“For a prolific writer like Irving Greenfield, the idea that his work might not be everyone’s cup of drama is probably not terribly troubling. However, the idea that his work might be censored has Mr. Greenfield as incensed as any writer would be. So incensed, in fact, that he might create a whole ‘nother work to illustrate just how incensed he is. A work like “Banned in Bisbee”, a play Greenfield wrote in response to his “Depth Force” novels being removed from library bookmobiles in Bisbee, Arizona following the accidental exposure of a nine year old patron to the adult language and situations therein.
With our country only weeks away from the federal government creating a “Department of Conscience and Religious Freedom” it’s easy to see why Director Laurie Rae Waugh and Jim Jennings’ American Theatre of Actors decided to revive Greenfield’s play. Book banning is the thin end of a very dangerous wedge. “Religious Freedom” is a dog-whistle to Christian Evangelicals. Both of those things are going on in the here and now, and this play, which was written some years back, is timely in a way that it wouldn’t have been during the Obama administration.
The play begins when Captain Jack Boxer (Ken Coughlin), the lead character in Greefield’s racy novels, and his first officer Master Chief Paul Gomez (Manny Rey), miraculously appear in the dreamscape of Mayor and Book-banner William Wholemouth (Nick Pascarella) and his wife Mary Lou Beth (Gina Zenyuch). There are a lot of rules that seem to apply to situations like this – one of them being that Boxer and Gomez can appear in the dreams of both William and Mary Lou Beth at the same time. Whatever the rules, Captain Jack, played with a steady-as-she-goes conviction and much leadership drive by Mr. Couglin, is on a mission to convince these rubes that what they’ve done in banning the Depth Force series is not only bigoted but completely hypocritical.
Boxer and Gomez next appear in the down-at-the-heels bar run by Hank, (Tony Scheer) who’s mouthing of god-fearing platitudes foreshadows the inevitable moment when he, like everyone else in Bisbee, is revealed to have feet of clay. The interlopers are soon backed into a corner by Sherriff Freddie (Robert Uller), who alerts the FBI (Joshua Patriarco in a wild turn as “Agent Zachs”) that a couple of Naval Officers seem to have appeared in landlocked, desert Arizona for no discernible reason. Uller gets laughs playing Freddie as a kind of Barnie Fife on steroids, and Patriarco tears the stage up, first as Zachs, with a dash of Bluto Blutarski, and then in a dual role as Fong Shun Un, a pirate character from Greenfield’s books who materializes out of sheet spite in order to mess with Boxer.
Manny Rey is delightful as Boxer’s second in command, and Tony Scheer as Hank brings the pure professionalism and balance that a play this over-the-top very much needs. Amid the naughty-word alarms and a lot of innuendo, we find blunt-talking librarian June Furst (played by the funny and very charming Meredith Rust). Furst, as a librarian, is naturally on the side of truth and freedom of speech, and in the course of speaking freely about her own personal life outs Hank as having been her lover for years on the not-very-down-low.
The Wholemouth family themselves are characterized as you might expect, but Nick Pascarella plays the mayor with such such sweet hangdog resignation that you feel sorry for him rather than angry at him. Gina Zenyuch also brings a lively softness to the role of Mary Lou Beth in a role that easily could have been one-note and unsatisfying in the wrong hands, and Aaron Vargas as “little” Billy Wholemouth relishes his great reveal (that he knew damned, excuse me, darned well when he brought the book home that it was a Greenfield potboiler and not a Garfield-the-cat) without turning the character into a cartoon.
Direction by Laurie Rae Waugh moves along at an appropriately brisk pace, keeping the action moving while still making sure the jokes land. And Ken Coughlin, doing quadruple duty as leading man, set designer, lighting and sound, makes sure that Waughs vision is breezy, fun and tightly-wound.
Taking quite a few shots at the holier-than-though attitude rife in our current political system, the play gets its point across while still being entertaining and enjoyable. Like any good satire, the points being made in this Greenfield play will linger after the laughter is over, making the audience think it through after the curtain has gone down.
You can see “Banned in Bisbee” at the American Theatre of Actors, 314 West 54th Street between 8th and 9th Avenues, 4th Floor, at 8 PM on:
Wednesday, September 12th,
Thursday, September 13th,
Friday, September 14th and
Saturday, September 15th.
