FringeNYC Presents Benefit — And Announces Plans For The Future/Sunday, August 20th


FringeNYC (New York International Fringe Festival) will present FringeNYC 20/20: A Vaudeville, the first ever benefit gala for New York’s largest theater and performance festival. FringeNYC 20/20 will celebrate FringeNYC’s first twenty years with an evening of eclectic performances by FringeNYC alumni and will include the highly-anticipated first announcement of their vision for the future. Hosted by Todd Robbins, the evening will feature performances by Billy (The Mime), Jena Friedman, American Horror Story’s Naomi Grossman, Dominique Salerno, Gianmarco Soresi, and more. It will be presented Sunday, August 20 at The Gramercy Theatre (127 E 23rd Street between Park and Lexington Avenues). The VIP reception begins at 6pm, doors open at 6:30pm and the show begins at 7:30pm. Tickets range from $50 – $175, available at

FringeNYC is a production of The Present Company, under the leadership of Producing Artistic Director Elena K. Holy. In 1997, New York City became the seventh US city to host a fringe festival, joining Seattle, Chicago, Minneapolis/St. Paul, Houston, Orlando and San Francisco. FringeNYC has presented over 3000 performing groups representing every continent, prompting Switzerland’s national daily, Neue Zuercher Zeitung, to declare FringeNYC as “the premiere meeting ground for alternative artists.” FringeNYC has also been the launching pad for numerous Off-Broadway and Broadway transfers, long-running downtown hits, and regional theater productions including Urinetown, Matt & Ben, Never Swim Alone, Jammer, Debbie Does Dallas, Dog Sees God, Brandon Teena, Dixie’s Tupperware Party, 21 Dog Years, The Irish Curse, and Silence! The Musical; movies including WTC View and Armless; and even a TV show (‘da Kink in My Hair). FringeNYC alumni include Bradley Cooper, Melissa Rauch (Big Bang Theory), Morgan Spurlock (Supersize Me, CNN’s Inside Man), Mindy Kaling, Tony Award winner Diane Paulus (Pippin), Alex Timbers (Rocky), Leigh Silverman (Violet), W. Kamau Bell (Totally Biased), Michael Urie (Ugly Betty), David Anders (iZombie), Sam Underwood (Fear The Walking Dead) and Kristen Schall (Last Man on Earth), among countless other success stories.

Todd Robbins (FringeNYC ’00) is a New York City based performer who has spent decades specializing in arcane forms of popular entertainment, offbeat amusements and intriguing deceptions. Currently Todd can be seen on the Investigation Discovery channel’s new series True Nightmares. The series features Todd as the host telling bizarre true tales of murder and mayhem that all have a lovely ironic twist to them. Recently Todd he was seen in the acclaimed off-Broadway theater show Play Dead. It is a joyous evening of true ghost stories about real people and unholy resurrection that he created with Teller (of Penn & Teller). The show also played to a sold out run at the Geffen Playhouse in Los Angeles, and a new production will be opening soon in Las Vegas. Todd is also one of the partners in Magical Nights Inc, the producers of New York’s longest running magic show Monday Night Magic and its sister show Magical Nights at Feinstein’s. He is the author of the cult classic book The Modern Con Man: How to Get Something for Nothing and the creator of the companion Modern Con Man DVD Collection.

Billy (The Mime) (FringeNYC ’06) first garnered attention with his show stopping appearance in the hit documentary The Aristocrats. After appearing at FringeNYC, he presented his show, America Love Sex Death, at The Flea Theater in New York, the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, Risadaria Festival (Brazil), Mainstage at Playwright’s Horizon, Montreal Just For Laughs Festival, Upright Citizens Brigade Theater, The Lake Shore Theater and Mayne Stage (Chicago) and The Revolutions International Theater Festival in New Mexico. Television appearances include Mom, My Crazy Ex-Girlfriend and Parks and Recreation.

Jena Friedman (FringeNYC ’08) is a stand up comedian, actor, writer and filmmaker. She is currently a correspondent for National Geographic Explorer and has worked as a field producer at The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and has written for Late Show with David Letterman. Her critically acclaimed stand up special, American Cunt, is now available on Seeso and Amazon.

