Ghosts in the Playhouse: ‘Sisters’ Follies’ Tribute to 100 Years of Abrons Playhouse [RECAP]

Posted on: October 5th, 2015 at 10:32 am by

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Artwork by Scott Ewalt.

Halloween is quickly approaching and we’ll probably come across a fair share of ghost stories. But how about a musical ghost story?

Commissioned for the 100th Anniversary of the Abrons’ Playhouse, Sisters’ Follies: Between Two Worlds is a “spooktacular” directed and designed by Basil Twist (Arias With A Twist, The Pee-Wee Herman Show, Symphonie Fantastique) and stars downtown icons Joey Arias (Arias With A Twist, Cirque du Soliel) and Julie Atlas Muz (Beauty and the Beast, Absinthe).

Sisters’ Follies pays tribute to the Playhouse’s founders Alice and Irene Lewisohn (played by Arias and Muz), who come back to haunt the theater 100 years later. In the process, the sisters reminisce over their legacy of producing and performing in avant-garde performances and dance.

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Alice Lewisohn (Photo: Ben M. Rabinovitch); Irene Lewisohn (Costume Institute Records).

Starting its life as The Neighborhood Playhouse – and later morphing into the Henry Street Playhouse, and then the Abrons Arts Center – the theater’s mission was to bring live performance to the Henry Street Settlement, which at the time was focused on home nursing. The idea was to brighten the difficult lives of Lower East Side residents. The press, though, referring to the sisters as “the copper heiresses,” thought they were out of place way downtown on Henry Street. The Times suggested, “If you intend visiting this interesting community theatre, it would be best to take a private car.”

The landmarked theater has been a training ground for artists including Martha Graham, Aaron Copland, John Cage, Alwin Nikolais, Paul Taylor, Twyla Tharp, Philip Glass, Meredith Monk and John Zorn.

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The Neighborhood Playhouse, 1915.

Fun fact #1: Irene Lewisohn founded the Museum of Costume Art in 1937, which would later merge with the Metropolitan Museum of Art and is now known as the Met Costume Institute.

We attended the preview last week. It was a visually stunning show, featuring Basil Twist’s glorious puppets, beautiful sets and wildly creative projections, all seamlessly interacting with the performers. At times employing high camp, Arias and Muz transported the audience to another era, belting out numbers and recreating avant-garde dances from famous Lewisohn productions of the past. We also want to give a shout-out to musical director and composer Wayne Barker (Peter and the Starcatcher, Dame Edna: Back with a Vengance).

Fun fact #2: Julie Atlas Muz got married on the stage of the theater.

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Arias and Muz. Photo: Steven Menendez.

There is much more that we can say, but we really don’t want to give anything else away. Better to just run over there and enjoy the show. No need to take a private car these days.

More information about Sisters’ Follies here.

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