Thursday, October 23, 2014

The Princess Dairies with...Jenifer Dillow

Name: Jenifer Dillow

Education: Currently a junior Musical Theatre major at Pace University

Hometown: St. Mary's County, MD

Tell us about Royal Fables: Royal Fables is a new song & dance cycle by Nick Luckenbaugh.  It tells the stories of all the beloved fairy tale princesses.  Unlike the Disney princess stories, this new musical takes these fairy tales and looks at the darker and deeper side to the tales.  There's an inner truth to each of the famous princesses that Luckenbaugh unlocks with his songs.  Each princess takes her mask off, revealing what the storybooks missed.

Describe Royal Fables in three words: Beautiful. Daring. Genius.

Who do you play in Royal Fables?: The Miller's Daughter

Describe your character in three words: Motherly. Fearless. Young.

True love is______?: Inexpressibly beautiful

The best thing about playing a princess is_____?: Living out a childhood dream and wearing the beautiful costumes

Who is your celebrity Prince Charming?: HUGH JACKMAN (I hope he sees this)

If you could be any fairy tale princess who would you be?: Belle

Which company member is most likely to be an actual princess?: Megan

What would be the most played song on your princess’ iPod?: Chopin's Fantaisie Impromptu

What is your favorite moment of Royal Fables?:  My favorite moment is the transition from Cinderella's song to the Twelve Dancing Princess' song.  It is genius.

Review: Stuck in Providence

Every traveler’s fear is being stranded. For whatever reason it may be, weather or broken transportation, being forced to stay in a terminal is never ideal. In David A. Gill’s fascinating play Providence, a group of travelers are forced to spend the night in a bus terminal in Providence, Rhode Island. As the night dwindles away, the strangers realize that when the present is halted, the past must be confronted.
When a bus bound to New York experiences mechanical issues, the occupants of that bus are stuck waiting in a terminal until the bus can return to its route. What starts out as muddy comedic vignettes quickly turns into an evening of pain, sadness, and the search for hope. Though it is set up as an ensemble piece, the secretive Trevor serves as the entrance point for the audience. Trevor, who has a dream or premonition of some sort, spots a woman he believes to have the answers he’s been searching for, thus hiding her bag so she can’t leave. Trevor, and the woman, Glory, for the most part are each other’s sole interactions with the occasional blip from the inebriated man. Through their interactions, we learn of Trevor and Glory’s past and the secrets they’re forced to confront upon arriving at their destination. On the other side of the story, best friends Robert and Stuart encounter the free-spirited Patema who places a wedge between the pair. All the while, the man on the phone searches his little black book for a lady companion. As the interactions occur, there are occasional flashbacks to Trevor, Glory, and Robert’s past that allow for insight to their current situations. With so many stories to track, many of which contain mutual themes, playwright David A. Gill offers an odd structure to his piece. The conceit of reality is that everything is happening at once in the same room, but rather than jumping from the two main dialogues, there is a lot of overlapping and “say and wait” dialogue, causing some of the actors to be forced out of the moment as they awkwardly wait for their cue. Additionally, Gill and director Tom Wallace have many of their characters exiting the stage without intent. As far as plot is concerned,  Providence relies on vagueness. The intriguing aspect of the script is the character relationships, both familiar and stranger. How these characters interact with one another is captivating. How they react to the stories they hear is what makes this play real. For the most part, the duo and trio are the main interactions, but the most intriguing contact of the evening was between Robert and Trevor late in Act II. Their dialogue was filled with life and humor, a beautiful juxtaposition to the rest of the play. The first act is filled with so much exposition, it feels like a giant set up for something. But by the second act, the payoff was lacking due to a very unsatisfying and confusing ending. From the start, there was always something off about the world of Providence. Our main characters received a very clear and clean ending with their stories neatly tied but before we can sit in hope, the true identity of the inebriated man is bizarrely revealed. On the whole, there is some fluff that could be trimmed to allow for a intermission-less play to keep the momentum consistent.
Providence relied heavily on chemistry between the actors as this was very much a character driven piece. The trio of Nick Adamson, Nico Meyer Allen, and Geri-Nikole Love drove the play as Stuart, Robert, and Patema respectively. Adamson utilized the goofy nature of Stuart playing off of Allen’s polar opposite Robert. Though we never truly learned the origin of their friendship, their bond was quite stunning, exposing a new definition of bromance. Nico Meyer Allen utilizes his snark to cover the sever pain Robert has suffered. Love as Patema blended well with Adamson as the newfound adorable pair. Joel T. Bauer as Trever, the wildly eccentric firestarter, is brilliantly erratic. Though his character arc takes some odd twists, Bauer commits to it fully. His moments with Michelangelo Milano’s seductively handsome Andrew were wonderful, but it was truly the sole moment with Allen that displayed the strongest chemistry, and actors, on stage. Carla Briscoe as Glory was painfully neurotic and was only able to shine when her character’s walls were successfully broken.
Despite a difficult structure to tackle, director Tom Wallace created the world of Providence to the best of his abilities. By capitalizing on the sincerity of the relationships, Wallace directed his cast to do discover the humanity and heart within each individual. Production designer Charles Kirby had a limited space to create a giant terminal. While the space looked like a rundown waiting room, the spacial relationships suffered greatly. Wallace rightly asked his actors to live in the moment, getting loud when called for, but rarely did the other characters take note of the outbursts allowing for some unrealistic moments. With the set up as it was, eavesdropping needed to be a larger part of this world.
Providence has many of the elements for a well-made play but a clean and clear restructure may be in order for the bus to finally take off. Despite living in a specific time, Providence is a universal story that strikes the right chords.

The Princess Diaries with...Erin Long

Name: Erin Long

Education: Shenandoah Conservatory – BFA Musical Theatre Class of 2013! Woo!

Hometown: Lock Haven, Pennsylvania

Tell us about Royal Fables: Royal Fables takes a closer look into the stories and princesses we all know so well or at least think we know so well…

Describe Royal Fables in three words: Creative, enchanting, semi-dark

Who do you play in Royal Fables?: Thumbelina!

Describe your character in three words: Hopeful, spunky, Earthy? (She just loves nature!)

True love is _____?: Spending your life with your best friend.

The best thing about playing a princess is ______?: Living out a childhood dream. I was obsessed with the animated version of Thumbelina growing up.  I probably watched it 4 times a week…

Who is your celebrity Prince Charming?: Gonna be cliché and say Prince Harry?

If you could be any fairy tale princes who would you be?: I love Thumbelina, but I am gonna have to go with Ariel. I am a water girl and love swimming.

Which company member is most likely to be an actual princess?: Sarah Treanor, who plays Ariel in Royal Fables. She has those beautiful “princess” eyes!

What would be the most played song on your princess’ iPod?: “Free” by Zac Brown Band or “Follow Your Arrow” by Kacey Musgraves

What is your favorite moment of Royal Fables?: “The Night Goes On” – such a fun ensemble number!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

The Princess Diaries with...Madeline Fansler

Name: Madeline Fansler

Education: Graduated from Vanderbilt University with a B.A. in Theatre and Music

Hometown: Telluride, CO

Tell us about Royal Fables: Royal Fables sheds light on the darker side of the princesses we all know and love--the part that the fairytales left out. One by one, each princess tells her story through song and dance, revealing her innermost thoughts, fears and desires.

Describe Royal Fables in three words: The untold story.

Who do you play in Royal Fables?: I play the 12th Dancing Princess.

Describe your character in three words: Adventurous, Passionate, Rebellious

True love is ______?: Eternal

The best thing about playing a princess is_____?: Definitely the chirping bluebirds that awake me from my royal slumber each morning. I'm really hoping they'll stick around after the show is over.

Who is your celebrity Prince Charming?: I think many women will agree with me when I say Ryan Gosling. What a stud.

If you could be any fairy tale princess who would you be?: I've always loved the Little Mermaid. I think I've watched that Disney movie upwards of a thousand times. It's largely responsible for my parents picking up on my love for performing because even as a tiny toddler I couldn't take my eyes off the screen as I would sing along in full costume ie blue bath towel "tail" and my mom's bikini top. And yes, in case you were wondering, I do have the special edition DVD. I got it for Christmas last year and I watched it three times that following week. Including special features.

Which company member is most likely to be an actual princess?: Definitely James. Technically he's playing a prince but those fierce dance skills are clearly a result of him attending years of royal balls.

What would be the most played song on your princess’ iPod?: "I Wanna Dance with Somebody" by Whitney Houston

What is your favorite moment of Royal Fables?: I love the moment right before my song when the clock strikes midnight. I don't want to give anything away, so you'll have to come see for yourself!

