Friday, April 29, 2016

Spotlight On...Benjamin Eakeley

photo by Matthew Murphy
Name: Benjamin Eakeley


Hometown: Short Hills, NJ


Education: B.A., cum laude, from Yale, where I double majored in Music and American Studies. The American Studies department let me give a lecture recital on Gershwin’s popular music as part of my senior thesis…so I guess they first taught me the value of singing for my supper!


Favorite Credits: 
I had the time of my life doing the recent Broadway revival of Cabaret with Alan Cumming and the most extraordinary group of actors. I understudied Clifford Bradshaw and performed the role opposite Michelle Williams, Emma Stone and Sienna Miller. This means I got to make out with all of them, too. That was pretty special. 

My Broadway debut was also thrilling: I was the standby for Anthony, Tobias and The Beadle in John Doyle’s revival of Sweeney Todd, so I had to learn the score on piano and clarinet, as well as vocals, text and blocking for each character. I made my debut as The Beadle, and Patti LuPone started hitting on me during the “Sweet Polly Plunkett” scene in the second act. And I thought: “Holy crap! I’m making my Broadway debut and Patti LuPone is feeling me up in front of 1000 people. Now FOCUS!!” 

But the show I’m most proud of is my solo cabaret, Broadway Swinger. It’s the first time I’ve had real autonomy creating a program, and it has been so rewarding working with my brilliant collaborators James Olmstead, JV Mercanti and Tim Murray. And the show is about sex in the 1960s, so the research has been really fun.  


Why theater?: Theatre is collaborative. Unlike film or television, it depends on a live audience for survival. The audience gives actors information that changes the nature of the show every night, and this is what makes theatre special—each performance is unique. Once the final curtain goes down, this group of people in the audience and people on stage will never be assembled in the same configuration.

In terms of intimacy, cabaret is collaborative theatre on steroids. The audience is directly in front of your face (or at your feet), and they literally become the pulse of the show. I thought it would be difficult speaking directly to audience members in Broadway Swinger but it turned out to be a non-issue. During the show’s debut I looked out and saw this sea of beautiful, smiling faces—how could I not use them?! Bye bye, fourth wall! Boom.



Tell us about Broadway Swinger:
 Broadway Swinger is a nightclub act that takes the audience on a romp through the swinging ‘60s. I sing with a four-player band of world-class jazz musicians (piano, bass, reeds, drums), and together we chronicle the unbuttoning of American society as revealed in stage musicals from the 1960s. And along the way, we sing from some of the most classic scores of all time—Oliver!, She Loves Me, Funny Girl, Cabaret, Hair, Promises, Promises, to name a few. The music is extraordinary. We sold out our debut in January, and I am so excited to do our encore performance—with great new songs!—at Feinstein’s/54 Below on May 9.


What inspired you to create Broadway Swinger?: 
I have a special connection with theatrical music of the 1960s. Three of my four Broadway credits to date are musicals from the ‘60s (She Loves Me, Cabaret and On A Clear Day, You Can See Forever) and I happen to think all questions in life can be answered by studying The Apple Tree. But the biggest influence on Broadway Swinger was my music director and orchestrator, James Olmstead. James and I met doing a production of White Christmas at the Engeman Theatre a few years back, and he plays with technical bravado and a rare and profound sense of rhythm. In White Christmas I found myself singing “Love and the Weather” and “Blue Skies” with an ease I had never experienced. Singing with James I feel anything is possible. He brings out the best in me.



What kind of theater speaks to you? What or who inspires you as an artist?:
 My parents took me to see a fair amount of cabaret growing up, and I was lucky to have seen a number of the greats in small rooms—Susannah McCorkle, Bobby Short, Michael Feinstein, Barbara Carroll, Andrea Marcovicci. And I have to include Elaine Stritch and Alan Cumming as cabaret performers who have inspired me in more recent years. To me, the most moving cabarets are the shows where I have walked away with a deeper understanding of a composer, a time period, or my place in the world. I wrote Broadway Swinger with this in mind—and I think the audience walks away not only having had fun, but also with more of a sense of how music and society both evolved in the 1960s.

I feel similarly about Theatre with a capital “T”: it has a responsibility to entertain me or provoke me, but the best shows will do both. I’m still thinking about The Pillowman 11 years after I saw it on Broadway. That’s good theatre.


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


What show have you recommended to your friends?:She Loves Me, of course! Although I’m incredibly excited about Tuck Everlasting, which was composed by one of my closest friends, Chris Miller. I am so proud of him, and EVERYBODY should buy a ticket to see his show!


