Monday, September 15, 2014

Spotlight On...Nicole Kontolefa

Name: Nicole Kontolefa

Hometown: New Yawk, New Yawk (Lower East Side to be most precise)

Education: High School of Performing Arts (Laguardia) and Moscow Art Theater School conservatory (BFA)

Select Credits: Katherine in Taming of the Shrew in School, Catherine in Proof at Princeton Summer Theater, so many roles in Dostoevsky, Chekhov, Ostrovsky, Gogol, etc. But my favorite places to play have been at The Chekhov International Theater Festival, Baryshnikov Arts Center and of course the New Stage of The Moscow Art Theater itself.

Why theater?: Because it is happening in the present. There is so much going on at any one moment - you have the work of the writer, director, designers even musicians and actors all coming together to put ideas, feelings and experience into your head. And yet, in an instant it could all disappear. That’s cool.

Tell us about I Am Me: It’s a play I loved from the first read. I wasn’t sure if it was a play though. And I wasn’t sure I had the guts to do a one person play. I almost staged it with a director once, but schedules interfered. And also, I wasn’t sure I wanted to give up the vision that was growing in my own mind of what this play should be like. I decided to play it outdoors because I would be able to move and because it woul dbe free. It turned out to be exactly what the play needs. I Am Me explores the relationship we have with ourselves and the outside world. By playing it in the streets I hope that the audience will actually experience this - they are both audience and performer. They are not in a dark room paying attention to one fixed person or story - they are very much living in the world of the play. Also, it turns the play from a one person show into an ensemble performance!

What is it like being a part of I Am Me?: It is interesting. One of the things I love about theater is the collaborative nature of it. In this play I Am all alone until the moment the audience arrives. They are my collaborators. So sometimes it is quite lonely. Especially when I am on tour. But I also think that is part of the play’s story and an important part of experiencing life. Although it is uncomfortable I try to treasure the time I have alone leading up to a performance.

What kind of theater speaks to you? What or who inspires you as an artist?: I like theater with big gestures, very human emotions. Paradoxes - a person doing the opposite of what they might want or should be doing. I love immersive theater, inventive and imaginative theater built with interesting processes. I am less and less interested in seeing plays where people behave very naturally.

Any roles you’re dying to play?: Lady M. Broad comedy. I can’t wait to play bawdy older women! It’s kind of who I really am.

What’s your favorite showtune?: Anything from Cabaret.

If you could work with anyone you’ve yet to work with, who would it be?: Marina Abramovic.

Who would play you in a movie about yourself and what would it be called?: Kristen Wiig “Girls Just Wanna East Pork Buns”

What show have you recommended to your friends?: The Record by 600 Highway Men

What’s the most played song on your iTunes?: Iggy Azalea “Work” It really is!

What’s your biggest guilty pleasure?: Getting pickled.

What’s up next?: I’ve got a recurring role on a new web series called "The Loft". I get to play a wildly different Casting Director every episode. Accents, wigs, hilarity. Very different from being simply, Me.

Review: Let These Bedbugs Bite!

There are many scary things in New York City but the most feared thing this city is faced with: bedbugs. With the magic of timing on their side, New York has been struck with a new outbreak of these tiny, pesty creatures taking over the subways. And now those tiny bugs are taking over musical theater. In the new musical Bedbugs!!!, a scientist on a mission sets out to destroy the population of bedbugs only to accidentally cause a mutation of anamorphic bedbugs eager to take over the world.
photo courtesy of Rex Bonomelli
With a mix of Little Shop and The Toxic Avenger, Bedbugs!!!, with music by Paul Leschen and book and lyrics by Fred Sauter, lives in a hilarious world of Sci Fi musical comedy. The musical follows Carly and Burt as she creates a toxic extermination spray that contains an ingredient that doesn't kill but mutates. Along their journey they encounter a cast of zany characters including an abundance of New York stereotypes, a Canadian pop star, an undersexed bug king, and a legion of bedbugs. Once the mutation has occurred, all hell breaks lose on the city, and the libretto. The story gets crazy as Cimex, the bug king, begins to fall in love with his creator, Carly, forcing her to be his queen. Despite the insane plot line, by presenting it in such a campy manner, it all works cohesively with the rest of the script. For a musical that lives in it’s own imaginary world, the one hang up that could be delved into further is the exact cause of the mutation. The ingredient that causes the train reaction needs a clearer and larger set up, perhaps by Burt, so it's understood that its inclusion is bad for all rather than informing when the moment is right. Leschen’s pop infused score is catchy and fun, rarely relying on a power ballad to win over the audience. However when Leschen does slow down the music, it’s usually given to pop star Dionne Salon which is a hilarious ode to her inspiration.
photo courtesy of Rex Bonomelli
The high-energy ensemble seemed to have the best time living in the bedbug-ridden trash heap of New York City. Leading the pack was Nicholas Park in a role he was born to play. Park as loveable Burt brought a ridiculous amount of physical comedy and honesty to the gay boy with a mission. If ever there was a character, and actor, who deserve a spinoff, it’s Park’s Burt. And perhaps idol Dionne Salon could make an appearance. Brian Charles Rooney channels his inner diva as the Celine Dion knock off Dionne Salon. Rooney, who looks stunning in costume designer Philip Heckman’s wardrobe, discovers all the right moments to be Dionne and when to bring Celine out, including her spot on signature “lurves”. Rooney has so many show stopping moments killing Leschen’s score effortlessly. Grace McLean as Carly was lacking in her overall performance, being outdone by the tried and true comedians in the ensemble. She did have a redeeming moment with her breakout number “He Pierced Me.” Despite his own brand of killer voice, Chris Hall as Cimex, Lord of the Bedbugs, lived in a different style of comedy that didn't blend well. His portrayal of Cimex was too Frank-N-Futer that it lacked originality. In the ensemble, Barry Shafrin and Tracey Conyer Lee had some brilliant comedic moments as Mason the gay hipster and constant wig-changing TV reporter Belinda Bedford respectively.
Director and choreographer Robert Bartley easily took Leschen and Sauter’s whacky world and translated it to the stage. Bartley took the science fiction genre and ensured that the comedy within would be showcased. Bartley was greatly aided by the brilliant design team. Costume designer Philip Heckman and wig, hair, and makeup designer Bobbie Cliffton Zlotnik were the unsung heroes of the production manifesting the creatures to human form and even giving each one their own unique personality. Adam Demerath’s transformative set allowed for the scum of New York to be highlighted beautifully. The only problem the company seemed to have was handling the breaks on the tiered mattress cart. Prop designer Cameron Pate deserves some recognition for some of the innovative props including the supersoaker-like spray guns and the glowing baby bedbugs.
With a title like Bedbugs!!!, it’s natural to have trepidations about the quality of the show. Unlike many new musicals nowadays that don’t know where it wants to live, Bedbugs!!! is musical comedy genius. Giving these feared creatures the musical treatment is just so right.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Review: The Ultimate Friendship Test

It takes two to tango just like it takes two to make a friendship work. Long lasting bonds are sometimes hard to keep. There are bumps in the road. People change. New relationships enter the equation. So making friendships work over time is difficult. And if you’re ever feeling unsure of your friendship, put it to the test. In Knife Edge Productions revival of Stephen Belber’s Fault Lines, a pair, reaching forty, test the strength of their friendship with the aid of alcohol.
Fault Lines follows friends Jim and Bill as they meet a local bar in order to reconnect. As they reminisce about the past and catch up about recent events, a boisterous stranger comes and wreaks havoc exposing the cracks in truth and the faults in a friendship. For the most part, Belber’s story is straightforward and real. But the fatal flaw of the script comes with the sharp turn of a blindsided twist. It can be quite difficult as a company and a director to make that transition seamless. Unfortunately it wasn’t, but after the game gets going, the ensemble eases back into their roles.
As Jim and Bill respectfully, Neil Holland and Chaz Reuben had a nice blend of familiarity and void. Holland as the Peter Pan like Jim played up the man who doesn’t want to grow up role quite nicely, even when his scheme was in play. Reuben’s skeptical Bill was a great foil often dominating the scenes. Upon his entrance, Michael Puzzo as Joe, the stranger with a motive, won the audience over with his hilarity and energy. Puzzo did his best with his ever-changing identity, with his shining moments as the first incarnation of Joe. Danelle Eliav as Bill’s wife seemed a bit out of place comparatively. Her energy was much lower than the rest of the ensemble, seeming to enter with preconceived skepticism.
Director Shira-Lee Shalit guided her ensemble with certainty. With the aid of an overall strong script and team, Shalit highlighted all of the strong elements at the right moments. Shalit’s staging was natural, not asking her actors to move for the sake of movement. The gorgeous set design by Nick Francone evoked the spirit of a schlocky bar, though the mess of the floor was too strategically placed.
Fault Lines is a gem of a production. With a poignant script and well-rounded ensemble, Fault Lines will get you pondering the value of your own friendships.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Review: The Freaks at Night

