This Recent Tragic Event is a True Learning Experience

Edited by Natasha Dawsen

89491650437842e3a49a454f8ec22b98.jpgSet the night after September 11, 2001, Recent Tragic Events follows a blind date happening in the shadow of a tragedy.

Written by Craig Wright, and directed by Jake Lipman, this fateful date has been arranged between an attractive advertising exec, Waverly (played with intellectual intensity by Jaya Tripathi) and a tentative and bookish bookstore manager, Andrew (the excellent Matt Gibson).

But this is not just an ordinary blind date, filled with awkward pauses and sizing up of appearances. Each of the blind daters seem inextricably stuck together in this moment in time: Waverly is tethered to her phone, waiting for an important call while trying to flirt with Andrew, while Andrew ricochets from chair to perusing her books to staring deep into her eyes, all the while making multiple unsuccessful attempts to leave the confines of her apartment.

As the company’s stage manager (Loralee Tyson) informs the audience at the top of the show, the events of the piece could go in two possible directions; she invites an audience member to flip a coin, and from there, a tone is sounded for the moments where the action could go one way or another. This conceit was slightly distracting for me in the beginning, but it should be noted that the playwright is known for twisty television writing for shows like “Lost,” and it does eventually play out in the second act.

eda2f34a77607ca3e5d0b35884bd9199.jpgFrom this tense beginning, the play makes a left turn into an almost sitcom-like territory, complete with a group of quirky friends and neighbors. Next door neighbor and musician Ron stops by, (the hammy yet likable William Douglas Turner) and invites himself in, along with his depressive girlfriend (Jake Lipman, a lot of fun to watch), making for the weirdest of double-dates and much of the play’s sillier moments.

While Recent Tragic Events vacillates between dramatic and comedic moments, it poses philosophical questions about the role of fate versus free will in the course of our lives—which the play never fully answers. But maybe that’s the point—seeing this play nearly two decades after 9/11, I was struck by how little we know today about the events and actions taken leading up to this national tragedy, and yet the not knowing does not change the fact it happened.

Thanks to this ensemble of gifted actors, Tongue in Cheek’s production of Recent Tragic Events is an effective one, filled with moments of real warmth, humor, and connection.

Recent Tragic Events is currently running May 8-18 at The Bridge Theatre, Shetler Studios, 244 West 54th Street, 12th Floor. For tickets, go to http://www.tictheater.com

Inola McGuire reviews The Buffalo Hero

The Buffalo Hero of World War I

A play written and directed by Kenthedo Robinson

The American Theatre of Actors 314th West 54th Street, 4th Floor, NYC

The first performance of the actors in this historic and enlightening period piece was dynamic, and the audience was elated to see the heroic character of a fallen Buffalo Soldier hero by the name of Wayne Miner of the 92nd Division of WWI.  The actors in this play are the following:  Darrell Wyatt, Ms. D, Bereket Mengistu, Challeane Mullgrave, Mark J. Robinson, Shatique Brown, and Timothy Patrick Walsh.

The audience sees the characterization of the soldiers, and in a few scenes, Private Wayne Miner exemplifies in honor and courage to the core of his being.  On the other hand, Private Seymoure’s character joins a rigid military with a history of institutional racism with his preconceived mindset that is very confrontational through the eyes of his fellow privates, his lieutenant, and his captain.  Captain Blu, III is a Caucasian man with a southern background, and he tells the privates what he thinks about them in the harshest forms of insults about their race.   Nonetheless, Private Rucker’s character, a functional illiterate who hails from the state of Texas, finds himself in the military.  There is room for everyone!  Private Miner teaches him some basic skills.  His encounter with the racist captain reminds him of all of the racism he had experienced and what was prevalent before, during and after WWI in the United States of America.  As a reminder, the privates find themselves in the state of Iowa of all places.

Private Seymoure’s character stays defiant and Captain Blu assigns him to the cleaning of the latrine on the army compound as a form of punishment for his insubordination to his superior.  Unfortunately, the private finds himself stuck in the latrine for a considerable period of time, and his constraining to inhale urine and feces becomes the brunt of the jokes among the Captain and his white counterparts.  This experience forces him to curb his enthusiasm and halt his militancy.  The audience witnesses his transformation in awe!  The uppity private becomes a much humbler soul.