For more on Madeline, visit www.madelinefansler.com

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

The Princess Diaries with...Hayley Biegel

Name: Hayley Biegel


Education: Currently pursuing BM in Vocal Performance at NYU Steinhardt 


Hometown: White Plains, New York


Tell us about Royal Fables: It’s a seldom heard perspective of princesses and their more human characteristics. It sheds a little light on the reality of our dreams and how they don’t always come true and they aren’t always so wholesome.


Describe Royal Fables in three words: GIRL POWER...!


Who do you play in Royal Fables?: Rose Red


Describe your character in three words: disenchanted, jaded, (yet) hopeful


True love is____?: A lifelong process of mutual respect --- also chocolate. 


The best thing about playing a princess is_____?: Um, I’m a princess. And it’s nice to be able to play an often-dehumanized character in a humanizing way. 


Who is your celebrity Prince Charming?: Ryan Gosling, obviously.


If you could be any fairy tale princess who would you be?: Sleeping Beauty – no reason besides I think she’s really pretty 


Which company member is most likely to be an actual princess?: Sarah Treanor. 


What would be the most played song on your princess’ iPod?: "Best Thing I Never Had" – Beyonce 


What is your favorite moment of Royal Fables?: I really like "The Night Goes On" where all of our characters can interact.

Monday, October 20, 2014

The Princess Diaries with...Theresa Burns

Name: Theresa Burns

Education: NYU Tisch School of the Arts

Hometown: Brooklyn, NY

Tell us about Royal Fables: Royal Fables is a fresh and surprising look at the fairy tales we all grew up with. It puts a different spin on these stories through awesome (and catchy) songs and dances.

Describe Royal Fables in three words: Surprising, engaging, dynamic

Who do you play in Royal Fables?: Rapunzel

Describe your character in three words: Optimistic, vivacious, open

True love is______?: Possible

The best thing about playing a princess is_____?: The dress!!!

Who is your celebrity Prince Charming?: Joe Manganiello- he's the dangerous hunk AND ultimate boyfriend, all in one.

If you could be any fairy tale princess who would you be?: Belle- reading all day is my jam.

Which company member is most likely to be an actual princess?: I'm going to say our director, Megan Mekjian. She directs this production with such grace, positivity, strength, and loveliness, that she's the clear choice.

What would be the most played song on your princess’ iPod?: "Brave" by Sara Bareilles

What is your favorite moment of Royal Fables?: The epic dance party we have during Cinderella's song!

For more on Theresa, visit www.Theresa-Burns.com

The Princess Diaries with...Shunori Ramanathan

Name: Shunori Ramanathan

Education: Yale University 2013 - Political Science and Theater Studies double major

Hometown: Bangalore, India

Tell us about Royal Fables: It's a song/dance cycle that sheds light on aspects of princess's lives that the fairy tales overlooked

Describe Royal Fables in three words: Taking off masks

Who do you play in Royal Fables?: The Princess from "The Princess and the Pea"

Describe your character in three words: She sees everything

True love is____?: Giving all of yourself.

Who is your celebrity Prince Charming?: Ryan Gosling (Get outta my way, Eva!)

If you could be any fairy tale princess who would you be?: Jasmine - she's got the sexiest outfit!

Which company member is most likely to be an actual princess?: Lizzy?

What would be the most played song on your princess’ iPod?: "Underneath Your Clothes" by Shakira

What is your favorite moment of Royal Fables?: Shhhh, I can't tell!

Friday, October 17, 2014

Spotlight On...Suzanne Bachner

Name: Suzanne Bachner

Hometown: New York City

Education: Ethical Culture Fieldston Schools (K-12), Oberlin College (BA), Actors Studio School of Drama at The New School (MFA)

Select Credits: CIRCLE (5-month Off Broadway run, Most Daring Show of the London Fringe, "Ingenious"- The New York Times), We Call Her Benny ("the future of theatre" - Broadway World) and Brilliant Mistake ("a work of pure genius!"- the Coast News)

Why theater?: It is the most thrilling collaborative medium where the creation and experience of it happen simultaneously requiring letting go of the result to make a powerful, visceral, incomparable impact.  It's like magic!

Tell us about Stories of Love and Passion and Spitting In The Face Of The Devil?: Two very different solo roller coaster rides created and performed by two remarkable artists. In Stories of Love and Passion, Rosie Bitts tells incredible intimate tales that run the gamut from sexy to disturbing to poignant to hilarious and belts zesty seductive heartbreaking songs accompanied by the wonderful Jeff Poynter.  There's also a thread of fantastic burlesque. Spitting In The Face Of The Devil is Bob Brader's true story of discovering that his abusive and ex-Marine father is a pedophile.  It's told with much light and unexpected comedy which makes it powerful, riveting, uplifting and unforgettable. Both these artists could tell (and in Rosie's case sing) any story that would transfix an audience, but these particular pieces are dynamite!
  
What kind of theater speaks to you? What or who inspires you as an artist?: Theatre that is authentic, risky and no holds barred.  Artists who don't save it but share it and are generous to a fault on and off stage.   I love the international Fringe touring community - the work is superb and the camaraderie is unique in a competitive field.  No better place for support and inspiration!

What’s your favorite show tune?: "Anything Goes"

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

Who would play you in a movie about yourself and what would it be called?: Sarah Silverman - "The 200 Year Old Woman"

What show have you recommended to your friends?: Sarah Elizabeth Greer's BIO-HAZARD: a relative comedy is a knockout show also in the United Solo Festival

What’s the most played song on your iTunes?: "Fancy" by Iggy Azalea (because I am!)

What’s your biggest guilty pleasure?: See above

What’s up next?: Denver's Dangerous Theatre is producing my choose-you-own-adventure play, BITE, Millstone Repertory is producing my adaptation, "Alice Through the Looking Glass" and I'm working on a new play.

Spotlight On...Rosie Bitts

Name: Rosie Bitts aka Trinda Reed

Hometown: Victoria BC

Education: Life

Select Credits: Writer/performer: Stories of Love and Passion and The Fabulous Miss Rosie Bitts; Author: Erotica serial "The Lady Corsairs"

Why theater?: I love theatre because it transports people to a different place. I love being the person who facilitates that magic happening.

Tell us about Stories of Love and Passion: Stories of Love and Passion has been a real work of love. I wanted to tell stories that are real, raw, and uncensored but in a palatable and entertaining way. I love that it is a mixture of what is funny, heart wrenching, and juicy about passion and love.

What inspired you to write Stories of Love and Passion?: I was inspired by the beauty of everyday stories about passion from people's lives. I love the juiciness that comes from our human experiences.

What kind of theater speaks to you? What or who inspires you as an artist?: I love fringe and on the edge theatre. The artists that most inspire me are the ones that are taking risks and creating something new.

What’s your favorite show tune?: "I Don't Know How To Love Him" (Jesus Christ Superstar).

If you could work with anyone you’ve yet to work with, who would it be?: I would love to work with Joey Arias. I really appreciate Joey's work.

Who would play you in a movie about yourself and what would it be called?: Chloe Sevigny (even though we have completely different body types) and it would be called "The Woman Who Loved Too Much".

What show have you recommended to your friends?: The last show I recommended to my friends was Bob Brader's work "Spitting In The Face of The Devil".

What’s the most played song on your iTunes?: "St. Louis Blues" (Louis Armstrong).

What’s your biggest guilty pleasure?: That's not for public consumption.

What’s up next?: I plan to continue touring Stories of Love and Passion over the next two years as well as working on a new comedy cabaret show with my musical partner Jeff "Saucy Fingers" Poynter.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Review: Take Me Out to the Reality Show

