Women in the Arts 2019: Music Ma’am

61764028_10217288238090807_2184395838187372544_nOft-featured performance artist, Mary Elizabeth Micari, embarks on Part II of her auto-biographical, musical journey of self-discovery. Thanks to the “emo-90s” she has tunes to tackle her [first] marriage and her exploration into spirituality. She has enlisted MAC Award winner, Tracy Stark, to collaborate on the score and classical harpist, Richard Spendio, plus rock drummer, John Dinello, to spice the sound. “Don’t mess with success” said Dinello, when we mentioned her return to the East Village go-to club, Pangea. “We are opening with Lorena McKennit’s All Soul’s Night! Great compilation of songs!” replied Richard Spendio on social media.

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The Lady in Black 2: Between the Sun and the Moon, premieres at Pangea, 178 2nd Ave in NYC, on Saturday October 26, 2019 at 9:30 PM.
http://www.pangeanyc.com/show/mary-micari-lady-in-black-2-between-the-sun-and-the-moon-930pm/

Mary has quickly become member-emeritus of our women in the arts series. This time, we’ll span our questions over a three-part series about what it takes to create a sustaining and entertaining act in NYC cabaret and night clubs.

Your Lady in Black series is semi-autobiographical. What’s the message of this one? 

44591266_10215667222766437_4278137032858927104_nMy shows don’t have a specific message per se.  They are just what they are.  I am not out to do anything to make a statement.  I guess if there is one to be had its more about how we are all vulnerable and alive and life’s fucking hard.  Its also a bit about finding that one need not look very far or outside one’s self to find fulfillment.  Its inside all of us…the divine.

Tell us about YOU – the artist, entrepreneur, the woman.

This could take a year! I am a singer, actress, director, producer and all that based on my work in that area of my life.  I teach voice. I also have studied healing like Herbalism, Reiki, Aromatherapy, Sound and Music healing and much more.  I am a witch. Or as some like to say I am a Goddess Centered Pagan/Wiccan.  I read tarot, do astrology readings, magic and spells for others.  I do ritual and have a podcast on witchcraft.  I also teach the craft, astrology, tarot, herbalism and all the rest. 

These are based on diaries and journals – What’s it like telling your life story out there? 

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Mary chatting with music legend, Marilyn Maye, after Mary’s last “Lady” showing

It is pretty easy for me.  I find that the audience really is wanting that from performers. Even if I were playing a role not me, I would be using my own life to create the emotion of the character.  When I first asked the audience if they wanted me to read from my diaries on stage at the last show the answer was a loud, “YES”! People hide themselves so much now.  Social media is full of bullshit. No one shows their real lives.  I have no issue with being open about my path in this life.  I hope that I can help or enlighten.  It’s a female story because I am female but so many men enjoy it and are really seeing another side of women in this. It is wonderful to have people like and accept my story. It feels like I am sharing and that is wonderful.

What advice would you give a young woman starting out in the [live] music business? 

I am not really a music businessperson.  However, as I tell my young female students…self-produce, get it out there, and push it.  That’s all one can do.  Be authentic, be fierce, fight for your space, be good to other women.  Be kind to all people.  AND most importantly you better have the “goods” so do your work daily and never, ever quit.

 

We Salute an International Woman in the Arts 2019: Yokko!

EN /縁

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The visionary mind of performance artist, Yoshiko Usami (AKA Yokko), brings another far-reaching movement & dance piece to New York. EN /縁, sponsored, in part, by the Greater New York Arts Development Fund of the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, administered by Brooklyn Arts Council, will have a limited run (September 13-15) in Brooklyn at Triskelion Arts on 106 Calyer Street in Brooklyn reflects the deep connections we achieve in our lives – intentionally and unintentionally – positive and negative – for just one moment or for our entire lives.

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EN – the Japanese word for this, explores the positive effects of connections. EN is more than just people-connections. We create EN /縁 with people and all living things and even with locations and objects. EN explores the relationship between Nature and all living beings through Butoh dance and Physical Theatre. It explores whether we – as human beings – can create a relationship with people and things we usually take for granted. Every day we carelessly contaminate the Land and the Ocean and even the Air – and all those who inhabit them. EN shows how we can build bridges instead of burning them? Can we truly care for one another?

EN /縁 is 75 minutes but can give you messages that can last a lifetime.

