Saturday, November 3, 2018

Spotlight On...Marlena Holman

Name: Marlena Holman

Hometown: Tucson, Arizona

Education: BFA in Drama from NYU Tisch

Select Credits: Plucker (Company of Fools), Macbeth (No Name Collective), The Possibilities (dir. Tim Carroll) and Danni in the Gageing Noel series

Why theater?: Live theatre performances require the actor to emotionally bungee jump every single night. I love working in that atmosphere of extreme courage.

Who do you play in Mary Stuart?: I play Lord Burghley. Some may call him a misogynistic, infantile villain, but I would never pass that kind of judgement on my character. I think he's a loyal, passionate man who is simply trying to keep his country safe and prosperous. And he's a little misogynistic.

Tell us about Mary Stuart: Oof. Okay. Big ask. Here's the Spark Notes version: Mary Stuart became Queen of Scotland when she was six days old. She got married three times in a few different countries basically to gain power. When she fled to England, she was imprisoned for 19 years because she had become the focus of various plots to overthrow her cousin, Queen Elizabeth I. This was especially delicious because Mary Stuart was Catholic, and Queen Elizabeth was Protestant (her father had created the Church of England). Our play begins after Mary Stuart has been imprisoned for decades and has recently been found guilty of plotting to kill Queen Elizabeth and filch her throne. The next two hours are full of Mary trying to prove her innocence, Queen Elizabeth not being able to make up her fickle mind about whether or not to kill Mary off, and a whole mess of other characters plotting some sneaky stuff. Oh and we dance the Volta somewhere in there, too.

What is it like being a part of Mary Stuart?: Mary Stuart is one of those plays that young actors in University programs wish to one day perform. And here I am getting to do it, with an incredibly powerful all female cast. As far as the process goes, one of the notes our director gave those of us playing male characters was to observe the men in our world and all the traits they are allowed to exhibit in public that women cannot without being discredited (such as rage, directness, petulance) and to layer that on to our characters instead of showing we are men by huffing up our shoulders and deepening our voices. It has been a wild ride taking in how easily men can assert themselves, and I must say, it is awesome to have the permission to emotionally and physically manspread every night.

What kind of theater speaks to you? What or who inspires you as an artist?: I appreciate creative lighting designs and elaborate costumes and boy do I love a good revelation of space, but at the end of the day, really specific, truthful acting is what will haunt me (in the best way), and I guess that's what I want when I see theatre…to leave a little bit haunted.

Any roles you’re dying to play?: Stevie in The Goat, or Who Is Sylvia?

What’s your favorite showtune?: Oh man, I'm actually not so much of a shuffle ball change kind of girl. I don't know any!

If you could work with anyone you’ve yet to work with, who would it be?: I'd act in something with Kathleen Turner, directed by Ivo Van Hove.

Who would play you in a movie about yourself and what would it be called?: Steve Buscemi, definitely. The movie would be called Sitting in Bars Drinking Beer. It would be a silent film, where he sits at bars in 60 different countries, drinking the local beer (because this is, fun fact, something I have done). 

What show have you recommended to your friends?: I recently saw The Lifespan of a Fact and I really appreciated the acting and the timeliness of the show. I also love everything out of BAM's Next Wave Festival.

What’s the most played song on your iTunes?: I'm actually really into quietly devastating music because haha crippling social anxiety. My most played is Þau Hafa Sloppið Undan Þunga Myrkursins by Olafur Arnalds.

What’s your biggest guilty pleasure?: Eating Hawaiian pizza in my bed while watching home renovation shows. Yeah, I said Hawaiian pizza. Don't @ me.

What’s up next?: I'll be in Twelfth Night with No Name Collective going up at The Alchemical in December.  Mary Stuart runs November 7 – 11 at Pushkin Hall on the Upper West Side. More info can be found at https://www.pigeonholedtheater.org/

Friday, October 26, 2018

Spotlight On...Lyto Triantafyllidou

Name: Lyto Triantafyllidou

Hometown: Thessaloniki, Greece 

Education: I studied theater at the School of Drama of Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, in Greece, with a major in theater directing and dramaturgy. After a year of academic research on New York’s avant-garde theater scene, I moved to New York for the MFA Directing program at The New School for Drama, from where I graduated in 2015.

