The Theatre According to Robert (Part II)

“From the 70’s to present day, Mr. Viagas has witnessed many changes in theatre.  “I saw my first Broadway show, Man of La Mancha, in April 1971, near the end of its original Broadway run. Over the next few years I managed to see original productions of classics, including Fiddler on the Roof; Hello, Dolly!; A Chorus Line; The Wiz and all of Sondheim’s masterpieces, from Company, on. The timing was perfect to see performances by great Golden Age stars including Gwen Verdon, Zero Mostel, John Raitt, Mary Martin, Robert Preston, Jerry Orbach, Yul Brynner, Carol Channing, Alfred Drake, and others of their generation—all near the end of their legendary careers. I also had the privilege of seeing the great stars of the ensuing decades give their defining performances as well. And that’s only the performers. When I speak about the theatre, it comes from a place of seeing this vast sweep of talent at its greatest.”

“The most important change I have seen is the theatre’s willingness to crack open its doors to a great new diversity of performing, writing, directing and designing talent. A greater diversity of onstage talent is only the most visible advantage. By welcoming a diversity of writing talent, the theatre has greatly expanded the scope of stories being told. Telling stories is what the theatre is about, and the wonderful new richness of storytelling from a greater variety of sexual, ethnic and cultural identities has given new life to the theatre, especially musical theatre.”

“Mr. Viagas explains why he is calling this book his magnum opus.  “I’ve spent my entire career writing about the stars, the directors, the songwriters, and all the other talents who create theatre and all the performing arts. But I always felt that I (and all theatre writers) were missing a key part of the picture. Who are all those notes and words and images for? And of course the answer was not just there in front of me; I was part of the answer. It’s all for the audience. To make the audience laugh, and sob and wonder. But the artists can’t do all the work. The members of the audience must bring their best emotional and spiritual selves to it and must prepare to be changed in some way by the experience.”

“I realized then that what we call “theatre” does not happen on the stage. It happens in the hearts and minds of the audience. This notion has been percolating in my mind for more than a decade, and served as the grounding philosophy for my national magazine, Encore Monthly. As such, the book brings together all I’ve experienced throughout my professional and personal life. And that’s why I call it my magnum opus.”

The target audience is well, the audience!  “Who should read this book?  Anyone who has ever been part of an audience and didn’t realize what an important part they played in the experience.”

There are clear differences between film audiences and theatre audiences.  “Theatre audiences participate in a back-and-forth with the actors that is impossible for film audiences. The theatre audience’s reaction—wild enthusiasm, deadly silence and everything in-between—affects the performers in various ways. Theatre performance is a living thing: a transaction and a collaboration. The actors are actually there, live and in person. Theatre audiences listen and learn and grow; the actors also listen and learn and grow. On the other hand, film audiences can cheer, laugh, boo or walk out—it will make no difference to the dead shadows on the screen. The actors are far away, sunning themselves by a pool, and could care less.” 

Theatre has undergone significant changes over time and will continue to do so.  “When histories of American theatre are written twenty-five or fifty years from now, they will mark 2020 as one of the great turning points, along with the first Ziegfeld Follies; the first plays of Eugene O’Neill, Tennessee Williams and Arthur Miller; the openings of The Black CrookPorgy and BessOklahoma!, A Chorus Line, Rent and Hamilton.”

“It’s a new world. Technology is changing everything from the way tickets are sold and sets are designed, to the way actors are auditioned and plays are chosen. The effects of #MeToo and non-traditional writing, producing, directing and, yes, casting will affect everything we will get to see.” 

“Many commentators thought live theatre, especially musicals, would become a tiny niche like opera and Burlesque, or disappear entirely like Vaudeville and Operetta. But Broadway and all of American theatre has continued to reinvent itself in astonishing ways. And will continue to delight and astonish in the decades to come.”  As theatre continues to evolve, Mr. Viagas will be right there to chronical it all.

Robert Viagas Collection

on Amazaon


A Moment with Rich Abanes and his “Five Women”

Richie Abanes Interview by Jen Bush

Richie Abanes is an artist in every sense of the word.  He can touch a brush to a canvas and create an abstract whirlwind of color and shape.  He can write a love letter to New York City by capturing the curious nuances of a brick wall and the breathtaking skyline from behind his lens.  He can take on the duties of book writer, composer and lyricist without batting an eye and cast himself to act, sing and dance in the show.  Yes indeed, possessing the talents of being a singer, dancer, actor, painter, playwright, photographer, musician and composer, he is a tour de force of the arts.  He’s been on stage and screen and now he penned a very personal story called Five Women.