TICKET INFO: $18- for Limited Advanced Sale (until 8/31); $20 General
https://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/4305278
PERFORMANCES: Sept. 13 @ 8pm; Sept. 14 @ 8pm; and Sept. 15 @ 3pm.

PRODUCTION TEAM

Choreographer & Director: Yoshiko Usami (AKA Yokko)
Costume Design by Deepsikha Chatterjee; Lighting Design by Rachel Zimmerman; Sound & Projection Design by Jorge Olivo and Alyssa L. Jackson; Installation Art by Pei-Ling Ho. Production Photography and Graphic Design by Krzy Sien; Production Videography by Mathew Kohn.
Rui Dun, Assistant Director and Bob Lyness, Associate Producer
The company features Miles Butler, Annie McCoy, Efrén Olson-Sánchez, Laura Aristovulos, and Yokko

Natasha Dawsen spoke with Yokko about the adventure that is her life in the arts. 

My background is as an Actor for a long time. I came to this country to be an international actor, 13 years ago. It has been quite a journey for me. As a foreign student, I needed to have some financial support, and applied one of the very competitive scholarship programs, and received a full scholarship. As the exchange, I served to the local communities, and shared Japanese culture and Performing Arts such as classical dance and martial arts. I formed a theatre group called Japanese Performing Arts company (JPAC), and gathered students, and taught them and held performances and workshops together. Through the activity, I received the International Understanding Award from the University of Oregon in 2008.

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“I think that is the beginning of my journey as a Japanese Performing Artist in the USA.”

After that year, I transferred to SUNY at Albany to prepare for a graduate program in Acting, and be accepted the Actors Studio Drama School at Pace University MFA in Acting program in NYC in 2009. I wrote a one-woman show called BALDY which is an autobiographical play about my father, and relationship with me through my illness and our dreams. I performed and toured the show till early 2014. While I was touring this show, I encountered many audience members who were moved by the story. I  realized the impact of a universal theme to the society through live theatre. Meanwhile, I had to apply for an artist visa to stay and work as an artist.

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“And because I had to define who I am, where I am from, what  I have done, and what I do, for the visa appreciation,  I increased my self-awareness that I am a performing artist from Japan specialized in theater and dance.”

At that time, I was focusing on Japanese contemporary dance form, Butoh, and fascinating the craft, and creating the show with Butoh & Acting with my production team. We created the show, called Butoh Medea. It is a total fusion of theatre & dance (Acting and Butoh). This show has been received many awards, and has been touring nationally internationally since 2015. (Next show will be in Oct. 2019 in Czech) When we toured the show in Edinburgh Festival Fringe in 2015, again, I encountered audience members who were moved, inspired and moreover and somehow encouraged for their Arts. At the same time, I was asked why I had to tell this story to society and what was my mission status. And so, I had to think deeper meaning toward what I do. 

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“All those experiences made me think about why I do and what I do.”

My previous ensemble work, SHINKA was about a story of living beings. It was about destruction and creation. It was about an evolving culture and our minds. When I started creating the show, I wanted to connect the current society and its issues we are facing on. And so, I corporated with overuse of plastic bags. Plastic bags are made of oil, and many countries create a war for oil. This show received many awards and nominated several awards, and because of this show, I received a grant from Brooklyn Arts council for our new project, En. This new show is about environmental issues and relationships between not only humans but also other creatures. 

thespis-18-small-reso_orig.jpg“I think the current society (and its issues) and nature have been motivating my creativity.  I also do believe what we see in the world is the reflection of our minds, and so, I would love to explore ourselves along with the social issues.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

