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.

 

We Salute an International Woman in the Arts 2019: Yokko!

EN /縁

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The visionary mind of performance artist, Yoshiko Usami (AKA Yokko), brings another far-reaching movement & dance piece to New York. EN /縁, sponsored, in part, by the Greater New York Arts Development Fund of the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, administered by Brooklyn Arts Council, will have a limited run (September 13-15) in Brooklyn at Triskelion Arts on 106 Calyer Street in Brooklyn reflects the deep connections we achieve in our lives – intentionally and unintentionally – positive and negative – for just one moment or for our entire lives.

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EN – the Japanese word for this, explores the positive effects of connections. EN is more than just people-connections. We create EN /縁 with people and all living things and even with locations and objects. EN explores the relationship between Nature and all living beings through Butoh dance and Physical Theatre. It explores whether we – as human beings – can create a relationship with people and things we usually take for granted. Every day we carelessly contaminate the Land and the Ocean and even the Air – and all those who inhabit them. EN shows how we can build bridges instead of burning them? Can we truly care for one another?

EN /縁 is 75 minutes but can give you messages that can last a lifetime.

TICKET INFO: $18- for Limited Advanced Sale (until 8/31); $20 General
https://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/4305278
PERFORMANCES: Sept. 13 @ 8pm; Sept. 14 @ 8pm; and Sept. 15 @ 3pm.

PRODUCTION TEAM

Choreographer & Director: Yoshiko Usami (AKA Yokko)
Costume Design by Deepsikha Chatterjee; Lighting Design by Rachel Zimmerman; Sound & Projection Design by Jorge Olivo and Alyssa L. Jackson; Installation Art by Pei-Ling Ho. Production Photography and Graphic Design by Krzy Sien; Production Videography by Mathew Kohn.
Rui Dun, Assistant Director and Bob Lyness, Associate Producer
The company features Miles Butler, Annie McCoy, Efrén Olson-Sánchez, Laura Aristovulos, and Yokko

Natasha Dawsen spoke with Yokko about the adventure that is her life in the arts. 

My background is as an Actor for a long time. I came to this country to be an international actor, 13 years ago. It has been quite a journey for me. As a foreign student, I needed to have some financial support, and applied one of the very competitive scholarship programs, and received a full scholarship. As the exchange, I served to the local communities, and shared Japanese culture and Performing Arts such as classical dance and martial arts. I formed a theatre group called Japanese Performing Arts company (JPAC), and gathered students, and taught them and held performances and workshops together. Through the activity, I received the International Understanding Award from the University of Oregon in 2008.

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“I think that is the beginning of my journey as a Japanese Performing Artist in the USA.”

After that year, I transferred to SUNY at Albany to prepare for a graduate program in Acting, and be accepted the Actors Studio Drama School at Pace University MFA in Acting program in NYC in 2009. I wrote a one-woman show called BALDY which is an autobiographical play about my father, and relationship with me through my illness and our dreams. I performed and toured the show till early 2014. While I was touring this show, I encountered many audience members who were moved by the story. I  realized the impact of a universal theme to the society through live theatre. Meanwhile, I had to apply for an artist visa to stay and work as an artist.

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“And because I had to define who I am, where I am from, what  I have done, and what I do, for the visa appreciation,  I increased my self-awareness that I am a performing artist from Japan specialized in theater and dance.”

At that time, I was focusing on Japanese contemporary dance form, Butoh, and fascinating the craft, and creating the show with Butoh & Acting with my production team. We created the show, called Butoh Medea. It is a total fusion of theatre & dance (Acting and Butoh). This show has been received many awards, and has been touring nationally internationally since 2015. (Next show will be in Oct. 2019 in Czech) When we toured the show in Edinburgh Festival Fringe in 2015, again, I encountered audience members who were moved, inspired and moreover and somehow encouraged for their Arts. At the same time, I was asked why I had to tell this story to society and what was my mission status. And so, I had to think deeper meaning toward what I do. 

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“All those experiences made me think about why I do and what I do.”

