An Ibsen Scholar joins the team

Susan Agin and the Queensborough Performing Arts Center will present Henrik Ibsen’s classic play, A DOLL’s HOUSE for an invited audience in April as part of an arts and education program.

Ibsen’s play still projects a substantial message – one of female empowerment, abuse, misogyny, and – as we look at it through the lens of post-Trump America – high crime and corruption.

Ms. Agin brought Jay Michaels aboard to direct the production. Michaels, a professor of communications and theater are various universities, is also known for his direction and production of much of Shakespeare’s canon felt right at home with Ibsen: “the play cause controversy when it first opened in the late 19th Century. It brought-to-light issues that many were not ready to deal with,” he said, “sometimes history is made on stage before it’s made in reality,” he added. Rose Zisa, an actress and teacher herself concurred: “I myself work with students and I try to expose them to all matter of material. I find that young people embrace it. In the last few years my students have worked on Our Town, Waiting For Lefty, Twelve Angry Jurors and various works by Shakespeare. I like to expose them to modern work, original work, the classics, drama and comedy as it really opens their eyes to the world beyond their own four walls. Students who learn about the classics, learn about history and are able to get in touch with the common thread of the human condition. It’s exciting to see young people process how the world changes and, maybe more exiting to see them realize how so many things stay the same.” Zisa, an Ibsen scholar and prominent actress for more than two decades, began with musical theatre but moved to the “legitimate” stage quickly. Trained at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts and HB Studios, Zisa has been doing zoom works like this and short films during the pandemic, eagerly awaiting the time when she can get back in “the room where it happens.”

DQ was thrilled to get Rosa to share her artistic – and academic – point of view on this play.

Ibsen’s play was groundbreaking. Is it still groundbreaking today? If it is, how?  

 I’d have to say  A Doll’s House is still groundbreaking. The thought of a woman leaving her children because she is not, in her own assessment prepared to do her job is the ultimate move toward self care. Yet even with the “self care” aspect it’s also astonishingly selfless to think that a mother would tear herself away from her children because she doesn’t feel suited to raise them. Of course, even today this would be looked down on. I as a mother would say that even thought I am open minded and see the selflessness in her act I would find it hard to believe if someone I knew did this. Certainly the strength Nora has to exhibit is almost breathtaking. Again, as a mother I don’t think I could ever have the courage to leave my children for a reason such as this one. Ironically, the woman who raised Nora also separated from her child in an act of self-preservation. I think in today’s world Nora would take her children with her. Obviously, her husband is no prize as a father so why leave them with him. Even though her nanny will be loving I think Nora would work it out and those kids would go with her. The leaving of her husband obviously is not so groundbreaking what with the prevalence of divorce in today’s society but, there’s still something in the idea that she would leave such a comfortable situation that is still surprising if not groundbreaking. Of course the honest look at a marriage in turmoil is still very relevant today.

How has your role changed over the century since the play premiered? Are you a villain as opposed to a hero – or vice versa? It is more identifiable? Etc.

While Mrs. Linde is sometimes viewed as a villain in the end for not having accepted Krogstad’s offer to retrieve the letter, I think it’s quite the opposite. I think it’s hope and trust that push her to reject Krogstad’s offer. I believe she becomes so taken and filled with new hope that things are going to be better that she truly believes Nora has nothing to worry about. She feels that she will help restore balance to her friend’s marriage once everything is out in the open. I don’t know that the role has changed but I do know that my view of the role has changed over the years. When I first read this play as a young actor in my early twenties I definitely thought Christine was a villain. I thought, “if she’d just let Krogstad retrieve the letter both she and Nora would be happy”. Now I realize that Nora would in fact be trapped in a sham of a marriage with a guy who is pretty much a jerk had Christine acted differently. Also, interestingly, I have some parallels in my life now in regards to caring for loved ones and maybe sacrificing some of my plans to do so and I think that brings out some empathy for her. Additionally, because I have children and have always wanted to be a mother I can see how someone would be so motivated by the idea of having someone to love and care for.

What are your next projects? 

Later this month I will be reading a new short play “Life Expectancy” written by wonderfully talented playwright Kevin Clancy. Then, in May, I will be shooting a film “I Love Your Stupid Face” written another fantastic writer Rob LoManto.

A minute with a person of “Substance”

PLAYFUL SUBSTANCE IS BACK! 

