Friday, May 27, 2011

SoloNOVA Festival Day 1 - "Santa Claus Is Coming Out" and "Woman of Leisure and Panic"

By Byrne Harrison

This year, I kicked off my SoloNOVA Festival experience with Jeffrey Solomon's Santa Claus Is Coming Out, a documentary-style piece set after the incident known as "Santa-gate."  It all started with a little boy who wanted a doll for Christmas and ended with the most famous celebrity of all, Santa Claus, coming out of the closet.  Fashioned as a documentary, Solomon's play features interviews with those closest to Santa - among them, his long-time beard, Mrs. Claus; his agent; one of his elves; and even his Italian boyfriend.

Santa Claus Is Coming Out isn't exactly what you might expect.  It's not camp.  It's not mean-spirited.  Ultimately it's a charming story about a boy learning who he is, and an icon coming to terms with the effect, naughty or nice, that his living a lie has on the people around him.  If he tells the truth, will people accept him, or will Christmas be over forever?

Solomon is a pleasure to watch as he creates the many, many characters who fill his play.  He is so convincing that it comes as a bit of a surprise when there is only one man taking bows at the curtain call.  Director Joe Brancato is completely in sync with Solomon and does a great job with the material.

A well-done piece about love and acceptance, Santa Claus Is Coming Out provided an excellent start to SoloNOVA.

My second show for the day was Charlotte Bydwell's Woman of Leisure and Panic.  I'm always a little concerned when I hear about a show that deals with the difficulties of being a young artist in New York City.  Often these pieces are self-indulgent and obvious, dealing superficially with well-worn subject matter.  Bydwell's play is a pleasant surprise.  Yes, she does cover some familiar territory - the seeming futility of the audition process, the difficulties of dating, the soul-sucking subsistence jobs.  Bydwell's hook is that she approaches her show both as an actor and dancer.  Emotional moments in the play are often punctuated by dance in clever and unique ways, heightening the effect the scene has on the audience.

Much of Woman of Leisure and Panic deals with time - how to make time for work, auditions, family, friends, dating, and everything else - and whether we control our calendar or our calendar controls us.  It's pretty clear that the calendar always has the upper hand in this play, but as Bydwell cleverly hints at the end of the show, maybe she doesn't really mind it that much.

Woman of Leisure and Panic was a nice surprise, as was Charlotte Bydwell.  I'm looking forward to seeing more of her work in the future.

Santa Claus Is Coming Out
Written and Performed by Jeffrey Solomon
Directed by Joe Brancato

Woman of Leisure and Panic
Created, Choreographed and Performed by Charlotte Bydwell
Dramaturgy by Carlye Eckert
Costume Design by Erica Evans

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

SoloNOVA Festival Interview - Joseph Keckler of "JOBZ"

By Byrne Harrison

Joseph was born in Michigan, and grew up in one of several tiny towns that begin with the letter P and slowly orbit the relative metropolis of Kalamazoo (completing a full circle once in a human lifetime.) Joseph spent his early life inside his mind, before moving out of it as a teenager to wander the aisles, late-night, of the local 24hr Walmart, and lollygag in the basement dwellings of self-proclaimed warlocks, waiting in vain for them to levitate scraps of paper.

He attended the University of Michigan, where he trained as a painter and an opera singer, graduating at the top of his class. He immediately moved to New York City to establish himself as a singer, performance artist, and avant-monologist.

What is your theatrical background?

I studied visual art, and I also trained in voice. In calling what I do theater I feel that I'm an impostor -- as though my mask will be pulled off at any moment, like a Scooby Doo villain, and that I'll be revealed as... well, I don't know what. I will say that I have been writing for performance for a number of years, using performance as a laboratory and party zone in which I can combine different artistic elements in whatever way I see fit. I've written a number of plays, and a lot of solo pieces, both short-form and full-length.

I've done quite a bit of acting as well. I've been in operas, plays, and even done commercial work.I love it, but again, I didn't set out to be an actor.

How did you get involved in the solo format?

I studied both performance and writing under Holly Hughes. I might not be performing original text if it weren't for her. I found myself particularly drawn to the form, and to the way Holly presented it, because of a certain deep sense of inclusion -- the notion that anyone could be a performance artist, and that any medium could be brought into performance.

I continue to use myself in my work because I'm portable, available, somewhat reliable, and cheap. I've trained myself to do the things I want done on stage. Reciprocally, I've tailored my work to my strange and diverse set of skills.

Who are your inspirations?

I admire all sorts of artists, dead and alive. Truthfully, I am most strongly inspired by intense, dramatic singers. Screamin' Jay Hawkins, Marian Anderson, David Bowie, Bessie Smith, Jimmy Scott, Poly Styrene...

Tell me a little bit about your show.

The subject matter is low-level day jobs I've held in the New York arts world. I've worked in a gallery, a museum, a music bootleg operation... The show is about being a young artist in New York, identity formation -- don't worry, I won't say "finding yourself". It's a mediation on fantasy in daily life, the creative impulse, and the desire to escape -- from a job, a body, a situation. I named the show JOBZ, because I got a kick out of how awful and absurd it sounded to me. Now I'm trapped in it, which is sort of like being trapped in all those day jobs and having to find a way to exist within them.

The show is made up primarily of storytelling and monologue, with some sung sections also. Dan Bartfield plays fantastic live violin in the show, and my director Josh Hecht and I have been working closely with sound-wizard Rob Kaplowitz, who designed FELA! and many other things, to create an intricate score for the piece.

If you could get any person (living or dead, famous or not) to come see your show, who would you choose?

Someone from the middle ages. They would be sure to be blown away, if only by the sight of electricity, and the power point cues in my show.

What's next for you after soloNOVA?

I'm premiering a new piece, A Voice and Nothing More, in Amsterdam in September and working on music projects and a collection of stories.

Written & Performed by Joseph Keckler
With violinist Dan Bartfield
Directed by Josh Hecht

MAY 21 and 24 at 7pm
MAY 22 at 2pm
MAY 26 at 9pm
MAY 28 at 4pm

SoloNOVA Festival Interview - Desiree Burch of "Tar Baby"

By Byrne Harrison

Desiree Burch is a New York-based solo performance artist, comedian, writer, actress and producer. She earned a B.A. in theater from Yale University in 2001, and continued her theater education in New York, performing at such venerable downtown venues such as Dixon Place, P.S. 122 and The Atlantic Theater, as well as with experimental companies like NYU’s E.T.W. and Gorilla Rep. She honed her cabaret emcee performance aesthetic as the host and curator of the weekly alt-performance series SMUT at Galapagos Art Space. Desiree’s previous full-length solo performances include Greatest Hits, Careless and The Sit Down Show. Her hit solo piece 52 Man Pickup has visited numerous theatres and festivals, including the Edinburgh Fringe.

What is your theatrical background?

My first play was Our Town, my junior year of high school (I played the Stage Manager). From there, after being actively involved in theater programs productions and regional competitions in high school, I attended Yale University and received a BA in Theater Studies.  Guided by my performance studies teacher Deb Margolin, I created my first solo show as my thesis project, and did my first solo performance at Dixon Place.  I have been working in NYC since, for the past 10 years, in theater, solo performance and comedy.

How did you get involved in the solo format?

I was always a writer, and found that this was the best medium in which i could express a personal truth and connect to others in a meaningful and evolving way.  But I would say that it was really studying with Deb Margolin in college that ignited that.

Who are your inspirations?

Bill Hicks, Deb Margolin, Dael Orlandersmith, Spalding Gray, Mike Daisey, Anna Deveare Smith, John
Leguizamo, Margaret Cho, Cynthia Hopkins, Eddie Izzard, Richard Pryor, Louis C.K., Zora Neale Hurston, and Morrissey.

