Dinosaurs & Lesbians & Pie … Oh My!

Reviewed by Amy M. Frateo

OK, so I hear you. An accidentally Lesbian heavy dinner in the middle of nowhere turns out to be the epicenter of the planet allowing it to travel back in time 65 million years with its Sapphic denizens in tow where they battle dinosaurs and fall in love, should be relegated to a progressive channel’ss Saturday morning cartoon hour.

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Wrong.

Always Plenty of Light at the Starlight All Night Diner by Darcy Parker Bruce and directed by J. Mehr Kaur, a wacky entry at this year’s Fresh Fruit Festival,  is a deeply moving, funny piece using the most unlikely of parables to show us real love and what it takes to get it.

We start with SAM, a gay James Dean type – sorry – a lesbian James Dean type has a serious crush on Jessa, the sweet, naïve, with-child waitress of the Starlight, who’s married to an abusive husband. Jessa has feelings for Sam that she doesn’t really understand … yet. There’s one romance, now we meet the doctor and his companion (sound familiar?) A nutty professor and his also-lesbian assistant (thus their romance can only be greatly insinuated).

These four hapless souls are caught in a time vortex that sends them to the age of the dinosaurs The doctor is ecstatic, his young assistant is also bubbling over with happiness, and Sam and Jessa are in shock.

When you look at it this way, it’s the first season of BBC’s Doctor Who. When you listen to Bruce’s delicate words performed with heart by this fine ensemble cast, you see another play. As truths come out and relationships start to [pardon the pun] evolve, you are part of a sweet romantic piece about the obstacles that stand in the way of love.

Lena Wilson was pure joy as the tough handywoman of the Starlight, mixing boyish innocence at her feeling for Jenna with that forced bravado that filled every 50s youth film. Sioghan McMannamon was really excellent as the embattled and very pregnant waitress. Creating believability in her fantastic situation, she gave us a very real showing. Michael Vernon Davis’ Doctor borrowed lots of Vaudeville takes and facial expressions and wild deliveries from the myriad mad scientists that have come before him to provide us with comic relief and Jaime Rossow weathered well in a part that was some moments comic relief and other moments deep sadness. The simple set and outlandish dinosaur noises worked because we love things like that.

Bruce’s subplot was great on its own and would have been more palpable with a little rationing of the sci-fi part to make this a finished work but J. Mehr Kaur’s fine staging made it all move nicely, even some very farce-like use of entrances and exits.

It might sound silly but it’s great to see gay people in sci fi. It creates an accessible  “universal translator” for emotions and relationships, and for that, Starlight was a winner.

“Chances” are this is a winner!

Review by Evan Meena

The Fresh Fruit Festival this year sported one musical. But after seeing it, that’s enough. How can you top Chance: A Musical Play About Love, Risk & Getting It Right (I think just “Chance” would have sufficed.)

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With touches of Boheme (not Rent), Falsettos and Kiss of the Spider Woman, along with some impressive dramatic touches, along with stunning performances, the evening was sure to please.

We meet Gregory, a lonely man who came to San Francisco to be free and found the exact opposite to be true. The death of his lover, decades ago, has left him empty and broken; scared to venture farther than his front door. Into his life walks – more like – appears … the Lady. This hallucination of the old movie sirens Greg so adores coerces him into meeting a young hustler named (you guessed it) Chance. Their tennis match romance becomes the two hours traffic of the stage. Each bringing fears and desires that seem to serve as bitter medicine to the other. Bitter medicine as each seems to recoil before enveloping and blossoming.

When things got too deep, in walks the Lady with a stunning movie musical-style number.

Craig Sculli was spot-on as Gregory. His tense posture filled the stage with angst and then his lovely voice showed us his soul; running apace was Matt ZanFagna as Chance. His humorous take on the rentboy made us feel for him as we see he was too good for his profession. Maybe he played his hand too soon in showing us his vulnerable side but that worked as he became aptly sympathetic. He too, did justice to the musical numbers.

But then there was Courter Simmons as “The Lady.” Mr. Simmons gave as near a perfect performance as the movie vixen from out of Greg’s mind. It would have been easy and permissible for Simmons to play campy and over the top drag-ish for the role and be totally entertaining, but his was not a drag performance, but a real woman. His wo-mannerisms were flawless for the role, his powerful voice fooled us into thinking he was a she, and his natural stage presence was worth the price of admission alone. At intermission, one patron turned to his friend who obviously brought him there and said “you mean that’s a man?”

