Review: Almost 13 written & performed by Joan Kane

A white bench. Vaseline. A flashlight. What story is being told tonight. Joan Kane, known as a director and co-founder of Ego Actus (with her husband Bruce A! Kramer) in theatrical circles performs her solo piece, Almost 13 , as part of the Best of United Solo.

Kane already had the the lively audience in her hands the moment the house lights went down and the stage lights came up. We were willing to travel back in time to “South Brooklyn” (now known as Park Slope) circa 1969. It was a tough time. Racism was represented by lines of demarcations in neighborhoods. The biddies sat on the stoop and reported to each other and the whole neighborhood. An unforgiving parish instilled fear instead of love. Now add being a latchkey kid from a broken home, no one is safe. In a world where distrust permeates everything, bad things will inevitably happen. And they do to Joan. You kept your mouth shut and prayed that no one would find out. But then the abuse on your body and mind cause “acting out” and then you breakdown. You need to go through that to get to the breakthrough. Healing begins. Love prevails.

Love heals even when the hope seems gone. Kane tells her story through eight characters, a simple set lighting design and precise directing under Bruce A! Kramer. Told in a concise 45 minutes, the story is clear and to the point. When the lights went to blackout after her last brilliant and hopeful line, she came out to do her a bow to a standing ovation. Three times.

Those who have been in the audience with me know know my telltale signs. For a good show it is my inaudible gasp with my hand flying to my mouth. I had two moments like that. The good news is Almost 13 will return for one more performance. More details can be found at http://www.unitedsolo.org. Be sure to see it’s encore presentation.

United Solo, the world’s largest solo theatre festival, is proud to present its 10th anniversary season at Theatre Row in the heart of New York City’s theatre district. Since its inaugural year, United Solo featured over 1,000 theatre productions from all over the world. This season, performers from six continents will present their unique works between September 19 and November 24, 2019. TICKETS are available NOW through Telecharge (www.telecharge.com or 212‑239‑6200) and at the Theatre Row Box Office (410 West 42nd Street, NYC). For the full calendar of performances, please visit http://www.unitedsolo.org/us/ufest

Joan Kane (director/producer/dramaturg/writer/actor) is the founding Artistic Director of Ego Actus, an independent NYC Theater Co. Joan has written, devised and directed six Living Newspapers from 1979 to 2018 that  toured and performed in NYC Parks & Streets,  Theaters and Clubs. Topics included Women’s Issues, Environmental Justice, The Civil War and Ageism. As an educator she designed and implemented a Living Newspaper curriculum that she taught in the NYC Public Schools throughout the five boroughs. Selected Directing:  Sycorax by Fengar Gael at HERE, Play Nice! by Robin Rice at 59e59 theaters, I Know What Boys Want  by Penny Jackson at Theatre Row,  Aliens With Extraordinary Skills by Saviana Stanscu at Theater 54,  More by Maria Tryti Vennerød at Theater For The New City, Six Characters in Search of an Author in Oslo, Norway and Kafka’s Belinda  by Bruce Kraemer in Prague. She also directed both Safe by Penny Jackson and what do you mean by  Bruce Kraemer at 59e59 theaters and in the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, getting four star reviews for each. Selected other work: Joan has also directed and devised plays, workshops and readings at the Lark, Ensemble Studio Theatre, Urban Stages, Workshop Theater, Nylon Fusion, Articulate Theatre, Abingdon Theatre, Oberon Theatre, the Samuel French Short Play Festival, the Actors Studio, T. Schreiber Studio, the Broadway Bound festival and many others. As a writer Joan has written and devised: The Judges, The Trial of Mary Reade, Richard III. She is performing her biographical solo play Almost 13 in The Best of The United Solo Sept .2019. Awards and honors: Joan was awarded Best Director in the 2016 United Solo Festival. Joan was named one of the 2011 People of the Year in honor of her contributions to the NYC theatre scene and inducted to the NYC Indie Theatre Hall of Fame by nytheatre.com. Her shows have been nominated for 61 awards, winning 21. Education: Joan graduated from NYC’s  High School of Performing Arts (La Guardia), studied acting at the  Neighborhood Playhouse with Sanford Meisner and has an MFA in Directing from The New School For Drama and an MS in Museum Education from Bank Street College. She is a member of The New York Madness Company, the League of Independent Theatres, the Dramatists Guild and the Society of Stage Directors & Choreographers and The League of Professional Theatre Women. 

