Friday, December 9, 2016

Blog HIjack: Genesis and the Keystone

Taking over Theater in the Now is Sam Tilles to talk about the journey of his new play Genesis!



Hey Folks! My name is Sam Tilles— I’m a playwright based in Harlem, and am producing a new piece I’ve been writing the past few years.

It is called Genesis, and is based on a month-long journey I took down the Keystone XL Pipeline route.  It is entirely in rhymed verse, and is a farcical adaptation of the Bible’s creation myth.  The play is a joyful, poetic exploration of civilization, and provides a new look at how our culture relates to nature, government, mind, and spirit.

The story revolves around King Jehova and his endeavors in creating Eden, the utopic realm of his imagination.  To give you a sense of what we’re dealing with, I’ve included a clip of the script below:


Adam:
How moving was that moment in the past,
Eternal truth shone down from He, to last.
But time’s gone by, time’s hue hath been changed.
Each waking hour ever more deranged—

The fake clouds rustle again.

Adam:
What’s this? An incoming premonition?

The king curses behind the wall.

Adam:
Come forth lord! My spiritual ascension!

The clouds open clumsily. A long piece of paper is stuffed through.
The King stumbles through the portal, injuring himself. Adam embraces him.

Adam:
O, it is my God! My lord protector—
Comes armed with more Truth for me to ponder!

King:
Transition hath lent me an injured leg,
Wouldst thou, son, take this imperfect segue?

Adam:
Through clouds, beyond the walls?

King:
Don’t answer that.

The King spits blood.

King:
Fetch me that stick,

Adam:
Blood methinks you just spat!

King:
Aye, the realm of spirit doth harm the flesh.
Immortals bleed, when with mortals, enmeshed.

Adam:
Then why hast thou made the journey to me?

King:
This scroll is—I mean, because I love thee.
And have heard your desperate, longing calls.

Adam:
Nay lord, it is I who hath caused your fall,
No longer appear, my faith’s strong enough.

King:
Very well, Adam.  My most trusted son.
Well, to guide you onward I’ve brought this scroll.

Adam:
A scroll! What’s it say?

King:
You will soon be told.
Many questions of yours it will answer,
Pockets of truth, sealed in realms of wonder.
This is the story of your creation,
My true nature is constantly mentioned.

Adam:
A truer nature than I’ve seen in here?

King:
Stretching beyond flesh and time my reign’s clear.

Adam:
For your gift I’m eternally grateful,
But unable to read, I’m woeful.

King:
Fear not, noble child, I’ll read it to you.
Thou thinks I give with no study, no pew?

Myriad:
The reading lasted till the rising moon,
But Adam smiled the entire afternoon.

King climbs up through the hole.

King:
Back to heaven I go, take care, have fun!

Adam:
Smile upon me in the realm of the sun!

King Exits.


People often ask me why I wrote an adaptation of Genesis after my journey down Keystone XL.  I think seeing the play will be a sufficient answer to this question, but I’ll endeavor to provide a look into how they relate.

On the journey I frequently examined the polarized arguments orbiting Keystone.  The power of narrative became abundantly clear; people seemed to support the pipeline insofar as they embraced the Fossil Fuel Industry’s myth of Economic Security (and its denial of Climate Change).

Through the perspective of narrative, the relationship between Genesis and Keystone becomes clear. “Yahweh” of the Old Testament designs the universe for mankind, and the Fossil Fuel Industry dictates much of the direction of our civilization.  Both forces are monarchic, and both advocate anthropocentric perspectives of the world.

Unlike its supporters, Keystone’s opponents adopted a plurality of narratives.  These ranged from the Indigenous Prophecy of the “Black Snake,” to Climate Change, to simply not wanting land and water ruined by a pipeline spill.  Indeed, these narratives differed, but the concern for habitable land and clean water unified them.  Their synthesis gave fruit to the “Cowboy and Indian Alliance”—something I found particularly beautiful.  

