Rebecca Benedict takes “The Long Rail Home”


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

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



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

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

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

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

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


Rebecca Benedict at “Two Faces One Mirror”

2 faces

“Two Faces, One Mirror” began heavy and intense exposing a mother and daughter’s personal wounded relationship.

It was visceral and full of truth.

The acting was so connecting and emotional thanks both to the actors and the outstanding writing.

The warmth and love of the cast and crew was so strongly experienced in all of the scene changing and timing hiccups that came up during the show, nobody ever let the audience fall on their face.


Actors came out and did stand up to help pass time and the director even did some magic for us!  And while I laughed and enjoyed myself, unfortunately with such a heavy and dramatic subject matter it took us all far from the story mid scene and the impact of the end was understood but lost its emotional bang.

Sadly I have to say the show did not seem ready for the Audience and came across as though we were at a more of a friends and family preview. There was a Q&A at the end and we learned there would be a part two to the story, which I am excited to hear about because this story deserves a solid end and deeper character exploration for both the mother and daughter characters. This has some very good bones and once fleshed out, it will also have solid impressive potential when the subject of the play itself is allowed to live and breath for all of the dramatic weight that it holds. I love what this story strives to be and it seems like it is in good hands if its not rushed. I look forward to seeing the final product in the future!

Women in the Arts 2019


CURRENT PROJECT: A world premiere of The Bare Truth by H.G. Brown

15370200_10211988876785853_7437592849087067899_oLaurie’s entrance in the arts was quite auspicious: she served as stage manager for the Broadway Cares July 4, 1987 performance benefiting STAMP OUT AIDS dedicated to Michael Bennett. She has since directed for stage and screen; won multiple awards including several of off-off Broadway’s prestigious Jean Dalrymple honors. She was the repertory director for the late playwright and filmmaker, Steve Silver and is one of the flagship directors of the legendary American Theatre of Actors – one of the last theaters of the original off-off Broadway movement.

Tell us about the play and why you chose to do it.

The play is called THE BARE TRUTH by H. G. Brown.  The play is about a retired couple who moves to Florida to be close to their children and grandchildren and they got a little more than they bargained for.    The reason I chose the play is that is a comedy and most of the plays that I direct are dramas.  So this a change of pace for me.



You’re at the start of rehearsal….what is your process?

The process for each play is different.  Usually we spent time reading through the play scene by scene and not always in order.  I give the actors the ability to move around the rehearsal space until I feel it’s time to put blocking in place.  We spend time discussing the characters and looking for similarities between role and actor.  When we find them, it adds another layer to the character as to enrich the relationships between each other.

What’s the message of the piece?

When you move closer to your children and grandchildren, there has to be boundaries.    Its okay to look into new adventures whether you partake in them or not.

What sensibilities do YOU bring to the piece?

When working on a play, I always look back into my life and relationships to see it there is a story that I can share with the cast.  The story might have them look into their own lives and find something that they can relate to which will enhance their characters.  I ask the actors questions as it pertains to their roles and see how we can add layers to their characters that will add value to their role and the play as a whole.

Your career puts you in indie theater AND film…What’s it like being a woman in the 21st century theater scene?  How has the scene changed for you?

Well, I like having opportunities to direct and work with some really talented actors.  For me, It’s all about finding the right script that touches, moves, and inspires me.  It is about have fun and creating great theatre.  I have found a niche working at American Theatre of Actors directing original plays.  I also have the opportunity to work with other theatre companies as well.  What has changed for me is that I am now getting to know more playwrights.  Before I would just direct the original pieces without any input from the writers.  I have become close to several of the playwrights and have gotten insights from them about why they wrote the play in the first place.  The great thing about that is they continue to hand me scripts to direct.  I have a deeper appreciation of the many playwrights I work with.

What’s next?

I several full length plays and a couple of one-act in the pipe line and I haven’t nailed down any time as of yet.



