Sabrina joins September’s Women in the Arts

Sabrina HernandezSabrina Hernandez joins our list of

ONEs IN A MILLION.

One in a Million, a rousing off-Broadway musical, encompasses the teachings that the apostle Paul instructed to Timothy about wealth. “Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction.” (1 Timothy 6:9 NIV). The play is set at the home of Wanda and Suzy Velez. They both host an annual Christmas party attended by several members of their church. The evening would test their convictions and reveal secrets about themselves. As the story unfolds, each character in the play – no matter how holy they purport to be – becomes tempted by the idea of how more money would make their lives better. Without careful consideration of the consequences, they all throw caution to the wind and find themselves gambling. One in a Million is produced and directed by Kevin Davis.

 

Tell us about yourself, Sabrina, as an artist.
I love to do all types of work: drama, comedy, musicals, films, especially films! Basically, if I have to act, I like to do it. I’m very lighthearted with my work, so I never fall in love with an idea of a character, or what I think a character should be. I believe that being this way makes it easier for directors to direct the way they want the character to function and act, and it helps me evolve the character beyond what I initially thought the character would be. I also like to find at least one thing that can tie me to my character, a common ground. This allows me to look at things from my character’s perspective a lot easier, and it helps me create the genuine emotions that character would feel. 

When dealing with pieces that delve into religious or spiritual matters, do you feel a stronger sense of responsibility in conveying the message?
I think it’s important to always convey the message of any artistic piece with accuracy, otherwise I’m not doing it justice. I feel a strong sense of responsibility, because I am a part of the artistic piece itself, and it would be terrible for me to be a hindrance to the delivery of it’s message. I don’t think I feel any stronger of a responsibility with religious pieces as I would with secular messages, because if I am helping convey the message it is because I agree with it, so it all has equal importance to me.

What role does independent theater play in the New York art scene ? 
The independent theater is a platform for fresh and new ideas to sprout wings. It’s more accessible to less “established” faces to gain opportunities to display their talent, whether it be on stage or behind the curtain. It also allows for more niche and obscure theatrical concepts to have a platform, which caters to an otherwise ignored audience. Perhaps these obscure concepts can make their way into pop-culture, and ultimately influence theater as a whole. It also allows people who don’t really have the resources to constantly see Broadway shows to access a less expensive, but just as entertaining, theatrical experience. It’s important to be able to have affordable artistic entertainment.

Dream role?
My dream role would be a strong, Latina female lead in a film or TV show, that doesn’t necessarily focus on stereotypical depictions of Latina women. Usually, roles for Latina women include passionate outbursts and feisty attitudes, as well as some sort of financial struggle or some subservient position in their professional life. I’d like to depict a Latina woman who has her life together and who doesn’t necessarily fall under these strict stereotypical depictions. Latinas can be shy, and we can react rationally to situations without having to slap someone in the face or yell in Spanish. This role can be a comedy or a drama, or even an action role.

one in a million

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“I’m writing my dream roles now.” September Spotlight on Women in the Arts: Stephanie Satie

art_stefanie-satie_091412COMING TO AMERICA

WRITTEN AND PERFORMED BY STEPHANIE SATIE

SUN 10/22 2:00PM

Stephanie Satie makes a triumphant return to the United Solo Festival with Coming to America, a stirring portrait gallery of women whose lives have been transformed, first by extraordinary events in their country of birth, then by their response to America.

Under the direction of Anita Khanzadian, Satie embodies women from diverse countries and ordeals: “Nine fascinating women, each character so distinctive you forget it’s the same actor.” – The Loyolan (USC). The engrossing work returning to United Solo for one-night only “… conveys the universal longing to break out of repression… [and] leaves an indelible impression.” – The Tolucan Times.

Opening before the Jewish High-Holidays, Ms. Satie hopes to secure a second performance from which a portion of the proceeds will be donated to a woman’s charity.

