Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Gallery Players' Dominic Cuskern on Players Shakespeare and King Lear

As promised, here is my cyberinterview with actor Dominic Cuskern about the new "Players Shakespeare" program at The Gallery Players in Park Slope, Brooklyn.

Me: This is a very exciting new project for The Gallery Players. Can you tell us what prompted you to start up "Players Shakespeare" and why this is an important project for the company?

Dominic: I have always wanted Gallery to do more Shakespeare. A couple of years ago I started a free Shakespeare Summer Camp for Teenagers. We did a one hour version of Romeo and Juliet. The play turned out well but I was very unsatisfied with the process. There was only me and 15 kids. Rehearsals proved difficult as too often there were kids with too much down time. I realized I needed a lot of help before I could undertake such a venture again.

I had also been asked by Shep Sobel, artistic director of The Pearl Theatre Company, to take a look at the role of Lear. He suggested it would be great to do that role somewhere before tackling it at the Pearl.

So this is some background to a dinner I had with friend and fellow Shakespeare addict, Sidney Fortner. She was bemoaning the lack of decent Shakespeare work. I noted that Gallery Players was dark in July and our imaginations sprang to work. I saw a rebirth of the Summer Camp and Sidney envisioned the Acting Apprentice program. Our modest budget helped sell the idea to the board and we were off and running.

Me: How have you assembled the ensemble for this production? What were you looking for when casting actors?

Dominic: We advertised auditions for actors who had both training and experience with Shakespeare. Some people who had worked at The Pearl expressed an interest in being involved. But we were looking for actors who were passionate about Shakespeare, who could act and who could handle text.

Me: What's the unique "hook" for your production of Shakespeare? People can see Shakespeare for free outdoors all summer long; what's going to bring them indoors to see your work?

Dominic: First there is Gallery's high reputation for good work and I do have a very small following of people who might be interested in seeing me tackle this role. Our production will also be as true to the Bard as we can make it without recourse to gimmicks or concepts. And with this weather, it's best to work indoors--less chance of cancellation!

Me: Are there any plans for work beyond this initial production of Lear?

Dominic: Once we knew we would be doing Lear we began to think of the longer range. I see Gallery getting back to the free Shakespeare Summer Camp for Teenagers. The kids would perform the same play as the adults are working on, although in an abbreviated form. I'm hoping that the actors in the evening production will filter into the camp and mentor the kids. I also see the teens attending the adult rehearsals and maybe being part of that production. We're also planning on helping those who want to understand and appreciate Shakespeare with something we're calling Bard Basics. We'll also do readings of the lesser-known plays, discussion groups, workshops and things we haven't even thought of yet.

I'd like to thank Dominic for taking time out of his schedule to share his thoughts with my readers. King Lear at The Gallery Players begins performances on July 23; get more info here.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Yoga in the Park with Rabbit Hole Ensemble

Our friends from Rabbit Hole Ensemble have come up with one of the most innovative--not to mention healthy!--ways to raise some money. On Saturday, July 18, from 4:00 - 5:30pm in Central Park, they are hosting a Yoga Class as a benefit for their upcoming FringeNYC production of Candide Americana. Here are the details:

Certified yoga instructor Jeffery Taylor will lead the class in an hour and a half of Vinyasa Yoga as we Salute the Sun and Cat-Cow with Candide. Jeffery Taylor has been teaching yoga for eight years, with clients including New York Sports Club and the Miami City Ballet. Suggested donation is $20, and reservations with payment must be made in advance on the Rabbit Hole Ensemble website. Deadline for registration is Friday, July 17th. The event is open to all levels of yoga practitioners—beginners welcome! Please bring your own mat or towel.

Learn more about this event (or register) here: http://www.rabbitholeensemble.com/involved/events.html

This certainly sounds like a way to improve mind, body, and spirit while helping a good cause.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Gallery Players Launches Summer Shakespeare

The Gallery Players, a theatrical institution for more than 40 years in Park Slope, Brooklyn, has recently announced an exciting addition to their schedule--a summer Shakespeare production. Here's the full announcement, courtesy of publicist Paul Siebold:

The Gallery Players of Park Slope has expanded its already broad scope of theatrical offerings with the creation of Players Shakespeare, a Summer Shakespeare festival and home for the Bard in Brooklyn. As good as its name, Players Shakespeare will focus its productions on Shakepeare's plays themselves and the players who bring them to life. Production elements - sets, lights, costumes, props - will be selectively chosen for their ability to support this creative work.

Players Shakespeare's inaugural production will be The Tragedy of King Lear with a long-standing member of the Pearl Theatre Resident Acting Company and Gallery favorite, Dominic Cuskern, as Lear. He will be joined by an exciting cast of experienced Shakespeareans, bringing to life this tale of two fathers and the terrible price they pay for letting pride, anger and greed destroy the natural order and proportion of their world.

Additionally, in keeping with the Elizabethan theatrical tradition of on-the-job training, every PS production will include at least two Acting Apprentices who will receive textual, speech and movement training along with appropriate mentoring toward performing multiple assigned roles. This Apprenticeship experience will add creative tools, improve technique, and build confidence for future projects in both classical and contemporary theatre.

On Tuesday night, I'll be running on the Good News Theater Blog my cyberinterview with Dominic Cuskern about Players Shakespeare and King Lear! So don't forget to check back in a couple of days.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Actors Fund Performance of WICKED

Another item from Broadway today: Our friends at the Actors Fund asked me to share that there will be a special performance of Wicked on Sunday, June 28 at 8pm at the Gershwin Theatre. Proceeds benefit the Actors Fund (http://www.actorsfund.org/). Click on their website link and you can purchase tickets to this and other upcoming events, which include special benefit performances of Blithe Spirit, Mary Stuart, and West Side Story.

Go here to learn about the many programs and services of the Actors Fund.

Friday, June 26, 2009

In the Heights Launches a Scholarship Competition

This Good News Item is from the world of Broadway:
In the Heights tells the universal story of a vibrant community working hard to better their lives in Manhattan's Washington Heights. The characters are following their dreams, holding on to their traditions and culture, and sacrificing to create a better home for themselves and their children. The pride and joy of this community is Nina Rosario, the first to go away to college at Stanford University. However, Nina comes home for the summer with a jarring secret: she has dropped out of school because of financial pressures. Throughout the show, Nina struggles with her identity, her ambitions and her parents, who desperately want their child to get a good education. The only thing in their way is money.

Based on the struggles that many families face to afford college, and inspired by Nina’s story in the show, In the Heights has partnered with Clear Channel NY to create the “Graduate To New Heights Scholarship” to help a deserving student achieve their dream of higher education. To fund the scholarship, In The Heights with Clear Channel NY will auction five "once-in-a-lifetime" prize packages on a specially created website http://www.graduatetonewheights.com/. Each Clear Channel NY radio station (106.7 Lite fm, 103.5 KTU, Power 105.1, Q104.3 and Z100) will hold a 2-week auction with the first auction commencing Thursday, June 18, 2009 with a prize which includes having dinner and seeing the show with In The Heights composer Lin-Manuel Miranda. Other packages will include a private salsa lesson with In The Heights Specialty Latin Dancer and assistant choreographer Luis Salgado; A Spa Day and Ladies Night Out package; The Perfect New York Date Package; and a package which includes a special walk-on cameo role in the Broadway show. All proceeds from the auctions will go toward the “Graduate To New Heights Scholarship” fund, along with an additional $2500 contributed to the fund by In the Heights and Clear Channel NY.

Starting Thursday, August 27, 2009, through Wednesday, September 9, 2009, you can visit any of the Clear Channel NY websites (1067litefm.com, ktu.com, power1051fm.com, q1043.com, z100.com) and use keyword "GRADUATE" to be considered for the scholarship, or to nominate a student. You will be asked in 100 words or less to tell us why you or the student you are nominating deserves to win the “Graduate To New Heights Scholarship.”

The winner will be invited to attend a performance of In The Heights on Broadway at which time they will be presented with the “Graduate To New Heights Scholarship”. The winning student will be announced in September 2009.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Ground UP's Barefoot in the Park Announces Events

With revivals of Brighton Beach Memoirs and Broadway Bound coming to the Nederlander Theatre this fall, it's already looking like a Neil Simon season here in NYC. To kick things off, Ground UP Productions is presenting Simon's first big hit comedy, Barefoot in the Park, at Manhattan Theatre Source in July. In conjunction with their show, the folks at Ground UP are planning a variety of interesting tie-in events. The following is from their publicist, Lanie Zipoy:

Ground UP Productions (Kate Middleton, Producing Artistic Director) has announced a series of events to be held during its revival of Barefoot in the Park, Neil Simon's classic New York comedy, this summer. The events include talk backs with Penny Fuller and the Greenwich Village Society for Historical Preservation, a Hula-Hoop class and a gay Newlywed Game.

