September 4, 2014

SMASHED: The Carrie Nation Story


“An opera with belly laughs… Joyous…
A truly extraordinary theatrical experience”
-The New York Times



smashed header copy

VIDEO | PRESS | PERFORMANCE HISTORY | PROGRAM NOTE | DEVELOPMENT OF OPERA

To drink or not to drink? That IS the question. Giving a new spin to the strong leading lady, SMASHED: The Carrie Nation Story is a beer-soaked, absurdly comic opera loosely based on the hatchet-wielding temperance leader Carrie Nation. Raise your frothy brew high!

Music by James Barry
Libretto by Timothy Braun
Stage Direction by Jenny Lee Mitchell
Commissioned by Opera on Tap for their Roadwork Series.


VIDEO of SMASHED ^

Freddy’s Bar Trailer

HERE Arts Center – Full Performance

New York Opera Alliance Showcase: Carrie’s Aria

OPERAtion Brooklyn: Flash Mob Performance


What the critics said about SMASHED! ^

“Confession: When I’ve had a truly extraordinary theatrical experience, an unmistakable part of my reaction is physical. So there I was on Friday night… a probably ridiculous smile plastered on my face. I’d just seen “SMASHED: The Carrie Nation Story” — an opera with belly laughs, about that temperance radical. That peculiar little show, from the local company Opera on Tap, had made me joyous. It was the highlight of several recent days spent sampling from the unwieldy buffet that is the New York International Fringe Festival.”
   Laura Collins-Hughes, The New York Times

“How many operas encourage you to get a beer on your way to your seat and open with the lyrics “I’m so fucking wasted?”
“This party of a show… A delicious brew of top-shelf singers mixed with downtown creativity.”
“One striking exception is a poignant aria in which Carrie laments her former husband’s addiction to alcohol. Here, the music shifts to a simple plaintiveness, and Wozniak’s soulful interpretation allowed me a deeper view into Carrie’s humanity.”
   Jason Jacobs, NYTheaterNow.com

Although SMASHED is billed as slapstick and hilarious, it’s the dramatic scenes which are the most compelling. In a fully realized aria, Carrie Nation (Krista Wozniak) reveals how she fell in love and married a young doctor who died of alcoholism. This expansive aria gives us a deeper understanding of Carrie’s radicalism.
   Navida Stein, Stagebuddy.com

“A heck of a lot of fun… silly shenanigans sung with operatic gusto.”
   Eva Heinemann, Hi! Drama

“Creators James Barry and Timothy Braun are clearly onto something.”
“Accurate vignettes from Nation’s unusual story with playful gags and elements of audience participation.”
“Mixing of the high culture of opera with the low culture of the barroom.”
   Jacob Horn, CurtainUp.com

“Never gets boring… [a] merry-go-round of ideas.”
“The production has an energetic, three-ring-circus quality.”
“The songs are affecting and lucid, as when Carrie recalls her first marriage to an alcoholic husband.”
   Ethan Kanfer, NY Theater blog

“This is definitely a show worth seeing.”
“A cross-genre mix of theatre, cabaret, opera, and interactive game.”
“The music is brilliant.”
   William Glenn, FringeReview.co.uk

“SMASHED has been making some big noise in NYC this year!”
-OperaPulse.com

“Of all the things you’ve seen in a bar, we’re guessing seeing an opera hasn’t been one of them. But if in the past you’ve been inclined to think that beer goggles and opera glasses are mutually exclusive, think again…”
   Victoria Romero, BrooklynBased.com

“A hilarious slapstick-style opera. Anyone who experiences the absurd booze-opera will go happy and with a fully transformed view of opera.”
“Hotel Elefant [gave] an effective performance of Brooklyn-based composer James Barry’s quirky and fitting score.”
“Timothy Braun’s comical libretto succeeded in keeping the audience laughing.”
   Melanie Wong, FeastOfMusic.com

“We went downstairs for intermission and we were having drinks, and suddenly, this second opera just started… totally site specific, the audience was standing around, and they were interacting with the audience… just getting wasted… they’re drinking their asses off, they’re throwing up, they’re like making out with each other, saying inappropriate things… it sounded… really comic, crazy, kind of like a musical theater farce.”
   IndieOpera.com Podcast


