Thursday, August 22, 2019

MEET THE 2019 NOMINEES: Caroline, Or Change

Caroline, Or Change
By Tony Kushner (Book & Lyrics) and Jeanine Tesori (Music)
Directed by Dev Bondarin
Presented by Astoria Performing Arts Center

NOMINATED FOR: Outstanding Production of a Musical

Photo: Michael Dekker
Starring Amanda Bailey*, LaDonna Burns*, Milanis Clark, Sabatino Cruz, Marcie Henderson*, Greg Horton*, Scott Mendelsohn, Sharaé Moultrie, Nave' Murray, Tony Perry*, Nattalyee Randall*, Joël René*, Lauren Singerman*, Gordon Stanley*, and Navida Stein*.

*Denotes member of Actors' Equity Association

Dev Bondarin (Director)
Minhui Lee (Music Director)
Kemar Jewel (Choreographer)
Christopher Swader & Justin Swader (Scenic & Prop Designers)
Marissa Menezes (Costume Designer)
Danielle Verkennes (Lighting Designer)
Kimberly S. O'Loughlin (Sound Designer)
Margaret Baughman (Production Stage Manager)
Jessi Blue Gormezano (Casting Director).

What attracted you to working on this project?
A strong female-of-color character dealing with an impossible situation with truth and strength.

What was your favorite part of working on this production? And why?
The work itself and the shared commitment of the artists involved.

What do you want the audience to come away with after watching your production?
Something to think about. A change is how they see something. Having had a worthwhile experience.

Why are the nominees from this production awesome?
They are great artists and people and a joy to collaborate with. Support them and their work!

Was there anything odd, quirky, innovative, funny or otherwise noteworthy about your experience with this production?
Working in non-traditional theater spaces, as we do, is always a challenge but also leads to some amazing constructive and collaborative thinking!

What does this nomination mean to you?
That APAC's work is reaching audience members which is an meaningful accolade for an artistic director / director.

Wednesday, August 21, 2019


By Rodrigo Nogueira
Directed by Erin Ortman
Presented by Rodrigo Nogueira in association with The Tank with support from Torn Page and Group.Br

NOMINATED FOR: Outstanding Lighting Design - Kia Rogers

Kia Rogers | Photo: Xanthe Elbrick

Starring Darwin Del Fabro, Gabriela Garcia*, Rebecca Gibel*, Sarah Naughton*, Charlie Pollock*, Keith Reddin*.
* Denotes member of Actors' Equity Association


What attracted you to working on this project?
The story was intriguing and i love working with Rodrigo Nogueira, the playwright. I love the playwright, and it was fascinating to light the story like a piece of music,

What was your favorite part of working on this production? And why?
The collaborative process between the whole team from director, playwright to all the designers and production staff. The cast and crew, the whole team was wonderful to work with.

Photo: Miguel de Oliveira
What was the most challenging part of working on this production? And why?
Always not enough time! We would have done more technical support if we could have had previews.

Was there anything odd, quirky, innovative, funny or otherwise noteworthy about your experience with this production?
We decided after one quick pass at tech to drop all the front light and really push angles and shadows to tell the story. We wanted to create an environment where two worlds could exist and then smash into each other.

Photo: Miguel de Oliveira

What is the best thing about working with this company and/or these artists?
Everyone really listened to each other and having the playwright in the room to clarify or be the voice when things weren't landing made making decisions faster. Everyone was very collaborative, and respectful.

Did you learn anything or discover anything new while working on this project? If so, what?
Always try new things, even if something doesn't quite land the experience of seeing it happen, then moving on from there always. I discovered how to trust side light! brought us closer to what the play needed

What does this nomination mean to you?
It's always a good feeling being nominated, knowing folx appreciate your work! It is an honor to be mentioned, I'm grateful for all the work that goes into building a creative community and it means so much to be recognized.