Who would play you in a movie about yourself and what would it be called?:
 Hmm…I’ve always been hoping to play Prince William in the E! True Hollywood Story of his life, so it’s hard to think the other way around. How about Dan Stevens-playing-me-playing-Prince William in the E! True Hollywood Story?


If you could go back in time and see any play or musical you missed, what would it be?:
 I would go back and see Barbara Harris and Alan Alda in the original 1966 production of The Apple Tree. (sigh)



What’s your biggest guilty pleasure?: 
The guys in my dressing room at She Loves Me call me The Cookie Monster.


If you weren’t working in theater, you would be _____?:
 Just as poor. I would be an architect!


What’s up next?:
 She Loves Me has been extended to July 10, and then I’ll hopefully head out of town for a little vacation. I have two movies scheduled to be released in 2016—My Art and The Unattainable Story—and with any luck Broadway Swinger will get to travel a bit. I am ready to take this show on the road!!

For more on Broadway Swinger, visit http://54below.com/artist/benjamin-eakeley-broadway-swinger/

Review: Traveling Man

by Michael Block

Not everyone can say they've seen the world but Bill Bowers sure can! In Bowers' All Over the Map, presented by All For One Theater, a gay mime from Montana recounts his international tales of intrigue that include a bunny mime, The Happy Hooker, and a nudist colony. And that’s just the tip of the ice burg.
photo by Maria Baranova-Suzuki
With stories for days, Bowers has seen it all. In All Over the Map, Bowers takes the audience on a journey through 50 states and 25 countries as he takes his show on the road, meeting an eclectic array of personalities and gaining experiences that will stick with him for life. Written and performed by Bill Bowers, All Over the Map is wonderfully entertaining led by a whimsical performer. All Over the Map is all over the timeline, jumping from year to year where a cast of batty characters and inexplicable encounters fuel the narrative. All Over the Map doesn't rely on a forward-moving story. The tales could easily be flip flopped with one another and the message will still be had. The central theme is truly embrace the unexpected. And with every story Bowers shares, you truly can't believe what could happen next. With the content interchangeable, Bowers has room to play and do what he does best: entertain. Even when the mood gets somber or more internal, he manages to captivate. There's an ease to Bowers’ storytelling. No matter the tone or content, Bill Bowers is comfortable. You can tell he is a seasoned veteran whether playing verbal storyteller or mute mime.
All Over the Map utilized some video projections to help assist the audience with location and time. Designed by Bryce Cutler , it was cutesy. Unlike the other show running in All For One Theater's rep season, if the video wasn't present, All Over the Map could still succeed. And that's at testament to Bowers’ performance prowess. Simplicity was director Martha Banta's secret trick. With only five chairs from scenic designer Ryan Howell, Bowers built a world. Lighting designer Ed McCarthy found beauty in color and focus. By differentiating the looks, tightening in on Bowers allowed the intimate moments to capture hearts.
When you leave a solo show feeling as if you now are the performers best friend, it's safe to say the objective was accomplished. In sixty minutes, Bill Bowers welcomed the audience into his life with open arms. It's evident he has more stories to tell and I look forward to the next show and the new lot of material. It’s safe to say that Bill Bowers is world class.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Review: Finding a Purpose