Naomi Grossman (FringeNYC ’11) is best known for her portrayal of “Pepper” in “American Horror Story” Previously, she wrote, produced, and starred in her second hit solo show, “Carnival Knowledge: Love, Lust, and other Human Oddities,” which enjoyed a twice-extended, sold-out run and rave reviews (“Recommended” by LA Weekly); the show was then reprised at the world-famous fringe theatre festival in Edinburgh, Scotland, where it received more critical praise (4 stars: The Scotsman, Broadway Baby, Fringe Review) and a transfer to London’s West End (Leicester Square Theatre). It was later reprised Off Off Broadway in New York. Its predecessor, “Girl in Argentine Landscape,” also received critical acclaim (LA Weekly, “Pick of the Week”) and earned her an LA Weekly Theater Award nomination for best solo performance. Naomi also toured with “Girl…” to Chicago’s Single File Festival, the Los Angeles Women’s Theatre Festival, and FringeNYC. A graduate in theatre from Northwestern University and a former member of the esteemed Groundlings Sunday Company, Naomi has starred in numerous self-penned/produced comedic shorts under her “Red Meat Entertainment” umbrella, as well as recently appeared in her first feature film, “Table for Three.”

Dominique Salerno (FringeNYC ’16) is a New York based actress, singer, director, improvisor, and playwright. She received her MFA in Acting from American Conservatory Theater, and her A.B. in Religion from Princeton University. Her hilarious solo show, The Box Show, recently won the Overall Excellence Award in FringeNYC and Best Comedic Script in the United Solo Theatre Festival.  It also was selected as one of the ‘Top 10 shows out of 200’ for the Fringe Encore Series

Gianmarco Soresi (FringeNYC ’14) is a comic, storyteller and actor, but his obituary will likely lead with “the guy from all those General Electric commercials.” A regular performer at The PIT, UCB, Broadway Comedy Club, The Creek and The Cave and more, he’ll be headlining Carolines Comedy Club September 27th and releasing his first hour special, Infinite Bris, later this year. His play, Less Than 50%, debuted in the 2014 Fringe Festival, transferred for Fringe Encores, and will return next summer to 59E59 for a full Off-Broadway run. His sketch comedy work has been featured Fast Company, A. V. Club, Huffington Post, Metro New York, CityLab, Splitsider, Laughspin, and he’ll be creating original video for Funny or Die in October. Besides his commercial work, you might recognize from Blue Bloods (CBS), Unforgettable (A&E), Hack My Life (TruTV), I Love You But I Lied! (Lifetime), The Last O.G. (TBS), Clown Bar (Pipeline Theatre Company) and the EST One-Act Marathon. Follow him @GianmarcoSoresi for upcoming stand-up dates or with his sketch team Uncle Function and check out his sketch series Matza Pizza and An Actor Unprepared. More at

Theatre Beyond Broadway: The Community – You’re Invited


Friends, you are officially invited to join Theatre Beyond Broadway: The Community! Click HERE now to join me and others.

One of my many goals when I created Theatre Beyond Broadway in 2012 was to build a community of passionate artists that would empower each other. Being in the arts is not the easiest road on which to travel but the reward, as you know, is beyond words. Even though I have been an active member in the theatre community for close to 20 years, I still am learning. For example, I had my first circus production experience this past weekend. I kicked off 2015 as a production assistant at Circus Now‘s inaugural awards ceremony at the Big Apple Circus. Amazing!

These experiences allows me to broaden my circle. I have met wonderful poets, musicians, solo performers, dancers, artists…the list goes on. I think it’s time for you to meet each other and share your art.

Why TBB: The Community? This is an open forum for the following:

  1. Support and advice;
  2. Upcoming auditions and performances;
  3. Information on conferences and networking opportunities;
  4. The opportunity to meet and expand your artistic circle.

I mention the circus opportunity as it came via a director for whom I did PR for two and half years ago at the Fringe. You never know what will come your way and when. It’s about being plugged in and sharing the resources. And with that, join me on the journey!

First Fridays with Valerie G. Keane: Why Won’t Anyone Come to My Show?!

Ron Swanson knows what’s up.

How many times have I heard the lament, “Why can’t I get anyone to come to my show?”

I am going to give you the answer.  Are you ready?  Here it is: because it is hard to get people to come to your show.

Really, really hard.

For those of you who are reading this and already disagreeing with me, good for you.  You have been doing something right and have gained momentum and reputation and it is you who should be writing this article, not me.  But here I am at my keyboard and I am far from perfect and I am writing this as much for myself as for the person who also finds it enormously hard to get people to attend their artistic ventures.

The first thing we can do is stop taking it personally.

On one level, it’s a numbers game.  It’s the Pareto principle or the 80/20 rule, as it’s more commonly known.  80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes.  In business, and your art is a business on some level, 80% of your sales come from 20% of your clients.  In life, I often find that 20% of the people in the world are awesome and 80% of the people in the world are not so awesome.  Not evil or malicious, just not as awesome.

