Women in the Arts 2019: Amy Losi – a member of Laurie Rae Waugh’s “rep”

The wit of playwright Shirley Beth Newbery coupled with the steady hand of director Laurie Rae Waugh will make even the saddest occasion a joy in AFTER THE WAKE, running Wednesday – Sundays, August 7 – 18 at the Serene Sargent Theatre – part of the American Theatre of Actors complex of arthouses. Wednesday – Saturday at 8:00 p.m. and matinees on Sunday at 3:00 p.m. Tickets $20 at the door. 

American Theatre of Actors is located at 314 W. 54th Street
New York City, 212.581.3044

Laurie Rae Waugh has become the leading interpreter of works by such playwrights as James Crafford, Irving Greenfield, and the late Steve Silver. She is a multi-award-winning director and resident stage director at the legendary American Theatre of Actors. Her name is oft-mentioned in praise at the first award for independent theater – the Jean Dalrymple Award.

Waugh has created an unofficial rep for her shows in terms of stage artists. She spent years building an army of fine character actors who can bring to life myriad characters on the legendary ATA stages.

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Amy Losi – center, seated

Amy Losi is a leader in that army. The comic character actress who can turn to drama on-a-dime, didn’t begin her now-successful acting career until her mid-forties. Now she is a staple member of the ATA. We spoke with Ms. Losi about her current role and play.

Interesting subject matter. Where do you find the humor?

There are dark moments and lighter ones and both contribute to making the story interesting and unpredictable. Some of the characters are humorous. They say and do things that add levity to the play. There’s a lot of humor in the dialogue itself and there are also funny sides to our characters. For example, I play Joyce, the nosy neighbor. Not only does she accidentally reveal secrets about herself and others, she does quirky things. After the funeral she notices some sandwiches left over and asks if she can take them home “for her boys.” Another time she sees a partially full liquor bottle and leaves with it.

What’s your creative process? Does it change from show to show or do you have “a plan.”

I like to visualize my character as a real person. I find it helps to figure out what clothes she will wear—styles and colors—and a possible hairstyle. I look for details like jewelry that symbolize the character and props that she might use. Before we started the rehearsal process, I saw a dress on sale and thought that is something Joyce would wear. So I bought it. It just felt right.

The ATA has been opening the door to plays for over 40 years. How do you feel working [again] there?

It’s like a second home for me—I’ve been acting in shows here for the past 9 years. “After the Wake” is my 12th play here, and the 8th time I’ve been directed by Laurie Rae Waugh.

What’s next for you?

I wrote a short comedy that will be part of the Strawberry One Act Festival in September. I’m acting in it and also directing it. I’m enjoying the creative process! After that I will be in a play at Hudson Guild in October.

You walk into a rehearsal with Laurie Rae Waugh … what do you expect?

A warm and nurturing environment and a director who guides but doesn’t lead. She allows you to discover your own truths about your character.

Shirley Beth Newbery: DQ’s first International Woman of the Arts

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“Having spent 25 years working as an actress in the UK, mainly in theatre, I had grown to love plays which provide me and others with a message. I trained in a great school which gave touring productions during our training, and this is pretty unique. Having had several great roles I decided to move into cultural theatre and learn the art of directing. It was after attending TED in Arusha, Tanzania, that I set up my own company – Infusionarts. Taking community theatre to villages and locations all over. I love exploring theatre to enhance life in general or to at least show it. Since then I have grown to love writing and taking on producing shows that can take some risk. What do I mean by that? Well , for me its about not making judgments or keeping to the traditional styles of directing  but to engage in what really happens in life. Exposing some awkward and sometimes offensive graphic acting to create real stories. As an artist, for me, its about stretching and developing. This leads to further ones understanding and acknowledgement to our surroundings indirectly and directly.”
IMG_6339.JPGThis is the opening remarks of the inspiring Shirley Beth Newbery.
This bubbly presence, calling everyone “babes,” is the candy-coating to an open heart, benevolent spirit, and expansive mind. Her latest play, AFTER THE WAKE, takes a new direction in discussing the “after life” – that is the life of loved ones after one’s passing. In this case, a surprise decision regarding the bequeathing of effects, lands on the family of a deceased mother in all too different ways. Directed by Laurie Rae Waugh, Newbery’s clever verbiage and thoughtful and thought-provoking plot will do the same for the audience – land on each in different and palpable ways.

“I am blessed to know those who work with me

and thank Laurie ]Rae Waugh]

for showing me this production in full.”

