Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Block Talk- Episode 121: Jacklynn Hyde

Here she is world! It's my exclusive interview with the fabulous Jacklynn Hyde!

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

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Block Talk- Episode 120: Michael Block

Oh my lord how the tides have turned! The interviewer becomes the interviewee! But it's gonna take two to fill these shows! Nicole Onoscopi and Seraphim take the mic to interview Mike!

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

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Block Talk- Episode 118: Vanna Deux

Are you ready to Do the Deux? It's time to chat with everyone's favorite drunk aunt, Vanna Deux! 

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

Monday, June 3, 2019

Spotlight On...Michael Kelly

photo by Dorothy Shi
Name: Michael Kelly

Hometown: Massapequa, NY

Education: Undergrad, Eastman School of Music, Grad, The Juilliard School, Post grad, Opernstudio with Zürich Opera

Select Credits: Recent appearances include: As One (Opera Idaho, NY City Opera), Fred in Kiss Me Kate (St. Petersburg Opera), Bernstein’s Mass (Mostly Mozart Festival), Messiah (Seattle Symphony), Sondheim’s Passion (Theatre du Châtelet), The Last Rose by David Del Tredici (Symphony Space), Songs, Drones and Refrains of Death by George Crumb (New World Symphony), recitals in Carnegie Hall, Neue Galerie, Kennedy Center in collaboration with celebrated pianists Kathleen Kelly, Malcolm Martineau, Jonathan Ware, and Brian Zeger. Michael can be heard on recordings for Naxos and eOne by composers Mohammed Fairouz and David Del Tredici, and seen in the documentary Secret Music about the life of Del Tredici. I am the curator of the newly-released baritone volume of art songs for NewMusicShelf’s Anthology of New Music.

Why theater?: The combination of words and music gets me out of bed every day. I love to communicate raw emotion through this medium, under lights, in a costume, or simply in an intimate setting, one on one with the audience. It all has the power to magnify and bring into focus things that mere words cannot express. I am consistently inspired to be the mirror that is held up to humanity. To share the kinds of stories that help us grow and better understand the more intense aspects of our civilization and our human nature.

Tell us about As One: As One is an opera written five years ago by the brilliant composer Laura Kaminsky and her co-librettists Mark Campbell and Kimberly Reed. It tells the story of Hannah, a transgender woman searching for her true self. We see her at various points along her journey of discovering her gender path as she comes to terms with who she is. The piece is remarkably intimate with only two singers portraying Hannah before and after her transition, and a simple string quartet as accompaniment. As One manages to break down the barriers of fear and misunderstanding that many people have about the trans community by making Hannah’s story a universal portrayal of a human being brave enough to seek out her true self despite feeling “other”.
What is it like being a part of As One?: This is a role that I felt drawn to play since its inception. When it premiered in Brooklyn no one could have foreseen its immense success. It’s now the most produced contemporary opera in America with NY City Opera’s production being the 27th in just five years. It’s such a timely and needed story through a medium that has the power to open your heart to the trans community and their struggles. It brings me such joy to be able to spread this beautiful message of love and acceptance, and to have the opportunity to give back to my LGBTQ family. The trans experience is a unique one that needs to be shared, and the more exposure to their stories that the world has, the better the world will understand their needs and how to protect them from the many dangers they face. I believe that if every cis gender person had the chance to get to know a trans person, we wouldn’t need to fight for their protections at every level of government. But until that time, we must keep telling their stories.

What kind of theater speaks to you? What or who inspires you as an artist?: I find inspiration everywhere. I try to diversify the kinds of art and music that I ingest. You just never know when something will spark an idea for a project or recital program or a cabaret. But I have to say, bold art, theater that takes risks (sometimes even risking to be simple), and music and artist that push boundaries are what really get me going. Glenda Jackson playing King Lear comes to mind immediately.  Opera singers Like Isabel Leonard and Anthony Roth Costanzo, who challenge traditional presentation of the art form inspire me. Musicians like Ani DiFranco and St. Vincent who play with words and style/genre make me hungry. Artists like Matthew Barney and Nick Cave who challenge the lines between art and theater inspire me to create.

What’s your favorite showtune?: “Move On” from Sunday in the Park with George by Sondheim. Gets me every time.

If you could work with anyone you’ve yet to work with, who would it be?: Björk. That is a creative brain that I would love to experience.

Who would play you in a movie about yourself and what would it be called?: My co-star in As One, Blythe Gaissert says Matthew Goode would play me. I love this choice. He’s gentle and intense all at once.  Two qualities I pride myself on. I have always joked that I would steal the title of the Barbara Gordon novel "Dancing As Fast As I Can" for the title of my movie.  But a more appropriate title might be Loud Noises, "Blinding Lights".

If you could go back in time and see any play or musical you missed, what would it be?: The original cast of Sweeney Todd!  Angela Lansbury as Mrs. Lovett... I believe that would have been life-affirming. Are you noticing a Sondheim obsession yet?

What show have you recommended to your friends?: I told everyone I know to go see Dialogues of the Carmelites at The Metropolitan Opera. It was the best thing I’ve seen there in a long time. Theater wise, I highly recommended Bridges of Madison County after I saw it, and I dragged my mother with me to see Angels in America and then couldn’t shut up about it for months afterwards.