Bree O’Connor and her team of performance artists have been working all through the pandemic to create new opportunities and projects so that when the doors begin to open (as rumor has it they are now entertaining the notion), they are ready to expand minds and open hearts to what’s going on around us through the powerful medium of theatre.

The first project on their agenda is The PS Writers’ Room, a collaborative writing workshop is now in a pilot-testing phase where writers get practical experience pitching and choosing projects and building a successful writers room of their own including navigating the culture of the room, organizing work flow, setting goals, brainstorming, managing expectations and meeting goals. This collaborative, peer-to-peer learning environment is sponsored by Final Draft. Final Draft, A Cast & Crew Company, has published Final Draft® software –the number one screenwriting application in the world –- for 30 years. Final Draft automatically paginates and formats your script to industry standards, allowing writers to focus on what they do best – writing scripts. Used by such industry giants as J.J. Abrams, James Cameron and Aaron Sorkin, Final Draft software is the professional’s choice and the entertainment industry standard. In addition to its flagship software product, Final Draft offers the annual Big Break® Contest, a screenwriting competition that launches careers and awards over $100,000 in cash and prizes. Final Draft also offers Final Draft Mobile for iPhone and iPad, making creativity truly portable. To learn more about Final Draft and its products and services, visit www.finaldraft.com


Following that is the PS Writers’ Groups, which has spent this past year fostering developmental readings of Mr. & Mrs. Garbo by Raphael Perahia, Barometric Pressure by Bree O’Connor, Passing and Failing in Paradise by Tori Barron, Setting the Sky on Fire by Niki Hatzidis, and currently, Lauren Lindsey White’s new play CAM (which will be having a reading later this spring) is expanding. Writers’ Groups are currently operating online but will slowly phase in a hybrid model of online and IRL sessions to accommodate playwrights and screenwriters outside of NYC.

Congratulations to Writers’ Group Member, Jacqueline Reason for her essay “House Parties,” receiving First Prize in the Writing Black Joy competition in celebration of Boston’s Black Joy Day.

One-on-one writing/project development coaching is also available, providing practical and artistic assistance to creators putting up their own work. Whether you are writing a novel, screenplay, play or a solo project, our facilitators can help you with everything from organizing your material to going deeper with your character work to helping you find and strengthen your unique voice. 

PS will also be sponsoring Zoom performances and readings; the return of their writer’s networking event, Pithy Party, a series of collaborative projects with Infinite Variety Productions, and other classes, workshops, and a new residency project all coming this fall.

For all of these groups and projects, please contact artisticdirector@playfulsubstance.com for further details. 

To arrange interviews or articles with the company of Playful Substance, contact jmcommnet@gmail.com

The honorable Cristina Garcia, Associate Court Attorney for Kings County Criminal Court, and a member of Playful Substance offered up her excitement at the new chapter in the life of this important company.

SO, PLAYFUL SUBSTANCE IS BACK! WHAT MADE YOU CHOOSE NOW TO RETURN?

We would have been out here sooner but we had to wait until it was safe to return. Now that infection rates are going down and people are getting vaccinated it feels safe to share with the world what we’ve been writing, planning and creating before and during the shut down. We miss our audience. We have so much to share with you!

WHAT IS THE OVERALL MISSION OF PLAYFUL SUBSTANCE?

Playful Substance is a safe space to nurture your ideas and be creative with other like-minded people. We are all about making sure that all voices are heard, all points of view respected, and that everyone gets a chance to play.

HOW HAVE YOU -AND YOUR MEMBERS- FARED DURING LOCK-DOWN AND PANDEMIC?

It has been tough not seeing my Playful Substance peeps in person. Rehearsing and sharing new work with them in person is always amazingly inspiring and just plain fun. However, our writer’s groups have stayed active during the pandemic (We’ve got a lot of new and exciting work that came out of all the heartbreak and all the loss that we’ve suffered this past year) and we’ve jumped on every chance to collaborate with each other and other companies via Zoom. We may not have been in physical contact but we’ve still been sharing our work, our thoughts and ideas. I’m excited about putting that out there for our audience to see. Not to toot our own horn, but we’ve got a lot of talent in this company.

WHAT CAN WE EXPECT TO SEE IN THE FUTURE?

In the future, you can expect to see the debut of Lauren White’s Tell Me. We were in the middle of rehearsals when the city shut down. I can’t wait to get back to it. We don’t have a date set just yet but we’ll be sharing this amazing work with you as soon as we can. I’m hoping for a Pithy Party where we can share works in progress with our audience. Those are always a blast! And I’m looking forward to more opportunities for the company to come together and just play (brainstorm, share ideas, etc.). Beautiful things happen when our company comes together.