There will also be a matinee on Sunday, September 16th, which will be the last performance. $20 Tickets are available for reservation by calling the theatre at 212.581.3044, or via Smartix.com at the following URL
Acclaimed opera singer Debra Cook’s musical love letter to her departed husband is a featured event of the NYNW Theatre Festival.
JILTED TO PERFECTION: A MORMOM’S LOVE
A SHORT MUSICAL ROMANCE WRITTEN BY AND FEATURING DEBRA COOK
The New York New Works Theatre Festival
The Acorn Theatre on Theatre Row
410 West 42nd Street
Friday, September 7 @ 7 p.m. and Saturday, September 15 @ 2 p.m.
Ms. Cook is a celebrated opera singer and musical educator in Utah. She is a founding Board Member of Opera West and winner of the American Opera Auditions, U.S.A. World Showcase, and a regional finalist for the Metropolitan Opera Auditions, Cook has done opera and concert work throughout the United States, including solo performances with the National Choral Society at Lincoln Center’s Avery Fisher Hall, Utah Symphony, and several seasons in repertory with Utah Opera Company. She performed off-Broadway and was featured as Roxanne in Stuart Crane’s cast recording of Cyrano.
Her original musical serves as a joyous melodious one-act and a catharsis.
Debra, a shamed and divorced Mormon mother, recounts the first sight of a strange and older man, Fred, who seems to know her already. Both working as extras in an opera, Fred claims that Debra is his “true wife,” and pursues her despite her fears, her missed dates, and her protestations. He steals a kiss that is like no other, and Debra’s passion fights with practicality.
Her 30-minute musical packs a lot in it time on stage so we wanted to hear from the author/composer herself.
Tell Us About Yourself as an Artist.
I love the term, “Artist, and it used to feel so sacred to me, only reserved to those of great prominence. Yet, I believe we are all artists, creators, at the very core. As creators, we shape art and lives by categorizing and then specifying what we will do, then refining by repeating that process over and over. Although we are taught to be original thinkers, our society often expects us to “tow the line.” Thus, claiming Artist status for the people in the middle is often a pejorative term, mostly because of the difficultly of monetizing Art. We confuse the viability of being an Artist is our society with its monetary value. Yet, the Artist is of prime value, the underpinning of what makes us a civilization, and it is of great value to our spirit and quality of life.
With that said, I am about promoting the value of art through education and performance, not only through the cliche’s of discipline and self-confidence, but through the critical place we have as Artists in our world. The Artist can be a child, like my 6 year old granddaughter, McKinslee, who sings at the end of this show. Her simple singing performances have brought stories of happiness and kindness to those I never knew before.
I am the executive Director of a performing arts school, Utah Conservatory. With over 400 students a week making music, we see our efforts build a supportive culture, provide precious family memories, and encounter a microcosm of our Park City community, a laboratory, you might say, of sharing ideas and challenges, and having a safe environment to make mistakes and weigh a variety of choices, and to build artists, one performer at a time.
In terms of my past experiences, I started as an opera singer, often encouraged to cross-over to musical theatre, and even taught musical theatre as faculty for an Actor Training Program at the University of Utah. Fred, the subject of “Jilted to Perfection: A MorMom’s Love,” was my greatest mentor as as Artist. I feel his understanding of performing, as well as his seminal work as an educator and teacher, shaped the artist I am today. In creating and performing “Jilted to Perfection: A MorMom’s Love,” my goal is to honor Fred and his exemplary lifetime of taking risks through embarking on new creative adventures. His is an authentic example of an Artist.
This play is autobiographical in many ways? How does it feel to “relive” your life … with music.
It feels great! How? Music adds what I sense is an added dimension to communication. Expressing a viewpoint through music can be an effective conduit to high and delightful levels of awareness, recognitions that one might not experience otherwise. Through music, I find we can express the “essence of our experiences” without having to write a “novel” of words to find the same recognitions. Thus, music is more efficient and helpful, at least for me, to find a common thread of experience that the listener can share or understand on a level that is not solely intellectual. The “re-liveing” of this autobiographical piece is a joy, because music is effective in leading us to moments of significance in the human experience….moments of significance that most of us share in one way or another. And, if my story can help the “judicious one” (as Shakespeare put it) to find some joy in the ironies of life, to see the adventure in our challenges, to break down stereotypes towards our common humanity, or to find a little more joy, or to experience a catharsis through laughter and/or pain…..well, that helps me feel purpose about sharing through with very vulnerable activity.