Meet Fengar Gael & Sycorax, Cyber Queen of Qamara

SycoraxPostcardFrontName: Fengar Gael

Tell us about you. 

I don’t sleep well; I keep dreaming that I’m a resident alien in a plutocracy led by a miserly, mean souled, tinpot dictator who has tricked us into allowing the ethics of business to infest every aspect of life. My mother said I was born wanting to re-stage the world, but since I’ve failed miserably, I drink too much, eat too much, read too much appalling news, and because I’m a playwright, I’m also subject to bipolar-manic-depression with delusions of grandeur and multiple personality disorder. I can trace the origin of these afflictions to a childhood of constant traveling in and out of the country which may explain why I write plays that take me to unfamiliar worlds and feature characters of diverse races and ethnicities from the past and future. For the past ten years New York has become my heart’s home, a great melting pot city where going to the theatre is a way of life. I have new friends and am part of the League of Professional Theatre Women whose members have enriched my hermit’s life beyond imagining.

Tell us about your current project? 

The play, Sycorax: Cyber Queen of Qamara, is a comic drama originally intended as a prequel to The Tempest. Shakespeare only mentioned that Sycorax was a witch from Algiers who was exiled to an island where she gave birth to a deformed boy named Caliban. In my play, Sycorax has waited 500 years to tell her side of the story to the widest possible audience: the World Wide Web of the Internet. She does so through her avatars, but I won’t give away the plot except to say that Sycorax feels moral outrage at the continuing gender imbalance of power in a world controlled by men who value their arsenals more than their artists. I’m thrilled that the fearless Ego Actus Theatre Company has taken on the challenge of bringing the play to vivid life by their inspired Artistic Director, Joan Kane, whose vision of the play happily resembles my own. We are blessed with a fantastic cast of actors and theater artists contributing to this production: the scenery, the costumes, the lights and projections are going to be beyond anything I had dared to imagine.

Where are you performing your show and why is it a good fit for your production? 

The play is being performed at HERE which has already garnered a following of brave souls who are passionate about innovative (even subversive) theatre. Both HERE and the Ego Actus Theatre Company believe in theatre as a fusion of art forms: with dialog that aspires to poetry, with music, dance and artful costumes, scenery and multi-media projections.

What’s next for you? 

The Detroit Repertory Theatre is producing my play, The House on Poe Street, in January of 2019. Another play, Smile Like a Knife, is a current finalist at two theatres sponsoring contests, and I’m currently writing Passing Parades that’s turning into a louche tale of the supernatural about an idealistic woman who undergoes a radical transformation after a bomb shatters the lives of marchers gathered to celebrate the centennial of women’s suffrage. The play leaps backwards to the 1850s when the suffrage and abolitionists movements were aligned, but faced radical opposition. The play will be given a concert reading at the League of Professional Theatre Women’s Julia’s Reading Room series at the Jefferson Market Library on December 11th.

What is the name of the last show you saw? 

The Winning Side by James Wallert, a post-modern collage of a play produced by the Epic Theatre about Wernher von Braun, a former Nazi rocket engineer who interacts with his French lover and the Americans who steal him away to help claim the moon and conquer the world.

Any advice for your peers?

Drink wine, read poetry, and try not to commodify yourselves in a world where everything seems quantifiable — even plays are given numerical scores. If playwriting is the literary form that best expresses your passions, then don’t wait for commissions or guaranteed productions. To quote Emily Dickinson, “Be a fire that lights itself.” Also in this age of constant surveillance and identity politics, it’s best to resist definition. If the great evolutionary triumph of our species is the imagination and capacity to reason, then to define ourselves in terms of race, age, gender or ethnicity is to be forever stranded on a smaller planet. When we allow anyone to police our imaginations, to condemn us to writing plays only about people like ourselves, then we’re doomed. The best thing about our capacity for abstract thinking is that it allows us to imagine what it’s like to be someone else (saint or sinner), so we might become more empathetic. I should add that I truly believe there’s a great future for theatre. Perhaps it’s naive, but I think people will attend plays more than ever before, if only to heal their damaged attention spans, and to focus on the perpetual wide screen of the stage where no bullying cameras are telling them precisely where to look, no soundtracks assaulting their ears, where they’re no longer isolated but in the company of other human beings, and where their presence actually matters because going to the theatre is a creative act.


Show Information: 
DATES: November 1-18th
VENUE: HERE  145 6th Avenue one block south of Spring Street
TICKET URL: http://www.HERE.org or (212) 352-3101

More info is available at www.egoactus.com/sycorax.html