Saturday, June 30, 2012

My Theatre Manifesto - Kristin Arnesen of Theatre Reverb

By Kristin Arnesen, Co-Artistic Director, Performer, Media Artist Theatre Reverb

As a performance and media artist, I treat popular media and commercial products as archives of shared imagination and symbols that can access our collective unconscious. Taking a topical theme or question, for example: “anxiety about cultural collapse,” our Theatre Reverb method casts a net out into video sharing sites like YouTube, television programming, news headlines, and our own memories and associations. Treating the samples we collect as dream images, (which, as Jung claimed, carry their own logic), we address our search results as banks of intuitively connected ephemera and search for threads that join these disparate cultural archives and our personal associations.

We then enhance or project narrative threads and organize our samples in an episodic form influenced by dada, surrealism and the films of David Lynch. We assume the roles of characters engaged in the initial question we were exploring, and use a heightened style of acting influenced by Eco’s notion of hyperreality and classical Indian dance-theatre forms (which we studied on two training trips to Kerala India).  In performance, we often access my night job as an emcee and variety entertainer and alternate familiarity and humor with off-putting devices like noticeably ‘foreign’ modes of communication, direct address, and live spectator video feed.  This process comes together in large-scale, interactive, spectacles designed to recontextualize and manipulate familiar objects and social rituals and create a persistently unpredictable environment aimed at bypassing our viewers logical thought process and allowing them to experience familiar material differently, reconsider perceptions, and identify their engagement in a shared cultural space.  This is the method to our madness and the objective of our mission the best way we can describe it!  If you want more we’d say: Theatre Reverb’s supreme objective is perhaps best expressed in these words from their agent provocateurs:
"Our agents are storming the world, destroying the drawers of the brain and of social organization, spreading a spirit of excess everywhere they go, restoring the fecund wheel of the universal circus to objective forces and bringing tickles to secret places everywhere. After all, everyone dances to his own personal boom boom.

Perhaps you will understand us better when we tell you that Theatre Reverb is a virgin microbe that penetrates with the insistence of air into all spaces that reason has not been able to fill (especially secret places)."

Kristin Arnesen is a performer, writer, dancer, media artist, and the co-founder of Theatre Reverb. She holds a BA in performance and an MA in theatre. Kristin’s work is influenced by classical Indian theatre forms which she studied on two trips to Kerala India to train in kathakali and kutiyattam. She has performed with such companies as Mabou Mines under the direction of Lee Breuer.  Kristin is also a regular emcee and dancer in variety shows and clubs around New York, she is a resident artist at Galapagos Art Space, she studies classical bharatanatyam with master dancer Kamala Cesar, she is a sponsored artist of the Brooklyn Arts Council, and a collaborator with the Ukraine-based international women’s movement FEMEN. Her critically acclaimed and "Most Innovative" award winning Theatre Reverb production initium/finis is set to play at the Mini-Fridge Festival in June and at HERE Arts Center in July.

For more information about Theatre Reverb, visit and for more information about the miniFRIDGE production of initium/finis, visit

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Tonight - Doric Wilson's "Street Theater" at the Center

Thursday, June 28 2012 : 7:30pm – 9:00pm

Street Theater

Thursday, June 28, 2012
Doors Open 7PM, Performance 7:30PM

Center Performance presents "Street Theater" by Doric Wilson

Buy Tickets Here!

A participant in the Stonewall Uprising, Doric Wilson wrote Street Theater not so much as a history of the event but as a record of the people he knew and the incidents he was involved in on Christopher Street in the months, days and hours leading up to the night gays fought back. The play focuses on a panorama of drags, dykes, leathermen, flower children, vice cops and cruisers— the innocent and not-so-innocent bystanders who would turn June 28, 1969 into Stonewall—the D-day of gay history. 

About Doric WilsonFrequently called the “father of modern queer theatre,” Doric Wilson’s 50 year dedication to queer culture has been recognized with the first Robert Chesley Award for Lifetime Achievement in Gay Theatre; the 2007 IT Award for Artistic Achievement; in 2009, the ATHE (Association for Theatre in Higher Education) Career Achievement Award for Professional Theatre; and last year the Fresh Fruit Festival presented playwright Doric Wilson with the 2010 PassionFruit Award for Enduring and Continuing Pioneer Work in LGBT Theater.

In 1974, playwright and gay activist Doric Wilson founded the first professional gay theatre company. It was called The Other Side of Silence (TOSOS for short). In 2002, directors Mark Finley and Barry Childs and Wilson resurrected the company, rededicating it to an honest and open exploration of the life experience and cultural sensibility of the GLBT community and to preserving and promoting our theatrical past in a determined effort to keep an important literary heritage alive. TOSOS has presented a number of critically acclaimed plays by playwrights David Bell, Meryl Cohn, Linda Eisenstein, Mark Finley, Robert Patrick, Chris Weikel, The Five Lesbian Brothers, Lanford Wilson and Charles Busch. TOSOS also runs the highly successful Chesley/Chambers play reading series under the directorship of Kathleen Warnock. The program is a recipient of grants from The Dramatists Guild Fund. For more information about TOSOS visit

Tickets to benefit TOSOS and the LGBT Center:
$20 online; $25 at the door

Cash bar reception with the cast, director, and veterans of Stonewall and the early days of the movement.In loving memory of our friend, mentor and guiding light Mr. Doric Wilson, the Center is presenting a special benefit performance of Street Theater, Doric's award winning satire about Stonewall.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

“Chimichangas and Zoloft” - Interesting to a Point

By Judd Hollander

The Atlantic Theater Company presents a nicely serviceable family comedy-drama in Fernanda Coppel's Chimichangas and Zoloft.  While the issues raised are both serious and at times dealt with in an amusing way, the play never really lets the audience get too close to the characters or totally under their skin to see what drives them.