Currently back home in the U.K. Newbery sent us a few thoughts for printing.
You seem to enjoy plays are clever twists on relationships. is this sort of your “scheme’ or “mission”? 
With regards to two clever twists on relationships, and if its a theme, well, I think that many relationships have issues and secrets. I like to explore those, when people- watching in cafes, or simply listening to conversations that are clearly dealing with some personal stuff or things that create tension, I use what I can. This particular play is based on real people from my home town in the South of Devon, UK. Harry is a person who would buy up property and exploit individuals from their homes.  If you use theatre to create life situations in any style then I do believe you are demonstrating life, and if this is a theme for me then so be it!
I’ve seen your name associated with acting, directing, playwriting, and producing … do you feel being a Jill of all trades is necessary in the 21st century? And – just between us – what’s your favorite? 
I am associated with having experience in Acting, directing , producing and now writing but this provides me with an opportunity to create and work on what I enjoy. There does seem to be a tendency for those in the arts to have more then one option now but I think this assists with gaining consistency in working  with in the arts and so having a skill in more then one can help. Personally I like to move forward from acting and so have been aiming to focus on directing which is my passion and love. I get rewarded watching actors create and work together and grow. I also do tend to coach whilst I am directing, and give many new comers to the industry a chance to grow and gain confidence. I have been blessed to have worked with some amazing skilled talented people, and I thank Mark Travis for my directing skills and passion. 
What’s it like being a woman in the arts in New York in the 21st century? Are you from here? Let’s add that into it. What’s next?   
What’s it like being a woman in the arts in New York in the 21st century? This is a very interesting and important question for me. I think that New York is a little shy and nervous overall to embark on , shall I say, a more real, non concerned approach with all that is happening in the world many want to keep their eyes shut, and not upset or offend anyone.  I remember doing an audition for a agent, manager and asked if he would like to have this addressed to him during the very engaging monologue. He said , certainly’ but once finished he said that is was very offensive and  not appropriate. I used the word ‘ cock’ ! I thought that if a well known play from the West End is offensive for using this word then I have my work cut out for me.  oops, I used it again! I do not wish to offend but I believe that theatre is a part of life and wish to expand that life awareness using theatre. Being a woman, well, I never have or used this to stop me but I am writing more and more about life which tends to include woman. I like this play as it has tension but so much unsaid love. That holding back is the route of many problems in relationships. Being from the UK I wish to explore what I can do in New York.  It is slightly different but again we have traditional performances all around us, weddings , funerals  etc.
What’s next?   
Whats next for me, is to complete a play called , Divided or fall, a play which explores the young woman trapped in a sex slaved market with the Officers in Germany during World War 2. A great play for woman but again a little risk and realness in places! I am also looking to develop my company and of course work. 

AFTER THE WAKE
Wednesday – Sundays, August 7 – 18
Serene Sargent Theatre
part of the American Theatre of Actors complex of arthouses

Wednesday – Saturday at 8:00 p.m.
matinees on Sunday at 3:00 p.m.
Tickets $20 at the door

314 W 54th St, New York, NY 10019

Miriam Dauom discusses A THERAPY SESSION WITH MYSELF

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Miriam Dauom discusses A THERAPY SESSION WITH MYSELF from the point of view of a fellow millennial weaving through life. 

A THERAPY SESSION WITH MYSELF is a play written by Anthony Piccione and directed by Holly Payne-Strange.

A THEARPY SESSION WITH MYSELF is about a boy named Alex. Alex is a teenager and a college student who deals with issues such as depression, social anxiety, and Asperger’s Syndrome. The audience was taken on a roller-coaster journey with Alex to gain a better understanding of his state of mind, his emotions and how to go about them. Alex deals with the stress of becoming a successful writer, loneliness, his past of being bullied, and in most cases, pushing loved ones away, due to his fears of rejection.

The story of Alex unfolded well. The beginning and end of the play started and ended with the same monologue — solidifying the message of the play beautifully. Even though Alex had many life obstacles and felt like there was no reason to continue, he found reasons to continue. In spite of all the darkness in  his life, Alex found light. Which is something we should all take the time to learn.

On stage there were three actors who play “Alex.” Alex starts on stage alone but is visited by “YOU” Alex. You Alex is Alex’s thoughts, almost his voice of reason. “Me” Alex is his flashback-memories. “Alex” played by Nick Roy did an excellent job of showing the audience of what a struggling college student in need of coffee and advice looks like. “You” played by Shane Zimmerman sounded like the thoughts in my head, when I am trying to figure stressful events of life out. “Me” played by Nathan Cusson gave a chilling ending to the story. I felt his passion and pain. It was a strong ending of the character’s journey. Who discovers he is not ready to give up on himself.

All the Alexes and everyone around them all worked amazingly together.

 

 

Women in the Arts 2019: Haley Ostir, The Newest Jersey Girl

Canadian-born Haley Ostir is beyond thrilled.