by Michael Block

Everyone's journey through grief is different. There's no formula in how you grieve and how long you spend at each step but rest assure, you'll make a stop at each. When it comes to blame, it's human nature to place blame on others or yourself. In Elizabeth Van Meter's emotionally draining Thao's Library, Van Meter finds a way to displace the blame through a selfless act for a stranger halfway around the world.
Like a companion piece to the documentary of the same name, Thao's Library is the solo show act about Van Meter's spirited journey to Vietnam to give the gift of love through books. After the sudden loss of her sister, famed child aviator Vicki Van Meter, Elizabeth tries to find a purpose in life. Thanks to a layover, Elizabeth visits an old friend who shows her a picture of a young woman in Vietnam who has a countryside library. While one relationship fades to memory, a new one flourishes as Elizabeth and Thao form a bond you can only see to believe. Thao’s Library is a sweet story that is destined to tug at your heart. The content is beautiful. To bring the piece to the stage, Van Meter introduces her piece through dueling narratives. First, her journey to Thao. Second, her relationship with her sister. To keep the audience intrigued, Van Meter sporadically crafts her piece bouncing from narrative to narrative. In the Thao narrative, Van Meter keeps things pretty straight forward and honest. We get the full story. In the Vicki narrative, Van Meter institutes a bit of mystery. We don’t learn until pretty late about Vicki’s untimely death. We know that Vicki plays an integral part into Elizabeth’s journey but it’s fairly vague until late in the play. With one narrative being so present, the other being so elusive, trying to tie the two together until the grand reveal is hard. Thao’s story is more compelling. While the cryptic nature is theatrical, it may not service the unfamiliar audience best. What ties the three women together is how three separate people struggle with pain through the lens of three separate situations. Van Meter explores pain through the lens of physical, mental, and emotional. That’s the thread that brings them together. If the mystery is desired, perhaps beginning the piece with some sort of tie in to universal pain unifies the entirety. Finding the key to understanding is almost a prevalent part to Van Meter’s piece. Discovering the why and how is something we all go through so viewing someone put voice to a personal situation was rewarding in a cathartic manner.
photo by Maria Baranova-Suzuki
Having knowledge of the source documentary likely helps the stage play, but for those unaware, Van Meter layers in some photos and video. You are almost emotionally ambushed through the use of multi-media. This play is successful due to it. Without it, this story may not have resonated the way it did. Hearing is one thing, but seeing opens up the opportunity to tap into the heart. The projection design by Van Meter and director Joe Ricci was visually stunning. Whether through tears or smiles, you will emote. With the nature of the piece being pretty static, Ricci ensured that the transitions were sharply defined. Lighting designer Ed McCarthy did an impeccable job exploring looks that transported Van Meter through her locales. McCarthy certainly capitalized on moods. Something worth noting is space. The Lion is a giant theater with high ceilings and a pretty hefty stage. Ricci and Van Meter did an unbelievable job filling it and minimizing scenic assistance. Van Meter is a pretty decent storyteller but she manages to own the space.
Thao’s Library is a personal story yet it’s not. Whether you connect with Elizabeth Van Meter or not, you’ll leave the theater eager to watch the documentary and learn more about Thao.

Introducing Our New Contributing Writer Kaila M. Stokes!

Theater in the Now is expanding! And through expansion means new voices! Please welcome our first new writer, Kaila M. Stokes!


Kaila M. Stokes has been in the theater and dance world since she could walk. Kaila was part of theater programs growing up in Orlando & Jacksonville and went on to attend Douglas Anderson School of the Arts High School for theater, where she caught the directing bug. Kaila was a dual major in Directing and BFA Acting at Marymount Manhattan College, where she still guest directs to this day. Throughout her time in college, she worked as a marketing intern for numerous nonprofits around the city including MCC Theater, The Women's Project and American Opera Projects. After graduating in 2011, Kaila worked as the Marketing Associate for TADA! Youth Theater, then gave Los Angeles a try, working with Santa Barbara Dance Institute. After 2 years in Los Angeles, Kaila missed NYC and returned to TADA!, where she currently works as the Director of Marketing. Since establishing herself, Kaila is ready for new challenges, such as writing reviews for theater productions around the city and freelance graphic design. She is thrilled to join the Theater In The Now family.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Spotlight On...Martina Anne Bonolis

Name: Martina Anne Bonolis

Hometown: Syosset, New York

Education: Bachelor’s in Theater and Sociology from Middlebury College, Master’s in Clinical Psychology from Columbia University Teachers College, Actors Theater of Louisville Acting Apprentice 2010 to 2011

Favorite Credits: As an actor, Famine in The End by A Rey Pamatmat at the Humana Festival.  Famine, one of the four horse(wo)men of the apocalypse, was a foul mouthed, overworked, under loved, highly aggressive foodie. The absolute bile that would spew from her mouth if somebody ate her organic Kashi cereal was amazing.  Rey wrote the characters after he met the actors, so I asked him why he wrote Famine like he did. His answer was simply that I seemed nice and it would be funny to watch me say terrible things.  That’s the magic of the theater! As a director, my current project! I founded a theater company, the Wise Fish Theater Collective, and we are working on our own adaptation of 6 Characters In Search of an Author by Luigi Pirandello. (We go up May 6th at the Robert Moss Theater. Come on down!) Working collectively on such an ambitious project, being inspired by my actors and collaborators…the experience has been magical.

Why theater?: Because theater is present and requires presence. Theater requires that audience and actors commune in the same space at the same time. In the modern world, where people are more likely to consume media by themselves and on their own time, theater demands that we return to shared experience. Also, for me, theater represents the best of humanity. Theater celebrates play! A bunch of adults will just agree to pretend to be whoever or whatever, and a bunch of other adults will agree to come watch them pretend. When you think about it, it’s completely ridiculous. That’s what makes it great! It’s a reminder that when all is said and done, what brings us together is stories, imagination, and community. I also love how theater embraces its own limitations and uses them to tell extremely nuanced stories. What does it mean to use a puppet? A mask? Theater will never be as realistic as a movie, and that gives it an incredible power.