Photo: Miguel de Oliveira

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

MEET THE 2019 NOMINEES: Red Emma and the Mad Monk

Red Emma and the Mad Monk
Created by Katie Lindsay & Alexis Roblan
Written by Alexis Roblan
Directed by Katie Lindsay
Music by Teresa Lotz
Produced by Emma Orme, The Tank, Alexis Roblan, Katie Lindsay Productions, and Teresa Lotz


Outstanding Actress in a Featured Role: Maybe Burke

Outstanding Director: Katie Lindsay

Outstanding Sound Design: John Salutz

 Outstanding Original Music: Teresa Lotz

Outstanding Original Full-Length Script: Alexis Roblan

Outstanding Production of a Musical: Red Emma and the Mad Monk
Photo: JJ Darling

Starring Maybe Burke, Fernando Gonzalez*, Drita Kabashi, Imani Pearl Williams, Jonathan Randell Silver*
Assistant Director: Liza Couser
Musical Director: Cassie Willson
Music Supervisor & Arranger: Isaac Alter
Sound Design: John Salutz
Costume Design: Glenna Ryer
Wardrobe Supervisor: Shannon O'Donnell
Lighting Design: Luther Frank
Scenic Design: Diggle
Associate Scenic Design: Jocelyn Girgorie
Props Master: Alex Wylie
Choreography: Yael Nachajon
Production Manager: Mac Whiting
Production Stage Manager: Dara Swisher
Graphic Design: Jonny Ag Design
*Denotes member of Actors' Equity Association


What attracted you to working on this project?
Alexis Roblan: In the lead-up to the 2016 election, director Katie Lindsay and I were in conversation about the work we wanted to make together, and we kept coming back to the idea of political action -- what is it, exactly? Is a Facebook post a political action? Is attendance at a protest? What makes action effective and how far should it go? As we were circling these questions, a history-buff friend told me a story about Emma Goldman running an ice cream shop in Massachusetts while plotting to assassinate a Pennsylvania robber baron, and I instantly knew this had to be in our piece. I also wanted to include Rasputin, who I'd been obsessed with when I was 12. Katie insisted that if Rasputin was in the piece, the 12 year old me who was obsessed with him probably needed to be as well.

Maybe Burke: From the first scene I read for my audition, I was in love with this character and this show. Addison is quirky, smart, funny, and just starting to figure things out. She is an anxious and curious 12 year old anarchist ready to take on the world. Add in Rasputin as her imaginary best friend, what could be more enticing for an actor?

Katie Lindsay: Alexis Roblan, the playwright, and I sat down together in the spring of 2016 and started talking about making a show together. This was, of course, during the lead up to the 2016 when all of our friends were channelling their political rage into posting on Facebook. We wanted to investigate the meaning of political action, from a Facebook post, to a protest, to the other end of the extreme-- assassination. RED EMMA & THE MAD MONK came out of our need to understand our changing political landscape and what, if anything, we could possibly do about it.

Teresa Lotz: When I was twelve I was obsessed with the kind of things I wasn't supposed to be into... just like Addison. So I felt an immediate connection. Plus, I loved Alexis' and Katie's work and wanted to jump on that bandwagon as soon as possible.

What was your favorite part of working on this production? And why?
Maybe Burke: The heart that every single person working on this show brought to the production. The collaboration started with me and Alexis, saying yes to each other's crazy ideas and building off of each other to create the container for this story. The production was scrappy, and everyone went above and beyond to bring our collective vision to life. From producing team, to our lighting designer who begged and borrowed to get the instruments we needed, to our friends who showed up to help build the set at midnight because the shop had built the wrong measurements, to our actors who really shone in their roles. There's nothing like leading a team who so deeply believes in the vision that they will do whatever it takes to make the show what we all dream it can be.

Alexis Roblan: The team, the team, the team. From each of our designers to each member of the cast, our producer Emma Orme, and the amazing collaborative relationships I found with director Katie Lindsay and composer Teresa Lotz -- this was hands down the best experience of collaboration I have experienced thus far. And that experience felt important to the thematic content of the show as well. RED EMMA AND THE MAD MONK is very much about the inability to create cohesive narratives, and the struggle to make the world you want, in the face of forces that are constantly derailing it. But the joy that we were all able to consistently find in creating this world together was the clearest and most hopeful counterpoint possible.

