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A lawyer takes to the stage to state his case.

Article by Jen Bush

David Z. Gutierrez is the playwright for Retraction.  He has vast experience in theater both from behind the scenes and on the stage.  For Retraction he put down the legal briefs and wrote a compelling script. “I am a lawyer from Houston, Texas., I do have theatre experience as a director, assistant director, assistant stage manager, production assistant, actor, and playwright”. 

RETRACTION by David Gutierrez
May 5 @ 8:00 p.m.; May 7 & 8 @ 3;00 p.m.; May 10 @ 7:00 p.m.;
May 11 & 13 @ 8:00 p.m. at Theatre Four on Theatre Row 
410 W 42nd St, New York City 

Tickets: https://newworksfest.org/event/retraction/ 

 
A celebrated journalist travels to Carolina Atlantic University to begin writing a story about sexual assault for the pop culture magazine Heart Rhythm. There she meets an undergrad who says that, two years earlier, she was gang raped at a fraternity party. Moved by the story, the journalist uses the student’s story as the center of her expose on campus sexual assault. The article sends shockwaves throughout the university and college campuses across the country. But questionable reporting methods and inconsistencies are found in the article. And when another reporter digs deeper, he finds out something that will rock the university, the student, the reporter, and the entire movement against rape and sexual assault.  Adapted from a true story, Retraction uses the hot-button topic of sexual assault to show how careless journalistic failure can ruin people’s lives, damage a movement, and destroy careers.  

Rolling Stone Magazine was the inspiration behind the popular movie Almost Famous dealing with journalismIt was also the inspiration for this much heavier piece also about journalism. “Retraction is an adaptation of the real-life journalism scandal involving Rolling Stone magazine that began in 2014.” 

Research and feedback drive Mr. Gutierrez’s creative process.  “I spent a lot of time researching the play and then got lots of feedback from a large number of people. I received a lot of great feedback about the play overall, but also the dialogue, character development, and overall structure.”

Mr. Gutierrez recognizes that there is an added sense of responsibility when undertaking a piece of work that contains serious or topically charged subject matter. “Because this play deals with rape and sexual assault, it was important to me to get lots of feedback and viewpoints from a variety of people of different backgrounds.” 

Since the pandemic, the usage of Zoom has increased exponentially in all businesses including theater.  It has been a tremendous help to show business.  “Because of the pandemic, this play was developed and revised through a large number of Zoom readings. Zoom is a very useful technology that has allowed playwrights to do readings and develop their play with others in different parts of the country and world.” 

For future productions, Mr. Gutierrez would like to see Retraction brought to bigger audiences both in and out of New York City.The goal is to move Retraction to an Off Broadway theatre and into Regional Theatre across the country.”


The production is part of the CreateTheater New Works Festival, produced
in association with Prism Stage Company. Executive Producer: Cate Cammarata

 

ABOUT CREATETHEATER

CreateTheater has been helping writers develop and produce their work since the company was launched in 2016 by Cate Cammarata, an Off-Broadway producer, director and dramaturg. During the shutdown of 2020-2022 CreateTheater developed and/or produced more than 70 shows with online readings, workshops and dramaturgical guidance. For this work Theater Resources Unlimited (TRU) has honored her with the TRU Entrepreneur of the Year award in 2022.

ABOUT PRISM STAGE COMPANY
Prism Stage Company was created to promote the work of theater artists over     forty. Developing both new and classic works, PSC’s abiding principle is that talent has no expiration date. https://www.prismstagecompany.com/

ABOUT THE NEW WORKS FESTIVAL
 In 2020 CreateTheater created a resident company, The Expert’s Theater Company, to work with a smaller group of writers to develop their scripts and then to guide them through to production.

The New Works Festival is a collaborative series produced by CreateTheater, in association with Prism Stage Company, with CreateTheater ETC members whose shows are ready for their first developmental production in NYC. www.CreateTheater.com , www.NewWorksFest.org

Grammy winner, Emilio Solla, is on fire! Fire Island, that is.

Article by Jen Bush

Emilio Solla is a Grammy winning composer.  His latest project is composing the music for Fire Island The Musical.  It’s safe to say that music has been a part of his life since birth.  “Since I was born, I have been composed by several pieces of music.” 

LOS ANGELES, CA – FEBRUARY 08: Recording artist Emilio Solla attends The 57th Annual GRAMMY Awards at the STAPLES Center on February 8, 2015 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Steve Granitz/WireImage)

Mr Solla is kindly inspired by his collaboration with the lyricist Jarlath Barsanti Jacobs.  “My inspiration for this particular piece is everything Jarlath writes! Her lyrics sweat music by every pore, and her characters and the situations between them are very well defined, so to be honest is quite easy to put music to her ideas.”

Mr. Solla’s creative process is not set in stone.  For this musical he worked out the music by reciting the lyrics out loud.  “My creative process changes a lot regarding the circumstances. For Fire Island, I worked mostly starting from written lyrics, so in many occasions I like to walk the room saying the lyrics in a loud voice, to try and grasp the rhythm. Once I have that, I sit at the piano and try to convey a melody and chords that convey the tone of the piece and the dramatic moment at that part of the show…what is this character doing, what is he/she trying to say, what is the overall situation at that point in the script?”

