MICHAEL HAGINS on THEATRE ROW: Actor Roundtable

Cast Interviews for S.U.N. In The U.S.A.

Michael Pichardo, Michael Whitten, Jeremy Goren and Stephanie Cox

Michael Hagins is a gifted playwright who has a very important story to tell.  His play, S.U.N. In The U.S.A. which is part of The Broadway Bound Theatre Festival is set to run on June 25th.  Four talented members of the cast took some time to offer their ideas and perspectives about the play, the arts and what live theater is like as pandemic life improves.

Michael Pichardo:

Michael Pichardo plays multiple roles in this production.  His varied interests probably serve him well when he is developing characters.  “I am a fan of hip-hop culture, television crime dramas, comics, and cooking.”

Mr. Pichardo was drawn to this play because injustices are being silenced and this play sheds a light on a difficult truth to swallow.  “At a time when legislators are trying to stricken and outlaw critical race theory, it felt necessary, through art, to be a part of the reflection on how resulting racism is still perpetuated to this day.” 

Mr. Pichardo has a solid and straightforward creative process.  “I research, observe, know the lines, and finally, let go of the script.” 

Sometimes artists feel an added sense of responsibility when undertaking a work with a serious or topically charged subject.  Mr. Pichardo understands the implications of presenting a play with sensitive content.  “There is absolutely an added responsibility, especially when you want the audience to understand the tension and deeper meaning around the subject.”

Mr. Pichardo realizes that the pandemic changed the way we think about things and sees what needs to change.  “Perspectives on life have changed and we need more acknowledgement on mental and spiritual health.” 

Mr. Pichardo will carry on with his chosen path and we look forward to seeing where the road takes him.  “What’s next is to continue walking on the journey of a working actor.”

Stephanie Cox:

Stephanie Cox portrays the role of Connolly in S.U.N. In The U.S.A.  Her artistic journey took a lot of interesting and creative turns.  She can sing, she can act and she’s bloody good with special effects.  “I came to NYC to study and perform in musical theater. My artist life led me to performing in 2 NYC bands, working and producing with an indie theater company called Nosedive Production and then co-creating with two of the producers in Nosedive, a series and a company called Blood Brothers Present.  During this time I found I had a skill in gore and SFX for stage and began also working with multiple indie theater companies and indie films. After about 7 years I was recognized with a New York Independent Theater Award for Best Innovative Design in Hard Spark’s “R&J&Z”. Recently I have been performing in the long-running show “It’s Getting Tired Mildred”, directing some projects and preparing to produce a cabaret in the Fall.”

Ms. Cox was drawn to this piece because she felt her skill set was a good match for the production.  “Besides the script being brilliant and being a fan of Michael’s work, after watching the Zoom presentation I really saw the potential of this piece and had a vision for it. It really felt like a horror piece drenched in reality. With my background for producing and directing horror, along with a background in music-to assist with the interstitials, I felt like I could create a successful production.” 

Ms. Cox’s creative process was multi-tiered and included research and collaborating with fellow artists.  “My creative process really depends on the project. In this case I began to dive into spiritual music going back as far as I could. I was looking for music from the show but also wanted to know more of the history as well. I also talked to the cast who was in it previously and what they thought of the characters.  I did history research on these characters and the time period.  As I do have a dance background I tend to look at blocking as a cross between dancing formation and marching band formation. “

Ms. Cox agrees that when undertaking a piece with serious or topically charged subject matter, an added sense of responsibility sometimes falls into the laps of the artists presenting it.  Yes!  A lot of our horror plays were “ripped from the headlines” that our playwrights dramatized for the stage while producing “Blood Brothers Present”.  These were real people with real horror happening. This is where I fell with S.U.N.  It’s finding the reality in the drama while still making it entertaining, however thought and emotionally provoking.

The pandemic presented unique challenges to the performing arts world.  Health and safety changes were obvious effects.  There were some positive things that came out of it as well.  “Finding the silver lining-not taking theater for granted anymore. Yes there are less shows, yes there is now another roadblock to indie producers and new artists to get their productions in front of people due to the possibility of being shut down because of COVID.  It makes each theatrical production one gets to see or create as precious.”  

In addition to her long standing gig, Ms. Cox will be saying, “come to the cabaret!” in the fall. “It’s Getting Tired Mildred” and my character Florence  is coming back in September and producing (hopefully) a multi-disciplinary cabaret in October.”