The anthropocentric parallels between Keystone and Genesis struck me to the core.  Could writing a play about Genesis somehow stimulate a more harmonious relationship to the natural world? I’m hoping to find out! If you would like to support our production, please visit our Kickstarter Campaign at Bit.ly/VerseofGenesis (case sensitive).  A pledge of any size or a share on Facebook/Twitter would be most appreciated!

-Sam

Review: Othello Mixtape

By Michael Block

There's a trend out there. It's called theatrical rap. No, not like Andrew Lloyd Weber's interpretation of rap. But integrated mainstream rap into the musical theater genre. With the Hamilton seemingly raising the bar, other artists are not throwing away their shots of capitalizing on the trend. Enter Othello: the Remix. Created by the Q Brothers, this streamlined update of the Shakespeare classic introduces a new sound to a story of betrayal, greed, and revenge.
Straight from Chicago, Othello: the Remix, written and directed by GQ and JQ, brings a new interpretation of the Bard’s drama with sick beats and a healthy blend of comedy and drama. Bringing the action to the modern world of the music industry, Othello, a renowned DJ, is on the rise of fame. He falls for the lovely-voiced Desdemona but it’s his best friend Iago, who isn’t getting Othello’s musical endorsement, that tries to cut down Othello’s infamy. Think of the Othello-Desdemona relationship like Beyoncé and Jay Z. Told with only a cast of four men, Othello: the Remix is energetic emergence of storytelling that appeals to a fresh audience. If they had the resources to bring it to high schools around the country, it would be a brilliant teaching tool. From a product standpoint, the piece kept a high-octane, dizzying pace. The rhymes were fast. The music was pulsating. It was a concise reimaging of Othello that is nicely structured. The company has a strong comedic approach but allowing the audience the safe space to laugh needs to be permitted much sooner. Though the quartet take on a plethora of characters, the one main player completely absent is Desdemona, who is relegated to a voice. It’s a choice. A bold choice. It also forces a hyper stylized moment to occur during Desdemona’s death sequence that’s unlike anything previously established. The style of rap that GQ and JQ introduced had shades of a modern sound blended with a bit of that infamous late 80s and 90s influence. No matter who was in the audience, it reached their ears in a pleasing manner. Even if those pop songs the Q Brothers threw in were crowd pleasures. But from a critical standpoint of what makes a successful musical, with the score living in the same world of tempo, there’s not a single number that stands out as a showstopper. Without a song stuck in your brain when you leave the theater, you have to ask yourself why.
photo by Carol Rosegg
Othello: The Remix isn’t filled with flourishes but it is fresh and clean that’s visually pleasing. Designed by Scott Adam Davis, the set was a backdrop of scaffolding and LED skyscrapers, which also housed the DJ booth. Adding color made each song have a different mood. Keith A. Truax’s lighting design was nothing short of impressive. Costume designer Christina Leinicke gave each actor an accent. Like Iago was in green. If you kept a keen eye to detail, Truax introduced the character colors when they were present in the scene. It was a subtle addition that was rewarding in the end. When it came to direction, GQ and JQ had a handle on what they wanted and ensured it was executed in such a way. The musical moved. There was variety in stage pictures. But it could have gone further and been even tighter. And that’s where another eye comes in. Nevertheless, consistency was prevalent.
Chemistry is key for a production like this. When a technical flub occurs, being able to pick each other up is essential for maintaining momentum. These four knew this world inside and out, defining the importance of a tightknit cast. Once you knew laughing was ok, the breakout of the show was Jackson Doran as Cassio and Emilia. Doran’s comedic timing was spot on. The way he approached the physical comedy seemed old hat. Doran’s ability to create distinct characters kept the audience laughing. Likewise, JQ was a mastermind of character. His geeky Roderigo was hilarious. Even though Othello: the Remix took a comic approach, Postell Pringle as Othello and GQ as Iago, and occasionally Brabantio, played into the brooding world. It wasn’t weighty, but with the plot being what it is, drama was implied and important to their character arcs.
It doesn’t quite have that magical artistry but the Q Brothers are doing a mighty fine job keeping pace with the Hamilton scribe. If you can't get a ticket to Hamilton, Othello: the Remix is the next best option.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Spotlight On...Glory Kadigan

Name: Glory Kadigan

Hometown: Denville, New Jersey

Education: Lincoln Center Directors Lab, Labyrinth Theater Company Master Class, La Mama directing and playwriting Symposiums, Claremont Colleges.

