A Broadway Mockumentary!
Born into a pedigreed musical theater family, actress Astoria Bagg (Elisabeth Gray) finally gets her big break understudying the lead in Broadway's hotly-anticipated Twilight at Tiffany's. Between navigating the backstage dramas of a high-end Broadway production and the trauma wrought by a competitive, Tony-award-winning mother (Alison Fraser), Astoria seeks to find her place as an artist in the city of a thousand stages.
Our mockumentary series is inspired by the real life experiences of the show’s co-creator Elisabeth Gray, who was an understudy on Broadway earlier this year.
3 episodes in the can and 9 to go for Season One!
Which is why we need your help!
We have some of New York's most gifted and passionate film and theater-makers on our team, and together with our non-profit producing partner New Umbrella, we are dedicated to bringing the final 9 episodes of UNDERSTUDIES to life. With your help, we can bring this vision to reality.
Our Stellar Crew
Elisabeth Gray (Co-Creator, Co-Writer, Star)
“The talented writer and actress Elisabeth Gray” (The New Yorker) is a playwright and the winner of the Fringe First Award for Innovative and Outstanding New Writing for her first play, the dark comedy Wish I Had a Sylvia Plath, which has gone on to have a successful productions Off-Broadway and around the globe, currently running in Norway. Her gothic comedy Southern Discomfort ran Off-Broadway this year after touring the US and the UK. She wrote the award-winning short film Socks and Bonds and has two feature screenplays in development.
Daniel Zimbler (Co-Creator, Co-Writer, Director)
Born and raised in South Africa, Daniel Zimbler is an award-winning director who works in comedy, horror and drama for the stage and screen. He is a graduate of Columbia University's MFA film program, where he has also taught undergraduate directing. His graduating film Socks and Bonds (starring Tony nominee Alison Fraser, Stephen Singer and Stephen Rowe in a comedy three-hander set in Long Island), was selected by faculty, industry and student juries, and won the audience award when it premiered at Lincoln Center, NY earlier this year. Daniel's Off-Broadway theater directing credits include Wish I Had A Sylvia Plath (59E59 Theaters) and Southern Discomfort (SoHo Playhouse).
Rob Cristiano (Fearless Producer)
Rob Cristiano is a Brooklyn-born filmmaker. He is the recipient of the 2013 Producer’s Guild Debra Hill Memorial Fellowship for emerging producers. Cristiano has produced eleven short films in a variety of genres ranging from science-fiction to dark comedy, including, Penny Dreadful (Official selection of over 60 int’l film fests, Audience Award Clermont-Ferrand Int’l Short Film Fest). Prior to enrolling at Columbia, Cristiano spent five years at MTV, where he produced DVDs of the most successful franchises in the history of the channel, including Beavis and Butt-head, Aeon Flux, and The State. He also worked as an assistant editor for numerous TV shows, as well as the feature-length doc The Redemption of General Butt-Naked (Winner - Best Cinematography, 2011 Sundance). www.RobCristiano.com
Lance Kaplan (Director of Photography)
Born and raised in San Francisco, Lance Kaplan acted in commercials as a child and soon decided he wanted to make films. At 10 he made an animated version of "Jaws" with a Bell & Howell 8mm camera his uncle had given him, and built a darkroom in his bathroom. Although he went on to study literature at U.C. Santa Barbara, receiving his B.A. and M.A. in English, and then worked in magazines for a decade, he eventually found his way back to what he loved most: making movies. He recently returned from southern India, where he shot his sixth feature, a mystery thriller. He lives with his wife Jessica in Brooklyn.