4840382_origMy mission as a performing artist is to make a bridge between not only humans but also non-humans such as all living beings and nature. And I have been organizing an ecology and arts festival past 4 years in NYC (Unfix NYC). I wanted to do something to the world we live in, which is actually not new to me. When I was a child, I wanted to be a diploma, doctor, or lawyer. (or sports players) But my passion went to more acting, and have been pursuing acting career. After I graduated MFA program, and touring my shows and meeting people/audiences, and teaching theatre, and training Butoh with teachers consistently, I was inspired by each experiences. Moreover, I went back Japan in 2017, and I worked with one of the master teachers in Butoh, Yoshito Ono (Son of Kazuo Ono), and one of the exercises he guided us gave me a huge impact. He showed us a photo of children who were smiling. “They were born in a refugee camp. they do not know the other world than the camp”. He said. He asked us “We are not a doctor, or solger or politiciaons. We are performer. what we can do for these children as a performer? ” We danced for those children as our audience in his studio. This experience shifted me in a good way. I felt the responsibility. And it reminded the letter I received from an audience at the Edinburgh- “Thank you for sharing what art can do.” I did not understand much that time I received the letter in 2015. But when I worked with Yoshito Ono-Sensei in 2017, I felt like a seed rooted in me. Even though I have passion toward this theme,  the subject comes to mind more subconsciously, and very randomly, and I did not plan or intend to create an environmental show in the first place. I am more like following what came to my mind. Sometime I create a piece based on a dream I had over night. I usually see image or sound, and I follow what comes next, and keep exploring those images, I discover the piece to be born. 

 

DIRECTIONS to the theatre. 

We are at the corner of Calyer St and Banker St.

G Train to the Greenpoint Ave Stop. Walk south on Manhattan Ave, toward Milton St. Take a right on Calyer St.

G Train to the Nassau Ave Stop. Walk north on Manhattan Ave toward Norman St. Take a left on Calyer St.

L Train to the Bedford Avenue Stop.  Walk west on North 7th St to Berry St. Take a right on Berry St. Take a left on Banker St.

Buses near us: B32, B62, B43

Accessibility: Triskelion Arts is committed to making our Muriel Schulman Mainstage Theater welcoming and accessible to all. If you have any seating questions, need an accommodation, or require any other special assistance with purchasing tickets, please contact us at 718.389.3473 or info@triskelionarts.org. Our Mainstage Theater is on the ground level and accessible to those who use wheelchairs. Accessible seats are available for each performance in our Mainstage Theater and an accessible restroom is located on street level.

 

 

 

 

Women in the Arts 2019: Facing the music and dancing with Albena & Shelly

The new arts organization, From Scratch Performance Company, is more than just another theatrical company. it is a working body of art. It’s repertory holds many actors, singers, dancers, but also those that help them act, sing, and dance.

Their new artistic director is a playwright, for instance. Robert Liebowitz is a 40-year veteran of independent theater. He stand next to experienced designers, composers and Albena Kervanbashieva and Shelly Ellis Herrington. 

It’s possible to have a dancer or two in a rep but TWO PRIMA BALLERINAS? This company is showing all signs of being something special.

67395162_2495384977150171_1580520356878221312_n.jpgAlbena Kervanbashieva, a Bulgarian native, began in the hands of Ballet master, Pavel Stoitzev when she was seven. After making a name for herself in her native Bulgaria, she came to these shores and scored kudos as part of Martha Graham School of Contemporary Dance, Doris Humphrey Dance Company, La Ballade Ballet Company, Contemporary Ballet Theater, Jayne Persh and Dancers, Les Ballets du Monde and collaborating with numerous independent choreographers. She is currently a member of Dance Visions.

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Shelly Ellis Herrington trained as a Classical Ballerina on Point at the legendary Brooklyn Academy of Music. As she grew, so did her skills, she is now adept in Jazz, Tap and Modern Dance as well. She then added “singer” to her resume as a Soprano and Mezzo. Now she just needed the actor part to be a triple-threat. She went to Kingsborough College to hone those skills.

We sat down (not easy with two such agile artists) to discuss the upcoming event.

City Center – that’s great … are you excited? 

Shelly Ellis Herrington I joined this exciting and very rewarding Company because of it’s introductory presentation:  My very first meeting with them was at “New York City Center in Rudolph Nureyev Ballet Arts Center.”  I immediately understood where this Company was headed, and I made an excellent choice to be a part of it. As an Artist, I would have to be truly mentally incapacitated if I was ‘Not’ excited about having a Scene from my personal production of “HOSEKI” performed at this iconic Hall.  It is indeed an honor and a joy to be presented at The New York City Center.

What made you form/join this company?

13995598_10208655356594377_9075648485383827943_oAlbena Kervanbashieva I was very intrigued when I stumbled upon the “Spectatorum” organization (later renamed “From Scratch Performance Company”) – I really jumped at the chance to meet and collaborate with artists from fields other than mine (dance).

 

 

 

What make you different from other indie arts companies?

