Thursday, March 31, 2011

60 Play in 60 Minutes? Can It Even Be Done?


One Weekend Only Special Event April 1st and 2nd, 2011.

The NEW YORK NEO-FUTURISTS will attempt to perform a double-time version of their ongoing, award-winning show Too Much Light Makes The Baby Go Blind by cramming 60 plays, instead of the usual 30 into their sixty minute performances on April 1st and 2nd at the Kraine Theater (85 East 4th St). This special one-weekend-only event will take place Friday and Saturday at 10:30pm.

Experience not only a double-time performance, but also a doubled-up cast of New York Neo-Futurists including Alicia Chaisson, Roberta Colindrez, Cara Francis, Jacquelyn Landgraf, Christopher Loar, Lauren Sharpe and Adam Smith, joined by founding New York Neo-Futurists Sarah Levy, Marta Rainer and F Omar Telan as they celebrate the Neo-Futurists seventh year in New York with an attempt to cram 60 lightening-quick plays into 60 minutes, for a Too Much Light experience that is twice as nice. Blink and you will miss something spectacular.

Members of the 2011 New York Neo-Futurists ensemble are Jill Beckman, Christopher Borg, Alicia Chaisson, Roberta Colindrez, Jeffrey Cranor, Cara Francis, Ryan Good, Eevin Hartsough, Nicole Hill, Jacquelyn Landgraf, Erica Livingston, Christopher Loar, Dan McCoy, Rob Neill, Joey Rizzolo, Lauren Sharpe and Adam Smith.

Tickets are $11.00 plus the roll of a six-sided die ($12-$17) at the door. Advance tickets are $17.00 and can be purchased online at, or by calling 212-352-3101.

For more information visit

Photo by Anton Nickel

Friday, March 25, 2011

Album Review - Originals – Musical Comedy 1909-1935 [Masterworks Broadway/Arkivmusic]

By Sherry Shaffer

Originals - Musical Comedy 1909-1935 is a compilation of songs from the early years of musical theatre; a time when vaudeville was still around and musical “comedy” could mean a revue, an operetta, or just a happy ending. So, while some of the songs on the album can be termed “comic” there are several that are safer described as romantic or sentimental. This is a time capsule of songs that are not meant for modern audiences. To really appreciate this album you must first keep in mind that comedy, theatre, and general sensibilities have changed quite a bit in the last 75-100 years.

RCA has done a good job with the restoration; the songs are as sharp and clear as one can hope for century-old recordings. On several of the songs you can still hear the crackle of the original master and that tinny sound so often associated with the era, but since I expected no less, I was inclined to find it quaint rather than annoying.

If you’ve ever taken a class or are interested in theatre history you’ll probably want to listen to this album at least once, if not own it as an integral part of your collection. There are few people still alive from when these songs were performed – let alone anyone who actually witnessed them – and many of the performers and performances were not captured on film, especially in their heyday. The singers on this album are some of the crème de la crème of early Broadway; among the more famous names are Fanny Brice, Eddie Cantor, Al Jolson, and Cole Porter (yes, Porter sings.) But by all means, research anyone you haven’t heard of and you’ll discover some heavy hitters like Beatrice Lillie – more recently known as Mrs. Mears in the 1967 film, "Thoroughly Modern Millie" – or Noble Sissle – African American singer, songwriter and sometime collaborator with Eubie Blake. I looked up every unknown (to me) singer and act on this album and was very glad I did. I would never have known that Elsie Janis was a singer, writer and producer or that Jack Norworth wrote “Take Me Out to the Ball Game.”

As I said before, these songs were not intended for today’s audience, so there might be a few that raise some eyebrows. “Mr. Gallagher and Mr. Shean,” performed by Ed Gallagher and Al Shean, is a vaudeville number from Ziegfeld Follies of 1922 that doesn’t translate well into today’s idea of comedy. The men were huge stars in their time and this song is their signature classic. Be aware of minstrel show-style performances like Elsie Janis’ “Fo’ de Lawd’s Sake, Play a Waltz” (which she penned herself) that are most definitely frowned upon these days. “Manda” by Noble Sissle is a great bit of early jazz, but oh my, the title of the show is Chocolate Dandies – that’ll make anyone cringe. My advice: view the album as a history lesson and take context with a grain of salt. Briefly set aside your modern sensibilities so you can enjoy the songs guilt-free.

On the whole, I thought this was a delightful album with much to be discovered and enjoyed. For those of us who have only seen Barbara Streisand as Fanny Brice, it is a real treat to finally hear the original sing “Second Hand Rose” from Ziegfeld Follies of 1921. And I honestly never thought I’d hear Cole Porter perform one of his songs, let alone “You’re the Top” from Anything Goes – my husband, a big Porter fan, was listening in and exclaimed he’d never heard one of the verses on the recording. Eleanor Powell does a nice job with “What a Wonderful World” from At Home Abroad – though I never like to listen to tap-dancing in the middle of a song; I don’t get the point. “Hungry Women” performed by Eddie Cantor from Whoopee is corny, but actually pretty funny. And Beatrice Lillie was a wonderful surprise with her charming rendition of “Like He Loves Me” from Oh, Please! There are a couple of songs that grate a little, mainly because of style differences that I don’t quite appreciate – “You and the Night and the Music” from Revenge with Music performed by Libby Holman reminds me a little too much of Marlene Dietrich in "Destry Rides Again," or more accurately, as Madeline Kahn in "Blazing Saddles." I laughed, but for the wrong reasons.

The Tin Pan Alley style of singing and outdated humor may not appeal to the casual listener used to the likes of Idina Menzel or Mandy Patinkin, but for those of us who are theatre geeks, it’s a little slice of heaven. I recommend Originals: Musical Comedy 1909-1935 for anyone who wants a fun and pleasurable peek into the rich past of American musical theatre.

Originals - Musical Comedy 1909-1935
Release Date: 01/18/2011
Label: RCA Catalog #: 82405
Composer: Maurice Scott, Nora Bayes, George M. Cohan, Elsie Janis, Harry Tierney,
James Hanley, Ed Gallagher, Eubie Blake, Vincent Youmans,
Milton Ager, Jerome Kern, Cole Porter, Arthur Schwartz

Performer: Blanche Ring, Jack Norworth, Nora Bayes, Al Jolson, Elsie Janis, Edith Day, Howard Rattay, Fanny Brice, Ed Gallagher, Al Shean, Noble Sissle, Eubie Blake, Beatrice Lillie, Vincent Youmans, J. Harold Murray, Louise Groody, Charles King, Frank Banta, Eddie Cantor, Helen Morgan, Cole Porter, Libby Holman, Eleanor Powell

Conductor: Rosario Bourdon, Nathaniel Shilkret, Leonard Joy, Richard Himber, Tommy Dorsey

Orchestra/Ensemble: Orchestra, Chorus, Ritz-Carlton Orchestra, Tommy Dorsey Orchestra

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Fresh Faces - Gavin Rohrer

By Byrne Harrison

Gavin Rohrer is a 3rd-year drama student at the University of Virginia. He has played Rolf in The Sound of Music with the Heritage Theatre Festival, the title role in Sweeney Todd at UVA, Mark from Rent, Peter Quince from A Midsummer Night's Dream, Jon from Tick, Tick...BOOM!, Evan Goldman from 13, and many more.

Gavin is currently one of the top-rated contestants vying for an official Rent audition with Telsey + Co, as part of the Rent Online Audition Contest.

How did you find out about the Rent auditions, and what made you decide to go for it?

One of my friends sent it out over e-mail to the theatre group I'm in at UVA, the First Year Players, as a joke. FYP is doing Rent this spring, so everyone got their kicks saying, "They copied us!" and all that jazz. Then, it hit me - "Why not? I've gotta do this." I went to my close friend, Jeff Luppino-Esposito, who has been promoting me and making videos for quite some time. He told me we have to do this, so here we are!

I really like the look of your video. How did you come up with the concept?

Jeff and I are equally responsible for the concept. We both decided we wanted to go to this one part of Charlottesville and perform on the side of a building that's a little bit older than the rest -- really artsy. However, when we got there and saw the railroad tracks, we thought, "Gold!"

Who's that with you in the video?

That's my friend Micah White, excellent guitarist and superb humorist.

How long have you been involved in theatre?