Private Miner shares a spiritual connection with his mother, and he communicates with her in a special way when he is alone.  He discusses his experiences with her, and her wise words of comfort fortifies his spirit.  Yet, from time to time, he and the other privates receive mails from their home states; but Private Rucker’s character accepts help with the reading of his mail from Private Miner.

As the play progresses, the audience sees the blatant inequality in the treatment and the lack of preparation for combat for the private soldiers.  Lieutenant Clark who is a college graduate tries his best to standup to Captain Blu.  Captain Blu uses his caring nature for his men to manipulate any advantage he seems to gain over him.  The audience surmises that the military’s intention is to keep the privates as stevedores around the base.  With the insistence of the lieutenant on the privates’ behalf, there are substantial changes, but Captain Blu continues to delegate his orders to the lieutenant without hesitation.

In an environment where there is a war, there is the presence of the Red Cross to care for the wounded and the sick; and the American military had incorporated nurses of African descent to assist its soldiers.  Private Miner and his fellow soldiers find themselves in France, although they are not fully trained for combat.  Captain Blu continues his ill treatment of them, but Lieutenant Clark attempts to curtail his unreasonable behavior towards Private Miner and the other men at times.  Captain Blu’s states his requirements for unity, loyalty, and courage from his men.   Both Captain Blu and Lieutenant Clark stay in constant contact via radio with their superiors, and the soldiers on the front line suffer heavy casualties.  Now, the decision for the removal of the wounded and the dead in the trenches falls on the backs of Privates Seymoure and Rucker.  With the inability to drink to calm his nerves, Private Rucker becomes helpless and he is unable to cope with the situation around him.   Private Seymoure gets shot and Private Rucker leaves him at the site, but he returns to base and he reports to Captain Blu and Lieutenant Clark the latest development.

Captain Blu becomes irate and he begins to hurl insults at Private Rucker who ignores him.   Private Rucker seems frozen with fear and his ill preparedness for the misery of war.  Lieutenant Clark reminds Captain Blu of all the things that are wrong in their situation, and Private Miner offers to rescue his colleague, Private Seymoure with success as the audience observes his agony before he dies.  Yet, there is another problem to be solved by Captain Blu and Lieutenant Clark wants him to reconsider his actions.  Captain Blu wants to make a name for himself for a promotion in rank.  The shortage of ammunitions on the battle field, and the urgency for the delivery to the soldiers with the machine guns, can be the ideal opportunity for his promotion.  Private Miner volunteers to take the ammunitions to the soldiers.  Despite being wounded on his way to the battle field, he manages to deliver the supplies safely to the troops before he succumb to his wounds.  His effort saves the day!  Private Miner’s bravery allows his feat to live on as a Buffalo Soldier until the end of time.

The audience realizes that Private Wayne Miner died from his injury or injuries, and after his mother receives the notification of her son’s death; she instructs the officer to bury him in France.   The military surely complied with her wish.  Private Miner’s grave site is known to the public in France!

The reviewer’s response to the play and the developments that transpired during and after WWI in America.  African-American women gained acceptance in the Red Cross at the end of the war.   The play shows us that the more we think that things have changed in America, there is still a current of bigotry permeating among people of influence.  In the year 2019, America is divided and the politicians have not addressed this issue whole heartedly in order to enact lasting change.

I will surely recommend the play, “The Buffalo Hero, The Wayne Miner Story” to fellow theatre goers.  It is a must see production.  They are going to learn about the courage and honor of one man whose action probably change the course of history in WWI.  The playwright did an excellent job with his research and the storytelling of a hero’s story.

 

Women of the Arts 2019

Jessie Fahay is a real renaissance woman!

maxresdefault (3)Founding Executive Director, Jessie’s love for theatre, philanthropy, and ethical business practices.

She grew up with a love for viewing visceral theatre productions that move audiences along with the philosophy that “We are here to create and contribute. Not Compete.” -Robert Anthony.