COMING TO AMERICA will perform at Theatre Row, 410 West 42nd Street, New York City. TICKETS, with a price of $35 (plus a $2.25 Theatre Restoration Charge) are available at the Theatre Row Box Office and online through Telecharge at www.telecharge.com. You may also call Telecharge at 212-239-6200. When placing your reservation, please provide: the FESTIVAL name (United Solo Theatre Festival), the name of THEATRE (Theatre Row – The Studio Theatre), and the specific DAY and TIME of SHOW you would like to see.

s2Ms. Satie is an inspiration. An artist who connects her work to the world, and who wants nothing more than to educate, enlighten, and of course, entertain.

Tell us about yourself as an artist. I’m an actor/writer/onetime dancer, a former New Yorker, but still one in my heart. My career has been eclectic, performing on and Off-Broadway, in regionals, in L.A. theatre, and internationally and now, as a solo performer.  I’ve studied languages and traveled and I think, maybe because I was an only child and first generation American, I liked morphing into other people. I began writing for myself as a way to use my abilities and interests and to play roles no one was writing for me.

s5Your last one, I’m told, was about children of the Holocaust. powerful topics you choose! Is there a more powerful responsibility when working with such material? I’m very interested in the way catastrophic events affect ordinary people. Their lives become extraordinary. I feel a huge responsibility when working with such material and interviewing, for example, child survivors of the Holocaust. Some of the women I interviewed brought a lot of humor to their stories and yet audiences are reticent to laugh at such a serious subject. Humor is a survival tool but with a subject like the Holocaust, the viewer needs to feel safe that I am not trivializing the lives of survivors and that they are not being disrespectful. It’s a fine line. In both Silent Witnesses and Coming to America, the play I’m bringing to United Solo Festival in October, the danger is always appropriating lives or making one person appear “representative” of an entire group and that’s not possible nor should it be. Sometimes a 2-3 hour interview becomes just a five minute monologue. How do I retain the intent and quintessential character of the person I interview while shaping their story for dramatic effect. It’s always a balancing act.

s3What is the draw to the one-woman show format? I love the one-person format. I love doing it and seeing it. I love the characters I speak to onstage and speak as; the chance to constantly morph from one character to another of different ethnicity, size, sometimes gender and to expand who I am as both an actor and a human. My world becomes larger. My first inspiration was Anna Deveare Smith and I’ve seen so many other wonderful solo performers.  Also, I think it is empowering as you can create your own work and be a little less dependent on someone hiring you for their project.

 

 

s4What do we, the viewer, need to come away with from your show? I hope people who see Coming to America will immerse themselves in these powerful stories. We’re so bombarded by sound bites, articles, the internet, television; our nervous systems are constantly being manipulated and it’s exhausting. To sit in the quiet, sacred space of a theatre and witness lives unlike our own can make us once again remember what America has been for so many who have come here or yearned to come to our shores, when once they were welcome.

 

 

September Spotlight on Women in the Arts: Nj Ambonisye

NJ AMBONISYE appearing in ONE IN A MILLION, the musical:

With dreams of playing Nala in the Lion King, Nj shared a few theatrical thoughts.

I am a dancer first,  actor second, and singer third. I actually think I am many more things before a singer, LOL. Stage is where I began and I will always do it but recently I am branching out to writing, directing, choreographing, producing. That is the plan.  To create narrative for people as weird as me! I treat [every role] with the same care as I do other pieces that have strong messages; all the research and exploration that it requires to convey the message (s) and entertain in the way that only I can. 

[Independent theater]’s role is as the training and maintenance for an artist, as the inspiration of any great show, as a way for creators without money or a popular idea to birth a show.

Nj Ambonisye

One in a Million, a rousing off-Broadway musical, encompasses the teachings that the apostle Paul instructed to Timothy about wealth. “Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction.” (1 Timothy 6:9 NIV). The play is set at the home of Wanda and Suzy Velez. They both host an annual Christmas party attended by several members of their church. The evening would test their convictions and reveal secrets about themselves. As the story unfolds, each character in the play – no matter how holy they purport to be – becomes tempted by the idea of how more money would make their lives better. Without careful consideration of the consequences, they all throw caution to the wind and find themselves gambling. One in a Million is produced and directed by Kevin Davis.

one in a million

September Spotlight on Women in the Arts: Mariela Perez

One in a Million, a rousing off-Broadway musical, encompasses the teachings that the apostle Paul instructed to Timothy about wealth. “Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction.” (1 Timothy 6:9 NIV). The play is set at the home of Wanda and Suzy Velez. They both host an annual Christmas party attended by several members of their church. The evening would test their convictions and reveal secrets about themselves. As the story unfolds, each character in the play – no matter how holy they purport to be – becomes tempted by the idea of how more money would make their lives better. Without careful consideration of the consequences, they all throw caution to the wind and find themselves gambling. One in a Million is produced and directed by Kevin Davis.