My previous ensemble work, SHINKA was about a story of living beings. It was about destruction and creation. It was about an evolving culture and our minds. When I started creating the show, I wanted to connect the current society and its issues we are facing on. And so, I corporated with overuse of plastic bags. Plastic bags are made of oil, and many countries create a war for oil. This show received many awards and nominated several awards, and because of this show, I received a grant from Brooklyn Arts council for our new project, En. This new show is about environmental issues and relationships between not only humans but also other creatures. 

thespis-18-small-reso_orig.jpg“I think the current society (and its issues) and nature have been motivating my creativity.  I also do believe what we see in the world is the reflection of our minds, and so, I would love to explore ourselves along with the social issues.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

4840382_origMy mission as a performing artist is to make a bridge between not only humans but also non-humans such as all living beings and nature. And I have been organizing an ecology and arts festival past 4 years in NYC (Unfix NYC). I wanted to do something to the world we live in, which is actually not new to me. When I was a child, I wanted to be a diploma, doctor, or lawyer. (or sports players) But my passion went to more acting, and have been pursuing acting career. After I graduated MFA program, and touring my shows and meeting people/audiences, and teaching theatre, and training Butoh with teachers consistently, I was inspired by each experiences. Moreover, I went back Japan in 2017, and I worked with one of the master teachers in Butoh, Yoshito Ono (Son of Kazuo Ono), and one of the exercises he guided us gave me a huge impact. He showed us a photo of children who were smiling. “They were born in a refugee camp. they do not know the other world than the camp”. He said. He asked us “We are not a doctor, or solger or politiciaons. We are performer. what we can do for these children as a performer? ” We danced for those children as our audience in his studio. This experience shifted me in a good way. I felt the responsibility. And it reminded the letter I received from an audience at the Edinburgh- “Thank you for sharing what art can do.” I did not understand much that time I received the letter in 2015. But when I worked with Yoshito Ono-Sensei in 2017, I felt like a seed rooted in me. Even though I have passion toward this theme,  the subject comes to mind more subconsciously, and very randomly, and I did not plan or intend to create an environmental show in the first place. I am more like following what came to my mind. Sometime I create a piece based on a dream I had over night. I usually see image or sound, and I follow what comes next, and keep exploring those images, I discover the piece to be born. 

 

DIRECTIONS to the theatre. 

We are at the corner of Calyer St and Banker St.

G Train to the Greenpoint Ave Stop. Walk south on Manhattan Ave, toward Milton St. Take a right on Calyer St.

G Train to the Nassau Ave Stop. Walk north on Manhattan Ave toward Norman St. Take a left on Calyer St.

L Train to the Bedford Avenue Stop.  Walk west on North 7th St to Berry St. Take a right on Berry St. Take a left on Banker St.

Buses near us: B32, B62, B43

Accessibility: Triskelion Arts is committed to making our Muriel Schulman Mainstage Theater welcoming and accessible to all. If you have any seating questions, need an accommodation, or require any other special assistance with purchasing tickets, please contact us at 718.389.3473 or info@triskelionarts.org. Our Mainstage Theater is on the ground level and accessible to those who use wheelchairs. Accessible seats are available for each performance in our Mainstage Theater and an accessible restroom is located on street level.

 

 

 

 

Women in the Arts 2019: Facing the music and dancing with Albena & Shelly

The new arts organization, From Scratch Performance Company, is more than just another theatrical company. it is a working body of art. It’s repertory holds many actors, singers, dancers, but also those that help them act, sing, and dance.

Their new artistic director is a playwright, for instance. Robert Liebowitz is a 40-year veteran of independent theater. He stand next to experienced designers, composers and Albena Kervanbashieva and Shelly Ellis Herrington. 

It’s possible to have a dancer or two in a rep but TWO PRIMA BALLERINAS? This company is showing all signs of being something special.

67395162_2495384977150171_1580520356878221312_n.jpgAlbena Kervanbashieva, a Bulgarian native, began in the hands of Ballet master, Pavel Stoitzev when she was seven. After making a name for herself in her native Bulgaria, she came to these shores and scored kudos as part of Martha Graham School of Contemporary Dance, Doris Humphrey Dance Company, La Ballade Ballet Company, Contemporary Ballet Theater, Jayne Persh and Dancers, Les Ballets du Monde and collaborating with numerous independent choreographers. She is currently a member of Dance Visions.