Favorite Credits: In May 2016, I directed a solo performer adaptation of Mistero Buffo by Dario Fo, featuring Panos Vlahos, produced by Natasha Katerinopoulos. The first presentation of this work was a site specific performance at The Balcony Theater at West Park Presbyterian Church, in New York. Mistero Buffo’s journey continued with performances in Los Angeles, Chicago, Israel and the UK, where it was last presented at The Cockpit Theater in London, in February 2018.

Why theater?: Theater is the most unpredictable art, as it’s as imperfect as the people creating it. As a result, it constantly surprises us, keeps us in our toes. As a theatermaker, I enjoy the endless possibilities of an empty space. It’s a study on freedom.

Tell us about I Want a Country?: I Want A Country is the story of how to be a citizen of a country. Andreas Flourakis wrote the play as a response to the Greek economic crisis in 2012, while the country was in a political turning point. In Andreas Flourakis’ play the protagonist is not a single character but “we the people,” a public responding to times of social change. The characters of the play realize that their country is not build by them or for them. There is much to learn by observing them in their quest of a new country, and even more by their failure to find it. They don’t accept responsibility, instead they blame the previous generations, their government or the “others”. The truth is that their new country would be as broken as the old one. However, we need them to keep dreaming of this new world. Through Eleni Drivas’ translation and a diverse cast of actors, this production of I Want A Country connects the play with the current socio-political state of the USA and the popular demand for representation for all. This is the story I would like to share with FringeNYC’s audience through this play. It’s important in this particular political moment to accept defeat; and then speak, fight, dream!

What kind of theater speaks to you? What or who inspires you as an artist?: I am fascinated by theater that integrates political conflicts into the context of a personal story (and the opposite). This balance between public and private also contains the tension between objectivity and subjectivity. This double point of focus makes every story fragile and somehow more personal. Lately, the news unfortunately…

If you could work with anyone you’ve yet to work with, who would it be?: I would love to work with people from tech industry, in order to expand the limits of theater as we know it!

What show have you recommended to your friends?: The last show I recommended to a friend was Philip Glass’ Satyagraha, opening in November at BAM.

Who would play you in a movie about yourself and what would it be called?: I really don’t know… let’s wait to see!

If you could go back in time and see any play or musical you missed, what would it be?: Probably a theater piece of avant-garde theater. Cage’s Theater Piece No. 1, Schechner’s Dionysous 69 or Foreman’s Miss Universal Happiness.

What’s your biggest guilty pleasure?: I don’t feel guilty by any pleasure.

If you weren’t working in theater, you would be _____?: Sleeping earlier at night 

What’s up next?: A multi-lingual theater adaptation of Euripides’ Trojan Women, in English, Greek, Turkish and Arabic. I Want a Country runs until October 27 at The New York International Fringe Festival. More info at https://www.iwantacountry.net/

Block Talk- Episode 77: Halloween Special



Halloween is only days away and to prepare you for all things ooky spooky and spoopy, I'm joined by Cicatrix!

To listen to the podcast, visit iTunes or SoundCloud. And don't forget to subscribe and leave a five star review!

Plus, visit patreon.com/theaterinthenow to learn about becoming a patron today!

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Spotlight On...Lisa Danielle Buch

Name: Lisa Danielle Buch

Hometown: Farmington Hills Michigan

Education: MFA Acting Ohio University, BA psychology

Favorite Credits: Come back to me in 10 years :)

Why theater?: Woooo boy! Theater and story telling have a way of getting to your heart - it uses all parts of your brain- the audience and the actors- and the lessons learned are deeper as a result.

Tell us about Simple Math:? It has live music, a chalk board, and even a little chemistry. And a whole lotta me! But really, it is a lot more than an assault story. It’s an analytical look at the gray areas often considered “complicated”.