Michael Whitten:

Michael Whitten is playing several roles in S.U.N. In The U.S.A.  He uses his artistic gifts to teach and has the desire to enact positive changes in this world.  “I am an actor and teaching artist here in New York City. I began working as a teaching artist while still in college, and this work influenced how I view the role of theatre as a tool for education and change. The stories we share and how we share them can have an incredible impact on the audience and our world. I hope the work I do has a positive impact and helps change the world for the better.”

Michael Hagins has a lot of repeat customers who are eager to work with him again.  Mr. Hagins’ work, professionalism and a shared vision is what drew Mr. Whitten to the play.  “I’ve worked with Michael Hagins before and have always been impressed with his work as a playwright. He doesn’t really pull any punches, especially in this show, and forces the audience to face the realities of the treatment of Black people in this country. Growing up as a white kid in Georgia, I was surrounded by the impression that the Civil Rights Movement happened and then racism was over. Then President Obama was elected and racism was definitely over, right? The events of the last two years have made it clear that’s never been the case. We have the opportunity to actually address racism and systemic oppression and this play helps keep that conversation and push for change going.”

Mr. Whitten’s creative process involves flexibility.  “I like to give myself the opportunity to play and try things differently than I did the last time. I often find things that work unexpectedly in moments that I’ll hold onto, or I get a sense of what doesn’t work. I also like to let things sit and simmer. There have been many times when, after rehearsal or working on lines, that I’m sitting on the subway or going for a walk, and I will have a sudden thought of, “Ohhhh, that’s why Calhoun says this here,” or “Wait… why haven’t I tried this tactic before?”

When a piece deals with serious or topically charged subject matter, artists sometimes take on an added responsibility to bring the work to the stage in a sensitive manner.   “Typically, I feel a duty as an actor to the playwright to honor the story they’ve crafted. When a show has such an important subject like this one, there’s an added layer of responsibility to make sure the conversations about racism and systemic oppression continue and lead to real change.” 

Along with the pandemic came broad changes for every aspect of life and things that most certainly need to change.  “The pandemic was an opportunity for us to collectively come together to solve a problem, but it felt like a group project in school where not everyone was contributing. So while I would like to have hope that we could solve problems together, I’m worried that we won’t be able to address racism, oppression, inequality, and climate change effectively because some people will refuse to acknowledge that these issues even exist.”

This altruistic artist doesn’t have any immediate theatrical plans, but something is sure to come along so he can continue to use his power of art for good endeavors.  “I haven’t auditioned much since the pandemic began, so while I don’t have an upcoming show, I’m looking forward to getting back to it. Hopefully, I’ll be able to update you on upcoming shows soon!”

Jeremy Goren:

Jeremy Goren plays several roles in the exciting upcoming production of S.U.N. In The U.S.A.  He uses his multiple skill sets to include the community in his work when he can.  “I tend to work on new plays and devised works, often edging into community engagement, in various roles, including director, performer, and producer. Leading devised work I explore creation methods and performance styles in relation to experiments with performance-event formats and socio-historical issues. Often this work edges into community engagement and/or social practice.”

Mr. Hagins has another member of the fan club.  It was a long-standing artistic relationship and a shared vision that drew Mr. Goren to this production.  “I’ve known Michael Hagins since I started in NY theatre almost 20 years ago. His dedication to making theatre, his passion, his courage — and his plays — I hold in extremely high esteem. And the content of the play is of utmost urgency in our society — and shares a realm with my primary artistic concerns around myth making, especially as it applies to US history.”

Mr. Goren’s creative process varies for each role using prior knowledge from his solid foundation of valued teachers.  “My creative process is different for each project and each role. My ways of working artistically owe a lot to years of training with Polina Klimovitskaya, Mario Biagini— and my elementary-school teacher and first devised-theatre director, Lydia Moser. And I hope it keeps changing, especially as we find ourselves in the midst of a fissure of potentiality in American theatre thanks to the water troublers of this generation- including Michael- who constantly prod the art form into change it won’t make by inertia.” 

