Thursday, May 26, 2016

Spotlight On...Victoria Vance

Name: Victoria Vance

Hometown: Canton, Ohio

Education: Various Theatre schools outside the U.S. Ohio University School Of Theatre BFA

Select Credits: Unbroken Circle (St. Luke Theatre), Engaging Shaw (The Abingdon Theatre). HBO’s “Veep”HBO, Showtime’s “The Affair”

Why theater?: It's alive...truly alive. There's a wonderful audience, each one looking for something...laughter, a chance to go deeper, to find's so gratifying for me.

Who do you play in A Persistent Memory?: Olivia, a Belgian woman living in Uganda, who works for Unicef.

Tell us about A Persistent Memory: It's a deeply moving play about reaching into ones soul...understanding ourselves in a deeper way. Release, and finding a way to move forward. It's painful but the rewards are rich.

What is it like being a part of A Persistent Memory?: Amazing...brilliant. What a gorgeous cast and crew. The writer, Jackob Hofmann is a dear friend and it is such a joy to be working with him again.

What kind of theater speaks to you? What or who inspires you as an artist?: Boy...I just love ALL speaks to me in one way or another. Again...there are so many. I fear if I name any one in particular I'll want to kick my own fanny for forgetting someone else.

Any roles you’re dying to play?: Vivian in WIT.

What’s your favorite show tune?: Every song from Pippin.

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

Who would play you in a movie about yourself and what would it be called?: Emma Thompson. "It All Makes Sense Now"

If you could go back in time and see any play or musical you missed, what would it be?: M Butterfly with John Lithgow

What show have you recommended to your friends?: A Persistent Memory, OF COURSE!!

What’s your biggest guilty pleasure?: A wonderful glass...or TWO of good wine!

What’s up next?: Well...something wonderful, I hope!! There's one thing I'm working on but its on the QT.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Review: Don't Make Me Sing

by Michael Block

Give a queen a stage, a pianist with a wealth of showtunes in his fingers, and a crowd of boozy patrons the power to request songs and you get Jinkx Sings Everything, an evening of unplanned music and stories. The solo extravaganza from Jinkx Monsoon, RuPaul's Drag Race season 5 winner, allows the comedy queen with a voice like no other guidesthe crowd through Broadway classics on demand. With nothing rehearsed, Jinkx Sings Everything is flat out fun, laughs, and a good time.
Presented at the infamous Laurie Beechman Theatre, Jinkx Monsoon collaborates with "Broadway Sessions" pianist Joshua Stephen Kartas to sing a canon of fan requested showtunes. With an element of anything could happen, Jinkx reminds the crowd just why she is one of the show's strongest performers. While she does get the final say on suggestions, and even suggests numbers from her previous canon of theatrical roles, Jinkx is game for even that early non-showtune request. Rather than nerves and a throat tickle bring her down, Jinkx powers through the evening singing everything from Chicago’s “All That Jazz”, where we learn Renee Zellweger inspired her to do drag, to a medley from Cabaret, and ending the night on a high with “The Origin of Love” from Hedwig and the Angry Inch. With so many fans in attendance, one lucky boy, Desmond the youngest Jinkx fan, got plucked from the crowd to sit and unintentionally upstate as his request, “My Heart Belongs to Daddy.”
Jinkx Sings Everything is bound to make a triumphant return. It’s simple and fun. But a little structure polish could be to the evening’s benefit. While it would eliminate the scream-and-interact portion of the night, having the audience fill out a sheet preshow would allow a smoother night by maintaining the request feel. Either, Jinkx Monsoon can do anything and her fans will be loyally by her side. That’s what happens when you have talent.

Spotlight On...Danny Sharron

Name: Danny Sharron

Hometown: Ft. Lauderdale, Florida

Education: University of Florida (BA Theater; BS Marketing)

Favorite Credits: I thought about this question a lot, and I have to say that it was directing Bradley Cherna's The Forest of Without as part of the Drama League DirectorFest in 2013. It's now been three years since making that play and I can't shake the experience. It's one of those pieces that continue to live and breath inside of you.

