Saturday, August 31, 2019

The Maids

Produced by The Seeing Place Theater
Written by Jean Genet
Directed by Erin Cronican and Brandon Walker

Nominations: Outstanding Revival of a Play; Outstanding Actress in a Lead Role - Gaia Visnar; Outstanding Ensemble: Erin Cronican, Christine Redhead, Gaia Visnar

About the Seeing Place Theater
The name "The Seeing Place" is the literal translation of the Greek word for theater (theatron): ". . . the place where we go to see ourselves." The Seeing Place is an actor-driven company dedicated to exploring the intersection between the actor's voice and the playwright's words, by reinterpreting masterful works live and in the moment to make them relevant, visceral, truthful, and accessible to a modern audience. We live up to our name by engaging our community in a vivid conversation about what makes us human. Connection. Learning. Humanity. That's what theater is all about.

About The Maids
Two sisters, maids to a wealthy society woman, act out fantasies of class, love and revenge while the lady of the house is out on a romantic rendezvous. As their games intensify, the incipient violence escalates as they await Madame's return.

What first attracted you to The Maids?

Erin: When choosing to produce and direct this show, we were struck by the feminist and classist themes that are highly relevant in society today. Plus, it's a show that would heavily promote three talented actors in our theater company - seeing plays with an all-female cast is a rare and exciting treat.

Christine: Good Content.

Gaia: I was always intrigued by the play and wanted to really work on it as it's so bizarre and seems non-sensical.

What was your favorite part of work on this production?
I loved having conversations with patrons in our lobby after the play who found the play resonant and important. It was also wonderful diving into the play dramaturgically with the cast and creative team.

Christine: Learning how to approach the script in a different way. It changed my perspective.

Gaia: The organic approach of The Seeing Place Theater, really exploring the humanity and drives of the characters.

What was the most challenging part of this experience for you?
How deep the play goes! We gave ourselves two months of dramaturgical and rehearsal time and we still felt like it was just skimming the surface of what was possible. That's what's so beautiful about well-written plays.

Gaia: Really diving into the characters and their reality, coming to terms with their suffering and trapped situation - which is the source of the games they play. Also, it is a very heavy show, and the nature of the theater company is to go all in, so we really had to dive into the ugly, painful and uncomfortable as well.

What was the most noteworthy part of this production?

Erin: It was wonderful working with so many fierce females in this production - from our director (me), to the cast, to our stage manager and lighting designer.

Gaia: The process with The Seeing Place is always very much in the hands of the actor - we weren't really directed, just placed into the frame of the show, so we had to figure out what we are doing by ourselves and new reality was created on stage every night.

What was the best part of working with this company of artists?
Erin: Their commitment to the creative process was inspiring.

Gaia: As mentioned before, the nature of their work - really diving into the core of the character's complex psychology and human behaviour, as it comes out, not as we think it should.

Did you gain any insight or learn anything new through this experience?
Erin: I discovered how much resilience I had, and how strong that made me. Many people did not know that I was going through chemo for stage IV cancer while we were in production. To be able to come to the theater each night was a challenge in itself, and I learned that the audience can give back to you as much as you give to them. I count myself very lucky that I had the play to focus on while going through treatment.

Gaia: Yes, I got a much better understanding of the play and the character of Claire. I've learned that all the weird things that seemed absurd and out-of-the-blue for me when I was reading the play are rooted in normal, basic human emotions.

What does it mean to you to receive this nomination?
Erin: It means a lot to know that this production made a difference to our audiences, and to the Indie Theatre community. It inspires us to keep going with this kind of work.

Gaia: I am very honoured and humbled by the very unexpected nomination - as an artist, I am focused on doing my work and never think of a reward other than performing what I've been working on. It is nice to be recognised for something you've invested in so much.

Friday, August 30, 2019

Worse Than Tigers

Produced by The Mill in association with New Ohio Theatre
Written by Mark Chrisler
Directed by Jaclyn Biskup

Nominations: Outstanding Set Design - Matthew Carlin; Outstanding Sound Design - AJ Surasky-Ysasi; Outstanding Actor in a Lead Role - Braeson Herold; Outstanding Actress in a Lead Role - Shannon Marie Sullivan; Outstanding Premiere Production of a Play

About The Mill
The Mill makes artistically adventurous, boldly theatrical, and politically aware theatre.