Mr. Goren feels that every work an artist undertakes comes with a strong sense of responsibility whether the subject matter is serious or not.  “I think we should encounter every work with a high level of responsibility – not only because we should be selective about what we make and should with every project ask ourselves: “Why do this piece? What for, and why now?” – but also because the ways we make even the most inconsequential story come to life – both creative and producing choices – are also all ethical and political — and therefore “serious” – regardless of the most obvious themes. But let’s also not confuse important with serious- comedy is one of the most effective ways of blowing up the status quo.”

Mr. Goren provides some insightful perspectives on what has changed and what should change as a result of the pandemic.  “I think many of us saw a lot of possibilities for change poke out of the ground during the past two years. Maybe because of a renewed sense of the fragility of life- or the awakening to how essential community and collective actions are to the survival of this seemingly bulletproof nation and the world, how passivity and complacency can tip the balance of the world towards greater chaos and oppression. Particularly the people who took to and stayed in the streets after police killed George Floyd and Breonna Taylor. And those who spoke out and to the US theatre world and riddled with truth the lies of “progressiveness” that have shielded it. Lots of statements and acknowledgements and Zoom convening and trainings and intentions. But what happens as the compulsion to return to normal overwhelms all that? And the seemingly unshakeable realities of the capitalist machine? And the fact that many of us white people don’t stay in the fight if it disturbs our personal situations, won’t share power, won’t make change a priority or insist that it happen through proper channels. Some people are really making changes. It looks like (maybe) more plays by BIPOC playwrights are being put on, maybe some more funding and opportunities towards folks from marginalized identities. But are there really systemic changes happening? And how do we forge the new ways forward together? Let’s see.” 

After this production, Mr. Goren has a plethora of wonderful endeavors to carry him forth on his artistic journey.  “I recently joined AnomalousCo as a Co-Artistic Director, where in March and April we produced several performance/events in support of Ukrainian folks fleeing the Russian invasion and where we have several other projects gestating. I’m also currently serving as an Artist Facilitator for Target Margin Theatre’s Here & Now oral storytelling project, meeting Sunset Park neighbors and talking about our stories with an eye towards crafting some for performance. And, I’m in continued development for a premier run of Saviana Stanescu’s Zebra 2.0, a new rom-com play about AI, immigration, consciousness, and the human condition. “

The Theatre Tattler is SOMEWHERE BETWEEN MARS AND VENUS

SOMEWHERE BETWEEN MARS AND VENUS by Yvonne Tutelli, The Theatre Tattler


I have to stop blaming others, I thought as I made my way into Wild Project Theatre to catch Fresh Fruit Festival’s opening nite of Somewhere Between Mars and Venus, written and directed by Otto Sanchez. Owning up to who one is– Is the working theme of the evening. Owning up without blame.

As the lights came up, Juana (Otto Sanchez) encounters Anika (Angelita Romero). Through their first meeting, the audience is lifted into their tale, traversing into and through numerous times spans, transitions, diverse family pods, and flashbacks. The language is lovely, as are the characterizations and the work of the actors that crafted them, both rich and poignant.

Juana and Angelita meet in a bar, recognizing each other for who they each are, and we are off.

Through the years of their friendship, their grappling struggle with self-identity plays out. The flashbacks lay the land as we are taken back to the same weekend gay marriage became legal, the summer of 2015, with a trip back in time to 1982, which explains a lot. Juana loves sex. “Sex makes the suffering go away. It make life go on. It’s necessary and its fun!”

Well on many levels, I guess that’s true. Who can dispute that? Juana meets his star-crossed love, culturally Jewish trans-person (Anika), a trans-beauty recently over her recovery from reassignment surgery, as she goes about her life. Anika is present, vibrant, embracing her new freedom, wildly responsive to Juana’s self-described ‘old Puerto Rican queen’, who she picks up in a bar. Angelito Romero (Anika) is an amazing performer, committed to the core.

But who picked who?

“Being a woman and becoming a woman are two very separate things,” we are informed, “and it has nothing to do with what is between your legs!”

Good to know, but remember this is the this is logic from the same person who will say they are a “born-again virgin”, an inside joke if ever there was one. Again, something to ponder, but not for too long. Sanchez offers a gritty portrait of 80‘s New York: of the streets, of the bars, of relationships and agreements. Of choosing who you choose to be when you choose what/who you are not. Not because what you are isn’t, but because a determined decision has been reached about what you are not.