In present day Los Angeles, Sonia Martinez (Zabryna Guevara), a woman who we later find out has struggled with depression all her life and is currently taking the medication Zoloft for the problem, has an internal meltdown/midlife crisis during her 40th birthday party and leaves her family to get some time, space and perspective for herself. In the meantime, her lawyer husband Ricardo (Teddy Cañez) is forced to look after their daughter Jackie (Carmen Zilles), the two not having a particularly close relationship. Also feeling the pinch of Sonia's absence is their neighbor Alejandro Lopez (Alfredo Narciso), the single father of Penelope (Xochitl Romero), Jackie's best friend. Alejandro, a bartender by trade, who used to share carpooling duties with Sonia, is now forced to assume them full time, taking the girls to and from school daily, at least until Sonia's return.

It quickly becomes apparent that Sonia is a major part of the glue holding both families together - each person missing her presence and contribution for different reasons. Alejandro because he has to carpool the kids to work every day; Penelope, because she sees Sonia as a sort of surrogate mother and talks to her about things she's not ready to share with anyone else-such as her first sexual experience with a boy and the fact she may now be pregnant. As for Jackie, who is gay, she came out to Sonia just before she left and now feels responsible for her mom's departure. Ricardo on the other hand, is taking Sonia's leaving rather stoically, as if he knows more than he's telling about the matter.

There are a lot of different storylines and elements running throughout the show; the highlights being the various interplays between the characters. One especially good scene occurs when Ricardo and Alejandro are having an intense personal bonding moment and then instantly switch into parental mode when the girls are caught in a lie, or when Alejandro and Penelope are waiting in a Planned Parenthood examination room to see if she in fact is with child.

Unfortunately, much of the play has a rather disjointed feel, focusing on one character than another, but never really delving into what makes any of them tick. For example, most of Sonia's scenes are staged as monologues separate from the rest of the story. Yet the script never presents a moment of clarity for her regarding if she's found what she's looking for or why she makes the decision she ultimately does. Additionally, since there's little interaction between Sonia and the rest of the people onstage, it sometimes feels as if one is watching two separate plays when it comes to her character.

Another problem is with the characters of Jackie and Penelope, both of whom are pretty much interchangeable, despite their different sexual preferences. Each has the "all-knowing" attitude of a teenager until confronted with things outside their spheres of experience, and both get defensive at times and both have emotional meltdowns, albeit it at different times. Whereby the other takes the opportunity to confront the one in crisis and affirm their friendship. Yet neither ever really has her own individual identity.

The best characters in the play are Alejandro and Ricardo. At first seemingly polar opposites and coming from different social/economic backgrounds, the two appear to clash like fire and water until a common bond is revealed. Cañez is good as the outwardly calm and surprisingly passionate Ricardo, while Narciso works well as the somewhat overprotective Alejandro. As he tells Penelope, "sex is like buying a motorcycle. Sure it looks cool and shiny. But at any turn you could crash into a taco truck and die." Alejandro also has a secret of his own, one he seems willing to die to protect, even though most of the other characters pretty much know what it is before the end of the play.

Jamie Castañeda's direction is okay as far as it goes, but like the play itself, needs some tightening to move things along and weave a more cohesive story than what's ultimately presented. There is a lot happening on stage, but certain questions as to why they're happening are not adequately explained and this misstep drags the story down more than once.

Sets by Lauren Helpern are nicely functional, lighting by Grant W.S. Yeager and costumes by Jessica Wegener Shay are fine.

Chimichangas and Zoloft
Written by Fernanda Coppel

Featuring: Zabryna Guevara (Sonia Martinez), Carmen Zilles (Jackie Martinez), Xochitl Romero (Penelope Lopez), Alfredo Narciso (Alejandro Lopez), Teddy Cañez (Ricardo Martinez)

Scenic Design: Lauren Helpern
Costume Design: Jessica Wegener Shay
Lighting Design: Grant W.S. Yeager
Sound Design: Broken Cord
Violence Consultant: J. David Brimmer
Dialect Coach: Doug Paulsen
Production Stage Manager: Michael Alifanz
Assistant Stage Manager: Catherine M. Lynch
Press Representative: Boneau/Bryan-Brown
Production Manager: Michael Wade
Associate Artistic Director: Christian Parker
General Manager; Jamie Tyrol
Directed by: Jaime Castañeda

Presented by the Atlantic Theater Company
Atlantic Stage II
330 West 16th Street
Tickets: 212-279-4200 or
Running Time: 90 minutes, no intermission
Closes: June 24, 2012

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Planet Connections Interview - Layon Gray of "Webeime"

By Byrne Harrison
Production photos by Sue Coflin

Layon Gray is a theatrical artist on the rise who is captivating audiences with each and every play he writes, produces and performs. 
Gray has spent more than two decades writing, directing and developing stage plays and films that reflect a wide array of African-American cultural movements, creating new paradigms for the stage and motion picture industry.