About Worse Than Tigers
Olivia and Humphry have a safe, comfortable, enviable life. Their condo is well-adorned with fancy knick-knacks, their social media presence is meticulously groomed, and they never fight. Or laugh. Or kiss. Or talk very much. Unexpectedly, Olivia’s lover-- id-driven Officer Kirk Patrick --shows up, trailing a man-eating tiger which takes up residence right outside, threatening to devour anyone who opens the door. Tigers may be dangerous, but there might be something worse inside.

What first attracted you to Worse Than Tigers?
Jaclyn: Mark's writing is brilliant. The first act feels like Ionesco and the second like Albee.

Braeson: The complexity of the role brought out a fear in me I hadn't experienced in a while. I felt a personal obligation to explore that.

Shannon: I had worked with Jaclyn Biskup before (director of Worse Than Tigers) and was excited to get back in the room with her. I was particularly interested by the relationship of Olivia and Humphrey: their history, their secrecy, and ultimately the expelling of their deepest truths.

Matthew: I had worked with Jaclyn before and she had reached out about bringing me on board as a designer. After reading the script I really liked the style of the piece and its absurdist nature.

AJ: The whole conceit of the "tiger" in the show was really interesting, knowing that given the constraints we were facing, the sound design was going to play a big role in helping to define that character in the show and how the actors would interact with it.

What was your favorite part of working on this Project?
Jaclyn: Wonderful team!

Braeson: My favorite part would have to be the creative partnership with my co-star, Shannon Marie Sullivan. She never wavered, in rehearsal or performance.

Shannon: My favorite part of this production was getting to play with Braeson Herold. Getting to know him, trust him, and riding the absurd and deeply emotional wave created by Mark alongside him.

Matthew: Our design palette was tight and specific, so it was challenging, but overall it really helped to drive the themes of the piece home to the audience.

AJ: For most of the show, the tiger is just outside of the playing space (just behind one of the doors onstage), so the sound is fairly one-dimensional, and we just get to hear the tiger prowling outside for the most part, but the tiger enters into the house where the main characters live in the middle of Act II. When the tiger comes in, all hell breaks loose, and we're in blackout while we hear these sounds of destruction coming from all sides as we introduce sounds through the surround speakers for the first time in the production. It was a big sequence to build and get everything place spatially in the system, but I think was really effective once we got there.

What was the most challenging part of this experience for you?
Braeson: The text was the most challenging, because it veered from farce to realism within moments. The play explores the chaos within a failing marriage... and it's a comedy! It was a process to connect the dots, for sure.

Shannon: Worse Than Tigers is a buffet of theatrical genres. It all comes together in the end (when, in fact, everything falls apart) but justifying the moves from one world into the next was a challenge, especially in the beginning. But it was the kind of challenge that thrills and drives an actor.

Matthew: Getting everything done with a tight budget and small staff

AJ: Probably the transitions. I feel like transitions always tend to be tricky since you're trying to provide some of the glue to bring together the different scenes and weave the stories, but with this one we went through a number of iterations of the transitions until we landed on things that worked for us.

What was the funniest thing that happened during this production?
Braeson: The play is called Worse Than Tigers... throughout the show we hear several roars. One night, we had a roar that scared an audience member, she screamed as loud as the tiger!

Did you gain any insight or learn anything new throughout this process?
Braeson: I learned that instincts can get you far, but trust is what truly creates a memorable experience.

What was it like to work with this company of artists?
AJ: There's just a lot of heart between all these folks. What I mean is as we were going through rehearsals, and got into tech, everybody was always game to try things, and we could have conversations between departments where we working through difficult moments in the show. Things weren't always easy, but it felt like there were people in the room you could talk to and have conversations with to try and figure things out when we got stuck, and that was really invaluable through the process.

Jaclyn: They are just an incredible group of talented people!

What does receiving this nomination mean to you?
Jaclyn: We are honored to be included in this amazing group of artists.

Braeson: It means the world, honestly. What I set out to create with Humphrey was so personal to me. Knowing others were able to witness that, in a memorable way, will stay with me for a long time.

Shannon: To be recognized for my work by other performers and theatrical artists is a great honor. This play dug deep in to my bones. We all gave our time and hearts to this production because we love the theatre and I am very proud to have been part of it.

Matthew: This is extremely exciting for me, as it's my first nomination of any kind for my work since graduating from Undergrad!