Teresa Lotz: The community and energy we crafted within and around this piece. It was extremely vibrant and positive. It was clear that we all had tremendous creative respect for one another and wanted to make the piece the best it could be.

What was the most challenging part of working on this production? And why?
Maybe Burke: Playing a preteen in my 20s was for sure challenging. I mean, energy and personality wise, Addison and I are not all that different. But for me, as a baritone, to play a pre-pubescent cis girl in a musical was at times rather dysphoric. I would get in my head about certain ways that I looked or sounded and had a hard time focusing. Luckily I could confide in our director, Katie Lindsay, who talked things out with me and helped me work towards comfort.

Alexis Roblan: It was my very first experience writing lyrics for musical theatre, and while that was incredibly exciting and I found an insanely generous collaborator in my composer, Teresa Lotz, there were also quite a few challenging moments, trying to restructure songs in the middle of rehearsal or find the dramaturgical purpose for song choices that were initially made on impulse.

Katie Lindsay: I've never seen a show like Red Emma and the Mad Monk -- we were creating our own framework, our own aesthetic, our own world in making this show. We had to go on instinct that all the pieces would fit together. That is terrifying!! It wasn't until a run just before tech that we really cracked the heart of what the play wanted to be, which was absolutely thrilling.

Teresa Lotz: It was a very ambitious production! Especially scenically, especially at a place like The Tank, that is accustomed to a set that can be struck every night after the show. We upped the ante on what could live in that space and it was totally thrilling but also a massive undertaking.

What is the best thing about working with this company and/or these artists?

Maybe Burke: As Addison sings, "You have to surround yourself with people like the person that you want to be." All of the people on this team pushed me and inspired me to be the best version of myself at every step of this process. All of my struggles to bring this character to life were coming from me. Never did any of my dysphoria or doubt come from something that was said or done in the room. It was really very beautiful to have a room full of people see me and believe me to be playing a 12-year old girl without question. It really made me think, if more trans and non-binary people got to play roles that were right for them and didn't have to make excuses or explanations for their identities, maybe people would be able to see us more.

Teresa Lotz: Everyone gave 150% at all times. I've never worked with a harder working or more dedicated team. I was inspired every day to work harder.

Katie Lindsay: The willingness of our team to take on such an ambitious project, how deeply collaborative every person was in creating the show, their belief in the importance of what we were trying to say even when we were in the complicated muck of trying to figure out how all the pieces would come together. We built a community-- diverse, loving, investigative, passionate-- that stands in opposition to the politics of rendering truth meaningless.

Alexis Roblan: This entire process was so infused with fun and joy, in the midst of a high level of artistic commitment. That's a credit to the talents and personalities of the entire team, but also the tone set by Katie Lindsay as an intensely collaborative director who allows for and actively cultivates that joy.

Was there anything odd, quirky, innovative, funny or otherwise noteworthy about your experience with this production?

Maybe Burke: Did you see the show? Every step of Red Emma and the Mad Monk can be described as odd, quirky, innovative, funny, and noteworthy.

Katie Lindsay: The show is prescient. Alexis wrote the play in 2017, before we really understood the depths of Russian interference in the 2016 election. No one understood the Surkov character and what he was doing in the play when we did a workshop production at Ars Nova in 2017. By the time we did the show in 2018, Russian interference was widely known. The Surkov through line took on new depths and made complete sense in the world of the play. Also, our set came built with the wrong dimensions, so that was a hilarious late night call to my friend who is a set designer and former carp, who worked all hours of the morning to get the set built. That the show went up was in so many ways a miracle.

Alexis Roblan: As a playwright working primarily in downtown indie theatre, this was the first time I got to see something I'd written fully designed. I'm pretty sure I started crying the first time I saw a rendering of Diggle's set design. I cannot express how fortunate I feel to have worked with him, Luther Frank (lights / projections), John Salutz (sound), and Glenna Ryer (costumes). These designers brought a level of creativity, vision, and totally insane execution to this production that awed me every single day.

Teresa Lotz: Most musicals take 5-8 years. We worked on this guy for about 2. Many songs were written in the room and we still haven't had the time to fully flesh out how music works in the show. Regardless, I'm pumped about how it turned out and excited for the future of the show.