Difficult topic … adding in humor and music. What was your thought process?
This was a fun process for me. You get so many recognitions about life through humor. which is reality on steroids. The humor works with irony, and life is, indeed, full of it. What might be irritating or tragic, can be assuaged through finding the irony. Think about your last accident and the smile you have in the retelling of it. What was once so painful is an adventure to retell, a victory to survive, and often funny in the retelling of the craziness of what you went through. If we can find humor, we can survive.
Is this your first festival? How has it been?
I was in the festival last year after 4 years working on the creative team of Sleepy Hollow: The Musical, and asked to help out as Music Director and lending a hand with related production aspects. I loved being part of the festival last year, especially because I learned so much about the process. First of all, producer, Gene Fisch, who started this festival as a “give-back” project for our theatre community, is a dream for all of we creatives. He has provided us with “the real deal” in terms of the festival opportunities to develop and present new works. He has lowered the cost and upped the quality and exposure for Festivals through his sponsorship. A rare gift and a privilege.
What made you want to write a play and what have you learned from the experience?
After last year’s festival, there was a challenge that I might have something of value in this story, and, certainly, we all have to start somewhere, right? And actually, I almost fainted when getting the call that the work had made it into the festival. Not only because it was the first musical where I wrote the music and lyrics, but because it is such an honor to play in this sandbox with other artists, many of high reputation. From the experience thus far, I’ve learned that you need a team. Thus, the concept was hammered out by two friends who might be able to tell their own stories is a more expanded version of the piece. Team members include a director, Kathy Morath, music advisors and coaches, a music copyist, a producing organization of Professional Artists Group to manage all the business of creating, JMAE for promotional assistance, and the list goes on. I learned that writing your own piece is extremely vulnerable, even stressful. That’s humbling, This new stress can tempt me into grumpiness, and if I get surly with people, it belies the very reason to enhance our lives through the play. We’ll see if it works, but my goal in this whole process will be to prove that “people are more important than the process” and, hopefully, I’ll be treated the same way. If not, I’m a big girl and can still have a great time working through it.
What’s next is, hopefully, moving this “Jilted to Perfection” A MorMom’s Love,” forward. It is a show that really only needs a piano, and can be performed in a intimate room or a big stage, so it’s pretty easy to repeat and refine. After the two showings through NYNW Theatre festival of “Jilted to Perfection: A MorMom’s Love,” at the Acorn Theatre at 7 PM on Friday, September 7, and 2 PM on Saturday, September 15, we just booked the show at the Triad Theatre on 72nd Street for 3 PM, Sunday, November 18, where I’ll present this mini-musical version of the show, sharing the afternoon with cabaret singer/songwriter Teresa Eggersten-Cooke’s smokey standards and original work. In December, it’s back to concert work, singing Messiah solos with American West Symphony, along with lots of music-making at Utah Conservatory, everything from rocks bands to preparing students for college auditions and community musicals.
In this world, so many women who go through pain but societal norms force them to bury their emotions. A step further than it not being easy to be a woman is it is not easy to be a mother. Life’s inequality can force your dreams to fall into a thousand pieces. Three plays about three “mothers.”
Reviews by Mehrunnesa Akter
The Hunting Season by Magaly Coliman
Planet Connections Theatre Festivity
@ Theater the at the Clemente, 107 Suffolk Street
“The Hunting Season” is a powerful tale or racism and oppression wrapped in clairvoyance and mysticism. A Haitian mother’s second sight prompts her to protect her family against dire premonitions of their death. Like many tales of faith vs fate, the latter comes out victorious. In Magaly Coliman’s well-acted, well-written work, the mother turned the spiritual page too fast and acted too soon. While the surface is an exploration of spirituality and its boundaries – on this plane and others – the deeper meaning shows us how oppression permeates even our prayers. Coliman’s work is a powerful and well-thought.
Ruby by Susan Gross
Planet Connections Theatre Festivity
@ Theater the at the Clemente, 107 Suffolk Street
We are taught to soldier passed tragedy and to live on. Yes, that is the prevailing message in Ruby. But what about what goes on inside? Susan Gross gives a tour-de-force giving us the battle of ionner emotional pain after a miscarriage – all brought on bya baby crying! While not a mother (yet), Gross’ tale is one that every woman should see. A journey such as this creates community. I loved every part of this show and learned from its message.
