Thursday, December 14, 2017

Spotlight On...Lynn Rosen

Name: Lynn Rosen

Hometown: Gary, Indiana (near Chicago)

Education: Brandeis University – BA in Theatre Arts

Favorite Credits: Proud of them all but the world premier of my EST/Sloan play The Firebirds Take The Field at Rivendell Theatre Ensemble in Chicago, directed by Jessica Fisch, this spring was a recent delight. Also proud of my work as co-creator/co-writer on my award-winning web series DARWIN, about a life coach whose life is falling apart, directed by Carrie Preston and Greg Ivan Smith, created with Karl Kenzler and Chris Gerson.

Why theater?: I’ve loved it since I was 6ish and I met Dracula at a kids’ show at The Goodman. He was terrifying and wonderful with his blood-red mouth and fangs. I fell in love with the mystery and the magic of it. Anything larger than life I am a fan of. Don’t we all want our lives to feel lifted and larger than they are? Even fleetingly? Theatre does that for me.

Tell us about Washed Up On The Potomac: Washed Up is a dark comedy set in D.C. about three proofreaders who find out that a coworker who vanished last year may – or may not have – just washed up on the Potomac. This makes them question their own existences and leads them to try to change their lives – no easy feat. Some change their lives more drastically than others. It’s also about the small but vital ways we try to connect with the people around us. And it’s an ode to art itself, and how life and art are entwined.

What inspired you to write Washed Up On The Potomac?: I worked in proofreading for many years. It’s a singular work environment mainly populated by artists wishing they were somewhere else. I was always struck by the personas and myths we’d create for ourselves in order to get through the day without feeling like failures. During that time I did, sadly, know of someone from my past who washed up on the Potomac. Besides being sad and scary, this made me think about the ways we all vanish from our lives. Additionally, I was haunted by the way people would simply not show up to work and never return. Sometimes we knew what happened to them, but more often it remained a mystery and all that was left of them was a sweater or a hat. It was spooky and sad. I guess I felt the need to work it out in my writing.

What kind of theater speaks to you? What or who inspires you as an artist?: I like theatre that is bold, and theatrical, and tells a good story, of course. Anything that involves a transformation gets me. I think that’s what lifts us out of the mundane and gets us thinking, feeling and maybe even connecting. And please be funny. Even just a little. How do people survive in this world without humor? As for inspiration, seeing the Bway tour of Noises Off as a kid made me want to be a playwright. Also Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead which I read when I was a teen. I’m still haunted by a scene in Mnemonic by ComplicitĂ© about Otzi the iceman, where a folding chair transforms into a man who is taking his last mortal steps in a snow storm. So simple yet so profoundly moving. I think about it a lot.

If you could work with anyone you’ve yet to work with, who would it be?: This is the starry-eyed version but Francis McDormand or Julia Louis-Dreyfus. I also just did a Playing On Air recording of my one-act I Love You with Bill Irwin – would love to work with him more, I think he’s a genius.

What show have you recommended to your friends?: Recently, The Band’s Visit. And Susan’s and Peter’s plays with The Pool!

Who would play you in a movie about yourself and what would it be called?: Hmm maybe Diane Keaton back in the day and it would be called “That Sounded Better In My Head.” Or “Well, That Was Awkward.”

If you could go back in time and see any play or musical you missed, what would it be?: Being at the show where Abraham Lincoln was shot might be compelling. I’d certainly write about it.

What’s your biggest guilty pleasure?: A certain reality TV show with wives who live in houses in NYC that are supposedly real.

If you weren’t working in theater, you would be _____?: Solvent? Well TV but that’s a boring answer. Actually, right now all my non-theatre work fantasies center around working in journalism and bringing down the Trump administration.

