Women of the Arts 2019

WAR OF WORDS, PART III

Articulating The Arts: The Art of Protest: April 3 – 6 (April 3 – 5 @ 8pm; April 6 @ 7pm) at TADA Theatre 15 W. 28th St, NYC, 2nd Floor. Tkts: http://www.articulatetheatre.com/ata-5-the-art-of-protest.html

Articulate will team playwrights with visual artists to create a signature benefit event examining other art forms through the lens of theatre. It brings together the ATC ensemble and guest artists with unique works of art to use as a springboard and source of inspiration for new theatre works.

We asked the artistic director, the brilliant Cat Parker,
one question:

Why are you doing this? 

 

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Cat Parker – Artistic Director of Articulate Theatre Company/ Director (This is Bull)

Why Am I Doing this Project?

In January of 2013, I gathered together 40 friends and colleagues and asked them a question: Does NYC really need another theatre company? We all agreed that, indeed, NYC did NOT need another theatre company. Then I asked them if we should start one anyway. Again, the response was unanimous: Of COURSE we should!

I’m doing this project for those people.

Articulating the Arts started off as a way to give a large portion of our 50 member ensemble the chance to strut their stuff, and try new things – act in a role they normally would never audition for, step out from behind the curtain and try acting instead of stage managing, etc. But it quickly turned into a crowd pleaser so we ramped up the production values, and reached out to guest playwrights, directors and actors.

But we haven’t forgotten the learning element to this gig. We use Articulating the Arts as a way to learn more about other art forms. When we used classic paintings as inspiration, we read about the paintings and the artists, when we used folk music, we had a panel discussion about the history of folk music in New York City, and when we used children’s folklore, we brought in playwrights and producers to discuss the value of storytelling.

This production will be our 5th Articulating the Arts, and, given the state of the world, it was a no-brainer to discuss the artist’s role in affecting change, thus was born “The Art of Protest.” Many of us have signed petitions, gone to protests, created provocative memes online. But it was the visuals of those signs at the protests that caught my attention. Some were planned and elegantly created, some were scrawled on the floor of someone’s studio apartment 10 minutes before they ran out the door, a literal sign of hope in their hands.

I’m doing this project for those people, too.

Articulating the Arts: The Art of Protest is also a benefit production. It will help us to do our Fall production. The indie theatre community is really starting to come into its own in terms of production levels and their value in the NYC community at large. The playwrights, the directors, the actors, the designers – we’re not doing “Billy and Suzy make a play in the garage” theatre. These artists are professionals, passionate and talented. Articulating the Arts helps to give them a platform upon which to shine, and from which to share stories that will make a difference in our world. Personally, nothing gives me greater pleasure than seeing change happen on a script page, in a rehearsal hall, in the sharing between the stage and the audience, and in the conversations about the issues as people leave the theatre.

So, I’m doing this project for all the people involved, and all the people who attend. And I’m doing it for me, too.

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Women in the Arts 2019

images.jpgJILTED TO PERFECTION, a short musical romance, written and starring acclaimed opera singer, Debra Cook, after a joyous and celebrated run last summer on Theatre Row, returns for a special showing at The Triad, the posh NYC cabaret, on Saturday afternoon, April 13 @ 3:00 p.m., 158 West 72nd Street (between Amsterdam & Columbus aves) with tickets available at www.triadnyc.com. Two drink minimum, light fare available.

Ms. Cook’s semi-autobiographical musical love letter to her departed husband. This is no simple love story, however! The musical, enhanced and explored further, tells the story of a shamed and divorced Mormon mother who – after a botched audition for the Metropolitan Opera – meets the strange and older Fred. He – upon immediate attraction – pursues her despite her fears, her missed dates, and her biases. The musicalization of their unorthodox romance takes them to two coasts and Utah, Scientology, Fred’s third [ex]wife, Debra’s son, their mission as artists, and Fred’s fluctuating health. Debra’s realization that Fred was right about them being soul mates, but it may have come too late. The musical ends with a special appearance that will provoke great thought, hope … and tears.

Ms. Cook is celebrated in many fields.