     From a young age the performing arts called to Mr. Abanes which eventually led him to New York City where he became one singular sensation!  “I started out my Show Biz career as a singer, when at the age of about five I started singing commercial jingles and TV theme songs to entertain friends and family. I moved on from there to learning real songs performed by some of the great singers/dancers I saw in movies I watched with my mother, who loved musicals and dancing. By ten-years-old I was belting tunes made popular by Gene Kelly, Mario Lanza, Donald O’Connor, Fred Astaire and so many others in some of the best classic movie musicals of all time.” 

     “I eventually felt like I wanted to start learning how to dance, which I began doing when I was about twelve. This led to my first musical theater experience in Bye Bye Birdie.”

      “Suddenly, I was totally hooked on being a performer. At that point, I started really studying hard to become a great dancer, while at the same time I kept working on my singing. Soon, I was doing musical after a musical all year around in my hometown, Rockford, IL. The rest, as they say, is history. From Rockford I moved to Nashville to perform at Opryland USA, then from Nashville, I moved to New York, where I obtained my equity card in the original National Tour of “A Chorus Line.” Playwriting came decades later, only after I had discovered I had a talent for not only writing, but also composing.”

     Mr. Abanes possesses a deep level of empathy and compassion.  He listened to women and reacted to their plights and their anguish.  The result was Five Women.  “The genesis of Five Women dates back to at least thirty years ago when, as a very young man, I began hearing from my female friends about how they were rarely depicted accurately in movies, on TV, and throughout the world of theater. The women in my life continued to express to me with disturbing frequency such grievances year after year. At the same time, I was also hearing/seeing women in all walks of life being generally under- appreciated, manipulated by superiors, harassed on the streets by strangers, and pressured by cultural myths and misogynistic ideals.”

     “As time passed, I gradually became even more intimately acquainted with one particular issue affecting women – i.e., eating disorders. These disorders, it is now known, have been caused in part by the false images of women perpetuated/popularized through the media. This issue became extremely personal to me because my wife was struggling with eating disorders. tragically, in 2010, my wife finally died from anorexia after many years of suffering; suffering that was not only physical, but also mental and emotional.”

     “During my emotional recovery, I pondered almost on a daily basis the struggles of women in our modern society. Then, in 2017, I decided that I had to use my gifts/talents to somehow make a difference in the world for women; to make an attempt to change things in our society using the arts.” 

     “So, I began writing Five Women. The characters were already partially formed, having been sketched throughout the previous twenty years of my life. Each woman was a sort of merging of several women I had known. Moreover, as I began writing my script, I found that a lot of the dialogue was arising from out of actual conversations I had enjoyed with my female friends and stories that had been told to me by a number of women in my life. The story came together very quickly, as if the characters had been waiting to have their voice heard for many years. In fact, I wrote the play over the course of only ten days in September 2016, writing day and night, with very little time for eating or sleeping. As soon as the play was completed, I began contacting women I thought could bring the characters to life. Eventually, I was able to pull together my first cast, and I had a private table reading in October 2017.”

     Mr. Albanes’ creative process differs depending on the project.  Beverages help to keep the ideas flowing.  Wearing so many creative hats, he can easily try out his own material to see what works.  “My creative process varies a lot, depending on what I’m writing and/or composing. Sometimes I’ll work at a fairly steady pace for several days, keeping relatively normal hours for working. Other times, however, I might goes days without creating anything,

until suddenly a lightning bolt of creativity will hit me and for days on end writing long hours, usually very late at night and into the early morning. The waiting period I call percolating, like a coffee pot. What’s going to be created is still simmering inside, and coming together—i.e., percolating. Then, when it’s all done, it’s time to pour. (And speaking of coffee, yes, it is a big part of my creative process, as is red wine in the wee hours of the morning).”

     “Either way, I usually end up creating when I’m emotionally moved by a certain event I hear about, or a thought I have, or a feeling that just comes over me about something/someone. I even dream about what I create, often seeing scenes play themselves out or hearing songs I remember upon waking and write down. As with many artists, I’m often mystified by my own process. It just sort of happens—sometimes at my instigation, sometimes on its own. One thing that is consistent is that I do have to be willing to reach deep down into myself and allow myself to feel everything as fully as possible. When writing dialogue, for instance, I usually take on the characters myself and have dialogue back-and-forth in a real conversation with full emotions and full commitment to whatever happens. I’m sure my neighbors think there are probably 20 people living in my apartment.”

     A festival run gave Mr. Abanes a better perspective of the play.  He had the impetus to revise and expand the work.  “My first festival run of “Five Women” was an amazing experience. I was able to truly bring the characters to life, thanks to five extraordinary women, one of whom won Best Actress for that festival. At that time, the play was only a one-act, and I learned from seeing it onstage that it needed to expand it into a full two-act production. So much more needed to be said by these characters and the festival gave me all the encouragement and inspiration I needed to more fully present what the characters wanted to say.”