Tell me a little bit about your show.

Tar Baby is about the struggle, or lack thereof, with race in America. I am trying to find a new way to fight the old "Tar Baby".  Taking a very personal tack with this, I explore cultural and personal history through the use of childhood games and entertainment to expose an underlying isolation in all that is America.  Also, Punch and Pie. 

If you could get any person (living or dead, famous or not) to come see your show, who would you choose?

Definitely Zora.  She might hate it in parts, but she'd get it for sure.

What's next for you after soloNOVA?

I will be taking my previous solo show 52 Man Pickup on another trip to the UK, as well as revamping my popular variety show, SMUT, for the Edinburgh Fringe, before continuing to tour.  I am also working on extending the life of both Tar Baby, and The Soup Show (created with Erica Livingston and Cara Francis and Lauren Sharpe of the New York Neo-Futurists) through future runs, and creating material for the web.

Written & Performed by Desiree Burch
Co-Written by Dan Kitrosser
Directed by Isaac Byrne

MAY 21 and 24 at 9pm
MAY 22 at 4pm
MAY 26 at 7pm
MAY 28 at 2pm

SoloNOVA Festival Interview - Andrea Caban of "Questions My Mother Can't Answer"

By Byrne Harrison
Photo by David Flores

Andrea Caban is a New York based actor, writer, producer, and teacher. Andrea received the 2008 New York Innovative Theater Award for Outstanding Solo Performance for her documentary-based play You Got Questions? I Got Answers! Her play also earned Outstanding Short Script & Outstanding Performance Art Production nominations. Other solo pieces include a documentary piece developed under the direction of Bill Rauch called Tony exploring the life & restaurant stories of an illegal Mexican immigrant. New York & Regional credits include productions at The Public Theater, Williamstown Theater Festival, Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey, Long Wharf Theater, New World Stages, HERE Arts Center, GAle GAtes et al, Boise Contemporary Theater and The Hayworth Theater in LA. Andrea is a Medici Fellowship Recipient for her work in Balinese mask theater. She is the Producing Director of Coyote REP Theatre Company (

What is your theatrical background?

I'm a classically trained actor. Got my MFA from UC Irvine, trained at the Public Theater Shakespeare Lab,

How did you get involved in the solo format?

I was working with Bill Rauch while at Irvine. I created a documentary theater piece under his direction and something magical happened. Something had clicked in me. Collecting and performing someone else's words seemed the perfect confluence of my curiosity about other people's choices and my skills as an character actor. I created one solo piece at Irvine, and then another here in New York called You Got Questions? I Got Answers! in which I interviewed 10 New Yorkers about when they felt the most isolated and when they felt the most connected to others. I knew I had another in me and Questions My Mother Can't Answer emerged as a story about the journey I was on, despite my reluctance. My faux anthropological curiosity no longer served me and I became a character in my play.

Who are your inspirations?

Nilaja Sun, Anna Deavere Smith, Lisa Kron and Bill Rauch.

Tell me a little bit about Questions My Mother Can't Answer.

The play is my emotional journey after being hit by a NYC cab, losing my period, and losing my sense of self. I interview 8 women all around my mom's age (60's) about how to stay married, when to have a baby & how to deal with bumps in the road. It's a healing play filled with lots of female wisdom. In a way, it's also the story of my becoming a healer myself.

It's not all woo-woo & gooey though. These women will say ANYTHING, and I ask a lot of them, so they DO say anything. The play has a lot of humor in it because of them.

If you could get any person (living or dead, famous or not) to come see your show, who would you choose?

Nilaja. And she's coming!

What's next for you after soloNOVA?

The play is on the 2011/2012 season at Boise Contemporary Theater. And I'm in the process of booking more theaters and venues. I wouldn't mind doing a tour. Or an Off-Broadway run. We'll see where it wants to go next!

Written & Performed by Andrea Caban
Directed by Rachel Eckerling

MAY 21 at 4pm
MAY 22 at 6pm
MAY 23, 25 and 27 at 8pm

Monday, May 23, 2011

Independent Theater Bloggers Association Announce 2011 Recipients of Patrick Lee Awards

The Independent Theater Bloggers Association(the “ITBA”) is proud to announce the 2011 recipients of the Third Annual Patrick Lee Theater Blogger Awards.   Patrick Lee was one of the ITBA's founding members. Patrick passed away suddenly last June, and was an erudite, passionate, and tireless advocate for theater in all its forms. Patrick was also the ITBA's first awards director, and was a regular contributor to Theatermania and TDF Stages.

The 2010-2011 Patrick Lee Theater Blogger Award Winners:

Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson


Anything Goes

The Normal Heart

The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity

The Kid

Angels in America, Part 1: Millennium Approaches

Michael Shannon, Mistakes Were Made

Feeder: A Love Story
The Caucasian Chalk Circle
Belarus Free Theater's Discover Love
Black Watch

Sleep No More

The Scottsboro Boys

Nina Arianda, Born Yesterday
Laura Benanti, Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown
Reed Birney, A Small Fire
Christian Borle, Peter and the Starcatcher
Norbert Leo Butz, Catch Me If You Can
Bobby Cannavale, The Motherfucker with the Hat
Colman Domingo, The Scottsboro Boys
Sutton Foster, Anything Goes
Josh Gad, The Book of Mormon
Hamish Linklater, School for Lies
Joe Mantello, The Normal Heart
Arian Moayed, Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo
Lily Rabe, The Merchant of Venice
Mark Rylance, Jerusalem
Michael Shannon, Mistakes Were Made
Benjamin Walker, Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson

La Mama

The list of the 2011 recipients of The Patrick is read by Susan Blackwell, Heidi Blickenstaff, Jeff Bowen and Hunter Bell, the cast and creators of the acclaimed [title of show] and who are currently collaborating on Now. Here. This.", a Developmental Lab Production at the Vineyard Theatre:   A video of their reading is on Youtube at  which was filmed by ITBA member Jesse North.

The ITBA, is comprised of bloggers who regularly see live performances in all its forms in New York City and beyond.   Members are in New York, Boston, Chicago, Minneapolis, and London.  For further information and a list of our members, our website is  If you are interested in learning more about the ITBA, email  To invite the members of the ITBA to your show or event, please send an email to

Review - Summer (Turtle Shell Productions)

By Byrne Harrison
Photos by John Cooper

Edith Wharton's novella, "Summer," is a fascinating look at the limited world facing a young woman of no means and little education at the turn of the 20th Century. I can fully understand why playwright Martin M. Zuckerman and director John Cooper wanted to bring it to the stage. Zuckerman's adaptation highlights some of the many skills of Turtle Shell Productions, however, the play itself seems too large for the relatively simple story it is telling. The result is beautiful and well-acted, but in need of some editing to focus the drama and bring it to its full potential.

Charity (Christiane Seidel) is sweet young girl in a very small town. Although she serves at the town's librarian, she's out of her depth. When a dashing young architect, Lucius (John P. Keller) comes to town in order to research a book he's writing, it's no wonder the Charity is fascinated. As that fascination turn into something more, she finds herself at odds with her mentor Mr. Royall (Mark Mikulski), a lawyer with a love of liquor and an eye for Charity. Although he hopes to marry her, she gives herself to Lucius, with the understanding that she will be his bride. As they say, the course of true love never did run smooth, and Charity finds herself alone, pregnant and with very few options.