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Taking the plunge and coming to the United States seemed almost out-of-reach … until she gave it a try. In no time she was performing in myriad productions showing off her range of abilities for prominent names then Frankie Valli himself watched her audition for the show about his career.

Today she is working with the original Broadway team to be a part of national tours, cruise lines … and the current Off-Broadway run!

Another victory for the Alliance of Alien Artists.

Haley had only a few minutes to speak, we grabbed her fast! No kidding … she literally had to hang up and dance!

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What made you decide to brave the USA for your career?

Broadway has always been the dream since day one. I knew to have a shot in the states and legally work for a year, I needed to attend a US College. When you participate in a BFA program, you have the opportunity to work during the summers through CPT and one full year after college called OPT. I remember googling Singing/Dancing/Acting Schools and Boston Conservatory came up. I wanted to school that would focus on all three aspects of performing. It was important to me to continue my dance training at a high level. After several auditions, BostonConservatory by far was my favorite dance call. The language Michelle Chasse used and her dance audition… was exactly what I wanted. I felt Boston Conservatory would give me the training I wanted. In the end, I felt like I got a triple major. Now that I’m here, I don’t want to leave. The connections I have made are invaluable and I only want to expend on them and see where my career can take me!

 

 

IMG_1027.JPGHow helpful has the Alliance of Alien Artists been to you?

Its honestly nice to be apart of a community of artists like me, dealing with the same things. The process can feel lonely at times and can be very isolating. It’s nice to have a community who knows exactly how you feel. It’s a place for me to go for advice, questions that need answers, a support system or seek out other performance opportunities. I think its a brilliant company. 

What were some of the difficulties in working here. 

The toughest thing about being a Canadian, trying to perform in the states is the constant feeling of the future and how much time I have left. I’m always on a time limit. It’s already tough enough, feeling the pressures of getting a job. Most of my friends have time on their side. I know Careers take time to build and that everyone has their own journey. However, as a Canadian…. my visa status doesn’t always allow me time. It’s got its positives though. It forces me to go all in and not waste any time! I don’t allow myself any slack. I do get frustrated occasionally. Sometimes I feel it’s unfair that I have to do all this extra work to stay here. However, it’s only taught me to work harder and manage my time better. It can be hard being away from home at time. I was ready to leave home, and pursue my dreams. I think that’s why I am able to handle it. I’m lucky to have a supportive family and we make sure we see each other for Christmas and other important events. I do miss my grandparents and feel guilty at times. I haven’t been home in 2 years and They are unable to visit due to health reasons. I think that’s the hardest part. 

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You’re a triple threat… tell us about your training. 

I grew up in Winnipeg Manitoba Canada. I starting acting lessons at 5 at Manitoba Theatre For Young People. I then started taking Musical Theatre classes at a dance studio, 5 minutes from my house. The studio was called Shelley Shearer School of Dance and from there on I was hooked. I eventually was taking 13 classes a week (Tap/Ballet/Jazz/Hip Hop/Tap/Lyrical/ModernMusical Theatre etc.), competing at high level dance competitions as a soloist and in group numbers. I began taking voice lessons on the side, as well as acting lessons (For both Film and TV and the Stage) and piano lessons. I played Snow White in middle school and realized “I could do this”. I think my mom was the most stunned. I remember her saying to me a few weeks prior to my audition “Sorry Haley, I’m afraid you got my bad singing voice”. Needless to say she was stunned when I got the lead and then even more when she heard me in the dress rehearsal for the first time. 

I was in my first professional show when I was 14 years old. I was in Beauty and The Beast and that gave my the first taste of professional theatre. I was working with incredibly talented people and I learned at a very young age, proper rehearsal etiquette. I did a few more shows after that and eventually applied for colleges in the states. I was accepted to my top school choice in Canada and the US. I ended up picking The Boston Conservatory. We were in classes 9am-6:50 and then if you were in a show you had rehearsals 7pm and on. They were long long days. I wouldn’t trade my training for anything. I can truly say I grew so much during those four years and wouldn’t be the individual or performer I am today with out it. I think I learned the most from my voice teacher- Lisa Sheldon. That woman was with me all four years and was a miracle worker. 

IMG_0504_Facetune_16-12-2017-23-51-36.jpgYou’ve lucked out – you’re in one of the touring casts of JERSEY BOYS. Tell us about it. Are you working with the Broadway people? 