Since my junior year of high school. I was standing by the stage door, doing my marching band thing, and the drama teacher asked if I was auditioning. I bluntly asked, "For what?" and she told me about the show. I shrugged her off, then gave it another thought. Before I knew it, I was in a show with a four-line role. Ten days before opening night, she had to kick the lead out and asked me to do it. That was a lot of lines. I don't remember that week too well.

If you could play any role (other than something from Rent, of course), what would you pick?

The Emcee from Cabaret is my dream role! Who doesn't want to be a dark, hyper-sexualized, androgynous concept character with a funny accent?

What are your plans for after graduation?

This week, going to NYC and doing guerrilla theatre.

What do you want to say to the people who are considering voting for you?

"Be free, be whatever you are, do whatever you want to do, just so long as you don't hurt anybody." ...alright, it has nothing to do with voting for me. But I feel like people don't hear it enough.

Thanks for the interview, Gavin, and good luck with the contest.

Watch Gavin's video and vote for him at SiteForRent.

Know a rising star who should be profiled on StageBuzz? Send an e-mail with the subject line "Fresh Faces" to find out about setting up an interview.

"Six Silences in Three Movements" Is Poetry in Motion

By Byrne Harrison

Duncan Pflaster's Six Silences in Three Movements, currently playing as part of Manhattan Repertory Theatre's WinterFest 2011, is the most experimental of his plays that I have seen to date. In fact, it's easier to think of it as a poem with actors.

The play has a very formal structure. It features six "silences," made up of three "movements" each. Think of each silence as an act and each movement as a scene within the act. Each of the silences features a poem, followed by a traditional scene with dialogue, and ending with a stylized movement/verbal section where the characters (usually nude) talk to (or perhaps it's better to say at or around) each other in a series of non sequiturs, spoken while posing in various positions.

Within this formal structure, Pflaster's play tells the story of two couples who are neighbors and friends: Sean (Mark-Eugene Garcia) and Joanna (Susan Slotoroff), a young married couple, and Ricky (Marc Graiser) and Matt (Adam Samtur), a gay couple. Ricky and Sean are having an affair, though their partners don't know about it.

As far as story goes, that's about as much as Pflaster gives us. His play isn't about going from point A to point B. No exposed affair, no recriminations and tears, no struggle for forgiveness. Instead, he focuses on communication. Why do we have so much trouble knowing the person we are supposed to be closest to? Why do we spend so much time talking around subjects, or talking about trivial things instead of deeper issues? And even if we did talk about the meaningful issues in our lives, would anyone understand? As each of the characters says at some point in the play, "I never know what you think is important."

The play has a certain well-crafted elegance to it. The non sequitur sections are a challenge, but I suspect that's the point. There are no easy answers.

The ensemble does a good job, especially working in a non-realistic form. The poetry comes off the strongest (kudos especially to Mark-Eugene Garcia who handles it like a pro), and the actors commit themselves fully to the very stylized third movements (Adam Samtur in particular does well in these scenes). At times, however, the regular dialogue in the second movements seems a little stilted. I suspect, however, that is an intentional choice on Pflaster's part (he also directs the show) reinforcing the idea that all dialogue (on stage and in life) really just hides the important things that are being left unsaid. I must also mention Pflaster's use of music in this show. Matthew Applebaum, who collaborated with Pflaster in The Thyme of the Season, composed the music and plays during the show. He is a great addition to the play.

Since the play deals with what is left unsaid, it's no surprise that some of the strongest moments are not dialogue driven.  A scene where the couples, all nude, slowly dress each other is truly beautiful, and the final moment, the couples embracing while Ricky and Sean surreptitiously hold hands, is very powerful and a perfect image for the play.

If the idea of experimental theatre makes you nervous, this may not be the play for you (chances are you would have balked at the nudity anyway). If, however, you are in the mood for something non-traditional, I suggest checking out Six Silences in Three Movements.

Six Silences in Three Movements
Written and Directed by Duncan Pflaster
Original Music Composed and Performed by Matthew Applebaum
Stage Manager/Board Op: Shawna E. Cathey

Featuring: Mark-Eugene Garcia (Sean), Susan Slotoroff (Joanna), Marc Graiser (Ricky), Adam Samtur (Matt)

New York City Opera Announces Spring Season

By Byrne Harrison

The New York City Opera has announced its spring season. The lineup includes Donizetti’s classic, The Elixir of Love, reimagined in the 1950s Southwest; Monodramas, an electrifying triple bill of one-acts that unites modern music, dance, visual art, and design; the New York premiere Stephen Schwartz’s new psychological thriller Séance on a Wet Afternoon; and a special concert, John Zorn’s Masada Marathon.

March 22 – April 5

Don’t miss Donizetti’s classic romantic comedy, reimagined in an inventive production, which relocates the action to the 1950s American Southwest to tell the tale of a shy young man’s quest to win the girl of his dreams.

Link to The Elixir of Love

March 25 – April 8

Music, art, design, and dance merge in this triple bill of groundbreaking one-act operas by some of the greatest composers of the 20th century. Directed by theater visionary Michael Counts, this compelling dreamscape is a haunting exploration of the subconscious.

Link to Monodramas

March 30

Written in a flash of creativity, the 316 compositions in John Zorn's Book of Angels contain some of his most lyrical and inspiring music. This special marathon concert brings together 12 different groups - jazz, rock, classical, world music, jam band, a cappella vocals and more - for one spectacular evening of music.

Link to John Zorn’s Masada Marathon

April 19 – May 1

Don’t miss the New York premiere of the first opera by Broadway legend Stephen Schwartz, Oscar and Grammy Award-winning composer of hit show Wicked. This psychological thriller tells the tale of a conniving psychic who orchestrates an elaborate kidnapping scheme to win the fame she so desperately craves.

Link to Séance on a Wet Afternoon

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Interview with Playwright Steve Sherman of "On Campus"

By Byrne Harrison

Steve Sherman is a playwright whose On Campus is currently receiving its world premiere at the LABA Theater at 14th Street Y. He received degrees in acting and theater education from Western Washington University where his original play, Brian and Joe, received an award that sent him to the Kennedy Center to study acting and playwriting. His plays have been produced and read regionally and in NYC. Find out more at

I talked to Steve about On Campus and his theatre company, his charity work, and what's on tap for him in 2011.

Tell me a little bit about your charity work with Esperanza.

I went to Tijuana and worked with Esperanza during spring break for a few years in college. I took part in building houses, retaining walls, etc. The people in the communities that we helped made an even greater impact on my friends and I, inspiring us by their warmth, faith and friendship. It really makes you realize what is important in life.

How did that work inspire On Campus?

There was a two year old named Dona that I entertained while working on the foundation of a house for her family. The following year I visited them and she remembered me! I was surprised and very touched. The character I play, falls in love with an exchange student from Mexico, that I named after her. She has a few monologues that are autobiographical, and the character (played by Sarah Saunders) is a very beautiful person that, I think, gives us a sense of the people who inspired me.

Your play deals with the pressures associated with being in college. What would you recommend to a college student who is feeling overwhelmed?

Enjoy college and don't let the work overload and social drama get to you. It is a time where we think decisions are really going to decide our lives, but they really don't. College is the only time of life where we are surrounded by thousands of other young adults and have constant opportunities for new life experiences and activities. So, when things get overwhelming, just breathe, know that in the end it's not going to be a huge deal, and go play some ultimate Frisbee!

Tell me a little bit about True Light Productions.

This is the production company I started with Hana Kalinski. On Campus is our first production. Our mission statement is to produce compelling works of theater and film with uplifting messages about relevant situations and relationships that enlighten us to the commonalities we share.

What's next for the company?

My one-act play Remembering Kimberly was a finalist last year for The Network's one-act festival, and I would like to turn it into a film. I'm also working on a new screenplay, as well as turning a few other plays into screenplays, including my award-winning show Brian and Joe, which I would like to do more on the NY stage!

On Campus plays through Saturday, March 26th (Wednesdays through Saturdays at 8pm) at the LABA Theater at 14th Street Y (344 East 14th Street between First and Second Avenues, NYC).

Tickets are $18 ($12 with valid student I.D.) and are now available online at or by calling 212-352-3101. Tickets may also be purchased in-person at the theatre’s Box Office, a half-hour before the performance.

