Theater Review - Fabrefaction Theatre Chekhov's its first full season

Artistic Director Christina Hoff discusses the company's debut

When Christina Hoff was an Atlanta high school student in 2004, she began staging plays for middle schoolers through Holy Spirit Catholic Church. Now 23, Hoff is the artistic director of Fabrefaction Theatre Company, which she co-founded with colleagues from New York University's class of 2010. Sharing a block with Miller Union restaurant on the Westside, Fabrefaction includes a 156-seat mainstage and a black box that seats up to 100. The company completes its first full season this weekend with The Seagull, an adaptation of Anton Chekhov's melancholy comedy translated by theatrical brainiac Tom Stoppard, featuring Hoff as Masha.

How did you guys come together?

The founding of our company has a several-year trajectory. I wound up getting into NYU and getting into its Atlantic Acting School, which encourages students to form their own theater companies. Because of my theater ministry, I had a small following in Atlanta, so in 2007, some of my NYU friends, including Jade Hawk and Tatiana Godfrey, started coming down to Atlanta with me to stage summer seasons. We found warehouse space on Craigslist and did summer shows from 2007 to 2009. Then we graduated in 2010, opened our brand-new space in May and began our first full, professional season last September.

Where did the name "Fabrefaction" come from?

When we were doing our first season in 2007, technically it was "Summer Stage," but that was a placeholder name. One day Jade was on a website for lost words, and I saw the word "Fabrefaction," which is a lost noun from the 1600s, which means "The art of fashioning or making a work of art." We liked it and stuck with it.

How comedic is your part in The Seagull?

Chekhov wrote it as a comedy and people have devoted years to see why it's a comedy, given its ending. My character, Masha, is kind of the comic relief, in that the things she says are so mean and so harsh, you can't help but laugh. Masha's an alcoholic, takes snuff and smokes a lot — she's pretty much self-medicated all the time. She's fun to play because she's so dark and tragic.

Is it difficult to find audiences and resources during the current economic climate?

It is an incredibly difficult time to be an arts organization, especially a new one. We've been around for a long time, under different stages of evolution, so to some people, the fact that we now have this beautiful new space seems like a fairy tale ending. It gives the illusion that we aren't suffering, and people are always a little surprised to see a "poor theater" aesthetic here. This year is about putting our anchor in the sand and introducing ourselves to the Atlanta theater community.

Given how much work you do for young artists, how do you program your main season?

Our whole goal of picking programming is to get audiences to come back. For instance in our first full season, we started with The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, which is a happy, family-friendly musical. Then we did Rent which has more mature themes. Then we were ready to do Dog Sees God, since our audience was interested in seeing us do something more controversial. Now we're doing The Seagull, with educational programs and talk-backs about why Chekhov's still relevant today.

Have you programmed your 2011-2012 season yet?

We're planning to announce it on The Seagull's opening night. Our main "professional" season lineup is Bye Bye Birdie, Sweeney Todd, The Rocky Horror Show, New Year/New Works Festival, The Last Days of Judas Iscariot and Titanic, which observes the 100th anniversary of the Titanic sinking.

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