What inspired you to create Simple Math?: It was a slow build. First Weinstein fell. The metoo movement. Suddenly there was a new precedent forming. I heard the arguments and was compelled to fill that gap in people’s understanding of trauma-specifically the role it plays in sexual assault, and how it explains a victim’s/survivor’s behavior, both in the moment and post event.

What kind of theater speaks to you? What or who inspires you as an artist?: Very theatrical, engages with unexpected or uncommon subjects- where I feel like I’ve left changed.  Depends on the project. This piece, I was very inspired by Ke$ha’s newest album, Rainbow, Alicia Keys, Amy Winehouse, and the hard sciences :) and NPR or podcasts.

If you could work with anyone you’ve yet to work with, who would it be?: I’d make a musical with Alicia Keys.

What show have you recommended to your friends?: Dear Diary LOL - by a group called Antigravity based in Philly- a devised around young womens’ diary entries from when they were 13. It was a riot! And then struck you with these golden truth gems out of no where. It’s one of the best pieces of theater I have seen in a while.

Who would play you in a movie about yourself and what would it be called?: Stephanie Beatriz- but I’d audition many people - it would be called, "I Laugh" or "There’s Sooo Many Choices."

If you could go back in time and see any play or musical you missed, what would it be?: Maybe  original cast of Fiddler -  don’t know, I’m crazy about new works.

What’s your biggest guilty pleasure?: Stranger Things and hotel pools.

If you weren’t working in theater, you would be _____?: A detective, psychologist, anything in criminal justice.

What’s up next?: Hopefully another remount of Simple Math!

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Block Talk- Episode 76: Block Talk Live!


We had a blast back in August with the first ever Block Talk Live! I was joined by four incredible guests who each gave mini interviews and lots of shows! The audio quality is not my favorite, and I apologize for that, but still, give it a listen!

To listen to the episode, visit iTunes or SoundCloud! And leave a review while you're there!

Plus visit patreon.com/theaterinthenow to become a patron today!

Monday, October 8, 2018

Spotlight On...Jennifer Piech

Name: Jennifer Piech

Hometown: Cinnaminson, New Jersey

Education: BA in Theatre from the College of William and Mary

Select Credits: originated the role of Kate McGowan, Titanic, Broadway (Friends of NY Theatre Award for Outstanding Broadway debut), The Ride Down Mount Morgan, Broadway (by Arthur Miller and starring Patrick Stewart)

Why theater?:  I have come back to the biz after a motherhood hiatus.  It’s been such a process figuring out what the biz is now and my new place in it in this stage of my life.  Fascinating.  I find I am drawn to plays/stories that tackle some kind of social issue with complex and interesting relationships.  I have always felt that good theatre can shed light on anything about the human condition, really.  I’m drawn to good writing and compelling stories.

Who do you play in The War Party?:  I play Laura Smith, the incumbent Senatorial Republican candidate who just lost the election in a landslide.  And I curse like a sailor – I am loving it.

Tell us about The War Party The short answer is it’s basically a parable for our broken two-party system.  It is also about these two broken, smart, fierce women and how they connect and how they give each other something the other needs.  They are better and stronger for being together.  Not to be Pollyanna, but it also, I think, makes us laugh at ourselves and both parties and asks us to look beyond partisan thinking for the sake of our country. 

What is it like being a part of The War Party?:  I love this play, the players, the creatives.  Odelia Avadi (who plays the young woman) and I started working on this play in scene study class and were encouraged to do something with it.  It is empowering to take an idea and put a team together and make it happen.  I am honored that the playwright entrusted it to us and am honored that these creatives – director, designers, etc., all loved it enough to throw their creative juices into it too.

What kind of theater speaks to you? What or who inspires you as an artist?:  Right now I want to be a part of plays that resonate socially – even if they are from another time period – that they speak to what is happening today.  Great writing, complex relationships, interesting ideas.  And I am completely inspired especially by women who are creative producers – who find the stories that are meaningful to them and figure out a way to tell them, in whatever medium. 