Calli McCrae & Casey Bagnall made a refreshing Greek chorus zinging the crowd with the occasional outrageous one liner.

Richard Isen’s book could stand on its own for plot movement and pathos, with a spiritual reveal at the end that was inspired, but his music and lyrics, while they fit beautifully with his prose was almost too integral to the plot. Humming a familiar tune after the performance became a difficulty. But that’s getting ahead of things. What he gave us here was a perfect night in the musical theater.

Jonathan Cerullo’s use of stage was subtle and intimate and gave us a panorama of locations quite well and the lighting and imaginative projections were the right touch as if they gave birth to the Lady.

Produced by Anne Nygren Doherty and the New Musical Theatre of San Francisco, Chance was a joyous and romantic event that forced more than a few tears from its onlookers. Hopefully she’ll take another “chance” and bring back to these shores again … soon.

FIERCE Fresh Fruit this season

Review by Evan Meena

This season’s crop for the fresh fruit festival was a bounteous one. Leading the pack was Doug Devita’s The Fierce urgency of Now (special thanks to Lyndon Johnson for the title).

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FIERCE finds us in a high-powered ad agency in modern times and takes us on what the Mad Men of the 60s have become. The same rules apply – no rules.

It’s the journey of Kyle, a young art director who finds himself in the middle of office affairs, politics, conspiracies, and other daily happenings. His on-again-off-again lover, Neil is – through reorganization of accounts – his boss, his best buddy, Meryl, looks like she is about to get in front of the pack thanks to the counter-charms of Kate, the epitome of ruthless bitter bitch boss, leaving Kyle “stuck” with Dodo… a Mad Woman from the Mad Men days.

Sounds like a soap opera? Well, it’s not. It’s a clever (with more than a few moments of brilliant) one act tome about how we choose to live our lives and the price we pay for succeeding (or failing) at it.

Devita’s book and director Dennis Corsi’s smart direction went hand-in-hand to hand us a rapid-fire, well-timed character study filled with terrific one-liners, deep and even tearful relationship moments, and sage wisdom for the texting generation. CJ Yeh’s amazing use of set coupled with Sam LaFrage’s sound might as well have been actual characters as their interaction to the plot and the players was some of the best I’ve seen on stage. It played like a television show in its editing people and production together.

Speaking of people, while Matthew Jellison’s Kyle seemed a little too casual and coarse in the office scenes (you can’t tell a VP to F**k Off THAT MANY times and stay hired), his moments with Dodo were sublime. Their opening salvos at each other, while combative, already opened our hearts to the unique relations that was coming – and when it arrived, one could not get enough. The tender moments between them (weathering Dodo’s illness, sage advice from an old salt to a young whipper-snapper, etc…) were a pleasure to behold. This was in no small part due to the excellent portrayal of the been-there-done-that characterization by Carole Monferdini as the last surviving member of the four martini lunch days in advertising. Ms. Monferdini, with little effort, became the only thing on stage with little more than a line ending in “darlin” or a tiny tilt of her coife. Devita had written their “love story” with great care, and that’s just how they delivered it.

The supporting players were all top notch. Steven Hauck was superb as Neil, the “nice” semi-closeted boss. His look and demeanor belied the ad agency milieu but he managed to inject just enough effete behavior to show us his “feminine” side. His polar opposite was an hilarious Teresa Kelsey as the boss commando Kate, her manish presence made her use of the C-word almost religious. She expertly gave us a bitter woman whose workaholic life made her the unexpected villain but still kept us laughing. Paloma Pilar could have vanished among these gray flannel crazies but her decision to play the role as a powerful forward thinker almost ignoring the expected tartness made her equally a standout.

You don’t need a google-search to know Doug Devita is a longtime power player in the off-off Broadway industry. With works like this, it will be easy to imagine him getting a “promotion.”

Brooklyn’s little school that could does it again and better than ever.