Tell us about 6 Characters in Search of an Author: This is the inaugural piece of our new company, the Wise Fish Theater Collective. As a collective, we are interested in new, absurdist theater that explores current issues. However, we felt that before we began to explore current issues, we had to explore the medium itself. We needed a piece to serve as our base. 6 Characters is an exploration of theater and, more broadly, of art. Of what it can and cannot do, of what it means, of where it fails. As a company, we tend toward the silly, so we created our own adaptation based upon our company members’ interpretations of the original script, and it turned out rather ridiculous while maintaining its points. Heck, we like it.

What inspired you to direct 6 Characters?: I love the play and was chomping at the bit to get my mind around it. As a director, rather than an actor, I get to explore the whole piece in a different way than an actor does. Also, as our company is collaborative, I was excited to do a play about theater, which discusses theater, with a theater group discussing theater. The whole thing has become so meta that we have caught ourselves on multiple occasions in situations and conversations that mirror our script. It gets pretty bananas.

What kind of theater speaks to you? What or who inspires you as an artist?: The absurd, the surreal…anything that embraces the theatricality of the theater and is a move away from realism. I think that the truest scenes are often the least realistic. I am inspired mostly by poetry, (e.e. Cummings, Lewis Carroll, Walt Whitman) and authors (Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Salman Rushdie, Margaret Atwood, Milan Kundera, Kurt Vonnegut). Also music! James Blake gives me tons of feelings, and I love Motown classics and some old fashioned Allman Brothers.

If you could work with anyone you’ve yet to work with, who would it be?: In an ideal world, Melissa McCarthy. Google her early stuff, specifically “Marbles,” and you’ll understand her bizarre genius. You know she’s willing to riff and follow a train of thought to its illogical end.

What show have you recommended to your friends?: 6 Characters in Search of an Author. Jk. But seriously. But also any work done by BKBX (Broken Box Mime). Their last show, Above/Below, hit you right in the core without saying a word. Absolute beauty. Also The Royale by Marco Ramirez at the Lincoln Center Theater. His embrace of the theatrical medium tells a story that I promise will explode your brain.

Who would play you in a movie about yourself and what would it be called?: I think Laura Dern because she looks like me. It would be called, “Huh. So That’s What That Is.”

If you could go back in time and see any play or musical you missed, what would it be?: The all female version of Julius Ceasar set in a psych ward that was at St. Anne’s Warehouse. I can’t believe I missed it! Arrrgghhhh.

What’s your biggest guilty pleasure?: Kissing my dog directly on the mouth. Also I do a lot of bird watching, which I’m only guilty about because it’s supposed to be nerdy. But ask yourself this; who is the real nerd? Somebody who knows the difference between a song sparrow and a hermit thrush, or everybody else?

If you weren’t working in theater, you would be _____?: Doing mental health advocacy! I am also a researcher, currently working on a research involving OCD and memory. So I guess just that full time. Also I would have loved to have been an astronaut but I think I missed the window.

What’s up next?: Our next production will be chosen in the next two weeks! We have some awesome possibilities, but I’ll keep them secret until we can officially announce. And here's our Indiegogo!

For more on Wise Fish Theater Collective and 6 Characters in Search of an Author, visit www.wisefishtheater.com

