Artist Spotlight: Katy Copeland … actor, dancer/choreographer and now … playwright

Katy Copeland Interview by Jen Bush

Meet Katy Copeland.  She’s the playwright and star of Meet You Downstairs which is the opening piece at the 2023 Fresh Fruit Festival

The Fresh Fruit Festival is NYC’s most inclusive celebration of LGBTQ arts.  It encompasses theater, performance, poetry, comedy, spoken word, music, dance, visual arts and some talents that defy categorization.

Meet You Downstairs is a one act play divided into four scenes that follows Kit; our young, queer, flailing heroine as she navigates three very different yet crucial relationships over the course of ten years. Ferociously trying to come up with any label that appropriately defines her sexuality, Kit stumbles through her 20s attempting to unpack the integral complexities of love, sex, relationships, infidelity, gender and what it means to be queer in a heteronormative world.

Katy Copeland is a multi-hyphenate artist residing in New York City.  She is an actor, dancer and choreographer who is now also a playwright.  Meet You Downstairs has the distinction of being Ms. Copeland’s first play.  Ms. Copeland is a certified yoga, fitness and dance instructor who has won awards for her choreography.  She was recently seen on Fleishman is in Trouble streaming on Hulu.  It was a pleasure to learn more about this talented artist and her exciting new work.

Katie Copeland put on her dancing shoes even before she entered kindergarten and she never looked back.  Dancing is her greatest passion.  In high school she branched out into other artforms.  “First and foremost, I am a huge dance fan. I have been dancing since I was three years old, and I will continue to dance and choreograph for as long as my body allows. Growing up in dance studios I would describe my early artistic self as spastic and wild with lots of ridiculous facial expressions and full-out-over-the-top tendencies. That may still be true. When I started doing theatre in high school, I wanted to be the greatest dramatic actress of all time and would memorize favorite performances in the mirror and use that to audition. Most of my acting was just copying what I liked. I continued to study acting and dance in college and tried to hone as many skills as I could and eventually hit a massive burnout when I graduated and first moved to NYC. I hit the ground pacing back and forth. I was fearful, insecure, overly self-critical, always making excuses to never really go for it and put myself out there. I was too afraid to fail. It was not until I began therapy when I truly started to believe in myself as an artist. I was able to verbalize goals, imagine a real future in the industry and speak to myself in a healthy more constructive way. Therapy is helping me mobilize, put plans into action and move past a lot of doubt and shame that ultimately does nothing helpful. Currently, I am itching to tell my own stories, so a lot of inspiration comes from my life experiences and relationships. Depending on how this goes, that could very quickly shift. Lol be careful what you wish for. I do look forward to many more projects where I get to act, write, direct and/or produce queer stories with other queer artists.”

Ms. Copeland has a big list of wonderful people who inspire her.  “Mae Martin, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Michaela Coel, Greta Gerwig, Issa Rae, Lena Dunham, Mindy Kaling, Aidy Bryant, Abbi Jacobson, Ilana Glazer, Ally Pankiw, Ru-Paul, Jinkx Monsoon, Dan Levy, Taylor Swift, MUNA, Bowen Yang, Matt Rogers, Spice Girls, Barney, Mom, my Grams, my sibs, my BFFL’s… I could keep going.”

It makes sense to have a different creative process for choreography than for playwrighting.  “When I choreograph, I tend to work from story, plot, structure first and then fill in movement, tone, characters later. When I first started writing this play, I began by writing down moments in my life that held serious weight. You know the ones that shift your center of gravity. I wrote down moments that did not make a whole lot of sense, moments that I maybe had a hard time letting go of or just moments that meant a great deal to me. By writing dialogue, characters formed and then a story started to weave a thematic through line that I just tried to keep feeding. There is also a lot of procrastination and constant rushing to meet deadlines in the process.”

Sometimes when writing a semi-autobiographical piece such as Meet You Downstairs, some playwrights might find their creative flow more challenging.  This was not the case for Ms. Copeland.  “Initially, I found it easier to write because a good portion of the script is based on my experience. In the beginning, there wasn’t much to dig for since most of what I was writing happened in plain sight. I began writing fact and over the course of time it evolved into a fictional story. Elements such as time and space are manipulated to enhance the script. Characters are broadened to represent more than one-person, all-in essence to give the audience the drama/humor they deserve. In my world, all of it is true and none of it is exactly what happened. However, because it is deeply personal it is very nerve-wracking and scary as more people read it, hear it and see it. It is a vulnerable space to sit in but can be freeing as well. Ru Paul says that is when true connection starts to form. When you let it all hang out so to speak. I have never been a closed booked. I have always enjoyed self-expression. But never on this scale. It’s terrifying and liberating all at once.”

Being a first time playwright with a produced play is a thrilling prospect that comes with a whole host of emotions.  “Since I received the email that my show was selected for this festival, not a day, nor hour goes by where I am not thinking about it in some capacity. I am thrilled, nervous, grounded, nauseated, calm, anxious, “on top of it” and “way behind” all at the same time. I care deeply about my creative work and actors know: roles/projects come few and far between for most and the industry is not always super lucrative, friendly or easy. It is a lot of grind and a lot of rejection. Therefore, when I got this opportunity all my focus was: “Bitch, do not fuck this up.” On the one hand I feel like I have no idea what I am doing. On the other hand, I feel like I have been training for this my whole life. Just because I have never done something doesn’t mean I can’t. Right? But obviously I also want it to be a damn good piece of theatre. As I navigate the process, I am finding it is definitely a constant balancing act of control vs. letting go, hard work vs. rest and logical reasoning vs. guttural instinct. All the feels are present but mostly I feel like I am doing something I was meant to do.”