Shelly Ellis Herrington What makes me different from other indie arts companies is a lot of my productions are based on ‘Real Life’ situations.  Creating them into art is a gift.

Albena Kervanbashieva I am immensely honored to be offered 4 original music pieces by 3 composers from the company, who trusted me with my choreography. It is frightening and deeply rewarding at the same time to dance my own choreography, up to this point I’ve always danced other peoples’ works, I truly started “from scratch”.

What are your plans/hopes/dreams for the future?

Albena Kervanbashieva I hardly can wait to discover how far I can go with this and what a gift to be surrounded by such talented artists who are on a similar journey in their fields! I am so looking forward to having more creatives joining us and collaborating. When one starts from scratch there’s so much freedom to create original works – All that we have is ourselves, without copying or recreating anyone else’s. I’d love to co-create  full length productions of Theater, Music and Dance!

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Shelly Ellis Herrington My Plans, Hopes, and Dreams for the Future is to Produce 10 original productions of Plays, Movies, and Music.  I have every intention of being at the Tony Awards, Oscar’s, and Grammy Awards. What’s next for me is my Second Reading in the Fall of my original 2-Hour Theatrical Musical “HOSEKI/SHELLY” with Song and Dance.  WhooWhoo!

 

scratch invite

 

 

 

 

 

Melissa Mowry: Visionary Woman of the Arts 2019

“The more you know of your history, the more liberated you are.” cited Poet-Laurette, Maya Angelou. These words rung in the ears of Melissa Mowry and Jessica Fichter as they shepherded an original piece of theatre. It’s more than that. It is a derived play. A new and exciting form of art that visionary companies are now creating.

Melissa Mowry with the help of her colleague, Jessica Fichter, bring, If Women Rose Rooted, an organic ensemble-created piece about the wisdom of women as old as time and as fresh as today. Fichter, having scored tremendous kudos for DANDELION, a new female-empowering musical that brought down the house at Feinstein’s earlier this year, joins with Melissa Mowry to bring her brainchild to life. Another female focused piece,) If Women Rose Rooted is set in both modern day and the “Otherworld (a mythical land of the fairy folk), this piece explores femininity and culture through the shared wisdom ancestors and our experiences today. Drawn from mythology and folklore, If Women Rose Rooted delves into the power and pain of femininity and reminds us all of those powerful women who came before us.

What looks like a fantasy is a veiled parable of the true dawning of the Age of Aquarius.

Directed by Melissa Mowry, assisted by Jessica Fichter, the women’s ensemble includes Marcella Adams, Titania Galliher, Jessica Panora, and Lucy Lewis. The special limited run will be Friday, September 6 @ 7pm; September 7 @ 3 and 7 pm; and Sunday, September 8 @ 3 and 7 pm at the cutting-edge arts incubator, The Tank, 312 W 36th Street, in New York. For More information, visit https://www.thetanknyc.org/calendar-1/2019/9/6/if-women-rose-rooted

We connected with Melissa and Jessica for a few moments to learn more of their play and this new artform.

Tell us about yourselves as artists

53570925_10157097448995909_1251957072426172416_n.jpgMelissa Mowry: I have always believed in the transformative and healing power of theatre. Unlike any other art form, theatre has the ability to place a person into the mind and experience of another. There is a beautiful relationship that can be forged when honest and truthful representations of humanity are placed on the stage and the audience is welcomed on the journey to explore the intimate world of those, they might call strangers. That is what I strive for in my art, to make those connections, to find comfort in the discomfort, and strength in change.

62499347_10101858799997156_9073342004502462464_n.jpgJessica Fichter: 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. My sister and I debuted our new musical at Feinstein’s/54 Below on August 14th. I love art that pushes boundaries and asks questions.

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What is a “derived” play and what was your inspiration in writing it? —

Melissa Mowry: So, a devised play is different from the traditional play form, as the process doesn’t start with a script, but rather a theme, idea, or concept that is then explored with actors (in this case) and from the there, the script/story emerges. What I love about this type of theatre and exploration is that it allows me as a director to engage in the material and my actors in a unique way. Whatever skill sets they have, interests they bring to the table, it allows me opportunities and avenues to explore and play. If Women Rose Rooted has been on my heart for over 7 years, when I was first introduced to the Mahabharata, an ancient Indian text that is extremely important to the Hindu faith, while working in India. I realized that so much of how we look at the world around us is shaped by these ancient myths and histories, whether we recognize it or not. And as a woman who has been fortunate enough to see and explore her femininity in many different cultures and communities, I wanted to really explore the power and importance of honoring the feminine and to find balance in a world that is extremely unbalanced. 