AJ: It's really exciting to be nominated. You know, there's a lot of shows where you burn the midnight oil, and you stress, you tweak, and you try to get things just right, and so to have that work be recognized in some way is really quite special

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Eight Tales of Pedro

Produced by The Secret Theatre
Written by Mark-Eugene Garcia
Directed by Rodrigo Ernesto Bolaños

Nominated for: Outstanding Actor in a Featured Role - Federico Mallet; Outstanding Original Music - Luis D'Elias

About The Secret Theatre
The Secret Theatre strives to provide New York City and surrounding communities with inexpensive, but high-caliber performances, to expand the horizons of patrons young and old alike who would normally not venture outside of the main borough. As a venue for assorted live entertainment, particularly classical theatre, as well as new works, comedy, and musicals.

Photos by Hunter Peress

About Eight Tales of Pedro
Two sets of storytellers, some now and some in the 17th century, cross a country - risking everything for a new life. As they tell their tales, their lives and plots combine and intertwine into the same conclusion.

What first attracted you about working on Eight Tales of Pedro?
Federico: Working with an all Latino cast telling a story that invites the audience to be empathetic with the Latino experience in the US in contentious times and accomplished it by also finding humor and joy in it.

Luis: The opportunity to develop a score in an unconventional way, plus working on an original Latin American work

What was your favorite part of the production?
Federico: The people. They were incredibly welcoming and that for me is one of the main (if not the main) characteristics of the Latino community.

Luis: The cast and crew. It was like a family, and there was this collaborative spirit where everyone felt invested in the work. Truly amazing group of humans.

What was your biggest challenge of this experience?
Federico: Very quick changes from character to character and switching from very light humor to the heavy stuff. You want to make sure those two land how they’re supposed to.

Luis: Listening. My work was an underscore that adapted to the play. It involved equal parts composing, and improvising to the rhythm of the performances, which involved a lot of listening tp the performer of each piece. The music became an active ingredient, but it could not overshadow the actor. So, it was like scoring a film in real time, which made it really organic.

What part of you did you bring to the production that changed what was presented to the audience?
Federico: I was the only actor in the production whose first language was Spanish, that brought the opportunity to expand the language and jokes of the show.

Luis: The way we let the music interact with the actors, as if it were another performer, felt pretty innovative. Something I think helped us connect was having me, the composer/guitarist, be part of the warm up exercises before each show and rehearsal. It's a level of cohesion that really benefited the presentation of the piece.

What was it like working with this company of artists?
Federico: Their warmth, love and joy for what they do. How welcoming they are. How willing they are to play.

Luis: A production team that feels like a family, especially one that is really trusting, and that allows each artist to bring what they know best to the table, trusting everyone comes from a place of shared respect and dedication towards the play and the subject matter.

Did you gain any insight or learn anything new from this experience?
Federico: I learned a lot of about the immigrant experience in the US (first generation/ second generation), and also a lot about folklore in different parts of Latin America.

Luis: New possibilities regarding composing a score and accompanying a theater play by listening and reacting to the actors and performers.

What does receiving this nomination mean to you?
Federico: It doesn’t happen often that I decide to do a play just because of my love for it. I loved the script instantly and my gut told me to do it no matter what the outcome. It’s good to know that that can pay off. It’s also special because sometimes I wonder how I fit in within the industry.

Luis: Truly an honor, but also a recognition towards this approach that connects actors and musicians into an organic unit, which I believe has endless potential for new and innovative theater experiences, not only for the audiences, but also for the performers involved.

Make sure to check out The Secret Theatre on Twitter - @secrettheatreny

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

The Harrowing of Hell

Produced by American Theatre of Actors in association with Collectio Musicorum, Inc. Written by Aonymous
Translated & Directed by Jeff Dailey

: Outstanding Actor in a Featured Role - Connor Chaney; Outstanding Performance Art Production

About American Theatre of Actors
The mission of the American Theatre of Actors is to promote the development of new playwrights, directors and actors, to revive works from the past, and to provide a creative atmosphere in which to work, without the pressures of commercial theatre.

Photos b J. Dailey

About The Harrowing of Hell
Sometime in the 13th century, an anonymous author wrote a short play detailing the events of the Harrowing of Hell, when, after dying, Jesus went to Hell to rescue all the prophets imprisoned there. This play, one of the first ever written in English, was so popular it survives in multiple sources, but it had never been performed in the United States. Newly translated into modern English, the play explains how Jesus vanquished Satan, and then released Adam, Eve, and others from their hellish imprisonment. Also on the program was another medieval play, "The Fall of the Angels," dating from the 14th century, which shows how Satan came to be cast into Hell in the first place, along with a performance of "The Soliloquy of Satan," by the 20th century American poet Elliott Blaine Henderson.

What first attracted you to The Harrowing of Hell?
Connor: I love classical plays, and it's a rare opportunity to work on a piece both classical, and a world debut!