What’s up next?: Washed Up On The Potomac at San Francisco Playhouse this summer, also directed by Jose Zayas, thank god. Developing my musical about Helen Gurley Brown with rock band The Kilbanes at TheatreWorks Silicon Valley this April. Season 2 of my comedic web series Darwin. And working on a TV pilot with Carrie Preston. Also, I’m developing a farce set in a tea shop in Brooklyn called The Imperialists which is about, yeah, imperialism.

For more on The Pool Plays, visit https://www.thepoolplays.org/

Spotlight On...Susan Bernfield

Name: Susan Bernfield

Hometown: Palo Alto, CA

Education: University of Pennsylvania, Circle in the Square Professional Workshop

Favorite Credits: Stretch (a fantasia) at Ice Factory, New Georges and People’s Light & Theatre

Why theater?:  When I was 9, I started doing theater and found my people.  And now I get to meet new people who are my people just about every day.  I’m very lucky.

Tell us about Tania In The Getaway Van It’s a play about second wave feminism, the women’s movement of the 1970s, as it was experienced not in magazines or by fancy people but by middle-class suburban women who found themselves facing new choices for the first times in their lives, trying to re-form themselves as people with agency.  Or really the first part takes places in the 1970s, then the mother/daughter story at the play’s center moves forward to 2012 to talk a little bit about expectations met and failed in a fast/slow moving world.

What inspired you to write Tania In The Getaway Van?:  It’s a riff on my own childhood, my own mom and me, then it expands outward… the story was always very much there waiting to find a way out (or for me to find a way in), though I always wondered if it would actually interest anyone, I hesitated to write it. For better or worse, now seems to be the right time for it.

What kind of theater speaks to you? What or who inspires you as an artist?:  I want to be surprised, I want to see something I’ve never seen before.  I gravitate toward big theatricality and big ideas, I’m inspired by work I never could have thought up or made myself, that pushes my conception of what can happen in a theater in one way or another, through heightened language or theatricality or a new kind of theatrical context.  I think I’m more likely to be moved by a sudden image or juxtaposition or aggregation of elements that breaks through and brings an experience together than by a big conventionally-building emotional scene – I like to be snuck up on.

If you could work with anyone you’ve yet to work with, who would it be?:  Guys!  Ha!  Running New Georges, I don’t get to work with a lot of guy playwrights and directors, but sometimes there are guys I meet and I think, well, that’s too bad… that’d be different.  It’s a funny little world I’ve made for myself.

What show have you recommended to your friends?:   Last year I did a lot of recommending of Geoff Sobelle’s The Object Lesson at New York Theatre Workshop, and it’s back on my mind because I saw his Home at BAM today, directed by my friend Lee Sunday Evans, and again, wow.  The way he approaches environment, objects, community, the audience, he creates a relentlessly human and endlessly surprising experience… it draws you in – often literally, cause you’re in it – and eventually you figure out where it’s going and it’s so so moving.  Just when you least expect it, and because of how he’s devised and placed each moment, a perfect example of what I describe above.

Who would play you in a movie about yourself and what would it be called?:  Wow, huh!  Uh… Julia Louis-Dreyfus in “Fast Talking Woman”?

If you could go back in time and see any play or musical you missed, what would it be?:  Geez, I feel like I’m so old now I almost don’t know how to answer this! If I pretend I’m still a kid I’d say Philip Barry’s The Philadelphia Story on Broadway, written for and starring Katharine Hepburn, 1939.

What’s your biggest guilty pleasure?:  Donna Summer.  Live and More.  Holding or pretending to hold those long long screams of notes along with her got me through high school and it’s still delightfully there when I need it. Ditto Patti LuPone on the Evita soundtrack.  Both on my original vinyl.  Packhorse.

If you weren’t working in theater, you would be _____?:   Lately for some reason I’ve been having flower arranging dreams…

What’s up next?:  New Georges presents two sound-centered new plays in rep as part of our year as Anchor Partners at The Flea – Stephanie Fleischmann’s Sound House, directed by Debbie Saivetz, and Lily Whitsitt and Door 10’s This Is The Color Described By The Time.  And I’d like to get back in the game of performing my solo piece My Last Car in people’s living rooms, that was a delightful thing to do.