Mariela PerezMariela Perez, anther one of the ones ion a million spotlighted here at Drama-Queens shared a few minutes and a few words with us:

Tell us about yourself as an artist.

As an artist I am grateful that the arts exist. I do not consider the arts a job, I consider them an escape. I am especially appreciative of acting because it allows me to view the world from another point of view.

 

When dealing with pieces that delve into religious or spiritual matters, do you feel a stronger sense of responsibility in conveying the message?

I believe that in terms of religious beliefs people have to find their own way into what they want to believe, therefore, when dealing with religious ideologies, my goal it is not to influence nor educate the audience about such ideologies but to demonstrate how they fit into the character’s life.

 

What role does independent theater play in the New York art scene ?

I believe independent theater plays an important role in the New York art scene. It gives starting actors an opportunity to be part of something important and lets them have a taste of the responsibilities that come with being part of the arts.  

 

Dream role?

My dream role would be anything with action. I especially love science fiction movies that depict other worlds or futuristic ideas.

 

 

September Spotlight on Women in the Arts: Two Shining UVXamples of talented professionals:

lux_halpagead_final-01

Why do we have two in one spotlight – they’re playing twins!

UVX, the newest and most daring production … no, not just a production but an entertainment event, presented by Luxury Universal e[X]perience, is hitting New york by storm. Their opening party includes taking contest winners on a cruise around New York; they are a major sponsor of events at ComicCon and they have taken one of the largest off-Broadway houses for the thrill ride called UVX.

We grabbed Katelyn Leveille first … not playing favorites … then Erica and heard what members of the cast of this wild theatrical experience thinks of the arts.

HEADSHOT (1)Tell us about yourself as an actor.

I started acting when I was in elementary school. I always knew that’s what I waned to do when I grew up. I went to college in Connecticut and received my BA in Musical Theater. My favorite genre is comedy, but preforming in Holme was a great opportunity to test out my more serious side.

How was it to be part of a new cinematic experience. What’s different about it? Is this the wave of the future?

It was a lot of fun to be apart of a new cinematic experience. It was actually 110% more fun than any film I have ever worked on.

Tell us the difference – to you – between acting on film and acting on stage? What’s better?

There are a few differences between acting on stage and acting for film. Acting on film is much more up close and personal with a camera in your face. You also have more than one chance to try different things. On stage you are live and only have one opportunity to do your best. You also have to do everything bigger and louder so that everyone in the audience can see and hear you. My degree is in musical theatre so I grew up mostly doing stage, it will always be my dream to be on Broadway, but I don’t think that one is better than the other. I thoroughly enjoy both.

What do you imagine UVX and Holme will accomplish?

I hope that people will be able relate to the stories and overall just have a fun time.

What’s next for you?

As of right now I am still doing some work for LUX, but I’m also out auditioning, hopefully I will still be acting, I’d love to work on another movie or be in a musical.

… and a word from Erica Twiss

Headshot_EricaTwiss

 

Tell us about yourself as an actor.

Wow. I’m not even sure where to start. What an open ended question. I started acting at  an early age and have known it was what I wanted to do for a career ever since. My concentration in college was actually vocal performance, so I have a music degree and that classical musical theatre world is kind of my wheelhouse. Before Holme I had recently come off of a production of My Fair Lady playing Eliza, so the film was a big change of pace. It was actually my first feature film (thanks LUX) so I was really excited to jump at the project.

How was it to be part of a new cinematic experience? What’s different about it? Do you think it’s the wave of the future?

It was amazing! Our saying at LUX is that it’s 110% more fun and I think that says it all. As for what’s different, well, you’ll have to come by our screenings and see. I don’t want to spoil anything but it very well could have the potential to be the wave of the future.