Favorite Credits: Founder of Planet Connections Theatre Festivity; World Premieres of Regina Taylor’s Biting the Bullet and John Patrick Shanley’s Doublecross at the Playwrights for a Cause benefit at the Atlantic Theater, St. Anne’s Soup (Israel Horovitz, World Premiere), Breaking Phi l lip Glass (Israel Horovitz, World Premiere), Her Speech (Erik Ehn, World Premiere), Over the River and Through the Woods (Neil LaBute, World Premiere), Two Minute Warning (Neil LaBute, World Premiere).

Why theater?: I love the collaborative process and watching the audience interact with live art.

Tell us about Clover: This is experimental writer Erik Ehn’s latest play about the violent and universal cycle of life following the tragedy of Emmett Till and his mother that helped spur the Civil Rights Movement as well as three other stories, illustrating America’s history of violence towards those most vulnerable.

What inspired you to direct Clover?: I was interested in the social issues discussed in the piece, but also in the style of the play which incorporates movement and music in a unique fusion of poetic storytelling.  It's almost like directing in a foreign language and translating the language to the cast. It's challenging and fun.

What kind of theater speaks to you? What or who inspires you as an artist?: Theater that inspires me to see the world from a new perspective. The world around me, literature, music, and people.

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

What show have you recommended to your friends?: Vietgone, Hamilton

If you could go back in time and see any play or musical you missed, what would it be?: The original production of Shakespeare's The Tempest

What’s your biggest guilty pleasure?: Tiramisu

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

Review: Game Changer

By Michael Block

Sometimes you can learn more about a person in the way they present themselves than through the content they share. The girls in Sarah DeLappe's ferocious The Wolves, presented by The Playwrights Realm, are rich in character and yet they reveal so little about themselves. Following a high school girls' indoor school team, The Wolves, making a triumphant return engagement, is a dynamic story of teamwork, determination, and the bonds of individuals.
The Wolves by Sarah DeLappe captures the intricacies of the members of the titular soccer squad as they stretch and practice for their games. With field talk snapshots, DeLappe plays upon subtitles as she highlights the hardships of teenage life. With a new girl on the team, the dynamics shift and new stresses are introduced. To go into plot talk would be a great disservice to future audiences. The Wolves is an experience to be had. The Wolves is like Annie Baker's Circle Mirror Transformation. Just on an indoor soccer field. To hammer in the team theme, DeLappe avoids naming her characters, out front, and sticks to addressing them by jersey number. Even without a named identity, these are genuine girls with real drama. Thanks to pristine storytelling, DeLappe was in great favor of niceties that brought out an exuberant amount of life and individuality. The Wolves goes beyond a play about the difficulties of teen-hood. It's the nuances that set it apart. Heartbreak and resiliency plays an integral part in the later stages of the plot. Without spoiling anything, the way DeLappe reveals who's at the end of the shocking twist is brave. It's a bold choice of character. It's very likely you sit there playing out the scenario as who it will be until that girl appears. I certainly was blindsided.
photo by Daniel J. Vasquez
Ask yourself how does a play about sports, team, and friendship translate from page to stage? Effortlessly. Director Lila Neugebauer 's vivacious staging is vigorous yet uniform. With a regimented choreography of stretching and drills, reality took control. Neugebaur matched each beat to a movement naturally. They caused honest laughs at times, proving just how in-tune she was with reality. The closest thing to site-specific piece as it could get, scenic designer Laura Jellinek transformed The Duke into part of a soccer field, AstroTurf and all. The lighting design from Lap Chi Chu was evocative of field lights. Nothing really changed but those tight transitions, paired with Beth Lake and Stowe Nelson's sharp sound design heightened the stakes. Whether you sat in the theater since the house opened or merely moments before curtain, the thematic girl power preshow soundtrack not only set the mood, it managed to match this world undoubtedly. On the surface, it didn't seem as if costumer designer Asta Bennie Hostetter did much aside from create a uniform. But attention to detail was well achieved as each girl had personality. Whether it was their sneakers or how they wore their hair. The intricacies for each team member spoke volumes. So when we saw the girls out of uniform, their attire made sense.
They say you're only as strong as your weakest player. The Wolves did not have a single weak link. This team was filled with pride. As the captain of the pack, Lauren is a natural-born leader. Even with a tinge of bravado, Patten provided natural command. #25 was one character with a bit of action in her arc. Patten allowed the reveals to flow subtly, never calling attention. Tedra Millan's #46 was the outsider that was a little more than just an odd duck. She found great complexity that took some time to warm up to. Silent for a long string of the piece, Lizzy Jutila as goalie #00 made the moments of speech more than worth while. As concussion prone #2, Sarah Mezzanotte was bubbly and delightful. The anger and pain that Brenna Coates found in #7 was craft fully raw. It could easily have been overblown yet Coates had the tools to reign it in.
The Wolves returned for a reason. It's a phenomenal production. If sports are not your thing, don't be scared away. This script goes above and beyond on what is on the surface. Don't be surprised to see The Wolves transfer somewhere for a longer run. And don't be surprised when every university knocks on Sarah DeLappe's door to do her script.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Review: All I Want for Christmas Is Courtney Act!