Why theater?: I love making art for a live audience, and building a play around the way people are going to interact with the piece (emotionally, psychologically, and spatially). Getting to be in the space with them and experience the play through their eyes is unlike anything else - thrilling and also completely nerve-wrecking at the same time. You know when an audience is feeling it or is disconnected, there's no way around that and I find it to be an incredible challenge to face with each new project.

Tell us about UglyRhino: UglyRhino was created back in 2010 (nearly six years ago!) with a mission to make theater a social event by integrating live music, dance parties, and curated cocktails into the theatrical experience. Moreover, we set out to do that with artistic integrity, high production value, and always at low cost. In addition to producing main stage productions like OKAY, we also produce a monthly event called TinyRhino, which we have dubbed the World's First Theatrical Drinking Game. This event has been performed monthly to sold-out crowds since 2011, and has given over 3000 playwrights, directors, and actors opportunities to throw up work in a social atmosphere.

Tell us about Okay: Okay! This play was a piece that Taylor Mac wrote back in 2003 and performed as a one-man show (because Judy's remarkable like that). It takes place at a prom in 2003, in the girls' bathroom, and tells the story of seven different students who are about to graduate, enter adulthood, and inherit a post-9/11 world that they had no part in creating. Each kid is dealing with their own expectations for their prom night, and for their lives thereafter, and there might also be some alcohol and drugs and sex involved :)

What inspired you to direct Okay?: I got my hands on it a couple years ago when I was spending the summer at the Williamstown Theatre Festival. My initial reaction to it was "Wow, this is incredibly funny and heartfelt and nuanced and complicated," which was quickly followed by "I have no idea how the hell to do this." That's usually the sign for me that it's a project worth tackling. With the blessing of Laura Savia, who was running the Williamstown Professional Training Program at the time, I decided to do a workshop production where we presented it as an ensemble piece with WTF's incredible non-Equity acting company. It was a short but incredibly affecting experience for everyone involved, and as soon as it closed I knew I wanted to re-mount it in New York and actually create the prom - throw the piece in the middle of a found space, amidst decorations and a DJ booth and drinks, in true UglyRhino fashion. The challenge for me was not only how to tackle a complicated text, but also how to make it come alive in space an unexpected way.

What kind of theater speaks to you? What or who inspires you as an artist?: In terms of format and presentation, I am most moved by work that uses space in a compelling and thoughtful way (whether it's a Broadway stage or a black box or a warehouse), and that considers how the audience will experience the piece and builds the evening around the communal nature of seeing a play. In terms of content, I am deeply invested in creating work about the LGBTQ experience. OKAY really checks all of these boxes. I would also say that my biggest goal moving forward is to create more work that falls in line with this idea, and to help provide a platform from which voices of the LGBTQ community can be heard.

If you could work with anyone you’ve yet to work with, who would it be?: George C. Wolfe, hands down. His work has consistently moved me, inspired me, and changed my life. I've seen the video of his production of Angels in America more times than I'd like to admit, and his revival of The Normal Heart remains a personally monumental and life-changing theater-going experience.

What show have you recommended to your friends?: Fun Home! I think it's the best new musical in years. Not only is the writing stellar, but it's impeccably directed by Sam Gold.

Who would play you in a movie about yourself and what would it be called?: Ummmmmm either Patrick Dempsey (duh) or Natalie Portman in drag (I mean, who can really resist that idea). And it would simply be called "Neuroses".

If you could go back in time and see any play or musical you missed, what would it be?: Oh my, this is hard. I think I would say the original production of A Chorus Line at The Public Theater (before it moved to Broadway). I don't know that any subsequent cast will ever capture the magic of the original cast, or so I imagine.

What’s your biggest guilty pleasure?: Television. I watch (probably) too much of it, but damn there's just so much good storytelling happening on TV these days. It's a hugely educational experience (he tells himself to appease his Jewish guilt).

If you weren’t working in theater, you would be _____?: If my mother had her way, I'd be a Jewish doctor with a children's medical practice. In truth, I'd probably be working in LGBTQ advocacy in some capacity.

What’s up next?: This summer I'll be developing a brand new play alongside playwright Jason Kim about the lives of LGBTQ immigrants in the US, as part of the Bill Foeller Fellowship at the Williamstown Theatre Festival.

