Saturday, July 30, 2016

Spotlight On...Jackie Abbott

Name: Jackie Abbott

Hometown: Stamford, CT

Education: BFA in Drama from NYU Tisch School of the Arts, UCB Sketch & Improv

Select Credits: White People Christmas (Kikki, dir. Ernest Thompson/Cherry Lane Theater), Seeing Emma (Riley, film by Dina Graham), National Cuisinart Commercial, "Miss Sugar Tit" (CeeCee, film by Shannon Strong), The Serpent Woman (Farruscad, dir. Orlando Pabotoy), The American Clock (Rose Baum, dir. Kent Gash)

Why theater?: I mean it.

Who do you play in Holy Moly?: Tabatha

What is it like being a part of Holy Moly?: It is electrifying to originate this character, especially with the luxury of having the playwright in the room. I really love being involved in new works and having the opportunity to play.

What kind of theater speaks to you? What or who inspires you as an artist?: Anything about mental illness, and a lot of dark DAAAARK comedy. I’m inspired most by those who make me laugh. Aaaand Jessica Lange, Cate Blanchett, Brie Larson, Annie Leibovitz, Lang Leav, and Robin Williams

Any roles you’re dying to play?: I’m just biding my time until I can play Martha in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?. I wouldn’t be upset if a remake of “Frances” or “Grey Gardens” pops up in the meantime.

What’s your favorite showtune?: Any Sondheim. But I can do a mean lip sync to “Satisfied” from Hamilton.

If you could work with anyone you’ve yet to work with, who would it be?: You asked, so: Meryl Streep (who doesn’t?), Patricia Clarkson, Maxine Peake, Toni Collette, Julianne Moore, Kristen Wiig, Emma Thompson, Carrie Coon, Tracy Letts, Mark Rylance, Geneva Carr, Laura Linney, Tony Hale, Catherine O’Hara, Christopher Guest, Sarah Paulson, Tilda Swinton, Stanley Tucci, Tami Sagher

Who would play you in a movie about yourself and what would it be called?: Rooney Mara, “Carol”

If you could go back in time and see any play or musical you missed, what would it be?: This is going to get daaaaark BUT... my incredible clowning teacher, Orlando Pabotoy, told us once about a commedia piece in which Harlequin (the quintessential clown of commedia) committed suicide by tickling himself and laughed to death. Just the beauty of that image alone moves me deeply.

What show have you recommended to your friends?: Hand to God. It has closed, and I am in deep denial.

What’s your biggest guilty pleasure?: The Bachelorette and Vegan Divas chocolate donuts. I’m not vegan.

What’s up next?: Bachelor in Paradise. In the early stages of a sketch show for SPANK at UCB, creating a webseries with my roommate, collaborating on photography projects, auditioning (always), and I’d love to write a play.

For more on Jackie, www.jackiemabbott.com and www.jma-photography.com

Review: Hyperbolic! The Last Spectacle was RIDICULOUS


by Kaila M. Stokes

As a seasoned theater goer, it would seem that one might have seen it all by now, but Hyperbolic! has proved that theory wrong. Mostah Black, the conceptual designer for Hyperbolic!, definitely put a lot of passion and detail into his work. What the entire show lacked was focus and an overall point. It was confusing from beginning to end. Anytime a point seemed to start to become clear, it was immediately thrust into the ridiculousness of the misadventure again. That is the best word for this show, ridiculous, which is not everyone’s cup of tea.
Let’s start with the positives! Mostah Black has passion and vision. The fusion of theater, film, fashion and dance speaks to this fact. The actors and actresses blurred the lines of gender and humanity as they pranced and laughed across the stage. If Mostah Black’s point was to not have the audience care whether the characters were gay, straight, girl, boy, black, white or what the plot was; then that was a success. An eye catching form of art on stage was the costumes. They were very avante garde, obscure and interesting to look at. The costumes were a character of their own for sure. The creativity was impressive; however, the costumes did not lend a hand in the matters of understanding any sort of plot or character development. They served more as art installation on humans. If art that has no point is your thing, then you will love Hyperbolic!
photo by Peter Yesley
The movements choreographed were stagnant, sharp and led to know where. The dance-theater aspect could have saved this show, but instead they added to the confusion. It would have been nice to see the movements develop from beginning to end. This could have been the art form that told the characters’ stories. Dance is an amazing form of expressions; it should be used as such. For everything thought that was put into this piece there was another thought that said we should be as crazy as possible, completely throwing out any validity the story ever had.
The space itself was very unique and cool. It was a two-tier theater that had a warehouse vibe to it. The actors utilized every bit of space; on the stage, in the audience, in the rafters and more. You never really knew who would show up where. The lighting must have been a challenge for this reason. But the lighting and the music were the only clues the audience had into this world and these characters. The lighting provided the actors with their necessary spot lights and provided the director with scene changes. It was very simple compared to the rest of this complex piece. The music let a small hand into the characters world. The actors were in tune with the music in movement and place.
Overall, Hyperbolic! may have just been over my head. This show was like a Jackson Pollack painting; complex in its insanity, volatile in personality and unique in its ridiculousness. As always, it is nice to see artists doing what they love, but I may skip this show next time.

Spotlight On...Jesse Manocherian

Name: Jesse Manocherian

Hometown: Mamaroneck, NY

Education: Northwestern University’s Theatre Department and Music Theatre Program

Select Credits: Leo Frank in Parade in Chicago, New York, and Pittsburgh. Other favorite credits include: The Hidden Sky, Seussical, The Baker’s Wife, Opa!, Falsettos, The Wild Party. Readings, workshops, and concerts with Yale Rep, The Director’s Co., the New York Theatre Barn, the Cell Theatre, and the ADL, among others.

Why theater?: I believe in presence above all else. I think when we show up and share a space openly and honestly, we really get to exercise and exorcise the way things are.

Who do you play in Insomnia?: Brad, a gay writer in his 30s who can’t sleep and is trying to FINALLY write something meaningful.

Tell us about Insomnia: I think Insomnia is wonderful because it fits into the cannon of musical theater — it’s born of traditions explored in Company, Sunday in the Park, A New Brain, even Fun Home — but continues to evolve them. It’s both very of the moment and timeless — and I think the music is the best example of that: it has these soaring melodies that are at once completely new and interesting, but somehow very familiar.

What is it like being a part of Insomnia?: This has been one of those great blessing: Brad is the kind of role that doesn’t come along often, and I have been so very fortunate to have the opportunity to push myself — musically, dramatically, personally — in a room of incredibly supportive and talented people. It’s not every show that asks so much of you but give you so much back.

What kind of theater speaks to you? What or who inspires you as an artist?: I like theater that demands our presence in the space. My theater heroes for as long as I can remember are George C. Wolfe and Joe Mantello. Ivo van Hove’s work has also been a bright spot lately, but the cabarets of Sherie Rene Scott, Lady Rizo, and Taylor Mac are the people who jump to my mind as the voices I most relate to: artists who unapologetically share their authentic voices and, in doing so, encourage us all to do the same.

Any roles you’re dying to play?: That list goes on and on. I could make the same list I did earlier (Bobby in Company, George in Sunday, Gordo in A New Brain) with the addition of Louis in Angels in America, but I am sure I am leaving tons off that list, and I also love working on new roles. Also, there is nothing like the gift of a role you thought was one thing and reveals itself to you.

What’s your favorite showtune?: Depends when you ask me, but right now I just got to a place where "Being Alive" is the first thing that jumps out of my mouth when I get to sing.

If you could work with anyone you’ve yet to work with, who would it be?: HOW DO YOU PICK OUT FLAMES IN A FIRE!!! This is the real list I couldn’t make—how can we know who we want to work with until we work with them? Based on their work, any of the theater heroes I mentioned previously—oh and Michael John LaChiusa.

If you could go back in time and see any play or musical you missed, what would it be?: Again with the impossible lists! Off the top of my head: Carol Channing in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, Barbara Harris in On a Clear Day, the original cast of Follies, the original cast of A Chorus Line...I wasn’t going to say Company again, but it is definitely on the list.

What show have you recommended to your friends?: Shuffle Along was hands down my show of the season.

What’s your biggest guilty pleasure?: I like food and lots of it, but that’s not guilty…so maybe musical theater.

What’s up next?: I’m working on a cabaret, but really I hope I get to do more Insomnia and soon, I am loving wrestling with this one.

Spotlight On...Lillith Fallon

Name: Lillith Fallon

Hometown: Durham , NC

Education: The Stella Adler Studio Evening Conservatory

Select Credits: Readymaid in Archy by Sam Corbin, directed by Jake Beckasa as part of #SERIALS @ The Flea and Edith in Blithe Spirit.

Why theater?: I believe in it and its ability to transcend. I believe in artistic communities and their abilities to nurture and support. The theater community is a very large very warm home. As actors, no matter if you’re tired and poor or tired (everyone is always complaining about being tired) and rich, as long as you show up and connect we’ve got something.

