Coping and Plath. at FringeNYC

Alumni Artist

Coping and Plath. at FringeNYC

Featuring Columbia alumni productions

The New York International Fringe Festival, also known as “FringeNYC,” has become one of the seminal multi-arts events in the country. Founded in 1997, the festival takes place over the course of two weeks, more than 20 stages, and over 200 shows. The performances range from traditional theatre and solo performances to multi-media presentations and vaudeville acts. The Fringe Festival has given birth to such noteworthy works as Urinetown, Dog Sees God, and the American English-language premiere of The Black Rider.

Columbia pride runs through two particular shows at this year’s festival. Jacob Marx Rice ʼ12CC penned the new play Coping, of which Diana Levy ʼ12CC serves as the Press and Marketing Director. The musical Plath. features a bevy of alumni and students behind the scenes, including Fernanda Douglas current Columbia College student (Music), Molly Heller ʼ15GS (Book & Lyrics), Emily Feinstein ‘14BC (Director), Alex Donnelly ʼ14CC (Producer), Allie Carieri ʼ15CC (Artistic Producer), Amelia Lembeck ‘14BC (Stage Manager), Dana Jones current Barnard College student (ACR), and Mariana Benjamin current Barnard College student (Marketing Director).

Coping is “a pitch black comedy about love, family and the absurdity of death.” The play depicts the aftermath of a 25-year old’s suicide as his friends and loved ones try to both cope with his loss and confront their own demons about mental illness. Jacob Marx Rice won the 2014 FringeNYC Excellence in Playwriting Award for his play Chemistry, the 2012 Seymour Brick Memorial Prize for Playwriting, and was a finalist at the 2015 Eugene O’Neill Theatre Center National Playwrights Conference. He credits his alma mater with preparing him for the rigors of the world of professional theatre, “Columbia was an artistic playground. I had twelve productions of plays I wrote in college, many of them supported by CAA, and it allowed me to try crazy things. When I got out of college, I had more experience than other people my age. I had learned how to hustle effectively. I had made more mistakes to learn from. I had built a network of artists.”

Among that network of artists is Diana Levy, who had started collaborating with Jacob Marx Rice back in 2012. “Columbia student theatre gave me a chance to stretch my wings and explore my talents in ways I'd never considered before,” she says on her time at Columbia. “I'd acted in high school plays, but never realized how much there is to do on the producing side. Working with groups like King's Crown Shakespeare Troupe and Latenite Theatre gave me space to learn how to produce and market theatre, with the safety net of a faculty advisor and students who were happy to teach me the ropes.” You can find more information about Coping on its official website here and its Twitter page here.

Plath. is a new musical about the life of the titular figure Sylvia Plath, a poet and novelist most well known for her work The Bell Jar. According to the show’s official website, “Plath. follows the story of Sylvia Plath's turbulent years at Smith College.  With the help of her psychologist, Plath reflects on the words and stories of her journal that she wrote during this trying portion of her young life. Her poetry and prose inform the text of this innovative, witty, and thoughtful piece of new musical theatre that explores themes of insecurity, alienation, and love.” Plath. premiered last fall at Columbia’s Glicker Milstein Theatre. Molly Heller, the show’s bookwriter and lyricist, is extremely grateful to continue the evolution of her project, “Columbia provided me the opportunity to take artistic risks and find my creative voice. I feel incredibly lucky to have the chance to take these fresh skills and immediately begin work on my first post-graduate professional production.”

Fernanda Douglas and Molly Heller also both worked that fall on the 121st Columbia Varsity Show as composer and director, respectively. “Molly and Fernanda's score is really spectacular and unlike music I've heard before from other young musical theatre composers, so to be a part of that groundfloor is really special. It's also a pleasure to work with my peers from Columbia theatre in new contexts,” says Allie Carieri, the Artistic Producer and a Columbia College alumna who also worked on the Varsity Show. “I think part of that is getting to work on these shows with a group of students who have the same mindset and work ethic: the creative team side of student theatre at Columbia is very all hands on deck, and requires a lot of time, a lot of dedication, and a patience, and having a team of artists on Plath. who bring that same focus and love to this project as they would one at Columbia makes putting up a show so rewarding.” For more information, please visit the show’s Facebook page here.

Coping will play on August 16, 19, 22, 26, and 28 at Teatro SEA at the Clemente, while Plath. will take the stage on August 20, 23, 25, 27, and 29 at the 14th Street Y. To purchase tickets and see information about more shows at this year’s festival, please visit the official FringeNYC website.