The Theatre Tattler

“You’re a Weirdo, Annie Best” presented by Fresh Fruits Festival’s All Out Arts, 2022 reviewed by Yvonne Tutelli, “The Theatre Tattler”

Erin Shin Brady’s background as a social worker and therapist is the foundational support to this sensitive polyamorous tale of theys and thems, we’s and she’s recently mounted at the Wild Project on the lower east side. Under the direction of Maddie Rostami, the confounding situational queer rom-com takes to the Festival stage with hope and heart.

As a straight person, I had to sit upright and pay attention as focal character Annie Best (Juliet Roll/ she/her) stays her welcome in a relationship with Nate (Jahill T Hall /he/him/they) while living with her longtime girlfriend Chris.

Everybody is busy in this piece: when not engaging in new romantic pursuits with Annie, Nate spends time with his male partner Jess (Ronnie Williams/he/him). A talented foodie, and a soon-to-be confidante of Chris’s, William’s Jess is a lover, of all– and all details.

But hold up—it won’t be long till we discover that Annie’s live-in girlfriend can swing all ways herself, and after a bout of depression, she finds solace and new potentiality with Jess, making a Christmas Eve double-date an extra special action-packed special event.

This is the 20th Anniversary of New York’s heralded Fresh Fruit Festival, All Out Arts 2022, and of the plays seen thus far (the Festival continues through the 14th), this is the most ambitious in its reach-out to the everyday hetero, or anybody else watching who is interested and curious as to how these things work. I am speaking of the fluidity with which the dizzying switch-offs between partners becomes so natural that even I, the raging aging exotic cougar that I am, can be drawn into understanding. Sorta. I’ve never met a more accepting group of human beings.

Writer Annie is on a life quest to find her best self opening the show in a scene with Nate, a new male love interest. A student of movies, books, and Nora Ephron rom-coms, Annie has a tendency to search a deeply, explore fastidiously, and care overtime. Annie is a weirdo: she’s inquisitive and curious and continually needing to explain and substantiate the underlying reasons for all of her life encounters sussing out meaning in every experience.

Lawyer girlfriend, Chris, played by stunner Julianna Mitchell (she/her), brings her down to earth, but is overwhelmed by Annie’s need to have every answer. Something’s been bothering Chris for a while now, and she just needs some well-deserved space. Is it Annie’s new fling with Nate what has Chris so discombobulated? Seems reasonable to me, that such jealousy could exist, even in this in this fluid and acceptable

just be you/youse lifestyle, but I am certain I don’t know how that goes, and “You’re a Weirdo, Annie Best” opens a dialgoue and window into an unapologetically polyamorous lifestyle as I don’t know it.

Playwright Brady delves into happiness: What is it? How do you find it? If one’s family doesn’t accept you, how do you find your queer chosen family? The cast of very relatable actors certainly explore all of possibilities available to them, through holiday cheer the queer way, in fact a double date with characters Annie, Nate, Chris and Jess goes doobly double; everyone is doing everyone. In a stark holiday karaoke bar scene Annie up-stagegedly grabs the mic and sing-outs out proud Tammy Wynette’s most classic anthem, assuring us that people are just people, and we should stand up for all of our many Selves.

Life goes on and we find that seat of Chris’ depression is the result of a recent dumping by her outside girlfriend Kate, a situation fully known and accepted by Annie. Annie’s intense curiosity seems to all stem from the chaos caused by her mother’s death and her father’s intolerance of her explorative nature.

The boys seem blissfully happy and content some how. And why wouldn’t they be? They’ve got it all.

A long-time-coming meeting with her estranged father (Greg Mills) is one of the strongest package-wrappers of Brady’s protagonist Annie.

“I’m not going to compromise my life to be a better daughter for you! Annie stubbornly proclaims, “Why can’t you be curious about the things you don’t know? Annie rails on her conventional Dad, played by Mills to tolerant perfection.

In one scene, one of Annie’s mentors, Nora Ephron (Juliana Forrest/she/her) pays a visit from the other side, dropping in to offer advice and soothe Annie’s frazzled nerves with a big pot of mashed potatoes.

Annie asks of everyone all the questions everyone wants to ask, but doesn’t. Sometimes the simplest answer is the best, or so the Ephron persona seems to intimate.

“You’re a Weirdo, Annie Best” explores the themes of polyamorous love, of life, and of what’s of value in humanity’s slogging search for family and belonging.

“If you’re happy, won’t you be a better partner?” Annie’s question is one we all ponder. This hopeful play explains the many diverse paths to figuring it all out in a world where we are all feel, at one time or the other, ‘fundamentally misunderstood.’