Of the 20% that are awesome, not every person in that 20% can come to my events 100% of the time.  They have conflicts because they are out in the world, just like me, creating great things that bring joy and happiness to others.  They can’t afford to come to every show because, most likely, they have not sold their soul to corporate America and have made sacrifices to be able to create their art and live an existence where they can peacefully rest their head on their pillow at night.  Or, they just don’t have the cash for another show because this economy still sucks and, to quote Sweeney Todd, “times is hard.”  They may also not be able to come because they just need a night off to themselves to do grownup things like clean their house or spend time with their family or – and I know this is a radical thought – just really need a night to do nothing and recharge so they can keep being awesome.  I don’t take any of these reasons personally as to why someone cannot come to my show. None of these reasons are about ME.  And who am I to say that my show is more important than someone else’s art, someone else’s money, or someone taking care of “first things, first”?

Here is another reason why people might not show up for you all the time.  Hang on to your hat.  (I love a good hat so please hang on to it.)  You are not the greatest thing since sliced bread.  Please, yes, have a positive attitude about what you create and love it and cherish it and be outrageously proud of your work.  But, oh my goodness me, please don’t have any delusions about your work.  Being angry because you are “so brilliant and amazing” and why didn’t this one or that one come to see you just makes no sense.  Oh, the rants I’ve seen on social media.  Stunning.  The in-fighting, especially in theater groups, that I have seen over who got what role and who didn’t, and wanted to shout, “Please get some perspective!  You are in a church basement.”  Don’t even get me started on “reviews” in the local paper that have sent people into hysterical, weeping fits.  Listen, as a writer, I have a small body of work consisting of some mediocre poems.  As a performer, I have a modicum of raw talent that I have never honed or invested time in studying the craft of.  It’s an honor that anyone lets me perform or read in public at all.  We live in New York City where we can go see a Broadway show or hear a Pulitzer-Prize-winning poet read any time we want.  The fact that anyone shows up to anything I do, in the theater or the literary world, is a blessing and a miracle.

Art affects the world.  No doubt.  What you do will affect people in the world.  That is a gift.  But if you are creating art for anyone else but you (and possibly an entity larger than yourself), you’re going to endure a lot of suffering.  The people that show up for you are the right people.  No more, no less.  Everyone at your event is exactly the person who was meant to be there.  Treat them that way and don’t insult them by mourning the people who didn’t come like they did.

I recently read my work at a large festival.  I was slated to be the first reader of the day on a Sunday morning.  When it was time for me to begin, there were zero people in the audience.  (Is this a mystery?  It was a lazy Sunday morning and they had to take a ferry – a whole ferry – to get there.)  The festival was a big deal to me, personally, as it was a very meaningful marker on my journey.  I had been asked to lend my voice to in this amazing celebration of poets across five boroughs when, just one year previous, and just trust me on this, that is not anything even close to something that would have happened in my life.  So, here I was on Sunday morning.  Zero people.  (Ok, there were five people who were there waiting to see the next readers.  I think two of the five people actually were the next readers.)  I didn’t care.  I didn’t even realize that I didn’t care until the end of the day on my way home.  It wasn’t a thought.  I got on that stage and I stood there and I spoke my words and I took in that big, brilliant, unwitnessed moment.  It was very Zen.  And it was so delicious.  And I’m not telling you this to prove to you how evolved I am (oh my, no – I am quite flawed and imperfect) but I am saying it to suggest a possible way of experiencing your own art, without suffering.  Without the ego’s dependence on anyone outside of yourself.  I am telling you, much like a new and fabulous hat, it feels great.  It is infinitely more meaningful and rewarding than any sold-out house, standing ovation, mega-kudos I’ve ever received.  Life is often counterintuitive, isn’t it.

Next month, I’m going to talk specifically about things that do and do not work in terms of getting people to show up and see your work.  I’m not contradicting myself here, even though I just expounded on the merits of doing it for no one.  I did say, oh yes I did, that your art, on one level, is a business and you do often need people in seats in order to keep producing more work and doing what you love.  But before we talk about what works with other people, I wanted to talk about what works with YOU.  You first.  Don’t take it personally.  Have perspective.  Have humility.  Humility is not self-deprecating.  Humility is doing what you do for a purpose larger than yourself with no expectation of what the outcome will be.

And one more thing.

Above all, just be a nice human being.  I remember a Seamus Heaney tribute I went to (one of many) that was sold out with a few hundred people in the audience.  I was so taken by this.  Admittedly, I have not read as much of Seamus Heaney’s work as most poets have.  I have great admiration for his poetry and it is beautiful and carefully crafted and he was, undoubtedly, one of the greats.  But so are many other poets and I couldn’t imagine a major venue being sold out while they were still alive, let alone after their death.  I felt I was missing something in terms of truly understanding what all those people were doing there and, not only there, but at multiple other sold-out tributes to Mr. Heaney.  After the performance, I asked the people who attended with me, “Why do you think Seamus Heaney is such a popular poet?”  And they answered, “Well, his poetry, of course.  But probably, mostly, because he was so warm and genuinely nice and he made anyone around him feel wonderful.”