Some artists feel an added responsibility when undertaking a work with serious or topically charged subject matter.  For Mr. Solla, art is the driving factor behind a project.  “A creator has to be as “irresponsible” as possible. The moment you start asking yourself those kinds of questions, you are letting your art be affected by considerations that are (should be) totally unconnected to the creative process.”

Mr. Solla has a lot of exciting projects on the horizon.  “My new album is coming out shortly, a tribute to CHICK COREA with the Symphony Orchestra of Alicante, Spain (more than 60 musicians) where I wrote all the arrangements and performed with my trio. In November 2022 I am recording my next work, a very intimate revision of the connections between Argentine music and flamenco music with jazz. This will be with my trio and the great Antonio Lizana as a very special guest.”

Audiences are loving FIRE ISLAND THE MUSICAL! Grammy-winner Emilio Solla and Jarlath Barsanti Jacobs’s musical a hit at Create Theater’s New Work Festival on Theatre Row, running through May 14 at 410 West 42nd St. (Theater Four) Directed & choreographed by Fred C.L. Mann III with musical direction by Trevor M. Pierce. Richard Ouellette designed the set; Anthony Paul-Cavaretta created the costumes; and Michael Cole designed the lighting. The production features projections by Peter Leibold VI and Paul Deziel. Jesica Garrou is production stage manager. 

Info & Tickets: http://FireIslandTheMusical.com/

Veronica Moya would love to marry you! 

Veronica Moya Interview by Jen Bush

Veronica Moya had immense business sense since was a teenager – now coupled with entertainment skills.  She started out entertaining at children’s parties and then pivoted to the ultimate party, weddings.  “I am originally from Buenos Aires, Argentina, where I started my first business at age 17 as a children’s party entertainer. Since that first business venture, my work has expanded, deepened, and spiraled in several key directions—all of which reflect my desire to bring happiness to people.”  With minimal opportunities in Argentina, the Great White Way beckoned to her and she moved to N.Y.C. “I love to perform, but the entertainment opportunities are limited in my country, which is why in 2001 I moved to the theater capital of the world. As I was trying to make it on Broadway, I had several jobs, as you can imagine nanny, waitress, receptionist…in retrospect, I can see how life was preparing me for what was to come.” Her journey now had her acting…as an officiant. “During my years as a menial worker, I learned a great deal about myself. My wedding journey started in 2006 when I first learned about the existence of a “wedding officiant.” Back home, we don’t have wedding officiants. I didn’t know this was a thing! I did some research, and I quickly learned what the job entailed and how to become licensed.”  It was a natural progression from the work she had been doing. “At the time, I was already well established in the New Age community as an intuitive counselor, teacher, and event coordinator for the Edgar Cayce Center. Becoming an ordained minister was the logical and organic thing to do – and so I did! I became ordained as an interfaith minister, and also licensed as an officiant. I knew immediately that this was something at which I’d excel. Speaking Spanish was a huge advantage, New York is filled with Spanish speaking people! Business was so good, that I decided to make officiating my full-time job.”

Veronica has written a book to assist couples on their big day.  The impetus behind writing the book was to provide couples with sound advice to have an ideal wedding within their means.  There seemed to be a lack of information for mounting smaller and more intimate weddings.  “Throughout the years, I realized that most people would choose to go the frugal or micro-wedding route as opposed to the big elaborate wedding. And after hearing the same questions from couples, repeatedly, I realized that there was not one place where they could find those answers. So, I was inspired to provide good answers and guidance to those couples who are aiming towards a small wedding, and don’t want to hire a $7,000 wedding planner.”

From the heartwarming to the horrible with some miracles in between, Veronica has found the officiant business can sometimes be quite eye opening.

“Yes, I have certainly seen it all. From a regretful groom, who had to be tackled by his mother as he was running away from the altar (A run-away groom if you will); to unhappy parents who would let EVERYONE know how they felt about their son’s new spouse. Pretty sad really. No matter how long I’ve been in this business, you can never get used to this. But I must sadly confess, that seeing unhappy family members acting out is more common than people think.  You always see the mother of the groom (or father of the bride) arriving extremely late to the wedding ceremony. So late to the point that we decide to go ahead without them.”  Officiating for the couples who are soul mates makes it all worthwhile. “And then of course there are just beautiful couples whose love is so deep and pure that you can feel it in the air. It’s contagious.”

With weddings being such a vast and varied business, Veronica is tackling  more areas in future books.  “I am already working on volume II. In my next book I am diving into all the different venues that cater for small events and spontaneous weddings. Which are quite a few in Manhattan, but they are seldom considered, because when you do a search for wedding venues, only the BIG & expensive ones come up.

Covid has had a negative impact on every aspect of life.  Weddings were no exception.  Lucking for Veronica, smaller weddings thrived.  “I heard that the wedding industry was hit hard due to the pandemic. However, for us, small wedding folk, the pandemic helped us hit new numbers that we never thought possible. We did a total of 720 weddings in 2021. 

With event spaces and reception halls closed, people chose to go the micro route. We did lose all our out-of-town couples, of course, but New Yorkers showed us that nothing can stop love. People were still getting married in 2020 & 2021. 

Wedding officiants don’t always take their own advice. ?I decided to elope with my now husband, Brad, in the city that I adore. We ended up going against nearly all the advice that I give to my couples now. Chief among them: it’s your big day—you are supposed to feel pampered and relaxed. If you are running the show, you are not going to be as chill as you should be. This is what elopement companies are for! But both Brad & I were already wedding pros when we met, so we thought we could organize our own wedding ourselves. Not!! 

