Tongue in Cheek Theater Productions completes its revival of Theresa Rebeck’s Mauritius tomorrow, October 28. All of us at Five Star Arts Journals congratulate and celebrate Jake Lipman, founder AND producing artistic director, for shepherding another great work for a great group of workers.
We’re thrilled to add Ms. Lipman to our list of lady-influencers of the arts in NYC:
Tell us about yourself as an artist.
I am an actor, who, after completing my MFA, started producing theater as a way to showcase myself and productions that excite me.
I founded my own production company, Tongue in Cheek Theater Productions (www.tictheater.com) in 2006. Our mission is to produce and create thought-provoking comedies.
As producing artistic director for TIC, I am able to dig in artistically to nearly all facets of a show, not the least of which is selecting our productions (or sometimes creating new works!).
I act in most of TIC’s productions, and over the course of my nearly 12 years running TIC, I have also directed (Ruby, How I Learned to Drive, Our Town, Whale Song, Places, Please), devised new works (Buffalo Heights – our summer 2017 Planet Connections production was nominated for 4 awards), curated (14 iterations of TIC’s solo show festival, Plus 1), and written plays (adapted the best-selling novel, The Inn at Lake Devine into the world premiere play with music in 2015).
And there are a number of other, smaller, pieces to production that I find very artistically satisfying: hiring great crew and casting my shows, designing my shows’ artwork, researching the show’s world, creating props, sourcing costumes, writing press releases, updating my website, and doing interviews like this!
Why did you create Tongue in Cheek?
The last year of my grad program, at the Actors Studio Drama School at the New School, we did a repertory season, in which every MFA candidate produced and acted in a production.
We picked our productions, which of course featured a prime acting role for us, and then we got to weigh in on everything else: casting, selecting a director from our classmates, creating a design proposal for costumes, set, props, lighting, and music. I loved looking at a production so holistically, and so once I had my MFA, I decided to try it on my own.
My first TIC production was The Baltimore Waltz by Paula Vogel – it had a great part of me, the play was funny yet thought-provoking, and, just as important, the play has a small cast with nominal production needs.
That first production went really well, and I was bit by the producing bug. I’ve produced 35 productions since then, acting in many, directing occasionally, and getting to create theater that speaks to me. My life is infinitely richer for all the shows, collaborators, and audiences I’ve produced through TIC.
What is the biggest obstacle I face as a producer/artistic director?
This is a tough question, because sometimes the obstacles, or limitations, like a small budget or venue, can result in ingenuity, and scrappiness, that I find invigorating.
That said, my personal biggest obstacle, in running a theater company, is that it’s hard to know how to reach the next level and how to set ambitious, but obtainable, goals.
Next level work could be any or all of the following: longer runs, top-notch designers and collaborators, audiences largely comprised of people I don’t know, developing new works and gaining critical and audience recognition.
There isn’t really a map or a class I can take that will tell me specifically how to get to the next level, so I have to continue to push past my fears of the unknown and try one or two new things at a time, like developing new works with new collaborators, and see where they lead.
What’s the moral of your next production, Mauritius by Theresa Rebeck, and why are you reviving it?
Mauritius is a play about two estranged half-sisters who disagree about what to do with a valuable stamp collection that they inherit. Things get sticky when one sister tries to sell the stamps to some seedy characters on the stamp black market.
As the playwright says in the play, the intriguing thing about stamps is that it’s the errors that make them valuable. The same can be said for all 5 characters in the play: we are all flawed, complex, and intriguing to each other, and therein lies the conflict and the humor.
I’m reviving Mauritius because it’s beautifully written, and a true ensemble piece, with twists and turns. It keeps you guessing.
What is your opinion of indie theater?
To me, indie theater means innovative theater. We tell stories with small budgets, yet a lot of inspiration and ingenuity.
One of my donors told me that he loves that when he comes to one of my shows, he can see every actor’s eyes. This comment makes me laugh, because I often book small venues, but it’s also kind of great: for $18, an audience member at one of my shows has a great vantage point into the story; they’re part of the action.
What’s it like being a woman in the NYC arts scene in the 21st century?
I am a proud feminist and artist, and to me, that means producing works which feature great roles and arcs for women, and working with collaborators who would also describe themselves as feminist (which is not to say female-only).
Some ways for me to ensure this happens is to curate and create new works that are explicitly female-driven stories.
When I adapted The Inn at Lake Devine in 2015, it was important to me that over half of the play’s roles were for women. Of course, I had great source material: the book on which the play is based is about a young woman with drive and moxie, Natalie Marx. I developed the play so I could star in it, and nearly every review described my character as “feisty.” As a woman in the NYC arts scene in the 21st century, that’s a pretty great credo: be feisty.
Mauritius runs for 7 performances, Oct. 18-20 and 25-28, 2017 at 8 PM at The Bridge Theatre @ Shetler Studios, 244 West 54th Street, 12th Floor, NYC. Tickets are $18 at www.tictheater.com and 1-800-838-3006.