For more on Okay, visit For more on UglyRhino, visit And for more on Danny, visit

Monday, May 23, 2016

Spotlight On...Drew Ledbetter

Name: Drew Ledbetter

Hometown: LaFayette, GA (30 miles south of Chattanooga, TN)

Education: UC Berkeley, Brown/Trinity MFA

Select Credits: A lot of Shakespeare. I play Romeo on the iPad educational version of R&J used in high schools.

Why theater?: It's immediate.

Who do you play in A Persistent Memory?: David Huntington.

Tell us about A Persistent Memory: How do we construct our personal histories? What stories do we tell ourselves about our own pasts, and how does time effect our perspective? Do we remember things the way we want- or the way they are? After enduring traumatic experiences, is it necessary to reconstruct our own narratives in order to survive?

What is it like being a part of A Persistent Memory?: Memorable. Memorable. Memorable. Memorable. Memorable. Memorable. Memorable.

What kind of theater speaks to you? What or who inspires you as an artist?: The kind that  refuses definition. Irreverence. Marcel DuChamp. Annie Baker. Lesser America. Joe Orton. Nick Jones. Oscar Eustis. Charles Ludlam. Everett Quinton. Olympia Dukakis. Brian Mertes. Michael Stuhlbarg. Fiasco. Faultline. Bedlam. Mark Jackson from the Bay Area. Pop artist Ray Johnson. Cory Michael Smith. Adam Driver. Nick Westrate. Craig Baldwin. Miriam Silverman. Sean Graney. Anne Washburn. Paul Thomas Anderson. Radiohead. Elizabeth Warren. Vivienne Benesch. Stanley Kubrick. Michael Shannon. Martha Lavey. The Arcade Fire. Jeff Buckley. Kareem Fahmy. Game of Thrones and Breaking Bad. Harold Pinter. Martin Mcdonagh. Sam Rockwell. James Baldwin. Dan Rogers.  Abraham Lincoln. Ken Burns. Barack Obama and Daniel Day-Lewis. Ben Beckley. Eliza Bent. Phillip Seymour Hoffman. John Cassavetes. Gena Rowlands. Sarah Tolan-Mee. Brad Pitt's Plan B production company. James Palmer. Jessi Hill. The Coen Brothers. Whitney White. And my fellow Prospect Heights Eastern Athletics Gym Member, John Turturro.  

Any roles you’re dying to play?: Trent Reznor. Justin Trudeau. In 20 years, Oscar Eustis.

What’s your favorite showtune?: The Talking Head's "Stop Making Sense". That's a show and a tune..

If you could work with anyone you’ve yet to work with, who would it be?: Everyone I listed three questions ago as long as they are still living.

Who would play you in a movie about yourself and what would it be called?: My mind just exploded with narcissism from the question. Charlie Kaufman wrote about it. Now I'm playing myself in “Inside Myself Inside Myself Inside Myself”.

If you could go back in time and see any play or musical you missed, what would it be?: I would pause time and see all the things that I will miss out on in the present because so much wonderful art is made, and there isn't enough time or money to consume it all.

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

What’s your biggest guilty pleasure?: Pembroke Welsh Corgis.

What’s up next?: Creating, supporting, and fostering immersive, new theater work that encourages audience members to talk to each other and eat food together and be together. To become friends. To invite each other to dinner parties. To use their cell phones if they want to document their experiences- no sweat off my back. To connect with each other. To create conversations that endure past the night of experience. No dark lights and dark seats with strangers that you will never talk to or see again. No to disconnection. Yes to eye contact and hand shakes and breaking bread and hello I know you and hello I like you would you like a drink? Shall we try to break a tiki piñata together? How about a round of pin the tail on the donkey?

For more on Drew, visit

The Rulers: A Sneak Peek Into Rule of 7x7: A May One Show Stand!

You've got one night only for Rule of 7x7: A May One Show Stand on May 26th at 9:30pm at The Tank. To get you ready, here is another edition of The Rulers!

The Rulers

Name: Will Arbery

Hometown: Dallas, TX + Lander, WY

Education: BA: Kenyon College // MFA: Northwestern University

What is your rule?: "This exact line of dialogue: I don't believe you."