I saw The US Jersey Boys Tour when I was going to school in Boston and I absolutely adored it. Dance shows are usually my cup of tea. Yet, Jersey Boys may be my favorite musical and that says a lot… since it is a JukeBox Musical! I knew after I had seen it that I wanted to be in it someday. I remember heading to my voice coach and asking for material that would be good to bring into auditions, should I have the chance. Sure enough, shortly after graduation I had the opportunity to audition. After many callbacks, I didn’t end up getting it. Flash forward 5-6 months. I’m back in the room and make it to finals. It’s between me and one other girl. I don’t get it. Flash forward 5 more months. I get the email asking me to join in! My point being, things take time! It’s awesome because half the cast has done the show before, whether it be in the Australian Tour, NCL, OffBroadway, US/UK Tour etc. the cast is filled with people from all over, which has been a really cool experience. I’m fortunate to be working with a creative team, who has been with the show since it’s successful run on Broadway. (Danny Austin, Richard Hester, Des Mcanuff, Bryan Hindle, Jenn Rapp). I feel incredibly lucky to be learning from the best and on such an incredible show. 

You heard the Frankie Valli himself viewed your audition… how does that feel? 

Proud. That’s not a word I use to often and I think when I found our this news, I finally took that info in and gave myself credit. 

What does the future hold for you now? 

After this gig is done, I am on call for the next 6 months In case they need me to jump in. I’m currently waiting on my visa applications status of whether I’m approved or denied. More than anything, I hope to be approved. But, I know everything happens for a reason and I will make whatever the outcome is, work. My hope is to get my O-1B Visa approved and then book that Jersey Boys US Tour shortly after!

Women in the Arts 2019: Terra Mackintosh looks forward to BACK

A featured event in Ken Davenport’s inaugural Rave Theater Festival is BACK, a new play written by and featuring Matt Webster with Terra Mackintosh and directed by David Perlow

This 90-minute drama will perform on Saturday 8/10 @ 2:15pm; Tuesday 8/13 @ 8:45pm; Friday 8/16 @ 7pm; Sunday 8/18 @ 4pm; Friday 8/23 @ 9:15pm with tickets being available at http://www.BackThePlay.com (further info at @BackThePlay)

Leah travels to New York City to reconnect with her best friend Derek. Their undeniable chemistry and inherent trust would otherwise make these two a perfect match, if it weren’t for something in the past keeping them apart. Leah tells Derek about an incredible opportunity: a chance to go back in time and change the course of their lives. But there are rules about altering the past that could have devastating effects on the present. Will they risk everything in search of a second chance at life?

 

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Creating the role of Leah is TERRA MACKINTOSH. a veteran on indie art with credits at the New York International Fringe Festival; the Triad; and ATTENTIONTheatre. We said indie art and not just theatre as she also has film/TV credits that include ‘The Ordained’ (CBS pilot), ‘Keep Me Posted’ (Web series) and film-work including ‘A Good Marriage’ by Stephen King, ‘Back Home,’ ‘Reasonable Suspicion’, ‘In Defense of Wonder’ and ‘The Homecoming.’

We wanted to speak with her on the new work about a new kind of love story at the new festival.
Tell us about yourself as an artist?
I see myself as a storyteller, and that can take on many forms. I’m a very curious person and I was lucky I found my way into acting because as much as we are ever-evolving as humans, we are ever-evolving as actors. There is always something to be learned. Being an artist is a tremendous responsibility and one that I take very seriously. Theatre has the ability to synchronize the heartbeats of those in the audience — now THAT is power! So I am extremely selective of the kinds of roles I play and the stories I tell understanding that historically artists not only sustain communities but are catalysts for great change in the world.
This is an impossible tale … at least right now. How do you create the rationale to make it real?
Is it impossible? Yes, the technology that exists in the play does not exist in our world but we can’t know what we don’t know. There is so much to the universe that is beyond our comprehension, even the smartest among us. But the tale, the root of the story, is human connection and love. And maybe love as we know it doesn’t look the way it looks in the play, but who’s to say that magic you feel when you meet someone who instantly feels familiar isn’t a result of having interacted with their atoms during another cycle of life? I don’t have to work very hard to create a rationale to make this story real for myself. It is a love story, two people who need each other, trying to find a way to be together. All the technology that has been developed and all that has yet to be developed will never be able to touch the power of human connection.
What is your creative process and did you need to alter that due to the unique plot line?
My creative process doesn’t follow a specific method or technique. I do the work I need to do in order to be present in the room so I can find the answers in collaboration with the other actors and creative team. For this piece, since I’ve been working on the play with Matt for the past 2 years, part of my process is focused on stripping away any old ideas about the characters and being true to who we are now. That shared and present discovery is essential to giving life to this unique story. But as far as altering my approach, I’m not changing anything about the way I work. Leah is still a human being with needs and desires, all I am is a vessel for her to go after what she wants. My job is just to breathe and get out of the way.
What do you think the audience will take away from this piece?
What I love about this play is that it strikes people in such unique ways. I think each person’s experience will be so radically different, which is a testament to Matt’s phenomenal writing. I can only hope that the audience walks away from this piece asking themselves about love, about their life and the choices they’ve made. Maybe they’ll leave feeling a little more brave. Maybe they’ll choose to be more courageous in their lives and go after what they want, even if it is scary and unknown. And maybe they’ll feel a certain pride in being a part of the human species seeing what we are capable of.
What’s next?
I am currently shooting a feature film in Montana through January 2020, so I will be returning to Montana in the fall. I am also an associate producer on an upcoming original movie musical called “Ready to Ride,” which is the first SAG-registered feature film with an entirely integrated cast and crew of disabled talent. Beyond that, I will be heading out West for a bit — making some movies, spending time in the desert and cuddling with my parents’ dogs.
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REVIEW: Lovebirds singing sweetly