Tell us the difference-to you-between acting on film and acting on stage. What’s better?

Well the stage is my first love. There is something so rewarding about being in the same room with your audience. You all get to experience the same story with the same characters together. I don’t really know of anything in the world quite like that. When you go to the cinema (at least before UVX) you get to bond as an audience but you have a disconnect from the performers. In the theatre that doesn’t exist so much. If something goes wrong there’s no editing room. You all get to experience that together; everyone is in on the joke. All that being said though, film has it’s own rewards. It’s demanding in a different way. I don’t know if I could honestly quantify which experience is better.

What do you imagine UVX and Holme will accomplish?

I mean, they’re revolutionizing cinema as we know it. Nothing should ever be the same. I think people will wonder how they went so long without a cinematic experience like this one.

What’s next for you?

I’m still privileged to be working with LUX in certain capacities but as far as what happens after that? Who knows. I’m doing the actor auditioning thing and I’m starting to coach dialects on the side. Hopefully Holme opens some professional doors for me as well. Every actor hopes that each new project they do will beget more work so that’s pretty much where I’m at right now.

 

Luxury Universal e[X]perience
brings you 
FUTURISTIC ENTERTAINMENT TODAY!
Friend us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Luxury-Universal-Experience-349189402205351/?ref=br_rs
Follow us on Twitter: https://twitter.com/PropertyofLUX

The U.V.e[X]perience!
THIS COULD BE THE MOST EXCITING ADVENTURE OF YOUR LIFE!
Combining live-action with film and music in an interactive format, the U.V.X is a world beyond 3-D – YOU HAVE THE POWER TO CHANGE THE FILM WITHOUT LEAVING YOUR SEAT! 
SEE + BE part of the ultimate viewing experience complete with our team of Ushers and FUN Enforcers!

Luxury Universal e[X]perience turns fantasy into reality in HOLMÉ
The FILM: HOLME: Where You Go When Reality Doesn’t Work
starring Katelyn Leveille, Erica Twiss, and Jason W.D. Morris as twin sisters and their adopted brother; Mario Claudio (LINE) as their deceased father; and Theresa McCarthy (HOUSE OF CARDS) as their delusional mother.

LUX presents Holmé in UVX
ABRONS ART CENTER
466 GRAND ST, NEW YORK CITY, OCTOBER 13 – NOVEMBER 5.
Tickets: http://www.luxuryuniversalexperience.com/

 

The Rev. joins the September Spotlight on Lady-Artists

cropped-yellow-singA fan favorite on our site for many years is Rev. Mary Elizabeth Micari. Winner of two Drama-Queens Theatre Goddess Awards, Mary has conquered live theatre, concerts and recordings, and now she is joining the fine art of cabaret by honing her fabulous GRANNY’S BLUE-MERS, a show devoted to the brilliance of 1930s “risque” lyrics by sirens like Sophie Tucker and Mae West to Bessie Smith and Barrelhouse Annie.

gran 4Mary Elizabeth Micari, a NYC native, is known for her distinctive comedy and singing styles from stage works dating back to the 80s to her latest creation, Granny’s Blue-Mers, an act she premiered a year ago. Mary has been an active entertainer all her life in many aspects of theater, opera, jazz, blues and even teaching others to do the same. Granny’s Blue-Mers is the latest in a long list of creative endeavors she has produced as well starting with None of the Above Theater Company (straight out of college), to Genesis Repertory Ensemble (over 100 shows) to the creation of a new teaching method for her students (The PATH Method) at her M Center for Arts which encompasses her other passions of healing through sound, meditation and herbal work.

So Rev, you’re a singer, musician, actress, director, designer, AND producer! WHEW! 

Granny’s Blue-Mers is now packed with talent, Broadway personalities, musical royalty, and the show is innovative. What’s it like tackling these obscure bits of musical history

granny 2I think its innovative and more than sort of! These songs were done for many reasons and much of it is unknown today. These songs were recorded by women, many of them were written by them as well. Women who because of racial oppression or financial constraints or just because they were women and were given limited access to creative outlets back in the 1910’s through the late 1950’s. I find the songs to be powerful and funny. Many use laughter to cover pain and it is a well-known fact that many comedians are doing comedy to survive the pain of the lives they are  in. I feel like these songs do that too for women in particular. But I must say they make men happy too!  I also like the fact that they are smart songs with interesting  lyrics that cover the more vulgar meaning that they are about. I love the idea of the double entendre. The songs themselves are musically simple but the meaning and stories in them are complicated jokes that have the audience roaring! I love them they are brilliant. 