Who do you play in In the Event of My Death?: I play Meg Winters.

Tell us about In the Event of My Death: The play is about a group of friends who were inseparable growing up, coming together after the funeral of one their closest friends, Freddy. We learn right away that Freddy has committed suicide. The play deals with what it means to change and grow up. Specifically, with this group did you get permission to change and grow up? If you could take back what you said, would you?

What is it like being a part of Stable Cable Lab Co.?: It’s exciting! We put in a lot of hard work and time and in return I think we’re creating something great. At times that can be daunting and tiring, but when has anything easy ever been rewarding?

What kind of theater speaks to you? What or who inspires you as an artist?: Can I say all of it? Truly it does. If an audience member is as engaged as the actor then I’m happy. Whether your show budget is this Dixie cup represents a wine glass and your “chair” is actually a milk crate versus the “oh¬ my ¬dear ¬Lord that stage is moving and I have seen that lead actress 18 times on TV.” I like it all. The actors who inspire me are the ones who take such risks you think they must be completely judgment free. Watching someone take big risks is incredibly liberating.

Any roles you’re dying to play?: I have always secretly wanted to play Captain
Hook! I also really want to play Rachel in Reckless or Sherry Wickman from Tigers Be Still. Lastly, I’d be remiss to not say Maureen from RENT. ¬Man, did middle school Lillith love RENT!

What’s your favorite showtune?: "Do in What Comes Naturally" as sung  by Ethel Merman. My dad bought me that CD and I listened to that specific song at least twice a day for a year.

If you could work with anyone you’ve yet to work with, who would it be?: Allison Janney and Christopher Guest

Who would play you in a movie about yourself and what would it be called?: Marcel the Shell or Amy Sedaris in "I’m Covered in Crumbs".

If you could go back in time and see any play or musical you missed, what would it be?: Uta Hagen in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolf and Philip Seymour Hoffman and John C. Reilly in True West.

What show have you recommended to your friends?: Aside from In the Event of My Death, I would recommend seeing Men on Boats at Playwrights Horizons. Also, The Magical Adventures of Benny and Griff. Check them out www.bennyandgriff.com!

What’s your biggest guilty pleasure?: Standing in a tub ankle deep with water. I love having clean feet. If I could do that while also simultaneously eating a chocolate sheet cake with extra frosting on it, then I would. But to be honest, I wouldn’t feel remotely guilty.

What’s up next?: I am working on a piece to present as a part of The Motherline Story project, check out their website at www.elizasimpson.com/motherlinestoryproject.

Friday, July 29, 2016

Review: Way Too Much Pixie Dust

By Michael Block

We love Peter Pan so much that we've all taken a hand at creating a Peter Pan musical or play. The next in line to attempt the source material is Lena Gabrielle, Greg Kerestan, and Anthony Marino's Tink. This time it's a through the eyes of everyone's favorite fairy, Tinkerbell. But who is this story for? That's the question.
photo by Kelly Tunney
With book by Anthony Marino, Music by Lena Gabrielle, and lyrics by Gabrielle and Greg Kerestan, Tink is a story of love and heartbreak, magic and fun. In this version, Tink and her tinker family are invited to move to the kingdom of Fairies after Tink's dad, Higbee, is asked to work for the king. But before the move, the young Tink meets a hunky pirate named James. Much to the dismay of her BFF Tiger Lily, the two fall in love. When a boy named Peter falls from the sky, he falls hard for the newfound Pirate Queen. Will love prevail or will Tink choose the right thing? Though this musical was set in a magical Neverland, if the names and story stayed the same and it was set at Neverland High, it would be the same show. The parallels to 21st Century teen life were uncanny. Between moving and being the new kid, the struggle of making friends, and the highs and lows of youthful love are the central themes. Isn't quite reminiscent of Peter Pan, is it? Either way, Tink had all the makings of a kids' show yet there was a plethora of adult themes. And let's be honest with one another, it got a little bit homoerotic. The unbalanced nature of discovering the target audience extended into Gabrielle's score. There are flashy kid production numbers and then Broadway pop songs that live in a different musical. Can the two live as one or should those teeny songs be lifted for a different musical? No matter how cute Tink is, it desperately needed to be trimmed to a single act. The goal is keep the kids entertained and it's far too long to keep their attention. Where the text needs some exploration is this forced love triangle. Peter Pan falls far too late in the action. If this plot line is integral, some scene shifting is essential. And if that is the main focus of the story, maybe the Tink and family move has already happened so that subplot doesn't take up such valuable time. You could always eliminate the royal Fairies but I'm sure that's not gonna happen.
Tink was an overly ambitious production helmed by the equally overly ambitious Rachel Klein. It was flashy. It was colorful. And it was way too much. Since this is a new interpretation of a classic story, there was no reason to keep British dialects for these characters. Especially when the majority of the company had diction and clarity problems in accent. Get rid of them and already, it's a better show.  Klein had an energetic young company willing to play pretend but there is such thing as too many bodies. It was a giant cast on a not as giant stage. And it showed. Especially in Klein and Danielle Marie Fusco's choreography. It's very possible that there were too many moving parts for Klein and Fusco to choreograph. When you have no other option but to throw in jazz squares and the iconic “High School Musical” dance moves, you know your choreography isn't serving the production best. But don't think it ends there. Acrobatics, clowning, and rollerblades, oh my! There were moments that there was so much happening on stage that if finding cohesion was ever in consideration, it would be shocking. With the production already being visually active, the costumes from Tracy Angelo and Lynn Rusnica were busy and loud. In an imaginary world, how is it possible to have too much going on in the costumes? While consistency is respected, some of Angelo and Rusnica's choices were baffling. Teal may be my favorite color but green is far too iconic for Tinkerbell not to wear. The textures and patterns and colors and sparkle were in overload. Where Tink made a smart choice was bringing in the tarp to break up the monotony of the cyc. Scenic designer Ann Beyersdorfer also incorporated some treasure chests but they didn’t necessarily add anything too special.
photo by Kelly Tunney
This cast was buoyant and full of spirit. They had fun despite the madness of the musical. Elly Noble in the title role was spunky but she didn’t quite fly. It’s exciting to see a strong female character but love clouded her mind. Opposite her as the boy who will be Hook, Max Sheldon had a smolder. He showed great promise as a star of tomorrow. He has a pure voice. Whether it was microphone or accent, diction was a bit of a hindrance. What made Tink fun were the bit parts. Thanks to the thin writing of the characters, these actors made the best of their time. Peter Pan may be iconic but in this show, he’s quite bland. Yet Kurt Hellerich found a way to soar with enough energy every moment he stepped on stage. With the teen angle of the show in full tilt, Shoba Narayan as Tiger Lily flourished. She created a character that was perfectly contemporary. As the keeper of dreams, PJ Adzima may have had the most distracting outfit but he owned his character as the leader of the most magical fairies.
Don't get me wrong, this ain't the last time you'll be seeing Tink. It's a commercial producers dream of a kids' show. But Lena Gabrielle, Greg Kerestan, and Anthony Marino have to fix their musical before it can properly be shopped around. People are going to expect the Disney Tinkerbell but this show does not come close. And it must. Right now, this candy-coated musical will just leave you with a cavity.

Spotlight On...Ovi Vargas

Name: Ovi Vargas

Hometown: Born in Brooklyn, NY and raised in the Suburbs of Boston.

Education: Graduated from The Boston Conservatory Of Music with a degree in Musical Theatre.

Favorite Credits: The Dining Room, The 2000 Godspell with Stephen Schwartz, 30th Anniversary of Hair.

Why theater?: It’s live! Anything can happen. Also, the opportunity to think in abstract terms and create something theatrical not necessarily naturalistic.

Tell us about Insomnia: Is the story of Brad’s inability to move forward because he hasn’t dealt with the void in his life. This particular night, he has no alternative but to conjure the most important people in his life in order to come to terms with the barriers in his relationships that have plagued him for years.

What inspired you to direct Insomnia?: I’ve known Charles Bloom for years. I was fortunate enough to have directed one of Mr. Bloom’s shows in the past and he was gracious enough to ask me again to helm another one of his shows.

What kind of theater speaks to you? What or who inspires you as an artist?: I love bold and theatrical theatre. Theatre that takes chances and speaks intimately about the human condition. There are too many people who inspire me to list them here. I have the usual heroes, Michael Blakemore, Hal Prince, Stephen Sondheim. etc. But honestly, I am inspired by my own colleagues every day.  From Artistic Director Michael Tobin who is a one-man band trying to keep his small theatre afloat, to Playwright Doug Devita, Shelley McPherson & Ben Henderson to composer Charles Bloom, composer/lyrist team Jeff & Don Breithaupt. Music director Paul Johnson. Great actors like Matt Walton, Erik Van Wyke, Elisabeth Rodgers, Travis Mitchell and Diana Papas to colleagues who work on the Broadway stage and screen.