Did you learn anything or discover anything new while working on this project? If so, what?

Alexis Roblan: I had an incredible time collaborating with composer Teresa Lotz on the songs. As a playwright, I am always looking for new ways to theatricalize moments and ideas on stage, and it turns out a song is a hell of a way to do that. Shout out to our crazy talented choreographer Yael Nachajon for finding the exact levels of dance and stylized movement needed for those moments as well.

What does this nomination mean to you?

Maybe Burke: Red Emma and the Mad Monk was such a pivotal show for my career. I didn't pursue acting for a long time, and even then didn't take it very seriously until this production. To see myself be cast and celebrated in a role like Addison really gave me a reason to claim space as an actor. To be nominated for this award, that is complete validation of the space I am holding. As a non-binary trans feminine person, to be nominated in a category for actresses is not being taken lightly. I am honored and touched to be seen by this opportunity, and hope it can be part of a larger conversation about representation and accountability for actors outside of the binary.

Katie Lindsay: It's an honor to be recognized. This play was such a labor of love and was completely out of my comfort zone. We created it out of a real need to make sense of the chaos around us. To know that our play was meaningful to others makes my heart so incredibly full. To know that I did justice to Alexis's words, and was able to create a meaningful container for her play, means the world to me.

Teresa Lotz: I haven't been nominated for an award in NYC before... so this is really exciting for me to be recognized for my work as a composer!

Alexis Roblan: One of the most fulfilling aspects of this production was the community it built while we were doing it -- including every single member of the cast and production team, and eventually including the audience. So it's remarkably nourishing to receive recognition from the larger New York indie theatre community, which feels like a continuation of what we got to make together.

Monday, August 19, 2019

Catch the Sparrow

Produced by Isle of Shoals Productions, Inc.
Written & Directed by Alex Mace

Nominated for: Outstanding Actress in a Featured Role, Meredith M. Sweeney

 About Isleof Shoals
The Isle of Shoals motto is “Theatre for Discovery.” Since its founding, Isle of Shoals has maintained a commitment to developing and producing pieces (from brand new to ancient), which might otherwise never or seldom get to see the light of day in our present theater ecosystem. The works Isle of Shoals gravitates towards are those which celebrate the human spirit and enrich the artistry of early and mid-career theater professionals of every stripe and creed. We pride ourselves on being the inclusive theater company that says “yes” to brilliant new ideas that are elsewhere met with echoing “no”s.

About Catch the Sparrow
A gripping drama about a rebellious son and his dying father trying to reach out to each other before it's too late. In this powerful and resonant new play, written and directed by Alex Mace, a family, torn apart by grief and blame, is forced to settle their differences and learn the true worth of family and, whats more, what it means to forgive and let go.

Photos by @Studio5Q

 Meredith Sweeney and producer Bryan Williams shared some insights into the process of presenting this new script.

What first attracted you to this project?
Meredith: Based on the audition notice, I knew it was an original work that seemed to be a small but mighty character-driven family drama in an intimate setting. And who wouldn't want to do that?

Bryan: The complexity of the family situation is both universal and specific.

What was your favorite part of working on this production?
Meredith: I loved being a part of the first production of an original play. The script shines light on the tough and ugly parts of being a family (of being a human) and I got to work with a company of humans who jumped fully into this challenge with such joy and love. Together, we created something brand new and moving that had never been done before and I will always carry that with me.

Bryan:  Watching the growth of the actors as they took the naturalistic dialogue and elevated it to the realm of poetry. Also when the audience learns at the end of the first act that one of the characters died years ago, I loved listening to them explaining to each other their own interpretations of what it mean.

What was the biggest challenged you faced while working on Catch the Sparrow?
Meredith: I found the most challenging part to be the same as the most exciting part- bringing this character to life for the first time with the writer always in the room. I have a profound respect for writers and felt a great responsibility to honor his story. It's exciting to be able to collaborate with a director/writer who is so giving of his time and open to other perspectives... But it's challenging because there are no rules or guidelines to creating something new and you don't want to get carried away and step on toes, cross a line, or completely miss the mark and disappoint the person who is there with you at rehearsals, trusting you with these words.