For more on Susan, visit www.susanbernfield.com. For more on The Pool Plays, visit www.thepoolplays.org

Review: Bioelectromagnetics As a Metaphor for Unleashing Women's Power

By Ed Malin

This December, Jody Christopherson’s new play AMP is running in repertory with her Greencard Wedding at HERE.  The play is directed by Isaac Byrne. Jody Christopherson, live onstage and in projected videos, portrays several unforgettable, electrifying characters from the 19th and 20th Centuries.
Electricity has an important role in life and death.  Italian scientist Luigi Galvani discovered in 1780 that an electric charge can make dead laboratory animals move their muscles.  He later tried that experiment on the corpse of an executed murderer, which also moved around.  Such discoveries and the political discourse of the Enlightenment fascinated the young Mary Godwin (Christopherson), daughter of author Mary Wollstonecraft and future wife of poet Percy Bysshe Shelley.  In an age where other prominent authors such as Rousseau had voiced their belief in the equal intelligence of the sexes and benefits of educating women, Wollstonecraft published “A Vindication of the Rights of Woman”.  Unfortunately, Wollstonecraft died shortly after the birth of her daughter, who found herself disliked by her new stepmother and challenged to defend her late mother’s work from less enlightened men.
 On the same stage where Mary has shown us some macabre scientific devices, such as shock-proof leather coveralls, operating tables and jars of noxious fluids, larger-than life projections fill in the rest of the story.  We also see a film of a mid-20th Century South Boston woman named Anna (Christopherson) who is trying to explain why she has ended up in a mental institution.  Anna studied cello and continually strove for recognition in a male-dominated field.  She is no delicate flower; in fact, her fisherman father taught her the best way to clean a fish. Even when she auditioned for the Boston Symphony—behind a screen—the judges still found a way to discriminate against her.  We see haunting images of Anna, strangely happy in a dilapidated asylum.   Anna’s unrepressible rage led to her imprisonment and to treatment with electroshock therapy.  Which brings us back to Mary.
photo by Hunter Canning
 In 1816, Mary Godwin, a.k.a Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, famously finds herself in a villa on the shores of Lake Geneva in the company of her husband, Lord Byron, her step-sister Claire and Byron’s doctor, John Polidori.  The group of creative outsiders decide to write ghost stories.  Mary’s contribution is “Frankenstein”, the story of a monster, a term she explains through its etymology of showing what is inside.  Indeed, what happens when you combine pieces of different creatures and give the result new life?  What is inside of Anna after she receives sock treatment?  If she docile, or furious, or a bit of both?  A beautiful, Romantic cello soundtrack floats through it all, thanks to sound designer (and projection designer and producer) Martha Goode.  The Mary episodes include the vocal talents of J. Stephen Brantley, Chloe Dirksen, Finn Kilgore, Ryan McCurdy and Jonathan West.
This scary and enjoyable piece brings back a sense of wonder about monsters.  In the early 19th Century, Galvanism and other experiments with electricity seemed mystical.  Now, we know (and may have had some relatives who experienced such things firsthand) that electroshock therapy is not the way to treat illness.  How do we strive for equality without continually hurting women?  How hard is it for a progressive idea to flourish in this world?  Jody Christopherson gives us several believable performances.  Anna’s scrappy, South Boston accent is courtesy of dialect coach Chloe Dirksen.  Anna’s earnest longing for success is a fine achievement of director Isaac Byrne.  Stacey Boggs's lighting design sets up ghost stories the way they should be done. The sheer majesty of Mary wearing leather gear and screaming has stayed with me.  The production is enhanced by films shot by Michael Niederman and Erika Phoebus, directed by Isaac Byrne and Jody Christopherson and edited by Christophersen. The films nicely transition from the long-ago world of 1816 to 1950s world which feels both real and somewhat removed. The establishing shots from a ruined asylum are by all accounts a triumph. So there we stand, looking back at ruinous ideas which ruined lives, and preparing to fight for women’s rights yet again.  I highly recommend AMP and am sure that if you like it you will like Greencard Wedding.