The freaks really do come out at night. Sex can be a sacred thing, but when the environment calls for letting go, honesty come out and true nature is revealed. In Kim Davies new drama Smoke, two occupants of a sex party have an impromptu encounter that leads to an evening of roleplay and testing physical limitations.
photo courtesy of Hunter Canning
Smoke is a sexy and provocative play about temptation and seduction. Davies’ script brings together Julie and John at a sex party where anything goes, sexually that is. John, an intern for an artist who happens to be Julie’s father, and Julie, a student, engage in battle of dominance as they explore their sexual desires. What makes Smoke special is Davies exquisite ability to bring such a sexy subject to the stage in an engaging manner. Along with director Tom Costello, Smoke treads the line of naughty and erotic tastefully. The pacing that Costello plays with allows the piece to be a psychological thriller of foreplay. For some, the play touches upon a foreign world and by keeping the action constant and the relationship between the pair mysterious, Smoke is never dull. When the pair finally consent to bring their bond to the next step, the level of danger rises immediately. Like the infamous Chekhov’s gun rule, there should be a new rule called Davies’ knife. The moment when Julie discovers John’s pack of knives, you knew they would be used in some capacity, but Davies uses it in one of the most shocking way possible. The only hangup of the play is the too convenient ploy that in a span of an hour plus, no one entered the kitchen. But as John said, the food’s in the living room.
The chemistry on stage was astounding. Madeleine Bundy and Stephen Stout as Julie and John brought thrill to the extreme. Bundy’s innocent submissive balanced Stout’s seductive dominant. The power shifts throughout the piece kept Bundy and Stout active and in tune with one another. While Bundy’s Julie seemed to play up her roles, you never knew when she was acting and when she was honest. This contrasted nicely with the Stout’s earnestness throughout.
Costello led the entire team through this dark and secretive world. Set designer Andrew Diaz did a tremendous job transforming the blackbox into an apartment kitchen, utilizing only a corner of the space, allowing the play to be even more intimate. Costume designer Beth Goldenberg allowed the actors to look sexy and appealing without looking like costumes. The soundscape Lee Kinney offered throughout the piece allowed for the fear of being caught at any moment. Lighting designer Daisy Long created a nice ambiance and offered a nice affect with the light through the window, however it allowed it to be a tad confusing what the light source exactly was.
Smoke is a stimulating voyeuristic look at sex. Feeling dirty is almost guaranteed after seeing this production but it will allow you to think about how far is too far.

Spotlight On...Cat Parker

Name: Cat Parker

Hometown: Military Brat, so raised all over the world. But have lived in NYC longer than anywhere else, so I'm claiming it!

Education: MFA - Texas Tech University

Select Credits: Artistic Director of Articulate Theatre Company. Favorite productions include Picasso at the Lapin Agile (NYIT Award Winner), A Doll’s House, a steampunk-influenced Twelfth Night (NYIT Award Winner), the New York premiere of Sister Cities, (NYIT Award Nominee), and Rosencrantz & Guildenstern are Dead. Most recent projects include Parts of Parts and Stitches and Dragon.

Why theater?: Oh man. I ask myself this question at least once a week. The real, no-bull answer is that I love telling stories and watching those stories change the people who witness it. And theatre is always "life-sized." Movies may have more technology, but theatre remains about the human form, size and experience as we can all identify with it. Stories are important - they cause change in individuals, which causes change in small groups then out to communities, societies, nations and the world. It's gratifying that I can be part of something that's both basic and epic.

Tell us about the Articulating the Arts: Off the Wall?: Articulating the Arts: Off the Wall is part of our continuing exploration of the art of theatre using other art forms as a jumping off point. There's a conversation that happens between a painter, their canvas and the viewer. Our playwrights are the viewers of those paintings, but then they take the conversation further - sharing their perspective of the painting with actors who then share it with an audience. And we hope the audience will further that conversation even more, by sharing their experience with others. The paintings we used are classics, known by most people - but the stories that have come out of them range from the Tennessee hills to an Army base in Iraq. From the beginning of the Universe to a focus group to an empty fountain on another world. The conversation is... vast.

What inspired you to create Articulating the Arts: Off the Wall?: Articulating the Arts is our signature benefit event. "Off the Wall" is the second of these events (AtA: A Thousand Words was the first one.) The original inspiration came from an Articulate Theatre Company member who was helping his daughter write a paper based off of a classical painting. Hearing him relate the conversation that occurred between the two of them, because of that work of art, sparked the idea that art is meant to be discussed, and re-discussed, and discussed again. Each new perspective tells us more about ourselves and those around us. It has always been the goal that ATC would do works that had depth, meaning and connection. This fit the bill in spades.

What kind of theater speaks to you? What or who inspires you as an artist?: I like "epically local" theatre - theatre that contains elements of the mundane and the mythical. Maybe it's a play set in a laundry mat that involves Greek gods, or set in a fairy kingdom but addresses bullying. I think the Irish writers are particularly good at this, but as I meet more and more of the playwrights in this city... well, let's just say we have an embarrassment of riches in NYC!

What’s your favorite showtune?: Oh dear - gonna expose my silly side here. I love "For Good" from Wicked. I've moved a lot in my life, so the lyric about a friend leaving "...a handprint on my heart" just gets me where I live.

If you could work with anyone you’ve yet to work with, who would it be?: I've accomplished part of this with this Articulating the Arts. I've always wanted to work with Daniel Talbott, and I'm directing a play of his for "Off the Wall!" I'm completely excited about that. I'm hoping someday to work with Gwydion Suilebhan.

Who would play you in a movie about yourself and what would it be called?: Huumm... How about "Ninja Theatre" with Catherine Keener.

What show have you recommended to your friends?: When BAM hosted The Bridge Project's Cherry Orchard I couldn't stop talking about it. Also, KneeHigh's Wild Bride if I can cheat and mention two.

What’s the most played song on your iTunes?: "When Water Comes To Life" by Cloud Cult. We did a steam punk Twelfth Night a couple of years ago, using their music, and that song has stuck with me ever since.

What’s your biggest guilty pleasure?: Late night hidden object games online - just.can't.stop!

What’s up next?: For the rest of our season, Articulate Theatre is producing an event called "Circling Back" which will be an homage to Circle Rep Theatre, and then - pending funding - we're doing Thornton Wilder's The Skin of Our Teeth because we love a challenge!

Spotlight On...Vodka Stinger

Name: Vodka Stinger

Hometown: Salem, Oregon...Crystal meth capitol of the country

Education: BFA Marymount Manhattan College Theater/Musical Theater Minor

Select Credits: My gosh I haven't done an actual show in 10 years!  The last one was Hair at a theater in New Jersey called the Academy Theater, which is ironic as the only way I have any hair is to wear a wig.  I've mostly been writing my own material.  Recently have had success in the night club scene with my three shows Lower Your Expectations, and Around the World in 80 Ways, and Vodka Stinger's Last Resort.

Why theater?: There is something so marvelous about live theater!  Though I have gravitated away from performing in theater pieces and have really found that I operate well in a night club format where though there is a script and a set list I can riff on anything that is happening.  If you spill a drink, I'll come clean it up without missing a beat.  I love to connect with an audience.  I guess that is the real answer.  Rehearsals are fun, selling tickets and press are nightmares to me, but once I am in front of a crowd I am in absolute heaven.  Its my drug.  I love to make people laugh, I love to let go and play with the crowd.  I still love going to see a live show.  Theater is the medium I love the most.  I want to smell the actors.  I saw a show last week and I knew the performer had a cup of coffee before they went onstage.  How thrilling!  I remember seeing Venus and Fur and when Nina Arianda made her entrance I could smell her perfume.  Its so visceral.  To see Meryl Streep in Mother Courage and end up with mud on my face.  Meryl's mud!  We are breathing the same air.

Tell us about How to Lose Friends and Intoxicate People: How to describe what the show is like??  My makeup artist Brian Strumwasser said to me before our last show, "am I going to know any of these songs?" I answered "No."  Our tag line is Vodka Stinger and The Martha Rayes: We Sing the Songs You've Never Heard Of.  You'll hear some Kay Thompson, some American Songbook, a Monty Python tune, Big Band, Tom Waitts, an old children's song from China, some showtunes you probably don't know, our famous Offensive Indian Medley.  It's a mixed bag of weirdies that add up to a really entertaining night.   It's a nightclub act, bawdy, funny, touching, a mashup of two of my shows from last year.  A kind of best of Vodka Stinger and the Martha Rayes.  That said I couldn't do all old material, it kills me to pay for a cabaret show, or club act and find out the performer is singing the same set list they sang the last time you saw them,  So there will be new songs in this show, and ALL new material in between.