Why did you pick your rule?: You wouldn't believe me if I told you. I mean it's the craziest story. It would take at least five hours to tell the short version.

Tell us about Landline: It's about that light tight giddy feeling of talking to someone that you like on the phone. I'm also continuing my obsessive exploration of the theatrical vocabulary of phone calls. It's also about trying to tell someone about how weird your family is. Also, it's directed by the wonderful Kate Hopkins and starring the weirdo-geniuses Lilli Stein, Jack Plowe, and Rachel Lin.

What's your favorite thing about Rule of 7x7?: The audience! They're incredibly supportive and responsive.

MAY the ____ be with you: Guilt.

For more on Will, visit

Name: Matt Crowley

Hometown: Beverly, MA

Education: Kenyon College

What is your rule?: A terrible Southern accent.

Why did you pick your rule?: Terrible Southern accents abound, so why not include one that's intentionally bad?

Tell us about The Artists: I've been in LA for the last year and a half and I wanted to reflect on the NYC theater scene and a bit of my experiences with it. I also had a couple of half-formed play ideas kicking around in my brain, and a ten minute play is a great place to utilize them.

What's your favorite thing about Rule of 7x7?: This is my first one, so I'm looking forward to seeing the diversity of pieces springing from the same 7 rules.

MAY the ____ be with you: Borscht?

For more on Matt, visit

Name: Brett Epstein

Hometown: Hamden, CT

Education: Theatre + Writing at Providence College

What is your rule?: After the halfway point of the play, a new character enters... accompanied by his/her own theme song or random sound cue.

Why did you pick your rule?: I wanted to a) see how a new presence would shake up the writers' plays halfway through and b) laugh at all the random sound cues they choose.

Tell us about Voicemail: Dan McCabe and I play writer-roommates. Tyler Gardella is sexy-and-weird. A voicemail has something to do with it, too.

What is your favorite thing about Rule of 7x7?: Literally every moment. Picking playwrights, allllllll the e-mails, the day the plays are due, teching all day, being with everyone all day, writing for it, watching the other plays, seating audience members on the floor, seating audience members on the stage, giving wacky house speeches, hanging out at The Tank after the show, riding the 1-train with Evan Maltby after the after-party. All of it! 7x7 is the NYC accomplishment of which I'm most proud. #RuleOf7x74Life

MAY the ____ be with you: You. May the you be with you. You do you. Is what I'm saying.

For more on Brett, visit

Name: Cary Gitter

Hometown: Leonia, NJ

Education: BFA and MA from NYU

What is your rule?: Spasms

Why did you pick your rule?: Because there aren't enough spasms on the American stage.

Tell us about Donut Hell: Have you ever had a job you hated? A psychopathic boss bent on your destruction? Do you love donuts but hate them too? Have you ever been to New Jersey? Worn an apron in public? Then Donut Hell may just be your Long Day's Journey Into Night.

What's your favorite thing about Rule of 7x7?: The jam-packed, rowdy, inebriated, delightful, laughing audiences. And Brett's preshow speeches.

MAY the ____ be with you: Donut hole

Name: Anderson John Heinz

Hometown: Memphis, TN

Education: NYU BFA dramatic writing

What is your rule?: Celine Dion

Why did you pick your rule?: I’ve always been a fan of Celine Dion. I’ve recently, specifically, found myself listening to “It’s All Coming Back to Me Now” more than any functioning human should. Not to get weird, but that video definitely scarred me as a child. I still cower whenever I see a man on a motorcycle. But in a fun way!! Celine’s voice is limitless.

Tell us about Frozen 2: Frozen 2 is a sequel to the highly popular film "Frozen", but as a play and super dirty. It concerns a darling gay couple and their desire to have a child of their very own.

What's your favorite thing about Rule of 7x7?: Writing plays with rules is fun because it makes my brain think about things in a different way and different is always fun! That's my favorite thing about it... so far!

