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On the importance of theater

Kira Simring is a busy woman. She’s the Artistic Director of nancy manocherian’s the cell theatre of New York City and director off the WALL productions’ newest play, Hoard. She grew up in the suburbs of New Jersey, but spent most of her childhood in the city seeing theater of all kinds. Today, she still lives on the other side of the Hudson, but now it’s with her husband and two kids. And instead of just seeing theater, she’s making it.

I spoke with Simring on a video call last week. She was in her car; it was ‘alternate street parking’ day. Ah yes, ‘alternate street parking’ day… that day of the week when every New Yorker moves her car for the allotted 90 mins that street sweeping occurs, hoping that when the cleaning is done, she will still have a spot to park in. As it turned out on this Valentines’, the sweeper had just passed and Simring scored a prime piece of real estate intent on waiting out the remaining 30 mins of NO PARKING (they can’t ticket you if you are in the car, so they say)… while I interviewed her for this piece.

Simring is a smart, articulate and passionate woman with a hearty laugh that seems to jump right out of her mouth. She grew up in a liberal, Jewish home in New Jersey, the daughter of two psychotherapists who had a passion for the opera. They bribed her with candy to see the shows at the Met; taking her to Broadway, off Broadway and off-off Broadway shows was a bit easier. Simring started acting at the age of five and soon realized that she, a self-professed ‘outcast,’ had found her people.

At Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts, Simring earned a degree in cultural anthropology, but was at a loss for what to do with it. “I knew the days of Margaret Mead were over,” she said, referring to the popular anthropologist of the ‘60s and ‘70s best known for her studies of the people of Oceania. In the late ‘90s, that type of cultural detective work no longer existed and Simring wasn’t interested in academia, “… so I did what everybody did who was a lesbian at Smith, I moved to San Francisco”.

It wasn’t until her late 20’s that she realized she wanted to be a director for the theater.

Simring was introduced to off the WALL productions by Liz Flemming, the cell theatre’s current Managing Director. Flemming is a talented actress who once worked on otW’s stage in the 2016 production of Musical of Musicals, the Musical! Impressed with otW’s mission and Flemming’s praise of their staff and organization, Simring was keen to find a project to collaborate on. Fast forward to 2019 with local playwright Lissa Brennan and her new piece written for Virginia Wall Gruenert and Erika Cuenca: an opportunity was born.

"... I think a lot of Jewish people in New York, and I think about this because I'm included in that, for us the theater is church...we go to the theater to find god and to find fellowship and to find the truth..." Simring is not interested in theater that is created just for its entertainment value. She believes, as I do, that theater (and art of all kinds) is made for us to question, to hope, to dream, to feel, to be inspired and to remind us that we are all part of the same cosmic dust trying to do just one thing: live a life with meaning.

Join us on March 6, as off the WALL productions and nancy manocherian’s the cell theatre present the haunting and evocative experience of Lissa Brennan’s Hoard.

March 6 - March 21

Pittsburgh's alternative theater company

equal, diverse, inclusive

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