     Mr. Abanes learned a great deal from having Five Women in a festival.  “I took three things away from my first festival, based on the response I received from not only the audience, but from my wonderful cast: 1) The themes/messages of hope, forgiveness, love, and healing contained in the play are very much needed wanted by a lot of people; 2) the play definitely honors women and does indeed present, as I like to put, “real women, living real lives, in real relationships, using real dialogue;” and 3) my style of writing, which is simple/straightforward storytelling is desired by audiences.”

     Mr. Abanes is hoping that audiences walk away being inspired after seeing the show.  “We live in a difficult time; a difficult time for all kinds of people, who are facing all kinds of challenges. A lot of what drives “Five Women” is the depiction of a lot of these challenges faced by so many of us: familial conflict, broken hearts, relational

strife, unmet expectations, resentment, career obstacles, even the loss in death of someone we love. I believe “Five Women” gives people hope and says to them, “Look, healing IS possible. Things like forgiveness, unity, love, and a better future ARE

possible.” I want people to come away from the show feeling encouraged, but also feeling thoughtful about what is happening in their own lives and how maybe things can change for the better.”

     So far, the journey of Five Women has been a positive experience for Mr. Abanes, and the journey is only beginning.  “My own experience with the show has been very humbling. I took away a real sense of gratitude that these beautiful characters, for some reason, chose to speak through me. And I took away this feeling that all hope is not lost for humanity. Despite all the sadness, doom-and-gloom, and darkness we too often see around us, there are all kinds of qualities that are alive and well in many people: goodness, hope, light, love, forgiveness, tolerance, acceptance, courage, honesty, and kindness. The play has encouraged and comforted me in the same way I hope it encourages and comforts others.”

     Mr. Abanes plans to continue to make the world a better place through his art.  “Finishing “Five Women” and seeing it come to life has changed me my giving me and extraordinary sense of inspiration to create more, more, more, and still more. A lot needs to be created in this world to make a difference and “Five Women” has sort of given me the green light to GO FORWARD and create as much as I can possibly create artistically for whatever time I have left.”

     There’s an exciting new musical in the works for Mr. Abanes.  “I’m currently working on my first musical titled “Carly.” I’m writing the book, as well as composing the music and writing the lyrics. It follows the journey of a young woman from a life of emotional turmoil and mental anguish to a life of inner healing and new purpose. It begins in the psychiatric ward of a California hospital, where Carly has been temporarily committed for observation and counseling after a failed suicide attempt. It’s pretty heavy. The show opens with the ensemble number, “I Want to Heal,” which sets up the inner struggles/pain of all of the patients in the ward. Through this opening, the audience enters into the world of those suffering from various forms of mental illness/anguish. It starts out pretty heavy, but the musical also includes humor and several light-hearted characters (and a romance) that eventually takes everyone to a place of healing for Carly. The show is coming along well and should be finished by the end if 2023. Like so many others, my dream is to get at least one of my shows to Broadway!”  Since Mr. Abanes has graced the Broadway stage, hopefully one of his heartfelt works will follow suit.

Robert Viagas wrote a book about the OTHER star of the show … the audience.

According to one of the theatre’s most influential chroniclers, Robert Viagas, when you sit down to watch a play … movie … TV show … concert … reading …. And these days … video on your computer, you are taking part in one of the oldest and most meaningful forms of behavior. Being part of an audience is a universal experience, one that has remained a constant feature of human societies even as it has evolved from colosseums to tiny glowing screens.

Right This Way: A History of the Audience is a pop-history of audiences through the ages. Delving into the distinctive aspects of what Viagas calls “audiencing.”

Viagas is a writer, editor, lecturer, broadcaster, and professor with more than 40 years’ experience, much of it working on Broadway with Playbill Inc., the iconic theatre program company. As such, he has sat in the audience for more than 2000 Broadway shows, plus uncounted movies, television shows, concerts, Off-Broadway shows, sporting events, podcasts, etc. in his native U.S. and around the world. Viagas believes that theatre does not happen on the stage. It happens in the hearts and minds of the audience. What happens on the stage is designed to evoke theatre. And that goes for movies, TV, concerts and everything else that is done for an audience

Finally, a book about the OTHER star of the show … the audience.

According to one of the theatre’s most influential chroniclers, Robert Viagas, when you sit down to watch a play … movie … TV show … concert … reading …. And these days … video on your computer, you are taking part in one of the oldest and most meaningful forms of behavior. Being part of an audience is a universal experience, one that has remained a constant feature of human societies even as it has evolved from colosseums to tiny glowing screens.

Right This Way: A History of the Audience is a pop-history of audiences through the ages. Delving into the distinctive aspects of what Viagas calls “audiencing.”