Review: A Bohemian Rhapsody

Protesting is nothing new. But in a world of technology, the presence of social media can change the entire game. The fights for rights are given a face and a voice. With every share, someone learns of a battle. But not every battle can see the broad daylight. In Sarah Gancher's The Place We Built, a history that's slightly hidden from the mainstream takes center stage as a group of bohemians in Hungary fight to save their bar during a horrific transition in their country's democracy through a time of authoritarianism and anti-Semitism.
Holed up in a Budapest bar that serves as a refuge for all bohemian, gypsies, queers, and Jews, The Place We Built follows a maturing youth fighting to save their home, literally and figuratively. To put it bluntly, imagine a mash-up of some of the themes, situations, and morals of The Flea's 2015-2016 season and you get The Place We Built. The difference is, if you can get past the slight inconsistencies of dialect rules and documentary lighting rules, The Place We Built is near flawless. It's a politically charged docudrama that is raw, gritty, and purposely intense. Even with hints of character, Gancher's play is an integral plot driven piece. The characters are not nearly as important as the overall fight. It's a story about identity, heritage, and taking a stand. With an ending that is all too real, you have to be disappointed by the lack of victory, but that is the reality. Fights will fizzle as the ticking time shrinks and reality sets in. These characters wanted to do what they believed was right but being outnumbered trumps grandiose ideals. The message may feel unsatisfactory but not everyone can have a happy ending. With many decisions driven by love and exhilaration, The Place We Built watches a group of young Hungarians, lead by Aniko and Ben, who meet and take in like-minded bohemians to their Grandma parties and their ultimate creation, The Seagull, a bar and performance space. Gancher spatters the story nonlinearly with a documentary device. Sans the youngest squatters who’s presence barely gets explained, there’s a slow build up of character development but once each main character has their moment, The Place We Built takes flight. The running time may be long but if you’re engaged, it will fly by. With a backdrop based on truth and a plot that has inspiration from a real story, Gancher has to manage balance the two. With performance being a key part of the true story, infusing theatricality allowed The Place We Built movement. Between crude puppetry and cultural music, Gancher was able to evade feeling like a text book or Buzzfeed article. The necessary historical information was implemented properly, though The Place We Built could have used a dramaturgical insert to help set the scene and bring the audience into the performance prior to start.
photo by Hunter Canning
A great energy can lift a show. This ensemble was stellar at bringing the energy. The characters may not have been bound by blood but they were a family. This ensemble was the equivalent. There was an immense amount of trust and love. As a whole, this was a strong ensemble. But if you held a magnifying glass up to the individuals, there were some standouts, both for the good and the not as good. Firstly, recognition should be given to the musical talents including Brendan Dalton on guitar and drums, Ben Lorenz, who is a dead ringer of John Gallagher Jr. both physically and through performance, on violin, and Sonia Mena on accordion. The Place We Built could exist sans music but their presence made it that much better. Dalton was given a gift with the role of Mihaly. Not only was Mihaly a multi-layered character but he had one of the most fascinating story arcs. Dalton didn’t throw away his shot at crafting the strongest character within the bunch. His documentary solo introduction was one of the very last, so I suppose it’s true, Gancher saved the best for last. Utility player Brittany K. Allen continued to prove her worth as an incredible character actor. Though it’s not instantly clear due to story when a new character is introduced, Allen gave the play the comic relief it greatly desired. Gancher’s play isn’t necessarily strong in character so many of the featured players didn’t have much room to explore but there was something lost when it came to, possibly, the two most integral characters. Leta Renee-Alan as Aniko was a bit of a bore, though she finally brought the fireworks in her Act II eruption, and Tom Costello was not quite the hero Ben needed to be. You could easily blame Aniko and Ben for not being able to inspire the troops and it unfortunately reflected in Renee-Alan and Costello’s performances.
For those who may have seen Wolf in the River, the other production currently running at The Flea, you may recognize some elements from the set that is borrowed from that show. With a co-scenic design between Arnulfo Maldonado, the Wolf in the River scenic designer, and Feli Lamenca, you may have believed director Danya Taymor would be a slight disadvantage. The impressionistic design did work to create the grungy bar known as The Seagull. Taymor used all aspects of the space, smartly using the harsh corners sparingly. It’s likely you knew very little to nothing about the world of Gancher’s play yet Taymor did an impeccable job at bringing history to life in an compelling manner. You wanted to party with Taymor’s bohemians. Like the scenic design, The Place We Built borrowed lighting designer Masha Tsimring. For the most part, Tsimring’s design worked for this production with the grand exception of how the documentary light was used. Tsimring implemented a harsh diagonal white light that would then be interrupted by scene. Sometimes this light would be brought back if the speaker continued to narrate. Other times it was not. Consistency would have been nice, but it’s likely that the staging and shared space may be a cause. You can praise the musicians for their talent but you have to say thank you for the music to The Bengsons, the music consultants and arrangers. They offered the perfect mood and feel for this production.
No matter what happened in the end, you have to appreciate the fight the characters put up in The Place We Built. Their journey drove the play to success. Likewise, you have to appreciate the effort it took into building this play. Not all the pieces fit together, there were some occasional cracks. But no matter what, The Place We Built inspires.

Monday, April 25, 2016

The Rulers: A Sneak Peek into Rule of 7x7: April Edition

April is here and so is another Rule of 7x7 at The Tank! Rule of 7x7: April Edition also marks the return of Brett Epstein as host! Rule of 7x7: April Editions runs April 29th at 7:00pm and 9:30pm!


