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.




 

Anna Pujolràs Perpiñà: “I listen before I write.”

Anna Pujolràs Perpiñà is HIGH PLAYER now as she was recently contracted to write the script for the season finale of GODLIKE GAMING a TV sitcom that’s garnering great praise. Moreover, she’s set for the foreseeable future with the news that she will be scripting their entire second season.

ArtsWrites caught up with Anna to learn more about her talent and her.

“I pause … and listen … before I write. Getting to the root of why a certain story needs to be told and why I should be the one to do so, makes my unique perspective come through,” says Anna Pujolràs Perpiñà. By the way, she listened before she replied.

She continued by sharing that a “good script” is not just exciting but must possess universal and identifiable – and relatable – themes: “As a writer, I strive to create well-rounded characters, showing how flawed and beautiful humans can be,” she concluded. It is Anna’s vast attention to detail in creating – not a script – but a world and then inviting the audience to that world. An old acting exercise demands the performer to ask, why today, and – as a writer – Anna seems to follow that principle as well. “Nothing happens just because,” she chimed, “everything has a cause and effect that makes life’s obstacles interesting.” Anna asks the audience to do what she has already done … listen to what’s in front of them.

ArtsWrites spoke further with this dynamic scribe about her life AND style:

What’s your creative process?

When I’m writing one of my own projects, I ask myself the question “what do I want to see?”. Finding what I think has been missing in the audiovisual world helps me find a passion for the project and how I’m going to express it to others. I usually skip that question if I’m writing for someone else’s project or working on their development. Then, I go straight to the second question which is “how do I want to see it?” Knowing where the characters begin and what ending I want them to have given a direction to the story. Getting to know the characters well, how they would react in certain situations, even what kind of music they’d listen to if need be, fills up the rest of the story. I like to think of my creative process as a puzzle where I only have the outline, and the middle I draw as I go within the limits.

You have humble beginnings: Jr. Agent, Script Supervisor, etc…
How did you rise to scriptwriter?

Screenwriting has always been my end-goal, but to have people read your script, first you need to make them listen. And that’s what all the jobs in my career have helped me do. As a Jr. Agent, I’ve learned how the industry works in the United States and how to sell my clients’ projects, something I can take for my own. As a Script Supervisor and Developer, I’ve seen other people’s mistakes and achievements, reading hundreds of scripts from different genres. As a Production Assistant, I’ve worked with others who think differently from me, but we’ve found creative common ground. Meeting people, keeping educating myself, and putting my work out there have made screenwriting possible.

Your genres are vast …  a romantic film, a horror film, and a wacky TV show… What was it like to work on such diverse projects?

A project should be compelling regardless of the genre, the length of the piece, or who’s involved in it. Having to adapt to various genres keeps me on my toes and challenges me to make the best out of any story. Research is a big part of being versatile in screenwriting. Knowing why the story I’m telling has a specific genre attached to it gives me the structure and guidelines I need to follow. Immersing myself with references allows me to understand how I should communicate a story within the genre.

What’s next for you?

I’m currently working on various projects that are in the development phase. I’m the writer for the season one finale of Godlike Gaming, with talks of season 2 already happening. I have multiple shoots in the next few months of shorts I’ve helped write, and I’m also going to be a script supervisor in them. My work as a Jr. Agent and Head of Development at the Jackson Agency will have me creating and shopping projects in the months to come as well.

with Roy Shellef at the premiere of Godlike Gaming

Look for part II of our series on screenwriter, Anna Pujolràs Perpiñà, in InDfilm

And the mighty KEN steps up to the plate.

Norma Mortimer brings us family drama – more like the drama from family! RUN THE COURSE & DADDY’S GIRLS, running at the American Theatre of Actors, 314 W 54th St, in NYC, March 2 – 13 (Wednesday thru Saturday @ 8pm; Sunday @ 3pm. Call for tickets: (212) 581-3044)

RUN THE COURSE: A suicide meant to tear a family apart only brings them closer only to discover it might not be a suicide at all and DADDY’S GIRLS: A widowed father is at the center of a family controversy involving social status. Can love really conquer all?

Every army – and theatre – has the world-weary soldier. The American Theatre of Actors is no acception. Ken Coughlin, the resident technical director and acclaimed character actor, is as omnipresent in that establishment as much as James Jennings – the founder.