WHAT DO YOU THINK THE NEW ARTISTIC CLIMATE WILL BE POST-COVID?

I’m not sure exactly what to expect. That’s part of what makes our return so exciting. Socially distanced theater audiences? More Zoom readings? I don’t know. What I do know is that both artists and audience are eager for a creative space to process the isolation, the loss, the social upheaval, movements for justice, elections, disappointments, etc. that we all experienced this past year. Artists in general, and this company in particular, have a way of expressing the ups and the downs of life in ways that are uplifting and inspiring. Whatever the new artistic climate will be, it will not be lacking in beauty and creativity.

Infinite Variety Productions and WLIW-FM Partner to Present Radio Play In Their Footsteps During Women’s History Month

Premieres March 28 on 88.3 WLIW-FM and wliw.org/radio

Infinite Variety Productions (IVP) and The WNET Group, parent company of Long Island’s only NPR Station WLIW-FM, have announced the radio premiere of In Their Footsteps, the audio version of Ashley Adelman’s play detailing the experiences of five American women who went to Vietnam to serve their country during the war. In Their Footsteps premieres on Sunday, March 28, at 2 p.m. on 88.3 WLIW-FM and wliw.org/radio to spotlight women veterans during Women’s History Month and to honor their service ahead of National Vietnam War Veterans Day (Monday, March 29). The audio play will also be available to stream on-demand at wliw.org/radio. Check the schedule for encore broadcasts.

Over 50 years ago, thousands of young American women went to Vietnam to serve their country during the war. Infinite Variety Productions interviewed five of these women for In Their Footsteps; two military officers, three civilian employees, setting out to tell the little-known stories of the human side of the Vietnam War. The play had a successful run at regional and other arts institutions before it stopped showing due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The audio format of the play was produced for radio during the pandemic allowing for an enhanced story-telling experience.

Ahead of the premiere and to shed additional light on the production, playwright Ashley Adelman and some of the featured veterans will join WLIW-FM’s Gianna Volpe on the Heart of the East End on WLIW-FM on Friday, March 26 from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m.

The audio version of In Their Footsteps is directed by playwright Ashley Adelman and Andrew Dunn (based on the stage play directed by Adelman). Sound editor is Andrew Dunn. The cast features Chrystal Bethell as Lucki; Kate Szekely as Ann Kelsey; Caroline Peters as Judy Jenkins Gaudino; Criena House as Lily Adams; and Niki Hatzidis as Jeanne ‘Sam” Christie. The play is published by Paul Smith of Smith Scripts in the United Kingdom.

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About Infinite Variety Productions

Infinite Variety’s Mission mission – to share the stories of women throughout history, always creating a space so the voices of the marginalized, oppressed and unheard can be expressed fostering productive conversations and meaningful change – has been exemplified through their production of In Their Footsteps.

  • The play became a sought-after piece at regional theatres and other arts institutions. 
  • In New York City in 2017 at Under St. Marks Theatre, then IVP offered up a special workshop presentation for The Artist Co-op in 2018 for International Women’s Day, prior to bringing the production Off-Broadway to 59 E 59 for a sold-out run.  
  • After that, the play traveled to the Edinburgh Fringe before returning to NYC for a special veteran’s Day showing and then began a special event at Merrill Lynch, Pierce, Fenner and Smith, Inc.’s Empowering Women Event in 2019. 
  • The production’s final showing (before lockdown) was the Borderlight Fringe Festival in Cleveland, Ohio at the historic Old Stone Church.  
  • During the pandemic IVP produced a “radio version” of the play, which only enhanced the story-telling element and allowed the audience to envision the horrors of war more strongly.  
  • This version – the radio play – will now be presented on the PBS station, WNET on March 29, 2021. The audio version is directed by playwright Ashley Adelman and sound editor Andrew Dunn and features Chrystal Bethell as Lucki; Kate Szekely as Ann Kelsey; Caroline Peters as Judy Jenkins Gaudino; Criena House as Lily Adams; and Niki Hatzidis as Jeanne ‘Sam” Christie. The event is produced by Kelly Teaford and IVP.  
  • Currently, No Intermission: TheatreTravels Festival in Australia is producing the play. It was one of four plays chosen out of more than 500 for this festival. The event is already sold out. Towards the end of 2021 (November), the play will be part of the OnStage Festival in Rome, Milan, and Florence. The festival works with the university to translate the play with subtitles. The play is now translated in Italian and IVP hopes to be able to perform. 
  • There is also a Zoom version of the play that has been streamed at a variety of high schools around the world. On March 24, it will be streamed at the NJ Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial and in April, at the East Meadow Library.  
  • The play is published by Paul Smith of Smith Scripts in the United Kingdom.  