Bryan: As in any new production, there are changes to the text and these, particularly if they come late in the game, created challenges for some of the actors.

What did you want the audience to walk away with after watching Catch the Sparrow?
Bryan: How richly complex and happy-sad is the story of any family.

What was it like to work with Meredith?
Bryan: Meredith lit up the stage whenever she came on. She is not just a wondrous actor, but a joy to work with. Though she had fewer scenes than the others, her patience and enthusiasm never failed.

What was it like to work with this company of artists?
Meredith: We became our own little dysfunctional/functional family unit during this process. For example, my birthday fell on one of the tech rehearsals. Earlier that morning, I had totally bombed an audition and had just had kind of a rough day, so I wasn't feeling great when the Stage Manager called the cast to the stage for last minute notes. To my complete surprise, the "notes" turned out to be the cast and crew singing happy birthday to me while the director held a candle-lit birthday pie (who needs cake??) Because of the kindness of that group of people, I was able to reboot, refocus, and feel loved in the process. And that's pretty noteworthy.

What does receiving this nomination mean to you?
Bryan: Giving a young playwright a chance he might otherwise not have had in the immediate future.

Meredith: You know the expression "It's an honor just to be nominated"? Well it is. I mean, I was completely floored. It's very easy to feel disconnected and alone as an artist and actor in this city. For me, receiving this nomination is a reminder that there is a greater and great community out there, that we're all apart of it, that I am a part it. And that is truly an honor.
Check out Isle of Shoals on Instagram @isleofshoalsproductions

Sunday, August 18, 2019

Plan G

Produced by Randomly Specific Theatre Written by Larry Philips
Directed by Graydon Gund

Nominated for: Outstanding Ensemble: Allan Hayhurst, Lauren LeBeouf, Tiffany May McRae, Sarah Misch, Larry Phillips, Forrest Weber

About Plan G:
Life has beaten Christopher Abandonato down. He’s got a dead-end construction job, a wife who puts him in his place, and an out of work brother-in-law living in his basement. But he’s a dreamer, and he’s convinced buying abandoned storage units is his ticket to becoming rich. He just needs to find that special something that will change his life forever. Plan G is a DARK comedy about seeing an opportunity when its starring at you.

What first attracted you to this project?

Lauren: A script about an eyeball. Truly original!

Tiffany: It was such a wild, dark comedy about a freak discovery that forces a family to grapple with fame, greed, classism and doing the right thing

Sarah: I saw a friend in Larry's play The Weekend Will End, and I loved his writing so much that I reached out to him afterward. I love working on new plays, and Larry sure can write a good one.

Forrest: It’s very well written and made me laugh out loud time and time again, even while reading it.

Larry: I wrote it, so narcissism at it's finest.

What was your favorite part of working on Plan G?

Lauren: My favorite part was the conderful cast and team, which you need for an ensemble piece.

Tiffany: Duking it out with Larry Phillips (who plays my husband) every night onstage. I always enjoy a good row with Mr. Phillips!

Sarah: Honestly, the cast made the whole experience. Everyone was equal parts fun and professional!

Larry: The calibration of working with a mixture of friends that I've worked with prior, and brand new friends.

Forrest: Actually performing the show had to be my favorite part. Between hearing and feeling how much the audience was along for the ride and finding a groove with my nothing beat the actual moments where we were on stage.

What was the most challenging part of this production?
Lauren: Fighting (combat) in heels!

Tiffany: Maintaining my New Jersey accent once the character Shannon (Lauren LeBeouf) gets on stage! Her character was from the south and once she started that drawl my native Texas twang would just try to slip in there and join her.

Sarah: I loved my character, Elizabeth, but she's could be really cold and self-serving. It was a fun challenge to balance the aspects of her that were sympathetic and likable without trying too hard to redeem her less... desirable traits.

Forrest: The most challenging part for me was dealing with the fact that I wished more people knew about this production while it was happening.

