2020 Visionaries: Sara Koviak

Sara Koviak is right at home in the magical realism of a Jose Rivera play.

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While studying to be a surgeon, she danced ballet in high school and college. The joy dance brought her eventually won-out and she changed direction – now making dance and theatre her prime focus. “I studied theatre and dance and ended up moving to NYC.  I originally planned to have my own dance company then I was cast in the National Tour of Pippin. I became a full-time performer at that point, in musicals, dance concerts, and eventually dancing at The Metropolitan Opera for many years until I changed careers entirely and focused solely on acting,” said Koviak.  “I think my classical dance training has helped me tremendously become a more well-rounded multi-faceted actor.  I bring a great deal of physicality to my roles.  I’ve also had improv training most of my life which allows me to create in the rehearsal room easily and live moment to moment as the character,” she concluded, sharing with us how she masters a role – inside and out. 

Drama-Queens asked a few quick questions, as she was in-tech for her latest production LOVESIONG (IMPEFECT) another stunning world premiere by Obie-winner, Jose Rivera. 

Tell us about your role and the play.

I love this role!  I have a lot of freedom in this role to be myself and add my own nuances and quirkiness to it.  I love the heightened language – I live for it!  In this role of Delilah, I am able to explore an entire color palette of emotions – everything imaginable happens to this very determined and eternally (literally) romantic gal.  The play is a marathon and a true test of stamina.  The play itself is beautiful and heart-warming and funny and disturbing and terrifying and magical and whimsical and sad and joyful.  We’ve got it all. Even fencing and bicycle riding….and maybe a few tutus….

 

What’s your criteria on choosing a role? 

Good writing, well-developed character with strong point of view.  Something I know I can make my own and have a ton of fun developing and exploring.  Something where I can truly showcase my unique skills.

 

How do you go about creating a character in the realm of magical realism

Truth and normalcy.  They don’t know the world being any other way.  They see it as commonplace.    Its easy for me as a person to accept fanciful or extravagant worlds.  My imagination is always open to new ideas so nothing ever seems too outlandish or improbable.

 

What’s next for you? 

Two different projects I worked on last year will be premiering: a new series on HBO with Nicole Kidman and Hugh Grant, “The Undoing”, and a short suspense/horror film written/directed by Jose Rivera, “The Fall of a Sparrow”.  I’m looking forward to finally seeing both!!!

Our last question, as this is a site for women in the arts, was about how the #MeToo movement has influenced change in commercial theatre and film but how has it affected off-off Broadway? Ms. Koviak gave us one dance move that told a whole story:

“Some things change. Some things don’t.”

Ms. Koviak begins her run at the 14th Street Y in Jose Rivera’s LOVESONG (IMPERFECT) IN A FEW DAYS. TICKET AVAILABLE AT 

https://14streety.secure.force.com/ticket#details_a0S1R000009tBDZUA2

 

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2020 Visionaries: Character Actress Valerie O’Hara

headshot 2015-6.jpgThe American Theatre of Actors will present two dynamic works by controversial author and influencer, James Crafford: Moves and Countermoves: New Works by James Crafford. Performances are January 22 – February 2, 2020 (Wednesday – Saturday @ 8:00 p.m. and Sunday at 3:00 p.m.) in The B.E.T. (Beckmann Experimental Theatre) of the American Theatre of Actors Complex, 314 W 54th St, New York City; (212) 581-3044 for tickets.

Valerie O’Hara, is no stranger to powerful dramas and character roles. her virtuoso performance in Lynn Navarra’s THE SANDMAN still echos through the halls of the American Theatre of Actors. A role earning her a Jean Dalrymple Award

 

Here latest star-turn is as Joyce in “The Game Is Not Over,” a one-act that explores the relationship between a man and the two women in his life – his wife and his former lover. A simple living room becomes a battlefield as the wife confronts the former lover.

“I always had a notion that it would be fun to be a character actress, but I never thought this was a realistic ambition,” Ms. O’Hara disclosed; “a happy confluence of events found me taking a free acting class when I was well into my 50s, and enjoying it so much that I signed up for more lessons.  My first time on stage was in 2006, in a one-act play in a festival.  We had a single performance, but I kept going, and through friendships formed in the off-off-Broadway community, recommendations, and auditions, I have had the fortune to have had the opportunity to play many interesting characters.”
As for how she approached a role, she said “when characters are realistic, as Joyce is, I tend to draw from experiences in my own life and the lives of people I know.  This character has feelings of sadness, resilience, jealousy, complacency, capability, and despondency all mixed up within her; in other words, she is complex and ultimately human, as are we all,” she astutely commented.
Ms. O’Hara has reached that grande-dame point of reprising popular roles, “I will be reprising the role of Jonie in an expanded version of “The Last Caddoan” by James Jennings next month here at ATA.”
Jennings, the founder of the American Theatre of Actors has always had discerning taste in casting.