Since founding The Layon Gray Experience, Gray has guided the company’s growth from a privately held theatre company to one of the entertainment industry’s leading independent companies and a veritable box office force.

Focusing on creating conversational dialogue in his works, Gray continues to make his mark in traditional African-American theater.  A native of Louisiana, Gray quickly ascended as one of Los Angeles’ premiere playwrights earning more than 60 nomination and awards for his works since 2000.  Among the honors are 2010 NY AUDELCO Award (Achievement Award for Excellence); 2009 NAACP Award (Best Ensemble Award); 2009 Hollywood ADA Award (Best Ensemble Award); 2008 MATCHLIFE Artist of the Year; 2007 NAACP Award (Best Producer, Best Play); 2007 MITF Award (Best Play, Best Writer, Best Director, Best Producer); 2006 NAACP Award (Best Play); 2005 Hollywood ADA Award (Best Play); 2004 Hollywood ADA Award (Best Play, Best Writer, Best Director); and 2003 Los Angeles MADDY Award (Best Play, Best Writer, Best Director, Best Ensemble).

How did you first get involved in theatre?

Coming from a small town in Louisiana the thought of being in the arts was far from my mind. I was actually an all-state quarterback in high school/college, and then a touring production of “Grease” came through my city and I was bitten by the bug.  Quit the team changed my major to theater, and haven’t looked back.

Who are your biggest influences?

Interesting enough my favorite actor is Don Knotts. The way he can say a million words with his expressions fascinates me. I’m a huge Joe Pesci fan.   I long to direct Denzel Washington on stage.  His art form and approach is a master class to all actors.  

What is your show about?

Part Spoken word and part chore poem Webeime is the portrayal of one man’s coming to terms with the repercussions of the decisions that he has made in life before the inevitable happens. With little time on his side, he searches his soul for inner peace and his mind wanders back down the road that put him in his current predicament.

What inspired you to write and direct it?

The play is actually based on someone I knew when I was a kid. The nameless protagonist takes his audience on a journey down memory lane filled with childhood sexual and mental abuse, mental and physical isolation, and domestic violence and becoming a man who was shaped by his tragic past. The protagonist is nameless because he can be anyone -- any defenseless child in the world -- being abused and searching for the answer to the inevitable question, why me. All the shows I write are embraced by all races and nationalities because of the honest exploration of universal themes Webeime won best play, best ensemble, best producer and best choreography in 2007. This piece has played to sold-out audiences in Los Angeles, North Carolina at the National Black Theatre Festival, where theatres from around the country fought for the rights to produce the play. I settled on the prestigious Negro Ensemble Company of New York City in 2008. I thought it was time to take it back off the shelf. (Lol.)  Webeime is part sociodrama -- the psychotherapeutic technique that utilizes dramatization and role-playing to identify and remedy intergroup problems and conflicts, but mostly chore poem -- the blending of music, dance and poetry to communicate a powerful story. The cast consists of 8 young African American Males.

Who are your collaborators and how long have you been working with them?

The play is produced by a theatre company I created in 2007 called The Black Gents of Hollywood:  we are an all male ensemble dedicated to resurrect, redefine and restore positive images of African-American men.

Why was it important to you to be part of an eco-friendly theatre festival?

It’s important to save our planet and I think this festival brings major awareness.    Being eco-friendly is  not only helping the human race but also saving many animals from extinction.

Planet Connections donates a portion of the box office for each show to a charity.  What charity has your production chosen and why?

We chose Male Survivor.  The organization is committed to preventing, healing and eliminating all forms of sexual victimization of boys and men through support, treatment, research and education, advocacy, and activism. In the show Webeime the main character deals with all of these issues, and bringing it forward and talking about it may heal a lot of people.

What's next for you after Planet Connections?

Presently I have a play in its 3rd year about the Tuskegee Airmen running Off- Broadway entitled Black Angels Over Tuskegee.  Its won numerous awards around the country and is in early pre-production for a Broadway transfer.  For more info or tickets go to
If you could work with any famous actor, living or dead, who would it, be?

Sidney Poiter. Enuf said!

For more information about “Webeime,” visit or

Planet Connections Interview - LaTonia Phipps of "Fishin' in Brooklyn"

By Byrne Harrison

LaTonia Phipps is an alum of The Eugene O’Neil National Theater Institute and has also received an MFA in Acting from Brooklyn College. She was last seen in All American Girls Off-Broadway at The Actors Temple, With Aarons Arms Around Me with The Negro Ensemble Company at The Cherry Lane Theater, The Colored Museum, by George C. Wolfe at The Crossroads Theater, Wait Until Dark, by Fredrick Knott at The Ivoryton Playhouse as well as a variety of venues throughout New York City. “Fishing in Brooklyn,” is Phipps’s first full-length play to be written and performed. Phipps is a multidisplinary artist whose writings and performance have been compared to the likes of Anna Deveare Smith and Ntozake Shange.