The series is as follows:
Wednesday, July 8th (Directly following the 8:00 pm performance)
PREVIEW POST-SHOW PARTY - Meet and greet the cast and producers of Barefoot in the Park. Refreshments will be served.

Thursday, July 9th (Begins at 7:00 pm directly before the 8:00 pm performance)
TAR HEEL TAILGATE - The company celebrates its members' University of North Carolina's roots with a Tar Heel-themed pre-show party.

Saturday, July 11th (Directly following the 2:00 pm performance)
NEWLYWED NOW - After a brief talk back on the legal status of gay marriage in the Empire State and across the country, Ground UP Productions will host the Gay Newlywed Game -- a new take on the classic 1960s game show -- with prizes for all participants.

Saturday, July 11th (Directly following the 8:00 pm performance)
BAREFOOT FLASHBACK - A post-show talk back with Tony Award nominee Penny Fuller, who starred in the original 1963 Broadway production of Barefoot in the Park.

Wednesday, July 15th (Directly following the 8:00 performance)
VILLAGE VIEWPOINT - An insightful and entertaining look at the transformation of Greenwich Village. The Greenwich Village Society for Historical Preservation will host a post-show Q&A about one of New York's favorite neighborhoods.

Thursday, July 16th (Directly following the 8:00 performance)
SINGLE MINGLE - Mingle with fellow singles at this post-show mixer.

Friday, July 17th (Directly following the 8:00 performance)
HOOPING IT UP - Hula-Hoop mania swept the nation in the 1960s. Now, after that decade's quintessential comedy, audience members may enjoy a heart-pumping Hula-Hoop class.

The events and talk backs are free with the purchase of a ticket to Barefoot in the Park.

You can find out more about the show and the company at Ground UP Productions' website.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Affordable Rehersal Space Available at Algonquin

Today's Good News Item comes from Kristin Skye Hoffmann of Wide Eyed Productions:

Hi everybody! Great news... Wide Eyed Productions is now booking the amazing rehearsal spaces at the Algonquin theatre on East 24th Street. To book, email wideeyednyc@gmail.com or call 212-300-5939 or 917-379-1525.

- The Benchley (no windows)
- The Connelly (windows)
Both rooms are 16 x 32 feet. Both have a piano (untuned) and mirrors.
Rate: $20 p/h

Book your entire rehearsal process and get a discount!
- There is a 48 hour cancellation policy
- Cash or check only (credit cards not accepted.)
- The rooms fit 20 people or less comfortably.

LOCATION:123 E. 24th St.(between Park and Lex)
Take the 6 train to 23rd St.or the N, R, W to 23rd St.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Dear Friend of Global Picket: Fiction by Jeffrey Essmann

Today on the Good News Theater Blog, something very different! The humorous prose piece below is written by Jeffrey Essmann, whom many of you will remember as a stalwart of the indie theater scene in the late 1980s/early 1990s (at La MaMa, mostly, and elsewhere). I had the pleasure of interviewing Jeffrey for an episode of nytheatrecast and we've stayed in touch ever since. Jeffrey is a very smart, very funny writer, and a few weeks ago he shared this short piece with me and is now sharing it with the readers of this blog. Enjoy!

* * * * *

"Dear Friend of Global Picket" by Jeffrey Essmann

Dear Friend of Global Picket:

More than seventeen years ago, Emily Waines stood at her picket fence talking to her neighbor, Doug Emerson. Her apples had the rust, her son had acne, and she was thinking of tearing down the barn. They’d never really used it. It was on the property from back when it had been an actual farm, just part of the lot. It seemed neat at first. They’d had all kinds of ideas about what they’d do with it. Bob was going to set up a woodshop, make bookshelves and things. Duck decoys. Emily was thinking about making candles. Selling them. She’d set up a little shop in the corner and sell candles. Candles and honey. But she’d get the honey somewhere else. She didn’t want to make it herself. She didn’t want the bother. Besides, she hated bees. But somewhere along the way Bob lost interest in wood and Emily totally forgot about the candles. They’d used it as a garage for a while until they got the carport. Bob still kept the snow blower in it. Emily hid Christmas presents up in the loft. But now the barn was getting old. It was getting shabby. Emily was afraid it was rotting. She was afraid it might have bats. It either needed to be fixed up or torn down, one or the other, she didn’t know which. And to Bob, of course, it was just wood.

But to Doug Emerson it was an opportunity. As a communications major, Doug had been fairly active in college theatricals, with several musical comedy and dramatic roles already on his resume. He also already had a penchant for making innovative, surprising choices. The head of the theater department said that his Lenny revealed the dark humor in Of Mice and Men, and his nude scene in Glass Menagerie is, of course, legendary. As everyone knows, he was also very active on the Akron theater scene while he was doing marketing for the meatpacking plant. After several seasons of leading roles with the Porchlight Players, he broke out on his own and founded Phenomenal Theatre, which scandalized Akron with its all-puppet production of Angels in America. Eager for Phenomenal to develop its own material, Doug and members of the company had just begun interviewing local farmers about their experience with syphilis when the meatpacking plant closed. Doug tried to hang in there, funding the new piece from his savings, but economics won out in the end and "Pigsty" never saw production. A couple jobs and a marriage later, Doug found himself, as so many of us have, in western Ohio, looking for some kind of outlet. So at the end of Emily’s lament, he said, “Hey, we could put on a show in the old barn.” And Global Picket Theater Company was born.

Emily and Doug always honored that conversation. They saw all theater—all good theater—as a conversation across a picket fence. The picket fence represents a community of shared stories, folklore, and gossip, and their unique vision was to try to create a theater that was as good as gossip. But their vision was global as well, and they wanted to gossip about the whole world. A big vision. A big dream. At Global Picket we dream big. We always have. But we also know that there’s a difference between dreaming and sleepwalking. Or, for that matter, between walking in your sleep and talking in your sleep. The wonder, though, is that at Global Picket, we manage to do all three.

Emily, as you know, died several years ago in that horrible accident during our production of ’night, Mother (the small alcove to the right of the snack bar is the Emily Waines Alcove and Couch), but we like to think that, wherever she is, she’s proud of us, proud that we’ve stayed true to the Global Picket vision: We’re part of the gossip…

While we of course maintain a full season of mainstage productions at the barn, we’ve also explored exciting new performance venues in the surrounding communities. A surprise hit this season was our site-specific Medea at various locations in the Allerton Mall. Greek tragedy seemed to be exactly what shoppers were looking for, and having Medea kill the children at the food court was a coup de théâtre. (For the record: the issue with Kentucky Fried Chicken has been settled amicably; the court found the Wendy’s complaint groundless.) And we’re into our fourth year of mime workshops at the state correctional facility up in Warnerville. (The DVD of the show developed by the inmates at the workshop, Shut Up!, is now available. Check our website or look next to the soda machine in the lobby.)

While already laying the groundwork for our Islam in Ohio festival slated for 2011, in the past year Global has also done outreach to Amish communities as far away as Pennsylvania in an effort to establish a theatrical dialogue with this highly misunderstood and often demonized group. The effort has been particularly fruitful in that it led to a meeting with Amish performance artist Hebediah Weams, whose cross-cultural one-man show, I’m Here! I’m Queer! I’m Amish!, will be part of our Table for One solo performance series this October in the Emily Waines Studio Loft.

Kicking off that series, by extremely popular demand, will be Menopaws, Jane Putrell-Roberts’ humanly funny, funnily human one-woman show about facing midlife with your cat. As the Weekly Advertiser said, “Ms. Putrell-Roberts avoids the obvious choice of playing the intense loneliness at the core of the piece and shifts the focus instead to an amusing meditation on what we can learn from lower mammals. The cat stories are terrific!” Emily Waines Gold Level Members will have first access to seats for this runaway hit.

And if western Ohio hadn’t been on the map already, Global would have put it there this year with a groundbreaking pair of productions: our all-black Fiddler on the Roof (with several actors imported from Indiana!) in repertory with our all-white Raisin in the Sun. Several critics called the provocative clash of cultural markers a veritable “train wreck” of emotion and theatricality. The intensity of the talkback sessions after these productions showed that we had touched a real nerve in the community and opened up a long-pent-up dialogue. After one particularly intense session, Doug was heard to say, as the fire department drove off, “Now that’s theatre!”

And of course Global is also looking to the future, to a new audience hungry for a new kind of theater. The Emily Waines Play Development Grant has been essential to this effort, and has commissioned our second production next season, Wht?, a Twitter play that could be about not knowing something, needing an explanation, not being sure. Maybe wanting something repeated. Or maybe about identity. Or maybe it’s a whodunit. Whatever it is, it’s an exciting excursion into the limits of language. And more than that: it’s typing. And it’s short. Only fifteen minutes. So please join us for an exciting discussion afterwards with the playwright present by text message and possibly blog.