Pregnant Pause by Kathleen Jones
Planet Connections Theatre Festivity
@ Theater the at the Clemente, 107 Suffolk Street
Pregnant Pause concerns a woman, her personal success, and her marital bliss. As the fates (maybe the same ones in Hunting Season) have determined that her first Broadway show opening is the same day as her baby-due date.
Planet Connections should be lauded for all these really powerful and compelling stories about women’s struggles – especially motherhood. Kathleen Jones prose were really well-thought, flowed beautifully and seemed made for actress Amie Cazel. her honest, powerful portrayal was simply brilliant to watch and packed a learning-lesson about life today … and possibly tomorrow.
I simply wanted more.
Art Imitates Life and Life Should Be Savored.
Five Star Arts Journals and Jay Michaels Arts & Entertainment will spotlight a series of artists who have devoted themselves to helping people celebrate their lives.
Veronica Moya, an international performer with stage, film, and TV credits heard the call. She tapped into her innate spirituality and combined it with her endless energy and ambition to help those who are lost. Focusing on your people, she is somewhat like a spiritual life coach – helping people tap into their own inner stregeth to move forward.
Veronica, it’s a pleasure to speak with you. Tell us about yourself as an artist?
My acting career started when I was 4 years old, back home in Buenos Aires, Argentina. I was a featured singer in a children’s TV show called “Cantaniños” which aired once a week. I was admitted to the National Academy of Dance (comparable to Juilliard school) when I was 10.
At age 16, I founded a “Children Entertainment Co.” with a couple of classmates. We became very successful and coveted with our upbeat performance. We used to sing and dance for the kids and as soon as parents saw us, they would hire us for their own children’s birthday party.
I was part of several Theater productions & TV shows back home. including a featured role in “El Verso” starting Luis Brandoni.
But my heart was always on Musical Theater. I came to New York sponsored by a modeling agency, and I started my studies in Musical Theater. I had the good fortune to work with George Morrison, Paul Sills, T. Schreiber & Liz Caplan as my vocal coach. Among my favorite credits are “Logic of the Birds” performed at Lincoln Center. Carnival (Lili), Fiddler on the Roof (Hodel), The Wizard of Oz (Glinda) with a bilingual touring Co. I was part of the Spanish Festival “Candilejas” where I performed comedies such as “Mi novia tiene 3 novios” where I played the female lead, opposite to Spanish mega star Manuel de Sabattini.
I was also a member of the Enchanted Players, where I was taken under the wing of its founders Regan & Mary Ryzuk incredible writer & composer team who were amazing teachers to me.
The theater has always been my passion, I was in films as well (El Verso, American Gangster, Sex & the City), but it was never as rewarding as being present with the audience. The communion between the actor and the audience is a feeling impossible to match. When you are on that stage, you truly feel like you are GIVING something, you are being of service. For a couple of hours your audience can be transported somewhere else and forget about their lives for just a little while. You feel like at least for a little bit, you made a difference.
Impressive! Tell us about yourself as a healer/counselor?
I started my path in the Self-help world almost by accident. I am laughing because as we all know, there are no accidents. I suppose it was always meant to be. As I was waiting for an audition I found a Wisdom Magazine right there on the table in front of me, the first thing I saw was an ad for a “Psychic development Class” at the Edgar Cayce Center. Needless to say, I had no idea who he was or what that center was, but i was pulled to it so I went. The class was taught by Coni Buro, the center was a non-for profit, very warm and friendly organization which was run mostly by volunteers. Before I knew it I became a big part of the Center. I was invited to be a member of the program committee, this group would meet once a week to discuss prospect new classes and guests speaker for the center. I started scouting new talent and people who I thought would be good fit for our audience.
Before I knew it I was teaching classes myself, offering Tarot Readings and Reiki sessions. I quit my full time job and I started doing readings and healings for a living, a perfect match for my eclectic schedule. I was still acting at the time, and I would get up at 5:00AM to go ice skating and to sign up for auditions at 6:00AM. Yes, that early. The auditions would start at 9:00AM but people were lining up at 6:00AM.
The way everything happened was pretty seamlessly. Just like a domino effect, one thing would always lead to another. I was soon known for my Energy and enthusiasm and my no non-sense style of delivery.