Here is what I would do differently: 

  • I wouldn’t enlisted friends for jobs that should be done by professionals (e.g. hair and makeup, photography, officiant).
  •  I wouldn’t change the start time at the last minute (we started 30 minutes earlier to avoid the rain. But that meant that we missed out on the flower girl and the musicians.)
  • I would also employ someone whose job is to look after the catering company and to distribute goody bags. I brought mine to the venue, but completely forgot to give them out to people.”

No matter if a couple is straight or gay, the same kinds of wedding problems occur.  “Ohh Absolutely!! Of course! People are people. Gay or stray it doesn’t matter. Marriage is a BIG step in anyone’s life. It’s a really big deal! And a wedding creates the same anxiety, fear, nerves, and getters in all couples alike. No matter their sexual orientation, their religion, background, or age group. I see the same kinds of problem play out in all couples across the board. Gay couples are not immune to drama. LOL” 

Veronica helps people in other kinds of soul enriching ways.  “When I am not designing a wedding, I teach psychic development to young people. I teach meditation classes in schools and afterschool programs in Manhattan, Washington Hights & Queens. I am also a key-note speaker in self-help & business conferences. Hopefully, we’ll have more of those soon. I did NOT enjoy the virtual meetings at all!! “

Veronica has a lovely endeavor on the horizon for the younger folks.  “I am now writing a book for young people, on how to connect with one’s inner guidance to access wisdom and fulfillment in life. As I said before, I hope that all in-person events come back to life.”

RETRACTION by David Gutierrez: What are the costs behind seeking the “truth?”

David Gutierrez’ shocking new play explores what happens when investigative journalists get “too close.”  RETRACTION by David Gutierrez will have a limited run on Theatre Row on May 5 @ 8:00 p.m.; May 7 & 8 @ 3;00 p.m.; May 10 @ 7:00 p.m.; May 11 & 13 @ 8:00 p.m. Theatre Four on Theatre Row, 410 W 42nd St, New York City, Tickets: https://newworksfest.org/event/retraction/ 

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A celebrated journalist travels to Carolina Atlantic University to begin writing a story about sexual assault for the pop culture magazine Heart Rhythm. There she meets an undergrad who says that, two years earlier, she was gang raped at a fraternity party. Moved by the story, the journalist uses the student’s story as the center of her expose on campus sexual assault. The article sends shockwaves throughout the university and college campuses across the country. But questionable reporting methods and inconsistencies are found in the article. And when another reporter digs deeper, he finds out something that will rock the university, the student, the reporter, and the entire movement against rape and sexual assault.  

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Adapted from a true story, Retraction uses the hot-button topic of sexual assault to show how careless journalistic failure can ruin people’s lives, damage a movement, and destroy careers.  

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Jen Wineman directs a cast including Roya Shanks,* Aurora O’Greenfield, Yeauxlanda Kay,* Tait Ruppert,* Gabby Policano, Joseph Dardano, Vanessa Cozart, Austin Weyant, Sam Pickart, and Aida Leguizamón (*appearing courtesy of Actors Equity Association)  
Heidi Hanson, costume design; Emma Wilk, sound design; stage manager: Shino Frances; assistant stage manager, Brenna Bishop. 

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The production is part of the CreateTheater New Works Festival, produced in association with Prism Stage Company. Executive Producer: Cate Cammarata. Production Manager: Matt Hohmann, Lighting Design: Zach Pizza, Set Design: Tyler Herald, Properties: Daniel Brothers assisted by Brittany Daggett.  

David Zaragoza Gutierrez is author of the short plays, Wandering Blvd. and Red Roses All Over Me. Selected credits include: Director: Crossroads, Hotel De Fools (world premieres, McKinney Repertory Theatre), Don Nigro’s Glamorgan (Zero Untitled); Assistant Director: Oedipus El Rey (Dallas Theater Center), Blue Roses (world premiere, Lyric Stage, Irving, TX), With Blood, With Ink (professional world premiere, Fort Worth Opera Festival).   He currently practices law in Houston, TX.

Jen Wineman (Director) SelectedNYC credits include: Dog Man: The Musical (Lucille Lortel Theatre/TheatreworksUSA); Less Than 50% (59E59); Surfer Girl (Animus); My Heart is in the East(La Mama); Fable(NYMF), The King’s Whore(Walkerspace)F#%king Up Everything(Elektra Theater). Selected regional credits include: Tiny Beautiful Things (Merrimack Rep); Game On (Pittsburgh CLO); Shakespeare in Love(Virginia Rep); Into the West(Tantrum Theater); Baskerville(Dorset Theatre Festival); The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity(Asolo Rep & Miami New Drama); Sweeney Todd (Playmakers Rep); The 39 StepsShipwrecked(Triad Stage). M.F.A. Yale School of Drama. jenwineman.com

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The production is part of the CreateTheater New Works Festival, produced
in association with Prism Stage Company. Executive Producer: Cate Cammarata

 