Global Picket productions have attracted international attention (the Raisin segments on YouTube went viral within hours), and we’ve become the darlings of the state and local press. As the Columbus Dispatch raved, “They’re good for what they are.” And we are. At Global Picket, we may not have changed the world—but Ohio’s a little different.

But cutting-edge work like this can’t move forward without your support. Other than the Emily Waines Gold Membership, we feature donation levels all the way from Producer and Angel down to Janitor. A number of payment plans are available, since we want you to be as comfortable making your donation as we are taking it. You can respond by simply filling out the enclosed form and sending it along with your check, or of course via our website at www.globpick.com (Please note that no donations can be made through www.RememberingEm.com. We don’t have PayPal on there yet.) Or just call Doug on his cell (740-827-9943) and tell him how much you think you can give.

We’ve been bringing top-of-the-line traditional and avant garde theater to western Ohio for more than seventeen years now, and we look forward to an exciting and challenging seventeen more. Because remember: at Global Picket we’re tearing down walls between people—and putting up fences.

See you at the theater!


* * * * *

Jeffrey Essmann is a writer/performer living in New York. Segments of his one-man show, The Usual Freak Show, are on YouTube, and his radio essays for the NPR affiliate in Chicago, WBEZ, are available in their online archive. He is currently working on a full-length play, The Indifferent Narrator.

Monday, June 22, 2009


I've had a full schedule, lately, of panels and talkback events -- which is great because I love to do them!

The panel at Theatre Resources Unlimited last Wednesday was really interesting--it was about resources available for independent theatre producers, and in addition to myself (talking about nytheatre.com, nytheatrecast, and the pilot Indie Theater NOW! TV shows) the panel included folks from United Stages, Theatermania and Ovation Ticketing, Back Stage, Fractured Atlas, Shakespeare Mailing Service, and Materials for the Arts. I was particularly excited to learn about the great services that Materials for the Arts offers--if you don't them, you should check them out here.

Bob Ost, our host at TRU, asked me to be sure and remind folks about their upcoming workshop, Pitching & Presentation Skills for Writers & Producers. Details are here.

I also did a talkback session last Friday at the Planet Connections Theater Festivity, following readings of 2 new short plays by Glory Bowen and Duncan Pflaster, both directed by Amber Gallery. We did the discussion with members of the audience plus the playwrights, director, and full casts of both plays. It was held in the Festivity's lovely lounge area, with the group seated in a circle. The discussion was great and the setup was perfect. This is the final week of Planet Connections; check out nytheatre.com's coverage here and here.

Coming up this week is another panel that I will be moderating: "In Celebration of Off-Off-Broadway: Terry Schreiber and Peter Jensen." This is held at the 92nd Street Y's Tribeca facility at 200 Hudson Street. It's on Wednesday, June 24th at 12noon. Here's the official blurb:

Celebrate the 40th anniversary of one of New York's renowned acting studios with a discussion on actors and Off-Off-Broadway. Terry Schreiber, founder of the T. Schreiber Studio, and Peter Jensen, an actor and the associate artistic director at the T. Schreiber Studio, discuss teaching, directing and mentoring such notables as Edward Norton, Peter Sarsgaard, Annabella Sciorra, and others.

Terry Schreiber has been teaching and directing on and off-Broadway for almost 40 years. His directing credits include K2, The Trip Back Down, Devour the Snow, Desire Under the Elms with Kathy Bates and Feedlot with Jeff Daniels. He is the author of Acting: Advanced Techniques for the Actor, Director and Teacher.

Peter Jensen is Associate Artistic Director at T. Schreiber Studio and the director of Fifth of July currently in production at T. Schreiber Studio.

Martin Denton is the founder and editor of nytheatre.com and indietheater.org.

Wednesday, Jun 24, 12pm
200 Hudson Street
Click here for event details and ticket information (tickets are $16)

I hope many of you will join me for this--it promises to be a fun and interesting event!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

More About the Des Moines Social Club

Last week I posted the first half of my cyberinterview with Iowa theatre impressario (and former NYC indie theater stalwart) Zach Mannheimer. Here's the second part, with input from Zach's fellow theater artist/pioneer Matt McIver:

ME: Tell us a little about the play by Steven Gridley that is happening at your space this month.

Z: Matt's got this.

MATT MCIVER: Steven Gridley's The Twelfth Labor is a play I've wanted to direct since I saw a workshop of it at Columbia last June. I walked out of that theater, called Zack and told him we were doing this play or I wasn't moving to Des Moines.

When we talked to Steven about producing the play he was supportive, and even better indicated that Erin Treadway was interested in reprising the role of Cleo, which she had created. I jumped at the chance. We had a group of actors in town that I believed were up to the dazzling, imaginative challenges that Steven's language poses. Kim Grimaldi (Esther) and Michael Cornelison (Forrest) are local legends; Mike spent time in NY and LA and has Broadway credits under his belt. Kim is a force of nature and one of the pillars of Repertory Theatre of Iowa, a company devoted to theatrical classics. We were very fortunate in the younger actors who worked with us, some of whom had been in our first production, R.U.R.

The rehearsal process is almost a blur at this point--it's a huge four-act play with dazzling leaps of the imagination. A large part of the action is seen through the memory and dreams of a mentally damaged woman who harbors a family secret. Dad is in a POW camp, and in Cleo's jumbled imagination Abbott and Costello and the Wizard of Oz blur with her parents and siblings. We had a lot of ground to cover and the cast worked hard to get to the meat of the language and characters. In the middle of all this work one of our actors lost her mother, and that added to what she was dealing with in the process. But it all came together right at the end, when it needed to.

Steven had a lot of wonderful sound cues, and Chris Peterson did a wonderful job with video projections that play at moments in the background. All of the technical elements came together at the last moment--Steven and Erin were wonderful, hard-working and supportive. We were so fortunate to have them here. In the end I had the wonderful experience of watching this moving story told with the skill, creativity and grace I had dreamed of for a year. I've been a fan of Steven's writing and Erin's acting for some time and I'm as big a fan of them as people.

You can see a review of the play here:

ME: Finally, what differences and similarities are you finding between Iowa audiences and NYC audiences? Is Des Moines going to become a great indie theater outpost?

Similarities first - they all love theatre. They are excited about it and want to get involved in it. But that's really it.

Differences - night and day to me. The audiences here are passionate and excited about the work they do and see. In NYC there was a feeling, I thought, of "Been there, done that" for most shows I would go to. Here people are so excited about the work they can't wait to jump in and learn themselves. And many of them have been through the NYC ringer and returned home to Iowa. I mean, how many people do you know who are actually from NYC? Lots of them come from Iowa. We're hoping to provide a place so they don't have to go back.

The main thing is - here you can make a living doing your work if you work like you did in NYC. And people other than your colleagues, friends, and family will come see your work - and not to "support you" but because they really want to see it. I've met some of the most brilliant artists living out here - and also, they're a hell of a lot nicer!

Indie Theater Outpost - you betcha! We've got our own theatre now, so that's what we're filling it with. Come and do a show with us - spend some time in DSM!

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Indie Theater NOW! Show #2 Hits The Airwaves

Today's Good News is very exciting: the second pilot episode of our TV series Indie Theater NOW! has been scheduled to air! Here are the dates/times:
  • Sunday, June 21 at 3pm (Time Warner channel 56 and RCN channel 83)
  • Tuesday, June 30 at 8pm (57/84)
  • Monday, July 6 at 9:30pm (67/85)

If you live in Manhattan (or have access to a TV in Manhattan), you can watch on the designate cable channels at the above times. Otherwise, you need to stream the broadcast live on the Internet at www.mnn.org.

I hope you will watch, and pass on your feedback! The format of this show is a little different from our last show. It's hosted once again by Trav S.D., but the guests this time are interviewed one at a time and each segment includes some performance! The lineup is:

  • Puppeteer/actor Kevin Augustine (performing a scene from Big Top Machine)
  • Rob Neill of the NY NeoFuturists (with a video clip from Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind)
  • Clay McLeod Chapman of The Pumpkin Pie Show (performing one of his stories)

Please tune in, and let me know what you think of our show! We are getting ready to plan out the possible follow-ups, which may be happening this fall.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Kevin Augustine's Lone Wolf Tribe Goes to Europe & South America

Last week I told you about NYC indie theater stalwart Kelly McAllister's success in the Czech Republic. This week I have more news of indie theater folk conquering the world! Here's info from our colleague Kevin Augustine, whose brilliant puppet theatre work Animal is published in Plays and Playwrights 2005:

Lone Wolf Tribe, award winning contemporary puppet theater ensemble, will present their newest show, Part 1 of The Hobo Grunt Cycle, internationally. On June 24 and 25, the company will have its European premiere at The International Poppentheater Festival in Dordrecht, The Netherlands. On August 25 - September 6, the company has been invited to Brazil to perform four presentations in Sao Paulo and four presentations in Brasilia as part of the Cena Contemporanea Festival.

