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Devised work by Sita Mani


Herbert Berghof Studio First Floor Studio Residency Spring 2015


Brief Description:


This project isn original/devised  piece of Movement Theater. The work started with a Contact Improvisation Workshop in Fall 2013 and moved on to a more formal creative  phase from January 2014 until  the end of July 2014 with an average of 4 rehearsal hours a week.It was shown as a  "Work In Progress" at BAX/Brooklyn Arts Exchange at the end of July and received positive and encouraging feedback. With a clearer idea of direction for development and editing, the company is primed to enter phase two.

I am applied for The First Floor Studio Residency in the hopes of further developing my own particular physical language as an artist, and via that, the script for this work which I believe to be universally relevant and important to complete and present as it has already proven to be quite  impactful both on the artistic team and the audience.

The work explores the issue of “Human Loss” through different generations on a personal and universal level. The exploration is done through the body in relationship to itself and through Contact Improvisations.The script is being created through verbal improvisation also generated from improvised movement and physical impulse coupled with the questions “Where do I come from?” and “What have I lost?”. The premise for my exploration being that the body manifests both the unique individual experience and  the universal human experience more authentically, viscerally and immediately prior to being processed through the Associative Parts of the brain and/or,the intellect.

The stories told range from the disillusionments of youth and young adult life to the loss of our ideology, health, loved ones and our own lives.

The work explores how we each experience and assimilate loss and searches for meaning in this very human experience in order not to be overwhelmed by it, but to bring ourselves forward from it to be richer individuals and members of community.

The work also explores the relevance of personal loss in the face of the larger human tragedies that occur everyday around us.




Todd Estrin (Actor): Credits include Code of Silence (St. Clements Theater, NY) Blue Window (29th St Rep) WASP (Wlliamstown, Mass). Todd is a recent graduate of The Studio NY.


Julia Hirsch (Actor) is so grateful to be working with such an open hearted group of artists. Stop The Virgens (St. Ann's Warehouse) Make It A Double...(WTF), Through The Door (TRU New Musicals Reading Series).


Daniel Kublick (Actor) has appeared in new works by Ashlin Halfnight, Branden Jacobs-Jenkins, Kristin Marting, Eric Bland, Tracy Bersley, Dan Rothenberg, Jeremy Pickard, Jenny Connell Davis, Mikhael Tara Garver, Sita Mani, Sister Sylvester, and Recent credits: The Play Company's Sonic Life of a Giant Tortoise; HERE Arts's Trade Practices; and Sister Sylvester's Dead Behind These Eyes. He is a graduate of The Studio/New York and Princeton University


Charlotte Moroz(Actor) just loves working with the director and performers in this company. She grew up in Vermont and, by way of some other geographical stops, arrived in NYC three years ago. Charlotte is currently working on recording music and developing a one-woman show. Charlotte was once called "Maria Von Trapp" by Richard Simmons, and enjoyed that description mightily


Jennifer Tsay (Actor)was last seen in The Mysteries at The Flea Theater, a NYTimes Critic's Pick and winner of a Drama Desk for Visionary Direction. Other Flea credits include: Job, Restoration Comedy, #serials@theflea.  Other NY credits: Much Ado About Nothing (Random Access Theatre), The Pick Your Poison Series (The Pearl Theatre), Blueprint Project (Gideon Productions).  Readings/workshops with Ma-Yi Theatre, New Georges, The Lark, Flux Theatre, and Clubbed Thumb.   TV/Film: Bored to Death, One Life to Live, Deborah Kampmeier's Split.  B.A. UPENN / Graduate of The Studio NY's 2-year acting conservatory.


Nina Wray (Actor) Nina received her B.A. in Theatre from Temple University. Favorite roles include: Luciana (A Comedy of Errors), Helena and Quince (A Midsummer Night's Dream), andmultiple characters in The Laramie Project and Lebensraum (Cape Cod Repertory Theatre). Nina completed the Nine Month Conservatory at The Studio New York and is currently working in and around New York City.


Trudy Steibl(Actress) Is currently on faculty at HB Studio teaching both in the CORE program and the Hagen Teen program and we are thrilled to have her explore being on our team!


Sita Mani (Director) Sita has been a Dancer,a Physical Theater Artist, Movement Teacher,Massage Therapist,Feldenkrais Practitioner and student of the human body and heart for many years, working both in India and The United States. She is now venturing down the path of creating and directing and has been awed and humbled by the trust,love,courage  and creativity of the beautiful and gifted cast she has had the priviledge to know and work with in this way. Sita is currently on faculty at The Studio New York and Herbert Berghof Studio as well as having a private practice for Bodywork and Coaching.