Baseball is one of those sports where you can attend a game and either see an exciting battle with a high score or a pitchers battle where the action is quite minimal. This translates pretty well into theater. There are some plays with the fast-paced action while others drag on and on until the big finish. In Randomly Specific Theatre’s production of Larry Phillips’ Secondary Pitch, a slow paced family drama centering around three brothers, one of whom is a legendary baseball pro, as they attempt to reconnect with the potential of a reality show looming.
When superstar pitcher Stephen Dowd is forced to retire from the National Pastime, he moves in with his brothers, a down and out minor leaguer and a former reality star, as the trio learn that they may be the source of a new reality show focusing on the behind-the-scenes drama in Stephen’s life. Secondary Pitch is a family drama at its core. As the show’s producer drills in everyone’s head, the dynamics between the brothers is what is most appealing. Where Phillips’ script works is through seeing the rise and fall of three very different personalities. Where the script needs sever help is through the plot and tracking the ever-changing personality shifts from scene to scene. For example, in the first scene of the play we see Stephen as a pretty stand-up guy. Moments later, without warning, he becomes an incoherent drunk. We later learn that he is dealing with addiction, but the initial shift is so drastic, they don’t feel like cohesive ideas. The other problem within the script comes at the outlandish ending. There are a lot of pointing fingers throughout the play with occasional reveals. But in the final moments, there are so many reveals that the action prior is put into question. When we learn that the entire scheme is set up by reality show junkie Kevin, you can’t help but chuckle at the hilarity of the moment. When you think the brothers have finally bonded and the sentimentality of a patched up family is achieved, it’s immediately broken by a “Candid Camera” ambush. And thus, Secondary Pitch plays out like a quintessential reality show. Which is funny, since reality TV is the source of so much of the brother’s drama. But maybe that was the point to comment so strongly on the source.
The quartet of actors offered a spectrum of performances. Despite working with hard material, Ryan Dusek as Stephen offered the strongest performance. Though he looked much younger than his proposed age, Dusek played the no-care burnt out pitcher with ease. Peter Buck Dettmann’s baffoonary as Kevin was played up by sight gag clothing. It’s unfortunate his character’s big reveal made him a despicable character. Phoebe Leonard’s even more despicable Meredith was defined by her stop at nothing attack on a family. You couldn’t help but become intrigued by her ruthless journey of destruction but root for her? There was no way to do so. Larry Phillips, who wrote the play, also played Paul, something that did not benefit the production. Phillips character was severely more dramatic, but his portrayal was quite comical. His scenes with Leonard were some of the better moments for his characters, until she drops the truth bomb on him.
Director Matthew J. Nichols discovered the truths and sincerity of Phillip's play and brought them to light. With a three quarter thrust set up, staging could be hard, but Nichols was able to allow each seat to be a good seat. Nichols and his design team were able to establish a multi-location world within the small theater. Scenic designer Jason Bolen’s bright green house may not have been the prettiest but the floor treatment greatly made up for it. For those paying close attention, a baseball diamond was designed onto the floor. Was it part of the world of the play or actually in the boys apartment may be up to the audience to decide. Mark Hankla’s lights went to the extremes depending on the location, though the night time scenes were a bit dark. Director Nichols served as sound designer as well, utilizing the baseball idea to the extreme. The amount of on point baseball references, from the script to the stage to the sound, were borderline overboard if the message of the piece is that the drama goes beyond the field. Though thematically, discovering that many perfect transition songs should be commended.
Secondary Pitch could have been a strong first pitch but with a mediocre cast, the potential of the script was unable to shine through. The play is pertinent and engaging, but to put it in baseball terms, it was barely made contact.

Spotlight On...Cooper Grodin

Name: Cooper Grodin

Hometown: NYC

Education: Laguardia High School of Music and Art, University of Wisconsin-Bachelors of Music, Manhattan School of Music-Masters in Music

Select Credits: Phantom Of The Opera Spectacular (New Production National Tour, Phantom), Les Miserables (25th New National Tour), Shakespeare In The Park's Into The Woods

Why theater?: I love to perform and theater seems to be allowing me that privilege.

Who do you play in The Phantom of the Opera?: I play the Phantom.

Tell us about The Phantom of the Opera: Phantom, is an epic once in a life time role. A very complex genius character.

What is it like being a part of The Phantom Of The Opera?: It's a real honor to work for Cameron Mackintosh on one of the largest productions in the world. We've taken advantage of 25 years of technological updates and made the show very raw and human.

What kind of theater speaks to you? What or who inspires you as an artist?: Work which takes me on a ride and makes me question my existence. Any great artist can affect me regardless of medium. But as far as theater is concerned it must be Mandy (Patinkin).

Any roles you’re dying to play?: George In Sunday In The Park With George

What’s your favorite show tune?: Soliloquy from Carousel.

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

Who would play you in a movie about yourself and what would it be called?: Jake Gyllenhaal "TBD".

What show have you recommended to your friends?: Jersey Boys, Death Of A Salesman, All My Sons.

What’s the most played song on your iTunes?: "Da Unten Dem Tale" an immaculate German folk song composed by Brahms. The recording by the counter tenor Bejun Mehta.

What’s your biggest guilty pleasure?: Carbs

What’s up next?: Returning to MCS Studios in Manhattan to continue my acting studies.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Review: Great Specificity

We all have dreams for ourselves. Sometimes we have dreams for others. Some would even say we have great expectations. Inspired by Charles Dickens’ classic “Great Expectations,” The Assembly has lifted the characters from the page and transported them to modern times and ideals, exploring just exactly their great expectations. That Poor Dream is one of the most daring and innovative pieces to grace the indie stage recently.
With the majority of the action occurring on a train from New York to Fairfield, Connecticut, That Poor Dream follows endowed Pip and a mysterious traveler who was a huge part of Pip’s past. On their journey, the action jumps back into dreams and memories that inform the future and tackles the themes of the piece. Devised by the company, That Poor Dream began as an exploration of class and economic disparity using the structure of the Dickens’ novel as the source material for a modern spin on American Dreams. That Poor Dream is a very specific play. The investment by the company is strong and the clarity and vocabulary of the devised world will always be strongest to them. Sometimes in a devised piece specificity may not translate properly to the audience. One of the most specific moments in this play was the fourth wall breaking monologue section where the characters are no more and the actors address the thematic Dickens title. Up until this moment, the world of the play was character driven. With no warning or explanation, a series of presumably autobiographical thematic actor monologues halt the action. While individually they were quite beautiful and impactful, in the overall arc of the piece, especially knowing the characters will immediately resurface, its placement is bound to be a polarizing moment for the audience. Where it failed was its ability to allow the audience to understand exactly why the actors broke character. After T. Ray Campbell offers his stunning monologue, he rightly becomes emotional. But moments later he’s whisked back to portraying Miss Havisham, who’s not necessarily supposed to have those emotions. With the blurred worlds now coming to the forefront, the impact of the ending, something that had potential to be quite powerful, is lost. An argument can be made that the actor is playing both actor and character as one as a comment on the dream of being a working actor, but again, the clarity is lacking. Despite this singular moment, the overall devised piece is wildly innovative with a captivating use of past and present.
The entire ensemble brought their heart to That Poor Dream. It was evident and clear through their performance. When creating this world, the characters may have a tinge of real hidden deep within, but those who were able to tap into the character world were by far the most interesting on stage. The most invigorating performance was Emily Perkins-Margolin as Jaggers. Perkins-Margolin’s characterization was brilliant, hilarious, and touching. The voice itself made the character fresh. The chemistry between Edward Bauers’s Pip and Jocelyn Kuritsky’s Estella left something to be desired, it was the moments between Bauer and Terrell Wheeler’s Magwitchthat drove the show. Wheeler offered a heartbreaking performance as Pip’s benefactor.
photo courtesy of Nick Benacerraf
Director Jess Chayes had a mammoth task of guiding the That Poor Dream train, and fortunately her effort was sublime. Despite a gigantic gap between audience and actor due to the large downstage playing space, Chayes discovered a way to keep the piece intimate. Production and scenic designer Nick Benacerraf had an overall winning design on the stage of The New Ohio. Again, the gap between audience and actor was a bit of hindrance, he greatly made up for it with his brilliant creation of a train. Benacerraf and lighting designer Derek Wright utilized the space wonderfully, especially through the exploration of the upstage world behind the train. Wright’s precise light shifts helped keep the action moving with his clean and distinct tones. On the innovation front, Ray Sun deserves much credit for the going above and beyond. However the overall video arc was inconsistent and muddied. Sure, the audience should always be able to allow their imagination to run free, but for those nitpicky few who know the realistic landscape could never be seen out the window of this specific train as the video was showing a trainless highway in New Jersey, it’s a bit jarring. Additionally in the specificity realm, the live feed delay used during the miss Haversham scenes was a bit confusing. Technological advances in theater should always be welcome as long as they’re being done properly.
That Poor Dream is a captivating and daring journey of innovation. The heart of the project came to the forefront and shined. While there were many moments of clarity lacking, the expectations of something special were achieved.

Spotlight On...Matt Opatrny

Name: Matt Opatrny

Hometown: New York City is home now, and I was raised in Shelton, Connecticut

Education: I got a degree in Biological Sciences from Clemson University, which rarely comes in handy when doing theatre, though this play delves a bit into psychology and neurology so I found myself drawing on a lot of what I learned back in college. I also studied theatre at Clemson, and have trained a good deal with SITI Company in physical theatre. Most of my education has come from working with my beloved collaborators at Blessed Unrest over the last 14 years.

Favorite Credits: I cannot choose favorites of the plays we have made at Blessed Unrest. It would be like picking your favorite child. I love them all. Also I have been teaching physical and devised theatre a lot in recent years with Jessica Burr, Blessed Unrest’s Artistic Director, and I am quite proud of what we have created in a short amount of time with students at Texas Tech, Stephens College, and Centenary College.

Why theater?: Because it’s fun, and the people who do it are fun, and passionate, and dedicated, and nuts in all the best ways, and I’ve never met anyone else, in any other line of work, who works as hard for as little money as theatre people do. We’re all obsessed. And as technology dictates more and more of our culture we need places where people gather together and share an experience. My favorite part of my job as Managing Director of Blessed Unrest is giving the lobby speech before opening the house, when I get to look at a room full of people and tell them to turn off their phones. If nothing else, theater is a place where groups of people sit together with their phones turned off. (Well, at least most of them are off.)