A circus appears on a war torn landscape. A clown’s beloved dog goes missing; a U.S. army veteran has lost himself. Some clowns throw the pies, others take them in the face—not unlike the soldier’s life. And under one V.I.P. tent, grunts fight dogs to the death. Featuring Lone Wolf Tribe's signature blend of puppets and performers, artistic director Kevin Augustine helms a story of human frailty in the face of war. Starring a breathtaking cast of life-sized puppets including pit bull warriors, circus clowns, and disabled veterans of American warfare, three puppeteers bring Part 1 of The Hobo Grunt Cycle to life.

Part 1 of The Hobo Grunt Cycle is written and directed by Kevin Augustine and produced by Carolyn Sesbeau. Performers: Kevin Augustine, Nathan Wagner, and Connor Augustine. Lighting design: Ayumu Poe Saegusa. Costume design: Candida Nichols. Set and Properties design: Gloria Sun. Video design: Ryan and Molly Fedyk. Sound design: Clint Davis. Puppets creator and designer: Kevin Augustine. Stage Manager: Rich Baiocco. Assistant Director: Sarah Bellin.

The Hobo Grunt Cycle has been developed through workshops at the Irondale Center and the Brooklyn Arts Exchange and is being funded by the Greenwall Foundation, the Puffin Foundation, USArtists International, and the Brooklyn Arts Council.

LWT's previous production, Bride, will travel to Atlanta to be presented at the National Puppetry Festival on July 18, 2009.

Lone Wolf Tribe is a contemporary puppet theatre ensemble blending history, sociology and psychology into brutally poetic contemporary narratives. Their visceral and fantastical productions explore the edges of artistic style and human experience. Combining a hybrid mix of theatrical mediums, Lone Wolf Tribe pushes the boundaries of visual storytelling and sculpts a new dimension for live performance.

Tickets for Part 1 of The Hobo Grunt Cycle at the International Poppentheater Festival are available at: www.poppentheaterfestival.nl.

Kevin appears as a guest on our second Indie Theater NOW! TV show on MNN public access cable (dates TBA--soon, I hope!). Kevin gives a preview of one of the characters in The Hobo Grunt Cycle on the show during his interview with Trav S.D. Details coming soon!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

News from The Des Moines Social Club

Fans of the NYC indie theater scene and longtime readers of this blog will remember Zachary Mannheimer. He founded Subjective Theatre Company and the Community Dish and conceived what sounded to me like a wonderfully brave idea to bring the best of NYC's indie theater to the American Heartland. Well, Zach has made his dream come true, and what he's accomplished is an inspiration to us all. I did a cyberinterview with Zach recently. Here's the latest from this remarkable theatre visionary:

ME: Zach, I posted about your idea to move to Des Moines and open a theatre company there back when you first were planning it. But for folks who haven’t been following the blog for that long, or who may have forgotten, can you give us the short version of your fabulous quixotic idea –how you came up with it and what you intend to accomplish?

Z: I was in NYC for over 8 years producing theatre and working 3 jobs to pay the bills. So the first motivation to get out of Dodge was rather selfish (only wanted 1 job - making theatre - wouldn't that be nice!) The major motivation was the realization that the majority of the theatre I was interested in producing in NYC was either already being done in some respect, or the point I was trying to convey was falling on ears of like-minded audiences. There must be other places in the country where my work could be more vital.

Being indecisive, I drove to 22 cities in 8 weeks spending 3-4 days in each city in the summer of '07, researching. I interviewed over 40 theatre companies and was searching for the right city to lay my roots. Des Moines won. I moved here in September, 2007 not knowing a single person in the city, and a day after my 30th birthday.

The idea all along, as well as in NYC, is to create community amongst a diverse group of people and begin a discourse, get those who don't make art making it, and those who do make art understanding the lives of those who don't, and partaking in that world. And of course, the best way to do this is to give them a piece of art to look at and several strong drinks - so we opened a bar as well.

Des Moines is a city of almost half a million people and is growing. The downtown is seeing a revitalization, and we were able to secure a building in the heart of it (across the street from the largest outdoor public sculpture garden in the world - to be completed this summer). It's 50/50 in terms of political idealogy, religious backgrounds, and has a strong ethnic population - and it's Midwest - so people like each other - at least to their faces. The potential for exciting ideas is infinite.

Was my work vital in NYC? I didn't think so. Here in Des Moines I feel it is.

ME: So now you are opening your theatre in Des Moines, and I am so proud and thrilled that I feel like I will bust. Tell us about the theatre you’ve created, and the process you used to make it happen. Are the people you are working with theatre folks or people you’ve met in the community in Des Moines?

Z: Thanks so much Martin!

This is a long story, but the sum of it is that there is such a HUGE demand for art space here in DSM [Des Moines]. There was not a black box theatre or art gallery in town who focused mainly on local artists. And there are plenty of them!

I began by taking a job as the Maitre d' at The Embassy Club, a private club on top of the tallest building west of the Mississippi (at least until you hit Denver). There I met many of the people in DSM who make projects like mine become a reality. After work I spent my time in the bars and clubs meeting as many artists as possible.

When you spend so much time trying to get NYC press to notice you, it's much easier to do it in DSM. The idea spread quickly, and soon we were on the cover of the local papers and on TV talking about my trip and the plans to open the space. But it was all a very exciting idea then, nothing real.

A core group of us, about 12, met on a regular basis and we rented out an old building in the heart of DSM and threw the first annual Subjective Circus - over 25 different acts from fire eaters to acrobats to opera singers, hip-hop artists and belly dancers - in May of 2008, and over 700 people came and we raised close to $12,000. That got things moving. I was in talks with several prominent DSM patrons, and one wonderful woman, Liz Kruidenier and her foundation, agreed to donate $152,000 to get us started. That was enough for 1 year's rent in the building (30,000 sq. ft in the heart of downtown DSM) and salaries for two full time staff. I persuaded Matt McIver and his wife Julie Betts to move from Brooklyn to DSM, and off we went. This was last September.

We moved into the space this past January. It was a DUMP. It was last used as Obama's Iowa Headquarters, so lots of historic value, but they didn't clean up. We enlisted over 200 volunteers and we spent every weekend from the end of January to the beginning of March cleaning, painting, building. On our website www.desmoinessocialclub.org - go to About Us and watch the 3 minute video - it shows us putting the space together over time.

The main thing was we put a call out to those who want space - and not just artists - everyone. Now we have every weekend booked up until the fall and we're close to having something every night in our two spaces - we've got performances ranging from monthly barn dances, professional wrestling, cat circuses, full scale theatre pieces, tons of concerts, trivia nights, open mikes, dance parties, belly dancing, 15 different classes in our education program, etc etc....its very overwhelming. The important part is that when you come down to Des Moines Social Club, it will be different every night. And the performance in the theatre will be for an opposite group than the performance in the bar, so both worlds mix over drinks.

The building houses an Art Gallery - The Instinct Gallery, whose shows change monthly; our bar - The Sideshow Lounge; the Classroom area; and The Black Box Theatre. It's not just theatre - its everything - it has to be to work. It's a community center and its beautiful.

The people are from all walks of life - some are professional theatre people, and some are volunteers who really enjoy using our ping-pong table, and everything in between. All in all we have a core, dedicated all-volunteer staff of 18 and a larger net of about 50 to help out on larger events. In our first month, March, we saw over 3,000 people come through, and every month since it as increased.

*** Part II of my interview with Zach Mannheimer (with a special guest star!) will be posted on the Good News Theater Blog on June 21st at 11pm. Check back for more then!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Burning the Old Man in Prague

Last week, I told you about Kelly McAllister's European debut -- his play Burning the Old Man is in the rep at Divadla Na zábradlí in Prague, Czech Republic. Well, I promised you some photos from the production. Here they are! (All photos are by Martin Spelda).

Kristina Maděričová as Jo and Igor Chmela as Marty

Pavel Liška as Bobby

Pavel Liška as Bobby

Igor Chmela as Marty and Pavel Liška as Bobby

Gabriela Pyšná as Candy, Ladislav Hampl as Hlina (Earth), and Leoš Noha as Eddy

Leoš Noha as Eddy

Kristina Maděričová as Jo, Ladislav Hampl as Hlina (Earth), and Gabriela Pyšná as Candy

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Mamma Mia Offers $15 Tix

This announcement of bargain-priced Broadway tickets comes to us from the good people at Mamma Mia:
Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus’ global smash hit musical MAMMA MIA! will officially become the 15th longest-running show in Broadway history on Saturday, June 27th when it plays its 3,183 performance, surpassing the record previously held by the play Tobacco Road.