The Rulers

Name: Will Arbery

Hometown: Dallas, TX + Lander, WY

Education: B.A. at Kenyon College, MFA at Northwestern

What is your rule?: Page 5 must have the same question repeated 3 times.

Why did you pick your rule?: I just think people repeat themselves. And I like when people repeat themselves. I dunno, it's just that like when people repeat themselves.

Tell us about The Alignment System: It's based off of an element of Dungeons & Dragons, which I don't play, but which fascinates me. It's about people deciding where they fall on a grid. It's also about being drunk and honest, and about reality vs. escape.

Why should we check out Rule of 7x7?: This is actually my first Rule of 7x7! When I got back to New York from grad school, everyone was telling me I should do it. I've heard such wonderful things. And there are so many great people involved.

April showers bring May _____: asthma attacks.

For more on Will, visit willarbery.com


Name: Sarah Elizabeth Bedard

Hometown: Boston, MA

Education: MFA Acting from Brandeis University, BA in Theatre and Philosophy from Providence College

What is your rule?: Something no one else is allowed to touch.

Why did you pick your rule?: It seemed like a fun challenge to have an object hold that much weight.

Tell us about Sometimes I’m Scared of You: Three women, lots of wine and a wild time.

Why should we check out Rule of 7x7?: Because it’s always a great time and an awesome way to see how seven different people challenge themselves to create new work.

April showers bring May _____: mud.

For more on Sarah, visit sarahelizabethbedard.com


Name: Cary Gitter

Hometown: Leonia, NJ

Education: NYU

What is your rule?: Tennis.

Why did you pick your rule?: Because I played first singles on, and was captain of, the Leonia High School varsity tennis team—my proudest achievement in life. Also, I own a tennis racket that can be used as a funny prop.

Tell us about Talk Dirty to Me: A guy and a girl are gonna sleep together for the first time. He's super nice. She wants some dirty sex stuff. It's a problem.

Why should we check out Rule of 7x7?: Because you can watch the suffering of seven playwrights constricted by seven arbitrary rules that inhibit their pure artistic expression. Also, it's cheap and fast and funny and awesome.

April showers bring May _____: Tears of Rage .


Name: Drew Lewis

Hometown: Hastings-on-Hudson (2 hyphens)

Education: Attended the same Undergrad as Will Arbery, but not his grad school

What is your rule?: Nudity.

Why did you pick your rule?: To get people naked.

Tell us about Friend Hug: I wrote it while flying JetBlue. It's about the blurred line that exists between friends and lovers. Nothing to do with airplanes. But now you know I was high when I wrote it.

Why should we check out Rule of 7x7?: To see all the nudity

April showers bring May _____: Nudity.

For more on Drew, visit thedrewlewis.com


Name: Rachel Lin

Hometown: New York City (by way of the UK)

Education: NYU

What is your rule?: One character goes in for a ____ as another character goes in for a _____.

Why did you pick your rule?: I enjoy watching mistakes that aren't mistakes.

Tell us about Mixed Doubles: Inspired by the Pixie's "Hey" and my own upcoming high school reunion - it's about how we can't help but do things that we know are bad for us sometimes.

Why should we check out Rule of 7x7?: Sexy playwrights. Beautiful people. Brett returns.

April showers bring May _____: Anxiety that it's almost summer, and then Fall, and then 2017 before we know it.

For more on Rachel, visit www.rachelmlin.com


Name: Catya McMullen

Hometown: NYC

Education: UNC Chapel Hill

What is your rule?: Someone performs a heroic act on page 1.

Why did you pick your rule?: I like heroism!

Tell us about Batman's Poopy Pants: The play is about a toddler who only answers to "Batman," and his teenage babysitter who has snuck a girl in to do a science project and also...maybe...get it on. The rules were great for this one and this conceit, of the toddler coming out every few minutes and causing havoc works great with it. The play is insane and a lot of fun.

Why should we check out Rule of 7x7?: It's astronomical amounts of fun.

April showers bring May _____: Buttstuff.

For more on Catya, visit www.catyamcmullen.com


Name: Colin Waitt

Hometown: St. Cloud, MN

Education: Royal Central School of Speech and Drama (Masters), University of Minnesota--Twin Cities (BA)

What is your rule?: Passive Aggression.

Why did you pick your rule?: I am from the midwest.  I like passive aggression.

Tell us about Bedbugs: Two roommates in the midst of a bedbug infestation prepare their apartment for fumigation when one of their boyfriends makes an unexpected visit.  Bedbugs are the worst, but our funny cast is the best.  The more I write, the more I realize that I enjoy laughter in the abyss.  This play continues that trend.