“If you don’t know what you don’t know, put “You’re a Weirdo, Annie Best” on your dance card this week. On the quest to be her best Self, a young writer finds that she can indeed find her best queer family roots.” Yvonne Tutelli, “The Theatre Tattler”

“You’re a Weirdo, Annie Best” explores the themes of polyamorous love, of life, and of what’s of value in humanity’s slogging search for family and belonging.” Yvonne Tutellis, “The Theatre Tattler”

Entrepreneur of the Month: Cate Cammarata

Article by Jen Bush

Cate Cammarata is the Executive Producer for Retraction.  She wears many hats in the theater world as an Off-Broadway producer, director, and dramaturg.  She likes to breathe life into new material and see it through to the end on its’ journey.  “My passion is developing new plays and musicals and then putting them on stage.”

Ms. Cammarata was drawn to the work of the playwright for Retraction.  “David Gutierrez had an important message to share in this play – that not only does journalism play an important role today in communicating what we believe and why, but that the journalist herself is a human being, often pulled in many different directions at once. In this instance she’s not only a dedicated journalist, but also a wife, mother, and community advocate. What happens when we get so busy juggling life that we overlook important professional details? What does that human error mean to an exceptionally talented woman journalist, to her career, reputation and self-esteem? What does it do to our collective trust in the press?”

During her creative process, Ms. Cammarata uses the gestalt of her theatrical expertise to work with a play.  She uses a building block approach to prime the material for an audience.  “I love to take a play and identify the structural foundation – and then to build it up architecturally, to make the writer’s message resonate theatrically to an audience. The dramaturg is first and foremost an advocate for the playwright; secondarily, I use the tools of a director to help communicate visually what the text demands. It’s a process of researching, testing and then continually refining the message based on feedback from the audience.”

Some theatre professionals feel an added sense of responsibility when they undertake a work with serious or topically charged subject matter.  With her excellent work ethic, Ms. Cammarata gives all her projects equal responsibility regardless of the subject matter.  “I feel the same level of responsibility with every play or musical entrusted to me. My job is to make the work “work,” and that’s a responsibility – and sometimes a challenge – that I always take very seriously!”

The pandemic has changed the landscape of every aspect of life including live performance.  Ms. Cammarata has some thoughts on what is different and what should be different.  “I think we’ll be working to sort this out for at least a decade. For now, my chief goal is to remain flexible on all things, and to always make sure that every artist or crew member feels heard and taken care of. My goal was to make CreateTheater an artistic home, following a lifelong inspiration of Ellen Stewart’s (La MaMa)example. Believing in each artist and in their own creative expression is how we can heal and move forward together as an industry.”

Ms. Cammarata is not tied to NYC.  Good theater can be created everywhere and that’s what’s next for this talented professional.  “I’m already preparing for new ways to develop new plays and especially new musicals away from the costs and demands of NYC. Look for new announcements expected soon :)”

Julianna Mitchell experiments!

Interview by Liz Cope

Thrilled that this is not a zoom-play, “So excited to be back in a room making theatre with some fun people!, said Julianna Mitchell, readying herself to back to what she loves best – experimenting ON STAGE: “I am an actor and mover interested in exploring experimental theatre and what it can do.”

Erin Shea Brady’s clever comedy exploring the life of a queer, polyamorous writer in Chicago peppered with a whiff of Nora Ephron will premiere as part of the Fresh Fruit “Return to Live Theatre” Festival.

“You’re a Weirdo, Annie Best” by Erin Shea Brady is produced by Juliet Roll in association with the Fresh Fruit Festival (Covid Compliance overseen by Leah Ableson) and will run Friday 5/6 at 6:30 pm; Sunday 5/8 at 5:30 pm; Monday 5/9 at 8:15 pm.  


Annie Best is a writer living in Chicago. She is queer, polyamorous, recently estranged from her family and at a creative standstill. When one of Annie’s partners convinces her to dive into the world of Nora Ephron’s great romantic comedies, Annie begins to see her life through the Ephron lens. Annie imagines scenes and conversations, paying homage to When Harry Met Sally, Sleepless in Seattle and Julie & Julia, among others, as she sits with the beauty and discomfort of the life she has chosen. Along the way, as seasons pass, romantic relationships develop and change with faith and family coming into question. At the end of the play, Annie reconnects with her father, finally finding the courage to stand on her own.

 

I spoke with her briefly on this new chapter of her theatre life – and the life of the theatre!

What is your creative process?

I love devising with collaborators! I also ingest a lot of art in any way I can which usually inspires me a lot.

Do you find a sense of added responsibility when dealing with plays that tackle serious, mature, or timely subject matter?