In the world we live in where things are inequitable for people from all walks of life, being a woman and being queer could be difficult depending on the situation.  Ms. Copeland has a positive outlook on this.  “I could sit on my soap box and tell you all the reasons why being queer is challenging and why being a woman is hard and why one is worse than the other. To be honest, that sounds boring, somewhat whiney and I have no intention in being a victim of my own life. Meghann Fahy’s character told us to do whatever we can not to in White Lotus, Season 2. But if you want to take a deep dive into what being a queer woman means to me, I discuss some of those obstacles in my play. Come see.”

        Ms. Copeland is hoping to move the audience emotionally and give them something to think about.  “I want people to cry who don’t normally cry and for people to laugh at something that is funny, ridiculous or a little uncomfortable and maybe to leave the theatre with a buzz in their body and new questions in their head.”

It’s a beautiful thing that Ms. Copeland has achieved such a level of professional satisfaction.  “What’s next? Dreams have been made. Maybe retirement?”  Ms. Copeland will probably be dancing her way into another project in no time.  Till then, she would love it if you would meet her downstairs. 

Meet You Downstairs

Playing at The Fresh Fruit Festival

Mon 4/24 at 8:00, Wed 4/26 at 8:30, Sun 4/30 at 1:00

The Wild Project

195 E. 3rd Street


Nicola Gorham: “I don’t consider being trans controversial.”

Nicola Gorham Interview by Jen Bush

New York’s preeminent LGBTQ Arts Festival returns for another season of exciting work on stage – on film – and on the air. The Fresh Fruit Festival’s 2023 Main-Stage will premiere a dozen new works exploring the LGBTQ experience. For the 13th year in a row, the festival will take place at The Wild Project, 195 E 3rd St, New York City, APRIL 24 – MAY 7.  

A Featured event of the festival this year is the premiere of Donald Steven Olsen’s new musical play, TRANSFORMATION: THE Christine Jorgensen Show. This special event will have three showings in NYC: Thursday, April 27 @ 6:15 pm; Friday, April 28 @ 8:30 p.m.; Saturday, April 29 @ 1:00 p.m.  

Nicola Gorham will be stepping into the lead role of Christine Jorgensen.  She was in a New York state of mind when she moved here to attend drama school from Canada.  Once Ms. Gorham took a bite out of The Big Apple, she found it was too delicious to leave behind.  This stage, screen and cabaret performer graciously shared her thoughts about her career and this show with us.

     “My name is Nicola Gorham. I’m an actor and Cabaret/performance artist. I grew up in Vancouver, Canada before moving to New York to attend drama school and never left!”

     This piece is about an historical figure who could be considered controversial.  Sometimes that comes with an extra sense of responsibility on the part of the artist when presenting the character.  Portraying a real person also impacts the creative process for some.  Ms. Gorham weighs in on these issues.  “Certainly the fact that Christine Jorgensen is an historical figure affects the process for me quite a bit. There are so many interviews available and that really informs a lot of, not only how she spoke and her mannerisms, but also gives a great deal of insight as to how she was able to cope with the position she was in. I’ve really learned a lot by reading between the lines of those interviews and there’s a lot going on.”

     “For me, this is not a controversial topic. As a trans woman, I don’t consider my lineage controversial – I don’t consider being trans controversial. If a group of people want to scream that the existence of trans people is intolerable then they’re bigots, but from my perspective, it doesn’t make the topic of us controversial. Controversy usually takes the humanity and the heart out of a thing and this play is full of humanity and full of heart. I guess if I considered it to be controversial, I’d have to consider myself to be controversial and I’m just not willing to invite that kind of cancer into my psyche.”

     Ms. Gorham hopes that the audience will empathize with and connect positively with the character that she is portraying.  “I suppose I’d want people to be aware of the difficulty that Christine Jorgensen experienced and the amount of courage it took to put herself in the public forum in a time that was so cut off from her, and all queer people, and their personhood. I’d want people to experience a fully realized trans person having a fully realized connection with another human being and recognize the universal humanity of that.”

     Ms. Gorham has some great future projects lined up and one is a family affair.  “I’ll be working on a show with BIg Art Group in the spring and will appear at Joe’s Pub on July 30th with my sister, Enid Ellen in our show called “Flowers and Ice: A Celebration Of Tori Amos”.”

      Spring is a time of transformation and the perfect time to see Transformation: The Christine Jorgensen Show

You can catch it on The Fresh Fruit Festival’s Mainstage at The Wild Project, 195 E 3rd St.

Thursday, April 27 @ 6:15 pm; Friday, April 28 @ 8:30 p.m.; Saturday, April 29 @ 1:00 p.m.

Debbie Kay Cook(s), Writes, Lectures … INSPIRES!