“Why are we born different? Why are we constantly rearranging the order of things? Juana asks. I don’t know. I can’t answer that question and it’s the grand slam question Sanchez as playwright and Sanchez as actor/director strive to shove all the way home.

As I pondered it, I felt a wave of relief wash over my God-given female anatomy, which I’ve kept, as is, no installments, no upgrades, happy to live as a woman and to not be an old sex-craven Nuyorican queen picking up a misunderstood he who has become she. Lord knows it’s complicated enough just navigating with the original apparatus. But now I’ve become interested in somebody who’s path isn’t mine. This is the true joy behind the entire Fresh Fruits Festival. But there, I’ve said it: I’m comfortably unashamedly a woman, and Juana and Anika are too, in their own way. They are all for all expressions of sexuality, sensuality, unleashed boundaries.

““Labels…Juan urges, “Cans need them- not people.”

Both Sanchez and Romero are stunning, blessed with opening nite charm. Supporting cast members Terry Lee Kind “Miss Guided” (who is the role), along with her sidekick J.L Perkel (Linda), inhabit the excursion back in time to Juana”s younger years, Perkel absolutely nailing it in scene after scene. Jonothan Weirich plays Morty Donovan, a raging TV talk show host with whom we are all too familiar. He brings wit and irony to the inciting nature of the mutinous daytime television era of calling out people for being who they are, and then making a big buck off of it.

Jose Coyoc is credited with choreography, stage tech and managerial duties. Great job!

I left the show with the greatest one-liner I’d not yet heard, and its my new bumper sticker, should I ever need one: “I’m straight and bendable and always dependable.” Thank you Juana and Company for an immersive evening.

“Why are we born different? Why are we constantly rearranging the order of things? Juana asks.

I don’t know. I can’t answer that question and it’s the grand slam question Sanchez as playwright and Sanchez as actor/director strive to shove all the way home. “

J. E. Robinson. SOLEDAD, part of TNC’s Dream-Up Festival, premieres in August/September

Theater for the New City, Crystal Field, Artistic Director, presents  another powerful stage work by playwright J. E. Robinson. SOLEDAD, part of the theatre’s Dream-Up Festival, will premiere at TNC, 155 1st Ave., New York City. Dates to be announced. 

The production will directed by Patricia Floyd, with Lawrence Floyd as stage manager (Cast to be announced shortly). 

Specializing in brief works with an historical base, celebrated playwright J.E. Robinson offers up an expressionistic tale taking place in a prison in 1934 just before Holy Week.  

Brother and Queenie wait in the colored chapel at Angola State Prison, Louisiana, for a Maundy Thursday foot washing, their last before their death sentences. Queenie gets into an altercation with another prisoner and is killed. In the second act, Queenie finds himself dining in the kitchen in Heaven with David, the New Orleans police officer who had Queenie sent to prison.

Deftly combining history and incendiary and timely topics, Robinson, using techniques popularized by Elmer Rice in the 1930s.  SOLEDAD explores the tribulations of the African American and LGBTQ communities.  

J.E. Robinson won great acclaim for his plays, Spades and The Strong Man. He is known for interjecting vivid characterizations of historical figures and events. An eminent professor of history for many years, Robinson also wrote essays, fiction, poetry, and Skip Macalester (2006), a young adult novel. He hails from Alton, Illinois. 

DOUBLE BLIND (review by Bill Fowkes)

DOUBLE BLIND is a 60-minute drama with a compelling story. The play does a good job of depicting the world of the medical profession–it reeks of authenticity. (Given that Berman is a member of that profession, that’s not surprising–but still, it’s to her credit that she makes that world real for those of us not in that profession.) The acting is generally quite good. I found the ER doctor (Dr. Georgianna Saunders), played by Valerie Stack Dodge, particularly good. Rachel Matusewicz, playing the main character, Dr. Diane Taub, also excelled in her role.

Some things in the story strain credulity. The ER doctor is unusually nasty and cruel at the beginning and then becomes quite wonderful and supportive later on. It’s hard to think that some of her good qualities wouldn’t show through in the earlier scenes. As currently written, it’s as if a light switch goes off and she becomes a completely different person. Dr. Robert Render is even more problematic. He is so relentlessly cruel, that he is a one-dimensional character. Too easy a villain. Also, the way he wears his Christianity on his sleeve is unsubtle and odd. It’s hard to believe he wouldn’t have been told by somebody along the way to moderate his behavior. Dr. Taub’s Jewishness is introduced as a complication and a problem in her relationship with Dr. Render, but this thread is dropped quickly rather than fully explored  . It might be interesting, for example, to find out where Dr. Render’s antisemitism comes from and how else it has manifested itself. 