She is managing director of Utah Conservatory, Head of Voice Department and member of piano faculty. Served 10 years as Adjunct Assistant Professor for the University of Utah’s Actor Training Program, also developing the Department of Theatre’s Musical Theatre studio courses, as well as a year for the U’s Music Department. Served 11 years on the music faculty at Brigham Young University, teaching voice, group voice and diction; and served as past president of the Southern Utah Chapter of the National Association of Teachers of Singing. Ms. Cook has performed opera and concert work throughout the United States, including solo performances with the National Choral Society at Lincoln Center’s Avery Fisher Hall, Utah Symphony, and several seasons in repertory with Utah Opera Company. She performed off-Broadway, is featured as Roxanne in Stuart Crane’s cast recording of Cyrano, and serves as a professional choral conductor and competition adjudicator.

WELL!

Let’s turn the mic over to her to tell us about her musical that has taken NYC by the heart!

What inspired you to turn this romance into a musical? 
There are a few inspirations here.  
First, Fred, as an educator, wrote throughout his career about acting, performance and philosophy. As an “original thinker,” he has seminal concepts to help the performer assume a viewpoint in a most genuine way, which not only turns out authentic performers, but translates into a healthy approach to life, avoiding some of the traps that can discourage performers and even cause a bit of craziness in their lives.  We’ve all seen it…actors overdosing and ending their lives from depression, or simply having trouble assessing themselves and their skills.  We worked to implement these concepts in our little realm of teaching at our conservatory and in college classes.  I wanted to finish that book. For various reasons that I do not want to go into, there was a strong impression that the book needs to wait. I realized that Fred’s maxims and methods were evident in our relationships, our anecdotes, our failures, our ability to make our own choices, a sense of mission, our love, and our recognitions in the ups and downs of life.  Thus, a musical made sense.  Could I hide the concepts into the story?  Could this crazy love letter honor these concepts and the man who so joyfully lived them?   
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Second inspiration is Gene Fisch and his New York New Works Theatre Festival.  After working as a consultant for four years on another big musical, the writer entered Gene’s festival in 2017, and it soared to the finals while I served as Musical Director and assisted with various aspects of the production.  In the process, I recruited a few volunteers from Park City to help with the show.  One of them, a very close girlfriend, went to several of the shows and said, in passing, “Hey, Debra.  We’ve seen a lot of theatre here.  I bet we could write something and get into this festival.”  So, several weeks later, we met with another writer and began a concept that led to “Jilted to Perfection.”  And the product was not at all what we had started with. Musicals have a way of taking a journey, and most times you are best to go with it. We all agreed to scale down our original concept of three women’s stories to just one story, So, both Gene and my dear friend, Kristen Brown, were inspirations.
What was the most difficult part of writing the piece?  
There is a tie here.  
One is carving out the time. We are all busy people, with more distractions that we can number. While a new composer is working, they have to exist, like earn a living, clean the bathroom, be a family member or friend, or even serve as a church lady
Second is the arduousness of writing of the music.  I’m a slow, slow, slow composer.  It does not flow out of me like yummy chocolate at the fondue table, instantly sticking to the page or, even, sticking to my memory. As a singer, the melody was not as tough as the harmony.  And, as a teacher, I had scads of prolific exemplars in my head and had to step back and realize that it was okay to just be me.  If being me was not as brilliant as the great ones (we all know who they are), so be it.  The goal would be that the music would serve as a vehicle for communication on a higher level of consciousness than the text alone.  Period.  It helped me finish a song…eventually.    
Where do you go from here?
In May, I will present the “mini-musical” version of “Jilted to Perfection” at the Classical Singer National Convention (CSMusic) in Chicago, along with a talk back session about the process.  We’ll see about the a theatre that is looking at it for an upcoming season, and the requests for performances locally.  In the meantime, each showing provides a bit more insight about what works and what needs to change.  But mostly, I plan to enjoy the process from here….experience the joy as a writer and a performer, and share that joy with others.    

Ms. Cook’s granddaughter. An integral part of the production. See it to find out.

Women in the Arts 2019

A witch who sings, and writes, and teaches, and creates, and broadcasts, and mentors, and …

 

50724742_2261593994111731_5018333560667373568_n“I am an opera singer…yes….studied and performed in Operatic work for 14 years. HOWEVER, I began my life in a band doing Jefferson Starship and spent many years doing musicals. I specialized for a time in Pop, have studied Jazz and improv, can scat and now am kicking ass in Blues. I like blues because to me Opera is only Italian blues…sung long. I also love making my own healing music using traditional instruments, harp, drums, bowls and tuning forks as well as my voice. Now writing songs too. For a long time my “day job” was doing make up and hair in live theater and film. I also ran and still run Genesis Repertory Ensemble where I have directed and performed in numerous works. I am a healer too. Got into that to heal myself. Now using it for others as well. Reiki, Herbalism, Homeopathy, Acupressure, Sound Healing and more. I am also an ordained Minister. Did that so I can be available for hospital visits for those that need my healing work. I can marry you too! I am also a Pagan and work with Magick and other things that are cool like Tarot and Astrology and Magickal work. I create Magick and healing products made for my clients as well. That’s me!” 