About WNET

  • WNET is America’s flagship PBS station: parent company of New York’s THIRTEENWLIW21WLIW-FM and operator of NJ PBS, the statewide public media network in New Jersey and its news division, NJ SPOTLIGHT NEWS
  • Through its new ALL ARTS multi-platform initiative, its broadcast channels, three cable services (THIRTEEN PBSKids, Create and World) and online streaming sites, WNET brings quality arts, education and public affairs programming to more than five million viewers each month.
  • WNET produces and presents a wide range of acclaimed PBS series, including NatureGreat PerformancesAmerican MastersPBS NewsHour Weekend, and the nightly interview program Amanpour and Company.
  • In addition, WNET produces numerous documentaries, children’s programs, and local news and cultural offerings, as well as multiplatform initiatives addressing poverty and climate.
  • Through THIRTEEN Passport and WLIW Passport, station members can stream new and archival THIRTEEN, WLIW and PBS programming anytime, anywhere. 

A Minute with Muyun

“When I was 15, I watched Independence Day for the very first time. I was so shocked by all the various special effects that were turning imagination into reality. After watching the film, I carefully watched the credits at the end. When I noticed the list of names on the VFX team, I knew that I would love to be on that list in the future to make the impossible possible.” 

Muyun Zhou has already lent her name and expertise on six independent films. Touching upon the concept of the family – in all forms – she lensed To Be The Father, (official selection: Asian On Film Festival); Jasmine (winner, London Arthouse Film Festival Award and Roma Independent Prisma Awards) and The Hole (winner, Europe Film Festival Award in the editing category.) 

Muyun filmed two of her works in Los Angeles where she also works on West To East, a TV talk-show, and a commercial television program called Perfect Project. She also works with renowned filmmaker Chin-Wei Chang on his films, Corn and Dolly. She is sole editor for these projects. 

She’s THAT good.  

DQR sat with Muyun for a few minutes about her life as a filmmaker here in the U.S.  

When did you decide you wanted to be a filmmaker? 

When I was 5, my parents own a video shop, and my father would always bring back VCDs to play at home. I used to think that Music Video just changed the form of listening to songs, from listening with ears to hear with eyes. But one day, when I saw Michael Jackson’s Music Video, even I didn’t understand English at all, through his performance, I still can comprehend the meaning of the song. It made me realize that not only language can convey the story, the image also has the power to deliver it, which planted a seed to become a filmmaker at that time. 

Do you find it difficult being a woman in this business? 

I don’t think it’s a big problem. Now more and more women are showing their talent in the industry. Usually, people expect you to maintain a rational state when you work, but as an editor, especially as a female editor, I add sensibility to the rationality, finding more subtle points to unfold, so as to present a powerful story. And as far as I know, since the beginning of the film era, women have been engaged in this industry as the main editors, because women are more careful. The United States is a very open country, not to mention in Hollywood, the cultural diversity and the rise of female power has created a good platform for us to show our work. 

What stories do you like to tell? 

Personally, I like to explore some substantive and life stories, starting from the small things around me. Most of the stories are inspired by life, and the characters in these stories are all fresh people. How to better understand people has become my job. And I like to find those precious moments from those neglected footages, and build scenes around the characters, so as to know more about the feelings of the characters. As an editor, I would like to create the ideas that the director wants to express in ordinary events, which make the audience still think after watching the film and feel the change of their life. 

What do you hope to do here in the U.S.? 

My ultimate goal is to be an editor. As I mentioned, my background has given me a chance to receive Oriental education since my childhood. I have already come to the United States for three years, and I hope to use my unique perspective with Oriental cultural background to show and communicate the world from different views to the west. 

Feminine-Focus: International Artists

Anna Cherkezishvili came to the United States with a clear agenda, and that was to be an artist who gives back. She carefully choses plays and roles that allow her to represent the immigrant experience – whether it’s directly associated as in plays performed for children from other countries or roles showing the plight of the “outsider,” Anna hopes to enlighten while she entertains. She is DQ’s International Artist of the Month. We spoke with her about her journey.