REVIEW:  Lovebird Jamboree by L.A. Henderson

Lovebird Jamboree is a poignant exploration of the lives and experiences that fueled the 1969 revolution remembered in this year’s Stonewall 50 celebrations.  Playwright Sarah Elizabeth Brown’s eight monologues based on interviews with members of the LGBTQI community, three of them intertwining, give us an idea of the joyous and painful paths walked in less enlightened times, monologues that show how far society has come and how far we have yet to go.

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Arlin (Andy Reiff) is a young man who comes out and moves to New York, enthralled by the promise of a new city and his first love.  Reiff plays Arlin with the sweetness of a teenager discovering love, and the show begins with a lovely “happily ever after.”  Sadie (Margo Sinalese, appearing courtesy of Actor’s Equity Association) is an older woman who moves from a heterosexual marriage to realizing her true sexuality with wonderful Midwestern matter-of-factness as she sorts her way through her life, and Sinalese plays her with simplicity and a spot on accent.  Plum (Alana Jessica) is a transgender woman yet to complete her physical transformation who is still working through her feelings about herself, her body and how to relate to her lovers, and Jessica beautifully walks a touching tightrope between bravado and insecurity.  Monty (Justin Bennett, appearing courtesy of Actor’s Equity Association) is a gay man who has agreed to be a sperm donor for his lesbian friends Abby and Leslie (Averie Bueller and Catherine Rogala, respectively) who wrestles with his role and degree of involvement in the baby’s life.  Bennett has just the right degree of mild hysteria and self-doubt that morphs into a determination to do his best for his child and friends.  Eden (Imana Breaux) is a young woman who falls for a rich classmate who has no clue about Eden’s feeling for her, causing Eden much frustrated longing and heartache.  Breaux is touching as she embodies Eden’s feelings of otherness and bittersweet looking in from the outside.  Baseball-loving Abby is in the throes of planning her wedding to Leslie, agonizing over her family’s feelings as well as wedding arrangements.  Steve (Meaghan J. Johnson) is a young transgender man also working his way through his and other’s feelings as he moves from female to male, and Johnson brings an analysis wise beyond the character’s years.  Leslie working through her feelings as she packs up her office, having been fired from her job at a nursing home after management learns of her pregnancy as well as sexuality.  Rogala, appearing courtesy of Actor’s Equity Association, embodies Leslie’s fierce love, which fuels her anger as well as her planning for her life with Abby and their child.

Although an amalgam of different people, each monologue gives us an idea of the deep emotional sturm und drang experienced when realizing “who” we truly are is sometimes not what anyone—sometimes even ourselves—thought at first, and then trying to be true in living that life.  Yes, the stories certainly remind us how far we’ve come and how far we have yet to go when “the love that dared not speak its name” began to unapologetically speak up for itself.  But more importantly, the stories and actors show us the underlying longing we all share regardless of our physical or emotional gender or sexual preferences—the longing for love from and acceptance of who we truly are by our families, friends, lovers and the world, even if we may not easily love and accept ourselves sometimes.

 

Women in the Arts 2019: Director Strange

Holly Payne-Strange hails from the United Kingdom but is currently a proud New Yorker.

She is a nationally ranked sailor (Townies, 2015) and adept at lucid dreaming.

In addition to being a milliner, she is also an origami artist and has made over 2,500 paper cranes to date!

She volunteers at GallopNYC, a stables dedicated to helping people with disabilities learn to ride horses, where she also planted their garden.

She is also proud to be the director of youth outreach at the Aldo Tambellini foundation.

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It is obvious that Holly brings unique diversity to all the plays she directs. She has teamed with Anthony J. Piccione again for A Therapy Session with Myself, Piccione’s semi-autobiographical tome about a young man with mental illness forced to literally confront himself to help in his recovery.

Considering her British origin, our discussion of what its like to be a female director in NY has as much uniqueness as the speaker, herself.