MAY the ____ be with you: little fried chicken drumstick emoji

For more, visit

Name: Charly Evon Simpson

Hometown: Born in Queens, but raised in Bergen County, NJ

Education: MFA (in progress): Hunter College, MSt: Oxford, BA: Brown

What is your rule?: Kiss on page 3

Why did you pick your rule?: Um. Honestly…because I think there should be more kissing in the world. Specifically there should be more people kissing me. Unfortunately I am not acting in any of the plays so this rule isn’t really helping me, but I might be helping someone else.

Tell us about House Rules: It is a little play about bringing a boy home to meet your sisters.

What's your favorite thing about Rule of 7x7?: The enthusiasm for it. I love that actors love to be a part of it, that writers love to be a part of it, and directors, etc.

MAY the ____ be with you: I mean, I’m a Star Wars nerd so it has to be force. Sorry I’m not more creative….

For more, visit

Name: Sofya Weitz

Hometown: Los Angeles

Education: BA from Loyola Marymount University, MFA from Northwestern University (playwriting & screenwriting)

What is your rule?: the play must end in a physically compromising situation

Why did you pick your rule?: I think one of the keys of comedic short plays is really in the stage directions - something physical your characters can do that inform their dialogue/action - so putting them in a physically compromising situation is entertaining to me and also drives the action. And at the end of the play, it's a place to get to!

Tell us about I'm Alive: gender-based performance art, a harmonica & a cat?

What's your favorite thing about Rule of 7x7?: I love getting restrictions for my writing. It really forces out the creativity. Having the rules for all the shows brings everyone together - you're all in on the same jokes and you're keyed into the consistency during the performance.

MAY the _____ be with you: Free drinks.

For more on Sofya, visit

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Spotlight On...Vanessa Shealy

Name: Vanessa Shealy

Hometown: Oklahoma City, OK

Education: I got my MFA in Theater Performance from the University of Georgia, and a BA in theater from Oklahoma Baptist University.

Favorite Credits: Earlier this year OnTheRoad Rep did a production of my play, Tea in the Afternoon, on Theater Row with Alice Spivak and Tayler Beth Anderson. Nick Corley directed, and he and the entire team did wonderful work. It’s a play that I wrote about ten years ago, and I self-produced a production of it in the NY Fringe festival back in 2006. It’s a very personal play for me, so it was incredible to see how much they brought to it.

Why theater?: Because I like to play! In the theater it all depends upon the willingness of the audience to play, to believe and imagine, so the possibilities are endless. And plays are so elastic, they are all so different from each other because there’s no one way to tell a story. Or to receive a story – each individual seeing the performance is influenced by the rest of that night’s audience. So the audience, along with the actors, become a community - a big group of kids agreeing to pretend for a few hours together.

Tell us about An American Drum Circle: The play is about a young woman from Oklahoma, Mandy, who is lost because life recently dealt her some blows, and her father really let her down. So when she meets an exciting young man from Nigeria she falls for him, and their lives become entangled in a web of falsehood. As James Bosley, the UP Theater Artistic Director, put it, “God is the lure. Wealth is the bait.” And that’s true. The play is about hope and what it means to lose your faith, and what happens when you find it.

What inspired you to write An American Drum Circle?: I'm originally from Oklahoma, I grew up in church, I’m in an interracial marriage, and the struggles in this play are inspired and based upon my personal struggles. So this story is about the diverse people and experiences of my world coming together. It was very exciting, but also a big responsibility, to write characters from a variety of different backgrounds. For a while I drowned myself in research, but later I came to heavily rely upon the input of the racially diverse actors and other artists, who, over the years, have been gracious and bold enough to share their insight into the world of this play.

What kind of theater speaks to you? What or who inspires you as an artist?: Details inspire me. Big-fun-play inspires me. Theater that makes me think, but doesn’t preach, and tricks me into thinking that I came up with a wonderful epiphany all by myself is always satisfying. Above all, a big story - one that really moves.

What show have you recommended to your friends?: I thoroughly enjoyed Gideon Production’s Honeycomb Trilogy by Mac Rogers. Such great performances and originality. As I said above, I like it when things happen in a play. And you can’t get more happenin’ than an alien invasion. I was so glad to see that all three plays are now available through Samuel French. Theaters around the country should be getting in line to do those plays.