Debbie Kay Cook Interview by Jen Bush

Ercole and Megara is a deeply personal true story of love and family in the face of a partner transitioning. The staged reading of this compelling piece will take place on May 11th at Playwrights Horizons Downtown at 6 p.m. with catered meal being served one hour before the performance courtesy of Debbie Kay Cook.  In addition to whipping up delectable meals, Ms. Cook is the script consultant and editor for this compelling piece of theatre.  It was a pleasure to chat with her about this project.

Art is in Ms. Cook’s blood.  It’s no wonder she creates such culinary works of art in the kitchen.  “I come from a family of “artists.”  My maternal grandmother was an amazing dressmaker and seamstress.  My mother was a glass artist, seamstress, and painter.  My father writes children’s books and adult crime novels.  My kid brother is a copper artist/coppersmith.  I played the flute, piccolo, and violin.  Despite the artists in my family, my mother was also a lobbyist, and my father was in broadcast news.  They saw need and rose to meet it.  That makes me a blending of artist, academic, and advocate.”

“As for me, I’m a middle-aged, cis-gendered female.  I’m a parent with a disability.  I’ve been told that I’m an amazing chef.  I was organic and farm-to-table before it was a thing.  I grew up in the Pacific NW.  Spent my summers on the Warm Springs Indian Reservation swimming, fishing, hiking, and camping.  I could always find my center in nature.”

“I moved to NYC twenty years ago.  I was at the lowest point of my life at that time.  That move was supposed to be my “do-over” and fresh start.  I never imagined that I’d find myself where I am at right now.  I went back to college.  I became an advocate for parents with assigned psychiatric labels with an eye on the Child Welfare System and its corruption.  Lastly, I create beautiful food that people want to eat.  At the core of who I am, I have found a need and am rising to meet it.”  

Ms. Cook has always supported her husband, the playwright of Ercole and Megara as a second pair of eyes for his work.  Since this project is so personal with Ms. Cook being a main character in the work, meticulous scrutiny was paramount.  “Lester was in Playwriting 1 with Dr. Kathleen Potts, and E&M was a major part of his work while in that class.  For his entire college career, I was his extra set of eyes on all his papers.  He’s absolutely great about writing for content but his “syntax sucks.”  It also didn’t help that English wasn’t his first language.  He could write a whole paper without line breaks, punctuation, or other niceties associated with proper writing technique.  Therefore, I reviewed his papers because I knew that what he had to say was important and not just in Playwriting 1.”  

“My involvement in the play was more about making sure that my voice was accurately represented.  We would discuss many of the events represented in E&M and then take a few creative liberties for theatrical effect.  I’d ask if what he was putting out there was what he really wanted to share with the world.  I knew that this was personal and didn’t fit inside a nice, neat box.”  

Editing come with its one unique set of challenges that are different for everybody.  “Learning a new computer program (Final Draft) and then finding out that I had to customize some settings just to meet the required formatting for Lester’s course.  No knowledge is ever wasted but I did discover that MS Word has been infinitely easier to use and the crash course on macros has been well worth it.  Other than the physical formatting, the other challenge was the fact that Lester’s first language was NOT English, and that means he’s rather verbose.  There were many times that I had to tighten up what he was saying for clarity.  Think “John’s House” versus “House of John.”  And there were other times I would just ask “what were you thinking” when even I couldn’t decipher what he was writing.  This led to a lot of laughs.”

Being a main character in this true to life play means your life is on display for all to see. That comes with a mixed bag of emotions.  “I don’t know how to feel.  Both of my parents have been in the public eye for most of my life, and by default, so have I.  This led to me compartmentalizing my life – this is my work persona, this is my public persona, and this is my private persona that only a small circle of intimates know at any depth.  Even then, my closest intimates were stratified by how much they knew about me.  E&M kicks open the doors between my various compartmentalized personas, and frankly, it doesn’t matter who knows my kink or how my son ended up in foster care.  I’ve moved from being embarrassed and hiding parts of my life to an attitude of I don’t care if you get offended by my honest answers.  By putting my private life on display like this means that I’m taking a risk of negative judgment on one side by some pretty scary conservatives to idolization on the other side for being an ally.  What I am concerned about is that I might only be recognized as the basis of the character of Megara instead of as the person who actually lived these experiences.”

Ms. Cook wants the audience to come away with a true understanding of everything that the people behind the characters in Ercole and Megara go through as well as what people in similar situations go through.  “I want the audience to understand FtM individuals are underrepresented, and the partners of any person of trans-experience are invisible and forgotten.  There are two platforms here:  Lester’s platform of the experiences of FtM individuals and my platform of the partner’s experiences that are missing from the whole conversation.  Part of that conversation must include the good, bad, and ugly.  While a relationship might survive top surgery and a hysterectomy, it might not survive phalloplasty.  The dominant conversation also assumes that a split is inevitable but in reality, no one truly knows.  I want the audience to know that there are other stories out there than need to be told.”

Feed your body with food lovingly made by Ms. Cook and then feed your soul by witnessing the journey of two extraordinary people in Ercole and Megara on May 11th at Playwrights Horizons Downtown. 

artist spotlight: Dale Baron

Dale Baron Interview by Jen Bush

Dale Baron is one of the talented writers and the songwriter behind Dream on, Baransky! which will be playing at the esteemed American Theatre of Actors in March.  Ms. Baron was kind enough to chat with us about this production and her artistic career.