Jeff: The process of translating the original text into modern English and then giving the first performance ever in North America.

What was your favorite part of working on this production?
Connor: Immersing myself in the medieval mindset and attempting to articulate their worldview onstage.

Jeff:  Working with the actors on both the language and the theology of the play.

What was the most challenging part of this experience for you?
Connor: Wrapping my brain around the rhythm and structure of the language was sometimes very challenging. It's a mode of thinking neither contemporary nor Shakespearean!

Jeff:  Making a 13th Century play accessible to a modern audience.

What was the funniest or most ironic thing that happened during this process?

Connor: It turns out dropping a cloth on someone accurately in much more challenging than one might think.

Jeff: God was nominated as Outstanding Actor.

 Did you gain any insight or learn anything new while working on this production?
Connor: I've gained a new appreciation for poetic language, and perhaps permitted myself a little leniency in tackling roles I consider unapproachable (like God).

What did you want the audience to come away with after watching The Harrowing of Hell?

Jeff: An understanding of a different historical time and the theology that was a part of everyone's life back then.

What was it like working with this company of artists?
Connor: I loved the diversity of perspectives and approaches the company brought to the table. I can't remember the last time I've worked with such a differentiated group.

Jeff: They all took a leap of faith to devote weeks of their lives into a production unlike anything they had done before. They agreed to learn not only their lines and blocking, but the tremendous backstory of medieval life and theology.

What does receiving this nomination mean to you?
Connor: This is the first tangible recognition I've received in this city as an actor, and I find that quite gratifying.

Jeff: Recognition that texts from centuries ago still speak to us.

Monday, August 26, 2019

The Fantastical Dangerous Journey of Q

Produced by Rebel Playhouse in association with 14th Street Y
Book by Ric Averill
Music & Additional Music by Dax Dupuy
Directed by Sarah Sutliff

Nomination: Outstanding Actor in a Lead Role - Milo Longenecker

About Rebel Playhouse
The Rebel Playhouse is a non-profit, educational theater company that produces productions for children and families based on stories that break traditions and challenge normative thinking, and offers classes designed to foster creative development. By rebelling against established stories, we ignite children's imaginations so they can learn to create their own stories by thinking outside of the box and uphold our mission to Empower, Educate, and Entertain our audiences.

About The Fantastical Dangerous Journey of Q
The story of Q, an upper elementary student struggling with gender and identity issues, who faces the daily difficulties of preoccupied parents, bullying peers, and communication with challenging teachers... but with a bag of tricks shared by Q's neighbor Nix, everyday objects grow and are endowed with powers that allow Q to face larger than life threats head on! This new hour-long musical features song, dance, and puppetry.

What first attracted you to The Fantastical Dangerous Journey of Q?
Sarah: This piece was commissioned from playwright by Ric Averill by Rebel Playhouse and the development process was overseen by myself as Rebel Playhouse Artistic Director. I had long been interested in developing a work for children that explored gender fluidity and showed the experience of a non-binary child being forced to exist in a binary observing world. I wanted to take the commonplace and ordinary and make it extraordinary and even dangerous.

What was your favorite part of working on this production?
Milo: Getting to play an elementary schooler was very playful and freeing! I laughed my butt off every single day which really helped me get through some of the more difficult and vulnerable aspects of the process. And it meant so much to me to play a trans kid, having been a trans kid who didn't see anyone like me represented in media growing up.

Sarah: Milo (the incredible performer in the role of Q) was an absolute delight to work with. He gave incredible insight and care in the development of Q and created a protagonist that had profound depth and vulnerability.

What was the biggest challenge you faced during the production?
Milo: Reliving the pain and loneliness of growing up trans and feeling misunderstood by my parents, peers, and teachers - even those who "meant well".

Sarah: Although we had two non-binary performers and a non-binary dramaturg and stage manager, the majority of the cast and creative team was cisgendered. It was a delicate balancing act to create a safe space for our team and create a culture of listening and correction, while working under a very limited rehearsal period. I am eternally grateful to the incredible team assembled for this piece for their honestly, openness, and willingness to

What was the most meaningful part of this process for you?
Milo: One day after the show this kid came up to me--super shy--to ask if I was a boy or a girl. I told them "neither"! And their dad thanked me profusely and said they had a lot to talk about after seeing the show. That was just the best feeling in the world to make gender diversity part of a story they could enjoy and relate to. Now they will always know there are more than 2 ways to have a gender and will hopefully never levy shame at themselves or others for exploring the expansiveness of their own identities.