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Generations produced by Genesis/M Center

Reviewed by Evan Meena

The M Center for the Arts culminates each season with an annual “recital” but somehow the recitals get bigger and bigger each year. Having attended a healthy share of them, this writer saw the growth of the studio and its students.

Mary Elizabeth Micari, the founder of the establishment and of the P.A.T.H. method (Performing Arts Training Holistically) brings together her finest students in their finest moments for a one night – in this case – one afternoon presentation.

The school initially had recitals in churches and other local Brooklyn centers, and then the season finale moved to The Producers Club in Manhattan as well as the original Musical Theater Works across from the Public. Now the 2016 season project added its name to the litany of shows that were part of the 13th Street Repertory. But that wasn’t all that made it the best yet. This year, the tiny few lines bringing together the students song work became a full-scale three act script written by Jay Michaels. And we’re not finished. One of those acts was picked up by John Chatterton’s Midtown International Theatre Festival and opened just a week ago. Way to go M Center.

The story this year was a soaring one. GENERATIONS follows three generations of artists. The first group was a gaggle of little girls awaiting an unknown audition but for all their cat-on-Facebook cuteness, were tough cookies. Leading the pack of marshmallows with crunchy centers was Alinna Gonzalez, whose comic timing for someone her young age is stunning. Somehow, she and newcomer Ella Paturno managed to pull off comedy routines with precision, eliciting belly laughs form the crowd. Bringing up the rear in this first segment was Agapi Bakopoulou, a trained film performer; here Agapi showed that she had stage chops as well. All there found a moment to sing cleverly woven-in tunes with excellence. Alinna shifting gears from the brassy to the sensitive with a lovely pop piece before Ella proceeded to  blow the speakers out of the theatre with This Girl is On Fire and Agapi showing comic versatility with Get this Party Started. And what a surprise… they end with Naughty from Matilda. These three were beyond cute and really talented. Alinna then surprised the crowd by sitting down at the piano and playing a song she composed. I was speechless.

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Act Two found a group of teenagers attempting to break a writer’s block and finish a new song. All the usual players were present: the sassy “popular” kids and the shy soul with so much inside. Isabella Sirota and Ashley Chico – dressed identically in fashionable “artist” grays – played the popular kids with aplomb, fast talking and excited. Ashley handed in two power-packed numbers while Isabella saved her winner for the 11:00 number of the act; a song she wrote. There seemed to be a thru line even behind the scenes.

It then turned out that Ashley’s best of the two numbers was also written by Sirota. The M’s students were surprising all the way around.

But the star of that movement was – of course – the shy girl, Brigid Elizabeth Drake. She created a realistic lonely little girl just wanting her chance. Her song At Seventeen was so moving that even she was brought to tears. Why should she be any different than anyone else in the theatre at that moment? Her natural acting ability and lovely countenance will take her far in this industry.

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Act III took us some 30-40 years in the future… in terms of performers’ age. M Center has a division dedicated to the more senior artist and for that act; some really wonderful moments were presented. Two favorites of the school and one relative newcomer played office workers on the eve of their termination due to reorganization lament about their days in showbiz.

Emmy Pai, an Asian dynamo returns to the M Center stage as an accountant who dreams of being a showgirl. She presented a sultry FEVER and uproarious Come On-a My House. Christine Conway, a familiar M face for much of the studio’s life, played a woman obsessed by horror movies. Conway gave us lots of laughs with “Boyfriend” from Young Frankenstein and “Khandarian Demon” from Evil Dead the musical. Towering above them is relative newcomer Dave Richards. A former stand-up comic Dave shared his obvious well-timed humor and competent voice in a group of tunes which seemed designed to exemplify the mood of the show. Two wistful ditties about what he should have done and how he landed there,  grounded the fun in stern reality. Their piece, maybe because of the identifiable subject matter, maybe their convincing performances, was the most realistic and engaging. It’s no wonder it went on to a legit off-off Broadway bow.

Two other cast members were more-than evident in the production as their roles seemed to weave in and out of all three stories. Andrew Gonzalez played a street smart kid who wanted to be an actor. He, through outlandish means, infiltrates the little girls audition and supplies the scene with some strong laughs and a rousing number from Disney’s Aladdin. He reappeared in the teen segment and displays some really compelling acting chops with Pippin’s perennial “Corner of the Sky” and some really touching moments with that cast. His final showing was in the epilogue of the final segment and gave the audience a laugh that was joyous, cathartic and inspiring. Gonzalez displayed unusually high talent as an actor in these three segments, so much so that the energy considerably rose on stage and in the audience at each appearance. His singing voice is only starting its journey but already shows great promise. I’m sure we’ll see his growth meteorically happen at future M productions.

