Dorothea Gloria: International Artists in NYC (Part II of II)

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Zoom levels the playing field. Ambitious companies are taking to zoom to get their work done and ambitious actors are staying relevant on these cyber works. Part II of our interviews feature DOROTHEA GLORIA. This Filipino burst of joy and energy took the advice of her mentor and headed for New York. Her bright outlook has helped her open doors … as an international woman of the arts. 

What inspired you to come to New York to be an artist?

I was inspired to go to New York by my mentor, Ana Valdes-Lim. I studied theatre under her for about 10 years. I met her when I was fourteen years old. It was always an experience diving into a scene with her. It felt like I was in another dimension whenever she would guide me through a moment as a character living. Under her tutelage, I was in a constant flow while acting. Ms. Ana was the first Filipino who graduated from Juilliard. She would always tell stories about her experiences back in New York: the teachings her teachers gave her, the various stage productions, the vibrant energy of the performing arts, etc. I would be entranced by these stories that I wanted to see what New York was for myself and experience my own creative moments here. 

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What are the artistic differences between your home country and New York?

I think the biggest artistic difference between the Philippines and New York is that there are less avenues to do straight theatre back home. I feel like New York offers a balance between different kinds of theatre while in the Philippines, musicals reign the theatre scene. This is understandable because Filipinos love music and dance so much to the point that every household owns their own karaoke set up. If you ever visit the Philippines during Christmas or any other holiday season, you will hear a cacophony of houses singing different songs from their karaokes. 

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What is it like being a woman in the Arts… In your Homeland, and here in New York?

It’s actually great to be a woman in the Arts in New York and in the Philippines. I was constantly exposed to Women leaders in the Arts back in Manila. Ms. Ana Valdes-Lim was the Artistic Director of METTA. I also was a resident artist at the Philippine Educational Theatre Association which is headed by two women, PETA Artistic Director Maribel Legarda and PETA President Cb Garrucho. I also performed several productions under Repertory Philippines which was founded by a woman, Zeneida Amador, and is currently headed by three women that gave me many opportunities to grow my professional career as an actress namely: Baby Barredo, Repertory Chairman Emeritus, Liesl Batucan, Repertory Artistic Director, and Joy Virata, Repertory Creative Director. Since I was constantly exposed to strong women in the arts back home, when I came to New York, I sought out people who had a strong sense of leadership and a love for the arts. I eventually created a theatre company, TeamTheatre LLC, and the two other people that I head that company with are both women as well. Gwendolyn Snow, Chrysi Sylaidi and I are constantly creating theatre projects that are both empowering and diverse.
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How has the pandemic changed your career … Both tangible and philosophically?

The pandemic has really given me the time to reflect and refocus on what I want to do with my art. All of us in TeamTheatre have constantly been meeting with one another to talk about the different advocacies we want to fight for. We’re planning on a season that will really focus on social justice. I think with everything that has been going on, all the more there is a need to find and adapt ways to be inclusive and global when it comes to the projects we decide to pursue. 

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What are your plans for the future?

Currently, I’m writing a script that focuses on the drug war and the shutting down of news outlets back in the Philippines. I also know that Gwendolyn Snow is currently devising a piece that includes elderly writers and performers. I want to support her with that project and make sure that it will definitely come to life. 

Chrysi Sylaidi: International Artists in NYC (Part I of II)

52594475_10156150953856732_4089257019859533824_nZoom levels the playing field. Ambitious companies are taking to zoom to get their work done and ambitious actors are staying relevant on these cyber works. Scoring major kudos these days is CHRYSI SYLAIDI. A commanding presence, Chrysi shared her thoughts on coming to the U.S. — going from Greece to Queens!

What inspired you to come to New York to be an artist?

Leaving Greece was a big decision. I’ve been acting on stage since I was 13 years old and grew up loving my country and the amazing Theatrical tradition we have in it. Of course, there where problems, but that is common everywhere. However, after a while I already knew that eventually, I also wanted to live abroad for at least a period of my life. I wanted to challenge myself and my beliefs, try to become a citizen of the world. Sometimes we think reality is what we see around us and then we just accept it. We don’t change it or transform it into something else. We just get used to it. I have learned that custom is a slow death for the hungry child we all have inside. My opinion, and I am learning that through experience, is that that child and the relationship we have with it, is one of the most important factors for balance and happiness in life. So, by allowing myself to take a leap of faith, dream a life abroad and then pursuing it, I was also offering space for that child to keep on searching. To stay curious. One thing led to the next and I visited New York. In my heart a fell in love with this City immediately. I knew that this is the place that would keep me active, that would challenge me in all kinds of ways. I wanted to grow. And as I learned from my studies at the Adler Studio, growth as an actor and growth as a human being are synonymous. So, I moved here and since then it has been a true journey, full of challenges and amazing collaborations. I have definitely grown immensely both as an actor and as a human being. Which was always my objective.

As Elizabeth Proctor in The Crucible with actor- Nikos Spiridonos

As Elizabeth Proctor in The Crucible with actor- Nikos Spiridonos

What are the artistic differences between your home country and New York?

In New York it is all about the structure. It is a taf place, an expensive place. So, people here really appreciate their time and they expect you to do so too. You need to get the job done well and quickly. It’s just facts. For example, most of the time in a month long rehearsal process you must have a show and be ready to perform. This can feel sometimes rushed, but it teaches you to be more active and more efficient. The same mentality exists in the film industry. Things are fast. So, in order to keep up and actually do a good job, you need structure and you need to stay active. The motto is, think less, do more and keep moving based on trial and error. In Europe it feels like there is more time for you to go deeper with your work. You have more time to explore your art,your characters, your shows. Work is not focused so much on the productivity-quantity of it all, but on the quality. It is more of a full experience. That part I miss. But as a person that usually overthinks things and has attributes of a perfectionist, sometimes I end up taking a lot of time for my work in order to make sure that the result is as good as it can possibly be and that is not always for the best. I am learning more and more that perfection is an illusion and the real beauty is hiding in the imperfections. In any case, I see the benefits of both worlds, so I think the silver lining is somewhere in the middle and that is what I am after in my acting and in my artistic collaborations.

