Women in the Arts 2019

images.jpgJILTED TO PERFECTION, a short musical romance, written and starring acclaimed opera singer, Debra Cook, after a joyous and celebrated run last summer on Theatre Row, returns for a special showing at The Triad, the posh NYC cabaret, on Saturday afternoon, April 13 @ 3:00 p.m., 158 West 72nd Street (between Amsterdam & Columbus aves) with tickets available at www.triadnyc.com. Two drink minimum, light fare available.

Ms. Cook’s semi-autobiographical musical love letter to her departed husband. This is no simple love story, however! The musical, enhanced and explored further, tells the story of a shamed and divorced Mormon mother who – after a botched audition for the Metropolitan Opera – meets the strange and older Fred. He – upon immediate attraction – pursues her despite her fears, her missed dates, and her biases. The musicalization of their unorthodox romance takes them to two coasts and Utah, Scientology, Fred’s third [ex]wife, Debra’s son, their mission as artists, and Fred’s fluctuating health. Debra’s realization that Fred was right about them being soul mates, but it may have come too late. The musical ends with a special appearance that will provoke great thought, hope … and tears.

Ms. Cook is celebrated in many fields.

She is managing director of Utah Conservatory, Head of Voice Department and member of piano faculty. Served 10 years as Adjunct Assistant Professor for the University of Utah’s Actor Training Program, also developing the Department of Theatre’s Musical Theatre studio courses, as well as a year for the U’s Music Department. Served 11 years on the music faculty at Brigham Young University, teaching voice, group voice and diction; and served as past president of the Southern Utah Chapter of the National Association of Teachers of Singing. Ms. Cook has performed opera and concert work throughout the United States, including solo performances with the National Choral Society at Lincoln Center’s Avery Fisher Hall, Utah Symphony, and several seasons in repertory with Utah Opera Company. She performed off-Broadway, is featured as Roxanne in Stuart Crane’s cast recording of Cyrano, and serves as a professional choral conductor and competition adjudicator.

WELL!

Let’s turn the mic over to her to tell us about her musical that has taken NYC by the heart!

What inspired you to turn this romance into a musical? 
There are a few inspirations here.  
First, Fred, as an educator, wrote throughout his career about acting, performance and philosophy. As an “original thinker,” he has seminal concepts to help the performer assume a viewpoint in a most genuine way, which not only turns out authentic performers, but translates into a healthy approach to life, avoiding some of the traps that can discourage performers and even cause a bit of craziness in their lives.  We’ve all seen it…actors overdosing and ending their lives from depression, or simply having trouble assessing themselves and their skills.  We worked to implement these concepts in our little realm of teaching at our conservatory and in college classes.  I wanted to finish that book. For various reasons that I do not want to go into, there was a strong impression that the book needs to wait. I realized that Fred’s maxims and methods were evident in our relationships, our anecdotes, our failures, our ability to make our own choices, a sense of mission, our love, and our recognitions in the ups and downs of life.  Thus, a musical made sense.  Could I hide the concepts into the story?  Could this crazy love letter honor these concepts and the man who so joyfully lived them?   
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Second inspiration is Gene Fisch and his New York New Works Theatre Festival.  After working as a consultant for four years on another big musical, the writer entered Gene’s festival in 2017, and it soared to the finals while I served as Musical Director and assisted with various aspects of the production.  In the process, I recruited a few volunteers from Park City to help with the show.  One of them, a very close girlfriend, went to several of the shows and said, in passing, “Hey, Debra.  We’ve seen a lot of theatre here.  I bet we could write something and get into this festival.”  So, several weeks later, we met with another writer and began a concept that led to “Jilted to Perfection.”  And the product was not at all what we had started with. Musicals have a way of taking a journey, and most times you are best to go with it. We all agreed to scale down our original concept of three women’s stories to just one story, So, both Gene and my dear friend, Kristen Brown, were inspirations.
What was the most difficult part of writing the piece?  
There is a tie here.  
One is carving out the time. We are all busy people, with more distractions that we can number. While a new composer is working, they have to exist, like earn a living, clean the bathroom, be a family member or friend, or even serve as a church lady
Second is the arduousness of writing of the music.  I’m a slow, slow, slow composer.  It does not flow out of me like yummy chocolate at the fondue table, instantly sticking to the page or, even, sticking to my memory. As a singer, the melody was not as tough as the harmony.  And, as a teacher, I had scads of prolific exemplars in my head and had to step back and realize that it was okay to just be me.  If being me was not as brilliant as the great ones (we all know who they are), so be it.  The goal would be that the music would serve as a vehicle for communication on a higher level of consciousness than the text alone.  Period.  It helped me finish a song…eventually.    
Where do you go from here?
In May, I will present the “mini-musical” version of “Jilted to Perfection” at the Classical Singer National Convention (CSMusic) in Chicago, along with a talk back session about the process.  We’ll see about the a theatre that is looking at it for an upcoming season, and the requests for performances locally.  In the meantime, each showing provides a bit more insight about what works and what needs to change.  But mostly, I plan to enjoy the process from here….experience the joy as a writer and a performer, and share that joy with others.    