Ms. Baron’s art is spontaneous and organic.  She draws from the human condition.  “I don’t hold back, I write what I feel, and hope for an honest emotional reaction from listeners.  My creative process is often involuntary.  There are times when I’m absorbed in other projects and out of the blue – a melody, lyric line, or moment in time, strikes me as being worthy of a song.  By observing people interacting, processing comments that are shared through conversations, and looking honestly into my own fears, passions, and relationships, I work these realizations and perspectives into lyrics and melodies.”

Inspiration can strike when you least expect it to.  Who knew that breaking bread at an Italian restaurant would lead to an artistic collaboration and a full-scale production at a prestigious theatre?  “My co-writer Richard and I drew on our personal relationships, experiences and pure fantasy, to create the story of “Dream On, Baransky!” One night at an Italian restaurant, Richard simply asked what I had been doing lately.  When I shared with him that I had been writing music, he requested that I send him some of the lyrics. One email turned into many more as I sent song after song.  Months later, he surprised me with the news that he had started writing a show that united the songs within a comedic storyline.  We began working on the script together and I created some new songs to support the plot.  Collaborating with Richard has been a true highpoint of my life and I am forever grateful for his humor and patience with the process.”

Mr. Baron’s creative process is a combination of serendipity and intent. Repetition is key in getting the tunes to a place of completion.  “My process is spontaneous and sometimes purpose driven. I write music from a place that combines reality and fantasy. At times, when I least expect it, a new melody pops into my head and I immediately record the tune, even in the middle of the night.  In days that follow, the song will constantly play in my head as I make changes to the chords, timing, and lyrics in an attempt to meld the pieces together.   The piano calls me and I play and replay the songs and take long walks to work through the options.  There is a sense of joy that comes over me when it all sounds right.”  

Psychotherapy can be a sensitive topic.  Ms. Baron handled the subject matter well in this production.  “The approach taken for Dream On, Baransky! is to depict therapy as a vehicle for self-exploration.  The therapist is intentionally written as a caring yet zany character, prescribing a comical therapeutic treatment regime.My goal is not to mock the analytic process at all, but instead to beckon viewers to consider the potential significance of messages that are unleashed through our dreams and subconscious voices.”

While writing this musical, Ms. Baron allowed herself to be exposed.  The results were positive and satisfying.  The feedback that she received served to enhance her creativity.  “Music is a raw form of communication for me.  I express feelings and observations through my songs, that in some cases I might not dare to say out loud. Through the writing, I realized how vulnerable I could be with total strangers.  I’ve also learned to appreciate how valuable uncensored feedback is. For years I had created in a vacuum.  Over time I implored listeners to provide brutally honest input. In an effort to improve my writing, I absorbed their comments, good and bad, and heard a consistent message that my songs trigger feelings and memories that elicit a gamut of unexpected reactions.  Seeing people laugh along with the lyrics and feel the intent of the songs, is beyond gratifying and made me realize how much joy I experience tapping into people’s emotions.”

The American Theatre of Actors get another well-deserved glowing endorsement!  “The ATA Team is dedicated, accomplished, professional, humorous, and more.  Truly, I’m the one who’s “dreaming”, not Baransky, as I am so very fortunate to have the opportunity to work with ATA. The increible Director has assembled an extremely talented cast of performers who are focused on a successful outcome as they bring Dream On, Baransky! to life.  It is an honor to be among the shows performed on the distinguished stage at the American Theatre of Actors.”

The pandemic was a raw, devastating and emotional time period.  It was pretty much a given that a plethora of art from songs to poems to plays and musicals would come out of it.  Some will be tragic to reflect the pain the world went through.  Ms. Baron’s new work about the pandemic is more uplifting.  “I have written a new musical “Has Anyone Seen My Life?”, portraying a sensitive, reflective glimpse into the emotional rollercoaster we experienced during the height of the pandemic.  The song lyrics speak to unexpected insights, acts of kindness, and surprising outcomes. For example, one comical tune “I’m in Quarantine With You” paints a touching picture of the dynamic between couples in quarantine. We are producing an album of the songs with a professional cast and a live performance will follow in June 2023. The album will also be used to promote the script for performances on new stages.”

It was a “dream” getting to know Ms. Baron better.  You can witness the fruit of her labor starting on March 22nd at The American Theatre of Actors in Dream on, Baransky!

Artist Spotlight: Maera Daniel Hagage

Maera Daniel Hagage Interview by Jen Bush

Maera Daniel Hagage is a NYC based actress, writer, director and producer who held some very interesting positions outside of the realm of the arts.  Ms. Hagage was born in Texas and raised in Israel.  She has lived all over the globe and is multi-lingual.  Her very cosmopolitan background came in handy while working as a customer success manager for Fortune 500 companies and working ground security for El Al airlines.  Together with fellow artist Eliya Rodeh, they founded Dirty Laundry Theatre.  The mission of this theatre company is to share cross cultural human stories.  Ms. Hagage graciously took some time out of her busy artistic life to tell us about the exciting projects she’s been working on.