For me, there is always a sense of responsibility when being a vessel for other people’s words. I feel there is an added need for conversation depending on the topic, but overall I always feel responsible. 

What’s so good about off-off Broadway/indie theater?

Good is relative!

What do you feel is different now than before pandemic? Another thought: what should be different now than before pandemic?

I wish I felt as free as I did before the pandemic. Things are slowly changing again, but before 2020 I was so used to freedom within my discipline and routine, and now I feel as though I have a harder time finding that in my art. 

What’s next for you?

I am the co-founder of the barn at lee, a non profit that creates programs for emerging artists, and there’s so much exciting stuff coming soon … 🙂 

Natalie Ahn: All Amounts of Empathy

Interview by Jen Bush

Natalie Ahn genuinely hates talking about herself. She stated with no false modesty whatsoever.  Her work ethic speaks for itself though.  “I hope to approach my work with sincerity, integrity, honesty and all amounts of empathy I can exude.”

Kenneth Lonergan’s Tony Awards-winning play, LOBBY HERO is revived as part of City Gate Production’s 2022 season starting April 29 – May 8 at The Moose Lodge Theatre, 7215 Grand Avenue, Maspeth, Queens. Tickets: HERE 

When Jeff, a luckless young security guard, is drawn into a local murder investigation, loyalties are strained to the breaking point. As Jeff’s tightly wound supervisor is called to bear witness against his troubled brother, and an attractive rookie cop finds she must stand up to her seasoned partner, truth becomes elusive and justice proves costly.

I sat down with Natalie Ahn to find out about how she approaches her craft and the current project that she’s in.

What drew you to this project? 

I had previously worked with members of City Gate Productions on a virtual performance of Lucas Hnath’s The Christians, during the height of the Covid pandemic. I loved the process which Thom led, particularly with character work and knew that he’d be great to work with on such a dialogue-based show as Lobby Hero. I’ve always been a fan of Kenneth Lonergan’s works and knew I’d love the chance to be part of this project. Lonergan’s ability to convey deep subject matter in such an honest way, and using his comedic edge, is extremely satisfying for an artist to engage.  

What is your creative process? 

I love rehearsals. I love spending time breaking down each scene, forming a backstory, and really creating the world of the story we are trying to tell. I love the process of discovery-not to say that can’t happen in performances, but I’ve found that investing heavily in the work ahead of time can be an opportunity for greater discovery once the performances begin. 

What’s so good about off-off Broadway/indie theater? 

It’s not ironic that a majority of my cherished experiences as an actor have been in the off-off Broadway/independent circles. Let’s be honest, the money isn’t why we’re there (hahaha), but it frees us from potentially forsaking quality for profit. What keeps us there if money is not a factor? It’s the love for the craft. The love for the work. The heart and the community. 

It’s obvious the world is steadily reopening. What do you feel is different now than before pandemic? Another thought: what should be different now than before pandemic? 

It’s definitely been a revealing time for our society. We’ve learned, at least I hope we’ve learned, things about ourselves that we may not feel comfortable with or may not know how to move forward at this time. I hope we’ve all learned to be more compassionate with each other and with ourselves. 

What’s next for you? 

Theatre and the process of theatre-making has been a powerful tool in my life; it has provided me opportunities to engage with others whom I don’t inherently identify with. I hope to keep doing just that. 

Kate McConnell: captain of Sassafras & The Captain!

Kate McConnell is the director of Sassafras & The Captain,  She uses her artistic gifts for advocacy to bring those in the shadows into the light. “My drive as an artist is to tell the stories of those who are too often ignored. I’m an activist in everything I do, and that includes the art I choose to make.”  She makes humor an important aspect of her work.  “I’m also someone who believes there’s humor in everything and keeps my joy in easy reach. So, no matter how serious a play is, I find the moments of levity that help make the poignant moments all the more meaningful. Getting to work on a comedy like this one, then, feels like a real gift.”  Collaboration is key in the productions she works on.  “Finally, I’m first and foremost a collaborator. It’s easy to see a director as someone who’s in control of everything, but when you see a project I’ve worked on, you’re really seeing a product of the brilliance of a slew of artists, both onstage and off. I see myself more like a conductor, with my eye on the whole piece, doing my best to bring together the incredible contributions of the whole team.”