Other centers took noticed started calling me to teach. I was invited to Holistic centers in Long Island, New Jersey and even to the prestigious Omega Institute in Rhinebeck, NY. I was teaching how to read the Tarot cards, and How to develop your intuition. Every class would start with a meditation and I’d always emphasize the importance of clarity of mind and purity of heartwhen embarking in this sort of work.
I would teach them to always make a heart connection with their client, and have ONLY the intention to “be of service”. Your Ego must to be out of the way! You must know and trust that whatever comes to you is information that will be helpful to the inquirer.
I guess here is how all my theater training ties together with this work. Any Good actor must Become the character they are playing. They can not Act as if, they must become the character, and leave all self analysis aside. Well, doing readings for other people is quite the same, you must detach from your own story (your thoughts, your opinions, your intellect) and become a blank canvas, able to bring forth whatever is presented for them.
I was doing this work for about 5 or 6 years when I was called by a morning show in Telemundo to give weekly advice to their audience. The show was aired live and it started at 6:00AM so I had to get up super early to be there good & ready to go at 6:00AM. It was a lot of fun!
After this show I was also interviewed by E entertainment and asked to do an on camera reading for Candice Kumai. I was part of the documentary The Many sad Faits of Mr. Toledano created by Joshua Seftel and presented by the New York Times. I’ve done readings for explorer Fabien Cousteau, Joan Dangerfield, and some football players as well as business people here in New York City.
What do you look for in people to know if they need your help?
Excellent question! I am NOT a fortune teller. And I simply can not work with people who are accustom to consulting readers in a regular basis.
My intention is always to Be of Service and to ultimately inspire and encourage people to lead a happier life.
So the most important thing I do look for in a client is their ability to take responsibility for the unfolding of their life. I am happy to give advice, encouragement, and guidance. Sometime we all need a push, but I can not work with victims. I am here to empower the brave, not to coddle the weak. Jason Marshall wrote an article about this very subject about 10 years ago, I had my ex husband’s last name at the time: http://wisdom-magazine.com/Article.aspx/1562/
Was there one incident or something in your life that you feel put you on this path?
Yes, I never talk about this because it sounds strange. I was born “remembering” where I came from. Yes, and I don’t mean remembering a past life. I mean being completely aware of my truth & my essence as a Spirit.
Landed on this earth with a clear understanding of the downgrade I had just undertaken. Life on Earth is not great, but that’s mostly because people don’t know who they truly are. If they did, I am sure they would have a much more positive outlook and therefore a better outcome in their experience.
But here I was, an old, old Spirit in a world of contrast and challenges. I found that I was able to clearly see things that others didn’t. This can be quite frustrating, and lonely. Many facts of life were SO Obvious to me that I couldn’t wrap my head around the fact that other seemingly intelligent, and much more mature people, didn’t see. Why can’t they see that? Don’t they know it’s going to go down this way? Or That way? Or whatever way..?
I realized that I was able to read patterns (that’s what I call it). No, I don’t hear voices, and I don’t see any images, or Spirits or anything like that. I simply KNOW. I can look at a situation or a person and describe in great detail what they are about (how they feel, what they think, their highs, their lows) and what is most likely to happen.
I’ll be honest, I was a cranky little girl growing up. Very impatient and frustrated with everybody. Also bossy and of course assertive. But, wouldn’t you be?
This is why I LOVE to work with children today! If they are silently going through what I went through, then of course I understand their Frustration.
Of course they will have tantrums, of course they will be impatient. It’s not because they are being spoiled now. It’s because they WERE spoiled before they came here.
See? We all experience wholeness and bliss before we are called to become humans again. A child will naturally have a hard time adapting to this life; specially when connecting with all the anxiety, worry and fear from their parents. It’s a hard transition and really difficult to understand.
Who is your main clientele – who do you help the most?
Today my main clientele is young people. I specialize in Children and teens. It is imperative that they learn the power of their minds and the reach of their thoughts.
When they figure out how much power they have over their lives, they gain a new perspective. They become more optimistic and purposeful.
I love spending time with young children because they Get It! I don’t have to convince them of their power or how special they are. They already know. So my job is to make sure they never forget.