In celebration of the MAMMA MIA! landmark, 15 brides will have the opportunity to win tickets to the record-breaking matinee performance for a Fab 15 bachelorette party, followed by a meet and greet with the Broadway stars, celebratory wedding cake and a champagne toast.

One lucky bride will win a grand prize honeymoon trip to London to see MAMMA MIA! on the West End by catching a bouquet thrown by MAMMA MIA!’s Broadway bride-to-be Brandi Burkhardt.

For a limited time only $15.00 tickets will be available with the purchase of one full priced ticket for June 20 - July 5 performances. These special tickets will be available beginning June 13 by visiting www.celebratemammamia.com.

Monday, June 15, 2009

nytheatre.com Welcomes New Reviewers

I am very pleased to let you know that eight new members have joined our all-volunteer / all-theatre-artist reviewing squad here at nytheatre.com. You can learn more about them (and all of our volunteer reviewers) here.

The newbies are:
  • Case Aiken
  • Joshua Conkel
  • Rachel Grundy
  • Paul Hufker
  • E. Michael Longley
  • Montserrat Mendez
  • Matt Roberson
  • David Vining

Joshua Conkel has posted some observations about his new assignment on his blog.

Please join me in welcoming them aboard, and give their reviews a visit as they begin to appear on nytheatre.com! More new reviewers will be coming soon...

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Drama Book Shop Extends Their Hours

Today, just a quick item about the great NYC institution, the Drama Book Shop. If you've never been to this one-of-a-kind store, which is located at 250 West 40th Street, right across the street from the new New York Times office tower, then you need to get there right away. They are that rarity--an independent bookshop specializing in material about the theatre. You'll find an enormous selection of plays (including all of NYTE's Plays and Playwrights anthologies), along with vast sections on theatre production, acting, directing, etc. Plus they have lots of stuff on film.

They've just recently changed their hours: they are open Monday-Saturday from 11am to 7pm, and Thursdays until 8pm. They say, "Please Join us for Wine, Cheese and Soda, Thursday from 6 to 8."

This is a great place to browse for hours and hours, and the one spot in NYC where you can be pretty sure of finding some of those specialized items you need for your theatre class or theatre company. Check them out!

Here's their website: www.dramabookshop.com

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Midtown International Theatre Festival Launch Party

This is from Michelle Tabnick, who is handling publicity for the Midtown International Theatre Festival:

The Midtown International Theatre Festival (MITF) presents their Tenth Anniversary Season LAUNCH PARTY on Sunday, June 28, 2009 at 7pm (doors open at 6pm) at the Bleecker Street Theatre. Tickets are $20 and are available now at http://www.midtownfestival.org/ or by phone at 866-811-4111.

MITF's LAUNCH PARTY will feature previews of upcoming shows in the MITF, including musical numbers from Insecurity! (featuring the Icky House Club) and That's Showbiz!, as well as scenes from Bartholomew Fair, NJ; Checking In; The Lincoln Continental; Monroe Bound; Not My Daughter; and Southern Man, among others. Food and drinks are available, and there will be raffles for show and event tickets, theatre memorabilia, goods and services, and more.

nytheatre.com plans to review as many of the 42 shows in the MITF as we possibly can! Check our festival calendar for more info.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Talkback Discussions at Suzan-Lori Parks' New Play

The Public Theater will present post-show discussions following select performances of Father Comes Home from the Wars (Parts 1, 8 & 9), the final play of the 2008-2009 Public LAB season.

After the 7pm performance on Tuesday, June 16, the Speaker Series will present “Metadrama: Bring It On!”, Suzan-Lori Parks (writer of Father Comes Home from the Wars (Parts 1, 8 & 9)) in conversation with Glenda Carpio (Associate Professor of African and African American Studies and English at Harvard University and author of Laughing Fit to Kill: Black Humor in the Fictions of Slavery).

After the 7pm performance on Tuesday, June 23, the Speaker Series will present “Meet the Artists of Father Comes Home from the Wars (Parts 1, 8 & 9),” a conversation between Suzan-Lori Parks, cast members from the play, and Public Theater Artistic Director Oskar Eustis.

Tickets are only $10 for all performances and include free admission to post-show discussions.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

TRU Presents Panel With Indie Theater Service Organizations

If you're an indie theater producer, mark your calendar: on Wednesday, June 17, Theatre Resources Unlimited will present a panel entitled "Who Can I Turn To? Resources to Make Your Producing Life Easier." Here's the description, from the folks at TRU:

Service organizations that help not-for-profits, some that help commercial producers, others with programs designed for individual artists. There are a surprising number of people out there who want to help you. Come learn the many and varied services available.

Co-moderated by Sherry Eaker, editor-at-large of Back Stage. Panel will include Martin Denton of NYTE/NYTheatre.com, Hal Hochhauser of Shakespeare Mailing Services, Jonathan Reuning of United Stages, Evan Seplow of StageBuddy.com, plus representatives from Materials for the Arts, Theatermania, OvationTix, and others. A strong lineup is guaranteed!

Yes, you read that right: I will be part of this panel. I'm looking forward to it: it should be a very informative event!

The panel is being held at the Players Theatre. Doors open at 7pm for networking and refreshments, and the panel starts promptly at 7:30pm. FREE for TRU members; $12 for non-members. Please call at least a day in advance for reservations: 212/714-7628; or e-mail TRUnltd@aol.com.

Visit TRU at their website: http://www.truonline.org/.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Kelly McAllister's "Burning the Old Man" Goes to Prague

Burning the Old Man, the play that won the first New York Innovative Theatre Award for Best Full-Length Script, and subsequently was published by NYTE in Plays and Playwrights 2006, has just made its European debut at Divadla Na zábradlí in Prague, Czech Republic.

You can get all the details at Divadla's website, which is in Czech: http://www.nazabradli.cz/.

Kelly McAllister, the author of Burning the Old Man, was interviewed by two students at the Higher School of Journalism in Prague, Czech Republic, and he has passed the interview on to me to share with all of you:

1. Why did you use a festival of Burning Man as one of the themes? Have you ever visited that festival?

I began writing this play after reading an article about the Burning Man festival, and about how at the end of the festival each year there is this gigantic bonfire where people bring things they want to be done with – like if they just got over a relationship, they might bring something that represents that – a photo, a gift, a love letter – and throw it on the fire. The desire to be done with the past struck me as very interesting, and also very universal. So I got this image in my mind of two brothers trying to get to that fire – and not being able to do so.

Also, I find the whole neo-hippie culture very interesting. I grew up in California near San Francisco, and so have had a lot of experience with the whole hippie experience. I like hippies – they are funny, and sad, and poetic, and absurd. Like the characters in the play, I have not yet been to the festival.

2. What have inspired you to write the play Burning the Old Man? Is it true that it is closely connected to your father's death?

Yes and No. I believe that all writing is autobiographical – indeed, that any form of artistic expression is autobiographical. How can it be anything else – we are telling the world who we are whenever we take the time to write something down, or paint a picture, or compose a song. My father died a few years before I wrote the play – from a bad liver that was the result of alcohol abuse, which is a sort of suicide, I suppose. And there are certain parallels between the dead father in the play and my own father – but it’s not a play about my experience with my father’s death. There are starting points when writing, and then there is the story that follows. When I write a play, there always comes a certain point during the writing where the characters take over – and whatever idea I began with doesn’t matter anymore – now the story has become it’s own being, and I am taking dictation from the people in that story.

When I began writing this play, I just had the image of two brothers stuck in the middle of the Nevada desert, desperately trying to get to the festival before it ends so that they can fulfull their father’s dying wish and put his ashes in the bonfire.

3. Thanks to the Boomerang Theatre Company, Burning the Old Man won a few awards. How important is that company to you?

Tim Errikson, who runs Boomerang Theatre, is an old friend. We met in the late nineties when I played Astrov in a production he directed of Uncle Vanya in a small theatre in New York City. A few years later, I started writing plays, and Tim formed the Boomerang Theatre Company. Tim came to all my shows – and always was very supportive. When he asked me to write a play for his company, I said yes immediately. I’ve written two shows for the Boomerang Theatre Company – Burning the Old Man, and Fenway: Last of the Bohemians – which I wrote with my wife, Lisa Margaret Holub. Tim also directed my play Some Unfortunate Hour for hope theatre, inc. as part of the 2005 New York International Fringe Festival. And I am in the process of writing a screenplay with several other writers called “Places” that is slated to be the first film the Boomerangs produce – so you could say they are fairly important to me.

4. What does it mean to you that your play will be presented in the Czech Republic? In the theatre where Vaclav Havel worked in the 1960s?