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Shelly Ellis Herrington trained as a Classical Ballerina on Point at the legendary Brooklyn Academy of Music. As she grew, so did her skills, she is now adept in Jazz, Tap and Modern Dance as well. She then added “singer” to her resume as a Soprano and Mezzo. Now she just needed the actor part to be a triple-threat. She went to Kingsborough College to hone those skills.

We sat down (not easy with two such agile artists) to discuss the upcoming event.

City Center – that’s great … are you excited? 

Shelly Ellis Herrington I joined this exciting and very rewarding Company because of it’s introductory presentation:  My very first meeting with them was at “New York City Center in Rudolph Nureyev Ballet Arts Center.”  I immediately understood where this Company was headed, and I made an excellent choice to be a part of it. As an Artist, I would have to be truly mentally incapacitated if I was ‘Not’ excited about having a Scene from my personal production of “HOSEKI” performed at this iconic Hall.  It is indeed an honor and a joy to be presented at The New York City Center.

What made you form/join this company?

13995598_10208655356594377_9075648485383827943_oAlbena Kervanbashieva I was very intrigued when I stumbled upon the “Spectatorum” organization (later renamed “From Scratch Performance Company”) – I really jumped at the chance to meet and collaborate with artists from fields other than mine (dance).

 

 

 

What make you different from other indie arts companies?

Shelly Ellis Herrington What makes me different from other indie arts companies is a lot of my productions are based on ‘Real Life’ situations.  Creating them into art is a gift.

Albena Kervanbashieva I am immensely honored to be offered 4 original music pieces by 3 composers from the company, who trusted me with my choreography. It is frightening and deeply rewarding at the same time to dance my own choreography, up to this point I’ve always danced other peoples’ works, I truly started “from scratch”.

What are your plans/hopes/dreams for the future?

Albena Kervanbashieva I hardly can wait to discover how far I can go with this and what a gift to be surrounded by such talented artists who are on a similar journey in their fields! I am so looking forward to having more creatives joining us and collaborating. When one starts from scratch there’s so much freedom to create original works – All that we have is ourselves, without copying or recreating anyone else’s. I’d love to co-create  full length productions of Theater, Music and Dance!

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Shelly Ellis Herrington My Plans, Hopes, and Dreams for the Future is to Produce 10 original productions of Plays, Movies, and Music.  I have every intention of being at the Tony Awards, Oscar’s, and Grammy Awards. What’s next for me is my Second Reading in the Fall of my original 2-Hour Theatrical Musical “HOSEKI/SHELLY” with Song and Dance.  WhooWhoo!

 

scratch invite

 

 

 

 

 

Melissa Mowry: Visionary Woman of the Arts 2019

“The more you know of your history, the more liberated you are.” cited Poet-Laurette, Maya Angelou. These words rung in the ears of Melissa Mowry and Jessica Fichter as they shepherded an original piece of theatre. It’s more than that. It is a derived play. A new and exciting form of art that visionary companies are now creating.

Melissa Mowry with the help of her colleague, Jessica Fichter, bring, If Women Rose Rooted, an organic ensemble-created piece about the wisdom of women as old as time and as fresh as today. Fichter, having scored tremendous kudos for DANDELION, a new female-empowering musical that brought down the house at Feinstein’s earlier this year, joins with Melissa Mowry to bring her brainchild to life. Another female focused piece,) If Women Rose Rooted is set in both modern day and the “Otherworld (a mythical land of the fairy folk), this piece explores femininity and culture through the shared wisdom ancestors and our experiences today. Drawn from mythology and folklore, If Women Rose Rooted delves into the power and pain of femininity and reminds us all of those powerful women who came before us.

What looks like a fantasy is a veiled parable of the true dawning of the Age of Aquarius.

Directed by Melissa Mowry, assisted by Jessica Fichter, the women’s ensemble includes Marcella Adams, Titania Galliher, Jessica Panora, and Lucy Lewis. The special limited run will be Friday, September 6 @ 7pm; September 7 @ 3 and 7 pm; and Sunday, September 8 @ 3 and 7 pm at the cutting-edge arts incubator, The Tank, 312 W 36th Street, in New York. For More information, visit https://www.thetanknyc.org/calendar-1/2019/9/6/if-women-rose-rooted

We connected with Melissa and Jessica for a few moments to learn more of their play and this new artform.