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the biggest reason that people will come, not only to your show, but will gather by the hundreds in your honor long after you are gone.

It’s not your fancy marketing plan; it’s how you have put your arms around people and taken a moment to celebrate their intrinsic worth.

173 (1)Valerie G. Keane is very honored to be part of the current Queens literary scene.  Her next appearance will be as a featured poet in Mike Geffner’s Inspired Word All-Stars on Thursday, August 14th at Coffeed in Long Island City.  (Tickets and info:  Valerie’s work was recently 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 people are waking up to great poetry and to life. (You can find Poetry & Coffee on Facebook at: 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.”


Piecing Together Pieces: A Look into DID

10338326_894072067285776_1055323499425487029_n (1)About 3 weeks ago, I received an email from Lauren Cunfer asking to be connected to Kristen Penner and Lorelei Mackenzie, writers of Pieces. Lauren is a student at CITYterm and needed more information for her final research paper about musical theatre. Now, it’s no secret that I am a part of the creative team of Pieces. I believe in the message of the show (to bring awareness to Dissociative Identity Disorder) and I believe in the team that created this beautiful musical. I thought the exchange was a wonderful mentoring opportunity. Honestly, kudos to Lauren for sending me an email.

Below is some of the questions asked by Lauren and answered by Kristen. You have 4 more chances to see the show.

What was the most difficult part about creating Pieces?

The structure! With other, more standard musicals, structuring the show is much easier.  But Pieces hold a different challenge than most. We had to include as much of the structure of real DID therapy while including the internal world of Tabby’s alters and also giving her an outside life. That should be three different shows that we combined into one. And the structure has changed numerous times throughout the show’s life thus far and may even change more as it developed. It’s a process.

Why did you choose to create this specific musical?

The idea sprung from my mind in college as I was deciding on the topic of my thesis. I had actually grown up being very familiar with the disorder (I knew 2 multiples growing up). And so after watching Sybil and reading numerous case studies, I decided on “How to accurately portray DID onstage and why it is important to do so.” From that point on I wanted to write a stage show centering round the disorder. My advisor for my thesis knew my heart had always been with musicals and one day she asked me why I didn’t just write a musical about it. At the time I scoffed, thinking it was too deep of a topic for a musical. But that as where the idea began. And the rest is history.

Was the idea of creating a completely original musical daunting to you?

Yes. Very. It is always scary starting a new project from scratch.  But we have an amazing team. And we are passionate about the topic. Combine those two things and you are doing a disservice to the world NOT pursuing your idea.

How did you take into account the many people who would be watching the show when you were creating it? How do you try to gear your show towards different audiences?

We knew we had to make the music and the story accessible to the general public. It’s a tough topic and not something that necessarily cries “Broadway Hit.” We knew we wanted the main focus to be about Tabby and her journey towards healing, we knew we wanted a love story, we knew one of the goals was to have the disorder be more understood by the end of the show. And with those parameters we began work. We also made sure to give the show plenty of levity- it’s a hard topic and we didn’t want to lose the audience by beating them over the head with the abuse. That wasn’t the point of the show anyway. The show is about hope and that’s what we wanted to showcase. We try to make the story and the music accessible. Especially in Pieces, there are so many different styles of music that at least some song should appeal to everyone. Whether they like, rock, musical theatre, or classical, Pieces has it. And the story, although centering around a very specific disorder, is a universal one. Everyone at some point in their life has trouble reconciling the different parts of themselves. Becoming whole. Loving themselves for who they are. Putting the past behind them. All of these things are the basis for the show.

Click HERE to listen to a few songs from the show.

Wednesday, May 28 at 5:30pm
Friday, May 30 at 9pm 
Saturday, May 31 at 8:30pm
Monday, June 2 at 4:30pm

Paradise Factory Upstairs Theatre at 64 East 4th Street

Book, Music and Lyrics by
Kristen Penner, Lorelei Mackenzie and Joni Ernst

Directed by Nick Radu

Tabby doesn’t know why time slips through her fingers like sand. But her alters, created to protect her, know. They know what’s locked away. But when survival depends on confronting those terrors, will Tabby and her alters be strong enough to look? Or will the darkness destroy them all?

From the award-winning creators of Pageant Princess, the provocative new musical Pieces tells the story of Tabby Morgan, a woman that has Dissociative Identity Disorder, who is desperately trying to survive in a world that she can’t remember experiencing. But her alternate personalities can. Along with Tabby, her alters bring a unique touch to the story that is all their own. Each of the alters is played by a different actor to give the audience a clear idea of how each personality sees themselves. They each also hold a different style of music; from rock to classic, jazz to contemporary musical theatre, their personalities shine through the electric score.