As the points of this love triangle, Seidel, Keller and Mikulski excel. Seidel's Charity is sweet and naive, but with a desire to learn and grow that is awakened by Lucius. Keller cuts a dashing figure as Lucius, who comes across less as a cad and more as someone unable to stand up for what he wants. Mikulski's Mr. Royall is outstanding - strong and strident when playing Royall's drunken rages, he truly plumbs the depths of his character when showing Royall's contrite and humble side. His final moments with Seidel are some of the plays most tender and well-played performances.

While the rest of the cast performs well, Pauline Walsh deserves particular praise as Royall's housekeeper. With strong comic timing, she often steals the scenes she appears in.

Production values are outstanding, with Kyle Dixon's versatile set leading the way. Christian DeAngelis does an excellent job with his subdued lighting, complimented by Jason Craigs' video and projections. A. Christina Giannini's early 20th Century costumes are superb.

Although director John Cooper does his best to keep the play flowing, there are some slow points along the way. Some judicious cutting would have led to a tighter production, but Summer is still worth a look.

By Martin M. Zuckerman
From the novella by Edith Wharton
Director: John Cooper
Assistant Director: Jason Michael Perugia
Stage Manager: Morgan Watters
Scenic Designer/Painter: Kyle Dixon
Lighting Designer: Christian DeAngelis
Sound Designer: Josh Millican
Costume Designer: A. Christina Giannini
Projection/Video Designer: Jason Craigs
Props Master: Paulina Cooper
Carpenters: Brian Aloysius Kafe, Jason Slack
Publicist/Press Agent: Hilary Russo
Box Office Manager: Paulina Cooper

Featuring: Rebecca Fey Collins (Ally), Lydia Gladstone (Dr. Merkle), Carolyn Gordon (Miss Hatchard), Michael Jay Kaplan (Liff/Evangelist), John P. Keller (Lucius), Daren Kelly (Mr. Miles), Mark Mikulski (Mr. Royall), Brooke Novak (Love), Katy O'Donnell (Julia/Orma/Singer), Christiane Seidel (Charity), Tiffany Simms (Annabel), Pauline Walsh (Verena)

Closed May 15th

Friday, May 20, 2011

"Just A Reading" Continues Through This Weekend

JUST A's much more than just a reading

April 28 - May 15

NEW YORK – Looking Glass Theatre presents Just a Reading, a new play written by Ryan Glass and directed by Chanda Calentine. This current mainstage production runs through Sunday, May 15 with performances Thursday through Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 3 p.m. Tickets are $18 general admission, $14 students/seniors with valid ID. Group tickets are available; TDF vouchers are also accepted. Running time is approximately 85 minutes without intermission. Looking Glass Theatre is located at 422 West 57th Street, (9th/10th Ave). Via subway: 1, A, C, B, D to 59th/Columbus; N, R, Q to 57th/7th. Via bus: M57, M31 to 9th Ave.

Alan Watson, NYC playwright turned Hollywood golden boy, returns to Looking Glass Theatre to present a reading of his first new play in eight years. But this isn’t the play anyone expected. This is a new script. About them.

Just a Reading is a play about the reading of a play - a play Alan has written to confess his love to his old friend and creative partner May and expose her boyfriend's affair. The guilty lovers seek escape...but the door is locked. And only Alan has the key. Will they read the parts he's written? Will he get the happy ending he's waited so long to hear?

The production features an ensemble cast including Jenn Boehm, Michael Sean Cirelli, Brandon Ferraro,Cas Marino, Alexandra Mingione and Stephen Reich.

Creative team includes: Margaret Christie (Assistant Director/Stage Manager), Ryan Metzler (Light Design) and Helen McTernan (Fight Director).

Playwright RYAN GLASS is a poet/musician/teacher from Washington Court House, Ohio- a small town tucked in the middle of several large corn fields. Introduced to the theatre world as a musical director, he has directed music for shows including Cabaret, Godspell, You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown and Grease!. His previously produced original works include Bring It On Home, Inside Outside, Shards Volume 1 and The Sun Also Rises 9-12. Under his musical alias, Slim Dixon, Ryan has performed his original music in all five boroughs, solo and with The Waywords, including a number of Looking Glass Theatre events. As a teacher, Ryan has worked with students ages eight months to 25 years, teaching everything from Music For Aardvarks (Mommy & Me) to high school Job Readiness.

Director CHANDA CALENTINE is a graduate of Ohio University, holding a B.S. in Organizational Communication, with minors in Dance and Theater. Originally from Ohio, Chanda has been active in New York City's theater community as a performer, director, choreographer, teacher and arts administrator. Currently, she serves as the Development Director/ Artistic Associate at Looking Glass Theatre. Previously at Looking Glass, she directed 70 Million Tons, All In My Head (Awarded Best Forum Director), Her Only Customer and The Hope Chest. Other recent NYC directing credits include Bite Your Tongue (IMPACT Theater), In the Beginning, and Shards; Volume 1 (Horse Trade Theater Group). Most recent choreography includes Fate, Fury and Musical Theatre: A Kind of Cabaret...THE REVENGE (Red Room) directed by Amanda Thompson, Are You There Zeus? It's Me, Electra (Bleecker Street Theater) directed by Aliza Shane and Live/Feed (Brooklyn Lyceum) directed by Melanie Armer.

LOOKING GLASS THEATRE - Looking Glass Theatre’s mission is to theatrically and truthfully reflect a female vision on the stage while creating a community of artistic freedom. We fulfill this by presenting female directors' visions of original works or the classics and by staging new plays either written or directed by women. This includes children’s shows and educational programming as well as our semi-annual festival of new works, featuring emerging women playwrights and directors, each season.

3-Day Live Performance Installation - The Attendants

The Attendants
May 12 - 14
12 pm to 6 pm daily
World Financial Center WInter Garden

The Attendants is an interactive performance installation. The dominant set piece is an eight-foot, transparent plexiglass cube. Two performers move inside it, and a recording of a conversation about making theatre is heard. People can communicate with the performers by texting to them with their cell phones. The messages appear on two plasma screens that surround the cube.


Presented by Arts World Financial Center
Concept: Chance D. Muehleck
Direction/Choreography: Melanie S. Armer
Set/Lighting Design: Solomon Weisbard
Sound Design/Composition: Stephan Moore
Costume Design: Shannon Koger
Stage Management: Annie Arthur
Featuring: Brian Barefoot, Stacia French, Karen Grenke, Irene Hsi, Robin Kurtz, Mark Lindberg, James “Face” Yu

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

SoloNOVA Festival Interview - Brendan McMurtry-Howlett

By Byrne Harrison

Brendan McMurtry-Howlett has performed "…and stockings for the ladies." in all its incarnations since its creation in 2007. Recent credits include: Geoffrey in The Overwhelming (CanStage/Studio 180), Nicholas in the the Fringe hit Sia (Pyretic Productions), Romeo in Romeo and Juliet (Classical Theatre Project); Puck in A Midsummer Night’s Dream (The Rose Theatre); Wayne Gretzky in John: Sudden Death (NTS); and Josh in Guns & Roses (The Original Norwegian). Brendan directed and co-wrote the play Honey in the Lion’s Head that premiered at last year’s Edmonton Fringe Festival. Film and television credits include: Degrassi: The Next Generation (CTV); Valemont (MTV); and Peripheral (Talon). Brendan is a graduate of the National Theatre School of Canada.

What is your theatrical background?