Why should we check out Rule of 7x7?: It's all about the neon palm tree right outside the building.  Also, the night is a lot of fun.  This month Brett is back in town.  If that's not enough to get you to The Tank, I don't know what is.

April showers bring May _____: Tourists.

For more on Colin, visit www.colinwaitt.com

Spotlight On...Mindy Raf

Name: Mindy Raf

Hometown: Michigan

Education: University of Michigan

Select Credits: MTV, VH1, Lifetime, Women in Comedy Festival (Boston), NY Funny Songs Fest, Bridgetown Comedy Festival (Portland), SOLOCOM (The PIT), UCB, Dixon Place, QED, Knitting Factory.

Why theater?: I would perform for family at parties when I was  little, improvising characters and writing monologues for them. In 3rd grade I made kids in my class laugh at a talent show (reading from Free To Be You & Me). I was an anxious kid and I remember feeling really calm after the show like, "I need to do that more often."

Tell us about No Thank You: No Thank You is my new solo comedy show. Weaving together stand-up comedy and storytelling, it hits on themes of what it means to be yourself, let go of the need to please, and (spoiler alert) there's a tap number.

What inspired you to write No Thank You?: Last fall I performed a new half hour stand-up show for SOLOCOM festival. That experience inspired me to extend my material to an hour and write my stand-up within the context of a narrative story. I really love writing and performing stand-up and it's been a fun challenge to revisit my material and reshape it not only to be tighter and funnier, but truer to myself. It's easy for performers, especially comedians, to get caught up in what we think we should be to other people-on stage and off. So that goal (just be you) was really important to me when writing No Thank You.

What kind of theater speaks to you?: What or who inspires you as an artist?: I love when writers and performers are able to find joy and humor in the darker moments. It's so important to laugh at life and yourself-especially when things get cloudy-so artists who can pull off that fine line really speak to me.

If you could work with anyone you’ve yet to work with, who would it be?: Lilly Tomlin is a queen. I would love to act with her. She's the tops.

What’s your favorite showtune?: They're all my children. I cannot choose. What's my mood? For dancing or crying? Ahhhh. I...can't...there are...too...many. [tiptoes away from the conversation]

Who would play you in a movie about yourself and what would it be called?: I would love Mayim Bialik to play me in present and then Bette Midler to play me in future. It would be a "Beaches" reunion. (But with more tap, less death). Working title would be: Panic Attack In Spanx

What show have you recommended to your friends?: Hamilton. I think that show needs my guerrilla PR efforts right now. There are so many great comedy and storytelling shows in NYC and Brooklyn. Upright Citizens Brigade and The PIT always have great solo shows and stand up to see. And Littlefield and Union Hall are also great venues to check out if you're looking to see quality comedy and storytelling. I'm partial because they're my friends, but Rebecca Vigil and Evan Kaufman perform a full improvised musical call Your Love Our Musical. (My girlfriend  just got them to perform our story at a secret proposal show. It was so impressive and hilarious) Totally worth checking out.

What’s the most played song on your iTunes?: Blue Skies, Ella Fitzgerald (1958 version)  It always ups my mood.

What’s your biggest guilty pleasure?: Sleeping in/vegging out. I would love to schedule a "no alarm" day where I turn off devices and wake up only when my body tells me it's time to start re-watching "Gilmore Girls".

What’s up next?: I’m working on couple different writing projects: a pilot based on my short stories and stand up and another novel for young adults is slowly coming together. I’ll also be co-producing a new monthly stand-up show at HiFi June 2. Right now, I’m really enjoying performing comedy and getting No Thank You ready to debut.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

The Girls in White: Songs from the Show at Feinstein's/54 Below!



FEINSTEIN’S/54 BELOW, Broadway’s Supper Club, presents The Girls in White: Songs from the Show on Friday, April 22, 2016. Set in post-depression era Texas, The Girls in White is inspired by a true story about a group of incarcerated women who form a band and become an overnight sensation through a prison-based radio program. In their newfound fame, they dream of being pardoned and set free. A story of hope and redemption, The Girls in White is “Chicago” meets “Orange is the New Black” with a country twang.