Women in the Arts 2019



Tonya Pinkins.jpgTONYA PINKINS directed Paul Robeson :The Opera at TRILOGY OPERA Company
in 2018. BRING IT ON at Black Spectrum Theater in 2018. Tonya’s short film “WHAT
CAME AFTER which she produced, directed and adapted with Christopher Oscar
Pena’s from his play by the same name at the 2016 at Eclectic Festival. Tonya Directed
EXIT: An Illusion by Marita Bonner in American Bard Theater’s “Visionary Voices” She
Directed “Miss Roj” from THE COLORED MUSEUM for Project One Voice at The
Kimble Theater.She directed A Visit Home by Jeffrey Sweet in 2013. Tonya co-directed
by EASY TO LOVE by Larry Powell in the Fire This Time Festival.FOR COLORED
BOYS by Jesse Alick in 48 Hours in Harlem. She has been developing Blaine Teamer’s
# BoxSeats at NYTW and in National Black Theater’s Monday Night Reading series.

She has directed V-Day the Vagina Monologues at The World Health Ministry
Conference in Mexico. The Klucking of Hens by Carol Lockwood at New Professional
Theater., Camille Darby’s LORD’S RESISTANCE at. And at The National Black
Theater Festival in Winston Salem. DEAD PEOPLE’s THINGS by Patricia Ione Lloyd at
Red Circle Rising. Tonya is a Tony, Obie Drama Desk, Outer Critics Circle and Lortel
Award winning actor, She teaches privately.. Tonya is the author of Get OVER
YOURSELF : How to Drop The Drama and ClaimThe Life You Deserve (Hyperion
Books), Tonya is the Producer, Director and a Co-writer of the TRUTH and
RECONCILIATION OF WOMYN Plays which will be presented at The Commons in
Brooklyn on February 4, 2019 and excerpted on WBAI Radio produced by EnGarde
Arts, #HealMeTooFestival March 28-April 14, 2019 at IRT Theaters and at The 14th
Street Y in July 2019. To make donations to this empowering social justice project by
and about womyn visit

Your career tells us a great story – tell us about yourself as an artist

I am a life long learner. I believe that every experience I have and every thing I learn expands my capacity to express creatively.  I have had the privilege to work in many aspects of entertainment; nine broadway shows, two day time Soap Operas, Off-Broadway, regional, Cabaret, down town performance art, teaching, writing, composing and directing. I’ve won or been nominated for most of the awards in the Theater; Tony, Olivier, Obie, Drama Desk, Outer Critics Circle, Clarence Derwent, Lortel, Drama League, Helen Hayes, Joseph Jefferson, Noel, Ovation, Garland, La Drama Critics, Whats On Stage, SAW, Ovation, NAACP Theater, Soap Opera Digest to name a few. I have collaborated with the greatest creative artists of my time. It is a joy and a privilege to still be making theater 40 years after I received my Actor’s Equity card in Chicago at The Goodman theater in the World Premiere of Wole Soyinka;s DEATH AND THE KING’S HORSEMAN.

Tell us about the play 

I love Glory [Kadigan]’s writing. It is always whimsical, topical, relevant, historical, musical, funny and suspenseful. Till We meet Again is the story of a child, Helen’s  experience  of the war’s within her family, while she studies war for a school assignment and ultimately finds herself in a personal war.

What do you want the audience to come away with from this piece.

I want the audience to lean forward and laugh and be surprised and moved and walk out of the theater questioning their own convictions.

You walk with one foot in the commercial world and one in the indie world. Tell us the differences to you.

My creative fire burns high. I have a lot of energy for creative expression. Commercial Theater is how you play the bills by fulfilling expectations, indie theater is where you express your creative dreams and visions and challenge every expectation.

AND What’s it like being a woman in the 21st Century theatre scene?

Womyn in American theater are still behind in opportunities compared with the contributions that we make. I hope to contribute to changing those statistics.

What’s next?