What kind of theater speaks to you? What or who inspires you as an artist?: I love absurdist theater.  I thought The Maids was a real kick!  It hardly mattered that I couldn't understand half the play.  Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf speaks to me!  I love classic musicals!  I can't wait to see On the Town, On the Twentieth Century, Into the Woods and A Delicate Balance this season!  I find inspiration in performers like Elaine Stritch.  I always called her my spirit animal.  Balls to the wall performing.  She was incapable of not giving it her all.  I love that about her.  I certainly identify with her fears as well as her strengths.  The just don't make em like her anymore.  Kay Thompson is someone I have also found a great deal of inspiration in as well.  Maybe I have a thing for older women that live in hotels?  Marilyn Maye is another performer I just adore!  She is so warm onstage I'll see her do anything.

Any roles you’re dying to play?: What dream role?  George in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf. For years I thought I was a Martha type, but in reality I'd be a better George.  Fagan in Oliver would be a blast, anyone in Forum,  ANYONE IN URINETOWN!  Title of Show I love very much as well.

What’s your favorite showtune?: My favorite showtune!  JUST ONE????  I could never pick just one.  I've been listening to "Subways Are For Sleeping" the last week or so so right now I am obsessed with that score.  I love anything by Kander and Ebb, Cy Coleman, Comden and Green, Rogers and Hart.  My boyfriend says it's "All That Jazz".  He is probably right.

If you could work with anyone you’ve yet to work with, who would it be?: If I could work with anyone in theater right now???  Hunter Bell and Jeff Bowen are theater Gods to me.  They are living the dream.  When I see their shows I feel like they are in my head.  We have the same references.

Who would play you in a movie about yourself and what would it be called?: If anyone was going to play me (as a boy) I hope it would have been Gene Hackman circa 1975 or Walter Matthau.  As a broad Bette Midler when she was a red head and still had a sense of humor.

What show have you recommended to your friends?: A show I recommend????  I still tell people to go see Urinetown.

What’ your biggest guilty pleasure?: My biggest Guilty pleasure?? Chips and Salsa!

What’s the most played song on your iTunes?: How do I see what my most played song on my ipod is??  I can't figure this contraption out.  Oh it's actually “When The Foeman Bares His Steel” from the OBC of Pirates of Penzance.  Not surprised to find that out at all.  Second is “Die Vampire Die” from Title of Show, third is “Veronique” from On The Twentieth Century.

What's up next?: Next up we start working on our Christmas show (dates tba) for 54 Below!  It's like The Radio City Spectacular only bigger!

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Spotlight On...Gail M. Phaneuf

Name: Gail M. Phaneuf

Hometown: Chelmsford, Massachusetts

Education: MA in Theatre Education from Emerson College, and MS in Electrical Engineering from UMass Dartmouth

Favorite Credits: Stevie in The Goat or Who is Sylvia, Woman in Laughing Wild (with Durang in the audience), Directing Baby With the Bathwater by Christopher Durang, Writing The Love Note and MONSTERS! A Midlife Musical Meltdown.

Why theater?: Because I tried to leave and be an engineer – and that did not work out.  My calling has always been the stage.  I feel it is the last bastion of real social community. (no cell phones allowed)  A place where you must listen and respond and you can build families with complete strangers.

Tell us about The Love Note: The Love Note Musical began as a short play in a playwriting for youth class at Emerson College.  A friend told me about how her mother used to write a little note in her lunch every day and I thought that was so amazing.  My mother wanted us to make our own lunches – probably because I was extremely picky.  But I thought that was kind of amazing that someone took the time to write a note to their daughter every day and put it in their lunch.  I wrote the short play and I thought at the time – “this would make such a fun musical”.  I was writing another musical at the time MONSTERS! A Midlife Musical Meltdown with my collaborator Ernie Lijoi.  I eventually came back to  The Love Note and the music began to pour out.   It’s a true labor of love and I think that it means so much to me that the kids who see it and are in it really relate on so many levels.  So do the adults!

What inspired you to write The Love Note?: My friend Beth Healy who told me her mother Arlene used to write her notes in her lunch.  Such a small gesture – packed with love.

What kind of theater speaks to you? What or who inspires you as an artist?: I love so many different kinds of theatre.  I especially like absurd comedy and contemporary musical theatre.  I am very big on story and characters, so the “review” type of shows don’t speak to me as much.  I love to discover and uncover the story as it unfolds.  I want to be challenged and moved.  I am a great audience member because I am a audibly appreciative of the work being done.  I laugh and cry and applaud.

If you could work with anyone you’ve yet to work with, who would it be?: Of course Meryl Streep. And I absolutely love Cherry Jones.  I’ve been a huge fan of hers for many years – since she was at the ART.

What show have you recommended to your friends?: Vanya, Sonya, Masha and Spike!  I loved it so much.  I laughed so hard – Durang has a way of really hitting my funny bone!

Who would play you in a movie about yourself and what would it be called?: I think it might be Jodie Foster and it would be called “Impossible Blonde”  (and Blonde is definitely in italics! LOL)

What’s your biggest guilty pleasure?: Swimming and sitting alone at the beach.  Or Swimming with my dog.  Not any real reason to be a guilty pleasure – but I love the water and it’s not always easy to take alone time.

What’s the most played song on your iTunes?: "Summer at Highland Falls" by Billy Joel – but please don’t tell anyone!  It’s such a feel good song for me. (but shows my age!)

If you weren’t working in theater, you would be _____?:  I already have so many jobs – that’s a tough one.  I am a computer consultant, a college professor, a screenwriter, a playwright/composer and a Producer/director.  I love all of my jobs (even the ones that make no $$).   I thought about being a short order cook at one time – I think I’d really like doing that!! Maybe at a diner.

Review: Chekhov Family Game Night

Chekhov may not be everyone’s cup of tea. For some, he’s almost as rough as a stiff shot of cheap vodka: lingering longer than you’d like. So how do you bring audiences together to take in a Chekhov? Play a game and give them a shot of vodka! In Three Day Hangover’s latest drunken endeavor, the company takes the Chekhov classic Uncle Vanya and plays a bunch of games as a dysfunctional family, namely Cards Against Humanity. Drunkle Vanya is a little bit American (party games) and a little bit Russian (vodka) all tied together with the common thread that brings them together, family drama.
photo courtesy of Lloyd Mulvey
Adapted and directed by Lori Wolter Hudson, Vanya’s family woes are transported to modern times and given the contemporary spin. Like other Three Day Hangover hits, Drunkle Vanya’s audience participation comes in the form of Cards Against Humanity. Each audience member is given a sticker with a game card on it, turning them into physical playing cards. At various parts of the show, the characters will say the word blank, break into a Framily Meeting where the remaining five cast members must find the best human playing card in the audience for the actor to fill in their blank. The ingenious game is fun and oft times hilarious, especially when some of the company breaks at how awful or uproarious the cards are. As far as the source material is concerned, Uncle Vanya is present in theme and intent, swapping many lines out for modern references. Enthusiasts should know that this not your average Chekhov. But when you get hints of the original scattered throughout the dialogue, it makes the evening worthwhile. One of the only hiccups Drunkle Vanya presents is the reason for being performed in a bar. While the goal is to present theater in a drinking atmosphere, figuring out a way to incorporate the bar into the story would have been beneficial.
The young company of six took the Chekhov framily and brought high energy and hilarity to the usually heavy drama. Joel Rainwater as Vanya conveyed the drunk uncle effortlessly. His array of emotions from super inebriated to super anger were fun to watch. David Hudson as Astrov filled the “straight man” void of this production, ultimately having one of the funnier makeout moments with Amanda Sykes’ super seductive and lazy Yelena. Leah Walsh was lovely as the optimistically romantically hopeful Sonya. Stealing the show was Josh Sauerman as the kazoo-playing Waffles. He was a fan favorite with the amount of “awws” and “oohs” the audience uttered as he traveled across the stage with his puppy dog eyes.
Three Day Hangover did the unthinkable and made Chekhov bearable and cool. The incorporation of every adults favorite dirty game was a clever idea that kept the audience engaged and involved in the story.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Spotlight On...James Parks

Name: James Parks

Hometown: Frederick, MD

Education: MM from NYU Steinhardt; BM from Peabody Conservatory

Select Credits: Barry Bockman in Hello Muddah, Hello Fadduh!, Bobby in Company, Mr. Pinkerton in Pinkalicious.

Why theater?: You know that feeling when you're at the top of roller coaster's ascent about to take the plunge? Trepidation, exhilaration, and a complete lack of control? That's what places call is like every night before a performance. No other profession gets you that feeling on a regular basis. Except maybe roller coaster testing, but that never interested me.

Who do you play in Out the Window?: I play Husband. A really lovable dope who just has flawed logic and bad luck.

