Seminar – A Gold Star Production at the Golden Theatre

Words…Words…Words, the foundation plays are built on.  Playwrights use them to create characters, discourse and plots that become microcosms for life.  Actors absorb words and give them a voice, emotion and the breath of life.  Words are the foundation of the Broadway community, and no words have been as deliciously scripted as those coming to life eight times a week at the Golden Theatre – Seminar is a seductive, sagacious comedy that is at the head of Broadway’s fall 2011 class.

Kate, Martin, Douglas and Izzy are four aspiring writers that gather together in Kate’s rent stabilized palace for a workshop with Leonard, a world-renowned literary genius who happens to be a venom-spewing, unconscionable scapegrace.  Each session with Leonard has the potential to end disastrously, but throughout the course of Leonard’s brutal verbal boot camp, the foursome learns about their art, each other and about Leonard.  If I had to sum up this production with a grade, I would be compelled to give an A with as many pluses as I could fit on the page.

How ingenious for a playwright to pen a play about four fledging writers taking a writing seminar with the hopes of elevating their style and becoming the next darlings of the literary world; only to be orally gunned down like the McLaury brothers at the O.K. Corral by the very person they admire and seek to impress.  Every writer, including myself, has a story like that, which is why Seminar is a play that will be close to the soul of every writer who views it.  But this production is not just for writers, it is for anyone in any creative field.  Seminar is sophisticated; there is no doubt about it.  Although, Rebeck’s luscious script may require some audience members to bring a thesaurus with them when attending a performance, the word play is a critical component to its allure.   Her attention to detail and phrasing creates a world of its own – a linguistic oasis that I thoroughly enjoyed basking in.  

In fact, every detail of this play is sublime.  The foundation Theresa Rebeck supplies is impeccable.  David Zinn’s costume and set designs are descriptive and complimentary to the characters.   The direction of Obie Award winner Sam Gold provides the subtle nuances the really allows the actors to shine in their characters.  This may be his Broadway debut, but this veteran needed no introduction to the Great White Way, this will be the first of many Broadway shows that will benefit from his skill.  Additional members of this production who are making their Broadway debuts are television and film star Jerry O’Connell, Hettienne Park and Hamish Linklater.  O’Connell’s portrayl of the name dropping, pseudo intellectual Douglas is extremely entertaining.  From the first blistering monologue, he proves he deserves to be on the stage and should be welcomed into the theater community with open arms.   Hettienne Park is excellent as Izzy.  She makes using sex as a means to achieving success extremely comical.  Hamish Linklater is totally convincing as Martin, the tragic genius.  O’Connell, Park and Linklater did not make a Broadway debut, they made a Broadway coup!  Lily Rabe puts the feminine in feminist/poor little rich girl Kate.  She is always a pleasure to watch.

Perhaps the greatest detail of the show is the return of Alan Rickman to Broadway.  Whether he is Hans Gruber, the Metatron or the Sheriff of Nottingham, Rickman is nothing less than stupendous.  No one can play a frosty, cheeky snob like he does.  Watching Rickman exhibit his talent live is worth the price of admission and is a memory that is priceless.   There is so much right with this show I doubt anyone could find a reason not to pass this play with flying colors.  Words have never been wittier. 

  

 

 

Photos:   Jeremy Daniel

 

 

 

Love, Loss and Gay Marriage

Marriage is an institution that heterosexuals constantly question – Is it antiquated?  Why did I get married?  Is there truly a happily ever after?  When it comes to homosexuals, I believe only one question comes to mind when the subject of marriage is brought up – Why can I only marry in six states?  Besides Washington D.C., Oregon’s Coquille and Washington State’s Suquamish Indian tribes, New York, Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont and Iowa are the only states in which same-sex marriage is legal.  The movement to achieve marriage rights and benefits for homosexual couples in the US began in the early 70s and is still a hotbed political issue.   Very often art uses real life situations as a muse to create a powerful piece of work that will provoke people to become inspired, think and be motivated enough to act.  Such is the case with Standing on Ceremony the Gay Marriage Plays.