I’m still building my theatrical background. I trained at the National Theatre School of Canada. I was accepted into the acting program right out of high school and was the youngest person in my class. It was after my second year of study, still learning my craft, that I became involved in a tiny no-budget summer fringe festival project: “…and stockings for the ladies.” We blindly stumbled our way through rehearsals and emerged on the other side unsure if anybody would care about what we had spent many weeks creating. But apparently we had tapped into a specific story and form of storytelling that really resonated with people and from that first haphazard summer the show took on a life of its own. Now four years later we find ourselves mounting this show again. This show has been a significant part of my “theatrical background” and although I have been working on many diverse projects in the interim years, this show (my first “paying gig”) has had a major influence on all my work in theatre. I learned a lot about a performers relationship, puppetry, script development, character acting and physical theatre mostly on the fly.

How did you get involved in the solo format?

The short answer is money. This would have been a very expensive show to hire 25 actors to play each character, with one actor this show becomes a lot more economically viable. But of course it goes far beyond that. The actor builds a very different and more direct relationship with the audience through the solo format. In a show like ours there are two separate emotional connections that the audience experiences: they connect to the characters either loving them or hating them following their journey through the whole play; but of course in a solo show all the characters, good and bad, are played by the same actor. It is the emotional connection that develops with the actor, watching another human being jump, spin, yell, laugh, sweat their way through the show, that is so unique in the solo show format. And I feel that connection as an actor too; I rely on the audience, I live and die with them every night, there are no other castmates that are sharing the story with me, just a room full of strangers. It is vulnerable, for everyone involved because in the end it is just the actor, maybe some lights and sound, and the audience. It is the most reduced form of storytelling and I love it.

Who are your inspirations?

I’m not sure if I’m supposed to say someone like Patrick Stewart or Johnny Depp, but I’ve always needed a closer proximity to inspiration in order to really be affected. The people who inspire the most are the actors and artists that I know and work with in Toronto, and many of the teachers that I had in theatre school. One major point of inspiration is a woman named Kate Hennig who was recently starring as the Dance Teacher in Billy Elliot on Broadway. She was a teacher and mentor at school and was one of the few people who have said to me “that is not good enough. I’ve seen you do better, so just do it.” I actually helped her out with lines as she was preparing for the Billy Elliot auditions three years ago. And As cheesy as this sounds, both the writer Attila Clemann and the director Zach Fraser have been huge inspirations. Their previous experience as actors, and their expansive experience with puppetry has opened up that whole world to me in a way I never thought possible. I’ve gained a lot of respect for puppetry because of these guys and I was a pretty big skeptic at first. We work extremely well together having developed a vocabulary with this show over a period of four years and I like to think that we inspire each other through the rather challenging rehearsals. Cheesy I know, but it is what it is.

Tell me a little bit about your show.

The play follows many different storylines and depending who you ask and what they connected to the most, you could get very different descriptions of what the show is about. The main through line is the story between Ted Aplin a real life officer in the air force, and Daniel Friedman, based on Stan Winfield who served as Ted’s assistant during the time overseas in post-WWII Germany. Though Ted and the work he did during that time is the main point of inspiration for the show the real journey of the piece is through the eyes of Daniel. At the heart of it, “…and stockings for the ladies.” is a coming of age story. Daniel is a young man who joins the army seeking some obscure notion of adventure and ends up being deployed after all the “action” has happened and their air force group is left to twiddle their thumbs for a year. That is until Ted Aplin recruits a rather unwilling Daniel in his efforts to bring some sort of normalcy and dignity to the survivors of the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. Amidst a volatile landscape of Nazi collaborators, desperate survivors, and obstinate military commanders, Daniel’s own sense of self is challenged by what Ted shows him and a deep friendship is formed. But sometimes the only way to do what’s right is by sacrificing one’s closest relationships.

If you could get any person (living or dead, famous or not) to come see your show, who would you choose?

Ted Aplin and Stan Winfield, for sure. But the amazing thing about this show based on true events is that there have already been a long list of people who, after seeing the show, came out of the woodwork to say I was there or my uncle served with Ted, or I was the last baby born in the Bergen-Belsen camp. There was one woman at a show in Toronto who came up to me afterwards with tears in her eyes saying “That puppet, that character was based on my mother.” It has been amazingly humbling that after spending an hour and a half on stage people come up to me and tell their own stories. This play opens up a floodgate of everyone’s personal experiences with war and the human aftermath of such epic events. Oh, and Hitler. Just to see his reaction to seeing all of these amazing stories of people who refused to be defeated by his twisted actions.

What's next for you after soloNOVA?

We take “…and stockings for the ladies.” to Halifax and then Toronto; this is the show that refuses to be put to bed. After that I’ll be directing a show going to Edinburgh and working on several other projects for the fall and winter. No rest for the wicked.

"…and stockings for the ladies."
Performed by Brendan McMurtry-Howlett
Written by Attila Clemann
Directed by Zach Fraser

MAY 12 and 16 at 7pm
MAY 14 and 17 at 9pm
MAY 20 at 7pm

SoloNOVA Festival Interview - Atilla Clemann of "... and stockings for the ladies."

By Byrne Harrison

Attila Clemann has worked almost exclusively on collectively devised pieces including award-winning productions of Fathom (SaBooge Theatre), The Overcoat (Vancouver Playhouse) and Brilliant (Electric Company). His work as a performer has brought him from New York to the northern reaches of British Columbia teaching on the way with highlights in the favelas of Recife Brazil and The National Theatre School of Canada. As a cabinet maker, Attila’s craftmanship also frequently calls him into set design and construction. "…and stockings for the ladies." is Attila’s first playwriting credit and sources his personal family history.

What is your theatrical background?

I am a graduate of a small but renowned Canadian theatre program called Studio 58 as well as Ecole Jacques Lecoq in Paris. These two schools have pushed me into working almost exclusively on collectively devised pieces and new works. I think I have worked on all but two scripted traditional shows; the rest of my 15 years experience has been on completely new work where issues of story, style, theatricality are added to the challenge of creating characters and producing a show.

How did you get involved in the solo format?

Mostly money; it's hard to get a cast of thousands these days. But in terms of this piece, the solo format actually became a real bonus. We wanted numerous voices. It could have been done with several actors playing several parts but the virtuosity of seeing all the characters and voices spring from one body is part of the enjoyment and allows for us to have a cast of thousands on stage without all those bodies physically there.

What are your inspirations?

True stories, little tidbits of strange information, one-liners overheard in coffee shops. These are the stuff of life, the most fascinating part of theatre. As one writer said to me, "Wouldn't it be cool if the word 'fiction' was used to declare something as awesome or amazing; as in 'That's totally fiction.'" Sometimes I hear a strange phrase or story or see a really interesting person and I think: if I put that on stage no one would believe me - that's fiction man, totally fiction.

Tell me a little bit about your show.

"... and stockings for the ladies." is a mosaic of voices from post-war Germany; a small German boy, a Nazi doctor, Jewish survivors, Canadian Airforce men, letters home, and much more. Together they tell the story of Squadron Leader Ted Aplin who worked against orders to help survivors of the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. He was the epitome of a humanist who had no time for religious moralism but would stop at nothing to help his fellow man. Ted Aplin was in a time and place where a man like that could do his best work and despite nearly being dismissed from the army he was greeted with a hero's welcome upon his return. Numerous Jewish families were reunited through his efforts and he was nicknamed the "Angel of Belsen". Ted Aplin is also my step-father's father and his letters home to his wife in the year that he served overseas are an incredible record of the time. As part of our family archives they are poetic and thoughtful and are the very spine of this play. "...and stockings for the ladies." is a post-war story; a period of history we hear little about but need to know more.

If you could get any person (living or dead, famous or not) to come see your show, who would you choose?

Well, if Ted Aplin saw the play that would be incredible. I was given much freedom by Ted's family to write this play as I needed to. They never once interfered but if Ted saw it I wonder if he would actually have a thing or two to say.