Meet the Queens: The Ultimate Drag Pageant Season 5 Finale

The Ultimate Drag Pageant is about to wrap up their fifth season on Thursday, December 14th at 11:00pm at The West End. Hosted by Marti Gould Cummings and Nedra Bell, this competition is one of New York's finest showcases for emerging drag talent. This season's finale will feature Allegra White, Cholas Spears, Edie James, Helluva Bottom Carter, Miz. Diamond Wigfall, and Petti Cake. Let's meet them! 

MEET THE QUEENS

Allegra White

What has been the best part about being a part of the Ultimate Drag Pageant?: The best part of being in Ultimate Drag Pageant for me has been utilizing all of my creative skills that I basically haven't touched in a couple years (and learning some new ones too!).  I really enjoy performing, dancing, mixing music, crafting, putting together looks, doing makeup, and basically everything else that goes into this, so being willingly forced to do all these things week after week has made me a happier person overall. Huzzah!

What was your favorite performance of the first 8 weeks?: Personally my favorite performance was last week where I did my Honey Boo Boo into Roman's Revenge mix. I've always imagined a performance of "Roman's Revenge" done by one person with costume changes back and forth between Nicki and Eminem, so I wanted to make that a reality - even if my costume changes weren't as polished as I ideally want. Then in order to fit the weekly theme (Pageant) in, I mixed in the Honey Boo Boo/Toddlers and Tiaras quotes which made the number even more ridiculous. But even on top of that, I went into Week 8 coming for blood because I didn't want to be on the bottom again, but at the same time not giving any fucks because if I were to be eliminated I would at least go out on a performance that I loved and felt strongly about. It ended up being so much fun!

What can we expect from you in the finale?: Up until this point most of my numbers have been very quirky and charactery. I've channeled Spongebob, Dracula, Courtney Stodden, Honey Boo Boo, among others. For the finale I am going to be 100% myself without any gimmicks, so I have no idea how that will go over. I do, however, know that my looks and accessories will be glorious as usual.

Chola Spears

What has been the best part about being a part of the Ultimate Drag Pageant?: The best part of UDP is how much material I pulled out of myself for the competition. I came into the competition with one or two mix ideas in my head and once the pageant started, my juices started flowing and I started making mixes and then the costume ideas came to me, yadi yada... and now Chola has some good material!

What was your favorite performance of the first 8 weeks?: Edie James did a Lana Del Rey cover as Donald Duck and it was the funniest thing ever. It was totally not where I thought the mix was going and Edie's facial features throughout the performance were so on point! I dunno how you can serve Lana Del Rey and Donald Duck comedy realness at the same time but she did that shit.

What can we expect from you in the finale?: For the finale, you can expect CHOLA . Chola was born at a Punk Show covered in blood wearing short shorts and a bandana top. Last week was Pageant Queen realness and it was the first time Chola was in a dress! I think I'm going to bring back a little of that grittiness that Chola was birthed from.

Edie James

What has been the best part about being a part of the Ultimate Drag Pageant?: The best part about being part of the Ultimate Drag Pageant has been the opportunity to discover different sides of myself and to express them openly to a supportive audience and panel of judges. Marti and Nedra have really put together a great space for baby queens like myself to learn and grow and I can't thank them enough for allowing me to be apart of it!

What was your favorite performance of the first 8 weeks?: My favorite performance of the first 8 weeks would have to be week 6. The theme was Childhood and I decided to do an autobiographical piece where I came out as my younger (boy) self, and eventually revealed my true nature as a budding drag queen, changing out of my overalls, into a flowered sun-dress. I just remember walking out from behind the curtain after the costume change and hearing the crowd cheer. Really solidified that I was getting my message across/telling my story properly.

