Office of Public Affairs
(315) 312-2265
Jan. 16, 2002
CONTACT: Kelly Cullinan, 312-3097
OSWEGO -- Innovative, interactive and improvisation-based are three of many adjectives director Tom Kee rattles off in describing the SUNY Oswego theatre department's upcoming world-premiere production of "The Beat and the City," which will open March 1 in Tyler Hall's Waterman Theatre.
The play is created by students improvising scenarios based on the characters and works of the poets and writers of the Beat Generation in the late 1950s and early 1960s. "This is the ultimate in virtual reality," Kee says of the show. "It's three-dimensional, interactive, live human virtual reality. It's more real than real."
Audiences entering the theatre will feel like they've entered a hall filled with poets, jazz musicians and artists -- some of whom will be in the audience, Kee explains. He says that "The Beat and the City" will move between "three dramatic realities" throughout each performance.
"On one reality, we have the jazz, which has no fiction," Kee says. "The music is happening, and the improvisation in it is current and temporal. A second level of reality is the reading of the poetry and prose. The work has been created, but in the moment is stirred with the music and stirring this environment. The third level is this environment itself."
The on-stage performance of poetry, readings and music is geared to "turn the spotlight back to a controlled point after we have knowingly let the ball bounce like mad all over the auditorium," Kee says. "Shifting between all three realities is the innovation here, and it's one that will allow us to get such a large group of participants involved while still having the tools to shift focus."
Kee says the long-form improvisation style is influenced by a leader in the field, SUNY Oswego graduate Gary Izzo, who pioneered this kind of work at the Sterling Renaissance Festival and Walt Disney World's Streetosphere. Kee worked with Izzo in Sterling more than a decade ago, and he said they began discussing taking the method further a few years ago. "Joe's New York City Bar & Grill," which Izzo presented at the Orlando Fringe Festival in 2000, is a "very rare example of what I'm trying to achieve," Kee says.
Finding a place to stage an avant-garde mix of improv, deep character study, literature and scenario work did not prove easy, Kee says, but he's happy to have that chance at SUNY Oswego, where he serves as a visiting assistant professor of theatre.
Kee believes that having an established improvisational comedy troupe, the Shaun Cassidy Fan Club, on campus will help this avant-garde production. "Not only do you have students with a solid background in improv, but the Shaun Cassidy Fan Club can draw a crowd of over 100 people every Saturday when they perform," Kee notes.
"The Beat and the City" will preview at 8 p.m. Feb. 28, with a run of 8 p.m. curtain times on March 1, 2, 8 and 9, and a 2 p.m. matinee March 10. All shows will be in Tyler Hall's Waterman Theatre.
Tickets are $9 for adults, $8 for seniors and students and $7 for SUNY Oswego students. Tickets can be purchased by calling 312-2141 or by e-mailing
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