She also currently serves as a Teaching Artist for Opening Act a non-profit organization providing theater for at risk teens within the New York City area. As well as conducts workshops titled “My Wordz Heal” where students draw from their own narratives to construct mini-solo pieces. Phipps is also working on her book of poetry titled, “My Wordz Heal.”

How did you first get involved in theatre?

Well, there are two stories…. First, both my parents dabbled in the performance arts when I was a child, I didn’t find out this story until I was much older, but nonetheless I was always surrounded by the arts. Secondly, I was extremely hyper active as a child. And in my family that usually resulted in a spanking, but my mother put me in a dance class instead. I was so intrigued with performing that I auditioned for a play at school based on the story of Rosa Parks. After not getting the lead I was furious; I knew then that anger only meant this was something I really wanted to do.

Who are your biggest influences?

 This may sound cliché but God and my father. I’ve had a pretty rough upbringing and these two forces in my life have truly kept me grounded. My father was never able to continue with his dream of being a performer and in some sense he lives through me. He is my biggest fan. I recently closed an Off Broadway show, “All American Girls,” a story about an all black female baseball team. I knew nothing about baseball. So he worked with me everyday for 2 months making me throw a tennis ball against the back of a wall and catch it just so I could work on my pitching. I never did pitch a real ball onstage but I could have if I needed to.

What is your show about?

Fishin' in Brooklyn is the heart-wrenching story of a mother and daughter’s love following a young performer turned playwright as she struggles to meet the deadline of her very first play. All goes “Write” when she unknowingly gets help from the spirit of her late mother. Set in 1995 Brooklyn and present day Harlem, NY. In it, performer I portray 27 characters, including a Jamaican roots woman, an African train hustler, a flamboyant Literary Agent, a female Love Interest, and a sassy 10-year old girl from Brooklyn. Infusing Slam Poetry, dance, song and much more, “Fishin’ in Brooklyn” touches upon how forgiveness and growth can be achieved through love.

What inspired you to write it?

There was two reasons why I decided to write and create, “Fishin’In Brooklyn,” First, there were and still is very little work for Black Female Actors. I grew tired of the seeing the same stories being told so I decided to tell my own. Secondly, I’d created a solo show several years ago during my studies at the Eugene O’Neil National Theater Institute and it was such a success I toured at a few colleges in upstate NY. I realized that I have a knack for this type of storytelling. During a dry spell in the “acting world,” I attended an emerging writers workshop at Freedom Train Productions and was given the task of creating a piece inspired by a childhood memory. One of my fondest memories as a child was fishing with my mother in a lake in Prospect Park, a lake that wasn’t supposed to be used for fishing.

The facilitator urged me to expand on this memory and that began the journey of “fishin.”

Who are your collaborators and how long have you been working with them?

Currently, I am working with Christopher Burris (Director), noted for his work on “A Raisin in the salad: black plays for white people.” Chris is new to the project however we have very similar ways of working and great chemistry. I’m also working with Arthur Toombs (Djembe African Drummer) whom I’ve known for years. Arthur has worked with me on many projects including the beginning instillations of “fishin.” And finally, Tesfaye Hamanot (Light and sound Tech) who is also new to the project but nonetheless a huge asset; a touch of genius is needed to travel through the non-linear world of “Fishin,” making each transition clear. That genius is executed through Tesfaye.

Why was it important to you to be part of an eco-friendly theatre festival?

As artists whether we know it or not our art is a form of service. We perform in order to change a person disposition be that laughter, anger etc… and they are forced to re-evaluate themselves. This festival highlights change and awareness… although I’ve always been aware of my role in caring for the environment I’m now inspired to take a bigger stance in doing my part.

Planet Connections donates a portion of the box office for each show to a charity.  What charity has your production chosen and why?

I’ve chosen Providence Rock… it’s an organization dedicated to using the performing arts and spirituality to bring about a form of healing for people of all ages and races: be that suicide, domestic abuse, or people who’ve been diagnosed with fatal diseases. Three years ago I came to Providence Rock completely broken and alone with suicidal thoughts every since that day I’ve been singing and praying and dancing and building a strong spiritual relationship and understanding with God. I never had another suicidal thought since…

This organization, which does so much for so many people, is dependent on availability in a high-demand theater space. They have a growing population but cannot always accommodate all those who come to participate week after week. They are desperately in need in a place of their own where they can offer even more services to make a greater impact on the lives of those who wish to be join them. All the proceeds I receive will be going toward this purpose. 

What's next for you after Planet Connections?

Well, I’m focusing all my attention on the show. My ultimate goal is to tour for a year to local and regional colleges. So, if they don’t catch fishing now they will soon.

If you could do one thing to change the world, what would it be?

As cheesy as it sounds, to take away all suffering and pain of every degree and issue an abundance of everlasting love and fulfillment.

For more information about “Fishin’ in Brooklyn,” visit or

Planet Connections Interview - Melissa Skirboll of "The Closet"

By Byrne Harrison

Name: Melissa Skirboll
Show: The Closet
Relationship to production: Producer/Director

How did you first get involved in theatre?