As Hermionie in The Winter's Tale with actor- Yann Hicke as Leontes -Stella Adler Studio of Acting, credits ak47division

As Hermionie in The Winter’s Tale with actor- Yann Hicke as Leontes -Stella Adler Studio of Acting

How has it been as an artist in New York? Tell us about some of your projects.

It has been a gift that keeps on giving even when it is challenging you in the most intense way. The people from all the different backgrounds I have met, the places I have been, the art I have been exposed to, the amazing artistic collaborations I’ve had the chance to be a part of, even being here through this pandemic they have all influenced my life is such a big way that it is difficult to sum it up in a few sentences. I will share though two special acting moments that come into my mind right now. In the spring of 2019 I had the opportunity to perform the iconic role of Hermione in Shakespeare’s “The Winter’s Tale” at the Stella Adler Studio. Shakespeare’s magical play, the talented director Ian Gould, the fantastic cast, the role and the whole production made my work as an actor so so easy and enjoyable. It is from those times as a performer that you can just relax and focus on exploration and on deepening your work. We were also incredibly honored to have all of our shows sold out. Personally, the beauty and peaceful strength of Hermione’s soul will stay in my heart for ever. She is an incredible female lead and I would strongly suggest it to any actor if they are given the opportunity. The second show I want to bring up, is “Sabbath Elevator”. This was a show that I acted in but also produced. The play was an original piece by Ellen Pober Rittberg, directed by Fotis Batzas, and it was featured at the Greek Cultural Center as part of TeamTheatre’s Fun Fast Feb Fest. Even though this play was a difficult one for the audience to watch due to the fact that it’s topic dealt with the power struggle between the female and the male gender and even dared to visit the social issues of physical abuse, it felt like it was really worth putting on stage. Plays that really tackle social issues and dare to talk about them many times are being avoided. However, I believe that in most cases, when art starts a conversation among those exposed to it it has succeeded its goal. These conversations are incredibly important.

As Julie in the Sabbath elevator with actor- Billy Higgins

As Julie in the Sabbath Elevator with actor- Billy Higgins

You wear many hats, what has been the most successful?

Well, I am an actor. When I am acting I am at my best and that is my true passion. I have lost count in how many productions I’ve been part of. However, I’ve been on stage for more than 15 years now and after all this time you start developing skills in other areas too, especially if you are a curious person. When I was in Athens in 2016, I had the opportunity to Assistant-Direct a production that I am very proud of of the famous American Classic by Arthur Miller- “The Crucible”. I was also selected by the great Greek Director- George Kaloxilos to portray the role of Elizabeth Proctor for the same show. It was a truly challenging and fulfilling experience to direct and act in this. It is the timely nature and depth of this play as well as the multidimensional characters that makes for an unforgettable experience, especially when you have the chance to bring it to life with incredible artists collaborating with you. We were also very grateful of the overwhelming success with which that audience embraced our work. After that, I had the chance to fully wear the director’s hat at the beginning of 2020 for the play “No Friends” by Myrna Davonne which participated in the Fun Fast Feb Festival hosted by TeamTheatre at the Greek Cultural Center in Astoria. Our show was voted by the audience among the Festival’s top 5 finalists. Speaking of the Greek Cultural Center, in 2019, myself and a group of talented theatre artists, decided to come together and support the center and through it, the arts in Queens and in Manhattan. We renovated it and we hosted several events that promoted the arts and celebrated the different cultures that exist in the communities around the Center. The events varied from several different theatrical productions, to musical nights, to performances celebrating of the Center’s history and contribution to New York City. With the people that came together for this, in an organic way, the International Theatre Company, TeamTheatre, was created. Till now, this is probably one of the things I am mostly proud of in my career. Through this Theatre Company where I am a Founding and Board member, I had the chance to produce multiple productions with an incredible team of collaborators and act as a resource for dozens of emerging artists through multiple different shows.

What is it like being a woman in the Arts… In your Homeland, and here in New York?

When I started acting in Greece I realized that most positions with power in the arts, where held by men. Most producers where men and most directors where men. There where not really many female role models to look up to. However, there where a lot of amazing Greek actresses like, Katina Paxinou, Anna Sinodinou, Eleni Papadaki, Despoina Mpempedeli, Lydia Koniordou and many more. These were the ones that inspired me and influenced my work at the beginning. So, during those years I was mostly focusing on my acting and in general I had positive experiences. However, there were a few times that definitely my gender played a negative role in the way I was treated. Those times were hurtful and inappropriate and definitely made me question this profession as a main career choice. Acting though kept pulling me back again and again. Later on, my love for the work of other amazing actresses, like Katharine Hepburn and Meryl Streep, was one of the reasons I moved to New York. During the first couple of months I had moved to the city, I met an acting teacher that told me: “You are beautiful but also too smart and it shows. The people in this industry don’t like that. If you keep showing that quality, you are not going to find any proper work.” After that I was burning inside with fury. I couldn’t believe what I had just heard after traveling to the other side of the world in search of inspiration and a more professional working environment. Every inch of my body wanted to scream how horrible and wrong in every way was what that man had said. Even so, I kept going. And thank God I came to realize that that man represents only a small portion of this industry. It is a powerful portion but small none the less. My networking started to grow and I had the chance to collaborate with incredible Theatre Institutions and fantastic artists. Also, slowly but steadily through all my travels and while I was discovering my strengths as an actor, my background in management, economics and business started to emerge. The degree I have from the Athens University of Business and Economics started to be useful for my life in the arts when I decided to also start producing through TeamTheatre. When that started happening I realized that there is a world of possibilities that I could create for myself. And so, I also started investing into that direction. Sometimes we have to build the road we will walk on in life because it doesn’t already exist. This is true for many people, especially women and people that belong to minorities. I try to remember that and keep going.

How has the pandemic changed your career … Both tangibly and philosophically?