Tell us about LYING?: It’s an incredible feat on the part of the cast and director Jessica Burr. The design is gorgeous, and I think the elements have all come together better than possibly any other play we’ve produced (and there have been 25 of them). The acting is stellar, and oh so personal and close and deep. The staging is genius, really, it’s lovely and fun and complex and really really smart. The play takes you for a ride, with four of the five actors playing 36 characters and there are no pauses for transition. It’s like a train that only picks up steam as it plows ahead, and then in Act 2 the train takes a turn into a deep long tunnel that goes places you don’t expect and rarely see in a theater. It’s bold. It presents sexuality and nudity boldly. It questions perceptions of reality and self-knowledge. It asks us to release our firm grip on what we think we know of the world. “Give up the ground, which you never really had to begin with. The greatest lie of all is the feeling of firmness beneath our feet.”

What inspired you to adapt LYING?: Lauren Slater wrote this incredible metaphorical memoir. A friend recommended it to me and as I read it, it felt like it was begging to be staged. She is a mind-blowing writer. She’s smart and hysterically funny and is pointing at things that need to be looked at and thought about. She asks huge questions, questions so big that even after working with this book for almost a decade I am still discovering things and pondering things I haven’t quite grasped yet. And this story I believe is enhanced by the medium of theatre, as we can take the question of identity a step further with the layer of an actor playing a character that is a metaphor for the writer. In her book Lauren uses stories and characters that may or may not be real in order to reveal deep, juicy truths about herself. At its essence that is what I think theatre is. It’s an art form through which real people pretend to be other people and in doing so express deep truths of their own.

What kind of theater speaks to you? What or who inspires you as an artist?: SITI Co and Bill T. (see next two answers), Complicite, Tom Stoppard, Michael Jackson, Hemingway, Ismail Kadare, the US women’s national soccer team, Indigo Girls, Lauren Slater, Pahu Van Riel, Van Gogh, Mike & Ruthy, Mozart, Laura Ingalls Wilder, Beatrix Potter, and mostly my collaborators at Blessed Unrest and our fearless director Jessica Burr.

If you could work with anyone you’ve yet to work with, who would it be?: Anne and Bill (see next answer) and I would need a year (at least) to prepare my body. (Though I have worked a bit with Anne, and what a pleasure it was.) We are also working to establish more partnerships with brilliant little companies from all over the planet like we have with Teatri Oda from Kosova.

What show have you recommended to your friends?: SITI Company and Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company’s collaboration A Rite. It is the perfect marriage of physical theatre and dance. It was conceived, directed and choreographed by two of the world’s treasures, Bill T. Jones and Anne Bogart. I firmly believe that artists hundreds of years from now will be studying the work and words of both of those geniuses.

Who would play you in a movie about yourself and what would it be called?: Brad Pitt (why not?) will play me in “The Adventures of a Myopic Swashbuckler”. That’s a play I’m going to write someday. And then sell to Hollywood. And then make oodles of money. And then do more theatre. It’s gonna be great.

What’s your biggest guilty pleasure?: Watching movie trailers on the internet. I rarely go to movies, but see the trailer for nearly everything that comes out. Except the scary ones. Why are there so many horror films made? And violent action films? Who pays to watch these things? I suppose this is part pleasure and part curiosity for me. Movies are such a huge part of our culture, and a part that we export all over the world and many people I have met travelling have a very strong image of the United States based on what they see at the movies. I like to know what people are seeing, but am rarely inspired to go see them myself.

What’s the most played song on your iPod?: I am a bit of a Luddite and do not have an iPod, or a smartphone. I still play CD’s, and sometimes cassette tapes. Lately, our Cyndi Lauper CDs have been getting a lot of play as she is integral to the soundtrack of this show.

If you weren’t working in theater, you would be _____?: Farming artichokes on a mountainside in rural Italy, and in my spare time hunting for truffles with my truffle pig. Seriously.

What’s up next?: We’ll be hosting Teatri Oda from Kosova for the US premiere of our play The Sworn Virgin with which we toured the Balkans in 2012. It’s a bilingual play (English/Albanian) that I co-wrote with Lirak Celaj of Teatri Oda, and it is centered on an ancient Albanian tradition in which women take a public oath of lifelong celibacy and are instantly seen as men, with all the rights and responsibilities that come with that. It’s fascinating.

For more on Lying, visit www.blessedunrest.org

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Spotlight On...Geri-Nikole Love

Name: Geri-Nikole Love

Hometown: Douglasville, GA

Education: BFA NYU Tisch School of the Arts

Select Credits: Higgins in Harlem Eliza Doolittle, Dir. Lawrence Thelen at Playhouse on Park West Hartford CT, [Independent Films]: "GASP" Claire (lead) Dir. Annika Kurnick, "Downshift" Grace (lead) Dir. Ryan Schmitz

Why theater?: For an actor the stage is where you grow and expand as an artist. Film & TV is great. I love on-camera work, but the focus is much larger than just the actor and the camera. Film is magic. You have hair and make-up, lighting, sound, special effects, green screens, invisible scene partners, and even after all that there's editing before the audience gets to see the final product. Stage is as real as you can get. It is truth. There is very little between you and your audience. Of course costuming, make-up, sets, lighting, sound etc are very important, but for an actor it's that immediate result of connecting to the audience; interACTING with the community you are a part of and that you are hoping to effect.

Who do you play in Providence?: Patema

Tell us about Providence: To me Providence is a story about the human experience. Several strangers are forced to interact with each other while stranded at a bus station in Providence RI. As individuals we are so much more than our first impressions. I think Providence examines how we too often take 'strangers' for granted. If you take the time and truly listen and try to understand a person, you actually get to learn so much more about yourself.

What is it like being a part of Providence?: I love this play and it's characters. I've been with the play since the NY readings, and seeing it grow has been amazing. David A. Gill is an exciting voice for the theatre world. His characters are bold yet relatable and how he presents them and their stories is entertaining and touching.

What kind of theater speaks to you? What or who inspires you as an artist?: For me it's not a particular style of theatre that speaks to me, it's more about the feeling and effect it has on me. If a play has something to say and it says it in a way that entertains me as well as makes me feel more deeply than I'm 'allowed' to, in my day to day, I'm in. Music & Cinematography. I love how music can immediately take you to a memory or state of emotion. I hope that I can create art that does the same. As for cinematography, I love the way images in motion can sometimes tell a better story than words. How color and light can change your perception and how an object can come to life just by presenting it through a camera's lens. I try to challenge myself to see life as though it was through a lens. To be perceptive rather than just observant.

Any roles you’re dying to play?: In 10-20 years, Lady Macbeth, Cleopatra, another crack at The Witch from Into The Woods (I'm sure by then I'll be able to discover more in that character than my 12th grade self), Mama Rose. As of right now I don't audition for musicals, but I hope to have a thriving Theatre career in my later days. Just live and breath the Great White Way. While I'm still 'young' I'm just looking for strong female roles that speak to my generation. Being a women of color also plays a big part in the roles I pick. I like to find characters that are universal and that originally weren't imagined being portrayed by a black women. Submit, cross my fingers for an audition, and try to win the room.

What’s your favorite showtune?: “Some People” - Gypsy & “Home” - Wiz

If you could work with anyone you’ve yet to work with, who would it be?: Well, since I'm still at the start of my career, that list is pretty long. Bryan Cranston is definitely at the top.

Who would play you in a movie about yourself and what would it be called?: Again, being a women of color makes this a little difficult. Not gonna say Halle, that's for sure. My director friends like to say that I look like Naomie Harris, so I could go with her, but if my Bio Pic will have anything exciting to offer it'll have to be done decades from now after true scandal has ensued. So I'll go with Quvenzhané Wallis in 20 years or so and it'll be called "Love's Way" cause I did it *My Way*

What show have you recommended to your friends?: Usually recommend the top 10 stuff, Book of Mormon, Kinky Boots, Motown, but honestly everyone should see Providence!

What’s the most played song on your iTunes?: I teach for SoulCycle so my itunes gets a lot of play. If I go by actual play count it's a tie between Gavin DeGraw's “Chariot (Stripped Version)” and Sam Smith's “Lay Me Down”. I'm currently obsessed with Johnnyswim's “Live While We're Young” & “Take the World”

What’s your biggest guilty pleasure?: Going to the movies Solo. I've done 3 movies in one day once, and no I didn't sneak into any of them. My bank account can look like a mother of four's Saturday Matinee with the kids.