What can we expect from you in the finale?: In the finale I want to continue to develop my character and give you her take on the current state of the world. The theme is Activism, and I'm going to be channeling a historical figure, who lead her people to glory in times of darkness. Like always I'll be aiming to tell a story, so please be sure to come and see how it turns out!

Helluva Bottom Carter

What has been the best part about being a part of the Ultimate Drag Pageant?: The best part of UDP was definitely developing a more finite and richer character throughout the weeks. My drag is fully inspired by being a trained actor first and drag queen second so being able to explore that was incredible.

What was your favorite performance of the first 8 weeks?: I think my favorite performance was “Roses Turn” for Broadway week. It was just the closest I’ve gotten to being able to play a fully realized character, and also Patti LuPone, I mean, WHO could deal?!

What can we expect from you in the finale?: The finale definitely has everything I’m just beginning to become known for; Acting beats galore , crazy eyes, fierce dancing, and being a hot mess.

Miz. Diamond Wigfall

What has been the best part about being a part of the Ultimate Drag Pageant?: I’ve loved all of the challenges and how to really apply what “Classic Hollywood” is to Miz. Diamond. Also all of the amazing queens that are connected to this competition  have been so amazing to work with!

What was your favorite performance of the first 8 weeks?: I think the 90s week with my friend Kyra was just so much fun to do! It was really just us being friends and having a great time onstage.

What can we expect from you in the finale?: Well this is one of my favorite numbers that I have. I was so glad when Marti added this week because it didn’t feel right forcing it into another category. I love that we get to have an activist challenge. There is so much going on in the world , Drag is one of the best artistic outlets. I’m excited to make some statements and see what the other competitors have in store. This is it honey

Petti Cake

What has been the best part about being a part of the Ultimate Drag Pageant?: I loved how incredibly supportive everybody was. From Marti and Nedra, to the other girls, and to the crowd. I am so proud to have made my debut here and I never could have imagined such amazing support system.

What was your favorite performance of the first 8 weeks?: I LOVED comedy week where I got to channel Marti. Any chance to poke fun at somebody I look up to is great. The only downside was having to listen to Marti's voice on repeat during my rehearsal period. This week really challenged me to push outside my limits and to tolerate voices with strong nasal qualities.

What can we expect from you in the finale?: You can expect something very simple, heartfelt, and super Asian. Also glitter. Everywhere. You were warned.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Review: The Perfect Christmas Gift

By Michael Block

Tis the season for the good tidings and gay apparel. Alongside her closest pals, Showbiz Spitfire Paige Turner rings in Christmas with her newest holiday extravaganza. Hoping to put on her twisted rendition of A Christmas Carol, Paige and friends run up against a plethora of obstacles while searching for the true meaning of Christmas. The Grinch May have stolen Christmas, but Paige Turner defiled it. Paige Turner’s Christmas Carol is a perfect stocking stuffer.
photo by Michael Block
Back at the Laurie Beechman Theatre, Paige Turner has fantastically twisted Christmas and in turn, created quite possibly one of the best Paige Turner shows to date. The show tells the tale of Paige’s attempt to put on her spin of the Dicken’s classic. Her uber long and twisted version casts her slurp as Tiny Twink and the beloved Jackie Cox as an old hag, among others. And to give this show a boost, Dante invites his Grandma CC into the fold. CC being of course Carol Channing, as portrayed by James Mills. As they hit roadblock after roadblock, we learn just how ridiculous Paige’s adaptation is while sprinkling in some of her best-written parodies yet. Phylicia Rashad is all you need to know. This holiday show worked because it didn’t attempt to be more than it was. It moved along fluidly while maintaining its comedic integrity. The more we ingratiate ourselves in the mind of Paige Turner, the more her world becomes realized and comes to life before our eyes. The stakes are certainly low here, but Paige commits to giving each individual a purpose and an arc. Dante, effortlessly played by Remy Germinario, gets one of his biggest moments yet. He’s so lovingly stupid that you just want to pinch his cheeks. In the other shows, Jackie Cox is the butt of the jokes. We see how it bothers her, but, like a good side kick, she brushes it off and doesn’t bother her. To now see a different side of Jackie, through her animosity with Carol Channing, offers depth to the character. Mills plays upon the wackiness of the Carol we know and love, while being completely out of touch to the world. The Paige Turner persona, in this theatrical setting, is just a bit out of touch, but the moments of real world self awareness are brilliantly funny. The digs, jabs, and references bring the audience inside the jokes and keep things fresh. Like any great drag show, the quartet turned out look after look. Special recognition should be given to Gloria Swansong for the stunning dress Paige donned at the top of the show.
The holiday cheer was in full gear at Paige Turner’s Christmas Carol. Paige Turner is a staple in New York City and the drag community at large. If there’s one holiday show to check out this season, this one’s probably it.