The pandemic affected us all. It still does and it will continue to do so. The arts are no exception. Often though, through big changes and challenges, new opportunities arise. At the beginning, most of us were mostly overwhelmed by what we were all experiencing. Just going through the day was the goal. Gradually however, during the pandemic, people really started to reach out and they did it in a much more honest and real way than how they were doing before. For me, other than reconnecting with family, friends and old collaborators, many new networking opportunities appeared. New collaborations and new ways to create live theatre. The internet and the platforms offered in it, opened a window to new possibilities. Bigger audiences, smaller costs, greater availability among artists, and a greater freedom to explore since nobody has ever done this before. Also, the pandemic has been a learning opportunity for myself. I started testing my strengths in different creative paths than I usually do, like writing and editing. The truth is, I am finding them very very hard but, they are also a great challenge. It might have taken me countless hours but I am proud to be able to say that during the pandemic I managed to put together the first short film that I fully wrote, filmed, edited, and acted in. It was featured at the Global Forms Theatre Festival produced by Rattlestick Playwrites Theatre. Now, Philosophically, I think, everything we are going through sheds a light on the importance of art and on the artists who create it. Theatre is a medicine for the soul and it will continue to be so even more effectively in the near future. After all, two of the main reasons why theatre was created was for humanity to find a safer place to express what we are feeling inside and to try to make sense of things. That is what our survival instincts desperately need right now. To make sense of things. In that way, I am predicting that as soon as it is possible again, theatre as we know it is going to come back like a tsunami. Of course the topics tackled will be affected by what our planet is going through and maybe the seats in the theatres will be cut in half, but I believe that in it’s basic form, Theatre will be back.

Moment from the Winter's Tale at the Stella Adler Studio- credits ak47division

What are your plans for the future?

Honestly, my need to reconnect even more so with my loved ones is very strong right now. For my personal life, that is definitely one of the things I will focus on for the future. For my professional life, I just want to challenge myself and the people I work with to keep this new momentum of possibilities going. In that way we can explore what else is there we can do through all these new tools we have in our hands. And I believe we can do a lot. Even when Theatres open up again, many of these new ways of creating live performances online will stay because they are inexpensive and easy to put together.

 

The Show Must Go On … in our Living Rooms!

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Writer/Rocker

JEN BUSH

goes

VIRAL

 

The return of the Great White Way seems far away but you don’t have to be Les Miserables about it! There’s no use in sitting alone in your room, The Sound of Music will come to you! Performers and performance spaces were forced to think outside of the black box and be innovative with sustaining entertainment. As a result, there are many wonderful experiences to be had ranging from Broadway to independent theaters and more. These experiences are as diverse as theater itself. You can be a spectator to some wonderful entertainment. You can have asynchronous interactions with your favorite stars. You can also have personal one on one interactions with the performers you admire the most. In terms of price, these experiences range from free to a few hundred dollars. The more personal and time consuming, the more money they will be. Though much of the content is free, the entertainment industry is really struggling right now along with everyone else. If there is a chance to donate to the arts if you enjoyed what you saw, kindly do. Given that there are roughly 40 active Broadway theaters, 60 active Off-Broadway theaters and a whopping 200 Off-Off Broadway theaters, this article merely scratches the surface but has enough content to prevent you from being The Lion King and lounging around your home all day.

downloadDon’t Dream it, Stream it.

For all you streamers out there, look no further than your remote. Broadway HD is a streaming service much like Netflix and Hulu. They stream Broadway musicals and plays for a monthly charge of $8.99. You can Enjoy The King and I, Falsettos, CATS, Shakespeare and more from the comfort of your recliner. The ALW channel is releasing content under, The Shows Must go on. London’s National Theater is releasing shows to stream one week at a time. Also check out Marquee TV and Broadway on Demand.

1200px-Royal_Shakespeare_Company.svgSpeaking of Shakespeare, if you are a fan of members of The Royal Shakespeare Company and Star Trek, an interesting combination, be sure to “like” Patrick Stewart’s Facebook page. He reads a sonnet a day in that intoxicating commanding British accent of his. He’s up to his 54th sonnet. Engage with his page and make it so.

Don’t come to the cabaret my friend, it will come to you

220px-54_Below_logoFeinstein’s/54 Below is a premier supper club known as Broadway’s living room. Situated in the heart of Manhattan it offers top shelf entertainment. Broadway notables regularly grace their stage for intimate performances in an elegant space with gourmet food and beverages. Right now, 54 Below is streaming past shows under the name 54 Below at home. Broadway’s Living Room. Subscribe to their YouTube channel, youtube.com/54 below. You can enjoy a shared cabaret experience and even chat with others during the live stream. Upcoming shows include Andy Karl and Orfeh: Legally Bound and 54 Below Sings One Direction. I’ve been there many times and it never disappoints.

On My Own

Broadway might be the heart of theater but residing within the ventricles and aorta of the heart has always been Independent theater. There are countless independent theaters in N.Y.C. who like

Eponine Afloat through Donations.

 

The Lambs Theater is America’s first professional theatre club founded in 1874. It’s a place of gathering for all members of the creative arts endeavors. The Lamb’s, Inc. is not afraid of the big bad wolf of a time we are having now. Thanks to its president Marc Baron, you can be privy to some amazing content in the form of interactive events, discussions and interviews.

 

La Mama Experimental Theatre Group is dedicated to artists and all aspects of the theater. Founded in 1961 by Ellen Stewart, it is the only original Off-Off Broadway still in operation. They are offering some interesting and diverse content. La Mama has content for adults but is also keeping kids in mind with La Mama Kids online. This week Maiko Kikuchi offered a whimsical puppet show for the little puppets. It looks like Thursdays at 4:00 are dedicated to kids’ content. You might enjoy Café La Mama-Cope-a-Pandemic, a weekly digital platform for artists with guest curators.

The Tank is an independent theater with a mission to eliminate economic barriers from the creation of new works. They serve a few thousand artists in all manner of creativity and put on over 800 performances a year. They are running Cybertank right now which is a free virtual gathering place hosting dozens of artists each week bringing online entertainment into homes. They are cleverly asking viewers to fill the tank and donate to support them and the arts. Also check out their digital series and content with the compelling name, Distant Cadaver as well as their podcasts.