Ms. Cook’s granddaughter. An integral part of the production. See it to find out.

Women in the Arts 2019

A witch who sings, and writes, and teaches, and creates, and broadcasts, and mentors, and …

 

50724742_2261593994111731_5018333560667373568_n“I am an opera singer…yes….studied and performed in Operatic work for 14 years. HOWEVER, I began my life in a band doing Jefferson Starship and spent many years doing musicals. I specialized for a time in Pop, have studied Jazz and improv, can scat and now am kicking ass in Blues. I like blues because to me Opera is only Italian blues…sung long. I also love making my own healing music using traditional instruments, harp, drums, bowls and tuning forks as well as my voice. Now writing songs too. For a long time my “day job” was doing make up and hair in live theater and film. I also ran and still run Genesis Repertory Ensemble where I have directed and performed in numerous works. I am a healer too. Got into that to heal myself. Now using it for others as well. Reiki, Herbalism, Homeopathy, Acupressure, Sound Healing and more. I am also an ordained Minister. Did that so I can be available for hospital visits for those that need my healing work. I can marry you too! I am also a Pagan and work with Magick and other things that are cool like Tarot and Astrology and Magickal work. I create Magick and healing products made for my clients as well. That’s me!” 

… and she said this all in one breath.

Rev. Mary is Mary Elizabeth Micari, a witch who sings, and writes, and teaches, and creates, and broadcasts, and mentors, and …

… well, you get the point.

AND she REALLY is a Reverend!

Mary is the new Renaissance woman. She set sail on a spiritual journey that has taken her on many creative and artistic ports-of-call. Now, before her latest show gets underway, we said “hello” once again.

Welcome back, Mary, it’s been a while since we interviewed you. Tell us the latest on Granny’s Blue-Mers … and its evolution.

In 2013 I was asked to perform at a club that caters to the more sexually adventurous in NYC. They had heard me sing and wanted a Jazz/Blues singer to bring in sexually explicit songs.  I was kind of dumbfounded.  They wanted dirty blues songs? I told them I didn’t know any but if I got some done, I would tell them so.  I started to research and there they were. Albums of them! Many of them were written for and by men but there was a treasure box full of songs written and sung by women as well.  This opened a door for me to explore and explore I did.  Each of these “dirty” songs were extremely funny and very rich in double entendre and poetry. They all came from 1910-1950 or so and I was hooked.

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I did research into the songs, the singers, the music style they used, how and why they recorded and began reading books and studying the whole era as much as I could.  It took about a year of cobbling things together that way and then another year to learn songs, get musicians interested in such things as well as designing costumes and fitting these songs into my voice.  I decided to call on Dan Furman who I knew was a wonderful Jazz pianist and very flexible with singers’ voices in support as well. From there I found ukulele players, drummers, bass players and began to learn to use the washboard, kazoo and whatever else I needed on the stage to make things work.  We booked The Duplex first because I thought the West Village would be an ideal place to reveal the act.  That was 2015.