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Review: Drew Droege's Wild Ride

By Michael Block

Weddings. They bring family and friends together to celebrate the bond of two people in love. But the legal union of matrimony isn’t always for everyone. We all may have that right in this country today, but in certain cases, some people are better off on their own. Enter Gerry, the main character of Drew Droege’s Bright Colors And Bold Patterns. Playing the Soho Playhouse, the return of Droege’s hilarious comedy continues to resonate despite a slightly dated message.
Gerry is invited to the wedding of Josh and Brennan. He and his old friend Dwayne, along with Mack’s boyfriend and his ex Neil, rent a house nearby. As soon as Gerry arrives, he starts talking about everything and seemingly never stops. A thesis in post marriage equality, Gerry questions why a big celebration and why marriage at all, ignited by the attire request on the wedding invitation. Bright Colors And Bold Colors is Mr Toad’s Wild Ride of solo comedies. Droege’s writing is snappy and accessible. In a way, Gerry represents an “everygay” stereotype. Sure, this may offend some as the character of Gerry can simply be called “extra.” The conceit of the show Droege drafts is Gerry is the only seen character. He interacts with a trio of others despite not being present to the audience. So are these people real, unlike Gerry’s imaginary boyfriend he eventually reveals, or is he conducting the conversations he wishes he could have? The ambiguity plays highly into Droege’s quick tempo comedy, aptly directed by the brilliant Michael Urie, a sharp comedian in his own right. The combination of Droege and Urie is quite possibly why this production moves as swiftly as it does. With only one moment of reprieve for the audience, and actor alike, once you strap your seatbelt on, you’re off to the races. Droege bounces from menial stories to personal exposition to significant hot topics by balancing the weight for the audience without becoming daunting or overwhelming. The title of the play refers to a line on the card regarding the wedding attire. It is something shocking to Gerry. How dare anyone try to hide the pride at a wedding? This request plays a big part of the story yet it never fully resolved itself. We never quite get to see what Gerry is going to wear. Though, you can assume it’s up to us to decide. Will Gerry submit or is he playing by his own rules?
photo by Russ Rowland
Wearing two hats as writer and performer, Drew Droege seamlessly balanced the two. The character of Gerry is a loose lipped, mile-a-minute person who seems to have lost his filter. You might say he has verbal diarrhea. He’s the sort of person who has a plethora of thoughts, but when they leave his mouth, it’s certainly unrehearsed given the tempo and frequency of his observations. Droege is a high energy performer who has the ability to make his material fresh and new, fitting for this character. Droege crafts a character that is able to read anyone in the room while still remaining genuine. There is immense difficulty by being the sole performer on stage that is required to engage in conversation with unseen people. Droege remains present while listening to his imaginary scene partners. And this is a big part of where the comedy comes in.
Pairing Droege with Michael Urie is a winning combination. Urie pilots Droege through his unhinged character and his rollercoaster writing. Dara Wishingrad has designed an exceptional poolside getaway. It’s colorful splashes of white and blue mixed into the outdoor furniture sets a relaxing ambiance that easily puts your mind at ease. Wishingrad’s brilliant use of depth is extended into the depths of the stage which allows the audience to get a glimpse of the inside of the house. If ever there was a misfire, it’s the unfortunate black platform used to raise the dinging table and chairs. The umbrella naturally gives levels and Urie only has Droege use the area late in the game. While it’s fine that the stage is black, there needed to be something, even if it was artificial grass, to cover up this evident theatrical platform.
Bright Colors And Bold Patterns is a mostly satisfying comedy that keeps the mind racing. In its return engagement, Drew Droege maintains the fun and quirkiness of his script. While it desires to be a beat or two shorter, Droege’s accessible commentary keeps the play current.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Review: Out of the Boxx