Tell us about Out the Window: Out the Window is first and foremost fun. You can hear Seymour Barab having fun writing both the libretto and score. Then you see this outrageous farce about jealousy and you've got to have fun watching it. And while I may look horrified/terrified/outraged, I'm having a lot of fun performing it.
   
What is it like being a part of Out The Window?: I had taken some time away from opera, so when I first took the part I was really nervous. Barab's music is not easy and the show moves at a good clip. But working with Lissa Moira's truly character driven direction and Jonathan Fox Power's fully realized direction of Barab's score, I couldn't have been in better hands. Once comfortable and living in Barab's world, it was really exciting to uncover hidden instructions in the score and play with all the musical toys he had left there.

What kind of theater speaks to you? What or who inspires you as an artist?: It all amazes me. Theater is a realm of possibility like no other. However, I like dark comedies the most. They make you think. They ask hard questions. And the best ones make you laugh right before the sucker punch. I'm inspired by new works. The bravery to expose their thoughts, fears, and feelings to strangers in today's world of immediate judgment should be celebrated and honored.

Any roles you’re dying to play?: Horton in Suessical the Musical. I'd also love to do any of The Reduced Shakespeare Company's shows. I'd also love to be in Reasons for Being Pretty by Neil LaBute.

What’s your favorite showtune?: I don't know that I have a favorite but recently I've been listening to “King of the World” from Songs for a New World, “Where's the Girl” from Scarlet Pimpernel, and “Origin of Love” from Hedwig and the Angry Inch.

If you could work with anyone you’ve yet to work with, who would it be?: Stephen Sondheim.

Who would play you in a movie about yourself and what would it be called?: "Jimmy P Presents" starring a young Billy Crystal.

What show have you recommended to your friends?: Matilda 

What’s the most played song on your iTunes?: "Only a River Away" by Julian Velard

What’s your biggest guilty pleasure?: Frozen Yogurt

What’s up next?: The Last Romance at Broward Stage Door Theater in South Florida.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Spotlight On...Bethany McCall

Name: Bethany Elise McCall

Hometown: Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. Beth from Bethlehem...I know, I know ;)

Education: I went to Northampton High School in Pennsylvania (our mascot was a concrete cinder block...) then I went on to college at University of the Arts in Philly where I got my BFA in musical theatre

Favorite Credits: Wendy Jo in Footlose at the Eagle Theatre, Mary Jane Wilkes in Big River which I got to do with Forrest McClendon (Tony Nominee- Scottsboro Boys) at UArts, Leilani in Legally Blonde at The Ritz and my favorite show to date was a production of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory I did when I was 10 or 11 (Jessie's Age), I played Violet Beauregard!

Why theater?: I was actually planning to go to school for genetics up until my junior year of High School when I realized that I don't think anyone would be able to handle me tap dancing under my desk and singing in a lab all day! Theater's been in my life for as long as I can remember. I was bit by the bug when I was teeny tiny. When I was 2 I begged my mom to put me in dance classes and once I was 3 and got my chance to dance on stage for the first time it's been hard to drag me away. I love telling stories. Being a performer gives me the chance to bring different people's lives and adventures to life and share stories with audiences, which is pretty magical.

Who do you play in The Love Note?: I'm playing Jessie! She's the new girl in town who's feeling out of place and a little unwelcome in school after moving from a farm in Vermont. She's a sweet girl with a lot of heart and imagination trying to navigate the very relatable challenges of fitting in and being herself in a new and unfamiliar place. She brings her imaginary best friend, Airy, along with her to this new town and finds solace and companionship in him while she works on finding a place in her new school.

Tell us about The Love Note: It's a great musical about Jessie, the new girl in town, trying to find her place in a new school that's full of different cliques and kooky kids. At first you see what's on the outside of these groups; the mean popular girls, the tough nasty bullies, the nerdy and weird bookworms, but by the end of the show you see that everyone is really the same deep down. All of the kids, not just Jessie, are struggling with something inside and really just want people to take a chance and talk to them and get to know them. We all want to be liked and The Love Note is a story about not having to change who you are or what you believe in to fit in or be accepted. Jessie uses Airy, her imaginary friend, and the notes her mom packs in her lunch to gain the confidence and courage she needs to stand up to Brittany, the mean girl, and prove to everyone that everybody wants the same thing at the end of the day; a little bit of love and acceptance.

What is it like being a part of The Love Note?: It's been a blast so far to be a part of The Love Note! We have such an incredibly hard working and talented cast that's in the smart and dedicated hands of a really passionate team. Russell, our director, has really worked on bringing out the truth and heart of the show that Gail has written with such spunk and fun. I love coming into rehearsal and hanging out with everybody. It's such a joy to share the stage with people who love what they do and are really focused on making this show the best it can be! It's also a lot of fun to be able to give 6th grade a try all over again. I wasn't new like Jessie at school, but I definitely found myself struggling often to figure out where I 'fit in' or who I was going to be. Now I get a chance to let kids, and myself, know that it's a-okay to not know exactly who you are or which group you fit into because ultimately all that matters is you follow your heart and stay true to yourself. I'm not going to lie, I go home with these insanely catchy songs in my head every day too. The Love Note is everywhere!

What kind of theatre speaks to you? What inspires you as an artist?: That's a tough question! My answer changes so frequently and with every piece of theatre I see or am a part of I find new things that speak to me and new inspirations to perform and create. I guess overall I'm still really figuring out what makes me tick as an artist. I'm at a really exciting point in my career right now. I graduated from school a little over a year ago and this is my first NYC production. I'm getting the chance to audition for any and every kind of show there is and I love that. I'm young and new to the NY scene so I'm really putting myself out there for anything and everything. I love the classic sort of campy musical theatre because it speaks to the little girl in me who loved big shiny tap numbers and upbeat silly songs. I love shakespeare because it challenges me and really celebrates the poetry of language and what we can express simply with words. I love cabaret style performing because it asks you to put yourself on a stage and sing about your experiences while not hiding behind a character. Ultimately I just love telling stories and I'm getting a chance to explore all the different ways you can do that in the theatre. I love it and I couldn't ask for a better time or place to be doing it!

Any roles you're dying to play?: They're two very different roles but at this point in my life I HAVE to play Penny in Hairspray and Natalie in Next to Normal before I start to not look like a teenager anymore. Both roles are funny, though in extremely opposite ways, and have a lot of heart deep down; my favorite sort of roles!

What's your favorite showtune?: Oh boy, this changes by the week, day, hour, minute most of the time. I'd say my longest standing favorites would be the song with all the colors from Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat (the first musical I ever saw) but currently I can't stop listening to "Calm" from Ordinary Days...it describes my life and the way I feel at the moment!

If you could work with anyone you've yet to work with who would it be?: Hmm. I guess it depends on the reason. I'll start with Neil Patrick Harris because I just recently saw him in Hedwig and it just reinforced my opinion of how insanely talented he is. I also have a feeling he'd be hilarious to work with in a rehearsal/performance setting. He's great at what he does. For silly boy-crazy girl reasons I'd have to say Aaron Tveit because...i mean...duh!

Who would play you in a movie about your life and what would it be called?: Am I allowed to play myself in a movie about my life...I want to do movies! haha ;) but actually I think I would want Kristen Wiig to play me...older me anyway haha she's absolutely hilarious and such a smart performer. I would die to see her act out some of the more embarrassing and awkward moments of my life. Also I think the movie would be called "Did That Actually Just Happen?" because I constantly find myself asking that question.

What show have you recommended to your friends?: The Love Note, obviously! ;) Also I just saw Bootycandy at Playwrights Horizon which was amazing and saw Sam and Katie in Bayside which was too hilarious not to mention.

What's your most played song on iTunes?: "Holding Out for a Hero" or "Somebody's Eyes" from Footloose. I spent a ton of time listening to the songs over and over again so I could practice my harmonies when I was in the show this past winter.

What's your biggest guilty pleasure?: FOOD. junk food. all food. I'm constantly eating. James Michael, who's playing Airy, is constantly amazed with the ridiculous amounts of food I walk into rehearsal with everyday. No shame, I love to eat.

What's up next?: I'm looking for an apartment in New York now to move into once my sublet is up in October so I'll officially be a New York gal after living in Philly for 5 years which is a big exciting change! Once I get settled and the show opens it'll be back to the grind of auditions, auditions, auditions which will hopefully lead to more exciting opportunities like this one. The future is one big question mark and I'm really excited about it!