1781fe_af557914faa54a2ca189ee4a2262a8c8_mv2Spit & Vigor has maintained their vigor with captivating online programming which they call Quarantine programming. They are a NYC based traveling theater company with the unique distinction of making their own props and costumes from recycled and donated material. They are offering radio plays and recorded live streams of shows and staged readings.

Like a full Irish breakfast, The Irish Rep has enough online content to keep your theatrical hunger satisfied. The Kraine Theater is offering twice monthly content on Facebook live dedicated to the craft of emerging artists. The Public is offering a myriad of content under Joe’s Pub Live! From the Archives. If you search online, you’re sure to find many other independent theaters offering virtual programming.

Sweet Charity Organizations Giving Back 

There are many long-standing organizations in the business of directly supporting and promoting the arts, artists and theatrical endeavors. Through a wide variety of giving, these organizations sustain artists when they are in need. For the public, they make theater more accessible to all. These organizations support through funds, fundraising, workshops, educational programming and much more.

301-1-mThe Actors Fund is a charitable organization that addresses the unpredictability and inconsistency of the entertainment industry. They offer a wealth of assistance to members of the entertainment industry in the areas of essential needs such as housing, healthcare, senior care. They also offer support in the form of workshops, career advice and benefits to raise money for those in need. During the lockdown, The Actors Fund offers many choices of exciting daily entertainment. You can donate what you wish to see the content. They have some very interesting offerings like Viral Vignettes with original works from stars of the 70’s and 80’s like Barry Bostwick and Anson Williams. They partnered with Broadway World to present Stars in the House hosted by Seth Rudetsky and James Wesley. Stars of stage and screen perform live to support the fund every day, usually at 2pm. Check their website for schedules for the above entertainment as well as programming entitled Broadway Jackbox and The Intermission Mission.

fgEJoXby_400x400Theatre Development Fund’s mission is to bring the power of the performing arts to everyone. We know theater tickets, even in the nosebleed section can set one back quite a bit. Without an organization like TDF, theater would not be as accessible to people with low income or even average income who cannot fit theater into their budget. People who are differently abled also benefit from a myriad of TDF’s programs. For many years now, TDF has been offering discount tickets to a multitude of theatrical and musical events, most importantly, Broadway. They also offer accessibility programs such as autism friendly performances of shows in which they alter the sights and sounds of the production to make it more comfortable for certain audiences. Currently TDF continues to support their members, artists and a wide range of audience members both in NYC and nationally. They have extended memberships to make up for the time that their members are unable to be physically present at shows. They publish daily lists of available shows to watch online. They are assisting with the usage of ASL and closed captioning on video platforms for their deaf members. They are engaging, facilitating and partnering with individuals and organizations to continue to offer performances to the masses.

Getting to Know You

You don’t always have to wait at the stage door to meet a star. While you won’t get an autograph, with some of these offerings, you’ll get a one on one unforgettable personal experience to treasure forever.

Under normal circumstances, Broadway Fantasy Camp helps participants know what it feels like to be in a Broadway show. Imagine spending a few days in a rehearsal studio with a real Broadway director and choreographer. They’ll teach you numbers from a Broadway show with all the bells and whistles including amazing costuming. If you’re more of a fan than a performance type, they will arrange  a live meeting with a star after you see their show. Belly up to the bar with a Broadway star and enjoy some cocktails and conversations. Perhaps you have an idea that is not listed as an option on their website. Providing it’s reasonable, they will attempt to curate a customized experience just for you. At the moment, they are offering a 60 minute Zoom meeting with a Broadway star of your choosing moderated by a fantasy camp host. That is a great amount of time to have stars in your eyes and on your laptop screen.

In a similar vein, Broadway Plus offers Broadway VIP Experiences. You can have a one hour music or acting lesson with a star from their impressive roster including Alex Brightman and Beth Leavel. Those range from $100-$300. They also have their own version of Cameo with a video message from a star ranging in cost from $25 to $100. How does hearing a song from a show they performed in with lyrics written especially for you! I’d be swooning for that! Like Broadway Fantasy Camp they have a one on one video chat with a star for $50-$250. They don’t specify the length of time. You can just chill and chat or get some career advice from a seasoned pro. Lastly, they offer group Zoom parties or educational experiences for one hour from $150-$500. Social events can have up to 30 people in the Zoom and educational experiences go up to 99 people. If you can get 30 of your friends to cough up $5.00 each for the $150.00 experience, I’d say you scored yourself quite a bargain and good time. Even the $500.00 experience shared among 30 friends is not so bad either. All the talent have their own specific price for each experience. To inquire about availability, pricing and scheduling, you click on Reserve Now to enter your details and you’ll get a quote.

How would you like a personal video message from one of your favorite stars? Cameo will make that happen for you. They have an impressively huge roster of famous people from stage, screen, YouTube, reality television and more. Broadway lovers will recognize Cheyenne Jackson, Telly Leung, Laura Osnes, Liz Callaway and Jeremy Jordan. You’ll find a whole host of West End stars to say ‘ello as well. From $5 to a few hundred dollars, your chosen celebrity will text and email you a personally tailored video message. Depending on the talent, you can request a happy birthday, a song or a sonnet. I have both gifted and received these little video gems and I can tell you firsthand, your heart will go pitter patter when you receive it. I got a video message from an actor named Gideon Emory. He declared that he was going to put a smile on my face if there wasn’t one already and he read me one of his original poems entitled Moon in a very theatrical manner. When he was finished reading, he said some other lovely things. Suffice to say, a huge smile appeared and remained. If you need a pick me up, you can play these messages over and over to your heart’s content. Here is a tip to get the most bang for your buck. Always look at the videos each star displays on their page. If they average 27 seconds, it might not be worth your money. If I’m going to gift a Cameo, I’ll choose someone that does at least a minute and a half.