Light Heart Heavy is a very personal piece of theatre for Ms. Hagage.  It was a vulnerable experience putting her life up on the stage.  “I would call the show semi-autobiographical; while the show is heavily based on our own lives, it has already started to grow and develop its own flavors. Is it hard to dig into a wound and share it with the audience? Absolutely. It’s a very shaking and scary experience, putting yourself out there, with not only your own words, but also your body, right there on stage. I think that acting yourself is one of the hardest things to do; there’s no hiding behind the book-cover or the picture you created, there you are, exposed, partly reliving you r own story, partly creating something new.”

Ms. Hagage wanted to tell her story.  The format became crystalized when she collaborated with her artistic colleague Eliya Rodeh.  “I’ve been toying with creative expression of my experience for a long time. At first it was a music album I started to write and left it half-baked somewhere. When Eliya approached me with this idea, it was clear to me that the old material I wrote will need to be a part of this.  So, I went back to the lyrics I wrote back in 2018, and let the story create itself from there.” 

Ms. Hagage feels it’s too early in the development of this project for it to be a cathartic experience.  “Is it a cathartic experience?  Not yet =) The concept presentation we had back in January was a very intense experience and an important step in this project development, but we have a long way to go. I see it taking different shapes before it will reach completion and for me, a potentially cathartic place.”

Ms. Hagage was involved in a very exciting project that took place on 2/17/23.  Through Our Eyes: A Collection of Multi-Cultural Points of view, is an evening of new works in poetry, theatre, and music. It is produced by Virago Ensemble, an inclusive multinational group of performers and theatre creators, striving to celebrate and honor diverse cultural backgrounds, by sharing diverse narratives and empowering less-heard points of view.”

Ms. Hagage and Ms. Rodeh will be very busy bringing the exciting works of poetry, theatre and music from Through Our Eyes: A Collection of Multi-Cultural Points of view from extracts to complete productions.  “The works presented in this evening are snippets from shows in development. We’re planning on keeping developing the shows to full staged productions.”

The pieces are all tied together in that they are humanistic and personal tales.  “All of the pieces in this evening are original works in development, with strong points of view. They’re inspired by the lives of the creators, whether it’s their experiences during COVID, their upbringing, or anecdotes from their current life. This evening will be one of the first times that this material is presented in front of an audience. We’re very excited about that!” 

It’s a “small world after all” with this cast of international artists.  “Our cast is built of multinational performers. We grew up outside the US, and are singing in our native languages, which is how we encountered Disney for the first time. Each of us chose our own material, based on our personal preferences and what we feel most connected to.”

Working with different languages also comes with the need to be cognizant of the culture as well as the words when translation is necessary.  Fortunately Ms. Hagage did not have to do any heavy lifting with translation.  “We didn’t do any translations for this evening. The Disney movies were professionally translated and dubbed into more than 40 languages. So we just went back to the versions we knew as kids. In our research for this evening we learned that what Disney actually did was not only translation of the movies, but Localization. That means that they adapted the translations and messages to local audiences. It’s a very interesting process to learn about the differences and similarities between the translations and what they mean about the differences and similarities between different cultures. We’ll include some of the most interesting anecdotes in our event in April.”

It can be fun to experience Disney as a child and then as an adult.  The meaning might change but the magic will always be there where Disney is concerned.  “Going back to these materials as adults is still magical, which is a part of the Disney charm. But there are definitely some “adult moments” that went over our heads when we watched it as kids. There are also more layers to the meaning now, since our point of view has changed. We’re having a lot of fun exploring all of that! :)”

You’re on “Top of the World” when “Superstar” Judy sings Carpenters songs and she’s “Only Just Begun!”

Judy Pancoast’s Carpenter’s Show Review by Jen Bush

Judy Pancoast is a singer, songwriter, recording artist, and Grammy nominee for Best Children’s Album.  She wrote an exciting musical called Girl On The Moon.  Ms. Pancoast is a little bit Country and a little bit Rock and Roll!  After formal training and a degree in music she paid her dues performing different genres of music from Honky Tonk to straight up Rock and Roll. Ms. Pancoast’s Christmas spirit paid off when her one hit wonder Christmas song took the world by storm and can now be heard outside countless homes with synchronized holiday decorations.  To say Ms. Pancoast is a fan of The Carpenters is a vast understatement.  It goes much deeper than that which brings us to the events of the evening. 

At the age of 11 when Judy Pancoast’s sister told her that she had to listen to The Carpenters because she sounded just like Karen Carpenter, that set her on an artistic journey of a lifetime.  Don’t Tell Mama welcomed Judy Pancoast to the stage to openly share an evening of her love letter to The Carpenters, a band that inspired her, influenced her and shaped her musical artistry.

The evening consisted of Ms. Pancoast sweetly singing an array of already sweet songs interspersed with deeply personal and candid stories of her sometimes painful childhood.  Your heartstrings will be pulled when you witness Ms. Pancoast’s childhood angst being transformed into art.  Even if you’re not a fan of The Carpenters you’ll be both touched and riveted by the tales she weaves.

You’ll hear all the hits you expect to and even an original song written by Ms. Pancoast when she was a youth.  The perfect segway was when she followed up her story of meeting The Carpenters with singing Top of the World because she was truly on top of the world.

Not every story is about The Carpenters.  As if the show wasn’t touching enough, the accompanist of the evening, Michael Pierce has been a friend of Ms. Pancoast’s since college.  He is not only a dear friend of Ms. Pancoast but an accomplished musician who greatly enhanced the performance.