Spotlight On...Brian Charles Rooney

Name: Brian Charles Rooney

Hometown: Ramsey, NJ

Education: Duke University; American Conservatory Theater

Favorite Credits: The Threepenny Opera (Lucy Brown, Broadway); Pop! Who Shot Andy Warhol? (Candy Darling, Yale Repertory Theater); Bayonets of Angst (General George B. McClellan/Mary Todd Lincoln, NYMF 2014)

Why theater?:  Being a singing actor is the only profession I can imagine doing while being truly, completely fulfilled...  Theater offers a new adventure with every project, and a new set of challenges. That is exciting and beautiful!  Theater offers artists the opportunity to connect with, and entertain, people they might not otherwise meet.  I am fortunate to be a storyteller. I am fortunate to be able collaborate with other artists so that people can find joy, or come to think about life in a new way, or simply laugh!   There's nothing like a profession in the theatrical arts.

Tell us about Bedbugs: This musical is very special.  It is not only a riotous pop-rock good time, but also a moving story about those who choose to overcome great insecurity, and self-doubt, in order to find happiness.  I've been with the show since it was first written, and I've come to love Paul Leschen & Fred Sauter (the show's writers).  They are great men, with exceptional talents.  I was amazed during the workshop production two years ago. Some of the most jaded New Yorkers I've known saw the show, and leapt to their feet during the curtain call.  They were smiling and happy.  The show has heart. It has great humor. The characters exist in a heightened reality, but we've created some grounded, honest people within that reality.  I think audiences will love the show and its characters!!

What kind of theater speaks to you?  What or who inspires you as an artist?: Innovative, honest theater speaks to me.  Whether a show is a multi-million dollar Broadway production, or not, if it is created without vulnerability and passion, without respect for its audience, it won't come to life and move its audience.  I have an affinity for Theater of the Ridiculous (Charles Ludlam), as well as Epic Theater (Brecht). The people I've come to know well, and love, and trust in my work are the people that inspire me... Working with the same people on numerous projects is a rare luxury, but I believe that if you are able to help build a familial community within the theater in New York City, you will reap innumerable benefits.  Risk takers also inspire me.  Nothing ventured... Nothing gained.

If you could work with anyone you’ve yet to work with, who would it be?: Tim Burton.

What show have you recommended to your friends?: Bedbugs!!! & Once (exceptional show)

What’s your biggest guilty pleasure?: Toy collecting... Don't laugh!  I collect vintage and modern toys - mostly comic book and cartoon hero properties

What’s the most played song on your iTunes?:  That changes depending upon the season, or upon the circumstances of my life... But longstanding favorite: Vogue (Madonna) - mostly the different live versions


If you weren’t working in theater, you would be _____?:  a Doctor (I was Pre-Med at Duke)

What’s up next?: The run of Bedbugs!!! until November, and then a few other things.  I've been seen regularly in concerts at 54 Below, and will be doing many of their Andrew Lloyd Webber nights through the end of the year, schedule permitting!!

Review: A Voyeuristic Tea Time with Ibsen

Henrik Ibsen’s canon of work spans a wide variety of themes and ideas. One of his most prevalent themes focuses on social and political change. Considered to be a masterpiece by some, Rosmersholm follows the story of widower John Rosmer as he supports the communities new ideas and his friend and occupant Rebecca West, who sets out to undermine his intentions.
Adapted by Katherine C. McDonald, Ibsen’s story is in full bloom with a fresh voice. McDonald’s version keeps Ibsen’s story within the 19th and 20th century but brings modernity to the front. With that being said, the ensemble lived in different stylistic worlds. McDonald’s script verged between modern and heightened language allowing for some actors to take on the various styles. Despite the inconsistencies, the ensemble for the most part worked well off one another. Leading the pack was Philip de la Cal as John Rosmer. de la Cal balanced his beliefs and love for Rebecca quite well. His performance was strong and versatile. McDonald, who portrayed Rebecca as well as drafting the new version, lacked chemistry with de la Cal’s Rosmer, partially due to their varying approaches. Her performance had an aura of entitlement and was a bit out of place at times. The standout star of the production was the rarely seen but brightly shinning Jessica Mosher as Ms. Helseth, the maid. Mosher made great use of her role bringing quirkiness to the help. Additionally, Tristan Schaffer-Goldman brought some edge to the drama-starting Mortensgaard.
Director Jennifer Sandella had a unique challenge of bringing the production to life in a site-specific environment. The Old Stone House evoked a wonderful classic feel, placing the audience into the sitting room of Rosmerholm. Sandella staged the piece in a way that allowed for the majority of the audience to have a great seat. Of course the restrictions of the space prevented this at times, especially during Act II for those seated on the sides. As previously mentioned, the various styles the actors brought to the piece were not meshed as well as Sandella could have done. The scenes featuring de la Cal’s Rosmer, McDonald’s Rebecca, and Mike Gregorski’s Dr. Kroll, de la Cal and Gregorski played up the heightened world while McDonald felt misplaced with the more contemporary approach. Had Sandella bridged the gap, the scenes may have been more cohesive. The costumes by Anna Grace Carter were simple and appropriate to the time. Olivia McGiff as the set and prop designer did a fine job with the exception of the flowers. The flower color pallet lived in a completely different world than the rest of the set and costumes. They were so jarring, they drew attention.
Rosmersholm may be one of Ibsen’s lesser produced works yet is still one of his stronger stories. Random Access Theatre’s production at the Old Stone House was sublime and was a great fit for the location. The play is certainly a thought-provoking piece for the time.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Spotlight On...Nicholas Park

Name: Nicholas Park

Hometown: I grew up in Selinsgrove, PA but am now a proud resident of ACToria!

Education: BFA in Theatre, concentration in Musical Theatre, from the University of the Arts in Philadelphia!

Favorite Credits: Oh my! I don't choose favorites! Like a mother with multiple children, I love them all the same! But if I must choose some highlights...here we go! Dennis in All Shook Up! So fun! Motel in Fiddler on the Roof. Zanna in Zanna, Don't. I got to wear a pink tutu. Nothing beats a tutu. Oh! And Dear Edwina!!! That was my Off-Broadway debut! A great show and I made some of the best friends I have doing that little skit! I'll always love that one! My whole list of credits and such are on my website if you want to check it out! http://www.nicholasparkactor.com

Why theater?: I think it all stems from my middle child need for attention and applause. Wasn't there a Glee quote like that? "I'm like Tinker Bell! I need applause to live!" Lol. Seriously though. I grew up trying to be an amazing athlete to impress my dad. He loved his baseball and I thought that my "loving" baseball would win some points with him. It wasn't until I sang my first solo at an 8th grade chorus concert that I realized performing could be my thing. I ended my song and looked out to see my dad on his feet with tears in his eyes. THAT was my home run. After that, I got started doing the plays and musicals in high school and fell in love with it. Once you catch that bug...there is no turning back. HA! Bug! See what I did there! (Cue segue)

Who do you play in Bedbugs?: BURT!!! He is the goofy and lovable sidekick to Carly, The Bug Lady.

Tell us about Bedbugs!: Very simply, this show is Rocky Horror meets Little Shop of Horrors. It is a highly entertaining, sci-fi romp filled with humor and heart! Throw in the love element of boy meets girl, boy likes girl, mutant bug eats boy and girl...and you have one sick show on your hands. It is AMAZEBALLZ! The actors in this show are CRAZY and the music is STUPID! I took part in a showcase of Bedbugs!!! two years ago and, since then, I often find myself humming the tunes. For YEARS now! That is a good thing! When a show can stick with you like that!!!? Don't be silly...see it!!!  

What kind of theater speaks to you? What or who inspires you as an artist?: I have never been the kind of person that is attracted to a specific KIND of theatre. I am always willing to give pretty much anything a chance. It is the performers that I find inspiring. When an actor can light up the stage and really live in each moment, I love that! I love seeing a performance filled with heart, joy, and passion. You can always tell if an actor is really invested in what they are doing on stage. Someone who is rocking it? Body, mind, and soul!? That's my jam!!!

If you could work with anyone you’ve yet to work with, who would it be?: If I could be Ensemble Male #38 in a show with Sutton Foster, I would be a very happy boy. I cannot tell you the hours I have spent YouTubing videos of her performances. THAT is an inspiring actress! She always seems to be LOVING it!!! To be Ensemble Male #38 and watch her perform live night after night. PINCH ME!!!!

What show have you recommended to your friends?: Well...as of late I have been telling everyone to go see that Bedbugs!!! show! Outside of that, I have been the one taking suggestions. I have been out of town a lot this year and haven't had the chance to see half the shows I want to! So feel free to let me know how other people answer this question so I can get my list going!

What’s your biggest guilty pleasure?: YouTubing Sutton Foster. Lol! Really though...binge watching Netflix and ordering in Thai food. I will watch entire seasons of shows if I have a free night. It can't be healthy! Currently..."Buffy the Vampire Slayer". Really though. Like...right now.

What’s the most played song on your iTunes?: This one I had to look up! Technically my karaoke track for "Somebody to Love" by Queen is my most played song. I used to host a karaoke night at XES Lounge. I had to practice!