Cate Cammarata (Executive Producer)) is an Off-Broadway producer, director  and dramaturg in NYC, dedicated to the development of new plays and musicals. She is the Founder and Executive Producer of CreateTheater’s New Works Fest, the Associate Artistic Director for Rhymes Over Beats Hip Hop Theater Collective and has been the Literary Manager for Theater Resources Unlimited (TRU) for ten years. Her Off-Broadway producing credits include The Assignment and My Father’s Daughter, and a regional credit in My Life Is a Musical (Bay Street Theater). Cate holds a BFA in Acting/Directing from Syracuse University and an MFA in Dramaturgy at SUNY Stony Brook, and is Associate Professor of Theatre Arts at CUNY Baruch College. Her company, CreateTheater, has been helping writers develop and produce their work since the company was launched in 2016. During the shutdown of 2020-2022 CreateTheater developed and/or produced more than 70 shows with online readings, workshops and dramaturgical guidance. For this work Theater Resources Unlimited (TRU) has honored her with the TRU Entrepreneur of the Year award in 2022.   www.CateCammarata.com  www.CreateTheater.com

ABOUT CREATETHEATER

CreateTheater has been helping writers develop and produce their work since the company was launched in 2016 by Cate Cammarata, an Off-Broadway producer, director and dramaturg. During the shutdown of 2020-2022 CreateTheater developed and/or produced more than 70 shows with online readings, workshops and dramaturgical guidance. For this work Theater Resources Unlimited (TRU) has honored her with the TRU Entrepreneur of the Year award in 2022

ABOUT PRISM STAGE COMPANY
Prism Stage Company was created to promote the work of theater artists over     forty. Developing both new and classic works, PSC’s abiding principle is that talent has no expiration date. https://www.prismstagecompany.com/

ABOUT THE NEW WORKS FESTIVAL
 In 2020 CreateTheater created a resident company, The Expert’s Theater Company, to work with a smaller group of writers to develop their scripts and then to guide them through to production.

The New Works Festival is a collaborative series produced by CreateTheater, in association with Prism Stage Company, with CreateTheater ETC members whose shows are ready for their first developmental production in NYC. www.CreateTheater.com , www.NewWorksFest.org

 photo credit: Sam Pickart.

Skipping through the Horror of Karaoke

Doppelbanger Review by Jen Bush

A film by John Skipp

Karaoke can be like a horror movie.  Doppelbanger is a horror movie about karaoke.  Belle is an out of town drifter who decides to make a pitstop at a karaoke bar.  Most of the other singers are as awful as expected.  Belle’s singing is a slow burn and then she knocks it out of the park.  She is quickly befriended by Brandi and her boyfriend Randy who own the bar.  Drinks are free flowing till Belle becomes very drunk and disoriented.  Brandi and Randy offer Belle a helping hand but their intentions seem nefarious.  Will the belle of the karaoke ball get her bell rung?  You’ll have to “tune in” yourself to find out.

Legendary horror master, John Skipp, pulled quadruple duty as writer, producer, director, and scorer of the film… and succeeded on all counts.  Your brain will try to trick you and make you think you’re listening to songs typically sung at karaoke establishments.  If you listen more closely, you’ll hear how cleverly Skipp emulated the music and lyrics of karaoke songs.  The songs also have great titles like Tiparillo Ghost and Don’t Fight the Civil War Again (my Friend)

The artsy freaky fantasy opening of the film definitely establishes that it’s a horror film.  The cinematography was spot-on with accurately portraying the atmospheric and lighting aspects of a karaoke bar.  Kayla Dixon with her outstanding vocal prowess was a strong lead as Belle.  Ashley Song and Timothy Krahill as Brandi and Randi were ideal for the characters they portrayed.  A standout quirky performance was given by Cody Goodfellow as Cowboy Rusty. 

The audiences are sure to sing the praises of this short and effective horror film.

Skipp, right, with star Kayla Dixon on the DOPPELBANGER set. (Photo: Linda Rand)

Alice Jamal: Sassafras’ Dominant Force

Interview by Jen Bush

Alice Jamal plays Mistress Chelsea in Sassafras & The Captain.  She caught the acting bug early in life.  “This all started with countless one-woman retellings of High School Music which I would subject my family to and if they didn’t succumb my stuffed animals were my back up audience.”  Her school experience informed her future on the stage. “Throughout my time at school I continued to act and sing and generally prance around on stage and each show was euphoric to me and I knew that there was absolutely nothing else in this world that I wanted to do.”  Through her craft she seeks to deeply connect to her audience.   “As I got older, I also started to realize and appreciate how clearly art reflects life – I feel it provides a mirror to us – and the idea that my storytelling could impact just one person in the audience and resonate deeply with them or make them question what they thought they knew is such a beautiful and poignant thing. We truly are all so interconnected and my aim as an artist is to shine a light on that connectivity and collectivity of human beings.”

Sarah Elisabeth Brown’s send-up of S&M mores, Sassafras & The Captain, is revived as part of the 2022 Fresh Fruit “Return to Live” Theatre Festival. Three performance run: Thursday May 5 @ 6:00 p.m.; Friday, May 6 @ 8:45 p.m.; Sunday, May 8 @ 1:00 p.m.; at The WILD PROJECT, 195 East 3rd Street, NYC. For further info: freshfruitfestival.com  

When Sassafras, a role-playing submissive femme dyke, decides she wants to become a top, she upends her steady relationship with teddy-bear butch Captain Lou, and brings an old flame, the roguishly handsome boundary-pushing masochist Micky Penny, into the mix for an experiment in non-monogamy. Chaos ensues as Sassafras practices new skills of dominance, faces competition from the unassuming southern belle 50’s housewife next door, and gets schooled by the supreme Goddess of been-there-done-that, Mistress Chelsea. Can this young couple grow their love big enough to include these new elements? Or will they be shipwrecked on the sea of dyke drama? It remains – to be seen! 