By Michael Block

I don't want a lot for Christmas but Courtney Act was certainly on my list! Returning to the Laurie Beechman to spread some holiday cheer, Courtney Act takes some of the highlights of the holidays in Dashing Through the Divas.
With a divalicuous set list, the RuPaul's Drag Race Season 6 finalist showcases her pure vocals in a shimmery new holiday show. From classic divas like Barbra to instant divas like Idina, Courtney Act brings a a stocking full of joy to the world. Courtney Act has the voice of an angel. She is arguably one of the most stunning queens on the planet.  With a look to kill and a vocal to match, Christmas songs are the perfect showcase for the Aussie Diva. Connecting the songs through cute anecdotes sprinkled with the occasional dig at her Drag Queen sisters, Bianca Del Rio we're looking at you, Courtney threads the evening smoothly. And if you ever dreamed of kissing the queen, she ends the show with mistletoe on a selfie stick! Dashing Through the Divas wasn't exactly a story-style show but closer to a holiday concert. And sometimes that's all you need. In only an hour, Courtney gives you Babs' "Jingle Bells," a traditional Australian Christmas classic about Santa and his kangaroos, and of course "All I Want for Christmas Is You."
If you're looking for the perfect present, Dashing Through the Divas delivers. Courtney Act is the definition of international Drag superstar. She is ho-ho-home at the Laurie Beechman.

Review: Holiday Gossip with Ginger Minj

By Michael Block

'’Tis the season to be jolly. And a little shady! Ginger Minj brings comedic holiday cheer to the Laurie Beechman in her latest holiday show, Mary Did You Hear? Joined by friends Michael Kirk Lane and Janine Klein, Ginger sprinkles holiday memories through comedic anecdotes in a stocking full of fun.
Mary Did You Know? is a night of Christmas memories and holiday songs curated by Ginger Minj. Putting a new spin on "Mary, Did You Know?," they three Queens, arriving on stuffed camelback, share slightly skewed holiday gossip about one another. It's a loose through line that's nothing short of silly. The "plot" occasionally flies off the handles but Ginger is there to reign it back in as best she can. The night is all about the cute gimmicks. Some land. Others? Not so much. From parodies to mocking sappy Christmas songs to brilliantly layering “You Spin Me” by Dead or Alive on top of "The Dreidel Song," Ginger has a present for everyone. The extra special tree topper was a special appearance by RuPaul Drag Race Season 4 icon Jiggly Caliente. Ginger joined Jiggly to sing her newest holiday hit "XMas Hams," which is featured on the Holiday Queens 2 album. Those wishing to hear Ginger sing her track from the album will be greatly disappointed. The make up of the audience is a majority of Drag Race fans so anytime there is tea spilled, the crowd went wild. The same went for the banter with Jiggly. It rocked the house. Any jabs to their fellow sisters git some of the strongest reactions. While this was Ginger's show, her trusty sidekicks were a wonderful addition. Janine Klein and Michael Kirk Lane added a jolt of extra hilarity, becoming fun foils for the overly jolly Ginger.
Mary Did You Know? was a great way to kick off the holiday season. It may not have been the best package under the tree but it certainly resulted in smiles and Christmas glee.