Drew Vanderburg (Lighting Design) Drew is a Brooklyn-based theater director and designer.  He has worked with The Guggenheim Museum, The Nuyorican Poet's Cafe, TheaterLab, Exit Art, Grace Exhibition Space, Fresh Ground Pepper, Theater Mitu, The Bread and Puppet Circus, and more.  In the Fall he will attend Parsons for an MS in Design and Urban Ecologies.


Union Affiliations:

Todd Estrin:SAG/AFTRA

Julia Hirsch:EMC

Daniel Kublick:AEA


Nina Wray: SAG/AFTRA & AEA


Artistic Goals:

The specific immediate artistic goals for the project (ie, during the First Floor Studio Residency) are as follows:

1) Script Development: To create and integrate the stories of two more generations (X and Baby Boomers) to fill out a more complete and realistic reflection of the range of human loss in different periods of a lifetime.

2) Plot Development: To find, artistically, the bridge that connects personal loss to universal loss and contextualizes one in relation to the other.

3) Personal Artistic Development: To learn to work with a dramaturg and a mentor to be able to collaborate in these personally unfamiliar artistic relationships in  service of the work.

4) Technical Development: To explore and perhaps develop my vision of lighting the entire work with flashlights operated by the ensemble, towards the eventual artistic vision of  returning from the technological wonder that theater has so commonly become today by simplifying and bringing the focus back to the Actor.


Long Term Artistic Goals (Moving forward after the residency):

1) Plot Development; To research and include stories of loss from populations of more diverse cultures and economic and social backgrounds, once again, to more fully reflect the universal and personal experience of human loss.

2) Technical Development: To explore creating the all the sound and music with the ensemble as opposed to using pre-recorded music for effect.



A few years ago purely by coincidence,I lost 6 people very dear to me,including a parent, two lovers, and my closest friend, all in a period of two years. I also temporarily lost my ability to move freely due to an injury at the same time. The immersion in the experience of so much that is near and dear being lost at once, the acute  experience of my lack of control and the irreversibility of loss and what it does to us as human beings became a window through which every moment of my day was now filtered.The awareness of myself and of others in the face of my own difficulties awakened me to how our response to pain and suffering impacts the world around us.For a relentless period of 3 years,this multi faceted experience of loss became both an exploration I found myself unavoidably exposed to, immersed in and a topic that aroused passionate heartfelt curiosity.

At the end of this period of personal “incubation and reflection" I found myself to be kinder,  more courageous and that my experinece had enabled me to connect  more meaningfully, sincerely and deeply to the world around me, simply by not shying away from it and meeting it in an aware and non judgemental way.

I believe our purpose as artists is to be the ones to acknowledge the perfect imperfection of the human experience,to fearlessly expose our humanity without judgement in such way as to reflect the audience to themselves,to re-vitalize the human heart and to raise consciousness.

I wished to bring together my passion and curiosity for movement and contact improvisation and the authentic physical impulses that surge through  us with my newfound fascination with all aspects of loss,an experience that no human being escapes, and to explore the subject through fresh eyes, through other people with varied backgrounds, life experiences,and of varied ages and varied cultures, to see if we could offer our audience a language, a context in which their own losses, small and big, actual and metaphorical,realized and unrealized may have the space and conditions to begin to transform into a pathway of profound enrichment and personal meaning.



Project Fulfillment:

The only props required are 10 wooden crates which the company gets donated.

We have a Lighting Designer on the team who is able to work with whatever lighting facility is available.

We need very basic stage management as the actors are all on stage throughout the work and so are the crates.

We need a volunteer to run sound cues. We are in process of finding a volunteer inour community..


Project Assessment:

During the process:The project assessment will be based on regular feedback from the mentor and dramaturg as regards the use of effective means of clarifying roles and communicating ideas via the script and particular physical language that is being used.


On completion of the residency: We evaluated the project through audience feedback on the basis of forward development in the following areas:

1) Clarification of the  roles of characters.

2) A fuller more accurate representation of loss as experienced through ALL(or at least more) generations.

3) Clarification/Simplification of theme for more effective translation through to the audience: Should we explore only personal loss in this work? Or is it viable and possible to explore both personal loss and personal loss "as relevant in the face of larger more universal tragedies/losses" without trivializing either?

4) Effective editing of text. How successful were we at using only "truthful,harmonious and necessary" speech in order to keep the impact/sensory experience of the audience more visceral.

5) Lighting:I'd like to develop a way of lighting the stage with flashlights focused by by players on stage, to have lighting create mood without any light rigging, so the work is more economical to produce and also to  explore the potential of The Ensemble creating and producing, eventually, all aspects of the artistic presentation.

6) Effective communication of ideas and material.



The work has already been in rehearsal for approximately six months with about 30 hours of rehearsal put in.