And with that end, I developed “Self-Aware Child” which is a meditation practice designed specially for children. It allows them to experience wholeness and bliss just by closing their eyes and using their imagination. We have different meditations for different situations. So they can have a nice toolbox of good and healthy resources for when they are feeling anxious, sad, worried or simply feeling awkward in front of their peers.
I also do one-on-one consultations which are SO, so, SOOOO rewarding and fun to do!! I found that I am very effective at guiding teens, and young adults, on choosing a career that will be gratifying both financially & emotionally at a personal level.
Tell us about the world and how you feel we can survive it.
I personally don’t have any big problems with the World. The only thing that I find harmful is our thoughts. The collective consciousness needs to change and the focus of our existence should certainly shift from this FEAR Based reality to a trusting and allowing mentality. After all, we are indeed responsible for everything so, if we don’t like something, we should simply disengage. Don’t participate. As they say, it takes 2 to Tango. So don’t. Thing that we don’t give our attention to ceases to exist.
People use the expression “A perfect world” … to a spiritual person like you, what is a perfect world?
A perfect world is one where every person is satisfy with themselves. Everybody is self confident, self loving, and proud to be who they are. Because they’d experience true contentment and peace, there would be no anger, conflict, or hostility towards others.
I find that most of our problems are originated in the need to fill a void that’s inside; and everyone tries to fill it while focusing on events happening outside of themselves. It’s a never anding story. It can’t be done. The only way to find true happiness is by Loving the perfect expression of yourself. Too tall, too short, too fat, too..? Who cares? Whatever you are, however you are, you came from perfection and you are perfect.
Self acceptance is the key!
Where do you see yourself in a year … 10 years … beyond
In a few years I see myself in a big house by the beach in San Diego. I don’t know why (I’ve never been to san Diego and I don’t even know I would like it) but I have had that recurrent image for years now. LOL
I am presently working on my fist book for children, which could easily become a series of books. So in a few years I hope to have inspired and encourage a larger number of young minds to be fearless and enjoy this life to the fullest. I would also like to be founder of a learning center dedicated to the True Development of the human mind, highlight on the Intuitive.
Final thoughts are Thank you for taking the time to learn about me and my work. My last words would be to most parents, who worry so much about their children, I want them to remember that their kids are not as helpless and defenseless as they might think. They are powerful souls that came through to have a human experience, and if given the chance they can truly soar as human beings.
Don’t teach them too much about Spirituality, they already know. Simply facilitate a safe space for self contemplation and the rest will follow.
Learn More about Veronica Moya
Five Star Arts Journals and Jay Michaels Arts & Entertainment will spotlight a series of artists who have devoted themselves to helping people celebrate their lives.
Mary Elizabeth Micari has developed a new method of vocal training that strengthens your voice… and you.
The MCenter Vocal Academy in Manhattan provides focused, entertaining, enriching vocal performance classes & lessons. Each student will receive a full portfolio of audition songs as well as learn the essentials of stage technique, musicianship, music history and theory.
What sets this above others of its kind is the fact that it is ONE-OF-A-KIND. Ms. Micari has created a new teaching method. You’ve tried Stanislavski, you’ve tried Meisner. Now, get on the P.A.T.H.
Performing Arts Training-HOLISTICALLY, created by Mary E. Micari, this method includes meditation, aromatherapy, Reiki, fear-removal and personal empowerment.
For more information, please contact:
MCenterPath@gmail.com • 646-338-5472 • the-M-center.com
Meantime, let’s chat with the founder for a few moments.
Mary, it’s good to have you back at DQ for an interview. We know about your wildly successful cabaret and your on-going vaudeville series, now tell us about M Center
The M Center was formed way back in 2000. I began teaching at the Jan Hus Playhouse 74th and 1st Ave. I had a group of women engaged in a work called GAIA (Girl Artists Innovating Art) and it branched out into voice, movement and acting lessons for theater professionals as well as Opera Singers. Genesis Repertory Ensemble was working in that space and (I was a founder) had both a classical stage division and an operatic division. We had a large company and that is where I began it all. Later I opened a little store front studio near my home in Brooklyn and eventually moved that to a large church in my neighborhood where the M Center is now housed. We have different types of people we work with from all age groups. Right now, I am opening a studio on the Upper West Side where I studied in my youth.
That’s great. Yes, you’re at a studio that’s frequented by opera professionals and run by a colleague from your operatic days. Elaborate, tell us about Mary the artist.