Pivot step, walk, walk, walk

5678 Broadway might not be interactive but it’s very active. How exciting is the finale from A Chorus Line? How much more exciting would it be if you were in it? Well you can be in the comfort of your own home and you’ll burn a few calories too while you kick ball change. 5678 Broadway is a 30-minute workout program choreographed by Joseph Corella, a chorographer, dancer and dance fitness instructor. He calls his students his cast and takes them through fun authentic Broadway moves with positive energy and encouragement. The DVD/digital download features songs from Broadway hits such as Hairspray, Grease and of course, A Chorus Line. I purchased this program and had a blast doing it.

There’s No Place like Home

The perfect way to end this article is to strongly encourage you to stay home and be safe. I’ve provided you with a plethora of options to keep you entertained and to help keep the arts alive. If you need further encouragement and entertainment, look no further than Richard Skipper Celebrates.

0Richard Skipper is an entertainer who loves entertainers and the entertainment industry. He is also a skilled interviewer and theatre historian among a multitude of other talents. Richard Skipper celebrates life, people and the arts. He has branded Richard Skipper Celebrates into a love letter to people who sing, dance and act. His contemporaneous #Stay Home campaign has taken off like a helium balloon. He asked his colleagues in the arts to record a PSA encouraging people to stay home during this lockdown. This man truly rallied an amazing array of talent from all walks of entertainment including yours truly to spread a vital message in this time of contagion. There are too many to count at this point and they’re all wonderful. They can be found on YouTube at Richard Skipper Celebrates.

Big Deal over Little Women

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“As our resident artist ensemble continues to grow, I am excited to be exploring the works of writers that present complicated, fascinating and challenging women to their audiences. There is no better place to start than Ms. Gerwig’s version of Louisa May Alcott’s ‘Little Women‘ a story rich with varied women who each touch our souls.”

34108666_10100609293194186_4887255011379118080_nSo speaks Anthony Laura regarding the inauguration of an online reading series produced by his multimedia corp., Face To Face Films (www.facetofacefilms.net).
The screenplay of “Little Women” by Greta Gerwig, directed by Laura and featuring members of his company, many of whom will be appearing in the revival of his acclaimed stage play, The Girl With The Red Hair, will be done over Zoom at 2:00 PM on Saturday May 23. The reading is free with a suggested donation of $5- $15 that will go to charities affected by COVID19. 
Casey Hartnett (who plays Hayley Jones in The Girl with the Red Hair and a creative partner at Face To Face as well as with the reading series) will play Jo March. Vivien Cardone (Everwood and A Beautiful Mind) will play Meg March. Samantha Yestrebsky will play Amy March. Alexandra Rooney will play Young Beth March. Rheanna Salazar will play Beth March. Kristen Hasty will play Marmee. Rosanne Rubino will play Aunt March. Alex Commito will play Laurie. Josh Adwar will play Mr. Laurence and Gabe Calleja will play John. Some actors will double in under roles. Unless mentioned, all of the March sisters will be played by the same actor in both timelines.
Sofia Licata serves as an actual stage manager in this virtual production.

Attendees should RSVP at facetofacereadings@gmail.com

Dark Planet shines!

DARK PLANET

REVIEW by ZARA ZEIDMAN

DARK PLANET: Not Your Mother’s Valentines Day is a series of short plays that explores love, betrayal, sexual orientation and communication. The festival is divided into two parts, the first part is titled THE X’s and includes four short plays, the second is THE O’s and features six short plays. The plays were a charming combination of humor and sincerity whilst exploring many dynamic characters.

Each play required a set change and the sets were minimal but provided more than enough to establish the world the characters lived in. The sound design was also really effective at creating the environment, though it was subtle.

The opening play was a very candid look at online dating and the excitement and discomfort it brings. The connection between the actors was believable, the nervousness paired with false confidence was gripping and, it was the perfect opener and set the right tension for the show

Shadow Dance really stood out amongst the other plays in THE X’s. The surreal writing combined with the strong performances from each of the actresses. Joyce Miller’s performance was particularly memorable because she delivered each line with a mystical sincerity, not a child nor an adult, not human but not alien, capturing the confusion that love creates.

Bank was also a memorable piece, it explored the frustration the LGBTQ community faces when dealing with the ignorant, and the confusion the ignorant must overcome to adapt to this modern environment. This was a really beautiful scene, a young banker (Ashleen Rowan) attempts to help a man (Michael Gnat) deposit a check but when she is informed that he is married to a man, she becomes hesitant and uncomfortable. The tension builds as the man explains his impatience with the banker and everyone like her that he has had to accommodate for and she begs for his patience, for this is her first experience with a a person who is gay. There is not an animosity between the two characters but rather a genuine connection as they learn to understand one another. The actors, Michael Gnat and Ashleen Rowan, truly did a beautiful job of creating tension and sympathy in this scene. Both of these actors appeared in other scenes and proved themselves as versatile and talented actors.

A Day At The Beach was a hilarious conclusion to the set of plays. The ridiculousness of the play and the genuine cluelessness of the younger brother, (Ali Arkane) who has impregnated his mother (Madalyn McKay) offset by the older brother’s (John Fico) perfectly comedic irritation with them,created a bizarre dynamic that addressed disjointed families that lacked true connection or good communication. The father (Micheal Gnat) is unconcerned with the development of his younger sons relationship with his mother, instead focusing on his own affair and the state of his boat, meanwhile the mother lays sunbathing in a beach chair, oblivious to the chaos around her.

The other pieces throughout the festival were not as provocative and felt a bit familiar, they still explored interesting themes about power and communication, but each other piece had prominent flaws that distracted from those themes. There was a lack of believability and connection between the actors on stage, though the performances independently were fine. Each play did have an element of intrigue they just weren’t as strong as the previously mentioned pieces.

I had the privilege of seeing it on Valentine’s Day and it truly made the night, it was an overall, funny, sincere, and wonderful experience and I would recommend seeing it and interpreting each piece for yourself.

2020 Visionaries: Sara Koviak

Sara Koviak is right at home in the magical realism of a Jose Rivera play.

