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Small Beginnings

Boys’ club?: Julia Motyka (l) as Eliza and Nancy Lemenager as Janice in the Alley Theatre’s production of What We’re Up Against through June 10 on the Alley Theatre’s Neuhaus Stage.

How the Alley’s ‘What We’re Up Against’ climbed the theatrical ladder. WEB ONLY
by Donalevan Maines • Photo by Jann Whaley

The Alley Theatre’s latest offering began as a two-man, 10-minute play in 1992 by Theresa Rebeck, the creator of TV’s Smash, for the New York-based Naked Angels theater company. Naked Angels produced Next Fall, the 2010 Tony Award nominee about a gay couple—one a Christian, the other an atheist.

Rebeck’s What We’re Up Against has blossomed into a full-length play with three additional characters, including two women, which is appropriate since it’s a black comedy that probes the sexism that’s entrenched in the boys’-club atmosphere of an architectural firm.

In the original version, which debuted as part of “The Issues Project” at Naked Angels, Ben (Billy Strong) told Stu (Fisher Stevens), “I don’t know why they hired another f—ing woman.”

At the Alley, Eliza (Julie Motyka) slams into the firm’s glass ceiling and complains, “They told me it wasn’t like this anymore. Why is it still like this?”

Stu calls the women the C-word. “Explicit language; recommended for mature audiences,” the Alley warns.

“The Issues Project,” featuring evenings of short plays that focus on controversial social topics such as gay marriage, is a signature feather in the cap of Naked Angels, where Geoffrey Nauffts, author of Next Fall, became artistic director in 2008. “Gun control, women’s rights, war—those are some of the issues that our playwrights and other well-known playwrights have explored in The Issues Project,” said Naked Angels artistic director Andy McDonald, who succeeded Nauffts last year.

What We’re Up Against is being presented at the Alley as part of its New Play Initiative that aims to facilitate the creative collaboration among playwrights, directors, actors, designers, and dramaturgs during a new play’s development. Previous premieres developed through the New Play Initiative have included Elizabeth Egloff’s Ether Dome, Kenneth Lin’s Intelligence-Slave, and both Monster at the Door and Gruesome Playground Injuries by Rajiv Joseph.

“In producing these new plays, the Alley provides the fullest production values and support to bring forth and enhance the theatrical poetry and imagination the playwright has poured into the work,” according to Mark Bly, senior dramaturg and director of new play development.

“This is the primary focal point and purpose of the entire New Play Initiative at the Alley Theatre: for the artists and audience to come together within the imagination of a living, working playwright and to create a first production that will launch the new work to become what we all believe it will be—a play destined to become a classic for the future,” said Bly.

Directed by Scott Schwartz, What We’re Up Against began previews May 11 on the Neuhaus Stage, opened May 16, and continues through Sunday, June 10.

The cast includes acting company members David Rainey as Ben and Chris Hutchison as Weber, along with David Andrew Macdonald as Stu, Nancy Lemenager as Janice, and Julia Motyka as Eliza in their Alley debuts.

Tickets to What We’re Up Against start at $25 and are available for purchase at, at the box office at 615 Texas Ave., or by calling 713/220-5700.

Donalevan Maines also writes about the Tony Awards in this issue of OutSmart magazine.



Don Maines

Donalevan Maines is a regular contributor to OutSmart Magazine.

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