The second thru line artist was Mario Claudio. Claudio brought down the house a few years ago in another M concert and here we now see the same level of strength in a more mature, focused entertainer. He got an opportunity that most actors would kill for. He played four separate characters. The humor was that they were all identical siblings. He began as a glad-handed stage manager for the unseen production of the children. All coos and smiles; he was the perfect counter to the streetwise brats. Then he was an affected music teacher, complete with light gait and bow tie. Here Claudio gave us the effete flicker of the stereotypical high school teacher of back-in-the-day. Finally, two for the price of one. A somewhat callous office manager and his bartender brother. The former, deadpan and hushed, Claudio gambled on glares and glints – which paid off well. As the latter tough-guy brother/barkeep, he gave us more mood than substance and while this might seem negative, considering the scene in which Dave’s character goes through a major turning point, it actually was more of a help. Mario’s name is in much of M Center and Genesis Repertory’s (the school’s sponsor)  press, so one can fathom his star is on the rise.

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[A call to our editor at press time implied he is now a member of the cast of the perennial LINE, whose run surpasses Cats, Phantom, and Fantasticks.]

One could forget this was a concert of students thanks to the script written by Jay Michaels. A few connecting quips to get from song to song in such a project is expected but instead the audience received a competent multi-act play with character and transition. This expert tome enhanced the actors own performances exponentially.  Corralling this rag-tag group is musical director Mason Griffin. His control of the varied score and the performers elevated the production even higher.

Mary Elizabeth Micari’s bio shows an enviable level of expertise which she selflessly bestows on her students – and the caliber of talent displayed showed it. Ms. Micari and her P.A.T.H. method are an invaluable open-door to anyone looking for a career in the arts.

“You’re Gonna be  Star”

The school boasts a platform that allows students to enter the “real world” while studying at the M. Lots of schools take credit for the student’s successes even though they had very little to do with it. Other schools have local showings that they call opportunities. M is different. Proof of that came with Act III of Generations, which one month later became “Grey is the New Black.”

The three hapless 9-to-5’ers took their act on the road. Actually, uptown about a mile at the Midtown International Theatre Festival, John Chatterton’s venerable array of new works and variety acts. There,  a newer version of their musical angst fest about day-job hell was presented. Here the stakes were higher. Language was stronger and more music was added – and the three caballeros rose to the occasions quite well. The basic story was the same, three former show folk are now about to be let go from a job they never really wanted and what should they do at this more senior time in their lives without means of support.13769589_10208733851756495_890233557892075228_n

Maybe without the festivity of the kids and concert and an audience filled with parents and friends, the story seemed deeper and darker. Dave, our former comic seemed like a man whose masculinity was taken when he opted out of job at Dangerfield’s decades prior. Dave Richards supplied with us with a subtle sense of pathos which resonated with the crowd beautifully. His stand-up chops were used as a new narrative supplying us with constant alleviation.  His rueful songs banged in the ears of an audience of strangers whose only connection is a deep understanding of the words “dream” and “lay-off.”

Christine Conway provided a deft character study of someone who made a mistake and how that hinders everything else in your life. Her clunky presence and child-like horror heroine fantasies allowed the audience to laugh now – and cry later. Sadly, her film references were somewhat obscure so the real punch of hearing about Hammer Films and Peter Cushing was not there, but the author’s choice of film names allowed the message to still shine. Not much doubt about a movie called Frankenstein’s Monsters from Hell. Finally Emmy Pai gave us a live wire showing as an immigrant whose dreams were halted by unnecessary tradition. Pai’s rapid fire energy and delivery was a joy. Always funny, Emmy Pai was the comic relief of the comedy – go figure. Her delivery while funny was in some cases too fast and the humor of her speaking Chinese and some really clever one-liners were lost. While fast and loud is best, sometimes less is more.