By Michael Block

When it comes to the world of Drag Race, she may be best remembered for her feud-filled relationship with Mimi Imfurst on Drag Race All Stars, but Pandora Boxx is an all star comedy queen. Returning to the Laurie Beechman with her newest show, Insert Title Here, is laugh fest.
photo by Michael Block
After a brilliant video package, Pandora comes to the stage adorned in a poop emoji dress while singing about poop with a dancing poop montage behind her. It’s gross out humor in the campiest of fashions. Along with lists written on some unique items to stories, parodies, and some exquisite shade, Insert Title Here is a well structured piece. Pandora has a subtle way of doing comedy. It’s not big. It’s not too crude. It just happens. It comes naturally. It’s a great brand and unique to her. Season 2 of Drag Race was more a fashion showcase rather than the show its evolved to today. Pandora didn’t necessarily get to shine her brightest with these parameters. But in a venue like this, her campy persona is welcome and adored. The way the evening is structured is very generic to a show of this caliber. She brings songs, stories, and shade, interspersing a video to cover up a costume change. Her standup style of storytelling lends itself well to the show. If anything can be amped up, it’s the overall energy. With a lackadaisical brand, any missed joke highlights the occasional cricket.
Insert Title Here is just what the drag doctor ordered. It’s not a big and bold show, but not everything needs to be. Pandora Boxx is a true all star.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Spotlight On...Katie McHugh

Name: Katie McHugh

Hometown: Pensacola, Florida

Education: Undergrad at Florida State University (BA in Theatre) Graduate School, The New School for Drama (MFA in directing)

Favorite Credits: The Dream Project (A five-year international project), The List (Fringe NYC 2012- winner of Overall Excellence in a Solo Performance and Critic’s pick, Time Out Magazine, also performed 2013 at Fringe San Miguel in Mexico and Medea (The New School, Thesis production).

Why theater?: I am interested in many fields of study, science, math, medicine, architecture, archeology, and most of all history. Theatre allows me to be an artist and work in all these fields at the same time. It is the only profession in which time travel is indeed possible, where there are no limits to what one can accomplish. Theatre satisfies every ounce of my curious artistic nature.

Tell us about The House on Poe Street?: Gothic ghosts encounter modern monstrosities when twin sisters inherit the house where Poe is reputed to have composed The Raven. In The House on Poe Street a wealthy estate lawyer learns to appreciate Poe’s dark twisted spirit while questioning his own presumptions of wealth, gender parity and the power of poetry to conjure visions of a spectral afterlife.

What inspired you to create The House on Poe Street?: Fengar's work is both political and fantastical, stylized and fun with a potent message. House on Poe Street takes everything I like in a good play to the next level, a fun sci-fi ghost story encompassing a smattering of Poe's Macabre tales. A true quest of feminism that makes us laugh at the same time. 