… and she said this all in one breath.

Rev. Mary is Mary Elizabeth Micari, a witch who sings, and writes, and teaches, and creates, and broadcasts, and mentors, and …

… well, you get the point.

AND she REALLY is a Reverend!

Mary is the new Renaissance woman. She set sail on a spiritual journey that has taken her on many creative and artistic ports-of-call. Now, before her latest show gets underway, we said “hello” once again.

Welcome back, Mary, it’s been a while since we interviewed you. Tell us the latest on Granny’s Blue-Mers … and its evolution.

In 2013 I was asked to perform at a club that caters to the more sexually adventurous in NYC. They had heard me sing and wanted a Jazz/Blues singer to bring in sexually explicit songs.  I was kind of dumbfounded.  They wanted dirty blues songs? I told them I didn’t know any but if I got some done, I would tell them so.  I started to research and there they were. Albums of them! Many of them were written for and by men but there was a treasure box full of songs written and sung by women as well.  This opened a door for me to explore and explore I did.  Each of these “dirty” songs were extremely funny and very rich in double entendre and poetry. They all came from 1910-1950 or so and I was hooked.

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I did research into the songs, the singers, the music style they used, how and why they recorded and began reading books and studying the whole era as much as I could.  It took about a year of cobbling things together that way and then another year to learn songs, get musicians interested in such things as well as designing costumes and fitting these songs into my voice.  I decided to call on Dan Furman who I knew was a wonderful Jazz pianist and very flexible with singers’ voices in support as well. From there I found ukulele players, drummers, bass players and began to learn to use the washboard, kazoo and whatever else I needed on the stage to make things work.  We booked The Duplex first because I thought the West Village would be an ideal place to reveal the act.  That was 2015.

Your cabaret rise has been meteoric! How did it all begin?

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Rev. Mary chats with Cabaret legend, Marilyn Maye, when Ms. Maye attended one of the Rev’s show.

As I wrote above, we started at the Duplex. We took pictures and video and I began searching for other venues that might like us and sent them all we had. Gratefully I am married to a wonderful PR man Jay Michaels who designed, did press releases, articles and got us reviewed every time we played.  We found many bars and clubs interested all around NYC.  We kept doing these songs in a series. First there was The Meat Show”, then there was “Down in the Alley” and then we did “One Hour Mama”.  Some songs stayed as a steady bass for the rest but there were so many songs we knew or wanted to do that it led to several different shows with a focus on one type of song.  I also decided to branch out into a different type of show. A series of shows based on diaries I have kept since childhood. The first was called “The Lady in Black”. The next installment will be called “The Lady in the Pointy Black Hat” and it goes on from there as an autobiographical and revealing look at the psychology of a performing artist, spiritual seeker and woman based on my diaries. I use songs from the time I am singing about as well as many songs from the Great American Songbook together.  

You have an album and a video brewing… how’s that going?

We want to do ONE song first and get it out there.  One of many I’d say. In fact, based on the first three series of Granny’s Blue-Mers there are three albums we could do. I had traveled down to West Virginia to study and perform at wonderful place where blues musicians come from all over the world to sing and play. There I met Johntavious Willis and thought I found and experienced one of the most amazing blues guitarists of the current generation.  I asked him to come up to NYC to work with us on this song and on a music video to go along with it. From there I will market and try to raise funds in order to get the rest of one album done.  Each song breaks down to about 3000 dollars a track so it’s a full-time fundraising push that we must finish first. We will.

OK, why marijuana??? 

As I was researching songs, I found TONS of songs about drugs and most of them about marijuana from the same period I am working in 1910 – 1950 and I thought as soon as the dirty blues songs were done, we’d move onto these.  In researching the background of these songs and artists I discovered, much to my surprise that marijuana was legal for a long time and that until the late 50’s in America quite commonly used.  In fact, more used than alcohol by many. These songs too are funny and full of double entendre as well as Jive talk and more.