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Tell us about your journey as a director in New York

Well, my first experience directing in NYC was  at the Players Theatre Short Play Festival. That was about five years ago. Since then, I’ve done a lot of festivals, a lot of indie stuff, and once every couple of years I self produce something. I love having total creative control, but I can’t do it often- it can be a very stressful process. Generally I’ve found my niche in plays about mental health- I’ve worked on shows about anxiety, depression, schizophrenia, and psychopathy, among other concerns. I think that’s because I love playing with perspective, and am fascinated by how the same thing can mean different things to different people.

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You and Anthony have worked together often – tell us about your arts partnership?

Yes, Antony and I have worked together a few times now.  At first on his children’s play “Energy Tale” at the Midtown international Theater Festival. I was really proud of the work I did on that, it was a pleasure to direct non-human characters, there was a lot of creative license with it. I’ve also been able to work with Anthony closely  A Therapy Session With Myself. This alone has been a long process, about seven months so far and still going. It’s been great to be able to develop a creative relationship with someone.

Do you plan to be hands-on for the entire run or do you foresee yourself “letting go.”

This is something Anthony and I have talked about a lot. Eventually, I do foresee myself letting go. I don’t know when that is exactly, but I do know life as a creative in NYC is exciting, but very chaotic, and i can’t commit very far in advance. But I am proud of my work on A Therapy Session With Myself, and im very proud of the awesome cast and crew behind it.

As an artist, and a woman, how has “reality” of working in New York differed from your original expectations?

Well when I came here, I started out as an actor and now I’m a director and writer, so in that sense, it’s very different from what I expected. But really, I don’t think I had many expectations when I arrived in NYC. I planned on spending the first year in school, making as many connections as possible and seeing what happened, and that’s what I did. It’s taken me in a lot of different directions, and I’ve developed myself as a creative in ways I didn’t expect (for instance, recently I had a visual art exhibit on governors island), but I think that allowed me to be open to new experiences and try a lot of new things.

What are future plans … new shows? being a producer, artistic director, etc

A play I wrote Perfect For Me is currently performing, and I’m very proud of it! It’s about the real life science and ethics behind head transplants,a  procedure which is currently being developed. It explores disability, LGBT rights, and developing technology.

Its touring different locations throughout the month. Mainly very small, intimate spaces. I’m excited to be able to connect with very small audiences and what you can do outside of a proscenium stage. For more information and tickets, please see our website https://hollypstrange.wixsite.com/perfectforme

Women in the Arts 2019: Jessica Francis Fichter and the female-driven, emotional, and very original … “Dandelion”

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The 2019 summer season is presenting “scores” of new musicals. The Fresh Fruit Festival is currently presenting the fascinating “Metropolitan” and a new musical based on the events in the life of Harvey Milk, rev. Mary announced a new musical about female-empowerment called “Between the Sun and the Moon,” even Laura Sisskin Fernández sings out in You Hold a Pole Everyday. AND over at the posh Feinstein’s/54 Below, Jessica Francis Fichter spearheads a stunning concert version of an engaging, romantic, fascinating musical piece called DANDELION

For one night only, August 14 @ 9:30 p.m. we get the story of high school senior, Jane, and her mother, Delilah, and how the two are forced to confront profound questions of guilt, responsibility, and sacrifice as Jane must decide between attending college in pursuit of her lifelong dreams, or staying home to care for Delilah – who is locked in a desperate battle with severe mental illness and opioid addiction. For further info, visit www.dandelionmusical.com.

Female-driven, emotional, and original, “Dandelion” features music and lyrics by Colleen Francis and Bill Zeffiro, book and direction by Jessica Francis Fichter and Sean Riehm, and has been developed in collaboration with Hailee Beltzhoover. Musical Director, Nevada Lozano guides artists Hailee Beltzhoover, Lillie Ricciardi, Allison Siko, Brenden MacDonald, Brianne Wylie, and Miranda Luze.

There is a $35 cover charge and $25 food and beverage minimum. Tickets and information are available at www.54Below.com. Tickets on the day of performance after 4:00 are only available by calling (646) 476-3551.

The mind behind the story and its presentational vision is Jessica Francis Fichter. We are thrilled to chat with her for a moment

FullSizeRender.jpegTell us about yourself.

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.

Tell us about this play … why did you choose to produce it?

This musical is a story that is close to my heart for many reasons.  At its core it’s a story of a young woman finding her own way- forging her own path despite obstacles far beyond what a seventeen year old should be faced with.  But as we all know, what should be and what is do not always align. This positive, high school female-driven story of strength is begging to be told and I am grateful to have the chance to tell it.  And on a personal note, this is a story of someone I know and love, and the truth of her struggle may be what another family needs to find their way through the labyrinth of mental health and drug addiction. It’s also a story of responsibility and family and what we owe ourselves versus what we owe those closest to us.  They are not questions that can be answered in 2 hours but they are certainly worth asking- and I honestly can’t tell you if everyone will agree with Jane’s decision in the end but maybe that is the point.