Women in the Arts: Miranda Luze and Mary Todd Lincoln both juggled the world

Common Ground, the new musical by Granville Wyche Burgess and Stan Wietrzychowsk, tells the yet-untold story of what really necessitated the Emancipation Proclamation. This special book-in-hand presentation, will be Monday, December 9 at 7:00 p.m. at The Actors Temple, 339 West 47th Street, NYC. Common Ground begins with a veiledly racist President Lincoln, carrying a country-at-war on his back, deliberating on how to make peace with his foes and forge an alliance with the formidable Frederick Douglass. Douglass, a literate, courageous “Moses” to his people, must show President Lincoln a new realty.

This is a “manly” story with two masculine forces etching our history. But – as the musical displays – the wives of these two statesmen played an integral role. Miranda Luze creates the role of Mary Todd Lincoln, a woman who – historically – was fraught with her own conflict.

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Miranda, by her own admission, is a crazy-busy artist, forging her own career on stage and as an arts producer. So to grab-hold of an historic character trying to hold together a country and herself may have even been cathartic to play.

Tell us about yourself as an artist

44521392_10157918112889554_333640476961800192_o.jpgI am a theatre artist spinning a lot of plates. I’m actor/singer busy auditioning and doing gigs around the city. I also co-founded a non-profit theatre company with some college alumni called Thousand Faced Theatre. We started the company because we all had a passion for new theatre and wanted to be more involved in it. This keeps me busy year round performing, directing, and producing new/original work. I’m also a voice teacher! @miranduhluzer/www.mirandaluze.com 

 

 

Do you feel an added sense of responsibility when handling a piece of history like this? 

Yes, it is very difficult to even act like some of this dialogue isn’t uncomfortable. However, it is important to tell these stories because treating people poorly based on our differences is till one of the most prevalent topics in our society. 

Tell us about a staged reading … pros cons

The reading is an important look at the political process during one of the most important times in history. It shows you how imperfect everything was when trying to give people basic human rights. Seems familiar. 😉 

The con is you don’t get to see the whole show! 

What’s next

Thousand Faced Theatre is producing some amazing new theatre in the next few months that I’m incredibly excited about! Make sure to follow us @thousandfacedtheatre to stay updated! 

Women in the Arts 2019: Aviana Rivera emancipates a powerful character

Common Ground, the new musical by Granville Wyche Burgess and Stan Wietrzychowsk, tells the yet-untold story of what really necessitated the Emancipation Proclamation. This special book-in-hand presentation, will be Monday, December 9 at 7:00 p.m. at The Actors Temple, 339 West 47th Street, NYC. Common Ground begins with a veiledly racist President Lincoln, carrying a country-at-war on his back, deliberating on how to make peace with his foes and forge an alliance with the formidable Frederick Douglass. Douglass, a literate, courageous “Moses” to his people, must show President Lincoln a new realty.

This is a “manly” story with two masculine forces etching our history. But – as the musical displays – the wives of these two statesmen played an integral role. Aviana Rivera creates the role of Ann, Frederick Douglass’ wife. Creates is the right word. As little is known of her. Aviana’s creative ground is fertile for interpretation.

image3 (4)We wanted to speak with her about her role and her role in the arts.

Tell us about yourself as an artist

I have just recently decided to ascend into the professional world of theatre and it was the best decision I ever made. I grew up in a household that moved around all of the time, so in my travels I’ve had the opportunity to meet, understand, and observe people in their different ways of life. So as an artist, I find that it is my duty to constantly try and understand people to their fullest capacity and use that knowledge to help me best portray characters truthfully. 

Do you feel an added sense of responsibility when handling apiece of history like this?

I definitely feel an added sense of responsibility when handling a piece like this. Not only because it’s based on such an important part of American history, but also because of the weight it still holds in our modern American society. The problems that are evident in this piece still affect our society today and it’s interesting to explore and play upon those parallels in order to create a sense of catharsis that anyone can relate to, or in the very least empathize with. 

48365497_2028974293850583_1165766532018470912_n.jpgTell us about a staged reading … pros cons

I would say the pros of doing a staged reading versus a full production would be it’s easier for the audience to focus on the words and emotions the actors are trying to portray. Once you get into a full production, the glitz and glam of the lights, costumes, and special effects has the potential to overshadow the playwrights work. On the other hand, I would also say that the con of doing a stage reading would have to be for the very same reason. That same glitz and glam, if done correctly, could emphasize the playwrights work in the best way possible and really bring the piece the life it might need.