Standing on Ceremony is a compilation of nine plays that courageously, poignantly and hilariously attack the issue of gay marriage in America.  The plays are written by Wendy MacLeod, Paul Rudnick, Jordan Harrison, Neil LaBute, Jose Rivera, Mo Gaffney and Doug Wright and are as unique as they are brilliant.  Stage and screen veterans Beth Leavel, Richard Thomas, Mark Consuelos, Polly Draper, Craig Bierko and Harriet Harris passionately and exquisitely perform the material, taking the audience on a journey that spans the range of human emotion. 

For me, what resonated more than the universal theme throughout the plays was the universal experiences that are the same for everyone whether heterosexual or homosexual.  We all experience death, fear, head over heels affection, preconceived beliefs, bliss and outrage.  Standing on Ceremony is by far one of the most relevant productions to hit the stage this millennium.  It is The Normal Heart for this century.  No one can view this production and not be moved.

A portion of ticket sales from each performance will go to Freedom to Marry and other organizations promoting marriage equality. Standing on Ceremony is playing at the Minetta Lane Theatre, located at 18 Minetta Lane east of 6th Avenue between 3rd Street and Bleecker.  Buy a ticket and say, “You do too.”

Join Standing on Ceremony on Facebook and find out how to win a party for your party of 20, http://www.facebook.com/standingonceremony?sk=app_112053162216760.

Photos:  Joan Marcus

 

Forensics Comes To NYC

Discovery Times Square has recreated the magical realm of Hogwarts.  It has resurrected the secrets of the Titanic and Pompeii and has allowed Egypt’s boy king to have a starring role in heart of the Theater District.  Currently, the large-scale exhibition center is bringing the world of forensics science right to New Yorker’s fingertips with CSI: The Experience.

Ever had the temptation to walk the grid of a homicide scene?  Ever desire to play detective? Well, CSI: The Experience takes the game of whodunit to another level.  It is the game of Clue on steroids.  Gone is the notion that Professor Plum off the body with the candlestick as you roll dice and try to determine if your hypothesis is correct.  CSI: The Experience is a true interactive murder mystery that is enjoyable for the entire family.

Before you get introduced to the crime scene, you receive a clipboard and sheet which you will use to record your findings.  As new recruits, you receive a CSI vest and are briefed through a video featuring CSI: Crime Scene Investigation creator Anthony E. Zuiker and Dr. Gilbert “Gil” Grissom, played by William Petersen.  After the video you and your class of neophytes are guided through one of three crime scenes.  Each scene has five forensic lab stations and video messages from additional CSI: Crime Scene Investigation  cast members as well as professional forensic experts all trying to assist you with the finding the poltroon that committed the heinous act, using the data you collect.

Totally engaging and enlightening, CSI: The Experience is by far the best exhibit I have witnessed at Discovery Times Square.  Sure, it is fun and educational to peer at ancient artifacts and reflect how much humans have or have not changed since Eve bit the apple, but CSI: The Experience truly lives up to its name.  You are not just walking through the exhibit; you are a part of the exhibit.  CSI: The Experience is recommended for ages 12 and older. The video portions are presented in English and Spanish subtitles.  CSI: The Experience has a limited run at Discovery Times Square, located at 226 West 44th Street, and is open Sunday – Wednesday from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m., and Thursday – Saturday from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.  The average time to complete the exhibit is between 60 and 90 minutes.

For more information, visit DiscoveryTS.com/Exhibitions/CSI or www.CSIexhibit.com.

 

Photos courtesy of Edelman Public Relations

 

Navigating Broadway Through 3D Waters

According to popular legend, Spanish explorer Ponce de Leon discovered the state of Florida while searching for the Fountain of Youth – the mythical spring said to promise longevity to anyone who drinks its waters.  Tony Award-nominated director Kenny Leon appears to have found the secret for endurance on Broadway – choose to work with impeccable playwrights and extraordinary actors.  When asked about his selection processes on choosing which plays he will work with, Leon states, “When I choose a project to spend time with, I first have to make sure that it will make a contribution to the world.  At one time, in my career I had to say yes to anything and now I ask myself, ‘Is me doing this project going to make a difference?  Is it going to touch people’s lives?’ I pray on it and wait for the answer to come back.  Then I usually move forward with it knowing that it’s not what the critics say about it, it’s what the people say about it.”