Tell us what it’s like building a musical NOW in NYC

Complicated.  What I realize more and more everyday is that there is no recipe for creating success- the market is inundated with work.  I think the key for us is believing in the story we are telling, and being open to a variety of opportunities for production and workshops.  As a woman, one of the things that I am constantly working on is ASKING- it’s okay to ASK, as a matter of fact its important. I have to remind myself, if I believe in what I am doing- its more than okay to promote my art.

What is it like being a woman in the arts today? 

It’s exciting- opportunities are becoming more and more available to female artists.  Female directors are still the minority but I see more and more producers willing to hire the female talent that is abundant in New York City and beyond.  As a mother, I am still battling some of the stereotypes about commitment to my art, but there are mothers forging a path in the arts and I’m so glad to have the opportunity to be working during this time when the trajectory for female artists is changing.

What’s next?

We are hoping to find a lead producer who is excited about the story we are telling and the right fit for the Dandelion team.  We are thrilled to follow this journey in whatever direction it takes us.  For me personally, I am working on a female driven devising piece called If Women Rose Rooted

 

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Fine Acting comes out of the Grindr

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Maya Avisar of the Alliance of Alien Artists assesses BORDERS

As we approach a new decade, there is definitely a sense of change in the theatre scene. More diversity, more representation and more accuracy towards our present and current events, lead to original material that is more relatable than ever to the millennial audience.

Borders, by Nimrod Danishman, presented by Dirty Laundry Theatre, tells the story of two young men who encounter over the popular app Grindr.

At the beginning of the play we meet Boaz (played by Eli M Schoenfeld), an Israeli man visiting his parents in the Kibbutz. The other man, George (played by Adrian Rifat), is in Lebanon – just across the border. The first scene is as charming as the situation can get – when the horny Boaz expects George to meet him that night, just to find out he cannot even enter the country of Israel, being a Lebanese man.

As the play goes on, the perfectly-told story leads us to fall in love with both men, finding similarities which are easy to relate to in both storylines, such as patriotism, the desire to be accepted as who you are, cultural differences and complicated love. The story is truly making us, as the audience, wish for a happy ending.

As for the creative and unique concept, the play itself is written as it is all happening on Grindr. We hear the actors read their texts out loud, which gives an interesting sight into what we think we sound like when we write our texts, including our use of emojis, and sometimes even sexsting (sex-texting). I think the best example for this perfect use of texts as a script is the scene where Boaz and George try sexting, and we as the audience burst out laughing along with the characters as we see this is not working for them.

It is well seen that Michael R. Piazza did a spectacular direction job on this play. Taking such an original concept and making it into something we can understand, follow and be mesmerized by, is truly a work of art. You can truly feel the creative eye of a man on this piece – which I believe was a good choice on behalf of producer Maera Daniel Hagage (who is also the Founding Artistic Director of Dirty Laundry Theatre). Balancing the male point of view as an assistant director is Avigaïl Bryger.

In short, it is to summarize that Borders is an exciting new piece of theatre brought to the United States – and should be seen by as many audiences as possible, both men and women, inside the LGBTQ+ community and out, for which it can capture the hearts of many with the subject matter being so easily relatable.

For future information follow Dirty Laundry Theatre: www.dirtylaundrytheatre.org

[International] Women of the Arts 2019: Adi Schor on our Shores

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The Alliance of Alien Artists – an organization dedicated to helping emerging artists from other countries explore and succeed at having a career in America – primarily New York – has offered an agreement to actress & singer, Adi Schor. On the heels of AAA’s well-received production of American Dream at the Duplex and Ms. Schor’s own critical acclaim creating the role of Catherine in the play, Heaven Sent, written by Bambi Everson, the two connected and now she is a repertory member committed to projects through 2020!
We wanted to chat with her now while she still has time!
Tell us about yourself. 