The company for this presentation features Kalonjee Gallimore as Frederick Douglass; Dan Pavacic as Abraham Lincoln, with Aviana Rivera, Miranda Luze, Maurio Brown, Brenden MacDonald, Hannah Bonnett and Steven M. Singer as John Wilkes Booth. Reservations are required for this event. Contact Liz Cope at JMAE.events@gmail.com or call 347-497-4814

 

 

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Women in the Arts 2019: The Rodeh to Success

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As 2019 starts wrapping up, we spotlight Eliya Rodeh, a member of the Dirty Laundry Theatre, which is a member of the Alliance of Alien Artists. As New York indie theatre opens its minds to new ideas, it opens its doors to new artists from around the world.

“My passion for creating art and my strong belief in art as a form of communication and storytelling led me to join forces with a few other passionate actors and form a theatre production company,” says the Israeli-born Eliya. She doesn’t just present … she brings ideas to the table.

Tell us about yourself as an artist.

Eliya3I’m a passionate Israeli actress and singer, currently based in NYC. I’ve been singing on and off the stage ever since I can remember. With the support of my mother, I was lucky to take the path of artistic studies from elementary school through college, while performing for local and international communities. My love for theatre brought me to New York City to pursue continued development, completing the Stella Adler Conservatory Program and currently flourishing at the HB International Students Program. I believe in the power of theatre to bridge the gap between different people, to break down walls and bring people together. I want my art to touch people, give them a new perspective and open their hearts.

What are you doing now?

Eliya1My passion for creating art and my strong belief in art as a form of communication and storytelling led me to join forces with a few other passionate actors and form a theatre production company, ‘Dirty Laundry Theatre’; together we seek to tell cross cultural human stories and help our audience relate to other ethnical groups they’re not necessarily familiar with or fond of. We’ve just received our first ‘validation event’ when our first play “Borders”, which we premiered at the NY Theatre Festival in the summer was nominated for Best Play of the year!!! I’m super excited about what’s coming up next! We’re now planning our first official season and just launched our fundraising campaign! Other than that I’m working on a solo cabaret show that is inspired by my unique family story. It’s still in the very early stages of development so it’s a bit too early to discuss, but I’m very excited about that! 

What are the biggest obstacles you face? What’s the biggest reward?

13-Edit-2Living the artistic life in a big city is not easy. The struggle is real! It’s a very competitive field, full of rejection and instability. In addition to all that, being a foreigner brings its own obstacles. Acting in English was a major struggle for me to begin with. I started learning English at a very young age and spoke the language well when I moved here. But I lived my life in Hebrew. All my experiences – the good, the bad and everything in between were in Hebrew. And suddenly I had to bring life to characters in another language. A language that I knew, but didn’t feel in my bones. Luckily, this is something that got better with time. The more I experience, the more I live in English, the easier it gets.

Another obstacle is the cultural differences. After moving here I realized I was a lot more “Israeli” than I thought. And as most Israelis I’m very straight forward. I consider it better than giving polite hints and circling around an issue. Unfortunately, some Americans might find such directness a bit… rude. And I’m still learning my social boundaries: what is polite and what isn’t, where my Israeli chutzpah plays nicely with the American passive-aggressiveness, and when I should tone it down. I still find myself confused sometimes when I’m not completely sure if I ‘read’ the other person right. It might sound cliche, but I do learn something new with every day that goes by, and I’m happy to do so.

The best reward is the one I don’t always get to experience or even know about: the impact of my work on the audience.

Even though I might never know about it, if my work will affect and impact just one little girl, that’s my best reward. One little girl who might be insecure or afraid, who thinks her experience of life is not ok, who got singled out for being different, who feels alone or discouraged. If that little girl sees my work, hears or watches the story I’m choosing to tell through my acting, singing or theatre-making and realize that she’s not alone and that there are people out there that go through similar experiences – that’s the best reward one could ever get. There’s a saying in Hebrew “One who saves one soul, saves the world entire” – for me, this is how I save the world.If you could give advice to all artists thinking of coming here what would you tell them?

NYC has it all: money, drive and the know-how. Know that it’s there, even if it’s not always easy to find. Do your research, find resources here, be active in finding your tribe/community and don’t ever get too shy or afraid to reach out for help. The acting world is very competitive, but the community is also very supportive. everyone’s going through the same struggle and most are happy to help.

What’s next for you?

Eliya5As part of Dirty Laundry Theatre’s first official season we’re developing an immersive piece, which combines a theatrical experience with a high-end dinner. The audience is invited to join a traditional family Shabbat dinner where they become a part of the family dynamic, when it goes right and when it goes wrong.

In this project I have the opportunity to both assist as part of the production team as well as be a member of the cast, which is an incredible opportunity for me to learn more about the business of indie-theatre in NYC.

