Spotlight On: Sergei Burbank, Part of Planet Connections Theatre Festivity



The Clyde Fitch Report is supporting the actors, playwrights, directors and associated artists appearing in the first annual Planet Connections Theatre Festivity, a new “eco-friendly” festival designed to promote social and cultural awareness. At least 26 not-for-profit organizations with benefit from the proceeds raised by this 19-day event.

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Today’s featured artist is playwright Sergei Burbank; the play is Wrestling the Alligator.

A Conflict of Interest Theatre Company production benefiting City Harvest
Written by Sergei Burbank
Directed by Adam Karsten

A professor of notorious behavior and diminishing renown is bolstered by his assistant (who does the lion’s share of the work). This delicate balance is upset when the professor meets his most vituperative critic — an undergraduate columnist — spurring a chain reaction of revelation and betrayal that spirals beyond anyone’s control.

All performances are at:
440 Theaters
440 Lafayette Street, 3rd Floor
(between Astor Place and E. 4th St.)

Performances remaining:
June 19 4:00 pm
June 21 7:00 pm
June 23 8:30 pm
June 26 4:00 pm
June 27 3:00 pm

Each artist answers two questions:

Since the Festivity aims to promote social and cultural awareness in our community, can you talk about how your show will bring people together? Is the subject matter of the play — or is it more style or message or language?
While Wrestling the Alligator is essentially a play about race in America, one hopes it do its part to shift the terms of the discussion. Contemporary American plays about race reflect our thoughts as a nation on race: we see multiple mutually exclusive camps. The fact is that notions of race aren’t formed in isolation, and people who find comfort in strongly defined racial identities are markedly uncomfortable with the idea that such certainty is mistaken; Americans of all shades have enjoyed tangled family trees for centuries. Hopefully, our audience will begin to discover a new way of defining themselves and their fellow citizens after 70 minutes in the world of the play.

What role do politics play in your work as a theater artist? What role should it play?
Politics is but one color that we have at our disposal as artists; it can’t be the only one we use, especially since the shelf life of political content is remarkably short. The bad reputation that overtly political works get is that they’re not entertaining; this can be true when practitioners take their points (or themselves) too seriously — it’s good to have a point; it’s much more important to have a story, especially in theater.

Timeless works that started as satire or polemic have lasting power because their political points were aligned with compelling stories, so as the former got stale, the latter continued to keep the piece relevant: Gulliver’s Travels and The Wizard of Oz have transcended the narrow political circumstances that surrounded their creation; in contrast, who talks about David Rabe’s Streamers?