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Rollin Tells All

ROLLIN JEWETT – SOCKY TELLS ALL – Interview by Jen Bush

Rollin Jewett has been a lifelong purveyor of the arts.  Some people dip their toe into various endeavors.  Mr. Jewett completely submerged himself in a vast ocean of creativity.  In front of audiences and behind the scenes, Mr. Jewett has all the bases covered.  Not many people can say that Batman starred in their movie but he can.  His brand new work Socky Tells All will be premiering in June.  In his own words, we find out about his fascinating, diverse and award-winning career.  “I’ve been involved in the arts my entire life and have attempted (with varying degrees of success) acting, screenwriting, playwriting, short stories, poetry, and singer-songwriter. As an actor, I played lead roles in many plays, had roles in films like the The Bodyguard (opposite Whitney Houston and Kevin Costner), Miami Vice, Unsolved Mysteries, hosted many TV shows and filmed dozens of commercials. As a screenwriter, I penned Carmen Electra’s first film, American Vampire (also starring Adam West) as well as the erotic thriller Laws of Deception with C. Thomas Howell, Brian Austin Green and James Russo. As a playwright, my plays are published by Lazy Bee Scripts and have been performed Off-Broadway, nationally and internationally. My short stories and poetry have been published in numerous high profile magazines and books, with a special leaning towards the horror genre. As a singer-songwriter, my music is available on all major music platforms and I have been nominated for/won numerous music awards, including the Hollywood Music in Media Awards, International Singer-Songwriter (ISSA) Awards, Indie Music Awards, Rampage Music Awards, Akademia Music Awards, Clouzine Music Awards, Red Carpet Awards and International Music Software Trade Association (IMSTA) Awards.”

The impetus behind writing this play sprung from a dire systemic mental health crisis currently afflicting our country.  “The inspiration behind my latest play, Socky Tells All, is the current state of mental health care in our country. Children and adults are seemingly suffering from various mental health issues now more than ever and it’s time our government shines a light and puts more focus on the psychological welfare of our population, as violence in every form seems to be escalating to an unprecedented degree. More people are suffering from various forms of abuse, domestic and otherwise, as well as PTSD, and I wanted to address the lack of care in mental health facilities, which now seem to be more focused on monetary rewards than actual patient care. Hence, I wrote Socky as a reaction to the lack of care most mental health patients receive today.” 

Jewett and director Jay Michaels at 2021 FearCon in Arizona

This is theatre so the message will be conveyed with entertainment value.  The  Twilight Zone has been entertaining audiences while simultaneously chilling them to the core for decades.  Certain episodes continue to impact people to this day.  This piece pays homage to that show and shows like it.  Mr. Jewett explains more about that connection and the plot.  “On another note, Socky is also a throwback to a kind of story one might see in an episode of The Twilight Zone or Night Gallery. It has a macabre and sinister sensibility, with its young protagonist a mental health patient engaged in a battle of wits with the hospital director in a war over whether the young man will stay or leave the asylum which he has now come to regard as his home — with an omniscient sock monkey seemingly the arbiter. The unexpected outcome is an homage to those mysterious stories told on television late at night in black and white and narrated by an ominous voice. “ Hopefully the audience will be unnerved enough to  give some serious thought to this important subject matter after seeing the show. 

Since Mr. Jewett has such a diversified body of work, his creative process is customized based on the project to achieve the greatest outcome.  ‘My creative process varies from project to project and takes whatever form it needs to in order to manifest the story in the form that will best serve the story — whether it be a screenplay, a play, a short story or a poem. It can come from a snippet in a news article, a conversation overheard, a piece of music — anywhere really. And the story usually comes to me complete: beginning, middle and end. Then it’s just a process of sitting down and letting the creative juices flow. I typically write very fast and only do a few drafts before I finish something because I don’t ever start a story until I know almost everything that’s going to happen. Sometimes I surprise myself and the story takes on a life of its own as I write it. Those are usually the best stories because they practically write themselves. They don’t come from me, they simply flow through me, using me as a conduit, and when that happens they typically turn out better than I could have imagined. Stories that tell themselves are the best ones. Socky Tells All was one of those stories I had thought about for several years before I actually sat down and wrote it. And when I finished it, it turned out almost exactly as I had imagined it. I had said everything I wanted to say with it and now it’s up to the audience to watch, listen and draw their own conclusions about what they think the play represents in today’s society.”