Jessica Fichter: A devised piece happens entirely in the room, making it a wholly collaborative effort.  Because a script doesn’t exist when we start, we have a lot of ability to explore in terms of text, movement, style, rhythm!  Truly the sky is the limit.  The opportunity to work so closely and collaboratively with such brilliant woman is so fulfilling.  Melissa is truly the brainchild behind this piece, she has such a deep knowledge of mythology, and cultures around the world she wanted to draw from the universality of the role of women across time and space.  

Melissa, we looked you up and we’re very impressed. You’re a renaissance woman – having done film and live work. What’s your mission?  

Melissa Mowry: As a creative person, I simply want to share stories and give voice to people who are often unseen or unheard. And because of that, it is really important to me have an understanding and experience of different types and forms of art. Not every story should be told the same way, and not every character’s voice should be supported in the same medium, so I am constantly seeking ways to better hone my storytelling skills and interests to best give the strongest and most dynamic voice to the characters who interest and inspire me. 

A term I hear a lot these days is teaching artists – as you are as well. What is a teaching artist? 

Melissa Mowry: A teaching artist, is an artist who makes the creative process of their art form accessible to other people, giving students the opportunity to expand their understanding of an art form. For me, being a teaching artist is not only about going into classrooms and teaching students how to stand on the stage, or how to act, or how to dissect a script; but it is about preparing young people for the world and giving them the ability to take up space in a way that instills confidence, awareness, and empathy. As a theater teaching artist, I have the unique opportunity to help young people explore the lives of so many people, who are both familiar and unfamiliar, and it is important to me that I help guide them to giving their whole heart to that exploration not only for the performance, but because they could leave changed people, better people, after getting to know their character so intimately. 

Jessica, from your vantage-point as a producer, how do you feel it makes this play “different” from others?

Jessica Fichter: In this piece movement, text, music, personal experience is all woven together to create a tapestry which allows the audience to dive in based on their favorite artistic medium, story, myth.  It makes the experience both deeply personal and widely universal which is tricky and rare.  This is the kind of theatre in which the audience is drawn in not just by story but by the means of storytelling.  

Ladies, what’s next? —

Melissa Mowry: Devised pieces can take years to solidify, so If Women Will Rose Rooted will continue to be workshopped and explored, and hopefully tour within the next year. I will also be directing a show, Trouble in Mind by Alice Childress, at Rutgers University and will being working on another devised piece exploring identity, within the next year. 

Jessica Fichter: We hope the journey of If Women Rose Rooted is just beginning!  We are looking at multiple options for next steps!

 

Women of the Arts 2019: Naya James & Lucia Bellini – Celebrating Two Art Entrepreneurs

It speaks volumes when word of a particular show peeking it head out of the seas of well-done works at a prominent festival like Theater for the New City’s Dream Up.

In this case, that show is ABDICATION! 

Screen-Shot-2019-08-05-at-2.38.35-PM (2)Handing us on stage chills and giggles like you’d find in a quality Black Mirror episode and the don’t-let-this-happen thoughts we see around The Handmaid’s Tale, the live anthology show, Abdication!, is a multi-cultured, multi-media dark comedy looking like more than just a featured event at the 10th anniversary THEATER FOR THE NEW CITY DREAM UP FESTIVAL 2019 but a really hot ticket. Limited run at TNC’s Johnson Theater at 155 First Avenue (between 9th and 10th Streets) in New York City. It opens and runs right after Labor Day – 09/03 @ 9pm; 09/04 @ 6:30pm; 09/05 @ 9pm; 09/06 @ 6:30pm; and 09/07 @ 8pm. 

https://abdication.brownpapertickets.com/

IMG_4142 (1)This production is produced by Three-Headed Lion Productions. Two of those heads are Naya James and Lucia Bellini (with Trenton Clark as the completing head). We wanted to show our support to these two entrepreneurs on the start of their new show … new company … new beginning.

 

 

 I’ve had so many different answers to this question,
so I look forward to your answers.

What’s it like to be a woman in the arts in NYC?

