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Variations Theatre Group puts focus on actors’ craft

The newly formed Variations Theatre Group became official in March, but the members of the company have known each other for years. It began with the collaboration between Artistic Directors Rich Ferraioli and Kirk Gostkowski, which started in their Hofstra University years where they worked together in the theater department.

“I’ve always had such an amazing connection to the work that we do, and even when it’s not the happiest of materials, we get so happy about exploring the human condition in that way,” said Gostkowski. “My best time working is with Rich ... We’ve always been a collaborative team.”

Above all else, the group is committed to community outreach, and has made it their goal to bring performances to schools, hospitals, nursing homes and other institutions at discounted admission prices for those who can’t afford to pay. They plan to raise money for other nonprofit organizations, bring special performances to local schools and invite children to see their shows.

“We plan to focus on original works, modern American classics, bringing theater to underprivileged youth, senior citizens, and to communities that don’t have the opportunity to see theater,” said Ferraioli.

The group’s inaugural show at the Secret Theatre in Long Island City is “The Shape of Things,” an American contemporary play written by Neil LaBute. Ferraioli is the director.

“Rich is the type of director that lets you be who you are. It’s the best kind of director,” said Gostkowski, who is an actor in the production, in addition to his responsibilities on the group’s board.

Ferraoli, Gostkowski and their board of directors have already begun lining up their shows for future seasons. The group has worked together to carefully handpick each show.

“Our shows will take a minimalist approach,” said Ferraioli. “The plays will be more about the actors and the text rather than the fancy budget.”

With each season, they hope to increase the number of main-stage plays that they do each year. They wish to support struggling artists, and to present theater to the community so that all audience members can attend the productions, regardless of their financial means.

For example, actors can bring a headshot and résumé to receive a lower admission price to their shows, and Thursdays admission is pay-what-you-can.

“The Shape of Things” opened April 28 and runs on select dates through May 8. Audiences who attend the production can expect to question the meaning of art and how much of it is truly subjective.

Ferraioli is optimistic about the direction of the group as a whole. “We want to be self-sufficient in the theater, in Manhattan and outside of Manhattan. We wish to bring theater to many audiences, allow people to see the text, the work that actors can do and what we believe that the playwright originated,” Ferraioli said.

If You Go

The Shape of Things

When: May 6-8 at 8 p.m.; Matinee performance May 8 at 2 p.m.

Cost: $25, students w/ID & seniors $20

Where: The Secret Theatre, 44-02 23rd St, Long Island City

Contact: Kieran Dotti kieran@variationstheatregroup.com 646-400-3253

Web site: variationstheatregroup.com

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