 

 

 

Women in the Arts 2019: Bree O’Connor gets “Playful”

The Playful Substance Company prepares for their most ambitious season … ever, beginning with “Shelter In Place” premiering as part of Fringe BYOV. The first production of the PSC. season, “Shelter In Place,” written and directed by Raphael Perahia, began as a part of the PSC Writers Group. Performing Under St Marks, 94 St. Marks Place. Between 1st Avenue & A Avenue on October 24, 25, 26, 31; November 1, and 2. All performances at 7:30 pm. When the fire alarm goes off in Jahoose’s Adult Education Drawing class (Mondays at 4:00pm) and the FDNY issues a mysterious command to “Shelter In Place”, five misfits realize that they have become more invested in one another’s lives than they ever expected. The powerful new work features Rahoul Roy, Dan Kellmer, Megan Greener,* Nicole Amaral and Brandon Fox. Shelter in Place is part of the 2019 FringeBYOV. Further info located at https://fringenyc.org/basic_page.php?ltr=S

Playful Substance 2019-2020 season continues with a new play by Lauren Lindsey White and a revival of “Still We Grow: An Immersive Theatrical Journey to Fight Human Trafficking” from the company’s acclaimed Good Works Series. “Still We Grow” is an immersive human journey to fight human trafficking. The production will benefit LifeWay Network, a local organization that provides housing and support for female survivors of Human Trafficking. The PSC will host an educational program of a series of one day workshops for collaborators on different aspects of craft. Director Development programs that will run in tandem with our Writers’ Groups; readings of new works-in-development (from the P.S.C. Writers’ Groups) will be presented. The PSC Writers Groups Fall Session developing new works from a group of eight participating writers and PSC’s annual networking event – “The Pithy Party” – will conclude the season. Party gifts are part of the fun at the event, so all guests see the plays-in-development and leave with a handful of “playful substances.” Visit playfulsubstance.com.

At the helm of this deeply philanthropic organization is the effervescent Bree O’Connor.

iconsquareabcE8B1B484-B575-4369-92FCED09B38369B8.jpgBy the artwork of her company’s latest showing, one can see that the joy one SHOULD have from creating art is evident in her.

It is people like Ms. O’Connor who “GETS IT.” They understand the educational and cathartic elements of the arts and foster them with the plays. Maybe that’s because she built a family with her company.

DQR wanted to take a moment and get some words from her on her company and her work.

 

 

Tell us about yourself as an artist?

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Bree O’Connor in her solo show “Gee, I Hope You Have Fun at My Mom’s Death” presented as part of our Woman’s Work solo festival in July 2019.

I am an actor, writer, director, producer, Circle in the Square Theater School graduate, member of the LAByrinth Intensive Ensemble (2014), and mother of three. 

What was the inspiration behind Playful Substance

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The gang at a developmental reading of “Shelter in Place”. Pictured: Rahoul Roy, Raphael Perahia, Ron Phippen, Megan Greener, Dan Kellmer, Laura Sisskin Fernandez, Lauren Lindsey White, Rocky Vega, Jaqueline Reason, Foster Stevenson and Bree O’Connor

I had children “New York early” (meaning young for New York but not for anywhere else in the country) and found myself isolated from artistic outlets and community for well over a decade. Playful Substance is my attempt to be the person I needed during my artistic exile. Everyone who is willing to put in the work should have access to a creative life, should have access to support and community. 

Seems you have a strong mission to educate. All areas or is there a focus?

I consider myself a facilitator as opposed to an educator. I started with writers because I have written something almost every day of my life since I was 7 or 8 years old. After some of my work started to get noticed, people kept asking me to look at their scripts. I was spending so much time reading and giving notes that it occurred to me that offering some writers’ programming could be the basis on which to build the company I have been thinking about for nearly 20 years. I started the Writers’ Groups, hoping to gain some support and accountability for my own work while also providing the same for other Writers and things have grown from there. In addition to starting an annual works-in-progress reading party, called “Pithy Party”, our Writers’ Groups also fuel our full productions. The intention is for that relationship to continue. Not every project that comes out of Writers’ Group can be a Playful Substance show (we don’t have the funding or manpower for that!) but we can offer developmental and practical support for writers who want to self produce and also try to pass along industry information about opportunities for writers as they come our way. 

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Rehearsal for “Shelter In Place” written and directed by Raphael Perahia. Pictured Left to Right: Megan Greener, Dan Kellmer, Rahoul Roy and Brandon Fox

As we grow, so will our artist development programs. This year we hope to add a Director Development component to the work we do as well as some short term workshops for collaborators to explore their relationships to one another and to different aspects of the medium. 

I have always been interested in developing new work. Certainly, it is exciting to watch something go from an idea to finished project, but I find that companies who spend this kind of time together tend to find their own language, their own way of being in the world, their own unique voice and way of working together and THAT is what truly excites me. I am hoping that if we create a group that is focused on creating something that is specific to US that we might unlock some secret together. What that secret is? I have no idea. But the journey sounds like fun and the thought of having a soft place to land makes me feel better prepared to take more risks.