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While studying to be a surgeon, she danced ballet in high school and college. The joy dance brought her eventually won-out and she changed direction – now making dance and theatre her prime focus. “I studied theatre and dance and ended up moving to NYC.  I originally planned to have my own dance company then I was cast in the National Tour of Pippin. I became a full-time performer at that point, in musicals, dance concerts, and eventually dancing at The Metropolitan Opera for many years until I changed careers entirely and focused solely on acting,” said Koviak.  “I think my classical dance training has helped me tremendously become a more well-rounded multi-faceted actor.  I bring a great deal of physicality to my roles.  I’ve also had improv training most of my life which allows me to create in the rehearsal room easily and live moment to moment as the character,” she concluded, sharing with us how she masters a role – inside and out. 

Drama-Queens asked a few quick questions, as she was in-tech for her latest production LOVESIONG (IMPEFECT) another stunning world premiere by Obie-winner, Jose Rivera. 

Tell us about your role and the play.

I love this role!  I have a lot of freedom in this role to be myself and add my own nuances and quirkiness to it.  I love the heightened language – I live for it!  In this role of Delilah, I am able to explore an entire color palette of emotions – everything imaginable happens to this very determined and eternally (literally) romantic gal.  The play is a marathon and a true test of stamina.  The play itself is beautiful and heart-warming and funny and disturbing and terrifying and magical and whimsical and sad and joyful.  We’ve got it all. Even fencing and bicycle riding….and maybe a few tutus….

 

What’s your criteria on choosing a role? 

Good writing, well-developed character with strong point of view.  Something I know I can make my own and have a ton of fun developing and exploring.  Something where I can truly showcase my unique skills.

 

How do you go about creating a character in the realm of magical realism

Truth and normalcy.  They don’t know the world being any other way.  They see it as commonplace.    Its easy for me as a person to accept fanciful or extravagant worlds.  My imagination is always open to new ideas so nothing ever seems too outlandish or improbable.

 

What’s next for you? 

Two different projects I worked on last year will be premiering: a new series on HBO with Nicole Kidman and Hugh Grant, “The Undoing”, and a short suspense/horror film written/directed by Jose Rivera, “The Fall of a Sparrow”.  I’m looking forward to finally seeing both!!!

Our last question, as this is a site for women in the arts, was about how the #MeToo movement has influenced change in commercial theatre and film but how has it affected off-off Broadway? Ms. Koviak gave us one dance move that told a whole story:

“Some things change. Some things don’t.”

Ms. Koviak begins her run at the 14th Street Y in Jose Rivera’s LOVESONG (IMPERFECT) IN A FEW DAYS. TICKET AVAILABLE AT 

https://14streety.secure.force.com/ticket#details_a0S1R000009tBDZUA2

 

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2020 Visionaries: Character Actress Valerie O’Hara

headshot 2015-6.jpgThe American Theatre of Actors will present two dynamic works by controversial author and influencer, James Crafford: Moves and Countermoves: New Works by James Crafford. Performances are January 22 – February 2, 2020 (Wednesday – Saturday @ 8:00 p.m. and Sunday at 3:00 p.m.) in The B.E.T. (Beckmann Experimental Theatre) of the American Theatre of Actors Complex, 314 W 54th St, New York City; (212) 581-3044 for tickets.

Valerie O’Hara, is no stranger to powerful dramas and character roles. her virtuoso performance in Lynn Navarra’s THE SANDMAN still echos through the halls of the American Theatre of Actors. A role earning her a Jean Dalrymple Award

 

Here latest star-turn is as Joyce in “The Game Is Not Over,” a one-act that explores the relationship between a man and the two women in his life – his wife and his former lover. A simple living room becomes a battlefield as the wife confronts the former lover.

“I always had a notion that it would be fun to be a character actress, but I never thought this was a realistic ambition,” Ms. O’Hara disclosed; “a happy confluence of events found me taking a free acting class when I was well into my 50s, and enjoying it so much that I signed up for more lessons.  My first time on stage was in 2006, in a one-act play in a festival.  We had a single performance, but I kept going, and through friendships formed in the off-off-Broadway community, recommendations, and auditions, I have had the fortune to have had the opportunity to play many interesting characters.”
As for how she approached a role, she said “when characters are realistic, as Joyce is, I tend to draw from experiences in my own life and the lives of people I know.  This character has feelings of sadness, resilience, jealousy, complacency, capability, and despondency all mixed up within her; in other words, she is complex and ultimately human, as are we all,” she astutely commented.
Ms. O’Hara has reached that grande-dame point of reprising popular roles, “I will be reprising the role of Jonie in an expanded version of “The Last Caddoan” by James Jennings next month here at ATA.”
Jennings, the founder of the American Theatre of Actors has always had discerning taste in casting.

Women in the Arts: Miranda Luze and Mary Todd Lincoln both juggled the world

Common Ground, the new musical by Granville Wyche Burgess and Stan Wietrzychowsk, tells the yet-untold story of what really necessitated the Emancipation Proclamation. This special book-in-hand presentation, will be Monday, December 9 at 7:00 p.m. at The Actors Temple, 339 West 47th Street, NYC. Common Ground begins with a veiledly racist President Lincoln, carrying a country-at-war on his back, deliberating on how to make peace with his foes and forge an alliance with the formidable Frederick Douglass. Douglass, a literate, courageous “Moses” to his people, must show President Lincoln a new realty.

This is a “manly” story with two masculine forces etching our history. But – as the musical displays – the wives of these two statesmen played an integral role. Miranda Luze creates the role of Mary Todd Lincoln, a woman who – historically – was fraught with her own conflict.

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Miranda, by her own admission, is a crazy-busy artist, forging her own career on stage and as an arts producer. So to grab-hold of an historic character trying to hold together a country and herself may have even been cathartic to play.

Tell us about yourself as an artist

44521392_10157918112889554_333640476961800192_o.jpgI am a theatre artist spinning a lot of plates. I’m actor/singer busy auditioning and doing gigs around the city. I also co-founded a non-profit theatre company with some college alumni called Thousand Faced Theatre. We started the company because we all had a passion for new theatre and wanted to be more involved in it. This keeps me busy year round performing, directing, and producing new/original work. I’m also a voice teacher! @miranduhluzer/www.mirandaluze.com 

 

 

Do you feel an added sense of responsibility when handling a piece of history like this? 