Is there anyone involved in theatre who can’t point back to childhood and school plays? As a child, I got on stage any chance I could. I took the “sensible” route through college and ended up with a job in finance, but at 25 I decided to pursue my passion and quit the investment firm in order to go to acting school.  And I never looked back. I still love being on stage any chance I get, but when I began directing, writing and producing about five years ago I fell in love with the theatre all over again in a whole new way.

Who are your biggest influences?

When I first started acting, I thought I was going to be a “dramatic actress” but soon discovered I had a knack for comedy. The first few plays I was in when I started to pursue theatre professionally, were all comedies directed by the same woman. I can still hear her voice in my head when I’m working on a comic piece, whether as an actor, a director or a write; her attention to detail and pacing still echo. In addition I studied with Sande Shurin here in New York for years; her passion and insistence on excellence certainly informs my work at a very deep level. On a more universal level, I think that Wendy Wasserstein wrote the kind of plays that I want to be a part of. She created a road map for the next generation of women in theater. And Tina Fey. Pure comic genius who writes, produces, acts…she’s just amazing!

What is your show about?

THE CLOSET is the story of Ruth, a woman struggling to come to terms with her past. It explores the nature of memory and reality. Ruth has glossed over and buried her family history, but her past has come back to haunt her. Ruth, played by Maureen Van Trease, imagines a series of conversations with her long dead mother, Mara, played by Susan McBrien, and with each conversation she gets closer to the truth. 

What inspired you to direct/produce THE CLOSET?

Who are your collaborators and how long have you been working with them?  Amy Gray Piper, the playwright, and I were in a writing group together. When she presented this piece to the group I was immediately drawn to it. It is beautifully written and the way the piece unfolds sparked my imagination as a director. From the first time I read it , I could see it fully realized in my head. I immediately envisioned Susan and Maureen in the roles; I had just finished working with Maureen at last year’s Planet Connections Theatre Festivity, where she played my sister in HELL IS WHERE THE HEART IS. Susan had read for the role of our mother in that play – and had been called back – and I had been keeping an eye out for a project that would allow us to work together. When I read THE CLOSET, I could see those two brilliant actresses in these roles. I could hear their voices in my head saying these lines. Before I submitted the play for consideration, I put out feelers to see if they would be interested; when they both said yes it felt like it was fated! And I have to say, I was right; these woman are amazing as mother and daughter. They bring so many layers to light in their own characters and in each other through the relationship that is being created.

Why was it important to you to be part of an eco-friendly theatre festival?

We’re all citizens of planet earth (as the cliché goes,) and it’s a great way to marry artistic passion with personal responsibility. Plus I think it highlights something that’s inherent in most black box theatre productions anyway. We’re mostly working with budgets that are too small and finding ways to illustrate our stories with whatever is at hand. We’re all expert at reusing and reimagining the detritus of everyday life. It’s great to be part of a Festival that actively rewards that can do spirit!

Planet Connections donates a portion of the box office for each show to a charity.  What charity has your production chosen and why?

We chose to work with Women In Need (WIN). THE CLOSET is a story about two women and their personal struggles. WIN helps women who are struggling – there seemed to be a natural symbiosis between those two ideas. Had Mara had access to the types of services that WIN provides, then Ruth might have been spared the dark night of the soul that we watch play out in THE CLOSET.

WIN serves homeless and disadvantaged women and children by providing basic needs such as shelter, childcare, and counseling. More importantly WIN teaches women specific skills like financial literacy, job readiness and anger management that help them become self-reliant and confident as they progress towards independence.

“Women In Need provides housing, help and hope to New York City women and their families who are homeless and disadvantaged. Through comprehensive programs such as shelter, supportive permanent housing, job training, domestic violence services, alcohol and substance abuse treatment and childcare, WIN offers the tools and guidance which allow our families to return to their communities and live independently.”

What's next for you after Planet Connections?

Hard to say! Definitely want to see my play “Blizzard” produced this year so finding a home for that is high on my list. Plus I want to keep directing and acting. Which comes first, whatever fate dictates. But I’ll be auditioning, writing, submitting. You know the drill.

Finally, if you could work with any famous actor, living or dead, who would it be?

I would love to work with the entire Monty Python troupe. While I could pick out individual members of the troupe, truth is I’d have loved to have been the only female member – and to work with each of them in the projects they’ve created since Monty Python ended. Not just actors, but writers, directors, creators – like Tina Fey who I mentioned earlier and could just as easily have named here – they do so much more than act. To collaborate with talent like this in any capacity would be smashing.

For more information about “The Closet,” visit

Planet Connections Interview - Diánna Martin of "Coyote On a Fence"

By Byrne Harrison

Name: Diánna Martin
Show: Coyote On a Fence (free staged reading)
Relationship to production: Producer/director/actor

How did you first get involved in theatre?

This is my third year with Planet Connections, and I always end up being the one doing the interview, so I’m trying to come up with something different! I come from a theatrical family, so I suppose since I was a small child. I did move on and focus on writing for a time, as well as working in Television and Radio, and was working on filmmaking as well (shooting camera, directing, and editing) but I returned to theatre in the early 2000s at the request of my family, who saw that I wasn’t happy with what I was doing. In theatre, I soared. I enjoy other mediums of visual work, but few have the same flame that theatre ignites. It’s a rush better than any other.