If you weren’t working in theater, you would be _____?: A question I ask myself every day! I honestly have no clue! I would still be doing SOMETHING artistic! I have a need to express myself, ya know!? I enjoy making my own pottery, so maybe I would move to the mountains and sell pottery at all the local craft fairs! I could live in a hut and make mugs all day! Or maybe a party planner of sorts! Hosting friends for fancy dinners is one of my favorite things to do! I like all the creativity that goes into party planning and the attention you have to have to the details. It can make or break an evening!  

What’s up next?: Next!? Bedbugs!!! hasn't even opened yet! Are you trying to give me a panic attack!? Seriously though, nothing yet. As actors, we are always forced to be so concerned with booking our next gig that we let our current one pass us by without being fully present in it. I am still out there auditioning but I am more concerned with enjoying the Bedbugs!!! ride and make it the best experience it can be.

Review: Future Musical Flops

Audiences love when movies are turned into musicals. But us theater folk, well, we, as a whole, tend to despise it. Through the movie musical trend, we’ve seen some blockbusters shine (The Producers, Hairspray, among others) while others flop (Carrie, High Fidelity, among many others). In the epic concert experience, "Broadway’s Epic Fail", the future of flops are predicted by giving some of cinema’s favorites the musical treatment.
Conceived and directed by Marc Eardley, "Broadway’s Epic Fail" is an evening of songs by an assortment of musical theater writers and teams inspired by sixteen movies. With a wide spectrum of movies to chose from, this session of "Broadway’s Epic Fail" had a spattering of flicks from cult classics like “The Breakfast Club” and “Snakes on a Plan” to well revered titles like “The Social Network” and “The King’s Speech.” Where Broadway’s Epic Fail succeeded was with the titles that should never ever been given the full musical treatment. The numbers from the shows that could actually have a chance as a musical fell a little short of the evening’s mission. The only exception to this rule may be the standout song “Changing Lives” inspired by “The Parent Trap” written by Rebekah M. Allen. Other great numbers included “Enough is Enough” by Britt Bonney inspired by “Snakes on a Plane” performed expertly by Eric R. Williams, “Extraplanetary” by Rob Rokicki, inspired by “Alien V. Predator” and “My One Special Thing” inspired by “Boogie Nights” and written by Debra Barsha and Tim Sulka. The evening featured an ensemble of performers, lead by Williams, Vanessa Dunleavy, and Anthony Festa, and an emcee Jen Eden who was a bit frazzled throughout the night.
Broadway’s Epic Fail has a bright future as a fun event but moving forward, it may benefit from themed evenings, like “Oscar Winners” or “Tom Cruise Movies” or “80s Night” to keep things fresh.

Spotlight On...Sam Harvey

Name: Sam Harvey

Hometown: Scottsbluff, Nebraska

Education: Proud graduate of AMDA NY

Select Credits: National Lampoon's Bayside! The Musical! (Zack Morris); Sound Of Music (Rolf)

Why theater?: Theatre is what makes me happy, and why not choose a a career that makes you smile and challenges you to grow every day.

Who do you play in The Love Note?: Peter

Tell us about The Love Note: The Love Note is an amazing story about learning how to be comfortable in your own skin, and not just following what is thought to be "cool." Kids have it rough growing up these days, but this show proves that a simple note from a loved one can help get you through tough times.

What is it like being a part of The Love Note?: It has been an amazing experience thus far. It is a very positive, playful, and collaborative work environment, which is incredible when you are brining something like this to life.

What kind of theater speaks to you? What or who inspires you as an artist?: I love theatre that is artistic, but still has the razzle dazzle that appeals to someone with an untrained eye. Brilliant performers inspire me as an artist. Performers like Jason Mraz, Katie Mebane, and Michael C Hall. Performers who are true craftsmen.

Any roles you’re dying to play?: The next one

What’s your favorite showtune?: “Santa Fe” from Newsies 

If you could work with anyone you’ve yet to work with, who would it be?: Lindsay Mendez. She is one of my favorite Broadway performers.

Who would play you in a movie about yourself and what would it be called?: Jude Law in "Sam... I Am"

What show have you recommended to your friends?: Gentleman's Guide it's a refreshing original piece of Broadway theatre and Bryce Pinkham and Jefferson Mays are amazing in it.

What’s the most played song on your iTunes?: "I Won't Give Up" by Jason Mraz.

What’s your biggest guilty pleasure?: Sweets. I'm a sucker for candy and baked goods.

What’s up next?: Well I'm happily busy with Bayside! The Musical! and The Love Note. I will continue auditioning, and I would like to break into the film and tv world also.

Review: I Knew You Were Trouble

Love begins in an assortment ways nowadays. Meet at a bar or meet online or in the new romantic drama Flamingo, meet via a sex study. Flamingo by Alex Trow follows the story of Caroline, a PhD student and her subject turned love interest Andrew as they embark on an emotionally dangerous relationship.
In Flamingo, after an unconventional interview regarding a subject’s relationship to porn, a student and her subject begin a tumultuous relationship as the roles are reversed and love breaks through. As Caroline and Andrew’s relationship builds, we see just how different the two are and the true value of love for the individuals. When Andrew leaves Caroline behind for opportunity, we see just how much the other meant. Despite the typical romantic plotline, Trow’s script is fresh, quick, and intentionally smart. Her characters are incredibly smart, allowing for intellectual exchanges and great debates. For the majority of the play, we see Caroline as lovelorn. When Andrew departs, Caroline stops at nothing to stay in contact. But by the end, Trow decides to turn the standard reunion on its head allowing Caroline to think with her mind and not her heart. One of the more questionable choices Trow makes is the title of the play. For the majority of the play, there is a long wait for when exactly the flamingo metaphor will appear. When it finally appears, while it’s meaning is important to Caroline, it comes so late you wonder if it could have been sprinkled in somewhere sooner.
photo courtesy of Charlie Winter
For the most part, Flamingo follows the story of Caroline and Andrew, with Finn serving as the device. Playwright Alex Trow takes on the central role of Caroline, though Trow is much stronger as the playwright than actor in this piece. Trow portrayed Caroline as monotonous, pathetic and weakly lost. The highly intellectual woman can hold her own in anything except love. When her turn comes in the end, it’s almost too late to care. Trow was outdone by her costars Dylan Lamb and Ian Antal. Dylan Lamb as smooth talking Andrew provided the right amount of infectious seduction. He was so appealing yet appalling there's no wonder why Caroline would spend years pining. Lamb commanded the loveable douchebag with ease. Ian Antal’s Finn was adorkable. His character’s lack of chemistry with Caroline and opposite spectrum of unrequited love was engaging.
Jillian Robertson’s smooth and complete direction was sensational, serving the production to its benefit. Robertson dove head first into Trow’s world, discovering how to make the script unique. The highly functional set by Justin and Christopher Swader served its purpose well. The inclusion of the Venetian blinds allowed for some stunning lighting moments from Charlie Winter. However Winter had some trouble lighting the actors providing many a shadow and lack of light. Emily Auciello's sound design evoked the proper spirit during transitions.
Flamingo is not your average love story. Overall, Flamingo is a strong production. Trow’s voice as a writer is quite captivating, greatly aided by Robertson’s solid direction.

Spotlight On...Lillian Meredith

Name: Lillian Meredith

Hometown: NYC (UWS)

Education: Vassar College; National Theater Institute

Select Credits: Soho Rep Writer/Director Lab; Lincoln Center Director's Lab; Actors Theatre of Louisville Directing Internship; FURY Factory Festival of Ensemble Theater (SF); Eugene O'Neill Theater Center's National Playwright's Conference.

Why theater?: I mean, I have a lot of reasons that have to do with the fundamental importance of live storytelling, and my belief that theater can and does unite communities and spark connection, which are vital to why I make theater. But the more pedestrian reason is that I just keep coming back. There was a period of time, right after college, when I thought maybe I was going to take a break from theater. I had trained as an actor, but I knew it wasn't what I wanted to do professionally, so I was feeling a little lost and I figured maybe my calling was as an arts administrator. And I took a break. Except I didn't. I directed a show and performed in two others during my self-imposed exile. The fact is, it's really easy to not make theater - most people don't make theater all the time. The fact is, I'm just a happier, better person when I'm in rehearsals, when I'm prepping for a project, when I get to make and create. So, I quit my arts admin job and kept plugging away.

Tell us about the Communal Spaces: Communal Spaces is a festival of plays that are directly inspired by the community gardens in which they are performed. Every year, I assign playwrights to community gardens in a specific neighborhood and ask them to use their garden as the starting point for a 30-minute play. The plays are then staged in their gardens and the audience is encouraged to travel from play to play, sort of like a pub crawl. We hand out maps with places in the neighborhood to get coffee and food. The goal is to experience not just a narrative, but an entire part of the city through the lens of a theatrical event.

