TBB: Madame Infamy, They Call Me Q & All Systems Go: Mission 2

Shifting my schedule and my format  a little bit to post your shows on TBB. Since there are many festivals and show happening this summer, I set up this form for you to fill out and send to me with your show info. Please do invite me to your event as well so I can share it on the TBB page.  

Thanks and see you at the show!

Clichés & Content: Why Should I See Your Show?

I came across this website about avoiding clichés when writing and though I would agree, sometimes a cliché is all one can absorb.avoiding_cliches-e1352910774733

Summer is my favorite time of year. It’s a mix of relaxation and theatre crazy. Festival season is up and running and the shows seem to be on overdrive. Writing content for press releases is truly an art form because you have to make it pop in the sea of hundreds of shows. HUNDREDS!

Why should I go see your show? Tell me why I should give up a night to accept an invitation of many invitations? It’s a legitimate question. This is where you have to think outside the box. Though I go on and on about the necessity to create art, it is also important to get the word out about your show.

So where do the clichés come in for me? Well, I have been fortunate to have a full schedule with many different types of projects. Sometimes at the end of the day, all I can muster is “Laughter is the best medicine”, “The early bird catches the worm”, “You can’t please everyone”, “Just do it” and my favorite “This too shall pass”.

Happy Wednesday! What are you working on and what’s your favorite cliche?

TBB: Festival Season, Madame Infamy, They Call Me Q, Woman at the Funerals

FestivalWe are truly in the middle of New York City’s Festival season. There’s the Fringe Festival (FringeNYC), New York Musical Theatre Festival (NYMF), The Strawberry Festival, The Brick Comic Book Theatre Festival, The West Village Musical Theatre Festival (WVMTF) and so much more. It’s hard to know which shows to see in which festival in addition to the myriad of shows that have runs over the summer. I have to sit with the months of July and August to balance it out. Luckily, since I do PR and have many friends in the shows, I can narrow them down. However, I do like to see a show in which I’m not connected.

So I’ll start off by saying that I will be seeing Pageant Princess on Friday night and They Call Me Q on Monday (see below for more info on a half off tickets for that performance).
Madame infamy is my NYMF show which, if you haven’t heard yet, I’m over the moon about it. It’s already been lauded as the show to see by the NYTimes this summer. You should definitely check it out.
The Pawn Broker is my FringeNYC show, which is an awesome one woman show about the women of Bertolt Brecht. More info on that to come.
Visit www.theatrebeyondbroadway.com for more info on upcoming shows.
And see you at the show!

They Call Me Q is offering a 50% ticket for the 6/30 show to my subscribers. The more the merrier. Join me and click HERE for more info.
I just joined The Write Teacher(s) as their contributing writer on Beyond Broadway. Click HERE to read my debut article on The Josephine Foundation.

Friendship: Cas, What is Happening Right Now?

61302_435788954421_135800_nOne of my last conversations with my dear friend friend, Cas, included the phrase “you’re the asshat with cancer”. It’s not important what the context was but just the fact that I could say that to him. We both nodded and and then busted out laughing. Well, I had a good belly laugh. He did his raspy/silent laugh and trying not to feel pain. Two days later we had brunch at the diner. After hugs and kisses goodbye, we had this text exchange:

Cas and I laughed, gossiped like no one’s business, read each other’s beads (hands in the air and neck rolls), cried together and sometimes sat in the dark in silence. I was spoiled. We lived down the road from each other before he moved to midtown for a spell (near my job). Then he moved back to “Town “, his affectionate nickname for Forest Hills.  Cas was just always near. We could sometimes go for weeks or months without physical contact because of our many ongoing projects. But we knew that we were good. The check in text was our big thing and we tried our best to see each other’s shows. The best times were when we were collaborating together.
Cas was a passionate artist. A brilliant mix of actor and diva. He could turn it on for an audience without effort and then yell at us all backstage for moving his eyeliner a millimeter to the right of his wig. Then he would find it and tell us how much he loved us and then bake us monkey bread or something crazy for the next performance. That was Cas. It was a consummate love fest.
I met Cas in 2002. Ian and I went to see a show in Middle Village called Some Enchanted Evening (Beari Productions). We had just learned that there was theatre in Queens, after years of working in the city. We were so happy to have theatre near home. We were excited to see new work. So, we are enjoying the show when this talented creature belts out “Brush Up Your Shakespeare” from Kiss Me Kate. A huge Cole Porter fan, I fell in love. I turned to Ian and said, “Who is that guy.”  After the show, we waited for him. We had to tell him how much we enjoyed his work. It began there.
In 2004, Cas and I finally got to share a stage together in South Pacific. He was Billis to my Bloody Mary. That was a fun show where many friendships began. Ours shifted as we talked theatre and dreams. And Torch Song Trilogy. Cas always told me that I needed to direct and produce it. We’d work on other shows. There were barbecues in his backyard. There were road trips to see our friends’ shows. There wasn’t an instance of him not mentioning Torch Song Trilogy.
Finally in 2008, I had enough. We were hanging out in his house and he brought up the show again. I said to him, “Fine, let’s just read the third act”.  We did and I was moved. We then proceeded to order Japanese and read the first two acts. We laughed, we cried, we yelled. It was magic. At the end of the night, I said to him, “Let’s do this. I’ll direct you and we’ll do it under Black Henna Productions.”
That began a 5 year collaboration on the many shows that Black Henna produced. That collaboration, infused with our big dreams, led to many wonderful opportunities. We met with Broadway producers, went to the Tony’s, supported many fundraisers, and met many other independent artists with same dreams. Our dreams were also coming true.
Cas pushed me as I pushed him. I feel incredibly blessed to have had him in my life. My career would not be where it is now without him as my one of cornerstones. My relationships wouldn’t be what they are without his nuggets of advice. My faith wouldn’t be as strong if I didn’t see the strength in him.
I did ask his advice before he left us. I asked him if I should take a specific risk. Cas said, “You set these two goals for this year and they are moving along. See them through. Do the risk next year.”
Cazzie, I will. I promise.

Amazing Theatre Cities – Roadtrip?

CaptureI just came across this article as I was cleaning my inbox: 17 Amazing Theater Cities That Aren’t London or New York and I want to go to all of them the exception of Chicago. I went to the Chicago Fringe last year when my friend, Valerie Hager, performed her one woman show, Naked in Alaska (see below). I have also been trying to see more shows outside of the 5 boroughs but sometimes it’s difficult to get to The Bronx and Staten Island. And let me tell you, I really want to be everywhere at all times but alas I can’t. This article reminds me that 1. I need to add it to my bucket list 2. I need to travel outside of North and South America and 3. that I need to specifically go to London and Edinburgh.







TBB: Woman at the Funerals, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, 12 Angry Men

After a long week of celebrating the life of my dear friend, I am reminded of how art heals. What a beautiful outlet! To be able to sing, sit in a theatre, dance at a gala and reminisce of the many projects of yesteryear, that’s just an amazing gift. I will write a separate post and tribute at a later date to Cas. in the meantime, there are some great shows happening right now before we head into the summer festival season. Out in Queens, Theatre Time is doing 12 Angry Men which I LOVE.  Women at the Funerals is going strong. And yes, this is a shameless plug for my husband, Ian McDonald, who will be starring as Oberon/Theseus in A Midsummer Night’s Dream which opens this Friday. I will be there with a bag of fairy dust at Central Park.

Tell me what you’re doing!

See you at the show!

Guest Blogger: Melissa Robinette Talks Acting & Doing

f078aa_7c0beedc29e84c058e46a8e0ae061cc8I meet a lot of interesting people. I meet a lot of interesting people in unique situations. Melissa Robinette is one of my favorite interesting people I have met in a unique situation. Last fall, our mutual friend, Doug Shapiro (Savvy Actor & Fearless Mensch) needed a few people for his class at Pace University. This particular session was on networking by being your own Community Ambassador. The idea is “how to enrich your support system in group situations and facilitate excellent introductions”. What fun! Melissa and I hit it off as we are both very passionate about being artistic entrepreneurs. And she has chickens. Here’s how she balances her life as an artist and business woman.

Being an actor is hard work. Being an actor, small business owner, running a small farm and Vice President of Actors Equity Association is easy. It doesn’t matter if it’s a union meeting, teaching, working on my craft, tending my farm, or attending an audition. Every day is different and full of wonderful opportunities. There is something to be said about having many things in life to focus on. When you are only focused on one thing, that can end up toxic. Many years ago I was “just” an actor. I remember sitting in my living room hitting the refresh button over and over and over waiting for the newest job posting. I was miserable. Recognizing this I signed up for a dance program. Rather than sit around, hitting the refresh button and feeling crappy about my dance skills I chose to DO something about it. From there I got bit by a bug that made me a do-er. I started signing up for a ton of committees at the union, focused on opening a marco business called The Biz of Show with Melissa Robinette, got into physical fitness and immediately my life was more fulfilling and the acting work rolled in more and more. My eyes were opened and I was hungry for anything that kept my brain and body working. With each of these new things in my life I no longer felt blue, desperate or discouraged. I was out of my head and using my energy towards something useful. Currently I don’t have much of a social life, but I am loving every moment of life. I no longer have trouble sleeping because at the end of the day I’m tired from doing things other than hitting the refresh button. Being a do-er and a part of something other than your career is vital. And leads to great success and happiness.