What’s the goal of “High?” 

I want to get us in a place that will want us to be in a series each month.  If this works well, we can then make a big, funny, salad of songs we keep learning.  I would be willing to look at songs about other things if we keep to the blues/vaudeville/hokum quality of all of these. Also, really…lets just remember this is not a dangerous drug! It was and is medicine and used properly it can save lives. I am an herbalist as well and have, because of this show really sat and read the history of this plant and its uses.  It is important to let people know the beauty of a plant used with reverence.

What’s next?

After this goes up, I will begin the work on my next series of “The Lady in…” Cabarets. 

That’s great, but you are more than the sum of your musical parts. You have created a very successful line of Magick-Infused products… tell us more!

74783_10151134684697314_1114788198_n.jpgI have been interested in spirituality since I was a child and, in the occult, magick and witchcraft as well as tarot and astrology and herbalism. Along side my work as a performer, designer and director I was always studying these subjects.  One day I went into a craft store and saw that I could buy a small kit for soap making. I did. I used my knowledge of herbalism to create essential oil and herbal blends based on magickal workings people might need (love, money, lust, luck, protection, hex removal) and added them to a line of soaps at first and then branched into baths, powders, perfumes, incense, candles and more.  I have a theater degree but also one in cosmetology and have a license in that field because of my working as a designer in film, TV and Broadway which I used to support myself as a performer.  I combined the knowledge of all of that to create products that heal and are magically powerful as well. 

Since last time we spoke, your visibility has grown [wait for it] like magic! You have a 30K reach and 10K engagement. What do you attribute that to? 

Lately the witch is in fashion. There are TONS of shows on Netflix about witches.  Right now, there are many women interested in Magick.  It is part of the new wave of feminism and many people are very tired of constrictive religion as well and are looking for female based spirituality as well.

Agreed, the “witch” is in the media everywhere – good, bad, and cheesy… but in the end, you say it’s women’s empowerment in all its fantastical form?  

40403662_10155706173407314_2993468763656945664_nThe witch is a power symbol and men have always been a tad afraid of it and female power in general.  In ancient times the female was revered but now many men “grab ‘em by the pussy” and abuse them if they desire. Hillary Clinton’s loss and the rise of the misogynistic pig type based on the one in the White House who leads them all, has brought a backlash against that. The #MeToo movement has shown just how powerless women are in many places all over the world. Women are tired of it and being a witch is a powerful step for many to claim their power.  When I first found my way to this path it was way back in 1996. I was in a bad marriage and in a frustrated artistic state. I was not the fashion model norm and felt invisible and powerless as a woman.  I was bred to be co-dependent and I was suffering with that as well as attachment to what the world wanted me to be. I felt confused, weak and a bit lost.  When I claimed my witchhood all of that began to heal.  Now I am free of much of that conditioning and pain, I feel powerful and walk with the Goddess of ancient times.  It has healed me much and I think many other women feel the same way…men too.

Witch, Wiccan … what’s the difference? 

Wicca is a religion created by someone name Gerald Gardner in England in the late 50’s. It incorporates the idea of a God and Goddess and reveres nature and its seasons.  That’s a very “scratch the surface” explanation but it’s a religion recently created. Wiccans call themselves witches. Witches don’t have to be Wiccan but can follow any other religious path including the big three and still practice witchcraft as well. Some Witches…as I am are Wiccan as well. I have a podcast up on Spotify called The Magic Apothecary that touches on some of these subjects deeper.

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When we purchase one of your products, what do we have to do to “empower” it?

You must first know exactly what you want, and you are usually better writing it out and meditating on it for the cycle of one month while you remove all obstacles in your mind regarding your desire. Then, if all’s good you can sit with the product, place hands upon it and start to use it. There is MUCH more I tell my clients. Hey! Buy something you’ll see! Check out my ETSY site https://www.etsy.com/shop/TheMagicApothecary

Here’s my last question and it’s a tough one… how do we tell a real witch from a faker or hobbyist? 

That is hard to say but, in my experience, I have found that those that are really into the spiritual path of witchcraft don’t go about talking about it too much.  Many like what is called the “witch aesthetic” where they dress like witches in black couture clothing and black lipstick. It’s a fad. When the clothing, make up and all the rest of the accouterments go out of style what will be left will be a very large amount of strikingly powerful people who have reclaimed their ancient heritage.

 

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