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.


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. “


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.