The inter-racial relationship between Dr. Taub and her significant other (Bert Johnson) is a good element in the play. It’s a nice change to see this relationship treated as simply any other relationship would be and not made into a problem. This is not to say that a problematic relationship would be wrong–it would just make this a different play, and in that case would require much more stage time. I did, however, appreciate the moment when Diane calls Bert “bourgeois” and he pushes back that for his family, reaching the middle class was a significant achievement and not something to be mocked.


Regarding the physical production, the music between scenes was very good. The production as a whole was minimal, which is understandable given the venue and budgetary limitations for this kind of production. There was, however, one comical glitch. When the patient, Emily, died and the lights dimmed only partway, we then saw her rise up off the gurney like Lazarus, and the audience laughed. (It might be better to roll the gurney off so the audience doesn’t see that.)
In short, this is a good story with some fine acting.

Book Review: Veronica Moya would love to marry you! 

A Book Review by Jen Bush

There is a rainbow radiating above your head.  The angels are singing a heavenly tune.  You have just accepted a marriage proposal.  Let the wedding planning begin!  You book the $18,000 catering hall.  You hire the $7000 photographer.  You’re still smiling as your bank account has an existential crisis because you’re marrying the love of your life.  Your family is militantly eager to assist in the planning.  The tide turns as your mother adds 3 generations of plumbers to the guest list.  Aunt Eloise will only sit at an all-vegan table.  Your unemployed cousin can barely contain his excitement that the garage band he has been practicing with for 12 years can finally emerge from the garage to be your dedicated wedding band!  Your future in laws will boycott the wedding unless it’s officiated by a priest despite the fact that one of you is Jewish.  To keep peace in the family and to maintain sanity, you decide to elope.  With Veronica Moya’s book to guide you, you can still have a beautiful and memorable wedding without the drama and the stress.

Veronica Moya would love to marry you!  She’s a licensed and experienced wedding officiant, spiritual teacher, and speaker with a thriving metropolis elopement business.  She will even say bueno if you need a bilingual service since she was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina and speaks fluent Spanish.  Her business sense began when she was a teenager with her own party entertainment company.  Now her business has expanded and offers services to join couples in holy matrimony without them having to say holy cow to traditional wedding costs.  She wrote this highly informative 6-chapter guide to elopement in New York City.  This book specifically targets elopements and small intimate weddings.  If you want to get married at The Plaza or someplace like that, you’re looking for a different guide.  If you want to get married ON a plaza, this book is for you.  Her officiant experience aside, Ms. Moya definitely practiced what she preached because she herself eloped in New York City.  Speaking from her own experience, she will warmly guide you down the aisle of marriage with limited stress and immense joy.

How to Elope in New York City was a quick and easy read that was chock full of informative and practical advice.  It was written with delightful humor.  The six chapters cover legalities, the ceremony, the venue, vendors, the reception and troubleshooting in regard to weather and timing.  Each chapter thoroughly and thoughtfully encompasses each topic.  A cleverly worded element of the book entitled “Veronica’s I dos and I don’ts” in a text feature box provides the heart of the advice in each chapter.  There are stunning pictures of Ms. Moya’s own elopement.  This book was written specifically for weddings in New York City, but a lot of the advice is pertinent to any wedding large or small.

This book will bring starry eyed couples floating on clouds down to reality.  Ms. Moya emphasizes that what you see in movies and on TV is not what you will experience.    A lot of couples opt to marry at City Hall.  Did you know they only allot each couple about 45 seconds?  It takes a person 45 seconds to get down on one knee to propose!  That’s more like a game show than a nuptial.  Ms. Moya points out that in City Hall you take a number like you’re waiting in line at a deli.  I prefer my marriage without a turkey club.  City Hall sounds pretty impersonal.

If you nix City Hall and swap it for a ceremony atop the Empire State Building, you can forget that tall order.  Weddings are not allowed up there and you will have a security guard escort you down the aisle in the opposite direction!

