ALBANY- Harbinger Theatre will bring our 10th consecutive Capital Region Premiere, “Custom Cuts,” a World Premiere written by Brian Sheldon to The Albany Barn in September. It is helmed by Director Angela Ryan-Ledtke and Assistant Director, Olivia Walton, both long-time members of the Harbinger family, now making their directorial debuts.
“For me, directing a premiere is just business as usual. I, along with the cast, get a chance to interpret these characters, but it’s not really for the first time. The playwright was the first to experience them, either in their own life or while imagining the play. Whether it’s for the 100th time or the very first time, the process is the same,” said Ryan-Ledtke.
In a show inspired by Sheldon’s life with his father, the play is set in a dining room of a small Schenectady apartment that his father, Danny, shares with his son Anthony. Danny struggles to sweep up the remnants of his failed salon business. Anthony, a full-time cosmetology student, plods along in his dad’s footsteps while working a full-time factory job. Danny, through a careful facade of sass and jokes, is well-loved by his remaining clients. Yet even with Anthony’s support, Danny walks a financial tightrope between maintaining the business he has always wanted and the social indulgences that he craves. The tumultuous and imbalanced relationship between father and son is exposed as the debts pile up and tensions run high. After recently vacating the family apartment, Anthony’s sister Jo wishes to have both her father Danny and stepfather Al walk her down the wedding aisle. But Danny’s vain and domineering pride is too ironclad to give in to his daughter’s request. The great divide between Danny and Al tests Anthony’s love and loyalty, cracking open the door to his own personal and professional freedom.
“Custom Cuts is about learning who you are and having the courage to trust yourself,” said Sheldon.
Not only is Sheldon a native of Upstate New York, as he grew up in the Goose Hill neighborhood of Schenectady but he is also made himself familiar with the local theater community. For those who know Harbinger’s history, Sheldon directed our production of “The Motherf**ker with the Hat” by Stephen Adly Guirgis. Sheldon also helped with our co-production of “Dig” by Theresa Rebeck, as the Executive Director of Sand Lake Center for the Arts.
“I love that it is a local story and that people will find that immediate connection with the locale since the story is based in Schenectady,” said Ryan-Ledtke.
Playwright Brian Sheldon: “Schenectady is as blue-collar as they come. When GE was at its peak, the job market was plentiful and the city boomed. Fast forward 30-40 years when I came along, Schenectady began its dissent. It slowly became a hub for low-income families, which is usually a negative marker, however in my experience, served as the greatest source of vitality. With low-income jobs and newer demographics and cultures moving in, we were subject to the rich diversity of neighbors and opportunities. My neighborhood, Goose Hill, where the play takes place was once made up of a large Italian American population, around the time I became a teenager, that faction was gone and gave way to many different ethnicities and ways of life. I often credit my diverse upbringing to the “collapse” of General Electric, which causes me to celebrate Angela’s casting of Cuts. My family is primarily white/Italian/“mutts”, her decision to cast these roles with mostly Black actors is another testament of how my story can easily be another’s, and told from a completely different vantage point with different cultural influences.”
Harbinger was formed during the pandemic seeking to produce impactful work by underrepresented playwrights creating more opportunities for all participants (audiences and playmakers) interested in change.
“As I read the script, I was taken in by the emotion of it. The raw nature of the script allows for it to be so upsetting, but also buoyant, and fun,” said Tyler Cardona, who will be playing the role of “Anthony.”
This show will be directed by Ryan-Ledtke, with the assistant director, Olivia Walton, produced by Amy Hausknecht, and stage managed by Lauren D’Annibale. The cast for the show is SIX new people that will be making their debut with us and joining the Harbinger family: Aaliyah Al-Fuhaid as “Jo”, Debby Bercier as “Janet”, Tyler Cardona as “Anthony”, Peter Delocis as “Danny”, Gabriel Fabian as “Matt” and Jason Stewart (Stone) as “Al”.
SAVE THE DATE!
Harbinger will be premiering “Custom Cuts” from September 21st to the 30th at the Albany Barn, with all shows starting at 7:30 p.m. A FREE preview will be on September 20th with “Talkback Fridays” on September 22nd and 29th.