Friday, May 24, 2019

Spotlight On...Gabriel Maria Rodriguez

Name: Gabriel Maria Rodriguez

Hometown: Mamaroneck, NY

Education: Mamaroneck High School, BFA in Acting from Emerson College, ongoing participant in The Michael Chekhov School in Hudson, NY

Favorite Credits: the umbilical point (Walking the dog Theater, the first full production for a solo play by me), fire (Walking the dog Theater, a piece my friends and I created from scratch), and playing Elliot in Water by the Spoonful by Quiara Alegría Hudes (Lyrics Stage Company, Boston)

Why theater?: In this life, I have been and always will be a storyteller. I have always felt most myself when seeking out stories, studying stories, feeling about stories, learning stories, learning from stories, standing in front of people and telling stories. I don't have an explanation. It's just what I do. I don't know that I could stop myself even if I wanted to. I secrete stories.

Tell us about Jack of Cups: Jack of Cups takes place thousands of years from now. Whatever environmental catastrophe we in the present have ahead of us, the people of this future have behind them. They have survived and grown a better world from the rubble. Every Spring, the communities of this world come together for the Remembrance Festival, a collective ritual of healing and renewal and the biggest party of the year. On the first night of the Festival, Jack of Cups, a mysterious servant of the goddess Mother Ocean, arrives and tells the origin story of this world: their post-apocalyptic creation myth. The play takes place at the Festival, during this first night.

What inspired you to write Jack of Cups?: The first thing was necessity. I met someone who ran an event space, and she invited me to do a solo show in her space. I said yes to her, without knowing what I’d do. I looked out into the thin air and said “Okay so I need a play now, please!” I started listening for it. Some weeks later, Jack and his world started showing up. I am always wondering (obsessing) about the future of our planet and the beings who live here. I believe that, however much we are able to come together to unify and heal, we have gone too far and the catastrophe is here. And it will worsen. But! At the same time, I don't believe total annihilation is certain, and I do believe that humanity is not fundamentally hateful, that we have inherent goodness. We have forgotten who we are, but we will always be capable of remembering. This picture lends me a kind of paradoxical discomforted hopefulness. Because we have pushed ourselves to such an All or Nothing sort of precipice, this moment in our history is likely the best opportunity we're ever going to get to create a free, loving world! This play was generated through asking the question: “If humankind DID become reborn through surviving the struggles to come...what would that look like?” As a storyteller and sci-fi/fantasy nerd, I find abundant hope in the power of the imagination. In writing Jack, I looked to the practices of legendary worldbuilders like Ursula K Le Guin and Carla Speed McNeil. If humanity is going to make it through and create a harmonious world, we will need to imagine that world first. Jack of Cups is one attempt to do this.

What kind of theater speaks to you? What or who inspires you as an artist?: I am most drawn towards stories that incorporate perspectives both human and non-human, and explore the interaction between the two. It is sometimes difficult for me to get into Humans Sitting in a Room Only Talking About Human Stuff. That being said, I like any well-told story. Creators who are working out of a sense of wholeness, who are deeply listening, who are open and curious and playful. I’ll watch people like this tell any story. Artists who are searching for something, who are living in the questions. I can be soothed by a “Here’s the right answer, the end” sort of story as much as the next person, but ultimately I believe the most nourishing art is art that wakefully encounters uncertainty and paradox. My fellow members of Experimental Bitch Presents are prime examples of this. They inspire me constantly.

If you could work with anyone you’ve yet to work with, who would it be?: Kate Tempest or Peter Brook.

What show have you recommended to your friends?: What The Constitution Means to Me was pretty incredible. Talk about an artist standing courageously in uncertainty and paradox!

Who would play you in a movie about yourself and what would it be called?: I would play me. It would be called “Word Witch.”

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

What’s your biggest guilty pleasure?: I don’t believe in guilty pleasures. Pleasure is an inherent good. If the thing that gives you pleasure isn’t hurting anyone, there’s no reason to feel guilty. I non-guiltily love chocolate.

If you weren’t working in theater, you would be _____?: A queer theologian studying, writing about, and teaching about comparative religion and mythology.

What’s up next?: More Experimental Bitch things! In July, I’ll be playing a role in the upcoming workshop for EBP’s production of member Sophia Heinecke’s New Nostalgias, directed by our amazing, kind, incisive artistic director Tatiana Baccari. Sophia is a brilliant, poetic, singular playwrighting voice. I am overjoyed to have a part in helping her work reach a wider and wider audience.

For more info on Gabriel, visit www.experimentalbitchpresents.com and www.gabrod.com.

Block Talk- Episode 115: Audrey Phoenix


She rose from the ashes to become Iconic and now she's here to talk about it! It's my interview with Audrey Phoenix!

To listen to the podcast, download and subscribe from Apple Podcasts, SoundCloud, or Stitcher!

Friday, May 17, 2019

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Spotlight On...Aaron Feinstein

Name: Aaron Feinstein

Hometown: Los Angeles, CA (But I live in NYC)

Education: MFA Theater Directing UCLA

Favorite Credits: Next Stop- Produced by the first ever ALL IN(clusive) ALL-City Theatre Ensemble with the New York City Department of Education; Surreality TV- Produced by Actionplay; Miracle Project New York and LA - various productions.