What inspired you to create the Communal Spaces: a garden play festival?: I have always been particularly interested in creating site-specific and site-responsive plays that break down the barrier between audience and performer. I started Communal Spaces specifically because I wanted to create theater as public art - theater that could change the relationship of the audience to their city and their community in the same way that graffiti on a building or music on the subway platform can enhance a passerby's relationship to their environment, even if only momentarily. We imbue quotidian spaces with our feelings, our memories and histories; by using these places as inspiration - instead of simply as backdrop - then maybe we as creators can make theater that feels like it belongs to everyone present, and even to the city as a whole. So far, it's seemed to work. Both the artists and the audiences seem to have a lot of fun, and it engages with the people who already come to the garden because the festival is all about asking to be allowed into their space, instead of letting them enter ours. Each artist interprets the limitations of the garden's architecture and history differently, which is really cool. It's been one of the most creatively fulfilling things I've ever done.

What kind of theater speaks to you? What or who inspires you as an artist?: I love theatrical events - plays that really feel like a unique moment in time, that rely on the people in the space to make the show. I want to go to plays that really use the medium, that make me glad I left home, that don't make me feel like I could just as easily be watching TV from the comfort of my couch. I also love theater that feels like it was created collaboratively, theater that has the input and viewpoints of more than just the playwright - I think the kind of wild narrative that can come from ensemble-generated work is thrilling and surprising. I'm inspired by people who make that kind of work.

What’s your favorite showtune?: It depends on my mood. Right now "God I Hope I Get It" from A Chorus Line feels pretty apt.

If you could work with anyone you’ve yet to work with, who would it be?: I'd love to assist Lear Debessonet. I think she's amazing.

Who would play you in a movie about yourself and what would it be called?: Claire Danes. "I See What You're Saying, But No".

What show have you recommended to your friends?: Pierre Natasha and the Great Comet of 1812

What’s the most played song on your iTunes?: "Spaceman" by The Killers

What’s your biggest guilty pleasure?: Chocolate and a glass of red wine, but I don't really feel that guilty about it.

What’s up next?: I'm actually about to head to Maine to perform in a traveling production of Macbeth. Random, I know, but I'm pretty psyched.

Friday, September 5, 2014

The Dreaded Q&A with...Tony Curtis

Name:  Tony Curtis

Hometown:  Saugerties, NY

Education:  B.A. in Theatre Arts at SUNY New Paltz

Who do you play in Pageant Tales and Beauty Fails?:  I play the director.

Describe your character in three words:  Over-seeing collaborative comedian?

Tell us about Pageant Tales and Beauty Fails:  It’s "Miss Congeniality" meets "Best in Show". In so many words.

Describe Pageant Tales and Beauty Fails in three words:  Zany mockumentary comedy.

What beauty pageant would you win?:  Mr. Human-Cartoon

What pageant portion are you most likely to dominate?:  Talent… duh.

Which company member is most likely to lie, cheat, or steal their way to glory?:  I’m going to say Matthew solely because he and I steal references from "Family Guy" constantly.

Most likely to commit a beauty fail?:  Michael. And maybe me too.

Most likely to be involved in a scandal?:  Jay and Samantha – fitting, I know.

Most likely to win Miss Congeniality?:  Victoria. Not even cutting her own finger off would stop her from being humble and dedicated.

Most likely to be a future stage parent?:  Alexis.

Most likely to host a beauty pageant?:  Jay, in fact, I’m almost certain he has. (See his answer for further details)

Most likely to have a showmance:  Ha. I won’t rule out anyone that’s single…

Who's the most offensive?:  Me, but I try to spread it around equally.

Most ruthless?:  This is a tough question that always seems to carry a negative connotation and I want to preface this answer by saying that this is meant complimentary, that I think Kate and Ian have been ruthlessly professional since day one.

Best pageant cry?:  Julia. I asked her if she could cry in rehearsal once, and without time or effort – bam.

Sash, bouquet, or tiara?:  ….uhhh, na.

What is your favorite moment of Pageant Tales and Beauty Fails?:  When Brian spanks himself.

What is the most rewarding part about being a member of Pageant Tales and Beauty Fails?:  That’s easy. Working with a group of the most talented committed and professional actors that any director could ask for.

Why should we come see Pageant Tales and Beauty Fails?:  You should see Pageant Tales and Beauty Fails because this is one of those rare groups of actors and designers that, when put together, make miracles happen.

Spotlight On...Lori Prince

Name: Lori Prince

Hometown: Waldwick, NJ

Education: BFA in Drama from Syracuse University

Select Credits: I am particularly proud of Lyric is Waiting by Michael Puzzo which my company produced - it then extended onto an Off-Broadway contract.  We were even able to give someone their equity card.  Also, I loved my time on "Are We There Yet?” I did two episodes.  The first one was a day player, then they called me to play a different character in the same season as a guest star.

Why theater?: I love rehearsal – those first weeks where any choice is possible. I love creating in an ensemble environment.  Then you enter tech and everything becomes enhanced by even more innovative people.  The lights are the design element I feel changes me the most.  Something about stepping onto a lighted stage feels otherworldly-it feels like it gives you permission to step into character.  It feels safe.

Tell us about It’s Only Kickball, Stupid: It’s Only Kickball, Stupid explores that time in your life when you have no idea why you do or say the things you do but you recognize that you are doing and saying them!  All four of us play our twelve-year-old selves and our thirty five-year-old selves and I am having a blast.  I could not ask for better playmates:  Autumn, Eric and Debargo are all amazing.

What kind of theater speaks to you? What or who inspires you as an artist?: What I am drawn to is honest, messy actors.

What’s your favorite showtune?: Anything that Barbra Streisand sang on “The Broadway Album” from 1985.  I was a strange child.

If you could work with anyone you’ve yet to work with, who would it be?: I would LOVE to be directed by Jodie Foster.  Her work has such heart, intelligence and wit about it.  Honestly I would love to just be in a room with her and talk about theater and film and love and life.

Who would play you in a movie about yourself and what would it be called?: Oh, god. Please don’t make a movie about me.

What show have you recommended to your friends?: Sleep No More. I found it completely fascinating to watch the audience choose to engage with the performers; when and where it happened or didn’t.  I remember being completely appalled by human nature at one point in the show and then just sitting with the actor that had died.  Eventually she had to get up.  She probably thought I was crazy.

What’s your biggest guilty pleasure?: Ben and Jerry’s Peanut Butter Cup Ice Cream.  I mean, that pint is one serving, right?


What’s the most played song on your iPod?:  I don’t really listen to music.  My old iPod probably has way too much Kelly Clarkson on it.

What’s up next?: I will be working on a new play by Dominic Finocchiaro for the Lark’s Playwrights’ Week called The Lucky Ladies directed by Margarett Perry. Then I should probably finish the short film I have been writing for the past two years.

For more on It's Only Kickball, Stupid, visit http://www.kefproductions.com/

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

The Dreaded Q&A with...Ian Way

Name: Ian Way

Hometown: Santa Fe, NM

Education: Webster Conservatory

Who do you play in Pageant Tales and Beauty Fails?: Duffy (or the Duff-man, they're interchangeable)

Describe your character in three words: Nar-Nar Waves

Tell us about Pageant Tales and Beauty Fails:  A lighted hearted romp through the misgivings and ineptitudes of a fictional beauty pageant where little goes as planned.

Describe Pageant Tales and Beauty Fails in three words: Depicted; Enormous; Vicariously

What beauty pageant would you win?:  Little Miss Star Wars

What pageant portion are you most likely to dominate?: Talents, I got lots of 'em

Which company member is most likely to lie, cheat, or steal their way to glory?: Michael

Most likely to commit a beauty fail?:  Definitely, me.

Most likely to be involved in a scandal?:  Madeline

Most likely to win Miss Congeniality?:  Victoria

Most likely to be a future stage parent?:  Alexis

Most likely to host a beauty pageant?:  Tony

Most likely to have a showmance: Heather

Who's the most offensive?: Samantha

Most ruthless?:  Kate

Best pageant cry?: Matthew

Sash, bouquet, or tiara?: Bouquet; they're fragrant and beautiful.  While the sash and tiara will only be a reminder of the beauty you once possessed.

What is your favorite moment of Pageant Tales and Beauty Fails?: PRAISE MARONI!!

What is the most rewarding part about being a member of Pageant Tales and Beauty Fails?:  Working with such a wonderful company of actors.

Why should we come see Pageant Tales and Beauty Fails?:  You've burned through your Netflix queue.

For more on Pageant Tales and Beauty Fails, visit facebook.com/pageanttalesandbeautyfails. For tickets, visit Smart Tix.


Tuesday, September 2, 2014

The Dreaded Q&A with...Julia Warner

Name: Julia Warner

Hometown: Villanova, PA

Education: Point Park University

Who do you play in Pageant Tales and Beauty Fails?: Rhiannon Miss Utah… a goody goody?