Michaels and Micari returned as the production team handing in an expertly written and subtly staged work. While Jay Michaels is known for more elaborate works (his NYIT Award nominated Hamlet was running downtown and the same moment), the intimacy of the simple set and austere lighting hit the spot. Musically, Mary Micari along with longtime collaborator Dan Furman kept the music – old and new – smooth and enticing. Now the pair handed the three chums harmonies and even a few ensemble numbers. If the show has any level of autobiography in it, then it is assumed the three have left the arts and came back, which makes the intricate musical work that much more impressive.

Spoiler alert – there’s a happy ending

After visiting many of concerts and watching the growth in familiar faces, one can conclude that the M Center is not like other schools of its ilk. It doesn’t train its actors to be all they can be. It trains them to be better. And then they find a place to put them in the professional world. Many schools falsely use the word “star” purely colloquially.

M delivers.

Two Family Dramas directed by LAURIE RAE WAUGH

Director Laurie Rae Waugh managed to direct two stirring pieces opening on the same day, one mile apart.

Reviews by Stephanie Schwartz

MIRRORS by Steve Silver
The American Theatre of Actors
314 W. 54th Street, NYC

MIRRORS is the latest Mafia play by Steve Silver to be produced by the American Theatre of Actors.  The writing is funny, concise and clear.  We learn very quickly who the characters are and their relationships to each other.  The play was directed by Laurie Rae Waugh.

Ken Coughlin (Mickey “Mirrors” Miraglia) is wonderful as the Mafia boss of this group who just wants to retire to Florida – but situations require one more “job.”  His henchmen Bobby “Botz” Cross and Petey “Shakes” Salerno were played respectively and respectably by Larry Fleishman and John Sheehan.  The henchmen botched things up and distressed and distracted Mirrors from his goal.  The henchmen were inadequate for their jobs; the actors were realistic.

The set and lights were simple and attractive.  The music enhanced the atmosphere and attitude.

Once again, Laurie Rae Waugh got into the characters’ heads and personalities and helped the actors come to life. The show was excellent and I wanted more. Mr. Silver, is there an Act II?


 

ELLEN, TROY AND ELOISE by Warren Paul Glover
The Midtown International Theatre Festival
312 W. 36th Street, NYC

July 21, 2016 was the world premiere of ELLEN, TROY AND ELOISE by Warren Paul Glover in the Midtown International Theatre Festival. It is a very well written play.

The play is set in Melbourne, Australia.  At opening, Eloise is on the telephone getting the unexpected news of her mother’s imminent arrival.  Eloise, played beautifully by Lily Marceau Telford, hasn’t had contact with her mother in three years.  Eloise is trying to convince Troy, played realistically by Joshua Rugiano, that their relationship is over.  He is desperately trying to convince her to marry him.  Their argument is forceful, volatile and intriguing.  They seem like a nice, young couple.

Enter “mum”, played exuberantly and explosively by Beth Newbery.  Mum is wonderfully over-the-top! To say more would spoil the surprises.

Laurie Rae Waugh, director has extended the playing area (no small feat.)  The action takes place in Eloise’s and Troy’s living room.    Waugh has placed the kitchen off stage and the actors use this effectively. There were excellent touches, some subtle, some obvious, that reveal this director’s sense of humor and sense of character.  Waugh directed this play with a sure hand and the pacing was excellent.  However, I lost some of the lines because of the Australian accent coupled the very fast speech.  The accents were remarkable.

There were no light or set changes, and none were necessary.  The props were simple and sufficient.  The play is a delight, made more so by the excellent acting.  It is uproariously funny.  See it for an enjoyable evening.

 

Bursting on the Scene: Ernest Barzaga

10960381_10204522338752631_280812699771760327_oErnest Barzaga might seen a bit young to take on Arthur Miller’s seminal piece but passions knows no age.

We hear a lot about inspiration – or Muse – that drives an artist. What inspires you?

I think I was always meant to direct. Ever since I entered this crazed wonderful world of theatre the art of actually putting together a show from scratch really emboldened my curiosity. I would watch shows then go home and recast them with people I knew. I came up with new ways of capturing a scene using real life experience and that’s what inspires my direction. Being able to express the world in my own way. through my own eyes Also, being able to give great artists that same satisfaction makes it all the more enjoyable.

salesman_tixTell us about your play … and why you chose it?

