Skip to Content, Navigation, or Footer.

Schuster's '08 puts Anna Nicole on NYC stage

After premiering at Brown's Production Workshop in fall 2007, Tara Schuster's '08 play "Be Brave, Anna" - a classically styled French melodrama based on the life and death of raucous reality TV star Anna Nicole Smith - appeared at Players Theatre this August as part of the New York International Fringe Festival.

"It was a really amazing ego boost," Schuster said of being accepted into the festival. According to FringeNYC's Web site, the festival is one of the largest in North America, with over 200 productions in 16 days at venues throughout Manhattan. The cast and crew crammed onto friends' couches and the director's floor when left with the task of finding their own housing. They also contributed $550 collectively to be part of the festival, and Schuster raised $1,000 for production costs.

"There was a lot of pressure to do something amazing - you have this opportunity and you want to make the best of it," Schuster said.

Moving to a bigger venue was one of many changes to the play since its October 2007 debut. Schuster rewrote the ending and gave her original duties as director to her boyfriend, James Rutherford '07. The rest of the original cast and crew stayed on.

"The first time around it was such a good experience (that) the chance to be part of that group again was really appealing to all of us," said Andrew Evans '09, who played Cato, a sort of magical ringmaster to the play.

"When I agreed to do the play the first time I would have never dreamed it would end where I was this summer," said Albert Huber '09, who plays Smith's son.

In performing the play for the second time, "the expectations were really high," Schuster said.

"We wanted to take over New York City," she joked, adding that being one of the youngest groups out of 202 productions at the festival only heightened the pressure.

"We were kind of unique being so young," Evans said. "And I think our fresh, young energy added something special to the festival."

Beyond the ages of the actors, the play itself is out of the ordinary. While studying the French melodrama in Paris, Schuster became fascinated with Smith's sudden and mysterious death and realized that the formulaic good versus evil style of the melodrama could capture the tone of reality television and the sensationalism of Smith's life.

"You can hate her for being a gold digger and a stripper, but people can relate to using what you have. It's really a perfect example of the American Dream story," Schuster said. "She became the ultimate individual by having her own reality show - which was her ultimate success. And yet she crumbled under her own image."

The topical nature of the play attracted Evans to it and, he speculated, was the reason performances consistently drew a full house.

"America's fascination with her led to her demise," he said. "The play keeps you laughing, just as she did in her life. Yet when she suddenly dies the show suddenly implicates you, the viewer, in her death. It is very powerful."

"We definitely raised a few eyebrows," Evans said. When the cast and crew were publicizing by handing out fliers and postcards, he added, they found that people had often heard something about the production and would say "Oh, you're that show!"

The show received reviews ranging from the glowingly positive - including a five-star write-up in the weekly magazine Time Out New York - to the bitingly negative.

"I realized I'm so much more sensitive than I thought I was," Schuster said. "But it was also really enlightening as to what theater is like in the real world. You have to have good reviews to get an audience and have to have an audience to have a show. Nothing is as easy as at Brown."

The fact that the whole crew started at Brown and was back together in New York City made the experience especially poignant for Schuster.

"We felt like we were representing Brown," she said. "It was like a quest to show how awesome Brown is to the world."


Powered by SNworks Solutions by The State News
All Content © 2024 The Brown Daily Herald, Inc.