Her accomplishments range from being a published author and playwright, attaining an MBA, and winning the New Jersey Governor’s award for one of her original written works. After graduating from Marymount Manhattan with a BA in Theatre and Production Management, she spent years acting in New York with numerous touring and not-for-profit theatre companies along with being cast in several television/film roles.

b8.jpgAt the helm of Ripple Effect Artists, Fahay – since 2009 – is a virtual one-woman band as lead-producer, webmaster, marketing executive, and more-than occasionally performing.

She is the author of the popular, “What Method? The Different Ways an Actor Can Train.”

But in the end, her main goal is to open the door to young and emerging artsiosts so they can create their own … Ripple Effect.

Ripple Effect Artists invite you to a special Earth Day celebration at the opulent Triad Theater on Easter night: EARTH DAY CABARET! Special event, Sunday evening, April 21, 2019 @ 6:00 – 7:30 pm at The Triad, 158 W 72nd St, New York City.

Special performances by notates from on and off Broadway: Dylan Adams, Jessie Fahay, Rance W Wright, and interfaith minister and artist, Sandra Bargman.

b38.jpgTell us about yourself as an artist?

As an artist, I am someone who is always up for challenging myself and leaving my comfort zone.  Transformation is what I find so important and moving in any artistry and I strive to have myself transform with every role I take on.  I also have done this as a writer and singer.  (Side note—making audiences laugh has always been quite important to me).  It is always about marrying mind, body, and voice to bring about technical excellence along with inner truth.   

Tell us about Ripple Effect?

b65.jpgI began this company along with Jessica Jennings after I participated in a weekend long course (at a place called Landmark Worldwide) and got that I wanted to create theatfr that made an impact along with theatre artists with whom I trust and love to collaborate.  I had no idea how to produce or begin a 501c3 or fundraise or anything!   And I just started and kept being willing to fail and kept stating where I wanted the company to go.   And now, 10 years and 10 shows, five concerts, many fundraising events, and two international teaching trips later (along with other programming), here we are!   I love that we create partnerships with Human Rights Leaders and have them speak at our shows.   It can and does in deed cause a Ripple Effect….

You’re a world traveler so share with us what are the theater arts from around the world.    

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Traveling and studying Theatre around that world hasn’t made a huge difference for myself as an actor/singer and for the company.   My studies in Russia at the Moscow Art Theater School taught me about cohesive ensemble and how to bring that to a company.   My Masters in the UK has shown me such practical and useful ways to bring body and vocal techniques to any performances along with really thorough text analysis.  In general, learning about as many cultures as possible while traveling is key to understanding how stories are put together and how historical/cultural context can shape every aspect of a script.  

Tell us about the cabaret?

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I am so excited for this cabaret!   These singers are fantastic and such professionals.  They are all singing poignant songs that will give the audience chills as well as make us think about this topic. 

Is Global warming a cause-celeb for you?

Global Warming is a major topic for me because it IS something we are dealing with right now.  The up-rise of disastrous storms cannot be ignored.  Many are dying and suffering due to the fact that we do not have infrastructure to support such disasters.  

It’s right in the middle of the holiday season … was that to give it more “spirituality?”    

Yes!   And to create a fun activity after Afternoon Easter celebrations. 

You are an author as well?

Yes!  My book is titled “What Method? The Different Ways an Actor Can Train.”   

CHECK OUT THE BOOK HERE

What’s next for the company … and for you, if they’re not connected.

I am out to enhance my own Acting career and hitting the audition circuit soon!   The company is producing 2071: The World We Will Leave Our Grandchildren”  in August at the Episcopal Actors Guild Theater.  

Here’s the BIG question … What’s it like being a woman running an arts company in NYC in the 21st century? 

At times it is quite inspiring because I have made some wonderful connections with other effective female producers and directors and have had them be my mentors.   Watching how they grew as business women through the 80s/90s and beyond has taught me fortitude and tenacity as well as the ability to make requests when needed and stand my ground when it comes to a specific vision.   