Spotlight On...Marti Gould Cummings

Name: Marti Gould Cummings

Hometown: Kennedyville, MD

Education: AMDA

Select Credits: Life and Death of Kenyon Phillips (Dir. Tony Winner Cady Huffman), Twist (Drama Desk Nominated Production), The Future Mrs Harry Windsor

Why theater?: Theatre is a release, an expression, an opportunity to entertain and educate.

Tell us about Have Yourself a Very MARTI Christmas: I am a comedic drag artist who lives to make people laugh.

What inspired you to create Have Yourself a Very MARTI Christmas?: Being born.

What kind of theater speaks to you? What or who inspires you as an artist?: All theatre has its place and it really depends on my mood and what the atmosphere is.

Any roles you’re dying to play?: The emcee in Cabaret.

What’s your favorite showtune?: "African Homeland" from The Color Purple

What’s your favorite song to sing in the shower?: "Let the Sunshine In" from HAIR

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

Who would play you in a movie about yourself and what would it be called?: I would play me and it would be called "Hello Dear, Its Me."

What show have you recommended to your friends?: The Color Purple is the greatest show on Broadway everyone should see it.

What’s your biggest guilty pleasure?: Eating Sun Chips in bed at 3am.

What’s up next?: My 3rd concert at 54 Below on December 23rd Have Yourself a Very MARTI Christmas

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Review: The Puzzling World of Love

By Michael Block

Love. Who says it’s easy? In Jordan Seavey’s fluid drama Homos, or Everyone in America, the unbridled romance between a young gay couple. Bouncing around in time, Homos lives in a period, yet resonates today. The Labyrinth Theater Company production packs the drama into the intimate space with little escape, physically or emotionally.
The relationship of two men is at the forefront of Jordan Seavey’s searing Homos. Simply identified as The Academic and The Writer, these two go through five years of tears, heartbreak, turmoil, love, and conversation to discover just what their bond truly is. Bouncing around Brooklyn, Seavey opts for a non-linear narrative, incorporating bits and pieces of the story that ultimately creates on big picture puzzle. And don’t think you’re experiencing déjà vu. Seavey’s beats will ultimately come together in the end. Whether the story hits you or the commentary is too cliche, Homos is a showcase of Seavey’s exemplary writing. The whiplash-inducing dialogue is a tumultuous marriage of colloquial and poetic. Seavey rarely gives his company a moment of air when they’re chin-deep in conversation. But when silence is awarded, it’s purposeful and prominent. Where Homos falls into stereotype is the exhausting discussions of gay relationships. Though Seavey perfectly captures the essence of the battle of monogamy and open relationships. If you’re searching for answers in your next debate, ask Jordan Seavey if you can borrow a few of his lines. This isn’t to say Seavey doesn’t eloquently carve out a discussion. They add subtle glimpses toward the characters but not enough to sustain. It’s one thing to know The Academic is so opposed to adding a new party to the mix but it’s stronger to learn the whys. Seavey has room to keep his commentary while integrating it into the character better. Five years is a long time to track an arc. Yet Seavey does a decent job taking care of his couple. We don’t need to see everything but there are certainly moments we wished we saw.
photo by Monique Carboni
The Mike Donahue helmed production was all about minimalism. With virtually no props or scenic elements, Donahue’s direction was smooth flowing. The simplicity in direction allowed the words to be the focus. That being said, site lines were absolutely ridiculous. Even in the “best seats in the house,” you’re bound to miss something or have a head in your way. Presented in the round, of sorts, the bizarre seating arrangement caused a plethora of issues. For example, from my vantage point, whenever the couple would engage in interaction on the floor, I saw nothing but three rows of heads. The only scenic element that introduced time was a window with a Kerry/Edwards campaign sticker on it. Luckily, I had a great view for the action there! Dane Laffrey’s untreated wood risers and carpeted floor allowed the lights from Scott Zielinski to flourish in a variety of looks. Jessica Pabst’s costume design was basic. The way she dressed the two central characters didn’t necessarily explain much about their personality but those socks spoke volumes! The pineapple socks for The Writer and the Mondrian inspired socks for The Academic were a wonderful addition. Pabst did add some pizzazz for Dan’s flashy gay protest outfit and it was nothing short of prideful.
As The Academic and The Writer, Robin De Jesus and Michael Urie, respectively, were a dynamic pair that flipped emotion on a dime. The range of emotion that Seavey put De Jesus through was mind-blowing. And not once did he stammer. De Jesus had a heightened playfulness as The Academic. The Writer was a bit more voice of stereotype and yet Michael Urie captured honesty in the man with an open heart. With the speed of Seavey’s text, De Jesus and Urie passed the ball without ever dropping. Though it was virtually a two character play, De Jesus and Urie were joined by Aaron Costa Ganis as Dan, the third wheel and cog in the romance, and Stacey Sargeant as Laila the Lush girl. They filled a role as a device but both made their presence worthwhile.
Homos, or Everyone in America is a unique examination of love and relationships told through a familiar lens. Jordan Seavey’s script ebbs and flows but keeps the audience on top of the wave. The production would greatly benefit from a little more space but no matter what, it’s all about the words that completed the puzzle.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Spotlight On...Andrew Mayer