I am shadowing on television shows moving into directing for TV.  I am writing several pieces for stage, film and novel forms. am Producer, Director and a Co-writer of the TRUTH and RECONCILIATION OF WOMYN Plays which will be presented at The Commons in Brooklyn on February 4, 2019 and excerpted on WBAI Radio produced by EnGarde Arts, #HealMeTooFestival March 28-April 14, 2019 at IRT Theaters and at The 14th Street Y in July 2019. To make donations to this empowering social justice project by and about womyn visit


12119979_10156097922250203_6730800919075672787_o-2 (1).jpgGlory Kadigan (playwright) founded Planet Connections Theatre Festivity and served as the Producing Artistic Director for six seasons. Her work as a playwright has been presented in Singapore, London and New Zealand. Her plays have received staged
readings at La Mama, The Actors Studio, TADA,and Dixon Place. She is also a director who recently directed Vivian’s Music 1969 at 59E59, Clover by Erik Ehn at La Mama, Bank by Lucy Thurber, Mean Girls by Lyle Kessler (World Premiere), Biting the Bullet by Regina Taylor (World Premiere). Ms. Kadigan is a member of the League of Professional Theatre Women which looks to promote the viability of women in the arts.

CURRENT PROJECT: Till We Meet Again at the Theater of the 14th Street Y

Tell us about the play and why you wrote it.

This is a play about a man who was a surgeon in Guadalcanal in World War Two. With the help of his grand-daughter he faces the regrets of his youth.

You’re at the start of rehearsal… what is your process?

Listening to the script, discussing it with the actors and director, and doing rewrites as needed.

What the message of the piece?

Love one another. 🙂

What sensibilities do YOU bring to the piece?

The play has four amazing roles for women and I believe their accomplishments during the war, and after it are highlighted alongside those of the men.

Your festival is one of the leaders in the field and YOU are one of the ore recognizable names in Indie Theater … what’s it like being a woman in the 21st Century theatre scene?

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The Growth of Sunflower

New Show … New Producer!

Why are WE happy? New Female Producer!

48359967_10108138835420379_8478475852751831040_n.jpgPink Arts Peace Productions, Inc. presents the revival of the compelling play by Mario Lantigua, Two Faces One Mirror. Making her debut as a producer, Off-Broadway performer, Sunflower Duran, will pull double duty and appear as the focal point character of this drama, a young mother experiencing the trials and tribulations of single motherhood. YouTube sensation EmilyAnne Jolie Garcia plays her selfish, ungrateful teen daughter. Looks like this might make it to Lifetime TV!

“This play serves as a parable of love and sacrifice,” says Lantigua, regarding his play – which he also directs. The landmark American Theater of Actors, 314 W 54th Street New York City, will host a limited run, December 28 – 30.

Tickets available at:

Ms. Duran was spotlighted in another Five-Star blog regarding her run in Fort Dicks, the musical, also at the American Theatre of Actors.

12541142_10104618462665599_3275736610111703340_n.jpgWelcome back, Sunflower, to Five-Star blogs; welcome to the world of theater producing.  Why this play, and why you chose to produce it?

Thank you Drama-Queens, I would say, is a perfect platform for me and Pink Arts Peace Productions, Inc. I also welcome all platforms for my work. I chose to produce this play because whenever anyone comes to me and ask to make Art, we are going to make it. My production company Pink Arts Peace, Productions, Inc’s  vision is to make dreamers into thinkers that will emerge the Artists within through action and accountability. I want people to feel like they are enough. Every Artist is the vessel through which creativity flows, and I will be your platform. I am one human who believes in everyone, and I mean everyone. I also believe that the most talented people in this world have not yet been discovered and have no voice, let’s sing. 

How does it feel to produce a play in NYC?