Some really good advice was when to use professionals and where you can skimp on that a little.  A lot of people will enlist the help of friends to do things like officiate and take photographs.  Ms. Moya makes a good case for why that’s a bad idea.  Friends are emotionally invested in your lives.   With emotions already running so high that day, your friend’s heaving tears of joy could interfere with the spirit of the occasion.  With capturing the images, friends don’t have the trained eye or the impartiality that a professional photographer does.

Probably the best advice in the book was to expect the unexpected, especially with outdoor weddings.  Ms. Moya provides a comprehensive list of venues with pros and cons for each.  In public spaces, anything can happen.  Your wedding crashers will be far from the likes of Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson. 

Ms. Moya not only doles out expert advice but she’s humble too.  She didn’t write her book to hawk her own services.  Of course she mentions her company but she also encourages couples to do internet searches to find an elopement company that aligns with their vision.  She cares about people and wants a happy couple to start off happy right from the ceremony.  When you are ready to put a ring on it, give Ms. Moya a ring if you decide to elope.  She vows to give you a beautiful start to your wedded bliss. 

Play Doctor

Article by Jen Bush

Is there a doctor in the house?  There most certainly is only it’s a theatrical house and she’s the playwright.  This practicing psychiatrist’s depth of knowledge of the human psyche allows her to seamlessly transition between the two fields.  Ms. Berman brings an expert behavioral perspective to the playwrighting table which gives her the ability to create highly developed characters.  She learned her second craft at prestigious institutions and obtained a professional membership at a respected arts establishment. On top of it all, she’s a visual artist as well.  I’ve been writing plays since 2000, before that I just worked as a psychiatrist.  Now I’m doing both. I also paint in oils and acrylics.  I studied playwriting at the Neighborhood Playhouse and then at Primary Stages.  I’m a member of the Dramatist’s Guild where I’ve taken some courses.”

This play is based on true events, and it involves corporations that have been fixtures in the news lately.  “This play is based on a real event, but the names and places have been changed.  Big Pharma is really behind a lot of evil.”

Ms. Berman’s creative process is taking a seed of inspiration and nurturing it as it grows with the input of other writers.  “I get flashes of ideas that I write down and then work into a plausible script.  I run it by a writers’ group I’m in (DGPG).”

 A serious work with topically charged subject matter undertaken by an artist sometimes comes with an added responsibility when presenting the material.  “I do feel responsible for exposing how big companies and industries have influenced the medical profession.  Doctors and hospitals have unknowingly become tools for corporations.”  

The pandemic has created an inordinate amount of stress in every walk of life.  One can’t be too careful.  Ms. Berman is taking an active role in ensuring the safety of the cast, crew and audience for her play.  “The pandemic has made life extraordinarily difficult for all of us.  We are lucky to be alive.  We have to be so careful now.  I am the Covid Compliance Officer for my play.  We test and test and worry about Covid.”

Ms. Berman has already written two more plays.  Her body of work encompasses current topics that are important to shed light upon.  From exposing big pharma to writing about transgender issues perhaps her work can start conversations that enact positive change.  “I have written two plays since DOUBLE BLIND.  One is about a family dealing with a son transitioning into a daughter called TRANSNORMAL.  The other is called CLAUDIA LIVES AT THE SENECA about an older woman struggling with alcoholism and aging.”  Whether Ms. Berman is helping to heal the minds of patients or “doctoring” scripts, she plays an important role in the two worlds of her chosen professions.

David Willinger’s fascinating stage work on Existentialism comes to Theatre for the New City

Theater for the New City & Ananim Productions present a new play by David Willinger

EXISTENCE

A Theatre and Video Hybrid
155 1st Ave., New York City
June 9-19 (Th-Sat @ 8pm; Sun @ 3pm)  
Tickets: $18 and $15 for students and seniors

Visit https://theaterforthenewcity.net/ for reservations and further info

Theatre veteran David Willinger helms an exciting hybrid showcase of live theatre experience coupled with video featuring
Espirito Domingo, Sharendelle Murga, Robert Striker, and Hanna Ventura.