What's next for you after soloNOVA?

"...and stockings for the ladies." tours to Halifax and Toronto and will hopefully pick up some more attention for further performances. Otherwise, as a playwright, I am working on a new historical fiction play around Guglielmo Marconi, one of the inventors of the radio, whose famous trans-Atlantic radio signal was received in St. John's, Newfoundland, Canada. It's another fascinating time and ripe for questions around new media and the generational divide that happens as new technology displaces old.

"…and stockings for the ladies"
Performed by Brendan McMurtry-Howlett
Written by Attila Clemann
Directed by Zach Fraser

MAY 12 and 16 at 7pm
MAY 14 and 17 at 9pm
MAY 20 at 7pm

SoloNOVA Festival Interview - Charlotte Bydwell of Woman of Leisure and Panic

By Byrne Harrison

A recent graduate of The Juilliard School and celebrated performer with choreographers such as Monica Bill Barnes and Larry Keigwin, Charlotte Bydwell makes her solo show debut with Woman of Leisure and Panic at the SoloNOVA Festival.

What is your theatrical background?

I trained as a dancer growing up and graduated from The Juilliard School with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Dance in 2009. I joined Monica Bill Barnes & Company shortly thereafter and have performed with them at a number of venues around the United States, including the Joyce Theatre in New York City. I started studying acting with Anthony Abeson in my final years of college and have since been auditioning and taking small jobs here and there to try my hand in the industry. Woman of Leisure and Panic grew out of my experiences both as an emerging dancer and as a budding actress.

How did you get involved in the solo format?

This is my first evening-length solo work, but I've been creating shorter solos on myself since a very early age. This show is actually an expansion of one such work that I created to commemorate my graduation from The Juilliard School. On this occasion, my classmates and I were each allowed to select any choreographer of our choosing to set a solo for us. I opted to return to my roots and rediscover the spontaneity and freedom I had always found in my own material. Through this experience, I was reminded of the joy there is in creating my own circumstances on stage and performing something I understand on a very instinctual level.

Who are your inspirations?

Margie Gillis, a famous Canadian solo-dance maker. She's made a career out of listening to the characters inside of her, following her impulses and trusting her creative inspiration. And, Meryl Streep, for her poise, elegance and sense of character.

Tell me a little bit about your show.

Woman of Leisure and Panic is a one-woman show based on my experiences as a performing artist and emerging adult in New York City. Using physicality and text, it conveys my quest to find balance in a life where every achievement seems to bring further uncertainty. The audience gets a very intimate look at my struggle to remain financially stable, physically fit, romantically satisfied and creatively stimulated. It’s very neurotic, but in the most enjoyable and charming way!

If you could get any person (living or dead, famous or not) to come see your show, who would you choose?

Tina Fey. Or the late Artistic Director Emeritus of my first dance school, Mr. Brydon Paige, who was the first person to notice my inclination towards theatricality and my quirky sense of humor.

What's next for you after soloNOVA?

I'll be performing at the Joyce Theater on June 2nd and 4th with Monica Bill Barnes & Co. Then, showing another work of mine at the Center for Performance Research at the end of June. But mostly, I’ll be trying to find ways to keep Woman of Leisure and Panic going, hopefully with new performance opportunities.

Created and Performed by Charlotte Bydwell
Presented as part of the 8thAnnual soloNOVA Festival
P. S. 122 (150 1st Avenue)

Wednesday, May 11th at 9pm
Friday, May 13th at 7pm
Saturday, May 14th at 4pm
Wednesday, May 18th at 7pm
Thursday, May 19th at 9pm

Tickets may be purchased online at or by calling 212-352-3101. |

Monday, May 16, 2011

Lanford Wilson Memorial Today at 1 PM


The life and work of playwright Lanford Wilson will be celebrated in a memorial tribute on Monday, May 16 at 1PM at The Lyceum Theatre (149 West 45th Street, east of Broadway).

The event is open to the public and doors will open at 12:30 PM.

Speakers will include Edward Albee, Jeff Daniels, William Hurt, Swoosie Kurtz, Debra Monk, Judith Ivey, Lou Liberatore, Judd Hirsch and Marshall W. Mason.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Night Windows, Based on Hopper's Painting, Continues This Weekend

The Shelter presents
Three Nocturnal Tales of Life-Changing Choices in
Night Windows
Based on the Painting by Edward Hopper
At the WorkShop Theater Main Stage

Every apartment window offers glimpses of the lives inside. In the dramatic anthology Night Windows, The Shelter presents three one-act works each with a nocturnal look at the inhabitants of one apartment at different places in time: people forced to face a moment of great change, whether they want to or not. Based on Edward Hopper's famous and haunting painting of the same name, Night Windows will be performed at the WorkShop Theater Company's Main Stage venue, located at 312 West 36th Street.
In Melinda Smart's Perfume and Maple, Dottie is a beautiful, foul-mouthed good time girl, constantly high on pills, booze and faded memories of things that never happened. She's also on the payroll of the mob. But now she's pissed off the wrong people and a burly enforcer named Whistle has been sent to deal with her. Yet instead of following orders, and hiding a deep, dark secret, Whistle tries desperately to save Dottie in spite of herself. Can either of them face the truth about who they really are in time to get out alive? Or will dreams of cherry blossoms, beach houses and sexy clothing destroy them both? Directed by Beth Jastroch (assistant director: Michael Kingsbaker), the cast of Perfume and Maple features Emily Robin Fink and Paco Lozano.

In Freak Closet, thirty-something Meghan returns from a trip to find her New York City apartment trashed by her illegal tenant, the slovenly and seemingly irresponsible Zach. Meghan wants Zach gone so she can start returning things to the normalcy and cleanliness she highly prizes. But Zach’s got no intention of leaving, stunning Meghan with the highly personal details he’s learned of her life. And underneath Zach's annoying attitude lurks a kernel of truth Meghan may not want to hear in this tale of tolerance, loneliness and two people who go together like Cheez-its & peanut butter. Written by Beth Jastroch and directed by Meghan Jones, the cast of Freak Closet features Ginger Kearns and Michael Kingsbaker.

Night of the Living looks at the unraveling and re-stitching of a marriage in a New York City of the future. Mia & Marshall face a common problem for married couples -- not having enough time together -- especially when juggling a sick child, soon-to-visit relatives and 9-to-5 jobs. But when things go horribly wrong with the world outside, each will become both the other's greatest strength and greatest weakness as they struggle to survive while learning just how strong they can be. Written by Dave Lankford and directed by Olivia Killingsworth (assistant director: Michael Bernstein), the cast of Night of the Living features Belle Caplis and Dave Lankford*.

The technical director for Night Windows is Jonathan Ashley, scenic designer is Brandon Hardy and the lighting designer is Jake Fine. Night Windows is an Equity-Approved Showcase.

Edward Hopper (1882-1967) was born in Nyack, New York to a middle-class family and decided early on he wanted to be an artist. In 1895 he finished his first signed oil painting, Rowboat at Rocky Cove, and later studied at the New York School of Art and Design. In 1913 he took up residence in New York City's Greenwich Village, where he would live for the rest of his life. After many years of struggle, during which time he made a living as a commercial illustrator, his career as an artist began to take off in 1923, his works eventually ending up in such places as the Whiney Museum of the American Art and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. He finished Night Windows in 1928, which is now in the Museum of Modern Art.