What kind of theater speaks to you? What or who inspires you as an artist?: Any story with a strong message or interesting twist. I’m not into kitchen sink drama, but rather, theatre of the absurd, abstract, or bizarre, some of my favorite playwrights, in no particular order are Beckett, Charles Mi, Mark Schultz, Sartre, Gertrude Stein, Caryl Churchill, and our beloved Bard. The world around me! The people in my life, fellow collaborators and artists, conversations with strangers, and the brilliant minds of our youth. I am also highly influenced by movement and dance. My background is classical ballet which translates to my directorial vision through use of space.  Vertical space excites me and I find a way to use it in every production, whether it is climbing and choreographing in the air, or extending the set vertically, I strive to use 360 degrees of theatrical space. Ensemble and movement based techniques have strong influence in my work to name a few: Overlie’s and Bogart’s Viewpoints, the work of Frantic Assembly, and Williamson technique.

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

What show have you recommended to your friends?:  Frantic Assembly’s The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night.

Who would play you in a movie about yourself and what would it be called?:  This is a fun one.  Tina Fey, and it would be a comedy called Huzzah!

If you could go back in time and see any play or musical you missed, what would it be?: Julie’s Midsummer.

What’s your biggest guilty pleasure?: Binge watching any good sci-fi show.  Right now it’s Orphan Black.

If you weren’t working in theater, you would be ______?: An obstetrician or family doctor like my mother and father. I’ve always loved medicine and science.

What’s up next?: The Dream Project, Phase 1.5, March 2018, NYC. The Dream Project is a collaboration between North American artists from Mexico, United States and Canada. Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream is deconstructed and reinvented into an immersive, experimental, multilingual and multidisciplinary piece. With original dance and music, Spanish, French and English text, aerial choreography, and multimedia design, The Dream Project encompasses the most compelling art forms of North American culture.  If you’re interested and want to know more about Dream Project, you can see exceprts of it at The Dream Party, Shetler Studios and Theatres Penthouse One, Saturday, December 2nd 6:00 pm.  www.yonderwindow.com

Friday, November 17, 2017

Review: A Visual Legend

By Michael Block

A five octave phenom that took the world by storm. Rumors swirled of her origin. Who was this Peruvian jungle princess with the voice unlike any human? Time has passed since her death but her memory lives on. In The Legend of Yma Sumac, the songstress is celebrated through the art of lip sync and drag.
photo by Michael Block
Using video interviews and the magic of drag lip sync, Yma Sumac comes to life on stage once again. Portrayed by the wondrous beauty that is Scarlet Envy, the songbook is illuminated as the intrigue and mystery is paralleled through clips of interviews. Directed and written by Steve Willis, a friend of the late star, The Legend of Yma Sumac is a completely lip synced piece. Through song and spoken word, every moment is precisely mirrored by Scarlet Envy. There is no one who could possibly match Yma and rather than attempt, Willis takes a smart approach in his concept. That being said, there is a natural disconnect in this. A hint of intimacy is lost. But what you loose in spontaneity is gained in perfection of performance. Scarlet Envy dazzles as the titular singer. Between her tight lip sync and her inherent beauty, you are immediately drawn to her effortless presence. Billed as a “live documentary,” Willis switches back and forth from song and video interview, which is to the aid of Scarlet Envy’s quick changes into the next wondrous gown. It’s likely that you may not know Sumac by name. To the millenials who may not recognize her, those Drag Race fans certainly are reminded by her music as “Malambo No. 1” was used in an iconic lip sync for your life between Jinkx Monsoon and Detox in season 5. By placing this number as the start of the show, Willis engaged the uninformed by tempting with something they are familiar with.
The Legend of Yma Sumac was a transformative piece for the Laurie Beechman. With a topnotch performer, exquisite visuals, and a story so wild it desires more, this show deserves more. There’s a closeness to the piece that puts a boundary between creative and audience. Once that gap is bridged, The Legend of Yma Sumac will be a legendary stage experience.