Sarah: This was my first experience as artistic director (and Director) building a piece from scratch with a playwright. That in and of itself is quite an experience! Two readings, a residency and workshop production later, and our world premiere run at The 14th Street Y felt very much like a first child. What a roller coaster! Playwright Ric Averill, Musical Director Christina Bottley, Puppet Designer Rosa Douglas and Dramaturg Mak Morin are all true professionals and delights to work with and made this Fantastical adventure feel truly magical.

What did you want the audience to walk away with after seeing The Fantastical Dangerous Journey of Q?
Sarah: I want audiences to come away with a recognition of how entrenched in the binary our society is and how that must be challenged. The current structures of education, public spaces, and even casual interactions create uncomfortable and, yes, even dangerous circumstances for many individuals. This experience of the world is foreign to many cis people who can comfortably exist in it, so I wanted to create a visceral sense of danger and fear accessible to all.

What was it like working with Milo?
Sarah: Milo is smart, punctual, vulnerable and playful. He is not afraid to speak his mind, or challenge ideas in the name of making his character and work stronger. I had seen him in a production a full year before “...Q” and I remember thinking he would be so phenomenal in the title role. I was beyond pleased when Milo submitted for an audition and even more so by the dedication and passion put into the rehearsals and performances.

What does receiving this nomination mean to you?
Milo: As a trans/nonbinary person being recognized for playing a trans/nonbinary character, it's not only an honor for me as an artist, but a step forward in representation for the world of independent theatre and Off-Off-Broadway that I can only hope will trickle up to larger stages and platforms and allow trans voices to be amplified across our industry.

Sarah: I am so moved and honored that the It Awards saw in Milo’s performance exactly what we were all hoping the audience would see. This is our third nomination for a relatively new company, and we couldn’t be happier at this recognition.

Sunday, August 25, 2019

Electronic City

Produced by The New Stage Theatre Company
Written by Falk Richter
Directed by Ildiko Nemeth

Nominations: Outstanding Innovative Design for Projection Design - Hao Bai, Eric Marciano, & Ildiko Nemeth; Outstanding Performance Art Production

About The New Stage Theatre Company

Drawing from the traditions of Eastern European theatre, New Stage Theatre Company premieres foreign playwrights' works in New York and creates original works through collaboration between its artists. Over the years New Stage has built a name for itself as a “daring experimental group” [Backstage] that "creates wonder for mature, sophisticated NYC audiences" NYTheatreWire. The company's works are distinguished by their bold visual style and compelling mix of absurdist and physical humor with dark and difficult themes.

Photos by Lee Wexler

About Electronic City
Electronic City is a romance set in the liminal spaces of modernity, exploring the difficulty and complexity of belonging in a world fractured by the pressure of high-speed travel, communication and commerce.  With this work, Richter asks us to consider our isolation and alienation as we are tossed by the whims of global capitalist structures, particularly communication networks and media. Richter’s characters confront what it means to seek identity and belonging in a society where consumption and business have displaced memory, tradition, and spirit.

What first attracted you to working on Electronic City?

Hao: I’ve been collaborating with the lighting designer Federico for a few years and I've always wanted to work with Ildiko. Before she hired me, she mentioned that she just had a feeling about me the first time she met me. That small connection between us was a calling for me to collaborate with her. Also, I’m always a big fan of working with limitations. The venue for this production was a basement theatre that has limited space, limited pipes, architectural columns in the middle of the stage, a strange side wall with the restroom door, no symmetrical structures anywhere in the theatre, etc. I was intrigued by the idea of embracing the architectural limitations into part of the theatrical design and intrigued to figure out where and how far we could go within those limitations. The content also really attracted. I’ve been interested in humanity, human connection, and how one can find out who they are or who they want to be in the world filled with technology, computers, phones, screens etc. It is worthwhile to think about it, and try to use theatrical experiences and story-telling to make our audience think about it.

Eric: The vision of Ildiko Nemeth

What was your favorite part of working on this production?
Hao: My favorite part of working on this production was the freedom of choosing which projector to use to project what content. Sometimes we treated all three projection surfaces as one big surface (like a mirror), and sometime we treated it as if it were a continuous surface so that the image could travel along them. It was fun to play with. I’ve never met some of the other artists like Eric Marciano and Chris Sharp who had also been collaborating in the creative process. I appreciated their work and was so glad that I was able to use their film or paint work as part of the footage for the projection design. Making other peoples' art into something else can be tricky, but both of them were so supportive, happy, and impressed with the final product and how everything looked. It was art created based on art. I felt like even though we hadn't met each other in person, we shared something; a connected through the production and the mutual but yet individual art forms.