If you could work with anyone you’ve yet to work with, who would it be?: Alive: Daniel Day Lewis, Amy Adams. Dead: Laurence Olivier

What show have you recommended to your friends?: Hamilton, Jersey Boys, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night, The Father, The Fierce Urgency Of Now by Doug Devita, Roamin’ Catholic, Ferry Tales. A handful of others.

Who would play you in a movie about yourself and what would it be called?: If they ever make a movie of my life no one would believe it.

If you could go back in time and see any play or musical you missed, what would it be?: Olivier as Hamlet or Richard the Third or Othello or Eleonora Duse or John Barrymore in the classics. I know you asked for one but come on…

What’s your biggest guilty pleasure?:  Pizza and really wine or really beer. Thai food a close second.

If you weren’t working in theater, you would be _____?:  The starting Quarterback for the New York Jets.

What’s up next?:  I’ll be directing and choreographing a production of My Fair Lady at Theatre By The Bay in Bayside, Queens. Opens November 5th… Unless of course we are moving INSOMNIA for an open-ending run at some off-Broadway theatre… sorry, wishful thinking.

Review: Do the Scrabble Hustle

By Michael Block

Ever wonder how a Joni Mitchell song and Scrabble can inspire the plot of a musical? Take in an evening at Brett Sullivan's The Last Word and you'll see how! The Last Word pays homage to a decade in a 70’s slacker musical comedy where nothing beats the power of friendship.
With book, music, and lyrics by Brett Sullivan, and additional lyrics by Ryan Cunningham, The Last Word follows Jay Subasinghe who is on the verge of losing the family Indian restaurant, Paradise, to parking lot mogul Earlene Floyd. If he doesn’t come up with the money to save the restaurant, Earlene is going to pave paradise and put up a parking lot. GET IT?! Jay and his buddies Neil and Benny decide the only way to get the money is to play a little Scrabble. Sounds logical, right? Along the way they pick up their former friend Carl who now goes by Carlise and Santine, Jay’s sister, and Neil’s lifelong crush. The Last Word is a story of friendship. That’s the draw here. And it’s fun! But do we really care about this story? Likely not. The Last Word is a colorful musical that certainly knows what it is. The book though, can use some cleaning up. Thanks to the style of comedy Sullivan is going for, there are some farfetched plot lines and some plot holes as big as potholes on Route 66. But they are easily fixable dramaturgical bits. The Last Word takes the 70’s and allows it to live but the Americana factor could be amped up. This is a nostalgia piece. Even if you weren’t around during the decade, there’s something recognizable. And that’s where the fun comes in. But Sullivan’s greatest challenge is making the story and characters as strong as the score. Structurally, Sullivan can finesse the script and perhaps shrink it to a single act musical. But if the two act is necessary, ending the act with an Earlene song is dire. Jay and Co. may have been featured in it but they should have been the focal point. The song can stay and maybe begin Act II. It has shades of “Whipped Into Shape” from Legally Blonde.
photo by Clayton Jacobson
The production value of The Last Word was spot on. The 70’s inspired set from Elizabet Puksto featured an epic Scrabble board floor. It was fun and effectively got the job done. The costumes from Christopher Vegara were period yet they didn’t feel like costumes. Michael Bellow had a strong vision for his creative team and his actors. His direction was precise, for the most part. He allowed the story, however convoluted it may be, to shine through, The laughs came inherently and the sentimentality was genuine. If there was one thing he could have had a stronger conviction of was the use of the sign boy. Andreas Wyder, the silent ensemble member, would walk in and place a sign or walk out with another. Bellow needed to turn this into a bit. The other problem Bellow faced was having his actors punch the important plot lines. They were punched to the point of lacking all trust in the audience. If the fear of the story is a prime concern, perhaps that’s a sign that the script needs great assistance. The space at The Duke was a bit tight yet chroegrapher Nick Kenkel managed to make it feel like a Broadway stage. The choreography was exceptional. It was filled with energy, containing odes to the decade.
Through the characters were a bit thin, there were some strong performances in the company. Travis Kent as straight edge Neil Jackson was the star of the show. Kent’s voice soared from start to finish. He crafted a fun character that was never annoying. When you have a role ripe for a scene-stealer, casting a scene-stealer is everything Felicia Finley made every second count as the evil Earlene. MJ Rodriguez had the bite as Carlise but there were times where the music didn’t sit perfectly in her voice, taking the tenacity away from the character. But Rodriguez was on point in the book scenes. As Jay, Nathan Lucrezio had the swagger of Lin-Manuel Miranda with the sound of Anthony Rapp. Whether it was the unlikeable character or limited choices, Lucrezio faded into the background. That’s usually not a great place for a central character.
The Last Word had some mighty high highs and some mighty low lows. Despite this, it’s a show that has a strong future. Brett Sullivan and his musical have a lot going for them. A little dramaturgical assistance may do the trick.

Trolling Time with...Molly Kelleher

Name: Molly Kelleher

Hometown: Guilderland, NY

Education: Emerson College

Who do you play in The Illusory Adventures of a Dreamer: Aase/Homeless Woman

Describe your character(s) in three words: Dramatic, Overbearing, Fearful

Tell us about The Illusory Adventures of a Dreamer: Grotesque dramatics (in a good way) of waking life seen from a dreamer's perspective.

Describe The Illusory Adventures of a Dreamer in three words: Sexy Hero's Journey

Who is the biggest liar?: Taylor

Who is the biggest troll?: Austin

Who is the sexiest?: Corinne

Who is the most mischievous?: Eddie

Most likely to go on an adventure?: Me

Most likely to get caught up in a cult?: Geo

Which bandana best describes you?: I only wear scarfs.

Favorite (gay) bar in NYC: Marie's Crisis because I'm secretly a 60yr old queen with love for a time step.

Fun, laughs, or good time?: Good times

Do you talk to yourself in a mirror?: Only when I'm auditioning for Sybil

What is your favorite moment in The Illusory Adventures of a Dreamer: Homeless woman rant, Aase Rant....I get to rant a lot and man it's nice to have that clowning freedom to just "go" there!

What is the most rewarding thing about being a part of the Dreamer team?: Amazing group of insightful, talent, and hilarious creative being to play with and they ain't bad to look at either.

Why should we come see The Illusory Adventures of a Dreamer?: Fun, Laughs, Good Times, with a little sexy on the side.

For more on Molly, visit mollykelleher.com

The Illusory Adventures of a Dreamer is part of the 20th Annual New York International Fringe Festival! Performances dates are Saturday, August 13th at 9:30pm, Tuesday, August 16th at 5:00pm, Monday, August 22nd at 4:45pm, Wednesday, August 24th at 7:00pm, and Saturday, August 27th at 1:30pm. All performances will be at Venue #1: Teatro SEA (107 Suffolk Street). For tickets, visit fringenyc.org

For more on The Illusory Adventures of a Dreamer, visit dreamerplay.com. To support and donate to the project, please visit gofundme.com/dreamerplay


Spotlight On...Adam Spiegel

Name: Adam Spiegel

Hometown: Plainsboro, NJ

Education: Bachelor of Music in Music Business from New York University

Favorite Credits: Camp Rolling Hills, is being produced this summer at New York Musical Festival, and has been adapted into a series of young adult novels published by Abrams Books. Composer of Cloned!, a New York Times Critic’s Pick and winner of NYMF 2014’s Best of Fest Audience Prize!, and The Whole Megillah!  Completed two years as a composer in the BMI Lehman Engel Musical Theatre Workshop, worked on a musical adaptation of "Back To The Future" with lyricist Dan Wolpow. Also the keyboardist and lead singer of Brain Salt, and plays keyboards and sings for the band Hide & Seek. As an actor, Peter in Vital Theatre Company’s Pinkalicious, The Musical!

Why theater?: When I was 8 years old, I went to a sleep-away camp called Camp Tranquillity for the first time. Every Saturday night, we would put on a show in the Barn Theater. The first week I was there, I auditioned to be in Peter Pan, and got the role of Smee. I don't quite remember why I wanted to audition, but it was possibly because my older brother David had gone to camp the previous summer, and he had played Linus in You're A Good Man Charlie Brown and it sounded like fun. Anyway, I had a great time doing it, and ended up being involved in just about every show the rest of that summer, and the 11 other summers that followed. I've loved performing ever since. When I was in middle school, I started figuring out how to write music, and was often told that my music sounded like it could be in a musical. In high school I kept developing my piano and composition skills, and ended up music directing and arranging music for the annual AP History play senior year, as well as writing a few scenes for it. I was a music business major at NYU, but I continued performing and writing music. Eventually I signed up for a musical theatre writing class, and after a semester of writing a lot of fun songs, I collaborated on a ten minute musical called I'm Falling for my final project. It was about two people skydiving and falling in love in mid-air (the subtitle was Love Is In The Air). After that I knew I wanted to write musicals.

