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Staten Island Theater Company Sees Ferry as a 'Microcosm of Life'

By Nicholas Rizzi | January 23, 2013 10:14am

STATEN ISLAND — A local theater company is set to feature the everyday drama of Staten Island Ferry commuters in short plays that may be packed with camera-wielding tourists, onboard break-ups — even weddings.

The Sundog Theatre company's 11th annual “Scenes from the Staten Island Ferry" sets sail in March, offering six one-act plays that use the commuter boat as a key character, not just a backdrop.

"We like to have them, as much as possible, refer [to] the ferry,” said Susan Fenley, executive director of Sundog Theatre.

Sundog receives scripts from writers all over the country and has even taken entries from as far away as Greece and Italy. The six best come to life on stage in Staten Island and Manhattan.

Fenley said the idea for the unique setting came in part from a friend who wrote plays set on the A train. But the unpredictability of events on board the ferry — which draws nearly 2 million tourists a year — is custom-made for drama, she said.

“Truly anything can happen on the ferry,” she said. “It’s sort a microcosm of life.”

Each year, Sundog chooses a theme for the plays — the upcoming performances will feature twist endings — and usually receives about 65 scripts. This year, it got about 40 entries, a dip Fenley attributes to the difficulty in writing surprise endings.

The winners are still being selected for the March production, but Fenley said the show will run the gamut of genres.

“We're finding some humorous ones, some mysterious, some slice-of-life." she said.

The production originally was shown only on Staten Island, but Sundog branched out four years ago into Manhattan as a way to share the Richmond County lifestyle with its faster-paced neighbors.

“We like to take them across the water,” Fenley said. “A lot of people from Manhattan don't know anything about Staten Island.”

Each play has its own cast and director, with a maximum of three actors per short. After the company picks the best six scripts, actors are given a week to rehearse.

The rushed nature of the rehearsals dates back to the production’s origin 11 years ago as a 24-hour writing project that ended with a performance.

Fenley only expected to produce “Scenes from a Staten Island Ferry” once, but the audience grew and the production now has a loyal following, she said.

“It’s gotten quite a following here in Staten Island,” she said. “I thought after the first couple of years people would kind of tire of it. I had no idea it would last for 11 years.”

"Scenes from the Staten Island Ferry" will have five performances, starting March 9, at New Dorp Moravian Church, and three performances at The McGinn/Cazale Theatre in Manhattan, starting March 21. Tickets are $18 for general admission and $15 for seniors and students. For showtimes and dates, visit the Sundog Theatre Company's website.