Ruby: A Real Gem

susangross_icon-150x150.jpgRuby By Susan Gross

Planet Connections Theatre Festivity

The Clemente, The Latea Theatre

Reviewed by Alexa Garcia

 

 

This emotion-packed tale would probably make you cry if it wasn’t for the clever bits of humor peppering this one-person narrative about a women’s journey post-miscarriage. We go along for this ride as she tries to cope with her grief, body issues and anxiety. Ruby (played with command and sincerity by author Susan Gross) takes us on a roller coaster ride trying to get past the confusion ensuing after the loss of her impending child. She tries to understand the loss, coupled with her continued desire to have a child while being surrounded by women who seem to have it all.

Both written and solo-performed by Susan Gross and directed by Jake Lipman, this show has seen many venues in its life – Virginia, Boston and New York City. Gross managed to tell an engrossing tale relatable to many on many levels.

Ruby delivers the kind of punch that connects you to its topic and gives you a powerful night in the theatre. Tongue in Cheek Theatre is known for presenting works of this caliber … you will laugh, you will cry, you will learn.  

 

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Some LIP from Jake on Ruby

Our old friend, Jake Lipman, the founder and artistic director behind the clever company, Tongue in Cheek, is preparing for a full season of great works. But first a quick one-nighter at Planet Connections. If it’s just one night, we’d better grab her now.

 

ruby-sq-300x300.jpgRuby
Why is it, whenever I go to a restaurant, I always get the table next to a crying baby? I would never want one of those… or would I?
By Susan Gross
Directed by Jake Lipman
Presented by Tongue in Cheek Theater Productions
Benefiting Through the Heart

TICKETS
Teatro LATEA @ The Clemente
Monday 7/23 @8:00pm-9:00pm

 

Ruby tells the story of one woman’s journey of emotions after a miscarriage. It explores how she tries to cope with her grief, body issues and anxiety. Part comedy, part tragedy, it examines how she tries to understand the loss, coupled with her continued desire to have a child, all the while surrounded by women who seem to have it all. But do they?

 

lipman-jake-5410-ret_orig.jpgTell us about yourself as an artist:
I have been an actor most of my life, and after grad school, I founded my own production company to ensure I am always working on projects I love.
My company, Tongue in Cheek Theater Productions (www.tictheater.com) produces thought-provoking comedies. I’ve worn many hats for TIC, from actor to playwright to director, and I love all aspects of creating a work from the ground up! 
In studying solo show creation with this amazing teacher, Matt Hoverman, I was blown away by the solo shows my fellow classmates were creating and I started my own solo show festival, Plus 1, which runs during the dark nights of my mainstage shows. In 2017, Susan Gross came to me with her one woman show RUBY and I was so honored to direct it in TIC’s Plus 1 Festival.
We were so excited to be an official PCTF selection this summer and can’t wait for her performance (one night only!) on Monday, July 23 @ 8 PM at the LATEA Theatre!
A little something about RUBY that isn’t in our press release:
Susan Gross, the writer and performer of RUBY, has written a piece about longing to have a child. (I’m producing and directing!)
In filming a trailer of the piece on the Brooklyn promenade, there was a bright red baby carriage behind her. Her husband/videographer managed to get the baby carriage in the background of their shot, but then the parents snatched the baby carriage away. 
In writing this, it doesn’t sound that funny, but it is hilarious to see in the video. It’s as if these strangers were like, “No! Not your baby carriage!”
How does RUBY resonate today?
 
I think the piece resonates with all kinds of people, even those who don’t want kids, because it’s about hope and loss. We’ve all had dreams that were not fulfilled, and yet we still endeavor to try again.
Why choose Planet?
 
First of all, I love Planet’s mission to use theater as a tool for advocacy. I have been coming to see PCTF shows for many years now and the team behind the fest is warm, creative, and incredibly inspiring.
Last year, I was lucky enough to produce, direct and act in a show in Planet — BUFFALO HEIGHTS — and we had an amazing experience — great audiences and we were nominated for 4 awards! 
I had directed Susan Gross in her piece RUBY in the fall of 2017, and suggested we submit to Planet this summer, and here we are! We are so excited.
Where do you see RUBY in the future? What’s the next step?
 
Susan Gross, who wrote and performs RUBY, has plans to turn the script into a film, and we are also looking to take it on the road to other festivals. 
Final thoughts?
 
I am so excited to catch as many of the other shows as possible in Planet!

“Mothers” in Spirit

In this world, so many women who go through pain but societal norms force them to bury their emotions. A step further than it not being easy to be a woman is it is not easy to be a mother. Life’s inequality can force your dreams to fall into a thousand pieces. Three plays about three “mothers.” 