Tell us about Camp Rolling Hills: Camp Rolling Hills tells the story of 12-year-old Robert Benjamin, sent away to camp by his newly-divorced parents. At first, Robert resents being stuck in a strange place with a bunch of enthusiastic weirdos who've nicknamed him "Smelly." Before too long, he starts to love camp and everything that comes with it. He learns to play guitar, finds first love, and finally earns the respect and admiration of his bunkmates. Along with the rest of the 12 year-old campers of San Juan Hill and Anita Hill Cabins, Smelly (eventually) has the greatest summer of his life, breaking the rules, making lifelong friends, and learning important life lessons along the way.

What inspired you to write Camp Rolling Hills?: My brother David and I went to camp together first as campers, and then as staff members from age 16 on. Once we were both on staff, David would direct the shows, and I would music direct and play piano. Between our experience putting on shows together there and our experiences at camp in general and all the fun stories and memories that came with it, we had more than enough material on which to base our own musical.

What kind of theater speaks to you? What or who inspires you as an artist?: I tend to gravitate towards comedy, especially stuff that is silly—but it has to be cleverly written. Generally, I'm inspired by little things that makes me laugh. If I stumble onto a funny story or see a funny character, or even come across a silly rhyme or pun, I want to follow the thread and see if it leads anywhere. Some of my favorite things that I've written have come out of ideas I've had (either on my own or with a writing partner) that I just can't stop laughing about. My favorites are the ones that I think are too stupid to use at first - those are the ideas that seem to really stick the hardest.

If you could work with anyone you’ve yet to work with, who would it be?: I wouldn't say that there's any specific person I'm dying to work with, but I love working with creative, fun, open minded people, from the writing process all the way up through production. I'm really excited about working with our incredible cast this summer which includes six actors (four of them kids!) who have already been on Broadway.

What show have you recommended to your friends?: I haven't gotten to see Hamilton yet, so I can't say that one, but my favorite shows the last five years or so have been The Book of Mormon, One Man Two Guvnors, Matilda, Pippin, and Into The Woods (the Delacorte production).

Who would play you in a movie about yourself and what would it be called?: I don't know his name, but the kid who plays Adam on ABC's "The Goldbergs" would play me, and the movie would be called "Cheese, Mostly".

If you could go back in time and see any play or musical you missed, what would it be?: Probably the original production of A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum with Zero Mostel.

What’s your biggest guilty pleasure?: Phish!

If you weren’t working in theater, you would be?: Definitely playing music somewhere - touring with one of my bands would be awesome.

What’s up next?: My band Hide and Seek has a residency at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 1 every Saturday night at 10PM on August 13th, 20th and 27th, plus an EP release show at Rockwood Stage 2 on September 24th. I also have a new EP coming out soon from my band Brain Salt!

For more on Adam, visit www.adamspiegelmusic.com. For more on Camp Rolling Hills, visit www.camprollinghills.com

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Spotlight On...Josh Davis

Name: Josh Davis

Hometown: Columbia, MD

Education: BS, Business from The University of Delaware

Select Credits: Broadway: OCM Beautiful: The Carole King Musical; Regional: Bella: An American Tale, Les Miserables, Guys & Dolls, Beauty and the Beast

Why theater?: Theater has job security, the pay is amazing and there's very little competition. What?...Oh. Well, it beats working a desk job and there is nothing like the process of putting a show together and performing live on stage. Nothing like it in the world.

Who do you play in The Gold?: I play Joseph Cohen, a Jewish-German boxing hopeful for the 1937 Olympics.

Tell us about The Gold: Joseph Cohen, a Jewish-German boxer, finds his 1936 Olympic ambitions crushed as the Nazi’s rise to power. He soon learns that his toughest fight lies outside the ring, as he is separated from the woman he loves and their young son. Set against the backdrop of the Holocaust and the creation of Israel, The Gold is a testament to the resilience of the human spirit and the journey of self-discovery that each of us takes as we search for purpose in our lives. At least that's what the program says.

What is it like being a part of The Gold?: I've been with this show since 2009 when it was produced for the first time in Houston, TX. Since then it has gone through many iterations. Last year we did a staged reading of an updated script and this year the script has gone through more evolution and we get to perform it full out this time. It's been a wonderful experience watching it grow and evolve.

What kind of theater speaks to you? What or who inspires you as an artist?: Theater that is truthful no matter if t's a drama  comedy or absurd farce.  The last show I saw at the time of doing the interview was The Color Purple. I was so truthful and raw. I wept not only for the story but for the magnitude of talent on stage. I'm inspired by my cast mates at Beautiful each of whom are artist sin their own way. I'm also inspired by those people who are told ,"no that can't be done" and figure out a way to do it. Pessimism is the death of art and creativity. but it can also be a powerful motivator.

Any roles you’re dying to play?: In musical theater? Well, I always wanted to play Fanny Brice, but I'm not sure that will happen. I'd love to play Hedwig, Sweeney Todd and Indiana Jones even though that's not a musical. Or maybe the bad guy that Indiana Jones has to fight.

What’s your favorite show tune?: "Stars" from Les Mis has a special meaning to me. It was one of the first songs I heard that I really loved singing in high School and I had the chance to play Javert 3 times since then.

If you could work with anyone you’ve yet to work with, who would it be?: Kevin Spacey

Who would play you in a movie about yourself and what would it be called?: A young Jim Carey. "Once Upon This Island"

If you could go back in time and see any play or musical you missed, what would it be?: The original Death Trap

What show have you recommended to your friends?: The Color Purple and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

What’s your biggest guilty pleasure?: Video Games

What’s up next?: After The Gold I'll heading to the Dallas Theater Center to perform in Bella: A New American Musical directing by Robert O'Hara

Review: Making and Breaking an Icon

By Michael Block

What makes an icon iconic? History plays an important role in the legacy of an icon. In Sebastian Michael and Jonathan Kaldor's Icon, the mystery of a fallen princess takes center stage in this Art Deco era musical.
With book by Sebastian Michael and score by Jonathan Kaldor, Icon begins with a young man searching for the person he must share his inheritance with. When he locates the woman, he's lead down a trail of memories and truths about the iconic Princess Constance, the debutante turned royalty who's death changed a nation. Icon is an old-fashioned story reminiscent of the Golden Age that manages to have modern sensibility. The theme of celebrity is something very current that allows this sort of show to work. Icon has shining moments, many of which come through Kaldor’s score. But there are some major roadblocks that make the libretto falter. First and foremost, as brilliant as the opening number is, the musical needed to start with the memory. It establishes the entire production. With the interaction between Marcello and Miss Vine occurring after the opening, it makes the worth of the opening hollow. This is the rare occurrence where a musical can, and should, start without a musical number. Adjust some lines, let the story of Princess Constance start and then lead in with “Perfect”. Michael sets his piece as an engaging mystery. Why was Constance picked to save this country? What is the significance of Princess Constance’s death? Who is Miss Vine? The intrigue of Icon is the mystery but the moment you figure it out, which is quite quickly, the air is let out and it’s hard to care about much moving forward. If the text is going to get some re-exploring, there is some material ripe for the cutting, making Icon a single act. Though exploring the royal family a bit more is important.
Getting butts into seats is crucial. Icon stacked the show with Donna McKechnie and Tony Sheldon. And rightly so. But don’t expect to see them as frequently as you’d think. McKechnie plays Miss Vine. The character is a bit frazzled to meet this stranger under the circumstances but McKechnie finds a way to give her substance beyond teller of tales. Sheldon’s Gualtieri was an astute butler that had little to do. Perhaps if Sheldon should continue in another iteration, it may be time to amp up the character. Charlotte Maltby is elegance personified. A real-life Disney princess. The look of Taylor Swift with the stage presence and sound of Sutton Foster, Maltby has charisma and a bright future. Her Princess Constance was an icon. Opposite Maltby was Sam Simahk in as career-defining role as Alvaro. Simahk has a classical approach that fit this piece well. Even though height did play a factor, Maltby and Simahk were a strong pair.
The flapper inspired feel was alive and well in Icon. Director and choreographer Paul Stancato tried to infuse as much excitement into the production. And his staging was strong. But there were some major factors that worked against him. The pacing was excruciatingly slow and needed to be picked up. This would allow the sentimental moments to be properly earned. As mentioned earlier, the idea of starting the story through memory is important. But once the story is established, Stancato needed to keep the story present at all times. It would have been far more interesting to have Miss Vine and Marcello watch the action unfold before them. The costumes from Liene Dobraja were sensational, especially anything placed on Maltby’s Princess Constance. There was a mostly pleasant surprise with Kevan Loney’s projection design. It was unexpected but it did aid the production greatly, despite some corny images.
Icon was a completely realized production. It’s a musical that certainly has commercial appeal. Once Jonathan Kaldor and Sebastian Michael make some much needed changes, Icon will be ready for the spotlight.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Spotlight On...Charles Bloom

Name: Charles Bloom

Hometown: Los Angeles, CA.