The Shelter is a family of writers, directors, and actors creating authentic theatre for the New York stage. The Shelter produces all original work, and all productions are written, directed, and acted by their members. Of equal importance is the fact that each piece is workshopped during the company's "Shelter Sundays" series and reflects the feedback provided by Shelter Sunday participants. Wherever possible, from lights to postcard design, Shelter members are employed during the production process. Past productions by The Shelter include Motel and F***ing Christmas (both in 2010) and 3:56 AM (2009).

Running through May 15th, Night Windows will be performed at the WorkShop Theater Company's Main Stage venue, located at 312 West 36th Street (between 8th & 9th Avenues) on the Fourth Floor. (The theatre is wheelchair accessible.) Show times are Thursday-Saturday at 8pm and Sunday at 3pm. Tickets are $18.00, $16.00 for students and seniors and for all tickets purchased in advance on line. Reservations:

* - appearing courtesy of Actors' Equity Association

Interview with John Cooper of Turtle Shell Productions

By Byrne Harrison

John W. Cooper is an award winning director, actor, producer and Artistic Director of Turtle Shell Productions. He is a graduate of the distinguished S.U.N.Y Purchase Conservatory and has worked as an actor across the nation before founding Turtle Shell Productions. He has been producing theater for the past nine years and in that time has produced over four hundred full-length and short plays from playwrights all over the world. This includes Five by Tenn, Blues for Mister Charlie, PUCK’d, Ourselves Alone and The 8-Minute Madness Playwright Festival. Mr. Cooper has been nominated for the Irene Ryan National Award and was awarded Best Actor in the European Tournament of Plays. He has also taught extensively over the years by offering private coaching, monologue workshops and guidance to actors during the audition process.

You're currently producing an adaptation of Edith Wharton's novella "Summer." What's the play about.

The play is about a sensitive young woman with a questionable background brought up in a rigid turn-of-the century Massachusetts town who reaches for a better life through a misguided summer romance with a young architect who ultimately rejects her for another woman.

Martin Zuckerman is the playwright, and I believe you've worked with him in the past. What draws you to his writing?

Mark Zuckerman is involved in the Turtle Shell Playwrights Platform which is a writers' development program. I am an artist who loves to explore new works and tell their stories. To date I have produced and directed hundreds of plays written by writers from all over the world. Mr. Zuckerman's adaptations explore not only the original authors' stories, but raise the question as to how can we best capture the people, the places and times in which the stories are set.

What was it about this play that you thought would resonate with a New York audience?

We are blessed to live and work in New York and to be able to present work to a broad and diverse audience base. I can only go with a work that I feel has potential, do my best to realize that potential and hope that it resonates with people who come to see it.

Tell me a little about your cast.

We spent a month and a half auditioning actors for this production. The difficulty was to find the right mix of actors who could fulfill the special style and needs of an Edith Wharton turn of the century story. I feel that we succeeded in getting some very good people who captured a feeling for that time in their characterizations.

What's next for Turtle Shell Productions?

We are continuing our effort in the development and presentation of new works. We have two short play festivals coming up. The first is a festival title the 3 Minute Play Express and our annual event Summer Shorties Not Playwrights festival. We produce about 26 Plays from playwrights, nationally and internationally. I would like to add that for the last 9 years we have been one of the very few remaining theatre companies that provides opportunities for playwrights, directors and actors to present their work in a well-produced, well-rehearsed production, in a midtown theatre, with multiple performances - up to 14 - without any cost to the artist and without any outside funding for our operation, which is pretty miraculous.

By Martin M. Zuckerman
From the novella by Pulitzer Prize winner Edith Wharton
Directed by John Cooper

Continues through May 15th

Friday, May 13 @ 8PM
Saturday, May 14 @ 3PM
Saturday, May 14 @ 8PM
Sunday, May 15 @ 2PM

Interview with Bruce Ornstein of Wednesday Repertory Company

By Byrne Harrison
Photos by Dan Lane Williams

Bruce Ornstein is a writer-director, filmmaker and actor. He recently wrote and directed his second feature film, "Vamperifica." His first feature, "Jack and His Friends," starred Sam Rockwell and was released through Arrow Entertainment. His original play How Do You Feel? was a finalist in the Actors Theatre of Louisville’s Great American Play Contest. His directorial credits include plays at the New York Fringe Festival and Ensemble Studio Theatre. As an actor he co-starred with John Travolta in Saturday Night Fever and with Griffin Dunne and Dianne Wiest in The Wall. He started his acting workshop fifteen years ago. Bruce also serves on the faculty at Columbia University in the MFA Program for Film.

Wednesday Repertory Company was founded just over a year ago. What made you decide to start a new company in these uncertain financial times?

Money was never a consideration. When you are working with a tight knit group of passionate people whom you love, you develop a faith that things will get done.

Tell me a little bit about your company. What sets you apart?

 LU Bellini, Mike Ivers, Keli Laing
I think we have a consistency of vision. So far, we have been fortunate to be able to rely completely on the company to write, direct, and act all the material that we have presented. This shows up in the work. We can a bit edgy at times, and also we have a tendency to occasionally make things a bit uncomfortable for our audience. But isn't that what theatre should be about? If our audience is looking to be safe, turn on the TV. What we often provide is a challenge, and perhaps asks a bit more of our audience than your average company. We like danger.

How did you find your company members?

So far, all the members of the company were, at one time or another, participants in my Master Class.

Pay As You Exit is your company's second production after last year's Re: Last Night. Both feature original one-act plays written and performed by members of the company. What has drawn you to this format?

The short, one-act format, when done well, is an art form in itself. I like that it takes the viewer on unpredictable, short, but distinct journeys, and deposits them finally often outside of their comfort zone. It's a fun ride. Also, it is good for Wednesday Rep., as we are able to use all the members at once, while simultaneously building a large base audience. It creates a great energy.

Is there a common theme to the nine plays in Pay As You Exit?

We didn't set out to write with a conscious theme. But in repeatedly experiencing the work, it feels as if the body of the plays deal with redemption -- second chances. I believe strongly in the idea that there are no accidents, but gifts. When I am directing, and something goes "wrong", I think that is the Universe telling us that we need to use it, certainly before we discard it completely. In Pay As You Exit, we experienced something like that when one of our actors, Dirk Keysser, had to step in for another actor who could not do the show as his partner was having not one, but two babies. Twins! In any event, Dirk stepped into a play in the first act, where at the plays' end, we leave him on the ground, after a gun was pointed at the back of his head, spiritually empty and cowering. Well, in the last play of act two, we again see Dirk, in his original role, receiving redemption from an unlikely source. We were accidentally handed that connection between the acts, and at the same time, our theme.

If you could say one thing to your potential audience, what would it be?

Buckle up.

What is next for you and for WedRepCo?

We have a bunch of our members working on full length plays. I think that's where we'll go from here. Ultimately, I would like to be able to do 1 or 2 full length plays a year, while continuing work the short, one-act form 3-4 times a year. Or maybe something with animals. I hear llamas are fun.

Whitney Harris, Annelise Raines, Paul David Sibblie

Pay As You Exit runs through Sunday May 15th at the Roy Arias Payan Theatre (300 W. 43rd Street at 8th Avenue, 5th Floor). The performance schedule is Thurs. May 12th thru Sat. May 14th at 8PM with Sunday shows on May 15th at 2PM and 7PM. Tickets are $18 and can be purchased at and by calling (212) 726-1315. For more information go to

Tonight - Redd Tale Theatre Fundraiser

FRANKEN-FAIR: Redd Tale's Annual Fundraiser!
May 13th, 2011, 7-10pm we're having our annual RTTC fundraiser at
The Network! 242 West 36th Street, 3rd Floor.

7:00pm - Silent Auction starts, drinks served, and festivities begin!

