This year marks Road Less Traveled Productions Tenth Anniversary Season, and to celebrate they are presenting a special Curtain Up show, Buffalo Rises, featuring Western New York’s exceptional talent in playwriting, performance and fine art. RLTP asked eight WNY playwrights to tell Buffalo’s story through their eyes and imaginations. The result is Buffalo Rises—a collection of eight short plays, accompanied by original artwork by local artists, that recall our city’s history, humor and hope. In one night we are taken on Buffalo’s rollercoaster history as seen from the highs of the 1901 Pan American Exposition, the lows of post-industrial decay and all that’s in between. Over the next few weeks Road Less Traveled Productions, generously sponsored by Buffalo Rising, will present an eight part series taking a look into the plays and playwrights that make Buffalo Rises.
“Shall Buffalo be redeemed: and how? And who shall redeem her?” poses Mr. Tynpoon in Jon Elston’s clever and humorous contribution to Road Less Traveled Production’s Buffalo Rises entitled “Bride of Buffalo Movie”. It’s a question familiar to Buffalonians searching for a path to civic redemption. There have been many suggestions throughout the years—grand solutions to rise Buffalo from the post-industrial rubble—and Mr. Elston runs through many of them in his high voltage satire. The answer, it seems, lies in Hollywood. Or more specifically, Hollywood in Buffalo-land. It’s a glamorous solution, and one oddly prescient given our city’s summer guests from Tinsel town.
Movies are nothing new to Buffalo, or perhaps I should say Buffalo is not a new find for movies. In fact, over 200 films have been filmed in Buffalo—albeit the majority of them were around the turn of the twentieth century and dealt with the Pan Am Exposition. To look at more recent times, and movies you actually have a chance of catching on Netflix, we have an increasing Buffalo presence in movies from the eighties on up to today. Hide in Plain Sight, Tuck Everlasting, Best Friends, Canadian Bacon, The Savages, Proud, Manna From Heaven—all boast shots of our streets, skyline or stray building or two. Of course the one that still has people reminiscing with fondness and pride is The Natural, starring Robert Redford. The beloved baseball flick needed the ideal location to capture the spirit of America’s past-time in the 1930s—preferably empty enough to film in. Buffalo had spirit and space in spades. While the film was not set in Buffalo, it utilized many of our greatest landmarks including Parkside Candy Shoppe, the Ellicott Square Building, War Memorial Stadium, Central Terminal, and the Psychiatric Center. It brought attention to our architectural history, archived for posterity locations we no longer have, and shed a beautiful light on Buffalo—it just wasn’t called Buffalo.
And then there are the films that use Buffalo as their setting not just their backdrop. Movies like Buffalo ’66, Bruce Almighty, Henry’s Crime, and Queen City, which not only using our name and profile but reflected our culture and community. They capture our snow and our sports, our economic hardships and our resilience. This is not to mention the multitude of independent films that have increasingly taken stage on Buffalo streets. And yet, the breakout hit that raises Buffalo to new heights, puts us on the map and makes a hot commodity still eludes us. But with the increasing traffic of filmmakers and stars, Buffalo’s bound to be noticed. After the four week production stint of The American Side from Buffalonian Greg Stuhr, however, who knows what’s next? Perhaps this isn’t the solution for Buffalo—perhaps there isn’t one grand redeeming plan. But in the meantime it’s fun.
Jon Elston, with his sincerity and disarming humor, allows us to laugh at ourselves and our follies while sneaking in some perceptive points about our state of affairs. It’s his practiced pen that makes “Bride of Buffalo Movie” cover so much ground in so little time. As co-founder of Road Less Traveled Productions, Literary Manager, Resident Playwright and founder of The Emmanuel Fried New Play Workshop, he’s no stranger to crafting new and successful plays. He is a three time recipient of Artvoice’s Best Playwright Award, with a fourth win for Best Writer when Playwright was not an option. His work includes Triangles: The Elliptical; The Peddler’s Bones; Private Viewing; Interrogation Room (Artie Award for Best New Play); ProJect Buffalo Movie; American Deal (with Tom Naples); an adaptation of Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra; and 2012: End of the Road. His plays have been presented at the Kennedy Center in Washington DC and Circle in the Square in NYC.
Buffalo Rises, directed by Scott Behrend, premieres September 13, 2013 at Road Less Traveled Productions theater inside Market Arcade Film & Arts Center on Main Street in Buffalo. Shows are Thursday through Saturday at 7:30pm and Sunday at 2pm (with the exception of Friday, September 20th at 8pm for Curtain Up!). Tickets are $33 for Adults, $15 for students. For more information and to purchase tickets visit www.roadlesstraveledproductions.org.
see buffalo rises #3 – On the Eastern Shores of Lake Erie by Justin Karcher
see buffalo rises #2 - Good Neighbors: Caitlin McAneny
see buffalo rises #1 – The Man Who Saved the President, Almost by Gary Earl Ross