Who are your biggest influences?

My parents (Ann Wedgeworth, Ernie Martin), without a doubt, who between the two of them act, direct, and teach acting (which are all things I do now as well). They are incredible and have shaped my life creatively and are my immediate inspirations. As well, there are so many brilliant – and I use that word sparingly -  actors and directors who have inspired me to go further, by seeing the amazing work they do. To list them would be tedious, so I’ll throw out a few names for theatre: Kate Blanchett, Sam Sheppard, Mike Nichols, William Hurt, Jessica Lange. I am also, especially in regards to this project, very much influenced by the passion of the people around me, who I have created and worked with, in particular an actor/teacher/director/writer David Robinette, who was also a student of my father’s as well. Seeing him go forth and pursue dramatically the things that I wanted to do – gave me inspiration to try and try and try again.

What is your show about?

On the surface, Coyote On a Fence is about two men on death row in a Southern Prison and the questions: What is true evil? True innocence or guilt? And questions the death penalty itself – never taking a side, but showing two sides to every coin. One man is a sworn member of the Aryan Nation and committed a horrific crime; the other is an intellectual who works tries to use his publicity as a champion of inmates’ rights with his newspaper to save the lives of those around him. Around them to help tell the tale – and be effected by these men -  are a female corrections officer and a reporter for the New York Times, both of whom have their own issues and needs to be involved.

Underneath the surface, it is about the push and pull of people’s choices coming from the most dire of circumstances; of the desire to be loved, of hate, and basically the mediums that are the most extreme of the human condition. This play is funny, tragic, beautifully well-written, and makes one think and question – I believe, anyway – regardless of what their stance is on capital punishment. I think people will talk about the play for days after seeing it – I know everyone who has read it has.

What inspired you to direct and produce it?

I started this project about four years ago on and off, with my fellow actors/directors in crime, David Robinette and Robert Michaels – the former actually bringing me this play, which I had never seen; never heard of Bruce Graham, and we began work with another actor and it became magical. At one point I was asked to direct as well as act in it, since the character Shawna that I play is mostly in monologue, and as the prison guard is watching the actors on stage – so it kind of works. If we were doing a production I would have to relinquish the directorial reigns (although find someone whose work I trusted – and let go of my ego!!!) so that I could play this character…since Shawna speaks to me in ways on a very personal level. Eventually, due to other projects and David moving to California, we stopped working on it – and I vowed to bring it back.

Although I am an active member in three theatre companies, this past year I finally formed a producing entity, The In-Pulse Group, a producing arm of Martin Acting Studios, for producing readings, and hopefully someday, productions, since I want to focus on revivals for this producing arm. I am blessed in that I am surrounded by many fine actors, playwrights, and directors in my theatrical community, and I enjoy working with them, even if it means just getting a few people together to read a play and go have a beer and talk about it. So Coyote is the first one that I brought, casting it with people I have either directed or acted with before and found their creativity and talent to be rewarding, and their work as actors perfect for the characters. What will be performed in this PCTF staged reading is very simple: music stands and talented actors perfect for the roles reading a brilliant play that I think is one of the most compelling works I’ve read – or worked on -  in the past ten years. This reading is a labor of love for me – make no mistake. It’s also my first theatrical producing effort on my own – so I’ve been learning a lot. 

Who are your collaborators and how long have you been working with them? 

As I mentioned, I originally collaborated with David Robinette ( and Robert Michaels on this play, but now we have Michael Vincent Carrera* (who I directed in a 2010 Fringe Show, “Banshee of Bainbridge” by Jim Tierney), Anthony Crep (with whom I acted in the MTWorks production of “The Oath) and Mark Emerson*(with whom I have acted and have also directed in various readings both for MTWorks and Oberon Theatre ensemble and evening of scenes). Maureen O’Boyle (also a brilliant actress with whom I have acted in “The Oath” and directed in the 2010 production of  Carol Carpenter’s “Good Lonely People” in PCTF, both MTWorks productions) is reading stage directions and introducing the show. Adam Samtur is my Stage Manager and keeper of my sanity.

Why was it important to you to be part of an eco-friendly theatre festival?

Planet Connections Theatre Festivity is amazing. The work they do to try to marry art with outreach and the survival of our planet is wonderful. They are doing something incredible – and they’ve been doing it for a few years now, and every year it’s better. Ten years from now other festivals are going to look back on what Glory and the rest of PCTF started and hope that they can be as beneficial to the community. Reminding the community that not only is theatre and performance art important but also making our world a healthier place to live – that’s pretty awesome in my opinion.

Planet Connections donates a portion of the box office for each show to a charity.  What charity has your production chosen and why?

I chose CEDARS as the charity, which is the same one that Jim and Rachel Tierney chose last year for our PCTF production of “Carry On”.

For “Coyote”, I think it’s very important because it focuses on saving kids in crisis: neglected children, families torn apart – both after the fact and also in prevention. The character that Mark Emerson plays, Bobby, is definitely a child who could have benefitted from an organization like CEDARS, and I can’t think of a better charity for our show. I also think it’s so important because when you think about it: how many men and women in prison come from broken homes? We need more organizations like CEDARS to help possibly prevent a percentage of those people from ever having to enter those doors.