What was it like coming to this country to pursue your dreams? 

It definitely has been an exciting journey and hard work. I was fortunate enough to come to this great country all the way from the post-soviet world, which of course was a big cultural change. I graduated here from world famous schools, Seton Hall University and Sella Adler Studio of Acting. In both schools, I gained education, that I always needed and I was trained to be a professional at my work. Right after graduating from schools, I was fortunate enough to have great friendships and networking opportunities. And career wise, it took me a while, but I am very happy to be given an opportunity to do theatre work that I have been dreaming about and have been lucky enough to do. It is huge to be given an opportunity to perform in New York plays and I am so fortunate and grateful of having these experiences.

What do/did your parents think of your desire?

My parents separated when I was young. I grew up with mom. She always knew I loved theatre and film but thought it was a rebellious and risky path to follow. She is an academic herself and mostly she would see me as choosing an academic path. As she watched me grow up and realized just how much I loved to participate in school plays, or go to theatre, or to write poetry and listen to the music, she knew this was what made me feel the happiest. She supported my choice to enter the Georgian University of Theater and Film for my colleague years. Since then every step of the way, she is supportive of my career. I am incredibly grateful for her strength and wisdom which guided me through years.

Who was here for you at this end?  

My friends, I have met at both of my schools, with whom I bonded over the years are always here for me. My acting teachers and mentors have always been there for me as well. I stay in touch with them and on occasions reach back to them for guidance, for which I am very grateful. My colleagues who I have worked with and met through several years of my stay here are the people I have great support from as well. Moreover, friends of my family who live in New York, stayed in touch with me all the way as I arrived here and started my journey until this day. I cherish these people, and have great appreciation for all their support.

Was it difficult getting hired once you came here?  –

At first the audition process was not easy, as this is a big city and theatre industry center, where it takes a while and hard work to book the part. I would feel nervous at the auditions. But, after practice of auditioning often, I started to trust myself more. It’s not easy to bring all the skills under two minutes of monologue and song. But with energy and belief in my dream, I managed not to feel discouraged, if no was being said to me.

In 2018, I joined a great organization for actors, ActorIndex for one year. They helped young actors with workshops and recording studios, to help them find the way in the industry. I remember one time they had a famous Broadway producer invited for the workshop, where he talked about importance of how actors can approach not booking the part. He said it is important not to take it personally, if no is said to an actor. He said to accept politely when not booking the part, and think of it, not as a defeat but as an opportunity to move on and find different chances. I would say this is how I think of auditions. And I learned over time that when I started to trust myself more that’s when I started to gain more approval at the auditions.

How is it being a woman in the arts here in NYC?  

I am usually comfortable as a woman in the arts. I believe in the talent and intelligence women bring into the arts world. I would be happy to see more females in the position of directors as well as playwrights and producers. Something that I am working on as a woman in the arts is to always grow and improve. I work on letting myself just be and not over critically approach myself. Sometimes I catch myself on trying to be perfect and fear that I should not be less than perfect in terms of how I look or work. But I realized over time that this kind of approach can paralyze my work instead of benefit it. So, now I strive towards progress but not perfection.

Are you looking to move into directing, producing, writing, etc.?  

One day I would be happy to move into directing and writing. As an artist, I believe I can create work, not just look for work. I would like to create work that is culturally relevant, political, as well as entertaining. I would like to master how to pitch projects as a producer as well and find collaborations with great co- producers. I would absolutely enjoy the process of forming the cast and crew with strong professionals and produce high quality work.

Defining Women

Women of Manhattan-Review by Jen Bush

If you like things like Sex and the City and The Real Housewives series, it is likely that you’ll enjoy Pink Arts Peace Productions, Inc., production of John Patrick Shanley’s play, Women of Manhattan. This production presented on Zoom was Produced by David Jung and Directed by Sunflower Duran who both also star in the production.

Women of Manhattan was written by John Patrick Shanley, one of the most respected playwrights and screenwriters alive today. He holds the distinction of being awarded the Tony, the Oscar and the Pulitzer. In addition of Women of Manhattan his credits include Doubt and Moonstruck among many others. In other words, the material was there and substantive. Now let’s examine the execution.