I am a singer and an actress. I am also a bit of a dabbler in composition, sound and music work for sacred meditation and empowerment and a bit of a writer.
How is your program/school/curriculum different?
My private lessons are semi-traditional in that I studied and used old techniques with my teachers from the Bel Canto (beautiful singing) technique of Opera which I blend with my first technique, the Stanley method, which centers around proper phonation and the physiology of the voice. I also teach all genres of music and of singing and believe that every singer can and should sing every type of music. I show students how to place their voice and use it to create different styles safely. I am very much about keeping the voice healthy and working into very old age and very cautious about working with singers who are too young or not fully grown. Classes are more geared towards performance and songs are treated like monologues that need to be fleshed out and made full. Of course, vocal technique is always in the front of all I do as well.
What do you bring to the table that you might not find in other schools?
I am not only a singer but also have studied different healing and spiritual techniques that I use in teaching to release fear, open a student’s mind to music, to their potential and to the sacredness in all singing and sound. I am certified in Sound and Music healing which I use to help students center, release the voice and find characterizations through movement. I am a Reiki Master (hands on energy healing from Japan) and use that to move blockage in the mind and body. I am also an herbalist, aromatherapist and Bach flower healer. I can show singers how to prevent illness and use plants to heal from illness as well as add strength and power to their body, mind and spirit. I use meditation techniques as well. I am also very well versed in the physiology of the body as it pertains to sound production.
I remember the play at 13th Street and thought that was innovative. You include a performance at the end. Is that usual? Is yours unusual somehow?
We always get singers up in front of an audience as often as possible. I think some schools to this but for me this is the reason to take a class and show the world what you can do. We offer video and photographs to students after shows and presentations and also have a full press service getting their names on the internet, in articles and reviews. My school is a great place to get ready for a big career in the theater, cabaret, auditions and more.
Maybe I’ll come by for a lesson. Thanks, Mary!
The Brutes-part of Planet Connections Theatre Festivity 2018 at the Clemente
Review by Jen Bush
Barrymore, Baldwin and Booth. These are just some names that conjure up thoughts of some of the most distinguished acting dynasties known to stage and screen. Another commonality of equal notoriety is scandal. Each family has had its share of scathing occurrences but none so tragic as the one associated with the Booths.
The Brutes takes us back in time to the auspicious occasion of the singular evening that all three brothers, John, Brutus Jr. and Edwin shared the stage together. It was the one and only time they publicly performed together. The production was Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar. The performance was a benefit at New York’s Winter Garden Theater to raise money to erect a statue of William Shakespeare in Central Park. The true drama took place behind the scenes as tension mounted among the siblings. How ironic that a play fraught with conflict and political discord would be the one performed by the brothers who were also riddled with conflict. A play with an assassination of a significant political figure that foreshadowed the tragic reality of what was to come.
As the play progresses, we see a tension filled Thanksgiving dinner. There is jealousy and political disagreement among the brothers. Asia Booth Clark, the sister of the Booth brothers and husband of the company manager John Sleeper Clarke adds more conflict by flitting about flirtatiously. We see the plotting and unfolding of lethal plans of confederate sympathizers who will soon be joined by John Wilkes Booth. A character who was likely not present on the night of the production but who was present in the play was the patriarch of the acting family, Junius Brutus Booth Sr.
It is challenging enough for an actor to breathe credible life into the part of an average individual. Accomplishing this in a period piece with a little Shakespearean dialogue thrown into the mix is a lofty endeavor for any thespian. This cast rose to the occasion and produced a thoroughly believable period piece. Adam Belvo did an outstanding job of portraying Edwin Booth. He was unwavering in his discipline and highly effective in his delivery of the most successful of the brothers. John Hardin’s complex, layered and intense portrayal of one of the most famous assassins in history, John Wilkes Booth was riveting. Mick O’Brien gave a forceful, moving and dramatic portrayal of the ghost of Junius Brutus Booth. Bravo to Sara Fellini for brilliantly wearing a plethora of hats for this production. She was director, costume and prop designer while effortlessly and expertly played the part of the whimsical and coquettish Asia Booth Clarke.