MelRob was born into the circus and spent her early years traveling on the road.  Immediately after high school she left her small town in northern San Diego and sailed around the world performing on cruise ships.  In 2002 MelRob came to New York City, booked her first audition and never looked back.

Currently Melissa lives on an organic farm in Astoria, Queens, New York with her husband, a rescue pitbull named Ruby and 6 chickens.  She started her own macro-business called The Biz of Show with Melissa Robinette.

Melissa is currently the Eastern Regional Vice President of Actors Equity Association.

First Fridays with Valerie G. Keane: If This Is My Voice, Why Is It Screaming?

[photo is an excerpt from The Wild Braid: A Poet Reflects on a Century in the Garden by Stanley Kunitz with Genine Lentine]
[photo is an excerpt from The Wild Braid: A Poet Reflects on a Century in the Garden by Stanley Kunitz with Genine Lentine]

I was thinking this morning about finding your voice as a writer. I worry about that, from time to time, and then am reminded how unnecessary it is to worry about that. But when you have a very small body of work, as I do, I think that “voice” becomes that much harder to discern. Every piece you write is given much too much importance and, therefore, it feels like some grave mistake or tragic death when it does not “take root and become part of the landscape,” as Stanley Kunitz said. This is all to say I should be writing more.

I should be trying things on for size. But what about trying things on for style? It’s like when you go to the store and only have $50 to spend on clothing that you need desperately because that one, old pair of navy pants you bought in 1994 has worn out at the knees. You try things on for size, for practicality. Writing is sometimes like that when you write sparingly and not that often.

What about writing like you are on a spending spree? Trying things on for style, for whimsy, for sheer impracticality? Does this fit? No? Eh, buy it anyway. Get rid of it at the end of the season if it still doesn’t fit or you look at the style and say, “I’ve decided that’s just not me.”

There are days when I feel so silly to be just now “finding my voice” because of how long I have been on this earth already. But here I am. And what’s the other option? To not find it? That’s infinitely more ridiculous. Sharon Olds stood on the steps of the library of Columbia University after she received her PhD and said, “Now I’m finally going to write the way I want to write. I’m going to be a poet even if my poetry turns out to be bad.” She was 37. (Ok, I have a few years on her as I write this but that just makes it all the more urgent and impactful.)

Today, I renew my vow to write the crappiest poems. To try on everything in the whole store. To have my garden come up as weeds and flowers and mighty oaks. To remind myself that is it none of my business what my voice is as long as it is true. I was reading something I wrote to my 92-year-old grandmother the other week and, in the middle of it, she rolled her eyes and blurted out, “Jesus Christ….” I threw my head back and laughed so hard. She’s often not very lucid these days but it was absolutely the most perfect and well-timed comment. What a superb reminder to not take myself so seriously.

And as Stanley Kunitz, somewhere around age 101, said, “I am not done with my changes.”

173 (1)Valerie G. Keane is very honored to be part of the current Queens literary scene.  Her work will be published in the Spring/Summer 2014 issue of the Newtown Literary Journal and she is the founder of Poetry & Coffee, a very juicy discussion group in Queens for writers and readers, where the only rule is that you cannot read your own work. When asked if she is a poet, Valerie says, “I still don’t know how you qualify as one and no one seems to know where the application form is.”  

The Closet Bitch is No Bitch

closet_bitchThe house music is blaring and you are dancing in your seat. The image on Shana A. Solomon’s program shows a towering diva. Then she steps on stage, monolithic in her diminutive frame. Engaging and widely talented, Solomon draws the audience into her story in the Boogie Down Bronx, where her father hustled, her mother pleaded from outside closed doors and she just said yes to not make waves. She performs on a stage with one set piece moving flawlessly from character to character.

The show opened at Stage Left Studio in September, returned this past winter and is enjoying another run. Check it out before it closes at the end of the month.

Written and Performed by Shana Solomon
Directed by Kenneth Williams