I still am sometimes spoken to as though I am not the “real deal” and at times I have to remind people of the fact that I have done my due diligence (and have an MBA).   I think this may be due to my age as well as my gender.  However, we are in an exciting time.  These last 10 years have proven that people of my generation (the older end of millennials who grew up in the 90s) can create startups and new businesses and new concepts FOR businesses at a young age.  Having a career that we design has become a priority.   I know many young women such as myself who have begun charities and businesses of their own and there are great resources for them.   It is a matter of charities and companies growing together and creating partnerships that will have all missions thrive.  In other words, we gotta stick together.

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Women in the Arts 2019

8OeQLO2OJake Lipman is an artistic director, producer, writer, director, actress, festival producer, intellectual, entrepreneur … and that’s just the top of the list.

Her current play, RECENT TRAGIC EVENTS by Craig Wright with share The Bridge Theatre @ Shetler Studios with a festival of her own creation, SPRING PLUS 1 SOLO SHOW FESTIVAL. AND she will do the same again in the fall with her next powerful piece. 

Ms. Lipman’s company, Tongue in Cheek Theater, just like its founder, wears many artsistic hats, its works are designed to make you think, feel, and laugh. that last one is very important.

OPENING in MAY:
RECENT TRAGIC EVENTS by Craig Wright
The Bridge Theatre @ Shetler Studios
244 West 54th Street. 
Eight performances, May 8-18 (Wed-Sat nights)
When accomplished advertising exec Waverly opens the door to her Minneapolis apartment on a warm September night, she’s aghast. How could she have forgotten her blind date, Andrew, would be picking her up? As she scrambles to get ready, a series of twists and unexpected guests waylay them on their night out. A thought-provoking comedy about a blind date with destiny.

in repertory with

SPRING PLUS 1 SOLO SHOW FESTIVAL
also at The Bridge Theatre @ Shetler Studios
Two shows: May 12-13; (Sun & Mon nights)

Visit www.tictheater.com for more information and to buy tickets.

Jake Lipman received her Masters of Fine Arts from the Actors Studio Drama School at the New School and her Bachelor of Arts from Smith College. As an actor, she has toured nationally, appeared in New York and regional theater, TV, independent film, and voice-over work, in addition to producing, writing, and directing theater and film. In 2006, she formed Tongue in Cheek Theater Productions (TIC).

It’s been a while since we spoke to Jake and things have only gotten better. We’re thrilled to have her as one of the prominent women of the arts 2019.

Tell us about yourself as an artist?

I’ve been acting since I was 7, and it’s funny, the first role I ever played was a producer in a play called The Great American Musical Disaster. I wore reflective aviator shades and a white Miami Vice-like blazer. Many years and an MFA later, I would finally learn what a producer does, mostly by doing. And that’s what the word “producer” means to me – I get involved in anything and everything a piece requires. I love collaborating with other people, on casting, in the rehearsal room, workshopping new plays, directing, and yes, still acting.

Lipman & Co. in the celebrated office comedy, Relentlessly Pleasant

Tell us about your company? 
I graduated with an MFA in acting and thought: now what? The answer was to produce a play with a great role for me, and from there, I found my inner producing artistic director.

I founded Tongue in Cheek Theater Productions (www.tictheater.com) in 2006 to ensure I was always working on thought-provoking comedies. I’ve now produced 40 productions, acted onstage in many, directed a dozen, and written a few. I love the many different creative challenges each aspect of a production requires of me. And I get to work with the incredibly talented people of New York. It’s a great place to make indie theater happen.

8OeQLO2O.jpegSerious matters that evoke a chuckle? Very classical and rare today. Care to elaborate?

What’s that old adage that comedy is tragedy + time? That’s certainly been true for me, from writing a solo show about scattering my mother’s ashes in Ireland (Up a River) to writing and directing Relentlessly Pleasant about the challenges women face in the workplace. But mostly, I think people want to see something that engages them and surprises them. If I can make them laugh and then think about why they laughed, I’ve engaged my audience and done my job.

What is your creative process as a writer?

To be clear, I didn’t write my latest piece, Recent Tragic Events  — the very talented Craig Wright did! But I have written and produced several plays, including Relentlessly Pleasant (2018) and The Inn at Lake Devine (based on the novel by the same name).