Table 1: Boozy awesomeness!
Beer/Wine $3 (2 for $5), Water $1 Special “Creation Cocktail” $5 Incentive!!! Every 15 drinks sold, there’s a dance party!

Table 2: The Doctor Will See You Now!
$1 will get you two tries at the game OPERATION! If you succeed in removing all organs, you win a $25 gift card to (1 per person)!

Table 3: Pin the Spleen on the Duodenum!
It’s like pin the tail on the donkey, but with anatomy! $1 gives you five body parts (organs/bones/muscles/etc.). If you get four of them correctly labeled, you win a $25 gift card to (1 per person)!

Table 4: Silent Auction!
This table is dedicated to the brilliant
items donated to RTTC!

Here’s a list of some of them:
1 month of Kung Fu lessons for you and a friend!
1, 5, 10 packs of Massages!
Polarity Sessions!
Personal Training!
Cranio-Sacral Session!
Movie Tickets (pair)
Spa Package from Exhale Spa!
Spend a day with Cameran Hebb!
Rent a Boy! (Hot handy-man will help you out!)
More to come!!!

Table 5: Raffle Tickets, Donation Table, and Chair Massages!
Come get your chair massage on for $1/min!
Want to donate online securely? Donate here on our site!
Raffle Tickets for our awesome door prizes! $5 gets you 6 tickets, $10 gets you 15 tickets and $20 gets you 40 tickets!

Up for raffle:
Cookie of the Month Club (2 doz. cookies 1x/mo.) gift cards!
5 pack of Massages!
Surprise prizes!

8:30pm - Season Preview & 5 Minute Readings of our upcoming shows!
We will stop the fun for a few minutes to tell you about our upcoming events (great nights of entertainment in August), and will do 5 minutes of the beginning of each piece!

9:00pm - Silent Auction Ends and Games Resume!

9:30pm - Raffle

10:00pm - Goodnights and Thank You’s!

Bring your bucket of change for our PIGS IN SPACE piggy bank!!!
Feed it and if it's appeased, you'll get a free drink!

Our goal is $5,000 for this season! Even $1 helps get this show going.
Help RTTC put on great Off-Off Broadway Sci-Fi Theatre!

We have some exciting new projects for our 2011 season including a
Science-Fiction Theatre and Film Festival, evenings of creative fun, and two main stage one-act shows based off of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein!

Thursday, May 12, 2011

SoloNOVA Festival Interview - Jeffrey Solomon of Santa Claus Is Coming Out

By Byrne Harrison

Jeffrey Solomon’s play, Santa Claus Is Coming Out, is currently being presented as part of the SoloNOVA Festival. This acclaimed one-man mock-u-mentary explores the secret romantic life of the great holiday icon and the controversy that engulfs the world when the truth is revealed. When a little boy’s gender atypical gift request to the North Pole is denied, a series of heart-felt letters from the child nudge Santa Claus out of the closet and into the culture wars. A theatrical documentarian in the mold of Anna Deveare Smith and the Laramie Project, Mr. Solomon purports to have interviewed, and portrays, all of the key players in the scandal that has come to be known as ‘Santa-Gate’.

Solomon's other solo play Mother/SON has been seen at HERE (NY), Celebration Theatre (L.A.), and he received a Joseph Jefferson Nomination for Best Actor for the same performance in Chicago at the Bailiwick Rep. Internationally, Mother/SON has been seen on London’s Off West End at the New End and Oval House Theatres, the Edinburgh Fringe, Homotopia in Liverpool, the Leeds International Jewish Performing Arts Festival, and the 4th Floor (Mumbai, India). His performance won the Best Actor Award in Dublin’s Absolut Gay Theatre Festival as well as the Awards for Audience Favorite, Best Playwriting and Best Male Solo Performer at the Columbus National Gay and Lesbian Theatre Festival. Santa Claus is Coming Out won the Best of the Fest at the same festival. The play had its premiere at the Bailiwick Pride Series in Chicago.

What is your theatrical background?

I cut my teeth in the 80’s working Off Off Broadway with Robert Patrick’s Blue is For Boys and was a founding member of CityKids Repertory Company where I worked with Diane Houston, the first African-American woman to be nominated for a Directing Oscar. I developed there a passion for creating theater that was engaged with issues… had a fire in its belly, but was never didactic or preachy.

How did you get involved in the solo format?

I saw Anna Deveare’s Fires in the Mirror at the Public Theatre in the early 90’s and was completely blown away and inspired. I had a similar response to John Leguizomo’s first solo show Mambo Mouth. It seemed to me that with so much of the theater audience being diminished by television and films, here was one experience that only theater could provide: One gifted actor/story-telling engaging the audience’s imagination and taking them on an unforgettable ride. Television and movies can do a lot of things, but the solo play done well is unforgettable and something that is uniquely theatrical.

Tell me a little bit about your show.

Santa Claus Is Coming Out imagines how the world would react if the great holiday icon were revealed to be a gay man. The program will inform you that the play is crafted from three years of interviews I conducted at the North Pole and beyond, about the scandal that has become to be known as "Santa-Gate." If you missed the run on Theatre Row in 09, now is your chance to catch the show the NY Times calls a "Delightful Surprise!"
If you didn't know the true story of Santa Claus, here it is in a nutshell: Mrs. Claus is just a beard, a third rate actress hired by Santa’s agent to protect the Coca Cola image. Santa Claus’s true love is Giovanni Geppetto, a strapping Italian toymaker, the great-great-great-great grandson of Pinocchio. The religious right, convinced that Claus has become a tool in the Gay Agenda’s attempt to recruit children into the homosexual lifestyle, is preparing a sweeping propaganda offensive against the great holiday icon that may end Christmas as we know it.

If you could get any person (living or dead, famous or not) to come see your show, who would you choose?

I choose Candi Cushman, the so-called “education analyst” from the group “Focus on the Family.” In her blog, Ms. Cushman attacked my play along with a chorus of other right-wing voices including Fox News, when it ran Off Broadway in 2009 and accused me personally of perverting the innocence of Christmas and "using shock tactics to expose children to homosexuality." I laughed long and hard about this because Ms. Cushman’s lines seemed to have come directly from the mouth of my play’s antagonist Mary Ellen Banfield, chief Santa Claus foe and president of the fictitious group Families Against the Gay Agenda (F.A.G.A.) My fantasy is that watching my play would cause Ms. Cushman’s heart to “grow three full sizes” in a Grinch-like redemption, but more likely Candi and Mary Ellen could have a strategy session on how they can better facilitate the likelihood of gay kids jumping off bridges in the coming year.

What's next for you after soloNOVA?

A Spanish translation of my actual documentary play DE NOVO will be performed in El Salvador in June (see or you can see the same play, mostly in English in September at the Passage Theatre in Trenton. I am performing with the acclaimed storytelling org The Moth in Michigan this June as well. In October “Mother/SON” will be travelling to Greece.

For more information about Solomon’s work, visit

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Interview - Playwright David Lawson

By Byrne Harrison

David Lawson is a playwright living in New York City. He has been produced in New York at Theater for the New City (NYC), The Brick Theater (NYC), the Downtown Urban Theater Festival (NYC), UNDER St. Marks (NYC), Love Creek Theatre (NYC), among others. He is the winner of the Rod Parker Playwriting Fellowship (Boston), the Long Beach Grunion Gazette Playwriting Award (CA) and won Best Production at the Providence Players One-Act Festival (VA).

I spoke with David about his recent participation in the Downtown Urban Theatre Festival and his upcoming play, VCR Love, which will be performed June 23-25.

Your play Gloves for Guns, about the aftermath of a school shooting, recently played as part of the Downtown Urban Theatre Festival. How was the reaction?