What do you look for in terms of members for your Writers Group? 

I don’t have any criteria other than, “Do you want to do the work?”. Sometimes they think they do, but they really don’t. That’s cool. The work isn’t for everyone and that can be a valuable lesson in and of itself. But I DO believe that everyone has a story of value, a voice that deserves to be heard. If you want to put in the time, you can improve. If you can observe, if you can listen, if you can practice, you can become a better writer… a better artist. If you can challenge yourself to be honest with YOURSELF, and open with your audience, then you can create something transcendent. But that all starts with a willingness to sit down and write… and then share it.

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“SAHM’s Club” by Bree O’Connor directed by Jill DeArmon for FRIGID 2017 Pictures: Kaili Y. Turner, Kim Rios Lin, Nicol Moeller, Megan Greener, Ron Phippen, Jamie Klassel

 

How do you measure success?

At this point, I am happy that I have collaborators who keep saying “yes”. We are still a very young company and so we have a few years of hard audience development work ahead of us, but the artists keep showing up and they keep coming back for more. Right now that feels like success. Being able to offer more opportunities for artists, that would feel like the next level. We are working toward the day when everyone will get paid more than subway fare and snacks and audiences have enough of a relationship with us that they LOOK for us. But until then, bringing people together in a room to breathe the same air and share the same experience and maybe even be moved in some way that makes them slightly different than they were the moment before the lights went down… THAT sounds like real success.

What’s next? 

Our second full season begins with “Shelter In Place” by Raphael Perahia (one of our original Writers’ Group members) runs  October 24 – 26th and October 31 – November 2nd at Under St Marks Theater. In November we will be offering a short term workshop for writers to explore scene study from an actor’s perspective. In Winter 2020, Playful Substance will take on a new piece by Lauren Lindsey White (also, original Writers’ Group member) and put up a workshop production. Our Writers’ Groups continue through June. There will be a Good Works Series Project (a project we do in partnership with a local charity- details to come), more workshops and readings and our season closes with our third annual Pithy Party in June.  

 

 

 

 

 

Women in the Arts 2019: Dana UN-Blocks the stigma of mental illness.

Dana Block is doing a one-man show.

Nope, we meant to use “man.” As her show is about one man … her brother, Marc.

MONKEY MAN, showing Saturday, November 2 @ 7:30 p.m., is part of the 10th annual UNITED SOLO THEATRE FESTIVAL on Theatre Row, 410 West 42nd Street, New York City. Tickets: https://www.telecharge.com/Off-Broadway/United-Solo-Theatre-Festival-2019/Overview.

Marc hitchhiked across America, calling himself a Highway Man: “I tell my stories to drivers, keep ’em awake at night.” This show is constructed from the brilliant, stream-of-consciousness rants and graphic cartoons Marc made in a diary as he jumped from ride to ride, sleeping on the side of the road, begging for food. He attempted to stay in reality but his mental illness led him further and further down a rabbit hole. “He tried to reason his way out,” Dana says, “finding tunnels, underpasses, crosscuts, but none of it led him back to home.”

Dana Block takes the stage to offer a rare insight into the mind of mental illness. “This subject is still so stigmatized and full of shame,” Block says. “People come to me after the show and open up. It touches so many peoples’ hidden-away griefs.”

Dana’s bravery did not go unnoticed here at D-Q-Reviews. We wanted a moment with the one-woman about her one-man show.

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Tell us about yourself as an artist, Dana Lee Block

It all started when I was a kid. From day one, when there was anything musical or theatrical happening in town, the Blocks were first responders.  We were the Barrymore’s of Community Theater in the cow heart of a redneck cow town in central Missouri. So I come by it naturally.  Mom was also a painter and known for her Andy Warhol style painted toilet seats, and pop-up murals, which she produced on people’s walls at late night parties.  My father loved Shakespeare, performing monologues for the family all the time; he eventually became a professional Actor and Director in Kansas City.

I’ve always loved to perform and have taken every opportunity to be in a show, through High School and College.  I wanted serious Actor Training, which I got from Michael Howard, NYC, SUNY Purchase Conservatory Training Program, and earned an MFA at The Academy For Classical Acting with Michael Kahn and The Shakespeare Theater Co., George Washington University, Washington, D.C. in 2011.

I’ve always loved to act in any kind of repertory, be it Classical or Contemporary, LOVE working in an ensemble situation. I have always wanted to be part of a repertory theater company and do all sorts of roles.  That was my dream, but unfortunately it never happened.  So I started to write my own shows so I could star in super fun, funny and dramatic and interesting roles (and that is why I got so much training: so I could have the best possible skills and theatrically realize my visions). I also realized that I had a lot to say and write about, and that I liked making choices in all aspects of production. It seems to me that this is as close as I can get to really being an artist. 