Who would play you in a movie about yourself and what would it be called?: Kate Beckensale would play the version of me in my mind. And Janeane Garofalo would play me in the present. The movie would be called “Where did I leave my keys?!” and it would be an edgy, independent dramedy feature, with heart.

If you could go back in time and see any play or musical you missed, what would it be?: I’d go back and see Anna Deavere Smith perform in any of her documentary solo pieces. I love the solo show form, and she was such a huge influence. I’ve seen sections of Let Me Down Easy on PBS, but I would have loved to see it live, as well as Fires in the Mirror.

What’s your biggest guilty pleasure?: Black licorice. If it’s in my presence I eat it until my tongue is numb.

If you weren’t working in theater, you would be _____?: I’d be teaching, which I did for years and occasionally still do. Teaching is essentially performing, and writing, and directing, and producing, and stage I guess I’d be doing the same thing I’m doing now.

What’s up next?: In July I’m directing a short play that I wrote called Naked for the Women in Theater Festival with Project Y Theater Company. It’s a short solo piece and the lovely Rebecca De Ornelas is my single cast member. Then in August my husband and I will perform in the NY Fringe Festival doing a storytelling piece we are (currently) calling Inside Information. My husband is black and I’m white, and in this piece we get real about what it’s like to be in a mixed race marriage. And we also come clean about our own inherent racism, which is scary. But I hope important. Oh, and it’s funny. And then during all of that, I’m writing an indie comic book with my co-creator, Leah Lovise, called Couri Vine. We have the first two books in print and we hope to get the third out in time for Thanksgiving. Young people need comic books (and they make great holiday gifts!!)

Friday, May 20, 2016

Technically Speaking with...Nathan Leigh

Name: Nathan Leigh

Hometown: Newton, MA

Education: UConn

Favorite Credits: The Convert (Central Square Theatre, 2016), Mother Hicks (Emerson College, 2015), Sealand The Musical (#Serials@TheFlea, 2011 - 2012)

Why theater?: Theatre, at its best, has the power to tell stories that shift an audience's perceptions, and force them to think and feel in new ways. It can make the intimate feel universal in ways no other medium can truly accomplish. At it's worst, it's one of the few quiet places in New York where you can get a decent nap in.

What is your role on Prospect?: Sound Design and Original Music

Tell us about Prospect: Prospect is a play set in the 80's about worlds and communities colliding over the space of one drug-fueled night. It's about the lengths we go to disconnect from ourselves and each other and our own histories.

What is inspiring your design of Prospect?: 80's underground club music is the big thing I've been listening to. This was the dawn of electronic dance, so there's a joy and a weirdness to that music as producers were figuring out what you could do with synths and drum machines on a shoe-string budget. As a result the music has a lot of personality and idiosyncrasies that are often absent from modern EDM, and serve as a great way to access this story that starts with a night out at the club and gets progressively hazier.

What kind of theater speaks to you? What or who inspires you as an artist?: I like a story I haven't heard before. I like stories that aren't afraid to make you a little uncomfortable. But mostly I like stories that have something to say about the society we live in, and push audiences to consider a perspective they might not have before. I do a lot of work as an activist, and the thing that I find hardest in that world is conveying the shades of gray around major social issues. Theatre is better than just about any other medium at articulating those inarticulatable shades of gray.

What makes a design “successful”?: A design is usually most successful if the audience doesn't really notice how complicated it is.

How do you approach your work individually and collaboratively?: I like to think on my toes. Usually I'll spend my time before tech collecting raw material and scraps of ideas that can be quickly assembled, rather than walking into tech with a fully polished completed sound design. This lets my work be more in conversation with the other design elements in real time. Lighting and sound work so closely together, that the more we can be bouncing off of each other during the tech process, usually the stronger both designs end up being in the end. When you walk into a room with a finished and polished piece of music that's exactly 34 seconds long and can't be longer or shorter you're not really collaborating.

What is your favorite part about the collaboration process?: My favorite part of the collaborative process is that moment when you've had an idea you're excited about and someone else presents a totally different idea that you had never thought of and is actually way better than yours.

If you could design any play or musical you’ve yet to design, what would it be?: Revolt of the Beavers would be fun to play around with.