Ms. Pancoast is an experienced singer.  Her lovely interpretations of the Carpenters hits will leave you feeling good.  By the end of the performance, I guarantee you’ll feel Ms. Pancoast “close to you”.

Jamibeth leads the way

Jamibeth Margolis Interview by Jen Bush

Jamibeth Margolis is a NYC based director and casting director.  Her prolific credits include working in prestigious theatres and opera houses across the U.S.A.  She had the distinction of working with Jerry Zaks on Broadway and at the Lincoln Center Theatre.  Her latest directorial endeavor is Bonjour Mon Amour the Musical.  We had a chance to chat with Ms. Margolis about her work and this very exciting production.

Ms. Margolis enjoys her work and what she can contribute to a production behind the scenes.  “I am a director and a casting director.  I love how these two creative positions inform each other and help a show merge into a seamless whole.”

Ms. Margolis’s creative process relies heavily upon collaboration.  She finds great value in working with the vast array of talent that brings a production to fruition.  “I love directing new work.  As a director, I thrive on collaboration and being a part of the development process.  I love meeting with the writer(s) and learning more about the characters and helping to shape the story through staging.  I love working with actors and musical directors and the creative team.   New works take a village.”

Ms. Margolis would like for the audience to be both entertained and have a thought-provoking experience.  “I want this show to entertain with a fantastic score and a serio-comic book.  But, I also want this show to provide a lens through which every audience member is able to see a version of themselves and cause them to be introspective and find ways to be a better person.  We can all relate to a trait in every one of these characters.”

Working on this production gave Ms. Margolis a deeper and more positive perspective on the relationships in her life.  “This show reminds me to seize the moment and to enjoy the friends and partners that are such a crucial part of life.  Do not take good things for granted as they can be gone in a moment.”

Ms. Margolis is hoping that audiences say oui oui to Bonjour Mon Amour the Musical so that it can continuer!  Next is lots more casting and directing and hopefully next steps for BONJOUR MON AMOUR.

Artist Spotlight: Samantha Hernandez

Samantha Hernandez Interview by Jen Bush

          Resurrection will be playing at the landmark American Theatre of Actors from February 8-12.  It tells of a dark and tragic incident in African American history in which an entire thriving community in Tulsa, Oklahoma perishes at the hands of an angry white mob. 

          Samantha Hernandez who plays Molly Brightwater was kind enough to share her thoughts on the production and her process for creating her character.

The creative process that Ms. Hernandez utilizes is a combination of research, collaboration, meditation and memorization.  “My creative process is mostly preparation and meditation. Before I even tried to memorize the lines of Resurrection, I tried to imagine the kind of world Molly was living in. I said, “Ok. This play takes place in the 1920’s in Tulsa, Oklahoma. What do I already know about Tulsa, Oklahoma? What do I know about the race riots that took place? What do I know about Native American culture, specifically, the Chikasaw tribe?” I had to figure out where my starting point was, then build from there which meant actual research. I also spent time with Anne, the director, and fellow actor, Kevin Leonard. In the very beginning we worked through a few uncomfortable scenes for me, however, I understood that I had to get to a place where I no longer thought and saw myself as the person telling this story. I had to let go of any personal limitations I was placing on myself, which meant letting go of who I thought I was. Although it is true I have not gone through what Molly Brightwater’s character has gone through, I am still capable of sympathizing with her. So, I tried to use that in order to mold and put together some version of Molly with me in it. After getting to that place mentally, I learned the lines and the rest just came together while working and rehearsing with the cast. It also helps when everyone is so hardworking and talented. All in all, I think everyone’s creative process is different, for me, I like to do the work beforehand then just play, and having a well-structured team like this one, makes that possible.”   

It is the hope of Ms. Hernandez that the audience will come away from this production with an emotional reaction.  Given the context of the play, there is a wide range of both positive and negative emotions that the audience will potentially feel. I am happy if at least one person leaves the theater feeling something, whether that be: rage, shock, disgust, sympathy, surprise, or frustration. Which I’m sure this play will do. There are a few times we break the fourth wall and interact with the audience. I think by doing that we add an element of surprise but in a way, also make the audience a part of the world we are creating on stage. In the duration of the three hours of this show, I think what people will certainly walk away with is the rawness of the words and the boldness of each character. The events that occurred in this play are what happened in real life and for a long time were kept from the public for hundreds of years. History was hidden and people tried to keep these people’s stories silenced but now here is Anne, writer and director, who is attempting to break that silence. The phenomenal thing about art is its ability to shed light on such a tragic, horrific, and sensitive event and do it in such a way that is poetic, expressive, and raw. This shameful time in American history should never be forgotten. The pain and suffering that occurred to the people of the Greenwood district in Tulsa, Oklahoma should no longer go unheard of. Their voices and their memories deserve to live on through time.”

