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Global artist group LoNyLA hones work via webcasts

The long struggle to get a show from script to stage or screen may be getting a lot shorter -- via the Web.
/ Source: Reuters

The long struggle to get a show from script to stage or screen may be getting a lot shorter -- via the Web.

Screenplays and plays that for years have "made the rounds" of Hollywood, Broadway or London's West End without being turned into a film or play can finally get on their foot inside producers' doors via staged readings webcast by a global artists' network named LoNyLA, after its initial hub cities of London, New York and Los Angeles.

The group invites financiers, moviemakers, film agents and others to view the staged readings, which often feature top actors and are helmed by A-list directors.

"It definitely speeds up exposure of talent to the industry in Internet time," said J. Dakota Powell, a former entertainment executive who founded LoNyLa.

"What we're trying to do is bridge the geographical industry divide," said Powell, a playwright and award-winning screenwriter. "The whole idea is to expose writers to different processes and different development cultures."

The start-up, which has already brought together about 200 artists in just a few months, has financial support from legendary currency trader Bill Lipschutz, Powell's former boss at Wall Street firm Salomon Brothers, and her uncle Lawrence Huntington, retired chief executive of Fiduciary Trust Co.

Members include stars such as Michael Steger of "90210," Jonathan Wrather of the BBC series "Casualty" and Eurasian actor Rhydian Vaughan, who is known as Feng Xiao-Yue in Asia.

Directors include Tony Award nominee Wilson Milam and John David Coles, who has directed such movies as "Signs of Life" and "Rising Son" as well as TV series "Sex and the City," "Grey's Anatomy" and "Law & Order."

Wrather sees the network as "an extension" of more typical videoconferencing and said it has exposed him to culturally different ways of working and interpreting a script.

He said that reading a role in "The Correspondent," a play by Ken Urban that Milam directed in London, was "an opportunity to fire on all cylinders, to be at the forefront of new works being developed" by emerging and established writers.


LoNyLa has also had scripts read by different casts in different cities. The mix, Milam said, allows actors to "cross-pollinate" different dialects, rhythms and approaches that led to an "unleashing" of energy.

Coles, who directed a reading of Mark Malone's "Lost Boy" with actors Adam Rothenberg and Kevin Conway in New York, found that the insights coming from the webcasts were "intriguing."

"Oftentimes one is preaching to the choir -- friends who give very positive feedback," he said. The response was "more visceral" in New York, while it was "more analytical" in London, where "Lost Boy" was watched in a webcast.

In the long run, the potential to expose producers, financiers and agents to a script is "enormous," Coles said, noting the wonders it could do for regional theater groups.

As LoNyLa grows to more cities -- Hong Kong and Taipei are scheduled to go online next -- the group is considering mounting an international festival of play readings.

Pun Bandhu, an actor whose ZenDog Productions produced "Spring Awakening" and "Glengarry Glen Ross" on Broadway, sees the network as a way to break down cultural barriers.

"I may have assumptions of Chinese theater that may turn out to be totally wrong" after seeing a show, said Bandhu, who encounters stereotyping as an Asian-American actor.

"It's about creating a global consciousness, being aware that we're not U.S.-centric anymore, and this could fundamentally change the type of art being created."