What’s up next?: I'm musical directing a production of Girlfriend at Wellfleet Harbor Actor's Theatre and releasing my next solo album titled Ordinary Eternal Machinery.

Boundless Theatre Company will present the New York Premiere of Octavio Solis’ PROSPECT, directed by Elena Araoz at Teatro Circulo (64 East 4th Street between 2nd Avenue and Bowery), May 19-June 5. Tickets ($18) are available online at

For more on Nathan, visit

Spotlight On...Sven Ratzke

Name: Sven Ratzke

Hometown: Berlin and Amsterdam 

Education: Learning by doing, and watching and working with the greats like Nina Hagen, Hanna Schugulla, Joey Arias, The Tiger Lillies and many more. And taking a lot of music lessons!

Favorite Credits: Hedwig and the Angry Inch in Berlin, Vienna and Amsterdam; five albums

Why theater?: It either runs in your blood or not. Theater is the greatest illusion there is. You can create everything and need almost nothing. 

Tell us about Starman: Starman is a one-man show with the music of David Bowie. It’s a theatrical trip that re-interprets his songs and takes you into my world and Bowie’s at the same time. If you know me as an performer, you know it’s gonna be entertaining, touching and wickedly bizarre.

What inspired you to create Starman?: Bowie was always there in my life and we have all these similarities. The idea of doing something with Bowie’s music has been there for a long time. After performing Hedwig and becoming more well-known myself, it felt like a good thing for my own artistic development to interpret the works of this genius.

What kind of theater speaks to you? What or who inspires you as an artist?: There is just so much great work out there. I have had so many encounters around the world over the last few years. I'm taking in all kinds of things, making notes all the time. I would say movies are my biggest inspiration. I just watched again Fellini’s 8 ½  and Opening Night with Gena Rowlands. I'm inspired by things that are out of the box and performers that create art while you watch them.

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

What show have you recommended to your friends?: I recommend everyone see every movie with Tilda Swinton. I am in love with her. And for people to see Justin Vivian Bond.

Who would play you in a movie about yourself and what would it be called?: I don’t know about a film about me, but I would love to play the villain in a James Bond movie!

If you could go back in time and see any play or musical you missed, what would it be?: Probably Christopher Marlowe’s plays in Old England, or Molière in France.

What’s your biggest guilty pleasure?: Because I work a lot, I’m often very tired and love to watch cheesy Hollywood comedies.

If you weren’t working in theater, you would be _____?: I would produce plays. When I really think about it, I don’t think I could exist without theatre, so there really isn’t anything else.

What’s up next?: Starman will tour around the world, including Australia, England, and Europe. In the meantime, I’m working on my new show which will premiere in Autumn 2017, and it will contain my original songs, and even more pop music. I’m very excited!

For more on Starman, visit Joe's Pub!