Our Star Cast
Elisabeth Gray (Astoria Bagg-Bugget, female understudy)
Elisabeth Gray made her Broadway debut this spring in Breakfast at Tiffany’s; the experience provided sufficient fodder (and comedy) for a web series. She has performed on professional stages from California to England to Japan. On film, Gray appeared in the BAFTA-nominated The Voorman Problem, and recently wrapped on Bryan Reisberg’s Big Significant Things produced by the team behind Martha, Marcy, May, Marlene. When not acting or writing, she serves as Artistic Director of the multidisciplinary arts non-profit New Umbrella, dedicated to telling true stories in creative and transformative ways.
Alison Fraser (Bette Bugget, Astoria's mother)
Fraser is a two time Tony Award nominee for playing Martha in The Secret Garden and Josefine in Romance/Romance, and received the first ever Barrymore Award for her portrayal of The Blonde in The Wilma Theatre's production of Gunmetal Blues. Other Broadway credits include Dorine in Tartuffe; Born Again, Helena in The Mystery of Edwin Drood, and Tessie Tura in Arthur Laurents's Gypsy starring Patti Lupone. She co-starred with Shirley Knight in the world premiere of Mr. Laurents's Come Back, Come Back, Wherever You Are at the George St. Playhouse, where she has also appeared in Lend Me A Tenor, Lips Together Teeth Apart, and Gunmetal Blues. She was a member of the company of Love, Loss and What I Wore. Last season, Fraser created the roles of The Matron (opposite Shirley Knight) in the world premiere of Tennessee Williams's last play In Masks Outrageous and Austere, Arsinoë in the world premiere of David Ives's The School for Lies directed by Walter Bobbie at Classic Stage Company, and Sister Walburga in the world premiere of Charles Busch's Off Broadway hit The Divine Sister.
Neil D'Astolfo (Clark Nugent, Astoria's agent)
Neil D'Astolfo is a recent graduate of Columbia University's MFA Acting Program, where he was the recipient of the Felicia Montealegre Scholarship. In his final year at Columbia, he played Joy Behar in Joan of Arc: Voices in the Fire (Riverside Theatre dir. Kristin Linklater) as well as King Duncan in Macbeth (Classic Stage Company dir. Tony Speciale). Since graduating, he has worked on original material at Rattlestick Playwrights Theater, Theatre for a New City, The Women's Project, and New York Theatre Workshop. He lives in New York.
Henning Hegland (Knut Balke, Twilight at Tiffany's director)
Henning has been working as an actor and director since 1997 in New York and Europe. Henning has appeared on stage and screen in the US, UK and Europe. Henning has an MFA in directing from Columbia University where he trained under the tutelage of Anne Bogart and Brian Kulick. He holds an MA in devised theatre from Dartington College of Arts in Devon, England, a forefront arts institution and a BA in theatre from Middlebury College in Vermont. He is a founding member of Blind Ditch Performance (www.blindditch.org) and and a founder of Scandinavian American Theater Company (SATC) in NYC. Henning is an associate member of the Stage Director’s and Choreographer’s Guild and a member of the Lincoln Center Directors Lab.
Aaron Costa Ganis (Adrian Noshy, male understudy)
Aaron Costa Ganis recently finished NYU's Graduate Acting Program on a full-tuition Tisch Fellowship and was named as one of 30 Actors on the Brink of Stardom by Backstage Magazine and The Hollywood Reporter. He can be seen in the upcoming feature films Straight Outta Tompkins with Whoopi Goldberg, produced by Robbie Benson and Lyric Films, as well as A New York Love Story, IFP’s short film ‘The Mess We’re In,’ as well as the short film ‘Double Crossed’ at SXSW this year. He’s performed theatrically in New York and around the world in numerous world premieres.
Abdiel Vivancos (Dean Marsh, Assistant Director)
Abdiel Vivancos is a recent graduate of Carnegie Mellon University's School of Drama, where he was the recipient of the Andrew Carnegie Scholarship. Theatrical credits include: Masked at GableStage, The Tin: a new musical at The Beckett Theatre, Dinner with The Stevensons at Cabrini Repertory Theater, and Death of a Salesman at Jim Kempner Fine Art Gallery in New York City. Abdiel can still be seen at festivals in the acclaimed short Groomed by Wyatt Rockefeller. Represented by CGF Talent.