Leon definitely has the ear of the people and the critics.  Early this fall Leon’s brilliance was seen on Broadway when playwright Katori Hall’s The Mountaintop brought new meaning to the term British Invasion.  After having a successful run on London’s West End, the play that provides a fictional account of the night before Dr. King’s assassination is now playing at the Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre with Samuel L. Jackson and Angela Bassett in the lead roles and Kenny Leon as director.  The play has been a hit with critics and audiences alike.  One might have found the notion of tackling Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. as subject matter for a stage production an insurmountable task, but Katori, Leon, Jackson and Bassett wove a new stitch in the tapestry of Dr. King’s legacy with out blemishing the fabric of the man or his dream.  “Originally when I received the offer to do [The Mountaintop] my first thought was I didn’t want to do anything that was destructive of the iconic nature of Dr. King.  My agent said it’s about Dr. King and a sexy maid, and it’s like wait a minute,” he says.  “Then I said to myself, if it’s a fictitious account it might work, but if it’s trying to be realistic then that may not work.  Then when I read the script, what really convinced me was how I felt at the end.  At the end of the script I knew Dr. King was a man who loved his family, who loved his wife, who loved his country and who loved God and those were the things that brought me to it because those were the things that uplifted Dr. King.   And Katori had a way of making this man be human but at the same time showing those values that made him great.”

This Thanksgiving, Leon will have two plays on the Great White Way.  Stick Fly began previews November 18, and has a scheduled opening date for December 8.  Written by Lydia R. Diamond and produced by Alycia Keys, the play stars Ruben Santiago-Hudson, Tracie Thoms, Mekhi Phifer, Dule Hill, Rosie Benton and Condola Rashad and is about a family that comes to terms with themselves one weekend on Martha’s Vineyard.  Right after The Mountaintop debuted on Broadway, Leon was hard at work at the Cort Theatre helping to bring this script to life.  “Stick Fly is such a great project because Lydia Diamond is such a great writer,” he says.  She is an intelligent writer and she’s very funny.” 

Leon is widely known as one of the foremost African American directors, with the majority of his acclaim coming from the projects he has done on stage.  And it seems to me that Leon has charted a course that keeps him loyal to the theater, despite the more lucrative mediums of television and film.  “I have a T-shirt that says, ‘Film is art, theatre is life, television is furniture.’ That sort of summarizes it for me,” he affirms.  “I love television and I love film; they all have there ups and downs and pros and cons.  I’m getting ready to do a Lifetime movie for cable and I’m very excited about it.  We’re going to be able to reach a millions of people with that story.  In the theater you’re only able to reach a thousand people per night.  It is the ultimate 3D experience.  You don’t have to put on any funny looking glasses, you can just sit there and you can see Samuel L. Jackson and Angela Bassett or Denzel Washington.  It’s the closest thing to life that we have.”

With all the successes and accolades that Leon has achieved, one thing has eluded him – a Tony win for Best Direction in a Play.  I wondered if not bringing home a Tony still mattered to him.  “It does, but you keep going you know,” he says.  In certain ways, a director is similar to an explorer.  A director is given a map – the script and is told to take it, get a crew together, go off and make a great discovery.  Kenny Leon has allowed his innate sense of understanding the beauty and frailty of human nature to guide him in participating in productions that are great discoveries to theatergoers each night.  In 2012, Leon promises to keep the tradition of surprising himself and his fans going by continuing to work with meaningful projects.  I am sure any project he works with will feature Kenny Leon’s ability to bring the soul out of the work and rejuvenate the soul of the audience in the process.

Photos:  Wire Image and  stickflybroadway.com

Arts, Crafts and More at the Contemporary Art Fair NYC

The second annual Contemporary Art Fair NYC is well underway at the Jacob Javits Center and will conclude tomorrow.  This year additional exhibitors were featured as CAFNYC was combined with the American Craft Show.  In total, there are over 190 artists from Canada, Spain and across the US showing at the fair.   Along with the presenters, additional highlights include performances, demonstrations and artists talk.  Last year over 5,000 visitors attended in the fair.  Richard Rothbard, Director of American Art Marketing and producer of CAFNYC, believed that the numbers of this year’s event could double.