What’s up next?: I have two films currently on the Film Festival Circuit. "GASP" & "Downshift" (previously Purpose Built). 'GASP' was just at Dances with Films in LA and "Downshift' will be at Big Apple Film Festival in November and hopeful many more to come. Also, I will be working with Breaking Walls a non-profit, international creative writing and performance initiative at the EstroGenius Festival Friday, October 31st at the Ford Street Theater at 7pm. I try to keep my website updated, so please check it out for more information visit Geri-Nikole Love

Friday, October 10, 2014

Spotlight On...Nick Adamson

Name: Nick Adamson

Hometown: Cullman, AL

Education: Bachelors of Science in Biblical Studies from Tennessee Temple University, 1 Year of Acting training from New York Conservatory for Dramatic Arts, and all 4 levels of Improv from the UCB

Select Credits: ID Channel's A Crime to Remember,  Short Films Bed Bugs & Co. and Welcome

Why theater?: I'm actually a film and television guy, but don't tell anyone.

Who do you play in Providence?: Stuart, the fun, loving best friend

Tell us about Providence: Well, if there is one clear point, it's pray you never get stuck at a bus station in Providence, RI because it's going to get weird...but, really, I think it's about how we all have this difficult yet beautiful, simple yet chaotic journey that we call life, and sometimes it can feel like we are the only one's that are experiencing this craziness. But if we ever have a chance to really open up to others we find that we aren't alone, and that we can actually help and support each other through the good and the bad times.

What is it like being a part of Providence?: It's really something special, I've been a part of the workshop process with most of this cast for over the past year, so it's always been a joy whenever we get to see each other. Also, it's a double-sided coin because I've gotten great feedback on being Stuart, which is great because he is this hunky, fun guy, but he's also about as sharp as a bowling ball at times.

What kind of theater speaks to you? What or who inspires you as an artist?: My first Broadway experience was the Book of Mormon when Josh Gad was still a part of the cast, and I was blown away at the experience that is musical theater. I was front row center( Lottery!!) and was completely captivated by the energy and life that was unfolding before me on the stage. To watch someone just be amazing at what they do inspires me. A lot of people may get jealous when they see great people work, but it compels me by showing me that it can be done. It is no longer this impossible idea or aspiration because I can see them doing it.

Any roles you’re dying to play?: Biff from Death of a Salesman, Jim from "The Office"

What’s your favorite showtune?: "Defying Gravity"-Wicked

If you could work with anyone you’ve yet to work with, who would it be?: Hands down: Jack Black. I sang a Nacho Libre song in my audition to get into acting school.

Who would play you in a movie about yourself and what would it be called?: Haley Joel Osment and it would be called "Nick, Wake Up" (I'm narcoleptic)

What show have you recommended to your friends?: Most of my friends have came to NY to see their first show ever, so I recommend Wicked.

What’s the most played song on your iTunes?: Looking right now..."Green Eyes and a Heart of Gold" by The Lone Bellow. That's a great song by some greater humans.

What’s your biggest guilty pleasure?: I'm addicted to RED VINES. I'm literally eating some right now.

What’s up next?: I'm getting MARRIED!!!

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Spotlight On...Nico Meyer Allen

Name: Nico Meyer Allen

Hometown: Hampton Falls, NH.

Education: Bachelors of Music from McGill University, Graduate of the William Esper Studio.

Select Credits: Kip in Tennessee Williams's Something Cloudy, Something Clear;  Dick in Tennessee Williams's The Parade (Provincetown Tennessee Williams Festival); Billy in The Rock and The Ripe;  Emcee in Cabaret (McGill University);  Orin the Dentist in Little Shop of Horrors (PDP, Inc.).

Why theater?: Because I can work a fourteen-hour day in a rehearsal, go home so entirely spent, and feel glad.  Because the text of a play can provide a scaffolding for me to discover parts of myself and my relationships that I have hitherto been blind to or have not dared to look at.  Because magic happens when a group gathers together in person to experience a story.  I have more reasons, but more than three iterations of "because" sounds lofty and redundant to me so I will choose to stop.

Who do you play in Providence?: I play the role of Robert.

Tell us about Providence: The lives of several passengers intertwine when a New York City-bound bus gets stranded overnight in the Providence, RI, Bus Station.  The Greek Unities are in place and the relationships are cooking! I love it.

What is it like being a part of Providence?: This is an incredibly talented cast. It was so thrilling to come into the first read of this play and participate with a group of sensitive, smart, and responsive actors.  David Gill's writing is great, and it's a privilege to be able to bring life to his words.

What kind of theater speaks to you? What or who inspires you as an artist?:  I find anything that tugs or yanks at the human experience extremely compelling.  I don't care if it makes me laugh or cry, if it is true and makes me sit up and say "oh my god, I've never thought of it that way," I'm hooked.

Any roles you’re dying to play?: YES. Too many.  Joe in Angels in America is the first dream role that pops into my mind.  I'd really like to get my hands on the Emcee again, too.  I played it when I was really young, and now that I am a bit older I think I could bring much  more to it. And, of course, in the interest of honesty and transparency, I have fantasized about playing Konstantin Gavrilovich Treplev in Chekhov's The Seagull and Hamlet on a relatively routine basis.

What’s your favorite showtune?: "One Second and a Million Miles" from Bridges of Madison County.  Actually, every song from Bridges of Madison County.

If you could work with anyone you’ve yet to work with, who would it be?: These questions make me nervous! Joe Mantello. Michael C. Hall. Brian Cranston. Ellen Burstyn (although I might die of excitement. Her biography changed my life). ...Meryl. I'm sorry. I dream big.  Really, though, it would be less about me being opposite these people and more about having the opportunity to witness a great artist work and to learn and grow from that.

Who would play you in a movie about yourself and what would it be called?: Jared Leto. I think it would be called "Waking Up",  but that's just a working title because hopefully there's a lot more to be revealed.

What show have you recommended to your friends?: It's Only a Play by Terrence McNally.

What’s the most played song on your iTunes?: "Level Up" by Vienna Teng. Closely followed by "Below My Feet" by Mumford and Sons, then a lot of hardcore house mixes that I use to get me to move my ass at the gym.

What’s your biggest guilty pleasure?: Schmackery's cookies. Although, I don't feel the guilt anymore.

What’s up next?: That remains to be seen! I'll let you know when I find out.

Spotlight On...Joel T. Bauer

Name: Joel T. Bauer

Hometown: Oak Creek, WI

Education: University of Michigan, BFA in Musical Theatre

Select Credits: Friends And Relations at the June Havoc Theatre, Loaded at Theatre Row, original cast of The Boys Upstairs at FringeNYC/Fringe Encores, and the webseries Conversations "With My Ex".

Why theater?: Because it gives you the rare opportunity to bring people together, and to exchange ideas with them directly and in real time. To connect with a group of strangers, sharing an experience that can give them a much needed break from their real lives, while at the same time perhaps teaching them about themselves, the world around them, and their place within that world. Plus it's FUN.

Who do you play in Providence?: Trevor, a lovable lunatic, seeking resolution through some pretty interesting outlets.

Tell us about Providence: Providence is about a group of strangers who get stuck in a bus station in the middle of a rain storm, in the middle of the night, in the middle of the 90's.  It's a group of people who are all at different times in their lives, seeking different things, which can cause some serious conflict when you think of the eclectic range of characters you will find at a bus station. It's a great ensemble piece about people who are stuck and trying to get somewhere, both literally and figuratively.

What is it like being a part of Providence?: Well most of the cast has been with the piece throughout most of its development (I just joined the team recently), so it's great to come into something that is already so fully developed, while at the same time bringing some new energy to the piece. It's a great group of talented actors, so I'm having a blast!

What kind of theater speaks to you? What or who inspires you as an artist?: Something that makes me think and feel things, but also makes me laugh. I like to laugh. I'm pretty inspired by my friends and peers; seeing their great work makes me think if they can do it, I can too!  I also just read the book CREATIVITY INC, and it made me feel all kinds of inspired to create good art.

Any roles you’re dying to play?: I would love to play Adam in Next Fall. I saw Patrick Breen do it on Broadway, and was sobbing uncontrollably during the curtain call. It was one of my finer moments.

What’s your favorite showtune?: My most recent favorite is Whitney Bashor KILLING IT in "Another Life" from Bridges Of Madison County. Unfuckingreal.

If you could work with anyone you’ve yet to work with, who would it be?: I mean, Mark Rylance would be pretty cool, no?

Who would play you in a movie about yourself and what would it be called?: Jake Johnson, starring in "Don't Mind Him, He's Probably Drunk."

What show have you recommended to your friends?: I just saw Booty Candy at Playwrights Horizons, and enjoyed it immensely. Go see it.

What’s the most played song on your iTunes?: Right now, it may or may not be Taylor Swift, "Shake it Off". Maybe..

What’s your biggest guilty pleasure?: HGTV. Hands down. It's a problem.

What’s up next?: The webseries "BROTHERS" and the new Oxygen TV show "My Crazy Love".  Set your DVRs!