PERFORMANCE HISTORY ^

FringeNYC Encore Series

September 21, 2014, SoHo Playhouse, Huron Club, New York, NY

New York International Fringe Festival

Aug. 9, 10, 12, 13 & 15, 2014, The Celebration of Whimsy, New York, NY

FEATURING
Krista Wozniak as Carrie Nation
David Schmidt as the Bartender, Officer,
Scientist, the God
Lynn Berg as the Narrator

CARRIE NATION ALL-STARS
Cameron Russell as Amberleigh
Christiana Little as Anne
Jocelyne O’Toole as Cameron

UNCLE JIMMY LIQUID COURAGE BRIGADE
Patricia Vital as Lizzie
Evan McCormack as Timmy
Seth Gilman as Jimmy

Director: Jenny Lee Mitchell
Costume & Props: Ramona Ponce
Lighting Designer: Christopher Weston
Assistant Stage Director: Daniela Hart

Music Director/Piano: Mila Henry
Ezra Gale: Bass
Harvey Valdes: Guitar
Alex Feldman: Drums

Producer: Anne Hiatt
Associate Producer: Sara Noble

Freddy’s Bar

November 14, 2013, Park Slope, Brooklyn, NY

FEATURING
Krista Wzoniak as Carrie Nation
Joseph Flaxman as the Bartender, Officer,
Scientist, the God
Merlyn Wolf as the Narrator

CARRIE NATION ALL-STARS
Cameron Russell as Amberleigh
Christiana Little as Anne
Kayleigh Butcher as Cameron

UNCLE JIMMY LIQUID COURAGE BRIGADE
Patricia Vital as Lizzie
Michael Bragg as Timmy
Seth Gilman as Jimmy

Director: Jenny Lee Mitchell
Costume & Props: Ramona Ponce
Assistant Stage Director: Daniela Hart

Music Director/Piano: Mila Henry
Ezra Gale: Bass
Harvey Valdes: Guitar
Tommy Diehl: Drums

Producer: Anne Hiatt
Associate Producer: Sara Noble

New York Opera Alliance Showcase

November 3, 2013, (le) poisson rouge, New York, NY

FEATURING
Krista Wzoniak as Carrie Nation
Merlyn Wolf as the Narrator
– with Kayleigh Butcher, Christiana Little, Cameron Russell

SubletSeries@HERE (premiere)

April 4-6, 2013, HERE Arts Center, New York, NY

FEATURING
Krista Wzoniak as Carrie Nation
Joseph Flaxman as the Bartender, Officer,
Scientist, the God
Merlyn Wolf as the Narrator

CARRIE NATION ALL-STARS
Cameron Russell as Amberleigh
Christiana Little as Anne
Kayleigh Butcher as Cameron

UNCLE JIMMY LIQUID COURAGE BRIGADE
Patricia Vital as Lizzie
Michael Bragg as Timmy
Seth Gilman as Jimmy

Director: Jenny Lee Mitchell
Set Design: John Pizza
Costume & Props: Ramona Ponce
Lighting Designer: Christopher Weston
Assistant Stage Director: Daniela Hart
Stage Manager: Samantha Erenberger

Music Director: Mila Henry
Conductor: Conrad Chu
House Band: Hotel Elefant

Producer: Anne Hiatt
Associate Producer: Sara Noble

OPERAtion Brooklyn

March 23, 2013, South Oxford Space, Brooklyn, NY

FEATURING
Krista Wzoniak as Carrie Nation
Joseph Flaxman as the Bartender, Officer,
Scientist, the God
Merlyn Wolf as the Narrator

CARRIE NATION ALL-STARS
Cameron Russell as Amberleigh
Christiana Little as Anne
Kayleigh Butcher as Cameron

UNCLE JIMMY LIQUID COURAGE BRIGADE
Patricia Vital as Lizzie
Michael Bragg as Timmy
Seth Gilman as Jimmy

Director: Jenny Lee Mitchell
Costume & Props: Ramona Ponce
Assistant Stage Director: Daniela Hart

Music Director: Mila Henry

Producer: Anne Hiatt
Associate Producer: Sara Noble


PROGRAM NOTE ^

SMASHING SENSATION
Tonight’s leading lady is arrested at one point for “portraying a historical figure in an exaggerated fictionalization.” Truth, however, is stranger than fiction and Carrie Amelia Nation’s life is no exception. “Six feet tall, with the biceps of a stevedore, the face of a prison warden and the persistence of a toothache,” Nation (1846-1911) bulldozed her way into American History thanks in large part to her exaggerated persona. She was impossible to ignore, with her imposing physique and penchant for haranguing sinners—bartenders and politicians alike—with Bible and hatchet in hand. Even her name marked her out for fame. She genuinely believed her mission was to Carry A. Nation to prohibition and, as if to leave no room for doubt, registered her name as a trademarked slogan in 1903.