Tell us about yourselves as artists

53570925_10157097448995909_1251957072426172416_n.jpgMelissa Mowry: I have always believed in the transformative and healing power of theatre. Unlike any other art form, theatre has the ability to place a person into the mind and experience of another. There is a beautiful relationship that can be forged when honest and truthful representations of humanity are placed on the stage and the audience is welcomed on the journey to explore the intimate world of those, they might call strangers. That is what I strive for in my art, to make those connections, to find comfort in the discomfort, and strength in change.

62499347_10101858799997156_9073342004502462464_n.jpgJessica Fichter: I grew up in Columbia, South Carolina and was always a self-proclaimed theatre nerd.  I think I feel in love during a school production of Really Rosie when I was five years old- I played a bluebird (and no that is not a real role).  After graduating from Winthrop University with a degree in theatre education, I taught theatre in both middle and high school public schools for 8 years in addition to acting as the artistic director of a theatre company in SC before moving to the city to pursue my MFA in directing. I am a mother of 2 small children, 8 years old and 4 years old, and have been navigating the NYC theatre world for 2 years.  I recently directed The Eleventh Hour at Townstages, and Assistant directed Shadows: A Dance Musical at the Connelly Theater. My sister and I debuted our new musical at Feinstein’s/54 Below on August 14th. I love art that pushes boundaries and asks questions.

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What is a “derived” play and what was your inspiration in writing it? —

Melissa Mowry: So, a devised play is different from the traditional play form, as the process doesn’t start with a script, but rather a theme, idea, or concept that is then explored with actors (in this case) and from the there, the script/story emerges. What I love about this type of theatre and exploration is that it allows me as a director to engage in the material and my actors in a unique way. Whatever skill sets they have, interests they bring to the table, it allows me opportunities and avenues to explore and play. If Women Rose Rooted has been on my heart for over 7 years, when I was first introduced to the Mahabharata, an ancient Indian text that is extremely important to the Hindu faith, while working in India. I realized that so much of how we look at the world around us is shaped by these ancient myths and histories, whether we recognize it or not. And as a woman who has been fortunate enough to see and explore her femininity in many different cultures and communities, I wanted to really explore the power and importance of honoring the feminine and to find balance in a world that is extremely unbalanced. 

Jessica Fichter: A devised piece happens entirely in the room, making it a wholly collaborative effort.  Because a script doesn’t exist when we start, we have a lot of ability to explore in terms of text, movement, style, rhythm!  Truly the sky is the limit.  The opportunity to work so closely and collaboratively with such brilliant woman is so fulfilling.  Melissa is truly the brainchild behind this piece, she has such a deep knowledge of mythology, and cultures around the world she wanted to draw from the universality of the role of women across time and space.  

Melissa, we looked you up and we’re very impressed. You’re a renaissance woman – having done film and live work. What’s your mission?  

Melissa Mowry: As a creative person, I simply want to share stories and give voice to people who are often unseen or unheard. And because of that, it is really important to me have an understanding and experience of different types and forms of art. Not every story should be told the same way, and not every character’s voice should be supported in the same medium, so I am constantly seeking ways to better hone my storytelling skills and interests to best give the strongest and most dynamic voice to the characters who interest and inspire me. 

A term I hear a lot these days is teaching artists – as you are as well. What is a teaching artist? 

Melissa Mowry: A teaching artist, is an artist who makes the creative process of their art form accessible to other people, giving students the opportunity to expand their understanding of an art form. For me, being a teaching artist is not only about going into classrooms and teaching students how to stand on the stage, or how to act, or how to dissect a script; but it is about preparing young people for the world and giving them the ability to take up space in a way that instills confidence, awareness, and empathy. As a theater teaching artist, I have the unique opportunity to help young people explore the lives of so many people, who are both familiar and unfamiliar, and it is important to me that I help guide them to giving their whole heart to that exploration not only for the performance, but because they could leave changed people, better people, after getting to know their character so intimately. 

Jessica, from your vantage-point as a producer, how do you feel it makes this play “different” from others?