Viagas is a writer, editor, lecturer, broadcaster, and professor with more than 40 years’ experience, much of it working on Broadway with Playbill Inc., the iconic theatre program company. As such, he has sat in the audience for more than 2000 Broadway shows, plus uncounted movies, television shows, concerts, Off-Broadway shows, sporting events, podcasts, etc. in his native U.S. and around the world. Viagas believes that theatre does not happen on the stage. It happens in the hearts and minds of the audience. What happens on the stage is designed to evoke theatre. And that goes for movies, TV, concerts and everything else that is done for an audience.

In Right This Way: A History of the Audience, Viagas walks us through the different types of audiences and the history of their changing behaviors, what science has to say about how our brains respond to what we experience, how technology will continue to shape audiences, and why, during COVID-19, people risked a deadly virus to be part of a crowd. Viagas accessed the minds of all those who have observed audiences – for all sorts of reasons – throughout the decades: critics, performers, scholars, and those who simply wanted to be enlightened and entertained.

You’ll never sit and watch something the same way again.

Right This Way: A History of the Audience, is available at, Barnes & Noble, and where all quality literature is sold.

About the Author: Viagas has published 21 books on the performing arts, and enjoyed the rare honor of serving on the nominating committee for the Tony Awards 2012-14, after acting as a Tony voter for two decades. He also served as a juror for the Boston Science-Fiction Film Festival, one of the oldest genre festivals in the U.S. He has more than two million words in print, and his writings are cited more than 500 times on Wikipedia.

Playbill placed extraordinary responsibility in Viagas’ hands during his quarter century at the company. He spearheaded virtually all of that company’s new projects, including Playbill Travel, Playbill Radio and Playbill Books (including the Playbill Broadway Yearbook series).

He took over writing and editing Playbill’s “At This Theatre” column from Louis Botto, hosted the Tony Awards webcasts from 2002 to 2008, and produced the special Tony Awards Playbill each year from 2002 to 2012, and again in 2015. Viagas was chosen by the original cast of A Chorus Line to tell their story in the book On the Line: The Creation of “A Chorus Line” (Morrow) and by the creators of the original The Fantasticks to tell their story in The Amazing Story of “The Fantasticks” (Citadel). Viagas was also asked by Sony to supply liner notes for the special 40th anniversary re-release of the original cast album of the classic A Chorus Line.

Melissa Borgerding play premieres in Los Angeles

Melissa Borgerding Interview by Jen Bush

In Someone Close To You, Helen is a fiercely independent spirit facing her own mortality.  Her son Ben wants to bring her home in her final days.  This poignant play was penned by playwright Melissa Borgerding who graciously took some time to discuss her work and this play with us.

For Ms. Borgerding, writing is a personal endeavor that is very gratifying to her.  “Writing is how I make sense of the world around me, as well as my own thoughts and feelings. It’s a sandbox where I can play, experiment, and feed my creative spirit, but also enjoy the rare opportunity to be still and receptive to inspiration.”

Ms. Borgerding favors playwrighting because of all the talented people that become involved.  “I’ve always been drawn to playwrighting because, unlike a novel or short story, a play is a shared experience. It’s a collaboration between the writer, audience, actors, and so many other talented people—all of whom bring their own experience and interpretation to the story. A single beat, emphasis, or long look can completely alter the meaning of a line, or perception of a character. A play is always changing and evolving, and this makes it one of the most unpredictable and exciting formats to work with.” 

Ms. Borgerding’s creative process is akin to nurturing a seed from planting to blooming.  “For me, creative incubation is just as important as inspiration. My creative process usually starts with the spark of a story—something that imbeds itself in my psyche. Something I just can’t shake. Maybe it’s a line of overheard conversation, or an interesting character I’ve met.”

“Instead of pouncing on this spark, I usually need to let it simmer in the background for weeks, months, or even longer, all while I’m working on other projects. It’s like building a relationship with a stray cat. You can’t just chase after it; you have to feed it and care for it and work to gain its trust before you can finally bring it inside and call it your own.”

“For me, a story needs room to breathe and take shape on its own until, eventually, it becomes too big, too loud, and too real for me to ignore.”  

Ms. Borgerding would like audiences to leave the show pondering the relationships we have with our loved ones.  “Our love for the people who are closest to us can blind us to who they are and what they really need from us. It’s tough to separate the individual from the relationship. I think this is especially true of parent-child relationships. Shared history, memory, and our own expectations can distort the way we see, interact, and relate to each other.”

“In Someone Close to You, Ben loves his mother deeply, despite his unconventional upbringing. He wants to help her. He wants to save her. Unfortunately, he’s unable to see that the solution he’s offering is not the one she wants or needs.”

“I hope this play will spark some renewed conversations about individuality, relationships, and our expectations of each other.” 