The play takes us to the Philosophy Institute at an urban university holding a conference on Existentialism with famous speakers, descendants of four famous existentialists. An essay contest is announced. Three graduate students are announced as the finalists – including Enrique, Liora, and Matthias. They will have 24 hours to write an essay on the subject of Existence. They travel to all the five boroughs of New York, looking for inspiration for their essays. In their travels, they go to real and imaginary places, all of which suggest the infinite. As they go, they fight, make love, sleep, and dream, have realizations, engage in rituals, take Covid tests, get sick, happen upon a life-changing holy relic, come upon a lethal protest demonstration, and finally write their essays. The play is written in a magical realist style suggestive of dreams and hallucinations.

DAVID WILLINGER

A native New Yorker, David Willinger has been active in the theatre for decades. As an actor, David was seen on the stages of The Theatre East, The Mercer Arts Center, The Manhattan Theatre Club, the Provincetown Playhouse, the Mahopac Playhouse, the Dorset Playhouse, and in college productions, among others. He exchanged acting for directing and writing. Credits include Andrea’s Got Two Boyfriends (published by DPS and performed all over the country – and even in Poland), Malcolm’s Time, Frida y Diego, Bombing the Cradle, Caprichos, and The Trail of Tears: A Drama from the Historical Record, written with Peggy Dean. His play Out of Their Minds about James Joyce’s eccentric daughter Lucia and her affair with the young Samuel Beckett, was produced at New Media.

He has adapted and directed such novels as Joseph Conrad’s Secret Agent, Camus’s The Stranger, Carson McCullers’s Heart is a Lonely Hunter, Paul Willems’ The Wound, Dickens’ Martin Chuzzlewit, Ibarguengoitìa’s The Dead Girls, and William Saroyan’s novel Rock Wagram under the title The Upper Lip. Has written the book and lyrics for the musical The Open Gate with music by Arthur Abrams, based on Isaac Bashevis Singer’s epic novel, The Manor, and for a musical version of Thomas Hardy’s famous novel called Casterbridge with Christopher Beste. He also wrote book and lyrics for The Tale of Teiresias and the Idiot that ran at Hartley House Theatre as well as an opera based on Hugo Claus’s The Life and Works of Leopold II with Hellmuth Dusedau, composing. He has directed at TNC, La Mama, Interartheatre, HERE, the Laurie Beecham Theatre, the Avalon Repertory Company, and the Cubiculo, all in New York, as well as for the Ambassador Theatre in Washington D.C. He has directed world premières of Eduardo Machado’s Don Juan in NYC, Serge Goriely’s The Sorcerers, Adrienne Kennedy’s Diary of Lights as well as co-directing her Solo Voyages together with Joseph Chaikin. On Jewish subjects he has directed René Kalisky’s Jim the Lionhearted as well as Hanoch Levin’s Job’s Passion and Winter Wedding. As professor of theatre at City College of NY, he has directed such large-scale productions as King Lear, Richard III, Twelfth Night, The Cherry Orchard, Mary Gallagher’s De Donde? Ionesco’s Rhinoceros, Gorky’s Enemies, Edward Ravenscroft’s The London Cuckolds, and such musicals as Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, Promenade, The Wiz, Little Shop of Horrors. He has co-authored the screenplay for the film Take the Bridge, and both written and directed the full-length feature movie Lunatics, Lovers, and Actors. He has 9 published anthologies of play translations from French and Dutch to his credit, and also recently published Ivo van Hove Onstage with Routledge. He has won two Fulbright fellowships, three Jerome Foundation Grants, A Drama-Logue Award, a BAEF fellowship, a Peg Santvoordt Foundation grant, a Translation Center award, etc. He studied and worked with Joseph Chaikin, with Arlen Digitale, at HB Studios and, chiefly with Eve Shapiro, at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts.

Lisa Shalom Words-on-Film: Claire De Lune

               

Review by Jen Bush

As a poet, Lisa Shalom has taken the spoken word artform and cultivated it with a unique style. Through her poetry classes and workshops, this humanitarian artist also uses her skillful talents in a therapeutic manner, facilitating deeper self-expression for youths and adults.

Part II in the series, Au Claire De La Lune, is a French folk song composed in the 1800’s. It means, by the light of the moon. Ms. Shalom and her angelic voice do a lovely version of the tune. We see a stunning butterfly take an evening flight against the backdrop of a prominent moon. The earth opens along the way and houses spring up from the ground. The butterfly visits the houses along an exhausting journey, eventually succumbing to death and falls into the earth where a rich green leaf emerges in its place. The cycle of life and death is a prominent theme here. Rebirth and renewal ensure that nothing every really leaves this earth for good.