Eric: I really enjoyed creating the Edward Hopper like visualizations.

What was the biggest challenge of this experience for you?
Hoa: Limitations are always a beautiful part of a project, but at the same time can be challenging. I had to hang the center projector behind one of the side columns to hide it since it was huge and looked really bulky on the low ceiling pipe. Federico, Ildiko and I had to keep talking about sharing pipes between projectors locations and lighting positions since the space and the lighting grid was so limited. The other challenging part was the continuous adjustments on how to keep the performers out of the projection light.
Eric: Time. Because there is never enough of it.

Was was the weirdest part of this experience for you?
Hoa:In the process of prepping the production: load-in, pre-tech, dry-tech etc. we experienced everything that could have gone wrong with the projection equipment. First, we had an old projector that died all of the sudden and had to get a new one. Then we had a laptop break-down when I bumped into a tree outside of the theatre. It felt as if the projection technology was being hunted in the space, and yet the whole production was about technology in the cold electronic world

What was it list working with The New Stage Theatre Company?
Hoa: It was a group of artists who are so generous, patient, and open to ideas, especially the director Ildiko and the lighting designer Federico. Sometimes during preparation, pre-tech, tech time, things can be stressful and worrisome, but we helped each other out as much as we could. We were all working towards the same pure objective: to make an art piece touching, heart-breaking, and breathtaking. We also wanted to create a community of artists who support each other. It felt like we are all part of the art family even after the collaboration.

Eric: They are brilliant professionals.

Did you learn anything new as a part of this experience?
Hoa: One of the most important things I learned is that the concept of passing one’s experience and knowledge to the younger generation or to the people who don’t have that many experiences. Once we finished teching the show, we planned to have the intern running video projection. The intern was very nice and young but didn’t have any experience with theatre or projection tech, nor the program I was using for sound and projection. I trained her. However, during the dress rehearsal, she had a freak-out because the projectors’ mapping got all messed up. At that moment I realized that I had to do a better job of teaching. In the end, not only did she feel more confident with the equipment and programs, but she could start building things herself. The importance of training the next generation and becoming a better mentor is what I have discovered while working on this project.

Eric: The powerful affect that video projections in close quarters can have on the audience.

What does receiving this nomination mean to you?
Hoa: It’s a huge encouragement to me. I’ve been working as a lighting and sound designer for a few years, and have been assisting projection designers for a couple of years too. In the beginning of this year, I had three pure projection deign projects back-to-back and the feedback from the audience and the public wasn't bad. This nomination gives me more confidence to keep pursuing projection designer as visual artist, and a creator.

Eric: It is a great acknowledgment of your time, talent and efforts and that is always a good thing.

Saturday, August 24, 2019

MEET THE 2019 NOMINEES: Assassins

Produced by The Secret Theatre
Music and Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim 
Book by John Weidman
Director: Lauren Shields
Musical Director: Morgan Morse

Nominations: Outstanding Director – Lauren Shields; Outstanding Actor in a Lead Role – Evan Teich (see post); and Outstanding Production of a Musical

About the Secret Theatre
The Secret Theatre strives to provide New York City and surrounding communities with inexpensive, but high-caliber performances, to expand the horizons of patrons young and old alike who would normally not venture outside of the main borough. As a venue for assorted live entertainment, particularly classical theatre, as well as new works, comedy, and musicals.

Photos by Jakub Djeko

About Assassins
Nine individuals who have attempted a presidential assassination tell their stories in this revue-style musical of humor, drama, history, and fiction. Assassins is an illustration of very different people who have made extreme choices for varied reasons.

What about directing Assassins was most attractive for you?

Lauren: We all have a shadow side of ourselves that lurks deep in our consciousness. The consequences of the impact on us by our culture and our own individual tragedies can make us do reprehensible things in desperation. Some act on it, while others do not. No one person or set of experiences can be seen as black and white. I wanted to show audiences a deeper side of the humans that are seen as villains to so many of us.

What was it like to work with The Secret Theatre?
Lauren: This company dedicated so much of their time and passion into this project. They spent hours researching and working before they stepped into the rehearsal room. It made the rehearsal process powerful, moving and inspiring. I could not have had a better team.