Any roles you’re dying to play?:  Right now:  Nora in Doll’s House Part 2, Tracey in SWEAT, Margaret in Good People (this one was produced when I was not back in the biz but now I’m the right age to play it!), anything by Shaw, Rosemary in Outside Mullingar (not really social issues but a beautiful love story, fun part), The Other Place by Sharr White, another play by Vincent Delaney that deals with gun violence, I’m shopping it around for a production now, etc. 

What’s your favorite showtune?:  Oh gosh, not sure I have a favorite…

If you could work with anyone you’ve yet to work with, who would it be?:  Joe Mantello as a Director, Tommy Kail, Director, Ken Lonnergan, Director,  Sam Mendes, Director, I could go on.  I want to work with the companies who are developing new plays, new voices, new playwrights. 

Who would play you in a movie about yourself and what would it be called?:  Oh goodness.  Well if a girl can dream – Sandra Bullock – and it would be called “A Balancing Act:  Act Two” as a woman tries to balance motherhood, being a real estate broker, and coming back to the entertainment biz after many of the folks she knew died – literally.  It’s starting over but not starting over in a weird way.  It would be about discovering what she was meant to be now at this stage, finding her voice, while still making dinner and doing everyone’s laundry, of course.  Bullock would have the sense of humor needed:).  And dang, she’s cute.

What show have you recommended to your friends?:  A show that is playing now?  I really liked “The True.”  Beautiful performances, New Group producing it.  Of course, Come From Away (I am a Co-Producer on it!), Harry Potter – loved!  The Ferryman – which I haven’t seen yet, but it’s a great read and I can’t wait.

What’s the most played song on your iTunes?:  anything from Hamilton.

What’s your biggest guilty pleasure?:  Chocolate turtles.  I ALWAYS have emergency chocolate in my freezer at all times because you just never know.

What’s up next?:  I’m working with an independent Producer, Stephen Blanch, on his full length feature film called "Discovering Savannah" (I’m cast as Savannah – my first lead in a feature!) which is set to shoot spring of 2019. 

For more on The War Party, visit http://thewarpartyplay.com/

Saturday, October 6, 2018

Spotlight On...Deya Danielle Drake

Name: Deya Danielle Drake

Hometown: Oh boy! We moved a lot growing up so this has always been a tough question to answer.  I was born in Carson City, Nevada and then spent time in Texas, Nebraska and Illinois and I went to college and started my career in California. I guess I consider wherever I’m currently based to be home.  Which, right now, is Jersey City. 

Education: University of California, Berkeley.  I studied Philosophy.  I remember very little of it other than a lot of reading, writing and existential confusion.  (Not that different from now, I guess.)

Favorite Credits: My first professional theater credit was as an actor in Romeo and Juliet: Antebellum New Orleans 1836.  Many, many years and lifetimes ago but I still think about the experience and the people involved all the time.  I even have literal dreams about it! It was the inaugural production at Boston Court Pasadena in Pasadena, CA. I played Rosaline and was in the ensemble (so, yeah, no lines) but it was such a wonderful experience. I was so young and just felt so incredibly lucky and energized to get to go to work in a professional theater everyday and hang out with cool theater people. I got chills during every performance. The best memories!

Why theater?: Initially I think it was the sense of camaraderie you get from creating something from nothing with a group of unique individuals who share a likeminded goal.  I imagine it’s similar to the feeling one gets from playing on a sports team (though, I’m not an athlete, so this is just a guess). As I’ve gotten older my drive to make theater goes far beyond that.  I don’t even know where to begin.  There’s truly nothing like it—the sense of play, exchange of energy, exploration of humanity, power to connect with other people and (hopefully) make them feel something surprising. I think the potential impact of theater, on an audience, is boundless – it can be entertaining, healing, resurrect long forgotten memories, shine a light on a new part of oneself, help problem solve, open connections, spark conversations, ignite new ideas and new perspectives, provide an escape ;)…etc etc etc…I’ll stop now. (P.S. it’s super fun to make.)