Writing this play has led Ms. Borgerding to think about her own personal relationships.  “What do we owe the people who are closest to us? What happens if what we want for them is in stark contrast to what they want for themselves? The process of writing this play has sparked hard questions and conversations about my own relationships, particularly with my parents. I’ve seen them both thrown into the impossible position of caring for aging loved ones, making tough decisions about the future, and dealing with the guilt, grief, and uncertainty that comes with it. Their experience formed the emotional basis for this play and helped me understand the importance of leaning into these tough, awkward, and uncomfortable conversations sooner rather than later. “ 

Up next, Ms. Borgdering has two exciting upcoming projects that couldn’t be more different if they tried.  “At the moment, I’m working on a new play, The Flamingo, that explores similar themes of family, memory, and intergenerational conflict. A fiftieth wedding anniversary is disrupted by a major snowstorm and the sudden arrival of an estranged daughter, who threatens to throw the party into chaos and expose deep cracks inside the marriage and the family. In a different vein, I’m also collaborating with a writing partner on a science fiction/horror screenplay about a tech start-up that’s developed a terrifying new way to extract ideas from employees.”    

You can see Someone Close To You at Theatre West in L.A. on February 3rd and February 4th

Laurie Rae Waugh: My Relationship with prolific author, Irving Greenfield

Laurie Rae Waugh Interview (Part I) by Jen Bush

Irving Greenfield was a college professor and a merchant marine who served in the Korean War.  He was a prolific author of over 300 novels and several plays.  His legacy is being lovingly preserved by The American Theatre of Actors and the chief interpreter of his work, Laurie Rae Waugh.  The American Theatre of Actors is thrilled to premiere his play, What Do We Do About Walter on November 2ndMs. Waugh will serve as the director, and it was a pleasure to chat with her about her body of work as well as her deep connection to Mr. Greenfield and his work. 

All the world ‘s a stage and that’s just the way Laurie Rae Waugh likes it.  She has spent decades  as a stage manager, actor and director.  All the people who have had the honor of working with her have nothing but the highest praise for this talented individual.  “When I first came to NYC back in 1980, I spent a good portion of my theatre career as a stage manager.  I learned a lot from the directors I was working with and couldn’t wait to get a chance to direct myself.  I am an organic and passionate director.  I have a vision of how the plays I take on should look and I give the actors freedom to explore.  By the time the play opens, my vision is realized.   I have worked with several playwrights on more than one occasion.  One of those playwrights, Steve Sliver, wrote a part for me in one of his plays and then he also wrote another one for me to star in. Another playwright, James Crafford, asked me to play a part in one of his plays.  I don’t normally act and now I consider myself a director who acts.  All were very fun or hard and humbling experiences.”  

Irving Greenfield made himself available to the cast and creatives when Ms. Waugh was directing his play, One More Time.  This desire to be involved led to a wonderful working relationship between Mr. Greenfield and Ms. Waugh.  “I believe I met Irving Greenfield in 2015 when I directed his play, One More Time.  Irving would like to pop into rehearsals, one to see how things were going and to see if the actors had any questions.  I enjoyed every time he came by. Irv was great with sharing what made him write the play and what part of the play was from his life experience.  In this play, the main character wrote novels under a woman’s name.  The most wonderful part of that bit of information is that my lead, Ken Coughlin was able to find one of his novels under the nom de plume and we had the book on stage throughout the run of the play.”

Mr. Greenfield’s presence and openness led to a positive and productive working relationship with Ms. Waugh and The American Theatre of Actors.  “I enjoyed working with Irving.  He loved coming to rehearsals.  Irving always shared his life experiences with us.  Irving would allow us to make minor adjustments to his plays. He loved that I loved his writing.  He told me more than once that, I got him, and he enjoyed my vision of his plays all with the help of Ken Coughlin my technical director.”

These are just some of the many behind the scenes tales that Ms. Waugh has from her time directing some other Greenfield Plays.  “The two plays that really stand out for me are P.O.W. and BANNED IN BISBEE.  Irving took something that happened in Korea and moved it to Vietnam.  I felt that this was brilliant because as a nation we were okay with the Korean War, but the Vietnam War brought great strife to our country.  People becoming draft dodgers, burning our flag, draft cards and moving to Canada.  When our boys came back from Vietnam, they were spit on, most of the men and women who fought over there, won’t talk about it.  The play was about a teacher reading a short story to his English class, which gets him arrested, throw into the brig and set up for a court-martial.  We asked the audience to decide his fate.”

REVIEWER ROUNDTABLE: IMPOSSIBE BUT TRUE has “So much talent in one room!”

Dan Furman’s immersive musical event, IMPOSSIBLE BUT TRUE! boasts being a tavern musical. Not only is it just that, it’s also an inspired retelling of a Washington Irving classic tale peppered with clever nods to history – and life.

Touring taverns in Brooklyn and New York, Furman’s ensemble of talented and energetic performers tells the story of Rip van Winkle with a full flagon of topical references.