2. Arthur Miller’s “Death of a Salesman” is, in essence, a story about a father and the strained relationship he has with his son. It tells a story that’ s easy to relate to, about someone who has failed and struggles to come to terms with that failure; something even the most successful people have had to cope with at some point in their lives. The ideology and behavior of Willy Loman, the shows protagonist, has a scaring affect on the people who love and care for him.

What do you want most in your chosen profession? It’s OK to say “fame” or “wealth.”

My high school theatre teacher change the trajectory of my life. She help me find my passion and for that I am eternally grateful to her. What I want more than anything is to provide that very same service and help someone find their meaning in life with theatre.

Sally Field and Paul Newman both said of their profession… “it’s all I can do.” Is this all you can do?

As the adage goes ” If you work doing something you love, you’ll never work a day in your life.” I don’t intent to ever work.

Along those lines, if you couldn’t so this, what would you do?

Nothing
Last words? 

My mission with doing this show now is not only to provide young artists a platform to play roles they would not conventionally play.

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Playwright Spotlight: Fierce Words from Doug DeVita

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The FRESH FRUIT FESTIVAL invites you to join the pride and see productions like acclaimed playwright Doug DeVita‘s THE FIERCE URGENCY OF NOW – a fast-moving caustic comedy about an art director in high-powered New York ad agency, trying to discover his real self amid power struggles and stereotypes. He finds an ally in Dodo, who understands his plight – being that she became a lady-living-legend in an era of “Mad Men.” Matthew Jellison appears with Carole Monferdini as Dodo and Steven Hauck and Paloma Pilar. Teresa Kelsey is also a member of FIERCE, directed by Dennis Corsi. BroadwayWorld has a sneak peek at the cast in character below!

THE FIERCE URGENCY OF NOW by Doug DeVita performs Friday, July 22 at 7pm; Saturday, July 23 at 6:30 pm; and Sunday July 24 at 3:30 pm at The Wild Project, 195 East 3rd Street, NYC.

We hear a lot about inspiration – or Muse – that drives an artist. What inspires you?

I’m fueled by rage, martinis, and memories. And actors. Lots of wonderful actors who inspire me with their voices, their mannerisms, their enormous TALENT and generosity of spirit.

Tell us about your play … and why you wrote it?

The Fierce Urgency Of Now tells the story of Kyle, an Art Director in a high-powered New York ad agency who, at 30, is still trying to figure out who he is and what he wants from life. He finds an ally in Copywriter Dodo, a living-legend who started in the business during the era of “Mad Men,” and the two form an unlikely bond as they negotiate their way through the power struggles and skewed priorities of that bizarre world where everything, and nothing, is fierce, urgent, and now.

The play is a fictionalized recounting of some of my own experiences in that world; I was an Art Director / Associate Creative Director at several top worldwide ad agencies working on big blue chip accounts, and I’m currently an Adjunct Associate Professor at F.I.T. in New York (my Alma Mater), where I teach kids who want to enter that crazy, stressful, sometimes wildly creative world how to “Think Different,” as those brilliant ads for Apple said.

Dodo was a real person, a colleague at N.W. Ayer (one of the agencies I worked for), and a larger-than-life personality who influenced me in so many profound ways I can’t even begin to describe. Kyle is an amalgam of me and one of my former students, Stephen Weisbrot. Over Memorial Day weekend in 2013, Dodo called me from her home in Chicago, where she had retired 20 years earlier: “Dougbird, I have brain cancer. This sucketh.” A couple of weeks later, I was having congratulatory cocktails with Stephen, who had just landed a pretty good job at a major NY ad agency. I could tell something was up with him, and after about the third martini he admitted he hated the industry, he was very unhappy, he knew he’d made a mistake as early as his junior year in college, and his life was ruined. (Oh, the adorable drama of being 22.) I asked him (just like Dodo pressed me all those years ago): “What do you really want to do?” He finally admitted he wanted to be a pilot for a major airline. “Well, then do it, dammit!” At the time, I hadn’t really connected these two threads of my life, even though I knew that at one point in her life Dodo had been a licensed pilot, and had entertained everyone with fabulously funny stories about her exploits in the air.