CAFNYC offers its visitors a unique experience by combining what most would consider being art with the world of craft.  Like fashion and beauty, two entities that can coexist alone, but are even better when brought together, arts and crafts are symbiotic methods of creativity that seek from inspiration each other.  It was extremely fascinating to see both disciplines brought together in one venue.  Whether it is a purse, vase, sculpture or a brightly painted canvas, art is art.

Photo and Slideshow:  F.A.M.E NYC Editor

 

F.A.M.E NYC Celebrates Its Second Anniversary

Two years ago, I sat down in my bedroom, grabbed my laptop and decided to embark on a journey that revolved around my beloved New York City.  When I started this expedition, I had no clue who would take the ride with me.  I hurled posts into the noir void of cyberspace, hoping that someone would read them and enjoy what I had to say.  I sacrificed time, relationships and the opportunity to make money for a dream.  I guess you can say that like the Man of La Mancha, I was dreaming an impossible dream.  But thanks to my FAMERS, my dreams are steadily becoming reality.

F.A.M.E NYC is essentially a grass roots publication.  We work on a budget that would not be considered a shoestring.  We do not have money to pour into advertising the site nor do we have funds to do giveaways or throw lavish parties.  But somehow people have found us and decided to stay loyal. F.A.M.E NYC has grown exponentially within the last year.   Each day we acquire new FAMERS, receiving new hits.  Thanks to you, F.A.M.E NYC’s numbers have doubled from what they were last year.

For an individual who makes her living with words, there are no words to express my heartfelt appreciation for all the support F.A.M.E NYC has received.  When I try to reach out for words in my mind, they escape me.  I am overwhelmed with emotion.  I cannot help welling up with tears.  I have no children, and besides my six-year-old pit bull, F.A.M.E NYC is my baby.  The reciprocity I feel from you FAMERS is phenomenal.  To know that somewhere there are individuals following F.A.M.E NYC, watching my baby grow, in different places all over the globe is astounding.  And to see the ocular proof of our growth is even more amazing.

Two years later and F.A.M.E NYC is still here – still growing.  I hope you will continue to grow with us.  Last year, I suggested we shoot for the stratosphere; next year lets blast past it.  Once again,  I promise to keep my pledge to provide you with excellent content and bring you the best that New York City has to offer.  I hope you will promise to continue to take this excursion with me and bring a few more of your friends along for the journey.  Next year is shaping up to be another great year for F.A.M.E NYC.  Also, we have a few surprises coming your way, so stay tuned.

This evening I will be celebrating F.A.M.E NYC’s second anniversary by ensuring I keep my pledge to bring you the best that NYC has to offer.  This evening I will be attending a preview of Seminar, the new play starring Alan Rickman.  I wish you all could be with me, but one thing is for sure, I will tell you all about it.

F.A.M.E NYC Editor

Five Years of Pinta in NYC

This fall the creators behind Pinta, the Latin American modern and contemporary art show, are not only celebrating five years of displaying the works of some of the most prominent Latin American artists in the Big Apple, they are also showing in a new location.  This year Pinta welcomed the public at its new location, 7 West 34th Street.    The new location also brought a new look as the show was set up like a labyrinth  with sculptures, mixed media and canvases seamlessly running into each other.  As in the past, New Yorkers were able to view the works of artist such as Fernando Botero, Rufino Tamayo, Wifredo Lam and Roberto Matta.  Viewers also had the opportunity to witness the rediscovery of conceptual art from the 70s and 80s.

Participating US galleries included those from Manhattan, New York, Miami and San Antonio, as well as those from Brazil, Mexico, Argentina, Colombia, Chile, Peru, Santo Domingo, Spain, Cuba and Venezuela. 

Photo courtesy of Galeria Millan

Slideshow:  F.A.M.E NYC Editor

Brits Off-Broadway Off To a Smashing Start

 

 

The British are here…the British are here!  And they are residing Off-Broadway.  November kicks off the unofficial beginning of the holiday season, but at the 59E59 Theatres, November is the start of the 2011 Brits Off-Broadway Festival.  From November 1 to January 1, 59E59 Theatres will feature the most innovative productions the UK has to offer.  The festival begins with three titillating solos: Bunny by Jack Thorne and featuring Rosie Wyatt, The Maddening Rain by Nicholas Pierpan and featuring Felix Scott and Shadow Boxing by James Gaddas and featuring Jonny Collis-Scurll.  Each of these expressive narratives can be seen alone or in succession.