Three successful Manhattan based women gather for dinner. Their love lives are complicated and entwined. Billie is a married traditionalist. Rhonda Louise is a Southern Belle who recently broke up with her boyfriend but can’t part with his dirty sneakers. They reside in the living room to serve as a reminder of the relationship. Judy is a flirty hopeless romantic who goes on plenty of dates. Unfortunately, all her suitors end up being gay. Though the play centers on the lives and love lives of the women, we also meet Bob, Billie’s philandering husband and Duke who serves as a straight date for Judy. This play contains themes of love, friendship, dating and infidelity. The women have deliciously clever and witty dialogue as they explore their own unique situations in life and love.

John Patrick Shanley would be pleased. The cast and creatives took great care to bring forth a quality production in the new but hopefully temporary virtual venue of Zoom. At times the production was fun, compelling and heartbreaking. Each cast member was well suited to their roles. An absolute standout was Kingsley Nwaogu as Duke who was being set up with Judy on a date. He radiated smoothness and charisma. By the time the scene between he and Sunflower Duran who played Billie was over, I wanted to go on a date with him. Ms. Duran did a fine job of directing and portraying her ever optimistic character. Antonette Hudak gave a strong and compelling performance as Judy. Nicole Miranda as Rhonda Louise skillfully delivered some of the funniest lines of the play. David Jung produced a wonderful show and displayed fine acting chops as Billie’s husband Bob. If the opportunity arises, joining the Women of Manhattan for their dinner party should be on your agenda.

Infinite Variety Productions present an audio-version of the award-winning play, IN THEIR FOOTSTEPS


In honor of Veteran’s Day, Infinite Variety Productions invites you to listen and learn. Ashley Adelman’s compelling play, “In Their Footsteps” has been reworked into an audio drama and will be presented, November 9 – 11. join us November 9th, 10th, and 11th, online. Three nights of storytelling, discussion, celebration, and remembrance of our Vietnam War era vets.

Your registration grants you:  
–One week early ACCESS to the finished radio play;
–ACCESS to the Zoom Webinar to see the company recording the radio play
–ACCESS to the panel discussion following your chosen video viewing, all featuring different panelists with unique experiences related to the Vietnam War
–ACCESS to the Discussion Panels on Nov. 9, 10, and 11 (Guests TBA)
–Tickets to more than one talkback evening are available. A confirmation email will accompany your registration with directions on how to do so.
–ALL TICKETS ARE FREE. We hope you weill make a donation of whatever you can to the company so we might be able to continue bringing you such events as this Vertain’s Commemoration and Discussion. Purchase tickets at: ivp.simpletix.com/e/60009

IN THEIR FOOTSTEPS by Ashley Adelman is directed by Ashley Adelman & Andrew Dunn; with technical direction provided by Andrew Dunn and produced by Kelly Teaford. The voice actors include Chrystal Bethell, Kate Szekely, Caroline Peters, Criena House, Niki Hatzidis, with  Jessica Schecter and Andrew Dunn

For further information:
PRESS: jmcommnet@gmail.com
THE PLAY: kellyteaford@gmail.com

About In Their Footsteps:
Since its premiere in 2016, the play, which explores the stories of five American women who served in Vietnam during the Vietnam War, has been performed at The Kraine Theatre, Under St. Marks, 59E59 Theatres, and other locations around New York City, as well as The Edinburgh Fringe Festival in Scotland and the Borderlight Fringe Festival in Cleveland, Ohio. It has been called “moving”, “astonishing”, “relevant”, “unmissable”, and “a celebration of real women in a messy and complicated war” by reviewers at Onstage Blog, Theater Pizazz, The Reviews Hub, and The Sunday Post. Now, it is being transformed, for the first time ever, into a radio play.

The cast recorded all of their audio parts separately because of the coronavirus pandemic. These separate recordings were masterfully edited together by our Technical Director, Andrew Dunn, into the radio play you will receive if you buy a ticket for this event. Then, with social distancing and other safety measures in place, the actors came together to record one final video recording of the full play, start to finish, with no stops, experiencing each other’s collective energy for the first time. At the launch of our radio play, we will also present this final recording to you: mistakes and all, because we believe community is a treasure to witness, especially during this current time of isolation. After experiencing the video recording, you will be treated to a panel discussion, with a different group of panelists each night, so that you can hear more and different stories from the Vietnam War, ask questions of the panelists, and participate in open, vibrant discussion about the war then and war now.