Make sure to check out The Secret Theatre on Twitter - @secrettheatreny

Friday, August 23, 2019

Hamlet (What Dreams May Come)

Produced by Ript Theater Company in association with The Secret Theatre
Directed by Nathan Winkelstein

Nominations: Outstanding Costume Design - Sarah Marie Dixey; Outstanding Ensemble: Lindsay Alexandra Carter, Ade Otukoya, Chauncy Thomas, Nathan Winkelstein; Outstanding Revival of a Play

About Ript Theater Company
Ript Theater Company is devoted to bringing classic tales to vibrant life through innovative productions, new adaptations and performer centric work. We believe in the power of the words of the great classicists, be they Shakespeare, Moliere, Aphra Behn or Euripedes to move us and deepen our understanding of our world and our times.

Photos by Reiko Yanagi
About Hamlet (What Dreams May Come)
Four performers embody all of the characters in this innovative new Hamlet: a fast paced, non-stop whirlwind of mind and body as rational thought battles with hysteria. Secret Theater teams up with Ript Theater Company on this exciting production.

What first attracted you to this version of Hamlet?
Lindsay: Nathan Winkelstein has tremendous facility in classical text, is a smart casting director, and organized producer. I was excited by the prospect of being in his room.

Sarah: I was first approached by our director, Nathan Winkelstein, to be on this production. We had worked together in the past, and collaborated well. I thought figuring out the logistics of a truncated four person Hamlet would be ridiculous, challenging, and just the right kind of puzzle for me at the time.

Chauncy: I wanted an opportunity to work with my friend Nathan Winkelstein.

Nathan: I was interested in the family drama at the core of the play

What was your favorite part of working on the show?
Lindsay: The athleticism required of the actors to play the number of roles assigned led to a highly physical interpretation of the text which was exciting to discover with Cat, Nathan, and the entire ensemble.

Sarah: I really enjoyed the freedom of mixing textures that went along with the puzzle of creating such a small scaled show. All of the costumes needed to function as both highlighted characters and background noise that could seamlessly transition from moment to moment while all holding their individuality. This gave me a lot of room to experiment and just see what worked, which was quite engaging.

Chauncy: The camaraderie we developed while rehearsing.

Nathan: My incredible castmates and their immense patience as I moronically attempted to act, direct, adapt and produce all at the same time. Their backs still hurt from carrying me.

What was the most challenging aspect of this production for you?
Lindsay: I found differentiating Ophelia and Gertrude to be extremely difficult; especially because I wanted to remain as truthful to the text and intention as possible and avoid creating a caricature.

Sarah: As much as making a four person Hamlet was appealing, it was also quite a challenge. We had a strict budget and aesthetic, and fitting costumes that needed to be so versatile and full of texture into that was tough. We had a very restrictive light rig, which washed out almost all of the aging and dye treatments I had done. This resulted in pushing a lot farther than I was used to so things would read in the space. It's difficult to do that, but ultimately opens you up to some crazy paint jobs that you're thankful for in the end.

Chauncy: Honestly, it was trying to maintain my focus while dealing with a breakup.

Nathan: Wearing multiple hats, and as always finding the vulnerability at the core of any successful performance.

What was the most noteworthy part about your experience with this production?
Lindsay: The idea alone to create a production of Hamlet that is 90 min and only requires four actors I believe is undoubtedly innovative and created for a quirky track particularly for Claudius/Polonius and his transitions.

Sarah: I think the most innovative or interesting thing on this production was taking period patterns and using things like gauze, spandex, and soft draped fabrics to create the garments. It's a gamble to make something so structured out of fabric that doesn't always do that, but it worked brilliantly for the pieces I think! 

Nathan: Well I am never acting/directing and producing a show again. The level of beautiful, positive ensemble work by the cast in this show was astounding. Many of the most memorable moments of the show came from the minds of the group.

What was the best part of working with this company of artists?
Lindsay: There was not one weak artist in the room and all had a diverse set of skills which lead to the room being highly collaborative.

Sarah: I think the most innovative or interesting thing on this production was taking period patterns and using things like gauze, spandex, and soft draped fabrics to create the garments. It's a gamble to make something so structured out of fabric that doesn't always do that, but it worked brilliantly for the pieces I think! 
Chauncy: They gave me plenty of emotional support on and off stage. 
Nathan: I wanted to work with pros. Actors with incredible facility but the openness to explore and group as an ensemble. That happened.

Did you gain any insights or learn anything new from your work on this production?

Lindsay: I learned that I have some time before I am ready to properly play Gertrude.

Sarah: I had a wonderful time pushing my boundaries with this project. The entire process was a lot of going with my gut on choices and doing things I wouldn't normally do. I don't typically paint or burn costumes on loading docks during tech, but it was so rewarding to get a show that pushed me to do it!