I have written and performed 4 one-woman shows and a full-length play:

  • “La Vache Sauvage” or “The Wild Cow,” a cow escapes the butcher’s knife and runs through the French countryside for two days, but her big bell gives her away.
  • “My Hair Piece” –- a post-partum/slightly savage Tequila-drenched romp with Richard Gere in a Mexican restaurant;
  • “Queen Kong” – Leni Riefenstahl, turning 103, sets out to do a remake of the Kong epic with a female black Kong, casting herself as the Afro’d Kong, to prove once and for all that she is not nor never was, a racist, despite being Hitler’s personal propaganda filmmaker.
  • “Monkey Man” – about my brother’s schizophrenia.
  • “The Art of Dentistry” – a full length Comedy starring a mad female dentist, Dr. Dragga Salvation, who wants to be the first person to successfully clone and implant, living human tooth clones.

 

Was life with your brother difficult? 

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I was extremely close to my little brother, we are only two years apart.  As kids, we were together all of the time, playing football and running around the neighborhood. I protected him and I got him into trouble, depending on my mood, but he was mine.  I don’t remember that much about middle school.  In High School, everything seemed normal and although people have told me recently that they thought him strange or weird at that time, I wasn’t aware of it.  Our whole family was regarded as a little oddball, because we were so artistic and intellectual amidst an otherwise quiet farming and business community.  It wasn’t until Marc’s final year of High School that I began to see changes in him.  But what I saw was confusing more than anything.  We had been experimenting with drugs- weed mostly- and we were used to acting crazy and laughing at each other’s behavior.  When Marc began to manifest bi-polar schizophrenia, he became aggressive and non-sensical.  We would sometimes wake up to a house that had been completely re-arranged by him- one day all the kitchen linoleum had been torn up and the refrigerator was humming away in the middle of the living room.  I also remember that Marc used to steal dad’s car and drive out of town all the time, and that my father had to talk the cops into letting him go free when they found him stalled out on the side of the road.  Dad would always go and rescue Marc, bring him home, quiz him and try to make sense of what Marc was thinking. I remember how deeply saddened my parents were.  It pretty much did them in.  Really, all of us withdrew from the community, and while my parents lived their lives out there, pretty isolated in their grief, I and my sisters left for college and life in other cities.  My parents were desperate to figure out a way to help Marc, they tried mega-vitamin treatment, hospitilzation, my father put him in business selling musical instruments, they took him to the Mayo Clinic… nothing worked.  They were not able to help him and he eventually hitchhiked out of town, calling himself a “Highway Man” and he never returned.

What made you write about him?

9972_874822225964683_8488785127316404761_n.jpgIt seems to me that because the Block home was so filled with art and theater that it was entwined with Marc’s mental illness and how he expressed himself as it changed him into a different being. He wrote notebooks and notebooks full of theories, dialogues, essays, rants, diatribes, and he drew hilarious cartoons of what he called “small character humans.” After Marc left home, all of his material sat on a shelf.  I always knew it was there but didn’t pay attention to it.  And then one day, I started to look at what was there, and wow, I was blown away.  I felt I’d found a treasure trove and a key to him, and I wanted to show his brilliance and originality to others.  So I pieced together about 10 selections from the hundreds of things he wrote and I created “Monkey Man”, which does contain some of his writing verbatim.  Some of the other stories I created are derived from his material.

In creating this piece, did it bring you more insight into your brother or possibly some form of closure? 

That’s a good question, a great question.  There will never be closure.  I continue to mourn the imagined life that I think he could have lived, but all the while I know this was his destiny.  I love performing this piece and the first part of the show contains stories of when we were kids together, and these stories are hilarious (I built these from some of his writing and also, photos and momentos) – we got into all kinds of hi-jinx-=- it’s almost like I can experience our innocent lives again;  the second half of this 55-minute show is darker and leads to a mental and spiritual space of deep loss, and that is painful.  I think every time I perform, I get a little closer to the truth, and a little closer to him, so I thrive on it.  Marc is still alive and presently lives in a motel room in Mesquite, Nevada. I have never told him that I have written this solo show about him.

Do you imagine telling your story in a more elaborated form (longer play) or something more widespread (film)? 