Jesse Liebman (Dr. Eric Fried, Astoria's therapist)
Jesse Liebman is an actor and writer, born, raised, and still living in NYC. On film, Jesse made his debut in Did You Hear About The Morgans?, in which he co-starred with Hugh Grant, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Elisabeth Moss. He is also a series lead on HBO/Cinemax'sThe Girl's Guide To Depravity, currently in its second season. Jesse has performed with numerous theater groups in spaces all over Manhattan and Brooklyn, including The Brick Theater, The Bushwick Starr, The Ontological-Hysteric Theater, Dixon Place, and Joe's Pub. In 2009, he co-starred as Estragon in a bilingual production of Samuel Beckett's Waiting For Godot, which he also co-directed and performed in Paris. His ensemble, HedgeHog* Theater Project, recently produced FRANK, a one-man play he also wrote. Jesse trained at the New Actor's Workshop, where he studied with Mike Nichols and George Morrison, and continues to study with Michael Howard.
Virginia Thomas Gray (Veronica Chassee, Twilight at Tiffany's lead)
Virginia Thomas Gray's path to stardom began on the catwalks of Paris and Milan as a teenager. Sadly, her career was cut short by a backstage fall at a lingerie show in Paris, after which she earned a BA(Hons) in International Business and German from the University of Edinburgh. Since then, she has embarked on her life’s work as a Jill-of-all-Trades: actress, model, musician, writer, and entrepreneur. She is currently working on her first novel, and puts her neurosis to the pen every so often in the blog Gin & Thomas: http://ginandthomas.com)
Austin Mitchell (Craig Fogg, Twilight at Tiffany's lead)
Austin is the host and creator of the Broken Legs Podcast (www.BrokenLe.gs), a weekly show about the performing arts in New York. He has performed on stages all across the city; favorite productions include Electra in a One-Piece (Wild Project), Intimacy Idiot (Ars Nova), The Blue Balloon (NYTW), and I Am A Moon (3LD). He can be seen as the lead in the upcoming indie features Before and Consumers, and has shot on dozens of other features and shorts. Commercial credits include spots for Chevy, AutoZone, Asics, and Macy's amongst others. Graduate of Columbia University with a degree in Civil Engineering.
We are tremendously excited by the first 3 episodes we have shot and edited (clips from which you've seen in our promo!). Now, with a final 9 episodes to make to round out Season One, we need your support.
We have more than 40 professional NYC actors volunteering their time and talents to make UNDERSTUDIES a reality, and more than a dozen crew members to boot. With such generous donations of talent already pledged, you're probably wondering "Why on earth do they need any more help?"
But man cannot live on talent alone! Here's what your donations do:
--Feed our tireless cast and crew (we've got a lot of mouths to feed!), keeping our team cared for during the long hours on set
--Rent our locations
--Hire the Twilight at Tiffany's Costumes and Props
--Pay for light and sound equipment rental we'll need for making movie magic
--Help us defray the general costs of production: hard drives for storing footage, gas for vehicles, scenery for the set, you name it!
(If you have any in-kind donation to give, be it food or equipment or equipment, we are infinitely grateful for gifts in all forms. Just reach out to our producers at Info@UnderstudiesTheShow.com)
Every Little Bit
Every little bit helps. Whether one dollar or a hundred (wink), we are truly grateful. All of your donations are 100% tax-deductible.
And if you cannot contribute financially, no matter! We'd love your help in spreading the word by sharing the link to our Indiegogo campaign page on Facebook and Twitter.
Thank You!Your help and support mean a great deal to us -- and to show it, we've put together some fun "thank you" gifts we think you'll enjoy...
Watch our promo, get updates and learn more about Understudies at www.UnderstudiesTheShow.com
What donor satisfaction looks like.