Jessica Fichter: In this piece movement, text, music, personal experience is all woven together to create a tapestry which allows the audience to dive in based on their favorite artistic medium, story, myth.  It makes the experience both deeply personal and widely universal which is tricky and rare.  This is the kind of theatre in which the audience is drawn in not just by story but by the means of storytelling.  

Ladies, what’s next? —

Melissa Mowry: Devised pieces can take years to solidify, so If Women Will Rose Rooted will continue to be workshopped and explored, and hopefully tour within the next year. I will also be directing a show, Trouble in Mind by Alice Childress, at Rutgers University and will being working on another devised piece exploring identity, within the next year. 

Jessica Fichter: We hope the journey of If Women Rose Rooted is just beginning!  We are looking at multiple options for next steps!

 

Women of the Arts 2019: Naya James & Lucia Bellini – Celebrating Two Art Entrepreneurs

It speaks volumes when word of a particular show peeking it head out of the seas of well-done works at a prominent festival like Theater for the New City’s Dream Up.

In this case, that show is ABDICATION! 

Screen-Shot-2019-08-05-at-2.38.35-PM (2)Handing us on stage chills and giggles like you’d find in a quality Black Mirror episode and the don’t-let-this-happen thoughts we see around The Handmaid’s Tale, the live anthology show, Abdication!, is a multi-cultured, multi-media dark comedy looking like more than just a featured event at the 10th anniversary THEATER FOR THE NEW CITY DREAM UP FESTIVAL 2019 but a really hot ticket. Limited run at TNC’s Johnson Theater at 155 First Avenue (between 9th and 10th Streets) in New York City. It opens and runs right after Labor Day – 09/03 @ 9pm; 09/04 @ 6:30pm; 09/05 @ 9pm; 09/06 @ 6:30pm; and 09/07 @ 8pm. 

https://abdication.brownpapertickets.com/

IMG_4142 (1)This production is produced by Three-Headed Lion Productions. Two of those heads are Naya James and Lucia Bellini (with Trenton Clark as the completing head). We wanted to show our support to these two entrepreneurs on the start of their new show … new company … new beginning.

 

 

 I’ve had so many different answers to this question,
so I look forward to your answers.

What’s it like to be a woman in the arts in NYC?

64b31b1b-d190-4921-b8b3-a162574dda33-bWFpbi1uLW4tMC0wLTAtMTA4MC0xMDgw (1)Lu: First off, I feel very lucky to be able to call myself and be addressed as “a woman in the arts in NYC.” Total life goal vibes here. Look Ma! But that aside…there’s a big responsibility that comes with being a woman in the arts today. Or a woman in anything really. We fought so hard to get where we are that I believe it is our duty to take full advantage and cherish any opportunity to create and be heard. I am not gonna lie, the pressure is palpable. There’s always that little voice in your head that tries to trick you into thinking you that you are here to prove that you are as smart, that you are as strong, that you are as—fill in the blank—as a man would have been in your place. I have also noticed on more than one occasion that if something bad happens or someone treats you wrong people go to this question: do you think that would have happened if you had been a man? Or if something good or lucky happens: do you think that would have happened if you hadn’t been a woman? And although sometimes fitting, it can be quite a dangerous game to play since it seems to focus on who we are rather than on what we do.

naya-james-238-WEBNaya: Living as an artist is exciting, fulfilling, and often feels like a privilege. However, being a female artist today also comes with a weighty sense of responsibility and urgency. Women’s voices have been underrepresented for a very long time—so now that people are finally starting to pay a bit more attention to those voices, I often feel that it’s up to us to play catch up and rabidly create and tell stories that include women in every step of the process. Personally I know a number of badass women who are doing just that, and I try to work with them whenever possible! 

 

Would you consider yourselves millennials?

If so, what do you find is different for your generation? 