Describe your character in three words: good, bad, passionate.

Tell us about Pageant Tales and Beauty Fails: Its a Zany new comedy about an off the wall pageant. Where girls will be girls and boys will be boys.  You wont know what to expect!

Describe Pageant Tales and Beauty Fails in three words: Quirky, Risky, and Fabulous

What beauty pageant would you win?: The “beautifully unorganized” pageant.. ?

What pageant portion are you most likely to dominate?: One where knitting is a well respected talent.

Which company member is most likely to lie, cheat, or steal their way to glory?: Heather

Most likely to commit a beauty fail?: I think all of us could easily do something wrong..

Most likely to be involved in a scandal?: I wana say.. Samantha. But a fabulous scandal.

Most likely to win Miss Congeniality?: Sophie. She so sweet

Most likely to be a future stage parent?: I think Brian would be a funny stage dad

Most likely to host a beauty pageant?: Def Jay. He’s got it down

Most likely to have a showmance?: Well nothing has happened yet! I’d say no one!

Who's the most offensive?: No one!

Most ruthless?: Well previous surveys say me… I say Michael

Best pageant cry?: Well… I’ve been practicing.

Sash, bouquet, or tiara?: Tiara. Sash and bouquet cover up the dress..

What is your favorite moment of Pageant Tales and Beauty Fails?: The Pageant!!

What is the most rewarding part about being a member of Pageant Tales and Beauty Fails?: The cast and crew is amazing. And it’s hysterical so rehearsals are a blast.

Why should we come see Pageant Tales and Beauty Fails?: All of the above.. and why not? Also Rhiannon has some secrets she would love to share with all of you…..

For more on Pageant Tales and Beauty Fails, visit facebook.com/pageanttalesandbeautyfails. For tickets, visit Smart Tix


Spotlight On...Bob Brader

Name: 
Bob Brader


Hometown: 
Catasauqua, PA

Education: 
NYU Tisch School of the Arts


Favorite Credits: Spitting In The Face Of The Devil – Writer/Performer Spitting is the first thing I ever wrote and I am very proud of it.
 CIRCLE, a play by Suzanne Bachner who also developed and directed Spitting.  The show is so much fun to do; I get to play 5 different characters!


Why theater?: 
Because it is alive and powerful for the moment it is happening and then it is gone.

Tell us about Spitting in the Face of the Devil:Spitting In The Face Of The Devil is the true story of discovering that my abusive, charismatic, ex-Marine father was a pedophile.  It is a powerful story, but it has a lot of humor.  


What inspired you to write Spitting in the Face of the Devil?:
 I was compelled to write the show because I never heard a story of abuse told the way I wanted to tell it, with the confusion and pain that goes along with growing up that way, but also with the joy of childhood.  I also wanted to talk about what happens after you get away from the abuser.  Most stories make you feel like after you leave the person that hurt you, you are fine, but that is when the real work begins.


What kind of theater speaks to you? What or who inspires you as an artist?: 
I love all different kinds of theater.  Great stories speak to me, told in a way that catches you off guard.  The late great Spalding Gray was a true hero of mine.  Spitting In The Face Of The Devil started out as a desk monologue, I wanted to be just like him.  Eric Bogosian is brilliant, and Anna Deavere Smith is quite frankly one of the best solo performers I have ever seen.

If you could work with anyone you’ve yet to work with, who would it be?: That is a very long list.  I love working with actors that excite me, that are not afraid to take risks, make bold choices.  If you are looking for a celebrity list, at the top would be Bernadette Peters, Ian McKellen, Neil Patrick Harris…this list could go on and on.

What show have you recommended to your friends?: 
We saw an amazing show in the New York International Fringe Festival this year called This Is Where We Live written by Vivienne Walshe and directed by Alec Fellows-Bennett.  It is a fantastic piece of theatre that I recommended to everyone. The two actors, Shaelee Rooke and Oliver de Rohan are from Australia and they were both just incredible to watch.  These two are absolutely on the list of actors I would love to work with.  

Who would play you in a movie about yourself and what would it be called?: I would love an unknown actor to play me, someone who comes from nowhere and knocks it out of the park.  The story of my life already has a title: it’s Spitting In The Face Of The Devil.

What’s your biggest guilty pleasure?:
 I’m not a sports fan in any way, but I love watching Ninja Warrior.  I find myself on the edge of my seat rooting for the underdogs to make it through the course.

What’s the most played song on your iTunes?: “A Little Revolution” by Firewater.

If you weren’t working in theater, you would be _____?: Lost.  Theatre is my home and it has been ever since I was a kid.  I don’t know what I would do without it.

What’s up next?: 
I am working on a new solo show about smoking.  I was a smoker for many years and loved it.  The show focuses on that love affair as well as how fear becomes belief and the importance of communication in a relationship.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Spotlight On...Ian Antal

Name: Ian Antal

Hometown: Berlin, Germany

Education: BFA from UNC School of the Arts

Select Credits: Associate Artist with New York Classical Theatre; Orlando in As You Like It; Treplev in The Seagull; Sir Andrew Aguecheek in Twelfth Night

Why theater?: It's the only place I get rewarded for breaking rules and social norms.

Who do you play in Flamingo?: I am playing the role of Finn, Caroline's goofy lab partner, best friend, confidant.

Tell us about Flamingo: The script is what hooked me. Reading is not an  activity that comes naturally or easily to me. It's work. All those  clichés about not being able to put a book down never really made much  sense to my rather visual and kinesthetic disposition. But then I read this beautifully constructed story about a smart, young woman wrestling with the dichotomy between what feels right in her heart, brain, and  gut, as an intense passion is sparked by someone who deeply challenges her beliefs. The dialogue was just so engaging on the page alone, and felt so immediate and accessible that, for once in my life, there wasn't a single fiber of my being that wanted to lay the script aside until the arc of the story had been completed. The writing is honest. The relationships are intriguing. And the development of the story is very smooth.

What is it like being a part of Flamingo?: For one, it is a treat and a  trap to be sharing the stage with the playwright. Alex is so tremendously gifted both on the page and in person that the tone of the play becomes very approachable in the rehearsal room. Yet there is always the lurking temptation to tweak the script here and there when something isn't quite sitting right with me, and one has to stay very judicious and honest with oneself: "Do I want that change because it's a real problem in the storytelling, or do I want it because I am a victim of my own laziness?" So far it's always been the latter for me. ;) It's quite a privilege to look at every face at rehearsals and realize that absolutely everyone is on top of their game. Jillian is terribly clever and insightful, and she approaches the process with a very compassionate directing style that creates the safe space for us to confidently explore difficult questions. The designers have each brought so much vision and personality to the show that a chain reaction of creativity becomes apparent. And what is most comforting of all is that there is no ego in the room. Dylan and Alex are such humble and energetic artists, and the entire production team is so very down to earth that there just isn't any room for the self-indulgent freakouts one sometimes observes in other creative circumstances.

What kind of theater speaks to you? What or who inspires you as an artist?: I am a total sucker for Shakespeare. Experiencing the electricity in the air when contemporary audiences connect with the emotional journey within such heightened text is a deeply humbling experience. The fact that one can read, work on, or attend the very same play numerous times and still find numerous surprises in the text upon each encounter speaks worlds about the magnitude of Master Will's body of work. Bill Murray is the most interesting man in the world.

Any roles you’re dying to play?: Luke Skywalker in the Shakespearean adaptation of Star Wars (oh believe me, it's real. Look it up!)

What’s your favorite showtune?: My fiancée is not a singer, but she brings each and every song from "Mulan" to life in a hilarious way that makes me pity the rest of the world for never getting to experience it.

If you could work with anyone you’ve yet to work with, who would it be?: Kenneth freakin' Branagh

Who would play you in a movie about yourself and what would it be called?: Curious George would play me in a movie called "The Fool on the Hill"

What show have you recommended to your friends?: If we're talking live shows: My lady's upcoming dance performance with mishiDance. If we're talking tv: I was destitute when I ran out of "House of Cards" episodes.

What’s the most played song on your iTunes?: "Booty Swing" by Parov Stelar. This gentleman's work introduced me to the delightful world of Electro Swing. Who knew??

What’s your biggest guilty pleasure?: Polishing off an entire pack of double-stuff Oreos in one sitting (with Cool Whip, of course)

What’s up next?: The Simpletons, a silent red-nose clown collective I founded over a year ago, has a bunch of ridiculously fun projects and collaborations in the pipe-line. We shoot short films around the streets of New York City to give a wondrous twist to ordinary, everyday occurrences. I'll also be starring in a production of A Christmas Carol at the World Financial Center with New York Classical Theatre in December as well. What I'm really most excited about right now is getting cracking on a project that involves visiting cancer patients in hospitals and reading Winnie the Pooh stories to them while they receive treatment.