It is wonderful for me personally to be produced in Prague. This is the city I got married in, during the summer of 2006. There is something wonderful about how theatre is embraced here – something that I wish happened more in the USA. And Vaclav Havel is a hero of mine – when I found out that the theatre where the play was being produced was the same theatre he worked in, I couldn’t believe it.

5. What will be interesting for a Czech audience?

I hope all of it. The characters, the story, the whole thing. I never really know what will be interesting for an audience – I just try and write things that are interesting for me, and so far that seems to work pretty well.

6. Did you control a translation of your play? How? Are you satisfied with the work of Viktor Janis (the translator)?

I didn’t really have anything to do with the translation – I was approached by Dilia, they showed me the resume of Viktor Janis, and I said “yes, that sounds good.” That was it.

7. Would you come to see the play?

I would love to come see the play- hopefully that will happen.

8. I just have to ask one more thing. Is the anthology Plays and Playwrights highly acclaimed in the U.S.A.? What does it mean to your professional life?

Plays and Playwrights is a series of anthologies that comes out each year, and is published by the New York Theatre Experience. That organization, more than any other, has greatly helped my career as a writer. They also run the web site nytheatre.com, which is dedicated to reviewing all theatre in New York City, especially smaller theatre. They came to my first play, Last Call, and gave it a wonderful review, which helped turn the show into a success – it sold out, added performances, and won the Excellence in Playwriting Award from FringeNYC. Martin and Rochelle Denton, who run the organization, approached me later and asked if they could publish Last Call in Plays and Playwrights 2003. I said yes, and began a long, happy relationship with them that continues to this day. Being published by them lead to being published by other organizations. The Plays and Playwrights series is dedicated to new writers, with the express purpose of getting them in front of more people. I think it is one of the most important anthologies American theatre has at the moment. Burning the Old Man, which won 2005 NYIT award for Outstanding Full Length Script, is in the 2006 edition.

I would just like to add that to me, it is very exciting to think that there are people thousands and thousands of miles away from me, reading and rehearsing my play about two brothers stuck in the middle of the desert. There is something quite unreal about it, and quite magical.

Check back next week for photos from the Czech production of Burning the Old Man!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Indie Theater Icon Doric Wilson: News and Accolades

One of the best things about my job is the fact that I have gotten to know some of the remarkable artists who helped make today's indie theater scene what it is. Playwright Doric Wilson is just such a person. He is one of the pioneers of gay theater (he was at the Stonewall Riots, and chronicled what happened in his play Street Theater).

So I am very excited to share some wonderful Good News about Doric today.

First, I am so pleased to announce that Doric is one of two persons to receive the 2009 Career Achievement in Professional Theatre Award from the Association for Theatre in Higher Education. (The other winner is Judith Malina.) Doric is in excellent company (or should I say, the following noteworthy theatre artists are in excellent company now that Doric is a fellow honoree--past winners of this award include: Richard Schechner, Bill Irwin, Jon Jory, Edward Albee, Robert Brustein, Anne Bogart, Zelda Fichandler, Augusto Boal, Ellen Stewart, Jose Quintero, Kristen Linklater, Oscar Brockett, and Maria Irene Fornes). Congratulations, Doric, for this well-deserved honor!

Second, here's some info from Doric that I find compelling:

I don’t know if you were aware that my play A Perfect Relationship has been somewhat of a huge hit in New Delhi. It seems to be one of the first "gay plays" to be presented in India and is causing quite a ruckus. The production travels around to different locations in the city playing mainly to straights. To be out as gay in India risks a ten-year prison sentence.

I just received this email for Sameer Thakur, the director: "We now have performances scheduled at the American Center in Delhi on 12th and 13th June 2009. This is for the benefit of students who come to the library. Around 300 young people will get to see the play. It is part of our campaign against Article 377 of the Indian Penal Code, a draconian law that makes any sexual act against the order of nature liable for imprisonment up to 10 years. We want sexual rights to be in the order of fundamental human rights. Just the fact that we are being invited by the American embassy is a big deal here."

Talk about a Stonewall + 40 moment! They wanted to bring me over, but I declined, suggesting that they probably had more than enough scared white elephants. The theater company is Cathaayatra and you can contact Sameer Thakur at cathaayatra@gmail.com.

There is much more info at Doric's blog.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Planet Connections Festivity: Theatre for a Cause, Part 3

Last week I told you about Planet Connections Festivity and how each of the participating artists are supporting a worthy charitable cause or organization via their work in the festival. These dedicated artists are taking time to tell readers of the Good News Theatre Blog about their particular causes and why they chose them.

Well, the responses from the PCF folks keep on coming in! Here are some more. (The questions I asked each of the artists are: (1) What's your name? (2) What's your show? (3) What cause are you supporting at Planet Connections; and (4) Why?)

Hannah Wolfe, HER KIND: The Life & Poetry of Anne Sexton
Cause: Safe Horizon
Why: Safe Horizon is a women's shelter just down the street from the theatre. HER KIND is about the confessional poet Anne Sexton, who used poetry as a means of escape from harm, her personal utopia, just as Safe Horizon is an escape for women from harm and a form of utopia for at risk women of New York.

Maureen Van Trease of Third Eye Theatre Company, Those Whistling Lads! The Poetry and Short Stories of Dorothy Parker
Cause: We are working with Safe Horizon Shelter for Women and Children, Suicide Prevention International, and the Actors Fund. All box office proceeds are being donated to the charities, and we are collecting toiletry items (soap, shampoo, toothpaste, etc.) for the Safe Horizon Streetwork Program for homeless teens.
Why: Safe Horizon and Suicide Prevention International both work toward helping those affected by abuse and suicide, two themes that are addressed by Those Whistling Lads. Dorothy Parker endured many abusive relationships and attempted suicide four times. The Actors Fund support is important to me and my cast as members of Actors Equity. They were instrumental in helping members make ends meet during the last strike and they really need to raise some funds.

Peter Dagger, Wait of the World
Cause: Gynecologic Cancer Foundation
Why: In memory of Ellen Weissbrodt Dagger

Andrew Rothkin, Meredith's Ring
Cause: CEDARS Home for Children
Why: Because of the nature of Meredith’s Ring -- a love story between two young people, one very troubled, both going through the temptations, fears, and troubles of being adolescent in this not so perfect society – I was very passionate about finding the perfect organization that helps youth in times of crisis. I spent weeks researching charities on line, and none spoke louder or clearer to me than that exceptional work done by the counselors and staff of CEDARS Home for Children. Not only does the caring staff provide support, assistance, and homes for over 3,500 children and youth each year, but a staggering 89% of their expenditures go directly to service for children and youth – by far the highest number I found within the dozens of charities I researched. It is no wonder that CEDARS is a "Better Business Bureau Accredited Business," nationally accredited by the Council on Accreditation (COA) and National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC), and a 2005 BBB Integrity Award winner. Above all, CEDARS helps children in need. Who could be more deserving?! If you are still not convinced, check out http://www.cedars-kids.org/ and read the true stories of some of young people whose lives were turned around because of the care and commitment of CEDARS home for Children.

John Patrick Bray, Hound
Cause: RAINN (Rape Abuse and Incest National Network)
Why: Sexual assault is one of the most horrific weapons at the disposal of cowards who haunt the world. My belief is that those who have suffered sexual assault need to know that help (quiet, anonymous, and brave) is always close, and always available.

Maria Alexandria Beech, Designer X, Your Face or What are you doing Here?
Cause: SOS Children’s Villages: Venezuela
Why: I grew up in a small Venezuelan town. My father spent every afternoon at an orphanage behind my house. Beaten and abandoned children often landed on our doorstep. Early on, I understood that children are always the victims of mismanaged homes and mismanaged countries. In 1999, President Chavez promised that during his administration, "children would no longer sleep on newspapers on the street," a promise that vanished in the wind. Today, an estimated 15,000 children live on the street, according to the human rights NGO For the Rights of Children and Adolescents. These children become addicted to glue and other substances as their teeth, bodies, and minds rot. Children aren’t disposable; their welfare is everyone’s responsibility. I’m not a success if a child lives outside my window; and my government isn’t a success if there are children living without roofs and walls. As long as I write plays, I want to defend homeless children.

Carly Robins & Molly Rydzel, Everybody Dies
Cause: Play For P.I.N.K (Prevention, Immediate diagnosis, New technology, Knowledge) a grassroots organization dedicated to raising funds to fight breast cancer, and creating and promoting awareness of breast cancer through sporting and lifestyle events including golf, tennis, swimming, card games, men's tournaments, equestrian events, shopping benefits, spa days, school activities, and wine tastings.
Why: This cause is near and dear to our hearts because the writer and co-founder of EdibleBrains Productions Molly Rydzel's mom is a breast cancer survivor. Her mom is actively involved with this organization and we felt it was a perfect time to combine efforts and reach a younger different demographic because breast cancer can also affect women as early as 20-30 years old. In addition, cancer is very prevalent in both our families and we felt a strong need to choose a cancer foundation to support.