Education: Academically. NYU - Music Composition and Psychology. In life, alongside my formal music education, I found my semi-brief career as an actor on TV had a direct, invaluable effect on my ability to write for performers...to think as they do while on stage. I think all theatre writers should take an acting class, particularly when they're starting out.

Favorite Credits: My store credit at Bergdorf's. As an actor on TV, it was guest-starring on an episode of "Mork and Mindy. Robin Williams was almost seen as "the new Chaplin" at that time, so I knew being able to work alongside such a rare, comedic mentality would be important so I haven't forgotten a thing from that experience. As a composer/lyricist, I'm ashamed to admit, I don't really have any. My work isn't exactly over-exposed and has rarely been produced. Better to have asked me what my favorite song of mine is...but I'm glad you didn't.

Why theater?: I love the theatre for the same reason my favorite instrument to which to listen is solo acoustic guitar (classical or jazz). It's beautiful and yet imperfect. You can hear the squeaking of fingers sliding up and down the frets. The theatre, similarly, is filled with beauty in countless definitions but by its very design, to fully connect there must be something to see and hear that is slightly raw and of course, unpredictable. When an art form is alive when delivered, there must be some suspense somewhere. The theatre feels eternally unfinished and I find that to be, as Lerner wrote in My Fair Lady, "a towering feeling".

Tell us about Insomnia: When composing a score for something not based on pre-existing material (the hardest, most dangerous kind of show to write), before a note is written, I first look for any built-in structural elements which are universally familiar. In Insomnia, that comfort connection was not a dominating character or a searing plot-point...it was a period of time: Midnight to Dawn. These wee, small hours come to all of us night-after-night but we experience them in millions of different ways. Thus, the idea of "similar and different" at the same time made me feel that no matter where the story led, the audience would have a natural, internal connection to the main characters' journey because to some degree, they have all taken a variation of it. This is WHY it appealed to me. To know the rest, you'll have to come see it.

What inspired you to compose Insomnia?: Lots of reasons. Being the son of a commercially successful screenwriter, I thought (and think) it has great potential to be widely produced. Next, the challenge of writing in a conceptual form, rather than the conventional unveiling of a story, interested me. Third, as I wrote in the previous question, like the general audience, there were elements of its content with which I, too, could personally identify which brings with it the literary equivalent of a "gravitational pull". 4th, this show caused me to intersect with Theo Wolf. I saw a play he wrote last year at a local festival and heard a maturity of language and a sense for story structure which extended far beyond his youthful years. I enjoyed how he writes, alternately, both for story and character which is hard to do seamlessly. We haven't known one another that along but share an affinity for the same kind of theatre which makes for a kinship which supersedes time. I hope Theo and I stick together. 5th, my dear friend and colleague Ovi Vargas: a passionate, uncompromising theatre man with whom I love working. Finally, as a pure matter of music, Insomnia allows me to write in a myriad of different styles without being "various for the sake of being various". It's an ensemble piece made of many pieces and the chance to put them all together was great fun, indeed.

What kind of theater speaks to you? What or who inspires you as an artist?: The kind that forces me to listen. The kind that slaps me down in a seat, buckles me in, takes me by the collar and says. "You must look at me". I may be a pro in some capacities but when an audience member, I'm strictly an amateur. I love to be made to cry...even more than to laugh. As soon as I know the authors are in control, I willingly go where they take me. I never impose my personal views or values on an artistic expression created by someone else. When watching anything, musical or otherwise, I am the business of believing. The "what" stems from the opposition to the idea that "everything has been done" and even if it has, the WAYS in which to do them will never be exhausted. I think an artists' nature should be immersed in a feeling of limitlessness, innocence and most importantly of all, doubt. In art, it is better to suspect than it is to "know". The bloated idealist in me is, however, in NO doubt about the fact that if the arts were emphasized in all public schools twice as much as they are now...not as an elective, but as a normal offering to development of human nature, the world would be a better, if still imperfect place. The "who" has always been the people in ALL art forms who have devoted their lives to it...to the creation of a body of work. We know the famous people who have succeeded but that is the result. The differing mediums and the success, itself, are incidental. It's the commitment that counts and the artist must trust in the idea that all good work is good because it has made something more than money. It has made an echo over time.

If you could work with anyone you’ve yet to work with, who would it be?: Douglas Carter Beane, Terrence McNally and James Lapine are the first 3 who come to mind. These men (and there are others, but why walk you through my foolish dreams?) while not technically composers, create work so rich in "music", while hearing their plays, I feel like am at Carnegie Hall. The constant rhythm of their ideas and by turns, simplicity and counterpoint in their concepts makes me feel as if I know them and if we worked together, we'd have a "humming-start".

What show have you recommended to your friends?: In the past, I've recommended:
OTHER DESERT CITIES - FROST/NIXON - LOMBARDI - SOUVENIER (The story of Florence Foster Jenkins)

Who would play you in a movie about yourself and what would it be called?: The movie would star Neil Patrick Harris and be called "HUMMABLE BEGINNINGS" - Until things get better professionally, I'm titling my memoirs, "THE IMPOVERISHED PHILANTHROPIST"

If you could go back in time and see any play or musical you missed, what would it be?: Play: OUR AMERICAN COUSIN on the night Lincoln was assassinated. - Musical: The opening night of CAROUSEL. Song: I would like to hear Cole Porter play "Night and Day" the moment it was finished.

What’s your biggest guilty pleasure?: I love to watch old movies while eating hot, heavily buttered popcorn and drinking very cold V-8 Juice. Sounds crazy, no? It is...but it brings more pleasure than guilt. Please don't be afraid of me now.

If you weren’t working in theater, you would be _____?: A teacher...and on the few times I've been in such a privileged position, it was a truly rewarding experience. (Colleges doing revues of my stuff, etc...) Since I have to-date not been in many classrooms, I'm happy to say that my work is. Archives of my songs are in many musical theatre-emphasized colleges in the US and abroad. It has been a source of much gratification that international educators find my work as a good way to instruct students in learning new songs which are classically structured. I'm a pretty low-tech person so, next to writing, sharing ideas with musical theatre students would be a good "other life".

What’s up next?: Who knows? I don't even know my next chord change. I'd like to see Insomnia begin its journey to a larger audience. I'd like my other works to follow suit. Another of my shows will likely be up at this (or another festival) next summer. In general, I'd like to be busier because I do my best work under pressure but, as you've read here, a life in the arts is more questionnaires than answers.

Spotlight On...Vivian Neuwirth

Name: Vivian Neuwirth

Hometown: New Orleans, LA

Education: St. Mary’s Dominican College, New Orleans, The Juilliard School Drama Department.

Favorite Credits: NOLA Three Plays About Home, at TheatreLab. This is a trilogy that takes place before, during and after Katrina. It’s explores the meaning of home through the stories of the ones who stayed, the ones who left, the ones who couldn’t make it back, who made it back and the ones who didn’t make it at all. “NOLA, Three Plays About Home”, my New Orleans trilogy that takes place before, during and after Katrina, co- produced by Lagniappe Productions & Manhattan Theatre Source in 2013 at TheatreLab.  As an actress my favorite credit is “Marvin’s Room” at the Kennedy Center.

Why theater?: Not much theater came to New Orleans when I was growing up. But there was a theater company called “Le Petit Theatre du Vieux Carre” in the French Quarter. I started taking acting classes there on Saturdays when I was very young.  I remember when I first sat down in the theater for my first class I felt like I was home. I was a weird kid, a bit of a bookworm, and didn’t really fit in but I felt like I fit in there. That happens to me now. Whenever I enter a theatre I feel that I’m home.  Anything can happen in the theatre.  It happens in the moment. The most beautiful production can often be one that isn’t perfect but where the performers reveal the human condition. The audience responds to the performer’s humanity and can be touched in ways they didn't expect. A transformation can occur which is shared by performer and audience directly. There's no editing, re-mastering or re-takes, which makes theatre a little dangerous and exciting. The production has a life span, which also mirrors the human condition. It's brought to life for a certain amount of time, which is limited, and then is gone. The experience can be very personal to an audience member who feels that they have been witness to an event in time that is unique. So memories are created which are passed on by storytelling about the experience and can become legends.

Tell us about Mr. Toole: In Mr. Toole, the story of John Kennedy Toole, who wrote “A Confederacy of Dunces” is told from the point of view of a woman who was his student at St Mary’s Dominican College in New Orleans.  She’s haunted by his memory and goes back in time to solve the mystery of his death and what she could have done to stop it.