Yes, it is very difficult to even act like some of this dialogue isn’t uncomfortable. However, it is important to tell these stories because treating people poorly based on our differences is till one of the most prevalent topics in our society. 

Tell us about a staged reading … pros cons

The reading is an important look at the political process during one of the most important times in history. It shows you how imperfect everything was when trying to give people basic human rights. Seems familiar. 😉 

The con is you don’t get to see the whole show! 

What’s next

Thousand Faced Theatre is producing some amazing new theatre in the next few months that I’m incredibly excited about! Make sure to follow us @thousandfacedtheatre to stay updated! 

Women in the Arts 2019: The Rodeh to Success

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As 2019 starts wrapping up, we spotlight Eliya Rodeh, a member of the Dirty Laundry Theatre, which is a member of the Alliance of Alien Artists. As New York indie theatre opens its minds to new ideas, it opens its doors to new artists from around the world.

“My passion for creating art and my strong belief in art as a form of communication and storytelling led me to join forces with a few other passionate actors and form a theatre production company,” says the Israeli-born Eliya. She doesn’t just present … she brings ideas to the table.

Tell us about yourself as an artist.

Eliya3I’m a passionate Israeli actress and singer, currently based in NYC. I’ve been singing on and off the stage ever since I can remember. With the support of my mother, I was lucky to take the path of artistic studies from elementary school through college, while performing for local and international communities. My love for theatre brought me to New York City to pursue continued development, completing the Stella Adler Conservatory Program and currently flourishing at the HB International Students Program. I believe in the power of theatre to bridge the gap between different people, to break down walls and bring people together. I want my art to touch people, give them a new perspective and open their hearts.

What are you doing now?

Eliya1My passion for creating art and my strong belief in art as a form of communication and storytelling led me to join forces with a few other passionate actors and form a theatre production company, ‘Dirty Laundry Theatre’; together we seek to tell cross cultural human stories and help our audience relate to other ethnical groups they’re not necessarily familiar with or fond of. We’ve just received our first ‘validation event’ when our first play “Borders”, which we premiered at the NY Theatre Festival in the summer was nominated for Best Play of the year!!! I’m super excited about what’s coming up next! We’re now planning our first official season and just launched our fundraising campaign! Other than that I’m working on a solo cabaret show that is inspired by my unique family story. It’s still in the very early stages of development so it’s a bit too early to discuss, but I’m very excited about that! 

What are the biggest obstacles you face? What’s the biggest reward?

13-Edit-2Living the artistic life in a big city is not easy. The struggle is real! It’s a very competitive field, full of rejection and instability. In addition to all that, being a foreigner brings its own obstacles. Acting in English was a major struggle for me to begin with. I started learning English at a very young age and spoke the language well when I moved here. But I lived my life in Hebrew. All my experiences – the good, the bad and everything in between were in Hebrew. And suddenly I had to bring life to characters in another language. A language that I knew, but didn’t feel in my bones. Luckily, this is something that got better with time. The more I experience, the more I live in English, the easier it gets.

Another obstacle is the cultural differences. After moving here I realized I was a lot more “Israeli” than I thought. And as most Israelis I’m very straight forward. I consider it better than giving polite hints and circling around an issue. Unfortunately, some Americans might find such directness a bit… rude. And I’m still learning my social boundaries: what is polite and what isn’t, where my Israeli chutzpah plays nicely with the American passive-aggressiveness, and when I should tone it down. I still find myself confused sometimes when I’m not completely sure if I ‘read’ the other person right. It might sound cliche, but I do learn something new with every day that goes by, and I’m happy to do so.

The best reward is the one I don’t always get to experience or even know about: the impact of my work on the audience.

Even though I might never know about it, if my work will affect and impact just one little girl, that’s my best reward. One little girl who might be insecure or afraid, who thinks her experience of life is not ok, who got singled out for being different, who feels alone or discouraged. If that little girl sees my work, hears or watches the story I’m choosing to tell through my acting, singing or theatre-making and realize that she’s not alone and that there are people out there that go through similar experiences – that’s the best reward one could ever get. There’s a saying in Hebrew “One who saves one soul, saves the world entire” – for me, this is how I save the world.If you could give advice to all artists thinking of coming here what would you tell them?

NYC has it all: money, drive and the know-how. Know that it’s there, even if it’s not always easy to find. Do your research, find resources here, be active in finding your tribe/community and don’t ever get too shy or afraid to reach out for help. The acting world is very competitive, but the community is also very supportive. everyone’s going through the same struggle and most are happy to help.

What’s next for you?

Eliya5As part of Dirty Laundry Theatre’s first official season we’re developing an immersive piece, which combines a theatrical experience with a high-end dinner. The audience is invited to join a traditional family Shabbat dinner where they become a part of the family dynamic, when it goes right and when it goes wrong.

In this project I have the opportunity to both assist as part of the production team as well as be a member of the cast, which is an incredible opportunity for me to learn more about the business of indie-theatre in NYC.

 

 

 

Women in the Arts 2019: Bree O’Connor gets “Playful”

The Playful Substance Company prepares for their most ambitious season … ever, beginning with “Shelter In Place” premiering as part of Fringe BYOV. The first production of the PSC. season, “Shelter In Place,” written and directed by Raphael Perahia, began as a part of the PSC Writers Group. Performing Under St Marks, 94 St. Marks Place. Between 1st Avenue & A Avenue on October 24, 25, 26, 31; November 1, and 2. All performances at 7:30 pm. When the fire alarm goes off in Jahoose’s Adult Education Drawing class (Mondays at 4:00pm) and the FDNY issues a mysterious command to “Shelter In Place”, five misfits realize that they have become more invested in one another’s lives than they ever expected. The powerful new work features Rahoul Roy, Dan Kellmer, Megan Greener,* Nicole Amaral and Brandon Fox. Shelter in Place is part of the 2019 FringeBYOV. Further info located at https://fringenyc.org/basic_page.php?ltr=S

Playful Substance 2019-2020 season continues with a new play by Lauren Lindsey White and a revival of “Still We Grow: An Immersive Theatrical Journey to Fight Human Trafficking” from the company’s acclaimed Good Works Series. “Still We Grow” is an immersive human journey to fight human trafficking. The production will benefit LifeWay Network, a local organization that provides housing and support for female survivors of Human Trafficking. The PSC will host an educational program of a series of one day workshops for collaborators on different aspects of craft. Director Development programs that will run in tandem with our Writers’ Groups; readings of new works-in-development (from the P.S.C. Writers’ Groups) will be presented. The PSC Writers Groups Fall Session developing new works from a group of eight participating writers and PSC’s annual networking event – “The Pithy Party” – will conclude the season. Party gifts are part of the fun at the event, so all guests see the plays-in-development and leave with a handful of “playful substances.” Visit playfulsubstance.com.