 

What the biggest obstacle you are facing with this show

good-bluemers - CopyI am not having any obstacles with it creatively. I am facing obstacles getting things done without losing all my money! I am paying for this show and have been since the beginning. I had an entirely different band last year and now all have left due to other work in the business and I had to start over. I am glad though, the people I am working with now are fantastic! I am very blessed to have them working with me. Still, the clubs in NYC are very strict and if seats are not filled I am responsible for paying for every empty seat and their drinks! Still there is no other way to do it. I have been producing for over 35 years so I am used to it all! I hope this time I get to pay myself as well as my musicians! Hasn’t happened yet.

What is your opinion of indie film and theater? 

I think Indie film and theater are very important to the creative life blood of NYC. I love the space for innovation and creativity that exists within it. I love the energy.

Finally, my favorite, since you all have commercial and indie on your creds, what’s its like being a woman in the NYC arts scene in the 21st century… commercial v indie.

granny photoI have worked in the professional theater for many years. I like the money! Its fine if the show is full of creative juice, which, unfortunately it is not always. Self-produced Independent art, in my opinion is always better. The stakes for the artist are higher…after all they put blood, sweat and tears into it. I have and will continue to do this as long as I can! Money or not. Although there have been strides made by women in the theater there is a long way to go. Men still run it even though more women do it and more women see it! However, I am sensing I am on a path with many other women who have decided to just do it for themselves. Reminds me of that Annie Lennox song: Sistas are doin’ for themselves! Yep.

I try to teach the girls in my studio that they are important and I am seeing that more little girls want to compose and teenage girls want to write. They don’t  have the limitations my generation had. I hope I live to see the female renaissance which is brewing in these young ones. Meanwhile I will use my voice to sing out the songs of the past…for those that came before and fought for their space…my ancestors. I will stand up and hold the line for them, for me and for my students.

 

The Power and the Glory

12119979_10156097922250203_6730800919075672787_o-2No Spotlight on NYC Lady-Artists is complete without Glory Kadigan.

Ms. Kadigan founded Planet Connections Theatre Festivity and served as the Producing Artistic Director for six seasons. Under her leadership, Planet Connections has raised over six figures for 303 different charitable organizations including Safe Horizon, City Harvest, Amnesty International and more. Although no longer the Producing Artistic Director of the entire festivity she still serves as the Artistic Curator and Executive Producer of the renowned Playwrights For A Cause benefit. Under “Playwrights For A Cause” she has presented world premieres by Regina Taylor, Dominique Morrisseau, Israel Horovitz, Erik Ehn, Halley Feiffer, Wendy MacLeod, John Patrick Shanley, Winter Miller, Neil LaBute, Jose Rivera, Lyle Kessler, Penny Jackson and Catherine Filloux.

She is a freelance stage director and is an alum of the Lincoln Center Directors Lab, La Mama Directors, and Playwriting Symposium and of The Labyrinth Theater Company’s Master Class. Kadigan is recipient of the Meritorious Achievement Award in Direction from the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival. She is also a playwright who has been presented in New Zealand, Singapore, Italy and London.

Ms. Kadigan is on-the-move right now, getting ready for PC’s 2017 Awards Ceremony at the Acorn on the dazzling Theatre Row so we’re thrilled to get a quote from her.

“I’ve always been interested in entertaining theater inclusive of social justice issues.

I founded the festival as a way of combining those passions. Every production in the festivity benefits a different social cause of the artists selection.  I’m nurturing activist artists and have been doing so for close to a decade.” 

 

pctftranslogo-no-green-150Look for a follow-up article written by Jay Michaels after the awards show.