Why theater?: I truly value the community building aspects of creating theater. For me, the rehearsal room is a place where those of us who feel we don’t quite fit the norm can have a platform to play and create. I love witnessing the amazing growth that happens when individuals create from their own passions and ideas, and tell their own stories in a devised theater process. I enjoy traditional plays and I have directed many as well, but I find a lot of this kind of theater is tremendously boring. I am always inspired to re-invigorate my love of theater through devising vital new works that are created within unique communities.

Tell us about Welcome To My World?: Welcome To My World is an original musical devised in Actionplay’s inclusive AIMS program. I founded Actionplay in 2011 to provide inclusive arts experiences to individuals with autism and related condition and disabilities. The program creates theater within an inclusive setting where neurodivergent individuals and neurotypical individuals (along with many other identities) collaborate and create together. The idea of “Welcome To My World” came from a young woman on the autism spectrum in our AIMS program who wanted to theatricalize the experiences of a young autistic woman living in NYC. Through our collaborative devising process, the idea evolved into a musical about an autistic young woman who befriends an extra-terrestrial from another planet. It’s wacky, moving, and spirited as most Actionplay productions are.

What is it like directing Welcome To My World?: Our rehearsals, which took place over 27 Sunday mornings from 10:30-noon, energize me and have been the highlight of my entire week. I think I’ve created a playful environment where our company feels comfortable in exploring their own ideas, and bringing in their passions and interests no matter how wild or bizarre others may think they are outside of the rehearsal room. It’s always tough for me to combine the diversity of ideas into a cohesive piece, but I’m proud of this show. Welcome to My World has ideas as diverse as the love of Roy Orbison’s music, Cosplay Parties, Sci Fi, and schmaltzy dad jokes – and they've all been generated by the individuals in our company. In general, when directing Actionplay shows, I love that I get to say “yes” more than I get to say “no”.

What kind of theater speaks to you? What or who inspires you as an artist?: Stuff that feels vital and different than what I’ve seen before. A lot of times, this kind of groundbreaking theater is created within interesting communities, and I think many of these shows go under-the-radar because they break the rules. I like theater that breaks rules. I’m a theatrical director, but I am so inspired by music, and I am a musician as well. I love the freedom that comes from the improv tradition in music and theater, and I believe that incredibly vital work that is as serious and polished as anything can come from an improvisatory framework. I love watching things happen in the moment. They just feel more alive.

If you could work with anyone you’ve yet to work with, who would it be?: Hm…I love the English company Complicite, and their devising process is something to aspire to. I think they’ve always created work that bridges the community aspects of making theater with high-art, and I aspire to their level of theatricality.

What show have you recommended to your friends?: The new production of Oklahoma which I saw at St. Anne’s, but now is on Broadway is certainly one of the more interesting pieces I’ve seen recently, and it keeps coming up in conversation. I mean, I couldn’t have thought of a play that I never wanted to see again more than “Oklahoma” The magic of the diverse and inclusive casting, original arrangement, and just the badassnes of Ali Stroker making the role of Ado Annie into a really strong female character is enough to inspire me that these kinds of updates to old plays can be pulled off really well.

Who would play you in a movie about yourself and what would it be called?: Jeff Bridges, and it would be called….”Yeah Dudes, We Made That.”

If you could go back in time and see any play or musical you missed, what would it be?: Anything by Pina Bausch that I haven’t seen. My favorite was Nelken (Carnations), but those pieces are just beautiful and informative to how far one can go when thinking about creating work with a company.

What’s your biggest guilty pleasure?: Watching terrible morning TV like “Hot Bench” or “The Today Show” with Hoda and whomever….

If you weren’t working in theater, you would be ______?: Trying to start a punk band.

What’s up next?: Finishing up a documentary I’m directing about a single dad raising his non-speaking son and attempting to fine love in NYC. It’s been a long process, and it’s exciting to be completing it.

Actionplay’s Welcome To My World plays Saturday, May 18 at 7 pm & Sunday, May 19 at 2 pm at The Sheen Center. More info available at www.sheencenter.org/world.

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Block Talk- Episode 111: Make Mike Watch Singin' in the Rain


How have I never seen Singin' in the Rain? Listen to the latest Block Talk Episode were Nancy Nogood made me watch the classic movie musical!

To listen to the podcast, download and subscribe on Apple Podcasts, SoundCloud, and Stitcher!


Saturday, May 4, 2019

Block Talk- Episode 109: Michele Shocked


What you're about to hear may shock you. It's my interview with the fabulous Michele Shocked!

To listen to the podcast, visit Apple Podcasts, SoundCloud, or Stitcher! And while you're there, leave us a 5 star review and download and subscribe!

Sunday, April 28, 2019

Block Talk- Episode 107: Aria Derci


It's the episode you've all been waiting for. It's my sit down with the one and only, Aria Derci!

To listen to the podcast, visit Apple Podcasts, SoundCloud, or Stitcher!