Sarah Brown’s uproarious play has been reworked for this new production. Sassafras was made into the award-winning 2004 film, Mango Kiss 

I had a chat with Alice Jamal to find out about her career and this exciting project she’s a part of.

What drew you to this project?

A friend of mine shared it with me and immediately I knew this was exactly the type of project that I gravitate towards as it holds space for the frolicsome and the sincere. It is also very unique to me as an actor as I have never had the pleasure of working with such wonderfully frisky and fun material before.

What is your creative process?

It always starts with me buying a new notebook – hopefully with a very cute cover – and from there creating my character’s whole life through vision boards, mind-maps, Spotify playlists, scrap booking. I also refer back to my training at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts and do my Uta Hagen questions, some animal work etc. Combining the creative with the academic for me crafts a fully fleshed out, realized and truthful character.

Do you find a sense of added responsibility when dealing with plays that tackle serious, mature, or timely subject matter?

Absolutely, especially as I am entering this space in a position of privilege and it is paramount that I acknowledge that. I feel an immense sense of gratitude to be included in this project and my role as an actor, an ally and a human is to share and hold space for a story like this that celebrates the joy of queer love. Especially as we are living through horrendous set backs to our progressions for LGBTQIA+ rights with the recent signing of the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill which bans classroom instruction on sexual orientation or gender identity in kindergarten through third grade. This bill further demonizes and perpetuates harmful narratives against LGBTQIA+ folks. It is vital that we, especially those of us who hold privilege, do anything and everything we can to fight against this. I believe the creative world is a beautiful place to start flipping that narrative and opening doors for those who deserve love, respect and joy.

What’s so good about off-off Broadway/indie theatre?

Off-off Broadway and indie theatre is where I feel creative, eccentric and thought provoking theatre lives and breathes. It is the dynamic and vivacious core of emerging projects which is just simply so exciting. It’s that energy that makes it so good!

It’s obvious the world is steadily reopening. What do you feel is different now than before pandemic? Another thought: what should be different now than before pandemic?

This ties in to both thoughts but I feel we have seen so much change in the world throughout the course of the pandemic. So many social justice issues were finally brought to light and it is up to us, the collective, to do what we can to restructure and rebuild antiquated and harmful systems to allow space for inclusivity, equity and justice. I know the phrase ‘new normal’ was at first almost causing a sour taste in my mouth because I had no idea what to anticipate, the change was frankly a little terrifying! However, as the world is steadily reopening this ‘new normal’ has opened a pathway of progression in many aspects. We still have a long way to go but I truly believe the fire lit inside of us during the pandemic and most pandemic is going to pave a way forward.

What’s next for you?

I am really fortunate to be working on some short films alongside this project which is incredibly exciting! In general, I am hoping to establish myself as an actor over here in the US! If you would like to stay updated with me, my social media and websites are the best place to look; I always want to stay connected with creative hearts and brains!

A Moment with arts-journeyman, JOE MOE

“I was born and raised in Hawaii to Grandparents who travelled the world sharing Polynesian music and dance in Vaudeville and a dad who was an artist and well-known knife dancer for luaus at Waikiki hotels. Mom was a psychiatric specialist and RN. I grew up an entertainer, fell in love with stage and film, studied theater, where all my slapstick instincts were dismantled to be replaced by Mr. Stanislavski to make me a “serious artist,” Arts journeyman, Joe Moe, said in one breath. All this – in his DNA – has given Joe the superpower of being a brilliant storyteller. Ironically, it also turned his curiousity in the arts into something herculean, as he also worked in Makeup, Special FX, Production design, Music, and Performance, but it was the pen that became his sword of choice. “It was the one thing I could start and finish alone,” he said with an exuberance that has become his trademark. “I wrote prose and lyrics, drifted into screenwriting (Ray Bradbury said, “Oh, Joe! You better have no ego. Nobody will know your name”), light journalism, published short stories, then returned to the stage writing books for musicals and finally, dramas,” which is where our story of the storyteller begins.

We spoke with Joe about his new play, currently in rehearsal for its New York premiere, DENY WE WERE.

His play deals with an often obscured section of the LGBTQ community.

It’s all LA sunshine and fun until a handsome teenage inquisitor shows up with a chip on his shoulder. When precocious 17-year old Jonah McCabe bunks with adopted “Guncle” Dean Vela, raging hormones take a backseat to burning resentment of his controlling, ex-model dad, Jimmy, and a sneaking suspicion Uncle Dean and dad have been “more than just friends.” Dean deflects. Jonah’s mom, Carrie, vents her issues with partner Jimmy, who she supports financially and who, in return, enjoys it. Who is this gorgeous villain that has everyone eating off of his abs? When Jimmy finally appears in the charismatic flesh, thirsty secrets unravel in the narcissistic centrifuge that spins around an unsqueezable love-sponge. Desire and deceit, all suspended in a soap bubble of wicked humor.


What was the inspiration for the play?