What was the silliest part of this production for you?
Sarah: My character was only in the second half of the show, so I had about 45 minutes of downtown backstage before I made my first entrance. I'd like to say I was diligently studying my script, but mostly, I was surfing Twitter.

Forrest: My cast mates were so damn funny, in the early rehearsals I would miss my lines because I’d just get caught up laughing and watching them!

Did you gain any insight or learn anything new while working on this show?
Lauren: Talking in a Southern accent came very naturally, even though I had never performed with the accent before. Playing a dumb character takes a smart and clever actor!

What was it like working with Randomly Specific Theatre?
Lauren: Larry Phillips is an experienced writer who writes truly original scripts. Full of comedy and heart.

Tiffany: This cast was a hoot to share the stage with! Always bringing in ideas, listening, and willing to adapt and just play.

Sarah: Everyone treated their character and the show with so much respect throughout the process, and everyone was so funny!

Forrest: Developing lasting quality relationships was the best part of work with this company.

Why is the Ensemble of Plan G so awesome?
Larry:  A lovely group of people both inside and outside of the process.

Forrest: I genuinely believe my cast mates deserve this award and I am lucky to have worked with them. This show itself deserves another run, in a larger spotlight, truth be told.

What does this nomination mean to you?

Lauren: The world! This was my first play in NYC (outside of my acting school). Such an honor!!

Tiffany: I was so proud of this cast and crew that receiving a nomination for ensemble work is just so exciting! We worked hard and had so much fun making this piece of theatre, the nomination truly touching.

Sarah: Lately, I'm trying to lean into making theatre I like, so it always means a lot when other people like it, too.

Larry: An Ensemble nomination means everything clicked. The Director and producer's work in casting. The writers vision as the play. And obviously the actors sold the story. I love ensemble comedies, this means we did something right.

Forrest: It’s like a little dose of chicken soup for the actor’s soul to find out months later that all the hard work we put in didn’t go unnoticed.

Saturday, August 17, 2019

MEET THE 2019 NOMINEES: A Midsummer Night's Dream

A Midsummer Night's Dream
By William Shakespeare
Directed by Jonathan Hopkins
Presented by Smith Street Stage

NOMINATED FOR: Outstanding Original Music - Joe Jung

Joe Jung

What attracted you to working on this project?
I've been a big fan of Smith Street Stage since its founding. I acted in their previous production of The Tempest and jump at any chance to work with them in whatever capacity I am able.

What was your favorite part of working on this production? And why?
SSS is all about collaboration and creativity, as well as treating the plays of Shakespeare with the respect and energy that is required of them. Music is a big part of ...Dream, so to be so intimately involved with how music influences the world of the play was incredibly fulfilling.

What was the most challenging part of working on this production? And why?
Live music in an outdoor space is always tricky. How can the actors be heard when an ice cream truck is blaring right down the road? What kind of music can evoke a courtly or mystical environment in the middle of a city park? How can we use the environment we have to inform the music and vice versa? These questions led to a lot of really creative conversations.

What do you want the audience to come away with after watching your production?
Taking a cab, loaded with weird musical instruments, into Manhattan on a weekend morning for our first music rehearsal, getting stuck in a traffic jam, then walking a few blocks loaded down with guitars, amps, a cajon, a few crowbars, and a bunch of other bells and whistles will always be etched in my mind. But getting into the room and asking the cast what they play, what they would be willing to bang on - challenging "non-singers" to sing, and "non-musicians" to play - is always a joy. Likewise, we found a great way to mix electric and acoustic music to the mix, to define the human world with acoustic sounds and the fairy world with more electric music was a nice little shift.

What is the best thing about working with this company and/or these artists?

Trust. Jonathan and Beth Ann are incredibly trusting producers. The cast was trusting in my notion that they all could contribute to the soundscape. And I trusted everyone involved to execute what ended up being the music for the show. When a trusting environment is established, lovely art is made.

Did you learn anything or discover anything new while working on this project? If so, what?
Music and theatre go hand in hand, always. They are best friends. They tell each other secrets and bring out the best in each other.

What does this nomination mean to you?
It always means a lot to be acknowledged by your peers and the audiences you serve.