My process is very structured – I create a master plan with deadlines for when I’ll have drafts and send them to readers for their input. This keeps me honest, and waking up early and drinking lots of coffee while I write. I love this period of getting up early and writing. I look forward to it, and frankly, I don’t even sleep particularly well, because I’m working out my next twist in my head and my brain won’t fully turn off to let me sleep.

Then, I workshop the piece and revise, and I love to hear it aloud. That really helps flush out what’s not working and helps me refine further.

But to answer the question a bit more succinctly: structure and lots of coffee.

Do you write with the intention of direction or acting – or both – in the play or is that an organic decision?

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I think of myself as an actor first and foremost, so I develop works for me in a key role. With The Inn at Lake Devine, the lead character is this feisty young woman from Massachusetts, and when I first read the book, I thought, that’s me! I am her! So that was the impetus for my reaching out to the novelist to adapt her book. I wanted to fully play out that role. With Relentlessly Pleasant, I wrote one of the leads for myself but very late in the process, my director had to back out due to a change in jobs, and I had to take a deep breath and direct it instead of act in it. That was a big, hard pill to swallow. But fortunately, my cast was so incredible, and their portrayal of every character so surpassed what I had envisioned, that I was able to enjoy the play coming together as a whole new thing. That was deeply satisfying.

Who do you write for… who is your audience?

My desired audience is my dad, or people like him. He’s this jovial, funny, smart guy in his seventies who sees a lot of movies, is reasonably well-informed and well-read, but not stuffy. He’s not into things that need to be explained or that are deliberately esoteric. If he gets one of my shows, I am confident that I’ve put forth work that is accessible, entertaining, and engaging.

What’s it like being a woman in the arts in the 21st century – post #MeToo, during Trump? 

Oy. I am of two minds. The first mind says, well, it’s scary and it sucks. But the second mind says, screw that, you never had to ask for permission to do the shows you do, you just did them. And you will continue to make your own work and opportunities. So I sometimes think the former, but mostly I try to live the latter.

What’s next for you?

A bunch of things! I am producing, directing, and acting in Recent Tragic Events, May 8-11 and 15-18, 2019 at The Bridge Theatre @ Shetler Studios (tickets are on sale at www.tictheater.com). The show is set over the course of a night when a man shows up for a blind date and ends up entrenched in the life of the woman he picks up. I’m curating my 15th Plus 1 Solo Show Festival of new works, which runs for 2 nights, May 12-13, 2019 during the dark nights of Recent Tragic Events. I showcase 3 new solo shows and a musical guest, and it’s always a great night of theater.

And, I’m helping a dear friend develop her solo show, Untransmittable, which will be showcased as a staged reading on May 14.

dSWBQ0qkAnd then, last but not least, I have adapted Relentlessly Pleasant into a TV pilot and am taking meetings to see about developing it further for a steaming service. It’s early days yet but I feel passionately about making a piece that centers around women at work and the comedy of power dynamics.

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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Women in the Arts 2019

After winning “Best Festival Debut” in the 2018 United Solo Festival for her autobiographical one-woman show, Velvet Determination ~ a young pianist’s journey to New York ~ Cynthia Shaw is thrilled to join the cast as the troubled mother in William Considine’s autobiographical play, Moral Support at The Medicine Show Theatre.

Born and raised in Pueblo, Colorado, Cynthia moved to New York to attend the Manhattan School of Music and pursue a career as a classical pianist.  She soon moved on to musical directing and finally to acting in theatre and film.  Favorite stage roles: Claire, the strong woman standing up to her bombastic literary husband in The Woman at His Side (The Gallery Players); Mrs. Winemiller, the wacky mother in Summer and Smoke (Gloria Maddox Theatre); the rigid Grandmother in the Tartuffe-inspired, After Tartuffe (The Wild Project); self-important Mrs. Drudge in The Real Inspector Hound (The Producer’s Club); The insightful juror in 12 Angry Women (Adam Roebuck Theatre); the starstruck Liz Fuller in Me and Jezebel  (Kentucky Repertory Theatre); and both sexy Arkadina and clueless Ranevskaya in Mr. Chekhov & Mr. Porter (Medicine Show Theatre).