Reactionism. But until “Deny We Were,” I wrote from outside myself. I was a sculptor working from the surface inward, keeping my distance. With Deny We Were, I reverse-engineered my process. I built the internal armature and heaped guts and clay on it. I had written the premise as a therapy for 20-years of obsession over a “best friend” whose disorienting ebb and flow of seduction and detachment had been the perfect drug to keep me coming back for two decades. When this friend shockingly kicked me to the curb last year, rubbing salt into my abandonment issues on the way out, it freed me to share the story I’d set down. Not as retribution, but as an exploration of my enabling and acceptance of such emotional negligence. Ha! Even now I’m afraid to use the word “malice!”


Writers are often told to write what they know. What’s inside of this play that speaks about YOU?

The play asks critical questions I haven’t been able to answer to repair myself.  Why do we love people who are incapable of returning the favor? Once we’ve dared to tell the truth of our desires, and the answer comes back, “no,” why do we run at the same wall, at a different angle, over and over, knowing we’ll just break different body parts? Once we’re in the groove of denial, deceit, and manipulation, what and who are we willing to sacrifice for the impossible love we’re chasing?


You have some great credentials. What or when was the moment you decided to be a playwright?

The moment? Probably as a kid in the 70’s when ACT came through Hawaii performing Sam Shepard’s “Buried Child.” It was macabre, exotic (well, the Midwest was exotic to this island kid) and had all of my favorite flavors in it! I was creeped-out and inspired. I love the living, breathing theater. Where else is there such an active dialogue between artist and audience? The quote, “Art is never finished, only abandoned” is attributed to DaVinci. I relate to that. I work and rework until a draft is slapped out of my hands. I submitted the current draft of the play, two drafts short of my desired rewrites. But I know I would have just been polishing the polish. My high school art teacher, Jean Noguchi’s quote becomes apt at this point, “Keep it fresh, don’t overwork it, don’t get muddy.”


What happens with this play from here?

This festival will tell me how far I have to go in refining it. To me a play is like a dramaturgical crème brûlée. A cheesy metaphor, but I like cheese and I LOVE crème brûlée! There’s a sweet seductive, sugar crust of expectation that must seduce an audience into putting their spoon through it. Once they do, they commit themselves to whatever they find beneath it. Custard or crap. Does the audience leave having experienced an enlightening, nuanced confection, or have they only learned they wish they never picked up a spoon? I feel responsible for the success or failure of that experience. For me, that is where entertainment meets storytelling. I feel obligated as a good citizen of the universe to reveal something, anything, that could help another earthling avoid some heartache (getting or giving it), or at least understand it a bit more? This festival will tell me if I’ve come anywhere near accomplishing that, or how I might get there.


Why Fresh Fruit Festival?

My good friend Jay Michaels made the introduction, so I was starting from a place of trust. I’d done a few Zoom readings and a couple of acting turns with FFF last year during the pandemic. Coming from Asian Pacific culture, I do business by relationship. I liked the vision and process of the organization. I appreciated and respected the people running the show. The legacy and track record of FFF and their stated goals sealed it for me. I didn’t even bother submitting the play to anyone else. 


What’s next for you?

I’m developing a one act musical with prolific composer/lyricist Brian Woodbury, who I’ve collaborated with for over 30+ years. It’s a behind-the-scenes, Hollywood golden age, moviestar comedy with enough charm songs, beautiful ballads and theatrical one-upmanship to make a Barrymore of Carradine cringe. Many of my most discriminating friends have said they think its the best thing I’ve written so far. To me, it’s just the last thing I’ve written so far.

“Deny We Were” by Joe Moe
Directed by Marcus Gualberto
Produced by Jay Michaels in association with Fresh Fruit Festival
Ida Nau-DeLuke, executive producer
Production Design by John Gross
Lighting Design by Maarten Cornelis with Adam Hamdy

Wednesday 5/11 at 6:00 pm
Friday 5/13 at 8:00 pm
Saturday 5/14 at 5:00 pm 

at The WILD PROJECT, 195 East 3rd Street, NYC 

For further info: freshfruitfestival.com  

Andrea Andresakis: Always Engaging

SURVIVING THE ROSENTHALS, directed & choreographed by Andrea Andresakis,
introduces us to songwriter Sammy, who enters therapy to heal himself and break free of the childhood shackles, brought on by his overbearing father, that still stifle him as an adult. The musical takes a surreal twist as Sammy meets – Sammy! Adult Sam meets 10-year-old Sammy in a battle to save himself.

We spoke with Andrea Andresakis, who shared some fascinating stories of her journey in the arts.

“My Mother is a pianist. When she played Chopin or Gershwin, I would dance around the living room,” says director/choreographer, Andrea Andresakis. Living in the historic Ansonia Hotel, known for its denizens immersed in the arts, Andrea – from a young age – was equally immersed including a Rockette who taught ballet down the hall. It’s no wonder that she was on her path as early as age 5. She began at the School of American Ballet at 7; performed ballets by George Balanchine and Jerome Robbins at Lincoln Center at age 9 and then on to the High School of Performing Arts “Fame” school, where it was suggested she go to Alvin Ailey. “I did … and performed with Ailey’s third company,” she said with a great smile. “All 3 companies performed Memoria together, choreographed by Mr. Ailey at City Center,” she continued. “I also danced with the Metropolitan Opera Ballet, where [this is one of her favorite memories] she stopped the show (literally) during the Bacchanal in Samson and Delilah at the Met. Of course she was the Sugar Plum Fairy in the Nutcracker (after humble beginning as a soldier and an angel).”