64b31b1b-d190-4921-b8b3-a162574dda33-bWFpbi1uLW4tMC0wLTAtMTA4MC0xMDgw (1)Lu: First off, I feel very lucky to be able to call myself and be addressed as “a woman in the arts in NYC.” Total life goal vibes here. Look Ma! But that aside…there’s a big responsibility that comes with being a woman in the arts today. Or a woman in anything really. We fought so hard to get where we are that I believe it is our duty to take full advantage and cherish any opportunity to create and be heard. I am not gonna lie, the pressure is palpable. There’s always that little voice in your head that tries to trick you into thinking you that you are here to prove that you are as smart, that you are as strong, that you are as—fill in the blank—as a man would have been in your place. I have also noticed on more than one occasion that if something bad happens or someone treats you wrong people go to this question: do you think that would have happened if you had been a man? Or if something good or lucky happens: do you think that would have happened if you hadn’t been a woman? And although sometimes fitting, it can be quite a dangerous game to play since it seems to focus on who we are rather than on what we do.

naya-james-238-WEBNaya: Living as an artist is exciting, fulfilling, and often feels like a privilege. However, being a female artist today also comes with a weighty sense of responsibility and urgency. Women’s voices have been underrepresented for a very long time—so now that people are finally starting to pay a bit more attention to those voices, I often feel that it’s up to us to play catch up and rabidly create and tell stories that include women in every step of the process. Personally I know a number of badass women who are doing just that, and I try to work with them whenever possible! 

 

Would you consider yourselves millennials?

If so, what do you find is different for your generation? 

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Lu: About a year ago, my 90-year-old grandmother was helping me curl my hair, you know just two girls getting ready for a night out on the town. I asked her: “Nonna (that’s grandma in Italian in case Joey Tribbiani hadn’t taught you that already, but I digress), when you were little, what is it that you wanted to do when you grew up?” “A math teacher,” she said. “How come you never became one, what happened there?” “It wasn’t really up to me to decide. You know, I was a woman after all.” Which left me wondering because, mind you, the grandma in question here is quite the feisty one. “In fact—she continued—if I could go back, I would wish to have been born a man.” We kept talking about childhood dreams, then parents, then husbands then finally she asked: “How is it for you, my little one, these days? Do you feel like you and your sister are free to do whatever you want?” I couldn’t believe how much pause that question gave me in that moment. It did give me a chance to count my blessing. Yes, Nonna. We are free.

Naya: I am very much “between generations,” which is likely a contributing factor to why much of my work deals with issues that aren’t specific to any one group or age range. It tends to focus more on larger topics lovingly referred to as: “general fears experienced by virtually all humans.” This informs what my advice would be to anyone, of any age—stop focusing on what makes us different, as generations, as genders, as categories of people. In art, entertainment, life, relationships, let’s try to focus more on the things that we all care about, the things we all love, and the things we are all frightened of, as people. Empathy is the artist’s greatest tool. 

Three Cheers for Three Lions! 

 

Women in the Arts 2019: Getting Biblical with Shadi Pourkashef

Shadi Pourkashef Photo.jpgThere are still nice people out there! We had the most pleasant conversation with film composer and conductor, Shadi Pourkashef about her new musical KING DAVID. Collaborating with Gary Morgenstein – a household name in the world of public relations and now as a distinguished playwright – Shadi composed music for six feature films, two short films, five title theme songs and dozens of works of children’s music, commercials, meditations, tv shows, game music and movie trailers. She is also the founder of called Ability Awareness Project, a nonprofit with a mission to build a united interconnected world free of bullying. She was voted the Best Activist of 2018 as the Goodwill Ambassador of World Kindness for the City of Laguna Beach, California. Like I said – there are still nice people out there. More about her at www.anami.co.

Meantime… Tell us why you wanted to write a musical about King David?

Shadi: I am so fortunate to work with Gary Morgenstein, who also believes: why stay inside of a self-created box when you can have so much fun getting outside the lines? I love all musical styles but also love mixing and matching different instrumentations in many forms. I love old ancient instruments and including them into the traditional orchestra while adding some unusual digital samples and loads of ethnic large percussions. All that said, the two songs that are released so far, one is done with a solo piano and the other is a rap! My suggestion is to bring your most open mind and ears and expect to be surprised!

I’m hearing that there are rap songs, disco tunes, as well as conventional Broadway fare. Tell us your thought-process on the score.