September Spotlight on Women in the Arts: Maddy Campbell

14102685_10206552671153899_2939360282678065349_nThe National Theatre of MatMadia presents: SHE MOON (a show about butts)

Artists in Residence at The Muse Brooklyn, September 24th at 7pm

Tickets: $20 at door/$15 presale; The Muse Brooklyn, 350 Moffat Street, Brooklyn

The National Theatre of MatMadia is proud to present SHE MOON: A Show About Butts at The Muse Brooklyn. SHE MOON, an ensemble creation, is directed by Maddy Campbell.

SHE MOON OFFERS ALL FORWARD-THINKERS TO LOOK BEHIND – WELL- AT THE BEHIND! THIS LIVELY PERFORMANCE-ART PIECE CELEBRATES THE FEMME – AND FEMININE – DARIAIRE. IF YOU ARE FEMALE OR IDENTIFY AS(S) ONE.

SHE MOON incorporates aerial, dance, storytelling, music and magic, and rocks out with the punk band, MAUDE GUN with Carissa Matsushima. The cheeky ensemble company shares their parable and stories with the audience and to the Moon … because she always listens. Doors open at 7:00 p.m. with a Moon Market at the newly renovated Muse outdoor space. In the hour-long crack-of-time prior to the performance, aerialists entertain and free champagne flows. The Moon Market is full of artists and artisans including baked goods, spiritual services, tarot readings, art and much more. Moon Goddesses will be waiting to bless you with bubbly to the music by Carissa Matsushima. SheMoon supports local LGBTQ- and People-of-Color-owned businesses.
Bottomline: Using the parable of A Woman’s Ass, we will to celebrate women’s bodies through stories of oppression, repression, joy and sorrow.

MEET MADDY CAMPBELL, Butt Nymph, Goddess of The Blood Moon, and – oh yes – director of the project.

Maddy, while NYU classically trained, is an experimental actor, singer, playwright based in NYC. She trained at Stella Adler Studio of Acting and The Experimental Theater Wing. Recent credits includes The Induction of Lady M (Greenpoint Gallery) and Small Talk (Triskelion Arts). Maddy is a proud member of artist collective, Experimental Bitch Presents and works as the Executive Assistant to Producing Artistic Director, Kori Rushton at IRT Theatre.

So, tell us about yourself as an artist.

I’m a weirdo. And I’ve learned not to hide that in my art. I believe in having fun on stage – especially with serious subjects. My work, while about serious subjects like mental health or gender identity, is always put through the lens of confetti, balloons or something else fun or festive. This is why we’re talking about body positivism through the lens of Butts. Because butts are the funniest part of the anatomy – in my opinion. They are weird fatty globs that you sit on. And they jiggle. What’s more fun than that?
 
NEW FB IMAGEOK, here it is … why women’s tushies??? 
I have a big ass. And growing up in conservative Kansas everyone had a lot to say about it. Especially being in theatre and dance. We girls had to move our butts the way the dance teacher wanted, but not too sexy to make the moms and men uncomfortable. We had to cover our butts, but still dress nicely and form fitting to please the moms and men. Any butt wiggling had to be okayed by a grown up.  And my ass being as big as it is ALWAYS made it that much bigger of a problem. Other girls could wear the short skirts- I got a talking to when I tried.  All the decisions about what I put on my butt, how I moved my butt and even what I called my butt was controlled by everyone but me. And this show is about changing that. My butt is just a part of my body. It’s not something for others to sexualize. It’s not for others to tell me what to do with it. My butt is mine and belongs to no one else. 
What’s it like tackling such a  topic as women’s bumms
It’s actually REALLY weird. As someone who is not attracted to or at all obsessed with feminine butts, it’s weird to keep talking about them. The stranger phenomenon is that people keep telling me stories about their butts. Stories similar to mine and some very different. One woman told me how in Spanish culture, her mom would keep telling her -you always have to make sure your coulo looks good. It always has to be out to attract the male. Other people talked about how no one wanted to see their butts. That it had to be hidden at all time. Others tell me how much they love their butts and it’s their favorite feature. The one thing that seems constant- EVERYONE has a story about their butt.
What the biggest obstacle you are facing with this show
It’s a taboo subject. Facebook is censoring our content. They don’t mind if we put up highly edited ‘perfect’ butts, but when we put up an article with pictures of normal women’s butts they took it down. We’re talking about women pooping, anal sex, Cultural appropriation, and repression. All of which are antsy subjects to the larger public audience. While butts can be exciting and sexy (and funny), they are also a highly controlled topic. It’s hard to remain open and honest.
 
