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Americana and Warhol mixed in 'Soup'

If you're looking for a sampling of America, NYSTI's American Soup, is a homegrown production with musical variety that promises to be as full of flavor as it sounds.

Saratoga resident Mary Jane Hansen, who also stars in the hour-and-a-half production, wrote the story, which covers a broad slice of Americana. Interestingly, the play came from a request prepare a lunchtime theater piece for a Swedish company. This Swedish custom is called "theatre soppa" or theater soup, leading to the title of the play.

New York State Theater Institute Artistic Director Patricia DiBenedetto Snyder worked with Hansen to develop the internationally acclaimed play that uses pop music classics and a live band to enhance its charm.

"American Soup" brings to life the Queens neighborhood in which Hansen grew up, mixed with the story of artist Andy Warhol's quest for fame. The story tells the tale of the Marcello family as they live through the dramatic and varied events of the 20th century, including Elvis' rise to fame, the assassinations of John and Bobby Kennedy, the Vietnam War, the first walk on the moon and the women's rights movement.

"While researching decades of music history, the team and I put together a list of favorites that I knew would represent the idea of 'American Soup,'" said Hansen.

Hansen said while researching the "Rolling Stone Encyclopedia of Rock and Roll," she was astonished by the endless references to the famous pop artist Warhol. Hansen then decided to tell the artist's story in tandem with a mix of favorite song titles.

Just as many people have a soundtrack to their lives, Hansen brings the family's story to life through music.

"The music makes this production fun and real. It pulls people into the experiences of these times," said Hansen.

John McGuire, who is a veteran NYSTI performer, plays Warhol. McGuire said the most challenging part of the role was making it believable to the audience. With all of the complex facets of Warhol's personality, he said he had to dig deep within himself to properly portray him.

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