Your cabaret rise has been meteoric! How did it all begin?

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Rev. Mary chats with Cabaret legend, Marilyn Maye, when Ms. Maye attended one of the Rev’s show.

As I wrote above, we started at the Duplex. We took pictures and video and I began searching for other venues that might like us and sent them all we had. Gratefully I am married to a wonderful PR man Jay Michaels who designed, did press releases, articles and got us reviewed every time we played.  We found many bars and clubs interested all around NYC.  We kept doing these songs in a series. First there was The Meat Show”, then there was “Down in the Alley” and then we did “One Hour Mama”.  Some songs stayed as a steady bass for the rest but there were so many songs we knew or wanted to do that it led to several different shows with a focus on one type of song.  I also decided to branch out into a different type of show. A series of shows based on diaries I have kept since childhood. The first was called “The Lady in Black”. The next installment will be called “The Lady in the Pointy Black Hat” and it goes on from there as an autobiographical and revealing look at the psychology of a performing artist, spiritual seeker and woman based on my diaries. I use songs from the time I am singing about as well as many songs from the Great American Songbook together.  

You have an album and a video brewing… how’s that going?

We want to do ONE song first and get it out there.  One of many I’d say. In fact, based on the first three series of Granny’s Blue-Mers there are three albums we could do. I had traveled down to West Virginia to study and perform at wonderful place where blues musicians come from all over the world to sing and play. There I met Johntavious Willis and thought I found and experienced one of the most amazing blues guitarists of the current generation.  I asked him to come up to NYC to work with us on this song and on a music video to go along with it. From there I will market and try to raise funds in order to get the rest of one album done.  Each song breaks down to about 3000 dollars a track so it’s a full-time fundraising push that we must finish first. We will.

OK, why marijuana??? 

As I was researching songs, I found TONS of songs about drugs and most of them about marijuana from the same period I am working in 1910 – 1950 and I thought as soon as the dirty blues songs were done, we’d move onto these.  In researching the background of these songs and artists I discovered, much to my surprise that marijuana was legal for a long time and that until the late 50’s in America quite commonly used.  In fact, more used than alcohol by many. These songs too are funny and full of double entendre as well as Jive talk and more.

What’s the goal of “High?” 

I want to get us in a place that will want us to be in a series each month.  If this works well, we can then make a big, funny, salad of songs we keep learning.  I would be willing to look at songs about other things if we keep to the blues/vaudeville/hokum quality of all of these. Also, really…lets just remember this is not a dangerous drug! It was and is medicine and used properly it can save lives. I am an herbalist as well and have, because of this show really sat and read the history of this plant and its uses.  It is important to let people know the beauty of a plant used with reverence.

What’s next?

After this goes up, I will begin the work on my next series of “The Lady in…” Cabarets. 

That’s great, but you are more than the sum of your musical parts. You have created a very successful line of Magick-Infused products… tell us more!

74783_10151134684697314_1114788198_n.jpgI have been interested in spirituality since I was a child and, in the occult, magick and witchcraft as well as tarot and astrology and herbalism. Along side my work as a performer, designer and director I was always studying these subjects.  One day I went into a craft store and saw that I could buy a small kit for soap making. I did. I used my knowledge of herbalism to create essential oil and herbal blends based on magickal workings people might need (love, money, lust, luck, protection, hex removal) and added them to a line of soaps at first and then branched into baths, powders, perfumes, incense, candles and more.  I have a theater degree but also one in cosmetology and have a license in that field because of my working as a designer in film, TV and Broadway which I used to support myself as a performer.  I combined the knowledge of all of that to create products that heal and are magically powerful as well. 