What's next for you after Planet Connections?

The In-Pulse Group will be hopefully putting up 6 readings in the next 6 months. I’ve been very fortunate to be sent plays by a few very talented playwrights who are interested in my possibly directing their work. I’m going to spend time reading and also auditioning; I spent most of the last two years directing, and I want to go back to acting more and more – my love for the both of them is extreme.

I’ve also gotten bitten by the writing bug again (I was a writer for many years during my “I don’t want to follow in my parents’ footsteps” years) so…I am trying to write a one-woman show. We shall see what that brings.

And then there is my acting coaching and classes…
If you could work with any famous actor, living or dead, who would it be?

Jimmy Stewart. The intensity and passion he put into his work was spellbinding. I would love to work with him, talk to him about the work (I have a feeling that he and I would be very different in our approach, from articles I’ve read on him) and give him a kiss. Just a little one. J

For more information about Coyote on a Fence, visit

Planet Connections Interview - Andrew Rothkin of "Bubby's Shadow"

By Byrne Harrison
Production Photo by Paul Dorfman

Andrew Rothkin most recently played Chip Chippendale in the comic short film “Channel 99” and A.J. in his 45 minute one-act, Meredith’s Ring. (The original incarnation of the play, which Andrew staged for the inaugural season of The Planet Connections Theatre Festivity, won the festival’s “Outstanding Overall Production of a One-Act Play” Award.) Other favorite roles include works by Shakespeare, Shaw, Chekhov, Moliere and Christopher Durang. Andrew won three Spotlight-On Off-Off Broadway Awards for Acting, and was nominated for his role in the piece he performed in during last year’s Planet Connections Theatre Festivity: Groder in Jonathan Wallace’s Hummingbirds. Playwriting highlights include Voice, Danny, Paved with Gold, Love Bites, tryin’ to touch the sun and LOVE & LUST, as well as numerous readings, including Strangers on Hollow Hill, Alice on the Edge, his horror screenplay All for Sara, and most recently, Hamlet Bound & Unbound for the Baltimore Playwright’s Festival. Andrew is also a director, teacher/coach, and Artistic Director of White Rabbit Theatre.

Name: Andrew Rothkin
Show: Bubby’s Shadow
Relationship to production: Playwright, Actor, Producer

How did you first get involved in theatre?

I have always wanted to be on film on and the stage, from as far back as I can remember. One of the things my parents did very right was to take me to the theatre from a very young age. It was magical, and I just knew. I took my first acting class in junior high, and then I was hooked, studying everywhere I could and auditioning as much as possible, ultimately studying theatre in college.

All the while, I was writing in my spare time – a hobby, which I never took as seriously as my laser-beam focus of being an actor. But around the time I graduated from grad school, my writing took on a major life of its own.

And I have been writing and acting (together and separately) ever since!

Who are your biggest influences?

While I enjoy contemporary influences and certainly strive for originally -- even experimentation in much of my work -- I am at heart a traditionalist in my storytelling, and I most relate the stories, characters and dialogue I write to the realms of Tennessee Williams and William Inge, with some added influence of writers such as Edward Albee, Sam Shepard and Edgar Allen Poe.

Acting-wise, my role models are many and varied, although such influences are primary actors most known for film work. I am most intrigued by chameleon-like actors who transform from role to role: Gary Oldman, Daniel Day Lewis and Meryl Streep, to name a few favorites.

The path I ultimately want to follow would be along the lines of Gary Sinise and Jeff Daniels: well-respected and known film actors who also happen to have their own theatre companies and are involved in many different aspects of the theatre.

Likewise, I am constantly blown away by the work of my friends, peers and collaborators, and am constantly raising my expectations to match the quality of the very gifted artists around me.

What is your show about?

Bubby’s Shadow is the story of a troubled, dysfunctional family who wants to connect with one another, but who feels incapable of getting beyond their anger and resentments – so much so that the supernatural world steps in to bring them together and at peace.

What inspired you to write/direct/produce it?

As is generally the case with all of my plays, the inspiration to write Bubby’s Shadow came from many different and sundry places – but the initial seed was planted when I learned of a dream a cousin and aunt had wherein they both dreamed of their deceased mother/grandmother on the same night – and the circumstances within the dual dreams were so specific and unusual, they – and most everyone who heard the tale – was convinced it was a true visitation.

Who are your collaborators and how long have you been working with them?

I am greatly enjoying working several old friends on Bubby’s Shadow, including musical composer Tony Sokol, whose plays I have directed, but who I have never worked with as a composer/sound designer, and Karen Raphaeli, who I have worked with in other capacities in the past, and was so delighted when I was able to find a great fit for her as part of the Bubby’s Shadow team.

The bulk of the staff is new to me, however, and as a whole, I could not be happier with the team: their talent, work ethic and humanity.

Most importantly to me, I am enjoying the fruitful new partnership with director, Greg Cicchino. I greatly enjoy hearing him talk about the play; while he is a strong leader and has his own vision and point of view for the production, unlike MANY directors I have worked with in the past, his ideas, his concept, his direction all stem from a thorough understanding and appreciation of the script and his learned, researched understanding of the intent of the playwright.