Infinite Variety Productions is a New York State registered not for profit organization dedicated to spotlighting women who have gone unnoticed throughout history and demanding awareness of women’s roles in historical and current events. To view our production history or to learn more about us, check out our website: https://www.infinitevarietynyc.org/

A Golden Play

The Golden Girl by the Sea-Review by Jen Bush

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One might think seeing Greek Gods as exaggerated caricatures of themselves a la Gaston in Beauty and the Beast in a play with a solid premise driven by a silly and whimsical execution might not work.  It worked and it was golden!

The play opens with a track of multiple overlapping voices in a black box theater.  We meet the main character Xrysi on a beach in Santorini, Greece.   She is a lovely young lady in an appealing flowing blue dress.  In the distance she sees an enchanting mysterious woman who she declares that she is in love with.  Xrysi’s manner of speaking is very theatrical and poetic.  When a mysterious high priestess appears claiming that she can take Xrysi to her true love, Xrysi’s manner of speaking becomes more normal and casual demonstrating that the time period of the play is modern.  Suddenly, 9 more characters appear who are entwined and move together in visual poetry which they will continue to do for the rest of the play.  We learn that in order to find the one she loves, Xrysi much endure a set of trials prescribed by the Greek gods Aphrodite, Apollo, Dionysus, Zeus, Athena and Hera.  With each trial she completes, she receives a key to the door of the next god’s realm.

This play had elements putting in in danger of being campy and corny.  Fortunately between the solid cast and expert directing by Gwendolyn Snow and Adam Martin, it was a fun delightful romp through the realms of the Greek gods.  The play expressed themes of love, acceptance and tests of will.  My favorite realms were Apollo’s mansion of depressed muses and the sexual paradise of Dionysus.  All it took to lift the muse’s existential crisis was a Lady Gaga song.   As far as Dionysus’s realm, there is nothing like an eye opening simulated on stage orgy to take your mind off a pandemic!

This international cast wonderfully brought the work of Dorothea Gloria to life.  Incidentally, Ms. Gloria did a dynamic double dipping job of also portraying the ditzy insecure priestess guiding the main character through her journey.  Chrysi Sylaidi who is actually Greek, demonstrated her skillful acting chops by moving seamlessly from the comedic to the dramatic.  The actors portraying the Greek gods and goddesses did a nice job of embodying the strong and arrogant personas one would expect of deities.  The actors in beautiful motion gave a consistency and continuity to each scene.  They were almost like living scenery in perfect sync with each other.  They also did a fine job of portraying various characters in each realm.  This play was reminiscent of The Wizard of Oz and Alice in Wonderland in terms of the main character’s quest.  It’s no myth that audiences will find enjoyment in this lighthearted play with a beautiful message in the end.

 

 

 

Well Spent “Hours”

The Hours-Review by Drama-Queens Lead Reviewer, JEN BUSH

 

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With this period in time being so challenging, it was nice to escape reality into three different periods of time in a play called The Hours.   The screenplay by David Hare was presented by Face to Face Films on Zoom and directed by Anthony Laura.

The Hours takes place in the early 1900’s, the 1950’s and the year 2001 and features three stories interconnected by Virginia Woolf and her novel Mrs. Dalloway.  Virginia Woolf was a renowned 20th century Modernist English author.  She is said to be an inspiration to feminism.  She was plagued by mental illness.   She died by drowning herself in River Ouse leaving behind a legacy of literature.

When the play opens, we meet Virginia Woolf and her husband Leonard.  The couple founded Hogarth Press so that Leonard could be at home to support Virginia.  Virginia tires of being tethered to doctors due to her mental state and longs for a change of location and more freedom.  In the 1950’s we see Laura Brown, a pregnant mother unhappy with her life.  She is baking a cake for her husband Dan’s birthday with her son and contemplating a dark demise.   In modern times we meet the grown-up version of Laura Brown’s son and his close friend Clarissa who is intent on throwing him a party for winning a prestigious poetry award.  Dan is ill with A.I.D.S.  This play takes on heavy themes such as mental illness and suicide and kinder themes of devotion and friendship.

It seems that even more screen time has dominated our lives.  Nothing can take the place of live theater which in a desperate act of attempting to thrive has taken to platforms such as Zoom.  It is very hard to capture the visceral nature and beautiful nuance that live theater affords.  Well, with an incredibly strong team of actors and a skilled director, The Hours was successful in providing a touching, poignant, moving and tragic theater experience to the viewer.  Each actor was squarely matched to their respective roles.  The solid and steady narration of Sofia Licata filled in a lot of the details that helped engage the viewer during the performance.