Sarah Elisabeth Brown’s send-up of S&M mores, Sassafras & The Captain, is revived as part of the 2022 Fresh Fruit “Return to Live” Theatre Festival.  Limited Engagement: Thursday May 5 @ 6:00 p.m.; Friday, May 6 @ 8:45 p.m.; Sunday, May 8 @ 1:00 p.m. at The WILD PROJECT, 195 East 3rd Street, NYC. For further info: freshfruitfestival.com  

When Sassafras, a role-playing submissive femme dyke, decides she wants to become a top, she upends her steady relationship with teddy-bear butch Captain Lou, and brings an old flame, the roguishly handsome boundary-pushing masochist Micky Penny, into the mix for an experiment in non-monogamy. Chaos ensues as Sassafras practices new skills of dominance, faces competition from the unassuming southern belle 50’s housewife next door, and gets schooled by the supreme Goddess of been-there-done-that, Mistress Chelsea. Can this young couple grow their love big enough to include these new elements? Or will they be shipwrecked on the sea of dyke drama? It remains – to be seen! 

Sarah Brown’s uproarious play has been reworked for this new production. Sassafras was made into the award-winning 2004 film, Mango Kiss 

I had the pleasure of speaking with Kate McConnell to get the 411 on her career and her experience directing this production.

What drew you to this project? 

First and foremost: Sarah Brown! When she reaches out with a project, I know to always say yes, because I know she’ll be sharing the lives of characters that are too often under the radar, and telling their story with empathy, care, and humor that is undeniable. In this case, I’m also drawn to the play because, even though it takes place 30 years ago, it does such an incredible job of telling a story so similar to my own and to that of many people I know and love. As a queer person, I’m always grateful for skillful representations of my experience as an outsider in a heteronormative culture. This play is compelling because it goes a layer deeper. It tells a story of queer people navigating their place in the culture of their community – exploring a wild counterculture to identify what about it fits, what doesn’t, and why. It shows how even within the queer community, the heteronormative ideas of what relationships, gender, and sexuality looks like are pervasive, and how much of a challenge it can be to find your place within it. And then, as only Sarah can, it’s all packaged in a colorful candy shell of camp, absurdity, and humor that reminds us all how joyful and fabulous the queer experience can be. 

What is your creative process? 

I love to step into a rehearsal room and just see where the show takes us. Generally when I take on a project, my first step is to think about it way too much, and then to let go of all that overanalysis and let the play guide us. So many brilliant minds are together in one space in a rehearsal room or production meeting that once I’m sure I know as much as I can know, I’d rather focus on what they bring to the process than on what I can or should do next.

Do you find a sense of added responsibility when dealing with plays that tackle serious, mature, or timely subject matter? 

Absolutely. I think it’s essential to do work that brings a human face to experiences or identities that are often spoken of in conceptual terms. Working on queer plays is vital because every day our country and our world are telling us that LGBTQIAA2S++ people don’t or shouldn’t exist. The more that happens, the more ecstatic I am to not only “say gay,” but to show that gay people are humans, and to help the rest of the world see that humanity as well. Even if the only people who see our big gay play are gay themselves, now is exactly the time that they badly need to see that someone sees and values their humanity. So yes, I feel absolutely responsible to use the platform I have to dive headfirst into subjects that might make an audience uncomfortable. The beauty of theatre is that it gives an audience the opportunity to feel that discomfort in the dark, and to let them process that discomfort with the people on the stage, so that maybe they can go into the world feeling a bit more comfortable and empathetic, and bring both into their interactions with others.

What’s so good about off-off Broadway/indie theater? 

It gets to be risky! We have the enormous gift of being on the fringes – literally two whole “offs” from Broadway! – which means we get to do things those big for-profit theatres are often afraid to do. There’s much to be done even in our community, especially around artist compensation and representation, but I’m eternally grateful to be able to take risks by telling stories that other sectors of our industry aren’t able to tell. We are the incubator, the place where the boldest statements are being made. If you think about the edgiest, riskiest, most impactful show you’ve seen on Broadway recently, not only can you bet that its origins were in indie theatre, you can also bet that there’s an indie theatre company or festival that’s two or three steps further down that journey. 

It’s obvious the world is steadily reopening. What do you feel is different now than before pandemic? Another thought: what should be different now than before pandemic? 

Oh wow, yeah, everything is different now, and I’m not really sure how much of the difference is with the work, and how much is with me. It’s been so long since I worked on an in-person show (a Fresh Fruit Festival show by Sarah Elisabeth Brown in 2019, in fact!) that I feel anxious and rusty in a way I never really have. I’ve certainly been through a lot of personal change (as I know many others have as well), and it’s both terrifying and thrilling to test how those changes have changed my approach to the work. So much that used to be familiar seems new, and even when that’s not comfortable, it’s still a fuel for discovery. As for what should be different – maybe everything? First of all, I wish for a world where even shows as scrappy as ours can present their work in a hybrid, in-person/virtual way. Behind the curtain, I believe strongly that indie theatre needs to be aware of what it is – we don’t have budgets large enough to pay a living wage, so we need to embrace the reality that all of us are humans with survival jobs, families, etc and provide a more flexible space for everyone involved. For us, that has already meant embracing the virtual world for rehearsals whenever we can, to cut commute costs and time. I know there’s even more we can do that we’ll all keep discovering together. 