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Lu: About a year ago, my 90-year-old grandmother was helping me curl my hair, you know just two girls getting ready for a night out on the town. I asked her: “Nonna (that’s grandma in Italian in case Joey Tribbiani hadn’t taught you that already, but I digress), when you were little, what is it that you wanted to do when you grew up?” “A math teacher,” she said. “How come you never became one, what happened there?” “It wasn’t really up to me to decide. You know, I was a woman after all.” Which left me wondering because, mind you, the grandma in question here is quite the feisty one. “In fact—she continued—if I could go back, I would wish to have been born a man.” We kept talking about childhood dreams, then parents, then husbands then finally she asked: “How is it for you, my little one, these days? Do you feel like you and your sister are free to do whatever you want?” I couldn’t believe how much pause that question gave me in that moment. It did give me a chance to count my blessing. Yes, Nonna. We are free.

Naya: I am very much “between generations,” which is likely a contributing factor to why much of my work deals with issues that aren’t specific to any one group or age range. It tends to focus more on larger topics lovingly referred to as: “general fears experienced by virtually all humans.” This informs what my advice would be to anyone, of any age—stop focusing on what makes us different, as generations, as genders, as categories of people. In art, entertainment, life, relationships, let’s try to focus more on the things that we all care about, the things we all love, and the things we are all frightened of, as people. Empathy is the artist’s greatest tool. 

Three Cheers for Three Lions! 

 

Women in the Arts 2019: Getting Biblical with Shadi Pourkashef

Shadi Pourkashef Photo.jpgThere are still nice people out there! We had the most pleasant conversation with film composer and conductor, Shadi Pourkashef about her new musical KING DAVID. Collaborating with Gary Morgenstein – a household name in the world of public relations and now as a distinguished playwright – Shadi composed music for six feature films, two short films, five title theme songs and dozens of works of children’s music, commercials, meditations, tv shows, game music and movie trailers. She is also the founder of called Ability Awareness Project, a nonprofit with a mission to build a united interconnected world free of bullying. She was voted the Best Activist of 2018 as the Goodwill Ambassador of World Kindness for the City of Laguna Beach, California. Like I said – there are still nice people out there. More about her at www.anami.co.

Meantime… Tell us why you wanted to write a musical about King David?

Shadi: I am so fortunate to work with Gary Morgenstein, who also believes: why stay inside of a self-created box when you can have so much fun getting outside the lines? I love all musical styles but also love mixing and matching different instrumentations in many forms. I love old ancient instruments and including them into the traditional orchestra while adding some unusual digital samples and loads of ethnic large percussions. All that said, the two songs that are released so far, one is done with a solo piano and the other is a rap! My suggestion is to bring your most open mind and ears and expect to be surprised!

I’m hearing that there are rap songs, disco tunes, as well as conventional Broadway fare. Tell us your thought-process on the score.

Shadi: Wouldn’t it be lovely to reveal this 3000-year-old ancient story in a language everyone can understand in the 21st century? We’re going for that and at times having a little too much fun with it! King Saul’s outrageous request for 100 foreskins urged me to go a bit over the top with the song “Foreskins” and I love the fact that my friend, Da’Jon James, also felt that vibe and actually contributed 32% to the lyrics. Gary Morgenstein’s brilliant writing elaborates on the complicated rich life of King David in such simple lighthearted but captivating language and my music is an extension of that.

Do you think this will make the Bible more accessible?

Shadi: King David’s story from the Bible will be more understood with this musical. There’s so much to learn from King David’s life. He had to fight many wars; some within himself and some out there in a war zone. I feel the more wars he won in the outside world, the bigger his ego became and ultimately made him lose the many wars he had to fight to be true to his spiritual path. It’s a fight we all go through in any century and this one is no exception. Greed, lust and ego among many other human qualities can distort our spiritual vision and cause us to divert from reaching our full potential. 

What are the challenges you face composing for the musical theater?

Shadi: Composing for this musical is incredibly enjoyable and gratifying for me since I’m so inspired and engrossed in the story. I begin every song meditating on the experience I’m writing for in the story. I want to stay true to that moment in time so I don’t give away a hint into the future of what happens next. That way the audience is experiencing King David’s life as it unfolded for him and can probably relate to his challenges and understand his actions and decisions.

Where do you hope the show goes? 

Shadi: We are giving life to the powerful story of King David and granting him the attention he deserves. I know it will inspire a lot of people and I hope his story continues to reach out to every corner of the world.

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A sample of the reverential irreverence of KING DAVID, the musical.