Her films have screened at the Cannes, Soho, and Big Apple Film Festivals.  Mara, in which she starred, was an Official Selection at the Soho International Film Festival and won awards in fourteen other festivals, including Best Experimental Film at the Los Angeles Movie Awards.  Her episode of the web series, Brooklyn is in Love, won two awards at the LA Webfest.

Read the Review of her solo show, Velvet Determination

Read the Review of her appearance in Mr. Chekhov and Mr. Porter

Read the Review of her appearance in Summer and Smoke 

CYNTHIA SHAW appears as the ailing mother seeking a cure for her ailienation in William Considine’s Moral Support (opening at Medicine Show Theatre on February 21.)

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Tell us about yourself as an artist? 

Born and raised in a musical family in Pueblo, Colorado, I moved to NY to attend the Manhattan School of Music.  I soon moved on to musical directing and finally to acting in film and theatre.  My recent film work has been presented at Cannes Festival Corner, The Film Society of Lincoln Center, The Soho International Film Festival, World-Fest International Film Festival, Indie-Fest, The LA Movie Awards, The Big Apple Film Festival, Manhattan Film Festival, to name a few.  My episode of the web series, “Brooklyn is in Love” won two awards at the prestigious LA Webfest.

Stage work includes Off-Broadway theaters in New York City including The Medicine Show Theatre, The Barrow Group, T. Schreiber Studios, The Wild Project, The Articulate and The Secret Theaters.  

My one-woman show, “Velvet Determination~A Young Pianist’s Journey to New York” was presented to sold-out houses by the United Solo Festival at Theatre Row this past September and October. The show won “Best Festival Debut”.  About the show: 

I enjoyed my childhood of piano lessons and music-making.  But as time went on I developed bigger dreams: moving to New York to attend the esteemed Manhattan School of Music. However, this goal was a bit more difficult than I expected.  As I struggle with my self-sabotaging demons, shaky memorization and insufficient technique, I master a falling piano, a sweltering practice room, a music-hating neighbor, a condescending teacher and other obstacles that confront a young Colorado classical pianist who has decided to tackle the Big Apple! 

In this music-filled 60 minute solo show, I create over ten characters including my piano teachers:  a kindly childhood teacher, my University of Denver teacher who opens up my eyes to the world of New York and my formidable first NY piano teacher.  Throughout the show I play the piano music of Bach, Beethoven, Brahms, Chopin, Debussy and Schubert. 

As a singer I’ve sung back-up vocals for both Paul McCartney at Carnegie Hall and Björk at Riverside Church and sang with the New York Philharmonic when they won three Grammy Awards in Classical Music for John Adams’ “On the Transmigration of Souls.” My singing has been featured on the New York Times website and as a pianist I’ve performed with The New York Revels on Garrison Keillor’s “A Prairie Home Companion” at New York’s Town Hall and on NPR.

 

Cynthia Shaw rehearsal photoHow do you prepare as an actor … does it change when you have something of such powerful emotion? 

I prepare as I always do for any character I portray. As I work on the scrip, I try to understand the need of the character and her objectives.  I focus on the relationship with the other actor(s) and what drives our relationship.  I dig into my own experience and let the emotions of those experiences inform the character.  Before performing, I focus, breath, calm myself down with meditation and breathing exercises and try to live the moments of the character on stage.  

 

 

OK, Shakespeare’s gone now. Considine is not. What’s it like having the author right there? 

I like having the author there.  I like being able to ask questions of the play and clarify things.  Sometimes the writer can make you nervous because you want to create what he has in his head, what his vision was while writing the show.  This show is particularly character demanding because I play a real person who was in the life of the author.  So I want to portray her in a real, connected way for him and hopefully do the character justice.

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What do you hope the audience will take away from this piece? 

I hope the audience will take away that life is complicated and people live confusing lives.  That they try their best, but oftentimes falter.  That alcoholism can break people and families apart.  Alcohol can make family life cruel and unjust.  And it can break people.  This play will give them a glimpse into the life of an alcoholic family and what they had to live through.  

What’s next for you?