Review: A Night of Need

The joke set up is simple. A guy walks into a bar. But the punchline, that's where things get interesting and the ingenuity of the writing comes in. In Half Moon Bay by Dan Moyer, a drunken meet-cute between a pair of millennials leads to inebriated truths that fosters an important bond.
Presented by Lesser America as part of Cherry Lane Theatre's inaugural company in residence, Half Moon Bay is a play about nothing yet about everything. Annie and Gabe meet at a bowling alley bar where vicious flirtation leads to another meeting and a nightcap. But when they arrive at Annie's place, the alcohol keeps flowing as their wants and needs are exposed. This is a play about two people who desperately need each other. One embraces the prospect, the other denies it. Half Moon Bay is more than watching a drunken hookup. Moyer has written a play with brilliantly rich characters. They are authentic and real. Their journey is accurate. Moyer has captured young people hookup culture yet found depth in the saga. His writing is snappy and accessible. He has the ability to cut the tension with a joke. But quite possibly the most striking commentary Moyer has raised is the power of substance. Whether intentional or not, you have to wonder would the bond between Gabe and Annie happen had alcohol, and a line of coke, not been introduced. The device of alcohol as a truth serum that serves as a bit of a crutch. But that may be the point. Would these two individuals make this important connection without being wasted out of their minds? It’s hard to say. But regardless, watching their journey provides an impeccable payoff.
photo by Steven Pisano
Two handers are all about chemistry. And there is no denying the duo of Half Moon Bay were magnetic. Gabriel King as Gabe and Keilly McQuail as Annie were a quicky comedic duo with incredible harmony. King gives a defining performance as the guy who gets dejected after his hopes get dashed yet never gives up on his desires. King has a goofy charm that played well in Moyer’s world. He used his physicality to his benefit. McQuail thrives in the idiosyncratic “Zooey Deschanel type”. But McQuail gives a bit more gruffness to Annie. What McQuail did well was not fall into the trap of playing her secret from the start of the play. It easily could have derailed the character’s journey. By allowing her reveal to come in such blindsiding fashion, authenticity comes out where the audience is just as shocked as Gabe. Because nothing of substance really happens in Half Moon Bay, you have to care about these characters. King and McQuail do just that.
photo by Steven Pisano
This production will be celebrated not only for the script and performances but by the ingenious scenic design by Reid Thompson. About thirty minutes into the show, intermission rolls around and you scratch your head thinking “but why?” If you stay in your seat and watch the dance of the scene shift, you’ll understand. Thompson has created two incredibly realistic locations in the intimate studio space at Cherry Lane. Wondrous is an understatement. Beginning with the carpeted dive bar, Thompson’s design evokes desperation. It serves its purpose. Though director Jess Chayes using the various bar space sparingly, you know this bar despite having never visited it before. For Act II, Annie’s mess of an apartment is decently spacious and a divided up well. Thompson avoidance of sharp angles, calling for a more linear look, was smart. This is a play of naturalism and the set needed to match it. When it came to guiding her duo. Jess Chayes found ways to bring out the best and worst of each person. Aside from the set, Chayes didn’t fall back on anything flashy. She allowed the words to speak for themselves. The lighting design by Mike Inwood and sound design by Janie Bullard was effective. The costumes from M. Meriwether Snipes fit the characters perfectly.
Whether you want to admit it or not, you are or know these people. You’ve been in this situation before. Dan Moyer’s Half Moon Bay is one to remember. This will be a play that will be performed all over the place. From colleges to scene study classes to every audition, Half Moon Bay is a special play. Lesser America has another hit on their hands.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Spotlight On...Ami Brabson

Name: Ami Brabson

Hometown: Cleveland, Ohio

Education: M.F.A. , NYU / TISCH Graduate School of Acting

Select Credits: Frequently appeared as Mary Pembleton in Homicide: Life on the Streets. Other TV credits include Law & Order Svu, Damages, Unforgettable, Law & Order, The Beat, The Jury, Wonderland and various Soap Operas. New York Premiere of Tough Titty by Oni Faida Lampley. Some of her favorite regional theater roles include Quilly in John Henry Redwood's The Old Settler, Berniece in August Wilson's The Piano Lesson, Helena in Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream, and Rose in August Wilson's Fences.

Why theater?: I enjoy performing cabaret because of the freedom it allows.  I can sing, tell stories, recite poetry and other texts – cut & paste it all together to create a show that is a very personal artistic expression.  I love it!

Tell us about Phenomenal Woman: It's an afternoon of music, poetry and storytelling that celebrates  phenomenal women - like Ruby Dee, Phoebe Snow and Congresswoman Barbara Lee –  who have dared to speak their minds.

What inspired you to create Phenomenal Woman?: The desire to create my own work and perform work that is meaningful to me.

What kind of theater speaks to you? What or who inspires you as an artist?: I like theater that is humorous and thought provoking. Some of my kindest, most compassionate and loving friends are extraordinary artists. They inspire me personally and artistically.

Any roles you’re dying to play?: Juliet

What’s your favorite show tune?: “Gimme, Gimme” from Thoroughly Modern Millie

What’s your favorite song to sing in the shower?: “I’m The Only One” by Melissa Ehteridge

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

Who would play you in a movie about yourself and what would it be called?: It would be called “Late Bloomer” and the role depicting me would be played by Sophie Okonedo

What show have you recommended to your friends?: Violet.  I loved that show.

What’s your biggest guilty pleasure?: Eating dark chocolate with almonds

What’s up next?: More cabaret performances, specifics TBD

For more on Ami, visit