And more important than ever, it’s essential that we do better for people in marginalized communities, and especially BIPOC. We rely so often on our own circles to cast our shows in the indie world, and we’ve seen how that is absolutely a problem when our circles look so much like us. I know we haven’t nailed it yet, and having limited budgets makes it hard to do so in a way larger companies can, but that’s all the more reason for us to think like the brilliant creatives we are to make all of our shows more representative, both on and off the stage. 

What’s next for you? 

Short answer: I don’t necessarily know! Right now my next project is to dig in and try to address many of the changes I addressed above for Squeaky Bicycle Productions, for which I’m Executive Producer. Our 2020 season was put on hold, and while it’s amazing that so much reopening is happening, we’re taking our time while we wait to see what variants might emerge to really examine what we want our new normal to be. What I can definitely tell you is that when we do come back, we’ll be presenting an amazing new play called Sioux Falls, by Megan Dominy, about the struggles of 3 women trying to access abortion care at South Dakota’s only provider. 

In the meantime, I can tell you I absolutely will be continuing to pour myself into the fight for the rights of those who are marginalized in whatever ways I can. 

Jess Kantorowitz does it all!

Jess Kantorowitz is one of the high-energy ensemble of Surviving the Rosenthals.  Her talents include writing as well as acting and she’s very open to having different experiences.  “I write music and act and write movies and try to do all sorts of different things.” 

Interview by Jen Bush

SURVIVING THE ROSENTHALS introduces us to songwriter Sammy, who enters therapy to heal himself and break free of the childhood shackles, brought on by his overbearing father, that still stifle him as an adult. The musical takes a surreal twist as Sammy meets – Sammy! Adult Sam meets 10-year-old Sammy in a battle to save himself. Surviving the Rosenthals provides real-world hope and outcomes … and does it in 90 minutes … set to music!

I had a wonderful chat with Ms. Kantorowitz to discover how she approaches roles and to talk about this production.

What attracted you to this play?  I read the character description for Gail and really saw myself. I felt that the play was calling to me and I even emailed our director saying just how connected I was. 

What is your creative process in creating a [new] character? I like to look at all the way the character is different from me first. How they react differently than I would, their relationship to anger, to romance. Then after I’ve interrogated our differences, I look at the similarities. 

This is a “serious topic.” Do you find a deeper responsibility in doing such a show? I do. Therapy and mental health has been a huge part of my journey especially over the last few years. We carry so much trauma in our bodies and its taken me a long time to recognize that within myself. I am a huge advocate for therapy and really think the more we can advocate and destigmatize the better. 

What’s next for you? I’m coming out with an album! Check out my music on all streaming platforms (AMI MOON).

SHALOM!

Lisa Shalom is a truly unique spoken word artist – one, who has exemplified what it means to carve out an aligned path using determination, soul-searching and discernment.

Article by Liz Cope

The creation of Lisa Shalom

“I’m a born performer, but with a shy streak and introverted tendencies,” said Lisa Shalom in a vibrant tone coupled with perfect diction, as one might expect a spoken word poet to possess. “As a kid I was endlessly putting on shows for the neighborhood, and for friends and family,” she continued. Then after a slight pause, “later in life, the fun and games subsided as I came to learn of how this planet was in the midst of undergoing the largest ecocide since the extinction of the dinosaurs and how our species has been choosing a collision course with all the natural elements necessary for human and non-human life.” Her trademark superb vocabulary at play, Shalom detailed the early stages of her trajectory towards becoming a high caliber spoken word poet.

Combining her love affair with the arts with her care for the planet and its inhabitants, Lisa began to feature a political or environmental subtext in her creations during her college days. This served as an outlet and a clever, subtle way of disseminating important information. Still, she eventually came to believe that art on a dying planet was a selfish endeavor.

With abandon, she broke up with the arts and began a passionate relationship on the front lines of various activist protest movements and causes. This included attempts to defend marine wildlife for several campaigns onboard a ship belonging to the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society.

I got to swab the decks, scrub the galley, raise the pirate flag, plot the course, navigate the ship and work alongside award winning filmmakers and brilliant conservationists while attempting to interfere with atrocities on the high seas from Seattle to Antarctica. I was named Sea Shepherd Crew-member of the Year in 2005 and also worked for all kinds of other social justice, animal rights and environmental NGOs in various countries around the world by day, while taking direct action in my affinity groups by night,” Lisa said without regret.