In September, 2013, Dodo died. The connections between her, Stephen, and myself became crystal clear within seconds of hearing the news. And I began writing this play. BTW, Stephen left the ad industry a few months later to go to flight school, and has now accepted a job with American Airlines as a pilot on their regional routes.

What do you want most in your chosen profession? It’s OK to say “fame” or “wealth.”

Fame and wealth, then. Seriously, though: I want to make people laugh, and then think. And hopefully they’ll leave one of my plays with questions that, if not change the way they think about the world, at least open themselves to the myriad of possibilities out there and realize that not everything is black and white, that there are, as my mother used to say, “alternatives to the alternatives.”

Although fame and wealth wouldn’t suck. Particularly wealth. This is an expensive vocation.

Sally Field and Paul Newman both said of their profession… “it’s all I can do.” Is this all you can do?

I’m making it the only thing I can do. Because I can do many things – alternatives to alternatives, remember –  but it is the only thing I do that feels right in my soul, the only thing that stops the “knocking” Dodo speaks to Kyle about in the play.

Along those lines, if you couldn’t do this, what would you do?

The joy of being a writer is that I can do this until I drop dead. So I’ll continue to do this even after I “retire” and I’m loafing on the beach in Santa Monica. With my notepad, my camera/phone (or whatever the digital equivalent will be by then), and – hopefully – my observational wit still intact.

Last words?

The control freak ad man in me is screaming “COME SEE THE FIERCE URGENCY OF NOW! SEVERELY LIMITED ENGAGEMENT: THREE PERFORMANCES ONLY, JULY 22, 23, 24! YOU’LL LAUGH, YOU’LL CRY, IT WILL BECOME A PART OF YOU! GET YOUR TICKETS TODAY, WTF ARE YOU WAITING FOR?”
The quieter me says to keep your mind, and your options, open to the opportunities which are sometimes staring you in the face; so what if it’s not the path you’re determined to follow because someone else laid it out for you? Think different. It’s what I’ve done. (Pissed my mother off, too, despite her “alternatives to the alternatives” mantra. What was that question about inspirational muses earlier?) I might not have fame and wealth, but I’m happy.

Playwright Spotlight: Tom Rowan

Playwright Tom Rowan combines Greek tragedy with cutting edge comedy to present FAYE DRUMMOND, part of the UnFringed Festival at The Secret Theatre in Long Island City. FAYE DRUMMOND runs August 17th @ 9:15pm; August 20th @ 8:45pm; and August 21st @ 3pm at The Secret Theatre, 44-02 23rd St., Long Island City, NY. Featured in the cast are Renee Bang Allen(Company on Broadway) as Faye Drummond; with Peter Reznikoff (IRENA’S VOW on Broadway);Geena Quintos (A CHORUS LINE national tour); Andrew Gelles, Caleb Schaaf, and Bob Angelini. Faye Drummond, the trophy wife of the fifth-richest man in America, lives in luxury in a penthouse overlooking Central Park. She’s the woman who has everything, but she wants the one thing she can’t have: her handsome stepson, Paul Letos. With apologies to Euripides and Racine, FAYE DRUMMOND updates the Greek myth of Phaedra and Hippolytus to contemporary New York, with uproarious results.

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We hear a lot about inspiration – or Muse – that drives an artist. What inspires you?

I often start with an idea for a character or a relationship. A personality, or writing a character for an actor I want to work with. Sometimes there is a specific world I want to explore, like the backstage world of an opera house, or the world of championship figure skating, both of which I’ve written plays about.

Tell us about your play … and why you wrote it?

I started writing FAYE DRUMMOND around 2009 when I, and much of the nation, was experiencing financial melt-down. I think some of it came out of anger at the whole idea of money and people who have money. And I had been wanting to try writing a play that took a classic mythological story from Greek drama and translated it to the modern world.

What do you want most in your chosen profession? It’s OK to say “fame” or “wealth.”

I would like for my plays to reach bigger audiences, both regionally and in New York. And I want to keep directing as well, especially Shakespeare and musicals.

Sally Field and Paul Newman both said of their profession… “it’s all I can do.” Is this all you can do?