What inspired you to write Mr. Toole?: I was the student and he was my teacher. I went to Dominican College for a year before I was accepted into Juilliard.  After I got to New York my mother called to tell me that he committed suicide. That had a profound impact on my life and still does.  I didn’t know he had written a novel and I didn’t know why he committed suicide.  I felt that I had missed something. There’s an underlying theme in the play of missed relationships. Missed opportunities. The play is a discovery for me and hopefully for the audience. It’s also a love story. Imaginary, of course! It’s my way of repaying my debt of gratitude to Mr. Toole and honoring him.

What kind of theater speaks to you? What or who inspires you as an artist?: Passionate theatre. I am inspired by any kind of theatre where the writing is compelling and the performers are committed and fearless. I’m especially inspired when I’m moved by the performances in some way and where there is passion. Where the character is in a heightened state of awareness and my awareness becomes heightened as a result. I have the honor to have a wonderful director, Cat Parker, and brilliant actors in my play who are very committed and passionate.  Laura Butler, Brenda Currin, Todd d’Amour, John Ingle, Lou Liberatore and Richard Vernon are creating a world that I wrote but bringing it to a new level in ways I never expected. I feel so much gratitude. The artist who has had the most influence on me as a writer is Tennessee Williams. When I was a teenager I babysat for a family who had all his plays on a bookshelf. The mom knew I was taking acting classes in the Quarter and suggested that I read them, which I did. I knew my mom wouldn’t like it because they had sex in them so I kept it a secret but every time I babysat I would read another play. I read them all.  I don’t remember the child I babysat for but I remember sitting in a sun filled room feeling free and filled with wonder.

If you could work with anyone you’ve yet to work with, who would it be?: Greg Mosher. We went to Juilliard together and he did some directing then, although he was an acting student. He directed The Wild Duck as a workshop production and I thought it was stunning. It was truly the best theatre I’d ever seen. I’ll never forget it.  I also saw his production of A View From the Bridge on Broadway which was powerful and, yes, passionate.. I would love for him to direct of on my plays!

What show have you recommended to your friends?: Recently I became obsessed with the Royal Shakespeare Company’s Great Cycle of Kings at BAM. I saw them all. Henry IV, Parts I and II, Henry V and my favorite, Richard II. I loved David Tennant so much as Richard that I went back and saw it again even though it was completely sold out and there was a line around the block for cancellations. I got the last ticket for the last performance. The fight for tickets was very passionate. People were in tears when they were told to leave the lobby.

Who would play you in a movie about yourself and what would it be called?: Mary Louise Parker or Marisa Tomei. I love both their work and identify with them both. I don’t have a title yet but the working title could be “From the Big Easy to the Big Apple! Who dat?”  I was in New York during 9/11 and saw the towers fall from my window in my apartment in the West Village. Actually I saw more than that. There are images I wish I didn’t have in my memory but they won’t go away. I lost my family home in New Orleans during Katrina. I have my story with Mr. Toole. I think there’s enough material there for a movie!

What’s your biggest guilty pleasure?: Staying in bed all day reading a novel. Once I start I can’t stop until I finish it. Until now.  My play is in rehearsal so I haven’t been able to finish “Someone” by Alice McDermott. But my husband, Eddie, is reading “A Farewell to Arms” and reads a chapter out loud to me before we go to bed. I find reading great literature helps me as a playwright.

If you could go back in time and see any play or musical you missed, what would it be?: Streetcar Names Desire with Marlon Brando and Jessica Tandy.

If you weren’t working in theater, you would be _____?: A novelist? Or a journalist.

What’s up next: Hopefully, a longer run of Mr. Toole! In two acts. Also, I’ve been thinking about writing a play about Louis Moreau Gottchalk, a 19th century composer and pianist from New Orleans. Also I want to adapt the stories of Kate Chopin, a 19th century novelist, also from New Orleans, for the stage.

Trolling Time with...Taylor Turner

Name: Taylor Turner

Hometown: Montgomery, Alabama but I was born in Bradenton, Florida a.k.a. THE SEAT OF MANATEE COUNTY A.K.A. THE MANATEE CAPITAL OF THE WORLD (I really like manatees).

Education: NYU Tisch.

Who do you play in The Illusory Adventures of a Dreamer: Peer Gynt.

Describe your character(s) in three words: Royal. Ass. Pain.

Tell us about The Illusory Adventures of a Dreamer: I didn't even audition for it so idk how I got here honestly.

Describe The Illusory Adventures of a Dreamer in three words: Gay. As. Hell.

Who is the biggest liar?: Melania Trump.

Who is the biggest troll?: Me.

Who is the sexiest?: Our dramaturg, Claire. Her plethora of information on the original Ibsen text gave me a serious boner. And as the Queen Beyoncé herself says...











Being educated is sexy!!!

Who is the most mischievous?: I think Eddie—check them shifty eyes.

Most likely to go on an adventure?: Austin. He's already seen some shit for sure and his thick layer of chest hair provides enough insulation for a variety of climates, so he'll save a bundle on clothes!

Most likely to get caught up in a cult?: I've already done a show where the cast literally operated as a cult in and out of rehearsal. I got really into it and made punch that we all drank after our last show. So, also me.

Which bandana best describes you?: Is there one that means "perpetually single"?

Favorite (gay) bar in NYC: I don't go to bars. I stay at home and pray.

Fun, laughs, or good time?: Laughs (he said, lying horizontally in his bed and typing these answers with a deadpan expression).

Do you talk to yourself in a mirror?: One time I reenacted the last fifteen minutes of Into the Woods in my bathroom mirror. I was drunk AF but I gave full beats, meanings, action AND objective. I was in tears the entire time.

What is your favorite moment in The Illusory Adventures of a Dreamer: The two and a half pages I'm offstage.

What is the most rewarding thing about being a part of the Dreamer team?: I've learned a lot from this cast; for example, that people asking you to pee on them is a fairly common sexual occurrence.

Why should we come see The Illusory Adventures of a Dreamer?: Because I need to prove to everybody that my face ain't as busted as it is on the poster.

For more on Taylor, visit taylor-turner.com and check him out on your TV soon in "The Cobblestone Corridor"

The Illusory Adventures of a Dreamer is part of the 20th Annual New York International Fringe Festival! Performances dates are Saturday, August 13th at 9:30pm, Tuesday, August 16th at 5:00pm, Monday, August 22nd at 4:45pm, Wednesday, August 24th at 7:00pm, and Saturday, August 27th at 1:30pm. All performances will be at Venue #1: Teatro SEA (107 Suffolk Street). For tickets, visit fringenyc.org

For more on The Illusory Adventures of a Dreamer, visit dreamerplay.com. To support and donate to the project, please visit gofundme.com/dreamerplay


Spotlight On...Barrie Linberg

Name: Barrie Kealoha Linberg

Hometown: Upland, California

Education: BA Drama University of California, Irvine

Select Credits: Carmen la Cubana (u/s Carmen, Paquita, Châtelet Theatre, Paris, arrangements by Alex Lacamoire and Jaime Lozano, directed by Christopher Renshaw); Crazy in Love (Young Nora, original cast, written by Kooman and Dimond, directed by Al Blackstone); The Yellow Brick Road (La Bruja, composed by Jaime Lozano, directed by Dev Janki); The Full Monty (Estelle Genovese, regional)

Why theater?: I'm an introvert by nature, so theatre is a wonderful opportunity to safely connect with other people in a way I don't get to in real life. I've also joked that singing is the only socially acceptable way to scream in public...sometimes you need to just let it out!

Who do you play in Children of Salt?: I play Coral, "the one that got away" of Raúl, the main character. When Raúl comes back to his hometown after 20 years away, she is forced to reconcile the feelings she once had for Raúl with her current life as a wife and mother.

Tell us about Children of Salt?: It's a beautiful show, a true "memory play", based on the play Niños de Sal by Mexican playwright Hernán Galindo. Our main character Raúl, played by the EXTRAORDINARY Mauricio Martinez, returns to his hometown after 20 years away and is confronted by the literal and figurative ghosts of his past, forcing him to reflect on his decisions and their consequences. It's joyous, desperate, and beautifully human all at the same time.

What is it like being a part of Children of Salt?: The cast and creatives have become like family. All of us come from different backgrounds, but we support and love each other whole-heartedly. It's a truly collaborative process, and with such esteemed artists, it's exhilarating to see what we create every day. I haven't felt this way about a piece of theatre in a long time!

What kind of theater speaks to you? What or who inspires you as an artist?: I love shows that illuminate the stories of people who have been overlooked, whether it be because of race, religion, gender, or simply their life choices. Or raucous comedy! Laughter is a powerful force. My fellow artists do! It's so delicious to get to know dynamic, intelligent people outside of the theater and then see how their essences are translated through their art. It's transformative.

Any roles you’re dying to play?: Pick a Schuyler sister, any Schuyler sister! I'd love play Gloria in On Your Feet! or Vanessa in In The Heights, but my first love is actually comedy, so Bea in Something Rotten! or the Lady of the Lake in Spamalot are pretty high on the list as well. Or Bobby in a gender-bent version of Company!