There is definitely an added sense of responsibility when undertaking a work with weighty subject matter and Mr. Jewett acknowledges that.  “I do feel an added sense of responsibility because you’re putting a point of view onstage and asking the audience to make their own interpretation of the message you’re presenting.”  He’s hoping that his play will start conversations that will enact change. “If you’ve done your job well, the story will stay with the audience long after they’ve left the theatre and they will continue the dialogue with friends and colleagues and you will have made an impact and caused people to think deeply about the messages presented. I think the best a playwright can hope for is that their story will be remembered and discussed after the play is over. Sometimes, if enough people are influenced, they can become passionate advocates and real change can be affected.”

Living through a global pandemic has been akin to life being like a horror movie.  The negative impact has been far reaching.  “The pandemic has had a noticeable impact on all areas of modern life. People realize now that they are vulnerable in ways never before imagined and there’s palpable fear in that knowledge. There’s more caution in people’s lives now and we tend to walk on eggshells, waiting for what might be next: an asteroid? a war? look at Ukraine. The unexpected quality of the last few years has become a constant source of unnerving apprehension and we’re all feeling it. We’re all hoping to somehow feel “normal” again, waiting for our prior sense of “normalcy” to return, but it feels like those days are over. Apprehension is the new normal. Perhaps that’s why horror has become so popular. Horror feels normal now and it makes us feel like as bad as it is, hopefully it won’t be as bad as the zombie apocalypse or something like that. But who knows? It seems as though anything’s possible now.”

Mr. Jewett will continue to successfully construct new and wonderful works for the foreseeable future.   He already has vampires and sock puppets in his bag of tricks.  It will be thrilling to see where his creative compass will take him next.  “I have a few film scripts circulating and hope that one might get the green light one of these days. I’m also writing and recording new songs and have a backlog of music to last several years. And I will continue to write stories and plays for publication and production. Hopefully, I will just continue to grow creatively and as a human being contemplating the strange new world we’re living in. I personally see no end in sight to my creative odyssey.”

David Willinger wants ART to INTIMIDATE LIFE!

David Willinger. Interviewed by Jen Bush

David Willinger is a seasoned actor, writer, director, and college professor of theater.  In other words, theater is his superpower.  He is the writer and director of a very exciting new piece of work called Existence.  It’s a hybrid production combining the elements of live theater and audio-visual components.  The arts are a way of life for Mr. Willinger.  “For as long as I can remember, I have always been compelled to put on shows.  You might say I “live” in art.  Theatre for me has always been an intensely visual experience, on a par with painting, the art-form I love the most, but which I abandoned practice of a long time ago’.  In his eyes, Mr. Willinger would like to see American theater mirror life less and take bolder excursions toward the figurative, the abstract and the whimsical.  “I would wish for the theatre in America to be less literal than it tends to be – more to the second degree of presenting subjective states and conditions that go beyond words; less striving to objectively “photograph” daily life.  I had an actor’s training in the Method, but have more of a tropism to the abstract theatre of my heroes – Joe Chaikin, Tadeusz Kantor, Meredith Monk, Vsevelod Meyerhold”.  Inserting audio-visual pieces into live theater has been an exciting endeavor for Mr. Willinger.  “Lately, and even moreso with this show, I’ve enjoyed including filmed segments and having them interact with the live action.  Forced explorations of Zoom as a performing medium during Covid sharpened my sense of how to use film within live theatre.  I think that the potentials in this area are far from exhausted.  I want to bring a Fellini flavor into the live theatre.”

Existence is not about one aspect of life such as a celebration or a crisis, it’s about ALL aspects of life. 

“The play is called EXISTENCE, and I wanted to rush headlong into encompassing as many parts of life as could be crammed into an evening of the theatre, from the most mundane to the most sublime.  But really, I wanted to find a way to theatricalize a group of people trying to “break on through to the ‘other side,’ “to discover even in their immediate surroundings, actual openings onto a world beyond the one we know through the senses and reason.  How can you put that on stage?  The classical Greek, Medieval and Elizabethan playwrights just went for it, using the dramatic vocabulary of their times.  I felt strongly that we can too and so created an armature to enable it, in this case the essay contest – who can best express the nature of existence?  Instead of writing their essays these ne’er-do-well philosophy students go out and seek out apertures to the beyond, right in the dead-ends, parks and vacant lots of New York City.”  The inspiration behind the play took place during leisurely strolls around the city and stopping to smell the roses.  “I guess it came to me throughout the Covid period where I’d stroll and find spots I’d never discovered or noticed in Central Park, High Bridge Park, the Greenwood Cemetery, even though I’ve lived so close to them most of my life right here!”