Broadway Bares: Solo Strips At Splash On April 3rd





Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS and Jerry Mitchell announce the return of BROADWAY BARES: SOLO STRIPS, a benefit striptease event featuring some of the hottest men on and off Broadway. BROADWAY BARES: SOLO STRIPS will be held Sunday, April 3 at Splash (50 West 17th Street). There will be performances at 8 PM and 10 PM. Tickets are available in advance or a $10 donation will be accepted at the door.

SOLO STRIPS is a return to the origins of BROADWAY BARES when, in 1992, Jerry Mitchell organized a burlesque show featuring himself and six friends performing original strips on the bar at Splash for a $10 donation plus whatever tips the audience gave the dancers. BROADWAY BARES: SOLO STRIPS will, once again, feature dancers performing original strips at Splash for tips and a $10 donation.

The BROADWAY BARES: SOLO STRIPS dancers will feature Dave August (Naked Boys Singing!, Broadway Bares 10-20), Sandor DeGrazia (Broadway Bares 9, 10, 11, 13), Tony Guerrero (West Side Story international tour, Broadway Bares 19, 20), Tyrone Jackson (Memphis, Broadway Bares 19, 20), Andy Mills (Memphis), Brandon Rubendall (Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark, Broadway Bares 20), Kellen Stancil (The Lion King), Charlie Sutton (Catch Me If You Can, Broadway Bares 16, 18, 20), Rickey Tripp (In the Heights, Broadway Bares 17, 18, 20) and Matthew Skrincosky (Broadway Bares 16-20).

Advance tickets are available online through and will be available at the door. Doors will open one hour prior to each show.

BROADWAY BARES: SOLO STRIPS is a sexy tease for one of BC/EFA's annual signature events: BROADWAY BARES. This year's edition, BROADWAY BARES XXI: MASTERPIECE, will feature 200 of Broadway's sexiest bodies taking you inside an auction too hot for Sotheby's and Christie's. The most delectable dancers in New York will emulate the art world's seductive nudes and give life to history's sultriest sculptures.

BROADWAY BARES XXI: MASTERPIECE will be held on Sunday, June 19 with two performances only at 9:30 PM & Midnight at Roseland Ballroom (239 West 52nd Street). Tickets and more information are available at

BROADWAY BARES XXI: MASTERPIECE is produced by Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, executive produced by Tony Award-winner Jerry Mitchell (Catch Me If You Can, Legally Blonde) and directed by Josh Rhodes (Sondheim: The Birthday Concert, The Drowsy Chaperone, Working at the Broadway Playhouse in Chicago). Special guests for what is sure to be a “starry night” will be announced at a later date.

BROADWAY CARES/EQUITY FIGHTS AIDS is the nation’s leading industry-based, nonprofit AIDS fundraising and grant-making organization. By drawing upon the talents, resources and generosity of the American theatre community, BC/EFA raises funds for AIDS-related causes and other critical illnesses across the United States. Since its founding in 1988, BC/EFA has raised over $195 million dollars for critically needed services for people with AIDS and other serious illnesses. BC/EFA is the major supporter of seven programs at The Actors Fund, including the HIV/AIDS Initiative, the Phyllis Newman Women’s Health Initiative, the Al Hirschfeld Free Health Clinic, The Dancers’ Resource and three supportive housing residences. BC/EFA also awards annual grants to more than 400 AIDS and family service organizations nationwide. For more information visit

A Night With Pearl Cleage’s Women: A Legacy Story of Black Women in the West and Songbirds in Harlem

Photo by Tanja

At a cozy café in the East Village, travel back in time to 1898, when freed slaves claimed the Kansas plains as their new home, and to 1930, when Harlem was the bastion for black artistic and intellectual freedom. Juneteenth Legacy Theatre and Sugar Valley Theatricals present A Night With Pearl Cleage’s Women - an adaptation of scenes from Atlanta-based writer Cleage’s Flyin West and Blues For An Alabama Sky - as part of its 12th season tribute to “Uppity Women” at Nuyorican Poets Café, March 31 – April 16, 2011.

In A Night With Pearl Cleage’s Women, the characters, Miss Leah, Sophie, Fannie, Minnie, Angel and Delia, tell their stories of love, betrayal, revenge and redemption. This play takes an approach similar to the company’s acclaimed hit from last season, August Wilson's Women, which won the 2010 AUDELCO for “Outstanding Ensemble Performance”.

Pearl Cleage’s Flyin West was the most widely produced play at regional theaters in 1994. The writer of Blues For An Alabama Sky, Bourbon at the Border, A Song For Coretta, and The Nacirema Society Requests the Honor of Your Presence at a Celebration of Their First One Hundred Years is among the few black playwrights consistently produced in American theaters.

Her other plays produced in New York City include: puppetplay, Negro Ensemble Company; Hospice, New Federal Theatre; Chain and Late Bus to Mecca, Women's Project & Productions.

A Night With Pearl Cleage’s Women cast includes: Patricia R. Floyd as the no-nonsense Sophie, in Flyin West and the fiery advocate, Delia, in Blues For An Alabama Sky; T. Renee Mathis plays the congenial Fannie, in Flyin West and the desperate Angel, in Blues For An Alabama Sky; Joresa Blount plays both the cunning elder, Miss Leah, and naïve youngest sister, Minnie, in Flyin West. The male characters are played by Bryan Webster as the self-loathing Frank in Flyin West and the gay bon vivant, Guy, in Blues For An Alabama Sky, while Michael Jones plays Guy’s nemesis and Angel’s lover, Leland.

Ms. Floyd’s credits include an AUDELCO award for Martha, The American Menu as well as the recurring role of Judge Rochelle Desmond on Law & Order. Ms. Mathis’ stage credits include How Many Times Must We Say Goodbye, Negro Ensemble Company, and a staged reading of Flyin West, which had Miss Ruby Dee as “Miss Leah” at Castillo Theater. Ms. Blount last appeared in The Book of Lambert at La Mama E.T.C. Bryan Webster, Artistic Director of Sugar Valley Theatricals, starred in Juneteenth Legacy Theatre’s production, Passing Ceremonies, as Harlem Renaissance poet, Bruce Nugent, and SVT’s Whore Works in the 8th Annual Fresh Fruit Festival. Michael Jones was part of the August Wilson’s Women ensemble which won the 2010 AUDELCO “Outstanding Performance” award.

The creative team is AUDELCO winners Rome Neal, director and lighting design, and Ali Turns, costume design; Harlen Penn, set and props design. Juneteenth Co-founder and producer, Lorna Littleway, conceived the adaptation.

Performances are at the Nuyorican Poets Café, 236 E. 3rd Street, and run Thursdays through Saturdays. Show times are Thursdays and Fridays, 7PM and Saturdays, 3PM. Tickets can be ordered online,, or call 212-780-9836. Reserved prices are: $20.00, $15.00/seniors & students; at the door: $25.00. Thursday shows are $10.00.

On March 31st, celebrate at the “Opening Night Party” with the cast and creative team. Pay $25 for the play, dance to live Latin Jazz music, and repast catered by Food For Life!

On Thursdays, April 7th and 14th, pay $5 more and stay for the “Latin Jazz Nite” immediately following the play. Admission without show reservation or ticket is $7.00.

A Night With Pearl Cleage’s Women is presented in partnership with Sugar Valley Theatricals and is produced under the AEA Manhattan Experimental Cafe Code.

Juneteenth Legacy Theatre is funded in part by the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs.

A Night With Pearl Cleage’s Women
Playwright: Pearl Cleage
Adaptation: Lorna Littleway
Director: Rome Neal
Set/Props Designer: Harlen Penn
Asst. Props: Karen LeRiche
Costume Designer: Ali Turns
Lighting Designer: Rome Neal

Cast: Patricia R. Floyd (AEA), T. Renee Mathis (AEA), Joresa Blount, Bryan Webster (AEA) and Michael Jones

Nuyorican Poets Cafe
236 E. 3rd Street

World Premiere of Steve Sherman's "On Campus" Continues Through Saturday


Proudly Presents


Written by



Directed by

MARCH 10 – 26, 2011



True Light Productions is pleased to present the world premiere of award-winning playwright Steve Sherman’s ON CAMPUS, directed by Lincoln Center Theater Director’s Lab member Marc Santa Maria. ON CAMPUS will play a 3-week limited engagement at the LABA Theater at 14th Street Y (344 East 14th Street between First and Second Avenues, NYC). Performances begin Thursday, March 10th through Saturday, March 26th.