Shadi: Wouldn’t it be lovely to reveal this 3000-year-old ancient story in a language everyone can understand in the 21st century? We’re going for that and at times having a little too much fun with it! King Saul’s outrageous request for 100 foreskins urged me to go a bit over the top with the song “Foreskins” and I love the fact that my friend, Da’Jon James, also felt that vibe and actually contributed 32% to the lyrics. Gary Morgenstein’s brilliant writing elaborates on the complicated rich life of King David in such simple lighthearted but captivating language and my music is an extension of that.

Do you think this will make the Bible more accessible?

Shadi: King David’s story from the Bible will be more understood with this musical. There’s so much to learn from King David’s life. He had to fight many wars; some within himself and some out there in a war zone. I feel the more wars he won in the outside world, the bigger his ego became and ultimately made him lose the many wars he had to fight to be true to his spiritual path. It’s a fight we all go through in any century and this one is no exception. Greed, lust and ego among many other human qualities can distort our spiritual vision and cause us to divert from reaching our full potential. 

What are the challenges you face composing for the musical theater?

Shadi: Composing for this musical is incredibly enjoyable and gratifying for me since I’m so inspired and engrossed in the story. I begin every song meditating on the experience I’m writing for in the story. I want to stay true to that moment in time so I don’t give away a hint into the future of what happens next. That way the audience is experiencing King David’s life as it unfolded for him and can probably relate to his challenges and understand his actions and decisions.

Where do you hope the show goes? 

Shadi: We are giving life to the powerful story of King David and granting him the attention he deserves. I know it will inspire a lot of people and I hope his story continues to reach out to every corner of the world.

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A sample of the reverential irreverence of KING DAVID, the musical. 

Exploring Abdication with Janet and Amanda

The tongue-in-cheek anthology, Abdication!, a multi-cultural, multi-media dark comedy more than reminiscent of Black Mirror, The Handmaid’s Tale, and VR, will be a featured event for the 10th anniversary THEATER FOR THE NEW CITY DREAM UP FESTIVAL 2019. Performances will be at the Johnson Theater Space at 155 First Avenue (between 9th and 10th Streets), New York City on 09/03: Tuesday, 9pm; 09/04: Wednesday, 6:30pm; 09/05: Thursday, 9pm; 09/06: Friday, 6:30pm; and 09/07: Saturday, 8pm. https://abdication.brownpapertickets.com/

The Night Gallery of three tales are
STUCK: a close-knit Italian-American family grapples with the idea that one of its family members plans to remove from society by hooking up full-time to a virtual reality network.

LOVE LOBOTOMY relates the story of two hapless souls deciding to undergo Amigdalar Resurfacing, (a “Love Lobotomy”) making them immune to romantic feelings and more productive… maybe.

And finally, COLOR SCHEME takes us to a society where everyone has been classified into a specific color-red, green, blue, etc., and the implementation of this system has ostensibly led to perfect harmony. Until someone mixes and matches.

Filled with gallows-humor, song, dance, and multi-media, each episode shows how abdication of a portion of human existence pulls a piece out of the house of cards that we call our lives.

Appearing in this triumvirate of techno-tales is Amanda Cannon, Trenton Clark, Alan Cordoba, Janet Donofrio, Naya James, Stephen Keyes, Cesar Lozada, Mike Ivers, Sid Ross, Meredith Rust, Tony Scheer, and Topher Wallace.

We caught up with two of the denizens of this Twilight Zone for a few words

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Janet Donofrio

“I don’t think of myself as an artist. I just like to hang out with the cool kids.”

 

 

 

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Amanda Cannon

“I knew I wanted to be an actor when I performed in a play with my high school speech class. I have primarily focused on theatre as opposed to film because I love the collaboration that goes into creating a play, the connection that is developed with the audience, and the way a show is slightly different every single night. 

 

 

What’s your creative process and how do you make the fantasy elements real?

Donofrio: I look to be true to the character I’m playing, with no judgment. Characters don’t know the difference between genres, so every element and circumstance is real for them.

Cannon: To make fantasy elements real, it’s important to stay grounded in the truth. Even though we’re existing in an alternate universe, or a future version of our own universe, we’re still telling the stories of human beings. It’s necessary to really get in touch with who these people are and what they want.

 

How do you inject humor without losing the message?