The reaction was great. One highlight in particular was DUTF artistic director Reg E. Gaines (Tony nominee for Bring in da Noise Bring in da Funk) telling me after the show that he thinks the show has an important message worth spreading and hopes it keeps getting put up. That’s one of those compliments that any playwright would keep near and dear to them. I certainly will.

Were you working with different people than in your last production at the Dream Up Festival?

We were. For one thing, I was acting in it this time. I have acted in one-acts I’ve written and have done solo work (like my solo show, Floundering About (in an age of terror)), but I had never acted in a full-length play of mine. I had some nerve-wracking, hypercritical moments at the start, but eventually started treating Gloves for Guns as anyone else’s text. I was proud of how it came out.

You recently started a Kickstarter campaign to fund your next production, VCR Love. I understand you met and surpassed your goal. Congratulations! Have you used Kickstarter in the past?

Thanks Byrne. It’s my first time trying it. I don’t think it’ll be the last.

What made you decide to try it this time?

I wanted to put up a show outside of a typical “rented space” or “festival” situation. While I definitely hope to do both again in the future, the former can be too expensive and the latter can be too stressful. Thus I planned to do a show that only requires a simple light setup, an audience and me. I planned to put it up real cheap at this wonderful rehearsal space called SimpleStudios. Yet you can’t charge admission at SimpleStudios, so using many of my friend’s Kickstarter successes as inspiration I set out to cover all the financial burdens of the show via Kickstarter.

Even though you hit your goal, people can still donate, right?

Yes, they can. I am considering adding more shows with the extra money I’ve raised. If not that, I’m trying to brainstorm some huge, extemporaneous collaborative piece involving the community of friends and well-wishers who have been so good to me over the past few years in New York City. We’ll see if that goes anywhere though…

What are some of the incentives that the backers of the show will get?

The venue can only hold 30 people per night, so the lowest level of reward is simply a guaranteed seat at one of the shows (even if you don’t contribute, admission to the show is FREE, but a spot isn’t guaranteed).

I’ve been putting podcasts up in a series called “Hang on a Second” on my website ( For $50 I will record a 2 to 4 minute podcast about you. I’m humbled that a handful of people actually threw down 50 bucks to hear me tell stories about them. I’m going to make sure they aren’t disappointed.

Tell me a little about VCR Love.

VCR Love is a story about how pornography has changed over the past 25 years (aka, in my lifetime). The show’s narrative weaves in-between my pre-internet misadventures trying to track down the stuff as well as my more recent experiences with current developments in the industry.

So a play about porn. Not really something most guys talk about in mixed company. Do you see this being a show that will be attended by a lot of women?

I am really thankful you asked that. First off, like I say in the Kickstarter video: pornography is the one thing that everybody enjoys by themselves but nobody talks about in mixed company.

Also, not only am I hoping many women will attend the show but I hope they’ll have a lot to say to me afterwards. I tell stories about pornography attempting to be feminist or progressive, and I wonder within the show if pornography can be either of those things.

So you see this being a conversation starter?

I hope so. As I said before, porn is a topic so rarely discussed in mixed company… even among good friends. I think how often my closest friends and I discuss work, relationships, family, politics, pop culture… but porn… whoa whoa whoa!!! That’s taking it TOO far! It never bubbles up in conversation. Even when it does it seems to be discussed with great trepidation. It’s a taboo. But you know… it’s a taboo that, hell… let’s face it, everyone enjoys. That alone was a big inspiration to do the show. To talk about it in mixed company for eighty some odd minutes… and then see what people had to say.

VCR Love will be presented in June, what else do you have planned for the year?

I am writing quite a bit, not sure what’s going to go up next though.

One project is a full-length play called A Room Full of Ramen that I’ve been developing with two actress friends of mine (Savvy Clement and Alice Bahlke. Ramen is about three teenagers who’ve been kidnapped and find a way to take advantage of being lost kids.

Another is a solo show about the Taglit-Birthright Israel program (which I went on last year) as well as reconciling an observant Jewish upbringing with a non-practicing “cultural” or “secular” Jewish life.

Lastly, I’m working on a project where I interview three Iraq War veterans from my native Fairfax County, Virginia. They are three men who all went to war for very different reasons. Obviously, what the shape of that will be is going to depend on how the interviews go.

Yeah… I’ve got to keep busy. I’d lose my head if I didn’t have these shows to work on.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

All The Kings Men to Perform in NY This Friday

Boston-based All The Kings Men (ATKM), the all female, physical theatre ensemble performing original, cabaret style shows, is coming to New York.  This award-winning group that has performed throughout the US and internationally continues to push the boundaries and explore stereotypes of gender identity through comedic and dramatic story telling, all set to music. Utilizing character, physical theatre, dance, comedy, lip-synch and character based sketch work in their shows ATKM is a comic and sexy modern day twist on Shakespeare, where women play all the roles.

ATKM will be performing this Friday at the Let's Be Brief launch party @ DROM (85 Avenue A between 5th and 6th Street).  Doors open at 10:30 PM; event begins at 11 PM.

Danielle Stanziale presents the Let's Be Brief Launch Party!

Let's Be Brief (Lbb) is the premiere underwear company catering to the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgendered, Queer (LGBTQ) community and allies! Lbb underwear embody a masculine look with innovative styles, flattering different body types and sizes. A percentage of all sales will be donated to LGBTQ organizations chosen by our customers.

Come join us in celebrating our launch on Friday May 6th, 2011.

10:30pm - Doors open... Come early, grab a drink, check out our undies and be seen and photographed on the red carpet!

11:00pm - All The Kings Men (ATKM) take the stage... Come see this award-winning, all female, character-based performance troupe that creates wholly electrifying cabaret-style and modern vaudevillian productions

12:00pm and on - Dance all night long to DJ Lezzz Van Halen

This event is sponsored by Go Magazine.

Get tickets in advance... or buy a pair of undies and get in for free!!!

Monday, May 2, 2011

Stream the Tony Award Nominations

Click the link below to watch Past Tony Award®-winners Matthew Broderick and Anika Noni Rose announce the 2011 Tony Awards Nominations from the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts on Tuesday, May 3rd at 8:30 AM EST.

Launch the 2011 Tony Awards Live Video Console!

Forever Moore - Melba Moore at Café Carlyle

By Byrne Harrison

It's always a pleasant surprise when a performer is even better live than you expect. Melba Moore is an amazing singer, as anyone who is familiar with her Broadway performances or her '70s hits will attest to. But will that talent translate into a good cabaret performance?

The answer is a resounding yes.

Ms. Moore has created a terrific program with a nice balance of standards and modern songs, just the perfect mix of performance and storytelling, and an exceptionally talented group of musicians (Levi Barcourt, music director, Rodney Harrison, drums, David Brown, guitar, Leon Dorsey, bass).

She begins the show with a tribute to her mother, the talented Bonnie Davis, featuring such standards as "Blue Skies," "Stormy Weather," and a spirited and swinging rendition of "It Don't Mean a Thing."

Naturally, she performs songs from Hair and Purlie, for which she won her Tony Award in 1970. While the Hair medley that she performs is terrific, Purlie provides a more moving experience.  Both her Hair medley and a Motown mix provide some opportunities for audience participation (which the crowd completely ate up).

Her finale features a powerful rendition of her hit, "Lean on Me," and was absolutely transporting.  A perfect ending for a great show.

Forever Moore runs through May 7th at Café Carlyle ( 35 E. 76th Street) Tuesday through Friday at 8:45PM, Saturday at 8:45PM and 10:45PM.