The Girls in White features book and lyrics by Michael Bradley, music by Artie Sievers, direction by Ashley Brooke Monroe, and musical direction by Ryan McCurdy. Returning to the cast after a workshop last year are Ephie Aardema (Bridges of Madison County), Sydney Blaxill (The Nomad), Michael Cerveris (Fun Home), Josh Davis (Beautiful), Ben Estus (The Book of Mormon), Haley Jones (A Complex Evening), Rebecca Knowles (Pinwheel), Bonnie Milligan (Kinky Boots), Lauren Patten (Fun Home), Jacqueline Petroccia (Always…Patsy Cline), and Brittane Rowe (The Mysteries). The band will be comprised of composer Artie Sievers, Ryan McCurdy (Once), and Erikka Walsh (Once).

The Girls in White: Songs from the Show plays Feinstein’s/54 Below (254 West 54th Street) on Friday, April 22nd, 2016.  There is a $15 cover charge and $20 food and beverage minimum. Tickets and information are available at www.54Below.com. Tickets on the day of performance after 4:00 are only available by calling (646) 476-3551.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Review: You've Got Spam

Hollywood is fond of action adventure movies where a tuxedo-clad hero battles evil villains and thugs while defeating their own personal demon, whatever it may be. The stakes are high and the situation is a bit zany, but the thrill of the game is the draw. In Rafael Spregelburd's Spam, we watch an amnesia-ridden man in a tuxedo piece together a high stakes adventure on the island of Malta.
Told completely nonlinearly, Spam is a cyber Bond caper that is wild and weird and a little bit too long. What's ultimately a journey of self-discovery, Spam is a patchwork of a dance. Though pretentiously billed as a spoken opera, or “Sprechoper”, Spam is simply a dry dramedy that fancies itself as a multimedia language play. Written by Spregelburd and translated by Jean Graham-Jones, there was something enticing about the production as a whole but something drastically off. Whether it was lost in translation, the multi-media production lacked connection. Even with some forgivable technical flaws, Spam had a sense of uncertainty, standing on rocky shores. The conceit that Spregelburd brought to the stage was the idea that the presentation was random. The order of scenes was seemingly picked out of a hotel ice container. Whether director Samuel Buggeln intended it or not, moments between days were confusingly dropped, appearing as if determined actor Vin Knight truly wasn't clear what story came next. It was flawed in the sense that the middle ground didn't read. The clarity of uncertainty needed to find an extreme. Feeling as if you're viewing an actor struggle to find his place is wholly uncomfortable. With a patchwork of story, there seemed to be many plot points to consistently remember. Between the crude talking dolls to the money-laundering girl and mafia to Cassandra to the dead language thesis, there was a lot to keep track of. How the play fell out, there would be times each beat would bring new information or there would be incredibly long breaks that it was difficult to remember what came before. With 31 potential days of stories to recreate, it was inevitable to miss some important information. Data overload you could say. Spam is a modular text. No two performances will be the same. And in a way, it’s hard to say whether the text worked or not. Perhaps the flow of show we saw did not serve the story best. Maybe a different algorithm of days makes it better. But again, uncertainty hurt the production. There was a strong commentary on society and commercialism deep within, but it felt very specific to the point where it lacked gravitas. What may have been important to Spregelburd may not have resonated with the audience. But again, this could be do to clarity or translation.
Despite feeling that he lost control at times, Vin Knight should be applauded for his grand performance. As Monti, Knight was virtually trying to piece 31 days together as character and actor. It was no easy feat. When Knight found his footing, he was mesmerizing. He crafted a character that was interesting in an everyman manner. With time, Knight will finesse his performance, but it’s something worth watching. The unsung hero of Spam was The Operator played by the spry and dry Dominic Russo. Knight was the star by Russo was the superman. Not knowing whether Russo was merely a stagehand forced to appear on stage or an actor driving the production, Russo was incredible.
At first glance, Spam appears to break the fourth wall, exposing the inner workings of the play. Samuel Buggeln’s set was part hotel room, part theatrics. And nothing is more terrifying then the eerie display of ptalking dolls. Once the play gained momentum, they blended into one another with the help of Jake DeGroot’s lights and Lianne Arnold’s projections. DeGroot did a tremendous job creating a colorscape that was intricate and interesting. Arnold’s projections played well off of the various design elements. While they did add a cool element to the show, the story could easily have been told without them. And perhaps it would have been less overwhelming. Director Buggeln tried to keep the play moving but it sadly wanted to be tighter. With all the moving parts, it was inevitable that was not going to happen, especially early in the run. With clarity being a theme of Spam, the tempo of text was rushed at times, likely to avoid running too long. But with an onslaught of information, much was lost.
To say the least, Spam is ambitious. Works of this nature can be hits or misses. Or right in between. And that’s where Spam is. No matter how long this production has been in the works, it was clear, more time was greatly desired.