What’s the parable or moral of the story? 
We own our own asses. No one else gets to tell us how to move them, how to cover them, what comes out or goes in them. They are ours to do with as we please. I don’t care if you are a three year old or eighty. Your ass is your own. 
 
What is your opinion of indie film and theater? 
I think Indie theater is the source of all art. The polished version of a brilliant idea on Broadway was originally developed in some corner of Brooklyn by some sloppy penny-less artists. Without experiment how would art move forward?
 
Finally, my favourite, I’m sure you have both commercial and indie creds, so what’s its like being a woman in the NYC arts scene in the 21st century… commercial v indie. 
In commercial art your job is to please everyone else. Clean yourself off, put on a smile, and do your job. For indie theater, if I don’t like what I’m doing than the show is going to suck ass. I’m not talking about putting all my feelings on stage in a self-indulgent way, I’m talking about putting something on stage that I would like to see. Otherwise, why am I doing it? This is a question I’ve continuously had to ask myself over and over again during this project. Any time I think, ‘I hate this’ then I’m taking the wrong path. I can’t compromise for anyone or what am I doing. I even told my parents not to come to this one 😉
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Dorian Palumbo reviews COMMITTED

IMG_0800

In August of 2004, a ten minute film titled “Submission”, by Theodoor Van Gogh, was broadcast on Dutch Public television.  The film addressed violence against women in some Islamic societies by projecting text from the Koran onto the nude bodies of women as they spoke to Allah about what had happened to them.

Subsequent to the broadcast, death threats were received by Van Gogh, by the writer of the film, Ayan Hirsi Ali, and by others who worked on the film.  Muslim-born Hirsi Ali went into hiding, eventually residing in the United States, and is, today, an outspoken critic of Islam, saying it is a religion of violence against women.  Van Gogh refused protection after the release of the film.  He was assassinated on November 2nd of 2004 while riding his bicycle by a Dutch-Moroccan Muslim who objected to the film.

Why did Van Gogh refuse protection after threats to his life were made?  Was it artistic integrity that drove him to continue to speak in public in support of the film despite those threats?  Natalie Menna, in her new play “Committed”, directed with precision by Brock Harris Hill, renders a fictionalized version of what the last days of Van Gogh’s life might have looked like, in an attempt to answer those questions and more.

IMG_0788Theo Van Gogh, played with style and panache by veteran actor Brad Fryman, was certainly a provocateur.  His previous films were irreverent, even blasphemous, regarding the Catholic Church, which was, of course, the main source of censorship in Great Granduncle Vincent’s day.  In Menna’s rendering of Theo’s character, we often see a man who might just have, as they say, no filter.  And yet, in other moments, he seems to be putting on a brave face for dear friend Azzad (Francisco Solorzano), journalist Victoria (Ivette Dumeng), and, in particular, young son Lieuwe, played by relative newcomer Philip Schneider.  Schneider’s resume isn’t very long, but he has the stage presence and skill level of a much more experienced actor, and I’m sure we can look forward to more great work from him.

Theo is also constantly under the influence of alcohol, so it’s difficult to unpack whether he’s actually brave and facing fear, whether he’s simply not taking the threats all that seriously or if he’s too intoxicated for them to register.   I’m not sure if this is an element added by Menna in order to facilitate the drama, or if Van Gogh actually was a hard drinker.  In any case, he describes himself as “the village idiot”, an actual snippet of conversation reported by Hirsi Ali herself, and muses that no one would go out of their way to actually expend the energy to do him harm.  Whatever the reason, he fatally underestimated the zeal of his enemies.

IMG_0797Victoria (Dumeng), and Azzad (Solorzano) conspire, at one point, to manipulate Van Gogh into canceling his public appearances in order to keep him safe from danger.  When Van Gogh discovers their plan, the ensuing conversation is the closest we come to an examination of the central question of the play – whether self-censorship and self-imposed exile make sense when one ‘s life is threatened, or if the refusal to give in is a stand that must be taken to show bullies they cannot succeed.