As the doors of the ATA re-open, it is Ken who unlocks them. He appears in these one-acts.

What obstacles do you encounter in creating your role(s)?
I have created well over 200 roles as an actor, each has its own issues. There is no one way to overcome each obstacle outside of putting in the time to apply your own understanding of that character, to make the character real for the audience.

Do you think this should be a Broadway play or an off-Broadway play? Why?
I’m not qualified to make that decision. I don’t consider myself a good judge of what pleases the masses. I think this is an interesting story, with twists and turns that hold my interest.

You’re working in a landmark theatre with one of its premier directors, creating roles in new plays… How does it feel? 
I have been a fixture at the American Theatre of Actors since 1994. James Jennings has done a great job of adhering to the goals he set forth when creating this space. Giving a space for actors to practice their craft, without the financial burdens of trying to put on a production. It is always an honor to be involved with the American Theatre of Actors.

What’s next? 
I’m already working on several new projects, as a video editor, sound designer, and many other jobs associated with theater.

Discussing “A Place for Us”

Review by Carol W. Berman of “A Place For Us” written and directed by Anthony M. Laura

The play opens with an ordinary enough scene of a mother, Judith (played by Donna White), chatting while folding laundry and a daughter, Hannah (played by Madison Murrah), disengaged from the conversation. The two quarrel about some trivia. In a short time, the mother presents a bloody towel to the daughter and asks her what caused this. The daughter replies that she had a bloody nose, but somehow we doubt it. A stranger, Natalie (played by Raina Silver), enters and proclaims the house hers. She questions why Judith and Hannah are even there. The mother threatens to call the police, but the father, Vincent (played by Emerson Buchholz), appears instead. The daughter Hannah is happy to see him. Vincent tells Natalie to leave but she again insists that it’s her house. The family has dinner together with Natalie, who baked a cake. I suppose the implication is that they will all live there together, happily or not.

If someone came into my house and said it was hers, I would engage in a much bigger battle with the person than this family did. As a consequence, I spent a long time thinking about who or what the stranger Natalie might be. Is she a ghost? (She says she’s a hundred years old, but appears only about 20.) Is she the daughter’s imaginary friend solidified into flesh? (Natalie kisses Hannah, even though Hannah makes it clear she’s not gay.

And they go off into the bedroom after that.) Then to add more mystery to the situation Natalie reveals she’s pregnant so the family doesn’t have the heart to kick her out. (I also imagined she was a homeless pregnant woman who devised a brilliant scheme to get domiciled.) To give them credit, the actors do their best to make sense of the script.

The mystery is never solved.

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CAROL W. BERMAN, M.D. is a playwright who when she is not writing is listening to patients. Carol’s first play, UNDER THE DRAGON, was produced by The Workshop at The Neighborhood Playhouse in 2002. Her second play, SUNSHINE SALLY, was produced in 2007. Her third play, PROFESSIONAL MISCONDUCT, and fourth play, BROWNSTONE BREAKDOWN, were produced by Egoactus Company in New York City. IN THE KINGDOM OF SAM played at the Manhattan Repertory Theater and PARKING LOT 63 had a run at the Hudson Guild Theater. LIGHT MY FIRE was presented as a staged reading at the Dixon Place Theater. In May 2019, under the auspices of the American Psychiatric Association, her play UNDER THE DRAGON was featured as a media session at the APA’s annual conference in San Francisco. Many of her ten-minute plays were in festivals in New York City and London. Carolwberman.com

A Doubly Good “Comedy of Errors”

Review by Alice Greenwald, PhD.

One of the best Zoom reading I’ve seen during this unique time was Shakespeare’s The Comedy of Errors presented by the Blind Cupid Shakespeare Company.

The performances are praise-worthy but it’s the production scheme that sets this production apart.

The Comedy of Errors, an early play of the Bard, is one of his most farcical and apropos for this company’s English Music Hall-style comedy motif. The pun-soaked script and use of mistaken identity – what became a staple of sitcom plots. It concerns two sets of identical twins separated at birth. Antipholus of Syracuse and his servant, Dromio of Syracuse, and Antipholus of Ephesus and his servant, Dromio of Ephesus. Needless to say, this incredible premise makes slapstick fights, sex-capades, insanity, and even demonic possession seem totally possible – and ample double-takes.