Characters from ON CAMPUS were inspired by my service work for the non-profit organization ESPERANZA ("hope") which is located in Tijuana, Mexico – says playwright Steve Sherman – I wrote it in the wake of many suicides at universities in New York.


On Campus reflects the pressures put upon university students who try to establish various relationships despite social and cultural differences. Meanwhile, a precarious affair between a student and professor throws all characters into a downward spiral, forcing everyone to help each other overcome the challenges of college life.

With Caitlin Gold, Jake Millgard*, Bobby Plasencia*, Sarah Saunders, Steve Sherman*, Ed Stelz and Chloe Tuttle.

Hana Kalinski and Steve Sherman are the producers. Set design by Daniel Zimmerman and lighting design by Chad Lefebvre.

ON CAMPUS plays the following schedule through Saturday, March 26th:

Wednesdays through Saturdays at 8pm
Sundays at 2pm
Extra performance Monday, March 21st at 8pm

Tickets are $18 ($12 with valid student I.D.) and are now available online at or by calling 212-352-3101. Tickets may also be purchased in-person at the theatre’s Box Office, a half-hour before the performance.

Running time: 1 hours and 45 minutes including one intermission

For more information visit

STEVE SHERMAN (Playwright, Producer, Nathan) received degrees in acting and theater education from Western Washington Univ. (awarded Outstanding Contribution to the Theatre Arts) where his original play, Brian and Joe (winner of the Davy Marlin Jones Award for Outstanding Production of a One-Act), received an award that sent him to the Kennedy Center to study acting and playwriting. The KC then sent Steve on fellowship to The O’Neill Theater Center. His plays have been produced and read at WWU, regionally, and in NYC where Remembering Kimberly was a finalist for The Network one-act festival. His play The Ones You Can’t See received a reading by For The Love Productions. As an actor NYC credits include Home of the Great Pecan, Down Range; Regional: the title role in Hamlet; Nat Tours: Harry the Dirty Dog. For more credits & info check out:

MARC SANTA MARIA (Director) has directed theatre work by writers Anton Dudley, Jose Rivera, E.S.T./Youngblood and Partial Comfort writers. He’s also directed and choreographed commercial projects for American Express, Food & Wine Magazine, MTV, Jordache Jeans and Crunch. Marc is a member of Lincoln Center Directors Lab (Class of ’05) and Directors Lab West (Class of ’06). The Lynn Thigpen/Bobo Lewis Foundation also honored Marc for his exemplary theatre work. Marc is a proud company member of Leviathan Theatre Laboratory and Partial Comfort Productions.

TRUE LIGHT PRODUCTIONS, was founded in 2010 by Steve Sherman and Hana Kalinski to produce compelling works of theater and film with uplifting messages about relevant situations and relationships that enlighten us to the commonalities we share. On Campus is their first True Light Productions.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Mystery and Terror Abound in RadioTheatre's H.P. Lovecraft Festival

By Byrne Harrison

There is something about H.P. Lovecraft's writing that seems to lend itself to radio theatre. I think it's that his monsters and demons are so much scarier when you are being forced to see them in your mind by a well-trained actor using nothing more than his voice and by the skillful use of sound effects. This terror is greater than anything one might come up with oneself by merely reading the words, and certainly more frightening than movies can put together.

Program A of RadioTheatre's H.P. Lovecraft Festival is a well-executed evening of terror and suspense, that accepts and revels in the melodrama of Lovecraft's work, and showcases the talented company's prowess at the radio format.

The four stories brought to stage for this program (Pickman's Model, From Beyond, The Beast in the Cave, and Dagon) are not Lovecraft's strongest. In fact, The Beast in the Cave was written in Lovecraft's mid-teens, and shows a certain self-consciousness in the writing. Though Dagon hints at the Cthulhu stories to come, it isn't as strong as they are. Pickman's Model is a stronger piece, and while From Beyond is a bit overwrought, the actors make it work. Though each is different in style and subject, they all deal with our innate terror of the "other," be it a monster or a man, and the unknown darkness that surrounds us.

The four actors in this production (Jeff Essex, Alfred Gingold, Natalie Martin, and Peter Reznikoff) do an outstanding job, especially in evoking the style of an old radio play. Their vocal control is excellent, and this program allows each of them a chance to shine. The music and sound effects are terrific, and while I prefer the old school radio plays where actors and sound engineers make the music and sound effects live on stage, using pre-recorded sound and music leads to a more polished production.

If you are a fan of Lovecraft or radio plays, I recommend you attend the festival. I'm particularly excited to find out what this creative ensemble does with The Dunwich Horror in Program B.

The H.P. Lovecraft Festival
Program A - Pickman's Model, From Beyond, The Beast in the Cave, Dagon

Adapted, Directed, Music, Sound Design by Dan Bianchi
Sound Engineer: Sean Burns
Lighting: Maurice Williams
Additional Music: Kevin McLeod

Featuring: Jeff Essex, Alfred Gingold, Natalie Martin, Peter Reznikoff

The Kraine Theater
85 E. 4th Street

March 17-April 3

(Not a) Review - Things To Ruin: The Songs of Joe Iconis

By Byrne Harrison

Last night I attended one of the performances of Things to Ruin: The Songs of Joe Iconis at (Le) Poisson Rouge.

Since these performances are meant to celebrate the recent release of the Things To Ruin cast album by Sh-K-Boom/Ghostlight Records, this wasn't open for review, so these are just some observations.

Two songs in, I knew I'd be buying the album.

"Nerd Love" is stuck in my head, and may just become my new theme song.

I teared up a little at "Albuquerque Anyway."

And finally, there are a few young actors showcased in this performance whose careers I'll be watching carefully over the next few years.

There is one more performance of Things To Ruin, March 28th at 10:30, and you can buy the album here.

I'll be posting a review of the album soon.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Review - The Changing Room (T. Schreiber Studio & Theatre)

By Byrne Harrison
Photos by Daniel Terna

For a couple of years, nearly a decade ago, I played rugby for a local club. Despite being left with a pair of knees that most days feel like they have ground glass in them, I wouldn't trade that time for anything. That 'we few, we band of brothers' camaraderie simply can't be replaced.

It says a lot about the current production of David Storey's The Changing Room at T. Schreiber Studios that all I wanted to do after the show was strap on a pair of boots and go play a match, knees be damned. This production so vividly captures that spirit of bonhomie (and the near constant ball-busting that goes along with it), that I really just wanted to get a little of that feeling for myself.

That said, I won't be lacing up and playing again any time soon, but I may just go back to see The Changing Room again before its run is over. If you've ever wanted to know what men are like when they are on their own, away from women and some of the expectations of society, The Changing Room is an entertaining way to find out.

Set in the changing room of a semi-professional rugby team in Northern England, the play follows the team as they play a game on a cold morning. In terms of the plot there's not much more than that. The play simply looks at the three points of the game when the team is using the room: pre-game, the half, and after the game is over.

The fascinating thing is watching the players interact - class, education, money, it all gets stripped away with their clothes as they become members of a team, and the only measure of a man becomes his strength and valor on the pitch.

The ensemble is excellent, and like an actual rugby team shows a great deal of diversity in terms of their athleticism. Some of the cast look like they could be professional athletes; others look more like weekend warriors, and it works well. Among the standouts in the cast are Edwin Sean Patterson as Walsh, the peacock of the group, Mike Dazé as the talented and pampered team captain, Joshua Sienkiewicz as Kendal, the player who gets the major injury of the game, Peter Judd as the locker room attendant, Harry, and Edward Franklin as the team owner.

As is always the case with T. Schreiber productions, the set is amazing. Walking in, it's surprising not to smell sweat, liniment, and the other odors of a well-used locker room, Hal Tiné's set being nearly picture perfect.

Terry Schreiber's direction sparkles, and with the outstanding work by his actors, he has captured the essence of rugby - this hooligans' game played by gentlemen - and has created yet another excellent production.

Three notes to the potential audience. First, the production features nudity - a tad more demure than one normally sees in a locker room, but occasionally full-frontal nonetheless. Second, the cast does a great job with the Northern accents, which for some audience members makes the show hard to follow (I didn't have any trouble, but the couple behind me sure did). And third, if you're a rugby player, you'll notice that their scrum is a little high. While this might lead to injuries on the pitch, it's okay in a theatre.