It feels like a blessing directly from God to produce 2 Faces One Mirror ( and an honor to be the Lead in this play. As an artist, I find my best work is in that of expressing everything that isn’t said. I’ve spent the last 10 years of my life mastering the art of absorbing what is felt and converting it into words and into action. I like electric and controversial as well as community activism. Mario Lantigua and our cast had our first rehearsal and it was magical.  Mario and I were rendered speechless by the talent in the room. Our cast is amazing. All of our spirits will soar at the end of December. It will be a perfect ending to 2018. I cannot wait to perform with this phenomenal cast and crew. Anyone willing to help with this production or be part of Pink Arts Peace Productions, Inc. please reach out to me. I love my cast crew, and I love my audience. My audience gives me the drive to get up every day and continue this path of Art, love and light, wearing lots of Pink, creating lots of Art, and having mad Peace. Thank God!

Does it have a special meaning to you? About motherhood, children, etc.?

Mario Lantigua and I have a very special connection. We have become like siblings throughout this process of creating together. We talk everyday and his work stage play 2 Faces One Mirror ( speaks to the struggles many Latino mothers growing up in the Bronx and everywhere face when they have kids at a very young age. We are giving voice to that sacrifice and struggle. 

What’s Next?

My goal and desire is to take the cast and crew of Two Face to Los Angeles after our NYC production. While there, I will finish my film ‘Monster’ and continue producing the working title documentary ‘Freeing Manuel Lugo’. Mario has also taken up rewriting my script for my Feature Film ‘Monster’ ( Making this film will allow me to continue with my journey of bringing this project to a worldwide audience. Monster will be a transformative film giving a voice to women and specially children victimized by predators, who use women already suffering and struggling with addiction and mental illness as a tool to prey on them and their kids. To answer your question more precisely, 2 Faces One Mirror means the world to me. Mario and I, we are 2 Faces One Mirror. We are healing through this process. Art heals all wounds. 


2 faces





Rebecca Benedict at Someone Who’ll Watch Over Me

The intimate space of the Cherry Lane theater was quiet and serious while ushers waved us to open seating. Inside it felt crammed and as I watched one of the prisoners work out in one spot while chained to a wall, breathlessly sweating away, the tension was quietly heightened. I was unprepared to go where I was about to be taken.

I have never been, kidnapped, imprisoned nor have I been subject to endless days and hours without my freedom. I have never needed to cling to the sanity or imagination of another human to keep from loosing my own. When patience and mental creativity are all you have to keep you from loosing control you are left with one of the deepest examinations of humanity while every moment you wait for an outcome that may in fact never arrive.

Animus_11142018-29 (4).jpgMichael Broadhurst, Jonathan Judge-Russo and Leif Steinert, lock us in their cell with them and for three hours and we are taken on their powerful journey of loss and desperation for love and friendship in the face of utter uncertainty.

Animus_11142018-19 (1).jpgSo many lessons surfaced from these gifted actors about the strength the human connection can have in the darkest moments.

Animus_11142018-23.jpg It brought to light individual significance and its meaning for us as living beings when we are alive but cannot be witnessed by another.

Rebecca Benedict at The Brutes


On a frigid Saturday after battling train delays and eventually getting saved by a crafty lyft driver, I was impressively on time at The New Ohio Theater. The atmosphere was warm and welcoming the employees and my fellow audience members were chatty and it was easy to decompress and allow my brain to settle in to receive the experience that awaited me.

As soon as the first words were spoken we were believably and effortlessly transported back in time to a completely different era. The air seemed dustier and cool; the energy began lightly chaotic. The characters were funny and complicated from the very beginning. They almost literally grab your hand make you laugh some and then pull you through a story and the light chaos becomes loud and heavy, sprinkled with sword fights weighted with personal and political strife.

THE BRUTES, written by Casey Wimpee, brings us the famed Booth brothers on the even of their only time on stage together and the eve of an even more historic event. spit&vigor’s timing is great. They hand us the story of a family on the verge of divided, re-enacting the Shakespearean tale of a nation divided during a time when the nation is divided as a parable for our current … well, you get the point.