Interestingly, the question seems to be answered by the one character in this drama who is spoken about but never seen – Ayan Hirsi Ali.  A note left on Van Gogh’s body by his murderer was a direct threat to Hirsi Ali.  She did respond to the threat by retreating for a time.  She did not, however, allow her voice to be silenced.  Since “Submission” was broadcast, she has written four books openly critical of certain practices of Islam, and has founded the non-profit AHA foundation that combats crimes against women and girls such as forced marriage.  Theo Van Gogh would no doubt be proud of her accomplishments.

Committed will run at the 14th Street YMCA, 334 West 14th Street, through Saturday, September 23rd, 2017.  For tickets, please visit the website at www.14thstreety.org

September Spotlight on Women in the Arts: Kallen Blair

Marlin Thomas’s riveting new play concerns a pawn broker during the Second World War called upon to be a middleman between the Nazis and our allied forces. He must help hammer-out a deal between two people in Zurich. The collateral: cash, weapons, and prisoners of war.

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The play features Kallen Blair.

We spoke with her about what it means to do a Holocaust drama today.

 

middlemanTell us about yourself as an artist. 

An artist who is still learning about who I am as an artist! The reason I made theater as a kid is different to the reason I made theater in college and is different still to the reason I continue to do it as a young professional. I know for certain that I view my chosen profession as a responsibility as much as I view it as a joy. If it’s a question of what kind of theater I want to make — I believe it is important for people to see theater and feel hope, or feel like their perceptions have grown, or feel known. That is the kind of work I hope to offer as an actor. Beyond that, I know I’m still growing as an artist. And I hope I never stop!

When dealing with historical dramas, do you feel a stronger sense of responsibility in conveying the play’s message?

Yes and no. I actually don’t think I feel a stronger sense of responsibility about conveying the message as I feel about “doing the character justice” if that makes sense. If this is a human who actually lived and had real dreams, passions, triumphs and failures — then I want to breathe life into their words in a way that validates those dreams, passions, triumphs, and failures. However, I remember having a conversation with a mentor after a mini freakout over this exact situation, and they reminded me that every character on a page could have lived a very real life, so how is this any different? Any drama could be a historical drama in that sense. So I suppose there should not be a difference. As far as a “conveying a play’s message” — I don’t believe that should ever really be the focus. Tell the story truthfully and it will come out. 

What role does independent theater play in the New York art scene ? 

It gives rare theater a platform. Usually the indie theater scene is where that eccentric but genius production happens because the Off-Broadway and (obviously) Broadway circuit can’t afford to take a chance on it. I have definitely left an underground theater thinking “wow I wish every person in the world could see this.” Granted, I have also left without such positive reviews …. but still fully acknowledge that independent theater gives everyone a chance to put their work out there. I am working on my own right now, actually.

Dream role? 

Oh wow. This list is always growing! My absolute dream is originating roles in new works. I am thankful to have had the opportunities before and will continue to seek them out. It is an honor to be trusted by a playwright to help them find a character’s voice and facilitate the making of a story that is identifiable by the people watching it. 

I tend to nerd out on the topic of contemporary playwrights so working directly with them is definitely a dream. Aside from that, there are a whole host of Tennessee Williams’ ladies I am itching to play, as well as a wide range of Shakespeare’s characters (Imogen, Desdemona, Puck to name a few). My off the wall dream role is Cyrano de Bergerac; I am not aware of a previous gender-bent version of Cyrano but I have full plans to make it happen in the future!

 

THE MIDDLEMAN BY MARLIN THOMAS
A FEATURED EVENT AT NYSUMMERFEST

THURSDAY, SEPT. 14 @ 9PM
SATURDAY, SEPT. 16 @ 1PM
SUNDAY, SEPT. 17 @ 6PM

THE HUDSON GUILD THEATER
441 WEST 26 STREET
(BETWEEN 9TH AND 10TH AVENUES)
NEW YORK CITY
BROWNPAPERTICKETS.COM/EVENT/2966037