While this type of work may have been a noble pursuit, it was also massively stressful and she quickly landed herself in hospital, burnt out. Arrests, undercover cops in your circle of friends, tapped phones, fines and court dates- these things take their toll and are only a side-note to the trauma of witnessing the grim realities of a bloody war on the planet. So in trying to save the world, I inadvertently came close to doing myself in, and I had to backtrack in order to learn how to first take care of the garden of my body and mind.”

Lisa set out on the treacherous journey of bringing the focus home to self. “While I was in hospital, my mom took me to get a massage, and over the course of that one hour, my state completely transformed, and so did my life.There was an ad for a massage school on the wall, so I signed up on the spot, while trying to hide the hospital bracelet on my wrist. Haha. Over time, I dug myself out of a deep, dark hole with massage, yoga, meditation and the healing arts and began to integrate,” she said, weaving together a life and character that is both fascinating and inspiring.

I’ve been a certified massage therapist and yoga teacher with training in herbalism, meditation, reiki, and all kinds of woo for over 15 years at this point, and along the way I came to see how art and music are still very much alive in me.” The diverse threads she had been weaving together over time started to form a discernible pattern.

She began to return full circle when she began telling her story through spoken word; a medium steadily growing in popularity. “About ten years ago, a friend of mine who had heard my poetry forced me up on stage with her at a music festival in Quebec. The experience was one of augmented presence, communion and deep satisfaction. Afterwards, someone in the audience introduced himself and asked if I would perform at a festival in Joshua Tree the following month. The familiarity and beauty of the exchange with the audience sparked a trajectory to resume sharing my art and spoken word poetry on stages as a means of bridging gaps, claiming power, generating change and holding space for connection. As scary as it can feel, something about the shift in atmosphere when you offer your raw, naked truth into a room of strangers makes everybody into a kind of big family, and that sits well in my system.”

Lisa has since performed at more festivals and shows than she can remember, in Canada, the USA, Israel and Europe. She has performed on her own and in tandem with various musical projects, and has collaborated on impressively refreshing video and audio recordings alongside talented artists from around the world. “Inspiring change in the world doesn’t have to look like banging your head against a brick wall in agony and despair. It usually more effectively looks like doing the work to center, touching that core and then vulnera-bravely offering your findings into spaces where we can see and be seen while remaining uninvested in the outcome of that. I actually don’t aim to save the world anymore. I just do what I can to love it.”

As for what’s next, it looks like Lisa aims to make up for lost time in the art world. “It took me a long time to come back to what I love, to what I have always loved as a kid until now, and to recognise my impulses not as being selfish, but as the inverse; as a means or vehicle to comprehend, process, address, and offer something back. I think that’s an important piece- do what you love, AND let it be a conscious offering, however you want to interpret that.” Lisa now offers spoken word courses as a means of authentic expression to adults online. “I teach a course that I originally created for high school kids and then modified for adults called Spoken Wordicine; Words are a Powerful Medicine where folks are invited into their own interior landscapes and where they get to give rise to their own voices in outward expression.”


Lisa’s experience in the world of activism and in the world of the healing arts now serve to inform her creations, without dominating the tone. “For so long the activist world has segregated itself from the spiritual world and vice versa. One without the other is deficient. At this point, my teaching work, my writings, my performing and my life are basically different ways of bridging the divide between inner and outer work.” And it’s only up from here. “I have some truly exciting collaborations in the works and I’m so grateful to be where I’m at.”

Lisa Shalom is a poet whose words are a fiery slap in the face and a soothing balm rolled into one, with undercurrents of fierce love in everything she generates.

Check out her work on www.shalomtoyou.com
Reach her for bookings on shalom.home@yahoo.ca
or on her socials-
FB- www.facebook.com/lisababashalom
IG- @shalomlisa

A Minute with Frances Lozada

Michael Anthony & Perry Crowe’s uproarious send-up of the USPS is revived at the American Theatre of Actors with Frances Lozada at the helm as director and star.  