Ms. Hernandez also had some takeaways from this.  She was able to step into the past and discover some new perspectives on things.  “Doing this show granted me the opportunity to, in a way, time travel. It’s about to be a year since I’ve had this script in my hands and every time I pick it up I either notice something I overlooked in the past, learn something entirely new, or just think about something with a different perspective and unlock a new understanding. For example, in act 1 when Ron is giving his closing monologue he says, “It turned out, they did it wrong. They didn’t know how to hang a nigger, they only knew how to hang a man.” The first time I heard this I didn’t understand what it meant. I pondered on it for a few rehearsals and after several conversations with a few cast members I was able to come up with my own interpretation. To me, Ron’s monologue is about how we’re all the same when we die. Although the white men thought they were killing the black men differently, they really weren’t. They bragged to know how to “hang a nigga”, but the rope did not break his neck, and ultimately Ron suffocated— proving they really didn’t know how to properly hang someone. In the end, they all died the same way, as men. I think that was one of the things I took away from this show. It gave me perspective and a personal learning experience.”

Due to the historical nature of the show, Ms. Hernandez did her due diligence in researching many aspects of the time period and the people who lived d uringthat time.  “History was a big part of preparing my role. I had to read about the Chikasaw Native American tribe and research their dialect. I also looked into the music of the time and would listen to it in an attempt to get into a similar mindset.”

A play steeped in history can come with an added sense of responsibility for the actors to accurately represent that time in history with their interpretation of the characters.  Ms. Hernandez took that responsibility seriously.  “I do feel a sense of responsibility to represent this time in American history, because as a young Mexican-American woman I identify with Molly and know what it’s like to grow up with a traditional family/culture where your family’s view of you matters greatly. I sympathize with her. I also know that this is not the first time I have heard this narrative. I feel that there is this unspoken idea that goes on in other cultures where the white man is looked at as some kind of savior who will “rescue.” I think it is widely romanticized in films and culture. Although I have not personally experienced what Molly has lived through, I have been in love and so I try to imagine and invoke her confusion and anger after discovering what kind of monster she really fell for. I try to let those emotions guide me in order to tell this young girl’s story.” 

We thank Ms. Hernandez for her time and we hope you take the time to see Resurrection at The American Theatre of Actors playing February 8-12.

Chansons de Stéfanie! Partie Trois

Both audiences and the press said bravo to the award winning Chansons .  “The audience reactions about Chansons have been wonderful. I’ll give you some examples:. “

  • An older lady said the cabaret was so beautiful, that she had tears in her eyes
  • A gentleman got up and gave me standing ovations after the applause had ended. He said that after four miserable weeks he will leave my show with a smile.
  •  A younger women wrote me a feedback on the festivals’ website: 

“From the minute the lights went down, Stefanie Rummel created an atmosphere so moving, so nostalgic and electric, we were all spellbound. Not many performers make me cry, or smile through those tears… “

The press reacted very positively: 

“Rummel’s voice is outstanding: it moves from delicate, lingering notes (in a superb cover of Autumn Leaves) to real moments of joie de vivre in Rummel’s take on the Piaf classic, L’Accordeoniste.”
★★★★ The Reviews Hub

“A fascinating show, comfortably paced and with the right amount of history, songs and personal anecdotes, it held my attention despite me being far from fully conversant in French.”
★★★★ LondonTheatre1

I also won several awards with my show Chansons such as: 

  • 1 award for Chansons and 4 other  awards connected to my show from the German Rock Pop Price 2022 
  • Best Vocalist Finalist Intercontinental Music Award 2022
  • Silver Medal – Golden Music Awards 2022

Some artists found virtual performances to be a challenge.  Ms. Rummel saw it in a positive light and it worked out really well for her.  “Chansons on Zoom works really well.  I do my best to create a warmhearted atmosphere as though I were in a real theatre or cabaret setting. The audience is enabled to interact with me in the show, we laugh, talk and reflect together, they can lean back when I sing and they can give a real applause. I also offer talkbacks after the show.”

“One American man told me the show let him travel to France without experiencing one minute of jetlag.  Performing online opens the stage for Chansons to the world. Whether it is San Francisco, London, Frankfurt or Sydney.”

Having a Tony award winning Broadway producer in your corner is mighty impressive.  Ms. Rummel made the connection when performances were happening virtually.  “Digital exchange in Theatre became the essence for artists since 2020. I reached out to the world and met the Theatermakers’ Studio from the Tony Award winner Ken Davenport. He gave a talk at the Actors Connection and I got hooked.”

“This online community he has created, supports artists in many ways I am in a Mastermind group which I lead. I took part at writing challenges. I was able to pitch Chansons to several producers. In addition, I sang at the Theatermakers’ Summit Cabaret songs like Jacques Brels’ song ‘Amsterdam’.  And Theatermakers’ Studio nominated my work and Chansons five times – Producer of the Year & Choice Theatermaker 2021 and Best Player & Best Musical & Choice Theatermaker 2022.”

Ms. Rummel’s artistic journey with Chansons has been nothing but positive.  She made incredible connections professionally and personally.  She traveled the world with her art.  She enriched her own life as well as the lives of others. “My show Chansons has supported me to travel the world and to learn a lot.  I had the chance to perform my musical theatre cabaret many times in so many various countries and all different kind of venues. I am very thankful for the support of top professionals which helped me refine my show, my marketing and my performance. The growing exchange with colleagues, producers and agents is so precious.”

“The creation and production of art projects is a journey. With every step you take, you can learn. Have the courage to cross inner and outer borders, to start the journey and meet people.Do things you have not done yet. You do them once and you become more knowledgeable. I did not expect that my digital connections would lead me, to support each other in such a sustainable way, to meet colleagues in person, to even rent an Airbnb together, to go to festivals during Covid and to be there for each other, within such a short amount of time. It feels now as if I am actually sitting next to a colleague when I am in a mastermind or when I perform, exchange or give workshops online. 