Bunny tells the coming of age story of an 18-year-old girl named Katie.  During a blistering afternoon, Katie witnesses her boyfriend get into a fight and comes face to face with racism, the future of her relationship and the truth about her pseudo contumacious way of life.  Bunny is a superbly wicked fusion of The Breakfast Club and Rebel Without a Cause and includes all the oversized angst of being a teen in the 21st century.  And it is only natural that it would considering Jack Thorne, the writer behind the BBC series Skins, was the mastermind behind this potent monologue.  Rosie Wyatt lends a commanding voice to Gen Y that can be understood no matter which continent you reside from.  She has Natalie Wood looks and Jimmy Dean swagger.  Although there are some areas where Katie tends to ramble, the dissonance works with the theme of disaffected youth.   

 There is a line in The Talking Heads classic “Once In a Lifetime” that says, “You may find yourself in a beautiful house, with a beautiful wife.  You may ask yourself, “Well, how did I get here?”  It is almost guaranteed that most adults ask will ask that question once in a lifetime.  It is similar to going to bed and waking up on a foreign shore.  The life you dreamed of, or even sometimes did not dream of, never materializes and you are living an existence that you did not sign up for, yet are mechanically doing anyway.  The Maddening Rain explores the journey of a man without a plan that ends questioning the life he carved out for himself.  The protagonist, simply called “The Man,” takes the audience on a diatribe about love and finance and the consequences of losing both during the height of the global economic crisis.   Poignant, zany and very well written, The Maddening Rain is a must see for any thirtysomething individual going through an existential crisis. 

James Gaddas’ Shadow Boxing has been billed as, “An emotionally intense and highly physical performance.”  This 60-minute pulsating, pounding drama has received rave reviews from Backstage and www.womanaroundtown.com.

If these three solos are just a sample of what is to come, then I cannot wait to view the rest of the festival.  The east side should be in for some bloody good theater.

To view the current and upcoming schedule for 59E59 Theatres, click http://59e59.org/.

Photos:  Joel Fildes and Upstart Theatre

F.A.M.E NYC Remembers Heavy D

Very few rappers contributed to the soundtrack of my tween and teenage years more than Heavy D.  After finding out about his passing, I began to reminisce about days when basement parties and teen nights at clubs were considered nightlife, where I expended boundless energy doing the wop, Cabbage Patch, Smurf and drop of science to “The Overweight Lover’s in the House” and “Mr. Big Stuff.”   Heavy D & the Boyz did not provide tales from the hood like NWA; they did not provide social commentary like Public Enemy or KRS-One nor was Hev a lyrical assassin like Rakim, but he did carve a nice lane for himself in hip-hop with his flow, catchy dance tunes and gregarious personality.  He was a pioneer whose music videos help to give hip-hop of the late 80s to mid 90s, what I consider to be the golden age, a distinct visual aesthetic.  There was always high energy in a Heavy D & the Boyz video – plenty of dancing and Hev was in the thick of it, doing his thing, showing that big boys could rock hard as well.  As the climate of the music scene changed, Heavy D retired from hip-hop – lending his industry expertise behind the scenes as an executive as well as acting in parts on television, film and Off-Broadway.   

Strange where the twists and turns of life can lead you, never did I believe that I would conduct an interview with the man whose music I used to dance to in 501 jeans and flower print shirts.  But there I was, in 2008 taking pictures and holding a conversation with Hev at Daddy’s House Recording Studio.  He was putting the finishing touches on Vibes, his third solo and final studio album. It was also his first reggae album.  At the time, I worked as an editor for a Caribbean magazine.  We spent two hours together talking about music, family and Caribbean culture.  He was the consummate professional – warm, extremely gracious and charming.  I did not feel like a journalist meeting a celebrity with the purpose of retrieving a story nor did I feel like a fan going to meet a childhood idol, instead our time together was very organic.  We had an awesome discourse; more like catching up with an old friend than a typical interview and photo shoot.  And that is why when I heard that Heavy D passed away at age 44, I felt like I had lost a friend.  He was not just a rapper or actor to me, but someone that I had shared a few laughs and stories with.  A person that created a memory that I will carry for the rest of my life, and although it was brief, it is always those brief, little moments that seem so precious when you find out news like this. 