I’ll be taking my one-woman show, Velvet Determination, to The Millibo Theatre in Colorado Springs for four performances, March 14-18.  Then April 4-7 I have four performances of the show at The Pittsburgh Fringe Festival.  I also have a short, comedic film, d’Urn it!, which I produced and had a leading role.  It is the story of three women who, according to the will of the deceased, have to play a game in order to win the right to inherit his millions.  The film is nearing completion and will be making the festival circuit in the coming month.  

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To Baby or not to Baby

Nursery Rhymes, written and directed by Jan Ewing
Review by Luiza Ajgirevich (edited by Natasha Dawsen)

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Jan Ewing’s intimate ensemble turned in a great performance in Nursey Rhymes at the Hudson Guild Theater. Set in Chip and Irene’s living room, this domestic comedy play focuses on eager Irene – eager to have a child even though she is in her 30s, that is … while husband Chip is vastly against having a chip off his own block.

Colleen White played the fertile Irene Mangus with command, intelligence, and acerbic humor. Chip, as played by Patrick Hamilton held his own with high physical energy – and caustic humor equal to White.

The opening scene starts with a conversation that involves a couple in a discussion about having a child. Irene is eager to have a baby and she seems frustrated that Chip does not want to even hear about it or see the balloons, maternity magazines, and other less-than-subtle hints. Chip is concerned that it is too much of the burden or responsibility. He tries to convince his wife that it might change everything in their lives … in a negative way.

Saved by the bell … doorbell. Enter Marge and Frank, summoned by Irene as moral support and example of a happy ending as the 50-something couple have a 12-year-old. Ashley Formento as Marge, and J. Michael Baran as Frank brought a balance to the proceedings and even more wit.

After a cons & pros hashing about children, Frank delivers a 1-2 punch to Chip and the audience with a heartfelt and well-written solo about his mother.

Beautifully written and skillfully played, Nursery Rhymes is funny, welcoming, and deeply sincere. Jan Ewing has given us an astute piece about a timely and ever-growing topic.

Rebecca Benedict takes “The Long Rail Home”

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The Soho play house was buzzing with excitement when I arrived, clearly I was not the only person excited to see this play.

Thomas Morgan (Xavier Rodney) Is a Soldier who has saved a little white girl from a burning plantation home in a time where there was more risk and kindness in his action then there was rational sense.

 

 

As an audience we were taken through the scary and violent world of what it was to be a black man during the civil war and showered with realities of emasculation, violence, families turned against each other and taken apart.

We also learned of the social construct set up with in families to perpetuate racism and white supremacy as the young 12 year old Molly Barnes (Jordyn Morgan) finds herself with a Black Soldier who saved her life more then once yet facing her Daddy’s life long racist teachings that equate him to being less then human even though Private Morgan is all she has, even though he keeps risking himself for her safety.

I was so very impacted by the story Mr Morgan and Mrs Barns Share and how we slowly come to understand all the ways they are connected and how much love and guilt is behind the risks that are taken. I was also very effected by the character Coal Car Casey (Anna Hogan) who was an example of how even though it was a war on slavery if you could not align your beliefs with white supremacy you were an enemy to both sides.

This show was such an outstanding experience it educated us, it went to the insides of our humanity and shook us, it asked us to just know the truth. The story was crafted with detailed thought to every characters perspective of life in South Carolina During the Civil war and racial violence and degradation also in the glorified North. Our country needs this play, our history needs this play it is exactly who and what we come from that wont be explored openly even as we still live with in the mess it has made and continues to make. I cannot imagine how it must have felt to work through this script as actors and unpack the emotions living in these characters, living in all of us, complicated and silenced. The director (Brock H. Hill) did an outstanding job with a remarkable cast.

I was in love with this show, I was so thankful for it and upon leaving had to hold back from hugging the writer (Michael Hagins) for making something so outstanding and instead I awkwardly squeezed his shoulder not having words for all of the emotions I was experiencing (sorry again about that Mr. Hagins). Bravo to everyone involved and thank you so much for your contribution and for using the power of theater to effect us so deeply Michael Hagins you deserve every accolade.