Tell us about Escape?: Escape follows a female airline CEO and female flight attendant who battle to control the narrative of a sensational news story following a violent incident onboard a commercial jet.  It’s about the constant and overwhelming noise of the modern news media, the dubious impact of social media, and the unique struggle women face when trying to reach/maintain positions of power. It’s a fast moving play that’s fun and kind of wild and I think everyone will leave with a different opinion about who’s right and who’s wrong. 

What inspired you to create Escape?: An amazing actress named Rhonda Ayers whose work I have admired for a long time.  I’ve never seen anyone like her and I think more people need to see her work.  I wasn’t sure what I wanted to write about when I sat down to write this play, but when I decided that I wanted to create a vehicle for her, Escape is the story that followed.  (I hope I’ve done her justice.) Rhonda plays the airline CEO and she is incredible.  Complex, smart, with a biting wit and fearlessness, and deep internal life that she teases on and off throughout the show until she’s ready to serve it all to us piping hot. 

What kind of theater speaks to you? What or who inspires you as an artist?: I was just talking to another writer about this.  I love the kind of theater where all the actors end the performance sweating through their clothes, completely exhausted, and in that strange state of bliss that comes from leaving it all out on the stage. When an actor is required to give that much of themselves, physically and emotionally, to a performance, it is nearly impossible for the story not to have a lasting impression on the audience (in one way or another).   Vulnerability. I’ve been in an improv based acting class called Ballistics with Kelly Kimball at Kimball Studio in NYC for a long time. It’s a class for actors and non-actor creative type people, and it is so much more than just an acting class. It teaches you to use and challenge the bounds of your imagination by pulling back the layers you’ve built to protect yourself in the world and get to the core of who you are so that you can find yourself as an artist. And you can’t be successful in doing that unless you take risks. People share a lot in class.  The courage to share and be seen by other people is truly amazing.  Watching other people do that is beyond inspiring. I wouldn’t have the guts to be a writer without this class, it’s really shaped who I am and who I hope to be. 

If you could work with anyone you’ve yet to work with, who would it be?: The list is long, but I would say my top three at the moment are: 1. Marin Ireland, 2. Elizabeth Banks, 3. Viola Davis. 

What show have you recommended to your friends?: Hand to God. Such creative storytelling and epic performances. Since becoming a mom sixteen months ago, I read more plays than I see.  There are so many incredible writers out there.  There isn’t a play that I’ve read that hasn’t taught me something about storytelling. 

Who would play you in a movie about yourself and what would it be called?: Cate Blanchet.  Because who wouldn’t want Cate Blanchet to portray them in a film?  It would be called Late Bloomer (oh, God, that’s so cheesy). 

If you could go back in time and see any play or musical you missed, what would it be?: I regret not seeing the original cast of Hamilton on Broadway.  Lots of FOMO about that (does FOMO make sense in the past tense?).  And I’d really like to share a cocktail with Tennessee Williams and talk writing and life.

What’s your biggest guilty pleasure?: Sweets. Wine.  And I discovered the true (and kind of dirty) joy of reality TV over the summer.  I didn’t miss an episode of Bachelor in Paradise.

If you weren’t working in theater, you would be _____?: In a dream universe I’d be traveling the world and doing a lot of eating and drinking and sleeping in.  In a realistic universe I think being a nurse would be really fulfilling and I have a ton of admiration for nurses.  They’re badasses and help us during our most vulnerable moments -- sometimes the kind of moments that are life-altering and life-shaping. And they are mostly really lovely humans. 

What’s up next?: I’m working on a play about a married couple who goes on vacation to one of those over-the-top romantic retreats in the Poconos.  It’s a fun play that explores modern romance and the connection between sexuality and creativity while challenging what we mean when we talk about a “traditional” marriage. 

Fore more on Escape, visit http://www.deyadanielledrake.com/escape/