You can learn more about the Planet Connections Festivity in nytheatre.com's exclusive festival preview.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Good News From St. Louis

The Good News Theatre Blog hits the road today -- here's a report from St. Louis from our friend, colleague, and frequent contributor Daniel Talbott. Daniel is currently appearing as Ford in The Merry Wives of Windsor at Shakespeare Festival St. Louis. He writes:

How are you guys?! I wanted to throw something out there to you all again as a possibility for the Good News blog. It has to do with St. Louis and the wonderful independent theatre community out here, and I’ve just been so impressed by it and all the local actors I’ve been working with on Merry Wives that I wanted to at least try to give them a shout out and to put it out there in some way. I’ve been really inspired by how deeply dedicated and wonderful the local theatre community is and how connected I feel it is in spirit to the indie theatre in New York.

We’ve been out here working on the play for about five weeks now and I’ve been really lucky to start to get to know a lot of the local actors in the cast and to have gotten the chance to see a couple productions with them while I’ve been out here. I saw a wonderful new adaptation of Woyzeck and also Rebecca Gilman’s play The Sweetest Swing in Baseball, and with both shows it’s reminded me so much of being home in a really great way – lots of insanely hard-working, talented theatre folks busting their asses to put on the best possible show with limited resources and money. It’s been really inspiring to me to see how much theatre is going on out here and what a vital and supportive community it is, and I’ve been especially blown away by the audiences of the plays.

The audiences for Merry Wives, Woyzeck, and The Sweetest Swing are so supportive and hungry and it’s been a great reminder for me of the relationship you can have as an actor with an audience onstage. The audiences so far are insanely diverse and full of kids, families, young people, old people, and have been every color of the rainbow, and they are unjaded and open and extremely excited to be there. They start to line up at around five o’clock in the afternoon and when the show starts at eight they’re loud and involved and their energy across the board has made us all better onstage, and especially on a night when we’re having a tough time or feeling low or down they inspire the hell out of us and drive us. It honestly feels like being at an outdoor music festival or rock concert and the audience comes ready to be engaged and to play and has such a strong understanding of how much they’re a part of what we all do. It’s been a wonderful experience and reminder and I feel like the audiences and the vibe of the shows are such a testament to how tight, hard-working, and inspired the local theatre is.

I’ve loved getting to come to another city and be part of their theatre community for a while and get to know all these peeps and it’s been deeply important to me to be reminded about how much theatre is happening all over this country and how hungry people are for it and how independent theatre is thriving and is everywhere.

Hope you guys again are both doing great out there and I miss you and can’t wait to see yas when we get our butts home in the mids of June.

I'm feeling totally inspired now! Thanks, Daniel, for the great post.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Family Savings at Shrek The Musical

Here's some Good News that can save families money on their NYC vacations, courtesy of the folks at Shrek The Musical:
Beginning Monday, June 1, Shrek The Musical invites families to avoid the stress of planning a summer vacation by taking advantage of a SHREKcation package, the new way to organize an affordable and memorable New York City getaway and experience the best of what the “Big Apple” has to offer.

The SHREKcation experience begins with a special discount to see Shrek The Musical on Broadway. With the purchase of one adult ticket, a patron can buy up to three additional tickets for 50% off.

Then, complete the big city adventure by taking advantage of special discount offers from restaurants and NYC attractions that appeal to the entire family. Once tickets are purchased, a patron will receive discount coupons valid for the following:
o Participating Restaurants include Applebee’s, ESPN Zone, Hard Rock Café, Mars 2112 and Planet Hollywood.
o Participating Attractions include American Girl Place, BODIES... The Exhibition, Circle Line Tours, The Intrepid Sea-Air-Space Museum, Madame Tussauds Wax Museum, Rock 'N' Roll Hall of Fame and Top of the Rock.

Log on now to http://www.shrekcation.com/ to find out more information.
Learn more about Shrek The Musical (and read my review, which is very positive) here:

Friday, June 5, 2009

Tony Pundit Strikes Again

For the fourth year in a row, I have asked by Tom O'Neil of the awards website Gold Derby to prognosticate who will win the Tony Awards. The first year I entered the fray I was the best guesser; we'll see how well I do this year. You can see my picks (and those of all of the other critics and reviewers who are participating) here:


You'll note that one of the categories where I am on my own, prediction-wise, is "Best Special Theatrical Event." Everybody else says it will be Liza's show, but I am holding out for Slava's Snowshow, one of whose producers is indie theater stalwart John Pinckard. Go get 'em, John!

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Reminder: Please Help Us Win a $5,000 Grant

Voting closes tomorrow (Friday, June 5th) at midnight for the Techsoup/Microsoft "Show Your Impact" Contest. nytheatre.com/The New York Theatre Experience, Inc. has entered this contest for a chance to win a $5,000 cash grant from Microsoft plus $25,000 worth of software. I believe we really have a decent shot at winning this--but we need your help to make it into the finals. So please, if you haven't already done so, take a moment and vote for our submission. The full instructions are here.

We've actually received some terrific feedback from our readers, friends, and collegues about this! Jon Stancato of Stolen Chair Theatre Company was kind enough to post something in his company's blog. And I got a lovely email from playwright Arlene Hutton (proving once again how very small a world we live in!):
Hello, Martin --A friend forwarded me the ballot information for the Microsoft Techsoup contest, encouraging me to vote for an organization that helps his child with her special disease. As you know, one must vote for at least three organizations and I was delighted to find nytheatre.com listed!

What a well-written essay and a good reminder of all the important services you provide to the theatre community!

So while I was thinking of it, I wanted to take this opportunity to say....Thanks.

Thanks to all for your support! I will certainly keep everyone posted here on the Good News Theater Blog about the outcome of this contest. And whether we win or not, the Microsoft software we've already received via TechSoup is helping us make a lot of new and exciting stuff possible on nytheatre.com and our other websites, and I will announcing some of that very soon as well!

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Planet Connections Festivity: Theatre for a Cause, Part 2

As promised, here are more statements from participating artists in the Planet Connections Festivity, telling our readers about the causes and organizations their work in the festival will support, and why.

(The questions I asked each of the artists are: (1) What's your name? (2) What's your show? (3) What cause are you supporting at Planet Connections; and (4) Why?)

Duncan Pflaster, Hate Myself in the Morning
Cause: Amnesty International
Why: Amnesty International is a worldwide movement of people who campaign for internationally recognized human rights to be respected and protected for everyone. Since my play has a lot to do with political prisoners, I thought it would be most appropriate. In college I did a production of Harold Pinter's One for the Road, which has similar themes, and our director donated a portion of the proceeds to AI as well.

J. Stephen Brantley, The Jamb
Cause: Raising Malawi / Raising Malawi Academy For Girls
Why: Educating Malawi's daughters today empowers its mothers tomorrow. By creating a strong and independent female leadership in the developing world, girls' education will save this planet.

Aliza Shane, The Imaginary Invalid: By Prescription Only
Why: My grandmother was diagnosed with cancer and given a few months to live. As she was in her 90s she chose to stay at home with my family rather than go into the hospital. Thanks to the amazing people at Hospice, not only did she live two more years, but she was cared for and loved 24 hours a day by nurses and day care workers who became a part of our extended family. The amazing work Hospice does is selfless and incredible and I am blessed to have the chance to give back to this amazing organization.

Ashley Jacobson, Hers
Cause: Sanctuary for Families, the largest nonprofit in New York State dedicated exclusively to serving domestic violence victims and their children
Why: My play is a feminist play, talking about how women, especially in families, need each other. I believe that fighting violence against women is not only something women should care about, but everyone on this planet. It is a dark secret of our American society that too often goes unexamined, unexplained, and grossly un-punished. My aunt, Patrice D'Onofrio, was a victim of domestic abuse this year, and lost her life. The fight is far from over, and Sanctuary for Families is doing amazing things for women in this area, and is changing the stigma of "victim" for women forever.

J.C. Svec, A Play on Words
Cause: City Critters
Why: My little girl is a cat lover and dreams of someday opening a shelter of her own. I've always believed in "giving back" when I am able. When I told her that Festivity participants were to be partnered with a charity, and the importance of charitible work, her first response was to team up with a shelter. I was lucky to have City Critters on our list of possibilities.

Glory Bowen, The 40 Foot Tall Jesus Statue
Cause: Amnesty International
Why: Amnesty International is an important organization to me because of its work to end the crisis in Darfur, its campaign to end human rights violations committed by the US government in the name of fighting terrorism, and its campaign to end violence against women. For more than 45 years, Amnesty International has come to the aid of prisoners of conscience and other individuals at risk of serious human rights violations. They work to protect victims of disasters like Hurricane Katrina. They also work to protect LGBT human rights, the rights of children, and the rights of all US citizens. You can help too! Please visit http://www.amnestyusa.org/ to learn how you can get involved.