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My name is Adi Schor, I was born and raised in Tel Aviv, Israel and for the past three years I have lived and worked in New York City. I have studied theater throughout middle school and high school, and eventually majored at it as well. I took part in a very known community theater program in Israel called Chich’s Neighbors, in which I learned a lot about my passion for Musical Theater. I eventually became a director of the younger groups of the program when I finished my military service. Speaking of which, I served for two years in the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF), during which I took voice lessons, acting lessons, writing course etc. After finishing my service I joined an acting in front of camera course in the Chubbuck Method, founded by the famous Ivana Chubbuck.I participated in these classes for a year, while taking more voice, sight reading and ballet lessons. I moved here to study acting at the American Musical and Dramatic Academy (AMDA) which is one of the leading schools in the musical theater department in the US. I studied here for two years and graduated on February 2018. Ever since I have been working in the field non-stop – I have had the privilege of working on musicals, plays, cabarets, short films and commercials in the city. I performed on Off Broadway stages, performed in famous festivals in the city and outside of it (traveled with productions to different cities and states), I got to know people from the industry with lots of experience in the field and to work with them on their materials.Some of my credits include the original musical Angels at Work that performed at the New York New Works Festival, the musical Annie with Plaza Theatrical in which I played Lily St. Regis, the original play The Spyglass Seven in which I played the deceased Virginia Clemm Poe, wife of Edgar Allan Poe – a show that traveled both to the KeyBank Rochester Fringe Festival and the International Edgar Allan Poe Festival in Baltimore, MD. I also performed in Israeli productions such as the empowering cabaret iDiva, presented by the Israeli Artists Project (IAP) at the Green Room 42, featuring songs by Israeli divas, and the AVIV celebration, a fundraising event for IAP in honor of the beginning of the spring (=Aviv in Hebrew) and in honor of famous Israeli actor Sasson Gabai (recently performed in The Band’s Visit on Broadway). I have been truly blessed with wonderful opportunities and I wouldn’t replace them with anything in the world. 
 
What made you decide to brave the USA?
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I have been dreaming of studying musical theater ever since I can remember myself. When I was a kid in my community theater program Chich’s Neighbors, Eidan Lipper who is the director of the program kept telling me about the school he graduated from in NYC which was AMDA. He encouraged me over the years to go study there and pursue my dreams, he had faith I will bloom there, and he wasn’t wrong. I only visited New York City twice before moving here, and I was a little girl back then. I can’t explain in words my all-time connection to the city even from miles away, but since it is the capital of theater, I always felt in my soul that I belong. I knew that after finishing my military service that would be my next goal. It took some time (getting accepted, getting ready, making enough money, taking care of personal matters) but less than three years later I was finally here. I think studying Musical Theater in New York City is the ultimate experience- I don’t think any place in the world lives and breathes theater the way this city does. I truly feel like I belong.
How helpful has the Alliance of Alien Artists been to you?
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Super helpful! Maya Avisar, the founder, has been doing anything she can to help international artists and to promote their work, which I find admirable. I am lucky that I know her and that I got the chance to work with her, and will do more projects with her in the near future. I recently took part in a performance of Aliens Off-Broadway that the Alliance produced, in which international artists performed Broadway tunes in their native language. I got to sing The Wizard and I from Wicked and A Part of That from The Last Five Years in Hebrew, and it felt phenomenal. Listening to the rest of the performers singing in their native languages felt empowering. I think the Alliance is a very important organization for international artists in the states because it helps putting the spotlight on us and making us being “foreigners” into something unique and marvelous that should not be ignored. I cannot wait to work on future projects with them.
What were some of the difficulties in working here
61794159_10157315722608454_976498374234603520_n.jpgI think my biggest difficulty was being away from home. I am very close to my family and friends (and my adorable dog!) so living so far away can sometimes be difficult. I have a beautiful niece who is now two years old, I haven’t seen her for over a year! But I am thankful for today’s technology and that I am a phone/video call away from them. The time difference isn’t easy (7 hours!) but we always figure it out. Besides that, I think that in addition to every actor’s struggles that go with trying to book work and not give up every time you get a “no” or every time things don’t work out the way you planned them to, it is even more difficult for an international performer since people wouldn’t necessarily want to put their bets on you when you don’t have the appropriate paperwork. I think it is more difficult for an international actor to find an agency, or to apply for union projects. It can be really demotivating. But let me say this – actors who stay in the profession do so because they don’t want anything in the world more than that. They are willing to sacrifice a lot for the sake of trying their way in the business, even though it is not a “safe” career path. So when it comes to internationals – since we sacrifice so much to come here all the way from our homes, we are much more motivated, dedicated and ready to work hard than we would be in any other circumstances. So it is true the obstacles are there, but so is the will power to overcome them. 
What’s next?
I am so very excited for what the future has in store. In the next couple of months I will be hosting and performing in two cabarets by The World Voice Ensemble, one featuring songs and stories about New York and the other one will be a night filled with Broadway and Pop tunes in international performers’ native languages. Later in fall of 2020 we are expected to revive the musical Angels at Work, in which I played the leading lady. Another show coming up is a production of Heaven Sent – a play written by Bambi Everson. I have performed in an adaption of the play called OMG at Broadway Comedy Club, but this will be the first time of me playing in the original play, working with the playwright herself – stay tuned for details on that one! And of course, I am expecting to perform again with The Alliance of Alien Artists in their upcoming shows such as Broadway Around the World (previously performed at the Green Room 42), so this should be a lot of fun. I am beyond grateful for everything I have accomplished and for the wonderful opportunities ahead! 
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