While there is humor peppered throughout, this is a dark and heavy play with grave subject matter. We see some finely executed Shakespeare with snippets of a play within a play. The costumes were exquisite and well suited to the cast. The props were cleverly made and versatile. The steamer trunk was a thing of beauty. Seats on all four sides of the stage served to draw the audience closer to the action facilitating deeper engagement. Between Casey Wimpee’s script using language of a time long past coupled with the exceptional acting, it felt as if we were transported directly to the 1800’s and truly witnessing the brothers Booth and the tormented ghost of their father. It seems fitting to conclude with a quote from Edwin Booth himself. “But Nature cast me for the part she found me best fitted for, and I have had to play it, and must play it till the curtain falls.”
You Hold a Pole Everyday
Written by Laura Sisskin
Planet Connections Festivity
107 Suffolk Street
Reviewer: Veronica Romero
You Hold a Pole Everyday was a very energetic, entertaining and relatable show. It brings you to places many find easy to remember like the first time you asked for a training bra when you didn’t need one and many others. It was very amusing, but it also had some deep meaning as well. Sisskin speaks of her sexual abuse and explains how she found comfort in pole dancing. She uses it as an expression of her pain and she makes herself feel better about it, by doing so she teaches others how to embrace themselves and most importantly how their body should be used to express themselves and how to take control of the body and the emotions used.
Laura Sisskin both writer and performer did a wonderful job. I was very impressed. She transitioned from different characters in and out of dancing and singing. She executed all the characters very well and it was a great story and so well orchestrated.
I really loved the meaning behind this play. It helps to make women feel more comfortable in their body embracing it showing how to love it no matter what. The combination of many elements well sewn together made this play what it was…amazing.
Peace Camp Org.
Written by Mariam Bazeeb
Fresh Fruit Festival
The Wild Project
195 East 3rd Street
Review by Nusrat Hossain
Politics. The cause of peace … and destruction. The politics behind the ongoing conflict between Palestine and Israel is one such instance. The Palestine and Israeli war began with the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948. After World War II. The Jewish people, having been uprooted from their homes by the Nazi’s in Germany and other countries did not have an established home to go to and the state of Israel was formed to provide one. They were given a large part of Palestine, which they considered their traditional home. However, the Arabs who already lived there and in neighboring countries felt that was unfair and didn’t accept the new country. Anger and chaos ensued.
This play focuses on an Egyptian Muslim girl named Mariam. Mariam lives a life with her disabled mother, her overbearing uncle and a girl she occasionally hooks up with. Mariam dreams of getting away from the miserable walls of her mom’s apartment. She decides to go to a “peace building” camp in Maine, USA. The peace camp organization turns out to be a Zionist organization that changes her life forever. Through the organization, she ends up finding a hidden talent of singing. She is offered a scholarship for her singing along with a ticket out of her country.
Peace Camp Org by Mariam Bazeed is a cleverly written piece that sheds light onto a topic not heavily discussed in social media. She sheds light on what it is like living in a strict Muslim household, where being lesbian is taboo and a great sin. Where girls are not given as much freedom as men, and where you are bound by society, family and religious expectations. One of my favorite lines in the play was, “She’ll come back to you a lesbian! In America, everyone is a lesbian!” Mariam’s story shows how completely different a person’s life can be from yours, but at the same time completely alike. Peace Camp Org stirs empathy in all audiences, especially the ones that can relate. I encourage all audiences to catch a glimpse of “Peace Camp Org”. This witty play filled with raw passion will surely capture your heart and leave you something to think about.
Written by Kathleen Jones
Planet Connections Festivity
107 Suffolk Street
Review by Amanda Kavaja
Amy Cazel stood at the crossroads in Kathleen Jones’ engaging and well-written one-person tome about a woman standing on the line between family and career. Regardless of strides for equality, this seems not to change.
Amie Cazel did a wonderful job creating a reality essential to the execution of her character (some one-person pieces can get away with a sense of demonstration) and the hard decision she is forced to make. She showed us a gamut of emotions: frustration to fear; disappointment, regret, deep deep sadness all tied to a bright energy that allowed us to be voyeurs on her journey.
The look at the future of this character by Jones was fascinating. No one can ever really see (except in hindsight) how decisions pan-out. It was interesting to hear common inner thoughts like “will my body ever be the same shape again?” and others that most women face when considering children.
Cazel should be praised for her depth. During the performance, it was hard to not notice the many women in the audience tearing up. The dialogue and its delivery spoke volumes.
This play gave me the chance to see what making such a strong decision was like.