Reviews by Mehrunnesa Akter

The-Hunting-Season-poster-SQUARE-300x300.jpgThe Hunting Season by Magaly Coliman
Planet Connections Theatre Festivity
@ Theater the at the Clemente, 107 Suffolk Street

“The Hunting Season” is a powerful tale or racism and oppression wrapped in clairvoyance and mysticism. A Haitian mother’s second sight prompts her to protect her family against dire premonitions of their death. Like many tales of faith vs fate, the latter comes out victorious. In Magaly Coliman’s well-acted, well-written work, the mother turned the spiritual page too fast and acted too soon. While the surface is an exploration of spirituality and its boundaries – on this plane and others – the deeper meaning shows us how oppression permeates even our prayers. Coliman’s work is a powerful and well-thought.

ruby-sq-300x300.jpgRuby by Susan Gross
Planet Connections Theatre Festivity
@ Theater the at the Clemente, 107 Suffolk Street

We are taught to soldier passed tragedy and to live on. Yes, that is the prevailing message in Ruby. But what about what goes on inside? Susan Gross gives a tour-de-force giving us the battle of ionner emotional pain after a miscarriage – all brought on bya  baby crying! While not a mother (yet), Gross’ tale is one that every woman should see. A journey such as this creates community. I loved every part of this show and learned from its message.

 

PregnantPause-1-300x300.jpgPregnant Pause by Kathleen Jones
Planet Connections Theatre Festivity
@ Theater the at the Clemente, 107 Suffolk Street

Pregnant Pause concerns a woman, her personal success, and her marital bliss.  As the fates (maybe the same ones in Hunting Season) have determined that her first Broadway show opening is the same day as her baby-due date.

Planet Connections should be lauded for all these really powerful and compelling stories about women’s struggles – especially motherhood. Kathleen Jones prose were really well-thought, flowed beautifully and seemed made for actress Amie Cazel. her honest, powerful portrayal was simply brilliant to watch and packed a  learning-lesson about life today … and possibly tomorrow.

I simply wanted more.

 

Jake Lipman speaks Tongue-in-Cheek

Tongue in Cheek Theater Productions completes its revival of  Theresa Rebeck’s Mauritius tomorrow, October 28.  All of us at Five Star Arts Journals congratulate and celebrate Jake Lipman, founder AND producing artistic director, for shepherding another great work for a great group of workers.

Mauritius closed 28, 2017 at The Bridge Theatre @ Shetler Studios, 244 West 54 Street, 12th Floor, New York, NY. Tickets are $18 at http://www.tictheater.com or by calling 1-800- 838-3006.

We’re thrilled to add Ms. Lipman to our list of lady-influencers of the arts in NYC:

Lipman_Jake_5425_ret

Tell us about yourself as an artist.

I am an actor, who, after completing my MFA, started producing theater as a way to showcase myself and productions that excite me.

I founded my own production company, Tongue in Cheek Theater Productions (www.tictheater.com) in 2006. Our mission is to produce and create thought-provoking comedies.

As producing artistic director for TIC, I am able to dig in artistically to nearly all facets of a show, not the least of which is selecting our productions (or sometimes creating new works!).

I act in most of TIC’s productions, and over the course of my nearly 12 years running TIC, I have also directed (Ruby, How I Learned to Drive, Our Town, Whale Song, Places, Please), devised new works (Buffalo Heights – our summer 2017 Planet Connections production was nominated for 4 awards), curated (14 iterations of TIC’s solo show festival, Plus 1), and written plays (adapted the best-selling novel, The Inn at Lake Devine into the world premiere play with music in 2015).

And there are a number of other, smaller, pieces to production that I find very artistically satisfying: hiring great crew and casting my shows, designing my shows’ artwork, researching the show’s world, creating props, sourcing costumes, writing press releases, updating my website, and doing interviews like this!

 

Kris and Natalie get married

Why did you create Tongue in Cheek?

The last year of my grad program, at the Actors Studio Drama School at the New School, we did a repertory season, in which every MFA candidate produced and acted in a production.

We picked our productions, which of course featured a prime acting role for us, and then we got to weigh in on everything else: casting, selecting a director from our classmates, creating a design proposal for costumes, set, props, lighting, and music. I loved looking at a production so holistically, and so once I had my MFA, I decided to try it on my own.

My first TIC production was The Baltimore Waltz by Paula Vogel – it had a great part of me, the play was funny yet thought-provoking, and, just as important, the play has a small cast with nominal production needs.

That first production went really well, and I was bit by the producing bug. I’ve produced 35 productions since then, acting in many, directing occasionally, and getting to create theater that speaks to me. My life is infinitely richer for all the shows, collaborators, and audiences I’ve produced through TIC.

 

What is the biggest obstacle I face as a producer/artistic director?

This is a tough question, because sometimes the obstacles, or limitations, like a small budget or venue, can result in ingenuity, and scrappiness, that I find invigorating.

That said, my personal biggest obstacle, in running a theater company, is that it’s hard to know how to reach the next level and how to set ambitious, but obtainable, goals.

