Friday, May 13, 2011

Interview with John Cooper of Turtle Shell Productions

By Byrne Harrison

John W. Cooper is an award winning director, actor, producer and Artistic Director of Turtle Shell Productions. He is a graduate of the distinguished S.U.N.Y Purchase Conservatory and has worked as an actor across the nation before founding Turtle Shell Productions. He has been producing theater for the past nine years and in that time has produced over four hundred full-length and short plays from playwrights all over the world. This includes Five by Tenn, Blues for Mister Charlie, PUCK’d, Ourselves Alone and The 8-Minute Madness Playwright Festival. Mr. Cooper has been nominated for the Irene Ryan National Award and was awarded Best Actor in the European Tournament of Plays. He has also taught extensively over the years by offering private coaching, monologue workshops and guidance to actors during the audition process.

You're currently producing an adaptation of Edith Wharton's novella "Summer." What's the play about.

The play is about a sensitive young woman with a questionable background brought up in a rigid turn-of-the century Massachusetts town who reaches for a better life through a misguided summer romance with a young architect who ultimately rejects her for another woman.

Martin Zuckerman is the playwright, and I believe you've worked with him in the past. What draws you to his writing?

Mark Zuckerman is involved in the Turtle Shell Playwrights Platform which is a writers' development program. I am an artist who loves to explore new works and tell their stories. To date I have produced and directed hundreds of plays written by writers from all over the world. Mr. Zuckerman's adaptations explore not only the original authors' stories, but raise the question as to how can we best capture the people, the places and times in which the stories are set.

What was it about this play that you thought would resonate with a New York audience?

We are blessed to live and work in New York and to be able to present work to a broad and diverse audience base. I can only go with a work that I feel has potential, do my best to realize that potential and hope that it resonates with people who come to see it.

Tell me a little about your cast.

We spent a month and a half auditioning actors for this production. The difficulty was to find the right mix of actors who could fulfill the special style and needs of an Edith Wharton turn of the century story. I feel that we succeeded in getting some very good people who captured a feeling for that time in their characterizations.

What's next for Turtle Shell Productions?

We are continuing our effort in the development and presentation of new works. We have two short play festivals coming up. The first is a festival title the 3 Minute Play Express and our annual event Summer Shorties Not Playwrights festival. We produce about 26 Plays from playwrights, nationally and internationally. I would like to add that for the last 9 years we have been one of the very few remaining theatre companies that provides opportunities for playwrights, directors and actors to present their work in a well-produced, well-rehearsed production, in a midtown theatre, with multiple performances - up to 14 - without any cost to the artist and without any outside funding for our operation, which is pretty miraculous.

By Martin M. Zuckerman
From the novella by Pulitzer Prize winner Edith Wharton
Directed by John Cooper

Continues through May 15th

Friday, May 13 @ 8PM
Saturday, May 14 @ 3PM
Saturday, May 14 @ 8PM
Sunday, May 15 @ 2PM

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