AVERILL PARK – Playwright and executive director of Sand Lake Center for the Arts in Averill Park Brian Sheldon’s original screenplay will make its world premiere at the Albany Barn later this month.
Sheldon said “Custom Cuts,” which is based on his life in the City of Schenectady, is about learning who you are and having the courage to trust yourself.
A free preview will be held Wednesday, Sept. 20, with an official opening Thursday, Sept. 21. The play will run through Sept. 30. There will be Talkback Fridays on both Sept. 22 and Sept. 29 as a way for the audience to connect to the production and ask the playwright and the production team questions.
“Custom Cuts” is directed by Angela Ledtke and assisted by Olivia Walton, produced by Amy Hausknecht and stage managed by Lisa Brynk. Also making their stage debut is a diverse cast featuring Aaliyah Al-Fuhaid (as Jo), Debby Bercier (Janet), Tyler Cardona (Anthony), Peter Delocis (Danny), Gabriel Fabian (Matt), and Jason Stewart (Stone) as Al.
The play is Harbinger Theatre’s first world premiere according to White.”Custom Cuts” is a locally written play and White wants to give Sheldon the “absolutely best production that we can for his play.” he said.
The story takes place inside a dining room of an Electric City apartment that is shared by Danny (Delocis) and his son, Anthony (Cardona). Danny is having difficulty cleaning up the remains of his failed salon business. Anthony, who is a full-time cosmetology student, is also working in a full-time factory position. Although Danny is well-loved by his clients and has full-support from his son, he continues to walk a thin line between maintaining the business that he had always dreamed of and also wanting a social life. Tensions begin to run high between Danny and Anthony as the debts from the business pile up.
Meanwhile, Anthony’s sister Jo (Al-Fuhaid) wants her father and step-father, Al (Stewart “Stone”), to walk her down the wedding aisle. However, Danny’s pride remains dominant in giving into Jo’s request.
The divide between Danny and Al eventually tests Anthony’s love and loyalty, thus opening the door to his own personal and professional freedom.
In addition to Sheldon, the play will be produced by Harbinger Theatre’s co-founder, acting coach, and theater journalist Patrick White. “Custom Cuts”, according to White, is the tenth Capital Region Premiere and the 10th play that Harbinger Theatre has produced since their premiere production of “The Christians” by Lucas Hnath in December 2021.
White and other committee members in the theater group chose “Custom Cuts” for the 2023 play season. White and his production team had commissioned Emily Kleinland to create the play’s poster and also worked with theREP to use 12 4’x8’ platforms for the Albany Barn’s seating arrangement.
The Audition Process
White and Sheldon recruited director Angela Ledtke to direct “Custom Cuts”. Ledtke then recommended actors Vlad Panchishak, Mike Halkitis, and Cailyn Stevens for Harbenger’s productions of “Admissions” and “Exit Strategy” as well as with her connections with Public Defenders to recruit actors Tyler Cardona, Gabriel Fabian, and Jason Stewart (Stone). White also gave Olivia Walton her first assistant director role, having previously appeared in three Harbinger productions, “Hurricane Diane”, “Andy and the Orphans”, and “The Agony & the Agony”.
“Harbinger continues to impress me (and) I am growing more and more fond of what they are doing. When they said they wanted to do a full production of ‘Custom Cuts’ when I was hoping for a table read, I was floored.” Sheldon said. “I am extremely proud of Harbinger’s willingness to try a never before seen play. It is yet another example of how they are setting the bar higher for other Capital Region theaters.”
Sheldon and White Partnership
Sheldon is no stranger to working alongside White. Since collaborating with White at the production company inception, as well as co-producing Harbinger’s third show, “Admissions” with the Sand Lake Center of the Arts and Circle Theater Players (CTP). This year, Sheldon directed “The Motherf***** With The Hat,” written by Stephen Adly Guirgis at Albany Civic Theater and assisted in the co-production of “Dig” by Theresa Rebeck at SLCA (Sand Lake Center for the Arts).
This summer, Sheldon served as a member of Harbinger’s playwriting committee to choose the plays to produce for the 2024 season.
Rehearsals for “Custom Cuts” have been held at The Playhouse Stage Studios and watching the actors portray Sheldon’s “family” rehearse has been “exciting” for both Brian Sheldon and White.
“They (the actors) are playing so well off each other and keeping it real, it is just bursting to life.” White said.
Sheldon would not be where he is in his life personally and creatively without his entire family, especially his young son Benjamin whom he wants to expose the creative arts to.
“Without art, without theater,without music and art, I would not be who I am.” Sheldon said.
What can theatergoers Expect?
Theatergoers, said White, will see a very funny, heart rending story played by a diverse cast playing a family struggling to grow, love and forgive one another and themselves.
Sheldon said that theatergoers who attend the production will hear 90s and 2000’s hip-hop and R&B; the musical soundtrack which was part of Sheldon’s upbringing in the Goose Hill area of Schenectady, thus setting up the play’s stage setting.
Albany Barn is located at 56 Second St., Albany. Tickets to the show are $18.05 and are available for purchase on Harbinger Theatre’s Eventbrite page.