels as if the body of the plays deal with redemption -- second chances. I believe strongly in the idea that there are no accidents, but gifts. When I am directing, and something goes "wrong", I think that is the Universe telling us that we need to use it, certainly before we discard it completely. In Pay As You Exit, we experienced something like that when one of our actors, Dirk Keysser, had to step in for another actor who could not do the show as his partner was having not one, but two babies. Twins! In any event, Dirk stepped into a play in the first act, where at the plays' end, we leave him on the ground, after a gun was pointed at the back of his head, spiritually empty and cowering. Well, in the last play of act two, we again see Dirk, in his original role, receiving redemption from an unlikely source. We were accidentally handed that connection between the acts, and at the same time, our theme.

If you could say one thing to your potential audience, what would it be?

Buckle up.

What is next for you and for WedRepCo?

We have a bunch of our members working on full length plays. I think that's where we'll go from here. Ultimately, I would like to be able to do 1 or 2 full length plays a year, while continuing work the short, one-act form 3-4 times a year. Or maybe something with animals. I hear llamas are fun.

Whitney Harris, Annelise Raines, Paul David Sibblie

Pay As You Exit runs through Sunday May 15th at the Roy Arias Payan Theatre (300 W. 43rd Street at 8th Avenue, 5th Floor). The performance schedule is Thurs. May 12th thru Sat. May 14th at 8PM with Sunday shows on May 15th at 2PM and 7PM. Tickets are $18 and can be purchased at and by calling (212) 726-1315. For more information go to

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