What’s your favorite showtune?: You know what's funny, "Another Hundred People" always stops me in my tracks. It's an oddly upbeat song about the near-impossibility of making meaningful human connections, which is something that speaks to me on a very deep level. But if you see me dancing down the sidewalk, there's a good chance I'm blasting "My Shot".

If you could work with anyone you’ve yet to work with, who would it be?: When I auditioned for Carmen last year, I briefly worked with Alex Lacamoire, but he wasn't able to come out to Paris for the show itself. He's obviously a brilliant musician, but I also felt like he was such a genuinely lovely person, which can be a rarity in this industry! I'd love to get the chance to really work with him in future.

Who would play you in a movie about yourself and what would it be called?: It would be called "Ambiguous Alto" and I would be played by the queen of ambiguously ethnic women, Rashida Jones.

If you could go back in time and see any play or musical you missed, what would it be?: I've watched the VHS (yes, VHS!) of the original cast of Into the Woods countless times, but to get to see it live...!

What show have you recommended to your friends?: Children of Salt, of course! Hamilton is astounding, but I always also recommend On Your Feet! and The Color Purple for anyone who wants to leave the theatre on a high.

What’s your biggest guilty pleasure?: I love to take myself to the movies to watch the latest animated children's movie. I usually sneak in a can of Dr. Pepper and a box of Red Vines and just sort of bliss out into a temporary childhood for a few hours. Putting "adulting" on hold for a while is good for my soul!

What’s up next?: I'll be performing on the Seabourn Odyssey for a few months this fall as well as touring with my female vintage vocal group, America's Sweethearts. There's also talk of remounting Carmen la Cubana in Europe for 2017, so I'm crossing my fingers for that!

www.barrielinberg.com

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Spotlight On...John Carhart

Name: John Carhart

Hometown: That’s tricky…I moved 18 times before college….but I will say I was born in Jersey!

Education: BA in Theatre from Muhlenberg College, and 2 year program at The William Esper Studio

Select Credits: Dancer in John Waters’ “Hairspray”, Nick in the cult classic horror comedy, “There’s Nothing Out There”, Co-host of “Daily Shot with Ali Wentworth” for Disney.

Why theater?: I left acting in the 90’s to pursue a film editing and digital production career…and I returned to study acting, recently graduating last June. So theatre is really my training ground to really solidify what I’ve been studying…and I enjoy the thrill of live theatre.

Who do you play in Who Mourns for Bob the Goon?: I play Jonathan, the Therapist.

Tell us about Who Mourns for Bob the Goon?: Basically, its a story about a group of Iraqi War Veterans who all suffer from various levels of PTSD. Jonathan, has created a method whereby these vets can disassociate from their battlefield personas and associate that with a comic book character. His dream is to have an army of comic characters that he controls, allowing these soldiers to exist as one person in the field and another at home. The title character Bob, is having trouble making sense of the program…and winds up derailing the plan.

What is it like being a part of Who Mourns for Bob the Goon?: I’ve been with this project since some of the early readings last year, so its an amazing process to see how far we’ve come.

What kind of theater speaks to you? Who or who inspires you as an artist?: What or who inspires you as an artist?: I try to see as much theatre as I can. I love drama, new and old…I’m inspired when I see actors sharing who they are and revealing intimate parts of themselves…I love seeing risk takers…actors who experience moments so truthfully that I feel like I shouldn’t be listening….

Any roles you’re dying to play?: I’d like to do a production of Mother’s and Sons and I’d love to tackle The Lyons.

What’s your favorite showtune?: Not really a musical theatre kinda guy…but “Rent” really stayed with me.

If you could work with anyone you’ve yet to work with, who would it be?: I love so many actors…but I’d to work on a play with Jayne Houdyshell (who won a Tony for The Humans)

Who would play you in a movie about yourself and what would it be called?: Jason Bateman - "Let’s try this one more time…"

If you could go back in time and see any play or musical you missed, what would it be?:  Streetcar with Brando…really anything with him…I’d also like to have witnessed Laurette Taylor..I’ve read that she was magical onstage.

What show have you recommended to your friends?: Currently running? The Humans

What’s your biggest guilty pleasure?: Watching “Housewives of New Jersey” and “Beverly Hills”.

What’s up next?: I’m auditioning…There are a couple plays that have yet to commit to dates yet…but I think more theatre. I also filmed a guest spot on a new sitcom called “Nightcap” that starts in the fall.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Review: Who's Going to Save Ultimate Man?

By Michael Block

We all have an inner geek. Comic books are one of the ways we let our geek flag fly. But how the characters and stories are portrayed on the page, and on the screen, is ever changing. Perhaps that was part of the thesis of Ultimate Man. Instead, what appeared on stage was a dated musical with weak material, and 28 songs and reprises with only a handful being salvageable.
So what is Ultimate Man about? A third generation cartoonist must get with the times and make his super hero, Ultimate Man, relevant for a 2016 audience. Life imitate art? When Ultimate Man and the citizens of Ultimate City catch wind that change is a-coming and one of their own is about to be killed off, Ultimate Man goes on a mission to the real world to meet his creator and change his story. The plot is overdone. In fact, there's a musical in this year's festival that does it better. So why Ultimate Man now? It's a musical that seems to be lost in nostalgia. The way writers Paul Gambaccini, Alastair William King, Jane Edith Wilson and director Charles Abbott, who also snags a book writing credit, approach the material is through a lens that is not contemporary. In turn, it makes the show mediocre at best. It's like watching the old guy at the party trying to be young and hip. As a whole, the score has an ancient feel. There are far too many songs. But when something works, it really really works. Just look toward "I Want My World Back" and "I’m in Love and I Want You to Know". They're incredible numbers. "Be a Hero" is up there too. The thing with these three is the have a sound that marries the old fashioned feel but lives in today. If that's the overall theme the Ultimate Man team is going for then they need to infuse that into the rest of the score. But so many of the other songs have such agonizing lyrics that it may be best to go back to the drawing board. It’s very likely that the biggest problem of Ultimate Man is the fact that there are far too many cooks in the kitchen on this writing team. While we don’t know the origin of the musical and who specifically is credited to what, it’s clear that the spattering of ideas is what is aiding to the faltering musical. From a book perspective, the rules of the world are plainly out of whack. There are inconsistencies from scene to scene and you have to wonder if the characters in the comic are as dumb as they are portrayed. The other big blaring woe are the far too forced political references. They pop in for laughs that just don’t come because, well, they’re not funny. They’re a complete reach for the plot and sadly don’t add anything. Discovering who the audience is for this musical is also a crucial. Right now, it’s teetering on target audiences. Even with the woes throughout, the end of act one and act two were so close yet so far. “I Want My World Back” is a great number and is the perfect way to end the first act. As nice as it would be to have a full company end, “Ultimately” was such a downer of a number that it defeated the point of “I Want My World Back.” And then on the other end, Act II has a great number in “Be a Hero.” The comedy of the show is weak to begin with so trying to infuse it in the finale is a poor choice. The show must end on a positive note so eliminating the villain verses will give the song a more complete feel.
With only six actors, many doubled up on roles, causing a frenetic atmosphere. Sometimes it’s ok to have an ensemble to be, well, an ensemble. Sometimes casting can be hard but when you find a real-life, all-American Superhero, you have to cast him. Michael Glavan is the hero that saves the show from being a total disaster. Glavan has enough charm to smile away the bad guys. Joyah Love Spangler is an unsung hero. Not only is she a dead ringer for Kelly Clarkson, she has a vocal to match. She gets one of the smallest yet intriguing roles in tech wiz Beth.
Charles Abbott’s direction was weak to say the least. No matter how much of a contribution Abbott had to the book, Ultimate Man lacked excitement. It was drab. The comic world should lead to a plethora of potential. Instead, it was just a series of missed opportunities. The scenic design from Diggle lived in this in between of comically amateur and clean and sleek. Costume designer Travis Chinick had some strong ideas but some severe misses. Multi-track role can limit potential options but jeans in the comic world is an ultimate no no. When everything else is virtually flat, jeans throw everything off. And then there was Ultimate Man’s costume. It's clear where Chinick wanted the audience to look on Ultimate Man. But maybe that was the joke.
It’s hard to say what is the right way to fix Ultimate Man. Adding another opinion at this point is almost futile. When the audience is lukewarm to the material, you have to wonder if it's worth continuing.

Review: What a Title and What a Show!