Kristen Hasty, Alexandra Rooney, Henry Priest Miller, Cebi Stough, Sally Lester, Amanda Kristin Cox and Jose Duran all did a fine job of embodying their characters.  Some of the cast stood out a bit, especially the ones doing double and triple duty.  Samantha Yestrebsky brilliantly played the younger and older versions of her character Laura Brown in two different time periods of the show.  Though they were the same character, the interpretation appropriately changed as the character aged.  Candy Dato ambitiously took on all three time periods playing a servant, a neighbor and a florist.  She was credible in all the roles.  Gabe Calleja had a riveting show stopping moment when he was trying to reason with is wife who was on the edge.  The authenticity of emotions bursting through the screen were incredible.  He had wonderful chemistry with Casey Hartnett who did an exquisite job of portraying Virginia Woolf.  Alex Commito wholeheartedly committed to playing the mercurial Richard.  The character called for depth and angst and he delivered.  Andrew Rosenbloom was simply adorable and a good actor too.  The effervescent Vivien Cardone had a good handle on the wide range of emotions her character called for.  Seeing The Hours were a few hours well spent.

 

Dorothea Gloria: International Artists in NYC (Part II of II)

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Zoom levels the playing field. Ambitious companies are taking to zoom to get their work done and ambitious actors are staying relevant on these cyber works. Part II of our interviews feature DOROTHEA GLORIA. This Filipino burst of joy and energy took the advice of her mentor and headed for New York. Her bright outlook has helped her open doors … as an international woman of the arts. 

What inspired you to come to New York to be an artist?

I was inspired to go to New York by my mentor, Ana Valdes-Lim. I studied theatre under her for about 10 years. I met her when I was fourteen years old. It was always an experience diving into a scene with her. It felt like I was in another dimension whenever she would guide me through a moment as a character living. Under her tutelage, I was in a constant flow while acting. Ms. Ana was the first Filipino who graduated from Juilliard. She would always tell stories about her experiences back in New York: the teachings her teachers gave her, the various stage productions, the vibrant energy of the performing arts, etc. I would be entranced by these stories that I wanted to see what New York was for myself and experience my own creative moments here. 

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What are the artistic differences between your home country and New York?

I think the biggest artistic difference between the Philippines and New York is that there are less avenues to do straight theatre back home. I feel like New York offers a balance between different kinds of theatre while in the Philippines, musicals reign the theatre scene. This is understandable because Filipinos love music and dance so much to the point that every household owns their own karaoke set up. If you ever visit the Philippines during Christmas or any other holiday season, you will hear a cacophony of houses singing different songs from their karaokes. 

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What is it like being a woman in the Arts… In your Homeland, and here in New York?

It’s actually great to be a woman in the Arts in New York and in the Philippines. I was constantly exposed to Women leaders in the Arts back in Manila. Ms. Ana Valdes-Lim was the Artistic Director of METTA. I also was a resident artist at the Philippine Educational Theatre Association which is headed by two women, PETA Artistic Director Maribel Legarda and PETA President Cb Garrucho. I also performed several productions under Repertory Philippines which was founded by a woman, Zeneida Amador, and is currently headed by three women that gave me many opportunities to grow my professional career as an actress namely: Baby Barredo, Repertory Chairman Emeritus, Liesl Batucan, Repertory Artistic Director, and Joy Virata, Repertory Creative Director. Since I was constantly exposed to strong women in the arts back home, when I came to New York, I sought out people who had a strong sense of leadership and a love for the arts. I eventually created a theatre company, TeamTheatre LLC, and the two other people that I head that company with are both women as well. Gwendolyn Snow, Chrysi Sylaidi and I are constantly creating theatre projects that are both empowering and diverse.
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How has the pandemic changed your career … Both tangible and philosophically?

The pandemic has really given me the time to reflect and refocus on what I want to do with my art. All of us in TeamTheatre have constantly been meeting with one another to talk about the different advocacies we want to fight for. We’re planning on a season that will really focus on social justice. I think with everything that has been going on, all the more there is a need to find and adapt ways to be inclusive and global when it comes to the projects we decide to pursue. 

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What are your plans for the future?

Currently, I’m writing a script that focuses on the drug war and the shutting down of news outlets back in the Philippines. I also know that Gwendolyn Snow is currently devising a piece that includes elderly writers and performers. I want to support her with that project and make sure that it will definitely come to life.