Amber Gallery, The 40 Foot Tall Jesus Statue and Hate Myself in the Morning
Cause: Amnesty International
Why: Human Rights is something we all have a personal investment in. In Hate Myself in the Morning, the issues of the torture of POWs by American soldiers is brought our attention. The mistreatment of human beings affects not only the receiver and giver, but it also has an impact on whoever each comes in contact with for the rest of their lives. It is important we all work together to stop cruelty and cut off its ripple effect.

You can learn more about the Planet Connections Festivity in nytheatre.com's exclusive festival preview.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Planet Connections Festivity Does Theatre for A Cause

Theatre festivals in New York City aren't a novelty anymore, so I am always excited when a festival comes along that takes a new approach to the genre. The Planet Connections Festivity, which holds forth for three weeks in June (starting on June 11), has added a twist that I'm really happy about: every one of the shows in this festival is committed to a charitable cause or organization. And I'm not talking about a nonprofit theatre company--I'm talking about some other community-service-type group, to which proceeds or some other benefit will accrue during the festival. So when you see a show in the Planet Connections Festivity, you'll not only be supporting nonprofit indie theater in NYC, you'll also be helping out some other worthy cause as well.

I think this community spirit is really something to admire, and I respect festival co-founders Glory Bowen and Frank Calo for making this an intrinsic aspect of their event. I thought it might be interesting and inspiring to share some of the participants' causes with you here on the ol' Good News Theatre Blog. So today and tomorrow, the blog will be given over to many of the artists in Planet Connections, who will tell you about the charities they are supporting via their shows in the Festivity and -- most importantly -- why. Happy reading!

(So, the questions I asked each of the artists are: (1) What's your name? (2) What's your show? (3) What cause are you supporting at Planet Connections; and (4) Why?)

Sergei Burbank, Wrestling the Alligator
Cause: City Harvest
Why: In my opinion, the most debilitating aspect of poverty is hunger. In the plenty of New York City, there are myriad opportunities, large and small, to ease the hunger of our less fortunate neighbors. I've been an individual supporter of City Harvest, and this festival's mission provided the perfect opportunity to pair a personal passion with my creative output to use my (very small) soapbox as a means to promote this organization's great mission.

Brianne Hogan, Truth...Or Consequences
WIN (Women In Need)
Why: Domestic violence against women is still very prevalent in our society, which I find very surprising because it's very barbaric and archaic in my opinion. As a woman, I feel it is important to support other women so that they know they are not alone, that they are not being judged, and that there is light at the end of the tunnel for them. We need to acknowledge this issue, not hide it. Too many of these battered women hide and instead, they need to be empowered. They need to know that they are not alone--there are other women like them in their own neighborhoods and there are women who are willing to support them. And they need to know that they can rise above their circumstances and seek a better life. They need to know their worth. I think it's very vital for women to know how much they are valued.

Jackie LaVanway, On the Square Productions, America: A Problem Play
Cause: We have decided to support the Woodhull Institute for Ethical Leadership. This is an not for profit organization dedicated to help women become leaders in the work force by exercising honesty, compassion, courage, and respect. Woodhull strives to reach out to working women and encourages them to tackle today's issues in a "conscientious way" by "encouraging open debate." Why: The foundation of our play is Shakespeare's Measure for Measure. To give the play a modern twist, our adapter, Deborah Wolfson, has taken text from Naomi Wolf's The End of America and inserted it into the verse. The purpose of melding the two together shows how a society goes from an open one to a closed one. Ms. Wolf is the co-founder of the Woodhull Institute; and being that my co-producer, Rachel McPhee, and I are two working women striving to be leaders in our field, it seemed working with this organization was the natural choice. Their values complement our values, and the work that these ladies do is inspiring- we simply wanted to get involved! We embrace the opportunity to work with them and hope to collaborate with them again in the future.

John Kearns, Resignations
Cause: China Tomorrow Education Foundation
Why: Our show is about the grown children of Chinese immigrants and their struggles and it makes significant use of ancient Chinese culture. In China, the big cities are used as showcases for the outside world, while the rural areas remain incredibly poor. China Tomorrow promotes education in rural China.

Duncan Pflaster, Suckers
Cause: For Suckers, we'll be benefiting the New York Blood Center.
Why: New York Blood Center provides life-saving blood products and clinical and transfusion services to close to 200 hospitals in New York and New Jersey each and every day. Also, there was a nice tie-in because my play is about vampires, and so we thought some phlebotomy would be nice.

William Roetzheim, Dickinson: The Secret Story of Emily Dickinson
Cause: Safe Horizon Woman's Shelter
Why: Emily Dickinson was trapped in an abusive relationship. Safe Horizon helps women who are trapped in abusive relationships.

Bridget Bailey, Child of Hungry Times
Cause: Broadway Cares/Equity Fights Aids
Why: Child of Hungry Times is a dark comedy about women living in Russia during the Soviet Union. The show is based on the writings of Soviet dramatist Ludmilla Petrushevskaya who wrote about the daily hardships of women during that era and has become one of Russia's most celebrated authors. The women of Child of Hungry Times tell of survival no matter what. Their stories tell about doing whatever it takes to protect the lives of their children and those they hold dear. During the Soviet Union women faced many obstacles in daily life and today there is a new challenge on the horizon. Women represent over two-thirds of officially registered adult HIV/AIDS cases in Russia. Many women there contract HIV from their husbands or steady partners who refuse to use condoms. Many times, women do not find the same care afforded to them by medical personnel and are often treated with disrespect and must rely on information from the mass media and each other. Socially and legally, HIV-positive women are expected to abstain from sexual relations with uninfected partners, resulting in additional secrecy and shame. The lack of counseling, confidentiality, and a viable women's movement also contribute to the isolation of women around HIV in Russia. Before we can take the fight abroad, I think it is first in order to raise awareness here in our own city. Too often it can seem that one must choose a life in social work/nonprofits or one in the "real world." I think the movement in the US and New York right now is to blend the two. BC/EFA has been doing so for years. Their commitment to HIV/AIDS awareness within and beyond the entertainment community is amazing. They recognize the power of inspiring an entire community to raise money and awareness for a cause that was hardly known just 20 years ago. Moreover, they not only have a commitment to raise HIV/AIDS awareness here at home but one to do so internationally as well. The Planet Connections Theatre Festivity is another example of inspired individuals thinking outside the box and bringing the idea of being socially conscious into the mainstream. It is a pleasure to work with their team. I feel so lucky to be a part of this movement--to able to do what I love and create theatre while at the same time raising awareness and funds for an organization that really changes peoples’ lives.

(Read more about Planet Connections in our exclusive festival preview on nytheatre.com)

Monday, June 1, 2009

Please Help NYTE Win a $5,000 Grant from Microsoft

Today I write to ask for about 10 minutes of your time to help nytheatre.com and The New York Theatre Experience, Inc., win a grant from Microsoft.

We have entered the "Show Your Impact" Contest, which is sponsored by TechSoup and Microsoft Corporation. The winners of this contest -- there will be three -- will each receive a $5,000 cash grant from Microsoft plus $25,000 in donated software. For a technology-based small nonprofit company like ours, this is a fantastic opportunity! And we believe we have a shot at winning.

To enter the contest, we had to write a "story" about the impact that Microsoft software, which we received via their donation program with TechSoup, has had on our organization and on the community of theatre-goers and theatre-makers we serve.

We now need to get our friends and supporters to go online to the "Show Your Impact" contest website and vote for our submission. So this is where you come in: please follow the link below, register, and vote for nytheatre.com:


The public voting process ends on Friday, June 5, and then the top vote getters in each category will move on to the finals, to be judged by Microsoft and TechSoup.

Anyone can vote. It will take you a few minutes: the contest rules require that you register (all they ask for is an email address) and also that you vote for a minimum of 3 projects (so you can't just vote for us--you have to pick a couple of other projects in order for your vote to be counted). It's kind of complicated and I'm sorry about that--but if you'll bear with the process and vote, we will be very appreciative!

Our submission is called nytheatre.com. Our submission date is 5/20/2009. Our category is "Optimize Mission Delivery." There can only be one winner per category, so you'll maximize our chance to win by not selecting any other entries in that category.

Please pass this information along to anyone you think would like to help us! Your support is enormously appreciated.

And please take a few moments to read our submission entry, which details some of the work we've done over the past several years to prepare nytheatre.com and our other websites for Web 2.0 and beyond. Your comments and thoughts are welcome!

But the bottom line, once again: please vote for our submission to help us win this grant from Microsoft. Click here:


Read our story, register, and vote for us. Thank you!

Email me if you have questions. Learn more about TechSoup, the great nonprofit organization that has put together this contest, here.