Mr. Willinger’s creative process begins with tapping into the brilliant works of art and literature that exist in the world that are in alignment with his story ideas.  “I started by immersing myself in a literature which suggests and enters into the infinite, chiefly the short stories and novels of the Argentinian masters, Jorge Luis Borges and Julio Cortázar.  I did the same in the visual arts, confronting the amazing recent Surrealism show at the Metropolitan Museum.”  A singular idea opened the floodgates for the plot to be fleshed out.  “Once I’d come up with the idea of the essay contest, the content just flowed.  Defining the characters and their relationships came later.”  Finding quirky and interesting locations around New York City proved to be beneficial for the video aspect of the play. “I got a lot of inspiration by finding these numinous openings around the city and filming them as backgrounds for the show. A given spot would suggest a plot development.  Weird and interesting structures – outdoor community free stores, tiny gardens, shrines – have popped up during the Covid period, and it doesn’t take much to imagine them just a bit weirder than they are.  But in a way, this play is a summing up of all my child-like yearnings to actualize places in the universe that are inaccessible – the way I used to imagine angels dancing in the dust particles floating in the air in my smog-filled New York City bedroom.”

Undertaking a piece that contains serious or topically charged subject matter often comes with an added sense of responsibility.  It’s a delicate job to maintain the integrity and message of the piece while retaining entertainment value for the audience.  “There is always this balance to be struck between over-burdening the audience with seriousness when they might just want a fun evening out on the town and the need to “say something” important.  Finally, I have to say to myself:  As an artist I’ve got something to express, and the form determines itself.  People will react how they will, coming from their own yearnings and experiences.  I can only hope that they will have a tolerance for something different and find a way to extract something meaningful from it.  And after that – I really do try to make it entertaining, fun, and welcoming.  I’m not against escapism, but I personally tend to escape into a warped version of the Real.  And the Real these days tends not to be all that light.”

The pandemic has altered every aspect of life and theater was no exception.  Now that live performances have returned, Mr. Willinger would like to see them turn a daring corner and have artists create works that are outside of the box.  He is happy to spearhead this endeavor where the results are sure to be innovative and exhilarating.  “We had all said to ourselves and out loud:  The theatre after the pandemic must be different.  I think people meant – it should be more sincere, be concerned with more crucial aspects of life, take into account the epiphanies people had about values that really mattered when they were holed up in their Covid cubby-holes. I thought the new theatre that emerged should be freer and less a slave to popular tastes and trends, ready to take some real artistic risks again. Well, by and large has it turned out that way?  So I said to myself, no matter what anyone else is doing, I’ll head in that direction.  And so I have.”

Once the run of this play is completed, this talented professional will grace the world with more artistic gems. “What’s next is another musical, another movie but on what topics I have no idea yet.  I have to get through EXISTENCE first.”

Have Faith in Kate Gill

Article by Jen Bush

If you find yourself at The Studio Theater on Theatre Row in Manhattan at the end of May, you will be treated to not one but two works by the talented writer, Kate Gill.  This seasoned theater veteran is grateful to the wonderful teachers and artists she has worked with through the years.  “I have been writing and producing plays for 25+ years. I have had the privilege of studying with some amazing teachers including Chiori Miyagawa, Glyn O’Malley, Forrest Stone and Tina Howe. Plus I have worked with brilliant directors including Ludovica Villar-Hauser, Toby Armour, Siobhan Dunne, Alexander Kulcsar, Frank Licato and Grechen Cryer.”

Since Pope John XXIII incorporated some of Teilhard de Chardin’s philosophies into molding the Catholic Church, it made sense for Ms. Gill to use one of her earlier works about this theologian as a springboard for writing this play.   “I developed His Holiness from an earlier play I wrote about the theologian Teilhard de Chardin. I belonged to a Teilhard discussion group led by Jean Maalouf, one of the world’s leading Teilhard experts. Pope John XXIII took many of Teilhard’s insights and acted on them as he worked to bring the Catholic Church into the modern world.”

The Pilgrim Soul is an extension of a previously written monologue sadly inspired by personal loss.  “The Pilgrim Soul began as a 15-minute monologue at the Poor Mouth Theater in the Bronx. I had been through a painful year where I lost three close friends to cancer. Near the end of their struggles, two had received from their doctors a half gallon jar of opioids with no explanation.”