Spotlight On...Alex Mahgoub

Name: Alex Mahgoub

Tell us about Baba: Baba is a story based on my father. About my relationship with him, growing up, and about loosing him, and my struggle to find my manhood without him. It is a very personal and intimate story.

What inspired you to write Baba: I saw a friend - Armando Merlo - do a solo show about losing his mother.  It was funny, engaging, creative, touching, and thoroughly enjoyable. I began to wonder if I could write a similar solo show about my losing my father. I started taking classes with Matt Hoverman and a story about my father began to develop. It was powerful --- and after a few readings and good feedback, I decided to develop it into a full show.

What kind of theater speaks to you? What or who inspires you as an artist?: I love theater that is simple. It's always the story that I care about. The spectacle, the big names, that's all fluff. Earlier this year, I saw Machinal by Sophie Treadwell. I had never seen a production of it before, but was familiar with the play having read it in an American drama class in college. The story, almost 100 years later, still held up. THAT to me was SHOCKING. But in a good way. She captured something so true about the human condition, that even a century later, a society of Facebook and smart phones, could still connect.

If you could work with anyone you’ve yet to work with, who would it be?: Sarah Ruhl and Anne Kauffman come to mind.

What show have you recommended to your friends?: I recently saw Hedwig and thought it was such a wild fun ride. That's definitely one to check out.

Who would play you in a movie about yourself and what would it be called?: Mario Lopez in "Manrover"

What’s your biggest guilty pleasure?: Sour patch kids. They are sooo good!

What’s the most played song on your iTunes?: Right now - "Stay With Me" by Sam Smith....

If you weren’t working in theater, you would be _____?: Running a Facebook-like social network, and preparing to go IPO. ;-)

What’s up next?: I'm fully committed to Baba and seeing that the show is as successful as possible so I am currently submitting the show to other festivals and venues. But if you know anyone that needs an actor, please let me know.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Review: "It's Alright"

Securing a place in the annals of sitcom history is not an easy task. To become an iconic show takes loveable characters, a long run, and the ability to land in syndication. In the late 80s and early 90s a little children's Saturday morning live action tv show found its way as a cult hit. That show followed a group of teens as they discovered the highs and lows of high school, all through comedy gold. That show was "Saved By the Bell". Using the characters and stories of these kids, a musical parody called Bayside the Musical was born.
Through various reiterations and currently presented by the powerhouse known as National Lampoons, Bayside the Musical takes the iconic teens of the titular high school and pokes fun at the characters, situations, and the colorful era they lived in. Written by Bob and Tobly McSmith, Bayside is a fan favorite that happens to garner enough laughs to cover up the hot mess it truly is. Parodies rely on the expected, the references that make them parody worthy. Where Bayside works is through the inside jokes for the true fans. Yes, everyone knows the main core of the source material. If you just say the names Zach Morris or Screech or AC Slater, you can identify it as "Saved by the Bell". But it's the true fans that will light up when Tori or Violet (in this version called Tori Spelling, the actress who played the role) or the summer job from hell grace the stage. But pandering for the audience laughs does not necessarily mean excellent writing. In fact, as far as parody writing, Bayside was quite weak. The biggest laughs were the expected ones. They came through the references that any writer tackling a "Saved By the Bell" parody would use. But when the McSmith’s own writing came into play, it was severely lacking. The duo blew up the iconic traits of the characters in a way that they are recognizable. The only exception to this was their interpretation of Kelly Kapowski. Kelly was the beauty of the bunch but not necessary the airhead they wrote her to be. By playing AC as the moron of the group, a trait the jock did have on the show, there was way too much dumb on stage. By being the furthest from the source, taking her out of context of this particular show, you'd have no idea who she was. By capitalizing on the other characters traits, like Screech's nerdtasticness and Jessie's infamous caffeine pill breakdown and Slater's slight homoeroticism with his preppy bestie, the characters were present yet new. The ones that didn't get the care they deserved truly affected the show as a whole. The music that the McSmiths brought to the world were toe-tapping and catchy, though many sounded nearly identical to one another. They lived in a very “Broadway Pop” world yet they could have capitalized on the time of the show by throwing in more odes to the 90s pop music. When they did though, that’s when their originality shined. Paying homage to 4 Non Blondes was one of the funniest bits on stage.
Assembling a group of musical theater actors that not only can perform but also portray these characters may be a difficult task. Fortunately, the majority of the ensemble were fantastic triple threats. The star of the show by a long shot is April Kidwell. Kidwell as Jesse Spano is perfection. SNL should be on high alert for this talent. Lorne Michaels needs to get his butt down to Theater 80 and give this girl a contract to be a new cast member. Kidwell discovers all of the quirks Elizabeth Berkley brought to Jessie Spano yet still gives her own spin. It's a true sign of parody acting. Opposite Jessie was John Duff as AC Slater. Duff nails Mario Lopez, the voice that is. If you closed your eyes and listened to him say “Hey Preppy”, you would have thought Lopez had made a cameo appearance. Duff’s various skills were showcased in all the right ways. The casting of Shamira Clark as Lisa Turtle is quite brilliant as Clark has an uncanny resemblance to Lark Voorhies. Justin Cimino has a unique take on Screech. But he seemed to light up when the real Screech, Dustin Diamond, graced the stage. And poor Dustin Diamond. Diamond, who plays himself, is such a trooper working with such thin material. Sam Harvey as Zack had quite a difficult task playing the timeout king. Harvey’s Zack lacked the charisma and charm of Mark-Paul Gosselaar, especially opposite Katie Mebane’s bizarre Kelly. Harvey seemed to have better chemistry with Duff’s Slater, though that may have been intentional due to their hilarious bromance. Seth Blum as Mr. Belding and Max and Tori, among others, offers one of most uncomfortable performances to watch. Blum seems to have no regard or respect for the writers as he continually broke character and seemed to veer away from the script, especially as Tori. Though with the McSmiths serving as directors for their own show, if that was how Blum was directed, Blum deserves no blame and the McSmiths allowed too many comedic styles into one piece. For the fans who know the show, Tori was a character brought in to replace Tiffany-Amber Thesein and Elizabeth Berkley when they left the show. Yes, she was far from Jessie and Kelly, as Tori was a motorcycle riding tom boy. But her prescience was less than a season long. For Tori to have such an impact on this show was odd, but it was Blum's beyond hazardous portrayal of the character that continually stopped the show. "Saved by the Bell" is about the six students and and so is Bayside. By stealing the focus as a supporting character was in such bad form. On the flip side, Amanda Nicholas as the other various roles did a spectacular job, being a supportive prescience that won the hearts of the audience. Her portrayal as Tori Spelling and Stacey Carosi were spot on. Nicholas was transformative in all the right ways.
As noted, Bob and Tobly McSmith took on the dual roles of writers and directors. With no outside eye to help the script, the direction and vision suffered. But yet again, laughs helped to cover this up. The choreography by Jason Wise happened to be one of the highlights of the production. Wise’s choreography was crisp and intentional. Wise seemed to have the best grasp of 90s parody in the bunch. Bryan Hartlett’s transformative scenic design transported Bayside High and the Max and Malibu Sands right to the stage. Cast members John Duff and Shamira Clark doubled as costume designers, evoking the spirit of the show and the decade seamlessly. It’s fun to laugh at the trends and fads that at one time seemed like a brilliant idea.
Nitpicking a show like Bayside the Musical may seem superfluous but with such brilliant source material, you hope that the final product is perfection. Bayside the Musical is not perfection but it is mindless entertainment that will guarantee you an escape from the mundane and many full belly laughs.

Spotlight On...Jessica Fleitman

Name: Jessica Fleitman

Hometown: San Jose, California

Education: BA in Creative Studies Literature from UC Santa Barbara; Member of the BMI Advanced Musical Theatre Songwriting Workshop (lyricist); Currently pursuing MFA in Dramatic Writing at NYU Tisch School of the Arts.

Favorite Credits: The Average-Sized Mermaid, G Train Exodus, and Deuteranomaly. I’m also very proud of musical theater work I’ve done with my writing partner, composer Rick Bassett.

Why theater?: It’s a poetic medium, which is helpful for me because I tend to write a lot of characters who aren’t human. For example, in G Train Exodus, one of the main characters is a talking subway train. In film, so much of it is about what the audience sees; the visuals have to be persuasive. In theater, the actor portraying the G Train simply walks out on stage in street clothes and says “I’m the G Train,” and the audience completely buys into that reality without hesitation. It’s an act of collective imagination. I love that.

Tell us about G Train Exodus?: G Train Exodus is the story of a failed young artist who is trying to leave New York City forever, and the subway train who doesn’t want her to go.

What inspired you to write G Train Exodus?: G Train Exodus was my attempt to persuade myself that continuing to pursue a life in the arts in New York City was worthwhile, brave, and noble during a time when it felt anything but.