The Changing Room
By David Storey
Director: Terry Schreiber
Producing Director: Barb Kielhofer
Dialect Coach: Page Clements
Scenic Designer: Hal Tiné
Costume Designer: Anne Wingate
Lighting Designer: Dennis Parichy
Sound Designer: Andy Cohen
Technical Director: Mike Dazé
Make-up Designer: Amanda Donelan
Stage Manager: Liz Elise Richards
Assistant Stage Manager: Victoria Loye
Publicist: Lanie Zipoy
Props/Associate Scenic Designer: Chris Minard
Assistant Director: Olivia Killingsworth
Assistant Scenic Designer: Diem Hoang
Assistant Lighting Designer: Zach Pizza
Assistant Costume Designers: Allison Gentry, Polly Fossey
Costume Intern: Emily Cannon-Brown
Assistant Technical Director: Jon Okabayahi
Rugby Consultant: Ben Bergen

Featuring: Eric Percival, Matthew Ballinger, Marcin Paluch, Mike Dazé, Luke Guldan, David Donahoe, Lowell Byers, Brian Podnos, Sean Gallagher, Peter Judd, Justin Noble, Nick Fesette, Edwin Sean Patterson, Joshua Sienkiewicz, Randy Miles, Rick Forstmann, Edward Campbell, Matt Watson, Eliud Kauffman, Edward Franklin, John B. McCann, Leajato Amara Robinson, Bud Stafford

T. Schreiber Studio & Theatre
151 W. 26th, 7th Floor

Through April 3rd

Friday, March 18, 2011

The 5th Annual Broadway Beauty Pageant Benefitting The Ali Forney Center Is Monday

By Byrne Harrison
Photos by Mike Ruiz

Want to see some of the best looking men of Broadway show off their talents while helping out a worthy cause? There are a few tickets left to Monday night's 5th Annual Broadway Beauty Pageant. Join host Tovah Feldshuh and celebrity judges Bruce Vilanch, Rachel Dratch, and Carson Kressley as they encourage this year's contestants Matt Anctil (La Cage aux Folles), Michael Cusumano (Chicago), Raymond J Lee (Anything Goes), Brandon Rubendall (Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark), and James Tabeek (Mary Poppins) to strut their stuff in the talent, interview, and swimsuit portions of competition. Featuring a special performance by Lee Roy Reams.

The event benefits The Ali Forney Center, NYC's primary housing resource for homeless LGBT youth.

I had a chance to talk with Matthew Oberstein, one of the producers of the Broadway Beauty Pageant, about this year's event.

This marks the 5th year of the Broadway Beauty Pageant. How did the Pageant first get started?

The Broadway Beauty Pageant was the brainchild of Ryan J. Davis and Jeffery Self, who thought this was the perfect way to feature some of Broadway's very talented chorus boys, to bring the Broadway community together for something different than anything else out there, and to raise money for the great cause that is the Ali Forney Center.

Tell me a little about this year's contestants.

There are five very talented--and very handsome--contestants this year. Matt Anctil is making his Broadway debut in La Cage aux Folles, and previously showed off his legs in the Radio City Christmas Spectacular, the Fire Island Dance Festival, and Night of 1000 Gowns. Michael Cusumano currently stars in Chicago, but made history as the youngest company member in the history of American Ballet Theater, before moving on to become a principal dancer Alabama Ballet and then a soloist with Boston Ballet. Raymond J. Lee is featured in the current revival of Anything Goes, but he made his Broadway debut in Mamma Mia. He is the co-creator of the web series Thank You...Next, which has been selected for this year's LA Web Series Festival. Brandon Rubendall is making his Broadway debut in Spider-Man: Turn off the Dark, but comes to Broadway from a versatile career as a model and commercial actor for Nike and Lord & Taylor, and he has danced for Beyonce and Livvi Franc. Mr. Mary Poppins, James Tabeek, covers too many tracks in the show to count. His other Broadway and touring credits include Wicked, Taboo, Beauty and the Beast, and the Radio City Christmas Spectacular.

You've got some great judges: Bruce Vilanch, Carson Kressley and Rachel Dratch. And Tovah Feldshuh will be hosting, which is great. Tovah and Carson are Ali Forney Center honorary board members, and have been very active in supporting the event in the past. How did Bruce and Rachel get involved?

The Broadway Beauty Pageant is planned, in great part, by a committee of very dedicated volunteers. In both Bruce and Rachel's cases, it was a connection that a committee member had to them, and once they heard about the event, they couldn't say 'no'!

Tell me a little bit about the Ali Forney Center and the work that they do for homeless LGBT youth.

Ali Forney Center is the nation's largest and most comprehensive organization dedicated to homeless LGBT youth. We provide homeless LGBT youths, aged 16-24, with the support and services they need to escape the streets and begin to live healthy and independent lives. We offer an innovative continuum of services that includes a day center, where we provide street outreach, case management, primary medical care, HIV testing, food and showers, and an employment assistance program; an emergency housing program, where LGBT youths are able to reside in save, staff-supervised homelike apartments for up to six months while we assist them in moving on to more permanent housing; and transitional housing, where residents are able to live for up to two years while we assist them in maintaining employment and continuing their education. We place a great deal of emphasis on helping our residents to prepare to live independently, and our goal is that, upon graduation from this program, they will move on to their own apartments.

While I hope that everyone will come to the Broadway Beauty Pageant, what are some other ways that people can support the Ali Forney Center's mission?

Absolutely! We're always in need of non-perishable foods, toiletries, cleaning supplies, bed sheets and towels, and school supplies. We love to welcome volunteers to AFC, particularly people to help with meal preparation, workshop facilitation, event planning committees, and just spreading the word throughout the community about the work that we do, and the work that is necessary to help the many homeless LGBT youths living in New York City.

Duncan Pflaster's "Six Silences in Three Movements" Begins a Limited Run This Weekend

By Byrne Harrison

Playwright Duncan Pflaster's Six Silences in Three Movements is being presented as part of Manhattan Repertory Theatre's Winterfest 2011. I was able to discuss the play with Duncan, and he provided the video below.

One of the things I enjoy about your work is your clever and creative use of language. I understand that the language and structure in Six Silences in Three Movements is a bit of a departure for you. Tell me a little bit about it and what inspired you.

I've gone very minimalist with this piece. The "Silences" of the title are essentially scenes where people talk but don't say anything that they really want to talk about, it's all about their subtext. I attempted to allow the audience to infer the story with as little actual content as possible. I was highly inspired by Edward Gorey's work (especially l'Heure Bleu) for this piece. I've always admired how formal and spare with story he dared to be; even while filling the page with wonderful visions, many of them remain enigmatic.

What's the play about?

It's about two couples, one straight and one gay - the straight man is having an affair with one of the gay men, unbeknownst to their partners.

In addition to using poetry and non-sequiturs in the play, there is a whole lot of nudity. Which gave the actors a harder time, the language or the nudity?

The language, really. I've always found that randomness is always the hardest thing to memorize. And of course I strove to make the nudity comfortable for the performers; we rehearsed for nearly a month before any clothes were shed. They also insisted on going out for drinks as a cast just before the first naked rehearsal - I always say that a couple of drinks can do more for cast bonding than any theatre exercise. Sexuality and nudity feature in many of my plays, and I've found many performers really love a chance to let loose and be wild and sexy. If given the proper atmosphere, respect and understanding, it can be freeing and quite exciting. I never want to force anyone to do anything that's uncomfortable for them. Back in my acting days, I appeared naked onstage a few times myself, so I know what it can be like.

Tell me a little about your cast. Have you worked with them before?

I've worked with both Adam Samtur and Susan Slotoroff before on previous projects; they're fantastic. Mark-Eugene Garcia and Marc Graiser have both worked with acquaintances of mine in the past, but this is our first time working together, though it seems now I've known them for ages. And Matthew Applebaum, our wonderful composer, wrote and performed the music for The Thyme of the Season, my award-winning sequel to A Midsummer Night's Dream, which premiered in last year's Planet Connections Theatre Festivity.

What do you want to say to your potential audience?

Come, enjoy.

What's next for you in 2011?

My multimedia play Sweeter Dreams will premiere in the Planet Connections Theatre Festivity this June. It's about an independent filmmaker torn between the two men she loves: her husband and her frequent leading man. I have a few other projects cooking, but nothing I can announce officially yet.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Pipeline Theatre Company's Caucasian Chalk Circle Is Not To Be Missed

By Byrne Harrison

The Pipeline Theatre Company is mounting a vibrant and exciting production of Bertolt Brecht's socialist fairy-tale, The Caucasian Chalk Circle, at Theater for the New City in the East Village. The production is a must for anyone who wants to see Brecht done well.