The powerhouse cast of Adam Belvo, Chris Cornwell, Sara Fellini, Colt W. Keeney, Morgan Zipf-Meister, Eamon Murphy, Becca Musser, Pete Oliver, Xandra Leigh Parker, Harlan Short, Nicholas Thomas, and Perri Yaniv acted as a greek chorus and brought the mood and the story to great heights.

I didn’t find an emotional bond with any single character as much as I experienced this as more of a visitor, an invisible watcher of a situation heavy with ego, fear and anger. The political unrest that was tearing the Booth family apart aligned with the story line of Julies Caesar and  I enjoyed how that made the story multi-layered and conveyed how much we haven’t changed as humans.

The show, in its entirety, spoke strongly to our country’s current unrest and even the need to ignore it and dwell on the past. It dropped me off with a open, unanswered ending that is anxious and honest, reminding us that this isn’t the first time we have done this with our politics, our disagreements, our need to win.

You leave feeling rattled, contemplative and I find myself still learning and taking away from my experience. This isn’t a simple or easy show, this show is meaty and raw in its humanity and in it’s a timeliness.

This is a brave undertaking by Spit & Vigor and begs for a long dinner conversation over a stiff drink.

Jen Bush’s predictions are good for Divination


Review by Jen Bush


Halloween may have ended 10 days ago but there are still some remnants of it going on at The American Theatre of Actors.  Divination is a play by Dorian Palumbo that delves into mysticism.  The tale centers around a crystal shop in N.J.  where six women with six gifts and six problems congregate for a weekly class in mediumship led by Geri Wheatcroft from Scotland.  My apologies to any superstitious readers for the aforementioned succession of numbers but quite fitting for a play of this nature.  All the women are familiar and comfortable with each other.  A new student named Tara played by Yating Sun, shows up.  She awkwardly infiltrates the tight knit group seeking a fast and easy solution to her problems.  Scenarios like that usually don’t end well for anyone.  In her quest for power and inner peace, Tara becomes something akin to The Scorcerer’s Apprentice sans the innocence.  There are consequences for all.  Hopefully six women from diverse backgrounds with different mystical abilities can reclaim their life balance.

The show was interesting and compelling with a twist thrown in for good measure.  The set was simple and functional.  The costumes were attractive and looked good on the cast. The ensemble was a shining cohesive unit of strong women with excelling acting chops.    Yating Sun’s portrayal of Tara came across as acerbic.  It was hard to empathize with her even after her character underwent a transformation.  Those were good and appropriate choices for that character.  The shop was owned by Michelle played by Esther Ayomide “Ayo” Akinsanya.  Michelle was somewhat angry and appeared to wrestle with the gifts given to her.  She showed appropriate vulnerability when her shop was in danger.  Her portrayal was serious and she had some witty sarcastic lines.  By stark contrast was the whimsical and at times inappropriate character of Louise played by Christine Dewar.  If she is not English in real life, her accent was amazingly spot on.  London Griffith did a fine and credible job of portraying Giovanna, a teacher with an ill husband. Abagail Choi Arader was wonderful portraying the young and vibrant Badriyah who was stuck with a less than young and vibrant husband.  Finally, a gifted actress playing a character with a gift was Meredith Rust as Geri.  She was so convincingly Scottish and immersed in her role, I completely forgot that just a short while ago, she was equally as wonderful as the saucy librarian in Banned in Bisbee at this very theater.  Her Scottish accent was flawless.  Another Banned in Bisbee alumni, Ken Coughlin, did a great job of directing his Bisbee cast mate and the rest of the cast.  Divination was a play well done by all involved.

Morgan Zipf-Meister is proud to be a Brute!

After a powerful run at Planet Connections 2018 Theatre Festivity, spit&vigor revives THE BRUTES, a gripping piece of history and drama written by Casey Wimpee. The new production will be at the New Ohio Theatre, 154 Christopher Street. If that address rings a bell, it is the old haunt of the legendary Wings Theatre, now in another pair of capable hands.