What kind of theater speaks to you? What or who inspires you as an artist?: I love theater that transports me to uniquely heightened realities, but always in the service of stories that, at their essence, are character-driven, universal, and human. I also love plays that walk the line between comedy and drama, because those feel the most true to me. The playwrights I most admire – John Patrick Shanley, Peter Shaffer, Tony Kushner, and Sarah Ruhl – are masters at this. And I’m inspired by the work of so many of my peers – particularly A.P. Andrews and Rachel Teagle – who always make me feel my feelings, make me laugh, and  take me somewhere I’ve never been before.

If you could work with anyone you’ve yet to work with, who would it be?: Brian Stokes Mitchell. I want to cast him in everything. Plays, musicals, you name it. He is talented beyond all reason.

Who would play you in a movie about yourself and what would it be called?: Scarlett Johansson, because I’d like people to remember me as the statuesque, beautiful blonde I always wished I was.  It’d be titled, “No Seriously, That’s What Jessica Fleitman Looked Like. Shut Up.”

What’s your biggest guilty pleasure?: I have so many. Pita and hummus. Chips and guacomole. Bread and really good olive oil. Basically, I’m just a huge fan of the Carb and Something-To-Dip-It-In genre.

What’s the most played song on your iPod?: Okay, I just checked, and it’s “The Way” by Fastball. What the heck? How did this happen?

If you weren’t working in theater, you would be _____?: So very, very sad.

What’s up next?: I’m working on a new musical with composer Rick Bassett, and Manhattan Theatre Source is doing a production of my award-winning one-act play, G Train Exodus, in the Estrogenius Festival this October (more info at www.estrogenius.org).

Spotlight On...Larry Phillips

Name: Larry Phillips

Hometown: Brick, NJ

Education: BFA Montclair State University

Favorite Credits: Too hard, couldn’t possibly pick

Why theater?: Because I’m not pretty enough for the movies.

Tell us about Secondary Pitch: It’s the story of 3 brothers. The oldest 2 where very highly touted baseball players growing up. The oldest brother Paul, fizzled out and never achieved his goal of playing professionally. But the middle brother, Stephen went on to have hugely successful career pitching in the Major Leagues. When the play opens Stephen has just retired and we find out he didn’t do very good job saving his money while playing. In order to make some cash, he’s agreed to do a Reality TV Show. But the Producer of the show insists that his brothers appear on the show as well. Kevin the youngest brother is attention seeking whore and is more than happy to be in limelight, but Paul is not so easily persuaded. It a play about jealously, ego, and stopping at nothing to get what you want, so it’s a play about family.

What inspired you to write Secondary Pitch?: Everyone has something they love to watch and do. A particular sport, music, design, something. But just because you love it, doesn’t mean you’re skilled enough to do it professionally. This play is a look at what it might be like for someone who devoted his entire life to baseball, only not to make it. And watch his little brother surpass him and have an amazing career in the Major Leagues without having half the passion that he had for the game.

What kind of theater speaks to you?  What or who inspires you as an artist?: I’ve always been drawn to plays that are character driven. I think people are fascinating. Everything I write starts with the characters and the plot is born out of them.

If you could work with anyone you've yet to work with, who would it be?: I admire so many people. But when it comes down to it, I really only have 2 heroes; Nathan Lane and the late Philip Seymour Hoffman.  They may be 2 different types of actors, but there is a furiousness to their work that always spoke to me.

What show have you recommended to your friends?: It recently closed, but I quite liked Second Stage’s production of Sex with Strangers.

Who would play you in a movie about yourself and what would it be called?: Mr. Lane or Mr. Hoffman, and it would be called “I’m Sorry I’m Emotionally Unavailable, I Have Pork Chops Defrosting.”

What’s your biggest guilty pleasure?: As a kid I loved “Alf”, and it still makes me laugh.

What’s the most played song on your iTunes?: “Minority” by Green Day

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

What’s up next?: I have several plays in various stages of development. But I have 3 that are close to production-ready; Learning to Skip, Arbuckle Syndrome, and Last Chance for Mama. Randomly Specific Theatre hopes to be doing one of these shortly.

For more on Secondary Pitch, visit www.randomlyspecifictheatre.com

Spotlight On...Allison Smith

Name: Allison Smith

Hometown: Waldwick, New Jersey!

Education: New York University College of Arts and Sciences

Select Credits: Mallory O'Brien on "The West Wing",  Annie on Broadway from 1979-1982. In Original Broadway production of Evita on Broadway with Patti Lupone and Mandy Patinkin. Los Angeles premiere production of David Mamet's Oleanna. QED opposite Alan Alda at the Mark Taper Forum. Played Jennie Lowell, Jane Curtin's daughter on the sitcom "Kate & Allie" from 1983-1989

Who do you play in "Weight"?: I play the main character; Claire's, uptight, highly functioning, professional, thin and condescending big sister!

Tell us about "Weight": "Weight" follows the journey of one woman's release back into her real world after she goes on a weight loss reality show, wins and loses 100 pounds.

What is it like being a part of "Weight"?: SO fun!! I love the comedy. I love playing Martha Byrne's antagonizing sister!

What kind of entertainment speaks to you? What or who inspires you as an artist?: Great theatre, and variety show comedy. Great theatre speaks to me. Musical or not. I'm amazed by a Tim Minchin or a Stephen Schwartz. How they translate a story into pieces so moving with melody and time. Also, a great play where people are really working through something. Where sometimes things are so painful you just have to laugh. I also love television. I always have. I'm up for anything; dark comedies, family dramas. I love a good Irish story or playing in a different time period.

Any roles you’re dying to play?: I want a strong, alive character in theatre again. There's nothing like being physically free in that Live space.

What’s your favorite showtune?: I have a soft spot for "The Colors Of My Life" from Barnum, and  for nearly all from The Sound Of Music

If you could work with anyone you’ve yet to work with, who would it be?: A mixture; the great creators of yesterday, and the burgeoning creators of tomorrow.

Who would play you in a movie about yourself and what would it be called?: Shirley MacLaine titled "Life is so full"

What show have you recommended to your friends?: Matilda

What’s the most played song on your iTunes?: Probably everything on John Mayer's last album  " Paradise Valley."

What’s your biggest guilty pleasure?: A quiet space with Chocolate Sorbet and Mary Oliver poetry.

What’s up next?: I'm writing a book of semi autobiographical short stories.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Review: Reliving a Nightmare, the Not So Hollywood Version

Audiences love when Hollywood makes a “based on a true story” movie. It’s always titillating to see a real story projected on the big screen. But sometimes Hollywood-izing these stories alters the facts in order to create a better story. In 1978, Billy Hayes’ “Midnight Express” was given the movie treatment recounting his time in and escaping a Turkish Prison. As always, there were discrepancies between the book and film. But if you’re looking for the real facts, who better to share it than the man who lived it. In Riding the Midnight Express, Billy Hayes gives his story the solo show treatment.
Riding the Midnight Express explains the unHollywood version of his incredible story. Riding the Midnight Express is an engaging story told from the man who lived it. With a movie adaptation that is so recognizable, there are still some who don’t know Billy’s story. What Hayes’ does well is he tells his story in such a way that first-timers are invited into the tale just as equally as to those who know what’s coming next. Where the piece falters is it’s overall theatricality. From start to finish, it longed for more theatricality, perhaps simply through projections. With Hayes’ soothing voice, Riding the Midnight Express felt more like a book on tape live tour then a piece of theater. Despite this, Hayes’ is still an incredible storyteller. He paints a vivid picture, bringing the audience right into the action. Director Jeffrey Altshuler aids Hayes’ tale discovering the moments of when Hayes needed to be physical active or grounded. With just a story as the driving force, keeping momentum is essential, and Altshuler and Hayes did a great job. They literally made the audience want more, begging for Hayes to continue his tale after the curtain call and during the question and answer.
Riding the Midnight Express is a captivating story told by the man who faced the nightmare. It’s always an interesting experience for an audience to watch a storyteller relive their life in front of their eyes. And watching Billy Hayes go back and relive this particular moment is an experience in itself.

Spotlight On...Cheryl L. Davis

Name: Cheryl L. Davis

Hometown: Mt. Vernon, NY  
   
Education: Princeton University (A.B.), and Columbia University Schools of Law and Journalism

Favorite Credits: The Color of Justice for Theatreworks/USA (my family loves that show).

Why theater?: There’s nothing like an audience of people sitting collectively engaged in an experience.

Tell us about Maid’s Door?: Maid’s Door is the first 10-minutes of a now full length play inspired by the life of my grandmother.

What inspired you to write Maid’s Door?: While I was a member of the Women’s Project Playwright’s Lab, we were asked to write a 10-minute play inspired by a place we’d lived in.  I decided to write a play set in my current apartment, and Maid’s Door was prompted by a conversation I had with my grandmother when I was moving in.