Name: Andrew Mayer

Hometown: Staten Island, NY

Education: BFA in Acting from Boston University School of Theatre, Manhattan School of Music (Pre-college), LAMDA classical intensive.

Select Credits: Recent credits include: Natasha, Pierre, & the Great Comet of 1812 (Broadway Originating Cast), The 12 (Denver Center - World Premiere Rock Musical), Dying for It (Atlantic Theatre Company), Fiddler on the Roof (Barrington Stage Co. and Westchester Broadway Theatre), Prince of Egypt (Developmental Workshop)

Why theater?: I have been involved in the arts and theatre since I was very little. I have always had a love of stories. It brings me joy to pull people into other worlds and expand perspective on the world. As I have gotten older and more experienced I think what has personally sustained my passion in this infinitely difficult business is my genuine interest and love of the process and not just the product or final validation. Aside from that mental stamina, I am also a very physical person and often (especially in the show I am in now) I have felt akin to an athlete training for an event when doing this work. I love physical work and play, and the ongoing challenge and need to be consistently present and ready for anything is the most fun and engaging job I could ever see myself doing. And to call it a job sometimes feels very strange … which is another good sign.

Who do you play in Natasha, Pierre, & the Great Comet of 1812?: I am a member of the ensemble. I also play violin on stage for parts of the show.

Tell us about Natasha, Pierre, & the Great Comet of 1812: It is based on a 70-page slice of Tolstoy’s “War and Peace”. It takes us back to 19th century Russia without any particular reverence to period style … which is part of what makes the piece so powerful in my opinion. It breaks so many barriers with music, story, set, costumes, casting, and hopefully expands what Broadway commercial theatre can be. The ensemble plays a HUGE role in the show and is charged with furthering the story and atmosphere for everyone in the space. Definitely a different experience depending on where you choose to sit!

What is it like being a part of Natasha, Pierre, & the Great Comet of 1812?: It has been the most challenging thing I have ever approached physically and mentally … but it has also been incredibly rewarding. I am grateful that this show specifically is my Broadway debut.  It has at one point or other called on all of my skill sets. I have had to integrate my work as an actor and mover with my abilities as a violinist and singer … all at once. I would say our cast is in some of the best shape of any cast on Broadway right now (our set is a Stairmaster). Every day has its own challenges but part of what gives me energy is the cast and camaraderie. I joined just for Broadway and many of these guys have been together for multiple prior versions of the show … yet from day 1 I felt completely a part of the group. From the cast, to crew, to creatives there is no real drama backstage, there is no bad energy, and everyone is genuinely there to support each other and the show. I think that is part of what makes us all able to do it full out 8x a week. It is a joy.