What’s your biggest guilty pleasure?: I actually don’t have many vices. I live a pretty simple life and take very good care of myself. But I can’t say no to a delicious gelato.

What’s up next?: After opening night of As One with New York City Opera (on May 30th!) I head to Chicago for a recital with Kathy Kelly and Ariana Strahl. The repertoire is from the song anthology I curated last year. When we close As One I start rehearsals for a residency at The Crested Butte Music Festival. There I will be performing Schubert’s Die Schöne Müllerin with guitarist David Leisner and then performances of Ricky Ian Gordon’s Green Sneakers with the Voxare String Quartet. August brings me to Memphis for another production of As One and then the season begins in September with recitals and performances with my trio, Brooklyn Art Song Society, As One in Columbus, Ohio, symphony appearances and collaborations with composers Victoria Bond, Scott Wheeler, and Tobias Picker.

For tickets, visit nycopera.com. For more on Michael, visit www.michael-kelly.com. For more on As One, visit www.asoneopera.com

Spotlight On...Bob Clyman

Name: Bob Clyman

Hometown: The Bronx

Education: Ph.D. in Psychology

Favorite Credits: Secret Order, The Exceptionals and maybe Tranced.  In no particular order.  After those three, it all depends on which day you ask me. 

Why theater?: I find great dialogue more exciting than any other single element in any art form, not just theatre.

Tell us about To She Who Waits?: It's about a mother-daughter relationship that may or may not have been damaged beyond repair.  When Meg left her husband, Jack, three years ago, she agreed to leave their 13-year-old daughter, Hannah, stay with him briefly, while found a job and a place for them to live.  However, during those three years, Jack and their increasingly extreme religious community have kept her from seeing Hannah.  Now that Jack has died, after making the church Hannah's legal guardian, Meg finally has a good lawyer, who is dedicated to fighting the church's encroachment on parental rights and convinces the judge to order 12 visits for Meg with Hannah.  But to have any shot at getting custody, Meg will have to convince her now 16-year-old, openly hostile daughter, who adamantly believes that Meg abandoned her, to leave the only life she has known, her church family and the place they've been waiting, certain that God will come for them any day, in order to move to a secular world, where the only person she'll know is the mother who left her behind.

What inspired you to write To She Who Waits?: I work with an high-conflict families in the middle of angry divorces.  I've never met people more desperate than parents who are fighting over custody of their children, and no irreconcilable difference raises the stakes more than disagreements over religion.  In addition to all the usual reasons for viewing their exes with unbounded animosity, these parents believe their children's souls are at stake.  But while my deep involvement these families helps to explain why I wrote this, it is only one of the reasons I could have mentioned, and those are just the conscious ones.  The truest explanation almost certainly comes from a murkier place that I couldn't begin to describe.   

What kind of theater speaks to you? What or who inspires you as an artist?: Plays in which I can't afford to stop paying attention for even a second, because every word counts.  I've always been drawn to British playwrights.  While they obviously don't have a monopoly on this, so many of them seem undaunted by the challenge of dramatizing complex, layered subjects, whether philosophical or political, which they're able to handle with crisp, pointed economy while still managing to be funny as hell.  Out of those writers, the few who are also highly theatrical and freakishly inventive, like Caryl Churchill, are the ones I usually go back to, when I need someone more inspiring than me to inspire me. 

If you could work with anyone you’ve yet to work with, who would it be?: Caryl Churchill, if she can spare the time. 

What show have you recommended to your friends?: Most recently?  The Ferryman.  Maybe because I'm living in an era of small cast plays, when anyone who decides to write a play for more than four actors does so at his or her peril, I get very excited by plays like The Ferryman or Ruined or almost anything by Brian Friel, which can actually show a community in action instead of merely refering to one offstage. 

Who would play you in a movie about yourself and what would it be called?: I think I'll pass on that.

If you could go back in time and see any play or musical you missed, what would it be?: That's hard to answer, because any play I love, I can read, which isn't the same but for me a pretty good alternative.   The only reason I would go through the effort of traveling back in time, just to see a play, is if it were the first production of an early play by a writer who created an exciting new voice, so I could hear it fresh – before my experience of hearing it could be shaped by the writer' eventual reputation and all copies with minor variations that followed.

What’s your biggest guilty pleasure?: I'll definitely pass on that.  It's probably becoming clear why I'm not on social media.

If you weren’t working in theater, you would be _____?: If I were still the me I am now, I would love to be a bioethicist -- as long as I wouldn't have to either go to medical school or learn too much science that's really, really hard, before someone would hire me.  If I were the me with talents I don't begin to possess, I would be part of the Yankees' starting rotation.  Maybe their number two starter, because if let myself wish to be the number one starter, there's a much greater chance of being struck dead. 

What’s up next?: I've started writing a play about Doomsday Preppers.  As with just about everything I write, I'm having fun taking on a subculture that baffles and troubles me, in the hope that I'll be able to understand its members better and write a play that even they would consider fair. 

For more on Bob, visit https://www.bobclyman-playwright.com/

Friday, May 31, 2019

Block Talk- Episode 117: Make Mike Watch Black Swan

In this edition of Make Mike Watch, prima ballerina Aria Derci joins me to dissect the psychological thriller Black Swan!

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

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!