IMPOSSIBLE BUT TRUE’s Rip still disappears for 20 years but it’s due to PTSD from serving in the Revolutionary War. The character of Rip’s hot-tempered wife, Rebecca, is expanded and we learn about how she helped lead a battle against the British.

Molly Bremer, Laura Bright, Timothy Jacob Brown, John Calabrese, Joe Castinado, RJ Christian, Julia Fein, Ace McCarthy and Amalia Sancholuz, sing, dance, and share the story at your table, in the aisles, at the bar, and in front of the piano in this rousing musical that brings you into the world of a small Hudson Valley tavern in revolutionary America.

Kath Saxby says it’s the thoroughly enjoyable, immersive experience impressed her thanks to the poetry and lyricism of the songs which added ballast to the abundant humor. She offered the observation that “the story, set at the time of the revolutionary war, should have so much resonance in today’s political landscape.”

Vienna Carroll echoed her sentiment, “I really loved the immersive quality of it all!!  I loved the diversity of the cast, the beautiful music, the great acting and singing.  And the wonderful food!”

As you are in a tavern, food and drink is part of the entire experience.

Cynthia Shaw happily chimed in: “What a stunning performance last night of a new musical, “Impossible…but True” by Dan Furman! We saw it at Balboa in Crown Heights, where the show will perform again tonight. Then back at The Old Stone House in Park Slope and then on to SoHo Playhouse. Amazing, lyrical and slightly Sondheim-esque music and lyrics by the super talented Dan, and wonderfully engaged performances by the cast with standout singing by the lead, RJ Christian, who plays Rip Van Winkle. But all of the performers were fantastic and I just couldn’t take my eyes off of them. The music, the staging, everything – fantastic! Don’t miss this wonderful new musical. I can’t wait to see where it goes from here!”

Dawn Reel loved the show and even the price, “Very professional—I would have expected to pay a lot more for a show of this quality.” She professed to not exaggerate when she said “Dan Furman is genius; his lyrics are sophisticated and tunes memorable.” Her observation on the cast was that their performances were far more mature and engaging than their years suggest. She is to be commended for noticing a table of children (obviously with a parent as this is a tavern) was engaged through the entire show.

CM Soto concluded with “Such a lovely production and very creative use of space. So much talent in one room!”

IMPOSSIBLE BUT TRUE returns to The Old Stone House, 336 3rd Street, Brooklyn, NY,
October 28 & 29 @ 7:30 pm before going Off-Broadway at the Huron Club of the Soho Playhouse, 15 Vandam Street, New York City on November 6 & 7 at 7:30 pm.

Discussing Fantasy with Roger Griffin

Roger Griffin Interview

 Roger Griffin has successfully dedicated his life to the arts.  He possesses vast expertise in multiple facets of the arts both in performance and behind the scenes.  He used his scenic design skills to create an idyllic living environment for himself and his wife.   Not only can he build his own bridge, which he did but he can weave a tale about the troll who lives beneath it and write songs for all the fairy tale characters who cross it!  “I am 72 years old and the new kid on the block in NYC. I’ve lived at 16 different addresses in 7 states. I’ve been a song writer, actor, scene designer, director, film and video producer, and the lyricist and/or book writer for four musicals. I am a private person who prefers the quiet solitude of a house in the country to the hustle and bustle of city life. In 2015 my wife and I moved into an environmentally friendly home in the woods, which we designed ourselves, and where I have cleared my own walking trails and built my own wooden bridge across a 30ft wide ravine. Deer and fox parade past my office window daily against a backdrop of trees bathed half the year in a magical light intimately known to both woodlands and artists alike.”

Mr. Griffin might not mind the nickname, “Al in Wonderland” considering how his passion for fairy tales and his artistic testament to the work of Lewis Carroll created new Jabberwockian works for all to enjoy.  His other fairy tale musical, After Happily Ever After had a happy ending for Mr. Griffin.  He tells us all about his lovely journey with these two pieces.  “I am an unabashed romantic, reveling in stories of magic and myth – the eternal gateways at the divide between the real and the imagined, connecting one to the other and revealing truth and mystery in the process.

Jabberwocky, Stuff and Nonsense
Lewis Carroll’s nonsense poems have always appealed to the child in me and in the early 90’s I recorded the title track as a Christmas present for friends and relatives with children. Some years later, while cleaning out old files, I came across the recording again and was inspired to record a selection of Carroll’s poems to add to “Jabberwocky” and create a compilation CD. Last year I came across several animations of “Jabberwocky” online that inspired me to make a video using my recording and illustrations I commissioned from Yvette Gilbert, an artist based in the UK whose work appealed to my aesthetic. I envisioned an ancient warriors tale for the piece and supplied Yvette with mockups of the characters and monsters as I thought they might look. Then she created wonderful pen and inked watercolor illustrations which I used to create both a video and an eBook of the “Jabberwocky” poem.