Since last time we spoke, your visibility has grown [wait for it] like magic! You have a 30K reach and 10K engagement. What do you attribute that to? 

Lately the witch is in fashion. There are TONS of shows on Netflix about witches.  Right now, there are many women interested in Magick.  It is part of the new wave of feminism and many people are very tired of constrictive religion as well and are looking for female based spirituality as well.

Agreed, the “witch” is in the media everywhere – good, bad, and cheesy… but in the end, you say it’s women’s empowerment in all its fantastical form?  

40403662_10155706173407314_2993468763656945664_nThe witch is a power symbol and men have always been a tad afraid of it and female power in general.  In ancient times the female was revered but now many men “grab ‘em by the pussy” and abuse them if they desire. Hillary Clinton’s loss and the rise of the misogynistic pig type based on the one in the White House who leads them all, has brought a backlash against that. The #MeToo movement has shown just how powerless women are in many places all over the world. Women are tired of it and being a witch is a powerful step for many to claim their power.  When I first found my way to this path it was way back in 1996. I was in a bad marriage and in a frustrated artistic state. I was not the fashion model norm and felt invisible and powerless as a woman.  I was bred to be co-dependent and I was suffering with that as well as attachment to what the world wanted me to be. I felt confused, weak and a bit lost.  When I claimed my witchhood all of that began to heal.  Now I am free of much of that conditioning and pain, I feel powerful and walk with the Goddess of ancient times.  It has healed me much and I think many other women feel the same way…men too.

Witch, Wiccan … what’s the difference? 

Wicca is a religion created by someone name Gerald Gardner in England in the late 50’s. It incorporates the idea of a God and Goddess and reveres nature and its seasons.  That’s a very “scratch the surface” explanation but it’s a religion recently created. Wiccans call themselves witches. Witches don’t have to be Wiccan but can follow any other religious path including the big three and still practice witchcraft as well. Some Witches…as I am are Wiccan as well. I have a podcast up on Spotify called The Magic Apothecary that touches on some of these subjects deeper.

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When we purchase one of your products, what do we have to do to “empower” it?

You must first know exactly what you want, and you are usually better writing it out and meditating on it for the cycle of one month while you remove all obstacles in your mind regarding your desire. Then, if all’s good you can sit with the product, place hands upon it and start to use it. There is MUCH more I tell my clients. Hey! Buy something you’ll see! Check out my ETSY site https://www.etsy.com/shop/TheMagicApothecary

Here’s my last question and it’s a tough one… how do we tell a real witch from a faker or hobbyist? 

That is hard to say but, in my experience, I have found that those that are really into the spiritual path of witchcraft don’t go about talking about it too much.  Many like what is called the “witch aesthetic” where they dress like witches in black couture clothing and black lipstick. It’s a fad. When the clothing, make up and all the rest of the accouterments go out of style what will be left will be a very large amount of strikingly powerful people who have reclaimed their ancient heritage.

 

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Women in the Arts 2019

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

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

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

Read the Review of her solo show, Velvet Determination

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

Read the Review of her appearance in Summer and Smoke 

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

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Tell us about yourself as an artist? 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

What’s next for you?

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

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To Baby or not to Baby

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rebecca Benedict takes “The Long Rail Home”

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

Rebecca Benedict at “Two Faces One Mirror”

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“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

SPOTLIGHT: LAURIE RAE WAUGH

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.

 

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Women in the Arts 2019

DRAMA QUEENS NEW SERIES: WOMEN IN THE ARTS 2019

SPOTLIGHT: TONYA PINKINS & GLORY KADIGAN

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 https://thefield.org/sa/620277.

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 https://thefield.org/sa/620277.

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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?

Interesting…. 
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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: https://www.eventbrite.com/o/pink-arts-peace-productions-inc-18255837545

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 (www.facebook.com/2facesonemirror) 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 (www.facebook.com/2facesonemirror) 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’ (www.patreon.com/monsterthemovie). 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. 

 

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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.