Next level work could be any or all of the following: longer runs, top-notch designers and collaborators, audiences largely comprised of people I don’t know, developing new works and gaining critical and audience recognition.

There isn’t really a map or a class I can take that will tell me specifically how to get to the next level, so I have to continue to push past my fears of the unknown and try one or two new things at a time, like developing new works with new collaborators, and see where they lead.

 

What’s the moral of your next production, Mauritius by Theresa Rebeck, and why are you reviving it?

Mauritius is a play about two estranged half-sisters who disagree about what to do with a valuable stamp collection that they inherit. Things get sticky when one sister tries to sell the stamps to some seedy characters on the stamp black market.

As the playwright says in the play, the intriguing thing about stamps is that it’s the errors that make them valuable. The same can be said for all 5 characters in the play: we are all flawed, complex, and intriguing to each other, and therein lies the conflict and the humor.

I’m reviving Mauritius because it’s beautifully written, and a true ensemble piece, with twists and turns. It keeps you guessing.

 

What is your opinion of indie theater?

To me, indie theater means innovative theater. We tell stories with small budgets, yet a lot of inspiration and ingenuity.

One of my donors told me that he loves that when he comes to one of my shows, he can see every actor’s eyes. This comment makes me laugh, because I often book small venues, but it’s also kind of great: for $18, an audience member at one of my shows has a great vantage point into the story; they’re part of the action.

 

What’s it like being a woman in the NYC arts scene in the 21st century?

I am a proud feminist and artist, and to me, that means producing works which feature great roles and arcs for women, and working with collaborators who would also describe themselves as feminist (which is not to say female-only).

Some ways for me to ensure this happens is to curate and create new works that are explicitly female-driven stories.

When I adapted The Inn at Lake Devine in 2015, it was important to me that over half of the play’s roles were for women. Of course, I had great source material: the book on which the play is based is about a young woman with drive and moxie, Natalie Marx. I developed the play so I could star in it, and nearly every review described my character as “feisty.” As a woman in the NYC arts scene in the 21st century, that’s a pretty great credo: be feisty.

Mauritius runs for 7 performances, Oct. 18-20 and 25-28, 2017 at 8 PM at The Bridge Theatre @ Shetler Studios, 244 West 54th Street, 12th Floor, NYC. Tickets are $18 at www.tictheater.com and 1-800-838-3006.

Where Were You When the World Changed?

In just over one year from now, what is arguably the greatest conspiracy of this – or any – century, will turn a half-century: the Kennedy assassination. Facts, hypothesis, conjecture, way-out there equations of culpability have flooded our collective conscious and unconscious for all that time. Yet with all that is at our fingertips we still don’t know what happened for sure on the grassy knoll in 1963. Oliver Stone put all ideas together and made us feel completely unsafe as a nation in JFK, as did new loopholes in the freedom of information act. What’s a nation to do? Turn to its artists.

Ronnie Cohen and Jane Beale – fans of a good conspiracy – stared at the Kennedy conspiracy and then looked over its should and wrote Witnessed by the World, a play about the event’s last entry – Jack Ruby.


Sprinkling fictional and compiled characters over the facts, Cohen and Beale gave us an examination into just how many loose treads there were, are, and will forever be.

In 1963, a hand was dealt the world involving two “Jacks” and a joker named Lee Harvey. Now, 50 years later, we meet reporter Joan Ross whose own life was painfully altered in 1963 creating in her an obsession to find the truth – maybe to write the greatest story ever printed in a newspaper or maybe just to be able to sleep at night. She uses her association with two young filmmakers to continue her search for the truth involving Jack Ruby – the executioner’s executioner. One might think that all that can be said… has, but that is not the case.

Cohen and Beale clip together a row of tiny details that when viewed at the right angle manage to paint new pictures on an all ready weathered canvas. Like their other works they depend on simple people who just happen to be in the wrong place at the right time to create deep drama: Jack Ruby’s sister, a two-bit thug that happened to know Ruby, screen writers whose lack of true success leave them hungry for info they shouldn’t know, and the titular character who might have been a great novelist or journalist except she was deafened by the shot heard round the world.

The stage was filled with prominent industry actors being watched by an audience filled with prominent industry professionals. Their goal was to start the awareness of 2013’s anniversary. The night ended with surveys and feedback, likes and dislikes, ideas for rewrites, wine and cheese.

What all in the room agreed upon however was twofold…

We STILL truly don’t know Jack, and please, someone, tell us more.

Can that someone be Cohen and Beale… here to their next draft?

WITNESSED had its first reading for an invited audience on Monday, October 15, 2012 in midtown Manhattan the cast included Ian Bell, Fiona Choi, Paula Ewin, Leo G. Farley, Todd Gearhart, Rebecca Smith, Ryann Weir, and Todd Licea. To learn more about the project and its progress, please contact WrightGroupNY Communications, 347-492-0534 or wrightgroupny@gmail.com.

Photos by Christopher Sirota/WrightGroupNY Communications