The video is used on the homepage of the website:

where the eBook for “Jabberwocky” and the audio files for 9 nonsense poems may be purchased.”

 After Happily Ever After, (AHEA) began as three ten-minute musicals performed as part of the Monday Night Musicals series at Theater Building Chicago’s Writer’s Workshop,f or which I wrote the “book” and Susan DiLallo wrote lyrics. Thirteen years later, I was invited to New York by Tony Award-winning producer Ken Davenport to join his mastermind group for theatremakers. While in New York, I reconnected with Susan, who had returned to the city some years earlier.  Laughing about how much fun we had in Chicago writing our fractured fairy tale musicals, we agreed that light-hearted entertainment was just what we ALL needed coming out of the pandemic and decided to expand upon the stories we wrote in Chicago to create a full-length musical that would be just as much fun for others as it was for us!  Susan introduced me to award winning composer Stephen Weiner and he joined us to create a brand-new score.” “With themes of redemption, second chances, endings becoming new beginnings, what happens at the conclusion of 3 famous fairy tales became “After Happily Ever After.” I submitted our show for consideration to The Players Theatre Self-Production Residency program and, by so doing, became the de facto producer when AHEA was selected for the May 2022 Residency. We held a table read at The Players Theatre in November 2021, then undertook rewrites based on that reading. In May 2022 AHEA became the first Residency Production in the history of the program ever to be granted an extended run.  The target audience for Jabberwocky, Stuff and Nonsense is children of all ages 6 to 102 and for After Happily Ever After, high school to adult age and of course musical lovers.”

Mr. Griffin loves the whole process of writing the book, music and lyrics.  He’s hoping his audiences walk away happy from having a positive theatre experience.  “I want the audiences to walk away with a delight in the fun, feeling uplifted, and enlightened by the soft messages.”

The current political climate is not really impacting Mr. Griffin’s play in terms of it changing.  “I am attracted to work with strong emotional centers and a sense of fun, with an emphasis on what makes us the same v.s. what divides us.”

Since the first time around was such a success with an unprecedented extended run at The Players Theatre, Mr. Griffin would love to see AHEA return to Off-Broadway and beyond.  “We are currently seeking another developmental production with a theatre interested in developing new work like AHEA, with the ultimate goal of a return to Off-Broadway and/or licensing.”

Mr. Griffin has a brand-new production in the works and will be tweaking AHEA.  “Next will be rewrites for AHEA and The Piper ‘unfaithfully adapted from “The Pied Piper of Hamelin” by Robert Browning.”  Here’s hoping his career continues to have a fairy tale ending and that all of his work lives happily ever after!

Griffin with Broadway producer, Ken Davenport

A Good Scary Story

Go It Alone Novella Review by Jen Bush

It’s difficult to review Go It Alone without giving away key aspects of the plot that should remain a surprise for the enjoyment of the reader.  It’s better for the reader to be shocked and not see what’s coming with spoiler alerts from a review.

Sutter Krypton is the main character of the story.  At first glance he appears to be a garden variety sadistic remorseless serial killer.  His capture is top priority for law enforcement.  He’s finally captured after committing a heinous act on a mother and her child, but all is not as it seems.  A shadow of doubt is cast as to whether they got the right man.  I’ll just say, they did, and they didn’t.

By page 6 you’ll be both repulsed and riveted.  This novella goes down roads that are not even paved yet.  There are twists galore all the way through to the end of the story.  Monster Smith’s innovative plot pulls from the genres of horror, slasher flick and sci-fi with the execution of the story remaining in the realm of horror.  

The writing is straightforward, highly descriptive and keeps the story flowing like the blood from Sutter Krypton’s victims.  The characters all have unique names, especially the main character.  There is plenty of tension and anticipation that will keep the readers on the edge of their seats.  You might not want to be alone when you read Go It Alone.  Monster Smith wrote a monster of a novella just in time for Halloween! 

Stars and Stags: A chat with playwright, Tommy LeVrier

Interview by Jen Bush

Tommy LeVrier penned the powerful new play about to premier called Carson & Huston.  This piece based on a true account tells the story of a meeting between writer Carson McCullers and director John Huston. This play runs in rep with At Least he didn’t Die with Antlers on his head! at theatre for the New City in September.

Hailing from Texas where he received a Master’s in playwrighting and directing, Mr. LeVrier had the honor and distinction of having two of his plays produced by Edward Albee and Lanford Wilson.  You might recognize their names as two of the greatest playwrights that ever lived.  Mr. LeVrier is a Lone Star Award winner for excellence in journalism.  His plays have been produced all over the country.

We are very fortunate to hear directly from this talented artist how the journey for this play began.  “When I was 16, a friend of mine loaned me a book called The Member of the Wedding by Carson McCullers. It has remained my favorite book and play of all time. I am amazed that more people do not know about Carson McCullers as I consider her to be the best writer that America has produced. Member of the Wedding I consider to be both the best American novel AND play.”