For the residency the anticipated timeline given the space availability is as follows:

-1 month of rehearsal (8 hours a week = 32 hours) to create and develop the new storylines and to edit and "flush out" the existing ones, thus preparing the material.

-2 weeks of rehearsal (8 hours a week = 16 hours) to bring the ensemble and material together and to work with the Mentor and Dramaturg to create an effective flow and form in order to communicate our exploration of loss as effectively as possible through the work.

-2 weeks of rehearsal (8 hours a week = 16 hours) with the Lighting Designer,introducing the exploration of new Light Design ideas.

(The 7th week of process will include 4-8 hours of rehearsal time (as required )being dedicated to a formal  Technical Rehearsal process before showings begin).


-2 weekends of "showcasing" in the evenings (4 hours each day = 16 hours), to include room set, warm up, 90 minute Showing, 30 minutes of Discussion and Audience feedback (and Striking if necessary).


This adds up to a total of 80 hours of work to be complete in two months, requesting 8 hours a week in a studio for 6 weeks and using the last two weekends of the alotted month for Showings in the evening.


Support/Assistance & Managing Show:

We will source volunteers from our community of artists to:

1)Run sound cues

2)Attend the house and seating for the showings

3)Video record the showings for the  purposes of future project development and archiving.

4) Reservations for showings can be managed personally by the Producer/Director (unless HB Studio wishes to manage the same).


Participant Benefits:

1)The explorative, practice and direction  processes will provide the Actors with an opportunity to develope and deepen the skills of  authentic and dynamic physical expression.

Part of any Actor's work is to sense impulse in action.This is one of the skilsl I teach and I find Actors rarely get the time required to practice enough under supervision to really build skill.The physicality and improvisational quality of the material in this piece combined with the length of the rehearsal process offer the Actors a rare focussed opportunity to practice that skill in action.

2)The work being original and the material coming from the ensemble makes our creative process "generative",it is built through improvisation both physically and verbally.This provides the Actor with an opportunity to develop their individual creative process and offers a confidence in one's own voice as a part of the community.

3) As a fledgeling Director, I will benefit strongly from the opportunity to work with a mentor and a dramaturg. It will deepen both my collaborative skills as well as heighten my learning curve in the arena of basic principles in Theater and in Script Writing.These are areas I have not had the luxury of learning as the focus of my Theater Education was primarily  Dance and Physical theater.

4)The collaborative lighting exploration will be a learning experience for me as a Director as well as for the Ensemble.  Working with the Light Designer and understanding the basic principles required to explore our goal, will educate us as performance artists as well as creative artists, making us more aware as participants in the collaborative process of Theater in the future, no matter what role we play on a team.


5) Having the gift of donated space to perform for an audience more than one time will offer the Ensemble the opportunity to settle into and deepen their relationship to their roles in the context of the piece as a whole and in performance.


6) The audience “talk backs” after each showing will provide the team with feedback and an opportunity at this point to re-assess the process.


7)  It is my hope that our Lighting Designer, Dramaturg and Mentor will not only provide invaluable guidance and support, but will, while working with us, also gain a useful perspective on the possibilities of and means by which the human body in movement can be a powerful and truthful vehicle for communication.




Additional comments:


 In order to offer a sense of the work from perspectives other than mine, below are some quotes from actors in the company and from audience members after our first showing of the work.


Lois dilivio (Audience member): “ VERY strong and wonderful. And comical and profound and educational…..powerful,good length, all very very believable and emotionally true and strong.”


Jean Kunhardt (Audience member and Therapist): “ The show was  rich with so much talent and honesty and pain and humour”


Collette Fanning (Audience member and Meditation Teacher): “  I was struck by the truth of how complex human relations tend to be due to our conditioning and how it interacts with the external world - or other people's conditioning.  I would want to see it again really as it had a lot in it.”


Ilse Pfeiffer (Audience member and Voice Teacher): “The questions of relating and the vulnerability of struggle to belong and yet collectively belonging and how this ties into a political fury and painful awakening that suffering lives through us in the body and that our helpless grasping to understand resolves with the recognition that there are others and another. That the possibility to engage  with compassion through listening and unconditional love were a hopeful and inspirational reflection that was supported by the pace of the piece.”


Nina Wray (Actor) : “ is extremely grateful to have spent the last few months in the rehearsal room exploring, creating and laughing with a group of open, brave, all-around fabulous artists.”


Daniel Kublick (Actor): “thinks the world of the people Sita brings together-- in particular this group of powerfully inspiring folk.  He looks forward to many many more years of collaborating and excavating and accepting and caring and humbling and stretching and laughing and--”


Todd Estrin (Actor): “ It is the most satisfying thing I have ever been a part of from an artistic level. This whole process has taught and strengthened me so much as an artist, what it means to be an artist and what our responsibility is as artists.”


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