The rendition of the song is simply beautiful. The artistic video quality earned the video a nomination for best stop motion video at the 10th International Stop Motion Festival in Montreal and a selection for a special screening at the industry cocktail. It is a perfect marriage of animation and stop motion techniques set to haunting vocals.  A traditional song in French with a brand new melody and spun into an odd-beat rhythm in a cycle of 9, this version of the song is a tip of the hat to Ms. Shalom’s French-Canadian roots and showcases her exceptional abilities as a rhythmic wordsmith.

Performing a tragedy

REVIEW OF “TIANANMEN REQUIEM” by Carol W. Berman, M.D.

How shocked we all were when we heard about students and other people being killed in Tiananmen Square on June 4, 1989. Seeing the play, “Tiananmen Requiem” reminded me of those feelings.  The playwright presents two stories at once, a modern one of a Chinese man, Wang Yang (played by Charles Pang) and his daughter, Alyssa (played by Karina Wen), and the same man (Wang) when he was young and with his lover, Shuyin (played by Michael Benzinger) an artist.  Of course, their gay love was forbidden under the Chinese regime.  Shuyin is an easy-going man, believing that things will work out, while Wang is an uptight soldier.  The artist (Shuyin) goes to Tiananmen Square with his friends to protest the government with a hunger strike. (Spoiler Alert: Wang gives Shuyin a gun for protection but the consequences are fatal when this weapon is discovered on him. Wang cannot bring himself to fire on the students and is disgraced because of this.)

All these years, Alyssa had believed that her father (Wang) escaped China for better financial circumstances, but she learns that he was dishonored because he didn’t shoot the students.  Not able to tolerate his ostracism, he fled China.  I found the play enjoyable and realistic, but friends accompanying me said they could not believe the gay relationships or the characters themselves. It is an important time in Chinese history that should be explored further.

It’s Queer how this play resembles Nora Ephron

Erin Shea Brady’s clever comedy exploring the life of a queer, polyamorous writer in Chicago peppered with a whiff of Nora Ephron will premiere as part of the Fresh Fruit “Return to Live Theatre” Festival.

“You’re a Weirdo, Annie Best” by Erin Shea Brady

Produced by Juliet Roll in association with the Fresh Fruit Festival. 
Covid Compliance overseen by Leah Ableson 

Friday 5/6 at 6:30 pm
Sunday 5/8 at 5:30 pm
Monday 5/9 at 8:15 pm 


Annie Best is a writer living in Chicago. She is queer, polyamorous, recently estranged from her family and at a creative standstill. When one of Annie’s partners convinces her to dive into the world of Nora Ephron’s great romantic comedies, Annie begins to see her life through the Ephron lens. Annie imagines scenes and conversations, paying homage to When Harry Met Sally, Sleepless in Seattle and Julie & Julia, among others, as she sits with the beauty and discomfort of the life she has chosen. Along the way, as seasons pass, romantic relationships develop and change with faith and family coming into question. At the end of the play, Annie reconnects with her father, finally finding the courage to stand on her own.

Erin Shea Brady is a writer, director and social worker living in Chicago, IL. As a playwright, Erin has developed two plays (Revival and Chaos Theory, or something about butterflies) with the Jackalope Playwrights Lab. Directing credits include: Grace, or the Art of Climbing and Everybody (Brown Paper Box Co.); Cabaret; Annapurna (staged reading) and The Rise and Fall of Little Voice (No Stakes Theater Project). Assistant Directing and Dramaturgy credits include productions at the Goodman, Jackalope, TimeLine, A Red Orchid, Northlight, and Remy Bumppo. Erin is a graduate of the directing program at Columbia College Chicago, has participated in the internship program at Steppenwolf and was part of Goodman’s “Criticism in a Changing America” bootcamp. Erin has been a company member with Brown Paper Box Co. and The Wampus Cat Collective, is a contributing writer and critic at Newcity Stage, and is a practicing therapist with a Masters in Social Work from Loyola University. They are currently pursuing a Masters in Extension Studies with an emphasis on Creative Writing and Literature at Harvard University.