Beginning “on Zoom” to discuss the pandemic’s cancellation of their show, the company – appearing as themselves – discussing with disdain not performing and the lack of funds needed to do it live under other circumstances. This in-and-of itself was brilliant. An intimate editorial of the pandemic’s attack on the arts coupled with an extraordinarily veiled but effective fundraising pitch welcomes us into the production’s over-the-top storyline and allows us to accept the situation as opposed to another level of disbelief. Then an intentionally bumpy entrance at the beginning regarding subtitles wrapped the entire opening in a nice Monty Python-like bow.

We are then treated to a bilingual production that entertains and educates. Much of the well-trained and quite talented ensemble bounced back and forth between English and Italian creating the play’s necessary bi-coastal dynamic. Ample subtitles allowed the flow to not cease regardless of what tongue was uttering Shakespeare’s words, so one may focus on the artists’ interpretation with little impedance. This was a blessing on two levels: it was thrilling to watch an actor pour their souls out in humor or drama in Italian and watch perfect reactions from their English speaking co-stars – and visa versa. Secondly, it allowed some really fine performances to be totally enjoyed with little distraction. Notable were a stunning Stefano Guerriero, whose expressive countenance and powerful voice made full use of his setting. Gianluigi Calvani and Joe Staton who donated genuine comic timing and exuberance; Gilda Mercado, an actress obviously adept in film and stage work and possessing a true flair for Shakespeare; moved to-and-fro, leaning into the camera, maneuvered her very expressive face to ingeniously create joyous stage pictures and bright deliveries; Muge Karagulle – whose expressive face, and Frances Knight – whose vocal manipulations – was worth the addition.

But the star-turn was Alice Lussiana Parente who played BOTH Dromios and in BOTH languages. Zoom made it easy for the one actress to have some uproarious scenes with herself and even to be in group sections as both characters. Surely, in the 21st Century when CGI is de rigueur, this editing trick is accomplishable but the magic of seeing this tour-de-force performance lost no luster.

Director JT Stocks and the Blind Cupid Company figured it out. They took the medium of virtual and made it truly their own. Ironic, we credit Shakespeare with [re]creating the English language, thus we must credit Blind Cupid with [re]creating virtual theater.

133 AUTHORS JOIN THE FIREBIRD BOOK AWARD CIRCLE OF WINNERS

Speak Up Talk Radio announced the winners of 2021’s third quarter FIREBIRD BOOK AWARDS contest. One of the winning entries was from California, author S.A. Bradley, whose book titled “Screaming for Pleasure: How Horror Makes You Happy and Healthy” won in the Speak Up Talk Radio category.

Authors and publishers from around the world submitted their work to the Firebird Book Awards. Two judges from a select panel of 17 judges read each book in its entirety and independently scored each entry. All judges committed to a set of standardized criteria that evaluates the quality of the writing as well as production aspects. Only entries with the highest of scores were awarded the coveted Firebird.

Patricia J. Rullo, founder of the Firebird Book Awards, says, “ we received nearly double the amount of entries this quarter and we recruited more qualified judges from the publishing and writing world. Our judging panel includes a diverse group who represent a cross section of ages, cultural heritage, race, religion, gender, and experience. At Speak Up Talk Radio, our mission is to offer authors a welcome place to promote themselves and their books via book awards, radio interviews, audiobook production, voiceover marketing tools, and podcasting services. We love to support those who dare to share their innermost thoughts with the world. Just one sentence in one book can very well make a difference in a reader’s life. I can’t think of anything better than that.” Pat adds, “We’ve included a charitable component to our awards by making all entry fees tax-deductible to the author. In return, we personally make and send handmade fun and colorful pillowcases to women and children in homeless shelters via Enchanted Makeovers, a 501(c)3 tax-exempt organization. All entry fees fund this project. In this way, authors get notoriety for their work while helping to transform homeless shelters into bright and happy homes. It is a rewarding venture for everyone.”

The Firebird Book Awards run quarterly contests so authors can receive recognition on a timely basis. Authors from all genres, mainstream, independent, and self-published are welcome. For additional winning authors, titles, and entry information: https://www.speakuptalkradio.com