What kind of theater speaks to you? What or who inspires you as an artist?: I find myself inspired by the kind of work that makes me think but also that has been clearly thought through by the creator. I enjoy polished pieces that still have a raw energy on stage. I don’t consider my work lazy and I don’t like watching things that have been simply thrown together and ask us to do the work to figure out what it means. Specific work as an actor and a creative is much more stimulating and effective to watch. I love that kind of work and those kinds of artists.

Any roles you’re dying to play?: Specific roles … hmm … I love Marius in Les Mis, and chased that around for a while (still made it to the Imperial Theatre without him I suppose, so it worked out haha). The Phantom would be amazing. Bobby in Company would be fun. I do love me some good action though (stage or screen) … could never turn down a good fight if Zorro or something came swinging into town. Now THAT would be my JAM.

What’s your favorite showtune?: That one changes daily. At this moment … typical showtune doesn’t come to mind as much as “Scenes From and Italian Restaurant” does by Billy Joel … (Movin’ Out? Hey that should count!!)

If you could work with anyone you’ve yet to work with, who would it be?: Brian Stokes Mitchell. Sir Ian McKellen. I would die.

Who would play you in a movie about yourself and what would it be called?: I would play the mysterious character who shows up with cryptic facetious knowledge about the future to myself in the past … but we don’t know it’s me … cause I would for some reason enjoy screwing with my former self. What would it be called? Maybe - “Let’s Go With That …”

If you could go back in time and see any play or musical you missed, what would it be?: I actually would love to see something groundbreaking akin to the first “moving picture” or Stravinsky’s first performance of The Rite of Spring. As for theatre … the original Streetcar would be pretty amazing to see or an original Shakespeare at the Globe.

What show have you recommended to your friends?: Obviously see Great Comet! Ha. But otherwise recently I really loved The Humans and I loved Something Rotten (especially if you know some musical theatre!)

What’s your biggest guilty pleasure?: Probably at this point I’d say its my motorcycle. That was no joy to my mother and I definitely felt guilty for a moment but the pleasure outweighed that pretty readily and still does. I love that thing.

What’s up next?: More Great Comet hopefully for a while. The run is off to a solid start so fingers crossed the momentum continues to build. Aside from that, check out some fun over at “The Hunted: Encore!” - recently released the first part of a web series. I also have some skits in the works and a cool fight short on the way to be released very soon.

For more on Andrew, visit www.andrewCmayer.com

Thursday, December 1, 2016

On the Scene: NYC Students Rise Up at Hamilton

by Michael Block

I had an exciting opportunity to witness 1300 of New York City's finest, students that is, attend a special performance of Hamilton. It was my second time at the show. But this was NOT the same show I saw before. This was experience like no other. 