Told as a play within a play, Chalk Circle begins with two groups of peasants that each claim possession of a valley - one group was driven from the valley during the war, but holds the legal title; the other group fought an invading army and has great plans to farm the land. Eventually, the group that holds title to the land relinquishes it to the farmers, realizing that land, and all possessions, should go to those who will make the most of them.

The matter settled, a great celebration begins and a visiting Singer (Michael R. Piazza), quite famous in the region, begins to tell an ancient Chinese fable, The Chalk Circle, one that he believes has particular bearing on the situation.

As he spins the tale, the villagers become characters in the story of a time of civil war and the young servant girl, Grusha (Maura Hooper), who finds herself caring for the son of her employers, the Governor (Alex Mills), who was murdered, and his vain and spoiled wife (Jacquelyn Landgraf), who left the baby behind when she fled. On the run from the murderous Prince and his Ironshirts, Grusha sacrifices everything she has, even risking the relationship she has with her betrothed, Simon (Ronald Peet), one of the Governor's soldiers.

After the defeat of the Prince, the Governor's wife returns for her child, which Grusha has raised as her own, and the two parties have to petition for custody of the child. The judge, Azdak (Gil Zabarsky), a fraud and drunk who was elevated to this position during the chaos, devises a Solomon-like test to see who deserves the child, the biological mother who abandoned him, or the woman who always had his best interests at heart.

Adeptly directed by Anya Saffir, the production features an outstanding cast, with particular praise going to Maura Hooper, Gil Zabarsky, Michael R. Piazza and Jacquelyn Landgraf. Zabarsky is marvelous as the Robin Hood-like Azdak, and works extremely well with Hooper and Landgraf in the final "chalk circle" scenes of the play.

Eric Southern's set and lighting design is excellent and really complements the play. His set, like a hastily abandoned warehouse, left with only odds and ends, works so well in the opening scene of the play between the peasants, and gives the actors so much to work with during the rest of the show.

Cormac Bluestone's music for the show is a treat, and Piazza proves himself adept at making the most of it.

Despite the size of the house at the Joyce and Seward Johnson Theater at Theater for the New City, the performances have been selling out, so make a reservation and see this wonderful production.

The Caucasian Chalk Circle
By Bertolt Brecht
Translated by Eric Bentley
Directed by Anya Saffir
Music by Cormac Bluestone
Assistant Director: Theo Wilson
Producers: Arielle Siegel, Nicole Spiezio
Stage Manager: Jessika Doyel
Set and Lighting Design: Eric Southern
Costume Design: Katja Andreiev
Choreography: Alison Beatty
Fight Choreography: Turner Smith
Prop Design: Zealan Salemi
Graphic Design: Ryan Pointer
Puppet Design: Katey Parker
Projection Design: Steve Girard
Assistant Producer: Jenny Donheiser
Assistant Stage Manager: Rebecca Schoffer
Assistant Set Design: Sam Dash, Jon Herman
Assistant Lighting Design: Marika Kent
Music Captain: Charley Layton
Production Intern: Rosemary Shemesh
House Manager: Kelsey Mills
Marketing: Katelyn Manfre, John Early, Sydney Matthews, Heather Morris, Marisol Sacramento

Featuring: Ronald Peet, Maura Hooper, Glenn Hergenhahn, John Early, Chloé Wepper, Sam Dash, Joyce Miller, Vladimir Margolin, Jacquelyn Landgraf, Gil Zabarsky, Sydney Matthews, Daniel Johnsen, Alex Mills, Matthew Hanson, Michael R. Piazza, Charley Layton, Marek Sapievski, Brian Maxsween

Theater for the New City
155 First Ave (between 9th & 10th Streets)

March 5-19
Wednesday through Saturday at 8pm
Sundays at 3pm
Saturday March 19th at 2pm & 8pm

Tom Judson's "Canned Ham" Returns to Dixon Place

By Byrne Harrison
Cross-posted from Gay Theatre NYC Review

Tom Judson brings his one-man show, Canned Ham, back to Dixon Place through March 26th. Canned Ham is Tom's theatrical memoir detailing his life in all areas of show business: acting in Broadway musicals (Cabaret, 42nd Street), composing music for film and television (Whit Stillman's Metropolitan, Sesame Street) and the work for which he is probably most widely known, appearing in gay adult films as Gus Mattox. Stories and songs are interwoven with visuals and musical numbers to celebrate a life that is extraordinary yet--because the story is bookended by the tale of his partner's death from AIDS--all too familiar to many. Tom accompanies himself on the piano, the accordion, the trumpet and nine other instruments--sometimes simultaneously.

I had a chance to talk to Tom about the latest incarnation his show.

Tell me a little bit about Canned Ham and how it came to be.

In a nutshell: I went broke when the real estate market collapsed (I was flipping houses--very small scale--in upstate New York) and when I spotted this little, broken-down camper in a barnyard, I hatched the crazy scheme of hitching it up to my Jeep and driving around the country, doing odd jobs here and there to support myself. Then I thought, oh, I have all these great stories from working in porn and the theater and movies, I could string them together and play a couple of tunes on the accordion and find the local gay bar and do the show for drink tickets. When I sat down and wrote the script it ended up being so much more substantial than I had imagined that I realized it was destined for a theater, not for an open mic night on the road  somewhere. So in a way, I wrote myself out of what might have been a terrific road trip, but I gained a wonderful new project.

How does it feel bringing Canned Ham back to Dixon Place, the space where it saw some of its earliest performances and your recent birthday show?

Dixon Place has one of the best spaces/tech facilities downtown. The acoustics alone make it a pleasure to perform there. Besides, I've been performing at the various incarnations of DP since the early eighties, when it was in Ellie Covan's living room on East First Street. I've got a real history with the place

How has the play evolved since its earliest Dixon Place performances?

Oh, God, where to start? More of everything, mostly: more music (LOTS more music), more visuals, more choreography, more musical instruments (12, at last count) and the script has been completely take apart and put back together, based on what I've learned doing it for the past year and a half.

I saw Canned Ham in Provincetown and New York, and saw a big difference in the audiences. You've  performed Canned Ham in several different cities. Have you noticed much difference, and do you have a favorite?

It's remarkable how audiences differ from town to town. I experienced that with the big Broadway tours I've been on. A favorite? You don't really expect me to answer that, do you? [Editor's note - I'm pretty sure he wanted to say New York.]

As I mentioned, you had a special performance of Canned Ham at Dixon Place on your 50th birthday. What was your birthday wish this year?

Oh, I don't really indulge in wishes and resolutions. Life has been so good to me, throwing things at me willy-nilly, that I don't see any reason to start interfering with it now.

What's coming up next for you?

I'm continuing to play for Varla Jean Merman as much as possible. Canned Ham will be booked around the country wherever we can get a foothold, and I'm planning on doing a new show in Provincetown this summer. I only have a vague idea so far what that will be. Mostly music, I'm thinking. A classy (but sexy) cabaret of some sort.

Dixon Place presents

Tom Judson's

Directed by Kevin Malony
Press Representative: Tim Ranney

"Leaves you yelling for more," - Alan Cumming

"Fast, funny and surprisingly moving." - The Huffington Post

Thursdays - Saturdays, March 3-5, 17-19, 24-26 at 7:30pm

Tickets: $15 (advance); $20 (door)

Friday, March 11, 2011

Final Performance of "Mendacity" to Benefit RAINN

Final Performance for Critically Acclaimed
Multi-media Solo Show

TONIGHT - Friday, March 11th
@ 8:30pm
Tickets $15, Students $10

85 East 4th Street, New York, NY 10003

Running Time = 50 minutes with no intermission.

According to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN), about 80% of rape cases in the United States are women aged 24 and under, and that statistic becomes even more staggering when we realize that most sexual assaults of young women go unreported out of fear, disgust, shame, and denial. This is strictly a not-for-profit production.

Written and directed by Lauren Rayner, MENDACITY takes you deep inside the mind of a splintering personality, peppered with dark humor and wrought with self-loathing and denial over sexual assault. Join us in a rebellious journey of fragmented transcendence and the offering of hope. MENDACITY is pleased to donate 100% of the proceeds from their performances to RAINN.