Sara Fellini stages THE BRUTES in-the-round with a minimalist set pieces that transforms into a theatre, a dinner table, and a nation on the brink of sweeping change. Civil strife, family devolution, and a country sharply divided – 150 years ago or right now – the parable of this drama remains strong. We get a tour of the backstage (literally) goings-on of an historic performance of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar featuring the renowned Booth theatrical family – brothers, Edwin, Junius Jr. and John Wilkes, Booth. There’s another familiar name. Performances are November 23 — December 9 (Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays at 8 pm and Sundays at 3 pm). Tickets are $30. For reservations, please visit


Morgan Zipf-Meister.jpeg

Morgan Zipf-Meister is a brute in -well- The Brutes. When she is not one of a cry of players, she multi-tasks as a technician. Drama-Queens is always thrilled to meet multi-talented female artists

I’m an actor and lighting designer, I play one of the Brutes, kind of a menacing/magical presence throughout the play – who also ground the Booth family in the outside world and give them a sense of context.  It’s exciting to explore how this one small piece of the play can be so many different things.  I’ve been working in Indie Theater for over a decade and have worn a variety of hats over the years. I love the human element of the theater, collaborating with other artists to make something bigger than you could’ve done on your own, and being able to share that work with an audience who is in the room with you.        
[Independent Theater is] equally infuriating and rewarding, but above all else the act of sharing stories with other humans in a room, a communal space is incredibly valuable in times when we struggle to see the humanity in others. I am incredibly privileged that I can do this and will continue to do whatever I can so that the indie theater remains a place where all stories and voices can be represented, heard, and shared.

Making Sport of Shakespeare


Carrie Isaacman is one of us!!!

A strong woman of the arts – taking control and telling stories!

Carrie is the organizer of Shakespeare Sports. Her inspiration for Shakespeare Sports is from her studies of Shakespeare’s First Folio and liked the idea of
using the question around of “scrolls” as a rehearsal tool or if they are intended for a group of actors who have little time to rehearse early in their rehearsal process, as the Elizabethans had very little time to rehearse, or are scrolls part of the show? Carrie chose ‘As You Like It’ because it looks at a group of teens who are put
in a position where they can – using only their wits – change the world – even while homeless. 

No scrolls here … she just kinda spoke! 

Tell us about yourself as an artist.

I am an actor and have been directing as of late.  I am the director of ‘As You Like It’.  I started organizing ‘unrehearsed Shakespeare’ readings and it occurred to me that with the requirements of ‘unrehearsed Shakespeare’, of working on Shakespeare’s stage directions first, including music, movement and anything technical, even with the scroll in hand for all actors by the time the cast has worked on all aspects like music and movement a cast might as well plan a full run of a show and I am now glad to be doing just that.

Phoebe (1).jpgTell us about your role in AS YOU LIKE IT. 

I got the idea for setting ‘As You Like It’ in 1968 as a response to the very vocal protesting around all of the elections over the last few years and the advocacy that goes along with the interests of those who are running for office.  

Shakespeare’s show ‘As You Like It’ should show the difference between court and country life and that includes dialects of speech dress and behaviors.  

The characters going away from their way of living that they are used to is political and it means that they will need to find away to survive with people who they may normally not interact with.  Through all of the circumstances the characters, Rosalind with Celia and Orlando with Adam, entertain one another as they are solving the problems that they are faced with and that is what makes the play a comedy.

Share with us your thoughts on independent theater. What is its significance to the skyline of entertainment in NYC? AND how has indie theatre helped Shakespeare and visa versa?

As a creator of Shakespeare’s theater in independent theater I look to see how larger theaters do community building and how they produce thier traveling shows especially because Shakespeare Sports works on a small budget.  I also look to see what larger theaters choose for their season.  And if I would want to share the work or Shakespeare Sports with a larger theater I would want to have an organized portfolio and mission for what and why produces Shakespeare.  This is also important is Shakespeare Sports is planning a season and planning ahead.