Yes, I’d like to do add about 30 minutes to this stage version and wow, I’d love to turn this into a film. I think that the source material, Marc’s writings and drawings, is so pure, and that it offers a very rare insight into a sort of Cubist reality of a mental world. Also, much of this story is rooted in an experience of being artistic and Jewish in a small Mid-western town, and this tale in itself, is film-worthy. I recently returned to St. Joseph, Mo. to perform “MM” at the Robidoux Repertory Theater Co., which is now in residence at my old Synagogue.  Yes, I performed this show in my old Synagogue in St. Joe.!  Over 200 people attended, including a handful of octogenarian Jewish people, the last Jews still living in St. Joe—they all came out to find out what had become of Marc Block. In our small town of 70,000 people, 800 Jews were like family, we all knew everything about each other.  What was a tragedy for our family was also a tragedy for the community.   We got a lot of publicity in the papers and on radio for this show in St. Joe. The response of my old friends and family, was stupendous, very thought-provoking and somewhat healing.  It helped me to see different perspectives of Marc, because many people knew him and had anecdotes.  I would like to make the story of going back home and doing a show about my brother, part of this show. The storyline could encompass the idea that an actress returns home to perform a show about her hometown and her brother’s mental illness and face down some demons.  I think this would work very well for film!

What’s next? 

I will finish editing my full-length play, “The Art of Dentistry” and get a reading of it.  Then I will submit it to festivals for production.  Also I am working on a show about Women of the West.  And of course, as always, auditioning and looking for acting work.  In the trenches. J

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UNITED SOLO THEATRE FESTIVAL is an annual international festival for solo performances held in New York City. Through a variety of one-person shows, the Festival explores and celebrates the uniqueness of the individual. Its audiences see one-person performances from all over the world, experience foreign cultures and traditions, and learn the perspectives of people from various walks of life.

 

Women in the Arts 2019: Elite Images by Marcina Zaccaria

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Photographers, Videographers, Assistants, and their Subjects present a complete outpouring of their entire vision. What makes it to the gallery, to the screen, or to the theater?

Marcina Zaccaria’s All About Image/We Are The Elite directed by Tony Tambasco; Part of the New York International Fringe Festival (FringeBYOV) at The Kraine Theater, 85 E 4th St, New York City on October 3 @ 7:00; October 4 @ 7:00; October 5 @ 5:15; October 6 @ 5:30

A drama written in the present time, taking place in New York City and other parts of the US, All About Image/ We Are The Elite takes us on a journey of the people who make images. In the process of capturing and making images, the characters explore their personal relationships, while re-affirming their aesthetic principles. With attention to memory, consciousness, and place in time, action occurs and re-occurs. Quiet and stillness are values.

“Actors speak in vignettes, coordinated with static and moving images. The play is inspired by the Cinematograph and early photographic techniques, with video projected near the actors moving in different rhythms,” says Playwright Marcina Zaccaria.

In All About Image/ We are the Elite, in monologues and dialogues, revelations are within their grasp. Are they always in the process of creating something that is greater than what’s on a page, what’s in the photo gallery, and what’s on the screen?

69697912_10217251904422564_1415596103792852992_n.jpgWe grabbed Marcina Zaccaria for a few words on a lot of pictures!

This play is about those who make the visuals, correct? 

Yes.  This play is about Image Makers.  Photographers, Documentary Filmmakers, Editors, and their Assistants.  All About Image/ We Are The Elite is a close examination of the people behind the camera and in front of it.

Do you consider yourself a visual as well as a verbal artist? Can someone be both? 
Text can be pictorial, as well as linguistic.  So, artists who use words are as capable as artists who work with pictures.  To tell you the truth, I use words much more often, but I really enjoy both types of artistry.  
Considering emojis and text-slang, have we become too visual a society?
I sometimes worry that we are too visual of a society.  I believe that you have to allow the next innovation, but remain true to your aesthetic principles.
What do you hope the audience takes away from your piece? 
All About Image/ We Are The Elite takes place in the present and several years earlier.  So much has happened over the last ten years.  America has changed.  Careers have been tested, lives have been lost, and the barrage of images surrounding us beckons with the promise of something better.  While reaching for the brass ring, relishing the climb to the top, many have seen their friends and associates dismissed or worse.  
There’s a Military General in the play who can’t wait to see New York.  He wishes to see the Writers, Artists, and Intellectuals who make it such a great City.  I hope that the New Yorkers who see this show take the opportunity to see themselves, and know that there is much to stand up for and wish for in the future.  
What’s next? 
I have a new play that is going to be read at The Lamb’s Club in the Spring.  Can’t wait to tell you about it then.

Women Rising on Stage.

If Women Rose Rooted-Review by D-Q-Reviews lead writer,  Jen Bush

Artistic endeavors that focus on female empowerment are more necessary than ever in the current climate that exists in our world.  If Women Rose Rooted made a valiant effort to provide that in the play.  Melissa Mowry and Jessica Fichter bring us a show that is described as, “a piece that explores femininity and culture through the wisdom shared by those who came before us, and through our experiences today.”

If Women Rose Rooted chose the path of a groundbreaking new art form known as a devised play.  This is an organic collaborative effort that begins with a theme which is then explored and fleshed out by the actors along with the other integral creative staff.  The script comes later.  It’s a loosely structured living piece of theater that will likely change slightly with each performance.