POSTAL MADNESS by Michael Anthony & Perry Crowe 
and directed by Frances Lozada with Paul Gealone serving as NY Producer will be revived at the American Theatre of Actors, 314 W 54th St 2nd Fl, New York City, at 8:00 P.M. on 
FRIDAY, APRIL 22 & SATURDAY, APRIL 23  
FRIDAY, APRIL 29 & SATURDAY, APRIL 30 
FRIDAY, MAY 6 & SATURDAY, MAY 7 
with 3:00 P.M. MATINEES on
SUNDAY, APRIL 24, May 1 & 8  

Visit https://postal-madness.ticketleap.com/

It’s business-as-usual at Thirdstone Post Office … until a “special visitor from Function 4” shows up to turn everything upside down! No calling-in today. They’re looking for PTFs in a room of 204Bs. Cutbacks are happening … and someone has got to go!  For the jerks running this broken-down branch, it’s GAME-ON. Who’s first class…who will be undeliverable… and who will go postal!  Postal Madness is based on Michael Anthony’s animated series. The play was first presented Off-Broadway in 2014 and was a Strawberry Theatre Festival Semi-Finalist in 2020.  WARNING: Strong Language, Racial Overtones, Sexual Situations, and a whole lotta other bad stuff!  

Featured in the cast are James Alt, Luis Pedron, Ralph Laboy, Paul David Miller, Frisco Cosme, and Star Davis.  

Frances Lozada will direct and star in this wild romp set in the NYPS.

DQ spoke with Ms. Lozada about Postal Madness

Tell us about yourself as an artist?

I am a very generous artist who gives a lot of myself and my time. I am creative and love the process of writing and directing original pieces.

What drew you to this project?

The creator had an animation of this project which was very interesting. The characters were unique as well as the premise. No one has done anything about the post office yet there is so much to tell.

What is your creative process?

My creative process is reading the material a few times to discover new things. Then to breakdown the material to help bring it to life and enjoyable for audiences.

Do you find a sense of added responsibility when dealing with plays that tackle serious, mature, or timely subject matter?

Whether I am acting or directing a play I always add na extra level of responsibility to my work. In serious subject matter I make sure it plays out the way it is supposed to so it has the effect it is supposed to have.

What’s so good about off off Broadway/indie theater?

The Indie theater world is so fascinating and intriguing. How plays come up and get displayed and not to mention the unconventional subject matters.

It’s obvious the world is steadily reopening. What do you feel is different now than before pandemic? Another thought: what should be different now than before pandemic?

What I feel is different now is people can really appreciate theater. Being closed for such a long period made people appreciate theater more especially those who are putting up shows again.

What makes this different or special?

What makes this play so special is that no one ever talks about what happens behind the scenes of a post office. This comedy really hits home for those who have worked in the postal service and the characters are very entertaining.

What did you learn about yourself through this process? 

I learned a lot about myself directing this piece. How to involve myself in the mind of the writer and of the characters and how to bring life to them.

What are your ultimate goals for this production and for the future?

I hope this production gets picked up to be performed for many audiences and larger venues to come. It is great form of entertainment and be seen by many.

What’s next for you?

After this play I will be producing and directing my first feature film called Saint Prayer.

A happy “Birthday”

BIRTHDAY CANDLES review  © 2022 by Carol W. Berman

BIRTHDAY CANDLES (2022) by Noah Haidle explores the life of a character called Ernestine (played by a wonderful Debra Messing) from 18 years to 100 years old.  Each passing year or sometimes decade is introduced by a bell.  Ernestine is always in the kitchen (the only set) trying to make a birthday cake.  Various characters, i.e., her mother, her husband, her children, grandchildren, etc., pass through her life.  At first, I considered the play mawkishly sentimental and too stereotypical, but I soon realized Haidle was employing all these devices and characters to make a point about the brevity of existence and the repetition of life patterns throughout the years.  How life passes in a flash, how each generation experiences the same traumas of birth, relationships, and death.  Ernestine is the perfect mother.  She is always loving, patient, thankful.  The only time she was even slightly angry was when her husband, Matt, strayed from the marriage and had an affair.  Even then she was silent and unrealistically stoic.  She even nurses him when he gets dementia.  The audience loved her and gave her a standing ovation the night I was there. 

The play is a parable based on Thornton Wilder’s THE LONG CHRISTMAS DINNER (1931) in which we witness 90 years and are accelerated through ninety Christmas dinners in the Bayard home.  We see changes in customs and manners during this time and the growth of the Bayard family – all typical of American life.  (spoiler alert): The ending of BIRTHDAY CANDLES is especially poignant when we find Ernestine in the kitchen as usual, trying to prepare her birthday cake, but we soon discover that she has escaped from a nursing home to return to her house which now harbors a young couple.  She finally dies and sees her mother and the rest of the family pass before her eyes.