During a February 22nd feature in The Huffington Post, columnist Jill Di Donato investigated the creation of the production and heralds MENDACITY’S “compassion, passion, vulnerability, openness and intensity.”
“Ali Kresch has a stripped-down simplicity that effectively reveals vulnerability”
“Her performance really connects and crackles with energy”
“rhythmic … visceral … emotionally charged”
“Mendacity has enormous value as a conversation-starter”
-Loren Noveck,

Ashley Steed of LA Stage Times calls MENDACITY “a kaleidoscope of vibrant voices with reflections constantly revolving and morphing around the issue of sexual assault. For someone to take something so personal and heartbreaking and transform it into something so transcendent and gut-wrenchingly honest is magnificent, awe-inspiring and inspirational.”

MENDACITY brings together a team of 15 creative collaborators and integrates dynamic multi-media techniques, including mind-blowing video projections by Jay Kilachand, an original soundscape designed by Jake Hull (of the band Momentary Prophets) with gestural choreography by Shiloh Goodin and a vibrant lighting design by Tony Lepore. The piece is performed by Ali Kresch.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

"Timon of Athens" - A Timely Curiosity

Reviewed by Judd Hollander

Kudos to The Public Theater and director Barry Edelstein for presenting a very involving production of the rarely-seen Shakespeare work Timon of Athens (The offering is part of the Public Lab Shakespeare series). Long considered one of the Bard's problem plays, the show often zips by with a smart, sure and involving effect. However, despite all the positive attributes of the production, the inherent problems of the text are still quite visible.

In ancient Athens, Timon (Richard Thomas) is a much-admired and prosperous landowner, given to holding elaborate feasts and enjoying the fawning flattery of his so-called friends who loudly boast about how well they love him. Timon responds to them in kind, endlessly lavishing riches (in the form of gold, jewels and horses) on his admirers. He also pays a convicted man's fine and even arranges for the marriage of a servant by presenting a large dowry to the prospective father-in-law.

Unfortunately Timon also has a major blind spot; he does not keep track of his financial accounts, spending far more than he actually has in his ever-shrinking coffers. When finally realizing the gravity of his situation (after learning he is utterly broke), Timon turns to those self-same friends for help, never dreaming they would deny him in his time of need. Yet deny him they do, with sad-sounding excuses and simulated righteous rage (one man rails against Timon for being asked third for help instead of first). Furious, Timon plots his revenge by inviting his former comrades to yet another sumptuous dinner, this one with an unexpected main course.

Act Two takes place after Timon has fled his palatial home and is living as a hermit in the woods, shunning all human contact, rebuffing even his loyal steward Flavius (Mark Nelson) and living on roots and water. Yet when rumors begin to circulate that Timon has regained his wealth, his old "friends" come out of the woodwork, once more seeking his favors and wanting to let bygone by bygones. However, Timon may not been so inclined to forget and forgive.

The play definitely tells an interesting story, but the end result feel somewhat disjointed, mainly because the show's two acts don't mesh all that well; with the first filled with intrigue and multiple characters and characterizations (and moving at an almost frenetic but controlled pace); while the second, more slower and intimate half focuses on Timon basically railing against those he feels have betrayed him. There's also a subplot of how Alcibiades, an Athenian Captain, (Reg E. Cathey) has fallen out of favor, and who has raised an army and is returning to destroy the city.

The saying "a fool and his money are soon parted" is a central message of Timon of Athens; along with idea that money is the root of all evils, at least for those who do not have the ability to understand its power and danger. There's also a not-so-gentle inference about the overall hypocrisy of man, as well as an opportunity for redemption, should those offered it have the courage to learn from what has transpired before.

Edelstein's direction is excellent, especially in the first act; setting the scene and letting events unfold nicely. He's a bit hamstrung by the constrictions of the text at points, but manages to keep things moving as best he can. Edelstein also takes the opportunity to play up the possibilities for black humor that are inherent in the script. Such as when two of Alcibiades' soldiers (costumed as terrorists) try to rob Timon and his almost joyful reaction to their attempt.

Thomas is wonderful as the title character. His transformation from flattery-loving fop to destitute misanthrope is quite believable. Indeed, given the current economic situation, the events depicted in the play are unfortunately very timely. Timon's actions later on are harder to connect with, the action taking place in a more unfamiliar world than that of act one. Most of the rest of the cast plays multiple roles (e.g. bankers, angry fathers, poets, jewelers, etc.), with only surface depth to them, but all come across as very realistic. Tom Bloom and Triney Sandoval do very well in this regard. Other standouts include Max Casella as the philosopher Apemantus, a sort of voice of angry reason to which Timon pays no need, and Cathey as the determined and angry soldier. Also quite good is Nelson as supremely loyal Flavius.

The sets by Neil Patel are very good. It also helps that the show has more than a bit of a timeless quality, thanks to the use of video projections by Andrew C. Kircher and costumes by Katherine Roth, the latter which offers a nice mixture of varying styles. Lighting by Russell H. Champa is fine and the sound design by Leon Rothenberg, with a bit of a rock beat, is excellent.

Timon of Athens is not the best work in the Shakespeare canon, but there's still a lot to be appreciated from the Public Theater's very enjoyable, if somewhat unwieldy production.

Timon of Athens
Written by William Shakespeare
Directed by Barry Edelstein
Scenic Design: Neil Patel
Costume Design: Katherine Roth
Lighting Design: Russell H. Champa
Sound Design: Leon Rothenberg
Video Design: Andrew C. Kircher
Wig Design: Paul Huntley
Fight Director: Thomas Schall
Vocal and Text Coach: Shane Ann Younts
Music: Curtis Moore
Production Stage Manager: James Latus
Stage Manager Tom Taylor
Guitar: Simon Kafka

Featuring: Richard Thomas (Timon), Max Casella (Apemantus), Reg E. Cathey (Alcibiades), Mark Nelson (Flavius), David Manis (Lucius/Senator), Chris McKinney (Lucullus/Senator), Triney Sandoval (Sempronius/Senator), Che Ayende (Servilius), Cary Donaldson (Lucilius), Tom Bloom (Senator/Old Athenian/Stranger), Brian Keane (Merchant/Officer of the Senate), Anthony Manna (Jeweler/Caphis), Greg McFadden (Poet), Orville Mendoza (Painter), Joe Paulik (Cupid/Philotus).

The Public Theater
425 Lafayette Street

Running Time: 2 hours, 30 minutes.
Closed: March 6, 2011

Album Review - Celebrate Broadway Vol. 7: Kids

By Sherry Shaffer

It’s difficult to say what the compilers of "Celebrate Broadway Vol. 7: Kids" were thinking when they decided to put together this album. The synopsis provided says it is “a collection of songs for kids, about kids, and with kids. More than anything else these songs are about fun – so sing and laugh along with them or form your own group…” As far as I can tell, the whole thing was made up to cover for the fact that they had leftover songs in their inventory that they didn’t know what to do with. Either that or a high up boss somewhere wanted it done for their own weird purposes.

The album begins, predictably enough, with “Kids” from Bye Bye Birdie. They use the movie version, perhaps because there wasn’t a Broadway recording available. It isn’t a very clear copy, but at least it makes sense for the theme. In the same vein, the next song is “I Won’t Grow Up” from Peter Pan with Mary Martin in the lead. “Getting to Know You” from The King and I follows Martin, and then the whole thing starts to fall apart.

I can handle a “kiddie” album. It can be a fun bit of nostalgia and you might really want to get the family together and belt out some tunes. But when you follow “Because It’s June” from Carousel with “Hair” from Hair, you’re barking up the wrong tree. The Carousel song is from the 1965 revival cast album, featuring Katherine Hilgenberg in all her old-school musical glory. It’s a pleasant song, but what does it have to do with kids? Granted, it’s about getting randy in the spring, and that often results in kids, but it’s hardly a reasonable tie to the title. Following it with “Hair” is just plain jarring. The style is so different it’s tough to recover enough to listen to the rest of the songs.

This compilation is just filled with bizarre – and bad – decisions. For instance, if you’re going to include “Comedy Tonight” from A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum – which isn’t remotely a kids’ show – why make it an instrumental on an album that you’re encouraged to sing along to? Worse, it’s an instrumental from the 1992 Carnegie Hall Sondheim Celebration and the amazing Bill Irwin performs with the orchestra. You can hear the laughter from Irwin’s antics, but, of course, you can’t see any of it.