By Kaila M. Stokes 

Sometimes you have to ponder things you see before you can express what exactly happened to you that night. In a lot of ways when a play hits you so hard, it is just as hard to articulate just how amazing the show was. The Annotated History of the American Muskrat written by John Kuntz definitely makes you think, and think and think some more. It starts out simple enough. When you enter the theater all of the actors are on stage, eight of them asleep in their beds and 2 masked figures lurking around them and staring at you. Immediately the 4th wall is broken. Is the audience part of the show? You sit there for an uncomfortable amount of time before the show actually begins; this must be to set the mood of how out of sorts this show is going to make you. Bravely directed by Skylar Fox, this show is a huge undertaking. There are guns, music and sound transitions out the wazoo, the destruction of the set on multiple occasions and eight talented actors playing several roles each.
The premise is simple, but not simple. There are eight subjects allegedly being tested while they are asleep. In their dreams is where this play goes crazy! The audience is forced to question, America, gun control, race, religion, the past, the present and the audience member next to him even. The subjects begin their story by informing the audience about muskrats and throughout keep relating everything back to muskrats; muskrat love, muskrat movies, muskrat historical figures and so on. As the story continues each character not only plays themselves but goes through a series of characters throughout history that ultimately is dealing with similar issues as we are today.
A memorable scene was when a character was a radicalistic and watched her story unfold to the point where she issued an attack armed with machine guns for her cause. The director, Skylar Fox, did this beautifully. She had her up on the set in slow motion with strobe lights beating, music booming and feathers being fanned into the audience creating a psychedelic moment that broke the fourth wall. The audience felt on the actors side even though her actions were extreme, it united everyone in way society is unable to when someone does something terrible. Another memorable moment was actually done in black face by a black man. After discovering that he may be living in a false reality, one of the masked figures comes out and shoots him most likely for discovering this. As he laid there dying he muttered, “I can’t breathe.” This was spine-shuttering due to all of the controversy in the country currently.  There were many references that seemed a direct result of what is in the news even though this piece was written two years ago. Throughout the piece, each character at one point either says or is told that they can leave at any time. This eerie sentence resonated with the audience as Americans. Americans can leave, but choose to stay in this broken society and too often do nothing out of the fear of the unknown just like these eight test subjects clamoring to feel important and not helpless. Are they really test subjects?
photo by Cheno Pinter
The ensemble (Sam Bell-Gurwitz, Jared Bellot, Madeline Boles, Chris Fitzsimmons, Simon Henriques, Molly Jones, Anna Nemetz and Justin Phillips) was phenomenal. The sheer physical and mental exhaustion these actors went through was impressive. Each actor was fighting for the same or similar goal, which is different from the format of most theater. Their internal struggle did not necessarily lie with one another, but themselves and the world. It is clear from their bios that they come from established acting backgrounds and all have a promising future. No one actor was the star, which was both the message and the beauty of this unique twisted play.
Amidst all of the serious analogies and plot angles, one thing was clear, both the writer and director have a sense of humor. In a three-hour show like this with the heavy topics that it portrays, that was very much needed. So throw in a lip-synced song, a slow motion pillow fight, a guitar solo by a heart-throb – do it – make your audience laugh and cry! The set designer, Adam Wyron, is the real hero. The Annotated History of the American Muskrat has many places, spaces and eras that need to be represented. Adam Wyrion designed eight moveable beds that started out on stage. Throughout the show, those beds became desks, cars, doors, caskets, bars and more. They literally transformed the stage for every scene; it was part of the magic. The other hero is lighting designer, Christopher Annas-Lee. The lighting was so important in the transitions. First of all, there was never a full blackout except for intermissions and the ending, which keeps the audience attached to the piece. BRAVO! The lighting also brought the audience in and out of reality, whatever reality means for this show. But it did let everyone know whether you were in the test lab, in a side scene, in the present, past. Etc. The marriage between the lights and sound was well timed. Sound cues were just as important, there was almost always an overlay of music. The sound cues and lighting actually contributed to some of the humor of the show. It felt smooth and effortless to the audience, just like tech elements should be.
Overall, what is there is say about a nearly perfect production? The one thing that could be perfected is the fact that it was unclear if the characters knew each other in reality or just in their subconscious. But then again, that may have been the point.

Spotlight On...Amy Steinberg

Name: Amy Steinberg

Hometown: Charlotte, NC

Education: Studied at Boston Conservatory, American Musical and Dramatic Academy, and Marymount Manhattan

Favorite Credits: Oh My God Don't Stop, one woman show, European Tour of Hair
 
Why theater?: I'm a drama queen! It is my nature. The human experience is fascinating, and I love creating art that uplifts and inspires from an authentic place.

Tell us about Breaking the Moon: Breaking the Moon is amazing! The show is like a shot of emotional adrenaline in the best way. The premise is rather dim, 7 teenagers in treatment for suicide, but the ultimate truth of the show is how human connection saves us and how important it is to come out, be real, seek and speak truth. This is how we heal and shine our light.

What inspired you to write Breaking the Moon?: My teens years were heavy and hard and I know that teens today have it much harder with the pressures of life. I wanted to write something for my inner teen and for the teens today.

What kind of theater speaks to you? What or who inspires you as an artist?: Raw, movement-based, inspiring theatre. Hope for a more awakened future. Spirituality, philosophy, human behaviors.

If you could work with anyone you’ve yet to work with, who would it be?: I don't have that kind of dream. I would love to collaborate with loads of people!

What show have you recommended to your friends?: I recommend that people go see live theatre in general. It's a special world to enter and important for our social evolution.

Who would play you in a movie about yourself and what would it be called?: Oh Lord. I would play my theatre teacher. The movie would be called - “A Creative Light.”

If you could go back in time and see any play or musical you missed, what would it be?: Would love to see the original A Chorus Line again. I saw it when I was very young and it is everything.

What’s your biggest guilty pleasure?: Television

If you weren’t working in theater, you would be _____?: Minister

What’s up next?: Hopefully Breaking the Moon moves forward in a big way. I am a singer songwriter so there's always another collection of songs to be released. I've been very interested in writing a musical version of The Shack. I prefer writing original pieces, so I'm sure I'll be writing something fabulous!

For more on Breaking the Moon, visit nymf.org

Review: Truer Than Fiction

By Michael Block

The portrayal of LGBTQ characters in mainstream media is pretty consistent. They are either over sexualized, littered in stereotypes, or face dark plot lines. But why? In Jamie Jarrett's new musical Normativity, Jarrett tries to break the norm and rewrite our story.
As part of the 2016 New York Musical Festival, Normativity, with book and score by Jamie Jarrett, Charlie is trying to finish his latest novel. But when he is about to kill off his queer character Emily, she comes to life in hopes of changing the narrative. Now in the real world, Emily is forced into living life as a real person and finds herself falling for a young girl named Taylor. Meanwhile Charlie has a relationship on the rocks with his lover slash editor Anne, proving you should never mix work with pleasure. Normativity deserves praise thanks to Jarrett's passion to give inclusion and visibility to a community that deserves a place on stage. Jarrett has composed a solid modern pop rock score. But where Normativity needs some growth is through the book. Jarrett has set a strong goal with hopes of changing the narrative but the plot is slightly convoluted and needs to find a way to break free from the preachy tendencies. There's nothing audiences hate more than being told how to think. That being said, Jarrett has a solid foundation to work from. The book needs work. Whether it's by bringing a new book writer in, changing the plot, or working with a dramaturg, once Normativity gets a facelift, it will be something noteworthy. As it stands now, the text is like watching a Freeform (formally ABC Family) or MTV scripted series geared toward teens. If that's not the target demographic, the dialogue needs to shift away from clichés. The other journey Jarrett could take is deciding who the central character or prime plot line is. In its current form it shifts often. If it's Charlie the writer, his arc needs to have more cultural conflict. If it's Emily the character, she needs to see how this world she's unfamiliar is functions. If it's Taylor, which is likely the right choice, then the others need to alter her journey even more.
photo by Steve Riskind
The Normativity company is filled with vivacity and youthful tenacity. Leading the bunch is the remarkable Izzy Castaldi as Taylor. Her voice is uniquely perky that matches the character. She made what could have been a throwaway song in "Whatever" a moment, highlighting Jarrett's songwriting skill. Mitchell Winter lived in constant turmoil as Charlie. But that's how Charlie is written. There was very little time to see in process his choices forcing Winter to play the woeful card. Madline Wolf as Emily explores what it is to be young and naive. And it forced a scattered character, wavering from thought to thought. Vocally, she and Castaldi blended well.
Even with a giant playing space at the Pearl, Normativity looked sleek and purposeful. The floor treatment and subsequent locker piece from scenic designer Kristen Robinson were fascinating to the eye. It looked like it was inspired by Gotye's "Somebody I Used to Know" music video. With direction by Mia Walker, bold choices were made but some had lingering affects. The metaphor of ripping up the paper was smart. The remains of the paper from that part forward? Not so smart. Even with potential slips to be considered, it sadly just didn't look pleasing. Lighting designer Zach Blane proved his love of color, blasting the cyc with a different color all the time. I'm sure there was a method to his madness but it unfortunately felt arbitrary.
Normativity is an important idea that deserves a platform. Jamie Jarrett has some work cut out before it can be the musical with a lasting legacy. But it can certainly happen. And that's what's most exciting.