Why was it important to you to be part of an eco-friendly theatre festival?

The theatre is of great importance to me; I more or less devoted my life to the form, and it is how I view the world and how I most readily express myself. As such, I sometimes have to remind myself that there are other much more important things in this world beyond theatre and the arts. Planet Connections Theatre Festivity helps me to keep this in check. As a great lover of nature and animals, these things are too important for me to take for granted – and I have been involved with every Planet Connections Festivity to date (year #4) as it is a joy -- and important to me -- to not only surround myself with great theatre artists, but also with people who want to make a positive difference in this world.

Planet Connections donates a portion of the box office for each show to a charity. What charity has your production chosen and why?

Bubby’s Shadow, while by no means the most autobiographical of my pieces, has long held a special place in my heart, representing many aspects of life that are important to me – including our spiritual natures and the thin veil between life and death.

This importance was greatly intensified in April 2011, when I lost my mother, who was my best friend and the greatest advocate for me and for spiritual journeys in general. Thus, I will be collecting money and raising awareness for two very important, vital hospice programs: Jewish Social Services Hospice (, for whom my mother worked for many years at the end of her life, comforting the sick in their last months, weeks and days of their lives, as well as their families; and Visiting Nurse Service of New York (, who generously provided me with superlative, no-cost grief counseling during the first unsettling and difficult months following my mother’s death.

While I understand very well that death may not be everyone’s favorite subject, we should all be relieved that organizations such as Jewish Social Services and Visiting Nurse Service of New York are there to ease the physical, mental and emotional pain for so many people in need.

What's next for you after Planet Connections?

I have several writing projects in various stages of development, and the ones that will likely take precedence is my new comedy script, Sins of Our Fathers, and a new work I was commissioned to write for a new Los Angeles based theatre company. As an actor, it is back to class and back to the audition circuit!

If you could do one thing to change the world, what would it be?

Everyone would have their basic needs met – clothing, food and shelter – and every child would live in a safe, nurturing home that cherished him or her.

For more information about Bubby’s Shadow, visit or

Planet Connections Interview - Hinton Battle of "What We Do For Love and Other Desperate Measures"

By Byrne Harrison

Hinton Battle served as Supervising Associate Choreographer for Don Omar and Akon production on the Latin Billboard Awards 2012. Hinton is producing the smash hit SISTAS in the heart of Broadway at the St. Luke Theatre, he has released the single WHEN I WALK from his forthcoming album FROM DA' HEART, and recently play the role of Preacher on Steven Spielberg’s SMASH. Hinton is excited to launch C2C INTENSIVE, a workshop for dancers that are looking to make the transition from Concert2Commercial, (C2C).

The THREE-TIME TONY WINNER - NAACP AWARD WINNER –MEDIA CHOREOGRAPHER AWARD WINNER - FRED ASTAIRE AWARD WINNER -SCREEN ACTORS GUILD nominated performer was born in Germany and raised in Washington, D.C. where he studied at the renowned JONES & HAYWOOD SCHOOL OF BALLET. He moved to New York City at the age of 13 to study ballet under the tutelage of George Balanchine at the premier SCHOOL OF AMERICAN BALLET.  After performing on Broadway Hinton returned to ballet and become soloist with both the DANCE THEATRE OF HARLEM, under the direction of Arthur Mitchell, and the CHICAGO LYRIC OPERA BALLET, under the direction of Maria Tallchief.

Battle made his move to Broadway, debuting at 16 as The Scarecrow in the THE WIZ, which launched a Broadway career that includes: DANCIN', CHICAGO, *SOPHISTICATED LADIES, *THE TAP DANCE KID, RAGTIME, DREAMGIRLS, and *MISS SAIGON. (* Designates Tony awards)

Battle has served as choreographer for films IDELWILD, LIL’ LOUIS, and (soon-to-bereleased) BOLDEN, THE ACADEMY AWARDS, THE SHIRLEY TEMPLE STORY, WB PROMOS, SISTER SISTER, THE GOLDEN GLOBE, and numerous commercials. He has choreographed & directed such theatrical productions as EVIL DEAD, THE MARVELOUS WONDERETTES, RESPECT, and numerous workshops.


How did you first get involved in theatre?

Performing as the Scarecrow in the first performance of The Wiz. I was in the chorus at first, but was asked to go on for the second act as the scarecrow and was offered the role after that.

What is your show, What We Do For Love and Other Desperate Measures. about?

Love. Finding and keeping true love. It is a timeless story of relationships, the ups and downs the ins and outs. How to really make a relationship work.

What inspired you to direct this production?

I have worked with Dorothy Marcic, the playwright, on many projects in the past. I find our collaboration to always to be inspiring and she is always seeing situations from new angles.

Why was it important to you to be part of an eco-friendly theatre festival?

Eco-friendly theatre is the way of the future and I feel that it is important to support these causes.

Planet Connections donates a portion of the box office for each show to a charity.  What charity has your production chosen and why?

Our charity is Women for Women International.  We feel that healthy relationships require equal partnerships.

What's next for you after Planet Connections?  

A wonderful comedy titled Love Lies at the Midtown Theatre Festival.

For more information about What We Do For Love and Other Desperate Measures, visit