Titan Theatre Co.’s new season takes shape

By Kevin Zimmerman

As the Titan Theatre Co. prepares to settle into its marriage with the Queens Theatre, audience members should expect something old, something new, something borrowed and maybe even something blue.

For its first full season as resident company at the iconic theater, Titan is bringing back its roulette-cast version of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” heading into unfamiliar territory with “A Christmas Carol” and shaking things up with an all-female version of “Othello.”

“For our first five years, we were in the developmental stage to become a major theatrical presence in the borough of Queens,” said Lenny Banovez, Titan’s artistic director. “Now we’re going to focus on a different mission: We want to be a Queens-based company that people notice.”

Audience and critics paid attention last fall when Titan mounted “A Midsummer’s Night Dream” in which cast members pulled the role they would perform each night out of a hat at the beginning of every performance.

“It was a gimmick, but it did bring a lot of people in, and was perceived as good,” said Banovez.

That was followed by an original piece over the winter, ”This Prison Where I Live,” and the group’s first appearance at Queens Theatre with “King Lear,” back in May.

Banovez said the trio of successes combined with Queens Theatre’s announcement about the company in residency created a perfect storm for Titan. It even prompted the group to abandon its plans to move “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” to Manhattan and revive it for this season’s opener in early October.

“Our focus shifted from off-Broadway to the Queens community,” said Banovez. “And we wanted to share it with them.”

In December the group will stage its largest show to date with a production of Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol.” Co-produced by Queens Theatre, the play will be performed in the main auditorium. Banovez and Titan actor Gregory Isaac are currently working on a new adaptation, which should include a few of the group’s signature components, mainly a stripped-down, story-driven retelling of a familiar story.

“It is what you would expect from Titan,” said Banovez. “We have the ability to tell classical stories in unique and innovated ways, and we won’t be changing that for ‘A Christmas Carol.’”

The season wraps up with plenty of changes on tap with an all-female version of “Othello.”

For the past three years Banovez has been kicking around the idea of using just women in one of Shakespeare dramas.

“We’ve always had an abundance of talented women, but in Shakespeare it is tough to get women in,” said Banovez. “There are so few female roles.”

In previous productions, Banovez may have changed a supporting role from man to woman, but he was looking to do more than just flip the sex of a character.

The testosterone-infused drama that deals with rage, power, jealousy and loyalty maintains all of its strength with a woman in the lead role of a warrior, said Banovez.

With a female Othello, Iago and Desdemona, some audience members may say Titan is staging another gimmicky show. But Banovez looks at it differently.

“It’s a gimmick, but it’s brilliant,” said Banovez. “We are taking a male-driven story of revenge and power and putting these women in these power positions.”

And in the end, he said, Titan still delivers a fresh take on a classic play that breaks down audience’s preconceived notions.

“We make classics accessible,” said Banovez. “I believe Queens is ready to have plays like this presented to them. They are ready to embrace Shakespeare and to embrace classic plays.”

For more information on Titan’s new season, visit its website at www.titantheatrecompany.com

More from Around New York