In keeping with F.A.M.E NYC’s tradition, I would like to share with you FAMERS a few of my favorite Heavy D videos.  My thoughts and prayers go out to his family and to all his fans.  He was a very sweet human being whose presence will surely be missed.   

 

A Siriano State of Mind

Rarely has there been an individual that has broken out of the world of reality television quite like Christian Siriano.  Perhaps it is because he is uber talented and at the tender age of 25 has the potential to be fashion icon.  Oprah Winfrey has stated that Christian’s designs are, “works of art.”  And mentor Tim Gun has said that he is “the next great American fashion designer.”  Although Christian did not begin his foray into the world of fashion in New York City, his career has certainly flourished here.  Manhattan is undoubtedly one the Meccas for fashion and dozens of designers and models migrate to New York City to begin turning their dreams of stardom into reality.  Like the song says, if you can make it here, you can make it anywhere. 

Before Project Runway, Christian made wedding gowns for private clients and briefly interned for Marc Jacobs.  After joining the cast of the fourth season of Bravo’s hit series Project Runway, Christian won over the viewers with his edgy coif, use of the term “fierce” and his fresh, unique design aesthetic.   Along with winning fan favorite, he also won over judges Michael Kors, Heidi Klum and Nina Garcia taking home the $100,000 cash prize, a fashion spread in Elle magazine and a 2008 Saturn Astra.  Following his Project Runway win, Christian debuted his line at Bryant Park and has since been a staple and favorite at New York Fashion Week.  With another Fashion Week in the books, spring 2012 found Christian showing palazzo pants, belted long skirts and striped t-shirts along with elaborate gowns with touches that can be considered classic Siriano.  “It was inspired by a few different things,” he says when asked about the inspiration behind his 2012 collection.  “When I was originally thinking about spring, I really wanted this girl to be kind of cool, lighthearted; I really wanted her to be kind of fresh.  And in researching this, I was looking for anything that was kind of interesting to me.  And I was actually watching this film called ‘Summertime’ with Katherine Hepburn and it’s a beautiful film.  And this one scene where she is in this coral wrap dress and it’s really vibrant and her hair is kind of tousled up and the essence of her in that moment was really beautiful.  And I think that was the whole jumping off point for the story.”  Christian also states that he viewed pictures of sea creatures such as barnacles and sea urchin, and from those pictures he derived inspiration for the color and textures of the collection.

Like most designers that create a fashion empire, Siriano has expanded his talents to include ventures off the runway.  In 2008, he designed a 15 piece collection for Puma as well as virtual prom wear for Gaia Online’s virtual prom.  In December 2008, he signed a deal to design a line of low-cost shoes and handbags for Payless Shoesource which became available in Payless stores in fall 2009.  In 2011, Siriano’s Payless line was expanded. “I’ve been working with them for over three years and it’s been such a great long term collaboration,” he says.  “Some of my fans are quite young and there’s not that many sixteen to twenty-five year-old-girls that can spend over one hundred dollars on a pair of shoes.”  In February 2011, Siriano launched a limited collection for Spiegel catalog, named Christian Siriano for Spiegel.   Siriano was the first designer chosen for the catalog’s designer collaborations line, Signature Styles. 

Designers Calvin Klein, Donna Karan, Ralph Lauren and Tommy Hilfiger are all American fashion immortals that started their lines in New York City that have since become billion dollar enterprises. It is still unclear if Christian Siriano will fulfill Tim Gun’s prophecy and ascend to Pantheon of American fashion royalty.  In 2010, he was named one of Crain’s Top 40 Entrepreneurs Under 40, which reported that the designer’s line has brought in over $1.2 million in revenue, so it appears the young prodigy is well on his way.  Another aspect that remains clear is the inspiration he draws from New York City.  “I love when I go to an event and you know people, but you don’t know who everybody is and everyone is such a mix.  There is some girl in vintage and there is some girl that is super glamorous. You get such a range in New York City.  It is so eclectic.  You always see something different and special.”     

Photos courtesy of Slate PR and Imaxtree

Slideshow photos:  Imaxtree