Underneath the larger than life façade was a foundation of “bitter grief” and pain. Nation knew first-hand the devastating effects of alcohol —her first husband, a handsome doctor who wooed her with Shakespeare, died a hopeless alcoholic and she believed his addiction had caused their daughter’s chronic poor health.  In the late 1880’s Nation moved to Kansas—one of the first states to enact prohibition laws—and became actively involved with the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union. She called herself a home defender and strove to prevent saloons—she preferred the term “murder mills”— from destroying other families. After several years she grew increasingly dissatisfied with the WCTU’s peaceful tactics and sought divine guidance on how to further her cause. In June 1900 God spoke to her in a dream, commanding the 54-year old to “take something in your hands, and throw at these places in Kiowa and smash them.” And thus Carrie Nation set off on her decade-long crusade, a matronly Joan of Arc doing battle against the whiskey joints of the world.

Nothing could stop her. Angry mobs repeatedly pelted her with rotten eggs and vegetables; prostitutes and wives of saloon owners attacked her with broomsticks and whips. She was arrested nearly three dozen times and suffered a humiliating divorce—a sharp blow for a woman who relentlessly defended the sanctity of family life—at the height of her fame. Nonetheless she continued undaunted on her quest to abolish the sale and consumption of liquor. The violent smashings and “hachetations” that had propelled her into the national spotlight gradually turned into lecture tours and stints on the vaudeville stage. Towards the end of her life she settled in Arkansas, opening Hatchet Hall as a shelter for families of alcoholics. Nation passed away in 1911, eight years before prohibition became the law of the land. While she was just one of many passionate temperance advocates, Carrie Nation certainly was the most memorable.

Julie W. Squire is a freelance writer and former arts education manager


DEVELOPMENT OF SMASHED ^

Check out the development of SMASHED in video and in pictures  — from its humble birth in a libretto reading at the Brooklyn Lyceum January 28, 2012 (where we forgot to plug-in the electric piano’s sustain pedal), to production rehearsals for the premiere at HERE Arts Center April 4, 2013, and all points in between.

Production Rehearsals

Various rehearsal photos from Studios 353 (353 West 48th Street), Ripley Grier Studios (520 8th Ave.), Ayers Percussion (410 W 47th Street) and HERE Arts Center (145 6th Avenue).

Workshop at The National Opera Center at Opera America

December 14, 2012

Featuring Krista Wozniak as Carrie Nation, Matthew Curran and narrator Stephen Thornton
– with Kayleigh Butcher, Seth Gilman, Bevin Hill, Allison Linker, Evan McCormack, Patricia Vital
Director: Kathleen Stakenas
Music Director: Mila Henry
Producer: Anne Hiatt

Scene 2: What Is It About People?

Scene 7: We’ll Have a Small Drink

Workshop Rehearsals

The National Opera Center at Opera America

Fight Scene Rehearsal from Scene 7

Dance Scene Rehearsal from Scene 3

Scene Tests at Barbés

June 2, 2012, Barbes, Brooklyn, NY
OoT’s New Brew Series: Record Party

Featuring Krista Wozniak as Carrie Nation, David Schmidt as the Bartender
– with members of OoT
Mila Henry, music direction & piano.

Scene 6: I Admire Your Strength

Scene 5: How Did This All Come To Be?

Libretto Reading

EXPERIENCE A WORK IN PROCESS at the BROOKLYN LYCEUM
January 30, 2012, Brooklyn Lyceum, Brooklyn, NY

LIBRETTO READING by the XOREGOS PERFORMING COMPANY
Featuring: Mary Riley as Carrie Nation, Lawrence Merritt, and Daniel Broadhurst as the narrator.
– with Andrew R. Cooksey, Kate Fallon, Nora Munde Gustuson, and Adam Shiri.
Director: Shela Xoregos
Production Assistant: Travis Del Valle

MUSICAL PERFORMANCE by OPERA ON TAP
Featuring: Krista Wozniak as Carrie Nation
– with Chris Harrelson, Anne Hiatt, Cameron Russell, and Kamala Sankaram.
Piano: Mila Henry

Scene 4 (excerpt): How Did This All Come to Be?

Libretto Reading Rehearsal

Abingdon Theatre, New York City, January 28, 2012