The New York International Fringe Festival is never at a loss for young upstarts, and this year’s festival is no different. Take, for instance, Will Goldberg’s new drama, We Three, which opens at The Barrow Street Theatre on Monday, August 11th, and is being produced by No. 11 Productions. This young company is made up of several recent Skidmore College graduates including actor-director-writer Julie Congress, who also appears in the production.
For Julie, who moved to New York earlier this summer, working on the show with her fellow Skidmore cohorts wasn’t enough – she wanted to make it more of a family affair. So, she enlisted her younger sister, Sarah Congress, a rising high school senior at Hayfield Secondary School in Alexandria, VA, to be the production’s stage manager.
The Congress sisters were good enough to take a break from rehearsals and drop by the ol’ blog to talk about the show and their decision to work on it together. As you will see, they’re primed and ready to be part of indie theater’s next wave of emerging talent.
What made you two decide to work on a show together? And why this show?
Julie: When We Three was accepted into the Capital Fringe Festival, we knew we needed a stage manager in the DC area. Even though Sarah had never stage managed before, I knew that she’s reliable and would learn quickly and would probably have a good time doing it. It also seemed fitting that Sarah should be involved in our first major production as a company.
Sarah: When she asked me if I wanted to participate in We Three, I was secretly hoping that she was going to ask me to be an actor in it. But when she offered me the position of stage manager, I truly was intrigued. I’ve never been “behind the scenes” before, and I’d certainly never been part of a professional theatre production—except for that one night debut I had with Bill Irwin at the Kennedy Center in ‘97…
[Editor’s Note: Bill Irwin anecdote to be discussed further at a later date, space and time permitting.]
Julie, you’re a founding member of No. 11 Productions. What are the company’s origins and how and why did you get involved?
No. 11 Productions is a new company started by myself and four friends. We all just graduated from Skidmore College and we’re looking to do ensemble-based, challenging theatre. We want to bring theatre back into the community and not just to select audiences. No. 11 has no defined style or aesthetic, rather we strive to be constantly experimenting and pushing ourselves. I believe very strongly in working as a company. We are a group of people who know how to challenge each other and stimulate our imaginations. We want to keep learning and growing as artists, and we feel the best way to do that is by working together.
Our first production was this past June. We did an original adaptation of Lysistrata as part of the Saratoga ArtsFest. Then we went to the DC Fringe Festival with our current play, We Three.
Sarah, you’re stage managing We Three. Is that your primary focus in the theater or do you have other interests as well?
I really love theatre. I act in all the shows at my high school (except when we did Arsenic and Old Lace and my silly drama teacher didn’t cast me!), and I’m currently discovering a new passion, playwriting. I’ve never done anything like stage managing before, and I have truly grown respect for all the time and energy and dedication that happens backstage.
What should audiences expect from your show?
Julie: We Three is about a mentally ill young man who is losing his grip on reality (“like you wrote something on your arm and then you sweated, and pieces of it are gone”) as his brother and his ex-girlfriend do their best to hold on to him and help him. Audiences should expect an intimate and (mostly) realistic drama with complex characters and moral dilemmas. Audiences should also expect a very energetic and excited new company that cannot wait to share its love for theatre with NYC audiences.
Sarah: The show is really great. It’s kind of dark and deep, and it delves into really disturbing aspects of mental illness. The playwright, Will Goldberg, is truly a genius. He managed to create a complex storyline while keeping his characters true and genuinely interesting. And I’ve heard that this Julie is a great actress as well. I really enjoy hearing the show from backstage every night. Everybody should come see it!