Ethel Merman singing a lullaby? With all due respect to the Broadway great; her voice is not made for soothing, and of all the fun songs from Annie Get Your Gun, why choose this one?

A mash-up of “Sixteen Tons” and “Chain Gang” from Forever Plaid? (Those aren’t even Broadway tunes!)

A near-offensive song sung with a fake Mexican accent from a 1960 Lucille Ball flop? Need I say more?

What the heck??

There are a couple of good songs on Kids but not enough to justify buying this hot mess of a compilation. You could do much better on your own with a subscription to a music service and the CD burner on your computer.

Celebrate Broadway Vol. 7: Kids
Original Release Date: November 22, 2010
Label: Masterworks Broadway
Copyright: (P) 1995 Sony Music Entertainment
Total Length: 41:51

Interview With Reed Prescott of New York Theatre Barn

By Byrne Harrison

New York Theatre Barn is about to embark on its largest feat yet – the company has partnered with Prospect Theater Company (now in its 11th season) to produce a production of the new musical I Married Wyatt Earp, written by Michele Brourman (Dangerous Beauty), Sheilah Rae (Funny, You Don't Look Like A Grandmother) and Thomas Edward West (Enchanted Cottage).

Marketing Coordinator Reed Prescott talked with me about the show and the challenge of funding new productions.

I understand that you're using Kickstarter to raise money for your upcoming production of "I Married Wyatt Earp." Is this your first time using Kickstarter?

Yes, this is our first time using Kickstarter. Its a fantastic platform that encompasses charitable giving, social media, and the opportunity for each project to express itself outside of the traditional advertising and marketing strategies. It also makes giving fun because you can track each project you are donating too. The thing about Kickstarter is you ONLY get the donated funds if you actually reach your goal. If you don't meet it, you don't get any of the funds.

What lead you to try this type of fundraising? Had you heard of other companies doing it?

I know many individuals who have been involved in Kickstarter campaigns that have met their fundraising goals. As a company, we have had very little success raising funds from our primary demographic - emerging songwriters, playwrights and actors. We knew we had to spread our wings out farther than ever before because this co-production of I Married Wyatt Earp is simply the biggest project we have ever engaged in.

Do you think you'll continue using Kickstarter on upcoming productions?

Probably. We are optimistic about this campaign, even though we are not yet at 50% and with only 3 days left. We are really hoping your readers will support this amazing new project.

Tell me a little bit about I Married Wyatt Earp.

I Married Wyatt Earp tells the story of the famous legend of Wyatt Earp from an all-female perspective, and pays homage to the women pioneers of The Wild West. There have been over 50 retellings of the Wyatt Earp story in film, television and theatre, but this is the first time it will ever be told from the women's point of view - most importantly the wives of the Earp brothers. It's the story of a gutsy Jewish socialite from San Francisco who gives up her life to explore the Wild West. And the music is absolutely gorgeous and breathtaking.

If people want to participate in this project, how do they donate and how much time do they have left?

We have until 9:20pm Monday March 14, 2011. Follow this link to make a donation.

What else is coming up this year for New York Theatre Barn?

That honestly depends on the support we receive from the community for I Married Wyatt Earp. We'd love to continue to support new musical theatre, not just live but incorporating social media and every trend to come. We are a vibrant (volunteer) staff at The Barn. We do this because we can't think of a world without new musical theatre. Hopefully your readers feel the same and will support us and help us thrive.

I Married Wyatt Earp
A New Musical
Book by Thomas Edward West and Sheilah Rae
Music by Michele Brourman
Lyrics by Sheilah Rae
Suggested in part by the book “I Married Wyatt Earp" by Glenn G. Boyer

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

FRIGID New York Festival Roundup: Part 2

By Byrne Harrison

The second part of my FRIGID New York Festival experience. Some of these shows are featured in the FRIGID Hangover, so there is still time to see a little of what the festival had to offer.

The Bitter Poet: Looking For Love In All The Wrong Black Box Performance Spaces
Written and Performed by Kevin Draine

The American West has its cowboy poets, lonely men of the plains. I think Kevin Draine's Bitter Poet is the New York equivalent. His poetry, which he accompanies on guitar, covers his numerous dating foibles. Featuring strippers, performance artists, and cheating girlfriends, Draine's poetry is moving and evocative, and it would be hard not to like his Bitter Poet persona.

Draine states at the beginning of the show that this isn't theatre, as such. No story. No moral. Just life. And The Bitter Poet has plenty to say about life.

Set aside your expectations for what a one-man show should be, and check out The Bitter Poet.

Boat Load
Written and Performed by Jayson McDonald
Directed by Jeff Culbert

Gary Bazman is an actor in need of a change. Stuck performing uninspiring (and humiliating) children's theatre, he finds out about a prestigious playwriting competition that could move him on to something bigger and better (or at least different). But how can an actor living hand-to-mouth come up with $1,000 for the entry fee? And what about his sick cat, Mr. Tangerine, whose surgery will also be $1,000? Isn't that too much money to spend on a cat?

Jayson McDonald, a charming and versatile actor, vividly brings Gary and his circle of friends and family to life. Seemlessly moving from his pompous vet, disapproving father, psycho girlfriend, stoner best friend, and even Mr. Tangerine, McDonald creates a tight and funny story about becoming "unstuck" and finding ways to move forward in life, even if you find yourself moving in an unexpected direction.

Featuring strong direction, a winkingly clever script, and an outstanding performance, I'd like to see Boat Load come back for a longer stay.

Wonder Woman: A How To Guide For Little Jewish Girls
Written and Performed by Cyndi Freeman
Directed by David Drake

Wonder Woman. Looking at her costume, it's hard to believe that she is a voice for female empowerment. She could quite easily be ignored as another example of unrealistic male fantasy.

Well, once you've seen Cyndi Freeman's one-woman show, featuring excellent direction by Obie Award-winner David Drake, you'll see Wonder Woman for what she is, an empowered woman and feminist icon who has helped generations of women, including Cyndi Freeman, become empowered themselves.

Part history lesson (did you know Wonder Woman's creator invented the polygraph?), part coming-of-age tale, with just a touch of burlesque to shake things up, Freeman's show is fun and inspirational. You might find yourself spinning in place (a la Lynda Carter) just to see if you can transform into a star-spangled Amazon.

There Is No Good News
Written and Performed by David Mogolov
Directed by Steve Kleinedler
Music by Ryan Walsh and Evan Sicuranza

It's a treat to see a good, old-fashioned monologuist at work. Especially one with a wry sense of humor. David Mogolov is a skilled storyteller, weaving together a story that deals with the financial crisis and the people behind it, growing up, and the terror of becoming a father.

Mogolov is at his best sitting at a table and talking to the audience. Sometimes quiet, sometimes explosive, his voice draws the audience in and captivates them.

Director Steve Kleinedler does a solid job, and the show is remarkably polished (notwithstanding the fact that Mogolov uses notes during the show).

Goodnight Lovin' Trail
By John Patrick Bray
Directed by Akia
Production Stage Manager: Lindsay Beecher
Music by C. Gibbs & the Cardia Brothers
Guitar Design & Fabrication by Elaine Jones
Run Crew: Samantha Cooper, Dan Dombroff, Rick Benson, and Jason Vinoles
Photography by David Anthony
Publicity: Emily Owens PR
Featuring Lindsay Beecher, Joe Beaudin, Nic Mevoli and Olivia Rorick

Featuring a rotating cast (Joe Beaudin and Olivia Rorick at the performance I saw), Goodnight Lovin' Trail tells the story of two lost souls. One, referred to as Coffee & Cigarettes (Joe Beaudin), is a guitar player working his way west. The other, Lee (Olivia Rorick), is a widow nearing the end of her rope. Brought together by the theft of Coffee's guitar, the two recognize a certain kinship.

Bray's play is well-written and remarkably concise (the performance is only 35 minutes long). However, it never really feels rushed. Director Akia keeps the action on track and moving forward. There is a feeling of economy in her style. Nothing overdone or out of place.

My only complaint about this play is that the actors simply look a little too bright and composed for people who are so run down. Lee is a young widow with an out-of-control child, forced to work at a road house. Rorick, though a capable actor, rarely comes across that frazzled or worn down. The same is true of Beaudin. I would like to have seen a little more age and wear (literal or metaphorical) on these characters.