They are not throwing away their shot to rise up in the room where it happened. 1300 New York City public school students attended an exclusive matinee performance of the show with hottest ticket in America. Thanks to partnership between Hamilton, The Rockefeller Foundation, the Gilder Lehrman Institute and the NYC Department of Education, another lot of students from New York's Five Boroughs were granted an invitation to Hamilton. That is after they successfully completed and passed their curriculum pertaining to the subject. A true stage to page experience.
The smash hit phenomenon has reached global success to the point that it has not only opened up eyes to a new audience but it is truly a profound teaching tool. Unless you've been living under a rock, you know the musical, written by Lin-Manuel Miranda, was at the center of some recent controversy when Vice President elect Mike Pence made a recent visit to the show. With a speech aimed to education, Brandon Victor Dixon, who plays Aaron Burr, spoke on behalf of the ensemble in hopes of starting an important discussion. In some arenas, namely social media, it backfired, but the message Dixon relayed is the rich message found with Miranda’s piece. This is a story of old America told by today's America.
Prior to the performance, a select few students got to make their "Broadway debut" by performing original work on the Richard Rodgers stage. At the core of their pieces was a narrative inspired by Hamilton and other pertinent information integrated from their studies. From poetry to song to dance to spoken word, these select students found their moments to shine in front of the biggest audience they could dream of. Associate choreographer Stephanie Klemons served as MC and hype girl, getting the students geared up to watch their classmates and peers. Some of the many highlights included a scene inspired by Abigail Adams written and performed by Kiara Leon and Anda Rosca from East Side Community School, some profound words in a scene from Jaelen Smith and Adante Power of Repertory Compay High School for Theatre Arts, a lyrical dance from Keturah Stephen, Liliana Delossantos, and Destiny Trevino, of Brooklyn High School of the Arts, and the pure vocals of Juan Mateo Garcia of Brooklyn Theatre Arts High School. All of this was set up by the incredible poem entitled “Let’s Make America Great Again” delivered with fervor and passion from Amell Garrison of Achievement First University Prep High School.
photo by Michael Block
If being able to see the show wasn't enough, the students got to listen to a very special question and answer session featuring some of the stars of Hamilton. Sharing their time and knowledge were Sasha Hollinger, Rory O’Malley, Eliza Ohman, Sydnee Winters and star of the future, and overall fan favorite Jordan Fisher. From silky, frothy questions to deep, personal statements, the wealth of insight the cast shared resonated. If you looked around closely, there was not a phone in sight. These kids were listening and engaged.
If you're one of the lucky few that has scored a ticket to Hamilton, you know what it's like to be in that audience. Even if you've seen a Broadway show, you know the etiquette. Those rules don't apply here. In fact, Stephanie Klemons ASKED this crowd to vocalize and react. Throw them out because these kids have no fear and will respond. The room was electric. The energy they gave the company was immediately given right back. And wouldn't you believe the moment the lights came up for curtain call everyone was on their feet. The Richard Rodgers was electric. Even glancing over at the great ushers, they were energized by the aura from the students.
It's an experience you can only have in this room with these students. They reacted to everything, good, bad, or indifferent, proving just how in-tune they were to the words of Lin-Manuel Miranda. What this great partnership has afforded the youth of New York is integral to our future. Art truly does have the power to change the world. What these students took from their day at the theater is yet to be scene but what is certain, this is a field trip these kids will never forget.

Spotlight On...Sawyer Spielberg

Name: Sawyer Avery Spielberg

Home: Los Angeles, California

Education: Atlantic Theater Co.

Select Credits: Off Broadway - Micha in The Belgrade Trilogy at the East 4th Street Theatre. Phillip in Safe at the 14th Street Y.  Regional Theatre - Bay Street Theater’s Of Mice and Men playing Whit. Bay Street’s The Diary of Anne Frank playing Peter. Guild Hall of East Hampton playing Guildenstern in a production of Hamlet.

Why theater?: I love being a part of the theatre community, and acting on stage is sometimes the best way I know how to communicate.

Who do you play in Clover?: Van.

Tell us about Clover: Clover has been a good challenge for me to understand the pressures of being the oldest brother out of three in a dysfunctional family.

What is it like being a part of Clover?: Working on Clover has been a great way for me to meet more actors in the Indie Theater community and to continue working on my craft.

What kind of theater speaks to you? What or who inspires you as an artist?: I moved to NYC to study acting because I saw Red on Broadway at the age of 16, and that triggered me to start acting.

Any roles you’re dying to play?: I'd like to play Ken in that play, Red.

What’s your favorite showtune?: Music inspires me, friends and family inspire me. I am really into blues at the moment because one of the actors I'm working with in Clover is teaching me the harmonica.

If you could go back in time and see any play or musical you missed, what would it be?:  I wish I saw Mark Rylance in Jerusalem and Phillip Hoffman in Death of a Salesman. My two regrets.

What’s up next?:  I'm producing and acting in a production of Extinction by Gabe McKinley this winter at Guild Hall of East Hampton.

For more on Clover, visit http://lamama.org/clover/