Chauncy: It was the first time I somewhat felt like I knew what I was doing in a Shakespeare production.

Nathan: Don’t direct and play Hamlet, but if you do, do it with a special group of people. I also learned that truly asking a question is one of the hardest, most vulnerable things you can do onstage.

What does receiving this nomination mean to you?
Lindsay: It is always lovely to receive something that commends your work. It is nice to feel recognized.

Sarah: I'm honestly just flattered to be considered for this. This production was such rewarding experience, that it is just fantastic to be recognized as part of this collaboration.

Chauncy: I'm really thrilled. I strive to be someone who works well in an ensemble, so it's great to know my contributions were noticed.

Nathan:  It means a lot. I strive to be an unselfish actor and to surround myself with unselfish actors, its nice to have them recognized.

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?
Katie Lindsay: 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.

Emma Orme: 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

The Female Role Model Project

Produced by Transforma Theatre, Inc.
Created by Tjasa Ferme
Developed with and Directed by Ana Margineanu

Nomination: Outstanding Innovative Design for Projection Design - John J.A. Jannone

About Transforma Theatre, Inc.
Transforma Theatre is a center where art tackles how scientific ideas and metaphysical knowledge about consciousness overlap. We explore the nature of existence and consciousness through science, shamanic rituals, and express them through the creation of multimedia performances. We are pioneering a new form of theatrical expression and developing a close community of artists and scientists instilled with the freedom of thinking and creating in alternative ways.

Photos by Katherine Butler

About The Female Role Model Project
The Female Role Model Project uses EEG headsets live on stage to investigate contemporary gender structures from the perspective of four completely different female identifying devisers sharing their autobiographical stories through a series of interactive games. The Female Role Model Project is a scientifically-enhanced, multimedia piece paired with neuroscience.

What first attracted you to this project?

John: I was interested in using live brain activity to influence the video design: the possibilities are tremendous and we were able to start what I hope will be an ongoing exploration in the video design for this piece.

Tjasa: I have always been fascinated by strong, unusual, independent women who were able to carve their own way in the world and defy the norms. The media’s portrayal of women frustrated me and as a tomboy growing up, I always felt the desire to break the mold. I realized we don’t have enough female role models that would represent freeminded, self-defining, pioneering women reinventing and transcending gender, so we decided to make a show about it.

What was your favorite part of working on this production?
John: It was an incredible team working on this show. Director Ana Margineanu is an exceptional collaborator, as is lighting designer Ayumu Poe Saegusa. Also production manager Jeremy Goren and stage manager Mariah Plante were a dream to work with.

Tjasa: Figuring out the audience participation parts. The show presents two intimate scenes where actors connect with audience members wearing headsets while their brain activity is being projected for everyone to see and interpreted by a cognitive neuroscientist live on stage.

What was the most challenging part of this experience for you?
John: We were working on a very short development timeline - there was significant software to write - in part because I was interfacing with live brain data, but also because I wanted the whole design to have a uniform quality of liveness, even when brain data was not modulating the imagery. So in addition to creating the design, I was creating a whole software framework to support it.

Tjasa:  Aligning technology with the tempo of the stage was a big challenge.

What was the weirdest part of this production?

Tjasa:  In the last scene the actors are wearing headsets which influence the audio design. The audience-by asking cognitively and emotionally provocative questions-becomes the DJ of our brains.

Did you gain any insight or learn anything new from working on this production?

Photo by Niav Conty

John: I think the software that I developed for this piece in order to make the design flexible enough to respond to real-time brain data is the beginning of a whole new design exploration for me; it's a very flexible base to build from, and I think I'll be able to use it as a starting point for future designs where I want a responsive and flexible structure. It has a lot of image possibilities, from pointillistic to stellar to pop-art to totally abstract. It's a rich territory I'm excited to explore.

What was it like working with Transforma Theatre?
John: I had tremendous freedom to explore the visual ideas I was interested in, and there was a strong sense of trust among the design and production team. We were able to work quickly and intuitively, which is very much my preferred working style.

What did you want the audience to walk away with after watching The Female Role Model Project?
Tjasa: I want to blow their minds and show them a glimpse of what's possible

What does receiving this nomination mean to you?
John: It's an exciting moment for me - I was very pleased with the projection design, as were my collaborators, and it was disappointing that the design was not discussed at length in reviews after the show. I felt it made a significant contribution to the piece, and was a successful and innovative design, so I'm very happy to receive this nomination.

Tjasa: I'm ecstatic, especially because we are just about to start performing at Edinburgh Fringe!