What kind of theater speaks to you? What or who inspires you as an artist?: Theater that transfixes. That captures you and holds you in its own world.  I’m a huge admirer of Lynn Nottage and Tom Stoppard.

If you could work with anyone you’ve yet to work with, who would it be?: Viola Davis.

What show have you recommended to your friends?:  Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill

Who would play you in a movie about yourself and what would it be called?: Here we are, back to Viola Davis. I’d call it “Look Again” (there’s so much more than at first meets the eye).

What’s your biggest guilty pleasure?: Marshmallow Peeps. They’re awesome.

What’s the most played song on your iPod?: Right now, “Happy” by Pharrell (she typed, hanging her head in shame; maybe that should be under guilty pleasure?).

If you weren’t working in theater, you would be _____?: In addition to being a lawyer?  Is writing for TV an option?  No? Then an English/History professor.

What’s up next?: A musical I’m writing on commission for the Berkeley Playhouse.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Spotlight On...Aimiee Todoroff

Name: Aimee Todoroff

Hometown: Dayton, OH

Education: MFA Southampton Arts

Favorite Credits: Rabbit Island, Brecht in the Park

Why theater?: I truly believe that theatre is the most effective way to change the world. When an audience engages with an actor or ensemble onstage, we immediately gain empathy, learn to look at an issue or problem from multiple sides and we expand our perceived communities from an insular circle to one that encompasses a larger humanity. Theatre makes better people.

What inspired you to direct?: I've always loved theatre as a cohesive art form- one that encompasses sculpture, painting, dance, music, poetry and prose. Like most people, I came to theatre as a performer, though I always focused more on the overall story than I did on my particular character. Pretty quickly, a teacher noticed that when I asked questions, they were "big picture" questions, and he suggested I think about directing.

What kind of theater speaks to you? What or who inspires you as an artist?: My favorite theatre acknowledges the inherent theatricality within the art form, as opposed to being perfectly naturalistic. Anything that plays with the relationship between the actor and audience is really exciting to me, especially if the theatrical experience can create subtle physical changes in the audience or make the audience complicit in the theatrical act. One of the reasons mask work or puppets can be so engaging is because there is a sense of danger (yes, puppets can be dangerous!) that comes from the collective act of bringing something to life. If the puppet masters are really good, the puppet has a life of it's own but the audience senses on some level that if one person slips, or the timing is a tiny bit off, the illusion will be broken and the puppet will "die." I love theatre that creates that same sense of danger to the stage with text, movement and emotional resonance.

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

What show have you recommended to your friends?: When We Were Young and Unafraid by Sarah Treem. It's smart writing about an important struggle in our history, one women are still fighting, told in a way that is surprising, humorous and human, plus an incredible performance by Cherry Jones!

Who would play you in a movie about yourself and what would it be called?: Amy Poehler in a brunette wig, and the movie would be called "It's Natural!"

What’s your biggest guilty pleasure?: Binge watching "The Walking Dead" and "American Horror Story" when my partner is out of town.

What’s the most played song on your iPod?: Right now, technically it's a sound effect- but after that, "Cube Libra" by DeVotchKa, also show related

If you weren’t working in theater, you would be _____?: Probably a therapist or grief counselor. I recently experienced a death in my family, and I was so grateful for the teams of people who's job it is to help families with that transition, from the people at the funeral home who basically pull together personalized productions for each familty to the woman who made picking out the headstone a healing experience. Basically, I'd be living in Six Feet Under. I think I'd like that.

What’s up next?: The Vast Mystery of Who You Are by Kim Yaged at Judson Memorial's Magic Time, Oct. 15th, and then La Tempistad, a retelling of Shakespeare's The Tempest in the Playing with Canons series at The Treehouse Theatre!

Spotlight On..Wolf CR

Name: Wolf CR

Hometown: Milwaukee, WI

Education: BFA Acting UW Milwaukee, MFA Acting The New School for Drama

Favorite Credits: Cassius in Julius Caesar, Ensemble in Pool (No Water), Male Voice in Sixteen Kisses, Olga in Three Sisters, Julia in The Two Gentlemen of Verona

Why theater?: The earth is populated with human beings, and so we keep doing theatre! We keep creating, on instinct, and with our imagination. Same way we get out of the rain on instinct, or stay in the rain to inhale it, using imagination and memory to feel rain… we have to deal with the rain. We have to deal with populating this earth, and that we are in desperate need to survive.  And we have to find a transcending station of existence to forgive ourselves for our collective existence, our history, and define a meaning. To manifest compassion and empathy, to survive. It is, survival. I hold a belief that characters borrow our temple/instrument/body....and we rise to a spiritual level to lend our being fully to them. So they can trust us, and fill us with their soul, spirit, words, truth, story. Artists give the space to fill their heart with a desire to speak human. I’m primarily an actor(vist), meaning for me, the soul of an actor is that of being a human activist as well. I am driven by the hope to develop a deeper awareness of compassion and empathy within an audience, and to further and better humanity.

Tell us about It’s Not My Decision: It’s Not My Decision is my fist solo show! Here is a brief synopsis: “So, I just get up and tell story?” a beleaguered Sharon asks of her disapproving therapy group. The question, posed in the first moments of this original piece by Wolf CR, begins a darkly humorous journey from within the sterile walls of a psychiatric hospital, to a rickety ride on the Subway, an audition holding room, individual therapy, and through the minds and hearts of four disparate individuals. Each is questing (and at times failing) to face their own prejudiced and privileged opinions; to determine their identity; and discover their own self within sexuality, love, family, mental health, The Universe, and New fu$%ing York City.

What inspired you to create It’s Not My Decision?: It is vital to me that our world can witness a woman write, perform, and direct her own work. On top of that idea, I also enjoy being scared of myself, to share my obscenely large and loving heart, and fail big in a profoundly vulnerable way. This is my first time sharing my writing professionally, and it is terrifying! Even this interview is a bit anxiety inducing to me! It is as though I’m creating solid matter, a document, that anyone can see, find, judge, and I have had to rediscover how to let go of that new judgment, and ultimately trust. During grad school, within facing challenges and frustrations,  I realized writing my own work would be a way to bring alive and give voice to human stories I knew were left out of theatre. Creating my own work allows me to represent unheard voices, and express myself in a way I was not able to find in the “real world”, where type casting, bullying, and profit are some of the main themes of the business.

What kind of theater speaks to you? What or who inspires you as an artist?: Above all, anything that scares me, challenges me, and theatre that brings awareness and voice to those who are marginalized and/or oppressed in society. Additionally, I’m always excited to see traditional plays that are cast, directed, and designed in a lens that cracks the way we view our culture. My work (both acting and writing) is inspired by personal experience, overheard dialogue, interviews and research. (Also, patience and persistence) I attempt to cover everything in my writing including current issues of racism, sexism, feminism, privilege, religion, mental health, eating disorders, sexuality and gender.
I’m fascinated and determined to create characters as close to being “ordinary”and real life as possible, people who aren’t inherently cruel or evil, and are trying their best to be good human beings and understand their life up till now.  Then I strive to learn how to be their best friend and tell their story, searching forgiveness.

If you could work with anyone you’ve yet to work with, who would it be?: Kathryn Hunter, Sarah Treem, Anna Deavere Smith, Caryl Churchill,  Steven Wangh. And, eighty eight more people.

What show have you recommended to your friends?: Millions, but I will limit this to the shows I have seen in New York City that I forced my friends to go see! Including: Overheard by Kirya Yvonne Traber, Kafka’s Monkey by Kathryn Hunter, Blasted by Sarah Kane, The Killer by Eugene Ionesco, Dutchman by Amiri Baraka, Some Dark Places of the Earth by Claire Kiechel.

Who would play you in a movie about yourself and what would it be called?: Definitely Mae West (if she was still alive) or Christina Hendricks, and it would be called “Sleep Well, Dream Better”

What’s your biggest guilty pleasure?: Fantasizing about playing every male character in Shakespeare, memorizing their monologues as often as possible. I truly believe I can play King Lear right now, but I suppose I will settle for Richard III or Hamlet.

What’s the most played song on your iPod?: "Arctic Bar", from Meredith Monk’s album “Facing North”.

If you weren’t working in theater, you would be _____?: Biological conservationist and wetland biologist. Or dead.

What’s up next?: Since this is my first professional showing of It’s Not My Decision, I will be expanding the play and doing future showings! My other play, Dora, based on Sigmund Freud’s case study of Ida Bauer, will be going into reading workshop later this year. On top of writing, currently I am performing in Pool (No Water) by Mark Ravenhill at The New School for Drama. (And I graduate in Spring 2015!) Lastly, I have begun the recent journey of teacher training with Jerzy Grotowski’s method, and I’m very thrilled to expand my student experience towards the realm of teaching.

For more, visit wolfcr.org