“I heard about the meeting between Carson and John Huston probably in one of the biographies of both artists. This meeting inspired me to write the play. I started with a ten-minute play and then made it into a one act. Eventually I added a second act.”

 Mr. LeVrier’s creative process occurs in layers.  Each layer is dependent upon the success of the previous layer eventually culminating in a two-act play.  “This is my process of writing. I find a good idea and I write a short ten-minute play. See how it holds up, and if it does, write a short one act. If it holds up, I turn it into a two-act play. That is my process.”

There are certain things that Mr. LeVrier hopes that the audience will take away from seeing this play including an appreciation for Ms. McCullers.  “I hope the result of this play is that people will show an interest in Carson McCullers. I also hope that people will see that her relationship with Daisy shows the two were way ahead of their time in terms of racial relations. I think Carson’s determination to succeed despite her lifelong invalid status will inspire others.”

Artists as well as theatre goers are weighing in on what theatre should be like post-COVID.  ‘I hope post-COVID will result in more freedom in theater and less of the intolerance we are seeing today.

Mr. LeVrier’s works have been met with success all over the country.  “My plays have been produced in New York (American Theatre of Actors), Seattle, Los Angeles, Houston, and Austin. Two of my plays, Phoebe and Rapture Among the Oysters, were produced by Edward Albee and Lanford Wilson. I have also published three books with another South Peeveetoe, Texas along the way.”

This compelling description of Mr. LeVrier’s plays should have people curious enough to get in line for tickets.  “My plays have been described as, “Horton Foote meets Sam Shepard and slams into Tennessee Williams.” Edward Albee described my work as, “provocative, often deeply disturbing, but leavened with a life-saving if dark sense of humor.”

Next up, Mr. LeVrier would like to see his current plays performed in front of bigger audiences.  “What is next for me is to see Carson done on a bigger stage. This is our second production of At Least He Didn’t Die with Antlers on his Head! I plan to see more productions of this play with the same cast.”  Here’s hoping his productions go as long as a country mile!

Maybe Bonnie Screws Up but the Podcast is a HIT!

Bonnie Screws Up Review by Jen Bush

Seda Anbarci is a filmmaker hailing from Istanbul, Turkey.  Her most recent project which she wrote and directed is a comedic podcast called Bonnie Screws Up.  It’s produced by a company called Aural Stories which produces stories about women for an audience of women.

So far there are 3 episodes of Bonnie Screws Up ranging from 15 minutes to 28 minutes in length.  Bonnie Martinez is an A-list actress on a popular mystery web series.  Her disdain for schmoozing and playing phony Hollywood games gets her in hot water.  She breaks N.D.A.’s and can’t seem to keep from having clumsy run ins with a television executive the likes of which are usually seen on sitcoms.  Her agent keeps sending her on dates with higher ups when she just wants to drink with Duante Smith, a bartender she stalks on social media.

In Episode 1, Bonnie is sent on a date with network executive Wesley Adams.  Despite her protests, she reluctantly goes on the date.  Adams lays the sleaze on thick which makes Bonnie squirm.  She asserts herself and the date ends disastrously.  Her agent Leslie who also produces the show she is the lead on, Special Cases is less than pleased.  She insists that Bonnie makes it right with Wesley Adams.  The fate of the web series depends on it.

In Episode 2, Bonnie is dealing with the aftermath of the Adams debacle while simultaneously having a meltdown over the fact that she broke her N.D.A. yet again.  We meet Bonnie’s co-star Madison who will stop at nothing to climb the ladder of fame no matter who she has to step on first. 

In Episode 3, Bonnie tries to make it right with Wesley Adams but she makes it oh so wrong.  She finally gets to interact with her martini making crush and his weird fanboy friend. 

Bonnie Screws Up is a humorous series that pokes fun at the shenanigans that go on behind the scenes in Hollywood.  From sleazy executives to backstabbing co-stars and a preposterous premise for a web series, Bonnie Screws Up takes us on a fun romp through the eyes of a fed-up actress.  The really refreshing thing about this series is that it’s giving proper representation to underrepresented groups of people.  How many A-list Hollywood leading ladies are Latina?  Not enough!  Bonnie Martinez is and she is ideally portrayed by Clara Navarro with a lovely Spanish accent.

Seda Anbarci wrote a cohesive narrative that flows well and is filled with good humor.  It had a soap opera/sitcom vibe to it.  Clara Navarro shines as the frustrated Bonnie who does not suffer fools gladly and wants a hot bartender to tend to her longing heart.  The whole cast brought these stereotypical Hollywood caricatures to life in a lively manner.  Bonnie Screws Up gets a big thumbs up.