I both write and direct plays, though this is the first time I’ve directed a production of one of my own full-length plays. But that’s not all I do. I’ve been a literary manager and still work as a casting director. And I write books about musical theatre, including A CHORUS LINE FAQ: ALL THAT’S LEFT TO KNOW ABOUT BROADWAY’S SINGULAR SENSATION, which was published last year by Applause Theatre & Cinema Books.

Along those lines, if you couldn’t so this, what would you do?

Cry really really hard.

Last words? 

Come see FAYE DRUMMOND! It’s funny and sexy and kind of daring. And it’s surprisingly relevant to the current political scene as well…

Playwright Spotlight: Joshua Kaplan

Visiting Hours, written by Joshua Kaplan, directed by Dina Vovsi, with Richarda Abrams*, Adam Bemis, Amy Gaipa*, Michael Grew*, Karen Lee*, Maureen Shannon*, and Joel Stigliano; and featuring Dan Grimaldi* who portrayed identical twin mobsters, Patsy & Philly Parisi, on the critically acclaimed HBO series, THE SOPRANOS, will premiere for ONE WEEK ONLY: July 28, 8pm; July 29, 8pm; July 30, 3 & 8pm; July 31, 3pm. TheaterLab NYC, 357 W 36th Street, New York City, will host the premiere of this intense family drama

Headshot (Kaplan)

We hear a lot about inspiration – or Muse – that drives an artist. What inspires you?

The ability of art to reveal truth, especially comedy. Comedy tends to get undersold and underestimated in its dramatic effectiveness, as though laughter is somehow less valuable than tears. I am at my most inspired when I find a way to use comedy — the “light” of the theater — to illuminate themes that are often concealed in darkness.

Tell us about your play … and why you wrote it?

My mother passed away last year after a long illness. A few weeks later, a friend suggested to me that I try writing a play about my mother’s death. I resisted at first — it felt too fresh — but then realized that the freshness was the best reason for writing it so soon. But while my own experience may have been the jumping off point, as the play evolved it became far less about me and my experience and more about reflecting the universality of grief and loss as well as the complicated nature of family. So by the end, the play was no longer about me or my family, as much as it became a reflection of and upon the ways in which deep, significant loss can be a source of both pain and redemption.

What do you want most in your chosen profession? It’s OK to say “fame” or “wealth.”

To be an original and sincere voice. To make people’s lives a little better than they would have been without my words.

Sally Field and Paul Newman both said of their profession… “it’s all I can do.” Is this all you can do?

It’s not all I can do, but it’s the thing I do that’s closest to the essence of my self. Also, Paul Newman was selling himself short. He made a hell of a salad dressing.

Along those lines, if you couldn’t so this, what would you do?

I don’t really understand this question. Nobody can tell me I can’t do this. I can write whenever I want. I can create worlds whenever I want. I can invent characters, plot, settings. Nobody can tell me I can’t. If you’re the kind of person who needs permission from others to create, you’re setting yourself up for a real bad fall.

Last words? 

While vacationing in Key West about a decade ago, I took a yoga class taught by a real what you’d call hippie, artsy-fartsy type, the kind of person who sees clouds in their coffee. I was still a lawyer then, still completely clueless about life (today I’m only 98% clueless), just going along the path most taken, racking up the golden rings. After class, the teacher stopped me at the door. She asked me what I did for a living. I told her, I’m a lawyer. She looked deep into my eyes — too deep for comfort — and said, no, you’re not. You still have to find your place in the universe. And she walked away. She remains, to this day, the wisest woman I’ve ever met (though if I ever meet Oprah, I might have to revise that).

Joshua Kaplan is a former attorney turned writer. Prior to the NYC-debut of Visiting Hours, Josh’s theatrical work has been seen in staged readings, workshops, and productions in a number of theaters and festivals across the country, including the Ensemble Studio Theatre, the New Jersey Repertory Company, the Waterfront Playhouse, the Actors Studio, and the William Inge Festival, as well as projects hosted by the Williamstown Theatre Festival and the Burgdorff Center for Performing Arts. He has had the good fortune to work with a number of esteemed actors and directors, including Estelle Parsons, Harvey Fierstein, Michael Urie, and Jerry Zaks. This Fall, he will enter his first year in USC’s Screenwriting MFA Program as a Mary Pickford Scholar.