At the helm of this deeply philanthropic organization is the effervescent Bree O’Connor.

iconsquareabcE8B1B484-B575-4369-92FCED09B38369B8.jpgBy the artwork of her company’s latest showing, one can see that the joy one SHOULD have from creating art is evident in her.

It is people like Ms. O’Connor who “GETS IT.” They understand the educational and cathartic elements of the arts and foster them with the plays. Maybe that’s because she built a family with her company.

DQR wanted to take a moment and get some words from her on her company and her work.

 

 

Tell us about yourself as an artist?

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Bree O’Connor in her solo show “Gee, I Hope You Have Fun at My Mom’s Death” presented as part of our Woman’s Work solo festival in July 2019.

I am an actor, writer, director, producer, Circle in the Square Theater School graduate, member of the LAByrinth Intensive Ensemble (2014), and mother of three. 

What was the inspiration behind Playful Substance

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The gang at a developmental reading of “Shelter in Place”. Pictured: Rahoul Roy, Raphael Perahia, Ron Phippen, Megan Greener, Dan Kellmer, Laura Sisskin Fernandez, Lauren Lindsey White, Rocky Vega, Jaqueline Reason, Foster Stevenson and Bree O’Connor

I had children “New York early” (meaning young for New York but not for anywhere else in the country) and found myself isolated from artistic outlets and community for well over a decade. Playful Substance is my attempt to be the person I needed during my artistic exile. Everyone who is willing to put in the work should have access to a creative life, should have access to support and community. 

Seems you have a strong mission to educate. All areas or is there a focus?

I consider myself a facilitator as opposed to an educator. I started with writers because I have written something almost every day of my life since I was 7 or 8 years old. After some of my work started to get noticed, people kept asking me to look at their scripts. I was spending so much time reading and giving notes that it occurred to me that offering some writers’ programming could be the basis on which to build the company I have been thinking about for nearly 20 years. I started the Writers’ Groups, hoping to gain some support and accountability for my own work while also providing the same for other Writers and things have grown from there. In addition to starting an annual works-in-progress reading party, called “Pithy Party”, our Writers’ Groups also fuel our full productions. The intention is for that relationship to continue. Not every project that comes out of Writers’ Group can be a Playful Substance show (we don’t have the funding or manpower for that!) but we can offer developmental and practical support for writers who want to self produce and also try to pass along industry information about opportunities for writers as they come our way. 

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Rehearsal for “Shelter In Place” written and directed by Raphael Perahia. Pictured Left to Right: Megan Greener, Dan Kellmer, Rahoul Roy and Brandon Fox

As we grow, so will our artist development programs. This year we hope to add a Director Development component to the work we do as well as some short term workshops for collaborators to explore their relationships to one another and to different aspects of the medium. 

I have always been interested in developing new work. Certainly, it is exciting to watch something go from an idea to finished project, but I find that companies who spend this kind of time together tend to find their own language, their own way of being in the world, their own unique voice and way of working together and THAT is what truly excites me. I am hoping that if we create a group that is focused on creating something that is specific to US that we might unlock some secret together. What that secret is? I have no idea. But the journey sounds like fun and the thought of having a soft place to land makes me feel better prepared to take more risks.

What do you look for in terms of members for your Writers Group? 

I don’t have any criteria other than, “Do you want to do the work?”. Sometimes they think they do, but they really don’t. That’s cool. The work isn’t for everyone and that can be a valuable lesson in and of itself. But I DO believe that everyone has a story of value, a voice that deserves to be heard. If you want to put in the time, you can improve. If you can observe, if you can listen, if you can practice, you can become a better writer… a better artist. If you can challenge yourself to be honest with YOURSELF, and open with your audience, then you can create something transcendent. But that all starts with a willingness to sit down and write… and then share it.

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“SAHM’s Club” by Bree O’Connor directed by Jill DeArmon for FRIGID 2017 Pictures: Kaili Y. Turner, Kim Rios Lin, Nicol Moeller, Megan Greener, Ron Phippen, Jamie Klassel

 

How do you measure success?

At this point, I am happy that I have collaborators who keep saying “yes”. We are still a very young company and so we have a few years of hard audience development work ahead of us, but the artists keep showing up and they keep coming back for more. Right now that feels like success. Being able to offer more opportunities for artists, that would feel like the next level. We are working toward the day when everyone will get paid more than subway fare and snacks and audiences have enough of a relationship with us that they LOOK for us. But until then, bringing people together in a room to breathe the same air and share the same experience and maybe even be moved in some way that makes them slightly different than they were the moment before the lights went down… THAT sounds like real success.

What’s next? 

Our second full season begins with “Shelter In Place” by Raphael Perahia (one of our original Writers’ Group members) runs  October 24 – 26th and October 31 – November 2nd at Under St Marks Theater. In November we will be offering a short term workshop for writers to explore scene study from an actor’s perspective. In Winter 2020, Playful Substance will take on a new piece by Lauren Lindsey White (also, original Writers’ Group member) and put up a workshop production. Our Writers’ Groups continue through June. There will be a Good Works Series Project (a project we do in partnership with a local charity- details to come), more workshops and readings and our season closes with our third annual Pithy Party in June.