I am so thankful to perform so often, to travel to countries I have never been to, to meet people I have never seen before and to make new friends and to share new experiences thanks to Chansons.”

Up next this Sheila will be making new mates when she takes her show to Australia.  Undoubtedly the audiences will be cheering “Bonzer!”.  Trust me, that’s a compliment.  She’ll also be giving talks, taking her show to the high seas and developing new material for all to enjoy.  “Chansons will tour for example to Australia in February 2023 with the agency The Garage International at the Town Hall of Adelaide. I am planning to stream my show if you cannot make it there. Keep an eye on it and write me if you want to see my show.”  Here are my in person performance details for Australia:

CHANSONS live at the Adelaide Fringe 2023
17, 20.-22 Feb: 6:00 
18,-19 Feb: 4:30 
25.-26 Feb: 4:20 
28 Feb, 1 Mar: 8:30

“Other than that, I am about to send out abstracts to give talks about 2D and 3D MRI voice research for example in Vienna 2023. I will also continue to support singers and actors in their vocal development and vocal health.”

“Furthermore, I will look for cooperation partners for crossover recordings and further productions of my show.  During the last two years I have written new songs which I plan to integrate into a new show.”

“Finally, Australia, here I come!  I am excited about having been asked to perform my shows Chansons and Ladies First on a luxury cruise ship in Europe. I have a request to perform Chansons in the UK and then across the Channel I am booked for a special event on France’s National Day– the 14th of July. For more information, connect to me on social media (Instagram: StefanieRummel1 and Facebook: Chansons.Show)  Also feel free to visit my websites: and
I am looking forward to meet you somewhere on our journey through life.” 

Where in the world is Stefanie Rummel?  Wherever she is, she’s sharing her creative passions and connecting with eager audience members all around the world!

Shani Tabia: Musical Notes, Historical Notes

Shani Tabia Interview

Shani Tabia will be playing the role of Anjelica in The Buffalo Hero of World War I: The Wayne Miner Story.  She started performing when she had a song in her heart from a young age.  Five years ago, she was bitten by the acting bug.  We had a chance to chat with Ms. Tabia about her artistic journey and her experience in this play. 

“I’ve been in the acting world for the past 5 years or so. I grew up immersed in the performing arts, but in the music side, as a singer. I felt a strong urge to become an actor in 2016 while living abroad. Then in 2018 I decided to move to New York City to develop my craft, fell in love with it and I haven’t looked back. I feel like it is a call on my life from the most high. I love sharing my gift of empathy through the art of storytelling. I’ve been studying at Woody King Jr’s New Federal Theatre over the past three years and have been taking other classes sporadically. I am thrilled to be returning to this production of The Buffalo Hero of World War I: The Wayne Miner Story.”

Ms. Tabia made sure to utilize history when creating her character especially because this is a play about true historical events. “History played a big role in my development of the character Angelica. I had to really immerse myself in what it was like to be a black woman during that time. How hard we had to fight to be seen, heard, respected, validated, cared for, etc. While being responsible for doing most of the “caring for”. Many things have changed since then, but unfortunately so much has not. If you look at the play, there are only two women present, the mother, and the nurse or “Angel”. Now initially one might feel a way about that, (I know I did). But I do believe it accurately reflects the realities or at least the mentalities of that time period as it pertains a woman’s role in society and in war. That’s all HIStory.” 

Ms. Tabia’s creative process involves carefully reading the script and then identifying an objective from which she builds her character.   “Hmm I don’t know if I can clearly lay out my creative process. I like to read the script, make sure I have a clear understanding of what it’s all about. And then I dive into my character and identify my objective. Everything else is built around that. How they speak, what they look like, how they move, how they interact with others is shaped around my objective. Kenthedo, our director, and playwright, was really great about sharing his inspirations for the characters with us, so that helped with further character development.”

Sometimes artists portraying a real character in history might feel an added responsibility to bring the character to life accurately.  Ms. Tabia shared her thoughts on that.  “I think in general most artists/actors have a responsibility to tell a truthful and honest story. As a black artist sharing a historical perspective of racism in this country, that burden always feels a bit heavier.” 

 Ms. Tabia would not only like for the audience to enjoy the show but it would make her happy if they come away deeply touched and contemplative.  “I want the audience to come away reflective. Reflective of where we’ve been, and where we are today. I want the audience to feel inspired to research and find more untold stories of Black American heroes. I ultimately want the audience to leave this show feeling more connected to purpose, faith, courage, and the power of love.” 

Ms. Tabia is taking away wonderful memories and words of wisdom from this production.  “In addition to the pleasure of working & growing with such a strong cast of talented actors, there are so many gems in this play I am taking with me. There is a line from Mama and Miner that has stuck with me since my first run in the production… “In war and life, you got to see the big picture. Not just the little battle in front of ya!” I think that’s a message everyone can hold on to.”

Ms. Tabia won’t be too much relaxing after this play is over.  She’ll be too busy nurturing her artistic skills.  “What’s next for me is more learning, studying, growing, playing, & Living! :)”