With such an auspicious beginning we wanted to learn more about Ms. Andresakis’ rise.

Your credentials as a director/choreographer are quite impressive.  How was the transition to director/choreographer from dancer? 

It was an organic transition. Dance captain, choreographer, then director. Michael Haney had hired me as a performer/dance captain at the Allenberry Playhouse and we had a good rapport. The next summer they needed someone to do the musical staging for two shows that aren’t big dance shows: Secret Garden and Big River. The producer didn’t want to hire a choreographer, so they wanted someone in the cast to do it. I had choreographed solos for myself, but never anything for anyone else. Michael, I guess, saw that I could run a room from my work as dance captain and asked me to do it. He was mostly a play director, so he turned the scenes over to me the minute the music started. I had to make decisions about how the story was being told and work with the actors on their intentions, etc. It was then that I realized that I could direct. I had been a drama major at Performing Arts (I transferred from dance after Freshman year) and that background in acting, script analysis, etc. really served me. My Mom had taught me to read music, so that enabled me to communicate with music directors. My father is a trained actor and, I didn’t realize it at the time, but he had started grooming me as director from a very early age. We went to see theatre weekly and he always critiqued and, as my Mother says “re-directed” the productions. (He still does). Even when watching TV, he would point out when an actor was “indicating”. I had the privilege of working with some amazing artists. (Besides Balanchine, Robbins and Ailey, also Franco Zefferelli, Onna White, Leonard Bernstein, Jacques d’Amboise…) and those experiences have shaped my aesthetics and approach. What I wasn’t that aware of as a performer are the technical aspects of a production – what happens during production meetings, for example. So I took jobs as an Assistant Stage Manager and Assistant Director. Gary John La Rosa taught me a lot about the nuts and bolts of putting a production together – scheduling, giving notes, working with designers, running tech rehearsals, dealing with different personalities, crisis management, etc.

What obstacles have you faced in your career? 

For me, theatre is a craft that I’ve learn by apprenticing. I don’t have a “terminal degree” as they call it in academia, so that prohibits me from taking on a full time position at a university. I have been invited to direct, choreograph and teach at seven universities. I received a grant from the Stage Directors and Choreographers Foundation to direct Arms and the Man, by George Bernard Shaw at Eastern Mennonite University and my production of Spring Awakening at Whitman College garnered a Kennedy Center award. Even with that experience as a teacher combined with a lifetime in professional theatre, I wouldn’t be considered for a tenure track position without a degree.

There’s also the gender bias. Being a 5’4”, 115 lb., former ballerina, working with men twice my size in a shop where scenery is being built, for example, can sometimes be challenging. I can’t come in authoritatively as I might be able to do if I was a man. Sometimes, in the best interest of time and in order to get things accomplished, I’ve had to play little games, tiptoeing around, when I knew all the while how to solve the problem at hand. You have to put your ego aside and put the needs of the production first.

What is your “mission” as a director/choreographer?

It’s unfashionable to say this, but I honestly don’t have an agenda as a director. When I’m choreographing an original dance piece, yes, it’s my creation, so I’m writing the narrative. But as a director, working on a piece that’s been written, I am more of a facilitator to the author. I don’t try to put my stamp on it. If people are noticing the direction, then I’ve failed. The direction should be invisible. They should be talking about the story. My “mission” is to tell the story in such a way that keeps the audience engaged on many levels intellectually and sensorily. Everyone has a different way of experiencing an event, some more with their eyes, some more with their ears, some with their brains, others with their hearts. It’s my job to hone an authentic production that speaks to the audience on all of these levels. I also try my best to make it enjoyable for all of those involved. Back in the day, when I was a dance student, the culture was abusive. There was a lot of negative feedback coming at you. One of my ballet teachers yelled at me one day, when I was nine, to “go in the back, you look like spaghetti!” I personally don’t think that people give their best while being terrified. So I do my best to create an environment that is safe, freeing and encourages creativity.

Is there one project that stands out as a “turning point” for you? Good or bad? 

I’ve learned something from all of my productions, everyone is a turning point in some way. What first comes to mind is a production of The Pearl Diver, a Japanese fable, which was also part of the NY Theatre Festival. I answered an ad and was sent the script. After reading it I thought, “this is impossible to do on stage, especially with minimal resources”. There was a shipwreck, an underwater sequence, sea creatures, etc. I took the job (which I’m apt to do), not having the slightest idea of how to proceed. Fortunately, I found Mary Hamrick, a set designer who was working as an assistant on Broadway and who now has many impressive credits as a set designer. Mary said “there doesn’t need to be a boat. The actor will hold a wooden bowl – that will be the boat.” We kept suggesting effects, such as projections, to achieve the various underwater scenes and the like and Mary kept saying, “no, we don’t need it” and she was right. She created magic with some bamboo poles, fabric, a few wooden bowls, etc. The sea creatures’ gills were fans that they stuck into their headbands. The Dragons claws were chopsticks. To this day, people remember that production and rave about it. We’re streaming it as a fundraiser for Asian Americans Advancing Justice. Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Los Angeles – The Pearl Diver Fundraiser (networkforgood.com)

I learned a few things: 1. Just how important designers are and, when you have the right person, how to trust them; 2. The audience’s imagination is more powerful than any high tech affects you can attempt; 3. There’s beauty in simplicity; and 4. Limitations can be your friend.