The creative process of an artist is a very personal and individualized thing. Ms. Gill’s work as a communications strategist has served her well in her artistic endeavors.  Tiny seeds of inspiration found in unlikely places can also turn into fully realized theatrical productions.  “I have worked for many years as a communications strategist at a New York City ad agency. After thousands of interviews over thousands of hours, it’s still fascinating to me to uncover how people feel (often they cannot say) and insights about how they can be motivated. All of this work feeds and informs my plays.”   But the core inspiration for my writing is usually one small thing that inexplicably stops me and makes me see something in a new light – a newspaper item, a personal story, a scientific fact, or an odd comment – and I begin to imagine a story…”

Ms. Gill likes presenting works off-off Broadway.  Mounting a production in the off-off Broadway arena affords artists a myriad of freedoms and gives audiences a chance to see new works that might have never seen the light of day in more commercial venues.  “Off-off Broadway is accessible to theater artists to develop and present their work. It is outside the “ system” of commercial and non-profit theaters – free of most the restraints of the mainstream. Plus it gives audiences the chance to see new exciting work that could not be found in mainstream theater.”

The in-person interactions that are so crucial to human beings were taken from us during the pandemic.   Ms. Gill is hoping things continue to change for the better interpersonally.  “I hope that the pandemic has made people better appreciate their live, connected experiences. What was taken for granted in live theater pre-pandemic has now created an increased desire for shared, live experiences.”  

Next on Ms. Gill’s plate she will be sharing her experience in a wonderful collaborative manner with other artists culminating in a fabulous event.  “I have started a playwrights’ group at the new Legacy Theater in Stony Creek, CT. We will have a Reading Festival on July 24th.”

Ambra Ferraris: “Art is a language … beautiful, harsh”

Article by Jen Bush

For Ambra Ferraris, her art is all about communication.  She feels that there is a message to relay through all forms of artistic interpretation.  “I see art as a language, it might sound complicated to people who don’t understand it, sometimes it sounds beautiful, sometimes it sounds harsh, but the point of any language is to communicate something. As an artist, I am a communicator.” Ideally the audience will be able to see the performance through the eyes of Ms. Ferraris.  “The ultimate goal is to make you see what I can see, make you feel what I feel. Whether I dance, sing, or act, I am always communicating something. I feel like I am a successful artist when I reach people to their souls when they truly understand the message I am conveying through my art.”

Ms. Ferraris’ goals aligned with the kinds of opportunities that were available in America.  She wanted to be among likeminded people with similar aspirations.  “The U.S. might not be the land of opportunities as it was in the beginning, but it still draws people with the kind of mindset that is necessary to succeed. People that are hardworking, resilient, strong-willed, and still capable of believing in dreams. Sometimes I feel like people in Europe have lost the ability to dream. They label dreamers as losers, just because they have a vision they cannot understand. I came to the US because I wanted something more, I needed an environment that could inspire me, and stimulate me, and I found it.”

    

Ms. Ferraris was in the profession of Law and Order and now you might see her pop up on an episode of Law and Order.  She stopped taking depositions and started going on auditions when she switched careers from law to the performing arts.  The people in her life were surprised to say the least.   The creative arts were her true passion and she never looked back.  “I actually think I was crazy when I enrolled in law school being such a creative, soulful, enthusiastic person. That was me going against the grain to follow the rules of society. A society where I never fit. I pretended to fit, and I succeeded at it, but my inner artist was suffering. I shushed it for too long, it was like wearing a mask and not being able to be my true self. It was thanks to a book, The Artist’s Way, that I finally freed myselfand found the courage to follow my vocation.”

Ms. Ferraris recognizes that there are multiple opportunities available in the performing arts.  Acting is just the tip of the iceberg, and she is going to dip her toe in the big pond of creativity including writing.  “I am a storyteller. I’ve always loved fairy tales and myths since I was a child. When I was 6 years old my biggest dream was to become a writer. Then at 13, I discovered theater and I fell in love with acting.”  The lockdown altered the trajectory of her studies, but she landed in a good spot.  “When I came to L.A. my plan was to study acting but, after the first lockdown, with UCLA going fully online, I decided to change the subject (acting online lacks human interaction), I started taking classes in screenwriting, cinematography, producing and directing. I ended up graduating in Entertainment Studies and I found out I had quite a talent for putting people together and organizing the work.”  Ms. Ferraris found she had natural leadership skills going beck to her tender years.  “Looking back, I could see myself being a showrunner for the five years of elementary school without even knowing what that was. I remember there was this tv show I loved, Sailor Moon, and during recess, every day my schoolmates and I were acting all the episodes and I was already casting people in their roles, holding auditions, choosing the content of the episode and acting in it. Of course, back then I called it playing but now I realize I was already made for the Entertainment Industry.” 

The entertainment industry is lucky to have such a talented and dedicated individual with stories to tell and dreams to be realized.

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!