Donofrio: When a script is well written, the intended humor will shine through with the message intact.

Cannon: I think we use humor in a lot of ways and for many different purposes–sometimes to cover up hurt feelings or sadness, sometimes because we feel uncomfortable or awkward, for example. Understanding why a character is doing or saying something humorous instead of just trying to be funny keeps the message from being lost.

 

I’ve always felt that anything fantasy sci-fi or horror are cautionary tales. What’s your opinion?

Donofrio: Well, I never go down into the basement when I hear a strange noise!

Cannon: I would agree with that, and Abdication! is no exception. I think there’s a warning throughout the play about losing your identity and giving up individuality to fit in with society.

 

They came together with the same answer for “What next?”

“We’ll see.”

Student body … and mind.

Review by Rachel Meza

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I attended A Therapy Session with Myself by Anthony J. Piccione. In this play, we see the main character Alex, suffering from anxiety, depression, among other obstacles, finds himself lonely with no friends and addicted to caffeine and alcohol to assuage – or at least drown – his loneliness and stress he faces in college. At his desk, procrastinating, he receives a visit from the “future him,” coming to help. Throughout this play, they interact with each other, and “older Alex” tries to explain to the current Alex that his life isn’t as bad as it seems and he actually has a lot to be grateful and even happy for. They talk about painful moments in his life, including the ones he wanted to forget like being bullied and breaking up with girlfriend. The underlying meaning to these conversations denote that everything happens for a reason and maybe Alex should simply get out of his own way.

This truly was a great experience. Mental health is something that I believe is important and should be talked about more. The ensemble of spot-on actors were able to display how sad Alex was feeling and how his mistaken opinion that he is uncared-for. The Alex of his memories was a really good actor – he showed how everything affected him and he was able to depict what having anxiety looks like. There was a scene where he was in class and he was talking to his classmates and it was so realistic to something that I have seen or gone through myself.

This play was totally relatable. I think all college students can relate to the stress of school, making friends, and the loneliness that we have to face due to the high school-to-college transition. This effects us mentally with ease. I think this play is authentic in that it shows how exactly how a lot of people — and students — feel.

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Mesmerizing Mary

Melissa Smith reviews Mary’s Little Monster by Thomas Kee

 

Written by Thomas Kee, Mary’s Little Monster, performed by Spit & Vigor, Mary’s Little Monster is heaped in melodrama depicting an evening shared by Mary Shelley and her opium-addicted, sex-craved friends where stories and indiscretions are shared. It is this dark party that allows Mary to indulge in the aforementioned fun and create something that effected the world and made her a stronger, more confident woman.

The unique location of the performance, a room within the old home of the lates, Rip Torn and Geraldine Page aptly named Torn Page, allowed the audience the feeling of being a part of the group’s drama.

During an opening moment depicting Mary’s nightmare, actress and director, Sara Fellini (as Mary), used a plasma bulb to imitate that she was instilling life using electric currents (a nod to her famed work) into her overdosed friends. Her performance was mesmerizing.

I felt the music, mood, and body language of she, and actor/producer, Adam Belvo (as Polidori), allowing me the sensation of the electric shock that never existed. While the entire company was top-notch, it was Fellini that created a feeling of being connected to the story as if we were in the room part of the party.

Delightful, atmospheric, and entertaining all around.

Dates and Nuts

Lystra Besson reviews Date me, Do me, Dump me 

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Four drunken women walk into a bar … and begin a tirade of experiences in the dating world.

Sharing the odd but interesting (wild) dating stories from a series of partners all set to music, the audience was invited to their gab-session and interact.

 

They encouraged the crowd to share their own “fucked up” personal dating stories and to drink after telling them. Each of the four women had very distinct personalities – interesting in their keen observations brought to a froth in stereotype. Steven Mitchell cleverly took the average failed dating experiences that we all face and made them communal and uproarious.

Each of the characters stories matched their personalities. Each more desperate than the previous. There was the gabber; the sex-crazed goth (my personal favorite); and two more a bit more “real.” For them, the failed attempts hit home harder to us. Mitchell gave us women – all women – of different shapes and sizes get rejected or used and have weird experiences with guys and take it. Stereotyping and musicalizing made it palatable as a lesson and not a cautionary tale.

The Broadway Comedy Club lent a comfortable atmosphere for this musical gabfest.