The show succeeded in clearly delivering the plight of women.  Through mostly quotes in lieu of dialogue and passionate acting. there was clearly depicted pain, power, transformation and empowerment.  The costumes were simple, neutral and well suited to their wearers.

The cast consisted of Marcella Adams, Titania Galliher, Lucy Lewis and Jessica Panora.  Two are graduates of and two are pursuing their MFA’s from the prestigious Actors Studio.  They were all lovely strong actors committed to their roles.  Titania Galliher was a very graceful dancer.    In the handbill, the cast of 4 were not assigned to specific roles and I don’t recall hearing their names during the show so it’s challenging to elaborate about their characters.

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I would caution, this is not a show for the average theater goer who expects a traditional show with a clearly defined and linear script.    All the elements of traditional theater were present such as dialogue, dance and music but the execution was its own entity.  At times I felt as if I was watching an improv/acting/dance/movement class in progress.  I admit that I was confused about what I was watching in terms of a story.  I took some time to read and listen to interviews with the cast and creative team to try to gain further insight into what they were attempting to do.  This show is still a work in progress.  It has great potential based on the description of the show and the important themes included in the show.  If I saw it in the future, I would like to see a rich depiction of the Otherworld where the fairies live and the 4 female goddesses that these characters are supposed to embody.  I want to see the pivotal moment when the queen of the fairies calls to women of the world to give them the gift of wisdom.  The concept of this show is very exciting.  I think a lot more can be done with it to make it accessible to a wider audience base.

 

 

Women in the Arts 2019: Music Ma’am

61764028_10217288238090807_2184395838187372544_nOft-featured performance artist, Mary Elizabeth Micari, embarks on Part II of her auto-biographical, musical journey of self-discovery. Thanks to the “emo-90s” she has tunes to tackle her [first] marriage and her exploration into spirituality. She has enlisted MAC Award winner, Tracy Stark, to collaborate on the score and classical harpist, Richard Spendio, plus rock drummer, John Dinello, to spice the sound. “Don’t mess with success” said Dinello, when we mentioned her return to the East Village go-to club, Pangea. “We are opening with Lorena McKennit’s All Soul’s Night! Great compilation of songs!” replied Richard Spendio on social media.

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The Lady in Black 2: Between the Sun and the Moon, premieres at Pangea, 178 2nd Ave in NYC, on Saturday October 26, 2019 at 9:30 PM.
http://www.pangeanyc.com/show/mary-micari-lady-in-black-2-between-the-sun-and-the-moon-930pm/

Mary has quickly become member-emeritus of our women in the arts series. This time, we’ll span our questions over a three-part series about what it takes to create a sustaining and entertaining act in NYC cabaret and night clubs.

Your Lady in Black series is semi-autobiographical. What’s the message of this one? 

44591266_10215667222766437_4278137032858927104_nMy shows don’t have a specific message per se.  They are just what they are.  I am not out to do anything to make a statement.  I guess if there is one to be had its more about how we are all vulnerable and alive and life’s fucking hard.  Its also a bit about finding that one need not look very far or outside one’s self to find fulfillment.  Its inside all of us…the divine.

Tell us about YOU – the artist, entrepreneur, the woman.

This could take a year! I am a singer, actress, director, producer and all that based on my work in that area of my life.  I teach voice. I also have studied healing like Herbalism, Reiki, Aromatherapy, Sound and Music healing and much more.  I am a witch. Or as some like to say I am a Goddess Centered Pagan/Wiccan.  I read tarot, do astrology readings, magic and spells for others.  I do ritual and have a podcast on witchcraft.  I also teach the craft, astrology, tarot, herbalism and all the rest. 

These are based on diaries and journals – What’s it like telling your life story out there? 

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Mary chatting with music legend, Marilyn Maye, after Mary’s last “Lady” showing

It is pretty easy for me.  I find that the audience really is wanting that from performers. Even if I were playing a role not me, I would be using my own life to create the emotion of the character.  When I first asked the audience if they wanted me to read from my diaries on stage at the last show the answer was a loud, “YES”! People hide themselves so much now.  Social media is full of bullshit. No one shows their real lives.  I have no issue with being open about my path in this life.  I hope that I can help or enlighten.  It’s a female story because I am female but so many men enjoy it and are really seeing another side of women in this. It is wonderful to have people like and accept my story. It feels like I am sharing and that is wonderful.

What advice would you give a young woman starting out in the [live] music business? 

I am not really a music businessperson.  However, as I tell my young female students…self-produce, get it out there, and push it.  That’s all one can do.  Be authentic, be fierce, fight for your space, be good to other women.  Be kind to all people.  AND most importantly you better have the “goods” so do your work daily and never, ever quit.