Look for Part II of our series on Andrea Andresakis in DramaQueensReviews

Someone please tell her how great she is!

Review of Rebecca Codas at Hugh’s Room LIVE by Evan Meena

Rebecca Codas enthralled a diverse audience at Hugh’s Room Live with her natural effervescence and boffola voice. Rocketing to notoriety as one of the top 20 on a reality series called Over the Rainbow, Codas now enthralls audiences with a voice that needs no amplification and if she keeps going on this track, she wiull need no introduction!

Her joyous stint at the cabaret club, Hugh’s Room, begins with Codas, in an elegant black shimmery blazer sharing stories of her emergence into the “Biz.” Rapid-fire chats about her weight, her time with Andrew Lloyd Webber, plus struggles, ambitions, and insecurity, pepper a belter voice that electrified the room – each time. The stereotypical schpiel-line of “every song a showstopper” was pertinent here.  

Accompanied by Madeline Smith, conductor of Waitress on Broadway, Rebecca was yes, she fabulous, and yes, her pianist (whose own humility in giving so much room for Rebecca to shine) was fabulous, but what made this show so endearing is that the only person who didn’t know how brilliant Rebecca is … is Rebecca. Self-effacing, gracious, and grateful – complete with nervous smile through stories both joyous and heartbreaking – she would thank someone, from the audience to her education, to the bottle of water she was given and then she would – without taking a preparatory breath – launch into powerful tunes covering multiple genres and styles that would leave us filled with excitement.  

Rebecca serenaded with standards like the obligatory “Cabaret” from Cabaret to a clever musical journey from Waitress (of course, considering her pianist) to Adele tunes, which segued into an hilarious tune comparing being overweight to being pregnant, which ended up sounding like a parable about how women are forced to look at themselves these days. 

One entry in the program, the song “All I Ask” was particularly touching as Rebecca gave us a whiff of autobiography in the rendition and while the tune offered a colossal range, her trademark belt was beautifully evident.  

After the tour-de-force “Only the Strong Survive” ending in a killer final note, she – without a breath – gives herself a B+. Seemed the crowd reaction tilted toured A+. She then ended her show with a group of singers whose own voices were stunning but as back-up to Rebecca made the finale extra joyous. Her encore was ironic. Now, a rising star in the Big Apple, her rendition of New York State of Mind brought tears.  

Cabaret performing can be a slippery slope. It’s easy to fall it camp or stereotype of the Grande Dame thus bringing the show to a superficial level. That is NOT the case with Rebecca Codas at all. Her openhearted humility coupled with an extraordinary voice makes her one to watch in the future.  

Arts Influencer, WENDY STUART, on MANDELA

“Mandela” at The American Theatre of Actors


I wonder if Director/Writer, John Ruiz Miranda and Writer/Producer, Yolanda Brooks, sitting at their dining room table and writing this show,  knew the impact their play would have on the audiences who came to see it, the schools where it would be presented: and the relevance of telling this story now.

Many know the story of South African activist Nelson Mandela, leader of the South African anti Apartheid Movement. It is the story of an activist who never gave up and couldn’t be broken.  He was  jailed for 27 years  often in horrific conditions,  many of which were in solitary confinement and sent to work in a rock quarry, with the light from the limestone rock he toiled over,  permanently damaging his eyes. 23 hours a day in isolation with only insects to talk to.  After much campaigning by his wife Winnie and outside international economic pressure, apartheid as it existed in South Africa came to an end and Nelson Mandela went on to become President of South Africa 1994 to 1999.

This incredible cast brought the passion and essence of those characters into real time, with Mandela authentically channeled, by the performance of Robert Greene,  from the genuine loyalty and camaraderie of Mandela’s team, to the unstoppable determination of wife Winnie Mandela, fiercely played by Malika Nzinga, to the brutally cruel  prison warden, John Shortt.  And as a person who loves interesting backstories,  here are a few. There was an actual tank that was supposed to be used in the production, driven by director John Ruiz Miranda that never made it onstage being an inch too big to make it through the theatre’s  doorway. And then when my friend sitting next to me exclaimed “that guy on the stage is my neighbor” I was of course riveted from that point on to actor Lamine Thiam  a multi dimensional performer, originally from Senegal. And then there was a cameo played by our our New York State Senator Cordell Cleare, who was at the original ceremony in 1990 when Mayor Dinkens gave Mandela the key to the city. It took me a bit to realize she was an actual senator and not an actor.
Although we say art imitates life imitates art,I was not ready for Mandela’s story to be running such a parallel to the times we are in now. Although this is Black History Month, Black History is American History and right now in places one hour from NYC, school boards are challenging Critical Race Theory being taught in their schools and they are banning books. In Texas that list, which deals with books on race and lgbtq+ people is over 300. They are actually denying what has happened in history. Which is why this production of Mandela is so important.  Because what actually happened was performed on that stage. And the archival footage used in this production was actual news clips from that time of Martin Luther King and the Civil Rights Movement here in America.

Although this was the last performance, the show will run again sometime in the spring.  Definitely watch for it. Learn from it.  Because they say history repeats itself. And that is unacceptable.