Artist Spotlight: Erin Shea Brady

Erin Shea Brady is a writer, director and social worker living in Chicago, IL. As a playwright, Erin has developed two plays (Revival and Chaos Theory, or something about butterflies) with the Jackalope Playwrights Lab. Directing credits include: Grace, or the Art of Climbing and Everybody (Brown Paper Box Co.); Cabaret; Annapurna (staged reading) and The Rise and Fall of Little Voice (No Stakes Theater Project). Assistant Directing and Dramaturgy credits include productions at the Goodman, Jackalope, TimeLine, A Red Orchid, Northlight, and Remy Bumppo. Erin is a graduate of the directing program at Columbia College Chicago, has participated in the internship program at Steppenwolf and was part of Goodman’s “Criticism in a Changing America” bootcamp. Erin has been a company member with Brown Paper Box Co. and The Wampus Cat Collective, is a contributing writer and critic at Newcity Stage, and is a practicing therapist with a Masters in Social Work from Loyola University. They are currently pursuing a Masters in Extension Studies with an emphasis on Creative Writing and Literature at Harvard University.

“I’ve worn a lot of hats in the theater world and, more recently, the world of social work as well,” says Erin Shay Brady, looking back at their career; “I think I’ve always been interested in how people navigate the stuff that we don’t talk about — the messy, intimate, confusing stuff that gets glossed over in favor of big drama,” they continued. It seems fitting that her mission in art and in life looks at life from the inside. They quote Brene Brown, in saying that the art that both captures our pain and delivers us from it, is the road she travels. Of cousre a compassionate artist/social worked would gavitate and communicate art that helps us face the tough stuff and holds our hand through it.

“I’m interested in stories that give visibility to the moments when we’re low and alone, when we’re at our messiest and most unsure, when we’re afraid of our questions and afraid of our answers and of all the things we haven’t learned. Maybe if more characters met us there, we wouldn’t avoid that place so ardently. Maybe we would all, collectively, be a little more willing to risk, grow, listen and learn.”

Words to live by.

“Annie Best is basically a queer, polyamorous take on Nora Ephron’s classic romcoms (When Harry Met Sally, Sleepless in Seattle, You’ve Got Mail, Julie & Julia),” Brady exclaims, launching into the details of her new play premiering as part of the Fresh Fruit Festival’s “Return to LIVE” Theatre Festival. Her perfiormanc schedule is May 6 @ 6:30 pm; May 8 @ 5:30 pm; and May 9 @8:15pm at The Wild Project, 195 E 3rd St, New York City. Visit FreshFruitFestival.com for tickets and details.

“Nora’s movies have always felt like home to me, except for the fact that they’re all super straight!” Brady says witha laugh; “[her movies are] warm, comforting, hopeful — things that are rarely, if ever, associated with polyamory in the media. More often than not, polyamory is seen as this destructive force breaking up a hetero marriage, which is far, far, far from the whole picture. People with more than one love in their life deserve the kind of wholesome, idealistic representation that straight, monogamous folks have had for decades. The play follows Annie as she wades through her relationships — with partners, with family, with herself — challenging assumptions along the way.”

Brady caught our attention.

… and what’s so great about Nora Ephron? 

Oh gosh, what a question! Not to borrow too much from the play, but nobody can blend hope and cynicism together so perfectly as Nora. She writes characters who are desperate to be part of the world around them, capturing all the beauty and neuroses of their small moments and big dreams. Plus, she’s dry and funny as hell.

You’re a respected figure in the Chicago arts scene … is this your first NY play? 

It is! I grew up in New Jersey and spent a ton of time seeing plays in NY as a kid, so it feels especially meaningful to bring this play to NY.

What is your philosophy on LGBTQ theatre and characters?

I love what Dan Levy did with Schitt’s Creek in creating an aspirational town where there’s no homophobia and people are just accepted. As much as we need stories that shed light on the opposition that queer folks face, we need stories that show us what acceptance looks like and give us a pathway forward. Annie Best gives us both — the total normalcy of queerness and polyamory, as well as the fight for that normalcy.

Why Fresh Fruit Festival?

LGBTQ+ work is so important — and LGBTQ+ community is so important! I’m so grateful to get to be in community with folks in NY and to share this play with a queer-affirming audience. Even in queer art spaces, polyamory isn’t always celebrated or even acknowledged, so getting to tell this story through Fresh Fruit feels like a special opportunity.

What happens with this play from here? 

Rewrites! While I’ve gotten to hear some different voices read this play over zoom throughout the pandemic, audiences have been harder to come by. I’m excited to test the waters; to hear what lands and what doesn’t, to see how folks experience polyamory through the play, what questions they still have… I hope that, on the other side of those rewrites, it’ll be ready for a full production.

What’s next for you? 

I just started the creative writing and literature program at the Harvard Extension School and hope to come out of it with a new work or two — maybe a collection of essays. Otherwise, enjoying the summer with my wonderful partners, being somebody’s therapist and hanging out with my cats!